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How to enjoy metal without really trying

Metal is misunderstood. While people may think that it’s just a bunch of sweaty dudes screaming (which it is), there’s also a great deal of musicality that goes into it. As my mom once said when I played her a recording of a friend’s metal band: “It’s melodic.”

Members of Paranoid Freak Out performing at a show. The band combines short bursts of songs with noise recordings to create a captivating performance. (Courtesy of Paranoid Freak Out)


Still, going to a show brings it to a new level of brutality, as metal-goers would say. When I go to a performance once in a head-banging blue moon, I’m one of the few without crusty hair and patches splattering my jacket.

I was really rocking the “no I don’t ride bikes, I drive a Volvo station wagon” look on Sept. 24 at an underground venue in Richmond. It was my friend’s birthday party, or as he proudly scribbled on his flyers, “barfday.” The night provided a mashup of Bay Area metal bands including Paranoid Freakout, Glob, Ignit, Forsaker, Heller, Pillager and Biocide.

I wish I could say where the show was because the name of the place perfectly describes the general vibe of the gutter-punk crowd, but hardcore venues have been shut down by fire marshals due to public exposure. People get invited by friends of friends via Facebook. That’s how the metal community works. And since I’m a good person, I’ll let the sweaty times keep rolling and keep the location’s name under wraps.

Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t describe the lovely decor of this place. The venue was tucked in amongst various warehouses in Richmond. The entrance was a nondescript side door leading to a room featuring graffiti-harassed walls and flea-ridden couches dotting the perimeter. Surrounded by a cloud of cigarette smoke, it seemed that at least one out of every three people had a 40 tucked into their DIY jean vests.

Now about metal: I stumbled into this misunderstood genre thanks to some friends. While I will never be a true moshing, cigarette-sucking metal head, I can understand the appeal of all the shredding. Those sweeping arpeggios, accelerated tempos and intricate rhythmic syncopation are pretty impressive.

I have even acquired a taste for the screaming. Think of it as early Nirvana, Kurt Cobain wailing out “Negative Creep.” But the screaming of metal is more refined now. As a vocal performance major, I can appreciate the amount of control these wailing guys have. They’ll drop up and down between octaves with ease, barking out verses about Satan with admirable endurance.

And, of course, I was thinking about the vocalizations during the entire concert. While some of the bands still may have needed a few more rehearsals, the show proved that the hardcore scene in the Bay Area is alive and well. It was especially apparent by the mosh pit accumulating at the front, a cluster of gangly dudes and a girl dressed in a Spiderman costume shoving each other.

The highlight of the night was Paranoid Freak Out‘s set. The group played heavy jams less than a minute long with recordings of various sounds interspersed in between, providing a continuous flow of captivating sound. The short bursts of songs had amusing titles such as “Living Off of Human Suffering” and “Big Bird’s Hallucination,” revealing their devil-may-care attitude with a slightly twisted sense of humor.

This same attitude is needed for people attending metal shows as well. There’s something humbling about being tossed around by a bunch of sweaty 200-pound dudes with beer stains covering their shirts. Just don’t forget to pause for a second and listen to the tunes. Your mom may even dig them.