9.30.2013

My Musical Metamorphosis

I bought my first music CD sometime in fourth or fifth grade, setting off a grand aural adventure and amassing a rather sizable collection of shiny flat plastic doughnuts in my bookshelf in the process. My interest in music began after I heard Linkin Park's In The End several times on DC's (now defunct) Z104 radio station, and I acted on it by heading to my local Best Buy and excitedly purchasing the band's Hybrid Theory album. Back in those pre-iPod days, I listened to the album with rapt attention on a portable CD player with 45-second skip protection. Loving every second of Hybrid Theory, I soon craved more auditory stimulation and expanded my repertoire with (in no particular order) Hoobastank's self-titled album, P.O.D.'s Satellite, Evanescence's Fallen, and Lostprophets' Start Something. I found at least one song I absolutely adored on each album: Crawling In The Dark, Youth Of The Nation, Bring Me To Life, and Last Train Home, respectively.

At first, I was quite picky about what music I would purchase, shunning the vast majority of the music I heard on the radio and thus growing my collection quite slowly. I bought No Doubt's Rock Steady because I rather enjoyed hearing Hella Good on Z104, but I quickly realized that I really wasn't a fan of the rest of the album. Refusing to "pollute" my music collection with songs I didn't like, I ended up getting rid of the CD, washing my hands of it entirely by giving it to my mom (for what it's worth, I recently reacquired the album and shed my unfair prejudice against it). Wary of making the same mistake again, I politely declined to keep a 3 Doors Down album that had been given to me as a gift after listening to it briefly and deciding I didn't particularly like it.

For the most part, I grew my collection by purchasing more albums by the artists already in my library, such as Linkin Park's Meteora, Hoobastank's The Reason, and Lostprophets' The Fake Sound Of Progress. Since Internet radio sites did not exist at the time, terrestrial radio and my friends were the only avenues of musical exploration available to me. Coupled with my persnickety musical preferences, this meant that I mostly listened to my small album collection over and over, frequently creating new playlists to mix things up. Most (or all) of these playlists have been lost to the ravages of time and an unfortunate accidental reformat of my computer (given their lack of musical diversity, I can't honestly say that I miss the playlists very much).

Sometime in eighth or ninth grade, things became a lot more interesting when one of my best friends introduced me to metal music. I had already dipped my toes into the genre after hearing and loving Static-X's The Only in Electronic Arts' Need For Speed: Underground, but my exposure was still fairly limited when my friend showed me Children Of Bodom's Trashed, Lost & Strungout and Avenged Sevenfold's Beast And The Harlot. My highly positive experience with these songs drove me to hungrily acquire and devour the albums they appeared on (Are You Dead Yet? and City Of Evil, respectively).

By this time, Pandora had come into existence, so I took advantage of this wondrous new music discovery tool to expand my repertoire. Using Children Of Bodom and Avenged Sevenfold as seeds for stations, I soon found a bunch of new music on my own, including In Flames' The Quiet Place, Soilwork's As We Speak, and a good portion of Shade Empire's Sinthetic album, especially Extreme Form Of Hatred and Ja Pimeys Laskeutui. From this point onward, the pace of my CD acquisition increased markedly, partially due to the availability of Pandora and other cool new methods of music discovery and partially due to my increased financial means as a result of getting a summer job in 2005 (a job I ended up having for quite a few years).

After reading an online review of Shade Empire's Sinthetic that compared Shade Empire's musical style to Nightwish and Children Of Bodom, I decided to check out Nightwish, since I had not heard of them before. A quick YouTube search led me to Amaranth, a song that I immediately fell in love with, and I snapped up Dark Passion Play as soon as I could get my hands on it. Amazed at the album's beauty and epicness, I proceeded to purchase the rest of Nightwish's discography and create Pandora stations for Amaranth and other songs from the album, which led me to Delain, a similar female-fronted metal band.

Not long after discovering Nightwish and Delain, I was riding in a friend's car when Kamelot's Bl├╝cher came up on one of his playlists. After the song was over, I excitedly asked him what it was called and which band had put together such a masterpiece, and he nonchalantly shared those details with me. As soon as I got home, I searched for Kamelot on YouTube and knew I was onto something great when I heard Ghost Opera. I ordered Ghost Opera: The Second Coming from Amazon, listened to the whole thing many times, and then gradually purchased most of the band's back catalog, with the exception of their first two albums (which I still do not own). As evidenced by my Last.fm listening history, Nightwish and Kamelot became my favorite bands of all time, eclipsing even Linkin Park (though most of my listening history for Hybrid Theory was not recorded by either iTunes or Last.fm since it preceded my involvement with, or even the existence of, both pieces of software).

By this point in time, I had become very well acquainted with metal, and my acquisition of metal music continued to accelerate as the genre increasingly became an integral part of my life and personal identity. Due to this rapid pace of music consumption, it's difficult for me to reconstruct a chronology of my discoveries with any degree of accuracy, so I defer to Last.fm's visualizations to showcase my listening trends from November 2009 to April 2011 and from November 2011 to the present (there is a chunk missing because Last.fm only uses data from the last 24 months, and I haven't generated the visualization for quite some time). In a future post, I will probably engage in an in-depth discussion of the various metal sub-genres that I like to listen to, and I will also talk about some of the non-metal music in my vast collection.

--lbds137