This Godless Endeavor: Staying Metal In The Warzone (#5)
Here’s a long overdue update to the column. We’d like to introduce you to Larry, a metalhead serving with the U.S. forces in
If you have any questions on the column or for Larry, send them here and we will make sure they are passed along.
Whats happening Metalheads? I stumbled upon "This Godless Endeavor" while surfing various metal sites trying to find one that could help me stay in touch with the community that is so important to me back home. After reading the previous posts by Alex and Mustafa I wrote in and offered to write in as an update hasn’t been made in a while. I’ll start this like Alex did and introduce myself a bit, how I got into the military and how I got into metal.
My name is Larry, I am a 21 year old member of the US Air Force Security Forces currently deployed to Southern Iraq. I have been in the military now for 2 years. I joined at the age of 19, having grown tired of civilian jobs and ran out of funds for college. Wanting to pursue a job in law enforcement, an ex-Army co-worker (and fellow metalhead) recommended I consider a the military option. I did my research and found that the AF Security Forces did exactly what I wanted…allowed me to be a cop at my current age (as opposed to the minimum age of 21 for civilian police, at least back home). So I went into a recruiter, signed up, but I said I wanted to get 2 more terms of college out of the way before I left. So I had 6 months before I joined…and that is when the metal bug really got me.
I had always like metal. My first actual favorite band was Metallica in 8th grade, and I was the only one in my tiny school. Everyone else would listen to rap or pop punk or whatever you would call Limp Bizkit…but the power of Metallica’s music spoke to me. In high school I discovered Iron Maiden shortly after I started playing the bass guitar. At first I began to listen to Maiden just trying to figure out how Steve Harris’s right hand didn’t fall off after 3 songs. Then I started to realize that plain and simple…Maiden kicked ass! I began collecting Maiden albums right before Dance of Death came out. At this point, my guitar playing friends had begun to discover a Swedish guitarist by the name of Yngwie J. Malmsteen. Man…I loved it. But I didn’t want to admit it. I grew up in a very diverse household and upon learning of such great bass players in jazz and funk such as Jaco Pastorious, Victor Wooten, and Charles Mingus I began to move down the path of being a music snob. But there was always Iron Maiden, which eventually led to my metal pilgrimage in August ’05 to see Maiden with a fellow Maiden fan named Joe. We were acquaintances, not much more. We had our problems in high school, I always viewed him as having a closed mind. He listened to metal and almost nothing but. Being the music snob I was at the time, I looked down at this. But we both loved Iron Maiden. So we made the drive north, to see Maiden play Ozzfest in just outside Seattle WA. Traffic was horrible…road construction and rush hour traffic (we didn’t plan well) made what is now a 4-5 hour drive an 8 hours stop and go mess. But, we had every Maiden album and our tickets, so we made our way. Joe took advantage of this opportunity to show me what he listened to. Knowing the music snob that I was, but with my deep love of Maiden, he pulled out a Brazilian band called Angra. With their jazzy, latin influence I was hooked. The music snob I was loved the complex rythyms, the latin beats, the funky grooves…but the metal head deep inside me loved the power of the music. The next night we saw Maiden, and it was one of the best experiences of my life thus far. I returned home, and shortly after made my decision to join the military. This was when I bought Temple of Shadows by Angra. Great album…I remember listening to the track Temple of Hate all the time because of the impossible musicianship, and hearing an different voice in there. I kind of liked it…it was rough, almost reptilian sounding. Made me think of a snake. I looked in the booklet and saw this voice belonged to Kai Hansen. Name didn’t ring a bell…oh well.
Then comes my 6 months of school. Here I have a break of classes that I find Joe also has off. So we spend many days sitting around for the class periods talking about this and that. Girls, guitars, classes, my eventual departure in July, music, and that Maiden Concert. I mention that I got an Angra album, and he asks about what I think of Kai Hansen’s voice on Temple of Hate. This is when I learn who Kai Hansen is, but I still don’t discover his music for another year. One day he talks about starting a metal band with a fellow guitarist from high school, casually mentions the trouble of finding a bassist and asks if I know of any. My response is simple, "I’m a bassist…I’ll jam with you guys." The result was BADASS! He shows me a song he wrote, and without any effort my fingers find the rythym, the notes, the groove. Joe was ecstatic! From that point we jammed every night, and eventually formed a band that played 3 shows before my departure. The most important thing about this though, is he started showing me everything he had that was metal. Rhapsody, X-Japan, more Angra, Gamma Ray, Dark Moor, Iron Savior, Hammerfall. It was too much to take, but he let me borrow the album Renegade by Hammerfall, telling me "Its cheesy as hell…but so catchy…you can’t not like it." Well…I liked it. I especially liked The Way of the Warrior, with its simple but catchy hammer on opening riff, it was just so good! Funny that…it leads into the next part of my story…and I didn’t even realize it…
Then comes basic training. I’m joining the Air Force, known for being "the smart, lazy branch." Army recruiters would try to get me when I would go in, and upon finding out I was already signed up and set on the Air Force, they would poke fun at it by calling it the Chair Force. Very original…so I have this in mind when I leave for basic…and while it wasn’t too tough on me, one thing I didn’t expect so much was the constant drilling of "the warrior ethos." An entire week(now two as training has changed since I went through) we live in the field, its called Warrior Week. Out here we learn how to fire the M16, run obstacle courses, defend a base in a field training exercise, go through the tear gas chamber. The entire week I can’t get that damn Hammerfall out of my head! Soon after we graduate, and we are allowed to leave base, and I get to listen to music again, which was the thing I was most looking forward too. I go to the San Antonio Rivercenter Mall, hit up Sam Goody, and I decide I am getting a metal album. After looking around I pick up Screaming for Vengance by Judas Priest. BADASS!
Throughout the next phase of my training, we are allowed more freedom. Civilian clothes, stereos and tvs in our dorms, and off base travel more often. I remember the day we all first got to wear civies…half my damn team was wearing baggy gangster/thug crap and everyone was blaring rap from their dorm rooms, and there I was with an Iron Maiden t shirt, a pari of levi’s 501s and black boots. While I am here, I discover Blind Guardian with Joe’s telephonic recomendation of their new release, A Twist in the Myth, and me purchasing Nightfall in Middle Earth on a whim(BADASS!), get Iron Maiden’s new album(also BADASS!) Angel of Retribution by Judas Priest (guess….BADASS!) and return home to take leave and hang with my metal brothers again. Here, I am introduced to power metal…and I can finally take it all in. Gamma Ray, Helloween, Iron Savior, Heavenly, I love it all! After my leave, I report to my first duty station, conveniently 3 hours from home, and 1 hour from Seattle WA: McChord Air Force Base. Being so close to home, the band continues to play, and my love of metal only deepens. We play, record, and promote. Soon, in October, the time comes for me to depart for Iraq…and this brings me here. The Land of the Sand, Iraq.
Not to many people I know here listen to metal. One friend loves Maiden *almost* as much as me and likes power metal, and another friend is a huge fan of Helloween and other metal bands. But thats it for the most part. Having the job I have, I have done just about everything over here, from working in security towers, working gates in full body armor, to a radio dispatch controller, to a carpenter! I take my ipod to work to listen to metal whenever I can, it keeps me pumped. The constant uplifting melodies and lyrics of honor, freedom and justice that is a staple for a power metal song really help with the inherent danger and difficulties of being in Iraq. I purchased an acoustic bass to keep my fingers moving and in shape so I can get right back into the music scene when I get home as my band has a pretty amazing opportunity this summer…I’ll let you guys know when its official if you want to know!
Well that wasn’t so brief…I’d be happy to answer any questions anybody has about anything I’ve talked about.
Until next time, KEEP IT METAL!!!!