The Case For Taking a Break From Heavy Metal and What To Listen To When You Do

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BEFORE Sparks and I started Metal CallOut I listened to A LOT of metal. I was then, and still am, obsessed with finding those hidden gems, the pay off is well worth trudging through a bunch of shit, so I devoted a good chunk of time to it. That’s were the whole idea for this site began, two dudes sharing the music they love with the world.

After years of being in this game, I listened to a lot  MORE metal than I previously thought possible. We get demos and CDs sent to us from all over the world and the amount of metal that’s released every year, from the more well-know artists to small-time local acts putting out CDs, is staggering. No one man could listen to it all. No two men could either.

That didn’t stop me, foolishly, from trying.

The result? Burn out. Not like an “Oh my God, I’ve listened to this great song too many times, I need a break” burn out. More like a “I could happily never hear another lick of heavy metal and live to be 300 years old, fuck this shit, I’m done” kind of burn out.

I needed a break, is what it comes down to. Realistically I had responsibilities to the website and our readers too-- that meant that no matter how much I wanted to-- I couldn’t completely cut off metal. That said, I sure as hell was not going to listen to it recreationally. I listened to the bare minimum. If I needed to write a blurb, I’d listen to an album twice through is all. Post a video? Chances are I watched it once…if all the way through at all.

Yes, friends, many of the articles you’ve read these last few months I’ve written while blissfully NOT listening to heavy metal.
 

Since birth I loved music, and, although my father was a metalhead in his youth, I have spent the majority of my life listening to other stuff. Your dear J. Deathscript was once, and probably still would be if he could be, a lowly orchestra nerd, much more likely to be gushing over a symphony then something with blast beats and guitar solos.

In junior high, while still playing in orchestra, I took a liking to punk rock. That kept up though a few years of high school until a group of black-clad and angst-ridden gentlemen in my guitar class introduced me to heavy metal. The rest, as they say, is history.

I have always prided myself as being fairly open-minded and eclectic in my musical tastes, but have predominantly listened to heavy metal spanning nearly two decades now. Upon beginning my involvement with this website years ago, the margins narrowed-- due to the aforementioned vastness of the genre and my own obsessiveness --and I went from well-rounded to stuck in a box.

The good thing, nay, the GREAT thing about all this business is that although I was suffering a severe musical funk, my mind was open to just about anything and I was able to rediscover some old favorites and new music I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

SO what does a devoted metal fan going to through a burn out listen to?

Ambient

The first thing I jumped into was decidedly non-musical. A genre I had listened to at no great length before but was interested in because its dark and melancholy nature always appealed to me: dark ambient.

It was just what I needed and something I, in my now well… well, better rounded state return to often. Dark ambient plays like the anti-music for someone who cannot give it up completely. The soundscapes are vast, dark, brooding, and create a mood, an atmosphere like that of black and/or doom metals-- sometimes anxiety inducing, sometimes peaceful, almost always bleak, and, if you pick the right stuff, beautiful.

I started off where, everyone looking for a primer in dark ambient does I think, with Raison D’etre, a Swedish, one-man dark ambient musician well-liked and oft-praised by fans of the genre. I cruised through Raison’s label mates on Cold Meat Industries like Desiderii Marginis, then other industry greats like Lustmord and Ahasverus. From the moment I finally finished listening to it all the way through, ‘till now, my favorite work of the genre has to be Desiderii Marginis’ "Seven Sorrows". Where some of the genre infuriatingly (for me, at least) lacks melody, "Seven Sorrows" picks up and plays with the listeners’ perception of just what this music can be with soaring and swooping synths under light guitars and incredible samples.

My discovery and enjoyment of dark ambient lead me down a path though which I discovered all different types of ambient music from the chill out varieties of the like of Brian Eno, to martial industrial, to droning, lengthy soundscapes like those of Stars of The Lid and Steve Roach. These days ambient is usually the music I reach for when I am writing or working on something of that ilk that requires intensive focus. I’ve found myself to be easily distracted by music with lyrics or attention-demanding melody so I keep a grip of my favorite ambient albums on hand at home and at work for times when my mind needs space to think but my ears demand some of that sweet nectar I’ve kept them on a steady diet of since birth.

I Suggest:
Stars of the Lid
Winged Victory for the Sullen
Desiderii Marginis
Eluvium
Lowlight Mixes (playlists for those who need the work done for them) 


Classical/ Soundtrack

Something I was able to rekindle and strengthen during my heavy metal hiatus was my appreciation of classical music. To me, although I have received many an odd look from people when I have said this, there is no vast crevasse between heavy metal and classical music. Indeed, in many ways they are kin, as, admittedly all music genres are, but these two are especially close. I have never have an issue reconciling my love for both genres. 

My family has always been a musical one. Even before I was born my underdeveloped ears were exposed to the sounds of Schuster and Beethoven via my mother, a piano teacher. At the tender age of six I watched a young boy play the violin on stage, a verbose (at least to my ears) piece in front of a large (at least to my mind) crowd and I was hooked. The melodrama of a single musician on a huge stage, the applause, and the bows-- it was enough to motivate a young Desthscript to learn the violin, a talent he uses this day to pick up women better himself.

That’s the last time I’ll refer to myself in third person.

So I revisited the classics. Beethoven, Mozart, Mahler, and numerous more have piped through my speakers and accompanied me on a sonic journey. Of course my nature as being chronically discontent sent me looking for new and obscured composers a hunt through which I discovered my love for the likes of modern master Ludovico Einaudi, the pious scholar Thomas Tallis, and too many more to do them any justice here.

After watching the eponymous German biopic of the famous flying ace "The Red Baron" and fell in love with its sweeping soundtrack I embarked on a lengthy soundtrack kick that resulted in some real gems. Movies like "Drive", "The Road", "Old Boy", "Monsters", "Blood Diamond" and, of course, "The Lord of the Rings" besides being amazing in-and-of themselves are occupied by brilliant soundscapes that easily stand alone.

I Suggest:
“The Cannon” ie. Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin
Philip Glass
Ludovico Einaudi
Gustav Mahler
Edvard Greig

The Soundtracks of "Drive", "The Road", "The Fountain", "The Lord of the Rings", "Old Boy"

 

Hip Hop/ Rap 

Oddly enough my foray into classical music leads me down a different musical corridor entirely when I discovered the electronic, glitch, and sometimes-classical Venetian Snares. From there I found some producers mixing hip-hop with classical like DJ BC and Saltillo.

I grew to appreciate the hip-hop elements in Saltillo and those of his ilk and went on a search for more genre defying hip-hop, instrumental or otherwise. Through that process I discovered the likes of Blue Sky Black Death, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, El-p, and too many more to list here. One somewhat surprising discovery was that for the appreciation, nay, regard and admiration for Kanye West. Say what you will, you’re most likely at least half right but the man has a work ethic the likes of which I’ve never seen, and he makes hits. If that’s what you set out in life to do and you’re doing it, more power too you, I’ll happily ignore some of the dick moves and ego-- chalk it up to eccentricities.

I Suggest:
Kanye West
Blue Sky Black Death
(Instrumental)
Earl Sweatshirt


Rock n Roll

Besides questing outward, during my hiatus I spent a fair amount of time going back to my roots, if you will. A stepping stone for me from the music my parents listened to and classical music I was just discovering to heavy metal, was straight up rock ‘n’ roll. So I dusted off my old records from greats like Elvis, AC/DC, CCR, Zeppelin, and Buddy Holly and enjoyed the nostalgia. During this time I made the discovery of the phenomenal piano rock outfit J Roddy Walston and the Business, a newer band that wears their 70s piano and swamp rock influences on their sleeve.

My appreciation for rock ‘n’ roll took an interesting turn for a few years during my teens when seeking something that was new but kept that old rock attitude I fancied went through a pretty serious punk rock phase. The energy and attitude was there but these were guys that were my same age or just older. I tried to trek down that path during my break from heavy metal but I only found a handful of bands and albums that still did it for me. Maybe (definitely) I’m just not as angry or rebellious as I once was. I don’t really know but the only real enjoyment I gained from it was the memories of some fun times in high school and my old hometown so I just stuck with rock ‘n’ roll. Left over from that is the Mars Volta. Formed from the ashes of my favorite band in high school, At The Drive In, Mars Volta send me on benders in which only they will do and everything else is rubbish.

I Suggest:
The Mars Volta
J Roddy Walston and the Business
Led Zeppelin


Bluegrass

Rediscovering rock, and openly minded perusing Youtube took me down some interesting avenues, one of which I happily visit weekly now: bluegrass. Surprisingly, at least to me, there is a pretty strong bluegrass revival movement that has churned out some very interesting acts. I’ll include some of my favorite finds below, be sure you check them out. Even those averse to what they think is just hillbilly music may be surprised. I think just about anyone, anyone that considers him or her self more than a casual music fan, can find something therein.

I Suggest:
The Devil Makes Three
Mumford and Sons
Trampled By Turtles
Old Crow Medicine Show

 

Pop

I don’t know how it happened but once upon a time I discovered an aspiring pop artist named Lana Del Rey and fell over myself. Now, I’d never consider myself a fan of pop but thanks to her and my good friend Jake who introduced me to Adele, I’ve managed to sand off the rough edges of my musical taste and can consider myself “well rounded”. The very small amount of radio pop I partake of cannot even be considered a guilty pleasure. There is no cognitive dissonance here. I legitimately enjoy the albums I’ll list below and I’m not afraid to let the metal community at large know.

I suggest:
Adele- 21
Lana Del Rey- Born to Die
Justin Timberlake- Future/Sex/LoveSounds

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What makes you a well-rounded music fan? Ever take a hiatus from the music you love the most? What did you listen to? 
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About Josh Johns

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Chief Editor and Writer for Metal CallOut. Favorite sub genre of heavy metal includes Black, Death, Folk and Traditional. Deathscript can be found at @realJoshJohns or Google+.

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