by Steve Almond, Virginia Quarterly Review 2005
Copyright University of Virginia Summer 2005
I spent three years as a rock music critic in El Paso, Texas, which was where I lived at the tail end of the eighties and where I came of age, in a sense-grew old enough, that is, to recognize that heavy metal was, essentially, tribal in nature and that it had everything to do with rhythm and aggression and desire and conquest and physical release and death, which is to say, with sex.
But I’m not here to lecture on sex, or The Social Mores of the Headbanger Subculture, circa 1989. My job, as I understand it, is to suggest how heavy metal saved my life, which it surely did, and not by inspiring me toward complex thought, but by the opposite process: the complete annihilation of thought in favor of instinct-. To live dangerously, absurdly, even fallaciously-this was the legacy of my metal days. To believe one might get laid, sucked off, gulped down, on any given night, anywhere on earth-a hidden stairwell, a crowded bathroom, your neighbor’s porch, anywhere.
But please don’t ask me, did it happen and how and what did she smell like, because you’re missing the point. It isn’t the facts I’m speaking of here, but the desire. Not the deed, but the possibility. What is a piece of art, after all, but the possibility of a particular truth? And what are artists but suckers talented enough to win a few converts?