My friend will take any kind of history -- modern, past, ancient, alternate -- so long as it's history. He's by far the brightest guy I've ever known when it comes to history. But all he could find on the radio last night was music. There weren't even any talk shows.
“Heavy metal,” my friend said.
“Yeah it sure sounds like it.”
He started telling me the different genres of heavy metal. “There’s like death metal.”
I thought he said deaf metal. Couldn’t hear him very well. “I suppose it’s extra loud because they’ve all become deaf?”
He looked at me, then pointed at the radio: “That’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
“What? Rudolph?” I listened harder and could just make out the words: Ru-dolph the red nosed rein-deer. “Hey, it is!” The singer’s gravelly voice was nearly buried in the bass and drums.
“It must be a joke,” I said. “The guy’s probably really some crooner in Las Vegas.” We laughed.
“There’s Viking metal," he said. I squinted. “The songs all refer to Viking stuff. Like ships, clothes, swords.”
“And fantasy metal.” My friend is big into fantasy games, like Warhammer. And the extensive histories that back them up. Battles, constant battles amongst elves, dwarves, humans, aliens of different varieties, on and on. A lot of death. I could imagine loud heavy metal in the rooms those games are played in.
“There’s even Christian metal. They call it unblack metal.” I laughed but he was serious.
The announcer introduced Twisted Sister. The song: A Twisted Christmas.
“I’ve heard of them,” I said.
He bent his head down, listening carefully, especially when certain lines were repeated that he hadn’t been able to make out the first time around:
On my heavy metal Christmas my true love gave to me,
Twelve silver crosses
Eleven black mascaras
Ten pairs of platforms
Nine tattered t-shirts
Seven leather jackets
Six cans of hairspray
“See, this is Glam Metal--hairspray and platforms. Stars painted on, like Kiss."
Five skull ear-rings
Four quarts of Jack
Three studded belts
Two pairs of spandex pants
And a tat-to-o o-f O-o-zzy...
Of course followed by a screaming guitar solo.
The next song was very hard on the ears. He turned it down. The singer was screaming out gravel.
I said, “Is that what metal vomit sounds like?” My friend is sixteen and of course the mention of vomit causes a bit of hilarity. I inhaled deeply and at the top of my lungs screamed out gravel, and tried to make it sound like vomit at the same time. Actually, it wasn’t a bad imitation. For an old guy like me.
When we calmed down and silence began to set in, which I always notice and he never does, I said, “What other kinds of metal can you think of?”
He thought. No response. I guessed we had gone through all he could remember, which was quite a few by then. And he has an extremely good memory.
“How about iron metal?” I said. We were barreling down the wet pavement a little too fast. I braked it.
“Ha ha. Yeah sure.”
“Hey, how about metal rust?” We looked at each other with big smiles. “Okay, what colour is rust vomit?” I asked.
We both spewed it out as loudly and gravelly as we could: “R-R-R-R-E-E-E-E-E-E-D!!” And laughed like crazy. Without having an accident, luckily. Metal grinding on metal for real.
After I dropped him off, I thought this would make a funny story for the blog. So when I got home I looked up heavy metal on Google. One guy had a list of his Top 10 Heavy Metal Christmas Songs. Rudolph and the Twisted Christmas were right up at the top, but the #1 song was Silent Night. I looked at those two words, with a sinking feeling. I couldn’t imagine them sung by these people. But it shouldn’t matter to me. I’m not religious.
I clicked Play. It was a voice out of a nightmare. The worst kind of horror movie. Made to stalk, terrify, attack, torture, kill. “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” Word for word. No humourous changes at all. “Round yon virgin mother and child, holy infant so tender and mild." I couldn’t listen to it anymore, turned it off.
I tried to remember the real thing, to crowd out the horror with a pure voice singing those old words clearly and calmly. I don’t believe in God or Jesus, but Silent Night must be the most beautiful song in the world. It seems to lie inside me, like in my own manger. Just that song itself, and all the goodness in it. As I think about it there, it feels like some kind of immoveable base for my life.
Peace is in there. Please don’t anybody mess with it.
Here's the link,