The softening of the metal.
I love heavy metal. It’s been my soundtrack for years. I love heavy metal across the spectrum of the genre, which is surprisingly vast. For the better part of the last ten years, I’ve leaned towards very aggressive metal. It’s the “hard liquor” of my musical tastes and definitely not for everyone. Still, if there were double bass drums slamming and a lead singer screaming with zero consideration for staying in key, chances are I was listening to it. A lot. And probably at ear-shattering concerts.
Much of that changed when my son was born.
I love heavy metal, but it’s not the only genre of music I listen to. The unbridled aggression and thundering brutality of metal is not really appropriate for a toddler, so my son listens to mostly jazz, classical, and classic rock. At first I kept my heavy metal indulgences for solo car rides, gym workouts, and the occasional long walk with my headphones. But I could feel my desire to share my heavy metal rising as my son got older. So I made a simple restriction: I’ll play heavy metal for my son as long as the lead singer is singing, not yelling. That’s what I’ve done for the past year or so, and as a result I think my own tastes in metal have been shifting.
It may be that I’m getting older, too. After ten years of steady listening thanks to being fortunate enough to work from home, I may have finally had my fill with super aggressive heavy metal. Growling and yelling is still appealing, but it does not have the same powerful allure that it used to. I want a melody I can sing along to nowadays, or a tune I can sing to my son. This doesn’t mean that I’ve gotten rid of all my old aggressive metal albums and songs. It means that my search for new metal has more melodic requirements than it used to.
This realization truly hit me when I picked up Opeth’s latest album, Sorceress, late last week. It was released in 2016 but I’d only just gotten around to hearing some of the tracks. It’s not at all what I expected it to be. It is a strange but intriguing blend of heavy metal and classic rock, with a great deal of ambient acoustic elements. I picked up this album thinking it was going to be heavy progressive metal, but the softer and more melodic sound makes it something else entirely. Ten years ago I would have likely been disappointed with Sorceress, but I’ve been listening to this classic rock/progressive metal blend steadily over the last few days and loving it more and more. Thanks to its softer sound, I can enjoy it with my son, too.
If heavy metal is the hard liquor of my musical tastes, then I guess this means I’m enjoying it on-the-rocks nowadays instead of straight up.