Posts Tagged ‘summer’

It is April 2014 and I’m living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Not the metal epicenter that teeming 24-million strong megacity Sao Paulo is, Rio still has enough to brag about in terms of extreme music culture. Definitely some solid local outfits – the all-female three piece Nervosa being the latest to grab metal headlines – and enough concert tours come through to slake one’s thirst for all things extreme.  Just this past week, in fact, both Obituary and Hypocrisy played on different nights. Yet I went to neither show. The tickets were too expensive ($80); the taxi to the venue too long (nearly an hour in traffic, and in Obituary’s case, in torrential rains); and show times were unclear based on the venue’s website, but in Rio you can bet they commence consistently late, frequently around the witching hour. Both shows being on weeknights and your bedraggled scribe knowing he’d have to labor at the office the following morning made neither show especially attractive. And on top of it all, I’ve been having lower-back problems, so standing for a prolonged period of time was out of the question.

Rounding third base and chugging toward age 40, I’ve been sluggish in my metal of late. And it begs the question: WTF, peeps? A lifetime devoted to the world’s most tasteful musical art form, yet has the wind has gone still from the flag I once so defiantly waved? The air seeped out of my once-oversized metal tires? The flame gone ashen in the torch I once held aloft in more youthful days? How can I sleep knowing that I’ve missed two of the most important and enduring groups in death metal’s illustrious and esteemed history over some back pain, a bit of a commute, rain, and a ticket price, when I get paid more than I deserve and don’t even pay rent in this acclaimed Cidade Maravilhosa? Bellow blindly unto the heavens, beseeching an answer to this existential torment, and thy response cometh in pained whispers from disappointed gods on high: thou art aging, old fart, and soon the hour may be nigh to retire thy metal jersey.

If I’m being truthful, this is not the first time I’ve contemplated retirement from the metal scene. Once I left my band, Witch Hunt, in 1997, a series of false starts followed in the 1990s and early 2000s, yet none were serious contenders and I continued buying music, going to concerts, and supporting the music at all turns. The most serious talk of retirement crept under the door in August 2008 following a night with Judas Priest, Heaven and Hell (Sabbath sans Ozzy), Motorhead, and Testament at the Nissan Pavilion in Manassas, Virginia. Were a soothsayer to have read the tealeaves prior to the show, indeed all signs would have pointed toward mighty metal triumph. Indeed, the summer concert experience was always a milestone on which I once judged the worth of entire calendar years. It’s how Motley Crue made 1990 the first best year of my teenage era, and Jane’s Addiction kicked 1991 in the ass (literally, since it was their final show of the original era, having announced their scheduled breakup weeks prior). It’s how Overkill made 1992, Suffocation/Dismember/Vader made 1993, Cannibal Corpse made 1994, and Death made 1995  have summers of distantly outstanding merit.

Thus it was that hopes were high on the afternoon August 11, 2008, while inching through Beltway-area traffic and on the brink of an Exxon-styled bladder spill from too much Mountain Dew, I arrived at Nissan Pavilion in Manassas, Virginia. I parked my Honda Civic in the dusty mega-lot and made sure I had my e-tickets. Featuring Judas Priest, Heaven and Hell (Sabbath sans Ozzy), Motorhead and Testament, the gig would be my first since returning from Iraq a month prior. THIS was to be my summer concert for 2008, so it HAD to count. Gazing out over the tailgating headbangers in the parking lot, barbecuing and already libating themselves into pre-show oblivion, it seemed to me this was more than a simple gathering of metal fans, something grander than the collective reliving of an outdated adolescent soundtrack. My post-Iraq readjustment had been an awkward process, and I needed an elixir, a metal feather to Dumbo’s magic one. Indeed, so robustly did I believe in the restorative capacity of the Metal Masters that I was certain the gig would set my world a-right. With all this swirling in my mind, for a moment, I took the sweet birdbath of memory, awash in a humid trickle of nostalgia. But the joy did not last long.

As harbingers go, ominous signs were already afoot, obstacles in the path of all enjoyment, even from my vantage position in the parking lot whilst I sat in my car’s air conditioning and demurred entering the late summer humidity for that long walk to the gate. Forgetting a cardinal protocol of platinum membership in the old school Metal Club, I neglected to recall that book-smart headbangers are still sometimes regarded with skepticism by our otherwise beloved cohort. Perhaps this explains why, as I read The Economist in my car before the gates opened, black-shirted passers-by eyed me with the jaundice Khmer fighters once reserved for bespectacled middle school graduates. On come accusations of selling out and being a preppy, despite the best Iraq mission-ready “mean mug” I could muster to shoot them as they passed and stared, jutting out my jaw line to its physiologically feasible limits. Not even inside the venue and I’d already been pushed from the litter of my brethren, a defective puppy never again to suckle at the metal sow’s guitar-shaped teat. Then getting inside the venue was a task in itself. I stood in line for half an hour, then stomped back to my car when denied entry due to my camera (“…by the artist’s request…”). I got back in line and waited, finally entering. A non-recoverable hour of life surrendered unto the abyss of venue bullshit bureaucracy.

Once inside, the open hand of extreme hunger guided my drift to the concessions booths. The deep-friend sirens on Chicken Finger Shore bade I partake of their greasy legged, white breasted wares. The hypnotic spell they cast is the only rational explanation for why I paid $13 for a tiny paper trough of three chicken fingers around a midget’s handful of soggy fries. The hand and fingers clenched tightly into a figurative fist that punched my wallet in the pie-hole. It still hurt even with knowledge that Iraq had treated my bank account decently, my genetic cheapness and sense of fair economic play both egregiously offended. My attempts to extract sympathy from the hag at the refreshments window amounted to nothing: the pearl of sympathy long stripped from her soul’s oyster, her dead-pan stare told me she had nothing left to give. I was thus left to sulk alone in my poverty. Urgently needing reaffirmation that things would be okay, especially after accidentally dropping my chicken fingers to the ground, I went to my seat under the pavilion and waited impatiently for the bands to start, naively certain that redemption lay on the impending horizon.

There was certainly enough to convince me this was the case based on a few superficial observations before the show began. The climatic conditions were as favorable as one can get on an August day in Virginia: the sun still shone brightly but the punishing humidity was at a late-day lull under the amphitheater’s cover. It was too early in the show for the smell of sweat and urine to flog my nostrils. The lighting trusses flickered blue and red and greens as the crew ran a few final checks, and smoke billowed side-stage. The crowd – at this early hour still filling few of the venue’s seats, was on Bud Light-heartened feet screaming mostly-coherent praise to whoever was preparing to go onstage, an eruption not generally afforded opening acts, certainly not before they’ve even begun their set.

You can tell how a show will go by the first band. This is not dissimilar to how the first kiss foretells a couple’s long-term compatibility. And in the world of metal, that first figurative kiss is everything.

Testament was on first. I stood in respect when the undisputed thrash metal titans confidently strode onstage. Let’s be honest: yeah, they had a few rough points along the way, but their classic-era work is scandal-proof, and you can’t lay claims against Formation of Damnation, the disc the band was road-dogging throughout 2008. Fully clad in black, their tattoos seemingly newly retouched and waist-length locks as lion-like as in their horn-raising heyday of the early 1990s, vocalist Chuck Billy made metal faces at us old-school style, serpentinely flipping his filthy-old-man’s tongue at the crowd, perhaps in homage to groupies who once were. Unabashedly pirating a whole chapter from Ozzy’s call-and-response playbook, the front man exhorted us to “get fuckin’ crazy” whilst the other band members took their positions. So far, so good.

But it was markedly downhill from that high water point, a musical disaster gathering momentum until control was surrendered wholly. As the intro tape for “Eerie Inhabitants” drew to a crescendoed close, Testament slammed into the first brash cords of opening salvo “Over the Wall”. Oh, how totally awesome would this first song have been if only Testament had simply played the tune from which the intro was culled, the first track of 1987’s The New Order, still the band’s finest work to diehards. The cognitive dissonance created by starting with one song’s intro, only to play an entirely different one, left me, in the spirit of the toked-up crowd, dazed and confused. And I’m the sober smart-ass reading The Economist. I can only speculate as to the confusion felt by the rest of the audience, all now cocking their heads to one side like befuddled puppies.

There was barely time to sort it out. Testament only played 30 minutes. They were squeezed onto a small space onstage, barely moved without bumping into one another, and experienced frequent sound trouble, including the magical vanishing of Greg Christian’s bass during, of all inopportune moments, his intro to “Souls of Black”. Vocalist Chuck Billy was too chubby to be headbanging. His insistence on wearing a cut-off tee merely added to the offense, revealing not a conquering metal god’s six-pack abs, but an unmanly muffin-top. In fact, my discriminating eye spotted the unsightly jiggle of belly fat all the way from Section 101, seat G-23. He flailed about in his oversized flesh and played air guitar on his mic stand during all the guitar solos, tummy truffles flapping in defiance of all coolness. And speaking of guitar solos, they were incredible, the highlight of the band’s performance. But every time he deftly executed one, fingers skitting across his Ibanez’s fret board, axe-man Alex Skolnick’s knees buckled like a girl in a mini-skirt for the first time, sheepishly hiding her hoo-hah from public scrutiny. It sapped the macho right out of Testament’s chest-beating theatrics and posturing.

Motorhead was up next. Before they began, I noted their road crew bore the hallmarks of crest-fallen Ultimate Fighters scraping for work. I thought I spotted Ken Shamrock sauntering about with cables and amps at stage right. And I’m pretty sure Tank Abbot – in his requisite shaven-headed, bearded thuggery – was the guitar tech. Personally, I wouldn’t let a dude who was last dispatched with by a toe-hold in under 30 be responsible for my guitar in front of that many people. As for Motorhead themselves, after 35 years in the business, they just didn’t seem to care. This was reflected metaphorically in their inclusion of select uninspiring songs like “Killed by Death.” While we can all agree it’s tough to break Cannibal Corpse’s monopoly on grisly ways to perish, I simply must believe that a $60 ticket price entitles me to a higher caliber of lyrical ingenuity if you’re going to sing about death. Moreover, all the songs they played were slow, decidedly bluesy and bereft of energy in their execution. And since when do the Metal Rules allow for even well-known opening bands to perform lengthy drum and guitar solos? Understandably legendary frontman Lemmy Kilmeister remained physically muted and stationary for most of the gig, and his occasional wobbles at the mic made me sense the lovable codger either couldn’t hold his liquor as deftly as in younger years, or was experiencing the onset of serious health problems (the latter being confirmed just a few short years later, I’m sorry to say). It seemed the entirety of Lemmy’s energy was expended on merely remaining upright, holding up that heavy Rickenbacher bass, and keeping his mouth firmly planted before the mic, clearly now feats of great concentration for the man. He evinced no energy the 45 minutes the band was playing, not even when parading out staple classic “Ace of Spades” (mumbling “…it’s time to play THAT song again.”). I know, I know… I ought to cut him some slack. Lemmy’s well past 60 now and he must be tired of life on the road. In a way, I feel bad for him, despite the joy he’s brought to millions and his admittedly unabashed torch carrying for rock and metal over the decades. But he knows he can’t stop. They don’t make 401(k) for aging rockers.

Heaven and Hell were third on the roster, the final band before Judas Priest. They had a massive stage set, something out of metal mockumentary This is Spinal Tap. The whole setup had a plastic feel to it, like Castle Greyskull for grown-ups. A rusty graveyard fence surrounded the band’s backline and the drum riser. There were full-blown gargoyles with red glowing eyes. The gargoyles blew smoke, choking the stage, and the first 10 rows with thin grey fumes for a full 20 minutes prior to Heaven and Hell taking the stage. The gargoyles’ gnarly, clawed paper mache talons supported light-up crystal balls, and every time they ignited bright yellow, ostensibly with some variety of mystical metal magik, the gargoyles’ eyes burned crimson, they belched smoke, and the crowd roared in apocalyptic – and one might assume inebriated – approval. Despite my expectation that the band would show their true renegade-ness by storming onstage and pretending to slay the gargoyles or jumping the faux-fence, they emerged as proper English gentlemen (with the obvious inclusion of one Ronnie James Dio, a metal gent for the nations), casually strolling onstage and smiling ever-so-politely. It is true: to be in their presence of the masters, the forefathers, is mind-blowing at the outset. Yet Tony Iommi’s guitar was muddy, nearly beyond comprehension. There was too much bass in the mix and Geezer Butler’s every hand-slap-on-heavily-gaged-strings was audible even on the law, creating an annoying clicking not in-time with Carmine Appice’s kick drum. Dio crooned and gestured broadly, and his voice wavering with a diva’s emotion. But ‘twas not sufficient to save Heaven and Hell from an overall sound more befitting of an opening band on poorly-run club PA, not guys with this much experience on state of the art equipment in one of the Washington, DC area’s biggest premier live music venues.

Four songs into Heaven and Hell’s set, during “Children of the Sea”, with the sloppy sund and the house still only three-quarters full, something came over me, a sadness of some inexplicable kind. Agitated by the previous months in Iraq, unable to stand or sit immobile for too long or concentrate for the length of time required of a musical performance, ill in the innards from the pounding yet muddy amphitheater sound, dismayed that my heroes could be so lackluster, I knew that, at least for me, the end was neigh, that my retirement from metal was on deck. I could not bear to witness the death throes of this entire performance, and would not stick around to see Judas Priest, who I’d wanted to see live since I discovered them with Painkiller in 1990 as a 13-year old. It was only fitting that my final act would be to walk out while Tony Iommi, the man who started it all, was onstage. As I departed my seating section, I halted occasionally for an uncomfortable pause and nervous deliberation, glancing over my shoulder at the stage. Was I really gonna do it?

I made it to the lawn area. I surveyed the sparse crowd seated around me. I looked for the loneliest face. Judging from the forlorn grills surrounding me in the lawn, I knew it wasn’t just me who needed a miracle at that moment. And then I found a special one, the one to be the recipient of my True Metal Miracle: probably 14 years old, pimply and alone, squinting to see the figures performing at a great distance, sipping a lukewarm Mountain Dew, likely on the lawn because his parents were too cheap to purchase him a seat under the pavilion, or his allowance and yard-mowing cash simply didn’t suffice for a more expensive ticket. Yes, I was once like him, and if he remained in the Washington, DC region then statistically he would one day indeed be me: a member of the walking dead, a government employee, relegated to his cubicle and subject to dancing to The Man’s unpredictable whims, wondering how glory had so easily escaped him and sadly reflective on his metallic teenage glory era. Yes, the boy would one day grow painfully aware that the magic does not last. That this time of musical discovery in his life will one day draw to an abrupt close, sooner than he anticipates and much faster than he is prepared to accept. His guitar gods will be revealed as nothing more than men, and they would someday pass from this life, their corporeal beings withered, their souls drifting unsung into the ether of rock history. There they will be celebrated on tee-shirts and posters and shitty mall kitsch that will NEVER do justice to the greatness of the men themselves, the wonderful contributions they made to lives of their fans who adore and love them, the dreams they inspire and the memories their music creates.

It was time to pass the torch.

I tapped the boy’s shoulder. He wheeled to face me. Not defensive, just curious. I could tell the band transfixed him and that my contact jolted him from another world. Maybe this was his first concert, and though I was angry about its outcome for me personally, I fully understood how it was likely the proverbial Big Deal to the kid who didn’t have 25 years of metal concerts under his belt as a barometer for separating chicken shit from chicken salad. I forced a smile, attempting to conceal the heavy woe in my heart. No, I would have no one pity me in this final act. I gave him my ticket, pointing to the seating info on the page and giving him a quick thumbs-up. I patted him on the back paternally, my palm thudding soundly a few deliberate times, and I hoped each one would convey to him the gravity of the moment and the charge now upon him. A perceptive young man, he was already well ahead of me: if anything counter-balanced the sob welling in my gut, it was the sudden and unadulterated joy in the boy’s eyes. He jumped all at once and sprinted down the hill, all pretense of detached coolness gone from his exploding teenage heart. And for a moment, I was happy. I was free. I marveled at how we never exchanged a word, yet we both had said so much. The communicative power of music, I thought.

I began walking again, stopping only once to peer over my shoulder and deliver a silent goodbye to Tony and the boys. Thank you, gentlemen: I owe you the best of my youth. It was a good run.

In his book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, on which annual holiday marathon flick A Christmas Story is based, Jean Shepherd writes:

“There are about four times in a man’s life, or a woman’s, too, for that matter, when unexpectedly, from out of the darkness, the blazing carbon lamp, the cosmic searchlight of truth shines full upon them. It is how we react to those moments that forever seals our fate. I caught the first one full in the face when I was fourteen. The fourteenth summer is a magic one for all kids.”

And so ‘twas for your intrepid author when, at age 14 in early 1991, I became a Slayer fan. Like all teens in the pre-Internet age that found themselves part of the band’s expansive global support network during their classic era, a conglomerate of life factors ushered me into a long season in the musical abyss from which I have yet to return.

First, in 1991 my family resided in Hawaii, my Marine officer father having been plugged into a three-year tour of duty at the base in Kaneohe on Oahu. In March that year, he returned from a 8-month deployment to the first Gulf War, and Slayer’s lyrics on the detriment of armed conflict, the psychological damage soldiers endure during combat, and the threat of chemical warfare were themes fresh in my adolescent mind. All extreme metal groups broached these topics, but only Slayer’s vivid word-smithing was possessed of sufficient depth to provide the soundtrack to the worried mind of a boy half-convinced his father, far from home, might well evaporate, unheralded, into a cloud of anthrax.

Second, on a determined plod to triumphantly complete 9th grade, I was no longer a freshman in the strict sense of the term, thus less-frequently subject to the martial law the older kids imposed upon newbies. This newfound liberation removed a planet of teenage tension from atop a pubescent Atlas’ shoulders, yet the occasional gut-punch in the boys’ room endured, and your author considered himself in justifiable need of a benefactor for the provision of stiff-jawed conviction when facing down jerkish 15-to-17 year olds. When you’re 14, there is only one benefactor capable of providing such strength, and it is metal. The volume and speed with which the music is executed, diabolic tri-tone, and savage vocals combine to make geeks feel 10 feet tall: the weak become strong, the last become first, all engulfed by a bully-proof sonic force field. Again, enter Slayer.

Third – though in reality most important – I met an older kid who took me under his grizzled elder wing and grandfathered me into Slayer fandom. In the pre-Internet age of the early 1990s, this was the only way it was done. Truly, until you met the older kid who shared the secret handshake giving admission to the coven, your conversion from normal metal fan to sonic belligerent could not commence.

To be fair, his groundwork had been solidly laid in advance, since I had experience (though limited) with the band. I first learned of them in 6th grade when I saw a companion wayward soul meandering down the hall between classes, and he was in a Slayer shirt. Donned by a kid whose parochial musical dignity ne’er permitted him to speak directly to me, his South of Heaven shirt instantly turned the pride I felt for my Motley Crue tee into a puddle of self-conscious flop sweat. In 7th grade, I was about to examine a Slayer tape at the record store when a menacing voice wafted over my shoulder: “Put that back. It’ll ruin your life.” In 8th grade, while at my friend Chris’ house, I finally heard Slayer’s music when he stuck his recently purchased copy of the band’s new album, Seasons in the Abyss, into a boom box, in short order splitting my ears with the first battle cries of lead-off track “War Ensemble”. And I admit, I was impressed: I had been gradually evolving from the glam rock that served as my entrée to metal, to gravitas-infused acts like Metallica (who just released And Justice for All and was yet eating hearty at the trough of the genius-inspired Master of Puppets), Overkill, Exodus, Testament, and Suicidal Tendencies, so my stage was set for something truly exhilarating. The next logical step in my progression of brutality could have only been Slayer. But they just seemed scary, a bridge further than I was willing to extend my musical experimentation.

But in the 9th grade, now 14 years old and attending Christian private school in Hawaii, into my life sprang the catalyst pushing me over the cliff. His name was Mike, and he was a bona-fide juvenile delinquent. He was kicked out of his father’s home in Maryland and banished to Hawaii with his mother. She inexplicably fashioned herself capable of reigning him in, and thought Christian school a worthwhile first step to that end. Once at school together, with metal on his criminal mind, scant time passed before we were drawn into one another’s company like the Millennium Falcon to the Death Star’s tractor beam. Within days of meeting Mike, he’d convinced me to purchase Seasons in the Abyss. Then it was onto Reign in Blood, still the band’s finest hour. Soon thereafter were purchased South of Heaven and Hell Awaits, rounding out my collection of the band’s classic period with Show No Mercy and Haunting the Chapel, with Live Undead thrown in for good evil measure.

All of this occurred in a period approximating 2 months leading into summer 1991. And let the record show: it was a magical summer by all historical accounts, at least as far as music goes. And a good musical summer when you’re 14 is, at its very core, a great summer in general, since at that age all that really matters are the strains of songs criss-crossing through your head from the time you wake ’til the second you slumber.

Between May and September 1991, Metallica released the Black Album (most awesomely on the same day my 7th grade ex-girlfriend Caroline moved away, a pox lifted from my spirit); GNR unleashed the Use Your Illusion double-disc and launched the biggest stadium tour you ever friggin’ witnessed; Queensryche was promoting the Empire album, an apt follow-up to the multi-platinum Operation Mindcrime; Anthrax put out Attack of the Killer B’s and was riding high on the groundswell of support conjured from the first REAL rap-metal crossover song (Run DMC-Aermoth’s “Walk This Way” in 1986 was rap-ROCK, which is different), a cover of Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” duo’d between the two groups; Motley Crue was still reaping the metallic harvest of the Dr. Feelgood album, having already moved 4.5 million copies of the opus by then, and released their first greatest hits package, Decade of Decadence. And best of all (and I really mean this), bands like Nirvana were beginning to make their mark on MTV, their patent variety of pop-punk bearing a few of metal’d distinct hallmarks and inspiring young metal fans to wonder what the future might well hold if the genres blended only a bit more. (It should not be forgotten that Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain enlisted Andy Wallace to engineer breakthrough album Nevermind – the one leading off with the massive track “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – because Wallace had also engineered Slayer’s Reign in Blood and Cobain sought a sound equally as aggressive for his still gutter-dwelling Seattle-based alternative act.)

The list could go on forever when it came to summer 1991 and metal’s newfound worldwide success. Slayer were no exception, hitting new heights of mainstream popularity theretofore deemed impossible by extreme music fans worldwide. The Clash of the Titans North American tour kicked off, leaving arenas bludgeoned across the U.S. by the triple thrash threat of Slayer, Anthrax, and Megadeth. They sold out nearly everywhere, including Madison Square Garden in New York City, at which MTV shot a special episode of Headbanger’s Ball. In fact, the music videos “Seasons in the Abyss” and “War Ensemble” were in semi-regular rotation on MTV for a short window of time, and I distinctly remember seeing them each at least once during regular daylight programming. Rolling Stone, mainstream rock’s premier publication, even covered the band. You could therefore not fault me for believing that Slayer was poised for world conquest, ready to lead its legion of youthful devotees to a promised land of quality speed metal.

What happened to me then can only be described as teen obsession, for my very essence became consumed by a single thought: how does one most readily pledge allegiance to the Slayer? In my naïve mind, it seemed wholly reasonable that I could cross paths with the band and, if so, my fandom could be called onto the carpet for scrutiny. Were it so, I would not come up short. And so I set about ensuring my place in the pantheon of Slayer’s most unquestionably faithful.

Thus it was that reveling in conceptual death like every incipient Slayer fan whose path I now followed, I drew up my first will. Into the “special instructions” I ordered that all four members of Slayer be notified immediately in the event of my passing. I listed them ahead of even my own family. I scribbled the band’s logo on all my books at school. I purchased at least four Slayer tee shirts. Suddenly every song lyric I wrote (for the supremely evil band I’d assuredly front one day) was an abiding (and admittedly pirated) ode to Slayer: fifth-rate screeds of Satanism and butchery, all written in first-person prose, just like my blackened idols. Then mid-summer, when I fell irrevocably in love with a local girl named Lissa who promptly traveled to Arizona for two months of family vacation, I began sending love letters. I can only imagine the shock and concern her relatives evinced when fetching the mail routinely resulted in handing Lissa envelopes covered with sketches of cadavers and inverted crosses, my shaky rendering of the Slayer logo overseeing the entire macabre charade. And I played their music voluminously at every opportunity, as ‘twas my fervent belief that if only others could hear, they too would heed the call. This included at the public pool, where fat-bottomed mothers shot us disapproving looks as Hell Awaits blared, certain we were hell-bent on ensnaring their cherubic children in the devil’s sonic temple.

Even my teenage erotic fantasies – the Lord as my witness, there were indeed many – underwent a tectonic shift in course. My brother and I mowed lawns around the neighborhood for pocket money. As luck had it, we labored predominantly for households with physically attractive matrons. Pre-Slayer, I held out distant hope that Mrs. Weber or Mrs. Kowalksi would return home in a bikini and, beholding a yard expertly trimmed yet lacking cash with which to remunerate my efforts, would offer payment via certain favors. Post-Slayer, I began fantasizing about something even less realistic than cavorting scandalously with desirable local housewives: that if I could learn their songs well enough, I’d get to join the band onstage one day.

And so it was that when guitarist Jeff Hanneman died in May 2013, a part of me perished with him. I was fortunate to see Slayer with Jeff in 1995, 2007, and 2010. He wrote most of the band’s most cherished songs, providing the soundtrack to the magical summer of my 14th year.