I journeyed into the world of metal this week.
A bit late you might say, but mine was the punk world at 17 and, although the metal bus was actually leaving from pretty much the same stop, I only had eyes for punks. Punk girls rocked: they wore safety clips and torn tights, black eye make-up and spiky hair. Pursuit was mandatory.
My journey to metal land was largely accidental. One minute I was being goaded into playing some, the next I was asking an HMV assistant where I might find Impaled Nazerene? Not for the first time recently, I found myself asking: "How did I get here?"
On the eve of my metal Friday I stumbled on to a heavy metal forum. My musical choices were already the subject of heated debate. They were being universally slammed, which was strange because I hadn't actually made any choices at that point. But their guesses were on the money, and so, mumbling "mind-reading swine," I headed to HMV.
I asked a girl -- dressed as punk -- where I might find the metal section. Tellingly, she led me to the actual area, the way you would a tourist. I took this as an indication that she didn't believe I would ever find it alone. To my relief it was crap. Queen, REM, and Radiohead are not metal. It appeared I wasn't the least informed person in the world after all.
Back home, in the comfort of the internet, I was soon relaxing with real metal bands: Rotting Christ, Stabbed in the Back, Head Wound and Malevolent Creation. When I suspected that Circle of Dead Children might be a made up name I tweeted to see if they had a 'radio friendly' hit. "Strip for your Killer," came back the reply in a heart beat.
And so myself, Cannibal Corpse, Cradle of Filth and Death Organ cuddled up for the night. And what a night it was. I emerged rejuvenated, a new man, firmly convinced that Jedward had only ever been a bad dream and clear in the knowledge that I would never need a white wash again!
The thing that struck me about metal is how it divides people. It reminded me of the smokers' sections in restaurants. I never smoked, but I always asked to sit in the smokers' section. That was where the fun people were. The non-smokers looked over with sour faces but I didn't mind. The smokers were smoking by name and smokin' by nature. I preferred my friends smoking hot.
It's the same with metal heads. A metal collection is almost a guarantee of certain interests and tastes. It precludes you from liking most X Factor-type shows and the music of entire decades. Equally, it means it can tell you exact dates of upcoming concerts by AC/DC and their ilk as if they were the birthdays of loved ones in your family.
Which, of course, they are. Sign up to the metal family and you will never be alone. Metal may be niche, but in terms of niche it's China. It's like the Freemasons: mad clothes, mad rituals, mad hand shakes and a continent of secret knowledge. A foot wrong here, a Deep Purple confused with a Black Sabbath and you'll never be let back in again. For those about to rock ...
Tune into Tom Dunne on Newstalk 106-108FM on weekdays, 9am to noon