How Heavy Metal Saved My Life (2023)

Of course it was Gomper who thought up the name.

Patrick 'Gomper' Guinness, born and raised in South Buffalo, no relation whatsoever to the family of Irish brewing billionaires, was as close as our little crew had to a man of the world. Gomper owned almost a dozen hardcore and metal records, and most of a drum kit, and had actually been to New York City—all of which made him our lord and commander. When he announced, right before band practice one Sunday morning, that we were going to call ourselves “Asphalt Halo,” it never crossed our minds to disagree. The name sounded cool, and it suited our sound—the “asphalt” part, anyway. I'm pretty sure all three of us—Gomper, J.T., and me—understood, even then, that it was better than our bullshit band deserved.

The plan was to get together every Sunday in what Gomper's parents insisted on referring to as their “carport”—it was a standard one-car garage—and use our battered pawn-shop instruments to make noises that approximated rock. Ten in the morning on Sundays was the perfect time to play—the only time, really—because everybody else was at mass. We had an hour and a half before someone (Gomper's dad, usually) ordered us to stop on pain of death. We did our best to make those ninety minutes count.

There was only one problem: our best was awful.

J.T. knew two or three power chords (we didn't realize that the whole point of a “power” chord is that it can be slid literally anywhere up and down the neck of a guitar), so it was usually J.T. who started us off. The riffs he came up with sounded pretty good, as I remember it—right up to the moment when the rest of us joined in. Gomper had been in marching band for a year, and he kept decent time, at least until his attention drifted.

How Heavy Metal Saved My Life (1)

My own case was more problematic. I was on the bass, technically speaking—though it might be more accurate to say that the bass was on me. I'd found it at a tag sale in Cheektowaga for forty-five bucks: it was made out of some kind of translucent green acrylic that was heavier than lead, and it was fretless. I hadn't known that electric bass guitars generally have frets when I'd bought it, and neither, apparently, had anyone else in the band. What's more, I was so scrawny at sixteen that I had to play the thing sitting down, usually on the floor, with the instrument laid across me like a fallen Douglas fir. For these and other reasons, Gomper and I never failed to sabotage J.T.'s riffs, even when—especially when—we tried to play along. It didn't take us long to decide that the songs were better served if we each just went our own arbitrary way. Dissonance, Gomper argued, was impossible for us to steer clear of—so why not just make dissonance the goal?

(Video) (EN) Heavy Metal Saved My Life - feat. Iron Maiden, Mastodon | Fans | Preview | Episode 1/2 |S01E01

This was how Asphalt Halo—which had originally been conceived as a cross between AC/DC and Metallica, with a soupçon of Black Sabbath thrown in for good measure—became an exercise in pandemonium.

What still blows my mind, looking back, is how little it mattered to us that we sucked. We took an innocent sort of pride, in fact, in the violence of our rejection by the world. Our jams offended every living creature within hearing range: Gomper's parents, kids from the neighborhood playing hooky from church, the beautiful and aloof sophomore J.T. referred to as his “girlfriend” with zero evidence to support his claim, and even Peanut, the Guinness' long-suffering standard poodle. None of us had ever heard of the term “noise band,” let alone of John Cage or Merzbow or Metal Machine Music, so we were free to imagine that we were breaking fresh musical ground.

We'd have preferred to set the world on fire, needless to say. We'd have preferred to tour Europe and put out glossy double albums, or at least to be able to get through one single song from start to finish. But the crappiness of our band was beside the point, I understand now, because the alternative was despair. The three of us needed Asphalt Halo to exist. Reality was not an option. We had to have a pretext—a scaffolding, however flimsy, on which to hang our day-glo teenage dreams.

The fact that it worked, however temporarily, still takes my breath away.

I spent a great deal of my adolescence in a state of fear. It's hard to imagine, these days—given how beautifully the city has been restored, how lively its downtown is now, and how delighted everyone seems to be to live there—but Buffalo in the early '80s was a bruised and gray and godforsaken place. I saw a kid beaten half to death by his best friend, out of his mind on Miller High Life and paint thinner, using the cast on his broken left hand as a weapon. I saw a flatscreen TV thrown out of a second-story window onto an idling ambulance. I had a front-row seat for sexual harassment and homophobia and racism in all their bewildering small-town American varieties—and I came from the quiet part of town. The unspoken collective assumption in the once-great “Queen City” seemed to be that our best days, to put it very gently, were behind us. The movies we saw were all about people and places on bizarre and distant planets—New York, Los Angeles, Miami—and TV was beyond ridiculous. The only thing that came anywhere close to capturing what we desired and loved and feared was music. The heavier and uglier the better.

How Heavy Metal Saved My Life (2)

Without Asphalt Halo—without Gomper's Slayer and Minor Threat albums, without J.T.'s three bar chords, without the twin miracles of distortion and feedback, without those Sunday mornings in that pivotal year of my paranoid teens, and the defibrillating effect they had on my imagination—I have a pretty clear picture of how things might have turned out. I didn't have far to look: reality, after all, was right there waiting for us, every time the music stopped. It was somehow understood, without ever being explicitly discussed, that things turned ugly over at J.T.'s when his father was around. Gomper's home life was okay, as far as I could see, but he was going through a six pack of Labatt's Blue a day by fall of junior year. Even during the Halo's heyday, depression pinned me to the bed most mornings like a room-sized mastodon. At the time I simply thought of it as boredom, which sounds innocuous enough—but I've seen boredom lay waste to whole families. The fewer options you have—the less you can plausibly imagine yourself doing, on any given day—the more likely you are to slide into the void. Even now, I can't read about the grievances of so-called Red State America, or hear pundits hold forth about the rural opioid epidemic on CNN, without that suffocating No Exit feeling tightening my chest. Lack of options, of alternatives, of fantasies can kill you. Gomper and J.T. and I knew that better than anything. It was axiomatic for us. I'd rather suck at something than be dead.

(Video) (EN) Heavy Metal Saved My Life - feat. Gaahl, Faith No More | Queer | Preview | Folge 2/2 | S01E02

Our first song—the first one I can remember, at least—was called “Lïnt.” J.T.'s guitar part was straightforward enough—it reminded me a bit of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling”—but my contribution sounded like a funeral dirge played on a tuba, and I'm pretty sure that Gomper's drumming was in a different time signature altogether. We “put it down on tape” before we'd even figured out how it ended. We recorded every aimless lick that we came up with on Gomper's sister's RadioShack boombox, using Mr. Guiness' extensive collection of Phil Collins cassettes as our tape source. By the end of our first month as a band, there was no more Phil Collins left, and no Jean-Michel Jarre, either, which we felt kind of smug about—not to say that we were an improvement. At its best, Asphalt Halo sounded like a smallish Indonesian Gamelan ensemble performing underwater; at our worst, we defied all description. Of the fifty-plus songs we came up with, I don't remember much more than a handful of titles: “Foot Rub,” “Death 2 Rochester,” “Disappointing Fiscal Returns,” and my personal favorite, “Shampoop.” For better or worse, I have only my memory of the music to go by, because we destroyed all evidence of Asphalt Halo's brief existence, by universal agreement, the day we broke up.

Which raises the possibility, however slight, that we were actually amazing.

The end was as unspectacular as the beginning. In our year as a band, we'd seen a dozen faces and rocked exactly none. Somewhere around the start of senior year, the three of us realized—more or less spontaneously, and independently of one another—that the music we were making had no future. Asphalt Halo was a bad joke, a musical non-event, a best-forgotten embarrassment to all concerned. We stopped jamming on weekends, stopped struggling to master our instruments, eventually stopped hanging out altogether. I bumped into J.T. one Sunday that winter, down the street from the Guinness' house, dressed in a pinstriped oxford shirt and chinos. He was on his way to mass.

How Heavy Metal Saved My Life (3)

The last time I saw Gomper, he was sitting on a dirty inner tube in Fireman's Park, eating peanut butter straight out of a jar. I'd heard he was a crackhead now, but to me he just looked drunk. His hairline was receding, his voice had lost its swagger, and the wiry body I remembered had gone soft and slow and strange. We hadn't seen each other in a decade, and this meeting was by chance—I’d have walked right past him, probably, if he hadn’t called my name. When I asked about J.T., he smiled and shook his head and changed the subject. I didn't press the issue. Something told me that I didn't want to know.

How Heavy Metal Saved My Life (4)

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(Video) Heavy Metal Saved My Life - feat. Iron Maiden, Mastodon | Fans | Folge 1/2 | S01E01

Gomper mumbled something about it having been a while, but he didn't seem, as he said it, to have a whole lot of faith in his perception of time. I was living in New York by then, and I expected him to ask about the city—the eternal elsewhere where Life with a capital L was supposed to be located—but he didn't do that either. He talked about hockey. The Sabres were doing pretty well. That Canadian goalie, whatever-his-name, was amazing. Everything was better in Canada, wasn't it? You could walk there in fifteen minutes from where we were sitting. He'd done it just the other week, by himself, to celebrate his birthday.

Gomper was up for talking about everything, it turned out, except Asphalt Halo. It occurred to me at some point that he might have had genuine ambitions for the band, or at least something resembling hope. He might have been counting on music—on our music—to save him from irrelevance, from boredom, from himself. I sat there next to him in the muddy grass for maybe an hour, not saying much, trying to visualize those long-ago Sunday mornings in the carport. They felt utterly unreal to me, bleached of color and detail, like polaroids on the dash of some long-abandoned car. I couldn't help but wonder whether Gomper felt the same. When I got to my feet and said goodbye, he barely seemed to notice.

For years I’ve been having a recurring dream. Some stadium-rock juggernaut—Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Nirvana, Radiohead—asks Asphalt Halo to open for them at the last possible minute. The gig is at War Memorial Auditorium, where all the big names played in Buffalo back in the day. The arena is packed when we step sheepishly onto its gargantuan stage, but the vast crowd stands stone-faced and silent: they're just as baffled as we are by our presence there. To stave off disaster, J.T. grabs his beat-up Aria Pro 2 and launches into the opening riff of “Disappointing Fiscal Returns,” and Gomper and I drop in as soon as we can, struggling, as always, for some semblance of control over our instruments. Somehow we make it to the song's only lyrics—REPORT TO MIDDLE MANAGEMENT, screamed at random over the chorus—before the power to our instruments is cut. The silence that falls is even more ominous than when we first shuffled onstage. I'm suddenly dizzy. I can't seem to breathe. I stare into the faces of the greasy-haired goons in the first dozen rows and see nothing but death.

(Video) I'm 16 and Transgender, Metal Saved My Life

Then the inconceivable happens. Without warning, beginning up in the nosebleed seats, every person in War Memorial starts screaming. Not in outrage, we slowly realize, and not even out of boredom or impatience—thirty thousand metal fans are howling their approval. The whole stadium shudders. I glance over at J.T., who stands frozen in mid-downstroke, blinking and shaking his head. Gomper—sixteen-year-old, dumpling-cheeked Gomper, not the zombie I sat with in the park—grins his buck-toothed grin at me, his brown eyes wide with shock and disbelief. They love us. They fucking love us. Everything is going to be all right.

How Heavy Metal Saved My Life (5)

John Wray

John Wray is author of six novels, including the forthcoming Gone to the Wolves (out May 2), and an occasional contributor to the New York Times Magazine.


Does heavy metal help depression? ›

Metal and depression

If you love metal, listening to this genre can help lessen negative emotions you may be feeling. It may also help reduce cortisol levels, which can result in less stress.

What is the personality of people who listen to metal? ›

Metal fans, like classical listeners, tend to be creative, gentle people, at ease with themselves.

Why do I love heavy metal so much? ›

Enjoying heavy metal was also correlated with openness, possibly because people with more open personalities would be drawn to music that is “intense, engaging, and challenging,” as metal can be, the researchers write. Interestingly, the metal fans in the study tended to have relatively low self-esteem.

Is heavy metal good for your mental health? ›

Most studies on the subject seem to show the opposite. Rather than causing depression or making it worse, heavy metal can actually help reduce negative emotions. What's more, it can also reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.

Which emotion is associated with metal? ›

In traditional Chinese medicine, metal governs the lung and the large intestine, nose and skin. The negative emotion associated with metal is grief, while the positive emotion is courage. Many sources aimed at a Western audience equate Metal with the attributes of the element Air.

Does heavy metal calm your heart down? ›

The results were that '80s pop, featured on a soundtrack playlist for British TV show It's a Sin, reduced stress the most, with respondents averaging a 36% decrease in heart rate and 96% of the volunteers experiencing a reduction in blood pressure.

What type of person listens to heavy metal? ›

The metal fan base was traditionally working class, white and male in the 1970s, and since the 1980s, more female fans have developed an interest in the style.

Do metal listeners have higher IQ? ›

People use this music to 'purge' their negativity. Liking heavy metal music is a sign of high intelligence, research suggests. Some people may use heavy metal music as a way of coping with being talented. Being a 'metalhead' is sometimes associated with poor performance and delinquency, but this survey found otherwise.

What does liking metal say about you? ›

Rock and heavy metal often project images of anger, bravado, and aggression. However, this study found such fans to be gentle, creative, and introverted. They also tended to have low self-esteem.

What percentage of the population likes heavy metal? ›

You can upgrade your account to enable this functionality for all statistics. Already a member?
Leading music genres according to consumers in the United States as of May 2018.
CharacteristicShare of respondents
Classical and Opera17.4%
Heavy metal16.9%
9 more rows
Jan 8, 2021

What heavy metal does to your brain? ›

However, excessive metal accumulation in the nervous system may be toxic, inducing oxidative stress, disrupting mitochondrial function, and impairing the activity of numerous enzymes. Damage caused by metal accumulation may result in permanent injuries, including severe neurological disorders.

Does your body need heavy metals? ›

Living organisms require varying amounts of heavy metals. Iron, cobalt, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc are required by humans. [10] All metals are toxic at higher concentrations. [9] Excessive levels can be damaging to the organism.

Is heavy metal good for ADHD? ›

Exposure to toxic heavy metals—including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury—has repeatedly been associated with the development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention-deficit disorder (ADD) in children. Even in small amounts, toxic metals are capable of harming neurological development.

What is the psychology of people who like metal music? ›

Researchers have found that people who are angry and aggressive can experience more positive emotions because of the increased arousal from metal music which matches the person's physiological state. This congruence between anger/aggression and arousal from metal helps with anger regulation.

Are people who listen to metal depressed? ›

57% reported being regular listeners of the various types of metal. It was found those 57% had higher levels of anger, depression, and anxiety than the rest.

What does the metal element mean spiritually? ›

Spiritually the consciousness and energy of the Metal Element is about “letting go” of whatever is no longer needed. It is no longer appropriate for you to carry the weight of lies and pain. You must find what the self finds valuable and “let go” of the rest.

What organ is the metal element in? ›

Metal element, one of the TCM 5 elements, is associated with Lung and its partner organ, Large Intestine. Those who belong to the Metal element can be flexible and malleable. But when it's unbalanced, one can become “solid” and appear to be indifferent, very formal, and seem distant.

What color is tied to emotions? ›

Colors close to the red spectrum are warmer colors, including red, orange, and yellow. These warm colors evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility. Whereas blue colors like purple and green are known for evoking feelings of calm, sadness, or indifference.

Where do heavy metals go in the body? ›

The accumulation happens after you're exposed to heavy metals. Once inside of your body, the metals reside in your blood or tissues, which spreads from your head to your toes. Heavy metals fight with components in your cells, like enzymes and proteins. These components are important to help your organs function.

Does heavy metal help you sleep? ›

Some people may experience relaxation -- slower breathing and heartbeats -- by listening to heavy metal or hard rock. "So, whether it's hard rock or heavy metal or Bach, find what makes you feel relaxed in your body and what helps you get out of your head," says Vago.

What metals cause anxiety? ›

Though some of these metals only have effect on human physiology in high doses, others such as cadmium, mercury, lead, chromium, silver, and arsenic have delirious effects in the body even in minute quantities, causing acute and chronic toxicities in human. Anxiety is a common psychiatric disorder among men and women.

What is metal yelling called? ›

A death growl, or simply growl, is an extended vocal technique usually employed in extreme styles of music, particularly in death metal and other extreme subgenres of heavy metal music.

Are metal fans happier? ›

D. psychologist Nick Perham theorized that metalheads are happier and more well-adjusted compared to other non-metal fans. That same year, a study by an Australian university found that a death metal song about cannibalism was no more likely to inspire violence than a cheery pop songs about feeling happy.

What are 3 characteristics of heavy metal music? ›

Heavy metal is traditionally characterized by loud distorted guitars, emphatic rhythms, dense bass-and-drum sound and vigorous vocals. Heavy metal subgenres variously emphasize, alter or omit one or more of these attributes.

Why do introverts listen to metal? ›

Enjoy in Private

The shy ones see music as a way to look for contemplation and produce a sensory response. The introverts are in touch with their creative side and at ease with their personalities. A recent study in Psych Central also shows that rock- and heavy metal fans are creative and not particularly outgoing.

What music do the most intelligent people listen to? ›

The result was that students who scored higher in intelligence were associated with an ear for wordless music genres like big band, classical, and ambient or chill electronica.

What music is high IQ? ›

The type of music that signals a high IQ. People who like instrumental music tend to have higher IQs, research finds. Instrumental music includes everything that does not have lyrics, such as ambient, classical, smooth jazz, big band and some film soundtracks.

Does listening to metal increase testosterone? ›

(If you're a man, anyway.) Research suggests that men who prefer “unsophisticated” forms of music (that is, soft rock, heavy metal, etcetera) tend to have higher levels of testosterone than those who prefer more “sophisticated” genres of music (classical and jazz, for example).

How to start liking heavy metal? ›

If you have a history of hard rock you might want to just jump into metal. If you're unfamiliar with harder music then start here. Try Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Heart, Santana, Deep Purple, Queen, Buckethead, Blue Oyster Cult. Getting acquainted with these artists will help you have a foundation in hard rock.

Is metal becoming more popular? ›

Heavy metal is officially the fastest-growing music genre in the world. Heavy metal has officially been recognised as the fastest-growing music genre in the world, according to a new report from music distributors TuneCore. It's no secret that heavy metal is an incredibly popular music genre.

Which country loves heavy metal the most? ›

Finland leads the list of countries by far with 53.2 heavy metal bands per 100,000 residents. Sweden is the second most dense country with 37.14 metal bands per 100,000 residents.

What state is heavy metal most popular? ›

As for which states have the most total rock and metal shows each year? The biggest states in the union racked up the highest numbers, with California hosting the most gigs annually. You can see the second highest number of shows in Texas, followed by the densely populated New York.

Which state likes metal the most? ›

According to my analysis of Encyclopaedia Metallum's data, the state with highest amount of bands (active and inactive) per million residents is Oregon with 146, which is unsurprising given Portland's well-known prominence.

How long do heavy metals stay in the body? ›

When an individual is exposed to a heavy metal, it will stay in their blood for about ninety days. If a heavy metal is detected from a blood test, it signifies that the exposure was recent.

Which heavy metal causes psychosis? ›

Overexposure to tin may damage the nervous system and cause psychomotor disturbances including tremor, convulsions, hallucinations, and psychotic behavior.

How long does it take to detox heavy metals from the body? ›

So, depending on the amount of contamination and the condition of your body, it can take months, sometimes up to a year and a half, to finally get rid of all the toxins and heavy metals. Heavy metals and waste products are excreted by organs such as the liver, spleen, lymph, kidney and intestine.

What is the best way to detox heavy metals? ›

The most common way is through chelation. Chelation therapy is a medical procedure (although it can also be performed at home) that involves the administration of chelating agents to remove heavy metals from the body by binding to molecules and allowing them to be dissolved and excreted in the urine.

Can you detox heavy metals? ›

A substance that binds to heavy metals is known as a chelator, and the process that transports them out of the body is called chelation. People may also refer to a heavy metal detox as chelation therapy. Doctors use specific chelator medications to treat heavy metal poisoning.

How do you check your body for toxic levels? ›

The only way in which toxins can be checked in the blood is through blood tests. Heavy metal toxicity can result in damage to the vital organs, neurological and muscular degeneration, cancer, allergies and even death.

What metal is used to treat depression? ›

Lithium has been providing relief to patients with bipolar disorder for decades.

Do depressed people listen to heavy metal? ›

Contrary to Popular Belief. To demonstrate metal helps the depressed combat clinical depression we must first establish a correlation between depression and metal. This is shown in a 2013 study consisting of 551 college students. 57% reported being regular listeners of the various types of metal.

What element helps with depression? ›

Lithium as treatment for anxiety and depression.

Does heavy metal release dopamine? ›

Exposure to the heavy metal lead enhances dopaminergic activity and has been associated with attention deficits, Alzheimer's disease, and increased drug sensitivity.

What's the strongest anti depression? ›

6 most effective antidepressants sold in the United States
  • Amitriptyline.
  • Effexor (venlafaxine)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Remeron (mirtazapine)
  • Trintellix (vortioxetine)
Feb 8, 2022

What is the best metal for stress? ›


Grade 304 stainless steel, for example, stands out with incredible tensile strength of up to 621 MPa or 90 KSI.

What metal do bipolar people take? ›

Lithium is a mood stabilising medicine used to treat certain mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder. Lithium may need to be taken for a long period of time — do not suddenly stop taking it without speaking to your doctor.

What type of people listen to heavy metal? ›

The metal fan base was traditionally working class, white and male in the 1970s, and since the 1980s, more female fans have developed an interest in the style.

Does heavy metal help with anxiety? ›

Researchers found that heavy metal was the second most effective genre at reducing anxiety. In fact, 89 percent of participants reported a decrease in their blood pressure levels.

What is the psychology behind heavy metal? ›

Researchers have found that people who are angry and aggressive can experience more positive emotions because of the increased arousal from metal music which matches the person's physiological state. This congruence between anger/aggression and arousal from metal helps with anger regulation.

What vitamin deficiency causes depression? ›

Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression. Low levels of a vitamin can result from eating a poor diet or not being able to absorb the vitamins you consume.

What vitamin deficiency causes mental illness? ›

Mental health problems such as memory loss, anxiety, depression, irritability, and insomnia are also associated with deficiencies in vitamin B1. The brain uses this vitamin to help convert glucose or blood sugar into energy. This means that without it, the brain may not have enough energy to function normally.

What vitamin deficiency causes anxiety? ›

Vitamin B deficiency (B1, B6, B7, B12, B complex) can contribute to depression, anxiety, and mood swings. It is associated with a disruption in the nervous system as well as the circulatory system. B12/B9, or folate, is at the forefront of mood management.

What releases the most dopamine in your body? ›

Getting enough sleep, exercising, listening to music, meditating, and spending time in the sun can all boost dopamine levels. Overall, a balanced diet and lifestyle can go a long way in increasing your body's natural production of dopamine and helping your brain function at its best.

What releases the most dopamine? ›

Crystal meth releases more dopamine in the brain compared to any other drug. Dopamine is a brain neurotransmitter that serves a number of functions, including the feeling of pleasure. When crystal meth leads to a powerful surge of dopamine in the brain, people feel motivated to seek it out again and again.

What does too much dopamine feel like? ›

Having too much dopamine — or too much dopamine concentrated in some parts of the brain and not enough in other parts — is linked to being more competitive, aggressive and having poor impulse control. It can lead to conditions that include ADHD, binge eating, addiction and gambling.


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