In March of 2012, just a year into my tenure as a writer for Chronicles of Chaos, I sat down for coffee with Scott Fucking Kelly. (I'm pretty sure that's not his true middle name, but if he had it legally changed, I'm sure people would be okay with it.) Wanna talk about absurd things that could never possibly happen but, like, totally did? That's a damned good one, right there. Scott Fucking Kelly. Sitting at a table right next to Eugene Fucking Robinson, who handed me a free poster just because I complimented him on his show. That experience is just one piece of what Chronicles of Chaos has afforded me.
I do not have nearly the same extreme metal credentials as many of my CoC peers. Some of these writers have been making their own music, a special feat that makes these exercises in verbal description feel like hackery. At the very least, most metal scribes have been listening to heavy music since they needed two digits to count their age, which, for the old farts among us, harkens back to the legendary elder days when metal was metal and the prefix "sub-" had never met the root word "genre". Hell, at least one of us started a long-running scene zine with a buddy for the pure shit of it, back when the Internet was a swaddled infant and all these bands we're now celebrating for their fantastic reunions (Faith No More, Carcass, Refused, Godflesh, Failure, uh... Morbid Angel) were still toiling in their vital first lives.
Me? I just happened to take a Y2K breakup too personally, buried myself in Tool riffs for a year or so, and came out stained and willing to listen to anything deep, dark and brutal. After spending five or six years sucking down all the sludge, doom and black metal I could stomach (which was a lot), I was suddenly a father and didn't have the freedom anymore to listen to whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Infant children shouldn't be subjected to Pig Destroyer. Tired mamas have no interest in hearing Neurosis. And when you might be called on at any moment for any number of family or household tasks, popping on headphones for even one Cephalic Carnage song becomes -- in the very best circumstances -- ill-advised.
This is when Chronicles of Chaos became part of my life. When I couldn't satisfy my hunger for this life's gnarled corners by listening to music, I settled for reading about it. Sifting through articles about soul-rending, mind-bending music became my single lasting connection to that sense of forbidden adventure and deviant discovery that nobody else around me seemed to think was rational, important or even interesting. During that time (2007 and beyond, this would have been), the writers at CoC did more than turn me on to the latest releases -- they kept those haunted doors in my mind open, kept the imagination stoked high. Just as reading trade journals can keep a dabbler well-informed, Chronicles of Chaos and similarly well-curated publications made me a scholar of a small corner of the music world. As my kids grew older and I eventually regained my ability to stretch out and hear new music, I did so armed with the advice of a score of experts, and my world was richer for it.
In the first weeks of 2011, I read that CoC was looking for writers, and I jumped at the opportunity. I had been futzing around with my own blog for a couple months, but here was a chance to join in the conversation! When Pedro and Gino decided to give me a shot, I was elated. My ambition to be a published writer is almost as old as my ability to read, writing about great music for an established and respected zine sounded like quite an adventure. And as open as I thought my musical world was before, as deeply as I thought I had delved into the extreme music underground, I was awed by the uncountable bands that were buried even further beneath the surface.
It is impossible to listen to all the great music being made today. I knew this already. What I didn't know is that the statement is fractal: you can narrow your view to one small segment of the whole and it remains true. It is impossible to hear all the great death metal being made today. Black metal. Doom metal. Drone. Electro-jazz-folk-thrash. Take your pick -- if you want to have a simplistic lifelong listening experience, which I do not -- and you will still never reach the bottom of the good stuff (ignoring all the half-assed aping that goes on is a whole other discussion). As a writer with a voice on the blogosphere, I wanted to give attention to all the killer projects that I heard along the way. In this, I failed.
No use wallowing in the impossible past, though. Through CoC, I discovered obscure bands like Hello Jackie, Solothus and W.A.I.L. I wrote about the suffocating bleakness of Encoffination and the bubbly J-core of Blood Stain Child, the tortured occultisms of Nightbringer and the towering "necroclassical" piano work of Goatcraft. CoC allowed me the freedom to engage in meager comedy with a piece about Phil Collins and funeral doom, as well as heap praise on a very cool book about beer. With CoC, I meted out a single perfect score to Cynic's still incredible _Carbon-Based Anatomy_ EP. I left one album review scoreless, as I couldn't see the point of sullying Blood of the Black Owl's _Light the Fires!_ with anything so mundane as an integer less than 10. I followed Secrets of the Sky from their original two-song promo to their full-album finding a place among the best of 2013.
Chronicles of Chaos has also offered me an opportunity to join an amiable fraternity of like-minded writers. My metal experience has always been a solitary one, and I still mostly interacted with other CoC staff electronically, but I struck up an easy friendship with fellow Washington, D.C. area writer Johnathon Carbon (whose real name I still don't know). We eventually met at Maryland Deathfest in 2012, the very same year I met CoC grandmaster Gino Filicetti and his friends, who made the journey to the East Coast's biggest metal party. My communication with editor/author Pedro Azevedo has always been through email, but he has been endlessly cool about everything. Chaim Drishner has constantly kept me updated on the latest avant-black and tortured Russian/Finnish doom, for which I am more grateful than is reasonable or healthy. And, occasionally, the staff collaborates on an article that we all feel passionately about, and heated emails set those digitized emotions in full flight. I'd hate to oversimplify, but more than anything, my work with CoC has been just plain fun.
It would be incomplete not to mention that Chronicles of Chaos opened the way for me to take work with Decibel Magazine, which itself has led to further relationships and a wealth of extraordinary experiences. But Gino and Pedro were the first to recognize something valuable in my words, and they always encouraged a wide-open freedom in content and approach, which I have always appreciated. My thanks go to those guys and everyone alongside whom I have been fortunate enough to write.
These past years, I have been writing for a very specific audience: that lover of heavy music whose life wouldn't allow him to immerse himself in heavy music. I have tried to describe, yes, but more importantly to entertain and give readers a bit of topical literature to sink their teeth into while impatiently enduring the wait between musical adventures. "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture", they say, and most music journalists race to defend themselves from this accusation. I agree with the quoted sentiment: if you want to know what an album sounds like, then you should fucking listen to it. If you don't have the time or the liberty to hear all the music you would like to hear, then maybe reviews of those albums can convey an experience that can be enjoyed as a temporary substitute. It's the way CoC helped me, and if you have similarly benefited from this site, then you also deserve our thanks for your time and attention.
Especially if you've read everything I've written here. Seriously, that kind of commitment goes way beyond the call. Go get a drink. You deserve it.