Music: The Power of Giving Someone Else The Words To Say

As I sit here, I'm listening to YouTube's automated mix for me. A journey through the algorithm to to see what it thinks I like. For the most part, it does a good job. It's got Black Hole Sun on after Everlong, and it's got Killing In The Name after that. You start somewhere, close your eyes, and navigate a new auditory landscape every time, even if it's just the same songs over and over again for the most part. However, sometimes, it brings you into something new, exciting, and powerful.

We'll ride this spiral till the end, we may just go where no one's been Spiral out, keep going

The first time this happened was with TOOL's song Lateralus. The song had come on the first time a few months ago, and immediately it spoke to me. I had faced a lot of fear, I was transferring to a new school with new faces and a new landscape. The last school year, I was outed, and the ruthless bullying I had faced for years worsened. The song's message of “no matter what happens, keep going” just hit hard. It's a song I come back to frequently, just for that metaphorical kick in the rear to get moving.

Everybody's going to the party, have a real good time Dancing in the desert, blowing up the sunshine

Throughout the rest of the next two school years, I expanded my horizons into the metal sphere. Metal as a genre just always had something to speak what I needed to say. Whether it was the anti-war sentiments of System of a Down's “B.Y.O.B.”, the messages of environmental preservation shown in Gojira's “Global Warming”, or even just the interesting blend of jazz and and black metal present in the work of SHINING (NOR), there was always something to just put into words or sound what I needed to say.

Something takes a part of me Something lost and never seen

Two years passed, I had gathered a small circle of friends at my school. I had done a lot of self-searching, discovered things about myself and who I want to be. But then everything fell to hell. My closest friend, someone who I entered a relationship with, broke up with me suddenly and painfully, and only looking back on it did I realize: I had been in a completely and utterly abusive relationship. I still blamed myself for everything, and tried to do whatever I could to repair the friendship, only to hurt it even more. All my other friends had either abandoned me, or I was too wrought with fear to even say their name. As such, I did what I always did: I turned to music.

Caught in the undertow Just caught in the undertow

I struggled for months and months to find the right songs to find what I needed to get out of this emotional slump. Even go-to sad songs like “Snuff” by Slipknot and “Lonely Day” by System of a Down didn't do it for me, but I eventually found it. I stumbled across it through another automated wander through YouTube. I had heard the song before, but this rendition forced me to pull over on the side of the road at 9:15 PM at night, and cry. This cover of Linkin Park's “Numb”. I listened to this three times, finished my drive home, and listened to it four more. I cried just about the whole time. I finally could describe how I felt. I had listened to the song numerous times before, but this cover just broke me. It finally put to words and tone that feeling of being used, being abused, and being thrown aside. It came, and it hit me hard. Little did I know that the same experience would come the next later, sitting in a chair.

Caught off guard, warning signs never show Tension strikes, choking me, worries grow

I was listening to “The Dance of Eternity”, one of my favorite experimental pieces by famous prog metal band Dream Theater. The song's final chords resolved, and I was patiently waiting for the next song to begin. Suddenly, as if to scare me, a frantic, panicked bass intro begun. My distinguished readers, the song that was chosen was “Panic Attack”, also by Dream Theater. The song recounts the lead singer having a panic attack in horrifying detail, and in a way that should seem familiar to any experienced listeners. I had my first panic attack because of, and in the presence of my abuser. The stressed delivery of every single word by James LaBrie, the frantic bass intro by John Myung, the fast-paced and irregular solos of John Petrucci, and Mike Portnoy's intense drum fills, combined with the song's immediate start, catching the inattentive listener completely off guard. Each and every one of these aspects combine into harrowing tale of someone suffering I and many other people have been through.

Music is a powerful art form. There's something truly unique about being able to write or even listen to something that allows you to channel the emotions of the hell and high water that life puts you through. To sit there and listen to Lamb of God's “Walk With Me in Hell” remind you that you are not alone is truly inspiring. To hear Maynard James Keenan's biting political commentary in “Counting Bodies Like Sheep” is eye-opening to many. The experience of having a song that can perfectly describe what you've been through using its lyrics and tone is a moment I treasure wholly and completely, like a nice, home-cooked meal.