Last night, I learned that the major movie studios did not produce an enormously successful animated film in the past year. I know this based on the lack of a central theme among the trick-or-treaters who darkened my family’s door. Last year, there was at least a dozen Princess Elsas, and a few Annas, from Frozen seeking candy, but not this year. This time, the costumes ranged widely from Transformers to Spidermen to zombies. There were some princesses, including an adorable sparkly rainbow fairy princess with wings. There were even a few classic caped and fanged vampires. One kid was dressed head to toe in a bright red spandex body suit carrying an axe. The red suit implied the Devil, but the lack of any horns, tail, or even facial features – combined with an axe that is not the Devil’s weapon of choice – made it unclear. While it wasn’t obvious what he was trying to represent, at least he fully committed to the costume. In contrast, another kid wore a full-length fur-covered suit, but he lacked a mask, so I didn’t know if he was a bear, a sasquatch, Chewbacca, or something more obscure, like a very shaggy Esau or Gilgamesh’s friend Enkidu. I hope it was Enkidu. I love esoteric pop culture references, and it doesn’t get much more arcane than pop culture circa 2100 B.C.
The last time I wore a complete costume, I went for esoteric. I dressed as Horgh, the drummer from the Norwegian black metal band Immortal. In extreme metal circles, Immortal is not particularly recondite, but I wore the costume to my office where I’m surrounded by people who are unfamiliar with extreme metal in both sound and appearance. I chose Immortal because their version of “corpse paint” is more kabuki than zombie, which I thought would be visually appealing to my co-workers. To their non-metal fan eyes, I looked like one of the guys from KISS, with my full face of black and white makeup. However, I knew I was representing something much more extreme, much scarier, than KISS. It was fun being a mysterious and potentially dangerous metallist, but I didn’t have the courage to maintain the illusion all day. I had to travel from my office to the headquarters building for a meeting. On the way, I stopped at home to scrub off the makeup and change into a more standard work uniform. When I arrived at the meeting, I noticed a few people were staring at me, or, more accurately, trying not to stare at me. At the end of the meeting, a colleague approached and gazed into my eyes. She told me my eyes were beautiful. It turns out that I had not removed all the makeup, and the bit that remained created a lovely black eye shadow. I’ve been a bit shy about fully committing to a costume ever since.
While I rarely dress up for Halloween, I like the idea of trying on someone else for a while. Heavy metal is the perfect music for dressing up in different personalities, especially the dark and scary ones. Metal is often angry in tone and content, and, just like putting on a costume and imagining you’re as powerful as Optimus Prime, it can be fun to turn up the volume and play at “pissed off.” Last week, on my drive in to work, I dialed up a song called “Game Over” by Machine Head on my iPod. It’s one of the most vitriolic songs I’ve ever heard, a personal message from the lead singer – Rob Flynn, who I have written about before – to the band’s former bass player, Adam, letting him know how much Robb hates him, now and forever. I’ve never felt that hurt and betrayed by another human being, but when I slipped in the ear buds and turned up the volume, I, metaphorically, pulled the mask over my head and became spite and acrimony. As the song increased, in both speed and lyrical rancor, I shouted along with Robb. Inside the cab of my pickup, I screamed at Adam, making it clear that “forever this friendship has died!”
When I pulled into the parking lot, after the song had ended, I turned off my iPod, took the buds out of my ears, and took a deep breath. I took off the suit of anger and revealed my mostly happy, mild-mannered self. I smiled broadly as I walked into the building. When I said good morning to my boss, my voice was raspy, and he asked if I was catching a cold. I had shredded my vocal cords on my drive into work. I assured him I was fine, that it was a long story, and, no, I wasn’t catching a cold. He asked if I had been singing in my truck. I smiled and said, “Yes, but you probably wouldn’t call it singing.” For the sake of my voice, I should probably stick to singing the angry ode from Frozen, “Let it Go,” but I’m a metal head, and I would not look good in a Princess Elsa costume. Then again, I do have beautiful eyes.