I hate Internet trolls, those faceless jerks who post inflammatory comments online. In these times when meaningful discourse in the spirit of learning and growth is increasingly rare and precious, the trolls push us in the direction of base emotional verbal sparring, and that saddens me. I was particularly sad to realize that, last night, I was the troll. I was scrolling through the feed on my Facebook page when I saw a post with a link to the video of the band Disturbed’s cover of “The Sound of Silence” along with comments from friends about how much they like it. As a metal head, I could go on at some length about my opinion of Disturbed – a band typically categorized as part of the “Nu Metal” sub-genre of heavy metal (ugh), but I’ll just say I don’t like their version of Simon and Garfunkel classic. I commented on the post, exclaiming that I don’t get why anyone likes this version and demanding an explanation. Enter the troll.
I felt sick to my stomach a few moments later when the person who shared the video wondered why she should have to explain her preference in music to someone she doesn’t even know. To be clear, the poster was not one of my Facebook friends, and I only got the post because my friends had commented on it. While I thought I was mocking my friends’ musical preference, which in itself is a crappy thing to do, I was actually mocking a stranger’s tastes. Classic trolling. I deleted my comment, apologized to those I had criticized, and wallowed in my remorse for the rest of the evening. You may not think it’s such a big deal, but I have a motto: be who you are, like what you like, and do cool stuff. In case you missed it, I violated the “like what you like” tenet. Just because I don’t like Disturbed doesn’t mean Cassandra shouldn’t. In fact, if that song, as she posted, moves her to tears, well, good on ya! (I learned Cassandra is Australian). Who am I to criticize? I’m a metal head, deeply devoted to music that many people dismiss as childish, often evil, noise. If Cassandra had seen me last Thursday night at the Kraken, she might have thought I was a drongo (which, according to the interwebs is Aussie slang for “idiot”).
The Kraken is a bar in Seattle where my metal brother Sean and I traveled to in order to see one of my favorite metal bands, Iron Kingdom. We first encountered IK at a bar show in Olympia, Washington, where they were opening for a band Sean was eager to see. We were delighted by their performance, and I became a devoted fan. It was almost two years before they made their return to the region, and I was stoked.
It would be easy to dismiss Iron Kingdom. They are as traditional as traditional metal gets. I have described them as the love child of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. They wear spandex and studded leather and play epic songs filled with demons, warriors, monsters, and monstrous riffage. If you’re a metal fan, you always know where you are when listening to an Iron Kingdom song. They ply musical tropes as true masters of the metal craft. You could write them off as hacks, putting on the uniform of the 80s metal purveyors and turning out nothing but cliches, but you would be wrong. Iron Kingdom is the past, present, and future of metal.
I’ve often wished I had been an 18 year old kid in London in the late 70s, walking into a pub and hearing Iron Maiden play one of their first gigs. That must have been magic. Iron Kingdom gives me that feeling, playing metal so perfectly, and so well, I am transported to that time of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that would pave the way for thrash metal, death metal, and more. They evoke Judas Priest, Grim Reaper, Halloween, Savatage, and other classic bands. They honor the past.
They also energize the present. There is nothing like a good metal show, and Iron Kingdom knows how to put on a show. From the pre-show stretching and long hair brushing, they embrace the showmanship. When it was time for them to take the stage, the smoke machine heightened the metal atmosphere, and pre-recorded intro music played as they strapped on their instruments, just like Metallica, Slayer, or Iron Maiden. Then the shredding and shrieking began and we were off to the races. Galloping riffs, dynamic solos, and sing-along choruses carried the audience to frenetic heights. Chris is the consummate front man with his vicious guitar attack, Halford-quality screams, and solid stage presence. Kenny’s leads and rhythms are the perfect complement, providing the classic dual guitar attack of Priest or Maiden. Leighton must be Steve Harris’ illegitimate child, with bass licks that provide as much melody as rhythm. New drummer Joey holds it all together, driving the music relentlessly forward. I banged my head as hard as anyone in the bar. Between songs, they thanked the crowd, going so far as to point me out as a big fan. That’s right, Chris looked right at me and pointed, and I was giddy as a school girl. Between sets, I got autographs of three of the four members. In true polite Canadian style, each of them wrote their name next to their photo on the CD in tiny script, making sure not to obscure the photo of any other member of the band. No big American scrawl using up excess space for these Vancouver boys (I missed you Leighton; I’ll get your signature next time). Despite being genteel in signature, they are total rock stars on stage. If given the opportunity, they would own Madison Square Garden.
Beyond putting on a great show, they give hope for the future of metal. These guys are committed to their craft. It’s obvious they put every dime they make – from music or other jobs – into the band. All the equipment is top notch, including a wall Marshall amps, a rack of guitars, a huge banner in a metal frame that adjusts depending on the size of the stage they’re playing, and lots of merchandise: t-shirts, CDs, patches, stickers, and buttons. They even produced the poster to advertise the show. The poster, hanging on the door of the bar, featured art from their latest album, even though the weren’t the headliner. That’s right: they were an opening band, but they made sure everyone who saw the poster thought of Iron Kingdom. The exude the true spirit of heavy metal: give it everything you have, commit to it, believe in it, no matter what, no compromises.
Cassandra might think Iron Kingdom is a bit silly, but I bet she’ll allow me to love them regardless. I bet she’s happy to let me be whom I am, like what I like and do cool stuff, like going to an Iron Kingdom show. No compromises. And no trolls. Good on ya.