Craig Purcell

I remember the exact moment it happened, although I didn’t write down the date because I didn’t know I was having an epiphany.

I was 15 and in the upstairs bedroom shared by my two sisters, because it also included a record player. That should give you an idea of the approximate time period.  My album collection at the time numbered just two—Elton John’s Greatest Hits and Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive.”

My older brother had brought home an album I just had to listen to, only because the characters on the album cover were like nothing I had ever seen before.

It was the self-titled KISS debut album, and it kick-started a journey down a heavy metal path I still happily travel today.

I think there are a lot of reasons I gravitated toward heavy metal. Being the youngest of four, any of my academic accomplishments were compared to my sisters, while my few athletic achievements were “just like your brother used to.”

I wasn’t any of them. I was me. I wanted some way not just to stand out from them, but to stand on my own and have something that was uniquely mine.

For a variety of reasons, I never felt like I fit in at school. I didn’t hang with any of the cliques, because it wasn’t fair to exclude people who weren’t jocks or the so-perceived “popular” kids.

With heavy metal, I not only heard the pounding instruments and screaming vocals that gave voice to things I felt inside, but it gave me a sense of belonging. No matter your background, if we share the same like in musical genres, we’re brothers (and sisters).

We don’t need to look alike, although admittedly I had the hair and the earrings back in the day. 

Much of my hair has fallen out and what remains has gone gray, and the earrings have been uprooted by ear hair.

Still, I can bend my two fingers down and hold them with my thumb, while stretching my pinky and index fingers to the heavens, and when the “horns salute” is returned, we know we are cut from the same denim-and-leather cloth.

The Guardian published a story July 8 saying that a study of ‘80s metalheads found that they turned out to be better adjusted than those who listened to other music.

I’ve never been mistaken for the poster boy of being well adjusted, but I know what type of music has been there for me through some of my worst times and some of my finest.

That’s heavy metal.

The article attributes metalheads progressing to happy adulthoods partly to the music’s sense of community. “Fans and musicians alike felt a kinship in the metal community,” it states, “and a way to experience heightened emotions with like-minded people.”

We become our own, all-inclusive clique. Loving heavy metal is the only prerequisite to membership.

It’s not for everybody, only those who want it to be for them. For people like me, heavy metal becomes you, and you wouldn’t have it any other way. At different times it’s been my security blanket and my lifeblood. 

For me, it’s the outlet that lets me go crazy in the way I most need to, so I can maintain my metal—and mental—health.