In my final year of college, a friend of mine made a groundbreaking discovery. We were sitting in the hookah and booze den behind his woodland cottage (us university students had it made) listening to Opeth when suddenly his eyes widened and pure science flitted across his face. He turned to me and declared that we were straight chillin’ to one of the death metal band’s heaviest tunes. And he was right: we were totally relaxing.
I know what you’re thinking, and yes, we had been passing the bowl back and forth for many a song, but later that week we repeated the experiment sans green and the experience was the same. He’d brought me into a space in which it was possible to chill the fuck out to death metal, doom metal, progressive folk metal, you name it! And the method turned out to be simple. When listening to death metal, it became a practice in finding the ambience, the negative space, or the overall groove of a song.
I’ve been a drummer over 12 years, and I can safely say that relaxing to death metal and its musical ilk is not an exact science. The way I understand it now is finding the awesome echo of that many blast beats coalescing into an oceanic depth to submerge into. I’ll give you an example. Take one of my favorite metal tunes, “White Walls” by Between the Buried and Me. This song is brutal and 14 minutes long. Tommy Giles Rogers, the singer and keyboardist, roars his throat apart while the rest of the band shreds and demolishes their way through what stands out as an epic by which to define epics. But beneath this volcanic thresh of a tune, there’s a groove with which to comfortably relax.
BTB&M’s entire album, Colors, as well as their newer releases are equally frenetic but with the same overarching, enrapturing atmosphere. Other band recommendations for chilling out to metal would be Meshuggah and Opeth, but if this still seems a violent addition to your music library, try and replicate the playlist we had when we made the discovery in the first place: a lot of Gregory Alan Isakov, Joy Wants Eternity, too much The Sleepover Disaster, a little Alaska in Winter, one or two Beirut tunes, everything by The Screaming Trees, and at least one repetition of R.E.M.s “Man on the Moon.”
Relaxing to death metal is no easy task, and takes a strange but oddly perfect puzzle of music to accomplish. “The Stable Song” by Isakov is a complete must, trust me.
And if you read this and think, “Man, I should really go listen to Dream Theater”, then you really only have one option left: sit in a corner and sob to James LaBrie’s horrible, horrible voice (okay, “Home” is a sweet song, but really, Dream Theater?).