Midwestern America is known for a lot of things, but y’know what it ISN’T known for? Metal music. Especially symphonic metal.
A lot of metalheads – especially those who remember the pre-social-media days – can probably relate to that feeling that most people dislike or outright despise the music we love so much. But as someone who’s been a full-time metal musician for a few years now, I think I’ve learned something truly special about the metal community that most people haven’t had the opportunity to discover, and I’d love to share it with you.
It started in 2006. I was 14 years old, nursing a few fresh bruises after yet another day of bullying at school. I remember the chill and the pain as I pressed a bag of ice to a fresh black eye, while browsing this brand-new website called Youtube – where I stumbled onto a fan-made music video for “The Kinslayer” by Nightwish. From the very first note, that first syncopated punch of the drums and guitars and keyboard, I was obsessed with symphonic metal. It was the most intensely powerful music I’d ever heard!
Nightwish’s themes about finding beauty and inspiration in tragedy. Epica’s philosophies on personal responsibility and creating your own reality. Children of Bodom’s straight-up “fuck you” attitude. Something about having that amazing music blaring in my headphones all the time made the bullying at school more bearable. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel quite so hopeless – maybe you can relate?
It was empowering…but lonely. Metal as a whole was pretty unpopular with my peers, and these obscure European acts were even more unknown.
My solitary love for this music led me to pick up guitar in the hopes of learning to play some of these bands’ songs for myself, and I ended up getting my best friend Chris into guitar as well. Every weekend, when most other kids were out partying, he’d grab his guitar and we’d lock ourselves in my room to practice. It became our shared way of coping with all of our various anxieties.
As we improved over time, we started wanting to play more challenging material – Children of Bodom, Dragonforce, Rusty Cooley, Periphery – and I think that by taking those crazy technical guitar parts and blending them back into the symphonic metal base, that’s how we arrived at our fairly unique spin on the genre.
…But literally the day after graduating from high school in 2010, Chris had to start working in a factory to take care of his siblings and his disabled parents. Despite 60-hour work weeks, he still came over to my house as often as possible so we could keep making music together. He felt that the band’s eventual success was his only conceivable way out of that factory – so he practiced guitar with all the fervor of someone fighting for their life.
In 2014, when Adrienne joined the band, it was at the darkest time in all of our lives. Chris had lost his house and spent the hottest months of summer living on the streets. I had developed an autoimmune disease that was becoming life-threatening. And worst of all, Adrienne’s boyfriend beat her to within an inch of her life, with every intention of killing her. She escaped with nothing but the clothes she was wearing.
I suggested she try singing as a way to cope with the PTSD that developed as a result of the incident, and she threw herself into it with more passion than I’ve ever seen from anyone, her only teacher being Youtube and sheer determination. Her voice conveyed so much pain, turning the horrors she had witnessed into something tragically beautiful that resonated perfectly with a lot of the music we’d written. And she even figured out how to growl, which added another dimension to the music I’d never thought about before. It was clear that Adrienne was the only person I could possibly ask to sing for Mute Prophet.
Our bassist Louisa joined up and completed the Mute Prophet lineup in 2018. She was a friend of ours who endured a traumatic event of her own (though she’s less comfortable sharing the details than Adrienne is), and after seeing the incredible ways music had helped Adrienne recover, I figured, “why not teach her to play bass?” I mentioned that if she enjoyed it and got good enough, she was more than welcome to join the band.
And now, here we are.
It’s not an understatement to say that this band saved our lives. Singing pulled Adrienne back from the brink of suicide. Chris is now free of his family, happily married with a son of his own! And while I have no idea how this is possible, it seems that as long as I play guitar frequently, my chronic illness somehow stays in remission! I suspect it has a similar calming effect on the immune system as meditation or something, but what the hell do I know? I’m a musician, not a doctor.
It’s not always easy. The touring lifestyle is dangerous with my health problems, so we can’t do it as much as we’d like – we even had to turn down a tour of the European festival circuit once, which was heartbreaking. But with social media we’ve been able to connect with people around the world who enjoy our music! We’ve had the honor of being on multiple radio stations in the UK and Germany, and a pretty famous metal magazine referred to us as “one of America’s premiere symphonic metal bands.”
By far the most important part of it all is YOU, the listener, who makes it all matter. Everything we do, the essential other half of it all, is sharing it with people like you. The truly amazing thing about the metal community is the way we all connect – musicians and listeners are no different from each other. We all love metal just the same!
So please consider leaving a comment below this post – it would really mean a lot to hear from you about music, your thoughts on this story, or just life in general!
Looking forward to hearing from you!
By the way, here’s another free song for you! It’s called As You Fall, and it comes from our first album, “The Unheard Warning.” It was directly inspired by the event I mentioned in which Adrienne’s then-boyfriend tried to kill her. For this reason it’s a very angry song, and you can hear genuine catharsis and pain in her voice as she sings it. You can stream it by clicking here!