Midwestern America is known for a lot of things, but y’know what it ISN’T known for? Metal music. Especially symphonic metal. It’s also one of those places where if you grew up being interested in videogames more than sports, you weren’t exactly going to be popular.
It was 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 – maybe you’ve heard of it? – and 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. 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.
But Chris came from a background of extreme poverty and dysfunction, and eventually that caught up with him…
Literally the day after graduating from high school in 2010, Chris had to start working himself to death in a factory to take care of his siblings and his disabled parents. But 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 haunting 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. I knew then 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 mutual friend of ours who endured a traumatic event of her own, 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 able to afford three meals a day and a roof over his head – which is more than he’s had for most of his life. 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! Don’t ask me how that’s possible – I’m just a musician, not a doctor…
But more than all of that, it’s YOU, the listener, who makes it all matter. Music has no purpose with no one to listen to it. Everything we do, the essential other half of it all, is sharing it with people like you.
I look forward to many more sometimes-hard, sometimes-ugly, always-worthwhile experiences along this musical journey – and here’s to hoping that you are part of that journey.
If you’d like to hear the most recent milestone on that journey, click here to listen to our latest album, “Stillborn Reflection.”
And hey, if any of this resonated with you, or if you have any questions or just want to say hello, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! We’d love to hear from you.
Thank you again for making it all worthwhile.