A road paved with rock: part one
During the next few weeks, I’m going to be sharing, little bit by little bit, the songs that first made me love my genre. I will include little anecdotes about when I first heard each song and what step in my journey it was. Where along the path down my post-6th grade musical journey, it appeared in my life. I will also give a large segment of the complete story here.
The first “metal” song I was ever truly exposed to was System of a Down’s “B.Y.O.B.” I make use of quotation marks here because the band refuses to identify themselves as metal, or any genre for that matter. However, the general population considers them to be such. I was first exposed to this song in the seventh grade while attending the Fernwood school in Portland, Oregon (now “Beverly Cleary,” as her books take place on a nearby street.) My journey was initiated by an eccentric, mind-older-than-a-seventh-grader’s individual with blood-red glasses and long red hair darker than mine that flowed to his shoulders. He was a member of the small group of three individuals I principally remember gravitating towards in my one year attending school in Portland. Honestly, I’m not sure he was as keen on being friends with me as I was with him. Still, one day at an after-school program, he took me to the computer, went on YouTube and told me he was going to show me something that would get me off of that “country nonsense.” And while it didn’t happen immediately, a year or two would prove he was absolutely right.
The song “B.Y.O.B.” rushes through the intro in an exhilaratingly rush of notes, and Daron’s initial screech is soon followed by Serj’s barking verse. This fast-paced song eventually surprises the listener by slowing down for a seemingly mellow, slower chorus, only to speed up immediately after. Close to the end of the song, one such transition is performed in such a sudden and unexpected manner as to jolt the listener out of the false sense of security that the calmer chorus created, a tactic SOAD is infamous for. SOAD wrote this hit back in 2005 as a protest against the war in Iraq. While I picked up on the anti-war sentiment, I would not learn the song’s full meaning until much later.
After first watching the music video, I would queue it up constantly again and again after school. But, for some reason, I was still too lazy to search more songs like it, or even more songs by the artist. I don’t know why I never looked for more despite being so thoroughly excited. Perhaps I was afraid if I found an even better SOAD song it would make me love that first gem less. Or maybe the opposite would happen, and I would be disappointed by the rest of the material after hearing that first iconic song.
Still, this first song touched a part of me. I loved this unsettling, vicious ballad of corruption, a defiant and angst-fueled cry against a powerful external force.