I was a teenage metalhead poseur. It's hard for me to admit it, but it's true.
I wanted to be like my friends, who all smoked (cigarettes and other things) and listened to such wonderful bands as Megadeth, Metallica, Venom, Anthrax, Slayer, and Helloween. It was the rebellion of choice. Punk? Wasn't even an option. This was 1986 in east Texas...and it wasn't an option. (You kids today don't understand.) There was 'college rock' but I didn't really get it then; some of those bands just seemed so....dorky. I latched on to heavy metal like a leech. I wasn't cool enough to be popular, so the Flying-V guitars, big hair, spandex, G'n'R T-shirts, badly-drawn sketches of Eddie and pentagrams looked to be my option, my choice of cultural revolution, my brand of lashing out at society.
Unfortunately, I wasn't accepted by the metalheads. I made good grades. I didn't have acne. I didn't have long hair. I didn't have a horrible home life. If I was too dorky and weird for the 'cool' kids, then those metalheads most certainly weren't going to go for me, either. I lucked out not too long after this rejection when I discovered Re-Flex magazine, and little did I know it, but that magazine would change my life. After that, I started to discover a whole new world of music, I took it all in, it was MINE and MINE ALONE, and jocks, heads, hippies--they could fuck off and do their thing, I was off on my own little world, on a lone journey, discovering music all on my lonesome. (I wouldn't come out of my heavy-metal closet until years later when I first heard KARP, but that's another story.) In the end, I get the last laugh; the ones who rejected me and my metaldom and my ability to like 'cool' music lost touch with music in general when they had their first kid, first fifteen-year jail term or first death. Me? I stay hooked to music like it's heroin, but because of their lessons and rejection, I share it like I'm Moses.
If they had been around back in 1986, then From Ashes Rise's debut album, Nightmares, would have been my 'fuck you' record. It would have been the fuck-you rebellion record every teenager needs. Better still, it would have been my fuck you to the metalheads who dissed me, because these guys are totally, utterly heavy metal, but yet they're also carrying on the hardcore tradition, which would have been enough to piss off the diehards. Those guys, man, I'm tellin' ya, they woulda looked at that cover and said, 'duuude, these guys are total Satan worshippers,' they would have put it on, heard the first chords of 'Reaction,' thought, 'whoa, shit, this is heavy,' and then, by song's end, would have been freaked out, because they'd just been punk-rocked. I don't know why the heavy metal folks were so opposed to punk back then; I thought rebellion was rebellion, regardless of what it looked like? And that cover art is just asking to be put on the back of a leather jacket.
Still, this debut is pretty good stuff. It's a nice blend of heavy metal and hardcore--which, as one punk purist said on a webboard I frequent, 'what the fuck is wrong with hardcore? it's just heavy metal shit! It's good to see that rock and roll hasn't settled for anything, that purists are still receiving the fuck-you's they deserve. They play around enough with the styles of both just enough to be deceptive, which I like as well. The slow, bubbling guitar riffs and the high-pitched screaming actually works here, and it only adds to the confusion. There are some really interesting moments, such as the heavy, plodding "The Inner Beast" and the awesome shoulda-been-the-album-closer "The Mandate," where they just pour all of their emotion into song. Nightmares is a nice little record that coulda kicked major ass in my youth, but at the end of the day it reminds me that though I might have lost those battles seventeen years ago, I ended up winning the war.