Like most organisms, my sense of sight was one of the first tools I used to understand the world I’d been born into; the earliest toys I can remember were primarily focused on shapes and their colors. Shapes helped connect the senses of sight and touch, while color was more of an emotional instructor. Cool shades like purple and green were associated with calming fields, while warm colors served as warnings in the form of fire ants and toadstools. The variation in the shapes and colors of insects sparked my love of biology and eventually led me to the Ken Sugimori’s illustrations for the Pokémon franchise.
Being a visual learner, some of my other senses weren’t as sharp as my sight when Pokémon first came to the Americas. I found it much simpler to identify the head, thorax and abdomen of a butterfly than the beats of a measure. Music was a language far outside of my expertise (Exhibit A: I thought Pink Floyd was a person). My ears grew up on a steady diet of classic rock provided by my parents, with servings of Styx, Steely Dan and Pat Benatar on the side. I hardly knew the difference between the artists, and although the sounds were pleasant, the music seemed static. Without a visual component, these songs failed to captivate me.
My understanding of sound changed forever during a drive to Purgatory Chasm with my old karate sensei, Cody. I sat with my sister Sarah in the back of Cody’s pickup truck and the horror movie sounds of “Call of the Zombie” (the intro track to Rob Zombie’s 1998 album Hellbilly Deluxe) oozed from the speakers. The grotesque narration ended and the first proper track, “Superbeast,” proceeded to educate me in the fundamentals of metal. There was no turning back.
“Superbeast” showed me that music could have both shape and color. The distorted guitars were sharp against my ears, and the bass weighed on me like a boulder. There was an excess of emotion: the fiery tempo of the drums created urgency alongside the blasphemous bellowing of Zombie. Fear, joy and adrenaline came together in me as the song faded. This was the sound of anger, the sound of rules being broken. The sound of doors opening.
From that day forward, I’ve wandered through endless corridors of music genres (and subgenres…and sub-subgenres), seeking that same mix of emotions. Much like my experiences with insects (and later with Pokémon), the sheer variety of forms was the facet that fed my passion.
So, what is Pokémetal you ask? Over the course of the next n posts, I will be selecting Pokémon that I feel best match the qualities of specific metal subgenres. For each Pokémon, I’ll be choosing four songs from said subgenre and mapping them to four skills that the Pokémon is capable of learning. With these posts, I hope to provide an introduction to the many sounds of metal, and to celebrate the mind-boggling diversity that surrounds us every day.