23 September 2023

Baptized in Metal: Miguel Melo

The first album I purchased in my life was “Backstreet’s Back.” There, I said it. There was something about people dressing like vampires, mummies and the phantom of the opera that I found interesting when I was a kid. It’s a shame, I know. My excuse is that I was the oldest brother, cousin and all that, my parents only heard Portuguese folk music so I didn’t have any guidance, me and my best friends were on our own to discover dark, heavier and stronger music. The second album I got myself, after saving pocket money for ages was “Americana” by The Offspring. Can you see the evolution there? Finally there was 1999’s “Risk”, the worst album of Megadeth (which I still love) and later that year, Rage Against the Machine released their last album of original content, “Battle of LA.”

I was 12 when a friend of mine showed me Nine Inch Nails.  We have the combination of theater, rhythm, power and experimentalism that became the source of my tastes as pre-teen. This either damaged me or cured me forever. We were in the beginning of the 2000’s, hip-hop was lurking at any corner and nu-metal bands had something about them. “Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water” by Limp Bizkit took my school by assault and suddenly all the kids had the NY Yankees baseball cap and trousers hanging off their asses.  Not me. I was still faithful to Rage Against the Machine as the best thing ever.

One big problem, though.

Rage Against the Machine disappeared in 2000, leaving me orphan of a favorite band. Broken hearted, what to do? Internet wasn’t a thing then. At least to me. I had to copy albums, record cassettes or listen to the radio. There was a rock radio passing constantly Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Pink Floyd. That got me going. But then there was some announcement later that Iron Maiden, a name I had always heard associated with Satanism and Black Magic, was releasing an album. That album was “Brave New World”, followed by the acclamation live album “Rock in Rio.” A friend of mine got the video tape. I got to see it and that was everything. Epic, great, power, light, lyrics, sing along, and an enormous history for me to catch up and get to know the history of metal.

I was acknowledging the classics, like Judas Priest, Metallica, Iron Maiden, the beginnings of Megadeth. I think I was ignoring my teachers while I listen to all the copied albums I could during classes, like Soulfly, Slipknot and being blown away by “Master of Puppets.”  At some point, I got news on the radio that Ozzfest was coming to Portugal. At the time, was not much aware of Black Sabbath, or Ozzy, but Ozzfest was coming to town and brought Tool among others with them. I knew Tool, they had a common history with Rage Against the Machine. I asked my mom if I could go, but she thought that letting a 15 year old boy go alone to Lisbon when Slayer, Drowning Pool and Tool were coming was a bad idea. Ozzy never came, it was the Queen’s jubilee, he had his priorities mix up. I heard the concert on the radio and was amazed, sad and I swore that I would never miss epic bands again.

The next year was 2003 and I was 16. Freakin unstoppable! There was Placebo (I guess I was still a bit emo before emo was a thing) and then, the best thing that could ever happen…! Audioslave came to play in Portugal! I would never, ever miss it! That’d be the second best thing after Rage Against the Machine. Except the concert was not that awesome, since they only had one album, it became a disappointment. What followed was Deftones (never really liked that much) and Marilyn Manson, who gave a brilliant show.

In that summer of 2003 I got introduced to real Portuguese Summer Festivals and the one and only “Paredes de Coura.” Why? Motörhead were playing there and this was not at all a metal festival. That same night I got to see Portuguese hard rock monsters “Mão Morta” and American Metal epic band MC5 (authors of Kick Out the Jams, brilliantly covered by RATM.) The rain was immense, as always, I was soaked in sweat and mud and Lemmy let the crowd know:

“F*ck the rain.” And there we went in a frenzy of mud, water and mosh, attending the fact that I was always a small guy, that was fun, flying around and almost being smashed and sleeping in the parking lot.

Later on there was the Dream Theater “Train of Thought” tour and it was obvious to me that metal is better in concerts than anything! 20 minutes progressive metal? Great! Opeth? Bring it on. Show wise, Rammstein was spectacular, Iron Maiden proper legend material as expected and Tool were just Tool. But something I learned is that there are many, many bands to be discovered. This is something I got in Finland, during my Erasmus, where I have seen multiple unknown bands composed by young kids as me. I have heard brilliant new bands and the best gigs are those that are unexpected. These are those cases of love at the first sight that are unexpected like Orange Goblin, And So I Watch You From Afar, Skálmöld.

Again, my music needs to have power, rhythm and drama. Today I don’t only like metal and I can consider myself a very eclectic listener of music. But heart pumps and head bangs in a special way when the sound is right.