Night Business

I’ve never been much for sitting in the dark. It is pretty metal, I guess, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of productivity. I’ve always found it easier to do stuff if I could, you know, see what I’m doing.

Now that I have a kid though, I spend a lot of time in the dark. And as time goes on, I’ve learned that all this Dark Time is just another window to Get Shit Done. What kind of shit? Glad you asked.

Listen to Metal

This makes sitting in the dark way more exciting. Taking care of a kid, working full-time – whatever you do for the majority of the day, that doesn’t leave a lot of time to catch up on the latest metal releases. So just load up your tunes on your mp3 player, grab a pair of earbuds, and rock the night away.

You should probably have one ear open to listen for any emergency cries or spit-up burps. Our music of choice does tend to get a little loud.

Read a Book

Maybe you’re the literate type of metalhead, the kind who scours the CD booklet to find out what the hell the vocalist is screaming about. Well, if you’re into all that book-learnin’, chances are you used to read before going to bed anyway. But now that you’re a parent, your reading conditions aren’t exactly great for comfy reading (unless you’re nocturnal). The good news is that smartphones, tablets, and many e-readers are all backlit to vanquish the darkness without waking up Baby. You can read up on all your online album reviews – or even this blog! And if digital isn’t your thing (those tape-trading habits die hard), there’s no shame in still reading physical books. However, you will need one of those lights that clip onto the edge of the book cover, or position yourself near the nightlight.

Write Stuff

If you’re the band’s lyricist, nothing builds up writer’s block like having to meet the demands of a wailing baby. But once she goes down, you’ve got no excuse. You can’t procrastinate because the baby in your lap makes it physically impossible for you to do anything else. Just dim the light on you smartphone (any handheld device with a word processor will do), and get those words banged out.

How do you think these blogs get written?

Brood

Maybe you are the sit-in-the-dark kind of metalhead. If so, your dark realm of peace and solitude are completely overthrown by the presence of a baby. While you might lament your lost freedom at first, you’ll find there’s still plenty of time for you to ponder the greater existential questions about life and death. Chances are you’ll see things entirely differently now that you have a kid, and that’s the kind of perspective you can’t get anywhere else, no matter how philosophical your favorite bands get.

If you’re still feeling sore about having to change up your nights on account of your baby, it’s time to get over it. You could be putting all that energy into something enjoyable and worthwhile. Don’t think of it as caring for a baby. You’re her protector, her guardian, and your child is your young ward, the heir to your throne. That’s a power metal concept album right there. This kind of genius doesn’t happen during the day.

How do you while away the dark hours? Leave me a suggestion!

From the Cradle to the Stage

Practicing my stage presence was never one of my hobbies, but it totally is now. Now that I have a child, my hands are, for the most part, no longer functional parts of my body. The space they used to occupy is now 100% filled with baby for a large part of my evenings. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for metal stuff. Or much else, for that matter.

So when inspiration strikes, it’s best to just run with it.

I’ve found that by mimicking a few of metal’s luminaries I can actually get some stuff done. You just have to know whose stage presence will work best. Here are a few I hope you’ll find as useful as I have:

The Robert Trujillo

Robert Trujillo, bassist of Metallica, performing with his trademark stage presence: the crab walk.

I’ll admit I rolled my eyes like everybody else at Newstead’s replacement. His exaggerated bassist’s swagger seemed like he was overcompensating for something. Like, nobody was going to notice you on any …And Justice for All songs anyway, dude. But in the days since the birth of my daughter, I want to send ‘ol Robbie a thank you note. Aping his crab-walk is the only way I can reach the wall socket to plug in my phone while still holding my kid.

As an added plus, I can then drum my fingers along my baby’s back like frets on a bass, which helps release gas that’s gotten trapped in her clenched bowels. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if that was one of the reasons he got the gig in the first place.

The Tipton-Downing Slide

Synchronizing your stage presence is dorky as hell, but if you’re gonna do it, you may as well do it like the pros. Judas Priest guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing must have double-majored in twin-guitar dorkery back in the ’70s before graduating to metal gods, and turns out their style holds up pretty well. Their patented back-and-forth swaying helps me relax my daughter on a daily basis, and I gotta give em credit – it’s a lot harder to keep up than it looks. I have to practice it in a mirror to make sure I’m doing it right, which is the closest thing to playing “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” with my kid as I’m likely to get. At this age, anyway.

The David Lee Roth

Van Halen's David Lee Roth, bending over backward to retrieve a pink pacifier on the ground.

I don’t think Diamond Dave is a practical guy. Anyone who can do the splits and waggle his fingers in the air while singing “Jump” can’t be, can he? But those of us on the pragmatic side can learn a lot from dear ‘ol DLR, especially if we’re holding a baby instead of a mic stand.

Now, I’m nowhere near as flexible as Mr. Roth is, and I’m not committed enough to get on his level (I’m only mostly metal, remember?) But sometimes you gotta get down Davey-style to retrieve a pacifier that’s fallen on the floor.. Just don’t make me wear a glittery vest.

The Trooper Clutch

 

Iron Maiden's "The Trooper," which depicts mascot Eddie in British soldier gear, a flag in one hand, a saber in the other. A baby is clutched against him in this version, though.
“You wake my wife, but you wake me too! Your midnight screaming is because you pooed!”

My daughter is a bit older now, or I’m just more confident when holding her. Maybe both? I’m no longer convinced that how I hold her is the sole thing keeping her from instant death. It’s enough where I’ve been able to get a bit creative when I have to hold her but still have Shit I Have to Do.

The Trooper Clutch is one I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of since she’s gotten better at supporting her neck. I just hold her against my chest with my forearm, and my hands can do their thing. It’s a little like having one human arm and one stunted Tyrannosaur claw, but hey, whatever works. And if I ever feel the need to express my patriotism by holding a sword, a flag, and my baby, I’ll at least know I’m physically capable.

“Baby! Has taken my hands! Taken my arms! Taken my hobbies!”

I have one thing I do in my free time, except at some point I ceased to have any free time, and now I am barely aware of “time” at all. Writing this blog is like an accessory to this Not-Time, a bonus track to the full album that is taking care of a newborn. All the other hobbies I try to keep up just kind of trickle down around those.

It’s not so bad. The little creature has her moments. And I figure if Rick Allen can still play two-hour sets one-handed, surely I can handle a measly twenty minutes. I don’t need to rig up a bionic drum kit to help me hold my daughter, but maybe that’s not such a bad idea.

Still, I’m looking forward to the day when I can regain the use of my hands. That day’s quickly approaching – she’s already craning her neck out of her rock ‘n’ play. Next thing you know she’ll be typing up this blog for me, and then I’ll really have to find some new hobbies.

Heart Songs

My daughter is starting to smile at me, and it’s breaking my heart. I mean, I can claim to have seen the brutality of birth and lived to tell the tale, but seriously. Each upturned corner of the lips is accompanied by a “goo” that turns my hard metal barriers into angel food cake. If this keeps up, I’ll have to rebrand this thing “Less-Than-Metal Dad.”

I didn’t teach her how to do that, trust me. I haven’t willingly sacrificed what little metal cred I’ve got; it’s all happened naturally. Like the moment you realize you’re doing the high, squeaky baby voice is a moment you can’t go back from. My vocal register is getting so high I’m thinking of trying out for Rhapsody of Fire.

My daughter, giving a little smile.
How am I supposed to stay grimdark with this going on??

So I did what any sensible person would do when their morals and values are challenged: I made a playlist. Desperate times, and all. This is a failsafe to ensure I don’t forget my roots. “Back off, baby,” these songs say. “You may have his affections now, but WE were here first.”

Coincidentally, these songs all have the word “heart” in them. With luck, they’ll remind me of when I had metal flowing through my veins instead of all this goddamned oxytocin.

Crank Up These Heart Songs (But Not Too Loud)

“Heartwork” – Carcass
Even the band name makes me feel like a real tough guy. “This band is named after a rotting dead corpse, what’s yours, something lame like your feelings?” Carcass knows how to get to the meat of a song, and “Heartwork” is as meaty as they come. Layered with sweet riffs, dynamic drums, and raspy growling, even the melodies have the crunchiness to drown out most bedtime lullabies.

“Warheart” – Children of Bodom
From its antagonizing opening sample, Children of Bodom’s “Warheart” sets me and my daughter on a “path of rebound (???).” Okay, so lyrics aside, the combination of cymbal chokes and rumbling bass followed by furious riffing and frantic blasting makes me want to make my battle imminent. Now, I probably won’t ever go so far as to consider my child my enemy, but “Warheart” does remind me of the opposing forces at work whenever I’m struggling to change my daughter’s diaper.

Dawn of the Black Hearts – Mayhem
Okay, not a song, but this recording of a ’90s Mayhem show is the antithesis of adorable daughters. Sometimes the only way to deal with a screaming infant is to listen to something that sounds even worse. The production on this black metal bootleg is so delightfully raw it sets my teeth grinding. Compared to the shrieking china four-count before “Freezing Moon,” somehow my kid’s cries don’t seem all that bad.

“Eagleheart” – Stratovarius
When life gets me down, I can always rely on a power metal pick-me-up. Neoclassical shredding never fails to put me in a feel-good mood, which sounds perfect for a fussy baby that just won’t go to sleep. This song’s soaring chorus and beautifully simple keyboard/guitar lead can lead me out of the dark and into a bright, shining tomorrow. And considering I’m typing this at 3:30 AM, that tomorrow is only a couple hours away! Great…

“Hollow Heart” – Kalmah
Leave it to Kalmah to empty out all the mushiness from my pumper. Nothing about this song, including its swamp-slushing intro, makes me think of babies. Perfect! I’d never take my baby to a swamp; that sounds terrible. Keyboard-driven melodies mix with tight riffing and phlegmy vocals into a concoction that’s just sick. What I wouldn’t give to see Kalmah play “Hollow Heart” in the States. Actually, I might be a few sleepless nights away from a solution. Go on, baby, just try me!

“Blind at Heart” – Dark Tranquillity
Dark Tranquillity knows what’s up. Apparently I’ve got to blind myself to my daughter’s charms. Sound advice from my favorite melodic death metal band; they probably wrote this super-tight, ass kicker of a song just for my fatherly plight. You know, four years after they wrote it.

“Metal Heart” – Accept
Probably the most aptly named song name for this blog, Accept’s “Metal Heart” has the kind of old-school appeal that reminds me of my younger years. I think every metal fan went through an elitist phase, but I didn’t expect this song to make me feel so nostalgic for it. While plenty full of ’80s-era rockin’, this song at the very least reminds me of a time before baby that helped shape me into the metal man I am today.

A metal dad tries his hardest to smile, something I'm sure he hasn't done since he was a child himself.
I know it’s hard, you can do it, believe in yourself

Well the baby’s not going anywhere; she’s here to stay, all smiles and farts and that sort of thing. She mostly smiles while getting her diaper changed, so there’s a good chance she generates joy by making daddy deal with a double doody. But all the same, I never want it to stop.

I guess as long as I’ve got these songs to listen to, I can make it through just about anything. Who knew that actually listening to metal would remind me what I love most about it? If you’re ever questioning your own metalness in the midst of all your dadliness, I highly recommend it.

If you know of any other “heart songs” to add to my playlist of yearning, do let me know. The nights will only get longer.