Apr 122013

(Occasional NCS contributor Mike Yost has kindly allowed us to re-publish this recent piece he wrote about the importance of metal on long road trips.)

Denver, Colorado to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  About 1,638 miles.   That’s 2,882,880 yards of asphalt.  Burning through almost 200 gallons of diesel fuel.  Passing what must have been over 1,000,000,000 fucking construction cones.  The vehicle:  A 22 foot-long Penske moving van with a dolly towing a car.  12 foot, 7 inch height clearance.  Ten tires on the road.  Total weight of about 30,000lbs.

Yes, this was (dare I say) an epic trip.  And an expedition of this magnitude required tunes.  Lots of tunes.   Lots of metal.  With almost 30 hours of drive time, silence for that long would have driven me into a bridge.   Or rather, I would have driven willfully into a bridge, laughing manically while beating my head against the steering wheel.

Combine the claustrophobia of a truck cab, the inability to sleep while occupying such a contraption, the stomach aches from eating shitty gas-station sandwiches made with meat shaved from the hind-end of a decaying maggot-infested human carcass laying out back, the traffic jams in the middle of fucking nowhere due to construction, the congested cities you must fight your way through, and just the general mind-numbing tedium of miles and miles of road rolling out in front of you—endless and without mercy or conscience—then you understand the function and importance of metal to sooth nerves and subdue the urge to suddenly veer into oncoming traffic.

I put myself in charge of what music to bring.  Since my sister-in-law was in the cab with me, I brought a plethora of various bands.  Everything from The Who to The Cure to Stevie Nicks to Thy Catafalque to Smashing Pumpkins to mind.in.a.box to random techno music.

But the genre that brought me the most comfort was metal.  Nothing is more comforting on miles and miles (and miles) of pothole-littered, monotonous highway than the swelling growls, guitars, and drums bellowing out of those crappy stock speakers.

I did all the night driving, with Thy Catafalque’s Rengeteg stabbing at my ears and keeping me awake (along with more than a few energy drinks).  Particularly the fourteen minute song “Vashegyek” with that pulverizing and relentless double-bass drum on the second-half.  “Holdkomp” is a perfect road song if I ever heard one, the repetitive drum beat of which the Penske truck seemed to bounce along to.

At one point around 3 am, I turned Thy Catafalque up a little too much and my sister-in-law woke up (this is somewhere in Kansas—a.k.a. the great void of the earth).  I apologized, asking if the music was bothering her.  “Not at all,” she replied with a slight laugh.  “Whatever you need to keep going.”  (Yeah, my sister-in-law fucking rocks.)

When I wasn’t driving, I would throw on my headphones.  I found Omnium Gatherum’s New World Shadows—particularly the song “New World Shadows”—to be a particular treat as background music on I-70 in Pennsylvania, the black hills rolling up and down in the distance.

Ne Obliviscaris’ Portal of I soothed me to partial sleep as the truck slammed violently over the cracks in the interstate, the violin, vocals and rhythmic guitars serenading me into a quasi-dream world free of potholes and the smell of diesel fuel.  The haunting ending to “Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise” matched perfectly with that intense introspective feeling you get when traveling for hours on the interstate, left alone with your thoughts.

The trip ended without incident, and I attribute our mutual sanity to the power of music.  So I end with the following:  What are some of the bands/albums you listen to when stuck in a vehicle for hours at a time?


  47 Responses to “A LENGTHY EXCURSION”

  1. This is a great article!!
    My family lives 170 km away from where I work, so I have to drive 2-3 hours every damn friday night and then back again monday morning.
    I cannot stress enough the fact that without metal music to drive to I’d gone insane a long time ago. The most recent album I love listening to while driving is Byzanthine s/t.
    Other favourites: Urd by Borknagar, Human Equation by Ayreon, The Seer by Swans… too much to mention.

    • Haven’t listened to Borknagor since The Olden Domain, but I like what I hear!

      • You sir, have been missing out! “The Archaic Course”, “Quintessence”, “Empiricism” and “Urd” would be my personal picks from the post-Olden Domain years (although I realise that’s not leaving much out!)

  2. I wholly approve of your roadtrip playlist, though I’d add something in the Motorhead vein for those times when you need to force slower traffic off the edge of the highway. A big fuckin’ Penske truck would be just right for that kind of activity.

    I’m planning a road trip with my spouse into Washington’s Olympic peninsula in the near future. Unfortunately, my spouse’s intolerance for metal means I’m in for hours of indie rock and 80s music. Ah, the things we do for love . . .

    • LOL. You don’t know how many times I wanted to just floor it into traffic and let the momentum of the Penske truck push everyone out of the way.

      80’s music? Tears for Fears isn’t bad. (Their lyrics can be pretty dark, which I like!)

      • I was actually alive and sentient in the 80s, and I actually liked (and still somewhat do) music from that era, including Tears For Fears. “People Are People” and “I Melt With You” are already starting to run through my head, too. 🙂

    • Shall I do you a column entitled “Five Metal-Related Bands Islander Might Be Able To Get His Wife To Listen To”?

      • For science! Bracing for the Steel Panther recommendations.

      • You could try, but I think you’d need to know a lot more about my wife. We’ve been married for decades, and I’m still nowhere close to figuring her out, and that includes what might appeal to her mult-faceted musical tastes. Try reconciling Luther Vandross, the Butthole Surfers, The Cars, Kings of Leon, Johnny Cash, Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell, Rodriguez, Al Green, Fleet Foxes, The Smiths, Amos Lee . . . well, maybe you get the idea.

        • Hmmm, maybe you could try a less metal and more folky route? If you’re into that kind of thing. I recommend Of The Wand and The Moon’s latest, “The Lone Descent”. Very Cash-esque singing, but maybe with musical elements you could appreciate as well.

  3. King Diamond – conspiracy and Absu – Tara

  4. I like contrasting elements when driving. For those long, solemn trips up north to my drill location (National Guard) I love putting on either Kauan’s “Kuu..” or “Ava Tuulen Maa”. Not exactly metal, but something about the rich, calming atmosphere of that music at 4am on dark and snowy highways helps me put to rest any anxieties from the previous weeks. I contemplate life and where I’m going in it while taking in the low light scenery complimented by the music.

    Then I’ll put on a real headbanger like Abigail Williams’ “Shadow of a Thousand Suns”, Wretched’s “Beyond the Gate”, or All Shall Perish’s “Awaken the Dreamers” to get my blood going when the coffee starts wearing off. Lately for those early morning rush-hour drives to work I’ve been jamming to Caladan Brood’s “Echoes of Battle”. Those epic riffs seem to help keep those homicidal thoughts towards other drivers at bay.

    • Well, I continue seeing these references to Caladan Brood since Summoning released their new album teaser. I suppose I’m going to have to give in and hear what they sound like.

    • If you like contrasting elements, definitely check out Thy Catafalque. Opeth’s Watershed, too!

      • Both of those bands I’ve tried getting into on multiple occassions. I know they’re good and I have a lot of respect for what those bands are doing. But for some indescribable reason they just don’t resonate with me. I have every reason to love these bands based on their sound and style, but idk. I never get excited or enthralled listening to them. For Opeth, while I love a lot of the music, I feel they’ve always had this “over-produced” sound, it’s just too perfect sounding. That and I just don’t like his singing vocals. Thy Catafalque is harder to discern why I can’t get into them. I think I just find it boring (and I listen to a lot of “boring” music).

        Live and let live though, they’re still artists I respect.

        • Thy Catafalque isn’t for everyone, and I have to be in the right mood to listen. Same with Opeth. I forgot to mention Hypno5e’s Acid Mist Tomorrow. Again, a lot of contrasting elements in that album, and the vocals are unique.

    • Well, if Thy Catafalque doesn’t do it for you, might I suggest Subterranean Masquerade? Combine progressive metal with Middle Eastern elements, a dash of death metal and some jazz, then toss in a bipolar voice, this one being that of Novembers Doom’s Paul Kuhr. Might not be to everyone’s liking and you’re better off starting with Temporary Psychotic State than Suspended Animation Dreams or the new EP, Home, but to the right ears, it’s a wonderful union that shouldn’t work as good as it does.

      • Really intrigued by your description, I will have to check them out ASAP!

        • Listened. It felt really similar to “maudlin of the Well”. Like, it was almost trying to do the same thing but with an Opeth-y vibe to it. It wasn’t bad, but “maudlin” has a monopoly on schizophrenic prog-death in my library.

  5. Bolt Thrower and Dismember are staples on long drives for me.

  6. I dont take too many long distance drives without Mrs Brute so heavy metal music is generally not an option…We’ve long since compromised though, as she usually reads short weird/horror/ghost stories to me while I drive

    When I do take long trips by myself I tend to load my Ipod with lots of death metal, folk metal, and traditional stuff. The heavier sounds of death metal come through better on my speakers as does the cleaner production of the folk and traditional metal. I rarely listen to black metal on long trips as the fuzzy production tends to create a wall of noise thats more annoying than anything

  7. I’m blessed with a missus that lets me blast whatever I want, and she’s no metal fan. On longer trips I do try to work some of the music we agree on into the playlist however. If nothing else to give the ears a break. I can only listen to teh brootz for so long before it also start to lose impact. Ears get tired.

    A fun game I like to play is trying to get my non-metal friends and family into metal, one band at a time. I take what I know their tastes to be, and then nudge them slightly heavier, band by band. There’s always a deal-breaker (usually it’s harsh vocals), but I’ve still got most people in my circle listening to shit they never would have even heard of, much less listened to.

  8. Usually pretty much everything, but especially during nights in rural Finland with nothing but the occasional moonlight and your car’s: Ghost Brigade(into the black light, painful amounts of sing-along included) and Solstafir.

  9. I’m going to be totally lame and say that just about the only time I listen to The Offspring is during long drives. Minus their garbage hit songs – the faster punk wannabe ones have been perfect driving music for me. My last drive up to Seattle was exclusively a constant rotation between Porcupine Tree and Celldweller, which was weird. When I drove route 66 about five years back, I threw my ipod on shuffle and that is when we got a ton of metal. Did a lot of Opeth on that trip. It was about a week of driving ten hour days, went to so many places.

  10. Swervedriver – Mezcal Head.

    The. Best. Highway. Album. Ever.

    Especially the remastered version with Planes Over the Skyline and Hitcher.

    • Gawd, I love their music already and I haven’t heard a note. With a band name like Swervedriver and an album called Mezcal Head, they can’t possibly be anything but awesome on the road.

  11. My wife and I have an unspoken road trip rule: The person who owns the car picks the music. My music is about 90% metal, which she tolerates well( to her credit.) I will skip past most grindcore for her. Her music ranges from classical piano pieces to old blues albums to Taylor Swift. I just tune out the stuff I don’t like.
    On my own, it’s generally iPod on shuffle. The exception is that I almost always listen to Agalloch when it’s snowing out and I’m driving.

    • I’m somehow getting the short end of the stick in my relationship. It doesn’t matter whose car we’re in or who’s driving, metal is off limits. It’s either that or we take two cars wherever we go, and that ain’t happening.

  12. I tend to find stuff with a driving beat good for keeping the wits sharp, think Cavalera Conspiracy, SYL, Septic Flesh’s the great mass, Mechina, some Fear Factory, Threat Signal’s first album. Done lots of driving to those and similar.

    It’s funny how there’s this cliche of a metal guy with a girlfriend who ‘tolerates’ his music, whereas most of the time the typical metal guy has to tolerate a whole lot of poppy music that just makes you want to slit your wrists, but somehow is regarded as ‘completely normal’ (doesn’t pop make you want to kill yourself?… just me?). I think almost every girl I spend a lot of time with, be it girlfriend, flatmate, female friend, has had metal grow on them after hanging around for a while – it’s like once someone’s there to explain what is going on, a lot of non-metalheads go ‘oh, okay, I see now’.

    I remember one female friend of mine I flatted with for a while came back to town for a visit and we jumped in the car to head to town, and as I start it up the stereo kicks in, and she starts laughing saying ‘oh yeah, a trip in Booker’s car is not complete without blaring heavy music’. Damn straight!

    • I had to tolerate country with one girl, I’d love for one who would tolerate my bullshit. Thank god I enjoy some electronica too – otherwise I’d find myself zoning out during rides with the lady friends.

      Septic Flesh and Mechina are great for drives, they wind up being my quick go to for the five minute commute to work.

  13. driving at dawn preferably with fog any October Falls these days The plague of a coming age…

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.