Let’s get nostalgic for a moment…
There was a time in my life — about 5 years ago — when I was a young kid in his late teens, hanging out in the down town area of Bend, Oregon — the uppity, snooty resort town I was living in at the time.
I wore my leather jacket every where, or if the weather was warmer a denim vest covered with patches and metal studs. My love of video games took a back seat to music — I was into just about every form of extreme metal and punk music, and I scoffed at anything poppy or mainstream.
The metal scene in that town was virtually non-existent, and I can pretty much name all of the other metal heads around my age at the time. We’d hang out in the park or around the surprising well stocked couple of record stores that shitsville had with the rest of the “alternative” kids — the hippies, punks, and hipsters (who, at the time, were better known as “indie kids”).
Myself and the few metalheads that attended the same high school would sit in the back of the school at lunch. We’d sit on the curb and shoot the shit about music, movies, a few would skate along the road and side walk, my friends and I would sit and listen to the chicks in the group gossip because — with the exception of a few of us younger kiddies in the circle — everyone was pretty much sleeping with everyone else and experimenting with drugs of all sorts(I didn’t discover this until much later, but a large number were trying their hands at go-getter substances like heroine and ecstasy), especially those darn indie kids. It was a fun time.
Then something happened.
The end of my sophomore year, the large majority of them graduated, dropped out and/or moved away. I was never close with those who left, but I liked them. My junior year was spent less on music, more on playing rugby and buckling down in school.
I still listened to tons of music, but slowly began to see the whole punk lifestyle as little more than my form of teenage angst and a refusal to grow up.
The following year, my senior year of highschool, was an interesting time. I moved back to my native Portland, Oregon, by myself, homeless, sleeping on couches and basement floors while reconnecting with my old friends and trying my best to make it into college.
I also found myself involved with a strange phenomenon: a sudden and short-lived boom in extreme metal in the south side suburb I lived, Milwaukie. That’s another tale to tell, as is the entirety of my homeless adventure, as well as my mid-to-late teenage years with the scene in Bend.
But by the end of my senior year, the metal-boom had come and went, my own music tastes had expanded, and overall, I matured a bit.
Fast forward three years later.
I am now a junior at Oregon State University studying New Media Communications. I still listen to extreme music — perhaps more so than ever — but for the most part, metal is less a lifestyle now, more of a nostalgic interest. Somewhat like old cars or classic movies can be.
Hence why Brutal Legend is such a great game to me.
From the moment I started seriously listening to metal music, it has always been a fantasy land for me. It was bands who crafted strong, epic imagery with their music, lyrics, and artwork that intrigued me. I’d imagine huge battles in wastelands, and viking duels in the frozen north. Songs would make me want to drive fast and bang my head. It offered just as good a release of my energy as any video game or sport. All I wanted to do was listen to the heaviest and fastest shit out there, and think about all the rad things that could take place in a world of metal.
For me, Brutal Legend was that metal world.
“I get to drive an insane vehicle through rolling hills scattered with ruins in the shape of guitars, swords, and hands giving the almighty horns? I get to swing an axe and unleash solos so powerful the melt off faces? Dismember grotesque monsters, chase after metal babes, and aid in the destruction of cheesy glam metal’s stranglehold on metal and smash in the faces of undead emo kids? All while blasting a soundtrack featuring some of the greatest metal bands of all time!?” My dream had come true.
Not only did it allow me to fulfill almost every metal-tinged fantasy I’d had since that first power chord ripped through my skull, it gave something that only someone who loves and lives metal knows, and it did so in a video game. That’s the feeling of belonging.
From the opening sequence when Eddie Riggs bemoans the death of real music, I knew I was in for something good. A whole bunch of lame wannabe kids taking the stage as the game pokes fun at just about every stupid trend that has plagued metal music: turn tables, whiny vocals about a girl, stupid haircuts and lame outfits are all represented… and subsequently decapitated by a giant metal demi-god, summoned there by Eddie Rigg’s blood.
The beast kills the posers, and takes Eddie to the promised land of metal. There’s so much awesomeness and metaphorical brutality in the opening moments of the game, and as a former English major I could spend pages and pages discussing it’s relevance and power.
But I wont.
Still, it’s worth delving into a little. After Eddie arrives, he is faced with a few battles and car chases stuffed with so many references and “OH MY GODS YES!” moments to bring any metal head to bloody tears of joy.
Shortly after, Eddie Joins the resistance and with Lars Halford(heh..) frees a whole bunch of kids who only want to bang their heads from the oppression of hair-sprayed, faux-metal. With tears in his eyes, Eddie explains to Lars that the only thing to do with a bunch of headbangers is to “start a revolution.”
And he’s right.
This whole sequence, while awesome and filled with chuckles is EXACTLY why young teens flock to metal — and any music scene for that matter. They become part of something so much greater than themselves. While it’s a silly joke, Eddie’s statement that band merch is a “badge of devotion for a band” is true; we show our loyalty to bands, albums, labels, and magazines by displaying their logos on our clothing. No other music scene puts so much importance on t-shirts, cloth patches, and hoodies than extreme music. It’s how we recognize each other, and display to one another what genres and bands we care about.
It might seem superficial, but it’s important to us. It’s part of our philosophy.
Metal is, whether consciously or not, based upon pagan ideals — the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth; working within nature, not against it; favoring the individual; celebrating both the pains and joys of life, and most importantly, honoring our ancestors — metal does all of these.
Sure this might be kind of deep, but it’s why we’re still around, why we still listen to bands like Motorhead, Death, and Possessed; why Slayer still plays in sold-out stadiums; and it’s why we still love to go to local underground shows to bang our heads with the fastest and heaviest new bands out there.
It’s also why I keep going back to Brutal legend.
The game was released back in 2009, and even though the game has seen some DLC to freshen things up, the core adventure and world still hasn’t become boring to me.
I love returning to the game every few months just to drive around while metal plays and beat down demons and sellouts alike. I know that I’ll keep going back to that world for months and years to come.
It’s possible that it might just be because they crafted such a fun game to play, but even if the game was mediocre, I’d still want to return to the land where all of my teenage dreams come true.
It saddens me to hear that there will not be a Brutal Legend 2. Or, at least, the one that was on the way has been scrapped. Maybe one day we’ll get a new adventure with Eddie Riggs and a brand new land of metal to conquer. For now though, I’m happy to have had this experience.
Like Scott Pilgrim gave out gamer generation a feeling a of validation, Brutal legend makes me feel that while I’m no longer hanging out down town with a pack of metal heads everyday, it was something important to me and well worth returning to every now and again to re-live those old moments that were so instrumental in turning me into the person I am today.
I really hope Tim Schafer reads this. Hah.
Keep it metal,
Have a favorite moment from Brutal Legend? Was it or another game instrumental in you life or bring back great memories? Let us know in the comments below!