To be a metalhead is to have a somewhat embarrassing and shameful past. It might sound shocking, but not all of us leap forth from our metallic womb with our Autopsy LPs and Leviathan shirts. I, like many of you, started with the lowest rung of metal bands before becoming kvlt enough to be allowed to enjoy Sunn O))). I started at an especially dark time in the history of heavy, a time rule by JNCOs and frosted tips (which I proved unable to escape). Indeed, I heeded the siren call of nu-metal as an angsty middle schooler, and calling loudest of all were local newcomers Drowning Pool.
I believe the first time I heard Drowning Pool was around the release of Jason X, a movie that’s advertising utilized the song “Bodies” HEAVILY. I was naturally attracted to the movie as it was about a hockey man in space murdering teenagers while they were “doing it.” A song about bodies piling up was the perfect soundtrack, and at the time I thought it was the coolest and heaviest thing in the world. I somehow coerced my mother into buying me their debut album, Sinner, and it was a favorite of mine for some time. This was 14 years ago, though. I’ve changed a lot in the second half of my life since then, but the recent release of whatever passes as Drowning Pool these day’s new album made curious: Is there still a weird, nostalgia laden place in my heart for this album, or have the sands of time stripped it of any beauty it once held?
I put on my headphones, and as soon as I hit play it all comes back to me. Every single word, every single note… I remember it all. The opening triplet of “Sinner,” “Bodies,” and “Tear Away” got my head nodding, though certainly not as vigorously as in my youth. My eyes have been opened to heavier and more interesting acts leaving Sinner feeling a bit plain in comparison, though nowhere near as stale or groan-inducing as other gateway bands like Disturbed or Godsmack. I think a big part of that is that they’re never quite as knuckle-draggingly “don’t fuck with me, bro!” as the rest of the nu-metal movement, a sentiment that has caused bigger and bigger sighs the older I have gotten.
Another might be the voice of Dave Williams. The man really gives songs like “Sinner” and “Follow” some gusto, and I can’t help but think the band would be much bigger if he hadn’t passed. As the album moves along into its middle section, the songs start to blur together a bit, but they all remain rather quick and upbeat. Brevity is one of this album’s strengths, and I somehow don’t even mean that disparagingly. As I reach “Mute” I find myself thankful that this album hasn’t been nearly as awful as I anticipated it being with over a decade of life experience separating me from it. Hell, at some points it’s even enjoyable! It’s lost almost all of its bite, but it can still bring a child-like smile to your face akin to finding your old action figures in a box in the attic. It brings to mind your youth and simpler times while also helping you to realize you’ve come a long way.
Listening to this album has done just that for me. Rather than reflecting on the music and thinking about just how different my taste is, or laughing at just how bad it could be, I sat and thought about where I was and where I am. Like I said, this album was a literal half of a lifetime ago. Looking back and connecting the dots from being a lost and angry preteen to being an even more lost and slightly less angry adult and doing so in parallel with my musical taste has been fascinating and humbling. The musical journey has been an almost perfect reflection of the life journey, from being dumb and angry at the world to being more thoughtful and expressing rage at certain ideas or seemingly unchangeable patterns.
I assure you when I came up with this post I wanted to do nothing more than make fun of how bad our collective tastes were as youths. I wanted to make fun of Drowning Pool and yell “LOL what were we thinking!?” but I obviously got lost and taken somewhere more reflective. I suppose that alone should tell me that Sinner, whether a masterpiece or merely just the rat king of the shit mountain of nu-metal, will certainly always hold a place in my heart. To my younger self this album was the whole world, and as my older self sits here listening and reflecting I can absolutely understand why.
Is there an album from a gateway band that means a lot to you? Do you often revisit it? Let’s discuss it and ruminate on our wasted youths in the comments below!