The Link-Up Spell: How music helped me survive the worst era in Venezuela

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Has music helped you too? Let’s share our stories on how to overcome hardships in life with music and a good heart.

Greetings, fellow Toiletters. Before start the column today I need to warn you my intention is not to compare our hardships or issues. My goal today is warm us up in friendship around a bonfire, so I hope you find something good encapsulated over here and gather with our people in a positive manner.

Music, as for many of you, has accompanied me in every important or superfluous moment of my life. From the frivolous chords of simple beats to highly detailed sonic landscapes, my existence is always imprinted with some kind of soundtrack. In fact, and like I previously shared before in this digital subspace, my sensibilities toward music spawned when I was a kid and brought me to a very fun path of discovery, a never-ending adventure that I am very grateful and proud to bear.

But, in total honesty, my introduction to adulthood was particularly turbulent, like it probably was with many of you, and the energy I absorbed from music had to be employed more carefully. Happiness has not flown away from me during these last years, but reality sometimes hits us with a titanium hammer without mercy. Let me share with you this part of my story:

Welcome to Venezuela

Like I probably explained before to some of our readers, my country, like many other places in our world, is facing cruel times. The phantoms of egoism tainted our soil with blood, so, right now, Venezuela, once a blessed territory, is falling down slowly and painfully into a spiral of deception. And that, my friend, transforms all our life and expectations toward the present and future.

Before this storm obliterated these lands, our country was the destination of migrants and good-hearted people. For example, my hometown, located in one of the biggest oil producer states of the territory, became one of the welcoming areas for World War II refugees, and later a large group of Arabic, Latin American and Asian brothers and sisters. Before the dark claw of terrible, populist politics drained our instincts, my tiny city was an active center of cultural exchange and peaceful living. And like that, it happened in so many towns and cities all over the country.

However, we should not only blame the disastrous governments we have to endure; I think the people should bear some of the guilt as well.

The gradual economic failures around the final half of the last decade planted the seed of individualism in our culture’s heart. Instead of helping us to break the shackles of ferocious divisionism, we played the two-sided politicians game and we became so self-centered our country broke in half. Venezuelans erroneously learned that money and survival comes first, and many of them specialized in morally doubtful jobs, like food or gas smuggling. Meanwhile, all our life-quality measures dropped to breathtaking levels: health, education, personal security and the economy of our citizenry was the evident result of our crisis.

Here at the end of 2017, a large number of Venezuelans are outspokenly disappointed by our current status. In my state, many of the public and private health centers are empty of medicines or equipment; crime rates are still supremely high; public universities are most of the time in strikes for better salaries; food, gas and goods shortages persist; unexpected electricity blackouts sometimes burn domestic electronics; public transport is expensive and hsd practically collapsed; there is a shortage of cash… At the same time, our currency went into hyperinflation for the first time, which means the debacle will just leave profound scars on many of us, working just to eat, and nothing else.

My wife and I are both professional, young and healthy persons, and I do not consider myself as having a bad life, but our road to adulthood was accompanied with this contaminated panorama. On the other side, we have close family that are having a really hard year with the weekly prices increasing in everything. We are helping some of them from time to time with food and money, but the final half of this year has been merciless to all of us, without contemplation. I even dare to say that some of them barely have one meal per day, and they are starting to feel the symptoms of starving, and that, my friends, is not a pleasant thing to see.

It’s evident we do not have high hopes right now. Next year’s economic predictions are somber, and my country will stay in this state for a long while… Having entered into hyperinflation means that more people will suffer for not having the chance to buy food or medication. Also, so many young persons are immigrating to other countries to gain money in a better currency in order to send it to their families over here and help with the expenses, which means our job force is not over here to repair the economy and that our population consists of elderly people who cannot leave the country.

In fact, like many of those migrants, I resolved to leave Venezuela next year and find new adventures in another country, and, for the first time in months, this project reignited that youthful passion that secures me a tiny dose of optimism in the face of of this hard reality.

The spirit of music accompanies me

Some of my friends in other countries ask me how I can maintain a high resilience when this crisis suffocates us. The truth is I only concentrate on the good aspects and see the bad things in life as obstacles to fight, and music helped me to discover this.

When I started to get more into extreme music, melodic death metal became some sort of an obsession for me (and still is one of my favorite styles!). The key aspect that piqued my curiosity about it was how simple and polarized it sounded when I tried to understand the core sound. The down tuned guitars and the dark imagery is in a constant clash with the emotive leading melodies, so the high contrast between the beautiful and the ugly was something that inspired me so many times to bisect the good and the bad of life, so I tend to listen to this music in an introspective mood.

Dichotomy, sometimes, comes at the risk of simplification and could be a tool that makes us think in terms of limitations. But, this thought process also helped me to find alternative ways to overcome difficulties. In a lot of cases, hardship in life blind us and induce us to just avoid conflict or directly fighting against it; however, the solution is in our hands and we need to move and confront ourselves or the world. Like my mom always tells me, “Everything in this life has a solution, except death.”

Of course, I also find very useful the energetic injections of traditional, power, folk and death metal. Many ass-kicking records out there with speed, great vocals lines and soaring guitar leads put me in a conquering mood that make me forget for a while the deceptive ambiance around me. Also, I have always thrived on introspection and calmness to overcome my low energy days. Neofolk, video game soundtracks, dungeon synth, black, doom and progressive metal are on high rotation when I need to restore my magical flow. All of these artists, bands, records and concepts are always in high regard for giving me the chance to think and make me construct a better reality for myself, and therefore for my family.

I suppose I tend to not employ these tools as simple escapism, since this hostile ambiance pushes me to go out and, at least, try to fight against all the odds. If I stay quiet, I perish, and with that, my beloved ones will fall too. In these moments, we need to stay knightly together and willing to accept the violent turns of life as natural signs of our humane experience on Earth.

For me, music, as a whole, recharged me so many times during these last two years, and it is great to have in hand my favorite records and listen to them over and over again. Music teaches me new ways to defend myself from my fears and anxieties. And, even when I am not a musician, I can absorb all the different vibes the artists inked into their products with passion.

For all of that, I will always be grateful, forever.


What about you, fellow magicians? Share with us your stories about how music has helped you to overcome the hard parts of your life. Remember to read our brothers and sisters stories with mental illness in this great article by Decapitron, too! I am more than eager to know more about you! Plenty of good vibes for all.


The Link-Up Spell is a weekly Toilet ov Hell column about music, movies, books, retro video games and guaranteed Elfic nonsense. If you want to contact the author to send your material, mail us at toiletovhell [at] gmail.com with the subject “The Link-Up Spell” or message him on social media.

Photo cover: VÍA

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  • I live in Newfoundland, Canada. Our government fucked us economically. Basically they spent years assuming that revenues from oil would always be super high, but now they’re not, so we have a huge deficit for such a small province. The result is tax increases of every conceivable kind, plus a “deficit levy” that’s automatically taken out of our paychecks, everyone in the province. Every liter of gas has a flat, extra 15 cents added, sales tax is up to 15% from 13%, there’s a separate “book tax” that’s exactly what it sounds like, car and home insurance is now taxed, etc.

    In other words, it’s a financial squeeze on everyone in the province. And personally, money is my anxiety “thing” so it’s been a shitty couple of years. But getting to go to the gym and blast Cannibal Corpse’s “Kill or Become” and yell along (silently) “HACK THEIR FUCKING HEADS OFF” while thinking of the leaders who got us into this mess makes me feel at least a bit better.

    • Dubby Fresh

      Oil is a particularly risky commodity to gamble your entire economy on. I moved out of Texas over the summer, but prior to that, I lived north of the Permian Basin, which was, around 2014 and 2015, the biggest oil producing region in the entire country (and, as we were told, the fastest growing economy in the country). When OPEC started playing hardball, the boom busted, and the city busted, and suddenly the extremely profitable Petroleum Engineering department had a huge body of students who couldn’t get jobs.

      • Yeah, they spent years acting as though a barrel of oil couldn’t possibly trade for less than $100 Canadian and did every budget assuming that for years even when oil was trending down. Then the arse fell out of ‘er, as they say in Newfoundland, and here we are!

      • Howard Dean

        That cycle has repeated many times on the Texas oil fields. I remember the entire section from the book Friday Night Lights about how Odessa was at one time one of the richest cities in the U.S. (maybe the richest) on a per capita basis.* Then little more than a half decade later, everyone was belly up.

        *It also had one of the highest murder rates at the time, I think–everyone was legit playing cowboy, I guess.

        • Dubby Fresh

          Yup! I think I saw it happen twice just while living there.

      • GoatForest

        Yeah, the waning of oil industry has definitely hobbled the economy here in Louisiana as well. I dunno. It blows my mind that Link is staying so positive in a situation that is so bleak.

        • I think if you look around the world you’ll find that the kind of despair you’re expecting to hear from Link really only flourishes in a decadent culture with a thriving leisure class. I mean sure, people in fucked up countries experience despair, but they seem generally less prone to fixate upon it.

          • GoatForest

            You speak wisdom.

          • GrumpDumpus

            I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT I LITERALLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT MY FLATSCREEN BEDECKED CADILLAC ESCALADE

      • GrumpDumpus

        THIS HAPPENED TO A LOT OF FRACKING AREAS TOO WHERE URBODY TRIED TO GET RICH AND FLOODED THE MARKET AND THEN ALL GOT LAID OFF SIMULTANEOUSLY BUT I’M SURE COAL WILL MAKE A COME BACK ANY DAY NOW WHEN THE SUN AND WIND RUN OUT

    • tigeraid

      I was born in New Brunswick and have lots of family there, so while I don’t feel your pain here in Ontario, I can still sympathize with the “Maritimes are all fucked and there’s no solutions.”

    • Howard Dean

      Budgeting for the future based upon a year or two of basically the highest prices in history…

      …so basically Newfie-land is the Venezuela of Canada?

      • tigeraid

        You know what, that’s somewhat accurate. Except they have insane winters.

    • Óðinn

      Oil jobs don’t stay consistent over time. It’s a simple concept to understand, yet many people fall into that trap. I guess the oil industry execs. and certain governments don’t want people to understand the boom and bust of oil. Diversified economies are the key. Canada is held hostage to a certain extent by Albeta’s ignorance and obstinance to keep betting on oil welfare dollars and little else. The tar sand are a disaster in more ways than one. The planet will be much better off when oil and coal are no longer dominant energy sources.

      • GrumpDumpus

        OIL WAS ALSO THE SECRET REASONING BEHIND THE BALFOUR DECLARATION AND COLONIAL PARTITIONING POST WWI AND THAT TURNED OUT GREAT SO I DON’T KNOW WHAT Y’ALL ARE SO WORKED UP ABOUT Y’ALL CANADIANS JUST NEED MORE BOOTSTRAPS TO PULL YOURSELVES UP BY

  • tigeraid

    Powerful, my friend, thanks for sharing this. I applaud you wanting to stick around and fight the good fight, but there’s always a cold beer waiting here in Canada for you both if you change your mind.

    Angry thrash metal, particularly … And Justice for All helped me through what I can now admit were (briefly) suicidal thoughts when I was growing up in an alcoholic’s abusive household.

  • Howard Dean

    Wow. Your story about the road to adulthood in Venezuela makes coming of age in the U.S. during the Recession/financial crisis of ’07-’10 look like a two week vacation in Maui. Fuck.

    There are probably a couple million Americans around my age who struggled in early adulthood as they tried to make their own way in tough financial times. But hell, it wasn’t even close to what you and your countrymen are facing. Goddamn. I feel for you, Link, and hope that you can make a safe landing somewhere with lots of great opportunity. You deserve it!

    On that note:

    https://u3.photofunia.com/1/results/7/N/7Ny6g4qOSzOirid5PUqPwg_r.jpg

    • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

      The USA is a swell country to live in, but alas, thanks to our idiotic orange POTUS, it is not very welcoming to immigrants rights now. There is a big possibility that I won’t be in the USA much longer the way things are going

      • Howard Dean

        Do you mean that you fear being forced out by a change in policy (work/education visas) or that you will choose to leave?

        Limiting access to visas (particularly for STEM fields) would be a really stupid move and potentially disastrous for some businesses and schools.

        • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

          The former. Trump wants to pull out of NAFTA, which is the basis for the TN visa, which is the visa I’ll need after the one I currently have expires next year.

          Of course there is the chance that it is all talk and in the end nothing will happen, but there is still a possibility

          • GoatForest

            Well, here’s to hoping that bloated orange baby fails in that endeavor, as he has failed in so many others. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dffdf77e759fd15087b96a1129604fb51395b9d67611e1ecd5ec4ff42359245b.gif

          • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

            Thanks, Goat, I appreciate that. The thing that worries me is that Trump doesn’t need Congress approval to pull out of NAFTA; he is free to do so anytime he wishes. Of course there are many (American) individuals and corporations (especially agricultural groups) who are pressuring him to stick with it, but in the end, is his decision alone

          • GoatForest

            I’m crossing my fingers that his impeachment is nigh. Of course, that will probably do nothing to protect from the policies of Ayatollah Pence…

    • Maik Beninton™
  • Rolderathis

    This was a thought-provoking read Link, thanks for the write-up, and I hope you’re able to witness the healing of your country over the coming decades, should you choose to remain there.

    Metallica, then Iced Earth, then Arch Enemy were the bands that helped me through my parents’ divorce and the familial upheaval that followed. My sisters were in and out of mental institutions and there were years when I was fixated on thoughts of suicide. Seeing my parents cry was pretty devastating to me, realizing that they weren’t immortal…that they, and their love, could be defeated.

    Metal always helps me feel empowered. No other genre gives me the energy and catharsis that metal does.

  • Max

    I certainly haven’t endured any hardships of the sort Link eloquently writes about here, and nor therefore has music really helped me through them. I honestly don’t relate to it like that. What I can say, though, is that metal is the first music that I chose to listen to myself – without any real influence from siblings, friends, or peers. In that respect, I definitely think it helped me to forge an independent identity.

    • God

      God the first time metal grips you is a moment you don’t ever forget. I’m a late bloomer into the metal scene, my experience had been just old school hair metal and grunge rock. But one day, browsing radio channels, I came upon killswitch engage’s “my curse” and I’ve been consuming all metal (poser or trve) ever since.

      • tigeraid

        That’s a powerful “first song,” straight up.

  • GoatForest

    Shit, Link, all I can say is that I’m rooting for you and your people.

  • Thank you, Link. This was beautiful.

  • Nukenado

    I’m honestly not sure if I’m out of my ditch yet, but I’ve been accompanied by music in some shitty times.
    I have a fairly simple, saccharine story that cannot rival your economic and societal hardships in Venezuela, but here goes:
    I’m a Chinese immigrant/international student in Canada. I have been here for the past two years now, and it’s my most hated period of my life. I’m living the”kid moves to a new neighborhood” story on endless repeat, plus some extras. I have no one I can call my “friend”. I’ve withstood two years in high school alone. Aside from social shit going on in my life, I also have my studies to worry about: I’m not doing as well as I like and self-loathing and anxiety gets to me. I’ve had my parents and siblings accompany me halfway around the world so that I can get fucking B’s. I’ve had my family’s life turned upside down and I’m not giving them their end of the bargain.
    In addition to Asian expectations and being a social wreck, I’m also cursed with the mind of an angry hippie and I hate looking at world events. Everyday it seems that we move step to step to an inevitable zero-sum that would have the heat death of the universe beat by a large margin. Politics seeps through the cracks to potentially fuck over every aspect of our lives.
    Music helps me cope with all that. From Dark Tranquility to Anaal Nathrakh, metal gives me catharsis. I can let loose my anger through the major key but angry ramblings of Strapping Young Lad, rage against the machine via Dave Hunt’s insane cleans and such.
    Music has just been a way for myself to express emotions naturally. When there’s no one listening, they tell me that they’ll be there for me. It’s kind of reassuring to know that you have an emotional outlet that will always be there.

    • Strapping Old Fart

      That’s one hell of a tough situation to face without the support of friends, in the opinion of a random dude on the internet. I hope it gets better for you.

      • Nukenado

        Thanks. I have this slightly troublesome idea of “screw it, I have Internet acquaintances”, but yeah, I hope it does get better too.
        Cheera, and thanks.

    • GrumpDumpus

      I WISH I HAD SAGE ADVICE FOR YOU FROM MY 300 YEARS OF GRUMPINESS ON THIS TURD PLANET AND HONESTLY THE BEST THING I CAN RECOMMEND IS PICK UP AN INSTRUMENT AND PLAY THE SHIT OUT OF IT IN ANY WAY YOU WANT AND IF SOMEONE TELLS YOU OTHERWISE YELL AT THEM TO GET OFF YOUR LAWN

  • Eliza

    I’ve had the tremendous luck of not having faced any major hardships throughout my life, even if living in my country is less than stellar for the most part. However, whenever I have bad day or something doesn’t go quite how I wanted it go, I always turn to music. It doesn’t even matter what kind of music.

  • MetalMartin

    Wonderful piece of write up. Music is as essential as foods and money. It’s helping a lot a people go through all sorts of time during their lives.

    I wish the best for your new endeavors out of your country. Tough decision to make, but for better good I guess. Cheers.