Metalhead pipesmokers unite!

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The old saying goes that those who love to use tobacco smoke cigarettes, and those who love tobacco smoke cigars and pipes. The cigarettes give you a quicker hit because the lungs, with their much vaster absorption area, deliver nicotine to the brain within about three seconds. The cigarette ends within three to seven minutes and the craving subsides momentarily. With pipes and cigars, the nicotine slowly oozes in through the mucus membranes in the mouth, tongue and (sometimes) throat, creating a stronger dose of nicotine but without the sudden “falling off a cliff” sensation. Many metalheads smoke cigarettes, but more are branching out to pipes and cigars for the flavors, more intense dosage and less damage to the body.

Please do not read this as an anti-cigarette rant. They are wonderful, in their own right, and much less work than cigars or pipes. However, burning any leaves and inhaling them directly into your lungs 10-20 times a day would cause some kind of long term health problem as gunk — tar, ash and irritants — builds up on the alveoli. On top of that, our industry and lawmakers have decided to mandate all sorts of processing of the tobacco, so who knows what else is being inhaled. If you would not mind going into a fast food joint, taking home their lettuce, dehydrating it and sitting next to a giant pile of it burning all day, cigarettes might not bother you. And keep in mind that there are brain-boosting benefits to nicotine in addition to resistance to neurodegenerative disorders, an effect which you do not get with the charred salad.

Cigars are beyond the scope of this article, but pipes are its focus. Pipes are essentially little wooden, stone or clay cups for burning tobacco with an inhalation tube attached. The smoker fills the pipe loosely with tobacco, then ignites it with some of the many means available to us ex-hominids, inhaling the smoke into his mouth and savoring it before blowing it outward into the personal space of those around him. While the topic of smoking pipes merits a full book, this article provides an introduction to pipe smoking designed to be as simple and low-cost as possible.

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To get started, you will need:

  • A pipe. Generally between $35-$65 for a good starter pipe. Look for 0.7inch diameter bowls and filterless stems. This tool may help.
  • Tobacco. This comes in tins and bulk, usually found at Brick and Mortar (B&M) shops, and Over the Counter (OTC) usually found at drugstores and supermarkets.
  • Pipe cleaners. Each time you smoke, you will want to clean your pipe. Pipe cleaners have two ends, so that is two smokes per cleaner. It is not a terrible habit to include a bundle or package of these each time you buy tobacco.
  • A pipe nail. Demystifying this tool: it can be as simple as a key. You use one end to cut up tobacco, allowing it to collapse into an ember, and the other to tamp it after you light it for the first time. Tobacco rises like a demon unleashed when touched with fire, but compressing it allows it to smoulder so you can sip the pipe.
  • Fire. I favor the compressed cardboard matches in matchbooks, but you can use anything. For some, lighters and zippos taste horrible, so they prefer the match. The only trick is to burn off the tip before lighting.

To avoid the usual drama, let us launch into the process of smoking:

You go to some place with little wind, but some air circulation, where you have a comfortable chair. Sitting in it, you take out your tobacco. Holding the pipe over the tobacco container, let the shreds of tobacco fall into the pipe. When it is half-full, gently tamp with a finger. When it reaches the top, pinch from the center to one side and then the other, compressing the tobacco and letting it fall back into place. (Much has been written on this topic, usually under the unfortunate appellation of packing a pipe, when the correct word to use is fill: put tobacco into the pipe so there are no fully empty spaces, but fall short of compacting it so air — necessary for fire and smoke — can flow through. Ignore all other advice.)

Put the pipe in your mouth, holding it gently with teeth and firmly with lips. Light a match, and hold it vertically at a slight angle so the flame climbs the stalk of the match, then when the head has burned off, move the match over the tobacco in slow circles while inhaling. Take the smoke into your mouth and the top part of your throat if you wish, but try to avoid it leaking further down toward the lungs. You can compress it by gently blowing out the air from the front of your mouth, which draws in smoke from the pipe. The best way to inhale that I have found involves flaring the nose and drawing in air slowly but steadily.

My favorite cycle runs in seven second increments. For bigger mouthfuls, draw in your smoke, then keep it in your mouth for three seconds, then exhale and wait another four seconds. For slower sips, take one for about a half-second, then wait at least three seconds before the next. It helps to have a slight background circulation of air to keep the pipe oxygenated and smouldering well.

Many smokers do a “char and light” where they torch the top layer of tobacco, then tamp it lightly because it has risen up as it burned, and then light again to get the resulting compressed tobacco to blaze. At two-thirds through the bowl, it may be helpful to use a poker or the pointy end of your pipe nail to chop up the resulting ember and set it ablaze again. The lighting requirements vary between tobacco types, which will be addressed below.

When no more smoke comes out of the pipe, and you sense that the tobacco has been converted mostly to ash, tap it out into convenient bushes or a metal trash receptacle without a plastic bag. The ash will be hot and melt plastic. To tap out, hold the pipe in your hand and swing it downward to shake the ash out of the bowl. You may have to stir it with poker or nail beforehand.

Then comes the most important part of the ritual. If your pipe lacks a filter, run a pipe cleaner from the mouthpiece into the pipe and leave it there for a few minutes to absorb both direct and ambient moisture. This will keep your pipe fresh-tasting for its next use.

Pipe smokers vary. Some are hard-hitters who blaze through a bowl quickly, where others are sippers who have a pipe going all day for an hour at a time. If you re-light too frequently, or smoke too fast, the pipe may get hot; if this happens enough and to a great enough extreme, it may cause a condition known as “burnout” where the material of the pipe chars and cracks. To help avoid this, smoke on the seven-second method and also, allow some nice thick gunky tar to line the bowl, especially on the bottom. I always smoke some OTC aromatics, which are full of sugary flavoring that bonds together the goo and forms a kind of tar cement, down to the bottom of the bowl to layer it with a nice thick coating of glop. This glop chars over time and becomes a sort of pipe creosote that insulates against extremes.

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Tobacco originates as leafy plant in the genus Nicotiana, which when cured, dried, pressed and shredded becomes a delicious flammable method of nicotine delivery. The great variations in what are called generically tobaccos occur in the different strains of tobacco plants, and the different methods used to grow, cure, dry, press, and cut the leaves.

That process produces a number of tobacco types, which are then combined in varying amounts into different blends, which you might think of as “tobacco recipes” because they achieve a unique flavor through the ingredients — different types of tobacco — mixed within them. These blends are also distinguished by their cut or how they are sliced, which is related to the flavor and tobacco characteristics in each blend. Many blends are then coated in flavoring known as “aromatic”; if the primary flavor to the smoking blend is the flavoring and not the underlying tobacco, the blend is referred to as an aromatic tobacco.

For the end user, tobacco is then shaped by another force — the consumer market — and placed into the following silos:

  1. Over-the-Counter (OTC). OTC tobaccos are designed for convenience. They are usually either aromatics or a type of shag-cut tobacco that is also used for Roll Your Own (RYO) cigarettes. These burn most easily, cost about $2 an ounce, and are generally mild in both flavor and nicotine level.
  2. Luxury. Like most things in our society, the good stuff only starts when you step off the mainstream and pony up some more cash. You would not buy Budweiser to drink, nor Marlboro to smoke, so you will choose a pipe tobacco made under the brand name of an established firm. A handful of producers make these tobaccos now, but they tend to be stronger and rely more on the flavor of natural tobacco, although many are also aromatics but with a wider variety of flavors than OTC.
  3. Boutique. A cottage industry has sprung up in making this variety of luxury tobacco which aims for unique and intense flavors, sometimes combining aromatic and unflavored tobaccos. These are more expensive than “regular” luxury and are made by a handful of blenders who also own mail-order tobacco shops.
  4. Vintage. In the past, everything was better. People have been saying that for generations, and apparently each were correct: the tobaccos of only 20 years ago were stronger and more flavorful. Luxury tobaccos, once considered regular tobacco, have been stored in sealed tins (if you buy one on eBay, make sure it is also “unopened” as opposed to re-sealed) and are now much sought-after.

I recommend starting with a solid OTC like Carter Hall, Prince Albert, Captain Black, Five Brothers or even Drum. These are the easiest to learn to pipe with, and give you a feeling for what mild levels of nicotine and flavor are like. In addition, they are low-cost so you will not howl and scream if you accidentally ruin a bowl or spill some.

You may find that these are pleasing enough for you and that you are content to smoke them for life. There is nothing wrong with this; many have done so and it provides the least fetishistic and complex smoking experience. Five Brothers stands out from most of these because it does not use aromatic flavoring or propylene glycol (PG), a moisturizing agent added to many OTC tobaccos. If your OTC tobacco comes out of the can or pouch and seems damp, it probably has a good dose of PG. Many aromatics, including those sold at the luxury level, also have this treatment.

From that point, the next stop is an entry-level luxury tobacco. I suggest going with a Dunhill blend because they are widely available, not overly flavored, and tend to be sliced for easy burning. You can generally get a tin of 50g/1.76oz for about $9 online or $15 in the real world, if you are in the United States; this will vary with local tobacco taxes. You may notice that you are paying quite a bit in taxes throughout this whole process, and wonder if that is in fact the impetus for the whole societal jihad against tobacco. Keep wondering. In places like Canada and Europe, they pay multiples of what you pay here. Scary.

At this point, I would stop moving up the ladder. Boutique blends are a variety of luxury blend that costs more and has more unique, ironic, oddball, quirky, and otherwise off-the-beaten path blends. However, it tends to be lower in nicotine content and it is unclear whether these weird little blends are actually that distinct from their archetypes. There are only so many types of tobacco and while many different combinations can be made, most of them resemble a few fundamental types. I have never ventured into Vintage tins and can say that, while undoubtedly these older blends were of a finer quality, that may not have been preserved over the years. Nicotine levels especially degrade. To my mind, the piping experience cannot be separated into “taste” or effect but must include both, and so the fetishism with flavor — even if grounded in science and experience — strikes me as perhaps being a mistake.

Tobacco comes in several cuts which reflect how the leaves are presented:

  • Shag. Cut laterally across the leaf, leaving an interlocked mess like peat moss that loads easily and burns well.
  • Ribbon. “Normal.” Thicker slices that seem to be vertically up and down the leaf.
  • Flake -> Ready Rubbed. Flake occurs when tobacco is pressed in blocks and then sliced; Ready Rubbed is the result of “rubbing out” those slices.
  • Plug. Tobacco is pressed together and allowed to mature that way, then cut into little pucks.
  • Cake. Like a plug, but loosely packed, resulting in a crumbly “coffee cake” style.
  • Cube. Cross-slicing the tobacco produces tiny cubes; sometimes hard to keep lit.
  • Twist -> Slices. Tobacco is twisted in plugs or flake is re-twisted in tubes, then cut into little “coin” shaped bits called slices.

The above simplifies a fairly complex process. You might also enjoy these viewpoints from P&C blender Russ Ouellette and Lane Limited manager Leonard Wortzel.

Multiple types of tobacco dot the landscape. These refer to the strain of tobacco plant and how it was cured and prepared. These are:

  • Burley. Think cigar leaves. This air-cured tobacco has a nutty flavor and higher nicotine and oil than most others. It is used to complement other tobaccos in blends, and is known for its tongue “bite” from high alkalinity.
  • Virginia. High sugar content and sweet natural taste make this type a favorite in many blends. Although this tobacco comes in many colors, its flavor stays within the mild range and makes it the basis of many blends.
  • Cavendish. This term applies to any tobacco that has been aged and cured with a heating process that brings out a fuller taste.
  • Latakia. This is Oriental tobacco which has been cured with smoke from burning oak, pine, juniper and yew wood to give it a bittersweet taste.
  • Oriental/Turkish. Sweet and low in nicotine, this is tobacco grown using the Eastern method of low soil nutrients and plenty of sun, which produces its fragrance and flavor.
  • Perique. Fermentation in its own juices after Burley tobacco is pressed into barrels gives Perique a spicy-sweet flavor. This is generally an additive to other blends to give them some spark
  • Dark Fired. Leaves are cured with smoke under carefully managed heat and humidity, producing a blend both strong in nicotine and flavor. It is used as an additive more than a main ingredient because of its intensity.

For more information, check out Russ Ouellette’s descriptions.

These are used in the following blends:

  • English. Mostly Virginia, with Latakia for body and Oriental tobaccos to provide spice.
  • Scottish. Similar to an English blend, the Scottish blend uses less Latakia and more Virginia, with little or no Orientals.
  • Balkan. Strong in Orientals and Latakia, this tobacco blend uses Virginia to balance those dominant flavors.
  • American. Although there are some similarities to the English, the American blend uses more Virginia with possible Cavendish or Kentucky style tobaccos.
  • Danish. These resemble the English, but with a deeper flavor and less spice, using more Burley and Cavendish but emphasizing stronger, more balanced flavors.

You will probably find yourself shopping by blend, which could be a substitute term for flavor. What type of smoke do you wish to taste tonight? There are several indexes for ranking different blends:

  • Harshness. How much acridity and bite there is. Strong smoke can be hard on the smoker, and “bite” is created by the alkalinity of the tobacco, which raises the pH and increases absorption of nicotine but may also cause a tangy burning sensation on the tongue.
  • Strength. You are smoking a nicotine-bearing plant. How much nicotine is delivered? A tobacco with high nicotine may be worth pounds of low-nic fruity aromatics.
  • Note. This refers to the smell left behind after the tobacco is burned. This influences both your taste of the tobacco, and what your friends, family and coworkers experience.

The de facto standard for tobacco assessments is Tobacco Reviews. Like other crowd-sourced sites such as Wikipedia and Metal-Archives, or reviews on Amazon, it is good for basic factual information and opinions from people whose judgment you have verified and who — as a result — you trust. It is not good for randomly reading reviews because most of them are written by twitchy, bitchy and queeny internet consumers who complain about all the wrong things, like all the irrelevant, and miss the point. Some of the tobaccos rated highly by this site’s users are excellent, but others are simply quirky hipster fodder. Tread carefully, and consider using the various pipe forums out there: Puff, Pipes, Smokers Forum, and Tamp and Puff. The private reviews at this location have endured because they are frequently strikingly accurate. The main point is: find someone whose opinions you respect and tastes who align with yours, even if the exact opposite of yours, and you can figure out what you will like.

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A word on lighting pipes: some prefer magnifying glasses and sun, others coals from the fire, still others matches and apparently, most like either butane lighters or Zippos. As a diehard match user, I can say that matches fail in the wind, and there is more wind that you might think, but that they seem to create the least influence on taste. Perhaps a laser is appropriate.

The pipe world is full of both facts and lore. Lore refers to anything passed on by groups of humans in social circumstances; the idea is that if it survives a dozen generations, it might be true. In the meantime, you will be wading through mountains of nonsense and worst of all, unnecessary complexity added by people who wish to seem profound or wise. Pipe-smoking is simple: you are lighting dried leaves in a tube and inhaling. The rest is mere adjustment.

The following resources may be helpful for those seeking to know more:

Here are some good places to go shopping for pipes and luxury tobacco:

Places to buy OTC tobacco, which online is sold in bulk:

Resources for those who wish to grow or blend their own tobacco:

Tobacco blenders and brands:

If you do not see your favorite blend, it is probably an imprint licensed to and manufactured by a larger group, or a boutique variety manufactured by one of the tobacco shops linked above.

For kicks, here is a list of famous pipe smokers. You can add me on there when I get famous, but be sure to mention I detest wimpy tobacco and think it should leave the hall.

Finally, the best metal for pipe smoking…

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Drug use in heavy metal

This article is the screed on drugs in heavy metal which I wish someone had handed to me when I was less experienced. Specifically, it is not what I did get handed, which was propaganda from either side. The conservative side, namely all those who believed society still had a culture and values in common, said “don’t do drugs” but couldn’t explain why, resorting to shock tactics that made you think the instant you puffed a joint you’d die; when that didn’t happen, the whole house of cards fell apart and all their propaganda actually inverted in value. The leftist side, comprised of all Hollywood and entertainment figures and most of my teachers, said that drugs wouldn’t hurt you and it was a lifestyle choice, do it if you want.

Neither gave what was needed: an accurate depiction of how drugs are used, and the effects both long-term and short-term. Metal emerged from popular music, borrowing the instrumentation and roles of rock music, which is commercial society’s way of inducting teenagers into adult consumerist life: define yourself by buying things. As a result, it inherits the ego-mania and external focus of rock music, which includes people rebelling by taking drugs. There are also some who take some drugs for the “mind liberation” capabilities ascribed to those substances. However, most are just trying to grow up, and for them partying, sex, and learning to be a consumer are vital nodal points in that process.

Much as defining ourselves through external adornments is a problem for metal, as it encourages dishonest promotion of crap music, defining ourselves by drug use is also an error. If you approach the drug question, do so from a clarity of mind. It will not make you cool or uncool. It will not reveal the secrets of the universe, but will also not obscure them. It will not clarify your philosophical positions, but also will not muddy them. It is like anything else, a detail that without corresponding architectonic details, remains without context and with minor influence on your life, excepting biological impact.

First, we should look at drug use as character definition, and next consider the biological factors.

Most people who approach the drug issue will try to convince you that it’s like religious people versus atheism, or conservatives versus liberals. You either believe the world has an objective purpose, and so you’re against drugs, or you’re with the chaos, freedom, individualism, irony and rebellion program, and you believe life has no purpose except whatever you decide to make of it. While most people fit into these categories, we must remember that categories are imposed, and that they describe one trait of multiples rather than a single, objectively-defining trait. So you’ve got NSBM fans smoking pot and liberal straight-edgers. Drug use does not define your political identity.

Furthermore, it only marginally influences your social prestige. I’d estimate that most drug users at college are secretly insecure and socially-awkward people who see drug use, like politics or flagrant sexuality, as a way to gain more social power. You start smoking dope and you have an instant social group. But a social group of confused people in transition is probably not going to last, nor will you get over your fears of your social abilities. Further, some of the most popular people at colleges neither take drugs nor drink. They merely socialize. More power to them for taking the direct route to the answer they needed.

Finally, it will not create character for you. If you romanticize the derangement of the senses, remember that drugs cannot teach you what you need to know to appreciate derangement of the senses, and uneducated intoxication is basically just being wasted. It will not make you into William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, Jim Morrison or Paul Ledney. You do not automatically embark on a Journey to the End of the Night because you laid hands on some drugs. That’s a reversed logic consumerist mentality, where purchasing the tool makes you a user of it. You wouldn’t expect to become Andres Segovia just by buying an expensive guitar, would you? Neither should you expect drugs to make your character for you.

But mostly, when thinking of the external effects of drugs, think like a metalhead. Other than biological factors, it’s not going to do anything of substance (no pun intended) for you or against you. It’s going to be another experience. Do you want this experience? If you have doubts, I urge you to cherish your innocence. Stay in a world where hallucinations only occur when you have a fever, and where your most urgent need is food or a bathroom. Innocence keeps cynicism about life itself at bay and helps you see the potential in the wholesome, simple and ever-present joys of life, like family and having some career, hobby or calling that fulfills you. Losing innocence and gaining cynicism distances you from that potential, or at least delays it by what looks to me (anecdotally) as a decade at a minimum. If you have innocence, and like your life, and have a decent grasp of philosophy, there is nothing drugs will teach you except to lose a little bit of that innocence.

Biologically, drugs are a mixed bag. Injecting clean heroin with a clean needle and doing a good job of it will cause you zero health problems, literally. Marijuana leaves more resin in your lungs but that resin departs more easily than the gluey tobacco resin that can helpfully bond cancers into your tissues. Cocaine makes your heart race and you might forget to eat, but unless you go hog-wild, you’re probably going to be OK. LSD may fry brain cells; it appears to vary between individuals. MDMA/Ecstasy and methamphetamine clearly do fry brain cells in everyone.

Many anti-drug pamphlets talk about the secondary problems of drugs, like you deciding to peddle your genitals/ass in order to buy more, or committing crimes, or arrest, or the people you’re going to hang around with. These are biological consequences as well, and while we can be witty moderns and divorce our consideration of these from consideration of drugs, I think that’s illusory. Drugs become part of a lifestyle. If you take something regularly, you have to be able to afford it and to find someone to sell it to you, so it’s at the very least like taking on a hobby. It will take time to do correctly. You may go to jail and be sodomized. If you are very susceptible to addictive substances, recognize that the instant you go into debt and can’t stop taking the substance, you are either going to become a drug dealer or prostitute. It happens every day and while some escape, they’re never the same again. More than denting their innocence, they’ve fractured it. You see a lot of people who end up alone, in their 40s and 50s, stringy and somewhat blown out, because of their hard-partying lifestyles. Are you ready to commit to that future? If you’re still thinking maybe you’d like to have something other than a drug or lifestyle choice be what fulfills you, be wary.

Many musicians will note this fact: drugs have destroyed more careers than they’ve enhanced. For every pothead Kurt Cobain or Jimi Hendrix, there are 4,096 guys who can play guitar really well but between working at Wal-Mart, affording drugs and staying out of jail, they never managed to launch that career. Oh well — drugs will teach you quickly that life doesn’t give a damn if you blow your brains out or go invent a cure for cancer. You are the only one in the driver’s seat, much like humanity is the only master of its fate, and you are the only one who can make that choice for good or ill. Life is like an open field. You will walk through and feel just fine, even if your next step is coming down on a mine or you’re about to have the time of your life. Fun things can be destructive. Miserable things can be rewarding. And vice versa. There are no simple rules here except pay attention to the obvious: drugs will take time, effort, and will make social and biological changes to your life. If your goal is to be a musician, you probably want to spend that time practicing instead.

All of that being said, what is the role of drugs in metal? This is unclear and like the debate over atheism/agnosticism, can never be proven. Some of metal’s most powerful people, like Suffocation and Morbid Angel, launched their careers in a haze of drugs — but they also worked very hard to get where they are. Others, like Dave Mustaine, got kicked out of better bands (Metallica) for violent alcoholism and then spent the next ten years doing insane amounts of dangerous drugs, to the detriment of their careers and personal lives. Metal people have lost girlfriends, wives, band members and friends because their drug habits were more important than other aspects of their lives. They have also made great art when their music was more important than their drug habits and other aspects of their lives.

In the 1980s, many metalheads and metal bands were enamored of methamphetamine (crystal meth, speed). Twenty years later, we can see the negative consequences clearly. Any time you run into someone missing front teeth — speedy drugs, like a huge dose of caffeine, make your mind “speed up” and so reality goes more quickly and seems more easy to master, leading to enhanced ego and loss of fear; however, a consequence is that you grind your teeth — who has trouble sleeping through a night and possibly has very tough, almost bleached skin, you’ve run into one of these meth experiments. Meth fries brain cells and specifically roasts serotonin receptors, making it difficult to maintain energy or a state of rest. After seeing early casualties, many metalheads switched to cocaine, which is safer but can make you behave like a personal injury lawyer. Of note is that each generation has to re-learn this knowledge. In the 1960s, speed casualties were well-known, but the only people who talked about drugs were either cops or those who kept taking drugs. The cops were ignored because they became propagandists, and those who kept taking drugs were hard-pressed to say bad things about drugs as a genre. Your generation, whenever it is, will also suffer for a lack of information because your peers will be too lazy to look up and parse any actual information and will prefer propaganda, because it fits what they want to hear.

The stereotype of metalheads since the black metal days has been of people who do not take drugs, or if they do, limit themselves to smoking marijuana and drinking beer. From a biological perspective, this is not a big strain on your body. Alcohol is probably the more dangerous of the two. While marijuana can disrupt your ability to have a regular appetite, mess with your hormones a bit, and possibly make you a bit lazy, it’s also unlikely to do anything more than that. Cognitive slowdowns reverse when use is discontinued, and your lungs clean up rapidly. Whether for these reasons or for the wide variation in use, from a simple buzz to a complex hallucination, marijuana seems preferred by hessians. Anecdotally, the best hallucinations I have experienced have been from high doses of marijuana in a clear mind, usually bolstered by caffeine and a small amount of tobacco in the bong. LSD hallucinations are more mechanical and while psilocybin produces the most intense hallucinations, they are often incoherent, like watching a television channel tuned to the neurotic chaos of someone caught between worlds. Marijuana could be considered two different drugs, from the different strains (“races”) of marijuana: the more body-intensive sativa, and the more mind-intensive indica. Everywhere I have been where there have been hessians, marijuana consumption has been occurring.

Yet on the flip side, a good many metalheads will have nothing to do with any drugs, including alcohol and cigarettes. It’s harder to find examples here because people who don’t need drugs rarely shout out loud about it. However, if bands like Immolation and Burzum appeal to you, you know of powerful metal acts that avoided drugs entirely. If you think clearly from cause to effect, you will realize that to achieve transcendent states of mind or be good at your instruments, you must go through certain thought processes. Even if drugs aid these, the fact is that they must happen in your mind, and since your mind exists without drugs, you can make them happen without drugs — and you don’t incur the slowdowns of hangovers, buying drugs, dodging cops, getting anally violated in jail, etc. If you think backward, you see someone else taking drugs and then succeeding, and as a result assume that the drugs caused the success, when there’s only a marginal correlation, since five hundred of his buddies are still living in dingy apartments, high as lords but no further along in what would really fulfill them in life, such as having a band of artistic prominence even if unnoticed by most people.

The question of drugs for a new metalhead is complicated in the USA and Europe by the near-complete breakdown of the family. If you’re lucky enough to have two parents consistently, they’re busy working — and when they’re home, they launch into escapism like TV, mass religion, buying stuff, and the kind of useless but well-meaning projects that only dying wealthy nations can invent. With role models like that, drugs appear to be an alternate form of this escapism, and so seem palatable not only because they’re rebellious but also because they are a parentally-sanctioned behavior.

As mentioned above, you get either a pro-drug message or an anti-drug message, because the messager wants the problem — the question of whether drugs are good, whether they’re controlling you, whether you’ll give a damn — to just go away, and so they concoct some statement that because it seems simple, appears to a be a highest level abstraction of the question, but is in fact just a partial truth. Highest level abstractions are things like “the universe re-organizes energy and matter to produce information, allowing it to become more efficient and thus grow” but partial truths are things like “don’t masturbate because it’ll put hair on your palms.”

Parents in this day and age, beset by doubt and swarmed with bad data from careers and politics and a dysfunctional culture, want to tell you something simple and get the problem off their desks. It’s our shame as a culture that when kids ask — or indirectly ask, by probing, which allows an adolescent to preserve aloofness while getting answers — for vital information on drugs, sex, etc. that parents in lieu of analyzing the issue give them some pithy half-truth that’s the epistemological equivalent of FUCK OFF.

And sometimes, drugs are the answer. Anyone who tells you that marijuana is not a blast is probably on the cheap drugs. Clearly mushrooms are more shamanistic than fun. In the right context, either drug can be a conduit to some useful revelations. On the other hand, that conduit isn’t needed. Music can sound awesome under the influence of marijuana; on the converse, bad music can sound a lot more awesome than it is. Many of us have in the past loved our drugs, but as time went on, we observed how many people around us lost momentum to their lives because they were focused on the method of feeling good, instead of building the structure to their lives that made them feel good. Method of feeling good = jogging or taking drugs; building the structure to life that makes goodfeel = accomplishment, family, learning, discipline, spirituality, eternal things that change how you choose to spend your time and the results of it. Feelgood methods are palliative care, or addressing symptoms without finding a way to hit the cause. Re-structuring life can change some of the cause (you can’t change the fact you live in a dying time when idiots rule). It’s the same mistake parents, teachers and cops make when they assume kids take drugs and become possessed by evil, when the more complex and less popular truth is that kids get bored and ape their parents’ own detachment from reality, but use drugs, and that’s the possession of evil. First comes alienation with life, then comes compensation (a form of cognitive dissonance not unlike morality): if I can’t enjoy life, I can make my brain happy with drugs, and maybe that will “be enough.”

There’s a parallel to life here. If we make our primary goal to avoid conflict as someone might get hurt, we have to compromise ideals to include everyone’s divergent opinion, so we don’t initiate conflict with them. This means we always get the lowest common denominator in every situation. If we make our primary goal into our primary goal, which is the achievement of some act or another, we will come into conflict with others but will get a fuller, more complete vision of whatever it is we’re trying to accomplish. Drugs are in a way like conflict avoidance: instead of facing life warts and all, we lubricate it with alcohol or drugs or cigarettes, and make it more palatable. But in turn, this obscures from us what we really find fascinating and troubling in life, and so like kids on antidepressants, we miss the lows and then later find out we missed the highs. Much later, as Paul Di’Anno of Iron Maiden found out after he left the band due to drug problems and only a decade later got his head on straight to find his career had passed him by.

As far as metal culture: does it endorse drug use? Metal culture endorses realism. That’s the point, not some pithy partial truth to make you feel better.

Christian Holocaust Dope Brownies

Ingredients

1 egg
1 cup milk
1.5 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 sticks butter
7/8 ounce Cannabis Sativa (about $120 for quality)
1/8 ounce Cannabis Indica (about $60 for quality)
1/2 tsp baking soda

Ghee

Put butter in medium saucepan and heat until thoroughly melted. Stir, remove from heat, and let sit for a half hour (use this time to prepare marijuana). There will be sticky, gummy stuff on the top, silty gunk on the bottom, and clean oil in the middle. Skim off the gunk, pour the oil into a clean container, and dump the silt over the balcony. Clean saucepan and pour oil into it, then heat to medium. De-seed and de-stem the Sativa and grind or food process it into the smallest bits imaginable. Generally, dry Indica (portions of older bags: ask roommates) is best; remove stems and reduce to powder. Put Indica and Sativa in heated oil and keep it on low medium, stirring regularly but not frequently, for another half-hour. Your oil will now be green. Some like to remove the vegetable material of the weed at this point, but it is not necessary.

Batter

Dump sugar into the heated pot-ghee. Stir in carefully until melted. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder, then when mixture is cool, blend in the egg. Add flour and milk, stir, then add baking soda. Stir thoroughly, as distributing this baking soda is how you get fluffy brownies that don’t have pockets of bitter taste. When mixture is uniform, place in 9×12 inch pan greased with butter.

Cook

Pre-heat oven to 350 (generally, a light goes on when heating, and the first time it goes off after you’ve heated the oven means it’s ready). Slide in the pan on the middle rail, so to enable convection, and cook for twenty to twenty-five minutes. You will have to estimate here, as some batches in some ovens take longer or shorter. When a knife inserted into the brownies comes out clean (no sticky black gunk on it) you know the brownies are thoroughly cooked. Remove and serve (a dozen is optimal dosage).

It is advisable to have nothing planned for the rest of the day. The experience is like a very subtle version of a half-hit of acid or half-ounce of quality psilocybin mushrooms.

How to take a bong hit

Rips are a Jamaican invention that combines the European fondness for smoking dope with tobacco for the hippie fondness of using a bong. They originated, ironically, in the rave community where people sought a greater high. California college students revolutionized the bong by using it not for slow inhalation but for a tightly-packed wad of smoke taken quickly, which maximizes the impact of the high by making it come on more quickly. Jamaican slow-smoking, when adapted to this practice, equals a rip.

Requirements

2 ft glass bong
.3g Cannabis Indica (do not use street Sativa)
.1g quality tobacco (from British not American cigarettes)

Pulverize your indica and mix the tobacco in the smallest shreds possible with it. For beginners, “blonde” or light-colored tobacco is recommended. Pack all of this in the bowl. If bong does not have fresh water, use fresh cool but not cold water. To ignite this, you’re going to need something that produces a large powerful flame, preferrably burning wood. If you use a match, use kitchen matches and burn them off while rotating them for about two seconds to make sure you get none of the sulfur in your hit.

Stages of a Rip

  1. FillingMove the burning match over the bowl in a circular motion while inhaling slowly and steadily. You want to use as little of your lung capacity as possible. You are drawing a slow draft of air, slow like doom metal, through the weed to get it ablaze and to fill the tube of the bong with densely compacted smoke.
  2. RippingTake a deep breath on top of whatever smoke you’ve already taken, then exhale completely. Remove the bowl or onstop the carb and inhale that compacted tower of smoke in a single breath, under a second in length (you should not pause more than three seconds between filling the tube and ripping it; the smoke gets stale and harsh). With any remaining lung capacity, take in fresh air, and then hold the hit for a full three seconds. Exhale completely. Watch clocks melt and fish fly, etc.

Preparing Yourself

If you are not a weekend partier but a psychedelic warrior, try this: get caught up on your sleep, and sleep at least eight hours. Get up early on a sunny day. Pour yourself a large glass (1 liter) of water, and down it. Have a healthy breakfast (actually, fortified cereal is the best: large amounts of B-series vitamins), and then munching down some candied ginger. Then drink 2-4 cups of the stiffest coffee you can stand. Next, knuckle shot (quickly drink) a pony of hard liquor, preferrably vodka. Finally, drink another large tumbler of water and run around the block. Your blood will be thin and moving quickly, your brain will be bolstered by caffeine and alcohol, and your general health will support you as you venture on this journey. To cap it off, retreat to a safe, comfortable, familiar place, munch 1 mushroom cap if you have it, and then take 5-10 rips in rapid succession as described above. During the most formative years of my life, I often began days this way.

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