Peace. What a concept. I never really used to chase "peace" when I was a bit younger, certainly not when I started writing for this blog a little over nine (!) years ago. I had too many things to do and, besides, "I thrive in chaos". That's what I used to tell myself and what I hear too many people telling themselves. It's a way to cope, a way to make it make sense, this chaotic reality that has been foisted upon us. Don't get me wrong; human existence has always been replete with change, upset, dynamism, and activity. After all, that's inherent to being alive; any concepts of peaceful existence that we assign to animals are, at the end of the day, anthropomorphic nonsense.
Where was I? Ah, right; peace. As time goes on and my life continues to take on new aspects of surprise, more and more experiences that either revisit me from the past or approach from the future, I find myself longing for peace. Not the peace of stillness, of a complete stop, of some sort of meditative figure frozen in time and space. That is the peace of death and, in any case, is a complete illusion. There are no beings that call themselves alive which simply sit around all day and let reality happen to them. To act on things, to change reality, to make a difference, these are the only definitions of being alive that I wish to entertain. Any others fall either into the trap of absolute materialism, where to be alive is only to be influenced and to serve your role, or abstract idealism, where the ephemeral betterment of some "self" is sought after forever.
Where was I? Ah, right; peace. As time went by, I started acting on the blog, changing the things that I wanted to see change. I didn't do it by myself of course; first, there was Nick, who not only helped me shoulder the load of the day to day operations of this place but who also helped me conceptualize and put into action the direction I envisioned for it. Then there were Jonathan and Scott, who came when we realized we could no longer apply those changes to reality ourselves, where the rock (oh cursed tool of Sisyphus!) could no longer be rolled up the hill with just two pairs of hands. And, of course, there were the other multitude of editors, staff writers, readers (that's you!), social media followers, bands, PR people, random folks at live shows, a taxi driver that recommended me a bunch of goth metal, my wife, my family, and more and more and more who all helped this labor of love keep existing.
Aaaayyyyy my taxi driver is a metalhead we're singing Nightwish - Gethsemane together— hinterland hyena (@tallesteden) January 7, 2023
Where was I? Ah, right; peace. The crux of all of these transformations, and we went through a few of them over the last five years or so, was to find a more peaceful way to make Heavy Blog work. Peaceful in the sense that it no longer relied (or at least not solely) on bursts of passionate writing. Those bursts are great; they feel great. But like any other type of drug (oh blessed dose of dopamine!), they come with a down; it's what Lacan called jouissance, a pleasure which is beyond pleasure, which leaves the pleased subject feeling an absence in their bones. It's like having a really powerful orgasm; there's a sense of emptiness which you're left with, as if life has faded for a moment. Of course, right after that moment, comes another one where you catch your breath and the color returns to the world, perhaps even amplified for having experienced such pleasure. But that cycle, of overbearing release and languishing comeback, is, put simply, not a way to lead a life. It's not sustainable, that buzz word of our age.
Where was I? Ah, right; peace. Everything, all of these changes, started paying their dividends well before 2022 but perhaps saw their ultimate culmination during this year. You see, and as I have mentioned elsewhere on the blog before, both Scott and Nick had babies this year. What a wonderful thing! To see their pictures, to see their faces and the faces of their spouses light up with such joy, is worth a thousand-thousand bursts of late night writing. To see your friends truly happy? What is better in this limited, pale imitation of the lives we all wish we could live? It is a true moment of empathy that I have rarely experienced before, a joy which bubbles up not only from inside you but from all around you, as if the colors of the room you're in are singing along with you. I guess the only experience I can imagine that's better than it is being a parent yourself (though my fascination with that emotion shall remain scientific only).
Where was I? Ah, right; peace. What all the changes we made to the blog over the years have allowed us to do, this past trying year, was to work around the absence of two of the people that were most integral to the blog's existence in the almost-decade of my tenure with it. Seriously, I cannot stress this enough; there would be no Heavy Blog past maybe 2015 without Nick and Scott. They've spearheaded some of our best content, upgraded our internal processes in many ways, and have simply helped us make this thing continue to exist. So you can see why their ultimate preoccupation might be terrifying. But it wasn't, really, because we had already dismantled everything inside of the Heavy Blog organization that was scared. We had dismantled weekly/daily schedules. We had dismantled ads. We had dismantled quotas, and pressure, and an insistence that if the blog is not this then it's somehow worse. Most importantly, we had dismantled every extraneous, pointless, clout-driven, self-aggrandizing reason within ourselves for running the blog and making it work.
And so (yes, I have finally freed you from that refrain), we could approach 2022 with the dexterity and flexibility it required. I didn't check the stats, because I don't give a shit about stats anymore, but I think it's safe to say that we posted less in 2022 than we ever have before. In sheer number of posts, that is. But think about it: who cares? Who cares how many posts we put up if we did the basic thing we came here to do, which is to write about the music that we love? Where in that sentence, which is the final, ultimate distillation of why we write, all of us, is there any indicator of amount? Or of reception? Of growth (oh, accursed tool of the capitalist!), of reach, or of views? Who, to be blunt, gives a shit when I'm writing this as Elder's Innate Passage is playing and my fingers feel like they're on fucking fire and I am doing what I love doing which is to fucking write words god dammit!
Where was I? Ah, right; peace (got you). Peace, for me, at the end of the day, is the ability to exercise my passions without having to overdo because I'm working against resistance. Stats, views, reach, shares, growth, all that stuff is resistance I have to work against. Schedules, "what I should be writing about", and so on, are all things I have to stoke my passion against, to make sure I can write at all. And that kicks off the cycle of jouissance, of suffering for, for a cause, for a crusade, for something "against all the odds". Instead of just letting all of that go and doing something because I love it. And by God, I love running the blog and I love writing about music and I love every single person who is reading this and that's why Heavy Blog goes on for another year and another ten after it and that, that writing for the love of it, is peace. To me.
In the previous few years, I might have made this post longer and included a bunch of analysis about metal, and music, at large. But to be honest, I don't have that analysis in me for 2022 and that is A-OK. Peace, remember? It fills me with immense peace to simply sit down and write this post and then walk away, leaving it like it is, like my fingers spat it on the page. It's such a nice feeling to not worry about whether it's enough, whether it delivers, but just let it be its own thing. And that is what I wish for myself, and for you dear reader, for 2023 and beyond: the peace to let things come from within us without the need to choke them under the gaze of worthiness, to just let them be. To let the soft animal of our bodies want it wants (thank you Mary Oliver) and to bask in the light of our friendships, communality, and achievements, no matter their size.
Hey. Listen. I love you. Peace is ours, if we have the courage to embrace it.
P.S it doesn't neatly fit into the narrative above but if I did not mention Calder and Jon in this review I would be messing up. Calder, who joined us this year as an editor, and Jon, who has been editor for many a year now, are absolutely integral to Heavy Blog still existing. I owe them a debt of gratitude which I shall never, ever repay but which I will try to repay forever with a smile on my lips. Thank you both.