A pleasant introduction to death metal

How Great American Ghost welcomed us into the headbanging community

Great American Ghost performing at the Overtime Sports Bar on Nov. 24, 2018. 

Great American Ghost lead singer Ethan Harrison screamed, asking the metal heads for devil horns on Saturday night. 

It was our introduction to Overtime Sports Bar for the Metal Alliance tour and our very first death metal concert. 

The concert featured bands like The Casualties, Black Tusk, Great American Ghost, and Goatwhore. We were unsure what to expect. In fact, we were terrified. 

As we researched the headlining band, Goatwhore, satanism, withcraft, and armageddon kept popping up. For sheltered farm kids, this was far outside of our comfort zone. 

No amount of research could calm our imagination or prepare us for what was to come.

As we walked through the doors, the brutalizing sounds of men screaming and heavy distortion deafened us. 

Then we saw the merchandise table. T-shirts and women’s underwear were being sold, with the words “f—ked by Satan” emblazoned across the back. Around us everywhere were men in black leather jackets decorated with skulls, references to hell, Satan, and dying. 

We tried not to let this deter us. 

As we skirted our way to the front, apologizing to the head-banging concert-goers, our appreciation for the music, and the crowd grew. 

From the front we could see the bar patrons nodding their heads along to Harrison’s death growl. 

Six or seven of them were moshing. 

As we tentatively head-banged along, a woman tapped us on the shoulder. 

“Is it your first time here?” she asked us, knowingly. 

We admitted it was and that the metal scene was a bit intimidating. She gave us an understanding nod, before explaining that in all her years attending metal concerts, she`d never seen any violence. The mosh pit gives concert-goers an outlet to express their aggression and anger in a controlled way.

If somebody doesn’t want to mosh, they’re left alone. It’s a surprisingly respectful environment.  

“There are never any fights. 

They get it all out on the dance floor,” she said. 

In between songs, Harrison spoke to the audience, commenting on how polite Canadians have been to them on their tour, and how grateful he is that people keep coming out to see their music. 

He spoke softly—we couldn’t believe his vocal chords weren’t torn to shreds after hearing him scream for thirty minutes straight.

When the audience applauded at the end of each song, he told them to clap for themselves as well. 

“Let’s show some self love,” Harrison said. 

This was admittedly surprising to hear. We didn’t expect the band—who advertised raging hatred on their merchandise and websites—to be so welcoming and respectful. 

We were pleasantly surprised and found ourselves nodding along with the other metal-heads throughout the night. It must have been our utter shock, or the overwhelming sense of welcome, that prompted us to ask Harrison to take a picture with us after his set. 

As soon as we approached his merch table he knew we weren’t fans. 

“Well you two don’t look very hateful,” Harrison told us. 

We admitted we weren’t, but after hearing his music, we were open to exploring our options. 

He took a picture with us and  helped us find the best background and lighting, profusely apologizing for sweating on us. 

With our newfound appreciation for metal music, our picture with Harrison, and an overall sense of relief that we were wrong to be scared, we sat back and enjoyed the show. 

When we were feeling comfortable and legitimately considering joining this metal-head cult, we left the bar to see a group of concert goers squat down beside the exit door, trying to burn a bible. 

“It’s unburnable,” one shouted. 

That shook us out of our metal-induced reverie and we hopped into our cab. 

Despite our reservations about going to listen to the music of proclaimed Satanists, it was a pleasant night. 

They completely welcomed us into their community, but we aren’t completely sold on the devil-worshiping angle.

We’d go again. 

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