Rick Brindle / My Love Of Heavy Metal, The Inspiration For Cold Steel

If you love Heavy Metal, then writing for MetalTalk has got to be one of the best things ever. It’s got all kinds of positives. Some are immediately apparent, some less so, but they’re all there, and they’re the reason we’re all here in the first place.

Taking on a job means you get an industry download of the album you’re reviewing, and then you get to tell the whole world what you think of it. If live shows are your thing, you get the same shot at giving your opinion about the concerts. And if you’re really lucky, you can even get to chat with a bona fide rock star and ask them anything you want.

Really, what could be better? You get to listen to some awesome music, tell everyone about the last great concert you attended, and then meet and talk to your heroes. Heroes from my youth and childhood, such as Joe Lynn Turner.

Album review - Joe Lynn Turner - Belly Of The Beast. Here is a singer who has utterly re-invented himself and shown what an absolute hugely talented singer and songwriter he is.
Joe Lynn Turner. Photo: Agata Nigrovskaya

I don’t know about you, but as far as I’m concerned, hobbies outside of your day job simply don’t get any cooler than that. 

Heavy Metal. We’ve all got our story about how that magical sound of distorted guitar and screaming vocals has been a part of our lives. For me, I was seduced by Dio’s colossal second album, The Last In Line, and I never looked back.

I embraced everything to do with Heavy Metal. I devoured the weekly Metal Mags, and I watched the late-night TV programmes as a teenager. Then I realised that I not only loved the music, but after a while, I also knew loads about the personalities, workings and machinations that ruled within the world that ruled me.

I loved reading the interviews with the bands and learning about their origins and the struggles they faced on their rocky road to success. I devoured the stories about the line-up changes, the arguments, the egos, the fallings out and the friendships. I loved the rebellion that came with the music, the blatant two-fingered salute to society, to normality, to convention. And that rebellion, that celebration of individuality, paradoxically united me into us, into one single, loud, proud, Metal-tastic family.

My personal emotional investment into Heavy Metal permeated my entire being. I saw everything through a long-haired, denim and leather-clad, turned-up-to-eleven, head-banging pair of glasses that, for me, were definitely rose-tinted.

And as my second love, writing, became clear, it was the most natural thing in the world to dream up Cold Steel, the nearly legendary and utterly accident-prone Heavy Metal band.

With such a wealth of stories, beliefs, songs, lyrics, album covers and a clothing style that was worn like a uniform, it was almost a natural progression to weave together a story, a plot, characters and dilemmas, heroes, villains and a mission, and a goal that might seem easy, but only for as long as life didn’t get in the way. 

Complete with silly names, immaturity, irresponsibility, haunted by ruthless record company execs and backed up by a long-suffering manager who loved the music more than the band, Cold Steel’s misadventures have kept me busy as a writer and their creator for more years than some real bands and acts have even lasted.

But what can make a Heavy Metal band accessible to the reading public? What could draw them in like nothing else could?

Well, it turns out you didn’t need to be a MetalTalk historian to work that one out. 

Pirates and Heavy Metal? Yeah, it works. And sure, the image of the pirates is much more romantic than the centuries of bloodstained reality. They were criminals, thieves and murderers, and that was on a good day! 

And if you move their methods to modern times, how much sympathy does the general public right here, right now, have for the pirates of the internet era? Not a lot, and rightly so. Maybe it’s because the pirates of the so-called golden age lived so long ago, maybe it’s the escapism, or maybe it’s because they were seen as making a stand against unelected, authoritarian rulers of the day. 

Maybe it was the adventure. Maybe it was the one rare chance to gain riches, or maybe it was the unique democracy that existed on board pirate ships, but not many other places at that time.

Maybe.

Rick Brindle – Cold Steel

But the more I delved into the genre, the more I saw that it was also definitely about the huge characters that were the captains, the named pirates that were the focal point of the legends. Few of them more so than Blackbeard, so he was my obvious choice for Cold Steel On The Rocks, my first foray into Heavy Metal pirate fiction, written under my nom de guerre, Rick Brindle

And in the finest traditions of making stuff up, I dutifully blended what was known about the man with what I needed to invent for the story. No one ever said that Blackbeard buried treasure or made a deal with the Spanish rulers of South America. 

He was, though, reputed to kill his crew members with alarming regularity, so I couldn’t miss chucking that piece of literary red meat into the narrative along with what I had made up. I also had to add a reference to l’Olonnais, the alleged French cannibal pirate, as an ideal explosion of colour to the band’s hog wild rampage through France.

Rock Brindle - Cold Steel and the Underground Boneyard book cover. Inspired by the love of Heavy Metal.
Rock Brindle – Cold Steel and the Underground Boneyard

And while the references to pirates were put on the back burner in We Are Cold Steel, they returned again in Cold Steel And The Underground Boneyard, and that time, it was Jean Florin’s back story that added a cutlass slash to the riffs and drums of Cold Steel’s quest to get their cancelled European tour reinstated.

My short, very short, actually, period of service in the RAF Regiment informed the minor characters, with a crossed rifle lapel badge here and there, and of course, Sean Sawyer, the more than slightly unhinged former Rockape who started out as the band’s fitness instructor and mutated into their bodyguard.

But having now written three books in the Cold Steel series, and with the possibility of more to come, I’ve noticed that the literary genre of Metal fiction, even when it’s mixed up with pirates and deranged ex-soldiers, is strangely bare, and that’s such a shame.

Because Heavy Metal, with its rich history, seriously weird traditions and huge characters, is this immense, vibrant, beautiful thing that is so much bigger than life

Heavy Metal makes you feel alive every time you hear it, and for many, including me, it defines every nuance of your existence. And even in its commercial heyday of the mid to late ’80s, it was never really mainstream fashionable. But by the same measure, even in its lowest moment, it never ever went completely out of fashion.

And yes, there were more than just a few lean years in the early ’90s, when grunge came along and changed the entire landscape. Like the fuzzy wall of sound that it was, the all-conquering movement from Seattle seemed to scour all previous genres into oblivion. Grunge made the punk wave of the late ’70s look like a dress rehearsal for musical upheaval. 

Doro Pesch. M3 Festival 2022
Doro Pesch. M3 Festival. Photo: Shannon Wilk/MetalTalk

But somehow, despite all the changing tastes and styles, and like an especially persistent but not quite lethal bug you’d normally find lurking in a badly cleaned toilet, Heavy Metal clung on and survived, just.

And at its heart, there’s the music itself. It’s often so hard to define, but the effect it has on you is unmistakable. Hearing that first electrifying riff, or that thunderous drum intro, or the singer’s opening scream, you’re suddenly taken on an intense musical adrenaline rush. It can lift you, motivate you, inspire you and define you. And as well as all that, it will never leave you.

Maybe I’m being biased, but I’ve loved Heavy Metal pretty much all of my life. And as I’ve changed and grown over the years, I still, still love Heavy Metal with all of the same energy and passion I had when I first heard it. 

Quite simply, it colours my world, lifts me when I’m down and gives me the passion and the drive to get out of bed in the morning in the middle of winter when I can’t afford any heating. A curse and a pox on the world’s problems, as long as I’ve got my Metal, what more do I need?

Rock on!

Sleeve Notes

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