Comfort Zone

Netflix binges, must-have foods, favorite vacation spots, annual traditions, re-reading a beloved series for the billionth time—all of these are familiar and comforting. They’re go-to zones in times of both happiness and distress—places to which we return without thought or question so much that they can become stagnating or limiting to the point where we need a kick to the system or a fresh perspective.

This past fall, I got a much needed jolt to my musical comfort zone. If you were to look at my entire music collection, you’d see a heavy punk/new wave/alternative presence. That is my comfort zone. It’s the place where I find myself day in and day out. Feeling gloomy? Bring on The Cure or The Twilight Sad. Pissed off? Never Mind the Bollocks, It’s the Sex Pistols is the gold standard. And then, there’s Depeche Mode. Just because.

For me to venture out of the cushy, velvet-lined music box I’ve happily placed myself in for 40 plus years takes a lot. I’m kind of like those Eastern European vampires in the Twilight Series—you know the ones who said they’d become like stone, just sitting there doing nothing for millennia? It’s simply too easy to keep adding more rooms to the box, especially since there’s been a renewed interest in new wave and dark wave. Lots of great new bands are working in those genres; my playlists are overflowing these days.

So what was the catalyst which caused me to look farther afield? Ironically, it emerged out of one my other passions—literature. My academic degrees are in English literature, specifically British literature, and more precisely medieval literature. As part of my studies, I took several courses in Anglo-Saxon literature where I learned Old English and translated texts into modern English. To modern English speakers, Old English is essentially a foreign language. And, it is definitely not the language of Shakespeare, so please get that notion right out of your head!

In mid-October, I was scrolling Instagram and I came upon a sponsored ad for a band called Eallic. On that particular day, I had seen a number of bands’ ads crop up and I decided to give each one a listen. I figured that since these bands had spent precious resources buying ads to gain new listeners, the least I could do was give them a few seconds of my time. But, it wasn’t the music which caught my attention with Eallic, it was the name of the band. I got all excited because I knew that the band’s name came from Old English. Eallīc (alternative spelling: allīc) means “all-like” or universal. Knowing that the majority of the texts we have in Old English were a) produced or kept by Christian monks and that b) those texts are primarily either legal or ecclesiastical, I reasoned that the term was most likely used to translate the Greek word ΚαθολιΚός (katholikos “universal”) into Old English.

I immediately ran over to Spotify, Bandcamp, and Apple Music and started listening and downloading. The music was way out of my comfort zone. And I mean way out. Eallic’s music is categorized as metal with some songs specifically defined as death metal. Although I actually appreciate a good bit of heavy and edgy music, I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of metal and all of its various subgenres. Part of that comes from silly old punk versus metal feuds from back in the day ( slam dancing versus moshing, anyone?) and part of it just comes from my preference for melancholy, melodic English music—songs which are more obviously “poetic.” Picture a black-shroud wearing EMO chick and you’ve probably got a good idea of me (LOL).

But, on that warmish October day, I decided to take myself right out of those cozy musical pajamas I’d been happily lounging in and open myself to new musical experiences. I also messaged Eallic on Instagram and began a dialogue with the band’s principal songwriter, Shawn Maddy. Shawn patiently answered my questions and kindly pointed me toward some other metal and death metal bands that I could explore to get a better feeling for the genre. I also searched metal and death metal on the internet and gave myself a crash course in the wide world of extreme music.

The breadth and scope of what constitutes metal is so vast, I’m still struggling to conceptualize it. What I have learned is that metal and the fans who love it fall far short of any preconceived notions or stereotypes the rest of us living in non-metal land may have developed over the years, thanks in no small part to media hype and the antics of artists like Ozzy Osbourne back in the 1970s. Add to that some tele-preacher’s admonitions about the link between metal and satanic worship and it’s fairly easy to develop a skewed view. But the truth is that extreme music encompasses a variety of sounds and themes. Some of it is hard and angry; some of it is poignant and melodic; some of it is campy, and some of it is thoughtful and literary.

It’s that last category which, of course, fascinates me and with Eallic’s music in particular. What I soon discovered is that Eallic’s ties to Old English go beyond using an OE word as a cool band name. In fact, their music has a few things in common with the world of the Anglo-Saxons. Three of the elements found in Old English literature: alliteration, hero tales, and a brooding melancholy are all present in Eallic’s music. This is not obvious, however, just by listening to the music. The intricate, and often sweeping, rapid guitar work and growling vocals don’t immediately clue the listener in.

For that one must turn to the lyrics, read the explanatory blurb about their album, Rake of the Astral Leviathan on Bandcamp, and look at the accompanying artwork. All of it taken together recall the gloomy world of Hrothgar’s hall where thanes are mysteriously being abducted ( and later consumed) by an awful monster or the decaying splendor an unnamed poet highlights in “The Ruin.”

Although, Eallic’s Bandcamp blurb appears to be more directly linked to the world of H.P. Lovecraft than to the Anglo-Saxons, I would argue that the Lovecraftian world itself descends from the old heroic tales of the Anglo-Saxons and their counterparts in Scandinavia and continental Europe. Monster stories abound in mythology and literature and if we’re honest, we all admit to enjoying a good scare from time to time, especially within the safety of home and hearth.

Deep in the celestial black slumbers a fetid form as old as time itself. The ancient star-born one devours planet after planet driven by survival; living to feed. After leaving a world obliterated in ruin, the bloody behemoth excretes countless eggs. The progeny are discharged through space as pathfinders to new worlds. When disturbed by life, the seed erupt in a devastating blast signaling their maker to the feast that awaits. In the aftermath of the blast, a portal appears in the ether above that allows the astral leviathan to descend upon his bounty. The cycle repeats; the demon survives.

In the belly of a mining facility, an ovum of the cosmic monolith has laid unnoticed and undisturbed for centuries. Earth will soon host a most unwanted guest. Krjjl awaits. . .” (

Listening to Eallic and other metal bands like those found on labels such as Life After Death or Metal Blade Records can transport the listener back to an earlier time in human history—a time when small groups of people gathered together to learn the history of their people, to marvel at the feats of heroes, to cower in fear at the thought of monsters and demons, and ultimately to be grateful for the warmth of a communal fire and the company of fellow kinsmen.

While I still can’t declare myself a metal fan, I have discovered that I enjoy a lot more of the music than I ever thought I would. Taking the time to pull myself out of my comfort zone has afforded me the opportunity to learn about and to appreciate more than just my usual fare. Without pausing to stop at that Instagram ad, or without striking up a conversation with Shawn, I would have never run across bands like Whitechapel or Katatonia, both of whom have music that I’ve come to love. And I would never have had the pleasure of finding the alliteration in Eallic’s lyrics or enjoying the amazing guitar work on Rake of the Astral Leviathan. I am so glad that I got out of that plushy chair and forced my ass to move out of my music box. And I’m so very grateful to Shawn for taking the time to educate me.

Published by Krista S.

Lifelong lover of books and music. Dedicated to sharing and mentoring.

One thought on “Comfort Zone

  1. Great post! The two members of Eallic are my brothers, so I love to see new people supporting their efforts. I would not consider myself to be a “metal fan”, though there are some sub genres I don’t mind. (Growling vocals are not my cup of music tea.) However, I can appreciate the talent and hard work it takes to create anything in the world of art, literature and music. Thanks for your kind words. It makes a big sister smile. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

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