It has indeed been a sad weekend for the underground metal community. For, that one of a kind human being and nexus of all things good, Brian Shields, sadly passed away this Friday.
His name might not be known to you, but if you are a fan of Death Metal, especially of the more technical and progressive forms, then Brian will have played some part in your process of musical discovery.
Brian was the On-line News Manager for K-RON, a Bay area news channel. Even though he was the consummate professional at work, his real joy came from finding and promoting new extreme music. In this regard he was a bastion of egalitarian inclusiveness; the size of the band was unimportant, the only thing that mattered was the quality and passion within the music. The breadth, truth and influence of his work on the Great New Metal and Heavy Blog Is Heavy sites will go down in history as some of the purist metal journalism ever.
Brian was a regular on the Death Metal scene in California, where I'm certain he will be most resonantly missed. The adage,"To know the measure of a man, count his friends” has never been truer than when applied to Brian. His birthday shows were legendary, with attendance in the hundreds a common occurrence. But it is the deluge of personal testimony on all forms of social media that gives a more resonant testimony to the size of this man's Heart.
“A few minutes ago it just occurred to me that he will never be able to hear the new Flub album which I was excited to get his opinion on. When we first tracked Advent, we stayed the night at his place and he was the first person to hear the pre-production tracks. I would always hit him up for late night convos and he was often one of the first people to hear my ideas for new songs…I'm still in shock. It really is a sad day for the metal community. ” Eloy Montes*- Flub
“There was a time where I was feeling very depressed about the state of the metal community and my ability to have a place among all the amazing musicians involved with it, and he was there to let me know that I was worth something, and that I had inspired him with my music." Mikey Powell*- Conducting From The Grave
“He was the definition of a an outstanding human being. Just so positive and hopeful and supportive. He definitely helped me out with some advice a few years back that changed me into who I am today.” Michael Alvarez*- Flub
I included these quotes only because of their proximity but I could of selected any from five hundred posts which express a similar mingling of confusion and loss, with the gratitude at having known him magnifying every emotion.
It would be almost impossible to compile a list of all bands that he championed vocally and supported financially via his voracious merch addiction. His house, the fabled Casa Del Shields, played host to so many local, national and international touring bands, that it was a legitimate Icon on the metal map of California. But he never viewed any band as being more important. To Brian, every one of his musician friends as just as brilliant and destined for greatness as the next. As a friend who knew Brian personally said to me: “We were all Rock stars in his eyes”.
Even half a world away Brian's influence and motivating presence was keenly felt. Before I joined the staff at The Circle Pit, I had written a spec review and Brian was the first person I sent it to for assessment. For me there was no other choice, his was the only opinion I wanted. He had the compassionate generosity to not only commend my writing, but by suggesting a few prescient edits, improve it vastly. He'll never know just how grateful I was for him to take the time to read my work.
If I was ever looking for something vital and compelling to listen to, I knew that all I had to do was head over to Brian's FB page and see what he had been posting. His choices were always fresh and exciting. This resource is gone forever and my world is much emptier.
He provided me with a sense of continuity: a validation, if you will, that the music we love is necessary, vital and worthy of a constantly deepening appreciation. That the metal community isn't a hierarchy, it is a continuum. That mesmerising quality is everywhere, you just have to look. And when you do find, make a lot of noise so others can also discover it.
His unexpected passing has created a vacuum within his extended circle of friends. This is a natural occurrence when any beloved figure passes away. The best cure for this kind of emotional abscess, is action. Remember him in the most joyful, celebratory, exuberant and active manner you can. Organise a honorific show, buy some merch from a band he loved (you have an almost unlimited choice), play your favourite album at the loudest possible volume or get so Dabbed out that you can no longer move.
Do any of these things and more. But most importantly do not forget to love; love music, love metal, love family, love friends, love life, love the new, love the old, love his heart, love his soul; Love Shields.
Miss You Brian.
*quotes taken from the Facebook pages of the named individuals