Christopher Owens remembers one of rock music's great drummers.
"If you wear black, then kindly, irritating strangers will touch your arm consolingly and inform you that the world keeps on turning." - Alan Moore
As your heroes enter their twilight years, there is an ever present battle within the psyche. You know fine rightly that the end is around the corner, but you postpone the thought. Why? Because they're heroes. They're infallible.
So whenever the inevitable happens, the reaction is one of mourning for yourself as much as them. Seemingly, they're not infallible after all.
Waking up this morning to the news of Reed Mullin's death at the age of 53, I had the reaction described above.
Drummer (and co-founder) of Raleigh, North Carolina's Corrosion of Conformity (formed in 1982), Mullin was one of the many reasons the band made the impact that they did. A drummer equally in thrall to metal and classic rock as much as hardcore punk, he could groove like a bastard as much as hammer out beats and frantic drum fills.
One of the best ways you can grade a band is on how good their drummer is. Nine times out of ten, most are content to just keep the beat. But the best ones drive the songs forward as well. Something Mullin could do with his eyes closed.
Indeed, 1985's 'Animosity' (the greatest US Hardcore album ever) is a constant battle between Mike Dean's bass riffs and Mullin's overpowering playing (even more impressive when you realise his drum kit in the studio was one of those Simmons electronic drum kits that the likes of A Flock of Seagulls played).
Add in Mullin's deranged vocals on songs like 'Holier', 'Hungry Child' and 'Prayer' and you've got one hell of an LP. One that blurs the line between hardcore punk and thrash metal, becoming something else entirely.
The amount of tributes from bands on both sides of the punk/metal divide this morning further proves my point: Metallica, DRI, Marginal Man, Vic Bondi, EyeHateGod, Repulsion.
As the band moved into a more traditional metal sound (with Southern rock overtones), Mullen had a greater chance to move his drumming into the same territory as his heroes. 1991's 'Blind' saw him channelling his inner Bill Ward, while 1994's 'Deliverance' saw the former hardcore punks gain commercial success.
In recent years, the band have been revitalised thanks to consistent touring. However, having missed shows over the last few years due to health issues, Mullin was finally ordered to stay off the road by his band mates (in the words of Mike Dean):
...to take care of himself and get his shit together ... if that happens, the door's open for him. And if it doesn't, well, that's how it is. People need to wanna help themselves. You can't just push them to get help — they've gotta wanna help themselves.
Poignantly, Dean made it clear that the band would "... not enable Reed to continue killing himself on our watch."
It seems this is what has killed him. If so, it's an all too common tale in touring bands. But it's still sad to read. Heroes aren't meant to have feet of clay, but fantasy and reality is a brutal battle.
Reed Mullin. Lest we forget.
⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland.