Wednesday, 18 July 2012


Metal.  The term is pretty much relitivistic - once upon a time Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy and so on were at the forefront of the newly coined Heavy Metal.  Now, they're fondly referred to as classic rock.  Metal has got heavier, darker, angrier, more nihilistic, more double bass pedal, less singing, and you wonder were it could possibly go next.  With bands like Cannibal Corpse it seems we've reached a pinnacle... or maybe more like a limit.  But then that's what people thought with Slayer's "Reign In Blood"...

Slayer - Reign in Blood

After finding Led Zeppelin, metal was probably what really got me into music.  "Master of Puppets" was my first metal record, like Zeppelin's IV, it is going to stay with me.  It demonstrates pretty much all of my favourite qualites in metal - remarkable musicianmanship, songs that aren't scared of being a bit longer, instrumental sections, but also has contrasts (arguably missing in a lot of metal), and really memorable songs.  And when I saw them do a lot of it live, they could pull it of flawlessly.

One of the things I miss in most other genres is the pure intensity that you get in metal.  The energy of a good metal band live is completely unique - the band are putting in everything, and the audience will react instantly to their favourite songs.  For bands like Metallica, Megadeth right through to newer "heavier" bands like Mastodon and Lamb of God you get the feeling of intensity - incredible musicians coupled with a complete connection with their music.

One of the things I miss in metal though is the lack of any other emotions besides anger.  Sometimes a bit of contrast can actually make the music much harder hitting.   Whenever I first listened to Opeth, I really couldn't get into the cookie monster vocals.  But something about "Blackwater Park" was stuck in my head.  I think it was the riffs that first caught my ear.  But, I kept thinking about the long quiet piano bits amongst the crazy death metal sounding stuff.  I eventually got the album and listened to it... a lot.  I then bought most of their other stuff.  What I really like about them is during a period of a longer songs, you'll get loud bits, quiet bits, solos, singing, screaming, pretty much the whole deal.  And they don't just chug away at power chords; their writing is intricate and uses really interesting harmony and exotic scales.  But over all this pretentious analysis stuff, when I listen to it, I really feel the music - I don't get the feeling they're putting in that weird time signature or chord to look clever, something I admit to feeling with a lot of other "prog metal" bands (mentioning no names!)

Opeth - Blackwater Park

In terms of bands I'd recommend, I'll take a few from each era.  Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath would probably be considered classic rock now, but are two bands that come to mind when thinking about the origins of metal.  Dio, Iron Maiden and Motorhead are all early metal bands that are melodic.  Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax are the members of the Big 4, who all come from the "thrash" scene.  Then Pantera and Sepultura are delving into the more aggressive side of metal.  Opeth is probably my favourite band, but also more of an acquired taste, and death metal vocals aren't for everyone.  Also, I've really grown to like Meshuggah, who again are very talented but not easy listening.  Mastodon are one of my favourites that have come into the metal radar in the last decade, and I'd definitely recommend checking out their latest album "The Hunter", which is less "extreme" while still keeping all the metal qualities.  The great thing about metal and music in general is once you've got a foot in, it's not hard to find more and more.  I invite you to open your mind and listen to something heavier than you would normally.  It definitely grows on you.

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