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A-Z Music Challenge IV: The Metal Instalment
All About Music
Member Name: Frankingsteins
All About Music
Date: 30/06/04, updated on 17/09/04 (93 review reads)
Advantages: Some of my all-time favourite songs and bands, A fair overview of different metal genres, You may even like some
Disadvantages: Some bands that don't mean much to me at all, but which were conveniently lettered, Prioritising leads to many classics being left out, Not to everyone's taste
This is my heavy/thrash/progressive/death/industrial/weird metal response to the A-Z challenge set by the insatiable competition.man. Following are his guidelines:
~ THE RULES ~
Use all the letters of the alphabet.
Only one choice per letter , i.e. no listing close seconds.
Give reasons for your choices.
~ HINTS ~
Using all the letters may seem an easy task, but believe me, you'll soon discover that some are considerably more difficult than others. Then of course you have the enviable task of choosing just one record.
So here are some hints to help you complete the challenge:
1) Solo artists, duos or groups are allowed - use them wisely,
e.g.: Lionel Richie and the Commodores could come under L , R and C
2) Album tracks as well as single releases are allowed, but not whole albums.
3) Proper names and stage names can be used
e.g.: Fredrick Bulsara = Freddie Mercury
As most of the bands I listen to are either too obscure or just too crap to have any popular singles releases, I’ve had to settle purely for album tracks.
I’ve tried to keep some diversity in the genres and styles of song (attempting to categorise each band underneath the title), but take thou heed and be thou warned as something wicked this way comes.
And I bet no-one’s used the word ‘metal’ more times in a review than in this one…
AYREON – Into the Black Hole
(Progressive space metal)
Ayreon is the long-running musical project of Arjen Lucassen (another A there), and his very interesting pair of albums called ‘The Universal Migrator’ parts one and two were each based on different musical styles; this track comes from the second album, the more ‘metal’ of the two. The album also featured vocalists from prominent bands, and ‘Into the Black Hole’ is handled by the excellent Bruce Dickinson (of Iron Maiden fame). Very long, epic, bleak and mysterious, this is possibly among my top ten songs.
BLIND GUARDIAN – Mirror Mirror
(European power metal)
One of the more well-known progressive metal bands, Blind Guardian are incredibly talented musicians whose albums and songs are usually based on fantasy themes, especially those of J.R.R. Tolkein. ‘Mirror Mirror’ is one of their most upbeat and fun tracks from their excellent Nightfall in Middle-Earth album, and as well as featuring some of their best guitar work it’s also a chance to hear Hansi Kursch’s great high voice obscuring his thick foreign accent for a change.
CRADLE OF FILTH – Beneath the Howling Stars
Taking a trip to the dark side, Cradle of Filth are the only black metal (that is, very dark and intricate music often based on perverse erotic themes… just calling it ‘goth’ would be easier) that I really enjoy, and this is one of the best tracks from their excellent Cruelty and the Beast album based on the life of Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Amazing instrumentation all round, the keyboards also create an incredible atmosphere on here, although Dani Filth’s screaming and guttural vocals may take a while to get used to. Read the lyrics booklet too, it’s both hilarious and terrifying.
DISTURBED – Voices
Although many people look down on the new metal (I refuse to use the more common term ‘nu’), bands such as Disturbed have managed to produce excellent modern-sounding music that has all the energy of earlier bands such as Metallica. ‘Voices’ was their first single from their debut album The Sickness, and it shows everything that the band are about: hard riffs, some subtle and interesting use of samples, angry and infectious vocals and very weird noises.
EMPEROR – In the Wordless Chamber
Not a band I listen to very often at all, but I was a bit stuck for an ‘E’ and this song is always a treat; I originally heard it on a Metal Hammer magazine’s cover CD. Emperor are a less interesting example of the genre than Cradle of Filth, but the use of some very cool instruments such as what sounds like a hunting bugle makes this very fun. It’s still quite scary though, and heavier than a really big telly.
FEAR FACTORY – Resurrection
One of my favourite bands, Fear Factory combine astoundingly precise and very heavy music with science fiction themes to produce really interesting and atmospheric albums. ‘Resurrection’ is the peak of this, with its use of violins and synthesised orchestration to bring the Fear Factory sound up to an epic level. Burton C. Bell is an incredible vocalist, and this features both his singing and rousing shouting. Pleasant and exciting.
GODSMACK – I Stand Alone
(Modern heavy metal)
This hilariously-named American band have produced several excellent metal tracks amidst a stream of average songs, but this song produced especially for the film ‘The Scorpion King’ (I think it’s that film anyway, the music video has the Rock in it) has an incredible catchy and distorted main riff from the guitars throughout. The chorus is very infectious too, and it’s a shame the rest of their songs don’t carry the same energy and excitement.
HELLOWEEN – Ride the Sky
A fairly dodgy band, but this title track from one of their most recent albums proves that they are capable of creating very skilled music. It begins with some weird carnival noises that wouldn’t be out of place in a child’s nightmare before launching into quite an epic song with some excellent guitars. The vocals do tend to go over the top and too high pitched even for me, but this song has a great atmosphere and is very enjoyable. Most people prefer their early work, but personally my ears can’t stomach it. If that makes any sense.
ICED EARTH – A Question of Heaven
(Modern heavy metal)
You thought I was going to put Iron Maiden didn’t you? I have to stay ahead of your expectations…
Iced Earth are in some ways a more modern version of bands like Metallica, but the true genius of their twelve-year career is that every album release has followed a very different style. This track from 1997’s ‘Dark Saga’ is an overpowering but also very soft power ballad-style track, but the backing orchestration and female vocals prevent it from ever becoming cheesy or dull. Another of my favourite songs, this is as soft and melodic as metal gets while still retaining the power and energy of the band.
JUDAS PRIEST – Breaking the Law
(Old-style heavy metal)
Okay I admit I was a bit stuck for a J, but this classic heavy metal anthem (that many of you will likely have heard) has a great beat and rhythm, and one of the catchiest choruses in rock history. The music video is very funny too, basically showing a load of seventies people breaking the law, but it’s mainly the fact that the band are celebrating being illegal that makes this very funny and highly enjoyable. The guitars are pretty cool too.
KAMELOT – Epica
(Progressive melodic metal)
This progressive band are not one of my favourites and I wouldn’t buy an album, but this song has remained on my hard drive (that’s naughty isn’t it? Sorry, I forgot) for many months and hasn’t become tiresome. The polished production and grand keyboards give it a very ‘royal’ feel, and it’s certainly unlike anything else I’ve heard. It’s just a shame that the rest of their tracks aren’t up to the same standard.
LACUNA COIL – To Live is to Hide
It’s hard to categorise Lacuna Coil, but in some ways this is what the band Evanescence (who seem very popular but who aren’t my cup of metal tea) want to sound like. The main vocals are handled by a lady, which is clearly unusual in this unfortunately misogynistic list I’ve compiled, but there is also a guy who handles some of the deeper stuff. This was the first song of theirs I heard and is still my favourite as, despite the poor production and overuse of strings, it’s basically a nice melodic metal song. Not too special, but it’s relaxing and at least something different; I feel strange listening to those men’s voices all the time. Aroused even. So I’m glad to receive this splash of lady singing.
METALLICA – Fade to Black
One of my all-time favourite bands, and possibly my favourite, this track from their second album ‘Ride the Lightning’ has remained one of their most popular to this date, and is a hot contender for my favourite song of all time. Opening with acoustic melodies that soon give way to powerful riffs, this song changes drastically half way through to become louder and faster, but never loses its dingy and mournful tone; it is about suicide after all. A song that has helped many people in their darkest hour, it’s Metallica’s classic line-up at their very best and I love it.
NINE INCH NAILS – Closer
Not strictly a metal band, but Trent Reznor includes enough heavy metal influences amidst his mind-bending layers of strange samples to make his albums as heavy as they come. Plus I couldn’t think of another N. ‘Closer’ is NIN’s most well-known track, due in part to its incredible and controversial music video and repeated lyric of “I want to f*** you like an animal,” but it works even better when listened to as part of the amazing ‘The Downward Spiral’ album. Buy it: it may leave you feeling low, but it’s a perfect example of music meeting art without becoming pretentious.
OPETH – Black Rose Immortal
(Melodic death metal)
Bordering on black metal with their vocals, Opeth are one of the most talented bands in existence, even if their music is a little dark and intricate for most people. This twenty-minute masterpiece provides an epic listen while also showcasing the talents of everyone involved in never letting the enjoyment slip, even introducing lengthy acoustic interludes. If long tracks often deter you, then the average song length of around twelve minutes indicates you should stay away from this band: they are great though, even if they do take a little time and effort to get into.
PRIMUS – Tommy the Cat
I love Primus, but they’re obviously a very acquired taste. Crazy Les Claypool was not permitted to join his friends in Metallica when they needed a new bassist in 1987 as he was “too good,” so instead he went about creating goofy songs with silly lyrics in this popular band. ‘Tommy the Cat’ is some early Primus and shows Claypool’s talents throughout, from his speedy vocals narrating the life of an alley cat to his driving bass rhythms complimented by very high guitar work from Larry LaLonde. The band make a cameo with this song in the film ‘Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey,’ which is quite fun too (if you’re eight).
QUEENSRYCHE – Eyes of a Stranger
They do border perilously on the verge of ‘glam rock,’ but Queensryche have a lot more substance and ability to impress than Kiss and Twisted Sister, and their 1988 concept album ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ featured some excellent guitar work and vocals throughout. This is the closing track, and one of two songs released as singles, and it is a very fitting end to the album that shows where modern bands such as Dream Theater got their inspiration. The vocals are quite eighties, which is nice, and the guitars aren’t too heavy this time round.
RAMMSTEIN – Mein Herz Brennt
German rockers Rammstein refused to translate their songs for commercial release, but still found their way onto the film ‘XXX’ (I haven’t seen it and have no desire too, so no point telling me it’s da wicked). Some people don’t take them seriously simply because their tracks have German vocals, which is an odd opinion, but this opening track from the excellent ‘Mutter’ album incorporates some excellent live orchestration into the crushing riffs to enhance the effect.
SPINAL TAP – Stonehenge
‘Stonehenge’ is a darker and more mysterious offering from this long-suffering British heavy metal band, taken from their album ‘Smell the Glove.’ But of course, Spinal Tap are just a fictional band. This song deserves mention as it is one of many tracks recorded especially for the film that could potentially be a genuine metal release, and its spectacular failure to impress when the band are on stage is one of the highlights of the film. A small Stonehenge monument requires even smaller dancers.
TESTAMENT – The Preacher
Similar sounding to other thrash bands of the eighties such as Slayer (who I was going to use for S before coming up with something more enjoyable), ‘Testament’ are a lot better and more experimental. ‘The Preacher’ is an early track that combines powerful riffs with haunting and very atmospheric guitar melodies and keyboards, although as with the band’s other songs it never achieved widespread fame. The only bad thing about it is the shoddy eighties production, but in 2001 the band re-recorded their first two albums and it now sounds better than ever.
THE UNION UNDERGROUND – Revolution Man
Straightforward, no-frills industrial metal from a band that now seem to have faded into obscurity after a brief period of success in the rock world. ‘Revolution Man’ is one of their better tracks as the guitars sound very impressive and don’t simply overpower with their volume like in a lot of the others. Nice melodic touches too
VAN HALEN – Hot For Teacher
I was stuck alright? And I certainly wasn’t going to choose the god-awful electronica of ‘Jump.’ This other single from their most famous album is a much more musical and interesting affair, with Eddie Van Halen’s guitar talents shining through over the annoying spoken word vocals. The guitar riffs are lighter than in other metal, but still very skilled and enjoyable in progressing this upbeat and somewhat comical track to its conclusion. It’s not great, but it’s fun and old.
WHITE ZOMBIE – Devil Man
More impressive than the over-hyped Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and his band were creating dance-inspired horror songs long before he shot to fame. This popular track is typical of the band in its upfront loud guitars and drums, with Rob’s growling vocals leaving no doubt in the listener’s mind that he is indeed the Devil Man. There’s a nice solo and a great beat throughout, as well as some extracts from old films concerning the Devil, but it’s essentially several minutes of enjoyable, fast-paced metal for modern listeners.
STATIC-X – Destroy All
(Industrial, new metal)
Despite originally seeming like another angst-ridden new (not ‘nu,’ remember) metal band, their most recent release is a much more enjoyable listen in the vein of something like Fear Factory. This song isn’t a classic by any means, and I’ve only listened to it a couple of times, but it’s hugely energetic and gets the adrenalin going.
YEAR ZERO – The Creel Commission
This little-known but quite impressive British metal band of the early nineties incorporated some very heavy and impressive guitar work into what would otherwise be considered fairly light or even punky songs. The vocals are quite annoying, but the instruments more than make up for that, and this song doesn’t drag on – the chorus is very enjoyable.
ZYKLON - Wormworld
Zyklon, like Emperor, are a band that would not be here if the letter ‘Z’ was a bit more popular. As their name may suggest (or not), Zyklon are more futuristically-oriented than bands such as Cradle of Filth, discussing issues such as cloning, genetic engineering and star travel, and all in a fairly pessimistic way. This is actually a fairly average track, but it features some very nice ‘spacey’ keyboard touches behind the guttural roaring and pounding. A to Y are better though.
So there you have it, twenty six metal songs of varying quality and accessibility, proving without a shadow of a doubt that I know far too much unnecessary information and not enough stuff that matters. That is why tomorrow morning I will seek out one of those Encyclopaedia salesmen and locking myself up for the summer. Actually saying that, I might just listen to some Metallica or something. Yes, that’s best.
If only you knew how long this has taken.