This week I am going to post something a little different. This article over at No Clean Singing got me thinking and I love lists like these. Basically the list is five albums that changed your life in some way. Since this is a metal website I am going to focus on the five metal albums that changed my life.
I have made no secret about my love of music, in particularly my love of heavy (extreme) metal. However, I didn’t really get into metal until a couple years ago. I came up on mostly whatever my parents were listening to until about 6th grade when I discovered punk rock and to a lesser extent, metal. Punk rock consumed my life for many years and taught me a lot about life. A lot of the ways I approach my art and life I attribute directly to punks influence. I eventually started to branch out into different music and metal was part of that. They were your typical standards, Metallica, Danzig, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Slayer etc. but it wasn’t until maybe 4 or 5 years ago that I was really bitten by the metal bug.
I was listening to Slayer’s South of Heaven at work and asked on Facebook if anybody had any recommendations for metal. Some friends chimed in and set me on the path. Some of these albums are from those recommendations that set me on the path to unearth all the metal goodies I had never heard or heard very little of. I was always aware of metal and a lot the sub genres (black, death, grindcore) but I discovered so many more like Power Metal, Doom, Stoner, Symphonic Goth stuff (which I know is cheesy but I still love), Folk, and all the post whatevers. I was hooked. I spent hours scouring the internet, reading up on bands, reading interviews, checking out lists, trying everything out I could find. My music collection sky rocketed as I felt I needed to make up for lost time. I went back to older classics, tried out newer sub genres and tried everything inbetween. There were whole careers of bands I had missed, epic albums I had never even heard of, and bands who I now consider to be crucial at the time was completely unaware of. Not to mention all the incredible cover art (say what you will but metal has the best album art). The list of five albums I came up with are the first I can think of that I heard that set me on the metal path. They each encompass genres of metal that I love so much today.
Sonata Arctica – Silence
I think the video for Wolf & Raven was the first example of Power Metal and Extreme metal I was offered after asking for suggestions. When this video started they just blast into the song and it just goes. Now compared to other extreme metal it is a bit tame but for me at the time, it hit all the right chords and Power Metal is one of my favorite genres. I had never heard this combination of elements before. Blistering drumming, masterful guitar playing and soaring vocals. I dipped into symphonic goth metal under the assumption it was like this and found that even though it wasn’t I still liked it. Bands like Epica and Nightwish who are so cheesy and dramatic in tone but without the sense of humor in power metal, I still liked. However from Sonata Arctica I discovered Blind Guardian, Rhapsody, Heavenly and other bands that had the fastest songs about dragons, hobbits and fantasy lands. There in lies the key to my love of Power Metal. It is so ridiculous. All aspects of it. The musicianship, the themes and the imagery. Nothing is off limits in Power Metal and I bet you can find a band that is solely devoted to any fantastical topic.
Overkill – Ironbound
I was already familiar with thrash. I was a huge Metallica fan and to a lesser extent Slayer and Anthrax. I knew of a couple other thrash bands like Exodus and Testament but I wouldn’t say I was a fan of theirs. There was a lot of rumbling on the internet about this new album from Overkill so I thought I would check it out. Oh man, was I hooked.
Thrasharifc. Overkill had been around for decades and this was the first I was listening to them. This is my go to album for working out at the gym. The album is unrelenting in its speed and riffing. From there I tried to find more hidden thrash gems and landed on bands like Heathen, Artillery, Vektor, and later Kreator and Demolition Hammer. Thrash isn’t my favorite genre of metal but there are some great albums hidden in its legacy and Ironbound set me out to find them.
Amorphis – Skyforger
Amorphis was the first band I had heard of being called Melodic Death Metal. I had never heard of Carcass or At The Gates at this point. I was still weary of the harsher more traditional forms of death metal so I gave this a shot. This album was an icebreaker for me. The music was heavy and fast but full of melody and rhythm. The vocals were mostly clean but every now and then they would bust out some guttural growls. Not as extreme as what I am used to today but they fit so naturally that eventual I started listening to death metal with less and less clean vocals until I got to what is considered typical death metal. I still love Melodic Death Metal and the whole Gothenburg sound today.
Eluveitie – Spirit
As I mentioned before it was a stepping process for me when it came to extreme metal. It started with thrash and power metal and worked up from there. After Amorphis’s Skyforger which got me better aquatinted with the harsher vocals I was recommended Eluveite. Now this was a big stepping stone. I would say it still stayed firmly in that melodeath spectrum that Skyforger was in but amped up the intensity. Gone were the clean vocals and only the harsher ones remained. Once more they were in a language I don’t speak. This is where I developed the idea to enjoy metal lyrics like another instrument and the actually meaning of the words became less important. Also Eluveitie was doing something I had never heard before. They were mixing in traditional folk melodies and instruments into their music. I immediately was fascinated with this folk metal style and started tracking down any band I could that utilized this method. While now I enjoy all types of metal, the folky, traditional elements are amongst my favorite. I find a lot of this in Black Metal nowadays. With this and Skyforger under my belt the path was clear for the most extreme of death metal bands.
Nachtmystium – Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. I
Of all the genres of metal, Black Metal is my personal favorite but it took awhile to warm up to it. After I had made it through all the previous mentioned albums I still couldn’t really get into black metal. I think it was the production value of some of those early Black Metal albums. The shrieking, shrill vocals and the raw guitar sound was turning me off. Somebody suggested I try Nachtmystium’s album Assassins and after I heard it something clicked. This was more experimental than some of the other Black Metal I was trying. It was etherial, progressive and still intense and blistering. The vocals weren’t as shrill but still inescapably cold. This coupled with Wolves in the Throne Room’s Black Black Cascade opened me up to the grim world of Black Metal. I got all the classics, current releases from established bands, rare underground stuff. All of it I could find. I was (and still am) enamored but the darkness of it, the scope it can reach, the room for experimentation, the visuals, the theatrics of it, the distinct regional flavors and the sheer ferocity of it all. I have fell out of touch with Nachtmystium for numerous reasons but this album change my life as far as Black Metal is concerned.
So there you have it. The 5 albums that set me up for the love of metal. There might have been a couple more (Testaments’ The Formation of Damnation and Gorgoroth’s Under the Sign of Hell come to mind) but I wanted to follow the rules of the other article. These are by no means my favorite albums of all time but for the most part I still enjoy them. The great thing about metal is there is always another awesome band to discover, a under appreciated classic or a new band breaking the mold. Check these albums out if you are interested and get on the metal band wagon!
Stay Creepy My Friends!