How should I get into metal? Is a question people often ask me. Actually, it isn’t, but I’m going to pretend it is so that I have a convenient excuse to write something about metal for this blog. The below are the seven metal albums I have enjoyed the most in the last year. Not all of them were released in the year 2014-15 (a few are from 2013) but the point is I discovered them in 2015, and have fallen in love with them. If you want some new music to listen to, check them out below. They are in no particular order, and I’ve enjoyed different things about each one, but if you are broad-minded about your metal (not one of those datz-not-metaluz people I spend ages arguing with on the internet) then do have a look at the albums below.
BEHEMOTH – THE SATANIST
Black metal (or, in this case, blackened-death metal) can get a bit ridiculous at times. Yes, I get it, you’re Satanists. You play heavy music and your lyrical themes are a) isn’t Satan great, b) well, religion’s a bit crap isn’t it c) did I mention how great Satan is? d) I HAVE MY OWN MORAL CODE BWAHAHAHAHA and e) do you have moment to talk about our dark lord Satan? Behemoth are pretty unapologetic in their Satanism (the band is still technically banned from performing in Poland after frontman Nergal tore up a Bible on stage, which if any explains why his arms are so muscular, those things are ridiculously thick) but they embrace it so whole heartedly and managed to create such dark, badass music that I’m inclined not to notice the same tropes above repeating themselves. Behemoth are one of those bands that genuinely make Satanism sound quite attractive, and do much better at it than its most famous proponent, Varg Viknes of Burzurm, a man whom Wikipedia until recently defined as a “Norwegian musician, racist and murderer.”
The Satanist is one of the most finely crafted extreme metal albums I have ever heard. It’s intense, heavy and also oddly catchy. It’s one of the few albums I have to listen to it its entirety because it feels like a full blown exploration of anti-theism and Satanic majesty. Well well worth listening to if you like the heavier side of things.
MACHINE HEAD – BLOODSTONE & DIAMONDS.
I might have mentioned just how much I like Robb Flynn, the Machine Head vocalist, guitarist and lyricist on a previous post. Since 2003’s “Through the Ashes of Empire” Machine Head have released album after album which capture metal perfection, “The Blackening” is perhaps the more famous one (and rightly so – it’s superb) but 2014’s “Bloodstone & Diamonds” is where Machine Head have, in my opinion, reached a pinnacle, combining all their years of expertise and creating brutal, melodic and lyrically meaningful music into one perfect album. The stand out tracks for me are seven minute epic opener “Now We Die” and the catchy “Game Over” though those are the best of an extremely rich album. One of the best albums I’ve heard all year, and the best of Machine Head’s career.
WHILE SHE SLEEPS – BRAINWASHED
While She Sleeps are a band which just make me excited. It’s hard to decide what genre to fit them into (and if you’re unfamiliar with metal, then the question of genre is responsible for damaged friendships and broken relationships than any other, and I include in that the age old “
Are Metallica better than Megadeth” debate – the answer to which is “Yes, because Dave Mustaine is a cock,” in case you were wondering). A favourite feature of WSS is the multi-vocal choruses, a collective voice belting out extremely moving, deep lyrics. Brainwashed is a joy to listen to from start to finish, though “Our Legacy” and “Four Walls” stand out for me as two of the best WSS songs ever written. I cannot tell you how happy I am that I get to see these guys live at the end of the month.
IN THIS MOMENT – BLACK WIDOW
I first came across In This Moment at 6th Form, and they were a good, if a bit unremarkable, metalcore band, who really stood out because of Maria Brink’s amazing vocals. Black Widow is a very different album to their earlier work – it’s more theatrical and atmospheric, and judging by the YouTube clips I have seen, the tour supporting this album has been a visual and musical spectacle. Stand out track is “Sick Like Me” in my opinion, but the whole album is worth a listen:
BUTCHER BABIES – GOLIATH
Butcher Babies. What does that even mean? Are we butchering babies or have all the butchers become babies? Who knows. I suppose it’s wrong to express scepticism at a bands name when I fronted a band called “Explosive Bicarbonate of Soda Massacre” for a bit. Butcher Babies are a bit like a female fronted Lamb of God, meeting the good bits from All That Remains in the middle. Two female vocalists, each adept in clean and death vocals, give this album its edge, and musically it is deeply satisfying.
UPON A BURNING BODY – RED.WHITE.GREEN
Where to begin with Upon a Burning Body? First thing – Danny Leal, the vocalist, has stretched lobes and recently stopped wearing his plugs, so his ears are now really weird. Put your plugs back in, man. You look like your ears have foreskins. Anyway, Upon a Burning Body get flack for the wrong reasons (they had a fairly in your face, gangster-esque aesthetic) and the right reasons (the band tried to fake the disappearance of Leal, and pretend that he’d been kidnapped by the Mexican cartels, as a publicity strategy, which didn’t go down too well with all the families of people who had actually been kidnapped by the cartels). Deathcore (a fusion of metalcore with death metal) polarises opinion, and there a plenty of bands who do it badly and forgettably. Upon a Burning Body isn’t one of those bands, and they are just rather fun. They are fully aware of how ridiculous they are at times, and can get away with lyrics like “Everything is bigger in Texas/Loaded double barrel blow you to pieces” because they seem to be having a great time playing it. What they can’t get away with is stretching their lobes and then taking the plugs out. Ew. Put your plugs back in, Danny, you look weird.
ENSIFERUM – ONE MAN ARMY
Ah, folk metal. A genre associated with kilts, war paint, vikings, and occasionally xenophobia (shut up, Glansman, you’re an idiot with a bald patch and dreadlocks.). I recently saw Ensiferum but was having massive disassociation so couldn’t really appreciate it. What I can appreciate is that One Man Army, their latest album, is their best to date. It also has a weird disco interlude in the middle of the all folklore and axe waving. Jolly good.
BURY TOMORROW – RUNES
Apparently this album divided people, but I can’t see why. It’s not quite as good as “The Union of Crowns” but it’s a solid and well written metalcore album from a new act who take a genre that can get rather same-y and make it their own. What’s really appealing is that vocalist Dani Winter-Bates has really up the ante with his vocalist, especially his growls. His vocals on “Man on Fire”, “Shadow: A Creator” and “Of Glory” are just superb, and reminiscent of Parkway Drive at their best. Unfortunately, there’s no full album on YouTube, so I’ll leave you this “Of Glory” (my favourite song off the album)
Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below. Also, do subscribe to this blog by putting your email address in the little bar on the right where I ask if I can send you annoying emails.