Friday, March 03, 2006

Music Review: Top Five Review - "Metal"

This is my double-top-five review of Metal... Top Five Albums, and Top Five Songs. This might take me a bit, given the very, very, VERY large collection I have, but I figure this would give me something a bit out of the ordinary to post about. (Also, HOLY CRAP, two weeks since my cover song review? Wow!) Let's start this puppy off with...

Top Five Metal Albums

Starting with number five, I'll work my way down to number one in the traditional fashion.

Number Five --> Monster Magnet - Dopes To Infinity

I've reviewed this album before, in a previous post. I'll try to expand upon my review here, but start off by saying that Dopes to Infinity was packed to the absolute brim with thundering, rocking, well-layed guitars, marching-beat drum-lines, and the scream-tacular voice of Dave Wyndorf. That trademark cat-screech can still come accross as the definiton of hardcore nearly a decade later. Huge songs, most of them nothing more than guitar solos linked together with peculiar lyrics, make up half the album, paying far more attention to the rhythm section than most other metal bands. One gets the feeling of actually being submerged in guitars, rather than simply being surrounded. I have since discovered that this album's genre is actually "stoner metal", but these are just frivolous labels to me. It's all metal, and it's all good.

Number Four --> Metallica - S&M

Ok, this is a bit of a cheater cop-out, but the fact is I didn't like any single Metallica album ENOUGH to include it, whereas this album brings together the best versions of their best songs, so... bite me. I couldn't, in good conscience, do a heavy metal review and leave out Metallica... it just wasn't going to happen. S&M combined Metallica with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in what had to be possibly the greatest Metallica concert since the Moscow Airport show. Many of Metallica's songs lend themselves extremely well to orchestration, particularly off of Load and The Black Album. Bleeding Me and The Outlaw Town, and perhaps One, benefitted the most from this treatment, and have enriched the lives of all true metal fans everywhere by lending credibility to the art. Now, if we could only get Hetfield to stop making albums...

Number Three --> Motorhead - Everything Louder Than Everyone Else

For a band with 23 studio albums, this was a hard pick... but the definitive double-live album will have to do. After all the struggle, the fame, the drugs, the egos, the quitting, this album brings everyone and everything back together, and shows us why no-one but Motorhead can claim to have been anywhere near the beginning of heavy metal. One is reminded of the poingant riddle posited in "Empire Records":

"Who would win in a fight, Lemmy or God?"
"Uh... Lemmy?"
"No, I mean God!"
"Trick question, asshole! Lemmy IS God!"

The brilliant guitar, one of the greatest rock drummers in history, and Lemmy's inimicable voice and poingant, angry, dirty, and surprisingly deep lyrics... it's Motorhead. The only reason they didn't make it to Number One is a personal choice... call me a phillistine, but the contemporaries have just edged them out.

Number Two --> Deftones - White Pony

This hurt, since I had all three major-label Deftones albums on my short-list, including Around The Fur and Detones (Self-titled). I also wanted to put the B-Sides & Rarities album on here, but since it's not original music (or at least co-written), I didn't feel it was really a Deftones effort. Even so, White Pony just edged out the others to make it to our Number Two spot. Regarded by many to be their most polished and mature album, 2000's White Pony made it to #3 on the billboard charts, the first good nu-metal band to get that high since Korn (although both bands eschew the title of 'nu-metal'). With several songs from my short-list of favorite tracks, White Pony is probably the pinnacle of the entire new metal movement... with the possible exception of individual albums, the entire metal scene has been descending into mankiness ever since then... but we'll always have this album, with guest vocals on two tracks by progressive metal prophet Maynard Keenan.

This now brings us to the number one spot. I've spent the past hour messing around with my song collection, wracking my brain, trying to think of the metal album I like best... which is difficult, since everytime I think I settle on one, I feel bad for not picking another. There's all these voices in my head saying "But Clutch isn't METAL, are they? Hey, you can't put the Deftones on there twice... dude, you don't like Seether THAT much..." It wasn't easy... it was painful... I think I'm bleeding from more than three orifices... but here we go. My number one, the one album that has had more influence on me than any other:

Number One --> The Crow - Official Soundtrack

I hear booing, don't I? The fact is, this one album introduced me to just about every sort of music I like now. It had Nine Inch Nails, mixing Trenty's computer wizardry with metal guitars... it had Pantera doing a little speed-thrash... it had Rollins Band belting out a song about a homocidal superhero... a dozen bands with a dozen styles, all of them loud (and two quiet tracks by Violent Femmes and Jane Sibbery, the Femmes "Color Me Once" among my favorites on this album). I listened to this one album for probably a year straight with everything I did. To this day, I HAVE to play X-Com to this album, just because it was the album I had on EVERY time I played. It introduced me to "goth" music, to "stoner rock", to "speed metal", and just about everything that I love today, as well as an appreciation for the eperimental side of heavy metal. My Number One Favorite Movie Of All Time brought me my Number One Favorite Metal Album Of All Time... I don't know what that says about me, but if you don't agree, then go write your OWN blog and stop whining. *smack*

Top Five Metal Songs

This might be a little bit harder for me to do, since whereas I have dozens of favorite albums, I have HUNDREDS of favorite songs. HUNDREDS!! Gyyahhh!!! Even so, I've got my short-list... so it's time to get out the chainsaw and start carving this down. Don't like at me like that... you can carve with a chainsaw...

Number Five --> Filter - Hey Man, Nice Shot

First heard on the all-station late-night program "Overnight", this song dogged me for MONTHS! Eventually I found myself staying up until three AM with my sister's tape-recorder stereo just to get this song onto a tape so I could listen to it whenever I wanted. This was pre-Crow, this was pre-Soundgarden... hell, this was pre-Metallica, for me. This was my first taste of metal... and I LIKED it! With his amazingly expressive screaming and grinding guitars, this was like nothing I had heard on daytime radio, or "Pussy FM", as I like to call it. By a long shot the best song Filter has ever put out, this made it to the top of the metal-pile just through virtue of longevity and influence. Over a decade later, and this is still one of my favorite hard songs.

Number Four --> Clutch - Guild of Mute Assassins

By any and all regards this was most definitely NOT a hit song, but by any and all regards it was wierd, even by Clutch standards. A peculiar bit of distorted storytelling, this song has a straightforward but pervasive marching-drum beat, and perhaps one of the greatest seven-minute guitar leads ever. Although distorted almost beyond recognition, the real power and tune comes through if you can get this song onto speakers powerful enough to handle it. The song's obvious premise is a secretive group of assassins who forfeit their humanity to belong, and to kill... kill anyone. The chorus is powerful enough to lift your heart, with Neil's growly voice at it's best, despite the material he has to work with being hardly the type of thing to bring a smile to your lips. For not trying to make a hit song, and just trying to make a GREAT song, this one, a Clutch rarity, makes it all the way to number four.

Number Three --> Metallica - The Outlaw Torn

Another unpopular Metallica track, this song capped the much-maligned Load album. At 9:58 in length, it's the longest Metallica song ever (although with the long fade-in and fade-out, it's arguable). Song length has never equated greatness, though... which is why we must move on to the middle of the song. With a haunting bass & guitar tune, both very understated, and a tricky but memorable drum line, the song relies on mood, and Hetfield's voice, to carry the message of loss, love, and loneliness. The lyrical poetry gets very moody, almost emo, far more than most other heavy metal bands would dare to go, but Hetfield, the Cowboy from Hell, can pull it off. With two long, rambling, and powerful guitar interludes, the incredible length of this song is needed to fully convey the feelings expressed. The last great Metallica song, it didn't need power, or distortion, or speed, or crashing drums... it just needed skill and talent, and it proved that the band still had it.

Number Two --> Deftones - Be Quiet And Drive

It was so hard to pick ONE Deftones song again, since I have their entire catalogue... but I had to go with this one. I think it was the first Deftones song I ever heard, and it's stuck with me. Never relying on easy or conventional chord construction, this heavily-distorted guitar-driven symphony has almost imperceptible note changes, seeming to flow back and forth between melody, verse, and chorus in an entirely new, organic way. With a bare minimum of lyrics (54 words, not counting individual lines being repeated), you'd think that this song wouldn't have the emotional punch to make it to the penultimate position, but Chino, as always, conveys what he needs with a combination of minimalist and saturation... in this case, minimalist words and a saturation of layered, symphonic guitar work. It's hard to say exactly what he's saying with this song, but the fundamental message is loud and clear: getting away. Getting out of town, getting out of a relationship, and just driving, being free... the freedom message that metal has championed since the beginning.

And now we're at my Number One Metal Song Of All Time. Just like above, I'm having some problems narrowing it down to ONE... I mean, I've got about 1100 heavy metal songs on my machine. And I gotta pick ONE! ONE!!! Ack! But here goes....

Number One --> American Head Charge - To Be Me

You weren't expecting that, were you? This song caught me out of left field, too... I heard AHC on Tundra Trash one day, and I thought it was pretty good. I got their music, and I thought some of it was pretty awesome, and some of it was quite mediocre. This song, though, just floored me... it was PERFECT! It was a strange, almost celestian convergence of skill, talent, inspiration, and opportinuty that this song made it onto their album. The lyrics are almost perfect for heavy metal, the guitar is a roaring, raging demon of sound, and the quiet, almost childish piano tune that leads the song in and out is the perfect complement. The bass is almost drowned out, but it plays its part backing up the guitar, and the drumming, as with all AHC songs, is way above average. While not a brilliant song, sometimes brilliance can simply be superceded with truth, which elevates this song to my own personal #1 spot.

There. I'm done. My hands are tired...


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