Ever heard about the guy at a party who overheard other guests talking about how much they enjoyed metal? And then about how he tried to fit in by mentioning how he enjoyed Disturbed when he got free tickets to Ozzfest that one year? You probably know what he got next: The stink eye. So don't let this happen to you. Check out the ten records below, which are guaranteed to make you more informed about metal.
10. Black Sabbath
Everyone knows “Iron Man” and Paranoid.” But professing a love for 1975's Sabotage will win you brownie points with the true metalhead. The last great record of the Ozzy years, Sabotage is a perfect blend of Sabbath's trademark heaviness (such as thunderous leadoff track “Hole In The Sky” and delightfully evil closer “The Writ”) and the more radio-friendly direction Ozzy would pursue in his solo career (like “Am I Going Insane (Radio)”). Namedropping this album will likely make you besties forever with this guy.
9. Angel Witch
Angel Witch (1980)
Lars Ulrich formed Metallica in the early '80s after being inspired by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. This movement (often abbreviated as NWOBHM) shaved off the prog-rock and blues that inspired most '70s rock, and replaced it with a layer of punk. Angel Witch is the prime example of this movement. Their self-titled 1980 debut is all killer, no filler from start to finish.
Most metal fans place a strong emphasis on musicianship. The most unrelenting death metal still relies on guitarists that can pull off killer solos and drummers that are tighter than a hangman's noose. The focus on technicality is best represented by Cynic's 1993 album, Focus. The Florida trio took a death metal shell and amped it up with intricate chord structures that wouldn't be out of place in musical-theory classes at Musicians' Institute.
The one and only album released by Repulsion is a nonstop blast of bloody mayhem. The lyrical content of tracks such as “The Stench of Burning Death” and “Splattered Cadavers” would inspire future red stuff-obsessed death metal bands like Cannibal Corpse. The under-produced, no-frills, hit-it-and-leave chaos of their music would inspire grindcore pillars Napalm Death and Carcass.
Subconscious Dissolution Into The Continuum (2004)
Blazing guitar solos and frantic double-bass drumming are widespread throughout metal. But many metal heads also like to slow it down and pursue introspection to the point of depression. Britain's Esoteric came in the second wave of '90s UK funeral-doom movement, and slowed down the blueprint left for them by Paradise Lost even more. This sound is being revived by current American bands like Bereft, but the sheer feeling of wrist-cutting desperation is rarely more evident than on 2004's Subconscious Dissolution Into The Continuum.
5. Municipal Waste
Hazardous Mutation (2005)
Metal isn't always about depression and Satan; it can also be fueled by the simplest pleasures in life, such as beer, pizza, skateboarding, and sci-fi flicks. Virginia thrashers Municipal Waste have done a great job of updating these tropes for the energy-drink generation. 2005's Hazardous Mutation contains ripping odes to John Carpenter's The Thing, being bored after waking up in a room full of passed-out drunks and how badass sharks are.
Municipal Waste perform at the Key Club on Tuesday, June 12th.
The last few years have seen a rise in bands that refer to their sound as “djent”-metal. The name of this subgenre references the verbalization of what the standard riffs of their songs sound like. All of these bands are inspired by (but not as good as) Meshuggah. Using severely off-kilter time signatures to provide the backbone of their caustic thrash, the best indicator of what bands would rip off in the years to come was 1998's Chaosphere. This album is Meshuggah at its most “djent”-y, a full decade before anyone thought of that as a genre name.
Imaginary Sonicscape (2001)
One of the most artistically ambitious albums in the genre, Sigh's 2001 masterpiece Imaginary Sonicscape is the perfect example of metal that doesn't always tread down the beaten paths. Taking listeners on an acid-induced trip through a black metal funhouse, at times Sigh will alternate between fast-paced thrash and a slow-paced crawl that seems to never end. The occasional appearance of a creepy saxophone solo or breakdance beat makes it even stranger. All of it guided by the not-soothing-at-all croaks of ringmaster Mirai Kawashima.
Master of Puppets (1986)
You like The Black Album like fifty million other people, but chances are you have also encountered that guy that will tell you that that's when Metallica started sucking. Master of Puppets is the album to listen to when you want to explore why. Outside of album opener “Battery,” this magnum opus saw the group fully shed its pure thrash skin in favor of intricate six-to-eight minute songs layered with social commentary and exorcisms of personal demons. Believe that large number of metal fans will never come back until Metallica can match the ambition of Master of Puppets.
1. Iron Maiden
Piece of Mind
Somehow after 30+ years, Iron Maiden has both retained its metal cred and continued to sell out arenas and stadiums. (And their shows are populated by large chunks of teenagers just getting into heavy metal.) It certainly helps that the band is still in amazing shape for their age, but a large part of their continued popularity is that their songs are timeless tales lifted from history and classic literature. “The Trooper” is based on an 1854 battle that took place during the Crimean War. Album closer “To Tame a Land” is inspired by the science-fiction novel Dune. Piece of Mind is pure 100% Iron Maiden at its best.
Every metal fan has particular preferences — some prefer death metal or black metal — but there is not a single metal fan that will ever say “Iron Maiden sucks.”
Iron Maiden hits Southern California on Thursday, August 9th and Friday, August 10th at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine.