Posts Tagged ‘corey taylor’

Slipknot - .5: The Gray Chapter

Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter

When I first heard and read about American Metal band Slipknot’s fifth major label full-length studio album, .5: The Gray Chapter, I was very skeptical. When I was a teenager, Slipknot were just breaking here in the UK and I got incredibly captivated by them. Every generation has that one band that just seems extra important, be it Maiden or Metallica or Pantera. The band you pay extra attention to, buy extra merch for, read extra articles about, pick up books about even when it seems unnecessary. That one band you just care way more about than everyone else. For me that band was Slipknot.

With the line-up changes – the replacement of unique drummer Joey Jordinson and the death of founding member and key songwriter Paul Gray with faceless un-named fill-ins who the band wouldn’t “count as real members,” – I felt a bit put-off. Would the band sound the same? Would the emotions result in an overly quiet ballad-filled record? Then the very not-to-my-tastes album artwork was unveiled and I felt even more put-off. That’s what you want your new album to look like? Really? I then read the reports that the album’s lyrics were all going to be about Paul, well, these circumstances collectively made me feel that this wasn’t going to be a tasteful affair. Coupled with all my obsessive reading about the band early in their career where they said that none of them would ever do drugs (which killed Paul and allegedly lead to Joey’s departure) and that they would only release four albums (this being their fifth) and that if one of them ever died they’d quit because it was all about “the nine” and nothing else, well… even though I’m older and smart enough to know its unfair and unreasonable to hold someone to something they said, probably only in passing, over a decade ago, somehow I almost felt that the band were doing the wrong thing by carrying on. The wrong thing, done without taste? – Didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

Furthermore; upon actually getting the album, on my first few listens, I felt that this release was a bit of a cynical copy of the past two albums all over again – musically, and even structurally up to a certain point. You’ve got the intro (“Prelude 3.0”/“.execute.”/“XIX”), then that’s followed by the heavy opener (“The Blister Exists”/“Gematria The Killing Name”/“Sarcastrophe”), then the second heavy track with a clean chorus (“Three Nill”/“Sulpher”/“AOV”), then the first phase of the record is capped-off by the catchy radio single (“Duality”/“Psychosocial”/“The Devil In I”). All albums have an adventurous, slightly progressive weird track that appears clean but isn’t actually all that commercial (“Vermillion”/“Gehenna”/“Killpop”) and a heavy track late in the record to almost justify the lighter moments and defend against sellout accusations (“Welcome”/“All Hope Is Gone”/“The Negative One”).

The more I listen to it though, that sort of falls apart, and this album doesn’t feel like its trying to redo the previous two records. It feels more like its trying to balance them within the overall discography, and blend them with the first two records. “The Devil In I” may have the chorus and catchiness of a radio single, but the verses are slow dark and creepy, more akin to “Skin Ticket” or “Gently” than they are to “Duality.” The way some of the riffs work towards the end of “Skeptic” and “Lech” feel closer to the mechanics of the riffery to “New Abortion,” “Metabolic” and “My Plague” than anything more recent. “The Negative One” has that same blunt ugliness that made “The Heretic Anthem,” “(Sic)” and “Everything Ends” so good. “Custer” in particular feels like its trying to recapture some of the madcap energy of their debut, with vocal performances, screeching samples and keg-strikes that feel violent and wild. Even the sombre album closer, “If Rain Is What You Want” doesn’t feel like another ballad ala “Circle” or “Snuff” but rather, it feels like a menacing, creepy, atmospheric closer. Sonically, its nothing like “Iowa” of course, but it is somewhere close in spirit.

Its actually quite a neat idea the band have gone for here… rather than just redoing the winning formula that allowed them to headline arenas at last, they’re taking what worked about both the more aggressive roots and the commercial but still good “headliner era” and mixing the two together, making all of it fit together more cohesively. I really respect that. Ok; so the stylistic shift worries are no-longer a problem, and I realize that complaining about the album artwork is petty, and consequently have gotten over it. So that’s no-longer a problem either.

The new drummer also does a reasonably good job of copying Joey’s unique, flappy and skittery sounding drum style that previously seemed inimitable. Its not an exact match, but it sounds “like Slipknot.” That’s a major worry gone right there. Heck, they don’t even try and hide the bass. The bass is still prominent. People made sure it wasn’t too different, but not an exact copy. It works.

Just as I had read, the lyrics do certainly concentrate a bit on Paul and his death. Its full of lines like: “This song is for the dead,” “No one is bullet proof,” “Some of us are destined to be outlived,” “The world will never know another man as amazing as you” and “Life keeps taking things away” among others. At first, the chorus of “Skeptic” in particular made my nose wrinkle a bit, with its sweary sing-along tribute to the late Paul that felt needlessly cheesy and therefore a rather poor treatment for a fallen band-mate. Not so fast, nose! It really isn’t though. I don’t think the lyrics are anywhere near as cheesy as I feared. Listening to the intro track “XIX” on repeat, I came to the conclusion that the lyrics to this album are actually really heartfelt and honest, and do feel appropriate given how (Corey and Shawn in particular) the band do speak in real life. This feels like a very true-to-life, non-linear document of the confusion and contradictory emotions that grief and bereavement evokes in us, in real life. Thinking about it in this new light, the album has a depth and weight to it that is surprisingly impressive.

So; artwork nolonger a problem, line-up changes nolonger a problem, style nolonger a problem but rather an asset, lyrics nolonger a problem but rather an asset. My skepticism has melted away and all the barriers have been removed. I can enjoy this record without pointless mental baggage. Now, what about the most important (and ultimately the only important) question? “Are these songs any good?”

“Yes, very good!”

This album is full of catchy choruses, fun riffs, great dynamics, solos that don’t intrude upon the songs, memorable percussion all around, enough of the noisy electronics and DJ-scratches that you want from this band and best of all… conviction. This album is driven. It has a point to prove and is all the better for it. Anything that seems dumbed-down and mass-friendly is revealed to be darker, uglier, heavier and more complex than it first appears. Everything that could feel phoned-in instead feels intense. The album is full of hidden depths, interesting extras, and superb balance between fast and slow and light and heavy. Its not just a good album under the circumstances, or a good Slipknot album, it’s a good album period. Infinitely better than I cynically expected and a genuine “can’t put it down” type of exciting, that will rack up an enormous play-count in a short space of time.

Its hard not to feel excitement and satisfaction as the songs defiantly reclaim my waning interest in a band that used to be so massively definitive to my early music-listening years, and who played such a large part in the formation and shaping of my music-fandom. “The Negative One,” “AOV,” “Custer,” “Sarcastrophe” and “Lech” are cemented firmly in any future Slipknot playlist I’ll ever make, and it’d take a heck of a lot to get them out. Overall; It feels good to be able to say the new Slipknot album is fantastic.

Now that I’ve covered the spend/temptation/distraction aspects of Get (Into) What You Paid For, its time to cover the titular aspect, by which I mean I’m getting back to reevaluating old purchases which I overlook, and try to get my money’s worth out of them.

S- AHiG

In honour of the return of Slipknot, I’ll kick things off by re-listening to their fourth real album, 2008’s All Hope Is Gone.

It opens with “.execute.” Their first two albums had clearly “intro” intros, and on their third they essentially made a proper song instead but acted like it was an intro. Here, they take the route Lamb Of God took on Resolution and confusingly stick the drum-introduction to a song (track 2, “Gematria (The Killing Name)”) in a previous track (track 1, “.execute.”) while simultaneously sort of re-doing the intro to “Pulse Of The Maggots.”

A few thoughts…. I wonder if Craig titled this intro? Why not just have this be part of “Gematria (The Killing Name)” like they did with “Pulse Of The Maggots”? When they play “Gematria (The Killing Name)” live, do they actually play that drum intro, or play that bit over the speakers and start where the CD cuts the two tracks?

[Quick side note – In my iTunes, “Pulse Of The Maggots” is now split into two different tracks, “Pulse Of The Maggots” preceded by “Intro Of The Maggots” which separates the speech into a separate skippable track, because… song.

Also, I do the same with Slayer’s “Hell Awaits.” The intro is “Awaiting Hell.”]

Anyway… The song opens nicely, with a sort of complex intro like they liked to do so much on Vol. 3 The Subliminal Verses. I like all the pinch harmonics. I think the quick d-beat bit is really out of place. I remember my brother really hating the lyric about “cigarette ash.” Listening to the song now, apart from the vague idea that it is pretending to be heavier than it is, I like this song. I like the fact that it has guitar solos. I like the DJ scratches. I like the catchy bits and the heavy bits. I like the big groove around 3.40. It might better (tighter) if it ended after that instead of continuing, but I think it’s a good song nonetheless.

Next up comes “Sulpher” which was never off music TV when this album came out. I remember being so sick of this song due to how overplayed it became. Now? Nice Death influenced intro. Brilliant main verse. The radio chorus, despite y’know…being a radio chorus… is awesome! I forgot that. I remember it being a sort of two-faced light/shade affair, but I didn’t remember that both sides were good. Nice guitar solo too, and the part under it is neat. Again, the Machine Head influenced big groove (which actually IS the ending this time) is awesome.

OK. Another good song. Call that the first two songs and it’s a 100% success rate so far. I’d easily put both of these in a “Best Of Slipknot” tracklist.

How about track four? “Psychosocial.” I remember thinking that this was trying a bit too hard to replicate the success of Duality. The main riff is actually kind of Ministry or Rob Zombie flavoured if you pay attention. The chorus, hmmm…. Its delicious but so out of place. Oh well, I like it. Who am I trying to please here? Some Blabbermouth troll in an Obituary t-shirt or MY EARS?

More lead-guitar goodness. Hoorah. The midsection with all the snares is cool. A bit “Hey, people enjoy The Blister Exists, what else can we do?” but hey, its cool. Get over it My Brain!

Also luckily, now, its been so long since I’ve watched music TV that its no-longer overplayed AND I’ve forgotten the viral video where its mashed-up with Justin Beiber. So its just a song. A good song.

Next up is “Dead Memories.” “Dead Memories” is awesome. Really nice drums. Some of the best Corey clean vocals in this band. Even though I struggle to accept this song as Slipknot and not Stone Sour and have a sort of principle thing against it, this song is excellent and I love it. Also…boy, oh boy was this thing overplayed at the time.

Wow. I’m really enjoying this record actually. I always think of it as their worst. The career nadir. Its not that bad, and I’ve just listened to the “one with the stupid lyrics” and the three overplayed ones. Now come the deep-cuts!

First up – “Vendetta.” Swirly, death-influenced intro riffs. Stompy feel. Kicks into a great main verse. It could do with having heavier vocals, I remember that being a discussion point against it at the time. I remember the first time I listened to it, in a cramped, smelly room. I remember thinking the band have lost their heaviness.

I think the song also takes a bit too long to get to the chorus. I like the chorus though. Could do with better lyrics… but whatever. I really enjoy this song. I don’t ever remember that this one is called “Vendetta” but I do remember every second of music. I like 80% of said music. This is a good track. The worst thing I could think about it at all is that some of the segments change jarringly, but even that’s stretching it.

“Butcher’s Hook” comes next. The first “weird one.” The Skunkworks one. All Slipknot albums have a few “weird ones.” Going right back to the demos, there was always a love of creepy, off tracks. Every album has a “Tattered And Torn” or “Skin Ticket” or “The Virus Of Life.” The ironic weird thing about this weird track is that it weirdly has a commercial chorus of sorts and despite its clear and obvious weirdness, it is somehow a normal song. If you follow. Its either deceptively digestible despite its progressive nature, or only weird in a token check-box way but actually a normal song. Either way, every part of it is good. I like it. I think of it as this album’s “The Shape.” “The Shape” was weird as balls but could fool you if you weren’t paying attention. But then I guess that’s this band. If you don’t concentrate, you miss the depth and subtleties of a nine-member band who hate conventional song structure and sneak in odd time-sigs without boasting about it.

“Gehenna” is next. It is a slow, creepy one. The lyrics feel like a sequel to the track “Iowa” but the music sounds like a sequel to “Vermillion” with a bit of “Virus Of Life” style synth in there too. The slow, drony verses have a Sci-Fi feel. That one bit where they keep throwing in the heavy snare rolls but going back to the slow dirge is cool. Then it does its own version of a clean chorus (kind of) and becomes a normal song. It kind of steals the song’s weirdness. But the vocal specifics and the part which follow it make me think its trying to be like Antichrist Superstar’s pained outcast artist vibe, and that its all a bit “Minute Of Decay” and we’re unfairly treating it as “Everlong”

Who is we? … cripes, I’m going a bit crazy here! You know what I mean right? I think on the one hand it seems deceptively commercial, but on the other hand it isn’t, its just clean prog not noisy prog. There! I’m not crazy, I’m just dorky! (And trying to please an imaginary, disapproving, super-nerd by protesting too much… totally a normal thing to do!)

Anyway, that song is fine. Not great, but not worth cutting either.

“This Cold Black” follows. This seems like a nice “Metabolic” or “Deluded” or “Welcome.” The good Slipknot. The deep cuts. The “this is Slipknot at their most Slipknot” Slipknot. That Slipknot.

I like this song a lot. The variety in the vocals is cool. I wonder if its Clown or Chris doing the backups, or just Corey putting on a funny voice? The chorus is a bit odd. Sort of jagged, and out of nowhere, and yet its catchy, and when it leaves it makes the next bit sound cooler by contrast. That and the build up with the broken key lyrics over it is cool. A build-up that doesn’t build up? Nice one!

Also, hooray for guitar solos and fast parts! Then that staccato part is nice. And the deathy transition riff doesn’t feel forced either. Definitely one of the better songs on the record. Shame it won’t get played a lot live.

“Wherein Lies Continue” comes. Comes like creepy mutant. Well, not that creepy actually. Pseudo-creepy. This is oddly tame, but still clearly another Skunkworks type thing. Its quite “Virus Of Life.” The heaviest of the three, its like Tattered And Torn if that wasn’t creepy. It does that clean chorus trick the previous ones did. The clean chorus is good though, so what’s the problem brain-jerk? The bit that follows that chorus is awesome. I love those multi-percussion bits in Slipknot. Then, wham! Another Machine Head influenced groove ending! Its not the ending…but, y’know it should be. And then it is, later, when it comes back…because OF COURSE IT SHOULD BE. Also some trippy robot-duck guitar hidden in there too, because layering.

“Snuff” follows. It is awesome. It has always been since first listen my favourite song on the album. Interestingly, for someone with so much difficulty accepting the clean vocals and commercial leanings of the album, my unashamed, un-ironic, honest favourite thing on the whole record is a ballad. A brilliant, powerful, non-cheesy and totally dramatic cinematic ballad. It is awesome. A masterpiece. Well done for writing it Slipknot! No matter what score you’d award this album, it is hugely boosted by this gem. There is more brilliance here than on the full rest of the record combined…. Kind of like how Motely Crue themselves think about Home Sweet Home/Theater Of Pain.

Then to close up the album, comes the final track, the Title Track, “All Hope Is Gone.” It has one of those Vol. 3 complex intros. It has speed. It has DJ scratches. It has noisy blast beats and death influenced riffs in the verses. The chorus is strangely a weird rolling post-chorus. Its quite impressive actually. Oh, that’s why, because its not the chorus, because there’s a groove, with a clean vocal instead. The whole bit before and under (during) the guitar solo is awesome, even if the solo itself isn’t amazing. Then a bit that is so massively Slipknot that it defies further comparison. What did Slipknot add to music that wasn’t there before, you ask? That! This bit!

OK. That song is decent too. This third and final time the chorus comes in its actually cool. I wonder would the song be better if that was the only time it was there though? Oh who cares…stop being so picky, jerkwad. This is a good song. This is a good album. Its still their worst. But now only by a hair instead of by a considerable margin. Jerk off, jerky jerk-impression! Your false memories, prejudice against Corey’s clean singing and sickness at the overplaying of the singles is now not how this album is. How this album is, is good!

PS. Oh yeah, and the bonus track, “Child Of Burning Time” which is pretty much Vermillion again. Only better. Maybe this should’ve been on it instead of “Gehenna” and also should’ve been a single? Considering that enjoying money is a thing…

Also, the decision to put a remix of a song from a track from a previous album in-between two proper songs from this album’s sessions is insane and so I’ve disallowed this madness from my iTunes. That song is put on the end of Vol. 3. The next song here is “Til We Die” because that makes much more sense.

“Til We Die” starts out like a creepy-ass sea-side song, in an alcoholic’s memories. Then suddenly turns into a powerful, real-song version of the intro from Vol. 3. (More real, I mean). It is awesome. This, the previous one, Dead Memories and Snuff are the best material here. They are better than all the ones that actually sound like Slipknot. Maybe they should’ve sold out harder…not tried to hide it with blast beats and death riffs.

[Or maybe it’s a good balance you knee-jerk reacting jerkhole. Maybe they aren’t “covering it up” but rather just mixing two things they enjoy.]

STOP HITTING YOURSELF, NUTCASE!

E – BbB

Next, from something with lots of derision to something with universal credibility in our world; Think 1985… Exodus’ Bonded By Blood.

At the time, even in the deepest throes of my Thrash-passion, from my first days of Thrash Obsession, I always felt that this album was poor. The title track was one of the best songs ever written by anyone and then the rest of the album was dull repetitive cack and the band were much better off on the fantastic next two records, Pleasure Of The Flesh & Fabulous Disaster.

Well; one listen and yup, the Title Track is fantastic. Perfect. No further comments, your honour. The defense rests.

The next song, the song actually called “Exodus,” opens up with a riff that kind of sounds like Dave Mustaine. The vocals are weirdly produced, painfully too-loud and kind of in a metal box. Not Metal. Just metal. That Mustainey riff is fun. The bit of the chorus with the “Get In The Way…” is catchy and sort of punky. I also like the little Iron Maiden-esque jangle before “…and Exodus attack.”

The song has a great guitar solo too. If the vocals were produced normally this would be a pretty perfect Thrash song. The deh-neh-nay-ne-neh thing sounds like early Overkill, which is a bonus. And some of the drum fills here are absolutely bad ass. The song only seems dull and repetitive but all the little touches really make it.

Then there’s the nuclear-themed “And Then There Were None” which opens up with a nice chugging riff augmented by a Tom pattern that I’m sure turns up on Nirvana’s Bleach album somewhere. Love Buzz, maybe? This is perfect mid-paced Thrash. It would be good DVD menu music. Or good under-the-narrator in a Thrash Documentary music.

Its kind of weird that the backing vocals just sing the melody. Like at an Iron Maiden concert…but in the studio. “AAAAAH, ah-ahhh-ah-ah-a-a.”

The whole adventurous mid-section and the fast bit which follows are excellent. I love it during the solo. This is a good song. I remember always wanting to turn the record off afterward though. I think it has that problem of the last few Exodus records that the song is just slightly too long. Of all Exodus records. Sometimes they have a song that’s just too long. They’re awesome, but sometimes they need an editor. Only sometimes.

Next comes one of the band’s then-signature songs (the other being “Piranha”) if my memory of various magazine articles from the time I bought this holds up, “A Lesson In Violence.” I remember resenting this song as a teenager for not being as awesome as it should be given how fond the band seemed to be of it. Interestingly, looking back now, these two are the two shortest and presumably therefor tightest tracks on the album. Free from that too-long thing then!

Oh yes, and the chorus is catchy and awesome. I remember hating the lyrics at first impression (essentially rhyming “lesson in violence” with “lesson in violence”) but now that I’m used to it for years and years, its just music, and that music is good. Also, I like the riffs, the speed and the solos. This is a good song. Bonded by Blood is better but this is still a deserving signature track. Consider me converted. Its great not being 14 anymore, isn’t it? 12 years in the future is a beautiful thing, ey?

Next comes “Metal Command” which I remember thinking sounding dodgy, but now it is charming and NWOBHMy and a sort of missing-link moment like early Overkill. Also the production on the solo is awesome and the brief little neoclassical noodle at the very end of the solo is neat. This song just got stars in my iTunes.

The aforementioned “Piranha” makes its appearance next. This song’s opening riff is kind of Slayer/Sodom/Kreator. It is for the mean-Thrash crowd. The people who don’t necessarily like Anthrax as much as they might. Then it kicks into a more bouncy part. The chorus is catchy. There are way too many effects on the vocals, but that’s a very minor complaint. Also, nice solo. The H-team always were awesome at guitar solos. This album in general is way better than my first impression of it was. I wonder if it was just the whole line-up changes thing messing my brain around with Exodus, causing side-choosing.

[Side note: Ohhh, ooooh. Remember that whole intro thing, like “Awaiting Hell”? etc. I do that with Exodus’ “Deranged” because…that intro makes me skip the whole of Deranged when really I should only skip the intro.]

Next up, a nice bit of variety. “No Love” opens up with a nice, fancy, tasteful Spanish Guitar, clean intro. That was a big thing on Thrash openers wasn’t it? – Sometimes separate tracks, sometimes not. – Pleasure To Kill, Alice In Hell, Ride The Lightning etc… they all have that. A little bit of Spanish guitar before the Thrash. I wonder why they didn’t make this the first track then?

Maybe they did, and then they realized that the title track was so absolutely fantastic that nobody had time to wait for it, and so that just HAD TO be the first track?

Anyway, once the Metal-bit starts, it’s a bit more midpaced again. In a slightly off time-sig that reminds me of a specific Dream Theater moment on Awake which I can’t remember right now. Also, the way he say’s “The Darkness Is My Lover” is clearly influenced by Accept. I would have never noticed that before. Also it sounds like he says “Leather” and not “Lover.”

Oh, there’s a neat NWOBHMy bit around 2.40. Then a neat solo. This song is full of surprises. And some bad-ass fills once it slows down around that next set of solos. This song is what we in the Thrash fan world call a mini-epic, and I never even realized. Shame. I wish I realized how good it was at the time I got it. Oh well. I know now.

Next up is “Deliver Us To Evil” which by its two-minutes-longer duration might actually be a mini-epic. It has some nice little touches. With its stop-start bit, and bouncy drums. It also has slightly choppy, but proggy complexity, which at the time I mistook for “not playing properly.” Woops. I guess my brain wasn’t developed enough when I got this initially.

It has a really fun Maideny/Priesty bit underneath the solos around the four-minute-mark. Some really fun riffs!

Lastly, the fast one. Back in the day, instead on ending on the obvious closer… they would usually end on a super fast, shorter song. That happens here. This speedy track could easily be described as a “teeth kicker.” This is pure Thrash. Absolutely pure. Almost too pure? I remember thinking this was too simplistic at the time. I was WRONG at the time. Good song, good album, good band. Good subgenre.

Oh yeah, and here’s a TOP 5s thing for Thrash:

Exodus :
1. Bonded By Blood
2. Fabulous Disaster
3. Brain Dead
4. Chemi-Kill
5. Seeds Of Hate

Testament :
1. The Preacher
2. Souls Of Black
3. Into The Pit
4. Practice What You Preach
5. Apocalyptic City

Metallica :
1. Blackened
2. Creeping Death
3. Master Of Puppets
4. Eye Of The Beholder
5. Ride The Lightning

Forbidden :
1. March Into Fire
2. Forbidden Evil
3. Twisted Into Form
4. Hypnotized By The Rhythm
5. Infinite

Kreator :
1. People Of The Lie
2. Coma Of Souls
3. Terrible Certainty
4. Stream Of Consciousness
5. Pleasure To Kill

Annihilator :
1. Alice In Hell
2. Road To Ruin
3. W.T.Y.D
4. Stonewall
5. I Am In Command

Anthrax :
1. I Am The Law
2. A.I.R
3. One Man Stands
4. Lone Justice
5. Death Rider

Megadeth :
1. Rust In Peace (Polaris)
2. Set The World Afire
3. Hook In Mouth
4. Peace Sells
5. Mechanix

Slayer :
1. Postmortem
2. Raining Blood
3. Blood Red
4. South Of Heaven
5. Crionics

Nuclear Assault :
1. Survive
2. Brainwashed
3. Critical Mass
4. Nuclear War
5. Game Over

Overkill :
1. Overkill
2. I Hate
3. Elimination
4. In Union We Stand
5. Feel The Fire

As for the bands who I don’t feel I can make a Top 5 for, my favourtie Sacred Reich song is “Whos To Blame.” My favourtie Death Angel song is “Veil Of Deception.” My favourtie Vio-lence song is “World Within A World.” My favourtie Exhorder song is “Un-born Again.” My favourtie Heathen song is “Pray For Death.” My favourtie Onslaught song is “Thrash Till The Death.” My favourtie Sepultura thrash-era song is “Beneath The Remains.” My Sodom song is “Agent Orange.” My favourtie Voivod song is “Tribal Convictions.”

I’ve had a lot of free time this week to sit and read blogs. Some of them have really got me thinking. I read a list questioning which are the most famous Metal Songs and most famous Metal Bands. Generally; I love these sorts of things. But then you knew that already, didn’t you?. I read dozens and dozens of these sorts of lists, on blogs and in Magazines and on Rate Your Music or whatever else.

The thing I’ve noticed in dozens of them is that, there’s a sort of mythical set of perfect answers. Some of answers of course are pretty hard to disagree with; Metallica, Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne for example. Ask everyone on a bus in the middle of Manchester to name as many Heavy Metal bands as they can think of, and I reckon those bands would come up quite a lot.

The thing is though, there’s quite a few other names that will regularly come up on the hypothetical average-list that are either controversial among metal fans as to whether or not they actually count as being metal or else are dubious as to how famous they actually are.

This isn’t necessarily a harsh criticism of metal fans and list-makers, but it does raise some interesting points that I think are worth stopping and thinking about. So; when considering who are the most famous Metal bands and Metal songs, you’ve got to ask yourself two questions. What is fame, and What is Metal?

Just a quick thought: Twisted Sister and Motely Crue are probably more famous than Bathory or Mercyful Fate. Bon Jovi are probably more famous than that. Limp Bizkit, Korn and Slipknot probably are too.

Machinehead, Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed and Bullet For My Valentine are probably all more famous than Queensryche and Celtic Frost nowadays too.

I say “probably” because there’s really no way of knowing. Fame isn’t really a quantifiable concept, its more of an informed perception. We all know that Coca Cola is probably more famous than Only Fools And Horse, but we can’t really prove it on an individual level without gathering gigantic, unrealistic amounts of information that none of us could really be bothered to gather. To actually know for certain you would have to ask everyone on earth if they had heard of each, and then record and compare the answers. You would also have to know that they weren’t lying and that nothing was altering the results.

There’s another issue. The silent majority. You know when you go to a concert and its absolutely full. Think of how many people attend Download Festival every year, and then how many attend a single Motorhead concert. There’s more at Download.

Why does that matter? Well; There are so many people who are casual in their interest of Metal. People who don’t dress as Metal fans, don’t blog about it, don’t talk about it at work, but do know every word to System Of A Down’s Toxicity album. You can look at a Chemistry student who has no indicators of being a Metal fan and who does talk to you about a dubstep song they heard at the weekend, but they actually absolutely loves Disturbed and Bullet For My Valentine and just didn’t bring it up. You can find a girl in a nightclub listening to indie bands who will surprisingly be completely able to drunkenly sing all the lyrics of ‘Run To The Hills’ at you upon request. You’ll find people posting about how much they love pop stars on facebook and when you go into their bedroom there is a huge poster of Zack Wylde.

What I’m getting at, there’s a heck of a lot of people who listen to Metal that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. More than the readership of Metal Hammer Magazine, more than the crowd at your local sold-out mid-October Down concert. There’s hundreds of thousands of people who don’t even consider themselves a Metal fan that could tell you who Lemmy, James Hetfield and Corey Taylor are just from a photograph. My own mother could. Yours probably could too.

So. When we ask ourselves who are the most famous Metal bands; we need to ask “famous to who?” – because I’m pretty sure the average drunk stroppy teenage girl taking ecstasy tablets when asked to name ten heavy metal bands are more likely to identify Slipknot than Venom.

If you played somebody Helloween’s “Keeper Of The Seven Keys,” Judas Priest’s “Painkiller,” Pantera’s “Walk,” Limp Bizkit’s “Nookie,” Motely Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” and Europe’s “The Final Countdown” I’m pretty sure more people can identify the last two or three than the first two. There may be a few generational differences, and there may be a bit of bias in the form of people not wanting to identify bands that they dislike (human nature, its annoying aint it?) but I recon more human beings know the answers to the less Metal-respectable bands on that list.

The easy way around that it to choose who you want “fame” to apply to. OK. Say, we only count people who have at one time owned a copy of Reign In Blood and have attended at least one Metallica concert? More of them will probably still know Marilyn Manson than King Diamond. More of them could identify “Welcome To The Jungle” than “Pull Me Under” by intro alone, because its still more famous overall, even if you are a serious Metalhead. Because you don’t live your entire life in a Metal-bubble.

Well, we’ve considered what fame actually means now.
But hold on a second. What even is Metal?

Are Europe a Metal band? Well, some people say they are a Hair Metal band. Hair Metal is a type of Metal. Therefore by that logic, they are indeed a Metal band. Not so fast though; Some people say Europe are a hard rock band. Some people say they are a Pop band.

Are Led Zeppelin a Heavy Metal band? A heck of a lot of people would say yes. A heck of a lot of people would say no. What about Deep Purple. Watch any worthwhile documentary about Heavy Metal and there’ll be talk of Deep Purple. That being said, nowadays most people on the street would call them “classic rock” rather than “heavy metal” even though the actual term was applied to bands like Zeppelin and Purple and AC/DC for years and years. So are they Metal or aren’t they? They themselves might call themselves “Rock n Roll” but so does Ozzy Osbourne and even Motorhead. If “In The Name Of Tragedy” by Motorhead is just Rock n Roll then I’ve seriously got to start checking out Buddy Holly.

Ok. Well what if you decide that Zeppelin aren’t Metal but Black Sabbath are. What about Queen. You go listen to “Dead On Time” and “Son And Daughter” by Queen and tell me with a straight face that it isn’t as Metallic or Powerful as “The Wizard” by Black Sabbath.

How about if we decide that the first ever Metal album is “Sad Wings Of Destiny” then? What after that is still Metal? Are Metallica? Are Helloween? Are Pantera? Are Machine Head? Are Slipknot? Are Bring Me The Horizon? Are Cannibal Corpse? Are Korpiklaani? Are Emperor? Are Limp Bizkit?

You can say Limp Bizkit aren’t because the vocals are not like Judas Priest and there’s an extra instrument (the DJ). Well, Cannibal Corpse’s vocals are very, very different to Judas Priest’s and Korpiklaani have extra instruments (Violins and Accordions).

I’ll admit some Limp Bizkit songs sound nothing like Metal. Ballads, and songs with electronic drums and effects and no distortion. What about Black Sabbath’s “FX” “Fluff” “Laguna Sunrise” “Changes” and “E5150” ? What about Judas Priest’s “Epitaph,” “Last Rose Of Summer” or “Love You To Death”? Ballads, songs with no distortion and incorporation of electronics on some songs.

Even at that, some classic tracks by Metal’s originators (which weren’t intros, experiments or ballads, but just normal songs) are still less-Metal than some Hair Metal and Nu Metal songs. I’d wager Limp Bizkit’s “Gimme The Mic” is much more Metal than Black Sabbath’s “Am I Going Insane?” or “Solitude” or even “Behind The Wall Of Sleep.”

Going the other way. I think that Korn’s “Blind” is closer to the sound and spirit of the original Black Sabbath tracks than Cannibal Corpse’s “Frantic Disembowelment” does. Hell, I think Twisted Sister sound a thousand times closer to the sound of Judas Priest than Darkthrone do.

Then there’s the people who don’t think Metalcore bands are Metal, either because of catchy clean choruses, or because of the incorporation of parts of Hardcore. Well, Chaos AD is incredibly Hardcore Influenced. Anthrax and Nuclear Assault were Hardcore influenced. Are they no-longer Metal?
Helloween and Stratovarius have some of the catchiest, cleanest choruses going, so are they no-longer Metal?

The thing is though? Who can really say? Metal-ness isn’t a fact. Its an opinion. Its a negotiation for consensus.

Half of the people who say something is not Metal but something else have no clear, quantifiable, non-contradict-able reason why. Its either just that they don’t like the band and have mistaken their own opinion with fact, or that its not something that can be definitively and incontrovertibly proven in the first place. There is no mathematical definition of Metal. Some people think death growls preclude you from being Metal, just read all the reviews of Children Of Bodom by Yngwie Malmsteen fans from the 80s who demand melodic falsetto singing. These people will swear until they are blue in the face that “cookie monster vocals” are the opposite of Heavy Metal. Try telling that to the audience at Hole In The Sky or Bloodstock festival though, they’ll give you a swift and unpleasant rebuttle more likely than not.

At the end of the day, there are people who think Krokus and AC/DC are Metal and that Limp Bizkit and Deicide aren’t. There are people who think that Immortal and Pig Destroyer are Metal but Poison and Quiet Riot aren’t. Heck, until about three years ago even I called pre-Dio Black Sabbath was just classic rock and not Metal.

What is and isn’t Metal is up to your own interpretation, apparently. Except Iron Maiden, nobody has ever said Iron Maiden aren’t Metal. Lemmy says Motorhead aren’t Metal but at least Steve Harris calls Maiden a Heavy Metal band. There’s at least comfort in knowing that whatever else in this world is up for debate, Iron Maiden are undisputed a Metal band (Although you could mistake “Prodigal Son” for a Boston or Rush song if you weren’t paying attention).

So. I guess where I’m going with this is that, there is an element of what the dedicated Metal fans want and indeed expect to be the most famous Metal music. It is based partly on the personal taste of a few Magazine writers, partly on actual consensus and partly on a self fulfilling prophecy of what we’re continuously told. The list seems to cover one arbitrary point of view and one arbitrary period in time. It isn’t full inclusivity nor is it completely strict and based only on true original Heavy Metal. Its often after the first Heavy Metal Bands go reclassified to “Classic Rock” but before other subgenres became popular.

I mean, I can’t tell for certain, but I’m pretty sure more people know and care about Bullet For My Valentine and Slipknot than have ever cared about Venom. But most people who actually like music to the point of making lists don’t want that to be the case.

Similarly, I think that year on year, Deep Purple, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin gain more new fans than Venom do. But we’ve all decided that they don’t count. For some reason. That is not particularly logical or fair.

Then there’s the really commercial bands like Linkin Park and Bon Jovi. Almost (not necessarily if you’re being pedantic, there have been flops, but you know what I’m getting at) by definition of being commercial, more people will know a band. A huge amount of us decide that if a band are too commercial, they aren’t Metal anymore. Why is that? Part of it may be based in truth, but again, part of it seems to just be based on what we want.

Take home message; when we ask ourselves which Metal songs, albums or artists are the most famous, I guess you’ve just got to ask whether or not they are Metal, or who you are being famous too that counts for the purposes of the list. You could spend years aggregating every list and reference to bands in every magazine, videogame, radio-show, podcast and television programme ever made and still only have a small, biased sample of a few people’s impressions of which bands were the most famous. You could count every Youtube view and LastFm scrobble ever recorded and still ultimately not know what’s in people’s heads or even who’s heads to look in.

After you to went all that effort to find the correct numbers, there’d still be debate on who “counts.”

And that’s just “famous.” It gets even muddier when we go onto “most-influential.” Oh well, at least everyone knows when it comes to “best” that its just straight-up unarguably subjective and we can all admit its just our own opinions. (Well, the sensible ones of us at any rate.)

So; With all that being said, I’d like you all to answer in the comments, who do you think are the 20 most famous Metal bands?