Posts Tagged ‘True Metal’

 FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 75: Manowar – Kings Of Metal

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 75: Manowar – Kings Of Metal

Hello, and welcome to my Blog. Why is it called KingcrimsonBlog, the official Blog of Kingcrimsonprog?. Good question; It is called that, because I am called Kingcrimsonprog (or Gentlegiantprog). Well, I’m not. I’m called Jimmy. But, I’m called either Kingcrimsonprog or Gentlegiantprog on most websites and forums. (You know, in the way you have to choose a name or “net-handle” when you register?).

Back when this Blog was first devised, it was sort of a hub “digest” of all my various internet output, under one easy “roof.” So people could then tell that my things were not stolen from elsewhere on the internet, I kept my net-handle in the title. The name of my net-handle was simply chosen because I enjoy the Prog band King Crimson (and Gentle Giant) and is not in fact my real name. Forget about the name. Imagine its called “Music Nerd Blog” instead. You’ll get the idea.

I’ve been obsessing about music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else. I’ve also watched over a decade’s worth of music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free covermounted CDs, websites and whatever else. All that, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.

I’m a nerd. Basically. Only, instead of Stephen King Novels or Vintage French Cinema, its Music that I obsess about. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram-enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about Reality-TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the average Facebook-users’ knowledge of Farmville and Candy Crush. Everyone has a thing they get nerdy about, whether or not they realize or admit that it is similar to the more famous nerdy things like Star Wars. I don’t particularly like Football or Reality TV or Farmville. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s my one thing. That’s what this Blog is all about.

Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.

I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).

According to the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject to be Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres. Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my nerdly need to hear and understand almost every piece of recorded Metal music ever.

If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a try.

So that’s the preamble out of the way, on to the article:

Today I’ll be listening to the album Kings Of Metal, by the US Power Metal band Manowar. It was their 6th studio album and was released in 1988 on Atlantic Records. I got it for my birthday, inside a boxset which also contained Fighting The World and Triumph Of Steel. Good gift for someone like me!

I usually talk about the subgenre before talking about the band and the album in these articles. I think I’ve bored you all enough talking about Power Metal in its early 80s American guises and its late-80s-and-beyond European guises on this blog already, so if you want to know how I feel about it in more depth look back at reviews and articles on the likes of Savatage, early Queensryche, Helloween, Gamma Ray ,Stratovarius, Hammerfall and Iced Earth.

Its mostly European Melodic Power Metal, and only a bit of the early USPM (by bands who are mostly considered Prog Metal overall or turned Prog soon afterwards), and not exactly a perfect match for Manowar, who straddle the border between just being Traditional Metal like Priest, Maiden and Accept, with being Power Metal (well, all these things can vary on a song by song basis. I mean, there’s lots of Priest that sounds like Power Metal… just like there’s a lot of Djent that sounds like Messugah. Maybe Manowar aren’t Power Metal, maybe they’re just Metal… I don’t know. Also, maybe it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Let’s just call them Power Metal for now, so I don’t have to swap all those hyperlinks, ey guys?)

So; What do I actually know about Manowar? I know the band members are muscular, wear loincloths (either all the time or at least at some stage in their career) and promote manliness and strength. I know that they have a Conan The Barbarian type mascot on their album artwork. I know they are cheesy and over-the-top lyrically, and revel in all the sword-and-sorcery aspects of Metal culture. I know they are responsible for a lot of the “true Metal” and “Death To False Metal” sentiment you read about online, although I’m pretty sure they are probably joking about it. I know they have a devoted cult-like audience similar to Rush fans who are really defensive and proud of the band and will support the band no matter what. (Its sort of a “cool” thing, to a certain subsection of Metal-society, to be a Manowar fan, I guess.)

I don’t, as yet, know exactly why that is. I don’t see the same cult-thing going on for Helloween or Blind Guardian or whatever other massive influential Power Metal band with a lot of fans and some releases with a “Metal Albums You Must Hear Before You Die” type reputation. Maybe it exists and I just didn’t notice it, or maybe its something peculiar to just Manowar. (Perhaps because they seem so convinced of it themselves? Perhaps entirely because of their own sloganeering?)

I remember my friend at College about half-a-decade-ago telling me that Manowar were officially recognized as the Loudest Band In The World, and that once their stage-show caused an electrical surge that shut off all power to the Eastern Seaboard. Dunno if its true, but if it is, it’s a neat fact to have if you are a Heavy Metal band.

The album title intrigues me; Kings Of Metal. Manowar get called “Kings Of Metal” a lot in reviews and articles and I’ve always wondered if it was self-appointed [Side note: Didn’t Pantera call themselves “Kings Of Metal” too by the way, or at least something very similar?] or if it was one of those things like Judas Priest’s “Metal Gods” situation where they had a song about robots called “Metal Gods” (not even lyrically about the band or even Heavy Metal itself…just about robots) but people decided to call the band Metal Gods as a term of endearment anyway. Or maybe its just genuinely made up and applied to them like Black Sabbath getting called Godfathers Of Heavy Metal all the time by the press.

Basically, did they write this title because they were being called Kings Of Metal, or did they get called that due to this album title?

….Well that’s the band. What about the album?

Looking now at the album’s artwork, I almost feel like I need to go to the gym. I’ve just finished an hour of weightlifting at the time of writing by the way, but suddenly I almost feel the urge to lift again. Geez, these guys’d give you a complex with album art like that!

Anyway; I was looking into the band when I was making my List of albums that help you to understand Metal. I think there is a sort of lack of consensus about which of their records are good or not. Then there’s this sort of old Manowar vs. Mid-Manowar vs. Everyone hating new Manowar debate which is kind of like Judas Priest’s fan’s reaction to their discography. Some people love the Screaming/Defenders sound but some people only want Sad Wings/Stained Class sounds. Not so many love the Ripper Owens era.

I’ve read dozens and dozens of times that Kings Of Metal is Manowar’s “best,” “most influential,” “highest selling,” “most-beloved” and that sort of thing, album. I’ve also read that those descriptions belong to Hail To England instead, and that Kings Of Metal is part of the decline from their glory days to their career nadir in the late ‘90s. I’ve even read some people call it a sell-out, but some people call Emperor sell-outs for recording a demo and therefor diluting their credibility as a garage-only band… I don’t have much time for people calling albums sell-outs unless its drastic and obvious.

I guess it might be like Kiss’ Destroyer, some people count the classic bit as the first 3 Kiss albums, some the first 6, some more than that. I guess I might like analogies a bit too much.

What else? Well; Its also one of those “end of an era” type records since it was the final album from the “classic line-up” featuring Scott Columbus and Ross “The Boss.” After this, the two would be replaced by a drummer called Rhino and a guitarist called Giraffe David Shankle. I have to be honest, right at this moment I don’t know any of those musicians and don’t have any opinion on who is better. I guess I’ll find out.

[Play]

First up, the album opens with “Wheels Of Fire” which is apparently a concert favourite. Its pretty up-tempo and thrashy, and kind of reminds me of Alice-era Annihilator a little bit. It starts off with some samples of a motorbike starting up and driving around, then wham, blistering Thrashy Metal. There’s high pitched screams and low growls, and vocals trading between speakers. Then the chorus comes in and hell-yeah we’re in Power Metal town, gloriously big and bombastic. Power Metal choruses are the definition of Bombastic. Its like a giant tom fill with squealing Queen-reminiscent guitar and a vocal perfect for singing along to.

A guitar solo follows… a pretty excellent guitar solo. Well, I guess Ross The Boss is pretty important then. Oh yes, the chorus comes back…that is a good, good, good chorus. I’m loving this mixture between furious Alice In Hell aggression and over-the-top Land Of The Free grandiosity.

The thing I notice is that singer Eric Adams sounds quite like Kiss’ Paul Stanely at times. I wonder if that is because of where they come from. Also a bit like early Anthrax’s Neil Turban. Then again, he also reminds me of Iced Earth’s Matt Barlow.

Speaking of Iced Earth, I’ve never really noticed this before, but there is a missing link between Judas Priest and Iced Earth. That Missing Link is Manowar. Maybe its Jag Panzer too, but one thing at a time people, I haven’t got all day. Its funny, but I didn’t think their singer was even called Eric Adams until today, I thought he was called Joey DiMiao. When people said or wrote “Joey DiMiao” I always assumed it was the band’s singer, not bassist… oh well, I know now, ey? – I’ve never heard of Eric Adams before… seems odd really given how important Manowar are in Europe. Well, in Metal really. I mean I heard of Geoff Tate and John Arch and Rob Halford for years and years. There’s lots and lots of singers in my mind as definitive traditional singers… strange that Adams is not one of them, especially considering how powerful and talented he is. Its not as if he is dull and un-noteworthy or something.

Next up is the album’s title track, “Kings Of Metal.” It boasts boastful lyrics about Manowar themselves and how they come to town and kill, rather than play like a normal band, and how their audience are definitely not posers. This is a completely different style of music to the previous track. Its more like a very aggressive Kiss song than any Thrash or Power Metal band. It wouldn’t be too out of place on Shout At The Devil actually, in that Kiss-but-heavier spirit.

No denying it, this is catchy. I’m loving it. Its sort of embarrassing in a way, but heck, I do believe “Manowar Kill!” and are going to kick my ass, such is the convincing power of the song due its massive, massive fun-factor.

The solo starts off with a Saved By The Bell ‘50s Rock n Roll vibe, then shreds afterwards.

“Heart Of Steel” follows that big smile-fest, and is once again a different style. Its a ballad. The vocals kind of remind me of Greg Lake on Court Of The Crimson King’s title track and “Epitaph.” Ok, its not a ballad as in love lyrics and soft brush drums. The first two minutes are basically a string section and tasteful piano with manly vocals. Then the band kick in to a very heavy drum beat and ringing big guitars. It’s a powerful power ballad. More Powerful than Helloween or Gamma Ray’s ballads. More powerful than Stratovarius’ ones too. Heavier than Hammerfall’s. Better than all of Dragonforce’s. There’s also a gorgeous yet brief guitar solo that really feels like Slash. This is a genuinely good ballad. One I’d keep on my phone even with space limitations to consider!

“Sting Of The Bumblebee” livens things up next. Its an explosive bass solo (with band backing) based on the classical piece “Flight Of The Bumblebee,” which I seem to recall having to learn about in GCSE music but have since forgotten all about, apart from recognizing that it is frantic and hurried sounding, like a Bumblebee. Its so furious and metallic and intensely performed that you don’t even really think of it as a bass solo anymore… just a neat, brief, instrumental Metal song. I wouldn’t leave this off my phone either. Its just Manowar’s equivalent of “Stratofortress.”

“The Crown And The Ring (Lament Of The Kings)” opens up like it might be another ballad. Its got choirs and organs and orchestral percussion. It sounds like a Viking ascending into heaven. Eric’s vocals are very strong. This guy seems pretty underrated. Amazing vocal talent. Maybe its just his actual voice causing people to forget to talk about him, because the talent applied to that voice is unquestionable.

This track has no drums or guitars, it feels sort of like it should either be the first or final track on an album, and not so soon after a ballad. Strange move, momentum-wise in my opinion. That said, this is very strong. This is what I think Hammerfall should write instead of the ballads that they do write. Its bigger and grander than just a ballad. I guess its what you would call “epic” before the word got diluted so much recently (although; in Metal, “epic” things usually also have to be at least 10-minutes long for most reviewers to classify them as such. I guess that’s “an epic” as opposed to a song that is epic though).

After all that questionable epicness; “Kingdom Come” starts off with a chugging riff that sounds like it might be quite commercial, but could go either way, either into a quick-paced Metal track like the first one on the album, or into an MTV ready hit like Priest’s “Living After Midnight.” Then it reveals itself. It kind of reminds me, strangely, of A Momentary Lapse Of Reason-era Pink Floyd…but in no way I can articulate. I guess maybe there’s just a touch of “Learning To Fly” to the pace and drum sound? Either way; this isn’t a thrashy blaster of a song. Its like a way-slower “Metal Gods” (Ironically, given my Metal Gods/Kings Of Metal question) drum beat, with a ballad hidden over the top, these shuffly drums transforming it out of a ballad, and an into MTV ‘80s Rock song, but the enthusiastic and ultra powerful vocals making it metallic enough to fit on the record.

“Pleasure Slave” comes next, and is in slightly the same mould as the previous track during the verses, but with heavier guitars and indeed a nice Iommi-style riff in the chorus. Its not speedy thrashy Metal. Its enthusiastic ‘80s Rock…with a nice doomy riff in the chorus. It sort of reminds me of Kiss’ “God Of Thunder” in its slow power.

Aside from the music, the most notable thing about this track is the over the top sexism… I mean it is arguably even more objectifying than what most Hair Metal bands wrote about. There’s a big difference between Poison’s lyric “I got a girl to the left of me and a girl to the right, I know damn well I slept with both last night” and Manowar’s lyric “Woman be my slave, chained onto my bed… your body belongs to me… the greatest gift I could ever give.”

I kind of wonder if they are being ironic, perhaps a touch of Steel Panther here? I mean, I always read the sentence that Manowar’s fans take them with a pinch of salt but the band themselves are serious about it. Or maybe I’m looking at it wrong and its not even sexism, but just about BDSM. Maybe they are just writing about BDSM from a reporting perspective, in the same way that Slayer wrote about Nazis without being Nazis. I’d like to hope they aren’t ridiculous sexists at any rate… in the same way I hope Carpathian Forest aren’t really as Right Wing as they say they are. Hopefully its all just good fun. (Just playing-up to expectations etc.)

“Hail And Kill” follows that, opening promisingly with a powerful ringing guitar chord and some aggressive-yet-melodic dual guitar in the spirit of Painkiller-era-Priest. Yay! The album had slowed down quite a bit…hopefully this is a fast one.

Hmm…nope, it broke down to some nice acoustic arpeggios and more of that Greg Lake-but-louder stuff vocally; and then… Yay, it explodes into lovely 80s Speed Metal sounds!

Oh, nice Maideny guitar bit. Catchy sing-along-gang chant of the song’s title. This is right up my street. Exactly what I’m in the mood for. I love this chorus!

Nice guitar solos, quite flashy. You can really feel the instrument being played, you can visualize the bends really easily. Excellent production now that I think about it. Yes. This song is the bee’s knees.

That long “Yeeeeeeah” scream where all other music cuts out… that is something I always love in music. Also, impressive! “Nice pipes” as they say in our musical world.

Then comes “The Warrior’s Prayer” which in all honesty is kind of ridiculous. Its essentially a spoken word intro, which you hear on lots of Metal tracks in lots of various different styles. Sometimes they appear in the middle of tracks or have music underneath them. Yes’ “Circus Of Heaven” has one with a little kid talking about a circus with no animals etc. It is too long, and it is already in the middle of a song and has music underneath but still a lot of fans find it unbearable. This track doesn’t have much in the way of music, and lasts for an entire FOUR MINUTES. Four minutes of just talking in a slightly silly old-man-telling-a-kid-a-story voice. Not fourty seconds, which is already a bit too far. Four ENTIRE minutes! – I’m not that keen on it, can you tell? We’re talking about the guy who deleted the intro to Exodus’ “Deranged” because it wasn’t worth my time. Oh well, at least they were kind enough to have it as a separate track, so I can skip it from now on. [I’m sure as fuck leaving this one off my phone considering there’s space limitations.]

Finally we end things here with the seven-and-a-half-minute album closer “Blood Of The Kings.” This song is explosive, powerful and excited. The vocals are so over-the-top, the main riff is incredible fun and the verses are like a supercharged “Diamonds & Rust.” This song just sounds absolutely massive. Its real Thor-on-a-mountaintop stuff.

The guitar solo is pretty impressive. Accept/Deep Purple/Yngwie style neo-classical stuff in there, filled out by muscular shred. The song also continuously does the thing I love where the vocals continue when the rest of the song stops.
At the five-minute point they also go into an almost-pisstaking Prog style bit-by-bit ending. (You know, like when they tease ending over and over and over, sometimes note-by-note, slowly decreasing speed and volume in their actual playing rather than with the mixer). Then after doing that for a very long time, the main riff comes back as if the song is going to erupt again…but then that fades out with the mixer. Hmmm. Definitely feels a bit pisstaky. In a good way.

So, there we have it. My first exposure to the field of true Metal, my introduction to the kings of said True Metal, and the righting of my wrong (“if you don’t own this album, you aren’t a Metal fan” etc.) in ignoring the band for this long. I don’t know if its as instant a KCP classic as Land Of The Free or Keeper Of The Seven Keys but it was certainly far from a waste of time. I think it’s a sort of uneven album… three rock songs, two ballads (or there-abouts), three Power/Speed Metal songs, a bass solo, and a really overlong intro/skit/spoken word boredom-fest.

I wonder if it may be better without the spoken word bit (or at least at a severely, severely reduced length), with more space between the two ballads (perhaps the “epic” one as the final track and the “normal power ballad” as the exact middle of the album). Oh yeah…and don’t listen to “Pleasure Slave” when there’s any women in the room. [Fuck it; actually…do listen to it when there’s women in the room, but lie and say the song is called “50 Shades Of Grey” and then they’ll lap that track up!]

Still, even if it is oddly disjointed and has a weird momentum, and lacking that maybe-one-more-fast-song that would make it work, this is a pretty neat album and I’m sure I’ll listen to it a lot in the coming months. The highlights (the three fast songs, the fun-as-hell title track and the Viking funeral) will certainly get a real pounding and make it into my regular-listening for a long time to come.

Ok. That was my first experience with the band and the album.
Any thoughts, opinions, corrections or recommendations guys?

Accept – Blind Rage

Blind Rage is the 14th full-length studio album by the legendary German Heavy Metal band Accept, and the 3rd since their triumphant reformation with the new Mark Tornillio-fronted line up. It was released on Nuclear Blast Records in 2014 and was masterfully produced (as with their previous two records) by veteran British producer Andy Sneap.

Right off the bat, let me just say that I absolutely love this record and would highly recommend that any fan of the band’s previous two records buy it without hesitation. Moreover any fan of the band or even just the genre should consider buying it. On my initial listen, it sent giddy shivers up my spine and had me thinking of phrases like “album of the year” and “career highlight” straight away, and even now when the early excitement has been tempered and attempts have been made to be rational and objective, this still feels like a very strong and important record on every single listen. It is at once both an immediate hit and a massive grower.

The style on the album is more-or-less the same style of modernized pure Heavy Metal from the last two albums; teetering smoothly on brink of early Power Metal and Hard Rock, topped off with the cherry of Mark Tornillo’s gravely Udo Dirkschneider-meets-Lemmy Kilmister (by way of Brian Johnson) vocal style. If you like pounding double-kick drums and guitar solos you want to sing along to, this is the sort of stuff for you. There are big riffs and chant-along backing vocals all over the place designed to make everything feel memorable and make you want to pump your fists in the air.

There are tracks here that could neatly slot into either of their previous two albums without looking out of place at all, and so in many ways, the album is partly a continuation of what the reunion line-up has been doing so far.

In other places however, the album has its own identity and overall it isn’t just a carbon copy of either Blood Of The Nations or the superb Stalingrad. Blind Rage diversifies into softer, more melodic and anthemic directions as well. Tracks like “Wanna Be Free” and “Dark Side Of My Heart” almost harken back to the Metal Heart spirit in a way. This makes sense as the band mentioned the classic Accept sound a lot in interviews at the time of this album’s promotion and the climax of the album-closer “Final Journey” sonically references the track “Metal Heart” itself.

Highlights include “Dying Breed” – a mid-paced number which lyrically pays tribute to other legendary bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon etc. – as well as the catchy single “Stampede” (a real grower indeed) and the speedier “Bloodbath Mastermind.” That being said this is an absolutely rock-solid album with no filler or weak moments at all.

Overall, Blind Rage is an absolutely stunning record. There are so many memorable moments and catchy riffs on here that it almost doesn’t hit you right away just how very well-written and impressive it is. The performances are great, the production is immaculate and I have nothing but praise for the songs themselves. I highly recommend picking yourself up a copy if you are in any way interested.

****

The edition I bought comes in a fat digipak contained within a slipcase. It is packaged with the Live In Chili 2013 concert on Blu Ray.

The tracklisting is as follows:
Intro/Hung Drawn And Quartered/Hellfire/Restless And Wild/Losers And Winners/Stalingrad/Breaker/Bucket Full Of Hate/Monsterman/Shadow Soldiers/Amamos La Vida/Guitar Solo/Neon Nights/Bulletproof/Aiming High/Princess Of The Dawn/Up To The Limit/No Shelter/Pandemic/Fast As A Shark/Metal Heart/Teutonic Terror/Balls To The Wall

Here are the Blu Ray specs:
Resolution 1080p, Sound PCM Stereo, Region All, Running Time 121mins.

This is excellent value for money as it isn’t the usual low–quality bonus disc; the performance is great, it sounds pretty decent, the editing is fairly tasteful and in all honesty it almost feels like a proper release that could stand up as its own product if it had more sound options and a few extras. Very occasionally it looks overdubbed or there’ll be a silly editing choice, but it is for the most part well-made. It is great to see the reunion line-up absolutely tearing it up live and the mix of newer material with the usual concert-favourites makes it feel vital and exciting.

If the price difference isn’t too much I’d definitely recommend getting this version.

****

**Oh, and if you found this review by search engine, when you discover it again on Amazon it is me posting it. It hasn’t been copied and pasted off here by a stranger, I post my reviews on Amazon as ‘Gentlegiantprog “Kingcrimsonprog.”’ So please don’t unhelpful-vote it because you thought it was stolen from me.**

In summary:

Thumbs Up For Blind Rage

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?