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Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade) 
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Post Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
"I feel at a generational disadvantage with this music not because my weary bones can't take its power and speed but because I was born too soon to have my dendrites rerouted by progressive radio."

- Robert Christgau, Consumer Guide Reviews: Master of Puppets

Shade wrote:
Haha. Well, my sentence was poorly constructed: I have no strong feelings toward Metallica as a band because I don't know them at all (I don't actively dislike them in any sense). I think they are all supremely cool individuals (the current lineup) and Ulrich and Hammett are obviously among the most supreme of their respective fortes. I loved the doc. Before the doc, honestly, I didn't know many of their songs that weren't popular. My biggest hangup with them is Hetfield's vocals -- not because I think they are bad, but simply because the Enter Sandman-era gravel-tone just doesn't do it for me. I actually like the crumbly, crackling notes he hits when he sings on the slower side. Honestly: the metal genre is one I want to like, find very intriguing, but frankly just don't understand. Not that I don't understand the appeal, it's just all very outside my pop-culture pallate. Whenever a metal band is on Behind the Music or they're counting down the greatest metal songs or anything like that, I'm always incredibly intrigued. Perhaps another thread is needed for you to introduce me to metal I will like.


As good a time as any to start a thread dedicated to the most grandiose (and often most abrasive) of popular music genres.

For the uninitiated, metal is something of an acquired taste. It's like the proverbial frog and the boiling pot. If you just throw him in, he'll jump right back out. You have to acclimate him by slowly turning up the heat.

My own personal gateway drug was the first two solo albums of Ozzy Osbourne. It's not particularly heavy by today's standards, and more commonly thought of as classic rock than heavy metal--but it was just heavy enough to entice a classic rock kid like me into that world without being too inaccessible. The mighty Randy Rhoads, for as short as his career was, created a strain of electric guitar playing that was simply too melodramatic and dark for conventional rock and roll.

From there, I backtracked to Black Sabbath, which, as far as I know, is the earliest band that was originally considered metal and still is. I find their first five albums to be indispensable. Paranoid has the most well-known songs, but my personal favorite is the eclectic Sabbath Bloody Sabbath album. While a lot of metal bands are known for playing at breakneck speeds (an influence courtesy of '70s punk rock), Black Sabbath is at its best when playing at agonizingly slow tempos, as if their riffs were trudging under their own weight.

Forward-tracking from Ozzy Osbourne, I checked out Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society, which showcases a much heavier side of Ozzy's longtime guitarist. It wasn't an instant favorite, but it did prepare me for slightly less old-school metal like '80s Metallica, early '90s Pantera (back when Phil still had ambitions of being a traditional singer), '80s Iron Maiden, Motorhead, and so on. And it all spiraled out from there, until eventually I got to groups like Meshuggah, Death, Napalm Death (no relation to the previous), Fear Factory, and Strapping Young Lad. Those groups are pretty intense.

This isn't necessarily intended to be a prescription for instant heavy metal fanaticism. It's just a recounting of how I became acquainted with the genre. This thread can be for other such stories, or for sharing favorites, or for metal discussion in general.

To address the details of Shade's original post:

Ulrich and Hammett are certainly among the best-known, but are perhaps not among the best exemplars of what they do. Ulrich, in particular, has tremendous business acumen, but is only really known as an adequate drummer at best. There's an infamous rumor regarding the recording of the song "Dyer's Eve" which suggests that Ulrich couldn't handle the song's breakneck speed, and needed two separate takes to track the cymbal parts.

The musical glue that holds Metallica together is the rhythm guitar of James Hetfield. His complex riffing and metronomic precision not only give the band its signature sound, but also set the tempo for the rest of the band to follow. (There are some embarrassing live bootlegs in which Hammett and Ulrich can be heard audibly lagging, while Hetfield never errs.) Hetfield himself will readily credit Cliff Burton for bringing in elements of melodic sophistication to the band.

If your chief objection is Hetfield's voice, there are a few Metallica instrumentals you might be interested in:

"Anaesthesia (Pulling Teeth)" (extended bass solo with heavy distortion and wah wah pedal)
"The Call of Ktulu"
"Orion"


Tue Oct 25, 2011 2:07 am
Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
Wow, dude, thanks for this. Perhaps this can be a great thread.

First, background on me and music: I'm not totally averse to hard music by any means. Rage Against the Machine is in my personal very top tier, along with Alice in Chains and Zeppelin. Not straight metal bands, certainly, but I don't want you to think I'm simply against any heavy riff or crunchy bass line. And one of my favorite of current artists in their prime (i.e. not Dylan or McCartney or Young ) is Ryan Adams, known for his soft stuff but also for his (I believe) true affinity for real metal. And in the interest of full disclosure, my very best friend in the world growing up sang for the now defunct metal/thrash band The Red Death (who were never huge, but were bigger outside of the US then they ever were in it. Find them here: http://www.myspace.com/thereddeath ). All of that said, my heart and taste usually lie closer to the ground, with earthier, softer stuff, i.e. Adams, Ben Folds, Damien Rice, Steve Earle, Bon Iver, Tom Waits.

As I said, I find the metal world intriguing: everything from Metallica to Carcass to Gaahl (who I do not take seriously but might be afraid of in person). But as I implied in the other thread, I could tell you more about the band's mystique and story than I could pick their music from a lineup. And that's pretty lame. So I do need some guidance on where to start, and I'll try to approach it fresh and without bias, and report here my feelings toward it. To repeat: my main problem is that (and I don't mean this nearly as insulting as this sounds) I find some metal music ugly. I know that's the appeal of some of it, but perhaps (because of my aforementioned friend) I simply traveled to much into the death metal/Euro scene, because there are Metallica songs that I dig.

So let me know where to start, album or song-wise, and we'll see how it goes. Can't wait to hear Ed's and others' thoughts on all this.

Ken wrote:
Ulrich and Hammett are certainly among the best-known, but are perhaps not among the best exemplars of what they do. Ulrich, in particular, has tremendous business acumen, but is only really known as an adequate drummer at best. There's an infamous rumor regarding the recording of the song "Dyer's Eve" which suggests that Ulrich couldn't handle the song's breakneck speed, and needed two separate takes to track the cymbal parts.

The musical glue that holds Metallica together is the rhythm guitar of James Hetfield. His complex riffing and metronomic precision not only give the band its signature sound, but also set the tempo for the rest of the band to follow. (There are some embarrassing live bootlegs in which Hammett and Ulrich can be heard audibly lagging, while Hetfield never errs.) Hetfield himself will readily credit Cliff Burton for bringing in elements of melodic sophistication to the band.


Interesting. I think I knew that Ulrich wasn't as great a drummer as he is a personality, but I didn't know of the legends of him needing two tracks (!) to get a song down. Hammett just always seems like a cool cucumber to me (again, a phrase I probably wouldn't use in front of the man), and he can obviously finger-dance well, but I can certainly buy that he struggles at times when playing live. I did gather from the doc and from Metallica stuff I'm familiar with that Hetfield is the musical glue, and again, I don't hate his vocals as much as they just don't appeal. Thanks again for the great feedback though.


Tue Oct 25, 2011 2:56 pm
Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
Two comments in this entire post? Where are the metal fans? Patrick likes Motorhead and Priest. Dan is a metal fan, man. Kratz (who I haven't seen in ages) and the Postman are metal fans too.

I listen to a lot of different things, but metal is, not surprisingly, my favourite genre. To Shade: the short version is "come right in, the water's fine". The long version is: "come right in, we love the water but a lot of people find it too hot. And the folks in the water don't always get along". Hmmm, that description sucked. Thing is, I love metal. I'm very happy when I find someone else who loves it and am even happier when I can help to introduce someone to the genre. However, I totally get that it wouldn't be someone's thing. I hope Shade will enjoy the recommendations, but no worries if you don't.

Another thing I'll point out is that once you're "inside" you'll realise that metal has dozens of subgenres (that's no hyperbole). Some fans love everything, some stick to certain parts. The point is that if you don't like something it's not necessarily an indictment of the genre as a whole. The opposite is true too. For instance, I generally dislike Metalcore, Grindcore (well, anything with "-core"), Black Metal artists who believe their own shit and most of Power Metal. Of course, this is supposed to be a "101" so I won't get too deep into this.

Ken wrote:

My own personal gateway drug was the first two solo albums of Ozzy Osbourne. It's not particularly heavy by today's standards, and more commonly thought of as classic rock than heavy metal--but it was just heavy enough to entice a classic rock kid like me into that world without being too inaccessible. The mighty Randy Rhoads, for as short as his career was, created a strain of electric guitar playing that was simply too melodramatic and dark for conventional rock and roll.

From there, I backtracked to Black Sabbath, which, as far as I know, is the earliest band that was originally considered metal and still is. I find their first five albums to be indispensable. Paranoid has the most well-known songs, but my personal favorite is the eclectic Sabbath Bloody Sabbath album. While a lot of metal bands are known for playing at breakneck speeds (an influence courtesy of '70s punk rock), Black Sabbath is at its best when playing at agonizingly slow tempos, as if their riffs were trudging under their own weight.

Forward-tracking from Ozzy Osbourne, I checked out Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society, which showcases a much heavier side of Ozzy's longtime guitarist. It wasn't an instant favorite, but it did prepare me for slightly less old-school metal like '80s Metallica, early '90s Pantera (back when Phil still had ambitions of being a traditional singer), '80s Iron Maiden, Motorhead, and so on.


Not a bad entry point especially as some of Ozzy's and Sabbath's material should already be familiar. Folks may not necessarily know the names of the songs, but there's no way they aren't familiar with pieces of Crazy Train or Iron Man by now. Same goes for a handful of other Ozzy and Sabbath material.

I think the best entry point is actually starting with bands that fit into both Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Shade is already there through bands that he's mentioned (Rage, Alice in Chains etc) but that would be a good starting point for a complete novice (I'd certainly include grunge acts like Nirvana here too).

Of course, my personal recommendation is always Metallica. They were my first real entry point into the genre and I still genuinely love their stuff. If you don't like Hetfield's voice it's unlikely that you'll really dig the band though. I should still mention that his voice got more "gravelly" as he matured. "Master of Puppets" and "Ride the Lightning" are flawless albums in my opinion and contain some of the band's best songs ("For Whom the Bell Tolls" is my absolute favourite but I still fondly recall lending my cousin my Puppets album only for him to randomly call me to say "Master of Puppets is the best song I've ever heard! Uh, that's all...bye."). Also, Hetfield's voice is practically banshee-like on Kill 'Em All. Not their most polished album, but it is a great one.

Ultimately, I think vocals are what will make or break the experience. I've learned to look past shoddy vocals when there's great music but not everyone can do that. Metal's greatest hurdle is the death vox. I used to hate, then I tolerated it, now I actually like it. I talk about Opeth ad nauseum but that's because they were my gateway into heavier stuff. I get the "ugly" thing, but Opeth's greatest strength is that their music is pretty. This will sound cheesy as shit, but I like to compare them to a single rose surrounded by darkness. Their lead has a beautiful singing voice which he often uses to sing naturally, but they have many passages where things go bat-shit insane before returning to quiet. Actually, that happens many times in their songs. Most dynamic band ever?

I'd never recommend that you start with Opeth...but I'm recommending that you might start with Opeth! Not their heavy stuff though. Damnation is all clean vocals. They've recently dropped the "death" aspects altogether to become a purely progressive band. I haven't heard Heritage (2011) yet, but it's supposed to be really ambitious and quite soft (it's certainly been polarising).

Mastodon is another band I bring up a lot. They too have a brand new album (with a slight directional change) that I haven't heard but just about everything from them is good. They're more "sludgy" but the early vocals are difficult. Try something off Crack the Skye like "The Last Baron" or Leviathan their concept album based on Moby Dick.

Then there's other stuff like Tool. They've been around for a good while and are really popular. Have you given them a good spin? Strikes me as something you could like or even love. Talented vocalist, great instruments and songs that typically have a deeper meaning. If you haven't already, start with Tool.


Sat Oct 29, 2011 4:07 pm
Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
I like metal too, grindcore dosen't really do much for me, some metalcore and Power Metal bands i'm quite fond of, the one metal sub-genre i've never really been able to get into very much is Death Metal, and that's largely because most of their vocalists sound almost identical to one another, they all seem to have the same Cookie-Monster-on-crack death growl and it just gets tedious and headache inducing. I do not understand why people love Cannibal Corpse so much, they're one of the most boring and monotonous bands i've ever heard to be honest, there are a few DM bands I do enjoy like death, Possessed, Six Feet Under and Arch Enemy, but they're the exception and not the rule.


Sat Oct 29, 2011 4:15 pm
Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
ed_metal_head wrote:
Mastodon is another band I bring up a lot. They too have a brand new album (with a slight directional change) that I haven't heard but just about everything from them is good. They're more "sludgy" but the early vocals are difficult. Try something off Crack the Skye like "The Last Baron" or Leviathan their concept album based on Moby Dick.


I got the new Mastodon album...not as good as Crack the Skye but it's decent. But they have seemed to go in a.....I hesitate to say poppier direction but it's a lot more conventional. But I think it may be a good beginner album for Shade since all the songs are no more than 5, 6 minutes. You don't hear any horrible epic songs like "The Last Baron." (Don't ever listen to Ed's lies, The Last Baron is not a great song and is the worst song off Crack the Skye.)

For Priest, you can't go wrong with British Steel or Painkiller....but Painkiller might quite a shock first time you hear it. I know I was writhing in fear when I heard the title track for the first time.

Also, the first Dio albums would be good for you as well.


Sat Oct 29, 2011 4:24 pm
Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
Cannibal Corpse is great every once in a while, when you want to scratch that itch. But I don't generally listen to them.

Opeth is a great one. The first song I ever heard by them is "Bleak" from the Blackwater Park album. It's still a favorite.

I find that among harsh metal vocalists, some sound legitimately good--like a good distorted guitar tone--and some just sound like a busted AM radio. (Like a bad distorted guitar tone.) Opeth always brings quality vocals, whether harsh or clean.

My favorite Metallica album is Kill 'Em All. Over the years, they slowly traded off that punkish intensity in favor of greater sophistication, which worked out fairly well until the 1990s.

How about Megadeth? Depending on what day you ask me, my favorite album of theirs is either Peace Sells, But Who's Buying? or Rust In Peace. I guess you could consider those two albums to be by two separate bands, given that the Gar/Chris lineup and the Marty/Nick lineup tend to have their own musical personalities.

I'm not a big fan of Priest's later stuff, but "Painkiller" is a great song and Death's cover is hella awesome.


Sat Oct 29, 2011 4:27 pm
Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
ed_metal_head wrote:
Then there's other stuff like Tool. They've been around for a good while and are really popular. Have you given them a good spin? Strikes me as something you could like or even love. Talented vocalist, great instruments and songs that typically have a deeper meaning. If you haven't already, start with Tool.


I actually do already dig and in fact love Tool. Should have mentioned that. Absolutely a great starting point, I agree.

I'm culturally grounded enough that I can pick out most of Ozzy & Sabbath's riffs.

You've intrigued me: just ordered Master of Puppets, Crack the Skye, and Damnation off of Amazon. Going to give this thing a real whirl, and I have some travelling to do in the coming weeks so I can listen to records straight through. I will keep you guys up to date, and if I hate them, I'll blame you and give them away to some kids.


Sat Oct 29, 2011 4:41 pm
Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
A couple random thoughts:

A couple of the heaviest bands I listen to that I would still consider palatable are Strapping Young Lad and Meshuggah. They're abrasive upon first listen, but it's like the razor blade and the eyeball in Un Chien Andalou. It hits you hard and viscerally from the very beginning so that it can recalibrate your threshold for what you're capable of processing.

I'm also a big fan of Devin Townsend's solo stuff, though some of it is somewhat afield of metal and not quite in line with this thread.

I love Dan Swano's Moontower album, though I've heard little of the rest of his (apparently massive) body of work. He's a tremendously creative guy.


Mon Oct 31, 2011 5:04 am
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Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
Personally, I'm a huge Motorhead fan. I like my rock with a lot of boogie, and that probably explains my love of Lemmy & Co.; Motorhead had more boogie than any other metal band.

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Tue Nov 01, 2011 2:54 pm
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Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
Heavy metal...good music. Though i have yet to acclimate fully into it, but then, few people do.

Ken wrote:
I'm not a big fan of Priest's later stuff, but "Painkiller" is a great song and Death's cover is hella awesome.


Once you get past the decrease in vocal ability...

Priest IMO peaked with Stained Class, and everything went downhill from there.

And SYL is...pretty much like what Ken said in the rest of the post. Simultaneously repelling and strangely compelling.

In return to the topic, well, if you've already gotten MoP, CtS and Damnnation I'd say that's a good start (although Ride the Lightning might have been a better one, but eh..)


Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:44 pm
Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
The best part about SYL is how insanely dense the production is, especially on the City album. There is exactly one moment in the entire album when the sound drops out fully, and it feels like your heart stopped beating for a second.

I remember watching a YouTube video of Devin walking the viewers through the ProTools session for "Supercrush!" on the Addicted album. It was this huge stack of tracks, which he went through and soloed bits and pieces to show people all the different stuff in the mix. At one point, he started adding tracks back in one by one until it was the huge wall of sound that you hear in the finished version, and he said (barely audibly), "A lot of this stuff, you don't even end up really hearing!"


Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:59 pm
Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
Shade wrote:
You've intrigued me: just ordered Master of Puppets, Crack the Skye, and Damnation off of Amazon. Going to give this thing a real whirl, and I have some travelling to do in the coming weeks so I can listen to records straight through. I will keep you guys up to date, and if I hate them, I'll blame you and give them away to some kids.


Awesome! I'm firmly in the "try before you buy" camp but any of those would make for a great early-Christmas gift provided it falls into the right hands. I've caught you with a bit of the old bait and switch with Damnation though. It's almost more "rock" than "metal". But, sometimes one hit is all it takes ;)

I'm not one of those who has to like every track to call an album perfect, but...I like every track on Master of Puppets! Great combination of thrash and slower stuff. Imho, Sanitarium and The Thing That Should Not Be don't absolutely grab you on the first listen (at least they didn't do that to me) but they're both among the very best that the band has ever done. And, there's a better song (or two) on the album!

Crack the Skye is super-ambitious. I think you'd like it if you like drumming. Hey, Ken! Have you ever listened to them? I really need to brush up on my Meshuggah, but I know they have awesome drumming. Mastodon might be able to beat that. What say you?

Patrick wrote:
I got the new Mastodon album...not as good as Crack the Skye but it's decent. But they have seemed to go in a.....I hesitate to say poppier direction but it's a lot more conventional. But I think it may be a good beginner album for Shade since all the songs are no more than 5, 6 minutes. You don't hear any horrible epic songs like "The Last Baron." (Don't ever listen to Ed's lies, The Last Baron is not a great song and is the worst song off Crack the Skye.)

For Priest, you can't go wrong with British Steel or Painkiller....but Painkiller might quite a shock first time you hear it. I know I was writhing in fear when I heard the title track for the first time.

Also, the first Dio albums would be good for you as well.


I've heard that of the new album (their 5th). I see a parallel with Metallica here. Both have raw, unpolished debuts (Metallica's is much better). Both have acclaimed 2nd and 3rd albums that are pretty ambitious. Both bands have a super-ambitious 4th album (I actually give the nod to Mastodon here. Justice rocks, but it feels a little bloated and the production needs work). I think both bands got fed up of playing hella-difficult songs on tour night after night. That led Metallica to release the simpler and more conventional "Black Album". I think Mastodon are doing something similar.
Oh, and The Last Baron is still the best song off Crack the Skye :D


Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:05 pm
Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
Never really managed to get into Meshuggah and Mastodon. With Meshuggah, I like everything except the vocalist, who I feel is both annoying and gets in the way of the rest of the music. With Mastodon, I dunno, just doesn't grab me.


Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:39 pm
Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
mailedbypostman wrote:
Never really managed to get into Meshuggah and Mastodon. With Meshuggah, I like everything except the vocalist, who I feel is both annoying and gets in the way of the rest of the music. With Mastodon, I dunno, just doesn't grab me.

Mastodon I like OK, I agree on Meshuggah, those vocals just irritate the hell out of me.


Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:53 pm
Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
I haven't heard a whole lot of Mastodon. Believe it or not, I think my introduction to the band was the song they did for the opening of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie. In fact, it was probably the best part of that movie, aside from miniature Neil Peart.

Meshuggah is pretty incredible. While it's true that their vocalist only really does one thing, he does it well. He belts his lines out with attitude, and his insistence on atonality is in keeping with the rest of the music, where the interest is mainly rhythmic rather than melodic. If you're looking for tunefulness from this band, you're barking up the wrong tree. But you're probably not barking with as much oomph as their guy.

Their drummer is terrific, but I find that it's a Seinfeld situation: he's probably awesome by himself, but what really makes him shine is the way his rhythms (often more than one at the same time) interplay with the other instruments. The emotional content is all rage, but it's a paradoxical kind of rage: it sounds insane and uncontrollable, but there is absolute calculation behind it.


Mon Nov 07, 2011 12:11 am
Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
Ken wrote:
I haven't heard a whole lot of Mastodon. Believe it or not, I think my introduction to the band was the song they did for the opening of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie. In fact, it was probably the best part of that movie, aside from miniature Neil Peart.

Meshuggah is pretty incredible. While it's true that their vocalist only really does one thing, he does it well. He belts his lines out with attitude, and his insistence on atonality is in keeping with the rest of the music, where the interest is mainly rhythmic rather than melodic. If you're looking for tunefulness from this band, you're barking up the wrong tree. But you're probably not barking with as much oomph as their guy.


Truth. I think they're probably just too atonal for me.


Mon Nov 07, 2011 2:08 am
Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
Bumping this because Tony Iommi, arguably the inventor of the heavy metal guitar riff, has been diagnosed with lymphoma.

Everyone play some Black Sabbath to send some mojo his way.

"The Wizard"
"Fairies Wear Boots"
"Children of the Grave"
"After Forever"
"Killing Yourself to Live"


Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:51 pm
Post Re: Heavy Metal 101 (dedicated to our pal Shade)
That's terrible news. I listened to War Pigs earlier today without any idea of his illness. Hope he makes a full and speedy recovery.

In brighter news, this bump makes me curious about what Shade thought. I fear that some young person (or 3 young persons) got awesome metal cd's for Christmas. How'd it go, Shade?


Wed Jan 11, 2012 9:20 pm
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