3. Animals As Leaders
Next up is Animals As Leaders. I think we’re all familiar with these guys… eight-strings guitars, groovy drumming, ambient/electronic touches, etc… Some would put them in “djent” category, while others just call them experimental/progressive metal.
Regardless of your opinion on their music, you can’t deny that guitarists Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes are monsters on their instruments. Sweep arpeggios, tapping, slapping… you name a technique and these guys are probably utilizing it. In the way that Rody Walker from Protest The Hero is reintroducing 80’s style vocal techniques into the modern metal scene, Animals As Leaders is doing the same with old-school shred and jazz chops. Yet again though, they are not just bringing back an old genre and riding the coattails of their forefathers. They are taking these influences and doing something new with it… taking it to places that it hasn’t been before. They are using it to contribute something relevant and meaningful to present-day metal music.
Furthermore, these guys are influencing people all over the globe to either pick up instruments for the first time, or further their existing skills. This quality is something that possessed by true guitar greats… guys like Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen), and Yngwie Malmsteen all had the same effect on guitar players. It seems like people have been waiting for the next big-time virtuoso to arrive… the one that will lead the rest of us into the future of guitar playing. As time goes on, it’s looking more and more likely that Tosin Abasi is that person. In our opinion, he has all the necessary components down: technical ability, originality, personality, and influence.
In summary, Animals As Leaders has already had a huge impact on the metal and guitar scenes, and their influence will probably only grow in the coming years. For that reason, we feel that they are an essential inclusion on this list!
For the #2 spot, we decided to go with French extreme metal band Gojira. For those who haven’t heard these guys yet, they’re somewhere in between tech and sludge, with vocals that sometimes sound reminiscent of Devin Townsend’s work in Strapping Young Lad. Their lyrics also tend to be nature-themed, which has led some people to call them “environmental metal,” funnily enough!
We first heard these guys in 2006 when they were touring with Children of Bodom, and we were immediately taken aback. They had a very unique sound compared to other bands on the bill, and that was very refreshing to see. Their recent two albums The Way of All Flesh and L’Enfant Sauvage have taken their signature sound to the next level, and kicked the production up about 10,000 notches. If you’re looking for an example of modern metal production, either of these albums is an excellent choice! Their increasing popularity over the last few years has led to a new record deal with Roadrunner Records, as well as an opening slot touring with Metallica.
Okay then, so what makes THESE guys one of the most important metal bands going right now? In our opinion, these guys are a prime example of a band that thinks “outside the box.” They have an abundance of something that tends to be lacking these days: creativity. Their now-signature sound is almost instantly recognizable, in the same way that bands like Tool, and Opeth have their own unique identity.
The previously mentioned environmental/nature themes are one essential part of what sets them part. It’s not just present in the lyrics, but also in the artwork. There’s a certain look to each of their album covers that is totally their own, which may be due to guitarist/vocalist Joe Duplantier handling the design. 2005’s From Mars to Sirius features whales on the front, while The Way of All Flesh focuses on human anatomy.
Influence-wise, they also throw a few curveballs our way. In addition to bands like Death and Meshuggah, they’ve also spoken about English electronic band Depeche Mode being an influence. Specifically, the song “A Sight to Behold” from The Way of All Flesh features some very interesting synth work, as well as some use of a vocoder during the verses. Joe Duplantier has also mentioned that he grew up listening to rap (GASP!), believe it or not… as questionable as that sounds, it doesn’t prevent him from writing great metal tunes!
In general, any band that can achieve success while maintaining their own sound is a true testament to creativity and artistry… and in our opinions, Gojira are just that! Their latest album L’Enfant Sauvage also made our “Best of 2012” list.
And finally… the #1 spot goes to Boston-based death/thrash band Revocation. These gentlemen are from the same area as us guys in The Deadstation, so calling us a bit biased wouldn’t be completely out of line. Regardless, this band fucking RIPS! They’ve released two studio albums on Relapse Records so far, and recently released a free EP called Teratogenesis, which was released through Scion/AV. We could literally go on forever about why we think they are the MOST important band in metal right now… but we’ll try to narrow it down to a few key points.
First off, these guys are taking a route similar to the aforementioned Protest the Hero and Animals as Leaders, by taking old-school influence and filtering it through modern style/production to create something that sounds new and exciting. Specifically, they are heavily influenced by 80s thrash metal like Megadeth, Metallica, and Testament. Guitarist/vocalist Dave Davidson has also mentioned that discovering Pantera was a very pivotal moment for him. Instead of just copying these bands though, Revocation throws in some additional death metal influence and then puts a modern extreme metal spin on the whole thing. Voila! You now have one of the most interesting metal bands to come out in the past ten years.
Second, these guys are very much going against the grain right now by mainly playing six-string guitars tuned to E flat. In recent years, there seems to have been an explosion of the “lower = heavier” train of thought. In our opinion, Revocation proves that if you have the skills and creativity, you can make any tuning sound heavy. They HAVE actually included a few seven-string songs on their recent EP though, and they sound amazing as well, but the extra string definitely wasn’t necessary for them to rip your face off.
Also, frontman Dave Davidson has some serious performance skills beyond his badass guitar abilities. Watch any of their music videos, or go see them live, and you’ll notice that there’s an element of showmanship that makes him very interesting to watch. It’s true that technical/shred guitar has been making a big comeback in recent years, but not many have been approaching it in quite this way. In our eyes, what Davidson is doing is more akin with the likes of Eddie Van Halen, Dimebag Darrel, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc… not in his guitar sound, but in the way he performs and interacts with the audience. On a sidenote, Davidson’s Jackson Warrior guitar is also becoming a bit of an iconic instrument for him, in the way that all aforementioned guitarists had theirs.
So, to summarize: We think Revocation are doing amazing things right now, but more importantly… they have MASSIVE potential for influencing the modern metal scene, maybe more so than they know. These guys could be a real game changer. If you’re just hearing this band now, you might not agree with us or get the same vibe as we do… but once you get to know their tunes better and see a few live gigs… that’s when their potential will reveal itself.
(On a side note, they just announced that they’re currently recording a new full-length… we hope you’re as pumped as we are!)
So that’s it! Who do YOU think are the most important bands in metal right now? Feel free to leave a comment below!