Luckily, sometimes, in rare cases, lost bands can return. Whether this return involves an actual, physical reappearance of the band members or a renewed interest in the music and recognition of the importance of it to the history of metal, it is something to be cherished and celebrated. One such case is Cirith Ungol, one of the first metal bands. Formed in 1972, Cirith Ungol was one of the bands to first play what will later be recognized as doom metal but also contributed much to progressive metal and power metal, the latter mostly through their lyrics, cover art and track names. And yet, five or so years ago, no one outside of very dedicated circles was even aware these guys existed; what happened?
Oh boy, it’s time to have some fun. Yeah, you heard me; The Neptune Power Federation is here to deliver the vibes first created in the heat of the mid-late 60’s, blending off the cuff science fiction, bright colors and fuzzy guitar riffs into one heady concotion. Remember when heavy metal/rock was all…
Despite having made a fairly triumphant return to form with their last album, 2015’s Hammer of the Witches, Cradle of Filth seemed to be doing everything in their power to quash that momentum in the lead up to to their twelfth full-length offering, Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay. The album’s hokey artwork only added to the off-putting nature brought on by its clunky title, and the two uninspiring singles and the seemingly rushed and seemingly un-selfawarely camp videos that accompanied them did little to drum up confidence in the forthcoming record. Add to that the release of Carach Angren’s similarly-themed Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten—released earlier in the year to widespread acclaim and popularity—and it really looked like the Brits had painted themselves into a corner from which there was little hope of return. Fans of the band needn’t have worried, however, for Cryptoriana is yet another surprisingly solid entry into one of the most consistent catalogues in the history of extreme metal.
While death and black metal are seeing amazing leaps forward in talent, production, and ability for the denizens of the traditional metal world what we’re seeing from bands such as Enforcer, dawnbringer, Sumerlands, Eternal Champion, and Striker must seem like manna from heaven… or hell, depending upon your preference. One band that has been plugging away at this style, beginning as a bit of a Mercyful Fate worship act and evolving with each new release is Sweden’s Portrait (the band name derives from Diamond’s first solo album, Fatal Portrait). On their latest offering, Burn the World, we see a band who is getting comfortable with their own take on the venerable speed riffs, blazing solos, and soaring vocals of trad metal creating an addictive blend for fans.
Cradle of Filth have become one of the most recognisable and quickly dismissed names in extreme metal. Yet, although the band are widely regarded as populist, entry level rendition of the black metal formula, a closer look at their extensive catalogue reveals a far more innovative and surprisingly consistent act than their reputation suggests. Since their discography is so extensive—the band have released eleven full-length studio efforts to date, with one in the pipeline as we speak, and numerous and often notable tidbits here and there—this survey has been broken up into two sections. This first offering examines what many would consider to be the band’s classic period: moving through their early, formative years, up until their commercial breakthrough and (only) major label release in 2003; while part two will pick up from 2004’s Nymphetamine and carry through to the present day.
Djent had an explosive entrance into the world of heavy music, around the start of the decade. It was a truly exciting occurrence, with first-wave acts like Periphery, Animals As Leaders and Cloudkicker filtering the technically-driven progressive sound of acts like Meshuggah, Sikth, and those of the budding “Sumeriancore” movement, into something altogether more accessible, while still retaining much of their forebears’ technical and progressive edge. Yet, like most new sub-genres, djent quickly devolved into pastiche and gave way to over saturation—perhaps a little bit quicker than most. Djent, it seems, has had a propperly ballistic trajectory, and—in 2017—as its momentum trails off, it’s hard to get excited about this once-promising phenomenon.
Metalcore wasn’t always the poppy, hair-flipping, Jonas Brothers-ass affair that it turned into during the early to mid 2000s. Metal and punk have always had an interesting dynamic and when the two cross over it has almost always resulted in compelling music. Black Flag showed their love for Black Sabbath on My War and the first thrash records of the early 80s are seriously indebted to hardcore punk and crust punk. In the 1990s, metalcore was one of the many punk-metal amalgams thriving. It combined the sludgy, downtuned, groovy metal of the day with the politics, angst, and breakdowns of hardcore punk. One of the originators of this fusion, Integrity, gained their popularity off their highly influential debut album, Those Who Fear Tomorrow, a thundering record that still holds up today. Unlike many of the bands in that early metalcore scene, Integrity hasn’t gone away since their legendary early release. On the contrary, the band is still firmly plugged into the current metal-punk world and makes some of the most interesting metalcore available. Their newest album, Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume, continues their long streak of successes.
Metal, like any current history, is a neverending story — a songbook perpetually revising its denouement in the storm of new releases shattering our ears and expectations by the month. But as exciting as it is to experience the history unfolding before us, that work is already done by listeners and blogs like this one on a daily basis. Vitally important and critically overlooked, I think, is the history of metal — the first chapters yellowing in the forty-odd years since they were bound in black and leather. This post, then, will serve as a continuation of this article detailing the early days of metal, and particularly the incredible importance of Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast to the fledgling genre.
Power ballads are in and of their nature sentimental sap-a-thons. They also happen to be one of the staples of metal and hard rock that kept its faint heartbeat alive at a time when the form had gone out of style with the mass public, if it had ever well and truly been “in.” These songs also served as gateways into metal for many a budding metalhead along with the more accessible songs that weren’t quite pop but had those sensibilities of melody and catchiness. This list is by no means definitive but it’s ours spanning a few decades and variants worth of feels. A number of contributors have added their favorites but please do share yours with us in the comments!
The story of metal is not linear. We didn’t arrive at the mayhem lurking in our Spotify playlists through a measured progression of technique, style, and genre. Rather, the evolution came in leaps and bounds, with dead ends and bursts of growth and pockets of innovation. To continue the evolutionary metaphor: the Cambrian Explosion of metal shot off in the mid 1980’s, as subgenres and geniuses and success combined into a specimen closely resembling much of modern metal. But the growth, although frantic, wasn’t instantaneous; rather, it seemed to expand exponentially from a single source, a catalyst in a chain reaction. That incipient band, the patient zero of metal as we know it today, is Iron Maiden. More precisely, the stratospheric success of The Number of the Beast, with it’s intricate compositions, transgressive lyrics, and trailblazing progressivity, diverged metal from hard rock completely and legitimized metal as a commercial viability, heralding the eruption of metal in the years to follow.