I’ve been an avid connoisseur of metal music since I was about 11, having been raised on a diet of classic rock such as Deep Purple, Kiss and Whitesnake, not to mention many more alternative bands from the early 90s scene. It was only natural to progress to the heavier and darker side of such a vast genre.
When I was asked to curate a metal list my heart leapt with excitement at the opportunity, only to be followed by a swift and sudden thud of dread. The realisation that the genre of “metal ,” is such a colossal and overwhelming one, with many crossover bands straddling the line, filling a broad spectrum of sub genres, and the weight of dread that certain bands mean so much to so many people, having die-hard fans across the world. I appreciate this list could infuriate some, and have others tearing their hair out screaming at the screen questioning why certain bands were not included. Though I have tried to include many, I wanted this list to serve both an an introduction to metal and also a cherry-picked compilation of some of the best, still satisfying the fans out there but also reflecting my own personal taste, after all I can only speak about what I know. Metal is ever progressive, and the YouTube version of this list contains many good quality live videos, because what truly lies at the heart of metal is the fans, and their enthusiasm and thirst for such downright angry music.
Perhaps a reason why bands such as Slipknot and Korn are as relevant today as they ever were. People are still fucking angry. The youth are still disaffected, desensitized by the news and even more so through social media, let down by governments, and lied to by the education system. “People=Shit” could not be a more accurate song to sum up the fallacy of Britain’s recent and foolish exist from Europe. Nu-metal spearheaded the early naughties (sic), and the System of a Down video for “Boom!” is an absolute must watch. This quickly evolved into emo metal, and who better to represent such a genre than Bring me the Horizon, with singer Oli Sykes who is an avid vegan and PETA warrior. One thoroughly recommends eating at The Harley in Sheffield where Twisted Burger company teamed up with BMTH to create the “meatiest” vegan burger ever. Other notable vegans appearing on this list are Rob Zombie and Lamb of God.
Industrial metal, containing elements of thrash and techno beats, is possibly the most “danceable” section of this genre. One cannot include Rammstein in this list without a deft nod toward Swedish glam metallers Deathstars, who supported Rammstein on a European tour back in 2011-2012. Their imagery and lyrics are reminiscent of the early glam rockers Kiss and Crue, but effortlessly blend industrial elements as well.
Furthering deeper still, we have the wonderful (and a personal favourite) black/death metal sub genre.
I am a huge Cradle of Filth fan. Firstly, their lyricist and vocalist Dani Filth, not only is a clever business man, but majored in English Literature. As a morbid teen, I would lock myself away in my bedroom, dim the lights, and blast choice albums such as “Midian” and “The principle of evil made flesh”, pouring over the lyrics. Obscure and archaic vocabulary were flung about like sand, and I had to stop every few seconds to grab a dictionary. School may have taught me to read and write, but Cradle of Filth and the like taught me to fucking think and feel. They are one of the main influences in my reading of Shelley, Byron, and Anne Rice. Literature is so intrinsically linked with the genre of music, with references from the philosophy of Anton laVey to the dystopian world of H.P Lovecraft. Their concept albums painted nightmarish pictures, with the album Cruelty and the Beast, about the virgin blood bathing Countess Erzebet Bathory, invoking visions of horror and gothic romance. References to John Milton’s complicated masterpiece Paradise Lost in the album “Damnation and a Day”, both remain a classic in my collection. This violent music is so gently tinged with emotion, littered with sighing female vocals and soft synths, invoking feelings of seduction.
This is one of the main reasons Cradle were and still are shunned by the metal scene. Of course they have die hard fans, and with their vampiric frontman it does not go unnoticed that their content speaks to teenage girls the strongest. But because of their tendency to spout eerie tales of girls lost in the snow, winter queens and the Mother of Evil, Lilith, it seems there is still a refusal to take on board such lasciviousness. As a linguist, one cannot overlook the impact their words have on the English language and my own learning.
Another band in which women feature heavily, and who stretched this endless genre even further into the fiery pits of hell, is Akercocke. Having recently played a great comeback gig at this year’s Bloodstock, Akercocke drummer David Gray, whose extensive career includes that of My Dying Bride, The Antichrist Imperium and The Berzerker, also writes the lyrics, conjuring scenes of sweat soaked satanic orgies. Their later musical releases dared to delve into electronica, and one is interested to hear the new material due for release sometime next year. A little bird informs me it will be reminiscent of the “Words that go unspoken” era, spawning a bastard hybrid of prog and death. The music video on the YouTube list is positively not safe for work. And when Jason had hair. Catch them at The Corpotaion Sheffield in October.
Born from the ashes of the temporary Akercocke hiatus, came The Antichrist Imperium, with Matt Wilcock shredding the shit out of everything. The song included contains possibly the most evil gutturals ever evoked. Turn it up LOUD. Matt now rips for Belligerent Intent in Australia.
There is no denying that there is a gender disparity within the music industry. I have tried my best to include bands which consist of more than just sweaty blokes, without including them simply for the sake that they are fronted by women. One thing I first noticed was a lot of women in metal seem to hail from Scandinavia. Brushing aside the cliche that Scandinavian women are made of stronger stuff, one does not have to look far before the reason becomes obvious. I spend half my time in Sweden and, while it is not perfect, the gender gap is significantly closer than that of England and America. Not once have I been catcalled or told to smile, or sexually harassed, something that happens to me and my friends on a weekly basis back in the UK. The socialization process of youngsters in Scandinavia does not seem to divide the genders so bluntly, with the existence of gender neutral clothing, schools and even pronouns, it is easy to see why women here might believe in themselves more as having equal opportunities as men, especially within the music industry. This list spans from Finnish operatic metal “Nightwish” to self styled sluts Butcher Babies from America, to one woman metal project MYRKUR from Denmark.
Giving way to more technical vibes is Swedish extreme groove metal Meshuggah, whose music video for the same song included is possibly the greatest music video in the history of metal. Meshuggah and the like have influenced one of my favourite bands today and that is Gojira.
This band hailing from France are what I have personally labelled as eco metal. This is cacophony with a cause, supporting anti-whaling charity Sea Shepherd. They sing about the preservation of the planet, protecting whales and accepting the inevitability of death. Singing about such materials as “flying whales in the sky” , when they too played at this year’s’ Bloodstock Open Air Festival, the crowd came armed with inflatable whales and kudos to the dude who crowd surfed with an inflatable blue whale. If you know this guy please tag him! Gojira’s live shows are infallible, the lighting flawless, with spine-shatteringly good vocals from Joe Duplantier, this music should rupture more than just your conscience. I guess I am a lover of the underdog, and this list reflects accordingly, as Gojira have stated in their own words that they “aren’t covered in tattoos” and create “sensitive” music about ecology, and unfortunately not everyone gets them. I want Gojira to be embraced not just for their musical abilities, but for what they are standing for.
As the proverb goes “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”
Listen to metal, love your planet and take care of yourself!
By Lauren Marie
Follow me on Instagram @femistopheles
(Shout out to Saso without whom our presence at Bloodstock this year would not have happened. Legend.)