Metalheads have wide-ranging opinions about their music. I often tell my fiancee that metalheads are very elitist. We were watching the documentary Metal: A Headbanger's Journey the other day and she remarked that she clearly understood just what I mean when I say that we're elitist. A lot of us genuinely believe that we are somehow better than others because of what we listen to. I may or may not be one of those people. It depends on my mood and on the type of clients I have had that day. One thing is for sure though: oftentimes we even look down on other metalheads for the bands they like. The above linked article is a clear example of that.
Here we have an individual who is very outspoken in his criticism against bands. He takes his music very seriously. While I hate a great deal of bands (particularly bands who try to latch onto the metal label while not actually playing metal), it's rare for me to really despise a metal band. It happens. I have mentioned on this blog my disdain for groups like Sunn O))), Isis, Neurosis, and the like. But I don't vehemently oppose these bands. This guy hates quite a few groups, many of which have managed to gain a significant amount of mainstream success. Some of the bands just have annoying fans, and he seems to hate the bands because of the fans.
I want to run down the list and give my personal opinion. I won't complain about his choices or reasoning, just air my own feelings.
Dethklok: This is the cartoon "band" from the Metalocalypse TV show on Cartoon Network. I am not a fan of the show, though I have seen it on a few occasions. I've never been entirely sure if it was laughing at metal or laughing with metal. It's even less clear when the "band" goes on tour with non-metal bands, as they often do. I have heard a couple of songs and while they are obviously not serious songs, they don't completely turn me off. This is a joke band, like Spinal Tap. It's not offensive, it's not great, it just exists.
Cannibal Corpse: I happen to thoroughly enjoy some of Cannibal Corpse's stuff. Yes they're violent, yes they're silly, yes they're grotesque. They are all of these things. But they also enjoy what they're doing and work hard to improve. It's obvious just how much when you listen to Eaten Back to Life and Evisceration Plague back to back. They don't take themselves seriously. Cannibal Corpse is made up of a bunch of nerds who love horror movies and wanted to express that in their own medium.
Opeth: Opeth is a band I have enjoyed for a very long time, since I started getting into extreme metal. While their later albums tend towards more of the progressive passages, it is their ability to move between the heavy and the beautiful that is captivating. There are not a lot of bands capable of these dynamic changes. Their mid-era material is without peer.
Meshuggah: This is one of those bands with really annoying fans. I like Meshuggah's earliest material when they were a death/thrash metal band experimenting with odd time signatures and eternally fluctuating riffs. Their Contradictions Collapse album is an absolute mindfuck. Unfortunately, as time went on, they became obsessed with out-teching themselves and other upstart bands and the music was lost. Now, it's often difficult to listen to Meshuggah. Worse yet, their distorted riffs are beginning to attain a Slipknot quality. Yikes.
Cradle of Filth: Cradle of Filth is a bit of a difficult band to categorize. They have played styles similar to black metal, gothic metal, and death metal, with the occasional thrash riff thrown in. Oftentimes, the biggest complaint is with Dani Filth's high-pitched screeching vocals. But the band's lyrics and storytelling are amazing. Filth has clearly studied a lot of gothic horror and puts this knowledge to great use in crafting the band's sordid tales of lust and death. That and his unique phrasing of the lyrics make this an interesting band to listen to. The music is very atmospheric and dark as well.
Ulver: I admit it. I am not familiar with this band. I will not comment further.
Necrophagist: Necrophagist is like Meshuggah, except where Meshuggah's instrumental focus is on the drums, Necrophagist concentrates on the guitar. Fast, wheedling guitar leads are interwoven throughout the pounding drums. Clearly based in death metal, Necrophagist's greatest strength is in these technical, blazing guitar lines. Their songs are not nearly as long as Meshuggah's, making for an intense listening experience.
Baroness: I am only somewhat familiar with this band. I know Decibel was all over them last year as they took home the coveted (?) Album of the Year from the magazine. I know they play a style of stoner doom, but that's all I know.
In Flames: Sure they play death metal versions of Iron Maiden riffs. That's what's interesting about them. Or, at least it was, until the band was able to break through to the mainstream and vastly simplified their sound. Still, the one thing they kept was their pop sensibility. In Flames has always been able to write a real catchy chorus. They had some great albums in the late 1990's too.
Rammstein: NFM. No comment.
Cynic: Cynic is an enigma. Clearly beginning as a death metal band, they started infusing their music with jazz fusion influences. It sounds a hell of a lot better than one would think. Extremely gifted musicians, Cynic is also able to put together some great songs. However, their most notable feature is the use of vocoder vocals, which was done by accident on Focus. It caught on, so they kept at it.
Wolves in the Throne Room: It wasn't all that long ago that this band was all over every metal board. I'm not sure what happened that people have moved away from them. Maybe they realized the band was fairly boring. As you can tell, I am not a fan.
Boris: This is one of those weird bands that almost plays a different style every album. None of their styles have appealed to me so I have never taken the time to listen to them. No regrets.
Sunn O))): Pass.
Pantera: Pantera has always been a bit of a controversial band in metal circles. On one hand, they were trendhoppers. On the other, they essentially kept the genre afloat in the mainstream when grunge hit. At first, they were a terrible glam band. Then they began mixing power and thrash metal on the awesome Cowboys from Hell album. Then they stole Exhorder's style of groove metal. While not a bad band, the groove metal style quickly became a joke. But Pantera was still far better at it than most other copycats. The music may be simple, but it's also quite good at getting people moving in the pit.