The Musicorium

Sharing some music.

A Dip into Metal

Posted by David on December 3, 2009

Metal is a meta-genre toward which I have always had mixed reactions. Some of it seems puerile and unimaginative; some of it is original and deliberately, even obtusely, complex. Some of its characteristic sounds strike me as quite inedible (e.g. some chord progressions, many vocals); others have the character of pure auditory candy (e.g. crunchy distortion), and others I’m not quite sure what to think about (e.g. machine-gun kick drums). Some of it seems simple and talentless, and some of it seems to be among the most technically demanding music ever conceived. The whole genre is suffused with this inexhaustible love for lavish imagery and album concepts, with some branches straying regularly into unbelievable levels of campiness (e.g., the Christmas-obsessed Trans-Siberian Orchestra, or the entire Lord of the Rings-themed Blind Guardian album) — but there is something uniquely endearing about this penchant for visual and thematic hyper-indulgence as well.

I’m sure a lot of this variation in my opinions can be attributed to the variation among the many styles of metal, which are numerous enough that I have not begun to be able to differentiate them. I’m also sure that, as with almost everything people get into, a great deal of the enjoyment is to be found in relatively minor nuances of contrast between artists and songs — nuances that are only detectable to someone who’s already intimately familiar with the genre, for whom it no longer sounds like a wall of alien noise. This suspicion has motivated me on a couple of attempts to listen to and get familiar with metal, with varying success. While not deliberately trekking at present, I’ve recently come across the following couple of albums quite at random, and despite persistent patches of ambivalence have also liked a lot of things about them:

Mastodon – Leviathan:

Wikipedia tells me that Mastodon is a heavy metal band and that their genres are ‘progressive metal’ and ‘sludge metal’. My copy of the album, for what it’s worth, has them tagged as ‘Progressive Deathcore’. Leviathan seems to have a strong Moby Dick theme (one song is, indeed, titled “I Am Ahab”). As general concepts for albums go, the names of giant beasts and mythical creatures totally do it for me without me, you know, having to feel silly about it. (I mean, check this shit out — in fact, all of their albums appear to have similarly gorgeous, evocative art by one Paul Romano.) On top of plenty of quality, aggressive gnarliness, there is lots of interesting variation and progression on the album, as well as some cool harmonies of a sort I’d love to hear more of (see the awesomely thunderous ending of the song below:)

Gojira – The Way of All Flesh

Gojira is a ‘progressive death metal band’ whose genres apparently include death metal, thrash metal, progressive metal and groove metal. There are lots of awesomely chunky guitar riffs, complex rhythms, and insanely rapid drumming throughout. According, again, to Wikipedia, “Gojira uses its lyrics to spread its spiritual beliefs and concerns for the environment”. Huh! Well, I’ll have to take your word for it, Wikipedia. I think I had assumed the screamed inaudibility of many metal lyrics to be a sort of deliberate act of mercy before, but I will try to actually pay attention.

I’m particularly enamoured of this one:

Onward on the project of expanding musical tastes! Onward!


5 Responses to “A Dip into Metal”

  1. Steve said

    This is uncanny, man. I logged on tonight to write a review of Leviathan! Great minds…

    • David said

      Hah! Seriously?

      After writing this far-too-ambivalent post, I acquired two more albums of Mastodon’s and one by a similar band, Baroness, and I’ve pretty much just been rocking out to them continuously since then.
      In fact… this calls for an addendum!

  2. Steve said

    Yeah, Mastodon has really impressed me. The lyrics on Leviathan weave through Moby Dick, Norse mythology, history, and a host of other topics in a really literate and interesting way.

    The same is true for Crack the Skye, which I also have and listen to a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a better premise for a concept album: Wheelchair bound man tries to kill himself by forcing his soul out of his body, gets sucked through a temporal vortex while doing so, and winds up riding along with Rasputin’s body in the last days of the Tsarist regime. Yeah. Process that people. Off. the. chain. It drags in spots, and I don’t like it as much as I like Leviathan (which I aboslutely f’ing love), but it is a fantastic record. It’s good to hear heavier rock music getting ambitious again, instead of just going with the tried and true formula of moping and self-loathing at high decibels.

    • David said

      Haha, that’s a wicked concept. (I didn’t notice, as I didn’t read any background and don’t listen to lyrics so good)
      I love “The Czar” and “The Last Baron”.
      Yeah, I find this stuff vastly more pleasant and interesting than most hard rock/metal.

      I haven’t been posting here because I haven’t been taking in too much new stuff. In fact, I’ve pretty much just been listening to Crack the Skye and now, especially, Baroness, over and over, and absolutely loving it. I really recommend them, both the Red Album and the Blue Record. Both are conveniently listenable on youtube:

      • Steve said

        Got both of these just recently and have really been listening to Red Album–only because it’s first, there’s a lot going on, and it’s the earlier of the pair.

        And there is an awful lot happening in this music–as much as there is in Mastodon’s lyrics, actually. I am very impressed. Great recommendation on these guys, David. Tip ‘o the cap to you sir.

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