In response to my rather downbeat post on Metallica, Pedro Lopes responded that heavy metal had actually exploded in the 1990s (rather than ambled into irrelevance as I had rather carelessly implied). In a sequence of four massive comments [part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4], he laid out a listening programme of thirty more modern metal bands. And in a fifth comment, he made individual track suggestions for most of the bands.
Now, with his kind permission, I have integrated his mammoth comment sequence into a single mammoth post, with embedded YouTube links. Enjoy! [And note that I do not endorse any of these bands, albums or songs.]
Over to Pedro!
Mike, covering the breadth of stuff that happened in the 90s would take a whole blog series indeed. Unfortunately I’m too lazy to blog :)
Instead I’ll try to give you a list of stuff that’s worth at least knowing about. Obviously this will be biased to my tastes (which don’t cover hardcore punk at all, so I expect no overlap with gavinburrows’ list!). I’ll refer to favourite albums for each band.
I won’t cover bands with substantial careers before 1990, even though many of them of course released great albums through the 90s.
Enough disclaimers, lets get started!
1) My Dying Bride – The Angel and the Dark River: The Cry of Mankind
2) Anathema – Alternative 4
Really hard for me to single out a track from this one. I’ll go with Fragile Dreams just because it’s the most popular:
3) Paradise Lost – Draconian Times: Forever Failure
The british doomdeath trio, most notable for having 2 of the 3 bands abandon the style almost as soon as they created it :) MDB are the exception, having kept remarkably consistent throughout their (still ongoing) career. If ever a band turned the thematic darkness and depression all the way up to 11, it’s MDB. Not to everybody’s tastes, but I quite like them.
Then there’s Anathema, one of my all time favourite bands (In fact just saw them live for the 3rd time last week. Yay!). If you listen to their albums in order there is a very smooth progression from where they started to where they are now (which I’d guess could be qualified as prog rock), but if you were to take their first and latest album you’d be hard pressed to even identify them as the same band. Still, much as I like their later stuff the peak for me remains Alternative 4 and Judgement from the mid 90s.
Paradise Lost in turn wandered through various phases. Draconian Times would be from their gothic metal phase. Later they veered to a more electronic rock sound (Depeche Mode is a frequent comparison – some people mean that derisively but I don’t).
4) Moonspell – Wolfheart: Alma Mater
Speaking of gothic metal, can’t leave out Moonspell (incidentally the only countrymen of mine likely to make this list). Like Paradise Lost they changed they sound gradually over the years, but Wolfheart is still considered one of the founding albums of the genre.
5) Tiamat – Wildhoney
I gave up on choosing a representative track for this one. Tracks even flow into each other without pause, it’s really best taken as whole:
This one is generally classified as gothic metal, though personally I don’t see it. Whatever genre, it’s rightly considered a landmark album. The band changed styles several times during their career (this is a common theme as you can see) but I like pretty much everything from Wildhoney onward.
6) Dream Theater – Images And Words: Pull Me Under
I suspect this will be the 22nd entry in your series, so I’ll say no more :)
[Editor’s note: he was right!]
7) Opeth – Still Life: Face of Melinda
More prog. To be honest Opeth really came into their own in the early 2000s with the stunning trio of albums Blackwater Park, Deliverance and Damnation. But Still Life from 1999 is a great album in it’s own right.
8) Tool – AEnima
I’m going to cheat and link two songs, because of the way the album is kind of split between looking back to the sound of Undertow (in the case of Stinkfist):
And forward to what would come in Lateralus (in the case of Forty Six & 2):
And then I’m going to cheat even more by linking to the live version of Pushit because it’s just so amazing I can’t help myself:
And more prog. The Tool sound changed a lot between Undertow (93) and Lateralus (2001). AEnima is sort of caught in the transition, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad album, in fact I easily consider it one of the best of the decade. By one of the best bands of all time. (I know, being a Tool fanboy is not exactly original but what can I say…)
9) Therion – Vovin: The Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah
10) Haggard – And Thou Shalt Trust… The Seer
Just start listening from the beginning:
Fusing metal with classical music in various ways was a common theme all throughout this period. Therion kind of stands head and shoulders above the rest though. Vovin is a favorite, but Theli and Deggial are also worth a listen.
Where Therion is full of symphonic bombast, Haggard drinks more form quieter baroque influences, with some fully classical tracks. “And Thou Shalt Trust…” is their first album. I actually like the second one (“Awaking The Centuries”) better, but it’s from 2000 so disqualified.
11) Sepultura – Chaos A.D.
A little more cheating. Kaiowas:
One of the most influential bands in thrash metal genre came, unexpectedly, from Brasil. Technically Sepultura were active from mid 80s, but it was in the early 90s that they broke through with Arise, Chaos A.D. and Roots. The last is probably their best know album, but Chaos A.D. gets my preference.
With the exception of Metallica I don’t really listen to much thrash metal, but at their peak Sepultura were honestly amazing. Just don’t bother with anything after the Max Cavalera era.
12) Deftones – Adrenaline; Around The Fur: Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)
13) System Of A Down – System Of A Down
A single track can’t possibly cover the range of SoaD’s craziness, so here are two. Spiders:
So called nu-metal gets looked down upon by a lot people; I know because most of the time I’m one of them. But there are exceptions, and these are two worthy ones, in no small part because of their exceptional vocalists.
Deftones wouldn’t reach my favourite phase until later but I still listened to these late 90s albums quite a bit.
As for SoaD, I have to confess I admire them more often than I like them. But when I like them I really like them.
14) Rammstein – Herzeleid: Rammstein
(Naturally I had to link to the live version, because Rammstein)
The only industrial metal entry on this list, about which I will say only this: unless you really can’t tolerate their music, make sure you go see a Rammstein concert at least once in your life. You can thank me later.
15) Skyclad – Irrational Anthems: Inequality Street
16) In Extremo – Verehrt und angespien: Herr Mannelig
Folk metal is a whole world which I have only dipped my toes into (sorry, mixed metaphor). As a bonus for people who get tired of the thematic doom and gloom that pervades so much of metal, folk tends to be pretty upbeat. If you’ve ever been to a Finntroll concert, ‘manic’ might even be the word that comes to mind :)
Skyclad are generally considered founders of the genre. As for In Extremo, what can I say, metal would not be the same without germans in lederhosen playing bagpipes.
17) The 3rd and the Mortal – Tears Laid In Earth
I can’t bring myself to pluck a single track from this. It deserves to be taken in at it’s own melancholy pace. Finding the whole album on Youtube was tricky, this playlist seems to be complete:
18) Nightwish – Oceanborn: Stargazers
Before the 90s female-fronted metal bands were a rarity (in fact the only one I can think of is Doro Pesch’s Warlock). This changed radically in the mid 90s, when the european metal scene saw the birth and quick rise to popularity of number of very influential bands. The styles pioneered by these bands haven’t waned in popularity either, even now almost 20 years later (though the freshness inevitably has…)
The 3rd and the Mortal meandered through a lot of different genres in their carreer but it’s their first two recordings with singer Kari Rueslatten that earn them a place in this list. With the “Sorrow” EP being released in 1993 they were at the forefront of this movement, and the following “Tears Laid In Earth” is probably one of my favorite albums of the decade. I can’t really give a deep explanation as to why – some music simply has the effect of transporting you to faraway landscapes and Tears’s sparse doom stylings just do it for me…
Sadly The 3rd and the Mortal remain mostly unknown. Nightwish on the other hand never suffered from that problem, having made quite a splash from the beginning. As far as I’m concerned the attention was deserved: drop a classically trained Opera singer in the middle of a power metal band and the result is going to be hard to ignore. (Assuming all the people involved have the chops to pull it off, which they did.) For me their peak was the second album, “Oceanborn”. At this point they’ve found their pace but haven’t had time to soften or get repetitive, which their later albuns kind of did IMO.
19) Theatre of Tragedy – Theatre of Tragedy: A Hamlet For A Slothful Vassal
20) Tristania – Beyond The Veil: Aphelion
Theatre of Tragedy’s first two albums featured two contrasting vocals, one male in “death grunt” style and one female in a very clear soprano. They abandoned this style (nicknamed “beauty and the beast”) by their third album Aégis, which features only the female vocals. (That makes it a better starting point for those who are turned off by death-style vocals.)
After Aégis ToT veered off in a different direction entirely, but the idea of contrasting vocals would be picked up by many bands. The most interesting of those was Tristania, though aside from the choice of singers their sound is very different from ToT’s quiet goth style. Beyond The Veil instead is a relentless charge of symphonic metal, with a little bit of everything thrown in for good measure.
21) The Gathering – Mandylion: In Motion #1
After two albums with a revolving set of singers, The Gathering finally found stability with the joining of Anneke van Giersbergen before the release of Mandylion. Giersbergen remained with the band for about a decade and every album from that era is worth a listen, even if from How to Measure a Planet? onward metal was left decidedly behind in favor of a (rather hard to classify) more experimental rock sound.
22) Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine: Settle For Nothing
Even though RATM gained popularity pretty much from the outset, it took me a long time to start liking them. Perhaps the concept of rap metal was too much for me to accept at the time (yet I remember listening to Clawfinger’s “Deaf Dumb Blind” around the same time, so I don’t know…) Whatever the case, I came around, and the band’s historical significance is undeniable. They’re also the band with the most relentlessly political message in this list (Sepultura would come second). The real-world focus is something the genre could use a little more of – there are plenty of elves and demons and dark rituals in metal already.
23) Faith No More – Angel Dust: Kindergarten
Including Faith No More in this list breaks the rules I set out at the start. FNM were active long before 1990, though without landmark singer Mike Patton so I’m using that as my excuse. Also, the reason I have FNM filed next to ‘metal’ in my mind has more to do with personal context than with their actual style. But I’m including them anyway because it’s my list :), and because I think gradually absorbing the band’s (and Patton’s) sometimes crazy streching and mixing of styles is what would latter make me able to apreciate bands like System of a Down or RATM.
24) White Zombie – La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Vol. 1: Thunder Kiss ’65
Not much to say about this, just good clean B-Movie entertainment :)
25) Fear Factory – Obsolete: Edgecrusher
I think I said Rammstein would the only industrial metal band in the list. Then I remembered about Fear Factory. Oops.
I confess I don’t listen to them all that much – it’s something I like but can only take in small doses. Fear Factory’s 90s output is admirable for the way it innovated and the influence it had in the american metal scene though, and that’s enough to tip the scales towards inclusion.
26) Blind Guardian – Imaginations From The Other Side: Imaginations From The Other Side
27) Iced Earth – The Dark Saga: I Died for You
The power metal genre descends rather directly from the style of NWOBHM bands like Iron Maiden. It was hugely popular in the 80s and remained no less so in the 90s. It’s a vast genre and I must admit I’m not very knowlegeable about it. Partly it’s because while I can enjoy most power metal bands, I find I usually get tired of listening faster than the length of an album (the same was already true of Iron Maiden). Blind Guardian and to a lesser extent Iced Earth are exceptions, and that’s why they make the list. Later members from both bands would form the excelent Demons & Wizards supergroup, but that’s for a different decade.
28) Samael – Exodus: From Malkuth To Kether
Samael started out playing black metal, but things only got interesting to my tastes when they started moving away from that into a rather hard to classify style incorporating more electronic sounds. This transformation would culminate with 2004’s Reign of Light, but was already pretty much done by the time the Exodus EP came out in 1998.
29) Amorphis – Tales From The Thousand Lakes: Black Winter Day
30) Sentenced – Amok: Nepenthe
These two bands followed very similar paths, starting out as straight death metal, then working in more melodic elements (the era these albums are from), and finally leaving death influences behind completely in favor a more mainstream style in the 2000s. (There is a difference though in that I still like everything Amorphis does, but Sentenced’s later output frankly was not very good.)
Amorphis and Sentenced are a good way to close this list; they’re part of the reason I’m even writing it today. Both of these albums – plus Tiamat’s Wildhoney – came out in 1994, right around the time when I first began becoming aware of the European metal scene, in good part because of a great local radio station that revealed this huge number of bands and styles I had no idea existed. They were the gateway to a lot of the music I would come to love.