First track: Day One: Vigil
Eye-opening track: Day Fifteen: Betrayal
Favorite track: Day Two: Isolation
Ever since I heard Tobias Sammett's Avantasia back in 2006, I was hooked on the metal opera concept. Only thing is, I thought Avantasia was the only one out there. Lo and behold, as I started looking more into the progressive metal genre, I started hearing about another metal opera called Ayreon. One album, The Human Equation featured James Labrie of Dream Theater and Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth, two of my favorite prog metal bands. Needless to say, it didn't take long for the 2-CD monstrosity of an album to grow on me. 01011001 was no different. Ayreon isn’t the heaviest artist I know by any means, but I really enjoy how effective Arjen Lucassen can make music “heavy”. And with the all-star casts he employs, there’s really no reason not to like the band.
2. Devin Townsend / The Devin Townsend Band
First: Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!
Eye-opener: Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!
Favorite: Earth Day
Strapping Young Lad was one of my more pleasent discoveries last year, so it was only natural that I would look into Hevy Devy's solo stuff. Ziltoid the Omniscient was in the same vein as SYL, with enough oddities to make it a unique project. So I picked up Terria expecting the same thing and was at first disgusted. It reminded me of the times as a kid when I poured some sugar in my hand and licked it, only to find out that it was salt. Salt isn't bad, but my brain completely rejected it. (back to Terria) I thought "What the fuck is this? Metal to sleep to? Metal to listen to on the beach?" It took me some time to grasp the radically different and atmospheric feeling I got from the album, but now it feels as powerful to me as the heaviest SYL songs. I can easily say that Hevy Devy is a musical genius. He is the reason why Canada is cool... along with Rush, of course.
3. Muse (thanks maestrosync)
First: Stockholm Syndrome
Eye-opener: Knights of Cydonia
Favorite: Stockholm Syndrome
“Have you been living under a rock? How can one of the Top 10 artists on Last.fm be a NEW discovery?” Well, Midwest USA isn’t necessarily the best audience for British alternative rock bands, and if you look at my charts, I’m not really an alt rock guy, especially post-2000. Either way, I can imagine my fellow metalheads closing this journal right now. (moving on) I heard Stockholm Syndrome only because people were claiming that Dream Theater’s Never Enough ripped it off—which in retrospect was pretty accurate—but I never really gave it the time of day. Then I played Knights of Cydonia on video game Guitar Hero III and really enjoyed it, especially with the Iron Maiden-esque galloping. After taking some recommendations from fellow Last.fm-ers and reading a blog from the mighty Robb Flynn of Machine Head (who is a huge fan), I picked up Absolution and was impressed. For a dubbed alternative band, they had quite a proggy and heavy sound to them. Even with their poppy radio hits like Starlight, they’re so damn catchy that I can’t help but like it. Ohh, and they cover Rage Against the Machine in concert… instant bonus points!
4. Arch Enemy (thanks El_Mago_Albo)
First: My Apocalypse
Eye-opener: Taking Back My Soul
Favorite: Taking Back My Soul
There are some bands that I can’t stand no matter how many chances I give them, then one day it “clicks” and my opinion turns around. Lamb of God is a good example, and this is another. My good friend El_Mago_Albo (Jorge) tried time and time again to get me into Arch Enemy, but to no avail. Maybe it just creeped me out hearing harsh vocals like that coming out of a female, I don’t know. He convinced me to pick up Doomsday Machine and once I heard the intro to Taking Back My Soul, it clicked. It is some very solid melodic death metal, and I have been able to come to terms with myself that Angela Gossow can turn me on and scare me at the same time.
First: The Dnieper Rapids
Eye-opener: To Holmgard And Beyond
Favorite: To Holmgard and Beyond
I am a big Ensiferum fan and was able to see them in Mokena, IL (Chicago) back in May. Their direct support was Turisas, who came out looking like this:
I had never heard of them before, but by looks alone I knew that they were going to be awesome, and I was not disappointed. It was the first time that I danced in a mosh pit, but the best part was when they divided the crowd into two sections. I thought (along with security) that we were going to have a Lamb of God-esque Wall of Death mosh, but no. Instead, there was a folk song sing-off with help from the band’s fiddler and accordionist (the latter of which was ungodly hott and unfortunately not pictured above). It was probably the most fun I’ve had at a metal show; they definitely stole the show from Ensiferum in my book. But about the music... it’s folky, it’s metal, and it is EPIC. Combine it with the aforementioned look, and you earn a place in my metal heart.
6. Cavalera Conspiracy
Hey look, Sepultura is back. Well actually, it’s more of a mix between Sepultura and Soulfly. Either way, it’s great to have Max and Igor Cavalera making music again. Not much else to say here.
First: Vindfärd / Människopesten
Favorite: Jaktens Tid
See #4. I just couldn’t get into these guys, even though one of my friends was obsessed with them. He had actually given me most of their discography a few years back, but I guess I didn’t get the whole troll polka metal thing when I first heard them. At that time, the only folk metal I had heard was Ensiferum, but I hadn’t really expanded my tastes to that type of music. Then he more or less forced me to see them in concert, so I made myself give them another listen before seeing the show. This was right after the Ensiferum/Turisas show so I was definitely craving that kind of music—plus I became exposed to similar bands like Korpiklaani and Elvenking—so it didn’t take me long for my opinion on them to improve. Their show was a blast, and I’ve been a fan since. This is truly what music would sound like if it came from trolls.
First: Lack of Comprehension
Eye-opener: Lack of Comprehension
Favorite: Lack of Comprehension
I have never been a fan of true death metal, and seeing that this was a metal band called Death, they weren’t high on my list for bands to check out. That is, until I heard Iced Earth’s album Horror Show. I like Iced Earth but was especially blown away by the awesome bass and drums, only to find in the liner notes that both have performed in Death. I gave Human a listen—which featured the bass player who played on Horror Show—and enjoyed it. The vocals, while not quite stereotypical death metal, still aren’t too appealing to me, but overall I enjoy the band’s technicality.
9. 3 Inches of Blood
First: Night Marauders
Eye-opener: Night Marauders
Favorite: Night Marauders
I was an admitted fan of The Darkness during their short-lived career: a sound reminiscent of 20+ years ago, crazy falsettos, and yet I couldn’t tell whether they're serious or a parody band. On the other hand, I didn’t really care either. To me, 3 Inches of Blood is The Darkness of metal. I’ve only had Fire Up The Blades a very short time, but have already fallen in love with the band. Night Marauders was my first (and favorite) listen. At first, it sounded like a pretty good power metal/melodic death metal mix (a la Children of Bodom, and then the epic Halford-esque screaming kicks in at the 45-second mark. When I heard the mighty cry of “NIGHT MARAUUUUUDERRRRRRRRS!!!!” I actually got a little giddy inside I liked it so much. This is definitely a breath of fresh air to the metal genre.
First: Over the Wall
Eye-opener: John Doe
Favorite: Souls of Black
Considering I am a fan of the “big four” of thrash metal (Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer), it’s a little embarrassing that I had never heard anything from Testament. I had heard their name thrown around, especially once I got on Last.fm, but that was about it. I got a DVD compilation from Wacken 2003 some time back, which featured a live version of Over the Wall. I had no qualms with the thrashy instrumentation, but the way Chuck Billy spit out the vocals sounded like William Murderface from Dethklok when working on his side project, Planet Piss (example). Needless to say, I was pretty turned off, but I picked up their greatest hits The Spitfire Collection at a used music store because it was heavily discounted. To my delight, the vocals definitely sound better in the studio. Now, Over the Wall was not only listenable, but actually quite good! I’ve got nothing but respect for these thrash behemoths, even if Chuck sounds terrible in the Christmas metal version of Silent Night.
Zimmers Hole (thanks ShadowFury)
Raunchy (thanks apujols)
Austrian Death Machine
Single Bullet Theory
Straight Line Stitch
HORSE the band (thanks Armacost)
Like previous years, I knew that I would discover some new bands in 2008. I dove a little further into power/prog, but one thing that I was proud of is that many of my discoveries were from bands that I had discarded in the past, back when I was more closed-minded in taste. Shamefully, there were some bands recommended from past journals that I still haven’t checked out, so I’m including them here as a reminder to me to give them a listen in 2009.
Feel free to provide any comments, add some of your new discoveries, or give me some additional recommendations.