The Year of Extreme Metal

We are three quarters of the way into 2017 and this is only my third post of the year. It’s not because I haven’t been exploring music very much this year. On the contrary, I have bitten into to something larger than almost anything I took on in previous years, with the one exception being my conscious entrance into the world of progressive rock in 2012. I emphasize “conscious” because almost since I began exploring music in the early eighties I had been adding various albums to my collection that fall under the progressive umbrella. I simply wasn’t aware that the music was referred to as “progressive”.

Over the decades, I have generally been into either a band or a sub-genre. In 1986 I was into Nazareth. From 1989 to 1992 I was largely into various styles of Christian rock and metal. For many years, I followed the Canadian power pop rock band, Sloan and other Canadian artists. Then I was looking into Japanese bands. The I got back into Scorpions and after that once more into Deep Purple. The journey I have been making has always kept me exploring new avennues.

This year started out safely enough. I was determined to make 2017 the year I did not spend too much money on music. Early on I became interested in Dream Theater and bought five more albums, and decided to finish off my Opeth collection, purchasing four more albums. For the next eight weeks I placed no orders and only looked forward to a few new releases coming up in the early summer.

But with Opeth I realized that I was at last ready to delve into death metal. Back in the eighties I had loved thrash metal and was a fan of other extreme bands such as Bathory, Kreator, and Celtic Frost. By the time death metal truly became its own sub-genre of metal, however, I was moving away into sixties and seventies proto-metal and early hard rock. I didn’t appreciate the deathly gutteral growls and roars. Strangely enough, as heavy metal whethered the grunge scene and sprouted new branches like nu metal and groove metal, I was not particularly interested. Pantera, Disturbed, and whatever else my metal-loving friend was buying, did not grab me. I liked Marylin Manson a bit; Nine Inch Nails were interesting, but Rob Zombie, Fear Factory, Korn, and System of a Down just didn’t click. Slipknot? They were okay, I guess. As I had no connection with extreme metal bands anymore, I didn’t know what was happening. I just stopped buying Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer albums and enjoyed the classics from the eighties.

So, Opeth was a kind of gateway drug for me, but I had already been primed by Devin Townsend and Strapping Young Lad, and some other bands like Baroness, Mastodon and Suspyre, ready for more aggressive, more brutal, and more compelx music.

Since around May of this year then, I have been exploring the world’s of death metal, Norwegian black metal, death doom metal, a little industrial, thrash and post-metal, and some progressive bands tinkering with metalcore or djent. I check out playlists on YouTube such as “The Best 50 Old School Death Metal Albums (part 1)” or “Top 50 Greatest Thrash Metal Albums of All Time” or “Top 10 Norwegian Black Metal Albums“. The lists go on and on.

Another big help has been Banger TV’s program, “Lock Horns“, which has introduced me to key bands and albums in various branches on the heavy metal tree. Some bands and albums will be mentioned in my YouTube travels two, three or even more times, and it’s those that I often decide to check out, first listening on YouTube to see if I might like them, and then placing the choosen albums in my Amazon cart and putting them on standby. Naturally, not only has my cart reached nearly a hundred albums but I have already brought home about sixty this year. The good thing is that extreme metal albums are often quite a bit cheaper than prog albums, and my guess the reason is because death metal albums –  the older ones anyway – are usually about 35 minutes long as opposed to prog albums which easily go over 65 minutes, sometimes even being double albums.

Choosing albums is not always easy either. Essential albums like Morbid Angel’s Altars of Madness, Cynic’s Focus, or Darkthrone’s Under a Blazing Northern Sky are easy enough; however, when it comes to bands it’s a bigger challenge. Do I choose the essential album, the debut, a recent release, or listen to various samples and choose the one I think sounds best? For Immolation I chose the debut, Dawn of Possession because it came up two or three times on these compilation videos. But it was the most expensive album in their catalogue! For Obituary I chose the album that I thought sounded best and ended up with World Demise, not one of their higher rated albums and not an easy album to get a hold of either (I got a used copy of the CD in near-mint condition but the case and booklet look awful). For Nile I chose the more recent Those Whom the Gods Detest and was duely impressed; however my next purchase of Annihilation of the Wicked didn’t thrill me as much, possibly due to a muddier production. And then there was Vader’s Revelations, one of the cheaper albums but one that got me interested in the band. Two more albums were recently purchased but again, not the same thrill level.

The quest for albums that totally impress me continues.

Yes, I have had a lot I wanted to write about this year. I read the biography of Dream Theater and wanted to write a post. I had things to say about Opeth’s interesting career. More recently, I am interested in just how it was that so many subgenres of extreme metal developed in the eighties and early nineties and also how heavy metal continues to evolve and develop new sounds, playing and song writing styles, and new sub-genres.

But I am still on this new leg of my journey. I am still watching, listening, reading and learning. It is now October and I usually try to wrap up my purchasing for the year by this month. Orders in November can become delayed and arrive just before or during my winter holidays when I have no time to listen to music. I’m considering the last ten albums to order. Should I make it twelve albums? Can I go until January with 90 albums in my Amazon shopping cart and a few more in my Discogs cart without ordering anything? If I watch a video that introduces an important, essential album, can I summon the willpower to just leave it until next year? More importantly, can I afford to keep buying so many CDs?

Music is far too attractive to a mind like mine. But I am loving this part of my journey into extreme heavy metal.

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