Thursday, July 28, 2011

5 years later - The Ten Greatest Metal Bands

Actually six year later; but since I'm doing a few different five years later posts I'm throwing this in with them.

Six years and two weeks ago, I wrote a post about who I thought the ten greatest metal bands were, here:

It's still one of my most commented on posts every (at one point the comment thread was up to over 100 before I lost all my comments in the move to disqus).

I got yet another comment today, and saw the post was over five years old... and thought I'd take a look again, see if anything had changed.

So, first, the ground rules for consideration:

Okay so ground rules.

1. Solo artists not allowed (including solo artists with backing bands like Dio and Yngwie Malmsteen)

2. This is my "definition" of metal:

Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Blue Cheer, and Blue Oyster Cult don't count (progressive blues, forerunners of metal, not metal yet). Metal wouldnt exist without them, they all made songs that are very much heavy metal, but they aren't metal by this definition.

I AM counting Sabbath as metal however. There is no metal without Sabbath, and although Sabbath with Ozzy trod the edge of metal and progressive blues, they created the entire genre of doom metal, and post Ozzy they got nothing but harder.

"Black Sabbath" (the early 1970 album) is still a little bluesy to be 100% metal. I say it marks the transition from blues based hard rock, into heavy metal, with "Paranoid" (also released in 1970, 9 months after "Black Sabbath") being the first real metal album (though many consider "Black Sabbath" be the first real metal album).

I count Sabbath both with Ozzy, and with Dio (frankly, they were a better metal band with Dio, but a better band as a whole with the first few Ozzy albums). Also, "Heaven and Hell" is Black Sabbath with Dio as the lead singer, so they don't count separately.

A special note on Deep Purple: Many people credit Deep Purple as the first metal band, because a number of their songs between '68 and '74 are either metal, or transitional metal. 
These include the early 1968 instrumental version of "Mandrake Root" (which is definitely a transitional metal song... in fact many of the "bits" of the song are used in many later metal songs), the instrumental "Exposition" from late 1968s "Book of Taliysen" (which is borderline metal/progrock), "Speed King" and "Black Night" (both transitional blues metal) from 1970s "In Rock",  "Fireball" and "Demons Eye" (both transitional metal) from the 1971 album "Fireball", "Highway Star" and "Space Truckin" from 1972s "Machine Head" (the first very much metal, the second transitional metal), and "Burn" off the 1974 album of the same name. 
Plus of course "Smoke on the Water" (also off "Machine Head") while itself clearly a hard rock song, probably inspired more metal guitarists than any other song of all time.  
 If you listen to those songs above, you will hear the themes, and many of the riffs, runs, and solo structure; in literally thousands of later metal songs. In a real sense, Richie Blackmore (who of course later founded Rainbow) invented the classic metal guitar sound, much as Tony Iommi invented the doom metal sound. 
Frankly, I think  "Highway star" and "Immigrant Song" (Led Zeppelin from 1970s Led Zeppeling III) are in competition for the first speed metal song (but the first speed metal band, was Motorhead, the year after "Rainbow" came out). 
Like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple is one of the bands that mark the transition between hard rock, and progressive blues, and heavy metal; but unlike Sabbath, Deep Purple always stayed on that line, while Sabbath moved further and further across it from 1971 on.  
Rainbow, probably the first band ever formed explicitly to play heavy metal; came out of Deep Purple, and Ronnie James Dios band Elf (talk about heritage) in 1974. 
The release of 1975s "Rainbow" and particularly 1976's "Rainbow Rising", and the 1976 release of Judas Priests "Sad Wings of Destiny" (Priests first album "Rocka Rolla" was more a transitional album), created what we now think of as "Classic Metal"; and in the process launched the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that brought us all the great classic metal of the late 70s and early 80s (though neither were really NWOBHM bands, along with transitional metal band Budgie; they created the platform for Iron Maiden, Saxon, Angel Witch, etc... ). 
Progressive metal (like Dream Theater), and altmetal/grunge metal counts, but progressive hard rock, hard rock, hardcore punk (although I'm wavering on L7 and the MC5) etc.. don't.

I'm on the fence about industrial, goth metal, death metal etc... some of it is real metal some is more electronica... some it just screaming and power chords. Let's make it an artist by artist thing.

Some hairmetal yes, some no. Hell most of it was really hard rock anyway. Let me repeat this, hard rock is not metal. AC/DC, GnR, Crue etc... are not metal. Twisted Sister and Skid Row are right on the edge of real metal (but don't even TRY and tell me that Dee Snider and Sebastian Bach aren't metal), Whitesnake (though I love them and they kick ass) are NOT real metal.

Nu-metal (though I like some of it) is right out...

Well... except System of a down, and Disturbed maybe, and a couple of other bands that are more real metal than nu-metal. I'm thinking of Linkin Park shit whan I say it's right out.

4. They must have been around for at least 5 years, and really 10 to be serious about it. By that I mean they need to have produced an album before 2000, unless someone can tell me there some amazing metal band that transcends it's newness. Damageplan, Audioslave etc.. need not apply.

I DON'T mean they need to have been together for five or ten years. I'm not going to disqualify a spectacular single album band.

5. The criteria for "best" are as follows
Best Music
Biggest Impact on metal
"Most Metal"

Since it's now 2011, bands from 2006 on are in consideration...

And yeah, frankly, nothing in my top ten has changed. I still think most deathmetal/blackmetal is crap. I still hate cookiemonster vocals and breakdowns.

Initially I cheated and only put in my top five, and said there was about a 50 way tie for positions 5 through 10... But what the hell, I'll put down my full top ten here, in order, now:

  1. Black Sabbath (including Heaven and Hell)
  2. Metallica
  3. Iron Maiden
  4. Judas Preist
  5. Megadeth
  6. Slayer
  7. Motorhead
  8. Anthrax
  9. Pantera
  10. ...and then I start cheating again and declare about a 50 way tie for tenth

Also, frankly, above position 4 you could swap any of them around a few places, and I wouldn't care one way or another.

The 50+ way tie starts here (yes, some of these bands are clearly better than others. I'm cheating again).

Dream Theater
Faith no more (okay thats pushing it, they are on the edge between progressive rock and metal)
Korn (yeah, its pushing it, but I think they're real metal)
Alice in chains (prior to Jar of Flies they were real metal)
Soundgarden (prior to Superunkwnown they were real metal)
Mercyful fate (remember what I said about goth/industrial/deathmetal being on the borderline)
Rainbow (Rainbow is probably the first band actually formed to play metal from day 1)
Uriah Heap
Scorpions (yeah they were the best of the '80s arena metal, come on you know it)
Kings X
Danzig (technically a band and not jsut Glen solo but I'm kind of wavering on that one).
Racer X
Suicidal tendencies (oaky I know, more punk but still...)
Type O Negative
Sisters of Mercy
Napalm Death
Fear Factory
Rammstein (again, on the edge of metal, but I love them anyway)
Shadows Fall
System of a Down
Iced Earth
Black label society

And of course there are LOTS more; that's just the "off the top of my head" list.