I am what one would call a metal head. It’s amusing to compare current me to 5-year-old me, the me who thought metal sounded stupid. If you had told him that he was going to love metal someday, he probably would’ve laughed. The story of my transition is nothing special, I just listened to what my older brother listened to. As he began to listen to heavier styles of music, I realized that I enjoy heavy music myself. We didn’t get into proper metal, though, until I was in middle school. The rest, as they say, is history. Out of all the metal bands I’ve listened to, the ones in this list stand firm as my personal favorites.
The Devin Townsend Band
This first entry is sort of a cheat, because I’m really referring to more than just The Devin Townsend Band, which technically saw the release of only two albums. All the albums released under this name and the solo name Devin Townsend are stylistically similar to the point that they can fairly be put under the same umbrella, which is what I’m doing.
The music offered by this progressive metal band is truly sublime. It’s packed with emotion, capable of capturing several different moods whether they be sad or joyous. Each album will give you a different yet equally amazing experience, even the weird ones. Then there’s the singing. Devin’s vocals are a tour de force. His voice can be beautiful, goofy, happy, mournful, angry–there’s no one who matches him. Devin’s phenomenal vocals combined with the fantastic music makes for a sound that none can compare to. There is no band I love more than this one right here. The next entry is a close second, though.
“Deadhead” from “Accelerated Evolution”
Strapping Young Lad
Strapping Young Lad was formed back in the mid-90s by none other than the same man from the previous entry, Devin Townsend. Before crying foul about having him on here twice, let me just say that these two bands are very, very different.
I don’t even know how to classify this band. I’ve heard the phrase “extreme metal” used to describe the band, and it seems appropriate, so I’ll go with that. If I had to describe the music to someone, I would say it’s like an angry, maniacal wall of sound. It’s an aggressive assault on the ears that’s sometimes accompanied by a touch of humor. Devin’s vocals are just as incredible here as they are in his other work, albeit for a different reason. The man is the master of the scream, and he puts that talent on full display in Strapping Young Lad. All of this culminates in a truly distinct sound that simply cannot be found elsewhere even today, 12 years after the band dissolved.
“Shitstorm” from “Alien”
Gojira was formed in 1996 over in France and have since become quite well known in the metal scene. They’re still going strong, in fact. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on what genre they fall under. The two that I consistently see pop up are progressive and death metal. I vote for just saying “metal” and calling it a day.
It should come as no surprise at this point that a big part of why I like them is that they have their own sound. That’s especially impressive in this case because their sound has changed over the years. Gojira has always delivered heavy music, but their earlier work was something else. It was weird, it was groovy, and it was brutally heavy–heavier than their music is today. I also enjoy Joe Duplantier’s vocal work. He has a great, instantly recognizable growl style; something entirely too many metal bands these days lack. Gojira is also known for having environmentalist messages in their music. That’s a good message to send, and it’s pretty amusing. Never before has the desire to save the planet been so metal.
Fun fact: Godzilla’s name in Japanese is Gojira.
“Flying Whales” from “From Mars to Sirius”
This is the one band here that is more of a recent discovery. Leprous is a progressive metal band hailing from Norway. Leprous is really interesting. Each album they’ve made thus far has a different sound from the others. Their most recent album, “Malina,” seems to suggest that they’re starting to move away from their metal roots, but everything they’ve done has been great, and they still technically classify as progressive metal. Their music ranges from heavy to melancholy, some of it beautiful and some of it weird.
The band’s greatest asset, in my opinion, is their vocalist, Einar Solberg. This guy’s voice is downright incredible. Einar’s vocals are gorgeous, powerful, and filled with emotion when he wants them to be. He can do what I can only describe as a harsh falsetto; I’ve never heard anything like it. I can’t put into words how great a vocalist Einar is. Leprous also puts on an amazing live show, the best I’ve ever seen. Not even Devin Townsend beats Leprous when it comes to live performances. I urge anyone and everyone to go see them if they come to town.
“Acquired Taste” from “Bilateral”
Meshuggah is awesome. They formed back in 1987 in Sweden; now they’re practically metal royalty. It’s difficult to say what their genre is. They’ve been pegged as avant-garde metal before, which seems fitting because avant-garde basically means no one knows what the hell it is. Their music is crazy heavy and weird, especially the guitar solos performed by Fredrik Thordendal. I can’t even describe that man’s guitar solos aside from saying that after you’ve heard one, you can recognize him anywhere.
Vocalist Jens Kidman delivers great, distinct vocals that are grossly underappreciated. His vocal style isn’t quite a growl, but it’s still a very harsh sound. I’d say it’s somewhere between a growl and a yell. It’s a very deliberate choice in vocals. The band wanted the singing to have a chunky, percussive quality. Suffice to say, Kidman delivers.
“Demiurge” from “Koloss”