Metallica Albums Ranked

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The good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s time to rank every Metallica studio album (no live collections, and no collaborations!) in order from worst to best. You probably have a good idea how this list is going to play out… or do you?

St. Anger

This one was a given. Metallica’s songwriting hit an absolute low. The lyrics and this album are downright painful–take this line from ‘Frantic’ as an example: “My lifestyle determines my deathstyle.” Gross. And where are the guitar solos? Metallica, so set the trends, don’t follow them.

Load

Chalk this one up to a disappointment, however, there are a few bright spots on this otherwise unspectacular album. ‘Fuel’ is fun. ‘King Nothing,’ while a complete rewrite of ‘Enter Sandman’ is catchy. The rest? Ugh. There are some questionable decisions on this album too…

Re-Load

…Like making it a two-part album. I think if you cut the crap from both of these albums, you could make one half-decent effort. Sure, it still would have pissed long-time fans off, but it would have at least featured better songs. I don’t care about the hair cuts, or about the fur coats–to me, the music is key. Here, the music wasn’t great.

Death Magnetic

Good songs, bad production. The guitar tones are so incredibly compressed that all the heaviness is sapped out of the songs. It’s frustrating considering tracks like ‘Cyanide,’ and ‘The Day That Never Comes,’ and ‘All Nightmare Long’ are great. If Metallica decided to re-record this album, I would be ecstatic!

Hardwired… To Self Destruct

There are five songs on this album I really like: ‘Hardwired,’ ‘Atlas Rise,’ ‘Now That We’re Dead,’ ‘Moth Into Flame,’ and ‘Spit Out The Bone.’ If Metallica had ditched the entire second disk besides ‘Spit,’ and added ‘Lords Of Summer,’ this would have been one of my favourite albums in their entire discography. However, despite some of the songs dragging on for too long, I can’t help but enjoy the great guitar work, and a return to form from vocalist James Hetfield.

Ride The Lightning

A lot of people would have this higher, I know. The album is a classic, but so are all the albums ahead of it on my list! Overall, this album set in motion what was to come for Metallica, and featured some of their best work. ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ will always be one of my favorites, while ‘Fade To Black,’ is legendary.

Kill ‘Em All

There’s something to be said about the raw energy featured on Kill ‘Em All. The songs are aggressive, electric, and simple. The message is clear: metal up your ass! This has to be the greatest debut album in metal history. The songs have stood the test of time, including the likes of ‘Seek and Destroy,’ and ‘The Four Horsemen.’

…And Justice For All

Metallica reached their musical peak on Justice. The songs are long, brooding, and extremely complex. The album spawned ‘One,’ arguably the best showcase for the band’s immense musical talent. ‘Blackened,’ is my favorite is my all-time favorite Metallica song, so there’s that too!

Metallica

Ah yes, the controversial ‘black’ album. And yes, I ranked it above their the previous three albums. Why? Because this album re-defined a genre. It changed music forever, and whether you like it or not, it opened the door for so many bands that we would never have gotten otherwise. ‘Enter Sandman’ is the biggest metal song in history. The other singles–‘ Sad But True,’ ‘Unforgiven,’ ‘Wherever I May Roam,’ and ‘Nothing Else Matters’ –are all classics and live staples.

Master Of Puppets

Greatest album in metal history? Quite possibly. The title track is the song all metal bands aspire to write, while deeper cuts like ‘Disposable Heroes,’ and ‘Damage, INC.’ are true headbangers. The guitar solos are some of the best Kirk Hammett has ever written, James Hetfield’s lyrics are sharp, and Cliff Burton’s bass work is exceptional. ‘Master’ deserves all the praise, and then some more.

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Machine Head Albums Ranked

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I’ve gone too long without talking about Machine Head on this blog! These guys are the kings of the down-tuned chug. Over the years, their style has seen a bit of change (including a rough stint at the turn of the century), but overall, they’ve delivered plenty of great metal music over the years. Let’s rank their albums from worst to best:

Supercharger

Ew. This was that aforementioned rough point. It’s obvious Machine Head was trying to keep up with the ‘nu-metal’ trend of the time, but it didn’t translate well to their sound, coming off as forced–and just plain bad. ‘Bulldozer” has a cool riff, but other than that, this album is thin on positives.

The Burning Red

This album led into Supercharger, and some of the influences can be heard. However, it was more of a blended sound. Songs such as ‘The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears’ and the title track have held up well, and are still performed live– more than what can be said for the follow-up album.

The More Things Change

Now we’re into the good albums. This one, while disappointing compared to their excellent debut album, was strong. Highlights include ‘Ten Ton Hammer,’ and ‘Take My Scars.’ The album is simple, but very heavy.

Unto The Locust

This epic album really drove home the band’s new progressive direction, and featured some sprawling tracks like ‘Locust’ and ‘Pearls Before The Swine.’ The album is packed full of great riffs, excellent compositions, and grandiose displays of the band’s growing musical talent.

Bloodstone & Diamonds

2014 saw Machine Head release a monster! The album featured ‘Game Over,’ a song about broken friendships. It resonated with everyone and proved to be one of the best songs in the band’s discography. However, that can be said about almost every track on ‘Bloodstone,’ an all-around great album.

Through The Ashes Of Empires

What nu-metal? Machine Head roared back to form with this amazing collection of songs in 2003. ‘Bite The Bullet,’ and ‘Imperium’ launch the album with a bang, while the emotional ‘Descend The Shades Of Night’ closes things out. In-between, we get a whole lot of classic Machine Head; huge, chugging riffs, growled vocals, and guitar solos.

The Blackening 

Things got even better after ‘Through The Ashes Of Empires’ as Machine Head stepped things up a notch. The songs became longer and more complex, while the musicianship reached an unforeseen level. Look no further than tracks such as ‘Halo,’ ‘Wolves,’ and the Dimebag Darrell memoir ‘Aesthetics Of Hate.’

Davidian

Seven words: “LET FREEDOM RING WITH A SHOTGUN BLAST!”

What’s The Future Of Metal?

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This is a frequently asked question: what is the future of metal music?

The best answer: no one knows.

However, it’s fun to try and predict what the coming years will bring, even if any predictions made may be laughably off the mark. To do this, we have to start by looking at the current trends. The most successful (non-legacy) bands right now are the likes of Gojira, Trivium, Mastodon, Ghost and Avenged Sevenfold. The list goes on, but what defines these bands are they broke onto the scene around 2000 and have been building a steady following ever since. However, each has a distinct style.

What is apparent is this: metal is still very popular, which means bands will keep emerging with no sounds. The eighties saw a thrash-metal revolution. The nineties and early two-thousands experienced the dawn of ‘nu-metal,’ while recently, a new wave of thrash has emerged fronted by bands like Havok, Warbringer, and so on. Personally, I don’t see the future being the second coming of thrash. The genre is great, but the giants all reside in the past. The best has already been done.

I’m looking at bands like Gojira for the future. See, complex, mechanic metal like Meshuggah has been making rounds for a good two decades now, but bands like Gojira have taken that style, streamlined it slightly and added a bit of commercial flavor. That is in no way a diss, as it has made the music more accessible. We only need to look at the success of Gojira’s ‘Magma’ album for proof. It fared well with fans, critics, and even with the Academy, as it was nominated for a Grammy award. This is a style of metal that seems to please fair weather fans and purists, alike. My guess is that we will see more bands in the style of Gojira in the next few years. They might add more traditional guitar solos–imagine Gojira with Marty Friedman style soloing? Or what if we see more bass involved in the mix… interesting.

It’s hard to predict, the future that’s for sure. Don’t count out a revitalization of seventies-style metal in lieu of Ghost’s recent success. Satanic elements aside, their music has the potential to reach the masses, with the clean sung-vocals, yet chunky riffing. I would not be surprised to see that grow even more popular as the years go on.

Or who knows, maybe we’ll get something crazy.

Imagine death metal with metal like choruses? Mixing anthem metal with blast beats and tremolo-picked guitars… we’ve seen a bit of that with the new Trivium song ‘The Sin And The Sentence.’ It’s fun to think about, that’s for sure.

What will the future bring? Only time will tell!

 

Better Than You Think

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Death. First, they popularized death metal, then they evolved their sound into something increasingly complex, progressive, and mystifying. Albums like ‘Scream Bloody Gore’ are rough (but iconic), while masterpieces like ‘Human’ and ‘Symbolic’ are true showcases for the late Chuck Schuldiner’s musical genius. However, Death’s final album, ‘The Sound Of Perseverance’ is often held below the others–in my opinion, this is wrong, as the album is just as exceptional as the rest of their catalog.

The first thing you hear is the drums. Crazy, crazy, drums. They pop up throughout the album and wow every time. The same goes for the guitar work. Part of what makes this album so great is the musicianship. Not a single note is wasted. Every single section matters, and it’s only possible because the band is so tight.

Oh, and the bass. The bass sounds absolutely amazing.

One of the things I like the most about the album is how good it sounds. Finally, Death was mixed exceptionally well. You can hear all the instruments, the tones are great, and there is great balance throughout the recordings. Listen to ‘Voice Of The Soul’ and try to deny it’s a masterclass in the recording. The acoustic guitar is so full and beautiful, while the treble-y lead guitars are sharp, but not too harsh.

Another thing: the song writing.

Take the insane ‘Flesh And The Power It Holds,’ for starters. The intro builds so chromatically into the much more chaotic verse of the song. I just love the way you feel like you’re climbing. The band knows exactly what notes to play. This is also present on the opener ‘Scavenger Of Human Sorrow’ where we get great music along with some razor-sharp lyrics from Evil Chuck.

All around, ‘The Sound Of Perseverance,’ is a great album. It really is. The performances are terrific, the recording quality is the best in the entire Death discography, and the mixing is top notch. The songs are more abstract than they ever had been, but they don’t lose the sense of melody at all.

Give it another listen; trust me!

 

The ‘Black’ Album Turns 26

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One of the biggest albums in music history turns 26 today. This polarizing album needs little introduction–with it, Metallica crossed over to the mainstream, alienating elitists while making millions of new fans in the process. However, the album undeniably features a ton of great songs. Let’s break it down.

Enter Sandman

Sandman is arguably the most famous metal song of all time. Honestly, is there anyone who hasn’t heard it before? It can be heard at sporting events (Yankee legend Mariano Rivera used it as walk up music for years), on the radio, the Internet, your dad’s car, your mom’s old record collection. It truly is everywhere!

Sad But True

The first Metallica song written in D-standard tuning, this is a crushingly heavy track. The riff is brutal, the lyrics are sharp, and the solo is fantastic. A case can be made for this as the best song on the iconic album!

Holier Than Thou 

James Hetfield got a lot of crap for saying “crap” in this song because that’s not metal! Where’s the real cussing? Indeed, this was a sign of the commercial decisions to follow, however, it can’t ruin a fast, fun song.

The Unforgiven

A fan-favourite track, Metallica took some risks here that paid off in a big way. Instead of a soft verse and loud chorus, they flipped the script. Here, the verses are loud and heavy, while the choruses are soft. It’s some nice variety and a change in the tried-and-true formula we’ve seen on other Metallica ballads.

Wherever I May Roam

The last of the five singles starts with a sitar. Yep, a sitar. However, the track quickly turns into what we expect: heavy, booming, low-string chugging. One great part of ‘Roam’ is the solo, which sees Kirk Hammett diving into some very exotic scales. Overall, his guitar work on the album is better than ever.

Don’t Tread On Me

The ‘Black’ album is packed with sing (or shout) along choruses, and ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ is no exception. Personally, I really like this track and feel like it gets lost among the more well-known cuts on the album. The main riff is great, as are the lyrics.

Through The Never

This song spawned a movie, so there’s that! And is it just me, or does the main riff sound like half of the spider riff in ‘Master Of Puppets’?

Nothing Else Matters

Ah yes, the song that really pissed people off. See, unlike ‘The Unforgiven’ which still featured plenty of heavy, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ is all acoustic until the very end where James Hetfield (?!) plays a simple, but satisfying solo. Songs like this helped Metallica reach a new audience.

Of Wolf And Man

This song is about being a werewolf. Solid.

The God That Failed

This track is one I really like. The message is sent is deep, and relates back to James Hetfield’s childhood where he subjected to different treatment because of the religion his parents practiced. He struggled with the separation, and here he pens a letter to the God that essentially failed him. Deep stuff.

My Friend Of Misery

Is that… bass? ‘My Friend’ starts with a great bass line that plays well into the moody, somber feel of the song. Again, here we get some more dep lyrics from Metallica centered around cyniscm, and the way it weighs on people and also those around them. There are some truly great songs on the ‘Black’ album lost among the controversey.

The Struggle Within

Unforetunately, things end on a low note. ‘Struggle’ feels like a song cut from one of their earlier albums and doesn’t fit in. It doesn’t help that it’s not a great one either. Personally, I would have ended the album with ‘Misery’!

 

 

 

 

Metal Isn’t Mainstream–And That’s Okay

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Metal doesn’t belong on the charts, the radio, or in the public eye. Sure, some bands have broken through and helped the genre grow, but at its core, metal is not the ‘popular’ music– and that’s perfectly alright.

You can’t have a chip on your shoulder when you’re popular.

See, my biggest complaint regarding ‘popular’ music is that it’s lifeless. It’s got no soul, no passion. Metal is full of passion. While it’s often so-typed as straight rage, there are so many emotions that go into it, positive and negative. If you want to channel those things, you can’t do it through a three minute, radio-friendly song. It’s impossible.

So many metal bands thrive on that determined, underground mindset. Take a band like Hatebreed for example. They’re full of passion and intensity. Imagine them on the pop charts, getting the same kind of attention given to Drake and the Weeknd. They would lose their edge, their grit. Imagine if Death had been popular like Eminem? Or what if Opeth was treated like Kendrick Lamar?

It’s just not meant to be.

Metallica can do it. They’re my favorite band of all time, but I’ll be the first to admit that they are extremely commercial, a giant, well-oiled, money-making machine. For bands that are less radio-friendly, it’s a good thing they aren’t mainstream. These bands shouldn’t try and go popular, they don’t need to.

 

 

 

The Mount Rushmore Of Metal Guitar

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Mount Rushmore needs no introduction. However, the term is often thrown around to represent the ‘top four’ of anything particular thing. For example, the Mount Rushmore of Major League Baseball would feature Babe Ruth, Micky Mantle, Willie Mays, and maybe Hank Aaron. Debatable? Of course! I’m taking a shot at narrowing down the four best guitarists in metal history… you might not agree, so tell me yours!

Dimebag Darrell 

I think Dime is a given. He was an amazing rhythm and lead player–not many guys can excel at both styles. From crushing riffs like ‘Cowboys From Hell’ to the epic solo on ‘Floods,’ Dimebag single-handedly kept metal guitar alive in the mid-nineties when grunge rock was dominating the music scene.

James Hetfield

There never will be a better strictly rhythm guitar player than James Hetfield. He has mastered the art of the pure riff. Heavy and catchy are what he does best. He created a down-picking style that has been imitated by millions–not to mention his skills as a lyricist, singer, and his exceptional stage presence.

Tony Iommi

There would be no metal without Tony Iommi. Black Sabbath essentially created metal with their fearless, dark, music. Iommi’s guitar lines had a lot to do with that. Songs such as ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Iron Man’ are instantly recognizable and paved the way for future generations of aspiring guitarists.

Dave Mustaine

This spot could have gone to his former bandmate Marty Friedman. Newer shredders like Synyster Gates and Matt Heafy are some of my personal favorites, but can’t hold a candle to the legacy Mustaine has created. We all know the story and the music. He’s written so many classics, from the early days of ‘Peace Sells,’ to the stripped-down headbangers found on ‘Countdown To Extinction.’

 

 

 

Track Review: The Sin And The Sentence

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Trivium is back!

The Florida metal outfit has returned with their first new music since 2015’s ‘Silence In The Snow’ album, a more melody-driven collection of songs. Gone were the throaty, screamed vocals that usually dominate the choruses–this was in part due to the fact lead singer Matt Heafy blew his voice out during a 2014 performance. However, with their new track titled ‘The Sin And The Sentence,’ Trivium have returned to form, blending elements of power metal, thrash, and metalcore.

Oh, and it’s awesome.

The intro is fast and colorful, reminiscent of something you’d find on a Dragonforce album, but quickly develops into more standard Trivium (chugging, open notes for flavor) with Heafy’s melodic, clean vocals gaining traction toward the chorus where we’re re-introduced to the screams. They’re more defined than the ones featured on their earlier works, yet lose none of the grit. Overall, Heafy’s vocals are this track’s biggest standout. The strong lyrics certainly help!

The guitar work here is equally impressive. The song features a ripping guitar solo following the soaring bridge section, along with some great dual passages between Heafy and Corey Beliveau (a criminally underrated player in my opinion). Their tone is big, powerful, and packs plenty of punch.

Overall, I have nothing but good things to say about this new Trivium track. It has me extremely excited for their new album coming this fall–and to see them in November when they rock Toronto!

 

Hidden Gems

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Looking for some new songs by bands you may have never heard of? These are some of my favorite tracks that have slipped through the mainstream metal scene. If you have heard them, good on you!

Lay Down – Priestess 

This is a fun song. I first heard it on Guitar Hero, so maybe it isn’t totally ‘underground,’ but it undeniably deserves more attention. The main riff is catchy and energetic, the vocals are great and the drums pack a real punch.

Taste My Sin – Integrity

I already highlighted this track on my review of Integrity’s ‘To Die For’ album, but I want to bring attention to it again because I love it so much. This is insanity. The song gives the listener maybe three seconds to breathe before all hell breaks loose.

Train Song – Rex Brown

This is a pretty new track from former Pantera bassist Rex Brown. I’ve really liked what I’ve heard from him as a solo artist, and this song is the best of the bunch (in my opinion). It’s got a great, driving riff that chugs along like a train, and a pretty sharp solo to boot. Give it a listen.

Raw – Freak Kitchen

While the lyrics are a bit crude, the main riff of this Freak Kitchen song is awesome. It mixes eighties rock with heavy metal to make something irresistibly head-bangy. If you can get past the campiness, you’ll love this track.

Pleasure And Pain – Gemini Syndrome 

Imagine Tool with even heavier guitars and screams; that’s this Gemini Syndrome song, which I stumbled upon on Spotify by accident. A good accident, it seems. I love the lyrics on this track, they’re thought-provoking and the musicianship is off the charts.

 

Happy Birthday, Papa Het!

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Riff Life.

Those are the words tattooed on James Hetfield’s fingers–and for good reason. Hetfield is the undisputed king of the riff. No matter the era, Metallica songs always featured killer riffs that oozed with Hetfield’s signature down-picked style. Today, he turns 54. As a tribute to my music idol, I’m listing my five favourite Metallica songs.

P.S. These aren’t in any order!

Blackened

This song blew my mind. So. Heavy. Thirteen-year-old me couldn’t handle it at first. I actually thought it was too heavy. Then I stopped being a loser. Blackened is ferocious, and the riff is a real hand-burner to play! While this is a Hetfield-focused list, I must add that Kirk Hammett’s solo is arguably the best he’s ever written.

The Four Horsemen

This song encompasses everything that makes Metallica and James Hetfield awesome. The main gallop riff, the howling vocals, the awesome melodic passages… I could go on and on gushing about this Kill ‘Em All track. It’s just that good.

Moth Into Flame

Yes, I mean it. Moth Into Flame is awesome. On a technical level, does it stand against the master class that is Metallica’s eighties heyday? No, but it’s a great song nonetheless that blends the post ‘Black’ album chugging with thrash riffs in the chorus. I love the message the song sends about the isolation created by fame–that’s a testament to James Hetfield’s talents as a songwriter. Oh, and “BURN!”

Master Of Puppets

The quintessential Metallica track from a purist standpoint, MOP is a thrash classic. The intro riff is recognizable from the first power chord, and the spider riff is still one that great guitarists struggle to play properly. It’s all down-picked, folks. James Hetfield put on a clinic throughout the album, but none of the songs top MOP, which also features some more clever lyrics. Is the song about slavery? War? Cocaine? Up to you!

Sad But True

“Metallica gives you heavy!” James Hetfield yells that before the band kicks into ‘Sad But True’ live, and I’ve got to say, Metallica with D-standard tuned guitars is awesome. On ‘Sad But True’ they sound beefier than ever. The main riff was once quoted by Bob Rock as music fit for pulling teeth. ‘Nuff said!

Happy birthday James Hetfield!