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.’

 

 

 

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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!

Rock Is Dead? Think Again.

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Is rock dead? From rappers proclaiming to be the new rock stars, to chart sales favoring hip hop, the general public seems intent on burying guitar music (that isn’t country) forever. However–believe it or not–rock (and metal!) aren’t dying. They’re thriving, and as long as people keep listening, it’ll stay that way.

Bands like Guns N’ Roses and Metallica are living proof. Their Not In This Lifetime and Worldwired tours, respectively, sell out everywhere they go, from China to Canada. Metallica even performed at the Grammy’s earlier this year (albeit with disastrous results… microphone debacle). Stone Sour climbed to the top of the Billboard charts with their new ‘Hydrograd’ album, and lead singles ‘Song 3’ and ‘Fabuless.’ Even more, pop-rock bands like the Foo Fighters and Royal Blood have enjoyed plenty of radio success as of late. See; rock isn’t dead!

In the metal scene, new bands like Ghost and Gojira have emerged to support long-standing legends like Iron Maiden and Megadeth. Veteran bands like Exodus and Anthrax have pumped out some of their best music lately. The underground scene is (and by design, always will be) hidden away from the mainstream, but there are plenty of big metal bands still doing their thing. Hell, Slayer was on Jimmy Fallon!

Rock and metal aren’t going away. Sure, popular music is changing, but even during the heyday for most of these bands, there was pop music. The eighties and nineties had the late Michael Jackson and Madonna–now there are new singers, like the Weeknd and Rihanna. Rap was around then, too. Arguably the best rappers to ever live-Biggie, Tupac, Eminem–were recording in the nineties, when many grunge rock bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam got their start. The point I’m making here is that they can co-exist!

And as long as we keep listening, they will.

People won’t stop playing the guitar. It won’t happen. No matter how many rappers are rolling in money, people won’t quit making music. Heavy music has a devoted fan base. Tool hasn’t made music in eleven years and sells out every show. Metallica is the only band to play a show on every continent. Fans will find their music. And guess what? It only dies if we let it.

Don’t let it die.

Right now it’s alive.

The Phone Debate

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Should people stop filming concerts?

It’s a pretty hot topic, one which many musical artists have chimed in on. Their train of thought is easy to follow: be present and enjoy the show; you paid to be there! However, while that seems straightforward, there are many layers to this situation–excitement, and social media presence among them.

Let’s take a look at the good and the bad.

Why It’s Okay:

You’re at a concert seeing your favorite band. For me, that’s Metallica. They come out on stage, pillars of pyrotechnics erupting behind them. James Hetfield strikes the first palm-muted chug of the night and the crowd goes nuts. I want to videotape it. I want to be able to look back at that clip the next day (or the next year) and be there again. Sure, you’ll remember it, but weren’t cameras made to improve memories?

Let’s talk social media–everyone has it. Some people run accounts with a dedicated fan base, and they want to share their experiences with them. The average person isn’t in that boat, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to add to their profiles to show their interests. Maybe they want the world to see concerts they’ve been to? Their passion for music could be a quintessential part of their identity.

It’s not difficult to feel the urge to record at a concert. The Internet is everywhere, and most of us want to contribute to the ever-growing web of information.

Why You Shouldn’t:

You paid a lot of money to see the show. The performers are leaving it all onstage. Why create a divide between you and them? They want to see your eyes, your faces… not your cell phone cameras. Those don’t show excitement; they show an incessant desire to feed the consumerism machine.

Picture yourself performing. You look out to the crowd and see an army of phones. What do you think? Now imagine instead of phones, you see faces. Happy faces. Faces of people that love you and your music. Which one will produce a better atmosphere? Clearly the latter.

Oh, and isn’t it annoying when the tall person in front of you has their arms up to record, leaving you (a shorter person, in my case) with a great view of their rear delts? Yeah, sometimes you recording can give a lesser experience to those around. It’s like being the person that talks through the movie.

The Verdict:

There never will be one. Everyone goes to a show for a different reason. Some people want to hear the band, some want to see them, and some want to do both. Often times, some of the people in the crowd don’t care–and are standing next to a group with tattoos of the band member’s faces.

There is no right answer, but remember this: it’s your experience. Don’t ruin anybody else’s, and give yourself the best one possible–with help from the band, obviously!

 

 

Top Ten: Corey Taylor Songs

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It’s hard not to like Corey Taylor, from the extreme musical assault that is Slipknot, to the catchy hard rock found in Stone Sour’s catalog. Over the years, he’s brought energy, life, and an instantly recognizable voice to the music scene between two bands. With that in mind, I take a look at my favorite Corey Taylor songs!

Come Whatever May

Kicking it off with some Stone Sour, the title track of the 2006 album is heavy, catchy, and features no shortage of groove. Corey showcases his incredible vocal range throughout the song, too!

Heretic Anthem

“IF YOU’RE 5-5-5 THAN I’M 6-6-6!” This Slipknot song is guttural and headbang-worthy. One of the tracks that cemented them as a force in the metal genre, this is a true testament to how much Corey can really growl.

Through Glass

How can you not appreciate this Stone Sour gem? A soft-sung acoustic song, yes, but not one without the talents of Mr. Taylor. Here we see just how good of a pure singer he really is, and how well he can write a song (suck it, Chad Kroeger!)

Surfacing

Corey usually introduces this Slipknot track as “your new national anthem” and rightfully. It’s unapologetically heavy and aggressive and features some of the nastiest vocals I’ve heard on a non-death-meatal track.

30/30-150

This song makes my list because of Corey’s creativity. The title is his pants size (30/30) and his weight (150 pounds) in high school, where he was picked on due to his small stature. This song is a middle finger to the bullies, and you can hear it in his voice.

Get Inside

Fast, frenetic, and full of fury, ‘Get Inside’ balances the signature yells, with the quick, breathy vocals Corey employed so often in his early work. The lyrics are dark and brooding, and the musicianship is off the charts.

Psychosocial

This was the song that introduced me to Corey Taylor. I’ll always remember the shock on my face as I heard the clean chorus after the first verse. It made me love Slipknot, which then got me into Stone Sour, who (dare I say it) I love even more.

Duality

Corey’s music has always been about balancing soft and heavy, and duality is a prime example of that. Here he manages to keep the heavy going through the verses while singing– that takes talent to keep the tension. It goes to show how good Corey really is, and what a tool his voice is.

Absolute Zero

Arguably the best Stone Sour song, ‘Absolute Zero’ is an amazing song to hear live. Corey’s intro works as a call and response, while the chorus gets everyone on their feet. Corey knows how to write smart, thought-provoking songs– this one of them.

Pulse Of The Maggots

An underrated track, ‘Pulse Of The Maggots’ is a great workout song. You can feel the power building in Corey’s voice throughout the song, in line with the ascending music behind him. It’s exciting and fun!

Ranking ‘The Big Four’

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You know the names: Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, and Megadeth. You know their albums, from ‘Among The Living’ to ‘Reign In Blood.’ These four bands help define the eighties thrash metal scene, and have lived on to become legends of the genre. Great rhythms, epic solos, and soaring vocals. Time to rank them!

4 — Slayer

Someone had to come in last. Slayer does on thing really well: fast. Out of all these bands, Slayer has the fastest rhythm playing and probably the heaviest song in Raining Blood. However, Kerry King’s guitar solos pale in comparison to the others on this list, and the band went a long time without putting out a great album. On the contrary, they never wavered from their original sound and themes. Slayer is unapologetically raw. They have never conceded to the market or let their polarizing lyrics suffer.

3 — Anthrax 

Anthrax started things off right with their debut album ‘Spreading The Disease,’ and from there had a series of great albums all the way to 1990’s ‘Persistence Of Time.’ However, Anthrax then fell into a tailspin, abandoning the style that made them great. Enter 2011’s ‘Worship Music,’ a fantastic return to form featuring singer Joey Belladonna at his best and chugging riffs from Scott Ian. Anthrax has always been a bit more fun, and less serious than the others on this list, but don’t let that fool you; they’re a damn good metal band!

2 — Megadeth 

If you want incredible lead guitar work, look no further than Megadeth. While they’ve always featured two guitarists, one has remained constant: Dave Mustaine. He is a downright incredible player and songwriter who (along with bassist David Ellefson) forged one of the greatest comeback stories in music history. Thier albums ‘Rust In Peace’ and ‘Countdown To Extinction’ are pure master classes of speed and aggression. It’s hard to go wrong with Megadeth.

1 — Metallica 

The kings of metal reign supreme. Metallica wins out because of their range. They can do heavy–take ‘Damage, Inc’ or ‘Sad But True’–and they can do soft equally well. They’re dynamic, and most of that credit goes to James Hetfield. His vocal range is ear-opening, and his guitar playing is catchy and technically-proficient. Kirk Hammett, while an over-user of the wah pedal, has penned some great solos, to boot. And lest we forget past bassist Cliff Burton!

 

 

 

Hidden Gem: To Die For

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Cleveland metalcore/hardcore punk band Integrity has been pumping out some vicious, headbang-centric music since the late eighties to little mainstream attention. They’ve resided in the underground scene, far away from the common eye and average ear. However, their 2003 album ‘To Die For’ is a masterpiece and a must-listen.

Bands like Hatebreed would not exist without Integrity, who was one of the first bands to blend the hardcore punk and metalcore sounds into short, visceral songs. No track on ‘To Die For’ extends past four minutes and sixteen seconds, and three songs clock in under two minutes. This is punch-in-the-face music.

However, Integrity showcases an ability to do many things on this album.

The brief ‘Blessed Majesty’ is a gritty acoustic passage soaked in angst. It also features some great soloing over top an eerie chord progression. This style pops up again later on the 22-minute album on the track ‘Lost Without You’ (albeit on a clean-toned electric guitar, you get the point).

Even their heavy has different flavors. The opener ‘Taste My Sin’ is a slammer featuring heavy power chord riffing and blast-beat drumming. ‘Heaven’s Final War’ features a galloping riff that brings classic Slayer to mind. These tracks really do mix up, which is a true tip-of-the-cap to the way Integrity assembled the track listing. By sandwiching clean parts with heavy, they avoid listener fatigue.

This is an album that is punishing, fun, and chock-full of wild energy. It’s raw but doesn’t suffer from bad mixing or shoddy production like so many other underground metal albums do, which leads me to wonder why it received such little exposure. Give it a listen; you won’t be sorry. And while you’re at it, check out another Integrity album: ‘Humanity Is The Devil.’ All I’ll say is be ready for the ‘Vocal Test.’

Rewind: Ride The Lightning

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For the second time in a week, a classic Metallica album is celebrating a birthday! Ride The Lightning (RTL), the band’s second album turns 33 this year. It birthed some live staples, like the much-loved ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ and the epic ‘Fade To Black.’ Ride The Lightning was a big step forward technically, as the band toyed with more complicated riffs and longer songs–some of which featuring softer, acoustic sections. Let’s take a look at some things that make RTL great!

The Heavy Songs Are Heavier Than Ever:

Metallica came out with a vengeance on ‘Creeping Death’ and the ‘Trapped Under Ice.’ These songs were faster than anything Metallica had previously recorded and launched them into a new stratosphere above the other heavy metal heavyweights.

The Acoustic Work:

However, the album’s biggest surprises proved to be the excellent acoustic work. Take the intro to ‘Fade To Black,’ which has become an all-time favourite among Metallica’s extensive catalog, and added diversity and range to their music. Everyone knew they could shred, but the world began to understand Metallica’s musical scope.  Take the beginning of ‘Fight Fire With Fire,’ which kick-started a trend for Metallica: soft beginning passages transitioning into fast, thrash riffs.

Cliff Burton’s Bass Work:

On the topic of intros, how awesome is Cliff Burton’s playing on ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’? He was an extremely creative player who took bass from background noise to the forefront of the music. If only they’d done that in 1988!

The Solos:

Another great part of Ride The Lightning is the plethora of crazy guitar solos from Kirk Hammett. From his frenetic work on ‘Creeping Death,’ to the harmonized section on ‘Fight Fire With Fire,’ the album features some of Hammett’s best work with the band–and showcases his ability to rival other shredders like the soon-to-emerge Dave Mustaine and former Exodus member Gary Holt.

An Instrumental:

Last but not least, we have ‘The Call Of Ktulu,’ which is one of the eeriest, bone-chilling songs I’ve ever heard. There is a sense of dread apparent throughout the entire track that only builds as the band progresses through the intro to the explosive finale. Dave Mustaine apparently wrote the whole thing, but Metallica played it and made it great– no discredit to Dave!