QUESTION OF THE WEEK: NOT METAL
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To non-metal people, it must be distressing and daunting to parse the many genres, subgenres, flavors, evolutions, and contexts that define metal music. Like, what one band does in its very special way may go undetected by those without exposure to the artists who precede and succeed that band. But huh that’s prob true for everything, movies and books, cars and hot dogs, girls in bikinis and dudes with face tattoos.
Just as vast to traverse are the sprawling acres of non-metal music; there’s so much of such variety that often it’s us metal people, absorbed as we are by our flourishing medium, who grope for a point of entry. Thus cometh your Friday MetalSucks Question Of The Week, a weekly survey of our staff on a recent hot-button issue that’s (not really) rocking our metal planet.
Fearless. Controversial. Half-baked. We give it to you straight every Friday afternoon. Straight into the sun. Here’s this week’s question:
Inspired by a sweet clip of the Duplantier brothers of Gojira sharing their favorite non-metal music, we asked our staff the following question:
What non-heavy album do u super-recommend to your most stubborn ‘metal-only’ friends?
Wat u think? The MS staff’s expert answers after the jump!
JUSTIN M. NORTON
That’s easy: Christian Death‘s Only Theatre Of Pain, released on the great Frontier Records label in 1982. Frontier also released Suicidal Tendencies’ classic debut and TSOL’s masterpiece Dance With Me, but this record dwarfs them all. You could easily argue that without OTOP, there would be no Goth and no death rock. (Some argue the same for Bauhaus or The Damned.) It features the inimitable vocals and words of the late Rozz Williams (who killed himself in 1998) and the eerie guitars of Rikk Agnew, also of The Adolescents. Together, the pair created a creepy, timeless sound that has never been replicated by the many Christian Death lineups that followed — even those that would more easily fit the “metal” category. Only Theatre of Pain is uniformly bleak (especially in light of its creator’s suicide) and never gets old. A few trappings mark it as a work of ’80s but still it’s required listening for fans of dark music.
I love a strong, evil ambient sound to take me through the various emotions necessary to write the dark subject matter I prefer. The greatest release in that regard is Aphex Twin‘s 1994 double album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. I love everything that Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James has released under his many monikers, but SAW2 (as it has been known since before Jigsaw graced the silver screen) is a rare album that changes your life. It defines perfectly what an ambient album should be: Formless, beatless waves of beauty that cleanse your brain and massage your soul. Dark, yet light. Airy, yet dense. Beautiful, yet ugly. Angry and joyful all at once. Be prepared to be moved and haunted down to the essence of your lifeless, blackened soul. I have listened to it repeatedly while writing all of my books and will continue to do so for many decades and books to come.
The non-heavy album that I most recommend to anyone is Supergrass Is 10: Best of 94-04 by Brit rockers Supergrass. A best-of collection, it has so many of their amazing songs and I love them dearly. There’s an edge of pop and punk to songs so catchy and fun that if you don’t crack a smile at least once while listening, well, then you have no soul.
I was thrilled to read once that late Type O Negative frontman Peter Steele was a proud superfan of ’90s dream-pop bands from England. He loved gauzy, etherial acts, ones with drowsy tempos and lovely female vocals; but also among his favorites was Curve, a co-ed UK duo that shares fans with titans of reverby shoegaze, but is better explained as a forebear of Garbage and Metric, a goth-dipped Madonna paired with an ace songwriter-bassist. As such, guitars are walls and sheets, not riffs; big bass lines box bigger programmed beats; a former Robert Plant backing singer kinda surfs on all of it, like Chino Moreno on Deftones jamz “Knife Prty” and “Be Quiet And Drive.” (I sorta expect Moreno and crew to someday cover Curve. Drool.) I say start at Curve’s debut (EPs collection Pubic Fruit) and go from there; but to those short of time, I recommend the masterpiece that preceded their 1994 break-up, Cuckoo. (They returned in 1996.) I overheard it one day in a record store; I soon made plans to take a copy of it to my final resting place.
I’m blessed with metalhead friends who managed to turn me on to awesome non-metal bands. I wouldn’t know about British Sea Power or Braid if it weren’t for the folks who also got me into Poison The Well and Vomit The Soul. But if there were any non-metal band I’d try to sell metalheads on, it’d be Catherine Wheel. Granted, such metalheads would have to be a sad and introspective (no problem there). But it’d be easy because Catherine Wheel meshes big, heavy guitars with lilting melody, particularly on the Ferment (1992) and Chrome (1993) albums. And for a shoegaze band, they have a ton of balls; listen to “Broken Head” (below) and enjoy the same rush that you get from Revocation. It’s like Catherine Wheel achieves the kind of atmospheric wonder that black metal pines for. They’re Jesu with a pulse.
These days everyone and their grandmother is influenced by Meshuggah, but, there was a time when to throw a polyrhythm or lowww riff into a song was kind of … innovative? So I remember being shocked the first time I heard Karnivool‘s Themata. Despite the most asinine band name since Tool or Porcupine Tree (maybe there’s some virtue in silly names…), Karnivool was years ahead of their time. Their 2005 debut long-play record is alternative/progressive musicians stitching Meshuggah’s rhythm and tone idiosyncrasies into an accessible form — long before anyone cared about Periphery or Tesseract. The result is outstanding and catchy in a way that isn’t limited by genre; I can’t think of another band in rock or metal that is so effortlessly technical. Via singer Ian Kenny’s dulcet tones and his bandmates’ bright melodies on top, a listener hardly realizes just how thoroughly you’re getting mind-fucked. Nerds will gush about some odd time signatures or the wacko tuning the guitarists use, but to most Themata is just good music.
Ulver‘s Perdition City. Not only does it have metal roots tracing back to the band’s early release Nattens Madrigal, but also it stands as one of the 2000s’ most influential and progressive albums in minimalist electronic music. Plus, it too is heavy; tracks like “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Lost in Moments” (below) rip harder than many metal songs, and its ominous, clinical music linger terrifying in a way that I before only associated with metal.
One band and one album comes to mind: Rasputina’s debut album Thanks for the Ether. There are a great many reasons for my die-hard allegiance to Rasputina music; one is that it’s smart. When discovering the band, I was a high school student and had an unquenchable thirst for history — the more bizarre the better, and the more I discovered the more I was enamored. And Thanks for the Ether helped in this quest, as a sizable chunk of the album is drenched in the truly obscure while focusing heavily on tragic accidents, the inner workings and outer lives of eccentric individuals past and present, and all that great stuff. Its lyrics’ subjects seem even more pronounced because Thanks for the Ether’s backing consists almost entirely of cellos. Later albums would introduce more instruments and heavy distortion, but Ether remains pure, and with a haunted, antiquated feel. If nothing else that can be appreciated by a true metal fan, or anyone with a pulse.
Before u dash off to start your Friday night, let us know what non-metal we’re missing out on! Comments below! Have an awesome wknd!!