A Heavy Metal Guide for Heavy Metal Virgins
    • FRIDAY, MARCH 07, 2014

    • Posted by: Anthony Toto

    A long time ago, in a decade far, far away, heavy metal struck a cultural nerve for those who were sick of redundant pop and disco and craved something more...something maniacal. The founding fathers, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple melded the emotional expression of southern blues with classical musicality and forever changed the dynamics of rock instrumentation and answered the call of this distraught community. With a history spanning over four decades, the term "metal" has represented thousands of acts, each categorized in different sub-genres, yet they all maintain the elemental heaviness that's essential to the sound. Powerful, commanding, confident, and exhilarating signify the sonic definition of "heaviness" in metal. For most fans, these characteristics serve as a positive outlet to burn away their negative energy. It's outsiders' music, yet never receives proper acknowledgment from mainstream society.

    This year, for the first time in recent memory, The Grammy Awards recognized multiple heavy metal greats as Black Sabbath won Best Metal Performance and Metallica performed its hit "One." However, not a single contemporary metal act was recognized at the ceremony. The mainstream music world frowns upon the genre for its aggressive nature, which is hypocritical considering the controversial nature of modern pop music (cough...Miley and Kanye). Yet, the loyalty of its fans spans generations. Black Sabbath and Metallica will forever remain the genre's benchmarks for excellence; however, while this community has continued to flourish with magnetic new talent throughout the years, its mainstream exposure did the opposite.

    Where should unfamiliar listeners begin if they want to discover new (not nu) metal acts? Even if you're only a fan of indie, hip-hop, or electronic dance music, metal might also fit your tastes. The list below can serve as a starter's guide for the curious minds who have no clue about the current state of metal, but have always wanted to test its waters. We're playing matchmaker to the metal virgins.

    If you like: PBR, Classic Rock, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, and Zombies Drinking PBR

    You may also like: Red Fang

    Red Fang displays an authentic rock and roll attitude rarely existent in today's music scene that's dumbed downed by auto tune and over processed production. Even in the realms of hard rock and heavy metal, overproduction is killing the human element of music. Red Fang sounds like a garage band playing at full volume as the album's production captures the live element of the group's chemistry immediately after clicking the play button.

    The group recently performed on Letterman; a rare accomplishment nowadays for a modern rock band. The energy poured right out of the television and demonstrated the hunger of a band determined to make an impression on a new audience. If you're a fan of loud guitars, powerful drums, thundering bass, and hooky choruses delivered in the vein of bands from the 70s, Red Fang represents a shining light for the future of hard rock music. The Portland group also rivals Foo Fighters in creating absolutely hilarious music videos that in no way reflect the meaning of the song itself. With its newest video "Blood Like Cream" featuring Fred Armisen, the setting involves beer consumption and a zombie invasion. The Walking Dead writers might want to take a few notes.

    If you like: Taking Back Sunday, AFI, NOFX, and individuals with ambition to take chances by putting destiny in their own hands

    You may also like: Protest The Hero

    Completely unpredictable, consistent, left field twists, and a sinister level of musicality among the best in the world describe Protest The Hero. Vocalist Rody Walker displays an otherworldly vocal range topped with a raspy ability to match the musical chaos in the background by switching his emotional delivery on impulse. Intertwining elements of thrash metal, progressive music, punk rock, and hardcore, the backing band could legitimately pursue any sound it sets out to achieve. Again and again, the guitarists raise the bar of their performance by challenging themselves to take it further than they ever have before. Highlighted by a new music video displaying the band's sense of humor, the single "Clarity" is a royal rumble between nerds on a grand scale of films like 300 and LOTR.

    After fulfilling their recording contract, the band sought creative freedom by opting to leave their former label and start a crowd funded Indiegogo campaign to raise money for their latest LP Volition. The band made headlines after raising $200,000 within the first week of its campaign. With the accomplishment of raising a budget more than twice the amount it originally requested, the band's success represented a major moment of contemplation for artists pursuing the independent route. Currently in prime form, Protest The Hero is riding a high wave of momentum behind its success.

    If you like: The Depreciation Guild, Nintendo 8-Bit sounds, dubstep, EDM, trance, instrumental, and musicians sonically pushing the barriers of human performance

    You may also like: Animals As Leaders

    Animals As Leaders founder Tosin Abasi displays an unseen level of virtuosic individuality and completely expands the notion of guitar playing from a fundamental standpoint. Quite possibly the world's most innovative young guitarist, Abasi's eight-string prowess (yes, I said EIGHT strings) broadens the dynamics of chord structures with his rhythmic precision complementing the band's mind-blowing time changes. Rounded out by fellow members including seven-string guitarist Javier Reyes and drummer Matt Garstka, this trio of world-class musicians outweighs a full-fledged symphony in terms of individual musical talent. When Abasi applies unorthodox bass techniques into the world of guitar tapping and strumming, expect the unexpected with Animals As Leader. Incorporating an element of electronic samples reminiscent of chiptune sounds from old Nintendo systems, Animals As Leaders showcases an nostalgic appreciation for the greatest sound effects of the video game past. The group's latest LP The Joy Of Motion is set for release on March 25th.

    If you like: Pink Floyd, Rush, Genesis, King Crimson, Yes, Prog-Rock, Jazz

    You may also like: Between the Buried and Me

    The 1970s produced a long list of heralded acts known for mixing adventurous songwriting with melodies, hooks, and world-class musical skills. In the 2000s, Between The Buried And Me carries the torch for a generation of fans infatuated by the progressive renaissance in the confines of metal. Incorporating elements of death metal and hardcore into the repertoire, Between The Buried And Me became the 21st Century template for attracting a diverse crowd of musicians, down to earth stoners, and metal fans looking to throw down in the mosh pits. Morphing into a progressive giant with each successive album, the band continues to exceed expectations with its latest The Parallax II: Future Sequences , which serves as the best output in its respective career. The listening experience plays along like a spiritual journey where the array of tones and notes allows the mind to escape away from reality and slip solely into the world of the music.

    If you like: Pharrell Williams, Bob Marley, Sublime, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Faith No More, Sevendust, Funk, Reggae, and Folk

    You may also like: Twelve Foot Ninja

    As I previously hinted during my previous recommendations, I personally enjoy adventurous metal music with thrilling surprises and unorthodox qualities. Twelve Foot Ninja is one those listening experiences where you're regularly shoveling your jaw off of the floor. The Australian group's transitions between different genres at an effortless pace that few other bands could ever achieve. In one moment, the band's breaks down in a chugging guitar-induced intensity before seamlessly moving into a rhythmic moment highlighted with a Latin groove.

    The common theme regarding most of the bands in this story, the music videos are absolutely hilarious. Metal is often stereotyped as some of its bands display such a fierce level of seriousness. Yet, bands like Twelve Foot Ninja, Red Fang, and Protest The Hero tend to make the audience laugh with their music videos. Twelve Foot Ninja incorporates their love of comedy, comic books, video games, and action movies into every music video. Their debut album Silent Nights is a must-have for any music fan bored with uneventful music. Whether tying comic books into the lyrical content or maximizing the array of genres in their music, the level of creativity displayed by this group makes their upcoming record one to keep an eye on in the immediate future.

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