I got into Mastodon in 2004 when they released their monstorpiece Leviathan. The album received critical acclaim with magazines like Kerrang and Metal Hammer punting it like cray. I was very impressed and it took a good number of listens to get it all in. A bit like Rush, Mastodon are the type of band that after the 100th listen you still find something new that you hadn’t noticed before. The arrangements are massively complex and you have a situation where the drummer, lead guitarist and bassist all do lead vocals at various points, a bit like Queen in that respect, but it gives a massive diversity to the songs. They also write in different combinations like Iron Maiden do so that also prevents anything sounding too derivative. I was fortunate enough to see them live in 2011 at Rock Im Park and they were easily one of the best 5 bands at that festival. I class Mastodon as a ‘special band’ which as defined in The Story Of Rock and Roll is one of those bands that have a unique chemistry and synergy and just don’t sound like anyone else. I can’t praise them highly enough, give them a listen you won’t be disappointed.
At the end of the 20th century there was a bit of a good time party rock is dead feel. The Nu Metal thing was starting to happen and all that shit was great but some of it was really depressing and miserable, like it had a grunge hangover. Out of seemingly nowhere I got to hear Buckcherry and all was right in the world again. These guys were back onto the banging chicks snorting crack style of party music which seemed to have died with Van Halen, Guns ‘n’Roses and Motley Crue.
Coming out in 1997 Creed got extremely popular very quickly. They were clearly a cut above everyone else and it was really down to song writing. When they broke up and turned into Alter Bridge with Myles Kennedy in the place of Scott Stapp they were still great but for my money Scott Stapp had something to add to the mix that Myles didn’t when it came to song writing. I reckon that mark Tremonti wrote his best riffs in Creed and they were a really good band if you can get past the overly Christian themed lyrics. Scott is a brilliant example of singing about one thing and then living completely contrary to what he was promoting. Not the first time that staunch Christians have done this.
The Foo Fighters
The Foo Fighters have become one of the greatest rock acts in the world. They have a load of haters for some reason but to they have just improved with every album. It is safe to say that when Nirvana died with Kurt no-one really gave the Foo’s any chance at all. Dave was the drummer for the Foo’s and he was highly rated for that, now he was going to start his own band and instead of drumming he became guitarist and front man. It is a testament to the sheer talent of the man that he could be in two of the most successful bands in the world in two completely different roles.
System of a Down
System of a Down are a very special band. Sometimes there is a chemistry between band members that makes them unique, bands like Queen, Rammstein and Van Halen have their own sound and its these bands that really drive the music forward, they spawn imitators but they are totally original. System are one of these bands. When their eponymous debut was released it was a real ”what the fuck is this type album”, it was amazing, For my money it will always be their finest album, it is so raw and politically charged. These okes put Armenia on the rock and roll map
Metal had hit a bit of a low patch at the turn of the century, grunge killed off hair metal but then when grunge kind of ate itself there wasn’t really anything else to fill the gap. The old guard classic bands would always be putting out great albums but there wasn’t anything new. Then we got what was termed Nu Metal and it came from all directions and as with punk everyone got lumped in whether they fitted in the box or not, that is why bands as diverse as Korn, Limp Bizkit, P.O.D and Disturbed all got the tag. Disturbed were really good, it was fucking heavy and obviously driven by Dave Draiman’s voice. The Sickness is a land mark album and it has aged brilliantly.
You could make a case for one hit wonder here. Drowning Pool were good but they weren’t ever going to reach the heights that the ‘A’ level classic metal bands were at. It was pretty clear to me that they were never going to be headlining or getting on the main stage too often at festivals like Download and Rock Im ring. Put it this way if they were going to get on those stages then it was purely going to be as a result of this one, pile driving, poes heavy slice of perfect rock and roll. Vocalist Dave Williams died of a heart disease about a year after the multi platinum album Sinner, which kicked off with this track, was released. Although they made some good albums I don’t think they were ever the same again.
Suddenly the 21st century seemed to come alive and there was nothing like Slipknot to announce this metal renaissance. I’ll be honest here and say that I didn’t get it initially, it didn’t have the melody and the whole horror mask thing just seemed a bit gimmicky to me. In The Story of Rock and Roll I explain that the first time I heard Slayer I wasn’t a fan and it took the release of their South of Heaven album to make me realise I was missing something. The same thing happened with Slipknot I only got it when I heard Vol 3 : (The Subliminal Verses). After that I went back to Iowa and recognised them for the unstoppable force of nature that they were. Who knew back in 2001 that this would be probably the biggest metal band in the world within 15 years.
Rammstein will always be a big favourite of mine, they are just so different to everyone else. Somehow they manage to make it really heavy but still have all these weedy keyboard fills in there. Obviously it helps that you have a baritone Till Lindemann growling through everything in German but somehow it just seems extraordinarily heavy. They are also very, very strange and the subject matter covers everything from all types of sex to cannibalism. It is quite easy to get a bit uncomfortable when you are watching Rammstein video’s, a feeling of ”what the fuck is all this about”. Add all the flamethrowers and pyrotechnics into the mix and you have a fantastic band that are amazing to watch and to listen to.
Slipknot burst onto the scene in the early 2000’s and were widely considered a gimmick band by many. They managed to dispel this perception through hard work and endless live shows where their presence and showmanship moved them to another level. In early 2001 the name Corey taylor was pretty much unknown. Nowadays you can’t read a copy of Metal hammer without either and article about him or at least a few quotes. He is probably the biggest rock star in metal today. Having read a few of his books one can see that this is one energetic driven guy. Too much is never enough, one would think that with Slipknot he’d have his hands full. Obviously a workaholic Corey put his old pre-Slipknot band Stone Sour back togetrher again with his Slipknot pal James Root. This debut album was hard hitting and really aggressive but without alll the masks and make-up and additional ‘showmanshit’ that went with being in Slipknot. I have to say that in many ways I prefered Stone Sour t Slipknot and the second album Come What May is still to this day one of the best albums I have ever heard.
It’s weird how many haters this band have. I keep thinking that the guys who hate them must just not understand guitar at all. The twin leads of Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance are as good as any of the celebrated world class guitar partnerships Tipton + Downing, Murray + Smith, Gorham + Robertson, they really work well together. It’s even more eye catching because Zacky is a lefty so the visual impact of them standing back to back shredding it out is amazing. To get a really good idea of how great AX7 are watch the Live in the LBC video it is amazing. I remember starting to watch and after about 3 min calling up to Tiya to come and watch this shit. The two of us were instantly hooked and life long AX7 fans from then on. I have seen them live at Rock Im Park and they were the best band there. They really have moved into the upper echelons of metal and now rank right up there with the mega bands that headline stadiums. there are no weak links in the band, M. Shadows is a great front man he’s got the power, he’s got the range and he’s got the look. The sad part was the loss of their drummer Jimmy ”The Rev” Sullivan in Dec 2009 and that knocked them hard because they were a band of brothers from High School days in Huntington Beach and he was obviously a big part of what they do. There have been a number of more than sufficient replacements but in the interviews you can see they miss the chemistry. Just ask Jason Newsted how hard it is to replace a guy who was part of a band from day 1.
I got Dookie when it came out but it wasn’t really big with anyone else I was hanging with. Green Day put out a couple of albums that were not as good and then they kinda disappeared. In 2004 they released American Idiot and I bought it immediately without having even heard a track, some things you just know. It was fucking phenomenal. I went home and had a mini melt-up where I played it non-stop and almost got back to jumping on the bed with a tennis racquet days. The family didn’t get it at all. It’s always a damper when you think something is the best thing you have heard in years and everyone else doesn’t. But a year later everybody was a Green Day befok.
Out of the collapse of Guns ‘n’ Roses briefly came Velvet Revolver. With both Slash, Duff and Matt in the band they put out a surpisingly good debut album. Replacing Axl was always going to be an impossible task but with the inclusion of Stone Temple Pilot Scott Weiland they had a pretty good thing going. The second album Libertab was in my opinion awful but Contraband has become a classic rock album and contained some very good songs.
Arch Enemy are a really great band, the first thing that floored most people was the fact that the inhuman gutteral death vocal was actually being done by a female vocalist. Angela Gossow reset the standard by which female metal vocalists would be measured in future. I think that the guitarist is highly undrrated and if you listen to Arch Enemy you will hear some incredible melodic lead lines and riffs which set them apart from some of the other bands at the time where it really just all seemed to be growling in a monotonous dirge of downtuned guitars. Michael Amott who had spent time in Carcass just seemed to find his feet in his new outfit. The songs were defnitely a cut above your average death metal.