Beginner's Guide to Metal
Five hand-picked albums that will start your journey with metal
Heavy metal is a genre that, by design, is kind of meant to be abrasive. As a result, for someone who’s not a seasoned listener, it can seem somewhat intimidating. If the first metal you listen to is a 10 minute cacophony of chaos (and they do exist) then you’ll probably be put off for a bit. However, if you start out with the right bands, ones that go down a little more smoothly, I can guarantee you'll be a metalhead in no time flat. Here are some albums that fit under the umbrella of metal, but are able to be enjoyed by people just starting to listen to the genre. I’ve made sure to include albums that will appeal to a variety of different musical backgrounds. Of course, this is in no way a complete list, and I’ll openly admit to letting my own personal taste sway me in terms of inclusions.
What better place to begin than with the band that arguably invented metal? Some albums are famous mainly due to their legacy, but this is a legacy record that stands on its merits as great music. Although their self-titled debut had been put out earlier that year, “Paranoid” is where they really solidified their sound. Guitarist Tony Iommi brings his A-game, as there’s a perfect mix of heavy riffs and melodies that will be in your head for the rest of the day. Not to mention Ozzy Osbourne’s amazing, gloomy vocals.
Favourite song: “Iron Man”
With its screaming vocals and 10+ minute song runtimes, this might seem intimidating at first. Yet, if you give this album your time, you will be rewarded. The wall of blaring guitars will make you feel enveloped by the music they create, and the vocals, while intense, sound cathartic by each song's demise. The loud parts of the album are balanced with softer moments so that it never sounds repetitive. Sunbather is best for people who already enjoy more noise-centric bands like Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine. Am I a little bit biased due to this being my favorite album of all time? Possibly. Still, give this a listen.
Favourite song: “The Pecan Tree”
These Swedish fellows might first catch your attention with their theatrical costumes and flashy stage personas. Of course, the fact that their music absolutely slaps only adds to their extravagant quality. The melodies and hooks are euphoric and ear-wormy like a pop song, but there's enough of a metal and gothic edge that elevates it. In a rare case for metal, I’d say Meliora is an album that’ll make you want to headbang at certain points, and dance at others. Keyboard players will like this album, as the instrument plays a big role in most of the songs, whether it’s through stand-alone melodies or simply outlining the chord progressions.
Favourite song: “Cirice”
This is an album for the rap fans out there. The vocals of frontman Zack De La Rocha have such an enticing rhythm to them, that it make you wonder if he was born with a microphone in his hand. Beyond his vocals, the rest of the band does an absolutely killer job. Tom Morello writes guitar riffs that give you no choice but to headbang or, at the very least, bop your head. The main word I would use to describe this self-titled album is: tight. The instruments and vocals aren’t out of sync for even a nanosecond, as if they were computer-engineered.
As a group that has caught the ire of right-wing crowd more than once, their self-titled album is as politically charged as it gets. It's an especially amazing listen when you want to burn off some frustration against incompetent government institutions. Highly recommend.
Favourite song: “Take the Power Back”
I know awards don’t always determine whether or not an album is good. But, the fact that this album won the Grammy for Best Metal Performance has to mean something, right? Mastodon’s three-vocalist lineup, including their drummer Brann Dailor, allows them far greater range than most of their metal brethren, and it shines alongside their intricate guitar work on this relatively recent release. Coming from down south, they’ve always had a mix of Southern stoner rock; however, here that influence comes out in the form of tracks that will make you feel like you’re walking through the desert while tripping onsomething wicked. In a good way, that is. Fans of overarching song themes will appreciate the story that this album tells (no spoilers).
Favourite song: “Steambreather”