While certainly no list of note can be definitive when it comes to such a large and diverse genre as heavy metal, a few choices do stand out amongst the crowd that set them apart with regards to raw musical talent, ingenuity, and raw brutality.
Machine Head, a long-standing icon in contemporary thrash and heavy metal, really outdid themselves with their latest offering,the album The Blackening. Released in 2007, the album was universally acclaimed both by fans and critics alike – felt by many to be one of the best expressions of modern heavy metal and the themes, theory, and concepts therein. The first single from the album, “Aesthetics of Hate”was penned by vocalist/guitarist Robert Flynn – a harsh and visceral response to a conservative op-ed published by Mr. William Grim lauding the death of metal legend Dimebag Darrell. The song is included in Rock Band as well, under the Roadrunner Record pack, and is one of the finest examples of their newer work.
Kalmah is a lesser known Finnish band from Oulu, Finland that also are emergent names amongst the metal community, particular in the genre of melodic death metal. Kalmah, similarly to other European melodeath bands, balance their vocal style between harsh, screaming vocals and the trademark death growl, accompanied by classical and neo-classical guitar work that is heavily based around scales. One of the best works put forth by the band would have to be “Ready for Salvation” from their latest album, For the Revolution.
One of the most energetic, frenetic, and wholly talented groups in modern extreme metal – Strapping Young Lad or SYL – deserves a mention on any list pertaining to the genre. While perhaps not strictly death metal, Devin Townsend’s vocals and guitar work blended with the superb, always rhythmic drumming put forth by Gene Hoglan combine to show us what extreme Canadian metal is all about. For an example of the highly energetic performances put on by the ban, “Zen” from 2005’s Alien is sure to please.Finally, Nevermore deserves a mention. Defying typical stratification within any given genre of extreme metal. Professionally trained vocalist Warrel Dane leads the band through soaring highs and gutteral lows, all supported by a grinding, grooving beat that is trademark to the band’s success. The song “Narcosynthesis” is available on their “The Year of the Voyager” DVD as well as the album of the same name.
Testament, legends of thrash metal and successful metal artists for a few decades now have also established some great death metal credibility with their album, The Gathering. One of the best tunes on the album, Down For Life is a must listen.
The Independent Death Metal Scene, Up and Comers
While commercial death metal is easily accessible and most recognizable, independent talent deserves a quick mentions as well as up and coming talent in one of the most competetive genres in modern music.
Weapon, based out of St. John’s, Newfoundland, are an extremely talented melodic death metal band who have produced their first album, The Forging, to a great deal of initial success.
Other heavy metal and hard rock acts such as sHEAVY, Devastator, Fireign, Priestess, and Iron Giant contribute greatly to the Canadian scene – as well as tens of thousands of small bands across the globe from Iran to Peru.
Death metal bands, both large and small, contribute to a larger genre concerned with resistance of the status quo, rejection of social norms and status similar to the punk movement prior to the general death of the genre. Through brutal, aggressive vocals, lyrics, and tones the music seeks to energize those who are willing to listen to the often subversive, critical message. And for those who don’t – it’s just as good just to throw up the horns and enjoy the ride.