During the teenage years of most boys, there is a glorious period where you discover that cutting greasy long hair is more trouble than it’s worth, dressing smartly is for idiots and heavy music is the absolute dog’s bollocks. If you happened to pick up an instrument during that period, playing with feeling and subtlety is a non-entity; you want to play it as fast and as loudly as you can, forgoing accuracy for liquid shred. Much to your parents’ consternation, that probably involves playing Slayer’s War Ensemble in your paper thin walled room for five hours straight, channeling the machine picking spirit of Jeff Hanneman through your wasp in a bottle combo of Encore and Kustom.
For heavy music, while obviously divisive (what a terrible racket), is the guttural primal roar of highly energized sound. For me, there is nothing more which invokes the emotion of ‘AAAAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHH BANG MY HEAD RUN AROUND ARRRGGGHHH WHERE HAS THE CONTROL OF MY FUCKING LEGS GONE WINDMILLS’. That, or simply the slow lurch of your body up and down. The love comes from the screaming and sometimes incomprehensible vocals; high pitched yelping; abrasively distorted guitars with the mids sucked out; the frighteningly fast octopus limbs of drummers; the vastly reduced role of the bassist, who has to make up for their diminished nature by yelling obscenities into a microphone while contorting their body constantly, reminding everyone they still exist on the stage.
I love this stuff, and if you are undecided or so far oblivious, let’s have a stab at providing you with some metallic brilliance.
Let’s begin with a little US band called Look What I Did. These guys are sick – not in the bodacious spring break variety, more in the head generally. But dear me did they make some music that buzzes around you like an overactive teenager. Their lyrics can be quite tongue in cheek, or challenging depending on your viewpoint (‘I’m a domestic abuse machine baby’), but for what they lack in lyrical finesse they more than make up in fantastically inventive music.
I’m Majoring in Psychology, taken from their second album Atlas Drugged, is pure madness – double bass blasts at 0.42, THAT RIFF at 0.51. Get on it. Loudly.
Another wee band of Yankees, Into The Moat are more of your stereotypical sludge fest. Singing that would rip the vocal cords out of any normal citizen, with heaviness that knows no bounds. This will severely test you (I mean, it’s called Dead Before I Stray), but it’s utterly worth it. There’s even a bit of jazz in there at 0.55 and 1.21.
Back in the heady days of the early noughties, when one could flick between MTV2, Kerrang and Scuzz for hours at a time consuming music videos of varying quality, my teenage self scornfully cast Slipknot aside as the scourge of the music industry: fully grown reprobates playing terrible nu-metal in stupid jump suits.
But then they released Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses and all was forgiven. They are, in actual fact, supremely talented scary bastards. With this, I came to reassess their back catalogue and found greatness in their noise. One track that will always rev me up like a horny pitbull is Three Nil. There’s only so much brutal meatiness one band can serve up…..Joey Jordison’s incredible drumming for the intro and lovely count in from Corey Taylor, the break your neck riff at 0.37, the half time second verse from 1.46, the bloody drum outro from 4.32! The cheeky tinkle of the cymbal at 4.42! What are you doing to me?!
In my much mulled over but fairly consistent top five music things, The Beatles sit neatly at the top. Slotting in below them is SikTh, with their two albums worth of mind blowing genius. I cannot really express how much of an impact this music had on my young impressionable ears. At first, I was dumbfounded and a little scared, as I could not make head nor tail of it. I listened to it again, still no sense could be made. What the hell are they are squawking about? Do they know what a chorus sounds like, or how long a typical bar is? After maybe my tenth straight listen, the tiny jigsaw pieces of my shattered brain were jammed together and thus, my adulation of SikTh began.
I’ve always had a particular soft spot for If You Weren’t So Perfect, given the blaring intro, verses of guitar harmonics over Dan Foord’s bonkers drumming and a perfectly jarring chorus, consisting of inventive dual vocals and switching rhythm, merging into ascending slides and clever bass drum work from 1.13.
Now, I could have ended on a classic Pantera song. Or maybe some Binge and Purge era Metallica. Oh how sorely tempting it is. But right now, though likely to change come tomorrow morning, my choice of song to unashamedly bulldoze you into the next hemisphere is this: Forest by System Of A Down. PLAY.IT.LOUD.