When people think about metal bands, they may be inclined to hear non-stop guitar shredding and blast beats alongside screamed and growled angst-filled lyrics about death, blood, and Satan. This cliché only applies to a handful of metal bands, yet it deters folks from even stepping foot in the genre. If they did, at least with the right guide, they’d learn there is much more to it, with a broad spectrum of styles from the beautiful guitar melodies of Dream Theater to the brutal growls of Cannibal Corpse.
Today, let Rawckus be your guide into metal, starting with these five albums that may turn you into a fan.
Polaris by Tesseract
From singer Dan Tompkins’ smooth falsetto, you wouldn’t expect this record to be considered progressive. There are many choruses that will have you singing along, despite the complex song structures. “Survival” contains one of them: the line “Will I disappear with a vision of tomorrow?” is as catchy as any hit pop song. On Polaris, Tesseract shows just as much emphasis on melody as rhythm.
The ambient intro of “Tourniquet” utilizes guitar without any distortion and Tompkins’ falsetto while the song’s outro contains a headbang-worthy guitar riff full of crunchy distortion riding a catchy beat. Although Polaris brings in elements of R&B, rock, and electronic music, at its hard core, it’s still metal.
Magma by Gorjira
This is the most “metal” album on the list, but it’s full of surprises for everyone. Inspired to make the album more accessible and straight to the point, Gojira made Magma appeal to more than just fans of progressive death metal. In the past, they’ve used more growls, faster guitar riffs, and angrier lyrics, but here, Magma moves away from that, incorporating more singing, guitar melodies, and slower tempos.
The title track, “Magma,” is a perfect example. It’s almost completely devoid of screamed vocals, emphasizes melody, and showcases the inspiration that inspired much of the album’s mellow lyrics—the death of founding members, Joe and Mario Duplantier’s, mother. Lyrics like “Embrace the light on the other side” show the struggle to cope with the loss of a loved one. An emphasis on this message allows Gojira to show a new depth to their songwriting abilities.
Muse by Polyphia
It would be an injustice to not include an instrumental work on a list of metal albums. What distinguishes Muse from other instrumental metal albums is that it’s so uplifting. Taking into account the dark tones, aggressive guitar riffs that metal typically utilizes, it’s refreshing to hear some bright tones and a band more focused on writing beautiful melodies that are comparable to the music of Joe Satriani.
The track “Champagne” is just one example of Polyphia doing what they enjoy: playing smooth melodies that make you want to dance and have a good time. Nonetheless, Muse is no smooth jazz album; it’s full of the speed, aggression, and complexity sought after by metal guitarists everywhere. Guitarists Tim Henson and Scott LePage show that they can shred like Satriani and make it catchy. Whether they’re playing their individual solos or harmonizing, their songs maintain an uplifting mood. You can’t help but smile after listening to Muse.
Scurrilous by Protest the Hero
This album is perfect for those that are intrigued by the complexity of metal but turned off by the abrasive sounds of screaming and growling. Tim Millar and Luke Hoskin execute to their fullest on guitar here: tapping solos, speedy riffs, beautiful harmonies, slow melodies, and crushing rhythms. This keeps Scurrilous an exciting album in its entirety. However, vocalist Rody Walker gives just as unique of a performance on the album. He utilizes his large vocal range, using a small dose of screams, a large amount of opera.
The 2nd track, “Hair-Trigger,” is a great representation of the album. It begins with a catchy, yet crushing rhythm before breaking into a riff-driven verse. The drums are aggressive, adding to the intensity of the track. Walker’s vocals stand out when he showcases his falsetto halfway through the track. To make the track even more extraordinary, folk singer Jadea Kelly joins Walker in the last minute of the song for a short duet.
Meliora by Ghost
This album is a modern doom metal record that most describe as a heavy metal version of Blue Oyster Cult with the dark vibe of Black Sabbath. It suits fans who enjoy metal without the more abrasive elements, such as screamed vocals and blast beats. Lead vocalist Papa Emeritus III sings smooth tenor vocals while Nameless Ghouls, the instrumentalists of Ghost, provide pounding drumming, punchy bass lines, and slow-paced guitar melodies.