Friday, January 3, 2014

Epic Metal for Beginners

Here's an important disclaimer right off the bat: the author of this blog is not an omniscient heavy metal guru. In fact, I am something of an epic metal beginner myself; all I can offer is a light enthusiasm for the genre, along with a few recommendations.

Here are three albums that demonstrate just how blood-pumpingly brilliant this music can be, while remaining relatively accessible to metal novices such as myself. If you fancy sampling some truly epic metal, start here:

File:Iron Maiden - Live After Death.jpg
Live After Death by Iron Maiden
Their first steps were fairly punkish, and their most recent albums are proggy and even experimental at times. If you're looking for Iron Maiden's best metal - and  Maiden's best is generally accepted to be up there with the best - you need to look somewhere in the middle. Powerslave, Piece of Mind and The Number of the Beast are all  worth a go, but since I'm only allowed to choose one, I've decided to go with Live After Death instead. This two-disc extravaganza contains barnstorming live versions of all the hits from the three aforementioned albums, and believe me, it's just as good as any Best Of. Live After Death is a great introduction to Iron Maiden, and to heavy metal in general, I think.

Wishmaster by Nightwish
My regular readers (if indeed I have any) may remember that this was one of the albums I got for Christmas this year. Well, I'm pleased to report that I had a good listen to it last night, and it was every bit as bonkers as I'd hoped. There are loads of synths, for one thing, which actually gives the record a slightly cheesy veneer, but the tunes underneath are undeniable. It's a good one for greenhorns, too, with a lot of variety in the instrumentation and tone; Two for Tragedy could have been ripped from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, whereas songs like Crownless are way at the top of the epic rocking scale. Oh, and there are some seriously amazing flute parts too.

Kings of Metal by Manowar
It's easy to feel uncomfortable when listening to this album. The songs on Kings of Metal have a tendency to be extremely unsavoury ("may your sword stay wet, like a young girl in her prime") and, in the case of Pleasure Slave, astonishingly sexist. However, if you can take all that medieval stuff in your stride, there's plenty of brilliance to be found here; even if Battle Hymns (their less lavish debut) is a better album on the whole, this is the record that really epitomises Manowar's epic metal ethos.Check out Hail and Kill for a pretty astounding example:

Just wait until it kicks in.

I've tried to steer clear of the more 'difficult' end of heavy metal here. Growling, more complicated song structures, the really heavy stuff...that can wait for my 'Intermediate Epic Metal' blog. I've tried to pick relatively immediate stuff, with big riffs and really big vocals.

If you're the metal guru I mentioned in the first paragraph, you probably have a whole bunch of bands that you'd recommend over the three I've covered here today. And that's great (you can do so in the comments!) As I say, I've scarcely dipped my toe in the world of metal; I'm a pamphlet rather than an encyclopaedia, and I'd love to go a little deeper. So feel free to help.

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