Metal! Addendum : Iron Maiden and 2010

February 2, 2011

Okay, I feel the need to make a major revision to a statement made in my Metal! article posted here, thus here is this addendum.

See, as I described the artist at the fourth spot, Dio, I remarked that to capture the sound of metal for that particular time it had to be Dio or Iron Maiden and that I’d pick Dio over Maiden “any day of the week.” I massively sleighted the Maiden on the entire list. This might seem irrelevant and pointless to non metal fans, spot on to a few metal fans, and downright heresy to a huge number of metal fans. I’ve changed my mind about it enough to warrant this post.

Now, no slight is now intended to Dio, the group or the singer who gave it its namesake, Ronnie James Dio. I still think he was probably the coolest and best vocalist in metal and it was sad to see him pass last year. But I was wrong to overlook Maiden; my previous experience with their music  was a bit of their “Number of the Beast” record and “Piece of Mind.” For some reason, I stumbled into listening to their 2010 record, “The Final Frontier.” I liked it enough to backtrack to listen to their classic work;   to “Somehwhere in Time” and “The Best of the Beast” …which led to listening to the self-titled debut, “Powerslave,” “Fear of the Dark,” “Live After Death,” “Dance of Death,” and so on. In short, I haven’t listened to this much metal in a very long time and I have no idea how I overlooked this massive catalogue of excellent material, music that can appeal to metal fans, classic rock fans, pretty much anyone who likes great musicians and can dig a little fantasy and cheese. Because seriously, this is often cheesy stuff but I mean that in the best possible way. This is science fiction paperback cheesy that delivers excitement even when you know its “pulp,” and then you love it even more. Amidst the songs about sorcerors, warriors, battlefields, time travel, haunted woods and the like though, Maiden sneaks in heartfelt ballads about enjoying life, love, family and friends, about recognizing that you are living in the “Golden Years” already. They critique war, politics, and figures who misuse and abuse religion. They tell concept ablums about  the “seventh son of a seventh son” or narrate the life of Alexander the Great. Maiden have a wide range of excellence in their catalogue and appear to have stayed consistent and grown throughout about 30 years of music so that’s pretty impressive. And their album last year? It went number 1 in something like 30 seperate countries! For a band that hasn’t received mainstream attention in the US since the mid-eighties, that’s quite a shock, but after hearing songs like the album closer “When the Wind Blows” I can see why they’re globally appreciated. Another band I completely overlooked on the best of list was Judas Priest, a band I knew only for “British Steel,” and their biggest hits. I listened to their ’70s albums which pretty much crafted the sound metal later became and then dug into their more mainstream fair to catch some of their popular highlights, and I’m now aware that they certainly deserved to make my list as well. So, of all of the “genre best” lists I”ve done so far, “Metal!” is the only one I would re-evaluate in hindsight, the only one I feel I missed the mark on. Rather than re-factor the list now though, I’ll work on an upcoming one to revisit Metal in the album format, highlighting 20 of the best Metal records of all time.

So, while on the subject of metal I feel I should mention some great metal that came out last year– metal didn’t make the cut on my “10 Best Albums of 2010” or “20 Best Songs of 2010” list, and since I did a “Hip Hop in 2010” post to make up for some of the almost-but-not-quite rap records  last year but not for metal, I figure it is now time to rectify that. So in addition to “The Final Frontier,” these are metal records from 2010 that are worth checking out:

* Danzig – Deth Red Saboth

Danzig hasn’t released anything in six years and nothing near the highlights of his first four records in more than a decade; no longer with any major distribution and releasing his work on a small independant label with a limited budget could have resulted in a record no one heard. Hopefully that’s not the case, because “Deth Red Saboth” (ridiculous title aside) is his strongest effort in quite some time. He melds together his punk rock garage tendencies that started him in his days with the Misfits and Samhain to the evil-Elvis/spooky Jim Morrison power goth metal of his own band’s early work and produces some classic moments: the pounding epic “Hammer of the Gods,” the creepy ballad “On a Wicked Night,” the Danzig II style outake of “Black Candy.”

*Deftones – Diamond Eyes

Deftones have been very consistent and proved to have a staying power that hardly any of their contemporaries proved to have–emerging with the likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit in the nineties, Deftones proved to have much more style, skill, and substance than any of the “pimp rawk,” “mook rawk,” or nu-metal bands. Only Tool, System of a Down, and arguably Slipknot managed to build careers worthy of continuance from that era of metal popularity, but Deftones have always done their own thing and done it well, even with the occasional experimentation suceeding. “Diamond Eyes” is another strong record in their catalogue with melodic powerhouses like the title track, creeping tension laced songs like “You’ve Seen the Butcher,” and true to form metal jams like “Rocket Skates.”

* Ihsahn – After

I’m not sure what these guys are singing about, but what sends this record over the top for me is just the sheer sonic beauty found in such unexpected fusions. This record deserves your time if only for “A Grave Inversed,” a song which welds jazz saxophone of a frantic and technically magnificent caliber to black metal aggression. Metal Jazz fusion is something I never expected to hear, but this is a tremendous sound and the wildness of both artforms actual work remarkably well together. There are many other highlights from “After,” but I’m still processing that one.

* High on Fire – Snakes for the Divine

HOF records are always intense apocalyptic doom metal sessions to show off ridiculously heavy riffs which take unexpected turns. The lyrics and fvocals always match the sound, but that sound is what is important and those guitars are why you listen to the record. The latest album is no exception in doing what they do best, providing another hour of face-melting metal that detours enough to be a step in a different direction that the work last time around.

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One Response to “Metal! Addendum : Iron Maiden and 2010”

  1. […] as an expanded correction of my METAL! article going further than my Addendum yet not redundantly producing a somewhat revised list of “best” artists, I’ve […]

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