“For me, the essence of black metal and my main black metal inspiration is Blood Fire Death  by BATHORY.
The impact of that record, the vocals and the whole epicness of it, was huge. You can hear that epic sound through my catalogue too, the huge reverbs and the choirs, it all served to enhance the extremity of the songs. The first few Bathory albums were great, but Quorthon [Bathory main man] showed much more versatility on Blood Fire Death and he was progressing through to the music with clean vocals that he did later. Morbid Tales  by CELTIC FROST is important too, another essential piece for this kind of extreme music. It’s so dark and there are all these echoes, these dark voices, and you can’t make out a word of it, but it creates this atmosphere that was just really bad!
MORBID ANGEL’s Altars Of Madness  is an absolute must-have for any death metal fan and Left Hand Path  by ENTOMBED was very genre-defining for death metal too. The heaviness of Entombed was very intense. It was more commercial than Morbid Angel, certainly, but just as powerful.
I have to pick a DARKTHRONE album and although Soulside Journey  is my favourite, from a black metal point of view, and if you want to know where black metal comes from, you have to hear Transilvanian Hunger . We looked up to Darkthrone when we started Emperor. We knew the early demos and we were in touch with Fenriz [Darkthrone drummer] and sat in on their rehearsals and hung out. When we were in Thou Shalt Suffer, just before we started Emperor, we rented a house and stayed there all summer to write and record a demo and during that time, Nocturno Culto [Darkthrone guitarist] came to visit us. We recorded two cover songs with him on drums and vocals. We did The Usurper and Circle Of The Tyrants by Celtic Frost!
“The thing that got me into a lot of this extreme metal was Symphonies Of Sickness  by CARCASS. There’s nothing epic about it, but it was really dark and had this low, growling voice that was completely inhuman. In the first band I played in with Samoth [Emperor guitarist], when I was 13, one of the guys played me the opening riff from Welcome Home from Them  by KING DIAMOND. I thought the riff was so cool. I was coming from an Iron Maiden background, so it sounded very complicated but very catchy at the same time. Them is a concept album and it was very different from what I knew, with all the different voices he uses and Andy LaRocque’s soloing too. Andy is the man. There was this amazing dark attitude to the whole record.
“If you want something more obscure, try GROTESQUE, the band that came before AT THE GATES. I remember listening to their Incantation EP , which had a black and white drawing on the front. I had a very strong connection to that record and the sound of it and the vocals.
“It might surprise people, but for me, METALLICA’s Master Of Puppets  is a very heavy and important album. It was the first album of theirs that I got into. I only had it on tape to start with, and the images I had in my head, from the acoustic guitar parts and all that, I imagined them with this very baroque clothing and with dark make-up on, but at the time they were just thrashers with jeans and leather jackets. There was nothing baroque or gothic about them at all!
“It’s such an evocative record. You know how it is sometimes, when you suddenly think that you need to hear that album again, and I smelled the same smells that I could remember from when I was much younger and listening to Master Of Puppets back then, that whole flashback thing. It’s such a great record. Musically, it deviated from the whole traditional metal thing, but it was still very melodic. It’s not like Carcass, which was more random and atonal. It had that great mix of intensity and melody, and so many fantastic songs.
Of course, if you’re into extreme music and you don’t own both Ghost Reveries and Watershed by OPETH then something is wrong! Watershed  is not as commercial, so maybe Ghost Reveries  is the one to hear first. In Emperor, we were fans of Opeth before they even entered a studio! We used to listen to their rehearsal tape, the one that got them signed, and look at them now! Ghost Reveries is such a great album.”
Five ear-stabbing Extreme Metal essentials
CANNIBAL CORPSE - The Bleeding, 1994
The biggest seller from death metal’s most successful band was vocalist Chris Barnes’ swansong, but he went out in style with some of the Buffalo crew’s most brutal songs, Fucked With A Knife and the censor-baiting Stripped, Raped And Strangled.
EMPEROR - Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk, 1997
Following the ground-breaking majesty of In The Nightside Eclipse, Emperor’s second full album smashed the opposition with its intensely elaborate and literate re-imagining of black metal’s atmospheric principles and sublime intricacy.
AT THE GATES - Slaughter Of The Soul, 1995
Masters and creators of ‘the Gothenburg sound’ alongside In Flames and Dark Tranquillity, At The Gates were already underground heroes, but Slaughter… was a slab of melodic death metal perfection that would become one of the most influential metal albums of all time.
CRADLE OF FILTH - Dusk And Her Embrace, 1996
Britain’s response to Norway’s black metal explosion was a more considered, theatrical and traditional affair, but C[radle Of Filth were always a superb metal band first and foremost, and this was where they transcended their origins and became a genuine phenomenon. A deliciously grand vision realised.
DIMMU BORGIR - Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia, 2001
Grim to the core but proudly ambitious, Dimmu outgrew their shadowy origins on this impossibly bold and belligerent monument to the dark side. State-of-the-art extremity, blacker than midnight on a moonless night but dazzling in its grandeur.
Where black and death metal was born
Venom - WELCOME TO HELL, 1981
Without this debut album from the North East’s loudest band of all time, extreme metal may never have evolved. Raw, uncompromising and ugly, this was Motörhead’s ballsy blueprint dragged screaming to Hell.
Death - SCREAM BLOODY GORE, 1987
Possessed may have given the genre a name on album Seven Churches, but it was Chuck Schuldiner’s Death who defined death metal on their primitive but ferocious debut.
Autopsy - MENTAL FUNERAL, 1991
For many, the ultimate old-school death metal band, Autopsy made music that was just as gruesome as their goofy, horror-obsessed lyrics. Their second album was a stupidly heavy vat of suffocating, satanic sludge. Awesome
Mayhem - DE MYSTERIIS DOM SATHANAS, 1994
Shrouded in notoriety, this is Norwegian black metal’s most important album and a tribute to its creator; guitarist Euronymous, murdered in 1993 by Burzum’s Varg Vikernes.
Napalm Death - FROM ENSLAVEMENT TO OBLITERATION, 1988
Rightfully regarded as the true Gods of Grind, ND took metal to new levels of speed on debut Scum, but it’s this feral, blistering follow-up that secured their status.
Hammer-approved releases that take the genre to mind-bending levels
NEUROSIS - Through Silver In Blood, 1996
Originally a punk band, Neurosis’s evolution has been one of the most fascinating stories in heavy music history. A monstrously heavy work of art, Through Silver… converted everyone from alternative rock fans to die-hard metalheads.
ISIS - Oceanic, 2002
Up to their knees in FX pedals and smart ideas, Boston, MA’s Isis perfected their proudly cinematic and free-flowing take on extreme music on this dazzling epic, their second release. Mellifluous grooves collided with walls of shimmering guitar noises and jaws collectively hit the floor.
CULT OF LUNA - The Beyond, 2003
The bastard offspring of Neurosis and Isis, Sweden’s Cult Of Luna summoned great beauty from the volcanic cacophony of their heavily layered sound. From the crushing Receiver to the heartbreaking Further, this was a magnifi cent trip into the void.
SWANS - The Great Annihilator, 1995
New York’s undisputed art rock masters were constantly mutating. On this unsung masterpiece they veered from disorientating tornadoes of sound to the most subtle and elegant of acoustic interludes. The sound of legends leaping over boundaries.
PELICAN - Australasia, 2003
With strong and self-evident connections to doom metal and sludge, Chicago’s Pelican could easily have been just another heavy band taking things slow, but Australasia was laced with atmospheric magic, goosebump-inducing dynamics and a spellbinding sense of wide-eyed adventure.
SUNN 0))) - Flight Of The Behemoth, 2002
Conceived as a prank, Sunn 0))) soon realised that their arse-threatening drones and disdain for convention was attracting a sizeable audience. On their second album, they defined themselves and reached a startling level of sonic weight, not least on a wilful dismantling of Metallica’s For Whom The Bell Tolls.
ENSLAVED - Ruun, 2006
Ostensibly a black metal band, but one that has been ploughing a singular and thrilling furrow for many moons, Enslaved are extreme metal’s cherished and lauded awkward squad, and Ruun is simply one of many prog-drenched recent triumphs.
TODAY IS THE DAY - Temple Of The Morning Star, 1996
Led by bug-eyed, gun-toting badass Steve Austin, TITD bring aggression and malevolence to the post-metal realm, injecting every Neurosis-like surge of sound with a harrowing degree of punk defiance and rage, as showcased on this barrage of teeth-grinding riff psychosis.
THE OCEAN - Precambrian, 2007
The work of a many-headed collective, you can hear the sheer breadth of ideas at The Ocean’s disposal on this sprawling paean to the Earth’s formative years. With everything from guitars and drums to violins and glockenspiels in the mix, metal’s vocabulary could hardly fail to expand.
ASVA - What You Don’t Know Is Frontier, 2008
With notes that erupt and then resonate for what seems like days, Asva’s second album is not a record for those with a short attention span. Instead, it’s an emotionally draining exercise in harnessing the essence of heaviness itself. Succumb and be enlightened.
Sen Dog and co prove their Modern/Alt metal credentials
“I know it’s pretty fresh, but once you hear SLAYER’s World Painted Blood  you’ll know why it’s essential. I listen to more Slayer now because of this record. [Drummer] Dave Lombardo and I actually went to the same high school and we shared classes so I feel kind of connected to him in a way. GUNS N’ ROSES’ Appetite For Destruction  has to be in there. It has a lot of rock’n’roll appeal but the whole attitude just screams metal, y’know. SOUNDGARDEN guitar player Kim Thayil is one of the sickest in the business, and I’m so glad that they’re reuniting for Lollapalooza and we’re going to be on the same bill as them. My favourite album of theirs is Badmotorfinger .
“I gotta give Lemmy some love. MOTÖRHEAD’s Ace Of Spades  album is the best, seriously. I recently picked up a best of Motörhead as well and got my head properly wrapped around that Damage Case song. I enjoy all the SYSTEM OF A DOWN stuff but Toxicity  is their defining moment. It was the most well-rounded album – every tune is a must-play. The way they arrange their format is so different and it freaked everyone out, which is refreshing.
I can’t leave SLIPKNOT out! I loved Slipknot right away from the first time I heard their debut [Slipknot, 1999]. I really dig their whole get-up and all that. There are bands who can play and are good, and there are bands who ‘get it’, and right from this record I knew Slipknot ‘got it’. I wish I was in that group, ha ha ha! Again, I could choose anything by RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, but for me the first one [Rage Against The Machine, 1992] is their best. They are a rare band who were both influential and sounded amazing too.
“What I remember most about the early 80s was the look the heavy funk and punk funk (Rick James, Cameo) guys had: lots of leather, and those high boots – it was just like JUDAS PRIEST. Just to not be the odd one out I had to listen to it and I dug it! I loved British Steel . I loved the way SEPULTURA brought their native Brazilian style of music into the feel of metal. Roots  was definitely some tribal shit – even down to the name. Me being an islander myself – from Cuba – I’m kind of drawn to that. And I don’t know if LED ZEPPELIN qualify, but they’re the fathers of metal, right?! They really brought all their influences and sounds together best on IV . Zeppelin weren’t your average rock band, and that influenced Cypress: we didn’t want to be your average hip-hop group.”
Five Hammer-approved genre-mashing releases
SKINDRED - Roots Rock Riot, 2007
Skindred invented and own ragga metal, and RRR cemented their reputation as both innovative artists and great songwriters. Of 12 tracks, standouts like Trouble and Rat Race were ecstatically welcomed into their already-explosive set.
DIR EN GREY - The Marrow Of A Bone, 2007
Their seventh release marked 10 years of the band. Always an enigma, the Japanese quintet combined their broad influences – NIN, Korn, Testament and Depeche Mode – to great effect.
CYPRESS HILL - Skull & Bones, 2000
Always honorary metalheads, the hip-hop group released a double disc: one of straight-up hip-hop and one of rap metal. At the height of nu metal, the Californians taught the metal set how to do it.
THE WORKHORSE MOVEMENT - Sons Of The Pioneers, 2000
An experimental mix of punk and metal riffs, psychedelic vibes and Motown soul, Workhorse toured with bands as diverse as Fishbone, Slayer and Amen. Too far ahead of their time.
THE PRODIGY - Fat Of The Land, 1997
Crowbarring minds open about what ‘metal’ is, this was a collision between the hardest dance breaks and futuristic punk riffing. Metal because we bloody say so.
Five albums that took heavy music into uncharted territory
Rage Against The Machine - RATM, 1992
Aerosmith/Run DMC and Anthrax/Public Enemy started it all, but RATM’s debut put the relationship between rap and metal on the map forever. Still the most pissed-off album in town.
Faith No More - ANGEL DUST, 1992
Faith No More fearlessly blended funk, metal, rap and no-boundaries experimentalism to jaw-dropping effect here. In a career chock-full of classic albums, this remains their defi ning moment.
System Of A Down - SOAD, 1998
Sounding like nobody before or since, SOAD’s debut combined nu metal, traditional Armenian music, the Dead Kennedys and a fierce political edge in one neon-coloured atom bomb of an album.
At The Drive-In - RELATIONSHIP OF COMMAND, 2000
Influencing the worlds of metal, hardcore and punk in one fell swoop, ROC was achingly melodic and samurai-sharp with all the power of a David Haye right-hander, often within the same song.
Nirvana - BLEACH, 1989
Introducing punk rock ideals and no-thrills approach to mainstream rock, Bleach was a shotgun blast that didn’t just change rock and metal, but also the way musicians of every genre thought forever.
Machine Head’s lead shredder on 10 thrash albums that influenced him
“SLAYER are the main reason that I am playing heavy music, so it makes sense that I start with them and Haunting The Chapel . I witnessed their first show in northern California in 1983 at a time when I liked a lot of radio rock as well as thrash, bought the record a little later and decided to pick a certain path because of it. Songs like Chemical Warfare are positively ripping. They definitely planted the seeds for a lot of bands that came afterwards with that album, and it may sound strange but I think that the same can be said of Morbid Tales  by CELTIC FROST. That was the record that introduced me to a slower but equally brutal kind of metal, and I think that the breakdowns and guttural vocals on that album played a big part in the evolution of a lot of bands who were focused solely on speed before then. Plus they were from Europe, which was really strange back then.
“Another European record that really deserves credit is THE HAUNTED’s The Haunted . Hate Song is one of the single best thrash songs ever written and from front to back it’s a very powerful record. I was married for a while and music kind of took a back seat so I didn’t hear it until 2002 even though it came out a few years before then, but when I heard it I felt as though I was a kid all over again. During my high school days I was really into Heavy Metal Maniac  by EXCITER. That record is what I would call pre-thrash thrash, if that makes any sense at all! They had a lot of double bass in their songs and a real banshee of a singer who was also the drummer. When it comes to early, primitive thrash records they don’t come much better or more infl uential than Heavy Metal Maniac.
“Much like The Haunted another relatively recent, European record that really grabbed me was Inwards  by DEW-SCENTED. They’re from Germany but they have a real Bay Area influence to them, which is probably why I dig them! They’re super-fast and have some great vocals over the top of killer riffs. I’d even say that there are a couple of Slayer records where they should’ve sounded more like Dew-Scented! They’re really unique, but one of the most groundbreaking and unexpected metal records I’ve ever heard was Arise  by SEPULTURA. It was a real occasion when they came through the Bay Area because they had quality songs and came from Brazil, which seemed ludicrous at the time. Everybody loved Iggor Cavalera because he was such a sick drummer, and overall you won’t find many thrash albums in the same league as Arise.
“Another band that never gets enough credit in my book is TESTAMENT, especially with The New Order . They spent years knocking on the door of the big four and were unfortunate to never break through to that level. I toured with them in 1988 when I was in Vio-Lence and they were on fire. Every song on that record is straight up amazing and Chuck Billy had the best thrash metal voice in the world – period. When it comes to classic 80s thrash I’d have to throw SLAYER into the mix again with Reign In Blood . I was already firmly entrenched in thrash and Slayer themselves by the time it came out, but when it dropped it was the most brutal record ever. I loved the two albums that they made before it but the intensity and the ferociousness of Reign In Blood is something that you’ll never be able to match.
METALLICA also deserve a special mention, so I’m going to pick Ride The Lightning . In Machine Head we have this Ride The Lightning versus Master Of Puppets debate all the time, but for me the raw production and the thrashier elements of the songs makes it stand out. Songs like Fight Fire With Fire and Trapped Under Ice are classic thrash songs and overall it still maintained a heavy punk influence, which was a big part of the genre.
“It’s one of the best examples of thrash ever recorded, but my number one choice is Bonded By Blood  by EXODUS. That record simply captured the whole essence of what thrash was to me as a kid. They had the jean vests and the white sneakers, but the anger and frustration was there for all to hear in the music. They made violence fun in all the right ways, and for me Bonded By Blood is by far the best example of thrash at its absolute peak.”
Five other Hammer-approved thrash essentials
DEATH ANGEL - The Ultra-Violence, 1987
Their drummer Andy Galeon may only have been 13, but San Fran’s Death Angel could sure lay down the thrash. The fact that Metallica’s Kirk Hammett produced their Kill As One demo – also a frankly gob-smacking inclusion here – speaks volumes.
DARK ANGEL - Darkness Descends, 1986
Overshadowed by the Bay Area thrash heavyweights, LA’s Dark Angel produced three monstrous albums. Darkness Descends is utterly compelling, frenzied and evil to the core.
ANNIHILATOR - Alice In Hell, 1989
Canadian thrash metal is the best music ever, as we all know, and the Great White North hit an early peak in thrash terms with this masterpiece from the ludicrously talented shredder Jeff Waters. Twenty years later, Annihilator are still a mighty force. Buy it.
SABBAT - History Of A Time To Come, 1988
British thrash was crap apart from Sabbat and Onslaught, and of those the former had the longer reign, combining semi-progressive song-writing with merciless riffage thanks to vocalist Martin Walkyier and axeman Andy Sneap (now a much in-demand producer). Sabbat’s debut still sounds gigantic.
SUICIDAL TENDENCIES - How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today, 1988
Once upon a time there was hardcore punk and there was thrash, and the twain never met until bands such as ST mixed ’em up. Suddenly crossover was the new thing, and they’re still doing it now. Why? Because it’s so maddeningly amazing.
Five albums that kickstarted thrash
Metallica - MASTER OF PUPPETS, 1986
Even 24 years on, there is no denying the immense power of the songs that comprise Metallica’s third album. How the hell did they do it? And why didn’t they keep it up?
Megadeth - PEACE SELLS… BUT WHO’S BUYING?, 1986
Being massively pissed off obviously worked for Dave Mustaine’s songcraft. Mildly irked with his ex-bandmates in Metallica, he wrote this early classic just to spite them.
Slayer - REIGN IN BLOOD, 1986
There is no more brutal way to spend 28 minutes than with Slayer’s third album. Go on, play it loudly through headphones. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve heard it: you will still shit yourself
Anthrax - AMONG THE LIVING, 1987
Some folk thought Anthrax were a joke because they wore shorts. Wrong. Their third LP combines blistering speed with songs about Judge Dredd and Indians – and utterly wins.
Kreator - PLEASURE TO KILL, 1986
Thrash wasn’t all about Americans with skinny jeans. It was also about Germans with skinny jeans. Pleasure… sounded as though Kreator had grown up in a grim industrial hell – because they had.
Hammer selects the machine-powered essentials
RAMMSTEIN - Sehnsucht, 1997
Despite being sung entirely in German, Rammstein’s second album brought them success all over the world. In truth, it’s not hard to see why. The riffs are massive, the tunes are instantly memorable. Hugeness soon followed.
NINE INCH NAILS - The Downward Spiral, 1994
Having conquered the world with his Pretty Hate Machine debut, Trent Reznor’s genius was laid bare on the follow-up, an astonishingly deep, dense and complex concept record that would strike a chord with gloomy bastards everywhere.
MINISTRY - Psalm 69, 1992
Despite origins as a synth-pop band, Ministry took to metal like drug-munching ducks to polluted water. Psalm 69 was all about heavy metal riffs, with plenty of thunderous, programmed drums and barking mad slogans thrown in for good measure.
GODFLESH - Streetcleaner, 1989
A stripped-down but destructive beast, the second album from these British industrialists bombarded stunned listeners with giant, grinding riffs, howling feedback and bleak, inhuman vocals, inspiring Machine Head and Fear Factory in the process.
SCRAPING FOETUS OFF THE WHEEL - Hole, 1984
An obvious inspiration to both Trent Reznor and Ministry’s Al Jourgensen, Jim ‘Foetus’ Thirlwell has been making uniquely twisted and imaginative records like this wild, industrial masterpiece for 30 years now. Dark, deranged and compelling, Hole was a new kind of futuristic musical Hell.
SKINNY PUPPY - Too Dark Park, 1990
A landmark in the chain that led to NIN and Ministry, Skinny Puppy remain one of industrial rock’s most revered bands. This stunning paean to urban decay and mortal horror still sounds like nothing on Earth.
LAIBACH - Opus Dei, 1987
Before Rammstein, there was Laibach. Mischievously flirting with totalitarian imagery and revelling in the Wagnerian pomp of their militaristic, bombastic sound, these crafty Slovenians were both industrial pioneers and dedicated masters of musical subversion.
DIE KRUPPS - Tribute To Metallica EP, 1992
Despite making numerous important albums during their formative years, it was this clanking and peculiar tribute to the thrash metal legends that secured Die Krupps as crossover artistes par excellence, blurring the lines between industrial rock and metal like never before and uniting the tribes along the way.
FRONTLINE ASSEMBLY - Millennium, 1994
Led by studio scientists Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber (also a known associate of Fear Factory), these adventurous Canadians covered much ground during their existence, but this storming blend of beats, bleeps, movie samples and crunching guitars was their most powerfully metal-friendly moment.
KMFDM - Naïve, 1990
Closer to the original sound of industrial rock than their more metallic peers, KMFDM always knew how to kick arse too, even when dabbling with sequenced beats and psychedelic ambience. Rammstein are huge fans of the band, and this album noisily explains why.
Five Finger Death Punch’s guitarist picks 10 modern metal masterpieces
“If you’re talking about modern metal then Vulgar Display Of Power  by PANTERA is definitely the number one. I was not a big fan of the hair metal stuff that was coming out of LA at the end of the 80s. The only band I liked from that era was WASP, you know? I wasn’t into the grunge scene either, Nirvana and all those bands. Vulgar Display… was a light at the end of the tunnel. It was an inspiration to me and it blew my fuckin’ pants off. Watching Dimebag Darrell play, I felt like I was going to give up playing the guitar, you know? I had to go home, lick my wounds and stitch up the new arsehole that this guy just tore me! Ha ha! I went back to the drawing board and started all over.
“And you can’t deny The Black Album  by METALLICA, right? It put metal into a glass box. You’ll never get a better-sounding record. That was a moment when a band did all the right things and it was absolute perfection. Musically, I preferred Master Of Puppets , but The Black Album is a monument. It’s the cross on the grave of traditional metal. There was nowhere left to go after that. It was an honourable burial for traditional heavy metal!
“After that, ironically, IN FLAMES were the keepers of the flame! The dark days of grunge were sweeping across the globe, but these guys were churning out stainless Swedish steel, keeping it all alive. Nobody ever waves the flag for those guys. Whoracle  and Clayman  were two records I destroyed several neighbours of mine with!
“KILLSWITCH ENGAGE are one of my favourite bands of all time. They are a very important bridge between melodic death metal and all the metalcore bands. They have this balance between melody and aggression, and without bands like Killswitch, Five Finger Death Punch wouldn’t exist or we would be a very different band. The End Of Heartache  is one of my all-time favourite records. I’ve got several speeding tickets while listening to it!
“DEMON HUNTER are another amazing band. I absolutely love the melodies they come up with. Summer Of Darkness  is another favourite record of mine. They’re not as important as Killswitch, but they’re still a solid brick of gold in the plethora of metal bands that are out there right now. I also absolutely love Sehnsucht  by RAMMSTEIN. It brought a new hope for arena metal, if there’s still such a thing! I guess they did eventually become an arena band, at least in Europe.
“I love SLIPKNOT and particularly the third album, Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) , Slipknot were the band that connected this new kind of metal with the metal I loved. KORN really started that whole thing, and their first record, Korn  is killer, but Vol. 3 is a perfect record.
“DISTURBED is another band that catches a lot of shit because they came out of that whole nu metal era, but the interesting thing is that they have a great fucking singer in David Draiman! Dan Donegan is a great guitar player too, and he comes up with some really interesting riffs. They sell millions of records for a reason, you know? At a time when most frontmen just scream, David can really fucking sing and their records are getting better and better and maybe even purer as they go along. Indestructible  was a great album.
Another band that is very important today is DRAGONFORCE. A lot of people see them as a novelty, but those guys can really, really shred! They’re top of the line, hot shot players, and I would say that Herman Li is probably the best guitarist that this generation has produced. Just listen to Inhuman Rampage , man. Herman is playing an important role in metal, just like Yngwie J Malmsteen did before. Those guys don’t take themselves seriously and I like them a lot. People don’t walk up to you and say, ‘Secretly, I’m a Viking warrior!’ No one’s going to do that. Dragonforce are funny guys and they made it OK to play that kind of stuff and really have fun with it.”
Five albums that have broken the mould
STRAPPING YOUNG LAD - City, 1997
Taking Fear Factory’s cyber-thrash blueprint and cranking everything up several notches. This remains the Canadians’ most earth-shattering achievement to date.
DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN - Calculating Infinity, 1999
An album with WTF? written all over it, DEP’s debut was a mathematically bewildering, avant-garde, face-melting explosion of creativity and intensity – expanding the boundaries of metal.
LAMB OF GOD - Ashes Of The Wake, 2004
Widely hailed as ‘the new Pantera’, Virginia’s finest came into their own on their third album, as the riff-count grew and the hooks got bigger. With anthems like Now You’ve Got Something To Die For, their status as the kings of the new metal breed was never in doubt after this monster.
GOJIRA - From Mars To Sirius, 2005
Utterly inspired and utterly unexpected, Gojira put France’s overlooked heavy music scene on the map once and for all with this heroically original album that threw together death metal, Meshuggah-style polyrhythms and the widescreen grandeur of Devin Townsend’s sterling production work.
SOILWORK - Natural Born Chaos, 2002
Bred within the ever-fruitful Swedish melodic death metal scene, Soilwork are devout futurists and this collaboration with producer Devin Townsend sealed their reputation as riffmasters glued to the cutting edge. Unmissable.
After grunge killed metal, these bands revived it
Avenged Sevenfold - CITY OF EVIL, 2005
The eyeliner-wearing badboys of OC hardcore turned in a career-defining album of sleazy metallic hard rock that put them on the world stage. This was Appetite For Destruction for the new generation.
Sepultura - CHAOS AD, 1993
Already revered among thrash and death metal fans for their primitive early releases, the boys from Brazil were firmly at the cutting edge of metal on this collection of razor-sharp riffs and crushing brutality.
Machine Head - BURN MY EYES, 1994
A near-perfect debut album that smashed all opposition with an arsenal of devastating riffs that took the essence of thrash into a brave new world, the first Machine Head album simply ruled. And it still does.
Fear Factory - DEMANUFACTURE, 1995
So far ahead of its time that bands are still failing to rip it off convincingly today, Fear Factory’s ultra-precise extreme metal attack and pioneering harsh-to-clean vocal approach dragged metal into the future.
Slipknot - SLIPKNOT, 1999
For those who thought that Korn and Deftones were lacking in aggression, Slipknot’s debut proper was exactly what the nu metal doctor ordered. Savage, chaotic and as catchy now as they ever were.
Adam D picks the discs that defined the 90s and beyond
METALLICA - Ride The Lightning, 1984
“I’m a guitar player, so riffs might come up quite a lot, but the riffs on this record were just monumental. Metallica were pretty much the band that taught me how to play guitar. This album has the songwriting, the attitude and intricate riffs.”
METALLICA - Master Of Puppets, 1986
“The development from Ride… to Master… was massive: They still had the aggression but they were more mature. It was smarter: the leads were a little smarter, the songs were a little smarter. I don’t play it that often, but you always hear them wherever you go.”
SLAYER - Reign In Blood, 1986
“This record has it all: the aggression, the guitar riffs, the attitude. If you look at the sound of the record it’s very thin, you can hear the instruments being played, the drums aren’t soundreplaced, you’re hearing the playing – and you don’t hear metal records like that anymore. It’s unique.”
PANTERA - Vulgar Display Of Power, 1992
“It’s a record that when you hear, you know that it’s Dime – it’s his riffs and his tone. It’s every guitarist’s dream to be distinguishable from one chord. How many bands would cite that band and that record as
CANNIBAL CORPSE - The Bleeding, 1994
“The first time I heard this record I was like, ‘This band write insane riffs!’ It’s absolutely incredible death metal. It’s untouchable. This one was the first record of theirs that hit me, when I realised they were really special. Everything was so tappy and so heavy and so grindy – it’s really cool.”
DEICIDE - Once Upon The Cross, 1995
“The most evil and satanic metal record ever made with the sickest of riffs and licks. I love the sound, it’s so empty and scooped and metal sounding – it’s very, very heavy. If you’re really personally anti- God and anti-religion then you’re stoked for this record.”
CARCASS - Heartwork, 1993
“Their sound and their songwriting really changed things. They had the death metal elements, it was grinding and they threw it all together with these Iron Maiden-y riffs and it worked and made something really awesome – it totally changed the world of metal for me.”
IN FLAMES - Colony, 1999
“This record is such a great combination of so many elements and metal sounds for me: the songwriting, the riffs, the harmonised leads. It was a big part of Killswitch Engage. It was like Maiden without the singing, with heavy breakdowns… on steroids.”
AT THE GATES - Slaughter Of The Soul, 1995
“The songs sound great: it’s the melodic riffs and the pure speed. You can hear their influence in so many of the bands that followed them: from melodic death metal to metalcore and so on. And there’s a reason… because it’s awesome!”
MESHUGGAH - Destroy Erase Improve, 1995
“There are so many musicians that want that technical aspect of Meshuggah for their own band. I hadn’t really thought about drums like that until I heard this record – that record changed the way I played drums. The thing with the drummer is that it’s completely chaotic but you can still groove to it.”
This article originally appeared in Metal Hammer #205.