I was born in a small town. I think I might have previously mentioned that I lived up a fucking mountain. If not, you know now. Mountaintop living has a whole bunch of advantages like fresh air, a lack of scum and ample sprawling fields to play chase or hide bodies in. But one thing mountaintops have a disappointing dearth of is metal. Unless you live in Norway of course. Then you’ll have a different black metal band filming a video up there every week. So when a bout of curiosity found me leaving the local music shop with Cannibal Corpse’s Kill my little mind had a pretty similar reaction to Wile E. Coyote being squelched by a falling anvil.
This was not a good thing.
Kill is a fine album but it is also quite far from being friendly to beginners. The riffs can be angular, the solos make Slayer sound like Kenny G and there’s a part of Five Nails Through The Neck that is basically ten seconds of George Fisher screaming like a hoarse banshee stubbed its toe hard enough to break a nail. The toe kind, not the kind you hammer into necks. Anyway, I reacted exactly the way you would expect. I turned that psychotic bullshit off, tucked the Cannibal Corpse CD in the back of a drawer and started avoiding the gothy kids in school because they were clearly unstable and might explode at any minute.
Looking back, 15 year old me was fucking adorable (not in a creepy sexual way obviously).
And that might have been the end of me and metal if it weren’t for a little band called Lamb Of God. Because as soon as I figured out how to squeeze music onto my phone the first thing I did was decide to give metal one last chance to redeem itself and download As The Palaces Burn, which made me feel like I was the first person to discover fire or electricity or wearing t-shirts that are a size too small (this one works for guys and girls, the main difference between boobs and pecs is often who gets a funny feeling in their pants checking them out). As The Palaces Burn was my musical Crime Alley and ruined me for other music forevermore.
The point of that ill-conceived ramble is that some metal is more user-friendly than others. Metal covers a vast swathe of different acts and styles, many of whom have spent their career crafting a sound designed to repel outsiders and scare the shit out of fifteen year old virgins. So, in an effort to make the genre more accessible I’ll be doing an article like this from time to time where I highlight a band who can act as an easy entry point to the complicated but rewarding world of metal.
It might be fitting to start with Lamb Of God but a few days ago I had a better idea. I was hanging out with my brother, a music nut in his own right with no particular interest in metal, with one of the albums I’ve been using as a sort of metal version of easy listening playing in the background when he looked at me and said “this is actually pretty good.” Given his limited interest in metal, that seemed like a sign that they would be a solid pick for the article. And hailing from Australia, Daemon Pyre are more than pretty good. Writing bruising muscular metal in the vein of Chimaira, Machine Head and a better version of fellow Aussie metallers Parkway Drive, their songs are compact and focused but drip with attitude, skill and creativity, especially in the riff department. The tone is meaty, the growls explore every possibility between gurgling and shrieking and the production of the rhythm section rock solid. Their self-titled debut might be the most straightforward album I keep coming back to this year, because despite their mastery of attitude and tone, it’s not just about that: the songwriting is terrifically diverse without going soft at any point and I had a genuine problem choosing which song to include with the post, which is always promising. Suffice it to say, I’ve spent a lot of the year rocking out to this and it has stayed fresh and exciting for me, so I hope it might have the same effect on some unawakened metalhead out there and maybe even act as a gateway drug to the real heavy stuff. But if not, that’s okay. You like what you like and this is an opportunity, not some sort of holier than thou sermon (despite the length). It’s just that if I hadn’t stumbled across Lamb Of God all those years ago I might still be listening to fucking R. Kelly and I feel like that version of me would have missed out on a part of himself that has brought me a lot of happiness. You can self-test for latent metal health issues with the video for Courage Burns Brightest embedded below and give yourself a more thorough screening by picking up a copy of the full album on iTunes.