Estimated reading time: 12 minute(s)
Thanks for the wonderful AND comprehensive “Best of” lists; they are thoroughly enjoyable. I am also glad to hear you are back on speaking terms with Lucifer, as he generally has a low opinion of doctors–all that healing reminds him too much of Jesus. Welcome back to the dark side!
I found a lot to agree with on your 1990s list. Of course, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I am incapable of generating best of the decade lists–too many variables for my weak mind–but, if I could, my 1990s would definitely look a bit like yours. I would probably replace choices like Memento Mori (the true shocker of the list!), Tool, and Manson with In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, At the Gates, Gamma Ray, Helloween, Dimmu Borgir or Emperor, switch some albums (FF to Obsolete) and a bit of the order (Grin to #1!), but none of this would make that much of a difference.
Thanks especially for the 2009 list, it gives me much to think about as I finish up my own (yes, it is STILL in progress!). I can say that there will definitely be overlap!
I would like to address what I see to be your two main overall conclusions–that growling has excessively suppressed melody in metal over the last decade and, more importantly, that metal overall has gotten worse, at least compared with the 1990s.
As for your complaint about the lack of melody, I sympathize somewhat, especially as your tastes tend toward the more progressive AND heavy, an area that may well have a lingering Cookie Monster infestation. However, I feel like the perception of this as a problem, and the reaction against it, have both been around for some time now. For example, this reaction has seen metal core bands incorporate more and more clean vocal melodies, just check out the latest All That Remains or Trivium albums. Newer bands in that genre, such as The Agonist or Luna Mortis, take it for granted that their songs must have strong vocal melodies. Even some veteran black/death metal acts, such as Primordial, Amorphis, and Katatonia, have switched from mostly growling to mostly clear singing, which has increased the amount of melody in their music. In addition, building on earlier Swedish achievements, “melodious death metal” has solidified over the last decade as a new niche in which bands like Insomnium, Swallow the Sun, etc. inject death metal with copious amounts of guitar melodies. Still further, gothic metal, which is heavily dependent on vocal melodies and features some of the best clear singers in the business, has over the last decade become a leading force in metal, both commercially and critically. And of course classic bands, some of which you mentioned, like Iron Maiden, have continued in the melodious tradition, as have power metal bands, such as Rage, Gamma Ray, Helloween, Edguy, Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius, etc. (none of which you like, I take it!). Based on the above, on an overall basis, I think you can make the case that there is actually more melody in metal today than there was ten years ago. It may therefore be that the genres you like, the more progressive, heavier and “chaotic” stuff, have been slow to respond to this rising tide (or, in some instances, may well be reacting against it (DEP!)).
As for your expressed fear that metal is in decline, let me suggest a useful exercise. Ask yourself how metal in the 1980s stacks up against metal in the 1990s. I think I can guess your answer. If I am right, we end up with a declining trend (1980s>1990s>2000s) going back twenty years (half of metal’s forty or so years of existence). But is this really the case? If it is, perhaps you and I have wasted a lot of our free time over the last two decades! However, I think something else is at work here. For me, the 1980s was the first time I was exposed to heavy music, my ears were fresh and impressionable, and my tastes were formed. Everything that has come after has been filtered through this initial frame. I have since listened to hundreds of albums and thousands of songs, each absorbed or rejected on the basis of my initial understanding of metal. This continual flood of new information has had the consequence of changing (updating?), and in some cases, hardening this understanding. The process has made it extremely difficult for me to compare different decades on an overall basis, and it is certainly impossible to do so with any semblance of objectivity. What I can say is that metal has continued to evolve, giving birth to new genres and new techniques on a fairly regular basis, and, most importantly, it has continued to entertain me. Although your concern is duly noted, I think the kids may still be alright (says the old fart)!