My friend Sean – my brother-in-metal – has been engaging in self-flagellation by listening to records by, literally, hundreds of metal bands. Most of them are little known, independent bands posting their music on Bandcamp.com. He says he’s trying to find some hidden gems making amazing metal music, but it’s been a frustrating experience with a very low return on investment. I will be the beneficiary of his efforts, as he will share the good bands’ music with me, thereby sparing me the need to shovel through the largely gem-free soil. For that, I am grateful. I admire what he’s doing, but I don’t have that kind of determination.
While I sit like an emperor waiting for the spoils of war to be laid at my feet, I’ve entertained myself by listening to new releases from old bands: Exodus and Sanctuary. Exodus is one of the seminal bands of the thrash metal sub-genre, and Sanctuary – while not as well-known – are one of the great second wave thrash bands. Both rose to relative fame in the late 1980s and have continued to make music ever since. Granted, Sanctuary had twenty-three year gap between records, but the members have been recording with other bands during that time. Both records are great, and I’ve already bought tickets to see each band perform when the come to Seattle.
I hope listening to new records from old bands counts toward avoiding becoming a music dinosaur. I am judgmental about music fans that stay devoted to the music they loved as a young person yet refuse to listen to anything new. Yes, that music from your youth was and still is great, but it wasn’t the end of recorded music. New bands are formed every day, and I feel some obligation to listen to at least a few of them. It’s a Continuing Education requirement to maintain my certification as a metal head.
Beyond new records by old bands, I’ve tried to keep my ears open for new metal music. While I have not made a commitment like Sean’s, I have found – over the years – bands made up of people who didn’t start making metal records until long after the musical sweet spot of my youth. One of those bands is Lamb of God from Richmond, Virginia. Since 1999, they have released seven full-length studio records, three of which I include in my list of 100 of the best heavy metal albums. Their music is angry and aggressive. And I want you to know about them.
The band has just released a documentary on DVD called As the Palaces Burn. They planned to document their 2012 world tour in support of their Resolution album, but the plan changed when they arrived in Prague in the Czech Republic and the lead singer, Randy Blythe, was arrested for manslaughter. Two years earlier – unbeknownst to the band, a young man fell into a coma and later died, allegedly due to a head injury suffered during the concert. The movie documents the imprisonment and trial of Randy Blythe, and it explores what it means to be a performer and a fan of a form of such visceral music. Whether you like or have ever even heard metal music, I think you will find the film a compelling story of art, artists, guilt, and innocence. Don’t be scared; you can turn down the volume during the music parts.