A few months back, I wrote up this post in which I challenged myself to identify metal songs played on a random playlist. As you may recall, I didn’t do so hot (5 out of 10). Well, I figured I might as well give it another go here. The basic motivation for this, of course, is that it’s pretty fun for me to do. At a slightly (very slightly) deeper level, though, I think that going through this exercise helps me to think about what exactly it is that helps us differentiate and recognize extreme metal. As you’ll see, in many cases, I would wait around until I heard the vocals to either a) guess what band it was, or b) narrow things down so that I could guess a black metal versus a death metal band. Production is also a pretty good cue, as is guitar tone, and so forth.
Rules are simple: I put into a music player a playlist of all the metal albums that I own (meaning that I’ve excluded both all other genres and all metal for which I do not own an actual, physical product), put the damn thing on ‘random’, and start it up. I respond to the first ten songs that play in the stream-of-consciousness fashion you see below. After the fact, then, I run back through the list and post what the song actually was. I suppose you have only my word to go on that I didn’t skip embarrassing songs or take a peek every now and again. If you’re willing to trust a stranger on the internet, though, this is how it went down…
1. This is some fairly clearly-articulated black/thrash-y stuff. Vocals are sounding very familiar, but I can’t quite place them right now. Is it an old Absu track? Nice clean solo bit here with that classic Slayer-esque bass drum and ride cymbal only break. I think it might be Absu, maybe from that Mythologickal Occult Metal compilation.
[It was: Saros, “Devouring Conscience,” from Acrid Plains. Ouch. I suppose maybe it’s a compliment, thinking Leila Abdul-Rauf’s vocals are a dead ringer for Proscriptor’s? Not off to a great start, friends.]
2. This tune kicks straight in with some melodic black metal riffage and standard blastbeats. A bunch of pinch harmonics. Again, these vocals make me think I should really know who it is. Is this old Behemoth? I guess it sounds kinda like Nergal. I’m going with Behemoth, maybe circa Satanica or Pandemonic Incantations.
[It was: Behemoth, “From the Pagan Vastlands.” Hidden track on Thelema.6. Pretty close, though.]
3. Ah, easy enough. My Dying Bride. Totally recognizable doom chug, and the unmistakable vocals of Aaron Stainthorpe. A pretty recent track, for sure. I’m going to say it’s from one of their last two records. That’d be, what, A Line Of Deathless Kings and For Lies I Sire. I’ll play it through a little more to see if I can get the song title. Hmm, the more this runs on, I think it might actually be from the Songs Of Darkness… album. Ah, those searing clean guitar sections, laid over their own echo – one of my favorite aspects of this band. Great clean chorus from Mr. Stainthorpe, but I’ll be damned if I can think of the name. I’m thinking it’s from that Songs Of Darkness album after all…
[It was: My Dying Bride, “The Blue Lotus.” From Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light. Ba-zing!]
4. Whoa, major treble attack. The fuck is this? Obviously some pervertedly raw black metal. What the hell do I own that sounds this shitty? The blizzard-esque quality almost suggests Paysage d’Hiver or Darkspace, but the songwriting isn’t as ambient as all that. Sounds like straight-up classic third wave black metal songwriting. Is this the Satyricon side of that split with Enslaved? That’s my best guess.
[It was: Demoncy, “In Winter’s Ancient Slumber,” from Within The Sylvan Realms of Frost. Wrong side of the Atlantic. Sorry folks. Good goddamn if that isn’t some of the most thinly-recorded black metal I’ve heard in a while. Too bad, because the song, while horribly derivative, has that nice melancholy groove to it.]
5. Great stomping death/doom groove to start off this next song. No fucking around. Dodgy recording quality makes me think it’s a bit old. Could be Coffins, but probably not. Nope, definitely not, but it’s got that chaotic, churning old school (or new old school) death metal vibe, with Incantation-worship dripping from the corners. What was that record Profound Lore put out last year… Impetuous Ritual. Maybe it’s them.
[It was: Teitanblood, “The Origin of Death,” from Seven Chalices. Same ballpark, at least.]
6. Hmm, now this sounds like Satyricon again, but I’m second-guessing myself all over the place. Ah, thanks Satyr, for enunciating a little bit. This is the title track from Nemesis Divina, which, despite The Shadowthrone’s greatness, is probably still my favorite Satyricon record. I mean, who can deny “Mother North”? Plus, the grand piano breakdown in whatever the fuck that song is called (I’ll look it up in a bit, but don’t want to fuck with the supposed purity of this little exercise). Great stuff.
[It was: Satyricon, “Nemesis Divina.” [Ed: “Forhekset” was the tune I was thinking about with the piano break.]]
7. Nothing automatic off the bat here. Thick guitar tone, too-tight snare, plus the classic 6/8-that-doesn’t-quite-feel-like-6/8-if-it’s-quick-enough meter. Thick bass tone, too, especially for this style. Vocals aren’t helping me out too much here. Damn, I’m kinda floundering with this one. Nary an educated guess in sight. Sounds like something that would be on Moribund. Don’t know if that helps much. Maybe from Finland. I don’t think it’s Sargeist. Too thick for Behexen. Hmm. I also don’t think it’s Horned Almighty, since it doesn’t quite have enough rock and roll, though the thick, rattling bass might point that way. Shit, whatever. I’ll guess Horned Almighty. From the only album of theirs I have, The Devil’s Music.
[It was: Well, fuck, what do you know? Horned Almighty, “To Despise the Life,” from The Devil’s Music. I ought to give myself more credit every now and again. Don’t think that one’s on Moribund, though.]
8. Well, this is a live track. That might give it away if there’s any crowd banter. Goofy carnival synths suggest Cradle Of Filth. Let’s give it a chance, though, shall we? Seeing as how I don’t think there are any live Dimmu Borgir albums out there, I’m feeling pretty good that this is Cradle Of Filth. Let’s see if it kicks into metal mode at all, or if it’s only the taped tune that introduces the band at the outset of a gig. Come on, assholes, I’m impatient. Ah, there you are, Dani, you cad. Lord knows what song this is. It’s probably called “Charles Baudelaire Takes A Shit And Then Feels Badly About It.”
[It was: Cradle Of Filth, “Dirge Inferno (Live),” from the bonus disc of the deluxe edition of Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder. Suppose I could’ve waited ‘til the chorus to get the title, but whatev. I’m a busy man (ha).]
9. All acoustic attack. Immediately I think Agalloch. Hmm. Dual all acoustic attack. Ulver’s Kveldssanger? C’mon Haughm or Garm, give it to me straight. These flamenco runs are gorgeous, but not helping that much. I suppose if it quits in another minute or so, it’s got to be from that Ulver folk record. Alright, folks, we have metal touchdown. This from Pale Folklore? Will I be voted out of Heavy Metal for asking such daft, potentially heretical questions? Now that this is wearing on, I’m even doubting whether it’s Agalloch. That synth is a curiosity. In The Woods…, maybe? Come on, vocals, I’m hurting here. Oh, there you are, hello. Son of a bitch, why am I not getting this? I don’t think Haughm’s harsh vocals sound like this. Ugh, I don’t feel really great about this, but since the sound is a bit spotty, I’m going to guess that it’s In The Woods…, playing one of their early tracks on that live album they put out. But fuck, if this turns out to be Hate Forest or some shit, I’m going to flip my lid.
[It was: Aeternus, “Warrior Of The Crescent Moon,” from …And So The Night Became. Goddamnit, Aeternus, I feel like you did this to me last time, too. So, apparently, Aeternus: Most Owned But Least Listened To At Spinal Tapdance HQ. Sorry guys. This really is a killer tune, honest.]
10. Alright, this next track makes ten, right? I’m not sure how much more embarrassment my flabby, much-abused ego can take. Okay, this is a bit of a change up. We’ve got some stuttery, then later crazy shit. Strapping Young Lad’s my first guess. Seeming pretty likely. C’mon, Devin, justify my confidence. Sounds like Devin Townsend howling there, presumably with the generous drum-bashing of a certain Gene Hoglan. Yeah, this has got to be Strapping Young Lad. What album, though? Pretty sure this is from something later than City. Haven’t hit any major hook or chorus yet, though, which sure would be nice, friends. Oh, was that “Rape Song”? Can’t remember which album that’s from, but I’m going to guess the song was “Rape Song” by Strapping Young Lad, which I think is either from the SYL album or The New Black.
[It was: Strapping Young Lad, “Rape Song,” which is from the Strapping Young Lad album. Nice to close out on a high note, eh?]
(11. As I was typing out that last paragraph on SYL, the next track came on, and compelled me to try and guess it as well. It’s some slow, sludgey doom with female vocals. Can’t recall if Salome’s self-titled album/EP featured any clean vocals. Maybe not. Could it be Monarch? Damn, I’m just going to be embarrassing myself again. You’d think that since female vocals are a rarer commodity in these styles of metal I’d be tripping over myself with the right answer. Doesn’t quite sound like Julie Christmas, but I suppose it could be some of her more understated style. Shit. Battle Of Mice, maybe? Well, whatever, I’m leaving it with those question marks, since I’ve already done my official ten. It was: Jucifer, “She Tides The Deep,” from If Thine Enemy Hunger. Fuuuuuuuuck.)
Okay, so how did I do? Because I’ve had generally piss-poor results with this, I’m going to count as a win any song in which I correctly identified the artist. I know, maybe it’s a too-large target, but I still don’t think I’ll be impressing anyone.
Result: 6 correct out of 10. Shit, I’m pretty sure that’s better than last time, right? Anything tipping me past the halfway point is just gravy by me. Still can’t believe Aeternus fucked me over again, but I guess it serves me right for being an inattentive dipshit.
So, folks: Know your metal as well as you think you do?