Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Give Thanks for Guilty Pleasures

Like Riding a Moped

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the USA. I've got a lot to be thankful for in my life, but I'd like to take this chance especially to give thanks for one thing: guilty pleasures.

We all have those guilty pleasures in our record collections. They're those albums that aren't exactly "Trve", either because they don't follow the typical metal rules for coolness or metalheads as a group decided they're all going to look down on it. You probably don't go around bragging about your guilty pleasures. They're the bands you love, but you don't "like" them on Facebook because you don't want your friends to find out.

I have the luxury of being able to talk about my guilty pleasures, for a number of reasons. First, I don't have, nor do I need, actual friends, particularly not metal friends because metalheads just don't inhabit my physical reality. Second, I'm too old to care what anyone thinks--at 29 I may not be "old" to some, but being in my current place in life (married with three kids) I'm emotionally old. Third, the opinions of anyone who's reading this fall into basically two camps: those who respect my opinions and aren't going to care if I spill my guilty pleasures, and those who think I'm an idiot and read it to see what stupid thing I'll say next. I think both groups will enjoy this.

Before I go into the list, I should clear up what a guilty pleasure is not. It's not just any album that's not metal, because metalheads almost universally think some non-metal is cool (see the Misfits or Johnny Cash). Guilty pleasures are also not divisive albums, like Blackwater Park or Slaughter of the Soul. Guilty pleasures are those things where Official Metal Canon says, "This is not cool." Also, it's not really a guilty pleasure if you just "kind of" like it. For me, I can get into some Cradle of Filth or Nightwish, but they're not bands I absolutely love.

But I do love some really uncool stuff.

The Synth-Pop Phase of Theatre of Tragedy

Theatre of Tragedy (I've mentioned them once before) started out as a promising gothic death/doom band with beauty-and-the-beast vocals and lyrics in the dead language of Middle English. It was very muted, depressing, and obscure material. Most people think they never really fulfilled their initial promise in that vein before abruptly shifting to a lively combination of Nine Inch Nails and Madonna. Musique and Assembly are not considered cool by any metal standards, but it's my opinion that these are their best albums. They are just fun and catchy.

The Sickness

Disturbed have been the object of much derision, and rightly so. For the vast majority of their career, they've been writing power ballad after power ballad, and cleverly disguising them. It's like a typical blockbuster film, especially one from the 80's--Top Gun, for example. They're really just chick flicks with a veneer of manliness.

But Disturbed owe their success in their later endeavors to their fantastic debut album. Yes, it largely fits into the nu metal milieu. But it was hard-edged and full of catchy hooks.

Slipknot--The Whole Catalog

To a lot of metalheads, Slipknot are a joke. But there are a lot of us (mostly my age and younger) who can cite them as an important stepping stone from mainstream to extreme metal. A lot of the latter group go on to think, "Man, I can't believe I ever liked that stuff." But there are a few of us who continue in our unabashed love of the Iowa band. I've made no secret of it. And whoever you are, you can't help but wonder at a band who can go multi-platinum with blast beats.

The Pop of Lake of Tears

Lake of Tears is a Swedish band whose music ranges from gothic rock to psychedelic/progressive metal. And it includes a lot of synths. From reading my regular reviews, you might think I have some kind of prejudice against synthesizers, but this is already the second synth-heavy band on this list (along with Theatre of Tragedy). The truth is, I think synthesizers should stop synthesizing, and just sound like keyboards. It's when they fake it that I hate them.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. Lake of Tears have crafted some extraordinarily catchy tunes over their long career. And many of them are unquestionably poppy. As with any pop music, there tend to be a few duds on the track list, and Forever Autumn is admittedly boring. But most of their catalog is infectious.

Godsmack--The Whole Catalog

Metalheads like to come up with clever names like "Godsuck" for this hard rock/metal band, but it's undeserved. No, they're not terribly extreme and not terribly original. But people I know have made some great observations about them. My Electric Wizard-loving brother-in-law said he likes them because they're a "no bullshit" band. My college roommate observed (around 2002) that of any of the bands in the world today, it's most likely that Godsmack is the one who made a deal with the devil. His reasoning? They are far too successful for what their catalog deserves.

I don't know about the latter observation, because with a song like "Greed", with its mass appeal chorus and catchy if obvious riffs, seems like exactly the recipe for success in their field.

L.D. 50

Like Disturbed, Mudvayne started out with one amazing album before going on to a career of mediocrity. While I like a few tracks off their second and third albums, there's no denying the band had only one good album in them. But what an album it was, full of fantastic bass playing and some of the harshest vocals to make it into MTV-acceptable viewing, not to mention lyrical content focusing on drugs and Eddie Gein. And, oh yeah, it's catchy stuff. I even called it one of the best albums of 2000, although as my library has increased I think it would be pushed out.

Static-X--The Whole Catalog

Josh Haun, in his post about guilty pleasures, also expressed a love for Static-X's Wisconsin Death Trip. While I agree that they've never measured up to the brilliance of that album, I remain a fan of everything they've done. It's unfair they've been lumped in with the nu-metal movement; that's a result of the timing of their success moreso than the sound of their music, which takes the hardest edges of Ministry, polishes, and makes catchy tunes out of them.

Well, that's it. I do have more, and maybe I'll reveal them some other time. What are your guilty pleasures?

Please note I'll be gone until after the holiday weekend.


  1. One of mine is melodic death metal. It's almost like death metal pop, perhaps that's why I enjoy it so much :)

    Here are a couple of examples from the blog: Canopy and Voice of the Soul

  2. I'm not sure melo-death qualifies, exactly. It's really out of style right now, so I guess it depends on whom you ask. I definitely do like some of it--like Soilwork right up until last year's album (that was a big disappointment).

  3. I was a big fan of that Mudvayne album at one point. I still thinthoth is only nu metal by association, although their later album were full blown nu metal.

    Living in Iowa, Slipknot is pretty inescapable, and I definitely have gone through various phases of liking/disliking them. I owned all their albums for a time I own none. Love Joey Jordison's drumming. I remember I used to see kids around here all the time wearing those damned jumpsuits...

    Love Static-X's first two albums, but after that they lost me. I also owned the first albums from Godsmack and Disturbed, but I soured on the bulk of the new metal thing pretty quickly and sold 'em long ago. I think about the only band from that period who I still actively follow/care about is Rammstein. They def got lumped in w/ nu metal in the beginning.

  4. Sorry for all the f-ups in the above. Trying to type on my phone from a moving bus might not have been the best idea.

  5. Rammstein would have made my list, had I gone longer. I love that band, and it really is unfair they got lumped in with nu metal. I suppose that's partly their fault, going on the Family Values Tour.

  6. It's a bit sad that the whole early 2000's get so badly slammed these days quite a few good picks in there specially Slipknot, Godsmack i'm not that sure they lost some points with me with the whole denying of the Alice in Chains connection when even the name of the band comes off an AIC song! even if they started in the 90's I've always loved Korn's and Deftones first 3 albums, to this day they still sound fresh and while yeah that scene got quite whiny Korn's self titled back in 94 was an eye opener of how much a guy could get personal with his lyrics (this was before I listened to Katatonia). Great post, long live full on Addidas!!