First off, let me mention that this will be one of the recurring features of Fire, Battle, Metal. In Albums that Rock, I’ll feature great albums, primarily metal albums, that I think have something great to offer.
Now, these are not reviews. As I mentioned in my introductory piece for this blog, I think that music reviews are just subjective bullshit. I won’t be awarding each album some arbitrary number of stars or devil horns or headbangers or what have you. I’ll merely talk about each album, try to give a little background about it, express what it is that draws me to it, and so forth. For the time being, I only plan on featuring albums that I enjoy, so just assume that if I’m featuring it, I like it.
Before we start, let me also make a brief note about the album as a musical format. In this day and age dominated by MP3s and pop chart singles, the album is often a forgotten medium. Many artists, primarily in pop and rap music, focus entirely on crafting one or two hit singles, and then stuff the rest of an album full of filler. You can’t really blame these artists, as that really is a recipe for success. (The Black Eyed Peas single “I Gotta Feeling,” for example, has been downloaded over 14 million times!) Thankfully, however, metal seems to be a lasting bastion of the album as a musical medium, and many bands pride themselves on releasing entire albums chock full of fantastic music.
Enough said. Now, on to the first album.
It’s only fitting that the first album in this section is one that holds a particular meaning for me, and in this case, it’s In Flames’ Colony. My friend Stuart first introduced me to In Flames in the summer of 1999, when I was an incoming high school junior, and that album was the start of a long and beautiful relationship with heavy metal.
Let me back up a little and talk about my musical experiences growing up. As a young child, my primary exposure to music was to classical music, which my dad listened to in the car and at home in his study (he often worked from home and found that classical music was soothing and allowed him to concentrate while he worked).
Of course, we also occasionally listened to classic rock. In fact, my dad had a massive collection of vinyl classic rock albums in his study, but he rarely listened to any of them, except for The Beatles. So I listened to classical music and The Beatles.
One day, there was some sort of Paul McCartney concert on TV that we were watching as a family, and suddenly Paul starts playing his Wings song, “Live and Let Die.” I’m sure you know the song. Paul starts out on his piano, and after a 30 or 40 second intro, some fireworks explode on the stage and the guitarist starts wailing away on his guitar. Now, Paul McCartney may not even be in the same realm as heavy metal, but at the time, I distinctly remember thinking: What the heck was THAT? I don’t know but I want MORE!
Shortly thereafter, I got my first radio and started listening to all sorts of different kinds of music.
Fast forward to high school in the late 90s. I’d been listening to metal for some time now. Metallica was a favorite, of course (that’s a story for another day), and I tended to pick up on anything metal-esque that received reasonable amounts of airplay, like Alice In Chains, Tool, and Rage Against the Machine. Then one day, my buddy Stuart plays me (lends me? I forget…) In Flames’ Colony.
I was blown away. I’d never heard anything like it, and I realized that without even knowing it, this was the music that I had been searching for since my first exposure to a moderately heavy riff seen on a televised Paul McCartney concert.
I rushed out to the store and bought myself a copy. (You have to remember, this was before the rise of readily available music on the internet. Napster had only just begun. Quite honestly, I was lucky that my local mega-mart even stocked In Flames.) I listened to that album non-stop. And ever since, I have searched out new fantastic, melodic, aggressive, heavy music in the same vein as In Flames.
Colony was both my first exposure to melodic death metal and to the death growl. Every song was unrelentingly fast, powerful, and heavy (with the exception of the classically inspired “Pallar Anders Visa”), and frontman Anders Friden’s vocals were a revelation.
To this day, Colony is a record I listen to frequently, and it ranks among my ten favorite albums of all time. If you have any interest in melodic death metal, it’s an album you should absolutely own.
Image credits: Banner by cgo2 (originally posted to Flickr as In Flames) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Post image by Henry Laurisch (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.