Of all genres of music, metal is unique because the line between “acceptable” and “total failure” is very narrow. Making metal is easy, but making good metal… difficult. Periodically, metal bands either sell out or have personal problems, and they create metal failures.
We’re going to tour some of these today.
These failures have one thing in common: an otherwise promising band made a shining, mucus-sheathed, corn-studded turd of an album, and in most cases didn’t have the decency to shoot themselves in the face. In some cases, they went on to get rich and famous, even though they failed at making quality metal.
10. Slayer – Divine Intervention
There will never be anything cooler than Slayer. Most metalheads agree that this is fact. However, they will be quick to add, “…old Slayer.” What they mean to say is that sometime in 1996 or so, Slayer switched from their mythological, occult, intense music to dumbed-down impersonations of themselves. Maybe they were jealous of Pantera getting all the big bucks. Maybe it was alcoholism. No one knows. But this album is a series of one-noted-removed interpretations of older Slayer riffs, and really simple songs that sound almost like Slayer except they’re boring. It took the band ten years to come back from this with “Christ Illusion.”
9. Cynic – Traced in Air
The first Cynic album was a ripoff of all jazz fusion and prog metal to date, sure, but it was a good ripoff so we don’t care, even if they did use early autotune vocals. But the followup? It’s a disorganized pile of derivative jazz riffs interrupted by banging, dumbed-down, mouth-breathing metal. Fail on both counts.
8. Pestilence – Hold the Mustard
This album is so bad I can’t even remember the title. It’s like they booked an afternoon of studio time and pulled an album out of their asses, then tried to make it extra bang-y just so the dumb kids in the crowd could like it. The result is both boring and annoying at once, which is usually hard to do but Pestilence packed this so full of fail it was effortless for them.
7. Morbid Angel – Domination
More metalheads shouted “what the hell is this?” at their speakers for this album than any previous. After three brilliant studio albums, Morbid Angel decided to sound like Pantera, and came out with this cranky, braindead-simple, bouncy shadow of their former selves. Gone were the brains. Instead we had bounce. This album was so dumbed-down it lost all of the Morbid Angel mystique, and sounded like another third-rate Pantera ripoff. Add to that the goofy cover and you’ve got a cup runnething over with FAIL.
6. Emperor – IX Equilibrium
This Norwegian band used to make the kind of mystical musical experience in album form that made you want to never let go of the CD. “In the Nightside Eclipse” transported more teenagers to midnight forests than Tolkien, almost. And then they came out with this hunk of rubbish, basically a riff salad with singing amongst the black metal vocals. It shocked many people into simply abandoning black metal altogether because Emperor went from “getting it” to “clueless” in thirty seconds of mismatched riffs.
5. Suffocation – Souls to Deny
Basically inventing the style of blasting deathgrind, Suffocation used to make these epic, legendary albums. Then they heard a bunch of deathcore, and formed an equation in their minds: deathcore = how to succeed. So they ripped it off, but tried to make it fit into Suffocation, or vice-versa. The result sounds like Suffocation with a fever, on cheap drugs, and locked in a rape basement with a one-eyed inbred tormentor. The riffs don’t make sense. The songs are bad. But it’s definitely deathcore. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
4. Obituary – Back From the Dead
Their previous album, “World Demise,” was bad, but on this one they had to go hyperspace into pure feces. If the rap/rock remix “Bullitary” didn’t clue you in, the suddenly “streetwise” song titles and cliche cover might have. But if you ignored all the warnings and listened anyway, you were in for a vomit launch of cliche meeting absent-minded riffing that fulfilled every negative stereotype about death metal.
3. Asphyx – God Cries
Asphyx are legends. They dominate completely. Except on this album. Two members left, so the remaining members sought a clue, and one drunken night decided to do a morose, emo tribute to one band member’s dead father. So instead of cavernous booming riffs of doom, you get weepy, slow, melodic chanting choruses and really bad interludes. Most Asphyx fans deny this album exists. To do otherwise might make their heads explode, especially if they sit down with “The Rack” in one hand and this lump of guano in the other.
2. Entombed – Wolverine Blues
“Clandestine” captured the imagination of every death metal fan on earth when it was released. That fuzzy, thick guitar sound! Those song titles promising realms beyond the visible! The powerful rhythm riffing and breathtaking tempo changes! And then… out came this, a bluesy rock album with some death metal riffs and a cartoon character on the cover, sounding like a fifteenth-rate jeer of an Alice in Chains ripoff. We still don’t understand why they chose to give their career a Viking funeral in this manner.
And the #1 metal FAIL of all time is…
1. Metallica – The Black Album
You knew it was going to be this. The bringer of grimaces to the faces of metal fans, this was the album when “we’ll never stop, we’ll never quit, ’cause we’re Metallica” became a curse. Cliff Burton spun so fast in his grave he got vertigo and barfed all over his own ashes. It’s sappy, sentimental, slow, goofy and really panders to the dumbest, geekiest, most clueless among us. Yet it launched their mainstream career, proving again that most people are complete idiots with no musical taste.
From looking over these, there are some warning signs that metal bands are about to fail. First, they get sensitive. Next, they start writing songs about being themselves. Finally, they get bitter that the Pantera guys don’t have to work day jobs. Put together one part sell-out, two parts disorganization and fifteen parts clueless, and you have a METAL FALL on a grand scale.
We had a buttload of runner-ups. In fact, since most metal bands start falling apart when their members are given the choice of “sell more albums, or it’s back to your day jobs,” no shortage of material can be found. But ordinary sell-outs are nothing compared to these epic turds. If you ever want proof of Newton’s idea that every action creates an equal and opposite reaction, you have it here: the bands that started out the best went just as fast in the other direction when the time came. We can’t change that, but if you see these albums waiting to pounce on a used CD rack somewhere, don’t walk but run in the opposite direction.