On three great Metal records

Metal has been one of the types of music I've been listening to the most since I was a kid. Metallica's Black Album and Pantera's Official 101 Life Proof became the definitive soundtrack of my teenage years -which is when I started to listen seriously to music.

Listening to those bands led me to discover other legendary metal acts like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin -a group on which many agree to consider one of hard rock's predecessors.

Later on, when I was in High School, I became an enthusiastic follower of Nu-Metal, a genre that seemed to take the command from Rage Against the Machine and Faith No More, both pioneers in combining rap with rock. I really just can't remember how many times I must have listened to Korn's Follow the leader, Incubus' S.C.I.E.N.C.E., Deftones' Around the fur, Limp Bizkit's Significant other or Linkin Park's Hybrid theory.

When I got into College I discovered the amazing music of The Doors, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, and even though I was starting to lose interest in Nu-Metal, I never stopped listening to Metal -Pantera's live album was among the first ones I put in my first iPod and I'm sure it will hold its position among my all-time favorite records.

After that whole Nu-Metal craze was over, I stopped listening to it. I just wasn't into it anymore. However, there was a band I'd never stop listening to, simply because they managed to stand out from the rest. They weren't necessarily a Nu-Metal band but, in a way, they managed to take advantage of the great moment that music was having.

First record: Mudvayne

That band was called Mudvayne: four guys that played heavy music with their painted faces. And they were special not only because of their colorful act on stage, but because they were also astonishingly proficient with their instruments. Additionally, the structure of their songs resembled more those of a progressive rock act than those of a regular metal: refined intros, virtuosic transitions and sophisticated riffs. Their approach felt more stylish than the others', thus their sound ended up being quite unique. Their music could sometimes reached a few melodic peaks, yet it was not catchy; their music was accessible, yet it was never easy to listen to.

Mudvayne never stopped making music. It wasn't always good, but they worked hard to keep an admirable prolific pace. Earlier this year they edited Mudvayne, in my opinion, one of their best releases to date. After their disappointing New game (2008), which drove them to a failed attempt to deliver short and mediocre radio-friendly tunes, they have come up with great material much closer to that outrageous music they recorded on Ld 50 (2000) and The end of all things to come (2002) -my other favorites of their catalog.

For this new album, they're back with complex songs -elaborate intros, experimental endings and intricate arrangements. Mudvayne is a great testament to their outstanding talent. Once again, they have immersed themselves into structure-oriented songwriting to craft excellent pieces. Take for example 1000 mile journey and Heard it all before, tunes that show how much they have progressed as song auteurs. Growth is what you shall recognize if you compare this music to that of their previous efforts.

This is the video for Scream with me

Second record: Stampede

One of the saddest moments in metal history, the murder of Pantera's extraordinary and beloved guitar player Dimebag Darrell, would bring Mudvayne and Pantera's worlds together. They joined forces to form a southern metal supergroup called Hellyeah! The new ensemble promised a lot, but it failed to please metal's legion of fans when they released their self-titled album in 2007.

Luckily, their sophomore record tells another story: expectations have not only been fulfilled this time, they have been exceeded. With Stampede (2010) they have accomplished to literally sound like supergroup. And that means great music. You'll find good trash metal in frantic tunes and you'll even get to find beautiful melodies in some ballads. When every member of a group brings his best to the table, a solid piece of music like Stampede gets made.

This is the video for Cowboy way

Third record: The final frontier

Iron Maiden was one of those bands I never stopped listening to once I discovered it. I was so fascinated by their songs, that I remember I even started to collect several live versions of them -which it wasn't hard since they have plenty of live recordings. Nonetheless, I wasn't impressed by the music they were making in recent years. It seemed to me that they were not bringing anything fresh; instead, it seemed they had found a formula and then refused to stay out of that comfort zone.

A few weeks ago Iron Maiden crafted quite a surprise to metal listeners around the world. A huge buzz over the Internet said that Iron Maiden had challenged themselves while recording The final frontier (2010), their last record. It then became mandatory for me to hear that in order to believe it. It was a promise that sounded way too good to be true.

And it was great, as a matter of fact. The final frontier is one of the finest metal records I've heard in a long time. This music literally blew me away. I just couldn't believe what I was listening to when I first played it in my iPod. And trust me, I'm not overreacting -this album is that good.

Unlike other metal big names that continue to release new music like Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Heaven and Hell or even Metallica, Iron Maiden have proved with The final frontier that a music legend can indeed write legendary music.

This is the video for The final frontier

When I was a little boy I always wondered if I would ever get bored of listening to distorted guitars, blasting cymbals and screaming vocals. Now, being almost 30, I'm sure I will not stop listening to this music as long as it stays relevant and interesting - just as these three records I have written about have managed to accomplish.


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