I can count the number of friends that I have that listen to metal on half a hand. As I’m sure you, my metal loving cyber-friends, can imagine, it is quite frustrating living in a world surrounded by non-metalheads. How do I, a simple anthropomorphic cupcake ruler, enlighten everyone else to what is so blindingly apparent to me?
If you’ve ever come face to face with this dilemma as well, then fear not friend, for I’ve got the answer. Below you will find six metal tracks that even the most anti-metal fan will have to appreciate. And if they don’t? Well, far be it from me to tell you how to live your life, but you probably shouldn’t be associating with those people anyway.
Ghost – Square Hammer
“Square Hammer” is not just the catchiest metal song of all time. It might be the catchiest song *PERIOD* of all time (take that, Katy Perry!). It is scientifically impossible to listen to the track and not be singing along with the chorus by the time you reach the end. People might be intimidated by Ghost’s outward appearance, but go past the corpse paint and the blatant blasphemy to any and all religions, and what you’re left over with is a heavier version of Queen. And everybody loves Queen.
Just make sure you friendly non-metalhead listens to “Square Hammer” before watching any videos of the band, because surprisingly enough some people are turned off by the image of a zombie pope. Go figure. But there’s a reason this was my second favorite track of 2016, and it’s because Ghost know how to write the popiest heavy metal this side of Babymetal. “Square Hammer” will appeal to crustiest grindcore fan to the door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. A monster of a track.
Polyphia – Euphoria
The biggest obstacle keeping non-metal fans from getting into heavy music is the screaming. They spend their entire lives coddled by the dulcet tones of their Ed Sheerans, and Lady Gagas, and Phil Collinses, and then when approached with any sort of scream, or growl, or shriek, or even *gasp* a guttural, they go running for the nearest corner in which they can curl up in the fetal position. So to get around that, and protect their fragile psyche, why not just skip the vocals altogether?
There’s a surplus, nay, a plethora of fantastic instrumetal bands that your average non-metalhead should have no problem appreciating. Animals as Leaders, Cloudkicker, Long Distance Calling, Russian Circles, and Scale the Summit are all awesome, and all worthy of far more appreciation than they get from only appealing to metalheads. But during this metal mission that you’re embarking on, I suggest Polyphia. Sure, they might all look like Justin Bieber, but don’t be fooled: these guys can write a heavy, technical, and most importantly, catchy metal song.
“Euphoria” is an easily accessible track, but one that will stay with you long after your first listen. I’m not sure there’s a catcher track that doesn’t have vocals anywhere in the metalverse, and maybe in the whole damn galaxy of music.
Code Orange – Bleeding in the Blur
These Pittsburgh hardcore rockers put out one of the angriest, violent, most pissed off records of 2017 with Forever. The album not only brought the band out from the underground and into the mainstream in the metal community, but earned them a Grammy nomination for their furious efforts. While chock full of pure venom for 90% of the record, Code Orange showed an uncanny ability to take their foot off the gas on “Bleeding in the Blur”.
Aside from a brief moment of background screaming and some minor guitar distortion, this track wouldn’t be out of place on any local Alt-Rock station. Guitarist & backup vocalist Reba Meyers, who spends most of the album dropping some hellacious growls, shows that her voice has an impressive softer side. Most rock fans should find something to like about this track, as there’s something familiar, yet different, about the sound of the track, almost as if it were a grunge track that got lost on its way to the 90’s, only to resurface in 2017. In some alternate universe it wouldn’t be surprising to see this as a smash hit for the Foo Fighters, but instead, it just so happens to be the angriest band around who surprisingly unleashed this hit.
Alcest – Autre Temps
More so than any other track on this list, it shouldn’t take much convincing (or coercing, if you’re that desparate) to get you resident square to appreciate “Autre Temps”. Alcest are perhaps the most highly respected post-rock outfit in metal today, with their delicate balance of melodic, emotionally charged instrumentation and bouts of heaviness, both musically and vocally, creating a complex, challenging, beautiful sound.
“Autre Temps” eschews the heavier sounds in the bands repertoire in favor of some of the brightest, most uplifting tones in the bands catalog. You may not speak a lick of French (like me), but that doesn’t stop you from sensing the joy and color in this track. It is a stunning achievement, complete with all of the technicality and complexity of Alcest’s heavier work, but without the screaming and sorrow that they’re known for.
Myrkur – Crown
This may be the heaviest track on this list, but you wouldn’t know if from Amalie Bruun’s mesmerizing vocals. One of the more accomplished black metal vocalists around today, Bruun’s clean vocals on “Crown” may never step foot in the same zip code as her screams, but the pain and sorrow of her heavier works are still ever present in the track. Her deft, delicate touch on this track shows a vulnerable, wounded side that you don’t see on the rest of her fantastic 2017 album Mareridt.
Best described as a heavy folk track, “Crown” is easy enough for your standard music lover to appreciate, with Bruun’s beautiful voice and the orchestral folk/doom music painting a vivid, if not terrifying, picture behind the vocals.
Opeth – Eternal Rains Will Come
Starting with 2011’s Heritage, Opeth underwent a quantum shift in their sound, completely abandoning their death metal roots for a more progressive sound. It was a strange shift, to be sure, but one that worked quite well thanks to the band’s already-proggy sound. All it required was switching out Mikael Akerfeldt’s death growls (some of the best in the business, in my opinion) with his equally impressive singing voice. While some of the “metal purists” gave up on the band for selling out to a less metal sound, those that smartly stuck with the band have been rewarded with three phenomenal albums: Heritage, 2014’s Pale Communion, and 2016’s Sorceress, all of which have seen the band delve further into their folk-rock sound while maintaining their progressive, jazzy complexity.
“Eternal Rains Will Come”, the lead track off of Pale Communion, was my song of the year for 2014 for good reason. It has some of the finest guitar work I’ve ever heard on a metal track, the lyrics are gorgeous, and in its own way, far different from anything the band had done in the past, it manages to be quite heavy with nary a growl to be seen.