So, I chose 5 bands. I want to add that I at least wanted a Top 30 list, but I understand that we sometimes need to make choices to stay focussed and catch the essence of something rather than hunting after a „swarm of butterflies“, while capturing nothing.
If you don’t have the time to read the text you can find the playlist of the 5 songs here!
1) BORKNAGAR (NOR, Black/Pagan Metal)
Why: I absolutely love I.C.S. (Icy Simen) Vortex’ voice. It has so much depth, beauty and power while it can be frightening and creepy at the same time. It’s ethereal. He creates landscapes, dreamscapes, creatures in my mind while I listen to the stories he tells by his voice and with intelligent lyrics. Also, I think he has a very unique look, like a northern Viking lion, which creates another layer of awesomeness when seen live.
I also adore his other band Arcturus, but since we’re talking my favourite five bands I have to and will go with Borknagar. There are several albums with Vintersorg as vocalist, which are fine, too, just different. Vintersorg’s voice is different from Simen’s and it takes a little bit of time to get used to it IMHO.
Song chosen: “Collossus” from the album “quintessence” (2000)
2) AMON AMARTH (SWE, Melodic Death Metal)
I was thinking of In Flames or Arch Enemy as my Death Metal band for the list. Nah, just kidding. I love them both, but nothing compares to AA.
Why: Obvious. Vikings. Beards. Long hair. Headbanging. Sweat. Killerriffs. Drums that change the beat of your heart and make your blood boil with Viking rage. A voice like thunder and lightning that’d please mighty Thor himself.
Seriously: Amon Amarth has everything, what an excellent band needs: Great musicians and a great show. The thing that stands out the most is Johan’s voice. He can do some serious and mean growls. And what is most important to me: He is capable to pull it off, meaning his voice doesn’t break and he never sounds weak. And he can go really low without effort. Nothing worse than a singer trying to go to the bottom, but not having the voice to do so and sounding somewhat thin and just plain wrong.
Song chosen: “Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags” from the album “Twilight of the Thundergod” (2008)
3) IRON MAIDEN (UK, NWoBHM)
I hesitated if I should add a big player like IM when I only can chose 5 bands. (Btw. that’s one of the most difficult decisions I had to make so far, because I realized there are so many bands and musicians I truly love)
Why? Because of this story: It was the 4th of July, 2000. I just had birthday a few days ago and bought myself Diablo II. I planned to fortify me and my Barbarian in my room for the next couple of months. A friend from my Pen and Paper RPG group called me in the evening, because he heard of it and wanted to know everything.
He said he can’t go and buy the game himself, since he had the flu and that his dad won’t buy it for him. So he suggested that I’d buy it for him and he gives me the money. But knowing the guy I knew that I’d never see my money again if I did this. So I told him he has to give me the money beforehand. He agreed. Strange.
Not very Iron Maiden, right? Wrong.
I drove to his place the next day and his dad answered the door and… smiled widely. Weird. He told me plans have changed and that we need to go in a few minutes. Go? Where to? To Munich! Why? Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiden! (No joke). Turned out that Junior also was scheduled to go to the Iron Maiden concert with his dad, but was so sick that he couldn’t go. Which meant they’ve decided to take someone else who likes Metal with them. Me. Problem was that I was anything but a fan of clean vocals in Metal. Death Metal, Grindcore and Black Metal – these were my game. Iron Maiden? Not so much. But about ten minutes later I found myself in a car with my friend’s dad, another member of our RPG-group and two guys which – in my juvenile arrogance – I considered fossils wearing ugly shirts. Also, I couldn’t hear anything because they sang and cheered all of the time, drinking beer and were generally having a good time. After two dreadful hours we reached Munich’s Zenith and waited till we could go in. There were thousands of people, all clothed in all-over-print t-shirts, blue jeans and jogging-highs. And midst of them I, the chubby princess of darkness, clad in black and an Emperor shirt. Suddenly I felt weird and out of place. It occurred to me it was me, not them. They didn’t care or even blink when they saw my attire. Friendly folk. Even offered beer and cigarettes, which I declined. But still. I wasn’t used to kindness.
So, finally we got in. And since all of these people weren’t talking about anything but Iron Maiden I knew that this was their reunion tour with Bruce Dickinson. I saw how they’ve decorated the stage and decided that the mummy looked okay for a terrible true clean voice Metal band from hell (not the good Black Metal hell, of course).
Iron Maiden begun their show and I was walking around, searching for the bathroom. I didn’t pay attention to the music until I heard the first notes of “Brave New World”. I stopped, looked at the stage. I realized I was VERY close to the stage. I could see Bruce’s face. For a glimpse of a moment I thought he looked back at me. I was stunned and couldn’t move. Bruce began to sing and it was literally the moment my prejudices regarding clean vocals came tumbling down. Before even I myself realized it I was singing along with the crowd. 2 Minutes to Midnight, Fear of the Dark, Hallowed be Thy Name. I perfectly knew the lyrics…
Iron Maiden were my game-changer. I finally could stand the “Power Metal” –voice as I called it before. That’s why I’ll forever love them. And for Bruce Dickinson.
Chosen song: “Brave New World” from the album “Brave New World”, 2000
(It’s a live version from the very same tour, unfortunately not in Munich. But it still gives me the chills, I am feeling this moment that changed me over and over again right now)
4) STAR ONE (NEL, Progressive Space Metal)
I was thinking about choosing Dream Theater, since they introduced me to Prog Metal, so to speak. But Arjen’s music is IMHO more creative, more versatile and also more fun. So I stick with him.
Why? Because Arjen Lucassen is a genius, that’s why J I love all of his projects, especially Ayreon and Star One. He’s so incredibly talented that it hurts. He creates emotions and worlds full of colour and music and finds harmonies I never even dreamed they could exist.
Chosen song: “Intergalactic Space Crusaders” from the album “Space Metal”, 2002
5) GREEN CARNATION (NOR, Death/Progressive/Gothic Metal)
I had a lot of bands in mind for the last spot. But my thoughts always returned to Anathema and Green Carnation. I chose the latter.
Why? Because “Light of Day, Day of Darkness” is a masterpiece. Tchort is a former member of Emperor, therefore I got interested in his “other stuff”. I read that he tried to cope on GC’s album “Journey to the End of Night” with the worst thing imaginable: The death of his daughter. I bought the CD and was amazed how much the sound differed from Emperor. But I liked it. With “Light of Day, Day of Darkness” they even went further. On this album he’s still trying to find a way to deal with his daughter’s death, but at the same time he feels happiness because of his newborn son. So, he’s fighting with his conflicting feelings and this struggle is very well portrayed and executed in the music: Sweet melodies, stomping riffs, clean singing, screaming, growling, female voices, a choir, great drums – all poured into one killer of a song. Yes, the whole album is ONE song. But I never once in all these years felt the urge to fast forward to another part of the song. All of it is in perfect harmony – a journey.
Chosen song: “Light of Day, Day of Darkness”, 2001 from the album “Light of Day, Day of Darkness”