Rather than delve into the delusion that currently is supposed to oversee this country (and trust me, there’s plenty to call the Tangerine Ignoramus out on simply from this last weekend alone and his commentary on his failed TrumpCare), I’ve decided to start something that will definitely be much more fun. Since college basketball is deciding the 64 teams (OK, 68 teams because of those simply idiotic play in games the NCAA conducts) that will compete for their championship, thought it would be fun to do the same but in a different arena – the genre of hard rock/metal music.
As it is one of my personal fortes, hard rock/metal music is essentially celebrating its 50th Anniversary since the release of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild,” which contained the lines “Get your motor running/heavy metal thunder.” With this in mind, I’ve put together a compilation of the top 64 hard rock/metal bands from four different eras – the 1960s/70s, the 1980s, the 1990s, and the 2000s/10s – and split them up in accordance with those eras into “regions.” We’ll break down the matchups in each bracket and, with hope, readers will make their own comments and vote on the matchups. There’s even a prize at the end – two CDs from the eventual champion of our tournament for one lucky voter!
What are the criteria for consideration? First, the band/singer would have to have some sort of longevity to their career – you don’t see many bands or singers that are considered “legendary” if they were only around for a couple of albums (Amy Winehouse is a rare exception, but that’s a discussion for another time). Second, the band/singer would have to have an impact on the genre – did they do something particularly noteworthy or notorious that put them into the annals of the genre’s history, a song or “behavior” that was historic. Third, just how popular were they when they were in existence – a band or singer that was wildly popular with the fans might get some leeway over a critical darling OR vice versa (depending on tastes). Fourth, what accolades did they receive – awards, gold records, and recognition by the industry (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, hello?) are all under consideration here. Finally, was the band/singer influential on future generations of music – have they helped shape the genre since they have left the sphere?
We talked about the 1960s/70s in Part 1, the 1980s in Part 2, and the 1990s in Part 3, so now we’re ready to head into an era – the 2000s/2010s – that is very difficult to judge. Whenever you’re dealing with bands or artists that have been around less than a decade (and, in many cases, have yet to really hit their stride), you’re really guessing as to who is going to have the staying power to be around 10 or even fifteen years from now. When they reach the point that they’ve been around long enough for consideration for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, then they have built a catalog and repertoire of achievements that can be graded. Unfortunately, some of these acts have already succumbed to the pressures of the music industry, but others look like they’ll have the legs to make it another decade or so! As always, be sure to voice your opinion here and let us know who should be winning this region!
Disturbed (1) vs. Killswitch Engage (16)
Too bad for Killswitch Engage that they have to be the ones to run up against David Draiman and the guys from Disturbed. The Chicago outfit has been around it seems forever (and, in a way, they have – they originally started out as Brawl before becoming Disturbed) and, with each album they release, seem to take their creativity and music to another level. “Down with the Sickness” was how everyone was exposed to Disturbed, but they’ve gone on to create a half dozen more albums that have stretched their legs including their recent cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence.” While Killswitch Engage has its moments, it doesn’t have the totality of the work that Disturbed has.
Blake Label Society (8) vs. Mudvayne (9)
A knock-down, drag out fight between two heavyweights who throw haymakers. BLS, led by former Ozzy Osborne guitarist Zakk Wylde, has powered out nine studio albums over the past decade and a half and continue to tour nonstop to a legion of fans that can’t get enough of the group. Mudvayne, although they disbanded in 2010, has proven to have legs in inspiring a whole new generation of hard rock bands including Hellyeah. Mudvayne was creative in their music virtuosity, album artwork and stage performances, all of which drew in hard rock’s denizens. They also continuously tease a comeback, which would delight many of their fans around the world.
Halestorm (4) vs. Evanescence (13)
They may look the same from first glance – two powerful acts driven by a female vocalist – but it is there that the difference between the two groups is displayed. Halestorm front woman Lzzy Hale not only has one of the most powerful voices in all of music, let alone rock, but also plays a mean double-neck guitar, jumping between six- and twelve-string performances reminiscent of Lita Ford (whom the band has toured with). Amy Lee of Evanescence has nearly equal vocal power to Hale, but she and the band have suffered from a constantly shifting cast of characters and a lack of output (it is also rumored that Lee would like to go solo). While Evanescence exploded out of the gate in the early 2000s, it is Halestorm that has proven to be the power player.
Godsmack (5) vs. Chevelle (12)
If the voters were to go for an upset here, that wouldn’t be a surprise. Chevelle has been a prolific performer since their inception, pumping out nine albums worth of quality material. Godsmack hasn’t exactly been lazy in that aspect either, putting out a sextet of material despite taking a five-year hiatus. Godsmack is arguably harder than Chevelle, however, which may be enough to tip the scales in their favor.
System of a Down (2) vs. Trivium (15)
Another unfortunate case of “somebody had to go against the #2 seed,” but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Trivium pull the upset here since System of a Down has been rather quiet of late. System does have an outstanding resume, though: 40 million albums sold in their career and nominated for four Grammy Awards (winning once) before they hit the pause button on the band. Toss in the very recognizable vocals of Serj Tankian and it will be tough for Trivium to pull off the upset, but possible.
Avenged Sevenfold (7) vs. Deftones (10)
There is a great possibility that Avenged Sevenfold might be underrated in this region. One of the most respected bands in the genre, A7X has also been influential to the newcomers who would like to take them down (respectfully, that is!). Deftones have the same type of influence, dating back to the 1980s (may even have this band in the wrong region) and still going strong today. Deftones have guested on tracks from many of the bands that they influenced such as Sevendust and Whitechapel. The votes could go either way in this matchup.
Five Finger Death Punch (3) vs. Shinedown (14)
A matchup of contrasting styles here. Shinedown will get down and dirty with the best of them, but some of their most popular tracks have been melodic hard rock such as “45” and “How Did You Love.” Five Finger Death Punch, if you didn’t get it from the band’s name, is a much more aggressive group that has blazed their own trail in such tunes as “My Nemesis” and “Battle Born.” Like the previous matchup, this is a contest that could sway on just a few votes from the crowd.
Slipknot (6) vs. Breaking Benjamin (11)
Another “contrasting style” duo takes the stage here. Slipknot has long been atop the field in the hard rock genre and their stage style seems to take something from KISS and G.W.A.R., among many others. They also have been nominated 10 times for a Grammy Award (that’s some great recognition from your peers) and won once in 2006. Breaking Benjamin is the quieter side of this hard rock matchup, but they’ve also been able to make their own mark. Over the span of five albums, Breaking Benjamin has issued two platinum and two gold albums and a slew of hit singles. Once again, the “style” of hard rock and the fandom could make the choice.
That will wrap up the final region of our tournament. Next up will be the second round for two of the regions, the 1970s/80s and the 1990s, which will clear up the tournament race significantly. Get your vote in on those regions and see how far your picks will go – and get yourself eligible for the prize to be awarded at the end!