Who is The Greatest Hard Rock/Metal Band of All Time – The Final Four

HardRockMetal

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 week alone, such as his stream of consciousness interview with the Associated Press that featured more errors than a five-year old T-ball game), I’ve decided to start something that will be much more fun. Since college basketball just recently completed the NCAA Basketball Championship, I thought it would be fun to do the same but in a different arena – the genre of hard rock/metal music.

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?

It’s been a long journey, but we’ve finally reached the pinnacle, the mountain – the Final Four. The four combatants have worked their way through their “regions” – the 1960/70s, the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s/10s – and are all champions. There can be only one, however, and they will now square off against each other to see who is the final band standing. In our first battle, the 1960s/70s will square off against the 2000s/10s:

ACDC

AC/DC (2) vs. Disturbed (1)

It was an incredibly tough vote, but longevity seemed to be the deciding factor in the battle between AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, despite the factor that the individual members of Led Zeppelin have had outstanding careers since the band dissolved. Over in the 2000s/10s division, Disturbed was finally able to end the run of Slipknot, sending the six-seed home and moving on to take on arguably one of the most loved bands in the history of hard rock/metal.

AC/DC has endured the slings and arrows of critics that labeled their three-chord grinding music as “mindless” and “simple” since their inception in the early 1970s, constantly touring and churning out new music for their legion of fans. How many records have they done? Sixteen studio albums, including the guaranteed classics Highway to Hell and Back in Black and their title tracks, with sales of over 200 million albums worldwide. Toss on 21 world tours in their history, basically touring from 1973 to 1986 without pausing, and there is no way that you can doubt the veracity of their fans nor their ability to give the people what they want.

Disturbed comes to their success during a different era of music, but they’ve garnered their own accolades through their success. As stated during the Elite Eight, Disturbed’s latest record Immortalized debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, making their fifth consecutive studio album to do that. Only Metallica and the Dave Matthews Band can say that they have done that – not Led Zeppelin. They have also sold more than 35 million of their seven albums over their 17-year existence and they show no signs of slowing down.

If you were to break down the band by members, the edge vocally would be a tossup. The late Bon Scott and then Brian Johnson left an indelible mark on AC/DC’s sound – really, could you imagine anyone else fronting the band (it remains to be seen if Guns ‘N Roses vocalist W. Axl Rose will remain with the group)? But Disturbed is as much David Draiman as Draiman is Disturbed and his immediately recognizable smooth bass vocals drive that group.

You might say that the guitar work of Angus and Malcolm Young stand out over Disturbed’s Dan Donegan, but Donegan has been just as instrumental (no pun intended) to his group’s success as the Young brothers were to theirs. Donegan has also added in work on keyboards (something key to the experimentation that Disturbed is known for) and, along with drummer Mike Wengren, are the only two men who have been part of the group since its inception.

Disturbed

The question will come down to which do you value more – do you value the length of the career and the virtuosity shown by AC/DC, or do you value the outstanding musicianship of a career that really is still just getting going in Disturbed?

And now for the matchup between the 1980s and the 1990s:

Metallica

Metallica (2) vs. Rage Against the Machine (2)

This one seemed to be dictated from the start, but both had to overcome the #1 seed in their regions to make it to this point. Metallica had to knock down the boys from New Jersey in Bon Jovi (and I can hear the screams already – Metallica was far more influential and critically acclaimed than Bon Jovi could ever hope to be) and RATM had to best only the “godfather of grunge” in the late Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. Unfortunately, now one must go down.

So, who has the edge with creativity? Both bands have written and sung about subjects that you normally don’t find in hard rock/metal, such as religious and military leaders, rage, drug usage, anger, loss, and retribution (for Metallica) and political opinions related to not only the States of America but worldwide (Rage Against the Machine). Both bands have been the trendsetters in their genres, with Metallica considered the creators of “thrash” metal and RATM furthering the cause of “rap” metal with their work.

Even the band members are considered equals. Whether you are looking at James Hetfield (Metallica) or Zack de la Rocha (RATM) on vocals (Hetfield also wields a mean rhythm guitar), first Dave Mustaine and then Kirk Hammett versus Tom Morello on lead guitar, the triumvirate of the late Cliff Burton, Jason Newstead and now Robert Trujillo against Tim Commerford on bass and the thunderous drum work of both Lars Ulrich or Brad Wilk, they all are considered the best in the business in their respective fields. There is one thing that may swing the needle, however.

Metallica has been in this game since the early 1980s, grinding out their brand of hard rock/metal for more than 35 years solid. They’ve had a few pauses, especially after Newstead left the band in 2001, but they’ve been at the forefront of the hard rock/metal genre for decades. Although RATM was extremely powerful in their music, they also were more of a Roman candle in that they burned bright but burned out quick. Rage Against the Machine’s last studio album was in 2000 (of four; Metallica has 10 in its still-active career) and, although there have been teases in the past, there are no indications that the group is going to come back together for another run. In fact, Morello has taken the other two musicians in RATM and gone on to form Prophets of Rage along with Chuck D and DJ Lord of Public Enemy and B-Real of Cypress Hill.

RATM

The evidence has been presented and now it is up to the voters. Who will move on to the Final Conflict? Who will vie for the crown and reign supreme as the greatest band in hard rock/metal history? By this weekend, we will learn the two that will battle it out…

Who is The Greatest Hard Rock/Metal Band of All Time – The Elite Eight

HardRockMetal

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 week alone, such as his inability to understand where a complete CARRIER GROUP is -you don’t say it is going to North Korea when it is just going on maneuvers with the Australians), I’ve decided to start something that will be much more fun. Since college basketball just recently completed the NCAA Basketball Championship, I thought it would be fun to do the same but in a different arena – the genre of hard rock/metal music.

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?

This is the final step – the Elite Eight – before we enter the REAL battleground of the Final Four and crown a champion. The competitors have already worked their way through some very strong bands to reach this point, but only the greatest will be able to claim the prize of the greatest hard rock/metal band of all time. Without further ado, let’s get things started with a look at the final duo in the 1960s/70s bracket:

Led Zeppelin (1) vs. AC/DC (2)

If there were two titans of hard rock/metal in the 1960s/70s, it would be these two bands. Led Zeppelin were somewhat the originators of the sound, with the crunching guitars of such tunes as “Rock and Roll“ and “Whole Lotta Love“ while AC/DC took three chords and has churned out rock classics like “Highway to Hell“ and “Back in Black“ (Trust me, when I present examples for these bands, there is virtually a dozen songs that could be presented as examples.)

As a vocalist, Robert Plant is recognized as one of the iconic singers of the genre, but both the late Bon Scott and Brian Johnson could hold their own with Plant and provide a bit of growl as well. There’s no way you can say that guitarists Jimmy Page and Angus Young are of equal talent, but both bring their all for their own distinctive styles. And looking deeper into the band, you cannot put AC/DC’s rhythm section of Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd over Led Zep’s duo of John Paul Jones and the late John Bonham.

The one area that the boys from “Down Under” crush the lads from London? Longevity. The era of Zeppelin only lasted a little more than a decade (1968-1980). AC/DC has been at the forefront of the hard rock/metal genre for more than 40 years. Originating in 1973, AC/DC didn’t even slow down for the death of Scott in 1980, instead cranking out what would become their masterpiece Back in Black with Johnson wailing the vocals.

This one’s going to take some thought, fans. Every vote is going to count!

Now here’s the Final Four showdown (and the matchup for the 1960s/70s bracket) in the 2000s/10s:

Disturbed (1) vs. Slipknot (6)

The problem with rating bands that are still around is that they are still growing and maturing as performers. In some cases, they haven’t possibly created their magnum opus that will define the band for history, meaning that it is an incomplete ranking. With these two bands, however, there is plenty of material and plenty of history to be able to see them make the Elite Eight.

Slipknot has been the surprise of the tournament to this point, making the Elite Eight as the lowest ranked band in that group. The intriguing thing about Slipknot is that they are CONSTANTLY experimenting and looking for ways to broaden their and their fans’ horizons. There is another huge part of Slipknot’s existence – the fans. Slipknot shows are well known for their intensity, something that applies today even though the band has been around for almost two decades.

But they are going up against a juggernaut in this bracket. Disturbed has been the benchmark that other hard rock/metal bands have been compared to since their explosion just before the start of the 21st century. From their initial release “Down with the Sickness“ through their current album Immortalized – and perhaps their masterpiece in a remake of the Simon & Garfunkel classic “The Sounds of Silence“ – Disturbed has been showing the way for hard rock/metal.

There are those that don’t think that Disturbed is “heavy” enough to be in heavy metal, but they are apparently good enough for their fans. Disturbed is one of only three bands to have five consecutive studio albums debut in the #1 slot on the Billboard album sales chart (the other two? Metallica and the Dave Matthews Band).

Without further ado, let’s jump into the 1980s:

Bon Jovi (1) vs. Metallica (2)

Just like in the 1960s/70s bracket, it seems like these two bands were destined to meet at this point. And you couldn’t find more polar opposites than these two bands – the glammy, big hair and balladry rock of Bon Jovi completely unlike the gritty, thrash metal with a mind that was put up by Metallica. Even in looking at the individuals in the two bands, the yin/yang is still apparent.

It is arguable that Jon Bon Jovi is a better singer than James Hetfield, but that is a bit superficial to look at them in just that manner. Both men are the leaders of their respective units, with Hetfield offering a blistering backing guitar to go along with his rumble of a voice. Bon Jovi, also known to pick up the guitar on occasion, has the better vocal range, but I would posit that Hetfield actually makes you feel the lyrics that thunder from his mouth. While very different, they both epitomize their bands.

In looking at the lead guitarists, they are also quite distinctive. Richie Sambora (up until departing the band this year) is one of the top guitarists in the genre, but Metallica’s duo of first Dave Mustaine and then Kirk Hammett not only provide the searing blowtorch of their solos but also pound out the very existence of Metallica. Sambora might be better than Mustaine, but I don’t think he tops Hammett.

The rhythm sections aren’t comparable. Metallica rules this department, with bassists in the late Cliff Burton, Jason Newstead and now Robert Trujillo and drummer Lars Ulrich completely outclassing Bon Jovi’s unit (quick – without Google, name the bassist and drummer for the band?). It is in fact that foundation in Metallica that gives them their unique sound, whereas Bon Jovi is just good hard rock music.

Even when you look at sales (popularity), the two are nearly equal. Bon Jovi has sold around 130 million albums worldwide, Metallica 100 million. Although they are nowhere near the same, they are worthy opponents at this point in the tournament.

And, finally, the 1990s:

Nirvana (1) vs. Rage Against the Machine (2)

This was potentially the toughest of the regions in our competition. With the birth of grunge, rap metal and other genres during the decade, you had many different sounds competing for hard rock/metal fans attention. That is seen in the final two survivors, Nirvana and RATM.

It could possibly be said that Pearl Jam should be here instead of Nirvana, but Nirvana is the band that many people point to as the “fathers of grunge.” For what it’s worth, the late Kurt Cobain was a tremendous lyricist, albeit his singing left a great deal to be desired. He did surround himself with outstanding musicians in Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, who helped him to take Nirvana to the pinnacle of rock music – whether Cobain liked it or not.

By far Rage Against the Machine’s niche has been in their political stances. The band has long been known for their leftist (some would say anarchist) views, but they have delivered those views with a powerful brand of hard rock. With Tom Morello‘s groundbreaking guitar work and the vocals of Zack de la Rocha, the band has remained popular even though they haven’t been together since 2011 (their second stint – they were at their apex between 1991 and 2000, went on hiatus, then reformed in 2007).

With two powerful and influential bands such as these, who do you choose? The choice is now up to you. Who do you see moving on to the Final Four? And who eventually wins the crown?

Who is The Greatest Hard Rock/Metal Band of All Time, Sweet Sixteen Part 1

HardRockMetal

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, such as his press secretary Sean “Spicy” Spicer trying to rewrite history that Hitler never used chemical weapons and that Jews went to “Holocaust centers”), I’ve decided to start something that will be much more fun. Since college basketball just recently completed the NCAA Basketball Championship, I thought it would be fun to do the same but in a different arena – the genre of hard rock/metal music.

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?

RRHallofFame

We’ve gotten down to crunch time – the Sweet Sixteen. With these competitors, you could probably make a solid argument for any of them to be the eventual winner of the tournament. But the thing is, we’re not looking for sixteen winners…we’re trying to determine who is the best. As such, we’re forging onward by working one side of the bracket – the 1960s/70s and the 2000s/10s – down to the four competitors who will vie for two of the Final Four seats. Who do you think should be there?

Let’s start with the 1960s/70s bracket:

Led Zeppelin (1) vs. Judas Priest (4)

It’s almost as if these two were destined to meet at this point. In looking at the two competitors, both have left legacies that are unmatched. Both have iconic singers (Robert Plant for Zep, Rob Halford for Priest), both have iconic guitarists (Jimmy Page versus two for the Priest, K. K. Downing and Glenn Tipton). The backbeat is where there’s a notable difference as Zeppelin had John Paul Jones on the bass, a better player than Ian Hill. Drumming is also where the two bands separate as Led Zep had the powerful John Bonham on the skins while Judas Priest had a revolving door of drummers (they were the inspiration for the drummer du jour in This is Spinal Tap). But Priest has longevity on their side, still being a viable act on the road today. Zeppelin ended with the death of Bonham, although the other members went on to quite successful solo careers.

What might make the biggest difference is that Led Zeppelin are the better musicians overall than their counterparts in Judas Priest, but that is also highly debatable and there are legions of Priest fans who would love to debate it! It’s going to be a tough choice. Who do you see moving on?

ACDC

AC/DC (2) vs. The Who (6)

The Who has been surprising the opposition to this point (perhaps underseeded?). After going through Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple, they have the audacious task of taking on the behemoths from “Down Under” in AC/DC. Both have inspired their fair share of musicians and singers in their times, they’ve received accolades for their lengthy careers and both are recognized as Hall of Famers. You can bring up the musicianship here, but what is tougher…taking three chords and making a 40-plus year career out of it (AC/DC) or creating the “rock opera” (Who)? Â

Now let’s follow it up with the 2000s/10s:

Disturbed (1) vs. Godsmack (5)

As much as I love Halestorm, they are still on their way up to rock immortality. Godsmack has already been at the pinnacle of the game and serves to inspire today’s hard rock fans and musicians to perform. The problem is that one of those two bands had to run into Disturbed, who are at the peak of their powers now and arguably the most dominant force in hard rock/metal music today. Against anyone else, Godsmack might have been able to move on…I don’t see them pulling the upset over David Draiman and Co.

Disturbed

System of a Down (2) vs. Slipknot (6)

I’ve got to be honest here. Because of the paucity of their recording and touring output, System of a Down should lose this contest. Although I am not a huge fan of their work, Slipknot has been the most visible of the two groups, consistently churning out quality music and serving as the inspiration to teenagers who want to be rock gods in the next decade. If I had my druthers, I’d see System of a Down to the next round. But the real choice here should be Slipknot.

You can ponder these selections for a couple of days, but we’ll have to move on soon. The Sweet Sixteen matchups in the 1980s and 1990s are just around the corner and, after they have played out, we’ll bring it down to the Final Four, probably next week. By the end of the month, we’ll see who is the greatest hard rock/metal band of all time.

Who is The Greatest Hard Rock/Metal Band of All Time, Second Round Part 1

HardRockMetal

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, such as his slashing of the Department of Interior budget by $1.5 billion while donating his first quarter’s pay for sitting on his ass – roughly $70,000 – in the White House to the National Park Service), I’ve decided to start something that will be much more fun. Since college basketball just recently completed the NCAA Basketball Championship, I thought it would be fun to do the same but in a different arena – the genre of hard rock/metal music.

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?

The first round of the four “regions” – the 1960s/70s, the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s/2010s – is complete and there were some big surprises. It’s now time to move into the second round of two of the regions who will match up in the Final Four of Hard Rock/Metal – the 1960s/70s and the 2000s/2010s – and work them down to one half of the Sweet Sixteen. As always, cast your vote and/or opinion on who should win each battle by commenting here or on one of the many social media outlets where you might read this.

Without further ado, here’s the 1960s/70s second round:

Led Zeppelin (1) vs. Rush (8)

The Zep was not even challenged by their first-round matchup against Steppenwolf, but now they might have a fight on their hands. Surviving their first-round battle against Queen, Rush is primed to take down the legends from the U. K. One of the things that might sway some voters is simply the longevity issue; Rush is still around to this day, more than 40 years after their creation. Led Zeppelin, however, still has the panache as one of the most influential bands in music history (how many kids learned “Stairway to Heaven” as their first tune?). Plenty to think about when it comes to this matchup.

Motorhead

Judas Priest (4) vs. Motörhead (12)

Fresh off their upset of Black Sabbath in the first round, Motörhead is loaded for bear with another tough battle against another legend. This is going to be difficult because both bands have longevity, influence and popularity on their sides. It is arguable that the Priest have had more of an impact on the genre than Motörhead, but it is an argument that Lemmy lovers would love to fight over. Mark this one down as “too tough to call” and let’s see where the voters take it!

AC/DC (2) vs. Van Halen (7)

Another matchup that will raise the ire of fans of both bands. AC/DC has an iconic sound that, while simplistic in its three-chord approach, is still as good today as it was when they started back in the early 1970s. Not to be overlooked, Van Halen worked through the latter part of the 70s, made an adjustment to the MTV 80s, stayed popular into the grunge 90s and still is viable today (although some might say that Eddie Van Halen and Co. have fallen from their lofty perch of late). Perhaps the deciding factor? AC/DC’s three vocalists have been the late Bon Scott, Brian Johnson, and Guns ‘N Roses’ Axl Rose. Van Halen? David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, and Gary Cherone. Who wins that comparison?

TheWho

KISS (14) vs. The Who (6)

Three upsets in the first round for the 1960s/70s! KISS took down Deep Purple in the first round, but the second-round match against The Who is going to be a bit tougher. The two bands are quite similar, with duos at the lead (Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons for KISS, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend for The Who) who basically became the faces of their groups. They had iconic members (Ace Frehley and John Entwistle) who were virtuosos on their respective instruments and members that had issues outside of the band with drugs and/or alcohol (Peter Criss and Keith Moon) that either killed them or nearly did while in their prime. Influence might be the key here – who had the greater influence on the history of hard rock/metal?

And now, here’s the second round for the 2000s/2010s

Disturbed (1) vs. Black Label Society (8)

Chalk for the top of the second round as Disturbed pushed aside the assault of Killswitch Engage to get to the second round and BLS got past Mudvayne in a contest decided by longevity. Black Label Society might not go any farther, however, because Disturbed is looking like it might be a juggernaut in this region. Nothing against Zakk Wylde and the members of Black Label Society, but Disturbed could very well be the band that is representative of the early part of the 21st century.

Halestorm

Halestorm (4) vs. Godsmack (5)

Emerging from the matchup of the female-led bands in defeating Evanescence, Halestorm now gets a shot at Godsmack – or is Godsmack getting their shot at Halestorm? The big point that may sway voters in this competition is that Halestorm is still getting their engines revved, with Lzzy Hale simply getting better with each new CD. Godsmack left their label in late 2016 and it doesn’t appear that any new music is coming out of the band in the immediate future. Things like this – how visible you are and how popular – sometimes will be the tipping point in these competitions.

System of a Down (2) vs. Avenged Sevenfold (7)

Avenged Sevenfold took down the old guard Deftones in round one and it faces another legend in round two. System of a Down has long been regarded as one of the preeminent bands of the past decade and a half, at the minimum, selling 40 million records. That type of popularity is tough to overlook in a match where the two competitors are so evenly matched up.

FiveFingerDeathPunch

Five Finger Death Punch (3) vs. Slipknot (6)

And chalk holds true for the entirety of the first round in the 2000s/2010s. This matchup, however, is different in that both bands are similar in their musical stylings and have equal impact and influence on up and coming bands. Slipknot has had some periods of inactivity that are tough to overlook, but their record at the Grammys – ten nominations and one victory – push them past FFDP. It is tough to overlook a band that is still performing strong, however, and FFDP is doing that.

That closes the second round for these two regions. Be sure to get your votes in on who deserves to move on to the Sweet Sixteen! And don’t forget that we’ve got the other side of the bracket – the 1980s and the 1990s – coming soon. We’ll determine the champion, hopefully next week, as to who is the greatest hard rock/metal band in history!

Who is The Greatest Hard Rock/Metal Band of All Time, Part 4 – The 2000s/2010s

HardRockMetal

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Halestorm’s “ReAniMate 3.0,” Letters from the Fire’s “Worth the Pain” Two Worthy Hard Rock Efforts

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I’ve long been a music aficionado, especially the hard rock/metal genre. Sure, I’ll enjoy a Billy Joel concert (as I did most recently in Orlando) or even the newer pop music out there (my lovely wife and I went to the 2016 Jingle Ball, featuring Pitbull, Fifth Harmony, Martin Garrix, Chainsmokers and many other artists residing in the Top 40 today), but I always come back to my home. Perhaps it is the power of the guitars or the political nature of many of the lyrics (yes, they are saying something with their words and commentary – take the time to read the liner notes if you miss them the first time around), but hard rock/metal speaks to me more than many other genres in the industry.

Honestly, today’s hard rock/metal scene isn’t your granddaddy’s brand. The blues rock that such groups as Led Zeppelin, Cream, the Who and the Rolling Stones (yes, I am going to toss them in the hard rock genre – for their time, they were the “punks” of their era) bear little resemblance to the power drivers such as Metallica, Disturbed or even more pop-driven hard rock/metal bands like Breaking Benjamin or Shinedown. But they’re still hard rock/metal and still damned entertaining in their own right.

There’s a great deal of hard rock/metal out there right now, but these are two efforts that have caught my ear of late. If you’re looking for some great music, you might want to look these up.

Halestorm, ReAniMate 3.0

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Halestorm is one of the preeminent bands in the hard rock/metal genre today. Powered by the blistering vocals of Lzzy Hale (who happens to throw in badass guitar work also), the nimble and crushing lead guitars of Joe Hottinger and the guttural tempo setters in bassist Josh Smith and drummer AreJay Hale (Lzzy’s brother), Halestorm is one of the most popular acts in the business. That perch has allowed them to take on some pet projects, including the continuation of this series of cover EPs.

ReAniMate 3.0: The CoVeRs eP is the third in a series of “cover Eps” that Halestorm has issued over their career. The first, naturally called ReAniMate: The CoVeRs eP and released in 2011, brought a diverse selection of songs such as Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” (one of the best covers of all-time in this writer’s opinion), the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and Skid Row’s “Slave to the Grind” under one artist. In each case, Halestorm took the songs and added their own touches to them, basically creating their own versions of songs people thought they knew (the exact challenge facing anyone who takes on a previously released tune).

That highly successful EP (how successful? A recent eBay auction for a signed copy of the CD went for $175) begged for a follow up and, after releasing a CD of their own material, Halestorm obliged their fans. ReAniMate 2.0: The CoVeRs eP was released in 2103 and followed in the same format as the first. This time around, Hale & Company took on Judas Priest (“Dissident Aggressor”), Daft Punk (“Get Lucky”), Pat Benatar (a natural in “Hell is for Children”) and Fleetwood Mac (“Gold Dust Woman”). It also seemed to leave the audience wanting more and, earlier this month, Halestorm would deliver again.

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ReAniMate 3.0: The CoVeRs eP rockets out of the gate with arguably the best song on the disc. The remake of Whitesnake’s “Still of the Night” gets the unmistakable treatment from Hale and her mates, hedging close enough to the original that it is familiar but applying their own touch. Hale’s voice gives Whitesnake lead man David Coverdale a run for his money and the rest of the band is more than able to power out the song.

The second-best song on 3.0 is Halestorm’s take on the Joan Jett and the Blackhearts classic “I Hate Myself for Loving You.” On the first two discs, Hale and her group did not touch any Jett tunes, either solo or from her days in the Runaways. It seems as if it would be a perfect match and, in this case, it was, as Halestorm takes the Jett standard to new heights.

There was one clunker on the disc, however. I never was a fan of Sophie B. Hawkins and perhaps that is why I didn’t really care for the Halestorm remake of “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover.” While Hale can pull off the poppy tunes like this (and she’s already put some country artists to shame who dared try to match her on stage), it didn’t work for the remainder of the band, in my thought. This is the only down point of the record, however, as the rest of ReAniMate 3.0: The CoVeRs more than makes up for it. These cover Eps are nice, but it really whets the appetite for original Halestorm material that is supposed to come later this year.

Letters from the Fire, Worth the Pain

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Trying to reach the rarefied air that Halestorm exists in, the band Letters from the Fire have had a jaded history. Originally formed in 2007 as Park Lane, guitarist Mike Keller and high school friend Grayson Hurd found bassist Clayton Wages and singer Eliot Weber and mucked around the San Francisco area, eventually changing their name to Letters from the Fire in 2012. Following their debut release Rebirth, there was apparently another overhaul of the band, with Cameron Stuckey coming on as rhythm guitarist and, perhaps most importantly, shifting from Weber’s male voice to the female voice of Alexa Kabazie (with Hurd and Weber departing).

The changes have made a great deal of difference for Letters from the Fire. Their latest full-length album, Worth the Pain, is a magnum opus of their career. From start to finish, Keller, Kabazie and Company have put their entire heart and soul into the record. For that effort, they have created a 13-track crusher of an album.

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Where to start with the best songs of Worth the Pain? It comes out of the gate with “Perfect Life,” featuring Keller’s excellent lead guitar efforts and Kabazie’s emotional and powerful vocals. “Mother Misery” continues the high level of excellence out of the band and “Give in to Me” is simply outstanding. The title track is a powerful tune…it is angry, aggressive, and appropriate. “My Angel” has excellent tempo and mood changes throughout the song and “Holy Ghost” starts quietly but turns into a raging storm by the end.

If there were one qualm to have with this record from Letters from the Fire, it would be that the lyrical content could reach out a bit more. Most of the songs are of the “fuck you, you broke my heart” sentiment; there are indicators, though, that the band could stretch beyond this with some deeper lyrics. As this is the first effort from this lineup, it really raises some expectations for the follow up.

Letters from the Fire’s Worth the Pain is reminiscent of Amy Lee and Evanescence, but to lop them in with that band would be doing them a disservice. They’ve got the chops to stand on their own and they’ve got the experience. Now it is just a matter of driving to the end and the success that they seem destined for…and Letters from the Fire seem to have the spirit to do just that.