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?