Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Hesher Canon

I have few regrets about my musical journey. I got to witness some of the most exciting developments in metal's history: Thrash gave way to death metal, which forced itself beyond its initial boundaries only to implode soon after; black metal took its place at metal's vanguard, before becoming overly commercial and predictable; death metal arose from the ashes, faster and more brutal than before; and in between those bullet points, I was around to experience seminal moments for grindcore and doom metal and everything in between.

Still, if there's anything I regret, it's that I wasn't exploring metal's foundational years during my own. The Nineties were a time when everything that typified the previous decades was considered gauche; tight jeans and high vocals were out, flannel shirts and off-key whining was in. Changing tastes had left the old school out in the cold. There were no experienced heshers to guide me; no cool record collections I could inherit. [As a teenager, I did find an old high school binder with the logos of Motörhead, Aerosmith, and Ozzy Osbourne drawn over it by hand - drawn, I presume, by my older brother before he discovered girls and New Wave, in that order.]

Also, at that point the progenitors of the genre had been around for decades, with dozens of albums in their respective discographies and few obvious entry points. Even in 1992, Metal's history was too expansive and too expensive for me to navigate on my own. The internet wasn't much help back then - Google was in its infancy, and Youtube was even farther away. It took years and obsessive searches through used CD bins for me to cover whatever ground I could.

The Hesher Canon is my attempt to create a guide for beginners - a collection of bands and albums that everyone who calls themselves a metal fan should know; a foundation course for the serious headbanger. More than that, it's a list of the albums and bands I wish I was listening to back when everything about the genre was still new and exciting to me.

If you call yourself a metalhead, this is where you need to start.

Part I: Satan Laughing Spreads His Wings
Part II: Defenders of the Faith