Ensiferum - Token of Time
Ensiferum is propably one of the most unique metal bands out there, perfectly combining finnish school melodeath with folk. This track is the essence of their creation. "Folkmelody" accoustic guitar, great lead guitar, folkish harmonies and bass. Very good rythm and drums. Also the high quality vocals are worth mentioning. Harsh vocal of Jarri is the main one. He growls in good melodic way. Also folkish, "drunken", small choirs improve the imression from this song. It is avaible on youtube (low quality sound):
Nightwish - Wishmaster
It is hard for me to talk about this band now, due to their total sellout after 2003, but I must give honor to their early work, which is the best represented by the above mentioned song. We can hear the professional musical skills of Tuomas Holopainen (keyboardist and composer). Decoration sounds in this song are on the highest level.
But naturally the main advantage is the classically trained Tarja Turunen's vocal. She greatly sings the invocation and the chorus as a lead voice in small choir. Also the parts in verses when she reaches the highest notes of her voice are pure delight.
I must also give credit to Jukka, the drummer. He perfectly leads the band during the concerts, keeping rythm. He makes great sounds out of his drumset. It may be just my taste, but some of Nightwish tracks are the few ones, that I can listen to concentrating just on drums. Jukka also assists solo in very good way, just listen to the bass drums. His only weak part are propably cymbals.
I must also say something about the most important thing in metal, the lead guitar. It is not the best thing in Wishmaster, as you see after my above words, but in this song Nightwish Tuomas and Emppu show themselves in a best way as they can. Quite diverse lead during the verses, good solos - this can't be skipped.
Quite good live performace:
Metallica - Creeping Death
Here is good preview: Creeping Death (LP Version)
These artists need no presentation. And it would be strange if no Metallica's piece appeared in this journal. So here it is. In my opinion this is their finest. Perfect guitars. Solo from this track is the best I've heard so far. Good drums and Cliff's bass. Lyrics are about the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt, where they were oppressed by the pharaoh. The atmosphere of this song greatly supports the lyrical content. E.g. singing about the egyptian plagues deserve dark atmosphere.
Live 1986 (low quality, but who cares :)):
Iron Maiden - To Tame a Land
These gods of metal also need no presentation. The only surpise can be the track, that I've chosen. None of the following: Run to the Hills, The Trooper, Hallowed Be Thy Name, The Number of the Beast etc. Hallowed be thy Name was the closest to win with To Tame A Land. What I found out, is that all Maiden's long compositions are highly underrated, while simple, short singles are overrated. But it's normal thing, the second ones have promotion. Steve Harris's talent shows the best in those long pieces.
To Tame A Land is in my opinion the best picture of the biggest Maiden's advantage - bass. Steve Harris is almost all the time in a foreground with his bass, playing in total harmony with lead guitars. He is just a god of bass. Period.
This song is based on Frank Herbert's Dune books and also the movie. In some parts guitars play the main musical theme from this movie. Really great rock/metal version.
Nokturnal Mortum - Goat Horns
Since NM are propably the least mainstream band in my top50, many of you, the readers, may ask, wtf is this? Well they gained some echo, because of accusations of nazi ideology. Well I don't care. Their early works are free from it, they are just slavic pagan folk black metal.
The album, from which the above is the title track, was made with two keyboardists. Their professional musical skills are obvious for me, just as Tuomas'es are. After the opening, we are lead into a great atmosphere of some old slavic dark rituals. Then the song may sound a bit for few minutes, but it just preparation, that holds us longer in this darkness. Melodies that start about 5:50 are pure delight.
Rythm guitar makes the sound more dirty and adds even more climate. It may sound as a constant noise for untrained ear, but it isn't. It's nice piece of rythmic guitar playing.
So I honor those Ukrainian pagans for such great piece of music.
Tristania - My Lost Lenore
One of the songs, that define gothic metal. Dark, romantic lyrical theme, atmospheric sounds, "beauty and the beast vocals" etc.
And the vocals are the thing, that should be honored at first place in this piece. High, quasi-operatic Vibeke Stene's vocals and Morten Veland's tremendous harsh vocal. He is the master of it. His growl was the first in metal, that I liked. And I still think he is the best growler ever. Vibeke's voice is also very unique. Also her whisphers improve the atmosphere of this song greatly.
Another important thing, that gives Tristania's works uniqueness on the album, from which My Lost Lenore is, are guitar effects. They fit to the atmosphere perfectly. Live peformace (although live plays are not the strongest Tristania's quality):
Behemoth - Chant for Eschaton 2000
Time for our Polish metal masters. They are the band, which I'm especially proud of, because they are my fellow countrymen.
Chant for Eschaton is quite untypical for Behemoth works, but that is the main reason why it sounds the best for me. It is propably their most atmospheric piece from death metal period. Great atmosphere of darkness and evil is achieved by extremely good guitar harmonies, Inferno's "annihilation" drums and terrifying, deep Nergal's death vocals. Some good live (although not all the qualities metioned by me are clearly heard):
Dimmu Borgir - The Night Masquerade
Some acuse them of being traitors to black metal. Maybe, but their early works are, without any doubt, great music of darkness. I would call this an "inverted cross" song. A mockery of chistian values. Here is extract from lyrics:
(The Beast approaches:)
"Rise and give praise in front of Me
And receive eternal life from Me! (...)
(The chanting whores:)
"Oh yes, Master! Let us receive
Thine offer and drink with thee!
And become a part of Thy realm (...)
"Blood is life and it shall be all ours!"
But first of all this piece a musical masterpiece. Good, catchy rythmic, strong main riff. It must be pure madness live. First 3 minutes may sound boring, but I think this was done on purpose to hold the atmosphere and keep tension before the second part after breakout at about 3:10. This is mad part. Lead guitar is perfect. Raunchy vocals of the whores and "the beast" ending sound make great impression.
Lyrical content and, first of all, music, makes this song perfect to hear, when in need to realease anger against christian fanatism. Not bad version here:
Iron Maiden - Caught Somewhere In Time
Another Maiden's masterpiece. The first part of it is often played to show the Steve Harris' bass style. Guys experimented with synths during this album, which resulted in completely unique, futuristic atmosphere.
I must also honor Bruce Dickinson, who reaches the highest level of his vocal in late 80's. It is still young and strong and well trained after previous time spent with Iron Maiden.
Nightwish - 10th Man Down
Last song goes again to Nightwish, generally having similar qualities as Wishmaster. The lyrical content may seem generic (the cruelty of the war), but the essence is well presented in that song and I must give it my appreciation. Tuomas and Tarja really show their musical professionalism.
Not bad version here (with Lord of the Rings movie captures):
The above compilation clearly shows how great and diverse art metal can be. I chose the above masterpieces not only basing on my personal taste, but also on universal metal qualities. Although my taste was dominant. I also tried this compilation to be as diverse as possible.
Thanks to all who read at least about one of the above songs and/or watched at least one video linked by me.
Most of the above 10 is avaible on my playlist (with 50+ other great metal pieces) here: http://www.last.fm/listen/user/Fnts/playlist.
Lyrics can be found here: http://www.darklyrics.com/.
Battlelore, After Forever, Therion, Immortal, Vader, Korpiklaani, Amon Amarth, Cradle of Filth, System of a Down, Korn, Slipknot, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Trivium