The cool thing about my job as editor-in-chief of Guitar World is that I get hundreds of albums to sift through.
The difficult thing about my job is that I get hundreds of albums to sift through.
Since we are one of the few national magazines that regularly covers heavy metal, I get a shit-ton of it. Most of it, quite frankly, is frustratingly mediocre — and mediocre is my least favorite music. I actually enjoy hating something better than being bored by it. When I hate an album, at least means I’m feeling something and I’m alive.
Of the piles of metal I’ve received in recent weeks, two have stood out — each for completely different reasons. My Damnation, the second studio album by deathcore band Chelsea Grin, produced, engineered and mixed by Chris “Zuess” Harris, is simply one of the best-sounding metal albums I’ve heard all year. Anyone who has ever tried to record or mix death metal knows how difficult it is to keep the bass frequencies of a couple of detuned guitars, double kick drums and guttural vocals from turning into a bloody mess. My Damnation is a miracle of clarity, texture and sheer sonic brutality.
Producer Zuess has worked on a number of fine albums by the likes of Killswitch Engage, Born of Osiris and Shadows Fall, but this may be his best production yet. Even if you aren’t a fan of this kind of extreme music, it’s worth listening to for technical reasons.
While Chelsea Grin get kudos for their impressively well-crafted onslaught, Of Mice & Men, the metalcore band from Costa Mesa, California, gets my nod for their brilliant use of melody. Most metalcore bands pride themselves on writing “catchy” chorus hooks, but very few compose melody lines that are actually genuinely interesting or memorable.
Not so for Of Mice & Men — the songs on The Flood, released earlier this year, succeeds where most post-hardcore music fails. If there were any justice in the world, tracks like “Still YDG’n” and the galloping “Purified” would be hit singles, wiping the Nickelodeon shit that passes as pop music off the face of the earth once and for all.
Brad Tolinski is the editor-in-chief of Guitar World magazine.