I’m a metalhead and I have been for decades. I’ve enjoyed everything from stripped-down thrash metal to symphonic power/fantasy metal to absolutely brutal death/black metal. A recent trend of metal bands has caught my interest, and that’s bands with gimmicks. These are the few that have captured my imagination lately.
I would credit the recent trend starting with Ghost, whose musicians are all masked “nameless ghouls” in service to the lead singer who is the satanic high priest of an imaginary cult. The music is more akin to hard rock than heavy metal, but that hardly matters. The high priest has changed with every album (it’s the same lead singer playing different characters) and there’s even a storyline to go along with it. Ghost is easy on the ears and lots of fun, so give them a listen if you’re not familiar with them already.
Gloryhammer is so much fun. Not only is each album a chapter in an ongoing sci-fi/fantasy story, but each member of the band is a different character from cast, most notably the keyboardist being Zargothrax the evil immortal sorcerer antagonist to the lead singer’s heroic Angus McFife (though that’s changed recently). Gloryhammer doesn’t take itself too seriously but their music is a load of fun and catchy.
Angus McSix is the new project from Gloryhammer’s former lead singer, now wielding the mighty sword Sixcalibur and clad in gleaming golden armor. In similar fashion to Gloryhammer the other members of his band seem to be characters from the cast of its album, Angus McSix & The Sword of Power. Also much like Gloryhammer, they don’t take themselves too seriously at all, especially when one of your songs is called “Laser-Shooting Dinosaur.” Goofiness aside, the album is a fucking banger. Every song is awesome and fun, and Angus’s voice is a powerhouse.
On the more brutal end of the musical spectrum, I only recently discovered Gaerea. A group of anonymous musicians from Portugal whose masks resemble hoods with occult symbology, these guys play some heavy fucking metal. If you’re not a fan of growled or screamed vocals, these guys will not be for you. If you enjoy the harder stuff like this, the singer’s anguished cries lend a unique sound to their already melancholy brand of black metal.
And last but not least, I don’t know what to make of the enigmatic but enthralling Sleep Token. I hesitate to even call them a metal band because their music is, literally, all over the place. Metal songs take a hard turn into rhythm and blues ballads, while songs that begin with elements of hip-hop and pop music will somehow transform into electronica before smacking you in the face with crushing metal riffs. These combinations absolutely should not work but somehow they do, thanks to their solid musicianship and the alluring beauty of the singer’s vocals. And on top of all that, they’re all similarly anonymous with masks bearing numbers, except the lead singer who wears an elaborate mask and is known only as Vessel.
I love recommending music to folks, so if you’re willing to go on a musical adventure check these bands out. Your ears will thank you or curse me, depending on your tolerance for metal.