Guilty pleasure. It’s an odd term that has been developed to describe specific artifacts within our culture that we are too ashamed to admit we enjoy. Within the music community, and the metal community in particular, it’s all too familiar. Whether it be the result of consistently changing personal tastes or due to the insecurity of trying to uphold our “credibility”, us metal fans are always writing off bands that we at one time enjoyed as guilty pleasures. Having been a metalhead for years, I am no exception to this phenomenon. While at the moment I cannot recall any specific band that I consider to be guilty pleasure, there are still a few individual albums that have received that title.
Here are three metal titles that have recently been given the guilty pleasure moniker. All three of these albums contained enough good attributes to make for worthwhile and enjoyable listens, so are they even guilty pleasures at all? Do guilty pleasures truly exist in reality, or is it just our insecurities that bring them into existence?
- Korn – Korn III: Remember Who You Are
Korn is one of those notorious bands that will never be fully accepted by “true” metalheads, regardless of their originality and influence within the scene. Yet with the release of “Korn III”, even a good number of fans were disappointed with the album’s presentation. It’s understandable; given that since their last Ross Robinson production (1996’s Life is Peachy) the band had evolved into an entirely different sonic animal. Whether it’s a lesson in life or music, it’s not always a good idea to live vicariously through one’s past.
Here’s the twist though. It works to extent on this album! While Korn has managed to improve their sense of melody over the years, none of that was truly sacrificed on this album. This is particularly evident in Jonathan Davis’ vocals, which are much more reminiscent of their “Issues – Untouchables” era than anything else. Furthermore, this was the most interesting their drumming had been since the mid 1990’s thanks to the recent addition of Ray Luzier. When these attributes are added up with Korn’s overall improved songwriting over the years, and then given a stripped down Ross Robinson production, then it just make for a damn fun album (atleast for Korn fans)!
- The Crimson Armada – Guardians
Some of you out there in the pit have probably heard of The Holy Guile. Well, this band was their short-lived predecessor. Back in 2009, The Crimson Armada released their debut “Guardians. In retrospect, it’s very easy to see why this album was so overlooked despite its major label release on Metal Blade Records. It was essentially just a watered down version of The Black Dahlia Murder’s “Unhallowed”, just with more breakdowns. “Guardians” was by no means a horrible album, it was just released a few years too late.
Yet, if you take the chronology of musical events out of the equation, this album is pretty decent. Considering its status as a debut, it really showcased its members’ individual musical talents. Guitarists, Barrington and Hatfield are able to provide an onslaught of synchronized melodeath riffs that, while nothing new, are still competent and very catchy. Saud Ahmed’s vocal delivery is what makes this album particularly enjoyable, as he is able to cover the entire spectrum from high screeches to ox-like deathcore growls. Yeah, “Guardians” is far from perfect, but it’s a solid go-to for fans of As Blood Runs Black and Miss May I.
- In Flames – A Sense of Purpose
The amount of bitterness that has been directed toward In Flames since their stylistic change in the early 2000’s is something I can certainly understand, even though I do not agree with it. As fans were still clamoring for a return to the 1990’s death metal style, In Flames instead decided to expand their newfound alternative sound on “A Sense of Purpose”. While I have to admit the over-emphasis on groove metal as well as Ander’s relatively immature clean vocals could be irritating after a while, was this album really as bad as fans and critics made it out to be?
Hell no! If you’re able to look past the vocals, you’ll be able to see the strength of the musicianship on “A Sense of Purpose”. Svensson’s drumming is a personal favorite of mine on this release; he drives the pace of each song while incorporating interesting fills and relentless double bass, yet knows when to appropriately tone it down in order to let the melodies shine through the mix. Jesper Strömblad’s guitarwork on this album is phenomenal! Along with numerous short-but-sweet solos throughout, the lead melodies on tracks such as “Sleepless Again”, and “I’m the Highway” stand out as some of the most well-constructed and memorable of their 2000’s discography. It may not be “The Jester Race”, but it still features many of the qualities that made In Flames a great band!
I’ll ask once more… Do guilty pleasures truly exist in reality, or is it just our insecurities that bring them into existence?