Everyone loves a band they believe to be underrated, a band whose songs appeal on so many levels it seems downright criminal they’re not playing sold-out stadium shows around the world. Why are the Taylor Swifts of the world getting all the attention when all these amazing musicians are languishing in obscurity?
That, my friends, is the unfairness of popular music.
But that doesn’t mean that we, as fans, have to settle for less. We can be the voices of the bands we love, and spread the word to others about bands we know and love. These aren’t just bands I think are a bit of all right, they’re albums I play constantly, as much as I listen to Sabbath or Maiden or any of the other big guys.
And, in case you were curious, I’ve made a Spotify Playlist of songs from my ten picks. Listen to it here.
Mezarkabul / Pentagram
If ever someone asks me for a recommendation of a little-known metal band, I point them in the direction of Mezarkabul. I found their album Unspoken for $2 in the bargain bin at Real Groovy some ten years ago, and they have remained a favourite of mine ever since.
Mezarkabul hail from Turkey and play incredibly beautiful, catchy, stunningly-composed power / heavy metal incorporating Anatolian musical elements and instruments in their music. If you liked Amorphis’ Elegy, you’re probably going to enjoy these guys.
They are little known outside of their home country. They were originally called Pentagram, but changed their name to Mezarkabul after discovering the US doom band also called Pentagram were getting more well-known. But you’ll often find them still listed as Pentragram, so it can be hard to even find their stuff. (Some of their songs are listed under Pentagram on Spotify, for example).
These guys are probably my second-favourite German power metal band, and I don’t understand why they’re not headlining festivals alongside Blind Guardian. They were formed by guitarist Uwe Lulis when he left Grave Digger in 2000. All their albums are concept albums, and it is the three albums they wrote about the Norse Sagas that stand as their most brilliant works.
Sadly, Lulis and two other original band members left in 2010, and while the band are still awesome, I don’t think they’ve been quite the same since. Their music incorporates everything you love about German power metal, but it’s just heavier and intelligent and exceptionally catchy.
Solstafir are an icelandic metal band fromed in 1995, and like all other Icelandic bands, are a little bit weird. I’ve talked about this band on the blog before, when I reviewed their 2014 release Ótta. Simply put, it’s a stunning album, and you should listen to it now.
Sadly, two of the band members had a bit of a showdown over social media last year that left a bit of a sour taste in some fans mouths. Their music still stands as some of the most beautiful and imaginative scores to have come out of metal in the last twenty years. Why are they not as beloved by the indie scene as Sigur Ros?
We saw these guys at a tiny German medieval festival where they were the standout act of the day. They call themselves a folk metal band, although the folk elements in their music aren’t the sole focus, and their songwriting leads more to rock than metal in many songs.
Nachtgeshrei’s lyrics are in German, which limits their commercial appeal outside their own country. But if Eluveitie have such respect for writing their songs in Gaulish, then it’s possible for Nachtgeshrei to gain international appeal, right? Right?
Skyclad invented folk metal. There’s no debate. And 30 years on, their albums are still some of the best folk metal around. Far from the polished pop-flavoured drinking songs popular now, Skyclad’s sound with rough, dirty English thrash and NWOBHM with a deeply political bent and some of the best lyrics to ever come out of heavy metal.
Apart from the fact that Skyclad have obviously broken up, so they’re not playing shows any more, I fail to see any reason why they don’t have as much respect as the more popular Finnish acts like Korpiklaani and Turisas. They’re often glossed over as folk metal “precursers” but albums like Vintage Whine and The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea should be classics.
The Project Hate MCMXCIX
A Swedish industrial metal band fromed in 1998, I first came across these guys when we were travelling through Norway and a lovely record store owner put on Hate, Dominate, Congregate, Eliminate. We begged him to sell us the CD so we could hear more. He was gutted as he’d only just opened the packet that day and it was his only copy, but sold it to us anyway (Capitalism, yay!)
The band contains members of Entombed, Grave, Witchbreed, House of Usher, and other relatively big names in the Swedish metal scene. They have suffered through most of their career with poor distribution
Why these guys aren’t as big as Marilyn Manson or Nine Inch Nails, I don’t know. They have never released a bad album, and produce a big heavy sound that mixes black metal elements with industrial music. There’s even a bit of orchestral stuff thrown in? And did I mention it’s duel male/female vocals? Basically, they are awesome. Go listen.
Annihilator are a Canadian thrash band founded in 1984 by Jeff Waters. They are the biggest heavy metal group in Canada, which isn’t really saying much (sorry, Canada).
Serious question. Did Annihilator ever write any bad songs? I bet you can’t name three. Jeff Waters is such a charismatic vocalist, you can instantly recognise an Annihilator song by his distinct sound. Annihilator are relatively successful, but I always felt they never got as big as they could have been, or should have been.
The first Finnish band to make the list! It’s hard to call many Finnish bands “underrated” since the Finns are pretty vocal about their metal, but in the case of Battle Beast I think they need to be shouting a bit louder. The original lineup consisted of high school friends, and a few lineup changes (particularly of the vocals) have only led to a strong, more awesome sound.
In the same year, Battle Beast won the 2010 Wacken Metal Battle and the Radio Rock Starba, and they received a ton of exposure. Their third album in 2015, Unholy Savior, is their strongest yet. They are definitely gaining more recognition, and I’m hoping in another couple of years no one will be calling them underration.
I still can’t forgive Wacken 2011 for putting these guys on at the same time as Blind Guardian.
These guys are gaining a lot of critical praise across the world, but I’m adding them in because they deserve MORE DAMMIT. In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard me the last 17,086 times I mentioned them, Beastwars are an incredible stoner rock/metal band from here in New Zealand. They are just … wow. That is all. Why are they not as famous as Mastadon? I think it’s only a matter of time.
Not technically a metal band, Wishbone Ash are a British rock band who had a relative amount of success during the early/mid 1970s. Steve Harris of Iron Maiden was listening to Wishbone Ash when HE was dreaming of playing in a metal band. They were one of the first bands to use twin lead guitars.
Wishbone Ash are so vital to the sound of NWOBHM and yet they’re barely know in metal circles beyond a footnote in foundational essays. Just listen to Warrior. Holy shit, it’s such an incredible song. That’s proto-metal being formed, right there.
Listen to the playlist on Spotify
I want to hear what YOUR underrated bands or albums are. Sing out in the comments or post on my Facebook page. Add a couple of their songs to the playlist. Let’s do it.
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