I have loved music for as long as I can remember and there is almost no genre that I don’t like, but my top three are 80s metal, grunge, and classic rock. I was young in the 80s – too young to see most of the bands live with their original lineups, but I remember spending hours listening to all the greats on the radio. I bet I could still find some old mix tapes in my parents basement, where I once spent an entire summer headbanging when the Metallica box set came out. Guys like Slash, Sebastian Bach, Nikki Sixx, Jon Bon Jovi, and Steve Clark just seemed so much larger than life. The pinups on my wall (once I outgrew Bop and Teen Beat) came mostly from Metal Edge and included everyone I just named and then some. Bare chested, whiskey bottle in hand, Marlboro hanging from pouty lips… these guys were the reason I bought a guitar. They looked and sounded awesome and I wanted to be just like them.
Over the last 20 years, I went through three distinct stages of reliving the glory days of metal. By the early 2000s it had really been awhile since I listened to 80s music, not because I stopped liking it, but simply because it went out of fashion while I wasn’t looking. The first stage was so sentimental as I stayed up late at night roaming the internet for lost gems that I had all but forgotten about. I started with the obvious, like Guns n’ Roses, Motley Crue, Poison, Def Leppard, Skid Row, Warrant, followed by some who are not quite as famous but just as great like Cinderella, White Lion, Winger, Great White, Ratt, and Slaughter. I had almost completely forgotten how great this music was and listening to it all over again, as if for the first time, made me feel just like a kid again. I closed my eyes and it was like I was back in my childhood bedroom with my Walkman cranked up.
The second stage was in a somewhat ironic way along with the masses, including those who were too young to remember when it was popular the first time. The 80s were “in” again and although I could tell people really did like the music, they were also kind of making fun of the silliness of it all. Believe it or not, this was the first time in my life I realized that it really was a bit silly and over the top. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it as much as ever, but I am also able to laugh at how much lipstick and hairspray and spandex there was to go around in such a macho scene. Now I was really having fun reminiscing and started digging deeper for some long forgotten bands like Kix, Lillian Axe, Danger Danger, Extreme, Every Mother’s Nightmare… I could go on forever.
The third stage is happening now, and I feel that I have come full circle. I will always enjoy exploring new bands and genres, but I’m a metal head at heart. This is my music, and it will be for life, whether it’s in fashion or not. And just when I thought I had explored all there was to explore, I found out there are a bunch of new bands still playing this kind of metal! Here are three Finnish bands keeping metal alive in the 2010s:
These guys are the real deal from Helsinki, Finland. They were inspired by two of my all time faves, Skid Row and Guns n’ Roses, and while you can hear the influence, they have a sound that is uniquely Santa Cruz. Somewhere between brutally heavy and glam metal with a punk-like energy, they land right in the sweet spot. The songs are melodic with singable choruses, squealing guitar solos, and vocal harmonies. The band themselves describe their sound as “glamcore” and that is fitting. They have a modern metal sound (in a good way) and the most recent self-titled album is significantly heavier than the first. Both albums are equally amazing, and their videos have it all from fire to blood spewing and slow motion headbanging (see “We Are the Ones To Fall”). You can tell they are having fun and not taking themselves too seriously. I never expect to love any band as much as those I grew up listening to, but Santa Cruz has come closer than anyone to date. And they look awesome doing it! Santa Cruz toured last year with both Shiraz Lane and Reckless Love (See the rest of this post) and also Sebastian Bach. Check them out!
Newest of the three bands discussed in this post, Shiraz Lane sound great and are neck and neck with Santa Cruz in terms of overall metal awesomeness. The singer Hannes Kett has a great high pitched wail and to hear evidence of this, do yourself a favor and check out the track Wake Up. Just when you think his voice is going to dip back down, he goes even higher! I hear Motley Crue and Guns n’ Roses in these guys, too, but more than that, I hear Skid Row in both sound and lyrical content. There are songs about not becoming a slave to the system that are reminiscent of Youth Gone Wild/Slave to the Grind. Like Santa Cruz, Shiraz Lane have their own sound and you can hear it on the first full length album, For Crying Out Loud. I love these guys and can’t wait to hear how they progress from here. Follow them on Facebook for updates.
The most senior of this trio of metal bands is a fun, poppy, glam metal band. Reckless Love features nice, heavy riffs and shredding solos along with some awesome group shout-a-long choruses. Reckless Love are not as heavy as the other bands mentioned, but are at least as much fun to listen to and still make you want to bang your head. At their poppiest, they sound like a metal version of mainstream pop. Overall, for me they bring to mind Van Halen and Dokken with a little Whitesnake in the mix. Highlights include an acoustic version of Def Leppard’s Hysteria! And if you are in Finland, Spain, Italy, Japan, or UK, you can check them out on tour this year.
I just recently discovered these bands and I really hope this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of great metal being made by new bands. If you have another favorite metal band that you would like to recommend, please leave a comment below.