It’s no secret that artists regularly find inspiration from one another. Game respect game and all that. And while it’s natural for in-genre performers to be able to rattle off a long list of bands that paved the way for their particular sound. But what about a band that’s metal-adjacent but not entirely metal? Can our beloved music genre drive people to write sick dark synthwave music?
In the case of U.K synthwave act Gunship, who we recently featured on the site, metal plays a huge role in their output and careers. In order to share their love of the music and who they regard as their secret weapon in the hunt for inspiration, we asked Dan Haigh (bass, backing vocals), Alex Westaway (vocals), and Alex Gingell (drums) to put together a list of bands that inform their work. So here’s 16 metal bands that drive their dark rhythms and sounds.
DAN: Machine Head at Nottingham’s Rock City was my very first gig circa 1994 on the Burn My Eyes Tour. Chris Kontos on drums and, goddamn, it was crushingly heavy. I was already a fully committed metal kid, but witnessing the visceral energy of the crowd participation on “Let freedom ring…” [in “Davidian”] made me a lifer. I got my original MH logo shirt signed that night, which I still have.
I had been introduced to Machine Head via MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball which we used to religiously record to VHS. Weirdly, we’d go on to work with Machine Head’s producer, Colin Richardson, on our debut Fightstar album, mainly because of Burn My Eyes (and Demanufacture). Even weirder, I actually went to that first Machine Head show with Carl Bown, who is now our current producer in GUNSHIP. Carl also went on to actually work with Machine Head, along with producing a bunch of other metal bands.
DAN: Metallica is probably where metal started for me. I remember hearing Metallica for the first time on the radio, on the original Friday Rock Show with Tommy Vance. My very first vinyl was an original double LP copy of …And Justice For All. Still love, and will always love this band. I recently re-learned how to play “Puppets” due to snagging a BC Rich Warlock, and my kids are asking me to play the “Eddie Munson” song!
The bridge riff in “Damage Inc” is still top drawer. “The Thing That Should Not Be” is also extremely awesome. I’m sure that track, along with “The Call of Ktulu”, played a significant role in us making our ‘Cthulhu’ song with horror director Corin Hardy.
ALEX G: My introduction to Death was Symbolic, which to this day remains my favorite straight technical death metal album of all time. The fusion of power and musical creativity, combined of course with Chuck’s prescient lyrics, was something to behold then and perhaps even more so today. There was a good stretch back in ‘96 or ‘97 where I would just spin this album on loop at night when falling asleep.
People definitely thought that was strange, but I found the structure of the music fascinating and my brain just reveled in the constant flow of changes and new ideas. It definitely must have affected my brain listening to this album while I slept. While all their drummers have monster chops, it was “The Atomic Clock” himself Gene “The Machine” Hoglan who really blew me away with his idiosyncratic style and jazzy patterns fused with, of course, monstrous power, speed and precision. I’ll always consider Gene a beacon of inspiration, specifically because of the way he fuses different styles and puts his own stamp on the music, unconstrained by genre conventions.
DAN: I mean, “Corporal Jigsore Quandary” from Necroticism – Descanting The Insalubrious, that drum intro and riff… DAMN. We used to jam this a lot, but to be honest, “Heartwork” – in particular both the title track and “Buried Dreams” – were my favorites. Heartwork is another Colin Richardson produced record, and another reason we ended up working with him later. When “Swansong” came out, I had the super limited BRAIN SHAPED CD! I also sampled a bunch of guitar chugs from that album and made a ‘Windows 95’ ‘audio theme’ where all the Windows sounds got replaced with heavy stuff. I’m pretty sure Alex G made use of this creation back in the day too.
ALEX G: Yeah. “Corporal Jigsore Quandary” was my archetypal double-bass drum learning
song back in the day.
DAN: One of the top five bands of all time for me. I saw “Walk” for the first time on Headbangers Ball, and was instantly a fan. After buying Vulgar Display of Power, I went back and discovered Cowboys From Hell and obsessed over both of those records until getting my hands on Far Beyond Driven.
The groove, raw power and riffs… I mean, Dime’s riffs are ALL genius, but coupled with Phil’s sandblasting intensity just makes them one of the all-time greats. I will admit this though, I remember buying The Great Southern Trendkill and actually throwing the CD across the room because I was so disappointed with it compared to Far Beyond Driven.
Needless to say, two days later it had become one of favorites and to this day I still think it has a little extra depth and sophistication that maybe isn’t present on the earlier records. “Drag The Waters” is killer, as well as Dime’s work on “Floods”. but ultimately “Mouth for War” or “A New Level” probably take the cake. God damn – that palm muted bit of the intro riff!
ALEX G: Probably my favorite melodic death metal band. I like all of their albums, but their 2000-2002 run of The Chainheart Machine, A Predator’s Portrait, and Natural Born Chaos was incredibly formative for me.
Henry Ranta was a big part of that. I started playing drums around ‘96-’97, so by the time these albums came around, my drumming brain had reached a point where I could really appreciate the amazing rhythmical ideas pouring out of this insane drummer. I’d easily cite Henry as my biggest writing influence. His parts drive the music without compromise, but at the same time, are rich with interesting details and idiosyncrasies. They’re incredibly original, fun to play and cool as hell all at once.
Our music is a far-cry from Soilwork, but most of the crazier drum parts I manage to sneak past the other guys owe a debt of gratitude to Henry. Aside from that, Peter Wichers is one of my favorite guitarists both for his writing and playing. Metal is full of master shredders, but I haven’t heard many metal guitarists who can do as much as Pete can with a single note. Shout out to Dirk and all the other members past and present because they’re all gods too.
DAN: The influence Sepultura had on me in the ‘90s was colossal. Age 13 or 14, “Refuse/Resist” was our favorite cover to play. In fact, my sister and I painted a giant Sep ‘S’ on our rehearsal room’s wall, which I’m pretty sure is still there. Chaos A.D. remains one of my all time favorite metal albums; every track on that record provided at least one jaw-dropping element. The chugg of both this record and Burn My Eyes was what it was all about for me. Sepultura’s live performance at Donington in 1994 was incendiary – particularly “Territory”. It was also epic to see Phil from Pantera rocking out sidestage at that show. ‘Arise’ and ‘Roots’ probably share second place for me. That middle breakdown riff on “Dead Embryonic Cells” probably marked the start of their most rad era. I will always love the B.C. Rich Warlock because of Max. Now I gotta go see if I still have my Sepultura long shorts (jams) from the 90’s.
DAN: Also in the top five bands of all-time for me. Crushing power with groove, coupled with exquisite and well crafted melody, with enough moody atmosphere to cobble dogs with. I heard “Bored” and was instantly hooked and I’ve remained a fan ever since. “Engine No.9,” “7 Words” and “Root” were instant loves, but the remainder of the tracks on that album demonstrate those seductive melodic components that would later play such an important role in standing them apart from other bands they may have been incorrectly grouped with at the time.
Around The Fur was a devastating salvo of cool and was the ideal accompaniment to a lot of skateboarding that I was doing at the time. We covered ‘My Own Summer” routinely with our other band, Fightstar. White Pony is a genuine masterpiece. I was editing levels for the PS3 version of Quake III at the time, and listened to this album excessively while working on that game. It’s a flawless record – all of their records have influenced me significantly. Later in life while at an award show I was attending with Fightstar, we were privileged enough to present the Deftones with a song writing award on stage – a genuinely great memory.
ALEX G: My first ever gig was Deftones at Nottingham Rock City in ‘95-96 during the Adrenaline era. I still remember Chino climbing on top of a stack of amps and the whole lot threatening to topple into the crowd. Epic times and a very special record for me.
DAN: I can’t do a list like this without mentioning the ‘Hazard. ‘Urban Discipline’ and ‘State of the World Address’ are gems. “Tales From The Hardside”, “Shades Of Grey”, “Five Blocks to the Subway” are all killer. Annnnnd with that, I’ve just lost an hour of my day going back down the Biohazard rabbit hole on YouTube.
ALEX G: Looking back, it seems like the 90s and very early 2000s are where all my favorite metal hails from. Fear Factory dropped Demanufacture and Obsolete in ‘95 and ‘98, and they completely dominated a good portion of my school days. I can still remember sneaking in a copy of Demanufacture to a school disco and swapping it unannounced into the rotation. I have never seen a school dance floor clear quicker than during the opening clanking and abrasive double kick intro to “Demanufacture” – hahaha! Only we chosen few were out there giving it some beans in the pit. Whenever I want to train drumming stamina, these are the tracks to play to. Raymond Herrera is an absolute beast, triggers or not.
DAN: Snot’s Get Some record was an immediate hit with us. Upon first seeing the video for “Stoopid”, I instantly went out to buy the album. We still reference the snare sound on this record today. RIP Lynn and RIP Dobbs.
ALEX G: Alive or Just Breathing, The End of Heartache and As Daylight Dies were basically the soundtrack to the 2000’s for me. Crossing the first Jesse-era and into Howard’s time, they smashed out a lot of classics. I hit a lot of gym personal records to “Self Revolution” off AOJB – this was my de facto deadlift PR song. Cue it up five seconds before gripping and ripping and it will see you through! “My Last Serenade,” “Rose of Sharyn,” “The End of Heartache,” “Daylight Dies,”, “The Arms of Sorrow”, “My Curse”… so many bangers and such a polished fusion of abrasive aggression and melodic hooks. I also dig that these guys are able to have a laugh and not take everything so seriously. That is becoming an ever more important quality these days.
Rage Against the Machine
ALEX W: The Crow soundtrack was where I discovered Rage. Thinking about it now, that was one hell of a fucking soundtrack. I’d never heard such honest, raw intensity. There was nothing contrived about it, such unbelievable weight in the conviction. A huge inspiration to me. I often reference Zack’s phrasing sensibilities, or at least I aspire to.
DAN: Collaborating with Dave Lombardo on our song “Berserker” for Tyler Bate’s Dark Nights: Death Metal soundtrack was one of coolest things to ever happen to us. Slayer were a huge childhood influence on me. At age 15, my band at the time won a “Band of the Year” competition performing a cover of “South Of Heaven.” I first saw Slayer live at Ozzfest ‘98 with Pantera, which is still probably the greatest show I’ve ever been to. We actually have another collaboration with Dave on the new forthcoming GUNSHIP album, honestly, what can we say? Dave’s a complete legend and a kickass musician. I actually found out recently that my son has been showing his classmates “Raining Blood.” Awesome! That first riff has got to be up there with the all time greatest thrash riffs. That and the breakdown in “Angel Of Death.”
ALEX G: I’m pretty sure every drummer in the known universe worships at the altar of Danny Carey and I am no different. There’s an incredible amount of intelligence and complexity going on and yet, instead of bogging everything down, the result is brooding, heavy and grooves like no other. I have massive respect for everyone in the band though. Tool just exists in a genre of their own creation, on another plane of creativity and skill. I’ve been listening since Ænima and I still don’t entirely understand what is happening or why it works so well, but it’s fun to keep trying. I’ve just spent an hour listening to Tool to try and single a track out, but it’s almost impossible. “The Pot” often gets cited as a good intro to the band and I do love it. But let’s go with their latest album, “Pneuma” from “Fear Inoculum” is killer and there’s an awesome drum cam video of Danny smashing it up real good on YouTube – required viewing!
DAN: True story, Slipknot’s bass player and all-round-excellent-dude Vman was, back in the mists of time, a guitar tech for our previous band. Vman also was a proper gent and played some Metallica during the ceremony at my wedding, as well as shredding up “Here Comes the Bride”, complete with full Marshall Stack in the church, as we walked down the aisle. Well, I could go on to spin some tall tales of these early days spent with Vman. But perhaps that’s for another time…