Two is better than one right? Well not always.
Hearing Metallica’s 2016 release is set to be a double, we look back at seven times the risk didn’t pay off. Whether the artists isn’t up for a cull of songs, or wants to be adventurous, the double album doesn’t always work. On the contrary, we’ve also looked at metal double albums that did work!
Metallica, Load / ReLoad (1996 / 1997)
Before we take a look at what other metal bands have done with the form, let’s take a moment to consider that Hardwired …To Self Destruct isn’t really Metallica’s first foray into the realm of the double album. Load and ReLoad were written during the same period and originally intended as a double-album release, but delayed due to studio / financial restrictions.
Many of Metallica’s long-time fans bemoaned the ‘Load’ records for their more alt/hard rock oriented sound at the time of their release (and continue to do so) and, admittedly, each individual record (especially ReLoad) is pretty patchy. However, some of the material (‘Bleeding Me’, ‘Hero of The Day’, King Nothing’, ‘Fuel’, ‘The Memory Remains’) stands among the best the band have ever produced, and there’s a masterpiece to be made by combing each record’s strongest moments into a single unit.
It’s also worth noting that Load and ReLoad were followed by 1998’s covers compilation, Garge Inc., which was a double disc release, and 1988’s …And Justice For All has since become available in double LP format – although it was originally released as on a single record, and all CD versions of the record contain only one disc.
Did it work? Kinda / sorta.
Key Track: ‘King Nothing’
Foo Fighters, In Your Honor (2005)
In Your Honor’s first disc is an absolute tour de force in arena, hard rock; containing such powerful, well-known anthems as ‘Best Of You’, ‘No Way Back’ and the title-track. However, the second acoustic disc is a largely superfluous effort, which reeks of self-indulgence and ‘experimentation for experimentation’s sake’.
Dave Grohl’s voice really doesn’t suit the stripped-back setting and while In Your Honor was arguably the peak of the Foo Fighters popularity, much of this has likely more to do with the band’s preceding four albums than the double album itself.
Did it work? Not really.
Key Track: ‘Best Of You’
System Of A Down, Mezmerize/Hypnotize (2005)
Here we come to the first of our ‘double albums’ to be released on two separate, single discs – something that is becoming an increasing trend. Mesmerise/Hypnotise was System Of A Down’s final release before they disbanded in 2006, and saw a noticeable increase in songwriting and vocal contributions from guitarist Daron Malakian.
Although there isn’t a clear stylistic distinction between these two discs as there was with In Your Honor, the gap in quality is enormous. Mezmerize brought System Of A Down a Grammy win for “Best Hard Rock Performance” with ‘B.Y.O.B.’, and there really isn’t a weak track to be found on it. Hypnotize, meanwhile, is a complete and utter mess.
Did It Work? Half of it did.
Key Track: ‘Sad Statue’
Judas Priest, Nostradamus (2008)
After making a comeback with 2005’s Angel Of Retribution, Judas Priest became the first of heavy metal’s ‘traditional’ garde to take on the double album. Nostradamus is a concept record, based on the life and prophecies of its notorious namesake, and the premise made for some compelling visuals during the band’s complimentary world tour. However, the album itself contained little in the way of redeeming features, along with some ill-advised experimentation with synthesisers and overly contrived, lyrical narrative.
It was received poorly by fans and critics alike, and plans of performing it in full, alongside a full stage production, were quickly scrapped following its release.
Did It Work? It should have, but it didn’t.
Key Track: ‘Prophecy’
Devin Townsend, Z2 (2014)
Much like Yellow & Green , there really isn’t any reason for Z2’s two discs to be collected under one label. Unlike Yellow & Green, there really isn’t anything the two discs share in common either. The second disc (from which the collection takes its name) serves as a follow-up to Townsend’s 2007, space-rock opera Ziltoid the Omniscient, while the first disc, Sky Blue, is a stand-alone effort which sees Heavy Devy continuing his exploration of stripped back, and increasingly electronic-based pop compositions – including a title track that is an obvious (and admitted) lift of Usher’s ‘DJ got Us Fallin’ in Love’.
Sky Blue might be one of the best of the many albums Devin has ever put his name to, and Dark Matters serves as a worthy – if not quite as satisfying – follow-up to another, but there is absolutely no reason why they should be considered as a single release.
Did it work? Indeed! (…But also not really).
Key Track: ‘Sky Blue’
Periphery, Juggernaut (2015)
Juggernaut has to be one of the most hyped metal releases in recent memory, and if there was a sure-fire way for Periphery to cement their position as one of the greatest and most important and progressive acts of the modern metal paradigm, it was through a bulletproof double album. However, while Juggernaut is a certifiably impressive and thoroughly enjoyable release, it falls short of really nailing the double-disc format.
Although the album is intended to take the listener on one, long, continuous musical journey, too much of it blends together, and there isn’t quite enough variation on display to make the extended journey worth taking on a regular basis.
Did it work? Almost.
Key track: ‘Heavy Heart’
Iron Maiden, The Book Of Souls (2015)
Iron Maiden are really the only other metal band to even come close to rivalling Metallica in terms of popularity and cultural impact (and, even then, there’s a fairly clear distinction). The band proved a notable influence on the Bay Area act in their formative years, and proceeded them by a single year when it came to tackling the double-album format. Let’s hope that the Americans can do a better job of it than their U.K. counterparts though, because The Book of Souls is – quite frankly –atrocious.
The band’s old-school fans might have lapped it up but, even by modern Maiden’s continually waning standards, this double album was a less than impressive effort. There’s hardly a memorable song to be found on either disc, and the band’s tendency toward 10, 13, and even 18-minute-long songs reeks far more of self-indulgence than it does necessity.
Did it work? Unfortunately, no.
Key Track: ‘Empire Of The Clouds’