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A few weeks ago, when Ringo Starr was in town, I wrote a column pondering the world's best drummers - and man, did I get an earful of feedback on the Herald's website, telling me who I'd forgotten and who deserved recognition. So sorry to Art Blakey, Keith Moon and, er, Phil Collins. But can I just say, it was never meant to be a definitive list, just my own personal favourites.

So yeah, anyway, since heavy metal pioneers Deep Purple are in town this weekend (let me hear you sing, "Smoke on the Water ... and fire in the sky"), and the founders of all things metal, Black Sabbath, are here in a few months - not to mention Tool, who have just announced a second Vector show, I thought it was timely to talk about the best heavy metal band out there. Because it seems metal - in its many dark and disturbing, yet amusing and fun forms - is pretty in vogue of late. Although, if you ask me - and many of the other goat-throwing followers around the world - it's never really gone away.

Listening back to Deep Purple's Machine Head - yes, the album with Smoke on the Water on it but best of all, the bluesy metal stomp and fuzz of Space Truckin' - it's not all that heavy compared to something like Slayer's Reign in Blood (great, reckless, bike-riding music) or Meshuggah's Nothing (the sound of your head being bound up with barb wire).

But boy, it's still good old-fashioned chest-beating rock music. And I have to say, God knows what Purple are doing playing with 70s and 80s American rockers Journey, who are easy-listening metal at best. Apparently, according to mainstay Journey man Neal Schon, they can rark up the heaviness with the best of them these days, so I can't wait to hear the Satan-ised version of their fist-pumping 1981 hit Don't Stop Believin' on Sunday night.


But back to the metal.

It's Black Sabbath who best sum up metal's legacy and, not to sound too grand here, the genre's staunch and enduring status on the world's music stage. Because they, along with bands like Led Zep, started it all way back in the late 60s when they took the devil's music, dipped it in psychedelic blues and preloaded it with drugs and other stimulants to make something more heavy and more scary than ever before. And now, 45 years, many brain cells, and a couple of bouts of cancer later, they can still command two nights at Vector Arena.

Not many - if any - bands formed in the 60s can still do that.

Then there is the band I have taken to calling art metallers, Tool. They are big here, in case you haven't heard. The thing with Tool, though, is that they are notoriously uncompromising and they do things on their own terms. I have interviewed them three times - one was great, another time, in person, was unnerving because frontman Maynard James Keenan was at his difficult and cutting best and last month they hung up on me. But they're still one of my favourite bands because they make music unlike anyone else. They keep pushing musical boundaries and not many bands can do that these days either. Though a new album wouldn't go amiss.

There you go then, that's my tribute to the enduring powers of metal; long may it reign. And if you do wish to put your two cents' worth in, don't roar obscenities in my ear. Can I suggest putting on some ambient metal, like Jesu or Sleep (they're great) perhaps, calm yourself, and write your favourite metal bands down (with reasons why) and then spread the metal love.

- TimeOut