What Hi-Fi (UK)
NINE OF THE BEST ROCK AND METAL SONGS
There is a tendency in hi-fi circles to stick to the same old genres, and even specific tracks, when demoing a system or piece of kit. Go to any hi-fi show and within the first hour you’ll have heard Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hotel California enough to last a lifetime.
We believe you need to test hi-fi with the music that you actually like to listen to – and that’s still true if you’re a rocker or metalhead. Below, you’ll find a collection of music from the compressed and grungy to the epic and lavishly produced. Every track will test your system, and give you an excuse to rock out.
SPIT IT OUT SLIPKNOT
Slipknot’s debut album is simply relentless, and Spit It Out is one of the most intense tracks. Entrenched in hardcore and punk as much as it is metal, this track is terrifyingly loud even on mute and cannot be surpassed for its aggressive energy.
WHOLE LOTTA LOVE LED ZEPPELIN
Whole Lotta Love might be an obvious choice, but just imagine the uproar if it had been missing from this list. Your hi-fi system should be able to reproduce the huge soundstage, placing each instrument precisely and tracking the movement from speaker to speaker. Listening to Whole Lotta Love played through a well organised system is a dizzying thrill, the likes of which is rare. Stop reading and do it right now.
Deftones’ self-titled fourth album saw the Californian alt-metal band begin to spread its wings in terms of musical style, introducing more electronic and synthesized sounds while also borrowing elements from genres such as trip-hop and shoegaze.
Lead single Minerva blends an airy guitar drone with an ethereal delivery from vocalist Chino Moreno, forming a fantastically heavy track that will reward systems with plenty of weight and dynamic range.
KILLING IN THE NAME RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
Rage Against The Machine’s brutal debut sits among the rock and metal albums, but is more a hip-hop record with guitars. Its political conscience is shared with the likes of Public Enemy and N.W.A, while Tom Morello’s guitar is made to squeal like a scratched record. Either way, Zack de la Rocha’s spat lines are poignant and Killing in the Name can’t be missed if you want to test your system’s stereo imaging.
ABANDON SHIP GALLOWS
It’s easy to dismiss compressed-sounding records, such as Gallows’ Orchestra Of Wolves, as not being ‘hi-fi’ enough. But to do so would be to deprive yourself of one of the most frenzied hardcore punk albums in existence. While the album sounds closed and claustrophobic, like it was recorded in a pub basement, it’s a test of your system’s sense of rhythm. Play Abandon Ship and if your toe isn’t tapping maniacally, it’s time to look into a tweak or upgrade.
THEN COMES DUDLEY THE JESUS LIZARD
The Texan noise outfit’s abrasive second album Goat suggests they were never destined for the mainstream. However, they remain significant long after many of their contemporaries were found out. Then Comes Dudley is a combination of crisp drums, jangly guitars and fuzzy vocals, and your system is doing well if it can make sense of the busy crescendo.
NOTHING ELSE MATTERS (LIVE S&M RECORDING) METALLICA
Out of Metallica’s vast back catalogue, we’ve chosen a relatively gentle live rendition of Nothing Else Matters – but for testing, there really is no better track. It is hard for hi-fi kit to make crowd noise sound authentic and if your system gets it right, you’ll be immediately transported to The Berkeley Community Theatre. The collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra smooths out Metallica’s rough edges, but this is a performance of epic scale and atmosphere, and a challenge for even the most high-end of set-ups.
13 Songs is effectively a compilation of Fugazi’s first two EPS – Fugazi and Margin Walker – that has been a huge influence on alternative rock music. Its post-hardcore arrangements are eerily sparse, which often only accentuates their brutality, and beg a sharp performance from your speakers. Burning is a great example that also boasts a chuggingly deep bass line.
BLACK SABBATH BLACK SABBATH
Like applause, heavy rain is a tricky sound for a stereo system to reproduce, so the downpour at the start of Black Sabbath sets the cat amongst the pigeons, sonically speaking. From an atmospheric start emerges that unsubtle riff, followed by a stark, stripped back verse. Every stage of the song is its own challenge, and on the right system it sounds superb – even though the album is now over 50 years old.