Think-Tank: Discog. Diving

So you’ve found a new band you enjoy. Turns out they have a decent amount of released material already. Awesome! Where is the best place to commence your exploration into their discography? Today, we’re going to oppose and possibly dispel some commonly held beliefs about discography diving.

A while back, some of us simple bowl-folk were offering advice to someone questioning which album they should approach next, after getting hooked on an album from a band who were new to them. The typical answer was, as you might have expected, to “Start from the beginning”. Duh! It makes sense, it is no coincidence that the word chronological is derived from the latin words chronos, meaning “time,” and logical, meaning “not stoopid.” However, while I’d agree with that answer in the majority of cases, I don’t think it should be a blanket ruling, to be held equally applicable to all bands in all instances. You see, there’s a rumour among academics that each person is an individual. Crazy, huh? Likewise, a great number of bands happen to have unique characteristics. The plot thickens! Sometimes these traits manifest themselves in different manners throughout a band’s career, and what works for one person, may not for another. In case you haven’t already deduced from my waffling, I’m going to play a sort of devil’s advocate role here and try and dissuade you from asserting that “Go back to the start” should be the knee-jerk response to the question “Where to next?” Throughout the short piece I’ll be using very broad examples so as to make sure I give myself the best chance at convincing even the most obstinate of sticklers otherwise.

Instances where I’m going to suggest that automatically going back to the beginning might not be the optimal method for commencing a musical journey are –

1. When the first release(s) are raw.

This covers a great number of bands. So many bands start out with crude recordings, and often this isn’t through choice. With the exception of lo-fi black metal, it mostly seems to occur as a function of lack of funding. Getting into the mindset required to even bother trying to pierce through several layers of reverb-laden tape-hiss is not an innate desire of some, believe it or not. So when your younger cousin says they’re really digging that Arise album they borrowed some years back and finally grew into, maybe saying “Try Morbid Visions next” is not the preferred method of maintaining their flourishing interest in metal.

2. When the band has gone through drastic changes.

When a band reaches a certain age and have released enough music to cover a large tract of sonic territory, they’ve undoubtedly gone through some stylistic changes. Sure, there are some notable exceptions to the rule, where bands have remained static and simply rehashed similar ideas throughout their careers (think AC/DC), but without some form of innovation between albums/periods, contemporary bands tend to taper out or die completely. If someone’s entry to a band happens to be near the end of the group’s career, during the seemingly inevitable and often infamous “prog-phase,” maybe sending them back to the doldrums of the first 6 “pure” records is not going to facilitate their developing taste for the band.

3. When the band’s early material is their most celebrated.

This one seems counter-intuitive. Well, that’s because it is. Everyone knows that those first few albums were solid fucking gold. Nobody is arguing that. But your friend is raving about Divine Intervention/Koloss/Heretic/Prometheus/Carnival Is Forever/etc. and you know damn well that if you offer up the band’s early material as the next stepping stone, all else will pale in comparison. In hindsight, there are a veritable shitload of times that I would have preferred to have checked out the adjacent albums to the one I was enjoying, rather than attempt the “logical” linear listening pattern. For instance, had I have not heard all the post-1991 material first, there’s no way I could take it seriously after hearing Power Metal. Ok, Randall Thor rustlin’ beside, I did sincerely mean the rest of this point. Sometimes, a band’s killer early material ends up irrecoverably spoiling the rest of the ride due to its enormous impact.

So what say you? Did I manage to at least make you think twice about the recommendations you will make in the future? Maybe my poorly conceived case only strengthened your belief that you were right all along/the lizard is a fool? Let’s hear about it in the comments section.

Written by:

Published on: May 4, 2016

Filled Under: Discography, Washington Think Tank

Views: 959

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  • Elegant Gazing Globe

    buy what you like

  • A.P.

    I feel like Cryptopsy (obvious), Atheist (far less popular opinion), Death and Cynic (feel what you will) are all relevant here.

  • I think Darkthrone has one of the biggest roller-coaster rides of a discography.

    • Adding to my comment, I’d recommend Blaze as the first DT album to any new listener.

      • Soulside Journey was mine! o.o

        • That’s a great Death Metal album Link! Also, some of the best drumming from Fenriz, if not his best!

          • I agree. That TV show in which they played “Cromlech” is a testament on how good is Fenriz.

            I respect him a lot for that, he switched from almost prog levels of embellishment to raw expressive drumming in a pinch.

        • love soulside

      • A.P.

        I’ve managed to convince many metal fans of blackened shit thanks to that record. It’s my go-to for introduction.

        • It’s a good blend of their blackened and death metal sound. Also, it’s my favorite album by them.

      • Rob M

        I think it really depends on which era brought them in. If they like the crust and roll stuff, Id probably save that reco for later down the line

        • Agreed. That stuff is more of a good back-up plan. The bulk of what NEEDS to be heard is from 91 to 96.

          • Rob M

            Oh agreed, if youre planning on getting into Darkthrone, at some point, you better damn well listen to those early albums

          • Hahahaha!

          • Spear

            Confession time: I’ve never really checked out Darkthrone specifically because of their later stuff. A friend lent me FOAD and Circle the Wagons and that turned me off of them pretty hard. I didn’t know their earlier material was any different.

          • Rob M

            The whole Norwegian black metal sound is pretty much defined by Blaze, Funeral Moon, and Transilvanian Hunger

          • Spear

            Well, shit. Guess I’ve got some homework to do.

          • Please do so, Rob’s words are beyond trve.

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            Albums 2-4 are a must for any bm fan, me’thinks. Though Panzerfaust (5) might be a personal favorite.
            The whole Norwegian scene really owes them a lot.

          • Panzerfaust brings the plodding doom! I love me some Panzerfaust!

          • Scrimm


          • Scrimm

            I fucking LOVE Circle the Wagons

    • also carpathian forest

      • They have more poopy sounding albums than good ones in my opinion. Never could get into that band.

        • Black shining leather, strange old Brew, 3 chasms caves & Titan Woods have all grown on me over the last couple years

        • Do you think I should pick up those two mutiilation albums before he runs out on Friday?

          • Depends on what 2 albums. If it’s Vampires of Black Imperial Blood and Remains of a Ruined, Dead, Cursed Soul then YES!

          • It is remains and grimly Reborn

          • Reborn is good, the drum machine really bothers me though. If you can look past that then go right ahead. I do have that one, but it’s my least played album by them.

          • Well I really want to get them too for his ties with Celestia and the other black Legion bands

          • RJA

            The answer to “should I pick up mutilation albums” has always been a yes in my book.
            I’m only missing Vampires of Black Imperial Blood – I imagine I may have to break down and buy on discogs at some point.

          • Vampires of Black Imperial Blood is the best in my opinion. Might spin that one tonight.

          • RJA

            Is yours a 2LP copy? From Dark Adversary?

          • Indeed. Has the white sleeve with the original cover image.

          • RJA

            Seems very hard to find as I look around. Couple copies on discogs for about 75.00 plus overseas shipping. ouch.

          • Damn, pretty sure I got mine from Terratur Possessions in Norway.

        • Rob M

          The demos and the first EP…always felt like they took a hard turn into mediocrity with the first full length

          • Once again Rob, I agree with you.

        • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

          Horna did a good cover off of 1000 Moons… Other than that I never got to the band either, ‘cept for a short time when I really liked the first EP.

        • Dave Vincent’s Perm

          Kinda like Dark Funeral, except the first DF album is so damn good.

          • Pretty much man. I can tolerate Diabolis Interium but nothing touches their debut.

    • Simon PhoenixKing Rising

      Another funny thing; Hate Them was the first Darkthrone album I fully listened to. Before that it was scattered songs here and there. I didn’t listen to Transylvanian Hunger in its entirety until some time later.

  • Listen to all of the band’s songs at the same time Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz style

  • Dubs

    I think I’d contest that the end state for most bands is not the prog phase but the riding-it-out simplicity phase. The prog phase comes in the middle and is often unsustainable. Just look at Metallica, Mastodon, Slayer (if you want to consider Seasons their most prog), In Flames, Death Angel, Opeth (if you consider the prog fusion of dm and acoustic rather than the coffee shop prog they play now), and many more.

    I think, if we’re looking entirely at recommendations for another listener, the adjacent release model you suggested is probably easiest.

    • Lacertilian

      Yeah, I’d say you’re probably correct in the majority of cases with the mid-career prog thing. Not the best example, but the point/principle remains.

  • I usually just start with the newest album and go backwards.

    • I did that with Enslaved (sadly, I haven’t finished it).

      • I don’t blame you lol. That new album is hard to stop listening to. It’s sooooo good.

        • I think I’ve decreased the last albums listenings since I discovered Vertebrae, I really recommend that one!

    • Lacertilian

      That can be a great way to get the most out of a band.

    • CT-12

      Yo dude, this is a friend’s band, but I think you might dig them. Figured I might as well just share.

      • Hmmm pretty cool, but it feels like it missing something.

  • Rob M

    The only one Id personally agree with is number two. Generally, bands are at their most innovative and interesting with the first three albums. After that, I find with a lot of bands, it becomes a bit of crap shoot

  • EsusMoose

    Start with the album you like and try the releases around it, is usually how I go. Might start from the debut if I like an album that is close enough to their debut

    • Eliza

      That is how I usually do things too.

    • Rob M

      Probably the wisest way to approach a new band. Id say the exception would be with a band that hasnt altered their sound too heavily over time

    • Usually for me it starts with a song I like, then I dig further until I’ve hashed out the album to see if it’s really for me. Then I will move forward or backward depending on if what I’ve sampled is to my liking.

    • Actiondonkey

      I did this with Woods of Ypres. Found 5 then worked my way back. 4 was amazing and 3 has some gems. First 2 just don’t do it for me…

      • EsusMoose

        Doing this right now with Cult of Luna as I’ve listened and liked Veritikal 1, 2 and Mariner and now moving further back. Not in a post mood right now but I’ve been putting off doing this for over a year or 2 so time to do it.

  • Eliza

    I think that listening to a band’s discography in the order the albums were released is the best way to do this, since you can closely follow the evolution of the band’s sound. That’s why it came to me as a surprise when I thought about it that I can’t think of any band whose albums I’ve listened to in chronological order, besides Guns n’ Roses.

  • first of all, who isnt raving about Prometheus?

    theres a shit ton of discogs this post applies to, and i think there is no rule of thumb

  • The timing of this couldn’t be more perfect as it relates to my current issue I have with going through a discography. I bought Cloud Rat’s discography a week or two ago and I have yet to get through the entire thing because I want to identify which tracks are not iPod worthy. I’ve listened to about 50 of the 77 tracks so I’m almost there.

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    Koloss doesn’t pale in comparison to the early ones though.

  • Shrimp in a Pizza Box

    “Hey man I actually really like this Illud Divinum Insanus album, you know metal right? What other Morbid Angel albums should I listen to?”

    • Elegant Gazing Globe

      none of them

      • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

        “Only the remix CD. Rip the Project Pitchfork remix, toss it and forget the other CDs”

    • The Unspoken King

      • Rob M


      • Dave Vincent’s Perm

        Cold Lake.

    • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

      Silver Side Up

  • This is a great theme to discuss, Lizard. Thanks!!

    Discog diving to me differs if I’m recommending or if I’m listening by myself.

    If I’m listening by myself I look for different routes: check out more listened/liked on sites like RateYourMusic or Lastfm and try to form my opinion on what the people likes. I also check records by artwork, names, lyrical choices, musicians involved or genre.

    I only recommend things I’ve heard before.

    • Guppusmaximus

      Yea, I think it can be a little tougher nowadays to precisely recommend material from an artist that will be appreciated by that person unless they have similar musical tastes / listening experience. Especially, with the amount of information that can be found online.

      • You have a valid point over there, Guppus. I think all the info I can add about a record is obteinable online. That’s why I only opinion: “well, I didn’t liked it, maybe you do” or “I dig that, I think you can check them out because…”.

        • Guppusmaximus

          So true. Especially if it is something where I hear similarities to another band or album OR I might ask what they liked about that particular track or album.

  • Production plays a HUGE role as well for me.

  • I am not a fan of recommending a person go back and listening to an entire discovery when they first get into an artist. I feel like it can be overwhelming. I also do not think it a sin to like just a single release from an artist either. Sometimes a music style only speaks to us once and even though future releases are similar, they may not have the same weight as before. That is some deep level shit right there, if I do say so myself. And I did say so myself. Yup.


    • EsusMoose

      I think it depends on the size of the discography, a 80s thrash group could probably be summed up with 4-5 records but a group with 2-4 can be heard fairly quickly. I probably listen to single tracks 65-70% of the time so that may influence my beliefs about listening through a discography. Though I do agree I think it’s not smart for someone who only digs a single album to listen to much more

    • Óðinn
      • more beer

        I can do that but the rings aren’t as big.

    • Óðinn
    • Guppusmaximus

      Time definitely plays a huge factor in regards to connecting with musical styles.Sometimes the passing of time can distance me from a genre / style or it can leave me stuck in that period.

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    I am a simple, cheap man, so if I find myself really digging something new from a band I’ve missed that’s been around for ages, I go to Amazon and see which older album is cheapest, hit a few review sites to make sure its not cheap for bad reasons, then if not return and get it, then repeat until I have as many as I desire.It makes for a random, somewhat sketchy listening experience, but I like it. Like the variety, sense of adventure.

  • Dave Vincent’s Perm

    Whenever I buy an album I don’t listen to anything from it until it arrives.


    • I found my own similar approach to be disappointing. Usually because I do not have sufficient time to sit down and really listen to an album. If I do not listen to a track or two before hand, I will not have something to hang onto when listening through the first couple of times. Then, I get frustrated.

      Just my experience. That is great if it works for you, though!


      • Dave Vincent’s Perm

        Well if you’re waiting for it to arrive, then I think listening to stuff from the album online is like skipping through a film you’ve been wanting to see.

        • Oh I agree! It just has not worked for me. The anticipation is so much higher if you hold off, though!

        • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

          Not really. It’s kinda like watching a trailer if anything.

      • Same here, I need a taste and don’t have the time to walk into an album blind.


          I’ve done a few blind purchases based on reviews here. Most have turned out for the best, but by and large I never buy an album without getting a taste. Unless of course it is by a band I already know and adore.

    • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

      Eh, I remember having to do that way back when I was growing up, and never again. Too much of a crap shoot, and I’m not tossing down $13 for a catchy 10 second chorus and tons of filter.

  • I feel like I always end up working in reverse order. Take Moonsorrow for example. Didn’t start seriously listening to them until ‘Varjoina…’ and then I slowly worked backwards until finally getting ‘Suden Uni’ only a few months ago. I feel like I’ve done that with quite a few bands.

    I think Taake was a good example of discovering a band late with ‘Noregs vaapen’ and then jumping to the beginning with ‘Nattestid…’ and ‘Over Bjoergvin…’ which ended up being my two favorites.

    • Currently listening for the second time the last Moonsorrow album. I’m loving it!!!

      • Nice! They don’t disappoint.

      • Zeke

        I enjoy the new moonsorrow, but when I listen to the new album I can just name the satyricon songs that they stole riffs from

        • Woah, that’s a siqq burn, mate!

          • Zeke

            I actually enjoy the album. But some of those riffs really bite old satyricon hard

      • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

        Loving it as well! I had that thing on repeat for two days straight when I first heard it.

    • JWEG

      I discovered Moonsorrow by accident, as someone had ordered Tulimyrsky EP at HMV but never picked it up.

      I had some idea I’d like to go chronological to discover the rest, but availability and limited order sources made that impossible, so my collection went more like 4-5-1-2-3 (the first three all bought at a gig) in the span of a few months … and 6 [Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa] when it came out a few years later.

      Still waiting on the last one (recently ordered) to get here though.

      • For me is very difficult to check out the records, but V: Hävitetty is amazing, is my favorite of them. I still need to check Kivenkataja, though.

        • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

          Oh man, Kivenkantaja is the apex of their older style, if V is the apex of the later. It’s easily the best of their “folk” albums.

      • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

        I got into them from reading an interview with them in a magazine, for those of you old enough to remember when people actually bought and read those things (I think it was either Terrorizer or Brave Words Bloody Knuckles), and immediately checking them out. I was hooked from the get go.

    • Ted Nü-Djent ™

      I need advice on how to take on Primordials discography. Halp Obi SMOHLG Kenobi, you’re my only hope

      • I would argue ‘To the Nameless Dead’ is one of the best metal albums ever written… so start there.

  • Ministry is a great example of maybe not going to the very beginning if you discovered them later.

  • Waynecro

    Very interesting points, Lacertilian. Thanks for the thought-provoking article.

  • Joaquin Stick

    A+ work on that cover image by the way. Too much excellent photochopping happens on this site that goes unrecognized.

    • Lacertilian

      Thank you Sticked-one.
      Learning through necessity can be rough and unrewarding, as you no doubt know. The ideas always look better in your mind.

      • Joaquin Stick

        I have given up on trying to make things perfect. Takes way too long and no one gives a shit anyway haha. As long as you get the idea across.

        • Lacertilian

          But..butt..I give a shit!

      • Ted Nü-Djent ™

        Ya done good

  • Pentagram Sam

    Random thoughts:

    When I first got into Maiden, it was def jumping around back n forth, different eras and different singers. First album was Live After Death, then the next two at the same time were the debut and Seventh Son. Then it was No Prayer w the bonus disc and X Factor. Then it was Somewhere in Time and Number of the Beast. Can’t remember how else it all went but Powerslave was last. I didn’t mind the jumping around, this was the first band I got into that had this deep of a discography.

    With Helloween I didn’t know Walls of Jericho existed til the live EP I Want Out Live and the last song Kiske says “This is from Walls of Jericho, it’s called How Many Tears” It was a pain in the ass to track that one down.

    Same thing with Blind Guardian. First album was Nightfall, second was Imaginations thru Amazon and then the third was the only other domestic release of Tales From Twilight World. Then it was the big batch from South America. Battallions and Follow The Blind were def big surprises in style, but I still liked em a whole lot. Prob cos I dug the hell out of the live version of Run For The Night on Tales From Twilight World.

    Shit, now that I think of it, I haven’t yet gotten into a band with a big ass discography that is easy as hell to obtain. Like, I haven’t gotten into a band where their entire collection is available from the get go. Every band (esp Magnum and Rage) have had those albums where it’s a fuckin pain in the AZZZZ to get.

  • The Tetrachord of Archytas

    I tend to, for better or for worse, go pretty random. Owning physical media is my preferred method of getting into a band after the first taste or whatever. Once I have whatever release drove me to the band in the first place, I kinda just keep em in the back of my mind and when I find albums I don’t own I pick em up. It’s kind of a mixed bag. I think as a kid with a limited taste in production styles it made a lot of good albums just sort of part of the collection, but nowadays that’s not really an issue. I do probably end up enjoying the surrounding releases method the most.

    • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

      Happened to me with Blind Guardian. It is hard to get their work stateside.

      • The Tetrachord of Archytas

        I remember seeing blind guardian at a lot of the places I would frequent like 10 years ago. But definitely less these days. It’s even worse for me now cause black metal is more or less a recent and dominating interest for me (recent being like 2 years) and the chances of me just coming across some of that stuff is…the void

  • Simon PhoenixKing Rising

    Funny thing. After rereading Randall’s Songametal article I decided to finally delve into Windir’s material this week. They have a compilation album and that’s where I started. That may be a good solution for people if such releases exist for the band they want to get into.

  • Max

    Looking back on it, I’ve noticed that my favourite album by any band I like tends to be the first one by them I encounter (provided I like it), no matter where it is chronologically in their own catalogue. There’s a few rare exceptions to that, and where they exist they tend to be the second one I heard. (I’d hazard that the chances of my favourite being the third, fourth, seventh, etc. diminish rapidly.)

    In comparison, the albums earlier than my favourite (unless it’s the first) always seem musically and sonically undercooked somehow; while any albums ensuing always seem to be a deviation from the “perfect” formula the band attained on my favourite. I can’t explain why this is other than the obvious observation that I’m simply using the first one I heard as a template and judging everything else according to it. It is not objective, and it’s totally geared towards my own idiosyncracies; so to be honest I don’t think I’m necessarily the right person to be asking for a recommendation.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is that I’m not much of a “completist”. I tend not to think that everything a favourite band has ever done is worth listening to. It’s a very short list of bands – perhaps less than ten – in my record collection where I actually own more than two of their records. So again: I’m probably not the right guy to be giving recommendations. It doesn’t stop me, though!

    • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

      Very nice points and conversation Max! I am also subject to a band’s first album that i peraonally hear. That is the album that really grabbed me enough to look into the rest of their discography and what sound I associate with them.

    • I can relate, especially to the third part. The list of bands who in my mind have made three or more truly great albums is a diminutive one.

      Maybe there’s some law of Diminishing Subjective Returns to be hashed out in here . . .

      • Max

        There is, definitely.

    • Ted Nü-Djent ™

      I can relate. Case in point, Morbid Angels Domination is my favourite MA album.

  • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

    I’m a sucker for chronologically listening to newer bands I discover. It allows me to read their story like a book, see where they came from, etc. As an example, Clutch has changed their sound so much that I urge people to listen chronologically in order to have the vast perspective of the band. But, different strokes for different bands as you mentioned, Mr Lizard.

    • The older I get, the harder I find it to recommend a band’s “better early period” to fans. It just makes me sound old and elicits a prompt “Shut up old man” in response. Example: people who only got into Opeth at Blackwater Park or Ghost Reveries and still consider these to be not only their best–but the beginning of their best period–confound me. No accounting for taste, of course, but CLEARLY MY ARMS YOUR HEARSE AND STILL LIFE ARE THE PINNACLE.
      /pointless rant

      • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

        But you have no arms…

        Sorry couldn’t resist! Good point being made here. Its hard to explain some bands and their early period to people and your Opeth example is spot on. They are a band who has changed DRASTICALLY over the years and I find it a shame that people wouldn’t want to listen to their musical journey.