I wasn't too sure what to expect here. I saw the compilation title Metal = Life, and the "as endorsed by Hot Topic" sticker, and wondered just how bad this 2 CD 1 DVD release really could be. It seems this compilation is a showcase of some of the newer off-shoots of metal - geared predominately towards metalcore, Nu-metal and that post-metalcore genre sometimes dubbed the 'new wave of American heavy metal' (but I hate that tag).
There are 33 bands on the compilation - and in my opinion only three to four of which can be considered 'good' by my standards. Most groups play post-metalcore, often dabbling with melodic elements in the vocals and guitarwork. That being said, most of these bands are at the higher end of the metalcore/nu-metal spectrum, having considerable more musicianship and (dare I call it) creativity than your average Lamb of God / Killswitch Engage clone.
Two bands that stood out a bit amongst the mediocre tracks are; Between Buried and Me - who play metalcore with some more classical heavy metal throwbacks and some grind elements thrown in god good measure. Their music is innovative enough to pin down an exact genre for the group as they incorporate some nice odd time-signature changes and tempo changes, mixing a lot of influence from a much broader scope than most bands of this nature.
Into the Moat similar experiment with awkward time-signatures, a bit of grinding and trans-genre dabbling which keeps their contribution to the compilation nice and unpredictable. They even include a bit of a jazz interlude. Infact, I think I might just like this group, since they do incorporate jazz, technical death and Grindcore influences. Definitely a surprise in the compilation.
There's also a good High on Fire single I've heard on a couple of other compilations as well as a Madball track (Madball are metal… what?). As well as songs from As I Lay Dying, Avenged Sevenfold, Vena Amorj and A Perfect Murder that are just above unlistenable (they'd actually be likeable if you're into this kind of stuff).
There is of course, some absolutely tragic s*** like Bullet for my Valentine (Lamb of God + Killswitch = f**king boring), Chiodis (Electro Hardcore? F**k off. Certainly no Genghis Tron), Horse The Band (emo the song), Yesterday's Rising (some weak woman trying to be deep by singing "my body is a metaphor!" Well guess what, your music is a metaphor for a steaming pile of faecal matter, so never sing again), Crisis (suck) and Fight Paris (suck).
I suppose you could call this an above-average metalcore-type compilation. If you're a fan of the genre then I'm pretty damn sure you'll enjoy this, and the 18 music videos only sweeten the deal. If you're interested by the list of bands, check it out. If you're me, sell this thing on ebay.