Ball of Confusion: A Long, Complicated Thing About My Long, Complicated Relationship With Anthrax

As a young fella growing up in the middle of nowhere, the first metal band I can remember hearing from my brother’s room across the hall was Iron Maiden – “Wasted Years” and “Heaven Can Wait” stuck with me, specifically (“Wasted Years” is still my favorite Maiden song, and is often my favorite ever song). I loved it instantly, because even at the age of nine-and-a-half, I wasn’t stupid. I heard Metallica right around that same time, and they blew my mind as well. Soon I began to hang out in my brother’s room when he wasn’t there, looking through the various cassette tapes his friends had lent him or given him, occasionally popping one in and giving it a listen, and eventually borrowing some of them myself. (I still own a couple of those tapes, namely Sacred Reich’s Ignorance, and a dubbed copy of Pleasures of the Flesh by Exodus.)

One fateful night in mid-1987, I came upon a tape labeled “Slayer” on one side, and “Anthrax” on the other. I’d been reading some metal and hard rock magazines (mostly Hit Parader and Circus), so I’d heard of both bands, but was otherwise unfamiliar with either. I put in the Slayer side first, which turned out to be the superlative Reign in Blood, and it was cued up to what I later learned was “Altar of Sacrifice”.

While I did not grow up in a religious household, the long shadow of fundamental religion was cast over me for most of my childhood, as most of my mom’s side of the family were (and a few still are) members of what is best described as a cult, but that’s another story for another time. The bottom line is that “Altar of Sacrifice” scared the everlovin shit out of me, and I was terrified of Slayer for a couple of years afterward. It all seems so quaint now to this grown-ass fan of all things bloodsoaked and blasphemous.

I turned the tape over to “Anthrax”, rewound it, pressed play, and the slow, doom-laden opening guitars of “Among the Living” began to ring out. This was the album Among the Living, and it would go on to change my life in the same way that Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Iron Maiden’s Somewhere in Time had less than one year before. Something about these guys seemed different to me, and I started to seek out more information about them (life before the internet was so much harder than some people could ever believe). I liked the fact that they didn’t seem to take themselves as seriously as some of the other thrash bands, and they were clearly fans of comics books and cartoons, not unlike me. The songs were tight as hell, too.

For Christmas that following year, I received the band’s 4th full-length album, State of Euphoria (which is still maybe my favorite Anthrax album – for sure my favorite Joey-era album), and for the first time in my short life, I had my own favorite band.  State of Euphoria is probably best known for being the album that contained “Antisocial”, a cover of a song by a French band called Trust. It’s a great cover, and is still a staple in their live sets, although the band performs it pretty much exactly like the original, which seems to just be the way they do covers.

Beach Day, 1989

Beach Day, 1989

They landed the direct support slot for Ozzy Osbourne on his “No Rest for the Wicked” US tour in the winter of 1988-89, and a headlining slot on the MTV Headbanger’s Ball Tour in 1989, with Exodus and Helloween supporting. The band filmed a video for “Antisocial” which featured the band playing live cut together with footage of their mascot, the “Not Man”, running around and causing mayhem. At the end of the video, we learn that it was the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne, running around wearing the giant head.  The video was in a moderately heavy rotation on MTV that summer; I remember seeing it during the day a few times, even.

I went on to receive the band’s first home video, Oidivnikufesin N.F.V. for my birthday a few months later, and my cousin Jason and I proceeded to watch that thing until our eyes figuratively started to bleed, alternating it with viewings of Metallica’s Cliff ‘Em All home video (Jason was more of a Metallica guy, so we traded off) and Blazing Saddles (still the funniest movie of all time), and eventually adding my recording of an episode of Headbanger’s Ball into the mix.

In the summer of 1990, the band released what was their darkest, arguably heaviest album yet (and by most of my observations, still one of their most popular), Persistence of Time. I don’t know how I managed to not wear my copy out, but I actually still own my original cassette, and it still plays flawlessly. Probably the best known song from this album is the pretty much spot-on cover of Joe Jackson’s Got the Time, which is also still played live at (I’m pretty sure) every single Anthrax show. The band also landed an appearance on a classic episode of Married…With Children called “My Dinner With Anthrax”.

Sometime around this period, I joined the fan club, which got me a badass fan club exclusive t-shirt, a laminated “backstage pass” style membership card, a poster for the Headbanger’s Ball tour mentioned above, and a subscription to the official newsletter. I would like to point out that I inexplicably own none of these items today. What the fuck is wrong with me? I seriously wonder that sometimes. The world may never know.

My shirt was just like this one, only the print on the back was blue.

My shirt was just like this one, only the print on the back was blue. That’s the way I remember it, anyway. Click image to embiggen.

Anyway, I also got around to ordering the band’s second album (and first with Joey Belladonna on vocals), 1985’s Spreading the Disease, from the BMG tape club around this time as well, and my cousin Nathan made me a copy of the band’s first album, 1983’s Fistful of Metal, which is the only Anthrax album to feature original bassist Dan Lilker, as well as Neil Turbin on vocals. I continued to love Anthrax like a family member, eventually wearing out my copy of State of Euphoria (I got a new one through BMG) and my Not Man t-shirt (I was unable to replace this). I scored a copy of 1991’s Attack of the Killer B’s shortly after it was released; this fantastic collection of B-sides and outtakes featured several covers, all of which were performed pretty much to the letter, but is certainly best known for featuring “Bring the Noise”, their mega-hit collaboration with Public Enemy. My love continued to grow.

Then, one otherwise uneventful day in 1992, I received a most unwelcome announcement in the mail, via the fan club: Anthrax had fired longtime singer Joey Belladonna. They assured me that the audition process had been trucking along, and that I would be the first to know when a replacement was named. I was devastated – how could the band I’d grown to love and, in fact, count on to get me through my days possibly continue without that powerful voice? I received an answer approximately one year later, when Sound of White Noise, the first album of the controversial John Bush-era was released.

I initially liked SoWN, but I didn’t love it. Bush’s voice was obviously different than Joey’s, but the music was different, too. It was tuned lower, it was generally slower, and it had more of a groove than before. At the time, it seemed like an unnecessary change in direction. Upon further listening, however, I came to recognize it as more of a natural extension of the darker, slower sound the band introduced on Persistence of Time. The fact that Bush’s voice resided in a lower register really enhanced the darkness, giving it more of an edge than any other Anthrax album had at the time.

The album debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200 chart and had 4 hit songs – “Only” (called a “perfect song” by James Hetfield), “Room For One More”, “Hy Pro Glo”, and the haunting, dreamy, Twin Peaks-inspired “Black Lodge”, co-written by Twin Peaks music maestro Angelo Badalementi (and featuring a real weird video starring Jenna Elfman).

The bulk of the criticism lobbed at the band in the wake of Sound of White Noise was in regard to the lack of thrashing in favor of vocal melodies and grooves, and this criticism always has and always will rub me the wrong way. Yes, public interest in thrash metal was waning, and all of the major thrash bands were slowing down and growing up, but it’s not like thrash metal was ever anywhere close to taking over the world; Metallica didn’t become a household name until the release of “the black album” in 1991, and by then, all evidence of their thrash beginnings was long gone.

And I’ll admit there is some likelihood that Anthrax saw the overwhelming success of Metallica’s dumbing down (as well as Megadeth’s successful big slowdown with Countdown to Extinction  a year after Metallica) and decided to hitch their cart to that wagon, but let’s be real for a minute here: after 12-13 years of flying under the radar, you can’t really blame a band for wanting to make some money at their job, nor can you blame a group of individuals for wanting to try something new, and besides all that, the songs on Sound of White Noise are really, really good.

And besides, if some longtime fans were disappointed in the changes wrought by SoWN, they were about to be severely let down by the followup, 1995’s Stomp 442.  This marked an even more noticeable change in the overall sound of the band, bringing in more vocal melodies and mid-tempo songs, and it even closed with a sparse, emotional, mostly acoustic gem called “Bare”.

This marked the beginning of Anthrax’s “no official lead guitarist” period, which lasted for quite a bit longer than probably anyone imagined it would. Longtime lead man Danny Spitz left the band after the SoWN tour for a variety of reasons (the various stories of former Anthrax members are murky at best), and eventually moved to Switzerland to attend school for watch making and repair. Rather than find a permanent, full-time replacement, the band soldiered on with drummer Charlie Benante playing most of the leads on the albums, while Spitz’s guitar tech Paul Crook handled those duties in a live setting (he also produced Stomp 442 and the followup).

Stomp 442 was the second of a two-album deal with Elektra records, but according to Scott Ian, everyone at the label who was involved in the signing of Anthrax (including the label president) was fired while the band was touring for Sound of White Noise, and the new regime had no interest in promoting Anthrax, so the album received next to no promotion, and the band was dropped from the label a short time later. I bought the album the day it was released, and to my mid-90’s ears, already primed by the newer sound (of white noise), it was fantastic. I loved it, front to back, and played it pretty much all the time. My older, wiser, more refined ears are able to find faults with the album, but it still has some great tunes (“Nothing” is among my favorite Anthrax songs, and the video is awesome), and it still gets several spins a year in my car.

I saw Anthrax live for the first time in Indianapolis in the summer of 1996, when they were touring with the newly resurrected Michale Graves-fronted Misfits, Life of Agony, and Cannibal Corpse (although sadly, Life of Agony couldn’t make it to our stop, as they had troubles with their tour bus). On the drive up, Scott and (I think) John were being interviewed on an Indianapolis radio station, and the DJ asked them a question regarding the fact that they were opening for the Misfits, and Scott quickly corrected him – they were, according to Mr. Rosenfeld, “co-headlining” with the Misfits. Funny, I remember thinking, that their name did not appear on my ticket, nor did they ever play after the Misfits. But I guess we’ve all lied to ourselves to save face at some point.

At any rate, the vast majority of the crowd was obviously there to see the Misfits, and more than once during Anthrax’s set, I heard someone yell from the crowd that they “fuckin suck(ed)”. Since it happened over 20 years ago, my memories of the evening are spotty at best, but here’s what I remember most: my friend Travis ended up with someone else’s blood on his new white Anthrax shirt, and I legitimately thought I might die in the mosh pit (it was my first pit, but not my last, nor was it the last time I thought I might die in a mosh pit). Also, the band sounded great, and they had a ton of energy. In retrospect, I’d liken it to the way a minor league baseball player often plays with more passion than a major leaguer because they have more to prove. Anthrax were definitely out to prove that asshole in the crowd wrong, although I’m sure he didn’t notice.

A couple of years later, the band had scored a new record deal, this time with an upstart label called Ignition, a subsidiary of 90’s hip-hop giant Tommy Boy, and in 1998 they released an album called Volume 8: The Threat is Real! that is woefully underrated and unappreciated. The album continues in the direction taken by SoWN, with simpler riffs, big fat grooves, and more personal, introspective lyrics, but it stands out in the Anthrax catalog for a couple of reasons: the country-flavored “Toast to the Extras” and the haunting hidden acoustic track “Pieces”, written and sang by bassist Frank Bello, in honor of his brother Anthony, who had been shot and killed in New York City.

I loved Volume 8 since the first time I pressed play, and I still love Volume 8 to this day. It is one of my favorite Anthrax albums, and in fact I’ve been planning to write a defense of the album for this blog since I started this blog, but honestly, I don’t have any sort of concrete evidence for why it rules. If the riffs and vocals and lyrics don’t do it for you, no amount of me talking it up is going to change your mind. My love for it is too personal to really talk about it with any objectivity, but I will say that the album has seemingly reminded me of its presence at several important points in my life. I wrote about one of those points here, and I will add that in late 2006 and early 2007, nearly 10 years after I first fell in love with Volume 8, it played a significant role in keeping me sane and alive. “Harms Way” in particular has always felt like it was written specifically for me. The lyrics are included after the video…

Here comes the biggest asshole that the whole world’s ever seen
Watch as things turn to something I never, I never meant to be
Call it a side effect of my arrested development
Here with you I’m trapped, I’m trapped, out of my element

I tear through all this wreckage
Wreckage you left when you dropped the bomb
Is there something worth saving
Or do I act, I act like nothing’s wrong
The lesser of two evils gives me, gives me nothing at all

Lust and madness, murder and mayhem
My whole life’s been about playing
It’s all so surreal
Maybe that’s why I touch but can’t feel

Sittin’ pretty, as I sit up straight
Trying to find means to an end I move into harms way
I move into harms way

I see my face in the mirror
I feel my feet but I can’t seem to walk in my shoes
When it hurts I feel closer to you
Closer than you ever knew
And the bottom line is knowing
I will die and the worms will eat me
The bottom line is knowing
Ain’t no one else I can be

Lust and madness, murder and mayhem
My whole life’s been about playing
It’s all so surreal
Maybe that’s why I touch but can’t feel

Sittin’ pretty, as I sit up straight
Trying to find means to an end I move into harms way
Running steady, smile on my face
Trying to find means to an end I move into harms way
I move into harms way

Sittin’ pretty as I, running steady as I, sittin’ pretty as I sit up straight
Running steady, smile on my face
Trying to find means to an end I move into harms way
I move into harms way

Sometime after the release of Volume 8, the record label folded, and the band was left without a home once again. In 1999, they signed with Beyond Records and released Return of the Killer A’s, a “greatest hits”/best of collection that highlighted both the Joey-era and the John-era. It’s a cool album that features remixes of a couple of the songs, and it also included one new song, a cover of the Temptation’s “Ball of Confusion”, featuring both John Bush and Joey Belladonna on vocals. Plans were made for the band to tour together with both vocalists, the very thought of which made me weak in the knees, but ultimately those plans were scrapped, as Joey didn’t want to commit to a tour. Ball of confusion, indeed. They let me down, and this was the beginning of the complications in my years-long relationship with my favorite band.

The members continued to work on various things, and had plans for a new studio album and a live album in late 2001/early 2002, and of course nothing that was planned for late 2001 ended up happening properly, so the followup album, We’ve Come For You All, didn’t see release until 2003.  The band did finally manage to pull in a permanent lead guitarist by the name of Rob Caggiano (who also produced the album, and who now plays with Volbeat for some reason). I’m not sure what it is about WCFYA, but it doesn’t grab me like the other John Bush-era albums. The riffs are heavy as shit, and it has some songs that I thoroughly and sincerely enjoy (“What Doesn’t Die”, “Safe Home”, “Black Dahlia”), but I find it mostly forgettable.

2004 saw the release of the unnecessary-but-awesome The Greater of Two Evils, a collection of classic Joey-era songs re-recorded by the then-current lineup, all beefed up and burly. I don’t give any kind of a shit what anyone says about this album: it’s a goddamned treasure, and Bush’s voice is so voluminous and full you could take a nap inside it. The songs on the album were decided by allowing fans to vote on the band’s website (their biggest hits are nowhere to be found, as they are both cover songs), and we picked some bona fide classics, if I do say so myself. My love was reaffirmed, and all was well, until word broke that Anthrax and Frank Bello had parted ways. I was every bit as devastated as when they told me Joey was booted all those years ago, although some good did come of it, as Frank went on to join Helmet on their tour for Size Matters, and I got to see them on that tour, and that was fucking awesome.

Then in 2005, like an abusive partner, Anthrax simultaneously crapped on my heart and made me giddy with excitement. They announced a reunion of the “classic lineup”, for touring purposes only, to perform only classic lineup material, i.e., the songs they’d just re-recorded with John Bush. Frank Bello was back from his stint with Helmet, and Joey Belladonna and Danny Spitz were back, Belladonna looking like he hadn’t aged a day since he was booted, and Spitz looking like he could be a member of any generic band that would offer to sell you tickets to the Shinedown show they were opening. John Bush was understandably less-than-thrilled with the situation, and he busied himself doing television voice work (including some Burger King commercials) and occasionally recording and playing shows with his original band, Armored Saint, both of which he continues to do to this day.

After the tour, Scott and Charlie fired Joey again, and Danny rode his ego bubble off into the sunset, and the band went on a bit of a hiatus, and I went on a bit of a hiatus from the band. They later hired some guy named Dan Nelson to be their vocalist and recorded an entire album with him on vocals, only to either fire him or have him quit, depending on which side you want to believe. They reached out to John Bush to see if he would be interested in re-recording the vocals for that album, but Bush declined, as he had no interest in being a hired gun in his former band. It appeared that Anthrax had, in the words of my buddy Joe, “fucked themselves into a corner”.

Re-enter Joey Belladonna, maybe the only person who has allowed Anthrax to hurt him and has then subsequently forgiven them more than I have. Joey re-recorded the vocals to the Dan Nelson album, a.k.a. Worship Music, and the band released it in 2011 to huge acclaim. I’d been hurt enough that I wasn’t ready to buy into the hype. I’d heard one song, “Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t”, and it sounded good, but I also noticed that the riff in the opening and chorus sounded a lot like the main riff in one of their older songs, “Gridlock”, from Persistence of Time. I’ve inexplicably found very few examples on the internet of other people noticing this, but I am absolutely not wrong about it. Listen for yourself.

I mean, at least they’re stealing from themselves, I guess, right?

Anyway, I held off buying Worship Music for a few months, until I started hearing/reading things about it being the band’s best album since Persistence of Time. How could I in good conscience continue to sleep on this? I bought it, popped it in, and it fuckin jammed, y’all! Then I listened to it again, and again, and again, etcetera, and Joey’s voice sounded great, but the more I listened, the more glaringly obvious it became that it was written for someone else’s voice. And here’s the thing: I’ve only heard a few shittily recorded clips of Dan Nelson singing live for Anthrax, but from what I’ve heard, it doesn’t even sound to me like it was written for him. No, friends, Worship Music sounds very much to this opinionated asshole like it was written for John Bush.

Listen to “Crawl”, and imagine it with Bush’s voice.

The first half of the album, up to and including “In the End” still kicks tons of ass, and if it was an EP, I’d probably rank it among my favorite Anthrax releases, but every song on the back half of Worship Music would clearly be better if John Bush sang on it. And don’t get me started on that ridiculous hidden cover of Refused’s utterly fucking awesome “New Noise” – they should’ve scrapped that idea entirely when they brought Joey back on board.

Regardless of my feelings, re: Worship Music, I was fucking stoked to get the chance to see the band on this tour, especially since Testament and Death Angel were opening. Scott and Charlie were both absent from the show, Scott on doctor-ordered bed rest for an illness, and Charlie to be with his ailing mother, so Gene Motherfucking Hoglan played drums for Anthrax immediately following his set with Testament, and Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar from Death Angel teamed up to tackle some of the rhythm guitars. The show was amazing, and I got to hear “Metal Thrashing Mad” live, which was dope, but the absence of Scott’s backing vocals on all the songs made me very aware of how prominent Scott’s backing vocals are on all the songs.

Fast forward to present day. Anthrax have another new album out, For All Kings, and it’s getting even better reviews than Worship Music, and I still just don’t get it. I picked it up a couple weeks after the release, and I’ve listened to it several times since, and I’m just not feeling it. It’s got some great riffs (the opening riff in “Suzerain” is almost bowel-emptyingly heavy), and Joey’s voice still sounds great, but I’m not getting stoked on it like I used to get stoked on Anthrax albums. I’m listening to it as I type these words, in fact, and all I can think about is how much I’d rather be listening to State of Euphoria, and I just listened to it earlier today.

At any rate, Cousin Jason and I will be in attendance tomorrow night when Anthrax plays Indianapolis with Death Angel again, this time both opening for $layer. And as jaded and cynical as I’ve become, I’m sure I’ll still have an awesome time, and even though I’d rather hear just about any other Anthrax song live than “Antisocial”, I’ll still get caught up in the excitement and sing along with every word. I’ve come to terms with the fact that they’ll hurt me again someday, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll take them back, because no matter what, you can never leave your first favorite band. I sure wish they’d get their shit together and keep it together, though.

And even though I’d rather whip Kerry King with his stupid fucking log chains than look at him, I know I’ll get absolutely fucking stoked when Slayer hits the stage. I also know that I’ll have plenty of time to visit the merch tables while Slayer plays, because they’ll be playing a handful of songs from their new album, and I don’t care about that shit, because they peaked in 1988, but there’s still a decent-to-good chance I’ll buy a Slayer t-shirt.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you and I apologize. Check back soon(ish) for a review of the show, if you want. And stay heavy, too, why not?

I Can’t Change, I Can Only Be Me: A Thing About Sacred Reich and Squandered Opportunities

This weekend marks the second annual Full Terror Assault open air metal festival in Cave-In-Rock, Illinois, and I was supposed to be there, and I’m not, and I’m sad about that. FTA is the first (and so far, only) “European-style” open air metal festival (à la Wacken, Dynamo, Hellfest, etc.) to take place in the United States. Beginning Thursday night and running through tonight, the festival promises “maximum brutality at maximum frugality” – tickets are dirt cheap for a festival, and they include camping. Plus, it’s BYOB, so you don’t have to give some asshole $10+ for shitty beer. Also, the lineup is amazing.



I’d planned all year on being there, but due to a series of stupid decisions and piss-poor planning on my part, I can’t afford it. To be honest, last year’s fest boasted a more solid overall lineup, with Napalm Death and Obituary headlining, along with Terrorizer, Eyehategod, Warbeast, Noisem, Broken Hope, Iron Reagan, and a ton of others. This year has Lockup, Master, Rotten Sound, and a different ton of others (they had Venomous Concept, until a visa issue kept guitarist John Cooke from entering the country), but the most exciting part for this old thrash fanatic is the mighty Sacred Reich performing a rare US show.

Since semi-coming out of retirement in 2006, Sacred Reich almost exclusively play the European festival circuit every summer and then stop performing live until the next summer, when they travel back to Europe. I can’t really blame them; it’s no secret that metal fans in Europe are more passionate in general than predominantly lazy-ass American metal fans, so why not go where you’ll be more appreciated? Still, though, they’re one of the old school bands that I’ve never had the chance to see live, and this was gonna be my chance, and instead, I’m sitting home listening to them and writing this dumb thing.

Sacred Reich was formed in 1985 in Phoenix, Arizona. They recorded a demo tape called Draining You of Life in 1986, then scored a deal with Metal Blade records after contributing the song “Ignorance” to that label’s Metal Massacre VIII compilation. They went on to release four full-length albums, one studio EP, a live EP, and a live full-length before breaking up in 2000.  1993’s Independent  very nearly brought the band some fame. The title track was featured in the 1993 movies Son-in-Law and The Program, and they scored a minor hit with the single “Crawling” (which I used to hear alongside White Zombie’s “Thunderkiss ’65”, Faith No More’s “Midlife Crisis”, Suicidal Tendencies’ “Nobody Hears”, and a whoooooooole lotta “grunge” on “Solid Rock X-103”, which later became “X-103, Indy’s New Rock Alternative”, and which is now “Alt 103.3”, which is just stupid, but I digress).

With the exception of a few songs, the band’s output was fiercely politically and socially conscious, covering topics such as US involvement in Central America, Aparthied in South Africa, the destruction of the environment, domestic racism, flaws in the US education system, etc. They played a major role in helping my young brain develop the worldview I hold as an adult, and I still very much hope to see them live some day.

The band reformed in 2006 after receiving offers to play European festivals, and they began performing live again in 2007. They have no plans to record new music, which I must say is a decision that I respect and admire. They are under no illusions regarding what their fans want, and that is to hear some classic goddamn thrash metal played at high volumes in front of thousands of like-minded maniacs, which is what they will be doing tonight at approximately 11:15 PM CDT. I will not be there in person, but I will be there in spirit, and the following songs will be in my forever-banging head.

“Death Squad” is the first song on the 1987 debut/masterpiece Ignorance. It’s a helluva way to kick off an album, and this live version is a helluva way to kick a ton of ass.

Here’s the title track…

“Violent Solutions” is my favorite song off Ignorance, and is maybe my favorite Sacred Reich song overall.

1988’s Surf Nicaragua EP is short and sweet, and by “sweet” I mean vicious. Here’s the superlative title track:

1990’s The American Way isn’t quite as solid as Ignorance, but it’s still a damn fine album and contains a few all-time classics, such as the title track, which was featured in the 1992 Pauly Shore/Brendan Fraser/Sean Astin “classic” Encino Man. Is it weird that 2 of the band’s 4 soundtrack appearances were in Pauly Shore movies? Is/was he a fan? I guess in a world where Pauly Shore was once a legitimate force at the box office, anything is possible. Anyway…

“The Way It Is” is also from The American Way, and is also a ‘banger…

Here’s “Independent”, from the 1993 album of the same name…

And here’s “Crawling”, from the same album…

And finally, here’s “Blue Suit, Brown Shirt”, the explosive anti-racist diatribe and album opener from 1996’s Heal

Man, would I ever love to hear that song live.

That’s all the time I have for now. If you’re at FTA II, enjoy the hell out of yourself. If you’re stuck somewhere else, crank up some Sacred Reich and try to ease the pain. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to stay heavy, always.

I’m Not the Undead and I Will Not Quit: A Sort of Review of Surgikill’s Sanguinary Revelations

To say that death metal supergroup Surgikill’s debut album has cast a spell on me would be an understatement. When I first heard the band back in April, via their 2-song promo cassette from last year, I was instantly hooked, but since receiving the album a few weeks ago, I have only stopped listening when I force myself to do so, alternating between Cheap Trick’s stellar In Color and the local public radio station’s classical music programming in an attempt to prevent myself from getting lost forever in the corridors of the grim, blood-soaked mortuary that is Sanguinary Revelations.

Released March 18, 2016 on F.D.A. Rekotz

Released March 18, 2016 on F.D.A. Rekotz

Surgikill is the result of an unholy collaboration birthed from the depths of depravity which are the minds of death/grind legend Stevo do Caixao (vocals) and Razorback Records owners Billy (vocals, guitars) and Vanessa Nocera (vocals/lyrics), and features William Sievers (vocals), Ash Thomas (guitars/drums), and Zdenka Prado (bass).

Did you happen to notice the unusually large number of vocal credits there? Let’s talk about that for a moment. The vocals on this beast are unlike anything I’ve ever heard. They range from merely unsettling to utterly terrifying, and the inclusion of four different vocalists takes what might normally be a “good cop/bad cop” kind of vibe and forces it through a rusty meat grinder until we’re left with more of a “horror cop/psycho cop/murder cop/demon cop” type of situation. There are so many layers of vocals going on at times that it begins to play tricks with your mind. It is truly the closest I hope I ever come to complete madness, and I can’t stop/don’t want to stop listening.

The music is nothing to sneeze blood at, either. Thomas, Prado, and Mr. Nocera’s deft mix of death metal, death/doom, and death/grind is a perfect soundtrack to these proclamations of bloodshed – some seriously wicked sounds that work overtime to contain the insanity that is the vocal attack.

Standout tracks include the rip-roaring opener, “Sanguiniac”, in which the murderous, blood-thirsty she-demon from the album’s cover rains horror across the land…

…the slow, terrifying crawl of “Murderous Thirst”, wherein you are reassured by your killer that what is about to happen to you is purely for pleasure, and not for any kind of mystical or spiritual ends (what a relief!)…

…and album closer “Planet of the Vampires”, which Stevo first wrote in 1991, when he was still the vocalist/bassist of Impetigo. I would be willing to testify that “Planet of the Vampires” is the straight-up creepiest song I’ve ever heard, and I am a man who likes some creepy shit…

I don’t usually bother with album of the year-type lists, but whether or not I do so this year, I can’t imagine anything topping Sanguinary Revelations; it really is a revelation.

Thanks for reading, and stay heavy, heavy people.

Anything Goes Tonight: 11 Heavy Songs About Doin It (In Memory of Prince, with Apologies to Prince)

Knockin boots. Gettin it on. Boning. Doin the nasty. Snu-snu. Making sweet love. Bumpin uglies. Gettin freaky. Hittin skins. Making whoopee. Doin a bunch of fuckin. There are maybe as many euphemisms for the act of sexual intercourse as there are positions, but whatever you call it, you can’t deny that Prince knew a thing or two about gettin busy.

The passing of His Royal Badness hasn’t had a huge effect on me, but it has certainly made an impact on a lot of people close to me, most notably my wife, a.k.a. Mrs. Stay Heavy. She’s a huge fan, has been since she was a teenager, and cites his concert in Indianapolis on the Musicology (2004) tour as the best live show she’s ever seen. While I’ve never counted myself as a fan of his work per se, I definitely understand and appreciate the appeal that his songs, vision, and work ethic have had on so many people. And since I have ears, I do not dislike his music.

At any rate, I though I’d celebrate and honor the life of the Purple One by putting together a playlist of heavy songs about doin it. Please note that I omitted Butt Rock as a genre, as I don’t have the rest of my life to spare on this, so you’ll find no Mötley Crüe, Poison, etc. You’ll also find no KISS songs, because KISS sucks. I did, however, include an AC/DC song, because I feel it would have been un-American of me to do so. (I realize that AC/DC are not an American band, but I also believe that it’s un-American to not at least appreciate what AC/DC does.)

I also, at the request of the missus, did not include songs about necrophilia, even though that technically counts as sex. Hence, no “Necrophilia” by Slayer, no “I Work For the Streetcleaner” or “Mortuaria” by Impetigo, and no “Code Blue” by TSOL, even though I really wanted to include them. These are in no particular order.

1. Death Angel – “Mistress of Pain” (from The Ultra-Violence – 1987)

I’ve talked about Death Angel a fair amount in these pages before, so I won’t get into it much here. Just know that this song was written and performed by a bunch of high school kids (their 14 year-old drummer is probably better than your 25 year-old drummer). It’s on my list of Top Five Death Angel Songs. It’s also the first one I heard, on a compilation cassette called Rising Metal that my cousin Nathan bought way, way back. It’s not technically about sex, but it is about a vicious and brutal dominatrix, and I cannot deny that riff, nor those screams. You can’t either, if you listen.

“Lashing you with her whips
Keeping you bonded in chains
Drool starts to seep through her lips
Gets off on affliction of pain…”

2. Flotsam & Jetsam – “Hammerhead” (from Doomsday For the Deceiver – 1986)

This is the first Flotsam & Jetsam song I ever heard, too. It was on that same tape mentioned above. It’s the first song on their first album, and it’s badass, even if the lyrics are a bit stupid (though they are far from being the stupidest lyrics on this list). Eric A.K.’s vocals are superlative on this album. It also features Jason Newsted (who went on to play for Voivod, Echobrain, and Ozzy Osbourne) on bass guitar.

“Love for the taking, she talks with her eyes,
Wants me to give her a ride.
Spellbound she takes me way deep inside,
Hammerhead baby tonight…hold tight!”

3. Megadeth – “Mechanix” (from Killing is My Business…and Business is Good!)

This song is much closer to winning the honor of “Stupidest Lyrics” on this playlist, but it’s still not the dumbest song. Even if you’ve never heard this one before, it might sound familiar. When Dave Mustaine was still in Metallica, they performed this song as “Mechanix”, but after his unceremonious booting, they made what is inarguably one of the best decisions of their storied career and changed the lyrics to this dumbass song, and “The Four Horsemen” was born. Seriously, I can’t imagine how high/drunk Mustaine must have been to think these lyrics were not total dogshit.

“Who ever though you’d be better
At turning a screw than me
I do it for my life
Made my drive shaft crank
Made my pistons bulge
Made my ball bearings melt from the heat…”

4. Overkill – “Fatal If Swallowed” (from Taking Over – 1987)

Overkill hasn’t gotten enough love in the pantheon of thrash metal, and the pages of this “esteemed” blog are no exception. I have a thing about Overkill in the works, so I won’t say much here, except that Taking Over is my favorite Overkill album, and this is not my favorite song from that album.

“Fatal if swallowed, my love’s too much to hold.
A deadly poison, a hot and heavy load.
Fatal if swallowed, a love you can’t resist.
Another believer, sealed, with a kiss.”

5. Guns N’ Roses – “Anything Goes” (from Appetite for Destruction – 1987)

I can’t add much to this. It’s a straight up filthy song about fuckin, and it’s a real fuckin  good song, to boot.

“Panties ’round your knees
With your ass in debris
Doin’ that grind
with a push and squeeze…”

6. AC/DC – “Givin’ the Dog a Bone” (from Back in Black – 1980)

The most obvious choice here was clearly “You Shook Me All Night Long”, but that would’ve been too easy. It was pretty tough to narrow AC/DC down to one song about sex, as they have at least two per album (and Back in Black has three). I’m not really sure why I chose this one, to be honest, but here we are. It’s silly, not unlike a majority of AC/DC songs.

“She’s no Mona Lisa
No she’s no playboy star
But she’ll send you to heaven
Then explode you to Mars…”

7. Motörhead – “Love Me Like a Reptile” (from Ace of Spades – 1980)

Perhaps the only thing Lemmy enjoyed as much as whiskey and speed was doin it. As a result, Motörhead also has a lot of songs about sex. I also considered “Jailbait”, from the same album, but I felt that one gave the whole mix a slightly too-creepy vibe.

“Baby you’re a rattlesnake, you know the way I feel,
Feel you crawling up my back, you’ve got no love to steal,
You know I’ve got my eyes on you,
You’re petrified, gonna stick like glue…”

8. W.A.S.P. – “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” (1984 single)

W.A.S.P. was a silly, silly band. They probably still are silly, but I can’t say for certain. This one makes the whole list a little too creepy, too, quite frankly, but I felt like I had to include it. It was slated for inclusion on W.A.S.P.’s self-titled debut album, but was removed by Capitol Records at the last minute, and was subsequently released as a single in the UK. It’s worth noting that singer Blackie Lawless no longer performs the song live, as the lyrics don’t jive up with his more recent conversion to Christianity.

Bonus fun fact: back in 1985, this song appeared on the PMRC’sFilthy Fifteen” list, along with Prince’s “Darling Nikki” (as well as “Let Me Put My Love Into You”, the other AC/DC song about sex from Back in Black). I have a thing about the PMRC in the works, so stay tuned for that!

“I’m on the prowl and I watch you closely
I lie waiting for you
I’m the wolf with the sheepskins clothing
I lick my chops and you’re tasting good…”

9. My Dying Bride – “The Thrash of Naked Limbs” (from The Thrash of Naked Limbs EP – 1993)

My Dying Bride makes me feel all kinds of different emotions at the same time, which I suppose is how you know it’s working. This song is no exception; the lyrics are sweet and emotional, the music is heavy and emotional, and the vocals are growly and terrifying (and emotional). Honorable mention: “The Sexuality of Bereavement”, from 1995’s brilliant The Angel and the Dark River. It’s just the tiniest bit too weird for this list, but it’s a fantastic song.

“With the lights low, and you naked on the warm floor
Me besides you, softly kissing, caressing
Make love to her while she’s crying
I could die now, and die happy.”

10. Pantera – “P.S.T. ’88” (from Power Metal – 1988)

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the official winner for “Stupidest Lyrics” on this playlist. Power Metal was Pantera’s first album with Phil Anselmo (more like “white power metal”, amirite?), back when they were transforming from a talented KISS-inspired band into the talented Exhorder-inspired band they became best known for (haha). Power Metal was the band’s transitional “Judas Priest-inspired” phase. It’s pretty weird, and it’s not all that good, but it’s miles better than their first three albums. I mostly included it here because it fits the criteria, and because I like making fun of Pantera, because Pantera fans take themselves too seriously. Vocals on this one are by “Diamond” Darrell Abbot, before he was known as “Dimebag” Darrell, which was before he was known as “Dime”, may he rest in peace.

“Coors Light on ice,she’s gettin’ right
She is feeling my rise, don’t stop roll the dice,
She’s got my rod in her thighs…”

11. Venom – “Teacher’s Pet” (from Black Metal – 1982)

Everything about Venom is simultaneously awesome and kind of stupid (and always, always ridiculous). The lyrics are basically “Hot For Teacher” with a “Hard R” rating. If you’re only gonna listen to one Venom song, it should not be this one. I recommend anything off Welcome to Hell (1981) first.

“Teacher caught me masturbating
underneath the desk
she looked at me and winked her eye
said ‘see you after class’…”

That’s all I got for today, friends. What are some of your favorite heavy songs about sex? Share them in the comments, why not? And remember to always, always, always stay heavy (and sexy!).


We Turn It On And You’ll Be Going Crazy: A Sort of Review of Voivod Live at Zanzabar, Louisville, KY, 02.29.16

This show happened five days ago, and I’m just now feeling up to the task of trying to write about it. There are many reasons for the delay, but chief among them are lack of time, lack of energy, and, quite frankly, lack of suitable vocabulary. Voivod crushed the shit out of Louisville, Kentucky on Leap Day 2016, and my brain was among those casualties.

I woke up with the plague that morning, and was as sad and angry as I’ve been in a long, long time. I told Mrs. Stay Heavy that if I didn’t feel any better by the time I got off work, I didn’t think I’d be able to go. I felt like my head was caving in, and there was no way I could miss the next day of work, plus I had to drive 2 hours each way for the show, and like Detective Roger Murtaugh, I’m too old for that shit.


As the day progressed, so did my health, and by the time I got home from work, my body was operating at an estimated 78.3% capacity. That was good enough for me. The missus was getting over her own seasonal bullshit sickness, and she was feeling a bit better, too, so we hopped in the car and drove down, arriving at Zanzabar a little after 7 PM.

This sign greeted us outside. I kinda wish I'd gotten the Cobb salad.

This sign greeted us outside. I kinda wish I’d gotten the Cobb salad.

We ordered a pizza, which was just okay (though our service was great, which was a welcome change for us). While we ate, Black Fast did their sound check. I hadn’t listened to them before, but I liked what I was hearing. After eating, we scoped out the premises. It’s a small, weird, eclectic space; pinball machines abound, along with some arcade games. I got the chance to play the Star Wars pinball machine that is partially responsible for my dropping out of college my freshman year, and I’m still just okay at it, but it’s still fun as fuck to play.

Anyway, Black Fast took the stage at 8:30 sharp and played a super heavy, super tight 30 minute set. The relatively small-ish crowd that was gathered around the stage was really into it, and the band clearly fed off their energy, giving it back in spades. I could feel myself regressing a bit, so we went back to sit near the bar after a couple of songs so I could reserve my energy for the main event. I was unable to see the very low stage from my seat, but they sounded great throughout, and I look forward to hearing more from these dudes.

Vektor did a fairly brief setup, during which I played more pinball and checked out the merch, then played their ferocious set to a pretty good number of true believers. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’d only heard one Vektor song prior to that night, and I only listened to that one a couple of weeks ago, after I bought the tickets to this show. Suffice it to say, I was a god damn fool. Vektor were fucking breathtaking, and I wish I could afford to purchase their entire discography right now.

I had to step outside at one point during their set, because in addition to my slowly declining health, I was starting to get sleepy, too. The missus came with me, and we stepped out the door just in time to see Snake walking by. We exchanged a casual “hello” with him, and I played it cool, but my inner fanboy was about to piss himself with excitement. We went back inside and caught the last song-and-a-half of Vektor’s set, then made our way toward the front, managing to snag pretty premium spots right near the front of stage right, a.k.a. Chewy’s side.

After what seemed like decades, the fantastic and disorienting sound of the delayed bass from around the 2:50 mark of Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days” came thundering over the PA, and the heroes of the evening took the stage, smiling like little kids on Christmas morning. They cleaved the top of my head off with “Ripping Headaches”, then continued to slowly cut me into little pieces throughout what is easily one of the top five shows I’ve ever gotten the chance to see. I got three shitty pictures right at the beginning…

Snake is so much fun to watch.

Snake is so much fun to watch.

Chewy in action. I was also in action. I put my camera away after this.

Chewy in action. I was also in action.

Away, dematerializing.

Away, crossing dimensions.

…and then put my phone away and let the show transport me to another dimension – a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. The set was absolutely flawless, and the band was obviously having a blast, and sounded tighter than a duck’s asshole. I almost lost my shit during “Inner Combustion”, “Killing Technology”, “The Prow”, and “Psychic Vacuum”. I screamed along until I almost puked during “Voivod”. And I cried like a little baby during “Astronomy Domine”, just as I do every time I watch live footage and Snake dedicates it to Piggy.

By the time the set was over, I felt like I’d been hit by a car and knocked down a flight of stairs. Every song was stellar, and the only downside to the entire show were the three assholes who were standing right around me. Here’s a little bit about them…

There was the drunk guy – I’ll call him “Drunky”. Drunky was okay at first, but he repeatedly leaned on Chewy’s monitor, causing it slide around, and inexplicably just kept pointing at Away, as if to indicate to all of us that Away was, in fact, there. His shit got old before it was all over, but he was mostly harmless. I saw him getting practically dragged down the sidewalk by two friends after the show, so I know he wasn’t necessarily in control of his facilities, but hopefully he learns to handle his booze a little better in the future. Prolly not, though, as he looked to be mid-40s. Anyway…

Then there was The Couple…the missus referred to the guy as “the poor man’s Brendan Fraser”, but I maintain that Brendan Fraser himself gets that distinction, so I called him “Brendan Fraser’s Dumb Looking Cousin”. He was there with his ladyfriend, who we’ll call “Backpack”, since she was wearing one and clearly did not give a shit about the fact that it was constantly knocking into people. These two douche canoes spent 80% of the goddamn show taking pictures and video with their goddamn phones. It was bad enough that Snake said to Brendan Fraser’s Dumb Looking Cousin at one point, “I’m not getting in your way while you’re filming, am I?”, which prompted Backpack to yell out, “but he loves you guys!” As if the rest of us fucking don’t, right?

But did BFDLC get the point? Clearly not, because shortly thereafter, he pulled his goddamn phone out of his goddamn pocket again, only to lose his goddamn grip and send it goddamn flying onto the goddamn stage, immediately to the right of and behind Chewy’s foot. He managed to lean over and picked it up without incident, but he could have easily tripped Chewy, and I was reeeeaaaaly hoping Chewy would step on it and break it. And Backpack just spent the whole show bumping into me with her backpack and holding her phone way up in everybody’s way.


And I get it; I understand that people want mementos, a little something to remember the show by, but sometimes memories should be enough, and I believe if Brendan Fraser’s Dumb Looking Cousin and Backpack had just fucking let themselves get lost in the experience, like I was mostly able to do in spite of them, they wouldn’t need 700 shitty, blurry pictures to remember the night.

“But Joel, you took pictures too, you hypocrite,” you might say. To that I respond: I took three pictures. The picture of Snake was within the first minute of the show, and the pictures of Chewy and Away were both taken during the same song, and from a low angle, so I wasn’t blocking anyone else’s view when I snapped them. That’s part of why they are shitty pictures.

Anyway, the show ended, and Chewy gave me a pick, and I told him and Rocky and Snake that the show was great, and I told Away, in all honesty, that it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness, and his response was “Oh, wow, thank you so much. And thank you for coming”, and I’m just like, wow, how fucking amazing is that man – one of the true geniuses of our time, and I don’t believe he could’ve been more polite or humble.

Good lord, am I in some kind of comma splice contest or something?

We hit the merch table on the way out, but they only had the Killing Technology shirts (which is the one I wanted most) in size small, and I didn’t really have the money to spend on a shirt anyway, so I bought three buttons and a sticker, and we began the drive home, arriving back a little after 2 AM. I felt like absolute hell, but I somehow managed to get to work on time and do a serviceable job, and I’ve been living in a strange kind of daze ever since. Part of that is related to the fact that I’m still recovering from this bastard of a sinus infection and am on various and sundry medications, but the bulk of the daze is undoubtedly due to the time I spent in Voivod’s multiverse on a day that only exists once every four years. It is a day I will never forget, even though I only got three pictures.



  1. Ripping Headaches (from Rrröööaaarrr, 1986)
  2. Tribal Convictions (from Dimension Hatröss, 1988)
  3. Overreaction (from Killing Technology, 1987)
  4. Kluskap O’Kom (from Target Earth, 2013)
  5. Inner Combustion (from Nothingface, 1989)
  6. Post Society (from Post Society EP, 2016)
  7. Killing Technology (from Killing Technology, 1987)
  8. The Prow (from Angel Rat, 1991)
  9. We Are Connected (from Post Society EP, 2016)
  10. Psychic Vacuum (from Dimension Hatröss, 1988)
  11. Forever Mountain (from Post Society EP, 2016)
  12. Voivod (from War and Pain, 1984)
  13. Astronomy Domine (from Nothingface, 1989)

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading, and remember to stay heavy, always.


We Carry On: A Voivod Primer, Part 4

What follows is Part Four of a multi-part series about the groundbreaking and visionary French-Canadian progressive metal band Voivod.  Part One can be found here, Part Two can be found here, and Part Three can be found here.

After Eric Forrest’s automobile accident and the hiatus that followed, Voivod decided to call it a day, and in 2001, they disbanded, and the world was worse off for it. However, through some beautiful set of circumstances with which I am not entirely familiar, Away and Piggy reunited with Snake, and Voivod was reborn, not unlike Anark. One of the reasons for the reunion was certainly the interest of long-time fan and collaborator Jason Newsted, who joined the band on bass guitar following his departure from Metallica. Voivod Code Name: Jasonic.

The first album recorded by Voivod Mark III (or possibly Mark IV), 2003’s Voivod (which was released on Newsted’s own label, Chophouse Records), finds the band returning to a sound not far removed from 1993’s The Outer Limits. And while I don’t think the former quite stands up to the latter, the songs are pretty great overall, and some of them are utterly fantastic. It’s certainly better than anything Newsted did with Metallica post …And Justice for AllRolling Stone gave it 2 stars (out of a possible 5), but then, Rolling Stone has put Li’l Wayne on their cover three different times, so Rolling Stone clearly knows as much about good music as Billy Ray Cyrus.

“Gasmask Revival” kicks the album off in fine form, although it’s a little more straightforward than most Voivod songs.

Track three, “Blame Us”, is where things start to sound a bit more Voivod-esque…

And by the time we get to track six, “The Multiverse”, things appear to be right in…well, the multiverse…

“Invisible Planet” is also tight as hell. It’s also worth noting that Snake’s spoken part at the end of the song proclaims “This is Voivod Mark III, emergency!” and while I reckon that the band would be the ultimate authority as to which version of the band is responsible for which albums, the idea that the post-Blacky/pre-E-Force years (Angel Rat and The Outer Limits) should be Mark II is not without merit. However, it gets even more confusing a bit further down the line, and all that really matter is that Voivod is still putting out kick ass music. Mark it VIII if you have to, dude. Voivod is better than your band.

Following the release of Voivod, the band scored a slot on the second stage at Ozzfest 2003, with Newsted playing bass for both them and Ozzy Osbourne, and for a moment, it seemed that everything was comin’ up Milhouse.

If you're a fan of the Simpsons, you owe it to yourself to visit

If you’re a fan of the Simpsons, you owe it to yourself to visit

Then, the cosmic conspiracy reared its ugly head once again, when Piggy was diagnosed with colon cancer. He passed away on August 26, 2005, at the way-too-goddamn-young age of 45, and anyone who thought that the band was finished would not have been called crazy for thinking such. But as Larry told his class in Throw Momma From the Train, “a writer writes, always”, and that’s just what Piggy did after his diagnosis.

Turns out the formidable master of riff mindfuckery had recorded riffs onto his laptop before he died, and he told Away how he wanted said riffs to be utilized, and the end result was two more posthumous albums, 2006’s Katorz [a phonetic spelling of “quatorze”, the French word for fourteen, as it was the band’s 14th album (including live and compilation albums)], and 2009’s Infini, both of which consist of more straight-ahead, hard driving Voivod songs in a similar vein to their self-titled comeback.

The band produced three videos for Katorz, album opener “The Getaway” and album closers “The X-Stream” and “Polaroids”. The video for “Polaroids” is super-cool, and features some of Away’s artwork overlaid onto footage of industrial landscapes. In addition, “The X-Stream”, was included in Guitar Hero II, which you may recall was taking the world by storm at the time.

The announcement of the release of Infini was met with some surprise, as many people assumed that Katorz would be the last Voivod album, but Piggy had too much inside his by all accounts beautiful soul for just one final album, and Infini received a bittersweet release on June 23, 2009. It’s my favorite album from the Jasonic era of Voivod, but it’s also the first album the band released after I got into them, so that probably has something to do with it.

“God Phones” is a solid way to start things off…

“Morpheus” was featured on this blog before, but it’s too damn good to not mention again. The lyrics are inspired by Piggy’s time in the hospital and his subsequent death, and they are incredibly spooky and heartfelt.

“You came to see me, don’t want to see you
I live in my world, so do not disturb
The thing inside me, won’t let me free
It is so unreal, it’s not a bad dream…”

Album closer “Volcano” mercifully brings the mood back up, because that shit was heavier than a really heavy thing, with apologies to Devin Townsend.

So after the release of Infini,  Voivod was finished, right? I mean, one of their principal songwriters and founding members had lost his battle with that motherfucker known as cancer, so surely they couldn’t carry on, right?

Wrong, asshole! Did you even read the title of this piece?

But that’ll be the topic of Part Five, coming soon(ish), but probably not that soon. Until then, wherever you go, and whatever you do, remember to stay heavy. Do it for Piggy.

Also, I’m sorry I called you an asshole. I love you all, except for the assholes. You know who you are, assholes.

Why All This Commotion Now?: A Really Short Thing That’s Kind of About Voivod

As regular readers may know, I am a HUGE fan of Voivod. I’ve written about them quite a bit, and I’ve already been planning plenty more, but another piece has been added today: I just bought tickets to see Voivod live on February 29th! This’ll be my first time, and I don’t think I could be more excited! I’d planned to see them when they  were touring with Kreator a few years back, but I couldn’t make that show, and then I really wanted to see them with Napalm Death last year, but it’s hard to plan for a 4-hour one-way trip to Chicago in the winter, and then tickets sold out, but now none of that shit matters, because I’m going to see the mighty motherfucking Voivod – headlining, no less! – in just over two weeks! I don’t care that I have to work all day and then drive straight down to Louisville after work, and I don’t care that I have to drive straight back home and work the next day on not enough sleep, because I am finally going to experience the majesty that is Voivod live!

Photo by Shawn Evans. Used without permission. Please don't sue me, Shawn! For more amazing pics of this show, check out

Photo by Shawn Evans. Used without permission. Please don’t sue me, Shawn! For more amazing pics of this show, check out

I’m too excited to think properly right now, so I’ll just share a few super sweet tunes from Canada’s greatest metal export.

“Post Society” is the single from the band’s latest release, an EP which is also called Post Society. It’s very fucking good:

“We Are Connected” is Voivod’s side of a split 7″ they released with At the Gates last year. It, too, kicks mucho ass-o:

This is the title track to their third album, 1987’s Killing Technology. They’ve been playing this one live on this current tour for the first time since 1994(!):

And here’s Dave Grohl talking about Voivod, because Dave Grohl talks about everything:

I gotta start dinner prep now, and crank some Voivod. If you’re interested, check out my previous posts on Voivod…




and here.

Thanks for reading! Stay heavy!

Tremble, You Weaklings, Cower in Fear: The Ten Best 80’s Thrash Metal Songs About Nuclear War

While the threat of nuclear war is still a very real thing today, it doesn’t weigh on my mind the way it did when I was just a li’l guy back in the 80’s. The nightly news talked about it a lot, and it used to terrify me, and then Nancy Reagan’s grandpa made Old Man Gorbachev tear down a wall, and it kind of faded out of the public eye, and life was fucking peaches and cream all the time, and no one wanted to hurt us, until Saddam Hussein threatened our freedom, or whatever. These days, not much airtime is given to the topic, save for an occasional report about Iran or North Korea and their uranium enrichment attempts, because terrorism is the new nuclear war. I don’t really know where I’m going with all this, except to remind you that the media should not be trusted, because they only tell you what they want you to know.

Anyway, I’ve been kicking around the idea of a mixtape about nuclear war for a while now, but to be perfectly honest, the topic can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many metal songs about nuclear war and its aftereffects that I just didn’t know where to begin, so I never bothered. Then one day last week, my buddy Sean suggested I put together a mixtape about nuclear war, and I decided to give it some more serious thought. To make it easier on myself, I settled on the requirement that the songs be of the thrash metal variety. What follows is the result, and if you’re a regular reader of this blog, there are likely to be no surprises. Thrash metal is my lifeblood, and I make no apologies about it. Maybe I’ll make another nuke-themed mixtape some other day where being a thrash metal band isn’t a requirement for the list…maybe not.

As with my previous entry about thrash metal ballads, I don’t necessarily believe these are the the ten very best nuclear war-themed thrash metal songs. Rather, they are ten nuclear war-themed thrash metal songs that I love dearly; I just gave it the title and numbered it from 10 to 1 to see how many people read the intro. It is, in fact, chronological.

Onward to mayhem!

10. Voivod – “Nuclear War” (from War and Pain – 1984)

“Storm, the only weather
Start the directives assassins
Warm inside the under shelter
Wait and fell your broiling skin…”

I’ve written about Voivod extensively, and there’s still more to come, eventually. I love them so hard. This is the last song on their debut album, and while it’s technically a part of the Voivod saga, it also perfectly reflects the air of paranoia and unease that permeated everything in the mid 1980’s. The broken English and the plodding, marching feel of the first almost-five minutes of the song work together to add an extra layer of complexity and fear.

9. Exodus – “And Then There Were None” (from Bonded By Blood – 1985)

“Wars coming, start running, eyes blinded by the nuclear blast
Hearts beating, retreating, all around are bodies burned to ash
Children crying and people dying, no salvation from this holocaust
Bodies burning and now they’re learning, in war painful death’s the bloody cost…”

This is one of my favorite Exodus songs. That main riff is the shit. So, full disclosure: I woke up at like 2:30 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got out of bed and started putting this together around 3:30 AM. I wrote the intro, then started filling in track info at the end and worked my way toward the top. It is now almost 7:00 AM. I’ve grown very sleepy.

8. Anthrax – “Aftershock” (from Spreading the Disease – 1985)

“Blinding our eyes as the sun turns to black
A world full of hatred and fear
All are committed, there’s no going back
There’ll be no one left to hear…”

I still have lots of Anthrax-related things to write about. I’ll get around to it some day. I love this song, and this album. Also recommended, “One World”, from 1987’s Among the Living.

7. Dark Angel – “Falling From the Sky” (from We Have Arrived – 1985)

“Watch the sky
Death is near
You are falling
The final day is near…”

The first Dark Angel album is a glorious, cacophonous, thrashy mess, and “Falling From the Sky” is a perfect example of what the rest of the album sounds like. Not recommended for the faint of heart, or the delicate of ears.

6. Nuclear Assault – “Nuclear War” (from Game Over – 1986)

“No one wins
In this game
Both sides have lost
Who has won
When all are dead
Except for the machines…”

If I didn’t already know, I would be willing to bet that Nuclear Assault were born in the long shadow of the Reagan years. Everything about this band is steeped in nuclear paranoia, government corruption, and environmental destruction. Also, it goes without saying, but Dan Lilker fucking rules.

5. D.R.I. – “Oblivion” (from Crossover – 1987)

“The day has come, the time is near
For all to end. It’s true, it’s here
It’s all over now, no way to stop
The button’s been pushed, the bomb’s been dropped
The city is melting, the sky burns red
The ocean is boiling, we’ll soon be dead…”

I never got around to writing a review of the D.R.I. show at the 5th Quarter Lounge in Indianapolis back in September, but it was fucking awesome, and so is this song.

4. Sodom – “Nuclear Winter” (from Persecution Mania – 1987)

“Slow death is what we can expect
Strike will have just this one effect
Condemned to capital punishment
By the nuclear sword of Damocles…”

The opening track from the Tuetonic thrash titans’ second full length album is a master course in Thrash Metal Riffery, and like the Voivod song above, Tom Angelripper’s slightly broken English makes the lyrics even more unsettling. Side note: I found this album on cassette in a pawn shop in Bedford, Indiana circa 1989. I bought it, along with Jimmy Page’s Outrider. I didn’t really appreciate either album at the time, but one of them made a notable impact on my impressionable brain – an impact that would manifest itself in a super hardcore fashion 4 or 5 years later. The other one was Jimmy Page’s Outrider.

3. Death Angel – “Final Death” (from The Ultra-Violence – 1987)

“Dogs of war, for your blood they lust
Radiation turns your body to dust
Watching fallout as it fills the sky
Now it’s time for this planet to die.”

From all the way back when some of the members Death Angel were still growing pubes, “Final Death” is a lean, mean bastard. It’s not the best song on the album, but it’s still better than most other songs in existence, and Mark Osegueda’s blood-curdling air raid siren wail at around the 2:35 mark sums up the fear in the lyrics perfectly.

2. Metallica – “Blackened” (from …And Justice for All – 1988)

To begin whipping dance of the dead
Blackened is the end
To begin whipping dance of the dead
Color our world blackened…”

I hate …And Justice for All because of the way it sounds – Newsted’s nonexistent bass guitar, Lars’ steel trashcan drums, generally non-good sound quality – but I goddamn love …And Justice for All because of the songs, and because of the place it occupies in my nostalgic heart. Metallica is dead; long live Metallica.

  1. Megadeth – “Rust in Peace…Polaris” (from Rust in Peace – 1990)

“I spread disease like a dog
Discharge my payload a mile high
Rotten egg air of death wrestles your nostrils…”

That chorus hasn’t left my head since the first time I heard it. The final track on what is arguably Megedeth’s finest hour is a masterpiece of nuclear paranoia and terror. Mustaine’s vocals are perfect, and in a fresh twist, the lyrics are from the point of view of the Bomb itself. Rust in Peace is Dave Mustaine’s dragon, and he will probably chase that beautiful motherfucker until his final breath. Megadeth is dead; long live Megadeth.

That’s all I got for now, heavy people. Do you have any favorite nuclear war-themed songs? Let’s discuss it, why not? And don’t forget to stay heavy!


Here’s to Future Nostalgia!: A Rambly Thing About Metal T-Shirts

To the nonbeliever, metal t-shirts might seem odd, foolish, scary, wasteful, or some other silly shit – I don’t know, I’ve been a Metalhead for over 75% of my life, so I don’t really know how those types think. What I do know, with absolute certainty, is that I fucking love metal t-shirts, and if lack of disposable income and space were not a hindrance, I would own all of them. I will continue wearing them when I’m an old man, and some people will continue to regard me with disdain, and those people can continue to fuck off.


Anyway, I was thinking about metal t-shirts last night, and I was struck by how different the t-shirt buying experience has become. Shirts are so easy to get now, from countless internet purveyors, including the bands themselves. It’s easier than it has ever been for me to own a shirt by literally any band I can think of, and yet the experience is lacking. It might just be nostalgia talking, because nostalgia is much chattier than I am, but I really miss going into a music store and looking through the t-shirts, often finding truly badass t-shirts.

Like this one, for example. Why the fuck did I get rid of this t-shirt?

Like this one, for example. I used to own this t-shirt! Why the fuck did I get rid of this t-shirt? WHAT KIND OF MONSTER AM I?!

I should point out that I currently own some of my favorite metal t-shirts I’ve ever owned, thanks to the internet and to my increased ability to attend shows and buy them in person, but I think maybe it’s the thrill of the hunt that I miss. There was a pretty significant portion of my life (during which I was mostly unable to drive myself anywhere) when I could go into any one of 5 or 6 different music stores within 30 minutes of my house and browse their ever-changing t-shirt selections. Progress has done its thing, and music stores are a much rarer breed these days, but even the few that remain in my town don’t sell t-shirts (or at least not metal t-shirts). My only option for finding metal t-shirts in an old-school real-life browsing fashion is to visit Hot Topic, and sweet baby Jeebus, do I ever hate going into Hot Topic. Sometimes I need it, though, and I’ll brave the muddy waters of whatever befuddling mallcore horseshit the bondage-panted clerk is blasting over the sound system so I can look at the shirts, but I almost always leave without buying anything, because the music seriously gets to me.



Quick tangent: years ago, before we had a Hot Topic here (before I had even heard of Hot Topic, really), I was visiting a friend in St. Louis, MO, and I went into what I later realized was a Hot Topic in a mall there, and bought myself a super-sweet Agnostic Front t-shirt. I wore the fuck out of that shirt, and I still owned it until recently, even though it had severe pit stains, and was much too large for the significantly less chubby me. A year or so later, I was in the mall here (still pre-Hot Topic), wearing my Agnostic Front t-shirt, and I passed a dude who said “hey man, that’s a sweet AF shirt, where’d you get it?” and I said “oh, thanks, I got it at a mall in St. Louis” and he looked at me as if I’d suddenly transformed into a feces-covered kiddie diddler and said “oh”, because he apparently forgot that we were in a mall right at that moment. People sure are dumb.

This is one of the first images that came up when I googled the word "dumb".

This is one of the first images that came up when I googled the word “dumb”.

Anyway, I was talking about the thrill of the t-shirt hunt. It doesn’t really exist anymore. I can no longer spend a lazy afternoon browsing t-shirt selections, narrowing it down to 4 or 5 choices, agonizing over whether to get another Anthrax shirt or a Corrosion of Conformity shirt. Note: I used to own 6 different Anthrax shirts, now I own zero. A significant part of that is the fact that their newer t-shirt designs just don’t speak to me the same way, but it’s also partly because I’m extremely unlikely to just find one in my hands.

I used to own this one, too. I accidentally left it in Texas when I moved back home. I was very sad when I first realized that.

I used to own this one, too. I accidentally left it in Texas when I moved back home. I was very sad when I first realized that.

I don’t really know where I was going with all this; I’m kind of just thinking out loud, and you’re following along. Lucky you, right? I guess the point is that I’m getting old, and my nostalgia is way cooler than today’s reality.

Stay heavy, y’all.

A Quick Update

I don’t have a lot of time today, with it being Christmas and all, but I wanted to pop in and wish everyone a happy Christmas and wonderful 2016, unless you’re an asshole.

I’ve been busier than usual lately, and as usual, my blog has suffered. I always tell myself I won’t let it suffer, but I always let it suffer, and that’s dumb. However, I’ll be starting a new work situation soon, which will allow me to actually schedule time to write each day, and that, my friends, is not dumb. In fact, it’s very exciting.

Speaking of exciting, sometime very soon I’ll begin contributing to a website called Unholy Music, which is based out of Berlin. Be sure to check them out!

Until next time, heavy people, please do stay heavy.