Thrash Thursday (Special Friday Edition, Volume 2): Happy Birthday, Jeff Hanneman; May You Rest in Peace

May I should call it “Thrash Thfriday”.  That was stupid.  Anyway…

Today (January 31) would be Jeff Hanneman’s 50th birthday, if he hadn’t died last year from liver failure.  Hanneman was a founding guitarist (along with other guitarist Kerry King) of Slayer, who formed in Huntington Park, California (a suburb of Los Angeles) in 1981.  They played their first gig on Halloween that same year.  In their early days, their live performances consisted of a lot of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest covers; they were approached by Metal Blade Records founder Brian Slagel after he saw them playing Maiden’s “Phantom of the Opera” live, and he asked them to record an original song for his upcoming Metal Massacre III album.

“Agressive Perfector” kicked off the 1983 compilation, and Slagel signed the band to his label shortly thereafter.  They released their debut album, Show No Mercy, in 1983; Hanneman wrote or co-wrote the music to 8 out of 10 songs, including modern day fan favorite “Die By the Sword”.   Like many of their contemporaries, Slayer’s first album doesn’t sound a lot like what Slayer became.  The speed and agression are there, and the dark imagery is right up front, but overall, the sound owes more to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal than does their later work.

1984 saw the release of the Haunting the Chapel EP, which indicated something of a new direction for Slayer – the 3-song effort was darker, faster, and heavier than its predecessor.  In 1985, the band released what I consider to be the first of the Three Absolutely Essential Slayer Albums, Hell Awaits.  This album is a mean, bottom-heavy, evil motherfucker of a record, and includes Hanneman’s first really great songwriting credit, from a musical standpoint (“At Dawn They Sleep”).  Kerry King has indicated in interviews that he and Hanneman were very into Mercyful Fate at the time of this recording, which accounts for the longer, more progressively structured songs, as well as for the extra touch of Satan in the lyrics.

After the release of Hell Awaits, Slayer signed with Rick Rubin’s Def Jam Recordings and recorded what is widely considered their best work, as well as an all-time thrash metal masterpiece, 1986’s Reign in Blood.  Hanneman’s songwriting matured fully on this album, most notably on the amazing opener “Angel of Death”, inspired by the atrocities commited by Nazi physician Josef Mengele.  Hanneman’s lyrics to this song, which describe some of Mengele’s surgical atrocities at the Auschwitz, have been the cause of untold amounts of controversy, ultimately leading many people to accuse the band of Nazi sympathizing.  In truth Hanneman had always been fascinated with World War II, his father having served with the Allied Forces.  Regarding the controversy over the song, Hanneman stated in an interview that “[there was] nothing I put in the lyrics that says necessarily he (Josef Mengele) was a bad man, because to me – well, isn’t that obvious? I shouldn’t have to tell you that.”

After recording what was, at the time, certainly one of the fastest heavy metal albums ever recorded, Slayer threw the metal world a curveball and slowed way the fuck down on their next album, 1988’s South of Heaven, which is the third and final of the Three Absolutely Essential Slayer Albums.  Hanneman wrote the music to two of my favorite Slayer songs, both of which appear on this album – the opening title track, and the chilling closer “Spill the Blood” (to which Hanneman also wrote the lyrics).  Fun fact: Rolling Stone magazine gave South of Heaven one star out a possible five stars, with the reviewer calling it “a cacophony of genuinely offensive satanic drivel that will probably win over a couple of thrash fans who’ve already lost their hearing anyway”.  As if we needed more proof of Rolling Stone‘s utter fucking uselessness.

1990 saw the release of the band’s last great album, Seasons in the Abyss.  I call Seasons a “great” album, but honestly I consider it to be really good; I only think it’s great compared to what came after.  The three best songs were co-written by Hanneman and singer/bassist Tom Araya (the closing title track, the opening anthem “War Ensemble”, and the slow, dirge-y ode to the original psycho, Ed Gein, “Dead Skin Mask”).

After Seasons, original drummer Dave Lombardo left (replaced by Paul Bostaph, who has also played with Testament, as has Lombardo), and the band’s output in the 1990s, while better than most bands, was spotty.  I judge Slayer by a harsher standard, because they set such a fucking high standard to begin with, y’know?  That is not to say that the band wasn’t still capable of writing great songs.  The creepy, atmospheric “213”, with music by Hanneman and lyrics by Araya (213 was Jeffery Dahmer’s apartment number), is one of the album’s standout tracks.

My main problem with what Slayer began to do after South of Heaven is noticeable on “213”; Tom Araya began to simply shout in a monotone, forsaking his earlier combination of screaming, shouting, squealing, wailing, and, in a few cases (see “Spill the Blood” for a good example), actual singing.  In short, vocal dynamics pretty much went out the window.  This may be a natural by-product of Araya getting older; I don’t necessarily expect a metal singer to always sound the same, forever and ever and ever, but I do think that when a metal singer has a style as formidable and commanding as Araya’s on Reign in Blood and South of Heaven, they shouldn’t fuck with it quite as much as he did.

In 1996, the band released an album of early hardcore punk covers that I consider to be the best thing they’ve done without Dave Lombardo.  While Undisputed Attitude was comprised mostly of covers, it did feature a few original songs, namely “Gemini”, written by King and Araya, and two songs from a hardcore side project called Pap Smear that Hanneman put together with Lombardo and Suicidal Tendencies guitarist Rocky George in 1984 – “Can’t Stand You” and “DDAMM (Drunk Drivers Against Mad Mothers)”.  They also inadvertently introduced me to the hardcore version of D.R.I. (with the song “Violent Pacification”), as prior to this, I had only heard D.R.I.’s post-crossover stuff.

To be perfectly honest, I’m very, very tired, so I’m gonna wrap this up for now.  It kind of got away from me anyway.  I’ll finish another time.  The point?  Happy 50th birthday, Jeff Hanneman.  The fact that you are dead sucks, but your music will live forever, even if Slayer is something of a punchline these days.  At least you’re not a Metallica-caliber punchline.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and remember: no matter what life hands you, always stay heavy.  Jeff Hanneman would’ve wanted it that way.


Thrash Thursday is Apparently Never Gonna Happen Properly

I’m feeling completely, totally, and utterly uninspired today.  I listened to Overkill’s Taking Over (1987) on my drive down to Bedford to visit my friend’s bookstore, and I listened to Nuclear Assault’s Handle With Care (1989) on the way back home, trying to get in the mood to write something super-awesome for Thrash Thursday, but all I can get my brain to focus on is baseball.  Check back tomorrow; maybe I’ll have something amazing to say.  In the meantime, I learned yesterday that the first Anthrax album turns 30 this month.  You should give that a listen.

Happy birthday, Fistful of Metal.  Your 30th year is already better than mine was.

Until next time, folks, stay fucking heavy.  Always.

Mixtape Monday, Volume 3: War All the Time

Today’s Mixtape takes its name from a Charles Bukowski book.  If you’re not familar with his work, you should change that.  All the songs herein deal with war in some fashion, which is a pretty natural topic for music as aggressive as heavy metal.  Let’s get right down to it.

1. “War Ensemble” by  Slayer (from Seasons In The Abyss – 1990) – This is the first song off Slayer’s last great album.   Many people will try to tell you that it’s the third and final “essential” Slayer album, along with 1986’s Reign in Blood and 1988’s South of Heaven, but don’t let those people fool you.  Hell Awaits (1985) is much more essential than Seasons in the Abyss.  This album marks the beginning of the end of vocal dynamics for Tom Araya, and the beginning of the beginning (?) of Tom Araya SHOUTING AT THE TOP OF HIS VOICE ALL THE TIME, and that’s where Slayer lost me, for the most part.

2. “Kill On Command” by Vio-Lence (from Eternal Nightmare – 1988) – Vio-lence appeared on last week’s Mixtape as well.  They’ll have a feature on here soon.  I love them dearly.

3. “Nuclear Winter” by Sodom (from Persecution Mania – 1987) – Sodom are considered one of the three essential German thrash metal bands, along with Kreator and Destruction.  Both of those bands would surely have made the cut for this mix as well, if I was more familiar with them.  Instead, you get Sodom.  Ain’t nothin wrong with that.

4. “This is Not an Exercise” by Voivod (from Killing Technology – 1987) – Voivod rules, and Killing Technology is where they began to get weird.  More on this phenomenal band another time.  For now, enjoy the carnage.

5. “Euroshima” by Lääz Rockit (from Know Your Enemy – 1987) – I don’t know much about San Francisco, CA’s Lääz Rockit, but here is what I do know: 1.) this song is awesome; 2.) they had a song called “City’s Gonna Burn” on a compilation tape my brother used to own called The Wild Bunch (which is also where I first heard Slayer and Motörhead); 3.) they also recorded a cool song called “Leatherface” for the highly underrated 1990 film Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III; 4.) according to the band’s page on Encyclopaedia Metallum, their odd name “came from the Clint Eastwood movie The Enforcer, where [SPOILER ALERT – ed.] Clint ends the film by shooting a tower with a Light Anti-tank Weapons System rocket [LAWS]. The band adopted the name by changing the spelling to Lääz Rockit. The name was chosen to describe their raw energy and explosive stage presence.”

6. “Monsterearth Megawar” by Total Fucking Destruction (from Peace, Love And Total Fucking Destruction – 2008) – Total Fucking Destruction = much fucking love.

7. “Scorched Earth Policy” by Warbeast (from Krush the Enemy – 2010) – Warbeast is a fantastic Texas thrash metal band that features Bruce Corbitt, former lead singer of the fantastic (and now-defunct) Texas thrash metal band Rigor Mortis (R.I.P., Mike Scaccia), on vocals.  So far, they’ve released two albums.  I have yet to hear their second one, but based on how fucking good Krush the Enemy is, I have no reason to believe it would be anything but exceptional.

8. “Into the Lungs Of Hell/Set the World Afire” by Megadeth (from So Far, So Good… So What! – 1988) – Megadeth has lots of songs about war, but I included this one because So Far, So Good…So What! often gets the short end of the stick when people discuss Megadeth albums.  It’s not their best album, but it’s miles away from their worst, and it’s much better than some people would have you believe.  These are technically two songs, but they kick off the album together, and they work very well together, so you get both.  Fun fact: “Set the World Afire” was the first song Dave Mustaine wrote after he was uncerimoniously booted out of Metallica.

9. “Perish in Flames” by Dark Angel (from Darkness Descends – 1986) – Darkness Descends was the second album for this Los Angeles thrash metal powerhouse, but it was the one that put them on the map.  Blasts of blinding speed, ferociously shouted and shreiked vocals by original vocalist Don Doty, and almost completely unhinged drumming by Gene Hoglan all add up to make this one badass motherfucker of an album.  I also recommend “Death is Certain, Life is Not”.

10. “The Trooper” by Iron Maiden (from Piece of Mind – 1983) – It’s Iron Fucking Maiden.  The lyrics are inspired by Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s amazing 1854 poem “Charge of the Light Brigade“.  This is the song I think of when I think of “heavy metal”.  This is undeniable and unfuckwithable.  UP THE IRONS!

11. “Nuclear War” by Nuclear Assault (from Game Over – 1986) – As I’ve mentioned before, many 1980s thrash metal bands had a good deal of social awareness to their lyrics, and the threat of nuclear war was a pretty common subject (a look at this Mixtape is proof enough of that).  Even as a generally unaware kid, I myself was pretty much constantly worried about it.  With a name like Nuclear Assault, though, it would be safe to guess that this band had something of an obsession with nuclear war.

12. “Stupid, Stupid War” by D.R.I. (from Dealing With It – 1985) – Originally hailing from Houston, Texas, D.R.I. (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles) are one of the original thrash metal/hardcore punk crossover bands, along with C.O.C. (Corrosion of Conformity), S.O.D. (Stormtroopers of Death), and Suicidal Tendencies (S.T., for good measure).  Aside from S.O.D. (which was a one-off side project to begin with), all these bands started out playing more-or-less metallic hardcore punk and then morphed into straight-up metal bands.  D.R.I. is a great band, and this is from the beginning of their crossover period (1987’s excellent Crossover finished that chapter).

13. “Rise Up” by Testament (from Dark Roots Of Earth – 2012) – If you’ve read almost any of my other posts on this blog, you know that I fucking love Testament (and part three of the accidental three-part story of Testament is still coming soon, in case anyone cares, other than me).  “Rise Up” is the opening song on what is easily one of the strongest, heaviest albums of their career.  The video is a live recording of the song, from their stellar two-disc live album Dark Roots of Thrash (2013), but they played it pretty much exactly like the album, because they’re just that fucking good.

14. “Blitzkrieg Air Attack” by Hirax (from Raging Violence – 1985) – Hirax formed in Los Angeles, California in 1984, but spent a good deal of time in the San Francisco Bay Area instead, as that was where thrash metal was happening on the West Coast (Slayer and Dark Angel notwithstanding).  Vocalist (and only original remaining member) Katon W. De Pena was an early champion of thrash metal, using all of his youthful energy to spread the Good News far and wide.  De Pena’s vocals are definitely one-of-a-kind.

15. “Tools For War” by Leeway (from Born to Expire – 1989) – Hailing from Astoria, Queens, Leeway hit the New York Hardcore (NYHC) ground running in 1984 as The Unruled, before changing their name to Leeway later that same year.  They proudly displayed their metal influences from the start, and their debut album, Born to Expire, was a bonafide crossover record.  It was recorded in November 1987, but various issues caused the release to be delayed until January 1989, by which time crossover had pretty much, well, crossed over.  I firmly believe that Leeway would have been a serious contender on the scene if their album had come out when it was supposed to.  Their style changed pretty drastically as they went on, but if you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend anything from this band (but especially Born to Expire).

16. “Fight Fire With Fire” by Metallica (from Ride The Lightning – 1984) – There’s not much to say about Metallica.  This song is another nuclear war paranoia tune, and it’s pretty rad.  It was co-written by the late, great Cliff Burton (RIP).  James Hetfield’s vocals never got better than on this album.  My brother once painted a stripped-down version of the cover of Ride the Lightning on the back of the army jacket I wore briefly in grade six, and I wish I still had it.  Lars still needs to shut up.  I think that’s enough about Metallica for today.

17. “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath (from Paranoid – 1970) – This is the opening song on Black Sabbath’s second album, which the band intended to call War Pigs (the odd cover art was designed to go along with that title) but their record label balked at the idea, the Vietnam War chugging along in full force as it was at the time.  Fun fact: Paranoid was released 7 months after their first album (Black Sabbath); not enough bands have that kind of work ethic any more.  “War Pigs” is my favorite Sabbath song (followed closely by “Black Sabbath”, from Black Sabbath), and my personal All-Time Number One Karaoke Jam.  It’s a hell of a lot of fun to sing in front of a crowd.  Faith No More also recorded a great version of it for their breakthrough album, 1989’s The Real Thing.  Holy fuck, I love this song.

This concludes another edition of Mixtape Monday.  I’ve got a pretty rad mix set for next week, so I hope you’ll join me for that.  Until then, remember to stay heavy.

Old-Ass VHS Review, Volume 2: My Headbanger’s Ball Tape

In the interest of full disclosure: I’m a packrat.  Some people might call me a hoarder, but I think there’s a line that separates the two that I haven’t crossed (yet).  I come by it honestly; my grandpa on my mom’s side was a packrat, and he accumulated so much weird shit over his lifetime that he had to build a shed in his back yard in which to house said weird shit.  He passed away when I was 2 years old, so I never got to know him, but I still remember the utter fascination I felt when I’d go into that shed as a kid, before it was torn down.  The walls were lined with license plates that he’d collected from all around the country, and there were Mason jars filled with nails, nuts, bolts, and all manner of other things that “might come in handy some day”.  One of my biggest goals in life is to have my own yard so I can build a shed to keep all my weird shit in.

The point of all this (for every now and again there is a point, you see) is that one of the things I own a lot of is Old-Ass VHS Tapes filled with things I’ve taped off TV over the years.  When I made the Big Move back to Bloomington from Austin, Texas in 2006, I actually left behind two pretty big boxes full of tapes, due to space restrictions, and although for the most part I’m not sure what was on those tapes, I miss them terribly.  I do know that one of them contained a fantastic episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but that’s a matter for another venue.  I did bring back two slightly smaller boxes of my Old-Ass VHS Tapes, and a few of them will be making appearances here sooner or later.  One of them much sooner, like right now.

As I’ve stated before,  I grew up pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and we didn’t have cable TV, so whenever I got a chance to spend a Saturday night at my cousin Nathan’s house, I almost always jumped at the chance.  I was willing to risk having to attend Sunday morning church services with my aunt and uncle just so I could watch Headbanger’s Ball on MTV.  They certainly played their share of stupid, barely-metal bullshit, but I found out about a lot of great bands on Headbanger’s Ball – Pantera comes to mind right away (I can clearly see myself standing in that living room, watching the “Cowboys From Hell” video, mouth agape, knowing that everything would be different from that point on), but there were many others.

Many of my Old-Ass VHS Tapes are filled with the most random shit, much of which I could not begin to understand why I bothered to record.  I recorded an episode of Headbanger’s Ball in 1990, and proceeded to watch the ever-living fuck out of that thing over the years, but I also recorded a lot of weird, random shit over portions of it, and what follows is the review of the Headbanger’s Ball (HBB from here on) portion of the tape.


The Basics:

The case that the tape is kept in has a large piece of masking tape on it, which attempts to catalog the contents therein (this is a rarity for my Old-Ass VHS Tapes – most of them are a total crapshoot, which can be frustrating, but also makes for some exciting viewing every few years or so).  Here’s what the label promises:

– “Part of ‘Headbanger’s Ball’…1st Ep. of ‘Late Night w/ Conan O’Brien’…Ice-T on ‘Conan’ (very jumpy)… Slaughter live for some reason…Top 10 Lists and Viewer Mail…Carson/Leno (Kentucky Headhunters)…Metallica vids (others, too)…Bill ‘n’ Ted cartoon…’Garfield Gets a Life’… SNL w/ Rick Moranis…Springer ‘Cat Fights’…11/90 ‘Fresh Prince – Pilot, Full Song”

The tape starts out with Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted” video, but with no volume.  Keep in mind that I was 13 years old when most of this tape was made.  Immediately after, “Hard to Handle” by the Black Crowes comes to an end, then the opening sequence for HBB begins.  Host and Douchemaster General Riki Rachtman kicks things off by being a douche*, and telling us that coming up, we’ll be visiting Suicidal Tendencies on the road.  Immediately after this, the first episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien begins (from September 1993).  This is a solid episode, with John Goodman, Drew Barrymore, and Tony Randall as guests.

As soon as the episode ends, HBB cuts back in with Rachtman introducing the video for “In My World” by Anthrax.  This is followed by Suicidal Tendencies’ “Send Me Your Money”, from their excellent 1990 album Lights…Camera…Revolution.

Slaughter follows with “Spend My Life”, and then the undisputed low point of the episode, “Can’t Get Enough”, by Winger.  Side note: Eddie Trunk, radio DJ and host of VH1’s That Metal Show, has publicly complained that he believes that Winger was unfairly maligned by metal fans.  Lead singer and “bass player” Kip Winger spends almost the entirety of this video either staring lustily into the camera or doing the same spin move over and over and over again, only bothering to pretend to play his bass once (and then, one-handed).  Contrary to what Mr. Trunk believes, Winger has not received nearly enough hate over the years.  The video does have some pretty hot ladies in it, in various states of undress, so I assume that’s the reason it has managed to stay on the tape all these years.


Kip Winger staring lustily into a camera, circa 1990

After a commercial break, we get a road report from Mike Clark and Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies, then the tape cuts into a segment from Late Night with Conan O’Brien with Ice-T as the guest.  As promised on the label, this is followed by “Slaughter live for some reason”, and it is an absolutely wretched performance by a band that was only ever mediocre at best (although I did dig “Fly To the Angels” at the time – don’t judge me, I was young!).  This is followed by the very end of a Stryper video (“Two Time Woman”)(Eddie Trunk also thinks Stryper got an unfair shake)(seriously), then footage of Suicidal Tendencies rehearsing, followed by footage of Suicidal Tendencies live on stage at L’Amour in Brooklyn, then the “#2 Skull Krusher of the Week”: “Shelter Me” by Cinderella (a band that did kind of get an unfair shake, even if their last album was  not nearly as good as their first two – but that’ll be a matter for further discussion another time).

The third hour of HBB kicks off in grand fashion, with the debut of Iron Maiden’s “Tailgunner”,  the first song off their criminally underrated 1990 album No Prayer for the Dying, followed immediately by Slayer’s “War Ensemble”, the first song off their last great album, 1990’s Seasons in the Abyss.   Because it was MTV, another commercial break follows those two videos.  After the break, Rachtman talks half-heartedly for a moment about fanzines, then introduces the debut of a video by a band called The London Quireboys.  The video for “Hey You”, which is a decent-enough Faces/Black Crowes-esque song, features a couple of scantily-clad dancers doing a lot of pelvic thrusts, so that’s pretty cool.  After that, Rachtman does a recap of the first four of the Top 5 Skull Krushers of the Week: coming in at number 5 was Poison, with “Something to Believe In” (which I’m sure Chuck Klosterman thinks is one the most metal songs of all time), followed by AC/DC’s “Money Talks” at number 4, “Touch of Evil” by Judas Priest at #3, and the aforementioned Cinderella song at #2.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, the Number One Skull Krusher of the Week (for the second week in a row) was “Tease Me, Please Me” by the Scorpions.  This video is notable for two reasons.  First, a split-screen effect is used properly for once, by showing the band playing on one half of the screen next to the female lead in the video story getting slowly out of the swimming pool on the other half (too often, split-screen effects are used to show two or more members of the band playing at the same time, which is unnecessary and distracting).  Second, when the flames of passion finally overtake the rich, undersexed housewife and the poor, muscular maintenance worker (i.e., when the “teasing” finally becomes too much), they end up fucking (or “pleasing” each other) on top of a piano.  Well played, Scorpions…well played.

After more goddamn commercials (I still know almost every word of the commercials from this episode), Rachtman tells us that the last 30 minutes will be dedicated to “newer Headbanger’s Ball videos and bands”, including bands called Funhouse and Rhino (both of which I must not have liked, as they no longer exist on this Old-Ass VHS Tape).  He kicks off this segment by playing a video from Death Angel (who at the time had just changed their name to D.A. for some reason), “A Room With a View” from the awesome Act III (1990), which was the last album the band released until they reformed in the early 2000s.  The quality of this video is horrible, as I’ve watched it probably a hundred times or more over the years.  After that, the tape wanders off into some footage of Late Night/Late Show with David Letterman, Rita Rudner on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (absolutely no clue why I would ever have recorded that), Damn Yankees performing “Coming of Age” on Letterman, the same episode of Headbanger’s Ball restarting, then into Garfield Gets a Life, bringing my Old-Ass VHS Tape of Headbanger’s Ball to an end.

The Extras:

If the first episode ever of Late Night with Conan O’Brien isn’t enough of an extra for you, I don’t know what could possibly make you happy.

The Highlights:

The videos I shared above, plus the videos for “Tailgunner” and “Seasons in the Abyss”, plus the Conan O’Brien segment with Ice-T are all pretty great.

The VHS-ness:

The quality here is terrible, overall.  The age of the tape, as well as the repeated viewings, have made both the video quality and the audio quailty suffer drastically.  The notable exceptions are the Late Night with Conan O’Brien episode and Ice-T segment, as they were recorded 3 years after the episode of HBB.

The Bottom Line:

I would only recommend this tape to my cousin Jason, with whom I watched it almost every weekend (sometimes more than once per weekend) throughout the early 90s.  However, as in my previous Old-Ass VHS Review, if you want to come to my house and watch it with me, that’s totally cool.  Just BYOB, please.

That’s it, true believers.  Stay heavy.

*Note: Riki Rachtman was (and probably still is) certainly a douche, but at least he knew something about the music he was introducing, unlike original Headbanger’s Ball host Adam Curry, who only got the job because he had long hair.

Thrash Thursday (Special Friday Edition): An Accidental Eulogy

I first heard the term “Thrash Thursday” back in like 1990 or so.  There’s a radio station in Indianapolis (which used to be based out of Bloomington)(to be clear, the radio station used to based out of Bloomington, not the city of Indianapolis) called “92.3 WTTS, World Class Rock”, and they more or less play what you might expect with a name like that – plenty of John Mayer, Sarah McLachlan, Jack Johnson, Norah Jones (I will admit that I love her voice, and I still own her first album, although I haven’t listened to it in probably 10 years), Dave Matthews Band, etcetera, etcetera – you know: safe, boring shit.  They do play quality music sometimes, usually in the form of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Elvis Costello, The Beatles, Queen, David Bowie, etcetera, but by and large, they are boooooring.

When I was a young pup, though, they were different.  They were still WTTS, at 92.3 on your FM dial, but back then, they called themselves “Rock 92” (after a brief stint as “Power 92”, which I’m guessing they decided sounded too much like a religious station), and for a kid in the pre-internet days, who grew up without cable TV and lived pretty much in the middle of nowhere, they were awesome.  They had the “Rock ‘n’ Roll House Party” all-request show every Saturday night, and my cousin Jason and I would tune in most weekends and hear plenty of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Dio, Def Leppard (we both loved Pyromania), Aerosmith (from back when they were relevant), etcetera, meanwhile always hoping that we might hear Iron Maiden or Metallica or something of that nature.  One Saturday night I called in to request something, and I asked the DJ (Sam Stock) if he had any Death Angel.  He immediately responded, ” Fuck man, I wish“, which I thought was so cool, but then I didn’t know what to do.  (For the record, I think I ended up asking him to play “something by Led Zeppelin”.)

What the fuck were we talking about?  Oh right, Thrash Thursday.  So another super-rad thing that Rock 92 had was a show called “Brave New World”, which ran from midnight to 1:00 AM every Monday – Thursday.  Sam Stock hosted that show as well (which was why I thought he might be able to play Death Angel on the Rock ‘n’ Roll House Party), and it was chock full of stuff you wouldn’t hear on other stations at the time, especially in the listening area.  I honestly don’t know what kind of songs were played Monday through Wednesday (although I do know that Mondays were called “Mayhem Monday”, and I think he played punk and punk-influenced stuff), but every Thursday was “Thrash Thursday”, and I listened every chance I got, often taping it so I could listen again later.

The format wasn’t always straight thrash metal, though I do remember hearing Overkill, Metallica, Anthrax, and Slayer on the show.  Thrash Thursday on Brave New World was my introduction to Morbid Angel, Upsidedown Cross (a weird Boston-based doom metal band which once featured Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis on drums, as well as the late Seth Putnam from Anal Cunt on bass), Napalm Death, and many others.  One Thursday night, Stock played a Jello Biafra spoken word segment called “Grow More Pot”, which got so many complaint calls the next day that he was forced to make an on-air apology the following Thursday.  I was confused, amazed, and scared by many things while listening to that show, and I also found out about some really great music.

At this point, I don’t even remember how long the show aired…it probably wasn’t a terribly long time, as 92.3 was a country station until 1986, became Rock 92 in 1988, and adopted its present format in 1992.  The impact it had on my life, however, has been pretty longstanding and significant.  And while researching for this entry, I learned that Sam Stock died in Colorado Springs, CO (where he was working as a DJ) in 2005 at the age of 35, with alcohol and cocaine listed as the cause of death, and now I’m weirdly bummed out.

I’ll leave you with a few of the songs I first heard on Thrash Thursday on Brave New World.

“Fuck You” by Overkill (from the !!!Fuck You!!! EP – 1987, orginally recorded by The Subhumans)

“Battalion of Rats” by Upsidedown Cross (from Upsidedown Cross – 1991)

“Chapel of Ghouls” by Morbid Angel (from Altars of Madness – 1989)

That’s all for today.  Rest in peace, Sam.  And to all the rest of you, stay heavy.  Always.

Thrash Thursday is Postponed Again, Because I’m a Putz.

I mean, not in real, regular, everyday life or anything, because every day is Thrash Thursday.  My only excuse today is that  whole bunch of little shit ganged up on me and distracted me, and now I don’t have the time to put together anything worthwhile.

What I’ma do, then, is share another kickass thrash metal song, and then urge you to visit tomorrow for a Very Special Friday Edition of Thrash Thursday.  If you were watching MTV at all in 1989, you might’ve seen this video.  It’s Overkill from New Jersey, and they fucking rule.

Stay heavy, comrades!

Mixtape Monday, Volume 2: Death and Insanity

Hello!  And welcome to the second installment of Mixtape Monday, wherein I take a look at some kickass “mixtapes” I’ve made over the years.  The title/theme of this week’s mix is Death and Insanity (but mostly the “insanity” part, which is to say, if the song is more death-focused, it’s death brought about by mental instability), and it’s a humdinger.  Let’s get right to it.

1. “Death and Insanity” by Hallow’s Eve (from Death & Insanity – 1986) – Hailing from Atlanta, GA, Hallow’s Eve has always been one of the more underrated thrash metal bands.  They had a few songs featured in movies in the late 80s and early 90s (River’s EdgeBlack Roses, and Pacific Heights), but that’s as close as they came to receiving their due.  This opening mixtape track is also the first song on their second album.

2. “Madhouse” by Anthrax (from Spreading the Disease – 1985) – MTV would not play this video when it was first released, because they were afraid it would offend mentally ill people.  For serious.

3. “Deranged” by Exodus (from Pleasures of the Flesh – 1987) – This is the first song off Exodus’ second album (their first with former Legacy (Testament) lead singer Steve “Zetro” Souza), and is also the first Exodus song I ever heard.  A friend of my brother’s gave him a dubbed copy of Pleasures sometime in early 1988, and I listened to it a lot.  I still own it, but I also own the CD, so I don’t really need to listen to the cassette as much these days.  The opening monologue to this song always fascinated me, and I never knew where it came from.  Then one day I remembered that Google exists, decided to look it up, and learned that it’s delivered by a man called Tom Skid, who, according to guitarist/founder Gary Holt, was “…a homeless psycho who lurked around…Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco. We gave him a gallon of wine and let the tape roll.  I heard he died, got hit by a bus. It was probably after he wandered out of our studio after drinking a gallon of four dollar wine. [It] was a great studio but a really seedy area full of winos, crackheads and transvestites.”

4. “Good Mourning/Black Friday” by Megadeth (from Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? – 1986) – Megadeth needs very little introduction.  All I can really think to say about them at the moment is that I really wish Dave Mustaine would shut up and play his guitar.  Megadeth?  More like Megadouche.  Anyway, this song fucking rules.  It begins with a slow build, where the main character admits that his head feels all funny, and then it unleashes in a torrential speed frenzy, with said main character basically murdering everyone he sees with a hammer, and then dismembering them.  It’s fun for the whole family, assuming your whole family likes high quality thrash metal with exceptionally disturbing lyrics.

5. “War Inside My Head” by Suicidal Tendencies (from Join the Army – 1987) – ST’s second full-length, Join the Army, marked the beginning of their crossover from hardcore punk into metal.  It’s not my favorite album by them, but it definitely contains some bonafide classics.  This is one of them.

6. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” by Metallica (from Master of Puppets – 1986) – This is the album that opened the Metal Doorway for me; I stepped through quite willingly, and I haven’t regretted that decision for a second.  I still love the album, even though I very much hate what Metallica has become.  Like Dave Mustaine, Lars Ulrich seriously needs to shut his word hole.  As for the song?  The lyrics are pretty great – they discuss life in a mental institution, from a first person point of view.  I especially like the last section (“Fear of living on/ natives getting restless now…”).

7. “Missing Sequences” by Voivod (from Nothingface – 1989) – Nothingface marked the true beginning of Voivod’s tangent into full-on progressive metal, and it is still ahead of its time.  This song (like much of Voivod’s sound and overall aesthetic) was inspired by the aluminum factories in drummer/artist/genius/visionary Michel “Away” Langevin’s hometown of Jonquiere, Quebec, Canada.  The lyrics deal with loss of memory caused by breathing the noxious fumes from the factory smokestacks.  Musically, this song provides a pretty excellent cross-section of the album as a whole.  I cannot recommend Voivod highly enough, but they only work if you’re willing and able to pay attention.

8. “Pains’ Invention, Madness” by Dark Angel (from Time Does Not Heal – 1991) – Dark Angel are from Los Angeles, California, and they are often overlooked in discussions of thrash metal, which is a shame.  They play usually super-fast (they have been called “the L.A. Caffeine Machine”), always super-tight, sometimes super-long songs, filled to the brim with tempo changes and riffs (246 of them on Time Does Not Heal , according to the sticker affixed to the front of the album upon its original release).  They aren’t necessarily one of my favorite bands, but they have some seriously ass-kicking songs.

9. “Sweetness” by Ripping Corpse (from Dreaming With the Dead – 1991) – Ripping Corpse were truly one of a kind.  They helped to bridge the (admittedly small) gap between thrash metal and death metal, and Dreaming With the Dead was their only release.  Guitarist Erik Rutan left the band in 1993 to join Morbid Angel, and the band didn’t really do much of anything after that.  This one album is enough to cement their place in deathrash history, and the only fault I can find with it is that it makes me wish they’d kept going.  I’ve always been drawn to unconventional vocal styles, and Scott Ruth’s snarling, growling, squealing delivery was enough to get me hooked from the first time I heard this song.  Lyrically, it’s a serial murderer telling us why he gets off on killing.  “My sensitivity, my brutality, it’s all relative.”  So fucked up and so, so good.

11. “Visions From the Dark Side” by Morbid Angel (from Altars of Madness – 1989) – Morbid Angel used to scare me when I was younger, and I’m glad they don’t scare me anymore, because I would’ve deprived myself of the sheer sonic bliss that is their debut album, Altars of Madness.

12. “Woman of Dark Desires” by Bathory (from Under the Sign of the Black Mark – 1987) – Swedish one-man band Bathory was the brainchild of one Thomas “Ace” Börje Forsberg, a.k.a. Quorthon.  He pretty much invented the sound that became black metal, and this song, the tale of Countess Elizabeth Bathory herself, is a shining example of the intensity of Bathory.  Forsberg died of a heart attack in 2004, and extreme metal lost a founding father.

13. “Eternal Nightmare” by Vio-Lence (from Eternal Nightmare – 1988) – Coming out of the San Francisco Bay Area on the second wave of thrash metal, Vio-Lence wanted to be faster and more brutal than the bands that inspired them, and on their 1988 debut album, they proved that they could hang with any of the big boys.  They are another fine example of a band that I absolutely fucking love which has a totally unique vocal style.  Sean Killian’s vocals are a deal breaker for a lot of people, but I find they fit the music, the song structures, and the subject matter perfectly – i.e., he sounds like an unhinged lunatic who can barely keep up with his racing thoughts.

14. “Kill Again” by Slayer (from Hell Awaits – 1985) – It’s fucking Slayer.  “Homicidal maniAC!”  Rest in peace, Jeff Hanneman.

15. “Chasing Fear” by Testament (from Low – 1995) – My love for Testament has been pretty well documented elsewhere on this blog, so I’ll just let the music do the talking.

That’s it for Mixtape Monday, Volume 2, y’all.  Thanks for reading.  What are some of your favorite metal songs dealing with the theme(s) of death and insanity?  Discuss in the comments, if you are so inclined.  Until next time, remember to always, always, always stay heavy.

Old-Ass VHS Review, Volume 1: Oidivnikufesin

I’ve decided to start a recurring series wherein I watch and review some old-ass metal-related VHS tapes that I own – many of them not available on DVD for various reasons.  They will be reviewed based on both the quality of the content, as well as the quality of the product itself.  My first Old-Ass VHS Review is a tape I’ve owned since I was 12 years old, Oidivnikufesin – N.F.V., by New York thrash metal giants Anthrax.


I received N.F.V. as a gift for my 12th birthday.  I remember having to describe the cover for my mom, and I also remember drawing a quick-sketch dummy cover for her, so she would know what to look for when she went to the store to pick it up.  The title, in case you’re wondering, is a backward purposeful misspelling of “Nice Fuckin’ Video”, hence the “N.F.V.”  I’m not entirely sure what that’s all about, but I do know that Anthrax also had a song called “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)” on their breakthrough 1987 album Among the Living, as well as a song called “Dallabnikufesin (N.F.B.)” on their Grammy® nominated 1991 compilation Attack of the Killer B’s (best known for “Bring the Noise,” their ground-breaking collaboration with Public Enemy). I’ve always assumed it was their way of fucking with dummies who think metal is all about evil backward messages.

Anyway, I’ve owned N.F.V. for a very long time, and I’ve watched it more times than I could even begin to recall, but a few nights ago, I watched it again.  I did it for you, faithful reader, so that I could put together this highly professional review.  Onward!

The Basics:

The setlist is pretty fuckin solid here.  The show was recorded at London’s world-famous Hammersmith Odeon music hall on November 16, 1987.  The band was on tour with Testament, in support for Among the Living, so 5 of the 12 songs come from that album, but they also played 5 songs from 1985’s Spreading the Disease (their first full-length to feature Joey Belladonna on vocals), as well as “Metal Thrashing Mad”, from their 1984 debut Fistful of Metal, and their metal-rap crossover hit “I’m the Man”.  Joey’s voice is a little bit shaky on the first two songs, but by the time “Metal Thrashing Mad” gets rolling, he is in top form.  The camera work is great, and you might notice a distinct lack of split-screens and quick cuts, both of which have a strong tendency to ruin more modern concert recordings.  The camera focuses on the right things at the right times, and there are plenty of crowd shots to remind you that this band was bloody legendary in England in the late 80s (they had two songs on the charts there at the time of this recording).

The Extras:

This is a VHS tape, so there are no extras, but they would be superfluous anyway; this performance is damn near flawless.  Here’s an extra: at one point during “N.F.L.”, you see like one second of a little kid (certainly less than 12 years old) banging his head so goddamn hard, and that’s pretty fucking awesome.

The Highlights:

The band as a whole is unfuckingtouchable on this recording, but if I had to choose some highlights, I’d choose “Metal Thrashing Mad”, “A.I.R.”, “N.F.L.”, and show closer “Gung Ho”.  Bassist Frank Bello (one of heavy metal’s true Unsung Heroes) is particularly righteous on “A.I.R.”.  The way the band inserts worldwide megahit (and all-around awesome jam) “I’m the Man” (which is probably the single biggest influence on the “nü metal” genre, for better or for worse*) into the performance of “A.I.R” is pretty amazing, too.

The VHS-ness:

Aside from a single black line that pops up during the ninth song (“Armed and Dangerous”), there is no real way to tell that this is a VHS tape you’re watching.  You’d never assume you were watching a Blu-Ray or anything, but considering how many times I’ve watched this, it’s holding together exceptionally well.

The Bottom Line:

This performance is tight as hell.  The band was nearing the very tip-top of their game at this point in their long and complicated career.  I recommend you watch it.  I think it’s available on DVD, but I don’t feel like researching it right now.  I know you can watch the entire show on YouTube, if you’re into that.  If you wanna come to my house and watch it with me, that’s cool.  If you wanna bring over a blank tape and teach me how to hook up two of my VCRs so I can make a copy for you, that’s cool, too.  What I’m trying to say is, if you’re a fan of Anthrax, and you haven’t seen this, you need to change that ASAP.  Do what you have to do.  If my words haven’t convinced you, watch this:

That’s it for my first edition of Old-Ass VHS Reviews.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Until next time, don’t forget to stay heavy.

* Just kidding, it was obviously for worse.

Metal Is All Around Us

Yesterday I mentioned that I was on my way out the door to watch a documentary called Filmage: The Story of Descendents/ALL.  Since the mid-90s, ALL and the Descendents have been one of my very favorite bands.  Under this stout, bearded, metal-beshirted exterior beats the heart of a sappy, lovelorn fool (it co-exists right next the heart of a pissed-off, head-banging  moshing maniac – they beat as one), and from the first time I heard the ALL song “Million Bucks,” I was hooked.  So you might be wondering, “Joel, why in the name of fuck are you yammering on about a couple of punk rock bands on a metal blog?”  The answer, my friends, is blowin in the bald-headed wind, and that wind’s name is Stephen Egerton.


Guitar wizard Stephen Egerton joined the Descendents (along with bassist Karl Alvarez) in 1987, and he brought a love of heavy metal with him.  Little touches of metal influence had popped up prior to Egerton’s arrival, namely on the vastly underrated Enjoy! album, but Egerton’s influence was much more up front.  With the right kind of ears, you can pick up some of this influence on his first album with the band, 1987’s ALL, particularly on the songs “All-O-Gistics” and “Schizophrenia.”

“Schizophrenia” from ALL (1987) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Milo Aukerman)

After touring extensively for the album, singer Milo Aukerman parted ways with them to continue his studies in biochemistry, and the band recruited a new singer (former Dag Nasty/future Down By Law frontman Dave Smalley) and forged ahead as ALL.  ALL released one full-length album and one EP with Smalley on vocals, and then a previously unknown singer by the name of Scott Reynolds joined the ranks from 1989-1992.  Throughout this time, the songs Egerton wrote for the band showed a strong metallic influence, with minor chords, heavy, sometimes chugging riffs, and even the occasional ripping solo.

The arrival of a new singer (Chad Price) in 1993 seemed to bring Egerton’s inner Metalhead right out front, although it probably didn’t hurt that Price is a Metalhead, too.  On 1993’s Breaking Things, the guitars have a much heavier tone, and Price’s natural singing voice is already quite gruff, both of which add up to Egerton and Price’s sole songwriting contribution on the album being a straight-up heavy metal song.

“Crucified” from Breaking Things (1993) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Price)

1995 was the year that ALL almost got huge.  You maybe remember a band called Green Day?  After they broke, every major record label started throwing money at anything that had ever been called “punk”, and ALL was no exception.  They signed with Interscope Records, released what is easily their most metallic-sounding album, Pummel, and had something of a hit with the aforementioned “Million Bucks” (even making an appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien) before Interscope dropped them.  The songs to which Egerton contributed are all under 2-and-a-half minutes long, and are, for all intents and purposes, speed metal played through a pop filter.

“Uncle Critic” from Pummel (1995) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Bill Stevenson)

One quick non-Egerton-penned aside here, to discuss what is easily the most metal song ALL has released.  “Stalker” was written by Chad, and is a super-creepy story told from the point-of-view of a stalker.  It practically overflows with angst and rage, and although he didn’t write the music, Egerton’s guitars show the work of a straight-up Metalhead.  I was fortunate enough to get to see them play this one live in 2000; it was transcendent.

“Stalker” from Pummel (1995) (music and lyrics by Price)

In 1996, Milo got the itch to record with his old band again, so ALL was put on hold while the Descendents recorded their first album in 9 years, Everything Sucks.  This was my introduction to the Descendents, coming as it did on the heels of Pummel.  It sounds pretty much exacly like you would expect a classic Descendents album recorded with better technology to sound (which is to say “fucking excellent”), and the two of the three Egerton compositions/co-compositions on this album are once again short, aggressive blasts of metallic speed and fury, with a pop sensibility that could only have come from a fan of the Beatles.

“Everything Sux” from Everything Sucks (1996) (music and lyrics by Egerton)

“Coffee Mug” from Everything Sucks (1996) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Stevenson)

Two years later, ALL returned to the studio to record their most straight-forward album yet, Mass Nerder.  Many of the songs on Mass Nerder were written before Everything Sucks was recorded, and in fact several of the songs from Sucks were recorded in demo form with Chad on vocals.  On this version of “Everything Sux”, you can really hear the metal.  Egerton had a couple more Voivod-fan-plays-speed-metal-through-a-pop-filter songs on Nerder, as well.

“Everything Sux” from Everything Sucks demos with Chad Price

“World’s On Heroin” from Mass Nerder (1998) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Stevenson)

“Greedy” from Mass Nerder (1998) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Stevenson)

ALL released their final album to date, Problematic, in 2000, and Egerton (along with Price) are in full force with the metallic fury on that one as well.

“She Broke My Dick” from Problematic (2000) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Stevenson)

“Roir” from Problematic (2000) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Karl Alvarez)

“I Want Out” from Problematic (2000) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Stevenson)

“Nothin’ to Live For” from Problematic (2000) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Stevenson)

The Descendents have released another album in 2004 (Cool to Be You), but Egerton has no songwriting credits on that album, so I will not discuss it here.

Is there a point to all this rambly, wandering mess?  I doubt it.  If you ever come to my blog looking for a point, you’ll likely leave disappointed.  Mostly I’m just still stoked on seeing a documentary of one of my favorite bands, and I happened to think of a way to incorporate that into my metal blog, which I want to update as often as possible, so I stay in the habit of doing so.

If I had to glean some semblance of a point from all this, I guess it would be a reminder that a metal song by any other name is still metal as fuck.  Shakespeare said that, so there’s no need to try and argue with it.

Thanks for reading, friends, and as always, stay heavy.

Thrash Thursday is Postponed.

My inaugural Thrash Thursday post will have to be delayed until next Thursday.  I just finished watching Get Thrashed: The Story of Thrash Metal, which I just got in the mail, and in about five minutes I’m out the door to see Filmage: The Story of Descendents/ALL (because I love more than just metal…and what kind of person doesn’t love the Descendents and ALL?  That was a rhetorical question, but the answer is: my ex-wife).

Anyway, I’ll be back with something real tomorrow, but until then, here’s a video to hold you over.  It’s Exodus, and they are Thrash Fucking Metal.

Until next time, stay heavy, friends.