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 Edge, Black 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.