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.