Mixtape Monday, Volume 7: Metal on Metal

It’s been a while since I’ve put together a Mixtape, and I’ve been stewing on this one for a few days now.  Today’s theme is heavy metal songs about heavy metal.  There are a lot more than I’ve included here, but I wanted to keep it to a manageable amount, because this blog, unfortunately, is not my job.  You’ll note that with a single exception, all the songs on this Mixtape were recorded before 1986; it was much more common for metal bands to sing about metal back then.  The single exception to that is a band that never stopped living in 1985.  I had some difficulty putting this mix together in a proper order, so I just left the songs in the order that I typed them.  The title of this one comes from an Anvil song which does not appear on this Mixtape, because I don’t really like Anvil very much.  Let’s get down to it.

“Metal Church” by Metal Church (from Metal Church – 1984) – Metal Church hail from Seattle, Washington, and they are a vastly underrated band.  This isn’t my favorite Metal Church song or album, but it’s a pretty fuckin’ tasty song.  Rest in peace, Mr. Wayne.

“Metal church will find you, can’t run very far, the metal church inside you, it knows just who you are.”

“High Speed Metal” by Razor (from Malicious Intent – 1986) – Hailing from Southwestern Ontario, Canada, Razor played/play fast, hard, and angry thrash/speed metal.  Really, if you look at the name of the band, the name of this song, and the name of the album, there’s no possible way you could expect anything other than what you get when you play the song.  Fun fact: according to Wikipedia, the band’s hometown of Guelph, Ontario, is “consistently rated as one of Canada’s best places to live”, due to its “low crime rates, clean environment and generally high standard of living”.

“Power and mayhem, the onslaught begins, fist rises up to the sound, we tear up the stage with our violence and speed, and bring the iron hammer down.”

“Witching Metal” by Sodom (from In the Sign of Evil EP – 1984) – German thrash metal has always been a seven-headed, ten-horned beast of a different color.  Something in the water (or perhaps the air) over in Deutschland seems to have made them faster, angrier, and just a bit sloppier than the majority of their non-Continental counterparts.  Sodom are one of the “Big Three of German Thrash”, along with Kreator and Destruction.  This song is not really indicative of what they would go on to sound like, but it’s heavy, evil, and sloppy as fuck.  Rest in peace, Messrs. Witchhunter, Destructor, and Strahli.

“Metal war Sodom, wildfire Sodom, bloodlust Sodom, witching metal.” (Their English improved a lot over the years.)

“Metal Command” by Exodus (from Bonded by Blood – 1985) – Exodus is amazing.  Yesterday, today, tomorrow, for-fucking-ever.  Rest in peace, Mr. Baloff.

“A wall of sonic sound, with amps turned up to ten, our legions are advancing, to battle once again.”

“Metal Warriors (Brothers of Metal, Part I)” by Manowar (from The Triumph of Steel – 1992) – Here are some facts about Manowar: they once signed a contract with a record label in their own blood; they were once listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Loudest Band; they once fired a band member because he had been experimenting with different kinds of music in his free time, and they believed it would be “false” to continue with him in the band; they are ridiculous; they are FUCKING HUGE in Europe; they have at least 6 different songs with the word “metal” in the title; they are kind of amazing.

“Heavy metal, or no metal at all, wimps and posers, leave the hall.”

“Metal Storm/Face the Slayer” by Slayer (from Show No Mercy – 1983) – This is from Slayer’s first album, when they were a little bit less heavy, but no less evil.  The “Metal Storm” part of the song is instrumental, but it’s considered one song, so there.  Rest in peace, Mr. Hanneman.

“(FUCKIN SLAYER!)”

“Metal Militia” by Metallica (from Kill ’em All – 1983) – This is from Metallica’s first album, when they were still fucking amazing.  I often forget how much I love Kill ’em All, and then I’ll listen to it again, and then I’ll end up playing it two or three times straight through.  Rest in peace, Mr. Burton.

“Joining together to take on the world with our heavy metal, spreading the message to everyone here, come let yourself go.”

“Soldiers of Metal” by Anthrax (from Fistful of Metal – 1984) – This is from Anthrax’s first album, when they barely sounded like Anthrax.  It’s also one of two songs from that album with the word “metal” in the title.  The other one has been featured elsewhere on this blog.

“The rages of fury, the cause of the fight, we’re soldiers of metal, and we rule the night.”

“Death Metal” by Possessed (from Seven Churches – 1985) – Depending on who you talk to, this song may or may not be the starting point for Death Metal as a genre.  Either way, it’s heavy as fuck, and really, really good.

“When the sun doesn’t rise and the day is like night, know that your life is at its end. Rendered helpless, so scream out in fright, death metal came in the wind.”

” Heavy Metal (Is the Law)” by Helloween (from Walls of Jericho – 1985) – I’m not a big fan of Power Metal in general, but Helloween (arguably the founders of the genre) were a pretty great band.  To be fair, they may still be a great band.  I haven’t heard anything from them past 1988’s Keeper of the Seven Keys, Part II, but their first three albums are aces.  Like Anthrax, they also had two songs with “metal” in the title on this album.

“Heavy metal can’t be beaten by any dynasty, we’re all wizards fighting with our spell.”

That’s all I got for today, you heavy fuckers.  Feel free to share some of your favorite metal songs about metal, or to ream me for not liking Anvil.  But most of all, I urge you to keep on staying heavy.  Always.

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A Tale of Two Goofballs: A Sort of Review of Day 2 of Rock on the Range 2014

Last weekend, my friend Dustin sent me a text telling me he got free tickets to Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio.  “Google that shit”, he said, and “try to get Saturday and Sunday off.  We’ll camp.”  If you’re not familiar with Rock on the Range, here’s what you need to know: self-billed as “Where Rock Lives”, ROTR has been an annual event since 2007, when it was a one-day only thing.  It is held at a professional soccer stadium (Columbus Crew of the MLS organization) just north of downtown Columbus.  ZZ Top headlined that first year, and the likes of Papa Roach, Buckcherry, and Puddle of Mudd played as well.

In 2008, the event was extended an extra day, covering Saturday and Sunday.  Stone Temple Pilots headlined the first day, and Kid Rock and Three Doors Down co-headlined the second day.  Other bands on the bill included Papa Roach, Disturbed, Seether, Five Finger Death Punch, Drowning Pool, etc.  If you’re noticing a theme to some of the bands, then you’ll understand why I wasn’t immediately sold on the idea.  Good bands have been known to play Rock on the Range, but for every Cheap Trick, Anthrax, Helmet, Clutch, Ghost, and Alice in Chains that have appeared, there have been dozens of Limp Bizkits, Korns, Hollywood Undeads, Godsmacks, Stone Sours, and Black Veil Brideses.

2014 marks the second consecutive year that the event has been extended to a third day.  I checked out the website, and here are the three headliners, in order, Friday-Sunday: Guns ‘n’ Roses, Avenged Sevenfold, and Kid Rock.  Understandably, I was not super fired up about driving four hours for this shit.  When I looked further into the Saturday lineup, however, I knew I had to find a way to go: Slayer, Exodus, and Suicidal Tendencies were making this the last stop on their short US tour, and I had a chance to see them for free, and all I had to do was drive us there?  Sign me right the fuck up!  If you’ve read more than a few things on this blog, you know that thrash metal is my lifeblood, and I had never seen Exodus or Slayer, so I was definitely into it.  I was also kind of pumped about seeing Fozzy, and Don Jamieson of VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show was headlining the “Old Milwaukee® Comedy Tent”.  I’ve only heard a couple of Fozzy songs, but Chris Jericho was one of my favorite professional wrestlers in the mid-to-late ’90s, and I’d never seen or heard any of Don’s stand-up, but he’s pretty funny on the show, so I figured I might as well check them out while I had the chance.

Here's the full lineup.

Here’s the full lineup.

I already get Sundays off work, so all I had to do was figure out the Saturday situation, which I managed to do pretty quickly: I’d go to work at 5:30 AM like I always do on Saturdays, and I’d leave at 9:00, drive an hour north to Indianapolis to pick Dustin up, and head three hours east to break my fucking neck headbanging.  When I finally had a chance to research the event properly, a major hitch became apparent: camping was only allowed for people who purchased a “Camping Package”, which was sold out, and which cost $869 – EIGHT HUNDRED SIXTY-NINE FUCKING DOLLARS – for four three-day Field General Admission tickets (Field GA allowed access to the floor in front of the stage, while Stadium GA only allowed seating in the stands – this will come into play later), a campsite (no tents allowed), and four festival t-shirts.  With less than one week before the start of the festival, the only available hotels were $300 a night, so we had to figure something out.  After much discussion, I managed to talk Dustin into only attending Saturday, since we hadn’t paid for the tickets anyway, with the deal being that I would drive us back to Indianapolis afterward.  He was only really interested in two bands on Sunday (Trivium and the Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience), and I was only interested in Gojira, but I was obviously fine with not paying $300 so I could stay in Columbus and watch a band I’m only marginally familiar with play for 30 minutes.

I arrived late to Dustin’s house (thanks for fucking nothing, Mapquest), so we got to the venue about an hour later than we’d anticipated, and thus had to pay $20 to park 1.5 miles from the venue.  Dustin is the head brewer for Cutters Brewing Company (which is how he scored the tickets, and which you should definitely check out if you get the chance), so he brought some beer, and I’m a kitchen manager at a co-op grocery store and a bourbon enthusiast, so I brought some expired bread and cheese and a flask full of Four Roses.  We were about to jam econo, Heavy Metal Parking Lot-style.  We had an awesome conversation with the most Kentuckian couple I’ve ever met (which is quite a feat, considering that my wife and her entire family are from Kentucky), and we traded beers for more bourbon, and the man (who was very excited to meet a Brewmaster) said “Man, I hate to say it, but Guns ‘n’ Roses kinda sucked last night” [which came out more like “Mayun, Ah hay-eete ta say-ee it, but Guns ‘n’ Raoses kanda suucked last naht” – seriously, it was so much fun to talk to them (and I’m not making fun)].

Heavy Metal Parking Lot 2014

“Congratulations, kids, and welcome to the real world.”

We continued to eat and drink our free food and beer, and then I began to notice a slow trickle of people in suits walking around the parking lot, which struck me as odd, until we realized that we were tailgating in the middle of a parking lot filled with cars parked by people who were attending a high school graduation.  Congratulations, kids, and welcome to the real world.  By and by, I realized that we had already missed the beginning of Fozzy’s set, so we hung out a little longer before finally heading for the venue.  I immediately scoped out the grounds to find the Jagermeister® Third Stage, where Exodus was set to go on at 6:00.  After locating the stage, I found an amazingly badass Exodus t-shirt (which surprisingly only cost $25, and which I’ll share a picture of here later), we bought a couple of $6 PBRs each, and settled our way in near the front of the crowd.

Murder in the front row.

Murder in the front row.

Exodus came on promptly at 6:00, and proceeded to blast my skull wide open for the next half hour.  They kicked off with “Bonded By Blood”, vocalist Rob Dukes said hello to everyone, then said “There’s a lot of fuckin great bands playin here today…lot of fuckin shitty bands playin here today too.  This one’s called ‘Piranha’.”   Then they played “Blacklist”, “War is my Shepherd”, and “The Toxic Waltz”, (they may have played “A Lesson in Violence” next, but I really can’t remember) before closing with “Strike of the Beast”.  It didn’t last nearly long enough, but it was an absolutely fucking amazing set (although I would’ve loved to hear “And Then There Were None” live).

One of my favorite parts of the set was during “The Toxic Waltz”: Dukes said he wanted to see “the biggest fuckin circle pit I’ve ever seen”, and while I’m 100% certain he’s seen bigger circle pits, the pit that opened up and maintained itself for the entirety of that song was easily the most fun, respectful pit I’ve ever borne witness to.  No meatheads swinging their fists wildly in the air, no one kicking at other people, no mindless, aggressive shoving, just good, friendly, violent fun, with a crowd of giddy Metalheads dancing in a circle for 5 minutes.

I was on the edge of the pit, afraid of breaking my glasses.

I remained on the edge of that amazing pit, fearful of breaking my glasses.  This is what I saw.

This is the only clear shot of the circle pit that I could manage to snap.

This is the only clear shot of the circle pit that I could manage to snap.

Dustin had heard Exodus for the first time in the car on the way to the show, but he was pumped afterward.  He told me he loved it, and that he was definitely gonna be adding some of their stuff to his collection.  And seriously, I implore you, if you get a chance to see Exodus live, fucking DO IT.

Next on the agenda was a trip to the bathrooms.  We had an hour to kill before Suicidal hit the Ernie Ball® Second Stage, and Chevelle was playing on the main stage, so we walked around and did some people watching, got more beers, and made our way toward the stage to wait.  A couple of total bro-looking dudes stopped and chatted us up (one of them was very excited about my ALL and Descendents buttons), and the taller of the two told us that Guns ‘n’ Roses were “fuckin awesome last night” (for the record, based on what I’ve seen on YouTube in the past year or two, I’m inclined to believe Mr. Southern Kentucky’s assessment more).  Taller Bro was really stoked for Suicidal, and Shorter Bro seemed on the fence, as he was there for some of the shittier bands, but agreed to come give them a chance.

Still cyco after all these years.

Still cyco after all these years.

For my part, I’d seen Suicidal once before, on the Vans® Warped Tour back in like 1999 or 2000, so I had already decided to watch part of their set, then head over to the comedy tent to check out Don Jamieson’s stand-up set, which began halfway through ST’s set.  The band came out and started the opening strains of “You Can’t Bring Me Down”, then Mike Muir’s voice came from the ether, “Columbus, I just got one question for you…”, then he appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and shouted “What the fuck is goin on around here?!”  The band played the song flawlessly, but it seemed to me that Muir was getting winded pretty quickly, as he failed to actually sing large parts of the song, leaving the band to fill the space with backing vocals.  They followed with “War Inside My Head”, and Muir seemed more on top of things this time, but it still seemed off.  Dustin indicated that it seemed to him that there might just be something wrong with the sound.

At any rate, when they started in with “Subliminal”, we made a beeline for the comedy tent.  That was easily one of the Top 50 Worst Decisions I’ve ever made; Don Jamieson was not one bit fucking funny.  His set consisted of “Any KISS fans here? (insert joke about KISS)”, followed by a joke about having sex with his girlfriend, followed by a racist joke, followed by “Any Ozzy fans here? (insert joke about Ozzy)”, followed by a joke about jerking off, followed by a racist joke, followed by “Any Mötley Crüe fans here? (insert joke about Mötley Crüe)”, followed by a joke about having sex with his girlfriend, followed by a racist joke, etcetera, etcetera, for like 25 minutes.

Don Jamieson, being not funny

Don Jamieson, being not funny.

After his set, I turned to Dustin and said “I wish we hadn’t walked over here for that,” to which Dustin replied “Yeah, he wasn’t funny”.  Such is life, however, and Slayer was slated to start their set on the main stage in about 10 minutes, and we still hadn’t found a seat.  My feelings regarding Slayer have been discussed elsewhere in the pages of Stay Heavy, but here’s the short version: I fucking love the first four Slayer albums, and I consider Hell AwaitsReign in Blood, and South of Heaven to be absolutely essential.  Seasons in the Abyss has some great songs on it, but it marked the beginning of a noticeable change in Tom Araya’s vocal delivery, wherein he went from an amazing and sometimes frightening combination of screaming, wailing, shouting at the top of his voice, and creepy singing to a combination of shouting at the top of his voice and creepy singing, completely forgoing the screaming and wailing.  I like some stuff post-Seasons, but I have found every album since that one (and sometimes that one) to be boring, overall.

To add to that: when founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman passed away, followed shortly thereafter by Kerry King and Tom Araya firing original drummer Dave Lombardo over some business-related bullshit, I decided I didn’t really give a fuck about Slayer anymore.  Gary Holt of Exodus has been playing live with them for several years now, and he’s a guitar beast, but the Lombardo stuff all just seemed so petty and shady, and Hanneman’s death made me so sad, that I figured I wouldn’t be able to really enjoy Slayer live, and in fact I had decided less than one month ago that I would still see them live if given the opportunity, but I wouldn’t pay for it, as I don’t want Kerry King to make any money off me.

I am happy to report that I was sorely mistaken about not being able to enjoy Slayer live.  Even in that enormous stadium setting, where I could only really see the band on the big screens to the sides of the stage, they were devastatingly good.  Part of that, no doubt, is the fact that Lombardo’s replacement, Paul Bostaph, has been a member of the band before (throughout most of the 1990’s), and that Gary Holt is one of the best metal guitar players alive.  At any rate, I enjoyed the fuck out of it.  We got to our seats a bit late, but they opened their set with “World Painted Blood”, “Hate Worldwide”, and “Disciple”, so I didn’t mind as much as if I’d missed, say, “At Dawn They Sleep”.  Our tickets were stamped “Stadium GA”, which meant we were not allowed access to the field in front of the stage, but that didn’t stop Dustin from trying to walk out there anyway, pretending like he didn’t know we needed a wristband to get on the field.  He was denied, so we found the closest seats we could, and settled in as “Disciple” was winding down and “Mandatory Suicide” was beginning.

Fuckin SLAYER!

Fuckin SLAYER!

A guy next to me asked me if I’d seen Slayer live before.  I told him I had not, and he told me he was very happy for me.  We then discussed the sad nature of the people around us, noting that for the most part, they did not seem to give a shit about Slayer.  He postulated that a lot of people these days know Slayer as a logo, and as something that people scream in their faces at shows, but that they don’t actually know what they sound like, which seemed like a pretty solid line of reasoning to me.  At any rate, I alternated between banging my head, pumping my fist, throwing the horns, screaming along to the songs, and marveling at the lack of interest I was seeing from a huge amount of people (most of whom I found were there to see headliners Avenged Sevenfold, which I’ll get to later).

I yelled at them between songs:  “GO FUCKING MOSH TO SLAYER, YOU FUCKING PUSSIES!  YOU’RE STANDING AROUND LIKE YOU’RE AT A FUCKING KENNY G CONCERT OR SOMETHING, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES!  YOU’RE WASTING THOSE FUCKING FIELD WRISTBANDS, YOU FUCKING MORONS!”  My yelling only served to make several of the people around me laugh, but most of those people were oblivious to the fact that they were part of the crowd I was yelling at, so my yelling was clearly in vain, but it did make me feel a little better.

At any rate, Slayer went on to assuage my fears a bit and bring me back into the fold over the next 40 minutes by playing “Postmortem”, “Chemical Warfare”, “War Ensemble”, “Hallowed Point”, “Seasons in the Abyss”, and “Hell Awaits” before a new backdrop came down behind the band, and they closed their set with three of the best Hannemen-penned (or co-penned) songs:  “South of Heaven”, “Reign in Blood”, and “Angel of Death”.

So fucking rad.

So fucking rad.

And then it was time for Avenged Sevenfold, a band about which I knew very little until the drive to Columbus.  I already knew they are Dustin’s favorite band (last night was his 17th time seeing them live), and that they were the primary reason he wanted to attend the show in the first place.  I also knew I didn’t really care for most of what I’d heard from them (in fact, I first heard their song “The Beast and the Harlot” on Guitar Hero II and kind of liked it, then later downloaded the song only to discover that the GH version was one of those “in the style of…” songs, and I actually liked it more than Avenged Sevenfold’s version).  Dustin informed me on the drive that I should be prepared for a lot of explosions and fire, and a badass show.  He played some songs for me, which I neither loved nor hated, and he was excited like a little boy on Christmas morning (or like me when I saw Iron Maiden), so I was getting a bit excited myself.  The stage setup took so long that Master of Puppets played to halfway through “Leper Messiah”, then the lights went out (15 minutes after the band was scheduled to start), AC/DC’s “Back in Black” started blasting out of the PA, played in its entirety, then fireworks went off, flames shot out the back of the stage, and the band began to underwhelm me for the next hour and twenty minutes.

Here’s the thing about A7X (as the kids call them): their stage set was amazing, they are musically talented, their setlist was crafted well, and frontman M. Shadows is a consummate showman, deftly controlling the crowd while all manner of stage trickery happened all around him (more flames, explosions, video footage projected on the stage behind them, etcetera), and the crowd ate it up, swallowed every bite, and asked – nay, begged – for seconds.  Despite all that, the whole thing seemed a bit contrived, and I was bored enough that during the last half of the set, I was predicting when flames would rise out the back of the stage with a pretty alarming accuracy.  To be fair to the band, though, it was very chilly up there on those aluminum bleachers, and I was so very, very tired, so it was hard for me to think about much except being asleep in a warm bed.

The premier Cafeteria Metal band in the United States.

The premier Cafeteria Metal band in the United States.

Anyway, I decided today that one might classify Avenged Sevenfold as “Cafeteria Metal” – i.e., the entire band persona seems to have been chosen À la carte from a menu of Hard Rock and Metal Things.  Here are some examples: they played a song that sounded very much like a Mötley Crüe power ballad; they played a song that had a main riff that was nothing more than the main riff from Metallica’s “Sad But True” played in a slightly different manner; they played a song that sounded eerily like a Use Your Illusion-era Deep-Voiced-Axl Guns ‘n’ Roses song (Dustin even leaned over to me during this one and said “I think this one sounds kind of like a Guns ‘n’ Roses song”.); they had tapestries on the stage adorned with inverted crosses, even though they’re about as Satanic as Selena Gomez (see above photo).  And their reliance on pyrotechnics struck me as a means of drowning out the fact that at their very core, they’re mostly just copying all their influences, rearranging them just enough that the casual listener won’t notice, and blasting them back at millions of people, albeit to the tune of three RIAA Certified Gold albums and one RIAA Certified Platinum album, as well as sold out concerts around the globe.

Eventually their set ended.  Dustin was thrilled with the performance (after one song, he said to me, “They haven’t played that song live in 8 years!”), we walked 1.5 miles back to the car, and I began the long, tired drive back to Indianapolis, finally returning shortly after 4:00 AM Sunday morning, approximately 21 hours after waking up for work the previous day.  All in all, it was a great day spent with a great friend.

I woke up at 7:00 AM to drive back home, and since I couldn’t stop hearing their songs anyway, I played Exodus’ 1997  live album Another Lesson in Violence, which I started as I pulled away from Dustin’s house, and which literally finished as I was pulling up in front of my house.  It was a helluva good way to cap things off.  Here are my final thoughts:

The Good: hanging out with Dustin (whom I don’t get to see very often), Exodus, Slayer, my new Exodus t-shirt, listening to Another Lesson in Violence in the car, Suicidal Tendencies

The Bad: $6.00 cans of PBR, $20 to park the car a mile-and-a-half away

The Ugly: Don Jamieson’s abhorrent stand-up comedy set

The Final Verdict: I would attend Rock on the Range again, but only if tickets were free.  Likewise, I would pay up to $15 to see Avenged Sevenfold again.

That’s all I got.  Stay heavy, friends.

Now, What’s It Worth: A Thing About a Band Called Stompbox

The following was originally published in 2011 on another blog that I don’t really use anymore.  I have made a couple of grammatical and punctuational corrections.

Bloomington, Indiana in the mid-to-late 1990s was a pretty cool place to discover new music. There were at least 6 music stores that sold used CDs and cassettes (five of the six were located within three blocks of each other), and being a college town, the variety was pretty extensive. I found albums by all kinds of bands that I’d read or heard about through interviews with other bands I liked, talking to people at shows, the occasional video on Headbanger’s Ball or 120 Minutes, etcetera – bands like ALL, Clutch, Helmet, Quicksand, Leeway, Only Living Witness, Sick of It All, Murphy’s Law, Agnostic Front…the list goes on and on.

Occasionally I’d find an album by a band I’d never heard of, and I would buy it because it was super-cheap, I liked the cover art, I thought the song titles were funny or cool, I liked another band (or bands) on the same label, or I saw bands I liked thanked in the liner notes. Sometimes all the above. One fateful summer evening in 1995, Travis and I were digging through the Discount Cassette Milk Crates at Tracks, one of two of those old music stores that survives today. The Discount Cassette Milk Crates at Tracks had been good to me before – I found Leeway’s Adult Crash (which I still love) in those crates earlier that summer, along with Brightside by Killing Time (one of the first New York Hardcore albums I ever heard – it opened a lot of musical doors for me). I was desperately pulling out tape after tape, and nothing was grabbing my attention, until finally, right near the bottom, I noticed a full-length promotional cassette from Columbia Records called Stress, by a band called Stompbox.

stompbox

The name of the band sounded heavy, and it compelled me look at the track listing on the back, where I saw titles like “The Making of Pump”, “Forever (In Blue Jeans)”, “Fool For the City”, “Workin’ For Sony”, and “Carry on My Wayward Son”. How could I not be intrigued? Here’s my 50 cents plus tax, sir, and I thank you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with my car stereo. And what a date it turned out to be! Stress became my steady for the remainder of that summer, and has remained in my life ever since.

From the opening lick of “No Woods” to the trailing feedback that ends “Carry on My Wayward Son,” Stress is an absolute masterpiece of mid-90s post-hardcore. Huge riffs; time signatures just off-kilter enough to make you pay attention (drummer Zephan Courtney is nothing short of amazing); big, burly, bellowed vocals; choruses catchier than herpes (even though I still can’t understand a lot of the words); and enough melody for 3 albums. Like Betty, Helmet’s third full-length album (also released in 1994), Stress holds its own against any album from any genre from the 1990s.

Comparisons have been made on other blogs to Helmet, Clutch, Tad, Paw, Quicksand, and (Pepper Keenan-era) Corrosion of Conformity, and those comparisons are all valid, but Stress is very much its own rabid animal. Fans of all those bands should check this out, but quite honestly, I think this is better than nearly all of that. Clutch remains an all-time favorite of mine (though I have yet to warm up to their latest, Strange Cousins From the West, but that’s a subject for another entry), and Helmet’s Meantime and Betty are both impossible to deny, but aside from that, Stompbox are where it’s at. Stress is long out of print, but you can pick it up on Amazon for less than a dollar (plus shipping), or if you don’t care about lyrics and artwork, you can download it from the bass player’s personal blog, I Am a Jackass.

Sadly, Stompbox broke up not long after the release of this album. For more info about the band, check this out. And now, the evidence:

“No Woods”

“The Making of Pump”

“Jake Song”

“Chevy S-10”

This concludes the previously published content.  Stay heavy, heavy people.

8 Essential Heavy Non-Metal Albums From the 1990s

The 1990’s are considered by many to be a step backward in the evolution of heavy metal – a blight on metal’s glorious history, if you will.  Some people still insist that grunge “killed” metal, as if MTV ditching Firehouse and Winger videos in favor of Pearl Jam and Nirvana videos could really kill such a vital form of music as heavy metal.  Nevermind the fact that a good deal of what was labeled and popularized (or semi-popularized) as “grunge” was pretty goddamn heavy in its own right (the Melvins, Tad, Mudhoney, Gruntruck, early Soundgarden, etc.).  I own a tape with part of an episode of Headbanger’s Ball from December 1990, and I can say with authority that pop metal was becoming exceptionally stupid, even by the standards set by the likes of Poison (I’m looking at you, Trixter), so if anything, “grunge” did the world a favor by getting that shit off the airwaves.

InhalerTour

What ultimately happened to heavy metal in the 1990’s is that it went back underground.  Death metal, grindcore, black metal, and industrial metal, all with roots reaching deep into the early 1980’s, came of age and flourished in the 90’s.  Sludge metal roared out of the swamps of Louisiana in the early 90’s, and some of the bigger names in thrash metal released some of their heaviest albums (Low (1994), Demonic (1997), and The Gathering (1999) by Testament are all phenomenal – and phenomenally heavy – albums).  And swimming along right above the Underground River of 1990’s Metal was the mighty Pantera.  Of course “nü metal” came along in the late mid-to-late 1990’s, and while most of it sucked beyond comprehension, it still managed to keep metal in the public eye, and even served as a gateway of sorts to a lot of 90’s kids, many of whom went on to discover good metal.

The point is that anyone who somehow thinks metal wasn’t thriving in the 1990’s is either woefully uneducated, or is just plain dumb.  But that’s not really the point of all this.  The real point is (I think), to discuss a few heavy albums that came out in the 1990’s which are not metal albums, per se (although I believe arguments could be made for at least one of them).  Let’s dig in to that discussion presently.  These are far from the only heavy non-metal albums from the 1990’s that I love and/or consider essential, but they are among my very favorite albums of the 1990’s, and a few of them are among my very favorite albums of all time.

1. Pixies – Trompe le Monde (released September 23, 1991) – This probably isn’t the Pixies’ best album (Kim Deal’s backing vocals are too noticeably absent for that), and it’s not my favorite Pixies album (that honor goes to 1990’s Bossanova – it’s just so goddamn mellow and spacey), and it doesn’t even technically sustain its heaviness throughout, but there are some bonafide heavy moments here, and the guitars absolutely shred in spots.  I have a live performance on VHS from the Trompe le Monde tour, when the band played at Brixton Academy in London on June 26, 1991, and the heaviness is in full effect.  You can watch it on the YouTube machine.

This is album opener “Trompe le Monde”.  Dig that galloping bassline, right out of the Book of ‘Arry.

2. Faith No More – Angel Dust (released June 8, 1992) – After the smashing success of 1989’s The Real Thing, Faith No More set out to make an album that sounded nothing like its precursor, and they achieved that in spades.  This marked relatively new vocalist Mike Patton’s first real songwriting efforts for the band (he joined FNM after nearly all of The Real Thing had been written) , and that made quite an impact on the overall sound of the album.  It stands today as the band’s darkest and most beautiful album.

“Midlife Crisis” – This video was in pretty heavy rotation on MTV while metal was dead.

3. Helmet – Meantime (released June 23, 1992) – I consider every Helmet album up to and including 1997’s Aftertaste to be essential, but this is the one that got me into the band, and it forms a perfect bridge between the angry, noisy, feedback-drenched monster of a debut that is Strap it On (1990) and the much more melodic (but still heavy as fuck) follow-up, 1994’s Betty.  Guitarist/vocalist Page Hamilton’s abrasive, barking vocals (and sometimes flat, slightly off-key singing), staccato riffs, odd time signatures, and one of the most talented and underrated rhythm sections in heavy music history are the staples of Helmet.  You probably know “Unsung”, unless you’ve been in a cave for the past 20 years, so here’s a different song from Meantime.

“Ironhead” – I first heard this song on the “Brave New World” radio show on Rock 92 way back when.

4. Alice in Chains – Dirt (released September 29, 1992) – This is the one album on this list that I would argue is, in fact, a metal album; the crushing riffs, the down-tuned instruments, the searing (though brief) guitar solos, and Layne Staley’s dark, angst-ridden vocals all point to “heavy metal”.  Whether or not you agree with my assessment, and whether or not you like the album, there’s no denying the darkness, the intensity, and the all-out goddamn heaviness that is Dirt.  It remains one of my All-Time Top 20 Favorite Albums.  I’ma share three songs from this heavy bastard – more specifically, the first three songs from Side 2 of the cassette that I finally wore out sometime in the mid-2000’s.

“Junkhead”

“Dirt”

“Godsmack” (Don’t blame the song for the shitty band of the same name.  It wasn’t AIC’s fault.)

5. Stompbox – Stress (June 7, 1994) – I covered this album at length back in 2011 on my other blog, which I never update, and in all likelihood, I’ll end up putting that post on this blog as soon as I finish this entry.  At any rate, Stompbox released one album and broke up, and that album fucking rules.  You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a copy for purchase, but if you don’t care about artwork, lyrics, and liner notes, the former bass player made it available for download on his blog.  Imagine if Rob Zombie stopped going “yyyyeeeeaaaaahhhh” every five seconds and started singing for Helmet, circa 1993.  But from Boston.  My favorite Stompbox song is unavailable on YouTube, so here’s my second favorite.

“No Woods”

6. Toadies – Rubberneck (August 23, 1994) – I didn’t get into the Toadies at first, mostly because my friends who were into them were also into Bush and shit like that.  In fact, it wasn’t until I saw them live (opening for One Hot Minute-era Red Hot Chili Peppers) that I began to understand how ferocious they were (and are, again).

“Tyler” – The whole song is creepy, but the big release beginning at 2:25 is so exquisitely creepy and beautiful.

7. Quicksand – Manic Compression (February 28, 1995) – Quicksand was a post-hardcore band formed by former Youth of Today bassist/Gorilla Biscuits guitarist Walter Schreifels.  I generally don’t care for the “post-hardcore” label, but in the case of Quicksand, it fits – all the original members actually came from late-80’s hardcore bands.  Their first album, 1993’s Slip, is both technically heavier and more highly regarded by fans and critics than Manic Compression, but I like Manic Compression a little bit more, probably because I heard it first.  The riffs are big, and the bass work and drumming are rock solid.  If you’re familiar with the movie Empire Records, you may recognize the song “Thorn in My Side”, which plays briefly while Gina (Renée Zellweger) dances on the couch in her Music Town apron and black panties.  The song did not make it on the official soundtrack of the film, but a Better Than Ezra song did.  Go figure.

“Divorce”

8. Hum – Downward is Heavenward (January 27, 1998) – Hailing from Champaign, Illinois, Hum was poised to be the next big thing.  They had a moderately big hit called “Stars” that you’ve probably heard, either on mid-to-late-90’s alternative radio, or on a Cadillac commercial from 2008 (possibly both).  Downward is Heavenward is the band’s last album, and the riffs on this sumbitch are so big, you need a dumptruck to carry them.  The lyrics are a sort of heavy, too, being all abstract and poetic and shit.  I have listened to this album once a month, on average, since the day it was released.  All their albums are good, but if you like big riffs, squalling feedback, and plenty of jingle-jangle, Downward is Heavenward is absolutely essential.  It’s a perfect album for a rainy day, a sunny day, a snowy day, or any kind of night.  It’s pretty much a perfect album.

“Comin’ Home”

That’s all I got for today.  Thanks for reading, and keep on stayin’ heavy.