In September 1993, something happened that signaled a sea change in heavy music. The event was not without precedent. Run-DMC had already covered Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” in 1986 to great acclaim, and Slayer’s Kerry King played guitar on the Beastie Boys classic “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” that same year. Anthrax and Public Enemy scored a bonafide crossover hit in 1991 with the remake of PE’s “Bring the Noise”, and Rage Against the Machine formed that same year, going on to release their excellent self-titled debut a year later, which was, coincidentally, the same year that Body Count’s amazing self-titled debut hit. (Fun fact: Body Count might hold the record for Most Songs Named After the Band – I know of at least four.)
All of this seemed relatively harmless at the time, but nothing could prepare the world for what would happen one short year later, when the Judgement Night soundtrack dropped like a bomb and ushered in a whole new era of mostly terrible rap-rock collaborations and piecemeal soundtracks that had nothing to do with the film, eventually leading to what was arguably the nadir of heavy music: the soundtrack for Resident Evil and a band called Crazy Town. If you don’t believe me, look them up. On its own, though, Judgement Night was (and still is) a pretty fuckin tight album.
Holy diver, I’m a survivor, feelin like De Niro in Taxi Driver.
There’s no doubt that the album found its way into my hands at the most perfect possible time in my life: I was 16 years old, newly licensed to drive, and full of testosterone and adolescent angst/rage, and that combination of big fat riffs and aggro rapping/hollering spoke to me in a way that nothing ever had before. I was still in love with my thrash metal and my Iron Maiden, but by this point the thrash bands I knew had stopped being quite so thrashy, and Iron Maiden was becoming an entirely different beast (which took me several years to appreciate properly, and which will be discussed here another time). Earlier that same year, a friend gave me a copy of Ice Cube’s The Predator, which I immediately fell in love with, because I have ears. In addition, I had started listening to Pantera and the aforementioned Rage Against the Machine, so I was primed for the slower, thicker riffs that provided the background for much of Judgement Night.
Not every song is great (“Real Thing” by Cypress Hill and Pearl Jam and “Me, Myself, and My Microphone” by Living Colour and Run-DMC are both lackluster), and some aren’t even good (“Come and Die” by Fatal and Therapy? is pretty terrible – Therapy? has popped up on several soundtracks and compilations I’ve owned over the years, and I’ve never liked anything they’ve done), but when the songs work, they work overtime.
My personal favorites back in the day, in order, were “Just Another Victim” by Helmet and House of Pain, “Disorder” by Slayer and Ice T, “Judgement Night” by Biohazard and Onyx, “Another Body Murdered” by Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., and “Freak Momma” by Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot. The rest (aside from “Come and Die”) were okay, but I wasn’t quite ready for the slower tracks at the time, being the rage-and-boner-fueled adolescent male that I was. Over the years, I’ve grown to love “Missing Link” by Dinosaur Jr and Del tha Funkee Homosapien and “Fallin'” by Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul (the latter has ousted “Judgement Night” and moved into my official Top Three Favorite Songs from the Judgement Night Soundtrack list).
Enough talk, though. Here’s the evidence:
Helmet and House of Pain – “Just Another Victim” – I love the way the Page Hamilton verses move into the Everlast verses, and as always, those Helmet riffs are a thing of beauty. This song still gets me pumped, and it’s super fun to sing along with in the car.
Slayer and Ice T – “Disorder” – This is actually a medley of three songs, all originally written by Scottish hardcore punks The Exploited (“War”, “UK ’82”, and “Disorder”). They turn the middle bit into “LA ’92” in reference to the 1992 LA Riots. This song is still totally relevant, and it is fuckin rad! Punks not dead, indeed.
Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul – “Fallin'” – This song is not the least bit heavy, but it is sweeter than candy dipped in honey and rolled in sugar, given to you by your sweet old grandma.
Biohazard and Onyx – “Judgement Night” – I am not proud to admit that I was really into Biohazard for a couple of years, but, y’know…teenage angst and shit. However, I would happily listen to the first Onyx album just about any old time. But that’s neither here nor there. I love this line: “And if it takes the death of me to make history, the whole world will remember my misery.”
Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. – “Another Body Murdered” – I know next to nothing about Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., and I don’t really feel like looking them up, but I’ve loved Faith No More since the very first time I heard “Epic”, and I’m incredibly stoked for the new album they are supposed to be working on. An official video exists for this song, but it’s edited for profanity, so I did not include it here, because fuck that.
Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot – “Freak Momma” – True story: in 2002, I visited Seattle for the first time. The trip happened to take place a few days after the death of Layne Staley, and while I was there, my friends and I decided spontaneously to go see Mudhoney live at Sky Church in the EMP Museum. The show was awesome, and afterward, we walked outside to find a mass memorial service for Staley taking place in Seattle Center. It was pretty surreal. Anway, this song is fun, dirty, cool, and fuzzy, just like Mudhoney, and Sir Mix-A-Lot is pretty entertaining, like he can be. I particularly like it when he says, near the end, “Just lost my street credibility, y’all!”
Dinosaur Jr and Del tha Funkee Homosapien – “Missing Link” – This one also isn’t really heavy, even when compared to “Freak Momma”, but there is (as always) a fuckload of distortion on J. Mascis’ guitar, so that’s some heaviness. Del’s rhymes are in top form here. If you’re not listening to him, you should be, and “that’s the truth, the motherfuckin’ truth, I’ll bust you in the tooth, ask Dr. Ruth, bitch…”
Oh, as for the movie, it gets largely ignored/dismissed/shat upon, but I thought it was a pretty decent action flick. Certainly not as bad as most of the internet would have you believe.
That’s all I got for today. Thanks for reading. What do you think of the Judgement Night soundtrack? Have you seen the movie? If so, what did you think of it? What do you consider to be the nadir of heavy music? How the fuck did anyone fall for Crazy Town?
Seriously…fucking Crazy Town.
Anyway, stay heavy, y’all.