My Personal Top Ten Favorite Metal Albums (As of Today)

I was tasked with listing my ten favorite metal albums.  Shit like this is hard for me, and I lend it far too much importance, as evidenced by the fact that I turned a simple, friendly facebook tagging thing into an entire blog post.  Here it is then…

Note: this list does not include Iron Maiden or Testament, as either band would quickly take over the list.  The albums are subject to change without notice, and the list is presented here in no particular order:

1. Voivod – Dimension Hatröss (1988) – Headfucked spacey French-Canadian thrash metal that tells a story about a nuclear vampire who creates a portal into a new dimension and visits there in an attempt to extract the knowledge and wisdom of its residents.  Dissonance abounds.  Recommended track: “Experiment”.

2. Metallica – Ride the Lightning (1984) – Best Hetfield vocals ever, plus “The Call of Ktulu”.  Recommended track: “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.

3.  Anthrax – State of Euphoria (1988) – My first Anthrax album, and it left a huge impression on 11-year-old me.  I know it’s not their best (that honor obviously goes to Persistence of Time), but it’s my favorite.  Recommended track: “Be All, End All”.

4. Brutal Truth – Need to Control (1994) – This shit is heavy…weird and heavy.  There’s a didgeridoo on this bastard, for fuck sake!  Recommended track: “Godplayer”.

5. Slayer – Reign in Blood (1986) – Not a wasted second on this motherfucker. Recommended track: “Raining Blood”.

6. Nile – Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka (1998) – South Carolinian self-taught Egyptologist Lovecraft fans show late 90’s death metal a new path.  It’s tight as fuck.  Recommended track: “Opening of the Mouth”.

7. Carcass – Reek of Putrefaction (1988) – I might be the only person on earth who likes the first Carcass album the best, but it’s honestly the only one I ever listen to all the way through.  I’m fascinated by its foulness, repugnance, and lack of budget.  Recommended track: “Suppuration”.

8. Pantera – Far Beyond Driven (1994)My gateway drug into extreme metal.  Recommended track: “Strength Beyond Strength”.

9. Vio-Lence – Eternal Nightmare (1988) – These Bay Area Thrash Metal lunatics came along in the Second Wave of Thrash Metal and not-so-gently reminded everyone that thrash bands could still play fast.  The vocals are a deal-breaker for some people, but I fuckin love them!  Sean Killian sounds like a complete lunatic, gibbering and jabbering away like a rabid animal, only seconds away from becoming totally unhinged.  Recommended track: “Serial Killer”.

10. King Diamond – Abigail (1987) – I had some difficulty choosing between this and Mercyful Fate’s first full-length, Melissa.  Ultimately, the Abigail storyline gave it the edge, as I tend to thoroughly enjoy cohesive and well-executed concept albums, but it was awfully hard to deny “Satan’s Fall” and “Curse of the Pharaohs”.  I wish someone would make Abigail into a movie, and not totally fuck it up in the process.  Recommended track: “Abigail”.

What are your favorites?  Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Until next time, stay heavy.

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A Sort of Review of Coffinworm’s IV.I.VIII

Coffinworm – IV.I.II

Produced, recorded, and mixed by Sanford Parker.

Mastered by Collin Jordan.

Release Date: March 18, 2014, Profound Lore Records

Genre-defying noisy metallic Indianapolis, Indiana juggernaut Coffinworm have made what will surely be a contender for Heavy Album of the Year (I can’t even imagine a scenario where it wouldn’t finish in the top three).  I’ve been aware of Coffinworm for a couple of years now, but I never bothered to check them out until recently, which I now realize was a stupid, stupid thing to do.  The fact that frontman Dave Britts is a former member of genre-defying noisy metallic Bloomington, Indiana-by-way-of-Indianapolis, Indiana juggernaut Racebannon should have been enough to make me listen, but I am sometimes dumb about checking out new bands.  What’s important is that I picked up a copy of their latest album a few days ago, and holy motherfucking shit, friends, that sumbitch is good.

IV.I.VIII combines the dense, multi-layered, off-kilter riffs of label mates Portal with the bombast and aggression of Today is the Day and drags them through the swamp where members of Eyehategod are hanging around getting high, then forces it through a doomy Midwestern sieve.  This album sounds like being pursued through the woods on a foggy half-moon night just after a thunderstorm rolled through and brought a massive cold front.  Or maybe that’s just me.  There are times when the album feels downright oppressive and starts to become almost suffocating, but in a good way (which doesn’t seem to make sense, but it really does, when you hear it).

The soundtrack to mankind’s undoing is IV.I.VIII.  All hope is lost.  Let the chaos take you away.

Here’s a sample:

“Instant Death Syndrome” from IV.I.VIII

In conclusion, if you enjoy blistering noise jammed into in your festering riffs and bloodcurdling screams, and you enjoy being terrified by the sounds coming out of your speakers, you should not hesitate to purchase IV.I.VIII, preferably from your local music shop, and listen to it as loud as possible.

"I heartily endorse this event or product."

“I heartily endorse this event or product.”

If you follow my advice and pick up this album, it will not be at all difficult for you to stay heavy.

http://profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com/album/iv-i-viii

___________________________________________________________

Epilogue: Songs from the bands I referenced above, in case you haven’t heard them.

“Curtain” by Portal, from Vexovoid (2013) – This video is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.  I could watch it all day.

“Death Curse” by Today is the Day, from Pain is a Warning (2011) – Motherfucking bombast!

“My Name Is God (I Hate You)” by Eyehategod, from Dopesick (1996) – This song wants to hurt you.

Still Slingin That Game On the Rock Track: A Thing About the Judgement Night Soundtrack

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.

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.

The Ten Best Thrash Metal Ballads of All Time

In the Olden Days, thrash metal bands sometimes made slow jams, because, to quote the late, great Cliff Burton, “We do what we wanna do, and if they consider that selling out then, whatever…maybe you don’t play a thousand miles an hour the whole time, y’know?”  I’m gonna let the songs speak for themselves as much as possible.  Note: I don’t necessarily believe these are the Ten Best Thrash Metal Ballads of All Time; they are simply ten comparatively mellow songs that I really like, performed by otherwise super-fast, super-heavy thrash metal bands.  Likewise, they are listed in no particular order.  I used that title and numbered them from 10 to 1 just to see if it pisses anyone off, and to see how many people actually read the introduction.

Without further ado…

10. “Return to Serenity” by Testament (from The Ritual – 1992)

This was Testament’s last album with guitar maestro Alex Skolnick until 2008’s The Formation of Damnation, and it saw the band slowing things down a bit.  It sounds a little slicker than anything else the band had done up to this point, and in no way hinted at the savage beast that was 1994’s follow-up, Low, which boasts a damn fine ballad of its own called “Trail of Tears“.

9. “Fade to Black” by Metallica (from Ride the Lightning – 1984)

I can’t think of anything to add.  There’s very little chance you don’t know this one.  I still miss Metallica.  This live version is from the Cliff ‘Em All home video, and it fuckin rules.

8. “A Room With a View” by Death Angel (from Act III – 1990)

I watched my video-taped copy of this video from Headbanger’s Ball so many times, it’s pretty much unwatchable these days.  The lyrics are about a wise old man (blind, I believe), and the song is beautiful.  Lead vocals are sung by guitar player Rob Cavestany, with backing vocals by lead vocalist Mark Osgueda.  Also recommended from Act III: “Veil of Deception“.

7. “In My Darkest Hour” by Megadeth (from So Far, So Good…So What! – 1988)

Lyrically, this is a Break-Up Song, but the dark emotion in the song was inspired by the death of Cliff Burton.  Dave Mustaine’s songwriting output has contained some real turds, but when the man got it right, he got it fuckin-a right.

6. “Wading Through the Darkness” by Flotsam and Jetsam (from Cuatro – 1992)

This album is underrated as fuck (just like so many other metal albums from the early-to-mid 90’s).  Just before this video premiered on Headbanger’s Ball, Riki Rachtman told me that if I turned the brightness up all the way on my television, I would be able to see another video happening in the background.  I was at my cousin’s house, and I couldn’t figure out how to adjust the settings on his TV, so I never tried that, but it sure looks like another video is lingering in the background on this sumbitch.

5. “Spill the Blood” by Slayer (from South of Heaven – 1988)

This song is spooky as shit.  It’s the last song on Slayer’s last essential album.  Rest in piece, Jeff Hanneman.

4. “Alone” by Suicidal Tendencies (from Lights, Camera…Revolution – 1990)

While ST will always be best known for their crossover classic “Institutionalized”, their late-80’s-to-early-90’s output contained some (comparatively) mellow, soul-searching, beautifully touching songs.  I chose this one because Lights, Camera…Revolution is the first ST album I ever owned/heard in its entirety (it’s also my favorite).  See also: “Nobody Hears” from 1992’s The Art of Rebellion, and “How Will I Laugh Tomorrow” from 1988’s How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today.

3. “I Never Said Goodbye” by Sacred Reich (from Independent – 1993)

This Sacred Reich ballad, from their near-breakthrough major label debut, deals lyrically with the loss of a family member (seemingly a parent).  They had a minor hit on this album in “Crawling”, which I used to sometimes hear on Indianapolis, Indiana’s “alternative” radio station, X103, along with “Nobody Hears” by Suicidal Tendencies (mentioned above), “Thorn in My Side” by post-hardcore juggernaut Quicksand, and bullshit like “Glycerine”, by Bush.  The early-to-mid-90’s were a weird time for music.

2. “Freedoom” by Voivod (from Angel Rat – 1991)

French-Canadian metal gods Voivod had already evolved past the point of being a thrash band on 1990’s Nothingface, but any band that has an output like their first three albums will always be considered a thrash band to me.  This song is fucking amazing, and as mentioned elsewhere in this blog, it contains some of my favorite Voivod lyrics, and one time, while tripping on psilocybin mushrooms, I used it to control the weather.  It was pretty badass.

1. “Bare” by Anthrax (from Stomp 442 – 1995)

I think it’s safe to say that most Anthrax fans can be neatly divided into two groups: Joey Belladonna Fans and John Bush Fans.  I, for one, love all eras of Anthrax equally, including the Neil Turbin-era (although I am glad Dan Nelson is a thing of the past).  For as much shit as Bushthrax often gets, Stomp 442 and its follow-up, 1998’s Volume 8: The Threat is Real! both get shit on more than a statue in Central Park (Stomp 442 has an overall ranking of 57% on Encyclopaedia Metallum, while Volume 8 boasts a whopping 58%!).  They sound different, no doubt (even when compared to the two Bush-fronted albums that bookend them), the riffing is simpler and slower, and I don’t listen to them beginning-to-end as often as most other Anthrax albums, but they contain some great songs, and I still love them both.  “Bare” is the final song on the original edition of Stomp 442, and it is a heartfelt motherfucker.  More will be written about both of these albums in the near-ish future.

That’s all for today, heavy people.  What are some of your favorite thrash metal ballads?  Discuss it in the comments, why don’t you?  And while you’re calling me names discussing, be sure and stay heavy.

Thanks for reading!

…But At the Same Time, I’m At a Loss For Words…

In May 2001, at the age of 24, I moved back in with my parents, into my childhood bedroom, semi-defeated and wholly without direction in my life.  I was still a Metalhead, as I had been for nigh on fifteen years at that point, but my musical tastes had grown, as well.  I’d gotten into punk rock a few years prior, and at the time, I was working in a music store, and I may or may not have been smoking a lot of reefer, both which opened up all kinds of new musical doors for me – The Beatles, Talking Heads, The Smiths, Elvis Costello, Depeche Mode, Otis Redding, De La Soul, Kris Kristofferson, and on and on and on.  My point is that I was not listening to metal quite as often as I had been in the mid-90’s.  The stratospheric rise of nü-metal in the late 90’s also played a role, but that’s a topic for another post.  I’m here today to talk about some weird synchronicity.

On September 10, 2001, at 12:25 AM, I wrote the following in my journal:

“In a metal mood.  It came out of nowhere. Testament and Nuclear Assault are sounding especially good tonight, as is Death Angel…”

Nothing unusual about that as it stands.  However, the next night (possibly later that same night), still in a metal mood, I was listening to Anthrax’s severely underrated 1998 album Volume 8: The Threat is Real! at a relatively high volume through my headphones.  On the song “Big Fat”, there’s a line where John Bush says:

You asked me can I deliver?

Like a monster crossing the Hudson River

Stomping!

And when I heard that line, sitting in my dark room with my eyes closed, possibly high on the pot, I had this scene playing out in my head of a faceless, formless monster crossing the river from New Jersey, just crashing through, crushing, and devastating New York City (having never been to the city, the New York City of my imagination has always just been stock footage of Manhattan, like what you always see in movies and television shows).  It was admittedly kind of fucked up, but it was also fairly cinematic and unrealistic, as I have never witnessed real-life Hollywood-blockbuster-type carnage, either.

The next morning, a little after 10:00 AM, I awoke to the phone ringing.  My mom was calling to tell me that the country was under attack, and I turned on the TV, and everyone reading this knows what I saw.  It wasn’t until a couple of days later that I remembered my strange vision of sorts.

But there’s more weird synchronicity to the story!

Fast forward to 2005.  I’m living in Austin, Texas with a drunken whore my then-wife, and I see an ad in The Austin Chronicle (Austin’s oh-so-full-of-itself weekly alternative newspaper) for an upcoming show. Friday, September 10, at The Back Room: Testament and Nuclear Assault!  Is that not some shit?

Postscript: I ended up not going to that show, as Testament dropped off the tour for some reason (this was before the internet was so widely available (at least to me), but I do know that this was less than 2 years after Chuck Billy had whipped cancer’s ass – possibly unrelated, I have no idea), and I was much less interested in just seeing Nuclear Assault, which in hindsight was an incredibly stupid decision.  With a few exceptions, I did not make the best decisions of my life while I was living in Austin.

At any rate, the events that took place 13 years ago today were undeniably fucked, and it’s clear that things will always be different than they were on September 10, 2001.  I don’t have anything to add to this that hasn’t already been said, and probably in a more eloquent manner.

Here’s another excerpt from my journal…

“09.12.01  12:15 am

It’s now been 14 hours since I started watching news coverage, and still can’t get used to the images…I hope I can sleep well tonight…I hope there’s something to wake up to…”

I’m glad there was something to wake up to, and I’m glad that I still have music to help ease me through scary times, sad times, rough times, and total bullshit times.  I’m also glad it’s there for the good times.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for reading.  Stay heavy, y’all.