Stay Heavy Time Capsule, Volume 1 – 1988: Thrash Metal’s Finest Hour?

I’m a member of a Facebook group that shares media that we’re interested in with one another – music, movies, TV, comic books, novels, and so forth. The group admins throw out a weekly theme that members can follow if they’d like, and last week’s was election-year releases – things released during a US presidential election year. My mind immediately turned to 1988, which is easily one of the greatest years in the storied history of thrash metal, and then a variety of issues arose (work, the sheer volume of 1988 metal (let alone thrash metal), and that goddamn depressing/infuriating election itself) which kept me from sharing any of my picks with the group.

This is me in 1988. My 6th grade yearbook theme was "Building the Leaders of Tomorrow", and everyone was supposed to say what they wanted to be when they grew up. I chose "bass guitarist", and I'm pretty sure I came closer to realizing my dream than anyone else in my class, only because I once owned a bass guitar.

This is me in 1988. My 6th grade yearbook theme was “Building the Leaders of Tomorrow”, and everyone was supposed to say what they wanted to be when they grew up. I chose “bass guitarist”, and I’m pretty sure I came closer to realizing my dream than anyone else in my class, only because I once owned a bass guitar.

I’ve actually been kicking around the idea of writing up a 1988-themed post for this blog for a while now, but I’ve just never made it happen up till now. My lack of participation in the Facebook group theme provided the necessary catalyst to finally sit  down and give it a go. I can’t promise this’ll be coherent and organized, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be long, and it’ll damn sure be opinionated. Please note: I am in no way attempting to put together a complete list of thrash metal albums released in 1988; I am simply sharing some of my favorites, with a little commentary here and there for good measure. I’m just gonna put ’em in here alphabetically, because I don’t have all day.

Anthrax – State of Euphoria (released September 19, 1988 on Island Records)

Anthrax was my first favorite band, and State of Euphoria, which I received for Christmas ’88, was the first album they released after I fell in love with them. That has no doubt played some role in SoE being my favorite Anthrax album (I actually think the follow-up, Persistence of Time, is a better album, but I don’t like it quite as much). Whatever the reason(s), it is an undeniably badass album.

Album opener “Be All, End All” is one of my most favorite songs ever.

Side two opener “Now It’s Dark” was inspired by Frank Booth, Dennis Hopper’s terrifying character from David Lynch’s amazing Blue Velvet, and some of the lyrics are taken from Frank’s dialogue. As such, many a fuck is given in this song, in a manner of speaking.

Album closer “Finale” (pronounced “finally” in the song), contains a chugging riff that cannot be denied, along with an unfortunate use of the word “faggot”, which is its only downside.

Death Angel – Frolic Through the Park (released July 1988 on Restless/Enigma)

Frolic Through the Park is not my favorite Death Angel album (that honor goes to 1991’s Act III), but it has some seriously rad songs, and it was a pretty bold step forward from the The Ultra-Violence, their vicious debut from one year earlier. Elements of funk began to appear, and song structures accordingly became more fluid. The band made a video for “Bored”, and it was apparently a pretty big hit on MTV, but my no-cable-havin ass had no way to know about that at the time.

Album opener “3rd Floor” kicks ludicrous amounts of ass. Gang vocals rule my fucking world, and this song delivers like Jimmy John’s.

Here’s the aforementioned “Bored”. If you had MTV in 1988, you’ve probably heard it at least once before. It can also be heard briefly in the criminally underrated 1990 film Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.

D.R.I. – 4 of a Kind (released on Metal Blade Records, actual release date unknown)

4 of a Kind is not widely regarded as hardcore-turned-crossover-turned-thrash band D.R.I.’s finest album, but it’s my favorite (and like the Anthrax release above, was the first I heard from the band). Spike Cassidy’s guitar is all over this beast, and several of my favorite D.R.I. songs appear throughout.

“Manifest Destiny” relates the story of early European settlers robbing the “New World” from Native Americans.

“Forever moving onward
Said they were guided from above
Actually driven by hate
Disguised as love
But all their false love
Can’t disguise true hate
And the racist diplomacy
Of the church and the State”

“What are you deaf? Shut up!”

I first became aware of “Slumlord” via a full-page ad for the album in (I believe) RIP magazine. It was a comic visualizing the short yet harrowing story of a villainous slumlord who burns down his building, killing 40 innocent residents, just to collect the insurance money. I wish I still had that comic, but such is life, right? “Slumlord” flows directly into “Dead in a Ditch” on the album, and while it’s not a favorite of mine, it’s still a great song, and they work really well together, so I’ve included both here.

Album closer “Man Unkind” is a goddamn masterpiece.

“Man without an answer
Like a bird with broken wing
Wrapped up in his misery
Forgetting how to sing…”

Megadeth – So Far, So Good…So What! (released January 19, 1988 on Capitol Records)

Not Megadeth’s best, and not my favorite, but it does contain “Into the Lungs of Hell/Set the World Afire”, “Mary Jane”, and “In My Darkest Hour”, and the rest of the songs aren’t bad at all. Dave Mustaine has openly discussed the heavy drug and alcohol use that nearly destroyed the band during this time period.

“Into the Lungs of Hell” and “Set the World Afire” have been featured in these hallowed pages before. I like them both very much.

“Mary Jane” is super cool atmospheric little ditty about a witch.

“In My Darkest Hour” has also been featured here before. Dave Mustaine wrote it after learning of Cliff Burton’s death in September 1986. Overall, I’m pretty indifferent about Megadeth these days, but I have to say that hearing this live on two separate occasions has been pretty dope.

Metallica – …And Justice for All (released August 25, 1988 on Elektra Records)

There’s not much I can really say about this album that hasn’t already been said, either by myself or by others, but I can add that my cousin Jason was utterly stoked to pick this up on release day (his alliances ran more toward Metallica than Anthrax). We listened to it a lot, and I still listen to it on a pretty regular basis. I love the songs, but I sincerely hate the production, and Lars still deserves a beating for that.

Nuclear Assault – Survive (released June 13, 1988 on I.R.S. Records)

Nuclear Assault was my motherfucking jam when I was in junior high and high school. When I become Earth President, Dan Lilker will head up my Department of Metal. I prefer their 1989 follow-up, Handle With Care, but there’s nothing wrong with Survive.

“Rise from the Ashes”, like a good deal of 1980’s thrash metal, seems oddly relevant today.

Jesus, so does “Brainwashed”…

Okay, pretty much all of it…

Overkill – Under the Influence (released July 5, 1988 on Atlantic Records)

New Jersey’s Overkill are woefully underrated and underappreciated. I’m still working on a thing about them, so I don’t wanna say much here. I will say that I prefer the albums that bookend this one, 1987’s Taking Over and 1989’s The Years of Decay, but like Nuclear Assault’s 1988 release, you’d be hard pressed to find a real flaw on this one.

Rigor Mortis – Rigor Mortis (released July 19, 1988 on Capitol Records)

Hailing from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, Rigor Mortis played gore-soaked, horror-fueled thrash metal, and on their self-titled debut album, they played it to within an inch of its life. After this album, vocalist Bruce Corbitt left the band, and they released an EP and a second full-length album, neither of which I’ve bothered to listen to, because Bruce Corbitt isn’t on them. Guitarist Mike Scaccia (who also played with Ministry) died in 2012 after suffering a heart attack onstage during a Rigor Mortis show. Before Scaccia’s death, Corbitt rejoined the band, and they recorded and released one final album, 2014’s Slaves to the Grave, which is also amazing.

“Wizard of Gore” is inspired by the 1970 film The Wizard of Gore, directed by the absurdly prolific Herschell Gordon Lewis, who made 35 films between 1961 and 1972. (Impetigo, the legendary grindcore/death metal group from the “heart of Illinois”, also have a song called “Wizard of Gore”, inspired by the same movie. It has nothing to do with 1988, but it’s a fucking rad song (and band), and you should look into it. I’m planning a thing about Impetigo, but it’s somewhere on the list of 60 million things I’m planning, so don’t hold your breath, although it is near the top of the list, so maybe do.)

“Re-Animator” is inspired by Stuart Gordon’s absolutely goddamn fantastic 1985 movie of the same name, which is itself loosely based on weird old H.P. Lovecraft’s episodic novella, Herbert West – Reanimator.

Slayer – South of Heaven (released July 5, 1988 on Def Jam Recordings)

If you’re keeping track at home, this entry means that all four of the so-called “Big 4 of Thrash Metal” released and album in 1988. That alone makes it a notable year, but as you’ve seen already and will continue to see, there really are so many more. I’ve written about South of Heaven plenty, and Slayer plenty more, so I shan’t delve too deeply here, but I would like to reiterate that I believe South of Heaven to be Slayer’s last essential album.

The title track (and album opener) proved confusing for some Slayer fans, many of whom assumed the band would continue along the path forged by 1986’s classic Reign in Blood. “South of Heaven” laid any hope of that to rest immediately, and the rest of the album proved a stellar, mostly mid-tempo confirmation of that.

Album closer “Spill the Blood” is creepy as a motherfucker, and is one of my favorite Slayer songs.

Suicidal Tendencies – How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today (released September 13, 1988 on Epic Records)

Like D.R.I., Suicidal Tendencies began life in the early 80’s as a straight-up hardcore punk band, then began to infuse elements of thrash metal, eventually becoming a metal band with hardcore elements. How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today is the first full-on metal album from this Venice, California juggernaut, featuring the addition of a second guitarist (Mike Clark) to handle rhythm duties, which allowed original guitarist Rocky George the freedom to play more solos. Suicidal Tendencies at their peak were unfuckwithable.

Testament – The New Order (released May 5, 1988 on Atlantic Records)

I’ve written about Testament more than I’ve written about probably any other band (except for maybe Voivod), so I don’t currently have anything to add here, but I could not in good conscience exclude them from this list, because I still listen to The New Order once a week on average.

“Disciples of the Watch” is inspired by Stephen King’s Children of the Corn, and is possibly my favorite Testament song.

This badass cover of Aerosmith’s “Nobody’s Fault” (from 1976’s Rocks) is the primary reason I started listening to Aerosmith.

Vio-Lence – Eternal Nightmare (released on Mechanic Records, exact date unknown)

At a time when many thrash bands were starting to slow things down (notably Metallica and Slayer), Bay Area Thrash upstarts Vio-Lence showed up to the thrash party to remind everyone that speed still kills, and that riffs are still king. Sean Killian’s vocals are a deal breaker for a lot of people, but I’ve always had a soft spot for unconventional vocalists, and I really think they fit the unhinged musical and lyrical themes perfectly. Guitarist Robb Flynn went on to form Machine Head, and other guitarist Phil Demmel joined him a few years afterward.

This album is a goddamn gem, and honestly, I can’t decide which songs to feature, so I’m putting the whole album here. It’s only 35 minutes long, just listen to it already!

Voivod – Dimension Hatröss (released June 29, 1988 on Noise Records)

I’ve written a shitload about Voivod, but like Testament, I couldn’t not feature some songs from this album. It’s 28 years old and still ahead of its time. If you you’d like to learn more about Voivod, check out my multi-part primer: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4, and if you’d like to know more about Dimension Hatröss in particular, give this a look.

With the meat of my 1988 showcase out of the way, I’d like to list a bunch of honorable mentions, most of which were cut due to time constraints…

Blind Illusion – The Sane Asylum (released on Combat Records, exact date unknown)

Progressive thrash metal featuring Les Claypool and Larry “Ler” LaLonde on bass and guitars, respectively. They went on to form a little group called Primus.

Coroner – Punishment for Decadence (released August 1, 1988 on Noise Records)

Technical thrash wizardry from Switzerland. Definitely worth your time.

Forbidden – Forbidden Evil (released September 30, 1988 on Combat Records)

Bay Area Thrash featuring Paul Bostaph, who went on to play with pretty much every band on the planet, on drums. Robb Flynn played guitar in this band before he was in Vio-Lence.

Razor – Violent Restitution (released on R/C Records, exact date unknown)

Lightning fast, razor sharp Canadian thrash metal with lunatic vocals. Highly recommended.

Tankard – The Morning After (released September 1988 on Noise Records)

Tankard hail from Germany, and since 1983, they’ve played songs about drinking beer, partying, and zombies. So basically, they’re Municipal Waste without the Nuclear Assault influence. (I mean no offense to Municipal Waste. They do good work.)

That’s all the time I’ve got for today. I do realize I’ve missed several notable metal releases from 1988, some thrash, some not thrash (Iron Maiden‘s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and King Diamond‘s Them come to mind immediately), but what are some of your favorites from 1988? Discuss in the comments, why don’t you? You can also look me up and continue the discussion on Facebook, Instagram (stayheavyblog), and Twitter (@stayheavyalways).

Thanks for reading, and remember, wherever you go, whatever you do, always stay heavy.

 

 

I Can’t Change, I Can Only Be Me: A Thing About Sacred Reich and Squandered Opportunities

This weekend marks the second annual Full Terror Assault open air metal festival in Cave-In-Rock, Illinois, and I was supposed to be there, and I’m not, and I’m sad about that. FTA is the first (and so far, only) “European-style” open air metal festival (à la Wacken, Dynamo, Hellfest, etc.) to take place in the United States. Beginning Thursday night and running through tonight, the festival promises “maximum brutality at maximum frugality” – tickets are dirt cheap for a festival, and they include camping. Plus, it’s BYOB, so you don’t have to give some asshole $10+ for shitty beer. Also, the lineup is amazing.

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See?

I’d planned all year on being there, but due to a series of stupid decisions and piss-poor planning on my part, I can’t afford it. To be honest, last year’s fest boasted a more solid overall lineup, with Napalm Death and Obituary headlining, along with Terrorizer, Eyehategod, Warbeast, Noisem, Broken Hope, Iron Reagan, and a ton of others. This year has Lockup, Master, Rotten Sound, and a different ton of others (they had Venomous Concept, until a visa issue kept guitarist John Cooke from entering the country), but the most exciting part for this old thrash fanatic is the mighty Sacred Reich performing a rare US show.

Since semi-coming out of retirement in 2006, Sacred Reich almost exclusively play the European festival circuit every summer and then stop performing live until the next summer, when they travel back to Europe. I can’t really blame them; it’s no secret that metal fans in Europe are more passionate in general than predominantly lazy-ass American metal fans, so why not go where you’ll be more appreciated? Still, though, they’re one of the old school bands that I’ve never had the chance to see live, and this was gonna be my chance, and instead, I’m sitting home listening to them and writing this dumb thing.

Sacred Reich was formed in 1985 in Phoenix, Arizona. They recorded a demo tape called Draining You of Life in 1986, then scored a deal with Metal Blade records after contributing the song “Ignorance” to that label’s Metal Massacre VIII compilation. They went on to release four full-length albums, one studio EP, a live EP, and a live full-length before breaking up in 2000.  1993’s Independent  very nearly brought the band some fame. The title track was featured in the 1993 movies Son-in-Law and The Program, and they scored a minor hit with the single “Crawling” (which I used to hear alongside White Zombie’s “Thunderkiss ’65”, Faith No More’s “Midlife Crisis”, Suicidal Tendencies’ “Nobody Hears”, and a whoooooooole lotta “grunge” on “Solid Rock X-103”, which later became “X-103, Indy’s New Rock Alternative”, and which is now “Alt 103.3”, which is just stupid, but I digress).

With the exception of a few songs, the band’s output was fiercely politically and socially conscious, covering topics such as US involvement in Central America, Aparthied in South Africa, the destruction of the environment, domestic racism, flaws in the US education system, etc. They played a major role in helping my young brain develop the worldview I hold as an adult, and I still very much hope to see them live some day.

The band reformed in 2006 after receiving offers to play European festivals, and they began performing live again in 2007. They have no plans to record new music, which I must say is a decision that I respect and admire. They are under no illusions regarding what their fans want, and that is to hear some classic goddamn thrash metal played at high volumes in front of thousands of like-minded maniacs, which is what they will be doing tonight at approximately 11:15 PM CDT. I will not be there in person, but I will be there in spirit, and the following songs will be in my forever-banging head.

“Death Squad” is the first song on the 1987 debut/masterpiece Ignorance. It’s a helluva way to kick off an album, and this live version is a helluva way to kick a ton of ass.

Here’s the title track…

“Violent Solutions” is my favorite song off Ignorance, and is maybe my favorite Sacred Reich song overall.

1988’s Surf Nicaragua EP is short and sweet, and by “sweet” I mean vicious. Here’s the superlative title track:

1990’s The American Way isn’t quite as solid as Ignorance, but it’s still a damn fine album and contains a few all-time classics, such as the title track, which was featured in the 1992 Pauly Shore/Brendan Fraser/Sean Astin “classic” Encino Man. Is it weird that 2 of the band’s 4 soundtrack appearances were in Pauly Shore movies? Is/was he a fan? I guess in a world where Pauly Shore was once a legitimate force at the box office, anything is possible. Anyway…

“The Way It Is” is also from The American Way, and is also a ‘banger…

Here’s “Independent”, from the 1993 album of the same name…

And here’s “Crawling”, from the same album…

And finally, here’s “Blue Suit, Brown Shirt”, the explosive anti-racist diatribe and album opener from 1996’s Heal

Man, would I ever love to hear that song live.

That’s all the time I have for now. If you’re at FTA II, enjoy the hell out of yourself. If you’re stuck somewhere else, crank up some Sacred Reich and try to ease the pain. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to stay heavy, always.

Tremble, You Weaklings, Cower in Fear: The Ten Best 80’s Thrash Metal Songs About Nuclear War

While the threat of nuclear war is still a very real thing today, it doesn’t weigh on my mind the way it did when I was just a li’l guy back in the 80’s. The nightly news talked about it a lot, and it used to terrify me, and then Nancy Reagan’s grandpa made Old Man Gorbachev tear down a wall, and it kind of faded out of the public eye, and life was fucking peaches and cream all the time, and no one wanted to hurt us, until Saddam Hussein threatened our freedom, or whatever. These days, not much airtime is given to the topic, save for an occasional report about Iran or North Korea and their uranium enrichment attempts, because terrorism is the new nuclear war. I don’t really know where I’m going with all this, except to remind you that the media should not be trusted, because they only tell you what they want you to know.

Anyway, I’ve been kicking around the idea of a mixtape about nuclear war for a while now, but to be perfectly honest, the topic can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many metal songs about nuclear war and its aftereffects that I just didn’t know where to begin, so I never bothered. Then one day last week, my buddy Sean suggested I put together a mixtape about nuclear war, and I decided to give it some more serious thought. To make it easier on myself, I settled on the requirement that the songs be of the thrash metal variety. What follows is the result, and if you’re a regular reader of this blog, there are likely to be no surprises. Thrash metal is my lifeblood, and I make no apologies about it. Maybe I’ll make another nuke-themed mixtape some other day where being a thrash metal band isn’t a requirement for the list…maybe not.

As with my previous entry about thrash metal ballads, I don’t necessarily believe these are the the ten very best nuclear war-themed thrash metal songs. Rather, they are ten nuclear war-themed thrash metal songs that I love dearly; I just gave it the title and numbered it from 10 to 1 to see how many people read the intro. It is, in fact, chronological.

Onward to mayhem!

10. Voivod – “Nuclear War” (from War and Pain – 1984)

“Storm, the only weather
Start the directives assassins
Warm inside the under shelter
Wait and fell your broiling skin…”

I’ve written about Voivod extensively, and there’s still more to come, eventually. I love them so hard. This is the last song on their debut album, and while it’s technically a part of the Voivod saga, it also perfectly reflects the air of paranoia and unease that permeated everything in the mid 1980’s. The broken English and the plodding, marching feel of the first almost-five minutes of the song work together to add an extra layer of complexity and fear.

9. Exodus – “And Then There Were None” (from Bonded By Blood – 1985)

“Wars coming, start running, eyes blinded by the nuclear blast
Hearts beating, retreating, all around are bodies burned to ash
Children crying and people dying, no salvation from this holocaust
Bodies burning and now they’re learning, in war painful death’s the bloody cost…”

This is one of my favorite Exodus songs. That main riff is the shit. So, full disclosure: I woke up at like 2:30 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got out of bed and started putting this together around 3:30 AM. I wrote the intro, then started filling in track info at the end and worked my way toward the top. It is now almost 7:00 AM. I’ve grown very sleepy.

8. Anthrax – “Aftershock” (from Spreading the Disease – 1985)

“Blinding our eyes as the sun turns to black
A world full of hatred and fear
All are committed, there’s no going back
There’ll be no one left to hear…”

I still have lots of Anthrax-related things to write about. I’ll get around to it some day. I love this song, and this album. Also recommended, “One World”, from 1987’s Among the Living.

7. Dark Angel – “Falling From the Sky” (from We Have Arrived – 1985)

“Watch the sky
Death is near
You are falling
The final day is near…”

The first Dark Angel album is a glorious, cacophonous, thrashy mess, and “Falling From the Sky” is a perfect example of what the rest of the album sounds like. Not recommended for the faint of heart, or the delicate of ears.

6. Nuclear Assault – “Nuclear War” (from Game Over – 1986)

“No one wins
In this game
Both sides have lost
Who has won
When all are dead
Except for the machines…”

If I didn’t already know, I would be willing to bet that Nuclear Assault were born in the long shadow of the Reagan years. Everything about this band is steeped in nuclear paranoia, government corruption, and environmental destruction. Also, it goes without saying, but Dan Lilker fucking rules.

5. D.R.I. – “Oblivion” (from Crossover – 1987)

“The day has come, the time is near
For all to end. It’s true, it’s here
It’s all over now, no way to stop
The button’s been pushed, the bomb’s been dropped
The city is melting, the sky burns red
The ocean is boiling, we’ll soon be dead…”

I never got around to writing a review of the D.R.I. show at the 5th Quarter Lounge in Indianapolis back in September, but it was fucking awesome, and so is this song.

4. Sodom – “Nuclear Winter” (from Persecution Mania – 1987)

“Slow death is what we can expect
Strike will have just this one effect
Condemned to capital punishment
By the nuclear sword of Damocles…”

The opening track from the Tuetonic thrash titans’ second full length album is a master course in Thrash Metal Riffery, and like the Voivod song above, Tom Angelripper’s slightly broken English makes the lyrics even more unsettling. Side note: I found this album on cassette in a pawn shop in Bedford, Indiana circa 1989. I bought it, along with Jimmy Page’s Outrider. I didn’t really appreciate either album at the time, but one of them made a notable impact on my impressionable brain – an impact that would manifest itself in a super hardcore fashion 4 or 5 years later. The other one was Jimmy Page’s Outrider.

3. Death Angel – “Final Death” (from The Ultra-Violence – 1987)

“Dogs of war, for your blood they lust
Radiation turns your body to dust
Watching fallout as it fills the sky
Now it’s time for this planet to die.”

From all the way back when some of the members Death Angel were still growing pubes, “Final Death” is a lean, mean bastard. It’s not the best song on the album, but it’s still better than most other songs in existence, and Mark Osegueda’s blood-curdling air raid siren wail at around the 2:35 mark sums up the fear in the lyrics perfectly.

2. Metallica – “Blackened” (from …And Justice for All – 1988)

“Fire
To begin whipping dance of the dead
Blackened is the end
To begin whipping dance of the dead
Color our world blackened…”

I hate …And Justice for All because of the way it sounds – Newsted’s nonexistent bass guitar, Lars’ steel trashcan drums, generally non-good sound quality – but I goddamn love …And Justice for All because of the songs, and because of the place it occupies in my nostalgic heart. Metallica is dead; long live Metallica.

  1. Megadeth – “Rust in Peace…Polaris” (from Rust in Peace – 1990)

“I spread disease like a dog
Discharge my payload a mile high
Rotten egg air of death wrestles your nostrils…”

That chorus hasn’t left my head since the first time I heard it. The final track on what is arguably Megedeth’s finest hour is a masterpiece of nuclear paranoia and terror. Mustaine’s vocals are perfect, and in a fresh twist, the lyrics are from the point of view of the Bomb itself. Rust in Peace is Dave Mustaine’s dragon, and he will probably chase that beautiful motherfucker until his final breath. Megadeth is dead; long live Megadeth.

That’s all I got for now, heavy people. Do you have any favorite nuclear war-themed songs? Let’s discuss it, why not? And don’t forget to stay heavy!

 

I’m In the Machine, Going Through My Dreams: A Thing About Voivod’s Dimension Hatröss

I’ve discussed Voivod a bit in these pages before, and I will write up the fourth installment of my Voivod Primer some day soon(ish), but today, I wanted to share something a bit more personal re: Voivod and their fourth album (and my favorite), 1988’s conceptual progressive thrash masterpiece Dimension Hatröss. I won’t go into the particulars of the album too much here, as I’ve discussed it before, and also I don’t have time for that right now, but here are the basics of the storyline:

  1. Voivod’s namesake character/mascot, a.k.a. Korgull the Exterminator, has already destroyed his own land and much of outer space, but his lust for conquest has not subsided, so he devises a laboratory experiment in which he creates a portal into another dimension and visits that realm in an attempt to utterly dominate the inhabitants.
  2. Things don’t go exactly as planned for Korgull.

The album absolutely fucking rules, and when I first got my copy back in June 2008 (almost 20 years to the day after its initial release date, coincidentally), I was completely and utterly under its spell. My copy had no lyrics inside, so I printed a copy off one of those advertisement-laden lyrics websites and listened over and over and over again while reading along; it’s safe to say that I was in the throes of a full-blown Dimension Hatröss addiction.

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One night, while listening for probably the fifteenth time that day, I began to doodle on my lyric pages, letting the dissonant riffs and herky-jerky rhythms guide my pen. I just let the music flow through me, drawing and scribbling whatever I happened to see and feel at that particular moment. Some of it is throwaway, but I rather like other parts, and since I can’t very well separate the parts I like without damaging the overall picture, I hereby present my Dimension Hatröss Lyric Doodles, shared here for the first time ever with anyone other than Mrs. Stay Heavy. (Click on each image below for an embiggened view.)

Track 1: “…Prolog…Experiment” – In which Korgull creates Dimension Hatröss and enters. I find it hard to imagine how I made that Voivod logo. Not that it’s a particularly brilliant rendition or anything, but I used to have so much more patience for that kind of detail…also more time.

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 1

Track 2: “Tribal Convictions” – In which Korgull arrives in the dimension to find a tribe performing a ritual dance around a “grand fire”. The tribe believes Korgull to be “what we’ve been waiting for…the flying lord, the god of all time”.

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 2

Track 3: “Chaosmöngers” – In which a gang of dissidents appears on the scene and tries to destroy Korgull, believing him to be a creation of the Technocratic Manipulators.

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 3

Track 4: “Technocratic Manipulators” – In which Korgull has begun to settle into his new, albeit temporary, life in Dimension Hatröss. He notices that the inhabitants seem to be under some form of mind control, all with “a number between their eyes”, taking “orders from the big head”. Korgull tries to avoid complacency; he’d “rather think, but there’s something wrong”. This song is creepily prescient with regards to modern society.

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 4

Track 5: “…Epilog…Macrosolutions to Megaproblems” – In which Korgull learns the true intentions of the Chaosmöngers: “The discord is real now, echo is very loud! No more! Control! Leave minds! Alone!”

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 5

Track 6: “Brain Scan” – In which the Technocratic Manipulators turn the tables on Korgull and get inside his brain in an attempt to control his thoughts and extract his knowledge.

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 6

Tracks 7 & 8: “Psychic Vacuum” & “Cosmic Drama” – In which Korgull fights the brain scanning process, reverses it, and steals the knowledge and “unique power” of the Manipulators, then reverses the process that brought him to Dimension Hatröss in the first place, destroying the dimension as he flees back to his own time and space.

 

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 7

 

Dimension Hatross lyric doodles page 8

By the time I got to the last two pages, I was kind of wiped out (that creature from the “Brain Scan” page had a lot to do with it), which explains the increased abstraction on the final two pages. Speaking of wiped out, I’m not exactly, but I do have other things I need to do (until someone decides to pay me for writing this). I have more to say about Voivod in general and Dimension Hatröss in particular, but it’ll have to wait. Until then, I do hope you’ll stay heavy.

Lead Us Into Temptation, A Reign of Terror Will Begin: A Thing About Exodus

I’m going to see Testament and Exodus live in April, and I don’t think I could possibly be more excited.  If you’ve spent any significant amount of time on the pages of this blog, you already know of my absolute, unwavering love of everything Testament has ever released.  By comparison, I’ve written significantly less about Exodus, so today I intend to remedy that somewhat.  Some of the things I have written about Exodus have indicated that I think their sonic output is a bit spottier than some other thrash bands, and I still stand by that statement (Impact is Imminent and Force of Habit have some great songs, but they are nowhere near the same level of quality as anything else the band has released).  I also mentioned at some point that I don’t care as much for the Rob Dukes-era version of Exodus, because his vocals are less enjoyable to me.  This attitude was completely adjusted when I saw the band live at Rock on the Range last year, and now I can’t get enough of the Dukes albums, and I really wish I could hear their newest album (Blood In, Blood Out – 2014) with his vocals, because as amazing as the album is, I just think he would’ve utterly destroyed the songs, in the best possible way.

I might not make it out of this alive, y'all.

I might not make it out of this alive, y’all.

Anyhoo, one somewhat-reoccurring theme in Exodus songs is clever wordplay in either the titles or the lyrics (and sometimes in both).  Two examples can be found on their first album, 1985’s undeniable classic Bonded By Blood (“And Then There Were None” and “Deliver Us to Evil”, the latter of which gave this post its title), although the wordplay became much more clever as the band grew, and in fact these first two examples are pretty weak, and are only really being included because the songs are so fucking good that it would literally be a crime to not include them.

Exodus circa 2008 re-recorded the songs from Bonded By Blood and released it under the title Let There Be Blood, and I love those versions just as much (what I’ve learned in the past year or so is that the three different Exodus vocalists don’t really sound so different), so I’ma include them, as well.

After Bonded By Blood, original vocalist, party animal, metal ambassador, and poseur-beater-upper Paul Baloff (RIP) was given the boot, because he couldn’t carry a tune in a dumptruck, and because he was partying a li’l too much, which when you think about the metal scene in the mid-to-late 80’s, is pretty absurd and rather terrifying.  His replacement came in the form of Steve “Zetro” Souza, who was fronting a band called Legacy, who replaced him with young upstart vocalist Chuck Billy and changed their name to Testament, which led to the world receiving two beautiful gifts in 1987, Testament’s debut The Legacy and Exodus’ second album, Pleasures of the Flesh, which was my personal introduction to the band.  There is only one wordplay example on Pleasures, but it hints at what would come later, and it happens to be my favorite song from the album, and is yet another example of thrash metal’s long-standing social awareness.  It’s called “Chemi-kill”.

The follow-up album, 1987’s Fabulous Disaster, contains no cleverly-titled songs, but it is really great, and it had something of a hit single called “The Toxic Waltz”, which received pretty regular rotation on Headbanger’s Ball back in the day, and remains a live staple to this day.  I’m gonna share it just because it’s fucking great.

1990’s Impact is Imminent gave us one wordplay example, album closer “Thrash Under Pressure”, which is one of the better songs on the album.

1992’s Force of Habit was in pretty heavy rotation in my bedroom when it first came out, but these days I just can’t get into it as much.  It has some wicked-bad songs, but it seems to lack the urgency of the first three albums (and it definitely lacks the urgency of everything that has come after).  The album contains no songs that fit within my self-imposed parameters, so I’ll just include the videos for the two singles, “Thorn in My Side” and the anti-suicide anthem “A Good Day to Die”, the latter of which was used in a television show at the time, although I cannot for the life of me remember which show, nor can I find any evidence on the internet of this having ever happened.  I just remember that the main character was a high school kid, and his family was worried about him committing suicide because he was listening to a song called “A Good Day to Die”.  Can anyone help me out with this?  Did I somehow manufacture this entire scenario in my metal-and-caffeine-addled brain?

The band split up after Force of Habit, reforming in 1996 or ’97 with Baloff back on vocals.  They released a live album, the outstanding Another Lesson in Violence, in 1997, and broke up again in 1998, reforming with Baloff again in 2001 to play the Thrash of the Titans concert, which was a benefit for Chuck Billy, who at the time had a rare form of cancer, which he went on to kick the shit out of.  Holy shit, Thrash of the Titans had such an amazing lineup.

Seriously.

Seriously.

But I digress…the band continued to play shows in and around the Bay Area, and plans were made to record a new album with Baloff, but he died in 2002 after suffering a stroke.  Zetro was brought back in emergency-style, so that the band could fill previously made commitments, which led to the recording of the band’s “comeback” album, 2004’s mighty Tempo of the Damned, which is nearly as overrun with clever turns of phrase as it is with badass songs.

The album kicks off with a one-two punch of anti-war diatribes “Scar Spangled Banner” and the absolutely brutal “War is My Shepherd”, which are later followed by the vehemently anti-religious “Shroud of Urine” and a dark tale of revenge against domestic violence called “Sealed With a Fist”.

“America, the violent, the indifferent, God shit his grace on me…we the people, for no people, secure the blessings of tragedy, do ordain we have established the scar spangled banner!”

I didn’t realize “War is My Shepherd” had an official video until just now.  Let’s watch together, shall we?

“You’re cruci-fucked and you’re out of luck if you put your faith in the flock…”

“When she took your hand in marriage, it didn’t mean right across the face…but now that your wedding chamber’s the one the bullet’s in, brave man, look at you, not so tough when the hammer’s cockin…when they carry your body out over the threshold, you’ll wish you never said ‘I do’…”

Zetro left the band again on the eve of a tour that was slated to take the band to Mexico and points south, and harsh words were uttered by guitarist and band leader Gary Holt…words so harsh, in fact, that any chance of a return to the fold seemed completely out of the question.  Enter Rob Dukes.

Dukes made his debut with the band on 2005’s Shovel Headed Kill Machine, which I absolutely love.  The opening track “Raze” is short and sweet, if you replace “sweet” with bitter, angry, and savage.  So…”short and savage”, I guess.  Anyway, it leads into the first example of this albums clever titles and lyrical wordplay, “Deathamphetamine”, a vicious, nightmarish tale of addiction which is a maybe my favorite Dukes-era song, and which should have absolutely been included on my addiction-themed mixtape Obey Your Master, but I was foolishly unfamiliar with the song when I made that mix.  I guess it’ll have to be a bonus track on the Special Anniversary Edition.  Another finalist for the title of Joel’s Favorite Rob Dukes-Era Exodus Song comes later on the same album, and it also happens to fit the theme here.  It’s called “Altered Boy”, and it is outfuckingstanding.

“Chicken hawks of the Catholic church, out to save and destroy, they have become the the priest of burden, and he’s become an altered boy.”  How fucking brilliant is that?!  “Exceedingly fucking brilliant” is the correct answer.

The band took a somewhat different path with their next album, 2007’s The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A.  The songs are a bit more complicated musically, and the lyrics are based around the themes of war and religion, which isn’t necessarily so different for the band, except that the focus on those themes is much more laser-like this time.  It contains a surprising (if you’ve never heard it before) example of Dukes’ vocal abilities in the passionately anti-radical Muslim centerpiece “Children of a Worthless God”, but the only example that fits my parameters for this entry is “The Garden of Bleeding”.

“Endless orchards dot the land, of corpses up on spikes.  Beauty’s in the eye of the beheaded on a pike…”

The companion album, Exhibit B: The Human Condition, appeared in 2010, and it contains no punny songs, but it does contain a song about school shootings called “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)”, the lyrics to which, you may recall, got a man in Kentucky arrested last year, after he shared them on his facebook page.  I actually just bought this album yesterday, and I’m looking forward to digging into it.  Hopefully I won’t end up on any watch lists.

At some point, Gary Holt must have had a change of heart, as Dukes was unceremoniously relieved of his duties last year and Zetro came back on board.  Quick aside: you should also check out Dukes’ current band, Generation Kill.  They kick ass, too.  Anyway, the resulting album, Blood In, Blood Out, is as good as nearly any other album in the band’s catalog, although as stated above, I would love to hear it with Dukes’ voice.  It also contains no songs that fit my theme, but I would be remiss to not share the searing title track, as well as one of my favorite songs ever from the band, “Body Harvest”, a grim little ditty based on the urban legend about the guy who wakes up in a bathtub filled with ice, only to find that his kidneys have been taken from him by black marketeers.

“Let’s start the pit that time forgot.” I can not fucking wait to “rage and make Paul Baloff proud” on April 21.

That’s all I got for now.  Enjoy some Exodus, and seriously, if you know anything about the TV show that may or may not have existed in the early 90’s, and may or may not have featured that Exodus song, please let me know.  Until next time, stay heavy, you heavy fuckers!

 

 

You Know I’m a Dreamer, But My Heart’s of Gold: A Thing About Butt Rock

A couple of days ago, a co-worker asked me about my opinion of the “hair metal” genre, and I replied with the gusto which is the norm when anyone asks me what I think about pretty much any genre of music, which is to say, I believe he may have regretted asking me.  Continuing along the usual path of such an occurrence, here we are over 48 hours later, and I’m still giving the question entirely too much thought.  This leads me to believe that I need to write it out, because it’s a good way to elucidate my thoughts and it’s a good way to get it all out of my head, and, perhaps most importantly, because if I’m not gonna write in this blog, what’s the point of keeping it?

I’ll start by saying that I’ve always disliked the terms “glam metal” and “hair metal”, because when people hear those terms, they think of bands like Poison, and regardless of your opinion of Poison, you have to admit that calling them “metal” is about as accurate as calling Taylor Swift “country”.  Both are obviously examples of pop music – perhaps metal-influenced pop when talking about Poison (and that’s on their very heaviest stuff), or in the case of Ms. Swift, perhaps country-flavored pop, but at their cores, Poison and Taylor Swift are clearly both pop acts.  I’ve heard the term “cock rock” in the past, and although I am a sucker for a good rhyme, I don’t entirely like that term.  My wife refers to the stuff as “butt rock”, and so far that’s the term I’ve preferred, so from here on, this is the term I’ll use.

Not metal at all.

So many dudes thought these chicks were hot the first time they saw this album cover.

I have no interest in giving a history lesson on the origins and early days of butt rock, but it’s worth noting that the New York Dolls, Kiss, and Aerosmith were all early influences on the auditory, visual, and theatrical stylings of what we’ve come to know (and love?) as butt rock, as was Van Halen, with EVH’s blazing guitar wizardry/wankery and DLR’s high kicks and soul-shattering wails.  Def Leppard began to bring in poppier elements on their second album (High ‘n’ Dry – 1981), Twisted Sister released their debut album Under the Blade in 1982, and Quiet Riot released the first butt rock-tinged album to reach number one on the Billboard charts (Metal Health) in 1983, but they were all musically much heavier than what would begin to surface a few short years later.

Ratt and W.A.S.P. followed with heavy-ish albums (Out of the Cellar and W.A.S.P., respectively) in 1984, and in 1985, previously heavy sleaze rockers Mötley Crüe released their pop-slathered third album, Theatre of Pain, and soon the floodgates opened, with the likes of Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Poison, Stryper, and, eventually, Firehouse, Britney Fox, and (shudder) Winger exploding to top of the charts.  Established, reputable hard rock and metal acts like Whitesnake, Scorpions, Judas Priest, and Ozzy Osbourne began to incorporate elements of butt rock into their sound and image, and soon, 9 out of 10 people in the United States of America thought that “The Final Countdown” was a heavy metal song.

More directly to the original question, re: my opinions on butt rock, I like some of it, because I have ears and I’m not dumb (even if I did just misspell “dumb” four times), and because I was a kid when it was huge, so, nostalgia.  I will rarely listen to Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” or Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me” on purpose, but when I do (or if they come on when I’m somewhere else), I will enjoy the fuck out of them.  I am especially a sucker for a well executed power ballad – Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home” and “Without You”, Enuff Z’nuff’s “Fly High Michelle”, Mr. Big’s “To Be With You”, and Extreme’s “More Than Words” are a few butt rock slow jams which I am unashamed to admit that I find to be particularly sweet.  It’s important to remember, however, that not a single one of these bands is a heavy metal band, nor are any of these songs heavy metal songs, no matter what Chuck Klosterman thinks.

Looking beyond individual songs, though, there are a few bands found under the “glam metal” umbrella that I legitimately enjoy.  I absolutely adore Faster Pussycat’s second album, Wake Me When It’s Over (1989), and I consider Cinderella to be the Deftones of the “hair metal” genre, in that both bands are much, much more talented than a majority of their peers in their respective genres.  Cinderella’s second album, in particular (1988’s Long Cold Winter) is a beautifully crafted piece of work so deeply steeped in the blues that I sometimes get a little bit sad just thinking about it.  I also really enjoy everything from Def Leppard up to and including 1987’s Hysteria, even if that album is as absurdly overproduced as it is absurdly multi-platinum, and I enjoy a few of the songs that came after that.

And it should go without saying that I love Guns ‘n’ Roses, but I’ll mention them here anyway, because even though they transcended the genre from the very first notes of “Welcome to the Jungle”, they still often get lumped in with shit like Warrant and Slaughter (both of which have songs I enjoy), but Appetite for Destruction is obviously one of the greatest albums released by any band or artist in the 1980’s.

I don’t know what else I can really say about the genre as a whole that hasn’t already been said in a more educated and intelligent manner somewhere else [see the “Glam Metal” episode of VH1 Classic’s excellent 11-part series Metal Evolution, for starters (part 12, “Extreme Metal”, was too extreme for VH1 Classic, and is available to purchase online, which you should do as soon as you finish reading this piece)], so I’ll just share some of my favorite butt rock songs with you, the reader.

I’ll begin with a few of the bands and/or songs mentioned above.

Faster Pussycat had a couple of hits off Wake Me When It’s Over, both of which are great (“Poison Ivy” and “House of Pain”, the latter of which is a sort of “Cat’s in the Cradle” for the MTV generation, and boasted a video directed by a young Michael Bay), but it’s two of the deeper cuts that really make this album stand out.  “Cryin’ Shame” is inspired by the true story of Ricky Kasso, a Long Island teenager who murdered a friend because Satan told him to (it’s also from whence the title of the album comes), and “Tattoo” is more straightforward butt rock, but it’s a really fun song, about an overly obsessed old flame who shows up in town with “my name tattooed on the backside of her frame”.

Cinderella released four singles from Long Cold Winter, with “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” being the biggest (unless you’ve been deaf since May 20, 1988, there’s no way you haven’t heard it), and “Gypsy Road” being the most like their more raw debut, Night Songs (1986), but “Coming Home”, which reached number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, is definitely my favorite song from this album.  The title track is also great, and feels especially relevant right now, with much of the United States getting absolutely blasted by shitty winter weather.

With no added pomp, because Def Leppard requires none, here are a couple of my favorite Def Leppard songs, “Photograph”, from Pyromania (1983), and “Animal”, from the aforementioned Hysteria.

And just because I think that too few people know these songs, I’ma share “New Thing” and “Fly High Michelle” from Enuff Z’nuff (who are so much better than their name and appearance would understandably lead you to believe).  Both videos are utter shit, but I dig the songs quite a bit, especially “Fly High Michelle”.

There are a few songs that fall under the “power ballad” tag that I can not imagine getting tired of.  First and foremost is “Wind of Change” by German hard rock juggernaut Scorpions.  Hearing this song causes a memory flood so fearsome that I can barely stay afloat.  It literally does not matter what I might doing or who I might be talking to, if I hear “Wind of Change”, I can guarantee you that the song is getting more of my attention than anything or anyone else around me.

White Lion was/is a total cheesefest, but “When the Children Cry” gives me goosebumps.  Part of that is no doubt linked to memories of my sixth-grade friend Amber, who really loved the song, and who was killed in a car accident during our senior year in high school.  Amber was a rad person, and she always stood up for me when the dummies in our class told me the music I listened to was satanic.  We drifted apart during grade 7, but she’ll always have a place in my heart, and I’ll think of her every time I hear White Lion, and especially this song.

Rest easy, Amber.

I’ve accidentally made myself sad, so I’m gonna wrap this up.  I didn’t really know where it was going anyway.  What do you think about butt rock, power ballads, and the songs and bands I’ve mentioned?  Feel free to share your opinions in the comments.

Thanks for reading, and remember, to stay heavy, even when you’re listening to “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn”.

P.S. Modern butt rock revival acts like The Darkness and Steel Panther can all fuck off.

Old-Ass VHS Review, Volume 1: Oidivnikufesin

I’ve decided to start a recurring series wherein I watch and review some old-ass metal-related VHS tapes that I own – many of them not available on DVD for various reasons.  They will be reviewed based on both the quality of the content, as well as the quality of the product itself.  My first Old-Ass VHS Review is a tape I’ve owned since I was 12 years old, Oidivnikufesin – N.F.V., by New York thrash metal giants Anthrax.

Oidivnikufesin

I received N.F.V. as a gift for my 12th birthday.  I remember having to describe the cover for my mom, and I also remember drawing a quick-sketch dummy cover for her, so she would know what to look for when she went to the store to pick it up.  The title, in case you’re wondering, is a backward purposeful misspelling of “Nice Fuckin’ Video”, hence the “N.F.V.”  I’m not entirely sure what that’s all about, but I do know that Anthrax also had a song called “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)” on their breakthrough 1987 album Among the Living, as well as a song called “Dallabnikufesin (N.F.B.)” on their Grammy® nominated 1991 compilation Attack of the Killer B’s (best known for “Bring the Noise,” their ground-breaking collaboration with Public Enemy). I’ve always assumed it was their way of fucking with dummies who think metal is all about evil backward messages.

Anyway, I’ve owned N.F.V. for a very long time, and I’ve watched it more times than I could even begin to recall, but a few nights ago, I watched it again.  I did it for you, faithful reader, so that I could put together this highly professional review.  Onward!

The Basics:

The setlist is pretty fuckin solid here.  The show was recorded at London’s world-famous Hammersmith Odeon music hall on November 16, 1987.  The band was on tour with Testament, in support for Among the Living, so 5 of the 12 songs come from that album, but they also played 5 songs from 1985’s Spreading the Disease (their first full-length to feature Joey Belladonna on vocals), as well as “Metal Thrashing Mad”, from their 1984 debut Fistful of Metal, and their metal-rap crossover hit “I’m the Man”.  Joey’s voice is a little bit shaky on the first two songs, but by the time “Metal Thrashing Mad” gets rolling, he is in top form.  The camera work is great, and you might notice a distinct lack of split-screens and quick cuts, both of which have a strong tendency to ruin more modern concert recordings.  The camera focuses on the right things at the right times, and there are plenty of crowd shots to remind you that this band was bloody legendary in England in the late 80s (they had two songs on the charts there at the time of this recording).

The Extras:

This is a VHS tape, so there are no extras, but they would be superfluous anyway; this performance is damn near flawless.  Here’s an extra: at one point during “N.F.L.”, you see like one second of a little kid (certainly less than 12 years old) banging his head so goddamn hard, and that’s pretty fucking awesome.

The Highlights:

The band as a whole is unfuckingtouchable on this recording, but if I had to choose some highlights, I’d choose “Metal Thrashing Mad”, “A.I.R.”, “N.F.L.”, and show closer “Gung Ho”.  Bassist Frank Bello (one of heavy metal’s true Unsung Heroes) is particularly righteous on “A.I.R.”.  The way the band inserts worldwide megahit (and all-around awesome jam) “I’m the Man” (which is probably the single biggest influence on the “nü metal” genre, for better or for worse*) into the performance of “A.I.R” is pretty amazing, too.

The VHS-ness:

Aside from a single black line that pops up during the ninth song (“Armed and Dangerous”), there is no real way to tell that this is a VHS tape you’re watching.  You’d never assume you were watching a Blu-Ray or anything, but considering how many times I’ve watched this, it’s holding together exceptionally well.

The Bottom Line:

This performance is tight as hell.  The band was nearing the very tip-top of their game at this point in their long and complicated career.  I recommend you watch it.  I think it’s available on DVD, but I don’t feel like researching it right now.  I know you can watch the entire show on YouTube, if you’re into that.  If you wanna come to my house and watch it with me, that’s cool.  If you wanna bring over a blank tape and teach me how to hook up two of my VCRs so I can make a copy for you, that’s cool, too.  What I’m trying to say is, if you’re a fan of Anthrax, and you haven’t seen this, you need to change that ASAP.  Do what you have to do.  If my words haven’t convinced you, watch this:

That’s it for my first edition of Old-Ass VHS Reviews.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Until next time, don’t forget to stay heavy.

* Just kidding, it was obviously for worse.