Yesterday I mentioned that I was on my way out the door to watch a documentary called Filmage: The Story of Descendents/ALL. Since the mid-90s, ALL and the Descendents have been one of my very favorite bands. Under this stout, bearded, metal-beshirted exterior beats the heart of a sappy, lovelorn fool (it co-exists right next the heart of a pissed-off, head-banging moshing maniac – they beat as one), and from the first time I heard the ALL song “Million Bucks,” I was hooked. So you might be wondering, “Joel, why in the name of fuck are you yammering on about a couple of punk rock bands on a metal blog?” The answer, my friends, is blowin in the bald-headed wind, and that wind’s name is Stephen Egerton.
Guitar wizard Stephen Egerton joined the Descendents (along with bassist Karl Alvarez) in 1987, and he brought a love of heavy metal with him. Little touches of metal influence had popped up prior to Egerton’s arrival, namely on the vastly underrated Enjoy! album, but Egerton’s influence was much more up front. With the right kind of ears, you can pick up some of this influence on his first album with the band, 1987’s ALL, particularly on the songs “All-O-Gistics” and “Schizophrenia.”
“Schizophrenia” from ALL (1987) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Milo Aukerman)
After touring extensively for the album, singer Milo Aukerman parted ways with them to continue his studies in biochemistry, and the band recruited a new singer (former Dag Nasty/future Down By Law frontman Dave Smalley) and forged ahead as ALL. ALL released one full-length album and one EP with Smalley on vocals, and then a previously unknown singer by the name of Scott Reynolds joined the ranks from 1989-1992. Throughout this time, the songs Egerton wrote for the band showed a strong metallic influence, with minor chords, heavy, sometimes chugging riffs, and even the occasional ripping solo.
The arrival of a new singer (Chad Price) in 1993 seemed to bring Egerton’s inner Metalhead right out front, although it probably didn’t hurt that Price is a Metalhead, too. On 1993’s Breaking Things, the guitars have a much heavier tone, and Price’s natural singing voice is already quite gruff, both of which add up to Egerton and Price’s sole songwriting contribution on the album being a straight-up heavy metal song.
“Crucified” from Breaking Things (1993) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Price)
1995 was the year that ALL almost got huge. You maybe remember a band called Green Day? After they broke, every major record label started throwing money at anything that had ever been called “punk”, and ALL was no exception. They signed with Interscope Records, released what is easily their most metallic-sounding album, Pummel, and had something of a hit with the aforementioned “Million Bucks” (even making an appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien) before Interscope dropped them. The songs to which Egerton contributed are all under 2-and-a-half minutes long, and are, for all intents and purposes, speed metal played through a pop filter.
“Uncle Critic” from Pummel (1995) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Bill Stevenson)
One quick non-Egerton-penned aside here, to discuss what is easily the most metal song ALL has released. “Stalker” was written by Chad, and is a super-creepy story told from the point-of-view of a stalker. It practically overflows with angst and rage, and although he didn’t write the music, Egerton’s guitars show the work of a straight-up Metalhead. I was fortunate enough to get to see them play this one live in 2000; it was transcendent.
“Stalker” from Pummel (1995) (music and lyrics by Price)
In 1996, Milo got the itch to record with his old band again, so ALL was put on hold while the Descendents recorded their first album in 9 years, Everything Sucks. This was my introduction to the Descendents, coming as it did on the heels of Pummel. It sounds pretty much exacly like you would expect a classic Descendents album recorded with better technology to sound (which is to say “fucking excellent”), and the two of the three Egerton compositions/co-compositions on this album are once again short, aggressive blasts of metallic speed and fury, with a pop sensibility that could only have come from a fan of the Beatles.
“Everything Sux” from Everything Sucks (1996) (music and lyrics by Egerton)
“Coffee Mug” from Everything Sucks (1996) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Stevenson)
Two years later, ALL returned to the studio to record their most straight-forward album yet, Mass Nerder. Many of the songs on Mass Nerder were written before Everything Sucks was recorded, and in fact several of the songs from Sucks were recorded in demo form with Chad on vocals. On this version of “Everything Sux”, you can really hear the metal. Egerton had a couple more Voivod-fan-plays-speed-metal-through-a-pop-filter songs on Nerder, as well.
“Everything Sux” from Everything Sucks demos with Chad Price
“World’s On Heroin” from Mass Nerder (1998) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Stevenson)
“Greedy” from Mass Nerder (1998) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Stevenson)
ALL released their final album to date, Problematic, in 2000, and Egerton (along with Price) are in full force with the metallic fury on that one as well.
“She Broke My Dick” from Problematic (2000) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Stevenson)
“Roir” from Problematic (2000) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Karl Alvarez)
“I Want Out” from Problematic (2000) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Stevenson)
“Nothin’ to Live For” from Problematic (2000) (music by Egerton, lyrics by Stevenson)
The Descendents have released another album in 2004 (Cool to Be You), but Egerton has no songwriting credits on that album, so I will not discuss it here.
Is there a point to all this rambly, wandering mess? I doubt it. If you ever come to my blog looking for a point, you’ll likely leave disappointed. Mostly I’m just still stoked on seeing a documentary of one of my favorite bands, and I happened to think of a way to incorporate that into my metal blog, which I want to update as often as possible, so I stay in the habit of doing so.
If I had to glean some semblance of a point from all this, I guess it would be a reminder that a metal song by any other name is still metal as fuck. Shakespeare said that, so there’s no need to try and argue with it.
Thanks for reading, friends, and as always, stay heavy.