Mixtape Monday (Friday Edition), Volume 10: Sadness Will Prevail

I haven’t done one of these mixtapes in a while, but I find myself with time to write and unable to think of much to say. One of my best friends left town yesterday to move 1,000 miles away, and I’m fuckin sad about it. I spent a while pretending it wasn’t really happening, then as time marched forward in its unceasing way, I tried to not think about it. At his going away party last Saturday, I may or may not have broken down and cried in front of everyone (I did) (although alcohol may have played a role in said possible breakdown), and since I last saw him Wednesday night, I’ve just been in a weird funk, and I thought maybe putting together a sadness-themed mix might help me move past it.

i-had-friends-on-that-death-star

Part of the sadness is undoubtedly due the fact that he’s one of like 4 friends who lives around here who doesn’t have any kids, and please do not misunderstand – I love my friends with kids (and those kids) dearly, but with Mrs. Stay Heavy and myself being in our mid-to-late 30’s, childless friends are becoming more rare these days than a PhD at a Five Finger Death Punch concert, and sometimes we wanna hang out with no kids around, y’know?

Aside from his lack of dependents, though, he’s just an all around awesome guy. Like me, he grew up watching the Golden Era of professional wrestling. Like me, he’s a fan of horror and science-fiction, and a music aficionado (although his tastes do not lean as heavy as mine), plus he’s the only person I’ve ever known who always gets it when I quote The Simpsons.

My selfish sadness aside, I understand why he moved, and it’s not like I’m never gonna see him again. I know I’ll get over it, and if I don’t, then it’s my problem, isn’t it? Either way, let’s move on to the substance of this post, then shall we?

These are in no particular order, and the title of this mix is taken from an album by Today is the Day. I included a song of theirs here, but nothing from that album, because I’m not familiar enough with it. Also, I wanted to include something from Louisiana sludge kings Acid Bath, but everything of theirs that gets put up on YouTube gets taken down almost immediately. You should check them out on your own time, though. You can just pick a song, and it’s pretty much guaranteed make you sad, creep you out, or, in many cases, both.

Anyway, this is for you, Sal, even though you’d probably only like maybe two of these songs.

Life of Agony – “Let’s Pretend” (from Ugly – 1995) – I have plans to write about Life of Agony at length, hopefully sooner than later, so I don’t want to say too much here, but sweet merciful crap, is this song ever sad.

“But sometimes I like to pretend, that she knows me, that she holds me…
I guess I can’t, ’cause she doesn’t know who I am.”

Metallica – “Fade to Black” (from Ride the Lightning – 1985) – If you’re reading these words, I’m going to assume you’ve heard this song at least a few times before, so I’ve included the live version from the Cliff ’em All home video, which you should own.

“No one but me can save myself, but it’s too late
Now I can’t think, think why I should even try.”

Type O Negative – “Bloody Kisses (A Death in the Family)” (from Bloody Kisses – 1993) – If you’re not familiar with Type O Negative, you might be surprised to learn that they were often light-hearted and hilarious in their lyrics, with late singer/bassist Peter Steele planting his tongue so firmly in his cheek that plenty of people didn’t get the joke. However, when Type O Negative made a sad song, Type O Negative went ahead and made a sad, sad bastard of a song. RIP Mr. Steele.

“A pair of souls become undone
Where were two, now one
Divided by this wall of death, I soon will join you yet.”

My Dying Bride – “The Cry of Mankind” (from The Angel and the Dark River – 1995) – Since the late 1980’s, British indie label Peaceville Records has been putting out some extremely high-quality extreme music. Bradford, England’s miserable sonsabitches My Dying Bride, along with Paradise Lost and Anathema, were part of what was known as the “Peaceville Three”. All three bands were signed to Peaceville in the early 90’s (when metal was dead), and were pioneers in the death/doom metal genre that has since blossomed like a rotting black rose.

“I will make them all lie down
Down where hope lies dying.”

Voivod – “Morpheus” (from Infini – 2009) – I’m still working on my continuation of the Voivod saga, the first three parts of which can be viewed here, here, and here, so I don’t want to discuss this album much, but I will say that the lyrics were inspired by late guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour’s death from cancer. RIP Piggy.

“The thing inside me, won’t let me be
This nightmare is real, let me out of me.”

Iron Maiden – “When the Wild Wind Blows” (from The Final Frontier – 2010) – This is the last song on what is currently Iron Maiden’s most recent studio album (The Book of Souls is out in less than one month!), and it’s my favorite song on that album by a pretty wide margin. The song is inspired by a 1982 graphic novel called When the Wind Blows, and by a 1986 animated film of the same name, however, the song has a different ending than the book and movie. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried the first time I listened to this song, and, in fact, I have cried many times since while listening to it, most recently when I watched the video below, which uses scenes from the movie.

“Have you heard what they said on the news today?
Have you heard what is coming to us all?
That the world as we know it will be coming to an end
Have you heard, have you heard?”

Candlemass – “Solitude” (from Epicus Doomicus Metallicus – 1986) – I only know like three songs from Swedish doom merchants Candlemass, but all three of them rule. I should listen to more of them, and you should, too.

“I long for my time to come
death means just life
Please let me die in solitude.”

Testament – “Cold Embrace” (from Dark Roots of Earth – 2012) – I don’t really have anything new to add, re: Testament, as it’s all pretty well documented. Just look around. See?

“The sun will never shine on you
Daylight blinds your way…
Now accept this cold embrace.”

Vallenfyre – “Seeds” (from A Fragile King – 2011) – Vallenfyre began as a side project formed by Paradise Lost guitarist Gregor Mackintosh to write out the pain he was feeling after the death of his father. Hamish Glencross, formerly of My Dying Bride, plays guitar in the band as well, so the misery pedigree is not to be fucked with.

“I face an eternal winter
Without you I will cease
You were my idol
I am your priest.”

Suicidal Tendencies – “Nobody Hears” (from The Art of Rebellion – 1992) – This song instantly transports me back in time, to the days when metal was dead, and Suicidal Tendencies, Pantera (“Walk”), and Sacred Reich (“Crawling”) all had songs in rotation on the “alternative rock” station out of Indianapolis, all receiving regular airplay alongside the likes of HelmetWhite Zombie, and others. This song is a bit of a rarity in the ST catalog, in that it does not have a positive resolution at the end. It just starts and ends as a bummer. It still kicks a ton of ass, though.

“So what do I have to do
To make you comfort me
Now I’m sitting here screaming inside myself
Don’t understand why nobody hears.”

Thergothon – “Crying Blood + Crimson Snow” (from Stream From the Heavens – 1994) – To be perfectly honest, I know very little about Thergothon, except that they were a Finnish band, and are considered one of the first bands to play the style that has since come to be known as “funeral doom”, which means they obviously fit this theme.

“Oh, the everlasting winter of my soul
Ice burns my skin, I writhe in cold and grief.”

Anthrax – “A.D.I./The Horror of It All” (from Among the Living – 1987) – As a kid, I used to try and figure out what “A.D.I.” stood for, thinking it must be something deep and profound, only to find out a few years ago that it was short for “Arabian Douche(bag) Intro”. Depending on the source, it was either a way to poke fun at the then-common practice of Bay Area Thrash bands including an acoustic intro to big, bludgeoning tracks, or a way to poke fun at then-lead guitarist Dan Spitz, who was always tooling around with it before it was included as the intro to “The Horror of It All”, which is a song about the death of a loved one.

“You’re not supposed to question, but why’s there so much pain
When someone’s taken from you?
What can you do or say?”

Today is the Day – “Death Curse” (from Pain is a Warning – 2011) – Aside from one song on a Relapse Records sampler (I can’t remember which song, but I think it was “In the Eyes of God”), Pain is a Warning was my introduction to Today is the Day. I bought it at the now-defunct Ear-X-Tacy Records in Louisville, KY, along with Hater by Total Fucking Destruction and the vinyl reissue of D.R.I.‘s Crossover, and at the time, I was working a job that was slowly destroying my soul. Pain is a Warning played a pretty significant role in my survival of that year. I adore it from beginning to end.

“It’s a lie
It’s a lie
Work until you die
It’s my life
Liars!
Liars!
Work and then you die
Death curse!”

Deftones – “Teenager” (from White Pony – 2000) – Here’s a nice mellow way to wind things down. I don’t care what anyone else thinks about the Deftones; I think they kick some serious ass, and I sincerely believe that they get unfairly maligned due to their association with shitty nü-metal bands, when they are, in fact, head and shoulders above nearly all their late-90’s/early 2000’s peers. I admittedly haven’t heard much of their work past their 2003 self-titled album, but I’ve yet to hear a Deftones song that I don’t enjoy. They really do  the whole quiet/loud dynamic thing exceptionally well, and this song is just heartbreaking.

“I drove you home
Then you moved away
New cavity moved into
My heart today.”

That’s all I got for today, heavy people. For the record, it did help alleviate my sadness a bit. Time will tell how long that lasts. Until next time, stay heavy, always.

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Mixtape Monday, Volume 8: The Threat is Real

 

 

so i tied an onion to my belt

Note: I realized on 2/23/15 that I had mis-numbered my Mixtapes, beginning with Volume 4. When I fixed the numbering, I realized that this one should have been Volume 9, but if you read the introduction to this volume below, you’ll see why I could not make it Volume 9. This is why Volume 8 and Volume 9 are out of order.

It’s been too long since I’ve posted here, and I intend to stop letting day-to-day bullshit get in the way of this.  We’ll see how that goes.  One day at a time, I suppose.  At any rate, I’ve put together what I believe to be a pretty sweet mixtape for your listening (dis)pleasure.  Today’s theme, which I cannot think of a way to simplify properly, is metal songs from 1994, which was one of the years when music media would have the world believe that heavy metal was dead.  A cursory glance at this list proves that music media was as full of shit then as they’ve ever been.  Death metal and black metal were chugging along, and while it’s true that pretty much all the major thrash metal bands had slowed things down by 1994, causing a lot of metal fans at the time to accuse them of selling out and the like, let’s be honest with ourselves here: would you want to do exactly the same thing for a living day after day, year after year, just to make other people happy?  Quite frankly, there are very few bands that have been able to pull off never changing their style.  In fact, The Ramones, AC/DC, and Motörhead are the only three that come to mind.

I stole the title of this mixtape from Anthrax’s eighth album, which does not appear on this list, as it was released in 1998 (but which will be discussed in the future).  The songs appear in the order in which the albums they appeared on were released.  Let’s get down to gettin down, shall we?

Pantera – “Becoming” (from Far Beyond Driven – 3/22/94) – I’ve written about the impact this album had on both me personally and on metal in general before, so I won’t go into details here.  The whole thing is great, and it may have inspired and influenced a lot of inane bullshit, but it stands the test of time.

Cannibal Corpse – “Staring Through the Eyes of the Dead” (from The Bleeding – 4/11/94) – This is the first Cannibal Corpse album I heard, and the last Cannibal Corpse album with original vocalist Chris Barnes, who went on to make his side project, Six Feet Under, a full-time gig.  I personally prefer his replacement, George “Corpsgrinder” Fisher (The Man With No Neck), and I don’t like all the songs on this album, but a few of them are undeniably heavy, creepy, and amazing.  This is one of them.  It’s the story of a man (I assume it’s a man, as I can’t begin to imagine Chris Barnes attempting to write a song from a female point of view)  who appears to be dead on a table in the morgue, but is in fact alive, and unable to communicate that fact to the doctors.  Pretty creepy shit.

Mayhem – “Freezing Moon” (from De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas – 5/24/94) – This was the debut album of one of the founding fathers of Norwegian Black Metal, although it was not one of the first releases in the genre.  The story of Mayhem can be read in hundreds of places, so I won’t get into it here.  Just dig this weird, creepy song.

Napalm Death – “Plague Rages” (from Fear, Emptiness, Despair – 5/31/94) – This is the first Napalm Death album I owned, and it’s still my favorite, regardless of what vocalist Barney Greenway thinks of it (spoiler alert: he does not like it).  It marked a notable stylistic change for the band, and a lot of Napalm Death fans did not appreciate the shift.  I like all Napalm Death, but I definitely prefer this album and the stuff that has come out since to any of the albums that preceded this one.  Fun fact: opening track “Twist the Knife (Slowly)” also appeared on the soundtrack to the Mortal Kombat movie (and can be heard briefly in the movie itself).  It was a pretty exciting moment for 18-year-old me to hear Napalm Death over a movie theater sound system.

Overkill – “Where it Hurts” (from W.F.O. – 7/15/94) – Overkill have been one of the more consistent of the original thrash bands, in that they have consistently put out good albums.  On W.F.O., the band slowed things down a bit, which was the style at the time.  It’s maybe not as good overall as some of their other albums, but it’s still more stylish than wearing an onion on your belt.

Acid Bath – “Cassie Eats Cockroaches” (from When the Kite String Pops – 8/9/94) – Acid Bath were ahead of their time.  Hailing from Houma, Louisiana (southwest of New Orleans), they existed for six years and only released two albums, but the world is a richer, scarier, more beautiful, and more fucked-up place because they existed at all.  Both of their albums defy genre, and are absolutely essential.

Obituray – “Don’t Care” (from World Demise – 9/6/94) –  Fun fact: Obituary’s hometown of Gibsonton, Florida (a bit south of Tampa) is perhaps best known as the town where carnival freaks go to spend their winters and/or retire.  Obituary are one of the most successful death metal bands of all time, and are also one of the first.  Their Gibsonton upbringing shines through the muck in the songs; Obituary sounds pretty much exactly like you would expect a band that formed among circus freaks living in Florida humidity to sound.  I had been aware of them since their sick and twisted debut album, 1989’s Slowly We Rot, as I’d read about them in the hallowed pages of Metal Maniacs magazine, but “Don’t Care” was my sonic introduction to Obituary.

Testament – “Legions (In Hiding)” (from Low – 9/27/94) – My love for Testament has been covered pretty extensively throughout this blog, so I won’t get into it here.  This is my favorite song off Low.

Slayer – “Dittohead” (from Divine Intervention – 10/4/94) – This is one of the better songs off what is the beginning of Slayer’s notable decline in album quality, which I have discussed elsewhere.

Rotting Christ – “Non Serviam” (from Non Serviam – 10/11/94) – The Greek black metal monster that is Rotting Christ will get inside your mind and build a home there if you let it.  I first heard them about three years ago (on their unbelievably good full-length debut, 1993’s Thy Mighty Contract), and they promptly built a full-on castle in my brain.  They have since downgraded to a condo, where they come to stay now and then, but they will always hold citizenship in my head.

Mercyful Fate – “Nightmare Be They Name” (from Time – 10/25/94) – King Fucking Diamond.

Megadeth – “Train of Consequences” (from Youthanasia – 10/25/94) – The last of the slowed-down thrash bands on the list, Megadeth pretty much ceased to exist after Youthanasia, as far as I’m concerned.  The album is not flawless (in fact, only about half the songs aren’t bad), but the other half-or-so of the album is good, and some of the songs are really good, even.  I saw Megadeth live on the Youthanasia tour, with Fear Factory, Flotsam & Jetsam, and an up-and-coming band called Korn in support.  Korn brought the house down.

Brutal Truth – “Displacement” (from Need to Control – 10/25/94) – Brutal Truth has also been discussed here before, and will be discussed more in the future.  If you don’t own this album yet, you’re really doing yourself a disservice.

Bolt Thrower – “Remembrance” (from …For Victory – 11/29/94) – Bolt Thrower are from Coventry, England, and have been one of the most consistently high-quality death metal bands since the early days of the genre.  Their name comes from a weapon used in the tabletop strategy game Warhammer Fantasy Battle, and their lyrics are heavily influenced by the Warhammer games, as well as dealing with the topics of real-life war and its consequences.

That wraps up another edition of Mixtape Monday.  Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to stay heavy.

Mixtape Monday, Volume 9: Obey Your Master

Note: I realized on 2/23/15 that I had mis-numbered my Mixtapes, beginning with Volume 4. When I fixed the numbering, I realized that this one should have been Volume 8, but if you read the introduction to Volume 8, you’ll see why I could not make it Volume 9. This is why Volume 8 and Volume 9 are out of order.

Some time ago, I wrote briefly about the fact that a lot of metal lyrics (thrash metal in particular) contain a fair amount of social awareness.  I quickly got off track, and still intend to follow up on the topic eventually, but for today, I’ve put together a Mixtape with a theme of drug use (both lawful and illicit).   The majority of these songs take a decidedly anti-hard drug stance, some of them are more in vein of urging caution, and a few of them have a positive message regarding the use of mood-altering substances.  Without further ado, I present Obey Your Master (which is a line from one of the songs presented below).

Vio-Lence – “T.D.S. (Take It As You Will)” (from Eternal Nightmare – 1988) – I’ma start this fucker off with a big-ass bang.  The fifth song on Vio-Lence’s utterly perfect debut album (“T.D.S.” is short for “The Drug Song”) tackles the issue of heroin use.  The song starts out sharing the point-of-view of a user, then shifts gears to tell the dealer’s side of the story (not unlike N.W.A.’s “Dopeman”).  Like all the other songs on Eternal Nightmare, this one is packed so full with Sean Killian’s lunatic lead vocals, as well as gang vocals and lightning-fast, insane guitars that it leaves you with very little time to think.  Then again, when Vio-Lence is playing, what the fuck do you need to think about?

Anthrax – “N.F.L. (Efilnikufesin)” (from Among the Living – 1987) – This song has remained a staple of Anthrax’s live set since the release of Among the Living, and for good reason – it’s one of their top 5 best songs (this issue is not open to debate).  The lyrics were  inspired by John Belushi’s untimely death from an overdose of heroin and cocaine.  The fact that Jim Belushi is still alive is not actually relevant to this, but it sure as hell is unfair.

Nuclear Assault – “Emergency” (from Handle With Care – 1989) – Nuclear Assault will be one of the primary subjects when I finally get around to writing my “socially-conscious metal” piece, and more should be written about them by more people, because their first three albums are amazing.  “Emergency” (very quickly) tells the story of a guy (I assume it’s a guy – maybe it’s a gal) who has more or less given up on life, and exists solely for the purpose of getting fucked up.  I’ve listened to this album hundreds of times since 1989, and the way this song ends still blows me away.

Brutal Truth – “Mainliner” (from Need to Control – 1994) – This makes the third band in a row that Dan Lilker co-founded (although he only appeared on Anthrax’s 1984 debut).  That was unintentional, but it’s pretty fucking awesome.  “Mainliner” is from Brutal Truth’s second full-length (which, like Vio-Lence’s Eternal Nightmare, happens to be a perfect album), and it’s about heroin use.  I fucking love the way the song starts.  Like many of BT’s songs, the lyrics are bit abstract, but one set of lines make it pretty clear where they stand on heroin use:

“It is all/sick desire/kicks for liars/fuel for fire/your head shoved firmly in your ass/nod out/right now.”

System of a Down – “Psycho” (from Toxicity – 2001) – Maybe you don’t consider System of a Down to be metal.  Maybe I don’t care what you think.  They are obviously heavy, and their first two albums are among the best heavy albums of the late 1990’s/early 2000’s.  They, along with the Deftones, were definitely victims of the media’s burning need to classify everything into genres.  Both of those bands were light years better than their “nü-metal” peers.  Anyway, “Psycho” is about a crazy cokehead groupie, and I assume it’s based on a real person (or people) the band had to deal with.  I don’t feel like looking it up, because it doesn’t really matter – the song is great.

Metallica – “Master of Puppets” (from Master of Puppets – 1986) – Not much to say about this one.  It’s about drug abuse in general, and seems to be about cocaine and/or heroin specifically, but the thing that sets it apart from the other songs on this Mixtape is that it is told from the perspective of the drug itself.  I miss Metallica.

Black Sabbath – “Sweet Leaf” (from Master of Reality – 1971) – This is the first of the few songs on this Mixtape that discuss drugs in a more positive light.  Everyone knows the riff from “Sweet Leaf”, and if you don’t, shut up and listen to it right now.  It fucking rules.

Brujeria – “Marijuana” (from Marijuana EP – 1998)Brujeria is Spanish for “witchcraft”, and the band is a death metal supergroup whose members pretend to go to absurd lengths to mask their identities.  The “official” story of Brujeria is that they are all Latin drug lords who are wanted by government officials, and therefore conceal their identities when they perform live.  In reality, people ranging from Fear Factory’s Dino Cazares, Napalm Death’s Shane Embury, Faith No More’s Billy Gould, and Carcass frontman/bassist Jeff Walker have performed with the band (studio and live).  This song is not the best Brujeria song, but it is pretty fucking funny.

Death Angel – “Ex-TC” (from Act III – 1990) – Death Angel fucking rules.  This song, as you might have guessed, is about ecstasy.  The lyrics are almost overwhelmingly positive, not unlike the effects that ecstasy is reported to have on the user.

“Come into my place/there is great pleasure/in what you will find/I throw away hate/that’s how you tell/X is on my mind.”

Pantera – “Suicide Note Pts. 1 & 2” (from The Great Southern Trendkill – 1996) – Technically, only “Suicide Note Pt. 1” is specifically about drug use, but the songs are fucking amazing together.  Phil Anselmo was clearly in a very dark place at this point in his life.

Motörhead – “Motorhead” (from Motörhead – 1977) – “Motorhead” is a slang term for a person who regularly uses/abuses amphetamines.  Even if they were called The Jesus-Loving Choirboys, I don’t think it would be any secret that the band Motörhead have used/abused amphetamines.  And just in case you still weren’t sure, a song called “Speedfreak” appeared on their 1982 album Iron Fist.  Lemmy’s love of Chuck Berry really shines through on this song.

Ozzy Osbourne – “Suicide Solution” (from Blizzard of Ozz – 1980) – This is the Ozzy Osbourne song that reportedly caused a depressed teenager to kill himself.  Ozzy has stated that the lyrics were inspired by the death of original AC/DC singer Bon Scott, but Bob Daisley, who played bass on Blizzard of Ozz and wrote much of the music and lyrics (regardless of what Sharon Osbourne has to say about the matter), says that he had Mr. Osbourne himself in mind when he wrote the lyrics to “Suicide Solution”.  Either way, the lyrics are obviously about alcohol abuse, and do not in any way encourage a person to commit suicide.

Sleep – “Dopesmoker” (from Dopesmoker – 2003) – If this were a real Mixtape, this song would be a bonus disc, as it is just over one hour and three minutes long.  In my own dopesmoking days, this song blew my mind clean apart on many occasions.  I don’t do that anymore, but “Dopesmoker” still melts my face from time to time.  On the surface, the song seems to plod along and go nowhere, but if you have patience, you will be richly rewarded.  The lyrics are surreal (and almost impossible to sing along with), and the riffs are unbelievably heavy.

“Drrrroooooooooop oooouuuuut of liiiiiiife with booooooooooooooooong iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand/follooooooowwwww the smooooooooooooooooooke to the riff fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiilllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeed laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand…”

Final Thoughts:  Don’t do drugs, kids.  Unless you want to.  But if you do, for fuck’s sake, don’t be stupid about it.  Getting hooked is dumb, and overdosing is even dumber.

Stay heavy, y’all.

Mixtape Monday, Volume 7: Metal on Metal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“(FUCKIN SLAYER!)”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thrash Thursday (Special Friday Edition): An Accidental Eulogy

I first heard the term “Thrash Thursday” back in like 1990 or so.  There’s a radio station in Indianapolis (which used to be based out of Bloomington)(to be clear, the radio station used to based out of Bloomington, not the city of Indianapolis) called “92.3 WTTS, World Class Rock”, and they more or less play what you might expect with a name like that – plenty of John Mayer, Sarah McLachlan, Jack Johnson, Norah Jones (I will admit that I love her voice, and I still own her first album, although I haven’t listened to it in probably 10 years), Dave Matthews Band, etcetera, etcetera – you know: safe, boring shit.  They do play quality music sometimes, usually in the form of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Elvis Costello, The Beatles, Queen, David Bowie, etcetera, but by and large, they are boooooring.

When I was a young pup, though, they were different.  They were still WTTS, at 92.3 on your FM dial, but back then, they called themselves “Rock 92” (after a brief stint as “Power 92”, which I’m guessing they decided sounded too much like a religious station), and for a kid in the pre-internet days, who grew up without cable TV and lived pretty much in the middle of nowhere, they were awesome.  They had the “Rock ‘n’ Roll House Party” all-request show every Saturday night, and my cousin Jason and I would tune in most weekends and hear plenty of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Dio, Def Leppard (we both loved Pyromania), Aerosmith (from back when they were relevant), etcetera, meanwhile always hoping that we might hear Iron Maiden or Metallica or something of that nature.  One Saturday night I called in to request something, and I asked the DJ (Sam Stock) if he had any Death Angel.  He immediately responded, ” Fuck man, I wish“, which I thought was so cool, but then I didn’t know what to do.  (For the record, I think I ended up asking him to play “something by Led Zeppelin”.)

What the fuck were we talking about?  Oh right, Thrash Thursday.  So another super-rad thing that Rock 92 had was a show called “Brave New World”, which ran from midnight to 1:00 AM every Monday – Thursday.  Sam Stock hosted that show as well (which was why I thought he might be able to play Death Angel on the Rock ‘n’ Roll House Party), and it was chock full of stuff you wouldn’t hear on other stations at the time, especially in the listening area.  I honestly don’t know what kind of songs were played Monday through Wednesday (although I do know that Mondays were called “Mayhem Monday”, and I think he played punk and punk-influenced stuff), but every Thursday was “Thrash Thursday”, and I listened every chance I got, often taping it so I could listen again later.

The format wasn’t always straight thrash metal, though I do remember hearing Overkill, Metallica, Anthrax, and Slayer on the show.  Thrash Thursday on Brave New World was my introduction to Morbid Angel, Upsidedown Cross (a weird Boston-based doom metal band which once featured Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis on drums, as well as the late Seth Putnam from Anal Cunt on bass), Napalm Death, and many others.  One Thursday night, Stock played a Jello Biafra spoken word segment called “Grow More Pot”, which got so many complaint calls the next day that he was forced to make an on-air apology the following Thursday.  I was confused, amazed, and scared by many things while listening to that show, and I also found out about some really great music.

At this point, I don’t even remember how long the show aired…it probably wasn’t a terribly long time, as 92.3 was a country station until 1986, became Rock 92 in 1988, and adopted its present format in 1992.  The impact it had on my life, however, has been pretty longstanding and significant.  And while researching for this entry, I learned that Sam Stock died in Colorado Springs, CO (where he was working as a DJ) in 2005 at the age of 35, with alcohol and cocaine listed as the cause of death, and now I’m weirdly bummed out.

I’ll leave you with a few of the songs I first heard on Thrash Thursday on Brave New World.

“Fuck You” by Overkill (from the !!!Fuck You!!! EP – 1987, orginally recorded by The Subhumans)

“Battalion of Rats” by Upsidedown Cross (from Upsidedown Cross – 1991)

“Chapel of Ghouls” by Morbid Angel (from Altars of Madness – 1989)

That’s all for today.  Rest in peace, Sam.  And to all the rest of you, stay heavy.  Always.

Mixtape Monday, Volume 2: Death and Insanity

Hello!  And welcome to the second installment of Mixtape Monday, wherein I take a look at some kickass “mixtapes” I’ve made over the years.  The title/theme of this week’s mix is Death and Insanity (but mostly the “insanity” part, which is to say, if the song is more death-focused, it’s death brought about by mental instability), and it’s a humdinger.  Let’s get right to it.

1. “Death and Insanity” by Hallow’s Eve (from Death & Insanity – 1986) – Hailing from Atlanta, GA, Hallow’s Eve has always been one of the more underrated thrash metal bands.  They had a few songs featured in movies in the late 80s and early 90s (River’s EdgeBlack Roses, and Pacific Heights), but that’s as close as they came to receiving their due.  This opening mixtape track is also the first song on their second album.

2. “Madhouse” by Anthrax (from Spreading the Disease – 1985) – MTV would not play this video when it was first released, because they were afraid it would offend mentally ill people.  For serious.

3. “Deranged” by Exodus (from Pleasures of the Flesh – 1987) – This is the first song off Exodus’ second album (their first with former Legacy (Testament) lead singer Steve “Zetro” Souza), and is also the first Exodus song I ever heard.  A friend of my brother’s gave him a dubbed copy of Pleasures sometime in early 1988, and I listened to it a lot.  I still own it, but I also own the CD, so I don’t really need to listen to the cassette as much these days.  The opening monologue to this song always fascinated me, and I never knew where it came from.  Then one day I remembered that Google exists, decided to look it up, and learned that it’s delivered by a man called Tom Skid, who, according to guitarist/founder Gary Holt, was “…a homeless psycho who lurked around…Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco. We gave him a gallon of wine and let the tape roll.  I heard he died, got hit by a bus. It was probably after he wandered out of our studio after drinking a gallon of four dollar wine. [It] was a great studio but a really seedy area full of winos, crackheads and transvestites.”

4. “Good Mourning/Black Friday” by Megadeth (from Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? – 1986) – Megadeth needs very little introduction.  All I can really think to say about them at the moment is that I really wish Dave Mustaine would shut up and play his guitar.  Megadeth?  More like Megadouche.  Anyway, this song fucking rules.  It begins with a slow build, where the main character admits that his head feels all funny, and then it unleashes in a torrential speed frenzy, with said main character basically murdering everyone he sees with a hammer, and then dismembering them.  It’s fun for the whole family, assuming your whole family likes high quality thrash metal with exceptionally disturbing lyrics.

5. “War Inside My Head” by Suicidal Tendencies (from Join the Army – 1987) – ST’s second full-length, Join the Army, marked the beginning of their crossover from hardcore punk into metal.  It’s not my favorite album by them, but it definitely contains some bonafide classics.  This is one of them.

6. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” by Metallica (from Master of Puppets – 1986) – This is the album that opened the Metal Doorway for me; I stepped through quite willingly, and I haven’t regretted that decision for a second.  I still love the album, even though I very much hate what Metallica has become.  Like Dave Mustaine, Lars Ulrich seriously needs to shut his word hole.  As for the song?  The lyrics are pretty great – they discuss life in a mental institution, from a first person point of view.  I especially like the last section (“Fear of living on/ natives getting restless now…”).

7. “Missing Sequences” by Voivod (from Nothingface – 1989) – Nothingface marked the true beginning of Voivod’s tangent into full-on progressive metal, and it is still ahead of its time.  This song (like much of Voivod’s sound and overall aesthetic) was inspired by the aluminum factories in drummer/artist/genius/visionary Michel “Away” Langevin’s hometown of Jonquiere, Quebec, Canada.  The lyrics deal with loss of memory caused by breathing the noxious fumes from the factory smokestacks.  Musically, this song provides a pretty excellent cross-section of the album as a whole.  I cannot recommend Voivod highly enough, but they only work if you’re willing and able to pay attention.

8. “Pains’ Invention, Madness” by Dark Angel (from Time Does Not Heal – 1991) – Dark Angel are from Los Angeles, California, and they are often overlooked in discussions of thrash metal, which is a shame.  They play usually super-fast (they have been called “the L.A. Caffeine Machine”), always super-tight, sometimes super-long songs, filled to the brim with tempo changes and riffs (246 of them on Time Does Not Heal , according to the sticker affixed to the front of the album upon its original release).  They aren’t necessarily one of my favorite bands, but they have some seriously ass-kicking songs.

9. “Sweetness” by Ripping Corpse (from Dreaming With the Dead – 1991) – Ripping Corpse were truly one of a kind.  They helped to bridge the (admittedly small) gap between thrash metal and death metal, and Dreaming With the Dead was their only release.  Guitarist Erik Rutan left the band in 1993 to join Morbid Angel, and the band didn’t really do much of anything after that.  This one album is enough to cement their place in deathrash history, and the only fault I can find with it is that it makes me wish they’d kept going.  I’ve always been drawn to unconventional vocal styles, and Scott Ruth’s snarling, growling, squealing delivery was enough to get me hooked from the first time I heard this song.  Lyrically, it’s a serial murderer telling us why he gets off on killing.  “My sensitivity, my brutality, it’s all relative.”  So fucked up and so, so good.

11. “Visions From the Dark Side” by Morbid Angel (from Altars of Madness – 1989) – Morbid Angel used to scare me when I was younger, and I’m glad they don’t scare me anymore, because I would’ve deprived myself of the sheer sonic bliss that is their debut album, Altars of Madness.

12. “Woman of Dark Desires” by Bathory (from Under the Sign of the Black Mark – 1987) – Swedish one-man band Bathory was the brainchild of one Thomas “Ace” Börje Forsberg, a.k.a. Quorthon.  He pretty much invented the sound that became black metal, and this song, the tale of Countess Elizabeth Bathory herself, is a shining example of the intensity of Bathory.  Forsberg died of a heart attack in 2004, and extreme metal lost a founding father.

13. “Eternal Nightmare” by Vio-Lence (from Eternal Nightmare – 1988) – Coming out of the San Francisco Bay Area on the second wave of thrash metal, Vio-Lence wanted to be faster and more brutal than the bands that inspired them, and on their 1988 debut album, they proved that they could hang with any of the big boys.  They are another fine example of a band that I absolutely fucking love which has a totally unique vocal style.  Sean Killian’s vocals are a deal breaker for a lot of people, but I find they fit the music, the song structures, and the subject matter perfectly – i.e., he sounds like an unhinged lunatic who can barely keep up with his racing thoughts.

14. “Kill Again” by Slayer (from Hell Awaits – 1985) – It’s fucking Slayer.  “Homicidal maniAC!”  Rest in peace, Jeff Hanneman.

15. “Chasing Fear” by Testament (from Low – 1995) – My love for Testament has been pretty well documented elsewhere on this blog, so I’ll just let the music do the talking.

That’s it for Mixtape Monday, Volume 2, y’all.  Thanks for reading.  What are some of your favorite metal songs dealing with the theme(s) of death and insanity?  Discuss in the comments, if you are so inclined.  Until next time, remember to always, always, always stay heavy.

Another Testament, So to Speak

My last post wandered a bit, and got off track from where it began, but it’s a track I’m okay with, so today I’m going to stay on said track and continue to discuss Bay Area thrash metal titans Testament.

When their third album (1989’s Practice What You Preach) began to take off, gaining the band a wider audience, Testament’s management rushed the band to get another album out (I’ve read that they were given 3 months), and the resulting work, Souls of Black (1990), is a quality album (it is a Testament album, after all), but the rush-job shows.  A few of the songs seem to be less-than fully formed, and the production is noticeably lackluster (especially after the crystal-clear sound of Practice, which allowed every instrument to be heard).  I actually didn’t hear this album in its entirety until a couple of years ago, but I must say it’s a worthy entry in the Testament catalog.  The worst Testament song is still better than most other metal songs.

Souls of Black did bring a change in the band’s logo, which became a common thing for metal bands to do around this time, and which is a subject that will be explored here sooner or later, as I find it to be an interesting topic.  It also contains the band’s second ballad (“The Legacy”), which was one of the albums’ two singles (along with the title track).  By the time 1990 came around, many thrash metal bands were slowing things down a bit and simplifying their music, much to the chagrin of Metalheads everywhere.  This is a subject that continues to chap my ass to this day; why should a band not be allowed to change things up stylistically?  Very few bands can pull off sounding the same on every album (the Ramones, AC/DC, and Motörhead are the only three that come to mind), and I can’t imagine being in a band and playing the same song over and over again.  At any rate, Souls of Black was far from the most dramatic change that Testament would undergo.  Their fifth album, 1992’s The Ritual, was the beginning of the end for the “classic era” of Testament.

“Souls of Black” from Souls of Black (1990)

“The Legacy” from Souls of Black (1990)

The Ritual is the band’s slowest, cleanest-sounding, and dare I say, “lightest” album, and it seems at first listen to have been crafted largely to gain radio and MTV airplay [(Testament, along with many other thrash bands, changed things up a bit after the mega-success of Metallica’s “Black Album” (which made it okay for the Rest Of the World to like metal)].  It is probably Testament’s most accessible album to the non-metal fan, containing another ballad (the hauntingly beautiful “Return to Serenity”), along with more actual singing than any other Testament album.  I like it, and I think the only thing it lacks is more “punch” in the production.  Album opener “Electric Crown” (which was one of two singles, along with “Return to Serenity”) is easily one of my favorite Testament songs.

“Return to Serenity” from The Ritual (1992)

“Electric Crown” from The Ritual (1992)

Shortly after this album, lead guitarist Alex Skolnick and drummer Louie Clemente left the band due to creative differences, and the remaining members recruited a couple of veteran metal musicians (death metal guitar guru James Murphy and former Anthrax drum technician John Tempesta, the latter of whom has played drums for a ridiculous number of bands) and proceeded to record their heaviest album up to that point, 1994’s Low.

From the very first note of Low, it’s clear that what you are about to hear is a very different version of Testament.  Chuck Billy’s vocals are in a much lower range throughout most of the album, many of the songs groove rather than thrash, and melody became a rare bird without the presence of Alex Skolnick, but for this Metalhead, Low is a high point in the band’s discography.  Highlights here are the pummeling 1-2 opening salvo of “Low” and “Legions (In Hiding)” (the latter a grim tale of the horrors of child abuse), along with this album’s ballad “Trail of Tears” (another grim tale, this time relating the horrors of the forced march by the United States government of thousands of Native American Indians in the early-to-mid 1830s), and the almost-death-metal explosion of “Dog Faced Gods”.

“Low” from Low (1994)

“Trail of Tears” from Low (1994) – Alex Skolnick’s absence notwithstanding, the soloing on this song is beautiful.

“Dog Faced Gods” from Low (1994)

Following the release of Low, original bass player Greg Christian (who is severely underrated in the pantheon of metal bass players), John Tempesta, and James Murphy left the band, and a variety of people went through the ranks for touring purposes.  Rhythm guitarist Eric Peterson (the only remaining original member) and Chuck Billy briefly considered changing the name of the band to Dog Faced Gods, and began writing music which took a much heavier direction.  They ultimately disbanded for a brief period in 1996 before reforming (and continuing with the Testament moniker) with bass player Derek Ramirez (who, for a very brief period in 1983, pulled double duty in the band as lead vocalist and second guitarist) and drummer extraordinaire Gene Hoglan (a.k.a. “The Atomic Clock”).  The album that arose from this union (1997’s Demonic) would prove to be a challenge for many Testament fans to accept, and I myself had trouble understanding what I was hearing upon its initial release.

 Demonic is arguably the heaviest, angriest, and strangest-sounding Testament album to date. Melody?  Gone.  Solos?  Out the door (though Peterson did lay down a bit of lead work).  Clean singing?  Like it never happened.  This beast is all chugging riffs, syncopated beats, and deathly growls.  It confused the hell out of me for a long time, but in the years since its release, I have grown to appreciate and sincerely enjoy Demonic.  It’s not my favorite Testament album by a long shot, but it’s a solid release.  1997 wasn’t a great year for metal, but I’d call it one of the best metal albums of the year.

“Demonic Refusal” from Demonic (1997)

The year 1999 brought another album (The Gathering), recorded by yet another lineup.  James Murphy rejoined the band on guitar, and two of the most proficient metal musicians alive rounded out the lineup (fretless bass wizard Steve DiGiorgio and former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo).  The Gathering was something of a return to form for Testament; melody and soloing returned, and Billy dialed back the growling just the tiniest bit and started using his singing voice again (“True Believer”).  It is an ass kicking, beastly, brutal motherfucker of an album, and it gets more recognition in the band’s live sets than either of the two albums that preceded it.  In fact, 4 songs from this album are featured on the band’s 2013 double live album The Dark Roots of Thrash, while no songs from the four albums prior to it are featured.

The Gathering also features the two songs which inspired me to start writing the first part of this piece a couple of days ago.  Remember how this whole thing started out as a discussion of  the social awareness of thrash metal?  Yeah, I barely remember that myself.  Anyway, two songs on this album are stern and angry reminders about the fragility of the planet we call home – “3 Days in Darkness” and “Fall of Sipledome,” the latter of which is about the melting of the polar ice caps.

“D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)” from The Gathering (1999) – If this doesn’t make you bang your head, you might be dead.

“Fall of Sipledome” from The Gathering (1999)

The period following The Gathering is fraught with life-threatening illness and more lineup changes (including the return of some familiar names), but my ass hurts from sitting for so long, and I have errands to run, so I will dive into that another time.  Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to stay heavy!

Thrash Mental, or: Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

As a young Metalhead growing up in rural southern Indiana, most of my friends and other classmates didn’t understand the music I listened to, or the t-shirts I wore.  Some of them thought I was dumb.  Some of them thought I was a pothead.  A few of them even went so far as to call me a “devil worshipper” and attempted to point out “satanic” lyrics and imagery in the music that I listened to, and that they did not.  True story: in sixth grade, a girl in my class told me that if you played a certain Anthrax song backward (she conveniently could not remember which one), you would hear a voice declare that “devil worshipping is fun”.  That’s the kind of horseshit I had to put up with.

Party Animal!Your esteemed blogger, decked out for Beach Day in Grade 6.

What very few of my friends and classmates realized (and what many people still don’t realize) is that a significant number of thrash metal songs are very socially forward-thinking.  Songs about racial inequality, environmental issues, political corruption, depression, drug abuse, nuclear war (and war in general), and the corruption of organized religion often co-exist on the same albums with songs about zombies, S&M dominatrices, Stephen King books, comic books, H.P. Lovecraft short stories, and being a heavy metal band.  People who are unfamiliar with the music will often form an opinion about it based on the name of the band alone.  Judging a book, and all that.

A quick primer for the uninitiated: thrash metal is a sub-genre of heavy metal that developed in the very late 1970s and early 1980s, when young bands who hungered for something faster and heavier began to combine the melodic and (often) virtuosic elements of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (i.e., Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Raven, etc.) with the aggressive and often stripped down elements of hardcore punk (i.e., the Misfits, Discharge, Bad Brains, etc.).  Musically, thrash metal is usually marked by fast, aggressive tempos, palm-muted riffing, and double-bass drumming.  The vocals cover a wide range of styles, from guttural shouting to melodic, high register singing.

The best-known thrash metal bands from the 1980s, often designated “The Big 4” (a title based on album and concert ticket sales more than anything else), are Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, and Megadeth.  Other notable 1980s thrash bands include Testament, Overkill, Exodus, Nuclear Assault, Sacred Reich, Death Angel, and on their earliest releases, Quebec’s greatest export, Voivod.  All the bands listed (and many more) will eventually be covered on this blog, but today, I’m going to focus on my personal favorite thrash metal band, which just happens to be one of the most consistently socially aware bands of the genre.  I also believe they have been one of the most consistently high-quality bands of the genre, and I will go so far as to say that they have yet to release a bad song.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Testament.

Testament formed in Berkley, California in 1983, originally calling themselves Legacy.  When vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza left the band to join Exodus in 1986, Chuck Billy took over vocal duties, and the band changed their name to Testament.  Their first album, The Legacy, was released in 1987, and is a fast, heavy, dark album, highlighted by modern-day crowd favorites such as “Over the Wall” and “First Strike is Deadly” (the latter of which I almost used for the name of this blog).  Lyrical themes on the album don’t stray far from more traditional heavy metal fare, with stories about a ship lost at sea, encounters with demons and other mythical creatures, and prophecies of war.  It was on the band’s second album (and my personal favorite Testament album), 1988’s The New Order, that the lyrics began to touch on more “real-world” topics.

“Over the Wall” from The Legacy (1987)

While just as heavy musically as The Legacy, the 1988 release found the band expanding their melodic sound, as lead guitarist Alex Skolnick was quickly developing into one of the most gifted guitar players in thrash metal, if not in all of heavy metal (Skolnick has since gone on to play in jazz bands, and has been a touring member of the virtuosic supergroup The Trans-Siberian Orchestra).  Lyrically, the songs showed some signs of growth as well, as they began to discuss the environment (on the title track) and destruction by nuclear war (the utterly awesome album-closer “Day of Reckoning”).  If the sophomore release indicated a new found maturity, their third album in as many years, 1989’s Practice What You Preach, found the band all grown up, and very nearly made them a household name.

“A Day of Reckoning” from The New Order (1988)

Practice What You Preach covers a wide range of subject matter, from government corruption to environmental devastation, and from hypocrisy to the merits of living life on your own terms.  Musically, the band slowed things down a bit from the previous two albums (although “Nightmare (Coming Back to You)” is very up-tempo and in-your-face), but the virtuosity continued to develop, notably here in rhythm guitarist (and founding member) Eric Peterson, and in bassist Greg Christian.  Closing instrumental “Confusion Fusion” is simultaneously as tight as a duck’s ass and as loose as the cast of Jersey Shore.

“Practice What You Preach” from Practice What You Preach (1989)

The album also showed a softer side of Testament, featuring the band’s first ballad, appropriately titled “The Ballad”.  The video for this song (as well as the title track) received pretty heavy rotation on MTV, back when that was a real channel, and the song is a showcase for the vocal abilities of Chuck Billy.  The album was well-received critically, but a lot of fans at the time disliked the slower tempos, and the fact that there was a ballad (the horror!).  I admit that I can count myself among those fans.  I didn’t care much at all for Practice What You Preach when I first heard it, but I finally purchased my own copy a few years ago, and it immediately kicked the shit out of me and rubbed my face in it.  It is an amazing album, top to bottom, and is a testament (I make no apologies for my pun) to the power and abilities of this amazing and often-overlooked thrash metal band.

“The Ballad” from Practice What You Preach (1989)

I have to make dinner now, so I will continue the saga of Testament another time (hopefully later in the week).  It is a tale of perseverance, and overcoming adversity.  It is a tale that contains many characters.  And perhaps most of all, it is a tale of kicking ass, and of staying heavy, always.

Welcome! Bienvenido! Willkommen! Bienvenue! Shalom! Etcetera!

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Howdy!  And welcome to my new metal blog, where I will discuss heavy metal in all of its glorious forms (and in some of its shitty forms).  I hope you’ll bear with me as I figure out how to use this WordPress business.  To start off, a little bit about me…

 I grew up in a tiny town in southern Indiana.  My exposure to music was pretty much just early 1980s country music radio.  My journey as a Metalhead began at the tender age of nine, when my brother inadvertently got me into Metallica.  Within a couple of years, I was constantly in his room playing and looking at his cassette tapes. Other early favorites included Iron Maiden (which remains my favorite band to this day), Anthrax, Testament, Sacred Reich, Megadeth, Exodus, Nuclear Assault, Overkill, and Death Angel.  I eventually stopped being scared of Slayer, King Diamond, and S.O.D. (I didn’t understand that they were a joke), and from there, the sky was the limit.

 I watched the early days of death metal, grindcore, and black metal with a curious interest, through the pages of the late, great Metal Maniacs, eventually getting into the likes of Napalm Death, Brutal Truth, (early) Carcass, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Death, et al (I’m only recently starting to get into some black metal).  In the early 90s, bands like Alice in Chains and Helmet made me understand that music could be heavy without necessarily being metal, and in the late 90s, I got into punk and hardcore, but through it all, I never stopped listening to and loving heavy metal.  I worked in a music store when “nü metal” was at its peak, and while I appreciate the fact that those bands got a lot of people into metal, I still don’t get that genre as a whole.

 Metal isn’t the only music I listen to, but it is what I listen to most often, and what I love the most.  Sometimes I write about the other stuff, too, and my friend Travis and I have a blog where that happens.  I’ve posted up some metal-related things there over the past couple of years, and I’ll likely be putting them here, too, as a way to get the ball rolling.  Join me if you’d like, but be prepared – things are gonna get heavy around here.