We’re Scanning the Scene in the City Tonight: A Long, Convoluted Thing About Seeing Metallica Live at the KFC Yum! Center on 03/09/2019

My Metallica Weekend has come and gone, and I still find myself getting giddy and emotional when I think back on the show, but the day wasn’t all harvesters of sorrow, creeping deaths, and lepers messiah, friends. For a day that started out so great, and had so much potential, things got extremely fucking terrible for a while. However, through  sheer force of will (along with some help from Metallica, as well as the wonderful bartending and kitchen staff at Bluegrass Brewing Company), the night ended up being pretty damn perfect. Here’s my rundown…

A quick origin story to set the stage for the extremely fucking terrible part of the day: two months ago, we tried to book a hotel room for the night, only to find insane rates everywhere we looked (within walking distance, anyway – we could’ve stayed 10 miles away from the venue for a decent price, but we wanted to have the option of walking to the show, weather permitting). We later found out that in addition to Metallica, John “Johnny “The Coug” Cougar” Mellencamp was playing in town, and on top of that, our usual downtown Louisville hotel destination is in the process of being remodeled, so they have fewer rooms available than usual. Long story short, we decided, with much hesitation, to give Airbnb a shot.

Both of us had been wary of using the service, mostly because of the lack of accountability it provides, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and we found a listing that was just blocks from the venue. It was not cheap at all, but it was cheaper than any hotel in the area, and it was an entire loft apartment. I booked it, and we were go – approximately one year after Mrs. Stay Heavy purchased the tickets (as an early birthday gift for me), it was all finally starting to seem real.

We left town around 11:00 AM and drove straight to the New Albanian Brewing Company Pizzeria and Public House for delicious pizza and excellent craft beers (all very affordable, as well – do look them up if you’re in that area!), arriving there around 1:30. I contacted our Airbnb hosts and indicated that we were in New Albany, and that I would call them when we were leaving, as Google Maps indicated the drive would take 15 minutes. One of them got back with me and said that would be great, and that they would meet us in the lobby of the building at 3:30 (which was 30 minutes after our  agreed upon check-in time, but it was raining very hard, and I thought maybe that played into it a bit, so I didn’t worry much about it).

With our bellies full, we got in the car and I called the number given to me when I booked the apartment, only to get a business voicemail. I declined to leave a voice message and instead messaged them through the app, telling them that we were on our way, and that we would see them at 3:30. When we arrived in the parking garage across the street, I still hadn’t heard from them, so we walked into the lobby and waited…and waited…and waited…until about 3:45, when I sent another message indicating we were there. At 3:50, I called the number again, leaving a voicemail this time. At 3:55, a woman who earlier had walked through the lobby and gone up the elevator approached us and asked if we had a 4:00 PM check-in.

We indicated that we, in fact, had a 3:00 PM check-in, but were asked to meet the hosts at 3:30. She told us that she was there as a representative of her sister, who in turn works for the hosts. Her sister was out of town or some such, and she was sent to clean the room for us, but turns out the guy who stayed the night before hadn’t checked out yet, all of his stuff was in the apartment, and he was nowhere to be found. She spent the next 15 minutes trying to contact one of the hosts (one of which was out of the country on vacation, while the other was apparently in some kind of business meeting), and eventually she was told by someone to go ahead up and clean the room for us.

We followed her up to the loft and were greeted by a room in complete disarray: TV left on, laundry in the washing machine, air matress inflated in the middle of the living area, dirty clothes and dishes all over the place, and, as expected, no sign of the asshole who clearly had no intention of leaving anytime soon. The poor woman who was acting as the face of the hosts started trying to clean for us while we stood there frantically looking for a hotel room somewhere close, hoping like hell this fuckwad wouldn’t come back while we were all in there, because fuck a bunch of that awkward bullshit. We booked a room about 1 mile from the venue (for an obscene amount of money), told her we were not comfortable staying in this room, for many reasons, and that we were gonna stay somewhere else and get a refund on this ridiculous situation. She replied that she was glad we said that, because she wasn’t comfortable with the sitation either.

We left the buiding, walked back across the street to the parking garage in the torrential rain, and drove to our newly-booked hotel. The front desk staff and the place were very nice (although obviously overpriced), and I’d recommend the Vu Guesthouse to anyone staying in downtown Louisville. We got in the room, freshened up, and requested a Lyft – we still had plenty of time before the show started, but we wanted to stop at the Bluegrass Brewing Company for a small bite to eat and some much more affordable beers before entering the  overpriced confines of the KFC Yum! Center (official motto: A Very Nice Venue With A Very Bad Name*).

We stood out in the rain and watched our Lyft driver speed past us without even looking our way. I got a notification that he was waiting on us, and would be leaving in 1 minute, so I called him and told him where we were. He responded that he was there, too, and after a much-too-long phone conversation, we realized he was in the parking lot behind us. We got in his car to the sounds of some kind of god-awful pop music and proceeded downtown in the worst traffic I’ve ever experienced in Louisville. The one mile trip took us almost 25 minutes, and if it hadn’t been raining so very, very hard, I would’ve gotten out and walked. I told the missus that I was going to have a good time tonight if it killed me, and that I was confident that everything would soon be coming up Milhouse.

We arrived at BBC right around 6:00 PM and were told by the hostess that it would probably be a 1 hour wait for a table. I told her we were gonna go grab a beer and wait inside somewhere, and she said that was fine, as long as we didn’t stand on the stairs. We ordered a couple of pints (the keg blew while the bartender was pouring mine (because at that point, why the hell wouldn’t it?), and she gave me three quarters of a beer for free while she poured a different beer for me – “Milhouse!”, I said to the missus) and found ourselves a back corner next to the stairs. The place was fucking packed, and the music was blaring, almost uncomfortably so – I think they were trying to get people pumped for the show, but I think they may also have trying to get some people to clear out. Only one of those possible motives had the possible desired effect; the crowd was clearly into the jams and had no intention of leaving until the rain lightened up.

“Hey Joel, are you ever gonna get to the fucking point and talk about the goddamn show?” That’s a fair question; we’ll be there soon, I promise.

We chatted up another couple standing near us, both of whom were very friendly, and after about 15 minutes the rain did let up, and over half the crowd (including our new chums) cleared out, seemingly all at once, and crossed the still completely jammed up intersection to wait in line outside the venue. Three seats opened up at the bar, we snagged two, and within one minute, we were able to order food and more beers (“Milhouse!”). Our food arrived in record time, and just as it was placed in front of us, one of the bartenders switched the music over to a strictly Metallica playlist (“Milhouse!”). We finished up, paid our tab, and crossed the still completely jammed up intersection to wait in line outside the venue. We got in quickly, found our seats, and mostly enjoyed the comedy stylings of funnyman Jim Breuer, who for whatever reason is the opening act on this leg of the tour.

Jim Breuer is down there somewhere.

Sometime around 8:15, the lights went down and the crowd roared as the strains of Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstasy of Gold” began to play over the sound system, accompanied by the scene that accompanies it in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I was overcome by emotion, due both to the moment and to the beauty of that song and movie, and I may or may not have started weeping uncontrollably. Next thing you know, the band is onstage and ripping through the first two songs from their latest offering, 2016’s Hardwired…to Self-Destruct. James addressed the crowd briefly, then they laid out a killer rendition of “Seek and Destroy”, followed by “Harvester of Sorrow”, then a whole bunch of other rad shit for a set that ended up being somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 hours long.

Here’s the stage minutes before Metallica ruled it.

The band was tight (as they should be), and it might’ve been my imagination, but it seemed like they were playing songs faster than the studio versions, which was extra cool, but did make it a bit more challenging to sing along. James kicked ass on vocals, which honestly was my primary concern going into the show. I’ve seen and heard plenty of live footage of the band from the past several years, and his voice has often sounded strained, but he sounded great, as he has on every live video I’ve seen from this tour so far. He had to pitch a bit lower on the older songs, but every band from the old days has to do that (with the notable exception of Death Angel). He was able to adjust without making it sound weird, and I was very glad about that.

The light show was dope, but I especially enjoyed this, during “Halo on Fire”.

I enjoyed the songs from the new album very much, although I did take a pee break during Lars’ drum solo in the midst of “Now That We’re Dead”, which proved to be a very popular time for a pee break. They played several songs from 1991’s Metallica (a.k.a. “The Black Album”), and I say with absolute certainty that those songs have never sounded better. I even enjoyed the live rendition of “Fuel”, from the band’s much-maligned multi-platinum 1997 Reload, although further research has indicated that I still do not enjoy the studio version.

The band has broken attendance records at several of the venues they’ve played on this absurdly long tour, and our stop was no different, with a final tally of 23,084 (beating the previous record held by country superstar George Strait since 2014). Our crowd also holds the distinction of being the largest crowd so far of the North American leg of the tour. Oddly enough though, for an extremely loud sold-out crowd on a Saturday night, we were the only people in our section who stood at any point during the show, save for the people behind us (who only stood up after we did, which was immediately upon hearing the opening strains of “The Ecstasy of Gold”) and one other dude down the way from us. In fact, all throughout our level, we could see people just sitting, as if Metallica was not rocking their balls and/or tits off. That was weird.

SETLIST

  1. Hardwired
  2. Atlas, Rise!
  3. Seek and Destroy
  4. Harvester of Sorrow
  5. The Unforgiven
  6. Now That We’re Dead (with extended middle drum solo/pee break)
  7. Creeping Death
  8. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  9. Halo on Fire (followed by Kirk and Rob’s solos, featuring “Too Rolling Stoned” (Robin Trower) and “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth“)
  10. Motorbreath
  11. Fuel
  12. Moth Into Flame
  13. Sad But True
  14. One
  15. Master of Puppets

ENCORE

  1. Battery
  2. Nothing Else Matters
  3. Enter Sandman

To sum up: I laughed, I cried, I screamed, I cried some more, and I nearly lost my goddamn mind. After almost 33 years of surviving the ups and downs that accompany being a Metallica fan, I finally got to see Metallica live. I can’t help but think that after all the bullshit in the hours leading up to it, I had an even better time than I would otherwise have had, but either way, it was one of the greatest and most cathartic experiences of my life.

At the risk of sounding like a total goober, I’m just gonna go ahead and say that for a couple of hours on Saturday night, March 9, 2019, nothing else mattered. Thanks for reading, friends, and stay heavy.

*Not their real motto.

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Once You Have Seen It You’ll Never Be the Same: A Very Brief Update

Just time for a brief update, because…

I’M GONNA SEE METALLICA TONIGHT!

This is a Bucket List item, for sure, even though Lars makes me wanna punch things, and they haven’t released a great album since 1988, and I don’t actually have a Bucket List. I love Metallica’s first 3 albums like they were my own children, and I love their 4th album like it was my own child’s best friend, and I like their 5th album like it was my own child’s best friend’s dad, who is fun to be around sometimes, but who always wears out his welcome sooner or later.

The rest of their albums have some decent-to-good moments, and I tolerate them like they were my neighbors – waving sometimes, ignoring other times. Except for Lulu, which is the next door neighbor who has a yard full of junk and stares at you when you walk by his house and insists that the property line is 3 feet closer to your house than it really is. Fuck Lulu, and fuck that imaginary neighbor.

St. Anger is a cousin who can be fun to hang out with sometimes, except when they start to talk about politics.

Anyhoo, I’m fuckin stoked about this show, friends, and I’m stoked about the people watching that will accompany this event. Rumor has it John “Johnny “The Coug” Cougar” Mellencamp is playing a show in Louisville tonight as well. Maybe he’ll scowl at me for no discernable reason from across a restaurant, like he did one time at Chipotle.

I’ll surely be back with an update sooner or later. Until then, stay heavy.

You Are Coming Down With Me, Hand in Unlovable Hand: A Brief Update

Ahoy there, friends. It’s been a very long time since I’ve done anything with this sumbitch, and I’m not here to claim that that’ll change anytime soon, because I know myself, and myself is pretty lazy unless something is required of it. However, this year is shaping up to be a doozy of a motherfucker in the live music field for yours truly, and a few minutes ago, a text from Mrs. Stay Heavy reminded me of the imminence of said live music, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to share some of the upcoming shows that I am looking forward to in the coming year.

First up (and this is a big one): I’m finally gonna see fuckin Metallica live, in Louisville, KY! I know that the band has become a shadow of its former self (I’ve expressed that sentiment in these pages plenty), but I also know that they are one of the primary reasons I’m sitting here writing about this right now (for better or worse). Metallica™️ causes me a wide range of emotions (mostly negative), but Metallica will always be one of my favorites. My amazing wife bought us tickets for my birthday last year, and one of my childhood dreams is about to come true in 30 days. There’ll almost certainly be more to come, re: this.

I’d be over the fucking moon if they played this one…

Approximately one week later, we’re going to see Clutch with Big Business in Indianapolis! It’ll be my 8th or 9th time seeing Clutch live, and the first time in about 5 years. My feelings regarding Clutch have been documented here briefly, but I will say that after two less than stellar albums, they’ve found their way back into my life, and their most recent album, Book of Bad Decisions, kicks a lot of ass. It’ll be my first time seeing Big Business live, but they fucking rule, and I’m super stoked about that. It’s only my second time seeing Clutch with an opening act that I am already familiar with (last time I saw them, The Sword was direct support), and I’m into that. There’s another band opening; they’re from France, and they’re called The Inspector Cluzo, and I don’t know much about them, but based on the songs I’ve listened to, they sound cool, and they sound like a band that would open for Clutch.

In April, Overkill and Death Angel are playing a show in Louisville on my cousin Jason’s birthday. Death Angel is his favorite band, and if you’ve read much of this blog, you’ll know that I love them like they were my own child, so we’re both super stoked about that. I’m also psyched about Overkill, as I haven’t seen them live yet, and that’s pretty stupid of me, quite frankly.

Act of Defiance is opening the shows, but I won’t share anything from them yet, as I haven’t looked into them yet, because I currently cannot stop listening to the Mountain Goats, which leads us into May…

…when I’ll be seeing the Mountain Goats for the first time, here in Bloomington. They’re not musically heavy, but their lyrics can be heavy as fuck, and Mountain Goat/guitarist/vocalist/lyricist John Darnielle is a huge fan of heavy music, and used to write a fucking amazing, hilarious, sometimes surreal column called “South Pole Dispatch” for Decibel magazine. It’s sure to be a great time.

A few days after the Mountain Goats show, Iron Reagan, Sacred Reich, and fucking Leeway (!) are playing in Chicago, but there’s only like a 2% chance I’ll be able to make it to that one. I really wanna see Sacred Reich and Leeway live. Someday, I suppose. There’s a band called Enforced opening the shows as well, but I don’t know anything about them, and since I won’t likely be in attendance, I haven’t bothered looking into them. I’ve been working on a thing about Leeway for a while now, and that’ll possibly be finished eventually, maybe.

In August, Iron fucking Maiden returns to Indianapolis for the first time since 2012, this time on the Legacy of the Beast tour. There’s not much I can say about this one, but I can guarantee that my voice will be shot for at least a day afterward.

Also, while I will not be in attendance, the almighty Vio-Lence are reuniting to play two shows in San Francisco April 13th and 14th. The first day they’ll be playing their 1988 masterpiece Eternal Nightmare in its entirety for the first time ever. If I win the lottery before then, I’ll certainly find a way to attend one or both of those shows, but in reality, I’ll just be here in southern Indiana, jamming Eternal Nightmare like I do any other given day.

Sweet mother of Jeebus, y’all, that’s a heavy goddamn year, and it’s only February, so more shows are sure to be added. Thanks for reading, stay tuned, and as always, stay heavy.

I’ve Changed By Staying the Same: A Thing About Thrash Metal Logos

The best metal bands have always had distinct logos, and thrash metal bands have always had the best logos. You can argue that if you want, but you’ll be wrong. When I was a young whippersnapper back in the 1730’s, a bitchin logo was sometimes the single most important factor in deciding which album to buy. As the 1990’s churned along and 80’s metal became something of a taboo, a lot of the more well-known thrash bands changed their classic logos. In most cases, this coincided with a change in the sound of the band as well (and not always for the better).

Here’s a look at some legendary thrash metal bands who changed their logos in the 90’s, along with a brief examination of the album(s) where the change(s) occurred. Note: as proper logos were/are often not utilized on show flyers, those will not be considered in this discussion. Likewise, changes that occured before a band’s first official LP or EP release (i.e., on demos, etc.) will not be discussed; only official releases, beginning with the beginning. Also, this list is in no way meant to complete or comprehensive. Also, it is in no particular order. Also, it could probably be laid out more clearly, but here we are.

1. Metallica

Metallica’s logo evolved along with the band, but it was always based on that distinct stabbing M and A. Their classic logo is possibly the most recognizable logo in all of metal (even my 73-year-old parents recognize it). 1987’s The 5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited fudged the formula a bit by making the logo look like it was taken from the pages of a teenager’s school notebook, but like the songs on the tape, this was a nod to the band’s early days. 1988’s massive …And Justice for All reverted to the classic block format (quite literally this time, by making it appear to be carved in stone). On 1991’s Metallica (aka “The Black Album”), the logo is still pretty much the same, although it was blended almost entirely into the black background, not unlike the band’s thrash metal roots on this album.

This motherfucker is still selling over 200,000 copies a year.

The first real, concrete logo change came with the release of 1996’s Load, which of course found the band slowing things waaaaaaay down, and dabbling in country music and straight-up hard rock sounds. Everything about the cover of Load hinted at a drastic change in sound, tempo, tone, and attitude.

Gross.

They used this logo again on Reload, and 2003’s late term abortion St. Anger saw another evolution of the logo, back into something more like the classic logo, only more “edgy” and “stupid”.

They reverted to the original logo on 2008’s Death Magnetic, and used a slightly altered version of it on 2016’s Hardwired…to Self-Destruct (which, while probably their best album since Metallica, is still not that great), but it doesn’t matter anymore.

2. Anthrax

I always loved Anthrax’s logo, not to mention Anthrax. They were my first favorite band, and I was a proud member of their fan club for a couple of years in the early 90’s. Their sound evolved somewhat throughout the 80’s and into the 90’s, but it changed a lot in 1992, when longtime singer Joey Belladonna was shown the door and former Armored Saint frontman John Bush stepped in. Bush’s debut, 1993’s Sound of White Noise, was a pretty big step in a new direction for Anthrax, with more of an emphasis on vocal melodies, lower tunings, and slower tempos, but it also comes off (to my ears) as a natural continuation of the sound the band had harnessed on 1991’s stellar Persistence of Time. As such, the change in the  logo is slight (perhaps imperceptible to the casual viewer).

Bushthrax

1995’s Stomp 442 is a horse of an entirely different color. All references to the classic, pointy logo were gone, and in its place was a weird, wavy block letter thing, almost unnoticeable down in the lower left corner of the bizarre cover.

Yeah, I don’t really get it either.

The changes didn’t stop at the cover, either. Longtime lead guitarist Danny Spitz left the band after SoWN, and with him vanished nearly any musical connection to the Anthrax of old. Solos still came along (many were played by drummer Charlie Benante, with two guest solos by Dimebag Darrell), and the riffs were still there (albeit much simpler), but overall it was a much more straightforward hard rock album, and was nowhere near the neighborhood of a thrash metal album. Every album since Stomp 442 has utilized a version of the classic logo.

On a side note, has anyone other than me noticed the similarities between the Anthrax logo and the Toyota Matrix logo?

3. Testament

Holy shit do I ever love me some Testament. Their first logo change can be found on the cover of 1990’s Souls of Black, but it’s really nothing more than a separation of the letters in their classic logo, as seen above. The band’s sound didn’t really change with the cover.

The follow-up, 1992’s underrated The Ritual, crammed the letters back together and turned them into an implied pentagram, resulting in a cover that hinted at a sound more evil than what was contained within.

Fantastic cover, fantastic album. Not nearly as evil as the cover implies.

The Return to the Apocalyptic City EP (1993) returned the logo to classic form (and threw in a completely fucking bitchin cover, to boot).

See?

In 1994, the band released their final studio album on longtime label Atlantic Records. Low returned the logo to the Souls of Black-style separated letters, and this time, the sounds were noticeably different. Lead guitar maestro Alex Skolnik left the band after the The Ritual, and his replacement by the supremely talented yet stylistically very different James Murphy (Obituary, Death) ushered in some pretty big sonic changes. The album is excellent from beginning to end, and it still sounds like Testament, but it has a decidedly heavier edge than anything the band had released prior, even dipping their toes in the death metal end of the pool with side two opener “Dog Faced Gods”.

This heavier verison of Testament stuck with the newer, separated logo for 1997’s Demonic, then simplified it even more on 1999’s The Gathering (with the second version of the logo incorporated into the artwork) before reverting to their classic logo with their return from hiatus, 2008’s excellent Formation of Damnation.

Boring logo, weird cover, amazing album.

Today, the band kind of goes back and forth between the two logos, and they still kick loads of ass. Their most recent album (Brotherhood of the Snake – 2016) is my least favorite so far, but it’s still better and more consistent than most other classic band’s modern offerings (I’m looking at you, Metallica, Anthrax,  and Slayer).

4. Slayer

Fucking duh.

Speaking of Slayer, their logo is likely the second-most recognizable in the world of thrash metal (and is probably the only one that could really give Metallica’s classic logo a run for its money as far as recognizability), and their first six releases utilized it to varying degrees, with it being most prominent (i.e., mostly unaccompanied) on 1984’s absolute banger Haunting the Chapel EP.

The cover of 1992’s Seasons in the Abyss marks the first of two albums in a row without the logo anywhere on the cover, but the sound didn’t change drastically with either album. 1996’s pretty good collection of punk and hardcore covers Undisputed Attitude returned it to a sort of prominence, albeit in the form a fan-worn t-shirt.

In 1998, the band released the weird, mostly slow, chuggy, nü-metal-influenced Diabolus in Musica, and astute Slayer fans were tipped off to the change when they saw the cover,  which, while creepy in its own way, bore absolutely no resemblance to any previous Slayer release.

This may as well have had flashing red lights and sirens on it.

The next few albums varied in their use of the logo, and the most recent album, 2016’s Repentless, brought back the orginal logo (along with echoes of some of the classic artwork), but the magic is pretty much gone at this point. At least we have their first 4 1/2 albums, right?

Holy shit.

5. Megadeth 

Megadeth is a unique on this list in that they changed their logo significantly two different times. The first change occurred between their debut (1985’s Killing is My Business…and Business is Good!) and their second album (1986’s godly Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying?) but did not accompany a significant change in sound. The band stuck with their new, iconic logo (above) from Peace Sells… up through 1995’s Hidden Treasures EP (a solid collection of soundtrack/compilation songs and covers).

In 1997, Megadeth died, and Dave Mustaine released Cryptic Writings, and album which marked a significant change in the band’s sound. They’d already slowed things down quite a bit with Countdown to Extinction (1991) and Youthanasia (1994), but Cryptic Writings found Mustaine and co. actively working to make a more commercial sounding, radio-friendly album, and the results are not so good, but they’re miles ahead of its follow-up, 1999’s Risk.

[sad trombone sound]

Ugh.

Dave Mustaine has remixed, remastered, and re-released Killing is My Business…, Cryptic Writings, and Risk in the past few years and they all have new artwork featuring the classic logo. To be fair, I haven’t tried listening to either Cryptic Writings or Risk since probably 2001 or so, but when Peace Sells…, So Far, So Good…So What! (1988), and Rust in Peace (1990) all exist, I don’t really have a reason to try again.

Megadeth returned to their classic logo with 2001’s The World Needs a Hero, and have used that logo on every release since, with the exception of one live album and one greatest hits/best of compilation. Musically, they have remained a mixed bag.

6. Exodus

Exodus released three crushing albums between 1985 and 1989, then began to falter a bit. 1990’s Impact is Imminent is good, but it’s not as solid as any of its predecessors. In 1992, they released Force of Habit, which is still a good album, but it is perhaps most notable for slowing down the breakneck tempos quite a bit, and for the weird, weird graffiti cover, complete with spray-painted logo.

Major label influence and declining record sales are a hell of a drug.

It was the last album Exodus released until 1997, when they reunited with original vocalist/lunatic Paul Baloff (RIP) and recorded a fucking amazing live album called Another Lesson in Violence. They have utilized their original logo since that album, and they have continued to crush skulls and snap necks since.

7. Overkill

New Jersey’s Overkill are one of thrash metal’s unsung heroes, churning out good-to-great albums with an almost alarming consistency since 1985. Like all bands not called AC/DC, Motörhead, or Ramones, their sound has changed a bit, but unlike all the other bands on this list, their logo has not changed at all since their first album. The sole exceptions come in the form of live album (1995’s Wrecking Your Neck) and an album of covers from 1999 called Coverkill, which did have a weird ransom note-esque logo at the top, but also included the original logo at the bottom as part of the album title.

I don’t know that Overkill’s musical consistency and logo consistency are related, but I do find it interesting that they are the only thrash band from the 80’s that both never broke up and also never changed their logo in the 90’s.

8. Iron Maiden

Someone did my work for me. Thank you, anonymous stranger!

Iron Maiden is obviously not a thrash band, but they did have a subtle logo change, and I love them, so I’m including them on this list. The logo is iconic to say the least, and the band is quite possibly the biggest metal band in the world (only Metallica could conceivably compete for that title at this point). They had a bit of a rough go in the 1990’s, first losing longtime guitarist Adrian Smith in 1990, during early work on No Prayer for the Dying, followed by vocalist Bruce Dickinson in 1993 (after touring for 1992’s Fear of the Dark). Smith was replaced by Janick Gers, and Dickinson was replaced by Blaze Bayley (whose band Wolfsbane had opened for Maiden during their 1990 tour). This lineup released two albums, 1995’s excellent The X Factor, and 1998’s kind of okay Virtual XI.

The cover for The X Factor is strange, but the logo is more or less the same, and the songs sound more or less like Maiden songs, albeit with a very different voice. Virtual XI, however, is different. Superficially, the logo was changed ever so slightly to be flat across the bottom. The album itself has some very high highlights (album opener “Futureal” and “The Clansman”, especially), but it has some real duds on it, too. The second track, “The Angel and the Gambler”, would be pretty solid if it was 3 minutes long, but instead it drags on for just shy of 10 minutes, most of which is the chorus repeated repeatedly. This has become a recurring issue on Iron Maiden albums, as Steve Harris seems to have begun writing songs specifically for a live audience to sing along with. Whatever, they still kick unbelievable amounts of ass live, and I still love them.

The original logo was utilized on a few compilations throughout the 2000’s, and made its unassuming return on a studio album with 2015’s The Book of Souls. Merchandise is available in both logo styles, i.e., with or without “tails”.

9. Voivod

I’ve written a lot about Voivod, so I won’t get into them here, other than to say that their logo has changed with every single release, just as their sound has evolved with every single release. While I’m not sure about the other bands on this list, I can say with certainty that Voivod’s logo changed each time to purposely reflect the evolution of the sounds conatined within the albums. If you don’t already, you should listen to Voivod. If you do already, you should listen to them more often.

These are not in order, but they are all fucking badass.

What can we glean from all this? Fuck if I know, I just love heavy metal, appreciate a well-crafted logo, and realized that no one had really written about logo changes as hints of musical changes (based on my very limited research).

Anyway, thanks for reading, and thanks for staying heavy with me.

 

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.

 

 

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!

 

Mixtape Monday (Friday Edition) Volume 11: Everything Looks Like a Target To Me

I had a pretty shitty day at work on Wednesday, and when I came home, I started putting this Mixtape together. It was inspired by one particular person at work, and I’ve calmed down considerably since, but the person who inspired it can (and very much should) still fuck off. Really though, this mix is just about being pissed off, and sometimes, you need that. This is in no particular order.

Exodus – “A Lesson in Violence” (from Bonded By Blood – 1985) – “You motherfuckers better give it up for Exodus!” If you don’t believe me, listen to the entirety of this scorching live version from one of the best live metal albums ever, Another Lesson in Violence. After you’re finished with this mix, you should probably go ahead and listen to the entire album. It seriously rules.

Minor Threat – “Small Man, Big Mouth” (from Minor Threat – 1981) – This song was on my mind while I was at work that day, and while it’s technically about little guys who overcompensate for their size by being assholes, it’s important to remember that some small men are regular-sized, and are also assholes.

Tool – “Ænema” (from Ænima – 1999)  – I’m not the biggest fan of Tool by any stretch of the imagination, but I have nothing against them. I absolutely fucking adore this song, and the video is creepy as shit, as Tool videos tend to be.

“Some say the end is near.
Some say we’ll see armageddon soon.
I certainly hope we will
I sure could use a vacation from this

Stupid shit, silly shit, stupid shit…”

Metallica – “Damage, Inc.” (from Master of Puppets – 1986)

“We chew and spit you out
We laugh, you scream and shout
All flee, with fear you run
You’ll know just where we come from…”

AC/DC – “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” (from Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap – 1976) – My brother got this tape (along with Led Zeppelin I) for Christmas when I was about 5 or 6 years old, and both albums had a profound influence on me. Dirty Deeds is still my favorite AC/DC album.

Big Business – “I’ll Give You Something to Cry About” (from Here Come the Waterworks – 2007) – I’m only really familiar with this one Big Business album, but if it was the only thing they’d ever released, they would still be fucking legendary.

“I’d like to forgive and forget, but I can’t
It’s just one of the ways that I’m petty…”

Black Flag – “Clocked In” (from The First Four Years compilation – 1983) – This job prompted me to share this song on my personal facebook page once before. The Dez Cadena version is superlative. I’ll fight you about that.

Cannibal Corpse – “Puncture Wound Massacre” (from Vile – 1996) – This song is cathartic as a motherfucker.

“I only see red, rage exploding
Two knives, one mind, that hate has broken…”

Brujeria – “Matando Gueros” (from Matando Gueros – 1993) – If you don’t know the story of Brujeria, you should look them up. Their name is Spanish for “witchcraft”, and they kick a ton of ass. The title of this song translates roughly to “Killing White Boys”. None of this should be confused for the Shakira song “Brujería”; I haven’t heard it, but I am 100% confident that they are unrelated.

Rage Against the Machine – “Killing in the Name” (from Rage Against the Machine  – 1992) – “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!”? You’d better believe this song and album made a major impact on 15-year-old me.

Clutch – “Binge and Purge” (from Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes, and Undeniable Truths – 1993) – Clutch hasn’t always been the blues-infected groove juggernaut they are today. They came to life in 1991 with a very rough hardcore-tinged sound, as heard on their earliest releases, 1991’s Pitchfork 7″ demo, 1992’s Passive Restraints EP, and to a lesser extent, their 1993 full length debut. I don’t listen to their earlier stuff as much, but some of those old songs are absolute classics. “Binge and Purge” is one of them. It is pure, unbridled adolescent rage, and it’s also where I got the title of this Mixtape.

Faith No More – “Surprise! You’re Dead!” (from The Real Thing – 1989) – I love Faith No More, but I was quite disappointed in their recent comeback album. Sometimes I think about giving it another chance, but with a back catalog that includes songs like this, why bother?

Grim Reaper – “See You in Hell” (from See You In Hell – 1983) – My brother used to have this tape in his room, and I was scared of it. When I finally got around to looking this song up a few years ago, I was surprised to find that it was so much less heavy and evil (and so much goofier!) than I remembered.

Vio-Lence – “Serial Killer” (from Eternal Nightmare – 1988) –  This song has been shared on these pages before, but I don’t give a shit; it should be listened to at least once a day. The first Vio-Lence album is a crash course in Thrash Metal Gang Vocals 101 and Thrash Metal Riffs 201. Fucking amazing.

Overkill – “I Hate” (from The Years of Decay – 1989) – This song probably best sums up my overall feeling from that shitty, shitty work day that inspired this kickass mix, so I’m gonna include the lyrics in their entirety, as transcribed on The Metal Archives.

So much trouble
Hate this job
Tried to get out
Trapped like a dog
No, I don’t like
Pumpin’ gas
Do ya hate to wait?

Life’s a game
We play your rules
Bottle half empty
Or the bottle half full
It does no good
No good to shout
But I scream, I hate

Say I’m hostile,
Gotta relax,
Gotta get a grip,
Here’s the facts:
I hate bein’ here!

I hate people that make you feel small
I hate having my back against the wall
You know, I hate being talked down to

I hate your rules
I hate ’em all
Hate being marked to take the fall

Planet’s not big enough for me and you

So much trouble
Over me
Surrounded by jerks
Can’t ya see?
Smile to my face
I know you lie
Knife in the back

Another game
Rules, rules, rules
Not for me
Ya fuckin’ fool
Open your mouth
Just one more time
And my foot’s goin’ down

In one ear
Out the other
A waste of time
Don’t even bother,
I hate being here!

I hate people that make you feel small
I hate having my back against the wall
You know, I hate being talked down to

I hate your rules
I hate ’em all
Hate being marked to take the fall

Planet’s not big enough for me and you
But most of all
I hate you…

YOU! I hate you
YOU! I hate you
I hate, I hate, I hate, I hate you

[Solo]

I hate people that make you feel small
I hate having my back against the wall
You know, I hate being talked down to

I hate your rules
I hate ’em all
Hate being marked to take the fall

Planet’s not big enough for me and you
But most of all
I hate you…

Think I know
How you got this far?
Think I know how you
Got where you are?

Think I’ll hate you
When you’re dead?
I know I’ll hate ya

Smile to my face
Know you lie
Say I got problems?
Ask yourself why

Hate the games
I hate the rules
You’re gonna lose

Say I’m hostile,
Gotta relax,
Better get a grip,
Here’s the facts:
Not much more of you!

I hate people that make you feel small
I hate having my back against the wall
You know, I hate being talked down to

I hate your rules
I hate ’em all
Hate being marked to take the fall
Planet’s not big enough for me and you
But most of all
I hate you…

I hate people that make you feel small (I HATE YOU!)
I hate having my back against the wall (I HATE YOU!)
I hate being talked down to

I hate your rules
Every one (I HATE YOU!)
Hate having counted you number one
I hate being placed at number two
But most of all
I hate you
I hate you
I HATE YOU!

I HATE!

That’s all for now. Stay heavy, friends.

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.

Cosmic Conspiracy: A Voivod Primer, Part 3

What follows is Part Three of a five part series about the groundbreaking and visionary French-Canadian progressive metal band Voivod.  Part One can be found here, and Part Two can be found here.

Following the tour cycle for The Outer Limits, Snake left Voivod for personal reasons, and remaining members Away and Piggy took the opportunity to reinvent the band, resulting in a drastically different sound through the remainder of the 1990s.  With both vocal and bass duties needing to be filled, they opted in early 1994 to bring in Toronto native Eric Forrest (Voivod alias: E-Force – they can’t all be home runs) to handle both.  Forrest’s debut with Voivod, 1995’s Negatron, is probably the least Voivod-sounding album in the band’s catalog, and is probably my least favorite Voivod album, although that would be akin to discussing my least favorite bowl of Count Chocula, or perhaps my least favorite baseball game. In other words, I’d still rather have that bowl of Count Chocula (it was stale), that baseball game (Yankees vs. Red Sox), and this Voivod album than none at all.

The overall sound – a stripped-down industrial groove – definitely roots the album firmly in its release year (it would not be out of place on the shelf alongside Fear Factory and Pantera), and both Away’s drumming and Piggy’s guitar work are much more straightforward and simple than ever before, or since, but it’s important to remember that the simplest Voivod song is still too weird for the average person’s taste.  E-Force’s vocals are much more aggressive and shouty than Snake’s, and the album artwork is just as stripped-down and industrial as the sounds contained within. Ultimately, Negatron‘s biggest downfall is the relative same-ness of the songs.  A video was made for “Insect”, and there’s a good chance you’ve never seen it before.

“Insect” – This is the opening track, and if you were going to listen to only one song from Negatron, I would recommend that this be the one.

“Nanoman” – Ivan Doroschuck of Men Without Hats (a.k.a. the band that taught the world “The Safety Dance”) co-wrote the lyrics to this one.

“Cosmic Conspiracy” – Piggy’s guitar work in this one is more like classic Voivod than probably anything else on the album.

When the band returned to the studio to record the follow-up to Negatron, Away was ready to bring the original Voivod story line back into play, and he and Piggy made it clear to E-Force that they were expecting more vocal dynamics from him this time around. The resulting work, 1997’s Phobos, is easily the band’s most underrated album, as well as the darkest album the band has recorded to date. Negatron makes so much more sense when you hear Phobos and realize what it was leading to.

From the very beginning of the “Catalepsy I” intro, the album elicits feelings of isolation and desperation, and, like its Greek mythological namesake, it conveys a sense of cold, oppressive, absolute fear. One time when I played it at work, a co-worker described it as “burly as fuck”, and that is definitely an apt way to describe the sound.  Forrest’s vocals are indeed more dynamic throughout, mixing the harsh screams of Negatron with something much more Snake-like (“Bacteria” provides a good example of the latter), and his bass is much more prominent than the previous album.  Away’s drums are up to their old familiar off-kilter, herky jerky tricks, and Piggy’s guitars are overflowing with reverb, and are downright devastating here, from the opening notes of “Rise” through the jarring, unsettling staccato buzz of outro “Catalepsy II”.

As mentioned above, the album revives the story of Away’s childhood nightmare creation, the Voivod, marking his (its?) first appearance since 1990’s progressive masterpiece Nothingface.  The storyline is more straightforward than any of the other related albums, save perhaps 1988’s thrasy-prog masterpiece (and my personal favorite Voivod album) Dimension Hatröss.  The album begins with the Voivod (who apparently found his way out of his own mind, where we left him in Nothingface closer “Sub-Effect”)  “sleeping in death” until a mysterious and diabolical character named Demok sends signals from space, resurrecting him as Anark, wherein he makes his way back to Earth to “restart [his] fear program”, lays waste to the planet (“pure decay, dead planet, virus unknown, plague and curse fall on the globe”), and holes up in “The Tower” to rule the world, where “no one can reach him” and “none shall defeat him”. If we’ve learned anything from the Voivod’s adventures, though, it’s that nothing ever ends well for him, and the tale of Phobos is no exception, as we leave our protagonist “lost in this world, feeling forlorn…Anark my given name, close my eyes, fade away”.  Getting lost in this album, especially through headphones, is an absolutely breathtaking experience.

“Rise” – This song makes me wanna break everything around me.

“Phobos” – Undoubtedly my favorite song from Voivod Mark II (or Mark III, depending on who’s asking). Everything about this song makes me want to live inside it. Utter perfection.

“The Tower” – Like the title track to this album’s predecessor, Ivan Doroschuck co-wrote the lyrics to this one, as well.

“Forlorn – The current version of Voivod has been known to play this song live from time to time, which is a very exciting thing. In fact, I could only be more excited if they were playing “Phobos” live.

Phobos also contains two bonus tracks – a cover of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” and an original tune called “M-Body”, written by friend and superfan Jason Newsted (formerly of Flotsam and Jetsam), who also played bass on said tune. Both songs are good enough (the KC cover is especially tight), but frankly they add nothing to the Phobos experience, so that’s all the press they’ll get here. You would not be wrong to look them up yourself.

In 1998, Forrest was seriously injured in a car crash, so to fill the impending space between studio albums, the band released Kronik, a collection of live songs, remixes, and previously unreleased songs, including “Ion”, which was featured in the film Heavy Metal 2000, but was not included on the soundtrack album. It is very much of a kind with Negatron.

2000 saw the release of Voivod’s first official live album, Lives, which includes songs dating back to the 1984 eponymous debut, as well as a cover of Venom’s “In League With Satan”.  I am especially fond of Forrest’s take on “The Prow”, which originally appeared on 1991’s Angel Rat.

The story goes that the band recorded demos for a proper follow-up to Phobos, which would have been the final chapter of the Voivod saga, but after Forrest’s accident, the tapes were shelved, and have thus far not seen the light of day. I, for one, would give nearly anything to hear them. At any rate, Voivod lost their momentum and disbanded in 2001, only to re-form the following year with a couple of familiar faces on board – one old and one (mostly) new. That chapter will have to wait for another day.

Until then, friends, I encourage you to stay heavy, always.

P.S.: Jeff Wagner also has some real proper things to say about Phobos over at the Deciblog.