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, but they’ve gotten less interesting as time has gone on.

On a side note, I can’t be the only person to notice the similarities between the Anthrax logo and the Toyota Matrix logo, can I?

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 change drastically with the cover.

The follow-up, 1992’s underrated The Ritual, crammed the letters back together and turned them into an inverted pentagon/implied pentagram, resulting in a pretty bitchin cover that hinted at a sound more evil (and perhaps more akin to their earlier, more sinister-sounding songs) than what was contained within.

Fantastic cover, fantastic album. Not nearly as evil or comparatively heavy 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 absolutely essential 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 anyone paying attention was 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?

Fucking beautiful.

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!, with its classic speed metal-esque, Motörhead inspired cover) and their second album (1986’s godly Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying?) but did not accompany a major change in sound (though the quality did improve significantly. The band stuck with their new, iconic logo (above) from Peace Sells… up through 1995’s Hidden Treasures EP (an overall solid collection of soundtrack/compilation songs and covers).

In 1997, Megadeth died, and Dave Mustaine released Cryptic Writings, an album which marked a drastic 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, but don’t be fooled by Cryptic Writings or Risk . 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 just 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.

 

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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.

 

 

Ball of Confusion: A Long, Complicated Thing About My Long, Complicated Relationship With Anthrax

As a young fella growing up in the middle of nowhere, the first metal band I can remember hearing from my brother’s room across the hall was Iron Maiden – “Wasted Years” and “Heaven Can Wait” stuck with me, specifically (“Wasted Years” is still my favorite Maiden song, and is often my favorite ever song). I loved it instantly, because even at the age of nine-and-a-half, I wasn’t stupid. I heard Metallica right around that same time, and they blew my mind as well. Soon I began to hang out in my brother’s room when he wasn’t there, looking through the various cassette tapes his friends had lent him or given him, occasionally popping one in and giving it a listen, and eventually borrowing some of them myself. (I still own a couple of those tapes, namely Sacred Reich’s Ignorance, and a dubbed copy of Pleasures of the Flesh by Exodus.)

One fateful night in mid-1987, I came upon a tape labeled “Slayer” on one side, and “Anthrax” on the other. I’d been reading some metal and hard rock magazines (mostly Hit Parader and Circus), so I’d heard of both bands, but was otherwise unfamiliar with either. I put in the Slayer side first, which turned out to be the superlative Reign in Blood, and it was cued up to what I later learned was “Altar of Sacrifice”.

While I did not grow up in a religious household, the long shadow of fundamental religion was cast over me for most of my childhood, as most of my mom’s side of the family were (and a few still are) members of what is best described as a cult, but that’s another story for another time. The bottom line is that “Altar of Sacrifice” scared the everlovin shit out of me, and I was terrified of Slayer for a couple of years afterward. It all seems so quaint now to this grown-ass fan of all things bloodsoaked and blasphemous.

I turned the tape over to “Anthrax”, rewound it to the beginning, pressed play, and the slow, doom-laden opening guitars of “Among the Living” began to ring out. This was the album Among the Living, and it would go on to change my life in the same way that Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Iron Maiden’s Somewhere in Time had less than one year before. Something about these guys seemed different to me, and I started to seek out more information about them (life before the internet was so much harder than some people could ever believe). I liked the fact that they didn’t seem to take themselves as seriously as some of the other thrash bands, and they were clearly fans of comics books and cartoons, not unlike me. The songs were tight as hell, too.

For Christmas that following year, I received the band’s 4th full-length album, State of Euphoria (which is still maybe my favorite Anthrax album – for sure my favorite Joey-era album), and for the first time in my short life, I had my own favorite band.  State of Euphoria is probably best known for being the album that contained “Antisocial”, a cover of a song by a French band called Trust. It’s a great cover, and is still a staple in their live sets, although the band performs it pretty much exactly like the original, which seems to just be the way they do covers.

They landed the direct support slot for Ozzy Osbourne on his “No Rest for the Wicked” US tour in the winter of 1988-89, and a headlining slot on the MTV Headbanger’s Ball Tour in 1989, with Exodus and Helloween supporting. The band filmed a video for “Antisocial” which featured the band playing live cut together with footage of their mascot, the “Not Man”, running around and causing mayhem. At the end of the video, we learn that it was the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne, running around wearing the giant head.  The video was in a moderately heavy rotation on MTV that summer; I remember seeing it during the day a few times, even.

I went on to receive the band’s first home video, Oidivnikufesin N.F.V. for my birthday a few months later, and my cousin Jason and I proceeded to watch that thing until our eyes figuratively started to bleed, alternating it with viewings of Metallica’s Cliff ‘Em All home video (Jason was more of a Metallica guy, so we traded off), Blazing Saddles (still the funniest movie of all time) and Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (still the best Police Academy movie), and eventually adding my recording of an episode of Headbanger’s Ball into the mix.

In the summer of 1990, the band released what was their darkest, arguably heaviest album yet (and by most of my observations, still one of their most popular), Persistence of Time. I don’t know how I managed to not wear my copy out, but I actually still own my original cassette, and it still plays flawlessly. Probably the best known song from this album is the pretty much spot-on cover of Joe Jackson’s Got the Time, which is also still played live at (I’m pretty sure) every single Anthrax show. The band also landed an appearance on a classic episode of Married…With Children called “My Dinner With Anthrax” around this time.

 

Sometime around this period, I joined the fan club, which got me a badass fan club exclusive t-shirt, a laminated “backstage pass” style membership card, a poster for the Headbanger’s Ball tour mentioned above, and a subscription to the official newsletter. Side note: I’ve been a packrat pretty much since I could pick up objects and place them in boxes, yet I inexplicably own none of these items today. What the fuck is wrong with me? I seriously wonder that sometimes. The world may never know.

My shirt was just like this one, only the print on the back was blue.

My shirt was just like this one, only the print on the back was blue. That’s the way I remember it, anyway. Click image to embiggen.

Anyway, I also got around to ordering the band’s second album (and first with Joey Belladonna on vocals), 1985’s Spreading the Disease, from the BMG tape club around this time as well, and my cousin Nathan made me a copy of the band’s first album, 1983’s Fistful of Metal, which is the only Anthrax album to feature original bassist Dan Lilker, as well as Neil Turbin on vocals. I continued to love Anthrax like a family member, eventually wearing out my copy of State of Euphoria (I got a new one through BMG) and my Not Man t-shirt (I was unable to replace this). I scored a copy of 1991’s Attack of the Killer B’s shortly after it was released; this fantastic collection of B-sides and outtakes featured several covers, all of which were performed pretty much to the letter, but is certainly best known for featuring “Bring the Noise”, their mega-hit collaboration with Public Enemy. My love continued to grow.

Then, one otherwise uneventful day in 1992, I received a most unwelcome announcement in the mail, via the fan club: Anthrax had fired longtime singer Joey Belladonna. They assured me that the audition process had been trucking along, and that I would be the first to know when a replacement was named. I was devastated – how could the band I’d grown to love and, in fact, count on to get me through my days possibly continue without that powerful voice? I received an answer approximately one year later, when Sound of White Noise, the first album of the controversial John Bush-era was released.

I initially liked SoWN, but I didn’t love it. Bush’s voice was obviously different than Joey’s, but the music was different, too. It was tuned lower, it was generally slower, and it had more of a groove than before. At the time, it seemed like an unnecessary change in direction. Upon further listening, however, I came to recognize it as more of a natural extension of the darker, slower sound the band introduced on Persistence of Time. The fact that Bush’s voice resided in a lower register really enhanced the darkness, giving it more of an edge than any other Anthrax album at the time.

The album debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200 chart and had 4 hit songs – “Only” (called a “perfect song” by James Hetfield), “Room For One More”, “Hy Pro Glo”, and the haunting, dreamy, Twin Peaks-inspired “Black Lodge”, co-written by Twin Peaks music maestro Angelo Badalementi (and featuring a real weird video starring Jenna Elfman).

The bulk of the criticism lobbed at the band in the wake of Sound of White Noise was in regard to the lack of thrashing in favor of vocal melodies and grooves, and this criticism always has and always will rub me the wrong way. Yes, public interest in thrash metal was waning, and all of the major thrash bands were slowing down and growing up, but it’s not like thrash metal was ever anywhere close to taking over the world; Metallica didn’t become a household name until the release of “the black album” in 1991, and by then, all evidence of their thrash beginnings was long gone.

And I’ll admit there is some likelihood that Anthrax saw the overwhelming success of Metallica’s dumbing down (as well as Megadeth’s successful big slowdown with Countdown to Extinction  a year after Metallica) and decided to hitch their cart to that wagon, but let’s be real for a minute here: after 12-13 years of flying under the radar, you can’t really blame a band for wanting to make some money at their job, nor can you blame a group of individuals for wanting to try something new, and besides all that, the songs on Sound of White Noise are really, really good.

And besides, if some longtime fans were disappointed in the changes wrought by SoWN, they were about to be severely let down by the followup, 1995’s Stomp 442.  This marked an even more noticeable change in the overall sound of the band, bringing in more vocal melodies and mid-tempo songs, and it even closed with a sparse, emotional, mostly acoustic gem called “Bare”.

This marked the beginning of Anthrax’s “no official lead guitarist” period, which lasted for quite a bit longer than probably anyone imagined it would. Longtime lead man Danny Spitz left the band after the SoWN tour for a variety of reasons (the various stories of former Anthrax members are murky at best), and eventually moved to Switzerland to attend school for watch making and repair. Rather than find a permanent, full-time replacement, the band soldiered on with drummer Charlie Benante playing most of the leads on the albums, while Spitz’s guitar tech Paul Crook handled those duties in a live setting (he also produced Stomp 442 and the followup).

Stomp 442 was the second of a two-album deal with Elektra records, but according to Scott Ian, everyone at the label who was involved in the signing of Anthrax (including the label president) was fired while the band was touring for Sound of White Noise, and the new regime had no interest in Anthrax, so Stomp 442 received next to no promotion, and the band was dropped from the label a short time later. I bought the album the day it was released, and to my mid-90’s ears, already primed by the newer sound (of white noise), it was fantastic. I loved it, front to back, and played it pretty much all the time. My older, wiser, more refined ears are able to find faults with the album, but it still has some great tunes (“Nothing” is among my favorite Anthrax songs, and the video is awesome), and it still gets several spins a year in my car.

I saw Anthrax live for the first time in Indianapolis in the summer of 1996, when they were touring with the newly resurrected Michale Graves-fronted Misfits, Life of Agony, and Cannibal Corpse (although sadly, Life of Agony couldn’t make it to our stop, as they had troubles with their tour bus). On the drive up, Scott and (I think) John were being interviewed on an Indianapolis radio station, and the DJ asked them a question regarding the fact that they were opening for the Misfits, and Scott quickly corrected him – they were, according to Mr. Rosenfeld, “co-headlining” with the Misfits. Funny, I remember thinking, that their name did not appear on my ticket, nor did they ever play after the Misfits on that tour. But I guess we’ve all lied to ourselves to save face at some point.

At any rate, the vast majority of the crowd was obviously there to see the Misfits, and more than once during Anthrax’s set, I heard someone yell from the crowd that they “fuckin suck(ed)”. Since it happened over 20 years ago, my memories of the evening are spotty at best, but here’s what I remember most: my friend Travis ended up with someone else’s blood on his new white Anthrax shirt, and I legitimately thought I might die in the mosh pit (it was my first pit, but not my last, nor was it the last time I thought I might die in a mosh pit). Also, the band sounded great, and they had a ton of energy. In retrospect, I’d liken it to the way a minor league baseball player often plays with more passion than a major leaguer because they have more to prove. Anthrax were definitely out to prove that asshole in the crowd wrong, although I’m sure they didn’t notice.

A couple of years later, the band had scored a new record deal, this time with an upstart label called Ignition, a subsidiary of 90’s hip-hop giant Tommy Boy, and in 1998 they released an album called Volume 8: The Threat is Real! that is woefully underrated and unappreciated. The album continues in the direction taken by SoWN, with simpler riffs, big fat grooves, and more personal, introspective lyrics, but it stands out in the Anthrax catalog for a couple of reasons: the country-flavored “Toast to the Extras” and the haunting hidden acoustic track “Pieces”, written and sang by bassist Frank Bello, in honor of his brother Anthony, who had been shot and killed in New York City.

I loved Volume 8 since the first time I pressed play, and I still love Volume 8 to this day. It is one of my favorite Anthrax albums, and in fact I’ve been planning to write a defense of the album for this blog since I started this blog, but honestly, I don’t have any sort of concrete evidence for why it rules. If the riffs and vocals and lyrics don’t do it for you, no amount of me talking it up is going to change your mind. My love for it is too personal to really talk about it with any objectivity, but I will say that the album has seemingly reminded me of its presence at several important points in my life. I wrote about one of those points here, and I will add that in late 2006 and early 2007, nearly 10 years after I first fell in love with Volume 8, it played a significant role in keeping me sane and alive. “Harms Way” in particular has always felt like it was written specifically for me. The lyrics are included after the video…

Here comes the biggest asshole that the, the whole world’s ever seen
Watch as things turn to something I never, I never meant to be
Call it a side effect of my arrested development
Here with you I’m trapped, I’m trapped, out of my element

I tear through all this wreckage
Wreckage you left when you dropped the bomb
Is there something worth saving
Or do I act, I act like nothing’s wrong
The lesser of two evils gives me, gives me nothing at all

Lust and madness, murder and mayhem
My whole life’s been about playing
It’s all so surreal
Maybe that’s why I touch but can’t feel

Sittin’ pretty, as I sit up straight
Trying to find means to an end I move into harms way
I move into harms way

I see my face in the mirror
I feel my feet but I can’t seem to walk in my shoes
When it hurts I feel closer to you
Closer than you ever knew
And the bottom line is knowing
I will die and the worms will eat me
The bottom line is knowing
Ain’t no one else I can be

Lust and madness, murder and mayhem
My whole life’s been about playing
It’s all so surreal
Maybe that’s why I touch but can’t feel

Sittin’ pretty, as I sit up straight
Trying to find means to an end I move into harms way
Running steady, smile on my face
Trying to find means to an end I move into harms way
I move into harms way

Sittin’ pretty as I, running steady as I, sittin’ pretty as I sit up straight
Running steady, smile on my face
Trying to find means to an end I move into harms way
I move into harms way

Sometime after the release of Volume 8, the record label folded, and the band was left without a home once again. In 1999, they signed with Beyond Records and released Return of the Killer A’s, a “greatest hits”/best of collection that highlighted both the Joey-era and the John-era. It’s a cool album that features remixes of a couple of the songs, and it also included one new song, a cover of the Temptation’s “Ball of Confusion”, featuring both John Bush and Joey Belladonna on vocals. Plans were made for the band to tour together with both vocalists, the very thought of which made me weak in the knees, but ultimately those plans were scrapped, as Joey didn’t want to commit to a tour. Ball of confusion, indeed. They let me down, and this was the beginning of the complications in my years-long relationship with my favorite band.

The members continued to work on various things, and had plans for a new studio album and a live album in late 2001/early 2002, and of course nothing that was planned for late 2001 ended up happening properly, so the followup album, We’ve Come For You All, didn’t see release until 2003.  The band did finally manage to pull in a permanent lead guitarist by the name of Rob Caggiano (who also produced the album, and who now plays with Volbeat for some reason). I’m not sure what it is about WCFYA, but it doesn’t grab me like the other John Bush-era albums. The riffs are heavy as shit, and it has some songs that I thoroughly and sincerely enjoy (“What Doesn’t Die”, “Safe Home”, “Black Dahlia”), but I find it mostly forgettable.

2004 saw the release of the unnecessary-but-awesome The Greater of Two Evils, a collection of classic Joey-era songs re-recorded by the then-current lineup, all beefed up and burly. I don’t give any kind of a shit what anyone says about this album: it’s a goddamned treasure, and Bush’s voice is so voluminous and full you could take a nap inside it. The songs on the album were decided by allowing fans to vote on the band’s website (their biggest hits are nowhere to be found, as they are both cover songs), and we picked some bona fide classics, if I do say so myself. My love was reaffirmed, and all was well, until word broke that Anthrax and Frank Bello had parted ways. I was every bit as devastated as when they told me Joey was booted all those years ago, although some good did come of it, as Frank went on to join Helmet on their tour for Size Matters, and I got to see them on that tour, and that was fucking awesome.

Then in 2005, like an abusive partner, Anthrax simultaneously crapped on my heart and made me giddy with excitement. They announced a reunion of the “classic lineup”, for touring purposes only, to perform only classic lineup material, i.e., the songs they’d just re-recorded with John Bush. Frank Bello was back from his stint with Helmet, and Joey Belladonna and Danny Spitz were back, Belladonna looking like he hadn’t aged a day since he was booted, and Spitz looking like he could be a member of any generic band that would offer to sell you tickets to the Shinedown show they were opening. John Bush was understandably less-than-thrilled with the situation, and he busied himself doing television voice work (including some Burger King commercials) and occasionally recording and playing shows with his original band, Armored Saint, both of which he continues to do to this day.

After the tour, Scott and Charlie fired Joey again, and Danny rode his ego bubble off into the sunset, and the band went on a bit of a hiatus, and I went on a bit of a hiatus from the band. They later hired some guy named Dan Nelson to be their vocalist and recorded an entire album with him on vocals, only to either fire him or have him quit, depending on which side you want to believe. They reached out to John Bush to see if he would be interested in re-recording the vocals for that album, but Bush declined, as he had no interest in being a hired gun in his former band. It appeared that Anthrax had, in the words of my buddy Joe, “fucked themselves into a corner”.

Re-enter Joey Belladonna, maybe the only person who has allowed Anthrax to hurt him and has then subsequently forgiven them more than I have. Joey re-recorded the vocals to the Dan Nelson album, a.k.a. Worship Music, and the band released it in 2011 to huge acclaim. I’d been hurt enough that I wasn’t ready to buy into the hype. I’d heard one song, “Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t”, and it sounded good, but I also noticed that the riff in the opening and chorus sounded a lot like the main riff in one of their older songs, “Gridlock”, from Persistence of Time. I’ve inexplicably found very few examples on the internet of other people noticing this, but I am absolutely not wrong about it. Listen for yourself.

I mean, at least they’re stealing from themselves, I guess, right?

Anyway, I held off buying Worship Music for a few months, until I started hearing/reading things about it being the band’s best album since Persistence of Time. How could I in good conscience continue to sleep on this? I bought it, popped it in, and it fuckin jammed, y’all! Then I listened to it again, and again, and again, etcetera, and Joey’s voice sounded great, but the more I listened, the more glaringly obvious it became that it was written for someone else’s voice. And here’s the thing: I’ve only heard a few shittily recorded clips of Dan Nelson singing live for Anthrax, but from what I’ve heard, it doesn’t even sound to me like it was written for him. No, friends, Worship Music sounds very much to this opinionated asshole like it was written for John Bush.

Listen to “Crawl”, and imagine it with Bush’s voice.

The first half of the album, up to and including “In the End” still kicks tons of ass, and if it was an EP, I’d probably rank it among my favorite Anthrax releases, but every song on the back half of Worship Music would clearly be better if John Bush sang on it. And don’t get me started on that ridiculous hidden cover of Refused’s utterly fucking awesome “New Noise” – they should’ve scrapped that idea entirely when they brought Joey back on board.

Regardless of my feelings, re: Worship Music, I was fucking stoked to get the chance to see the band on this tour, especially since Testament and Death Angel were opening. Scott and Charlie were both absent from the show, Scott on doctor-ordered bed rest for an illness, and Charlie to be with his ailing mother, so Gene Motherfucking Hoglan played drums for Anthrax immediately following his set with Testament, and Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar from Death Angel teamed up to tackle some of the rhythm guitars. The show was amazing, and I got to hear “Metal Thrashing Mad” live, which was dope, but the absence of Scott’s backing vocals on all the songs made me very aware of how prominent Scott’s backing vocals are on all the songs.

Fast forward to present day. Anthrax have another new album out, For All Kings, and it’s getting even better reviews than Worship Music, and I still just don’t get it. I picked it up a couple weeks after the release, and I’ve listened to it several times since, and I’m just not feeling it. It’s got some great riffs (the opening riff in “Suzerain” is almost bowel-emptyingly heavy), and Joey’s voice still sounds great, but I’m not getting stoked on it like I used to get stoked on Anthrax albums. I’m listening to it as I type these words, in fact, and all I can think about is how much I’d rather be listening to State of Euphoria, and I just listened to it earlier today.

At any rate, Cousin Jason and I will be in attendance tomorrow night when Anthrax plays Indianapolis with Death Angel again, this time both opening for $layer. And as jaded and cynical as I’ve become, I’m sure I’ll still have an awesome time, and even though I’d rather hear just about any other Anthrax song live than “Antisocial”, I’ll still get caught up in the excitement and sing along with every word. I’ve come to terms with the fact that they’ll hurt me again someday, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll take them back, because no matter what, you can never leave your first favorite band. I sure wish they’d get their shit together and keep it together, though.

And even though I’d rather whip Kerry King with his stupid fucking log chains than look at him, I know I’ll get absolutely fucking stoked when Slayer hits the stage. I also know that I’ll have plenty of time to visit the merch tables while Slayer plays, because they’ll be playing a handful of songs from their new album, and I don’t care about that shit, because they peaked in 1988, but there’s still a decent-to-good chance I’ll buy a Slayer t-shirt.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you and I apologize. Check back soon(ish) for a review of the show, if you want. And stay heavy, too, why not?

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

In September 1993, something happened that signaled a sea change in heavy music.  The event was not without precedent.  Run-DMC had already covered Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” in 1986 to great acclaim, and Slayer’s Kerry King played guitar on the Beastie Boys classic “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” that same year.  Anthrax and Public Enemy scored a bonafide crossover hit in 1991 with the remake of PE’s “Bring the Noise”, and Rage Against the Machine formed that same year, going on to release their excellent self-titled debut a year later, which was, coincidentally, the same year that Body Count’s amazing self-titled debut hit.  (Fun fact: Body Count might hold the record for Most Songs Named After the Band – I know of at least four.)

All of this seemed relatively harmless at the time, but nothing could prepare the world for what would happen one short year later, when the Judgement Night soundtrack dropped like a bomb and ushered in a whole new era of mostly terrible rap-rock collaborations and piecemeal soundtracks that had nothing to do with the film, eventually leading to what was arguably the nadir of heavy music: the soundtrack for Resident Evil and a band called Crazy Town.  If you don’t believe me, look them up.  On its own, though, Judgement Night was (and still is) a pretty fuckin tight album.

Holy diver, I'm a survivor, feelin like De Niro in Taxi Driver.

Holy diver, I’m a survivor, feelin like De Niro in Taxi Driver.

There’s no doubt that the album found its way into my hands at the most perfect possible time in my life: I was 16 years old, newly licensed to drive, and full of testosterone and adolescent angst/rage, and that combination of big fat riffs and aggro rapping/hollering spoke to me in a way that nothing ever had before.  I was still in love with my thrash metal and my Iron Maiden, but by this point the thrash bands I knew had stopped being quite so thrashy, and Iron Maiden was becoming an entirely different beast (which took me several years to appreciate properly, and which will be discussed here another time).  Earlier that same year, a friend gave me a copy of Ice Cube’s The Predator, which I immediately fell in love with, because I have ears.  In addition, I had started listening to Pantera and the aforementioned Rage Against the Machine, so I was primed for the slower, thicker riffs that provided the background for much of Judgement Night.

Not every song is great (“Real Thing” by Cypress Hill and Pearl Jam and “Me, Myself, and My Microphone” by Living Colour and Run-DMC are both lackluster), and some aren’t even good (“Come and Die” by Fatal and Therapy? is pretty terrible – Therapy? has popped up on several soundtracks and compilations I’ve owned over the years, and I’ve never liked anything they’ve done), but when the songs work, they work overtime.

My personal favorites back in the day, in order, were “Just Another Victim” by Helmet and House of Pain, “Disorder” by Slayer and Ice T, “Judgement Night” by Biohazard and Onyx, “Another Body Murdered” by Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., and “Freak Momma” by Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot.  The rest (aside from “Come and Die”) were okay, but I wasn’t quite ready for the slower tracks at the time, being the rage-and-boner-fueled adolescent male that I was.  Over the years, I’ve grown to love “Missing Link” by Dinosaur Jr and Del tha Funkee Homosapien and “Fallin'” by Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul (the latter has ousted “Judgement Night” and moved into my official Top Three Favorite Songs from the Judgement Night Soundtrack list).

Enough talk, though.  Here’s the evidence:

Helmet and House of Pain – “Just Another Victim” – I love the way the Page Hamilton verses move into the Everlast verses, and as always, those Helmet riffs are a thing of beauty.  This song still gets me pumped, and it’s super fun to sing along with in the car.

Slayer and Ice T – “Disorder” – This is actually a medley of three songs, all originally written by Scottish hardcore punks The Exploited (“War”, “UK ’82”, and “Disorder”).  They turn the middle bit into “LA ’92” in reference to the 1992 LA Riots.  This song is still totally relevant, and it is fuckin rad!  Punks not dead, indeed.

Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul – “Fallin'” – This song is not the least bit heavy, but it is sweeter than candy dipped in honey and rolled in sugar, given to you by your sweet old grandma.

Biohazard and Onyx – “Judgement Night” – I am not proud to admit that I was really into Biohazard for a couple of years, but, y’know…teenage angst and shit.  However, I would happily listen to the first Onyx album just about any old time.  But that’s neither here nor there.  I love this line: “And if it takes the death of me to make history, the whole world will remember my misery.”

Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. – “Another Body Murdered” – I know next to nothing about Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., and I don’t really feel like looking them up, but I’ve loved Faith No More since the very first time I heard “Epic”, and I’m incredibly stoked for the new album they are supposed to be working on.  An official video exists for this song, but it’s edited for profanity, so I did not include it here, because fuck that.

Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot – “Freak Momma” – True story: in 2002, I visited Seattle for the first time.  The trip happened to take place a few days after the death of Layne Staley, and while I was there, my friends and I decided spontaneously to go see Mudhoney live at Sky Church in the EMP Museum.  The show was awesome, and afterward, we walked outside to find a mass memorial service for Staley taking place in Seattle Center.  It was pretty surreal.  Anway, this song is fun, dirty, cool, and fuzzy, just like Mudhoney, and Sir Mix-A-Lot is pretty entertaining, like he can be.  I particularly like it when he says, near the end, “Just lost my street credibility, y’all!”

Dinosaur Jr and Del tha Funkee Homosapien – “Missing Link” – This one also isn’t really heavy, even when compared to “Freak Momma”, but there is (as always) a fuckload of distortion on J. Mascis’ guitar, so that’s some heaviness.  Del’s rhymes are in top form here.  If you’re not listening to him, you should be, and “that’s the truth, the motherfuckin’ truth, I’ll bust you in the tooth, ask Dr. Ruth, bitch…”

Oh, as for the movie, it gets largely ignored/dismissed/shat upon, but I thought it was a pretty decent action flick.  Certainly not as bad as most of the internet would have you believe.

That’s all I got for today.  Thanks for reading.  What do you think of the Judgement Night soundtrack?  Have you seen the movie?  If so, what did you think of it?  What do you consider to be the nadir of heavy music?  How the fuck did anyone fall for Crazy Town?

Seriously…fucking Crazy Town.

Anyway, stay heavy, y’all.

A Tale of Two Goofballs: A Sort of Review of Day 2 of Rock on the Range 2014

Last weekend, my friend Dustin sent me a text telling me he got free tickets to Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio.  “Google that shit”, he said, and “try to get Saturday and Sunday off.  We’ll camp.”  If you’re not familiar with Rock on the Range, here’s what you need to know: self-billed as “Where Rock Lives”, ROTR has been an annual event since 2007, when it was a one-day only thing.  It is held at a professional soccer stadium (Columbus Crew of the MLS organization) just north of downtown Columbus.  ZZ Top headlined that first year, and the likes of Papa Roach, Buckcherry, and Puddle of Mudd played as well.

In 2008, the event was extended an extra day, covering Saturday and Sunday.  Stone Temple Pilots headlined the first day, and Kid Rock and Three Doors Down co-headlined the second day.  Other bands on the bill included Papa Roach, Disturbed, Seether, Five Finger Death Punch, Drowning Pool, etc.  If you’re noticing a theme to some of the bands, then you’ll understand why I wasn’t immediately sold on the idea.  Good bands have been known to play Rock on the Range, but for every Cheap Trick, Anthrax, Helmet, Clutch, Ghost, and Alice in Chains that have appeared, there have been dozens of Limp Bizkits, Korns, Hollywood Undeads, Godsmacks, Stone Sours, and Black Veil Brideses.

2014 marks the second consecutive year that the event has been extended to a third day.  I checked out the website, and here are the three headliners, in order, Friday-Sunday: Guns ‘n’ Roses, Avenged Sevenfold, and Kid Rock.  Understandably, I was not super fired up about driving four hours for this shit.  When I looked further into the Saturday lineup, however, I knew I had to find a way to go: Slayer, Exodus, and Suicidal Tendencies were making this the last stop on their short US tour, and I had a chance to see them for free, and all I had to do was drive us there?  Sign me right the fuck up!  If you’ve read more than a few things on this blog, you know that thrash metal is my lifeblood, and I had never seen Exodus or Slayer, so I was definitely into it.  I was also kind of pumped about seeing Fozzy, and Don Jamieson of VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show was headlining the “Old Milwaukee® Comedy Tent”.  I’ve only heard a couple of Fozzy songs, but Chris Jericho was one of my favorite professional wrestlers in the mid-to-late ’90s, and I’d never seen or heard any of Don’s stand-up, but he’s pretty funny on the show, so I figured I might as well check them out while I had the chance.

Here's the full lineup.

Here’s the full lineup.

I already get Sundays off work, so all I had to do was figure out the Saturday situation, which I managed to do pretty quickly: I’d go to work at 5:30 AM like I always do on Saturdays, and I’d leave at 9:00, drive an hour north to Indianapolis to pick Dustin up, and head three hours east to break my fucking neck headbanging.  When I finally had a chance to research the event properly, a major hitch became apparent: camping was only allowed for people who purchased a “Camping Package”, which was sold out, and which cost $869 – EIGHT HUNDRED SIXTY-NINE FUCKING DOLLARS – for four three-day Field General Admission tickets (Field GA allowed access to the floor in front of the stage, while Stadium GA only allowed seating in the stands – this will come into play later), a campsite (no tents allowed), and four festival t-shirts.  With less than one week before the start of the festival, the only available hotels were $300 a night, so we had to figure something out.  After much discussion, I managed to talk Dustin into only attending Saturday, since we hadn’t paid for the tickets anyway, with the deal being that I would drive us back to Indianapolis afterward.  He was only really interested in two bands on Sunday (Trivium and the Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience), and I was only interested in Gojira, but I was obviously fine with not paying $300 so I could stay in Columbus and watch a band I’m only marginally familiar with play for 30 minutes.

I arrived late to Dustin’s house (thanks for fucking nothing, Mapquest), so we got to the venue about an hour later than we’d anticipated, and thus had to pay $20 to park 1.5 miles from the venue.  Dustin is the head brewer for Cutters Brewing Company (which is how he scored the tickets, and which you should definitely check out if you get the chance), so he brought some beer, and I’m a kitchen manager at a co-op grocery store and a bourbon enthusiast, so I brought some expired bread and cheese and a flask full of Four Roses.  We were about to jam econo, Heavy Metal Parking Lot-style.  We had an awesome conversation with the most Kentuckian couple I’ve ever met (which is quite a feat, considering that my wife and her entire family are from Kentucky), and we traded beers for more bourbon, and the man (who was very excited to meet a Brewmaster) said “Man, I hate to say it, but Guns ‘n’ Roses kinda sucked last night” [which came out more like “Mayun, Ah hay-eete ta say-ee it, but Guns ‘n’ Raoses kanda suucked last naht” – seriously, it was so much fun to talk to them (and I’m not making fun)].

Heavy Metal Parking Lot 2014

“Congratulations, kids, and welcome to the real world.”

We continued to eat and drink our free food and beer, and then I began to notice a slow trickle of people in suits walking around the parking lot, which struck me as odd, until we realized that we were tailgating in the middle of a parking lot filled with cars parked by people who were attending a high school graduation.  Congratulations, kids, and welcome to the real world.  By and by, I realized that we had already missed the beginning of Fozzy’s set, so we hung out a little longer before finally heading for the venue.  I immediately scoped out the grounds to find the Jagermeister® Third Stage, where Exodus was set to go on at 6:00.  After locating the stage, I found an amazingly badass Exodus t-shirt (which surprisingly only cost $25, and which I’ll share a picture of here later), we bought a couple of $6 PBRs each, and settled our way in near the front of the crowd.

Murder in the front row.

Murder in the front row.

Exodus came on promptly at 6:00, and proceeded to blast my skull wide open for the next half hour.  They kicked off with “Bonded By Blood”, vocalist Rob Dukes said hello to everyone, then said “There’s a lot of fuckin great bands playin here today…lot of fuckin shitty bands playin here today too.  This one’s called ‘Piranha’.”   Then they played “Blacklist”, “War is my Shepherd”, and “The Toxic Waltz”, (they may have played “A Lesson in Violence” next, but I really can’t remember) before closing with “Strike of the Beast”.  It didn’t last nearly long enough, but it was an absolutely fucking amazing set (although I would’ve loved to hear “And Then There Were None” live).

One of my favorite parts of the set was during “The Toxic Waltz”: Dukes said he wanted to see “the biggest fuckin circle pit I’ve ever seen”, and while I’m 100% certain he’s seen bigger circle pits, the pit that opened up and maintained itself for the entirety of that song was easily the most fun, respectful pit I’ve ever borne witness to.  No meatheads swinging their fists wildly in the air, no one kicking at other people, no mindless, aggressive shoving, just good, friendly, violent fun, with a crowd of giddy Metalheads dancing in a circle for 5 minutes.

I was on the edge of the pit, afraid of breaking my glasses.

I remained on the edge of that amazing pit, fearful of breaking my glasses.  This is what I saw.

This is the only clear shot of the circle pit that I could manage to snap.

This is the only clear shot of the circle pit that I could manage to snap.

Dustin had heard Exodus for the first time in the car on the way to the show, but he was pumped afterward.  He told me he loved it, and that he was definitely gonna be adding some of their stuff to his collection.  And seriously, I implore you, if you get a chance to see Exodus live, fucking DO IT.

Next on the agenda was a trip to the bathrooms.  We had an hour to kill before Suicidal hit the Ernie Ball® Second Stage, and Chevelle was playing on the main stage, so we walked around and did some people watching, got more beers, and made our way toward the stage to wait.  A couple of total bro-looking dudes stopped and chatted us up (one of them was very excited about my ALL and Descendents buttons), and the taller of the two told us that Guns ‘n’ Roses were “fuckin awesome last night” (for the record, based on what I’ve seen on YouTube in the past year or two, I’m inclined to believe Mr. Southern Kentucky’s assessment more).  Taller Bro was really stoked for Suicidal, and Shorter Bro seemed on the fence, as he was there for some of the shittier bands, but agreed to come give them a chance.

Still cyco after all these years.

Still cyco after all these years.

For my part, I’d seen Suicidal once before, on the Vans® Warped Tour back in like 1999 or 2000, so I had already decided to watch part of their set, then head over to the comedy tent to check out Don Jamieson’s stand-up set, which began halfway through ST’s set.  The band came out and started the opening strains of “You Can’t Bring Me Down”, then Mike Muir’s voice came from the ether, “Columbus, I just got one question for you…”, then he appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and shouted “What the fuck is goin on around here?!”  The band played the song flawlessly, but it seemed to me that Muir was getting winded pretty quickly, as he failed to actually sing large parts of the song, leaving the band to fill the space with backing vocals.  They followed with “War Inside My Head”, and Muir seemed more on top of things this time, but it still seemed off.  Dustin indicated that it seemed to him that there might just be something wrong with the sound.

At any rate, when they started in with “Subliminal”, we made a beeline for the comedy tent.  That was easily one of the Top 50 Worst Decisions I’ve ever made; Don Jamieson was not one bit fucking funny.  His set consisted of “Any KISS fans here? (insert joke about KISS)”, followed by a joke about having sex with his girlfriend, followed by a racist joke, followed by “Any Ozzy fans here? (insert joke about Ozzy)”, followed by a joke about jerking off, followed by a racist joke, followed by “Any Mötley Crüe fans here? (insert joke about Mötley Crüe)”, followed by a joke about having sex with his girlfriend, followed by a racist joke, etcetera, etcetera, for like 25 minutes.

Don Jamieson, being not funny

Don Jamieson, being not funny.

After his set, I turned to Dustin and said “I wish we hadn’t walked over here for that,” to which Dustin replied “Yeah, he wasn’t funny”.  Such is life, however, and Slayer was slated to start their set on the main stage in about 10 minutes, and we still hadn’t found a seat.  My feelings regarding Slayer have been discussed elsewhere in the pages of Stay Heavy, but here’s the short version: I fucking love the first four Slayer albums, and I consider Hell AwaitsReign in Blood, and South of Heaven to be absolutely essential.  Seasons in the Abyss has some great songs on it, but it marked the beginning of a noticeable change in Tom Araya’s vocal delivery, wherein he went from an amazing and sometimes frightening combination of screaming, wailing, shouting at the top of his voice, and creepy singing to a combination of shouting at the top of his voice and creepy singing, completely forgoing the screaming and wailing.  I like some stuff post-Seasons, but I have found every album since that one (and sometimes that one) to be boring, overall.

To add to that: when founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman passed away, followed shortly thereafter by Kerry King and Tom Araya firing original drummer Dave Lombardo over some business-related bullshit, I decided I didn’t really give a fuck about Slayer anymore.  Gary Holt of Exodus has been playing live with them for several years now, and he’s a guitar beast, but the Lombardo stuff all just seemed so petty and shady, and Hanneman’s death made me so sad, that I figured I wouldn’t be able to really enjoy Slayer live, and in fact I had decided less than one month ago that I would still see them live if given the opportunity, but I wouldn’t pay for it, as I don’t want Kerry King to make any money off me.

I am happy to report that I was sorely mistaken about not being able to enjoy Slayer live.  Even in that enormous stadium setting, where I could only really see the band on the big screens to the sides of the stage, they were devastatingly good.  Part of that, no doubt, is the fact that Lombardo’s replacement, Paul Bostaph, has been a member of the band before (throughout most of the 1990’s), and that Gary Holt is one of the best metal guitar players alive.  At any rate, I enjoyed the fuck out of it.  We got to our seats a bit late, but they opened their set with “World Painted Blood”, “Hate Worldwide”, and “Disciple”, so I didn’t mind as much as if I’d missed, say, “At Dawn They Sleep”.  Our tickets were stamped “Stadium GA”, which meant we were not allowed access to the field in front of the stage, but that didn’t stop Dustin from trying to walk out there anyway, pretending like he didn’t know we needed a wristband to get on the field.  He was denied, so we found the closest seats we could, and settled in as “Disciple” was winding down and “Mandatory Suicide” was beginning.

Fuckin SLAYER!

Fuckin SLAYER!

A guy next to me asked me if I’d seen Slayer live before.  I told him I had not, and he told me he was very happy for me.  We then discussed the sad nature of the people around us, noting that for the most part, they did not seem to give a shit about Slayer.  He postulated that a lot of people these days know Slayer as a logo, and as something that people scream in their faces at shows, but that they don’t actually know what they sound like, which seemed like a pretty solid line of reasoning to me.  At any rate, I alternated between banging my head, pumping my fist, throwing the horns, screaming along to the songs, and marveling at the lack of interest I was seeing from a huge amount of people (most of whom I found were there to see headliners Avenged Sevenfold, which I’ll get to later).

I yelled at them between songs:  “GO FUCKING MOSH TO SLAYER, YOU FUCKING PUSSIES!  YOU’RE STANDING AROUND LIKE YOU’RE AT A FUCKING KENNY G CONCERT OR SOMETHING, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES!  YOU’RE WASTING THOSE FUCKING FIELD WRISTBANDS, YOU FUCKING MORONS!”  My yelling only served to make several of the people around me laugh, but most of those people were oblivious to the fact that they were part of the crowd I was yelling at, so my yelling was clearly in vain, but it did make me feel a little better.

At any rate, Slayer went on to assuage my fears a bit and bring me back into the fold over the next 40 minutes by playing “Postmortem”, “Chemical Warfare”, “War Ensemble”, “Hallowed Point”, “Seasons in the Abyss”, and “Hell Awaits” before a new backdrop came down behind the band, and they closed their set with three of the best Hannemen-penned (or co-penned) songs:  “South of Heaven”, “Reign in Blood”, and “Angel of Death”.

So fucking rad.

So fucking rad.

And then it was time for Avenged Sevenfold, a band about which I knew very little until the drive to Columbus.  I already knew they are Dustin’s favorite band (last night was his 17th time seeing them live), and that they were the primary reason he wanted to attend the show in the first place.  I also knew I didn’t really care for most of what I’d heard from them (in fact, I first heard their song “The Beast and the Harlot” on Guitar Hero II and kind of liked it, then later downloaded the song only to discover that the GH version was one of those “in the style of…” songs, and I actually liked it more than Avenged Sevenfold’s version).  Dustin informed me on the drive that I should be prepared for a lot of explosions and fire, and a badass show.  He played some songs for me, which I neither loved nor hated, and he was excited like a little boy on Christmas morning (or like me when I saw Iron Maiden), so I was getting a bit excited myself.  The stage setup took so long that Master of Puppets played to halfway through “Leper Messiah”, then the lights went out (15 minutes after the band was scheduled to start), AC/DC’s “Back in Black” started blasting out of the PA, played in its entirety, then fireworks went off, flames shot out the back of the stage, and the band began to underwhelm me for the next hour and twenty minutes.

Here’s the thing about A7X (as the kids call them): their stage set was amazing, they are musically talented, their setlist was crafted well, and frontman M. Shadows is a consummate showman, deftly controlling the crowd while all manner of stage trickery happened all around him (more flames, explosions, video footage projected on the stage behind them, etcetera), and the crowd ate it up, swallowed every bite, and asked – nay, begged – for seconds.  Despite all that, the whole thing seemed a bit contrived, and I was bored enough that during the last half of the set, I was predicting when flames would rise out the back of the stage with a pretty alarming accuracy.  To be fair to the band, though, it was very chilly up there on those aluminum bleachers, and I was so very, very tired, so it was hard for me to think about much except being asleep in a warm bed.

The premier Cafeteria Metal band in the United States.

The premier Cafeteria Metal band in the United States.

Anyway, I decided today that one might classify Avenged Sevenfold as “Cafeteria Metal” – i.e., the entire band persona seems to have been chosen À la carte from a menu of Hard Rock and Metal Things.  Here are some examples: they played a song that sounded very much like a Mötley Crüe power ballad; they played a song that had a main riff that was nothing more than the main riff from Metallica’s “Sad But True” played in a slightly different manner; they played a song that sounded eerily like a Use Your Illusion-era Deep-Voiced-Axl Guns ‘n’ Roses song (Dustin even leaned over to me during this one and said “I think this one sounds kind of like a Guns ‘n’ Roses song”.); they had tapestries on the stage adorned with inverted crosses, even though they’re about as Satanic as Selena Gomez (see above photo).  And their reliance on pyrotechnics struck me as a means of drowning out the fact that at their very core, they’re mostly just copying all their influences, rearranging them just enough that the casual listener won’t notice, and blasting them back at millions of people, albeit to the tune of three RIAA Certified Gold albums and one RIAA Certified Platinum album, as well as sold out concerts around the globe.

Eventually their set ended.  Dustin was thrilled with the performance (after one song, he said to me, “They haven’t played that song live in 8 years!”), we walked 1.5 miles back to the car, and I began the long, tired drive back to Indianapolis, finally returning shortly after 4:00 AM Sunday morning, approximately 21 hours after waking up for work the previous day.  All in all, it was a great day spent with a great friend.

I woke up at 7:00 AM to drive back home, and since I couldn’t stop hearing their songs anyway, I played Exodus’ 1997  live album Another Lesson in Violence, which I started as I pulled away from Dustin’s house, and which literally finished as I was pulling up in front of my house.  It was a helluva good way to cap things off.  Here are my final thoughts:

The Good: hanging out with Dustin (whom I don’t get to see very often), Exodus, Slayer, my new Exodus t-shirt, listening to Another Lesson in Violence in the car, Suicidal Tendencies

The Bad: $6.00 cans of PBR, $20 to park the car a mile-and-a-half away

The Ugly: Don Jamieson’s abhorrent stand-up comedy set

The Final Verdict: I would attend Rock on the Range again, but only if tickets were free.  Likewise, I would pay up to $15 to see Avenged Sevenfold again.

That’s all I got.  Stay heavy, friends.

Thrash Thursday (Special Friday Edition, Volume 2): Happy Birthday, Jeff Hanneman; May You Rest in Peace

May I should call it “Thrash Thfriday”.  That was stupid.  Anyway…

Today (January 31) would be Jeff Hanneman’s 50th birthday, if he hadn’t died last year from liver failure.  Hanneman was a founding guitarist (along with other guitarist Kerry King) of Slayer, who formed in Huntington Park, California (a suburb of Los Angeles) in 1981.  They played their first gig on Halloween that same year.  In their early days, their live performances consisted of a lot of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest covers; they were approached by Metal Blade Records founder Brian Slagel after he saw them playing Maiden’s “Phantom of the Opera” live, and he asked them to record an original song for his upcoming Metal Massacre III album.

“Agressive Perfector” kicked off the 1983 compilation, and Slagel signed the band to his label shortly thereafter.  They released their debut album, Show No Mercy, in 1983; Hanneman wrote or co-wrote the music to 8 out of 10 songs, including modern day fan favorite “Die By the Sword”.   Like many of their contemporaries, Slayer’s first album doesn’t sound a lot like what Slayer became.  The speed and agression are there, and the dark imagery is right up front, but overall, the sound owes more to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal than does their later work.

1984 saw the release of the Haunting the Chapel EP, which indicated something of a new direction for Slayer – the 3-song effort was darker, faster, and heavier than its predecessor.  In 1985, the band released what I consider to be the first of the Three Absolutely Essential Slayer Albums, Hell Awaits.  This album is a mean, bottom-heavy, evil motherfucker of a record, and includes Hanneman’s first really great songwriting credit, from a musical standpoint (“At Dawn They Sleep”).  Kerry King has indicated in interviews that he and Hanneman were very into Mercyful Fate at the time of this recording, which accounts for the longer, more progressively structured songs, as well as for the extra touch of Satan in the lyrics.

After the release of Hell Awaits, Slayer signed with Rick Rubin’s Def Jam Recordings and recorded what is widely considered their best work, as well as an all-time thrash metal masterpiece, 1986’s Reign in Blood.  Hanneman’s songwriting matured fully on this album, most notably on the amazing opener “Angel of Death”, inspired by the atrocities commited by Nazi physician Josef Mengele.  Hanneman’s lyrics to this song, which describe some of Mengele’s surgical atrocities at the Auschwitz, have been the cause of untold amounts of controversy, ultimately leading many people to accuse the band of Nazi sympathizing.  In truth Hanneman had always been fascinated with World War II, his father having served with the Allied Forces.  Regarding the controversy over the song, Hanneman stated in an interview that “[there was] nothing I put in the lyrics that says necessarily he (Josef Mengele) was a bad man, because to me – well, isn’t that obvious? I shouldn’t have to tell you that.”

After recording what was, at the time, certainly one of the fastest heavy metal albums ever recorded, Slayer threw the metal world a curveball and slowed way the fuck down on their next album, 1988’s South of Heaven, which is the third and final of the Three Absolutely Essential Slayer Albums.  Hanneman wrote the music to two of my favorite Slayer songs, both of which appear on this album – the opening title track, and the chilling closer “Spill the Blood” (to which Hanneman also wrote the lyrics).  Fun fact: Rolling Stone magazine gave South of Heaven one star out a possible five stars, with the reviewer calling it “a cacophony of genuinely offensive satanic drivel that will probably win over a couple of thrash fans who’ve already lost their hearing anyway”.  As if we needed more proof of Rolling Stone‘s utter fucking uselessness.

1990 saw the release of the band’s last great album, Seasons in the Abyss.  I call Seasons a “great” album, but honestly I consider it to be really good; I only think it’s great compared to what came after.  The three best songs were co-written by Hanneman and singer/bassist Tom Araya (the closing title track, the opening anthem “War Ensemble”, and the slow, dirge-y ode to the original psycho, Ed Gein, “Dead Skin Mask”).

After Seasons, original drummer Dave Lombardo left (replaced by Paul Bostaph, who has also played with Testament, as has Lombardo), and the band’s output in the 1990s, while better than most bands, was spotty.  I judge Slayer by a harsher standard, because they set such a fucking high standard to begin with, y’know?  That is not to say that the band wasn’t still capable of writing great songs.  The creepy, atmospheric “213”, with music by Hanneman and lyrics by Araya (213 was Jeffery Dahmer’s apartment number), is one of the album’s standout tracks.

My main problem with what Slayer began to do after South of Heaven is noticeable on “213”; Tom Araya began to simply shout in a monotone, forsaking his earlier combination of screaming, shouting, squealing, wailing, and, in a few cases (see “Spill the Blood” for a good example), actual singing.  In short, vocal dynamics pretty much went out the window.  This may be a natural by-product of Araya getting older; I don’t necessarily expect a metal singer to always sound the same, forever and ever and ever, but I do think that when a metal singer has a style as formidable and commanding as Araya’s on Reign in Blood and South of Heaven, they shouldn’t fuck with it quite as much as he did.

In 1996, the band released an album of early hardcore punk covers that I consider to be the best thing they’ve done without Dave Lombardo.  While Undisputed Attitude was comprised mostly of covers, it did feature a few original songs, namely “Gemini”, written by King and Araya, and two songs from a hardcore side project called Pap Smear that Hanneman put together with Lombardo and Suicidal Tendencies guitarist Rocky George in 1984 – “Can’t Stand You” and “DDAMM (Drunk Drivers Against Mad Mothers)”.  They also inadvertently introduced me to the hardcore version of D.R.I. (with the song “Violent Pacification”), as prior to this, I had only heard D.R.I.’s post-crossover stuff.

To be perfectly honest, I’m very, very tired, so I’m gonna wrap this up for now.  It kind of got away from me anyway.  I’ll finish another time.  The point?  Happy 50th birthday, Jeff Hanneman.  The fact that you are dead sucks, but your music will live forever, even if Slayer is something of a punchline these days.  At least you’re not a Metallica-caliber punchline.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and remember: no matter what life hands you, always stay heavy.  Jeff Hanneman would’ve wanted it that way.