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.

 

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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, 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.

Beach Day, 1989

Beach Day, 1989

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) and Blazing Saddles (still the funniest movie of all time), 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”.

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. I would like to point out that 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 the album 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 he 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 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?

Here’s to Future Nostalgia!: A Rambly Thing About Metal T-Shirts

To the nonbeliever, metal t-shirts might seem odd, foolish, scary, wasteful, or some other silly shit – I don’t know, I’ve been a Metalhead for over 75% of my life, so I don’t really know how those types think. What I do know, with absolute certainty, is that I fucking love metal t-shirts, and if lack of disposable income and space were not a hindrance, I would own all of them. I will continue wearing them when I’m an old man, and some people will continue to regard me with disdain, and those people can continue to fuck off.

youdon'tknowme

Anyway, I was thinking about metal t-shirts last night, and I was struck by how different the t-shirt buying experience has become. Shirts are so easy to get now, from countless internet purveyors, including the bands themselves. It’s easier than it has ever been for me to own a shirt by literally any band I can think of, and yet the experience is lacking. It might just be nostalgia talking, because nostalgia is much chattier than I am, but I really miss going into a music store and looking through the t-shirts, often finding truly badass t-shirts.

Like this one, for example. Why the fuck did I get rid of this t-shirt?

Like this one, for example. I used to own this t-shirt! Why the fuck did I get rid of this t-shirt? WHAT KIND OF MONSTER AM I?!

I should point out that I currently own some of my favorite metal t-shirts I’ve ever owned, thanks to the internet and to my increased ability to attend shows and buy them in person, but I think maybe it’s the thrill of the hunt that I miss. There was a pretty significant portion of my life (during which I was mostly unable to drive myself anywhere) when I could go into any one of 5 or 6 different music stores within 30 minutes of my house and browse their ever-changing t-shirt selections. Progress has done its thing, and music stores are a much rarer breed these days, but even the few that remain in my town don’t sell t-shirts (or at least not metal t-shirts). My only option for finding metal t-shirts in an old-school real-life browsing fashion is to visit Hot Topic, and sweet baby Jeebus, do I ever hate going into Hot Topic. Sometimes I need it, though, and I’ll brave the muddy waters of whatever befuddling mallcore horseshit the bondage-panted clerk is blasting over the sound system so I can look at the shirts, but I almost always leave without buying anything, because the music seriously gets to me.

Seriously.

Seriously.

Quick tangent: years ago, before we had a Hot Topic here (before I had even heard of Hot Topic, really), I was visiting a friend in St. Louis, MO, and I went into what I later realized was a Hot Topic in a mall there, and bought myself a super-sweet Agnostic Front t-shirt. I wore the fuck out of that shirt, and I still owned it until recently, even though it had severe pit stains, and was much too large for the significantly less chubby me. A year or so later, I was in the mall here (still pre-Hot Topic), wearing my Agnostic Front t-shirt, and I passed a dude who said “hey man, that’s a sweet AF shirt, where’d you get it?” and I said “oh, thanks, I got it at a mall in St. Louis” and he looked at me as if I’d suddenly transformed into a feces-covered kiddie diddler and said “oh”, because he apparently forgot that we were in a mall right at that moment. People sure are dumb.

This is one of the first images that came up when I googled the word "dumb".

This is one of the first images that came up when I googled the word “dumb”.

Anyway, I was talking about the thrill of the t-shirt hunt. It doesn’t really exist anymore. I can no longer spend a lazy afternoon browsing t-shirt selections, narrowing it down to 4 or 5 choices, agonizing over whether to get another Anthrax shirt or a Corrosion of Conformity shirt. Note: I used to own 6 different Anthrax shirts, now I own zero. A significant part of that is the fact that their newer t-shirt designs just don’t speak to me the same way, but it’s also partly because I’m extremely unlikely to just find one in my hands.

I used to own this one, too. I accidentally left it in Texas when I moved back home. I was very sad when I first realized that.

I used to own this one, too. I accidentally left it in Texas when I moved back home. I was very sad when I first realized that.

I don’t really know where I was going with all this; I’m kind of just thinking out loud, and you’re following along. Lucky you, right? I guess the point is that I’m getting old, and my nostalgia is way cooler than today’s reality.

Stay heavy, y’all.

Please Let Me Take You, And I’ll Show You the Truth: Another Thing About Thrash Metal Ballads

If you’ve read much of this blog at all, you’re no doubt well aware that I am cuckoo for Testament. The Bay Area Thrash titans have been damn near flawless since the beginning, and they are one of the very few bands I can think of that have not released a bad song. For example, Iron Maiden is my favorite band ever by a substantial margin, and I like songs from all eras of the band, but they’ve easily got enough clunkers in their catalog to make a Greatest Turds album, which I just might do one of these days.

Anyway, we’re talking about Testament (again). They’ve made some immensely heavy songs – some with riffs so thick you couldn’t drive a tank through them and vocals so intense they could make a cage fighter wet his cage-fighting shorts – but some of their best songs are of the metal ballad persuasion (one of them was included in my Ten Best Thrash Metal Ballads post from a little over a year ago), and while listening to their vastly underrated 1992 album The Ritual, which boasts two ballads, I decided to put together a thing about Testament’s top-notch metal balladry, and this is it. Everybody wins! (Note: these are in chronological order.)

“Musical Death (A Dirge)” (from The New Order – 1988) – This is an instrumental, but it’s so mellow and soothing that I couldn’t bring myself to not include it here. It’s the closing song from the band’s second album (and my personal favorite), and it provides a hell of a showcase for the guitar wizardry of Alex Skolnick. Wizardry really is the only word that begins to properly describe Skolnick’s playing – the man is brilliant, and while the band was still great without him (from 1994-ish through 2000-ish), they are noticeably better with him. He was a touring member of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, for cryin out loud! They are not known for employing musicians who are “okay” at their instruments.

“The Ballad” (from Practice What You Preach – 1989) – This one is not winning any awards for “Most Cleverly-Titled Song” or anything, but it’s a damn fine piece of music. It was also released a single, so you may have seen it on MTV (back when MTV wasn’t a garbage receptacle for entertainment refuse), particularly if you’re old.

“The Legacy” (from Souls of Black – 1990) – This song is not to be confused with the album called The Legacy, which was the band’s 1987 debut, and neither of the two should be confused with the band Legacy, which is what Testament was called when Zetro from Exodus sang for them, way back when I was still listening to Toto and Ronnie Milsap – i.e., whichever radio station my older sisters or my parents had tuned in. It was also a single.

“The Ritual” (from The Ritual – 1992) – This was the last Testament album with the “classic lineup”. Alex Skolnick did not appear on another Testament album until First Strike Still Deadly, 2001’s unnecessary-but-still-great re-recording of The Legacy/The New Order-era material. Original drummer Louie Clemente also left the band after this album, and aside from a guest appearance here and there, has yet to rejoin the band, but the way they operate, I would not be surprised if he did, in fact, rejoin someday.

“Return to Serenity” (from The Ritual – 1992) – This is the Testament song I included in my Ten Best Thrash Ballads of All Time piece. I like it very, very much. The Ritual is noticeably slower than previous Testament albums, and the production is a bit thin, both of which contribute to the album getting unfairly overlooked, which makes me sad – not like “discussing politics with my relatives” sad or anything, but sad nonetheless. This song was also released as a single, and therefore also has a video, and here it is.

“Trail of Tears” (from Low – 1994) – Low was the last album to feature original bassist Greg Christian until 2008’s super-dope The Formation of Damnation (which is just an excellent fucking title), and he left again last year under less than amiable circumstances. Like The RitualLow is also often overlooked, and like The RitualLow is also much better than a lot of people would have you believe, but unlike The RitualLow is a super-heavy, grooving, growling motherfucker of an album. It even flirts with death metal for a few minutes on Side 2 opener “Dog Faced Gods”, but “Trail of Tears” is the quiet, contemplative break from the sludgy, downtuned riff-factory that is the rest of Low. The lyrics are inspired by the actual Trail of Tears, in which thousands of Native Americans were forced to move from their ancestral homelands thanks to Andrew “Indian Killer” Jackson‘s Indian Removal Act of 1830. Man, Andrew Jackson was a despicable piece of shit.

“Cold Embrace” (from Dark Roots of Earth – 2012) – This is a triumphant return to classic Testa-Ballad® (patent pending) form: mellow, lush, verses swell into soaring, booming choruses, all tied up beautifully by Alex Skolnick’s lead work, and for a little under eight minutes, all is right and righteous in the world.

That’s all for today, friends. Until next time, keep on staying heavy, won’t you?

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.

Am I Right Or Wrong, Or Just Confused?: Yet Another Brief Update

Holy shit, it’s been far too long since I’ve sat down to update this thing. I’m finally reaching a state of normalcy re: my work schedule, so I’m committed to writing more regularly, because, if nothing else, my sanity requires it. I’m shorter on time that I thought I’d be, so for now I’ll just give an update on some upcoming heavy things that I am 100% stoked on right now, in chronological order.

1. Death Angel is releasing the long-awaited A Thrashumentary one week from today (it’s out today in Europe, lucky bastards)! The documentary DVD is accompanied by a live album The Bay Calls for Blood, which was recorded in the band’s hometown and the epicenter of 1980’s thrash metal, San Francisco, CA. I pre-ordered mine weeks ago, and I’m about to shit myself with excitement. More info here. Spoiler alert: it’s only 15 fucking dollars, plus shipping!

Get fuckin pumped, y’all!

2. Iron Maiden will be releasing their new album (and first ever studio double album), The Book of Souls, on September 4. Some of their post-1988 material has been hit-or-miss, but in my opinion, it’s been mostly hit, and if you’re any kind of regular reader of Stay Heavy, you know that I’d rather listen to the least good Iron Maiden than no Iron Maiden.

Here’s an Iron Maiden song that is not the worst:

3. MotörheadSaxon, and Crobot will be playing in Indianapolis on September 9, and there is a 98% chance that I’ll be there. Anthrax replaces Saxon in the direct support slot beginning September 12 in Detroit, and I would definitely rather see that version of the tour, but whatever; this is quite possibly the last chance I’ll get to see Motörhead live, and it’s not like I hate Saxon or anything.

4. Full Terror Assault, the first European-style open air metal festival to be held on this side of the Atlantic, will be happening at Cave-In-Rock, Illinois September 10-12. Napalm Death and Obituary are the headliners, and TerrorizerWarbeastEyehategod, and a whoooooole bunch of other kickass bands will be there. I will unfortunately be unable to attend this, but I urge everyone who can attend to do so; I want it to happen again next year. Oh, and if Cave-In-Rock sounds familiar to you, it might be due to the fact that it was the location of the Gathering of the Juggalos from 2007 until 2013. Hopefully there are no Juggalos (or Juggalettes) hiding inside the cave, or in the surrounding forest. More information about FTA can be found here.

5. D.R.I. will be playing a show in Indianapolis on September 30. I didn’t see them when they played Indy last year, and I won’t make that mistake again. This show is happening thanks to Metalhead Productions, the company responsible for bringing Death Angel to Indianapolis back in April. This will be a rager of epic proportions, friends.

6. Maryland Deathfest announced their final lineup for next year’s event, May 26-29, 2016. The announcement was made today, and I am going to try my goddamndest to go next year. I’ve wanted to make it out there every year so far, but one thing or another has prevented it every single time. But look at this lineup, y’all:

My head almost exploded three times already from looking at this.

My head almost exploded three times already from looking at this.

TestamentNuclear fucking Assault! (!), RepulsionHiraxParadise LostDischargeDoomVenom! Fucking GoblinGeneral SurgeryBuzzov-en! Holy shit, so much more!

I have to wrap this up, but keep your eyes on these pages in the coming days; I will be updating on a more regular basis, and I have so many ideas. You could “like” Stay Heavy on Facebook, or follow Stay Heavy on Twitter, or sign up for email updates down there at the bottom of this page. However you decide to keep up, make sure you stay heavy, always. Thanks for reading.

Making the Legacy Known: A Sort of Review of the Testament/Exodus Show at the Mercury Ballroom, Louisville, KY, 04.21.15

I am in a fair amount of pain today, and it’s a mostly good pain, but still, I hurt. I am a reasonable, rational adult (more or less), so I understand that I am responsible for my own actions, but Testament and Exodus must shoulder some of the blame for my current state; if they weren’t so fucking amazing, and hadn’t played the Mercury Ballroom last night on the Louisville stop of their current Dark Roots of Thrash II tour, I very likely would not be sitting at my computer alternating an ice pack and a heating pad on my neck and shoulders while I attempt to put words to what I witnessed last night.

I suppose I should begin by saying that this tour has been slightly mis-advertised; from the very beginning, it’s been clearly stated that Testament would be “perform[ing an] exclusive new set list, including The Legacy & The New Order in their entirety + select Practice What You Preach lp cuts”. I understood that to mean that they would be performing those albums beginning to end, followed by an encore of songs from 1989’s Practice What You Preach, and that did not happen, but that’s on me; the words “beginning to end” have never been a part of the advertising for this tour. Testament instead played a set of songs from both albums – a set which covered all of their 1987 debut The Legacy, but which did not cover all of 1988’s The New Order, as it left out the hauntingly beautiful instrumental pieces “Hypnosis” and “Musical Death (A Dirge)”, along with their badass cover of Aerosmith’s “Nobody’s Fault”, which I was very psyched to hear live. In addition, the “select cuts from Practice What You Preach” ended up being the title track (which they play live on a pretty regular basis), and nothing else – no “Nightmare (Coming Back to You)”, no “Envy Life”, no “Time is Coming”, no “Greenhouse Effect”, nothing…just the title track, which totally fucking rules, but can hardly be considered “select cuts”.

Anyway, that’s a minor issue overall, as the show was fucking amazing, and quite frankly, I would be making plans to see it again at Bogart’s in Cincinnati on May 2 if I could swing it financially. Here’s a rough breakdown of the night…

My cousin Jason and I (who grew up listening to metal with me) got in the doors toward the end of opener Shattered Sun’s set. I wasn’t in a hurry to get in, as I didn’t really care about seeing their set, but I have to admit that the little bit that I did see was pretty damn good. Yesterday happened to be the release date for their debut album, Hope Within Hatred, and I doubt I’ll purchase the album, but I would see them live again if I had the chance. They’re pretty tight.

A relatively short break followed, made complete by $8 beers (at least they were draft Stella Artois) and a pee-pee break, then the lights went out, a roar went up, and Dan the Automator’s fucking sick-ass beats began to boom out of the sound system, signalling the imminent impact of Exodus and “Black 13”, the opening track from last year’s monstrous album, Blood In Blood Out. The band took the stage as frontman Steve “Zetro” Souza flashed a devilish grin to the crowd, pointed randomly out to various parts of the crowd and twirled his finger in the air to indicate that he was not about to allow this crowd to not become a circle pit. Roughly half of the crowd obliged, and most of that group did not ease up until the band left the stage. Exodus fanatics are some tough SOB’s.

The band flowed from “Black 13” directly into the title track from the new album, and the crowd did indeed rage, and I can’t help but believe that Paul Baloff would have been proud. After “Blood In Blood Out,” Zetro finally addressed the crowd, which was followed by two Rob Dukes-era songs, “Iconoclasm” and “Children of a Worthless God” [Both songs originally appeared on 2007’s The Atrocity Exhibition…Exhibit A, which is a seriously kickass album, which is a true statement about all of the Rob Dukes-era albums, even the highly controversial Let There Be Blood (2008’s re-recording of the band’s classic first album, 1985’s Bonded By Blood). I am a bonafide Rob Dukes fan, and I make no apologies for it. But I digress.]

I was interested to hear those songs with Zetro’s voice, but “Children of a Worthless God” especially, as it is notable for a recurring clean vocal passage, but I have to say that I was pretty goddamn impressed with Zet’s delivery. The band then taught us all “A Lesson in Violence”, then played another song from the new album, “Salt the Wound”, which is notable in the studio version for featuring a guitar solo from Kirk Hammett, who formed Exodus in 1981 before being poached by Metallica. Hammett’s solo sounds pretty much like every other Kirk Hammett solo from the past 20 years, and the song itself is the weakest on the album in my opinion, but it was much better live. In fact, I thought Zetro’s voice on all the new songs sounded better live than on the album, where it tends to take on a very Cobra Commander quality. I am not wrong about this – listen for yourself:

To be clear, in no way does this diminish my enjoyment of any era of Exodus. But I continue to digress.

The lights went out again after “Salt the Wound”, and the spoken intro to 1989’s Fabulous Disaster played, followed by that album’s opening song “The Last Act of Defiance”, followed by the remainder of their set (highlighted by perennial crowd favorite and fond ode to moshing, “The Toxic Waltz”), followed by a much-needed break for yours truly. It was really difficult to not expend every bit of my energy on Exodus, and I had to constantly remind myself that Testament was yet to go on, and that I had a two-hour drive back home after that.  The crowd cleared out a bit when the lights went up, so Jason and I moved closer, scoring some pretty sweet spots directly in front of the sound board.

This was where our view began, before the insane crowd caused us to move a bit to the left.

This was where our view began, before the insane crowd caused us to move a bit to the left.

A fairly quick set change took place, and soon the lights went out again, and the mighty Testament began to crush everyone in the room with their fucking flawless thrash metal. They kicked off with the first four songs from The Legacy, in order, then jumped ahead a year and played a brilliant version of “The Preacher” before reaching back into the debut for “Do or Die” and “First Strike is Deadly”. Chuck then introduced The New Order‘s outstandingly good “A Day of Reckoning” by indicating that they almost never played it live until this tour (which, quite frankly, has been a pretty stupid decision).

“Apocalyptic City” followed, then a block of the first four songs from The New Order, in order, followed by the remainder of The Legacy, “Alone in the Dark” and an almost unbelievably fast version of “C.O.T.L.O.D.”, which I anticipated bringing about the most intense pit action, but which was instead relatively mild, which I attributed to an exhausted crowd that simply gave too much too soon. The band left the stage for the standard encore break, then played their “select cuts” from Practice What You Preach before ending an amazing night of amazing music with the unfuckingtouchable “Disciples of the Watch” (OBEY!), during which it became clear that the crowd was not out of energy yet. Holy shit, friends, “Disciples of the Watch” can incite a fucking pit!

This is as close as I could get to capturing the whole band in a picture. Standing still while Testament plays is HARD, y'all!

This is as close as I could get to capturing the whole band in a picture. Standing still while Testament plays is HARD, y’all!

Exodus Setlist

“Black 13”

“Blood In Blood Out”

“Iconoclasm”

“Children of a Worthless God”

“A Lesson in Violence” (from Bonded By Blood)

“Salt the Wound”

“Blacklist” (from Tempo of the Damned – 2004)

“Bonded By Blood” (from BBB)

“War is My Shepherd” (from TotD)

“The Toxic Waltz” (from Fabulous Disaster)

“Strike of the Beast” (from BBB)

Testament Setlist

“Over the Wall”

“The Haunting”

“Burnt Offerings”

“Raging Waters”

“The Preacher”

“Do or Die”

“First Strike is Deadly”

“A Day of Reckoning”

“Apocalyptic City”

“Eerie Inhabitants”

“The New Order”

“Trial By Fire”

“Into the Pit”

“Alone in the Dark”

“C.O.T.L.O.D.”

— encore break —

“Practice What You Preach”

“Disciples of the Watch”

Final Thoughts: There were quite a few kids there (with parents), which was fucking awesome! Both Zetro and Chuck noticed and commented on it. Also, I still haven’t heard any songs live from Exodus’ second album (and their debut with Zetro) Pleasures of the Flesh (1987), and I don’t care for that fact. Also, I finally got a Testament shirt with The New Order album cover on it! Also, the sound at the Mercury Ballroom is pretty great, but it’s kind of an awkward place to see a show, what with the support poles positioned around the floor area. Also, the place supposedly has a capacity of 900; being a Tuesday, the show wasn’t sold out, and I’m not good at estimating crowd sizes over about 30, but if there’d been 900 people in that venue, someone might’ve died. Also, I came nearer to getting into a fight than I ever have before (and hopefully ever will again) at a show; that white trash jackass can still fuck off.

There's a good chance my shirt is cooler than your shirt.

There’s a good chance my shirt is cooler than your shirt.

That’s all I got for now, friends. I gotta go rest my neck for Death Angel in Indianapolis (in four days!). Y’all stay heavy…I definitely will.

Thrashy Birthday to Me

I’ll be celebrating my 38th birthday later this week, which is an incredibly difficult thing for me to wrap my brain around. Next Tuesday (4/21), my cousin Jason and I will be travelling to Louisville, KY to catch Testament and Exodus on the Dark Roots of Thrash II tour (Texas band Shattered Sun will be opening, but I don’t care about them), and as you might imagine, I am fuckin pumped.

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

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

Testament will be playing their first two albums (1987’s The Legacy and (my personal favorite) 1988’s The New Order) beginning to end, followed by “select Practice What You Preach LP (1989) cuts”.

Holy.

Fucking.

Hell.

My favorite thrash band (and second favorite overall band) will be performing two of their greatest works in their entirety! “Over the Wall”! “Burnt Offerings”! “First Strike is Deadly”! “Alone in the Dark”! “Eerie Inhabitants”! “Trial By Fire”! “Into the Pit”! “Disciples of the (motherfucking) Watch”! And all the rest! I might figuratively die from blood loss to my brain from the raging thrash boner I’ll have, if I don’t figuratively die from a broken neck first!

Oh, shit!

God damn!

Plus their badass cover of a badass Aerosmith song (which I admittedly only know because of Testament’s cover)!

Whut?!

But before that even happens, Exodus will thrash my balls clean off with a set consisting of songs from throughout their storied history. A quick perusal of setlists from the past few nights of the tour shows 12 songs, which is pretty sweet, although it does seem that I’m still not gonna get to hear “And Then There Were None” live, which is a bit of a bummer, but I can’t really complain. Plus, they’ve been playing “The Last Act of Defiance” on this tour, which is rad as hell.

See?

Also, they’re playing two Rob Dukes-era songs, and I look forward to hearing those with Zetro on vocals.

But wait! There’s more!

Five days later, on 4/26, Cousin Jason and I will be heading north to Indianapolis to see the mighty Death Angel live, on one of only two headlining shows on their current tour! This will be the first time Death Angel has played Indianapolis since 2012 (when they opened for Anthrax and Testament at the Egyptian Room), and their first headlining show in Indianapolis in 25 fucking years! Motherfucking shit-tits, friends, this is an exciting goddamn month!

Here’s the title track off the band’s latest album, 2013’s fucking phenomenal The Dream Calls for Blood:

Here’s “Truce”, from 2011’s Relentless Retribution, which is the album they were touring on when I saw them a few years back:

And here’s one of my favorite songs of theirs, from 1990’s Act III, which was the last album they released before their original breakup:

A quick shout-out and a HUGE thank you is owed to my amazing wife, who had a hand in making both of these shows happen for me.

Reviews of both shows will of course be forthcoming, and if things work out, there’ll be an extra surprise on these very pages in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned, and stay heavy!

…But At the Same Time, I’m At a Loss For Words…

In May 2001, at the age of 24, I moved back in with my parents, into my childhood bedroom, semi-defeated and wholly without direction in my life.  I was still a Metalhead, as I had been for nigh on fifteen years at that point, but my musical tastes had grown, as well.  I’d gotten into punk rock a few years prior, and at the time, I was working in a music store, and I may or may not have been smoking a lot of reefer, both which opened up all kinds of new musical doors for me – The Beatles, Talking Heads, The Smiths, Elvis Costello, Depeche Mode, Otis Redding, De La Soul, Kris Kristofferson, and on and on and on.  My point is that I was not listening to metal quite as often as I had been in the mid-90’s.  The stratospheric rise of nü-metal in the late 90’s also played a role, but that’s a topic for another post.  I’m here today to talk about some weird synchronicity.

On September 10, 2001, at 12:25 AM, I wrote the following in my journal:

“In a metal mood.  It came out of nowhere. Testament and Nuclear Assault are sounding especially good tonight, as is Death Angel…”

Nothing unusual about that as it stands.  However, the next night (possibly later that same night), still in a metal mood, I was listening to Anthrax’s severely underrated 1998 album Volume 8: The Threat is Real! at a relatively high volume through my headphones.  On the song “Big Fat”, there’s a line where John Bush says:

You asked me can I deliver?

Like a monster crossing the Hudson River

Stomping!

And when I heard that line, sitting in my dark room with my eyes closed, possibly high on the pot, I had this scene playing out in my head of a faceless, formless monster crossing the river from New Jersey, just crashing through, crushing, and devastating New York City (having never been to the city, the New York City of my imagination has always just been stock footage of Manhattan, like what you always see in movies and television shows).  It was admittedly kind of fucked up, but it was also fairly cinematic and unrealistic, as I have never witnessed real-life Hollywood-blockbuster-type carnage, either.

The next morning, a little after 10:00 AM, I awoke to the phone ringing.  My mom was calling to tell me that the country was under attack, and I turned on the TV, and everyone reading this knows what I saw.  It wasn’t until a couple of days later that I remembered my strange vision of sorts.

But there’s more weird synchronicity to the story!

Fast forward to 2005.  I’m living in Austin, Texas with a drunken whore my then-wife, and I see an ad in The Austin Chronicle (Austin’s oh-so-full-of-itself weekly alternative newspaper) for an upcoming show. Friday, September 10, at The Back Room: Testament and Nuclear Assault!  Is that not some shit?

Postscript: I ended up not going to that show, as Testament dropped off the tour for some reason (this was before the internet was so widely available (at least to me), but I do know that this was less than 2 years after Chuck Billy had whipped cancer’s ass – possibly unrelated, I have no idea), and I was much less interested in just seeing Nuclear Assault, which in hindsight was an incredibly stupid decision.  With a few exceptions, I did not make the best decisions of my life while I was living in Austin.

At any rate, the events that took place 13 years ago today were undeniably fucked, and it’s clear that things will always be different than they were on September 10, 2001.  I don’t have anything to add to this that hasn’t already been said, and probably in a more eloquent manner.

Here’s another excerpt from my journal…

“09.12.01  12:15 am

It’s now been 14 hours since I started watching news coverage, and still can’t get used to the images…I hope I can sleep well tonight…I hope there’s something to wake up to…”

I’m glad there was something to wake up to, and I’m glad that I still have music to help ease me through scary times, sad times, rough times, and total bullshit times.  I’m also glad it’s there for the good times.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for reading.  Stay heavy, y’all.