Sunday, July 31, 2005

Under the microscope: Metallica-...And justice for all

I am going to take an album that I have had some questions or issues with and really take a good look about what bothered me about it and how I really feel now.
It's September, 1988 and I was very much looking forward to the release of Metallica's new album. I went to Sound Waves the day it was coming out, got my copy on cassette and went home eager to hear what they had come up with. My reaction was that somehow I had missed something upon the first listen. It was like it was Metallica in some ways, but different in others and I wasn't buying all the changes. Songs like Blackened and Dyer's Eve jumped out at me right away as being very solid. Yet just about all of the other songs were different and I wasn't sure exactly how I felt. I didn't want to pan the album after one listening just because I was caught off guard. My biggest problems with most of the songs was that some were way too long, some were way too slow and some parts didn't fit. I listened to it several more times and I still had problems with it. Then I think things changed when the video for One came out and this album just began to get huge. I was frustrated because I couldn't understand why so many people loved this album, but in 86 these were some of the same people who thought Metallica was a funny name and they had no desire to give them a chance. I do realize now that those things shouldn't matter, but I was 18 then so it did bother me. By the spring of 89 my estimate of And justice for all was that Metallica had tried to change their style, but with very mixed results. They wanted to do epic songs like Iron Maiden, but their just weren't enough hooks to keep the songs going for 7-9 minutes. After say 1989, I probably didn't listen to it for years until like 1993 when I bought it on disc because it was cheap. I still felt the same about it being a bit of a misfire, but I began to like tracks 5-7 more than I did before.
Now I still feel the same today although I am almost able to listen to the whole album in one sitting. I once referred to this album as An injustice for us all, but that's not completely fair. This album was a gamble because a metal album where four out of the nine songs are over seven minutes was far longer than the average metal band's songs and some record execs probably raised their eyebrows when they first heard this. The album turned out to be their last real metal album and it's closer in style to Ride and Master than any other Metallica album. I love Ride the lightning and Master of puppets, but they are very similar in style. It would have been easy for Metallica to do another album just like those and I may have loved it, but would they have begun to be branded as a band like AC/DC or ZZ top who always did pretty much the same thing on every album? Another thing is that I was frustrated to see how popular Metallica got over an album that I thought was their weakest at the time. Now I realize that a part of that may be due to younger kids who heard this as their first Metallica album. I was 18 and familiar with them so I felt my speed metal band was slowing down. However to kids that were say 12-15 when this came out, it was more like a real metal album and perhaps Metallica at the time were like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were to me back in say 1984. They were real metal and far better than the commercial fluff that was out at the time.
Those are the positive things I give towards this album in retrospect, but I still don't completely buy it. The title track and the instrumental are still way too long and some of the other songs don't have enough power or hooks to sustain them. Time has not made some of the songs on this album easier to take. I still think ultimately that they didn't have the skills to pull this one off. There are too many times where it feels like they just slowed down parts they would normally use instead of really thinking about what parts would help a song to flow along. With those long songs they sure needed more flow than what they had.

Influence/impact- Here is where this album earns points. In August of 1988 I remember reading an article in a DC paper about how metal/ hard rock acts that had come around in spring and summer that year had trouble selling tickets. They mentioned how AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Judas Preist, Van Halen and David Lee Roth were all bands that sold out arenas in previous years but this tour they had a number of empty seats. The article speculated about the possible decline of metal and it did look possible at the time. And justice for all came out the next month and the album was huge, the tour was huge and One was MTV all the time. Then 1989 turned out to be a bigger year for metal and the scene stayed strong for another two to three years. So I think this album helped the metal scene stay alive and they also did attract some new fans to heavier music. I don't completely buy what Metallica were trying to do here, but I give them the credit they deserve. This would also be just one of the several times where Metallica would help keep metal alive.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Under the microscope

This is a project that I want to do maybe bi-monthly if I can get around to it. It will be different from just my reviews because I will not be doing it song by song and I will be doing lots of comparisons throughout. It will consist of two parts with the main part being just a breakdown on what I have thought and currently think of an album. The second part will be the impact and influence where I will try to define what kind of impact this album had on the band or the scene. I believe I could hate an album, but still grudgingly have to admit it had a positive influence of some sort if indeed it did.
How will I choose an album to put under the microscope? Well, first I will choose a hard rock/metal album from between 1970-1992 that way I have a lot to choose from and I won't infringe upon the 20 year old albums I review. The other part of choosing an album is that it will have to be one where I have some question as to how good it really is or there is something about that makes me think it deserves a closer look. So something like Iron Maiden's The number of the beast would not be one I would pick because I love it and always have, I know what's great about it and I can easily define it's impact and influence. However something like Iron Maiden's Seventh son of a seventh son is an album I might pick to go under the microscope. It was a big change for Maiden with some very different songs and it may very well have changed the whole direction of the band for the years that followed. Yes, this may be something that will only appeal to me, but so be it I am going to give it go and see what I find. Not really sure when I will get the time to do one, but hopefully in August I will be able to get one out. The first one will definitely be an album I have struggled with since the day it came out almost 17 years ago. It will be none other than Metallica's And justice for all which is the album that inspired me to try this project. A year or so ago I found out my copy of And justice for all was rotting away. I finally had to throw it out when it became unplayable. Then I debated over whether or not to buy another copy because of my problems with this album, but I finally bought it the other day. After listening to it I felt compelled to try and sit down and sort out what really troubles me with this album and what I may have misjudged about it. So with inspiration that came from a rotting cd will come a new project where I try to really reach down and figure out an album.

Driving in the summer

It took me a long while to get used to driving years ago because I was so nervous while learning to drive. I am still not thrilled by driving, but playing cd's in your vehicle makes driving much more bearable. Driving in the Summer is actually something I really enjoy overall. I have to drive about 45 minutes one way to work so my cd player is a huge help. Having the window down while driving and listening to metal is a great feeling for an old geezer like me. The other night I had to go to work late at night for a special event and listening to Mercyful Fate's Don't break the oath and the very non-metal The good, the bad and the ugly soundtrack made the trip to and from work not too bad. No other season provides that feeling you have while driving and listening to something you like. So turn it up and put down the window (or turn on the A/C if you don't want to sweat through your shirt like I do) and enjoy the last month or so of Summer.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Anthrax- Spreading the disease

Well, it took me long enough to get around to finishing this, but here it is at long last.
Background- Anthrax had gotten some notice with their first release Fistful of metal back in 1984. Then they parted ways with bass player Dan Lilker and singer Neil Turbin. They were replaced by Frank Bello and Joey Belladonna so then they were ready to begin work on their second lp. Prior to the release of that lp was an ep called Armed and dangerous which featured the title track, live tracks and a cover of God save the queen. This album also gave us one of the first pictures of the new line-up on the cover. Looked a lot like the old line-up with everyone very serious and wearing black leather. Yet this image would change when Spreading the disease came out as the pictures on that album showed them smiling and wearing very different clothing and shortly there after Anthrax would begin to wear jams and colorful clothing that metal bands didn't wear on stage before. This would turn out to be a smart move as it made Anthrax unique, but of course their sound is what really made the difference.
Spreading the disease came out in late summer of 85, I first heard this album in spring of 1986. I bought it just due to the reviews I read about it. The last time I listened to the whole thing from start to finish was probably just two or three months ago. So I am going to go put the cd in and see if it still holds up.

A.I.R comes on and sets the pace for the album. It's fast, but not chunky and the vocals are very clean for this style of music.
Lone Justice is a song about Clint Eastwood's Man with no name character so it earns points for that right away. The strength of this song is just the steady chugging riffs.
Madhouse comes across as kind of an anthem type song and it's a little less heavy than other songs here, but still good.
Next we have S.S.C./Stand or fall which picks the pace of the album back up again. Stand or fall might be the strongest song at this point mainly because it builds on itself and is a little less repetitive than the first few songs.
The Enemy is much slower, but no less heavy than other songs. This one really shows the strength of Joey Belladonna's voice.
Aftershock is another fast song that just plows straight ahead and never lets up. Charlie Benante's drumming really stands out on this one.
Armed and dangerous might be the most different song on the album just due to the opening. This song is basically two parts, the slow first part and the second fast part. Both parts are solid and the song works well enough.
Medusa might be my favorite song on the album. It's a good combination of speed and heaviness.
Gung-Ho is probably the fastest song here and it is very simple, but a good powerful song to end on.
The guitar solos don't stand out overall, but they don't need to because everything else is so solid and I think that's the real strength of this album. The songs are much more about the whole song than any parts and that's not always true with metal especially back in the 80's.

Verdict/Final word-
I think this album is easily as good as it was back then. I think a large part of the reason this album has aged well is that it is not overdone. No ridiculously high vocals, no excessive solos but just generally straight ahead solid metal. Not just solid, but also original for 1985 as Anthrax had a huge impact on speed and power metal. They had a very different sound as they weren't as heavy as Metallica or as fast as Slayer, but they had a very tight sound. I think Joey Belladonna's vocals added to the sound as well as he was a more standard metal singer as opposed to a growler or a screamer and that was indeed different for speed metal at the time. Another thing about Anthrax is that I believe they have done an album a certain way because it's what they wanted to do. I am not saying I like all of their albums evenly because I don't, but overall I respect them more than a lot of other bands . Having musical integrity is a hard thing to come by and I don't think any major label band truly has it, but Anthrax come closer than a lot of other bands. I think Anthrax did I'm the man because they liked rap not because they thought it was the thing to do. Just like I think they did the Sound of white noie because it was what they wanted to do at the time despite the fact that it was different from the style that had been successful for them for a few previous albums. I think Spreading the disease is one of the three great albums Anthrax did along with Among the living and Persistence of time. It still stands up well today and it's probably one of the best metal albums of 1985.
I will have another review of a 1985 album coming in early August. This time it will the album that was probably the most successful hard rock/metal album of 1985.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Concert shirts and reproductions

This post is about two things and those are concert shirts at your local stores and reproduction concert shirts. Now you can find rock shirts at Wal-mart, Target and K-mart. They may have them at other stores as well, but these are the main stores I shop at. More just rock shirts than metal, but I have seen AC/DC, Kiss, Motley Crue and Guns and Roses shirts at these stores. Twenty years ago you had to go a record store or order through the mail to get rock shirts and now you can go to almost any department store and find some of them. I recently heard of a place called Trunk Limited that sold reproduction concert shirts. I looked at their site only to find out that their shirts are anywhere from $85.00-$99.00 a piece. Yes, you read those prices correctly. Those shirts cost more than some originals I have seen being sold on e-bay. K-mart sells a brand of shirt called Merch that does concert reproduction shirts and they cost less than $20.00 a piece although they don't have the selection of Trunk Limited. The shirts from Trunk Limited and Merch are made to be slightly tighter and have the faded design look of concert shirts from say the mid 70's to the mid 80's. Some metal bands are starting to have to put out reproductions of their concert like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Slayer. This is kind of cool because these shirts have the design of the 80's shirts, but they are done on the type of shirts we have today which are larger and normally thicker than t-shirts made before like 1991. It's also cool now because I tend to have more money than when I was a teenager if I want to buy a shirt. However, I may look like some old dinosaur going out to the grocery store in an Iron Maiden shirt, but actually I only care about how I think I look. My guess is we will see more reproduction concert shirts released in the next year or so which is alright by me.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Strange tour pairings

In keeping with a tour theme, I decided to bring up the topic of odd tour pairings. I have never been to a show where I thought the acts were an odd pairing, but I have heard of some and maybe you have as well. The first one that comes to mind is when Iron Maiden were an opener during the Number of the beast tour in 1982. Now they opened for Judas Priest which is a good match, they opened for Rainbow which is a little different but close enough, but the other band they opened for was 38 Special. Now try to imagine you are a 38 Special fan and you go to see them and a British metal band dressed in black leather comes out singing about the Number of the beast, an odd pairing for sure. One that's more recent was when the Ramones and Motley Crue toured together in what like 94 or 95, it was when John Corabi was with the Crue. I guess the Crue thought this would make them look cooler, but I can't imagine what the Ramones thought. Then again they had been touring for almost 20 years by that point so they may have thought nothing of it. Another mid-90's tour was Morbid Angel, Motorhead and Black Sabbath. Now Motorhead and Black Sabbath (actually just Tony Iommi and a backing band at this point) fit together. Lemmy was probably used to a lot of speed metal stuff so Morbid Angel probably were not shocking to him. However, I wonder if Tony Iommi was in his dressing room while Morbid Angel were playing and maybe he heard some of their set. I can almost imagine him going "Good lord, I hope nobody tries to blame Sabbath for influencing these guys!". Anyone else know of an odd tour pairing?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Hasbeen tours

Back around 1987 or 88 I remember listening to the radio and they were talking about some concert at the Fairgrounds or somewhere and it was Herman's Hermits, the Turtles and probably two other 60's bands. I remember laughing and thinking it was pathetic that these old bands who were once something had to get together in in a package tour of four-five bands just so they tour during the summer and make money off of the people that liked them twenty years earlier. Well now here it is almost twenty years later and there are 80's metal hasbeen tours going on during the summer. Just because I might refer to a band as a hasbeen doesn't mean I don't like them. A band like Judas Priest or the Scorpions are well past their prime, but they are big enough to play some sizable places by themselves so they are not really hasbeens in that respect but to non-metal fans those guys might even be hasbeens. I think the ones that seem more like hasbeens are the bands who touring in groups of three or more and playing clubs. Also a lot of these bands are not touring to promote a album, they are just touring. No, that's not a sin but it just seems a little desperate to me. I know these guys are just trying to make money, but I guess deep down I hope they would try hard to release something and show they have some life in them other than just getting on stage for 45 minutes a night. The Rock never stops is one tour that's going on this summer and it features Firehouse, Quiet Riot, Ratt and Cinderella. The other one I thought of is the American Metal Blast which features Metal Church, Stephen Pearcy, LA guns and Wasp. My understanding is that WASP's set will include a lot of the blood and stage theatrics that garnered them a reputation in their early club days and they have not done any in that in nearly 20 years. That's great and all I guess, but then Blackie says he envisions this tour as being a yearly summer event with WASP as the headliner. Uh, somehow I don't think this will turn out to be his version of Ozzfest. Now don't get me wrong, I am not slagging WASP just to slag them in fact I am a big fan and the last album was very good. It just sounds to me like Blackie is overating his bands status. I guess a lot of these guys went through serious down times between say 92-99 where they were not recording or at least had to move down to smaller labels and they couldn't make money touring like they did in 80's. Over the last last six years there seems to have been a little bit of resurgence of metal so now these guys have pulled themselves back out and group together to go out on tours. Nothing wrong with it, but sometimes they charge a lot of money for guys who well past their prime. I just wonder if say Nu-metal bands from today will have to form a touring group of four bands to do a summer tour in 2025 going around to all the best dives they can get booked at while fans age 35-45 pay to see them 20 years past their prime?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Go across the seas

Once again this is a field that I don't completely understand so maybe there is a logical answer and someone can set me straight. This has to do with touring and mainly touring abroad. In the 80's and early 90's, it sounded to me like an American band would have to build up some following here before being able to get to go and tour overseas. Now the change I have seen and the inspiration for this post is that suddenly old metal bands are reforming and they immediately go to tour overseas. Anthrax, Testement and Nuclear Assault have all just reformed and each band played just a couple of dates here before going off to Europe to play the bulk of their tour over there. Are they able to play larger venues over there and ultimately make a little more money? That's fine and completely understandable if that is the reason. I just wonder if that means European metal fans are more loyal for a longer time or is it just that they don't get to see that many 80's metal bands so they flock to see them when they come? There seem to be a lot of metal festivals going on in Europe during the summer so even smaller name American bands can get booked to play at these events. Now not all metal bands are flying across the seas, in fact the strange thing is that it seems to be the heavier bands that are going over there. The more hard rock bands like Cinderella, Ratt, Quiet Riot, LA Guns and others seem to be content to play the small club circuit over here during the Summer. It seems to be the power and speed metal bands that are going across the seas.
Here is one that really had me shaking my head. Hirax were a thrash band that released two albums on Metal Blade back in the mid 80's. They were not a particularly good band and they broke up in 1987. The singer revived the name in 98 and started doing albums again on his own label. They only play a few shows a year in California and Arizona at small clubs, yet they played several festivals in Europe last year and they are going to be playing in Japan in the fall. Japan? Didn't American bands used to build up a following to go and play in Japan? Now a band that almost no one remembers will be playing there. I just can't imagine that anyone in Japan knows who these guys are that instead it's just an American metal band is playing and that might be enough for people to go see it. Not a real important topic today, but just one that has had me puzzled.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Artillery- Fear of tomorrow

Not exactly a proper review per se, but just an album I had to talk about and it also ties into my lost treasures post from the other week. I am still working on that Spreading the disease review and I promise it will be out next week. Anyway, this was the 1985 debut from Artillery who are from Denmark. I think that I may have heard one song by them on a compilation in the mid 80's, but I remember very little about it. What I do remember are some good reviews on this album and their second one as well. Artillery were a band whose albums never showed up on the shelf of any store I went to and I may have bought them if they had because I was aware of their good reputation. However, they were a band whose album I often considered ordering while looking at catalogs such as Metal Disc. For one reason or another, I always chose something else. The other day I was surprised to see this cd at the record store for a decent price because I was under the impression it was out of print and was an import. I bought it knowing with my luck that it may not be there when I came back again. My expectations were it would be good if not spectacular and that's close but not entirely true. Right away I was surprised at just how heavy these guys were. Not heavy by today's standards, but when compared to other 1985 releases by bands like Slayer, Exodus and Destruction it was heavier than those guys at times. There were songs that dragged, the vocals seem a bit dated by today's standards and there are times where the production is a little fuzzy, but there were times when they spot on with riffs and double bass drums
were sounding like thunder. More than half the songs have some really heavy riffs going on and not just noise like Possessed, but rather really tight riffs. I can't help but think this album had a some influence on Slayer's Reign in blood. You have to listen very closely to a few songs and realize that this album came out in between Hell Awaits and Reign. The other band this album may have influenced is Sodom. Sodom's first two releases were average at best, but by 1988's Persecution Mania they had adopted a heavier, sharper sound. The sound that dominates Sodom's Persecution Mania and Agent Orange can be heard on a few songs on Artillery's debut. Artillery's second album Terror Squad is supposed to be even better, but it is out of print. Their third album 1990's By Inheritance received generally average reviews. The band broke up in the early 90's but came back just a few years ago with a reunion album called B.A.C.K.
Artillery's Fear of Tomorrow may not be a classic, but it has a lot to offer. For one reason or another they may not have gotten the credit they deserved for being an influential early speed metal band. Still they have impressed me enough to keep a lookout for their other releases.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

They should have been big!

Have you ever said this about a band? I know that I used to, but I vow to never do it again. It's not that big a deal and it is an opinion, but it just doesn't ring true enough for me to ever feel justified in using it again. I used to say this when referring to Armored Saint and Black and Blue as I was surprised they never made it big. However, when we say "They should have been big" I think what we are really saying is "I liked this band a lot so why didn't other people like them?". I wouldn't even begin to say that I completely understand or know much about the business end of the music industry, but I have to think that if a major label band doesn't make it that there was a real reason and not just a matter of them falling through the cracks. There are probably many cases where a label could have promoted a band more, but I wouldn't think that would be the only reason a band didn't catch on.
For an up and coming band, getting the best opening slot is a big deal and I am sure this can play a part in album sales. I have often thought about just how important it was that Metallica got to open for Ozzy in 1986. Metallica were kind of at the top of the underground as they got ready to release Master of puppets. They got the opening spot for Ozzy on the Ultimate Sin tour and it turned out to be huge because Ozzy's album made it to the top five on the charts and he had a successful tour. At the same time, Anthrax were also a band people thought were on the verge, but they ended up opening for Black Sabbath and playing to half empty arenas. I wander if Anthrax had gotten the Ozzy tour and Metallica the Black Sabbath spot then would that have changed the future of these two bands? Would Anthrax have been mega-huge and Metallica just mildly successful? I don't know. I kind of think the strength of Master of Puppets would have pushed Metallica through even if they had gotten the less favorable opening slot.
In 1985, Geffen records saw some potential in Black and Blue and they had some positive press after their 1984 debut. Geffen wanted them to have a more commercial sound so they brought in producer Bruce Fairbairn to try to help gear them in that direction. The album definitely had a more commercial sound, but it did not catch on. Less than a year later Fairbairn was brought in to produce an album for another up and coming hard rock. The band was Bon Jovi and the album was Slippery when wet which of course was huge and it sent Bon Jovi to the top. Fairbairn took about the same direction with both of these albums yet one sat there and one became huge. Was it just that Bon Jovi were really that much better or was it just a matter of timing and push from the record company. Again, I don't truly know.
Just some things to think about and I am sure there are many other examples of the "what if" variety as well.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Band names

There are all kinds of stories of how a band came up with their name and some are great while some are just dull. Black Sabbath was an Italian horror movie from the early 60's and the band known as Earth decided to take it thinking it was a great name and they were right. Megadeth came from changing the spelling of a term found on a flier about the threat of a nuclear war. Then there are bands who are forced to change their name or even fight over a name. Below are a few examples of these kind of events plus others that are strange, but true.

Florida death metal band Xecutioner played under this name for a few years until they found out there was a Boston based band called Executioner who had released albums. The Florida band decided it would be in their best interest to change their name to avoid confusion with the Boston band. So Xecutioner actually chose a better name and became Obituary. They would go on to have some success between 89-95.

Wrathchild were a band from near where I live and they had played under that name for years. Then they signed to a major label and before they could release their debut album they ran into name problems. The British glam band of the same name threatened them with legal action so they changed to Wrathchild America and released two albums before changing their name to Souls at Zero. If you are going to change your band name then please change it to a better one.

Stephen Pearcy was in court as he fought Bobby Blotzer and Warren Demartini for the right to the name Ratt. Pearcy lost, but even playing solo he probably still gets as big of a crowd as the band now called Ratt. However, I am not sure at this point that the name Ratt was actually worth going to court over.

Mike Tramp went out on the road earlier this year and he was wanting to call his group White Lion, but he was threatened with legal action from his former band mate Vito Bratta. Tramp then had to call his touring band Mike Tramp's White Lion. That name really flows from your lips.

Saxon originally started as Son of a bitch back in the mid-70's, but changed to Saxon before releasing their debut in 1979. Graham Oliver and Steve Dawson were founding members then both left the band for various reasons with Dawson leaving after being the band for 10 years and Oliver for 20. In 1996 these two decided to form a band and they adopted the original band name Son of a bitch. Meanwhile Biff Byford and Steve Quinn were also founding members and they kept Saxon going. Then Oliver and Dawson decided to sue Byford and Quinn for the name Saxon. In 2003, Byford and Quinn won the right to keep the name and the other side was allowed to call their group Oliver Dawson Saxon. This one sounds like a soap opera.

German power metal band Grave Digger were advised by their label to change their name to something less dark with the thinking being that their name gave them an evil image. Even though they had played under this name for several years and released a couple of albums under this name they agreed thinking the label knew best. They changed the name to the very creative Digger and changed their logo to a brighter color. The result was it sold far less than any of their previous releases so they switched back to Grave Digger and they still go by that name today.

Once a band even had their name changed for them. Kick Axe recorded two tracks for the Transformers soundtrack, but the label changed the band's name on the record and listed them as Spectre General. This was done without the permission of the band and apparently the reason was that the label thought Kick Axe was too violent of a name to be included on a soundtrack for a kid's film.

Laaz Rockit had gone by that name for nearly ten years and several releases. Then in the early 90's their sound began to change so they changed their name to Gack and released one album before breaking up. Laaz Rockit was a little odd, but Gack sounds like some kind of kid's goo-type toy you would buy at the store.

Band names mean more to some people than to others. We all know it's the music that matters, but some names can keep people form buying your stuff and some might draw more people in. In writing about band names, I was thinking about my top ten favorite metal band names and least favorite. Here they are and I decided to limit it to bands from the 80's and early 90's. I wanted to include lesser known bands so Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Motorhead are not on the list because it's a given that they are great names and this list is geared towards the less obvious, I hope.

Top ten band names (in no order)

Killer Dwarfs- Not a fan of the band, but a cool name.
English Dogs- A name just dripping with power.
Death- Simple and to the point.
Mercyful Fate- I have always like this one.
At war- It gives the image of something heavy and aggressive.
Sea Hags- You could argue against it, but it's kind of cool while being different at the same time.
Bang Tango- Just has a good flowing sound to it.
Pestilence- Another questionable one, but something there that catches your attention.
Prong- Solid and simple, it just gives you this image that actually is reflected in the band's sound.
Armored Saint- A lot of bands tried those contradiction type names, but few are as good as this one.

Bottom ten

Noisy Mama- Too much like Twisted Sister only it sounds annoying.
Odin-Nothing like a little Norse Mythology reference to draw metal kids in, also it makes me think of odor.
Bitches Sin- They were trying too hard with this one.
Pungent Stench- Do I really need to comment on why this is not a good choice?
Tuff- A four letter word no one should name their band.
Acid Reign- Fortunately they didn't last long enough for this name to be outdated.
Cannibal Corpse- Sounds like the name of a bad Italian horror movie.
Q5-Just a little too out there, guys. Even though I must say that the few songs I heard by them were quite good.
Legs Diamond- Sounds like the name of a 50 year stripper.
London- No wonder they got nowhere and a bunch of guys left and found success with other bands (with better names).

There you have some meaningless nonsense about band names. Feel free to chime in with your favorite or least favorite. By the way, does anyone know exactly what a Krokus is?

Monday, July 04, 2005

The lost treasure

It's not gold or silver that I am referring to here, but more an idea that I have. In an earlier post I briefly mentioned all the albums I would see in the record stores, but of course there wasn't enough money to buy all of them. So I wonder if there is some album from years ago that is just a truly great metal album that got overlooked by reviewers due to being on a small label, lack of promotion or some other reason. Every time I get an album or cd that I never heard from say 91 and earlier, I think about this. Right before I start it up, I pause a second and wonder if this is the one that will make me ask "how did this band go overlooked?". Unfortunately, the majority of the time my reaction is more "Oh, I see why I never heard of these guys before". This idea of mine is not just an excuse to keep buying old cd's and albums either, well, that's not the whole reason anyway. I suppose this notion has more to do with just a belief that some average bands get big due to luck and really good some bands get overlooked due to other circumstances maybe even beyond their control.
The most recent candidate for lost gem was Malice. I almost bid on their first album a year or so ago, but it went for far too much. Then I saw a seller I have dealt with before selling their first one on cd for a fair price so I bought a copy. Malice did two albums on Atlantic, but never really made much headway. Now here it was before me, a twenty year old recording that I had never heard before. Could it be a lost gem that people had missed? I started my car as I was heading out to the store to get milk and a few other things only my main thought was seeing if Malice could be that lost gem. I popped the disc is and focused my ears in only to hear second rate Judas Priest, my heart sank. It was well played for what it was, but it was almost a note for note imitation. In recent years I have had a similar reaction as I heard Helstar, Cats in boots, the Rods, TNT, Heavy Pettin and various other 80's metal bands for the first time. All of them had some good points, but none of them came close to being a real lost gem. There are two bands that came close to being semi-gems at least. A year or so ago I won Hawk which is the band led by Doug Marks, you know the Metal Method guitar teacher guy who always had an ad in Hit Parader. I won that and decided to bid on a cd by Swedish band 220 Volt as well. I faintly remember hearing one song by them in the mid-80's and sort of remembered it was good. The cd's came and Hawk turned out to be like a kind of watered down Dio so then I put in 220 Volt. Nothing I hadn't heard before, but it was very good for what it was. Just a solid standard metal band with a real variety of different kinds of songs. They didn't exactly sound like any one band, but I would say that it is a fair guess that they liked the Scorpions, Priest and Saxon. I play it fairly often now and I went back and bought another one of their cd's which turned out to be just as good. The other band that came close is Cardinal Sin. I actually had heard one of their demos back around 1990. They were a thrash band originally from Puerto Rico, but then they moved to Boston with the hopes of making it big in the states. They were signed to Maze records in 1991, but the label went bankrupt before they could record an album. Apparently they did another demo after that, but broke up by 1993. Just last fall I saw they had a released an album that had both of their demos plus some live tracks and rough demo tracks. The live tracks are of terrible quality, but the songs from the demos and some of the other stuff are really good. Cardinal Sin sound not unlike Testement and Exodus so it was really refreshing last year to hear an old style thrash cd. Not exactly a gem and not completely lost because I had heard some of it before, but still closer than most of the other albums I mentioned. Maybe a lot of bands were overlooked simply because they weren't anything out of the ordinary. However, I can think of a few bands that were very good, but didn't get much notice. A list of those bands would include Executioner, At War, Zoetrope, Whiplash, Cyclone, Medieval and Holocross to name a few. Whiplash did get a little notice, but not until their first drummer breifly replaced Dave Lombardo in Slayer. Since I know these great bands existed, I have to believe there are still some other great 15-20 year old albums floating around out there waiting to be heard. The problem being that I might have to wade through a sea of mediocre albums to find that one treasure. Still I do have a list of bands I want to hear and this list includes such bands as Icon, Griffin, Cloven Hoof, Jaguar, Iron Angel, Pretty Maids and more. So maybe one of those or a band I have not even thought of will turn out to be that lost treasure. Have a happy Fourth of July!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Kids and metal

Let's see, Ozzy has kids, Dave Mustaine has kids and even Lemmy has a grown son. However, I am just a fan and not a musician so I am in a different boat. I know metal is an interest and not a lifestyle. My concern is how to raise my daughter right while knowing that someday I am going to have to explain why I listen to the music I listen to. My hope is to be ready for when that day comes. The music I listen to has been a lot of the same stuff I have listened to since I was a teen so it's not a phase, it's a real interest and I don't plan on hiding or denying it. However, I own cd's and albums that have strong language as well lyrics about violence and sexual references. I guess the first thing is to teach my daughter to be open with us and to ask us about things when she has questions. Good, bad and in between, we need to able to answer any questions she has and I am sure she will have them. I would much rather prefer we talk to her about this no matter how awkward it may be as opposed to having her learn about it from another kid and get a wrong impression about something.
I want my daughter to respect herself and respect others and I don't want ideas that come from entertainment to taint the truth about what the world is like and the way life can be. There are far worse things in life than the lyrics to metal songs, but I don't want to gloss over what is being said or presented in music either. It's not just my music or today's but music when my daughter becomes a teen will doubtlessly have false images in it as well. I do hope to get back into going to church some day soon. I do that and my daughter is raised going to church then I think eventually she could ask questions like "isn't singing about sex and violence a sin and how could someone who is christian listen to this?" That would be a tough question because how do you give an honest answer without looking like a hypocrite or someone who bends the rules for their own interests. That is also one that I do not have a great answer for, but I will think about it and try to be honest and ready should that question ever come.
I remember taking her home from the hospital after she was born and it was thrilling and scary at the same time. Thrilling to have this child and know all the great things we could do and teach her, but scary for the exact same reasons because we were going to be the chief providers and examples for this child. Although I will say that I have done more going with the flow than worrying since she was born, but she is very young yet. I guess just go back to that early point and hope we raise her to ask questions and talk freely to us and try to answer as best we can. I just have to remember that just because I am a parent doesn't mean I have all the answers and I am sure that in the end that I will learn as much if not more from my daughter than she will learn from my wife and I. Childhood should be a growing experience for the child and the parent, I just have to remember that it may be a bumpy ride at times. Well, I am going to step off my soap box and go to listen to some metal.