Friday, December 30, 2005

Albums for a deserted island

I have had this partially written post laying around for several weeks so I want to get it out there even though it means posting twice in one day. I wanted an easy one write, but also something fun and I don't care that I am ripping off an idea from an old radio show. Back in the mid-80's there was a nationally syndicated radio show called the Metalshop and one weekly feature was where they would ask a metal musician this question - "If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one album with you, what would it be?" Now I don't know how you get electricity and a turntable on a deserted island, but I guess you just have to use a little imagination. I can't limit myself to one album so I want to give three choices, but you have to pick one hard rock/metal album from each of the three decades 70's, 80's and 90's. Plus it might be good to just state why you pick each one. Keep in mind that it doesn't have to be your favorite album of the decade, but the one you could listen to if you only had three albums for a long period of time. So I will start it off and hopefully someone else will be brave enough to try it as well.

1970's-Black Sabbath-s/t
I chose this one because of the very stripped down sound and the variance in pace of the songs. I considered some of their other albums, but I think that I listen to this one the most without getting bored.

1980's- Iron Maiden- The Number of the beast
Probably the metal album that I have heard the most in my life and I know that I will never get bored with it. Again the varied styles of the songs is one of the main reasons I picked this one.

1990's-Dream Theater- Images and words
This one has lots of different styles within individual songs. It's also one of the albums that really makes me feel really alive and I think that would be a good thing to have around.

Okay, is anyone feeling brave enough to add their choices?

New Year's resolutions

I have never been one to make a lot of New Year's resolutions. Not because I don't have any or don't want to, but normally just because I don't think of it in time and then the New Year starts and I just go on like always. Maybe if I write them down here then I will make actual attempts to achieve something. So here are some music and blog related resolutions.

I vow to actually do one monthly 20 year old album review.

I vow to verbally criticize any metal musician that deserves it.

I vow not to refer to anyone as the "next big thing".

I vow to praise Lemmy, Iron Maiden and Roth era Van Halen at least once a month.

Well, I may or may not stick to those resolutions but it gave me something to think about. Here are some that are more personal and more serious.

I vow to try and be the best father that I can be which means leaving work at work instead of bringing it home.

I vow to eat healthier.

I vow to try not to drive like a maniac to get home from work.

That should give me some things to work on this year.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sir Lord Baltimore

Okay, I may be doing a bit of a cop out here, but I just not going to be able to do another 1985 album review in the final days of December. I just have so many new cd's to listen to that I will not be able to do it. So instead the time machine is going to go even further back and I am going to review a great cd from a band that you may never have had the pleasure of hearing before. Sir Lord Baltimore were an early 70's hard rock/metal band that hailed from New York not Baltimore. The cd that I just bought has both of their albums on one cd. The first album is called Kingdom Come and their second album is actually self titled. I have been listening to a number of lesser known early metal bands lately like Budgie, Blue Cheer and Captain Beyond lately. Like all of those Sir Lord Baltimore had a lot to offer and they probably influenced some young bands that were starting up in the early 70's. Sir Lord Baltimore have some similarities to other bands of the time. Most noticeably Deep Purple, Blue Cheer and Budgie yet they have a lot of their sound as well. They were fairly heavy for the time (70-71) and what I liked most about them is how straightforward most of their songs were. These guys manage to throw in a lot of squealing guitars and in face your drums, but yet still manage to stay very much in control of what they are doing. Some of the guitar parts make wonder if Ted Nugent heard these guys before he went solo, not so much the tone but the way there are parts that are separate from the main rhythm yet they still manage to fit in. I think that the Kingdom Come album rocks quite a bit more than the second album as almost every song kicks off and never lets up. The self titled album is a bit more layered and the songs tend to take a little longer to get started. The second album reminds me a little of Budgie as they try to take the heaviness from the first album but blend it in with parts that take a little longer to build up to a peak. The band added a second guitarist for their second album and it's also interesting to not that their drummer was their singer. I would be willing to bet that these guys were awesome live because they have a lot of energy. It's a shame they only gave us two albums before breaking up, but they are two very good albums. I just bought the cd the other day and have already listened to it twice. So if you can find this one, I would highly recommend it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Reviewing Christmas presents

My wife asked me if I wanted a cd for Christmas and I said sure, but that I wanted it to be sort of a surprise. So I made a list of four cds that I wanted and asked if she could pick one for me. Well, I was surprised when she got all four of them for me so I decided to write some mini-reviews on my presents. Since I want to review all four cds in one blog, I am going to limit myself to only four lines per review. This will give me the challenge of trying to condense my reactions. This is also good because I tend to ramble on in my reviews at times. I had actually only heard one of these before and that was TNT and it has been at least 15 years since I have heard all of it.

Danger Danger-s/t, 1989
I do remember hearing the opening track Naughty Naughty on the radio back in 89. This is a fairly commercial outing with lots of keyboards and somewhat repetitive choruses. Guitarist Andy Timmons shines at times with some of his solos. I can see why these guys got some notice back then, but I can also see why they didn't make it that big either.

Dirty Looks- Cool from the wire, 1988
The singer sounds quite a bit like Bon Scott and that's a plus, but the music doesn't sound much like AC/DC. The mix on the album is a little low and muddy at times. The music moves along well, but it doesn't stand out all that much either. Overall it's a fun album, but could used just a little more energy behind it.

Four Horsemen- Gettin' pretty good at barely gettin' by, 1995
I used to have their debut lp Nobody said it was easy and sold it because I needed the money. This album is not quite as raw as their debut lp and it could have used a bit more of an edge. It's a little like Black Crowes lite, but still has enough changes to make it interesting. These guys got some good press in the early 90's, but then they went through some musical differences and eventually some tragedies.

TNT- Tell no tales, 1987
I make no secrets about being a big fan of these guys. Knights of the new thunder was much more a metal album, but here the band let's their Journey and Queen influences come through as well. This album might be their most even release overall and that has both good and bad points. My only real complaint is the complaint I have about all of their early albums which is it's under 40 minutes long.

I overall liked all four of these albums, but TNT was far and away the best of the bunch. I hope that you got some good presents as well.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Could Ozzy sink any lower?

I saw Ozzy's Under Cover cd at the library so I checked it out. I didn't expect much and I didn't have to pay anything to hear it yet I still feel that I have been cheated out of time. I cannot believe I spent time listening to this because it is unbelievably wretched and I am being generous. It may be difficult to pull off actually doing a good album of all covers, but this doesn't even come across as a very attempt to be good. Seriously, I could not listen to a whole song not one track. I started to listen to every song and kept skipping forward hoping to find one redeeming track that would make me think Ozzy had something left to give and that never happened. Before beginning, I glanced at the songs and really thought he might do well Rocky mountain way and Mississippi Queen, but unfortunately they were both pretty disastrous. The music is so slicked up and just had no feeling whatsoever. I get the impression that this album was done soley to keep Ozzy's name in front of people. It just sounds like someone selected a bunch of songs they thought wouldn't be too hard for Ozzy to do and the music was recorded without any feeling and Ozzy was rolled out and propped up just long enough to record the vocals.
It's now hard to believe that Ozzy was once this huge heavy metal icon, I mean right there with Maiden, Priest and Dio. It's hard to believe that this is the same guy who once gave us Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a madman. I know other artists like Aerosmith and Alice Cooper are still putting out albums just to tour, but these guys seem like older versions of what they were. Ozzy seems more like a shell of his former self and I think there is a difference. Alice Cooper and Aerosmith still have their personalities and I would bet they can still give a good live performance. Over the last several years at least, Ozzy is seeming more and more like he has to carted out and propped up for an appearance. It is hard to believe, but he really has not done anything all that good since "No more tears" which will soon be 15 years old. I hate to be this harsh and I still respect him for what he did in Sabbath and as a solo artist from say the early 80's to the early 90's. However it just bothers me what he has become and it certainly didn't have to be this way. He is not as bad as Kiss about sticking his name on everything to be marketed, but then again Kiss have never pretended to take themselves that serious either. The best I can say is I am glad there are still real metal icons around like Lemmy.
I originally wrote almost all of this post like two weeks ago and considered not posting it because I really hate to rant and throw off on artists because I sincerely want to hear music that is good. On the other hand, I am a longtime fan of this kind of music and I have spent a lot of time and money listening to it so I feel that I have the right to express myself on this topic.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

1986 is on it's way

No, the title is a not a misprint. Remember this is the time machine so my days of talking about metal in 1985 are numbered. I still owe a review for December so I need to get that out next week and then starting in January I will begin to write reviews of 1986 hard rock/ metal albums at a pace of one per month. So to set the mood, I want to journey back and just briefly mention about what was going on in metal as 1985 ended and 1986 was on the horizon. In late 85, there was a lot of talk about the big releases due out in early 1986. Van Halen had just hired Sammy Hagar a few months earlier, but their new album was due out in 1986 and everyone was wondering was their life after Dave? Ozzy's new album was originally going to be called Killer of Giants and was to be released as early as fall of 85. However it had been delayed and received a name change and now it was going to be The Ultimate Sin and it was due out in early 86. Judas Priest were due to have their first album out in two years and it was highly anticipated. Metallica had released their first major label release a year earlier and the follow-up was on it's way. They finally started to get mentioned in magazines like Hit Parader and Circus. With Metallica and Metal Church signed to major labels, could other bands be on the way? I think Slayer were in negotiations with labels at this time and rumor was Megadeth might soon get a major label deal as well. That's just a few of the things that were going on as 1986 was about to start. I once thought that I would map out my 12 reviews for the year before the year started, but instead I think that I will just choose albums as the month rolls around. My hope is to pick not just albums I like, but to pick a combination of ones I like, ones I don't like and even ones that I don't remember too well because I have not heard them in so long. My goal is to write down what I thought of them when I first heard then listen to it now and write what I think of it now. I do know that my January review will be Van Halen's 5150. I would also like to go ahead and say Merry Christmas to anyone reading. Figured that I better do this now because I very well may not get to post tomorrow so enjoy the holiday and I will definitely have my last 1985 album review out next week.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Celtic Frost vs. Trouble in 2006

This past year saw a big metal reunion album in Judas Priest's Angel of retribution, but unfortunately the album was very uneven. Now Candlemass did a reunion album this year as well. Unfortunately I have yet to hear it, but all the reviews have been positive so eventually I will track it down. There are two metal reunion albums coming up in 2006 that I am interested in. Celtic Frost are due to release their first album in 14 years. Trouble's new album is set to be released in March and it will their first album in 11 years. If you asked me which band I preferred in the 1980's then I would say Celtic Frost. Celtic Frost came from Hellhammer and they didn't know it at the time, but they really helped shape what would become black metal. They were fast at times, but more importantly they were very heavy. Trouble on the other hand one of just a few bands during the 80's who were playing slow and heavy, Sabbath inspired metal. Trouble were a big influence on a lot of today's doom and stoner bands. Even though I say that I liked Celtic Frost better in their prime, it would not surprise me if Trouble put out a better reunion album. My reasoning starts with the fact that Celtic Frost may have better in their prime, but Trouble were more consistent throughout their career. Celtic Frost were building and perfecting their early black metal sound from 84-86. Then in 87 they did Into the pandemonium and they were integrating other forms of music in with their old sound. It received mixed reviews. Then came Cold Lake in 1988 which was a huge clunker as they tried to combine their early sound with glam metal and the results were disastrous for both their career and my ears. In the early 90's they did return to their earlier sound, but their popularity had dwindled and they broke up after one more lp and a few new tracks on a best of album. Trouble did six albums between 1984 and 1995 and every single one was solid. They always seemed to receive good reviews but it wasn't until their self titled album (which was actually their fourth album) came out in 1990 that they started to really get noticed. The 1992 follow-up Manic Frustration also did well, but Plastic Green Head in 1995 turned out to be their last album before some of the band members went on to other projects. Trouble picked up on the sounds of Sabbath, but they had a bit more of a cleaner sound and I think the band managed to make small adjustments to each album so that they progressed without ever losing site of their basic sound. Celtic Frost on the other hand mastered their black metal sound in a very short time and felt the need to progress which is fine, but they went through very drastic sound changes and when the second attempt failed they ended up returning to a sound that although not bad was very derivative of what they had done like five years earlier. Of course I am hoping that both reunion albums are good and that both bands still find an audience, but my guess would be that Trouble's return will be the stronger album.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Metal Christmas songs

Ahh, it's that time of year, time for some great heavy metal Christmas songs. Yes, there actually are some and I am wondering if any of you know of more? The first one I ever heard was King Diamond's No presents for Christmas from 1985. This was released as a twelve inch single and it was the first thing that the King did once he went solo. Another song is Hanoi Rocks' Dead by Christmas which was released as a B side and later stuck on Self Destruction Blues which was a collection of their B sides and rarities. Black Metal originators Venom got into the holiday spirit as well when they did Black Christmas. Well, I am afraid all of those are really negative Christmas songs so my favorite would have to be Heavy Christmas by 220 Volt which can be found on their Power Games cd. They wish everyone a heavy Christmas which I take as meaning "listen to a lot of heavy metal over the holiday" rather than heavy as in "eat a lot of Christmas cookies until you feel heavy like you have lead in your stomach". While searching ebay I recently saw a few compilations of glam bands doing Christmas songs. One was I believe called the Glam that stole Christmas. I wasn't about to buy it as the concept behind this is scary to think that these hasbeen and never were glam artists aren't satisfied with just playing on tribute albums now they are playing classic holiday tunes to make a buck as well. Anyway has anyone else heard any heavy metal Christmas songs?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Witchcraft -Firewood

This album actually came out back in the summer I believe and my friend Ray actually recommended them to me back then. However, I just now got around to buying it and better late then never certainly applies here. This is the second album from Sweden's Witchcraft and it far exceeded my expectations. These guys will probably get dumped in with other bands under the doom or stoner labels, but they are different than most bands. The influences include Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Pentagram, Uriah Heep, Budgie and probably others as well. I know most stoner and doom bands have influences from Sabbath and other bands from the 70's but these guys really sound like a 70's band. If you didn't known better and were told that this album was recorded in say 1972 then you would probably believe it because it sure sounds like it. Now some naysayers might bring up the question "what's the point in sounding exactly like a 70's band?" That is a legitimate question and I will try to answer it. A lot of the doom and stoner bands have 70's influences, but they use slick production on it or they may have a very heavy distorted sound but that may just be the tone and the actual music is oftentimes very redundant. Now I am not putting down bands of that variety, but Witchcraft bring not just heaviness but also a true sense of timing and very strong songwriting. The solos are very fluid as are the vocals and most importantly they bring a true basic rock sound that is sorely missed by some stoner rock bands. A lot of bands can play Sabbath riffs, but Witchcraft take their influences and seamlessly combined them with their own sound and they play with a lot of fire and heart. I truly enjoyed this album and look forward to seeing what direction this band will take with future releases.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

TNT- All the way to the sun

This isn't going to be a real proper review (as proper as mine tend to be), but just some brief thoughts while they are fresh in my head. This is TNT's new album and it just came out in I believe October so it is fairly new. I have heard very few new albums this year, but decided to buy this one based on some reviews and the songs I heard off the last album. The first time I heard this band was on a late night metal show back in 1985 when they played Deadly Metal off of the band's Knights of the new thunder album. I have probably only heard half of the band's releases, but I have enjoyed all of them. The first thing I noticed before putting the new disc in was the absence of long time bass player Morty Black. I don't know why he is gone, but they apparently had a session player in and the band picture shows them without a bass player. The band have experimented a little with different sounds over the years, but basically they have been a commercial hard rock band. The first several tracks display a much more even sound than the band has displayed in the past. Even in a sense that the songs are smooth and tight, but perhaps a little predictable. As far as style, the first almost half of the album shows some influence of say a less funky Extreme and perhaps Sammy Hagar era Van Halen. Then somewhere around the middle of the album we start to get more songs that have the TNT quirkiness that is normally included in a few tracks on their albums. I mean quirky in a good, unexpected kind of way as this normally included some surprising pace changes and vocal asides. Some reviews complained that the album didn't have one overall sound to it and I found that to be a strange comment as most of their albums have never had one specific sound. I have always found this to be something that has set the band apart. The biggest positive surprise for me was the vocals as Tony Harnell has never sounded better in my opinion. I still have problems taking his vocals from say their first few albums as he comes on bit strong, but he sounds very good on this album. One the other hand, Ronnie Le Tekro's solos have always been one of the strongest points to this band and there just are not enough of them here. Some times his parts are just buried a bit too much behind the scenes. It is a very commercial hard rock album, but a very enjoyable album as I have already listened to it four times and I have had it less than a week. I think this band should be proud of the new album and I am always glad to hear a band who has been around for 20+ years that can still put out a quality recording.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Golden Turd of 1985

I briefly did top ten lists, top and bottom album covers and the golden turd for the years 1980-1984 back in August. The idea behind the Golden Turd award is not that it's necessarily the worst album of the year, but that it was disappointing in some way thus the golden part. A bad album from an unknown band that didn't get a of lot hype would just be a plain turd because there were no real expectations. So to qualify for this award, the album has to be bad and be disappointing in some way. I think this disappointment is going to be due one of the two following circumstances- A) the band had a history of good albums, but this album is rank- or choice- B)this album was received a lot of hype and publicity through magazines and reviews, but this album is rank.
Okay there is the idea and here is the list of the previous winners.
1981-Kiss-Music from the Elder
1982-Ted Nugent-Nugent
1983-Black Sabbath-Born Again
1984- No award given because I didn't see any album as being deserving and this is a good thing.

I just want to state that I did not create this award just to bash bands because I am a fan of this music and I would love it if everyone put out good albums. I created this award so that I could vent some of my frustration on bands that could have done a better job and on magazines and record companies who promoted bands that may not have deserved such a push. All of the previous winners fall into the category of bands who did good albums previously, but bombed with this outing. However, the winner for 1985 falls into the category of getting a lot of hype yet their album was bad and they didn't deserve all of the attention they received. That may be a strong statement for me to make so I need to justify that and I will try to. The winner of the 1985 Golden Turd award is.......

Keel- The Right to rock

I think I may need to go back a few more years and give some background here. Ron Keel was in the LA scene and he was in Steeler with Yngwie Malmsteen in 1983. They recorded one album before breaking up. Then Ron Keel auditioned for Black Sabbath and got the job (this would have been right after Ian Gillain had returned to Deep Purple). He lasted only a brief time in Sabbath as he was let go after asking for a ridiculous amount of money (his own words). He formed his own band Keel and quickly released a debut in 1984. The album got good reviews and the band was quickly signed to a major label. They went into the studio and recorded their major label debut with Gene Simmons of Kiss producing. Okay, so the hype is here is a guy who in two short years has recorded with Yngwie Malmsteen, been in Black Sabbath even if it was just a few weeks, was quickly signed to a major over a lot of other struggling LA bands and this album is produced a big name in Gene Simmons. That sounds like he has done a lot in a short period of time and the expectations are high.
So my first problem is that the Right to rock is bad and I mean wrinkle your nose and gag kind of bad. It's not only bad, but it's an album that supports those who make fun of this kind of music. It has rotten overdone vocals, mediocre music and ridiculous lyrics. Please don't think I am bashing these guys just because they are hair metal, there were a lot of good hair metal bands around. The reason bands like Motley Crue and Poison can get away with having limited skills is that at their best, these bands are fun to listen to. There is no joy to this album and they don't try to have fun with it, they try to act like they actually take this serious. Come on, guys you have a song called "You're the victim, I'm the crime", how serious are we supposed to take that? This album got good reviews from the metal mags and the band were featured in a lot of metal mags as well. So Keel gets this award for 1985. I don't want to be all negative so I do need to say that I heard Ron Keel's Fair Game which was him with an all female backing band. It was good although not anything new, but still good. I also remember Keel's next album Final Frontier as being good, but it has been a long time since I have heard it.
That wraps up the 1985 hard rock/ heavy metal awards. Now I go back to doing monthly reviews on 20 year old albums as well as babbling about other metal related topics.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The best and worst album covers

There certainly are some great and some not so great heavy metal album covers. I have been looking at a number of covers from albums released in 1985 so that I could make my list. Live albums and ep's are not eligible for my top ten or the Golden Turd, but they are eligible for an album cover award. So here are the best, the worst and my reasons for selecting them.

The top five best album covers of 1985
1-Iron Maiden- live after death
If Iron Maiden released an album then it's 90% chance it will get best album cover.
2-Anthrax- Spreading the disease
Just look at the expression of agony on the dude's face.
3-Saxon- Innocence is no excuse
Hard to explain why I like this cover, but it always drew me in. I think it's a combination of the idea and the colors that are used. Great back cover as well.
4-Trouble -The skull
Wow, a metal album cover with a skull, how original. Wait, this one actually is quite different due to the angle and the colors.
5-Fates Warning - The spectre within
This one used to scare me a little when I first saw it in 1985.

The five worst of 1985
1-Accept- Metal Heart
I like the Accept logo and the blue background, but that heart thing look like it came straight out of Fred Sanford's junkyard.
2-Dokken - Under lock and key
On the Tooth and nail tour, Don Dokken wore blue and black spandex, a bullet belt and sunglasses. Yet the costumes on this cover are ten times worse than that.
3-Autograph- That's the stuff
Robots are never sexy.
4-Hirax- Raging Violence
It looks someone thought "Wow, what if a pimple had a face while it was being popped?" It's nasty, stupid and a bit lame at the same time.
5-Venom- Possessed
It looks like a negative of two goofy guys wearing Venom shirts.

The Golden Turd is coming on Tuesday.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Number one

A change in the line-up can make or break a band some times. This band changed bass players and singers after their debut so they had changed a bit by the time they released their sophomore effort in 1985. This is the album that would really boost a strong career for a great band that is still going strong. The number one album hard rock/ metal album of 1985 is.......

Anthrax - Spreading the disease

It did take a few listens for me to decide, but it became obvious that this album deserved it. The bottom line is that this album has an original sound, no weak tracks and moves along very well. It has also aged well, I would say and that's a big compliment for a 20 year old album. This is my favorite Anthrax album as it just edges out Persistence of time and Among the living. Neil Turban was a decent singer, but Joey Belladonna has a far stronger voice and he seemed to be a better fit with the band. Some of my favorite songs on this one are Lone Justice, S.S.C. Stand or fall, Armed and dangerous and Medusa. Unlike most of their later albums, there is not so much one style that runs through the entire album yet they seem confortable with all of the tracks here. One of my favorite things about Anthrax is that I think they have for the most part done what they wanted to do because it's what they like instead of following trends. That doesn't mean everything they have done is good or has been successful, but I do respect them for this. I also think that approach is what has helped set them apart from the pack. It's also good to see this line-up back together as it was far and away the best line-up this band has ever had.

Don't go away yet, I still a few more awards to go. Tomorrow I will do the five best and five worst album covers of 1985 then on Monday will be the Golden Turd of 1985 award. So the top ten plus those two equals twelve which makes it sort of like the 12 days of Christmas only it falls way before Christmas. So maybe it is more like the twelve days near Christmas. Then I will probably shut up for a while. Actually I still have one more 1985 album review for the month of December so I need to do that at some point. Then next month I will have to start reviewing 1986 albums.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Number Two

By 1985, the LA Metal Scene was big and a lot of bands were getting signed, but up the road the scene in San Francisco things were heating up as well. Eventually the bay area scene would produce a lot of speed metal bands who would achieve varying levels of success. One of those bands released their debut in 1985 and it just happens to be number two on my top ten list of the best hard rock/metal awards of 1985. That album is.......

Exodus- Bonded by blood

As I previously stated, this was my favorite album of 1985 for a long time. My opinion of this album has not changed, but the other album has gotten better. Anyway, these guys roared onto the scene with their debut. I think this album showed that speed metal was progressing fast. Exodus succeeded in merging coherent speed riffs with a tremendous heaviness and they were doing it better than almost anyone else around in 1985. They toured with Slayer and Venom on Combat's Ultimate Revenge tour that year. I am sure they made Slayer take notice and Venom had to realize the bands they had influenced had begun to pass them up. I think this album was hugely influential on the speed metal scene and it's the best thing Exodus ever did although their 1989 album Fabulous Disaster may come close. No disrespect to the late Paul Baloff, but I think the vocals department is one of the top reasons as to why I ultimately had to give this album the number two spot instead of number one.

I almost can't believe it, but I am down to the final spot. Over the last few months, I have listened to a lot of albums from 1985 to determine my top ten and eventually it became very evident what album deserved number one. So who could it be? Could it be Motley Crue with their hugely popular Theater of Pain? Or maybe the Brian Johnson era of AC/DC finally got it together and Fly on the wall will get it. Or maybe it's that Irish hard rock band Mama's Boys and their album Power and passion. Uh, well, I can safely say that it's not any of those albums. The hint is that two members of this band were involved in a side project that same year.
Number one is coming on Saturday.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Number Three

Does anyone else remember the PMRC and those hearings in 1985? If you said yes then you are showing your age, but one thing that came from those hearings was an explicit lyrics warning sticker. The first album I ever saw one of these on is the album that I have ranked as number three in top ten hard rock/metal albums of 1985. That album is.....

WASP- The Last Command

Probably the only band to make my list that would have been considered as being at least sort of a big name in 1985. I loved their debut and in 1985 I wasn't as big on this album, but it has grown on me a lot. WASP proved and continue to prove that you can have a melody in your song and still pack a punch at the same time. With the Last Command, WASP managed to bring the punch they had on their debut plus you could tell Blackie Lawless was progressing as a songwriter. This band has gone through a lot of line-up changes and although they have never been the most talented players, they always make the best of what they do have. The Last Command is a prime example of WASP playing very tight and it works because almost everything about the album is strong, but not overpowering. I think WASP often suffered from having their music be overshadowed by their image. Their image got them some initial attention, but it may also have kept them from the recognition they deserved for their music.

Now it boils down to the final two and there were really just two albums that were competing for the number one spot. Actually the album that I now have as number two was probably my favorite album of 1985 from say the late 1980's up until just a few years ago. It's a great album, but the album I have as number one is just a little better. The hint for number two is that the vocalist who sang on the album is sadly no longer with us. Number Two will be revealed on Friday.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Number four

Number four goes to a band who had spent a few years slugging it out in the clubs of New York before getting signed to Megaforce records and releasing their debut lp in 1985. Number four is without a doubt......

Overkill- Feel the fire

It's a big monster of a debut that comes on like a storm with Raise the dead and it never let's up. Not a weak a track on the album and it would be at least four years until Overkill could say that again. Other than Raise the dead, my other favorites are Rotten to the core, the title track and the song Overkill. Most of the songs are aggressive and straight ahead while being very solid and heavy as well. Their sound was somewhat different than other speed metal bands of the time and it was basis for the same sound that they have had since 1985. This band has now been around for almost 25 years and they have gone through a few drummers since the debut and a small army of guitarists, but the line-up on the debut is one of my favorites. Rat Skates was a solid drummer and there was a good reason that it took two guitarists to replace Bobby Gustafson in 1990. Bobby "blitz" Ellsworth belts out the songs with his unique vocals and DD Verni has always been one of the best bass players in speed metal. This is a band so cool that it didn't matter that their logo was bright green.

Only three albums left to go. The hint for number three is that this was the first album that I ever saw with an explicit lyrics warning sticker on it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Number five

Now I am down to the top five already so let's unveil number five of the top ten hard rock/metal albums of 1985. A lot of metal bands that existed in the 1970's were trying to reinvent themselves to some extent in the 80's. Bands like Kiss, Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult and even the Nuge were making adjustments to their sound to try and keep up with what was current. Meanwhile a somewhat obscure band from northern Virginia formed in the early 70's and they released a few 7 inches between 72-78. They had some interest from CBS records and recorded some songs for them, but they never got a deal at that time. That band broke up in 1979, but reformed with a slightly different line-up in 1982 and by 1985 they had a record deal and they were finally ready to release their debut lp and what a debut it is. Number five goes to....

Pentagram - Relentless (s/t)

This album was originally released as just Pentagram and then was later re-released under the title Relentless. Today doom metal is a fairly popular sub genre of metal, but that wasn't exactly so 20 years ago. In the mid to late 80's there was Saint Vitus, Trouble, Candlemass, Pentagram and just a few others. The style wasn't always referred to as doom back then, the sound was normally just given some description relating it to Black Sabbath. That description is somewhat accurate of Pentagram as there is a distinct Sabbath influence. However unlike say Saint Vitus and Trouble, Pentagram were playing sludgey riffs in clubs at the same time Sabbath was defining metal. Pentagram's experience shine through on this album as most of the songs have an effortless flow to them. Most of the tracks are slow and heavy, but they are so much more at the same time. Pentagram always claimed Blue Cheer were a bigger influence on them than Sabbath and you can hear some that as well plus maybe an early BOC influence. Bobby Liebling has a very natural clean voice that fits in perfectly. The songs vary in pace and level of heaviness, but all of them have that fuzzy sound that just works so well for them. I have to say that I prefer Relentless as the title for this album. It's the perfect title for the debut of a band that waited so long to do an album and a band who stuck by the sound they had been doing for years.

The hint for number four is that this band took their band name from a Motorhead song.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Number six

I know that if I continue to do these top ten lists that there will be times when I have to grudgingly give spots to bands I may not be thrilled about, but I have to admit it when they put out a good album. However this album is not one of those, in fact this is a band who praises I love to spread. I am glad to give them credit because I feel that they were truly one of the most underrated metal bands ever. Number six goes to....

Armored Saint - Delirious Nomad

Their 1984 debut was a very straight forward metal effort and this album has that sound as it's backbone, but the band grew beyond that sound a little as well. Guitarist Phil Sandoval departed after the debut and the band decided not to replace him and just go with one guitarist. Delirious Nomad shows a growth in the song writing from the previous album as we see a lot more pace changes and a little less repetition. Armored Saint were just putting out very solid metal on this album, but the songs flowed seamlessly for the most part. Every member of the band was very strong, obviously there were no weak spots. John Bush is probably one of the best metal singers of all time and that is not a compliment I throw out all the time. While bands like Manowar used every other song to say they were playing "real metal", Armored Saint didn't feel the need to proclaim it because they just went ahead and played real metal. The bad news for Armored Saint was that they never got a whole lot more popular than they were at this point. The good news for fans was the band would get even better over the next two releases.

I am actually half done at this point. The hint for number five is that even though band formed in the early 1970's they were releasing their debut lp in 1985. Number five will be out Tuesday.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Number seven

On to number seven of my top ten countdown of the top ten hard rock/metal albums of 1985. This spot goes to a band who didn't get the respect they deserve possibly because they were caught between genres. They were an LA band who had a glam look that probably scared away some real metal fans, but they were heavy enough that they probably scared off some glam fans. Number seven goes to.....

Lizzy Borden - Love you to pieces

It was a busy year for these guys as they released this album plus the double live Metal murderess road show. From the opening of Council for the cauldron, the album tears into some solid metal riffs with Lizzy's somewhat odd vocals wailing along. Their 1984 ep Give 'em the axe showed their potential, but it was on this album that their style became more defined. They also seem very comfortable with this style which is something I can't say about some of their later efforts. Tracks like Save me and American Metal show their more mainstream style, but they really shine on tracks like Warfare, Red Rum and Flesheater. The album finishes with the excellent Rod of iron which was also on Give 'em the axe. This was an album that I liked a lot back that and it still sounds as good to me today.

Number six is coming up on Monday. The hint is that this band had five members when they released their 1984 debut, but they were down to four members when they released their sophomore effort in 1985.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Number eight

My countdown of the ten best hard rock/metal albums continues with number eight. This honor goes to an album that I just heard for the first time this year. I heard of this band back in 1985 and even heard a song of theirs on a compilation, but didn't hear their 1985 debut until I bought it just a few months ago. So number eight goes to......

Artillery - Fear of tomorrow

Denmark's Artillery came onto the scene with an album that should have received far more notice than it did. However, being from Europe and being on a small label like Neat kept them from getting a lot of notice on this side of the Atlantic. In a year when many bands were trying to figure out the speed metal sound, Artillery released an album full of some of the heaviest music being played. Yes, 1985 was the year that Possessed released their debut and they brought blinding speed to the scene, but Artillery brought heaviness and I mean really heavy. Exodus and Celtic Frost may have been the closest bands to try to equal the heaviness that Artillery brought in 1985. Some of their songs are slower than I would have liked and the vocals of Flemming Ronsdorf take some getting used to, but they have enough songs where they bring the speed and heaviness that made me go "I wish I would have heard these guys 20 years ago". I also would be willing to bet that Slayer, Sodom and Kreator all heard this album and "borrowed" parts of Artillery's sound for their own because all three of those bands showed shades of be influenced by Artillery after 1985.

Three down and another week's worth to go. So up next is number seven and the hint is that this band released a studio lp and a live album in 1985. Since I don't allow myself to include live albums in my top ten lists then you know that it will be their studio album that I will be writing about tomorrow.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Number nine

The countdown for the top ten hard rock/metal albums of 1985 continues with the number nine spot which goes to.....

Agent Steel- Skeptics Apocalypse

I have long been a fan of their 1987 album Unstoppable Force, but wasn't as thrilled about their debut when I first heard it. However when I was making my long list of 20 some considerations for this list, I thought this album would be included but that it would not make the top ten. As I listened to it in recent months, I begin to realize that it was quite a bit better than I remembered. Eventually I realized they certainly deserved a spot in the top ten. Agent Steel were and currently are an LA thrash band. The band included former Abattoir members vocalist John Cyriis and guitarist Juan Garcia. Skeptics Apocalypse is a very tight album and the band contributed more to the speed metal/thrash scene than they normally get credit for. Some critics were not too fond of the vocals, but I think John Cyriis had a very unique voice that blended well this type of music. Agent Steel were probably influenced some by more classic metal bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and they managed to combine this solid metal sound with their own style of speed metal. In a year of debuts, some bands like Megadeth, Dark Angel and Kreator were an album or two away from being really solid, but Agent Steel had it together the first time out and got even better over the next two years.

Okay, so tomorrow I will unveil number eight. I said that I would give a hint for the next band, but I don't have a really good hint. Uh, how about the band that gets the number eight spot had a lead singer whose first name was Flemming.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The countdown begins: Number Ten

Today I begin my countdown of the top ten best hardrock/metal albums from 1985. I eventually got numbers 1-8 put in order, but I really agonized over the last two spots. I narrowed it down to three contenders competing for two spots and the band I thought would be at number eight actually ended being the one of those three that did not make the top ten. So I begin flat out by saying Slayer's Hell Awaits did not make my top ten of 1985. It was a tough decision, but I stick by it. Hell Awaits showed a definite progression from Show no mercy. The riffs were tighter and heavier to some extent, but the bottom line is that I just didn't hear enough of a consistent fire behind the songs on Hell Awaits so I had to eliminate it. So then who is number ten? Well, keep in mind I said that 1985 was a year of debuts and a year of underdogs so the number ten spot for 1985 goes to.....

I know that you are saying that they certainly deserve it. Uh, well actually you are probably saying "Who the hell is that and who do you pronounce the band name?" Fair enough, the band name is pronounced e-trope and they were a band from Chicago who released two albums on Combat in the mid-80's and a third album on Metal Blade in 1993. They described their sound as "Street Metal" and although I am not sure what all that entails and I am not going to argue it either because their music is difficult for me to put one label on it. Amnesty was their debut and it's a bit of mixture of styles at a time when metal sub-genres were not as defined as they are now or even 15 years ago. This album could be seen as combining elements of thrash, speed metal and even a more classic metal style into a fairly seamless blend. The late Barry Stern was that rare breed of metal vocalist who was also the drummer and he performed both with a lot of style and energy. In fact the main reason Zoetrope's debut makes my list is not their originality as much as it is the energy and enthusiasm they put behind every song. I heard that energy when I first played this album years ago and I heard it when I listened to this a few weeks ago. Amnesty has a very direct in your face sound and there are no dull moments, they cut to the chase and still manage have enough of a mixture of sounds so that is why they deserve a spot in my top ten list of 1985.

One down and just nine more to go. Since I am doing these one at a time, I decided at the end of each entry that I will give a hint as to what the next album will be. So the hint for the band getting the number nine spot is that they were a band who did a number of songs about aliens. I am sure that hint is about as clear as mud, but number nine will be revealed tomorrow.