Metal Music Reviews from Vim Fuego

NIRVANA Incesticide

Boxset / Compilation · 1992 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 10 ratings
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Vim Fuego
“Incesticide” is a rare thing. For a rapidly thrown together record label stop-gap, it is actually a pretty good compilation.

“Incesticide” was made up of demos, b-sides, unreleased tracks, and other extraneous material recorded between 1988 and 1991. Released a year after the revolutionary “Nevermind”, it was intended to be a high quality version of material which was already circulating in bootleg form. Geffen Records decided not to promote it heavily, in case fans suffered Nirvana burn-out. Yeah, right Geffen, so why release the fucking thing in the first place then? Despite this, it still went platinum in the US, UK, and Canada.

So why did “Incesticide” do so well? Simply put, the album includes some of the best material Nirvana ever recorded. It shows off the breadth of Nirvana’s influences and the diversity of the band’s sound. Was Kurt Cobain a misunderstood genius or an overrated junkie slacker? Who the fuck knows. He made some interesting, noisy music, then blew his brains out, and left it up to the rest of us to decide his place in history.

First song “Dive” came from a recording session for Sub Pop which was intended to be for the follow-up album to “Bleach”, and was released as the b-side to “Sliver”. Of course, we know the follow-up didn’t come out on Sub Pop, and this song would not have fit on “Nevermind” anyway, with a feel closer to “Bleach”. The song has a fatter, warmer sound than the “Nevermind” album. Like all things Cobain, the lyrics are either cryptic or nonsensical, depending on your own interpretation.

Just to get things ass backwards, “Sliver” appears after “Dive”, even though “Dive” was the b-side to this single. Anyway, “Sliver” has the most memorable hooks Nirvana ever recorded, both in the bouncy bass line and the “Grandma take me home” lyric which constituted the song’s chorus. The lyrics are trivial, but engaging, seemingly taken from a child’s point of view, remembering an evening with grandparents.

“Stain” has a rougher edge than the previous two songs. It was originally released on the “Blew” EP. It’s a shouty punk song, with a great discordant noise solo, and is basically musical simplicity itself, both catchy and compelling.

“Been A Son” is a later song, recorded for the Mark Goodier radio show for the BBC in November 1991, with "(New Wave) Polly" and "Aneurysm" coming from the same session. It has another of those trademark vocal hooks, with Cobain slurring his vocals a little.

"Turnaround", "Molly's Lips", and "Son of a Gun", were recorded in 1990 for the John Peel Show for the BBC. “Turnaround” is a Devo cover, but is a surprisingly forgettable and unlikeable song. The next two tracks are Vaselines covers, and have a seemingly happy, bouncy feel to them, despite the reasonably grim subject matter of addiction on “Molly’s Lips”.

“(New Wave) Polly” shows the band made an excellent decision by sticking with the acoustic version of the song for “Nevermind”. While not a bad song, the shock value, and raw emotion present on the acoustic version of the song are not near as striking on this version.

"Beeswax", "Downer", "Mexican Seafood", "Hairspray Queen", and "Aero Zeppelin" all came from Nirvana’s first studio demo, recorded in January 1988. These show a young but focused band, playing like their whole lives depended on it, with a feel of determination edged by desperation. It demonstrated an early incarnation of the grunge formula of mixing garage punk with classic rock and pop sensibilities, with the added ingredient of emerging slacker cynicism. “Hairspray Queen” in particular fully demonstrated the musical weirdness which could emerge from such a mix, with a simple, yet effective three note bassline from Krist Novoselic, while Cobain’s vocals vary between Bobcat Goldthwaite rant, a subterranean grumble, and a crystal clear coherence. “Aero Zeppelin” is a straighter style rock song, and is really the first time on the album things seem to drag. While quite a powerful track, it seems too safe and mainstream compared to the rest of these demo tracks.

“Big Long Now” was recorded during the “Bleach” sessions. It would not have been too far out of place on that album, but was probably too slow paced. It is a dragging dirge, and feels like trying to emerge from a deep, deep sleep, but the grip of Morpheus is not ready to let go.

Final track “Aneurysm” combines the band’s noisier aspects with a driving punk beat. Kurt Cobain’s vocals are at their raggedy, melodic best, and the song has hooks big enough to catch mako sharks.

For such a diverse collection of recordings, “Incesticide” is surprisingly coherent. At the same time, it shows the breadth of vision of a group of young musicians, led by a reluctant mouthpiece, who didn’t care for the rules of how music should be created or sound, and wrote their own rules. Then they broke them repeatedly, and the outside world came to embrace their vision. Whether the outside world ever understood that vision then or now doesn’t matter. The resulting music speaks for itself.

MARDUK Panzer Division Marduk

Album · 1999 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.65 | 11 ratings
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A black metal album with a fucking big tank on the front? Finally, someone gets it!

Actually, there’s two versions of this album, but both have a fucking big tank on them. One’s a Swedish Stridsvagn 104 main battle tank and the other is a German Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger heavy tank used in the Battle of Kursk in July 1943. But let’s not get hung up on tanks. This is still about the music.

Marduk is one of those black metal bands, like Immortal and Impaled Nazarene, which metal fans can get into without having to swallow the whole black metal schtick. Yes, it’s fast and anti-Christian, but there’s no deeper pretence about the music being anything but metal. Forget atmosphere, melody, and non-metal instruments, just write some evil fucking tunes, and play ‘em fast as fuck until yer balls are hanging out! That is what black metal should be.

So, what we have here is a 30 minute album full of war themed songs. Some are describing real events, which others are repurposing the theme for a blitzkrieg on Christianity. The first song and title track best illustrates this with the line “Panzer division Marduk continues its triumphant crusade/Against Christianity and your worthless humanity”. Glad we cleared that up...

Run through the rest of the songs and you get “Baptism By Fire” which uses bombing raid imagery as an attack by Satan on Christianity. “Christraping Black Metal” taunts Christ on the cross. “Scorched Earth” describes tanks racing back and forth through the Losheim Gap, the main invasion route into France and Belgium for the Germans during both World Wars, and the location of a famous tank battle during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. “Beast of Prey” and “Blooddawn” further explore the war/anti-Christianity theme.

"502" refers to the 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion, which was involved in the Siege of Leningrad. While the rolling Panzers must have been an awe inspiring (or dread inspiring, point of view is important here) sight, history has recorded what happened to this force. Despite destroying 2000 enemy tanks (according to the song - official figures put the number at 1400, plus 2000 guns destroyed) during the infamous 900 day siege, Russian forces eventually prevailed, and the Germans were sent into full retreat. The 502nd was eventually redesignated the 511th in early 1945, and continued to fight up until April 27, and finally surrendered on May 9.

The final track has the gloriously offensive title “Fistfucking God's Planet”. And as you can probably guess by now, it’s anti-Christian/pro-Satan. There’s nothing new about it, the music is still breakneck speed fast, but it’s still fun to listen to.

And that is the lasting impression of this album. It’s got bits about tanks and wars. It’s got bits about Satanism and how Christianity is bad. It’s heavy. It’s loud. It’s metal. Full fucking stop.

VARIOUS ARTISTS (TRIBUTE ALBUMS) Ronnie James Dio - This Is Your Life

Album · 2014 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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There was a time in the early 90s when Dio was a figure of ridicule and mirth. Jokes were made about his Elf-like height, his swords and sorcerers lyrics, and his over the top stage persona. Those doing the laughing had obviously never met the man.

Like no other figure in the history of metal, perhaps up until the death of Lemmy, Dio’s death was mourned by metal fans the world over. Ronnie James Dio earned respect like no one else in metal. Not expected or demanded, but earned. Why? Because he always had time for fans. He was famous for staying behind hours after shows had finished to meet and greet fans, sign autographs, talk to people about music, and just be a thoroughly decent human being.

No musician had a bad word to say about the man. He always helped out up and coming new bands. He never forgot where he came from. The proof? Every artist on this album, except Killswitch Engage, has a picture with the man himself, and he looks just as happy as the fans cum musicians he is with. And most of all, up until his death, he always, always produced incredible music. Look at the list of bands he sang with – Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell, and in his own right as Dio. The proof? Just listen to this tribute.

First up is Anthrax with “Neon Knights”: from Dio’s stint in Black Sabbath. It’s a fairly faithful version, benefitting from modern production values, and beefed up a little by Anthrax, but surprisingly, Joey Belladonna’s vocals don’t quite cut it. He seems to be straining and a little out of breath. Belladonna has one of the best vocals ranges in all of thrash, so this shows how good Ronnie actually was in his heyday.

“The Last In Line” by Tenacious D has their trademark silliness mixed with their respect for metal. As usual, Jack Black’s vocals are stupidly over the top, while Kyle Gass’s recorder solo actually made me laugh out loud the first time I heard it. That they won the Grammy for best metal performance in 2015 with this cover shows how out of touch and clueless the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences actually is, but that’s a bit off topic here.

Adrenaline Mob’s take on “The Mob Rules” is another very faithful cover. There’s nothing new added, but then you don’t want anyone fucking with perfection anyway.

Corey Taylor and his backing band featuring Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour, Soulfly), Satchel (Steel Panther), and Christian Martucci (Stone Sour) did what always should have been done with “Rainbow In The Dark” and made the fucking thing heavier. Ronnie himself hated the song, and was ready to destroy the original master tape of the song with a razor. The rest of Dio stopped him, the song became a huge hit, and the rest is history. As for the performance here, who knew Corey Taylor could fucking sing? I didn’t, but I generally avoid his music like I avoid genital warts. Oh well, you’re never too old to learn something new.

Halestorm’s “Straight Through The Heart” is a great rendition, and Lzzy Hale’s vocals are more than ballsy enough to do the song justice.

Now, who would have ever dreamed of Motörhead with Biff Byford on vocals? It’s a match made in metal heaven, with a modern... er, old school take on the Rainbow classic. Lemmy still growls along backing up Biff, but the song is the real star of the show here.

The Scorpions are the only band in metal which could even come near to Dio’s longevity, so it’s nice to hear their rendition of “The Temple Of The King”. It’s a change down in pace. Klaus Meine does a great job vocally, and the Schenker/Jabs guitar duo has the skill and subtlety to pull off Ritchie Blackmore’s solos without losing the feel of the song.

Doro makes “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” her own, a song she claims as one of her absolute favourites. Because she has such a good feel for the song, it sounds like it was written for her, and is one of the best performances on the album.

Confession time. As much as I dislike Killswitch Engage, and metalcore in general, I have to give them credit for their version of Holy Diver. It’s pretty good… Ah, fuck it. This is a confession. It’s fucking great! Howard Jones’s theatrical vocals are a great fit for the song, and the two blokes on guitar heavy things up, and manage to hit the solos pretty near on perfect. Killswitch Engage, you are both gentlemen and bastards, first for being so respectful of one of metal’s great anthems, and secondly for making me like you.

Glenn Hughes is one of the few vocalists of Dio’s generation still going who is still able to cut it. And cut it he does, on “Catch The Rainbow”. It is a beautiful rendition of a beautiful song, ably backed by Craig Goldy, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright.

In 1989, Dio made waves in the metal world by replacing departing guitarist Craig Goldy with a 17 year old Rowan Robertson for the album “Lock Up The Wolves”. Long-time bass player and song writing partner Jimmy Bain also left the band. Fast forward to 2013, and the pair played together on this cover of Black Sabbath’s “I”. This seems a bit of an odd choice of a song, but that doesn’t stop this mid-pace stomping song from being a great addition to the album. It’s a strange old world...

In something of a supergroup, a union of Rob Halford, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson, and Vinny Appice produces an unusual version of “Man On The Silver Mountain”. Despite all the talent and years of musical experience, this lacks the drama and feel of the original. The guitar work from Aldrich is pretty fucking good though.

Metallica being Metallica, they decided one song wasn’t enough, so they stuck together a medley of four Rainbow songs. The medley comes in at nearly 10 minutes long, but who the hell is going to tell Metallica they need to cut things back a bit? No matter, like what they did with the Mercyful Fate medley on “Garage Inc.”, this Frankensong is pretty fucking good, not dragging or seeming like it’s 10 minutes long. It’s also refreshing to hear a band doing something a bit different with the music, as in adapting it to their own style, instead of sticking faithfully to the original.

And what better way to round out a tribute to Ronnie, than to include an atypical song by the man himself? Recorded in 1996, “This Is Your Life” is an almost operatic composition, backed by piano and strings, which affords the great man’s voice the space it needs to really flourish. The purity and clarity of sound on this track is almost never heard in rock music. More than anything, it shows that the others here, no matter their pedigree, are pretenders, existing in Dio’s shadow, even from beyond the grave.

There is a bonus track to the digital version of this album, with Jasta performing “Buried Alive”. It’s a bit jarring after the beautiful Dio track. Hardcore shouter Jamey Jasta proves he can sing, and his band can play more than just metallic hardcore, and this is a great, heavy version of the song. However, the person who came up with the idea of tacking this onto the end of the album needs a punch in the throat.

Tribute albums like this can come across as a bit half assed at times, but this is the exception. Often tributes make you long for the originals. This album does not. Everyone on here was a fan, and knew and respected the man in question, and loved the music. That love and respect shows through here.

VARIOUS ARTISTS (GENERAL) Metal for Muthas

Album · 1980 · NWoBHM
Cover art 3.55 | 2 ratings
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The New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Thanks a lot Geoff Barton, for one of the most awkward labels for a genre of music ever. NWOBHM. If you try to pronounce the acronym, it sounds like somewhere in North Africa where Montgomery and Rommel scrapped it out during World Ward 2, at the Battle of NWOBHM. Writing for Sounds magazine, Barton first coined New Wave of British Heavy Metal in May 1979. Is the term descriptive? Yes. An underground swelling of heavy metal bands popped up in Great Britain the late 1970s and early 1980s. They supposedly had a new sound, distinct from that of the old guard of heavy metal. Is the term accurate? Not really. Define the sound exactly. Was it Iron Maiden’s galloping riffs? Was it Diamond Head’s hard edged take on prog rock? Was it Angel Witch’s occult inspired freakouts? Was it Saxon’s working class denim and leather? All NWOBHM bands, but all that’s really similar in them is their British origin, and they all played metal.

“Metal For Muthas” was an attempt to catalogue these disparate sounds, and in doing so created an album both definitive of and symptomatic of the scene. Released in February 1980, the ten tracks on this album featured some of the best and worst of metal for the time and place.

“Metal For Muthas” is probably most famous for being the place where many a metal fan first discovered Iron Maiden. Maiden had released the single “Running Free” a week before this compilation came out, and their debut album was still a couple of months off. What was on offer here was early versions of “Sanctuary” and “Wrathchild”. These are far and away the stand-out tracks on this album, and it’s easy to see why Iron Maiden became Iron Maiden. In an odd twist, neither was included on the original version of Iron Maiden’s debut.

“Sanctuary” was intended to be a non-album single. It was recorded as a four piece, with Doug Sampson on drums. The band were most unhappy with the way it sounded, so re-recorded it for the single, and the re-recorded version was later added to the US and subsequent versions of the “Iron Maiden” album. However, the rougher “Metal For Muthas” version has a gritty charm all it’s own.

“Wrathchild” also sounds rougher than the version which would eventually appear on “Killers”. The guitars have a bit more bite, the solos are demonstrably different, and it doesn’t quite have the Martin Birch punch of the later version.

There’s more to this album than Iron Maiden though. Sledgehammer’s “Sledgehammer” just perfectly sets itself up for any number of hammering, pounding, thumping, or bashing clichés, so just pick your own one while you listen to Mike Cooke’s excellent melodic vocals and his powerful rhythm section. Like many of the songs here, it has a bluesy swagger to it, owing great debts to the likes of early Deep Purple and Status Quo.

E.F. Band kept the blues flavour, but upped the tempo somewhat, and completely fucked the British part of NWOBHM by having the temerity to hail from Sweden. Never mind, “Fighting for Rock and Roll” does just that, and there are some incredible solos mid-song.

Toad The Wet Sprocket borrowed their name from a Monty Python sketch, and you might almost think someone was having a laugh by including “Blues In A” on the album. The song reeks of boozy, smoke-filled barrooms, complete with someone tinkling the ivories, and vocalist Mick Mostafa wailed all over it. A great hangover song, but a bit of a momentum killer, and there was a vital element missing from it, namely THE METAL!

Praying Mantis had all the ingredients to have made it bigger than they did. After all, guitarist Rob Angelo wrote “Sanctuary” when he was in Iron Maiden. Yes, the same “Sanctuary” that led off the album. Angelo was paid £300 for the song and was well satisfied with it. Interestingly, he didn’t have a writing credit for “Captured City”, the song featured here. While not as quick as Maiden, this still has a similar bass driven feel, with some great memorable vocal harmonies.

Ethel The Frog... Not a promising name. Another amphibian from another Monty Python sketch, but it’s a matter of not judging a book by it’s cover. “Fight Back” is one of the heaviest songs here, and featured some Judas Priest-like guitar work.

And then on to Angel Witch. While Samson is probably more famous, Angel Witch would have to be second behind Maiden from this album for their influence on future metal bands. “Baphomet” is firmly rooted in the occult lyrically and thematically, and from this song come the roots of speed and thrash metal, with the likes of Mercyful Fate being obvious descendants of Angel Witch. This was also a big influence on Dave Mustaine, Chuck Schuldiner, and Tom G. Warrior. It is easily the best song outside of the Maiden tracks.

And so to Samson. Probably best known for featuring a pre-Iron Maiden Bruce Bruce (fucking good thing he changed his name from THAT!), it’s actually Paul Samson singing on “Tomorrow Or Yesterday”. Once again, it’s a blues rock/ballad, with some hard driving mid passages, but ultimately, it’s a bit dull.

The whole thing is rounded out by Nutz with “Bootliggers”. Nutz also didn’t feature the NWOBHM tag by not being new, as in they were an established band, with three studio albums behind them already. “Bootliggers” has it’s boots firmly rooted in the early 70s hard rock/glam rock sound. Dave Lloyd even lets rip with a Daltrey-esque scream. While not a weak song, it’s an odd finish to the album, complete with fake finale.

Geoff Barton, he who coined the fuckawful acronym for this genre called the album “A good idea abysmally executed”. Well Mr Barton, you were proved wrong. “Metal For Muthas” hit number 16 in the album charts, and is still loved by metal fans the world over, as much for its historical significance as for the actual music. Yes, parts of the album aren’t new, British, or even heavy metal, but it exposed an underground scene to a wider audience, which gave metal a huge kick in the ass, and boosted it to greater things in the 1980s and beyond.

XENTRIX Shattered Existence

Album · 1989 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.38 | 3 ratings
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Xentrix were often called Metallica wannabes. Well, who wouldn’t want to be Metallica?!

It was a bit of a shallow and clueless comparison though. Yes, the Explorer guitar has featured throughout the band’s history, and both bands played thrash metal, but the similarities end there. Xentrix weren’t as heavy as Metallica, playing a far more melodic, less progressive style of thrash. The riffs weren’t as chunky, but then again, who’s riffs are? And vocalist Chris Astley was more tuneful and less aggressive than Hetfield. None of this is to say “Shattered Existence” isn’t still hard edged thrash. It’s not “Pink Bubbles Go Ape”.

The band’s socially aware lyrics were mostly intelligent and thoughtful, first track “No Compromise” being the exception. It’s one of those “have pride in yourself, don’t be ashamed of what you are” type songs. While the sentiment is noble, it’s just a bit clunky. The lines “Don't think what you parents might say/If it's too noisy, fast and loud/Just fuck 'em all, and do it anyway/Stand up and be proud” have always grated. The song is aimed at young metalheads who often copped abuse in the late 80s for their music and dress, because it was a far less tolerant time. Even so, this always seemed just a bit childish. No matter. “No Compromise” makes up for its limp lyrics by being a bit of a headbanger.

“Balance of Power” has one of those great thrash intros which bands don’t seem to manage these days. It bursts straight in with a powerful riff, which becomes the musical theme for the rest of the song. Xentrix knew the value of a powerful chorus too. Even on a first listen, the refrain “What you want ain't always good for you/It's just the way the balance swings for you/Balance swings for you” is thought provoking and compelling, and the simple, irresistible melody makes it stick.

And funnily enough, the band’s keen sense of melody and song structure lulls the listener into a false sense of security. Just when it seems they have hit a comfortable groove, down goes the accelerator, and Xentrix are thrashing with the best of them.

The lyrics throughout are excellent, not counting “No Compromise”. They are oblique enough for the listener to interpret their own way, but at the same time hint in the direction of where the song is actually coming from. “Back In The Real World” could be about hopeless dreamers the world over, or it could be about the music industry. Is “Crimes” about politics or self-doubt? The “Dark Enemy” is probably drug addiction, but it could also be depression. “Bad Blood” is about conflict, but is it an inner conflict, conflict between nations, interpersonal, political, a class conflict? “Position of Security” touches on living life too safe and not taking any risks and questions whether that is truly a life.

Religion comes in for some direct criticism though. “Reason for Destruction” targets religious war and deadly dogma. Even though the song was recorded in 1989, it remains chillingly relevant still. Final track “Heaven Cent” zeros in on how religion recruits the the innocent and feeble by playing on their fears and insecurities, while all the time bleeding them dry financially.

If possible, get the expanded version of this album, which has the “Ghostbusters” single tacked on the end. The movie theme song cover and the other two songs, “Nobody’s Perfect” an anti-drug song from the band’s days as Sweet Vengeance, and “Interrogate”, another older song, were all recorded in a single session for BBC radio one’s Friday Rock Show.

“Ghostbusters” became a big hit for the band, even though they ran into legal trouble with the parody artwork used initially. It was also a bit of an albatross around their neck, as anyone who has heard the “Dilute To Taste” EP knows (“We’re sick to focking death of ‘Ghostbusters!’”). “Nobody’s Perfect”, in particular shows how the band had evolved and matured. It sounds like a Testament/Exodus cast off with Adrian Edmondson going full Vim Fuego on the vocals. Wisely, this was left off the original release of the album.

Often overshadowed by its more mature but less engaging successor “For Whose Advantage?”, “Shattered Existence” demonstrates a lot of youthful enthusiasm, and showed the potential was there for greater things. That Xentrix didn’t achieve those greater things could be down to a number of factors, but the major factor is probably the changing musical climate. Thrash faded, death metal emerged, bands changed sounds, labels changed tack, discarding and refreshing their rosters, and Xentrix got caught right in the middle of it.

Luckily, we have “Shattered Existence” to show how fucking good this band actually was.

SORE THROAT Unhindered by Talent

Album · 1988 · Grindcore
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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On a first listen to this album, many people would think “Unhindered By Talent” is a highly accurate album title. After all, Sore Throat was hardly known as the most technically accomplished band ever. Noisy, rough, and ready, this early grind album must have seemed like musical Armageddon when it was first released in 1988. The 50 + songs on this album average somewhere around the 40 second mark. It would have held very limited appeal, and would probably have been laughed at, ridiculed, and ignored by the mainstream upon release.

“Unhindered By Talent” though, is the perfect title for this album. Too much musical talent can be a hindrance to creativity. How, you might ask? Because if you know what music is supposed to sound like, it will sound just like music which has already been created. However, if you don’t know how to make music (as in, lacking talent), you’re more likely to come up with something creative, new, and unheard before. That is what happened on this album.

Founding member and vocalist Richard "Militia" Walker was also in Wartorn and Warfear, while bass player John "Doom" Pickering and guitarist Brian "Bri" Talbot had been involved with seminal hardcore band Doom, so the band was not short of experience, but talent? That's a far more subjective proposition.

Like early Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror, Sore Throat’s recipe for anti-music was to turn everything up to the red line, get a target in your sights, and just fucking nail it. Some of those targets were political. “Hang Norman Tebbit”, “Fuck the Poll Tax”, “Two Horrendous Nuclear Arsenals”, and “Our Leaders Horrendous Policies” don’t take much explaining. Nor do social observations, like “Horrendous Cut-Throat System”, “Eat Organic”, “War is Horrendous”, “Consumer Terrorisim” and “Yankees Go Home”.

Sore Throat also had strong opinions on what was and what wasn’t right in the hardcore/grindcore/underground scene, as far as commercialism and selling out, and they didn’t care who they offended. Some of their targets included “Invasion Of The Amerikaan HC Clones”, “Billy Milanos Head”, “The Crossover (Is Over)”, “(D.R.I.) Dead Rich Individuals”, “(M.D.C.) More Damn Capitalists”, “Burn The Goths”, and “Record Collectors Are Still Pretentious Assholes”.

And just when it all seems like a hard grind, along comes “The Molecatcher”. If ever there was a song on this album entirely lacking in talent, it’s this one. It is a traditional bawdy ballad, rife with innuendo. Someone doesn’t know how to play the accordion, someone doesn’t know how to sing, and no one really knows the tune. It’s a car crash of a song, but like driving past a crash scene, rubbernecking is compulsive. It’s really quite compelling, and just like someone says at the end, it’s fucking horrible.

The rest of the album basically vacillates between blasting grind and grinding sludge, if that makes sense. There’s the odd strange interlude though. “In Their Hypocrisy, They’ll Probably Sue Us” is a spoken word rant at the state of the record industry. “A Bow To Capital” is a Billy Bragg-esque protest song with incredibly earnest anti-capitalist lyrics, and guest vocals by Peter Pax. “Iron Lung” is a Black Sabbath pisstake, featuring Peaceville Records founder Hammy on vocals.

This is one of those Marmite albums. For those who don’t know what Marmite is, it is a yeast extract spread, of British origin, but named after a French cooking pot. There are different versions made in South Africa and New Zealand, the less than original Vegemite from Australia, and the completely weird Cenovis from Switzerland. Anyway, all share the common quality in that they look like a mixture of sump oil and shit, and people either adore or loathe the taste. You are either going to loathe or adore “Unhindered By Talent”. There is no middle ground.

NAPALM DEATH Leaders Not Followers, Part 2

Album · 2004 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.38 | 8 ratings
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Time for some extreme metal education.

Napalm Death have always been open about their influences, and where their inspiration came from. This is all well and good, but what do these bands actually sound like? Napalm Death came from the tape trading scene, which was where a lot of music was discovered, shared, distributed, and obsessed over in the band members’ pre-internet 1980s formative years. Listen to this album and you will get some idea of what of these bands sounded like, put through a Napalm Death filter of course.

The absolute pick of the entire album is the first track, “Low Life”, originally by Cryptic Slaughter. If you don’t know Cryptic Slaughter, the band was basically the missing link between thrash metal and grindcore. Faster and rougher than any other thrash band, there’s just the extreme distortion and guttural vocals missing from the band’s sound. Otherwise, proto-grindcore. So Napalm Death throw those elements in, and that’s exactly what you get. The song is a grind litmus test. Driven by a heavy drum riff, dual vocals, hardcore/thrash guitars, and a couple of blasts, if you don’t like this song, you won’t like Napalm Death, and probably will struggle with the entire grind spectrum. If this sounds like it would get your antenna twitching though, keep exploring.

“Messiah” is a Hellhammer track. For anyone not in the know, Hellhammer is the most famous unsigned underground band of the 80s tape trading scene. You couldn’t seriously consider yourself a tape trader unless you had a copy of the Hellhammer demos somewhere.* Why did Hellhammer become so sought after? Because the demos were fucking incredible, influencing thrash, death, black, and doom metal, and obviously, grindcore. Perversely, as was his wont, Tom G. Warrior split up Hellhammer, formed Celtic Frost, got a record deal, and wouldn’t ever fully revisit Hellhammer. It’s too fucking late now too, with the passing of co-collaborator Martin Ain. Anyway, the song itself: “Messiah” has been sped up without losing the heavy, brooding menace of Warrior’s timeless riffs.

Discharge is a much-covered band, and countless others have had a go, from Metallica to Anthrax to Machine Head and even fucking Soulfly! Instead of going for one of the obvious songs from “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing”, Napalm Death went after the lesser known “War's No Fairytale” from the no less awesome “Fight Back” EP. Like a lot of the songs here, this interpretation of it makes the influence on Napalm Death seem so obvious. Fuck, these guys were so influential the D-beat genre was even named after them.

A far less obvious track is a cover of Kreator’s “Riot of Violence”. The original is vicious, surprisingly technical, and unexpectedly heavy, possibly due to Ventor singing on it rather than Mille. Napalm Death takes it to whole new level of heavy. While a track from a seemingly mainstream and well known band might seem a little puzzling, metal historians will know of Kreator’s origins as Tormentor, and their two highly sought after demos. These were much traded in the underground, and helped Kreator’s career take off so quickly on the release of their debut album “Endless Pain” in 1985.

Something similar happened with Sepultura, hence “Troops of Doom”. Europe and the US were of course the centres of the tape trading scenes, but even from as far afield as Brazil Sepultura made ripples in the underground. Of course, no one could have predicted how huge the band would eventually become, but no one with any sense can ever say the band hadn’t paid their underground dues first. And that opening riff is such a timeless classic, no matter who is playing it. First discovering it is one of those almost orgasmic moments which makes metal so worthwhile.

The cover of “Conform” by Siege is interesting, because Siege is possibly the only band which can genuinely challenge Napalm Death for the title of first grindcore band. Who was first? It really doesn’t matter, because we have had both bands, and both were and are incredible. Siege’s much traded and pirated “Drop Dead” demo was heavily influenced by D.R.I. and early Gang Green, and then in turn had quite an influence on early Napalm Death.

The cover of Dayglo Abortions’ “Bedtime Story” is one of those headscratching moments. The often offensive Canadian punker/crossover band is great great fun, but not an obvious influence. However, beneath their silliness, there’s a very sharp sociopolitical awareness, something which has always been more prominent in Napalm Death.

Agnostic Front’s “Blind Justice” is an essential slab of New York Hardcore, already played at a breakneck tempo. So of course, Napalm Death tuned the guitars and sped it up. “There’s no justice/There’s just us”.

There are plenty more old school underground gems to be discovered here. I’m not going to pretend that I knew them all prior to checking out this album. The Offenders (“Face Down in the Dirt”) were from Texas, and considered one of the Lone Star state’s great hardcore bands alongside MDC and D.R.I.

Devastation (“Devastation”) was a death/thrash band from Chicago, who released two demos, and split up in relative obscurity some time in the late 80s.

Anti-Cimex (“Victims of a Bomb Raid” and “Game of the Arseholes”) was one of Sweden’s most accomplished hardcore/crust punk bands.

Wehrmacht (“Night of Pain”) was an overlooked crossover thrash band from the late 80s which has since gained a strong cult following.

Master (“Master”) was one of death metal’s pioneers. While the band’s debut was recorded in 1985, it did not see the light of day until 1990. Luckily, the band’s 1985 rehearsal demo was widely traded in the underground.

Insanity (“Fire Death Fate”) was another early death metal band lost in the later rush. The band released their first demo which included “Fire Death Fate” in 1985.

Massacre’s (“Clangor Of War”) history is reasonably well known, with the band’s early line-up featuring future members of Death and Obituary, released a couple of legendary demos before splitting up, and then later reforming, a cycle which has occurred several times since.

Attitude Adjustment (“Dope Fiend”) was a San Francisco hardcore/crossover band which featured a young pre-Machine Head Chris Kontos.

Die Kreuzen (“I’m Tired”) was a strange amalgam of hardcore and pre-Seattle grunge and art rock noise.

Hirax (“Hate, Fear and Power”) was a speedy thrash band which never got the recognition it deserved in it’s heyday.

Mix all this together and you get Napalm Death. You also get one of the best cover albums ever recorded. If you don’t like cover albums, all well and good. However, if you are interested in the origins, influences, and likes of one of grindcore’s greats, do yourself a favour and check out the originals of all these tracks.

*For the record, I never managed it. I have the CD re-releases though.

SLAYER Seasons in the Abyss

Album · 1990 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.18 | 102 ratings
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Sometimes what makes an album great is the memories it encapsulates. When you hear it, or think of it, it takes you back to a different time. “Seasons In The Abyss” holds such a memory for me.

The 1990 follow up to “South Of Heaven” was a difficult album for Slayer, because every single album after the universally lauded “Reign In Blood” is by definition a difficult album. How do you carry on from an album often declared the greatest in thrash metal? Do you try for a “Reign In Blood II”, or do you follow a different path? Slayer chose a different path. “South of Heaven” was the result, which copped equal parts criticism and praise because of a perceived radical shift in direction. All Slayer did was slow down a bit. How to follow that without copping further criticism? “Seasons in the Abyss” is the obvious answer. “Seasons In The Abyss” drew on the best of the previous two albums, and refined it into one of the greatest metal albums of 1990.

And here’s the memory time. Early in 1993, I departed on a road trip with my best mate Harry.[1] January in New Zealand is mid-summer, and a great time to go on holiday, so we planned to cruise around the bottom half of the South Island. Harry couldn’t drive (he still can’t despite what his licence says!) so we’d go in my car, and crash with his extended family wherever possible. Preparing for the trip, choosing the appropriate tunes was an important mission. Harry and I share very different musical tastes. He claims to be a metal fan, and in fact, I got my first few metal albums off him (Iron Maiden’s “Somewhere In Time”, Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls”, and the K-Tel “Masters of Metal” compilation). However, Harry doesn’t have a musical bullshit filter. Yes, he could listen to Maiden and Metallica, but he’d also listen to whatever crap was currently popular, just because it was popular. As far as I know, he still does to this day. This is a person who thought Milli Vanilli should keep their Grammys because even if they hadn’t done any singing, people still loved them. He thought Vanilla Ice should get away with blatantly plagiarising Queen’s “Under Pressure” because “Queen wasn’t using that song at the moment”. For him, popular meant good.

At the time of this road trip, Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart” was popular, so guess what he picked for roadie music… Yep. “Some Gave All”. Not only that, his nieces who we would see on the trip were right into New Kids On The Block, so along came “Step By Step” and “Hangin’ Tough”. That the boyband was aimed at 13 year old girls (we were both 20), and had just been accused of lip syncing live didn’t seem to matter. Just to round out the crapfest, he decided “Pornograffitti” and “III Sides To Every Story” by Extreme would also be good choices, because they were metal, and he was convinced I didn’t like them simply because I hadn’t listened to them enough.

To counter, I grabbed a few albums we could both tolerate, like AC/DC’s “The Razor’s Edge”, a couple of Iron Maidens, in the form of “No Prayer For The Dying” and “Fear Of The Dark”, Bruce Dickinson’s “Tattooed Millionaire”, and Alice Cooper’s “Welcome To My Nightmare”. I also threw in Nirvana’s “Nevermind” and “Incesticide”, which Harry was just discovering, and a couple of purely defensive albums, in the form of Exodus’ “Force Of Habit” and the subject of this little review, Slayer’s “Seasons In The Abyss”. I’m sure I took others along too, because I think we had about 30 tapes between us, but that’s all I can remember.

Our mode of transport was my 1965 Austin 1100[2]. It was a fine example of the shit turned out by the worst of Britain’s automotive industry. In the summer, I had to turn the heater on full blast while driving on the open road to stop it from overheating. In 30°C summer heat, this necessitated driving with the windows open most of the time. It also didn’t have a radio of any sort, so our sounds went through my Walkman with a pair of tiny external speakers, with a total output of about 4 watts. It had to be turned up full blast to hear even the faintest strain of music.

So off we went! Tootling down State Highway 1 at somewhere near the speed limit of 100 km/h (it was slightly uphill, there were two of us in the car, and it was a bit windy. That crappy car saved me a fucking fortune in speeding tickets though!), we decided turnabouts with the music was the fairest way to do things. I started with Nirvana’s “Nevermind”. All well and good, both of us found it tolerable. Next though, Harry put on fucking Billy Ray, the man who made the mullet uncool again. The twanging, moaning, and complaining was unbearable. And it got worse when I had to shut up and he put on the tape! It was fucking excruciating! It was 35 minutes of sheer torture. So you can guess what I picked next...

Slayer fans will remember the first time they heard “War Ensemble”. Like “Angel Of Death”, it crashes straight into the guts of the song, with no room for an introduction. King And Hanneman in full flight, Dave Lombardo smashing it with snare and his legendary double kicks. We got to the end of the first double kick barrage, about 30 seconds into the song, and Harry turned it off! A bit of a tense confrontation followed, made a little difficult by me needing to drive while we argued. It went something like this:

Me: Turn it back on!

Harry: No! That’s not music! It’s noise! (reaches for the Walkman, intending to remove the tape)

Me: It’s more music than that shit you just subjected me to! Turn it back on. You’ve had your turn, now it’s mine!

Harry: Billy Ray Cyrus isn’t crap. He’s sold millions!

Me: He’s crap, and that Achy Breaky Fart is shit! You picked that, and now I picked Slayer.

Harry: But I don’t like it.

Me: And I don’t like country music, but I put up with it!

We came to something of a compromise, and on went Alice Cooper I think, but the line in the sand had been drawn. There was little conversation on the rest of the drive to Timaru, our destination for the night.

Harry’s step-sister and her family gave us a bed for the night. After a couple of beers, tensions eased, and we discussed the music situation for the next day’s journey to Dunedin. I pointed out to Harry I hadn’t brought any death metal with me on this trip, which I already knew he hated. Harry conceded I could listen to Slayer on the way to Dunedin, on the proviso he got to listen to something else first. It wasn’t Billy Ray this time. It was the New Kids On The fucking Block. I hatched secret plans to lose that “Step By Step” tape out the window, but kept the idea to myself in case of retaliation.

So, “Seasons In The Abyss” attempt 2. “War Ensemble” passed without incident. Then into the abrasive intro to “Blood Red”, and Harry was looking quite irritated. Once the intro passed, so did the irritation. It isn’t near as fast a song as “War Ensemble”. Slayer had begun to explore slower tempos on “South Of Heaven” and it was starting to come to fruition with songs like this, pounding along at a double time march. Harry started to get into the groove. He hated the solos though.

He didn’t pick the transition to “Spirit In Black” due to Rick Rubin’s habit of not leaving a gap between songs. It fits this album perfectly, so no momentum is lost between songs. The higher tempo didn’t impress Harry, nor did the solos once again. He was starting to think this was one fucking long song.

The transition to “Expendable Youth” is more obvious, as the song slows a little, and is heavier for it. Harry commented that the singing wasn’t very good. I told him it was still better than Billy Ray Cyrus, and there was another uncomfortable silence for a bit as we continued to chug south, sweating our nuts off with the heater blasting full bore.

The first sustained notes to “Dead Skin Mask” saw Harry’s expression change from irritation to interest, and then the deep spoken voice brought on genuine surprise. Tom Araya’s chant on the “Dance with the dead in my dreams...” refrain saw him sit right up and take notice. I told him it was a song about a serial killer. He’d previously only encountered serial killers in music in Alice Cooper’s fantasies, and I think this genuinely interested him. And then came the child’s voice at the end, pleading with Ed Gein, and I think it may have actually disturbed my friend!

That was the end of the side, and I thought he was going to turn the tape over, but no, he took the fucking thing out, and went to put something else in! Another heated (and heatered) discussion followed.

Me: Put it back in. That was only one side!

Harry: I thought we could just have one side each.

Me: But you made me listen to the whole New Kids On The Block tape!

Harry: I thought we could start doing it now.

Me: But that’s not fair! You got a whole album and I only got a half a one!

He wouldn’t budge. I think “Dead Skin Mask” had really upset him!

Instead, we got “Pornograffitti”. As well as being unable to drive, Harry also can’t sing. It doesn’t stop him. I had to put up with him tunelessly harmonising through the ever excruciating “More Than Words”, and then singing flat as a fart through “Hole Hearted”. The only good thing about it was that “Hole Hearted” was the last song, and I knew the album was over. I wanted to carry on with Slayer. Harry didn’t. He wanted Billy Ray Cyrus again! Another discussion...

Me: Put on side two of my Slayer tape. We just listened to a whole tape of yours, and it was only meant to be one side!

Harry: No, it’s my turn again. You liked that last one.

Me: No I didn’t, and that’s got nothing to do with it! You chose that one!

Harry: Yes you do. You gave me the tape.

Me: No I don’t. Why do you think I gave you the fucking thing? I didn’t like it.

Eventually, a sense of fair play prevailed, due in no small part to me threatening to stop and make Harry walk, and we got the second half of “Seasons In The Abyss”. “Hallowed Point” blasted straight in, with its tempo lifted straight from the “Reign In Blood” album. Harry still didn’t like the speed, but he was starting to appreciate the Hanneman/King solos a bit more. They were a bit more frenetic than the Murray/Smith Maiden solos he was used to, and even more chaotic than Kirk Hammett’s from “...And Justice For All”, which he was becoming to enjoy. Once again, I think he must have missed the transition to the chuggier “Skeletons of Society”. The dual whispered vocals put the shits up him again, but there were no more complaints. I think Harry was just trying to get the ordeal over with.

The intro to “Temptation” was too much for him again, but he seemed to like Lombardo’s impressive drum fills, and the groove the song hits before the solos. “Born Of Fire”’s rapid, almost hardcore, feel didn’t seem to be to his liking, but I was loving it, growling “Born of fire” along with Tom and playing air drums on the steering wheel.

Slayer fans will know what comes next... Yep, the atmospheric horror show that is the title track. Like “Dead Skin Mask”, Harry seemed interested from the intro, with the acoustic guitars and gong, but was also a little on edge, as if expecting something terrible to happen. There were no more ethereal voices, and he seemed genuinely impressed with the chorus. I started singing along with it. The menace and atmosphere of the song was somewhat lost because of the tinny little speakers, but the essence of impending doom was still there. The song’s insistent groove actually got both heads in that little car banging, or at least nodding in time with the music. By the end of it, Harry was actually singing along too.

As we climbed the car-destroying Kilmog Hill into Dunedin, and I was rapidly running out of gears to change down to, the final notes of the song faded away. Harry and I were both quiet for a moment, reflecting. We had both started out as clueless but enthusiastic teens five years earlier, tentatively dipping our toes into the unknown waters of metal. Harry had done little more than splash about in the shallows. I had dived right in the deep end. Between us now, there was an abyss. It took this fittingly titled album to finally bring it out in the open. For the next week, we holidayed quite happily. The rest of the music we listened to was stuff we both agreed on. I got no more achy breaky earworms, and Harry got no more dead skin nightmares. It stayed that way until the final day of our tour, as we headed back north for home. We were both getting on each other’s nerves by then. As we cruised across the parched McKenzie Basin, a certain achy breaky melody emanated from our still open car windows. We both knew what was coming next...[3]

1. Not his real name, but if he ever reads this he’ll know it’s him, and he can go and get fucked for subjecting me to Billy Ray fucking Cyrus!

2. Austin 1100: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMC_ADO16

3. Harry and I remained friends for many years after. Although I haven’t seen him for a while, whenever we do catch up, it seems like next to no time has passed at all.

VARIOUS ARTISTS (GENERAL) 'Stars On Thrash'

Album · 1988 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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In pre-internet times, compilation albums were often the best way to discover new music, particularly for thrash metal fans, since thrash has never really dominated the radio spectrum at all. Yes, you could read about new bands, but that is nothing like actually hearing the band for yourself. The downside to compilations however, was often the quality of the music on them was often far from consistent. Yes, every label had their superstars, but they also had those odd, hard to promote bands.

Flotsam and Jetsam’s “Dreams of Death is a good start. It’s up-tempo, as you’d hope on a thrash compilation, and bounces along in a very satisfying manner. Big things were expected of Flotsam and Jetsam at the time, and while we now know they didn’t quite eventuate, it wasn’t through lack of talent.

Mucky Pup shouldn’t be confused with Skinny Puppy. Skinny Puppy have been making people uncomfortable on and off since 1982 with dark, cutting edge experimental industrial/electronic music. Mucky Pup will waste about two minutes of your life with ham-fisted crossover thrash. D.R.I. always did such things better, and did just that on the next track.

Roadrunner were on to a winner with Pestilence, and showcased the Dutch deathsters with “Commandments”, one of the heaviest songs on the entire album. While not pure, unbridled death metal like the band’s later work, this song definitely points to where Pestilence were heading. It is also still a pleasure to hear a vocalist like Martin Van Drunen, who could teach many modern vocalists about their trade.

And then along comes Toxik. Inexplicably, this band’s two 1980s albums are now highly sought after. “Heart Attack” shows exactly why Toxik should be forgotten and consigned to the ranks of also-rans. It is generic bubble-gum thrash, complete with idiotic lyrics, high pitched vocals, and ill-fitting guitar solos.

German band Paradox were streets ahead of Toxik, mixing thrash with power metal, but this track is ultimately forgettable.

S.O.D.’s “Kill Yourself” stomps in like a motherfucker, drinks all the beer, fucks all the girls, smashes the TV and stereo, and then, while saluting with a skeletal middle finger, stomps off again. While one of the best songs here, it’s inclusion is a bit of a mystery. Most of this compilation is a showcase for new bands and albums, but this was already three years old.

Acrophet’s “Corrupt Minds” is speedy bog standard crossover thrash. Despite the band’s name, there’s nothing Gothic about Gothic Slam. “Fought For Death is more throwaway thrash.

And just when it seems this compilation might be dribbling off into mediocrity, along comes Slayer! Slayer is a no brainer. Then again, this is Roadrunner we’re talking about, so leaving Slayer off could have been a distinct possibility. Another older track which appeared on the first Speed Kills compilation, this is like comfort food for headbangers.

And just when you expect the inclusion of Slayer to be fucked up by another tepid track, you get two fucking beauties in a row. Sacred Reich was still one of the new guard of thrash in 1988, and “Death Squad” perfectly showcased their brand of heavy political thrash.

Znowhite was one of those cult classic bands which really did slip through the cracks. “Baptised By Fire” is a storming thrasher. If this album had had a few more of these and a few less “Heart Attack”s, it could have been regarded as a genuine classic.

Kat!’s “Satan Says”... I think Satan would have been saying shut the fuck up you tuneless harpy!

Atrophy’s “Chemical Dependency” is a surprisingly weighty song. It doesn’t quite border on death metal, but it definitely heads in that direction.

The final track, “Opinionate!” by Hades seems to have a split personality. It can’t think if it wants to copy Anthrax, Death Angel, or Forbidden, and ends up a meandering mess far inferior to all three.

All in all, “Stars on Thrash” is very much a mixed bag with a few cherries to pick, and a few maggots to spit out. It seems to be remembered fondly now, but the odds are good those remembering it haven’t listened to it in years, and can only recall the good bits, and have forgotten the trash among the thrash.

ACID REIGN Moshkinstein

EP · 1988 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.18 | 2 ratings
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Acid Reign is one of those bands most thrash fans seem to have a bit of a soft spot for, and it’s not hard to see why. Five Yorkshire lads with no pretensions whatsoever, just playing the music they loved, and hit on a unique formula which brought them to the notice of the British metal media, and the wider metal world.

“Moshkinstein” was Acid Reign’s debut EP, a re-recording of much of their 1987 demo of the same name. As a debut, it showed this band was capable of producing some incredible music. First track “Goddess” is a serious thrasher. Immediately, it showed Acid Reign had an unusual sound. There always seemed like there was something slightly loose in there, rattling away in the bottom end of their music. The band’s big rhythm guitar sound was chunky, with an almost New York crossover thrash edge to it.

Second track “Suspended Sentence” showed the band understood melody and dynamics. The song chugs along quite comfortably, only occasionally bursting into full on thrash. The almost seven minute song perfectly showcases singer H’s incredible lyricism. Few other bands at the time wrote songs of such depth, intelligence, and introspection. H could be an amazing vocalist at times, but frustratingly, he also seemed a bit slap-dash and rough around the edges too. Sure, this was a band which was reasonably young, and were possibly trying to be spontaneous. Yes, there’s spontaneous, but there’s also having another go until you get it fuckin’ right! Never mind, the songs shine through.

Another highlight is “Motherly Love”. The song is genuinely creepy. The intro is a sample from the film Psycho II, with Norman Bates’ dead mother living on in her son’s diseased mind (“People say that I’m insane, Mother says I’m not”). Once again, H’s vocals wander around what seems like the correct notes, but this is a contemplative exploration of a schizophrenic persona, neither condemning nor glorifying.

“Respect The Dead” is a reminder that we’re all going to end up underground one day. What we do with our time before then is up to us, but do the dead automatically deserve respect? “Chaos (Lambs to the Slaughter)” examines terrorist bombings. Despite being written in the late 80s, it’s still sadly relevant today (“Sole existence is to waste/Waste life on command of others/Leaders lead by religion/Leaders blinded by power”).

This is quite a long release for an EP, clocking in at over 30 minutes, but it doesn’t seem to be overly long. Acid Reign’s two full length albums suffered from trying to pack in too much, and both lost focus. “Moshkinstein” stays focused, and does not outstay it’s welcome.

ANAL CUNT Picnic of Love

Album · 1998 · Non-Metal
Cover art 1.32 | 5 ratings
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This is one of those “dare ya” things, like the ice bucket challenge, or those idiots eating ghost peppers, cinnamon, bananas and sprite, or whatever is the stupid du jour. Listen right through this album in one go, I dare ya!

“Picnic of Love” is like so many of Anal Cunt’s jokes. It seems like a good idea at the time, but it all goes to shit in the execution. Put simply, the band which had done so much to deconstruct music and challenge people’s ideas of what defined, music, talent, a song and humour, recorded an anti-Anal Cunt album. Acoustic guitars, falsetto voices, saccharine lyrics, and an all round lack of noise and speed makes for one of the most fucked up fucking awful unmusical pieces of shit ever recorded. And it was all done on purpose.

Anal Cunt’s gross out, sick humour song titles were often the best bit of their albums. And there are none here. Instead of “Phyllis Is an Old, Annoying Cunt” we get “I Respect Your Feelings as a Woman and a Human”, instead of “You Got Date Raped”, there is “Saving Ourselves for Marriage”, and instead of “Kyle From Incantation Has a Moustache” there is “I Couldn't Afford to Buy You a Present (So I Wrote You This Song)”. Yup, schmaltzy parodies of lame love songs. The funniest thing here is to imagine the anti-titles of these songs, which is more like the usual Anal Cunt shtick.

Of the 11 tracks here, there are 10 which feature “Sensitive” Seth Putnam’s tuneless squeaky falsetto chirping about love and feelings, commitment, togetherness, and marriage, while "Gentle" Josh Martin placidly strums along. Track 11, “In My Heart There's A Star Named After You” is the power ballad. Gentle Josh still plays the same, but Sensitive Seth’s halo slips a little, as he screeches his heartfelt platitudes. The lyrics are still shit, but after the nearly half an hour of the flaccid, dribbling crap before it, it raises at least a slight chuckle.

And that’s the problem. Yes, a half funny idea, but far too fucking long. This would have been a lot funnier as a four song EP. So… Are you brave or stupid enough to give this a listen all in one go?

ANAL CUNT Fuckin' A

Album · 2010 · Grindcore
Cover art 3.96 | 3 ratings
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Vim Fuego
And this is the album where Anal Cunt did a “Cold Lake”. Or did they?

Yep, noisecore’s greatest exponents made a glam album. “Fuckin’ A”? Fuckin’ sellouts! The cover is a parody of Motley Crüe’s “Too Fast For Love”, there’s songs about chicks, bikes, and fucking, and most shockingly of all, most of the music is actually recognisable as music!

Unlike so many Putman jokes though, (for example the “...is gay” song titles, jokes about Hitler and the Nazis, seeing how much formless noise fans would accept as music) this one actually works, and is pretty fuckin’ funny!

For guys who had made a career as non-musicians, this starts out in fairly tupical style, with fuzzy guitars and Seth screeching like a rutting tomcat. However, the pace is slowed a bit, and riffs actually emerge from the noise. It’s all dumbed down, showing off a different sort of stupid. “Fuck Yeah” has a shouted chorus of, you guessed it, fuck yeah! “Crankin' My Bands Demo On A Box At The Beach” continues in a similar vein, with a suitably tuneless over the top solo mid song.

“Loudest Stereo” is a song about well, the loudest stereo on the the block. It sounds like Venom playing Judas Priest songs recorded on a cheap old tape recorder. “Kickin' Your Ass And Fuckin' Your Bitch” kicks ass and fucks your bitch.

Unlike the old glam trope of using thinly veiled double entendres, there’s no fucking pretence here. Four song titles in a row: “Hot Girls On The Road”, “Whiskey, Coke And Sluts”, “All I Give A Fuck About Is Sex”, and “I'm Gonna Give You AIDS”. These songs would have made Lemmy blush. There is actually a bit of a Motörhead vibe to these songs too. Every glam album needs the obligatory power ballad. In this case, the final track “I Wish My Dealer Was Open” pretends to be a scratchy sounding power ballad, up until the moment Seth opens his demonic noise spewing mouth, and the song instantly transforms into a sludge/stoner monster.

For a supposed glam album, there’s really not that much posing and posturing going on. It’s heavy as fuck with little regard for melody. The music is pretty simplistic, but fun, and it’s still soaked in static and blur. Anal Cunt’s fans need not worry about hearing any of these on FM radio.

A glam sell out? Don’t be fucking stupid! A glam metal skewering? Vlad the Impaler would be proud. “Fuckin’ A”? Fuckin’ A+!

SKID ROW B-Side Ourselves

EP · 1992 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.59 | 8 ratings
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Skid Row proved glam metal could be tough and edgy without becoming a self-parody, like Motley Crüe. While second album Slave to the Grind had the obligatory weepy ballads, it also showed more than a passing acquaintance with punk ("Get the Fuck Out") and thrash (the title track). Next came this tasty little covers EP “B-Side Ourselves”, which further showed off the band’s musical versatility.

Singer Sebastian Bach reckoned each band member picked their own song for this EP, but since four out of the five track were previously released as b-sides, he might well have been talking bullshit. No matter, you can actually match the songs to be band members. Bach sung onstage with Rob Halford on the surprisingly weighty cover of Judas Priest’s “Delivering the Goods”, and since it’s too good an opportunity to pass up a cliché, them goods got delivered.

Bass player Rachel Bolan’s punk credentials were often on show in Skid Row’s early attitude, so it’s a fair guess that he picked The Ramones’ “Psycho Therapy”. Now, The Ramones may seem a simple band to cover, but their songs can be fucked up, as Metallica proved with their dire covers of “Commando”. Skid Row did it a shitload better.

Scotti Hill picked the cover of “Little Wing”, a Jimi Hendrix Experience cover (this one’s a cheat- I remember it from an interview), and he weeps and wails. Not quite like Hendrix, no, but a fucking good shot at it.

And so who picked the KISS cover and who picked the Rush cover? Meh, who the fuck knows? It doesn’t matter. Great songs, great versions, and both have that distinctive gritty Skid Row stamp on them.

“B-Side Ourselves” is not life-changing, nor is it deep and meaningful, but there are far worse ways to spend an idle eighteen and a half minutes.

VARIOUS ARTISTS (GENERAL) Grindcrusher

Album · 1989 · Grindcore
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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This shouldn’t have worked. Imagine a mainstream death metal label releasing a compilation with saxophone abuse, lo-fi hardcore, vomited goregrind, ropey demos, comedy thrash, keyboard and piano led tracks, avant-garde experimentalism, industrial weirdness, oh yeah, and a bit of death metal. It looks like a big mash up of unrelated and unrelatable genres. And the cover. The gaudy eye bleeding high contrast artwork looks like it would cause migraines in the same manner as the music.

But you know, this odd compilation of unknown, fringe, and underground bands with several different tracklists, and different versions of the tacky artwork has become one of the most important compilations in the development of extreme metal as we know it. This album is a legend. This is “Grindcrusher”.

For an album that’s supposed to be so influential on the death metal scene, there’s not actually a lot of death metal on it. Yes, there’s death metal royalty in the forms of the already legendary Morbid Angel, and the emerging Entombed, the Morbid Angel-related sci-fi death weirdos Nocturnus, and the highly influential Carnage, which evolved into Dismember, and spun off members into Carcass, Arch Enemy, General Surgery, Therion, Dark Tranquillity, and a few others too. But that was it.

But wait, you say, what about… Bolt Thrower, Terrorizer, Napalm Death, Carcass, Repulsion... Stick your little labels on them and call ‘em what you fucking like, but they were considered grindcore at the time. So was Godflesh, Heresy, Unseen Terror, and even Filthy Christians, and perhaps Sore Throat. Hellbastard? Intense Degree? Stick some sort of –core in there somewhere... But then when it came to Naked City, Old Lady Drivers, Cadaver, Sweet Tooth, Mighty Force, and Spazztic Blurr... Just throw up your hands and say fuck. No one bothered trying to figure out what to call the music, it was just there to be listened to and enjoyed.

It’s useless trying to sum up this record track by track. There’s some fucking stunners, like Morbid Angel’s “Chapel Of Ghouls”, Terrorizer’s “Dead Shall Rise” and Godflesh’s industrial nightmare “Streetcleaner”. There’s a couple of historically important tracks, like Repulsion’s “Radiation Sickness” and Carnage “Malignant Epitaph”. There’s some total weirdness in Spazztic Blurr’s “He-Not-A-Home-Me-Marco”, Naked City’s “Osaka Bondage”, and Old Lady Drivers’ “Colostomy Grab-Bag”. There’s an exclusive version of Carcass’ “Exhume To Consume”, and there’s even some novelty fun, with Napalm Death’s “You Suffer”, and “Satan’s Trampoline” from the smarter than they seem Lawnmower Deth.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. There were a couple of duds on this album. Hellbastard inexplicably never made a huge impact, and “Justly Executed” is not their strongest track. Napalm Death’s “Malicious Intent” is a bit dry. Intense Degree, Sweet Tooth, and Mighty Force had good tracks here, but never made waves beyond this. No matter, “Grindcrusher” is like metal archaeology. Some of these bands grew and evolved. Some are left here in fossil form. All need to be heard.

EXTRA HOT SAUCE Taco of Death

Album · 1988 · Grindcore
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Dan Lilker’s place in extreme music is well cemented. He had a go at thrash, with Anthrax. Then there was crossover thrash, with Nuclear Assault and S.O.D. When thrash was dying a death, Lilker reinvented himself once again, this time taking on grindcore with the highly influential Brutal Truth. Through all this Lilker redefined the dark art of the bass guitar. What is less known is he gave grindcore drums a go too.

Yep, Extra Hot Sauce’s “Taco of Death” was a one-off grind/crust album from 1988, featuring big Danny on drums. It’s rough, spontaneous 80s grind with a sense of humour. If you know Unseen Terror and Spazztic Blurr, just imagine a band somewhere between the two and you have Extra Hot Sauce.

“Lookout For The Cheeba Man” is a funky reggae workout, a la Bad Brains, until it hits a mosh section, then a full on grinding blur, before skanking back down a couple of gears again. It’s silly but fun. “Passive Terrorism” is Nuclear Assault with a turbo charger and crust punk vocals. “Homina Homina Homina” is a seven second hardcore blast of a song.

There’s a bit of the aforementioned S.O.D. politically incorrect humour included, but like S.O.D. there’s the odd serious message thrown in to. Or it seems like there is. The lyrics are a bit hard to decipher, but the song titles look that way. Or they could be a complete piss take. Who knows? On “Tony’s Dilemma”, Tony is complaining because a girl he picked up gave him AIDS, while “I Need A Job” speaks for itself.

There are three covers on the album. What would you generally expect a grindcore band to cover? Discharge? GBH? The Exploited? How about Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Lynyrd Skynyrd? No? Well, that’s what ya get here. Yep, supercharged, supercheesed, supershort versions of “Paranoid”, “Communication Breakdown”, and “Freebird”. None of these are very clever, but it’s lots of fun!

And fun really is the recurring theme. None of this is to be taken too seriously, but it’s seriously well executed. The whole album is an exercise in exploring musical dynamics, song structures, and the seemingly limitless possibilities of a fledgling genre.

MEGADETH Last Rites

Demo · 1984 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.91 | 2 ratings
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In hindsight, the rise and rise of Megadeth now seems like it was always going to happen, but it didn’t necessarily have to be. April 11, 1983 was the fateful day. Dave Mustaine was sacked from Metallica, and sent home on a bus. Imagine a seething Mustaine sitting on that bus, travelling cross country for days on end, plotting his ultimate revenge on Ulrich and Hetfield. Being ejected from Metallica, which would become the biggest band in metal, didn’t mean success was still predestined. Look what happened to Ron McGovney. So here is Mustaine’s revenge – a brand new band with a mega deadly name, and a fucking blistering demo.

The piano intro to “Last Rites / Loved to Deth” is a bit wobbly, but hey, this is a demo from 1984, so it’s not gonna sound perfect, but who cares about some tinkling keys. What this is about is blistering, seminal thrash metal. And here’s the part which should have scared the bejesus out of the pair of Metalli-egos: this was faster than what they played. “Last Rites / Loved to Deth” is easily recognisable as the same song from “Killing is my Business…And Business is Good”. When the soloing finally kicks in 43 seconds into the song, it is a tornado of notes. It’s hard to tell where the lead guitars from the rhythm.

At the same time, bear witness to the birth of one of the most important partnerships in metal, as Dave Ellefson’s bass is the thunder to Mustaine’s lightning. The mix on the demo is such that the bass is highly prominent.

This version is, of course, not as polished as the one on “Killing is my Business…”, but it has a rough, raucous charm which has been polished out on the album. It’s also 30 seconds shorter.

The next song would have made Ulrich shit bricks and Hefield crap crowbars. “Mechanix” was a song Mustaine had written before joining Metallica. It appeared on Metallica’s “No Life ‘til Leather” demo, slightly slower than this, and was reborn as “The Four Horsemen” on “Kill ‘em All” with new lyrics and a much reduced tempo.

“Mechanix” is better.

You reckon Dave was bothered his song had been recycled? Listen to this and see what you think. Megadeth’s version of the song has always been more vicious, and here it is with added venom. The lyrics are inane, but that doesn’t really matter, because they are delivered with such bile. Never one to turn down a challenge, Mustaine couldn’t find a vocalist to do his music justice, so he took on vocal duties himself. The rudimentary melodies meld perfectly with the song. And the final solo is another note storm, faster, more complex, and ultimately superior to the one recorded by Kirk Hammett. Megadave knew this, and finished it with a satisfied chuckle.

“The Skull Beneath The Skin” is more chaotic than the album version. Mustaine’s guitar seems to slip deeper into the mix, bringing out Ellefson’s bass even more prominently. The solo is a psychotic speedfreak blast. The song is over too soon, and like its predecessors, it several seconds shorter than the later studio versions.

This demo reached legendary status among underground metal tape traders, up there with the two Metallica demos, the Hellhammer demos, and Exodus’ various early demos. Why? Because it deserved to.

DEATH Leprosy

Album · 1988 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.84 | 62 ratings
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It must be a teen angst thing, to claim a song or musician “speaks” to you. It was common in the gunge… er, grunge era, where spotty anaemic teens thought Kurt Cobain or Eddie Vedder were channelling their personal feelings or thoughts, and were communicating straight to them. It’s not a new phenomenon. Similar claims have been made of Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Bono, and just about any trendy fuckwit who has ever written a vague sounding song which can be reinterpreted or misinterpreted, and appeals to safe middle class, suburban youth.

Fuck. Off.

All it means is you’ve never experienced anything challenging or real in your life, and you’re trying to be more world wise and weary than you really are. That sort of music, and it’s fans, are deeply superficial. There is nothing truly thought provoking in it, because there is nothing real in it.

For outsiders, people attracted to harder, heavier music, it is either a reflection of the harshness of life, or a complete escape into fantastical escapism. On the reality side, you have genres like grindcore and crust punk, with their social conscience and political colours emblazoned for all to see. Other genres, like brutal death metal or power metal take refuge in slasher movie gore, or Dungeons and Dragons made flesh. A few bands though, managed to combine the two extremes, creating something which was both thought provoking, and an escape. Death’s “Leprosy” is such a creation.

Death’s legacy is legendary in metal circles. The band’s first album “Scream Bloody Gore” is a seminal death metal milestone, creating the bloodstained blueprint for the genre. However, by the time Chuck Schuldiner got to making “Leprosy”, he had been playing this style of music for half a decade, and the plain old guts and gore thing had become a bit passé. So Schuldiner changed tack. Instead of musical horror movies, as later perfected by the likes of Cannibal Corpse and Autopsy, he turned to true life horror.

Take title track “Leprosy” for example. It’s a biblical illness, right? People don’t get leprosy any more, do they? Well, when this song was written, more than 5,000,000 people worldwide had the disease. Although now curable, it is still present in the developing world. There’s a horrifically detailed (and even more horrifically predominantly shocking pink!) Ed Repka depiction of the disease on the album cover. A descriptive song, it describes the ravages of leprosy on a human. It doesn’t just describe the physical effects, but also the social stigma, and the psychological torment of someone disfigured and dying. How would you feel?

Musically, “Leprosy” was also a change of tack. It’s fast and heavy, but also sharp and clear. And ya know, it’s a pretty fucking impressive backing band here. Although things went all to shit later on, and the rest of the band copped a lot of criticism from Schuldiner, all three have been incredibly influential in the way death metal sounds today. The non-Chuck ¾ of the band went on to reform Massacre with former Death alumni Kam Lee. Bassist Terry Butler didn’t actually play on this album, but he has had a full career since, also playing in Six Feet Under and Obituary. Rick Rozz co-wrote much of the music on this album. His playing style was criticised at the time for his blatant Kerry King worship, but in the years since, his style has been adopted by many death metal lead guitarists, because it suits death metal so fucking well.

The rest of the thought provoking songs followed on in a similar vein from “Leprosy”. “Born Dead” took a closer look at third world famine and disease than any pop star collaboration trying to feed the world. “Forgotten Past” is a story of horrifying dreams, or are they a revealed memory?

The incredible “Left To Die” is a war song, told from the point of view of a seemingly unimportant victim dying on a battlefield. It could be the final moments of many millions of soldiers since the invention of gunpowder, but is that life still unimportant if it is yours?

“Pull The Plug” is a powerful first person point of view of a helpless victim in a vegetative state, sensing all, but able to do nothing. It’s like Metallica’s “One” without the anti-war message, and poetic license. “Open Casket” is a jab at the insensitive and cringe-worthy practice of open casket funerals. What good comes from seeing someone’s body in death?

“Primitive Ways” is probably the only song which would have fit well onto “Scream Bloody Gore”. It’s a description of cannibalistic rituals. A bit less intelligent than the rest of the album, this is still plenty gory for the guts fetishists.

And final track “Choke On It”. It’s not a perverse song about brutal sex, as the title may suggest. Instead, the song makes the listener consider: “How would I cope if subjected to torture?”

So, feelings? Yes, there’s plenty, if you count all the varieties of physical and mental pain, and societal rejection. Thoughts? Plenty are provoked, often of the “I’ve never thought of it that way before” and “thank fuck that’s not happening to me” variety. And does it speak to anyone? Well, yes it does. This album spoke to death metal fans and bands the world over. The message was it was OK to explore themes outside murder and gore, it was possible to make clear sounding music without losing the death metal essence, and intelligence and death metal were not mutually exclusive.

VARIOUS ARTISTS (GENERAL) Speed Kills...But Who's Dying? - Volume 4 of the Ultimate In Thrash

Album · 1989 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Young metal fans today have it easier than in days gone by for discovering new music. YouTube, Spotify, Facebook, websites, streaming, downloads, message boards... None of things existed until at the late 1990s at the very least. The young know not what they missed.

Back in a pre-internet time, communication was much slower, and information much harder to access. Music had a more limited number of formats. There was vinyl, which was inconvenient and easily damaged. Cassettes were more convenient, but were also prone to damage when tapes stretched and chewed, and had definite sound quality issues. CDs were new, and had great clarity of sound, but they were expensive. A lot of labels and bands could not afford to release material on CD, and CD players could cost as much as a second hand car. Live was the best way to hear a band, but if the bands didn’t come to your country, you’d never hear them.

Discovering new bands and new music was also trickier. Radio and TV were next to useless, a few notable exceptions excluded. Try explaining to a teen metal fan now the frustrations of trying to tune into a metal show at 11pm on a Sunday night, broadcast from a student radio station with less power than a lightbulb (I kid you not. The transmitter for 98RDU, my nearest student radio station had a 98 watt transmitter!). Trying to even get a barely recognisable signal involved orienting the radio in the right direction, fiddling with the aerial, and stringing bits of wire around the room as an antenna extension. And then if it was raining or windy, just forget it completely.

All in all, it was a pain in the fucking ass. It took a lot of effort, could cost a lot of money, and it was easy to miss things. So just imagine the satisfaction, and the near priapic joy, when you managed to discover something as magnificent as “Speed Kills...But Who's Dying?”

The Speed Kills series of compilations had been going since 1985 as a showcase of what was new in “speed metal” on the Under One Flag/Music For Nations label. Even in 1985 with the release of the first compilation the title was already out of date. Through licensing deals and the label’s own releases, that album featured Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Venom, Voivod, Celtic Frost, and a number of other early thrash metal bands, with only a couple of genuine speed metal tracks, but there was little distinction made in those days. Basically, it was metal, it was fast, and it was well outside the mainstream.

By 1989 with the release of the fourth album in the series, “Speed Kills...But Who's Dying?” underground metal was becoming a little more fragmented. Death metal, black metal, and grindcore were all starting to emerge as distinct subgenres. The likes of Metallica and Megadeth were on the cusp of mainstream success, and would never again be seen on a compilation like this. So what was left? An outsider who knew little of metal would probably call “Speed Kills...But Who's Dying?” second rate, or second tier, but this compilation isn’t for them. This is for the true fans, those who want to dig deeper, to a place where commercial success does not equate to quality. This is for people who wanted to explore the deeper dungeons of thrash metal, rather than just leaping about the parapets of the Big Four.

There are endless arguments about who comes next after the legendary Big Four. Cases can be made for Testament, Overkill, Kreator (which forgets Germany had its OWN Big Three/Four), or the first band on this compilation, Exodus. Long may these good, friendly, violent discussions continue, but don’t forget the music. The song “Parasite” is one of the stronger tracks from Exodus’ second and ultimately flawed album “Pleasures of the Flesh”. It has all the Exodus trademarks which marked them for metal stardom - heavy riffs, shredding solos, Steve Souza’s sharp shout, intelligent lyrics, and it’s just a fucking good song.

Re-Animator were marked for big things too. While history has proved otherwise for the band, “Deny Reality” is a great technical song, and arguably the best the band ever recorded. Unfortunately, Re-Animator couldn’t maintain such a high level of song writing throughout their career, and faded out in the early 1990s.

Apocalypse’s “Cemetery” has a melody to die for, a big facet of thrash metal often overlooked in the race for faster/heavier. The singalong gang vocal refrains are irresistible.

Blind Illusion’s “Blood Shower” has a building menace, and featured a pre-Primus Les Claypool and Larry LaLonde. Mark Biedermann’s vocals have a shredded throat edge, and the twin harmonic/disharmonic guitars were something not used near enough in thrash.

Acid Reign’s “Life in Forms” is a tirade against bureaucracy. Seem like a boring subject for a song? Listen to this killer before you dismiss it. The mid-pace chug of this song is unbelievably heavy, and H’s clear vocals are a treat.

Death’s “Open Casket” was definitive death metal in it’s day. The album “Leprosy” from which this song was taken proved death metal didn’t have to be a gargled mess, and riffs, solos, and non-gore based lyrics could still be brutal as fuck.

“No Resurrection” by Holy Terror is an anti-Christian diatribe, with tornado guitars and vocals. Holy Terror was a bit much for many thrash fans at the time, but looking back, it’s now plainly obvious why this band has since attained cult status.

“For All Those Who Died” by Bathory is dramatic and brutal, yet atmospheric and uplifting at the same time. The incredibly simple beat and riffs underscored Quorthon’s roared vocals. The discordant, seemingly out of time solo snakes its way over top of the song, with every element of the song seemingly redlining into static.

And on to side two. Yes, this is one of those old “you gotta turn it over” things. “Wired” is far from a typical Nuclear Assault song. The NYHC influence is less obvious than in their earlier material, basically because this is so damn slow. The vocals are near on impossible to decipher on a first listen, like listening to a foreign language you are still in the process of learning. The effect is odd, and definitely original, but it’s not off-putting.

“Execution of Mankind” by Agony is the only misfire on the album. It’s too long and doesn’t really engage like the rest of the songs here, but like “Wired”, it adds a bit of contrast to the faster songs here. It’s not necessarily a bad song, it’s just not as good as everything else on here.

“Mirror of the Past” by Hexx is a nasty little song, possessing a quantity of venom and bile. Clint Bower’s vicious vocals have a hardcore edge to them, and almost cross over into death metal territory.

Exodus pop up next, for a second appearance, this time a cover of AC/DC’s “Overdose”. The song was a bonus track on some versions of “Fabulous Disaster”. Zetro does a great Bon Scott vocal impression. This version retains the blues rock groove of the original, while adding thrash flourishes to it, and of course, is orders of magnitude heavier.

Forbidden’s “Chalice of Blood” is a masterclass in technical thrash. The twin lead guitars weave in and out of one another, all the while showcasing some incredible riffs, and Russ Anderson’s melodic yet powerful voice soars over it.

Death/thrash pioneers Possessed showed there was more to their repertoire than just Satan. “Storm in my Mind” is a psychological maelstrom, creeping along creating a sense of impending chaos. And the chaos hits, like a psychotic brainstorm of confused neural signals. This band is legendary, and this shows why.

At their peak, Dark Angel was the only band in all of thrash to be able to rival Slayer for intensity and sheer shit-your-pants horror. “The Death of Innocence” is a whirlwind song with a far nastier tone than anything else here, and is probably harder for a new thrash fan to digest than even Death or Bathory.

How to follow Dark Angel? Change direction and tempo completely. Final track “Suspended Sentence” shows once again Acid Reign’s lyrical intelligence and great sense of song dynamics. It rumbles and chugs along at a slow canter, but occasionally gallops off into a blast beat. The song has some seriously thought-provoking lyrics about murder, the moment before death, and the price of a life.

All in all, this album is 73 minutes of near metal perfection. It is the perfect basecamp for starting a wider exploration of thrash. It is also an incredibly accurate time capsule of a genre from a time since past, the original spirit preserved here for posterity in a format now almost extinct. This is how it was.

MACHINE HEAD Catharsis

Album · 2018 · Groove Metal
Cover art 3.44 | 4 ratings
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In the past, Machine Head has soared to mountainous metallic highs, and then plunged deep into despairing sewage filled depths. To say the band’s career has been inconsistent is a massive understatement.

At times, the band has been a shining beacon through eras of simpleton nu-metal and generic metalcore. “Burn My Eyes” was an intense indicator of where the post-thrash metal scene could have gone, but didn’t. Follow up “The More Things Change…” was heavier and more groove oriented, and was the peer to anything Pantera produced. In “The Blackening”, the band produced one of the most lauded metal albums of the first decade of the century, followed by the occasionally stunning “Unto The Locust”.

And then there were the misfires. The awful duo of albums “The Burning Red” and “Supercharger” are the red headed step-children best left confined to the attic. So which end of the spectrum are we getting with “Catharsis”?

Um… both.

Initially, this album sounds like a lame compilation of the worst metal pretenders of the past two decades.

The first track is “Volatile”. So far, so Devil Driver. All the ingredients are there to produce something which could and should be good, but isn’t. Yeah, it’s heavy, is played at a decent tempo, and the guitars aren’t bad, but there’s none of that breath-taking kick to the guts of Machine Head at top form. Ever wondered what Linkin Park might have sounded like if anyone in the band had ever learned to play guitar? The title track “Catharsis”. The less said the better… “Beyond The Pale”? Imagine Disturbed stealing riffs from The Bloodhound Gang.

“California Bleeding” lifts things a little, with more of a John Bush-era Anthrax feel with some decent melodies and strong riffs, and some fucking good solos. Yes, Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel remembered they can play their fucking guitars!

“Triple Beam” is probably the worst offender on the album. The listener is inflicted with a sub-Limp Bizkit turd, which even Fred Durst would be embarrassed by. The rapping is awful, the attempted melody out of tune and very forced, and the plodding, ultra-cliché’d riff is just dumb. It might be a song about a fight resulting in murder, but it’s insulting to the intelligence.

The clapping intro of “Kaleidoscope” is cringe-worthy, but it opens out into a bit of a rager, the likes of which the band made their name with. This song hits a sub-hardcore groove, and has powerful hardcore-shout vocals with suitable hard-hitting lyrics, but the word “Kaleidoscope” just can’t be sung aggressively and still sound convincing. It’s the best song so far, but not a redeemer.

And just when all seems lost, along comes “Bastards”. There’s that fucking shining beacon again. This is far from the typical Machine Head song. The song starts with a noodling guitar line, backed by an acoustic guitar. It is a “what the fuck”? at the Great Leap Backward which hit the United States politically and socially in 2016 and 2017 and, unfortunately, for the foreseeable future. It targets the newly empowered alt.right redneck “make ‘Murica great again” cadre of Neanderthals, racists, and religious zealots determined to drag the United States back to a time when people were property, a man could wear his pointy white laundry in public without shame, and God blessed it all.

This song was written the day after the Untied States of America (no, not a spelling mistake) decided an orange, racist, misogynist, former reality TV bullshit artist best represented what they stood for. Flynn’s heart felt, politically loaded lyrics perfectly portray the sense of disbelief, betrayal, and impending danger felt by decent people throughout his country, and the world over, as a once proud nation lurched into a state of quasi-fascism. And this is not one-off posturing from Flynn either. Earlier the same year, he rightly called out Phil Anselmo for a highly publicised white power Nazi salute.

As the song’s lyrics turn from disbelief to to anger, the music picks up an old school punk feel. Imagine Social Distortion gone feral. And the anger turns to resolve. “So give us all your faggots, all your niggas, and your spics/Give us all your Muslims, your so-called terrorists/We’ll welcome them with open arms, and put ‘em in our mix/We’re better off together now, embrace our difference”. A huge chunk of right wing metal fans are going to hate this song, because it cuts far too close to the bone.

And then it’s followed by “Hope Begets Hope, and the cliché and lameness is gone. THIS is the Machine Fuckin’ Head of days gone by. Big riffs, hard, harsh vocals, a driving beat, a well-placed solo, and it’s metal nirvana. And it keeps going, with “Screaming At The Sun”.

“Behind a Mask” finds Flynn singing within his limitations, and finally hits upon a decent vocal melody. It’s a ballad only in the sense it’s played with acoustic guitars and it’s not a balls out rocker. It’s followed by a string section intro, which turns into the epic “Heavy Lies the Crown”. The song expands into a sort of crusty power metal saga, then hits a thrash section, breakneck solos and all, before fading back to strings. “Psychotic” lives up to the title. “Grind You Down” has some of the most vicious vocals ever produced by this band. “Razorblade Smile” is traditional old school Machine Head, equal parts thrash, groove and hardcore. Then just for a final unbalancing step, “Eulogy” meanders for half it’s duration, with lazy guitars and lethargic vocals, but is unexpectedly overcome by a sludgy doom metal passage, and an ominous fade-to-black drone.

The initial reaction to this album is to go back to the start and try again. Were the first few tracks really so bad? Yes they were. Is the second half of the album almost like an entirely different band? Yes it is. Is it time to write these fuckers off? Up until “Kaleidoscope” I thought so. The rest of the album proves that you do so at your own peril.

LATEXXX TEENS Moloko & Ultra-Violence

EP · 2006 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Are you missing the Marilyn Manson of old, instead of the increasingly bland and commercial automaton he's been replaced with? Do you lament at Rob Zombie's neglect of his music career in favour of dodgy horror movies? Love the teeny-Goth image of the Murderdolls and Cradle Of Filth? If you said yes to all three of these, bad luck - your life is pathetic. Um, you might just like this CD though. `Moloko And Ultraviolence' is a fairly standard but fun mishmash of electro/dance/rock and comic book Gothic image, simple as that. It's not going to reinvent the wheel or change the world as we know it, but you can dance to it.

Latexxx Teens seem to be able to out-Manson Marilyn Manson with ease. The dance beats are suitably bouncy, the guitars so drowned in effects as to be almost synthetic, and the bass throbbing. But the best thing about Latexxx Teens' sound is the simple little fact they know how to create memorable, fun songs. Try not singing along to a rousing chorus of "United Shits of America!" Try not headbanging to the great riff of "Maschine Zeit".

Lex Kaos is a strong vocalist, almost sounding like Atari Teenage Riot's Alec Empire, minus a genuinely venomous edge. He's a little hard to understand at times, perhaps because the whole band is Italian, and he's singing in English, but that matters little. The lyrics are reasonably good plays on words, and hey, the kids will love it!

`Moloko And Ultraviolence' is not a release for brain surgeons or great philosophers of our time. It's just good, dumb non-pretentious fun. Turn it up loud on a Sunday morning to scare off the Jehovah's Witnesses.

GRAVITY KILLS Superstarved*

Album · 2002 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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No fucking about. This band sounds like a less chaotic Ministry, a more male Marilyn Manson, or Rob Zombie after he's had a shower.

It's a much trodden path now. Fairly standard energetic hard rock with samples, beats, distorted voices, like Filter, or straightforward Nine Inch Nails. It all has an air of utter predictability about it: quiet start with an electronic beat, breathy vocals, and then the main riff starts, with such utter regularity you can set your watch by it. Then the songs progress through variations on these dynamics - noisy bit, quiet bit with bleepy noises, shouty chorus, noisy bit, fade out with more electro-noises.

This description makes this album sound like a nasty cliched pile of shit. It isn't. The bass lines are reminiscent of "Rude Awakening"-era Prong, and the vocals take cues from Al Jourgenson, Rob Zombie and even Alice Cooper. Gravity Kills have a very good ear for melody, hooks, riffs, and some downright good songwriting. Sure, little new ground is broken, but so what? These guys aren't innovators, but they're certainly not imitators either. A band doesn't need to be innovative if they do what they do well - it never hurt AC/DC.

Many of the tracks here sound like they're aimed at rock radio stations. Opener "Love, Sex and Money" would make a great single. But then so would the second, third, fourth and twelfth tracks. The Depeche Mode cover "Personal Jesus" stands out above the rest, taking an acoustic guitar intro, giving it an electro-stutter, and then jumping in with a Manson-esque footstomping beat, producing a simple, catchy and highly effective song.

It would be great to see the likes of this band, who can actually write songs and play, taking the place of boy bands with guitars on rock radio and in the charts. If given the right push, this band could have been huge.

EARTH WITCH Out of the Shallow

Album · 2017 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.97 | 4 ratings
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Metal Music Archives Reviewers' Challenge December 2017

A big problem with a lot of stoner metal is that the band gets too carried away with the stoner part and forgets the fucking metal. Not Earth Witch.

There’s plenty of Iommi/Butler/Ward worship going on here, but thankfully these guys realised it’s not compulsory to have an Osbourne too to make fucking great music. Too often stoner and doom bands ruin a perfectly good bedrock foundation by trying to top it with a screechy, tuneless Ozzy impersonator. There’s only one Ozzy, and a few good Ozz-like acolytes, and trying to create one is pointless. If you’re not born with the pipes and the moves, you’re out of luck.

So… If you want some hard assed, spazzed out stoner-not-stoned metal with riffs and grooves coming out the ass, Earth Witch is the band for you. “Lovecraft” is an outstanding rocker, cranking up the tempo, and features the rocking sort of riff 1972 was famous for. “Butterfly” is mellower, a bit of a comedown from the frenzy of the previous track. Unlike many blissed out THC tripping songs though, this track doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, and has the decency to eventually start abusing the amplifiers again.

This isn’t quite as hard and heavy as High On Fire or recent offerings from Electric Wizard, but for someone coming from a straightforward rock or metal background, it’s a reasonably gentle introduction to the genre. When I say gentle though, remember this is still fucking metal! There’s also a deep vein of blues influence flowing through this album. Check the intro to “Green Torch” for some bluesy string bending goodness, and the main riff and leads in “Mermaid”. Sure it’s a mutant kind of blues, but then that’s where ye olde metal originally came from.

Ultimately, “Out of the Shallow” offers enough fire and fury to keep metal fans interested, and provides enough of a demonstration of stoner metal’s potential to encourage further explanation. It never falls into that old trap of becoming boring for a non-weed addled mind, while also retaining enough of the psychedelic and hallucinogenic to satisfy those in a chemically altered state of mind.

ANAL CUNT Breaking The Law

EP · 1993 · Grindcore
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Many albums have great stories behind their creation and recording. The trials and tribulations the band has to go through to create the record add to the mystique and the mythos. The tales of self-sacrifice, putting the greater cause before personal safety and well-being, with hardship and adversity contributing to the creative flow.

One of the most legendary is Deep Purple’s Machine Head, recorded in Montreaux, Switzerland. Recording of the legendary album was initially set for December 1971, but singer Ian Gillan came down with hepatitis. Despite doctor’s orders, Gillan and the rest of the band decided to press on with recording, needing to play one last gig before hitting the studio. The gig never eventuated, as the song “Smoke on the Water” laid out:

“Frank Zappa and the Mothers/Were at the best place around/But some stupid with a flare gun/Burned the place to the ground/Smoke on the water, a fire in the sky/Smoke on the water”

Anal Cunt’s “Breaking The Law” live EP is also legendary because of the circumstances behind it’s recording. However, any hardship was self-inflicted, because their lead singer Seth Putnam was a lightning rod for trouble.

Side A was recorded at Nightbreak, San Francisco on 26 August 1993. The show was destined to be the usual Anal Cunt fuck up right from the start. The band were booked to follow an Avant Garde performer, not exactly the same target audience. Reports have said there were possibly 10 people at the venue, most of whom were playing pool. Surprisingly, the recording begins with something resembling a coherent guitar riff from the song “Iron Funeral”, with Putnam regurgitating his usual tuneless shout over it. The songs speeds up into A.C.’s customary wall of noise, and it all seems so far, so ordinary. Somewhere in there, the band segues into a second song, “Blur Including New H.C. Song”. Then, at 2 minutes 45 seconds into the gig, the music stops abruptly, and an argument breaks out. What transpired was a drunk female patron took a dislike to the music, and tried to grab Putnam’s microphone. In retaliation, he hit her with it. From there, it deteriorated into a slanging match, with both sides hurling abuse at each other. Snatches of conversation can be heard, but is mostly incoherent. The track ends with a slamming door.

The slamming door was a jail cell door. The police were called, and Seth Putnam was arrested for assault. He spent the night in jail, and someone recorded the sound of the slamming door as he was released the next morning. Although he never faced criminal charges for the incident, the victim Elizabeth Quigley filed a civil suit against him, and Putnam was fined $1200.

Side B is hardly any more sensible. It was recorded live at Good Company Lounge, Braintree, Massachussetts, on 20 May 1993. This time, the cacophony is completely dominated by Seth’s screeching. The guitar sort of buzzes along in the background, and the drums eventually turn up, clunking away like a three year old with a wooden spoon and a pot. At about the three minute mark, shouting from the audience starts, and Seth is mysteriously quiet. At 3:39, the music stops, there’s shouting, swearing, a little insane laughing, and once again, incoherent arguing. Apparently, a riot had broken out.

While this EP is called “Breaking The Law” and the band logo on the cover is a parody of Judas Priest’s logo, this has nothing to do with Priest at all. Nope, it’s just about breaking laws. Besides the assault charge and the riot, Anal Cunt also had a go at breaking contract law too. The band was signed to Earache Records at the time this was released, but it’s not on Earache. The story has it the band tried to make this look like a bootleg, but released it themselves. Only 200 copies were pressed, and this has now become a much sought after collector’s item.

Musically, this is complete shit, as with most things Anal Cunt. But this is not a record to judge on it’s musical merits. Instead, this is a document of the pure chaos which surrounded this band with a seemingly ever-increasing cult following. It records a band fucking up. It was a band which copped a lot of abuse and ridicule, and could only have been in it for the music. This is more about the “don’t give a fuck” attitude, and the perception of what actually is art versus formless chaos. Anal Cunt believed in their art and their freedom to express themselves, no matter how poorly. Those who stopped these two shows didn’t.

MELVINS A Walk With Love & Death

Album · 2017 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.62 | 3 ratings
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Metal Music Archives Reviewers' Challenge December 2017

There are two things you can be certain of when it comes to a Melvins album. The first is that there will be big, fat, warm, fuzzy grooves within. The second is, it’s gonna be a bit fuckin’ weird too. “A Walk With Love and Death” delivers just that. In fact, this is a double album, with the “Love” disc being the soundtrack to Jesse Nieminen’s short film, “A Walk with Love & Death”, just to confuse things a little more. The “Death” disc is a more conventional Melvins album. Well, as conventional as The Melvins ever get, that is.

So… Let’s start with “Death”. “Black Heath” kicks off the album, suitably laid back, with a cool bass line, snappy drums, and a little distortion on the vocals, like a whacked out C.O.C. It is pleasant, and unchallenging, a nice way to start an album, and a nice way to lure you into a false sense of security. “Sober-delic” continues in a similar vein, like King Buzzo and the gang were particularly blissed out when they recorded this. However, the vocals are cleaner and a bit more menacing, and finally someone steps on an effects pedal, and there’s some proper amplified guitars. The pace is still pedestrian, but the song hints at heavier things to come. A dirty echoing solo pulls it all together nicely. Yep, this is sounding like The Melvins.

Third track “Eunthanasia” removes any doubt. It kicks straight in with the famous fuzzy guitar, the understated, yet powerful riffs, and the oblique lyrics. It is still a Mogadon shuffle of a song, but a screaming, discordant lead guitar scythes through it, and destroys any pretence of this being a song to nod out to.

“What’s Wrong With You?” sounds like what a long lost mutant Beatles demo might have sounded like if The Beatles had formed in Seattle in 1986. “Edgar The Elephant” and “Flaming Creature” are both reasonably typical tweaked out stoner tracks, while “Christ Hammer” has a hard edged, Clutch-esque sound with a lush psychedelic chorus as counter-point. The big, fat groove of “Cardboa Negro” ties up all the loose ends, and eventually winds down like a wind-up toy coming to the end of the kinetic energy being released from its spring.

It’s all good mind-bending, warped fun. It’s a THC trip for the non-stoner, or a picture of a hallucination for a mind firmly rooted in reality, and like any really good album, leaves you wanting more.

However, that’s as far as fuzzy grooves go. It’s time for “Love”, which has more of an ambient/incidental/experimental feel. Yes, it’s still weird, like only The Melvins can do weird, but it’s mood music, and after “Death”, the change of mood is not so much jarring as dissatisfying. It’s all well and good, and very creative and clever, but is probably better suited for a separate listening at a different time.

Anyway, how do you describe a movie soundtrack? Well, basically, this paints pictures in your mind. There’s minor confusion (“Aim High”), unsettling menace (“Queen Powder Party”), and tension building to terror (“Street Level St Paul”). Indistinct ghost in the machine voices run through the soundtrack, on the edge of conscious understanding, but remaining subliminal gibberish. “Give It To Me” pops up like a lysergic acid diethylamide version of The Monkees. “Eat Yourself Out” is a less-horrific-Throbbing-Gristle exercise in loops and noise, perhaps leaning toward something like Bastard Noise. “Scooba” is a fucked-up beatnik interlude, with a freaky jazz bassline- hey cats, bring on the reefer, the beret, and the upright double bass!

Large parts of the soundtrack eschew the more traditional instruments, instead throwing in theremin and synths, along with what is described as “assorted noise”, so fuck only knows how those sounds were made. Guitar, bass, and drums occasionally poke through, but often buried under layers of soundscape, or as incidental distortion.

The whole effect of “Love” is disturbing and compelling at the same time, but perhaps most importantly, creates a strong desire to see what the fuck is actually going on and what visuals match these sounds. It is by no means an easy listen, and not necessarily rewarding either. For most listeners, it will not get near as many repeat spins as “Death”. It is probably a good thing “Love” was attached to “Death”, because for all of The Melvin’s past exercises in weirdness and off the wall oddity, “Love” may just have been too much to handle as a stand-alone album.

So there you go. If you thought you had The Melvins nailed down, you may as well have been trying to nail a plate of spaghetti Bolognese to the wall.

TEXAS TOAST CHAINSAW MASSACRE Reloaded

EP · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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To say the reception for Metallica’s “Load/Re-Load” double-wide double-long duo was a little mixed is a bit like saying Charlie Manson and his family of followers were just a bit misguided. The meandering, rudderless albums were full of more filler than Dolly Parton’s bra. Long-time Metallica fans were confused and frustrated, having to sift through piles of horse shit to find a few gems. This pair of albums was so bad fans almost jumped for joy at the 1998 cover/compilation album “Garage Inc.”, because of the total contrast.

Hindsight has showed us though, that the negative fallout from the “Load/Re-Load" combo has been tempered somewhat by the total abortion that was “St. Anger”, and to a lesser extent, “LuLu”. It is possible, after a few beers, 3 days without sleep, and if you squint through your rose tinted spectacles, to say “you know, “Load” and “Re-Load” weren’t THAT bad, when you compare ‘em to…” Still, to many Metallica fans, it is a part of the band’s history best left behind.

So what do Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre go and do? Remind us it was only 20 fuckin’ years ago, and make us relive that perplexing era by covering a chunk of “Re-Load”.

Now, it seems the lads of TTCM, who would have been pre-schoolers running round pulling the cat’s tail and jamming crayons up their noses at the time of “Re-Load”’s release, have more sense than four of the world’s most famous musicians, who had cut their hair and changed their image to appeal to a wider audience. In what way more sensible? Well, these young fellas had the sense to cut out most of the superfluous shit from the album, and just covering five songs for an EP instead. So how did they get on?

Well, the mournful, melancholic “The Memory Remains” has been turned into a crossover thrash sprint from start to finish. The manic take on Marianne Faithful’s “la la” vocal melodies are fucking comedy gold, and her part sounds something like a cartoon ogre. Despite the potential silliness, the song seems to work out well, with the original riffs somewhat benefitting from a faster tempo. Actually, the song is two minutes shorter than Metallica’s version too.

Second track “Devil’s Dance” is one of those forgettable ones which is hard to remember until you hear the fucking thing, and then you wish you hadn’t. So here it is, revved up, retooled, and reinvented.

“Better Than You” is memorable for the wrong reasons. It was one of the worst songs on “Re-Load”. So these guys fixed it. Rather than sounding like a plodding Black Album reject, it becomes a crossover crusher, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Suicidal Tendencies’ “Join The Army”.

And then, just to really fuck with your mind, there is a very respectful and well-executed take on “Low Man’s Lyric”. This was one of the diamonds in the Metallica turd. The hurdy gurdy, the soulful, gentle rhythm, the jangling acoustic guitar, and the incredible guitar work of Hetfield/Hammett set this song apart from its peers. Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre don’t have Metallica’s deep pockets, nor Bob Rock twiddling the knobs in the studio, and it tells somewhat. This sounds a little rough round the edges, but it’s more than just an ambitious attempt at a tricky song by a band better known for oddball references to movie stars like Gary Busey. This comes off sounding like a production demo from Metallica themselves, no mean feat in itself.

“Fixxxer” was the pointless, over-long closer to Re-Load. Overindulgent in length, and a little sparse on actual content, the song did feature a classy vocal melody, reproduced quite faithfully here. This version sounds more chaotic than Metallica’s, which in this case is a good thing, because to be perfectly honest, “Fixxxer” is usually boring as fuck. This isn’t.

So... This isn’t a perfect cover EP, but nor is it a disaster. What you get here is 21 minutes of the best bits from an album which originally ran to a tedious 76 minutes. Listening to “Re-Load” is a feat of endurance. Listening to “Re-Loaded” is fun.

Note: If you’re able, drop Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre a few bucks on this “name-your-price” download. Vocalist Josh is using any proceeds from it for cancer treatment for his dog.

VARIOUS ARTISTS (TRIBUTE ALBUMS) Thunderbolt - A Tribute To AC/DC

Album · 1998 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.50 | 2 ratings
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Listening to “Thunderbolt - A Tribute To AC/DC”, several things become immediately obvious.

1. AC/DC wrote some fucking great songs - Just look at the tracklisting here - “Highway to Hell”, “Back in Black”, “Live Wire”, “Whole Lotta Rosie”, “ It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll)”. Such great songs of such quality. Many bands have aspired, to such greatness. Most failed. And AC/DC just kept on doing it. This compilation could have been twice as long without the slightest drop in the quality source material.

2. AC/DC inspired some amazing bands - First track up is “Highway to Hell” by Kevin DuBrow, the late singer of Quiet Riot. His swagger and voice has that perfect combination of rough and smooth to do justice to Bon Scott’s ragged bourbon-and-cigarette howl. The rest of the band hit that AC/DC groove bang on, although the bass player shows off a little too much. Second track is “Little Lover”, performed by Sebastian Bach. As accomplished a singer as he is, he doesn’t quite match DuBrow in trying to re-create Scott’s greasy, sleazy drawl, just a little too clean for his own good. Bach’s second track, an album closing take on “T.N.T.” doesn’t work well at all. While the vocals are fine, it has an awful pinging snare drum, misplaced samples, and a pseudo-industrial element to it. Not the place for experimenting.

3. Made-up bands are quite often a bit shit - The biggest down-side to this album is it seems to be made up of various “supergroups”, thrown together just for the album. Often, as in Joe Lynn Turner’s rendition of “Back In Black”, the musicianship is flawless, there’s scope for some reinvention, particularly of Angus Young’s solos, and it’s a fairly faithful cover, but...it just sounds wrong.

4. Made-up bands can also be fucking good - One of the better renditions included here though, is Whitfield Crane’s The Sensational Whitskiteer Band doing “Live Wire”. A little rougher and heavier than other songs here, the song also featured Crane’s Ugly Kid Joe bandmate Klaus Eichstadt on guitar, and the pair showed up many of the more seasoned musicians here, injecting agro and energy into the track. The band also contribute an ultra-laid back rendition of “Ride On”, cruising through the lazy blues track with the throbbing bass line like they were born to play it.

5. AC/DC songs can sound a bit shit if not performed convincingly - “Sin City” is credited to Jack Russell and Mark Kendall (Great White), with Bobby Blotzer (Ratt), and a couple of other fellas. It doesn’t suit Russell’s vocals, the music is pretty fucking bland, and the song just seems too long. “Shake A Leg” just sounds awful with John Corabi’s tuneless screech over top of it, while Bruce Kulick shows why he got kicked out of KISS with some awful try-hard guitar heroics. It doesn’t suit the song one little bit. Bass player Billy Sheehan must have been cringing listening to the racket. He shows much restraint, sticking to AC/DC’s original basic bassline, demonstrating few of his legendary chops.

6. AC/DC inspired some real hacks - The Stephen Pearcy (Ratt)/Tracii Guns (LA Guns) version of “Whole Lotta Rosie” (listed here as “Whole Lot Of Rosie”. What sort of fuckwit changes a song title to something grammatically correct?) shows why neither of their bands quite hit the stratosphere like Guns N’ Roses or Def Leppard. Pearcy tries too hard, and inexplicably sounds like the song is way out of his range, where a singer of his abilities should have handled it comfortably. Guns fares a little better, but his performance leaves you longing for the original. “Night Prowler” performed by Dave Meniketti (Y&T) along with former AC/DC drummer Simon Wright is just boring. Wright was probably note-perfect with the drums, but ya don’t listen to AC/DC for the fucking drums!

7. AC/DC had some legendary friends - A supergroup featuring Lemmy, Jake E. Lee, and Simon Wright (again!)? Do supergroups get any more super? “It's a Long Way to the Top” by this combo is a pure gem. While sounding totally different, Lemmy’s crusty old vocal cords probably best matched Bon Scott’s of any singer on the album. While not as revered as Randy Rhoads and overshadowed by Zakk Wylde, Lee was still Ozzy Osbourne’s guitar player, and no matter how fucked up he ever got, Ozzy always knew a shit-hot guitar player when he heard one. Lee fills in the spaces where Bon Scott’s bagpipes would have been with some incredible lead work, probably the best on the entire album. Lemmy and Lee both just seem to have the right feel for this song.

8. Dee Snider would have made a fucking great vocalist for Anthrax - Dee joined Scott Ian, Charlie Benante, and Frank Bello of Anthrax performing “Walk All Over You”. While it’s the heaviest song of any on the album, the Anthrax boys resisted the temptation to thrash the track up. Dee Snider injects plenty of energy into the song, but is hardly stretched. A good solid, honest rendition of the song.

9. Quite honestly, the only band which does AC/DC songs any justice is AC/DC - Yup. As great as some of these covers are, this album leaves you longing for the real thing.

SPECTRAL VOICE Eroded Corridors of Unbeing

Album · 2017 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 3.63 | 8 ratings
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Once upon a time, someone hit upon the great idea of pulling together death metal’s distorted heavy guitars and gargled vocals with doom metal’s pedestrian pace to create one of metal’s most vital and creative, but simultaneously depressing and gloomy, genres. As with all things metal, there could be more than one answer as to who came up with the idea first, but it matters not. What matters is the legacy of this momentous combination, from its earliest tentative steps through to today.

Paradise Lost’s debut album, the rather unimaginatively named “Lost Paradise” was one of the first examples of the genre to actually gain a wide release. It took death metal tunings and vocals, and played them at doom metal speeds. The band really hit their straps with the more gothic sounding “Gothic” (hmm, is that a pattern forming?) which also introduced the element of clean sung female vocals, and less of the deathly side of things. The band’s third album “Shades of God” saw the doom starting to dominate, as the death metal influences started to disappear.

There were also Paradise Lost’s great buddies from the north of England My Dying Bride and Anathema. Just about every early release by My Dying Bride was an exercise in soul crushing despair, with wonderful titles like “Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium” and “The Angel and the Dark River”. With less of a death metal sound than Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride were still crushingly heavy. Were? They still fucking are!

Anathema were just as despairingly heavy as the other two, although they lost their death metal influence a lot sooner. No matter, their later works like “A Natural Disaster”, “Judgement”, or “A Fine Day to Exit” are far more subtle exercises in desperation.

Skin Chamber threw an industrial element into the mix. Although inspired by Napalm Death, Skin Chamber came out sounding like Godflesh raping The Swans (ooh, The Swans! I forgot the fucking Swans!). Created by Paul Lemos, and Chris Moriarty of experimental band Controlled Bleeding, the original intention was to produce short, sharp sonic blasts, like Napalm Death was doing, under the name Fat Hacker. However, given time, a recording budget, and the aforementioned Swans’ album “COP” on heavy rotation, the result was two legendary albums of industrial doom-death which have rarely been emulated since. The project was put to bed after just the two albums, but was about to be resurrected in 2008 when Moriarty’s untimely death put paid to it.

Disembowelment er, or diSEMBOWELMENT, as they spelled it, was an Australian band formed in 1989 from the ashes of grindcore band Bacteria. The band became famous for their funereal tempos interspersed with occasional bursts of speed. Their only album “Transcendence into the Peripheral” is still regarded as an essential album of its kind today. In 1993, band members Renato Gallina and Matthew Skarajew formed the highly respected ambient/fusion/world music outfit Trial of the Bow. All in all, this was quite some achievement for a band which only existed for four years and never performed live.

Closer to home, (well, my home anyway) there was Sinistrous Diabolus from Christchurch, New Zealand. The three piece band produced an absolutely stunning demo in 1993 named “Opus One”. The three tracks were far beyond the realm of what any other band in New Zealand was doing at the time, combining doom and death metal with anti-Christian black metal imagery. Like many a great band at the time, if Sinistrous Diabolus had been based in Europe or the US, they would have snagged a record deal, but New Zealand was and still is too far from the rest of the world. The band lay dormant for many years, but was revived in the 2010s, and has been emitting occasional slabs of filthy doom-death ever since.

So why a mention of all these excellent albums of days gone by when this is supposed to be a review of Spectral Voice’s “Eroded Corridors of Unbeing”? Because “Eroded Corridors of Unbeing” is unbelievably tedious, and all the previous selections mentioned are better examples of doom-death metal.

All the ingredients for a good sound are there. Spectral Voice are undeniably heavy. The sound is utterly crushing and extreme. Somehow, it still doesn't work.

There is so little inspiration or effort in the music its surprising even the musicians themselves don’t get bored with it. Yes, it is supposed to be slow and heavy. Yes, it is decently executed doom/death. Yes, the band members in Spectral Voice are highly skilled musicians. These things are not what’s at fault here. The biggest problem is it is unoriginal, predictable, interchangeable, and ultimately dull.

This album has had a lot of praise from social media, but it seems like another case of hype building up the mediocre to a status far beyond that it deserves. Music is supposed to inspire some sort of strong reaction in a listener. “Eroded Corridors of Unbeing” inspires apathy.

That’s not to say “Eroded Corridors of Unbeing” is a total loss. While slow-paced plodding gets a bit monotonous, when the band uses a bit of tempo things improve. “Dissolution” blasts into life after a dreary opening passage, but this is over 40 minutes into the album. There is little to offer which has not been done before. While near faultlessly performed, “Eroded Corridors of Unbeing” has no character or vitality, and is just not an essential release.

CANNIBAL CORPSE Red Before Black

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.78 | 5 ratings
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With a band like Cannibal Corpse, it would be entirely reasonable to expect to find a body buried in the back yard, or a disfigured sibling kept locked in the attic, but it just hasn’t happened. Despite the themes of murder, mutilation, cannibalism, tracing back to the band’s earliest days, there are no true life horrors like "St. Anger", "Cold Lake", or "Risk" lurking anywhere in their back catalogue. The days of a tour de force like "Butchered At Birth" or "Tomb of the Mutilated" seem to be a long time ago, but “Red Before Black” proves that the same band which recorded those slabs of maggot riddled carrion still exists today.

Metal has evolved since the heady days of the early 1990s, and Cannibal Corpse have also evolved, while still keeping the essence and vitality which made them unique. This is a band which started out playing death metal and is determined to keep playing it until the bloody end.

“Only One Will Die” blasts off, no horror movie or acoustic intros needed, and it’s death metal bliss. Ah, fuck, you know what it’s like. Hammer smashed face drums, monolithic bass, hatchet to the head guitars, and vomit the soul vocals, and the aural horror show is back for another instalment. “Code of the Slashers” is one of those songs which should become a live favourite, with an impending doom crushing opening riff, followed by Corpsegrinder’s bestial vocals, and then a fast section kicks in. It’s uncompromising as fuck. It’s hard to imagine five guys all aged around 50 are still making such fucking brutal, complex, crushing, unearthly, thunderous music, but they are.

“Remaimed” is, if anything, heavier than “Code of the Slashers”. Once again, it seems Cannibal Corpse are going to sacrifice speed for the sake of heavy, but the song changes gears effortlessly between the two. And that’s one of Cannibal Corpse’s great strengths. They make this seem easy, when it’s anything but. Screaming “head shovelled off!” at the top of your voice along with Corpsegrinder is great fun, and that is exactly what “Red Before Black” is all about, albeit a dark sort of amusement. There are still plenty of elitists out there who wrote off Cannibal Corpse a long time ago, and can’t or won’t change their opinion. The band’s crime? Becoming too popular through their controversial artwork and lyrics, and even popping up as “thrasher band Cannibal Corpses” in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. That’s like judging a beer by the bottle and not what’s inside. Fuck ‘em. They are the ones missing out on some of the finest crafted death metal there is, and the band’s longevity has proved beyond doubt that any hint of gimmickry is long gone. Cannibal Corpse is no longer the most brutal and vicious band around (and fuck off once again to the elitists who say they never were) but fucking hell, how many bands are still creating such killing riffs 14 albums and nearly 30 years into a career? And look at the regularity of those albums too. There are no half decade gaps anywhere in the discography. This is a band that lives, breathes, and shits death metal. “Red Before Black” is for the fans who do the same.

PHYLLOMEDUSA Phyllomedusa, the Destroyer

EP · 2017 · Grindcore
Cover art 4.64 | 2 ratings
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Ever listened to a harsh noise or grindcore demo and wondered how the musician... no, performer, because this may not be music, is actually making those hideous/beautiful sounds? Have you considered what instruments might actually be involved? Is this created by over-amplified, distorted strings, or by some evil Dr Frankenstein electronic circuit soldered together with crowbars? And is that a human voice, altered beyond bestial into impure noise too dirty to be called white? Drums or machines? Are the microphones used in the recording process broken, or can human-created devices tolerate such stresses far beyond the red-line? Is this just the hideous nightmare outpourings of a cybernetic entity spontaneously formed inside a labyrinthine silicon chip?

In short, have you ever wondered where the boundary between noise and music is?

Here it is, right here.

Don’t try to understand or interpret “Phyllomedusa, The Destroyer”. Like quantum physics, it just is, and it’s beyond the understanding of most humans. There are two correct responses. The first, and more usual, is to recoil like pain receptors flinching from a flame. The other is to seek more, yearning for further stimulation of already overloaded pleasure sensors, like an overdosing addict knowing death will result but plunging the needle ever deeper in search of that elusive final apocalyptic high.

Few will tolerate this. Fewer still will find gratification. But which urge is stronger- fear of the potentially unpleasant and painful, or the desire and drive of Sacher-Masoch’s perversion?

JUDAS PRIEST Sad Wings Of Destiny

Album · 1976 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.47 | 142 ratings
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Do you remember the Atari 2600? It was a gaming console which first hit the market in 1977, and revolutionised home entertainment. A year before Space Invaders hit the arcades and chip shops of the world, the 2600 allowed you to play video games in your own home on your own TV. And the games which eventually followed were great fun to play, as many were ports of popular arcade games, the afore-mentioned Space Invaders being the killer app which really put the 2600 years ahead of the competition. It was followed by NintendoSegaMegadriveGameboyGenesis, or whatever the other wannabe consoles were, but none ever matched the 2600’s longevity, remaining in production for 15 years. Many modern day console gamers revere the 2600, because it paved the way for so much of today’s gaming innovation, culture, and methodology, but would they ever go back to playing just the 2600?

No, they would not.

Despite all it’s innovations, by today’s standard, the 2600 looks old and primitive. Look at a game like Adventure, for example. It was the first adventure/RPG available on a console. The main character is a block. Yes, a little coloured square ran around a castle and, among other things, could carry a spear which is supposed to be a sword with which he could kill a duck. Er, sorry, a dragon. Yes, the dragons looked like ducks. The mazes were blocky and reasonably simple. Compare this to the total immersion of any modern day RPG, like The Elder Scrolls or Witcher series, and it doesn’t even seem like the same technology. However, the basics are still the same- console, screen, controller.

“Sad Wings of Destiny” is an Atari 2600 album anachronistically stuck in a heavy metal PS4/XBOX ONE world. Yes, it is a thing to be admired and respected. Without it, modern metal would not exist in the form it does. It helped lay down the foundations and fundamentals of metal. But metal has moved on.

First though, the positives of this album. It is chock full of those masterly riffs Judas Priest made their career on. The first track “Victim of Changes” crashes straight into that stunning riff, and chugs away like the Little Engine who Fucking Well Could. Second track “The Ripper” is a creepy little fucker, portraying a sense of lurking evil.

A young Rob Halford is an eargasm all it’s own. His clarion call voice is crystal clear, He has the vitality and bite of someone young and ambitious who has an amazing vocal gift. His voice soars, dips, wails, emotes, and threatens. Halford adds colour and nuance, perfectly complementing the crashing metallic music of “Tyrant” or the subtle tones of a picked guitar on “Dreamer Deceiver”.

After a while though, the cracks begin to appear.

The pacing of the album is odd. “Dreamer Deceiver” is just too slow too soon after “Victim of Changes”, and really drops the album flow on it’s ass. True, “Deceiver” picks up the pace again, followed soon after by “Tyrant”, but then there’s another big flat patch with “Genocide”, which reeks of filler, followed by the piano/harmonised vocal song “Epitaph”. It sounds incredibly out of place, more like a rejected track from Queen’s “A Night at the Opera” sessions. Album closer “Island of Domination” is a rollicking rocker with a dirty groove, and just leaves the listener wondering what the fuck Judas Priest were really trying to do with the album as a whole.

The biggest problem here is it just doesn’t sound heavy enough. Volume helps, but it isn’t everything. Yes, a blasphemous thing to say, but there really is a lack of energy and punch to the whole thing which cranking up to 11 and snapping off the knob just won’t fix. Metal was still a relatively new genre in 1976, and studios, producers, and engineers often didn’t have much experience with recording it. As a result, large parts of the album are flat. Occasionally, the guitars sound like Bob Dylan’s nose was used as an amplifier.

Sometimes, time is a bitch. Back in the day, this music might have scared disco fans or the Kiss Army, but by modern standards, it’s all kind of quaint. This is an album which you really want to love, but will probably end up respecting rather than loving.

HAZZERD Misleading Evil

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Anyone with more than a passing interest in metal will know thrash metal died in the early 1990s. Why did it die? There were a number of reasons, but really, it fucking well deserved to!

It’s hard to tell exactly why thrash became so cancerously mutated. Bands started doing stupid shit, diluting the music with things like silly slapped bass and funky beats, or aiming for the mainstream with gutless power ballads. There was experimentation, social causes, a decline in pace, and a similar decline in quality. Perhaps thrash became an oversaturated market, filled with sub-standard crap. Maybe it was because the musicians involved in it lost interest as the genre had become too restrictive and straight-jacketed. Whatever the reasons, most of the big names abandoned it. Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax all slowed down, Slayer fucked off for a long while, Exodus fell apart, Kreator changed directions, Testament released some sub-par crap, and countless other bands “discovered” their love for acoustic ballads, radio-friendly rock rhythms, and shorter hair. There was no new good stuff coming out.

A few bands like Overkill soldiered on bravely, and the odd new killer band like Strapping Young Lad, popped up, but by and large, thrash lived on mainly through its past glories, like “Reign in Blood”, “Master of Puppets”, “Pleasure to Kill” and “Bonded by Blood”. So what was a lover of hard edged metal to do? There were a couple of options. The first, and probably best, was to start exploring the now established death metal scene, or look into the emergence of black metal. There was the less enticing option of putting the brain out of gear and following the smelly sulking masses of angsty teens into the grunge market, or the even less appetising moronicism of nu-metal.

And then, here we are, almost through the second decade of the 21st century, and thrash is back with… well, not really a vengeance, but it sounds like it’s fucking well supposed to again!

Yep, so press play on Hazzerd’s “Misleading Evil”, and you instantly get a pounding thrash of drums, a crashing riff of guitars, and away you go, speeding through the first track “The Tendencies of a Madman”. It is just like it is 1989 again. This is better than 1989 though. In those days, a band needed a pretty good record deal to get even a half decent studio sound, and even then it wasn’t guaranteed. Check Dark Angel’s “Leave Scars” for a prime example. What we get here from Hazzerd is crisp, clear guitars, with the right amount of crunch and zip so you can fully appreciate the riffs, and the shredding solos. The rhythm section is tight and energetic. Drummer Dylan "Shoes" Westendorp is also the band’s vocalist, and the dude can fuckin’ sing! Imagine Megadeth if they were still a young and vital band with something still to prove, possibly with Russ Anderson from Forbidden or Bobby Blitz from Overkill on vocals. Westendorp has the right mix of melody with a rough edge.

Often a telling test for a thrash metal band was how well they could hold the listener’s interest with an instrumental. Some, like Megadeth’s “Into The Lungs of Hell” and Nuclear Assault’s “Game Over” were excellent, while others like Death Angel’s “The Ultra-Violence” and Flotsam and Jetsam’s “The Jones” just get bloody tedious after a while. Here, the title track is an instrumental, and far from being boring, it is a highlight amongst highlights. No track stands out much from the others, because all are outstanding.

If you long for the golden days of thrash metal, check out “Misleading Evil”. It is a nostalgia trip and fresh and new at the same time. It has one of those Ed Repka-esque covers (a bloke called Andrei Bouzikov deserves the credit for it). This is fun and exciting, and a bit edgy, just like thrash metal was always meant to be. Metalcore pretenders, please take note: metal and hardcore were combined decades ago. It is called thrash fuckin’ metal. THIS is how it is supposed to sound.

GRINDER The Black EP

EP · 2017 · Cybergrind
Cover art 3.91 | 2 ratings
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You know what? I was going to try to review “Dirt” by Alice In Chains, but I can’t. I can’t give it an objective review in any way, shape or form. I tried to listen to it for the first time the other day, got thoroughly bored with it, so I stopped.

Age and attitude has a lot to do with it. Alice In Chains was supposed to be the more metal side of the grunge movement, but I’m too old and cynical to buy into the teen angst it embodied. Even when I was a teenager I had more important things to do than to wallow in self-pity, like working to help keep the family farm afloat, while getting myself an education so I wouldn’t be trapped trying to scratch a living from the land. Yes, “Dirt” is meant to follow the emotional descent of someone falling into the clutches of an eventually fatal heroin habit, but that world, and those emotions, are alien to me. While I understand mental illness and depression, I just don’t get self-pity and addiction.

“Dirt” may have been exotic and fresh when it was first recorded in 1992, but a quarter of a century has been unkind. What little of the music I do recall sounded flat and dull. Perhaps it is the radio-friendly imitators and mimics which have spoiled Alice In Chains’ aura, or perhaps it is rose-tinted spectacles which keep this album held in such a high regard. Whatever it is, I didn’t like it enough to listen to it all the way through, and you can’t give half an album a fair review.

Just as I was considering something drastic, like mowing the lawn or doing the dishes because they were more interesting than “Dirt”, this little gem popped up on YouTube. “The Black EP” by Grinder is essentially the antithesis of “Dirt”. It is short, sharp, and silly. What could be less serious than coffee-themed grindcore with a real, genuine grinder on vocals? Yes, Grinder’s vocalist is a coffee grinder.

For anyone outside the grindcore sphere of influence, this may sound utterly inane and childish. Perhaps it is. However, jump online and check out even just a handful of grindcore demos and the thing which strikes you almost immediately is how atrociously recorded the vocals are. Grunts, groans, shrieks, growls, and even screams can end up sounding like a gurgling drain or a boiling kettle. It seems to be a hard task to keep already tortured vocals anywhere near intelligible when all other instruments around are raging at, for want of a better expression, full noise.

So Grinder offers nothing but a fun gimmick. The song titles are completely meaningless because the vocals are nothing but the sound of coffee beans having the caffeine powdered out of them, and possibly the resulting beverage percolating in the fires of hell. The music itself though is well above average for this style of release. There is the obligatory insane drum programming, set to an inhuman tempo, overlaid with crushing guitar and bass noise. There’s a couple of funny coffee-related samples, and song titles like “Beans of Prey” and “Hot Water Death Bath”.

What does it all mean? Fuck all. Why listen to it? Pure escapism. Is it better than Alice In Chains’ “Dirt”? I think so. Will anyone else? Probably not, but fuck ‘em. They can write their own review.

METALLICA Ride the Lightning

Album · 1984 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.45 | 200 ratings
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In the most famous of Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea’s paradoxes, the great hero Achilles raced a tortoise, who we shall call Trevor. Being a cocky bastard, Achilles gave Trevor a huge head start, figuring he would overtake him quicker than Zeus could zap a smart arsed atheist. So off they went. Achilles arrived at where Trevor had started, but of course the tortoise had moved. So quick as a flash, Achilles reached the point where Trevor had moved to, but the bugger had moved on again, so, Achilles kept on running. Each time Achilles caught up to where Trevor had been, Trevor had moved.

After a few hours of covering ever decreasing fractions, Achilles still hadn’t caught up and had pulled his Achilles. Trevor turned around and gave the limping and confused Achilles the finger, and carried on his paradoxical way, looking forward to going to the pub and telling all his tortoise mates how he’d beaten the mighty Achilles, and given philosophers and mathematicians alike a thumping headache. Unfortunately for Trevor, an eagle called Aetós thought Trevor looked tasty, swooped down and picked him up. Eagles aren’t particularly bright, but even they know a tortoise is a bit hard on the beak, so Aetós dropped Trevor on what he thought was a rock, but turned out to be the bald head of Aeschylus the playwright, killing him instantly, and allowing Trevor to escape uneaten.

And that is how Trevor the tortoise fucked philosophy, mathematics, literature, mythology, and an eagle all in one day.

If you remember back the the beginning of the story though, this is supposed to be about Metallica’s “Ride The Lightning”, and you may be wondering what the fuck a bunch of Greeks and a lucky bastard of a tortoise from two and a half millennia ago have to do with a 1984 thrash metal album. It may seem an incredibly long bow to draw, but just imagine Trevor is Metallica, Achilles is every other metal band in the world, and “Ride The Lightning” is the proof of the paradox in question. The crux of the matter is, just when other bands thought they were catching up with Metallica, Metallica had moved on to another level. No matter how far or fast those other bands moved, Metallica was still in front, even if by just a fraction.

Doing a detailed song by song analysis of “Ride the Lightning” is a bit pointless, because it’s so well known by metal fans, and if you’re not a fan, you’re probably not going to bother listening to it anyway. So instead, here’s a superficial analysis.

1. “Fight Fire With Fire” is about nuclear war, and there are claims it was the fastest thrash metal song in the world at the time. It could well have been, but there were a few underground bands playing faster in pure beats-per-minute. “Fight Fire With Fire” is a shitload better than any of those.

2. “Ride The Lightning” is about someone facing the electric chair, a little like the condemned man facing the gallows in Iron Maiden’s “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. It’s a place not to be.

3. “For Whom The Bell Tolls” is based on Ernest Hemmingway’s Spanish Civil War novel of the same title. It’s a fucking good read. Also, Cliff Burton played the intro on his bass, which is awesome.

4. The suicide note song “Fade To Black” was Metallica’s first shot at a power ballad, and they got it spot on. It showed power ballads could remain powerful (see that, Motley Crüe, Tesla, Poison, Extreme, etc?) It laid the foundation for subsequent power ballads like “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”, “One” and “The Day That Never Comes”.

5. “Trapped Under Ice” is about awakening from a state of cryonic suspension. It was the first song on side two, when such a thing actually meant something.

6. This album is seven masterpieces, and “Escape”. It’s James Hetfield’s least favourite Metallica song. Given that the band have produced numerous musical atrocities among their bounty of metallic and hard rocking diamonds, that is saying something.

7. “Creeping Death” was inspired by the plague of the death of the firstborn, from Exodus 12:29, for those of a biblical bent. Coincidentally, the famous “Die” chant was written by Kirk Hammett while he was still in Exodus.

8. The title "The Call of Ktulu" was inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Chthulu, but the different spelling made pronunciation easier. The reworking of this classical influenced song was the only good track on S&M, and deservedly won a Grammy in 1999.

So yeah... “Ride The Lightning” redefined what thrash metal was, is, and could be. Metallica bettered it once, or perhaps twice, depending on how you view subsequent albums. Every other band in the genre since has either tried, and failed, to match it, or seen sense and realised they couldn’t.

MONGE Monge

Demo · 2013 · Black Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Holyfuckingshit!

THIS is the reason I listen to metal. Occasionally, just very occasionally, something is thrown at you which is so unexpected and so intense it reinvigorates your lust for metal. As a rule, I’d rather listen to a noisecore demo which sounds like someone has thrown a pizza on a turntable and then dropped the needle on it than to subject myself to almost anything from the black metal underground. Atmosphere is something to breathe not listen to, symphonies are best kept for orchestras, and the old gods are as praiseworthy as the tooth fairy.

And so I approached Monge’s self-titled demo with much trepidation, investigating only because it is a side project of Brazilian grindcore band Facada.

The acoustic intro “Descending into the Deepest Abyss of the Self and Deny the Creator of Lands and Seas” is pretty ho-hum. Silly title, competently performed, but nothing much to write home about.

But then, “The Doctrine of Transcendental Invocation” blasts out of the speakers, and “Monge” is transformed into something sublime. All preconceptions are instantly vaporised. This is red-meat-dripping-blood raw black metal, a direct descendant of early Bathory and Mayhem. As with all the best raw black metal, it has buzzsaw guitars, lightning fast drums, and throat shredding vocals. The five tracks following the intro stick strictly to this formula, but it is hardly formulaic, because it is so viciously, convincingly carried off.

The only time this formula seems to change even slightly is on “Summoning the Lords of Tragedies Storm”, which seems to veer more towards crust-tinged grind, punctuated with incredible black metal blasting, and fades out into the only atmospheric passage of the entire demo, a rumbling rainstorm.

The cover of Rotting Christ’s “The Signal of the Evil Existence” is the coup de grace. The song is a perfect choice, made all the more so as the Greek gothic black metal masters began their humble existence as a grindcore band. Monge make it their own.

These three grind freaks could teach even the most frostbitten and grim tr00 kvlt high priest of black metal that the darkness and evil can still return without the extra-curricular fuckwittery of church burning, murder, and National Socialism. This is truly inspiring, violent extreme metal.

BLOODHOUND GANG Use Your Fingers

Album · 1995 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.14 | 2 ratings
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The totally unofficial Bloodhound Gang `Use Your Fingers' Q&A

Q: So was the mega-successful, multi-platinum Rock/Hip-Hip crossover masterpiece `One Fierce Beer Coaster' the Bloodhound Gang's first album? A: No, it wasn't. The band's first album was `Use Your Fingers', released in 1995.

Q: So how come I've never heard of it? A: You haven't been looking in the bargain bin at your local record store.

Q: Was it any good? A: The record-buying public didn't seem to think so, and neither did the band. Bloodhound Gang actually split up after the release of `Use Your Fingers' because of the poor response it received, but reformed again.

Q: So what's the title all about then? Is it referring to Guns n Roses or female masturbation? A: Yes to both.

Q: So what's it sound like? A: It sounds just how you might imagine the predecessor to `One Fierce Beer Coaster' would sound.

Q: So it's got the funky beats then? A: Er, sort of.

Q: And it's got the silly lyrics? A: Yes.

Q: And the dumb bits between the songs? A: Of course it does. It's a Bloodhound Gang album isn't it?

Q: And does the CD have some dumb instructions on it? A: Yes! These questions are really dumb!

Q: Sorry, but I'm doing my best. There are lots of obscure references to American pop culture here. Can you help me out? A: I'll try...

Q: Is that really Rip Taylor on the first track? A: Yes, it is.

Q: So who's Rip Taylor? A: A camp American comedian, famous for being fat, having spiky hair, throwing confetti when he tells jokes, and being camp. Also known as the Prince of Pandemonium.

Q: And what is a sprinkle genie? A: You really, really don't want to know!

Q: Who are Vera, Flo, and Mel? A: All three are characters from the sitcom "Alice". Vera and Flo are waitresses, while Mel is the cook who owns Mel's Diner.

Q: Who are Jerry's Kids, and why do they need a sponsor? A: Comedian Jerry Lewis got all serious when he started getting old, and started a charity for disabled children. The children helped by the charity are known as Jerry's Kids.

Q: What was the Rockford Files? A: It was a 1970s police show starring James Garner.

Q: What are spaghettios? A: Little rings made of spaghetti, shaped like the letter O.

Q: What was Barbara Eden doing in a bottle? A: She was Jeannie in the sitcom "I Dream Of Jeannie", where she was a genie who lived in a bottle. Look, this is getting boring. Ask some questions about the music!

Q: Er, OK, I'll try. Um, did Bloodhound Gang write all the music? A: Of course not! They ripped stuff off all over the place and covered Kim Wilde's "Kids In America". However, The Cure wouldn't let them rip off a sample, which is probably a good thing, because this album is bad enough on it's own.

Q: Is it as good as Lawnmower Deth's "Kids In America"? A: No.

Q: Is "One Way" a Blondie cover, "Go Down" an AC/DC cover, and "No Rest For The Wicked' an Ozzy Osbourne cover? A: Sort of, no, and no.

Q: Are any of the songs clever and funny? A: No, but some are stupid and funny, like `You're Pretty When I'm Drunk', and he's pretty fucking drunk.

Q: So what else can you tell us about the music? A: That's a stupid question! Um, well, it sounds like the demo tunes on tinny little hand held keyboards, but it took five guys to make the sounds. Occasionally a guitar pops up, but not often enough.

Q: So, um, is this like, any good, or worth getting? A: It depends. If you like other Bloodhound Gang albums, then you might like this. If you are just a casual observer, who quite liked "Fire Water Burn" then you'd probably be very disappointed.

Q: So it's rubbish then. A: I wouldn't go quite that far, but it's not a masterpiece. Finished with the questions?

Q: Yes. A: Good.

BLOODHOUND GANG One Fierce Beercoaster

Album · 1996 · Metal Related
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Dick jokes, toilet humour, cheap swearing, tacky pop culture references, and so-uncool-they're-cool '80s New Romantic songs. Hmm. Must be Bloodhound Gang.

To say `One Fierce Beer Coaster' redefined dumbfuck, lowest common denominator rap metal is stealing a bit of Limp Bizkit's thunder, but take a look at the similarities. Both bands were/are loved and hated in equal quantities, both were quite keen on borrowing other people's material, and both have white boy wannabe Rappers for front men. But that's where the similarities end. For a start, Fred Durst takes himself far too seriously. Jimmy Pop Ali has a big squishy nose and knows it. Fred Durst couldn't write a rhyme to save himself. Jimmy Pop Ali's lyrics rhyme some of the least expected, dumbest words ever.

From go to whoa, “One Fierce Beer Coaster” is pretty much a series of jokes tacked together and called an album. Much of the humour is self-effacing, the Bloodhounds thinking of themselves as low down Gen-X slacker types, and they're probably right. However, Jimmy Pop and his crew have plenty to say about their safe and boring suburban society, the same way OG Rappers of the past commented on the ghettoes and slums of their youth. Basically, the suburbs are shallow breeding grounds for the mediocre and the superficial. Um, but most of this is just good, dumb fun.

First track "Kiss Me Where It Smells Funny" is an ode to the hazards of eating pussy. It has a big, simple guitar riff, a bit of scratching, a few samples, and Jimmy Pop singing like an idiot. And that's pretty much the formula for the rest of the album.

"Lift Your Head Up High (And Blow Your Brains Out)" touches on teen suicide, basically saying if you're thinking about it because of your crappy life, go ahead and do it, because you fuckin’ suck. "I Wish I Was Queer So I Could Get Chicks" pre-empted the TV show "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy" by a good few years, but basically reinforces the point that what women want in a man is a man who doesn't really want women. "Why's Everybody Always Pickin' On Me?" is self-explanatory, while "Going Nowhere Slow" is a big list of cities The Bloodhound Gang have played in, with New Jersey somehow upsetting the band, so it ain't ever going to be on their itinerary.

Even if they can't write a decent song of their own, Bloodhound Gang can spot a good tune. Stealing the memorable melody line from Duran Duran's "Hungry Like The Wolf" for "Your Only Friends Are Make Believe" was probably the brightest thing these guys did on this whole album. It's a slow paced, guitar driven song, breathing new life into the old '80s standard.

Even with their love of homoerotic New Romantic pop, some things were still too uncool, even for the Bloodhounds. Rob Van Winkel guest starred on "Boom". "So what?", you might say. Another wannabe nobody white boy rapper, right? Well, yeah, except this one used to go by the name Vanilla Ice, but don't tell anyone, OK? "Boom" is the slickest song on the whole album, the pair trading insults in a good old fashioned face off.

"Fire Water Burn" stands head and shoulders above the rest of the album. Sure, the formula is similar to the other songs, but the tune is the most memorable here, the lyrics the easiest to follow, and the double entendres are the funniest. Try not singing "The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire/We don’t need no water, let the motherfucker burn/Burn, motherfucker, burn!" after hearing it. It's a rap song for those who hate rap, and a rock song for the non-rocker. This is the song on which Bloodhound Gang have built their career, and good on them for doing so.

If your idea of a good laugh is the day's political cartoon in the paper, don't even bother with “One Fierce Beer Coaster”. If a good time for you involves women with big boobs, inserting foreign objects where they don't belong, beer, and making fun of those less fortunate than yourself, you've found the perfect album.

PORKY VAGINA Astroschwein

Album · 2017 · Pornogrind
Cover art 4.45 | 2 ratings
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Extreme metal is far harder to penetrate than mainstream musical genres, but there are often gateway albums which open a genre for the innocent novice, before snaring them with something far more potent and addictive.

The gateway into thrash metal is often Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”. Death metal has Death’s “Leprosy”, or perhaps Carcass’ “Heartwork” for the more melodic end of the genre. Even grindcore has Brutal Truth’s “Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses” and Napalm Death’s “Harmony Corruption”.

Pornogrind though, has always been impenetrable to all but the most adventurous or most deviant of fans. Whether it’s the sado-sophistication of Cock and Ball Torture, the brutalized fuck tales of Spasm, or the puke-inducing pornographic barbarity of Necrocannibalistic Vomitorium’s artwork, pornogrind isn’t exactly inviting to the uninitiated.

But now, Porky Vagina has done the music world a great favour and released “Astroschwein”. Yes, the porky Polish pig pervs are back, and they have created an album which combines symphonies of sexual sickness with a plethora of tangential musical styles, while managing to infuse it with an accessibility usually unheard of in any musical genre with the syllable “grind” anywhere in its name.

The album kicks off with “Chlew i Honor”, a song with a revved up Spaghetti Western theme intro, which morphs into some good old gory grind, complete with machine gun programmed drums. There’s some odd carnival-type instrumentation thrown into the mix. And this is what you are going to get for the next 36 minutes. A lot of it doesn’t make a huge lot of sense, but the boys in the band are having a hell of a good time doing it. For example, “Cebulator” featured an interlude from Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King”, and also segues into Soviet era martial theme.

Now, perhaps you enjoy blasting, relentless grind with phlegm-bubbling vocals from bloody start to gory finish. That’s all well and good. This is not the album for you. However, if you think musically Mr. Bungle was a bit fucking lightweight, and Mike Patton could have gargled and pig squealed a bit more, then this will be an aural orgasm.

Pornogrind, and most grindcore subgenres for that matter, are often derided for showing off little to no musical talent, sacrificing skill for brutality. These guys aren’t fucking about any more. Bukkake John, Pig Fucker and Pussy Pomper have some serious musical chops, constructing schizoid songs heavy enough to smash your skull in.

This is not a full-on pornogrind album by the strictest definition of the genre, but most fans of grind, death metal, or even just the extreme end of the bizarre and unusual will find something to latch on to here. It may open up the diseased world of pornogrind to some, or it may send others running for the safety of their Dream Theater collection. There’s only one way to find out. Give it a listen.

THE RUINS OF BEVERAST Exuvia

Album · 2017 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 4.59 | 7 ratings
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Elevator music is much scorned, and for good reason. It is generally bland, soulless crap which is so inoffensive it is offensive. It is music so stripped of vitality and life it can be, and usually is, ignored. Occasionally, if your thoroughly bored mind wanders far enough, you might find yourself whistling along to “Hammond Organ Hits of the Swinging Sixties” or “Pan Flute Prairie Party”, entirely without meaning to. It is your unconscious mind trying to wake you from your blank-eyed stare.

‘Exuvia’ by The Ruins of Beverast seems to start off in the vein of black metal elevator music, featuring an ancient sounding Native American chant, and a ringing guitar tone, eventually underscored by a subdued black metal beat, and it seems like this album is destined for droning atmospheric black metal dullness, coming soon to an elevator near you.

To assume this and stop paying close attention is a mistake. Before you know it, ‘Exuvia’ has you trapped in a sticky spiders web, hypnotically entranced by the sheer depth and breadth of this work. This album covers so many bases. It has long, almost ambient drones, crushing doom/death sections, black metal both atmospheric and raw, devastating sludge passages, and compelling samples. Like a savage dog, straining on its chain, you know when it gets loose it’s going to hurt you, but you’re still surprised as you feel the canines sinking into pliant human flesh.

This whole lengthy album seems it should be the work of a modern day metallic orchestra, yet it is all the creation of just one man. Alexander von Meilenwald composed and played almost the entirety of this album himself (there are two guest keyboard players listed in the credits) and it makes for an incredibly cohesive album, despite the plethora of sub-genres explored.

Don’t take this too lightly. It might not seem like much at first, but when it has crawled up your trousers and taken bloody chunks from your genitalia like a rabid ferret, you will definitely take notice. Approach ‘Exuvia’ as a single massive multi-faceted work, like a modern symphony.

OPETH Still Life

Album · 1999 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.33 | 171 ratings
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Really and truly, what is the deal with this band and this album?

Opeth’s “Still Life” is fawned over almost universally, inspiring gushing reviews where critics fall over themselves in pursuit of the most lyrical platitudes. And for what? A dark concept album following a tale of unrequited love? A reinvigorating breath of fresh new life for a stale metal scene? A melodic progressive death metal masterpiece? The answer is none of the above.

What does progressive even really mean? It conjures up thoughts of widdly, boring songs which fill the entire side of an old vinyl LP, pretentious, self-indulgent musical masturbation which milks every last drop of tepid hope from a terminally bored audience. By that definition, “Still Life” is most definitely a progressive metal album.

There is the odd growl, but it’s hardly backed by death metal. Most of the time it’s hardly even metal. This album is littered with acoustic interludes and ooo-woo vocals. It doesn’t really offer much of a contrast from the metallic parts, because both are flat and grey. Even at full volume, this is still background music, inoffensive pap which slides in one ear and straight out the other. The band is castrated by it’s misguided attempt to transcend metal.

There might be song titles, but they don’t really matter, because there are no highlights. There are no bottomless depths of depraved mediocrity either. “Still Life” is just that- a flat-lined corpse.

The whole thing is just ditch water dull. And no, not a cool flooded ditch, sweeping along tree stumps and unlucky sheep with dirty, roiling depths raging down it’s course while threatening to burst it’s banks. No. This is stagnant, stinky green ditch water, so putrid even mosquitoes won’t lay eggs in it, instead looking for somewhere less torpid.

PHYLLOMEDUSA Spikeballs & Monklets (CxBxFxIxHxFxLxFxRxE Vs Phyllomedusa)

Split · 2017 · Grindcore
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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If a frog croaks in the swamp and nobody hears it, did it really make a noise at all? The answer to this slight rephrasing of George Berkeley’s 1710 philosophical though experiment is “fuck yeah”, but the more important question is if that croak was “Spikeballs & Monklets (CxBxFxIxHxFxLxFxRxE Vs Phyllomedusa)” would anyone really want to hear it?

There’s really only one reason most people would ever attempt listening to this split shared between CxBxFxIxHxFxLxFxRxE and Phyllomedusa, and that is to hear one of the oddest covers of Blondie’s “One Way or Another” ever recorded, distorted into a weird mass of grind, sludge, and noise. That comes later, but first, the rest of the album.

Catastrophic Blunt Force Intracranial Haemorrhage Fluid Leaking from Ruptured Eardrums, or CxBxFxIxHxFxLxFxRxE is actually a far more entertaining name than the music. Their contribution to this split seems to be their first release. “Removing the Limbs of Sacrificial Bodies, Displaying the Gastrointestinal Tract from Esophagus to Anus, Hanging in the Trees, the Skin Stripped from the Heads, Lifted Above the Leaves, Blood Dripping to the Forest Floor in Praise of the Great Beelzebufo” (and I’m not writing out that fucking title again!) is a nine minute song, of sorts. It has a comedy intro about toad breeding, before descending into a formless mush of pingy snaredrums, blown out bass, and gargled vocals. Sir David Attenborough even puts in a guest appearance. It seems like the performers are not in the same time continuum, so it’s a bit chaotic. Listening to the full track is something of a feat of endurance. If you get to the end, congratulations! You haven’t actually achieved anything, but at least the racket has stopped.

Pyllomedusa’s lone amphibiphile big frog regularly burps forth frog fancying anthems of wildly varying quality and genre, depending on the species of toad he’s been licking. A majority of his releases are noise for noise’s sake. There might be instruments, or even some element of performance involved, but who can tell. At his most awe inspiring, he spawns sludge so thick and deep it would swallow Mastodons and Iron Monkeys. And in between the two, he can be a one man grindcore battering machine. “Spikeballs & Monklets” falls somewhere between sludge and grind, a stinking swampy mess unique to Phyllomedusa. It is so DIY you can almost see the bent nails and hammer marks where big frog has knocked this all together by himself.

The biggest problem with big frog’s musical output is the lack of variety. The lo-fi recording process means the first song generally sets the tone for the album, and you are going to get several versions of the same song over and over. “Coat The Globe In Toxoid Calamity (Uninjurious To Lissamphibia)” is a thunderous sludge/grind monstrosity. So is “Spikeballs And Monklets (Ephippibane)” and “Browning Of The Bottom Right”, and the next two tracks too. Unfortunately, the tempo hardly varies, the vocals are throat-shreddingly awesome, but totally indecipherable, and the guitars too indistinct for it to matter if there are even riffs involved.

But then along comes the Blondie cover. “One Way Or Another, I'm Going To Kill You” (see what he did to the title there?) is instantly transformed from kitschy New Wave schlock rock into a psychopathic sludge serenade. The bouncy, poppy main hook of the song is hung, drawn, and quartered, becoming a mechanized torture device. Debbie Harry’s laconic vocals are replaced by the gargled, grunted roar of a t-rex with a throat infection. Forget fictional monsters like Godzilla. big frog is a real, live sociopath hell bent on the destruction of mankind for the sake of the amphibians.

This ugly, noisy mess can be listened to for free, and to be honest, it needs to be that price. It was also released on CD, limited to 50 copies, but it would be an extremely dedicated grindcore collector who shelled out for it. As a whimsical mud encrusted, distortion soaked curio though, it might be worth a listen for someone with half an hour to spare and a very open mind.

https://phyllomedusa.bandcamp.com/album/spikeballs-monklets-cxbxfxixhxfxlxfxrxe-vs-phyllomedusa

VARIOUS ARTISTS (SOUNDTRACKS) Judgment Night (Music From The Motion Picture)

Album · 1993 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.55 | 2 ratings
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If you don’t remember the movie “Judgment Night” it’s not a surprise. It was a box office bomb, combining a silly plot with some poor acting by a number of reasonably high profile stars who will be ashamed of being associated with such a dog. It’s box office receipts recouped less than two thirds of the movie’s budget. That the movie was so poor is a shame, because the “music from the motion picture” soundtrack which accompanied it was an absolute ripper.

All the songs featured here were collaborations between hip-hop and rock or metal artists, the results of which popped up a few pleasant surprises, along with a few turds. The idea of such collaborations had its roots back in the 1980s, when Aerosmith and Run-DMC, and later Anthrax and Public Enemy, pulled together the rock and rap scenes, with great results. There had always been a bit of animosity and mistrust between the two scenes, but these collaborations helped dismiss some of the animus. From a commercial point of view, it also made sense, appealing to two different markets.

Let’s be honest. A metal fan is going to listen to this album first and foremost because of the collaboration between Slayer and Ice-T. When this was released in 1993, Ice-T was still embroiled in the controversy over Body Count’s self-titled debut album, and the song “Cop Killer”. He was somewhat of a divisive figure in the metal world, where some “fans” were questioning why a black rapper was involving himself in metal. While the braindead racist minority were stewing in their own fetid ignorance, the rest of the metal world was embracing Body Count for what it was- a quality crossover thrash band with a strong message, with an outspoken, intelligent frontman. Slayer’s own troubles have been well documented too, with accusations of Nazism following the song “Angel of Death”, and the band inadvertently attracted an extreme right wing following, who would have been exactly the people who would have had a problem with Ice-T.

“Disorder” is a crossover thrash medley of three songs originally by The Exploited, played at breakneck pace, with King/Hanneman. The new lyrics, adapted from “War”, “UK 82” and “Disorder” relate to the Los Angeles riots in 1992, the state of race relations, and US politics in general. Ice-T and Tom Araya trade vocal barbs back and forth in crust punk style, getting more aggressive and angrier as the song progresses, culminating in a cacophonous finale. This is the fifth song on the album. Any truthful metal fan will have to admit skipping straight to it before starting to listen to the album in it’s true chronological order. It is worth it, and it’s fucking Slayer. The difficult thing for the rest of the collaborations on this album is trying to hold the metal fan’s attention. How long ‘til a bored metal fan skips back to “Disorder”?

First track: “Just Another Victim”

Artists: Helmet and House of Pain

Time: 4:25

Skip to “Disorder” time: 4:25 – the entire track

House of Pain’s “Jump Around” had not long since peaked at number three in the Billboard charts, and were a pretty big deal at the time. Helmet were no slackers themselves, with their album ‘Meantime’ rapidly racing toward gold status. The street-wise, tough attitude of both artists combines for a pretty damn robust track, with clipped hardcore guitars and a steady hip-hop beat.

Second track: “Fallin’”

Artists: De La Soul and Teenage Fanclub

Time: 4:28

Skip to “Disorder” time: 0:07

The first six seconds, fine. A hip-hop beat and some “woo” backing vocals. Then someone starts whining. “Disorder” time!

Third track: “Me, Myself and Microphone”

Artists: Living Colour and Run-DMC

Time: 3:08

Skip to “Disorder” time: 3:08 –The entire track

Living Colour started as a glam metal band with a few funky interludes, but after their smash hit album ‘Vivid’, their music branched off in all directions. This track combines a funky bassline, several guitar tracks, some trademark Run-DMC rapping, and a bit of well-placed scratching. It’s not full on metal by any means, but there is a satisfying groove, and is short enough boredom does not set in.

Fourth track: “Judgment Night”

Artists: Biohazard and Onyx

Time: 4:36

Skip to “Disorder” time: 4:36 –The entire track

The meeting of hardcore punk and hardcore hip-hop. This pairing had worked together earlier on a remix of Onyx’s “Slam” single. The guitars are very prominent, combining with a massive beat, and Evan Seinfeld’s yell underpinning it. The street-wise lyrics rapped over this create a tough, muscular track, which is hard, heavy, and smart.

Fifth track: “Disorder”

Artists: Slayer and Ice-T

Time: 4:59

Skip to “Disorder” time: er, this IS “Disorder”

If you don’t like this, you don’t like metal.

Sixth track: “Another Body Murdered”

Artists: Faith No More and Boo-Ya T.R.I.B.E.

Time: 4:25

Skip to “Disorder” time: um, Boo-Ya T.R.I.B.E. will gun you down in a drive-by if you try.

Both artists were well known for combining rock and hip-hop from their own sides of the spectrum, and it shows. This is probably the most natural sounding track on the album. Boo-Ya’s massive grooves and Faith No More’s crushing guitars combine for a truly compelling song. Mike Patton’s vocal insanity in the background is a particular highlight.

Seventh track: “I Love You, Mary-Jane”

Artists: Cypress Hill and Sonic Youth

Time: 3:52

Skip to “Disorder” time: 0:50

A promising start. A lethargic guitar scrape, and a hypnotic, fuzzy groove sounds a bit trippy, but then the vocals wreck it. If you are familiar with Cypress Hill, you will be familiar with their dope fuelled nasal voices. Anyone unfortunate enough to know who Steve Urkel was will know the sound. Next please.

Eighth track: “Freak Momma”

Artists: Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot

Time: 4:01

Skip to “Disorder” time: 3:30

So then, a fairly straightforward alt-rock track with Sir Mix-A-Lot (yes, he of “Baby Got Back” fame) rapping over top of it. Even though his voice is a little comical, there is something about this song which works quite well. Whether it’s Mudhoney’s nod to the psychedelic 60s, or Mix-A-Lot’s rapid fire vocal delivery, it’s not too shabby.

Ninth track: “Missing Link”

Artists: Del the Funky Homosapien and Dinosaur Jr.

Time: 3:59

Skip to “Disorder” time: 1:34, after the sweet solo, or skip to 3:13 to hear more

Dinosaur Jr’s trademark laid back sound gets loaded with bass here, and is so relaxed and effortless it would be going in reverse if at all possible. Del the Funky Homosapien’s vocals though are a bit grating, because of his slightly rough, off-kilter delivery. If you can put up with the awful rapping, the guitar under it is as good as J. Macsis ever delivered anywhere.

Tenth track: “Come and Die”

Artists: Fatal and Therapy?

Time: 4:26

Skip to “Disorder” time: Are you fucking kidding?

Quite a menacing track. Therapy?’s pounding alt-metal is given a seriously sinister edge with Fatal’s harder-than-hardcore lyrics and vocals. There are some industrial vocal effects, and a driving bass line, all the while Fatal seems to become increasingly aggravated, ending in a psychotic rant and bullet shot.

Eleventh tracks: “Real Thing”

Artists: Cypress Hill and Pearl Jam

Time: 3:31

Skip to “Disorder” time: 0:00

Best to just pretend this track doesn’t exist.

All in all, this soundtrack delivers far better value than the movie ever did. It offers far more than just a single incredible track, and finally settled the old argument about hip-hop and rock mixing like oil and water. It works well, when done properly. Dismiss ‘Judgment Night’ at your own peril.

DESTRUCTOR Decibel Casualties

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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The Life and Death of Julius Caesar Act 2, Scene 1

TREBONIUS: There is no fear in him; let him not die; For he will live, and laugh at this hereafter.

Clock strikes

BRUTUS: Peace! count the clock.

CASSIUS: The clock hath stricken three.

TREBONIUS: 'Tis time to part.

CASSIUS:…

TREBONIUS: I said, “’Tis time to part!”

CASSIUS:…

BRUTUS: Cassius, thou crusty botch of nature, he said “’Tis time to part!”

CASSIUS:…

BRUTUS & TREBONIUS (Shouting): Cassius!

CASSIUS (Removes something from his ears, a little surprised) : What?

BRUTUS: He said “’Tis time to part!”

CASSIUS (Angry): Thou cullionly rump-fed hedge-pigs! I was listening to Destructor on my iPod! Go yourselves, give unto Caesar that which is his, a ruddy great knife right in the squishy bits! I’m busy enjoying my anachronisms!

Cassius reinserts his earphones and walks away, gently banging his head and playing air guitar… _____________________________________________________

Apologies to the long since departed Mr Shakespeare, but he was quite fond of the odd anachronism, this being his most famous. For anyone who hasn’t quite figured it out yet, an anachronism is something which is not just out of place, but also out of time. Like Shakespeare’s infamous clock, Destructor is a band out of their correct time, and long may it stay that way.

Showing a lot of promise, Destructor’s 1985 debut album ‘Maximum Destruction’ was a tour de force of hard-hitting, gnarly mid-80s thrash. Unfortunately, circumstances conspired against the band. Bass player Dave Holocaust (real name Dave Iannicca) was murdered, and the band was passed over by the ever-clueless Island Records. Destructor seemed doomed. Founding members Pat Rabid and Dave Overkill kept things going as long as possible, but the shifting musical climate meant an incomplete second album stayed unfinished, and Destructor finally split in 1992.

For many years, ‘Maximum Destruction’ was one of those much beloved footnotes in history, which long time metalheads delight in pointing out to those who missed out, usually with the comment “they don’t make metal like this any more”. Well, now they do.

Luckily for us, Destructor reunited in 1999. German magazine Snake Pit interviewed Dave Overkill, and Overkill realised there was still interest in the band. Destructor was resurrected, and has been performing and recording ever since.

‘Decibel Casualties’ is Destructor’s fourth studio album. Showing a glorious and blatant disregard for fashion and the passage of decades, little has changed in the Destructor camp since the heady days of 1985. The studs and chains are a little rusty, but the band members still have goofy pseudonyms, and the music is still magnificently metallic. However, a few things have changed around Destructor. Production techniques and technology have advanced infinitely since 1985. Back then, the sound of metal albums often sounded shrill and brittle, or were swamped and muffled. No longer. ‘Decibel Casualties’ is razor sharp and crystal clear.

Destructor still performs exactly what thrash fans loved about the band in the first place- thrash metal. This might sound like stating the painfully obvious, but it is true. Where bands like Municipal Waste, Toxic Holocaust, and Gama Bomb have tried hard to recreate that old school spirit, Destructor ooze it from every pore. Take almost any track from the album, like “Keep the Faith” as an example, and you will find that driving “quicker-than-it-seems” rhythm, powered by massive riffs and double kick-drum devastation, overlaid with lead guitar duels and Dave Overkill’s raspy yet melodic vocals. It is not of this time, but feels timeless. It is what teenage thrash metal fans fell in love with three decades ago.

And that is basically the formula for the whole album, and Destructor’s whole career. Any attempt at probing for a deeper meaning to this music is futile. Take it at face value, because that is all there is to it. These are songs by metalheads, written for metalheads, about metal. If you don’t get it, you aren’t supposed to.

If this sounds like it will have you banging your balding head, raising your arthritic horns, and pulling muscles rather than riffs from your air guitar, then you too are a decibel casualty. Old school thrash metal does not need to be an anachronism or a nostalgia trip.

In Destructor, the old school is still here.

GENOCIDE GENERATOR III

Album · 2017 · Grindcore
Cover art 4.95 | 2 ratings
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At its heart, grindcore is really a very uncomplicated, honest form of music. Take an idea and some instruments, smash them together as hard as you can, and record the carnage. All too often, the result is a dreadful, tuneless sludge, as evidenced by the mountainous slagheap of unloved and unlovable demos polluting the grind scene. Yes, good on the bands for having a go and getting something out there, but some quality control would be nice.

Every so often though, the crushing weight of carbon black detritus produces a diamond. Bavarian band Genocide Generator is one such gem. ‘III’ is a fairly simple album. The bug-eyed hand-drawn zebra on the cover of this album is a welcome change from the usual grind standards of mangled internal organs and copro-perversity. This album features two guys with a singular vision, creating razor sharp, slightly metallic grindcore. The duo squeezes in the odd industrial and electronic element to churn out their self-named “grindustrial” music. Unlike many bands, these guys don’t rely on their machines for their extremity or brutality, but merely to enhance their sound, like The Berzerker minus the silly masks and most blatant death metal elements.

It all seems quite straight forward. Two Germans playing hard, fast, loud music. Grind away for a couple of minutes, finish, repeat. But just be a little careful, because these guys have a few tricks just to stop the listener getting too settled. ‘III’ is actually Genocide Generator’s second album. In keeping with the industrial theme, there are no song titles on the album. Instead, each has a two digit number. There is no human meaning to it, the numbers being the anti-musical machine’s code. But really, do individual songs matter? This is an album to be listened to in its entirety. It’s not a huge stretch, at just over 18 minutes, but it’s like an intense rollercoaster which only ever hurtles downward. It spirals and loops, without ever slowing. A drum machine gets thrown into the terminal velocity plunge, but gets left behind. There are other machines of loving gracelessness thrown in too, but where they end and the cyborg musicians begin is lost in the maelstrom.

This is sharp grind with a clear cutting sound, like Wormrot at their razorblade best. Unlike Wormrot though, there is enough of a metallic tinge for curious metal fans too. There are heavier albums, and there are faster paced albums, but many of those are to be endured rather than enjoyed. ‘III’ is one of those rare finds where it satisfies the base desire for brutality, but leaves you wanting just a little more.

PHYLLOMEDUSA Beast Of The East

Album · 2017 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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So what did you do for Save The Frogs Day, April 29, 2017? Not a thing? Didn’t know such a day even existed? The day is marked every year near the end of April. Don’t know why anyone would give a slimy green shit about frogs? It’s a good thing Phyllomedusa exists then.

OK, it would be hypocritical of me to pretend I’d heard of Save The Frogs Day before I discovered Phyllomedusa. The band’s only member big frog is somewhat obsessed with frogs, toads, newts, salamanders, and caecilians. Not heard of caecilians? Once again, neither had I. Look them up. They are snake-like, burrowing, almost blind amphibians. Besides fantasizing about frogs, big frog makes some incredible, and at times, incredibly challenging, music. He blends grind, noise, and sludge in immense distorted compositions, often overlaid with frog calls and horror movie samples, observed from an avenging amphibian’s angle.

The quality of Phyllomedusa’s music varies greatly. Some releases are so badly recorded they could just be a microphone stuck in a jet engine’s backwash. Other times, it sounds like a Mortician record played at about 4 r.p.m. Fortunately, ‘Beast From The East’ is of a higher quality, a voyage into the deepest sludgy primordial swamps imaginable. There’s no messing around with introductions. First track “Accidental Colonization In The East” drops straight into a massive distorted groove, with big frog snarling over top of it. It is a visitation into a grinding bass driven subterranean world where speakers emanate frequencies nothing man-made has any right to transmit.

There are instruments in there somewhere, but it is impossible to tell where bass and/or guitar ends, drums begin, or what species the vocals are actually coming from. And this happens six times, at various tempos between sluggish and tectonic. There are a few anti-human samples thrown in, but basically, it’s the same massive fucking song repeated again and again. There seems to be little in the way of riffs or distinguishing features differing from song to song, but the overall effect is so heavy, so powerful, so primitive, and so primal it matters not.

There may be incredible herpetological lyrics involved here, but there is no way to understand a single word. Imagine a nine foot long bullfrog with chronic indigestion complaining about it to a neighbour half a mile away and you might have some clue as to what big frog himself sounds like. He groans and burps and croaks his way through the six songs here, never once emanating a sound which sounds even vaguely human.

And to big frog’s message. Why is it important to keep a closer eye on frogs? Being amphibians, frogs spend most of their time in wet or damp conditions. Unlike reptiles, their skin has no scales, and is constantly exposed to the environment. This means frogs are incredibly sensitive to any sort of environmental changes whatsoever. They are in effect unwitting environmental barometers. The current prediction from the frogs? Well, the planet is in the shit, and it seems humans are to blame. Amphibians are generally quite a sturdy bunch. They first crawled from the sea about 370 million years ago, and seemed to like water, so headed for the swamp. Amphibian species seem to have been going extinct of a rate of one per 500 years for most of the intervening eons, until humans came along. Up to 200 species may have disappeared since 1980. The causes for this are man-made- pollution, infectious diseases, habitat loss, invasive species, climate change, and over-harvesting for the pet and food trades.*

We are the murderous, destructive bastards, and big frog wants to see an end to us, to save the frogs and thus the world. We were warned.

*Source: https://www.savethefrogs.com/about/why-frogs/

SLAYER Reign in Blood

Album · 1986 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.24 | 171 ratings
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Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

This well-worn aphorism is oft-attributed to Frank Zappa, Theolonius Monk, Steve Martin, or even Elvis Costello. Most evidence points toward humourist Martin Mull coining it. On the surface, it is a throw-away witticism. Imagine the absurdity of dancing to express an opinion on something as austere as architecture. Ha!

But if you look deeper and more philosophically, the absurdity disappears and a kernel of truth emerges. How can something as instinctive and primal as music, which is experienced at both the sub-conscious and conscious levels, be adequately described by the written word? Reading and writing are far higher level functions, requiring abstraction of thought and expression. There are limits to written language. Shakespeare produced incomparable soliloquies. Bertrand Russell introduced elegance of phrase to philosophy. Oscar Wilde’s rapier wit cut as deeply as it amused. The powers of these three, or any other writer since the emergence of written human expression, prove insufficient or inadequate to describe the primitive basal connection to a stirring piece of music. The conjunction predates the development of hominid language. In short, writing about music is futile.

Futility, though, has never been a barrier to human endeavour. If this were so, never a word would have been written of Slayer’s magnum opus, ‘Reign In Blood’. The futility of describing, comparing, exploring, analysing, or quantifying this album should seem insurmountable. Yet, since its release on October 7th, 1986, it has been written of again and again. It has been the subject of superlatives, metaphor, hyperbole, praise, worship, and envy. It has caused controversy, consternation, protest, alarm, confusion, and imitation.

To disciples of the faith, ‘Reign In Blood’ embodies thrash metal. It is fast, heavy, and aggressive. Any description beyond that is simply laying on bullshit. It is ten songs, slotted in to less than half an hour, often with little or no gap between each song. Only three songs are longer than three minutes. The songs cover subjects from horrific war crimes of Dr Josef Mengele, to cannibalism, to fear of death, to anti-religious diatribes. The songs seem to be a complex tangle of riffs and solos, underpinned by rapid precise percussion, while the almost shouted vocals have little use for melody. The cover is a Hieronymus Bosch nightmare vision.

‘Reign In Blood’ is ten songs, and ten songs only. On many versions of this album, there are twelve tracks. The two extra songs are superfluous, and do not flow. They are an addition by an entity which did not understand that less is more. The extra six minutes of music are useless. The length of the album is pushed out to almost 35 minutes, ruining it’s short, sharp punch effect. Do not listen to those songs.

Description of how this album sounds is completely useless. It simply must be experienced to be understood. Thrash metal devotees already know what it sounds like, and understand the importance of this album to metal, and music in general.

A world without ‘Reign in Blood’ would be futile.

STEEL PANTHER Lower the Bar

Album · 2017 · Glam Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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So… Four albums in, and if you don’t get the Steel Panther joke by now, you’re never going to.

The formula is quite simple. Steel Panther have the sound, look and attitude of so many of the hairspray abusing bands of the past, but instead of beating around the bush singing songs about cherry pies, roses with their thorns, and white snakes going off again, Steel Panther deal in genuine, unadorned pornographic filth. It is the perfect piss take revenge for teenagers of the 80s (yes, you’re probably in your 40s by now) who got sick of sitting through those endless lame hair metal videos to possibly catch a rare-as-hens-teeth Megadeth or Iron Maiden or Motörhead video. If those pussies were going to whine about their girlfriends, while often wearing exactly the same hair and make-up AS their girlfriends, they could have at least described what it was like to have sex WITH a girl! It would have gone some way to making up for the limp, derivative music.

So that is what Steel Panther delivers. ‘Lower The Bar’ lowers the bar on common decency right from the first track. “Goin’ in The Backdoor” is a none-too-subtle ode to anal sex. Michael Starr asks very politely “Hey baby, do you mind if I dip my nuts in your chocolate?” “Anything Goes” lists a number of highly unlikely, uncomfortable, and possibly illegal sexual acts including “Steal a Saturn 5 and fuck an astronaut/Zero G anal and weightless cumshots”. “Poontang Boomerang” examines the societal difficulties of short term sexual relationships, and the unintended infatuations resulting from such liaisons.

“That’s When You Came In” is the compulsory power ballad, replete with strings, acoustic guitars, and finds Starr lamenting “After all the critics said, our debut record was our peak/Now I couldn't hit the high notes/Sometimes I couldn't even speak” and life was starting to seem futile and pointless, until he once again met the girl of his dreams, who “…came in and blew me… You blew me away”.

The rest of the albums continues in a similar grubby style. It is childish schoolboy humour. It is full of dick jokes, treats women as sex objects put on this planet only to please men, and panders to every teenage boy’s most unrealistic masturbatory fantasy. Steel Panther differs from hair metal of the 80s only in it being completely honest. The band don’t pretend to be doing it for any reason other than to have a good time and get laid. The parody is pitch perfect. Anyone who finds it offensive is getting exactly what they deserve. The godfathers of 80s glam Cheap Trick showed they appreciate the sideways tribute, with singer Robin Zander contributing back-up vocals, and a transvestite appearance in the video, to the cover of “She’s Tight”.

As an album, this isn’t earth shatteringly brilliant. Sure, the song writing and execution are infinitely better than many of the hair metal pretenders it is extracting the urine from, but if you know anything about Steel Panther, you already knew that would be the case. Fans will love it. The humourless won’t. Critics will be divided. Some people will say the joke is wearing thin. Steel Panther won’t give a flying fuck.

HELLOWEEN Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II

Album · 1988 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.52 | 113 ratings
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Say you’re a German heavy metal band, and in 1987, you released an album called “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1”. It is a melodic metal tour de force, spawning the band’s debut single, garnering great critical acclaim, and racking up immense praise from fans. What do you do next? Simple. You release “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2”, and completely blitz the previous album.

Helloween intended to release the two “Keeper of the Seven Keys” albums as a double album, but the band’s record company forced them to split the release. It hardly matters now, because no self-respecting Helloween fan would be without both albums. However, it made “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1” seem a little silly, because the title track wasn’t on it. The record company interference has also long been thought to be a key factor behind Kai Hansen’s departure from the band after this album’s release.

Helloween were often unfairly compared to Iron Maiden during their early career. The similarities were pretty superficial. Yes, both bands had two guitarists, a great singer, an ear for melody, and a penchant for crafting epic masterpiece songs. But that’s where the similarities end. For anyone whose ears aren’t painted on, it’s quite obvious both bands play different styles of metal. Iron Maiden redefined what was meant by heavy metal, taking Judas Priest’s British steel and Black Sabbath’s never say die attitude to new heights. Helloween, heavily influenced by The Scorpions’ animal magnetism, injected melody into thrash metal like no other band before them.

Some of these songs are among the greatest examples of melodic thrash you will ever hear. Yes, this style of metal now gets the label power metal, but back in 1988, it was still called thrash. The brief instrumental “Invitation”, a bombastic military march, replete with brass, and an angelic choir, leads into the muscular main riff of “Eagle Fly Free”, and the album is off and running! The choppy rhythms of Hansen and Michael Weikath are driven by drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg’s double kick drum barrage and Marcus Grosskopf’s virtuoso bass. Over it, Michael Kiske weaves an allegoric tale, with a soaring eagle chorus.

“Rise and Fall” follows the same formula, except the chorus is even more magnificent, more sing-a-long-able, and Kiske hits some glorious high notes. “Dr Stein” was released as the album’s first single, and on the surface seems like a song about Dr Frankenstein. A closer examination of the lyrics however, reveals a more political theme. Musically, it is a cheerful, bouncy thrash/power-pop song, and even offers a pipe organ break Dr Phibes would be proud of. “We Got the Right” changes the pace somewhat, a driving, serious power ballad with stratospheric vocals.

For some strange reason, Helloween seem quite adept at writing memorable songs, but their titles are far from inspiring. “You Always Walk Alone” is a great song, with incredibly strong vocal melodies, a variety of very different guitar solos, and a stunning percussion performance by Schwichtenberg, but has such a forgettable, bland title. “March of Time” and “Save Us” all suffer similar fates- damn fine songs, but ditch-water dull titles.

The Kai Hansen penned “I Want Out” was the album’s second single, and to this day, remains Helloween’s biggest and possibly best song. The opening riff is instantly recognisable. The chanted chorus is powerful, and the refrain of “I want out/to live my life and to be free” speaks volumes to so many people on so many levels about so many situations. It could have been speaking of the political situation of the still divided Germany, to a teen weighed down by the angst of his age, a prisoner or slave desiring freedom, or perhaps Kai Hansen’s desire to untie himself from the band.

So how do you follow a career defining single? With a career defining saga of course! The scope of the multi-faceted, near-14-minute fantasy “Keeper of the Seven Keys” rivals Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (there’s that comparison again!) for scope, if not quite for execution or composition. While somewhat shorter than Lord of the Rings, it is a tale of travels and treasure, and demons and deception. Whether it is to be taken at face value or there is a deeper meaning, it’s a ripping yarn told in song.

And what do you follow that with? Well, depending on the version of the album you have, either contemplative silence, which leaves you wanting to replay the album again, or “Save Us”. While not a bad song in itself, probably the closest to a conventional thrash song on offer, it doesn’t work at the end of the album, seeming like a tacked on left-over, or a Japanese b-side. It is neither, originally being the seventh song on the album. It has been stuck there in one of those unfathomable decisions made when the album was remastered.

“Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2” marked the end of an era for Helloween. Founding member Kai Hansen left the band soon after its release, and forged a successful career with his own band Gamma Ray. Helloween also abandoned the fantasy driven melodic thrash the band had pioneered, instead committing near career suicide with the post-modern silliness of “Pink Bubbles Go Ape”, and the radio rock infused “Chameleon”, before returning to their power metal roots. The Keeper of the Seven Keys legend was eventually revisited in 2005 with “Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy”, but the band has never quite recaptured the magic. It matters not, because “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2” still exists, and expecting Helloween to better it is the definition of insanity.

FLOOR Floor

Album · 2002 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.46 | 3 ratings
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MMA Reviewer's Challenge: Album selected by aglasshouse

Floor. Not exactly an inspiring or enlightening name for a band. It seems a bit… beige. The three members of the band obviously thought it was OK, because they doubled down and also called their debut album ‘Floor’.

But Floor? What could you reasonably expect from a band with a name like that? Limp indie rock? Ironic minimalist anti-pop? Generic metalcore?

How about heavy metal thunder falling from the sky?

Like, fucking, WOW!

Yes, “like, fucking, WOW!” is a little lacking in the eloquence department, but just wait ‘til you actually HEAR this! Heavy doesn’t begin to describe it. Floor seems to have tuned down to somewhere about six feet below their feet, dosed their amp valves with steroids, and cranked the volume so far past eleven the knob has twisted off. The term doom metal seems insufficient, inaccurate but still totally fitting. The guitars are so heavy they have an actual physical presence. There must be a limit to what can actually be produced by six strings and amplifiers. The laws of physics say so. But Floor seems to have shifted that limit. The band has a rhythm section, yes, but for the most part they sit in the background keeping time and filling what little gaps are left. The band eschews normal metal vocals, instead going for more of an alternative/indie rock style, and occasionally bury the vocals in the mix, as Fudge Tunnel often used to good effect.

And Fudge Tunnel is a good reference point, although Floor is less abrasive. There are other odd points of reference popping up in the mix too. One moment, it’s something like Jane’s Addiction’s trippier moments, the next, there are vocal melodies and harmonies which wouldn’t sound out of place in Weezer. And then there will be a sludge laden passage straight from the Iron Monkey playbook, followed by an un-stoned Down riff. It is all tied up with pop music sensibilities, with clean, clear vocals, short punchy songs, and lush melodies. And next moment it caves your chest in with a sledgehammer.

Best tracks? Irrelevant really, because this needs to be heard in its entirety, but at a push, first track “Scimitar” stands out because it really sets the album’s tone. “Sneech” is a minute of sludge metal filth. “Kallisti - Song For Eris” is deceptively blissed out but heavy. Closing track “Triangle Song” is pure downtuned doom ferocity, the most metal track on the album.

Do yourself a favour with this album. Don’t listen to it on your iPod or phone. This needs speakers, the biggest, best speakers you can find. It needs decibels, and the organic pulse of several cubic metres of air particles conducting sound waves to your ears. The furniture, walls and floor need to vibrate too. Maybe that’s where the band’s name came from, because you need to feel ‘Floor’ as much as listen to it.

ATROCITY Regurgitate vs. Atrocity

Split · 2010 · Grindcore
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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On first sight, you might wonder “What the fuck is Atrocity doing on a split with Regurgitate?” After all, Regurgitate are Swedish underground legends of the grindcore scene, known for their sick-as-fuck humorous lyrics, gargled vocals, and monstrous sound, while Atrocity are German death metal chameleons, changing genres like other bands change underwear, covering grind, death, thrash, electronic, Gothic, industrial and groove metal. It has been a very long time since Atrocity have been anywhere near heavy enough, or underground enough, to share a split with the likes of Regurgitate without seeming as out of place as a cowpat on a football field.

On closer examination though, it turns out this isn’t the same Atrocity. This is Atrocity from Torrington, Connecticut, in the United States, formed in 1985, three years before the Germans. And this Atrocity played old school grindcore/death metal as pioneered by the likes of Repulsion and Napalm Death. This Atrocity also broke up in 2010, with this split their swansong. So how is it?

Short and anything but sweet, this little sub-six minute split seven incher starts with three tracks of Regurgitate’s usual blood gargling musical sickness. “Necrosadistic Cunts” and “Bloodbath Eruption” both clock in at under a minute and a half, grinding away like bloodthirsty threshing machines, exercises in controlled chaos and music heavy enough to have a physical presence. “Anatomised” is a three second micro-song tacked on the end.

Atrocity cover prolific country artist Will Oldham, also known as Bonnie “Prince” Billy, taking on the cheerless “I See A Darkness”, a song about the depths of depression, and also covered by Johnny Cash. Fear not though, for this song is country in origin only. This old school grind/death rendition is a marvel. Sped up, the song is over in half the time of the gloomy original. The barked vocals are reminiscent of Carnivore-era Pete Steele, or perhaps Repulsion’s Scott Carlson. There is an added, slightly discordant guitar solo, fuzzy bass and a pounding jackhammer rhythm, all of which contributes to turning the suicidal to the psychotic.

It is not often Regurgitate will ever share a record with any other artist and not produce the highlight of the recording, but it has happened this time. Regurgitate is Regurgitate, and under any other circumstance that would be enough to win the day. However, Atrocity’s farewell reinterpretation of a modern country song is simply death/grind at its absolute powerful pinnacle.

CEREBRAL FIX Disaster of Reality

Album · 2016 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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The ‘Fix is fucked. Long live the ‘Fix!

Cerebral Fix never fitted neatly into a single, definable genre of metal. Mixing crossover thrash, death metal and doom, Cerebral Fix would have been equally at home sharing a stage with Bolt Thrower, Cathedral or The Exploited. The closest reference point for ‘Disaster of Reality’ is the band’s first album, ‘Life Sucks... And Then You Die!’ an immature but promising slab of heavyweight crossover thrash, part Cryptic Slaughter, part Celtic Frost. ‘Disaster of Reality’ is a throwback to that previous age, with a casual, under-produced feel to it, with a bit of fuzz and static round the edges, but the band itself is tight as fuck. It has a 1980s crossover thrash feel, mixed with a 90s doom/death attitude, and a fuck-it-all attitude.

First track “Justify” is a solid, heavy hitting opener, a doom/death monster of epic proportions. “Mosh Injury” is Lawnmower Deth-esque silliness, but then without skipping a beat, blasts into the deadly serious “Crucified World”. The song hits one of those slow paced Godzilla grinds which made ‘Tower of Spite’ such a compelling album. And then the band rockets into “Realities of War”, one of the most convincing Discharge covers you will hear. It is followed by “Skate Fear”, which might seem a bit trivial after a serious song, but this cuts right to the core of what crossover thrash used to be- equal parts societal observation and childish fun. And that really is the essence of this band. Fuck only knows what’s coming next, but it’s going to be good.

“Reality Pill” and “Dear Mother Earth” strike a more serious tone again, and are followed by a cover of The Exploited’s “Dead Cities”.

And then when you think you have a handle on things, out comes “Felted Cross”, which wouldn’t sound out of place on Cathedral’s ‘The Ethereal Mirror’, an ode to all the bands of yore which influenced Cerebral Fix’s music.

“Inside My Guts” is a full on hardcore roar of a song, like Agnostic Front with a gutsache. The last track is untitled, a bastard remix of guitar and movie samples, electronica, a throbbing bass line and reggae style vocal shout-outs, with a trip-hop style rhythm. It’s a fucking mess, but it makes sense when you hear it.

The absence of Simon Forrest’s distinctive death/thrash rasped vocals might put some listeners off. Fortunately, Neil Hadden is a strong vocalist, and does not fall into the trap of trying to imitate his predecessor, using more growl than rasp. It still fits in with the band’s bleak, sand-blasted sound, just in a different way.

The word “swansong” often gets used to describe a band’s farewell release, the original definition coming from the belief that a swan gains the ability to produce a beautiful song as it dies. It is bullshit. It would also be bullshit to call “Disaster of Reality” a swansong. Yes, it is Cerebral Fix’s final album, but the music is still as ugly as it always was, and as it should always be.

R.I.P. Cerebral Fix 1986-2017

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