Smashing Pumpkins Albums (And some notable EPs/Compilations) Ranked:

This list feature is based on my subjective personal opinion, not fan consensus or journalistic research. They are ranked from best to worst, best being simply “my own favourite” and worst being “the one I personally like the least.” I know it is customary to rank from worst to best, but I prefer to lead with the positive. Check out the rankings home page for more albums-ranked lists.

Today I’ll be discussing Chicago’s own genre-defying, ever-evolving, hard to define band, The Smashing Pumpkins, and their somewhat intimidating discography. (Feel free to add your own ranknigs in the comments).

.

.

1. Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1993) – Its quite hard to pick a number one album when the band have two of the most definitive albums of the 1990s, both of which are always featured on every list and retrospective of the most important / most iconic / most famous / best albums in every book, magazine, website, blog etc. that you can think of. (Almost like Pink Floyd having both The Wall and Dark Side Of The Moon in their catalogue). Which one you will prefer will ultimately come down to personal choice: Do you want a tighter more direct ride to your destination? Or do you want the more scenic diverse route that covers more ground, and gets you there in a slower but more colourful way?
I like every album the Pumpkins have made so far, but it is fair to say the most famous two are the most famous for a good reason, and the two best starting points for a new fan. I was almost tempted for half a minute not to pick either the perfect-flowing Siamese Dream or the epic double-album Melon Collie’ for first place, but ultimately decided that was just being deliberately awkward, and inaccurate. After deep consideration, I do honestly believe Siamese Dream is my favourite Pumpkins album and deserving of the top spot, even if it is an obvious choice.  

Great drums, heavy moments, soft moments, grungey moments, occasional proggy tinges and some very memorable hits. Enough has already been written about Billy Corgan’s masterpiece that I won’t write too much steamy praise here, but if you haven’t heard it yet, I’ll just echo the hundreds of voices online that say it absolutely lives up to its reputation, deserves all the plaudits, and gets better on each listen.

And to think, I took a strange dislike to this band as a teenager due to the song “Today” and its music video, and didn’t give the band a fair listen until my brother got me this album as an unrequested gift, only about 4 or 5 years ago. All that time wasted, not realising how good this band are. Oh well, guess I’ll have to make up for it now.

Best hits: “Cherub Rock” & “Disarm”

Best deep cuts: “Silverfuck,” “Geek USA” & “Hummer.”

.

.

2. Smashing Pumpkins – Melon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (1996) – As hinted above already, this huge sprawling eccentric record is another masterpiece, and has an equal chance of being thought of as their finest hour. It is almost difficult to take in during one listen, there’s more creativity and ideas popping off here than in some of their peer’s whole discographies.

It takes all the ideas of their previous two albums, amplifies them, expands upon them and then introduces dozens more new ideas on top of that to create a two-hour voyage through numerous facets of rock, pop and metal music with a loose dreamy passage of time theme, some trippy artwork, and some very evocative lyrics. There are songs for every mood you could be in, for every type of rock fan – perhaps that’s why it was such a monster seller?

Speaking of its sales, I almost find it hard to believe that such a borderline reckless album with seemingly no creative restraint ended up being so financially successful (gold, platinum, multi-platinum and diamond selling, in different territories). Sometimes it doesn’t even seem to know if it wants to be Smells Like Teen Spirit, Pink Moon, Colony Of Slippermen or Enter Sandman. Then again, a few listens, and you get to see how good the songs are, and as mentioned above… there’s something for everything, so I guess it makes a lot of sense.   
 

Best hits: “Tonight, Tonight,” “Zero” & “1979.”

Best deep cuts: “An Ode To No One,” “X.Y.U” & “Where Boys Fear To Tread.”

.

.

3. Smashing Pumpkins – Gish (1991) – This is one of the band’s tightest, most efficient, consistent and succinct records to date. Whereas the next two albums made a great success out of being broad, expansive, and diverse, this album’s strength is in its relative straight-forwardness and cohesion.

That’s not to say the album is boring or repetitive, there is a mixture of hard rockers, ballads and sleepy psychedelic moments – its just focused, flows well and has a clear direction. I know the band started off in the ‘80s with a bunch of goth and New Wave influences, but by the time they got into the 90s, their debut album sounds more like early Monster Magnet and peak Kyuss to me than it does like New Order or The Cure. Maybe that’s just my ear. Rock fans who have only heard the big singles like “1979” and “Today,” or “Tonight, Tonight” might be quite surprised with the fuzzed out attacking moments on this record. If you like your “Demon Cleaner” with a side of “Dinosaur Vacuum” – check this one out, you might be pleasantly surprised.

In terms of a well-crafted album, this is pretty damn great. The others are just trying to be “more than an album” and, arguably succeeding. Still, in such a long and very varied career, with members coming and going, with exploration into all sorts of different musical territories, through various breakups and comebacks… whichever album managed to come in at third place behind the two obvious always going to be number one or two shouts must be pretty must-hear, right? Well it is. I feel like every music publication in the rock world will tell you to listen to Siamese’ and Melon Collie, but if you have even the most passing interest in the band, you need to get some Gish in your life too, at an absolute minimum.

Best songs: “Bury Me,” “Siva” & “I Am One.”

.

.

4. Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist (2007) – This album usually features pretty low on critic’s Pumpkins album ranking lists, but I don’t care. This blog isn’t about the common consensus, this is just my own personal taste, and personally, I love this record.

The Smashing Pumpkins have one of the most frustrating and hard to please fanbases in the rock world, and the critics seems twice as unpleasable as that. This album was already written-off by the press before it was even released because bassist and guitarist D’arcy and James were gone, and then upon review, the specifics were added in. It was poo-pooed for being too metal and too simple, despite critic’s favourite Pumpkins albums being full of highly metallic songs like “Zero” and “Bodies” and “Quiet” as well as despite critics previously poo-pooing parts of Machina for being too experimental and proggy, on top of the fact that D’arcy and James contributed the least musically to all the albums the critics do like… its just a weird bandwagon for everyone to jump on.

When the Pumpkins came back with a cool striking artwork and theme (that carried through to all the merch and singles and videos and stage image etc), and a vague promise in interviews to return to the immediacy of Gish, and kept the two most important members of the band, in hindsight it just seems a little weird and off that this album is thought of by so many people as a stinker.

Imagine being Billy Corgan in 2007, or even nowadays looking back at rankings and seeing this at or near the bottom. What must he be thinking? “You’re mad at the Pumpkins because they’re being more simple, like you wanted them to, and writing more metallic songs again, like you wanted them to, and because the band members who make the least difference to the overall Pumpkins sound are gone – but the really noticeable drummer and the voice and writer of 90% of the music is still there…the guy who physically played all the bass on Siamese Dream anyway? – And on top of that, this record and marketing campaign are both really cool and that’s all being ignored in favour of those really nit-picky complaints?”  Yeah, ok, I wouldn’t know how to process that either.

When I personally listen to the excellent music, which has some great Hard Rock / borderline metallic bangers ala the best moments on the first three albums, as well as some great melodic modern moments that rival or even exceed the best moments on Machina (“That’s The Way My Love Is,” “Bring The Light” etc), and even a near-ten-minute Tool-sounding drum fuelled epic (“United Stated”)… I definitely get what I want from the Pumpkins.

I guess some people wanted Dream Pop, or Shoegaze or New Wave or Avant-Garde, and fair enough, those aspects are in shorter supply here, so if that is what you were expecting, those elements aren’t as well represented this time, and if that was the actual criticism, I could respect that. But don’t try and tell me with a straight face that “Death From Above” is a bad song, or that you can really hear the lack of D’Arcy on this album.

Some people don’t like the production, especially on the vocals, and fair enough, that’s personal taste. I can get if you don’t want all the overdubbed vocals and effects. For me, personally, the production here still sounds a lot better than Adore or either volume of Machina did, so its not a deal-breaker level bad production to my ears.         

Best songs: “Doomsday Clock,” “Tarantula” & “United States.”

.

.

5. Smashing Pumpkins – Shiny And Oh So Bright’ (2018) – This eight track album (initially called Volume 1, although there seems no sign of a volume 2 at time of writing) is the Pumpkins’ shortest album to date, at just over half an hour.

While other Smashing Pumpkins albums tend to have a hook or angle of some sort (eg. broad, diverse, eccentric, arty, commercial, electronic, heavy, quiet, proggy, back to basics, etc) this one just seems to focus entirely on “good song writing” which for my money, is a very admirable goal.

There are only eight songs here, but all of them are a winner, nothing is skippable, all are immensely memorable.     

The Rick Rubin-produced affair sees the return of guitarist James Iha (absent since 2000) and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain (absent since 2009), which makes for good headlines, although early bassist D’arcy Wretzky is still absent, which rankled some critics, so I guess you could only consider it a partial reunion… kind of like Guns N’ Roses getting Slash and Duff back in the band, but not Adler.

Oh well, if the results are this good, I can live without the optics of a full reunion.

PS. I don’t mean to come across like I dislike D’Arcy or anything, not at all, I just really don’t understand when some people online or in the media come out with a real hard-line “No Pumpkins album without D’Arcy is any good” attitude. I just don’t see it. They’ve released some spectacular work without her.   

Best songs: “Seek And You Shall Destroy,” “Marchin’ On” & “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts).”

.

.

6. Smashing Pumpkins – Machina II: The Friends & Enemies Of Modern Music (2000) – Smashing Pumpkins are years ahead of their time. They gave an album away for free on the internet more than half a decade before Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails made it cool. They had some alternate-reality marketing before a similar idea made Reznor look like a genius. Hell, they even had the idea of an animated band before the Gorillaz.
If you are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, have a good old read online about the stillborn double album Glass And The Machines Of God. Ok, it wasn’t all completely original…  the idea of a rock opera about a rock-star thing had already been well explored by bands like WASP and Savatage a decade prior, and of course by Pink Floyd over a decade before that. But the they handled/were going to handle it, seemed like quite a cool update / twist on the basic premise.   

When the record that was initially to be a double eventually morphed into two separate records, Machina 2, (the one that didn’t unfortunately get a proper commercial release and which you have to listen to online or via dodgy bootlegs), was actually the better of the two, with the best songs, the best ideas, and the most clear narrative.

Until this eventually gets rereleased in some glorious deluxe edition, you’ll just have to search-engine your way to a trustworthy copy, and the sound won’t be perfect, but for the tunes its worth it.

Although it has such an interesting backstory, it is not a mere gimmick, and if it was just an album you could always get in the shops just like anything else, it would still be one of their best. I can’t even think of the Pumpkins without thinking “Shattering fast…”  

Best songs: “Glass’ Theme,” “Cash Car Star” & “Dross.”

.

.

7. Smashing Pumpkins – Monuments To An Elegy (2014) – This album has the somewhat weird distinction of having Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee on drums. As odd a pairing as that is on paper, Lee actually fits the music tastefully and you wouldn’t even know he was there unless you were told.

Similarly to Shiny And Oh So Bright, it is barely over half an hour in length. With the exception of the quite rocking opener, the musical direction is quite upbeat, poppy, synthy. It’s a very pleasant listening experience.

If you want blistering guitar solos, throat rending screams, and gen-x angst, you’ve very much picked up the wrong disc, but if you want to hear the band in a more contemplative, mature, less aggro space, this is a nice diversion. Simple, elegant, understated. I guess you could see it as Billy exploring what songs you can write at the polar opposite point to the complex, ostentatious, over the top end of the spectrum that brought us Melon Collie. I wouldn’t like them to live here full time, I love it when they go big, but as a one off album, I really love that this exists.

Best songs: “Tiberius,” “Drum + Fife” & “Anaise!”

.

.

8. Smashing Pumpkins – Pisces Iscariot (1994) – Ok, this isn’t a real album, its actually a B-sides compilation, but its as good as most band’s real albums. In fact, there’s many a Pumpkins fan who would place this as their second or third best record, almost up there with the top tier classics.

Its well sequenced, and flows like a real album, moreso than a compilation, and if someone told you it wasn’t just their second album between Gish and Siamese Dream, you could easily fall for that line.  

For that reason, I’ve decided to include it on the list here. If you’re using this list as a buyer’s guide, seriously treat this compilation like a true album, its unskippable.

Best songs: “Frail & Bedazzled,” “Pissant” & “Starla.”

.

.

9. Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania (2012) – 2012’s Oceania is the first full-length Pumpkins album with Jeff Schroeder officially on it, even though he’s actually been in the band since the comeback shows of 2007.

After the press and even a lot of the fans unceremoniously took a dump on the fantastic Zeitgeist album, in which the band had tried to be simplistic and go back to basics, but also took a dump on the live shows of the time in which the band tried to be creative and progressive and boundary pushing, (see the excellent documentary / live DVD “If All Goes Wrong” for context), then also ignored their ahead-of-their-time, creative new “we don’t do albums anymore, we’ll just release stuff online” approach of the next few years… the Pumpkins were at a bit of a cross roads. People aren’t happy when the band go back to their roots, people aren’t happy when the band making progress… the only thing people can really seem to ever agree on is liking  Siamese Dream. Everyone likes Siamese Dream. So, Billy and company decided with Oceania to deliberately try and remind people of Siamese Dream. Not so much obvious retreading, but “capturing a vibe.” Well, I say not obvious retreading, but you’d have to try very hard to find a review of this album that doesn’t mention “Cherub Rock,” or “Disarm” or maybe even “Spaceboy” and “Luna” …everyone is tripping over themselves to hear hints of Siamese Dream on this album, and tell .

Its not all Siamese-nostaliga though. You can actually hear as much were they would be going on future albums like Monuments’ and Cyr in some of the poppier and synthier moments as much as you can riffs or drum rolls that remind you of the glory days.

In terms of ranking it, it is a pretty strong album, but a bit of filler holds it back from the absolute top tiers. If it had either been a tad more adventurous, or else a tad more succinct, it would have been even better. As it stands, its just pretty good, but not an utter classic.

Best songs: “The Celestials,” “Inkless” & “Quasar.”

.

.

10. Smashing Pumpkins – Teargarden By Kaleidyscope EPs & Singles (2010) – As mentioned above, after the music journalists savaged basically everything Billy and his merry band did since they returned, the decision was made to abandon the traditional album format, and instead just release digital EPs and singles.

This was quite forward thinking, but like Lars was right about Napster at the time, and people are starting to realise it in hindsight, but it seemed crazy at the time and people just didn’t rally around it like they should have. It seems like the whole “lets eschew albums in favour of just digital singles or short but frequent EPs” mostly idea is more relevant today than ever. You can’t switch on a music podcast these days without some artist or industry insider pondering about whether the album format is old fashioned in the era of streaming and downloads.

Technically, Oceania and Monuments’ are part of this overarching project too, but they work as well (if not better) as distinct albums, so for this entry, I’m just talking about the rest of the material. If you take the EPs The Solstice Bare & Songs For A Sailor plus the rest of the Teargarden single tracks, they basically all add up together to form a third album’s worth of material, and so for ease of organisation, I tend to just think of them as one album, and have actually just formatted them as one album in my music library. A sort of missing album between Zeitgeist and Oceania if you will.

You know how they say don’t look a gift horse in the mouth? Yeah, well, considering these are totally free tracks, it’s a very enjoyable set. Alright, if you want to get your critical analysis skills out, sure, it isn’t as accomplished as the upper half of the list, but for a free record, it’s a heck of a lot better than you’d expect.

Best songs: “Song For A Son,” “Freak USA” & “Cottonwood Symphony.”

.

.

11. Smashing Pumpkins – Cyr (2020) – The newest album on this list at time of writing, Cyr is a double disc synth-pop album. It was talked up as being their attempt to create something modern, but to me it sounds like ‘80s worship. I wonder is this in fact closer to the vision inside Billy’s head when they started the band, than a genuine attempt to be modern?

At first, I wasn’t quite as into this record as most of the others. My main concerns were basically, “What’s the point of having a drummer as good as Chamberlain back in the band if you are going to have programmed beats and restrained songs?” and “what’s the point of having a double album if its all sort of one pace and all sort of one duration, with no peaks and valleys?” but from repeat listens, it has really grown on me. At the end of the day, a good song is a good song. Yeah, it isn’t as heavy and aggressive as I like, or as proggy and weird as I like, or as acoustic and beautiful as I like, or as diverse and surprising as I like, or as virtuosic and instrumentally impressive as I’d like… but do I spend a lot of the week humming choruses or melody lines from it… so Billy must have been on to something.

Best songs: “Ramona,” “Anno Satana” “Tyger, Tyger” & “Wyttch.”

.

.

12. Smashing Pumpkins – The Aeroplane Flies High Boxset (1996) – Originally this was a box set collecting all the singles from Melon Collie, but nowadays you can just get it on iTunes or Amazon etc, and if you ignore the hit Mellon Collie songs, its kind of works like a (less-good) follow up to Pisces Iscariot. In contrast to that very wonderful compilation though, this doesn’t flow like an album, isn’t consistent all the way through, and isn’t a must-have. If you love the Pumpkins and just want a bit more, it is worth seeking out, and there are some great tunes on it, but it is definitely uneven and for-fans-only.

Best songs: “God,” “Pennies” & “Marquis In Spades.”

.

.

13. Smashing Pumpkins – Machina / The Machines Of God (2000) – I really like the album, but I’m going to have to try and justify putting it so far down the list, lower than things that aren’t even real albums, between albums you can’t even buy on CD and between albums without most of the original line up. Far below albums many critics outright panned. It would be easy to just say “personal preference” chalk the whole thing up as a good job, and knock off early for ice cream, but I suppose I better try and come up with a rationale anyway.

The production on this one has a bit of a harsh sheen on most of it, and sort of hurts my ears. It’s a bit too bright, brittle and loud.

The record is also a bit overlong and although there is some diversity and some totally new ideas, it suffers a bit from filler in the middle and so unfortunately feels like it doesn’t justify its length.  

The heavy, energetic, intensely memorable opener is one of the best songs in the band’s history, and there are some nice trippy experimental moments here and there, but most of the album is a bit too syrupy.

Also, for a concept album / rock opera, the narrative doesn’t really come across as clearly as you would expect.

If either they had combined this and Machina 2 into one giant epic, or else they had trimmed this down to its best moments, and toned down the production a bit, then perhaps it would be a bit higher up the list, but as it stands, it is a good Pumpkins album, but not a great one.

Best songs: “The Everlasting Gaze,” “Try, Try, Try” & “Wound.”

.

.

14. Smashing Pumpkins – Adore (1998) – It feels harsh having this album last, and indeed it will be utter blasphemy to some fans, but something has to be in last place, and although I like it, it is unarguably my least favourite. The songs, for the most part, aren’t just quite as good as the Pumpkin’s best. There’s definitely good stuff here, but there’s better stuff elsewhere.

I don’t mind them not playing hard or metallic, I don’t mind them not having Chamberlain’s drums, and I don’t mind them using synths or being gothy elsewhere, so don’t think I’m some kind of luddite just rejecting this album because it was a big sonic shift for the band.

Its just a bit plain, unadventurous and dreary when compared to the Pumpkins’ bigger more beloved albums, and also not as memorable, concise and well-written as their lesser well-known material. Even compared to their other ‘80s and electronic tinged album, its not as fun.

I’m sort of making it sound as though I don’t like it, but that is not the case, I do still like it… I’m just trying to explain how it can be last on the list, so the hardcore fans put down their pitchforks and flaming torches. It has some memorable moments, a unique aesthetic in the band’s catalogue, was historically important. I’m not denying that. It is an interesting portrait of a dark, bereaved time for the Pumpkins and confused time for the music business. But its just not as much my cup of tea as all the others.

Oh wait, did I essentially just say “personal preference” and knock off early? Woops. Anyone for ice-cream?

Best songs: “Ava Adore,” “Blank Page” & “For Martha.”

.

.

Also, the EPs American Gothic and Lull deserve honorary mentions. You can do with “Slunk” and “The Rose March” in your life if you like good Pumpkins.

Clutch Albums Ranked:

This list feature is based on my subjective personal opinion, not fan consensus or journalistic research. They are ranked from best to worst, best being simply “my own favourite” and worst being “the one I personally like the least.” I know it is customary to rank from worst to best, but I prefer to lead with the positive. Check out the rankings home page for more albums-ranked lists.

Today, I’ll be discussing the studio albums from the one of a kind, eccentric and diverse Maryland Rock band, Clutch.

.

.

1. Clutch – Earth Rocker (2013) – This is one of those albums like Dr. Feelgood or Permanent Vacation where it seems like someone sat the band down, sobered them up, got them into a laser-beam focus, and said “ok, you have to make the biggest album of your career now.” Its one of those career defining albums like Back In Black, or British Steel or The Black Album where it feels like the band were making a concerted effort to “step up.” Its one of those albums like “Paranoid” where the album plays more like a greatest hits compilation than a single album and almost every song could have been a hit. Its one of those albums like Formation Of Damnation or Hordes Of Chaos that come later in the band’s career and somehow set a new standard for excellence and start a new golden age for the band. Its all of those things and more. It’s the biggest, boldest, liveliest, punchiest record of the band’s career; with a level of quality control, focus and singular-vision that makes this something truly rare, truly special….a perfect record!  

It’s the band’s supercharged, hyper-focused, ultra-consistent, perfect-all-the-way-through, “THIS.IS.CLUTCH.” defining statement.

The album just explodes out of the speakers, crackling with life, bursting with colour, oozing personality, throwing gem after gem after gem at you and never letting up. “Coming at you in all 3-Ds.” Its larger than life, its almost too good to be true. Its Earth Rocker, muthafucker!  Blurgh-haw-hah-ha-ha-ha-ha.

Best songs: “Earth Rocker,” “Cyborg Bete,” “Crucial Velocity” & “Unto The Breach.”

.

.

2. Clutch – Blast Tyrant (2004) – This thing could be described as “Personality, the album.” This record is the refinement, crystallisation and then expansion of everything the band had been building up to until this point. This album forever set Clutch aside from the pack. All the way up until Earth Rocker (almost a decade) this must have been their Ace Of Spades type “cannot escape the shadow” album. This album is like a colourful alternate reality dreamworld. Lots of little Funk, Soul, Gospel, Gogo, Southern Rock and Blues tinges mix with a bombastic foundation of high energy Hard Rock, filtered through boundless creativity in an effortless air of cool. The band clearly tapped into an embarrassment-of-riches vein from the mine of earworm choruses, toe-tapping beats and make-you-smile riffs n’ basslines. Every musician is like the best musician in any other band.

Add to that an outrageously good opening run of six classics, some diversity with a smoky ballad, an instrumental and some virtuosic jamming. Its packaged up in bizarre memorable artwork and a gorgeous clear vibrant production job… mix it all up and you’ve got a straight up classic album on your hands.

Frontman Neil Fallon also seemed to take this moment to ascend from cool singer with quirky lyrics into a God-tier contender for best rock frontman in history. If this guy had been around in the ’60s or ’70s when the history books were still unwritten he would no doubt be up there in the top-10 with the likes of any icon you dare to name. Its like he did some soul searching, figured out what his “best qualities” were, then just made his whole being the best bits, and then upped his game tenfold again! Remember the idea of how Dimebag decided to make every riff “the money riff”? Here its like Neil decided to make every verse, chorus and bridge the vocal equivalent of “the money riff.”

As if all that if that wasn’t enough…. they then also managed to write “The Mob Goes Wild” …which for my money is unarguably one of the best songs in human history. If you don’t love that song, you are no friend of mine! The fact that it isn’t talked about daily in the same breath as “Smoke On The Water,” “Whole Lotta Love” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” is nothing short of a crying shame.    

Best songs: “The Mob Goes Wild,” “Subtle Hustle” “The Profits Of Doom” & “The Regulator.”

.

.

3. Clutch – Clutch (1995) – The band’s “real” debut in the eyes of many, and for many their crowning achievement. Self-titled for a reason. This is one superb set of songs let me tell you and a real genre-classic for the Stoner Rock scene. (I mean Clutch are a weird, unique outlier for the scene and more than just Stoner Rock, but its definitely a part of the sound, particularly on this record).

It was great enough for them to play it in its entirety for a live album, and they have always played a hell of a lot of it live over the years.

This is such a humongous step up from Speedway’ and the early EPs. The same DNA is there, but the results are very different. For example, the bounce of ‘Marcus can be heard updated on “Animal Farm,’ the groove of “El Jefe” can be heard evolved on “Tight Like That.” The clever lyrics and badass attitude of “12 Oz Epilogue” and ‘Monster Trucks can be heard evolved on, well… all over this album. This album takes the best most charasmatic and memorable moments of the last a builds a whole album out of the cream of the crop.

If you have this as your own number-one in your own rankings, I’d totally get it. The only reasons I can think of to knock it down lower are personal preference issues, and just because they’ve released better stuff since. If I was to try and justify it not being first like so many online Clutch rankings would have it, all I can come up with is that the production is a bit rough, the vocals are a bit unrefined, the last few songs could have been cut for a tighter experience… but all that is just nitpicking and I love this record. At the end of the day, it does have some of the band’s finest tracks, is a fan-favourite and really helped define who and what Clutch are, and it is chocked to the brim with charm.

Best songs: “Texan Book Of The Dead,” “Escape From The Prison Planet” & “Animal Farm.”

.

.

4. Clutch – The Book Of Bad Decisions (2018) – The band’s newest album at time of writing, and the one that has grown on me the most over time. Every single time I listen to this I like it more and more, and I liked it plenty when it was released. If you deleted tracks 2 and 3, I think you could even bump this album up another place, as it would then be close to perfect.

It almost goes without saying, since we are talking about Clutch, but this album is so big, fun, memorable, and full of personality, with such unique lyrics and charismatic vocals, immense drumming, and stick-in-your-head-for-weeks basslines & riffs.

How many bands twelve albums deep (and numerous EPs and compilations more) into their career are still putting out one of their best albums and seeming more relevant and exciting now than when they broke through? It’s a pretty exclusive club.

Imagine being decades into your career and still being able to knock out a song as memorable, powerful and immensely fun as “How To Shake Hands” …that’s almost unfair, leave some quality for the rest of the bands in the world! I never get tired of imagining president Fallon flying around in a UFO.

Best songs: “Ghoul Wrangler,” “Paper & Strife” “In Walks Barbarella” & “Hot Bottom Feeder.”

.

.

5. Clutch – Robot Hive/Exodus (2005) – Blast Tyrant was like their equivalent of coming out with The Blackening years after Burn My Eyes. It can’t have been easy following that up. No matter what you do it won’t have quite the same impact for most fans.

Despite gigantic shoes to fill, Robot Hive’ is a superb follow-up and near as good. Its more diverse, more eclectic and tries more things, and sacrifices a little bit of focus for variety, but it is certainly worth it and much more hit than miss. Bazumph.

I always think of this and Blast Tyrant as a set, and often don’t listen to one without the other, so it is purely academic ranking them or having one higher or lower than the other. You need to buy both, it’s as simple as that.

Best songs: “Burning Beard,” “Circus Maximus” & “The Incomparable Mr. Flannery.”

.

.

6. Clutch – Psychic Warfare (2015) – Like Robot Hive’ is the follow-up companion to Blast Tyrant’s excellence, so too is Psychic Warfare the worthy follow-up companion to Earth Rocker’s perfection. This album is pure class, the only reason it isn’t higher being it had to follow up a surprise world-beater. If this had have came out first and Earth Rocker never existed, then this would be talked about in much the same way as Earth Rocker is.

Certainly they were on a fine run on form, and you can take the albums from Earth Rocker onwards as a set, and it would be an absolutely fantastic set, a golden era. This is what the phrase “its like someone lit a fire under their ass” was made on. Few bands ever have (or ever will) released three such strong albums in succession.

Best songs: “Sucker For The Witch,” “A Quick Death In Texas” & “Your Love Is Incarceration.”

.

.

7. Clutch – Strange Cousins From The West (2009) – Most fans might have this one a bit lower in the rankings, but its one of my favourites, and I have an emotional attachment to it as it was the first “new” Clutch album in my time as a serious fan. ‘90s fans would probably want to slap me for having it above Elephant Riders, but hey, this is my list, make your own list if you want this lower. This album is the band’s blues-iest, roots-iest album to date, perhaps leaning hard in on the success of “Electric Worry” and doubling down on it.

It’s a far cry from the days of “Impetus” and “Pitchfork” style face-smashing, and instead sits in a “the world’s greatest bar band” territory. Its like John Bonham, Jimi Hendrix and a coked-up gospel preacher decided to play at your local blues bar and knock out some of the most good-time music they could. It also has just fabulous, Monster-Magnet quality, memorable, unique, quirky lyrics.

This album is all about the feel. Its all about being in the pocket, in the groove, in the vibe. It’s the idea of Jam Room for the new millennium, but the execution is a thousand times better. If you dislike this, I have a hard time taking you seriously.

Best songs: “Struck Down,” “Freakonomics” “Sleestak Lightning” & “50,000 Unstoppable Watts.”

.

.

8. Clutch – The Elephant Riders (1998) – “Uneven” is a very harsh, pedantic and easily counterargued criticism for the album, but short of just having all albums be “joint first” and calling it a day, there has to be some way of differentiating the albums and ranking them…even if having this one lower than some of the others might be blasphemy to many fans.  

It is painful to have this album so low, but we are into the ultimate “they’re always brilliant, how do I choose?” splitting hairs territory now. This album is an absolute classic of the subgenre, one of the best albums of the 1990s and contains some of my personal all-time favourite songs ever written by anyone.

In fact, if the whole album was as good as the highlights, this could have a shout for being one of the best albums of all time. Yes, I do like other records better, but I still consider this still “must-have,” and still recommend it to all fans no matter how casual.

Best songs: “The Elephant Riders,” “The Soap Makers” & “The Yeti.”

.

.

9. Clutch – From Beale Street To Oblivion (2007) – If any other similar band put this out, it would be the greatest achievement of their whole career. Sixty Watt Shaman, Five Horse Johnson and Monster Truck will never, ever release anything even close to this good, so the fact that it is so low down on this list makes me feel very conflicted.

An album with an opening three song run as good as this, or a moment as joyous and infectiously mood-lifting as “Electric Worry” can’t honestly be ever considered one of a band’s “lesser” albums can it? Well that’s just testament to how ridiculously good Clutch are.

Sometimes I will hear people talk negatively about this album and it just seems offensive to me. If this was a one-off album by a band that broke up afterwards, it would be such a beloved cult classic. Ok, its their ninth best album, but its better than 90% of the albums in whole subgenre.

Best songs: “You Can’t Stop Progress,” “Power Player” & “The Devil & Me.”

.

.

10. Clutch – Pure Rock Fury (2001) – This album was a bit of a hit, due in no small part to the rap-rock satire of its most famous track. It also contains the title track that became the does-what-it-say-on-the-tin badge that all fans and journalists use to describe the band with when they go a bit harder and faster. It is very well liked by fans of a certain vintage. It is however, just a bit “different.”

A lot of this comes down to the fact that it has a very different production for the band, seemingly going for the opposite of their loose, groovey Stoner Rock stylings of their previous three albums and attempting something more fitting in with modern Metal productions of the era. The results are a tighter, stiffer sound than any other Clutch record before or since.

Musically, this is also a transitional album that doesn’t fit neatly into any era of the band’s varied discography. It is heavy in places and dark at times, but it isn’t the punishing bruising hardcore dirge of the early days, it isn’t the funky stoner mashup of the preceding albums or the unique career defining new direction of the albums that follow it. It is an island.  Its still 100% Clutch; the musicianship, the exploration, the blue-collar vibes, the wit and humour of the lyrics, the variety and eccentricity of the vocals… and yet it is also kind of nothing like they’ve done before or since at the same time. Unique.

If you check out the Live At The Googolplex live album, these songs sound much more like Elephant Riders/Self-Titled era songs live, stripped of that tight stiff production, and similarly, if you look at the demo version of “Sinkemlow” on the 2004-reissue of Jam Room, you can really get an idea of what a difference the producers (the pseudonymed combo of “Uncle Punchy” and “Machine”) made here.

All talk of production jobs and stylistic directions aside though, this is a solid collection of good songs, with some really high highlights that make the overall package even better.  

Best songs: “Pure Rock Fury,” “Red Horse Rainbow” & “Careful With That Mic.”

.

.

11. Clutch – Jam Room (1999) – The band’s “we’re sick of record label disappointment, let’s just jam in a garage and have a good time” type album. It is a lot looser, more “live” sounding, freer and “jam”-feeling than any of the albums that preceded it (and certainly the one that followed it). The band weren’t trying to write hits, the band weren’t trying to win over legions of new fans, the band weren’t trying to make a definitive magnum opus, this is just four dudes knocking out some music. For what it is, Jam Room is a complete success. The only reason it is so low on the list is that Clutch are one of the best bands to every pick up instruments and this album isn’t as good as their usual output by comparison. It’s a deliberately low effort, low brainpower, unrefined version of the band, and gloriously so, but the fact remains, they’ve done better. Definitely not “skip it” but don’t let it be your first Clutch album either, wait until there’s almost nothing else you haven’t tried before giving it a go.   

Best songs: “Raised By Horses” “Big Fat Big” & “Who Want’s To Rock?”

.

.

12. Clutch – Slow Hole To China  (2003) – This list doesn’t cover some of the band’s catalogue, such as the various early EPs or reissues and compilations thereof, the mid career Basket Of Eggs EP, various live albums, the Weathermaker Vault series, or spin off material like The Bakerton Group.  

However; there is one non-studio-album release I felt needed to be included – the B-Sides album, Slow Hole To China. Slow Hole’ is sequenced and arranged like a real album, features many fan favourites that the band still play live and have been on live albums and generally, compared to other bands this B-Sides compilation is not just random loser-material for superfans only, but rather an “essential album” for all but the most casual of fans. Ok, its not Earth Rocker, Blast Tyrant or The Self-Titled… but it is worth your time.

Best songs: “Hoodoo Operator,” “Willie Nelson” & “Easy Breeze.”

.

.

13. Clutch – Transnational Speadway League’ (1993) – The band’s debut album is stylistically quite different than most people’s idea of the Clutch sound. When I first got into the band, I didn’t like this album at all and have very-gradually warmed to it over the years. When you hear songs from it live in amongst songs from Elephant Riders or The Self-Titled you sort of “get it” a bit more, and because the music is pretty dense, thick and sludgy it takes a lot of repeat listens for it to sink in.

It’s the band’s heaviest, nastiest, most aggressive album to date (all usually things that make an album my favourite) and some of the band’s trademark wit, humour and inventive lyrics/vocals are starting to come through, but the reason this album sits in last place is that only about half the songs are what I’d describe as “good” and only about a quarter of them are what I’d describe as “fun” so basically, I usually listen to the very good band Clutch and have a fun time, but when I listen to this album all the way through in one sitting, I’m only getting that part of the time. Instantaneous this is not, but that doesn’t mean it is devoid of quality.

Best songs: “A Shogun Named Marcus,” “El Jeffe Speaks” & “Walking In The Great Shining Path Of Monster Trucks.”

.

.

Kingcrimsonprog’s Metal Nerd Blog Albums Of The Year 2021:

Its been a strange old year, but there’s been a lot of good music.

.

.

01. Gojira – Fortitude – The album that got me into Gojira at long last, the album I’ve listened to most out of anything this year, the album I knew would be my number one from the very first listen, and yet has still grown on me more with each listen. A straight up masterpiece in my eyes that will go down as an eternal classic album in my head-cannon. Beautifully melodic, deliciously groovy, and still some great heavy moments and masterful musicianship at times. I can’t recommend it enough.

.

02. Helloween – Self Titled – Well, I was never not going to like this. I love Helloween with Kai, I love Helloween with Kiske, and I love Helloween with Deris. The idea of all three coming together on one super-group-esque album bringing all the eras together (sometimes even within one song) with artwork evoking the band’s peak, but song-writing not too far away from the band’s modern style and not just a rehash of the past but also acknowledging all the progress they’ve made over the years, with tasteful tribute paid to late drummer Ingo, self-referential lyrics and yet the whole thing feeling like a proper album and not just a gimmicky cash-grab. Excellent.  

.

03. Trivium – In The Court Of The DragonTrivium have been on such a hot streak in the last half-decade, and this current line-up have released arguably their three best ever albums (or at a minimum, three of the best even if you disagree on the exact placement of the best) and ‘Dragon continues that fine formula of the last two albums while also leaning into the more expansive and technical direction of their Shogun record (one of their all time best records so a very good decision) and even reworking an old Shogun-era demo into an amazing album closer for this one. Great work.

.

04. Volbeat – Servant Of The Mind – A deliberate course-correct from the slightly disappointing over-polished, overly-commercial previous album. This album leans back into the band’s heavier (in relative terms, its still catchy radio music, its not exactly Alter Of Plagues or something) side, with some deliberate Sabbath tribute, a sneaky death metal riff once hidden in there, a lot more up tempo moments and a lot less bland American-sounding radio rock. They also took some lessons in diversity and stole the best parts from the previous record, making it a sort of best-of-both-worlds situation.

.

05. Rob Zombie – The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy – Probably his second or third best album to date, this record is fun, diverse, energised, eclectic, interesting and deeply memorable. They never lose the core sound, but there’s all sorts of fun diversion. Alright, there may be slightly too many interludes, but that’s always been a part of Rob Zombie, especially on the first two albums, and there’s still 11 real songs to sink your teeth into, from the catchy singles ‘King Freak & ‘Howling Man to the dance-able “Shake Your Ass, Smoke your Grass” and the unexpected country-tinged ‘Ghost Train.

.

06. Powerwolf – Call Of The Wild – Speaking of fun, Powerful are back, and don’t disappoint. This album is such a big-smiles good time barrel of fun. Imagine Sabaton covering Helloween’s  Latin-language “Lavadete Dominum” & Type O Negative’s “I Don’t Wanna Be Me” at the same time and you’re somewhere in the ballpark. Now imagine they’re dressed up as monks and singing about Warewolves.

In terms of stacking up against the rest of their discography, the band are so fiercely consistent that this is as good as any album you care to name in the whole catalogue.

.

07. Todd La Torre – Rejoice In The Suffering – Current Queensrÿche frontman (and sometimes drummer) releases a solo album with a childhood best friend on guitar, and the results are phenomenal. There’s a mixture of songs that could fit on recent ‘ryche albums, with branching out into more traditional metal territory, as well as branching out the other direction into heavier harsher realms. A brilliant debut from this act, and while I hope he never leaves, if ever Todd were to leave the ‘ryche I would dearly love him to continue releasing albums like this.

.

08. Exodus – Persona Non Grata – A very strong album, I confess I may not have listened to this album enough to really honestly select the appropriate position on this list, but if its anything like the last three Exodus albums, the fine first impressions it has created in me will stay forever, and only grow more over time. Already the pre-released songs like “Clickbait” and “The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves” are constantly stuck in my head and raise a huge smile in me whenever they come on, and “Lunatic Liar Lord” is so good it could have been on Tempo Of The Dammed. Last month I called this album “as good as, if not better than” any measure of expectation, and I’m sticking by that!

.

09. Angelus Apatrida – Self Titled – A new band to me, but this is actually the Spanish Thrash-revivalist’s 7th release. Bludgeoning, pummelling, furious… these are just some of the words to describe this beast of an album. There is also some serious groove on the album to break up the speed, but its thrash through and through. If you like bands like Evile, Dust Bolt or Power Trip, then you really need to get on board. Check out the opener “Indoctrinate” from this album for a Vulgar-Display’ album-cover style punch to the face (in musical form).

.

10. Accept – Too Mean To Die – Much like Trivium, Accept are on a hot-streak right now (for about a decade this time, since their reformation and the introduction of Mark Tornillo on vocals… that’s Kreator-levels of hot streak!). They have a definite identifiable style and formula, which some people might feel is beginning to get a bit samey by now, but when the formula is this good, I can live with quite a few albums in that style. Alright, its not as good as my favourite, Stalingrad or its very strong follow-up Blind Rage, but I’ve listened to it a lot this year, and have enjoyed it every time.

.

.

.

.

Honourable Mentions:

Salem – Salem II EP – Wasn’t included because it is an EP, not an album, but probably would have been number 2 or 3 on the list if it did count. Really great fun, super catchy, super memorable, and my go-to car record this year.

.

Weezer – Van Weezer – I’ve only owned this a few days, so can’t objectively rate it against things I’ve had almost a whole year (eg. Todd La Torre and Accept), but I feel very positively towards it and just want to give it a little appreciative nod. Imagine if The Green Album had even better guitar solos and paid deliberate homage to some classic tracks like “Crazy Train,” “Girls Girls Girls” and “Panama.”

.

.

And just in case you want it, here’s my list from last year. See you again next year!

Rammstein albums ranked:

This list feature is based on my subjective personal opinion, not fan consensus or journalistic research. They are ranked from best to worst, best being simply “my own favourite” and worst being “the one I personally like the least.” I know it is customary to rank from worst to best, but I prefer to lead with the positive. Check out the rankings home page for more albums-ranked lists.

Today, I’ll be discussing German Industrial Metal icons, Rammstein. I’ve been putting off reviewing their records on the blog for a while now, as I wanted to save it for that pre-concert peak excitement phase I get right before I see a band live. I got tickets to see them live for my birthday in 2019, but with the covid delays, the concert still hasn’t actuall happened yet! However, I am in the mood to blog about something today, and I’ve just got their Live In Amerkia blu ray for Christmas and its put me in the mood to talk about this band in particular. Sure, its not the pre-concert excitement peak due to covid, but oh well, at least I have the concert-film to simulate the live experience now. Better than being sick or dead.

.

.

1. Reise Reise (2004) – I was a bit silly, and didn’t get this album when it was new. Like most of the UK, I got into Rammstein around the release of 2001’s Mutter and worked backwards to Sehnsuct, but after a few years, when I was getting out of things like Nu Metal and Industrial and getting into things like Thrash Metal and traditional heavy metal, I somehow just stopped listening to Rammstein, and was always surprised when I would hear about them doing large concerts, assuming they were just another flash in the pan band that came and went. Big mistake. Many years later at the insistence of a good friend, I gave the band a second chance and was gifted this record. What a record, where had it been all my life? Why on earth did I ignore Rammstein for like…a decade?
I think this is the band’s strongest work all the way through. The highlights are immense, but there is also little to no filler, and the album works as a single album all the way through, rather than a vessel for hits only. The production seems timeless, the tunes are memorable, the hooks are strong, the guitar tone is perfect.

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say “masterpiece” but if you ever dismiss Rammstein just because you hear someone treat them like a novelty band because of the rude music videos and sexual lyrics, or some dim-witted xenophobes who just make fun of them singing in German (I had an ex like that), or people who say the music is bad and they are only headliners because of the fireworks and pyro, then this is the album to check out to learn that Rammstein are a legitimate classic band who write genuinely great music that doesn’t need any kind of novelty or showmanship to cover up for. They could go on stage in jeans and t-shirts and play this album in full without moving on an empty stage with no lights or show, and it would still be the best concert you saw all year. Why? The music is brilliant.

Why is this one number one? Probably the fine line between consistency and diversity. It always sounds like Rammstein, but it tries a lot of different things, and hits the mark every time.

Best songs: “Keine Lust,” “Mein Teil” & “Moskau.”

.

.

2. Mutter (2001) – My first Rammstein album, the public’s favourite Rammstein album, the one with the highest quantity of hits on it. Back in the day, you couldn’t move for the music videos from this album, you couldn’t switch on a rock or metal radio station in the UK without hearing the singles from this, it was an absolute smash hit. There’s a good reason for that, its catchy as all get-out. If you are new to the band and need to pick up a first album, then this should be the default go-to first album. Very much their Ace Of Spades moment.

After coming back into being a Rammstein fan, I want to slap myself for neglecting this record. I loved it when I got it, but I just sort of stopped listening to it after a year or two, too excited by trying new things (1980s things usually). Since revisiting the band though, I can’t stop listening to these tunes, and every time I listen to them, I like them more. It is a pretty instantaneous album to begin with, but it just keeps growing and growing on me.

It feels like an expensive album, the production values clearly higher than the albums that preceded it, but without slipping into the “over-produced” category. The album has such a strong opening with the big strings (the industrial metal equivalent of Kashmir?), ends with a smoky soft ballad, and has a bunch of utter bangers in a range of tempos in between. If you want an album that sounds like angry robots marching towards battle, and yet somehow has a lot of artistic depth, you’ve come to the right place.

Best songs: “Mein Hertz Brennt,” “Feuer Frei!” & “Links 2, 3, 4.”

.

.

3. Rammstein (2019) – This might be a controversial placement, I don’t think this is exactly their most beloved album in fan estimation consensus, but what can I say… I just love it. This is their newest album at time of writing, it was released after a relatively long gap, it will probably be their final ever album, and long time fans feel it doesn’t live up to their expectations. Because I hadn’t been waiting with baited breath however, I don’t have the expectations, and I’ve just loved it from first listen. To me, this is one of their most accessible, memorable, fun, easily-digestible and instantaneous records to date.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t shallow, it doesn’t lack for dark and interesting lyrics (“Puppe” especially) and it isn’t overly simple, but it just washes over you like a nice warm bath and everything just feels right. It is probably actually their cleanest and least heavy album to date, which would usually be a problem for me, but it just works so well here and the songs are so strong that I actually don’t mind.  

Alright its not particularly transgressive, alright it doesn’t crunch as hard, alright its not the hands-down best thing they’ve ever done, but it sure goes down easy!

Best songs: “Puppe,” “Ausländer,” “Deutschland” & “Diamant.”

.

.

4. Herzeleid (1995) – Arguably, this is may be objectively dated (some of the electronics sound very of-the-time) and it is also probably the most simplistic release in their cannon, but the core premise of the band is so strong that you don’t need to expand on it too much to make it work, it is a great formula in and of itself without needing to stray too far (ok, that may be a bit hypocritical given the positive comments I made about the first two albums on this list, but it makes sense to me in my own head context, I think it’s the charm-factor… it doesn’t need bells and whistles because it is so charming as it is).

This is the album I’ve picked up the most recently (got it this Summer) so there may be a bit of recency-bias going on here (had to stop myself placing it even higher already for that very reason) but I feel like this is one of my favourite things they’ve ever done.

Best songs: “Wollt Ihr Das Bett In Flammen Sehen,” “Weisses Fleisch,” & “Du Riechst So Gut.”

.

.

5. Sehnsucht (1998) – I know there are a large portion of fans who could pick this as their favourite, so I wouldn’t want to come across as too dismissive of it by having it in the bottom half of my list, but for me, this album isn’t as strong all the way through as the others above it in this list.

This is an album that I’d argue suffers with a bit of filler, that suffers with a slight lack of diversity (without the raw debut charm of Herzeleid to compensate for that), and one where the best songs are so good that the rest just feels a bit “lesser” in comparison.

The best songs here are magical, but since the first listen I’ve always felt the album was a bit up and down, with clear amazing standout tracks, but not as good a whole-album experience as Mutter (or now that I’m older, with more context, not as good a whole album experience as most of their albums).

Don’t let that put you off too much though, we’re splitting hairs on a pretty great discography, and the highlights are very high.

Best songs: “Du Hast,” “Bück Dich,” & “Spiel Mit Mir.”

.

.

6. Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da (2009) – By no means a bad album despite its low placing here, its just that I prefer the others more. There’s some great use of melody here that wasn’t present in the early material and a more live human-approach to the performance compared to the robotic quality of the earlier albums.

However; A bit like Sensucht it doesn’t work as well as a whole-album journey for me. There are some forgettable moments (I honestly couldn’t tell you what “Mehr” or “Roter Sand” sound like now if you offered me a million pounds to do so) and its efforts to be fun are a mixed bag of qualified-success (“Haifisch”) and outright cringe (overrated single “Pussy” – yes it had a clever marketing campaign, but I just dislike the song).

However, A bit like Sensucht it has high highs. Some absolute career highlight bangers, and for a band best known for repetitive crunchy stompers, they constantly try new things and cover new ground.

Best songs: “Rammlied,” “Waidmanns Heil,” & “Frühling In Paris.”

.

.

7. Rosenrot (2005) – Well something had to be last, and to no-one’s surprise, it is 2005’s Load-esque leftovers album, Rosenrot.

Now, this album is not a write-off, and actually has a few of my favourite Rammstein tracks, but there is no getting around the fact that this is the weak link in the band’s discography. Too many ballads, too much silliness, too much forgettable material, frontloaded and generally, just not quite as good as the band’s peak.

I wouldn’t say skip it entirely, but definitely pick it up last, after you’ve exhausted everything else. I heard this after a five year gap in listening to the band, and it made me take about another five year gap, so it is not enough to win over skeptics.

Best songs: “Mann Gegen Mann,” “Benzin,” & “Rosenrot.”

.

.

(Ps. It doesn’t fit anywhere on this list, but the one-off new song from their greatest hits compliation, “Mein Land” is an absolute gem, and should be checked out too).

Black Label Society albums ranked:

Hate list features? Feel free to skip this article and others in this series.

Here I’ll be ranking the albums by certain bands in order from Best (actually my subjective favourite) to worst/least good (subjectively, in my opinion). Number 1 is obviously the best. The lowest number is my least favourite.

.

.

1. 1919 Eternal (2002) – As an outsider you might think BLS would just be a giant excuse for guitar solos and all style over substance, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out they are a proper band who write proper songs, that just happen to feature amazing lead guitar, and write proper albums that just happen to include a few guitar solo tracks. This was the first BLS album I ever heard and even though I didn’t actually love it on first listen, it has wormed its way into my good graces over the last decade. I think this is a classic album not just for the band, not just for the subgenre, but for metal in general. If you only buy one BLS album, this is the one to get. I feel like this album gets the balance between hard rock, heavy metal, stoner, groove and acoustic moments just right (other albums tend to lean too heavily in one direction, whereas this is the perfect synthesis of all their various directions), and the song-writing is simply the best of the band’s career. If you want a catchy, memorable, balanced album where the metal songs have umph and the acoustic moments shimmer, look no further.

Highlights include: “Battering Ram,” “Genocide Junkies,” & “Life, Birth, Blood, Doom.”  

.

.

2. The Blessed Hellride (2003) – Following hot on the heels of 1919 Eternal, ‘Hellride is another solid and memorable album with some of their career highlight songs on board. If the band had split up after this, I’m sure they would go down as an utter cult classic band. The production here is a bit less dated than the previous 3 albums, without becoming over-produced. You could make the argument that the lead guitar work here is even better than 1919 Eternal. It might be the first time in their career you could say “Hmm… perhaps one ballad too many” but again, not egregiously so. There is also a tiny bit of filler creeping in here compared to the previous record, but nowhere near as much as later in their career.

Highlights include: “Funeral Bell,” “Doomsday Jesus” & “Suffering Overdue.”  

.

.

3. Order Of The Black (2010) – I debated having this album so high in the list, because there is quite a bit of filler on it and it is a bit too long, but the highlights are just too strong to have it any lower in the list. If you took just the best songs from this album and had them as an EP, it would be the best thing the band ever did. As it stands, it is still about the 3rd best BLS release to date. Some people tend to write the band off after the first 4 albums, but to do so is to miss out on this fine album.

Highlights include: “Parade Of The Dead,” “Godspeed Hellbound” & “Crazy Horse.”  

.

.

4. Sonic Brew (1999) – A very strong debut from the band. If I was to offer one minor criticism, like Order Of The Black it is a bit too long. Other than that, everything you want from BLS is represented here. It may lean a bit more into the stoner side than the three albums which follow, but it is nicely balanced with an acoustic guitar solo and ballads for contrast. Its quite a chunky and satisfying album while it is on, and I’ve seen lots of people online and in print say it is the best BLS album, and very much one of the first albums you should buy if you are going to get more than one.  

Highlights include: “Bored To Tears,” “Born To Lose” & “Spoke In The Wheel.”

.

.

5. Stronger Than Death (2000) – A worthy sequel to the debut. I would say this is probably the band’s most metallic and consistently heavy album to date, but the flip side of that is that it is a bit less diverse than the album before and after it. I do rate this quite highly in my mind, but the other albums above it in my rankings have higher highlights, and really notable singles, whereas this one is solid all the way through but maybe missing out on the flashiest moments.
Stylistically; If you are more of a rock than Metal fan, this might not be the best album for your introduction to the band, if you come to the band (not unreasonably) expecting something that sounds a bit like No Rest For The Wicked and No More Tears or indeed if you expected something doomier after you caught a Zakk Sabbath tribute show, then you may find this album a bit of a shock, because that isn’t really the sort of direction this album goes in. I would almost say this is more for fans of Pantera and Machine Head than ‘Sabbath or Ozzy. The production is also probably the harshest of any album in their discography.

Highlights include: “Aint Life Grand” “Superterroriser” & “13 Years Of Grief”

.

.

6. Mafia (2005) – There are a segment of fans online who will either call this the beginning f the end, or else the straw that broke the camel’s back so I can understand if you are reticent to give the album a shot. However; I also know it has a ballad dedicated to the memory of late Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell that causes  plenty of casual fans who only want that one song who artificially pump the reputation of this album higher than it maybe truly ought to be and so you might also see it called the best thing they’ve ever done (or only thing worth buying) which is too far the other way. The truth lays somewhere in the middle. A little bit of a step down after the excellent first four albums but still worth a go. It definitely feels a tiny bit too polished, a bit more watered down, a bit more lightweight and the ballad focus is upped slightly… however, it still works. It’s the start of a change, but it isn’t all the way down the slippery slope just yet.

Highlights include: “Say You Will,” “Electric Hellfire” & “Dirt On The Grave.”

.

.

7. Hangover Music (2004) – This is the stripped back semi-acoustic album. I has a mixture of tempos, a mixture of acoustic guitar, piano, full band or solo type songs. It has some upbeat yet acoustic tunes, some southern-rock moments and some slow mournful ballads, there’s also a cover song. I can see the effort they put into making the album as diverse as possible, but its main drawback is still that it can feel like a gimmick album. You get the sense of “Its not a proper album, it’s the acoustic one” which while a bit harsh and unfair in some ways, does ring true in other ways. Its perhaps a bit too long for its own good, and even though there are some wonderful moments, as a whole it isn’t easy to sit through as a whole and listen to front to back. They might have been better saving the best songs from it as the diversity moments for the next few albums (the best songs here are probably better than the acoustic moments or ballads for the majority of the rest of their career). Objectively, it is very well made, but it will never be my favourite.

Highlights include: “Steppin’ Stone,” “House Of Doom” & “Crazy Or High.”

.

.

8. Grimmest Hits (2018) – In contrast to Stronger Than Death, I would say this is probably the band’s most rock album, and the people who don’t want things getting too metallic can switch the places of those two albums in the rankings. If you like Skynyrd & Blackfoot’s quiet moments, but also want some Ozzy-era Sabbath rockers now and again, this tries to be the middle ground of those. I’ve seen a bit of retroactive rewriting of the history books recently, with people saying this is one of the band’s best moments and all the people pleasantly surprised by Doom Crew Inc are getting directed to check this one out too, but I think this is an OK album at best, and I remember the overall vibe at the time being “nothing wrong with it, but BLAS have settled into a formula now and this is for fans only.”
I did end up listening to this album quite a lot in the car, and it is definitely not a bad album by any stretch, but it isn’t really special, I couldn’t hand on heart call it a career highlight. For fans only seems pretty fair. Like a late career Hatebreed album or a mid-career Motorhead album, it gives you what you need but I feel like it wouldn’t really win over new people (although, obviously I am wrong about that given the aforementioned “also check out Grimmest Hits” tsunami online at the moment).   

Highlights include: “A Love Unreal,” “The Day That Heaven Went Away,” & “Room Of Nightmares.”

.

.

9. Catacombs Of The Black Vatican (2014) – Like Grimmest Hits except with a bit of an Alice In Chains twinge, and less memorable, Catacombs’ is one of the weaker albums in the band’s career and I would go so far as to say “For Completionists Only.” Its not worthless or anything, and there is one or two songs I really like (the “Angel Of Mercy” guitar solo into post-solo-chorus-with-extra-emotion combo is spine tingling), but its more of an album I listen to in shuffle with other things than as a whole on its own. Perfectly inoffensive background music, but definitely shouldn’t be the first BLS album anyone goes for. It does get better the more you listen to it, but then again, so do the classics.    

Highlights include: “Angel Of Mercy,” “Heart Of Darkness” & “Believe.”

.

.

10. Shot To Hell (2006) – Something had to be in last place, and I don’t think there would be too much public outrage if I chose this as the least best-album being discussed today. I don’t know if they were just running out of steam after so many albums in quick succession without a break in between, or if the move of record labels somehow impacted it, or if its just coincidence that they happen to have written better songs in other sessions, but whatever the reason, this is the BLS album that does the least for me, and which I would recommend the least. I mean, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it rubbish (not least for fear that gigantic frontman Zakk Wylde would break my face) but lets just say I am not shouting its praises from the rooftops on a daily basis. I can’t foresee this going down as a classic album.
Highlights include: “Devil’s Dime” & “Blood Is Thicker Than Water”

.

.


Ps. New album Doom Crew Inc (2021) hasn’t been out long enough to fairly place it, but on first impressions, its probably between Mafia and Hangover Music. I don’t know how I’ll feel in a few years, but it does seem like “one of the better ones” of the post-2003 albums so far.

Metal-Nerd Blog 2020 Round UP and AOTY list, part 2:

I know, I know, it is probably two weeks too early, but I’m in the middle of moving home and working 65 hours a week on top of that, so may as well get it in while I have the chance. It’s the tenth year of this blog, and I’d hate to miss out on what is now a yearly tradition.

Last week in part 1, I wrote a round-up of what I’d been buying and listening to this year, and links to reviews of the concerts I had been to prior to lockdown.

Next up;

Here are my most-listened-to artists of the past 12 months according to LastFM:

Quite a mix there; Classic Metal, Classic Rock, Metalcore, Thrash, Prog, Hair, Power, Groove, Death, even a bit of indie. Old favourites, new discoveries. Nicely balanced, didn’t even mean to.

And finally; since it is December now, here is the Metal-Nerd Blog Album Of The Year List, 2020:

Honourable Mention: Salem – S/T EP. – Creeper went from being a fun pop-punk band with some Halloweeny lyrics to a ‘90s Britrock band tapping into older American sounds. Afterwards, their singer has a side project basically making a fun pop-punk band with Halloweeny lyrics. Highly recommended to fans of early Creeper (or Alkaline Trio).

10. BMTH – Post Human Survival Horror – Review here.

09. Five Finger Death Punch – F8 – Review here.

08. Annihilator – Ballistic, Sadistic – Review here.

07. Creeper – Sex, Death & The Infinite Void – Review here.

06. Haken – Virus  – (Rhymes with Bacon, not Kraken) British prog metal wizards release a captivating sequel to their previous album and continue to escape comparisons to other bands and forge their own identity. Might have even been higher, but I came to it late and haven’t even fully unpacked all its hidden glories yet.

05. Lamb Of God – S/T – Review here.

04. Testament – Titans Of Creation – Review here.

03. Protest The Hero – Palimpsest – Review here.

02. Trivium – What The Dead Men Say – Review here.

01. Sepultura – Quadra – Review here.

Metal-Nerd Blog 2020 Round UP and AOTY list, part 1:

Leaving aside any talk of the pandemic (you’ve read enough about that this year, this is a light-hearted site, I barely even post bad reviews) 2020 has been an interesting year musically and personally. On a personal level my first and only child celebrated his first ever birthday and my wife and I have just finally bought our first home. I also had a nice break at work at the start of the year where they moved me to an easier job for two months, which was a welcome if brief change. I also managed to loose one stone in weight recently after having put on too much around the pregnancy and new-fatherhood stage.

Musically, before the world turned upside down, I got to go to some fabulous concerts, in the form of Slipknot (childhood favourite but hadn’t seen since I was a teen, wearing the tour t-shirt as I write this), Five Finger Death Punch (better than you’d expect, and Megadeth supported!) and finally Testament, Exodus and Death Angel together (Dream come true line-up, shame a load of the band members and crew caught the virus from this tour).

In terms of new music, some icons like Ozzy released a new album, lots of bands have been releasing short one-off singles or mini-EPs (like Machine Head), some of my favourite bands released albums which obviously made it to my Top-10 list, and some other less-obvious bands surprised me.

In terms of old music; I’ve spent a hell of a lot of the year listening to Def Leppard, (expanding my knowledge of the band beyond just the early NWOBHM days), discovering Danzig, as well as expanding my Motorhead collection. That and as per most years, listening to a bunch of Thrash Metal (just got into Canada’s Sacrifice and LA’s Agent Steel recently, and Hirax earleir this year, there’s always more Thrash to explore).

I’ve also been reading band biographies and music books where I can find the time between work, exercise, parenting and trying to get a house. Max Cavelera and Dee Snider’s books were particularly good. I read Fiver Finger Death Punch’s drummer’s book too, but it’s a bit too simplistic Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll for me, or I should really say erectile dysfunction, alcoholism and metal (if you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I mean).

Due to all my Def Leppard listening, I’ve just finished Phil Collen’s book (which is a real easy read, very smoothly written). Most recently I’ve just started fellow blogger 80s Metal Man’s simi-fiction, semi-history of Metal/Rock coming of age novel Rock N Roll Children, and obviously if you’re reading this blog, you should read that book, I’ve not finished it yet but its compelling so far so can still recommend it.

I like a good audiobook too, and have listened to autobiographies on audible by the likes of Sammy Hagar, Phil Collins, Rick Wakeman, Rob Halford, Alice Cooper and Steve Tyler, all of which I’d recommend, (except maybe the Steve Tyler one as it is a bit too lyrical and overwritten at times, but still good a lot of the time).

So that’s the introduction, a round up of the year. Part two will see a list of my most-listened-to artists of the past 12 months and of course the actual AOTY list (gotta be December before I post that, I haven’t even put up the Christmas tree yet!). Stay tuned.

2020 Buying / Gift / Life Round Up:

I am a bit sad I missed out on the Helloween, WASP & Rammstein concerts I had booked, but I’ll live. Its still been a good year for music. I don’t have much to add to the internet noise about this year in terms of news/health/politics. Work has obviously gone crazy this year and free time is limited due to the bundle of joy, so there hasn’t been as much blogging as usual this year. I’ve just spent most of it head down working and parenting, with a killer soundtrack. I’ve decided today while I have some downtime to condense all the blogging I probably WOULD HAVE done into one digest. The following is a round up of what I’ve been buying/gifted/generally listening to since last Xmas:

Def LeppardPyromania, Hysteria, Adrenalize, Retro-active, Slang, Euphoria. – I’ve had the band’s heavier first two albums for years, and got Pyromania and Hysteria for Christmas 2019. I’ve been really getting into the since then, getting Adrenalize for my birthday and expanding to the other albums slowly since then. I have to say I’ve enjoyed them all so far. Maybe too many ballads, but the same can be said of lots of bands I love, like Helloween.

SepulturaQuadra, Machine Messiah & A-Lex.  – You only need to check out my reviews to know how much I’ve been gushing about the band’s recent output. I was really taken aback by how much the band have improved, evolved and hit-it-out-of-the-park in recent years. Its surprising they’ve taken such a proggy turn in recent years, but its great they haven’t forgotten to Thrash out and groove when needed.

Death AngelHumanicide, The Dream Calls For Blood – Well after that amazing Covid infested concert back at the start of the year, I couldn’t NOT buy more Death Angel, could I?

TestamentRitual, Low, Demonic, The Gathering, Titans Of Creation – Headliners of aforementioned concert; their first 4 albums have been staples of my listening since I was old enough to need to shave, and I’ve been lapping up new releases since I was old enough to vote, but I’d been sleeping on the intervening period and it was time to fill in the gaps. I already knew ritual back to front from borrowing, but its nice to finally own my own copy thanks to a gift from my brother, and I then looked into the less popular post-grunge years which I’d not given a chance before, turns out there’s a lot of good material there too! …and of course I had to pick up the new album when it dropped. (Which slays as usual, they haven’t made a bad one since I’ve been a fan)

Exodus Force Of Habit. – The best band at aforementioned concert, I already owned basically all their output so there wasn’t much left to get. I bought myself Force Of Habit one day this Summer and was surprised that it was a lot better than its reputation.

Power TripNightmare Logic. – Speaking of Thrash albums not from the 80s…  I had been planning to buy this album for ages as my favourite podcast gives it such warm praise on a very regular basis, and they were going to be supporting Kreator when they toured near me, but when their singer passed away I figured its time to pull my thumb out and stop waiting. I figure you’ve probably read enough praise of it already recently that I won’t add my voice to the echo chamber, except to say, if like me you were looking forward to that Kreator tour, then pick yourself up a copy of this if you haven’t already.

RiversideOut Of Myself, Love Fear & The Time Machine, Eye Of The Soundscape, Wasteland. – I’ve had these Polish progster’s 2nd-5th albums (and several EPs) for years, and decided recently it was time to fill out the missing albums in my collection. Turns out they have never made a bad record. Utterly fantastic band.

Haken – Visions, Affinity, L1ve. – My bestie set me up with the British equivalent of Riverside’s Live DVD for my birthday and I then expanded to some studio albums off the back of that. They’re a lot more eclectic than some prog bands, coming across as a mixture between Anathema, Distorted Harmony and Dream Thetater but with strange diversions into 80s pop and Gentle Giant worship. I’ll need to listen a lot more until I full absorb it, but I’m positive on it so far.

OpethHeritage, Pale Communion, Sorceress, In Cauda Veennum. – I’ve been trying on and off for about a decade to get into this band. You may remember some of my posts from years ago about it. I’ve definitely gone full tilt on them in the last year and a half.  I can’t remember exactly when I started buying them up and if it counts for 2020, but I’ll include half the albums I bought in here just in case.

Hammer FallCrimson Thunder, Threshold. – Another example of fleshing out an existing collection. You know I like Hammerfall if you read my reviews. These are some key albums I was missing. Surprising really, I didn’t own the one with “Hearts On Fire” on it? Well, mistake rectified now.  

Iced EarthBurnt Offerings, Plague Of Babylon, Incorruptible. – I was looking at my patch jacket one day, and was wondering if all the bands featured on there were still worthy of inclusion, and I noticed that I hadn’t been keeping up enough with Iced Earth in recent years, and hadn’t gone back enough. My collection started with a gift of their seminal Something Wicked album many years ago, but I never had their first album with the classic line up, and hadn’t been picking up the new releases since then. Time to expand my collection.

Cannibal CorpseThe Bleeding. – Speaking of patch jacket guilt purchases, I have had most of Cannibal Corpses output for a while yet, I stopped collecting the newest albums after a few years, but I still like the band and feel fondly of them. I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to first-four albums by Morbid Angel, Deicide, Obituary & Death and I felt weird that I had never got a copy of Cannibal Corpse’s fourth album. Now when doing a first four DM playlist, The Bleeding isn’t missing.

Orange Fucking Goblin BabyRough Read Live & Loud, The Wolf Bites Back, Back From The Abyss, A Eulogy For The Damned, Healing Through Fire, Thieving From The House Of God, Coup De Grace. –  I saw them live with Down once many years ago and was lukewarm on them, but I caught them live with Corrosion Of Conformity about 1.5-2 years ago and was totally captivated and converted. I’ve been working my way back through there catalogue at each Birthday/Christmas since. Not discovered a bad record yet. They’re like 90s Clutch without the humour, mixed with a sweaty Motorhead vibe.

Ozzy OsbourneOrdinary Man, Live & Loud. – Ozzy’s new album does not live up to the hype, but is better than you would expect too (if that makes sense). I also figured that only owning the Randy Rhodes era live album wasn’t enough for me and wanted to try out one with material from No More Tears & No Rest For The Wicked on it, and hey, if its got a live version of the songs “Bark At The Moon” and “Shot In The Dark” on it, well all the better for me to relive that surprisingly good performance at Download Festival 2018 that reminded me why I like Ozzy so much. I also like how differently Zakk plays the older songs from Randy, making it worth owning two different albums. I mean Randy is obviously better, I’m not an animal, but its nice to hear his tunes reinterpreted rather than just badly imitated.

Motorhead Aftershock, Motorizer, Overnight Sensation, No Sleep At All – Speaking of Lemmy and the boys. Well, you can never have too much motorhead, can you? One day I’ll have it all. Just slowly building up my collection, having time to absorb it. I was looking through my old concert tickets, and I’m still gutted that Motorhead concert I was going to see in Manchester got cancelled, and then they never came back before Lemmy passed. I did luckily get to see Phil Campbell and Fast Eddie Clarke play motorhead songs live at solo gigs, but never the real deal.

Type O NegativeThe Roadrunner Years Boxset. – I’ve also spent a lot of this weird depressing unpredictable year listening to Pete Steel and co’s weird, depressing, unpredictable music. The band can go from 70s Black Sabbath doom, to 80’s New Wave romanticism, to 60s Psychedelia and snotty late 80s hardcore punk irreverence and back within the same album (and sometimes the same song!). A truly unique band. I don’t love everything they do, but when they do line up with my tastes, its truly magical. When you have a bad day, its quite fun to just turn up “Life Is Killing Me” and pretend to be driving a garbage truck around New York with a dead pet as your co-pilot, letting the misery wash over you. Your day can’t be that bad if the music is this good and you haven’t lost your marbles like Pete.

Danzig – 1-4 and the Thrall EP. – Speaking of unique bands, I don’t know why I had never heard Danzig before, I remember reading about them in Marilyn Manson’s biography, and seeing their logo and artwork a lot, but I had never heard a second of their music until last year. Once I got that debut as a gift, I knew I needed more. Some kind of bizarre, Elvis/Jim Morrison crooning with punky ethos, and stoner rock-esque 70s-worship with 90s production. “Tired Of Being Alive” sounds like Heart’s “Sing Child” through a Kyuss filter, then add in the one and only Glenn Danzig’s incomparable vocal style and you have a pretty interesting rock album. The only problem I’ve encountered so far is that the song “Sadistikill” on the fourth album is intolerably boring (and that’s coming from a prog fan) but the majority of what I’ve heard to far has been great.

The MisfitsThe Static Age, Walk Among Us, Earth AD/Wolfsblood. – After reading a metallica biography, getting into Danzig, and checking out HMO’s reviews, I thought I’d dip my toe in the Misfit’s waters too. They have some real killer songs, it’s a shame I knew so many already from covers from the likes of Metallica, Volbeat, Orange Goblin, Cradle Of Filth and more, as I like the cover’s better for most of them. Its awesome when you find one that hasn’t been covered that you like and can just revel in the glory without prior knowledge. “All Hell Breaks Loose” and “Texas Is The Reason” are highlights so far. I have a lot of 80s Hardcore Punk and borderline/debatable Hardcore Punk albums, and rarely are any such bands as catchy as the Misfits.

Man, I didn’t realise how much music I’d been consuming this year until I started this blog. I don’t have all day here! In terms of 80s thrash: I’ve picked up several missing pieces from my collection. More output from Sodom, Destruction, Xentrix, Atrophy, Sacred Reich & DRI.  I’ve also gotten into Hirax, Coroner, Exhumer, Whiplash & Acid Reign. Not quite thrash, but I’ve expanded my Armored Saint collection too. They can deliver.

In terms of new releases: I’ve also picked up Parkway Drive’s live album, Trivium’s newest album, Lamb Of God’s newest album, Protest The Hero’s newest album & Five Finger Death Punch’s new album. I also got King Diamond’s latest live dvd.  But of course I’ve reviewed them in detail recently already. You can see what I think of those by clicking on the links or scrolling down.

Most surprising of all though, is Creeper’s new album, which has gone from absolute hatred/disappointment to one of my most listened-to albums of the year. I put that think on almost every work day lunch, and I listened to it every single day in the first month and a half after its release. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but damn did I end up entertained by it.  Luckily for me, their singer has been busy recently, and made a side-project called Salem basically putting out what I did expect from Creeper. The first single ‘Destroy Me’ is a catchy, energetic blast of pop-punky fun and the debut EP is just about to drop in a few days. I’m looking forward to more of the same hopefully.

On a personal level its been a weird year. If anyone knows me personally, I work in a job I can’t talk about because of various social media policies, but suffice to say I spent most of the last decade sticking tablets, tube and needles in various sick people’s mouths, veins and other body cavities. If this epidemic had happened a bit earlier it would’ve been me on the frontline. Recently, to accommodate for having a child I’ve moved to a cushy computer based job. Now I’m basically caught in a vortex of survivor’s guilt and parental protectiveness and don’t know whether to stick or twist career wise. Its come at the same time as an expensive relocation, which makes it even more difficult to know what to do. Wasn’t it great in February when all you had to worry about was whether you could get enough time off work to see Sepultura live so close to the other concerts you had booked?

Due to the planned house move, I’ve made some very non-me decisions regarding music. I’ve first of all sold off a lot of my collection. Secondly, of the things I’m keeping, I have been recycling the boxes and just keeping the booklets and discs in storage boxes, and the same with concert DVDs into DVD wallets. My music collection once took up a whole man cave, but could soon fit into the corner of a home office. Not something I would have contemplated as a teenager, but times change. I’ve also decided to mainly buy digital from now on, unless it isn’t available digitally (Why does no one sell mp3s of Motorhead’s Bastards album? Its got “Born To Raise Hell” on it for goodness sake!). I’ve been a staunch cd dinosaur and defender for years, but its getting to the point I could build a house out of them, and with the move, the baby and the pandemic, I finally have the mental window of opportunity to let go (or partially let go, as the case may be). I’ve also been using Spotify a lot more this year. I’ve adopted a bit of a try-before-you-buy approach to albums I’m 50/50 on getting. I wouldn’t go full streaming as the artists don’t get paid enough and there’s no sense of curatorship and collection, but using it as a research tool is a new development for me.

That’s a lot of new music this year. I’ve also had to make a lot of time to listen to some of my favourite bands, like C.O.C, Slipknot, Queensryche, Helloween, Pantera, Machine Head and I’ve also been taking out time to listen to ’70s prog bands in the morning with breakfast. Its important not to forget the stuff you already like.

What’s planned next music wise? Probably mop up more albums by bands like Alice Cooper, Aerosmith and ZZ Top that I’ve been concentrating on last year, and collect more missing prog and thrash albums that I haven’t gotten around to. Often I just get the first 4-5 albums (or failing that specific eras; like in the case of Black Sabbath – I only have Ozzy, Dio and Gillian albums, but none with other singers), but I may round out some of the smaller collections a bit more going forward.

As well as music, I’ve also been getting my way through lots of band / musician’s audiobook biographies and good old fashion paperbacks. Rick Wakeman’s is quite funny. Rob Halford’s is illuminating due to the LGBT rights angles. KK Downing’s is great for your basic band story. A few fictional books too. See, I can do some things that aren’t music (not very many, but it does happen from time to time). I have a bit of a book backlogue, but I’ll soon be coming up to Rock And Roll Children, by WordPress’s own 80s Metal Man, very much looking forward to that as well.

That’s my mind dump for the moment. Have a good weekend, readers!

What I’m Enjoying These Days:

I haven’t had a lot of blogging time recently, with a combination of fatherhood, increased workload due to the pandemic, getting back into exercising again, no concerts available and trying to buy fewer CDs just in case… there hasn’t been as much obvious material to cover (New Releases, Concert Reviews etc) or indeed time to cover it in. Before my next review or opinion piece however, I’d like to just drop a quick blog about what I’ve been getting up to since the new year.

I once heard that classical music can make your child smarter, and while scientific studies eventually disproved this, it is still a nice idea. Now, being a dyed in the wool rock fan who hasn’t willingly listened to classical music since a particularly annoying music teacher killed my love of it at age 15/16, I don’t have a lot of classic music to play to my child. What I do have though, is a nice little collection of progressive rock albums with lots of Jazz, Folk and Classical influences. Hey, my username is Kingcrimsonprog after all.

I’ve decided for a) child bonding b) getting my money’s worth from current CDs instead of buying new ones (remember Getting Into What You Paid For, my blog series of that nature from a few years ago?) and c) listening to some beloved records that I’ve been ignoring lately to focus on newer acquisitions, that I would initiate a new family tradition. Prog For The Sprog. I play my child a new prog record every day. So far he’s listened to Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, ELP, Jethro Tull, Camel, Caravan, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, Van Der Graaf Generator, early Rush, early Queen and early Marillion.  Out of all of them so far, I think, as far as I can tell with a baby, that he enjoyed Gentle Giant the most… I think the xylophone reminds him of Peppa Pig.

During reacquainting myself with some of my favourite prog (or prog-ish albums, if you want to be strict about some of them) I realised that I had another little nerdy project I could resume…

Several years ago I decided that LastFM, the website which I love for making statistics about what I’m listening to, always makes it look like I don’t listen to these bands as much. I mean, you can listen to about 13 Punk songs for every one prog song. To that end, I decided that a few of my favourite side-long or album-long songs, including ‘Atom Heart Mother’ by Pink Floyd and ‘A Passion Play’ by Jethro Tull, should be counted as several different songs rather than one huge song. That way, If I listen to a whole Prog album, and then a whole Stoner Rock album, it doesn’t look like I listen to the Stoner band 10 times as much as the Prog band. Dorky right? But it made me happy and kept me entertained.

During the lockdown but after work and after the baby is in bed, I’ve decided to expand this. ELP’s ‘Tarkus’ for example, and Caravan’s ‘Nine Feet Underground’ as well as Pink Floyd’s ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ all have parts. The track listing actually lists them with either titled sections (eg. Nine Feet Underground is split into: I. “Nigel Blows a Tune”   II. “Love’s a Friend”  “Make It 76”   IV. “Dance of the Seven Paper Hankies”  V. “Hold Grandad by the Nose”  VI. “Honest I Did!”   VII. “Disassociation”   VIII. “100% Proof,  and ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ is split into parts I-X).

So I have decided to do similar things using the magic of iTunes:

So that’s part of how I’ve been spending my time. Another thing I’ve been doing, which is equally dorky, is trying to keep some of my favourite bands higher up in the LastFM stats. For example, I’ve been listening to an absolute boatload of Sepultura recently, but I saw them overtake or threaten to overtake bands I consider absolute favourites that I want to listen to most often. To that end, I’ve started listening to much more of my real favourite bands like Manowar, Pantera C.O.C and Helloween, and doing so a heck of a lot more often again, just like I used to when I first got into them.

Now again, as I have said; this is driven by a very nerdy reason, but in fairness, I benefit completely, as I am listening to only the best music. I had embarassingly put on a lot of weight when my wife was pregnant, but a nice fortnight-long norovirus infection (full on pant-shitting, can’t stomach dinner stuff) that I picked up taking the kid home from nursery one day made me lose some weight again, and so when I recovered I decided to jump back on the exercise train with a long term view of eventually getting back in shape.

Anyway, let me tell you, there is no more fun feeling than working out at home with Pantera or Manowar in your ears, or going for you daily government-permitted exercise and walking in the sun with a fat groovy C.O.C playlist keeping your pace up. It sure beats some obscure D-list band I’m checking out just for educational/historical reasons. Its nice to just crank out your favourites.

With that being said, here’s a brief screengrab of the artists I’ve listened to most since joining the site back in 2011, just after my first decade into being a rock fan:

Prior to cottoning on to the fact that Sepultura were getting very high up my listening charts and then chosing to overplay my favourites in response, I was doing something else equally nerdy anyway.

I had decided before the Slipknot concert that some of the bands included on my Patch Jacket maybe weren’t being listened to as much as others. I started feeling weird about maybe not listening to Obituary, Morbid Angel, Deicide and Death as much as other bands that made it onto the jacket, and was really heavily playing those bands at the start of year. Usually at night. Going to bed? Spiritual Healing. Bed the next night? Once Upon The Cross. Bed at the weekend? Cause Of Death and Covenant!

I also have an Iced Earth patch. No death metal, but still, although I love their work with Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens and Matt Barlow, I decided that it was weird I hadn’t kept up with their new releases, so decided I needed to get the Stu Block era albums. So the most recent CDs I bought, the only ones I dared to buy during all the Covid stuff (just in case…), was Iced Earth’s Plagues Of Babylon (appros pos these days, given that half the record is a concept piece about mankind being destroyed by a plague) and its follow up, Incorruptible. Damn that Stu can sing! I tried to make the baby listen to Iced Earth too, but clearly they don’t use enough Xylophones. Something to think about for the next album maybe?

Also, since I’m on the subject of what I’ve been listening to lately anyway, and its about a quarter of the way through the year already (I’m only a few weeks early) so this is about a good point to do a LastFM screengrab for this part of the year:

Thrash Metal Thoughts

Thrash Metal Thoughts: I enjoyed writing my previous post, Hair Metal Thoughts, and felt I could apply that same shell to another subgenre. What better subgenre than my favourite? The one I’ve been into the longest, the one I identify with the most, the one I talk about the most.

Some of the thoughts here may contradict previous reviews but its just what I was feeling at the time of writing. Its not a set of reviews as much as a quick new appraisal. Its just some Thrash Metal Thoughts.

 

Annihilator:

Annihilator – Alice In Hell (1989).
Its very difficult to choose an absolute favourite Thrash album, or make a compelling case for the best one of all time, there’s just so many and so many different takes on it. Some are raw and punky, some are traditional, some are brutal and extreme, some are progressive. Some take on political and social lyrical matter and some are sword and sorcery fantasy based. However; for me an undeniable top 5 contender has to be Alice In Hell; one of and possibly the greatest moments in 1980s Heavy Metal all around and in Thrash specifically way up there. I wouldn’t say its a mixture of all the kinds of Thrash, there’s no proto-Black Metal like early Sodom and no one could mistake it for a lost NWOBHM album like Overkill’s debut, but it does cover a heck of a lot of ground.
On top of all of that, its just got that x-factor. That undefinable greatness, those riffs, those drums, those vocals are all just miles ahead of most of the competition. This is Master Of Puppets levels stuff here. Maybe at times the lyrics and the brief moments of silliness let it down, arguably, but overall this is inches away from perfection.

Favourite Songs: ‘WTYD,’ ‘Wicked Mystic’ & ‘World Salad.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Annihilator – Never Neverland (1990).
Well, everything I said about Alice In Hell applies here. They’re sort of twin albums, equally fabulous. The new vocalist on this album sounds a bit like Phil Anselmo at times (only a little bit) and some of the more midpaced songs have a certain groove metal swagger, which lends itself well to the Annihilator sound. The rest is the absolute definition of well designed Thrash, and if you have never heard this album make doing so a high priority because you’re seriously missing out.

Favourite Songs: ‘Road To Ruin,’ ‘StoneWall’ & ‘I Am In Command.’
Not For Me: ‘Kraf Dinner’ – I don’t like it when they do jokey bits.

 

Annihilator – Set The World On Fire (1993).
Another album, another line-up change. Hey, Mike Magini the future Dream Theater guy is here! That’s reason enough for people to come back and check this out. Some fans called this album a bit of a sell out, partly because it had a ballad, and partly because the main music had less speed and heaviness more of the time. In all fairness though, they replaced it with Van Halen style fun (‘Don’t Bother Me’ anyone?) and never dipped in quality so I think that’s a very big overreaction. I’m very fond of this album and would defend it to anyone who had bad words for it, that’s for sure.
Also, I have to say ‘Knight Jumps Queen’ has arguably the most fun chorus riff in all of Thrash, next to maybe Exodus’ ‘Brain Dead.’

Favourite Songs: ‘Knight Jumps Queen,’ ‘No Zone’ & ‘Sounds Good To Me.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent. I don’t like the jokey bits in ‘Brain Dance’ but otherwise the song is badass.

 

Anthrax:

Anthrax – Fistful Of Metal (1984).
I got into Anthrax through the John Bush era live album Music Of Mass Destruction, so when I got this I thought I didn’t like it for a long time. I wasn’t keen on Neil Turban’s vocals, or the very non-Anthraxy songs. I was very predisposed to liking it because it had Dan Lilker on it and I was super into Nuclear Assault, but this wasn’t doing it for me at the time. Nowadays, after having heard a lot more NWOBHM and early Heavy Metal this record has really grown on me.

If you’re in the mood for that Scott-Ian’s-Wrist style of riffing, y’know that Iconing style that makes Anthrax Anthrax, then look elsewhere, but just because its different doesn’t mean its not good. Also, fun memory, for a long time the local independent music shop in my small Irish town in the late 90s/early noughties had just three lonely guitar tablature books, one of which was Ratt’s Invasion Of Your Privacy, and Anthrax’s Fistful Of Metal… what a) An Odd Pair b) a weird pair for the times when both bands were very uncool c) weird album covers for big glossy books all alone in a sea of generic Irish traditional music books with generic white covers and plain black text.

Favourite Songs: ‘Across The River,’ ‘Death Rider’ & ‘Metal Thrashing Mad.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent. I don’t feel like the ‘I’m Eighteen’ cover fits, and I’d prefer if it was on Killer Bs instead, but I love it in and of itself.

 

Anthrax – .Spreading The Disease (1985).
This is probably my favourite Anthrax album. I have a Vinyl copy on my wall as decoration. Its the first Anthrax album that really has that definite Anthrax feel. Its very unique among all other Thrash bands, and nothing really sounds anything quite like it. I think its got the catchiest choruses and its varied and a heck of a lot of fun. There’s not a wasted moment and its all very charming and interesting. I don’t know what part is due to Franky Bello and Joey Belladonna coming on board, and what part is confidence and experience, or indeed what’s just sheer luck, but this was a big stylistic shift and quality skyrocket. I also think this is the best vocal performance on any Anthrax album. Also, ‘Gung Ho’ really shows off the band at their Thrashiest…its their equivalent of Fight Fire With Fire in the justification-showpiece stakes. A ‘See Slayer fans, other bands can be fast too,’ sort of thing.

Favourite Songs: ‘Lone Justice,’ ‘AIR’ & ‘Medusa.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty perfect.

 

Anthrax – Among The Living (1987).
Arguably the best Anthrax album, with the most hits, the most concert favourites and arguably the best production job. I love the songwriting on this one, so many catchy choruses, so many great guitar solos, such good drumming and singing, its easy to see why this is most people’s favourite Anthrax album. Its difficult to think of anything new to say on such a beloved and much discussed album, up there with the very best of the genre, along with your Reign In Blood, Master Of Puppets and Rust In Peace crowd. Sometimes I feel difficult describing the most famous album as my favourite, a hold-over from stupid teen days, but in this case it really is a very close toss up between Spreading The Disease and this one. For a while, Anthrax was my absolute favourite band so those two would be among my undisputed all time favourites, of any subgenre.

Sidenote… how much does it suck this wasn’t 1986…then it would be in the gang with Puppets, Peace Sells and Reign In Blood as the 1986 Thrash Masterpieces club. Shall we all just pretend it was ’86?

Favourite Songs: ‘Imitation Of Life,’ ‘One World,’ ‘Indians,’ ‘Caught In A Mosh’ & ‘I Am The Law.’
Not For Me: Nothing at all, it is perfect.

 

Anthrax – State Of Euphoria (1988).
Some people don’t like this album and I really don’t see why. There’s not one song on this album that wouldn’t sound good in concert or on a compilation. I think maybe all together they might cause the attention to drift or something? I love it. I wish they’d play more from it live, especially the second half. Its very overlooked. Solos, production and vocals are all roughly equal to the last album, although the only noticeable difference is that the songwriting is less succinct.
I have the same problem with Anthrax as with Guns N Roses… there are so many amazing originals and they play three or four covers live instead? Covers get on the best-ofs instead? Well; whatever floats your boat but I’d rather hear ‘Who Cares Wins’ or ‘Right Next Door To Hell’ anytime than ‘Antisocial’ or ‘Live And Let Die.’ The album artwork is a bit ugly, but clever on a spinning disc I guess.

Favourite Songs: ‘Finale,’ ‘Schism’ & ‘Be All End All.’
Not For Me: ’13.’ I don’t feel like the ‘Antisocial’ cover fits, and I’d prefer if it was on Killer Bs instead, but I love it in and of itself. Its so Anthrax though. Its so them I can hardly believe its a cover. Its actually one of the best songs on the album too, its just not in the same spirit of the rest of the record.

 

Anthrax – Persistence Of Time (1990).
For a long time, this was my favourite Anthrax album. Over the years I’ve grown to think the first too songs while good, are overlong and slightly repetitive, and that Belly Of The Beast could do without the extra intro. Otherwise, what’s not to love about this album? Some of Anthrax’s finest ever work. I can’t tell you how much I loved ‘One Man Stands’ as a teenager, and ‘Belly Of The Beast’ would be in my top-ten thrash songs of all time, it just works so well, I love the version on Music Of Mass Destruction especially, with its extra drum flourishes and John Bush’s beefier vocal style. The artwork is cool and the coolest thing in Anthrax’s history is the stage-show from this tour with the clocks and backdrop of this album art.

Favourite Songs: ‘Belly Of The Beast,’ ‘One Man Stands’ & ‘Keep It In The Family.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, although some of the longer songs could do with a bit of either trimming or variation. Once again; surprise surprise, I don’t feel like the ‘Got The Time’ cover fits, and I’d prefer if it was on Killer Bs instead, but as with the previously mentioned ‘Antisocial’ I like it in and of itself and feel like so Anthrax-sounding that I can hardly believe its a cover. Both those songs are like greatest hits of the band, which rankles a little tiny bit because your hits should be your own songs, and as I mentioned before, part of what irritates me about Guns N Roses, but objectively they are great.

 

Anthrax – Live: The Island Years (1994; Recorded ’91/’92).
This album covers that aforementioned incredibly cool period. Its actually from two different shows, the radio show and the concert video. Its got a pretty great version of Bring The Noise which is different from the studio version, and quite interesting. Its not the greatest production job but then not poor either, way better than say, Nuclear Assault’s live stuff, but not as great as Annihilator’s.
Its got a pretty strong tracklisting and I wish they had marketed this differently because it feels like a real throw-away cash-in sort of thing (because of record label issues and cheapo packaging) but the actual product is actually way better than it feels like anyone gave it credit for.

 

Cacophony:

Cacophony – Speed Metal Symphony (1987).
I wanted this album (and the other Cacophony studio album) for about a decade before I finally got around to it. Everybody knows this is what Marty Friedman was up to pre-Megadeth and that is definitely worth checking out in my book. I finally picked up a copy in like, 2013 or something and have been listening to it fairly regularly ever since, going in between liking it and not liking it but listening to it a lot to feel like I didn’t waste my money. I don’t think its as fast or heavy as I’d like, nor as succinct and compact. Its really musically impressive but not all that catchy or fun and the vocals aren’t top-tier. All that sounds like heavy criticism, but I guess I just focused on the negatives there, because it really is a rather fantastic album and I don’t want to sound like its bad… its just not as great as the more famous albums in this article. I’d take it over an Atrophy or Morbid Saint album, sure, but not over an Overkill or Metallica album if you know what I mean. Its the best of the c-list, and just because it isn’t in the big leagues doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Probably too, if I’d have bought it earlier I’d be closer to it. Sometimes the stuff you get in your early teens sticks with you the longest (although in fairness, I’m a lot closer to C.O.C and Helloween from my twenties than stuff like Spineshank and Ill Nino I bought in my early teens).

Favourite Songs: ‘Desert Island,’ & ‘Concerto.’
Not For Me: ‘Speed Metal Symphony.’

 

 

Dark Angel:

Dark Angel – Darkness Descends (1986).
I think, if I’m not mistaken, this is one of the most recent Thrash albums I bought (in the same order as Overkill’s Horrorcope, I think, about a year ago this month). Its fast, ugly and brutal. Its a kind of spiritual brother to Pleasure To Kill and famous to fans of the heavier stuff, influential to more extreme bands and it brought Genre Hoglan to fame. Its production is a bit rough and its just a wee tad too extreme at times for me to absolutely love it but I have to say, I like it a lot better than I expected. I’ve listened to Leave Scars and Time Does Not Heal on Spotify recently and they totally nail what I wanted from Dark Angel, so that’s the next two on my to-buy list (only about a decade and a half after I originally wanted to get em). If you are a Black Metal fan working backwards from Emperor to Hellhammer to Sodom, then this might be another one to check out. Otherwise, don’t check this out until you’re already fairly familiar with Annihilator, Exodus and Testament first.

Favourite Songs: Nothing stands out
Not For Me: Nothing stands out.

 

 

Death Angel:

Death Angel – The Ultra Violence (1987).
The band’s most straight-forward and normal album, recorded at a young age yeah-yeah, but just as professional as any of the competition. Forget about the demographics and listen to the music…
I feel like all anyone ever talks about this band is the Kirk Hammet connection or the family aspect or the age but never just how impressive that instrumental is, or how satisfying tunes like ‘Evil Priest’ and ‘Thrashers’ are. There’s some great soloing, some serious speed and energy and a real ‘spirit’ to the performances. Arguably its not always super memorable and a harsher critic than me might call it generic if they were feeling unkind, but all that would be sorted out on future records.

Favourite Songs: ‘Thrashers,’ ‘IPFS’ & ‘The Ultra Violence.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent, but some tracks are a bit overlong.

 

Death Angel – Frolic Through The Park (1988).
A halfway point between where the band came from and where they were about to go, this is the experimental first steps into transitioning between pure straight traditional Thrash and the more dynamic, progressive, technical stuff on the subsequent album… Frolic Through The Park can come off as a bit more jarring, wacky and odd than Act III as they hadn’t utterly nailed transitions and smoothed everything down to perfection yet, but its undeniably good in and of itself and without the Act III context is a fine album on its own, a strange follow-up to The Ultra Violence sure, but a good one. People at the time must’ve been baffled, but baffled with a touch of excitement.
I’ll confess I don’t listen to this one as much as the other two nowadays, because when I want the glory and perfection I go for Act III and when I want the purity and simplicity I go towards The Ultra Violence so this falls behind a little bit… but I’d still recommend people check it out. Overshadowed, justly, but it need not be ignored, there’s some killer stuff on here that would be a shame to miss out on.

Favourite Songs: ‘Why Do You Do This,’ & ‘Bored.’
Not For Me: The cover of ‘Cold Gin’ doesn’t really fit.

 

Death Angel – Act III (1990).
The undisputed diamond in the crown, this album is a masterpiece for the genre and one of the most interesting, entertaining and well-written albums the genre has to offer with heaps of innovation, but never sounding gimmicky or losing its Thrashiness. On top of that, its simply the best set of choruses and solos the band have ever come up with, and the acoustic tracks are some of the best and least forced-sounding in the genre. If you only get one Death Angel album, this is the smart choice.

Favourite Songs: ‘Ex-TC,’ ‘Disturbing The Peace’ & ‘Veil Of Decption.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

 

Exhorder:

Exhorder – Slaughter In The Vatican (1990).
Everyone tells you the same thing… this is where Pantera stole their sound from, Phil used to roadie for em. Then you go and check it out and it sounds nothing like Pantera and that’s usually the end of it. There’s a lot more to the band that just that, but its all so ‘almost.’ Their brutal production style is almost awesome, their singer is almost awesome. The songs are almost as good as Slayer’s fast stuff. I could go on but the main thing is its just a bit forgettable and I listen to it a lot to try and not feel like I’m only in it for the cheap Pantera connection, and at the time I may even enjoy it, but a day later, could I hum you even one chorus? Could I bollocks.

Favourite Songs: Nothing Stands Out.
Not For Me: Nothing Stands Out.

 

Exhorder – The Law (1992).
A much better album, with much more memorable songs. A huge improvement in vocals, riffs, songwriting, production, performance, the works. If they had have continued on this tack they might’ve ended up like Sepultura and Machine Head did in the mid-90s. Ugly artwork, but hey, artwork’s not that important anyway. Not as important as some of those awesome screams, or the interesting funky bass. Funk in Metal was a bit of a novelty, see Death Angel, and a few quick seconds of it without being goofy is just the ticket. If I want some Exhorder, my go-to choice is side-A of this album. Check it out if you’re interested in the band.

Favourite Songs: ‘Un-Born Again,’ ‘Soul Search Me’ & ‘The Truth.’
Not For Me: ‘(Cadence Of) The Dirge’ and the ‘Into The Void’ cover.

 

 

Exodus:

Exodus – Bonded By Blood (1985).
I’ve never heard an album so simultaneously over and underrated at the same time, nor have I ever flipflopped so much between liking and disliking something. Its been mostly liking in the last ten years to be fair though. I’ve got to say though, the title track is so insanely, monumentally good that the whole rest of the album just drastically pales in comparison. Like, the tile track is unquestionably on of the band’s, subgenre’s and even overall genre’s finest hours. That chorus. That chorus just does something to me. I know there’s some great moments on the rest of the record, like the acoustic guitar bit, or the aggression, or the little lead lines, but its otherwise all so c-lister compared to that absolute world class title track. I also, contrary to popular opinion really don’t think Paul Baloff is any good. I get that he was fun as a person in San Fransisco in the 80s and there’s lots of fond memories but musically, my ears just don’t gel with him. Zetro is so much better for me that its almost distracting thing about it. I like tracks from this live with Zetro. I like tracks from this live with Rob Dukes. But I don’t love it the way magazines and websites seem to say I should. Apart from the title track. Frig me, that title track is so good!

Favourite Songs: ‘Bonded By Blood,’ & ‘A Lesson In Violence.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, but sometimes I’ll take a notion for a while that I don’t like ‘Piranah’ or ‘Strike Of The Beast’ or ‘Exodus’ but at other times I love them, so its hard to give a straight answer.

 

Exodus – Pleasures Of The Flesh (1987).
This is what I’m talking about! This is why Exodus are so important to me. This is what’s great about Bay Area Thrash. I mean, the catchiness, the power, the musicianship. Sure the album art isn’t good, and yeah, fan favourite Paul Baloff is gone, but how could you argue with these songs?

The production is also a lot less reverby than the debut. The lyrics are more interesting. The solos are more musical and damn, there’s some fuuuuun riffs. I think the difference is that this album is fun and only the title track of the previous one is fun. So, if you’re more into extremity it’d be better but if you’d rather hear Among The Living than In The Sign Of Evil, then this is more suitable.

Favourite Songs: ‘Brain Dead,’ ‘Seeds Of Hate’ & ‘Chemi-kill.’ (Three of the best
Thrash songs ever, ever written).
Not For Me: I hate the intro to Deranged, the bit about the salad, and some of the lyrics, but the song is decent. I think the title track is a bit overlong or needs more variety, and also it should be the album closer not just halfway through. Why don’t Thrash bands end with the epic as much? Most don’t actually close with the logical climax.

 

Exodus – Fabulous Disaster (1989).
The best Exodus album in my eyes. The closest they ever came to absolute perfection. The most memorable songs. The most varied material. The finest performances and of all the early albums the best production and songwriting. Admittedly, the lyrics can be a bit dodgy at times, like the fun bit in that documentary where they’re joking about the difference between ‘Athlete’ and ‘Ath-a-leet,’ or the line ‘devastating plaster’ but I can overlook that when the songs are so good.

The title track is one of the absolute definitions of Thrash Metal for me. Also how heavy is that opening track? The guitar tone is so biting its crazy.

 

Favourite Songs: ‘Fabulous Disaster,’ ‘The Toxic Waltz ‘Verbal Razors’ & ‘Corruption.’
Not For Me: ‘Cajun Hell’ is a bit weird, but still good. ‘Like Father Like Son’ is clearly better as the closer, Thrash bands should do that more. What I actually dislike though is the ‘low Rider’ cover, seems so out of place and out of character and doesn’t fit and partially derails the momentum.

 

Exodus – Impact Is Imminent (1990).
Almost as good as the previous few and nowhere near as bad as the weird ‘its disappointing’ reputation it has for some reason…similar to Testament’s Souls Of Black in that respect. I hate the album artwork, but again, not that important. I think the only problem musically with this one is that the songs might be a bit overlong. That and how do you compare to the amazing Fabulous Disaster material?

Special shout out to the guitar solo on ‘Within The Walls Of Chaos’ …odd tone, really makes the song.

Favourite Songs: ‘Impact Is Imminent,’ ‘Thrash Under Pressure’ & ‘Only Death Decides.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Exodus – Good Friendly Violent Fun (1991; but recorded 1989).
I only bought this one recently because its only got eight songs, one of which is an AC/DC cover, and it has really ugly artwork and I used to be more shallow. I’m glad I’ve finally taken the chance though, this is a pretty great little live album. I think the tracklist is awesome, and all that’s really missing for such a brief album would be ‘Bonded By Blood.’ Its great to have so many of my absolute favourites in one set though. Its a pretty stunning collection to be honest. The production and performances are pretty decent too, nothing to complain about. I’m not so used to this yet that I can really think of much more to say. Its good and I’d recommend it. Is that enough?

 

Forbidden:

Forbidden – Forbidden Evil (1988).
The best album artwork of the 80s? The best vocal performance outside of the big-four? The best songs of Forbidden ever wrote?
Yes, Yes and Yes. Man, I’d love to have a copy of that on my wall.
You might’ve noticed I really enjoy solos and catchy choruses so this one is pretty much guaranteed to be one of my favourites. There’s such great razor sharp riffs, such fantastic drums (I think I originally bought it to get more Paul Bostaph drums since I have a bit of a drummer crush on him…those fills!). I guess there might be a wee bit of filler, but at least three-quarters of this record is best-album-of-the-subgenre quality stuff.
I have so many fond memories of school trips and stuff listening to this. Great, great album. If you don’t own it, fix that!

Favourite Songs: ‘Forbidden Evil,’ ‘March Into Fire’ & ‘Chalice Of Blood.’
Not For Me: Sometimes, but not always, I get a bit of a thing against ‘Off The Edge.’

 

Forbidden – Twisted Into Form (1990).
Its more progressive than the debut, but less slow and groove orientated than the next two. Its not just as world-class as the debut but it is very strong for a second-waver (man, I always remember this one line in a magazine that said ‘Forbidden never amounted to a hill of beans in the UK’ and when I listen to this or the debut I really wonder why). I always feel the need to throw Forbidden’s name in with Exodus and Testament, because it really belongs there… even if the charts at the time didn’t work out that way. Okay, side A is defiantly a little stronger than side b, but its still a great album.

Favourite Songs: ‘Out Of Body (Out Of Mind)’ & ‘Twisted Into Form.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Heathen:

Heathen – Breaking The Silence (1987).
This album came free on their website for a while. I really like it, but I always feel like I don’t really own it because it was free. Even after having it for years and years. Anytime I’m in a Thrash mood I break some of this out and I always enjoy it, but I still don’t feel like I can really accept it, because I don’t have a physical copy. Its weird. I’m weird. Whatever. When I’m not being a bit mental, this is a very good album. Not quite in the league of Testament, Exodus and Forbidden but still yet another example of great Bay Area Thrash with a high singer. The Sweet cover of ‘Set Me Free’ is even better than Saxon’s cover of it too, that’s worth mentioning. Usually, I think a cover can throw off a Thrash album but here it really works.

Favourite Songs: ‘Death By Hanging’ & ‘Pray For Death.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Heathen – Victims Of Deception (1991).
A very different musical direction. Much more technical, lengthy and elaborate. The guitar work is amazing. I love it on the one hand, but if I’m not in the right mood I’d argue it could use a few more fast songs…arguably against the point of the album in the first place but sometimes I’m in weird moods.

On the previous album, the cover really worked, but I guess the Kill The King doesn’t necessarily meet the proggy vibe here. I can’t decide if it throws me off or not. Its so good, but I guess it isn’t the right fit. I can’t decide.

I used to think that there was a different singer but I just didn’t know the singer changed his surname from Godfrey to White. I also didn’t know until researching this article that Paul Baloff was briefly in the band. I guess that makes the fact that Lee Atlus is in Exodus nowadays even more logical.

Favourite Songs: ‘Prisoners Of Fate,’ & ‘Guitarmony.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, but some of ’em could use a trim.

 
Kreator:

Kreator – Endless Pain (1985).
This album isn’t one you ever hear people talk about all that often. Its almost as if Pleasure To Kill was the debut. This one is a bit slower, a bit less extreme, a bit more reverby. A bit more simplistic. A bit more samey. A bit less professional. Its not like, a joke or something, but its not Master Of Puppets either. Much, much better than Sodom’s debut though, if you want a comparison.

Favourite Songs: ‘Dying Victims,’ ‘Cry War’ & ‘Tormentor.’
Not For Me: Nothing stands out, but its all a bit too rough and dull.

 

Kreator – Pleasure To Kill (1986).
This album is deceptive. With its reputation and its ferociously aggressive first two songs you’d be forgiven for thinking this was just a brutal nasty selection of unpleasant harsh bashing. There’s a surprising amount of complexity, depth and musicianship though. Its not mindless hammering, its much more sophisticated than that. And when they slow down there’s some serious groovy riffs and memorable moments. I know the exciting story is about the speed and savagery (and of that there is no shortage) but there’s so much more to this record than that, if you take even half a second to look deeper. I think I first gave it a second chance when I heard Napalm Death’s cover of ‘Riot Of Violence’ and saw what it had to offer.

Favourite Songs: ‘Pleasure To Kill,’ ‘Riot Of Violence’ & ‘The Pestilence.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Kreator – Terrible Certainty (1987).
This is a much more focused and well-formed version of Pleasure To Kill. It takes the different song-types of that album and makes every track here a mixture of them all. Its still got that nasty tinge to it, that bit heavier and harsher than the yankee Thrashers… but there’s a good quarter of this album wouldn’t sound weird on Among The Living or The American Way either, if you know where to look. Yeah, its a bit slower and a bit more mature, but so was Seasons In The Abyss, and we all know how good that was. This feels equivelant.

Favourite Songs: ‘Terrible Certainty,’ & ‘Toxic Trace.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Kreator – Extreme Aggression (1989).
Most people will tell you this is the best Kreator album and I have no problems with that state of affairs. I think this should be people’s introduction to the band. If you haven’t heard the band before, try this one on for size before anything else. I think this is the best distillation of their essence without being too experimental or too brutal or out of ideas or anything else. This is the core Kreator. This album is Kreator to me.

Favourite Songs: ‘Stream Of Consciousness,’ ‘Betrayer’ & ‘Fatal Energy.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Kreator – Coma Of Souls (1990).
I think this is my favourite Kreator album. It definitely has my favourite two Kreator songs on it (Coma Of Souls and People Of The Lie…the catchiest two songs the band ever wrote) so that’s a big point in its favour. Its also slightly less harsh and nasty than the earlier ones. Some people say its a bit of a let down after Extreme Aggression but I don’t hear that at all. I think this takes what that built and does it even better. Admittedly, nothing on it is as good as those aforementioned two god-tier tracks, but that would be a big ask. Its consistent, perfectly produced, challenging yet not boring and has the perfect mix of heaviness with pleasantness. If Mille had’ve tried being a bit more melodic on the vocals I’m sure this album could’ve really sold crazy well. As it stands its the perfect ending to the early days.

Favourite Songs: ‘Coma Of Souls,’ ‘People Of The Lie’ & ‘Terror Zone.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

 

Megadeath:

Megadeath – Killing Is My Business (1985).
A lot rougher, a lot rawer and with the fun ‘we blew the budget on drugs’ story, Killing’ is the interesting moment in the catalogue. Weird thumpy tom sounds and reverby drawn back vocals just add to the experience. Sure its ugly, but its good-ugly. If people can listen to Burzum or Crass or early Carcass then this is Dark Side Of The Moon by comparison anyway. These songs are a great deal of fun too, I wish they’d play a lot more from this live… especially the Title Track. It feels like an absolute Megadeth anthem and I’d never make any compliation or playlist without it. It feels like the Death Rider or Metal Thrashing Mad of the piece y’know. The Running Free or Iron Maiden of the album. The one that transcends. That place goes to Mechanix and justly so, but I feel like the title track is just as good and deserves more recognition.

Favourite Songs: ‘Killing Is My Business,’ ‘Rattlehead’ & ‘The Mechanix.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Megadeath – Peace Sells But Who’s Buying (1986).
If you lose the novelty cover, then this is utterly perfect. I mean, the title track is one of the most important songs in Metal history, for a start off. Then you’ve got the likes of ‘Wake Up Dead’ and ‘Devil’s Island’ with their just other-worldly catchiness. Then you’ve got the variety of Good Mourning and The Counjuring. You’ve got that utterly charming dry production. I mean, do I need to say more. Its peace flipping sells for goodness sake. If you don’t like it you should probably stop reading this.

Favourite Songs: ‘My Last Words,’ ‘Devils Island’ ‘Peace Sells’ & ‘Wake Up Dead.’
Not For Me: ‘I Aint Superstitious’ – Save it for a B-Side.

 

 

Megadeath – So Far So Good So What (1988).
I think this one is my favourite Megadeth album. If it had a slightly better production, an Ed Repka sleeve and it ditched the cover tune, I’m sure it would get the same treatment its successor and predecessor do. Such things oughtn’t concern us though, when the album has In My Darkest Hour on it, should it?

And hey, he said the word ‘Megadeth’ there …that’s worth some points, no?

Ok. I know not everyone is convinced and maybe it is going to feel overlooked forever, especially with the less-famous line-up, but just because its a bit rough around the ages, doesn’t mean its not fantastic fun, musically strong and full of damn memorable material.

Favourite Songs: ‘Set The World Afire,’ ‘Liar’ & ‘Hook In Mouth.’
Not For Me: The intro to ‘Mary Jane’ but not the rest of it. The ‘pull over shithead’ line in the otherwise perfect ‘502’ and the bloody Sex Pistols cover, save that for a B-Side.

 

Megadeath – Rust In Peace (1990).
The title track to this one speaks to me on some near-religious level and can conjure in me feelings almost nothing else can. It is one of the most compelling reasons to enjoy Thrash Metal that I can name. Then you have all the concert favourites, Tornado Of Souls, Hangar 18, Holy Wars. Then you have those awesome deep cuts like Take No Prisoners and Five Magics.

Then the artwork, the beautiful, beautiful artwork. Then the super clean production. Then the damn guitars, I mean seriously, those guitars! I’m struggling to think of an album on this list that can even compete.

For a few years I didn’t realise how much everyone loved this. I thought it was all about Peace Sells and Countdown To Extinction. Good to see nowadays you cannot attend a single Metal gig without seeing or hearing something to do with Rust In Peace. That feels like justice somehow.

Favourite Songs: ‘Rust In Peace …Polaris,’ ‘Take No Prisoners’ & ‘Holy Wars.’
Not For Me: ‘Dawn Patrol’ – I almost always skip it. It reminds me of subterranean mole people.
Metallica:

Metallica – Kill Em All (1983).
It took me a long, long, loooong time to like this and about a decade more to really get it. Even with all the articles and documentaries, I don’t think it was until 2014 when I started looking into Angel Witch and Diamond Head and Motorhead and the like that this finally totally clicked. I remember it finally growing on me in about 2005, but not quite this much. Nowdays I’m very keen on this and its one of my go-to Thrash choices, I guess because Metallica are always so much more and so much bigger and farther ahead of the pack that sometimes you almost forget about them as a Thrash band and they are their own Zeppelin-esque superstar law unto themselves…. but this one still has that teenager in a leather jacket in the garage vibe. I know I’ve seen tracks from this at WCW events or live on million dollar productions, but the actual album versions still feel human, achievable, ahead of the times sure but at least within reach of us mere mortals.

Favourite Songs: ‘Hit The Lights,’ ‘Whiplash’ ‘No Remorse’ & ‘Seek & Destroy.’
Not For Me: I know its controversial, but I hate that flow-killing bass solo. Yes Cliff Burton was good but that solo in the middle of a Thrash album just flat out disrupts everything. Also, sometimes if I’m not in the mood ‘Motorbreath’ and ‘Jump In The Fire’ feel a little half-baked, although most times they’re just charming. One thing that sometimes happens to me though is that I feel weird about ‘The Four Horsemen’ … I actually heard ‘The Mechanix’ first and it was quite a while until I heard Metallica’s version and sometimes I just get that Mustaine “You can either hear it our way or their way” speech from Rude Awakening and it makes me feel oddly guilty. I also prefer Mustaine’s delivery of the chorus. That’s not a hipster trying to be cool thing though, its an actual preference.

 

Metallica – Ride The Lightening (1984).
The cool album to like. Justice and Puppets are so popular you can’t like them the best, the debut is the debut so you can’t look like a hipster, so the person of dedication has to logically choose Lightning. Y’know, if you’re mental and think of things in those terms. Or you could, y’know, love em all. Or like things because you like them and not because of what it represents.
Anyway, how heavy is Fight Fire With Fire? Heavier than the band’s usual. How catchy is ‘Bell Tolls? Very memorable indeed. How passionate and awesome is Fade To Black? You just can’t argue with that tune. How charming is that production? How cool is the idea behind the title track?
This is a perfect storm of x-factor. Its no surprise the band who made this record ended up as the entire genre’s biggest and most important band. How could they not?

Favourite Songs: ‘Fight Fire With Fire,’ ‘Ride The Lightening’ & ‘Creeping Death.’ (Three of the best Thrash songs ever, ever written)
Not For Me: Never been that into Ktulu, and chorus of ‘Escape.’

 

Metallica – Master Of Puppets (1986).
Do I even actually even have to type something here?
This is the business as long as you remember it is and don’t let it get outplayed or act like you’re too cool for it. There’s a reason so many lists have it as the finest anyone has ever written and I won’t insult you going over the reasons why. If you’re reading this, you’ve heard this, and you either agree that it is great or will already have been told you’re wrong before. No need for another voice in the choir. There’s a redundancy in telling the world’s fattest man that he’s fat, y’know, I think he’s heard it all before, and that’s what its like for Puppets.

Oh, and if you’re burnt out on Puppets or have gone cynical over time… if you haven’t actually listened to it in a while, just clear your schedule and drink it all in whilst acting as if you’re hearing it for the first time. It can really reignite it for you. Works for me when I forget every few years just how good it is.

Favourite Songs: ‘Battery,’ ‘Master Of Puppets’ (Two of the best Thrash songs ever, arguably THE best two) & ‘Damage Inc.’
Not For Me: I’m not as into ‘Orion’ as I think I should be.

 

Metallica – And Justice For All (1988).
I have so many fond, fond memories relating to this album. I can still remember the sofa I was sat on when I first ‘got’ this album after a few years as a Metallica skeptic (It was green & white checkered, and cloth rather than leather). I can remember the baddies from the videogame (Devil May Cry 2) I was killing at the time I first heard the chorus to ‘Eye Of The Beholder’ and finally totally accepted Metallica were just fundamentally better than all their competition. I remember trying to learn the awkward title track on drums. I remember singing Blackened at the top of my lungs with friends in the park one drunken teenage night, I remember seeing ‘Harvester Of Sorrow’ live in Dublin and feeling like I was in on some secret.

I never really had a problem with the production either. Maybe its because as a teenager my brother and I would play guitar and drums together often without a bassist and the lack of bass just doesn’t bother me as an individual? I love Hetfield’s voice here. I love the lyrics. I love the artwork. I love footage of this era. I love that anything this dense and challenging and proggy (and miles ahead of the competition) is so ubiquitous and necessary for every single Metal fan to hear. Ace Of Spades aint as Proggy as this, nor is Paranoid or Back In Black or British Steel …heck, even Number Of The Beast isn’t THIS dense or epic. Its amazing really that THIS is so popular, famous and beloved when you think about it.

Sometimes I think about Lulu or Beyond Magnetic or some of the more embarassing scenes from the excellent and underrated Some Kind Of Monster documentary and I forget that the band made this. Every time I come back and actually hear it, I’m slightly taken aback by just how good it is.

Favourite Songs: ‘Blackened,’ ‘…And Justice For All’ ‘The Shortest Straw’ & ‘Eye Of The Beholder.’
Not For Me: Not one second, it is perfect. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking I don’t like ‘One’ anymore because it is overplayed or like, because the Korn version doesn’t have a guitar solo, or something, but when I actually hear the actual studio version… especially the bits they cut out’ve the video version like the extra solos, well, its absolutely awesome and I think that the staccatto ‘LANDMINE. HAS TAKEN MY SIGHT. TAKEN MY SPEACH. TAKEN MY HEARING’ bit is one of the singular greatest bits of record music I’ve ever heard and I don’t mean that as hyperbole. It just really grabs me, so, so much.

 

[Side note, I know we aren’t supposed to count The Black Album because purists get so uppity about it; but ‘Holier Than Thou,’ ‘Don’t Tread On Me,’ ‘Trough The Never’ and ‘The Struggle Within’ are four of the best ever Thrash tunes and its madness if you rob yourself of them just to make a point.]

 

 

Nuclear Assault:

Nuclear Assault – Game Over (1986).
When you think about how un-heavy the guitar tone is (sounds like a 15 year old with a tiny clip-onto-the-belt novelty amplifier) and how love-it-or-hate-it the distinctive vocal style is, you may be forgiven for thinking at first glance that this is some poor, half-baked nonsense.

If that happens, persist, because I promise you this is actually one of the genre’s finest ever releases and easily up in the very top tier with any classic you care to name. This is absolutely essential for Thrash fans and I couldn’t recommend it any stronger. Like Thrash? Please, please try this.

Favourite Songs: ‘Sin,’ ‘Nuclear War’ & ‘Game Over.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, but I’m not always in the mood for ‘My America’ and ‘Hang The Pope’ …I get what they’re tryna do, but I have to be in the right mood. Same thing with ‘Lesbians’ from some versions.

 

Nuclear Assault – The Plauge (1987).
I got it free as bonus tracks to my Game Over and listened to that disc end to end constantly for a few years so the distinction between the two is sometimes lost on me and I may mis-attribute one song from one to the wrong one at times. Its great either way. Even if I sometimes forget its technically a separate release.

Favourite Songs: ‘Nightmares’ & ‘Justice.’
Not For Me: Sometimes I’m not in the mood for ‘Butt Fuck’ …I like the music but the comedy is just lame. I agree that drink driving and manslaughter are bad, but I’m not always in the mood for this.

 

Nuclear Assault – Survive (1988).
This is the second most I’ve ever paid for an album. I think the only time I ever paid more for anything was Powerman 5000’s Anyone For Doomsday which had literally been almost entirely recalled and destroyed by the record company, save for a few copies left for radio stations and magazines. Anyway, this was just out of print and not yet reissued and I couldn’t wait. I think I spent something stupid on it I’m embarrassed and too forgetful to list here.

Its got one of the best album artworks of all time (I wore a t-shirt of it quite often for a good few years and have a vinyl copy on my wall for decoration) and more importantly, the music is good. Its got the singles, the opening two being concert staples, the singles all being career highlights, and all the deep cuts being great. Apart from the token joke tracks and a stray Zeppelin cover this is pretty perfect and I’d highly highly recommend it. Especially now its been reissued.

Favourite Songs: ‘Survive,’ ‘Fight To Be Free’ & ‘F Sharp.’
Not For Me: It could do with trimming away ‘PSA,’ ‘Got Another Quarter’ and the Led Zeppelin cover. I guess you could argue that this is what gives it character though.

 

Nuclear Assault – Handle With Care (1989).
Which is the best Nuclear Assault album? You could honestly choose any of the first three and you’d be right either way. The debut had the charm, the sophomore has the songs and this one has the speed, power and musicianship. Which album should you try first? Do you want a mixture of Iron Maiden and DRI…go Game Over. Do you want a mixture of Anthrax and Sacred Reich…go Survive. Do you want a bit of Kreator meets SOD? Then this is for you.
Great lyrics too, on the non-joke songs.

Favourite Songs: ‘New Song,’ ‘Critical Mass’ & ‘Search & Seizure.’
Not For Me: ‘Funky Noise’ and ‘Mother’s Day’

 

Nuclear Assault – Out Of Order (1991).
Unfairly overlooked. Not just as amazing as the previous stuff but almost up there. Its highlights are very good. If just two more songs were amazing I think it would’ve titled the scales and public perception would be totally different. Also, such ugly, ugly artwork… but that’s not important. Also, the keys on the lengthy title track are a fun surprise that totally works and doesn’t feel gimmicky. A foreshadowing of Dream Theater?

Favourite Songs: ‘Quocustodiat,’ ‘Stop Wait Think’ & ‘Save The Planet.’
Not For Me: ‘Ballroom Blitz’ though excellent, doesn’t fit.

 

Nuclear Assault – Live At The Hammersmith Odeon (1992; Recorded 1989).
The artwork, packaging and production make this seem like cheap crap. I was so in love with the band at the time I had to get it, but every time I hear it I just feel like I wasted my money. I’m sure its better if you have the video with it, but on its own its just a bit poor. Not the best sound, not the best performance and not the best package containing those. Good tracklisting though. I feel bad disliking it… I feel like I SHOULD like it or at least lie about it or something, because the band feel like underdogs for some reason when they should be up there with Megadeth and Anthrax, but unfortuantely this specific product just isn’t their best.

 

 

Onslaught:

Onslaught – The Force (1986).
I bought this to try some British thrash for once. Its pretty much taking the Slayer track ‘Chemical Warfare’ and stretching it out to a whole album, complete with reverby toms. The vocals aren’t the best, the songs aren’t super memorable and the song lengths are a bit too long for the amount of ideas, but it is pretty decent. A solid album but never an amazing one.

Annoyingly, when I was in a band once I lent one of the members this when in the car on the way to a Gama Bomb gig, and the band broke up before I got it back…but small price to pay for a free gig I guess.

Favourite Songs: ‘Thrash Till Death’ & ‘Metal Forces’
Not For Me: Nothing really, but its all a bit overlong, grimy, and rough.

 

 

Overkill:

Overkill – Feel The Fire (1985).
It sounds a bit more ’83 than ’85, and there’s a few noticeable playing mistakes that made the final recording, its a bit of an influences-on-the-sleeve affair and the filler isn’t up to the standards of the best moments. That said. That said I say, this is amazing. The real highlights of the title-track and band’s-name-track are an absolute win for the band, and of the absolute utmost quality. Live, there’s almost nothing off this album that wouldn’t put a smile on my face. Its such a strange mixture of Priest/Maiden worship, punky rough and ready charm and theatrical drama, but when it all converges it births the Overkill sound and just really really works.

Favourite Songs: ‘Feel The Fire,’ ”Overkill & ‘Rotten To The Core.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, but the drums on ‘Raise The Dead’ seem out of time at times.

 

Overkill – Taking Over (1987).
This is pretty much a perfect album. Its the perfect Heavy Metal album. If someone had to show an alien or a lost jungle tribesman who’d never heard of Metal and had no idea of any preconceived notions about the music or culture at all… this is what I’d give em to succinctly deliver the pure heart of metal. This is the album Anvil and Metal Church wanted to make but didn’t quite achieve.

Favourite Songs: ‘In Union We Stand,’ (better than any of Priest or Manowar’s anthems) ‘Deny The Cross’ & ‘Wrecking Crew.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent. ‘Overkill II’ doesn’t have the same fun as the first one, I guess, but that’s just nitpicking.

 

Overkill – Under The Influence (1988).
I like this, and the single ‘Hello From The Gutter’ is great fun, but of the early material this one is the one I listen to or indeed like the least. I have nothing negative to say about it, but for some reason it just isn’t as good as the other four of the early five. Its well produced, chocked full of character, its got variety, its got heaviness, its got no weak moments…. but something just doesn’t sit right with me and I just don’t connect with it the same. No idea why. Maybe I’m just being weird?  I also kinda think Bobby’s vocals get a bit to cartoony on this album, maybe that’s it? I’m not sure.

Favourite Songs: ‘Hello From The Gutter,’ ‘The End Of The Line’ & ‘Never Say Never.’
Not For Me: Same goes for Overkill III, not as good as the first one. Also, I find it difficult to connect with the progressively structured Shred.

 

Overkill – The Years Of Decay (1989).
The best Overkill album, with about half of it all being my favourite Overkill songs (can you follow that sentence’s logic… 50% of the album’s contents are among the best of the band’s entire work). The mixture of doom, speedy Thrash, epic progginess and fun charecterful uniqueness is the solidification and perfection of everything the band have been trying to do before coming together and really gelling. Some of the most memorable material they’ve ever come up with.

Favourite Songs: ‘Elimination,’ ‘I Hate’ ‘Evil Never Dies’ & ‘Birth Of Tension’
Not For Me: ‘Playing With Spiders/Skullkrusher’ is a bit boring if I’m not in the mood, although its actually a cool Sabbathy doom track, just…not what I want when I’m in a Thrash mood.

 

Overkill – Horrorscope (1991).
I’ve wanted to get this forever. I finally did last year, over a decade and a half after my origional Overkill love-fest began. I saw the video for the title track once and was afraid this album was one of those weird 90s album fails like Exodus’ Force Of Habbit if you know what I mean. When I finally got around to it I’m glad I was wrong, its one of the best things they’ve done. Its one of those Thrash-perfection albums, with a stunning production, some damn fun and inventive riffs and fills, and a pure and simple great collection of songs. There’s a touch of groove here and there, but no more than Never Neverland… a hint at Pantera but still very much in the Thrash tent.

Favourite Songs: ‘Coma,’ ‘Blood Money’ ‘Nice Day For A Funeral’ & ‘Thanx For Nothin.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, but it took me a few listens to like ‘Horrorscope.’

 

Sacred Reich:

Sacred Reich – Ignorance (1987).
This is a very solid yet unremarkable album in the Nuclear Assault mould only without the crossover bits and quirky moments. Its all technically fine on every level, the only thing missing is that x-factor or charm. Like, nothing is bad, but nothing makes you say ‘well, this is my favourite song’ either. I tend to listen to it shuffled in with other thrash bands so its part of a nice Thrash smorgasbord, as any song on its own works fine, but I don’t always sit through the whole original track order.

Favourite Songs: Nothing really stands out.
Not For Me: Nothing really stands out.

 

Sacred Reich – Surf Nicaragua (1988).
If you don’t get any bonus tracks or anything, its pretty short. The music is awesome. Each track would be the best track on Ignorance and a good song on The American Way. There’s not too much else to say really. Its awesome, just a shame its not a full length… maybe that’s just me being greedy though. Hey, if the two best songs off of Independent were on this, it’d be like, the best Thrash EP on the market.

Its weird that this is more famous and iconic than their albums. Was it just the novelty of the surf part? I hope not. It deserves more than that.

Favourite Songs: ‘One Nation’ & ‘Surf Nicaragua’ …although I think itd be better without the actual surf part in there.
Not For Me: I could do without the Sabbath cover.

 

Sacred Reich – The American Way (1990).
The best album of their career. One of the most flawless albums of the subgrene. Amazing vocals, such good choruses, awesome lyrics, the perfect production and some nice, niiiice riffs. The final track is a novelty track that technically spoils the word ‘flawless’ but if you consider it a bonus track I can justify the ‘flawless’ tag. I wish they made one more clone of this before moving on. The first four albums are all so different from eachother, could’ve done with a bit more of each, but maybe I’m just being greedy. Anyway, I don’t know what this is, but I really love this album, its got character, charm, x-factor or something. Its just that little bit inexplicably better than almost everything else. Apart from the world-beaters like Years Of Decay and Peace Sells But Who’s Buying and Spreading The Disease… well, this just about the best you can get. Trust me, you need this.

Favourite Songs: ‘Who’s To Blame,’ ‘The American Way’ & ‘Love… Hate.’
Not For Me: ’32 Flavours.’

 

Sacred Reich – Independent (1993).
Much like ‘Bonded By Blood’ the title-track is dramatically better than everything else. Its a bit repetitive and forgettable towards the end and although the highlights are amazing its not as good towards the deep cuts. It also of significance for introducing the world to Dave McClain. I mean, its great but I am writing a lot of these and I’m getting a little too honest for my own good. Even more than I’m even honest with myself. Or I guess I’m allowed to change my mind. I really like it sometimes and sometimes I’m not as in the mood as others.

Favourite Songs: ‘Independent’ & ‘Supremancy.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Sepultura:

Sepultura – Morbid Visions (1986).
This just aint my cup of tea. I get it in a curiosity sort of way and I can see why some of the extreme crowd might be into it, but yeah, not for me. Also; Is it true that Igor couldn’t afford a pedal so he played the kickdrum by actually kicking it?

Favourite Songs: Nothing stands out.
Not For Me: Nothing stands out.

 

 

Sepultura – Schizophrenia (1987).
A lot better than the previous album, but nowhere near as good as the next two. Its still a bit too rough, its still a bit harsh and its still a little bit samey, but boy is it better than the previous album and EP.

I remeber reading the linear notes of this whilst at a bus stop and my highschool English Teacher gave me a dissaproving look. I was actually listening to Set The World Afire by Megadeth at the time, but he gave me the whole ‘why do you listen to this nonsense, grow up’ thing. If we were talking Schizophrenia I’d have been tempted to agree with him, but you can’t mess with Set The World Afire.

Favourite Songs: Nothing stands out.
Not For Me: Nothing stands out.

 

Sepultura – Beneath The Remains (1989).
The title track is awesome and I love it, but apart from that I don’t really listen to this often enough to distinguish the other tracks. Its a little bit samey though much, much better than the previous material. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this album, but I don’t know, I have some sort of mental block. I agree with anyone and any review that says its good, but I can’t ever seem to just stick it on and get into it.

Favourite Songs: ‘Beneath The Remains’
Not For Me: Nothing stands out.

 

Sepultura – Arise (1991).
It took me a long time to get into this. I remember for a little while I didn’t know Sepultura had a past, I thought their debut was Chaos AD and their Breakthrough was Roots. This resulted in quite a while of calling anything prior to this ‘Old School Seps.’ Of all the old school Seps albums, this one is the most varied, accomplished and not only realistic, but impressive. I am not in love with it or any Sepultura pre-Chaos AD but it is objectively great. I think they’re better at parts than songs, and there’s tonnes of sections I enjoy but this isn’t an album isn’t something I listen to that often.

Also how weird was it to hear this in Taledega Nights? So unexpected,

Favourite Songs: ‘Arise,’ ‘Dead Embryonic Cells’ & ‘Infected Voice.’
Not For Me: Nothing stands out.

Slayer:

Slayer – Show No Mercy (1983).
I avoided this album for years based on the silly cover and the silly make-up photo on the back, but hearing both ‘Die By The Sword’ and ‘The Antichrist’ on Decade Of Aggression made me take a shot, and I’m glad I did. I really, really like this. Its very NWOBHMy, charming and unique. It almost feels like a different band from the guys who made Reign In Blood or Seasons In The Abyss, but I love it all the same. Its like two different bands, but two awesome bands. The production job is really interesting, there’s nothing quite like it… Overkill and Megadeth’s debuts have charming production but its still different than this. Also for all the Venom influence that gets talked about regarding this band, y’know who this reminds me of? The other Newcastle guys… Raven.

Favourite Songs: ‘Crionics,’ ‘The Antichrist’ & ‘Final Command.’
Not For Me: ‘Metal Storm/Face The Slayer.’

 

Slayer – Haunting The Chapel (1984).
This EP is a lot heavier and more Slayer-y than the debut. I feel like these tracks would fit in with Hell Awaits a lot more than Show No Mercy should they be packaged together at some point. For such a famous and oft-played song, ‘Chemical Warfare’ is a bit dull, but the rest is pretty nifty. Nowadays I don’t listen to this much on its own, but I get decent coverage from it when listening to all Thrash on shuffle.

Favourite Songs: Nothing stands out.
Not For Me: Nothing stands out.

 

Slayer – Live Undead (1984).
This one feels a bit pointless, like, a live album done in the studio with a tiny crowd, and tracks from only the debut and one more EP. Like, who is this really for? I don’t dislike it, but I’ll never love it. I guess there’s a certain charm to it. I don’t listen to it often, but when I do I don’t feel like its been a complete waste of money. Not that I’d recommend it either. But if you’ve already got it, don’t throw it in the trash just yet.

 

 

Slayer – Hell Awaits (1985).
Its a bit monotonous, a bit slow and a bit too reverb-y, but its still a pretty strong album. I think the performances are the least aggressive of any Slayer album to date, and the production makes it feel a bit muted, but the songs themselves are pretty boss. Also, there’s not one, but two prototype riffs for the iconic Raining Blood riff from the next album, check em out, its like they were trying to figure out how to make the best riff in the whole genre.

Favourite Songs: ‘Kill Again’ & ‘Hardening Of The Arteries.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Slayer – Reign In Blood (1986).
This album was so hyped and so highly recommend that I felt it was actually a big disappointment for me. It actually took me a rather long time to get into and for years I’d speak of it in mocked derisive tones. If I ever used the word ‘overrated’ it was probably in conjunction with this. The main exceptions to my cold shoulder to this where Raining Blood and Post Mortem because they are Slayer’s best two songs period. Nowadays I’m actually pretty keen on this record. It works better as a whole than in bits though. I more routinely shuffle music nowadays, but getting a random ‘Epidemic’ or ‘Jesus Saves’ doesn’t really blow my skirt up in the way a deep cut off an Overkill or Annihilator album might. Its a complex relationship I have with this. In awe, respectful, but resentful, but also too self aware to stay resentful. Oh yeah, and what about that production? Hands down the best Thrash production of the 1980s.

Favourite Songs: ‘Raining Blood,’ ‘Postmortem’ & ‘Alter Of Sacrifice.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Slayer – South Of Heaven (1988).
When you read about this one, the articles always act as if its the slowest album ever recorded. When things like Silent Scream and Live Undead are pretty darn quick I just don’t get that. I’d argue Silent Scream is faster than at least half of Reign In Blood. Its not the slow broody numbers or the speedy bangers that really set this album apart though, the mid paced and famous tracks are the most memorable moments here for me. I don’t care if they are outplayed, The Title Track and Mandatory Suicide are a real high water mark for Thrash in my opinion. Oh, and the artwork is cool.

There’s a famous moment in my family where my dad got a McDonalds when not used to it and was expecting some gourmet burger and instead got soggy gross fast food. He proclaimed it a ‘dollop of slop’ and threw it out. I was listening to this album at the time. Anytime I see discarded slop on the roadside, I think of Slayer and my dad and I smile.

Favourite Songs: ‘South Of Heaven,’ ‘Mandatory Suicide’ & ‘Silent Scream.’
Not For Me: ‘Spill The Blood.’ Also as a sidenote, I didn’t know for years that Dissident Agressor was a cover and it was my among my favourite ever Slayer songs.

 

Slayer – Seasons In The Abyss (1990).
This album is pretty near flawless. Its got some really heavy nasty stuff, some nice groovy catchy stuff, some interesting slow creepy stuff, a mixture of lyricaly topics from social, fantasty and real life serial killer content. The production is absolutely immense, especially the drum sound and each band member’s performance is arguably their career best. No Slayer fan should be without and I’d argue no Thrash fan should either. I got this one slightly later than other Slayer albums (in the same purchase as Megadeth’s Killing Is My Business, in the same week my friend Paul lent me a copy of Sepultura’s Schizophrenia for the first time) but having owned it for many many years now I can definitely say I think its subjectively the best Slayer album and if you catch me on the right day I’d swear blind its always been my favourite Slayer album.

Favourite Songs: ‘War Ensemble,’ ‘Blood Red’ ‘Skeletons Of Society’ & ‘Seasons In The Abyss.’ (Four of the best ever Thrash songs)
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Slayer – A Decade Of Aggression (1991).
This double album is one of the best live albums released in the actual Thrash era (There’s plenty of amazing ones from later, like Testament’s Live In London from 2005), with a longer and deeper, and more representative tracklisting than most live Thrash releases from the time and a really decent sound and mixing job.

You can imagine why an 8-track Exodus live album seemed a bit too short after this.

 

 

Slayer – Divine Intervention (1991).
With the exclusion of the opening track, Killing Fields, I absolutely love the drumming on this album and have a little bit of a drummer crush on Paul Bostaph. I also like the fact that Dittohead is faster than anything on Reign In Blood although the band weren’t in their fast-fast-fast period at this time. There’s a few tunes on this album that are slow and groovy with a sort of insidious menace and very different vocals than usual from Tom. I think that although I don’t know very many people who dislike this, I still feel its underrated. I don’t know if I’d call it my hands-down unarguable favourite Slayer album, but I definitely wouldn’t want to be without it. If you only have the three most famous Slayer albums, consider adding this to your collection.

Favourite Songs: ‘Dittohead,’ ‘Sex. Murder. Art,’ ‘Circle Of Beliefs’ & ‘Fictional Reality.’
Not For Me: ‘Killing Fields’

 

Sodom:

Sodom – In The Sign Of Evil (1985).
I have to say I don’t like this; never have, probably never will. Part of it is the style, part of it is the execution. My gut reaction is to say crap music made crappily but that feels so harsh and unfair to say. When judging it purely on the merits of comparison to other Heavy Metal albums and not taking into account things like people’s feelings, legacy, influence or budget, or the fact that I’ve never made anything better, and just going on a scale of ‘If we’re comparing this to everything else in the same league as Master Of Puppets and Reign In Blood’ then I have to say that this really is the worst Thrash album I own, the one I like the least as well, and one which I’ve found very offputting. Buying this made me take less chances buying Thrash albums because I never expected I could dislike one so much before I tried this one out.
I’m sure if you have Blaze In The Northern Sky bedsheets and you dog’s name is Sarcofago then maybe you’d enjoy it but for me, it really doesn’t do it. I got into this music for Caught In A Mosh and Battery and Peace Sells. Sorry if that makes me a wimp.

Favourite Songs: Nothing stands out.
Not For Me: Nothing stands out.

 

Sodom – Obsessed By Cruelty (1986).
I’m not a fan of this. I know its held as a classic by Extreme Metal fans but nope, it really isn’t what I like about Thrash or Metal. I don’t want to be harsh or critical because I know its dear to many people, but as a pure personal taste issue I just can’t get along with this and it distorted my view of the whole band for a while. Its hard to call myself a fan of a band when I dislike this so much.
Years later I see much more value to it but when I first bought this I thought it was pretty much garbage and struggled many years trying to get any enjoyment of it at all. I used to actually feel guilty for having wasted money on it. Which with my current brain I think is a pretty stupid way to feel and would hate to say out loud or hurt the band’s or fan’s feelings about…but when I was a teen I’d tell anyone who’d listen that this album royally sucked and any time I see this album in my collection that is the first thing that flashes across my mind. I guess its not fair to complain that a young band on a budget were making mistakes or not making masterpieces but at the time it seemed like such a big deal… I mean, Metallica were young guys too once and they managed to Make Kill ‘Em All.

You know when you’ve got Thrash on shuffle though, and you hear a run of something like ‘Bonded By Blood,’ ‘Hit The Lights,’ ‘Rotten To The Core’ and ‘The Mechanix’ and you couldn’t be musically more satisfied and then ‘Witchhammer’ vomits over the speakers and snaps you back to reality and all you can do is wonder if you should delete it from the playlist but then you get guilty about wasting money and can’t do that and then you look in the mirror and you are me. I hate when that happens. Or you like it, but then Sarcofago sheds his fur all over your Darkthrone bedsheets, and that’s a nuisance too.

Favourite Songs: Nothing stands out.
Not For Me: Nothing stands out.

 

Sodom – Expurse Of Sodomy (1987).
This little EP shows the band expanding their sound, honing their skills and producing some memorable material. Hey, didn’t Cradle Of Filth cover ‘Sodom And Lust’ …I knew I’d heard that somewhere before. Its brief, but it works.

Favourite Songs: ‘My Atonement’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

 

Sodom – Persecution Mania (1987).
This album is a huge improvement over the debut. Its a lot less murky, a lot better played and more professional sounding, the tones are more to my individual tastes and there’s a lot more ambition in the structuring and songwriting. If I was being critical I’d point out that its perhaps a bit too samey and it doesn’t have many real stand out moments but that’s only if I’m being really harsh. I wasn’t that keen on it when I first got it and sometimes have to overcome a bit of mental prejudice against it but I actually enjoy it rather a lot these days.

Favourite Songs: ‘Conjuration,’ & ‘Outbreak Of Evil.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Sodom – Agent Orange (1989).
Ah, now this is what I wanted. This is everything the band had been missing… complex and intriguing songs, memorable lyrics and patterns, melody in the leads, variety, clear production. On top of it all, its not just stylistically more to my tastes but actually better as well. This is actually one of the best Thrash albums in my opinion, overall, when you take every individual marker into account. Oh and the punky ‘Auesgbombt’ is such fun. Damn, even the album art is good!

If you only own Obsessed By Cruelty and therefore think that the band suck, try this, you’ll be very surprised.

Favourite Songs: ‘Agent Orange’ & ‘Tired And Red.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Sodom – Better Off Dead (1990).
This is one of the newest Thrash albums I own, not like, it is released newest, but like, the one that I bought the most recently. I just had the first three Sodom albums for yeeeears and finally got around to getting the fourth recently and damn, I was missing something. This album is totally to my tastes and I really, really recommend it to Thrash fans. It is the professional, well written and immensely catchy Sodom album I’d been waiting for. I wish I’d heard this before I’d heard Obsessed By Cruelty and I’d probably have had a much better opinion of the band all these years. Hey, if you aren’t yet keen on this band just check out ‘The Saw Is The Law’ …no, Black Metal Fans, it aint exactly Witchhammer, but it works for me.

Favourite Songs: ‘The Saw Is The Law,’ ‘Never Healing Wound’ & ‘Capture The Flag.’
Not For Me: The Thin Lizzy cover doesn’t really fit.

 

S.O.D:

SOD – Speak English Or Die (1985).
I like Anthrax, I like Nuclear Assault. This album is Scott Ian and Dan Lilker (yeah I know he was on Fistful Of Metal too, but still…) so I was all geared up to like this and bought it with excitement (mental note, in the same Omagh CD & Record’s fair where I got that Death Angel boxset, the same year as I got Mastodon’s Leviathan). I don’t actually really like this album very much at all though. The humour isn’t for me, the songs aren’t as memorable as Anthrax songs or Nuclear Assault songs, the singer isn’t to my tastes and in general its just a bit forgettable. There are some seriously great Scott-Ian’s-Wrist riffs in there, but that’s not enough on its own to save this for me. I’ll listen to it quite often to try and get my money’s worth because I don’t WANT to dislike it, but I don’t get much out of this one, sorry, I know its got its share of fans who’d call it a classic but sadly I’m not one of ’em.

Favourite Songs: I like a few of the very Scott Ian mid paced riffs here and there.
Not For Me: Most of it

 

Testament:

Testament – The Legacy (1987).
Arguably the darkest and heaviest Testament album (definitely of the ’80s at any rate) and one of the most relentless Thrash albums on the go, The Legacy is definitely a must-have for any Thrash fan and not just in a ‘people say that but its not my cup of tea’ way, I genuinely recommend this, it is a master-class in heavy metal music.

I really enjoy the performance on this album, its incredibly tight for a debut and there’s a certain edge to the playing.

Favourite Songs: ‘Apocalyptic City,’ ‘Alone In The Dark’ & ‘Raging Waters.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Testament – The New Order (1988).
Well this is just jam packed full of concert favourites and perennial compilation inclusion choices, now isn’t it? How could anyone who likes this type of music fail to enjoy this? I’ve heard a few people complain about the production but for me, its not an issue at all. The songwriting, singing and playing are all absolutely excellent and how can anyone mess with the absolute anthem ‘Disciples Of The Watch’ ? I’m tempted to throw out some ‘if you don’t like it, you don’t like Thrash’ type hyperbole, so much is it amazing.

Side note: I recently re-arranged the track order so it opens faster and goes slower as it progresses and it works a bit better. I think the instrumental, the Aerosmith cover and the slower tracks feel better as a conclusion than interrupting the fury.

Favourite Songs: ‘Disciples Of The Watch,’ ‘The Preacher’ & ‘Into The Pit.’ (Three of the absolute best Thrash songs ever)
Not For Me: The Aerosmith cover is an odd choice. ‘Hypnosis’ is a bit pointless.

 

Testament – Practice What You Preach (1989).
A bit more melodic than the previous two, and boasting a ballad (imaginatively titled The Ballad) some greebs back in the day might’ve cried sell out (back in the day when people though having lyrics about Black Magic constituted something being Black Metal, rather than the now recognised separate musical genre). I don’t know, if you don’t want to give an even catchier Testament a chance then your loss, but for me this is exactly the right balance of heaviness and tunefulness and what I’d argue good Thrash is all about. It doesn’t sound like a compromise, it sounds like an improvement. Anyway, I reckon its only the real nitpicky Burzum t-shirted folks who make a distinction between this an the rest of the Testmanet work. Sorry, sounding a bit defensive there …old resentments. Any-old-way – This is heavy, punchy, memorable Thrash with all the lead guitar heroics, chugging and crunch you need.

Favourite Songs: ‘Practice What You Preach,’ ‘Sins Of Ommision’ ‘Nightmare (Coming Back To You)’ & ‘Perilous Nation.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent. Yes, even The Ballad!

 

Testament – Souls Of Black (1990).
Criminally underrated. Criminally. I often read people say this album was rushed, or that it is repetitive or doesn’t live up to their previous albums. For me, this is one of, if not the best Testament album and I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t like it. If feels like the perfection of everything they’d been building to at this point.

Side note – the album cover is one of my all time favourites, I want to get a vinyl copy and get it framed and put it up on my wall as art.

Favourite Songs: ‘Souls Of Black,’ ‘Seven Days Of May’ ‘Face In The Sky’ & ‘The Legacy.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Testament – The Ritual (1992).
This album feels like a missed opportunity to sell out and become millionaires. I mean; Metallica had the Black Album, Megadeth had Countdown’ and Anthrax had Sound Of White Noise, so it seems like Testament could’ve gone down a more hard-rock route and made tonnes of cash, but that was not the case.

At the same time, it wasn’t business as usual either. They doubled the number of ballads from the previous two records (both are decent though, and neither are particularity commercial or cynical), they added a few slow tracks, made more progressive song structures and had a few really good single type songs.

You can’t argue with the likes of ‘Electric Crown’ on its own but the album suffers slightly a lot from a very jumbled track order that doesn’t flow very naturally.

Favourite Songs: ‘Electric Crown’ ‘Agony’ & ‘Let Go Of My World.’
Not For Me: ‘So Many Lies’

 

Vio-lence:

Vio-lence – Eternal Nightmare (1988).
‘Vio-lence;’ that name always slightly annoys me and is difficult to say out loud. Why not just ‘Violence.’ Well, legal reasons probably. Anyway, every time I listen to this, my main though is how much heavier and angrier than Reign In Blood it is without being remotely Death or Black Metal sounding. Sodom or Possesed or Sarcofago may be super influential to extreme Metal, but this is one of the angriest Pure-Thrash albums I’ve heard.

The album was notable at the time of my purchase for featuring Rob Flynn from Machine Head on guitar and then even more interesting when Phil Demmel on this album also joined Machine Head (and ever since as he became more than just a fill-in guitarist and turned into a star in his own right). When I read the phrase ‘Bay Area Crunch’ the two things that imediately flash across my mind are Exodus’ Fabulous Disaster and This, before I start thinking about whoever else.

Favourite Songs: ‘Phobiaphobia’ & ‘Calling In The Coroner.’
Not For Me: Nothing really, its pretty consistent.

 

Vio-lence – Oppressing The Masses (1990).
This album isn’t as constantly fast and blisteringly heavy as the previous one, there’s a lot more meaty and groovier sections and a much better vocal performance. It feels a bit longer and if you aren’t in the right mood, maybe a bit samey, but there’s some seriously good lead guitar work and a very crunchy production that makes the riffs sound perfect.

I don’t feel like I listen to this often enough, but its one of my go to albums to listen to when I feel like I’m not listening to something enough, so I’ve listened to it more under those circumstances than properly.

Favourite Songs: Nothing stands out.
Not For Me: Nothing stands out.

 

Vio-lence – Torture Tactics (1991).
This quick three-track EP focuses mainly on comedy lyrics and silliness. Musically its the same ballsy Bay Area Thrash as the previous two albums, but with stupid lyrics like “12 Inches Of Dangling Doom” …not to my taste, even back as a teenager. I have this as bonus tracks on Oppressing The Masses, but there’s a certain vibe to these songs that doesn’t fit with the songs from that record, so nowadays I have it as a separate entry in iTunes. I don’t listen to this one that often but have nothing against it per se.

Favourite Songs: Nothing stands out.
Not For Me: Nothing stands out.

 

Voivod:

Voivod – Killing Technology (1987).
Killing Technology is the Progged-out Canadian Thrash band Voivod’s third album. My clearest memory of it, is my first listen when I was building a flatpack CD shelf from B&Q, my first ever attempt at furniture assembly. I can’t say I really like this, but I’ll go into more details below.

Favourite Songs: Nothing stands out.
Not For Me: Nothing stands out.

 

Voivod – Dimension Hatross (1988).
Of the two Voivod albums that I own, this one is less specifically Thrash, but more good (wow, my writing skills amaze me sometimes.) The song that made me check out the band, ‘Tribal Convictions’ is on here, but its about the only song on here I like all the way through. There’s loads of good parts on the album, and the production is a lot clearer than the previous album, but all the dissonance, weird music and unpleasant scratchy music is bigger, longer and more prominent. The things that actual Voivod fans would probably go gooey over aren’t really for me. Despite being a big fan of bands like Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson, the gnarlier side of Voivod just isn’t for me. I listen to this album (and the previous one) quite a lot to give them a fair shot, feel like I didn’t waste my money and try not to feel intellectually inferior to imaginary bullies in Burzum t-shirts, but try as I might, this band and album just aint for me.

Favourite Songs: ‘Tribal Convictions.’
Not For Me: It really doesn’t need a Batman theme-tune cover.

 

 

 

Obviously, there’s more to Thrash than that. But this article’s gotta end some time, hasn’t it?