I went to go see Exodus live at the Manchester Academy-2 on 28/10/16.

I went to go see Exodus live at the Manchester Academy-2 on 28/10/16. It was as part of a four part bill, The Battle Of The Bays tour, featuring Florida Death Metal band Obituary (who were actually the headliner but not the band I was most interested in), San Francisco Thrash Metal legends Exodus, New York cross-over thrash turned Groove Metal trio Prong and Australian Grindcore noise makers King Parrot.

I walked in, after having already visiting the merch booth for an Exodus t-shirt, into the first King Parrot track, to join a reasonably revved-up crowd, reacting to the Aussies’ noisy obnoxious music. It was pretty damn entertaining, the singer was like former Jackass celebrity Steve-O in facial expressions and attitude, and kept getting into the crowd, touching people’s face, spitting and throwing liquids at them, screeching in teen girl’s faces, mooning the crowd and generally acting like a 1980s Hardcore Punk front-man, he had that fun obnoxious vibe. The music had blastbeats and grinding guitars, punky moments, and a lot of groove metal sections to balance the two styles out. Not bad at all musically, very good performance wise (from all the band, even though I’ve only bothered to describe the singer) and a very good way to warm up the crowd and start off a fun evening. I’d check em out again. Give em a shot if you like the heavier stuff.

Now, I have a boxset of Prong albums but I hardly ever listen to them. I really love the band when they are playing something that sounds like Fear Factory, Machine Head or Pantera, but I don’t really vibe with their dissonant noisy moments or their hardcore roots the same way. Things that sound like Vulgar era Pantera yes, things that sound like My War era Black Flag, no.

After this concert, I have a lot more interest in Prong. When they played songs I knew, I absolutely loved it. I was singing ‘Another Worldly Device’ at work all the next day. When they played music I didn’t yet know, I was very very impressed. They sound so much heavier and more full live. Maybe it was the production on those albums, or maybe the performances were just that much more firey live, I don’t know, but either way, Prong shot up about 400% in my estimation and I’ll be revisiting them a lot more in the wake of this. Tommy Victor reminds me a lot of Rob Flynn in a lot of good days. He’s a good front man. How in to it he got during closer ‘Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck’ really made me warm to him and I’m totally game to try some new Prong albums in the very near future.

Then came my main event, Thrash Metal legends, number 5 of the Big Four, the best of the Bay Area, the mighty Exodus. This is the reason I was at the gig, I got an email saying they were in town and within a few hours I owned a ticket.

Steve Souza was back in the band, but even at that I was still treated to the amazing gift of having them open with my favourite song from Exhibit B’ ‘The Ballad Of Leonard And Charles’ …a viscous and scathing documentary style comment on the true story of two Californian serial killers who murdered up to 25 actual humans in real life. The vocal performance on the chorus line ‘Killers of Children, Rapists of Women, Sado-sexual Violence’ really conveys how horrific their crimes were (even more so than the lyrics themselves, its the way its spat out that tells the real story). Zetro did not disappoint doing Rob Duke’s material. Nor did he disappoint doing Ballof’s material. Or indeed his own. I love Zetro the best of all of Exodus’ singers over the years, and to hear absolute gems like ‘War Is My Sheppard’ and ‘Blacklist’ live absolutely set me off. In fact, it set the crowd off. I was happy with how well the crowd reacted to Tempo Of The Damned material. That album was such an important moment from the band for my fandom and I was afraid the crowd would be a load of people who only wanted to hear Bonded By Blood songs (of which there was already a heavy percentage). No, good crowd. They know that ‘War Is My Sheppard’ is an indisputable classic now. Smart people. Any concert with ‘Blacklist’ in it is a pretty damn good concert, I’ll tell you that much!

I couldn’t fault the setlist. I wouldn’t remove anything. The only thing I wish is that there was more time. It would’ve been amazing to hear more of my favourite Zetro-era classics ‘Chemi-Kill,’ ‘Brain Dead,’ ‘Fabulous Disaster,’ ‘Corruption,’ ‘Impact Is Imminent’ or indeed newer stuff from the Dukes era like ‘Altered Boy,’ ‘Class Dismissed’ or the Dukes era’s best ever tune ‘Children Of A Worthless God’ but that would’ve been a headline show. How much time would that all take?

How great was it to hear the famous tracks like ‘Bonded By Blood’ or ‘The Toxic Waltz’ though? Oh my goodness did I enjoy that. The crowd began to bang, there was blood upon the stage, metal took its place, bonded by blood. Hearing stuff of the new album like ‘Blood In. Blood Out.’ and ‘Body Harvest’ kept it all vital and not just nostalgia… I mean there’s been no decline in quality over the years. Either of those tracks would still be one of the best songs on Tempo’ or Impact’

I also loved their performance; they were hungry, rabid thrashers, not slow washed-out old men. I’ve heard it said that millionaires can’t make Thrash Metal, and so in that way its good Exodus never got as famous as Metallica, because Exodus are still unrelenting in their delivery. Its as if they’re still in their twenties. I also love their interaction with the crowd, they were very accommodating and interactive and the dialougue about the value of Heavy Metal itself all chimed very well with me. Overall, an amazing, feel-good performance and excellent setlist. I had myself a great time singing along, and I would go see them again tonight if I could. If you ever get the chance, no matter where they are on a bill and how short a slot they’re given, get yourself down to an Exodus show and you’ll be a happy man (or woman) (…but let’s be honest, man. Do I have any female readers? I doubt it.)(Interesting sidenote: Exodus certainly have a pretty high female audience ratio…. way more than I’ve seen in about my last 7 or 8 concerts. More than C.O.C for sure. Not quite Peirce The Veil levels of equality, but for greasy, brutal ’80s Thrash it was more than you’d expect).

At his point my night was complete, only it turns out that Obituary were headlining, as I’ve mentioned, and so I stayed to check them out. I’m not a fan yet, and have only ever heard one song. I’ve been meaning to try them for ages and have picked up their boxset numerous times in HMV but money shortages stopped me ever actually going through with the purchase. I like the other bands in Death Metal’s big four. I’ve liked Cannibal Corpse and Deicide a medium amount for years. I got into Morbid Angel a bit this year. Just Obituary left of the four. (And Death, Immolation, Incantation and many others still to come from the next tiers).

It was a very good performance. The two standout tracks were ‘Slowly We Rot’ and ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die’ as well as the Celtic Frost cover as a close third. I was taken aback by how dedicated and into the crowd were. I noticed in the last few years how many morrisound album t-shirts have skyrocketed in popularity both in the streets of Manchester and especially at Metal gigs. It seems to be enjoying a renewed popularity, but man, I never expected an Obituary gig to be so packed of such an invested crowd. Shows what I know.

I was very, very impressed. There was no blasting, nothing unmusical. It was all fat, thick, groovy. There was a mix of doomy intros, speedy mid sections, and cool stop/start staccato moments ala Fear Factory, with surprisingly audible and discernible vocals and great lead guitar. Colour me impressed. Obituary are definitely worth me checking out it seems.

Good night.

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Round 4 – Day 42

Hello and welcome once more to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 42, and I haven’t spent anything new thank goodness, I’m actually on track. This time last year I was rolling around in Batman and Dredd Blu Rays, picking up White Zombie and Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots albums, picking up about 7 concert tickets and about 14 Batman TPBs, and generally just quickly and almost violently spending all the money I’d earned from working in a media-centered retail outlet all summer.

This September however, I’m not spending anything. I’m thinking of extending this already-extended challenge to be yet another month long as well. So… that’d be no purchases from August 1st all the way to November 1st. My reasoning for this is that I could use that money for fruit and vegetables. Also, I didn’t work this summer like I usually do so its not like the aforementioned that money is much anyway. I’ve got bills to pay people!

Also… I have so much stuff already. And so much borrowed stuff on top of that. And access to so much free stuff on the internet (how many comedy video shows like Zero Punction and web comics are there anyway? And how many bands like Miroist give their music away for free on bandcamp?). I could re-read each of my Graphic Novels, read all the books I got in the last two years again, re-read all my Game Of Thrones (Song Of Ice And Fire) books, listen to all the albums I rarely listen to, play through the backlogue of videogames I haven’t finished (or even started for some of ‘em) yet, and hey, I’ve got Netflix and so there’s always something to watch.

What’s the reason to buy new things anyway?

Apart from my burning need to buy things of course… (the hungry deamon who screams in my brain to ‘spend, spend, spend,”) and the fact that one thing leads to another (as discussed here by my talented friend Paul), in so much as if I read Batman, I’ll want more Batman…if I play God Of War I’ll want more similar video games, If I listen to a certain band, I’ll want more similar music.

Heck; on that tip, I got books about Black and Death Metal for my birthday from Paul (cheers, generous!) and once I read them that’ll make me want to buy Death and Black Metal albums mentioned inside.

…but apart from all that … I think I could do it. I think I could go three months purchase-free, just enjoying what I’ve already got. Getting to grips with what I’ve got. Getting into what I paid for… I think you can consider the challenge extended folks!

Anyway… here’s what I’ve been listening to whilst weightlifting, walking and wanking spending time on facebook for the last few days:

This is one of my favourite album discoveries of the past few years. This album is so well-crafted, so catchy and such good fun. Its also one of their most consistent, filler-free, and exciting albums… one where everything just “comes together” and becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It really is “the 3rd Keeper Of The Seven Keys” like people say it is. Its definitely my number three favourite Power Metal album behind those two aforementioned Keeper gems.

Continuing on a Power Metal theme, I finished the weights yesterday by listening to the melodic Metal stylings of Sweeden’s Hammerfall. This is a really solid and enjoyable album indeed. I’m not sick of it yet at all. Its been a sort of soundtrack to the summer. It is a really motivating album to exercise to as well, the sound of it just inspires activity and dedication. Something about the clean vocals just makes you want to do push-ups. I think if they played this sort of glorious victorious music in high school Phis-Ed classes (or “PE” for us Brits), there’d be much less fat kids. Maybe there’d be higher sales of Dungeons & Dragons and replica swords too, which could offset the economic disaster that thin kids would cause by not buying Big Macs and diabetes medicine, maybe.

Ok. No. I think its just me. I’m sure the average jock thug wouldn’t want Hammerfall during his dodgeball bullying time.

Can you tell I’ve watched much US teen television? Thought so….

I haven’t listened to this album in yonks. I think that’s because I temporarily lost it when I lent it to a former guitarist of a band I was in, on a day we were going to see Gama Bomb and Onslaught live. Turns out he was in Uni with Gama Bomb’s bassist and I got to meet the band and get into the gig for free. Good evening! I left this album in his car though, that’s the only downside.

That was probably one of the last nights I listened to it, even if it is in my iTunes library. Also, that was probably the first time I’d listened to it in a few years. I liked this band during my Thrash-obsessed teens, but they really were just “one more thrash band” to put into my metaphorical hungry maw. (Also literal hungry maw, hence all the weight-loss now). I mean look at me around the time I was listening to this album regularly:

Anyway… yeah, this album reminds me a lot of Slayer’s Hell Awaits in terms of its slightly ploddy nature and slightly weird black production job. Its thrash, its got solos and double kicks and all that good stuff. Its just a bit dull overall, but still good if that makes sense? Its talented enjoyable stuff… but every song is about a minute too long, and the album is about a song too long, and every idea is about one unit of plagiarism too many to get truly excited about. Still… its nice to hear it again after all these years since I first picked it up (2004? 2005?).

Now this was a real favourite of mine in my teen years. This is a brilliant album. I’m not sure why I am not listening to it regularly now… other than the fact that NEW STUFF NEW STUFF NEW STUFF SO MUCH NEW STUFF

Ahem, excuse me. But yes, Overkill’s Taking Over is a brilliant record. I don’t think there’s a single song on it I’d loose. I like Bobby’s voice on this album the best of any in the discography too. And the production is charming, with an excellent guitar tone. Also it has “In Union We Stand” on it. How can you argue with that? Fun, Fun, Fun!

I’ve been listening to this a lot recently anyway, but I generally squeeze new stuff in with the old stuff on these GITWYPF endeavors anyway… so, what the heck?

This is my favourite Dokken album. I think Back For The Attack is better and my favourite two songs (“Lightnin Strikes Again” & “Til The Livin End”) are on Under Lock And Key, but this one is my favourite album overall. The variety, the charm, the guitar solos, the choruses! Its all so good. Also the album is succinct and entertaining and doesn’t ever get samey.

I listened to this and Heartwork last night upon realizing that I’d gotten a lend of them over a year ago and never actually returned them (woops). Anyway, yeah, I like the idea of them, and there’s loads of riffs, vocal patterns and fills I like…. But each album is a bit tiring. Any song in isolation, yup. The famous songs like “Keep On Rotting In The Free World” “Tomorrow Belongs To Nobody” “Heart Work” etc. are all absolute gems, but deep album tracks all in a row aren’t as entertaining and can find me zoning out a little. Sorry!

I’ve had this album almost for as long as I’ve been into Metal, I got it pretty early in my time in high school. I rarely listened to it (if at all) after I left high school. I seem to remember it being almost 100% d-beats with very little variety, excluding the title track, which is awesome. (I’m always disappointed by how the title track isn’t as good live on the Monkey Puss DVD, and also the fact that the cool bit at the end is a “cover” and not just invented by the band).

Well, my memory was half-right. The title track is indeed awesome. But there’s way more variety than I remembered. Its not all d-beats. The drumming is really impressive actually. There’s some seriously inventive and impressive kick work and fills on here. This is a damned decent album! I think I’ll be listening to this more often nowadays!

I really enjoyed this. I stuck it on tonight. Its basically just a good, catchy Thrash album when all is said and done. Or at least the best songs are. The unarguably Death songs (eg. “Blaspherion”) are maybe the weakest moments for my own personal taste, but otherwise, this is some damn catchy enjoyable stuff. “Dead By Dawn” is great fun. Also, even “Blaspherion” has awesome drums, and some great sections in the middle and towards the end!

I like that this album is short. It’s a short, sharp, exciting blast of energy. It feels passionate. Its kind of that Reign In Blood thing… Succinct, powerful, effective. I think too much of this might get a bit old, but this is a nice snack (for my hungry maw, remember?).

This is not short. It is not Reign In Blood-esque by any stretch of the imagination (save for talent, of course). It is however, really impressive. Surprisngly groovy, musical and listenable, the album is really rather interesting. Its just outside my brain’s comfort zone, so I only enjoy it in a sort of technical way, I’m an observer who can tell that it is good, but I’m not actually enjoying it myself on a gut level. Oh well, maybe with more listens or some other band to “unlock” it for me, it will become a favourite once my objective admiration for it synchs with my gut-reaction.

Speaking of gut reaction…. Boy, this is a banger. Those riffs! Those riffs! Those riiiifs!
I don’t think I’ve found an extreme Metal band that better connects with me on a gut level than the mighty Melechesh (Napalm Death and Zyklon are the closest, but Melechesh do it more consistently).

“Ladders To Sumeria” for example just slays! That reoccurring riff is the bee’s knees. I can’t explain it properly in words, but it’s the “key” riff of the song, so just listen to it, and that riff you find yourself loving… it’ll be that one!

Another new one mixed in with the oldies. I like it a lot. “Demon’s Whip” is a great song, balancing their fast and slow sides well. “The Power Of Thy Sword” is my favourite on the album… it is pure outrageous Gamma Ray style fun!

The only complaint I have at all is that the drum solos and bass solo in “Achilles” rob its momentum, but the fact that they represent parts of the story through sound (the forging of armour etc) is cool enough to forgive that problem.

Ok. That’s enough for one article. Consider the challenge extended and have a good evening.

What is fame and what is Metal?

I’ve had a lot of free time this week to sit and read blogs. Some of them have really got me thinking. I read a list questioning which are the most famous Metal Songs and most famous Metal Bands. Generally; I love these sorts of things. But then you knew that already, didn’t you?. I read dozens and dozens of these sorts of lists, on blogs and in Magazines and on Rate Your Music or whatever else.

The thing I’ve noticed in dozens of them is that, there’s a sort of mythical set of perfect answers. Some of answers of course are pretty hard to disagree with; Metallica, Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne for example. Ask everyone on a bus in the middle of Manchester to name as many Heavy Metal bands as they can think of, and I reckon those bands would come up quite a lot.

The thing is though, there’s quite a few other names that will regularly come up on the hypothetical average-list that are either controversial among metal fans as to whether or not they actually count as being metal or else are dubious as to how famous they actually are.

This isn’t necessarily a harsh criticism of metal fans and list-makers, but it does raise some interesting points that I think are worth stopping and thinking about. So; when considering who are the most famous Metal bands and Metal songs, you’ve got to ask yourself two questions. What is fame, and What is Metal?

Just a quick thought: Twisted Sister and Motely Crue are probably more famous than Bathory or Mercyful Fate. Bon Jovi are probably more famous than that. Limp Bizkit, Korn and Slipknot probably are too.

Machinehead, Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed and Bullet For My Valentine are probably all more famous than Queensryche and Celtic Frost nowadays too.

I say “probably” because there’s really no way of knowing. Fame isn’t really a quantifiable concept, its more of an informed perception. We all know that Coca Cola is probably more famous than Only Fools And Horse, but we can’t really prove it on an individual level without gathering gigantic, unrealistic amounts of information that none of us could really be bothered to gather. To actually know for certain you would have to ask everyone on earth if they had heard of each, and then record and compare the answers. You would also have to know that they weren’t lying and that nothing was altering the results.

There’s another issue. The silent majority. You know when you go to a concert and its absolutely full. Think of how many people attend Download Festival every year, and then how many attend a single Motorhead concert. There’s more at Download.

Why does that matter? Well; There are so many people who are casual in their interest of Metal. People who don’t dress as Metal fans, don’t blog about it, don’t talk about it at work, but do know every word to System Of A Down’s Toxicity album. You can look at a Chemistry student who has no indicators of being a Metal fan and who does talk to you about a dubstep song they heard at the weekend, but they actually absolutely loves Disturbed and Bullet For My Valentine and just didn’t bring it up. You can find a girl in a nightclub listening to indie bands who will surprisingly be completely able to drunkenly sing all the lyrics of ‘Run To The Hills’ at you upon request. You’ll find people posting about how much they love pop stars on facebook and when you go into their bedroom there is a huge poster of Zack Wylde.

What I’m getting at, there’s a heck of a lot of people who listen to Metal that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. More than the readership of Metal Hammer Magazine, more than the crowd at your local sold-out mid-October Down concert. There’s hundreds of thousands of people who don’t even consider themselves a Metal fan that could tell you who Lemmy, James Hetfield and Corey Taylor are just from a photograph. My own mother could. Yours probably could too.

So. When we ask ourselves who are the most famous Metal bands; we need to ask “famous to who?” – because I’m pretty sure the average drunk stroppy teenage girl taking ecstasy tablets when asked to name ten heavy metal bands are more likely to identify Slipknot than Venom.

If you played somebody Helloween’s “Keeper Of The Seven Keys,” Judas Priest’s “Painkiller,” Pantera’s “Walk,” Limp Bizkit’s “Nookie,” Motely Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” and Europe’s “The Final Countdown” I’m pretty sure more people can identify the last two or three than the first two. There may be a few generational differences, and there may be a bit of bias in the form of people not wanting to identify bands that they dislike (human nature, its annoying aint it?) but I recon more human beings know the answers to the less Metal-respectable bands on that list.

The easy way around that it to choose who you want “fame” to apply to. OK. Say, we only count people who have at one time owned a copy of Reign In Blood and have attended at least one Metallica concert? More of them will probably still know Marilyn Manson than King Diamond. More of them could identify “Welcome To The Jungle” than “Pull Me Under” by intro alone, because its still more famous overall, even if you are a serious Metalhead. Because you don’t live your entire life in a Metal-bubble.

Well, we’ve considered what fame actually means now.
But hold on a second. What even is Metal?

Are Europe a Metal band? Well, some people say they are a Hair Metal band. Hair Metal is a type of Metal. Therefore by that logic, they are indeed a Metal band. Not so fast though; Some people say Europe are a hard rock band. Some people say they are a Pop band.

Are Led Zeppelin a Heavy Metal band? A heck of a lot of people would say yes. A heck of a lot of people would say no. What about Deep Purple. Watch any worthwhile documentary about Heavy Metal and there’ll be talk of Deep Purple. That being said, nowadays most people on the street would call them “classic rock” rather than “heavy metal” even though the actual term was applied to bands like Zeppelin and Purple and AC/DC for years and years. So are they Metal or aren’t they? They themselves might call themselves “Rock n Roll” but so does Ozzy Osbourne and even Motorhead. If “In The Name Of Tragedy” by Motorhead is just Rock n Roll then I’ve seriously got to start checking out Buddy Holly.

Ok. Well what if you decide that Zeppelin aren’t Metal but Black Sabbath are. What about Queen. You go listen to “Dead On Time” and “Son And Daughter” by Queen and tell me with a straight face that it isn’t as Metallic or Powerful as “The Wizard” by Black Sabbath.

How about if we decide that the first ever Metal album is “Sad Wings Of Destiny” then? What after that is still Metal? Are Metallica? Are Helloween? Are Pantera? Are Machine Head? Are Slipknot? Are Bring Me The Horizon? Are Cannibal Corpse? Are Korpiklaani? Are Emperor? Are Limp Bizkit?

You can say Limp Bizkit aren’t because the vocals are not like Judas Priest and there’s an extra instrument (the DJ). Well, Cannibal Corpse’s vocals are very, very different to Judas Priest’s and Korpiklaani have extra instruments (Violins and Accordions).

I’ll admit some Limp Bizkit songs sound nothing like Metal. Ballads, and songs with electronic drums and effects and no distortion. What about Black Sabbath’s “FX” “Fluff” “Laguna Sunrise” “Changes” and “E5150” ? What about Judas Priest’s “Epitaph,” “Last Rose Of Summer” or “Love You To Death”? Ballads, songs with no distortion and incorporation of electronics on some songs.

Even at that, some classic tracks by Metal’s originators (which weren’t intros, experiments or ballads, but just normal songs) are still less-Metal than some Hair Metal and Nu Metal songs. I’d wager Limp Bizkit’s “Gimme The Mic” is much more Metal than Black Sabbath’s “Am I Going Insane?” or “Solitude” or even “Behind The Wall Of Sleep.”

Going the other way. I think that Korn’s “Blind” is closer to the sound and spirit of the original Black Sabbath tracks than Cannibal Corpse’s “Frantic Disembowelment” does. Hell, I think Twisted Sister sound a thousand times closer to the sound of Judas Priest than Darkthrone do.

Then there’s the people who don’t think Metalcore bands are Metal, either because of catchy clean choruses, or because of the incorporation of parts of Hardcore. Well, Chaos AD is incredibly Hardcore Influenced. Anthrax and Nuclear Assault were Hardcore influenced. Are they no-longer Metal?
Helloween and Stratovarius have some of the catchiest, cleanest choruses going, so are they no-longer Metal?

The thing is though? Who can really say? Metal-ness isn’t a fact. Its an opinion. Its a negotiation for consensus.

Half of the people who say something is not Metal but something else have no clear, quantifiable, non-contradict-able reason why. Its either just that they don’t like the band and have mistaken their own opinion with fact, or that its not something that can be definitively and incontrovertibly proven in the first place. There is no mathematical definition of Metal. Some people think death growls preclude you from being Metal, just read all the reviews of Children Of Bodom by Yngwie Malmsteen fans from the 80s who demand melodic falsetto singing. These people will swear until they are blue in the face that “cookie monster vocals” are the opposite of Heavy Metal. Try telling that to the audience at Hole In The Sky or Bloodstock festival though, they’ll give you a swift and unpleasant rebuttle more likely than not.

At the end of the day, there are people who think Krokus and AC/DC are Metal and that Limp Bizkit and Deicide aren’t. There are people who think that Immortal and Pig Destroyer are Metal but Poison and Quiet Riot aren’t. Heck, until about three years ago even I called pre-Dio Black Sabbath was just classic rock and not Metal.

What is and isn’t Metal is up to your own interpretation, apparently. Except Iron Maiden, nobody has ever said Iron Maiden aren’t Metal. Lemmy says Motorhead aren’t Metal but at least Steve Harris calls Maiden a Heavy Metal band. There’s at least comfort in knowing that whatever else in this world is up for debate, Iron Maiden are undisputed a Metal band (Although you could mistake “Prodigal Son” for a Boston or Rush song if you weren’t paying attention).

So. I guess where I’m going with this is that, there is an element of what the dedicated Metal fans want and indeed expect to be the most famous Metal music. It is based partly on the personal taste of a few Magazine writers, partly on actual consensus and partly on a self fulfilling prophecy of what we’re continuously told. The list seems to cover one arbitrary point of view and one arbitrary period in time. It isn’t full inclusivity nor is it completely strict and based only on true original Heavy Metal. Its often after the first Heavy Metal Bands go reclassified to “Classic Rock” but before other subgenres became popular.

I mean, I can’t tell for certain, but I’m pretty sure more people know and care about Bullet For My Valentine and Slipknot than have ever cared about Venom. But most people who actually like music to the point of making lists don’t want that to be the case.

Similarly, I think that year on year, Deep Purple, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin gain more new fans than Venom do. But we’ve all decided that they don’t count. For some reason. That is not particularly logical or fair.

Then there’s the really commercial bands like Linkin Park and Bon Jovi. Almost (not necessarily if you’re being pedantic, there have been flops, but you know what I’m getting at) by definition of being commercial, more people will know a band. A huge amount of us decide that if a band are too commercial, they aren’t Metal anymore. Why is that? Part of it may be based in truth, but again, part of it seems to just be based on what we want.

Take home message; when we ask ourselves which Metal songs, albums or artists are the most famous, I guess you’ve just got to ask whether or not they are Metal, or who you are being famous too that counts for the purposes of the list. You could spend years aggregating every list and reference to bands in every magazine, videogame, radio-show, podcast and television programme ever made and still only have a small, biased sample of a few people’s impressions of which bands were the most famous. You could count every Youtube view and LastFm scrobble ever recorded and still ultimately not know what’s in people’s heads or even who’s heads to look in.

After you to went all that effort to find the correct numbers, there’d still be debate on who “counts.”

And that’s just “famous.” It gets even muddier when we go onto “most-influential.” Oh well, at least everyone knows when it comes to “best” that its just straight-up unarguably subjective and we can all admit its just our own opinions. (Well, the sensible ones of us at any rate.)

So; With all that being said, I’d like you all to answer in the comments, who do you think are the 20 most famous Metal bands?

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 67: Death – Symbolic

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 67: Death - Symbolic

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 67: Death – Symbolic ”

Hello, and welcome to my Blog. Why is it called KingcrimsonBlog, the official Blog of Kingcrimsonprog?. Good question; It is called that, because I am called Kingcrimsonprog (or Gentlegiantprog) on most websites and forums. (You know, in the way you have to chose a name or “net-handle” when you register?). Back when this Blog was first devised, it was sort of a hub “digest” of all my various internet output, under one easy “roof.” So people could then tell that my things were not stolen from elsewhere on the internet, I kept my net-handle in the title. The name of my net-handle was simply chosen because I enjoy the Prog band King Crimson (and Gentle Giant) and is not in fact my real name.

I’ve been obsessing about music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else. I’ve also watched over a decade’s worth of music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free covermounted CDs, websites and whatever else. All that, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.

I’m a nerd. Basically. Only, instead of Wonder Woman or MMORPGs, its Music that I obsess about. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram-enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about Reality-TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the most dedicated Warcraft fan’s knowledge of Azeroth.

But I don’t like Football or Reality TV or Trams or Warcraft. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s what this Blog is all about.

Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.

I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).

According to the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject to be Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres. Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my nerdly need to hear and understand almost every piece of recorded Metal music ever.

If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a try.

So that’s the preamble out of the way, on to the article:

This is the sixty seventh-entry in the series, and getting back to the original goal of the series, I’m going to listen to something that my friend Magnum thought I might like. This time around I’ll be listening to the sixth full-length studio album, Symbolic, by the American Death Metal Pioneers, Death.

So. What’s my history with Death Metal then?

Well, I remember in around 2002-2004 I got into Cannibal Corpse and Deicide to varying degrees. I liked a few songs like ‘Pounded Into Dust,’ ‘Stripped Raped And Strangled’ and ‘Hammer Smashed Face’ from exposure by peers, but I didn’t really consider them to be “my band” initially. I did however pick up Gore Obsessed for myself and later The Wretched Spawn which I still really enjoy, and afterwards Kill. I stopped after that though. I think I spent a long time trying to like them and it took me a while to actually accept that they just weren’t ever going to be my favourite band, and that I’d just like a small amount of their material a large amount. I think they’re cool guys too. I love them in documentaries but I don’t spend too much time listening to them nowadays.

I also bought myself a really nice shiny digipak of Butchered At Birth in about 2005 just sort’ve because it was considered a must-own album (see? I’ve always been like this!). Sometimes I listen to it and think its awful, sometimes I like the production and the occasional Thrash riffs dotted around it here and there. It also has a guest appearance from Deicide’s singer Glen Benton on it by the way, I like that they interlink a bit. I like it when things interlink.

Depending on what day you catch me, I’ll give you a really different answer on how much I like Cannibal Corpse. I have a lot of memories associated with the band, be that from spoofing their track titles or watching documentaries about them, but sometimes listening to a mid-album track from them just leaves me feeling bored. I find it difficult to pay attention to their non-catchy songs, even if I absolutely love tracks like “Decency Defied,” “Nothing Left To Mutilate” and “Time To Kill Is Now.”

I remember once on a holiday to Dublin, I got a copy of Deicide’s Best Of, which I really, really enjoyed. The only thing is that my favourite track was “Bible Basher” and when I bought Insinerathymn and In Torment In Hell despite really trying hard to like them, I just couldn’t. I listened to them less and less until going years without trying them at all. I think media reports of Glen Benton being a jerk and my peers disliking the band also sort of put me off. Sometimes I’ll stick on “Dead By Dawn” after a huge Deicide-drought and really enjoy it though. I think its probably fair to say that if I had’ve bought their self-titled debut and Legion instead, it would’ve been a longer lasting love-affair with the band.

Napalm Death aren’t strictly a Death Metal band, but their Harmony Corruption and Utopia Banished albums are pretty close. Plus there are guest appearances from Obituary and Deicide’s singers. Sometimes I don’t like some of the tracks on Utopia Banished, but Harmony Corruption is absolutely fantastic. I remember I bought their Greatest Hits album becuase there was a track on it called “Twist The Knife (Slowly)” and at the time, I mistook it for another amusing Cannibal Corpse style OTT-song-titles band. Ahhhh immaturity. I soon learned that wasn’t the case.

Most of what I listen to by Napalm Death nowadays though is just the Enemy Of The Music Business album and then only about two or three of the catchier songs from the rest of their discography. They rank more highly in my esteem overall than they really should if I’m being totally honest. I almost think that I want to like them, more than I am actually capable of. Too many Blast Beats. I love all the bits on their modern albums where they play technical, hardcore influenced parts or big fat groove metal sections though. Its just a shame they are just parts of songs rather than whole songs. [Sidenote: “Incendiary Incoming” is a tune!- Listen to it if you like Pantera]

In terms of the other big names in Death Metal, I’ve heard one mid-period Obituary song (the one with the video about pollution) a few times on MTV2 but never really heard it, if you follow my meaning. I’ve also heard Morbid Angel’s track “Enshrined By Grace.” I have it on its own in my iTunes but haven’t ever gotten around to checking out a full album by them. Its very fun, but modern. I haven’t heard any of the 80s/early 90s stuff that everyone raves about. Ok; I technically have Morbid Angel’s track “Dominate” in my iTunes, but that is a cover version by Zyklon.

I got into Zyklon because of the song “Subtle Manipulation” being on a free cd with Terrorizer magazine, and wining me over – its such a good song, go listen to it now! I really like a lot of their material, and had a real big phase of liking them in high school. Their tracks “Core Solution” and “Disintegrate” are still among my favourite ever songs by anyone. I think that in truth though, nowadays, I may think of the band more highly than I actually think of them (if you catch my drift), and recommend them more strongly than I really like them myself, but they were important to me. Similar to Napalm Death really. The same ratio of bad to good as Cannibal Corpse, except that I allow myself to think of them as “my band.”

When I’m in a Zyklon mood I can really eat them up, but often if I try and stick on anything but their most blast-free material, I just get mentally exhausted. It feels like a lot of hard work getting through that much blasting. Its like trying to listen to Neurosis. Its draining. Its at times like that where I understand the popularity of Poison and Blink 182. Sometimes its nice to hear music and not have to work for it. (Not all the time of course, you’re talking about someone who genuinely likes Tales From Topographic Oceans and A Passion Play here!)

Who else? Let me think. Well; My brother picked up two Decapitated albums around the time Nihility was released. “Spheres Of Madness” is excellent. Everyone agrees. The heavy cover of Slayer’s “Mandatory Suicide” is fun. I never really gave the albums a proper fair chance though, partly because they weren’t mine, and partly because I was close-minded and wasn’t receptive to the dense and challenging music of Decapitated, on top of that I didn’t much care for blast beats anyway and Nihility opens with some, so may as well ignore the 80% of the album with no blasts on it and just cool technical music with chunky riffs, right? Good idea!

I did however bizarrely buy my own copy of their demo compilation (for some unknown reason) The First Damned and did listen to and sort of enjoy it a few times before losing it.

You know what I would absolutely love? A band who took the bits of Death Metal that sound like “Spheres Of Madness” and made a whole career out’ve just that catchy, easy-to-swallow stuff. A whole career, the way Hatebreed do. That level of simialrity on a basic template. Imagine how awesome it would be in a world with multiple “Spheres Of Madness”-es! That would suit me down to the ground. Just like… Death Metal minus the blasts and atonality. I guess that’s kind of the idea of Death N Roll, isn’t it? All about five bands of it.

Speaking of Death N Roll; I’ve liked Entombed for almost the whole time that I’ve liked Metal (from whenever Inferno came out, basically. I remember one Christmas where I got it and Led Zeppelin’s then-new How The West Was Won, and I saw half of Love Actually on the TV – Bonus Xmas Memory for you there. Merry Christmas!) but they never feel like a Death Metal band to me, even on the first two albums for some reason. (Y’know, the two Death Metal classics?). Maybe it’s the lack of blast beats. Even at that though, there is still a wee bit too much repetition on those to make them regular listens for me. I love songs like ‘Left Hand Path’ with its slow part, or ‘Evilyn’ with its catchy beat, but there are some tracks that are more or less just a Slayer-beat for three minutes. As good as they are individually, it’s a bit tiring to listen to as a whole.

Throughout the years I’d hear a few songs by bands like Nile on music tv or on Youtube. Never liking them enough to consider Death Metal as something that I liked though.

Recently I’ve been impressed by Fleshgod Apocalypse, who I’ve got sort of an eye on. They combine Death Metal with symphonic elements, and make a sound that is pretty unique to my ears at this point.

After a few years of disliking almost all Death Metal, I got into Amon Amarth when I saw them support Mastodon, Trivium and Slayer live in Wolverhampton one year, and picked up a few of their albums (and a DVD). I can tolerate Melodeath a lot easier than Tampa Death Metal with atonal lines, dissonance and blast beats.

The only other thing I can think of being related is my one Dew Scented album. Its sometimes referred to as Death Metal, but as far as I can tell its just a really pissed off God Hates Us All with Phil Anselmo on vocals. Ok, that’s an oversimplification, and you do hear riffs and beats here and there that sound closer to Decapitated than I suggest, if you listen to it closely enough. Its a very strong album but, once again, tiring due to overuse of the Slayer beat. Hey, I like the Slayer beat. Its good when Lamb Of God, or, say, Slayer, do it. Its just that it can’t carry a whole song. There needs to be something else. It, alongside Blast Beating, are both fine. Someone like Parkway Drive or Slipknot can use either and it serve the song perfectly, I just get bored when people fill over 50% of the entire song with constant hammering.

Either way, my history with Death Metal is pretty long, but pretty limited. I like it when its got groove, hooks, melody or a lack of blast beats. I especially like if they throw in a Thrash riff.

As a generalization though, I feel like Death Metal bands (unless they have a suffix or prefix such as “Progressive” “Melodic” or “N Roll” …or get called sellouts) suffer from being repetitive, and from only writing one or two catchy songs per record, from being too repetitive and having way too much filler. Repetition is their downfall. Also they repeat themselves to much.

That being said, I don’t feel like I’m really informed or experienced enough to actually hold that opinion. I’m sure if I’d heard more Cynic, Goreguts, Immolation, Athiest, Suffocation, Cancer, Obituary and Morbid Angel I’d probably see the little details better. Some people say all Thrash sounds the same, or all Hair Metal, or all Metalcore, and I know that’s a load of nonsense, so I’m sure it’s the same for Death Metal.

Compare Exodus’ “Cajun Hell” with Anthrax’s “Medusa,” with Kreator’s “Fatal Energy,” with Slayer’s “Crionics” with Sacred Reich’s “Independant” with Megadeth’s “The Conjuring,” with Annihilator’s ‘Human Insecticide,” with Vio-lence’s “World Within A World.” There’s such a huge diversity in Thrash. I’m sure its exactly the same with Death Metal.

What I especially don’t like is the Death Metal (or Death Vocal possessing Thrash) of the 80s like Sodom and Sepultura’s debuts and anything I’ve tried by the likes of Possesed or Sarcofago. It just turns me right off instantly and I can’t even force myself to give it a fair try. I know that this is the behavior that some people exhibit towards St Anger or, Bring Me The Horizon, or whatever else, that I find frustrating, so I am keen to rectify it in myself. It is interesting though, how quickly my brain drops Extreme Metal like a hot Blast-Beat-ridden potato. Like when touching a super hot object, my mind automatically flings away to safety. One earful of Blasting and I just sort of zone out.

So what’s my history with the band Death themselves then?

Well, I got a lend of Scream Bloody Gore once in about 2004. I thought it suffered from only having one or two catchy songs, was too repetitive and had way too much filler. I did like the occasional thrash riffs though. [Sidenote: I actually listened to a bit of it on Youtube last week and was pleasantly surprised at how much of what i heard didn’t have the Slayer beat under it. My memory of it was slightly exaggerated, it seems.]

I also heard their cover of Painkiller which I both loved and hated at the same time (I heard it years before I ever heard Judas Priest though. I didn’t even really like Metallica or Maiden when I first heard Scream Bloody Gore, and it was really too much for a Korn/Limp Bizkit fan who was years away from even owning a Black Sabbath album to handle). Priest were a very late find for me anyway. I got a lend of a greatest hits from a friend in about 2006, couldn’t cope with the inconsistency of the production between individual tracks and then ignored them until mid-2010, when I saw the striking cover art to Screaming For Vengeance for only £3. The cover art for Scream Bloody Gore is excellent. I love those sorts of pictures.

Recently, I’ve become really curious about them again though. From seeing them constantly pop up in best-albums lists, seeing all the favourable reviews about them and seeing how everyone online seems to worship Chuck as some sort of absolute visionary (often even managing to do so in a non-sycophantic way – a rarity among fans of dead musicians).

About two years ago I got given Symbolic by my friend Magnum. I think I listened to “Crystal Mountain” on his request, I don’t really remember anything about it, or whether I listened to the rest of the record even, but whether or not I’ve listened to this album, its so damn forgotten that this counts as a first listen to me anyway. That’s how it works, right? Oh just go with it…

The only thing that makes me a bit skeptical is the presence of Gene Hoglan. As bizarre and sacrilegious as it may seem to every Metal fan who ever lived, I don’t particularly enjoy him. I don’t like the SYL album I have, and he replaces Paul Bospath and Raymond Herrera in Testament and Fear Factory to diminished results. Ray Herrera is a comepletly unique soul and cannot be replaced, and regular readers already know I like Paul Bostaph a little too much. Its not that I dislike Gene himself yet though, just that I associate him with non-enjoyment or replacing favoruites.

Regardless of disliking Mechanize and City; I’m feeling very receptive to Death right now. I hope I’m not disappointed.

[Sidenote: I absolutely love the cover art to Spiritual Healing. If I could get it for cheap it would be on my Vinyl Wall.]

Anyway, time to actually get to listening to it:


The album opens up with the six-and-a-half minute Title Track. Instantly I can hear the huge influence that Death have had on Mastodon. It also sounds a bit like a slower moment in a Rob Dukes era Exodus song, like ‘Nanking.’ It reminds me a bit of “Spill The Blood” by Slayer too.

Then it runs off in a burst of speed. The double-kicks fly off and the slayer beat comes in. Afterwards it slows back down and sounds a lot like Kreator. It sounds like most of Kreator’s recent four albums. I always hear people say that Kreator incorporated Gothernburg influences on their post-millennial efforts, but I never heard people link them to Schuldiner before. This sounds so similar its almost uncanny.

When the creepy guitar solo comes in, I am for some reason reminded of the The Adams Family videogame for the SNES. Remember that? – Anyway; then it speeds up. This song is brilliant fun. Its like a mixture of Modern Exodus and Kreator with Seasons/South era Slayer’s slow bits. Hoglan’s drumming is really enjoyable and I’m sorry to have doubted him, he does a fantastic job as he shuffles between hats and bells at lightning speed.

I can definitely see why people call it Progressive. This is a pretty far cry from Scream Bloody Gore’s relentless pounding. Additionally, I’m really enjoying both the vocals and the absence of blasts. Compared to say, Vile, it’s a lot less brutal and a lot closer to Thrash, which is always a plus for me. Interestingly, towards the end, there is a slow part which reminds me of the few good moments on those two slow mid-period Deicide albums, like maybe ‘Halls Of Warship.’

The production on the album is pretty good. Its still got that old charm to it, but is really clear. Sometimes I listen to something like Utopia Banished and wonder how anybody knows what the heck is going on. Sometimes I listen to some modern Death Metal band’s excellently produced new single on Youtube but find it soulless and missing that charming sound. This is the perfect level of production in my opinion, it just sounds great to my ears. Man, I wish Napalm Death’s Fear Emptiness Despair was produced like this, that album has such cool songs but is a headache to listen to.

‘Zero Tolerance’ follows, with a fun odd-time sig drum-only intro, then a Hardcore influenced, noisy intro of rising guitars that reminds me of The More Things Change era Machine Head and the more sinister under-recognized parts of Biohazard’s sound. There are tails to the riffs that you can hear the Mastodon influence practically shoot off. So much of the way Chuck’s fingers work can be heard on Remission.

The weird time sigs helps this one to feel even Proggier than the last one. At two minutes it takes a wild side track with this great buildup that feels like a drum solo, with this fantastic long drawn out guitar solo that throws in even more Mastodon sounding tails here and there, and then heavies-up into this fun, Rust In Peace sounding part. There’s so many cool little bits throughout. It has such interesting drums and the guitar work is really deserving of its reputation.

Another six-and-a-half-minute number follows, by the name of ‘Empty Words.’ It opens up with a nice clean part and some bongos. You can’t tell if its going to go into ‘Planet Caravan’ by Black Sabbath or ‘Reflection’ by Tool at any moment.

…Then it just fucking straight-up bursts into a gnarly metal part that reminds me half of Melechesh and half of ‘A Promise Of Fever’ by Cradle Of Filth. It has this strange biblical quality to it that I can’t accurately explain. There’s a cool part where they just leave chords to hang. Then it goes into this fun speedy Annihilator style part. I love how they justify it with these slow groovy parts. There’s so many little touches that make it special. This tiny melodic Bodom sounding solo here, a groove there, a great little “duhduhduhduh dah” chug-tail on this thrash riff.

The bit at 3.14 is one of the coolest parts I’ve heard all year. I am suddenly so aware of what a massive Death rip off that my favourite Kreator album (Hordes Of Chaos) is.

As the groove/speed juxtaposition parts come back, and then they bring in this great melodic line in as a tail, I just have a gigantic smile on my face. This song feels like an actual masterpiece.

‘Sacred Serenity’ comes next. It has an absolutely excellent intro. I’m won over already. Then a great little guitar solo comes in over a disco-sounding beat. Then that manages to evolve into a satisfyingly menacing Metal part. The bass guitar is incredible too, its got this bouncy Faith No More quality to it at times. This album is really doing it for me.

There’s a frigging brilliant part which reminds me of the good parts of Arch Enemy where he says “Serenity” which I hope is a chorus. There’s a nice shimmering quiet part that sounds like a mixture between Rush and early Annihilator (I think it may be specifically the Never Neverland title track that I’m thinking of). The drums and lead guitar are so good. This song is so fucking creative. Its like the first time I heard ‘Welcome Home’ by Coheed And Cambria. I love the way he leans into one extra tom in the middle of a beat.

‘1,000 Eyes’ follows. I can tell just from the intro that it will be good. More little touches that remind me of Melechesh and then Annihilator. A brilliant funky breakdown with a solo, followed by the archetypal Melodeath midsection, then more of that recent Kreator stuff. Then something that actually sounds like Cannibal Corpse (their slow songs though) with a slow groove and some pinch harmonics. The way it ends is so massively like Kreator’s two newest albums that I’m worried Mille might get sued.

Man; why did I wait so long to hear this album? What a dick! This is fucking fantastic. Do me a favour and if you are skeptical about this record go straight away to Spotify and listen to it right now, before even finishing this article.

‘Without Judgement’ follows up with some damn triumphant sounding leads. Then it kicks into this brilliant groove with a menacing tail. Its all technical and uber-precise, but without killing the fun. At about 1.48 it sounds like… you guessed it, the Kreator stuff I love. At 2.18, this absolutely gigantic sounding guitar solo part comes in and I just view the mountaintop church in November Rain’s video, with Chuck dressed in Slash’s hat.

Then it takes this awesome moody quiet turn for a few seconds for an extra solo, before kicking back into that uber-precise groove from earlier, that sounds like a pissed-off Robot trying to make ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ sound more evil.

Gene Hoglan is absolutely incredible on this song. I assume this must be where a lot of his reputation for excellence must be coming from.

‘Crystal Mountain’ opens up with a fun galloping part with nice hanging evil chords, and a weird dark arpeggio that sounds like ‘Red Barchetta’ as played by the character’s dead ancestors in the spirit realm in Final Fantasy 10.

There’s also a cruel-sounding build up that sounds like Melechesh and summons up images of slave drivers whipping people in the baking sun. And, for some reason, the bit at about 2.18 reminds me of the bit in Battlestar Gallactica where they’re on Caprica and its all terrorist themed. The Spanish sounding acoustic guitar solo that plays over the Metal makes me almost want to cry. I have no idea why, but it just sounds so important.

‘Misanthrope’ opens sounding much more like stereotype Death Metal than anything else so far. Luckily, it diversifies and all different little bits and bobs emerge. There’s some genuinely catchy little drum hooks. Then there’s this fun, massively Pantera, groove bit for a second before they Death-ize it. It has a very Cowboys From Hell reverb though. I’m reminded of ‘Medicine Man.’

There’s also something of Metallica’s ‘Orion’ about its breakdown that I can’t fully explain. Then this really huge Thrash part kicks in, only to be joined by an incredible, ghostly melodic solo. Then bam. Hordes Of Chaos kicks in.

I’m not sure about any of these song structures for brain-pleasing, but the songs certainly take you on a journey. It feels like a film with a ton of explosive set pieces and bombastic action, but not necessarily a well-considered plot where all the pieces fit perfectly into place. It’s a constant series of quick slaps in the face. Pop pop pop pop pop. I’m sure repeat listens will make it make more sense. I didn’t initially understand Protest The Hero’s song structures either, but we all know how that turned out, don’t we?

The album closes with an eight-and-a-half minute number called ‘Perennial Quest.’ In my opinion this is the correct order of events. Back in the 80s, most Thrash bands would do one of two things, either have the longest track second last, and then throw a shorter, punchy one in afterwards (‘Strike Of The Beast’ following ‘Deliver Us To Evil’ springs to mind) or else have the longest track slap band in the middle of the record (‘Pleasures Of The Flesh’ as track 6 of 10 springs to mind).

I much prefer it when the longest track is the final track, I feel it flows a lot better.

Anyway; there’s a certain sadness to parts of this track. Also there’s cool sections of over-exaggerated slowness, like a Thrash Band’s outro fade-out. Then some absolute smile-demanding Thrash (I did say I enjoy when Death Metal bands play Thrash parts, didn’t I?), and then this absolutely brilliant paradiddle-based stop/start groove that makes me want to just bellow out like a wounded sea-lion, as a means of expressing my satisfaction with it. Aaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuuuuhh.

This song is kind of listening to the whole of Blood Mountain, Left Hand Path, Pleasures Of The Flesh and The Epigenesis all at the same time, then compressed down to eight minutes. So many great little touches. The solos are incredible. The double-kicks make you want to jump around, there’s a bit at 4.40 that almost sounds like The Police. Bit of a surprise.

There’s a cool guitar-only break that sounds like a Death tribute to Holy Wars. Y’know the bit where the Thrash cuts out to this eastern-scale guitar solo? Its like the Death version of that. This is then followed by a beautiful solos over clean picking part that almost reminds me of Porcupine Tree and Opeth. This fades out and closes the record.

So. That was the record. Wow, and the album managed to make it all the way through without a single blast beat. Did Chuck write it just for me? Ok. First of all; this was absolutely phenomenal. I don’t think I’ve ever been so wrong about an album. I’m completely sold on it. This was a genuine Masterpiece and I can 100% understand why it has such a good reputation.

I don’t really have that much more to say. Just, “Eff me, What a record!” – Thanks Magnum, for giving it to me. Apologies for taking so long to get around to it. You were right. I would like it!

Thanks for reading, people.