Testament – Titans Of Creation Review

I don’t normally like to post reviews of records until I’ve had a while to sit with them and let them sink in, but given how long it took me to review Brotherhood Of The Snake, I thought maybe this time around I should strike while the iron is hot, so here goes…

Its 2020 and the 1980s Thrash Metal legends Testament have dropped their twelfth canonical studio album (ie. not counting First Strike Still Deadly, since that is re-recordings of old material). I was pretty hyped up for this album before it even arrived as the band have been on such great form for the last decade with no weak releases in recent memory. Their latest effort is called Titans Of Creation and has the same killer production style as the last two albums and also features the same line-up as the previous album Brotherhood Of The Snake, which is actually a rare thing nowadays as they usually seem to have at least one line-up shift on each new record since the ‘90s.

Interestingly though, although it has the same line-up as the last record, it kind of sounds like there has been a shift. The album is a lot less direct and a lot more technical and musically complex than ‘Snake was. Its also about 15 minutes longer. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still no intros and no ballads, just metal fury from start to end, and there are still some blunt force all-out Thrashers on there (see the red hot ‘WW3’ or ‘Curse Of Osiris’ for example), but they do take the foot off the gas a few times to flex their musicianship rather than just sanding faces off and full speed for an hour. It ends with a biblical sounding instrumental for example. ‘Symptoms’ goes down quite a technical and melodic route, that really lets you know the current rhythm section were both also previously members of the band Death. Single ‘Night Of The Witch’ should give you some idea of the direction of the record. Songs crammed with numerous tempo shifts, complex structures, virtuoso solos, loud and flashy drumming, as well as little hints of the mid-late ‘90s Groove Metal and Death Metal-influenced Testament style creeping in at points amongst their modern-Thrash style of the last four albums. ‘City Of Angels’ takes things even further, and is probably the closest thing to Low the band have done in a very long time.

Basically, the record takes the building blocks of the few previous records’ style, but really pushes it in several different directions and adds more variety. Whether you prefer this album to previous albums will really just come down to personal preference in issues of precision and succinctness versus experimentation and breadth. In terms of quality however, it is unquestionably as good as anything the band have put out since Chuck recovered from cancer.

In terms of highlights; I think my second favourite track on the album is the off kilter ‘Ishtar’s Gate’ which is very bass driven, has a nice eastern-sounding intro and guitar solo, and revolves around a very satisfying loud/quiet dynamic that reminds me a tiny bit of Annihilator. My favourite song however, and the catchiest song on the album, is probably ‘Dream Deceiver’ which could probably be described as the bastard son of ‘Electric Crown’ and ‘More Than Meets The Eye’ and which is somehow even better than that sounds. It is arguably the most memorable song they’ve written since 2008’s The Formation Of Damnation album (and this is coming from someone who loves the last two albums, so this is saying something!). Oh and in case you were wondering, its not a Priest cover, that was ‘Dreamer Deciever’ you’re thinking of.  

Overall; a damn fine modern day effort from a world class Thrash act, still at the top of their game, that is both similar enough to recent records that if you like them you’ll love this, but differnt enough that you haven’t just heard it all before. Highly recommended.

Ps. I am not usually a particularly sentimental reviewer. I don’t post many tribute posts when musicians pass away or get well soon posts when musicians are ill. However;  Singer Chuck Billy and bassist Steve DiGiorgio are currently recovering from Covid-19 at the moment, about a month after I was within sneezing distance of them at a recent concert, just before the world shut down. Sorry if its cheesy given the timing of this review, but I genuinely do wish them all the best.

I went to go see Testament, Exodus and Death Angel live last night, on The Bay Strikes Back Tour at Bristol 02 Academy, on Tuesday 02.03.2020

I went to go see Testament, Exodus and Death Angel live last night, on The Bay Strikes Back Tour at Bristol 02 Academy, on Tuesday 02.03.2020.

As you probably know if you read this blog, I really, really like Thrash – it is my unquestionably favourite type of music.

Boy, I was so pleased when I saw this concert bill advertised. This is one hell of a concert line up! Three bands that I’ve been listening to since my teens, together on one bill, all playing Bay Area Thrash Metal, my favourite type of music bar none.

The media always likes to talk about the Big Four of Thrash Metal, (all of whom I’ve been lucky enough to seen live before!), but for me it has always been the Big 6 with Exodus and Testament in there too.

Exodus and Testament are so representative of everything good about Thrash. I can never decide which one is my favourite and it can change on any given day. In fact, Exodus and Testament logos occupy both the left and right shoulder positions on my patch jacket, equal in size and position. I’m also quite partial to early Death Angel and their Act III album in particular is one of my favourite Thrash albums.

[Trivia fans may also be aware that there are a few other connections between these three bands. I’ll type just a few here now – Death Angel’s demo was produced by Kirk Hammet, who was in Exodus, and Exodus’ singer Steve Souza was the singer of Testament before their debut album, back when they were called Legacy. Nice connections there].


I’ve been lucky enough to see Exodus before, back in 2016, when I lived in Manchester, on a bill with Prong and Obituary. That gig that got me into Obituary and properly into Prong where before I was just a causal fan. This is my first time seeing the mighty Testament live though, and I couldn’t be more excited. (Crazy as it sounds, sometimes I almost feel like I’ve seen them before though, as I have watched their Live In London DVD more than 50 times, to the point where reality blurs and my memories of it almost feel like I real memories and like I was there). Its also my first time seeing Death Angel live who are a perfect opener for such a bill.

As has become a habit of mine in recent years, I have been listening to these bands constantly in the weeks leading up to the concert, building anticipation. I also listened to them all on shuffle on the drive to the concert, which was in Bristol. This is only my second ever concert in Bristol, as I fear the unfamiliar and large city and much prefer the convenience and familiarity of Cardiff for concerts most of the time – but this line up is too good not to travel for!

I thought since it’s a bit of a stressful drive, I’d book the day afterwards off work, so I don’t go to work on less sleep than usual. Turns out I’m an idiot though, as I booked the day of the concert off rather than the day after! Woops! Oh well, at least I wasn’t in a rush to get there after work then. I tried to get some sleep beforehand to balance it out.

It was much less stressful navigating my way there this time as I made no wrong turns and I was familiar with the parking lot (which is down a weird cobbled side street that looks like you aren’t allowed to drive down) so everything went smoothly. After I queued up and got in, I was just in time to catch Death Angel’s first song. Somehow, I managed to get a good spot with a good view, only a few places from the stage slightly to the left of the venue, stage right.

Death Angel’s setlist was mostly a mix of tunes from their modern post-reunion albums. I only own one studio and one live album from the modern era so far, so it was a bit unfamiliar with the material they chose. They only played two and a half songs from the classic first three albums (‘Voracious Souls’  and a little bit of the title track from their debut album The Ultra-Violence and then the classic opener ‘Seemingly Endless Time’ from their masterpiece Act III). Nevertheless I had a great time.

Death Angel call for blood, and you’ve not spilled enough!

Their performance was great. Tracks like ‘Thrown To The Wolves’ and especially ‘The Dream Calls For Blood’ sounded really powerful and energetic live. There wasn’t much of a stage show, but they really didn’t need it. They really got the crowd gonig with their enthusiasm and crowd ineraction.

I was quite happy with how into it the crowd were. Sometimes the crowd doesn’t go for the opening act. When I saw Diamond Head support Saxon, the vibe was utterly dead for Diamond Head until their last song, but here, people treated Death Angel like a headliner. There were sections of people throughout the room singing every word and most of the crowd were thrashing like a maniac, so to speak. It was a perfect way to start the evening.

Death Angel

The sound was really well mixed. It was a thousand times better than Megadeth had been recently. You could hear everything perfectly but it still had a real crunchy, aggressive power. The vocals soared, the leads were clear and the drums hammered at you. The rhythm guitars hit that sweet crunch spot that makes Thrash so perfect.

In the gap between bands I managed to get closer to the stage still as people went off to find drinks and toilets. I’m not a push to the front kind of guy and am allways mindful of people behind or beside me’s personal space, so sometimes you can’t get the best view, but I got a pretty great view through sheer luck.

Next came Exodus. Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza is still fronting the band. Its nice to see some line-up stability, as there was a lot of upheaval over the years. Tonight was my first time seeing them with main guitarist Gary Holt in the band. Last time I saw them, Garry wasn’t there as he was busy touring with Slayer at the time, following the untimely passing of Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman. Tonight he played a little snippet of ‘Raining Blood’ and Zetro quipped about how he could do it legally now due to having been in Slayer.

Holt and Altus

[Trivia fans may also be aware, just for more Thrash connections, that Exodus’ current line-up featurs Heathen’s Lee Altus. Heathen have also previously had Exodus’ first singer Paul Baloff in their line-up briefly and they currently feature former Slayer drummer Jon Dette.

There are innumerable other trivia links between these bands. If you want to get on with the review, skip to after these brackets. Otherwise; strap in guys, this is a convoluted one…

Also worth mentioning since we’ve brought up Slayer, is that both Testament and Exodus have had Slayer’s second drummer Paul Bostaph behind the kit, and Testament have also had Slayer’s first drummer Dave Lombardo, and while we’re talking about shared drummers – both Testament and Exodus have both had John Tempesta on drums!

The aforementioned Paul Bostaph used to be in Forbidden, who have also had Glen Alvelais, and Glen was in Testament in the ‘90s and has been in Tenent alongside Exodus’ singer and Steve Souza. Testament’s current drummer is former Dark Angel drummer Gene Hoglan. Hoglan has also been in Forbidden briefly and done backing vocals and drum teching for Slayer in the early days.

Speaking of Hoglan, this not strictly Thrash, but he has been in Death with Steve DiGorgio, but it loops back around to Thrash, as DiGorgio is Testament’s current bassist – Its like musical chairs in the Trash Metal world!

I haven’t even gotten into all the Machine Head links yet. Don’t get me started. I had a whole blog about this stuff in my teens called The Thrashagram. Its proably kid’s stuff looknig back at it now, but at the time I was pretty proud of it].

Anyway… When I saw Exodus last time, their performance was great live. I remember writing at the time that if you get the chance to see them, no matter how high up or low down on the bill they are, you really must take it. They aren’t a nostalgia act, they’ve still got the fire in their eyes. This time however, they were even bloody better! They were utterly amazing. On fire. In the zone. Blistering. Whatever you want to call it, they tore the venue a new one. What a difference a Holt makes, am I right?

Zetro made a big speech about how Holt was back and how we were all lucky to catch him on his first UK date back in the fold, and by god was he right. The energy, chemistry and indescribable x-factor going on made the performance utterly captivating. Zetro made a few speechs that night, including one about Bay Area Thrash that really locked into my old teenage love of Thrash and made me smile like a goon.

Exodus’ set was more balanced between their modern and classic material than Death Angel’s had been. They didn’t have enoguh time to cover ever single album, but they hit all the key periods. There were a few tracks from their Paul Baloff-fronted debut Bonded By Blood, a few from the Souza-fronted ‘80s albums (my favourite era of the band), a few from the Souza-fronted modern albums and even one from the Rob Dukes era.

It is nice that they mix the setlist up. Last time I saw them, they didn’t play ‘Deliver Us To Evil’ or ‘Fabulous Disaster’ for example. Last time I saw them, they played ‘The Ballad Of Leonard And Charles’ from the Dukes era, and this time they played the cleverly titled ‘Deathamphetamine.’ I love how this band play material from all eras. It’s a lot better for us fans than situations where some bands have a line-up change or reunion and the returning old guy refuses to play material from his former-replacement’s era. Most fans want to hear it all.

Murder in the front row, crowd begins to bang!

The band were tight, the sound was great again and they played some of my favourite songs (I was so happy to hear ‘Fabulous Disaster’ and ‘Black List’). What a brilliant time. If the night ended here, I would have been utterly satisfied.


Finally came the headliner, Testament. This band’s first four albums absolutely defined my teens and their mighty comeback album The Formation Of Damnation was the metal oasis in my otherwise prog-centric first year of university.

Testament were great live too. Their sound was a bit more restrained and less savage than it had been for Death Angel or especially Exodus. Furthermore; Gene ‘The Atomic Clock’ Hoglan’s drumming is mechanical and perfect, compared to Tom Hunting’s crazed and exciting beast-man drumming style. This made for a nice contrast, and was suited for Testament’s more melodic parts, even if it was a little less pulverising in the heavy parts than Exodus had been.

Atomic Clock

What they lost in savagery however, they made up for in professionalism. Compared to the other two bands, Testament got more time and more of a stage show, with an hour-and-a-half set. Clearly the headliners then!

They had banners, smoke cannons, lazers and a much more colourful light show. The banners changed depending on what album they were focusing on. They had raised points for the guitarists to climb on during solos. Eric Peterson in particular was really impressive. Many of the solos I always thought were Alex from the newer records, were actually Eric. Live, he delivers them with such flare and precision it was a joy to watch.

Peterson slays!

Speaking of joy, after all those years of watching Live In London on repeat, my brother and I always talked about how much fun singer Chuck Billy has. The man looks like being in Testament is his dream come true and that he’s having the best time in the world. His huge smiles as he plays air guitar on his mic stand, and air drums in sync with all the cymbal catches are so infectious. I feel like he is Testament’s number one fan and his joyous enthusiasm is such fun to behold.

Native Blood

No setlist at any concert ever satisfies everything I want to see, and tonight I’d love to have seen the title track from Souls Of Black or something like ‘Alone In The Dark’ or ‘Apocalyptic City’ from their debut. Most of all, I would have really loved to have heard ‘More Than Meets The Eye,’ from Formation Of Damnation which I think may be the band’s finest hour, but overall I was really satisfied with Testament’s choices tonight. Their set list was a real mix as well, not just all old not all new. They covered early stuff, mid-period-stuff, and even a brand-new song from the as yet unreleased next album.

They also played a few songs from their most recent album, The Brotherhood Of The Snake which I’ve been meaning to review for ages now, but spoilers, they managed to play the best two songs from it! Huzzah! Combined with many of my favourite tunes like ‘Practice What You Preach,’ ‘Over The Wall,’ ‘The Preacher’ and ‘Into The Pit’ I was pretty chuffed.

Disciples Of The Watch

Overall, this night was a thrash fan’s dream night if ever there was one. Once again, if it had just been Testament and Death Angel, I would have been wholly satisfied. However; given the utterly perfect set from Exodus, this was a whole other level of good. (And to cap it all off, the traffic and roads were so good, I managed to get home in time to get a fair amount of sleep for work next day! Bonus!).

Next on my concert schedule: Rammstein in Cardiff this Summer, Helloween in Manchester around Halloween, and then WASP doing only tunes from the first four albums in Cardiff a few days after Helloween. (Possibly Sepultura too, depending on money, work and tickets – I’m thinking about it).


 


Corrosion Of Conformity – Blind Review

220px-COC_BlindBlind is a very interesting and unique record within the C.O.C discography both historically and musically. A transitional record for a band who have had several very distinct and separate sounding periods and musical-directions over the years.

In the ’80s C.O.C were a raw, gnarly Hardcore Punk band (but with Sabbathy doomy tracks here and there too) and gained more and more Thrash influence with each release. In the 2012-2015 one of the earlier line-ups reformed but made more sludgy stonery Metal. The band are most famous however for their 1990s period especially the fan favourite Deliverance and Wiseblood albums which saw them add in Southern Rock, Groove Metal and Stoner Rock elements together into one big melting pot resulting in some of the best music of all time (real top 100 albums to hear before you die type stuff, seriously, if you don’t own those two albums yet, drop what you are doing and explore!).

In 1991 however, C.O.C had an interesting and one-off change of pace, direction and line up. Usual bassist and occasional singer Mike Dean was out (he’d be back again) replaced by Phil Swisher. Karl Agell joins the band and takes the mic, about their fifth singer alreay. For the first time guitarist Woody Weatherman finds himself in company as a second guitarist is added to the line-up, a big step in changing their sound from ramshackle Punk flavour to something else, something more metallic. That guitarist was none other than Pepper Keenan. Pepper of course being famous not only as the guitarist in supergoup Down nowadays, but also the band leader and singer of C.O.C for their most famous and beloved work in the ’90s.

Well, all that history and line-up information is certainly interesting, but it really doesn’t give you any guide as to what this particular record sounds like and if you’ll like it or not. Let me ask you a few questions. Do you like Chaos AD? Do you like Burn My Eyes? Do you like Vulgar Display Of Power? Do you like Cleansing? …if so then you’ll probably love Blind too!

The music is a far cry from the early Hardcore Punk and Crossover Thrash directions. It has yet to gain the Stoner Rock vibes, bounciness or Southern Rock influences that meshed into the sound of their most famous stuff. It is a strange pure perfect early Nineties Metal record. The intro and outro tracks are noisy-ass Doom-sounding sludgy dirges; otherwise however, the rest is a little harder to define. I know some people argue that Groove Metal or Post-Thrash or whatever you want to call it is not a real subgenre. I’ve heard this album called all sorts from Thrash (not really right) to Sludge (no…not right either) to Doom (…nope, not right either). The only one that really fits for me is Groove Metal. Take those above-mentioned four albums, Blind sits somewhere in a cross section somewhere the middle of all of them.

Karl’s vocals are James Hetfield/Chuck Billy influenced, semi-barked and semi-melodic, often very reverby and very, very well-suited to the music. The drums are very rumbly and varied. The guitar is very raw and heavy, never Slayer-fast but with a nice Thrash-style chug mixed in with hardcore fueled long ringing chords. Imagine a Supergroup that was half Black Label Society and half High On Fire trying to cover one of the deeper cuts from The More Things Change. In terms of production, it doesn’t have the warm Hard Rock ready sound of the next two records or the tinny budget-sounding job of the earlier stuff, instead it has a very distinctive early-’90s sound, the kind of thing that Pissing Razors had before the millennium. Something somewhere like Demanufacture only without the futuristic robotic vibes. Its a real charming sound.

Highlights include the ridiculously catchy single ‘Dance Of The Dead’ (Seriously; why don’t the band play this live more often!?) as well as the excellent drum-powered ‘Damned For All Time’ and of course the concert favourite ‘Vote With A Bullet’ which has the interesting point of having Pepper sing lead vocals, a hint of what was to come.

Overall; there’s no band quite like C.O.C and there’s no C.O.C release quite like Blind. If you like the band you really ought to check it out if you haven’t already, and if you don’t like the band yet but are a fan of the albums and bands that I’ve been mentioning throughout then this is a serious gap in your collection, do yourself a favour and give it a try!

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?

Anthrax – For All Kings Review

220px-anthraxforallkingsAfter a brief cinematic-sounding instrumental intro, the East Coast Thrash Metal legends Anthrax’s eleventh full-length studio album kicks into gear with the stompy upper-midpaced ‘You Gotta Believe’ calling to mind the longer tracks on their Persistence Of Time and State Of Euphoria albums; the clicky drum production serves to balance the modern with the classic, the repetitive but not hypnotic song structure harkens back to State Of Euphoria even further, but when the lead guitar kicks in it is apparent that Dan Spitz and his unique and singular style are nowhere to be seen, nor can we hear the warm feel of the excellent Rob Caggiano. New man and former Shadows Fall member Jon Donais has some big shoes to fill.

Joey Bellandona, back for the second studio album since rejoining the band, sounds a little more at home here than on 2011’s Worship Music, which makes sense since the songs weren’t written with someone else in mind first. He still tries a bit more of the Bush-aping choruses which were a weak point on Worship Music since the two very different vocalists had different strengths, but there’s a bit more umph to the verses this time. A bit more of a spitting delivery. A bit more bite. Ironically, on this one he sounds more like he has something to prove, incumbent though he may be.

So far so good. The end of the songs when a few more double kicks let fly and the guitars get a bit busier are always good. The guitar solos are always entertaining. The musicianship is great in general on all the instruments all the way through. The mix is good, and you can really separate the bass drum for the bass guitar or concentrate on whatever you chose, be that a ride cymbal or an individual guitarist’s part.

There’s a few pretty damn enjoyable songs worth pointing out too, such as the speedy politically-charged closer ‘Zero Tolerance’ as well as the aggressive ‘Defend/Avenge’ and the complex and entertaining album highlight ‘Blood Eagle Wings.’

Sounds like a good album to me. The only problem is that it lacks a wow factor. It’s a bit repetitive, a bit unadventurous, a bit ploddy and a bit dull. The song tempos could use a boost. There could be a bit more variety (especially in the vocal department, the choruses sort of blanket over the tracks and make them feel a bit too safe, too samey and too slow). The song lengths could do with a trim. Heck, some of the songs could do with being trimmed altogether… there’s value for money and there’s quality control. ‘Suzerain’ is a perfect example of the whole album, it has a great verse recalling the best parts of the likes of ‘What Doesn’t Die’ or ‘Discharge’ but then the chorus comes in and you just start planning your groceries, looking out the window at the fat guy with the interesting shirt or checking your phone messages. Not even on purpose. Its not like its even bad, its not like you want to lose interest, its just that musically and vocally For All Kings just isn’t special enough to keep your attention. Where’s the choruses like ‘Fueled’? Or ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’? Or ‘Lone Justice’? Where’s the drama of ‘This Is Not An Exit’ or ‘Indians’ ? Where’s the damn excitement?

Its one of those albums where no song is bad and there’s nothing actually even bad or objectionable on there, but overall its just not that great. I like the album, but I don’t love it. Much like the recent Slayer or Megadeth albums, you don’t initially want to compare them to the past, but they just don’t have the same spark and you can’t help but feel that no-matter how objective you would prefer to stay. Its more an album of ‘Ooo, that’s a cool drum part’ rather than ‘Ooo, that’s a cool song.’ Its more, ‘wow, this is slick’ than ‘wow, this is awesome.’ Its good, but its good in the wrong way. It doesn’t grab you. It doesn’t speak to you. I don’t hear too much on here I’d love to hear in concert. I don’t hear too much I want to run out and show my friends. I don’t hear too much to even discuss at all. It one of those classic 6/10 albums that you’ll have in your collection, but never actually love, you might even listen to it more than an actual great one to try and get something more out of it. Overall; It feels like Anthrax are on the right path, but they just haven’t gotten all the way to the desired destination.

Thrash Bands Putting Cover-Songs Mid-Album:

During my previous Week-Of-Thrash listening a thought occurred to me; why did so many Thrash bands have a cover song on their album. Not even as bonus tracks or for compilations but just in the middle of their album.

Led Zeppelin got covered by both Dark Angel and Nuclear Assault, again mid-album. Sodom covered Motorhead. Testament covered Areosmith, Death Angel covered Kiss, Heathen covered Free and Rainbow and even Slayer covered Judas Priest (which, fun fact, on my first few years of listening I didn’t know was a cover and considered my favourite Slayer song).

Megadeth covered Nancy Sinatra and Willy Dixon and even went so far as to cover The Sex Pistols and release that as a single and video.

Black Sabbath got covered by Exhorder and Sacred Reich on popular releases. All of these aforementioned ones are mid-album, not even as bonus tracks or b-sides (although that happened too as normal, as Kreator would do with Raven and Sodom would with Tank… and Exodus would with AC/DC, Sepultura would with Black Sabbath and Celtic Frost).

Anthrax covered Alice Cooper, Trust and Joe Jackson and in so doing produced some of their biggest hits which take precedence over their own compositions on live sets and compilation albums. They did this without getting the cover-band stigma insults that Quiet Riot earned with less famous covers overall than that.

Exodus covered bloody ‘Low Rider’ for goodness sake! EXODUS! On the middle of the furious Fabulous Disaster album of all things!

Other bands like Overkill also had cover songs mid album (‘Frankenstein’) or as the title of a whole EP (‘Fuck You’).

What was it with all these bands all at the same time putting covers out in the middle of albums? You can hardly imagine Testament or Slayer doing it today. B sides, compilation albums, movie soundtrack contributions (‘No More Mr Nice Guy’ for example) and bonus tracks are one thing…Garage Inc was one thing… but its odd that so many happened at once in the middle of original studio albums.

Thoughts, readers?

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Helloween – Walls Of Jericho Review

Helloween – Walls Of Jericho

In late 1985, the legendary German Melodic Power Metal band Helloween came out of Berlin’s Music Lab studios and released their debut full-length studio album, Walls Of Jericho. In so doing, the band arguably changed heavy music forever.

Lead by the very talented Kai Hansen, who would later go on to become the frontman of Gamma Ray and help form Iron Saviour, the band combined powerful US style Thrash Metal (despite being fellow countrymen with the likes of Sodom, Destruction and Holy Moses) with British NWOBHM and their own unique sense of melody and whimsy that would ultimately prove vastly influential over the whole European Power Metal movement.

Compared to later albums, Walls Of Jericho is faster, harder, heavier and more rooted in the Thrash tradition than anything else. If you only knew them from singles like “Mrs God,” “If I Could Fly” and “Live Now” it might come as a shock to hear how raw and ferocious the material here can be.

That being said, everything that would come later in both Helloween and Gamma Ray’s signature sound can be picked up on here. ‘Metal Invaders’ for example tones down the Thrash and adds some of that Power Metal magic, as does the middle of ‘Ride The Sky.’

The record does a pretty good split between the styles of Kai Hansen and Mikael Weikath, in a real spot who wrote what kind of way. The real hero here however is drummer Ingo Schwitchenberg, who’s one of a kind fills and absolute mastery of the double-kick gave such a personality filled performance. Highlights include the furious ‘Metal Invaders,’ the damn catchy ‘Heavy Metal (Is The Law)’ and the memorable duo of ‘Gorgar’ and the aforementioned ‘Ride The Sky.’

Negative things? There aren’t that many. Maybe the vocals could’ve been recorded better and placed higher in the mix, and some of the transitions are jarring so structure isn’t as spot on as in the later albums, but arguably both points only add to the charm of the album, which vastly outweighs the technical complaints anyway.

Overall; Walls Of Jericho is a rawer, grittier, dirtier and more aggressive Helloween album than usual, but undeniably a Helloween album. It isn’t just interesting as historical context either, its fully entertaining in its own right musically. There are some brilliant riffs, some amazing solos and some damn catchy choruses to be found.

If you can, try and get the version which also contains the equally strong Helloween EP and assorted other compilation tracks from this era. It features extensive liner notes, photos, press clippings and the like in the booklet, and the extra music is more or less  just as good as the main album.

Manowar – Louder Than Hell Review

Manowar – Louder Than Hell

Manowar – Louder Than Hell

1996’s Louder Than Hell album was the US Heavy Metal legends Manowar’s eight full-length opus, and served as a grand and defiant championing of Heavy Metal that was simultaneously both ahead of and behind its time. Manowar in steadfastly focusing on what could be argued as the “true” (the band certainly argue that themselves) aspects of the original Heavy Metal sound were throwing back to the early ‘80s heyday of Metal from which the band themselves came, something very uncool in the eyes of the Grunge and Alternative focused public at the time, and in so doing were setting up the future, predicting the soon to be popular Power Metal movement that had been brewing happily away for a decade but really exploded when bands like Hammerfall would break just a year or two later.

This album sees the return of drummer Scott Columbus, who was absent from the band’s superb previous album, 1992’s Triumph Of Steel, as well as seeing the introduction of new guitarist Karl Logan who’s muscular sound fit nicely into the band. It was self-produced by the band and released on Geffen. Just cast one eyeball at the album’s art and that should tell you whether or not you’ll love this album. Embarrassed by “cheesy” D&D bands? Think singing about being in a band is dated? Then step away! However…Think that close-up shot of ‘roided-out barbarian thumping an anvil is awesome? Then buy a copy without hesitation!

Musically, Louder Than Hell is another step down the road that the band have always been headed in. Manowar don’t make the same album over and over again, but they never make a head-scratching left turn either. This is the logical successor to Triumph Of Steel. You can see how Thrashy tracks like “Death Hector’s Reward” and “Ride The Dragon” from that record begat “Outlaw” on this record. You can see how tracks like “Wheels Of Fire” on the album before that, begat the tracks on this album such as “The Power” (sonically, with the bombast and absolute over-the-top performance) and “Return Of The Warlords” (thematically, with the biker imagery and don’t-care attitude).

Manowar also always have a lot of lyrical fun boasting about how awesome they, and Heavy Metal in general are, and in the fine tradition of tracks such as “Metal Warriors,” “Kings Of Metal” and “All Men Play On Ten,” this album lets rip with an absolutely storming, fists-to-the-sky anthem in the form of “The Gods Made Heavy Metal.” A track so charged with pride, power and the demand that you sing along that you can almost picture the band in the studio laughing to themselves that they’ll never get away with being so obvious….and yet you forgive them, because, well dammit, its just THAT GOOD.

There’s also spots of variety to break up the oily, red hot ‘80s-Hollywood-masculinity that the band love to exude so much (to the point of constantly singing about power, strength, challenge, muscle, fighting and having all that bodybuilder imagery in photoshoots and album covers) in the form of a nice piano-ballad called ‘Courage’ (because you can tender AND manly!) as well a guitar-only solo track, and a dense, 9-minute Prog affair called ‘Today Is A Good Day To Die” which sounds like some kind of Power Metal version of Pink Floyd’s “Empty Spaces.”

This album has a nice production job, with a nice crunchy chug to the palm-mutes, a nice amount of drive, audible bass-guitar, and a clear separation of all the instruments (toms merrily dance from ear to ear during fills, and you can accurately feel how the band would be standing relative to one another in the practice-room). Add to that, another fantastic vocal performance from Manowar’s secret genius Eric Adams who can sound equal parts Rob Halford or Paul Stanley influenced depending on his mood, but with a distinctive identity all of his own most of the time.

Overall; It sounds great, the band play/sing great, there’s a bit of variety but not too much in the way of interludes or nonsense shenanigans, and just a general feel of consistency and craftsmanship. Its a strong whole for sure – and on top of that there’s some absolutely superb standout tracks that elevate it even higher – just try not enjoy “Brothers Of Metal,” “King” or “The Gods Made Heavy Metal.” If you thought Manowar were done after the first four albums, you thought wrong! Louder Than Hell is absolutely worth your time and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes Thrash, Power Metal, NWOBHM, or good old Heavy Metal.

Get (Into) What You Paid For – Round 4: Episode 1 Day 7 (Part 2)

Now that I’ve covered the spend/temptation/distraction aspects of Get (Into) What You Paid For, its time to cover the titular aspect, by which I mean I’m getting back to reevaluating old purchases which I overlook, and try to get my money’s worth out of them.

S- AHiG

In honour of the return of Slipknot, I’ll kick things off by re-listening to their fourth real album, 2008’s All Hope Is Gone.

It opens with “.execute.” Their first two albums had clearly “intro” intros, and on their third they essentially made a proper song instead but acted like it was an intro. Here, they take the route Lamb Of God took on Resolution and confusingly stick the drum-introduction to a song (track 2, “Gematria (The Killing Name)”) in a previous track (track 1, “.execute.”) while simultaneously sort of re-doing the intro to “Pulse Of The Maggots.”

A few thoughts…. I wonder if Craig titled this intro? Why not just have this be part of “Gematria (The Killing Name)” like they did with “Pulse Of The Maggots”? When they play “Gematria (The Killing Name)” live, do they actually play that drum intro, or play that bit over the speakers and start where the CD cuts the two tracks?

[Quick side note – In my iTunes, “Pulse Of The Maggots” is now split into two different tracks, “Pulse Of The Maggots” preceded by “Intro Of The Maggots” which separates the speech into a separate skippable track, because… song.

Also, I do the same with Slayer’s “Hell Awaits.” The intro is “Awaiting Hell.”]

Anyway… The song opens nicely, with a sort of complex intro like they liked to do so much on Vol. 3 The Subliminal Verses. I like all the pinch harmonics. I think the quick d-beat bit is really out of place. I remember my brother really hating the lyric about “cigarette ash.” Listening to the song now, apart from the vague idea that it is pretending to be heavier than it is, I like this song. I like the fact that it has guitar solos. I like the DJ scratches. I like the catchy bits and the heavy bits. I like the big groove around 3.40. It might better (tighter) if it ended after that instead of continuing, but I think it’s a good song nonetheless.

Next up comes “Sulpher” which was never off music TV when this album came out. I remember being so sick of this song due to how overplayed it became. Now? Nice Death influenced intro. Brilliant main verse. The radio chorus, despite y’know…being a radio chorus… is awesome! I forgot that. I remember it being a sort of two-faced light/shade affair, but I didn’t remember that both sides were good. Nice guitar solo too, and the part under it is neat. Again, the Machine Head influenced big groove (which actually IS the ending this time) is awesome.

OK. Another good song. Call that the first two songs and it’s a 100% success rate so far. I’d easily put both of these in a “Best Of Slipknot” tracklist.

How about track four? “Psychosocial.” I remember thinking that this was trying a bit too hard to replicate the success of Duality. The main riff is actually kind of Ministry or Rob Zombie flavoured if you pay attention. The chorus, hmmm…. Its delicious but so out of place. Oh well, I like it. Who am I trying to please here? Some Blabbermouth troll in an Obituary t-shirt or MY EARS?

More lead-guitar goodness. Hoorah. The midsection with all the snares is cool. A bit “Hey, people enjoy The Blister Exists, what else can we do?” but hey, its cool. Get over it My Brain!

Also luckily, now, its been so long since I’ve watched music TV that its no-longer overplayed AND I’ve forgotten the viral video where its mashed-up with Justin Beiber. So its just a song. A good song.

Next up is “Dead Memories.” “Dead Memories” is awesome. Really nice drums. Some of the best Corey clean vocals in this band. Even though I struggle to accept this song as Slipknot and not Stone Sour and have a sort of principle thing against it, this song is excellent and I love it. Also…boy, oh boy was this thing overplayed at the time.

Wow. I’m really enjoying this record actually. I always think of it as their worst. The career nadir. Its not that bad, and I’ve just listened to the “one with the stupid lyrics” and the three overplayed ones. Now come the deep-cuts!

First up – “Vendetta.” Swirly, death-influenced intro riffs. Stompy feel. Kicks into a great main verse. It could do with having heavier vocals, I remember that being a discussion point against it at the time. I remember the first time I listened to it, in a cramped, smelly room. I remember thinking the band have lost their heaviness.

I think the song also takes a bit too long to get to the chorus. I like the chorus though. Could do with better lyrics… but whatever. I really enjoy this song. I don’t ever remember that this one is called “Vendetta” but I do remember every second of music. I like 80% of said music. This is a good track. The worst thing I could think about it at all is that some of the segments change jarringly, but even that’s stretching it.

“Butcher’s Hook” comes next. The first “weird one.” The Skunkworks one. All Slipknot albums have a few “weird ones.” Going right back to the demos, there was always a love of creepy, off tracks. Every album has a “Tattered And Torn” or “Skin Ticket” or “The Virus Of Life.” The ironic weird thing about this weird track is that it weirdly has a commercial chorus of sorts and despite its clear and obvious weirdness, it is somehow a normal song. If you follow. Its either deceptively digestible despite its progressive nature, or only weird in a token check-box way but actually a normal song. Either way, every part of it is good. I like it. I think of it as this album’s “The Shape.” “The Shape” was weird as balls but could fool you if you weren’t paying attention. But then I guess that’s this band. If you don’t concentrate, you miss the depth and subtleties of a nine-member band who hate conventional song structure and sneak in odd time-sigs without boasting about it.

“Gehenna” is next. It is a slow, creepy one. The lyrics feel like a sequel to the track “Iowa” but the music sounds like a sequel to “Vermillion” with a bit of “Virus Of Life” style synth in there too. The slow, drony verses have a Sci-Fi feel. That one bit where they keep throwing in the heavy snare rolls but going back to the slow dirge is cool. Then it does its own version of a clean chorus (kind of) and becomes a normal song. It kind of steals the song’s weirdness. But the vocal specifics and the part which follow it make me think its trying to be like Antichrist Superstar’s pained outcast artist vibe, and that its all a bit “Minute Of Decay” and we’re unfairly treating it as “Everlong”

Who is we? … cripes, I’m going a bit crazy here! You know what I mean right? I think on the one hand it seems deceptively commercial, but on the other hand it isn’t, its just clean prog not noisy prog. There! I’m not crazy, I’m just dorky! (And trying to please an imaginary, disapproving, super-nerd by protesting too much… totally a normal thing to do!)

Anyway, that song is fine. Not great, but not worth cutting either.

“This Cold Black” follows. This seems like a nice “Metabolic” or “Deluded” or “Welcome.” The good Slipknot. The deep cuts. The “this is Slipknot at their most Slipknot” Slipknot. That Slipknot.

I like this song a lot. The variety in the vocals is cool. I wonder if its Clown or Chris doing the backups, or just Corey putting on a funny voice? The chorus is a bit odd. Sort of jagged, and out of nowhere, and yet its catchy, and when it leaves it makes the next bit sound cooler by contrast. That and the build up with the broken key lyrics over it is cool. A build-up that doesn’t build up? Nice one!

Also, hooray for guitar solos and fast parts! Then that staccato part is nice. And the deathy transition riff doesn’t feel forced either. Definitely one of the better songs on the record. Shame it won’t get played a lot live.

“Wherein Lies Continue” comes. Comes like creepy mutant. Well, not that creepy actually. Pseudo-creepy. This is oddly tame, but still clearly another Skunkworks type thing. Its quite “Virus Of Life.” The heaviest of the three, its like Tattered And Torn if that wasn’t creepy. It does that clean chorus trick the previous ones did. The clean chorus is good though, so what’s the problem brain-jerk? The bit that follows that chorus is awesome. I love those multi-percussion bits in Slipknot. Then, wham! Another Machine Head influenced groove ending! Its not the ending…but, y’know it should be. And then it is, later, when it comes back…because OF COURSE IT SHOULD BE. Also some trippy robot-duck guitar hidden in there too, because layering.

“Snuff” follows. It is awesome. It has always been since first listen my favourite song on the album. Interestingly, for someone with so much difficulty accepting the clean vocals and commercial leanings of the album, my unashamed, un-ironic, honest favourite thing on the whole record is a ballad. A brilliant, powerful, non-cheesy and totally dramatic cinematic ballad. It is awesome. A masterpiece. Well done for writing it Slipknot! No matter what score you’d award this album, it is hugely boosted by this gem. There is more brilliance here than on the full rest of the record combined…. Kind of like how Motely Crue themselves think about Home Sweet Home/Theater Of Pain.

Then to close up the album, comes the final track, the Title Track, “All Hope Is Gone.” It has one of those Vol. 3 complex intros. It has speed. It has DJ scratches. It has noisy blast beats and death influenced riffs in the verses. The chorus is strangely a weird rolling post-chorus. Its quite impressive actually. Oh, that’s why, because its not the chorus, because there’s a groove, with a clean vocal instead. The whole bit before and under (during) the guitar solo is awesome, even if the solo itself isn’t amazing. Then a bit that is so massively Slipknot that it defies further comparison. What did Slipknot add to music that wasn’t there before, you ask? That! This bit!

OK. That song is decent too. This third and final time the chorus comes in its actually cool. I wonder would the song be better if that was the only time it was there though? Oh who cares…stop being so picky, jerkwad. This is a good song. This is a good album. Its still their worst. But now only by a hair instead of by a considerable margin. Jerk off, jerky jerk-impression! Your false memories, prejudice against Corey’s clean singing and sickness at the overplaying of the singles is now not how this album is. How this album is, is good!

PS. Oh yeah, and the bonus track, “Child Of Burning Time” which is pretty much Vermillion again. Only better. Maybe this should’ve been on it instead of “Gehenna” and also should’ve been a single? Considering that enjoying money is a thing…

Also, the decision to put a remix of a song from a track from a previous album in-between two proper songs from this album’s sessions is insane and so I’ve disallowed this madness from my iTunes. That song is put on the end of Vol. 3. The next song here is “Til We Die” because that makes much more sense.

“Til We Die” starts out like a creepy-ass sea-side song, in an alcoholic’s memories. Then suddenly turns into a powerful, real-song version of the intro from Vol. 3. (More real, I mean). It is awesome. This, the previous one, Dead Memories and Snuff are the best material here. They are better than all the ones that actually sound like Slipknot. Maybe they should’ve sold out harder…not tried to hide it with blast beats and death riffs.

[Or maybe it’s a good balance you knee-jerk reacting jerkhole. Maybe they aren’t “covering it up” but rather just mixing two things they enjoy.]

STOP HITTING YOURSELF, NUTCASE!

E – BbB

Next, from something with lots of derision to something with universal credibility in our world; Think 1985… Exodus’ Bonded By Blood.

At the time, even in the deepest throes of my Thrash-passion, from my first days of Thrash Obsession, I always felt that this album was poor. The title track was one of the best songs ever written by anyone and then the rest of the album was dull repetitive cack and the band were much better off on the fantastic next two records, Pleasure Of The Flesh & Fabulous Disaster.

Well; one listen and yup, the Title Track is fantastic. Perfect. No further comments, your honour. The defense rests.

The next song, the song actually called “Exodus,” opens up with a riff that kind of sounds like Dave Mustaine. The vocals are weirdly produced, painfully too-loud and kind of in a metal box. Not Metal. Just metal. That Mustainey riff is fun. The bit of the chorus with the “Get In The Way…” is catchy and sort of punky. I also like the little Iron Maiden-esque jangle before “…and Exodus attack.”

The song has a great guitar solo too. If the vocals were produced normally this would be a pretty perfect Thrash song. The deh-neh-nay-ne-neh thing sounds like early Overkill, which is a bonus. And some of the drum fills here are absolutely bad ass. The song only seems dull and repetitive but all the little touches really make it.

Then there’s the nuclear-themed “And Then There Were None” which opens up with a nice chugging riff augmented by a Tom pattern that I’m sure turns up on Nirvana’s Bleach album somewhere. Love Buzz, maybe? This is perfect mid-paced Thrash. It would be good DVD menu music. Or good under-the-narrator in a Thrash Documentary music.

Its kind of weird that the backing vocals just sing the melody. Like at an Iron Maiden concert…but in the studio. “AAAAAH, ah-ahhh-ah-ah-a-a.”

The whole adventurous mid-section and the fast bit which follows are excellent. I love it during the solo. This is a good song. I remember always wanting to turn the record off afterward though. I think it has that problem of the last few Exodus records that the song is just slightly too long. Of all Exodus records. Sometimes they have a song that’s just too long. They’re awesome, but sometimes they need an editor. Only sometimes.

Next comes one of the band’s then-signature songs (the other being “Piranha”) if my memory of various magazine articles from the time I bought this holds up, “A Lesson In Violence.” I remember resenting this song as a teenager for not being as awesome as it should be given how fond the band seemed to be of it. Interestingly, looking back now, these two are the two shortest and presumably therefor tightest tracks on the album. Free from that too-long thing then!

Oh yes, and the chorus is catchy and awesome. I remember hating the lyrics at first impression (essentially rhyming “lesson in violence” with “lesson in violence”) but now that I’m used to it for years and years, its just music, and that music is good. Also, I like the riffs, the speed and the solos. This is a good song. Bonded by Blood is better but this is still a deserving signature track. Consider me converted. Its great not being 14 anymore, isn’t it? 12 years in the future is a beautiful thing, ey?

Next comes “Metal Command” which I remember thinking sounding dodgy, but now it is charming and NWOBHMy and a sort of missing-link moment like early Overkill. Also the production on the solo is awesome and the brief little neoclassical noodle at the very end of the solo is neat. This song just got stars in my iTunes.

The aforementioned “Piranha” makes its appearance next. This song’s opening riff is kind of Slayer/Sodom/Kreator. It is for the mean-Thrash crowd. The people who don’t necessarily like Anthrax as much as they might. Then it kicks into a more bouncy part. The chorus is catchy. There are way too many effects on the vocals, but that’s a very minor complaint. Also, nice solo. The H-team always were awesome at guitar solos. This album in general is way better than my first impression of it was. I wonder if it was just the whole line-up changes thing messing my brain around with Exodus, causing side-choosing.

[Side note: Ohhh, ooooh. Remember that whole intro thing, like “Awaiting Hell”? etc. I do that with Exodus’ “Deranged” because…that intro makes me skip the whole of Deranged when really I should only skip the intro.]

Next up, a nice bit of variety. “No Love” opens up with a nice, fancy, tasteful Spanish Guitar, clean intro. That was a big thing on Thrash openers wasn’t it? – Sometimes separate tracks, sometimes not. – Pleasure To Kill, Alice In Hell, Ride The Lightning etc… they all have that. A little bit of Spanish guitar before the Thrash. I wonder why they didn’t make this the first track then?

Maybe they did, and then they realized that the title track was so absolutely fantastic that nobody had time to wait for it, and so that just HAD TO be the first track?

Anyway, once the Metal-bit starts, it’s a bit more midpaced again. In a slightly off time-sig that reminds me of a specific Dream Theater moment on Awake which I can’t remember right now. Also, the way he say’s “The Darkness Is My Lover” is clearly influenced by Accept. I would have never noticed that before. Also it sounds like he says “Leather” and not “Lover.”

Oh, there’s a neat NWOBHMy bit around 2.40. Then a neat solo. This song is full of surprises. And some bad-ass fills once it slows down around that next set of solos. This song is what we in the Thrash fan world call a mini-epic, and I never even realized. Shame. I wish I realized how good it was at the time I got it. Oh well. I know now.

Next up is “Deliver Us To Evil” which by its two-minutes-longer duration might actually be a mini-epic. It has some nice little touches. With its stop-start bit, and bouncy drums. It also has slightly choppy, but proggy complexity, which at the time I mistook for “not playing properly.” Woops. I guess my brain wasn’t developed enough when I got this initially.

It has a really fun Maideny/Priesty bit underneath the solos around the four-minute-mark. Some really fun riffs!

Lastly, the fast one. Back in the day, instead on ending on the obvious closer… they would usually end on a super fast, shorter song. That happens here. This speedy track could easily be described as a “teeth kicker.” This is pure Thrash. Absolutely pure. Almost too pure? I remember thinking this was too simplistic at the time. I was WRONG at the time. Good song, good album, good band. Good subgenre.

Oh yeah, and here’s a TOP 5s thing for Thrash:

Exodus :
1. Bonded By Blood
2. Fabulous Disaster
3. Brain Dead
4. Chemi-Kill
5. Seeds Of Hate

Testament :
1. The Preacher
2. Souls Of Black
3. Into The Pit
4. Practice What You Preach
5. Apocalyptic City

Metallica :
1. Blackened
2. Creeping Death
3. Master Of Puppets
4. Eye Of The Beholder
5. Ride The Lightning

Forbidden :
1. March Into Fire
2. Forbidden Evil
3. Twisted Into Form
4. Hypnotized By The Rhythm
5. Infinite

Kreator :
1. People Of The Lie
2. Coma Of Souls
3. Terrible Certainty
4. Stream Of Consciousness
5. Pleasure To Kill

Annihilator :
1. Alice In Hell
2. Road To Ruin
3. W.T.Y.D
4. Stonewall
5. I Am In Command

Anthrax :
1. I Am The Law
2. A.I.R
3. One Man Stands
4. Lone Justice
5. Death Rider

Megadeth :
1. Rust In Peace (Polaris)
2. Set The World Afire
3. Hook In Mouth
4. Peace Sells
5. Mechanix

Slayer :
1. Postmortem
2. Raining Blood
3. Blood Red
4. South Of Heaven
5. Crionics

Nuclear Assault :
1. Survive
2. Brainwashed
3. Critical Mass
4. Nuclear War
5. Game Over

Overkill :
1. Overkill
2. I Hate
3. Elimination
4. In Union We Stand
5. Feel The Fire

As for the bands who I don’t feel I can make a Top 5 for, my favourtie Sacred Reich song is “Whos To Blame.” My favourtie Death Angel song is “Veil Of Deception.” My favourtie Vio-lence song is “World Within A World.” My favourtie Exhorder song is “Un-born Again.” My favourtie Heathen song is “Pray For Death.” My favourtie Onslaught song is “Thrash Till The Death.” My favourtie Sepultura thrash-era song is “Beneath The Remains.” My Sodom song is “Agent Orange.” My favourtie Voivod song is “Tribal Convictions.”

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Vol. 3. Day 34 – More Little Thoughts

Its day 34 of my third Get (Into) What You Paid For challenge. I’ve been adhering to the challenge and haven’t broken the challenge yet. To be honest it hasn’t been too challenging. Challenge, Challenge, Challenge. So; Christmas has came and went, and the kind people in my life have provided me with a brilliant collection of very-well-thought-out gifts, which has definitely taken the urge to buy myself stuff away for a while.

I’ve been given numerous biographies on bands I like (including Sabbath, Megadeth, Slipknot, Jethro Tull); Power Metal albums from Iced Earth and Gamma Ray; Prog Metal albums from Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation and Tesseract; Thrash from Testament. Even a bit of Grunge in the form of the new Pearl Jam album. My listening habits from the last year are all very well served by this.

I’ve been given a massive load of comics from my friend Magnum, and I’ve been given the new Batman videogame. My gaming and reading habits from last year are all pretty well served by this too.

Pretty much, I’ve just had a massive influx of things I like and so that quells the urge to buy more things I like.

Another reason I’ve been doing OK with not buying things is that I’m completely and drastically broke. Its easier to exert some restraint when there’s more reason to do so. Maybe I’m fianlly an adult, now that I can confidently say I’d rather be able to pay my rent than buy myself something entertaining. I’ve got so bloody much stuff already anyway that its becoming easier to shrug off the itch to get more, I’m beginning to learn some perspective and tone down my overspending.

Taking this financial situation into account, and the fact that I didn’t blog as frequently on the subject this December as I had in the previous two GIWYPF challenge months, I’ve decided to extend this one into a two-month epic. That’s right. I’ll try not to buy any books, comic books, DVDs, Blu Rays, Band T–Shirts, Books, Music or Videogames for another month, making it a stretch from December 1st to February 1st. I don’t think I’ve ever went that long without buying something of this nature since turning 18.

But if I was going to break the challenge, what would I break it on?

Riverside’s debut, Haken’s whole discography, the two Psychotic Waltz reissues, some of the more famous Fates Warning albums, and DreamTheater’s Awake all spring to mind. As does Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff and Angra’s Angel’s Cry.

I’d also like to get the two most recent Batman collections, the Death Of The Family main story and side-stories books. Everything I’ve read from Snyder so far has been good and I’d like to be a bit more “In The Loop” with things, if it wasn’t so costly.

Oh. And there’s one new Arctic Monkeys B-side that’s came out during the challenge. I like to always buy those B-Sides pretty much as soon as they are released, this is the longest I’ve gone without getting an Arctic Monkey’s B-Side since the release of their second album.

To be honest though, I don’t think there’s much risk of me breaking the challenge. Having a massive exam schedule that requires serious, dedicated revision for, having no money, and having been given those excellent Christmas gifts should keep me busy and thinking straight.

So; today, having done my revision for the day, I’ll take a little break and do a quick little series of mini-reviews/thoughts of what I’ve been listening to lately. As you might imagine, most of it will be the gifts I got for Christmas that I’ve described above. Here goes:

I got a copy of Tesseract’s new album Altered State for Christmas. I went and saw them live about a month ago and was completely blown away by them. They were supporting Karnivool who I’d imagine were less big than them, but who weren’t. They had an annoying loud fan who wouldn’t stop screaming for songs they didn’t play (“Dead Man”) and making a clown’s horn noise. I wish that fan had kept their big mouth shut, but the concert was awesome. Tesseract’s guitarist is very tall… Anyway; This album completely lives up to my expectations. Its absolutely fantastic. Such incredible musicianship and utterly spellbinding vocals. I can foresee this band becoming huge, if there’s any justice. Also, there’s a Saxaphone solo. Always a plus for a Floyd/Tull/Crimson fan!

I think I’m going to be dedicating a heck of a lot of listening time to this record in the near future.

Keeping with the Prog theme, Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing. I’ve been craving Deadwing for quite a while now. Ever since I got into the band, Deadwing has been my number one, most-wanted album of theirs, although I’ve managed to get everything around it first.

Interestingly, on just one listen, I was able to tell instantly that is their best record. I’ve had about five or six listens now and am still firmly of that opinion. The title track and ‘Arriving Somewhere But Not Here’ are absolute gold, and ‘Lazerus’ is a haunting, magical ghost-ballad. If this had the three best songs of Fear Of A Blank Planet on it too, it would be one of the best albums of all time.

I think I might make some sort of Porcupine Tree best-of, with ‘Sound Of Musack’ ‘Drawing The Line’ ‘Normal’ and then the majority of Blank Planet and Deadwing on it.

What else have I listened to? I recently talked extensively about listening to Pain Of Salvation’s The Perfect Element album so I won’t go into too much detail about it again here. Anyway, I listened to it again while I was weightlifting and although I had understandably reduced-concentration on it, I really am impressed by this album. If you like any sort of Prog Metal you should really pick up a copy. Its only about £3 on Amazon.

Tesseract, Porcupine Tree and Pain Of Salvation are three very different bands, and they all scratch very different parts of my brain, but any way you look at it, Prog Metal is pretty well served by that trio of absolutely phenomenal records. What about Power Metal then?

I also got given Horror Show and The Glorious Burden by Iced Earth for Christmas. I’ve listened to them both quite a few times now. I like Iced Earth, they play 40% Judas Priest, 40% Testament and 10% Warning era Queensryche. Pretty well suited to me then. Both albums are great, as was Something Wicked, which I got given for my previous Birthday. The three of them together feel like one big album. There’s sort of a continum between the three of them. Its hard to explain.

On The Glorious Burden, there’s a nifty bit where the lead guitars play the rhythm of “Johnny We Hardly Knew You.”

Interestingly as well; The Glorious Burden has Tim Paper Owens on it instead of Matt Barlow, who at the time had left the band to join the US Police force in the wake of 9/11. He’s a perfect replacement for Barlow. Both are brilliant at high screams, both sing with manly authority and both do a fine impression of Forbidden’s Russ Anderson. I don’t know if its actually the guitarist doing those bits. Could be. They’re so similar across the two records. I’ve also got given their live Blu-Ray for Christmas, so I’ll have a look when I get a chance to watch it, and see if I can crack this mystery. Is Schaeffer the phantom Russ Anderson impersonator? Or do both Barlow and Ripper both have that one particular style really well honed?

This record makes me want to try out the two Ripper-Era Priest albums that I avoided. Tim is certainly an incredibly talented guy. Replacing Halford can’t have been easy. Just look Blaze Bailey. The fans really didn’t go for him even though he’s very talented. Also – Maaaaaaaan hunt. Maaaan, Hunt. Manhuntmanhuntmanhuntmanhunt.

In addition to the serious, Thrashy, USPM… I’ve been listening to the fun, bright, melodic German Power Metal of Gama Ray. I’ve been hammering their 2007 album Land Of The Free II recently; its met with mixed reviews, but I really like it. Its such a fun, energetic, and pleasant record. The guitar solos are magnificent. Kai is one of my favourite guitarists of all time. I read a lot of people complaining about stealing that bass-bit from Maiden’s Rhime Of The Ancient Mariner. Gama Ray frequently steal bits from Priest. They’ve even stole bits from Deep Purple. Its just something you have to deal with. Its still a good song. I don’t know, maybe I should be harsher, but, I just can’t help but love everything Gamma Ray do. Its difficult to listen to Gamma Ray and not just be put into a good mood. I’d absolutely love to see them live. I wish I’d been a fan when they did that tour with Helloween recently. That must’ve been brilliant to behold.

Also, after having listened to Tesseract, I had another listen to Periphery. Periphery’s album is such a shapeshifter. Every time I’ve heard it I’ve listened to it in a completely different way. Sometimes I hear it as a radio-friendly Metalcore record, sometimes I hear it as a crushing desne Messugah-influenced affair, and sometimes I hear it as a rapid-fire, all-over-the-place, highly technical, Protest The Hero style modern prog mish mash.

That’s happened to me before, with Machine Head’s Burn My Eyes. I’ve heard it in completely different ways at different times. Makes you wonder what your ears and brain are up to.

Its also interesting just how different it is to Tesseract’s album. Its like the difference between Anthrax’s Spreading The Disease and Megadeth’s Peace Sells But Who’s Buying. Both are defining albums of Thrash, but both sound vastly different. Same goes here. Animals As Leaders’ Weightless album is as vastly different as those two are from eachother yet again. Perhaps that’s throwing Slayer’s Hell Awaits into the second albums by Thrash bands analogy. If all those Djent bands are Thrash, then what does that make Messugah? Judas Priest?

Oh. Y’know what. I can add three more things onto the “to-do-list” / risk-of-me-buying-these pile. Skyharbour, Monuments and Circle’s new albums.

Anyway, there are some seriously brilliant songs on this record. I particularly love ‘Erised’ and the single, ‘Scarlet.’ The whole album is fantastic though; the musicianship and vocals are incredible. There are parts that are so heavy, parts that are floaty electronic dreams and a lot of memorable clean choruses. Periphery – Love that shit.

I forgot just how good Tool’s Undertow album is. I usually think of the subsequent three albums when I think of Tool. There are some seriously fun, memorable, enjoyable riffs on this album. Some damn catchy vocal parts, some interesting lyrics, and it’s a lot more succinct and serious than I remember. I guess having gotten into all the Tool-influenced bands recently also helped. And the grunge; there’s a slight bit of grunge about Undertow that I may previously have been put-off by.

Speaking of being put-off; I think the thing about the carrots made me forget about all the completely awesome songs on the record. Tool usually have one or two little comedy moments or unusual additions, so I don’t know why that particular one took over. Well, at least I know better now. Songs like ‘Intolerance’ and ‘Bottom’ are absolute gems. I can see this working its way into a much more regular rotation from now on.

Ok; that’s enough for one installment. I’m going to have to keep it up all the way through January. Let’s hope I stick with the whole financial-discipline thing a while longer, ey?