Tag: heavy metal

MUSIC REVIEW | Slayer – Reign in Blood (1986)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “These songs deliver everything that great thrash metal usually takes double or three times as long to do.”

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It’s funny how some bands can become icons without hits.  If they’re songs weren’t being played on the radio, and they weren’t of a genre being shared between me and my friends, how I did I ever come to be aware of them?  And not only aware of them, but pretty familiar with what they do and what they represent?  Slayer is a band that never got radio airplay or released songs that were hits.  Slayer is a band that was never shared between me and my friends.  So why is Slayer a band of which I’m so familiar with what they do and what they represent?  I saw them at a music festival a few years ago, and all of my preconceptions were proven correct in the best possible way.  Which is the same reaction l was hoping I would have to their mid 80s breakthrough, Reign in Blood.

Pounding guitars duelling on the same riff, a relentless double kick assault, and a vocal intro that is literally nothing but a scream, I feel like Angle Death might be one of the best album openers ever.  You might not like this kind of thrash or metal, but at least Slayer lets you know right out of the gate exactly what you’re in for.  And when you compress your record into less than half an hour, there’s no time to ease people in.  The blistering dual guitar solos don’t hurt either. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Metallica – Metallica (1991)

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In 1991, a rock album of raw intensity changed the face of music and pushed the limits making the mainstream accept music of a much harder, louder variety than they ever had before. That record was Nirvana’s Nevermind. It gets a lot credit for what rock music has been ever since. And it deserves that credit. But you know what, I don’t think it would be much of a stretch to say that it was a two man job. A job where a good amount of credit should also go to Metallica’s own 1991 game changer, Metallica.  

Straight out of the gate, Enter Sandman backs up my argument. This song is just as well known, well regarded and still present in the world today as Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. I’m not saying one song is better than the other, and I wouldn’t argue with anyone who thought Teen Spirit was a clear winner. But both can lay claim to opening up millions of people to a level of heaviness they would have never heard on mainstream radio before these two songs. With absolutely no facts or figures to base this on, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sandman’s riff is the more instantly recognisable today.

Much more polished and deliberate than any Metallica record before this, Metallica comes with a slower, durgier tempo. Sad But True sounds like it was born under 10 feet of sludge and mud, then bubbled out with each James Hetfield tortured wail, Lars Ulrich demolishing kick drum beat, and Kirk Hammett shred. I’m sure Jason Newstead’s bass helped out too. But he’s basically just following Hetfield’s riffs.

While Holier Than Thou hints at the frantic pace of the band’s earlier work, the studio polish makes sure it never has any of the danger of those older thrashers. And the way Newstead’s steady, thundering work holds this song together makes me almost feel guilty about having a dig at him the last paragraph.

The Unforgiven sure does still get played a lot on the radio. And to paraphrase Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

When it comes to Don’t Tread on Me, I’m left with one question; What’s worse, the music, the lyrics, the vocal melody, or the by the numbers guitar solo? Every time I’d think one was in the lead, another would find a way to get even shittier and make me revaluate everything. But it’s OK, because the boys find their mojo and deliver a throwback to their more frantic days with the driving, pounding, relentless Into the Never. Even Hetfield’s voice sounds closer to his eight year younger self from Kill ‘Em All.

I like Nothing Else Matters. It’s a song that still pops up a lot now and I don’t change the radio station when it does. But in the context of binging on Metallica’s catalogue, it stands out as a point where they changed a whole lot at once, and not all for the good. I much rather gentle Metallica when it’s a 40 second intro, juxtaposed with the brutality of something like Battery. Especially with The Unforgiven on the same record, Metallica could have got away with one of these sappy slow downs, but not both.

And not to shit on his record too much, because I really do like it, but Of Wolf of Man might contain the worst James Hetfield lyric of all time, with “Back to the meaning, back to the meaning, of life!” But I’ll be buggered of the riff and vocal work don’t more than make up for it, and make the delivery of these dodgy, dodgy words one of the real highlights of Metallica.
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I always thought it was weird that these guys were eight years and five albums deep before they self titled a record. Self titling seems like a debut album kind of thing. But with 2016 hindsight, this really is the album that should be self titled. Metallica is the defining record for how the world at large sees this band. The singles from Metallica are still the biggest from their career and its legacy is the most impressive. For the casual observer, Metallica is Metallica.


Other Opinions are available. What did these people have to say about Metallica?
Rolling Stone
Sputnik Music

MUSIC REVIEW | Metallica – …And Justice for All (1988)

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In my limited experience with Metallica, I see them as having three distinct phases. The current phase in which they’ve been since their 2003 therapy aided return from extended hiatus, St. Anger. These last 15 or so years have been the legacy years. Like AC/DC or the Rolling Stones, no one really cares too much about a new Metallica record, they just care that it means the band will probably tour and play the hits. Before that were the mega star years, from the self titled record (AKA Black), up to Reload. A time when they could fill stadiums and mainstream radio airwaves. But before that, were the early, hardcore, subculture years. A period that ended with …And Justice for All.

Harkening back to earlier hits, Blackened even has a riff that sounds like it was stolen note for note from their own classic For Whom the Bell Tolls. But the finger tapping shredding of Kirk Hammett makes that self-plagiarism easy to look past. While it’s 10 minute running time means the title track would never be a radio or MTV hit, it does show the evolution towards more digestible riffage. It’s still loud, threatening and heavier than anything dominating the charts in 1988, but you can hear the band focusing a little more on melody and hooks, and less on speed, volume and aggression. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Helmet – Meantime (1992)

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Helmet are one of those bands where people who don’t like them generally share the common criticism that every song sounds the same. Helmet are also one of those bands where I assume their biggest fans love them because every song kind of sounds the same, it just so happens to be a sound they love. I bought a copy of their album Betty sometime in the mid to late 90s. I’ve listened to it countless times in the years since. I still listen to it regularly today, but I probably couldn’t differentiate many of the songs by title alone. They all kind of sound the same. It just so happens to be a sound I love. A sound I’m finally gonna get a little more of it, with Betty’s predecessor, Meantime.

Being the only permanent member in the band’s quarter of a century lifespan, I think it’s safe to assume that singer, guitarist Page Hamilton is Helmet. And listening to opening pair Meantime and Iron Head, I also think it’s safe to assume the Helmet song writing process follows a strict path. Hamilton writes four or five blistering guitar riffs based on power chords or dropped D tuning. He figures out which order they sound best in. He flips a coin between using his screamed vocals, or talk-singing stoner vocals, compete with some slight flanging effects. Then he tells the rest of the band what their jobs are in that song. And the result may be very similar each time, but bugger me if the results don’t always hit me just right. (more…)