My life in the world of metal has been a long one, at least it feels that way to me. Looking back on my years involved in metal, it's sometimes all a blur. I've attended lots of shows, concerts, and fests as an audience member. I booked bands, and helped my brother run his tape distro. Yes, there was a time when bands put out tapes. I saw Entombed at a strip club during their first US tour. I was part of the Wild Rags Records street team, and I was a pen pal of sorts with members from Hellwitch, Impetigo and other not-so-seminal bands. My brother and I did a radio show for many years, and played 7 minute Carcass songs so we could go to the bathroom which was roughly a mile away from the studio where we did the show from, and still get back in time to give out the call letters by the end of the hour. I played in bands, and got my double bass 36th notes to sound damn good and even. I've collected records, I've collected cassettes, and VHS tapes. I've driven long distances to see bands, and I've even waited to outside a tour bus to have an Obituary drumstick autographed. Okay, that last one still makes me cringe, but it was 1992 for god's sake! Anyway, because it's all a blur, I sometimes like to set some quiet time aside to think about it all. Just me, an Enya CD, a cup of tea, and nature. It's during these quiet moments (see image above) that I most effectively manage to reflect upon my life in the world of metal. Below is the product of my last quiet moment of reflection, a list of albums that changed my life. I've tried to be as truthful as possible in compiling this list, and as such the albums may not be as impressive or obscure as some I could have come up with. But this is the truth, here for all to read. These were albums that I encountered by chance at some point in my life. In one way or another, these recordings changed my view of music at that moment, and more often than not, sent me in a significantly different musical direction thereafter. School's in bitches. Let us begin.
I was a little kid when my brother and I received this album as a gift from our uncle. While many would argue that getting Unmasked as a gift is just as bad as getting smallpox infected blankets for your birthday, I have to tell you that I love this piece of garbage album to this day. In a way, I love almost anything that Kiss has done actually, best exemplified by Gene Hoglan's Balls and I singing "Hard Luck Woman" at a kareoke place just this weekend. But back to Unmasked. When I tell Kiss fans that this is my favorite Kiss album, they look at me exactly as you'd look at a retarded kid that just crapped his pants. A mix of disgust and sadness. What can I tell you, at such a young age, I had no idea that Kiss hadn't always been a disco-tinged pop disaster, but rather an awful talentless theater show. How was I to know? The album had enough songs with a harder edge to make it my favorite for many years, at least prior to my age jumping into the double digits. As a matter of fact, this was the only album that my brother and I listened to for most of our childhood. As a result of my youth, at one point I really did believe that Kiss may have actually been connected to satan, if only in a minor way. You see, my mom always told me to put my Kiss record away, (along with all my other toys) before going to bed. One day, I didn't listen to her and went to bed, leaving both the sleeve and the record sitting on the carpeted floor by my bed. In the middle of the night, I woke up to go to the bathroom, slipped on the record and hit the back of my head on the edge of my bed so hard that I nearly threw up from the pain. I remember getting a bump in the back of my head that was roughly the size of a hard boiled egg cut in half. After that day, I was always careful with the record, and kinda thought it really did have evil powers. As it turns out, the only evil power the record had, was making money for Gene and Paul for what basically amounted to third rate disco bass lines. I know, I was an idiot, but I was also like four. I loved the record, and while other kids in school were listening to silly kids music (perhaps one step up from "row, row, row your boat.."), I was listening to Kiss, and I felt like a bad-ass. This album basically set me up to continually keep looking for music that was harder, and more extreme than what the rest of the kids around me were listening to. Humble beginnings, I know, but in 1982, and this is all I had access to. About 8 years ago, my brother and I ended up at a taping of the David Letterman show. We sat right above Anton Figg, who was the session drummer for Unmasked. The whole time, I kept yelling at him to play "Torpedo Girl", which is my favorite song in the album. After the twentieth time, he kinda looked up, and shook his head. Yes, I had basically been told I was an asshole, but I had been told by the guy who laid down the groove on Torpedo Girl! So I was a happy man.
Iron Maiden-Live After Death
Many years after Unmasked, my brother and I received dubbed copy of Live After Death from my sister's boyfriend. We were amazed by the whole tape. It was harder and faster than Kiss, and the cover (which we got a poster of) was way more evil! Eddie's shirt is all ripped, and the screw keeping his forehead shut was getting hit bit lighting! Holy shit! Sign me up! Soon after getting the tape, we watcged the home video version, and we were in love. I didn't speak any english then, but I could still be heard yelling out "scream for me long beach!" through the halls of my school. Can you believe that I still wonder why girls were repulsed by me? Maybe the bleached rat-tail, and the Brut Cologne didn't help, and I'm sure my wearing sweatpants constantly didn't make it any easier either. It's as though I was daring the oppostite sex to not throw up when looking at me. So, a couple of years after owning the tape, and playing it thousands of times, it became worn out. Another mishap with the TDK-60 dub of this album was that my sister's boyfriend had left the tabs in, so I mistakenly hit "record" twice while attempting to press "play" to listen to the tape. Because of this mishap, our beloved cassette had two blank spaces in crucial moments of songs. Actually, they weren't blank spaces, but spaces with ambient sound of my room back then, picked up by the small microphone in my Sony boombox. Having heard Maiden, the world of bands like Helloween, Metallica, Testament, and even Whiplash was open to my brother and me. I was like a fatty with an insasiable hunger for metal...and the pages of Metal Hammer magazine were my all-you-can-eat buffet. It was also around this time that we were introduced to some other very extreme bands, ones that bordered on grindcore, but they were small local bands that no one would know about...so I'll skip those. Moving on...
Slayer-Reign In Blood, Venom-Black Metal
I count this one as one album, since it came to me as a single cassette. You see, one of our neighbors came to our house one day, asking if we'd buy one of his dubbed cassetes for five bucks or so. In retrospect, I think he wanted money to buy some wacky-tabbacky...but I'm not sure. He was older than my brother and me, and he was hella' metal. The tape he sold us was a 90 minute cassete with Reign In Blood on one side, and Black Metal on the other. While we liked Venom, it was Slayer that captured our imagination. Sadly, this was the first Slayer album I encountered. As I've stated before, South Of Heaven is my favorite...but life has a funny way of leading you down a path. Anyway, soon after hearing this tape, we got a dubbed copy of the Ultimate Revenge home video, and we were both hooked. Clearly, we didn't speak english then...otherwise we would have noticed just how insanely stupid Slayer comes off in that video. Luckily, we were clueless. Having heard Slayer, Metallica started to seem a little tame to us. We finally realized that Kiss was a disco band at one point. We were shocked. We still loved Maiden, but we knew that there were more extreme bands out there, and we had to find them. Destruction, Kreator, Cryptic Slaughter, Crumbsuckers and Bathory made sense to us after having owned this tape.
Napalm Death-Peel Sessions
My friend's mom was going to England for work in 1989, and he asked my friend what he would like her to bring him back from England. Being a smart dude, he quickly called me and asked me for the names of the most extreme bands I could think of, so she could buy those tapes while in England. My brother and I compiled a list, but I don't think that Napalm Death was on it. We had heard of other early Earache bands through reviews in Metal Hammer, but I don't think we even knew about Napalm Death. I should mention that Metal Hammer back then was made up of endless articles about AC/DC, small features about Metallica, a cover story about Triumph or Uriah Heap, with small reviews of actual metal bands. To give you an idea of how behind the times we were in our beloved backwards country, the Metal Hammer issues we were buying at the supermarket for a good bit of money, were literally three years old! I'm not kidding! Imagine my shock when I found out that Cliff Burton had not only died, but they had already replaced him and were well on their way to sucking full-time! In any case, back to the story about my friend's mom.... she came back with the Peel Sessions tape from England. We heard it, and as you can expect, we were shocked. Now Slayer sounded like Bon Jovi and Def Lepard. It blew our mind, and I think it took some time for it all to sink in and make sense. Having heard this tape, the world of death metal, grindcore, punk, crossover and noise was open to us. Though some bands could be heavier, nothing seemed faster and more extreme than this recording for many years. I have to say, while many were bummed when Napalm Death released Harmony Corruption, I actually liked it...even if it sounded tame compared to Peel Sessions. It's still one of my favorite death metal albums of all time.
Living in south-Florida during the formative years of American death metal was a great experience.Chuck Schuldiner lived in a storage space near our apartment, guys from Obituary were dating girls in my brother's high school, member of Cynic hadn't started to play in salsa bands in cruiseships...those were the days! It should come as no surprise then that I still feel that those early years of death metal were by far the greatest as far as musical output. Shortly after the Death album "Human" came out, I bought it and loved it instantly. Actually, I didn't buy it...I got this kid who I completely used for his money back then to buy it for me...but that's another story. Human was catchy and highly melodic, two qualities that were somewhat rare in other death metal bands back then. Yes, you could remember the general melodies to Deicide songs, but Death had taken it a step beyond. It reminded me of Iron Maiden, and that was a good thing. Perhaps that's why so many people grew to hate them. Another aspect of this album that blew me away was its complexity. In retrospect, the album is not THAT musically complex, but it opened my eyes to the possibilities. I know many people hate the fact that bands like Cynic or Atheist opened up Pandora's Box, and that inside that box was Fusion and Jazz...but I loved it. While Human was not as complex as some of Atheist's music or Cynic's, this album connected with me and showed me that complexity could be metal, prog could be metal...hell Jazz could be insanely enjoyable. Sadly, like many great moments in music, I believe that albums like Human, and most Swedish death metal are to blame for letting in a fair number of short haired beardos into metal. But what can you do? That's not Chuck's fault! Go blame the beardos! You gotta crack some eggs in order to make an omelet.
That's it. I guess since 1991 I've had no musical breakthrough moments in the realm of metal. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who knows or understands my taste in music. I've had plenty such moments outside of metal, but I guess in my eyes, little has been done that matters in any way since 1991 within metal. Yes, I've listened to some bands after then and liked them a good bit...but I have not heard anything after Human that sent me into a different branch of the metal tree, if you will. I'm sure some of you disagree, but this is my opinion. An opinion that sounds an awful lot like the old man who is still going on and on about how The Beatles were the last great band, or the Greatful Dead fan who refuses to acknowledge the mere existence any musical output after 1972. I guess I've joined their club...and to tell you the truth, that's just fine with me.