Another week, another 10 bands as we continue the trek through the 300 metal albums that hold a precious spot on my ever overflowing iPod. There’s some good variety on the list this week so be prepared for another weekend of headbanging! On to #260-#251.
260. Daath, The Hinderers (2007)
Jewish death-metal doesn’t get enough recognition, does it? Wait – I’m not sure I really know any other death metal bands whose main theme is the Kabbalah. I’ve gotten so used to death metal being about the devil and gore that it’s easy to forget that other topics are really possible in the genre. And really, Daath aren’t the traditional death metal band either.
The Hinderers is the middle child of the three albums Daath has released so far and easily the best of the group. The group started out as a trio with keyboardist Mike Kameron also doing the vocals, but for the Hinderers they expanded into six large with a dual guitar attack and brought in growler Sean Farber to take over the vocal duties. With this expansion also comes their most ambitious work.
The album is rooted in death metal, for sure. But there are also many progressive elements and moments where the keys add an electronic feel to some of the tracks. The perfect lead track “Subterfuge” hits a loud and menacing key from the start but the centerpiece of the album is “Ovum”, a loud and progressive masher that has an Opeth feel to it.
There are two weird tracks on this album as well – “Who Will Take the Blame?” which has this dancey techno breakdown in the middle and the oddest one, “Dead on the Dance Floor”. The latter goes down as one of their signature songs, but was really startling upon first listen because it has a ton of electronic elements in it and the chorus sounds like a dance club anthem. They even got a remix from Danny Lohner included on a EP after the album was released. It’s a good song that totally busts the mold of traditional metal.
259. Girl, Sheer Greed (1980)
Their debut – Sheer Greed – is awesome unto itself but it’s also a significant jumping off point for both singer Phil Lewis who would go on to front L.A. Guns and Phil Collen who would move on to Def Leppard after Girl broke up. Gerry Laffy and his brother Simon would go on to form a group named after this album.
“Hollywood Tease” is the opening track which also appears on the debut L.A. Guns record almost eight years later. While I don’t hear a whole lot of L.A. Guns in the rest of the album, you do get a slight bit of early Def Leppard in it. But overall it’s a straightforward sleezy glam record, without being over the top like glam would soon get.
258. Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (2009)
If you’ve never heard this album, you almost certainly have to now that Ronnie James Dio has put down the metal horns for good. This is one of those recordings where I just wish I was in the studio with them watching the chemistry of Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice.
The album is way better than could have possibly been expected, even given the fact that the Sabbath reunion of these guys for the Dehumanizer album in ’92 was also pretty damn excellent. I’ve never thought this got the recognition it deserved for being both a total rocker and a very dark and gloomy record as well. And, Dio was 65 when it was recorded. 65! Most people are looking at retiring by the age of 65, and Dio was still rocking your fuckin’ ass off.
It’s a total shame that the world lost a metal God earlier this year and it’s really disappointing that there will be no more Heaven & Hell music, as it’s the best thing to come out of the Sabbath camp in a long long time. RIP, RJD.
257. Mayhem, Burned Alive (1986)
One of 12,000 bands with the name Mayhem (was suing over a name not popular in metal circles in the ‘80s?), this was definitely not the shitty black metal band from Norway that every metalhead thinks of when they hear the name.
This Mayhem was from Portland, Oregon and played speed metal, heavily influenced by punk and Motorhead. Singer Matt McCourt would also go on to be the singer in Wild Dogs and drummer Steve Hanford would go on to play in hardcore band Poison Idea. Burned Alive is their only studio record though it might as well be a demo it’s recorded so poorly but that doesn’t stop it from kicking ass.
Any time there’s a track called “Fuk-U” it has to be a centerpiece and it’s a blistering track that is completely reminiscent of their sound. “6 is 9” has some wild soloing it in while “White Mice on Speed” is Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” sped up 3x. (not kidding). The band will also do a straight up cover of it at the end of the record as well as a song called “Another Loving Tribute Fade” which is sort of like a parody of the Doors’ “Love Me Two Times Baby”. They weren’t the most creative group in the world, but this is a fun burst of energy.
256. Slayer, Christ Illusion (2006)
This was Slayer’s first album since 2001’s God Hates Us All (that will show up later) and showed a return to form for the group. I will feverously disagree that this was a “comeback” album but it’s sort of billed that way.
After taking a brief break from Rick Rubin for one album, the metal mastermind oversaw this album and surely had a hand in revamping their sound again to create a feel closer to their classic one than what was heard on God Hates Us All and especially Diabolus in Musica.
I guess it also feels like a comeback because they started getting more mainstream recognition again. It’s not like they were getting radio play but they were winning Grammys for Christ-sake and Christ Illusion seemed to shine the spotlight back on them full force.
255. Sepultura, Dante XXI (2006)
Based around Dante’s Divine Comedy, this album got some critical recognition but didn’t sell much – just like the rest of the Green fronted records. With most tracks coming in around the three minute mark or less, what you get is quick bursts of headbanging energy that never overstays its welcome. And the sound differs from track to track with thrash and groove metal living in nice harmony throughout the disc. If you dropped off the Sepultura bandwagon a long time ago, it might be time to rediscover what you’ve been missing.
254. Yngwie Malmsteen, Trilogy (1986)
I’ve always felt a little bad for Yngwie Malmsteen, though maybe I shouldn’t. Without a doubt, the dude is a magnificent shredder but over the course of nearly two decades of solo or Rising Force records, he’s only had two really good ones – Rising Force in ’84 and Trilogy in ’86.
As a solo artist in charge of his own artistic vision, the indulgent solos are remarkably overwhelming. With no one to reel him in, almost all his albums feel like he’s simply showing off rather than creating solid songs. He certainly was responsible for bringing Neo-Classical metal some recognition in the ‘80s and if you like metal you know his name (even if you can’t pronounce it) but good luck finding any album after Trilogy that’s worth a damn. I’d rather go backwards and hit his first groups, Steeler and Alcatrazz. He’s more refined on those records and therefore, better.
For me though, Trilogy is where it all came together for him. It’s an indulgent record for sure, but not nearly to the extent others are. But the melodies are clean and crisp in “You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget”, “Queen in Love” is epic and “Fury” is just that – a ripping four minute blast. He also picked a great singer for his style – Mark Boals – with whom he would work with again in the future. I think this is his best solo record and worth a front to back listen at least once.
253. Attack, Return of the Evil (1985)
Attack was an interesting German power metal band led by Ricky Van Helden. Every album they put out sounds somewhat different thanks to an ever rotating lineup in fact it seems like they have released seven or eight studio albums and no two have the same lineup on them. Now that’s job insecurity for you.
I don’t really know if it was intended to be the Van Helden project all along or someone was just a total dick to be around but whatever it was, with Return of the Evil he picked the right surrounding cast.
You can’t help but toss the horns up on this one. It’s got killer rock rhythms, both evil and epic vocals and wonderful melodies. “Hateful and Damaged” is arena ready and “Dirty Mary” has some awesome soloing in it.
This album was remastered and rereleased by Van Helden himself in ’93 but it’s still pretty damn hard to locate.
252. Karma To Burn, Almost Heathen (2001)
I don’t know if I could have said that after their first album though. This instrumental band had vocals on their first album and while it was really good, it wasn’t what they became. With an instrumental record in ’99 and Almost Heathen in ’01 they became a ridiculously loud stoner band. There is really nothing I want to do more than get up and break shit every time I listen to one of their albums. It’s so well played and super melodic and they seemed to open themselves up a bit more once they didn’t have to fit lyrics into their tracks.
Almost Heathen is wonderful, but it isn’t even close to their best and that’s saying a lot because I groove out to this album all the time. Track names are just numbers, (I’m assuming the order they recorded them in the studio) and aren’t sequential, so on this when you get “Thirty Five” followed by “Five” you at least get the feeling that you’re listening to older material mixed in with the new stuff. That may or may not be the case, but the music they do make is pretty timeless. I mean, this album is nine years old at this point and I could see it coming out yesterday.
251. Front 242, Tyranny (For You) (1991)
I went through this phase between ’92-94 where I was trying to figure out what I really liked and I had this awesome used CD store within walking distance of my house. While working two jobs in high-school I used to take pretty much every penny I owned and bought music with it.
There was a point when I really was heavily into Depeche Mode and I decided to go deeper into electronic music. I remember focusing on the harder side, particularly the albums of three bands – Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly and Front 242. Skinny Puppy was the bizarre stuff, Front Line Assembly was experimental but more accessible and Front 242 was the easiest to enjoy of the three. I don’t remember ever falling in love with any of them to be honest and I know for a fact that I’ve listened to everything all three bands released up until 1996 or so, but if you look in my collection of CD’s right now – of the three groups, Front 242’s Tyranny (For You) is the sole album that remains from that era.
I know both Official Version in ’87 and Front by Front in ’88 are considered masterpieces of the EBM (Electronic Body Music) genre but Tyranny is really the one I like the best. For people like me that aren’t very familiar with the genre this is one of the easiest listens that still gives you a good feel for what EBM is about. (Yes, I’m pushing it a little by calling this “metal” but I still consider it industrial).