- Published on Monday, 17 September 2012 09:11
- Written by George Washburn
- Hits: 285
Judas Priest – Defenders of the Faith
You know you are in for a rough day when your sub-conscious sets off its own internal alarm clock and wakes you up with the words to “The Sentinel” ringing in your head: “Sworn to avenge, condemn to hell!” By the time I was stumbling out of the house my inner iPod was playing “Heavy Duty.” As I got in the car and hit the road I moved on to “Freewheel Burning.” Sigh. Monday. Another week Defending the Faith.
I gave in and dialed up “Defenders of the Faith” on the real-world iPod. I guess someone is trying to tell me I should be talking about Judas Priest today. As always seems to be the case while driving, I eventually made my way over to “British Steel”, but my love affair with the Priest began with “Defenders of the Faith”, so let’s talk about that.
1984, aside from being a rather Orwellian year, was also the year that I would come to discover two of my all time favorite metal bands: Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Up until this point I was listening to Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Black Sabbath and Ozzy. I had never heard anything quite as heavy as “Defenders of the Faith” and “Powerslave” (yes, there was Venom, Metallica and Slayer, but I would not come to find them until the next year.) Back then these two albums seemed ridiculously heavy and actually took a little while to grow on me.
“Defenders of the Faith” was another of those Columbia House purchases that defined my early musical tastes. I bought the album without knowing any of the songs; I saw the cover, looking like some sort of crazy Japanese anime monster, and decided I had to have it. The first time I played the album I was less than impressed by “Freewheel Burning.” It was so heavy. It took me a little while, but eventually I would “get” Priest and Maiden. I seem to recall at the time there was a supposed rivalry between Priest and Maiden (or maybe between their fans) because they were the top British metal bands. I never understood choosing one side or the other (particularly when it came to the Metallica/Megadeth feud) and so listened to both equally.
Now, 28 years later(!), I am of course very fond of each and every song on “Defenders of the Faith.” I have put so much mileage on all of these songs that they are like welcome old friends. “Freewheel Burning” and “The Sentinel” of course get a lot of attention from this album (if you have not heard it, Machine Head does a killer cover of “The Sentinel” as a bonus track from last year’s “Unto the Locust.”) And of course “Eat me Alive” was singled out by Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) for objectionable content. I do not expect most metal kids today know anything about the PMRC; you are welcome, we killed that bullshit dead.
It does not really make sense to say “my favorite tracks” since I like them all, but I feel I need to mention that I was also a big fan of “Rock Hard Ride Free”, “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” and “Night Comes Down.” Just now, as the first notes of “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” started to play, I flashed back to sitting at my dad’s old kit computer playing very, very early Dungeons & Dragons style games that mostly consisted of text and “#” and “$” characters on the screen representing things of interest. Wow, switching genre references here, I have to say what a long, strange trip it has been. That was certainly a lifetime ago, yet these songs have been a part of me all that time.
Some people will swear by “British Steel”, “Stained Class” or “Screaming for Vengeance.” Those are all great albums, but for me it always comes back to “Defenders of the Faith.”
Here is a live version of “The Sentinel.” Based on the stage gear this looks like it was filmed during the tour for “Turbo.” Wow, I forgot Rob used to have hair.
- Published on Tuesday, 10 July 2012 08:14
- Written by George Washburn
- Hits: 277
When I was a wee lad, one of my early and favorite metal bands was Twisted Sister. They may not seem as “metal” when compared to all the death and black metal bands of today, but back then this was metal at its finest. In a pre-Metallica world (the early thrash bands took a little while to filter into the Mid-West) this was the latest and greatest heavy metal had to offer. I have been meaning to write this album up for awhile, and since I am currently reading Dee Snider’s book “Shut Up and Give Me the Mic”, it seems like a perfect time to get it done.
I am not entirely sure how I first heard about Twisted Sister, but I remember ordering “Stay Hungry” from the Columbia Record & Tape Club without having heard any of the songs. I bought the album on reputation alone. When the cassette arrived I spent a considerable amount of time inspecting such bizarre looking album art. I do not think I had ever seen anything quite like Dee on that cover. I was too young to have experienced the glitter rock era and hair metal had not yet gone glam.
Upon listening to the album, I was immediately a fan. Of course the first song I loved was the one everybody loves, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” I was never bothered by how they looked. I know some people thought they were gay because they dressed in women’s clothes and wore make-up, but that never occurred to me. First of all, they did not REALLY look as if they were trying to be women. I mean come on; they would have made exceedingly ugly women. I thought it was obvious that it was just a rebellious thing they did for shock value. Getting upset over something done so tongue-in-cheek just seemed ridiculous to me.
The video for “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (included below) was an early favorite of mine, as well. Since I was roughly thirteen at this time, I was just starting to experience teen angst and rebellion, and Twisted Sister seemed to be able to relate to the rage and injustice I felt. That video was so relatable that my hormone-addled mind decided Dee and the boys must be my new heroes. As metal became heavier and Twisted Sister less so, it became harder to justify my love for the band, but I never did give up on them.
Growing up, Star Wars taught me about right and wrong. It taught me about heroes. Twisted Sister taught me about justice. And vengeance. The track “Horror-Teria” was a horror story that seemed unthinkable to my young, suburban, Mid-West point of view. People actually did things like that to kids? And they got away with it? It blew my little mind. I used to bring a boombox into the bathroom and listen to music while getting ready for school in the morning. To this day I remember listening to this track in the shower, staring at the tiled wall as these ideas took root in my mind. Life is not fair, and people do terrible things. And if the justice system will not do anything, you have to take matters into your own hands. That day in the shower I vowed never to stand idly by when someone needed help; or someone needed an ass kicking. I have more or less kept that promise to myself. Years later Dee would write a movie called “Strangeland” which was based around the story in this song. Check it out if you get a chance. Thanks for the eye-opener, Dee, and for giving me some backbone.
“I Wanna Rock” was another of my favorites from this album. How could you not like this song? This is a classic. Another track that is apparently classic, but I did not know it at the time, was “The Price.” In retrospect, it seems “The Price” was a pretty big song, but at the time I never seriously gave it much notice. I think that I was too young to be able to relate to the lyrics in the song, and so it was not until years later that I eventually fell in love with it. Now it is one of my favorite Twisted Sister songs.
I cannot think about “The Beast” without thinking about my friend (and co-Twisted Sister Fanatic) Jim. He always called this song “The Nature of the Bitch”, which he dedicated to his mom. I think he even came up with new words for it. She was Jehovah Witness, which put a real damper on being a kid that loves heavy metal. She thought that the music I was exposing her son to was Satanic. Whenever she would find any of his heavy metal cassettes she would throw them out. To get around this, he started swiping her religious tapes, and we would record metal albums over them so they would be incognito. Ah, the good old days.
“S.M.F.”, which stands for Sick Mother Fucker, was another beloved song. While they never spelled out the words in the song, we knew what they meant. Especially since their fan club was called the Sick Mother Fucking Friends of Twisted Sister. Dee has a real knack for writing about things that angst-ridden teens could relate to, and this track was one more example.
I never got to see Twisted Sister play during their heyday, but eventually I got to see them play at Jaxx in Springfield, Virginia. Seeing them in such a small venue, while shit for them, was awesome for me. I got to get right up on the stage and at one point I high-fived Dee and got whipped in the face with his long blonde hair. Can you say Greatest. Moment. Ever? I know; I am such a dork.
In 2004, Twisted Sister re-recorded this album and released it under the title “Still Hungry.” It was a novelty to hear the songs done with the latest recording technology, but to longtime fans of the album, it just does not compare to the original. When listening to “Still Hungry” it sounds like the album I know, but lacks all the tiny little nuances that are tattooed on my consciousness and spark recognition. It just is not the same. If only George Lucas would learn that lesson and leave the original Star Wars trilogy alone.
One of the things in Dee’s book that made me chuckle was the design of the Twisted Sister TS logo. Dee talks about how he wanted it to carve-able, like the Van Halen VH logo. Growing up in the 80s I understand this, because I remember seeing school lockers and textbooks with the mighty VH winged logo emblazoned across them. Well, I was never much of an artist, but I did draw that TS logo on anything I could find, so I have to admit that the logo idea was brilliant.
I love the entire Twisted Sister catalog, even “Love is for Suckers” (I remember wearing out that album while taking driver’s education), but “Stay Hungry” will always be my favorite. I give my thanks to Dee, Jay Jay, Eddie, Mark and A.J. for making the soundtrack of my youth a rocking one.
Educate yourself with some of the Twisted Sister classics below.
- Published on Monday, 18 June 2012 15:04
- Written by George Washburn
- Hits: 335
Yesterday my friend Buke sent me a text telling me that he had just heard “The Tempter”, from Trouble’s 1984 debut album “Psalm 9”, for the very first time. That got me to thinking that I had not listened to Trouble in awhile, which led to me listening to Trouble today, which leads us here to this write-up.
Trouble released their first three albums on Metal Blade. “The Skull” and “Run to the Light” were albums two and three. I first heard Trouble on one of the best of Metal Blade compilations I had on LP. It had “The Tempter” from “Psalm 9” and “Fear No Evil” from “The Skull.” The first Trouble album I bought was “Run to the Light” on cassette.
After “Run to the Light” the band left Metal Blade and headed in a less doom metal, more stoner metal direction. I have the four albums that followed as well, but I am not as familiar with them as I am with the first three. Of those first three albums, I think “The Skull” is probably my favorite. “Psalm 9” is cool, but the production is not quite as good. “Run to the Light” was often disdained by many old school fans, but I still think it is pretty decent. “The Skull” is a happy medium between the two.
When I talk about doom metal I often make comparisons to Candlemass, which makes sense, because other than the holy Black Sabbath itself, no one tops Candlemass at doom in my opinion. I would be lax in my duties if I did not mention that, along with Saint Vitus, Trouble is one of the cornerstones of doom metal. They are like the Ramones of metal; pioneers in the genre who never got the credit or commercial success that they deserved.
For awhile I stopped listening to the band because I heard they were Christian metal. I have Christian friends, and people can believe what they want, but I am not into Christian metal. As it turns out, they are not, in fact, Christian metal, but they do make biblical references. Candlemass made biblical references too, but I never thought they were Christian metal. At one point, they were labeled White Metal, the opposite of Black Metal. Well, having songs which discuss biblical stories and themes is not the same as preaching fire and brimstone, so eventually I came back to the band.
I hear there may be another Trouble album in the works, but I do not know if I would like it. Original singer Eric Wagner left the band for the second time a few years ago, and his distinctive voice makes or breaks Trouble for me. Though, I said that about Candlemass when Messiah left, and I recently raved about the latest Candlemass, so anything is possible I suppose. If nothing else, we have the old albums to enjoy still.
Check out my first track I ever heard off “The Skull.” I give you – “Fear No Evil.”
- Published on Wednesday, 18 April 2012 09:34
- Written by George Washburn
- Hits: 462
I have been a Running Wild fan for about 28 years, which means I was 12 when I discovered their first album, “Gates to Purgatory.” Released in 1984, “Gates to Purgatory” was part of the vanguard of albums that changed the sound of metal and popularized speed, thrash, and early black metal. To give a little perspective, here are some of the other metal albums released in 1984: Anthrax’s “Fistful of Metal”, Venom’s “At War with Satan”, Voivod’s “War and Pain, Celtic Frost’s “Morbid Tales”, Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning”, Mercyful Fates’ “Don’t Break the Oath” and the first Bathory and Metal Church albums.
Back then there was a very small heavy metal section in my local record store, and since there was not much to choose from, I would go in and pick up albums that either I had heard about through word of mouth or for which I liked the name/album art. This store gave me my first experiences with Metallica, Voivod, Dio, and of course, Running Wild.
I picked up “Gates to Purgatory” on cassette, and this was my first taste of what I would come to know as black metal. The album bears little resemblance to what people think of as black metal today, but at this point, the only widely known black metal was Venom (if you recall, the other early well-known black metal band, Bathory, was just releasing their first album as well) and I had not heard Venom yet. Running Wild’s third album, “Under Jolly Roger”, would establish the pirate metal genre for which they became known, but many of these early songs had dark and satanic themes. In retrospect, they were decidedly tame compared to the antics of black metal yet to come.
Every one of the ten songs on “Gates to Purgatory” is a classic in my mind. Listening to anything off this album reminds me of sweaty, summer days mowing my parent’s lawn and giant foamy headphones connected to a string of cheap, expendable portable cassette players. For some reason, I also connect my first taste of Mountain Dew with mowing the lawn and listening to this album.
My favorite song from the album, and probably one of my favorite all-time Running Wild songs, is “Prisoner of Our Time.” This was the most catchy and anthemic song on the album and was the first of many great Running Wild songs to use this melodic gang-vocal formula. It is hard to list other highlights as I love every song, but stand-out favorites also included “Victim of States Power”, “Adrian S.O.S” (Son of Satan), and “Genghis Khan.”
One of my biggest heavy metal regrets is that I have never seen Running Wild live. They have not played in the U.S. since the 1986 Prepare For The Blitz tour with Celtic Frost and Voivod, and only rarely play shows in general anymore. When they do, it is either at a festival or a show in their native Germany. They are releasing their fourteenth album (“Shadowmaker”) next week, and you better believe I am watching their site to see if they schedule any shows. I hate flying, but if I can hop on a plane to Germany and catch a Running Wild show, I am ready to do it.
- Published on Friday, 30 March 2012 15:29
- Written by George Washburn
- Hits: 543
March is nearly over and soon April will bring “Tragic Idol” the 13th release from Paradise Lost. In anticipation of the new album, I’ve been listening to some of my favorite music from Paradise Lost. Some songs I like better than others, but judging based on entire albums I would have to name “Draconian Times” as my favorite.
Released in 1995, “Draconian Times” was already the fifth album from Paradise Lost. The band’s first three albums were death metal, but starting with their fourth album, “Icon”, they began moving towards a gothic/doom style that would culminate in the masterpiece “Draconian Times.” I feel this was the pinnacle of their catalog; from there on out things started to go down-hill. “Draconian Times” was followed by “One Second” where the band started to incorporate electronic elements into a much more commercial sound. I truly liked a lot of the songs on “One Second”, but it was the beginning of a series of mediocre albums. Eventually the band made their way back onto the metal path, and as far as I am concerned, are back to making quality albums once again.
In 1995, the metal scene of the 80s was all but dead. Except for larger bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, etc., most mainstream metal had either gone grunge or gone underground. Death metal and black metal were starting to revitalize and resurrect metal, but there just were not many bands playing music like that featured on “Draconian Times.” I picked up “Icon” several years earlier and liked it enough to try “Draconian Times” when I saw it at Tower Records. Once I had my hands on the CD, I began listening to it religiously, and rarely found myself parted from it. I would say that, for the mid-90s, Paradise Lost was easily my favorite band. Right up until I discovered Sentenced.
What makes “Draconian Times” so incredible is the outstanding balance between metal music and a gloomy, melancholy gothic style topped off with incredibly catchy hooks. The first time I heard the album it sounded timeless; like I had already been listening to it for years, and was just becoming reacquainted with it. I also liked the slight edge on Nick’s vocals. I thought it was so cool that he could sing clean but also kind of growl it up some. At this point in time, most singers were either still wailing like the 80s or adopting the all-out death/black growling that was becoming more popular. The melodic-with-a-harsh-edge vocals seemed like a brand new toy to me, and I wanted more.
I fully expect the “Tragic Idol” album will be another terrific release, but if you want to hear some classic Paradise Lost, just check out “Draconian Times.” You cannot go wrong with this album.