Hardwired… To Self-Destruct: Metallica retains some fire in their bellies into middle age

Music reviews, Uncategorized

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image: metalinjection.net


Despite it being more than 25 years since their best works, anytime Metallica releases a another album it ends up being scrutinized under a hypothetical microscope to be dissected and picked apart. Anytime a band of Metallica’s stature has a new album out it’s an event. It’s exciting even if it disappoints.

It hasn’t been easy to be a Metallica fan for the last 20 years. Excuse me while flashes of eyeliner, Mamma Said and Kirt Hammett dramatically losing his smartphone hit me… It’s especially hard to sympathize when a band of millionaire cry and whine as they produce the poorest album of the career and exploit the distrous results on film in the form of Some Kind of Monster. Never mind suing Napster, questionable albums with Lou Reed, “hyped” 3D movies and expressing support for Justin Bieber. The last two decades have eaten at the Thrash-Metal giants’ cool cred. They also made it incredibly difficult for fans to defend their favourite band.

Okay, we’ll forgive them after heavy rotations of Kill ‘Em All and Ride The Lightning. 

How does Hardwired… To Self-Destruct fare? Surprisingly decent if you compare to the band’s outputs since oh, 1991. 2008’s Death Magnetic was a great attempt to recapture some of the fire of earlier-ish Metallica, something Hardwired almost achieves a little more organically and with less effort. Death Magnetic’s production gave it a raw sound but was heavily criticized. By contrast, Hardwired sounds much more natural.

 

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                                                                                                                    Album artwork.

All things realized, it’s Metallica sounding how they should in 2016. It’s not 1983 or ’88 or even ’91 for that matter. The Metal icons do a respectable job of staying true to their sound while taking cues from their past. As such Hardwired is a pleasantly effective Metallica album, in its better moments.

Hardwired is all over the place style-wise, and that’s a good thing. Some songs could fit on Kill ‘Em All and others would be right at home on the black album. When a band has a long history such as Metallica’s, fans will obviously have favourite eras and albums. Hardwired covers all ground; one moment its reminiscent of the black album, the next its Load. Now middle-aged men, Metallica prove they still have the fire necessary to come up with some adequate material.

Look, not everyone will be pleased with the whole album, but there’s something for every fan—or else they’re lying. The first disc is fast, aggressive and heavy. It stands strong with all 6 tracks.

The self-titled track is an indication of what fans are in for. Short, heavy and fast with an almost punk edge, Hardwired does fans of the band proud. Atlas, Rise! has subtle tinges of Iron Maiden in the guitar playing and a chorus just catchy enough. Now That We’re Dead sounds like the better parts of Load and Reload. It’s slightly more accessible Metallica. The single Moth to Flames is bold and uncompromising Metallica. It stands as possinly the best song on Hardwired and should please the majority of the band’s fans. Dream No More lurks on  like a Sad But True-esque epic complete with tremendous breakdown and solo, one of the album’s finest moments. Halo On Fire is on the more melodic side with great lyrics and one of the album’s best breakdowns and vocal deliveries by Hetfield.

Unfortunately this is where the album starts to unravel, its momentum shifting.The middle part of Confusion stands as one of the best moments on Hardwired. It’s when we get to disc 2 that the momentum turns. Songs like ManUNkind and Am I Savage have similar tempos and are weaker moments as a whole. Although Spit Out the Bone concludes the album on a brighter note, its hard to shake off the notion that the first part of the album is much stronger than the second.

Theren lies the problem. The second disc. The realization that it consists of mostly mid-tempo songs hits the listener sinks halfway through. The songs all sound similar. This is largely due to structure and tempo, slowing down the energy and momentum achieved with disc one.

James Hetfield is one of the genre’s most recognizable voices. On Hardwired, it’s almost as if more often than not Hetfield tries to sing beautifully. It works, but it’s not what one expects or wants from a band like Metallica. For all the hate he receives, Lars Ulrich is competent drummer. He gets the job done and proves himself to be quite capable here.

Guitars are heavy and crunchy when they should be and they’re melodic and dare I say, elegant when need be. The solos are some of the best we’ve had since the black album, but longtime fans know that’s not a huge benchmark. Breakdowns are well-executed and sometimes unpredictable in their candor.

In my book, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is the most enjoyable Metallica release since the black album. Hardwired is a great moment for fans of the band, for the time being. The album will no doubt be celebrated and touted as “classic”for a short period of time following its release, a status it will never achieve. Its first 6 songs range from very good to excellent, but ultimately most of it bound to be forgotten in favour of the classics as time passes.

After what will likely be a triumphant and succesful tour in support of the album, Metallica will go right back to setlists mostly consisting of material their classic albums. There’s no point for Metallica to compete with their own legacy and they shouldn’t have to. They prove they still have the energy and gave us a couple decent songs, there’s no real need to release another studio album after this one. ***

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Weekend Hangover: The top 50 Hair-Metal albums of all time

Features, Music reviews, Uncategorized

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When men were men who wore big hair and makeup


It’s the genre that simply refuses to die. It always ends up peaking its teased-up hair, leather and spandex through the underground from which it came. While the eccentricities and the hair have been toned down ever so slightly over the years, the music went underground, but it never quite left us. Sometimes maligned in the Metal community, often prone to shaming. I’m talking of course about Hair-Metal. It’s been called Glam-Metal, Cock-Rock, Stripper-Metal and Butt-Rock among other names.

The songs had chunks of hooks, the choruses were simply too catchy to ignore, and no power-ballad was too big for MTV. The genre never fully went away thanks to camera ready stars like Bret Michaels, Dee Snider and Sebastian Bach who kept themselves in the public eye as they turned to outlets such television, radio and yes, even broadway. It was the golden age of something.

While a talented few within the genre some want to be seen as respected musician who care about more than image —with the implication being that Hair Metal is all about image— others could care less about the music’s label as long as they’re being talked about, just ask Vince Neil.

The musicians are as much fun to talk about as the music they play. Rumours, dirt about band members, lineups with one original member, whispers about hair pieces and who’s —wait for it— bald. I can’t think of too many other genres of music where rumours and speculations go hand in hand with the genre as much as Hair-Metal. Talking about the music as is as much part of the fun as listening to it.

While there likely isn’t a Hair-Metal revival happening anything soon, bands like Steel Panther, Crashdiet, Reckless Love and Crazy Lixx are keeping the genre alive and well. Besides everyone likes at least one Hair band, if you don’t admit to it, you’re lying plain and simple.

A few rules for this list: No one band can be featured twice. No Greatest Hits. No modern Glam bands. Van Halen and Guns N’Roses are not Hair-Metal. Finally, no originators (that means no New York Dolls, Sweet, Slade, Hanoi Rocks and no 70s-era Aerosmith and KISS albums).

Keep your death-metal, alternative and indie darlings to yourself, I’m off to spin Cinderella and Poison’s debuts.

 

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50. Triumph & Agony, Warlock (1987)

With songs like All We Are and Make Time For Love Warlock carved themselves a spot on the list. Doro Pesch’s unique voice is as powerful as the music. The album cover suggest a Dio-type Dungeons and Dragon type of metal but Warlock so  clearly belongs to Hair-Metal.

 

 

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49.  Enuff Z’Nuff, Enuff Z’Nuff (1989)

Enuff Z’Nuff proved to be a hippy-ish, weird form of Hair-Metal with their colourful imagery (mostly peace signs) over the years as they did their own thing but they do belong in the genre. The New Thing and the tender ballad Fly High Michelle from their debut are wonderful remnents of the era. Donnie Vie and Chip Z’Nuff should never be without one another.

 
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48.  Damn Yankees, Damn Yankees (1990)

Known as Glam-Metal’s very own supergroup the Damn Yankees featured an all-star lineup in Ted Nugent, Jack Blades (Night Ranger), Tommy Shaw (Styx) and that one guy who join Lynyrd Skynard on drums. It’s the ballad High Enough that put them on the map but songs like Coming of Age aren’t too shabby either.

 

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47.  In Rock We Trust, Y&T (1984)

Saxon had Denim & Leather, Y&T had Lipstick & Leather. One of the lesser known bands of their era they were certainly ahead of their time. Almost the Glam version of Anvil, people took influences from them and left them dead. In Rock We Trust is not their most Hair-Metal sounding-release but it is quite possibly their best.

 

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46.  Metal Magic, Pantera (1983)

Bet you weren’t expecting to see Pantera on this list were you? I’m sure Pantera wasn’t either. It is sometime whispered on the internet that the mighty Pantera’s first three albums are straight up Hair-Metal. The allegations are true. Metal Magic is Pantera’s first album, and their best of the pre-Phil Anselmo era. Terry Glaze was their singer then and boasted much of the same vocal qualities as many frontmen did during those days. Quite a change from the Anselmo-fronted Pantera metal fans know. Songs like Ride My Rocker and Tell Me You Want It displays their KISS and Van Halen influences as well as a touch of NWOBHM, but make no mistake it is glam.

 

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45.  Trilogy, Ynwgie Malmsteen (1986)

Where else was Yngwie going to show off his musical dexterity but in a Hair-band? Say what you want about the music but the shredders of the era were technically proficient on their instrument. The man is better known as a guitar hero but when restrained Malmsteen is capable of producing some fine candy-coated songs. Case in point: You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget, Queen In Love.

 

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44.  Two Steps from the Move, Hanoi Rocks (1984)

It’s true I said no originators. Hanoi Rocks aren’t just originators, they were doing the music as others were making their way up in Hair-Metal. The band’s drummer Razzle got in a car with a drunk Vince Neil and Hanoi Rocks was never the same. They never got due credit outside of their native Finland and were the country’s most famous rock export for years before bands like Children of Bodom, Nightwish and HIM made their mark on metal music. Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Up Around The Bend make for excellent blues-rock wrapped up in glam coating. Better known for being one of Guns N’Roses’biggest influences than their own music.

 

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43.  Black N’ Blue, Black N’Blue (1984)

Produced by none other than Gene Simmons, Black N’Blue never hit the big time but they did feature a future KISS collaborator and current-Spaceman in Tommy Thayer. Some of the songs have held up better than time would suggest. Tell me Hold On To 18 doesn’t flat-out rock. There’s plenty to like: Chains Around Heaven, Wicked Bitch, The Strong Will Rock.

 

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42.  Lita, Lita Ford (1988)

With Kiss Me Deadly we have one of Lita’s signature songs. Then there’s Close My Eyes Forever the duet with Ozzy Osbourne she later famously abandoned. Falling In and Out of Love was written by ex-beau Nikki Sixx. Best Lita Ford album? No. But it is her most recognizable work and fits every criteria on this list.

 

 

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41.  Trouble Walkin’, Ace Frehley (1989)

It took years for Ace Frehley to surface as a solo artist following his departure from KISS but “Ace is back when he told you so”. It was hard to choose between this and the debut Frehley’s Comet album but Trouble Walkin’ just edges it out. Frehley is known for covering other artists and so it should be no surprise that the best tunes of the album are covers. Ace covers The Move’s Do Ya brilliantly and put out an effective version of KISS’Hide Your Heart.

 

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40.  Midnight Madness, Night Ranger (1983)

Some would call Night Ranger rock but I disagree. The sleek and polished sounds of Don’t Tell Me You Love Me, Rumours in the Air and their band’s definitive song Sister Christian have more in common with Glam-Metal than rock. If you get one Night Ranger album, this is it.

 

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39.  Bulletboys, Bulletboys (1989)

Often described as Van Halen-esque, Bulletboys are more than carbon copy or one hit wonder. Marq Torien’s voice made the band unique. It’s a shame they’re only known for Smooth Up In Ya because they added different flavours to their brand of music; they swing with Shoot The Preacher Down and get a little funky with For The Love of Money.

 

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38. Metal Queen, Lee Aaron (1984)

She come like thunder risin’ from the gound. Lee Aaron was the Metal Queen (sorry Doro). Although she became more pop as the years went on —including a period where she became a Jazz musician— Lee Aaron’s 1984 opus remains her most memorable album to this day largely due to the title-track and Lady of the Darkest Night.

 

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37. Britny Fox, Britny Fox (1988)

The album jacket just screams Glam. Looking and sounding like Cinderella’s Gypsy cousins, Britny Fox were not one of the top-tier Hair-Metal outfits but they’re better than logic would dictate. Long Way To Love, Girlschool and Gudbuy T’Jane have held up better than you remember.

 

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36.  Vixen, Vixen (1988)

Is it sexist if I call them the female equivalent of Poison? Too late, I just did. Yes, we all know they didn’t write Edge of a Broken Heart but that doesn’t detract from how catchy the song is. Besides, I always preferred Want You To Rock Me and songs like Cryin’ are worth their salt.

 

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35.  Cocked & Loaded, L.A. Guns (1989)

Any of L.A. Guns’ first two albums could be considered as their best but if pressed I’ll have to give the edge to Cocked & Loaded. Sleazy Come Sleazy Go and I’m Addicted just ooze junkie Hair-Metal. It also happens to features their signature song in the form of The Ballad of Jayne.

 

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34. Faster Pussycat, Faster Pussycat (1987)

Faster Pussycat was too sleazy for MTV— OK maybe except House of Pain—but in a post-GNR era they found a niche ready to pounce on their filthy Glam-Rock. Unlike their contemporaries, they sound like they listened to the New York Dolls instead of just stealing their look. With tunes like Bathroom Wall and Babylon Faster Pussycat is vulgar, sexist and occasionally disgusting —all by design, of course.

 

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33.  All Systems Go, Vinnie Vincent Invasion (1988)

KISS axeman Vinnie Vincent teamed up with future Slaughter members Dana Strum and Mark Slaughter on his second and best album. Vinnie Vincent lnvasion had commercial success with That Time of Year on MTV and Love Kills was on the soundtrack for Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. The only reason the band disbanded was sadly Vinnie Vincent himself. Mark and Dana went on to form Slaughter. Vinnie Vincent went on to co-write songs with KISS for their Revenge album, sued his former employers a gazillion times (never winning once) and became a recluse.

 

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32.  Leather Boys With Electric Toys, Pretty Boy Floyd (1989)

Pretty Boy Floyd made exactly one worthwhile album and that’s Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz. The melodic Wild Angels and I Wanna Be With You would’ve made be great songs on any Hair-Metal record. They also did a decent Poison-esque cover of Motley Crue’s Toast of the Town. This debut is often more remembered for its album cover than the music, but Pretty Boy Floyd delivers.

 

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31.  Firehouse, Firehouse (1992)

Its rock sprinkled with pop and its done oh so well. For my money Firehouse’s debut album is still the best thing they’ve ever made. Infectious songs like Don’t Treat Me Bad and Shake & Tumble scream good times while ballads like Love of a Lifetime are powerful and genuine.

 

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30.  Trash, Alice Cooper (1989)

By the end of the decade Hair-Metal was so big that even of the granfathers of rock, Alice Cooper himself, tried his hand at it. The result is an Alice tailor-made for 1989. It gave him a shot in the arm and his highest charting song in 12 years with Poison. Songs like House of Fire and Spark in the Dark are fun to this day. The guest list is impressive: Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry (and most of Aerosmith) and Kip Winger among others.

 

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29.  Winger, Winger (1988)

The band Beavis and Butt-Head made cool to hate. Metallica once threw darts at a picture of Kip Winger in the process of recording the black album. How could we possibly have an all-glam list without Winger? Sure it’s very pop and sometimes borders on the creepy —Seventeen may not see a release in this age— but Winger were undeniably some of the finest musicians in the genre.

 

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28.  Steelheart, Steelheart (1992)

Miljenko Matjevic’s voice. The man possessed an impressive instrument capable of vocal summersaults. Steelheart seemed poised for success before an onstage accident nearly killed their singer and put a halt to their career. The band’s debut remains one of the strongest album in the genre with essentials like She’s Gone and Everybody Loves Eileen.

 

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27.   …Twice Shy, Great White (1988)

Its difficult choosing between this or Once Bitten but …Twice Shy sounds more glam to my ears. Great White were more a blues-based band than anything until they were locked in the studio to produce catchy, radio-friendly rock and they did exactly that. Once Bitten, Twice Shy, House of Broken love and The Angel Song are bonafide Hair classics.

 

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26.  Aerosmith, Permanent Vacation (1987)

Once originators now less um, original, this is the one that brought Aerosmith back to the big time. More of a Hair record than Pump and sleazier than anything they’ve done in ten years. This began a new era for the band, one featuring outside writers like Jim Vallance and Desmond Child. Cock-rock opener Heart’s Done Time, the poppy Magic Touch and the groovy Rag Doll are Aerosmith’s best shots at Glam-Metal. Angel is one of their all-time great ballads and who could forget Dude (Looks Like A Lady)?

 

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25.  Exposed, Vince Neil (1993)

Speaking of Dude (Looks Like A Lady), Vince Neil was the inspiration behind the song. Released after the Grunge explosion was already in full swing, Exposed lived in a vacuum that ignored everything surrounding itself. You’re Invited but Your Friend Can’t Come was the hit from the album, but thankfully its not the only good song as its accompanied by the likes of the heavy Sister of Pain and the cruelly underrated Living Is A Luxury. Steve Stevens of Billy Idol does once again an admirable job on guitar.

 

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24.  After the Rain, Nelson (1990)

The Nelson twins. Boy can they ever craft a well-written song that will stay in your head for days. Say what you will about these songs being quote-on-quote soft, Nelson had better musicianship than many of the peers. It never got better than the debut as far as Nelson is concerned but this collection of song is fantastic. Oh and it did sell 10 million copies.

 

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23. Pride, White Lion (1987)

A thinking man’s Hair band? Cries for the environment and the children’s future? White Lion was something of an oddity in the Glam cannon even then, now they stand out even more. Tunes like Wait and Hungry were all good-natured fun but there’s a definitely a somber side to songs like Lonely Nights and When The Children Cry. Oh yeah, before I forget, Bratta shreds.

 

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22.  To Hell With The Devil, Stryper (1986)

Good Christian boys can’t rock, can they? It turns out they can and they still deliver great albums even today. Besides, a little research will show you that Michael Sweet and the band weren’t always walking along the righteous and holy path (check out Against the Law). The band’s ’80s output is great Pop-Metal but To Hell With the Devil was their breakthrough album with the title track, Free, and the tender god-loving ballad Honestly.

 

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21.  Turbo, Judas Priest (1986)

In 1986 Judas Priest wasn’t a Heavy-Metal band dabbling with Glam, they were drenched in it. Listen to songs like Locked In, Parental Guidance and the somber ballad Out In The Cold and tell me I’m wrong. Or the title-track. It’s a more accessible Priest, one that crafted very good pop songs at that.

 

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20.  Lick It Up, KISS (1983)

It’s no wonder KISS chose to take the makeup off with Lick It Up. The band’s new pop-metal direction and look was in style and this remains their strongest Hair Metal release. KISS emphasized visuals as did MTV who showcased the band’s exclusive unmasking live. The only album to officially credit the lost Egyptian Ankh warrior Vinnie Vincent. A Million To One is of the best things ’80s KISS ever did.

 

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19.  The Ultimate Sin, Ozzy (1986)

It’s better than the jacket sleeve, I swear. Ozzy with bouffant hair and ridiculous costumes is a sight to see. The music made during this time period is largely ignored by the Ozzy camp but there’s some gems on The Ultimate Sin. Shot ln the Dark is one of Ozzy’s catchiest song and one of his biggest hits. Hair gems such as Secret Loser and Lightning Strikes have a respectable place among Hair-Metal classics as do melancholic tunes such as Killer of Giants. Jake E. Lee,man.

 

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18.  Eat ‘Em & Smile, David Lee Roth (1986)

I’m talking about a Yankee Rose! I know, I said no Van Halen but surely David Lee Roth solo has to count? DLR replaced Eddie Van Halen with Steve Vai and the party continued as if nothing happened. Eat ‘Em and Smile sounded more like Van Halen than Van Halen did at this point. Many of the songs on here are up to par with Van Halen classics. Shy Boy, Going Crazy and Yankee Rose make for good argument.

 

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16. The Great Radio Controversy, Tesla (1989)

It was a tough decision between this and Mechanical Resonance but I’ll give a slight edge to The Great Radio Controversy. Tesla were more of a ’70s Arena-Rock band than anything else but their songs fit right in the ’80s landscape. Love Song was the hit here but hard rockers like Hang Tough remind us of why Tesla was more than your average Hair band.

 

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17.  Blow My Fuse, Kix (1988)

Kix unleashed many great songs in the ’80s and Blow My Fuse has a good chunk of them. Never has a more beautiful anti-suicide ballad been written than Don’t Close Your Eyes. One of the guitar players in a band l was once in sang this song just about every time he opened his mouth. Cold Blood is one of the anthems of the era and songs like Gets It While Its Hot and She Dropped the Bomb are well-worth a listen.

 

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16.  Metal Health, Quiet Riot (1983)

Hold the distinction of the first #1 Metal album on the Billboard charts. Of course by reaching the top so early it was all downhill from there. Maybe there was too much tension within the band, perhaps they ran out of Slade songs to cover, but if you put on Metal Health and close your eyes, it’s 1983 and you feel the “noize” again. Surprised to see it a little low on the list? The singles were the best songs and the rest paled Thunderbird and Slick Black Cadillac never did much for me. That or Kevin DuBrow’s attitude.

 

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15.  Danger Danger, Danger Danger (1989)

Lexxi Foxx’s favourite band. I swear they’re not on the list just because I like to repeat the words Danger Danger. Drummer-turned-singer Ted Poley has one of the best voices in Glam and the band’s debut is full of upbeat pop-metal anthems. Songs like Naughty Naughty, Bang Bang, Don’t Walk Away and Feels Like Love are no good for anyone’s IQ but we’ll forgive them because they’re so damn catchy.

 

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14.  The Final Countdown, Europe (1986)

Yes it’s the one with that song, but there’s more to this band than a hit single. The Final Countdown is filled with chunks of hook-laden songs like Rock the Night, Cherokee, and tender ballad Carrie. Although Europe tries very hard to distance themselves from the genre these days, this is the version of the band —and Joey Tempest’s hair— we liked most.

 

 

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13.   Love At First Sting, Scorpions (1984)

Scorpions made their teeth long before the Glam explosion, but it doesn’t change the fact that for a period time in the 80’s and ’90s they were for all intends and purpose a Hair band. They also had massive hits but never more so than on Love At First Sting. Mid-paced rocker Big City Night aged like fine wine. Still Loving You is one of the most poignant power-ballads. Do I even need to bring up Rock You Like a Hurricane? 

 

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12.  Slaughter, Slaughter (1990)

If you ask me some of the best Hair-Metal came out in the early ’90s. Slaughter is a prime example of that. The band’s eponymous release features many glamtastic songs: Eye to Eye, Burning Bridges (about none other than Vinnie Vincent), Spend My Life and that’s not including the hits Up All Night and Fly to the Angels. Like many bands on this list, Slaughter’s debut album marked their commercial and career peak.

 

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11. Under Lock And Key, Dokken (1985)

Sure, Tooth & Nail was heavier and Back for the Attack has Dream Warriors and Mr. scary but Under Lock And Key has the hits and some of Dokken’s most melodic, memorable work and if there’s one thing the band was about it was melody. Songs like Unchain the Night, The Hunter, It’s Not Love and In My Dreams are enough to make any album great. Oh and they had a certain George Lynch on guitar, you may have heard of him.

 

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10.  Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, Warrant (1989)

Where’d the down boys go? Say what you want, this one is still miles ahead of Cherry Pie althought Bobbie Brown was nowhere in sight. Jani Lane could write, RIP. Down Boys, Sometimes She Cries and what is the band’s ultimate song, Heaven. Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich is one of the must-have Hair-Metal albums.

 

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9.  Detonator, Ratt (1990)

Shocker! I’m sure many would’ve expected Out of the Cellar to make it on the list, but I feel Detonator is a little stronger overall. Ratt’s 80s output is well-known but this early ’90s effort contains gem after gem. Shame, Shame, Shame is pure Ratt. Lovin’ You’s a Dirty Job is sleazy, let’s do it in the back of the car-rock. Then there are songs like the mature Givin’ Yourself Away, the flashback-inducing One Step Away, the speedy Can’t Wait On Love. Stephen Pearcy never sounded better than he did on Detonator and Hard Time is still my favourite vocal performance of his.

 

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8.  Whitesnake, Whitesnake (1987)

Has such a simple keyboard pattern ever been used more efficiently than the one in Is This Love? This album is home to the one video every car-humping scene in cinematic history has attempted to reproduce. There’s more than the display of affection for cars that is Here I Go Again or the masturbatory Led Zeppelin-esque Still of the Night. Gimme All Your Love and Cryin’ in the Rain for instance. The album sometimes known as 1987 was a monster Hair-Metal album. It repackaged David Coverdale for a new generation and made a video vixen out of Tawny Kitaen, thank god.

 

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8.  Slippery When Wet, Bon Jovi (1986)

Although he probably would never admit any correlation to the genre, Bon Jovi was glam. The early incarnation of the band was, at the very least. Slippery When Wet is as big as it gets for Bon Jovi or Hair-Metal for that matter. Livin’ On A Prayer, You Give Love A Bad Name, Let It Rock, that’s quite the list. Wanted Dead or Alive was so good it transcended the notion of musical genres. Without Love is a sleeper hit. Not my favourite Bon Jovi (that would be the debut), but how can you go wrong with this one?

 

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7.  Stay Hungry, Twisted Sister (1984)

There’s more to Twisted Sister than two big singles. I’ll even go on record and say We’re Not Gonna Take It and I Wanna Rock are not, I repeat not the best songs on the album. Burn In Hell and Horror-teria are both infinitely better. A mighty fine Hair album and one that could swing with some of the heavier bands out there too. Metallica once opened for them.

 

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6.  W.A.S.P, W.A.S.P. (1984)

A little heavier, rougher around the edges and definitely more metallic than their peers, W.A.S.P irked Senator Al Gore’s wife and is the main reason parental advisory stickers even exist.Blackie Lawless’voice is so good because it sounds like he’s broken. He literally sounds like a soul-sucking demon from hell who just experienced a painful breakup and learned to play melodic Heavy-Metal. There’s so much to like about W.A.S.P.’s debut. The explicit Animal (F*** Like A Beast). The catchiness of I Wanna Be Somebody. The pop qualities of L.O.V.E. Machine. The irresistible, occultism of Sleeping (In The Fire). The jury is still out on what the name W.A.S.P. means. Lawless once said, “We ain’t sure pal”.

 

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5.  Skid Row, Skid Row, (1989)

While 1992 Skid Row could swing with Pantera, 1989 Skid Row were playing pretty-boy rock and earning a living doing it. It’s also the Sebastian Bach-fronted incarnation of Skid Row that most of us remember. It’s the ballads 18 and life and I Remember You that stole the show but let’s not forget Youth Gone Wild.

 

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4.  Long Cold Winter, Cinderella (1988)

Night Songs may be more glam but it’s Cinderella’s sophomore album that takes the cake. It’s a blusier, better-written and more mature effort.  With melodic tunes like Gypsy Road and Last Mile, the dirty blues of Bad Seamstress and the honesty of Don’t Know What You Got (Till Its Gone) it’s no wonder Cinderella and Long Cold Winter is so high on the list.

 

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3.  Pyromania, Def Leppard (1983)

I like Hysteria, but I love Pyromania. It just rocks harder. With Pyromania Def Leppard were able to crossover to mainstream commercial success while keeping the rock crowd happy, no easy feat. This was when Def Leppard was still cool to like. If you ask me the sound of Def Leppard is perfectly encapsulated in Photograph. Its got some serious companionship with the anxious Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop), the memorable intro to Rock of Ages, the desperation of Too Late for Love and the beauty of Stagefright.

 

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2.  Look What The Cat Dragged In, Poison (1986)

An argument could be made for any of Poison’s first three albums but the debut edges everything out by a single Aqua-Net sprayed hair. It was the first time the world heard of and saw them. MTV, the album cover, from the moment they first showed up on TV screens across America the very image of Poison had been etched into popular-culture. As such Poison is perhaps the utmost definition of glam and Hair-Metal. Between Talk Dirty to Me, I Want Action, Cry Tough, I Won’t Forget You and the title track there’s enough bubblegum-rock to chew on for days. A favourite now as it was then.

 

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1.  Dr. Feelgood, Motley Crue (1989)

Best Crüe album? Arguably. Glammiest? That would be Theatre of Pain. Biggest album with the most hit singles? It has to be Feelgood hands-down. Dr. Feelgood blends together everything that was fun about the ’80s —and the genre for that matter— in a decadent, unapologetic cocktail. The title track, Kickstart My Heart, Same Ol’ Situation, Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Got Away), Without You, Slice of Your Pie, Time For Change are all reasons why Dr. Feelgood is numero uno.

 

 

Overlooked debut shows great promise

Music reviews

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Breaking the Chains, Dokken, Carrere 1981, Elektra 1983.

If you look at Dokken’s 1980s output objectively Tooth & Nail (1984) is known as the band’s heaviest, Under Lock And Key (1985) the most melodic, Back For The Attack (1987) is perhaps the band’s finest moment and Beast From The East (1988) is an excellent live effort to this day.

Where does that leave the band’s debut Breaking The Chains (1983) and where does it stand? The answer is there are usually two types of debut album. The first type sees a band in a raw, unpolished form pawing at future greatness with a sound that is not quite defined or polished. In this instance it is used as a stepping stone.

Then there’s bands whose first album is their best release. They are already at the peak of their powers and have a very defined sound from the get-go. Van Halen’s self-titled  album comes to mind as does Ratt’s Out of the Cellar.

For Dokken, it’s the former. Their debut album serves as a stepping stone, a blueprint of what the band was to become with hints of the goods already present. Breaking the Chains has it’s own charm; it’s more elementary and without much of the polish that would make up future releases.

Breaking The Chains was not my first Dokken album but the title track was the song that got me into the band with it’s melodic style of metal, crunchy guitars and instantly memorable guitar courtesy of George Lynch. Still a favourite to this day.

When I was younger I always thought it was odd that “Paris ls Burning” was a live song on a studio album and not some sort of outtake or extra but a genuine album track. Now I think it’s way cool that they put this. It starts off with a blistering George Lynch solo, an introduction that is very much the Lynch equivalent of “Eruption”. Worth seeking out is the studio version from 1981.

“In The Middle” is slower paced but terrific with it’s short breakdown, it makes for a great piece of rock candy.

“Felony” was never one of my favourites here or one l’d be tempted to go back to but I have to say it grows on me with every listen.

“I Can’t See You” has a bit of a 70’s feel to it, catchy and a more pop number.

“Live To Rock (Rock To Live)” is my least favourite song on the album, it’s just subpar compared to the rest of Breaking The Chains.

“Nightrider” was a favourite live among fans in the early days and it’s easy to see why. Soft during verses then goes in strong during the chorus with an overall dark feel, it’s one of the highlights.

“Young Girls” is catchy but it’s harder to listen to this today, especially picturing the guys getting up there in age.

“Seven Thunders” is another high point. A catchy rocker, underrated song.

“Stick To Your Guns” (no relation to the Motley Crue song of the same name) is not filler but not terribly memorable either. It fails to succeed because of the chorus.

The lineup of Dokken at this point had gone from being a trio when they released their  Back ln The Streets EP in 1979 to a four member outlet with Lynch on lead guitar (Don handled guitar duties until then). The lineup was more or less solidified by this point with Dokken and Lynch, “Wild” Mick Brown on drums and on bass Juan Croucier of Ratt fame.

It wasn’t the classic lineup but soon after the album Croucier left to be a permanent member of Ratt (he only played on 3 songs here) and Jeff Pilson took over for him. Don’s voice, Lynch’s guitar work and solos, Brown’s powerful drums, it was certainly all coming together with some very catchy songs. Those catchy, melodic and heavy elements would only be further enhanced with succeeding albums to even better effect.

Truth said, Breaking The Chains tends to be out-shined by the string of excellent releases that followed but it’s not a bad album by any means. It’s rougher around the edges but very enjoyable and one that fans should definitely be looking into. It’s a promising debut that would be improved upon, but also one that has it’s share of good and underrated songs. 3/5 stars.

 

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“One of us!”

Book reviews

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Power Chord: One Man’s Ear-Splitting Quest to Find His Guitar Heroes, McKenzie Thomas Scott, It Books, 2012.

 

Thomas Scott McKenzie has no dreams of rock stardom, doesn’t live the fantasy, he doesn’t even care about being proficient at the instrument—he just wants to meet his heroes. His guitar heroes.

In the wrong hands Power Chords: One Man’s Ear-Splitting Quest to Find His Guitar Heroes would constitute nothing short of alien. It would be misunderstood. Put it in the right fan’s hands and they will find it to be a delight. Power Chord is one man’s quest to meet his idols. Along the way we get some cool backstage stories, interviews and moments with some of rock’s true greats. It’s fun to read how McKenzie faked his way through guitar lessons and fantasy camps just to meet his idols and it’s oddly pleasant when he reminisces about his teenage years talking about bands like Ratt and KISS.

I find it interesting how McKenzie begins his journey a little later than logic would dictate. By the time he sets sights on his quest is already married with a stable career. The author’s prose is not spellbinding nor is it particularly memorable, but he is very relatable and likeable which helps conceal that fact (and makes it somehow insignificant). There’s something about him as a person makes you want to read his journey. Maybe it’s because he’s such a fan of the guitar heroes and artists. But I suspect it’s for a far more practical reason—he’s one of us.

He’s fan first and foremost and it shows. The lengths he goes to in order to meet his heroes show a lot of dedication. From travelling to attending rock n roll fantasy camps to getting private lessons from his heroes —all on his dime and personal time—McKenzie is a man on a mission. While I’m not impressed by his efforts to learn the guitar, I am impressed by the author’s determination to meet his heroes.

The stories he tells about meeting his idols are fascinating. Driving a considerable distance just to take lessons from Stryper axeman Oz Fox. The Steve Vai chapter was one of the shinning moments of the book. Reading about Vai’s treatment of fans and the words and insights he shared with them made the virtuoso seem like more than just a guitar god.

Sometimes McKenzie even succeeds at painting a strong portrait of the interviewee. His overview and insight into Brad Gillis of Night Ranger for instance. You may not be a fan of Night Ranger, but after reading this particular chapter you may gain a new respect for Gillis and his love ’em to death treatment of his beat-up and well-worn instruments. Bruce Kulick seems an incredibly down to earth and fun guy to hang out at guitar shops and Best Buy with. Warren DeMartini comes across as both mysterious and smart. Rudy Sarzo looks like a sweetheart. Ace Frehley is well, Ace Frehley.

This book is written by a fan for fans. I enjoyed McKenzie’s backstory and reading about his experiences as a fan meeting his heavy metal gods. Even the guitar players whom I wasn’t necessarily a fan of. He makes the journey enjoyable with his boyish enthusiasm. MacKenzie also shows it’s not just fans who are fans. On one instance, Glen Tipton of Judas Priest recalled how he waited at a hotel just to meet Jimi Hendrix (and he did). The author unknowingly demonstrates just how devoted heavy metal fans can be when he recounts in great details his musical escapades.

His one mistake is to reference other works. He refers to Chuck Klosterman’s superior Fargo Rock City on a few occasions to hammer in some points. It makes his work and prose look pale in comparison—especially when accounting that both books belong in the same category.

Is Power Chord five star essential reading material? No. It’s not an incredible read but Thomas Scott McKenzie is relatable and engaging. That alone worth it’s fair share of points more than what an authoritative book about music. For those looking for nothin’ but a good time, some rock stories and a healthy dose of nostalgia, it’s worth the trip. 3 and 1/2 stars.

Welcome back, Blackie.

Music reviews, Uncategorized

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Golgotha, Napalm Records, W.A.S.P, 2015.

In a musical landscape now shaped by growling guttural vocals and drop-d tunings, it’s good to know that W.A.S.P. ignores trends and stays true to their melodic themselves. The band’s new album Golgotha is not 1984 W.A.S.P. nor is it The Headless Children, it’s Blackie Lawless and Co. moving forward and doing a damn good job at it and still sounding like, well, W.A.S.P.

W.A.S.P. are not trying to follow current trends, nor are they trying to harken back to the past. Golgotha stands strong on it’s own, that’s the main reason it’s getting so much appreciation (and rightfully so) in the metal community.

It had been 6 years since W.A.S.P.’s Babylon (2009). Since then Lawless has been through changes, finding god and deciding to cut out some of the band’s material from live performances due to his faith. The album’s title, Golgotha,  is a reflection of changes in Lawless’s life. To give a bit of context, Golgotha is where Jesus Christ was crucified according to the gospels.

In the past few years he kept on the quiet side, with no major tour since 2012 (a tour was planned but cancelled due to a leg injury) and devoting a lot of time to creating Golgotha. Welcome back Blackie, it’s good to have you back.

Opener “Scream” sets the tone for what is to follow. A true in-your-face metal song like we have come to know and love W.A.S.P. for. The breakdowns are very effective, I must say.

The single “Last Runaway” was the first song I heard off Golgotha. It’s highly melodic and dare l say, poppy and best of all, it works. It sounds like W.A.S.P. doing dare I say it, Poison.

“Shotgun” is probably my least favourite song on the album,. Something about it fails to grab me .

“Miss You” is a slower-paced song. OK, you got me, it’s a ballad but a darn good one and very honest and heartfelt. At 7:41 it’s a journey and one of the album’s brightest moments.

“Fallen Under” is obscured by some of the longer and more epic titles but is a solid tune and gets better with each listen.

“Slaves of the New World” is a song that would have fitted very well on the Babylon album. Nice breakdown midway through the song and a very catchy chorus.

“Eyes of my Maker” is perhaps Lawless’ best vocal performance on Golgotha. Definitely a favourite, the songs takes the listener places. Excellent guitar work and solo.

“Hero of the World” is one the shortest song on the album. It’s on the mellow side during the verses and launches into a galloping, fast-paced rocker during the chorus. The title track is nothing short of an epic piece. The lyrics are very deep and I can imagine must mean a lot to Blackie, his vocal delivery is incredibly passionate. They also establish his Christian faith in a bold way he hasn’t done before. Regardless of faith, musically it’s an excellent song.

I have to hand it to Blackie Lawless, he takes a lot of flak for his beliefs and appearance these days, but he consistently delivers, especially in the vocal department. Lawless continues to explore and indulge in Christian themes as the title of the album implies (look it up). I wouldn’t go as far as saying Golgotha is a concept album but it is filled with religious references and could easily be interpreted as such. Fans shouldn’t worry about Blackie mellowing down due to his faith, W.A.S.P. remain a tight, uncompromising metallic unit.

Golgotha follows in the steps of Babylon and Dominator and has that similar approach/sound. Is it better? I’m more partial to Babylon but I think W.A.S.P. has effectively come out with one of the best metal releases of 2015 still delivering great music over thirty years later. 4/5 stars.