Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Five greatest eighties thrash metal albums and gangster movies

5)Exodus - "Fabulous Disaster"

Most would probably pick "Bonded By Blood" as their favourite and the best Exodus album. However for me, I choose "Fabulous Disaster". Bay Area band, Exodus always seemed on the verge of breaking into the Big Four (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. There were also another of bands from the Bay Area knocking on the door which was may be why Exodus never reached that far and despite the fact that the timing of this 1989 album was perfect with thrash metal reaching over into the mainstream largely due to Metallica doing what they said they wouldn't and releasing a music video.

Throughout the album the vocals of Steve Souza are like Bon Scott spitting razor blades and backed with saliva covered drumming and fast guitar riffing. A spoken intro about the prison system opens the album before hell is unleashed. The band must have been aware of this as one of the songs is called "Verbal Razors" where Souza spits out insults and Holt and Hunolt rips out innards with their soloing. Moshing may well have been the preferred dance for thrash metal fans but Exodus encouraged their fans to kick their friend in the head and slam their partner against the wall with their ode to the pit "The Toxic Waltz". "Lowrider" is probably best known as a "Cheech and Chong" piece but they didn't write and the cover version fits into this Exodus record snuggly. Despite encouraging pit violence in "The Toxic Waltz, Exodus stand up against domestic violence in "Like Father, Like Son".

I can't remember when I first heard Exodus or if this or the weaker but still good, "Pleasures of The Flesh" album was my first buy of the band's output. This album deserves to be spoken in the same revered tone as the first three Metallica albums often are.
Key tracks "Toxic Waltz", "Verbal Razors" "Lowrider", Fabulous Disaster"

4)Metallica - Master of Puppets, 1986

Say what you like about their career going past their expiration date and the disappearance up their own asses. Once Metallica were the greatest band on the planet. My first encounter with Metallica was through my friend, Dean, who was and still is one of the biggest metal fans I know. Back in the mid-80's Dean was a huge Motley Crue fan and bought all the magazines that the band appeared in. I admit I also liked Motley Crue up until the time that they wanted to be Poison although the "Girls, Girls, Girls" didn't interest me as much as their previous material. Anyway Metallica had a huge presence in the commercial metal magazines despite having not yet recorded a music video. The band were in every damned magazine and often praised in the few parts of the mags that were worth reading. Metallica were photographed so much that many of the better written Metal mags like Metal Hammer and Metal Forces compared to them to U2 before even knowing that their first three albums would be their best days which they'd later put behind to them to wallow in their own egos. One Friday night Dean and I were in town and had a trip to the local record stores. Metallica's records were often in the import bins which were nearly double the price of the local releases. I was keen to take a chance on Metallica and the album with puppet strings going towards crosses took my fancy over the electric chair and the hammer so I bought the cassette.

When I got home I played the cassette in headphones and realised this was far more interesting and appealing music than anything Motley Crue were capable of. Classical guitar deceptively opens the sheer speed and crushing heaviness of "Battery". The slower "Master of Puppets" retains the bands heaviness and the subtlety of the lyrics cover the sinisterness of drug addiction. Evil laughs at the end of the song add weight to the tone but do little to let the listener know what the band are on about. "The Thing That Should Not Be" slows proceeding down further yet maintains the spine chilling heaviness. The inevitable Metallica ballad comes in the twisted form of "Welcome Home(Sanitarium)" where James Hetfield demonstrates he had singing ability before he decided taking lessons was a good idea.

It's now time to flip the cassette over to Side 2 so we'll all pray that my cassette player doesn't perform its hidden chewing tape function. "Disposable Heroes" opens this side much like "Battery" with ramming speed and a ferocity pronged attack direct at the listener's cranium. The shouts of "Back to The Front" and "I was born for dying" stand out. "Leper Messiah" and "Orion" are long tracks that bore a listener that lusts for speed. "Damage Inc" remedies this with the fastest song on the album.

Much like this write up, the major flaw of all Metallica albums are that they're too damned long. However "Master of Puppets" later served as a blueprint for many established metal bands such as Testament and Onslaught who were seeking to release their own landmark album but often just released poor imitations of "Master Of Puppets".
Key tracks: "Battery, Master of Puppets", Disposable Heroes and Welcome Home(Sanitarium)

3) Anthrax - Among The Living, 1987

Probably like cattle, I don't remember my first encounter with Anthrax all that fondly because the first item of the band's output that I ever bought was a cassingle of the rap song "I'm The Man" which was only OK as the best song on it was a Black Sabbath cover and it wasn't something I was going to listen to regularly. I bought this second hand because after paying for that damned cassingle, why would anybody pay full price for a full album of that Anthrax shit? Thankfully there's no rap on this album.

Anthrax at the time were probably the wimpiest on the Big Four mainly because in Joey Belladonna, they had a lead singer who was more than capable of carrying a tune rather than just barking, snarling or shouting. In interviews Anthrax often went on about New York Hardcore but really the all-in choruses are the only obvious influence on Anthrax.

The band bounce and encourage the listener to bounce along with them rather than go in for an all aural assault(alliteration assholes). The band take on social concerns in "Indians" and "One World (which captures the fear of living under the threat of a nuclear war which seemed more imminent in the 80's. "Caught In a Mosh" is Anthrax's ode to the pit. It's probably uncool to admit but I've never really cared for "I'm The Law" despite liking 2000 AD comics. As far as I'm concerned Anthrax have never and will never top this album.

2)Kreator - Extreme Aggression.

My first exposure to Kreator was though a music video show that had a short metal segment. "Betrayer" was the video that played. There was no attempt at singing and Mille Pettrozza snarled over the speedy metal with an assured hatred for mankind. "Love Us or Hate Us" ascertains the bands hatred for a society that they want no part of. "Stream of Conciousness" possesses the slow building beginning that Metallica also favoured at the time before turning to controlled chaos. "Some Pain Will Last" inflicts even if the riffs are similar to Metallica's "For Whom The Bell Tolls". The topic of sexual abuse of children isn't easy listening and "Bringer of Torture" doesn't change that but the song made the subject more palatable for thrash metal fans.

There's really not a weak track on this album but "Bringer of Torture" and "Betrayer" rank as my favourites. Kreator are still my favourite German band.

1) Slayer - "South of Heaven", 1989

Yeah, it's not "Reign in Blood". But the truth most Slayer fans don't want to hear is that "South of Heaven" is Slayer's peak and it's from here that they fell into an abyss. Instead of speeding up the band take the quicksand approach of slowing down and add weight to their overall heaviness.

The album precedes similar to "Master of Puppets" with spine-chilling slow guitar. Dave Lombardo's drumming is once again the highlight and "South of Heaven" demonstrated that he can do much more than merely play fast which he still does on a number of the album's songs. The lyrics are often blasphemous which sit a little umcomfortably with those raised as church-goers. Tom Araya screams are those of a constipated man on the title song. "Silent Scream" is a whole lot faster and it's a wonder that there aren't a whole lot more bands going by the moniker of Embryonic Death. Similar to Metallica's "Disposable Heroes" Slayer often a anti-military stance in "Mandatory Suicide" which certainly doesn't sugarcoat the issue of war. The blurring speed at the start of "Ghosts of War" suits Araya's vocals far more since he almost no longer sounds like a man in desperate need of Metamucil unfortunately bowel trouble strikes towards the end of the song. "Read Between The Lies" delivers the potential of Araya's vocals and varies in tempo though the band do seem most comfortable when they are playing fast with hammering riffs flying every way but still being nailed. "Spill The Blood" is a fade-out type of song because it is slow by Slayer standards and even borders on doom metal territory at times and the song ends the album perfectly.

On "South of Heaven" it's clear that Slayer put a lot more thought into this album and had improved both musically and lyrically since their earlier albums. Like all the albums in this list, simply a must have album for fans of eighties thrash metal.


Five best gangster movies

5) Donnie Brasco
4) Reservoir Dogs
3) The Untouchables
2) Goodfellas
1) The Godfather

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