The joyous glory of the middle eight. Is there anything better? I’m talking about the section, usually 8-bars in length and two thirds of the way into the song, that introduces a new element and adds a new layer of feeling and meaning. One famous example would be the “looks like nothing’s gonna change” vocal part in (Sitting On) The Dock Of The Bay.
Metal artists will often use guitar solos, rifferamas and mosh-friendly breakdowns to get that variety and shifting intensity into their songs and we all know our favourite examples of those. But what about the classic vocal middle eights in metal? Here’s a great one: Gamma Ray’s Lust For Life. Taken from their debut album Heading For Tomorrow, it’s a definitive power metal track with all the happy hallmarks of the genre. It’s already intense stuff but, following a superb and sprawling guitar solo, vocalist Ralf Scheepers whooooaas into a middle eight that takes the track into a transcendent area of giant awesomeness. It’s the best part of the song and it just wouldn’t be the same without it. Maybe it’s that uplifting or transcendent feeling that isn’t always a great fit for metal songs, especially as you get into the more extreme echelons. But on a track called Lust For Life it’s just what the doctor ordered.
I’m instantly thinking of other great ones (like the “take my hand” section in Maiden’s Heaven Can Wait) but what are your favourites? Let me know in the comments.
This classic rager from Anthrax’s 1984 debut album Fistful Of Metal is still one of their best songs. As well as featuring an early use of the “thrash” term, it’s just a great gear-shifting metal tune: the stomping opening riff breaking out into the speed metal of the verse before hitting the power chord open road of its unforgettable chorus. Best of all, Metal Thrashing Madhas survived all the incarnations of the band with subsequent singers Joey Belladonna and John Bush both recording their own brilliant takes on the tune. But I’ve opted for the original Neil Turbin version here cause his vocals send it pleasingly Manowar-d and I recently bought an awesome vinyl edition of the album.
“Everything went wrong, I’m sorry boys I’ve got to let you go”
Abandon, Deep Purple’s second album with guitarist Steve Morse, didn’t quite reach the high standard set by its joyous and adventurous predecessor Purpendicular. But it did feature a batch of great, underrated tracks and Fingers To The Bone is a standout that ranks among my favourites of the Morse era. It’s the sound of a veteran band ageing gracefully: Purple depicting the harsh blow of job losses with thoughtful lyrics, beautiful guitar parts and a folky, proggy muso confidence that reminds me of 80s Tull albums like The Broadsword And The Beast. A rich and rewarding deep cut that proved Purple were far from redundant.
Saxon’s Krakatoa is an explosive B-Side from their 1985 single Rock N’ Roll Gypsy. It’s a lively old-school banger very much along the lines of their classic Power And The Glory. Probably a bit too much like it… which might explain why it never made it on to an album. But even if it is Saxon-by-numbers, it’s got more fire and grit than a lot of the stuff that made it on that year’s Innocence Is No Excuse. And if you’re one of those fans that found that album a bit too Def Lep for your liking, this track will be right up your alley.
Here’s a fantastic track from Sacred, the new album from The Obsessed. I mentioned the other day that hearing just 30 seconds of this song was enough to sell this album to me, and I’ve not been disappointed. It’s mostly built around an irresistible wind-in-the-hair Motorhead riff but the song peaks with its pounding bar-fight of a chorus. From the lyrics I gather the victim of the crushing is more likely to be a punk of the “worthless person” variety than a punk of the musical persuasion. Either way, this songs deals out a no-nonsense crushing, pure and simple… and that’s why it’s song of the week. Enjoy.
Been on a proper Dokken kick lately so here’s the ace moody rokker When Heaven Comes Down, taken from their classic second album Tooth And Nail. Don’t really need to say much about this one do I? It’s all there: epic Kashmir-esque drama, big riffs, classy and tasteful vocals from Don Dokken and a guitar solo from George Lynch that is equally classy and tasteful too (with a smidgen of widdly thrown in for good measure). Shokkenly good.
It’s officially summer now but winter darkness reigns eternal in the heart of the HMOverlord so here’s Winterland by Copenhagen’s Demon Head. Taken from their 2015 album Ride the Wilderness, we’re in firmly retro territory here, harking back to the vintage proto-metal of Pentagram or even the heavier bluesy bands like Fleetwood Mac. The band’s sound is refreshingly clean and warm, the heaviness coming from the doom-laden riffs and delivery. And Ferreira Larsen’s excellent Bobby-Liebling-meets-Glenn-Danzig vocals are cultishly addictive. It’s great stuff from a very promising debut album. If you like this, the bands entire digital discography can be acquired very cheaply via Bandcamp and keep an eye out the follow-up album Thunder On The Fields, due out in April 2017.