“With a magic in their music as they eat raw liver”
I’m reliably informed that, while I was listening to Black Sabbath’s Zero The Hero in the office today, I gurned. Like Phil Anselmo feeling the money riff. Specifically about a minute in, when Ian Gillan’s vocals kick in for the first verse. It’s a sure fire sign a song is a winner. And Zero The Hero is a winner. Creepy crawly riff, spooky FX and pure attitude from Gillan as he vents his ire on some mediocre unfortunate. I usually prefer Sabbath songs to have a bit more of a riff journey going on. This song is more of a vibe. But what a vibe, capped off with a great atmospheric guitar solo from Tony Iommi. It’s popular nowadays to point out the riff similarity with GnR’s Paradise City but that song never makes me gurn like Zero The Hero does. I guess the Gunners just didn’t eat enough raw liver.
Back when I reviewed The Misfits’ Earth A.D. album you might have noticed the post’s full title was Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood. The Misfits’ back catalogue is a bit complicated… the album as a whole is usually just referred to as Earth A.D. That’s what it’s called on the band’s official website and also in their box set (which is the copy I have). But when it was originally released on vinyl it was viewed more like two mini albums and each side had a different title. The first side was Earth A.D. which was loosely post-apocalyptic slasher kinda stuff and the second was called Wolf’s Blood and had a lycanthropic theme running through it. Here’s the title track from that side. It’s neither the craziest or the catchiest song on the album. The verses are generally incomprehensible shouting, like a fight outside a pub. But the chorus is more memorable and sounds deliciously ominous and threatening: very much in the vein of Glenn Danzig’s next band Samhain. I doubt you’ll be humming this one after the album’s finished but its lyrics and mood make it a dangerous deep cut that adds to Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood‘s hellish and violent impact.
Backs blown out by shotgun blasts, skulls ripped out, eyes plucked from heads, hellhound dogs and warrior wasps. Welcome to Earth A.D. Released in 1983, this was the second and last album of The Misfits’ original run with Glenn Danzig at the helm. And they went out with a bang: ripping through eight songs in just under 15 minutes. The album is attacked with such ferocity that it’s often seen as inferior to their catchier debut album Walk Among Us. The 50’s horror and sci-fi fun of the debut had become dark, brutal and unhinged. And the hardcore speed, massive thrash metal guitar tones and shouted vocals all served to bludgeon the debut’s melody to a bloody pulp. But, while Earth A.D. doesn’t quite have any top-tier singalongs like Skulls or Astro Zombies, it still has plenty of hooks. You won’t be able to forget the bouncy chorus of Death Comes Ripping, the ominous croon of Bloodfeast or the gang vocals of the title track. And there’s a real glee in the album’s demented, vehement delivery. From Green Hell‘s muscular metal chugging to Devilock‘s slashing riff, this record gets the blood pumping like no other. In more ways than one. Earth A.D. is the musical equivalent of a killing spree. And if you think that sounds hellish… well, you’re really gonna like it here.
Following short-lived but inspired stints with both the volatile Ritchie Blackmore and the mad axeman Michael Schenker, vocalist Graham Bonnet decided to form his own band, Alcatrazz, with hot, upcoming guitarist… Yngwie M. F. Malmsteen. Talk about “out of the frying pan and into the fire”. Unsurprisingly this pairing proved just as short-lived, ending in a blaze of egos and fisticuffs, but it also proved equally inspired with both musicians delivering at their peak on Alcatrazz’s superb debut album, 1983’s No Parole From Rock N’ Roll.
Alcatrazz was conceived as a Rainbow-style outfit. And with songs like the parpy AOR opener Island In The Sun and the Spotlight Kid rerun Jet To Jet, their debut definitely fits the bill. But there’s something more sophisticated at work here. Yngwie’s neo-classical riffing adds an intricate, frosty edge and his soloing on tracks like Kree Nakoorie is impossibly exciting. And Bonnet responds with a forceful and acrobatic vocal performance that thrills on tracks like General Hospital as well as contributing to the album’s cerebral edge with intelligent, quirky lyrics on tracks like the phenomenal Hiroshima Mon Amour (“the fireball that shamed the sun”). The languid Big Foot drags a bit and the bluesy Suffer Me is a little anti-climatic but there is no escaping the fact that No Parole From Rock N’ Roll is a dazzling, state-of-the-art, riot in the dungeon.
They were an unknown band at the time but that didn’t stop Manowar from securing the services of screen legend Orson Welles who (clearly recognising that he was in the midst of fellow geniuses) agreed to record narration for their debut album: 1982’s Battle Hymns. His narration was used on that album’s Dark Avenger but in the same session Welles also recorded two more pieces: a cool stage intro (that the band has used ever since) and narration for a strange and glorious second song, Defender.
Mostly spoken word set to music, it’s the kind of thing other bands would have used to flesh out an album. But Manowar are not “other bands” so Defender was released as a non-album single in 1983. Not the kind of stuff to tear up the charts but a great introduction to Manowar’s barbarian muscle metal. Windswept Conan tones in the mellow intro, Welles’ baritone gravitas, that killer “ride like the wind” chorus and goosebumps galore when vocalist Eric Adams finally chips in.
I slightly prefer the more direct, streamlined Fighting The World version from 1987 (which used the same narration but re-recorded and rearranged the rest of the song) but the original has its own appeal. It almost sounds like a metallized take on classic Kansas with Adams’ soaring vocals and Ross The Boss’ bluesier guitar solo. And best of all it has a longer, more epic atmosphere with the “Tree Of Woe” vibe that characterized the band’s early work. It’s a must-hear and a must-have rarity for any Manowar fan. This is the music God has sent.
I want to get HMO circa 2019 off to a mighty start and it doesn’t get much mightier than everyone’s favourite brick-breaking, steel-bending and hot water bottle-exploding Canuck Jon Mikl Thor!
The former bodybuilding champ (and naked waiter) plugged away with various bands like Body Rock and Thor And The Imps before finally settling on Thor, releasing their debut album Keep The Dogs Away in the late 70s. The debut’s ropey (but infuriatingly catchy) glam made for a bit of a false start and it wasn’t until 1983’s Unchained EP that Thor finally hit his musical stride, with a nifty new band and a hard metal backing that was much better suited to his voice, persona and Herculean physique.
That physique and viking imagery often gets Thor lumped in with HMO-heroes Manowar but the music on Unchained is much more along the lines of the party-hearty block riffing of Twisted Sister. Traces of the debut’s glam approach remain, especially in the EP’s weakest track Lazer Eyes. But Unchained is even catchier than the debut and tracks like Anger, Lightning Strikes Again and When Gods Collide are instant favourites and mandatory listening for any true metal party!
Better still, the recent reissue from Cleopatra bolsters the already mighty EP with tons of quality bonus tracks like War Hammer and Rebirth Of The Hero as well as the ultra-rare Lightning Strikes Again EP from 1982 which features raw earlier versions of the Unchained tracks. When you’re fucking and fighting in Valhalla, Unchained will be playing in the background. Essential listening for anyone that needs some devastation with their musculation.
I discovered KISS in the late 80s. Up until Crazy Nights, they had never made much of a splash in the UK, so without much info on the band or their history I generally just ordered the cassettes that had the coolest titles and, subsequently, Lick it Up was an early acquisition. I didn’t know or care that it was their first album sans make-up so let’s not get into that too much. Suffice to say KISS had been floundering around for a few years, not quite sure what they wanted to do or who they wanted to do it with. A thrilling moment of discovery came with the stunning Creatures of the Night album. KISS were a full-blooded Metal band. Unfortunately, the sales were less than stunning so KISS played their trump card, removing the make-up for publicity and also signifying their new found musical confidence.
Lick it Up is the sound of that confidence. Not quite as dynamic and anthemic as Creatures… but the solid sound of a band that means business. And business was good! Lick it Up became their first album to go Gold in 3 years.
There’s a real sense of danger and threat in these songs. Tracks like Exciter and Million to One cut and thrust with emotively strained and dynamic vocals from HMO man-crush, Paul Stanley. Gene Simmons’ songs mostly rumble and lurch menacingly with little of the Blues/Rock N’ Roll licks he would rely on for the rest of the decade. Gimmie More and Fits Like a Glove are filthy raunch and All Hell’s Breaking Loose and the title track (it’s basically sex music) provide the anthemic relief. Drummer Eric Carr hits hard and reins in the tempo which adds to the muscular vibe but the whole album is tied together by its star player, lead guitarist and songwriter on 8 of the 10 tracks: Vinnie Vincent. Curbing (or forced to curb) his widdlier tendencies, his classy riffs, licks and solos are the most remarkable and creative contributions to the album.
Unfortunately, Vinnie would soon be gone and, although KISS would continue to release superb albums for the rest of the decade, they were never quite this good or this assured again. Lick it Up is not only a strong contender for the greatest KISS album of all-time but a strong contender for my favourite album of all-time. Don’t agree? Well, listen bitch! I’ve got news…