Saturday, January 7, 2012

In Defense Of: that album...

Trying a new post in anticipation of any 2012 stinkers as well as the ocassional argument for some of the lesser entries on my shelves. There are some albums that are simply indefensible: The Nutley Brass/Jerry Only Misfits lounge album (bested (worsted?) only by Only's album of originals, The Devil's Rain). On the other hand, six months later I'll still stand by Morbid Angel's newest (and, yeah, I didn't hate St. Anger). There is always going to be some dude out there who claims Music from the Elder is the best Kiss album, In Through the Out Door is superior to Led Zeppelin II or that David Lee Roth's contributions to Van Halen are superior to Sammy Hagar's. That's all just crazy talk. Nothing here is intended to shock or create argument just for the sake of being contrary. In fact, none of these records probably stir much emotion in anyone anywhere. They are, however, some often-overlooked LPs from bigger, badder catalogues that I am hoping someone else out there may also be enjoying from time to time in place of the established classics. Three I found on my playlist this week from the end of the '90s:

Risk - Megadeth - 1999
In the re-release liner notes to Risk Dave Mustaine claims that he "could have put this record out under a different name and many people would have loved it." I doubt it. "Many people" would have recognized Mustaine's vocals, categorized this as Megadeth and felt exactly the same as they did.  Risk, instead, sort of lived up to its name, explored some sounds alien to the Megadeth canon. Less Risk, though, and more the Obligatory Late-90's Metal Pandering to the Alternative Crowd (that would have been a shitty title), this was Megadeth floundering outside their skill set and looking for listeners they didn't need. I find this phase really fascinating for any metal bands that survived those days and enjoy this very listenable record as much as Marvel's old What If...? comics, taking it in and wondering where Megadeth would have ended up if this had been a huge success.

Whereas Metallica succeeded with their Load (an album I will not deny enjoying to this day) despite supposedly losing a portion of their fanbase, Risk has never been very well received. I have always enjoyed it. At the time (as always) I was not listening solely to metal and felt this record blended nicely with what was going on musically in the world around it. Risk brings the listener plenty of hooks, almost poppy in their synthetic sound, and an edge seemingly honed just for mainstream radio. It's hard rock that, in hindsight, sounds more at home even in '89 than '99 and with each passing year becomes a more and more interesting time capsule.

 6:66 Satan's Child - Danzig - 1999
Whereas Blackacidevil is one misstep with which I cannot quite come to terms, I am always a little surprised at fans' disdain for Danzig's sixth record, Satan's Child. It still carries a tinge of the industrial sound that saturated its predecessor and Danzig's trademark vocals are still frequently treated with effects - but it's fierce and raw. Coming at a time when Glenn was emancipated from large labels and reissuing his seminal work with Samhain, Satan's Child came across as a vibrant, lively statement, nowhere more evident than in the chorus of leadoff "Five Finger Crawl."

True, not-so-successful industrial experiments still abound but numbers like "Unspeakable," "Cult Without a Name" and "Firemass" are all top-notch Danzig efforts and their inclusion alone keeps Satan's Child, an album that opened the door for a third act that keep getting better, on my list of essential heavy metal recordings.

Slang - Def Leppard - 1996
Dwindling demand, no Mutt Lange and the height of the alternative era (as turns out the be the case for all the records on this post) undoubtedly left Def Leppard in an uncomfortable spot with Slang. This is a band I am damn near tired of defending as their recent original output is pap and I fear they've outlive their early-era cred (something they keep proving with shitty moves like Mirrorball). Much unlike their aged peers, Slang found Leppard experimenting with the dour mood and sound of the times and succeeding, with songs like "Truth?" and "Deliver Me" delivering a product that could more than compete with the radio-fodder churned out at the time. The entire album is full of more introspective and emotionally raw material than the band had ever produced and the lack of production gloss (plus the return of acoustic drums!) resulted in an adult album that didn't feel like oldies retread. Unfortunately, though, the hooks weren't there and the band tried to capture the Lange lightning in the bottle for the umpteenth time with their next outing, Euphoria, and have never again tried to do something new, opting instead to retread, rehash and, in my opinion, it's time they retire.


  1. Very cool post! It made me think of all the different bands that began to morph their sounds to the shifting tide of metal. Sure, Metallica and Megadeth are stand-outs, and even Anthrax embraced a "modern" metal sound. Arguably, Slayer stayed on path. Sure they added some groove to their sound on Diabolus (an album I still like to this day), but it still sounded like Slayer, and despite the venom spewed by fair weather fans, their "new" sound was FAR from freakin' nu-metal.

    The 90s also had Entombed and Gorefest going more death 'n' roll, possibly taking notes from Kyuss or even Clutch perhaps? Grave went from harsh death metal to adding a bouncy "core" influence - differing from Slayer around the same time as Grave didn't even sound like the same band.

    My favorite 90's morph out of 'em all has to be Testament with their Demonic album. That album was (and is) hated by legions of their fans, but I absolutely love it. For a thrash band to take it a step further and put out a death metal album long after thrash and death metal was stifled by alternative and metalcore was a giant METAL finger to the musical shift. Plus, those songs on Demonic rock.

    Thanks for letting me spout off here. Your post got my wheels a-turning!

  2. Thanks for the reply - your opinion is always more than welcome here and you've out-substanced the original post!

    Slayer's Diabolus in Musica remains one of my absolute favorites from their entire catalogue and I never heard the aspect of the elements so many bitched about.

    Also agree Entombed's shift suited them well (and more or less became a permanent part of their sound).

    I have to confess to never having heard Testament's Demonic and will do what I can to put my hands on it this week.

    As usual, all the best!