Archive: Sunday Old School Columns
Today sees Sunday Old School reach it's 100th article. You might say reaching this milestone is a true testament to how high heavy metal fans regard the old school. Or you might say that the previous sentence was just a bad pun to lead into this week's band. Either way, this week Sunday Old School will be looking at Testament, one of the most popular bands to emerge from the Bay Area thrash metal scene.
Testament was originally founded under the name Legacy in 1983 by guitarist Eric Peterson, along with his cousin Derrick Ramirez. The band took a significant step when Ramirez was replaced by guitarist Alex Skolnick and singer Steve "Zetro" Souza. The band were late comers of sorts to the Bay Area thrash scene, with such other bands as Metallica, Slayer and Exodus pre-dating them, which perhaps might have been a key factor in Souza deciding to leave the band to join Exodus after they fired singer Paul Baloff. Despite his resignation, Souza suggested that the band attempt to recruit Chuck Billy to replace him behind the microphone, a move which proved highly successful.
After finding out that the name The Legacy was already trademarked by a jazz band, the group changed their name to Testament on Stormtroopers Of Death frontman Billy Milano's suggestion. They remained close to their Legacy moniker though, and after signing with Megaforce Records, used the title "The Legacy" as the name of their debut album. The record was a success, earning the band favourable comparisons to Metallica and containing several songs that remain in the band's setlist to this day, including "Over The Wall" and "First Strike Is Deadly." Testament supported the album by supporting Anthrax on their "Among The Living" tour, which helped to make a household name out of Anthrax and thus garnered Testament much attention. Thrash fans remained enamoured with the band when they released their second album, "The New Order," which followed in the same vein as "The Legacy" both lyrically and musically. This second album also contained future fan favourites such like "Trial By Fire" and "Into The Pit," the latter becoming something of an anthem. More...
In 1982, British heavy metal band Iron Maiden made what would be one of the biggest decisions of their career when they fired their singer Paul Di'anno and recruited Samson vocalist, Bruce Dickinson. As everyone knows, Iron Maiden then released their third album, "The Number Of The Beast" and subsequently became one of the biggest groups in the history of heavy metal. But what happened to Di'anno after he was sacked? Quite a lot actually...
Following his departure, Di'anno formed a self-titled band, releasing only one album, also called, "Di'anno," before breaking up in 1985. While touring in support of the record, the band angered fans by refusing to perform any Iron Maiden songs, instead focusing on their own material with a few covers thrown in. Before disbanding, the group was also able to release a live video, "Live at the Palace," which is now available on DVD as "Live In London." After his self-titled endeavour, Paul then found himself part of a new heavy metal supergroup called Gogmagog, which was intended to be a rock opera project. The band saw Di'anno reunited with his former Maiden bandmate Clive Burr and also featured original Def Leppard guitarist Pete Willis, former Whitesnake bassist Neil Murray and White Spirit/future Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers. The band didn't fare well and folded after only releasing a three song EP, "I Will Be There." More...
More often than not with heavy metal bands, many fans will say how much they preferred a band’s early work, often saying the first album was the best and that the band changed their style too much later on. The latter is certainly true of Chicago’s, Ministry, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a Ministry fan who’s favourite album was “With Sympathy.” This album was the first from the band, who formed in 1981 from the ashes of Special Affect, which also featured Groovy Mann, later of My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, and unlike their later work which heavy metal fans are more familiar with, was a synthpop record, much more in the vein of such bands as Depeche Mode or the melodic pop stylings of Spandau Ballet. The album was a slow seller but nevertheless was able to reach the 90s position in the Billboard album charts.
After parting ways with band member Stephen George, Ministry founder Al Jourgensen performed more or less as a solo artist for the next Ministry record, “Twitch.” While it was still an electronic record, the album contained a heavier and darker tone and once again placed Ministry in the Billboard album charts, though only just this time, reaching a peak position of 194. Following, “Twitch,” Jourgensen began to become interested once again in playing the electric guitar and brought in Paul Barker and William Rieflen of The Blackouts for the next album, “The Land of Rape and Honey.” The record was a huge critical success and featured one of Ministry’s most popular songs, “Stigmata,” which was featured in 1990 film, Hardware. The use of electric guitars on the album made for a more metal approach to their music, which continued and was embellished on the next record, “The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste.” The album fared a little better than “…Rape and Honey,” earning it the number 163 spot on the Billboard album charts, one place higher than it’s predecessor More...
Before Rob Zombie was known for his movies, his Woolite commercial or "Dragula," he was known as the frontman of New York's White Zombie, one of the most popular heavy metal bands of the 1990's. The band was formed in 1985 by design student Robert Cummings (Rob Zombie) and his girlfriend Sean Yseult, who would prove to be the sole constant members of the group. They formed their own record label, Silent Explosion, through which they released three EPs "Gods On Voodoo Moon," "Pig Heaven" and "Psycho-Head Blowout" before self-releasing their first full length album, "Soul-Crusher." The album helped them to attract the attention of Caroline Records, with whom they released their next record, "Make Them Die Slowly." The album marked a significant departure in sound for the band, heading in a much more heavy metal orientated direction than their previous punk rock style.
Following guitar player John Ricci's carpel tunnel syndrome preventing him from playing guitar anymore, Jay Yeunger was brought in to replace him, making his recording debut with White Zombie's next EP release, "God Of Thunder," which featured a cover of the KISS song of the same name as well as two previously unused songs. After the release, the band searched for a new label, attempting to grab the attention of major labels. While RCA showed interest, but the band eventually decided to sign with Geffen. Thanks in part to the backing they received from a major label, as well as creating catchier songs, they were able to break into the mainstream with their next record, "La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1." The album featured the song, "Thunder Kiss '65," which received heavy rotation on MTV (which played music back then) and became something of a hit single. The song's popularity, coupled with the band's hard working approach to touring helped the album go Gold by the end of 1993, before going Platinum the next year.
The band were now faced with the task of following up a successful album and recruited new drummer John Tempesta (formerly of Exodus and Testament) to help out. They proved they weren't a flash in the pan with their next record, "Astro Creep 2000," which was able to reach number six on the Billboard 200 albums chart, not least due to the popularity of the songs, "More Human Than Human," "Electric Head Part. 2" and "Super-Charger Heaven." The album has since been certified double Platinum since it's release, selling over two and a half million copies. It was also around this time that Zombie began working on solo material, performing a duet with the legendary Alice Cooper for a tie in CD for the hit show, "X-Files," which received a Grammy nomination, as well as penning the song, "The Great American Nightmare" for Howard Stern, which has been used as the theme song of his radio show since 1999. While it's unclear if these solo endeavours factored into the demise, White Zombie decided to call it a day in 1998. Since then, Rob Zombie has achieved considerable success as a solo artist and is now known for his film directing too. Yseult joined a surf rock band called The Famous Monsters, in addition to other musical pursuits, before releasing a book, "I'm With The Band" last year. The other members have also continued a career in music, particularly Tempesta, who has gone on to perform with other well known artists such as Helmet and The Cult. Despite a White Zombie box set, "Let Sleeping Corpses Lie" being released in 2008, the members have been adamant that a future reunion is very unlikely. More...
Thrash metal has more or less always been about speed, aggression and ferocity, but like all good things, sometimes it’s the technical side that makes it so good. Some of the best bands in the genre focused their musicianship and song writing on being phenomenally gifted technical players, and one of these bands was Toxik. Toxik was formed in 1985 in Peekskill, New York by bass player Lee Erwin and guitarist Josh Christian, initially under the banner, Tokyo. However, shortly after deciding on this name, the group was threatened with legal action by another band who had already trademarked the name and thus, Toxik was born. The band started off by struggling to maintain a stable lineup, with founding member Erwin being amongst those to leave, and drummer Sal Dadabo being asked to join heavy metal heroes Twisted Sister. Eventually however, the band found stability when Christian was joined by vocalist Mike Sanders, drummer Tad Leger and bass player Brian Bonini.
The four members now a sturdy unit, the band found themselves being offered a contract from Roadrunner Records, a proposition which they accepted and finally released their debut album, "World Circus" in 1987. The album was acclaimed by thrash metal fans and the metal press alike, with some considering it one of the best thrash releases of the year, a statement backed by being awarded College Music Journal’s "Best New Metal Album Of The Year" accolade. The album also won them respect amongst their peers and Toxik were offered a spot on the next Metal Massacre compilation, which they contributed to with the song, "Wastelands." More...
For a band associated with the hair and glam movement of the eighties, Skid Row has spent most of their time post the "Decade of ME." Formed in 1986, it wasn't until 1989 that their debut album, the self-titled Skid Row record that mixed glam with arena rock and ballads, was released. It was that initial album that put the band on the map, but it was the subsequent albums that made this band one of the top acts of their genre.
The original Skid Row lineup was Rachel Bolan (bass) and Dave "the Snake" Sabo (guitar), Scotti Hill (guitar), drummer Rob Affuso, and Matt Fallon -- the vocalist who was quickly replaced by Sebastian Bach in early 1987. Is there any nickname better than "the Snake"? No. Do you think Dave Sabo and wrestler Jake "the Snake" Roberts ever get together? Is there a "the Snake" nickname convention? I like to think there is.
The self-titled album separated Skid Row from a group of bands that were getting more difficult to separate from. They had a little more of an edge compared to some of the other bands. If you were a male and were carrying Poison, Def Leppard, and Skid Row CDs, you would put the Skid Row CD on the top, covering the others. They were somewhere between Poison and Guns N' Roses. A little dirtier than Poison, but not quite the GN'R mess; you could sense Sebastian Bach didn't wash his hair every day.
The initial band was formed to be the next Bon Jovi. With Bach's good looks, shrieking voice and heavy band playing alongside, Skid Row was to continue making glam rock with a smile. However, during the recording of the first album something happened. Their band developed their own sound, still heavy metal pop, but with more street credentials. Despite most of the first album considered "heavy," it was the ballads, "18 And Life" and "I Remember You" that would receive air play and be known by the denim jacket crowds. Obviously Bach and company owe a thank you to all of the bands before them that made the power ballad what it was at that time. More...
Bristol is a city which has unquestionably produced some of the best bands in their field. Thrash metal fans will know that Onslaught, perhaps Britain’s premier thrash band, hail from Bristol, as do trip-hop legends Massive Attack, but digging a little deeper, we find that the city also gave birth to one of the finest bands in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, Jaguar. The band was formed in 1979 by guitarist Garry Peppard, bass player Jeff Cox and drummer Chris Lovell, with vocalist Rob Reiss joining the group a few months later. The band set about building up a local following, an endeavour which proved to be successful, and followed up this accomplishment by recording two demos, the latter of which led to a short record deal with Heavy Metal Records, (the label which would release the bulk of Witchfinder General albums.) Through the label, Jaguar released the single, "Back Street Woman," which was able to sell over 4,000 copies, despite modest promotion.
The band’s big break came after they performed at a Dutch rock and metal festival in 1982, which was able to catch the attention of English record label Neat, which was known for releasing many singles and albums from fellow New Wave of British Heavy Metal artists including Raven, Venom and Tygers Of Pan Tang amongst many others. The deal resulted in the single, "Axe Crazy" being released, a single which is now considered to be amongst the best from the era, which resulted in extensive touring. The success of the single and tour allowed the band to record a full length studio album, which was released in 1983 under the title, "Power Games." Although it didn’t sell well enough to enter the British album charts like a host of their NWOBHM contemporaries, it was well received in the metal underground, and allowed the band to begin making appearances on television shows. A second album, "This Time" was released the next year, but owing to it’s change of direction, resulted in a critical backlash from a number of fans, so much so that the band decided to call it a day by the end of 1984.
Like many other New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands, the group experienced a revival of interest in the late 1990s and a reunion soon followed. After performing at a number of festivals and small concerts, the band recorded a brand new studio album, "Wake Me," which was released in the year 2000, with another album, "Run Ragged" following in 2003. Since the reunion, the band has gone through a number of lineup changes, with guitarist Garry Peppard now the sole original member remaining. The band has also been able to keep their name alive by continuing to perform live shows and releasing live and compilation albums, with a brand new studio album planned for the near future. More...
Nowadays, the idea of crossing heavy music with rap conjures up visions of the nu metal fad in the late 90s/early 2000s, with the likes of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park springing to mind, bands which are less than popular amongst many fans of heavy music. However, in the late 80s and early 90s, the idea was fresh and many bands were able to fuse the love of both genres, including Anthrax, Faith No More and Body Count. One of the first bands to incorporate rap music permanently into their brand of sonic assault, was Brooklyn’s own, Biohazard.
Biohazard was formed in 1987 by bassist/vocalist Evan Seinfeld, drummer Anthony Meo and guitarist Bobby Hambel, with Billy Graziadei joining as a second guitarist and vocalist soon afterwards. The band released their first demo the next year and were immediately met with criticism and accusations of promoting fascist and white supremacist messages (a contradiction in terms since Seinfeld is Jewish.) The lyrics in question were later revealed to an attempt to impress fellow Brooklyn group, Carnivore (led by future Type O Negative frontman, Peter Steele) and their fan base and the band soon distanced themselves from these early songs, eventually adopting an anti-racist message. Before they had even released a full length, the Biohazard found themselves on the receiving end of many bans in New York, with promoters worried their shows would lead to violence. Despite, or perhaps because of, this reputation, the four piece were offered a deal by Maze Records and released their self-titled, debut album in 1990.
The release of the album allowed them to tour in Europe, an experience which would open their eyes to the fact that the urban decay they had experienced at home was not a unique thing. With this knowledge in mind, the band set to work on their next album, "Urban Discipline," which was released in 1992, this time through Roadrunner Records (with whom long time friends Mucky Pup had helped to arrange a deal.) The album was a hit, helped largely by the single, "Punishment" receiving regular airplay on the MTV show, Headbanger’s Ball. The success also led to the band performing with a variation of bands from Sick of It All to Kyuss to rap stars House of Pain. Supporting House Of Pain was not to be their only contact with rappers either, as the band twice teamed up with the hardcore rap group, Onyx, recording the songs, "Slam" and "Judgement Night," the latter of which was the title track for a 1993 movie, though the soundtrack proved to be far more popular and successful. More...
Nowadays in the world of metal music, death metal is probably one of the most popular genres, with bands all around the world copying the innovators and sometimes putting their own spin on the style. Neither take would be possible if it weren’t for the early bands who made the genre worth respecting, and one of the clearest cases for this is Florida’s own Morbid Angel. The band was formed in 1984 in the city of Tampa by guitarist Trey Azgagthoth (born George Emmanuel III,) it would be some time before the band were able to release their first official album. Although numerous demos were recorded as well as an album, "Abominations Of Desolation," it wouldn’t be until 1988 that the band released their first record, in the form of the 7" single, "Thy Kingdom Come." The band then finally released an album entitled, "Altars Of Madness" in 1989 through Combat Records (and via Earache Records in Europe.) The album was a success in the metal underground, with many now claiming that the record is the best in the band’s catalogue, including such contemporaries as Cannibal Corpse bassist, Alex Webster.
The next album, "Blessed Are The Sick" followed in 1991 and also received overwhelming praise, including great reviews from music journalists. The album was also very much influenced by classical music, with Azgagthoth going as far as to dedicate the album to Mozart. It was after the band released, "Covenant" in 1993, that they began to receive more mainstream attention, becoming one of the first death metal bands to do so. Their video for the song, "God Of Emptiness" was featured on the popular cartoon, Beavis And Butthead and the record entered the American Heatseekers chart at number 24. Perhaps even better than these achievements of the time, "Covenant" has since gone on to be the best selling death metal album in history according to Nielson Soundscan. More...
It was 1982 when the lineup of Stephen Pearcy (vocals), Robbin Crosby (guitar), Warren DeMartini (guitar), Juan Croucier (bass), and Bobby Blotzer (drums) came together. Their first recording was an EP, then released as the self titled Ratt LP. The first album contained songs “You Think You’re Tough” and “Back for More” which immediately connected to a rising number of eighties heavy metal fans. The cover featured the leg of Tawny Kitaen who would help establish this band with a connection to models, hookers, and sex that would carry them through their next several albums.
After their debut, Ratt was quickly hailed as heroes on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles; it wasn’t until the release of their 1984 album, “Out of the Cellar,” when Ratt blew up across the country and world. Ratt’s “Out of the Cellar” kicks off with Stephen Pearcy telling us about “A Lone Dealer, with Snake Eyes” in “Wanted Man.” Track three provided us with one of the biggest hits of the decade in “Round and Round,” a song that will stick in your head for days, also a glimpse into Ratt’s musical inspiration (fast women and hookers), which would be continuously detailed during their next three albums. Side 2 begins with the guitar heavy “Lack of Communication,” and continues strong through an updated version of “Back for More.”
For the video “Round and Round,” Ratt stepped it up, using Milton Berle in drag and an over the top dinner party where guitar solos fell through the ceiling and (predictably) rat was served as the main course. Think average night at Charlie Sheen’s house. Given their radio friendly hits, Ratt set themselves apart from some of the other acts (see: Motley Crue) and were enjoying a large piece of the glam metal pie. The album again featured Tawny Kitaen, this time crawling out of a sewer. Where was she crawling to?
In 1985, the boys from Ratt released “Invasion of Your Privacy,” an approved follow-up from their last album; again the focus of the songs was pretty much about getting laid. 1986 brought the album “Dancing Undercover,” a non-stop rock opera of lust, models, and yes, hookers. If this truly is meant to be a rock opera, I’m assuming the story is about a girl. The girl is a whore. This was essentially the third consecutive album that although resonated well with the fans, was now beginning to lose their MTV appeal compared to Motley Crue, a band that had found ways to change their image and also create a sweet ballad named “Home Sweet Home.” Was it possible Pearcy had the choice of writing a ballad or appearing in an issue of Playgirl (May 1986)? I say yes. “Dancing Undercover” contained the song “Body Talk,” which was featured in Eddie Murphy’s movie The Golden Child. This was Eddie’s first movie since the pantheon trifecta of 48 Hours-Trading Places-Beverly Hills Cop where Murphy failed to make people laugh. Is this related to the soundtrack? Probably more to do with the PG-13 rating, but its worth noting.
Finally, Ratt’s 1988 album, “Reach for the Sky” attempted a ballad named “Way Cool Jr.”, but instead created a great blues song vs. a wet the panties ballad. Ironically, this song holds up quite well today. The video followed a mystery man whose life revolves around champagne and bathroom blow jobs. Who is this mystery man? We will never know. My guess is John Stamos. This was during the time he was killing it as a mullet wearing Uncle Jesse on Full House. He seems like a champagne, bathroom blow job kind of guy.
In 1990, “Detonator” was released and never got a chance. It was a new decade where the glam metal scene was saturated and Robbin Crosby was falling into drug addiction. After this, the band released the song “Nobody Rides For Free” for the Point Break soundtrack. There is an accompanying video that accentuates the powerful acting of Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey in this classic surfing thriller.
As with most glam metal bands from the eighties, the next five years (92-96) were not good for Ratt. The band went on hiatus. During this time, Pearcy sang with several bands including Arcade, VD, and Vertex. Crosby played in Secret Service and then was diagnosed with HIV turning quickly into AIDS. DeMartini played with Whitesnake and then some solo projects.
At the end of the decade the band reunited for the album “Ratt.” With Robbie Crane on bass, the band went for a new type of music, turning out a more blues rock feel. For a band known for strip club anthems, this was a disaster; the band again broke up shortly after. In 2002 Robbin Crosby died from a heroin overdose. DeMartini , Blotzer, Keri Kelli on guitar (to soon be replaced by John Corabi), and singer Jizzy Pearl toured as Ratt, while Stephen Pearcy toured as both Ratt featuring Stephen Pearcy and then Rat Bastards.
In 2009, Stephen Pearcy, Robbie Crane, Bobby Blotzer, and Warren DeMartini reunited and began working on a new album, “Infestation.” The album was a critical success, bringing back the sound and nostalgia from Ratt’s earlier work. The album was released in 2010 and followed by a tour. Reports have stated Carlos Cavozo is now the guitarist and that the band is again, on hiatus.
Looking back on the eighties, you would be hard pressed to find three consecutive albums (“Out of the Cellar,” “Invasion of your Privacy,” “Dancing Undercover”) that deliver as well as Ratt did during the height of the glam metal rise. Today it’s hard to say what is next, or if there is a next for this band. Will there be another album? Solo projects? Or, will the band continue on, searching for that elusive ballad?
“Round and Round”
Self-parody has been something of a tradition in heavy metal since the early 1980s when such television shows as "The Comic Strip Presents… Bad News" and films like, "This Is Spinal Tap" made fun of the lyrical content and fashion in heavy metal. Subsequently, some bands were formed to solely mock the genre, even if they were metal fans themselves. One of the best examples of such a group is Lawnmower Deth, a thrash metal outfit from Ravenshead in Nottinghamshire, England. The band was formed in 1987 by Chris Flint and Joseph Whitaker along with School mates Pete Lee, Steve Nesfield and Chris Parkes, who all took up bizarre and comedic stage names such as Concorde Faceripper (Nesfield,) Qualcast "Koffee Perkulator" Mutilator (Lee) and Explodin' Dr Jaggers Flymo (Flint,) amongst others. They made their debut recording as part of a split album with Metal Duck and named their side of the record, "Mower Liberation Front."
The band’s side of the album was surprisingly well received and the positive responses allowed them to record a full length studio album, which came in the form of 1990’s. "Ooh Crikey It’s… Lawnmower Deth." As well as their own songs, the band became known for their satirical take on other artist’s hits such as "Crazy Horses" by The Osmonds and perhaps most famously, the Kim Wylde smash, "Kids In America," which Wylde later claimed to enjoy. The album was well received by fans with a sense of humour and a second album, "Return Of The Fabulous Metal Bozo Clowns" followed in 1992. It was around this time that they began to produce music videos, which like the music, were tongue in cheek in nature and humourous. More...
By now, more or less every heavy metal fan knows the story of Anvil, thanks largely to the hit documentary movie, "Anvil! The Story Of Anvil." Whether it was the film or the music that made you a fan though, it's undeniable that Anvil are one of the most influential North American bands in the history of heavy metal. The seeds of the group were sewn back in 1973 when guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudrow and drummer Rob Reiner began jamming together, being influenced by the seventies heavy metal of Cactus and Black Sabbath. By 1978 the duo had formed a complete lineup which also featured guitarist Dave Allison and bassist Ian Dickson and Anvil was born.
The group released their debut album, "Hard 'n' Heavy" in 1981, initially under the moniker, "Lips," though it would later be released under the Anvil name. After the record's release, Motorhead mainman Lemmy invited Kudrow to become the band's new guitarist, filling in for the recently departed "Fast" Eddie Clarke, but the invitation was declined. Although it might not have been the wisest move financially, the next Anvil album would prove to be an underground classic in eighties metal, emerging in the form of "Metal On Metal" in 1982. The album included the superb title track as well as the Anvil live staples, "Mothra" and "666." The album was also a commercial success in the neighboring United States, where it reached number 91 on the Billboard album charts. Despite the success of the record, the band found follow up fame elusive, due in part to their restrictive record deal, which denied them the opportunity to sign with larger companies.
Although Anvil eventually broke free to sign with Metal Blade Records, they were still unable to regain the popularity which "Metal On Metal" seemed to promise. A slew of albums, including live records, were released throughout the eighties, nineties and 2000's but all with practically no success, and in some cases, almost no response, leaving the band to sometimes play to virtually empty venues. It was during the preparation for their thirteenth album that their biggest adventure would begin, as an old fan from the United Kingdom, who had since gone on to become a screenwriter, decided to make a documentary on the group. The documentary saw the band embark on a European tour with poor to mixed results, struggle to finance their new album, "This Is Thirteen" and eventually take to the stage in Japan to an overwhelmingly positive reaction. The film breathed a new life into the band, as audiences worldwide witnessed the struggles that come with the dedication to heavy metal, from mortgage problems to homelessness. Ever since then, the band has been performing regularly, appearing at such prestigious events as the Download Festival in England and filming a cameo for the movie, "The Green Hornet." Last week however, the band finally unleashed their highly anticipated new studio album, "Juggernaut Of Justice," which was released through The End Records on May 10th More...
Death metal is a sub-genre that has widely expanded its definition since first receiving this stylistic tag. From the severely distorted guitar tones to unrecognizable low growls and blast beats, death metal has always been a style of extremes. Arguably, death metal’s extremeness is untouchable, especially in the area of paces.
During the late 1980s and early ‘90s, bands were competing for the title of fastest band on the planet. Some death metal groups took a 90-degree turn. Instead of playing 500-notes per song, these groups fleshed out just a few, monstrous chords. By combining the harsh sounds of death metal with the slovenly tempos of doom a new category surfaced, death/doom. In turn, an even slower and more distorted form grew out of this style, funeral doom. Winter was one of the bands that spawned this metal hybrid.
Winter’s unique apocalyptic vision first appeared in 1988. The NYC-area band released its first and only full-length “Into Darkness” in 1990 via Future Shock Records. Nuclear Blast picked up the record in 1992 and released their “Servants of the Warsmen” video on the “Death is Just the Beginning” VHS compilation. This track seemed out of place. It’s languid tempos were like listening to the other bands (Hypocrisy, Master, Brutality, Macabre, etc.) in slow motion. Being the oddball in a crowd is not always anathema, though, because whether viewers liked it or not, this track made an impression.
Winter definitely made an impact on doom metal’s deathly offspring. Their down-tempo compositions influenced funeral doom and drone styles. In order to confirm this statement, I contacted two musicians who feel “Into Darkness” is a classic recording.
Patrick Bruss plays in several death metal bands including Ribspreader, Crypticus and Tombstones. Also, he has mixed and mastered numerous artists such as Acid Witch, Cianide, Cardiac Arrest and Impetigo.
Greg Anderson is a figurehead in the area of extremely slow metal. Anderson has played in numerous groups including Sunn O(((, Goatsnake, Thorr’s Hammer and Burning Witch. He is co-owner of Southern Lord Records.
Both artists agree that “Into Darkness” is a classic album. “Winter,” states Bruss, “was way ahead of the times. The album is especially great for being so un-trendy. In a time when everyone wanted to play fast and technical, these guys were all about mood and a sense of dread…I think bands like this don't set-out to make statements, they just make the music that comes naturally to them while ignoring what's popular. That, in itself, is a great statement… It definitely helped to create a new style of Doom.”
Greg Anderson saw something different in “Into Darkness,” too. Winter’s style was untypical from everything Anderson had heard at the time of discovery. The record influenced him as a musician.
“When I heard that record in the mid ‘90s there weren’t a lot of bands playing in that style. There are only a handful of bands that contributed to my musical perversion (laughs) and playing at the time—Eyehategod, St. Vitus, Trouble and bands like that. Winter was different because they had a punk and hardcore edge, but they had low, growling vocals, which was something the bands I mentioned didn’t really have. They were like a more punk version of Celtic Frost with some death metal vocals. It was really a unique sound at that time. I thought they were amazing!
Anderson continues, “This record was definitely an influence when I played with Thorr’s Hammer (mid ‘90s). We were into anything slow and heavy that we could get our hands on. Back then, there weren’t a lot of releases like that. Those bands were very underground and obscure. Any of that stuff was definitely an influence.”
“Into Darkness” not only inspired Anderson to up the ante on his down-tempo arrangements, he believes it may have also inspired some of his artists on Southern Lord. “Sure, they definitely influenced some of the bands I worked with, but at that time, they were very unique. Nowadays, there are a million bands doing that style. At that time, there were only a handful of bands doing that.”
“Into Darkness” did have its faster moments. These came as punky, Celtic Frost dirges. As Anderson notes above, these elements were part of what made the record so unique. Bruss concurs, “The up-tempo parts sound almost exactly like Napalm Death on syrup. How can you not love that? The slowest D-Beats ever!”
Hanging notes and lethargic-moving kick drums create a mood in its own, but “Into Darkness” contained layers of instrumentation, some working together, some apart. Guitar effects and organs bring trippy elements to the mix. Greg Anderson informed me that the group used a Hammond B3 organ, which a session jazz organist played. Using any type of keys, piano, synth or organ was a novel concept at that time. “It’s really cool because a lot of bands at that time weren’t doing that kind of thing, either,” states Anderson.
From the production to the album’s noisy aspects, Bruss likes the album’s over all vibe. “The noises add a great Sludge element to it while still being ambient.” He hails from the Studio Sunlight death metal side of engineering, so he could not say the production influenced him as a professional. However, he likes the album’s production. “I think it's spot-on. It's grimy, sludgy, & heavy, but also clear. A great production is one you don't notice over the music and this definitely fits the bill.”
With the exception of sludge masters Eyehategod, at the time he discovered Winter, Greg Anderson’s taste were more towards the traditional side of doom—St. Vitus, The Obsessed and Trouble. Bruss mentioned a couple of funeral doom bands from that era that he saw, along with Winter, as pioneering doom/death acts. “They [Winter], along with Thergothon and Disembowelment formed the Unholy Trinity of early death/doom and all three are essential albums that helped define a genre.”
About a year-and-a-half ago, Greg Anderson received a call from Winter. He said he was “flattered” and “blown away” by the fact that they called him to do the reissue because he’s a big fan of the record. As this article establishes, he felt “Into Darkness” is a “pretty important record.” He wanted to take a different approach with this release, though, because it felt it did not receive the treatment it deserved.
“The thing about that record is every time someone put it out it had shoddy packaging. Labels didn’t seem to put a lot of care into it, so we decided to give it a nice packaging. It comes with an 18-page booklet, flyers and liner notes. They were really hands-on in creating the packaging for this, which is something that we really tried to do. To me, this is the definitive version of this release, especially the vinyl. It was originally released on very limited vinyl. This time it comes with a gatefold jacket and a fanzine-style booklet. I wanted to create a nice, archival piece for this album.”
Winter reunited in 2010, apparently just to play shows such as Roadburn Festival 2011 and a recent Roadburn warm-up gig. Southern Lord will release the album April 12, 2011. Read the review of “Into Darkness.”
Last month we took a look at Wolfsbane and saw what singer Blaze Bayley was up to before (and eventually after) he joined Iron Maiden. This week we take a look at what another of Iron Maiden’s singers did before he joined the band, this time it’s world renowned and current vocalist Bruce Dickinson and the band, Samson. Samson was formed in 1977, a time when punk had exploded in the United Kingdom and for a brief time, long haired, hard rock and heavy metal bands became rather unpopular. Nevertheless, the band continued to hone their craft and in 1979, they released their debut album, "Survivors," which featured guitarist and bane namesake, Paul Samson handling the vocal duties in a lineup which also included bassist Chris Aylmer and iconic drummer, Thunderstick. However, shortly after the release of the record, Samson stepped away from the microphone to make way for the band’s new vocalist "Bruce Bruce," better known today as Bruce Dickinson.
With Dickinson now in tow, the band re-released "Survivors" to feature their new vocalist and soon released their second album, “Head On.” The album proved to be a successful one for Samson, reaching number 34 in the UK album charts and earning rave reviews from critics. The record is also notable for the song, "Thunderburst," which was co-written with Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris and would appear the next year on the Iron Maiden album, "Killers," in the guise of, "The Ides Of March." Despite the success of the record however, the group soon found themselves being booked on mismatched tours as a result of poor management and after one more album, "Shock Tactics," which featured the charting single, "Riding With The Angels," Bruce Dickinson left the band to join Iron Maiden, after Maiden’s manager Rod Smallwood got talking to Dickinson following Samson’s performance at the Reading festival in 1981 (which was later released as a live album in 1990.)
The band then soldiered on, recruiting new vocalist Nicky Moore. The change in singer was not without it’s rewards, as the subsequent album, "Before the Storm," yielded two singles, "Losing My Grip" and "Red Skies," which were able to hit the British singles charts. Unfortunately this was to be the last taste of chart success Samson would receive, as their later releases were overshadowed by other heavy metal stars of the time, not least Iron Maiden, and the New Wave Of British Heavy movement had begun to grind to a halt. Although the band hadn’t released an album since 1993, they never officially disbanded, but were effectively forced to do so in 2002, when guitarist Paul Samson tragically passed away after a battle with cancer. Five years later, bass player Aylmer would also pass away, effectively ending any speculation there may have been regarding a Samson reunion of any kind. Nowadays, the band are often looked upon favourably by NWOBHM fans as one of the best of it’s day. They released some truly spectacular music and stood out amongst many of the other groups, not least for locking their drummer in a cage at any given opportunity. More...
In 1982, when Blackie Lawless put together his band W.A.S.P. (original members: Blackie Lawless, Rik Fox, Randy Piper, and Tony Richards ) there was an immediate buzz over what did the band name/acronym W.A.S.P. represent? From We Are Sexual Perverts to We Are Satan’s People, only the We Are was agreed upon. It was also agreed that Lawless was clearly a marketing genius. The answer is if you go to the dead wax area on W.A.S.P.’s first LP. You will see “we are sexually perverted” inscribed.
The band recorded their first song titled “Animal (F**ck Like a Beast),” which would later be the first song on their self-titled album W.A.S.P. This track would be pulled from the distribution so stores in the U.S. would carry it. It was clear from the start that this band would create and live a unique identity. If fellow Sunset Strip bands like Ratt were going to be about sex and hookers, and Motley Crue was going to be about drugs and strippers, well, then W.A.S.P. decided early on they were going to be about raping hookers and strippers who are on drugs.
In addition to groupies and cutters, their music also got the attention of the Washington D.C. based Parents Music Research Center (P.M.R.C.). A group of up-tight suits led by Tipper Gore declaring war on sex, violence, and vulgar musical lyrics, the basis for their argument was The Filthy Fifteen, a list of songs demonstrating their mission. In their eyes, this list (and not Tipper Gore’s pant suits) was destroying society. W.A.S.P.’s “Animal” was on the list with fellow heavy metal acts Motley Crue and Twisted Sister as well as pop stars Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Sheena Easton. Sheena Easton was on the list for a song named “Sugar Walls,” which I’m guessing pissed off Lawless because he didn’t come up with this song title first. Due to the “list,” the band received death and bomb threats from followers of the P.M.R.C. Blackie Lawless was even shot at twice. That is one more time than Ronald Reagan was shot at. Looking back, many forget that W.A.S.P. was a part of the The Filthy Fifteen, but they were part of it, and at the time pretty proud of this. More...
What did you get up to when you were twelve years old? Did you play video games at home, play sports outside or go fishing with your dad? Whatever it was, chances are you weren’t in a hardcore band. Not a lot of people can say that, but Freddy Cricien can. Freddy Cricien is the younger half brother of Agnostic Front singer Roger Miret and would frequently join the band onstage to perform The Animals’ song, "It’s My Life." Eventually, Cricien was encouraged to start his own band, which he did in 1988 at the age of twelve with Miret on bass, Agnostic Front guitarist Vinnie Stigma and drummer Will Shepler. Naming the band, Madball, their music mostly comprised of unused Agnostic Front material and they quickly released their first demo, "Ball Of Destruction" in 1989. After adding a second guitarist in the form of Matt Henderson and spending a few more years performing, the band finally released another record in 1992 entitled, "Droppin’ Many Suckers."
Following Miret’s departure, Cricien recruited a friend of his, Hoya Roc to become the band’s new bassist and shortly afterwards, the group found themselves signed to Roadrunner Records. Through the label, Madball released their full length album, "Set It Off" in 1994, which enabled the band to tour not only across America, but also in Europe, performing at such events as Dynamo Open Air, as well as appearing in the documentary movie NYHC in 1995. They continued to expand their fanbase the next year when they released "Demonstrating My Style," a record which features the song, "Pride (Times Are Changing,)" arguable their most well known song along with the title track from "Set It Off." Two more albums, "Look My Way" and "Hold It Down" were released in 1998 and 2000 respectively, both of which received good reviews from critics and were met with positive feedback from fans, before the band decided to call it a day in early 2001.
The split didn’t last long however as Cricien and Hoya resurrected Madball late the next year, writing new music and touring internationally. Although the group came back in 2002, it would take until 2005 before they released a new full length album (though an EP entitled, NYHC was released in 2004,) which came in the shape of "Legacy." Since the release of the record, Madball have continued to perform all over the world, cementing their place as one of the true greats of the New York hardcore scene, easily ranking highly with Agnostic Front and Sick Of It All. They’ve also been releasing new music, with "Infiltrate The System" hitting the shelves in 2007, before their most recent record, "Empire" was released last year. The Madball name is now proving to transcend genres and the band has become rather popular amongst the New York hip-hop scene, being referenced by the likes of Ill Bill and Q Unique, not least in part to Cricien's own hip-hop outputs under the name Freddy Madball, the moniker with which he released his solo album, "Catholic Guilt." More...
It’s amazing that some bands can have such a massive influence on a genre yet still remain unheard of by many music lovers. In this case, we’re talking about Virginia’s, Pentagram, who had an effect on the doom metal genre almost as great as Black Sabbath’s. The band was formed in 1971 by singer Bobby Liebling and drummer Geof O’Keefe, who were looking to form a band in the vein of some of the then recent underground sensations like Black Sabbath, UFO and Sir Lord Baltimore. The two found themselves going through a number of musicians all year until their bassist at the time, Vincent McAllister, switched to guitars and they recruited a new bassist in Greg Mayne and this lineup, known to fans as their "classic" lineup began rehearsing together on Christmas Day 1971. The group continued to write and perform material, but found their attempts at gaining major label interest were thwarted each time and the band eventually broke up with only a few demo recordings to their name, on New Year’s Eve 1975, two weeks after Bobby Liebling and his girlfriend were arrested.
In 1980, Liebling became the singer for a band named Death Row, which featured drummer Joe Hasselvander, who would later joing British heavy metal trio Raven, amongst others. After a while of performing together and including old Pentagram numbers in their set, the group decided to adopt the Pentagram name and much like the original incarnation of the band, found themselves struggling for years for a record deal. However, this time, their patience was rewarded when they decided to self-release an album in 1985 and begin to earn recognition from a wider section of heavy metal fans. Although the album was self-titled, it would eventually become known as "Relentless," after it was re-released through Peaceville Records in 1993 and is more commonly known by this mantle today. Their second album, "Day Of Reckoning" would follow in 1987, being released through Napalm Records this time. However, tensions rose once again and Pentagram called it a day soon afterwards. A quick reunion followed in 1993, just in time for the band to release their third album, "Be Forewarned" before they split up again.
Once more however, Pentagram would return, this time as a duo comprised of Liebling and Hasselvander and the two released two more albums, "Review Your Choices" in 1999 and "Sub-Basement" in 2001, before Hasselvander left. Rather than letting the band rest once more however, Liebling recruited a brand new lineup and they released, "Show ‘em How" in 2004, which featured only three original tracks, the rest of the record comprising of re-recorded older material. After the album’s release, the band went very quiet and was assumed to have broken up once again, before Liebling confirmed in 2008 that Pentagram were set to return with another new lineup. This time, the reunion shows went down very well with fans and the band found themselves being booked for more shows. After contacting many labels, the group finally found a new home when they signed to Metal Blade Records, through which they will release their new album, "Last Rites," their first in seven years, on April 12th. More...
It’s nice when a band has a pet name for their fan base. For Slipknot, their fans are "Maggots." For Megadeth, it’s "Droogies" and Wolfsbane, it’s "Howling Mad Shitheads." The creators of this delightful tag came together in 1984 in Tamworth, a town situated in Staffordshire, England and rapidly got to work on building up a loyal fan base, releasing a string of demos along the way. Eventually, after five years slogging it out in the underground, they caught the attention of producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin, who signed them to his Def American record label and produced their debut album, "Live Fast, Die Fast: Wicked Tales Of Booze, Birds and Bad Language." The record was released in 1989 and instantly received favourable feedback from critics and heavy metal fans alike, and spawned two music videos for the songs, "Man Hunt" (which was featured on their first demo in 1985) and "I Like It Hot." The success of the album enabled the band to tour their native Britain with heavy metal giants Iron Maiden, who were supporting their "No Prayer For The Dying" album at the time.
The band achieved further praise from their fan base in 1990, when they released the mini album, "All Hell’s Breaking Loose At Kathy Wilson’s Place," a record named after the 1953 sci-fi film, "Invaders From Mars." Their success continued the next year when their second full length studio album, "Down Fall The Good Guys" was released. The record was notable in that it featured the group’s only charting single to date in the form of the track, "Ezy," which reached number 68 in the British Singles Charts. However, their popularity was not up to scratch across the Atlantic and Def American decided to drop the band from the label, citing poor record sales as the primary reason. Despite the setback however, they retained their popularity in the United Kingdom, and were voted the Unsigned Act Of The Year in 1993.
Wolfsbane then appeared to have found a new home with Bronze Company Records, through which they released a live album entitled, "Massive Noise Injection," which was recorded at London’s famous Marquee club in 1993. Following the release of the live album, the group released it’s eponymous third album in 1994, which to this day is hailed by many fans as their greatest work. Despite the perceived commercial revival however, the band were to suffer a serious blow in 1995, when lead singer Blaze Bayley left the group to become the new vocalist of Iron Maiden, who were searching for a new singer following the departure of Bruce Dickinson, resulting in Wolfsbane disbanding shortly afterwards. Though Blaze was only in Maiden for a four year spell, one which featured disappointing record sales and cancelled shows as a result of his allergic reaction to certain stage effects, the band continued to be laid to rest for some time, with Blaze forming a solo band and the other members involved in a new project called Stretch. Eventually however, a reunion of sorts did occur in 2007, in the form of fleeing performances at festivals, but in 2010, the band announced that they had reunited with more long term goals in mind, announcing plans for a new album amongst other targets. The band’s new record, an EP entitled, "Did It For The Money," will finally be released this month, when it hits shelves on April 9th, with a tour of the United Kingdom supporting fellow British metal veterans Saxon to follow. More...
Raised in Long Island, New York the band Twisted Sister started as a seventies local glam band that would evolve into one of the most important heavy metal bands of the eighties (eventually flip-flopping and becoming more heavy metal with a dash of glam, opposite of their initial vision).
Twisted Sister was originally formed in 1972 by Jay Jay French. The band went through several line-up changes until 1979 when it settled on Dee Snider (vocals), Jay Jay French (guitar), Eddie Ojeda (guitar), Mark Mendoza (bass), and A.J. Pero (drums). In 1979 the band self released two singles and then was signed by Secret Records in the UK. With Secret they would release an EP titled “Ruff Cuts” and their first studio album, “Under the Blade,” which quickly became an underground hit. The band would then sign with Atlantic Records and put out their second studio album, “You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll,” in 1983.
In 1984 Twisted Sister shocked the heavy metal world, releasing “Stay Hungry,” their contribution to an era that continues to define a decade. The album caught on with fans as well as government officials, organized as the P.R.M.C. (stands for the Parents Resource Music Center which is the least intimidating name I’ve ever heard). Twisted Sister was called out for their rebellious lyrics in the song “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” It was a strange group that included Twisted Sister, W.A.S.P., and Motley Crue as well as Madonna, Sheena Easton, and Prince. These proceedings eventually led to the “Explicit Material” or Tipper Sticker found on the cover of albums, cassettes, and CDs. After “Stay Hungry” the band would release the album “Come Out and Play” and then later, thought more of a Dee Snider solo project, the album “Love Is for Suckers” was released. More...
Thrash metal was unquestionably a phenomenon considering it reached heavy metal fans all over the globe without ever really becoming mainstream. It also spawned numerous scenes in countries such as Germany, Great Britain and even Brazil. Despite it’s wide travels though, a lot of thrash novices are still surprised that even Australia had a premier thrash outfit during the 1980s. That band was Mortal Sin. The group was formed in Sydney in 1985 by singer Mat Maurer and drummer Wayne Campbell before quickly recruiting bass player Andy Eftichiou and guitarists Keith Krstin and Neville Reynolds, though Reynolds was to befired by the band for being unable to make their first show and was replaced by Paul Carwana. Gigging relentlessly, the band built up a strong following in the Australian metal underground and soon recorded a full length demo tape entitled, "Mayhemic Destruction," which rapidly won the band a record deal with British label, Phonogram Records, who released the album internationally.
They next recorded their sophomore album, "Face Of Despair," which was produced by Randy Burns, who was known for his work with other big name thrash metal bands such as Megadeth and Kreator. The album took the better of a year to recorded and distributed but soon after the record’s release, the band received further exposure by being booked to support Metallica on their Australian tour. Following the tour, Campbell was sacked from the band and the group brought in Slaughter Lord drummer Steve Hughes, who now works as a stand up comedian and has appeared on numerous television shows, to sit behind the kit. They then left the land down under to perform shows in Europe and the United States but once they returned home, Maurer announced he was leaving the band, which soon led to it’s demise, though a new incarnation formed afterwards and, while popular, soon folded ultimately split for a number of reasons.
In 1996 however, the band reunited with most of the, "Face Of Despair" lineup, though Carwana was to take leave almost immediately after reforming. Nevertheless, the band soon recorded a new EP entitled, "Revolution of the Mind" and embarked on a national tour, which did not fare as well as the band hoped and caused them to once again split in 1998. Once again however, the band would rise from the ashes, thanks this time to Maurer and Eftichiou, who enlisted the help of other musicians to bring back Mortal Sin. The band soon found themselves performing at such events as Wacken Open Air and sharing the stage with the likes of Michael Schenker and fellow Aussies, Rose Tattoo. The comeback was well received and the band then recorded their fourth release, "An Absence Of Faith," which was released in 2007. Since then, the band has continued to perform regularly and has supported such big names as Judas Priest, Testament and Overkill, as well as touring in South America, as well as releasing a live album entitled, "Into The Inferno," with a new album expected to be released by next year. More...