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Archive: Sunday Old School Columns

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Sunday Old School: Ratt

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”
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Sunday Old School: Lawnmower Deth

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...

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Sunday Old School: Anvil

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...

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Sunday Old School: Winter

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.”

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Sunday Old School: Samson

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...

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Sunday Old School: W.A.S.P.

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...

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Sunday Old School: Madball

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...

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Sunday Old School: Pentagram

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...

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Sunday Old School: Wolfsbane

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...

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Sunday Old School: Twisted Sister

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...

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Sunday Old School: Mortal Sin

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...

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Sunday Old School: Loudness

It seems that in the Sunday Old School archives, we’ve mostly been looking at bands from Great Britain, Germany and the United States. One of the goals this year is to help expand the knowledge of heavy metal veterans from all over the world. This week, we’re heading to the land of the Rising Sun, as we take a look at Loudness. The band was formed in 1981 in Osaka, after guitarist Akira Takasaki, drummer Munetaka Higuchi and bass player Hiroyuki Tanaka left the pop rock band, Lazy. While looking a for a sound for their new band, they trio stumbled upon the recent wave of Japanese heavy metal bands such as Anthem and Bow Wow and decided to adopt the heavy metal style. Tanaka felt that the style wasn’t for him and left to pursue work in the anime business, with Takasaki inviting his childhood friend Masayoshi Yamashita to become the group’s new bassist, which he accepted. The band was then completed when they recruited Earthshaker vocalist Minoru Niihara, and Loudness was born. They almost immediately signed a record deal with major label Nippon Columbia and released their debut album, "The Birthday Eve" in 1981. The album was only released in Japan but did surprisingly well and the band quickly got to writing and releasing new albums. Two years after their formation and debut, Loudness released their third record, "The Law Of The Devil’s Land," which was popular enough to allow the group to tour the United States.

The group then moved to Europe and recorded two versions of their fourth album, "Disillusion," one in Japanese and one in English, their first album to be translated as such. The attempt at appealing to English speaking audiences paid off and soon they signed a deal with American major label, Atco Records, through whom they released the album, "Thunder In The East," which reached number 74 on the Billboard album charts, thanks in part to the success of the single, "Crazy Night." More chart success would come with their next record, "Lightning Strikes," (released in Japan as "Shadows Of War") which climbed ten places higher than it’s predecessor and reached number 64 on the Billboard charts. However, the chart success meant that the band were forced to try and write more accessible music and Loudness lost much of their fan base in their home country, who felt that they were trying too hard to appeal to the American market. The pressure led to Niihara being fired from the band after they released the "Jealousy" EP, being replaced by American vocalist Mike Vescera, the former singer of Obsession. Unfortunately, the input from Vescera wasn’t the boost the band needed and they found their popularity dwindled in the States. Vescera didn’t stay long with the band either, releasing only two albums and one single before leaving to join Yngwie Malmsteen’s band. More...

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Sunday Old School: Girlschool

Nowadays, heavy metal fans are pretty used to seeing women in bands. Arch Enemy, Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation to name some of the most successful. But in the late 1970s and early 1980s, heavy metal was seen as dominated by white males and bands were accused of scaring away potential female fans by having a macho image and misogynistic lyrics. However, this perception was changed, or at least altered somewhat by four women from London who called themselves, Girlschool. The band was originally a covers outfit named, Painted Lady but eventually decided to begin writing original material, taking their new name from the B-side of the hit song, "Mull Of Kintyre" by Wings. They released their first single, "Take It All Away" in 1978 and received some radio play, as well as a strengthened sense of enthusiasm from the British metal underground. Not least of the people to take an interest in the group was Motorhead main man Lemmy, who offered Girlschool a supporting slot on their "Overkill" tour. After supporting Welsh rock favourites, Budgie, the band auditioned for, and received, a record deal with Bronze Records.

The band then recorded their debut album, "Demolition," which was released in 1980. The album was well timed, as several other British heavy metal bands such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Motorhead all released albums which were wildly successful and helped the fledgling New Wave Of British Heavy Metal explode in popularity. "Demolition" was successful in and of itself too, reaching number 28 in the British album charts and featured some of the band’s best known work and saw Girlschool becoming one of the most popular bands in the movement. Their popularity continued to grow when they teamed up with Motorhead for an EP entitled, "St. Valentine’s Day Massacre" under the collective pseudonym, Headgirl, which reached number five in the British charts and featured the hit single, “Please Don’t Touch.” The band soon got back to their own work and released the album, "Hit And Run" in 1981, which was even more successful than it’s predecessor, reaching number five in the charts and earned the group supporting slots with the likes of Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Rush. More...

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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 4. Immortal

As many people are aware, February is Black History Month in the United States of America. Always one to respect cultures and take part in something, we here at MetalUnderground.com are dedicating this month to the history of Black Metal. We will be looking at some of the biggest names in the genre, those who helped to shape it, and some of the promising younger black metal bands in the underground.

The most ardent fans of the genre might say that black metal is immortal. Whether or not that’s true, Immortal is certainly black metal, and could be considered by some to be the poster boys of the scene, since practically every picture mocking black metal features the band and there’s even a Facebook group dedicated to inserting Immortal into any and every picture. Regardless of how they may be seen by some, there’s no denying that the group are one of the most popular that emerged from the Norwegian black metal scene in the early 1990’s. The origins of the band can be traced to one of the first extreme metal bands in Norway, Old Funeral, which featured future Immortal members Demonaz and Abbath, as well as including one Varg Vikernes in the lineup at one point. Abbath then began forming other musical projects, including Amputation, before deciding to form Immortal, which featured members of Old Funeral and Amputation, resulting in the demise of the former.

The band gained a following in the black metal underground after releasing a number of EPs and demos, but their popularity increased largely when their music video for the song, “The Call Of The Wintermoon,” from their debut full length album, “Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism,” was shown on television. Although the station mocked the band and the video has been a source of parody ever since, it helped gain awareness for the group and they soon got to work on new material, culminating in “Pure Holocaust,” which received rave reviews and has since gone on to be considered one of the best black metal albums of the 90s, if not all time. It was a departure from the previous album lyrically, discarding the supposed Satanic themes and concentrating more on ice, snow and blizzards. The album was recorded solely by Demonaz and Abbath, as they had not found a drummer yet, which came a few weeks later in the form of Grim, though he was to be fired from the band before Immortal recorded their next album, “Battles In The North,” which is considered to be another outstanding work in the field of black metal. After filming two more music videos for the songs, “Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms” and "Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)" with Mayhem drummer, Hellhammer, the band finally found a permanent drummer in Horgh and the group recorded their next album, “Blizzard Beasts,” which featured a more experimental sound than their previous work, which was considered straight up black metal. More...

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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 3. Emperor

As many people are aware, February is Black History Month in the United States of America. Always one to respect cultures and take part in something, we here at MetalUnderground.com are dedicating this month to the history of Black Metal. We will be looking at some of the biggest names in the genre, those who helped to shape it, and some of the promising younger black metal bands in the underground.

The Emperor is dead, long live the Emperor! Or at least that’s how the rallying cry goes these days, and with good reason. Bands like Immortal and Marduk may still be churning out albums in our current decade, but if there is one name synonymous with black metal, it is Emperor. In honor of black metal history month, we previously looked at two bands that influenced early black metal (Sodom and King Diamond), and now we’ll delve into the heart of the subject with a band that represents the core ideals and sounds of the genre.

Despite having only recorded four main studio albums, the last of which came out a full decade ago, Emperor is still one of the most widely known, widely respected, and widely requested black metal bands in existence. The group of kids from Norway who became Emperor probably had no idea what they were going to eventually birth when they started putting together rasping screams and freezing cold atmosphere. Emperor has left a lasting mark on the world of extreme metal, and not just for fans of Norwegian black metal. More...

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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 2. King Diamond

As many people are aware, February is Black History Month in the United States of America. Always one to respect cultures and take part in something, we here at MetalUnderground.com are dedicating this month to the history of Black Metal. We will be looking at some of the biggest names in the genre, those who helped to shape it and some of the promising younger black metal bands in the underground.

It seems every genre of music has it’s great storytellers. Country music has Johnny Cash, folk rock has Bob Dylan, Hip-Hop has Slick Rick and heavy metal? We have King Diamond. King Diamond, (born Kim Bendrix Petersen in Copenhagen, Denmark,) and his image have become one of the iconic staples of metal music, being one of the first heavy metal performers to popularise the black and white face paint which is so common today, particularly in black metal, a genre which King helped launch with his previous band, Mercyful Fate, as well as his eponymous band, which he launched in 1985 with the single, "No Presents For Christmas."

Following the single’s release, the King Diamond band released their first album, "Fatal Portrait," on which five of the songs told a short story about a spirit being imprisoned in a candle. The album is notable for being only one of two King Diamond albums that are not complete concept albums. It gained the band a following, which strengthened tenfold when the group released their next studio album, "Abigail," widely considered to be the best album King Diamond has recorded. This album was solely dedicated to telling the story of a young couple who arrive at a mansion and discover the macabre history the house possesses. A new album followed the next year, simply entitled, "Them," which contained the song, "Welcome Home," perhaps the band’s most well known song, not least for it’s inclusion in the Kevin Smith comedy film, "Clerks 2." A sequel named, “Conspiracy” was released in 1989. Both albums were well received by fans but garnered a lukewarm reception from critics and were the last King Diamond albums recorded with drummer Mikkey Dee, now a member of Motorhead. More...

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Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 1. Sodom

As many people are aware, February is Black History Month in the United States of America. Always one to respect cultures and take part in something, we here at MetalUnderground.com are dedicating this month to the history of Black Metal. We will be looking at some of the biggest names in the genre, those who helped to shape it and some of the promising younger black metal bands in the underground.

While American thrash metal has it’s Big Four, with constant debate among fans as to who belongs there and who should be added to expand the number, German thrash metal has always had their Three Kings, who’s reign will never be challenged. We’ve already looked at Destruction, so this week we’ll be examining Sodom, who along with Destruction, proved to be a major influence on black metal as it is known today. The band was formed in 1981 by Tom “Angelripper” Such as an attempt to escape from his job as a coal miner and took much of their inspiration from New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands such as Venom, Tank and Saxon. After going through a few members, they eventually signed to SPV/Steamhammer Records and released their debut EP, “In The Sign Of Evil,” with a full length album, “Obsessed By Cruelty” following shortly afterwards. The album was widely panned by critics, dismissing the group as a second rate Venom and criticising their occult themed lyrics. More...

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Sunday Old School: Motley Crue

The story of Motley Crue is not a well kept secret. In fact, turn on your television there is a twenty percent chance you will still see them right now. Albeit there is less than a one percent chance they will be performing. The band is made up of founder Nikki Sixx (bass), Vince Neil (vocals), Tommy Lee (drums), and Mick Mars (guitar).

In 1981 Motley Crue released the album "Too Fast For Love" on their own label, Leathur Records. A mix of hard rock, glam, and punk, "Too Fast For Love" (because it was their own label), was essentially a demo tape until Elektra picked it up and rereleased in 1982. The raw energy on this album laid the foundation for eight studio albums to follow.

"Shout At The Devil": This was Nikki Sixx’s black magic time. This is most often labeled as the greatest of the Crue albums from die-hard fans. Next, "Theatre of Pain": The album that established Motley as a glam band, too much glam for most. As if planned (probably not given the heroin usage at this time), "Girls, Girls, Girls" was the next album aimed at toning down the glam side, placing the focus on motorcycles and strippers. The next album became their most popular, "Dr. Feelgood." This is also the first album with the band was sober, coincidence? For those concerned about the strippers, they were still there. They never left after the "Girls, Girls, Girls" record.

After Vince left the band (or was fired), Nikki and Co. created a self titled album that sounded pretty cool, but just didn’t sound right without Neil. After several years the band got back together for "Generation Swine," an honest effort to grow musically and try new things. Despite a couple minor hits, it didn’t work. A few years later (without Tommy) the Crue would put out, "New Tattoo," an attempt to back to the original Motley sound, also just not quite there (which is probably directly related to a missing Tommy Lee). Most recently, Motley released "Saints of Los Angeles" (reviewed here), originally a record to compliment their autobiography, "The Dirt," their ninth studio album delivered, pleasing both their die-hard fans as well as a few critics. More...

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Sunday Old School: Extreme Noise Terror

Recently, the English county of Suffolk was given a shock when Cradle Of Filth frontman, Dani Filth, who hails from Ipswich town, was voted the county’s greatest cultural icon. But many fans of extreme metal and punk who have been around for a while would perhaps instead prefer this title to go to Extreme Noise Terror, one of the most influential grindcore and crust punk bands of all time. The group formed in 1985, also in the town of Ipswich and were notable for being one of the few bands that utilised the use of two vocalists, being inspired in this angle by Antisect. Before long, the band signed with Manic Ears Records and released a split LP with Chaos UK entitled, "Radioactive Earslaughter." Around this time, the band were being grouped with another bunch of British bands, including Napalm Death and Bolt Thrower, under an ever changing label, eventually becoming known as grindcore, though the band expressed discomfort with the term.

After releasing the split LP with Chaos UK, the band attracted the attention of legendary DJ John Peel, who offered them a prestigious "Peel Session" slot, which in turn allowed ENT to record their debut full length album, ”A Holocaust In Your Head,” which has since become one of the most acclaimed grindcore albums in history. The band continued to garner interest from strange places, not least when they were contacted by Bill Drummond of legendary acid house band, The KLF. Drummond asked Extreme Noise Terror to re-record the KLF song, "3 A.M. Eternal," with the intention of getting the band television time on the famous Top of the Pops program. Despite the good performance of the single, the BBC denied the band an appearance on the show, fearing the song wasn’t appropriate for broadcast, which led to The KLF boycotting the program. However, the two groups did team up for a performance at the 1992 BRIT Awards, which made national news when the performance culminated in a machine gun being fired into the crowd.

Following this controversy, Extreme Noise Terror continued to tour wherever they could, going through a number of lineup changes in the process. Eventually, the band signed a new deal with Earache Records, re-recording a wealth of old material for the, “Retro-bution” release. Not long after however, the band faced one of their biggest challenges when vocalist Phil Vane left the band, but the band was helped when Napalm Death vocalist Barney Greenway, who had just been fired from his band, decided to join ENT. Funnily enough, Phil Vane became the new singer for Napalm Death, although he would never record an album with them. Now with Greenway in tow, the band got to work on a new studio album, resulting in, "Damage 381." The album saw the band enter a more death metal orientated area, incorporating blast beats and more screams. Following the release of the album however, Greenway returned to Napalm Death and Vane eventually came back to ENT. Since then, the band has continued to change members, with vocalist Dean Jones remaining the only constant member, as Vane left again in 1999, only to return in 2006. The band continue to tour and record new material, often in the form of split EPs. More...

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Sunday Old School: Burzum

Given the news earlier this week that Burzum would be releasing a new studio album in March, it seemed as good a time as any to take a look back at the band, and it's sole member, Varg Vikernes, who has in the past been called, "The most evil man alive" by the media. Whether or not Vikernes is the Darth Vader of metal music is open to interpretation, but the fact that many people have claimed to enjoy the music of Burzum, while proclaiming to hate the man himself, is proof that Burzum really is one of the best bands from the Norwegian black metal scene.

Vikernes formed Burzum in 1991, shortly after leaving the death metal band, Old Funeral, of which he was the guitarist. Two demo tapes were quickly recorded and caught the attention of Øystein Aarseth, the founder of the Deathlike Silence Productions label and also the guitarist of Mayhem, in which he used to the stage name, Euronymous. Aarseth decided to sign Burzum to his label and work on the self-titled Burzum album began shortly afterwards, with Euronymous guesting on the track, "War," performing a guitar solo. The album saw a release in 1992, making Burzum only the second band to have a record released by the label. After the release of the album, Vikernes became interested in recruiting musicians so that Burzum could perform live, going so far as to bring in Emperor bassist Samoth. Samoth would not stay in the band long however and only recorded on the "Aske" EP, after which Vikernes had no interest in transforming Burzum into a live band.

Now on his own again, Vikernes recorded a wealth of material from 1992 to 1993, the first of which to be released was the album, "Det son engang var," in 1993. Around this time, Vikernes was also recruited to perform bass duties in Mayhem, though he still composed and recorded music for Burzum. Unbeknownst to anyone however, "Det son engang var" would prove to be the last album Vikernes would release as a free man, as he was arrested later that year for killing Øystein Aarseth, his Mayhem bandmate. The reasons for the muder remain debated but Vikernes claims that he went solely to hand over an unsigned record contract, and retaliated after Aarseth attacked him first, climaxing in a fatal stab would to the head. He was convicted in May 1994 (the same month his album, "Hvis lyset tar oss" was released) and sentenced to twenty one years imprisonment, which is the maximum length of a prison sentence in Norway. In addition to the killing of Aarseth, Vikernes was charged with burning several Norwegian churches, something he claims he was wrongly convicted of. More...

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