Nightman Listens To – Judas Priest – Painkiller (Top 500 Metal Album Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! We’re back with our third Judas Priest album, and with this one it at least has one song I’m familiar with. The Title track is an obvious classic of the genre. I think my foray into the bonkers world of Ju-Pre, as they shall henceforth always be known, has been mostly positive. Having only known their big singles previously, they were maybe the most jarring gap in my classic Metal knowledge. I’m looking forward to this – I mean, look at the absolute state of this album cover:

Painkiller | Raves From The Grave

What the holy hell is that? If it’s not the most Metal thing you’ve ever seen, I don’t know what to say. It could only be more Metal if that cyborg angel had massive breasts. I mean, this is Ju-Pre, so boobies might be a no-no. But just look at the ecstasy on the face of this future-medieval marauder. He’s just singlehandedly won Superbowl MMXXV, earning 14 Trillion Moon Credits, and found out that his mistress has given birth to solid gold triplets. To celebrate, like any sane freak would, he erupts into the atmosphere on his Harley-Dragonson, a motorcycle/wyvern hybrid so badass that even having a giant silver-plated scythe rotating at 96 mph in its mouth can’t slow it down. The exhaust appears to be a chrome-based swordfish, his cute little boots are all spiky, and the speed the machine is travelling at is fast enough to reduce the city below to a nuclear wasteland. I don’t even need to listen to the album now, my Metal quota for the year has been surpassed.

‘Painkiller’ is in many ways the quintessential Metal opening track and title track. I could even argue that, from an outsider perspective it’s the quintessential Metal song; It’s fast, loud, brash, obnoxious, not pleasant to listen to, and has thunderous, technically proficient instrumentation. It’s completely over the top and ridiculous in every way. It speeds up at various points, Rob’s screeching is almost unbearable, and there are guitar solos every couple of minutes. In short, it sounds like war. It’s why people who don’t like Metal will hate it, people who do like Metal will love it. It’s everything which the cover art promises. It’s also the only song on the album I was already familiar with, so I’ve no idea if the others have this energy or if they simply can’t compete. It’s a glorious six minutes which every Metal fan should hold dear, at the very least as a part of history even if you’re not a fan of the band.

‘Hell Patrol’ begins with a clattering Am I Evil introduction before settling into a series of metal clichés. It seems to be some sort of dedication to Metal in general – bands, fans, you get it. It’s lyrically very silly and is a prime example of what non-Metal fans think of when they accuse Metal of lacking intelligence. Outside of that intro, there isn’t much going for it musically. It’s still enjoyable – because I enjoy big chugging guitars and twiddly solos – but it’s by the numbers.

‘All Guns Bazing’ is more of the same. Fast paced, more amusing lyrics. In fact, this album as a whole is like you threw a pile of Metal buzzwords into a computer and it pumped out AI generated lyrics. Tasty solo in the middle, bit of a tempo change which gives the main riff a different flavour. It’s fun but not a stand out. The intro is hilarious though.

‘Leather Rebel’ feels like the band is trolling us at this point. I’m sure they’ve already mentioned leather several times by this point, but lets have another. More silly lyrics, but this one is a step up musically. It feels like they’ve put more thought in to make it melodic and as such it’s the best song since the opener.

‘Metal Meltdown’ opens with a Judas Priest version of Eruption, as every True Metal song should. An unusually repetitive vocal in the verse, the pre-chorus verges on unlistenable, and the chorus is Def Leppard style chanting shite. But, it’s fast, angry, and sometimes that’s enough.

‘Night Crawler’ succeeds because of a fairly catchy chorus and riff. The verses are good too, though very plain. You know the formula by now – silly lyrics, fast guitars, generally fun atmosphere. It goes off in more interesting off-shoots than most of the other songs – slower, whispered sections which are supposed to be scary or evocative of whatever a night crawler is. But those add a different musical slant, momentarily.

‘Between The Hammer And The Anvil’ has a breath in breath out guitar intro before it remembers that it should be fast and loud. Then it goes fast and loud. A more notable solo in the middle of it all.

‘A Touch Of Evil’ merges neatly with the previous song and is the one slower song on the album, and the one coming closest to a love song of sorts. It’s pretty good and doesn’t change the pace or intent or tone of the album. Due to its slower pace and solid melodies, it’s another standout.

‘Battle Hymn’ is a brief instrumental intro to the closing track. It’s good.

‘One Shot At Glory’ is the requisite epic closer. While the solos are as fast and furious as you would expect, the pace of the overall song isn’t as intense as most of the other tracks. It’s well layered though and they’ve clearly tried to make this one a more subtle bookend to the album than the opening track – equally long and reaching, but without the buck mental vibe.

It’s not big or clever, well, it is big. Fast too. But it isn’t clever. The title track deserves some better support – it’s like they threw everything they had at the title track then tacked on some other leftovers which are little more than ‘play fast and say words like marauders, night, and leather’. All that sounds very negative, but if you’re looking for a straightforward, no frills Metal album then you’ll get fewer better than this. There’s little irritating in there, there’s no nonsense, no ballads, no asides, and none of the songs go on too long. It’s stripped back, right down the middle, loud, fast, distorted Metal. Even as the individual songs aren’t stand-outs, they’re all a hell of a lot of fun, and consistently so. The title track is a ten, and everything else is a 6. It’s the most consistent Judas Priest album I’ve heard so far. It’s well worth a listen, but I suspect it’s only existing Metal fans who will enjoy it.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Painkiller. Touch Of Evil. Leather Rebel.

Nightman Listens To – ACDC – Highway To Hell (Top 500 Metal Albums)!

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Greetings, Glancers! For anyone who has stumbled upon this post via the power of Googling (or even Binging), I should explain what I’m doing here. Basically, it’s like those reaction videos on Youtube where people (usually rap fans or young’uns or idiots) listen to a rock or metal song for the first time and pretend to be shocked and amazed. I’m doing that, except without the visual, or the faking. And given that I’m a Northern Irish fella, nothing really shocks or amazes me.

A little about me then – I’ve always been into rock music, from as far as I can remember. I was a kid in the 80s, but hit my musical peak in the 90s, living through the death of hair metal, grunge, brit pop, and rock music as a popular form. When I was a kid, ACDC was one of those holy bands that everyone talked about and was supposed to love. Not knowing any better, and only knowing a handful of their songs, I assumed I loved them too. It’s only when I got older and heard more of their stuff that I realised… they’re not very good. Limited musically, screechy vocals the likes of which tend to be heard during a beheading, and silly teenage boy lyrics about boobies. In essence, it’s a hair metal band but without the make-up and stupid clothes. But beyond Back In Black I’ve never listened to one of their albums in full. So maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’ll love this. Maybe I’ll eat my own words like an anti-politician. I doubt it, but we’ll see. Before we begin, lets have a laugh at the album cover, which sees fake Mick Jagger wearing a hair-band of thorns, and swishing his tail around all la-di-da like. The rest of the boys seem to have forgotten they’re taking part in a photo-shoot which will see them appear in shops in front of millions, and instead seems to be either laughing at something happening in the background, waiting anxiously for the cameraman to ask them to ‘say cheese’, or simply look bewildered because they have never seen a camera before. In any case, the whole thing is a shambles. There are two songs here I know already. Lets see what the others have in store.

Highway To Hell‘ opens the album. You know it, I know it. It’s actually one I don’t mind. I sure don’t love it, but you can’t escape you catchy it is.

Girls Got Rhythm‘ is the sort of title and song which makes you wonder if the band ever got any. It’s as simple a rock song as you’ll find – couple of chords followed by a riff. It’s straight blues with added crunch and white boy swagger. I admit there is a charm in hearing a Classic Rock song for the first time – I have nostalgia for the whole genre which covers up any cracks. It’s not bad – it has a solid beat and repetitive nature which ensures its place as a party song (I imagine). There’s not a lot to it of course, and none of the melodies or instrumentals are particularly strong.

Walk All Over You‘ opens with a touch more imagination. Drums and guitars taking turns and playing – playing the same thing over and over yes – then the main riff drops and the pace picks up. It’s more Blues Classic rock stylings. Again, I can see drunks dancing to it. It falls apart when the chorus and the backing vocals drop. It’s distinctly average – I imagine it was popular because it dropped at the exactly right time in the US when they were crying out for this sort of party music. It has no business being longer than 5 minutes.

Touch Too Much‘ is the other song I know. Like any number of AC-DC songs it is a mid-pace stomper – you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for Highway To Hell, so similar is the pace, structure, and beat. Naturally the melodies and guitar work are different enough to keep such comparisons at bay. It’s as good as the title track and if you like that there’s absolutely no reason why you won’t enjoy this.

Beating Around The Bush‘ is another song title which might have made me snigger when I was 10. To its credit it starts out with a more interesting riff and launches with a furious pace. It somehow almost feels Country. The pace relents briefly for the chorus before getting straight back to the verse. This one is quite fun.

Shot Down In Flames‘ starts out in traditional fashion – I’ve a feeling a large part of why I don’t get the band like others do is the the drums. So often there is zero variance with the drumming. It feels very much like a session drummer who has been brought in for a pay cheque to simply lay down the bare minimum – there’s no life or attempt at style or colour. The song itself is fine – it’s not any better or worse than most of the other stuff that I’ve heard them do.

Get It Hot‘ is further proof of my drumming statement. It’s like they got the session drummer for 20 minutes to record one song, then they just copied and pasted the same parts over every other song. I’m adding my own fills with my mouth as I listen – it’s really not that difficult to make a song standout by adding an extra couple of beats and blasts here and there. This is more of the same, musically, lyrically. AC-DC are just like Status Quo, except they look more like farmers than Quo do.

If You Want Blood‘ is a song I think I’ve hard before, I just can’t place it. The song builds a little differently from the others, but then the verse starts and it’s identical to the previous song, even the riffs. It’s amazing to me how such an unimaginative band became so successful, in a genre which frequently demands innovation – or did around the time this was recorded. It’s lowest common denominator rock.

Love Hungry Man‘ opens with big chords but once the cymbals come in I know what’s coming. Wait for it. Wait for it. There it is. Same beat. At least the guitar approach in the verse is slightly different. The chorus is almost the same as Alright Now. Straightforward easy rock with no strings attached. And that’s just not enough for me – where’s the skill? Where’s the feeling? What sets them apart from any wedding band? The farmer look?

Night Prowler‘ is the longest song on the album, to close things out. It opens fairly slowly, and I can just about imagine the slow walking pace of some weirdo going to the beat. Also, the drummer actually does something different here! Unfortunately the band just can’t get it right and the slow pace only heightens their deficiencies. They’re just…. not very interesting. There’s a slow and loose solo in there somewhere. It’s a three minute song stretched to 6.30 by halving the pace.

It’s far from a bad album, let me be clear. Most of my criticism for the band is just down to personal taste. At a stretch I could say my personal test touches upon some genuine critical insight – they are a repetitive band, they are formulaic, they’re not the most engaging or technical musicians. But then I listen to and love plenty of other artists I could make the same argument for. So personal taste then – I understand why others enjoy these songs, and given the right time, place, and frame of mind I can enjoy them too. But the majority of the time they feel like overly simple, average rock songs. As mentioned, the classic rock sound has a special place in my heart, so hearing songs from that genre that I haven’t heard before does give me some kind of fuzzies, but that quickly fades as each song progresses through the same beats. Like a lot of bands, I think nostalgia is what keeps them selling, but people are coming around to the realization that many of these acts of the 60s, 70s, 80s, had a handful of decent tracks and the rest were empty re-treads.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Highway To Hell. Beating Around The Bush.

Nightman Listens To – Motley Crue – Shout At The Devil (Top 500 Metal Albums Series)!

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Greetings, Glancers! Not that I’ve heard the album as yet so I can’t say for sure, but I’m already wondering why this album is so high on Popoff’s list. I’ve no doubt it was influential and I know it was successful – but I have sever doubts over whether or not it’s any good given what songs I’ve heard by Motley Crue and the fact that it’s influence probably only spread as far as making wuss metal popular. I mean, look at that front cover – are we to take this seriously? We have Thunderdome Cher in the top left, She-Ra’s pre-teen sister top right, bottom right is one a groupie for the WWF’s Road Warriors, while bottom right is a frog masquerading as a human male masquerading as a human female. But that was the style of the time. When I was growing up in the 80s and early 90s as a metal and grunge kid, I wasn’t particularly fussy over how my metal performers looked or even sounded – as long as it was loud, fast, and felt angry and dangerous that was good enough for me. Crue was definitely a band I claimed to like in front of the bigger kids and I would have written their name and logo into my school books. But with time comes maturity, expectation, wisdom, and we begin to cut the chaff away and hone in what we truly feel kinship for. It wasn’t long before Crue went the same way as almost every other Hair and Glam metal band. Looking at that album cover now – there’s nothing rebellious, there’s no danger… it’s merely four blokes asking to be ridiculed.

As for what I know about the songs contained within – there are a few I’ve heard before – the title track, Looks That Kill, and I think I’ve heard their version of Helter Skelter before. Their bigger hits would come later so presumably this is the one where they first got noticed. Part of the reason I embarked on this journey was to fill in the gaps in my own musical knowledge as a fan of music, but more specifically of metal but perhaps more importantly to re-evaluate or challenge my preconceptions or long held opinions on artists I’ve liked or disliked, and see if I feel any different now. So lets do this.

In The Beginning: A brief instrumental intro which presumably tries to be ominous and threatening, but loses any credibility with the cheesy spoken vocals. Still, it does serve well as a bridge to the first track.

Shout At The Devil: There’s a tone, a guitar tone which most hair metal bands have – it lacks the crunch and vicious nature of say, G’n’R. Throw in the screechy indecipherable vocals and you can understand why I’m not overly enamoured by a song which is known to be a classic of the genre. It does succeed in being groovy and has a decent enough series of riffs. What angers me most, personal taste and it goes with most similar artists, is that fist pumping choral vocal – that’s the one quality about 80s metal I can’t abide.

Looks That Kill: Another one I’m familiar with. A fine parade of lead riffs, and the chorus is easily remembered. Lyrically, it does that glam thing of merging sex with your typical violent metal vocabulary and it hasn’t yet been watered down to sub Carry On levels of silliness. It’s very plain, uncomplex, but you can see why it sold so well.

Bastard: This one opens well with drums flashing all over the place. It falls apart a little at the verse as the music pulls back rather than maintaining the pace. The chorus goes a little in the annoying shouty direction, and rather amusingly is sounds like they’re shouting ‘fast’ or ‘plaster’ but certainly not ‘Bastard’. I can imagine all the little rebels fist-pumping to the chorus – it is catchy for its faults, but it’s a little juvenile.

God Bless The Children Of The Beast: This is a genuinely strong instrumental, sweet, nuanced, it’s just a pity it feels like filler in that it doesn’t really go anywhere – it doesn’t try to reach the next level. Maybe it doesn’t need to, but I feel that I’d listen to it more if it went through more dynamic changes. No need for the single line of vocals at the end.

Helter Skelter: Yes it’s the requisite cover. The original somehow feels heavier, even with all the chugging guitars and solos. It’s not bad by any means, but I’d stick to the original.

Red Hot: I think it would unfair to say many of these songs sound unfinished – it’s just that they’re so short. They’re not aggressive enough to be punk, more technical but still basic. They get to the point quickly and without arsing around, but because of that they feel less metal.

Too Young To Fall In Love: I actually think the choral vocals work well here, maybe because it’s not just a single word which is being shouted, maybe because I quite like the melody of the refrain. It’s a song I’d gladly hear again, but another which feels short, undercooked, or like something is missing.

Knock Em Dead Kid: The tone here has more crunch and bite, it does do some of the annoying shouting. The riff is simple and its all very repetitive, yet I don’t mind. Possibly because I don’t remember hearing this before, possibly because the band is winning me over? I wouldn’t go that far. It ends with some standard twiddling.

Ten Seconds To Love: This is as cheesy and silly as the album has been so far, with lots of talk of squeezing triggers and the like. The tone is full glam again and the silly shouts are out in force – this is the bad shit I’ve been talking about.

Danger: This has a spirited intro almost as if they want it to be their epic. Of course it’s only four minutes long so I know it isn’t going to go far. The vocals are terrible, the rougher, edgier guitar tone is thankfully back – the riffs are good again but the chorus melody and attitude is silly. Who says something like ‘you’re in danger when the boys are around’ with a straight face? Or at all? Clean up the vocals and entirely change the chorus and this would be much stronger.

Let’s get this out of the way first – it’s not as embarrassing as I was expecting it to be. I already knew a few of the songs and didn’t have any strong opinions about them either way, but based on other songs by the band I expected it to be more glam nonsense. I suspect because this was earlier in their journey they had more ambition and venom about them which became dulled the richer they became. It’s a surprisingly brief and brisk listen, barely half an hour long. That’s refreshing because there’s no messing about, but the whole and the individual parts feel lightweight. In total, it isn’t as bad as I feared.

However, it’s nowhere near as good as it thinks and while it’s a tad more aggressive than what is usually found in hair metal, it’s the aggression of a pup snarling because you took its favourite slipper away. There’s little substance or creativity or depth to keep me coming back and they don’t sound like a band who have anything more to say. It’s party rock for dude-bros – the same people who listen to Grime or Trap or whatever the hell is supposed to be popular yet gritty now; it’s poser-store-bought rebellion to middle class teens miffed because mom won’t let them borrow the sedan on Friday night, it’s metal because playing loud and fast happened to be trendy at the time. I’d still jump around if it came on in a club and I was drunk, because I have no self-respect. It has its place, and it serves its purpose a little more than adequately.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Shout At The Devil!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Looks That Kill. God Bless The Children Of The Beast. Too Young To Fall In Love.

Nightman Listens To – Black Sabbath – Debut (Top 500 Metal Albums Series)!

Greetings, Glancer! Or should I say ‘Greeeeeeeee-tiiiinnnnnnnnngs, Glaaa-aaa-aaaanc-eeeerrrrrs’? Because that’s Doom Metal – slow, foreboding, and pretty much single-handedly created by Black Sabbath. Hailing from the ‘why would anyone want to live there’ town of Birmingham, featuring Ozzy, Tony, Geezer, and Bill Ward, Sabbath is the band most people would call the first true Heavy Metal band. Now I know there’s a whole argument surrounding when Metal as a genre truly started, and that there were Metal or Metal-esque songs before Black Sabbath. In reality, that’s all bullshit. Other acts had been playing heavy music before, other bands had even coined the term, and other artists had been writing lyrics about war, death, demons, and all of that creepy stuff years earlier, but the fact is that Black Sabbath was the first to mix it all together and craft it into a uniquely evil sound – the riffs, the tone, the vocals, the foreboding bass, the thunderous beat, the lyrics and image and surrounding hysteria all swirled into a single package, and thus Heavy Metal as we know it today was born.

Some of my personal feelings on Black Sabbath; I’ve probably mentioned it elsewhere on the blog, but I’m much more of a Black Sabbath Greatest Hits kind of guy. I’m almost certain I’ve heard this album (and others) the whole way through, but in general it’s the same key songs I listen to. It’s not like Metallica or Maiden or any of my other favourite bands where I enjoy the mid-album, non-single tracks as much as their hits, no, with Sabbath it’s mainly their hits. Mainly, as there are a few non-hits I have in my rotation. With that being said, it’s a while since I’ve listened to a full Sabbath album and so I’ll be rectifying that today with their 1970 self-titled debut.

The seven songs here feature two cover versions, both given that Sabbath once-over, but it’s their original material and their title track which are the most infamous. The band was critically derided when they first arrived on the scene as sub-standard heavy blues rock with silly lyrics, but their debut was nevertheless a commercial success. Later critics would come around. It’s funny that all of the Satanic Panic hogwash was assigned to the band by their followers and the surrounding media, rather than the band themselves. Of course, they would lap it up. Before we get stuck in, lets have a gander at that cover art:

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Now I don’t know about you, but that artwork has always struck me as genuinely creepy. The washed out colours, the desolate surroundings, the apparently begotten building, and of course, the pale faced banshee blasting a cursed gaze into our souls with her pit black eyes. Is she a demon? Is she a nun? Is she even a women, because with the right amount of liquor she kind of looks like Ozzy. You can see where a thousand Black Metal bands got their artwork inspiration from. When most Metal bands try to be sinister or scary it comes off as ridiculous, like when a toddler tries to punch your shin in a genuine attempt to cause serious injury. Here, I feel it works – that creature, though forlorn, has clearly been up to no good in that house in the background; she’s probably killed a family, stolen the baby and stashed it up her habit, and is now walking towards us – with every diseased step pressing decay into the very Earth, scorching the ground for eternity, with every step she gets closer to reaching out through the artwork in your hand and placing her maggot-wet fingers around your throat, squeezing as the first shimmer of a smile creeps from her lips. Or maybe she’s just the woman from the Scottish Widows commercials who got caught short on the way to pick up some Insurance. Life Insurance. For her dead husband. WHO SHE MURDERED AND ATE!

Black Sabbath: I’ve spoken before in these posts about the critical importance of first impressions. Your first song has to nail it. That’s exactly what Sabbath does with their self-titled track. It’s not a pleasant experience. Remember, this was 1969/70, the height of hippy happiness and love and all that balls. These guys open their career with the sound of rain and funeral bells. Then that huge riff comes in like a bomb, the final note wriggling like bait on a hook, while Ozzy announces the immortal ‘what is this that stands before me’. It must have been a shock when it was released, and taken as a whole there wasn’t anything else like it. There’s an ounce or two of theatricality as Ozzy howls ‘oh no no please God help me’ and when the song gets up to a gallop they unleash an unholy noise which kicked soil over the eyes of the hippy dream.

The Wizard: It wouldn’t be 70s without some harmonica. Even it is given an evil spin, yawning out like an ogre stretching out of bed before an morning snack of bones. The guitar follows the yawning before branching off into a set of furious riffs of its own. Ozzy’s vocals aren’t amazing technically, but they are unique and fit the overall tone. Even with the volume and Ward’s manic drumming, this is a jive.

Behind The Wall Of Sleep: A lesser known song, it still packs a punch. It feels like an improvised jam, but it’s very tight. It’s the central riff – not one of Iommi’s best – which brings the whole thing together. It’s another mixture of blues and heavy rock with a little taste of funk, but the growl of the guitars and the technicality send it firmly into the realm of metal.

NIB: One of the most famous bass solos ever – probably the most famous until For Whom The Bell Tolls. Then the main riff comes in, and it’s very Cream inspired. That’s fine as they crush it with sledgehammer power. It’s the first song where the lyrics seem Satanic, calling out Lucifer by name. Even though it’s a love song where the devil becomes good. It’s the middle section I really love here, on top of the great riff – everything from the ‘my love for you’ melody, all the way through the extended instrumental section is terrific. Then they swirl it all around and run through it again.

Evil Woman: Not an original I was ever familiar with until I searched it out to see what the fuss was about, Sabbath’s take is slower, lower, and grimy. It does feel quite poppy, especially that chorus, and almost doesn’t align with the tone of the rest of the album. In the US the song was replaced by the original Wicked World which probably is a better tonal fit even if it is a pretty upbeat and bouncy song too.

Sleeping Village: Yes, back on track with a sinister opening and some sort of Didgeridoo stuff going on. Apparently it’s called a Jew’s Harp, but that sounds offensive. The song loses its way after the intro and doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, beyond a series of random chords and tumbling drums. If anything it’s a showcase for how good Ward and Butler are.

Warning: We close with a cover, and it’s a long’un. 10 minutes plus. Again, I’m not familiar with the original. I don’t think I have any real need to hear it. I do like how the previous track bleeds into this one only for a funky riff to take over. It’s mainly an instrumental and each member gets to show off, but it shows how tight they were as a collective unit too. Solos and rattling and rumbling all tip over each other, compliment each other. There’s some crazy guitar in the middle of this, proving that Iommi wasn’t just a riff master but could shred with the best of them too. And it just keeps going.

Definitely a case of the first half being stronger than the second. The second isn’t bad by any stretch, but it doesn’t compare with the near perfect first half. The best of this and the best of their next album would have made for one hell of a record. As it stands, it’s still one of the great debuts and a must-listen for anyone really. Even if you’re not a rock or metal fan, no music fan should pass it over as a vital part of history. If you are a rock and metal fan, then there’s no excuse. Some of these songs should be etched into your being.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Black Sabbath!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Black Sabbath. The Wizard. NIB.

Nightman Listens To – Pantera – Vulgar Display Of Power (Top 500 Metal Albums Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! We return to the Top 500 Metal Albums series with an album I was familiar with in my youth but which I haven’t really listened too since. To me, when you mention the Big Four (which typically meant of Thrash Metal, but is really extended to cover all 80s American Metal), I always add Pantera in there. Get Anthrax out because seriously, it’s Anthrax. Out of all of the 80s metal bands, Pantera was one of the few who entered the 80s unscathed and even better than they had been in the 80s. In the face of Grunge’s authenticity and lack of bullshit, most 80s metal bands faded away. Pantera simply evolved and became their true selves.

You see, when Pantera started out, they were just as wanky as Poison and Winger and all of those other bell-ends. Towards the end of the 80s they brought in a new vocalist in Phil Anselmo who was known for a harsher and more aggressive style and they eventually moved towards a new sound more akin to the heavier end of the Spectrum. In 1992 they perfected this new sound, something along the lines of Groove Metal – fast, yet rhythmic, aggressive yet funky, and weighed down by timeless riffs courtesy of Dimebag Darrell, all sprinkled with a distinct Southern Sludge tone. Vulgar Display Of Power was the album which finally cemented the band as one of the pioneers of the genre as a whole and it contains some of their most famous songs. I don’t think there’s any question of this one being included in any Top 500 Metal albums list. It’s been a while since I’ve listened though, so lets give it a blast.

Mouth For War‘ is trademark Pantera. It has a tone all of their own and that bruising combination of drums and riffs which shouldn’t make sense but somehow whirlwind around to create a whole. Then Alsemo’s vocals rip up the stereo. There’s no glam nonsense here, just punishment. It of course collapses into a supercharge for the final moments as the thrash comes out – music to break stuff, and each other, too.

A New Level‘ is one I’d mostly forgot about, but it’s funny how it all comes back. Memories of one of the older teens walking around with a ghetto blaster while me and my metal and grunge mates tried to slide into their group without being noticed (while also being noticed). It has a truly blinding solo and more riffing and chugging which shouldn’t come off in a coherent way, but does.

Walk‘ is probably the most famous Pantera song. In the metal club I used to go to on Saturday nights, this was played every week. Even in the rock club I sometimes went to this would be the one Pantera song you would hear. Of course when I was DJing I played it too. Talk about simple but effective roots. This is basically a single note riff with a string bend. Or hammer on/pull-off depending on how you play it. As simple as it is, it’s hard to give it that flavour that Dimebag does. No metal classic is complete without a face-shredding solo, and Dimebag obliges in his unique way.

Fucking Hostile‘ is another famous one. You don’t get to be a Metal fan without hearing this one. It’s pure Thrash. It’s already four inches deep in your neck in the first second. There is no intro or chance to breath, just an explosion and you’re away. It never lets up and is played at three hundred miles and hour from start to finish.

This Love‘ is the one I always called ‘Run To You’. Because seriously, those opening notes and tone sound exactly like the intro to Bryan Adams’s song. It’s almost a ballad for the opening moments, but then the chorus flattens you. It uses a little of the quiet/loud dynamic which Nirvana had popularized, but to even more extreme levels. It flies all over the place with old school headbanging breakdowns to give you a breather and overlapping riffs and arpeggios till you don’t know if you’re coming or going.

Rise‘ is punishment for having a marginally slower song last time. It again explodes out without warning or any semblance of an introduction. The lack of intro is the intro and the riffs slow once the verse hits. It’s another collection of parts which shouldn’t fit but somehow do. The lyrics would be more powerful if it weren’t for Anselmo’s seemingly dubious politics/tongue in cheek outbursts over the years, but the sentiment remains solid and caustic – RISE.

No Good‘ is maybe the mid album step down. It’s still good, it just becomes forgettable in the middle of everything else. Great drums and bass throughout and particularly towards the end.

Live In A Hole‘ opens with another one note riff, though that does become something else after about fifteen seconds. It then uses voice-box for comedy effect before launching off into another series of riffs and vocals. The one note riff makes up most of the chorus once it returns. The solo is one of the most interesting the band has recorded – not because of what it is but because of how it works and what surrounds it – the beat ever quickening, then following away, then entering a dissonant stretch of industrial waste before picking up and returning to the chorus.

Regular People‘ does have a riff or two which seem like they were borrowed from And Justice For All. It feels like another which gets buried under the weight of the more famous songs – it’s good enough on its own but rarely gets a chance to stand out. Another typical Dimebag solo – very fast, lots of divebombs and riffs that go four steps up, one step down each time.

By Demons Be Driven‘ opens with a different sort of riff than what we’ve seen so far on the album. It doesn’t feel very Dimebag, but that is quickly replaced by one which is 100% pure Dimebag. The chorus ends with a sequence which I always used to replace with ‘Breakin The Law’. I still do. The solo is almost one huge screech – it’s easy to see people being put off by this, but then such people shouldn’t be listening in the first place.

Hollow‘ also known as Fade To Black Part 2 is the band on rare introspective form. It’s a ballad for adolescent males who don’t know how to emote. To me it always simply felt like a chilled out ending, albeit one with an edge and a crushing conclusion.

My wife isn’t a metal fan, at all. But for some reason she likes Pantera. There’s something seductive in those low-down riffs – the predatory way they growl and repeat and the fact that they are funky, like it or not. This album has some of their best riffs and is one of the quintessential Metal albums. If you don’t have at least three songs from this album on your playlist, you’re not a Metal fan. Like a lot of metal albums there are songs which get drowned out by the good stuff or by the more obvious stuff – here those songs tend to be good but do suffer a little during an album run through. On one-off listens they don’t lose any power, but in a single sitting a few aren’t as potent. To remain potent in a metal album either the songs have to be short enough that we fly through them, or each has to be completely unique. Nevertheless, this is undoubtedly one of the genre’s greatest albums and Pantera were one of the few shining lights to start in the 80s but find their feet in the 90s with albums like this.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Mouth For War. Walk. Fucking Hostile. Hollow.

Nightman Listens To – Dio – Holy Diver (Top 500 Metal Albums Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! Last time around I was treated to some Dio fronted 80s Black Sabbath and today we listen to probably the vocalist’s most heralded and famous work, Holy Diver. I used to listen to this quite a bit but I thought I would cover it again because it has been a long time since I’ve been through the whole thing.

Stand Up And Shout‘ blasts furiously out of the stereo and doesn’t let up. It has that early Maiden relentless charge, but Ronnie’s vocals blow Di’Anno out of the water. The band chooses to avoid that awful chorus chanting which so many bands employed at the time – any other band of the era would have had a host of voices singing ‘shout’ together, but that’s another reason why Dio stood out from the crowd – that added class and intelligence and subtlety. There is one moment of this later in the song but we can excuse it and it’s sandwiched between two brief but battering solos to soften the annoyance.

Holy Diver’ is one of the most famous title tracks in metal and a song every metal fan should have on their playlist. Possibly a precursor to prog metal thanks to the airy synth, atmospheric slow building, and assorted sound effects. You can tell Dio had a definite tone in mind when creating this – the move into verse is a little too abrupt but that’s just me. The slower pace might not work with a lesser vocalist but it allows him to wrap those vowels neatly and placing a desire on the listener to copy along. It takes a powerful song to make such an impact on the metal world when it is this slow – add to this the fact that the chorus is a non-event. The eye watering solo surely has something to do with it – a series of layered riffs and almost careless playing which moves both leisurely and frenetically. Lyrically, Dio has also been a step ahead of most other metal bands, adding to the mythology of the genre more than any other artist since Black Sababth emerged.

Gypsy‘ kicks off with a mini solo right off the bat and takes us in an AC/DC direction, a sordid tale of lust and ladies delivered with a raunchy roar. It’s a little silly but again Dio’s authenticity and vocals carry it through.

Caught In The Middle‘ has a lighter, positive feel – metal with hope and joy without cheapening itself by finding joy between a pair of tits. Not like that’s a bad thing either, but it’s such a cop out and a sign of an unimaginative band. Dio had an imagination and the tools to unleash that on us. It doesn’t manage to soar or truly stand out, but it’s quite lovely.

Don’t Talk To Strangers‘ has the requisite acoustic opening – we could do without the whisper, but elsewhere it’s a darkly skimmed intro and verse. Then it explodes into another pulsating series of chords while Dio lets his full theatrical side out. We get the most blistering solo of the album so far – it just keeps going – and leads to a suitably thumping climax.

Straight Through The Heart‘ is the song I’ve always found most catchy from this album. Those verse melodies, complete with growls and yearning howls are plain on the surface but have a knack of sticking in my brain. It’s not the most complex song in the world, it’s very drum prominent to the extent that the guitars almost take a back seat, but there’s something irresistible about the melody, even as I recognise their simplicity.

Invisible‘ has a lovely extended intro hinting at another moody near-ballad, nice use of harmonics before the synthetic vocals come in. Lighters up, in other words. This switches shortly after the minute mark, transforming into a thunderous stomper. The production shines again – everything is crisp and meaty and given equal space. The heavier portion of the song isn’t the most exciting, the riffs now feel generic though the scratchy solo is still suitably manic like it has been lifted from another song on another planet.

Rainbow In The Dark‘ is the first song which feels full 80s, thanks to some synth stuff in the intro accompanied by crunching guitars. Again Dio’s vocals lend credibility to it all and the verses soar from screech to hook. The chorus feels like a natural continuation of the verse and the solo is another encouraging call to all metal-heads to grab their nearest guitar and give it a crack.

Shame On The Night‘ starts with dog howls and a brief repeating riff before fading down to another very slow stomping rhythm. The song again isn’t the most interesting, but it’s Dio who gives it an invigorating quality. The bass and drum led verses are punctuated by more screeching harmonics and some of Ronnie’s finest wails. The intro riff returns, feeling like it drifted in from a different song entirely, and we close with a growing collection of mournful voices mimicking one final riff in disdain.

Although released just as heavy metal was exploding almost forty years ago, the album still backs a punch and sounds fresher than many released in the genre in later years. I think that comes down to the musical choices made and Dio’s vocals. The vocals never age and are eternally powerful while the musical choices are not hindered by the fashion and tropes of the genre which would soon become prevalent. Quite a few of the songs are of middling quality on their own – you feel as if they would not be as interesting if another singer was performing. It’s a sign of just how unique Ronnie was, but a reminder that he could have been even bigger with the right song to sing. Other bands of the era starting writing better songs yet lacked a truly great vocalist, while those who merged frontman talent with songwriting skill became huge. Nevertheless, this was a game-changing moment in metal, melding the NWOBHM attack with Dio’s penchant for lyricism and 70s songwriting. As such, and on the strength of the stellar handful of songs in the first half, this remains a must-have for any metal fan.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Stand Up And Shout. Holy Diver. Caught In The Middle. Don’t Talk To Strangers.

Nightman Listens To – Judas Priest – British Steel (Top 500 Metal Albums Series)!

See the source image

Greetings, Glancers! I realise it hasn’t been that long since my previous (first) Judas Priest album, but I’m following Martin Popoff’s list chronologically and he seems to have a thing for men in leather. British Steel is of course an album I’ve heard of and it frequently hovers near the top of the Heavy Metal Premier League. I don’t know much about the album, and in these reviews I want go in with limited knowledge so that I don’t add any further bias. I do look at the album cover and the tracklisting – the cover is very familiar to me, and I’ve heard a couple of the songs – at least two are metal classics familiar to most metal fans of a certain age. The cover is fine – not quite iconic, not embarrassing, though I could have done without the cute little spiked bracelet. Then again, this is Judas Priest. I mostly enjoyed my last JP outing so I’m hoping for a similar positive experience today. Lets do this.

‘Rapid Fire’ gets us off (matron) to an almost blistering start. Simple guitars, furious drums, plain vocals and melodies. They repeat the main chord slide as if it’s some revelation, but it’s one of the first things you try when you learn power chords. They discard this thankfully for some more intricate solo play in the next section, but bring it back for the final stages. Halford finally shows his pipes on the last note and some stormy percussion takes over, leading into…

‘Metal Gods’ – a slower song. It’s very plain again and doesn’t make any interesting choices until the synth-like singing of metal gods before the decent solo. It isn’t notably forceful or melodic, but it does allow for the sound of a whip cracking which always raises a giggle.

‘Breakin The Law’ is of course a classic. It’s one of the most famous metal songs of all time, in that people who don’t listen to metal know it. They get away with the chanting nature of the chorus by not shouting it, by not making it melodic. It’s a literal chant, and all the more musical and memorable for it. It has a great riff and the verses and bridges are melodic, and it’s both short and punk-driven rather than trying to pulverize you. Then the lyrics compliment that rebellious streak which Metal is supposed to embody, in a cheery 80s sort of way.

‘Grinder’ has a driving bass and beat and that unique 80s way of conveying masculine swagger. It’s another song which sacrifices speed for stomp and doesn’t go out of its way to provide a vocal hook. The main chord line is fine again – very simple and doesn’t leap out.

‘United’ is the slowest song yet. It still stomps. It has the most bizarre chorus – it’s ridiculously cheesy and soft – I get the message they’re going for, but it feels like Queen via Westlife through an ill-advised football chant. It’s truly awful, but props for trying something like it. The pre-chorus isn’t as bad, but seriously, wtf?

‘You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise’ sounds more promising. Props to the clean production – everything is crisp, clear, and meaty. This 30 second intro already feels more like an anthem than whatever that last disaster was. Halford at least sounds like he’s biting on this one, wrapping his gums around the words and spicing them up. There’s a touch of AC/DC here, which can either be a very bad thing, or not so bad, and Halford goes a little Plant at times. It’s not the fastest son in the world, something as a whole the album seems to lack.

‘Living After Midnight’ is another famous one. Could be another case of an album being acclaimed because of a couple of hit singles. That’s the way these things usually go. It’s not as good as Breaking The Law, but it’s a fun metal-lite song, catchy, and the sort of song people who don’t like metal can mistakenly head-bang to.

‘The Rage’ opens with bass plonking all over the place, then it sounds like they’re going reggae, then the crunch sweeps both away. Halford sounds more keen on this one too. Decent solo, back to the reggae, back to the crunch. It’s not bad.

‘Steeler’ is the fast song I’ve been waiting for. A quick check lets me know this album came before Screaming For Vengeance, so maybe they hadn’t quite latched on to the speed angle yet? This proves they have the chops – the drums and guitars outshine most of the rest of the album, though it’s not the most creative and the melodies aren’t there. I can tell the influence this had on other British bands of the era.

Well, that was a disappointment considering how I felt about Screaming. Aside from the two songs I knew going in, the rest of it seems and sounds average. Maybe because I’ve heard so much metal in the years since this was released this feels very tame. Tame and lacking in creativity and energy. Still, it’s obvious they can play, it’s obvious they can write a hit, it just seems that they needed another couple of years to hone in on their most potent skills. It’s not a bad album – distinctly average in the grand scheme of things, and a let down because of the hype.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Breaking The Law. Living After Midnight. Steeler.

Nightman Listens To – Heaven And Hell – Black Sabbath (Top 500 Metal Albums Series)!

Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! It didn’t us long to get back to Black Sabbath. This time though we ring the changes, as Ozzy Osbourne has been replaced by the great Ronnie James Dio. I definitely know at least two of the songs on offer here, but I’ve never heard them in relation to the album. There honestly isn’t a lot to say about the album artwork – it’s not very Metal, but it does have smoking and gambling and big-titted Angels, so I guess it kinda sorta almost qualifies. I don’t have much else to say, so lets do this!

Neon Knights: Well, this certainly has a different sound from early Sabbath. It sounds eerily similar to Broken Algorithms by Manic Street Preachers. Dio’s vocals are a major part of the transformation but even before he start singing the guitars are chunkier, the tone isn’t as melancholy, and the sound is more upbeat. This being Dio, he’s singing about more fantastical subjects. It’s faster than what I tend to think of when I think of Sabbath, there’s not a slow, doom riff, but there is a blistering solo.

Children Of The Sea: This is one I do know, and again it feels more like a Dio song than a traditional Sabbath song. Lyrically, tonally, there is a definite shift. Possibly this is as much to do with the time that had passed since Sabbath first emerged and that they didn’t want to plough the same fields. In any case this is a slower groove, opening in an acoustic ballad style before crunching chords and funky bass come in. The two parts meld well and there’s another Iommi skin-melter in the middle.

Lady Evil: A fat bass intro hints at a more traditional Sabbath sound, but that’s blown away when the guitars drop. The drive and tone is more like a halfway point between 70s Rock and 80s Hair Metal. It’s silly fun, you’ll punch the steering wheel if you drive to this, but it doesn’t have the atmospheric edge of Sabbath’s best or the grandiosity of Dio’s. A perfectly fine album track.

Heaven And Hell: The title track and the other one I know. I hate to keep repeating myself but once again it feels like a Dio song rather than a Sabbath song. It also feels like a Maiden song – specifically Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. It goes without saying, but Dio’s vocals are exquisite. Like that Maiden song, there’s a long and meandering instrumental section. This one picks up during the instrumental, solo and drums gathering speed before a frenetic climax and half a minute of quiet tinkling.

Wishing Well: Another light-hearted rocker with that 70/80s hard rock vibe. Not much to say beyond the fact that it’s a driving rock song – more great bass work, the drums haven’t been as noticeable on the other tracks but they do standout here. It’s a simple, straightforward, fist-pumping song that everyone can enjoy.

Die Young: An atomospheric, spacey intro goes into more prog sounding territory than what Sabbath would usually try. It doesn’t last and we rapidly thunder into the fastest song so far. This one is very Maiden-esque too, it’s only lacking the double guitar thrust. We withdraw into a nifty little quiet, spacey section before embarking on another leg of insanity.

Walk Away: A mid-paced stomper raised by Dio’s character and quality. It’s a simple song once more with not many detours, although we do still get a decent standalone section for the solo to fit into.

Lonely Is The Word: The closest thing to a riff led song so far, this has a very simple, very repetitive riff. It’s a slow one with a terrific layered guitar section from around the two minute mark which just keeps going, reminding us what a talent Iommi is – not just a master of riffs he can peel off fiddling fret work with the best of them. Dio does his best with the vocals but the melodies don’t allow him to hit any real emotive heights. As if to highlight the master of the guitar work the band steals one of Page’s moments from Stairway To Heaven and deploys it as a keyboard refrain as the song fades out. An epic closer which could have been better if the vocal melodies were more potent.

A very consistent album with no weak link, this is an album which sounds fresher than it should given that it was released in the 1980s. It manages to circumvent most of the problems metal would suffer from in the 80s. While none of the songs, on first listen, have the impact of an Iron Man or a Paranoid, they are a lot of fun and the band feels almost rejuvenated. It always takes time to hit your stride when you onboard a new vocalist, but this is a promising start. I haven’t heard much of Sabbath’s 80s input but if it’s all like this then I’ll have no complaints.

Let us know what you think in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Die Young. Neon Knights. Children Of The Sea. Lonely Is The Word.

Nightman Listens To – Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard Of Ozz (Top 500 Metal Albums Series)!

Horns up, Glancers! It’s time to fill another gap in my metal knowledge with an album I really should know. There’s a possibility I’ve heard all of this before, given that I grew up with a lot of people who like Ozzy, and I know from looking at the tracklist I know a couple of the songs for sure, as they’re metal staples, and I’m sure I’ll recognise others when I hit play. The album came out in the 80s, just as glam was turning into hair metal and Ozzy’s habits were overshadowing his work. The ace in the hole of course was Ozzy bringing Randy Rhoads on board – one of the most electrifying guitarists to ever lay finger to fret. We can be sure there will be some virtuoso guitar on display. First though, lets have a jook at the cover art.

40 Years Ago: Ozzy Osbourne Releases 'Blizzard of Ozz'

It’s not the worst. It’s not great, but it was a specific point in time and Ozzy was more than likely completely baked. Is he a vampire attempting some sort of sado-masochist display of pain endurance – clasping at the crucifix while the sun’s rays swaddle his rear? Is he channeling his inner Crowley and performing a demonic ritual, complete with unnecessary cape, cat, and skull? Or is he simply going about his daily, regular Ozzy business – clearing out his attack and having a bit of cosplay fun between reading through old copies of the Beano he’d chucked up there ten years earlier? We’ll never know, or at least I can’t be arsed to Google and find out.

I Don’t Know: A Sabbath-like surge followed by charging guitars. The sound is immediately thinner than what Sabbath had. It’s an easy opening barrage by Rhoads, but every so often he adds some double-tapping or other trickery to spice things up. Ozzy’s vocals are heavily effected with echo as is the norm. There’s a strange middle section which feels separate from the rest of the song. It’s a very plain opening song which wouldn’t be memorable outside of the guitar work.

Crazy Train: The one everyone knows, whether they know it or not. Most people forget the rather unusual intro, the shout, the bass, the weirdness. It isn’t until the second riff drops that people recognise it. It’s not the heaviest song in the world and would scarcely classify as metal if it wasn’t in Ozzy’s name. The verse and chorus melodies are famous, even if they’re not amazing. Rhoades kicks of a great solo in the middle. It’s much more on the pop side of metal, especially if you compare it with Sabbath in terms of tone and construction.

Goodbye To Romance: What the hell is this, is what any self-respecting metal fan should say when the opening notes and croons of this drip from the speakers. It may as well be The Osmonds. It doesn’t even sound like Ozzy singing – it sounds like someone recorded Ozzy talking and ran it through some special software which turned it into a melody. One of those songs that the metal guys could shed a tear to back in the day because that hot girl they liked told them to get out of their bathroom. Shucks, it’s all nice though.

Dee: It makes sense that a short and sweet instrumental would come after that soppy fart. This is just Rhoades playing something random and sweet.

Suicide Solution: The controversial song. Everything that the Republicans got their titties in a twist about in the 80s was deemed controversial, and almost always for reasons completely out of context. Some things don’t change, eh? The song is clearly about the dangers of substance abuse, but some people took it for condoning killing yourself. The chords have a little bit of Beat It about them, but beyond the controversy it’s not that memorable a song.

Mr Crowley: Of course, a song about famed occult loony Aleister Crowley would being with some spacey organ synth stuff. It’s a much stronger song melodically and rhythmically. It’s still simple but there is some surface pausing and phrasing. Another fantastic solo, followed by a neat one near the end which sounds eerily like The Final Countdown. 

No Bone Movies: A countdown and off we go. It’s surprising to me how much of a rock album this actual is – very few songs come close to being classed as metal in any sense of the word, and the main reason those songs do is because of Randy’s guitar skills. Plenty of non metal bands have terrific guitarists though. What would make this more metal is if Ozzy actually was singing ‘no bowel movements’ instead of it just sounding like that. It’s a silly shouty chorus that gets on my nerves.

Revelation: Here we go, another ballad. I have no issues with ballads in metal, as long as they have an edge. This starts more promisingly than the other one. It’s more downbeat. Verse is good, I’ve no idea what’s going in in the chorus – the singing is badly out of tune with the music. Then the second verse goes weird, Ozzy struggles to keep it together, we get some robot voices. A nice instrumental interlude in the middle suggests we’re going for the epic – there’s even some synthetic string blasts. Then Rhoads busts one out and it’s brilliant. This really should have been much better, they just needed to fix up the vocals, bring them down a notch.

Steal Away: A faster song to close us out. At least it’s not as screechy as much of the metal of the time. The song is quite plain, at least in it’s opening half but we can always rely on Randy to give us something different in the middle.

I already had an inkling, based on what I’ve heard of this and Ozzy’s other stuff before, that I wouldn’t think much of it. I’m surprised and a little let down by how tame it is. I won’t get into the whole ‘is it rock, is it metal’ debate, but the truth is that this sounds and feels a hell of a lot less heavy than much of the other heavy music at the time. It’s not quite pop like the later hair bands would be, but it lacks the boundary pushing of metal – the extra riff, the additional time-shift, the drive to take the song as far as it can go. Stick a different guitarist in there and take Ozzy’s name off it, and you have a forgettable rock album. There’s no sound musical or critical reason why this should be lauded so highly on a Best Heavy Metal albums list. I’ve heard genuine pop artists be more metal than this. Even if it is more on the lighter side, the songs themselves don’t get you (me) pumped up, the riffs are forgettable, and there’s nary a crowd-pleasing chorus in the bunch. A distinctly average effort.

Let us know in the comments why I’m wrong about Blizzard Of Oz!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Crazy Train. Mr Crowley. Revelation.

Nightman Listens To – Screaming For Vengeance – Judas Priest (Top 500 Metal Albums Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! Well looky here, my first ever official ever listen to a Judas Priest album ever – ever! For the longest time I’ve always named Priest as the largest single blind-spot in my metal knowledge. They are undoubtedly one of the biggest selling and most important metal bands of all time, with output stretching back to the 1970s and I know a lot of their songs. I just never cared enough to give them full attention. Back in my formative metal days in the late 80s and early 90s they were one of the bands I was most aware of – part of the biggest of the big along with Metallica, Maiden, G’n’R, Megadeth, Pantera, Slayer, Anthrax etc. For whatever reason I didn’t have as easy access to their stuff as I did the aforementioned bands, and by the time I started buying my own music I wasn’t interested in spending on them. Maybe it was Halford’s voice, maybe it was that all the leather just looked silly, but from that point on I’ve never bothered checking them out further. So join me as I react to Screaming For Vengeance for the first time. Before we get to the songs, lets check out the artwork:

veng.jpg

That’s respectable, right? There’s no nudity or leather or immediately cringeworthy ingredients, unless you have something against birds of prey zooming through a radioactive sun while toothpaste oozes form their flange? I have no idea why, but the first word to come into my mind when I see this image is ‘Lego’. It doesn’t even look like Lego, but that’s what I’m thinking. The image presents a sense of speed, the metallic gleam is very 80s – almost to the point that the body looks like it’s sweating rather than simply shiny. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s striking or depicts anything beyond an almost stereotypical depiction of what metalheads think is cool, but it was probably eye-catching enough back then to moisten the pits of many adolescents. Maybe there’s some connection to the album content. Lets find out.

The Hellion: Gets off to a curiously familiar start – nice atmosphere, dual guitars, simple and introductory. I think it sounds familiar because I’ve heard so much metal from this era. There’s some comforting, confirmation bias stuff going on when you here something you’re familiar with or from your youth, a soothing blanket of nostalgia even if the individual piece is completely new to you.

Electric Eye: This joins with the first song and gets off to a ripping start. It feels quite Maiden. It’s not hugely heavy or aggressive – that nice middle ground between inviting the uninitiated and not pissing off the experienced. The vocals aren’t the ear-shredding highs I was expecting. Melodies and production quite good, I don’t need the effects on the vocals, mandatory solo. Gets you pumped up.

Riding On The Wind: More comforting sounds, more fast paced fun. There isn’t a lot of complexity so far, but a lot of energy. There’s the vocals I was expecting. Halford sounds so young. A tasty solo maintains the frenetic pace. This is fun without being overly cheesy.

Bloodstone: A slower start with a lone guitar. Has that 80s stomp to it, visions of hard lads strutting the streets looking for trouble. Melodies aren’t amazing, but the authority and conviction of the delivery smooths over any cracks. I believe this was around their 8th album so they must have been fairly confident by this point. The songs are each short, driving rock songs so far with as much in debt to punk as earlier metal albums.

Take These Chains: Where did this come from. It feels very different. I had to flick back to Youtube to check it wasn’t one of those wonderful mid-album adverts they throw in. This is quite unusual, the melodies going to unexpected places, the vocals deeper again, and more complexity in the structure than before. The vocals almost sound out of tune at various points – I assume this was on purpose. It’s quite poppy in the chorus, even the lyrics are what you would expect from a pop rock band, but they pull it off.

Pain And Pleasure: A slower song. It was the 80s so we have to expect some effects on the vocals, but Halford is a good enough singer that we don’t need any of that shite. Some S&M stuff going on here, combined with the effects and the general sauntering rhythm and some of the backing vocal shouts makes this the first truly cheesy song. We can forgive them, as long as it’s a one off. The chorus isn’t bad.

Screaming For Vengeance: A hellish scream and a chaotic clashing of drums and guitars gets us back on track. Lots of nifty blues riffs played with caterpillar fingers before Halford starts howling. Now this feels just like the 80s metal I know so well – fast, brazen, high-pitched, noisy. It’s certainly not subtle, but a hatchet in the lip isn’t supposed to be. It doesn’t have the finesse of a Maiden or Metallica, but it’s one song and it’s lightening fast fun designed to bust you neck and your mother’s best sofa. I may have heard this before, can’t quite put my finger on it.

You’ve Got Another Thing Coming: I do know this one. I don’t have a specific memory or relationship with it but it’s one of that handful of Priest songs that always seemed to be around. The vocals always felt very rap adjacent – they’re almost spoken in places and the steady beat almost demands you start spitting rhymes. I think the rhythm feels like Lost In America, though this is faster. It does feel like an unusual hit – there isn’t an obvious hook, but the overall tone and rhythm combines to create this driving, free-wheeling force which is compelling.

Fever: Going for a ballad? Nice, swirling atmospheric guitar intro which plays havoc with my orientation as it switches from left to right in my headphones. This absolutely nails that 80s rock vibe I love – everything from the pounding bass matching the rhythm of the drums to the sustain on the guitars. It takes me back even though I don’t believe I’ve heard it before. It fits in with a lot of other songs from the era, but is pretty great on its own. I think they missed a trick with the solo, but it doesn’t take too much away.

Devil Child: Big chords to open the closer. It’s another stomper, but it replaces the atmosphere of the previous ones I’ve liked with a balls-out confidence which can be irksome. That’s just me. It feels closer to the more middle of the road, one-hit wonder metal bands of the era, rather than an act that blazed trails. It has a big crowd-pleasing chorus and a crazy solo, Halford goes full Halford, and I imagine most fans will see it as an appropriate closer.

Well, that was far from the cheese-fest I was expecting. There’s definitely enough here for me to want to listen to it all again and get me hyped for the next Priest album on the list – which is. I won’t go as far as shouting ‘where have you been all my life’, but it does make me feel bad that I didn’t listen earlier. I would have loved this when I was young. It’s the best album I’ve heard so far on this metal journey and while it’s not perfect and I wouldn’t rank it alongside some of the others listed in Popoff’s Top Twenty, it’s one I’ll gladly catch up to again.

Let us know your thoughts on Screaming For Vengeance in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Take These Chains. Riding The Wind. Screaming For Vengeance. You’ve Got Another Thing Coming. Fever.