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

Acdc Highway to Hell.JPG

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 – Bruce Dickinson – Balls To Picasso (Non Maiden Series)!

Bruce Dickinson – Balls To Picasso (2005, CD) - Discogs

Greetings, Glancers – it’s Brucey time! It’s a long time since my last Bruce solo outing, and in truth that was pretty crap. This was his first album after fully leaving Maiden. Unlike his debut, this one I haven’t heard of at all, and I don’t remember anything about it from around the time of its release. I don’t recognise any of the ten tracks below, though at least they sound metal. CLICHES!

Cyclops‘ this opens with a bit of an Iron Man vibe, albeit with some pseudo-industrial 90s beats and sounds. I’m not sure how to feel about it, then a crunching riff drops and I suddenly feel a lot better. It spends its time getting to the first verse, then Bruce begins singing, theatrical as always, sounding revitalized. He’s sneering and yelping. The chorus reminds me of Brutal Planet. It’s a while since I heard Tattooed Millionaire, but this feels heavier than anything off his debut. It doesn’t sound like anything Maiden would write, which I suppose is the point. The guitar attack and tone is completely different from your Maiden style, but I can see most Maiden fans getting behind this, even if it is a harsher sound. A great extended instrumental to close out.

Hell No‘ opens interestingly enough. A tribal, looping beat. I can only imagine this sounded quite modern in 94. It’s a type of metal I’m not overly familiar with so it feels fresh to me. It carries on with ominous verse and booming chorus. Nicely layered vocals in the chorus – these always sound great when you have as powerful a singer as Bruce. There’s a whispering, then shouting middle 8 just for fun. It’s a good follow up to the first track.

Gods Of War‘ has another different type of drum intro. I’m going to level with yoy, let you see behind the curtain. I’m writing this sentence, listening to the song for the first time on 24th March 2020. Earlier today I listened to AC-DC’s Highway To Hell album for the first time and was pissed off by how similar each song was and by how samey the drums were. Basically every song followed the same rhythm, format, and beat. Here we are, three songs into this album and each one has been different in form, rhythm, and beat. But enough of that. I like the more tender nature of the verse and how the pre-chorus veers between effervescent, epic, and vicious. The chorus itself isn’t the best, but there’s a great solo and rhythm section in there. I hope this continues, but so far this is a vast improvement over the first album.

1000 Points Of Light‘ opens with a repetitive series of crunching chorus before the venomous drums and vocals join. The verses are somewhat monotone yet there is an underlying layer of funk. The chorus offers more in terms of melody, the instrumental breaks up the funk quota, and the second verse mostly dispenses with guitar. It’s the little changes and choices which prevent this mostly average song from being boring. We even get a little soft jazz ballad breakdown in between solos somewhere in the middle. If the verses were less monotone this would be better.

Laughing In The Hiding Bush‘ has a more disjointed feel in its opening moments before the verse finds coherence thanks to another near tribal beat and a great snarling vocal. This time its the verses which offer the more interesting melody over the chorus. Not a lot too this one, just a simple hard rock song.

Change Of Heart‘ begins with, is that a slight Latino feel? The beat and the guitar tone certainly suggest as much. The verse vocal is despondent and mournful. Melodically it reminds me of Audioslave’s Like A Stone. I’m waiting for the metal to come. A crunch of sorts comes for the chorus, it’s a brief chorus – I would have liked a little more to it, but it’s good while it lasts. It’s a song which feels like it could have been, in the right ot wrong hands, a power ballad in another life. Dickinson keeps things grounded, even when he’s tackling subject matter he usually doesn’t, such as here.

Shoot All The Clowns‘ has a beat which a lot of rock bands adopted in the mid 90s, or which a lot of pop artists did when they wanted a little more oomph. It does feel a little, not dated, but it does scream mid 90s. Dickinson is enjoying the vocals here, giving it the snarl from his previous two Maiden albums. It’s all quite funky too and was that a Welcome To The Jungle in joke? It all continues in this vein until Bruce decides to give rap a crack, and a fair crack it is because we know the man can do anything. A strange entry in his canon, but it’s quite fun.

Fire‘ has a good old fashioned dinosaur stomping riff and drum intro which treads onward through the verse. Now this one reminds me of Slash’s Snakepit and several other rock and metal bands of the 90s. It’s loud and violent and it cruises but the melody isn’t there so it slips from memory. There’s a little hook in the chorus. Is that actually Slash playing the solo – it sure feels like him.

Sacred Cowboys‘ brings the speed again. It also brings the rap again. It’s cool that Bruce is trying stuff that he either wouldn’t or couldn’t in Maiden. Jeepers, take a breath there son, you’ll faint. It’s another which lacks melody in the vocals, until the chorus which thankfully is a good one. I’m not sure I’d listen to this again, but it does stand out in memory as one to recommend to fans who may not have heard it – just as a bit of an oddity and something different. Bruce keeps it from being a failure and there’s some variance and depth in the instrumentation.

Tears Of A Dragon‘ closes the album. There’s different versions of this, I’m going for the 8 minute one, which certainly begins in epic form, all pianos and building. Then it enters a phase with some muted guitar which reminds me of one of my all time favourite songs – Dangerous Tonight. The verses are a little cheesy but we’ll excuse him. It builds to what I assume is the chorus – epic melodies. Yeah, it is more cheese than not, but it’s good and I think I would have loved it more if Id heard it at the time. Into an instrumental section which soon begins to gallop along with all manner of string synth sounds. It even manages to sound like Beat It. And like a precursor to Knights Of Cydonia. Good solo. From the name, he’s obviously poking fun at the whole thing. I like it – it doesn’t hit the peaks of other epics I love, but like I say – many of those epics I’ve been listening to for more than 20 years so this would have some catching up to do regardless. Then he rips the arse out of it for the final minute.

This was a much stronger effort than Bruce’s first solo. While I couldn’t identify a common thread tying it all together, beyond Bruce and beyond it being a hard rock album, there wasn’t anything bad I can pull away from it. Mostly good songs, a few very good songs, and the rest are passable. Metal vocalists don’t have a great track record when they go solo, but I’d wager that this is one of the better ones and there’s a lot here for fans of heavy music to enjoy.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Cyclops. Gods Of War. Change Of Heart. Tears Of A Dragon.

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 Ghostmane – Anti-Icon (2020 Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! I truly have not the slightest idea what this is. I checked my 2020 albums list to see what I had to listen to next, I saw the name, I clicked ‘Create post’, and I started typing this sentence. Based on the name, I’m guessing either Metal or Rap. As part of my intro, I typically Google the album name to pull up the artwork, and sometimes that tells me something about the artist, such as the genre, where they’re from, some snippet of information which sheds some light on a previously unheard of band or person. Lets see what we find with this one….Googles…sees American singer… paint and piercings… so… Metal?

Ghostemane: ANTI-ICON Album Review | Pitchfork

Bloody arms grabbing one of those old styley torture masks. Self-flagellation? Ripping the head off some Slipknot dude? Random violent image for shock purposes. Is the helmet a symbol of the icon we are meant to be anti about? Lets just get into it, and lets hope it’s good. Oh look, the songs are very short. Yes, the songs are short. In many ways it’s an unusual album, the brevity of each each track being part of that strangeness. There’s a fair amount of diversity, yet it all feels very samey; there are the Nu Metal inspired songs, the Industrial ones, the Rap oriented ones. Some songs have clean vocals, some have growls, and some have that irritating yapping which made Nu-Metal so detestable. The variety feels shoehorned in rather than substantial, and yet it’s not a yawnsome experience. The sub three minute nature of the majority of the songs means no particular annoying factor gains too much focus, yet they feel so rushed together and free from real creativity or emotion lead to a giant shrug of the shoulders for most of the run time. It’s like hearing some local rock band being hyped up as the saviour or your Country’s next big thing, but when you watch them live you spend most of the time thinking you’ve seen it all before and ignoring what talent they may genuinely have.

Showmanship and Production are two of the major positives – the dude wants to be the next Manson or Ghost or whatever, and seems to have the charisma and social media know how to entrap a new breed of listener, and the Production is top rate, mixing a lot of the digital cut up quirks we’ve already seen many Metal artists showcase in this 2020 series so far, with guitars crunching and stuttering into a distant chaotic fog, and vocals buffering in and out of sequence with a viral intensity. Plenty of songs achieve an atmospheric atmosphere – the opener being a booming, suitably ominous intro like a descent into some cavernous industrial underworld. Still, I can’t help but shake the feeling that there is absolutely nothing new here. From the Fred Durst whining raps which sound like the poor man is curling out a particularly raw turd to the blatant Disturbed and NIN rip-offs, to the nods to such weak adolescent bedroom door slam anthems of Linkin Park, there isn’t a trace of feeling; the whole album feels like a publicity stunt. The only glimmer of honesty comes with album closer Falling Down, Something In The Way – esque conclusion and the album’s only real moment of calm, which neatly ties in with the throbbing beats of the opening track. Elsewhere, Vagabond is a great highlight reel for the album, packing in everything you need to hear in under two minutes.

Ghostmane is a talented enough performer, assuming he’s the sole vocalist and plays some guitar, and isn’t afraid to mix up the pacing with an instrumental track or introducing some mumblecore elements to his raps. The raps, the vocals are decent enough when we’re not resorting to the aforementioned Durst mewling. The lyrics are fine for this type of thing, but if you want to get the point across that you’re suffering, you’re in pain, that life is shit, there are more poetic ways to do it than screaming ‘I don’t love you anymore’. In fairness, the topics here run the usual gauntlet from suicide to being angry about the state of society and fame, to drugs, and back to suicide – all the sorts of things an edgy young audience will be enticed by, and maybe he doesn’t need to be particularly incisive with his pen – just enough of a rebellious slogan that someone pissed off at the world can be sucked in by. Of course I don’t know anything about the dude or his band, and I’m sure the stuff he’s talking about is coming from the heart. As a Metal fan, that’s something I can appreciate, but the message is more powerful when it’s delivered in a more personal way. I’m still waiting for that killer 2020 Metal album. Outside of a couple of interesting moments and meshing of styles, this album did nothing for me. It’s loud, the guy has good presence, and the Production is excellent – I’m sure it’s the sort of thing which will inspire angry young things to get into Metal, though it may be too abrasive for the masses.

Album Score

Sales: 1. There’s no offiicial Wiki entry for the album, and that’s usuallymy go to for a lot of this sort of information. Best I can tell is that the album sold in very low numbers – less than 5-10 thousand copies. It’s an Indie release, which you could take into account, but I struggle to justify giving even a 2 here. 

Chart: 2. This is barely any better. But it did seem to momentarily hit Top 40. For a Metal album, that’s not too bad, and for an independent artist that’s the exposure you need. Still, it hardly set the charts alight Worldwide or anywhere in particular. 

Critical: 4. Generally well received by the Metal and Rock reviewers, and mainly positive from everyone else. A solid 4. 

Originality: 3. 2-4 is the range here, depending on your own bias and knowledge of music. I’d say this is closer to a 2 than a 4, but while most of what is on display has been done both better and a lot worse before, I suppose it’s a modern spin on those. 

Influence: 2. I fail to see how much impact this particular album will have given it’s limited ales and accessibility. Someone will hear it and maybe be influenced, but will that lead to anything worthwhile. I think the influence will come from the artist’s body of work rather than this single product. 

Musical Ability: 3. Nothing amazing, nothing exciting, but nothing it’s easy to point to as poor. 

Lyrics: 3. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say it’s all personal to him, but for the most part the lyrics didn’t connect with me or were hitting the nose too readily. 

Melody: 2. Little to latch on to, but some chanty shouty moments the kids will enjoy. 

Emotion: 3. I didn’t feel much but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt once more. This is a low 3.

Lastibility: 2: I can’t see me ever listening to this again, and with the rate the guy seems to be pumping out material, whatever fans he picks up will likely focus on the new thing more than the old. I could be wrong, but I don’t see this still being talked about in a few years. 

Vocals: 3. The Durst stuff is bad enough to warrant a 2, but on the whole I think a 3 is deserved. 

Coherence: 3. I could be tempted to go 4, because even with the jumping between genres, there’s still a sense of anger and of grim industrial sounds. But I don’t think it flows particularly well and the jumping from genre to genre feels sporadic.

Mood: 4. I’ll give a 4 to mood as the atmospheric aspects are notable. Metal relies on mood and atmosphere heavily, more than many other genres. 

Production: 4. All good, especially for an Indie release.

Effort: 3. Shorter songs – doesn’t always mean less effort – but many of these songs are under three minutes and aren’t too dissimilar.

Relationship: 2. As much as a Metal fan as I am, this felt like a step away from my preferences. I’m not a Nu Metal fan, Industrial doesn’t do much for me, and people trying to look all spooky with tattoos and piercings and white eyes just makes me giggle at the childishness of it all. If there’s no substance beyond the shock value, then it feels more like a fashion statement or like an admission that you don’t really have anything valuable to say. Not to judge an artist on their looks or anything. The music didn’t speak to me on any personal level, beyond a few atmospheric moments. 

Genre Relation: 3. As someone who doesn’t have his finger on the pulse of this brand of Social Media Metal, I don’t have much to compare this with. Lets go with the average 3.

Authenticity: 2. I freely admit to being wrong here, but I just didn’t feel it. Whatever genuine authenticity there may be, I lacked the ability to pick up on it. Therefore, I blame the album. 

Personal: 2. Unsurprisingly, not a high score from me. While it was critically reviewed well, for me it missed out on the emotion, melody, and smarts to keep my interest, while also neither charting nor selling well. 

Miscellaneous: 3. There are some creepy creepy music videos set in spooky spooky tunnels. That’s enough to warrant a 3. 

Total: 54/100 Possibly the lowest scoring album so far, but there are a few with similar scores in the 2020 series. But what do I know? Let us know your thoughts in Anti-Icon in the comments!

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 ASAP – Silver And Gold (Maiden Solo Output Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! It’s time to check out another Iron Maiden related release. This one is going to take a little ‘splaining, so bear with me. Back in the early 70s before Iron Maiden was created, childhood mates Adrian Smith and Dave Murray formed a band. It was a bit crap so Murray left and began prepping for Maiden. Smith rounded up other friends and friends of friends and made a couple of singles under the name ‘Urchin’. I was planning to cover their stuff but they didn’t do much and a compilation of singles and live stuff was released in 2004. Maybe I’ll check it out too, but probably not (SPOILER ALERT – I did check out their album, and inexplicably posted my thoughts about it before publishing this post which was written much earlier. Mysteries Of The Spac Hole). More importantly, Smith went on to join Murray with Maiden and the rest is history.

In the late 80s, Smith was taking a break after the grueling Maiden touring session and decided to call up his old ‘Urchins’ to see if they wanted to try writing and recording some stuff. Silver And Gold got quite a bit of hype at the time, given that it featured a member of the biggest metal band in the world and Ringo Starr’s son on the skins. However, grunge was on the rise and the album was dismissed like so many others. The band collapsed soon after and Smith went on to form the slightly more successful Psycho Motel before re-joining Maiden at the end of the 90s. So that’s the story of Silver And Gold… but is it any good? I have no idea, because I haven’t heard a single second of it yet, but that’s what we’re here to find out. Maybe we’ll uncover a few gems, maybe it’ll be another 45 minutes of regret to add to my running tally. Life is all about taking risks though, expanding your horizons, giving something you haven’t experienced a shot. Even if you don’t like it, you’ve learned something. Maybe you even get something more.

The Lion‘ opens the album. Perhaps I should mention that Smith isn’t only the guitarist here, he’s the vocalist too. I’ve no idea how he sounds, beyond the odd bit of backing from Maiden. This opens, perhaps unsurprisingly, with some sort of synth. Musically it has a touch of 80s without being immediately obvious. Smith’s vocals are different – I’m not sure what I was expecting. He’s a good singer then, his voice harsher, more gruff than Bruce. It’s a similar style to a lot of 80s rock singers, but less strained, less high pitched. The approach is more rock than metal. There’s an abrupt shift from chorus back to verse but I can get behind the melodies. Harmonies provided by a series of backing vocals. It has a good, fast pace for an 80s rock song. A brief piano interlude. This style of song was probably dated by 89 but was super popular earlier. Typically fast solo with a heavy use of the whammy. The lyrics less story driven than Harris, more like a standard rock ballad lyric. Nice start.

Silver And Gold’ is next up. I forgot to mention that the name ASAP made me think of WASP, which isn’t good. This is starting like a more atmospheric ballad. I go on about this atmospheric feeling in 80s music – it’s a combination of synth, of chord choice, of pace, of the production, but there’s something less tangible in there that just wraps me in a warm nostalgic embrace – even if I’ve never heard the specific song before. It’s your typical verse opening, vocals and an airy synth before the drums and guitar kick in. The pre chorus and chorus are more in line with cheesy 80s rock – it’s not quite Def Leppard levels of cheese but it’s in that general vein. There’s an echo effect of some description on the vocals, given the appearance of depth and again adding to that atmosphere. The chorus is a little meh, but I can people singing along to it, there’s enough of a hook. A more extended solo this time. It’s very heavy on the harmonies throughout, highlighted in the little bridge. There are a few progressive twists, if I can call them such – just slight variations on the standard structure – a tuck here, a tug there. Not really progressive, just stretching the norms and expectations very gently or abruptly for added effect.

Down The Wire‘ opens with an interesting enough arpeggio, not one you hear often. Well, this is a strange verse with a melody I can’t quite grasp or catch up to, at least on first listen. A very strange rhythm, at least to me, with an odd structure and stretched backing noise. It’s like the different pieces were shoved together and don’t really work but have been left in anyway? The drums are just bordering on the 80s sound I don’t like – just enough out of it to still be good. The second verse doesn’t help me out in terms of melody – there’s something very strange going on there. The chorus is non-eventful, but the verse has this strange drum structure which moves from single thumps to doubling the beat later which seems to have caught me off guard. Interesting middle section which fades completely away then brings the single thump drums back before returning to the chorus. Some neat acoustic guitar pieces in the middle part too. The Wall Of Sound style extended backing vocals are doing a bit of a number on me – as they stretch out it’s giving me an uneasy sensation, like a not unpleasant pain in the pit of my stomach. Best I can describe it is when I’m trying to cut my toenails I get an uneasy, anxious feeling. Yeah, you’ve no clue what I’m talking about and neither do I.

You Could Be A King‘ seems to be going full cheese. It starts like Take My Breath Away. Then it breaks into a faster part akin to Footloose before settling on the verse. Not a lot of guitar for the verses in this one. I’m not sure I like the effects on the vocals. Some of the vocals and melodies here… there’s no way we can’t compare with Springsteen. I think that’s the style they’re going for, but I’ll leave it for you to decide how successful it is. I do like the 80s strained vocal style, even though it’s so easy to ridicule. Nice middle break which reminds me of Bryan Adams – What’s It Gonna Be specifically. I’m not paying much attention to the lyrics, but this seems to be a positive encouraging message. There’s a country twinge to it too. This was the softest song so far, as commercial MOR 80s rock as you can get. Very American too.

After The Storm‘ starts with a lot of synth and is just begging me to shout ‘I! I JUST DIED IN YOUR ARMS TONIGHT!’ Jeepers, then it does another bit of Bryan Adams rhythm thievery as this verse sounds exactly like Can’t Stop This Thing We’ve Started. That is bizarre. Actually, that song came a couple of years after. I wonder if Adams or Mutt Lange heard this. Unfortunately the album is getting more cheesy as it goes along, at least so far. Some of these backing vocals sound like a Southern Gospel choir. Good solo though and those tiny progressive elements remain; like after the solo we get a plaintive quieter vocal with gospel backing. Going back to the chorus is less exciting, but those backing vocals keep the chorus interesting. WTF. Hold on a sec – as the song has an extended coda with more of those backing vocals, I had to google the singer as there’s no way that’s Smith. And the name is Stevie LANGE. Could it be? Stevie Lange for those in the know, is Stevie Vann, a famous backing vocalist on many 70s and 80s hits and appeared in one of my favourite movies The Monster Club. But most importantly here, she was married to Mutt Lange, who I mentioned above, and has worked with Bryan Adams. Have I just uncovered some previously unknown case of theft, imitation, flattery, Illuminati bullshit? Almost certainly.

Misunderstood‘ plays the same trick again – intro goes one way, then threatens that the verse will go in another direction, then flips the switch and instead goes in a third direction. It’s a very cheesy first part of the intro, the second part is much more interesting, Alice Cooper-esque, then the verse is fair enough. The chorus is unfortunate cheese. I do like the middle, goes in on the minor key and holds that for the solo.

Kid Gone Astray‘ gives me instead Journey or Springsteen vibes. Similar tone. The verse does the minor to major shift thing I life, better melodies on this one. The chorus doesn’t stay in the minor so falls a little foul of my own tastes. But that’s fine. They’re going for another positive anthem and the chorus certainly allows a certain listener to get pumped up. There are some funny vocal twitches and twerks in later verses, the solo is okay, I don’t like the echo on the backing vocals and think it’s unnecessary and makes the melody more irritating by constantly reminding us of it.

Fallen Heroes‘ starts with overlapping synth bass and drum sounds before the verse explodes through. It’s similar enough to where the last song left off, then I get excited as there are a few minor notes, then the chorus does something completely different. Is it the chorus? It’s where the chorus should be anyway – basically all the backing instruments withdraw leaving Smith’s vocals and some dweeby synth before another abrupt return to the verse. Very odd. I’ll give the album credit for trying to be different – credit for making those choices, not necessarily credit to the results.

Wishing Your Life Away‘ starts out ALLLL wrong, way too much like a 70s crooner trying to make an 80s rock song. Those brass synths are awful. The vocals are very late 80s, early 90s Pink Floyd here, melodies, riffs all hackneyed and silly. The middle section tries to be different, pulling back certain instruments again, and the solo doesn’t add anything – just thrown in for the sake of it. Probably, definitely the least interesting song here and doesn’t give any indication to the talent involved.

Blood On The Ocean’ closes the album, lets hope it’s a good one. Starts out okay, has (I’m sure they have a name, not a xylophone but something like that) that synth percussion which always reminds me of Commando or something summery. The verse is slow, piano led, lyrics about war or about people dying or some such, melodies a little bland and overly open and free form, but that’s fine if it leads somewhere interesting. The chorus melody is better, but hardly memorable. I think they’ve tried to make an epic here but haven’t really started with a good base or strong central idea. The middle section is divided into several parts – the first is chaotic and aimless, the second being a solo played over the verse structure, the third simply the solo continuing over the chorus backing. It’s a decent solo but it misses scratching that epic itch.

It started out well. A few good songs which made me hope things would progress. Instead the best was in the first half and the ideas and quality has all but drained away by the time we reach the end. It’s not bad – none of the songs are terrible and I can see hair metal and less discerning rock and 80s fans digging it. It simply lacks the smarts, the punch, the ideas, of Iron Maiden. I know this isn’t remotely trying to be Maiden, but that’s the inevitable comparison. I’m not comparing them in terms of their genres or approach, more what both bands do within those labels. Maiden make fantastic metal music, ASAP make uneventful, MOR rock which no amount of mid-song fiddling can improve. I like Smith’s vocals – he doesn’t have the character of Dickinson or of a wealth of other 80s vocalists, but he doesn’t go into screechy territory which ruined many a decent singer of that period. I can’t recall a single strong riff or truly memorable solo after this single listen – generally after one listen the truly great stuff does stay in my mind, while it takes another couple of listens for the more subtle stuff to take route. So based on this one listen there are a handful of songs I’d like to hear again – some for regular enjoyment, and that strange one which freaked me out with its drums and structure. I can’t say many Maiden fans loving it too much, but I think it deserves a shot – it’s certainly more appealing than many other bands from that period who had massive success.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Silver And Gold!

Ranking The Alice Cooper Albums!

Alice Cooper | Rhino

Greetings, Glancers! For someone as influential on my life as a music fan, as a horror fan, and as an occasional writer as Alice Cooper has been, he’s not someone who comes up frequently on my blog. I don’t have many definitive influences on my lyrical approach (at least back when I wrote lyrics), but Alice Cooper is one of them. Cooper, Edwards and Wire, Cobain… nobody comes close to them. Alice Cooper is an incredibly underrated lyricist, songwriter, singer, performer, and both as a solo act and as a band his works have left an indelible mark on music for the last 60 years or so. It’s not just the Shock Rock stuff. You can make a case for Cooper inventing Metal, Punk, Grunge, for pushing Prog into new directions, he has changed his skin as many times as those who are more recognized for it – Bowie and Madonna spring to mind – but he has retained the core of who he is as an icon; a boundary pushing, genre transcending provocateur with a wit rarely so evocatively presented in music, and with a knack for writing anthems skirting the borders of the zeitgeist to forever appeal to the outsider. In short, he’s one of the all time greats. In honour of his recent four thousandth album, I humbly present my ranking of his albums. As always if you were to ask me to do this again next week (please don’t) some of these positions would inevitably shift around. But not by much – my favourites are my favourites and those at the bottom are still crap. You get the idea? Lets get on with it.

28: Special Forces

In the 1980s, Alice had been through his greatest Commercial and Critical peak, and like every good story of Rock ‘n’ Roll success he was now in a free fall decline in every respect. His music, his creativity, his personal life, his sanity and health, everything was out the window. It’s hardly a surprise that he doesn’t remember making a bunch of these albums, and hardly a surprise that these albums are not very good. If anything stands out with these albums it’s that they are a shit shower of ideas, mostly bad, mostly influenced by 80s New Wave, and if anything distinguishes Special Forces from the others it’s that the songs are less eventful, less ridiculous. Only the biggest Cooper fans are likely to get anything out of this.

27: Dada

Of all the 80s albums, there was a time when this was my favourite – now I’m not sure why. I think it’s because it’s so otherworldy and bizarre. It’s utterly deranged, but outside of the opening and closing tracks there’s nothing here you’ll ever want to hear.

26: Flush The Fashion

Cooper’s first foray into the 80s and New Wave, he was still clinging on to consciousness and creativity, but he produced a dated upon release, underwhelming and repetitive album of forgettable songs it’s difficult to differentiate between. Sadly, the album sold well enough on the strength of its lead single, likely making Coop think this was a brave new path he should continue ploughing blindly down. 

25: Zipper Catches Skin

The third album in three years during the 80s for Cooper, this suffers from the same rushed and creatively barren issues as the others. This one has more positives than negatives and sheds the New Wave nonsense for something approximating the current wave of Post Punk which would in turn lead Cooper towards his Hair Metal reinvention. Of course, Dada would come before then, but at least this set some ground work and reminded fans that Cooper could still pen a decent rock song when he wanted to.

24. Along Came A Spider

This halfway point album joins (untidily) the Nu Metal 2000s era Cooper with his stripped back return to Garage Rock. It’s a mostly bland affair which suffers from the fact that Coop had already done the Garage Revival thing better in his two previous albums. Still, it was a more successful album than those two and stands out because it was another Concept album charting the rise and demise of a serial killer known as Spider.

23. Lace & Whiskey

For his third solo album, Cooper abandoned his Grand Guignol stylings and instead adopted the persona of a hard drinking hard boiled crime PI, who was also bumbling and inept. In retrospect it seems like the whole thing was set up just so he could allow himself the freedom to sink further into Alcoholism. I never found the album concept and sound to be coherent, instead coming across as a Greatest Hits without the Hits. There are still highlights – My God and You & Me feature in my regular shuffles – and even with a mish mash of styles it’s grounded in old fashioned Rock n Roll.

22. Pretties For You

The Cooper band debut, this zany Zappa inspired whack job is sure to confuse and infuriate fans of structure and sense. This album has no sense, the songs have no structure, and that’s why I enjoy it so much. It’s wonderful to see how the band started out and what they would become, many of the lyrical and conceptual ideas are there in their infancy, but above all the songs are somewhere between chaotic slices of brilliance and shameless nonsense.

21. Constrictor

Perhaps the least of the Hair Metal albums, although most of them are interchangeable in quality for me, Constrictor was the first to see Alice embracing the big hair, big guitars, glam persona, and return to his Shock Rock roots. He had been out of the limelight trying to get clean and in the years since Dada Metal had taken the world by storm. Cooper gathered together an array of talented musicians, doubled down on his notoriety by positioning himself as a hybrid Metal Horror icon in songs like He’s Back and Teenage Frankenstein, but most importantly he put himself back on the map as a performer and songwriter. 

20. Detroit Stories

Cooper’s most recent album is all about looking back and giving thanks. Thanks to the bands and city and sounds who influenced him, to the bands they came up with in the 60s and 70s, and to his old pals. There are plenty of covers and plenty of Cooper’s trademark wit which has never dampened with time, and he’s still ready to pump out bangers when he needs to. It’s a little repetitive due to the sheer number of songs, but a solid album of Garage Rock.

File:Alice Cooper band Live in London 2012-10-28 (close-up).jpg - Wikimedia  Commons

19. Paranormal

Cooper has always been prolific, but this was his first album in 6 years – the longest gap he’s had between albums since 94 and 2000. Thankfully he still came back with his usual finesse and released an album which was received highly and did quite well in this new era of sales. He brings the old gang back together for a few songs and in total it’s a classic sounding Cooper albums with influences based in the dark fringe areas where normies fear to tread, a series of nightmarish lullabies and anthems.

18. The Last Temptation 

By the time The Last Temptation was released I was a hardcore Cooper fan. I never liked lead single Lost In America or its video and was expecting something more adventurous and biting like Hey Stoopid. Still, I was 11 and anything with guitars and facepaint was cool. It’s a lighter album than its predecessor  – by this point Metal was largely dead commercially – but was still successful enough that Cooper could go off and tour and play golf for the next six years before reinventing himself once more. 

17. Dragontown

This and Brutal Planet are a pair. This is just as heavy, if less reliant on the Industrial and Nu Metal stylings of Brutal Planet but in songwriting terms there isn’t much to pick between them – plus they were released a year apart. The two albums are Alice at his heaviest.

16: Easy Action

I don’t see many people having either of the band’s first two albums so high on their ranking, but there’s something wholesome and youthful and ambitious about each – a true sense of zero fucks given. This follow-up at least nods its head to structures and conventions and loosely attempts to convey traditional songs through a psychedelic lens. As such, some of the songs have made their way onto Greatest Hits sets and later live tour setlists. It’s a heavier album too, less chaotic and more planned, allowing for both unpredictable epics and short and snappy wannabe hits.

15. Raise Your Fist And Yell

Another 80s Hair Metal album, for me this one has a better array of tunes than Constrictor. It still retains the inherent cheesy production and reverb drums of the time and it still feels like a less shitty Def Leppard album, but with a rejuvenated Alice at the helm. Alice continued his dalliance with horror – Robert Englund appears (Alice appeared in multiple horror movies around this time, including Elm Street 6 a few years later) just as Vincent Price had a decade earlier, and the songs are the teen and rebel bait outcast anthems we have come to expect from the greatest writer of such songs of his generation. Or any generation.

14. Brutal Planet

Alice has always kind of been Metal, and certainly doubled down on what passed for commercial Metal in the 80s, but it wasn’t until Brutal Planet where he actually sounded crushingly heavy. Under all the tuned down guitars and distortion is a selection of songs which could appear in any era of Alice’s work – change the production to suit the time period and Gimme could be an 80s Metal or 70s Rock anthem, while Take It Like A Woman is as good a ballad as any of his more famous works while conveying the sort of social message critics usually miss when dismissing Cooper.

13. Trash

Trash is the first album I ever bought. In a Golden Discs in Ards Shopping Centre if anyone cares. I also picked up Off The Wall. Money well spent. Alice has had any number of hits and several of those are cultural icons themselves. But Trash contains Poison, probably his most famous song. It’s the peak of his 80s work – a genuinely good song which manages to stand up against scrutiny verses 90% of everything else he released in the decade. Elsewhere on the album he invites various pals to play along – Jon Bon Jovi, Steven Tyler – and many mainstream hitmakers helped contribute and polish things – Desmond Child, Diane Warren, Joan Jett to name a few. For every silly song, there’s a better one, and it’s the strength of those better songs which raises an average album to the multi million seller it is. 

12. Muscle Of Love

(Holy) Muscle Of Love, as the title suggests, sees Cooper and the boys going all dirty. Coop has never shied away from describing sexual antics in his lyrics but unlike overrated garbage spreaders AC/DC Cooper does it with more wit than a pre-pubescent. Muscle Of Love lacks the big hits of previous and subsequent albums, but it more than makes up for this in its lean, no frills approach. It’s to the point rock designed to upset the straight-laced moms and pops, but underneath it all are the singalong melodies, amusing lyrics and themes, and kickass riffs we’ve come to expect from a Cooper album. 

11. School’s Out

I mentioned earlier that Poison was probably the most famous Cooper song. If you don’t agree, then you probably think School’s Out is the one. I’m good with that too; it probably had the bigger impact. The song, and the album, were huge hits and brought the band into the mainstream after a few smaller prior hits. This was one of the first Cooper albums I bought once I had enough money of my own to go spend on such things – by that time I already knew the title track and the hype around the album. I wasn’t impressed by the whole album first time around, not being aware if was more of a Rock Opera or a less campy version of West Side Story. It was a nine track album with two throwaway instrumentals. It took me a good few years to come back to it and gain appreciation for it. It is a concept album, it does follow a loose theme and plot, and the songs are designed to follow both. The title track is the only hit, but every other song has its charm with the greaser rock being subverted by both American Musicals and bizarro psychedelia; I simply wasn’t ready for it and was expecting a straightforward collection of Rock anthems. The raw, in your face production where you can feel the vibration from every bass note, the strange nods to jazz and appreciation of US culture given the skewed Alice twist all raise this to something different. Go in expecting weirdness and you’ll get more out of it. 

Alice Cooper talks new album, quarantine hobbies and family time in Phoenix  - cleveland.com

10: The Eyes Of Alice Cooper 

In the new Millennium, Cooper had been courting the biggest Metal movements of the time – Nu Metal and Industrial Metal. The results were heavier than anything he’d done in the past but thankfully he decided to return to his more Garage based roots in 2003. The Eyes Of Alice Cooper is a retro themed album taking in the changes which emerged in the decades since they last played in this style. It’s what a lot of old school fans were looking for and it was refreshing after two darker albums to rediscover a sense of fun. While no single song has the power of School’s Out, the whole collection is consistent – mini anthems for the disaffected, riffs, humour, choruses, fun.

9. Dirty Diamonds

Dirty Diamonds came hot on the heels of Eyes and was essentially more of the same, but better. Better tunes, better lyrics, better ideas – more fun, more humour. From the outright laughs of The Saga Of Jessie Jane, complete with Cooper’s vocal antics to the opening pop punk bombast of Woman Of Mass Distraction to the laidback groove of closer Zombie Dance, it’s another example of Alice doing it better than anyone else. The only thing missing are the big hits.

8. Love It To Death 

This album gave the band their first hit after two experimental freak out albums. If they hadn’t scored a hit single with this one, the band probably would have ceased to exist. The band moved to Detroit and absorbed the burgeoning Garage rock sounds, recruited Bob Ezrin as Producer, and whacked out I’m Eighteen as the first in a long line of rebellious anthems. Not that it’s a one hit album – opener Caught In A Dream is just as much fun while The Ballad Of Dwight Fry showed the band were not willing to drop their experimental roots but instead had honed those to create something more palatable while seeding the ideas for extravagant live shows, future characters, and outlandish concepts.

7. Welcome To My Nightmare

If School’s Out isn’t the band’s most famous album, then it has to be Welcome To My Nightmare. This was the peak of his theatrics, the peak of the Cooper character emerging as a separate demonic oddity, and the first album as a solo performer. Alice was not the solo creative driving force before this album, even though he was the draw, so this was in no way a guaranteed success. Perhaps over-compensating, Cooper tripled down on the blood, guts, and storytelling but more importantly he retained the ability to write a cracking tune – the title track, the peerless ballad Only Women Blood, and the anthems Cold Ethyl and Department Of Youth – these are all live mainstays. If you only recommend 3-5 Cooper albums to anyone, this has to be one of them due to its quality and importance. 

6. Welcome II My Nightmare

I may be the only person in the world to say this, but I prefer the sequel. Coming almost 40 years after the original, it’s another literal nightmare, kicking off with one of my all time favourite Coop songs I Am Made Of You where he employs auto-tuning and somehow makes it a plus. Elsewhere he courts pop, with the Kesha led What Baby Wants, the ridiculously silly Caffeine, and obvious live favourite I’ll Bite Your Face Off. Cooper has battled a lot of demons over the years – here he wraps up the real and fictional in an entertaining tale and a solid batch of great tunes.

5. Goes To Hell

This is the point that Cooper jumped the shark for many. For me, he’s more nuzzling up to the shark, making it sniff some coke from a Giant Squid’s eye socket, and taking it down to Studio 54 to dance with a bunch of flare-wearing pagans. There’s a lot of disco and funk, there are a few ballads, show tunes, all mangled together with Cooper’s unique voice and mind, but at the heart of it all are great singalong songs. You can laugh at the musical choices – I do, you can laugh at the silly artwork (front and back) – I have, but this is Cooper at his most obtuse, singular, annoying best.

4. Billion Dollar Babies 

This is the album I always thought School’s Out was going to be – a success, a lot of hype and critical praise, and a collection of classic hits and anthems rather than a single standout. Released less than a year after School’s Out, there’s a through line of quality and tone with the best songs appearing on this album rather than the predecessor. It was their first number 1 album in the US and UK and sold a bucket load. I Love The Dead, the title track, No More Mr Nice Guy, Elected, Generation Landslide – all classics, and every other track (while less known) are gold too. Another one of those must listens.

3. From The Inside

For my money, this is Cooper’s most consistent, best concept album. Having spent a little time in rehab/in an asylum due to his addiction, he was fairly well positioned to write an album about the characters one might meet on the inside. It’s more One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest than American Horror Story but equal weight is given to horror and heart. Each of the characters portrayed is more than life like and the lyrics leap off the page and through the headphones as he spits out memorable one-liners about murder, insanity, love, pain, sex, religion, addiction – ably helped by Bernie Taupin. Even above next two albums, this one doesn’t contain a single bum note or average track – everything is superb from the LOLZ of Nurse Rosetta, the musical theatre of Inmates, the sick ballad of Millie And Billie, and the rock thrills of Serious, not to mention album highlight How You Gonna See Me Now. My final two choices simply have higher highs.

2. Killer

Let there be no mistake; Killer is Cooper’s best album. It’s everything you want, expect, and need from a Cooper album, or from a Rock album, as well as being massively influential yet confusingly underrated. The title track may be the album’s only weaker moment, but it’s a B grade song at worst. Halo Of Flies… lets just say, no Halo Of Flies no Bohemian Rhapsody. The band out Zeppelins Zepplin with a collection of dirty blues rock shreds, with that filthy punk edge the boys from England didn’t have. I’m hard pushed to think of a stronger opening four tracks to any album than Under My Wheels, Be My Lover, Halo, and Desperado, and that quality continues into the second half. It’s simply one of the greatest Rock n Roll albums of all time, yet it’s somehow still a bit of a secret.

1: Hey Stoopid

It’s not the best Alice Cooper album, but it’s my favourite. A list of some of my favourite Cooper songs, some of my favourite all time songs – Wind Up Toy, Burning Our Bed, Dangerous Tonight, Die For You, throw in Snakebite, Might As Well Be On Mars, the title track, and the album’s most famous song Feeding My Frankenstein, and you really can’t go wrong. While it’s still in the vein of Hair Metal, it dispenses with much of the inherent garbage of that genre for a harsher edge which would inspire his heavier exploits a decade later, a more biting social commentary, and a host of talented guest musicians from Steve Vai to Joe Satriani to Slash to Ozzy to Vinnie Moore – even Elvira gets a spot. Huge choruses demanded to be chanted in the biggest stadium you can find, ominous agitated riffs, musicians on top form, and at the centre of it all a rejuvenated iconic Alice snarling his way through some of his most darkly commercial tales yet.

What a journey. What are your favourite Cooper albums and song? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Code Orange – Underneath (2020 Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! Another highly rated album from 2020 to cover today, and another one I have absolutely zero knowledge of. In fact, before writing this introduction I had to check on my original 2020 post to see which publication listed this album as one of their favourites. It was Kerrang, so this must be a Metal album. At the very least an album with guitars, given that Kerrang goes after all sorts these days. That’s all I know, but maybe the artwork will tell me something.

It’s a fleshy, cyborg, alien thing? It’s a bit like if Iron Maiden’s Eddie were a nerd, but was kidnapped by a Cenobite and then placed in one of Jigsaw’s traps. It doesn’t tell me much. Is it meant to be a violent, brutal image so the album will be violent and brutal? For any new readers – I write my intro before I’ve heard a single note of the album, but by the time we jump to the next paragraph I will have listened to the whole thing multiple times. Lets get to it.

You know, that image is a fairly accurate representation of the music – it’s the sort of music a demented AI might make if the only data it had to go on was Nursery Rhymes and 2010s Hardcore Metal. On one hand it’s fairly straight screamy shouty metal – brutal vocals song by boys who are angry because mommy wouldn’t let them ‘go out with hair like that’, thunderous drumming, and crushing riffs – but on the other hand you have an album deliberately broken with audio glitches and defects. The music will cut out without warning or begin to judder and skip like a dust ridden CD, and many of riffs have been distorted to sound like they have been heavily processed through multiple rusty filters and failing laptops. It’s cool, but the effect doesn’t have the same impact on multiple listens or by the time the final track comes around. It’s probably the most notable aspect of the album and what distinguishes this from the thousands of other Hardcore albums out there, which are generally very samey. It is a cool effect, it is overdone, but at least they mix up those effects with a variety and intensity that it does catch you off guard and create a sort of unique vibe. Of course, this glitching and trickery is not exactly original – The Music’s debut way back in 2002 had plenty of these stoppy starty shenanigans – but I don’t know how regularly it has been used in Metal. I wonder if these guys are fans of The Music – there’s a moment in Autumn And Carbine which is suspiciously reminiscent of the electro beats used in The Music’s third album. That seems highly unlikely.

I must admit to laughing and enjoying the opening track, because all the deliberately off-putting sound, screeches, and distortion is exactly the sort of ‘experimental music’ I was making more than 10 years ago. I have hundreds (literally) of ‘songs’ like this and when I have time I add the odd one to Youtube to terrify people. That intro builds nicely – I like a long instrumental intro to build anticipation and set tone and mood, but when this happens on an especially good intro I’m internally praying ‘don’t ruin it with the vocals don’t ruin it with the vocals’. In general I’m not a fan of Hardcore vocals because they crush the individuality of the voice and enforce limitations. I can take them in short bursts but this is the genre we’re in so it should be expected and evaluated as such. The album isn’t all shouts and screams – there are minor instances of clean female vocals and the songs which deftly balance the harsh with the clean, the light with the dark, such as Sulfur Surrounding are the most successful at sticking in my memory.

That’s the greatest quandary I have with this genre and the album. Hardcore, and plenty of other metal sub genres have a lack of melody and variety; little variety of emotion, little to no variety in vocal melody, and it’s all about as many downtuned basic riffs and how much shouty shouting you can shout. If you like Hardcore, you should like this. If you’re a purist though, you might be put off b the glitches, by the synth moments, by the cleaner sections because this album does strive for variety. It employs Hardcore as its foundation, but wants to build something more monstrous and remarkable. I don’t speak from any position of experience or authority but based on the rave reviews from those in the know, the band succeeded in this respect. This album does have variety – there are memorable vocal melodies (which may take time to sink in) and there is emotional variety (at least in the grey areas between annoyed, angry, and really pissed off). Songs such as The Easy Way and Sulfur Surrounding build upon this by eschewing the tried and tested and boring hardcore route of riff, shout, other shout, solo, shout end, by adding musical and structural elements not typically heard.

Still, as someone mostly unfamiliar with this sub-genre and with no real desire to learn about it or care (it’s all a bit… skinhead, you know), I could appreciate its brutality and experimentation and can gladly chill to any of the songs while driving. A few songs would be enough for me before I’d want to move on to something else – I get enough futile tantrums at home without needing it in my music too. A handful of the better blended songs I can stick on my playlist but the whole thing isn’t one I think I’ll return to. I can marvel at the production and applaud the musical ability and desire to drag the genre into new territory, but the songwriting in itself feels somewhat flat outside of the glitches.  Like many of the albums I have already reviewed from 2020 and likely those I haven’t got to yet – this isn’t for me so I’ll leave it to the people who it was designed for. I have no doubt they’ll love it.

Album Score

Sales: 3. Seems to have done okay, at least within a genre which doesn’t really sell anymore. Seems to be theit highest selling album – but we’re talking 10s of thousands here. I could go 2 here, but lets give them some props.

Chart: 2. A hardcore album isn’t really designed to sell outside its core audience or set the charts alight. It made it onto the top 200 in US. Not as high as their debut I believe, but times have changed.

Critical: 5. Go down to a 4 if you want to include non-Metal publications, but praise has been flawless across the board in Metal magazines and sites.

Originality: 3. Normally a Hardcore album is going to get a 1 or a 2 from me here. This strives for me and generally does more. Enough for a 3 at least.

Influence: 3. I would hope that this will spur other young bands within this genre and the genres less prone to experimentation and variety to take the lead. It’s not going to influence on a wider scale so I could see a 2 or even a 1 here if you’re very harsh. Definitely don’t see this as higher than 3.

Musical Ability: 3. They can play, but we’re talking Metal here. If you can’t better than almost every other genre, you’re not going to get as high as a 3. I expect each person to be an expert in their craft. The glitches are more a case of production and ideas than musical ability – outside of that I didn’t feel enough to hit a 4.

Lyrics: 3. Naturally I had to Google the lyrics to see what they’re all about. There are bits and bobs related to changing and adapting to the modern world which fits with the music. Aside from that, all the usual Metal topics stated plainly without much poetry or invention – control, violence, anger, the usual.

Melody: 2: Only a handful of songs standout in this respect – I’ve been lenient so far in some of my scoring but if you force me up to a 3 here, I can drop Lyrics to a 2. Most of the songs don’t differ in the vocal melodies aside from the few notable ones, and even those aren’t the catchiest in the world. I won’t grumble if you go 3 here but anything higher seems like bias.

Emotion: 3. Genres like this aren’t the most subtle or nuanced in terms of emotion – there’s only so much range of emotion you can convey when your vocals are at 11 the entire time. It comes down to how much importance you place on expectation – if you expect and want anger, volume, shouting, then you can mark higher. If you are looking for a more balanced range of emotions across a spread of songs, then you mark lower. I’ll go average considering the genre. 

Lastibility: 3. While time will tell whether this was a game-changer, it seems like it has made enough impact based on its reviews to sustain itself at least until their next album drops. Metal fans are devout to their group or sub genre, and those outside the group will complain or move on to the next thing. Not enough information to say for sure, but a 3 seems reasonable. 

Vocals: 3. I’m no judge on hardcore vocals and what is good versus bad versus whatever. What I do know is that I can only take so much of it, not because it’s loud or shouty, but because it’s repetitive and dull and lacks character. Some songs offer mainly clean vocals, some songs offer additional vocals, and some songs blend clean and harsh. I didn’t have any issue with the quality of any of the vocals, more that they were mostly generic. 

Coherence: 4. I’m happy going high on this category because the band seemed committed to their idea for their sound, and did everything possible to make a coherent product. The glitches and electronic (for lack of a better term) sound carries through to the end.

Mood: 3. I could agree with an argument for a 4 here as the coherence lifts the mood, but given the lack of emotion and feeling I generally get from this type of music I’m not confident that any mood the band is trying to communicate would not translate to me.

Production: 4. Another strength, everything is clear and the various components are nuanced in the way that the emotions are not. Most notable aspects being the glitches and future shock soundscapes which are handled with both taste and bluster. 

Effort: 3. I always dread scoring this category because effort is sacred and sacrosanct. It feels disingenuous to score low when artists, especially in these genres, put their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into their creation. I have no doubt the band did everything they could to write, record, and produce this album – but so does every other band if they’re serious about their craft. I don’t see or I’m not aware of anything over and above what other bands do. 

Relationship: 2. When I was younger maybe I would have felt different, but even when I was younger and more accepting of most Metal subgenres such as this were at an arm’s length. I love melody, and emotion, and shades of colour. I also love being heavy and angry and skilful and fast, but there are tonnes of other albums and artists who do those things while also speaking to me on a personal level. 

Genre Relation: 3. Sure… it sounds like most other albums in this genre that I’ve heard. But it also goes further and tries more. Then again, not my area of expertise. 

Authenticity: 4. Metal artists often live or die based on how authentic they are. If your fanbase feels you’ve sold out or moved to far away from what drew them to you, they’ll bugger off and let you know. Again, I don’t know much about it but it seems authentic, committed, and they believe in what they’re doing. 

Personal: 3. I’m honestly closer to a 2 because I know I’ll never listen to it again, but I also know it’s a better album than what a 2 would suggest. This score is all about your personal feelings so you can put all of you bias into this score – if an album sells in the millions, tops the charts, gets rave reviews, but it’s Country and you hate it – give it a 5 in those other categories but give it a 1 here. This is a low 3 for me, but the belief and the novelty of the glitching is enough to stop it dropping to a 2.

Miscellaneous: 2. I could go 3 here, but there’s not enough in the artwork or the surrounding info of the album to really nail down that score. 

Total: 61/100

That’s a lower score than most I’ve reviewed so far – but remember it’s only a 7 point difference between Ungodly Hours which is an album I did enjoy much more on a personal level. It may take something special to break that 70 mark!

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.