It was a drizzly, grey Saturday morning sometime in 1982 and I was being dragged around the shops by my parents. At some point, we ended up in a WH Smiths record shop. I wasn’t even into music then, of any description, but I flicked idly through the vinyl anyway just to pass the time. By chance, two tall, long-haired cavemen clad in denim and leather came and stood next to me. When one of them leaned over and picked up something called The Number of the Beast it grabbed my attention instantly, my ten-year-old face transfixed by the artwork on the front. As he lifted it out, I noticed more artwork, this time on the back of his jacket. Iron Maiden – Purgatory. It looked magnificent. I’d never even heard of Iron Maiden before then and I certainly didn’t know who or what a Purgatory was, but I knew I wanted to see more. Grabbing the next record in the section, my eyes didn’t leave the intricately painted sleeve until my parents came and literally pulled it out of my hands. Killers.
In 1995, Alice In Chains had been feeling good on the success of their first #1 album on the charts, 1994’s Jar of FliesEP, the first EP to ever debut at #1. At the same time, they were in peril as a band, with issues stemming from Layne Staley’s addiction to heroin and other band turmoil. The band did not tour to support Jar of Flies as Layne was in rehab and they took part of 1995 off. The lost opportunities from this period, including a massive Metallica/Danzig/Suicidal Tendencies tour and a near-top-of-the bill split at Woodstock 1994 (which I am still mad about) almost killed the band. They broke up briefly too, according to Sean Kinney. Little did we know they were crafting a great album, Alice in Chains (Columbia), to wash all that pain and disappointment away for a brief moment in time.
When Reign in Blood (Def Jam)catapulted Californian thrashers Slayer into the big leagues, the 1986 (or 1987 if you lived in the UK) seminal release also created a problem for the band. How exactly do you follow perfection?
I assume it’s easy to look back at the aughts and be dismissive of the entire decade particularly from the perspective of metal or punk fan. Nu-Metal was slowly being phased out as any goodwill from the previous decade had eroded and acts like Simple Plan and Good Charlotte made everyone realize that maybe the idea of Pop-Punk was a mistake. But those who kept their ear close to the ground knew better than to become jaded. Hard rock was alive and well and young bands were doing very exciting things. Young bands like Between the Buried and Me with their seminal Alaska (Victory Records 2005/Craft Recordings 2020).
With bands taking so much time between studio albums these days, it’s astonishing to believe that in the space of just three years, between 1970 and 1973, Brummie icons Black Sabbath released no less than five of the most important records in the annals of heavy metal.
As strange as it may seem, 1988 stands as the only year where each member of the “The Big Four” all released new studio albums. Go on, check if you want. I’ll wait.
With Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth, and Metallica having pulled significantly away from the rest of the pack with those 1988 releases, the beginning of the ’90s gave each of them the chance to reaffirm their place at the top of the thrash metal food chain. Along with the likes of Testament, Exodus, and Kreator, 1990 opened the new decade in a blaze of glory while also becoming arguably the last truly great year for the genre.Continue reading
The comeback to end all comebacks, the story of Back in Black (Atlantic Records) began with tragedy but ended in triumph. While comebacks usually require some form of absence from the public eye, a few weeks would barely register as a blip on the timelines of most bands. But for AC/DC, that short space of time was literally life-changing. Continue reading
Deftones, even at their best, have been a band of dichotomies. That is what makes them a special band in the history of heavy music: opposing forces pulling and pushing them apart and back again. They may have been coming apart at the seams in the run-up to making Diamond Eyes (Reprise), and you couldn’t blame them. If you follow the band closely, you know the history. The band was nearly done tracking their highly anticipated album Eros in the fall of 2008, when founding bassist Chi Cheng was in a car wreck, on his way home from a funeral. Chi was left in a vegetative state, and the band was in shock. As Chi fought for his life (he passed in 2013, RIP), the band was left wondering what to do. They wanted to make music, but the experience with their best friend caused them to shelve Eros, never to be heard (almost never). When they came back together, the results were unexpected and wild. Continue reading
Black Sabbath, one of the greatest bands ever, was an act in transition as it entered the 1980s. Less than a year earlier they sacked their legendary lead singer Ozzy Osbourne and replaced him with equally great Ronnie James Dio, previously of Rainbow. The flailing former greats and the hungry vocalist reignited each others passion for Heavy Metal to create something incredible in Heaven and Hell (Vertigo/Warner Bros) The album not only gave the band a shot in the arm, but it also launched their second era with a bang, one their fans would never forget. Continue reading
For many, the nineties would prove to be the end of heavy metal as we knew it. Bands who rose to greatness in the preceding decade suddenly found themselves either retreading old ground, out of their depth trying to explore new territories, or simply grinding to an unceremonious halt. Within just a couple of years, denim, leather and even the term “heavy metal” itself, were out.Continue reading