Side one is pretty good psychedelic pop, but it's the infamous b-side that put all the pieces in place for the revolution
to come: fuzz, psuedo-classical pretention and the first of the almighty metal riffs.
An album of unfathomable historical import. The English groups of the 60's were singlemindely devoted to faithfully reproducing
African American blues, until Hendrix went to London and blew their minds as a black American with no hang-ups about blues
authenticity, historical context, or any of the limitations the British players had foisted upon themselves. Heavy metal
could have only happened after Hendrix encouraged bands like Cream and Zeppelin to knock the walls down and pursue their heavier,
more experimental instincts.
These Brits thought they were "Cream of the crop" until Hendrix came over and everybody in the scene had to re-evaluate
himself. Clapton was so humbled, he even got a 'fro in an attempt to co-opt the Hendrix thang.
Cream became a two-headed beast: known for their virtuoso live jams (which went nowhere, most of the time) and their more
concise, truely trendsetting studio creations. DISREALI GEARS was a partially successful attempt at reconciling these split
personalities by pairing two sides of the band goofing around at the Fillmore with two studio sides showcasing the band's
heaviest material. Songs like "White Room," "Politician," and "Sitting on Top of the World"
must have been quite a revelation to bands like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, who would draw considerable inspiration from
This album is not nearly as good as a lot of people would have you believe, but it's still way ahead of the pack in terms
of pre-Sabbath density and sheer volume. More caveman than even the Stooges (and a lot less interesting than the Stooges,
too,) but still left a huge impression on generations to follow.
Perhaps the heaviest LP of the 1960's. Certainly the most emotionally overwrought. Covers of hits by the Beatles and the Supremes,
slowed down to an agonized crawl and drenched in distorted, mountainous organ.
Steppenwolf popularized a heavy, organ-propelled approximation of the music middle class teenagers of the sixties were led
to believe bikers listened to.Their big hit was "Born to Be Wild," but it was even sludgier numbers, like "The
Pusher," and "Jupiter's Child" that really set the stage for seventies metal.
Easily the most neanderthal of the big San Francisco bands of the Summer of Love, turning the airy jams of Quicksilver Messenger
Service or the Grateful Dead into gurning fuzz-clouds that rival the density of Blue Cheer's best.
Although most of their output was second-string psychedelic pop, the Amboy Dukes at their heaviest marked the point at which
the hopped-up garage punks of the sixties morphed into the heavy metal kids of the seventies. Guitarist Ted Nugent was already
ON IT as early as 68' or 69,' even on the band's more lackluster material, with a whole lot of Stormtroopin' to follow.
The most important Heavy Metal band of the 1970's was Black Sabbath. With their first six albums (BLACK SABBATH, PARANOID,
MASTER OF REALITY, VOLUME 4, SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH and SABOTAGE,) Sabbath sculpted the still maleable new genre into their
own image. Practically every facet of Heavy Metal as we have come to know it today - the riffs, the occult imagery, the lyrical
themes of self-centered alienation- can be traced back to Black Sabbath.
Sabbath hailed from the manufacturing city of Birmingham, England. In thier hands, the amped-up blues of bands like the
Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin became an ominous embodiment of the lumbering, elephantine machinery around which they had lived
and worked all their lives, and the perfect sonic environment for Sabbath's lyrical tales of society crawling towards collapse.
Another important group from Birmingham was Judas Priest. Younger than Black Sabbath, and debuting some time later, Priest
took the heavy Sabbath sound, sped it up, and colored it with the whining, high-end clatter of Glen Tipton and K. K. Downing's
dueling-belt sander guitars. The operatic pretensions of shrieking singer Rob Halford were equally remarkable and equally
important to the development of heavy metal. Halford was the first great metal vocalist, and his wailing theatrics would set
the stage for practically all metal vocalists to follow.
Dwelling on themes of predation, spiritual decay and fetishized violence, Judas Priest was the first band that could have
been correctly called "black metal," had the term then existed. Their influence over the twisted, distorted sound
that would crawl out of the underground in the 80's and 90's is undeniable.
Deep Purple and Uriah Heep were prime movers in the de-facto "Organ Metal" scene of the early nineteen seventies.
In those days, many of the heaviest bands built their sound around ominous, cathedral-like organ riffs that must have been
mindblowing in live performance.
Between these two bands, Deep Purple was clearly the more important, as it was Purple that defined the style, and rivaled
even the mighty Sabbath for sheer weight of riffage. In addition to the classically-trained, jazz-leaning organist John Lord,
Deep Purple also boasted mad guitar scientist Ritchie Blackmore, whose fractured, speedy solos had graced many Joe Meek-produced
singles back in the sixties. His breakneck note destruction would prove a great inspiration to K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton
of Judas Priest, who would in turn inspire Kerry King and Jeff Hanniman of Slayer, who would themselves incite Blackmore derived
craziness through out the speed, death and black metal genres.
While not of the same influence, Uriah Heep was a great band, too. Remembered by the faithful for their heavy organ 'n'
guitar sound and impossibly high and tight harmonies (ooh-AHH,) Heep has been practically shunned by "classic rock"
radio in the US. This is a shame. If Corporate radio has airtime for lame crap liked Head East and Styx, it should have a
few minutes for "Look at Yourself" or "Traveller in Time."
The cover of "I Am the Walrus" on this album is easily the heaviest record of the seventies. It makes anything by
the Vanilla Fudge sound like speed metal in comparison. The label says the song lasts just over six minutes, but is that in
Earth minutes, or is "6:22" how the natives write "infinity" on Planet Spooky Tooth? (see video below)
Much like Uriah Heep, Mountain has been relegated to one-hit-wonder status in the minds of "classic rock" radio
programmers, but the group was, in their day, one of the biggest concert draws in North America. A vehicle for rotund guitarist,
Leslie West, Mountain could be as murky and gothic as Sabbath and company, but where Sabbath, Deep Purple and Cream were
distinctly British, Mountain was distinctly American. West's career began, interestingly enough, with the sixties garage band
the Vagrants, whose version of Otis Redding's "Respect" would influence the Velvet Underground's "Waiting for
An experimental rock band from Germany, Amon Duul 2 weren't exactly a heavy metal band, but their experimentation was so
often based in heavy psychedelic riff action that YETI, the band's greatest album, is an essential seventies hard rock album.
The Nazz were Todd Rungren's first band, and are better remembered for their sixties pop hit, "Open My Eyes" and
ballads like the original "Hello, It's Me," than for the heaviest moments of their three, early-70's LPs. Heavy
moments there are, however, on each of these albums, such as "Wildwood Blues" (from NAZZ,)
"Under the Ice" (from NAZZ NAZZ,) and "Magic Me" (from NAZZ III.)
You should have every note of these albums already commited to memory, so I won't labor point of how great each of them is
in its own way. I will say, however, that the BBC SESSIONS album was a real revelation to me, since it collects live tracks,
from as far back as 1969, which are a lot heavier and more sinister sounding than anything on the studio albums. I always
understood that Zeppelin was a huge influence on heavy metal, but I never really heard the direct connection between Zeppelin
and Black Sabbath until I heard these live recordings.
Less spacey and more rock than a lot of us might like, Hawkwind sounds here like a heavier version of MEDDLE-era Pink Floyd.
Taken as a whole, this is not the group's highpoint , but "Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear in Smoke)" is an essential
classic. Lemmy's utterly Stoogeoid "Lost Johnny" finds the band in total mind rape mode.
The self-titled album is the group's first, and finds them even with the floor in their prostrate worship of the mighty Sabbath.
2112 is a later concept album which surplants the expected prog rock noodling with straight ahead metal-rock action.
HAIR OF THE DOG is as lunkheaded a metal album as you could ever expect to hear. At least half the album is straight crap,
and what is good about it goes on way too long, considering the obvious limitations of the band and the shallowness of the
musical ideas behind these songs. Still, the title track does so much with so little that it's awe-inspiring, and "Celebration
Day" is easily better than anything Sabbath was doing in 1976.
Yeah, I realize that AC/DC isn't a metal band, in the strictest sense. Still, few artists this side of LaMonte Young, Terry
Riley and Philip Glass have explored the power of musical repetition as singlemindedly as AC/DC has - making them an obvious
influence over metal as it stands today.
Bloodrock's second album, this contains the infamous dead teenager ballad, "D.O.A.," in which the young narrator
describes, in exacting detail, the scene as he bleeds to death after an automobile accident.
An album of undistinguished southern boogie rock, made special by the last track, "Auntie Christie," one of the
earliest worship-Satan-kill-your-parents-kill-yourself metal anthems. The singer recites from the book of revelation is this
wierd rasp over churning guitars.
TOO FAST FOR LOVE is THE glam punk album of the early eighties, and easily as good as anything Metallica recorded during that
decade. Re-enforcing their inspired pop metal with a convincingly raw punk edge, Motley Crue came across like a latter day
New York Dolls - had the Dolls come of age listening to Kiss instead of the Stones. Mick Marrs' is amazing throughout,
particularly in his groundbreaking use of the slide to create howling, distorted runs and effects.
SHOUT AT THE DEVIL was the band's big time follow up, and contains the band's first hits, "Looks That Kill,"
and title track. A heavier, more slowly spaced affair than the first album, it's not nearly as good as TOO FAST FOR LOVE,
but still way above the crap this band would start shoveling out by their next album, THEATRE OF PAIN.
BLIZZARD... was, for Ozzy, a drunken stumble of a record, recorded just after he had been fired from Black Sabbath. Lucky
for him, his new band (veterans Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake, along with newcomer RANDY fucking RHOADS) was hot, the tunes
were great and the sound guys knew just how much reverb it would take to make the "Oz Man" sound passibly sober.
DIARY OF A MADMAN is a more polished affair, and equals BLIZZARD... without really surpassing it.
BARK AT THE MOON and THE ULTIMATE SIN are great pop metal albums, recorded with guitarist Jake E. Lee after Rhoads was
killed in an air crash. Falling as they do between the death of Randy Rhoads and the tenure of flash guitarist Zakk Wylde,
however, they are underservingly neglected.
SPEAK OF THE DEVIL is a live album, consisting entirely of classic Sabbath covers, recorded with guitarist Brad Gillis
(of Night Ranger.)
The big hit from this album was, of course, "Round and Round," and a lot of the songs here sound suspiciously like
re-writes of said hit - but its still a better album than this era of hard rock was generally known for.
This album is only included in the "Spandex" section because of Axl's hairdo in the "Welcome to the Jungle"
video. G'N'R was more about rocking hard in an Aerosmith / Rolling Stones type way than with riding the hair metal gravy train.
In fact, it was Gun and Roses, not Nirvana or Pearl Jam, who really buried hair metal commercially. First, Guns and Roses
popularized a harder sound than most of the glam bands were capable of replicating then assigned each member of the group
his own hat or other headgear, thereby rendering big hair a dead issue within the band, and ultimately in the market place
as a whole.
Main man Blackie Lawless wore a circular saw blade sticking out of his crotch, drank blood on stage and threw raw meat into
the audience at some early shows. That is all you really need to know about W.A.S.P.'s self-titled first album. THE LAST
COMMAND, however, is the band's second record, and is one of the better executed artifacts of the first glam metal era.
Twisted Sister was a visual oddity more than a band, hence their success on MTV and movies ("Pee Wee's Big Adventure.")
Still this, the album for which the group is mostly remembered, is still worth a spin every once in a while.
The original members of Van Halen came together as Mammoth in 1974, and released the first Van Halen album in 1978. Still,
Van Halen's biggest impact - commercial and artistic - was on the 1980's. Not a metal band in the way, say Judas Priest is,
but very influential on the metal genre, particularly in the guitar department. Eddie Van Halen did for guitarists in the
80's what Hendrix did for them in the 60's, and almost every album recorded with the initial line-up is essential on his account.
Not necessarily the most innovative or original band of their era, Metallica were, nonetheless, the best. Their first four
albums, the albums that brought classic metal kicking and screaming into the post-punk present day, represent one of the
most consistantly excellent bodies of work ever in the metal genre.
An essential link between British punk rock and heavy metal, Motorhead's classic line-up (Hawkwind bassist Lemmy Kilminster,
ex- Curtis Knight guitarist "Fast" Eddie Clark and drummer Philthy Animal Taylor,) were among the first bands to
apply punk ferocity to old-style, R&B-based rock and roll. Early albums, such as MOTORHEAD (1977,) OVERKILL (1979) and
IRON FIST (1982) were as raw and uncompromising as anything released by the punks of the day, but contained enough elements
of older British guitar rock and heavy riffing to make punk rock's disdain of older forms seem dogmatic and stupid. Motorhead
would set the stage for a generation of later bands, such as Iron Maiden, Diamondhead and Venom, who would apply the speed
and energy of the new wave to old school heavy metal , and eventually influence American thrash metal and grunge.
New York's Anthrax was the heaviest of all the punk inspired thrash bands who formed the metal underground during the 1980's
. They could play as fast as any other band, but drove the point home more decisively than most with their chunky, heavy
as hell riffs.
Anthrax is of historical importance as well, in that they may have become the first rap metal band when they issued their
"Bring the Noise" single (available on Public Enemy's APOCALYPSE 91: THE ENEMY STRIKES BLACK CD.) The single featured
Anthrax's heavy guitars and rap vocals superimposed over a Public Enemy recording. Anthrax would explore this fusion further
with their I AM THE MAN EP.
Stormtroopers of death was/is an Anthrax side project, featuring Billy Milano on vocals and showcasing the heaviest elements
of the Anthrax sound.
Though an older band, Judas Priest managed to remain at the epicenter of metal in the 1980's, while most of the other old
masters - Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, etc. - fell by the wayside in the wake of punk rock. Priest wisely met the challenge
of punk by writing shorter, faster songs, and emphasizing the catchier elements of their sound. The band adopted this tactic
wholesale with 1980's BRITISH STEEL, an album which garnered Priest a radio hit in "Living After Midnight," and
provided a blueprint for much of the metal to transpire in the 80's.
Perhaps the best known band of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Iron Maiden proved to be one of the iconic rock groups
of the 1980's. Maiden anchored their galloping post-punk metal with a strong dose of metal classicism that provided a necessary
bridge between the new metal and the heavier elements of 70's progressive rock. The band's early vocalist, Paul Dianno was,
by far, the best of the band's two best known singers, but it was the albums with newer vocalist, Bruce Dickenson that broke
the most ground. An immensely important band, and one of the few popular metal acts of their day who never went soft.
Simply put, REIGN IN BLOOD is the greatest speed metal album ever recorded, and one of the few albums of its sub-genre which
demands to be listened to, even by those who aren't speed metal or thrash fans. The album simultaneously captures a golden
moment in the development of extreme metal, even as it shuts the door on much of the genre by setting the bar too high - even
for Slayer, as later releases would begin to show.
SOUTH OF HEAVEN is the band's more slowly-paced, Sabbath-like follow-up. The tempos are waaaay slower here, but the band
loses nothing in atmosphere or intensity.
Whereas Black Sabbath had used a down-tuned, lumbering sound to capture their dark vision of modern industrial society, the
Swiss band, Celtic Frost used their creepy metal crawl to invoke a more ancient, old European darkness. Embracing the folk
and orchestral traditions which parallel the darkness and bombast of heavy metal, Celtic Frost paired raw rock riffs with
faraway gothic choirs, operatic soloists, and string arrangements to create an eerie, arty, but still heavy, sound.
MORBID TALES and EMPEROR'S RETURN are the most "rockist" recordings in the group's canon. TO MEGA THERION and
the NECROMANTICAL SCREAMS EP find the group in experimental overdrive. TO MEGA THERION, the most influential of these two
records, uses aspects of the orchestral avant garde to create an unremittingly dark music. With NECROMANTICAL SCREAMS, the
band casts some of the same material into a different light by rocking out and having a good time (you can hear the band laughing
and cutting up in some spots.)
INTO THE PANDEMONIUM continues in the experimental vein on MEGA THERION, but is far less focused and takes some ill-advised
detours into new wave pop (!) and hip hop (!!) A bit confusing - but not quite as confusing as the band's sudden transformation
from corpsepainted warriors of gothic darkness to big hair pop metal band for their next few albums.
In the early seventies, they had ruled the metal roost, but Black Sabbath had gotten a little long in the tooth by 1978. After
two lackluster albums (TECHNICAL ECSTACY, NEVER SAY DIE,) and a world tour which found the band routinely upstaged by opening
act Van Halen, Sabbath fired the increasingly undependable Ozzy Osbourne. The group began a radical re-tooling of their traditional
image and sound, hiring ex-Rainbow vocalist, Ronnie James Dio to replace Ozzy, and exchanging their classic 70's drone for
a leaner, speedier post-punk sound.
With HEAVEN AND HELL, Sabbath kicked off the 1980's on a high note. While not as earth shaking as the band's work had
been ten years before, the album proved that Sabbath were still able to produce exhilarating hard rock. Dio was shown to be
a worthy successor to Ozzy, and his fairytale lyrics went over well with the new, anthemic music.
MOB RULES is a far darker affair. In an obvious attempt to recapture the heaviness of the classic period, Sabbath jettisoned
much of HEAVEN AND HELL's relative sonic brightness for a slower more ominous vibe. Taken on its own terms, it works fine,
particularly on "Sign of the Southern Cross." The title track is almost punk rock.
Dio would stay onboard for one more record, the disappointing LIVE EVIL, before ego-clashes between him and the rest of
the band would culminate in his ejection from the group. He would go on to great success as a solo artist, while the once-mighty
Sabbath would slip down further and further into the mire of mediocrity. Going through singers faster than the house band
at a karioke bar, Sabbath kept the cut-out bins well stocked throughout the 80's and 90's . Most of us lost track after the
awful BORN AGAIN album, recorded with Deep Purple's Ian Gillan - and the last LP to feature founders Iommi, Butler, and Ward
for several years. Eventually, the band would re-enlist Ronnie Dio for one dull album, then do the right thing and reunite
with Ozzy via Osbourne's traveling Ozzfest.
Not so much a real band as a showcase for singer Kronos' big mouth and superior showmanship, Venom nonetheless captured the
imaginations of fans desperate for a new metal underground in the days when upstart punk had usurped so much of metal's street
cred. In direct response to the hardcore punk of bands like Discharge and Crass, Venom offered a version of heavy metal robbed
of any flourishes of execution or production that could be construed as candyassed - leaving nothing but ugly noise.
Atmospheric garage / doom metal band whose vocalist sounds like a twelve year-old serial killer with the sniffles. Brilliant
stuff. This band would later mutate into the virtually identical Upside Down Cross.
Standard issue, macho metal or a bold declaration of Gay Pride? Accept's biggest seller, BALLS TO THE WALL has been a topic
of controversy since its release in 1984. The anthemic title track, a big hit with hard rock radio on both sides of the Atlantic,
prepares the listener for twenty minutes of good ol&' fists-in-the-air, hetero hell raising. Then you notice that "London
Leather Boys" is an unabashed paean to bi-sexual male prostitutes. The "Love Child" on whom singer Udo directs
his lusty attentions is a dude (" I can feel your sex...And my brain is gone...Feeling the power of lust when the guy's
passing by... I'm going insane don't know why...") By "Head Over Heels," somebody's "Spurting in the dark"
as Udo falls "down on [his] knees."
All of this would be well within the venerable metal tradition of "piss-on-you-I'm-gonna-be-me" individuality,
were the band not so insistant upon wimping out and disavowing the album's obvious message. Incredibly, Accept insists to
this day that the lyrics to songs like "London Leather Boys" were written by their female manager, Gaby "Deaffy"
Hauke, and that no one in the German group knew English well enough to realize that her sexy songs should be re-gendered for
a male singer. Doesn't it seem pretty unlikely, however, that these songs could get all the way through the process of writing,
recording, producing and packaging without SOMEBODY being able to read the lyric sheet. And what about that cover? If Rob
Halford can be man enough to come out of the closet, why can't Accept?
It's hard to believe for those who have grown up associating Def Leppard with radio friendly pop music, but this was one hard-assed
little combo in their day. Def Leppard were somewhat younger than most of their contemporaries during the New Wave of British
Heavy Metal, but their debut EP certainly delivers the rock 'n' roll goods. These guys once shared stages with the likes
of Diamondhead, Witchfyde and Venom, and stone classics like "Rocks Off" still show why.
The Cult began as the arty-farty Southern Death Cult before singer Ian Astbury canned the rest of the group, shortened the
name and scored a radio hit with the hippy/goth LOVE LP. Then, with the band firmly entrenched in the post-Echo and the Bunnymen
goth-pop genre, Astbury and crew suddenly went metal. ELECTRIC was the band's initial foray into AC/DC territory, and is the
best album the group ever recorded. Falling somewhere between Led Zeppelin and ZZ Top, the album is, ultimately as cliche
and derivative as hell, but the obvious enthusiasm the Cult shows for good old, three chord rock 'n' roll is inspiring, and
the physical rush of the music is undeniable.
These records constitute the best of the band's output, featuring singer Wino Weinrich. Vitas would prove, over the long haul,
to be a tad monochromatic and tedious, but these albums were the stuff. The albums that kept the heavy Sabbath tradition alive
for spikey haired skateboard kids in the eighties.
"You mean Betty's going to the prom with...BOBBY?"
NOTE: While it was originally my intention to continue this survey into the 90's and beyond, it has been three years since
I have even read this article, and there are no current plans to add to it any time in the near future. This feature will,
very likely, be incorporated into a larger, future project (the often promised but never seen ETCHED IN BLACK USED RECORD
GUIDE,) that will also cover the metal of the 1990's - 2000's in adequate detail.