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Five Heavy Albums that Changed My Life with M. of Pestilength

Pestilength‘s new full-length, Basom Gryphos, is a rager of the highest order, the Spanish duo on their second record digging deep into the murk of death metal, of corrosive blackened sludge, of total bestial barbaric caveman stomp und pummel, the band getting the atmospheric part of it down to absolute perfection, and the sonics are pure love letter to all that is horrid and torrid and downright filthy about death metal.

To celebrate the release of Basom Gryphos, we caught up with guitarist/bassist/vocalist M. (yup) to find out what five heavy albums changed his life. Read on as our man takes a break from crafting incredible extreme metal to give us his picks, in no particular order.

Molested – Blod-draum (1995)
Compulsory is to point out that their EP work Stormvold is a great contestant. However, this one kept my eyes widely open, as my aural dialects broadened with their merciless carnage. Intricate drum patterns and continuous sharpened strings tied me like barb wire. A majestic blend of brutal black metal. A journey of bottomless corporal spirituality. Lacerations of their sheer brutality pustulate. Blod-Draum is the album that when played from time to time puts my hairs on end; to my ears they were at some passages a proto-Portal violent scheme of brutal black metal.

Exmortem – Labyrinths of Horror (1995)
Factual is the rawness of their sound. The vocal hammering was one of the sparks for their craftmanship. Strings had a Metal Zone-ish/HM-2 texture but quite decipherable at equal parts. They purveyed a monolithic chamber of wandering souls of orthodox death metal. They could move from US to European death metal easily. Primitive and raw of its genre. The layout of it was immense, simple, grey a solarized band photo, the labyrinths of simplicity but also effective. “Dark thy Kingdom” and “Punishment for the Weak” are their heaviest songs. Cavemen music.

Sarcophagus – For We… Who are Consumed by the Darkness (1996)
Probably underrated and furthermore some of its members formed Judas Iscariot, if I am not wrong. I remember listening to it at the age of 14/15 from the tape-trading era, and I used to listen to it mesmerized because all instruments were present and the bass tone was incredible. Pointing out that to me was a good example of black metal with US death metal elements making possible the embrace of darkness with intensity and heavy riffing. Moving from slow-paced tempi to blast beats, thick snare sound, vocals were dry and bestial, not damped with tons of reverb and distortion as other bands tend to.

Pyrexia – Sermon of Mockery (1993)
I guess the words for such a piece of history in extreme music are always few, but as some of the mentioned above, this one got me at the teenage years as well. The drumming was so strange to me at that time, deciphering their code, their essence, the liturgical spectres and angels falling as devoured by demons, engraved my corneas. A blurry artwork; the song titles are a pure declaration of intentions. The riffing is atonal, dizzying. Production-wise, year 1993, what else could I say about the golden epoch of death metal? The core of those bands during those years was unstoppable and proof of it is Sermon of Mockery.

Abigor – Fractal Possession (2007)
Verwüstung / Invoke the Dark Age, Orkblut, Nachthymnen, Opus IV were the first steps of this reputed band from Austria. However, Fractal Possession did the job of its title, the multilayered guitars, the intense and surgical drumming. The floating vocals, the choke of them, it’s the anguish needed, a pure nervous system. Musicianship is out of this planet, with mature production, an entity that needs to be understood by listening to their previous works. Abigor is one of the bands that evolve, they age like one of the finest wines. To sum up, as part of their philosophy and personal one too, this sentence says it all: “If you seek life, then prepare for death.”

The post Five Heavy Albums that Changed My Life with M. of Pestilength appeared first on Decibel Magazine.

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Fight Fire With Fire: ‘Of One Blood’ vs. ‘Determination’

Fight Fire With Fire is an ongoing series on our site where we pit two classic genre albums against each other to definitively figure out which one is better. “But they’re both great!” you’ll say. Yes, these albums are the best of the best. But one is always better. Plus, we love these sorts of exercises, and also love watching you battle each other to the death in the comments, so how could this possibly end poorly?

Context matters. Here in 2022, no one really wants to hear a metallic hardcore band with Slayer influences lay down a good-cop-bad-cop thrasher (well, at least I know I don’t). In 2000 and 2001, however, I was eating that shit up, because it was fresh, it was exciting, and it sounded good.

And few sounded better than Shadows Fall and God Forbid. Along with Lamb of God, these guys were at the top of the NWOAHM heap, putting out records that sounded incredibly vital, taking metal to new places while definitely nodding to the past.

But then, you know, shit happened. The sound became diluted, overproduced, and devoid of feeling; many of the bands that mattered just kinda faded away, despite their best efforts. Really, it was one of the most anticlimactic endings ever to a once-interesting metal subgenre.

But we don’t forget. And today we’re looking back at two of the best bands of the era, and two of the best albums of the era, to see which one stands the test of time in our NWOAHM Fight Fire With Fire showdown.

Bring on the good cops; bring on the bad cops. Today you’re all welcome.

Shadows Fall – Of One Blood

Shadows Fall’s Somber Eyes to the Sky debut dropped in 1997, but it wasn’t until 2000’s Of One Blood, where they got new vocalist powerhouse Brian Fair and hopped over to Century Media, when things really got going for the band.

Man, once past irrelevant intro “Pain Glass Vision,” things get serious fast with the massive “Crushing Belial,” the opening riffs Slayeriffic, the verse NWOAHM perfection, knocking on Lamb of God’s door big time, and the good-cop chorus hits all the right feels. And this is really good songwriting craft, too, the band just raging until all their hearts stop, and the fact that during the quiet breakdown part shit sounds a bit, well, imperfect is awesome, man. No way should a bunch of scraggly longhairs suddenly sound like Frank Sinatra, and it’s those warts that actually really make me even more endeared to this as the years go on.

I love the title track so much, the huge and moving chorus, the Hammett/Hetfield part before the solo, the excellent vocal performance, the way the whole thing steamrolls along and brings you with it. This song is peak NWOAHM.

“The First Noble Truth” shows that the band is locked in and has their sound down to a fine point, although one could argue that point got even finer next album out. But songs like this, which bring with them absolutely nothing to complain about, prove how on fire the band was at this time.

“Fleshold” brings a groove that is borderline too much, but, especially when this record dropped, was most certainly not too much, it was in fact just right, as is the vocal interplay on this great tune.

“Root Bound Apollo” is the 5:27 mid-album epic, and it makes me think of early-era Cave In but given a spit-shine and an ambition for the arenas, and it works. Shadows Fall actually managed to handle acoustic parts and quiet moments quite well, and this one proves it, navigating through a few different shades and hues with ease.

“Revel In My Loss,” well, as we hit song seven, I’m reminded of the late-album fatigue this one always gave me, this song solid, sure, but lacking the excitement that the first half of the album had. This is an inherent problem with NWOAHM, even the best Lamb of God records always—every time—hitting a point where I wish they ended a couple of songs earlier. This song has a killer solo-to-the-very-last-second part, like “Bark at the Moon,” and I can always get behind that, though.

“Montauk” doesn’t offer as many new ideas as I need it to at this point in the album, but I do really like its heavier, slower parts; “To Ashes” flirts with some blastbeats nicely, giving a bit of a late-album wakeup that I want, and the vocal hooks are, of course, near perfection. The almost-kinda-but-not-shitty folk-metal part is awesome, too.

“Serenity” brings things to an energetic close much in the same way Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction comes to a close: raging, thrashing, straight-up, with a hint of melancholy melodies. And, actually, this song totally saves the day, the slight hump in the middle of the album decimated by that totally crushing main riff.

I loved this album when it came out, and I fully bought into this being the future of metal, or at least a future of metal. Now here I am in the future and this is absolutely not what I want metal to be, but here’s the thing: that’s not Shadows Fall’s fault. Along with a handful of other bands doing this sound, they absolutely killed it, they brought a new life and energy to metal at the time, and I’ll always love them for it. But the hundreds of bands that followed that took this sound and tidied it up, processed it beyond emotion, took away all the rough edges and all the heart and soul, those bands are the reason I don’t really want to hear this stuff anymore. It’s not Shadows Fall’s fault.

And it’s not God Forbid’s fault, either.

God Forbid – Determination

Similar to Shadows Fall, God Forbid’s Reject the Sickness debut came out in 2000, but they stepped things up a huge notch for album number two when they switched over to Century Media for 2001’s breakthrough Determination. Right away, the production sound is immediately more polished than Shadows Fall’s on Of One Blood, but not too polished, which was one of the big mistakes this genre ended up sinking into. I like Shadows Fall’s rough-around-the-edges sound, but Determination sounds more massive, no denying it.

“Dawn of the Millenia” is actually a cool little intro, mainly because it’s actually a song, a cool fade-in Meshuggah-esque instrumental, and it works.

It leads into the raging “Nothing,” which goes for the throat in a much more hostile fashion than anything off of Of One Blood, which is something I never really noticed when these records were new. But, wow, this one has something to prove, God Forbid going through all sorts of thrash, hardcore, and groove sounds here, not really good-cop-bad-cop as much as it just all over the place, in a good way. The climax could kill, and the breakdown is Dillinger-style chaos. I haven’t revisited this record in a while, and I’m genuinely shocked at much of this.

The song leads right into “Broken Promise” without missing a beat, and it’s four-on-the-floor thrash with some melodies, taking Shadows Fall’s promise of Slayerized hardcore and crashing all the levels through the red. The groove part that comes in is like Hatebreed gone actual metal: it’s extremely powerful, and those vocals are decimating.

I always loved “Divide My Destiny”’s melodies and incredible, Himsa-esque vocal performance. This song takes all that is great about this era of God Forbid and distills it into an incredible 5:19. The melodies, the riffs, the vocals… I’m actually a bit stunned here today that we aren’t talking about this band more regularly. This is very powerful stuff, the band showing an excellent grasp of songwriting as the song comes to a climax that gives me goosebumps every single time, even two decades later. Wow.

“Network” has some incredible melodies and soloing near its end, but much of the song threatens to introduce the mid-album ennui that Shadows Fall’s album also brought with it, raging as this song is; “Wicked” most certainly brings the mid-album fatigue, the song a heavy-enough groover but one without much personality.

“Determination, Pt. 1” starts off slow and thoughtful before the mid-tempo crunch kicks in, and the double bass is pounding, and the Slayer riffs are coming, and, yup, it’s all still clicking. “Determination, Pt. 2” shows off some more shades and hues, and the band navigate it all with finesse, the song giving some very cool breathing room in an album that needs it around this point.

“Go Your Own Way” (no, not that one) is awesome, stylish leads, emotive grooves, the band sort of settling into a late-album been-there-done-that feel, much like Shadows Fall did, but there’s nothing wrong with this song, and it explodes pretty good at the end.

“God’s Last Gift,” here’s a deep cut worth checking out, the riffs just solid throughout this 4:30 instrumental, the band laying down what is sort of the metalcore version of a classic Metallica instrumental track. Really good stuff, the ambition and confidence on this one really quite stunning.

Closer “Dead Words on Deaf Ears” is a sturdy 6:04 to end things off, not quite the massive epic ending I want, but a killer nonetheless, and another great cut on an album full of them. It brings the record to a pretty crushing close, and as it winds down, it’s pretty clear that something important just happened.

——-

These are both great records, both to be remembered as some of the best examples of the sound ever. They also both suffer a bit from mid-album fatigue, but one manages to edge its way out of that fatigue a bit better, one manages to destroy just a bit harder, and manages to even today, more than two decades and a complete lack of interest in the genre at hand later, totally kick my ass. Congrats, God Forbid: your determination was obvious, and it still is, and today you are the NWOAHM champions, for your sheer intensity, for a heaviness that has aged very well, for the broken-glass riffs that shine with all the best parts of NWOAHM’s broken promise.

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Justify Your Shitty Taste: Corrosion of Conformity’s “America’s Volume Dealer”

Almost every band has that album: you know, the critically and/or commercially reviled dud in an otherwise passable-to-radical back catalogue. Occasionally, a Decibel staffer or special guest will take to the Decibel site to bitch and moan at length as to why everybody’s full of shit and said dud is, in fact, The Shit. This time around, Greg Pratt defends Corrosion of Conformity’s America’s Volume Dealer.

Man, no problem: I can defend the living shit out of Corrosion of Conformity‘s 2000 release America’s Volume Dealer. It marked the band’s full-on shift into hayseed rock, yes, but don’t pretend you’re above these songs, because you’re not, I’m not, no one is.

Too bad the drums sound so damn weird, the late Reed Mullin employing some sort of ill-advised electronic kit and in doing so giving the album the only thing I can really complain about, besides toss-off closer “Gettin’ It On.”

“Over Me” is one of the greatest COC songs the band ever wrote. Here’s the thing: 1994’s Deliverance and 1996’s Wiseblood are two of the greatest metal records ever written, give or take. However, they’re both a bit too long and meandering. This song taps into what is great about them—absolutely killer riffing, soulful singing, simple yet powerful structure—and cuts the fat for a perfect 4:19 opener. Pepper Keenan never sounded better behind the mic, and that’s saying a lot.

They follow it up with a song that picks everything up a notch, the shoulda-been huge “Congratulations Song.” Have you spun this recently? It’s way better than anything you have spun recently, I can tell you that much. This one of the greatest one-two opening punches of any record I’ve ever come across in my life. Period. Any bozo who tells me that Load and Reload have “a good album’s worth of songs between them” can stop right there, throw those albums out, and listen to this instead. Because that’s what’s happening here, COC going full southern rock/metal, but doing it with the economy, soul and songwriting finesse that Metallica just did not have at that point. This album does the redneck stomp all over those two.

I recall acoustic front-porch ballad “Stare Too Long” being a bit, uh, “controversial” at the time with me and the pals, which shows that we maybe had a lot of time on our hands, and that we weren’t quite ready for COC’s gradual slip into full-on southern rock. But I’m ready now; man, I’ve never been more ready for these songs, “Stare Too Long” an excellent remedy after the first two rockers here, the song sort of sliding into deep-cut first-album Black Crowes territory, which is just fine by me.

“Diablo Blvd.” gets a bit harder to swallow, and I’m, um, into swallowing a lot here, but it’s slinky as hell, although it’s pushing it a bit as far as the stoned-guy wah-wah kinda shit goes in the verses. But it’s got huge grooves and the chorus is absolutely massive, always worth sticking around for. Built for arenas, but that climax coulda crushed stadiums.

“Doublewide” rides a nice, lazy, hazy groove to the middle of nowhere, but it’s comfortable, and I like how seamlessly all the parts of the song just roll together, which, until you hear a song like this is something you don’t even think about too often. A bit of a forgotten song but it has moments of glory, thanks to another killer vocal performance, featuring some of the biggest Hetfield-isms you’ve ever heard not coming outta Papa’s mouth (and, unfortunately, one of the cringiest examples of that weird drum sound, too).

Now, “Zippo,” this is some funky stuff, and I normally don’t really like music that can be described as “funky stuff.” But this rules, killer slinky verse and a mammoth chorus. “Maybe you’s a rock and roller” indeed. I mean, come on: this rules, and the ending riff is perfection. We’re halfway through and it’s more or less non-stop bangers here. Absolutely justified.

“Who’s Got the Fire,” good lord were COC ever diving deep into this shit, and every song just gets better and better, this one a powerhouse of stoopid rock, but, like I say, it ain’t stupid, it’s just right. Another shoulda-been hit, like KISS circa Rock and Roll Over which is just fucking perfect, Keenan’s lyrics almost devolving to utter, glorious nonsense at points, and it should have been cranking out of the windows of every car for endless summers after it was released, yet, here we are in an unfair and cruel world, humanity not adopting these songs as anthems like it should have. Screw it, screw everything: this song will be cranking out of my windows forever. I’ve got the fire, and I wish you would as well.

“Sleeping Martyr” has a verse I was never huge on, and a crushing chorus I most certainly am huge on. I mean, this is what the record after the Black Album should have sounded like, if that band had any steam left in them at that point. COC had the steam, COC had the fire, and here’s yet another incredible song to prove it. When Keenan sings, “Hold tight/because it’s going to be a long night,” I still get goosebumps.

That song isn’t exactly a party, but the band switches gears quickly: I think “Take What You Want” makes me feel better than any song has ever made me feel, the band hitting all the feels here, this song a total masterclass in feel-good rock.

“13 Angels” is an odd late-album epic, and it works, sombre and slow, tapping into some NOLA vibes here, with another huge chorus. Good goddamn man, how many of these incredible songs does there have to be before you’ll admit this is a great album? I love this one, sprawling, tons of feel, vibe for miles. When it builds at its climax, man, I don’t want to belabour the point, but this is rock-era Metallica but, like, good. Really good. It’s what could have been in a lot of different ways, and I absolutely love it. “The angels just shake their heads” according to our man Pepper here, and I’m shaking my head today at this album not getting anywhere near the respect it deserves here more than two decades after its release.

I mentioned closer “Gettin’ It On” earlier as being an example of what’s not good about this record, and, yeah, it’s still not good, just a no-brainer rocker to end things off, but at least it’s quick and easy, over and done in two and a half minutes. It’s a fun but weak way to end a great record.

Man, maybe I’m wrong but this record is either disregarded or just plain forgotten. I hope COC still throws these songs in their set (well, when Pepper is with them anyway) because there are some monsters here. It keeps me up at night sometimes thinking about this era of COC, these three albums that are not only their best, but a three-album run that most bands would kill for, a trio of discs that should have found the band way huger than it did.

In extreme metal lore, there was an era were Paradise Lost were being touted as “the next Metallica.” I can’t deny that there was a strong case to be made for that, but listening to this record, I can’t help but think that COC should have been the next Metallica, the next band to bring glorious rock/metal to the masses.

But even that kinda detracts from my main point here: this record rules, these songs are fantastic, and there is absolutely no way it should be considered a weak link in COC’s catalogue when it’s actually one of their strongest releases, firmly at the bottom of their trio of arena-rock masterpieces, a very respectable place to be, looking down at the rest of a confusing catalogue, looking down over countless other records, staring quizzically at millions of metalheads that refuse to look up and acknowledge just how good this one is.

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Five Heavy Albums that Changed My Life with Rocky of Voivod

We’ve got a couple reasons to be celebrating the mighty Canuck sci-fi thrash warriors Voivod right now: the band is getting ready to drop their new album, Synchro Anarchy, on February 11, and they’ve also been confirmed to play the upcoming Decibel Metal & Beer Fest: Philly 2022. Then there’s the upcoming documentary, the fact that they just completely rule… I mean, there’s no reason to not have Voivod on your mind right now.

So to keep the flame burning, we caught up with bassist Dominic “Rocky” Laroche to find out what five heavy albums changed his life. To Morgoth! (Not the band!)

Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast (1982)

I was 12 years old when I started learning electric bass and listening to heavy metal. The first two albums I bought were At War With Satan (Venom), and The Number of the Beast. At that time, I was hesitating between learning bass, guitar, or drums. You can guess that the first time I heard Steve Harris play and saw him in action in the video “The Number of the Beast” with his foot on the monitor confirmed to me that playing bass was really cool! Anecdote… The first time I rehearsed with my first band, before I even played the first note, I put my foot on my amp thinking it would help my first performance… and it did! [Laughs] So this album, of course for its songs, but also for the great playing of Steve Harris, who made the difference in the choice I made over 35 years ago to play bass, still today and forever my first passion!

Metallica – Kill ’em All (1983)

Bass solo, take one… “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth,” (the segment before the drum kicks in) was my first bass exam, in front of my classmates when I was 13 years old. I can say that Cliff Burton is in my top five bassists. He made me realize that it was possible to take the lead on the bass with a fuzz, and that heavy metal came from classical music. “Motorbreath” was the first song that got me into the thrash metal wave, and “Whiplash” is my favorite song from that album. The garage ambience and their teenage attitude make this album one of my favorite of Metallica. Whenever I feel old, I just have to listen to Kill ’em All and instantly I feel young and it brightens up my days!

Slayer – Reign in Blood (1986)

“Angel of Death”… at 1:38… that guitar riff! I first heard it at school at lunchtime. That was my introduction to Slayer at 14. The next day, I jumped on my bike to buy the cassette! 28 minutes on both sides with the same 10 songs… on a loop in my tape recorder… while I was rolling a 200 cigarettes tobacco box… with my headphones to take care of my family’s ears. Sure, it’s healthier to listen to metal than to smoke, but that’s how it was! I’m always impressed by someone who sings and plays bass at the same time, and Araya is a master in this field, especially on this great album! I feel privileged to have been able to attend the Slayer concert at the Agora du Vieux-Port de Québec on June 14, 2004 where they played the entire Reign in Blood album. It will remain engraved in my memory!

Voivod – Dimension Hatröss (1988)

This album! Even though today I’m part of this legendary band since July 2014, I’m first and foremost a fan, since I was 13 years old. I will always remember the summer of ’88, when Voivod released Dimension Hatröss. It was a revelation! I listened to this concept album every day for a year… it became like an addictive meditation. A world you need to escape to. No other music will have made me travel in this strange universe. It is so unique. Just look at the video clips “Tribal Convictions” and “Psychic Vacuum”’ and you will understand what I mean. It gave me a different perception of music and connected me to a higher level. At that time I was playing in a band where we were trying to create our own songs, and it made me realize how much chemistry Voivod had to have with each other to create that kind of concept, and that working as a team made all the difference. When I listen to Dimension Hatröss, I imagine that the band is connected to something from a parallel universe. I see that music has a great influence on every cell of our body…. and probably on our DNA. This is in my top three Voivod albums… and my first choice of any style! Thanks to Piggy, Blacky, Away, Snake and [producer] Harris Johns for this masterpiece.

Meshuggah – Chaosphere (1998)

I have to say that at the end of the ’90s, and for almost 10 years, I was a little less into the metal world. At that time, I was part of some funky blues rock projects. In 2008, upon arriving home after a few gigs and several hours on the road, I noticed that a friend had posted a link on my FB page to a music video entitled “New Millennium Cyanide Christ.” I was tired but I clicked on the link anyway. After one listen, I wasn’t sure what had happened, but I definitely felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time while listening to music. After a second listen, the “metal string” inside of me started to vibrate again. I immediately bought the album. For the next two months I listened to Meshuggah and reconnected with the world of metal! It confirmed [to] me that metal is part of my roots… Metal once, metal forever!

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Fight Fire With Fire: ‘Cocked and Loaded’ vs. ‘Wake Me When It’s Over’

Fight Fire With Fire is an ongoing series on our site where we pit two classic genre albums against each other to definitively figure out which one is better. “But they’re both great!” you’ll say. Yes, these albums are the best of the best. But one is always better. Plus, we love these sorts of exercises, and also love watching you battle each other to the death in the comments, so how could this possibly end poorly?

We don’t talk about hair metal much here, but at least a couple of us around Decibel love the stuff. I spend no shortage of time thinking about the genre’s peak years, and a thesis I’ve come up with is that most of these bands hit their stride on their second album after a solid enough debut and before a slightly patchier third album. I mean, “Fallen Angel” couldn’t have been on Look What the Cat Dragged In, if you know what I’m saying. And if you know what I’m saying, welcome, friend.

In 1988, L.A. Guns dropped their self-titled debut. The album is a legit ripper, taking the best of Hollywood street sleaze glam and adding just enough stadium spit-shine to make it work. But 1989’s Cocked and Loaded works even better.

Then there’s Faster Pussycat. In 1987, the band released their self-titled debut, a fantastic piece of underrated Guns N’ Roses-esque trash rock; two years later, the band released their second album, the fantastic Wake Me When It’s Over.

Both albums find the bands noticeably more confident and relaxed, both albums spawned some of their most classic songs, both albums are hair-metal classics.

But which is the true king of the strip, the album that will truly rock forever, the one that stands hair above hair above hair over the other? We took it upon ourselves to dive back in to these records and we’ve got the answer. But, first, let’s party.

L.A. Guns – Cocked and Loaded

This record almost plays out like a concept album about the best and worst of Hollywood life. I mean, it’s long in the tooth at 54 minutes, but this is like Operation: Mindcrime for dummies or something. Well, not really, but it’s what I like to imagine is happening as intro “Letting Go” kicks things off with a one-minute… well, it’s a real song but it’s somehow only a minute long, which is awesome, and it leads right into “Slap in the Face,” a lean and mean riff-rocker that lays four on the floor and brings the sleaze of the strip into your living room through some classic melodies and vocal lines. I love this stuff, man, and few do it better than this lineup/era of L.A. Guns.

But the album really gets going with “Rip and Tear,” a classic rocker with a perfect chorus and a hilariously fun faster-faster-faster! speed-up ending. This song is just economic, perfect hair metal, ready for the arenas, ready to be the soundtrack for one of the best nights of your life.

“Sleazy Come Easy Go,” hmm, here’s one we always forget about, but it’s got a good slinky beat to it (that the band would revisit with much greater success on their next album, with the killer “Kiss My Love Goodbye”) and a memorable chorus.

“Never Enough” is another classic, a chorus to die for, riffs straddling that perfect line between radio-melodic and street-wise, dangerous verses, everything here is a winner.

I never liked “Malaria” for some reason, the structure of the song and the chorus kinda grating to me, but I can appreciate the mid-tempo slinkiness of it now, and it does give some good melodic atmosphere at this point in the record. I’m still not huge on that chorus, though.

“The Ballad of Jayne” rules; I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a well-done hair ballad, and this is about as well-done as they get. It’s up there with the best of the best, although it never quite got the traction of your “Home Sweet Home”s or your “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”s.

“Magdalaine” is a bit of a strange one, the band taking six minutes to get where they’re going here with this fast-paced song, and it kinda ends up nowhere, the Guns signalling that we’re entering the midway point of the album, steam is running low, and this record should be 15 minutes shorter.

“Give a Little,” here’s another one we all forget, but I like it, the band sorta sleepwalking through this hungover rocker but with enough swagger and style, and great, stylish riffing, to keep it interesting. Not a classic but a damn good song.

“I’m Addicted” is a two-minute guitar solo/Willie Dixon cover, which is puzzling but what the hell, and “17 Crash” has a weird title and is a grooving mid-tempo slinker that turns into a brisk safe-punk tune come chorus time, and I’m on board. You know how when some of the old-dog metal bands talk about some of their songs being “punk” you just cringe? LA Guns actually had a legit punk vibe sometimes, it’s catchy as hell and it shines through on songs like this.

“Showdown (Riot on Sunset),” Jesus Christ this record never ends, and now there are horns on this massive song, which could have been the album opener, really, a stormin’ and strong cut buried deep, forgotten to time, but very cool.

“Wheels of Fire,” in one ear and out the other, for five minutes, but closer “I Wanna Be Your Man” is strong, great anthemic chorus, cool riffs, everything just fists in the air, feeling good, feeling dirty, feeling mean. Love it.

The production is a bit stiff on this record, particularly with the drums, but that was the era. The album shines because of the excellent vocal performance from Phil Lewis and guitar work of Tracii Guns and Mick Cripps. The record definitely loses some steam and lags at points, but, like I hinted at in the beginning here, it’s more about ambition and confidence than it is limitations or failures. Still, it’s a failure on someone’s part to not tell the band to chop two or three songs from this record back in the day.

Cocked and Loaded is a fantastic document of hair-metal in its prime, the sound of a band knowing damn well how on fire they were. But was Faster Pussycat burning even hotter with Wake Me When It’s Over?

Faster Pussycat – Wake Me When It’s Over

Opener “Where There’s a Whip There’s a Way” rules, although I never realized until this very moment that it’s 6:45, which is a super bold move for a hair band, opening an album with a song that long. Thing is, it doesn’t drag at all, the song itself rocking out hard, then the ending part stomping and fading away perfectly. Awesome.

“Little Dove” features a slinky groove that L.A. Guns or Guns N’ Roses would both die for, and that tricky labyrinth riff at the end absolutely rules. What a great one-two opening punch these songs are, the band sounding incredibly confident and on the ball here. Then there’s “Poison Ivy” and that’s three for three, the band totally on a roll here, this song a huge, raucous rockin’ party of a shoulda-been anthem.

After that almost perfect opening trio of rockers, we go into “House of Pain,” and, like “The Ballad of Jayne,” I’m a sucker for it, this one hitting all the feels, almost melodramatic but instead just awesome. Love it, total classic for a reason.

“Gonna Walk” is undoubtedly a rager, the verses absolutely killing it, the chorus killing it too, then just killing it harder and harder, worming its way into your head, where it will stay for literally years, like it or not. Again, this is the kind of song that the biggies of the era would have killed for, and Faster Pussycat had it, easy, smooth, no troubles.

“Pulling Weeds” is another huge, awesome song, although it would be one of the songs that coulda been used as a totally killer B-side if it was taken off here in an attempt to make this 60-minute long record a bit more reasonable with the runtime.

“Slip of the Tongue,” what a song, and what a way to get the energy levels up again at this point in the album. I always forget it’s buried kinda deep in the record because it’s incredible, energy all over the place, a very well-executed swear word in the chorus, shoulda been the second song on the album, although “Little Dove” does just fine thank you very much.

“Cryin’ Shame,” again with the choruses for miles, and the bluesy boogie shuffle that few can pull off, but it just sounds irresistible with Taime Downe’s wildly underrated vocals over it. However, as great as that chorus is, the song as a whole is a bit expendable on a record that needs some fat trimmed from it, although I absolutely love how it ends.

“Tattoo” is a killer bluesy rocker, the band coming alive with those licks, nodding back to the first album more than most songs here, and, man, this one makes you feel good, that opening riff pure Izzy Stradlin fire. Bold burying this one so deep because it coulda been a bit more of a calling card for the band if it was more of a focus song. Still, it’s there for us, waiting and reliable, and I love it (also love how Downe says “Boise, Idaho” in this one).

“Ain’t No Way Around It” stats with a fake-out sludgey intro, then into the speedy, slinky, sleazy rock, although it’s a bit of a throwaway, but it does have a good verse, good chorus, catchy enough, I mean… everything’s here, it’s just not a cut above like everything else on this album, and by the time we get to it, well, a bit of fatigue is setting in. Still, a fantastic song.

“Arizona Indian Doll,” all these years go past and I still can’t decide if this song is stupid or actually pretty awesome. I have no idea. It’s got a good rhythm and movement to it, but it’s goofy, and it’s clearly in poor taste (I can’t bear to look up the lyrics, and that outro, man, let’s move on).

“Please Dear” ends off the album with a totally forgotten kinda-ballad, but more like a Black Crowes smoky-bar, piano-led look back at life, haze of nostalgia only overwhelmed by the stench of booze and cigarette smoke. This song is actually really great, and a smart way to close off the record. Classy move, showing the band reaching for something beyond just hair metal. (Too bad it’s not on all the formats this was released on due to length, as “Arizona Indian Doll” is most assuredly not a solid closer like this is.)

Like Cocked and Loaded, this record goes on forever and could easily lose two or three tracks and have a couple more edited down a bit. But Faster Pussycat, like their competitors today, were on fire at this point, so who can blame anyone not wanting to get in their way? Like I said before, I love Downe’s vocals—he’s actually one of my favorite vocalists of the era—and the sleaze-rock riffs here are to die for. The songs are excellently written and a ton of fun to listen to, and the production isn’t quite as stiff as Cocked‘s.

 

We have a winner, and I’m happy to announce it because I think this band never got as much credit and attention as they deserved. I love L.A. Guns’ classic records as much as you should, but today Faster Pussycat are the clear champs, Wake Me When It’s Over proving itself as a powerhouse of rock swagger, of youthful confidence, of a band absolutely at the height of their sleazy powers, reaching high for a future they never got, but one that forever remains hanging as a satisfying what-if as we spin this album again and again, lost in the glory of what is, when all is said and done, a wildly great rock and roll record.

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Five Heavy Albums that Changed My Life with A.L.N. of Mizmor

Mizmor‘s stunning new album, Wit’s End, is out tomorrow on Gilead Media: the record is a massive statement of droning, blackened, doomy death intent, led by sole member A.L.N. To help try to make sense of all the despair, we caught up with the man to find out what five heavy albums changed his life; read on to find out what extreme doom platters—and one very unexpected curveball—A.L.N. chose.

Burning Witch – Crippled Lucifer (1998)

To this day, though incepted in the ’90s, no band is heavier and eviler sounding than Burning Witch. I remember the first time I heard them. I was at the Burial Grounds (Salem, OR) with Paul Riedl and Kyle Watson and they put on “History of Hell.” I was immediately lured in and repulsed simultaneously. To my dwindling Christian guilt it felt wrong, but I had to hear more. The greatest doom band of all time.

Wolves in the Throne Room – Two Hunters (2007)

This was my gateway into black metal and I am still blown away by this record. On Two Hunters, WIITR masterfully walks the line of sad/intense and pretty/inspiring, which is what I look for in black metal. Too far in either direction and I fall off. I love the grandiose narrative of this long-form album and how the melancholic melodies keep the listener from soaring too high.

Hell – I (2009)

MSW really changed the doom game with his debut Hell record. Though we both sought to push the bounds of heavy as our old band Sorceress was falling apart, MSW perfectly epitomized the low, slow sonic level I was itching to hear. Getting to do vocals on half the songs on this record was such a privilege; I really feel we made an album that sounds like wandering the landscapes of Hell itself. I am forever inspired by his songwriting and musicianship.

Thou – Peasant (2008)

Thou was the first band I ever heard that clothed the unrelenting brutality of sludge-doom with the sad, pretty chords of black metal. Instead of power chords and pentatonic riffing, they give you the nuance and emotion of dissonance and suffering. This gave me a glimpse of how to blend my two favorite sub-genres in a tasteful way.

Enya – Amarantine (2005)

I like metal because it’s sad. At the end of the day, that’s what is really happening for me: I like sad music. Be it metal, rock, blues, reggae, classical, ambient, whatever: if it’s sad, it resonates with me. Enya was an early example of this in my life. To me, her music sounds like giving something up; there’s a bittersweetness to it reminiscent of love and loss. It is somber and contemplative and as a kid I sought to make music like that (and still do).

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Primitive Origins: Zior’s ‘Every Inch a Man’

Primitive Origins is a column where we’ll look back at proto-metal and early metal that deserves a bit of your battered eardrum’s attention. We’re keeping it loose and easy here: there’s no strict guidelines other than it’s gotta be old, it helps if it’s obscure, and it’s gotta rock out surprisingly hard for its context. Pscyh-ed out proto-metal from the late ’60s? Of course. Early attempts at doom metal from the ’70s? Hell yeah. Underground Soviet metal from the early ’80s? Sure. Bring it on. Bring it all on.

The well of early proto-metal will never run dry, which bodes well for us here in this column. Let’s start the new year off by taking a look at the second album from UK-based Zior, a proto-stoner/psychedelic band who dabbled with prog tendencies (hi, flute—door’s over there) and occult leanings (wait, flute, come back—we’re listening). This record, originally a German-only release from either 1972 or 1973, depending on what dark corner of the internet you trust more, is a bit patchy but has moments of light in the darkness… or darkness in the light.

“Entrance of the Devil” starts off killer, with what is either a super creepy movie sample or just a bunch of weird shit the guys threw together, and it leads into the massive opening riff perfectly. I’m thinking biker proto-stoner doom/sludge, like Electric Wizard at their most B-movie ride-cult-ride ready, and the psycho mumbled vocals here only add to the WTF vibe. Killer opening song, riffs for miles, atmosphere to spare.

It leads right into “The Chicago Spine,” where the tempo picks up, we’re heading out to the highway, getting our motors running, and it’s four-on-the-floor early hard rock, some psych overtones to what is basically a “Born to Be Wild” ripoff, sure, but a fun one.

“Have You Heard the Wind Speak” gets a bit funky, a bit slinky, a bit trippy, definitely a bit stoned. Those spookin’-out vox are hilarious, but, hey, it was the era. Which is the best I can say for “Time Is the Reason” too, all bongos and feeling the love and I’m tuning out here.

But then there’s “She’ll Take You Down,” which, sure, is rooted in drowsy blues but is delivered with a Kirk Windstein-level vocal attack and a sludgey vibe musically, too. The album is redeemed here on this cool track.

Unfortunately, “Dudi Judi” then brings a honky-tonk blues shuffle to things, and I’m just tuning right out.

“Strange Kind of Magic” sorts things out, laying down a dirty Hotter than Hell Frehley riff while “Ride Me Baby” rocks hard and economic, at 2:20 not wasting much time, boogie licks all over the place, the band going actually quite fast on this one. Tons of energy; even the harmonica is raucous enough. Approved.

“Evolution” threatens to be sleepy blues again but instead is ragged enough to sound less like that and more like proto-NOLA stoner in the verse, even if the chorus cleans it up a bit for a more of a classic rock and rolly coulda-been anthem. I dig.

The title track trips pretty hard, with the spoken word and the sound effects and all. This is as occult-y and also as proggy as this record gets, and it’s kinda funny but not necessarily a great piece of art. Neither is “Cat’s Eyes,” which brings us back to the barroom boogie-woogie. Man, at this point I’m wishing half this album had been cut for a far more efficient proto-stoner sleazy biker rock album with slight fun occult leanings, because the bluesy and rock and rolly stuff kinda blows.

“Suspended Animation” begins the album’s close with a mellow, trippy vibe, all bass and echoing vocals, and it’s a smart way to begin the end, definitely sounding like one of those killer classic Sab meditations.

“Angel of the Highway” sounds like the name of a great Thin Lizzy song, but it’s not, it’s a great Zior song, one we should all be more familiar with, as the band ends this rather confounding album the same way they started it: with a rowdy biker-rock anthem that nods a bit too close to “Summertime Blues” for my liking, but I’ll ignore that and focus on the crashing drums, the great riffs, the hoary vocals. I’ll let the too-long runtime go (admittedly, they do flesh out the last couple minutes in pretty fun fashion) and give this one a thumbs up.

This record is too long at 46 minutes, especially because half of it kinda stinks or just doesn’t fit in. Zior feel like a band at a crossroads here, and it’s too bad they never were able to put out the red-hot classic they were so obviously capable of. But the songs here that rock are fantastic, the band cruising down the highway in all our minds while groups like Electric Wizard, Cathedral, even Church of Misery give a solemn nod in respect as they go their own way, well aware of those who got the concrete hot and ready for them, even if sonically they’re a world apart.

Zior’s Every Inch a Man – The Decibel breakdown:

Do I need to be stoned to listen to this?: No, but it would help with some of the blues stuff.

Heaviness factor: Pretty light for the most part, but with glimpses of proto-stoner.

Obscura Triviuma: Their debut featured art designed by Keith McMillan, who you know as the person behind the iconic art on Black Sabbath’s classic debut.

Other albums: A self-titled in 1971 and Spirit of the Gods in 2019.

Related bands: Iron Maiden (no, not that one), The Iron Maiden (still, nope), (The Original) Iron Maiden (oh, wow)

Alright, fine, if you must: I get the feeling these guys were no strangers to acid.

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Primitive Origins: T2’s ‘It’ll All Work Out in Boomland’

Primitive Origins is a column where we’ll look back at proto-metal and early metal that deserves a bit of your battered eardrum’s attention. We’re keeping it loose and easy here: there’s no strict guidelines other than it’s gotta be old, it helps if it’s obscure, and it’s gotta rock out surprisingly hard for its context. Pscyh-ed out proto-metal from the late ’60s? Of course. Early attempts at doom metal from the ’70s? Hell yeah. Underground Soviet metal from the early ’80s? Sure. Bring it on. Bring it all on.

We haven’t done a huge amount of early prog rock in this column, so let’s take a trip today, a big trip, with British prog rockers T2 and their 1970 debut It’ll All Work Out in Boomland. I don’t know much about T2, which makes them a great candidate for the column, and after a tip from a reader pointed me to this album, I realized it was definitely worthy of further exploration.

Will it all work out in Boomland? What the hell does that title even mean? Read on to find the answer to the former; as to the latter, well, some prog mysteries just gotta remain unsolved.

“In Circles” kicks things off with around nine minutes of frantic prog mania, the song going to some pretty jammy spots but managing to keep things rocking as well. Tons of stoned-guy guitar work going on here, and the vocals, well, they come in now and again but are pretty inconsequential. We’re here for the bonkers buildup and guitar work, and for that endlessly bouncing and inviting bass line, and we’re leaving this song extremely satisfied.

“J.L.T.” nears six minutes of trippy, psychedelic prog. It starts off tripping through the daisies pretty hard, and I haven’t smoked enough weed (in other words, any) in the past 25 years or so to really get fully in the mood here, but it still does a good job of laying down the light touch in the first part then absolutely nails the ’70s-sitcom-set-in-New-York dirty soft-rock vibe, which I just eat up. Man, two songs in and two winners here, lots of variety, lots of weirdness, era-appropriate explorations but not getting too meandering. Approved.

“No More White Horses” is an extremely cool song title, and this eight-and-a-half-minute song features an incredible moment where horns come in, unexpectedly, which gave me legit goosebumps and reminded me of Cerberus Shoal post-full-on-emo but pre-full-on-unlistenable, right when they were at their best-band-ever point. That’s not a reference I thought I’d ever make in this column, which speaks wonders to T2’s unique and diverse sound. The phenomenal horn-to-guitar solo climax just nails it: this song is a winner. Wow. I’m extremely impressed.

“Morning” closes off this record with 21 minutes (did we mention this is a prog album?) that sort of starts like a sideways “Thank You” from Zep, and actually does a very good job at conveying some emotion, not prog’s strong point, generally speaking. Now, of course, because this song is so unbelievably long, there’s time for big solos, crazy jam parts, lots of wandering through the prog labyrinth, and so on and so on, but damned if T2 don’t manage to keep it interesting and, importantly, fun to listen to. It’s not overbearing, like 21-minute prog songs can so often be. It’s rockin’, it’s a journey, it’s fun to be taking it with the band. Very well done. And the return of the horns? Beautiful.

All told, I’m sold on T2 and their odd take on early prog. Sure, genre reference points are here, but this band take things in new directions, and they keep it refreshing and listenable. I love it when prog is a chore, but as the years go on I find I have less patience to figure out the math. T2 ain’t afraid to pull out the slide rules, but they do it in a way that is endlessly fun, rich and rewarding on It’ll All Work Out in Boomland.

T2’s It’ll All Work Out in Boomland – The Decibel breakdown:

Do I need to be stoned to listen to this?: No, but that sounds fun.

Heaviness factor: Not heavy, but rockin’, and proggin’.

Obscura Triviuma: “No More White Horses” is a cover of a Please song; that band featured members of T2.

Other albums: The band was together from 1970 to 1972 and only released this album in that time; since then, they’ve reformed and released other records.

Related bands: Please, Neon Pearl, Keith Cross & Peter Ross, Pete Dunton, The Flies.

Alright, fine, if you must: ‘Shrooms.

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Hall of Fame Countdown: Cave In’s “Until Your Heart Stops”

You say “Slayer-influenced metalcore” to me now and I just punch you in the face (kidding, you could most likely kick my ass), but back in 1998, metalcore visionaries Cave In dropped the most amazing piece of Slayer-influenced metalcore the world had no idea it needed with their debut real full-length, Until Your Heart Stops.

But it wasn’t just Slayer-infuenced: there were huge, Meshuggah-like grooves (before that reference also became exhausting in metalcore), emo-core tendencies and, most interestingly, melodic aspirations that nod to their next album, the brilliant Jupiter.

Until Your Heart Stops made our Hall of Fame way back in our July 2007 issue, but it’s on our minds now for another reason: the band is performing a special Until Your Heart Stops set at our Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest: Los Angeles event, going down December 10 and 11 at The Belasco in LA.

So, what better time than now to deep dive into the record’s 10 tracks and rank them from worst to best? From concise thrashers to sprawling noise-rock experimentation, this album has a lot going on, so sit back and enjoy Until Your Heart Stops one more time, before you enjoy it one more time again in LA next month.

10. Segue 1
We’re not giving every interlude its own ranking here, but this one stands out, as it’s actually a very cool little breathing-room interlude track, 1:17 of weird ideas and far-reaching sounds that are nowhere near metalcore, more like experimental emo-hardcore of the era, and I’m on board.

9. Controlled Mayhem then Erupts
Of course it’s a 14-minute album closer: this was 1998 metalcore, after all. And you kinda know by this point in the album what’s going to happen: heavy part, atmospheric part, meandering/noisy/experimental part… But Cave In manage to do a great job even if the runtime of this one is a bit exhausting. Love the manic spoken/screamed vocal part that leads into the Meshug-groove and the sideways-Slayer riffing. I love everything Cave In did on this record, even if everything after about five minutes here is filler noise that I could really live without, hence the lower positioning.

8. Ebola
Some good guitar heroics here on a song that is more mean median metalcore than most on this record, “Ebola” buried deep and not thought about often when this album comes up, but it does what it needs to do: uses shards of thrash riffs in a smart metalcore context to shred faces. Shred faces “Ebola” does, especially during the song’s awesome climax. The quiet part that follows carries just as much weight, in that special way that only Cave In can really pull off.

7. Until Your Heart Stops/Segue 2
The second half of the album kicks off with the massive title track, pounding double-bass and jagged riffing, atmospheric melodies and experimental noise rock. It meanders, but it meanders well, despite being pretty difficult to warm up to. Segue 2 (which I’m just smushing into this song like it’s presented on Apple Music, deal with it) is more or less a disorienting guitar loop, which we can totally get behind, especially in the context of the full album. Also, we love the context of this: the title track of this record is a sprawling, eight-minute (if you include “Segue 2,” which we are, deal with it) far-reaching metalcore/mathcore/noise rock/noise piece. In some ways, it deserves to be higher here, but, hey, this song doesn’t even care if you like it, so here we are.

6. Bottom Feeder/Segue 3

This one sneaks in as song 8 of 10 at under three minutes, with tempos at mid and vocals at clean and smart, the band sounding like Helmet at their most relaxed during the verse here, before things get noisy and ugly (although the Helmet reference can still make sense in those parts, too). Totally a forgotten tune here, at least for me, this one is actually really cool in its own way, and then “Segue 3” (which we’re combining with “Bottom Feeder,” you still gotta deal with it) is 30 seconds at the end for weirdo noise, as is this album’s way.

5. Halo of Flies

In some ways, “Halo of Flies” is everything great about Cave In, from the thrash riffing to the atmospheric bits, the builds and ebbs and flows, the emotional release, and the unexpected clean singing—which works better here than anywhere else on the record, and sets the stage for what’s to come next for the band. It doesn’t have as much visceral impact as your “Juggernaut”s or “Moral Eclipse”s but it’s an incredibly solid Cave In song. Plus, the ending climax and riff rule.

4. Moral Eclipse

The Slayer on smart-guy-metalcore attack of this song still just totally smashes, years later: when the band strap in and ride the horses, it’s borderline too much, but then the make-Meshuggah-jealous rhythm-section attack, the Coalesce-loving breakdown, argh, it’s just too good. Lots of this stuff sounded amazing at the time but hasn’t aged well; “Moral Eclipse” shows its age and is most certainly of a certain time and place, but man has it ever held up great. Some days this one sneaks into my number-three spot.

3. Terminal Deity

Cave In are bringing the groove here, the youthful attack totally unrecognizable when held up next to the band’s later-era releases, but it’s also a whole hell of a lot heavier and, you know, glass-eating or whatever. “Terminal Deity” has tons of great riffs, manic drumming, and a production that can barely hold it all together—and it sounds awesome. Some early attempts at more melodic singing try to sneak in here, but they barely make it above the carnage. Love it, and when the final-Unbroken-7” moment near the end of the song when an unbelievably memorable vocal line hits at around 2:30, it’s clear this is a classic.

2. Juggernaut

The first two songs here are killers, but it’s on the third, “Juggernaut,” where Cave In truly established themselves, starting heavy but then dropping some space-rock aspiration, taking us on a completely unexpected journey. Sure, they can throw down King/Hanneman riffs, but they also swoon us through the stars, something Slayer could never do. Then the big grooves, the locked-in rhythm section, the almost Thin Lizzy guitar heroics, the kinda stupid but hey something is happening here riff at 2:11 (brother riff to Dillinger Escape Plan’s circus riff, itself a long-lost stepson of a Toxik riff, if we’re getting serious)… It all comes to a head a couple minutes before the song even considers ending, when things get noisier and noisier and then a quick break and then, good lord did metalcore ever have promise at one point. It’s all here on this most masterful of tracks.

1. The End of Our Rope Is a Noose

So the band lays down three songs that mainly mosh to the finish line, although showing more smarts and aspiration than your average ‘core band of the time, then drop this epic. Really, “The End of Our Rope Is a Noose” is the centerpiece of the album, the band showing their first dive into clean, second-album Sunny Day Real Estate emo-weirdness here, sandwiched between the Slayer and Meshuggah parts… I mean, this is brilliant stuff, and this song is memorable, massive, and moving, and I’m not even trying to alliterate here. Each riff builds on the last in this eight-minute juggernaut (sorry), until the psycho is-it-really-ending fadeout, and, no, it’s not ending, here’s a few more minutes of broken-glass riffing and memorable vocal lines before fuck you we’re done.

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Fight Fire With Fire: ‘Crowbar’ vs. ‘Take as Needed for Pain’

Fight Fire With Fire is an ongoing series on our site where we pit two classic genre albums against each other to definitively figure out which one is better. “But they’re both great!” you’ll say. Yes, these albums are the best of the best. But one is always better. Plus, we love these sorts of exercises, and also love watching you battle each other to the death in the comments, so how could this possibly end poorly?

It wasn’t until I was pitching this to my editor that I really connected the dots between these two albums. Both are from NOLA sludge legends, both are the bands’ second records, both are from 1993, both are when the band in question really came into their own. They’re both massive statements of intent that laid down the groundwork for what the groups would do over the ensuing decades. It’s not uncommon for a band to really develop their sound fully on their second record (buy me a beer and I can talk about this happening at length in the hair-metal scene), and that’s exactly what happened with Crowbar‘s self-titled record and Eyehategod‘s Take as Needed for Pain.

But which one is the ultimate early-NOLA sludge masterpiece? Find out in today’s misery-loving, feedback-drenched, swamp-dwelling sludge edition of Fight Fire With Fire.

Crowbar – Crowbar

The opening riffs of lead cut and Crowbar classic “High Rate Extinction” set the mood right away here, the band managing to be outrageously heavy while also hitting all the feels. And that’s what Crowbar do best, and while their debut album—1991’s Obedience Thru Suffering—was massive and impressive, it wasn’t quite the actualization of what Crowbar was capable of. But this album is.

And while this band has had several stellar lineups, it’s hard to find any fault with this one, these four guys absolutely locked in to each other here, musically and, if I may, vibe-wise. I mean, check out ultra-classic “All I Had (I Gave)”: it’s uncharacteristically speedy but sacrifices little of the massive Crowbar power, and when things get slower in the chorus, it’s huge. When the breakdown drops at 1:53, forget it. This song is memorable, moving, and crushes like a ton of bricks.

“Will That Never Dies” drops things down for another soulful journey through the murk, mainman Kirk Windstein doing everything he does so well: mountain-crushing riffs, vocals pulled from the depths of despair, a love of rockin’ out hidden underneath it all.

I generally don’t care too much about covers, but the band’s version of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” totally rules, taking the song’s original bad-acid atmosphere and sludging it down appropriately. Windstein’s vocals work perfect here, as do the crushing drumming and huge riffing. The chord changes before the chorus comes could swallow planets.

“Negative Pollution” is actually a late-album classic of sorts, killer vocal lines, great playing, good songwriting, masterful use of sludge and sludgier tempos. “Existence Is Punishment” is another one that hits hard late here, excellent mastery of song, no shortage of emotion seeping out of every slug riff.

“Holding Nothing,” man, in going through this album song by song with a fine tooth comb, I’m realizing something, and this song is another great example of it: Crowbar, even way back in 1993, had the art of songcraft down to a very fine point. They would get even finer (hi, “Planets Collide,” good goddamn are you maybe the best sludge song ever) but this album is just song after song of great, well, song after song. This one proves it, so does the masterful closing cut.

“I Have Failed” ends things off perfectly, and is one of the greatest monuments to sludge ever crafted. It captures the despondent feeling that this music should perfectly, it moves along at an agonizing pace, and the vocals are so honest they hurt to listen to. Pretty bold saving this one for last, although it wouldn’t really make sense elsewhere else on the album, because when it’s done, if you’ve really given yourself over to it, you’re done. Incredible.

Throughout this whole album—throughout every song—the drumming of Craig Nunenmacher is just incredible. The man is a powerhouse, hitting the open hi-hat and toms with an unbelievable amount of force, and the production—courtesy of Phil Anselmo—rules, bringing out every instrument perfectly, especially the drums. Seriously, Nunenmacher just propels this album along, his work here something to be documented and studied for future generations of how sludge drumming should be. Amazing.

This album is phenomenal, great songwriting buried in sludge perfection, heavy music as pure emotion, nothing short of genuine art. Every second of this record feels perfect, a stark comparison, really, to Take as Needed for Pain, which is falling apart the seams, an ugly mess compared to Crowbar’s economic craft. But how does EHG’s sonic embodiment of chaos compare to Crowbar’s perfect distillation of misery?

Eyehategod – Take as Needed for Pain

Man, Eyehategod’s debut—1990’s In the Name of Suffering—is one dark, difficult album, so much so that I rarely spin it. Sludge needs to be antagonistic and ugly, but that album just feels like it hates me, it feels unwelcome. Here though, on their second album, Eyehategod found that sweet, sweet spot and although every record they do is fantastic, this one remains their masterpiece.

As evidence of this, opener “Blank” is without a doubt one of the best sludge songs ever. The feedback, that first riff, the first scream: totally iconic. This song is almost always stuck in my head, and it immediately stepped the band up from the Melvins-but-way-pricklier sewers of their first album to somewhere that, thanks to the feelgood-just-fucking-kidding-you-feel-baaad southern riffing, connects, and is memorable. When the band slow things down and come in together at slug pace at 1:18, again, man, this was history, and history never sounded so heavy unless we’re talking song one side one Black fucking Sabbath. Amazing how this riff makes you feel, and then when Mike Williams comes in with the vocals and things get even slower… then the riff that comes in at 3:37, elevating this to a higher level of sludge that no one else has reached ever since… it’s just perfect, then even more perfect, then even more perfect. Amazing. I mean, no exaggeration, this is maybe the heaviest riff I’ve heard in my life. Then the legendary “suffering from addiction to drugs” samples, the pounding and bashing drumming… This album could end after this song and I would still hold it up in incredibly high regard. Complete perfection.

But it doesn’t end there; the beautiful torture is only beginning, guitarists Jimmy Bower and Brian Patton working together and apart so well on this record, amazing riff after amazing riff just flowing out of the pair.

The second song, the adorably titled “Sister Fucker (Part 1),” has THE riff. The band manage to pick up the tempo here to create what could, in some alternate, wonderful reality, be considered a good-time song, even though it’s pure sludge ugliness. But, man, impossible to not get the, uh, booty shaking to this one, that riff just unbelievable, the band locked together as well as they possibly could be at this point, which, despite the haze of the life they were living at the time, is remarkably well.

The groan at 1:37 of “Shop Lift”; the totally indecipherable first line at 0:25 of, well, let’s call it “White Neighbour” like Apple Music does (lol); the entirety of batshit bonkers 7:01 noise interlude “Disturbance”… This album feels less like a bunch of incredibly well-crafted songs, like Crowbar’s record is, and more like one big mash of atmosphere and nastiness. And that works, that’s exactly what this record is, even incredible songs like “Blank” sort of merging together with other songs here in my head, or being split up into a couple songs (it is a long one), everything just working together to create something horrid, something new, something not really borrowed, something very blue.

Then there’s the title track, which is a huge slap in the face after “Disturbance” lulled us all off to a sort of temporary quiet zone. The grotesque opening line of “Breastfed from a dog from the day I was born” barely prepares us for the beatings that ensue.

And the beatings go on, powerhouse drummer Joey Lacaze (RIP) absolutely destroying on “Crimes Against Skin,” while the band as a whole show some songwriting smarts on late-album smasher “Kill Your Boss.”

And, of course, the maniacal rant of a closer “Who Gave Her the Roses” and final soundscape “Laugh It Off” end things off with a couple tracks that aren’t really traditional songs in a lot of senses, instead just layers upon layers of manic frustration, of danger-zone cautionary tales set to music, 99 more miles of bad road laid down as parts of a glorious, depraved whole.

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This fight was a bit more bruised apples and rotten oranges than I thought it would be, really. Sure, it’s a showdown between NOLA sludge titans, but these records are very different strains of sludge, despite the sonic and philosophical similarities. Still, one record does rise up with its stench, its manifestation of total terror, its truly despicable demeanor. Today, we crown Eyehategod’s Take as Needed for Pain as the unlikely and unwilling and unwitting and it just doesn’t fucking care winner, these songs taking the listener to a dangerous place every single time, Williams’ wretched screams the hungover ellipses over Lacaze’s physical acts of violence behind the kit, drumming that’s more than drumming, music that’s really more than music, the record a savage, ugly, grotesque masterpiece, art holding up the broken mirror to society then smashing it and doing unspeakable things with the shards, an uncomfortable monument to honesty through creativity. May its feedback ring through the ages forever more.

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