Heavy Metal

Judas Priest “Point of Entry” (1981)

Continuing the dulling of the blade that was British Steel, Point of Entry is an alternately sizzling and fizzling collection of tunes from Judas Priest, well enough crafted and delivered, but tinged with the uneasy understanding that these guys are compromising at best – more like skillfully selling out to a wider, dumber audience. Point of Entry delivers enough highlights, gear-shifters like “Heading Out to the Highway” and the Turbo-prescient moto-metal of “Desert Plains,” dim-witted but harmless entries “You Say Yes” and “Hot Rockin’,” and the plodding starbound “Solar Angels” all being convincing if not entirely inspiring rockers. “Turning Circles” stands as a catchy diversion but elsewhere the commercial “Troubleshooter” and party-down “All the Way” are flat-out embarrassments, the album limply galloping across the finish line with “On the Run.” From another band, a simple, effective piece of early-80’s metal marketing here, but from Priest Point of Entry only earns a grudgingly-issued pass, the boys playing the game and winning with little of the finesse and imagination of old. —Ben… Read more›

Deep Purple “Fireball” (1971)

Deep Purple’s 1971 and 1972 releases were a true one two punch of Deep Purple’s Metallic might at the very height of their prowess. The first, 1971’s Fireball was, outside of Black Sabbath’s first three albums, the heaviest thing on the planet at that time. Fireball’s songs are towering, crunching, Proto-Metal monsters of the highest order. The album is built around one of the greatest songs of Heavy Metal’s original Era, the invincible Demon’s Eye. It’s kind of difficult to discuss the individual musical performance of Fireball because they are all so good. Deep Purple Mark II was a super tight cohesive unit at this point, and everyone in the band is at their individual apex. The Mule is simply incredible. Fools cooks. No One Came is astoundingly good. Anyone’s Daughter is pure fun. And No No No is fantastic. Five utterly perfect stars. —KarlRead more›

Black Sabbath “Black Sabbath” (1970)

Hearing Black Sabbath for the first time was like dusting off and cracking open some ancient tome of infernal knowledge, with a nefarious collection of witches, warlocks, and Lucifer himself lurking around the corners of songs like “N.I.B.,” “The Wizard,” the chilling paralysis of “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” eerie acoustic drift “Sleeping Village,” and of course “Black Sabbath,” it’s diabolus in musica riff cracking open the egg on this thing called heavy metal. Hiding behind that hazy, creepy cover shot was a suite like arrangement of songs almost entirely devoted to exploring supernatural fears, rife with horror-themed imagery and the threat of unseen evil, delivered with a crushing blow rendered in stark, black and white production. Though the album drifts in it’s second act, with the extended workout on Retaliation’s “Warning” and a primitive Crow cover, “Evil Woman,” appearing on UK issues, US audiences were treated to the superior, stoned rumblings of “Wicked World.” Castle’s 1996 CD contains both tracks, though missing in action on this and subsequent Sabbath reissues are subtitles like “Wasp,” “Bassically” and “A Bit of Finger,” originally appended to the US release to pull in more publishing royalties to the band, but just adding another layer of enigma for those of us already lost in the forest, with nowhere to run as the figure in black drew closer. —BenRead more›

Denim and Leather: An Introduction 
to the New Wave of British Metal:

When asked about music in England in the late 70’s, most anyone will reply with Punk. The images of the Sex Pistols decked out in Vivienne Westwood gear, Ian Curtis on stage in the fits of a seizure, and the classic Kings Road punks with safety pins through their cheeks. The media sensation around the scene was such a whirlwind it seized that little chunk of pop cultural time and handed it over to the punks. Fair enough. But while all that ink has been spilled about punk and its mutant offshoots, there was another, equally as important scene running parallel around the same time, and in the same place. Kids who grew up on the hard rocking sounds of Black Sabbath, Budgie, early Judas Priest, Zep, UFO, Deep Purple, Rush and Thin Lizzy. Working class youth who did not necessarily connect with the politics and fashion of punk. They remained loyal to the no-nonsense rock they were weaned on and did not cut their hair short in the summer of ’76. These kids had no time for the lofty art school pretension of the punk movement, yet they were too close to the impact of it to not be affected the anger, brevity and do it yourself ethos. When those elements of early punk were applied to the already fossilizing hard rock scene, a new and brilliant sound was born. The old form was trimmed of its excess fat, given a facelift and a new sleeveless denim jacket. As this fresh and revitalized take on hard rock and early metal was forged in England, the bands springing up in its wake went on to not only define classic Heavy Metal, in sound and look, but to change and shape rock in the long run just as much as the punks. This sound was christened…The New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

As this new scene took shape, younger bands like Iron Maiden, Diamond Head, Raven, Samson, Angel Witch and Saxon were gaining quite a devoted following of headbangers. The mainstream music press largely laughed it off, as it was in sharp contrast to the tepid new wave that was selling so well at the time. The die hard fans had created a demand for vinyl though, and independent labels, often run by fans with a true emotional investment in the music began to dot the landscape. Labels like Neat, Guardian … Read more›

Wishbone Ash “Wishbone Ash” (1970)

Wishbone Ash’s self-titled debut album is a triumph of early seventies rock. It successfully merges elements of hard, folk and progressive rock to form an original compound. The album starts with the rocking but somehow stuttering “Blind Eye”. The effect is almost teasing. Next up is the harder, more progressive “Whiskey Lady”. This particular track is like Atomic Rooster in some ways: the singing, some tasty, catchy, heavy riffs, longish instrumental sections and great soloing. But then it’s not as dark as most Atomic Rooster and doesn’t feature Vincent Crane’s Hammond organ. Still, it’s an excellent track and one of my favorites from these guys. This is followed by another progressive piece, “Errors of my Way”. This is altogether much gentler with harmony singing giving it a distinctly folky feel. It’s a lovely track, and another favorite.

The second half is devoted to just two tracks. “Handy” is an almost completely instrumental track at over 11 minutes ling. It hints at some of their beautiful, gentle compositions that were to appear on the next album. This is followed by “Phoenix” another long track (over 10 minutes). This again is an almost all instrumental track. Some of the guitar playing here reminds me of early Fleetwood Mac.

“Wishbone Ash” is a great achievement for 1970. —Jim… Read more›

Iron Maiden “The Number of the Beast” (1982)

This is Heavy Metal before the genre had all of the Rock & Roll stripped away from it. Because it still has those roots, the album is refreshingly soulful and full of rich textures. Not to worry, though, it’s still plenty fast and heavy. “Invaders” crawls under your skin and sticks with you longer than the written-to-be-catchy chorus of the album’s big hit, “Run for the Hills.” Said hit is also a stellar track, however, as is the haunting “Children of the Damned.” Not to put too fine a point on it, but “Number of the Beast” rules! If you think that Iron Maiden is hokey, dated or “Satanic,” and you haven’t actually taken to time to listen to their work, then you are doing yourself a great disservice. Don’t confuse this classic with the throwaway nostalgia that was released by scores of imitators a few years later. Intricate, pounding, powerful and creative – if those are words that describe good music to you, then look no further than “Number of the Beast.” –LucasRead more›

Deep Purple “Machine Head” (1972)

Loaded with no less than four primal Purple classics, Machine Head has gone on to be the general favorite studio slab from the esteemed MKII lineup, and with good reason, as among the empty corridors of Montreux’s Grand Hotel the band and producer Martin Birch laid to tape a set that pushed the heaviness of In Rock into a focused and accessible framework. The most enduring cuts here are synonymous with Deep Purple, the open highway insanity of “Highway Star” featuring a vintage Jon Lord classical workout and Richie wailing in high harmony with himself, while the King Kong sized riff of “Smoke on the Water” melds perfectly with Gillan’s clever, autobiographical lyrics. Elsewhere there’s the extended instrumental intro to the boogiein’ “Lazy” and rocket-propelled “Space Truckin’,” while lesser renowned entries hold their own, the studly “Maybe I’m a Leo” and “Never Before” clues to the band’s funky future, “Pictures of Home” chugging along to a melancholy gallop. Again, the sound of the band from their lead booted bottom end to the warm distortion of Lord’s Hammond and Blackmore’s Strat-wrangling works it’s magic on Machine Head, birthing an enduring, steel-plated standard for all hard lovin’ rock libraries. —Ben… Read more›

Nazareth “Hair of the Dog” (1975)

In 1975 the Scottish Hard Rock band Nazareth released their masterpiece, and what is one of the greatest Hard Rock albums ever recorded, Hair Of The Dog. This album is simply amazing from first to last and doesn’t have anything resembling a weak song on it. What it does have is one hard hitting earth shaking song right after another. And they are all perfectly balanced by Danny McCafferty menacing, growly Vocals and Manny Charlton snarling searing Guitars.

This album stands tall as one of the greatest Hard Rock icon albums of the 1970’s and of all time. –KarlRead more›

Uriah Heep “Uriah Heep” (1970)

Any time the infamous, heavy-hatin’ thought police at Rolling Stone review an album saying “if this group makes it I’ll have to commit suicide,” you know you’re on to something good, and Uriah Heep’s debut remains a cornerstone of vintage hard rock, delivering a crushing assault that belies its 1970 release date. The bloodthirsty “Gypsy” sets things up with some burning guitar/organ interplay before diving into a Paleolithic riff over which Byron soars with layered vocals. It’s those wild, dramatic harmonies and the band’s authoritative thud that stamps these tunes as something uniquely intense and remarkable – Heep ain’t just the poor man’s Purple, folks! Check out the wild “Bird of Prey,” which predicts Queen with it’s jarring vocals (and kudos to whover swapped this in for the useless “Lucy Blues” from the UK issue), heavy boogie beast “Real Turned On,” and churning entries like “Walking in Your Shadow” and “I’ll Keep on Trying.” The melancholy ballad “Come Away Melinda,” and more involved concept pieces “Dreammare” and “Wake Up” are cool diversions from the mayhem, the band stretching out without losing the plot. Factor in a spacious, detailed production that places you right in the crossfire, and you can hear the metal being forged right inside your aching skull. —Ben… Read more›

Captain Beyond “Captain Beyond” (1972)

Psychedelic rock emerging from its Technicolor cocoon as a decidedly more metallic butterfly. This is one of the first metal albums and still one of the best. It runs through a quick half hour of seriously kick-ass riffs and tricky rhythms that would suffice to leave some of us sufficiently breathless were it not also for the stoner imagery and a general atmosphere of stoopid awesomeness that I find transporting—despite myself. Sure, it gets overly dopey towards the end, but most of its listeners are doped up by that point, anyway. Guitar, bass, and drums manna for those of us who like that sort of thing. As for the rest of you… well, who asked you, anyway? Highly recommended late-night listening. –BenRead more›

Mercyful Fate “Melissa” (1983)

Melissa unleashed the dark majesty of Mercyful Fate on welcoming hordes of eager metalheads ready to set sail on a lake of fire, the band picking up where Priest left off with their late 70’s platters of pain and injecting an elevated sophistication and malevolence embodied in the angelic blasphemor wails of King Diamond. While the edge of Melissa’s sacrifical blade is slightly dulled by the tangled fortress “Satan’s Fall” on side two, the purity of purpose in classics like “Evil,” grave robbing “Curse of the Pharaohs,” and the pummeling “Black Funeral” let loose such torrents of spectral ferocity and hell-spawned riffage that Melissa stands as an all-consuming plethora of wicked delights. –Ben… Read more›

Black Sabbath “Never Say Die!” (1978)

This was a pleasant surprise because I’d heard so many bad things about this album both from critics and the band themselves. Stories of being too drugged up to continue in the studio don’t seem to gel with the final product, which sounds crisp and well mixed to me, the spectacular drumming up front and Ozzy’s vocals not sounding in the least druggy. I guess there’s a lot to be said about post production. But the songs to me sound better and more musically adventurous than those on Sabotage or even the Dio era albums that followed. Particular highlights are the psychy, wah wah feel of Junior’s Eyes and Iommi’s riffage on Shock Wave. All in all, I really don’t think it was a bad album for Ozzy to bow out on. –NealRead more›