My Top Ten Albums, Part 2

Here is the follow-up to my previous post, the next four on my Top Ten favorite metal albums list. I am saving number one for next week, so you'll have to wait for that.

5. Vulgar Display of Power - Pantera (1992)
One word: aggression. Phil Anselmo's vocals have inspired a generation of screamo knock-offs. Many of them don't even know who he is. Dimebag Darrell's (RIP) guitar work was amazing. The crushing solid-state tone, the whammy pedal, the amazing harmonic squeals and dive-bombs. And the riffs. Oh, the riffs. Vinnie Paul's drumming on this album is accurate like a machine, only tighter and more brutal. Metallica's "Black Album" (1991) left a gaping hole in my thrash metal heart. "Vulgar Display of Power" filled it.

4. Number of The Beast - Iron Maiden (1982)
Every track is a classic. When I listen to this, I never have to skip ahead to a better song. I found this one a couple years after it was released, and I still listen to it regularly. The songwriting and musicianship is phenomenal. Although I have to admit that the slight tempo quirks at the beginning of "Hallowed Be Thy Name" still bug me. Maybe there's something endearing about imperfection? But then again, the drum intro for "The Prisoner" more than makes up for it. When I was incarcerated in my early 20s, I was first placed in a reception/diagnostic cell block, and I was miserable without music to play or listen to. So I recreated it for myself, trying to remember my favorite songs, singing the lyrics and guitar parts, tapping the drum parts with my feet and hands.... It was a challenge to try to recall every word, every fill, every riff, and the order and arrangements (verse, chorus, bridge, solo, etc.) from beginning to end. I think it actually strengthened my memorization skills. I remember many nights early on singing "Hallowed Be Thy Name" to myself on my bunk. "I'm waiting, in my cold cell, when the bell begins to chime. Reflecting on my past life. And it doesn't have much time..." A while back I watched a documentary of the Blues Angels precision flight team, and in it they showed their preflight meetings where the pilots gather together in a room and review every part of their show by memory, closing their eyes and visualizing each maneuver in order. After seeing that< I realized that's what I do with music. I did it in prison with Iron Maiden songs. And I still do it each week as I prep worship music for Sundays.

3. Appetite for Destruction - Guns n' Roses (1987)
"Sweet Child O' Mine" is still my favorite song of all time. It has everything. First, Slash's incredible opening guitar riff... then Duff's beautiful melody line on bass... then Izzy and Steven come riding in on the eighth notes... two teaser guitar solos and then a massive solo over the ending... When I was 15 lived in a youth shelter, and I used to lie in bed at night with headphones on and imagine myself in a band with my friends from the shelter... me playing the opening riff, Mike coming in on the bass, Rick and Danny coming in on the drums and guitar... To this day it still gives me chills. It's like a bottled endorphin rush, always there anytime I want it. Just put on the headphones, imagine us shelter kids growing up to be rock stars, and when the drums come in... Magic. I remember thinking that the band must have had two singers, because Axl's vocals on the opening track "Welcome to the Jungle" are completely different than the vocals on track two, "It's So Easy". He has incredible range, and he uses it. And he sounds like no one else. "Paradise City" is another great song with an incredibly frantic double time guitar solo ending. I met Slash at a music store once, and I had him sign my Les Paul case. To me, only David Gilmour can rival Slash when it comes to playing with emotion. No one has more emotion in their lead playing than Slash. His note choices and bends are lyrical and melodic. I can hum his solos practically note for note simply because they are so memorable. They're beyond catchy. And his tone and style are instantly recognizable. Appetite is a landmark in rock and roll history, blending classic rock, metal, and punk. It almost made number one for me.

2. Shout at the Devil - Mötley Crüe (1983)
This album changed my world. Before Shout, my favorite songs were "Centerfold" by The J. Geils Band and "Dirty Laundry" by Don Henley (still love those songs!). "Shout at the Devil" was my first metal album. Mötley Crüe made me a headbanger. Every song breathed adolescent rebellion. The opening monologue "In The Beginning" contains the quote "It has been written that those who have the youth have the future." Mötley Crüe definitely had me at 11 years old. I loved it so much the first time I heard it that I stole the cassette from my babysitter (obviously I couldn't be trusted home alone at that age)! One thing that still stands out to me today, apart from Tommy Lee's incredible drumming, is the uniqueness and originality of Mick Mars' guitar tone. Compared to the scooped midrange tone of his contemporaries like George Lynch and Warren DeMartini, Mick's tone is fat and full of midrange honk. It's actually bluesy. The Crüe would go on to explore this blues sensibility in their songwriting for Theater of Pain, influenced in part by Mick's background, and with some disappointing results. But Shout at the Devil stands as one of the hardest rocking albums of the early 80s. And more than that, for me, it was the soundtrack of my youth. "Looks That Kill", "Red Hot", "Too Young to Fall in Love", "Knock 'Em Dead Kid", and the title track... some of the greatest metal ever written. And their cover of "Helter Skelter" is better than the original. Yeah, I said it. Regardless of what Mötley Crüe has become over the years, what they were then hasn't changed. To me, they were the greatest heavy metal band in the world.


Anonymous said...

No Metalica yet? If this was my blog, I'd probably have And Justice For All as my #1. I guess I'll have to wait and see.


Anonymous said...

The horror movie "Bad Dreams" used Sweet Child as the theme song for a cult. Still an awesome song. Have to turn it up every time it's on the radio.

Sarah (your sister) said...

Who was our babysitter you stole from?

Ken said...

I'll email you and let you know. :-)

David Golden said...

I humble myself before your exhaustive knowledge and contagious enthusiasm. What you were saying about "Sweet Child" made me think of my favorite "fantasizing that it is my band" song: AC/DC Thunderstruck. The crazy guitar riff (is that single string, some kind of e-bow thing? Again I humble myself before your knowledge), the basic but perfect rhythm/bass/drums, the taunting chant, the shouts of "Thun! der!" It's just such a perfect opening to a song. Maybe the key to a perfect opening is one element being revealed at a time, and each element being indispensable to the whole. Then of course there is the great pregnant pause, where the machine stops for moment and stares at you before devouring you: "You've been... Thunderstruck!" Okay, now back to spreading the gospel of Christ to the emergent culture.