Album Of The Week – April 18, 2022

This week it’s a look back to 1994 and the height of what came to be known as “alt-metal.” It was a strange time where a lot of different sounds got airplay as the fallout from 1991 left room for a variety of acts to get a moment in the sun. Our subject today would see his most commercially successful effort here. It would divide long-time fans and those who came on with the album but also serve as a point where he entered the wider public consciousness, a place where he has hung out in various forms since.

Rollins Band – Weight

Released April 12, 1994 via Imago Records

My Favorite Tracks – Volume 4, Disconnect, Divine Object Of Hatred

Weight was the fourth album from Rollins Band and came after a complete reconfiguration of the band, save namesake frontman Henry Rollins. Henry had done a lot to this point as the former vocalist of punk icons Black Flag, as well as a series of books and spoken-word albums on top of the Rollins Band.

Nothing about Henry Rollins screamed “put me on MTV and make me a star” but that is exactly what happened in 1994. Weight and its hit single would lift Rollins’ profile into the mainstream, where he remains a figure across several mediums to this day. Between acting, novels and his renowned spoken word tours, Henry Rollins has become a wizened “aging alternative icon” (his own words), and Weight is where the spotlight would first shine.

Anyone looking for Weight on Spotify will be disappointed, for reasons unknown to me most of the Rollins Band catalog isn’t there. It does appear in full audio form on YouTube, its digital presence is otherwise scarce.


Leading off is one of the album’s two singles and the lesser-celebrated one. No matter, the song is still worthy and one of the album’s highlights.

Disconnect is an anthem about getting away from all the information and chilling out. The notable thing about it is that it was written in 1993 and released in 1994, when the Internet was just getting out there. This isn’t a disconnect from the Internet, it’s a disconnect from the general shit of society that was still ever present even before the ‘Net.

The music employs a groovy feel along with a heaviness that stands out from the crowd and flows throughout the album. Henry Rollins and his talk/shout style of vocal delivery might be unconventional but works very well across the soundtrack to the shit that goes through his head.


The second track tells the tale of getting caught up in the wrong kind of lover and the feelings of uselessness and shame that come with that. It’s a well-versed song that communicates a message far too many of us have learned the hard way, sometimes more than once.


A fast-paced banger that outlines the rise and fall of a musical celebrity. I don’t know the backstory of the song so I’m not sure if it was just something Henry came up with or if it’s actually about someone in the industry. Around the time of the song there were many rock stars falling from grace so it can be seen as a look at how things really went even if it’s not based off anyone in particular. And the song is another shining example of how metal and groove can work together well, a lesson we’ve learned a lot about since.


This harsh track sees Henry lamenting the life of crime and gun culture. It’s a topic close to home for Henry, who lost his best friend Joe Cole in an armed robbery outside their Venice Beach house in 1991, which Henry was able to escape from.

The song does not hold back and equates the armed criminal to the vulgar slang for that which hunts the criminal. For an album full of hard-spoken moments, Civilized is one where Henry is speaking straight from hard-earned experience.

Divine Object Of Hatred

It’s a masochistic turn into being the whipping boy here, as Henry is torn apart by people who can’t stand his existence. No telling where this song came from but it’s a pretty grisly and hard look at being a scapegoat. It’s also a very groovy tune for its hardcore subject matter.


This was a song that the band would jam out to in rehearsal as a warm-up. Someone from the record label told them they had something there and should make a full song out of it. After doing so, Rollins and company figured they had a b-side at best. The label disagreed and fought for Liar to be released as the lead single.

The label won the argument, of course. And the label was right.

The song keeps it quiet in the verses as Henry outlines how he takes advantage of someone’s fragile psyche and becomes a personal messiah. Then the very simple yet iconic chorus kicks up the volume while Henry screams “I’m a liar!” It’s the little twist in the adversarial relationship – Rollins is often talk/shouting about being on the “good” side of such things but in Liar he is playing the villain. And Rollins plays his part well. The third verse especially is a great example of acting in song, going from the plea for forgiveness into the inevitable result is just great song-work.

The song hit the Billboard charts and the video was a constant showcase on MTV. I’d wager that the video’s influence far outshines any charts or sales figures, everyone was abuzz about Liar in 1994. It’s odd to call a punk and alternative icon like Henry Rollins a one-hit wonder, but in the case of Liar, he truly was.

And for Rollins he wishes the one hit was anything else. Liar has become a bit of a pariah in the Rollins Band lexicon. I can understand it – the song was conceived in a jam session and was aired out as a warm-up joke, then it becomes the one song out of a long career that breaks mainstream. It goes to show the unpredictability of music and hit making. It also took someone who was a figurehead of the DIY punk ethos and made him a mainstream darling, something that did rankle long-time Rollins fans while also exposing him to a whole host of people who hadn’t previously heard of him. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

For my money, I think Liar is a great song. I’ve never been one to feel a band should be ashamed of making a hit or of more public exposure. Rollins can, of course, feel however he wishes about his art, but the merits of Liar and Weight have been something I’ve argued with others about on this here Internet many times over the years. And I don’t apologize for liking it more than other stuff he’s done that 35 people saw live in a bowling alley parking lot.

Step Back

This is a super heavy tune about confrontation and adversity. It’s basically Rollins punking someone out and it works very well. It’s a great song to get pumped up for working out or, uh, confronting someone I guess.

Wrong Man

The song deals with the issue of dating life and specifically not being like other guys who have been shitty to women. The song is fine but I’ve honestly never got that much into the subject matter. Back then I didn’t care because I’d never experienced anything like that. In these times the song feels a bit off – like, if some woman doesn’t want to date you for whatever reason, just go date someone else. I don’t know that a song-length treatise about how “I’m not that man” is really necessary. But here it is just the same.

Volume 4

This is a doom-influenced, plodding number that explores everyone’s favorite topic, the futility of existence and the existential crisis. The song is sometimes titled “Volume” as opposed to Volume 4 in some mediums. I don’t know why, I would hazard a guess that Volume 4 is used for the Black Sabbath reference as Henry is a huge fan.

The song stands apart from the rest of the album – here the groovy heaviness pounds the hopeless lyrics into the listener’s head. It is a wonderfully orchestrated dirge that culminates in the savage line “I walk around from day to day and wait around to die – like He did.” The capitalized “He” being an obvious reference and really bringing the brutality of the song home.


Things chill out for a moment, at least musically. It’s a trippy, sort of psychedelic jam that seems a bit out of place for the straightedge and straightforward Rollins. Lyrically it is the same sort of vibe as the prior track and being tired of stuff is a pretty universal thread.

Alien Blueprint

The album ends with two motivational or self-help tracks. This song outlines the futile grind of trying to fit in with a crowd that doesn’t want you. It’s better to be yourself and move on from the problem. It’s a pretty nice song and it switches direction quite a bit after the doom and gloom of the preceding few songs.


Another “self-help” track that gets into how there’s no time to mope around and the time is now to get it done. Though it’s odd subject matter for the sort of music I’m into the song does work well.

Weight would be the one true brush with success for the Rollins Band. It placed far higher on the Billboard charts than the band’s other work and Liar was a mega-hit on the airwaves. The group would not equal the feat with any future material and Rollins would eventually lay the band to rest in later years. Rollins himself would go on to acting roles, being a frequent contributor to music-related TV shows, hosting a long-running radio program and expanding on his spoken-word touring. To date he has remained in the public eye through many avenues.

No matter how Henry feels about his hit song, Liar and Weight fit right in the 1994 scene, with rock and metal going in every different direction after the cataclysm of 1991. You truly can just yell over your music and make something of it, provided you actually have something worth yelling about.

On Scene And Identity – Outcast

This is a new series that will look at the identity and psychology behind various aspects of music fandom and listening culture. It’s more how it relates to me but will also give a general overview. It’s a bit “heavier” than most stuff but it’s still stuff I’m compelled to write about so I’ll just go with it.

An outcast is someone who is, at times, literally thrown out of society. In more common parlance, and outcast is someone who does not fit society’s norms and is looked down upon for whatever reason. It is a real and/or perceived struggle for many and has taken several different forms over the eons, depending on what society’s norms are at the given time. Being outcast can bear harsh mental and emotional scars or can be an embraced identity.

The idea of the outcast is reflected in music and certainly in the music I listen to. While rock music as a whole became very popular and was the sound of a generation, its offshoots like metal, punk and hardcore took a turn toward an adversarial side, opposed to the norms of civilization. These movements would give voice to the outcast and come to be safe havens for those repelled by typical society. Of course, this would also be embodied by other subcultures like goth, emo and others.

I was a typical kid growing up. I was in a middle class family with no wants or traumas. Many in my family before me had been the prototypical scholar-athlete kind and I was more or less left to pursue that path. I did not, for various reasons.

One of those reasons was that I didn’t get along with the others in that peer group. I didn’t “feel” like one of the pretty, successful kids in my school. I didn’t have much natural talent in sports and did not enjoy them. I didn’t like the people I was around and they didn’t like me. I’d had some incidents of being picked on or “bullied,” though in fairness it wasn’t a lot from that particular peer group. All in all it led me to finally not giving a shit about the acceptance from others I wasn’t getting.

I was still walking that line in junior high school in 1990 when I began listening to heavy metal proper. After that I abandoned the concept of being some straight A student with a full-ride scholarship to play some sport at some university, then become a used car salesman or whatever. All I cared about was the music.

And metal is the perfect home for someone who feels adrift from society. It is loud, brash, powerful and hits on themes not found in the popular music of the “normies.” It is the ideal music for someone who is or who believes they are an outcast. It was what I gravitated to in the early 1990’s and what I built my identity around. I was a sullen, quiet, disaffected teen and I was alive when listening to the heaviest music on the planet, not when interacting with kids at school.

I would not ever really fully become an outcast in the true definition of the term. I did set myself apart from society in different ways at different times, but in the end I’ve done roughly the same shit everyone else has. Work, find hobbies, even socialize with others. I didn’t separate from society and I never fully embraced it as a way of being. But I have always clung to some part of not being “like the others.”

It’s easy to say that we’re all alike, we generally want and need the same stuff. But it’s also easy to not want to be a part of things. Back in the day it was not fitting in with or wanting to be a part of the “popular” crowd in school. Today it’s not at all wanting anything to do with the vile rhetoric and division through weaponized ideology.

Heavy metal is the obvious gathering place for the outcast. It is loud, abrasive music that instantly turns so many people off in just a few seconds of listening. And any lyrical analysis will point to a variety of themes that aren’t in jive with the typical social consciousness. Many, in fact, attack that outright. Even the most mainstream and accepted of heavy metal rubs many the wrong way, and on the underground end of the spectrum there are sounds that repel far more people than they attract.

Of course, heavy metal has moved on from the “Satanic Panic” years and is far more accepted as music and a subculture than it was eons ago. And society has shifted (to a degree) to accept unconventional scenes that were once reviled. It could be that heavy metal is not the same “home to the outcast” that it once was, though I don’t think that dynamic has gone away completely.

But for me and many others it will always be a defining aspect of the music. The independent and underground scenes have a way of pulling in the people on the margins of society, whether the margins are real or perceived. The role of the outcast is embraced, often even celebrated as one rejects the given tenants of society and goes their own way. There is a home for everyone but it’s not always on the same playing field.

Tales From The Stage – Nine Inch Nails

Gonna turn back the clock to the year 2000 and talk about a much-anticipated show I took in. The gig was Nine Inch Nails with A Perfect Circle opening and it took place at the end of May in St. Louis. It was a gig with some marquee names and – well, something of a crowd, anyway.

No massive build-up for this one, it was pretty simple – NIN booked the gig, we got tickets and went. The show was at what was then called the Riverport Amphitheater outside St. Louis. If that name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because it was the scene of the infamous Guns N’ Roses riot in 1991. (As opposed to the 1992 riot in Montreal, which was indoors). We had pretty decent seats that were under the awning, which extended a bit past the stage. The bill was simple – APC first, then NIN. No other openers or anything that I recall, and online archives seem to back me up.

A Perfect Circle were just getting started in 2000. Their debut Mer De Noms had just released a few days prior to the show, while the lead single Judith was getting a lot of play on the airwaves. The band was formed by Tool mainman Maynard James Keenan and his friend, guitar tech wizard Billy Howerdel. The album and touring cycle would prove immensely successful for the group and defined the band on their own terms as opposed to being Maynard’s side project.

APC would air a 40 minute set out in their opening slot. Given the compact nature of their songs this gave them time to play all but one song from Mer De Noms. Maynard opted to sing the gig front and center as opposed to his usual antics he gets up to in Tool, though I don’t recall any stage banter from him. The band played well and ran through the album, though not in album order. Future singles The Hollow and 3 Libras saw time and they wrapped their set up with the hit Judith.

One of the few clips I could find as opposed to full shows. This show is from a date after the NIN tour but still in 2000.

During their set a bit of rain fell from the sky. Our seats were a bit under the amphitheater roof but still close enough to the edge to get wet. It wasn’t a downpour or anything and it only lasted a moment but I did take a mental note to get seats closer if I wanted to avoid being caught in anything. The weather wouldn’t be a factor at future gigs there (rain-wise, anyway).

After the stage changeover it was time for the main event. Nine Inch Nails were touring the US on their 1999 double album The Fragile. While the album was lengthy it had gone over pretty well with the fanbase so the tour served as a showcase of that album as opposed to being a hits set with just a few newer tunes sprinkled in. The 19-song set would feature 3 tracks from the debut Pretty Hate Machine, 3 from the seminal Broken EP, 4 from the magnum opus The Downward Spiral and the remaining 9 all from The Fragile.

Trent and company made their way through their romp without much fuss. Much like Maynard and APC, there was not a ton of inbetween-song banter to be had from Trent Reznor. He did comment “fuck you pigs” at one point, without elaborating on who exactly he was referencing. He might have belched out another thing or two but it was pretty much get one song done and get on with another. Of course, one doesn’t go to a show that Trent Reznor and Maynard James Keenan are fronting for stage banter. Sammy Hagar was around a few months later, if memory serves.

One of The Fragile’s best songs with bad video but great audio from the same tour

I will say one thing – the crowd was very much not about energy that night. I mean, I suppose we can consider Nine Inch Nails a more ponderous experience than a straight up rock n’ roll band, but there just wasn’t a lot of life in the crowd. I thought it was a bit lame but honestly it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the set. It would mark the start of generally lame Missouri concert crowds I would notice in the future, though (with some exceptions).

There was a bit of energy in the crowd at one point – in the aisle not far from our seats, a few people got into a fight at one point. I have no clue what they were into fisticuffs about since I was, like, listening to Nine Inch Nails, but they had it out over something. The fight didn’t last long – security came out and absolutely messed these two up. One of the combatants got thrown straight into the concrete. Remember, this is the very place that Axl Rose tore to the ground nine years earlier and the birth of pre-9/11 big concert security. The fight got broken up in far more brutal fashion than the fight itself went.

Undaunted by action they probably didn’t see, Nine Inch Nails pressed on with their visit through The Fragile and other works. They played a handful of other hits, stuff like Sin, Wish, Gave Up and Terrible Lie were all welcome inclusions. They wrapped up the set proper with obvious hits Closer and Head Like A Hole, before coming back for an encore that featured a few Fragile tunes as well as the finale Hurt. We were still a few years away from Johnny Cash working his magic with that song.

I was a bit stumped that they did not include The Fragile single We’re In This Together Now, but it was not to be found that night. And while it wasn’t a breaker for me, I would’ve loved to hear Last and Burn, though I think the former wasn’t played much live until several years on from this show.

Overall the concert was a good experience. It does mark my first and, to date, only time seeing either band. I would like to see them again, especially Nine Inch Nails, but we will see what time and circumstances have on hand. Both bands did great in the house that Axl Rose tried to unbuild.

One other note – at one time I had the Nine Inch Nails performance on burned CDs. This was back in the wilderness days of eBay and they let people get away with selling bootlegs. I didn’t pay much for it, less than $10. It was a cool memento to have but sadly I lost the discs before the age of digital ripping really caught on and I don’t have access to the set anymore.

Sin, from an earlier stop on the same tour

Album Of The Week – April 11, 2022

Thrash metal was in a bad way during the 1990’s. The twin killings of grunge and Metallica’s style shift left the thrash movement clawing for any shred of relevance through the decade. Many bands broke up, went on hiatus or explored various other musical styles with varying results, none of which were commercially viable. Extreme metal ruled the underground and by the end of the decade it was black metal that captured imaginations – even thrash-centric scenes like death metal had a lull through the end of the century.

Leave it to Sweden to fix things. Not only was the pioneering Gothenburg Sound responsible for giving new life to thrash metal, but another Swedish group would enter the new millennium and release a melodic death/thrash offering that served as a signpost for the coming revival of many forms of metal.

The Crown – Deathrace King

Released May 3, 2000 via Metal Blade Records

My Favorite Tracks – Rebel Angel, I Won’t Follow, Death Explosion

Deathrace King is not an album with ebbs and flows or peaks and valleys. It is an intense, fast-paced assault through all of its 50 minutes. It’s a collection of songs that lives up to the album’s title and puts thrash front and center at a time when thrash was a discarded relic of the past.

Death Explosion

A very fitting title for the opener. This is an absolute barn burner that sets the tone for what the album is all about. The music flies at a breakneck tempo that couples perfectly with singer Johan Lindstrand’s hoarse growl of “It’s a death explosion.” The end of the song offers a reprieve from the headbanging with a slower passage that lets everyone catch their breath before the rest of the album flies off the track.

Executioner: Slayer Of The Light

It’s all out from start to finish here as the band goes on a neck-snapping attack and Lindstrand offers up a smorgasbord of Satan and death references. I could lament never having seen The Crown live but with stuff like this I’m not sure I would have survived the pit.

Back From The Grave

Another high octane thrasher that actually gets a bit philosophical in the chorus. I recall first hearing this song and wondering why I was pondering existential questions on a thrash song but the Swedish get pretty deep sometimes. It’s hard to read a philosophy textbook while headbanging but here we are.

Devil Gate Ride

A song kept on the album’s theme of racing that also features a special guest – Tomas Lindberg of At The Gates, which in 2000 was a defunct band. Lindberg’s guest turn would serve as foreshadowing – two years later, Tomas was in The Crown as their new singer.

This song hits all the right notes and perfectly illustrates the deathrace in full glory. It’s not a race to avoid Hell – this car is heading straight into it at full speed.


The tempo chills just a hair on this but the brutality is still present. The theme of revenge is well-worn in metal and it’s not served cold here – this dish is red hot.

Rebel Angel

The Crown go 666% fast on their ode to the Devil. Good old meat and potatoes, devil horn’s-raising heavy metal is back.

I Won’t Follow

Another whiplash-inducing tune that is cut from the “I stand alone and against society” cloth. It is the rebellion and individuality that stand’s at metal’s epicenter. It’s not a path for the faint of heart or ear.

Blitzkrieg Witchcraft

Now we’re just throwing words together and thrashing along to the end of the world. It features the old traditional thrash gang chorus and adds a bit of fun to the apocalyptic mix.

Dead Man’s Song

The band slows it down for the one and only time on the album. It’s as much of a ballad as can be possible in extreme metal I suppose. This dirge laments the ultimate inevitability in life and provides a nice soundtrack for it.

Total Satan

We’re back on the track and racing at full pace to the finish. There is another guest on this song – Mika Luttinen from Impaled Nazarene joins in on the fun here. And this guest would not later join the band.

Total Satan is a thrash banger that sounds exactly like the title implies. No curveballs here.

Killing Star

The album closes with an 8-minute opus. It opens with a nearly 2-minute intro and then launches into the same thrash attack everyone has come to expect at this point. The song combines all of the album’s themes into a potent mish-mash of Satanic war-fueled orgy.

Deathrace King opened the new millennium with something that had been rare for the years prior – a heavy-hitting thrash record, informed with the masterful touch of Swedish melodic death. After several years in the wilderness, thrash and death were set to return in the 2000’s in a big way and The Crown led the charge.

The Crown would go on a winding path after Deathrace King – Johan Lindstrand would depart the group and the aforementioned Tomas Lindberg would briefly serve as his replacement. A few lineup changes and one hiatus later, the band were back at it through the 2010’s, eventually rejoined by Lindstrand.

However it all played out, Deathrace King serves as The Crown’s magnum opus and a monolith of an album that cut against the grain of the styles at the time. The album’s reputation has only grown in time as people have traced back to hear hidden gems they may have missed in metal’s lull of the late 90’s. The Crown’s deathrace ended after 49 minutes but heavy metal’s is still going 22 years after the fact.

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 8

I’m now into the 8th edition of S-Tier Songs. These are songs I consider the best of the best. For more information as well as a list of prior “inductees,” head to this page.

Today it’s high time I included an extreme metal tune in the mix. Rock is great and all but there have been some gems come from the underground. Today’s pick is widely considered one of, if not the, catchiest death metal songs recorded. And it was recorded by a group of guys who wanted to form a side project just to mess around with some old school death metal. It’s also the case of a song where it can be argued that a live version outshines the original studio recording.

Bloodbath – Eaten

Eaten was originally released on Bloodbath’s second album, 2004’s Nightmares Made Flesh. While the group originally featured Opeth mainman Mikael Åkerfeldt, he would leave the project after their first recording. To complete the second album, joining the supergroup of Dan Swanö (Edge Of Sanity), Anders Nyström and Jonas Renske (Katatonia), and Martin Axenrot (Opeth) was Peter Tägtgren of Hypocrisy fame.

For those unfamiliar with the various ends of extreme metal – this is a who’s who of performers. Opeth was a juggernaut by 2004. Dan Swano was a mainstay of many forms of extreme metal since the early 1990’s. And Katatonia are one of doom’s main purveyors. Adding in the mainman of Hypocrisy, an early forerunner of melodic Swedish death metal and a guy responsible for producing many metal albums through the 90’s and 2000’s, is just icing on the cake.

The album was consumed rabidly by the metal fanbase. A centerpiece of the record was the song Eaten. While a lot of death metal’s buzzsaw guitars and psycho-paced drumming fly by many listeners, plenty of people caught on to the hooks in the song that reeled listeners in. Instead of playing at a breakneck pace, the group turned the speed dial down and stomped out a massive riff that pulled in a captive audience. It’s still very headbangable but also capable of being digested by people not as accustomed to death metal.

Any good death metal song needs the proper savage lyrics to accompany it, and Eaten delivered in spades. Peter Tägtgren spewed forth a fierce account of a person wishing to be eaten by a cannibal. Nothing totally unusual in death metal, though the twist of portraying the “victim” rather than the cannibal was interesting. One other interesting note?

It was a true story.

Eaten is based on the tale of German cannibal killer Armin Meiwes. Apparently Meiwes advertised for a willing victim in a cannibal fetish website section and found a volunteer in Bernd Brandes, who headed to Meiwes’ place and … well, here’s the Wikipedia page if you want to know more. The sensational murder has been used as a song, movie and TV prop since it first hit headlines.

Bloodbath had some issues maintaining a stable line-up due to everyone’s day jobs in well-known bands. Tägtgren would exit the group in early 2005 due to commitments with Hypocrisy and other projects. The rest of the band had a gig, to that date their first, planned for the 2005 edition of the famed Wacken Open Air Festival. Of course they would need a replacement singer to helm the vocals for the gig.

Re-enter Mikael Åkerfeldt . Opeth’s leader decided to front Bloodbath again for the show and would wind up staying with the group for several more years. The festival performance was later released on DVD and CD as The Wacken Carnage. Ending the set was the band’s rendition of Eaten, a performance often celebrated as superior to it studio recording.

There is something just extra savage in Åkerfeldt’s delivery of the Eaten lyrics that night, as well as the band’s frantic performance that outpaces the original. It’s not that there was fault with Tägtgren’s studio recording, it’s just that Bloodbath got into the moment at the Wacken gig and blew the figurative roof off on that day. Many fans express their opinion that the live version is the song’s definitive offering.

No telling if this stays up but it’s been lingering awhile so I’ll go with it

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Eaten is a masterwork of death metal songwriting, offered by a group of pros who mostly weren’t even involved otherwise in death metal at the time. The song is easily one of the catchiest death metal songs recorded and that’s something of a rare feat to combine hooky songwriting in a genre known for savagery and technical proficiency. Eaten made old school death metal cool again in a time when metal was going in many different directions and taking itself very seriously.

Note – Those name accents are pains in the ass.

As a bonus, here is a more recent performance from present-day Bloodbath singer Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost)

When The Line-up Changes – Motley Crue

One big part of being a music fan is enduring line-up changes. Bands break up or members quit or get fired. Other times it is tragedy that forces a band member change. Sometimes the change is not even very noteworthy – person x is in place of person y behind the drums of that thrash band that’s good but no one is up in arms about. But other times the line-up change is world-shaking and causes intense amounts of speculation and drama.

Numerous line-up changes have occurred over the years in bands I like and listen to. I’m going to begin a new series where I look at changes that have had a great impact on the band in question and my fandom of said band. There are enough of these that I can go on about them for quite awhile.

For my first look at a band’s member changes I’m going to look at Motley Crüe. The group have only had a few member changes but one especially was a nuclear bomb that changed the course of the group immeasurably.

Motley Crüe had no lineup changes for 11 years, only having jettisoned a second guitar player before the band was named. The same line-up of singer Vince Neil, bassist Nikki Sixx, guitarist Mick Mars and drummer Tommy Lee would go on to terrorize radio, hotel rooms and women for over a decade unscathed.

While 1991 saw a new form of rock overtake hair metal as the new format of choice, Motley Crüe were one of a few 80’s bands that seemed poised to make it through the mess with a career still intact. The group released a greatest hits compilation in October 1991 called Decade Of Decadence that offered highlights from the group’s career. It also feature a scorching, heavy as hell new track Primal Scream. That song gave the appearance that the band could regroup and offer a more gritty, heaver version of their sound that might still resonate in the new music climate. Decade sold well and Primal Scream was a much-talked about song in the Crüe legacy.

But it wasn’t to be. In February 1992, the band announced that Vince Neil was departing. It’s still unclear if he quit or was fired – the consensus seems to be that both happened. Either way, the Crüe were now in uncharted waters.

Neil went on to record two decently received yet commercially unsuccessful solo albums, while his former band hired The Scream mainman John Corabi to helm a new record. 1994’s Motley Crüe came out the gate decently enough but then floundered. The band would see the financial writing on the wall and reunite with Vince in 1997 for the equally unsuccessful and, well, bad Generation Swine.

So what was it like at the time? The music landscape was shifting, of course, but it was still a bit of a shock that Motley Crüe were parting like this. Like I said, they seemed like they might be able to crank out something viable to keep up with the times. Primal Scream had a fair bit of grit to it and the band were certainly capable of delivering above the standard hair metal line. As much ink has been spilled about the changing face of rock in the early 90’s, recall that one of the best-selling groups of those years were Aerosmith. Even with the arrival of grunge and alt-rock, there was room for Motley Crüe.

The singer change in 1992 was one that just did not bear fruit. Yes, John Corabi is an excellent musician. The band updated their sound for the times and let Corabi inform their recording, and honestly that was probably too much. They made a record that sounds great with John but it really just isn’t Motley Crüe. It didn’t have the sneer and sleaze that defined the band up to that point – the early indications in 1991 were that the classic outfit could update their own sound. The self-titled record proved too much for fans to bear, even if the album is good or even excellent in its own right.

The band was knocked off course through the 90’s and wouldn’t get right again for quite some time. Their other major line-up change would come in 1999, just after the failure of Generation Swine. Drummer Tommy Lee, by this time far more of a tabloid star than a rock drummer, would leave the band due to frustrations with Vince Neil. And if you heard the dredge that Lee released as a solo artist, he must have been very angry to leave his signature band behind and release that crap.

Lee was replaced in Crüe by former Ozzy Osbourne skinsman Randy Castillo, who helped the group record 2000’s New Tattoo. Castillo was beset by health problems before the tour began and was replaced by Hole drummer Samantha Maloney. Castillo would unfortunately find himself in a losing battle with cancer, passing away in 2002.

New Tattoo was a better offering than their prior effort but did not move the needle for the band. In 2004 the group decided to put their differences aside and reunite. This time the classic line-up would stick for eight years, through a new album and several tours. The tours attracted a lot of attention and the band would ride a wave through to their “retirement” at the close of 2015. Of course they would famously reunite for a 2020 2021 2022 stadium tour several years later.

In most line-up changes I can accept whatever caused the rift or loss and I can set my feelings aside and allow a band to move on. But in the case of Motley Crüe it just didn’t work out with Corabi. The band seem fine ignoring the time period – Nikki Sixx had long been complimentary of the Corabi period but recently turned on his former collaborator in interviews. The songs from that era are left alone in live sets and the album doesn’t even get the reissue treatment.

Motley Crüe the album probably ought to see a revisit. I have no problem citing its worth, though I can see why so many fans turned on the band. But enough others hail it as one of the band’s best and would cough up the necessary cash for the much-needed repress. Hell, the other two albums from the band’s “dark” period could also see new issues – neither was ever officially pressed on vinyl.

But Motley Crüe seem to be happy to retrofit their career to 1981-1991, and 2004-2022. It’s probably a wise choice given the poor reception to the line-up change despite the merits of the replacement singer. It’s the case of one band where line-up changes didn’t work out. The Tommy Lee departure in 1999 might not have been terribly impactful – by then the damage had already been done. And they’re the only line-up changes the band has had in its history. Sometimes a group has to stick with what works, and that is certainly the case with Motley Crüe.

Album Of The Week – April 4, 2022

This week’s pick is an album that saw a band move on from their power metal roots and lean fully into the symphonic sound they had been prodding at their last few records before. The results would launch the group into the stratosphere and put them at the forefront of heavy metal in their native Finland and worldwide. The symphonic movement in metal would explode, while the very group that put it on the map would unexpectedly reconfigure after the touring cycle for this album.

Nightwish – Once

Released June 7, 2004 via Nuclear Blast Records (Europe)

My Favorite Tracks – Ghost Love Score, Planet Hell, Nemo

Keyboardist and band leader Tuomas Holopainen has always been the chief force behind Nightwish’s compositions. For Once he chose to record most of the album with orchestra accompaniment, utilizing the London Philharmonic. The album would be the most expensive to have been recorded in Finland, a record to be broken again by Nightwish years later.

While Holopainen was the band’s mastermind, its showcase would be singer Tarja Turunen. Turunen is a classically-trained soprano singer whose operatic style was an unlikely but welcome fit in heavy metal. The power and character of her singing would be the centerpiece of Nightwish’s presentation.

While Once is available in a few configurations with bonus tracks, I will be discussing the standard 11-track version most widely released.

Dark Chest Of Wonders

The opener is epic and heavy. It’s the perfect blend of symphonic composition and heavy metal attack. The song goes on a fantasy-laden adventure far from the grind of reality, a recurring theme in Holopainen’s songwriting. It’s clear through the Nightwish catalog that he wishes to go on a fantastic journey and Nightwish is his vehicle for that trip.

Wish I Had An Angel

Another heavy tune that was also one of the album’s hit singles. It features Tarja on the verses and bassist Marco Hietala belting the chorus. While the song is dripped in very intense imagery and symbology, its roots are far more basic – Holopainen spawned the concept after seeing people hit on his girlfriend while out on the town. Some people get into fights over that, Tuomas writes hit songs from it instead. While many of the songs on Once are epic and far-reaching, this song keeps it pretty simple and drives everything home.


Written about the origins of the name Nemo, meaning nameless or no one. The song is based in more of Holopainen’s sense of loss and search for meaning. Despite the dour subject matter, the music is lush and uplifting, creating a beautiful soundscape. The song was the album’s first single and was a major hit ahead of Once’s release. It stands as the group’s most-played song live and one of the three most recognizable for the group, all which hail from this album.

Planet Hell

A heavier approach sees Nightwish tackle the scenario of the planet devolving into total chaos. That’s subject matter than any thrash band would do any day of the week, but here Nightwish wrap the harrowing ordeal up in another epic, operatic offering featuring both Tarja and Marco handling vocals.

Planet Hell would take an odd place in gaming lore a few years after its release as part of a compilation video featuring players in Runescape exploiting a glitch to attack others outside of the traditional player versus player area. It’s odd how songs sometimes get used in weird places and wind up being a piece of lore.

Creek Mary’s Blood

Holopainen wrote this song based upon a book of the same name. It is another sad account of the plight of the Native Americans, this time told in epic fashion by a group of Finnish musicians. The song’s conclusion features a poem originally written in English but subsequently read in the Lakota language by musician John Two-Hawks.

The Siren

A song clearly about the mythical sirens who would lure sailors to the rocks and their deaths with beautiful singing. It’s a perfectly fitting song to record when your singer is Tarja Turunen. The Siren was the album’s fourth and final single release.

Dead Gardens

It was reportedly written by Holopainen about a bad period of writer’s block. I’d imagine a lot of writers wish they could come up with stuff like this in down periods. This song does shade a bit toward the sound Nightwish would pursue on albums after Once.


We’re into a blistering track that goes for the throat and tackles more lovelorn concepts of self-worth. It’s a tale as old as time but told in grand and heavy fashion here. Tarja’s operatic delivery of the heavy-hitting chorus punctuates the affair.

Ghost Love Score

Although not released as a single, this ten-minute epic has possibly become Nightwish’s most famous song in retrospect. While the song was noted as a standout upon the album’s release, it would be years later when the YouTube song reaction community got a hold of this track that it would take on a whole new life.

Ghost Love Score is a monster of a song, offering movements and passages that stand out from the typical popular music compositions. It is a bit of a hybrid prog-opera offering that puts all of Tarja Turunen’s talents on full display, as well as the compositional strengths of Tuomas Holopainen.

The song’s theme is simple – two lovers have parted but the connection and fondness remains. It is a hauntingly mesmerizing and victorious song that couples beauty and tragedy in the most grand manner.

Despite its extended runtime and challenging architecture, Ghost Love Score would become a live staple for the band. It was difficult to imagine anyone besides Tarja handling the vocal duties on the song, but in 2013 at the Wacken festival present-day Nightwish singer Floor Jansen delivered a performance that has the Internet buzzing still almost nine years later. The line from Tarja to Floor is a story for another time but, after everything, Ghost Love Score stands as perhaps Nightwish’s most triumphant moment.

Kuolema tekee taiteilijan

This obvious cut-and-paster of a title was a single released in Finland and Japan. The song was performed entirely in Finnish, a rarity for the group. The song’s title translates to “Death Makes An Artist.” Even without a translation guide, the song conveys a sense of beauty and sadness, ever-present themes in the Nightwish discography.

Higher Than Hope

The album’s closer is one with a tragic yet triumphant story behind it. Marc Brueland was a former comic book artist in San Diego who was pitched in a seven-year battle with cancer and began doing DJ sets at a local club. One night he stumbled across a cover version of Nightwish’s Walking In The Air. This would lead to Marc getting in contact with the band and forging a friendship with Tuomas. Marc would join the band on stage for a performance of Walking In The Air.

Higher Than Hope was a song Tuomas wrote about Marc’s battle and spirit. Marc delivers the spoken word passage in the song’s mid-point interlude. Sadly Marc would pass away several months before the release of Once and was never able to hear the song he inspired. Nightwish do not play the song live unless members of the Brueland family are in attendance.

When Marc Brueland joined Nightwish on stage in 2003

Once marked the moment that Nightwish broke free from the power metal scene and established themselves as a premier act across the world. The album sold over two million copies and its songs are among the most famous from the group still to this day. It made Nightwish practically royalty in Finland and well known everywhere else.

Nightwish would embark on a successful touring cycle for Once, culminating in a show at Helsinki’s Hartwall Arena on October 25, 2005 that was immortalized on video and audio as the End Of An Era set. The name was well-chosen as, just after the show, Holopainen and the band made the shocking decision to fire Tarja Turunen from the group. The move would reverberate through the metal world and cause months, if not years, of drama and toxic chaos on the Internet.

Whatever came after, Once was a glorious moment in the sun for Nightwish. They delivered on the promise creeping into their prior few albums to break the mold and combine heavy metal with classical arrangement in a way that would spark a series of new scenes within metal. The time and expense poured into the album paid off and put the band on a new plane of existence.

A Story And A Song – April Fool

I had a real post I was going to do today but I finally grasped what day today was gonna be so I put off the other post and will have a bit of fun today instead. It’s also one where the story and the song bear no connection to one another, save for the song’s title.

Today’s song is a deep cut from the 1992 album Grave Dancer’s Union from Soul Asylum. It’s a great track from one of my favorite albums of the alt-rock era. It’s a heavy, trippy and fun song that maybe should have seen release as a single, but that’s hard to say since they hit well off their singles from the album. But it’s absolutely one of my favorites from the record.

For the story we’ll stick to the day’s theme. I have a good friend we’ll call Metal Shawn (we’ll call him that because that’s actually his name, he probably won’t mind). I am often found at least one weekend night over at his house, drinking beer and listening to metal. It’s been a tradition going for 20 years now.

Shawn is one of those people who are in love with April Fool’s Day. He can recount pranks going back for decades. He’d spend entire work days messing with people and, if the day fell on a weekend, it was game over for his friends and family.

Shawn got me a few times with April Fool’s pranks. April Fool’s was on a Friday or Saturday just as it is today. I headed over to his place for our usual round of beer and metal. When I got there, the door was locked and the place silent. On a normal “metal night,” the front door is open and it’s anything but silent.

I have a key to Shawn’s house in order to keep an eye on pets and things when he’s not around so I let myself in. I found a note on the counter with him saying that some of his family came to town for the weekend so he wouldn’t be around. I was a bit miffed since he could have easily used a phone to tell me this. As I turned around and contemplated what to do, his stereo kicked on and began blaring some form of extreme metal. Shawn was in the other room, the whole thing was a ruse.

Shawn got a lot of people that particular April Fool’s, I recall him being on quite a tear. But more recently he used the power of the Internet to pull one over on everyone.

Shawn is not a fan of Glenn Danzig. The polarizing singer is a frequent target of Shawn’s jabs when talking trash. I, like many others, are fans of Danzig so his roasts always lead to amusing back and forth.

One April Fool’s a year or two ago, Shawn posted on Facebook that he was now a fan of Danzig. He was taking suggestions for what to listen to. People took the bait left and right, suggesting their favorite songs and albums. Shawn did a great job specifically spelling out stuff he’d just heard and gave a chance too, and had everyone hook, line and sinker.

At one point through his day, Shawn even thought about texting me to warn me off of exposing his ruse until the day was over. But he didn’t and I, like many others, took the bait too. I commented something or another on his post and he was astounded that he got me too. A bit later he made his “gotcha!” post and had himself a good laugh at everyone’s expense.

I’ll admit that the Danzig fakepost got me and even ruffled my feathers a bit. The “not being home” gag was a funny, quick one that was no big deal. But I should have known better than to fall for his bullshit about posting nice about Danzig. I’m normally not one to fall for shit like that but still he bagged me as one of his prank victims.

So with that are a few pranks from my good friend and local jokester Metal Shawn. As for me, I’ve never been much into pranks on April Fool’s. I can appreciate a good practical joke but I have too much of a mastermind complex and get to planning way too elaborate of shit than what is suitable for the occasion. I was going to pull one on someone today but I decided against it. And of course when I started this post I was going to choose another song to post before remembering this one. I’m sure everyone knows what song I’m talking about.