I don’t have a “real” post today, I’m gearing up for next week. It’s a big one as next Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of this blog. It’ll be a post every day next week and work/time constraints along with the insane baseball trade deadline have my attention pulled in a million different directions.
But I have a bit of time to discuss my anticipated new release for today. Chat Pile are a very recent outfit from Oklahoma who have generated quite the buzz through a few EP’s. The group just dropped their debut full-length God’s Country today.
I was eagerly awaiting this album as I’d picked up their EP’s last year. I clearly wasn’t the only one – the album has a pretty insane amount of buzz and people are going about it left and right on social media. They also got a rave review from Pitchfork, a monumental feat in and of itself.
I’m not going to attempt a review of any kind, I’ve played the album twice now and I don’t have those kind of skills. I’ll say that I’m really impressed with the album – the music is a contrast between some honestly pretty smooth though noisy riffing and very, very caustic vocals and lyrical themes. This isn’t full on “metal” as much as a communication of society’s ills with a noisy backdrop.
This album isn’t a celebration of the ills of culture, instead it’s a document of them. Chat Pile are located just a few hours from me and I’ve seen the piles of the toxic lead mining remnants that the group are named after. There are a lot of messed up, suffering people in our region and a very twisted, dystopian government that does nothing to improve conditions. God’s Country spells out what this area looks like and sounds as fucked up as things around here are.
So far I’m very much enjoying this very harrowing album. I’m sure it will be in play toward the end of the year when I get to the work of considering my favorites of 2022. I’m off to enjoy my weekend in this dystopian shithole, have a good one and I’ll see everyone next week as I hit my one year mark.
It’s that time of the week to dig into another offering from my singles collection. Today it’s the good old split single – two bands each offer a song, the vinyl gets pressed and here we are years later looking over the results. Split singles and even albums have been a consistent feature of the metal underground. I was never one to splurge on such things but I’ve wound up with a handful in my collection.
Today it’s a double dip into some very noisy territory – Swedish D-beat merchants Disfear are paired alongside American metal act Doomriders for this 2008/2009 split. Sometimes these split singles get their own “album” names and other times they don’t. In this case the single does have its own title completely separate from the two songs.
This isn’t necessarily an “unlikely” pairing but there is a common thread to tie these bands together – both groups recorded albums in this timeframe at GodCity Studios. GodCity is the brainchild of Kurt Ballou, who plays in Converge and has also produced a great deal of work at the studio. Ballou is also bandmates in Converge with Nate Newton, who is the head of the Doomriders project. (Note – the Disfear song on this release was recorded among themselves and not part of Disfear’s album at GodCity)
A lot of metal band trivia here, and more to come – but in reality there are only two songs to discuss here, so let’s have at it.
Disfear – Fear And Trembling
Disfear is an unsettling proposition, owing its sound to the crust punk and D-beat scene. It’s a very underground affair with English group Discharge as one of its primary pioneers. The music is very, very unsettling, noisy and not for the faint of heart.
Disfear themselves have a long history, though broken up in phases. They were around in the 1990’s but would go on hiatus and reform under a very different line-up in the early 2000’s. Two original members would remain and would be joined by Swedish death metal royalty – Entombed guitarist Ulf Cederlund and At The Gates vocalist Tomas Lindberg helped Disfear into a new millennium.
Our song today is, as far as I can tell, exclusive to this release. It was not featured on their 2008 album Live The Storm and the band haven’t done any further releases so I suppose this single is the only place to get the song. As luck would have it, this split is still in print for anyone who stumbles upon this and just has to have it.
As I’ve said, this music is not for the weak of ear or constitution. It is a noisy mess. Even for the standards of Swedish death metal, Disfear makes those bands sound like orchestra music. Lyrically it is apparently a dissection of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s work of the same name. As lyrics and background info are hard to find for this song, I can’t source that claim, but I saw it in a YouTube comment so it’s probably true. And knowing how Tomas Lindberg likes to source such material, I would feel safe in the assumption.
Again, I’m pretty sure this is something most of my regular readers are not going to be into. This song is a headache in vinyl form. But this is my series of singles and well, here you are.
Doomriders – Crooked Path
Out to something still harsh and noisy but perhaps more conventional, we have New England’s metal/sludge outfit Doomriders. The group is the conception of Nate Newton, who is a member of the aforementioned Converge, as well as Old Man Gloom and presently Cave In.
When I first got this split, which was way back in ’09 when it released stateside, this was the song that pulled me in more. I was familiar with Disfear but not with Doomriders and this was a sound I was pretty well lacking at that time. It is gruff but also groovy and well performed. I was very much into stuff like High On Fire around this time and this was a worthy compliment to that.
Crooked Path did see release on an album – the Doomriders’ 2009 Darkness Comes Alive. This single that I purchased for the involvement of Disfear led me to the Doomriders and it’s been a fond listening relationship since.
That’s about all for this one. The single was packaged in somewhat unique fashion – instead of a slipsheet or cardboard holder, a massive poster is folded into the 7 inch sleeve. I wouldn’t dare unfold it because I’d spend the rest of my life trying to get it back in to the sleeve, but it’s a nice touch for a cheap, out of the way single. (Actually not, it’s really easy to open and put back together as it turns out…) Stay tuned next week for another oddity from my collection of 7 inch single horrors.
I had to switch post order up a bit, the reason why will be clear in a few weeks. This was originally supposed to be about Woodstock ’99, but with a new additional documentary about to hit streaming, I decided to put off my post about the existing one. Instead I’ll talk some about a new song from one of the bands that closed down the ill-fated festival.
Today I want to go over the new Megadeth song a little bit. Night Stalkers is the second single released from the upcoming album The Sick, The Dying And The Dead!, out September 2nd. The song is really good, Megadeth have established that they are going to be heavy as hell on this record. Both singles shape up for a nice album coming in just over a month.
There are a few odd and/or funny talking points going around about the song. I thought I’d dive into a few of them.
Dave Mustaine’s voice – shot?
The biggest topic of discussion has been Dave Mustaine’s voice. This isn’t new – the conversation came up during the Dystopia album release and tour cycle. Dave is now 60 years old and, well, I guess the pipes just aren’t what they used to be?
Honestly, I’m not hearing any huge impact here. Yeah, dude is old and also battled throat cancer in the late 2010’s, but nothing I’ve heard on either new song gives me any pause. He still carries a tune and also, it’s not like anyone was listening to Megadeth for Dave’s vocal prowess anyway. He’s always taken shit over his voice and while his snarl is unmistakable, it never was Megadeth’s calling card. But even with this new stuff I’m not having an issue with it. I don’t know. We all hear things differently, sure, but I do think sometimes people just like to find things to bitch about.
And even if Dave can’t carry a tune like he used to, the band is playing in such fine form that it doesn’t deter me much at all. Let the old man warble a bit over some of the hardest-hitting metal he’s recorded in ages.
Ice T is on this?
Yes – Ice T makes a guest appearance on the song. He does a brief spoken-word part that fits the song’s narrative and isn’t some weird bit that detracts from the track at all.
It’s almost like Ice T knows his way around a metal song, which of course he does. He has fronted Body Count for decades now, and in fact BC and Megadeth toured together in the early ’90’s. This was around the same time Mustaine heaped praise upon Ice T as a great artist.
And that relationship didn’t stop back then, either – in 2017, Mustaine provided both a spoken word intro and a guitar solo to the opening track from Body Count’s 2017 album Bloodlust. Civil War is an awesome song and here’s my very high opinion of the album overall from when it was Album of the Week awhile back.
The point is this – there is nothing strange about Ice T being on a Megadeth song, it might be called long overdue if anything. And there certainly is nothing wrong with it, even if some amount of keyboard warriors seem to think so.
The origin of Vic Rattlehead
The most exciting part about the new Megadeth video was something I’d heard about when the first song was released but nothing was really confirmed. This video arc, clearly meant by Mustaine to tell a story, is giving us the origin of Megadeth’s long-beloved mascot Vic Rattlehead. At the end of the first single We’ll Be Back, a soldier carries an atomic bomb into the sea in an apparent attempt to save people from certain destruction.
In Night Stalkers, this soldier is in some form of afterlife that resembles the river Styx and the ferryman Charon, though is also termed Hell in official preview clips. The shrouded figure transforms the soldier into the well-known mascot, then Vic returns to the mortal realm to unleash some hell on shadow agents hunting his family (or something, I’m not entirely sure).
It is really cool to see a Vic origin story after decades of his existence. I’d wager Vic is the second most famous heavy metal mascot, behind only the ubiquitous Eddie from Iron Maiden. And with this video arc we get far more of a story for Vic than we’ve ever gotten for Eddie.
I’m really looking forward to see where this story goes. Vic often appears as a tyrant or arms dealer type of baddie on old Megadeth album covers, and his story is clearly linked to some very dark military shadow operations, so we’re bound to get some really intriguing stuff in the upcoming arc. I love stuff like this that gives albums a bit more meaning and lore behind them, and it’s especially great to have this with one of heavy metal’s most recognized (drawn) figures.
That’s where we are with the preview songs for the new Megadeth album. We get some wondering about Dave’s vocal state (fine by me), some clowns questioning why Ice T is on the album, and some cool lore behind the long time mascot of the band. All that’s really left to do is see where the story goes and to get ahold of the new album here in several weeks.
This week’s pick is one that was always going to wind up here, the only question was when. I could write about the album in my sleep and I could probably write this without hitting play on it (though I will). But all the fuss raised up over the title track’s use in a hit TV shows means the time to talk about it is now.
Metallica – Master Of Puppets
Released March 3, 1986 via Elektra Records
My Favorite Tracks – Damage Inc., Disposable Heroes, Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
Metallica’s third album would showcase some polish and a very consistent approach. The band would make waves after its release as the record gained momentum without the benefit of radio or MTV play. It would go one be considered one of the band’s finest moments, even as tragedy cut short the album’s touring cycle.
It’s a fairly lean track list with eight songs but there’s almost an hour’s worth of music to get into. Let’s dive in to one of heavy metal’s most noteworthy albums. Also, a note – the videos posted are all live performances that may not reflect everything discussed in the post, and were also performances after the death of Cliff Burton.
Opening with one hell of a thrash attack. The song is a scorching track that pays tribute to the band’s fans, being the “battery” that Metallica draws from during shows. It’s also a reference to San Francisco’s Battery Street, where Metallica roamed in their early days. This song showcases how Metallica were able to retain the savagery of their early career while also refining their sound.
Master Of Puppets
The title track is a mammoth epic clocking in at 8:36. The long runtime did not deter fans – the song is one of the band’s most popular and stands as the track played live the most in the group’s 40-year career. The song tackles the issue of drug addiction and how the drugs wind up being the master controlling the user.
Master Of Puppets was the only single released from the album. The song did ok on the charts for a single not supported by video play at all and very light radio play, thrash wasn’t a radio gem in 1986. The song would chart again in 2022 when its use in a pivotal scene in the hit Netflix show Stranger Things sent the world to discover or re-discover it again.
The Thing That Should Not Be
A slower number that sees Metallica again visit the H.P. Lovecraft eldritch horror universe. It is a suitably heavy, doom-laden track about a sinister horror driving victims to madness. It is a track that gets flack in some circles but it’s one I enjoy. The song was massively influential to one Brian Warner, who would go on to become Marilyn Manson.
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
A noted highlight from the album comes in the form of a song similar in form and spirit to Ride The Lightning’s epic Fade To Black. Making use of slower and haunting instrumentation, the song paints an explicit picture of being abused inside a mental facility. The song was reportedly influenced by the movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
This is another showcase of how Metallica were able to do far more than just beat the listener into submission. The song does ramp up the aggression after a long build but its desolate harmonies in the early verses are its calling card.
Another marathon busting the 8-minute mark, this titanic effort tackles a soldier being sacrificed on the battlefield by a ruthless, uncaring leader. It is a stark look at the horrors of war, a subject often brought up by Metallica. Even with the long run time, this song is fast and unrelenting throughout.
This song slows things down a hair but doesn’t let up on the heaviness at all. It is a look at a conman preacher, a favorite target of ’80’s metal bands (who were often the favorite targets of said preachers). The song does pick up the pace as it goes along, establishing a series of movements and an ear toward arrangement and composition beyond the usual scope of thrash.
Metallica had one instrumental song on each of their prior releases and kept the ball rolling with this one. The song is a trippy, out there track that is the brainchild of bassist Cliff Burton. Much of the unconventional noise is coming from his bass. Parts of the song do thrash along in more standard ways.
The album closer is an absolutely pummeling affair that starts attacking the listener just after a quiet intro ends. The song describes a corporation (Damage, Incorporated) that mows over humanity in its quest to get bigger. It’s cool that the band were able envision these dystopian kind of horror scenarios that don’t reflect reality at all…
Master Of Puppets would serve to further the career of Metallica and lead the group to new heights of success. The album sold well out of the gate and the band landed a coveted opening spot on Ozzy Osbourne’s American tour, playing arenas for a five month haul.
As the band were trekking Europe that September, a bus accident in Sweden would claim the life of bassist Cliff Burton. The band decided to press on, hiring Flotsam And Jetsam bassist Jason Newsted as the new member.
Though the tour cycle for Master Of Puppets was cut short, the album has gone on to hold a significant place in the band’s catalog and in heavy metal overall. This album, alongside Slayer’s Reign In Blood, Megadeth’s Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? And Anthrax’s Among The Living would establish the “Big Four” of thrash metal. Thrash itself would see a huge spike in popularity through the remainder of the decade and Metallica were often hailed as the ultimate practitioners of the craft.
Master Of Puppets is often regarded as a “perfect” album and the quintessential thrash record. It is toward the top of countless “best of metal” lists and sees a spot at or near the top of most any Metallica album ranking. Its legacy is immense and casts a massive shadow over the world of heavy metal.
And that legacy continues on. 36 years past its release and long after the band set aside thrash and became one of the world’s biggest musical acts, the song Master Of Puppets has taken on a new life through its use in Stranger Things. Not that Metallica necessarily needed the rub, but the frenzy from the show has copies of the album flying off record store shelves again. A new generation of fans are jumping in to the pit, and so it goes for the titans of heavy metal.
I’m going to debut a new series today, though it’s one that might not stick around in written form for too long. My original intent was to do these as videos but time to make them proves ever-elusive, and I’m tired of sitting on this content that I originally compiled a year ago.
This will be just as the title says – album rankings of a band’s discography. My rankings aren’t based on any scores, though I do intend to go back through and score each album later on. I prefer to do the rankings based on other factors and then see how differently things come out later based on scoring. There are other factors that can influence where to rank an album that doesn’t reflect in a score, and this first one will give a vivid example of that.
I’m starting out with Motley Crüe – nine total studio albums and it’s a fair shot that this is their final discography. Doesn’t matter either way, let’s get to the rankings. Of course we run from worst to first as most any sane person’s rankings do.
#9 – Generation Swine
The 1997 reunion with Vince Neil did not deliver anything I found worthwhile. I didn’t like the album when I first heard it and last year I played it for the first time since the ’90’s. I was expecting to take to more of the album this time, or at least find some songs I could call quality. I did not. There’s just nothing here I can get into and I don’t really know what they were doing here.
#8 – Theatre Of Pain
I talked about this one awhile back and I didn’t have much nice to say about it. A few songs I thought were really good, a few that were ok but lifeless production and a lot of filler make for a fairly miserable listening experience.
#7 – New Tattoo
This 2000 offering was the only Crüe record not to feature Tommy Lee. It was a pretty good return to form album, it got back to basics and offered up some good cuts. It is consistent throughout but it doesn’t have, to me, any truly breakout or defining moments. It’s a high-floor, low-ceiling kind of thing. But from here and for the rest of the list we’re talking about albums I can enjoy listening to.
#6 – Girls, Girls, Girls
The 1987 album was a success for the band and was certainly better than its predecessor. It has one of the best tracks they’ve ever done in Wild Side (already an S-Tier song), a great title track, and honestly several other songs that I found better than I remembered them to be. Its production wasn’t great but there was a lot more to like here than on that prior one.
#5 – Motley Crüe
The 1994 self-titled effort spelled the end of the band as we knew them up to this point. Vince Neil had been fired and was replaced by John Corabi. The sound was something apart from the band’s prior output but it is still well-executed and has some great moments. It’s a record that gets (I think) unfairly maligned for not having Vince, though I can understand the sound is a departure from what we were used to.
#4 – Saints Of Los Angeles
The band’s final album from 2008. It seems to be a bit overlooked, from my standing this is a fantastic album and I don’t know why people didn’t give it more of a chance. This is the sound that I thought the band would get into after hearing Primal Scream in 1991. And it’s the band not giving a damn about radio play and just saying whatever they want, it’s truly Crüe uncensored. The grit and attitude just drip from this album. If this is what happens when Sixx AM bandmates write Motley Crüe records, then do more of it.
#3 – Too Fast For Love
The debut that kicked off a whole damn scene in Los Angeles and the official beginning of this crazy band. This is raw, ferocious and just great music. Not a weak track in the bunch. There honestly isn’t much more for me to say about it – it’s just a damn great record.
#2 – Dr. Feelgood
The Crüe closed out the ’80’s in style with their biggest success. A honed and polished affair saw several huge singles and perhaps their best song ever with Kickstart My Heart. While many bands were feeling the end of the hair metal train, this group rode into the ’90’s in style.
As for why this one ranks so high, I covered the reasons when it was the Album of the Week. It was the album that flipped a switch for me and made me massively obsessed with music. It’s a super important album in my listening history and there was a strong argument that this should be number one. But…
#1 – Shout At The Devil
Their second album is just unbeatable. This is packed from top to bottom with fantastic songs and some of the best moments of the band’s career. This stuff is loud, heavy and dangerous and the band gained massive notoriety from both the music and the album imagery. Nothing here misses or is even of a lower cut than the rest, even the cover of Helter Skelter fits both musically and image-wise.
That does it for my first-ever edition of album rankings. Let me know where you agree or disagree in the comments. It might be a minute before my next round, depending on who I choose to go with.
I figured I would jump in with what a lot of other bloggers do and start going through my collection of music singles. It’s a pretty easy way for me to add another post each week – just pick out something and talk a bit about it.
For the first few months I’ll go over one a week, these are not related to each other in any way other than they are singles in my collection. I think there’s roughly 17 to look at, that number could go up by a few after I have another look through my collection.
If my count is right, this should conclude my “general” singles series in November. At that point I’ll get into the one band’s singles collection that I do have a fair number of – that being Iron Maiden. (shocking, I’m sure). That series will run for at least half a year at a once-a-week clip and will grow by at least a little bit in the time before and during it.
But enough exposition, let’s just get to it. The first one I’m gonna go over is the one I most recently acquired. As the title suggests, it is the Guns N’ Roses Civil War “EP.” This was released in a variety of configurations, I opted for a cheap CD version with three tracks – two songs and an interview with Slash. This version was a European release – while other parts of the world got versions of the EP, nothing was distributed in the US.
The song is a little bit odd in history as it was originally released as part of a charity compilation about a year before its appearance on Use Your Illusion II. This EP was released in several countries in 1993 though in some odd way it doesn’t technically count as a single released from the UYI albums. I don’t know why and the distinction isn’t really important.
I previously discussed the Use Your Illusion albums in great detail back last September – here’s a link to the first of four (!) parts of that where I went about turning the two albums into one. In the final portion I talked about my five favorite tracks on the albums and – spoiler alert – number one was
The song is the reason for being in terms of this single. I wrote about it before – it’s an amazing work. It’s a gripping look at the tangled threads wove in society from the 1960’s until 1990, and it’s not any less meaningful today. Sadly, it’s probably more poignant. Civil War might have gotten a bit overlooked in the wake of the bombastic singles from the records but over time it’s gotten due recognition as one of the best tracks from those albums, if not the best. I really don’t need to say much more about it since I’m almost positive this song will turn up in another series of mine…someday.
Garden Of Eden
This song appears on some configurations of this EP and not on others. Since it’s on my CD it’s what I’ll go with. The song is a short one and pretty good. It does pretty well on sequencing here since it’s a fast and loose song that is a bit of fun to contrast the heavy subject matter of Civil War. The song has a punk-ish edge to it and, although I didn’t select it for my “final cut” of UYI songs, it’s one I’m happy to hear.
Interview with Slash
The exclusive content to this EP is a small interview with Slash. It runs seven minutes and there is no one asking Slash questions. I assume the questions were edited out and that Slash didn’t really talk for seven minutes straight but I honestly don’t know for sure. Slash talks about how the band’s mega success wasn’t entirely clear to him as it was happening and goes over a few other things through the interview. It doesn’t have any dirt or jaw-dropping revelations but it’s a nice listen from a few years before he would originally leave the group.
All in all this was a neat little single to add to the collection. It doesn’t offer any alternate versions or anything, both songs are album cuts. The interview stands as the exclusive content. Not a red-hot collector’s item but not a bad pick-up.
Today’s song is a good one – it’s one of the singles from Iron Maiden’s 1988 masterpiece Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. It’s one of the more recognizable tunes from the record and a fantastic track. And the video is notable too – it features Monty Python standout Graham Chapman and is one of his final acting appearances before his 1989 death.
The story goes as such – I first saw Iron Maiden in 2000. I recounted that concert and other Maiden-related things roughly a month into this blog. Of course I got a shirt from the tour and it was a unique design only available on that tour. It was a pretty nice keepsave from what is a legendary concert in my show-attending lexicon.
Let’s jump in time a few years to 2004. I wind up dating this gal. Long story short – she was kind of awful and not worth the time. While I won’t get into the particulars of it, I will say that the inevitable happened – I lost my Iron Maiden shirt at her house.
It’s worth mentioning that it was a legitimate case of loss. It does seem like people lose articles of clothing when they’re involved with someone for awhile. Sometimes people “lose” possessions in these sort of split-ups when others intentionally misappropriate items to fund their shitty drug habits and that did happen in this break-up, but the shirt itself was truly just lost in her house and never to be found by me again. I also lost a Megadeth Rust In Peace shirt in the same break-up, just some really lame shit.
But the Megadeth shirt is fairly easily replaceable, it’s just the cover of Rust In Peace, it wasn’t original anyway and the shirt gets re-issued all the time. The Iron Maiden shirt, though? That was a tour original and was not going to be easy at all to replace.
Being that this was a super urgent issue to me, I waited until roughly late 2005 or early ’06 to bother with the matter of finding the same shirt again. It sort of struck me one day that if I were going to get another one, time would be of the essence. Iron Maiden tour shirts were already fetching princely sums in the mid-00’s, and now they can be flat out obscene.
Luck was (mostly) on my side – sure as shit, someone on eBay had the same Brave New World shirt up. It was $60. That was a seemingly ludicrous price to pay for a damn band shirt, but again, consider the mitigating factors. It was a unique Maiden tour-release shirt. How bad of a mistake would it have been to NOT buy it in 2006 for $60 compared to what I’d have to pay now for the same thing? I haven’t even seen a listing for one in a long time and I doubt the price would be $60 if there was one for sale. (Edit – a few do seem to be around for sale, in the $200 price range)
The shirt was in great shape and still is all these years later. The seller also threw in a bootleg CD of the concert he attended on the tour. It was a cool touch from back when eBay wasn’t so hard up about people selling bootlegs. I haven’t seen that around for a long time but I’m kind of sure I know where it is. And it was a very good sounding bootleg, almost like it came off the soundboard.
Anyway, I was able to recover my position and get the shirt. There was one small hitch – the backs weren’t exactly the same. There is a rear art piece of Eddie in a crowd on the back, that much was the same. But my original shirt had a listing of all the US tour dates. This replacement shirt only listed one city, Irvine. It kind of sucks but it’s a relatively minor issue I can live with. I even wondered if the shirt was a bootleg but it looks fine and they spelled “Iron Maiden” correctly so I can live with it. I’d guess it’s official, it looks identical to my first one besides the dates on the back.
That’s about all there is to this silly story. All stories have morals and there are a few here – don’t date lousy people and for damn sure don’t leave prized possessions behind at their homes when you split.
And if you do, don’t wait until the secondary market is some kind of cash-gobbling monster before replacing your stuff. I dodged a bullet on that one.
This week I’m going to “cheat” and save myself some time by talking about an EP. It might be short in length but its significance to metal is vast.
Queensryche – self-titled
Released September 1983 via 206 Records
The EP was a demo in the true sense of the term – the band then known as The Mob were looking for a record deal. At the time they didn’t even have a singer, they convinced Geoff Tate of rival local act Myth to handle vocal duties on the demo.
The group changed their name to Queensryche, and altered the spelling of “reich” to avoid accusations of Nazism. They also put an umlat about the “y” but I’m going to be lazy and not do that in my post today.
The EP got around in quick order and the band quickly found themselves with a major label record deal with EMI. Geoff Tate agreed to join the band in full and one of metal’s most unique acts was on its way.
Today we have a whopping four songs to discuss. There are two other versions of the EP, thankfully I should have the time and space to talk about those a little bit.
Queen Of The Reich
The EP’s opener was also released as a single with The Lady Wore Black as a b-side, so half of the EP was made available on a separate record. Environmental waste aside, the band spared no time establishing themselves as a force in the metal world. Even with the sound of a self-funded production effort, the band’s talent is evident in this blistering attack.
While the band gets down to business, the song is a showcase for the immense vocal talent of Geoff Tate. He could hang with the very best singers in metal and that is established right off the bat on this song.
And check out the music video for the song. It is … uh, just watch it.
The guitars of Michael Wilton and Chris DeGarmo put in some work on the second track. While still a traditional metal track, this song does offer a taste of the sound Queensryche would explore going forward.
Another brief yet savage metal attack that shows off more of the sound the band would pursue on their full-length debut. There are definite points of comparison between Blinded and songs from The Warning, I hear some of Roads To Madness going on here. Tate goes into insane territory with his voice at the song’s close.
The Lady Wore Black
A longer effort, the EP’s closer was unfinished when Tate agreed to help record and he composed the song’s lyrics. This was an early sign that Queensryche were not interested in simply playing metal, the band were going to be a thought-provoking force that explored soundscapes from multiple directions. This song stuck around in the band’s set for a long time.
Queensryche not only established the band in and of itself but it spread quickly and got the word out about the new outfit. They would make full use of their record deal and release three magnificent albums throughout the 1980’s. This EP only hinted at what was to come.
There are a few different reissued versions of the EP. In 1988 EMI released a version with a fifth song, Prophecy. The song was played live in the band’s beginning but was actually recorded during the Rage For Order sessions. It served as a bonus track both here and on a future reissue of The Warning.
The definitive reissue of the EP was released in 2003 and has a whole heap of bonus tracks – a nine song live set recorded in Japan in 1984. This live set was available on video as Live In Tokyo and was a very welcome addition to the reissued EP. The entire EP is performed, as well as Prophecy and a few songs from The Warning. It is a great set and I was very happy with the decision to include it as the EP’s bonus material.
It’s very uncommon for a demo to be an official part of a band’s discography. Usually demos aren’t even noticed and the songs are just reworked as part of a group’s debut. Demos were typically only sought out by hardcore collectors and were curiosities. But Queensryche were able to get a lot of mileage out of their demo – it is considered an essential part of their catalog and it was even certified gold. It would mark the start of a run of albums that would both shape and defy music.
I’ve written about this a few times now but it’s time again to look at the price of vinyl. It’s a massive topic in the world of music collecting (obviously) and it’s been a thorn in the side of many a collector for the past while. I know I feel the pinch and have tightened up my buying, and several others have relayed that they too are either limiting or cutting out buying altogether.
But – there is a mitigating factor to consider here. It’s a big one too. The economy? It’s a pile of trash right now. Inflation is out the yazoo (though prices are apparently creeping their way back down). Wealth disparity is at some kind of all-time high and everything just seems like a burning wreck right now. Even if things get better, it will be incremental and will likely take time to get to some kind of plateau.
So – what’s the rule about what happens to the prices of collectibles in a crap economy? Collectibles take a nose dive in price when the economy sucks. It makes sense – spending money on collectible stuff is a luxury, and in tough times many people have to pare down and focus on the essentials. It might be a lovely thought to have a collection of every Air Supply single released in all major countries, but who can afford that when rent is quadrupling in price?
There is a bit of caveat here – this possible drop in price likely only applies to the secondary market. New vinyl releases will most likely retain their current price points. New vinyl has been going up, a symptom of supply constraints and the rising costs of everything. Vinyl costs more to make so it will cost more to buy. Maybe there will be some budget-minded reissues or something once the supply issues are fully worked out, but I would imagine the new vinyl market will remain mostly where it is now.
But old records? Those have been priced to the moon in the past few years. Before the great vinyl boom of the 2010’s, a person could hit up a yard sale or flea market and walk away with a nice copy of an old standard for a quarter or a buck at best. Even a copy of a hallowed release like Air Supply’s Greatest Hits could be tripped over at the entrance to a flea market.
Since the vinyl boom, though, prices of even pedestrian old releases can bust $20. Budget record shopping is almost non-existent. Anything with a hint of collectible value is through the roof, and scarce releases like a lot of 1990’s vinyl have insane prices. That is the market that is likely to suffer in an economic downturn.
I haven’t noticed much action on prices yet, or much of anything from the vinyl market. But the signs are out there in other collectible categories. The collectible card games market (Magic The Gathering, etc) is seeing soft demand and lower prices on old product. The warning bells are already ringing in that sector, and it only stands to reason that other markets will follow.
Of course any real kind of downturn doesn’t happen overnight. There will still be tons of listings on Discogs for prices well above the listed median. But those records will just sit there. Stores that want to move inventory will begin marking down. And private collectors faced with troubling times will list their stuff in fire sale mode, driving prices down.
This scenario isn’t necessarily a boon for the budget-minded collector. The vinyl boom brought about a host of new record stores, owned and operated as small business ventures. Those stores will suffer during a vinyl downturn. This whole thing won’t just be a price correction because of the economy – it will lower demand and stunt the ability of sellers to find buyers. The ability to get vinyl at lower prices would come after a massive culling and our collecting landscape would not be the same.
Now I don’t know what will truly happen – it could be total doomsday, or it could be some lesser version of events that knocks stuff down a bit but doesn’t have earth-shattering effects on the scene as a whole. But the formula for a vinyl downturn is there – simply put, it’s in the economic downturn as a whole. How it all plays out remains to be seen.
On the note of vinyl and prices – I know myself and many others have been limiting purchases, or given up totally. I’ve only bought a few things this year and I have few plans for future buying – it’s expensive and I need my money for other things.
Here is a video done recently by my buddy David on his YouTube channel Hard Rock Reverie. He talks about this issue and his own suspension of purchases. There are a lot of collecting dominoes falling right now and that’s probably not a good sign for the state of the market.
This week I’m time traveling back to 1998. I was just kind of listening to whatever at the time, I was far more pre-occupied with “grown up” business than I was music. But of the handful of things to catch my ear, this alt-rock gem really grabbed my attention. It also grabbed the attention of a lot of music fans at the time, being the first major success of a newer record label and offering an outsized hit the band is still known for to this day.
Fastball – All The Pain Money Can Buy
Released March 10,1998 via Hollywood Records
My Favorite Tracks – Which Way To The Top?, Fire Escape, Charlie The Methadone Man
Fastball had signed to Hollywood Records, a subsidiary of Disney that had yet to score any real success. The band had released one album that didn’t make any waves and they regrouped for this sophomore effort.
Fastball took a different approach to their second album – the band featured two principal musicians in Miles Zuniga and Tony Scalzo. Each wrote a song and did the lead vocals for their effort. While Zuniga would get one more song on the record over Scalzo, it would be Scalzo who composed the massive hit.
The album’s run time is fairly concise at 42 minutes but there are 13 songs on the original release. I’m going to switch up my typical format today and discuss a handful of highlight tracks in detail, then run through the rest briefly. This post would be massive otherwise.
The album opens with what became the smash hit single. The song charted at or toward the top of several US and Canadian charts and was ever-present in early 1998. The Way was released a few months ahead of the album and it propelled the album to platinum status in a few months. Fastball members were working regular shift jobs when The Way began taking over alt-rock radio.
The song depicts a pair who leave their lives behind and head out on a journey. The destination is unspecified and even unknown. It is a great song that hits the vibe of just leaving and setting out for adventures unknown. Without any understanding of the song’s inspiration, The Way works fantastically on its own.
But the song does have a story behind it and it’s a pretty dark one. This article discusses the news story that inspired Tony Scalzo to compose the track. An elderly couple in Texas set out for a festival at a town very near their own, yet wound up missing. Their car and remains were discovered in Arkansas a few weeks later. The couple’s disappearance was a big news item in Texas while they were missing and Scalzo wrote most of The Way before the couple were found. The song would immortalize the couple even in spite of their sad fate.
The second track was also the album’s second single and placed within the US Top 40. The song is a bright, poppy alt-rock number about being into someone. It’s accompanied by a pretty funny video. It, like many songs on the record, have a polished sound without delving into jangly riffs or other simple tricks. It is simply recorded and executed and kept clean.
Which Way To The Top?
On to the fourth track that features a special guest on vocals. 90’s alt-icon Poe contributes her voice to the track. The song asks the ages-old question of how to climb out of one’s rut and get to the top. It’s a pretty ironic song for Fastball, since their way to the top was literally The Way. This song does a great job of conveying the melancholy vibe of being at the bottom while also sounding hopeful for more in the future.
A bit of a dark turn here, the song itself slots right in to the rest of the album musically but the lyrics get really dark. The song’s narrator is in a dark, quiet place and wants someone dead. No elaboration is given on who or why. It’s a bit of a vague murder ballad and is a curious and unsettling tune.
Charlie The Methadone Man
A weird and interesting tune that has a look at just what the title says – a fella named Charlie that’s into methadone. The song doesn’t really either lionize or pass judgment on Charlie and his habit, rather it simply observes his movements. No clue if this was based on someone real or if Miles Zuniga just cranked it out off the top of his head but the song is a great one from the album.
Out Of My Head
The album’s third single and another hit that got into the top 20 on the US chart. It’s a sadder tune that looks at one’s own bad behavior in a relationship. It’s a far more introspective and honestly practical song about such things than what is normally churned out in that regard.
The song would get a second life decades later when Machine Gun Kelly used this song’s chorus for his song Bad Things. Camila Cabello guested on the track. Tony Scalzo reacted positively to the song’s use by MGK.
The last song I’ll look at in full is a quick number that looks over a past long-distance relationship. There isn’t a ton going on lyrically, just a few verses that offer a bit of background then a one-line chorus simply stating “I know I should just leave you alone.” While still fitting the album’s overall pop-alt vibe the driving chorus does provide a heavy moment.
Six other songs slot in at points on the record. Better Than It Was and Sooner Or Later are more upbeat tunes on the first half of the record. Warm Fuzzy Feeling is a fun song about “making it,” something the band wrote a lot about and also accomplished here. Good Ol’ Days is a horn-driven nostalgia trip. The album closes with two somewhat vague and darker-themed numbers in Nowhere Road and Sweetwater Texas.
All The Pain Money Can Buy was a huge success for Fastball. The album hit platinum in both the US and Canada and The Way was a huge hit single. It was also the first major success for Hollywood Records, which would later go on become a hit factory based on the various Disney TV personalities who recorded songs.
The album was a masterstroke from a band who thought they were going to be dropped by their label and who faced an uncertain future in the music business. While never replicating the success of this album, Fastball are still at it today now with eight albums under their belts. While the group came and went from the mainstream consciousness, they left a massive impression during their time there.