Album Of The Week – October 31, 2022

It’s time to do another week revolving around one artist. This will involve a post every day, it’ll include a (long) look at the band’s line-up changes, a few singles I have and cap off with an album ranking on Friday.

I’m leading off with the band’s fourth album, one recorded and released after great tragedy. Despite a few curious choices in sound, the album would be a huge success and propel the group forward to a state of total world domination a few years later.

Metallica – …And Justice For All

Released September 7, 1988 via Elektra Records

My Favorite Tracks – Harvester Of Sorrow, One, Blackened

Metallica had made great strides in heavy metal and music in general, achieving commercial success without the benefit of radio or MTV play. Things would change with this album, and Metallica would start to become not just a successful metal band, but one of the world’s most popular acts.

The group were enjoying a fantastic touring cycle for Master Of Puppets when an icy bus crash in Sweden claimed the life of bassist Cliff Burton. Burton’s death was a massive loss and one that still reverberates today. The band decided to press on after the accident, hiring Jason Newsted away from Flotsam And Jetsam.

…And Justice For All features 9 songs at a massive run time of 65 minutes. The album cover is a fantastic image and possibly the band’s best ever. Singles released from the album include Harvester Of Sorrow, Eye Of The Beholder and One, the latter marking the band’s first MTV video.

It’s impossible to discuss the album without bringing up the curious production choices. The album sounds dry and tinny, with the high end very emphasized. The drum sound is odd, but the missing bass is the typical talking point. The band have blamed “hearing loss” for the bass omission, though a lot of people speculate that it wasn’t an inadvertent decision. The album succeeded even with the odd mix, though it is still a huge topic of discussion all these decades later.

With that out of the way, let’s get into the songs. There is a lot to go over, even with an average number of tracks.


The album opens with a super heavy track that firmly suggests Metallica are out to snap necks again. This is a pummeling song that details the nuclear end of the world, a topic prevalent in thrash and also Metallica’s own back catalog. While much of the album drifts away from “pure thrash,” Blackened is one of the more outright thrashy songs.

Blackened is also Jason Newsted’s sole writing credit on the album – he had the main riff “laying around” and played it for James Hetfield, who immediately set about crafting the song.

…And Justice For All

This very extended play at nearly 10 minutes is a direct attack on the hypocrisy and ineffectiveness of the justice system. It is a song that is sadly still very relevant, if not more so, today than in 1988. While the base of the song is pure thrash, there are several interludes and guitar passages that keep things from getting monotonous.

Eye Of The Beholder

The tempo slows a bit for this crunchy track that concerns itself with the idea that expression is not free and is instead bought and controlled by those in power. It’s an interesting topic that could sadly go down too many dark roads these days. The song is one of the more straightforward ones from the album, keeping its pace and general rhythm throughout.


The most recognized track from the record and certainly one of Metallica’s most known songs, this single marked the first music video release from the group. The video features movie footage from Johnny Got His Gun, a dark story similar to what is told in One. Both feature a World War I casualty who was blown apart by artillery but is still alive, though unable to do anything but think.

One begins slowly, with a very haunting guitar passage while the lyrics outline the victim’s plight. The song picks up steam as it goes along, eventually entering total thrash-out territory around 4 minutes in. The song’s extended remainder is a solo fest.

One was a triumphant single and video for Metallica and it marked the beginning of what would be a long ride on MTV for the group. Metallica wound up purchasing the movie rights to Johnny Got His Gun so they wouldn’t have to pay royalties to the prior rights holders. The song is a staple of live sets and is also often brought up when people are asking the age-old question “You know that one song?”

The Shortest Straw

Metallica return to the political theater here, offering a song that derides political witch hunts such as the Red Scare of the 1950’s. The song is another of the “thrashier” tunes from the album. Some fans speculate that the title has to do with how Cliff Burton wound up in his fatal section of tour bus the night of the crash, but honestly that seems like a reach to me and I doubt it’s the case.

Harvester Of Sorrow

An extremely dark and twisted song about a victim of childhood abuse that grows up to be traumatized by the abuse and, after going insane, murders his family. Harvester is a slower yet still heavy song that lends the right kind of dark atmosphere to its terrible story. While Metallica did plenty outside the thrash realm on this album, Harvester is a true highlight of how they could turn down the speed yet still offer a compelling song.

Frayed Ends Of Sanity

Very easy song to peg here, it’s a thrash tune about going insane. It slots very well on this album that’s all about the dark side of things. The song has a bit of trivia with it, as Metallica didn’t play the song live until it was voted in to the set via fan request in 2014. They would often tease the intro before going into a different tune.

To Live Is To Die

This is a mostly instrumental passage that serves as tribute to Cliff Burton. You can’t hear the bass, but if you could, you would hear Jason Newsted playing parts that Burton had previously written. There is a brief spoken passage around the 7:30 mark – the first two lines were from poet Paul Gerhardt and the last two were Cliff Burton’s. The lines and the bass parts mark Burton’s final contributions to Metallica’s music.

Dyers Eve

The closing track brings back the thrash in a big way. The lyrics reference someone criticizing their parents for sheltering their child and damaging their development through childhood. The lyrics were born of James Hetfield’s childhood, who had to deal with his father’s abandonment and his mother’s death, as well as growing up in a twisted belief system that would be responsible for his mother’s end.

…And Justice For All was a massive success for Metallica. The album went platinum just a bit after release and charted well in many parts of the world. The album would go on to sell over 8 million copies in the US, some of that of course coming after the band ascended to practical godhood with the Black Album.

Metallica ran into a practical issue while touring behind …Justice – the songs were too damn long. One was a constant fixture and the shorter Harvester Of Sorrow got plenty of stage time, but many other tracks were left alone due to time constraints. Eventually every song made it on to a set list, but highlighting the album live is a very tall task.

Metallica’s course was well on track for future success after this record. The form that took was something beyond which anyone could have realistically predicted, but of course all of that is a story for another time. …And Justice For All was a fitting bookend to the group’s thrash career and a fantastic effort born of the grief over the death of Cliff Burton.

A Salute To Mick Mars

A very quick post today, I booted what I had originally planned in order to address this.

Just a few days ago, it was officially announced that Mick Mars would no longer tour with Motley Crüe. Mick is still a member of the band, but due to his long-running health issues, he is bowing out of the planned 2023 world tour and future speculated touring activities, which include a possible Las Vegas residency.

This news is not sudden – the rumor mill was churning for awhile that Mick would step aside as the touring guitarist, and his replacement was already named. And last night that news came to official light – John 5, a long time collaborator with Rob Zombie and with a resume that includes David Lee Roth and other luminaries, will be assuming the mantle of Crüe guitarist.

Mick joined the group very early on after Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee had something going. Mick was a few years older than the rest, hell the dude is 71 now (at least). He has been the sole guitar player for the band in all their existence – while both Vince Neil and John Corabi have contributed on the instrument, the guitar in Crüe is purely a Mick Mars experience. Mick is one of the band’s two constant members, along with Nikki.

Mick’s retirement is well-earned. His guitar work set the stage for what would become a pioneering act in 1980’s metal. And even when certain albums didn’t offer the best we thought the group had, we often fell back to “at least Mick is going off on this stuff.” On their most filler of filler tracks, there was still Mick giving it his all and making his playing the highlight of the song.

Mick has fought a decades-long battle with Ankylosing spondylitis, a serious condition that affects the spine. While this issue is the cause of Mick’s retirement today, it was also the catalyst for the band’s reunion of the original line-up in the early 2000’s. It’s no secret that certain members of the band don’t get along with each other, but “doing it for Mick” got everyone on the same page enough to get out rocking again in the way the fans wanted.

And don’t forget this point – the four members of the band decided to tour on four separate busses when they got back together. While one part of that might have been to mitigate the tension between people, one other reason for it was so Mick could have access to the care he needed.

It is a sad day that Mick can’t continue on. But he is still with us, and hopefully life away from the road will afford him the care and comfort to live in a satisfying way. It’s been an honor to have Motley Crüe around all these years, and Mick is a huge part of what made the music work. And maybe there will be some new studio music that Mick can contribute to that will give some new Crüe memories for the faithful.

Thanks for everything, and may your days be filled with peace.

Xero – Oh Baby!

Today’s single is a curiosity from the early 1980’s. This is a band that never wound up recording a proper album. They released one single, featured here today, as well as a handful of songs on compilation albums. A retrospective CD would come many years later, long after the band called it quits.

There are a number of ways to market a single for an emerging band. In the early 80’s, one such way would be to feature a guest spot from a famous rock star. It would appear from the cover that Xero have that part nailed down.

But, appearances are deceiving. Yes, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden does have a vocal track on this single. But Bruce never sang for Xero, he did not drop by the studio and lend his vocal talents to the band.

Here’s what happened, this rather obscure tale is sourced through the Discogs page for Xero as hard info is hard to come by. The common thread between Bruce Dickinson and Xero is a band called Shots. Bruce sang for them for a bit before joining Samson in 1979. Shots recorded a few songs with Bruce, one of them being the track Lone Wolf.

At one point in Shots before they broke up, guitarist Billy Liesegang joined. It does not appear that Liesegang was in the group at the same time as Dickinson, but I can’t confirm one way or the other. Shots would break up and Liesegang formed Xero.

As Xero were preparing the release of their lone single, it would appear that the band’s manager was the one who had the idea to take the Shots recording and tack it on to the Xero single. I can’t source this definitively, but I have seen it mentioned at the Bruce Dickinson Wellbeing Network, an archive of Bruce-related news and releases. This concept that it was the manager’s idea also comes up in discussion, but again, a super hard and fast source is tough to come by. It doesn’t appear to have been Billy Liesegang’s idea, that much seems clear.

Whatever the case, Xero released the single with Lone Wolf on it. It apparently didn’t take long for Iron Maiden management to come calling in regards to the unauthorized use of Bruce Dickinson’s vocals. The track was replaced with a different song in subsequent pressings of the single.

So, with all that commotion out of the way, let’s get into the songs themselves. Bear in mind that these are not hosted by any official source and, as is often the case with YouTube, these clips may vanish without warning.

Oh Baby!

The lead single is a melodic rock affair with, uh, not the greatest production but good enough to hear what’s going on. The song seems a bit “light” given that the group have a New Wave of British Heavy Metal billing, and it’s especially light when compared to the B-side. I think the song is fine, I don’t at all mind listening to it. The single apparently moved a few copies back in the day but I don’t have solid information on that, just Internet anecdotes.

Hold On

On to the B-side and a very nice track. This is more along the lines of what I expected when I first checked this single out. It is a very straightforward song with a nice solo passage and I, like many, think maybe they should have led the single with this instead of Oh Baby. This song did appear on a comp record called Brute Force so maybe that’s why they didn’t release it as the A-side.

Lone Wolf

Here we have what is not really the band Xero, but the band Shots instead. This was one of a few tracks that Shots recorded with Bruce Dickinson and it was illicitly used on this single (again, an apparent management decision and not the band’s).

The song is pretty cool but it does stand out a bit from the other two recordings, this one is clearly a bit older than the other two songs. One can be forgiven for not thinking that Bruce is singing on this, but recall that he was still a teenager when he recorded this and hadn’t fully fleshed his voice out, something he’d do more of in Samson. After a few listens I can find him in there a bit, it’s interesting to hear him on an old recording so young.

So that’s the tale of Xero and their big single release, something that would be derailed by a pesky thing called performance rights or something like that. I don’t know what caused Xero to not get around to a full-length or to break up, again, info on them is super hard to come by and almost all of it revolves around the Bruce stuff.

Given the difficult nature of putting all this together with very few good sources, if anyone out there reads this and has any true, factual source material about this release I’d be happy to be pointed to it so I can make sure my stuff is accurate. I’m not really expecting much since few concrete leads turned up in my searches, but hey, never hurts to ask.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Let’s go way back in time – to 2014 and recall a fiasco that’s been making the news again due to an upcoming memoir.

The memoir in question is from Bono, the singer of U2. And the fiasco is the 2014 deployment of the U2 album Songs Of Innocence, which saw the iTunes platform distribute the album for free to all users. What seemed like a great idea to Bono turned out to be a complete shitshow, as many iTunes users flipped out over having something distributed to them without them asking. In cases where users had automatic downloads set up, the album would load on devices and even start playing without the users knowing about it until it was too late.

As it turns out, the “gift” of the U2 album wasn’t free – Apple actually paid U2 for it. And all of this was at the suggestion of Bono. This Ultimate Classic Rock article outlines what Bono stated in his book about the incident – he pitched the idea to Tim Cook, who was against the concept of giving away music. Somehow, Bono got Cook to agree to actually buy the album from U2 and then send it out to all users for distribution. It’s not certain exactly how much Apple paid for the album but that was a clever idea on Bono’s part to pocket a bit of cash out of the deal.

The album’s release did not go over well. People were mad – some were upset purely at the thought of having a U2 album on their devices at all. Others hit on what was the likely core of the issue – the idea of tech companies just pushing out whatever they want to their users. While the U2 album may not have been a massive breach of privacy by big tech compared to other stuff, it did raise flags with many people.

Artists were also unhappy about the push – they felt that the album distribution devalued music. It was the same argument Tim Cook initially made. It’s an interesting thing to look at, especially in the wake of streaming taking over the concept of buying digital music. It was a big argument at the time, but the idea of the digital marketplace was about to be obsolete anyway.

In retrospect, Bono has used the opportunity afforded in his memoir to take responsibility for the album snafu. While greater sins have been committed for sure, this didn’t wind up being good PR for U2 or Apple when it happened. I doubt Bono’s contrition really matters much in the end, the issue is eight years old now and a lot has happened since then, but it’s cool he can own up to it.

And it’s worth noting that not everyone was mad about it – plenty of people gladly took the freebie, and over the years people have told stories of getting new Apple devices and playing the only thing in their libraries, which was this album. There was some measure of success in the distribution method.

For me personally the U2 album wasn’t a big deal. I think the band’s ’80’s stuff is cool and all but I’m not really a true fan of the band and I haven’t listened to them in a dog’s age. I did use iTunes at the time and I simply left it in my library, not downloaded to my PC or iPod. In truth I have never listened to anything on the album until I played the video for the song posted below, which was about ten minutes before writing this post.

I do understand why people had reservations about a tech company pushing stuff on people like that. But it really wasn’t my battle. On a scale of things that have happened before and since with “big tech,” the U2 album doesn’t move the needle for me. At worst, some people had an album they didn’t know or want auto-play and scare them.

It was fun to see this controversy pop up in the news again. I honestly hadn’t thought about it since it happened, and recalling the angst over the promotion is pretty cool. It’s a nothing burger in the end, at least to me, but it sure did get people stirred up.

Bono’s memoir Surrender – 40 Songs, One Story releases Tuesday, November 1st.

Album Of The Week – October 24, 2022

For this week I’m going back to the early 90’s and the practical genesis of the brief yet powerful “alt-metal” movement. This album was the second in a line of four that served as one alt-metal figurehead’s impressive body of work. And while every music artist is divisive to some degree, this dude really gets opinions flowing and tempers flaring.

Danzig – II: Lucifuge

Released June 26, 1990 via Def American Records

My Favorite Tracks – Snakes Of Christ, Her Black Wings, Tired Of Being Alive

Glenn Danzig had entered the scene as vocalist of punk group The Misfits, then entered metal territory with Samhain before evolving into his own-named outfit. The band took up a blues-based metal sound that explored the various facets of evil, a template still very much in place on Lucifuge.

And while the debut album would hit platinum, we aren’t quite there yet. Danzig was on a major label but was still an emerging concern in 1990. It would be a few years before the hit would climb the charts, even though that hit had already been recorded and released.

The original CD packaging was also interesting – the booklet insert folded out into a huge upside-down cross. There are also a few versions of the album cover – the one I posted is the US CD version, while other variations feature headshot photos of the band. To my knowledge, the songs are the same across all versions.

Our album today weighs in with 11 songs over the course of 50 minutes. Several music videos were filmed for tracks, though nothing was technically “released” as a single. Note that some of the videos are not hosted on official channels for whatever reason and might not hang around for too long, I don’t know.

Long Way Back From Hell

The album opens with an epic riff fest that establishes the tone for the album. It is dirty blues straight out of a Louisiana swamp, and the opening lyrics place the song right there. The nasty riffs of John Christ meld with the distinct “Evil Elvis” bellow of Glenn Danzig to offer up some truly wicked metal. The song’s premise is simple – don’t do something you aren’t prepared to face the consequences for, it truly is a long way back from Hell.

Snakes Of Christ

Something super cool happens here, there is an abrupt transition between tracks 1 and 2. This is something almost obsolete now in the digital age, but it’s pretty cool to go from one banger straight into another. A very signature riff opens Snakes Of Christ, and the song moves on into a critical examination of how religious teachings have been perverted over the centuries.

On the subject of the song’s main riff – Danzig has stated in the past that he feels Stone Temple Pilots ripped off this song’s riff for their single Sex Type Thing. This 1997 interview, provided via archive, outlines his argument. The STP camp doesn’t seem to have ever addressed the issue.

Killer Wolf

This is a slower, very blues-based number that is really just about some old horn dog going out on the prowl for women. The song features Danzig’s vocal inflections to such a degree that Danzig detractors might call this song “Exhibit A.” I think it’s a pretty cool track, myself.

Tired Of Being Alive

Another banging tune with a monster riff. The title might indicate the same kind of desperate, crushing depression found in doom metal, but this song retains the “I am badass and evil” vibe while still expressing a similar feeling of being done with it all. Everyone gets sick of it all at some point.

I’m The One

An acoustic blues track about a little boy who discovers he’s the “one,” likely being the Antichrist or some other evil dude. The song was originally cut during sessions for the debut album but was saved for this one.

Her Black Wings

Often viewed as the signature song from the record, Her Black Wings goes beyond the “dark blues” and gets straight into heavy metal. The song is about some hot, powerful demon woman who shows up and does her thing. This song perfectly sums up the Danzig experience.

Devil’s Plaything

A bit of a departure from the blues here, this track offers up a preview for what the next album would sound like. This veers more into the gothic realm and offers a more quiet experience through a fair bit of the song before opening up in a powerful surge a bit later. Danzig did not always have to be loud, something that would come into play after this record.


It’s straight back into the bayou with this dark blues track. The song is apparently about apocalypse, though it’s expressed in vague terms. No matter, it is a powerful song and another highlight of the record.

Blood And Tears

It’s ballad time, this being a dark tune that explores someone coming out of a failed relationship. The song departs from the pure evil explored in other places and presents a more realistic version of things.


A very rocking tune with not many lyrics to it – “Girl, let’s fly too high” is about all you really need to know. The song works very well even without a great deal of exposition to it.

Pain In The World

The album ends with a heavy song that gets into the origin of evil and its arrival on the planet. While it’s more of a deep cut from the Danzig catalog, it is still a signature Danzig tune.

Lucifuge did not see massive mainstream success, but did initially chart on the US Billboard 200. It was well-received critically, with many writers calling it a huge leap forward from the debut. The album did spread through the metal network and Danzig became a more visible force, with a mainstream breakout a few years away.

In retrospect, Lucifuge has been hailed as one of the best albums of the band’s career. The evil blues sound wouldn’t be found on any future Danzig records and it stands out among the other releases. I haven’t entirely answered the question for myself yet, but this is a true contender for my favorite Danzig release.

Of course, with Glenn Danzig comes a lot of discussion. While he’s had his fans over the years, he’s also had plenty of haters. His singing style has been roundly dismissed and he has often been portrayed as an asshole. And maybe he is, I don’t really know.

It doesn’t affect my listening habits if people don’t like someone I do like, so it’s no huge deal. But it has been funny over the years to hear the outcry over Danzig, bringing up his name at all can lead to some interesting conversations.

But at the end of the day it’s the music that matters, and Lucifuge was a triumphant statement from Danzig. It came along at the right time for my young, impressionable self and it helped set the tone for the music of the early 1990’s. No amount of hang-wringing over what kind of person Glenn Danzig is can change that.

The Song Remains The Same – Love You To Death

Today I’m taking it easy and going with a song that only has three known variations. There might be more, but I don’t feel like looking for them and the three we have to discuss will be plenty.

As the title suggests, the song in question is Love You To Death. One version comes from heavy metal royalty, another is a signature track from everyone’s favorite band in the fall season, and yet another is from a group I heard of a little while ago when I saw that they also recorded a song with the same name. Let’s get into it.

The Soup Dragons

We’ll start with the band I’ve never heard of. These guys were a Scottish alt-rock act active from 1985 through 1995. They are totally unfamiliar to me. This song comes from their 1990 album Lovegod. This wasn’t a single or anything, it’s a deep cut from a record that saw a bit of chart action but seemingly didn’t set the world on fire.

This is a pretty cool sound. I like what they’re doing here. Alt-rock was a very catch-all term in the era before grunge, this is very bright and shiny but not in a detrimental way. The song is fine and it gives me enough cause to delve further into the band’s work.

Judas Priest

This is a cut from the Ram It Down album. Being honest, the album is not anywhere near the top of my Priest rankings, or even the middle really. This song is also a deep cut from an album not necessarily celebrated among the Priest faithful.

This track is fine. I’m not in love with it by any means, it’s no signature Priest classic or even a heralded deep cut from a better record. But the song is entertaining enough, I can accept X degree of silliness and this hovers around that mark. Even if it strays a bit over, I’ll take it.

Type O Negative

Wrapping up with the spooktacular rockers (in the Halloween season, no less), we have the second single from Type O’s October Rust album. This record saw the band move on from the Bloody Kisses period and refine their sound into a more “goth balladeer” realm, which would largely define the remainder of their career, and which this song is a shining example of.

The song is pretty simple – dude digs girl, dude pledges his eternal devotion to girl. It’s laden with the signature Type O sound that only they could do.

So this wasn’t really much of a contest. It would seem like pitting Priest against anyone would be an epic battle, but picking stuff off Ram It Down isn’t really going to cut it. The obvious winner is Type O Negative. It’s in the spirit of the season and also the best song presented, with all respect to The Soup Dragons.

Next time I get into one of these it’ll be one with a ton of songs to go through. I figured I’d go light for today. Until next time.

Album Of The Week – October 17, 2022

It’s been quite a while since I’ve tackled a recent album as AotW, that usually involves a lot more work than talking about a record that’s been out for 40 years. But this return-to-form album from one of metal’s most influential bands of this century is significant enough to warrant immediate discussion.

Lamb Of God – Omens

Released October 7, 2022 via Epic Records and Nuclear Blast Records

My Favorite Tracks – Ditch, Gomorrah, Grayscale

Lamb Of God have always presented a harsh, visceral world view, and this new album in the post-2020 era is a fiery takedown of whatever’s left in the ashes of our culture. It’s probably easier than ever to craft a metal album in today’s negative, nihilistic climate; but it takes on a new form when combined with the groove and riffs of a seasoned metal act.

The band recorded the album in the same room with each other, rather than handling specific parts alone. Something about the spontaneity and changing of the process has led to a rejuvenated band back on the attack. A “Making Of Omens” mini-documentary is available online for anyone who has purchased copies of the album or concert tickets (I think…)

There is no beating around the bush here – 10 songs come in right at 40 minutes. The attack is savage and precise, so let’s get right to it.


This track was the first preview single and was offered up in June. The song delves into the issues surrounding the “culture war” happening in a lot of the US and here specifically in the band’s hometown of Richmond, Virginia. The battle here is whether to remove or leave up statues and other images of Confederate military figures and has been a hot button issue through the South for awhile now.

Nevermore’s presentation of the issue is “well, everything is fucked” which is a pretty accurate portrayal. There are also a few lines thrown in to pay tribute to Edgar Allen Poe’s epic poem The Raven.


A hard hitter here, this song seems like it’s about a civilization being wiped off the planet. It could possibly be about one of the many peoples who were wiped out or subjugated by colonial powers. The song has a pretty neat outro part that switches up the pacing.

To The Grave

A neat song about that one thing from your past that can come back and bite you. Another song that highlights how inspired and refreshed the band sounds.


This will probably count as a single as the song was given a video on release day. The song is the classic kind of “confrontation” tune that works so very well in the groove metal realm. The “ditch” appears to be the one the whole country is in. This was an instant favorite for me when I heard the record and I’ll wager that this song will be ranked among the band’s best after the dust settles.


The title track has a nice twist on the idea of omens and ides. The world so screwed that, well, the hell with all the signs pointing it out. “I can’t pretend to care about how this will end” sums up the spirit of the song and the whole album.


This is a song about failure – and not just, like, missing a field goal or something. It’s stark, bleak, abject failure of the all-consuming kind. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture and it’s a type of song or art theme that has always drawn me in for whatever reason. I don’t know if it’s me hitting middle age or if it’s the state of the world or what, but this kind of total human failure really stands out, and it’s captured in perfect form by Lamb Of God here.

Ill Designs

Again with the failure, but this time apparently of some corporate head or other power figure that is being taken down. It is the collapsing of the house of cards the figurehead built, and of course everyone is caught in the demolition. Some very standout guitar work on this one too.


This song apparently almost didn’t make the record but was “voted in” by the producer. The riffing is more militant than a normal LoG song but isn’t out of place or anything. It’s about a struggle within one’s self, and pretty extreme one at that.

Denial Mechanism

Here is an absolute barnburner. Not that Lamb Of God would ever be accused of not being heavy, but this is a whole other world for them. It has a more hardcore feel than a typical LoG track and bashes the end of humanity and the world into the listener’s head. While the song presents a call to action to fend off the end, things sound pretty bleak around here.

September Song

The album’s finale keeps the theme of “we’re fucked” and presents it on a grand, global scale. This one also moves a bit differently than what we’ve come to expect from LoG, with a bit more of an epic build-up and use of movements and atmosphere. It still communicates its brutal message in typical fashion but is a welcome stretching out of the creative muscles for the band.

Omens does what many long-in-the-tooth metal bands strive to do, and a handful achieve – it presents a refreshed, revitalized attack for a band that had been previously written off as a throwback to better, older days. Lamb Of God have not lacked for name recognition or legacy status, but recent efforts were not viewed in the same hallowed light as their peak offerings, now well over a decade old.

But the word on Omens is out, and many who maybe haven’t paid LoG much mind in a long time find themselves back for another round. The backdrop of the pandemic and America’s possible disintegration have led to a ferocious new record. You don’t have to teach an old dog new tricks, sometimes they learn their own.

Iced Earth – The Reckoning

Today’s single is a CD from 2003 and it gives a wealth of stuff to talk about – we have a singer change, an album theme that got hated on, a (very rare) autograph in my collection, oh and something decades later about the band’s leader attempting to overthrow the US government.

First, the single. This is a four song effort and all songs are from Iced Earth’s upcoming album The Glorious Burden. The second track is an alternate, acoustic version, while the other three are the album cuts.

And yes, the discerning metalhead many find that the cover reminds them of another heavy metal band’s iconic single cover. I always thought so, anyway.

For one bit of background – the work on this album had begun in 2003 when then-singer Matt Barlow left the band. I don’t know the exact timeline of how things worked out, but at some point Rob Halford rejoined Judas Priest and Tim “Ripper” Owens joined Iced Earth. This single marks Ripper’s IE debut.

The Reckoning (Don’t Tread On Me)

The lead song is a metal shredder that plays to Owen’s strengths well. It’s almost a bit thrashy yet retains the “power metal but not quite” feel that Iced Earth were known for. It was a good track to lead with in terms of Owens’ singing.

The song seems to be about the post 9/11 atmosphere, in that the big, bad American war machine is coming for the enemies. I don’t know if anything was ever specifically said about the song’s inspiration but the 9/11 seems obvious.

This would be a criticism of The Glorious Burden initially – the American exceptionalism that was prevalent through the record. While not a concept album, the central theme of the record was major American wars, and the music press had a go at Iced Earth for making such a record. As it would turn out though, fans didn’t really seem to care and the record was largely considered a success.

I’ll run through the other three songs real quick. When The Eagle Cries is directly about 9/11 and the American feeling right after the attacks. The song is a bit much for my tastes but it’s not bad or anything. Valley Forge is about the namesake battle in the Revolutionary War and is a good track, and Hollow Man has nothing to do with American history and is about a personal struggle of some kind. Again, all of the songs are on the full album, though When The Eagle Cries is an unplugged track on this single.

So there are a few more things to discuss here. One is something you might have noticed on the cover of my CD – there’s a bit of scribbling there. This is signed by drummer Richard Christy. Richard spent time in my area in the early 90’s and would often return to the area over the holidays, he signed this at a show he and some friends were putting on. Richard would leave Iced Earth a year later for a job with the Howard Stern show.

I’m not one much for autographs, I only have a few. But since Richard was going to be in town and I happened to have this CD laying around, I decided to do the logical thing and get it signed. Maybe I would have been better off getting a Death album signed, but this is fine.

And I suppose no discussion of Iced Earth and American exceptionalism is complete without talking about the events of January 6, 2021. Jon Schaffer was a part of the US Capitol riot, having been seen with bear spray and advancing toward police officers inside the building. Schaffer quickly took a plea deal, admitting guilt in the attempted insurrection.

It was honestly kind of funny in the immediate aftermath of the riot, when the FBI were releasing photographs trying to identify people and Schaffer was one of the first to be outed. It wasn’t all that shocking – Schaffer had become a dolt in interviews before the 2020 election and no one who’d paid any attention to him was shocked by what happened. It did surprise many who hadn’t followed along with Iced Earth for a long time or at all, but the music news and the general news converging like that was pretty hilarious.

The whole debacle didn’t make much difference to me – this single is the only thing I have by the band. I’ve tried getting more into them a few times over the years but, while I can appreciate that they did some good stuff, it just never really caught me in a huge way. Seeing the band implode because of the stupid actions of its founder and leader wasn’t really skin off my back, I had no vested interest in Iced Earth. The whole January 6 actions were not comedy in and of themselves, but it’s nice to have something to laugh at from them.

All in all, I have this CD that, if nothing else, has Richard Christy’s autograph. It is a nice performance from Tim Owens and company, and it’s a funny little piece of history after Jon Schaffer’s villain turn in early 2021.

Ditch (Or – Crooked Wanderer Improv Hour)

Ok, so today was supposed to be a “real” post. I had a few paragraphs to finish up and I was going to post it for tomorrow.

However, life intervened. And by life, I mean that I went out for a few beers with a buddy, then he left and another buddy showed up right as the first one left, so I wound up being the guy holding a bag of a lot of beer and a huge tab when all was said and done.

So – I am going to put off the real post for next week. I have real posts for the next two days lined out already so that’s all good.

Instead, have a taste of what will be the next album of the week. I don’t usually do new albums as AOTW anymore, but this one has hooked its way into my brain and I’ve listened to it over 20 times now so I’m giving it billing next week.

And I promise I won’t get messed up again and put stuff off – the post I originally had for today will be on next week, and I already have most of next week’s crap lined out. This just became a a temporary, one night halt order when I spent more time drinking than doing what I should have been doing.

In fact, there might be a few appropriate lyrics from this song for that:

You’re face down, down in a ditch that you dug yourself

You can live or die by the hand you’re dealt

Album Of The Week – October 10, 2022

I had a different album in mind for this week, but after talking about a particular band extensively last week, I’ve called an audible and switched things up. The record was mentioned yet not really discussed in the posts last week and I got it in my head yet again after all these years and so it’s time to give the album its day in court.

Iron Maiden – A Matter Of Life And Death

Released September 5, 2006 (US) via EMI Records

My Favorite Tracks – The Longest Day, For The Greater Good Of God, Brighter Than A Thousand Suns

This marked Iron Maiden’s 14th studio album, though also the 3rd since the 1999 reunion with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith. It set the table for the reunion being more than a brief run for nostalgia and cash’s sake, that the band were serious about forging ahead in a marketplace where they were hailed as heroes yet were also as old as dinosaurs.

This also turned a corner creatively – while the predecessors Brave New World and Dance Of Death were celebrated, A Matter Of Life And Death stood out for longer tracks with more mood and less tempo. While not appealing to the portion of the fanbase that pines for Powerslave II, it set the rest of the fans and critics on fire.
Maiden would not hedge on their new effort – the resulting tour saw the band play the entire album live. While there were some lessons learned from that approach, it still indicated the full-bore dedication the band had to their new material and defiance of living on their laurels as a “classic” act.

The album cover is, as usual with Maiden, worth discussion. The art does not prominently feature the band’s most famous member Eddie, but the mascot is there on the tank with his band of brothers. Personally I love the cover and it’s my favorite of any of the reunion-era pieces and it’s especially welcome after the literal abortion of a cover Dance Of Death got. I even have this as a back patch on a jean jacket, as all good metalheads do.

There are 10 tracks to discuss here, but at a beefed up runtime of 71 minutes. The era of long Iron Maiden albums had dawned and this was only a pregame for the future. There are also several other factors to discuss, like the Internet mystery campaign behind the lead single, the decision to run the whole album live, and the album’s prominent place among reunion-era records. In short, this post will be about as long as a reunion-era Maiden album, so grab a few drinks and settle in.

Different World

The opener also served as the album’s second single. The song is, in contrast to the rest of the record, a straightforward rocker offering up a bit of philosophy about co-existing with differing perspectives and all that.

This one doesn’t really get a lot of love around the fanbase. I personally don’t mind it but it won’t make a list of my favorite stuff, Maiden or otherwise. It isn’t “bad” in any sense but it’s just a song.

These Colors Don’t Run

Now into a sound that would shape the bulk of the album and also delve into a theme present in much of the remaining lyrics. This is a mid-tempo affair that moves at a trot as opposed to the gallop of many past Maiden efforts. And the theme here is war, this song offering a rally cry for the soldiers who fight for their flag no matter the cost.

Brighter Than A Thousand Suns

Off to one of the album’s epics, a now standard feature of latter day Maiden records. This sprawling effort tops out at near 9 minutes. The title seems a bit mystifying until the song’s theme becomes clear – this is about the development of the atomic bomb. The bomb was humanity severing its connection with creation and playing god with the potential of world-ending destruction.

The song marks one of three celebrated epics from the record and these songs have become centerpieces for modern Maiden albums. It probably creates fits when it’s time to make a set list, but of course the band circumvented that problem by playing everything live.

The Pilgrim

It’s literally a song about pilgrims, either the historical settlers of America or in the general sense, I don’t know. It won’t ever be accused of being Maiden’s best song but it’s a damn sight better than any description could make it out to be. It’s better than some aging British metal band droning on about the Loch Ness Monster for more than ten minutes.

The Longest Day

Back to the war and, as the title would indicate, it’s off to D-Day. The massive beach invasion is painted in vivid detail in the lyrics as the song slams through the battle. There isn’t a lot for me to say other than it’s my favorite track from the album.

Out Of The Shadows

A fairly abstract track about birth and death, new and old, that kind of thing. Not much to it but it’s a pretty decent song.

The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg

The album’s first single and one with quite the marketing story behind it. Without any prompting, a website featuring a biography of the unknown Breeg was posted. It was quickly surmised that this had to do with the new Maiden album and fans set to work trying to solve the mystery of who Breeg was and what happened to him after his 1978 disappearance. Breeg was a known painter and a future website update offered up one of his paintings which featured none other than Eddie. The last dispatch from the website had set a meeting with someone who knew Breeg’s fate, that meeting was on the day the single was released.

While nothing was ever resolved in terms of the mystery, the quiet marketing ploy drove a lot of buzz for the band’s new song and album. I recall being fascinated with it at the time, but of course it’s a bit tough to specifically recall all of that 16 years later. It seems like Benjamin Breeg might have died in 1978 and was “reborn” as Eddie, but this has never been explicitly stated. Given that Maiden have never built further lore around Breeg, this theory is my guess.

The song itself does also perhaps support the Breeg is Eddie theory. Breeg was a tortured artist who might have sold his soul, and the reincarnation aspect of it might be him becoming Eddie. It fits with the various themes posted in bits on the website.

Oh yeah – also, the song is good.

For The Greater Good Of God

The second of the album’s epics, this tune takes aim at the ills of religion. While not condemning religion outright, the song does goes full-bore on the wars and calamities experienced worldwide due to the power-grabbing influence of religious figureheads over time. The song is widely-loved and often at the top of people’s favorites lists. It’s also one song that has been featured in Maiden set lists years after the album’s tour cycle.

Lord Of Light

This is about Lucifer and mostly how he is used as a scapegoat for humanity’s ills so that humans can continue sinning without consequence. It’s another fairly long track that sometimes gets set to the side but I feel offers a bit more than its secondary status might indicate.

The Legacy

The album closes with the third epic and one that the band knocked out of the park. The song has two halves – one in which a world leader is on his deathbed, being reckoned with the true cost of his warmongering. The second half of the song implores humanity to move beyond the cycle of death and destruction and embrace a new forward vision.

That clearly hasn’t happened, but that doesn’t diminish the impact of the song. Maiden offered arrangements and movements here that were unheard in the extensive prior catalog. It was a true mark that the band had a solid direction for their music now and into the future, and that direction would diverge from their past eras.

A Matter Of Life And Death was praised by critics and swept up by fans – the album hit high chart positions in many countries all over the globe, including the US where the band scored their first top 10 chart appearance on the Billboard 200 at position 9. The group already had hot receptions for the prior two albums of the reunion era, but AMOLAD arrived and put things on a whole new level.

Proud of the effort, Maiden made the decision to tour the entire record. This was a first, and to date has been the only time the group has played an entire album live. While the die-hard portion of the fanbase ate up the offering, the fact is that concerts are attended by a great many people who aren’t as fervently attached to things and the shows met with somewhat muted receptions. The concept wasn’t dismissed as a total failure, but the group has since refrained from going so hard with pushing new records.

This album shaped the direction of Maiden albums to come – the three albums following all offer huge, epic arrangements and very extended run times. That has become its own argument among fans but it is clearly the direction the band wishes to pursue.

In terms of the reunion period, AMOLAD has been hailed as one of the top offerings, rivaled perhaps only by Brave New World. Not only has it mostly taken that crown, it has ascended many lists in terms of the band’s entire catalog. And it’s something that needs to be highlighted when talking about the band and its long-running status – there are many fans who have come on board in the last 20-plus years and those fans’ keystone albums are in this reunion period. And this one is often top among those.

Not everyone was paying attention or even alive when the 1980’s classics came around and these past few decades of the band have brought in many new fans and kept the legacy alive and thriving. There are fans who sneer at the slower, more plodding reunion material and gladly showcase the band’s masterpieces from way back when as some kind of argument against the modern songs, but judging by the album sales, concert attendance and constant new interest in a band older than dirt, no one really seems to give a shit what they think.