S-Tier Songs, Vol. 9

It’s time for a new entry in the S-Tier songs series. For an explanation of what that’s about as well as a list of the other songs, head here.

Today’s song is very well-known, in many cases it’s the band’s only known song in America. Many people know the song without knowing who the group is at all. It’s only two minutes long, it’s the second song off the album and my only blogging regret is not making it the second entry in this series.

Blur – Song 2

Blur entered 1997 in a curious position. They’d been crowned kings of Britpop in 1994 after their triumphant Parklife record and tour. In 1995 they seemed poised to build momentum with The Great Escape and their initial single Country House, but then the British press went mad for Oasis and left Blur in the dust, even going so far as to change reviews of the album. Oasis went on to become the biggest band in the world for awhile as Blur sat at home wondering what happened.

By 1997 Blur were ready to get back at it, and this time they were leaving behind the Britpop elements they had previously worked so hard to be known for. The group convened around more lo-fi and grunge sensibilities and released their self-titled album to a new world that was about to move on from the Britpop scene.

While Blur would become internationally celebrated for the self-titled album as a whole, it was Song 2 that would take on a life of its own and become the band’s most recognizable hit. And, of course, as the story goes with many of these hit songs, the whole thing was a joke and an accident.

The above video outlines the origin story of Song 2 as told by Blur guitarist Graham Coxon. The song began as an acoustic piece on Damon Albarn’s guitar, featuring whistling in place of the song’s now-immortal “woo hoo” bit. Coxon suggested adding a bunch of noise to the tune and actually playing it for the record company as a gag. Albarn obliged and the band turned in the fully-formed, distorted as all hell Song 2 to the record company. Instead of being met with a sour reaction, the label execs loved the tune and Blur were off the to the post-Britpop races.

Song 2 was a well-received hit in Blur’s native UK and it also did something the band had been previously unable to do – it broke in the rest of the world. Song 2 charted on the higher end in many countries and became a staple of college and modern rock radio in the United States. Britpop as a whole hadn’t fared massively well on American shores, save for Elastica and Oasis. But now Blur arrived with a grunged-up tune just in time for the post-grunge era to truly take over rock radio. The song has been a part of sporting events, video games and other media ever since its release 25 years ago.

Background and reception are all well and good, but what really is Song 2 on about? Well, it’s a two minute song full of lyrical nonsense. The most noteworthy lyric is “woo hoo,” it’s the signature part of the song and the one many folks know the tune by. A fair few people couldn’t tell you who Blur is or the name of the song but they know “the woo-hoo song” by heart. And nobody, including the people who wrote it, can tell you what any of it means.

And that’s the beauty of music – not everything has to have a pinned-down, easy to digest meaning. Song 2 is a total lark through the English language and its only memorable words aren’t even really words. The whole thing from lyrics to instruments is just noise being made and it all works splendidly together. That’s not to say no thought went into it – as Graham Coxon outlines in the interview video, he was looking for specific sounds. And he got far more than he bargained for, with the song often cited as his greatest work.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Song 2 is a monument to absurdity and noise and it tackles its premise extremely well. The song was a huge hit for a band reeling in an identity crisis after the events of 1995. Their response was to shrug off the sounds of their given genre and explore new areas, which led to a new legacy for the group that would far outshine the Britpop movement. It’s a simple song with no comprehensible theme and it’s just a bunch of noise, but it captured the attention of people all across the world.

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 8

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

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

Bloodbath – Eaten

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

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

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

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

It was a true story.

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

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

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

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

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

Why is this an S-Tier song?

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

Note – Those name accents are pains in the ass.

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

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 7

I’ve left this series alone for a bit, it’s time to break out the S-Tier songs and induct another A-lister. In brief, these are songs I consider the best of the best, sort of my own personal song hall of fame. For more about it and the songs added to date, head to this page.

Today I’m going to time hop back to 1993 and revisit a song that became a standard of alt-culture at the time. The tune was largely responsible for breaking the band and they would go on to great success for the next 17 years. Even today the song holds as a well-loved staple and a special treat around the Halloween season.

Type O Negative – Black No.1 (Little Miss Scare-All)

The unedited song

The song was released on Bloody Kisses, Type O’s breakthrough third album that catapulted the group to platinum-selling status and mainstream stars, albeit reluctantly. The group were previously a sludgy, underground entity that suddenly found themselves on MTV and airwaves with their twisted take on doom and gothic metal.

The original album take of the song clocks in at a meaty 11:15. A much-truncated version runs a hair under 5 minutes, this includes the video cut found at the bottom of this post. I don’t have ready stats about radio edits for songs but losing over 6 minutes carves out quite a bit of this tune. It’s probably not a radio edit record considering songs like Freebird and that one by Iron Butterfly, but it’s a pretty noteworthy edit. I’ll be discussing the full song for purposes of this examination, though it’s fair to say many people came to find the band through the video cut and the song’s shorter form.

The song itself exemplifies the duality of its creators – both deadly serious and full of shit. The song can be taken as, and often is, celebrated as a beacon of dark culture, but the truth is that frontman Peter Steele wrote the song to slag off a goth ex-girlfriend of his. The words and imagery were meant sarcastically, as outlined in this Revolver magazine retrospective on Bloody Kisses. And to further the irony, Peter was literally waiting in line to dump a truck full of shit as part of his job when he came up with the song.

The song’s silly-yet-serious presentation would define the tune and the group. The whole thing had the feel of a giant joke but came off with deadly execution and passed for totally serious dialog. All of the hokey goth references, everything from Lily Munster to wolfskin boots sound goofy on the surface but did truly define a valid subculture. And Black No. 1 would go on to draw more people into that subculture, one that previously wasn’t as friendly with heavy metal as many might think. This was a convergence of two different circles rather than an eye cast toward one.

The song, for all its girth, is divided into 3 movements. The first part opens in creepy fashion, introducing the song’s villainess and painting a specific vision of her gothiness. The lyrics reference everything from Halloween to makeup, clove cigarettes and the namesake black hair dye. It’s the kitchen sink of goth talking points. The song builds into a heavy chorus featuring Peter Steele’s distinct low-register chant of the title and a smooth-yet-dirty guitar tone that stood out from the pack in 1993.

The song moves into its second portion, where Steele spends several minutes singing “loving you was like loving the dead” over and over again. On the surface it sounds boring but the music provides enough variety through the passage to keep things fresh. The ultimate “gotcha” wasn’t that Peter was able to insult his ex this way, it was that he was able to make interesting and a huge hit. Of course the full-length version of the song builds to slight lyrical change that radio and MTV did not carry. The song’s final movement calms things down a bit and lets the guitar riff for a moment before the chorus/title leads everyone out into the night to either find or be their own haughty goth chick.

Black No. 1 would lead the way for Type O Negative’s charge onto the shelves of music collectors. The band blew up on MTV and began selling copies of Bloody Kisses at a breakneck pace. Peter Steele was very reluctant to take the band on tour, fearful of giving up his job and life. His feet-dragging cost the group their drummer, Sal Abruscato, who left to join Life Of Agony. Eventually Type O would hit the road and cash in on their success, becoming a mainstay on the touring circuit and selling plenty more albums until Peter Steele’s untimely death in 2010.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Black No. 1 is a monolith of a tune that put a band on the map and kicked off a celebration of darker subcultures that endures to this day. The song itself is equal parts plodding doom and campy jeers at goths yet somehow invests the listener on its 11 minute runtime. It gave shape to Type O Negative’s direction moving forward, which would largely explore the same “droopy doom” tunes and shed any pretense of past thrash metal influence.

Even greater than the contribution to the band’s fortunes is its long-lasting impact on culture. Not a Halloween passes anymore without this song being posted all over social media. It cast a light on goth subculture, perhaps not something anyone was asking for but it happened anyway and the song went a long way to putting that scene out there for the world to see. It was a lasting influence, seen in makeup and fashion all these years later. I’m sure some people would take exception to pointing to this as the moment goth culture entered the main timeline, but I don’t know of a more telling spot where that happened.

Type O Negative struck the sonic equivalent of oil with Black No. 1. The song marked their arrival on the early 90’s alt-metal scene that they would help shape and would mostly outlast. While most of that music of the time was a brief movement that didn’t make it past 1996, Type O would go on in stride until 2010 in much the same vein as their signature hit.

I wonder what happened to the girl…

The much-edited music video version

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 6

It’s time for a new entry onto the list of S-Tier Songs. Here’s the page with the list of the others and an explanation of what I’m doing.

I’m going back to 1991 and the tail end of popularity for hair metal. While much of that scene began to sputter out in the summer before grunge put the final nail in the coffin that fall, one band released a genre-defying masterpiece that transcended the scene and is often remarked on as a master class in rock and metal. Skid Row’s Slave To The Grind would hit number 1 on the US Billboard charts and would see the band ride a wave of success for a few years while many peers fell by the wayside.

Skid Row – Wasted Time

Wasted Time was the third single released from Slave To The Grind. The song did not break the US Top 40 but did perform respectably well in international markets and would be their final “hit” in terms of charting in multiple countries.

The song transcends its middling single status by being an oft-cited highlight from the record and often mentioned among the best ballads ever recorded. The album as a whole has been revisited by many as a landmark moment in hard rock and metal, and much of that revisiting holds Wasted Time as the chief exhibit.

The song musically is a well-written and played power ballad that ditches the well-worn “hair metal ballad” formula. It isn’t just a slow song – its melodies and hooks are well-crafted and in abundant supply. The guitar solo is perfectly done, in keeping with the song rather than being a showcase of how fast a guitar can be played.

Skid Row really were on another level from their peers, both on their debut and this second effort. Much of what they did, both in sentimental songs like this or in blazing hard rockers, stands head and shoulders above the other offerings of the day. When they were on, very few acts could hope to touch what they were doing.

While the song’s instruments are very well done, it’s of special note to discuss the star of the song – the vocal performance of Sebastian Bach. His work on Wasted Time is the stuff of legend. There are very, very few singers walking the planet, from any genre, who could touch what he did on this song. His high notes are just beyond the reach of most humanity, and he uses his considerable range effectively to communicate the dark, swinging moods of the song.

Lyrically the song is about losing a friend to the throes of drug addiction. The lyrics had a specific muse – former Guns N Roses drummer Steven Adler, who had been fired from GnR a year prior and who would go on to have a well-chronicled series of problems with addiction. Wasted Time depicts that harrowing experience in grand form. It’s a song that cuts through a thorny issue that many have sadly had to deal with.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Wasted Time is a magnificent showcase of the strengths of hard rock at the turn of the decade into the 90’s. It is songwriting on a level not many can touch and Sebastian Bach’s singing is something in a league all his own. The song is a fitting conclusion to perhaps an entire era of music and was a powerful final statement on an album that defied categorization and exceeded many’s expectations.

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 5

In 1987 rock was king and it had hair. Everyone was on board the hair train – every new band, no matter their actual sound, made sure their luscious locks were on prominent display in press photos and videos. Many old guard rockers, such as Heart, joined in on the hair party. Rock some tunes, get some huge hair, and cash the royalty checks.

And in 1987, the four people most chiefly responsible for starting the whole hair mess arrived with a new album. Motley Crue returned with Girls, Girls, Girls as a way to reclaim a bit of glory after their prior effort Theatre Of Pain was commercially successful yet critically panned. The album was a success and the band continued their hot streak through the end of the decade they helped define.

For everything on that record, one song stands out as among the very best tunes Crue recorded. The album’s opener Wild Side did not see an official release as a single, but a crazy MTV video put the song in the spotlight and the song became a sensation.

It is Wild Side that I’ve chosen as the next entry to my list of S-Tier Songs. For an explanation of what S-Tier songs are and the list as it stands today, head here.

Motley Crue – Wild Side

In the late 80’s where the formula for success was hard rockers about sex and ballads about sex, Motley Crue showed back up to add a grittier edge to the sound of their own doing. The band started heavier and nastier than the scene they helped forge, and on Wild Side they returned to explore the sleazier side of life.

The song is a hard hitter, going straight for the throat with a great riff and some pounding drums. Motley Crue were never technical masters of their instruments but when they wrote a great song it was unmistakable. Wild Side is signature Crue and it stands with the other staples of their set, and towards the top of it.

The song lyrically explores the seedier side of life. It’s something often left out of the polish and shine of 80’s rock – everyone was so busy glizting up the Sunset Strip that people forgot how screwed up Los Angeles really was. But this band, one who was billed as the most dangerous in the world, reminded everyone what life on the streets could really be like.

And yeah, they really were dangerous – sadly they were a danger to themselves and others.

The heralded video showcased a live performance replete with Tommy Lee going upside-down on a crazy drum rig. The stunt was a huge talking point that helped spread word about the song and also cemented the band’s reputation as over the top and crazy.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Wild Side is a kick ass banger that is widely considered one of the band’s best songs. It stood apart from the muddled rock scene of the later 1980’s and re-established some of the grittier edge to Motley Crue. It might not be hard to stand out from the hair rock pack when you drew the blueprints for it, but the band’s return to a harder sound was timely as the Sunset Strip was about to give birth to a dangerous new band who would directly challenge the Crue for the top spot as the king of the rock hill.

I’m not at a point yet where I would take the time to rank individual Motley Crue songs but Wild Side is an easy top 3 for me. It’s one of the real gems in their catalog and it stood out from the crowd as 80’s hair metal excess began to swamp the scene.

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 4

It’s time for another edition of S-Tier Songs. For a rundown of what this is all about and also who has made it in thus far, head here.

Today the honor goes to my favorite band and what is often considered their best song. Let’s go straight for it.

Iron Maiden – Hallowed Be Thy Name

From the Beast Over Hammersmith live performance

Iron Maiden hit the scene in 1980 after several years in England’s club circuit but found themselves scratching for a new direction after two albums. They canned singer Paul Di’Anno and replaced him with Samson’s eclectic frontman Bruce Dickinson. The ensuing decade would see them make an indelible stamp on heavy metal, one of the genre’s most defining and influential acts.

Dickinson’s debut with Maiden would come in the form of 1982’s The Number Of The Beast. Songs like the title track and Run To The Hills would be released as singles, but in the end Hallowed Be Thy Name would become a legacy-defining song and a staple of the band’s epic live sets.

Our song today would mark a shift in Iron Maiden’s sound from a punk/metal hybrid to a more epic direction. Dickinson’s trademark “air raid siren” vocals soared above the band’s now signature gallop. The epic would be a direction Maiden would pursue to greater degree, including many much-debated longer treks included in their longest-enduring “reunion” era of the 2000’s.

But back to the point – Hallowed Be Thy Name is a bombastic tale of a condemned man facing his final moments before he’s taken to the gallow’s pole. The narrator reflects on the meaning of life and his final fate, a trope in song found with Queen’s signature Bohemian Rhapsody, among many others. It’s a haunting and tragic tale, told in fine form through the song’s lyrics and Dickinson’s unparalleled delivery.

Live from the Powerslave tour in Long Beach, the definitive Live After Death performance

The song builds quietly with bells to accent the opening verse but then quickly moves into its signature galloping riff. Bruce’s vocal power is on full display as he pleads for his life in the second verse, interchanging with the riff rather than using a conventional chorus. A bridge takes us to the final verse, where the condemned man accepts his fate.

What happens when one accepts the end of their existence? Guitar solos, usually. At least that’s what I’m led to believe, I did grow up in the ’80’s after all. The solos play out then the song builds to its climax, with Bruce delivering the title before an epic finale.

Hallowed Be Thy Name has been played on nearly every Iron Maiden tour since Number‘s release. It was removed from the second leg of the Book Of Souls tour in 2017 after a lawsuit alleging that Steve Harris ripped parts of the song off from a ’70’s work. I’m not a scholar or a journalist so I’m not going to recount the specifics of that lawsuit, I’ll simply mention that the case was settled out of court on more than one occasion between different members of that band.

Did Maiden rip off someone else for this song? I don’t know and I don’t care. Moving on.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Hallowed Be Thy Name is an epic masterwork that highlights the strengths of what would become Iron Maiden’s most prolific creative era. The song is often considered the very best of the band’s output. It is a stunning, moving tale that is executed in spectacular fashion and showcases the various signature factors that would make Iron Maiden one of metal’s most celebrated acts.

Live footage from the Flight 666 motion picture release

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 3

It’s time for the third installment of S-Tier Songs. For an outline of the parameters and a master list of every S-Tier song, head to this page.

This week is Oasis week on the blog, a day ahead of the theatrical release of the Knebworth documentary. On that note, my next pick for induction into my “song hall of fame” is the fourth track from the world-conquering album What’s The Story Morning Glory?

Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger

The song is a curiosity from the get-go as guitarist/songwriter/head honcho Noel Gallagher sings the track as opposed to his brother, singer/man of the people/loose cannon Liam. It was an interesting choice and one that might be criticized in retrospect. The story goes that Noel told Liam he could choose between Wonderwall or this and Noel would tackle vocals on the other. Liam chose Wonderwall, probably correctly, and the rest is history.

It’s fun to imagine a world where Liam sang this tune but it doesn’t matter. Noel guided the ship well through the song. Of course, when you write a song as magnificent as Don’t Look Back In Anger, it’s probably not hard to carry a tune along with it.

As with much of Oasis, the song does borrow from the realm of the Beatles. In this case, DLBIA has direct ties to John Lennon. The song’s intro hearkens back to Lennon’s magnum opus Imagine, while lines in the pre-chorus like “the brains I have went to my head” and “gonna start a revolution in my bed” are culled from things Lennon said and did.

The song becomes Oasis’ own in the chorus, and it marks one of music’s signature anthems. The song’s message of letting things go really hits when “So Sally can wait…” comes on. It is an iconic chorus that has taken on a life of its own, often belted out at soccer/football matches. It’s also a song that, much like Live Forever, gets airplay at weddings, funerals and the like.

Of course the central theme of Don’t Look Back In Anger is spelled out directly in the title. And yeah, it’s an important one. I’ve been known to hold a grudge or two in my day, but as time wears on it becomes clear that holding on to old resentments is tiring and unproductive. It’s almost always wise to let shit go and let your soul slide away.

Don’t Look Back In Anger would help Oasis’ home city rally in the wake of tragedy – after the terrorist bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in 2017, the town used the Oasis anthem to find their way through the devastation. A lone woman at a rally led the crowd in an impromptu rendition, and later at the One Love Manchester tribute concert Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland would serenade Ariana Grande with the tune.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Don’t Look Back In Anger is a masterful anthem with a gorgeous melody and an iconic chorus. The song’s message of letting it all go is powerful and important, and at times the world has used the song to soothe disappointment and even tragedy. In a time period when Noel Gallagher was maybe the hottest songwriter on the planet, this song perhaps stands out even over many of the other memorable tunes he wrote.

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 2

This is the second edition of my S-Tier songs. Simply put, these songs are the best of the best.

Now that I’m going more into this, with several futher additions to come in the next few months, I have created a page to catalog these songs. On the page you’ll also find some parameters I’ve outlined for this exercise. It’s a bit of a “hall of fame” but I chose not to use that terminology, that page gives more context for what I’m doing here though.

No need for a bunch of exposition though – let’s get right into it. The second S-Tier song is a choice cut straight from the Metal God and one of heavy metal’s most iconic bands.

Judas Priest – The Sentinel

The Sentinel comes from Priest’s 1984 classic Defenders Of The Faith. While Judas Priest elicit wide debate with what are considered their best albums, a fair number of people will point to this one as among the best.

And from the album I’m far from alone in highlighting this song. It catches the attention of many people and I’ve heard several say it’s their absolute favorite Judas Priest song. I am among those – this is my favorite Priest song, from a super rich catalog of songs that I’m deeply attached to. Saying it’s my pick is no small matter.

The song tells the tale of some silent warrior out for vengance. It’s a theme as old as time and was ever-present in 1980’s culture. We watched movie after movie about one man, often Chuck Norris, defeating an entire country with a machine gun and a cold, calculating attitude. Our protagonist here uses throwing knives, which is also very ’80’s and very badass.

This song gives the same vibe as some seminal movies of that time – though The Warriors was from the ’70’s it helped set the stage for the ’80’s. And Escape From New York – hell, The Sentinel could almost be Snake Plisken’s theme song.

The musicianship on the track is top-notch. The song is able to set itself apart even from other songs from Priest’s heavy metal period of the early ’80’s. It has both a grit and melodic flow, with this perfect guitar tone that both bends the ear and stands out. The song also has hints of symphonic elements that would come to define the band’s next era, for better or worse. While Iron Maiden will get a lion’s share of credit for kickstarting the subgenre of power metal, a listener would be unwise to ignore The Sentinel as another guidepost along the way.

The twin guitar attack of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing is in full force, with the use of pitch harmonics to add an edge to the song’s delivery. There is a fine line between a melody and a sharp edge that both walk with precision during the song. The solos are brief but in an important spot that lends urgence to the song’s plot.

Rob Halford doesn’t necessarily “go off” on The Sentinel the way he does on other songs but he delivers a smooth presentation while still occasionally showing off his prowess. He lets his timber and the weight of the words deliver here as opposed to a showcase of his range. He is almost whispering, at least in his style, the lengthy bridge before one more chorus at song’s end.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

The Sentinel gets everything right about early 1980’s heavy metal. It is a nod to the dystopian future we would watch on screen, and a bit later in person. It’s a tale of some badass, unnamed warrior carving up vengeance on his foes, just as we did it back in the day. The band doesn’t offer any one standout performance – instead all their elements combine for one precise attack that works on all levels. This song is the masters of the craft making sure everyone knows they are still in the game just as everyone and their mother is getting on the heavy metal train.

Enjoy your weekend, perhaps an extra long one if you’re like me in the U.S., and make sure you stock up on some throwing knives for your next badass revenge encounter.

S-Tier Songs, Vol. One

I talk about albums at least once a week when I do the Album of the Week feature on Mondays. And I do listen to albums on a pretty regular basis. My main form of music listening and evaluation is the album.

However, in the end with music, it’s still about the songs. Some albums are kind of mediocre overall but have a few great songs on them. And even the best albums still have some songs that outshine others.

For this new ongoing series I’m going to highlight what I consider the best of the best. It’ll be sort of my own song hall of fame though I decided against using that to name this series.

Instead I’ll go with S-Tier songs.

As I add more songs to this list I’ll start a page to catalog them and offer some parameters I’ve come up with as I do this. For now, let’s get right into it and enjoy the first of the S-Tier songs.

Soundgarden – Burden In My Hand

This tune always stood out to me from the band’s 1996 set Down On The Upside. It’s some kind of twisted murder ballad that also seems to leave something to the imagination. It’s a bit distorted and trippy and it fits well on what would be Soundgarden’s final work for a long time.

Lyrically the song captures the torment of someone who killed his lover and now wanders without her. The words are well-placed and also fit the psychadelic music with a sometimes vague quality. Yeah, it’s clear he offed his old lady and that he’s messed up but this isn’t some Point A-to-Point B story. There is plenty of exposition, or perhaps mystery, to be found in the lyrics. There is no clear-cut resolution for the subject or certainly his victim.

Part of this may be due to how Chris Cornell wrote the song. In a 2012 interview with Artist Direct, Cornell states that he wrote the lyrics while playing on the guitar. It wasn’t a straight lyrical sketch – the riff seemed to dictate what words should go where. I’d imagine that would lend to the song’s lack of straightforward storytelling.

It’s a little hard to say this song has too powerful of a personal meaning – I mean, kinda hard to relate to murder. (At least I would hope…) However, the idea of wandering without direction through a desert, literal or metophorical, just totally lost – that part can hold some meaning.

Though not really important to evaluation of the song I did want to mention the music video. I like a video such as this that simply accents what’s in the song. The entire thing is just the band walking through the desert, just the same as the song’s subject murderer. It’s nice when a video accompanies a song, far too often a video has its own identity that I feel takes away from the song’s meaning. Certinaly not the case here.

Why is this song S-Tier?

It’s the combination of almost post-grunge music along with haunting yet cryptic lyrics sung by one of the best to ever pick up a microphone. Both the imagery conveyed and the space left for the listener to fill in offer a masterful soundscape.

That does it for the first edition of S-Tier songs. Enjoy your weekend and try not to like, stab your significant other or anything.