S-Tier Songs, Vol. 18

Gonna hit up the S-Tier songs list one more time before year’s end. For a look at the other songs on the list and a bit about how it all works, head to this page.

Today I’m switching genres and offering up the first country song to appear on the list. It was a hit in the early 90’s, a time in country that is now being looked back on fondly. The song and artist both had a degree of crossover appeal, which lent to some exposure to a wider audience.

Dwight Yoakam – A Thousand Miles From Nowhere

Today’s song hails from Dwight’s 1993 opus This Time, which was a multi-platinum hit. It had three singles each hit number 2 on the Billboard Country singles chart. The album itself peaked at number 4 on the country chart and hit number 25 on the mainstream chart, no small feat for a country record.

A Thousand Miles From Nowhere is a bit of a departure from “pure country” standards, though Dwight Yoakam has always been a bit off in left field anyway. He’s perhaps the poster boy for the phrase “too rock for country, too country for rock.”

Our song today is a sad tale, though, not a number to rock out to. The song puts its narrator in the aftermath of a break-up and the desolate feelings associated with that. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of someone drifting along, remembering what was said at the end of their split. This is a completely broken person who has nowhere to be and isn’t even at nowhere.

The song is almost the literal opposite of the hit from The Proclaimers, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). The latter sees someone willing to walk a thousand miles for their love, while Dwight is so far gone that he’s a thousand miles from nothing. And in a bit of an ironic twist, The Proclaimers’ song would hit the charts in a second life just after Dwight’s song released.

The music video for A Thousand Miles From Nowhere is noteworthy. It is a simple yet visually breathtaking film that sees Dwight singing while riding in a train car across the Arizona desert. The beautiful simplicity of the shots lend weight to the sad song. For a bit of trivia, country singler Kelly Willis is the woman standing in the stream as Dwight’s train crosses a bridge at about 1:35 in the video.

I am extending myself a bit here as my memory of 30 years ago isn’t going to be spot on, but I am pretty sure the video got airplay on MTV. It was not common at all for MTV to play country but again, Dwight hasn’t always fit the country mold. I know I saw the video quite a bit when it released and I never watched the country music channel so I’m assuming MTV is where I saw it. It sounds logical, as MTV played Chris Issak frequently and this song sounds like one that could slot perfectly alongside his work. I’m happy for any correction to this from anyone who knows for sure, but I can’t imagine where else I would have seen the video as much as I did back then.

The song would appear in two movie soundtracks – the 1993 film Red Rock West used a demo recording of it as the film hit theaters before the song and album were released. And the 1994 comedy Chasers used the tune as well. In 2018 the song came up again, this time as a cover version from artist Jesse Woods used in a Yeti coolers ad.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

A Thousand Miles From Nowhere is a somber tale of loss and rejection. It paints its images vividly, the words pour out the heartbreak and desolation. The video adds to the presentation with its majestic scenes of a lone man traveling across the gorgeous desert. Everything adds up to an expression of how sad can be beautiful.

Album Of The Week – December 26, 2022

It’s time to end 2022. I’ve already done my top albums list for the year, so for the last AOTW I’ll just pick something and go with it. Here we have a good collection of songs, though wrapped in one of the most hideous album covers in history. Given the band, that was no small sin.

Iron Maiden – Dance Of Death

Released September 2003 via EMI Records

My Favorite Tracks – Paschendale, Dance Of Death, Face In The Sand

Before I even get into the album itself, I’ll take a minute to discuss the awful cover art. The art was commissioned to David Patchett, who has done some great work on album covers by British doom band Cathedral. Patchett submitted the Grim Reaper Eddie design with a few shadowy monks behind him to the band. Band and management felt the design looked empty, so they countered with some computer-generated figures to fill out the piece. Patchett did his best to work with what he was given, but ultimately decided to remain uncredited as the cover artist. The cover itself has been universally reviled since it was revealed to the world.

I made this point some time ago when I talked about some bad album covers, but just imagine – being an artist engaged in the trade of making album covers and NOT wanting your name associated with an Iron Maiden album cover. The band who became known through their iconic album covers. This cover art was certainly a gross misstep and the blame lies squarely within the Maiden camp for it.

Thankfully the album itself holds up. It is 11 songs clocking in at near 68 minutes, which seemed a bit long then but is virtually an EP for Iron Maiden now. Though the album got released on different days of the same week across the world, everyone got the same version so it’s go time.

Wildest Dreams

The album opener is also one of two released singles, though nothing was officially released ahead of the album. The band encouraged people to record the song live and distribute it via Internet during the golden age of file sharing, which many did.

The song is a pretty simple rock tune. It’s one of those motivational ones that talks about letting go of the past and setting out to get “it,” whatever it is. The song is not particularly well-regarded in the scope of Iron Maiden opening tracks but I think it’s a bit better than it gets credit for.

Rainmaker

The other single from the album, this was a track primarily composed by guitarist Dave Murray. Smiling Dave has largely stepped away from songwriting as the band as gone on so this is a rare treat. It has a very catchy Murray riff and the lyrics tend with the business of washing away unpleasantness and starting anew.

No More Lies

This wasn’t a single but did wind up the subject of a souvenir EP. The song sees its narrator facing the inevitable end of mortality and deciding to take it upon his or her self to achieve what they feel they have left to do in life. So far the themes of the songs have been very life-based and more realistic than the epic fantasy tales of Maiden yore.

Montsegur

Here Maiden get pretty hard and tackle a 1244 AD castle siege. I know as much about it as you do. Apparently it was pretty brutal. Despite the harder nature of the track, there is a fair bit of Maiden melody in this one.

Dance Of Death

The title track was composed by Steve Harris and Janick Gers and stands as one of Maiden’s most epic title songs. It is a tale of someone joining the danse macabre and barely making it out with his live, promising to only dance again when it’s time for him to do the dance of death.

This is a massive composition with epic arrangement and Bruce Dickinson really going all out on the vocals. While other songs got selected as singles, this is one of two from the album considered among Maiden’s best and makes one wonder why they didn’t just release this one on its own instead.

Gates Of Tomorrow

Back to a more straightforward rock track that has something do do with taking self responsibility as opposed to waiting for some cosmic force to save you, or at least something like that. It’s not my favorite by any means but it’s still a decent listen.

New Frontier

A very rare gem here – this is the sole songwriting credit attributed to drummer Nicko McBrain in Maiden history. The song is pretty bright and melodic but the story is dark – it’s a tale of someone cloning humans and coming to regret it, a sort of Frankenstein thing.

Paschendale

It’s back to war now and to World War I, the setting being the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendale. The battle was massive and cost several hundred thousand lives, analysis of the battle takes up millions of pages.

In terms of the song, this is one of Iron Maiden’s most epic achievements. It is a massive presentation that recounts the story of but one of the great many who died on the battlefield in the controversial fight. The song features soaring verses and plenty of splendid guitar work. I do feel like the massively positive reception to this track helped inspire Maiden’s direction forward, as many more of these epic-type songs were to come in the post-reunion era. Paschendale is a heavyweight contender for the best Maiden track since the reunion.

Face In The Sand

I talked about this song a bit before when I discussed the songs Iron Maiden have yet to play live. While the album and this track came and went without much fanfare, I feel like this is honestly one of the band’s most underrated moments. It’s another epic track that builds to a huge explosion and I think it’s almost criminal that the song doesn’t get the same kind of love I have for it.

The song deals with the modern day consumption of news and media and how it warps perspective. Everyone is waiting for the end, yet it never comes despite being told over and over again how it’s just around the corner. Even outside of the song’s intent, this is a pretty grim apocalyptic track.

Age Of Innocence

Heading to the album’s close is this track about crime and punishment and how the world was changing. I don’t entirely agree with some of the song’s conclusions but it’s a nice tune overall. For a bit of fun, the No More Lies EP has a hidden bonus track that features Nick McBrain “singing” this song. While Maiden have a long history of essentially wanking off on their B-sides, this one is outright hilarious.

Journeyman

This album closer marks yet another first for Iron Maiden – it is their only fully acoustic song. It was originally done electric and that version is on the already mentioned No More Lies EP, but they chose to go acoustic here. The track can start arguments among fans but I see nothing wrong with it, it’s a pretty good song.

Dance Of Death had a nice market reception even with its hideous cover art. The album charted well in a great deal of countries, showcasing the worldwide power of the band and establishing that they were indeed back and their reunion wasn’t a fluke or short-lived thing.

The album might not be the highest-regarded product of the reunion era but it still carries some quality with it and a few of the band’s biggest highlights. It’s also great for a deeper section of Maiden trivia, as there are many “first and only” moments on the album. It’s great for a deep dive into Maiden lore to see all of the things that only happened here, with Nicko’s songwriting, the acoustic track and others I might not have even mentioned. The album cover sucks, but the album itself is pretty good.

King Diamond – No Presents For Christmas

It’s one more dive into my singles collection before the turn of the year and the beginning of my Iron Maiden singles series. Since Christmas is just around the corner I thought I’d get festive and get out what likely is the only Christmas-themed music thing I own.

This single was the very first release from King Diamond after splitting up Mercyful Fate and going solo. Joining King from the ashes of Mercyful Fate were guitarist Michael Denner and bassist Timi Hansen. They recruited guitarist Andy LaRocque and drummer Mikkey Dee to join them in the new venture.

No Presents For Christmas

The A-side features the holiday tune, which of course is twisted into King Diamond form. The song intros a few familiar Christmas melodies before opening into the true experience. It is suitably dark for a King Diamond song but is also extremely silly, lending a light-hearted air to the proceedings.

While King Diamond would use his solo band to primarily tell album-length stories, our song here is a standalone effort. No great, overarching theme here – simply put, Santa can’t deliver the presents and no one else gives a damn. Somehow Tom and Jerry, famed cartoon duo, made it into the chorus while pounding some sherry. I have no clue what Tom and Jerry have to do with Christmas but hey, the chorus rhymes so props to everyone for that. Donald Duck makes an appearance too, again not a noted Christmas icon. But it goes to show the loose and silly nature of the song.

No Presents For Christmas has become a quasi-classic in King Diamond lore. While not an album track when the debut Fatal Portrait was released months later, the song was added as a reissue bonus and the single itself has been reissued through the years. It’s a bit of levity for what is often a dark and spooky atmosphere.

Charon

The B-side is a song that did make the cut for Fatal Portrait. Charon is about its namesake, the ferryman in Greek mythology who takes souls to Hades. The King Diamond approach to the song is straightforward as he assumes the role of the ferryman in lyric form. The song does have the feel of a Mercyful Fate tune, but with a bit of NWOBHM vibe to it as well. It’s a nice cut to showcase what was to come with the full-length album hitting shelves a bit after this single.

That pretty well covers the single. Mine is an old cassette copy though it’s available in several formats and versions. I just can’t help but have the cover with King Diamond and goofy Christmas stuff on it. Despite the goofy nature, this was the beginning of a legendary solo career and a gamble that paid off after personal conflict ripped Mercyful Fate apart just as they were making a name for themselves.

It’s about time for the holidays – hope everyone has a merry Christmas and/or other celebrations. After today at work I’ll be off for the rest of the year so I’ll (hopefully) have some time to get this site set up for the new year. Just remember – if there’s nothing in your stocking, it’s because Tom and Jerry got wine drunk and didn’t help out Santa.

Note the screw up in the album name below…

Album Ranking – Tool

Today I present another quick and easy album ranking. It’s really easy when the band has been active for over 30 years but only has 5 albums to show for it. The “inspiration” to do this post mainly came from seeing people talk shit about the band, which in fairness is a common thing.

Tool formed in California in 1990 and … yadi, yadi yada, here were are at the end of 2022 with the album ranking. I did not rank any sort of EP or extended single release, this ranking only takes into account their 5 full-length studio albums. No point in lollygagging, let’s have at it.

5 – Lateralus (2001)

With such a thin discography, the bottom of this list is the “least great” as opposed to being genuinely bad or anything. Tool did morph into a new form on this record, offering much longer songs and dispensing somewhat with conventional song structure. It can make for a challenging listening experience, one which caused some to dismiss the group, but there is enjoyment to be had in the song selection here. The Grudge and Schism are more “conventional” Tool songs, while Parabola saw the band flex their creative muscles.

4 – Undertow (1993)

Tool’s debut put them all over MTV and in the mix of the early 90’s alt-metal crowd. Sober was the song that got everyone paying attention and it still endures as one of their signature moments. The album was a staple of of the scene back in its day and remains a worthy listen even as the band have moved on to other waters.

3 – 10,000 Days (2006)

Here Tool took the groundwork laid on Lateralus and went even further with it – long, winding songs that flied in the face of mainstream music conventions, yet the album was a number one Billboard chart topper and a multi-platinum success. Singles Vicarious, Jambi and The Pot were well-received and the title track is a masterful tribute to Maynard James Keenan’s late mother. (It was also a prior subject of my S-Tier songs series).

2 – Fear Inoculum (2019)

It was a 13 year wait between albums for Tool but the wait turned out to be worth it. The album features 7 main songs, each over 10 minutes in length. It doesn’t sound like something that should work but it does, for me certainly and for plenty of others. Other Tool albums have plenty of weird bits and interludes to them, here everything works to forward a concept of some sort and feels like a unified whole. Songs like 7empest and Pneuma felt worth the extremely long wait.

1 – Ænima (1996)

Tool’s second album arrived just as the “alt-metal” phenomenon was being shown the door, but Tool themselves would find staying power with this set. The album was inspired by the recently departed comedian Bill Hicks, especially the quasi-title track masterpiece that begs for California to fall into the ocean. Many other Tool staples reside on this album, including Stinkfist, Eulogy and Forty Six & 2. This isn’t a daring choice for the top spot, as many consider this album Tool’s finest moment.

That’s about all there is for this album ranking. This likely won’t be the final word on the Tool discography, though they certainly are fond of taking their time anymore. I’m sure the ticking clock of mortality will lend them to finding the studio before another 13 years has passed.

Album Of The Week – December 19, 2022

This week’s pick is the album that saw a change in style for a long-running band and a shift that would pay massive dividends. The band was on the verge of ending and instead launched one of rock’s most successful albums in the genre’s commercial peak.

Whitesnake – self-titled

Released March 23, 1987 via EMI/Geffen Records

My Favorite Tracks – Still Of The Night, Crying In The Rain, Here I Go Again

The giant success of this record wouldn’t come without drama and turmoil. David Coverdale had been plunged into depression over Whitesnake’s prior lack of success and personal issues with his band. While guitarist John Sykes helped write the album, Sykes and the rest of the band were out before touring on the white hot record. The group that appeared in the mega-successful videos for this album was not the same group that made the album, save for Coverdale and Adrian Vandenburg’s involvement in recording Here I Go Again.

There are several different versions of this album – it was self-titled in North America and other places, while in Europe and Australia it was called 1987. Japan had yet another name for it and there are different track lists across the disparate versions. For simplicity’s sake I’ll cover the 9 track US version.

Crying In The Rain

The opener marks one of two songs redone from the 1982 Saints And Sinners album, both re-recorded songs would be hits. Originally a blues-based rocker, John Sykes reportedly despised blues music and turned it into a heavy metal riff fest. The lyrics are a depressing look inside Coverdale’s mind through a divorce, dude was down in the dumps a lot apparently. While the premise of crying in the rain seems silly, the song’s riffs and presentation keep it from slipping into parody.

Bad Boys

A standard fare, fast rocker about being a bad boy, a pretty common offering for 80’s rock. It’s a good offering for the “wild in the streets” theme that was ever-present back then.

Still Of The Night

The album’s lead single was a modest chart hit but would serve to generate interest in the album and was a very popular music video. This song is a fantastic composition with John Sykes going full on guitar god and the full album version of the song is a nice series of movements with the violins and build up back to the rocking at the end. The video was the first of three from the album to feature future Coverdale wife Tawney Kitaen, who would become one of music video’s most iconic performers for the videos.

Here I Go Again

The other re-recorded song from Whitesnake’s earlier days and one of the mega hits from this album, this is the most widely-known song from the Whitesnake discography. The song about venturing on one’s own has remained in cultural consciousness enough to be meme material these days. The video was a monster hit and features the late Tawney Kitaen’s most memorable video performance.

The song topped the Billboard Top 100 and was in constant MTV rotation. And yes, the album cut and single version are two different recordings with some differences, I’d personally take the album version.

Give Me All Your Love Tonight

Another single, this one didn’t quite crack the top 40. It’s an uptempo rocker about love, which in hair metal parlance means sex, as I’m sure everyone is aware. The single release is noteworthy as it features a redone guitar solo from Vivian Campbell, marking the only time he contributed music to Whitesnake material.

Is This Love

The album’s other massive hit single originated when Coverdale was trying to write a song for Tina Turner. David Geffen told Coverdale to keep it and here we are, with the track going to number two on the charts. The song couldn’t be any more elementary in its concept but again its presentation is fantastic and it’s one of time’s honored power ballads.

Children Of The Night

It’s another badass rocker about going out and getting in trouble. It’s a track worthy of partying and headbanging to.

Straight For The Heart

Getting toward the end of the album with this rocker about Coverdale going to get his girl. This song definitely jumps the hair metal shark a bit but it’s still a fun time.

Don’t Turn Away

The US album closes with a power ballad that keeps the rock going in full effect. It offers a nice inspirational message that hooking up with David Coverdale will cure whatever ails you.

Whitesnake was a monster success, launching the band from the brink of extinction to the toast of the town. The album would go on to eight US platinum certifications and would peak at number two on the Billboard 200, being blocked from the top spot by monster albums like The Joshua Tree, Whitney and Bad. It was a stunning reversal of fortunes for Coverdale, who was despondent after failing to break through significantly with his prior work. The rising tide of this album would lift other ships, most notably Slide It In, which went from a modest gold certification to multi-platinum.

While the album and singles did very well in traditional markets, Whitesnake’s videos were perhaps the most iconic part of this album cycle. The trio of videos featuring Tawney Kitaen were all over MTV. The band dressed the part of ’80’s rockers for their videos, something Coverdale admits was pandering to fashion. But hey – no arguing with the success of it. You were rockers in the 80’s, might as well go all in.

Whitesnake is an interesting band in that they found success almost all at once, with the self-titled album outshining the modest success that the US release of Slide It In had. The band’s music is a lynchpin of classic rock radio but it’s stuff from these two albums that comprises the entirety of those playlists. The old blues rock albums are well-regarded but also left to be discovered by the active seeker. Albums after the self-titled wouldn’t land quite the same way, though in retrospect 2003’s Good To Be Bad was a critical success and catalyst for a new era of Whitesnake.

But at the end of the day, it is this album that serves as Whitesnake’s defining legacy. The group shot out of a cannon and landed square in the rock/metal prime of the late 80’s and hit on a success not seen by all that many others. Leaving behind the blues-based rock and injecting a metal guitar hero’s sound into the mix lend to some staggering results, even if said guitar hero was booted from the group before touring behind the record.

When The Lineup Changes – Judas Priest Part Two

Yesterday I summed up the long line at the Judas Priest drummer’s spot, and also covered the absence of Rob Halford from the group. After 2003 Rob was back and the band’s line-up was stable for several years. Then around the turn of the decade, things started getting weird.

In 2010 the band announced their retirement after a multi-year world farewell tour. Then, somewhat out of nowhere, they announced they were working on a new album and that they were not retiring. It was an odd series of statements that didn’t seem to fully address what caused them to change their minds and it was a confusing period of time, not knowing if they were done or not. A bit of light was shed on things the next year

K.K. Downing retires, replaced by Richie Faulkner

In 2011, Downing announced his individual retirement from Priest. He expressed a desire to pursue other interests, which would involve golf course design. Downing departed on great terms and has led a quiet life in his post-Priest career.

Or not.

First, let’s quickly run through the new guy, Richie Faulkner. Richie is a British guitarist who had logged time in several bands, including playing with Lauren Harris. If that name isn’t familiar, she is the daughter of Iron Maiden legend Steve Harris. The elder Harris had produced some of Richie’s other bands and had already tabbed Richie as an option if anything happened to any of Maiden’s twelve (or three) guitarists.

Instead, Richie wound up in Judas Priest. He remains with them to this day and is likely to stick with the group through the close. While he’s had some detractors, he has been largely embraced by the Priest fanbase and is an excellent guitarist as well as a seemingly great person. He is also the kid of the group – far younger than anyone else in the band and hell, a few years younger than me.

But the focal point of K.K. Downing’s departure has always been K.K. Downing. His exit from Priest left a lot of fans upset and the specifics that have come out since 2011 have been a hotbed of drama. I won’t run down a lot of it – if anyone is interested in learning more, either read Downing’s 2017 biography Heavy Duty: Days and Nights In Judas Priest or read any Blabbermouth.net article about Downing as they run down the whole history anytime he gives an interview.

But it is clear there were personality clashes in the band, and it’s fairly clear who the main adversary was for Downing. If it wasn’t clear right at the time everything happened, it would become much clearer a few years later.

Glenn Tipton steps aside, replaced by Andy Sneap

In 2018, Glenn Tipton announced he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He had struggled with the disease for about a decade before stepping down as Priests’ regular touring guitarist. Tipton would remain a creative member of the band, but would only make sporadic appearances for a few songs on tour.

Tipton’s replacement was renowned producer Andy Sneap, also a guitarist in classic British act Sabbat and part of the reformed Hell. Sneap would serve as the touring guitarist in Tipton’s place while Tipton would continue performing in studio.

Many fans asked the obvious question – if Judas Priest needed a new guitar player, why not their old one? K.K. Downing had not been involved with music since leaving several years earlier and was clearly cut out for the job. Downing himself publicly stated that he would like to come back to the band, but no one reached out to him about the vacancy.

Again, I’m not going to get into the specifics of the drama surrounding Downing and Priest. It’s clear the issues center around Glenn Tipton and there are plenty of Downing interviews readily available where he discusses what happened. And Priest management was also a target of Downing’s ire. That would seem fitting, since just last week longtime Priest manager Jayne Andrews did a podcast where she dumped on Downing in regards to his appearance at the Hall of Fame induction. All other reports from Downing and Priest members about that time had been glowing, so the Andrews interview was a bit of a shock. Maybe not as shocking when it’s known that she is also the long-time partner of Glenn Tipton.

Clearly I don’t know any of these people and I don’t want to get into casting aspersions when I don’t have a lot of information. But it’s also clear that Priest have some management issues. Think back to Rob Halford’s departure in the 1990’s – all he wanted to do was a side project. He had to “quit” the band due to contract technicalities. Instead, he was gone for a decade. And there has been a lot of mudslinging and bad press over the K.K. Downing retirement, a lot more and sustained for a lot longer than many band breakups.

And there’s one more line-up change, albeit minor, that might highlight more odd issues in Priest management. This one happened earlier in the year.

Andy Sneap is dismissed, replaced by … wait for it … Andy Sneap

In early 2022, Priest announced that Andy Sneap would no longer be a touring guitarist. He would focus on producing the new record. The band would tour as a four-piece, with Faulkner being the sole guitarist. The thought of one guitar player in Judas Priest sent fans into a frenzy, and not long after, Sneap was reinstated as the second guitarist. Rob Halford was the one who fell on a sword in public, taking blame for the decision to initially dismiss Sneap.

While this is little more than a footnote in Priest lore, it does speak to how the band is run. I’m personally not buying that Halford was the one who had anything to do with the fiasco. Maybe he did, but I think he took one for the team and jumped on the grenade because he has the most goodwill among fans and could easier absorb the backlash. The Sneap thing was a mess and the idea of Priest heading out without two guitar players is just unreal.

That does it for Judas Priest line-up changes – for now, anyway. Priest is a legend among legends in heavy metal, no dispute there. But they have some wonky management and get up to some weird shit at times. The drama surrounding K.K. Downing still lives on, even as Downing has his own band now featuring former Priest singer Tim “Ripper” Owens. And the Downing fire is one that likely won’t die in the press or the respective comment sections anytime soon. It’s a monster at this point.

But at the end of the day we still get music from some configuration of a band that’s been running for over 50 years now. There is something to be said for that.

When The Lineup Changes – Judas Priest Part One

This one threatens to be a 90 page term paper but I’ll keep it simple, though it will require two parts to get to the most significant stuff. The line-up changes of Judas Priest are numerous – in technical terms, the band as it exists today contains no original members. Singer Al Atkins formed the group in 1969, then it went by the wayside. A new group joined with Atkins after 1970 and this would include K.K. Downing and Ian Hill. While it’s technically correct that neither were “original” members of Judas Priest, in any common parlance it’s fair to suggest that both are founding members. It’s not like the original outfit did a whole lot.

Atkins would depart in 1972 due to the financial strain of being in a band not making any money. He was replaced by Rob Halford, and second guitarist Glenn Tipton was brought in to the band shortly before setting out to record the debut Rocka Rolla. This, along with what was already the tenth or so drummer, would comprise the core Judas Priest line-up for many years. The changes I’ll discuss will mainly revolve around what’s happened in the 1990’s and since, save for the revolving door of drummer. Today I’ll handle that and also the huge changes at singer, then tomorrow I’ll get into all of the guitarist drama of the 2010’s.

Scott Travis (eventually) becomes the drummer of Judas Priest

The movie This Is Spinal Tap is renowned for its gag of exploding drummers. The joke most likely came from the insane amount of times Judas Priest changed members at that position. I guess there were nine different drummers but that’s just a quick glance on my part.

I suppose it’s fair to use the criteria that the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame used to induct Priest earlier this year. Three drummers were inducted – Les Binks, Dave Holland and current drummer Scott Travis. Binks played on Stained Class and Killing Machine, while Dave Holland was the drummer through all of the 1980’s albums.

In 1989 Dave Holland left Priest due to health issues and musical differences. This led to the arrival of Scott Travis, who had played previously with Racer X and Saints Or Sinners (who became The Scream). Travis immediately made his mark with his drum-in intro to the song Painkiller, and Priest was off to the races.

Travis was the youngest member of the band by a mile when he joined, though this would change a few years later. His drumming proficiency and energy injected new life into Priest, who had flagged a bit in the synth era of the late ’80’s. The band would purse a decidedly metal direction with Travis at the drum throne.

Travis has engaged in some side activity during his time in Priest – he is the drummer for the present incarnation of Thin Lizzy, continued work with Racer X and also lent his talents to a few albums I’ll talk about in a minute. But his time with Priest has been fantastic and he was a great addition to the band.

Rob Halford departs, replaced by Tim Owens

Just a few years after Priest had seen renewed interest with their very metal-forward Painkiller album, Rob Halford told the band’s management about his interest in doing a solo album/side project. For whatever goofy reason, the band’s management told him he would technically have to resign from Priest to do this. In the resulting confusion over Halford’s statement, he was gone from the band for a decade. How anyone let that happen is beyond me, but there has been some dysfunction in the Priest camp over the years.

Halford would spend his time with a variety of projects which I have previously covered here. The first one happened to also involve Scott Travis, who was still a member of Priest yet the band was inactive during that time.

Priest would eventually seek to find a new singer and, due in large part to Scott Travis’ suggestion, picked Tim “Ripper” Owens. Owens had done work in the band Winter’s Bane and also the Judas Priest tribute act British Steel.

Judas Priest’s “Ripper” era would be defined by a very heavy sound and subdued interest, though not the same level of vitriol aimed at fellow British metal legends Iron Maiden and their late-90’s period. The band would offer two albums as well as two live efforts during this time.

As with any kind of replacement like this, it was a struggle for Tim Owens to step into the shoes of one of metal’s most renowned frontmen. While I personally always liked him and thought he got a fair bit of unfair treatment, there was no replacing Rob Halford in the hearts and minds of Priest diehards.

The fortunes of Judas Priest were flagging in the early 2000’s, just as they watched Iron Maiden spark new interest with a much-hyped reunion with their legendary singer. And the inevitable came in 2003.

Rob Halford returns to Judas Priest

After some success with a few solo efforts in the early decade, Halford was a rising star again just as heavy metal was finding its way back into fashion. The no-brainer reunion with Judas Priest came in 2003. This left Tim Owens the odd man out, of course. He would go on to sing for Iced Earth for awhile and also participate in a variety of other projects.

Judas Priest have essentially ignored the Ripper period in retrospect. The songs from his albums are not performed live and the albums remain almost untouched reissue-wise, save for the super mega huge box set that came out last year. A bit unfair to not even acknowledge that period, I think, but again, there are some shifty decisions that come out of the Priest camp from time to time.

Priest themselves were back in form with their signature frontman in place. Rob Halford has since taken on a legend all his own and is one of heavy metal’s enduring icons. The band would see mixed success with their post-reunion albums, with the greater success coming from the more recent offerings.

If that were the whole story on Judas Priest line-up changes, it would be more than enough. But some huge moves came in the 2010’s and led to a lot of drama and headaches for all involved. Tomorrow I’ll get into the shakeups at the guitar positions.

Train Of Consequences – The Sad Tale Of Megadeth Cryptocurrency

It’s a mini-saga of my own making that I’ve talked about a few times over the past year, and now it’s time to put it to bed once and for all. Here’s the final word on my misadventure in cryptocurrency “investing,” or the time I put $10 into the Megadeth crypto coin.

I talked about it originally in February after I made the purchase and I think I made a small update a bit later as the coin was on its way down but I haven’t got back to it since. As it stands today, my $10 of Megacoin is now equal to about 19 cents. The coin itself is valued at a whopping $0.008, not quite a tenth of a cent.

None of this is shocking – the crypto market was going on its freefall around the time I made the purchase. And, this was at best a boutique “currency” anyway. $Mega was not going to be the new Bitcoin, it was some crap for the fan club and not much more.

I was trying to get some other perspectives on this whole ordeal so I set out to find the place where Megadeth fans were discussing the currency. I “joined” the Cyber Army as a free member but got no access to any forum that would tell me anything. I found the band’s official Discord and there is a locked-away section for coin holders, of which I am, but the process to verify everything and join it was too much for me to bother with. I already blew my money on this trash endeavor, I wasn’t going to waste more of my time with it too.

Not getting into these forums kept me out of any discourse that people who actually hold this coin were having, but I can live without it. I also never figured out what the associated rewards were for having the coin – I’ll assume those are kept behind lock and key on the same forums that you need to have verified access for.

There hasn’t been any more publicity about the coin either, only the initial announcement and most everyone making fun of it. Megadeth did offer some NFT’s a while later and that was ridiculed into the ground, as the NFT was the source of a lot of scorn before the crypto crash.

And I figure this will be the final word on the fiasco of the Megadeth cryptocurrency. From 10 bucks to 19 cents is quite the freefall, and there’s only a bit of down to go. I can’t see any conceivable reason why the coin would suddenly shoot back up – even if crypto as a whole rebounds, there are a ton of silly currencies that were dead on arrival and I’m sure $Mega is one of those.

I am reminded of something I said in my initial post – it was something about “wiping my own ass with my money” or something like that. The sad truth is this – if I would have wiped my ass with the ten dollars I spent on Megadeth crypto? I’d still have the ten dollars.

My Top 10 Albums Of 2022

It’s that time of year for album lists. For me, things snapped into place pretty easy this year. I haven’t had to deliberate much on what should be here or what order it should go in.

Most of this stuff hasn’t really been discussed here, beyond a glimpse from one of my preview posts. I’ve only discussed two of these albums at length this year and a few weren’t mentioned at all. Covering new music is tough and requires a lot of time so it’s something I do very sparingly.

Last year I split this up and gave the album of the year its own post, this year I’m keeping it simple and doing everything at once. Let’s get to it and see where all this stuff ranks.

10: High Command – Eclipse Of The Dual Moons

This is some very nice dirty thrash that also pulls influence from a lot of ’80’s metal legends and also incorporates a fantasy story arc across its lyrics. It can be enjoyed on a surface level for its great music and can also be explored further for the story. Really great stuff here.

9: Witch Fever – Congregation

This is the debut full-length from a group billed as punk but playing a harsh version of doom, noise and grunge. The album takes aim at institutions of power, especially religion. It’s a great, pretty unique sound Witch Fever have going on here and hopefully there are great things to come for the English group.

8: Undeath – It’s Time … To Rise From The Grave

What’s old is new again, and this year old school death metal returned in a big way. That was thanks in large part to Undeath and their much-hyped second album. This album slots in nicely alongside the death metal classics of the early ’90’s and is a signpost for a new generation of death metal mayhem.

7: Lorna Shore – Pain Remains

This was one of the most anticipated releases of the year after the hype over To The Hellfire in 2021 went to a whole new level for deathcore. Lorna Shore delivered by avoiding the trap of trying to recreate what they did a year prior and mixing things up a bit. The ending Pain Remains trilogy of songs is some majestic stuff.

6: Mother Of Graves – Where The Shadows Adorn

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard some good death/doom, yet here it is in a new form from a newer group out of Indiana. This hits all the right notes and shows its influences while still very much being its own thing. A really great album that, in a way, kind of came out of nowhere.

5: Blind Guardian – The God Machine

The German power metal legends returned with their first proper studio album in seven years and they came back in a huge way. This album is very to the point and direct, no mucking around here. The band haven’t lost their touch and have re-explored some of the speed metal elements of their earlier career. This album is a true highlight of an already impressive catalog.

4: Chat Pile – God’s Country

Chat Pile had built a healthy amount of buzz over the past few years and delivered on that this year with their first full-length record. This sludge/noise offering is a disturbing listen that looks at the less savory side of life in Oklahoma and nails the perspective. The music and themes aren’t for everyone but those who get it, get it.

3: Lamb Of God – Omens

I was one of several who had thought Lamb Of God’s best days were behind them, I hadn’t been wowed by a release in quite awhile. All of that is out the window now – Omens is a sharp, stark return to form for the groove metal legends. This is an ass kicking from start to finish and I was totally blown away by it.

Omens is the only album from this list that I covered as an Album Of The Week, that post is here.

2: Scorpions – Rock Believer

Now, you want to talk being surprised and impressed by some old dogs? The Scorpions coming out in 2022 with this absolutely killer set of tunes was not something I saw happening. While they’ve had some moments in the past few decades, this band was long thought to be in their twilight. But no, they totally reinvigorated their sound and came out fresh despite being literally older than dirt. Klaus Meine sounds fantastic here and he’s older than a lot of old rock singers that have lost their voices. And the songs are some of the best they’ve done in a long, long time.

I did cover this album in more detail a bit after its release, here is that post.

Album Of The Year 2022

Cave In – Heavy Pendulum

The New England group known through the 2000’s for metalcore, post-rock and/or whatever you want to call it had been quiet through the 2010’s and suffered the loss of bassist Caleb Scofield in a car accident in 2018. The band reconvened with Converge bassist Nate Newton handling those duties and recorded their return album through the course of the pandemic.

Cave In’s return was nothing short of a massive success. Heavy Pendulum visits all points of Cave In’s past and works with a variety of sounds to shape concepts in the 2020’s. It’s a monster of an album at 71 minutes but everything here works, especially the epic album closer Wavering Angel. The bag of riffs on this album is of insane size and visits about every kind of rock and metal you can think of.

That wraps it up for the 2022 stuff. I did more last year but I think just doing the album list is fine enough. Only a few weeks until it’s time to stary worrying about what 2023’s top albums will be.

A Story And A Song – 3 AM

Today’s song and story come from a recent holiday drive. The song is 3 AM, one of the hit singles from the debut Matchbox Twenty album Yourself Or Someone Like You. In an odd bit of trivia, the song did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100 only because it was not released as a physical single in the US. But the song did very well and the album was a super smash hit.

Matchbox Twenty were a pretty important band at the time. While I think their proper classification is alternative rock, the term “post-grunge” is used a lot when talking about them. This was the shape of rock after grunge flamed out in the middle part of the 1990’s.

The story goes back to Thanksgiving Day, which was was back like two weeks ago here in the US. We were driving back from a Thanksgiving dinner in a car with me, my girlfriend, her sister and her sister’s kid (my girlfriend’s niece).

We were coming from a fairly remote part of southwest Missouri back to the one city in the region that we live in. Finding something on the radio on forlorn highway roads is always a chore. These areas are known for having country, talk radio or religious programming on the dial. And of course, FM stations tune in and out very easily out in these rural areas.

At one point a rock station came on and the song in question was playing. After a bit, my girlfriend’s sister asked her daughter what she thought of the song. Her response?

“It’s fine. It sounds like country music.”

It was a pretty funny observation to the rest of us in the car, who have all been plenty exposed to country music. But after a second I realized how telling of a statement it was from a 13 year old kid who probably isn’t up on the history of country music.

The point is obviously about the state of modern country music – is this where it’s at? Someone not alive in Matchbox Twenty’s heyday thinks that their stuff is representative of a different genre of music?

Country music takes a lot of hits these days. The bro-country phenomenon of the past several years was awful. There has been a long-running battle between the entrenched machine of the Nashville industry and artists wanting more creative freedom. Country also takes a lot of flak for representing “older” values as well as a slant towards conservative politics and a lot of the worse things associated with those, both fairly and unfairly.

But when someone on first listen to an old alt-rock song thinks it sounds like your genre? I think it speaks volumes about the genre. Granted, I’m not very up on country these days and if I do pay attention, it’s to more independent artists who aren’t part of the Music Row network. I don’t really know what’s playing on mainstream country radio these days. But from the bits and pieces I’ve picked up, it’s not a far leap to suggest that today’s country is yesterday’s alt-rock. That’s not an absolute statement, of course, but it’s probably fair.

There are probably a lot of larger issues about country music that warrant discussion but that’s not really what this post is about. It was just a funny comment that made me think “Wow, is that what country has come to?” And there may not be as much to it as I’m speculating, but I’d say there’s something to it.

I could wrap up by posting Rob Thomas’ actual biggest hit, but I won’t do that to myself or anyone else. Instead let’s bow out with a bit of country.