Slayer – Seasons In The Abyss (Album of the Week)

This week it’s time to head back to 1990 and have a look at an album that propelled Slayer into a new decade.

Slayer – Seasons In The Abyss

Released October 9, 1990 via Def American

My Favorite Tracks – Seasons In The Abyss, Dead Skin Mask, Skeletons Of Society

Slayer had quite a run of it through the late ’80’s, what with essentially redefining thrash metal with Reign In Blood and then pulling up on the throttle and chilling out a bit on South Of Heaven. The change in speed and/or sound did not resonate with everyone but was probably a wise choice, as attempting to do RIB again would have likely proven disastrous.

The band hit the studio with Def American mastermind Rick Rubin to crank out their next album and hit on a bit of gold with a combination of their more mid-tempo fare along with some bursts of energy. Slayer would also mostly pull back their lyrical fare from the demonic and supernatural to more of a look at real-world issues.

Seasons In The Abyss comes in with the standard American Recordings track list of the time at 10 songs (that’s all Rubin and company would pay a group for) and a run time of 42 minutes, which is a virtual eternity in Slayer world.

War Ensemble

The opener sets a quick pace as the band pound through a dark look at war, one of metal’s favorite topics. This is a stark look at the true scope of a battle and it’s supplemented with a very aggressive and re-energized Slayer. We don’t necessarily know what or where this battle is, though the Rhine is mentioned so Germany is a good guess, but it is definitely brutal.

Blood Red

The pace comes down just a hair as the band shred through a condemnation of governments using violence to silence their citizens. This one is quick and dirty and the next song kicks straight off.

Spirit In Black

This time we do revisit the more supernatural with a descent into Hell. Tom Araya is running the show as some poor sap is sent on his way to the eternal torture chamber. The song gives a few call backs to prior Slayer works, such as “blood forever rains” and “Hell awaits.” It’s also clear that the band did not piddle around with finding new guitar tones or anything – they have their sound locked in and banged this out efficiently.

Expendable Youth

A song that discusses gang violence, though of course in Slayer fashion. Gangs were the number one scapegoat of media and politicians around this time and of course the root causes of gang existence were never truly addressed. Slayer are not offering any solutions, though, this is more of an observation of the battle for turf and the cold reality of bodies on the ground.

Dead Skin Mask

This track is a look at infamous murderer and grave robber Ed Gein, the real-life influence for many Hollywood serial killers. Slayer amps up the creepiness factor with a twisted riff as Tom Araya yells through the process of a killer’s mind deteriorating. It would mirror how Gein would claim that he did not remember moments during his murders or grave robbing. This one has been one of Slayer’s marquee tracks through the years.

Hallowed Point

Pretty simple here – the band kicks the speed up a fair bit and discusses the issue of hollow point bullets, which were a hot-button issue in the early 1990’s. The bullets expand on impact and can literally tear apart a person’s insides, as opposed to the more straight shot of a “typical” bullet. The song does not really participate in the debate over the bullet, rather it simply follows the journey from firing to shredding someone apart.

Skeletons Of Society

The tempo on this one goes way down, almost to a doom metal pace. The song marches through the eyes of a survivor of an apparent nuclear holocaust. It’s probably not shocking that Slayer’s version of the post-apocalypse is a grim one. The solos from Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman here, always dissonant, are an extra special touch on this track that’s a bit of a departure from the album’s norms.


Back to a thrash pace again and also the topic of satanism and the old classic stuff like possession and being corrupted. While couched in a lot of fanciful and supernatural stuff, the song does make a fairly real-world point about how it’s always evil that is the tempter and the attractive option, at least viewed through the lens of belief in that sort of thing.

Born Of Fire

Slayer breaks it open speed wise here as they get at least within the ballpark of Reign In Blood speed. The song is kind of a stock rundown of more evil imagery as the lyrics were written last minute by Kerry King. While Slayer’s slower pace has worked well through this album, it is nice to hear some straight-ahead bashing for a bit.

Seasons In The Abyss

The album closes with a track that really slows things down and gets into some gnarly sounding tones. A creepy intro runs for a few minutes before the song really kicks in and picks things up a fair bit. The lyrics are a bit more abstract here, they are dealing with the concept of The Abyss as presented by noted occultist Aleister Crowley. I personally have no clue what it’s really about so I’ll leave it alone. A brilliant video was also filmed for the song and was shot in Egypt, adding a huge degree of visual awe to the song.

Seasons In The Abyss would mark another notch in Slayer’s now-lengthened thrash belt. The album would get to number 40 on the Billboard album charts and also break on several other nations’ charts. An eventual US gold certification would come, and the album has sold at least 800,000 copies.

For Slayer it was a boost in reputation after South Of Heaven and its transitional nature left some fans alienated. Now people were used to the newer Slayer sound, and there were still a few all-out thrash moments to be had. It also positioned Slayer quite nicely entering the 1990’s, as their style would fit in with rising “alt-metal” movement while conventional thrash fell by the wayside. These songs, both in studio and live form, would frequent MTV programming, especially Headbanger’s Ball.

Though Slayer would make it through the very tough 1990’s relatively well, it wouldn’t come without some cost – drummer Dave Lombardo, often regarded as the band’s best asset, would quit the group in 1992. But he left after a successful album and tour cycle for a record that reinvigorated long-time fans and brought in many new ones, myself included.

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 21

The S-Tier songs series marches on. For the list as it stands now and an overview of what it’s about if you haven’t seen it before, head to the master page.

I always have the next handful of songs for this planned out. I was about to work on one of them when I went back and read through the list of what I did so far. I could have been knocked over with a feather to find that this song was not already on my list. So today it’s time to right that wrong.

Metallica – For Whom The Bell Tolls

The third track from 1984’s seminal thrash record Ride The Lightning was a massive force that captured the attention of the metal world out of the gate. The song was released as a promotional single and has endured as one of Metallica’s best-loved songs through the course of their 40-plus year career.

Ride The Lightning has been the subject of the Album of the Week before, that post is here.

The intro to the song is classic, but it actually begins with something else. Two bells ring, followed by the drop of the riff. If you hear more than two bells, then you are most likely about to enjoy the classic song Hell’s Bells by AC/DC. Or maybe some other song that has bells but isn’t as good as either this or AC/DC. It’s a fun game to play if listening to the radio or whatever and the bell starts ringing to figure out which song is playing.

Once the bell is over with it’s all guns blazing with the guitars and – wait, what is that infernal noise? It’s actually bassist Cliff Burton with his rig plugged into a few effects, doing a part he used to do in old Bay Area bands alongside Jim Martin and Mike Bordin, who would go on to form Faith No More. Cliff’s twisted bass piece fits the guitar part very well and the song trudges on to begin the verses.

The song’s lyrical fare is inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel of the same name as the song. I’ll just get this out of the way – I read the book in high school because of the song and I wasn’t all that into it. But it’s pretty badass when distilled into a song – it’s set in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930’s. In the book, a group of fighters are planning to blow up a bridge to stall an enemy advance when shit hits the fan and people are butchered. In the song, a group of fighters takes a strategic hill but get blown apart by an air raid or artillery strike soon after. Different specifics but same general concept.

For all the song’s epic feel and delivery, it is also a very, very simple song. This takes a few minutes for even a novice guitar player to pick up on, and yet it is the full weight of heavy metal crushing down on someone. It was proof that metal was more than just “play fast and scream” and that songwriting and arrangement were a part of the process. And also proof that Metallica especially would be sharp in that field.

For Whom The Bell Tolls entered Metallica’s setlists and did not leave – according to, it is the band’s fourth most-played song live. It would appear the song has never left the stage in the band’s many gigs over the years. It would be a clear inclusion on any “greatest hits” of Metallica list and certainly ranks toward the top of many fans’ favorite songs lists. And the single went gold in the US, an impressive feat as the band were not a radio or MTV darling in their early years.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

For Whom The Bell Tolls is one of Metallica’s immortal anthems, a crushing tale of the horrors of war set to a simple yet devastating heavy metal track. Even in all the subsequent world-conquering fame Metallica would enjoy, this song remains one of their most beloved. It was a showcase for Cliff Burton and it proved the band had the writing chops to excel beyond the scope of simply playing fast and loud.

Album Of The Week – January 23, 2023

This week it’s a deep dive into one of the pivotal albums of thrash metal. This record has come to be the defining moment of one of thrash’s most enduring institutions and would launch the group into heavy metal royalty.

Anthrax – Among The Living

Released March 16, 1987 via Megaforce and Island Records

My Favorite Tracks – I Am The Law, Among The Living, A Skeleton In The Closet

Anthrax had been a band on the rise after their second album Spreading The Disease. The group had toured extensively with a variety of metal luminaries and were in Europe opening for Metallica when a bus accident claimed the life of Cliff Burton. Anthrax were motivated by grief at the loss of their friend and peer, and hit the studio to vent their anguish. They chose to record at Compass Point Studio in the Bahamas, and purely because it was where Iron Maiden had laid down their classic run of albums.

Anthrax worked with super producer Eddie Kramer on the album. Kramer has an extensive list of works to his credit, for my own purposes he is best known as the caretaker to the legacy of Jimi Hendrix. Among The Living was recorded in quick and easy fashion, but then Kramer had an idea for a mix laden with more modern techniques. Anthrax did not like Kramer’s embellishments and it was decided to proceed with the original, dry mix. A wise choice, as what was released truly captured the music in its pure form.

The album was primarily written by drummer Charlie Benante and guitarist Scott Ian. It is 9 songs with a 50 minute run time, so a fair bit to go over here.

Among The Living

The opener/title track bears lyrics inspired by Stephen King’s epic novel The Stand and the main antagonist Randall Flagg. The song thrashes hard and also lays down a groove foundation, an element that would go on to redefine and carry metal several years later.

As with all of the songs here, Anthrax deftly walk a line between heavy and melodic, incorporating more melody than their thrash peers were known for. Much of that had to do with the talents of singer Joey Belladonna, a more accomplished vocalist than what was found across much of thrash.

Caught In A Mosh

The lyrics see Scott Ian venting frustration at any number of dumb people and occurrences, but the song itself became a calling card for the mosh pit and outgrew its original meaning. In life or at a show we are all often caught in a mosh. At least the second one is fun (if you’re under 30).

I Am The Law

It’s geek time on the album as Anthrax offer up a homage to Judge Dredd, the gritty comic book character from an apocalyptic future. While it’s not rare for bands to offer up tribute songs to fictional characters they like, it is pretty rare for the songs to turn out as great as this. This truly does capture the essence of Judge Dredd and the harsh atmosphere of his comic series.

I Am The Law was the first single from the album and was backed with I’m The Man, Anthrax’s first foray into combining rap with their metal. They are chief among acts who deserve credit/blame for the 1990’s.

Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)

Contrary to popular opinion, the song is not about the National Football League. Rather the NFL refers to the song’s full title backwards, “Nise Fuckin’ Life.” It’s a song warning of the dangers of drug addiction and, unlike last week’s band, Anthrax walked the walk in that regard. The primary inspiration for the song was John Belushi, the beloved actor who died of substance abuse at age 33.

A Skeleton In The Closet

It’s back to the dark, dark world of Stephen King, this time his story Apt Pupil provides the backdrop for the song. The story involves a very sadistic teenager discovering his neighbor is a Nazi war criminal in hiding and a lot of murder and other bad stuff, like faking report cards. The songs does a pretty good job of summing up the story.


This tune pays tribute to the Native Americans who were genocided off their lands by evil colonizers (i.e., our ancestors). Lest they be accused of cultural insensitivity, singer Joey Belledonna has heritage from the Iroqouis tribe. This was another single from the record and remains one of Anthrax’s most popular songs. The “war dance” riff is one of the band’s most memorable.

One World

In a bit of a twist for thrash metal, this song actually warns of the dangers of environmental destruction and nuclear holocaust, rather than wishing for it to happen like many in the thrash world. It is steeped in Cold War-era dialog, which was still simmering in the late ’80’s when this hit.

A.D.I./The Horror Of It All

The first part of the song is an instrumental, the second pays tribute to Cliff Burton. Though the lyrics are a bit vague in that regard, Scott Ian did eventually shed light on their true meaning.

Imitation Of Life

No science fiction here – the final track is about all of the slimy people in the music industry. Far more than what can be compressed into one song, for sure.

Among The Living saw Anthrax rise to a new level of recognition. The album would go gold, and I’ll admit that I’m a bit shocked it wasn’t platinum. It does appear the band never had a US platinum, which is surprising. But no matter, Anthrax were now a band of note with this 1987 magnum opus.

One area where Anthrax got a lot of love was the skateboarding world. The Anthrax image didn’t quite “fit” the thrash scene, even if the music did, but they were a big hit among the skateboarding faithful. And while I myself never really got into skateboarding, my peers who did were who I got a lot of my early music from, including this.

This album essentially “made” the careers of Anthrax, giving them a far bigger platform and bigger tours to go along with it. It can be tough to haggle over the best of their catalog, what with their different phases and shifts, but this is the album that probably lands a consensus number one.

Album Of The Week – January 9, 2023

This week’s album is a band’s reformation effort, though also a reconfiguration in terms of how the band operated and who it worked with. It is noted as a new beginning and a return to form.

Megadeth – The System Has Failed

Released September 14, 2004 via Sanctuary Records

My Favorite Tracks – Kick The Chair, Blackmail The Universe, The Scorpion

The story leading up to The System Has Failed is quite a whopper. In 2002, with Megadeth’s fortunes on the low end of things, Dave Mustaine suffered an arm injury and was not sure if he would ever be able to play guitar again. He disbanded Megadeth and spent time healing his arm and building up to playing guitar again. His rehab was successful and he was able to resume his mastery of the instrument.

Mustaine set out to record a solo album but was held up by contractual obligations, hence the new effort would bear the title Megadeth. With this new mandate in mind, Mustaine gathered a group of session musicians and held the creative reigns of the new album. Megadeth was now Dave Mustaine and Company, a configuration that has held up to this day.

Notable among the session players on the album is Chris Poland, former Megadeth guitarist for the band’s classic Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying? Poland contributed solos to this album, though his time back with Mustaine would be short-lived.

Megadeth had been on the downslide since the late 1990’s and the ill-received Risk album. An attempted return to form with The World Needs A Hero met with mixed results, and so fan perspective was skeptical after the mess of the band’s breakup and “reformation” under a Mustaine dictatorship.

The only way to reignite fan interest would be to deliver the goods. With 12 tracks going for a 48 minute runtime, did Dave deliver? The album cover certainly brought the old vibes back, but what about the music? I’ll get into that in more detail, though the short answer is yes.

Blackmail The Universe

The opener sets a harrowing and urgent tone, as a mock news piece details a terrorist attack on the US President. The leader of the free world is missing and the nation is in chaos about how to respond. Megadeth are no strangers to the world ending via nuclear holocaust and that is the ultimate fate of everything here.

The song is fantastic and was instantly hailed as one of the band’s best in years. The music was explosive and the twisted fate of the world was communicated in powerful fashion. Though in a new form, Megadeth was back.

Die Dead Enough

The album’s lead single is a mid-tempo affair, more in line with what was issued on albums like Cryptic Writings. The song was originally conceived for a movie soundtrack but the deal fell through and it found its home here. Die Dead Enough seems an odd premise but the action sequence sort of vibe works pretty well with the music.

Kick The Chair

Any concerns about Megadeth’s standing were lifted when Kick The Chair hit peoples’ ears. This was Megadeth back in form – snarling, angry and lashing out at a broken system. Kick The Chair takes aim at the justice system and its corrupted ties with money and power. This is a precise thrash masterpiece and one of the best Megadeth songs in years.

The Scorpion

A twisted guitar passage stands out as Mustaine recalls the fable about a scorpion hitching a ride across a river from a frog and stinging the frog, dooming both animals to death. The “scorpion” in this case is a human doing bad things simply because they will. A fantastic song even without the thrash.

Tears In A Vial

A more melodic tune in line with Megadeth’s “commercial” work of the 1990’s. It’s a song about someone walking away from some kind of relationship or thing. While the song veers into more accessible territory it’s still pretty good – the dark secret about Megadeth’s “radio rock” phase is that a lot of it was actually good.

I Know Jack

A very brief interlude at only 40 seconds. No lyrics here, instead a famous 1988 quote from US Senator and Vice Presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen is played over the riff. Bentsen was attacking rival Dan Quayle, who had compared himself to JFK. In fairness to Quayle, he was only comparing his time in Congress with JFK, but Bentsen’s response became pretty famous in political circles. Quayle, despite his bungling nature, would still wind up as Vice President under George Bush, mostly because we don’t vote for vice presidents.

Why is this track here? I have no idea.

Back In The Day

Here Mustaine pays tribute to the old thrash scene of the early ’80’s. A good track though maybe not as “thrashy” as one would expect from a song talking about that very thing.

Something That I’m Not

Mustaine launches a shot at someone who betrayed him on this song. It is most likely about Lars Ulrich. This song was a bit after Metallica’s Some Kind Of Monster film, which features Dave in a scene that gets mocked a lot. Dave apparently asked not to be in the film but his request was ignored, hence this song. A few years later everyone would start getting along better and the Big Four stuff would happen. The song itself isn’t really my cup of tea.

Truth Be Told

Here we have Mustaine handing out Bible references, probably in line with his “born again” status that happened sometime after his arm injury. The song is pretty good and doesn’t suffer for its religious influences, it ties in Bible stories with its points pretty well.

Mustaine would go on to use his religious beliefs to influence concert promoters to keep other bands off of festival line-ups that Megadeth were playing, most notably Rotting Christ and Dissection. The attempts were not always successful and it generated a lot of nastiness in the metal community at the time.

Of Mice And Men

While sharing a name with John Steinbeck’s famous story, the song has no other connection to the book. Here Dave is reflecting on his life and offering wisdom gained through experience. It’s another track that feels like it could have come from Cryptic Writings and it’s one I don’t mind hearing.

My Kingdom

After the interlude Shadow Of Deth, the album’s closer comes with Dave coming back to claim his kingdom after years away. He is directly referring to how Megadeth pursued areas outside of thrash and now the band is back and ready to get back to it. The song itself kind of misses the mark but the goods were delivered with the album as a whole.

The System Has Failed was a return to prominence for Megadeth – the album charted in several countries, including number 18 in the US. Reviews were positive and fan reception was good after several years in the murk and the break-up.

Initially this album was advertised as Megadeth’s last, with Dave wishing to do a Megadeth farewell tour and then pursue solo music. That did not quite happen and Megadeth would remain in existence to this day. It could be said that, in a way, it really is a Dave Mustaine solo project with a different name. The twists and turns of what happened with Megadeth’s lineups in the 2000’s could literally fill a book and is far more than I wish to get into here. In short, a new band was assembled for touring and members would come and go for years after, with no shortage of drama and weird shit.

But Dave Mustaine did successfully right the ship with The System Has Failed. While the back half of the album trails off some, the front is loaded with some of the best Megadeth songs in years. The new era had begun and more highlights were on the horizon.

Album Ranking – Metallica

It’s time to cap off Metallica week and that means it’s time for my album ranking. I’ll be going worst to first on the Metallica discography, sorting out the cream from the chaff (whatever that really means, I don’t know).

This ranking will include the ten full-length studio albums credited to Metallica. It will not include EP’s , singles, live albums with orchestras, live albums without orchestras, etc. It will also not include Lulu, the 2011 collaboration album with Lou Reed. That one is a bit tricky since it’s a full-length album that features the band in its entirety, but I’m going to go with the typical list that most people use. Also, Lulu is an abomination.

Let’s head into the waters here, I don’t think my list is radically unpredictable (mostly).

10 – St. Anger (2003)

This isn’t a hard call. I can find people in the wild who defend this album, but honestly I think it sounds bad and I have a hard time even listening to it. The production choices are beyond questionable, they’re flat out trash. And the songs are generally a mess. Finding a few diamonds in the shit doesn’t mean the album is redeemed in any way.

9 – Death Magnetic (2008)

This album is far, far better than its predecessor, but it’s still not all that great. The band did sound like they were trying again, but it also does sound like they are trying, rather than succeeding. And the album after this stands as proof that such is the case. There are a few nice songs on here, The Day That Never Comes stands out to me. But it’s not an album I feel like visiting much, or at all really.

8 – Reload (1997)

Kind of a “second half” album to their 1996 effort, Reload is a groove-based, almost blues and country styled album. A departure for Metallica, sure, but a pretty decent sounding effort overall. I do think this lacks real heavy hitters but it’s a collection of songs that are fine enough to listen to. I’d cite The Memory Remains as my favorite.

7 – Load (1996)

The band, not content with their 1991 reinvention, got haircuts and released some alt-metal. The world was abuzz about the physical and musical changes, but honestly they put out some stuff here that I really like. I think the first seven tracks are all bangers, that includes I think all of the singles. I like the last two songs as well – it’s the stuff inbetween that loses me a bit. If that were trimmed up some, I’d probably be ranking this one higher. I do truly think they wrote some really good songs here, regardless of what they were “supposed” to do.

6 – Hardwired … To Self Destruct (2016)

If Death Magnetic was supposed to be a return to form, Hardwired truly was, at least in places. Several of the songs here are the kind of bangers not really heard since 1991, if not even earlier. There are some secondary tracks on this huge album, to be sure, but even some of those are pretty nice. This album did recapture the magic in some way and it was damn nice to hear. The title track and Spit Out The Bone are the best work Metallica have cranked out in a very long time.

5 – The Black Album (1991)

I’d almost be cheeky and rank this lower but that would be dishonest – while I’m not in love with the whole thing, there some damn great songs on here. Wherever I May Roam and Sad But True are stellar songs, a handful of others are very nice and a few are good without being great. There are some, mostly towards the end of the album, that I can’t quite get into, but overall this was a success, both in my book and in the sales book. Can’t really argue with it.

4 – …And Justice For All (1988)

The first album without Cliff Burton could have went any number of ways, but Metallica were able to alter their formula some without sacrificing the core of their sound. Harvester Of Sorrow always gets me going, and One is a masterpiece and one of the band’s most iconic songs. While it sounds odd production wise (and lacking in bass), it makes up for that with a batch of great songs.

And this was the album I talked about in much more detail back on Monday – post here.

3 – Kill ‘Em All (1983)

The debut was a monster of a record – putting thrash on the map when the genre wasn’t a known quantity yet outside of local live scenes. This was very hard-hitting, fast and savage metal that pulled no punches and delivered a fist full of great songs. Not a weak note here and a still beloved collection of metal all these decades later.

2 – Master Of Puppets (1986)

The band’s third album is often cited as a “perfect” metal record, and for good reason. All eight songs are total masterpieces and every note hits hard. The album is crisp, clear and totally devastating. It set the band on a path of superstardom not touched by any other thrash act.

I had this record as an Album of the Week awhile back, here is that post.

1 – Ride The Lightning (1984)

Metallica’s second effort still possessed a bit of the savage energy found on the debut, but the songwriting refinement here ramped things up exponentially. Some stuff still hits heavy, like For Whom The Bell Tolls and Creeping Death. And the band’s first ballad Fade To Black was a metal masterpiece. While some find fault with a few songs on the album, especially Escape, nothing on the record bothers me any. I’ve played this album thousands of times and I’ll likely play it thousands more before I push up daisies.

Ride The Lightning has been an Album of the Week in the past, here is that post.

That does it for the Metallica album ranking. I doubt this is a “final” ranking as I would expect at least one more album, but all that can be sorted out down the road. And while I’ve talked plenty about them this week, this will be far from the final time I discuss Metallica on here – they are a lynchpin in heavy metal as well as my own musical formation.

Metallica – Creeping Death and Jump In The Fire

Today I’m going over the two Metallica singles I have in my collection, both on cassette. These are the early singles Creeping Death and Jump In The Fire. Both were released in Europe when Metallica was distributed by Music For Nations over there, I don’t think these singles ever got North America releases.

These are somewhat collectible, owing to them being Metallica releases. They aren’t all that rare and can be had without coughing up huge cash, at least for the cassettes. They do get price gouged a fair bit, but these aren’t worth a huge premium or anything.

Creeping Death

I’m going out of chronological order just because this one was sitting on top of the stack. First up is Creeping Death, from Ride The Lightning. It is absolutely one of my favorite Metallica songs. It’s one I’ll probably talk about in the future in more detail so I won’t get too much into it here, but it is a total beast of a song and is a staple in live sets, I believe it is their most played song. It really doesn’t get much better from Metallica.

The two B-sides are cover songs and are very iconic in Metallica lore. Up first is Am I Evil?, a song that has become an anthem for the originators, England’s own Diamond Head. While Diamond Head’s original did make some waves in the UK, they did not break international markets until Metallica’s cover.

The original is a fantastic tune and Metallica’s version is amazing. This might be the best cover song they ever did, and they’ve done quite a few. It was a boon to Diamond Head, who never broke huge but have had a respectable career.

The obscure picks for cover songs theme marches on with Blitzkrieg. This is a case of the song Blitzkrieg by the band Blitzkrieg. Sadly it was not also from the album Blitzkrieg, as it was a B-side to their debut single and they have never had a self-titled album.

This is also a well-executed cover and one that’s still a highlight of Metallica’s covers selection. Blitzkrieg the band have been on-again and off-again over the decades but were active as of 2019.

Jump In The Fire

The next single on the list is Jump In The Fire. This song is from the debut album Kill ‘Em All and the single was released in early 1984, roughly six months before Ride The Lightning hit shelves. This one has three tracks and repeats the program on both sides. I’ll still use A-side and B-side to denote things but I guess they aren’t technically correct terms here.

The A-side is a fantastic cut from the ferocious debut album. James Hetfield could wail back in the day and it’s on full display here. This is also one of Dave Mustaine’s contributions to the group (no shaking his immense influence).

The two B-sides promise live tracks in the form of Phantom Lord and Seek And Destroy, both also from the debut album. The thing is that both songs are fake live tracks – Metallica recorded alternate versions of the songs and added crowd noise to the recordings. Odd choice but I’m guessing capturing the band live during their first tours didn’t result in the best audio, so this was the chosen alternative. It’s fine from a curiosity standpoint but these B-sides clearly don’t push any real value.

That’s it for my Metallica cassette singles. Tomorrow I’ll wrap up Metallica week with my album ranking.

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.

Album Of The Week – October 3, 2022

I’m back to my normal posting schedule and I’m back to the album of the week with a no-doubter and an all-timer. It is the album that truly sucked me into heavy metal. It is one of my favorite albums of all-time, it is often considered the band’s magnum opus and it is hailed as one of the best offerings of the thrash genre. It is, without a doubt, one of the greatest pieces of recorded music in history.

Megadeth – Rust In Peace

Released September 24, 1990 via Capitol Records

My Favorite Tracks – Tornado Of Souls, Rust In Peace … Polaris, Hangar 18

Megadeth made waves on the up and coming thrash scene through the 1980’s. Dave Mustaine formed the band after being dismissed from Metallica and, well, all that’s had volumes written about it so on to the album.

Rust In Peace marked the dawn of Megadeth’s most stable line-up – Dave Mustaine on guitars and vocals, Marty Friedman made his Megadeth debut on lead guitar, then-trusty sidekick Dave Ellefson remained on bass and Nick Menza made his recording debut after joining the band a year prior.

All credit to Ellefson and Menza for holding down the backline with precision, but this album is known for one thing and it’s guitars. What Friedman and Mustaine got up to here is a master class in guitar performance. Even in the guitar-centric realm of thrash, this is unparalleled stuff.

There is one note to make before anyone goes running to Spotify to listen to this masterpiece – the album was remastered in 2004 and Mustaine made the curious choice to re-record some vocal tracks. The result was pretty awful and the 2004 remaster lives in infamy among Megadeth fans. The original version of this album is the one to seek out.

There are nine tracks with a time of 40 minutes to get to and there’s a fair bit to discuss, so off to it.

Holy Wars/The Punishment Due

Two singles were released and they are conveniently located as the first two tracks of the album. This dual-titled beast begins with some all-out thrash and sets the tone for the record to come. The topic here is conflict, the song was inspired by Mustaine seeing bootleg Megadeth merch that supported the IRA.

The song slows down for The Punishment Due, an interlude that was apparently inspired by The Punisher of Marvel comics. The song winds back up into a frenzy, featuring a great many guitars, before concluding.

Hangar 18

Here the band offer a massive thrash tune about the alien crash landing theories surrounding Hangar 18 in Ohio and Area 51 in Nevada. A few brief verses roll off, followed by the very brief chorus and then – guitars. A whole hell of a lot of guitars as Mustaine and Friedman go off with something like 11 solos in the space of a few minutes. Even on an album full of guitar heroics, Hangar 18 stands out for them.

The song became iconic for the band and was a central focus of the imagery surrounding the record. Megadeth would go skydiving near Area 51 for an episode of Headbanger’s Ball on MTV and a sequel to the song would surface in 2001.

Take No Prisoners

This cut discusses the horrors of war by way of accounting its brutality. It is yet another fantastic slab of thrash. It was also the central focus of re-recording on the 2004 remaster and in my opinion it was totally botched.

Five Magics

Here Megadeth play Dungeons and Dragons on a tale of a wizard’s adventure to obtain the necessary magic to defeat a monster. While the song’s protagonist practices magic, Megadeth’s weapon of choice is – you probably guessed it – the guitar. Friedman uses the song’s first several minutes to just play solo after solo. Whatever monster that wizard is facing has no idea what’s coming for him.

Poison Was The Cure

A song about Mustaine’s long struggles with heroin. Ellefson’s bass opens the brief tune and then the band slams through the proceedings in a bit of groovy fashion. While still certainly thrash, there’s a good bit of rock and roll feel here.


Here we have a song composed about a ghost that Mustaine thought was in his attic. It’s a fittingly creepy tune that still keeps the thrash and guitar attack going full steam ahead.

Tornado Of Souls

Exiting the realms of war and fantasy for a moment, this song is simply about ending a relationship and getting back into the world with a winning attitude. It’s also, in my estimation, the ultimate expression of everything that works about this album. It’s a fantastic composition, with the guitars, lyrics and everything coming together to kick the ass of anyone listening.

Tornado Of Souls has become one of Megadeth’s most popular cuts, having been played live extensively and often hailed as one of their best overall tracks.

Dawn Patrol

This very creepy, short song has Mustaine snarl through an Ellefson bass line to illustrate people living underground after an environmental disaster, such as the nuclear holocaust about to come in the next song. In a way it’s more of an interlude or intro piece, but it took on its own life as a curiosity from the album.

Rust In Peace … Polaris

The album closes with the title track and the song is inevitably about the subject the title confers – nuclear war. The lyrics are sung from what seems to be the perspective of a mad tyrant unleashing nuclear hell but the perspective is apparently that of the missile itself.

This track doesn’t feature any guitar solos in an effort to let the song communicate its own excellence. Still plenty of nice and nasty riffs to be had and the lyrics basking in the world-ending nuclear conflict make their points well.

Rust In Peace was hailed upon release as one of the finest moments in thrash metal. Megadeth would see their profile raise considerably during the album’s cycle. The album went platinum in the US and its legacy as a masterpiece has been cemented over the ensuing decades. People love making lists of “best of” thrash and metal, and people love putting Rust In Peace on those lists.

For me this was the album that truly hooked me on the heavier side of metal. I was already into Iron Maiden and I’d heard other thrash albums before, but this one just grabbed me and took my soul. From then on it was a race to find the heaviest stuff out there, and in many respects that race is still going 32 years later.

While Megadeth would go on with a lot of ups and downs over the years since 1990, there is no denying the place Rust In Peace holds in the band’s legacy. A whole new generation of musicians influenced by the album would revive thrash in the 2000’s and bring new life to the genre thought dead. It is a legacy secure in the riffs and plentiful solos.

Album Of The Week – July 25, 2022

This week’s pick is one that was always going to wind up here, the only question was when. I could write about the album in my sleep and I could probably write this without hitting play on it (though I will). But all the fuss raised up over the title track’s use in a hit TV shows means the time to talk about it is now.

Metallica – Master Of Puppets

Released March 3, 1986 via Elektra Records

My Favorite Tracks – Damage Inc., Disposable Heroes, Welcome Home (Sanitarium)

Metallica’s third album would showcase some polish and a very consistent approach. The band would make waves after its release as the record gained momentum without the benefit of radio or MTV play. It would go one be considered one of the band’s finest moments, even as tragedy cut short the album’s touring cycle.

It’s a fairly lean track list with eight songs but there’s almost an hour’s worth of music to get into. Let’s dive in to one of heavy metal’s most noteworthy albums. Also, a note – the videos posted are all live performances that may not reflect everything discussed in the post, and were also performances after the death of Cliff Burton.


Opening with one hell of a thrash attack. The song is a scorching track that pays tribute to the band’s fans, being the “battery” that Metallica draws from during shows. It’s also a reference to San Francisco’s Battery Street, where Metallica roamed in their early days. This song showcases how Metallica were able to retain the savagery of their early career while also refining their sound.

Master Of Puppets

The title track is a mammoth epic clocking in at 8:36. The long runtime did not deter fans – the song is one of the band’s most popular and stands as the track played live the most in the group’s 40-year career. The song tackles the issue of drug addiction and how the drugs wind up being the master controlling the user.

Master Of Puppets was the only single released from the album. The song did ok on the charts for a single not supported by video play at all and very light radio play, thrash wasn’t a radio gem in 1986. The song would chart again in 2022 when its use in a pivotal scene in the hit Netflix show Stranger Things sent the world to discover or re-discover it again.

The Thing That Should Not Be

A slower number that sees Metallica again visit the H.P. Lovecraft eldritch horror universe. It is a suitably heavy, doom-laden track about a sinister horror driving victims to madness. It is a track that gets flack in some circles but it’s one I enjoy. The song was massively influential to one Brian Warner, who would go on to become Marilyn Manson.

Welcome Home (Sanitarium)

A noted highlight from the album comes in the form of a song similar in form and spirit to Ride The Lightning’s epic Fade To Black. Making use of slower and haunting instrumentation, the song paints an explicit picture of being abused inside a mental facility. The song was reportedly influenced by the movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

This is another showcase of how Metallica were able to do far more than just beat the listener into submission. The song does ramp up the aggression after a long build but its desolate harmonies in the early verses are its calling card.

Disposable Heroes

Another marathon busting the 8-minute mark, this titanic effort tackles a soldier being sacrificed on the battlefield by a ruthless, uncaring leader. It is a stark look at the horrors of war, a subject often brought up by Metallica. Even with the long run time, this song is fast and unrelenting throughout.

Leper Messiah

This song slows things down a hair but doesn’t let up on the heaviness at all. It is a look at a conman preacher, a favorite target of ’80’s metal bands (who were often the favorite targets of said preachers). The song does pick up the pace as it goes along, establishing a series of movements and an ear toward arrangement and composition beyond the usual scope of thrash.


Metallica had one instrumental song on each of their prior releases and kept the ball rolling with this one. The song is a trippy, out there track that is the brainchild of bassist Cliff Burton. Much of the unconventional noise is coming from his bass. Parts of the song do thrash along in more standard ways.

Damage Inc.

The album closer is an absolutely pummeling affair that starts attacking the listener just after a quiet intro ends. The song describes a corporation (Damage, Incorporated) that mows over humanity in its quest to get bigger. It’s cool that the band were able envision these dystopian kind of horror scenarios that don’t reflect reality at all…

Master Of Puppets would serve to further the career of Metallica and lead the group to new heights of success. The album sold well out of the gate and the band landed a coveted opening spot on Ozzy Osbourne’s American tour, playing arenas for a five month haul.

As the band were trekking Europe that September, a bus accident in Sweden would claim the life of bassist Cliff Burton. The band decided to press on, hiring Flotsam And Jetsam bassist Jason Newsted as the new member.

Though the tour cycle for Master Of Puppets was cut short, the album has gone on to hold a significant place in the band’s catalog and in heavy metal overall. This album, alongside Slayer’s Reign In Blood, Megadeth’s Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? And Anthrax’s Among The Living would establish the “Big Four” of thrash metal. Thrash itself would see a huge spike in popularity through the remainder of the decade and Metallica were often hailed as the ultimate practitioners of the craft.

Master Of Puppets is often regarded as a “perfect” album and the quintessential thrash record. It is toward the top of countless “best of metal” lists and sees a spot at or near the top of most any Metallica album ranking. Its legacy is immense and casts a massive shadow over the world of heavy metal.

And that legacy continues on. 36 years past its release and long after the band set aside thrash and became one of the world’s biggest musical acts, the song Master Of Puppets has taken on a new life through its use in Stranger Things. Not that Metallica necessarily needed the rub, but the frenzy from the show has copies of the album flying off record store shelves again. A new generation of fans are jumping in to the pit, and so it goes for the titans of heavy metal.

Album Of The Week – April 11, 2022

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

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

The Crown – Deathrace King

Released May 3, 2000 via Metal Blade Records

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

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

Death Explosion

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

Executioner: Slayer Of The Light

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

Back From The Grave

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

Devil Gate Ride

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

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


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

Rebel Angel

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

I Won’t Follow

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

Blitzkrieg Witchcraft

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

Dead Man’s Song

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

Total Satan

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

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

Killing Star

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

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

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

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