Metallica – Ride the Lightning (1984)

I will get a lot of flak about this, but I’m not a big fan of this album. It’s not horrible, but to me, it’s nothing more than a mid-point between the near-perfect Kill ‘Em All and the completely perfect Master of Puppets. It doesn’t have any of the raw aggression of the former, or the fine detail or complex workmanship of the latter. It’s got good songs, and sounds okay, but it’s not an album like …Puppets. Continue reading

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Metallica- Kill ‘Em All (1983)

There’s a rumor that this album was going to be called Metal Up Your Ass until their label’s legal team got a little concerned, and I wonder if Metallica would have become the era’s first and biggest thrash metal band if this record were not injected into every mall and record shop across the country. The four horsemen took a pile of NWOBHM metal influences from earlier European bands and mixed them with some early punk/hardcore and a dash of Motorhead to brew up these ten tracks of aggression that pretty much set the gold standard for all thrash and metal bands to follow. Continue reading

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Metallica – …And Justice For All (1988)

After assuring their fans that they were alive and kicking with Jason Newsted on the bass, the remaining three horsemen plus newkid went into the studio with Flemming Rasmussen for the first five months of 1988 to record the successor to Master of Puppets. What came out was something that people either considered a great album, more conceptual and a bit speedier than the prior, or a bloated, badly produced example of a big band getting too big. Either way, it stands as an interesting historical note, because it’s after Cliff Burton, the major driving force of the band’s early career, had died, and it’s right before the band decided to trade in metal for hard rock and go to producer Bob Rock for their self-titled black album, which many new fans consider the real start to their career.

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Joe Satriani – Dreaming #11 (1988)

This four-song EP was released in 1988 after Satriani’s big breakthrough Surfing With the Alien, and was largely a keep-alive of tracks from the tour, with a single studio number. At only 22 minutes, it’s not a high-value purchase, but it was the first look at Joe’s live work, and has a great new song on it, too. Continue reading

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Queensryche – Q2K (1999)

When I was in college, I dated a girl who was probably a bigger Queensryche fan than me. And when listening to a snippet of their music, she’d sometimes say things like “Oh, that’s a Chris song”, and roll her eyes, apparently bemoaning the songwriting ability of guitarist Chris DeGarmo. The habit made me realize that up until that point, I’d never even considered how the power structure within the band operated. Queensryche has two guitar players, who initially formed the band, but they are usually both referred to as “lead/rhythm guitar” and without studying some videos or going to a bunch of live shows, it’s not apparent who’s taking what solos. Contrast that with a band like Guns N’ Roses, where you know Slash plays the lead and Izzy’s on the rhythm guitar. So after almost ten years of not thinking about it, I wondered, who was the driving force behind the band? Who was in charge? Was Geoff Tate the ringleader, or just the guy brought in by the real brains of the band to front them? Who was the John and Paul, and who was the Ringo?
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Psychodots – Blotter (1994)

If you’re not up on your extended Frank Zappa lineage, you might not know anything about this Cincinnati-based trio. I’m probably fucking this up, but I think the origins go like this: there was a band called the Raisins, and they recorded an album that was produced by former Zappa guitarrist Adrian Belew. Then they all got together and formed a Chicinatti-based band called The Bears. After two albums and a few years of touring, the band split up and Belew went solo. But the core trio of the band stayed together and called themselves the Psychodots. They also, oddly enough, toured with Belew, both opening for him and serving as his backing band. I saw them on that tour in ’94, and despite the fact that my friend Steve Simms is the biggest Zappa fanatic ever, therefore being huge fans of these guys too, I’d never heard note one of them until this show. I was so blown away, I bought the Blotter CD and then played it 20,000 times over the course of that summer. Continue reading

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Rush – 2112 (1976)

If you ask many music fans what the best concept album ever is, they will all answer 2112. This is because they’re stupid. I’m not saying that this is a bad album; I’m saying that it’s not a concept album. It contains one really long concept song on the A-side, and a bunch of useless filler on the B-side. And that mental disconnect is the difference between an album that everyone remembers as really great and an album that is really great.

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Metallica – Garage Days Re-Revisited (1987)

When this 1987 EP came out, every Metallifan immediately rushed to the store to pick it up, because it was the first release from the band since the death of bassist and mastermind Cliff Burton. It was also proof that the band could go on after the loss of their best member, because many people expected them to fall into a heavy alcoholic daze and jump off a bridge. But the band, in some kind of denial tactic, quickly auditioned a million bassists (and bass players), chose Jason Newsted, and rushed into a homemade studio to record this five-track EP of covers as a sort of proof of concept. Continue reading

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Anacrusis – Screams and Whispers (1993)

Not many people remember this St. Louis-based metal unit, except for the music critics who claim they were one of the era’s best bands, but were simply lost in the shuffle of the whole Death Metal craze of the time. And guess what – I’m a bit of an amateur music critic, and when Marco at Metal Blade sent me these demos at the beginning of ’93, I loved the prog-gy rock band. Here’s the review I wrote in Xenocide back in the day: Continue reading

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Rush – A Show of Hands (1989)

The first concert I ever attended was Rush at the old Rosemont Horizon in Chicago, supporting the Hold Your Fire album. Imagine my amazement when I found that the exact tour I saw was released as a live album! They didn’t record the same show (thank god – the sound at that place was similar to recording a live album inside a large oil storage drum), but they did capture the spirit with the fifteen tracks recorded for this CD. I think if I would have reviewed this back in 1989 when it was released, I would have given it a ten. I think it’s interesting to come back to this two decades later and give it a second look. Continue reading

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