heavy metal

Everyday is Halloween Anthology – Ministry

Release Year: 2010

Rating: 6/10

Every band has a slow period between recording albums and touring. This makes it prime time for random compilation records to keep sales up. Greatest hits, remix, and sometimes rarities albums are what artists turn to hoping fans will eat it up. That must have been the case with this Ministry release. The band wasn’t satisfied with a straightforward compilation with only their singles or only remixes. They decided to do a hybrid release mixing hits with remixes and covers. Now the question is was it worth it?

This album isn’t sure what it wants to be. Is it a retrospective? A cover album? A remix record? The first half is nothing but classic Ministry songs re-recorded and remastered. Why? I don’t know. The songs, “NWO,” “Jesus Built My Hotrod,” and “Stigmata” all sound similar to their original counterparts. Sure, that may be the point, but it makes them unnecessary. It’s not like the band change the tracks drastically. Usually, it’s more distorted vocals that are hard to make out and louder gritty guitars. The remix of “Everyday is Halloween” is pretty good, but since it has more of a heavy metal vibe, it sounds like a Rob Zombie song.

You would think the saving grace would be the covers. Well, they’re not horrible. The band plays it straight with most of the songs, like “Paint it Black” and “Sharp Dressed Man.” They keep the same format and vibe of the track and add in lots of guitars. The same goes for “Thunderstruck” and “Stranglehold.” Whereas the latter track has an industrial groove, the former is pretty true to the original. The only problem is Al Jourgensen’s vocals don’t exactly work with the song. While these covers aren’t terrible, they’re pretty bland and forgettable.

The “Iron Man” cover is actually the best cover on the album. They take the unmistakable riff from the classic Black Sabbath track and integrate it with their fast paced, synth electro madness. Instead of keeping the dark and gloomy mood, they turn it into something chaotic, wild, and destructive. They really make the song their own without shitting all over the original. It’s something both Sabbath and Ministry fans will appreciate.

One of the strangest, yet more entertaining covers is Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.” As you would expect, it’s the complete opposite of the original. It’s insanity incarnate with Jourgensen screaming “They try to make go to rehab/and I said/No!/No!/No!” It’s kind of an ironic cover since he had his own drug problems over the years. With the hard driving music, brutal nature, and aggressive vocals, the cover is certainly unique. It’s not necessarily good, but it’s so ridiculous and intense it’s hard not to like it.

Even though it’s an interesting idea, the album is unsatisfying. The remastered songs are pointless and most of the covers are bland. It seems like they needed to release something, did some covers, but needed more material to pad out the LP. It would’ve been better off if it was released as a short covers EP. The album is one of those forgettable albums that gets old after the first few tracks. After listening to this, I’m convinced cover albums are never a good idea.

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Musical Quickie: Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids Live

Release Year: 2000

Rating: 6/10

I don’t actively seek out bootlegs, but I’ve been lucky enough to pick up a few during my travels. This Marilyn Manson one caught my eye in a record store because it featured the first live recordings from the Spooky Kids era. Unfortunately, it’s not very good. This bootleg from Nightingale Records takes an early performance from the band when they were known as Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids, along with some video from the same show. While it is cool to have live versions of these recordings since they haven’t been officially released, this album makes the show dull. The audio quality is decent at best making Manson’s banter sound muffled. The songs themselves are mainly early versions of tracks from the band’s first album Portrait of an American Family, like “Dope Hat,” “Cake and Sodomy,” and “Lunchbox.” It’s not made for listening to regularly, rather it shows how the songs are fleshed out with only slightly different lyrics. Otherwise, there’s nothing special about this bootleg. You can probably find better versions of these songs on another bootleg release. I can’t say much about the videos since they wouldn’t run on my computer. But they can be found on the unofficial DVD Birth of the Antichrist. You can even watch the show on Youtube. Unless you find this one cheap and want it for your collection, it’s best to avoid it.

Metallica (The Black Album) – Metallica

Release Year: 1991

Rating: 9.5/10

By the late 80s, Metallica was one of the most successful thrash metal bands on the scene. With Master of Puppets being one of their bestselling albums, no one thought they could top it. Then the Black Album happened. This is the record that launched the band from thrash cult heroes to heavy metal superstars. Not only was it met with critical acclaim, there was also backlash and anger. But whatever your feelings are on the album you can’t deny how it’s changed both the band and heavy metal.

But before we get into what makes the album so different, we have to talk about “Enter Sandman,” still one of Metallica’s best songs. Everything about it is a beast from James Hetfield’s singing to the iconic guitar riff. Thanks to its memorable chorus and more rock oriented sound, the song caught a commercial following, which sparked many to cry “sell outs.” But you can’t deny how fucking awesome the song is. It starts with the sparse riff while the rest of the music builds up around it, leaving listeners anticipating for the big explosion. And when it happens it’s so satisfying. The lyrics are also notable as they take sleep, which is supposed to be comforting, and turn it into a nightmare. Even the sandman, who is supposed to an innocent fairy tale, turns into a monster you don’t want to meet. It’s not only one of the band’s best songs, it’s one of the best heavy metal songs ever.

Prior to this record, the band was known for playing fast and having extended solos. For this release, they slow things down. “Sad But True” is still a ferocious, intense track, but compared to their past efforts it’s pretty slow. The guitars grind along while the rest of the music is sludgy. The same goes for the anthemic “Wherever I May Roam.” It starts what sounds like a sitar setting this ominous air before being taken over by guitars building on top of one another. Things finally speed up only to slow down again when James Hetfield growls”…and the road becomes my bride.” But perhaps the biggest change comes in all the ballads on the album.

The band previously tackled ballads with songs like “One” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” but they’re completely redone here. The somber “The Unforgiven” features soft vocals from Hetfield as if he’s singing from a broken place. And while there are moments where the music gets heavy during the verses, much of it sounds like light classical guitar playing. It’s almost…pretty, which you don’t expect from a Metallica song. But the most genre defying song on the record is the heartbreaking “Nothing Else Matters.” By incorporating stringed instruments and an orchestral sound, Metallica were taking a giant risk with this track. Even the guitars are light sounding like something from a lullaby. With these two unlikely genres successfully coming together, there’s a dramatic vibe that grows as the song continues. It’s a sentimental track about Hetfield missing his girlfriend that he never intended to release publicly. Right from the line “never opened myself this way” you know Hetfield is speaking from somewhere private and personal. Thankfully Lars Ulrich got Hetfield to change his mind about the song; it’s a stand out track on an already stellar album.

Not only is the album notable for its shift in music, it’s also their most personal. For many of the songs, Hetfield and Ulrich turned inward for inspiration. There’s the aforementioned “Nothing Else Matters” about missing a loved one, but there’s also the brutal track “The God That Failed.” The song is already intense and heavy with Hetfield’s vocal delivery and the music, but the song gets even darker when its story is revealed. The song is about Hetfield’s mother dying of cancer and not seeking medical relief due to her Christian Science beliefs. Suddenly, his anger and spitfire venom makes sense. He’s criticizing a religious system and how it wasn’t there for her in the end though she devoted her life to it. This gives the aggressive track a deeper meaning, yet is still depressing giving listeners insight to what the frontman was going through at the time. It’s a powerful track both musically and lyrically.

Even though this album shows Metallica heading in a different musical direction, there are still some elements of thrash metal here. “Through the Never” starts with guitars that race out of the gate and dares listeners to keep up with them. Everything about the song is heart pumping and in your face, which is often when Metallica are at their best. “The Struggle Within” follows a similar route with speeding guitars and lots of energy. It ends the album on a fiery note as if to say the band hasn’t forgotten where they came from.

There’s no question Metallica changed with this album and some would say for the worse looking at their output after this release. Yet, it’s still an amazing record that showed Metallica could do more than just play fast and loud. They may have moved away from their thrash roots, but they expanded both as songwriters and musicians. And they did a damn good job of it. Every song on the record feels like it has a purpose. Even if its a ballad, it still has the intensity and fire that made them so viscous. They were still angry, but they were also vulnerable and wounded something we rarely saw before. They grew as musicians, took risks, and made an album they were happy with. Looking back at it, the changes they made no longer seem drastic. Many metal bands vary their sound and it seems Metallica paved the way for that. No matter your feelings about the album, it’s still one of the best in metal history.

The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser – Rob Zombie

Release Year: 2016

Rating: 8.5/10

Rob Zombie’s last few albums have been, well, just okay. Something about them didn’t have that fire and heaviness of his best material. For a while it seemed like he was too distracted to actually focus on music. On his latest, Zombie takes on music with the same venom and spooky nature that made him a staple in heavy metal. Returning to his metal roots and keeping this short and sweet has made this one of Zombie’s strongest albums to date.

The dark, gritty mood is set with the opening track “The Last of the Demons Defeated.” This one is classic Zombie all the way with the creepy noises, sampling, and screaming set against crunchy guitars. Rob Zombie then comes on repeating “Electric Warlock Acid Witch.” It’s a brief track, but it will peak listener’s interest and does give a taste of what’s to come. “Satanic Cyanide! The Killer Rocks On!” oddly enough seems like a throwback to the rocker’s White Zombie days. This track isn’t groovy or lightening fast. Instead it lulls at a slow, dragging pace and everything sounds like it’s caked in mud. It makes you feel drugged and heavy when listening to it. In terms of style and tone, it’s the heaviest on the record. It’s not the strongest song on the album, but it’s pretty decent.

Zombie has never strayed too far from rock music, but in recent years some of his albums have been more hard rock or psychedelic rock oriented. With this record, it seems Zombie wants to get back to his hey-day of supernatural heavy/groove metal. This is plainly heard on the infectious “The Life and Times of a Teenage Rock God.” From the tribal drum opening to Zombie’s growling vocals, everything about it is reminiscent of “Living Dead Girl.” It even has the same flow and style of the song. The track manages to be memorable with the hard music and simple hook of “I’m a teenage rock god,” but you can suspect part of the reason it’s so good is its ties to the successful Zombie single.

Another song that’ll make Zombie fans think back is the kick ass “In the Age of the Consecrated Vampire we All Get High,” which has a similar electric, staticy intro as “More Human Than Human.” But that’s where the comparisons end. The track is everything a Zombie song should be: intense, high energy, kind of eerie, and lots of fun. Aside from this, the songs are more hard edge, dirty, and aggressive than they have been in recent years. Even though the entire track is really strange and somewhat off putting, “Well, Everybody’s Fucking in a U.F.O.” still has a great start/stop guitar riff that’s hard to resist. Zombie’s country vocal style is strange, but the song grows on you after a while. “Medication For the Melancholy” is an explosion of hard guitars racing towards an end, while Zombie growls through the lyrics. The whole thing is a mass of rapid energy that’ll get listeners moshing wherever they are.

Zombie returns to the psychedelic realm on “The Hideous Exhibitions of a Dedicated Gore Whore,” which begins with a memorable sample of “Wow, you fucking whore.” Unlike the other tracks, which have loud, distorted guitars, this one has more of a groove. The psychedelic vibe comes in with 60s-esque keys blaring. Hearing them makes you picture bikini girls in fringe outfits and go-go boots doing the Watusi. Zombie returns to hard rock on the straight forward and somewhat forgettable “In the Bone Pile.” It’s another hardcore song that’ll get your blood racing, but there’s very little that makes it stand out.

He switches things up slightly on “Get Your Boots On! That’s The End of Rock and Roll,” which has this bouncy, pep rally feel to it similar to Marilyn Manson’s “Fight Song.” This one is upbeat and has a lot of energy and Zombie is infectious when he chants “Gabba gabba hey!” and “Wham bam thank you mam!” This is one that’ll get crowds jumping in unison at live shows. Up until this point that album is a raucous ride of partying with Rob Zombie. It’s not until the final track, “Wurdalak” that we come to a stop. Being the longest track on the LP at over six minutes, it drags on too long. Zombie mumbles his way through it while the music trudges on at a snail’s pace. This gives way to a light, acoustic outro that finishes the song. Again, not terrible, but dull compared to the other songs.

As Rob Zombie explored other outlets in his career, it seemed like music was taking a backseat seeing his last few lackluster albums. But this one shows he’s still got. It gets back to Zombie’s heavy metal, aggressive roots, but never sounds like he’s repeating himself. Most of the songs are wild, upbeat, fun, and just a rocking good time. The songs may be short, but they give you a taste, making you want more until you have to hear the album one more time. This is the best album Zombie has put out in years. He’s clearly not done making us groove yet.

Originally posted on Chicago Music

Playlist: What a Knock Out

Music and fighting seem to go hand and hand. But I’m not talking about a fight for your rights, your inner self, or anything like that. I’m talking about songs that take pride in knocking someone’s teeth in. Not all the songs on the playlist specifically reference physical fights, but the music, themes, and lyrics still get the mood across. So Vaseline your face and crack your knuckles, here are songs to start a fight to.

“Mama Said Knock You Out” – LL Cool J

This was one of my favorite songs when I was younger solely because of that memorable hook. It was so much fun running around the school yard shouting “mama said knock you out” until someone tattled on you. Both the song and the video featuring LL Cool J in a boxing ring spitting into the microphone are iconic. He may not be talking about an actual physical fight, but the theme of the song is perfect for this playlist. Cool J says inspiration for the song came from a conversation with his grandmother about his critics. Many of them felt his career was over and she told him “Oh baby, just knock them out!” She’s even featured at the end of the video telling the rapper to take out the garbage.

“The Fight Song” – Marilyn Manson

This song is meant to mock school fight songs, but Manson’s harsh vocals and the punchy guitars still get you riled up. The way Manson screams “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!” at the end of each verse is so vile and aggressive you’re ready to break something. The song itself is actually a commentary on the Columbine shooting and condemning America’s obsession with violence. The video itself received some backlash since it pits goths against jocks in a mock football game. Some saw it as a direct echoing of Columbine, which doesn’t make any sense. Still Manson didn’t let it get to him on this stellar track.

“Move Bitch” – Ludacris

Ludacris is always great at providing music to stomp someone to. There’s “Get Back” and “Stand Up” that have similar themes, but it’s this single that’s the best. Whether you’re stuck in traffic, walking behind someone slow, or just ready to start brawling this is the song to get you pumped. How many times have you actually wanted to tell someone to get the fuck out of your way? It’s a simple song with thumping music and a lot of cursing to get your blood flowing and the punches going. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun even if you’re not looking to start a fight. Is it just me or does it seem like Luda wants to start a riot with his songs?

“Fighter” – Christina Aguilera

This song may not be about fighting someone, but it still applies. What has got to be Christina Aguilera’s best song to date, the track talks about taking all the bad and internalizing it. As a result, she comes out stronger, smarter, and better for it. This is an anthem for the ages, which is exactly what Aguilera wanted. Her powerful voice matched with the blazing guitars and harsh vibe of the music makes this a kick ass song ready to pump you up and face the world.

“Punch in the Face” – Ministry

Can’t get more straightforward than this song. This song is straight to the point with Al Jourgensen repeating “Nothing satisfies like a punch in the face/nothing quite like another punch in the face.” It’s not the best Ministry song, but it’s oddly satisfying when you need to blow off some steam.

“Fight” – The Cure

It’s hard to imagine any of the Cure guys getting into a nasty brawl, but it’s actually happened quite a few times during the band’s history. Similar to other songs here, this is more about fighting those inner demons and pain that aims to bring you down. The music is pretty intense while Robert Smith shouts “Fight! Fight! Fight!” begging you to not give in to the pain and the nightmares. I used to think the song was about former Cure bandmate Lol Tholhurst, who Smith had a falling out with, but that song is actually called “Shiver and Shake.”

“Fight Music” – D12

This song is all about getting into a fight and throwing down. It doesn’t try to mask its violent intentions and Eminem makes it clear what they want with the first line: “This kind of music, use it, and you get amped to do shit.” Like most songs featuring the infamous rapper, the track is not only violent, but obscene with references to Bizarre having sex with his grandmother, guns spraying, and even threatening to blow up Dru Hill. Anyone whose a fan knows it’s just another day in the life of Slim Shady, who is ready to take on anybody and everybody no matter the consequences.

“In Your Face” – Children of Bodom

With the way Children of Bodom attack their guitars, it seems like they would never back down from a fight. They’re practically begging for one in this stellar track. Everything about the song is seething with aggression from the roaring guitars and of course, Alexi Laiho’s howling vocals and anguished yells. Just from the title of the song alone you can feel the attitude steaming off of this song. At one point Laiho even says “Say one, more word, I double dare you (bring it on)/It’s my world, you’re in it, it’ll take you down in a minute.” Even if it’s exclusively about knocking the shit out of someone, it still exudes that adrenaline rush that happens right before the first punch lands.

“The Last Fight” – Bullet For My Valentine

Bullet are never hold back with their songs. Many of theme have violent themes and images, so it’s a little odd how this track about fighting doesn’t shed any blood. If anything it sounds like they’re doing their best to avoid a fight, but in the end they’ll fight one last time. The song can actually be construed as a fight for anything whether it’d be physical or not making it all the more universal. Personally, I don’t think it’s one of their strongest songs, but when they bash it out in concert you can’t help but pump your fists in the air.

“You’re Going Down” – Sick Puppies

I honestly don’t know much about Sick Puppies. I’ve seen their name quite a few times, but never bothered to listen to them. While searching for songs for the playlist this one came up several times and it’s pretty perfect. With the main hook of “One of us is going down” it’s clear what the song is about: getting down and dirty in a fight. Judging from the lyrics and the aggressive tone of the song, these guys aren’t backing down from a fight anytime soon. With such a straight forward title and the violent nature of the song, it’s no wonder the WWE has used it in their events.

“Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” – Elton John

The song is pretty self-explanatory. Elton John wants to meet up with the guys and raise some hell. Whether that means getting drunk, causing trouble, and getting into fights it doesn’t matter as long as he “gets a little action in.” Rather than running away from a fight or trying to release some anger, John and crew are looking for a fight to have some fun. Elton John has a lot of popular songs in his catalog, but this is one of his most well known. It’s no surprise to learn it was based off of pub fights at the Aston Arms. Why does it seem like pubs and fighting go together like peanut butter and jelly?

Which one of these fight songs gets you riled up? Which brutal song did I miss? Let me know in the comment!