heavy metal

Playlist: Rock Duets

Sometimes a duet is the best thing in the world. Other times, it’s a disaster. But it always leaves memorable stories. There’s something about two huge musicians getting together to create music that’s thrilling and exciting. Pop music is full of countless duets, but they don’t seem as popular for rock music. They certainly exist; they’re just not as abundant as they are in pop music. So let’s look at some of the most notable and popular duets in rock music. For the purpose of this playlist, a duet is a song where both artists have an equal amount of time on the track.

“Close My Eyes Forever” – Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne

This is probably the most famous rock duet. The song, which apparently came about as an accident according to Sharon Osbourne, was the third single for Lita Ford’s self-titled debut album. With sappy lyrics and a blazing guitar solo, it’s no different from the many power ballads of the era. Ozzy’s haunting vocals do add an eerie touch to the song, but it’s still pretty cheesy. Though I love Osbourne, I never liked this song. It’s too slow for my tastes and is just corny. Then again, I’d be hard press to find one power ballad from the 80s I actually like. Still, this single stands out as one of the most notable duets in rock music.

“Love Interruption” – Jack White and Ruby Amanfu

The music world went a little nuts when Jack White announced a solo album only a year after the White Stripes ended. The debut single “Love Interruption” wasn’t what people expected. There were no roaring riffs and White screaming over screeching guitars. Instead, the song is mellow, subdued, and a bit cynical. Though White could’ve easily carried the song himself, the addition of Amanfu’s smoky vocals adds an understated sensuality to the song. Something about her voice adds a raspy, soulful nature that would’ve been missing otherwise. I actually think it’s one of the strongest tracks from Blunderbuss and serves as a reminder love isn’t always pretty.

“Dancing in the Street” – Mick Jagger and David Bowie

Two of music’s iconic artists, what could go wrong? To be fair, the cover itself isn’t that bad. There’s nothing particularly special about it, but it’s fun at least. Yet, the music video will go down in infamy. It’s unbelievably bad. Jagger exaggerates everything from his facial expressions to his seizure inducing dance moves. Bowie remains cool though it looked like he left the house in some wild pajamas. And don’t forget the scene where Jagger chugs down a soda while Bowie sings. It’s probably one of the worst videos of the 80s. Hell, even Family Guy said it was the gayest music video in history. Thinking about it, there are moments where the two singers get a little too close for comfort.

“State of Shock” – Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger shows up again for a better collaboration with Michael Jackson. Recorded for The Jackson’s album Victory, the song is a raucous and kind of spastic team up with the rocker. The song was originally meant to be a duet with Freddie Mercury for the Thriller album, but scheduling conflicts kept the two from working together. Jagger was called instead and it ended up being his biggest hit away from The Rolling Stones. It’s one of those unexpected hits from Jackson’s catalog, but it’s one of the finest examples of pop and rock colliding. Later on, Jackson said he Jagger sang off key, while Jagger called Jackson “lightweight.” Anyone else think the Freddie Mercury version would’ve been epic?

“Good Times” – INXS and Jimmy Barnes

When two talented vocalists come together, they often try to outshine each other. That’s not the case here. For their contribution to The Lost Boys soundtrack, INXS teamed up with singer/songwriter Jimmy Barnes on this cover of The Easybeats song. Michael Hutchences’ smoldering vocals pair exceptionally well with Barnes’ bluesy, rock-tinged voice. They actually work together to give listeners a thrilling experience. The two sharing vocal duties along with the high energy music supporting them, it’s everything you want a good rock rolling song to be. It has a similar good time vibe as Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Listening to Barnes’ vocals, you have to admit it’s reminiscent of rockers, like Robert Plant.

“Hunger Strike” – Temple of the Dog

Temple of the Dog started as a way for Chris Cornell and members of Pearl Jam to deal with the death of Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood. Their debut album did exceptionally well with this song being their biggest hit single. The track features Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder on vocal duties. When two of grunge’s most notable and talented vocalists get together for a song, you know it’s going to be good. And that’s exactly what you get with this powerful, emotionally driven tune. Both artists get time to share their unique vocal styles, Vedder being gruff and raspy and Cornell’s higher range. It results in a song that’s beautiful and haunting.

“Stand by Your Man” – Wendy O. Williams and Lemmy Kilmister

Ever wonder what it would sound like if two punks ripped apart the Tammy Wynette classic “Stand By your Man?” That’s what Wendy O. Williams and Lemmy Kilmister for a single in 1982. The song is almost unrecognizable with gritty, blazing guitars making a ruckus while the two scream out the lyrics over the noise. Oddly enough, it works. It’s one of those weird covers you would never expect two rock legends to even consider. They breathe new sinister life into the country classic that makes you want to head bang. O. Williams and Kilmister teamed up again for “Jailbait,” which appeared on the Plasmatics album Kommander of Kaos. Listening to these two, it’s clear they were truly one of a kind.

“I Ain’t No Nice Guy” – Motorhead and Ozzy Osbourne

When two of hard rock’s most iconic and legendary figures team up, you expect something epic beyond belief. That’s not the result of this duet featuring Lemmy Kilmister and the Prince of Darkness. Rather than getting together for a kickass track that would melt your face off, the two sing a ballad instead. It’s a slow, somber song made for radio airplay. It actually became a huge hit for Motorhead’s tenth album March or Die. It’s a decent song and features a slow burning solo from guitar hero Slash, but it won’t hit that sweet spot for most metalheads. It’s just so unexpected for the rockers. What’s even more surprising is seeing Ozzy with a five o’clock shadow in the video. Yikes.

“A Tout Le Monde” – Megadeth and Christina Scabbia

This song originally appeared on Megadeth’s sixth album Youthanasia and quickly became a staple for the band. At the time of its release, it garnered controversy for its music video. MTV banned it claiming it promoted suicide, which Dave Mustaine was quick to dismiss. The band re-recorded the song in 2007 for the album United Abominations with Christina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil. Aside from some slight alterations, like a faster pace, there;s not much difference aside from Scabbia singing an entire verse showing off her vocal chops. The song keeps its sentimentality intact along with its hard hitting sound and slightly aggressive mood. Many may prefer the original, but this re-recording is a great blend of old school and new school.

“Walk This Way” – Run DMC and Aerosmith

These days the world of rock and rap often combine for both awesome and questionable results. But back in the 80s, the two were seen as exclusive genres that should never cross paths. Run DMC and Aerosmith broke that barrier with this duet. When it was released in 1986 it blew everyone’s collective minds. Not only did Run DMC cover this classic rock track, they even got Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to join them. The song is still amazing to this day and remains one of the best mash-ups ever. It, of course, would go on to inspire other rock/rap collabs, such as Jay-z and Linkin Park (remember when that was a thing?)

“The One You Love to Hate” – Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson

Two heavy metal giants, both who are considered the best vocalists in the genre, team up for this roaring track. Recorded for Halford’s debut album Ressurection, the song features Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson on vocals. You’d expect to be beyond amazing and the most bad ass thing you’ve ever heard. In reality, it’s okay. It feels more like a Dickinson track since his voice overpowers everything and Halford is stuck on back up duty. It’s a pretty standard metal song with soaring vocals, blazing guitars and a lot of aggression. It’s not bad; just not very remarkable.

“Don’t Fear the Reaper” – HIM and Sanna-June Hyde

On HIM’s debut album, the band provided a haunting rendition of the Blue Oyster Cult classic. This version brings out all the darkness and grim view that’s implied in the lyrics. And frontman Ville Valo’s baritone vocals provide are a perfect match. Adding some brightness to the track is Finnish actor Sanna-June Hyde. She provided guest vocals for this track and “For You” early in her career. She’s not necessarily the best singer but her voice surprisingly well with Valo’s. There’s also something eerie about their voices. Still one of the best covers of this song.

“Under Pressure” – Queen and David Bowie

The thought of Queen and David Bowie doing a song together sounds like a dream. This amazing collaboration resulted in one of the best songs of the 80s. It’s an undeniable classic; pairing Bowie’s mellow vocals with Freddie Mercury’s dramatic bravado leads to a beautiful sonic experience. And try not to get chills during the bridge when Mercury pleads “Why can’t we give love/give love/give love?” The song became a huge hit for both artists and remains their most notable. Of course, the riff would be stolen by Vanilla Ice in the 90s, who claimed it wasn’t the same song.

Which is your favorite rock duet? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

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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.

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