Κυριακή 22 Μαρτίου 2020

Metal Nerdism Vol. 4: Top-10 Heavy Metal album openers.

By album opener we want to mention songs (but not instrumental tracks) that have a small intro attached to the main track, or/and a separate music theme or riff, or effects, or starting with a solo, even if all of those elements can continue or included again within the track. Something that works as a way that leads you to the album, but is (in) a completed song. The kind of album opener that is not a separate intro or just a regular song. Not all albums have this kind of an "opener" and we are picking the ones we consider as favorite, greatest and iconic. The TOP ones according to Crystal Logic.

You can't easily beat Judas Priest's "The Hellion" but this is an intro. Iron Maiden's "The Ides of March" is instrumental and "Princess of the Night" a song that could be placed anywhere in Saxon's "Denim and Leather", even if we are used to it as the opening track of the album. These examples are not what we're talking about.

So let's lay down our favorite album openers.

written by Andreas Andreou

1. Running Wild "Riding the Storm"

The band with intros that really matter! Tracks like "Chamber of Lies" and "The Curse" are the best intros someone could ask for, but the German pirate ship has also a legacy of great openers. "Riding the Storm" is one of the most iconic album openers and one of the best Running Wild songs. And when we are talking for "one of the best Running WIld songs", that means it is one of the best metal songs ever. European Heavy Metal, Power Metal, even Speed Metal, everything is here, and depending the period, Running Wild fit in any of those genres, standing on the very top. Read more.

The line: Face in the wind, we're riding the storm, we'll stay our course whatever will come.

Opener to the album Death or Glory (1989)

Check also: Accept "Metal Heart", Gamma Ray "Rebellion in Dreamland", Running Wild "Blazon Stone".

2. Iron Maiden "Caught Somewhere in Time"

This is not just our favorite Iron Maiden opener, but also the greatest opener of our favorite Iron Maiden record. Read more.

The line: Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing you try to hide your deepest sins - Of all the things that you’ve done wrong and I know where you belong.

Opener to the album Somewhere in Time (1986)

Check also: Iron Maiden "Aces High", Iron Maiden "Moonchild", Spitfire "Street Fighter".

3. Black Sabbath "Black Sabbath"

Rainstorm. Church bells. THE riff. A desperate voice. A figure in black that points at you. A sinister aura that guided Tony, Geezer, Bill and Ozzy to write and perform this song. One of the most disturbing tunes someone could hear until 1970. The beginning. The Big Bang of Heavy Metal. It has to be here. It is here. Forever and ever.

The line: Oh no, no, please God help me!

Opener to the album Black Sabbath (1970)

Check also: Black Sabbath "Anno Mundi", Candlemass "Mirror Mirror", Solitude Aeturnus "Seeds of the Desolate", While Heaven Wept "The Drowning Years".

4. Warlord "Deliver Us From Evil"

Destroyer and Thunder Child formed the best alliance. It is amazing how Bill Tsamis and Mark Zonder managed to complete each other and even if Tsamis is the sole composer, I can't imagine Warlord with another drummer. And "Deliver Us From Evil" is the song that will justify this statement.

The line: Deliver us from all the sin and we who believe will eternally sing these words in which we call the battle hymn.

Opener to the mini album Deliver Us (1983)

Check also: Crimson Glory "Valhalla", Lordian Guard "War in Heaven", Yngwie J. Malmsteen "Rising Force", Psychotic Waltz "Ashes".

5. W.A.S.P. "The Heretic (The Lost Child)"

Funny how few bands fall in certain genres or categories only because of a few albums or their image. W.A.S.P. is a heavy metal band and The Headless Children one of the best US metal albums ever. And this album has one of the most impressive openers anyone could ask for.

The line: The seeds of all evil are sown in their minds and harvest the sad fields of woe.

Opener to the album The Headless Children (1989)

Check also: Armored Saint "March of the Saint", Leatherwolf "Rise or Fall", Savatage "Power of the Night".

6. Metal Church "Beyond the Black"

One of the most important US metal bands. Highly influential for the metal scene of Seattle and mid '80s thrash metal bands, since Metal Church balanced between power metal and thrash metal. However, in my record collection, I don't place their albums in the "thrash metal section". "Beyond the Black" is one of those few songs that sum up everything USPM stands for, and even more. You can just ask bands like Sanctuary and the answer is there. By the way, Metal Church! Isn't it one of the coolest band names ever?

The line: We unite as one, no more weapons, no more guns.

Opener to the album Metal Church (1984)

Check also: Iced Earth "Angels Holocaust", Sanctuary "Future Tense".

7. Manowar "Blood of My Enemies"

You can't complete any list related to heavy metal without having Manowar therein. Even if they don't fit, you need to find a way to add them. You're not a false one, are you?

The line: The ride of the wicked, the first sin was trust.

Opener to the album Hail to England (1984)

Check also: Bathory "Shores in Flames", Virgin Steele "Kingdom of the Fearless".

8. Mercyful Fate "A Dangerous Meeting"

The circle is broken but you can't break the Oath. It bounds you forever. At least if you listen to heavy metal. If you don't like Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, you just listen to a few selected heavy metal bands "among many other things". One of the best openers, from one of the best albums, with one of the most iconic covers, from one of the best metal bands ever. Read more.

The line: They should have known not to play with the powers of Hell.

Opener to the album Don't Break the Oath (1984)

Check also: Exorcist "Black Mass", King Diamond "The Candle".

9. Slayer "Hell Awaits"

A strong candidate for the best thrash metal opener ever. Or is it the best thrash metal opener? The drumming, the demons, the riffs, everything smells fire, damnation and rotten flesh.

The line: What you seek for can't be found, in sea or sky or underground.

Opener to the album Hell Awaits (1985)

Check also: Metallica "Blackened", Slayer "South of Heaven", Venom "Prime Evil".

10. Eternal Champion "I Am the Hammer"

Not to be crossed! A modern classic. The ultimate epic metal opener of our times and for the years to come. Only Eternal Champion could come with a better epic metal opener in the future. The drums of doom, the marching tempo, the Oliva-like scream, the riders of Tarsul, the guards of Lourn, the Pyre Forge, the HAMMER.

The line: I warned them once I am the Hammer.

Opener to the album The Armor of Ire (2016)

Check also: Battleroar "The Wrathforge", Dawnbringer "I", Wrathblade "God-Defying Typhoeus".

Bonus: Top-5 metal EP openers:

1. Medieval Steel "Medieval Steel"
2. Ostrogoth "Full Moon's Eyes"
3. Heathen's Rage "Knights of Steel"
4. Black Knight "Warlord's Wrath"
5. Defender "City Ad Mortis"

Bonus: Top-5 metal album - drum intro - openers: 

1. Ozzy Osbourne "Over the Mountain"
2. Iron Maiden "Where Eagles Dare"
3. Judas Priest "Painkiller"
4. Matakopas "Strangers"
5. Megadeth "Trust"

Τετάρτη 18 Μαρτίου 2020

Metal Nerdism Vol. 3: Five cases of albums that were not meant to be under that BAND name.

"I don't want it" - "You will do it" Vs "I will do it because I can!"

Oh... that name...

written by Andreas Andreou

Part I
Artists: "I don't want it.''
Record label, managers, executives: "You will do it."

BLACK SABBATH - Seventh Star (1986)

To be more specific, the complete "band" name is Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi and that's what you also see on the actual album. That alone is enough to separate it from the rest of the Sabbath catalogue until that point, so let's just see what happened in the mid '80s and the stormy life of Tony Iommi.

After the release of Born Again and the supporting tour for the most disturbing Sabbath album, the band was falling off the edge of the world. Ozzy Osbourne's fame (and sales) were already much higher and in the summer of 1985, the original 4 got back together for a one-off performance at Live Aid Festival in Philadelphia, USA. Black Sabbath performed 3 songs ("Children of the Grave", "Iron Man", "Paranoid") in a day with 100.000 attendants, including also names like Judas Priest, Bryan Adams, Simple Minds, Santana, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Madonna, Led Zeppelin and more... And that's it. Nothing more happened, nothing would happen. After that point, Iommi was left alone without a band and he had the idea to record a solo album with different singers including Rob Halford, David Coverdale, Robert Plant and Glenn Hughes, but there were contractual issues and it couldn't happen, so Iommi started working with singer Jeff Fenholt but after few demo recordings that project also fell apart. However, there were few great ideas and songs written, so Iommi was joined by singer Glenn Hughes, bassist Dave Spitz, drummer Eric Singer, keyboardist Geoff Nicholls, and with producer Jeff Glixman, an album was recorded.

"It was supposed to be a solo album. I certainly didn't want to release it as a Black Sabbath album, because I hadn't written it as a Black Sabbath album", Tony Iommi wrote in his biography, but we already knew it, as mentioned many, many times over the years. Glenn Hughes was also uncomfortable with the idea to sing in a Black Sabbath album. But during an era were record companies were more powerful than you can imagine nowadays, it was said to Tony Iommi, that according to his contract, he owes to the record company another one Black Sabbath album and they wanted this one. And so it happened. Record label executives and managers wanted to name it "Black Sabbath", no matter how it was recorded and who performed. Seventh Star was released in January 1986 under the name Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi, with Tony alone on the cover sleeve; exactly as a solo project.

During the mid '80s, both Tony Iommi and Glenn Hughes were on drugs but that wasn't affecting the live presence of Iommi. On the other side, there were times when Glenn was unable to perform, so after just a week of touring as Black Sabbath, supporting the release of Seventh Star, Glenn Hughes was replaced by Ray Gillen and the tour was a commercial failure while many shows were even cancelled. Tony Iommi couldn't do something else, so he continued using the name "Black Sabbath" and the next album (The Eternal Idol, 1987) was the step to something different. Still with great albums, but something different.

Acceptance: The press considered Seventh Star as a Black Sabbath album and Tony Iommi couldn't do something else, so he supported the album that way, since he needed to go on tour. The audience was confused, press details and promotion weren't clear and confusion continued when singer Ray Gillen replaced Glenn Hughes, where many fans were expecting to see on stage (Ian) Gillan and they saw (Ray) Gillen. Many people didn't even know that Hughes performed live with Black Sabbath.

Nowadays, you can see "Seventh Star" in the official discography of Black Sabbath. There are many fans that don't really consider it as a Black Sabbath album.

Highlights: "Seventh Star", "Danger Zone", "Angry Heart".

CANDLEMASS - Dactylis Glomerata (1998)

After the release of the album Chapter VI (1992) Candlemass entered a period of uncertainty and took them a while until the moment where they were really accepted as the Masters of Doom Metal. Candlemass broke up in 1994, so their founder, songwriter and bassist Leif Edling, formed Abstrakt Algebra with an extraordinary line-up including Mats Levén on vocals, Mike Wead and Simon Johansson on guitars, Jejo Perković on drums and Carl Westholm helping with keyboards. The same titled debut album of Abstrakt Algebra was released in 1995 and it is something really different; something you could label as a progressive power doom metal release. Two years later, Leif Edling wrote the second Abstrakt Algebra album and started recordings with Mats Levén, Jejo Perković and Carl Westholm, while guitar duties were handled by Patrik Instedt. That second album took a long time to be completed and the band had problems with the studio and the producer. Lot of money was spent and no album was completed, so at one point, Edling was contacted by a record label and he was told that they will finance the album and help him, only if he will release it under the Candlemass moniker instead of Abstrakt Algebra... So Edling got in the studio again and reworked the songs with Jejo Perković and Carl Westholm, added by Björn Flodkvist on vocals and Mike Amott on guitars, plus few guests. And another Candlemass album is released.

Acceptance: The press considered Dactylis Glomerata as a Candlemass album and so did the audience, but a few years later, when Messiah Marcolin, Lasse Johansson, Mappe Björkman and Jan Linh got together again with the Doomfather, this was presented as a reunion, and the late '90s years was something like a break time, despite the fact that two albums were released under the Candlemass moniker.

Nowadays, you can see Dactylis Glomerata in the official discography of Candlemass. There are many fans that don't really consider it as a Candlemass album. The band doesn't perform live songs from that period.

Highlights: "I Still See the Black", "Dustflow", "Abstrakt Sun".

MANILLA ROAD - The Circus Maximus (1992)

After the release of the album The Courts of Chaos (1990) and the poor reception and distribution at the time, Mark Shelton decided to disband Manilla Road and started working on a new band under the name The Circus Maximus, a new collective effort with Aaron Brown (drums, vocals) and Andrew Coss (bass, vocals, keyboards). When their debut album was completed, The Circus Maximus tried to shop a record deal but in the end, the project ended again with Black Dragon Records, the label of Manilla Road. But Black Dragon Records, pressed and released the album as "Manilla Road" without asking the band and that led to confusion and mess, since the band was performing live as The Circus Maximus at that time...

Acceptance: The press considered The Circus Maximus as a Manilla Road album but the promotion and the reception was very poor, while the band known as "Manilla Road" wasn't even active at that time since Mark Shelton and his new bandmates were performing locally as The Circus Maximus. Many fans at the time, didn't even know about the release of that album.

Nowadays, you can see The Circus Maximus in the official discography of Manilla Road. There are many fans that don't really consider it as a Manilla Road album. Mark Shelton also never considered it as a Manilla Road album and he only allowed to be re-released keeping the Manilla Road moniker in order to avoid further confusion.

Highlights: "Throne of Blood", "Spider", "No Sign from Above"

Part II
Artists: "I will do it because I can!"

QUEENSRYCHE - Frequency Unknown (2013)

The previous Queensrÿche album Dedicated to Chaos (2011) is the strongest candidate for The Worst Album ever released by a major act. Up to that point and over the last few years after the departure of guitarist and songwriter Chris DeGarmo in 1998, Queensrÿche seemed to "evolve" as a Geoff Tate Band until that day in April 2012 before a show in São Paulo, Brazil.

Jason Slater who produced Frequency Unknown, also produced the 'rÿche albums Operation: Mindcrime II (2006), American Soldier (2009), Dedicated to Chaos (2011) and was one of the main songwriters of the band during that period, where many of the ideas of other 'rÿche members were rejected or changed. The other members looked like "session musicians" to Tate, the management (Tate's wife, Susan) and the producer, who were using the Queensrÿche name for years.

In a band meeting during April 2012, while Geoff Tate wasn't there, the other members decided to fire the manager (Susan, Geoff's wife) and the person who was running the Queensrÿche official fan club (Miranda, Geoff's stepdaughter). Tate was angry with them when he learned about it and before a show in São Paulo, Brazil, on April 14 of 2012, he had a strong argument with few of the rest members where Tate assault and spit them, even on stage during that night's show. Geoff Tate was off the band and both parties used the "Queensrÿche" brand. The rest of the members were supposed to start the project Rising West where they could play live shows based on older material of Queensrÿche, so eventually, with the addition of ex-Crimson Glory live singer Todd La Torre, they continued performing as Queensrÿche and in 2013, they even released the Queensrÿche album with new material.

Guitarist and producer Kelly Gray, and producer Jason Slater, who also had writing credits in various 'rÿche songs that period, continued working with Geoff Tate and just two years after the events of April 2012, a settlement was reached on April 2014, where the brand name "Queensrÿche" would belong to Micheal Wilton, Scott Rockenfield and Eddie Jackson, who along with Todd La Torre and Parker Lundgren will be the touring and recording Queensrÿche band, while Geoff Tate solely has the right to perform both Operation: Mindcrime and Operation: Mindcrime II in their entirety.

Queensrÿche continued releasing more albums and performing tours supporting them, focusing on them and the early material of the band, while Geoff Tate released his second solo album Kings & Thieves (that was recorded around the events of April 2012), the albums The Key (2015), Resurrection (2016), The New Reality (2017) under the band name Operation: Mindcrime, and also performed selected shows with Queensrÿche material and albums like Operation: Mindcrime with success, while the last years he looks in great shape, living a happy life.

Acceptance: The press and fans lightly approached Frequency Unknown as a Queensrÿche album in 2013 since it served as a normal continuation to what the band was releasing back then, but the Queensrÿche album that was released by the rest few months later, was held higher. However, many 'rÿche fans stopped following the band and the latest albums, many of them also pushed the events of 2012 back in their head in order to forget them... Frequency Unknown was a better album than the previous two Queensrÿche albums and Tate gathered a team of great musicians surrounding him during the recordings, including guitarists Brad Gillis, KK Downing, Dave Meniketti, bassist Rudy Sarzo and drummers Paul Bostaph and Simon Wright, among others.

Nowadays, you can't see Frequency Unknown in the official discography of Queensrÿche and it is considered as a "side release" or a Geoff Tate solo project, while it is nearly forgotten and the albums that followed by Queensrÿche are considered much better.

Highlights: "Cold", "In the Hands of God"

TANK - War Machine (2010)

War Machine is a great album. I was writing for Rockway zine when I got the promo of that album and couldn't believe that this is actually a Tank album. It was a completely different band but still great. The dirty NWOBHM sound of the previous albums was absent but now you had something different reminding later Saxon, even Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath, including also the great vocals of Doogie White. I remember presenting the album to a few friends that didn't like the older Tank material but loved War Machine. The "original" Tank disbanded in 1989 and there was a reunion in late '90s, followed by the studio album Still at War in 2002. War Machine was the first Tank album not including singer/bassist Algy Ward, where he also return with his "Tank version" in 2013, as a one-man band, performing all instruments in the album Breath of the Pit following the style of older Tank.

Acceptance: Upon its release the press considered War Machine as a Tank album; no question about it. And that band was considered as "Tank" for a few more years until the studio return of Algy Ward using also the Tank name but with a very poor acceptance from media and fans. Fans were confused and you have two "Tank" versions releasing albums.

Nowadays, a few people separate Algy Ward's Tank and Tucker/Evans's Tank from the old "original" Tank, while both parties claim the continuation of the classic NWOBHM act. A few fans accept only one version over the other but Tucker/Evans's Tank have a more reliable presence with more albums since War Machine and live shows, even if none of Mick Tucker and Cliff Evans was "there" in 1982 when Tank released the first studio recordings. Tucker/Evans's Tank include singers ZP Theart (Dragonforce, Skid Row) and David Readman (Pink Cream 69, Adagio) in the latest studio albums, so vocally, the connection to the past keeps the distance.

Highlights: "Judgement Day", "Phoenix Rising"

So what?

So, what's more important or valid? When a label releases an album using a specific band name of a main member despite the will of that member-composer, or when a member of a band is using the brand name despite the will of other members he was working with?

According to "history" and the cases above, most of the times, the choice of the labels is what is taken for granted in the future. If a NAME is printed on the cover, it stays there forever. Sometimes it is wrong, sometimes it is correct, sometimes it is connected to the past with a band member or a continuation of the music, sometimes there isn't any connection, or just a small link.

Music industry has always had its own rules and decisions. Decisions that many times were above the will of the artists. But the music industry is also changing and the "names" are irrelevant nowadays: READ MORE