Some Things That Should Not Be(But Are, So Deal With It)

The first album I ever heard from Metallica was Master Of Puppets, so naturally that’s the one I hold nearest and dearest to my heart. Master Of Puppets was the gateway album, Ride The Lightning was the one I totally immersed myself in, …And Justice For All was the first one I bought brand new(and as a fan), and Kill ‘Em All was the one I rediscovered as an angst-y adult in his middle age. Everything after those four records I could really not listen to again and I’d be okay with that. The Black Album suffered from massive burnout and too many blues riffs, the mid-90s were a complete blur of eyeliner, arty experimentalism, not-so good covers, and soundtracks. I’ll listen to St. Anger occasionally still, and the last two albums have moments of goodness. Reminders that Metallica can still do what got ’em here in the first place: thrash like no other.

But Master Of Puppets is still their artistic high point.

For four California Heshers who grew up on Black Sabbath, Diamond Head, and Motorhead, drank excessively, and were only five years into their music career Master Of Puppets was a high water mark for even a veteran metal band. Speed metal intertwined in progressive rock movements within the songs and lyrics that told stories. Metallica sometimes teetered on the edge of the whole evil/death stuff that Slayer, Exodus, and Megadeth dabbled in back in the heyday of thrash, but James Hetfield wasn’t quite the anti-faith guy the rest were. He grew up in a Christian Scientist home and watched his mom die from cancer because they didn’t believe in doctors. I think on a teenage mind that would have a negative effect, at least on the organized religion aspect. His lyrics always seemed to dabble in the injustice of the world, both on a social and personal level. I could relate to that. Much more so than lyrics about slaughtering virgins, serial killers, and genocide(I’m looking at you, Slayer.)

So Hetfield’s lyrics were about the human condition and authority figures lying to us in order to control us; whether those in control were priests, drug dealers, or the military. What 13-year old wouldn’t fall for that? In 1986 when Master Of Puppets came out Hetfield, Cliff Burton, Kirk Hammett, and Lars Ulrich were still barely adults. They’re in their early 20s and release one of the most influential heavy metal albums…ever. I was 12-years old when it came out, and my older brother was 18. It took a year before Metallica made their way into the Hubner boys’ ears, but when they did that’s all they wrote.

I remember very clearly the week that Master Of Puppets blew our minds. Summer of 1987 and my brother and I were spending the week at my uncle Mark’s house. He was working in the day, so my brother and I would stay up till the early morning playing my uncle’s NES. He’d usually see us bleary-eyed and half loopy playing 1941 or Excitebike as he was walking out the door for work. We’d crash for a few hours then wake up in time for a bologna sandwich and then head over to the nearby Concord Mall. It was on one of our afternoon jaunts that he told me about this band called Metallica. We were listening to Frehely’s Comet in my brother’s Cutlass when he said he’d picked up a cassette at the mall’s very cool record shop Super Sounds. I was perfectly fine continuing to listen to “Rock Soldiers”, Ace Frehely’s semi-autobiographical tale of rock and roll redemption, but my brother quickly ripped the plastic off that cassette tape and we were in speed metal territory.

My brain didn’t know what to think of what I was hearing coming out of those Pioneer Super Tuner speakers. What the hell was this “Battery”? It felt like a wall of crunch coming down on us(it didn’t help that my brother liked to play music LOUD.) I’d never heard drumming so fast and guitars played so fast yet intricately. The vocals, while loud and aggressive, were still understandable. Hetfield was his own preacher, preaching to a choir of disenchanted youth, lost souls, and a couple Midwest goons spending the week at their uncle’s house.

We digested that album in small doses all week, usually during mid-afternoon jaunts to the mall looking for trouble(or at the very least a hot pretzel.) I can say that my music-leaning brain was rewired because of that album. Master Of Puppets made me a speed metal fan instantly. By the week’s end my brother took off early because a buddy of his had gotten them tickets to see Megadeth in Chicago at the Aragon Ballroom. That was big time stuff. This was before the Aragon had been cleaned up, as well as the neighborhood it resides in. It was a scary area. My brother made me promise not to tell my uncle who he was going to see(my uncle was super cool, but also pretty religious.) I kept my promise. In fact, I may have told our uncle my big bro was going to see a Christian rock band(pretty sure he knew I was full of shit, but still.)

After that week, the Hubner boys were official speed metal freaks. Metallica songbooks were purchased, Anthrax t-shirts were acquired from the back of rock magazines, and hard to find EPs were hunted down. We made our way through various speed metal bands(Death Angel, Fate’s Warning, Metal Church, Testament, Exodus, Venom, Suicidal Tendencies), but the ones that really stuck with us were the big four: Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer, and of course Metallica.

It had been quite a few years since I’d listened to Master Of Puppets, but thanks to the thrifty Capitalists that Metallica are they have been reissuing their classic albums on their own Blackened Recordings record label. Out of curiosity(and obsession, sadly) I’ve been picking them all up. Last November Master Of Puppets dropped in newly remastered and shiny form. Normally I’d say this was a cash grab since I didn’t think anything was wrong with the original masterings. But given the fact that all these albums sound so good now in their newly remastered form I’ll forgive a little cash grabbing. I haven’t yet picked up the new …And Justice For All as I bought the previous version just a couple years ago. If someone can confirm or deny whether they brought Newsted back into the mix on this new version, that will determine whether I slap some greenbacks down and take that sucka home.

Master Of Puppets, though. Man, it’s a classic the same way that Paranoid, Toys In The Attic, High Voltage, and Screaming For Vengeance are. If you’re a metal guy or gal then there’s a short list(or long depending on who you are) of records you must own or you’re disqualified from the “Metal Club”. Master Of Puppets is on that list. Like, in the top 5. I can’t tell you how many times my brother and I have made reference to “The Thing That Should Not Be” when seeing something less than desirable. Or talking about seeing the “Leper Messiah” at Walmart or at the movies. There’s a lot of little moments and inside jokes that pertain to this record that only my big brother and I would laugh at, which makes this record that much more important to me.

I can remember him telling me about an idea his pal(the one he saw Megadeth with) and him had about a music video for “Master Of Puppets”. He said it would be like those old animated “Intermission” clips you’d see at the movies back in the day. You know, the dancing hot dogs, popcorn box, and box of Mike and Ike going to the concession stand to buy goodies? Well it would be like that except it would’ve been dancing syringes, pills, and joints as some guy was drug along like a puppet with strings leading up to a demonic hand. It’s a long song, so I’m sure there would’ve been more, but that’s all he’d ever told me about. I thought it was a pretty cool idea as a teenager, and I still sort of like it now. Sounds like something Rob Zombie would’ve made back in the 90s. Of course, this was also the buddy that my brother used to get high with after school. They’d head down to his buddy’s basement, get stoned, and watch Sesame Street soundtracked to Sabbath’s Master Of Reality(this is not a point of pride for big bro, just stating fact.)

“Battery”, “Master Of Puppets”, “The Thing That Should Not Be”, “Welcome Home(Sanitarium)”, “Disposable Heroes”, “Leper Messiah”, “Orion”, and “Damage, Inc” are what make up the Metallica classic. They soundtracked my teenage years and opened my brain to truly aggressive music. It was the foundation that I’d build a lifetime of music listening on. It also made a week in the summer of 1987 all the better.

But don’t tell my uncle about this.



Metallica were the gateway band for me. My older brother and his bad influence ways pushed Master of Puppets on me like some greasy punk passing me my first joint in the middle school basketball courts. We drove on US 33 on our way to the mall one hot summer afternoon and he pushed a cassette into the tape deck of his 1977 Cutlass Supreme. What hit my ears was an onslaught of power chords, double kick bass drum, and a howling James Hetfield singing “Master! Master! Where’s the dreams that I’ve been after/Master! Master! You promised only lies!” It was one of those eureka moments for my 13-year old self which led to a leap into the world of thrash/speed metal. For my birthday that year I was given a Ride The Lightning songbook, which helped me learn “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, “Trapped Under Ice”, and “Fade To Black”.

My brother bought me that book, natch.

From that point on I was a Metalli-nerd(it was a small group of just me, the neighbor kid that wasn’t allowed to listen to Metallica for Tipper Gore reasons, and my dog Klaus.) …And Justice For All was in my possession the day it came out in August of 1988. I was 14-years old and heading into my freshman year of high school. I was awkward and stocky with a weak mullet and wore too many button up striped shirts that were purchased at JC Penney. But I could half ass play “Eruption” and “Whole Lotta Rosie” and in my head I thought it was gonna be my year. Turned out it was just another “meh” school year, with the exception of seeing Child’s Play on my 15th birthday with two pals, snagging a pretty cool Megadeth t-shirt at some point, and my uncle gifting me a 70s DOD flanger pedal. Oh, and Metallica premiered their first video ever with “One”. Stayed at a friend’s house on a Saturday night so I could see the premiere on Headbanger’s Ball since my parent’s didn’t want to pay for cable.

I stuck with Metallica clear through high school. Metallica was the soundtrack to my senior year, along with Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Nevermind, Ten, and Badmotorfinger. I gotta say, though, after “The Black Album” I felt the guys got a little too complacent. Load, a song on the MI:2 soundtrack, Bob Segar covers, and short, gelled hair styles? “Metal up your ass” turned into something far less violent or deviant. Soccer moms were singing along to “Enter Sandman” and “Fuel”. I’m not dissing this San Bernadino Godfathers of speed metal for making bank, but by the mid to late 90s Metallica were dabbling in arty rock and southern rock and I just couldn’t board that train with ’em. In 2003, when everyone turned against Metallica for St. Anger I sort of dug that record. Where most folks seemed to think it was middle-aged men trying to fit in with the kids they influenced I saw it as a band attempting to have fun being a band again. Taking risks(that snare sound, anyone?) and getting out of their comfort zone. I felt that, but the doc Some Kind Of Monster confirmed it to me. Whiny rock stars? Nah, they’re just human like you and me. Foibles and all, man.

So where am I going with all of this? Well I started going back to the old albums and I’d realized that I never really got into Kill Em All. I knew most of the songs, but never really dug into that record. I sort of bypassed that initial debut and went right for Master of Puppets. Last year Metallica started re-releasing their albums in remastered form, done from the original master tapes. The first two releases were Kill Em All and Ride The Lightning. Of course I bought them.

They sound amazing, but the big surprise was how much I love Kill Em All. For some reason I always just figured it was more of a hard rock album. It never came across as speed metal to me. Well I hadn’t hit the right songs. “Motorbreath”, “Phantom Lord”, and “Metal Militia” are as thrash and speed as they come. “Hit The Lights”, “Whiplash”, and “Seek and Destroy” are classic metal tunes. “The Four Horsemen” has a breakdown in it that sounds like Peace Sells-era Megadeth, like something off “Wake Up Dead”(I’m wondering if Mustaine was still in the band when that one was written.) “Jump In The Fire” is catchy as hell, but sounds nothing like Nilsson. There’s even a pretty killer instrumental highlighting the late great Cliff Burton’s bass playing called “Anesthesia(Pulling Teeth)”. This record actually seems like the perfect place for Metallica to being their trek into “Metaldom”.

What this album really sounds like is four barely drinking age California buds getting buzzed in the garage and making their own brand of NWOBHM tuneage. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Venom, Diamond Head, and Black Sabbath all play a part in molding the sound of Metallica, and Kill Em All is their first foray into the world that made them what they are today. I now realize Kill Em All is one of the most important metal records of the 80s. Ride The Lightning was when the speed came into prominence for the band, but Kill Em All was their street record. This was the ball bat and bike chains record. Street level tunes, man. There would be no Master or Justice without Kill Em All.

My son now requests “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. Not because he heard me spinning it, but because of its use in an excellent indie horror movie we watched called The Devil’s Candy.  But now that I mentioned that “The Four Horsemen” was used in X-Men: Apocalypse, he’s now asking to hear Kill Em All.

I guess I’ve become the bad influence now. My older brother would be proud.





“I’d rather listen to Lizzy Borden, to be quite honest.”

Summer of 1987.

This was the summer where I discovered metal. Speed metal, that is. I’d done the classics by the time I’d hit the 7th grade. Made my way through the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Stones, and Hendrix. AC/DC were in my collection, as well as a good chunk of hair metal. Most of 7th grade was consumed by Poison, Cinderella, Motley Crue, Dokken and Great White. But when summer rolled around, my brother introduced me to speed metal. Speed, thrash, whatever you want to call it. Suicidal Tendencies, Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer, Overkill, Metal Church,…my eyes and ears had been opened to the double kick drum, lightning fast guitar riffs, the pained howl vocals, and lyrics that ranged from drug addiction, politics, and devil worship; to teen angst, witchcraft, Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft. It was the perfect place to land before heading back into Warsaw Middle School to start my 8th grade year.

Like with anything, you’ve got your good and bad metal bands. Most of what I came across I liked. I wasn’t all that picky. One afternoon my mom took me to Butterfly Records in downtown Warsaw and I had some money burning a hole in my pocket so bought Fates Warning’s No Exit. To be honest, I’m not sure why I bought this album. I may have read a review in Metal Edge or Circus. Or quite possibly my older brother may have mentioned them. In order to one up said older brother I may have bought the album before he had a chance. So I left Butterfly Records with No Exit on cassette and headed off to a guitar lesson. On the ride home I popped the cassette tape into the cassette player of my mom and dad’s 1984 Honda Accord and was impressed. It had twin guitar attack, impressive drumming, and banshee-like vocals with doom-laden lyrics. What more could a 14 year old kid as for?

Fates Warning were an east coast metal band that formed in 1983 out of Connecticut. No Exit was the fourth album and their first with a line up change that included new singer Ray Alder. After experimenting with progressive rock tendencies the band really jumped head first into the progressive/art rock vibe on No Exit. There were acoustic interludes, lyrics about anarchy, death, silent cries, and even a whole side, 21 minute suite called “The Ivory Gate of Dreams”. When their next album dropped the next year in 1989 called Perfect Symmetry they had gone full progressive and were more in line with bands like Queensryche with that Q Prime management vibe; including heady music videos and more expensive hair products. But No Exit still possessed a sense of danger to it. There was still a darkness in the dissonant guitar lines and Alder’s operatic howls. They never hit the drug-fueled doldrums of say Megadeth, or the speed metal delights of Metallica or Slayer, or even the hardcore charms of Anthrax, but it was a great album for an 8th grader to shake his fist to quietly in his bedroom.

On a recent trip to Neat Neat Neat Records I found a super clean copy of No Exit for $10 and instantly nostalgia got the better of me. After about ten minutes of mulling around the store I made my way back to the “F” section of the metal albums and grabbed Fates Warning. I also snagged a copy of Fogg’s High Testament(we’ll talk about that one later.) Was it all warm fuzzies and harkening back to the heyday of my teen speed metal years? No, not really.

Sometimes nostalgia can give you a nice surprise. Recent purchases of albums like Cinderella’s Night Songs, Dokken’s Tooth and Nail, and even older grabs like Van Halen’s Fair Warning and Diver Down showed that I wasn’t all that bad at finding good music to listen to in my pre-teen and teen years. Sadly though, sometimes records don’t age all that well. No Exit, while still probably exactly as it was in 1988, just isn’t that memorable of a record. It’s a sort of paint-by-numbers affair as far as metal albums go.

So basically you’ve got your chugging metal riffs, the galloping metal riffs, and the occasional spritz of thrash thrown in with Fates Warning. Album opener “No Exit” is 41 seconds of sorrowful, dissonant guitars as singer Ray Alder basks in some serious doomy vocals. When I was a teenager it probably sounded a lot better. Now it just sounds out of tune(God, I’m old.) “Anarchy Divine” goes in hard with some decent thrash moments and some nice tempo changes. Alder, to me, sounds like a poor man’s Joey Belladonna. He hits those high notes well enough, but there’s no heft there. Even Geoff Tate had some color behind his wailing. “Silent Cries” hints at a more progressive sound the band would dig into with their next album, Perfect Symmetry. It’s not bad, but it just doesn’t go anywhere. There’s no “oomph”. “In A Word” is the obligatory acoustic number all metal bands felt they needed to include back in the 80s. I guess it’s supposed to show off the soulful side of the band. Meh. I’d rather listen to Lizzy Borden, to be quite honest. “Shades Of Heavenly Death” has some nice early Anthrax vibes, but man those vocals just kind of bring everything down. I just can’t get into that wailing. “The Ivory Gates of Dreams” is the nearly 22-minute opus and works the best here. Alder keeps his vocals controlled here, and the band does a nice job of tempo changes and mixing up the art rock vibe with straight up speed metal. This takes up all of side B and I could see what I saw in these guys in the first place.

By 1989 the rough edges that were present on No Exit were mostly shaved off. In their place was arty, Rush-inspired progressive rock. It was a little more Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime and less Mercyful Fate’s Melissa. Fates Warning is still a quality progressive rock band, but No Exit won’t be spun again any time soon. Sometimes the past just needs to stay in the past I suppose. Let those sleeping dogs lie. Or those old rock records continue to collect dust in my memory.

Hell Awaits…among other things

The scariest concert I ever went to(besides Petra at the Notre Dame ACC with my uncle’s youth group) was Slayer in 1991. They were only one quarter of that evening’s entertainment, but they made up for it with sheer velocity, anger, and a smidgen of evil.

I was 17 years old and as part of the Indiana State Fair week, Deer Creek State Park hosted a series of relatively cheap concerts. Deer Creek was an outdoor amphitheater that was located in the middle of nowhere. It was a cool place to see shows, and that week they were hosting the Clash of the Titans tour which included a still fairly new Alice In Chains, Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer. And all of those bands were only going to cost $7. My brother picked us up some tickets and he drove us down to central Indiana for some headbanging.

Slayer were the closing band, and had the unlucky task of following a young and hungry Alice In Chains, a pissed off and everything toIMG_1650 prove Megadeth, and an at their utmost best Anthrax. It didn’t seem to bother them as Slayer came out and launched right into “War Ensemble”. The stage lights turned a blood red as Araya, King, Hanneman, and Lombardo crushed the crowd with sheer musical force, even us losers on the lawn.

My brother and I had enjoyed the entire show from the grassy lawn, which is a pretty safe spot to be for concerts of this magnitude. The lawn is a safe haven for the stoners, the lovers, the freaks, and the “had nothing better to do tonight so I bought tickets to this show to see if I could hook up with some drunk chick” crowd. We weren’t in any of those groups. We just took the cheap route in order to see four bands we were crazy about. Within about 10 minutes of Slayer’s set a mosh pit of epic proportions formed about 30 feet to the right of us. We would occasionally peak over at it and make sure the distance between us and it was the same. Soon enough it was obvious that it had begun shifting towards us. The shoes, shirts, and wallets were coming into plainer view. The sea of bodies seemed to have taken on a life of its own. My brother Chris grabs my arm and says “Let’s move over quickly.” “Disposable Heroes” echoes through the valley as we make our way stage left. The mosh pit seemed to be beckoning to my brother and I. In between aural thrashes of “Dead Skin Mask” and “Angel of Death” I swear I heard the pit moan “Feed me.” The folks that seemed for the most part normal had begun changing as well. Lyrics to “South of Heaven” and “Raining Blood” were being sung out loud by red-eyed fans who at once suddenly turned to snarling demons. The pit gained momentum and so my brother and I decided we had to make a run for it or we would never see another day again. We made it to the back fence just as Slayer went into ‘Seasons In The Abyss”. Being the great big brother that he was, Chris boosted me over the top of the fence. I reached back to pull him up when that possessed mosh pit grabbed him by his army boots and pulled him into its dirt-covered, sweat-drenched center. He disappeared from my view as “Mandatory Suicide” rang in my ears. It was left up to me to go home and tell our parents of my brother’s heavy metal fate. Unfortunately, he had the car keys so I had to bum a ride home from a couple guys heading just south of my hometown.

FullSizeRender (63)Okay, so my brother didn’t get eaten up by a giant mosh pit, though we did have to avoid it a couple of times. Slayer did leave an indelible mark on my psyche. They were a scary band not because of what they sang or how heavy the music was that they played, but because they seemed to believe what they were singing. They reminded me of dudes you’d see walking down the street that had a certain darkness in their eyes. They looked like the guys in River’s Edge, and those guys scared the hell out of me. They wore jeans and t-shirts, and jean jackets with patches all over them. They looked like guys that I’d see at school walking the halls, but with stranger skeletons in their closets. South of Heaven and Seasons in the Abyss were the two albums that made the biggest impression on me and my older brother. That ultimate mix of speed metal, punk, a Herschell Gordon Lewis film, and the occult. It was dark and we knew we shouldn’t be listening, yet we continued to listen. Slayer were the cassette you’d hide in your car if you were driving around with your girlfriend, or picking up grandma for Christmas dinner.

Of course we grow up and realize that they were just dudes getting completely messed up on Jagermeister and cheap draft beer. They aged like us. All the virgin blood and goat skulls in the world wasn’t going to stop that process. Poor Jeff Hanneman gave into not Satan, but Cirrhosis of the liver. Tom Araya is grey and wrinkled, with a bad back. Kerry King, well he’s still really scary looking actually.

So as far as my “collecting the speed/thrash metal classics” is going, I can mark one off the list. I recently acquired a copy of Slayer’s Hell Awaits. It’s a third pressing from 1987. It’s a joint release from Combat/Metal Blade Records. The album is definitely a step up from their debut Show No Mercy, with Hell Awaits sounding more like a speed metal record than a thrash/hardcore affair. It’s relatively short, but it packs a punch in it’s seven total tracks. Lombardo staked his claim is the premier double kick drummer, with Charlie Benante from Anthrax closely behind him. Lars Ulrich. Well, he was damn impressive up to And Justice For All. After that his ego took precedent over the music(see Some Kind Of Monster for proof.) The one-two punch of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman came to fruition on Hells Awaits as well. They may not have been guitar wizards, but what they lacked in technical skill they made up for it in pure angst and speed. Tom Araya’s haunted howl is as essential to the Slayer quotient as anything. He perfects his scream on tracks like “Necrophiliac”, “Crypts of Eternity”, and the heart-health track “Hardening of the Arteries.” At times I find it hard to hear Araya’s bass playing, but on Hell Awaits it’s actually pretty well blended in the mix. “Praise of Death” even has a nice spot where everything drops out while the bass moves on.

FullSizeRender (64)Lyrically, you pretty much know what to expect going in. By last year’s Repentless, the lyrics have become pretty much part of the surroundings. You don’t think twice about songs discussing murder, Satan, murder, rape, murder, and more murder. But back in 1986 this was some seriously disturbing stuff(ironic, given that this was the decade of Punky Brewster and Silver Spoons.) “Necrophiliac” sported lyrics like “I feel the urge the growing need/To fuck this sinful corpse/My tasks complete the bitches soul/Lies raped in demonic lust”, or this fun line in “Kill Again” that goes “Schizophrenic lunatic/Uncontrolled desire/Rape and ravage lady fair/Pledged to die.”

Certainly no Walt Whitman.

Let’s face it, these were lyrics made to shock. A horror film in lyric form. It helped to establish Slayer as the premier house band in Hell. People like my brother and his friends could get high and sing along to “Dead Skin Mask”, then put on Python’s Life of Brian and call it a day. I never got into Slayer because of their PRMC status, more so because the music was as aggressive as it was. Hundred mile an hour music.

One more record down. Next stop South of Heaven.


Antisocial…and loving it!

If you think about it State of Euphoria by Anthrax really didn’t have a chance. It’s the bland meat in-between the out of this world speed metal artisan bun known asIMG_1541 Among The Living and Persistence Of Time. Among The Living is the premier thrash album from 1987. It was the proto-speed/thrash metal album, and one of four albums that defined and shaped a whole new genre which also included Metallica’s Master Of Puppets, Slayer’s Reign In Blood, and Megadeth’s Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying. Between 1986 and 1987 these four records dropped from darkened skies and were baptised in the blood that flowed freely from thousands of mosh pits and skate parks across these great lands. Jump to 1990 and Anthrax release, in my eyes at least, one of the best speed/progressive metal albums to date in Persistence Of Time. That record was this perfect storm of speed metal perfection, thrash and punk angst, and progressive metal intricacy. Besides having some of my absolute favorite Anthrax songs, it also has on it a dead-on cover of Joe Jackson’s “Got The Time”. And really, is there anything better than Charlie Benante double kick opening on “Time”? Or the sheer heaviness of “Belly Of The Beast”?(I nearly blew the speakers in my 1977 Chevy Nova cranking that song.)

So that leaves the pretty much forgotten State Of Euphoria from 1988. It came out just a year after Among The Living and I think a lot of people were still getting their head around that masterpiece when Euphoria hit record stores. And unlike Living that possessed several earworm nuggets of thrash goodness(“Caught In A Mosh”, “I Am The Law”, “Efilnikufecin(N.F.L.)”, and “Indians” just to name a few), State Of Euphoria seemed to be lacking in that one instant classic track. They ran “Make Me Laugh” right out of the gate and made that the first single, which in my opinion they should’ve gone with “Antisocial” as their first single as over time this has become one of their live staples. There just didn’t seem to be a lot of love for this album in 1988.

For me, State Of Euphoria was the first Anthrax album I bought(on cassette, natch.) My brother and I headed up to the Concord Mall about 35 miles north of where we lived and I snagged it the day it came out at Super Sounds. We popped it in his Mazda truck’s cassette deck and proceeded to headbang our way back home. Despite the popular view of this album, I think it’s sort of a classic. When you sit down and soak in this record you start to hear just how dark the album really is. From “Be All, End All” and its haunting cello opening to the that chunky, chugging goodness of “Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind”(Scott Ian and Dan Spitz’ guitar tone was the tone to beat, thanks to the combo of their Jackson guitars and Mesa Boogie amps.) While “Make Me Laugh” has grown on me over the years with its doom and gloom opening that snaps into a classic Charlie Benante drum explosion, I still think “Antisocial” should’ve been the first single and video. “Antisocial” has the markings of a speed/thrash metal classic. Gang-like shouts in the chorus of “YOU’RE ANTI…YOU’RE ANTISOCIAL!!!” makes tinglies form in the extremities of guys of a certain age(if you were in middle school in 1988 and ever banged your head alone in your bedroom you understand.)”Who Cares Wins” is another dark grower.

"Direct Metal Mastering"...well of course!
“Direct Metal Mastering”…well of course!

As with most of the Anthrax discography, many of the songs were inspired by films, books, and comic books. With State Of Euphoria, “Misery Loves Company” was based on Stephen King’s Misery, while “Now It’s Dark” was inspired by David Lynch’s seminal Blue Velvet, with the line “Don’t you fucking look at me” in the chorus taken directly from the mouth of Dennis Hopper’s character Frank Booth. “Make Me Laugh” was a big old middle finger to televangelism and the premier televangelist clowns of the day, Jim and Tammy Bakker. Scott Ian wrote some of the more interesting lyrics of the time, and the fact that he based a lot of his lyrics on things that gawky teens like myself loved(horror, film, comics) made them that more vital. It made us teen metal heads feel like we had a connection to the band. You didn’t quite get the same connection with bands like Slayer and Megadeth. There was an emptiness and darkness in their albums that kept reasonably well balanced youth like myself a good arm’s length away. I loved their records, but at a distance. Judge Dredd, David Lynch, pointing out the hypocricy of religion, and Stephen King? I was good with that shit 24/7.

A few months ago I found myself pining for those thrash metal records of my youth. I began searching for those albums in the interweb and so far I’ve got two: Among The Living and State Of Euphoria. It’s a good start I think. Being able to throw State Of Euphoria on the turntable is great. I’ve spun it quite a few times over the last couple weeks and I have a whole new appreciation for the record. I think it could’ve been even better had they maybe given themselves a little more time to hone some of the tracks, but who am I to tell Anthrax what they should’ve done? I’m just some Midwestern schlub. Besides, had they waited to put it out that might’ve thrown the whole speed metal timeline off and Persistence Of Time could’ve turned out completely different, or maybe it wouldn’t have happened at all. Where would the world be then? Or the universe? Giant arachnids might be running the show. Jim Bakker could’ve become President. There could’ve been a shift in the space/time continuum and we might’ve been turned into space dust in 1990, after the cancellation of Battle Of The Network Stars.

Fortunately things happened the way they did. State Of Euphoria is not the bland meat between an Among The Living/Persistence Of Time sandwich. It’s actually quite an underrated record that deserves to be revisited.




The Need For Speed

Year’s ’94 and my trunk is raw
In my rear view mirror is the motherfucking law – Shawn Carter

Okay, actually the year wasn’t ’94, it was ’88. 1988 to be exact. It was the last day of my 8th grade year and my mom picked me up from school. We only went a half day on that last day of middle school and I was ready to give a triumphant middle finger to academia and be done with it altogether(at least for the two months summer break lasted.) But seeing that my mom was in the car driving she’d probably smack me in the head if I’d a given my middle school the middle finger so I settled on a mumbled “Up yours” under my breath as we drove away.

From the school we stopped and got some lunch, then headed to Dunlap, Indiana. Dunlap is a small “town” that resides on Highway 33 in between Goshen, In and Elkhart, In. We were heading to Dunlap because my unlce Mark lived there. Mark is my mom’s youngest brother and sibling. He was a major influence on me to wanting to play guitar, write songs, and get into recording. Mark was just a hugely fun and loving uncle that was down with listening to Boston at top volume, play NES games, and eat fast food for days. For a 14-year old he might has well have been Buddha(I’ll post more about Mark at a later date.) Anyways, my aunt and little cousin were going to Florida for the week to see her brother graduate high school so Mark invited me to come over and hang out for the week.

Of course I said hell yes.

The first night Mark and I headed into the video store to rent some movies. When we got back it was dark out and as we got a movie ready to watch at his place we heard knocking on the back door. Neither of us had any idea who or what it was. So we sneak over to the door and Mark slowly opens it and I hear a “AHHHHH!!!” Mark starts laughing. It’s my older brother. He mustv’e gotten time off from work and came over to my uncle’s as well. Turns out my dad wasn’t good with the idea of me hanging out at my uncle’s trailer all day by myself while my uncle was at work, so my mom and dad asked my brother if he’d go over as well. At first I was a little peeved about it, but that soon dissipated. So for the week it would be the three of us hanging out.

Turns out that was best thing that could’ve happened, my brother showing up.

My uncle was one of the few people we knew that had an NES and we abused that thing with vigor. Mario, Kid Icarus, and a flying game called 1942. My brother was convinced he was going to beat this game, so one night after Mark went to bed we started playing 1942. Once we got to the 2am mark I was done, but my brother kept going. I struggled to keep my eyes opened, so I made a bologna and ketchup sandwich. That helped for a little but soon enough I was out like a light. I can remember waking up and seeing daylight begin to appear in the living room and my brother still flying his bomber over the Pacific. I honestly can’t remember if he beat it or not. It was the journey that mattered.

Mark had also picked up a new NES game. One he’d read about and heard it was supposed to be pretty great. It was called Castlevania and this little game from Konami turned out to be a juggernaut. To this day it’s still the only game I’ve ever truly obsessed over. I’d never consider myself a big video game player. I like simple stuff, not asking for clues from trolls and secret punching techniques. I like running, jumping, shooting, stabbing, and coin bags appearing out of whipped candlesticks. That’s my thing. But Castlevania had it all. It even had a game flaw that after a certain amount of playing it would freeze up, usually at the Grim Reaper level, which was the second to last level. This happened on so many occasions. So many pained, angered, and furious occasions. Still, I kept at it.

Here’s the thing, all of this leads up to one vital moment in my early teen years. The moment when my brother introduced me to speed metal. This was the week in my life when I first heard speed metal. One morning my brother and I got in his car and we headed to the Concord Mall. It was one of the few big indoor malls we’d go to and shop as a family. Besides JC Penney, Montgomery Ward, and a Walden Books, it had two record stores. The first was the chain store Musicland. The other was the locally-owned Super Sounds. Super Sounds was where you went when you wanted the hard-to-find stuff. The stuff you heard about in magazines but couldn’t find anywhere. That morning my brother was on a mission for something special. Metallica’s Master of Puppets. I’d never heard them before, but was intrigued. Honestly, I was cool with Ace Frehley’s Frehley’s Comet that Chris had playing in the car, but whatever. We found Master of Puppets and were on our way back to the trailer for more bologna and NES. He put the cassette in the player for our short ride back and I was astounded by what I’d heard. I’d heard the phrase metal for years, and even thought I knew what it was, but this was something completely different. This was speed, anger, intensity; this was war and death put to tape. This was the beginning of the end for those hair metal years I’d been lingering in since I’d turned 10 and had bought Ratt Out of the Cellar.

From that point on everything changed. Sure, there were a few setbacks. Whitesnake, Kingdom Come, Van Halen’s OU812, and of course Cinderella’s Long Cold Winter; but for the most part I’d moved on into heavier territory. Master of Puppets led to Ride The Lightning, Kill ‘Em All, and eventually And Justice For All; Megadeth’s Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying and So Far, So Good, So What. Those led me to Slayer’s Reign In Blood, South of Heaven, and Seasons In The Abyss; then Overkill’s Fuck You and Death Angel’s Act III. Then of course there was Anthrax. Spreading The Disease, Among The Living, State of Euphoria, and then Persistence of Time. Anthrax, out of all the other speed metal bands, seemed to not only be ferocious players(and had one of speed metal’s best drummers, Charlie Benante), but they had a sense of humor about them. Plus, lyrically they tried writing about more than just death, drugs, Satan,….and death. Sure they were dark in their songs, but they pulled from comics, science fiction, books, and movies that were cool. Stephen King’s Misery, Blue Velvet, and Judge Dredd were just a few of the many interesting subjects that colored Anthrax’ songs. Hell, their album cover for Persistence of Time was heavily influenced by Salvadore Dali’s painting ‘Persistence of Memory’. You didn’t find that kind of stuff in most speed metal at the time.

So that week at my uncle’s place was a pretty important moment in my formative years. We got to hang out with our favorite uncle, watch Evil Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, eat tons of bologna, play ample amounts of NES, stay up till dawn, and I discovered the wonder of speed metal. My brother even left early that week as he got the chance to see Megadeth at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. Plus, I even got to go into an actual music studio and watch my uncle Mark and uncle John record some songs together. Pretty cool.

I’ve recently gotten on a speed metal nostalgia trip. I picked up And Justice For All on vinyl a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday I bought Anthrax’ Among The Living and State of Euphoria on vinyl off of Discogs. I shouldn’t be as excited as I am, but dammit I can’t wait to bang my head to “Caught In A Mosh” as my kids stare in fear at me. I’m setting up future generations for speed metal love.

JH, 2015.




Talking to you is like clapping with one hand – Anthrax

The Lurking Corpses :: Workin For The Devil

the-lurking-corpses-working-for-the-devil-album-coverThe Lurking Corpses have been causing musical havoc for years in the Fort and beyond. They stalk stages like the damned looking for another soul to steal, all the while creating a vile, cursed noise that’s equal parts The Misfits, Iron Maiden, and late night creature features. Their newest evil creation, the demonically righteous Workin For The Devil, doesn’t disappoint.

The Lurking Corpses are just as much a theatrical delight as they are a musical one. Monsters stalking stages and countrysides, but not with axes and chainsaws. Instead their weapons of choice are pointy guitars. “Workin For The Devil” opens this Godforsaken horror metal atrocity with equal parts metal fervor and punk rock anarchy. Something like a cross between Hammer Fillms, Clive Barker, and early Venom. “The Gate” gurgles and spits occult vitriol and howls otherworldly screams that would make King Diamond cower in fear. “The Leech and the Worm” sports some killer(no pun intended) riffing and creepy sound clips. It’s like Glen Danzig fronting Diamond Head. “Tonight” could pass for a single, if Satan’s henchmen could write such a thing. It’s an upbeat song that could even fool the pure at heart to tap their feet to it.

Elsewhere, “Blind Dead Rise”, “She’s Alone Again”, and “Dead F**k” eviscerate earholes and minds with some blistering speed metal and ritualistic damning. “Lady Frankenstein” sounds like The Ramones reanimated for the sake of destroying the world. “You’re Dead” sounds, well, how you’d think it would. “In Hell(I Wait For You)” is almost a love song for the damned, complete with “Palisades Park” organ and some clean guitar in the verses. Of course, this is a love song created by a bunch of monsters who happen to be Satan’s henchmen. It’s a blood-spattered love song. There’s even a “hidden” track in the form of a cover of Slayer’s “Tormentor”. A fitting tribute to Jeff Hanneman.

Workin For The Devil is bloody mayhem and demonic aural delights. It’s Creature Feature for your ears. It’s a ghoulish, putrid good time. Grab a copy before All Hallows Eve.

7.4 out of 10