As Bob Seger sang, “rock and roll never forgets…” Not that you’d notice though. Hip-hop and pop reign supreme on the radio, in movies, and on TV. And lately it seems rock and roll has become more of a guilty pleasure, resigned to man-caves where Neanderthal types swill beer, stand around looking at motorcycles, and play AC/DC way past appropriate volumes. Well, long live heavy metal, because we ain’t dead yet. There’s still plenty of time to listen to big band favorites. After all, what are we gonna do, pull up at a stoplight playing Lawrence Welk at maximum volume?
This month we have a few releases guaranteed to help you pound the pavement into submission, especially if you’re the type who has at least one saddlebag stuffed with an amp and subwoofer. Who needs loud pipes when you have loud speakers? And no, we’re not promoting socially irresponsible or hearing-threatening behavior by casting a vote for loud music. Sometimes you just gotta kick out the jams. Listen responsibly.
Ok, so this may seem like a strange pairing at first. Bay Area metal band meets former NY glam rocker. The introduction was sealed when Lou and Metallica performed together a few years ago at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert. And while it’s been a long while since Lou’s days with the Velvet Underground and his Transformer days, Lou Reed knows a thing or two about rock and roll. 1974’s Rock ’n’ Roll Animal still ranks up there as one of the best live albums ever recorded.
Lulu is a rock opera of sorts. It was inspired by German expressionist writer Frank Wedekind’s plays Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box, which tell the story of a young abused dancer’s life and relationships, which are corrupted by men and other characters. Since their publication in the early 1900s, the plays have been the inspiration for a silent film (Pandora’s Box, 1929), an opera, and other creative endeavors. The plays were very controversial for their day and have remained so since. And since Lou has always been in the avant-garde when it comes to literary expression through music, it seemed like a naturally progression for Lou to propose Lulu to Metallica as their first collaboration.
Since this double-CD’s release last Halloween, critics have not been kind. No, there’s no “Enter Sandman” re-dos. Or “Sweet Jane” for that matter. But all the other signature Metallica elements remain. Hammett, Hetfield, Trujillo, and Ulrich prove they remain at the top of their game, even without those wild signature guitar solos. While Reeds’ vocals sound a little misplaced against the band at first, a little listening effort lessens yields plenty. A little background research on Frank Wederkind could prove useful. This ain’t The Who’s Tommy, it’s much more ambitious and not so readily accessible. Metallica fans used to less subtlety will have to work harder to enjoy this album. In the end, it’ll be well worth it—there’s a lot here to absorb. This is an adventurous effort, open to a lot of personal interpretation. And like all good motorcycles, it’s best to stretch out and let it ride…
Metallica alumni Dave Mustaine and Megadeth deserve special veteran award status in the world of hard rock (speaking of which, how is it exactly that this band isn’t in the rock and Roll Hall of Fame?). TH1RT3EN is the name of their new album, their 13th (get it?) in which the guys continue to lay down some of the best head-bustin’ tracks ever. And as a special treat for your woofers, this album also marks the return of Bassist Dave Ellefson who was with the band during the first part of their glory years from 1983 to 2002. So there’s plenty to celebrate here.
Dave Mustaine, who was born on September 13th and started paying guitar at the age of 13, has once again cranked out another slab of solid wall-to-wall rock. The album features all new tracks plus others written a few years previously. But they all hang together as a cohesive work. In bike terminology, Metallica leans towards flames and chrome, Megadeth is all black. Megadeth tunes are both sinister and dark, with brilliant flashes of political commentary thrown in. Witness “We the People,” “Public Enemy No. 1,” “Never Dead” (from the video game), and “Sudden Death.” Megadeth has lost none of its edge and appears ready to roll on through for a few more decades. Watch that volume knob—if you fry your earbuds or speakers, don’t come whining to us.
Five Finger Death Punch
They’re baaaack! For their sophomore effort, 2009’s War is the Answer, Five Finger Death Punch was worthy of some type of award, if only the folks that vote for Grammy artists had a clue about rock and roll. It was easily the best metal album of that year. Now FFDP is back with a new album, American Capitalist. Yes, once again they come ready to rumble with another excursion into the war zone of aggressive, adrenalized guitar riffs, courtesy of Zoltan Bathery and Darrel Roberts. The band has a new bassist in Chris Kael, while Ivan Moody and Jeremy Spencer return for vocals and drum duties, respectively. These guys sound like the baddest dudes on the block of rock bands.
If Seal Team Six needs a band for their training video, here they be. They should recruit these guys because there’s no better music ready-made for hostile action. Okay, so maybe we’re going a bit overboard here. But listen to “100 Ways to Hate,” “Menace,” and the title track and you’ll be ready to ride off in search of Al Qaeda. Like the last album, the band shows their “gentler” side on songs like “Coming Down” and “Remember Everything” (presumably thrown in to get some time to reload). But from track one, this album is in your face. One word of caution: watch your speed limit if you listen to this while riding. You may find yourself straffing cars and practicing your dogfight moves against trucks.
Flashback Album Of The Month
Heaven and Hell
Black Sabbath all but invented heavy metal. And word of their impending reunion is good news indeed. Their seminal first album was released in 1970, one year later than Led Zep 1. Whereas Zeppelin showcased technical brilliance and artistic proficiency, Black Sabbath came at things from a different angle. Right off the bat parents had a reason to be afraid for Barbie and Ken. They took satanic ritual and brought it into the bedrooms of America. Everyone realized it was only show business in the end of course, but by then Black Sabbath had converted millions of fans and ransacked the rock world with demonic rants. They made head banging an accepted sport, despite myriad personnel changes over the years.
But all good things must come to an end sometime, and eventually even the group’s frontman, Ozzy Osbourne left the band. Critics predicted their demise. Things had become a bit too routine. Ozzy’s replacement was the late Ronnie James Dio, who joined Geoff Nicholls, Geezer Butler , Bill Ward, and Tommy Iommi. In April of 1980, the band released Heaven and Hell, just as news of their death had become greatly exaggerated. The album was an instant success, propelled by tunes like “Neon Knights,” “Die Young,” and the title track. Having been written off by the critics (not that the band had ever paid attention to them anyway), Sabbath found themselves back on top. It’s amazing how well this album holds up next to today’s metal, and it’s easily one of the best albums ever made for tearing up the highway on a bike.