Wednesday, September 30, 2015

3 Undeservedly Panned Albums from 1983

Even the greatest of bands can suffer occasional missteps, turning out an album or two that aren't just below the high standards their earlier releases established, but genuinely, head-shakingly, take-a-swig-to-wash-away-the-taste bad.  It's true that music critics can be a demanding and rather eccentric lot -- and as a profession, they've been off base at times in condemning some amazing albums, bands, or even movements of music -- and fans, as well as the chart numbers and album sales figures they drive can prove a faddish and finicky lot.  But there are indeed efforts and experiments by bands that make even the real cultists, the diehard believer fans ask "what the hell are they doing?"

Friday, August 28, 2015

Remembering the Columbia Record Club

It is often when institutions, artifacts, or practices become entirely -- or at least effectively -- defunct that we come to realize or reconsider what they had meant.  The busier our lives get, the more useful such distinct moments become as markers memorializing the meaning of the past within the ongoing present.

For me -- and for many of my generation, those who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s -- the news earlier this month that the long-moribund Columbia Record Club had filed for bankruptcy was such a moment.  As the news filtered into social media networks, many of us reminisced together, some recounting how many times they had joined the club.  For my part -- and that's mostly what this post will be about below -- I was reminded of how taking advantage of the club's offer played such an important role early on in building my metal collection.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Generations of Metalheads: Passing On My Bass

This year, I am passing on an object that, by virtue of giving it to my teenaged daughter, effectively becomes a family heirloom -- my bass guitar.  On her own initiative, she asked this summer if she could get it out of storage -- I hadn't played it for years, since now I putter around with a banjo that previously belonged to my dad -- and start learning how to play.  I was surprised, and very happy, that she wanted to learn an instrument -- she is already a strong singer -- and to learn this instrument particularly in order to play metal songs, specifically KISS songs!

So, for the last four weeks, she's been plunking away here, downloading tabulature, practicing, and taking lessons from a bassist at a local music store.  I've recently had it overhauled -- the buddy-of-a-former-brother-in-law who "rewired" it a decade back did what I hesitate even to call a "job," even with the qualifier of "bad" -- and she got to play it today for the first time actually plugged in.  Not into a bass amp, and not turned up all that high, but still enough for her to get a sense of the raw sonic power that the instrument she held, fretted, and plucked!  So, I'm experiencing the kind of excitement and pride that parents feel when one of their children decides to follow along, not necessarily in their footsteps, but along a similar and shared path.  And added to that is the simple fact that I've discovered that my teenage daughter is a genuine metalhead!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Q&A with the HMP: My 10 Favorite NWOBHM Albums

After my last post, reminiscing a bit about Raven and reviewing their latest (and amazingly good) album, one of the followers on my Facebook page asked me:  "Out of curiosity, what are some of your favorite NWOBHM albums?"  I responded that I'd have to think about it, but I wanted to strike before the iron cooled off, and since Sunday is -- while not a day of rest for me, since I held a 2-hour online class session in my Philosophical Foundations class! -- a day when I get to indulge myself a bit, I thought over some IPA and cigarillos, I'd put other writing projects aside and hammer out this post.

There's some dispute about just what precisely counts as New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), but while acknowledging that, I'm not going to really discuss that tangled issue here -- it will supply fodder for another blog post down the line, I promise!  I'm not going to include any works by bands that, while not British, play with a definite NWOBHM sensibility -- like the American band, Riot, the Finish act, Oz, or the Japanese group, Loudness.  I also won't include Judas Priest or Motorhead, since although they played a significant and even seminal role, they do antedate the movement somewhat (and by not discussing them, it opens some space for less well known acts).  It's going to be -- as these sorts of things always are -- rather subjective.  but in any case here they are:

Thursday, May 7, 2015

New Release! Raven - ExtermiNation

One of my longstanding favorite metal bands from the 1980s - Raven - has recently released their new album, ExtermiNation, and for anyone with any doubts about whether the Gallagher brothers + Joe Hasselvander still rock as hard as they did back in the 1980s (true, it was a different drummer prior to '87) or as they did with their more recent (2010) Walk Through Fire. . .  its clear that the answer is a resounding Yes! (In fact, I'd go so far as to suggest that the affirmative needs to be accompanied by some quick headbanging and a double moloch.)

I'm extremely fortunate to have a fellow metalhead in my wife -- it means that I not only get to play a variety of metal without enduring groans of complaints at home, not only that I get encouraged to write in this very blog, but also that I have a hot companion who enjoys live acts as much as I do.  Both of us have been eagerly awaiting this new release together -- for two interconnected reasons.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Video Flashback: Sampson - "Vice Versa"

One of the bands that often gets short shrift when people are talking about the New Wave of British Heavy Metal is Samson -- often they're brought up as a kind of a musical footnote, as the band in which Bruce Dickinson would shine as the singer who would not long after front Iron Maiden.  And, to be sure, a case can be made that their best work was the two albums on which he sang, as "Bruce Bruce" -- Head On (1980) and Shock Tactics (1981).  It's unfortunate that these albums, and the band as such, doesn't get more notice, for if you listen to those two albums, you hear the vitality of a genuinely heavy and yet melodic band, whose members come together quite well for some classic early-80s metal compositions.
I came across this gem of a video for "Vice Versa" several days ago -- I'm not sure of the context of clicking and searching that brought me to it, but I remember being intrigued by the idea that they had managed to get into the growing video scene early on in.  As a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s, we had MTV -- and cable at all, for that matter -- only for the briefest trial period, so what I got to see of music videos was entirely a matter of what got played at friends' houses, and what I got to see when we would stay at the house of my tech-early-adopter uncle (and purchase-indulgent aunt!) in Chicago.  So, this video was entirely new to me.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Scene of the Past: Metal Albums 40 Years Back

Among the seemingly endless listicles and galleries the VH1 website regularly churns out, one caught my eye a week or so ago -- finding its way into my Facebook stream, if I remember rightly -- a gallery that takes us back into the years before metal becomes a self-conscious movement, and has yet to extricate itself from the closely aligned and still more vague genre of "hard rock":  20 Classic Metal Albums Turning 40 in 2015.

Perhaps it's because I'm myself near to the midpoint of my own 40s that this retrospective -- among so many others -- got me ruminating as I clicked through the albums picked out by the VH1 writers.  I can say that my friends and I quite literally grew up as teens with classic metal in the 1980s, and became excited in  our childhoods by bands in the 1970s we didn't even realize might form part of a broader and deeper musical movement -- formative years for sensibilities and imaginations.  Of course, our generation could have that experience precisely because an earlier generation had been over the previous decade gradually feeling their way -- some more deliberately and consistently, others almost by happenstance or experimentation towards sounds that embodied and incorporated elements that would turn out to be central in later metal music.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fan Mail From A Philosopher

Last month, for the first time, I did something I'd long and often thought about -- but never actually decided to do -- to write a fan letter.  Or, really, since it's on a relatively small card, I suppose one could call it a fan note.  To many metalheads -- even among those who know me well -- it might appear a rather odd gesture, not so much in its origins or its expression, but rather in its object.

I wrote what is in effect a kind of note of appreciation -- on the same embossed "Dr. Gregory B. Sadler" stationary that I normally reserve for expressions of gratitude or friendship, confined primarily to academic and institutional recipients -- and I mailed it off back in October to a Mr. Ian Hill, Bassist, of Judas Priest. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Identity and Alterity: Why We Can't Really See Some Bands That Still Exist

My wife and I are always on the lookout for nearby tour dates for classic metal acts -- and we've been pretty fortunate in recent years, actually, since quite a few come to the Tri-State area.  In the last several years, we've been to a whole host of classic acts -- Iron Maiden, Judas Priest (twice), Motorhead, KISS (twice), Megadeth, Raven, Accept, UDO, Thin Lizzy, Motley Crue, and Alice Cooper.  And, back in our younger days -- our teens and twenties, before we got together -- there's a whole host of other bands which we saw independently, with our respective friends.

There's some groups -- the Scorpions for example -- who I saw back in the 1980s (at a Monsters of Rock show), but who my wife has never seen on stage, and as we were thinking about who might still be touring and who we might try to get tickets for in the coming year, she said something rather paradoxical to me.  "It's too bad that we can't really see the Scorpions."  What she meant by that isn't that we couldn't sometime purchase tickets to see them when they wind up back over here in the USA -- that's certainly possible -- but rather that it long ago became impossible to see the band whose music we came to love back in the heyday of classic metal -- the 1980s.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Recomendations: Metal Killers Kollection

In some ways, I grew up at just the right time to appreciate at least two of the waves of development of heavy metal.  I was born in the year of the moonwalk -- the real, not dance-step one -- in 1970, so that placed me in my formative years as a kid in the meadows, kettles, and moraines of southeastern Wisconsin, while perhaps not in the right place, certainly in a good position to get exposed to classic bands like KISS and AC/DC by radioplay and albums in the 1970s -- something I'll write another post about later on -- and then to be present in the early and mid-80s, as a teenager, when successive waves of metal were washing over the midwest from multiple locations -- both coasts, England, Germany, and Japan.

Again, this is an experience I want to explore thematically and in more detail in further posts -- one of the main ways I actually came in contact with (to me) new bands, albums, and songs was through poring through and occasionally purchasing from discount bins of records and tapes in stores like Target, K-Mart, and even Farm-and-Fleet (and when we vacationed in the panhandle of Florida, a Walmart).  One of them -- I got it in the spring of 1986, and listened to it over and over for weeks -- was a 2-tape compilation, the first volume of Metal Killers Kollection.  And it was mindblowing. . . .