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. . . .

By that time in my development as a metalhead, I'd already been exposed to -- and enthusiastically embraced -- quite a few metal acts.  In my LP case, or as copied tapes I had (in part thanks to the Columbia Record Club) Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio, Ozzy Osborne, KISS, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Krokus, Motley Crue, RATT, Twisted Sister, Sammy Hagar, Quiet Riot, Van Halen, the Scorpions, Metallica and Megadeth. . .  Through listening to a friend's Masters of Metal tape for a week (the last time I'll beg off telling a fuller story, I promise!) I'd been exposed to (post-Dio) Rainbow, Y&T, and Zebra, and though radio airplay (and poring through the metal imports stacks at the record store in the Brookfield Square Mall), many other bands.

Metal Killers Kollection, though, was something radically different. . . .  When you read through the playlist, it's clear that it wasn't any fly-by-night, capitalize-on-the-trend compilation -- whoever put together knew what he or she was doing.  They had a solid grasp -- something I was myself lacking at the time -- of who the key innovators, who the promising long-shots, and who the solid contributors were to this electrifying genre that we love were at the time.  If it were transposed into an academic setting, it would be the key anthology that one recommends as illuminating more-than-background reading for one's classes.

I've mentioned bands that I was listening to -- on tape, LP, or radio -- back then, but one of the key clarifications that I have to make is that that majority of the material I was listening to was very recent stuff, from roughly 1982 to 1985.  I was really missing the "big picture" (and as a 15-year old, how I was to know?), and Metal Killers Kollection filled in many of the gaps for me -- in the only way I could have recognized at the time -- with solid, screaming-guitar, heavy-riff, classic metal.  Sometimes, you need to be hit with a bludgeon to "get it."

We talk sometimes in academic circles of a mistake of perspective we call "presentism," and it means not only a kind of undue emphasis on what is presently the topic, in our current context, what is in the media (and more and more the social, rather than traditional media), but also on evaluating matters from the inevitably-confined perspective of the present.  And, interestingly enough, we can introject that back into the past.  In my case, prior to Metal Killers Kollection, my eyes and ears were on the immediate and near present.

I'll give you just one representative example.  I'd bought Judas Priest's latest, and heaviest-yet album, Defenders of the Faith in the fall of 1984.  I'd also heard and copied onto tape its immediate, nearly-as-heavy, predecessor, Screaming for Vengeance.  And over Easter break, down in Florida (again in a bargain rack), I'd bought a tape of the much earlier Sin After Sin.  I'd ruminated over the vast difference in the sound of the guitars (less distortion, more overdrive), the looser but still perfect coordination between the different instruments -- this was clearly metal, but something different from early-mid-80s metal. . . .

Rocka Rolla -- that crunchy title track from that first Priest album -- was the fourth track on the first side of the first tape -- and like so many of the tracks, it was a revelation to me!  What else was on there -- what hadn't I heard yet?

The second track -- again, first tape, first side -- was UFO's Boogie!  They followed it with Michael Schechner's Armed and Ready! After that, well, you can divide the tracks into two categories:  bands I already knew about, but whose earlier work I hadn't heard -- and bands that I had not yet heard (though, with some, I'd read about them in Circus and Hit Parader).

The older tracks from bands I already knew made me rethink what they were up to.  Twisted Sister's Under the Blade outweighs everything that they packed onto the 1984 Stay Hungry album (one might say the same for Destroyer or Run for Your Life).   Accept's Fast as a Shark by contrast matches Balls to the Wall, album as album, song for song.

But so many of the tracks were completely new -- the kind of material that made me say:  Holy crap!  Who are these guys (or girls, in the case of Girlschool)?  I gotta hear more stuff by them.  For me, this included a whole litany of bands -- many, though not all of them British:  Motorhead, Raven, Tank, Venom, Tokyo Blade, Wrathchild, Thor, Chrome Molly, Diamond Head.

It was even an induction to key players and bands in the metalverse that were not entirely or identifiably metal, but who nevertheless deserved a slot:  the veteran bluesman Gary Moore, the space-rock Hawkwind, and the neo-punk, fresh-from-the-Plasmatics howler, Wendy O'Williams.

That's where I'll end -- and I have to admit that I've not done my research, and I don't know who actually put these tapes together -- with the observation that whoever assembled that compilation, whoever carried out the difficult triage of acts, let alone compositions, that ended up making its way into the final product -- had a deeply- and well-informed sense of what metalheads needed to hear.  There were indeed other compilations -- I've already mentioned Masters of Metal, but one might also highlight Metal for Muthas -- that did yeoman's work in exposing us kids in the sticks to the new movement that was underway, but I suspect that nothing quite did the trick like that Metal Killer's Collection, volume 1