Thursday, December 29, 2005

1986 - Cosmic Jazz, Plus the Singer is an Ugly Guy

The 1986 top 10

10. Helstar - Remnants of War

The second album from Helstar, and to me it was a big improvement from the 1984 debut. Heavier and more consistent than Burning Star, Remnants of War is pre-historic power metal at its finest. The guitar work here is what makes the album, and there are plenty of licks, riffs, and solos to keep the listener interested. A very good album, with no clunkers or turkeys that make you want to hit the "skip" button, and recommended to all metal fans, and power metal fans in particular.

9. Rage - Reign of Fear

This is the (sort-of) debut album by German power metallers Rage. Now in 1986, the sub-genres were branching out, and while close to the vest of traditional metal in the vein of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, Rage still had a sound of their own. Euro speed metal riffs and choruses abound here. Clearly, there are also some weaker moments, but overall a solid and enjoyable album.

8. Candlemass - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus

Here we have another debut, this time from the Swedish kings of doom. I like the sound of this album. It is very dark and gloomy, with dark lyrics and slow riffs. I like this album because it is really genre defining. I suppose one could say Sabbath invented doom, but by 1986, it was a lost art. Candlemass kind of brought it back and gave it a new birth, and they do it quite well here.

7. Metal Church - The Dark

For me, this album was a slight step back from their first. Maybe not a step back, but not a step forwards either. Don't get me wrong, I think it is a really good record, but I guess I was expecting a greater leap forward and I really didn’t notice any evolution from the first album. Still, the riffs and hooks are there and it is a good listen. One thing is for sure; I would put Metal Church's first two albums up against any other American Thrash band's first two albums and come away with the conclusion that the Metal Church albums are better.

6. Motörhead - Orgasmatron

The first Motörhead album with present guitarist Phil Campbell was another solid release by Lemmy and his band. Motörhead evolves so slowly that the changes to their sound are slight and distinct, but the more I listen to this band, the more I appreciate the different subtleties the albums have. This album builds and builds, until it explodes on the last song with the brilliant title track. One of the greatest tunes in the Motörhead catalogue.

5. King Diamond - Fatal Portrait

This album is somewhat underrated in my opinion. While it is not as good as a couple of the subsequent King Diamond released, the difference is not as great as most of the metal community would have you believe. This album certainly has more of a Mercyful Fate feel that the later albums, and to me, that is what makes it so special. In addition to King's great vocals, the twin guitar attack of Andy LaRocque and Michael Denner is great, and that is really what makes this a good album.

4. Fates Warning - Awaken the Guardian

With each album Fates Warning gets more progressive and less traditional metal. In my opinion, this album found the right balance. It is not nearly as progressive as they would become, but the song structures are better than on the previous two albums. The complexity is perfect, no wankery for sure, yet it's not the same heavy metal formula that was so prevalent in the 1980's. This is probably the best Fates Warning album of the John Arch era.

3. Megadeth - Peace Sells…But Who's Buying

Megadeth's second album is a giant leap forward from their first. The quality of the songs on this album is top notch, and the execution is flawless. The album gets a tad stale after repeated listens, but overall it is a really solid album, and a good listen from start to finish. The made popular by MTV title track is still fresh today, as are The Conjuring, Wake Up Dead, and Good Mourning/Black Friday. The balance of the album is not up to that level, and as such I would not classify this as a great album.

2. Metallica - Master of Puppets

Here we have the only Metallica album I would consider great. Really, not a weakness on here, though some moments are clearly better than other. On this album, Metallica manages to have the same aggression as they do on the previous albums, but it is properly balanced with that intangible presence that the really great bands have. For some reason, after this album, they had that intangible, but they lost the aggression and drive that made Master of Puppets a truly great metal album.

1. Iron Maiden - Somewhere in Time

A bit of a controversial Maiden album, as it used the "guitar synthesizers" for the first time. To me, the use of the synthesizer was not overdone, and it textured the album quite nicely. I think this is one of Maiden's better albums, even is it sounds a bit dated today. There are some great songs here, and Adrian Smith really shines as a player and songwriter here. Somewhere in Time, while not Maiden's best, is certainly good enough to be album of the year in 1986.

Monday, December 12, 2005

1985 - He is a Midnight Snacker - His Name is Udo and He is a Goon

1985 was an interesting year in the field of metal and rock. There were many albums released, and many good albums released, but the overall quality appears to have slipped from the previous year. In fact I have two albums in the top ten from bands whose 1984 efforts were better than their 1985 output, but the 1985 album made the top 10, where the 1984 album, while better, was left off.

So, as a result, the difference between number 10 and number 25 is probably small, because there were so many decent albums that just did not crack the top 10, but arguably they are all so close that I could change my mind about one or another them over time. However, this is not a science, just one man's hobby, so as such I present the top 10

10. Armored Saint - Delirious Nomad

I'll start out by saying, I like 1984's March of the Saint better than Delirious Nomad, that said, Delirious Nomad is a solid album for sure. However, with the Max Headroom style cover and the over polished sound, it seemed that Armored Saint were trying too hard to be liked, and as such, this album suffers a bit.

9. Slayer - Hell Awaits

An improvement over 1983's Show No Mercy, but still not quite there. I really like the longer pieces on this album, especially Hell Awaits and Crypts of Eternity and I wish they had kept to that style. However, this album is not without its holes and sometimes the listener can lose interest. The riffs are great, but sometimes pieces like Necropheliac and Kill Again are monotonous and tarnish the album as a whole.

8. Rush - Power Windows

Not the best Rush album for sure. As a matter of fact, it is my least favorite of all their 1980's albums. However, with 1985 being the year of the mediocre album, Power Windows finds a place in the top 10. There are some great moments here, like Territories, Marathon and Manhattan Project, but other tracks like Grand Designs and Middletown Dreams are boring and make the album as a whole not that enjoyable a listen.

7. Fates Warning - The Spectre Within

This is sort of a bridge album for this band. More progressive than Night on Brocken, but not yet the progressive band they eventually evolved into two albums later. It is still a good metal album with great vocals and guitar harmonies. For me it is a step back from their debut, but this opinion puts me in the minority.

6. Dio - Sacred Heart

Probably a "best of the rest" pick here. The albums after this are all clearly ahead of the 1985 pack. This is the first stop on the downhill Dio express. It's a good album for sure, but certainly not up to the caliber of his first two solo albums (or his work in Rainbow and Black Sabbath). Sometimes, I wonder what he was thinking of releasing campy pop rock tracks like Hungry For Heaven and Rock N Roll Children. The rest of the album is good (with the exception of closer Shoot Shoot), but certainly a step down for sure.

5, Celtic Frost - To Mega Therion

I am not really a Celtic Frost fan, but this album is special. In fact this is pretty much where the 1985 albums become less interchangeable in terms of their placement in my top 25 for the year, and from here in, the albums are of a higher caliber.

To me this album is way ahead of its time, and has some elements of the more technical death metal acts of the late 1990's and beyond. Circle of the Tyrants is a brilliant piece, but it's not the only great track here. The whole album is very creative and different for the time; it's almost avant-garde. Celtic Frost definitely pushed the boundaries of extreme metal with this release.

4. Watchtower - Energetic Disassembly

It is hard to describe this album. It is certainly the first true progressive metal album released. I can hear their influence on dozens of bands today from Spiral Architect to Magnitude 9. I like Jason McMaster's vocals a lot, and the guitar wizardry is fabulous. Add to that a fantastic rhythm section and you have one of the best albums by an American group from the 1980's. The more I listen to this lost gem, the better it gets. It is a truly underrated and unappreciated classic.

3. Yngwie Malmsteen - Marching Out

It was kind of funny listening to this album again for the first time in a while, because the lyrics can be quite silly in places like I am a Viking and Soldier Without Faith. I guess it sounds a tad dated, but it really is a good album. There are so many memorable classics here, and quite frankly, there is not a bad song on this album. The playing is obviously brilliant, as Yngwie is a great player, but the vocals and song structures are good too. By far, this is Yngwie's best album.

2. Helloween - Walls of Jericho

Helloween's first full-length album Walls of Jericho is probably the cornerstone of European speed/power metal. Kai Hansen is a fantastic guitarist and I personally like his singing as well, so for me this album is a real scorcher. Granted, Hansen's songwriting has improved over the years, but there is no denying the blistering power and ferocity of the riffs and other guitar work here. This is a great debut from the pioneers of German speed metal.

1. Accept - Metal Heart

I'm sure this will not be a popular choice. I love this album; really the only 1985 album I would consider great. The only 10 out of 10 of the year. There is not a weak moment here. The riffs are huge, Udo shrieks like a madman, the guitar solos are infectious, even the bass work shines on Teach Us to Survive. Accept's Restless and Wild from 1982 is really their only other good album. As such, it is very ironic that a band with more turkeys in its catalog than you'll find at a Butterball rendering plant, can release such a great album. I would have to say this is in my top 10 albums of all time. Brilliant.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Interlude - Back to the Present

Here is a tentative list of my 10 favorite albums from 2005. If any of my readers have not heard these (not counting Junkyard Willie, because he is only a tr00 ice devil in spirit, not reality) I highly recommend all of them. Though, none are good enough to warrant the famous "Money Back Guarantee".

1. Moonsorrow - Verisäkeet
2. Slough Feg - Atavism
3. Masterplan - Aeronautics
4. Gamma Ray - Majestic
5. Opeth - Ghost Reveries
6. Candlemass – Candlemass
7. Brainstorm - Liquid Monster
8. Nevermore - This Godless Endeavor
9. Primordial - The Gathering Wilderness
10. Arcturus - Sideshow Symphonies

Friday, December 02, 2005

1984 - This Is What Not To Do If Your Bird S**ts On You

1984 was a great year in the hard rock/heavy metal world. When an album like Grace Under Pressure by Rush is not in the top ten, you know you have a good year. Again, we see a fair number of debuts, but the veteran kings of metal would produce the cream of a very good crop.

10. Sinner - Danger Zone

Boy this one comes dangerously close to hair metal, but the guitars are so friggin' huge here that it falls outside that realm. The lyrics are something that Poison would be proud of, nevertheless, the music here is what counts and it really is great. Sure, it's dated, but it is effective. Guitarists Stoner and Shirley have the chops that the California players like Deville and Mars could only dream of, and they incorporated them into this 80's style hair metal, except that the music is actually good.

9. Metal Church - Metal Church

For some reason, this band tends to be overlooked when discussing the American metal scene of the 80's. People always speak of Anthrax, Slayer and the mighty Metallica, but Metal Church gets left behind. Too bad for them, because this album is better than anything Anthrax has ever done for sure. The instruments here are all well played and the vocals, while a little too Olivaesque for my liking, fit the band quite well.

8. Deep Purple - Perfect Strangers

Deep Purple's "reunion" album so to speak. Often times financially driven reunion albums are weak, but this one is an exception. There are some great tracks here (Knocking at Your Back Door, Mean Streak, Perfect Strangers) and the so-called "fillers" are also good. Blackmore's guitar work is still in fine form and Gillan's vocals give it a tremendous vibe.

7. Fates Warning - Night on Bröcken

Not a very popular album among Fates Warning fans for some reason, but I like it a lot. It has a more traditional heavy metal vibe than their progressive sound of today and it is clearly under produced. There are some great tracks on here in particular the last three Shadowfax, Damnation and Soldier Boy. This album has been accused of Maiden and Priest cloning, and there is no denying the influence of these two legendary bands on this album, but it is not cloning. A very underrated album.

6. Mercyful Fate - Don't Break the Oath

The second album from the Danish pseudo Satanists is not quite as good as the debut, but it is a very good album nevertheless. A few turkeys here keep this album from the status of greatness, but classics like Gypsy, Come to the Sabbath, and A Dangerous Meeting assure it a spot in the top 10.

5. Queensrÿche - The Warning

It is safe to say, that after the brilliant first Queensrÿche EP, I was expecting a great deal from The Warning, and while it didn't quite meet my expectations, The Warning is a very good metal album. Queensrÿche almost invented progressive metal as we know it today, and here we see the first album of this sub genre. They would go on to expand their musical horizons later in their career, and achieve the holy grail of commercial success with Empire, but in my opinion, they had a better overall sound here than almost any other time in their career.

4. Metallica - Ride the Lightning

As I stated in my 1983 top 10, I have a personal distaste for Metallica. That being said, it is hard to deny the quality of this album. A couple of weak moments keep this from the elite albums of 1984, but it is clearly the best of the rest. Creeping Death and Trapped Under Ice show the potential this band had, and would eventually achieve on a more consistent basis with their subsequent album. However, some other moments here are drab and forgetful, such as the overrated Fade to Black (Emo anyone??) and Fight Fire With Fire.

3. Dio - The Last in Line

Dio's second solo effort was almost as good as his first. This is another great album from Dio and his band. Unfortunately, after this release, the quality of Dio's work would slip significantly, never to rebound, but let's not dwell on that. The Last in Line featured many great tunes (almost all nine really), and only toward the end of the album did things slip just a tad. In another year, this easily could have been the best, but the two biggest metal giants put out some of their best work that year, putting Ronnie in the three spot.

2. Judas Priest - Defenders of the Faith

Really more of a 1A, than 2. With the exception of the last two tracks, this is a flawless Priest album. It opens with Freewheel Burning, which is fast and heavy, and the Hot Leather Dude and Co. don't let up until the obligatory, ridiculous rock anthem. Other standout tracks include The Sentinel, Some Heads are Gonna Roll, and the great ballad Night Comes Down. I really can't say enough great things about this album. Probably my second favorite Priest studio album behind Stained Class.

1. Iron Maiden - Powerslave

I know that Maiden has occupied a top 4 spot now for the last 5 years, but they are the best hard rock/metal group ever, so it is only fitting I guess. Powerslave is one of Maiden's finest moments. With four essential, legendary classics like Ace's High, Two Minutes to Midnight, Powerslave and Rime of the Ancient Mariner, that would be enough to consider it a great album, but the four remaining tracks are also great (well really good). The greatest album of a really great year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

1983 - In the Palace of the Virgin Lies the Chalice of the Soul; or Fast Song, Slow Song - Fast Song

1983 was around the time the floodgates opened and metal had started to establish itself into the mainstream. Subgenres were developing, and we saw the early incarnations of power metal and thrash. Pop metal had been born and bands like Quiet Riot and Def Leppard were selling millions in the USA. Also, 1983 saw many decent bands release their first (and some last) album. In fact, there are 6 debuts in the top ten, so we'll see a lot of new faces this year, as old favorites like Accept, Ozzy Osbourne, and Ozzy's former band Black Sabbath were laying proverbial eggs. There were many more debuts that were pretty good, and it’s a shame that these bands died out so quickly (Ashbury and Jaguar for example).

10. Savatage - Sirens

Savatage begins and ends with Criss Oliva. The guy was a real player and a great songwriter too. Sirens is not the best Savatage album, and I can only take so much of Jon Oliva's vocals, but this album is a fine example of early Savatage and the power of their music. This is a very consistent album, with flashes of brilliance and no real clunkers to hold it down.

9. Savage - Loose 'n Lethal

By 1983, any serious NWOBHM players had already released a few albums and had a decent international following. It would be difficult for a new band out of this genre to establish themselves and Savage would not be an exception to the rule. Loose 'n Lethal is a great album and one of the many hidden gems of the genre. Pretty heavy from beginning to end, not too serious lyrically, and not very original (but not cloning anyone either) are all accurate descriptions, but it's one of those albums you can put on and listen to from start to finish and not hear a bad song.

8. Slayer - Show No Mercy

By 1983, thrash metal was in its infancy and Slayer was one of the bands to establish and perfect the genre. For the time, this was blisteringly fast and heavy, and it holds up very well to this day. Show No Mercy is raw and unpolished, but already you can see that these guys got it. They were immediately superior to the UK's Venom, borrowing certain elements from that band's sound and style, yet improving them by light years.

7. Metallica - Kill 'em All

My personal distaste for Metallica cannot be stressed enough, but I will try to be objective here. This album is a good debut and the poor production can be overlooked considering the quality of the material. Essentially, they borrowed their sound from Holocaust and Diamond Head and took it to another level with better song writing. James Hetfield's vocals are great, and go perfectly with the music. The guitar solos leave a lot to be desired, and the drumming is average at best, but the quality of the riffs here are legendary. All in all, this is a really enjoyable album and is quite good.

6. Motörhead - Another Perfect Day

The first Motörhead album of the post Eddie Clarke era is a good one. Former Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson adds a different sound here and often it works (Dancing on Your Grave, Shine) and on rare occasions it does not (Another Perfect Day). The album is perhaps not as consistent as Ace of Spades or Iron Fist but more daring and interesting. There are melodic moments here (thanks to Robertson) that were very different for the band and it usually worked well. It would be interesting to see how things would have progressed with this line up, but sadly, this is the only album that featured Robertson on guitar.

5. Satan - Court in the Act

As I stated earlier, 1983 was really the tail end of the NWOBHM and British bands without an established following would have a tough go of it. Satan is a perfect example of a great band being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is probably the most criminally underrated, unheralded and un-talked about album of all time. All instruments cook, riffage galore, cool bass line, I tell you, this album has it all. It was way ahead of its time for sure, as here we see the beginnings of power metal, improving on and advancing from the first Heavy Load album from 1982. I wish I had known about this album when I was growing up, as I would have listened to it non stop for sure. A true unheralded classic and an essential album for power metal fans.

4. Iron Maiden - Piece of Mind

Piece of Mind is a great album. For the most part. Where Eagles Dare starts things off right, but things start to slowly deteriorate as you progress through the album. Even the lead single, Flight of Icarus had a shelf life shorter than Chevy Chase's talk show. I find this to be the most overrated Maiden album, by both the fans and by Mr. Harris. It is the first Maiden album to have a couple of real stinkers, and the epic track is, well, not that epic. So by Maiden's standards it is a bit of a disappointment, but compared to the metal community at large, it is a great album, and falls in at number 4 for 1983.

3. Mercyful Fate - Melissa

When I was a kid I was afraid of this album. I started listening to it about five years after its release and I was instantly impressed. While some of the lyrics are silly, this album in general is awesome. The thing that impresses me here is that the music here stands up so well over 20 years later, and it is a debut album. Anyway, from start to finish we have a heavy album with great riffs and solos. Twin guitar work is great here with Sherman and Denner, and Kings vocals are enjoyable. Satan's Fall is a tremendous epic and the other tracks are all very dark and atmospheric. Unfortunately, Mercyful Fate would never put out another album as great as this one, but it really is a classic and a requisite for any metal collection.

2. Saxon - Power and the Glory

Many people saw this as the beginning of the end for Saxon, but I disagree. Saxon was still in their prime with this album, and it wouldn't be until the follow up that the Wheels (of Steel) started to come off. Saxon was a bit more daring here being a bit more experimental and diverse, with progressive elements in The Eagle Has Landed, and more commercial leanings in Watching the Sky, etc. This really is a brilliant album as far as I am concerned. A personal favorite for sure.

1. Dio - Holy Diver

Dio's first solo album, and his best. Dio put together a great band here and this album is a complete masterpiece. Dio had put out some great albums over the years with Rainbow and Black Sabbath, and Holy Diver continued the trend. Really, all the pieces fit together here; great lyrics, great music, and flawless execution make this the top album of 1983. Rainbow in the Dark, Stand up and Shout, the title track and the six others totally rock. Not a flaw on this album. This Bud's For You Ronnie!

Friday, November 11, 2005

1982 - The Year of the Beast

By the end of 1982, the NWOBHM had just about run out of steam. Still, it seemed that record company executives were like drunken sailors handing out recording contracts to anyone with an MXR distortion box. Some bands with little to no redeeming value were releasing albums at this point, so the metal community had to endure the likes of Acid, Tank, and Bitches Sin.

But by this time, there were well more than 10 good metal albums to choose from, so the process of coming up with a top 10 became more difficult.

10. Manowar - Battle Hymns

Manowar is a punching bag among some of the elitists in the metal community and it's not hard to see why. Their ridiculous appearance as fighters out of a Dungeons and Dragons module is laughable, and their Death to False Metal cry is somewhat juvenile. However, Manowar has recorded some really good albums. Their first, Battle Hymns, is a bit raw and unpolished, and not quite as heavy as some of their later works, but it is a really good metal album.

9. Venom - Black Metal

I am not a Venom fan, but Black Metal is a really good album. More than that though, it is an absolute genre defining album. Some would argue that's what their first album, Welcome to Hell, did, but I think Black Metal is a better release. Also, Black Metal is more polished and professional, it's got better riffs and hooks and is more of an enjoyable listen.

8. Demon - The Unexpected Guest

Demon's second album sounds like a continuation of their first, which is a good thing. "Melodic" is a term often used to describe Demon, but that is a bit deceiving, as they are heavier than Praying Mantis or Gaskin, but not as heavy as their album covers and song titles would lead you to believe. In any case The Unexpected Guest is a solid NWOBHM album with good sound and production for the time.

7. Heavy Load - Death or Glory

I admit, I had not heard this album until I decided to do this top 10 project, but I am glad I did, and regret that this album flew under my radar for 20+ years. This is probably because Heavy Load is a Swede outfit, and had no exposure in the USA at all during the 1980's. Some would argue that this is the first ever Power Metal album, and while primitive compared to today's Power Metal, I agree that this album was very influential in the genre.

6. Motörhead - Iron Fist

I will never understand why this album is not as critically acclaimed as earlier releases. I think it is one of Motörhead's best albums. The last with Fast Eddie Clark, this album is blistering and heavy. I do hear some evolution in their sound with this release, though it is still textbook Motörhead and it rocks.

5. Legend - Death in the Nursery

Legend was probably a victim of bad management and that is why they never got picked up after the release of this album. This is one of the best NWOBHM releases, and I just do not understand how the likes of Tank and Bitches Sin had record deals and this album had to be self-financed and released on an independent label. Far more polished and original than their first effort, Death in the Nursery does not sound at all stale (maybe a little dated) and is a real gem from start to finish.

4. Judas Priest - Screaming For Vengeance

Priest makes a triumphant return with Screaming For Vengeance. With their last effort being sub-par despite some great moments, the hot leather dude and company needed to make a statement here, and they did it. With one of metal's all time great openers (The Hellion/Electric Eye) this album really does scream for vengeance. There are about six absolute classics on this album, and Priest had really proved that they were among metal's elite bands. Unfortunately a couple of real turkeys keep this from being one of the greatest albums of all time.

3. Accept - Restless and Wild

I find Accept to be one of the strangest bands in the history of metal. Until this point, they were pretty average. Their 1979 debut was a decent album, and I give them a lot of credit for being a bit ahead of their time, but the two follow up albums had progressed very little. That all changed with Restless and Wild. A great opening with the German folk/polka music and then ripping into Fast as a Shark (this is where all those thrash drummers got the idea for double bass) this album is a sonic assault of true heavy metal. For 1982, this thing rocked like nothing else and it still holds up very well today.

2. Rush - Signals

Many old timers feel that this was a release that tried to kill metal, and they may have a point. When New World Man (the worst song on the album) came on the radio, metal fans were horror struck. By this time Rush had abandoned any sound that would be called "heavy metal" and while I would say Rush never did a metal album, I can't think of anyone who would call this album metal. Signals is still heavy progressive rock and the sound is explosive for sure. Slick production and brilliant musicianship along with well-written songs make Signals one of Rush's finest moments and a worthy follow up to Moving Pictures. "Glad you enjoyed it."

1. Iron Maiden - The Number of the Beast

Really, what more can be said about this album. Ironically, Steve Harris is the biggest critic of this album, and I never understood why. Granted, a couple of the songs here are not as good as the others, but none of them are throwaways. Bruce Dickinson was the final piece to creating, in my mind, the best metal band ever assembled. Unfortunately, this is the only album ever recoded with this line up and it is one of the true travesties in the metal world. Maiden would go on to release brilliant album after brilliant album, but they never quite got to this level again (neither has anyone else as I see this as the finest album ever recorded).

Friday, October 28, 2005

1981 - Catch the Fish

By the time 1981 came around, the NWOBHM was starting its decline. By the end of the year, pretenders like Praying Mantis and White Spirit will have shot their proverbial load and be out of work, while some good bands like The Tygers of Pan Tang and Gaskin would be struggling for survival.

1981, like 1980 was a year that saw the hard rock/heavy metal genre improve and expand. For the first time, there are some quality albums that did not make the top 10; however, the year was not without disappointment as Judas Priest released their worst album since their debut in 1974 (sorry CRAIG - no hot leather dude this year - wait 'til next year as they say).

10. Demon - Night of the Demon

The album cover would lead you to believe this is the heaviest thing going. Well, it's not. However, what we do have is a melodic NWOBHM release, with cool sound. Part Black Sabbath, part UFO, and part something else. Night of the Demon is quite different from traditional NWOBHM fare, and clearly one of the top albums of 1981.

9. Holocaust - The Nightcomers

Interesting album here. It is easy to say that this is where Metallica ripped off their sound from, and this album (especially the vocals) does sound a hell of a lot like Kill 'em All, but I really don't believe it was a "rip-off". However, it must be said that this album was a major influence on Lar$, Jayme$ & Co. in their early days. In any case, this is yet another standout NWOBHM album. Raw and powerful with high energy, these guys were one of the heavier NWOBHM outfits. It sounds just a tad dated, and lyrically juvenile (not as bad as Anvil or The Rods) but still a really good album, and highly recommended to any NWOBHM fan.

8. Tygers of Pan Tang - Spellbound

After the raw and unpolished sound of their debut, the Tygers made 2 drastic changes to their line-up, and both were tremendous gains. New singer John Deverill was clearly a better vocalist than Jess Cox, but the big change was the addition of a second guitarist. And what a guitarist. John Sykes career with the Tygers was far too brief, but the two albums he did were both great. Spellbound is a collection of great melodic yet heavy, simple yet interesting tracks, but the story was not over yet…

7. Tygers of Pan Tang - Crazy Nights

...was the second and final album of the Sykes era. Unfortunately, it was rushed and poorly produced, so Crazy Nights could have been much better than it is. Still it is my personal favorite Tygers album and while lyrically it is a bit dodgy, the music is what counts, and all nine tracks here sound great. It is more consistent than its predecessor, with it's big guitar sound, top notch vocals, and the rhythm section performing consistently, but not brilliantly. This was kind of the end for the Tygers, Sykes would leave the band, and things would rapidly deteriorate from there.

6. Ozzy Osbourne - Diary of a Madman

Ozzy's first two studio albums were easily his best and Randy Rhoads is the reason. Really, after Randy, the quality of material Ozzy would release would get worse and worse with few highlights. Diary of a Madman represents all that was right with Ozzy's music before the shenanigans of that tour, orchestrated by his new manager and soon to be wife, (The Yoko of heavy metal) led Ozzy irreversibly down the road that led to him being seen as a punch line more that an artist.

5. Saxon - Denim and Leather

Much to CRAIG's chagrin, we have the fourth Saxon album to appear in the top tem lists. The most by any band to date. Well, that is no mistake. Early in their career Saxon were both prolific and good. I realize Denim and Leather is a step down from Strong Arm of the Law, and unfortunately, the production is spotty at best. However, tracks like Princess of the Night, And the Bands Played On, and Midnight Rider make Denim and Leather another Saxon classic, and one of the gems of 1981.

4. Riot - Fire Down Under

New York's Riot were to me the most underrated act of the early 1980's. Fire Down Under was so far ahead of its time that it was ignored. Lead singer Guy Speranza's last album with Riot was probably their best, and he would be missed. Swords & Tequila, Don't Hold Back and several others on here are all songs that hold up very well today. Given the time, the production is also great and the sound really pops. This is a highly recommended album for any fans of 80's metal that may have missed this one.

3. Black Sabbath - Mob Rules

The second Sabbath album featuring Ronnie James Dio, and the best in my personal opinion. It amazes me how the Sabbath community overlooks some of the great tracks here. Sure Voodoo, The Sign of the Southern Cross and the title cut are great, but Turn Up the Night and Falling Off the Edge of the World are among the best cuts Sabbath of ANY era has ever done. It is unfortunate this album is so overlooked because it is really great from start to finish, with only a couple of bumps in the road.

2. Iron Maiden - Killers

When this album first came out, the music press in the UK slammed it. Almost 25 years later it is hard for me to see how given what many NWOBHM bands were churning out at the time. The production alone is infinitely better than the first Iron Maiden album, and the song quality is just as strong. Murders in the Rue Morgue, Drifter and the title song are all fantastic tracks. The Murray, Smith, Harris, Burr line-up smokes here and is running on all cylinders. There are so many great moments on this album its hard to pin them all down, whether it’s the drums in Genghis Khan, the bass lines in Innocent Exile and Drifter, the guitar solos on Murders in the Rue Morgue, Killers or Drifter. Truly, an awesome album, and really only a sign of things to come for Maiden.

1. Rush - Moving Pictures

It is hard to sum up this release in a paragraph. First of all, I think it is fair to say that this is where all the pieces fit together for Rush. Surely they had standout tracks in the past, some of which are better than the songs on this album; however, they never got it right start to finish like they did here. No weak spots, no "filler" (I hate that term by the way), no Madrigal, Rivendell or Entre Nous crap. This album influenced an entire genre. No, this album created an entire genre (Dream Theater, Fates Warning, etc.). As such, this gets the nod as the top album of 1981, hands down.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


1980 marked the release of several debut and sophomore efforts from many of the NWOBHM bands to record albums. It was a much better year than 1979, and creating a top 10 was much more of a challenge. Many fine debut albums came out this year that could have been included, but didn't quite make the cut, including Def Leppard, White Spirit and Fist.

By the time many of these albums were released on CD, they were remastered and/or contained bonus tracks. I will rank the albums based on their original release, and no bonus tracks included (that includes the omission of Sanctuary fro Iron Maiden).

10. Witchfynde - Give 'Em Hell

A strange album indeed. Not satanic or black metal as the cover would lead you to believe. Varied styles are included here, from Rush (almost a rip off of Xanadu) to Black Sabbath to their NWOBHM contemporaries. Witchfynde delivers an interesting album, and one of the best to come out of the NWOBHM. Their second album was also released in 1980, and while it is a bit more consistent, the songs are a bit bland and don't have the edge of this one.

9. Tygers of Pan Tang - Wild Cat

For my money, the Tygers were one of the most underrated bands to come out of the NWOBHM. Their first album, Wild Cat, certainly has its flaws, and their best days were still ahead of them. Still, Wild Cat is a solid album, with plenty of hooks and riffs. Here you can see that this band was one of the premier bands of the genre, and were far ahead of forgettable NWOBHM outfits like Bitches Sin and Rage/Nutz.

8. Motörhead - Ace of Spades

Motörhead return with their finest album ever, Ace of Spades. Now, this band is never going to finesse their way into your heart, but Lemmy, Philthy and Fast Eddie Clarke really smoke on this album. So many great songs here, Jailbait, We Are the Road Crew, and the title track all rock like Hades, and the other album tracks are great too. Copied by many, appreciated by too few, Motörhead were the first and will always be the best speed metal band.

7. Saxon - Wheels of Steel

This was the first of two Saxon albums released in 1980, and in my opinion, the lesser of the two. Wheels of Steel suffers from some poor tracks, which hurt the album as a whole. See The Light Shining and 747 (Strangers in the Night) are among Saxon's best in their career and there are some other great numbers on this album. A really good album, and easily one of the year's finest.

6. Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Ozz

Ozzy's first solo album was a great album. This is of course before The Yoko of Heavy Metal re-recorded it because she didn't want to pay the bassist and drummer proper royalties, but I digress. Blizzard of Ozz featured Randy Rhoads on the guitar, and it is he who makes this a brilliant album, and not necessarily the Ozzmeister. The riffs and solos here explode, and considering the date, it was way ahead of its time. Really it is an essential album for any metal collection. The album was actually released in early January of 1981, but since Diary of A Madman came out three months later, I decided to throw Blizzard in with 1980. Also, the record is copyrighted 1980 and printed in 1980 as well.

5. Diamond Head - Lightning to the Nations

One of the saddest stories of the NWOBHM is the gross mismanagement of Diamond Head, who were approached by a major record company insider to manage them, and they turned him down. This album was the best debut album (save Iron Maiden) of any band coming out of the NWOBHM. I can only imagine how great they could have been. Sadly, they are now a mere footnote of an era gone by, and are more known as the band that originally did the famous Metallica cover, Am I Evil?

4. Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell

The first album of the post Ozzy Sabbath era features Ronnie James Dio on vocals. Dio is obviously a better singer and lyricist than Ozzy ever was and he shows it on Heaven and Hell. A couple of stinkers on here drag it down, but with tracks like Neon Knights and Die Young, this album is a true classic, and easily one of the top albums of 1980.

3. Judas Priest - British Steel

The hot leather dude returns to the top ten with British Steel. This album to me is very unusual because the three singles from this album are the three worst songs here. Breaking the Law, Living After Midnight and United drag this album down like a cinder block tied to an ankle. The other six songs here are all top-notch metal classics, and are examples of why Judas Priest was still at the top of the genre in 1980.

2. Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden

It is no secret that Iron Maiden is probably my favorite band, and pretty much all of their albums will be in the top ten in the year of their release. Their first album is certainly not their best work, and the production leaves a lot to be desired (as do most albums released in 1980). But the song quality here is stellar (even with the omission of Sanctuary) and many of these songs hold up very well 25 years later.

1. Saxon - Strong Arm of the Law

Saxon's finest moment was the release of Strong Arm of the Law. All eight of the tracks here (with the possible exception of Hungry Years) are brilliant. Sixth Form Girls, Dallas 1PM, and the title track are timeless NWOBHM classics and the remaining tracks are also fantastic. The musicianship will not blow you away here, but the songs are all well written and put together and sound great. A true gem, and the best album of 1980 as far as I am concerned.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

1979 - The Hot Leather Dude Rules the Roost

Here is the first top ten installment, and let me tell you, it was a tough one. 1979 will certainly not go down as a banner year for hard rock/heavy metal. In fact if you had asked me to name my top 15, it would probably include some real turkeys (thanks PKD) like Kiss' Dynasty (sorry Strutter71) or Rainbow, or even Marsielle.

In any case, there are some selections here that would never find their way into a top ten in any of the subsequent years I will we writing about, but one could interpret that as these bands are innovators in the field of hard rock/heavy metal and as such their place in "history" (at least as seen by T-_Bone) is secure.

10. Accept - Accept

It's hard to believe this album cracked the top 10. I listened to it again yesterday, and it was not quite as bad as I remember it, but I wouldn't say it's a good album. There are a couple of pointless ballads, and silly lyrics and unmemorable riffs mar many of the heavier songs. With that said however, while listening, you can see that there was greatness in there somewhere, it just took a couple of albums for it to be unleashed. Not bad for a "first album".

9. Saxon - Saxon

Another first album, and another mediocre release. It wouldn't take Saxon as long as Accept to reach greatness, but they did not achieve it here. Spotty and inconsistent, the shining moments are few and far between. Overall, the high point(s) "Stallions of the Highway" is better than anything achieved on "Accept" so that is why this album gets the 9 spot by a hair.

8. ZZ Top - Degüello

I am a casual fan of ZZ Top. I saw them live and they were great. This album is actually one of their best, and it has a really nice groove. Certainly not heavy metal, but it is a great rock album nevertheless.

7. Scorpions - Lovedrive

Again, this was an album that I liked more than I expected to when I first heard it. I first heard the Scorpions in 1982 with "Blackout", and their sound got more commercial from there. "Lovedrive" is more raw than the polished sound the Scorps had in the 1980's, and as a whole their albums preceding their break-through are my personal favorites.

6. Van Halen - Van Halen II

Van Halen was so ahead of many of their contemporaries in terms of production and sound quality, not to mention Eddie's technical ability. Maybe it is because they had a major label behind them, but their sound seems so much louder and cleaner than many of the albums of this era. "Van Halen II" picks up where the first album left off. Not as consistent or brilliant as the first album, but still a very solid release.

5. Motörhead - Bomber
4. Motörhead - Overkill

The legendary Motörhead released their second and third albums in 1979, and while they had not quite hit stride, these two albums are really good. Influential beyond what they are recognized for (at least on this side of the pond), there are many high points on these two albums, and they are always a good listen. Not technically brilliant, but well done. Perhaps if I had become a fan of Motörhead earlier on, there would be more of a distinction between these two albums, but being a "recent" fan (15 years) these two go together for me.

3. Riot - Narita

A little bit of a surprise pick here. Riot are (were?) a New York based metal band in the same vain as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Riot were a bit ahead of the pack (their first album coming out in 1977) in terms of the two-guitar attack, which is executed very well here. Ironically, the cover of "Born to be Wild" is a low point for me, where as I would bet that back in 1979, this was the "selling point" of this album. In any case, "Narita" sounds a little dated, but overall is a very good album in a year of relatively sub-par freshman and sophomore efforts.

2. AC/DC - Highway to Hell

The last album of the Bon Scott era, and my personal favorite AC/DC album. Brian Johnson would come in and AC/DC would go on to release Back in Black and its clones a dozen or so times over the next 25 years. The Bon Scott albums all have a distinct feel to them, and this one is the best of the them.

1. Judas Priest - Unleashed in the East

My first rule of the top 10 project was no greatest hits albums, and no live albums. Sort of. A live album would be considered eligible if it met certain criteria, and that would be re-defining the tracks presented. Unleashed in the East does this by leaps and bounds. Maybe it is having a proper drummer, or the cohesion of the band was better then it was when "Sad Wings of Destiny" came out in 1976. Whatever the case, Unleashed in the East is the best album of 1979 by a mile, hell by a parsec it is the best album of 1979. Very few albums are "essential" to a metal collection, maybe 10, but this is one of them. An excellent performance by the hot leather dude and company. I can even forgive Tipton's little mistake in Sinner.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A New Direction for WGAF

I have decided to write a series of Top 10 albums of the year blogs. I had to decide which year to start with and how inclusive I wanted to be, genre wise.

I decided to start with 1979. I tried 1978, but I don't think I even have 10 albums that came out in 1978, so 1979 it shall be. As far as genre, I decided to keep it to hard rock/metal only. Otherwise I would have been forced to include Joe Jackson's Look Sharp in my 1979 list and I really don’t want to do that.

So, the next entry will be the Top 10 Hard Rock/Metal albums of 1979.

1978 would have been a nice year to start with because there would have been two Judas Priest albums and I know how much my reader(s) love the hot leather dude.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

...And on This Invention They Show Shows

OK - so the title is only loosely tied to this entry, and it is esoteric for sure. Sue me.

I try not to go with the masses on many things, and for several reasons. The primary reason is that the masses are stupid. Now you can call me a snob, and that's OK, but if you want to see a slice of Americana, watch the show Cops and then come back to me and tell me the masses are not stupid.

So, anyway, a couple of years ago I decided I wanted a huge mp3 player. The now famous iPod was a recent addition to the market and it was being pumped up more than the latest ex-Seinfeld (pick any of the three) cast members' new dumb sit-com. I resisted.

I purchased an RCA Lyra 20GB jukebox, and while it was a decent piece of equipment, eventually the headphone jack broke, and the thing is basically, a portable hard-drive now. So the search was on for a new mp3 player. So again I had to decide whether or not to go with the masses.

Since I purchased the Lyra, iPods have become HUGE. I mean every MTV fan has one, where they listen to their bubble gum packaged music. Even formerly respectable artists like U2 have been involved in marketing these devices. The iPod's real target market seems to be the hip-hop crowd as can be easily discerned from their advertising. This is not the kind of product I am drawn to. However, after doing some research, I determined that it might be the best product for my "needs".

Last week, I purchased the 60GB iPod. First impressions are that the masses may have got this one right. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

You Gotta Run for the Border

Well, it has happened. I am hooked on Taco Bell, yet again. It is amazing how the addiction comes and goes.

One day, a co-worker suggested we go to the Bell. I did not know it at the time, but he was in the beginning stages of his addiction. We dragged another guy who had been out for 6 years, but he is now a regular too.

Once a week, without fail, we have "Run for the Border".

Cheesy Gordita Crunch, Crunchwrap, and Baja Blast all are on my current list. I just went yestersay and want to go again today. I don't get it. I may even get a Meximelt!

I think I need to start a support group for addicted Taco Bell eaters.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

MPAA - A Bunch of Bubble Gummers

OK - just a quick thought. I was watching a couple of scenes from Pulp Fiction this weekend. Can someone explain to me why Eric Stoltz was not nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in this film.

Every single line the guy delivers in this movie is brilliant. Every line.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Silence of the Fern

I have been trying to put together my thoughts on this Iron Maiden vs. Sharon Osbourne situation for a few days now. Click here to read the whole story.

It is strange, but it is one of those stories I can't get away from. I always want more information like who eggsactly was responsible, who refused to participate, etc.

In any case, I wanted to write an opinion piece on it, but for some reason, cogent thought is not available to me right now.

Anyway, perhaps in a day or so, I will be able to write an intelligent piece, but for now, let's all eat a hot dog.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

10 Things You Don't About Metal....But Should

1. Iced Earth lost it, we all know that. But it wasn't Barlow leaving that killed them because Horror Show is just that Horror-ble. Anyway Schaeffer ran out of ideas, that is what Iced Earth has done nothing since Alive in Athens.

2. Seasons in the Abyss is Slayer's best album. It's not even close.

3. Clive Burr is the best Iron Maiden drummer. Now you hear all kinds of crap about Nicko's brilliant technique, yadda yadda yadda. Bottom line is, the old material sounds better with Clive. It's faster and crisper, just listen to Beast Over Hammersmith.

4. We all like to laugh at Manowar and their fans, but the truth is The Demon's Whip is one of the best metal songs ever. No metal collection is complete without one Manowar CD.

5. Iron Savior is a great band that makes pure heavy metal. They are way underrated.

6. There are plenty of good American metal bands, and I am not talking about this crap they shove in our face at Ozzfest. Bands like Slough Feg, Magnitude 9 and Nile are all from different sub-genres and are all great, and are all American.

7. Moonsorrow has put out the best album of 2005 so far.

8. Mercyful Fate's Melissa is the first and still the best black metal album ever made. It may not sound like today's Black Metal, but it is old school Black Metal, and beats the snot out of anything coming out of the genre today.

9. Gamma Ray are peaking. I have not heard Majestic yet, but I will go out on a limb and say it is going to be great. That makes 5 consecutive brilliant studio albums for them. Not many bands can match that. They are much better now then Helloween ever was.

10. Dance of Death ownz you.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Top 10 Lines

10. You Like it Sour!

9. How's Your Headache - Gone!

8. Fingers

7. I do that sometimes

6. Murray's ther prettiest one out there

5. Don't call me Howie!

4. How many times?

3. Hot leather dudes walk in the club.

2. Try the FLOUNDER - it's outstanding!

1. What about those expensive shoes that I bought you?

Monday, May 30, 2005

Quote of the Day

Blame it on the lies that killed us, blame it on the truth that ran us down. -B. Springsteen

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Who's That Bart?!?

Clive Burr’s career (as far as I know)

Before his Maiden days, I think Clive appeared on two Samson singles. Mr. Rock and Roll and Telephone.

His career in Maiden is obviously well documented, as is his unceremonious firing.

From there it is a bit hard to sequence properly, but I’ll give it a shot.

He recorded an album with Trust. It was a self-titled album, and the original release was in French. There was also an English version called Man’s Trap. It is believed that it is Clive on this recording, but he is not credited on the album.

Next was the Gogmagog experiment. Gogmagog was supposed to be a metal super group, but for some reason it fell flat. It was Paul Dianno, Jannick Gers, Pete Willis, Neil Murray and Clive. They recorded a three track single that was pretty good, but that was it.

After that he formed Clive Burr’s Escape with the guys from Praying Mantis. They recorded some demos that were never released until Praying Mantis released the a few years ago as part of the Demorabilia package. The band changed their name to Stratus, and released one album called Throwing Shapes. Stratus and the Escape demos were very Journey like. Not too heavy, kind of commercial. Hearing it today it is very dated 1980’s pop metal. Really not terrible, but not good either. I also believe that Stratus recorded a song for a movie and it was on the soundtrack, but I’ve never heard it. “The Class of Nuke ‘Em High” or some such nonsense.

After Stratus fell apart it gets fuzzy. I think he hooked up with Desperado in the late 1980’s. Their one album, Bloodied But Unbowed was pretty good. Dee Snider and Bernie Torme both sounded good on the album. It had a southern feel to it, but it was heavy enough. I think this band could have developed nicely if the recorded and toured together for a few years, but it was no meant to be I guess.

In 1990, Clive appeared as a session drummer for the band Elixir on their album Lethal Potion. In my opinion this was the highlight of his post Maiden career as this is a good late term NWOBHM album.

Shortly there after he toured with Praying Mantis while their regular drummer was recovering from an injury. Mantis recorded a live album with Clive called Captured Alive in Tokyo City. Not too bad. I really am not a Mantis fan, but I have the single CD, coz Clive is on it.

Then he appeared on an album by True Brits called Ready to Rumble. Clive appears on about half the songs. I really didn’t care for it as it has a glam metal sound to it.

I think that’s it. If my sequence is out of order or I missed anything please let me know.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Blame it on the Truth That Ran Us Down

Bruce Springsteen is an interesting guy. I have to admit I hate his politics. I pretty much hate anyone with extreme politics (except Ann Coulter, for a variety of reasons) especially if they are entertainers. Some blowhard conservative pundit (I don’t remember which one – but it was not Ann) once wrote a book called “Shut Up and Sing”. I agree with that sentiment, especially when it comes to Bruce.

Now unlike many who feel Bruce is too extreme politically, I really have not noticed it that much in his songs. Every now and then he’ll do something ridiculous like “41 Shots”, but that’s OK. Also. I feel that his more recent material is just as good as his old stuff. I am not too crazy about the violin use on The Rising, but it’s tolerable.

So, Bruce has a new album due out this month called Devils and Dust. I really hope this is not an over the top political commentary. Some pundits feel that The Ghost of Tom Joad was that. I do not agree, I think TGoTJ is a really good album, a lot like Nebraska. Granted, there is an underlying sense of dissatisfaction, but the songs are based on the characters in the songs, and not on the politics of the day. As long as Bruce continues to write about people and their demons and problems he’s OK in my book.

I recently put together a Springsteen mix CD. I think this illustrates his great career quite well.

My Love Will Not Let You Down
Downbound Train
Trapped (Live)
4th of July, Asbury Park (Live)
Candy’s Room
Tougher Than the Rest (Live)
Lost in the Flood
Open All Night
Further on Up the Road
Tunnel of Love
Wreck on the Highway
Land of Hope and Dreams (Live)
My Beautiful Reward

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Ozzfest 2005 - The Clash of...Cultures?

So, it’s been official for about a week or so now. Iron Maiden is playing Ozzfest. The press says co-headlining. Fist of all, co-headlining is a bunch of crap. Either you play last, or you don’t play last. Kind of like what Eddie Murphy said about men being bi-sexual – there is no such thing – either you…but I digress.

When I first heard this news I was pretty psyched. Ozzfest could be a great time, but the more I think about it, the more I think this is not such a great idea. Some of the problems with Maiden playing Ozzfest are obvious. First, it looks like some of the other acts are pretty crappy (the usual American nu-metal/industrial/trash crap that has been churned out for the last couple of years) and the other decent acts (Arch Enemy and In Flames) are on the second stage and will probably go on 5 hours before Maiden. Second, Black Sabbath headlining is a joke. I mean how much longer can these guys go out and look ridiculous. Sharon Osbourne pushes those old gleeps on stage to make fools of themselves and she cashes in. I really hope Steve Harris and Rod Smallwood know when to pull the pin on Maiden. Based on what I have seen recently, they are still going strong, as Dance of Death was a brilliant album and the concert from that tour was one of the best Maiden shows I have ever attended, and I have seen them every tour since The Beast on the Road in 1982.

The more subtle problem with Maiden playing Ozzfest is the clash of cultures. This does not apply to the casual Iron Maiden fan, the one who will list Maiden among his favorite metal bands, but really doesn’t get it. The clash will be between the younger nu-metal/industrial fans and the hard-core Maiden fans. The hard-core Maiden fans are a different breed. To be quite honest, we can be best described as snobs.

We expect a high standard in terms of music and performance. We are intelligent, so we don’t care for songs with lyrics about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. We want epics. We want history, books and movies. Furthermore, we look down upon those that do not live up to that standard. The hardcore Maiden fan will laugh at the Black Sabbath show with its ridiculous audio track in the background. We will notice the chords behind Iommi’s solos even though he is the only guitarist on stage. We scoff at moshers and silly tattoos and piercings. We ridicule everything Ozzfest represents in terms of MTV and the media. We are intolerant of metal bands that do not conform to the standards of quality and integrity that Maiden have set.

I don’t think these differences will result in fisticuffs. In addition to all those things I listed above, we believe that any miscreant that would participate in a fight probably has a knife, so we would most likely back down from a fight, but be able to insult the snot faced youth with out him understanding it anyway.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

People Will Come, Ray

I have been thinking about my top 10 non-comedy movies of all time. I don't know if Field of Dreams will be on the list, but this speech by James Earl Jones would easily be in top ten scenes or moments. Here it is for your reading pleasure.

Ray, people will come, Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn into the driveway, not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. "Of course we won't mind if you have a look around," you'll say. "It's only twenty dollars per person." They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.

And they'll like walk out to the bleachers, sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game, and it'll be as if they had dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces.

People will come, Ray.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers; it has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Gambling is Illegal at Bushwood Sir, and I Never Slice

So I decided to do a Top 10 movies list, but while compiling the list, I could not compare comedies to drama/action movies, so I will do two lists. The first list will be the Top 10 Comedies of all time. As I was doing the list I noticed that there were no old movies on the list. That is probably because old comedies are not really funny anymore. They are saccharin sweet, and they all star Bing Crosby, who beat the tar out of his wife anyway – so, what is so funny about that?

Anyway Number 10…

10. American Pie – I never saw the sequels, but this movie was great. Actually some of story lines were pretty annoying, but Jason Biggs was great. Eugene Levy was hilarious as Jim’s dad too.

9. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure – It is hard to believe that a movie made while I was in college can be dated, but this is a little stale 17 years after its making. However, it was great at the time and is still funny. Besides, the two Iron Maiden references cement it as an all time favorite in my book.

8. Mallrats – Some really funny stuff here. Jeremy London may be the biggest weenie of all time, but Jason Lee as Brodie was one of the funnies characters of all time in any movie. The stink-palm, the dirt-mall, etc. are timeless. Plus Jay and Silent Bob are great too. If not for London’s total lack of charisma, this movie may have ranked much higher.

7. Easy Money – Rodney. ‘Nuff said.

6. Major League – At first I was uncertain as to the ranking for this movie. I think the sequels kind of diluted the original. The Tom Berringer – Renee Russo story line was a bit weak, but Charlie Sheen and Wesley Snipes more than make up for it, especially Sheen. Good stuff.

5. Dogma – A true all-star cast make this movie great. As much as I hate Benifer and Damon, they were both great here. Add Chris Rock, Jason Lee, George Carlin, Jay and Silent Bob and you have one of the funniest movies of all time.

4. The Blues Brothers – It may be cliché to pick this, but if you watch it again it is really great. John Belushi’s best performance of his career and the limited skills of Dan Akroyd are used perfectly as Belushi’s straight man. So many great lines here. John Candy’s small role was brilliant (3 Orange Whips). I can’t say enough about this movie – really funny stuff.

3. The Breakfast Club – All 80’s and stuff, I know, but really a very funny movie. Judd Nelson puts on the performance of his career, and Emilio is really funny too. Paul Gleason was also fantastic as Vernon. “I expected more from a varsity letterman”.

2. The ‘Burbs – That’s right The ‘Burbs. I mean if this is not the funniest movie of all time I don’t know what is (actually Number 1 on the list is the funniest). Tom Hanks puts on the best performance of his career. That’s right Gump’s a chump compared to Ray Peterson. Rick Ducommun is a stooge, no doubt, but he is funny here. Plus Corey Feldman is in this movie.

1. Caddyshack – An easy choice. Maybe overrated according to some, but not me. Rodney, Ted Knight, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase are all great here. Why Ted Knight was not in more movies, I’ll never know. He was brilliant and hilarious. Dangerfield steals the show no doubt about it, but he and Knight together make for some of the funniest scenes in history.

Friday, February 25, 2005

If Ann Coulter had Al Franken's Baby, It Might Be Smart

I recently signed up on the NJ Bloggers site, mostly thanks to the link on CRAIG’s page. This blog may be a bit off my usual blogging style, but I feel I have to vent a little. I have decided that I hate political activism and extremism. I also hate political blogs. I browsed some of the NJ blogs and found them so whiny and boring.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa – Bush won. Get over it.

The thing that cracks me us so much about this stuff is that these people really think John Kerry would have made a big difference. Kerry is a stooge too. Albeit, he is a different kind of stooge, but he is a stooge nevertheless. I understand there are flaws to Bush’s doctrine and that perhaps the war was not necessary. On the other hand, I don’t think that Sadaam being out of power is bad for anyone either.

The bottom line is, the truth does not lie with Michael Moore or Al Franken, and the truth does not lie in the head of Ann Coulter (though I do appreciate her wit) or Rush Limbaugh. As with everything, the truth is somewhere in the middle, and the situation in the Middle East is bad, and it always has been bad, and it will be bad in the foreseeable future. It drives me crazy that these people are so sure they are right when they have so little of the real information. They see such a small piece of the puzzle and think they have it all figured out.

The crisis in the Middle East can be blamed on many things and not just W. Sure I think W is inarticulate, and stubborn, and I am troubled by the fact that he believes he is speaking with God. However, I do not believe he is evil or has some ulterior motive to inflate the pockets of Dick Cheney at the expense of soldiers’ lives. Maybe I am naïve.

I think it boils down to the fact that people are stupid, shortsighted, and can never see the other side of an argument. The refuse to consider the possibility that they are wrong, or have a distorted view of the facts.

To put it anecdotally, I remember I was camping with my two brothers in law last fall. It was a clear night and we were looking at the stars commenting on how far away they are. One of the guys said, how do they know that, I mean how can they tell that a star is 10 light years away or twenty. He claimed he was reasonably intelligent, yet could not comprehend stellar distances. The other brother-in-law then said something that has resonated with me ever since then. He said:

“There are so many people out there so much smarter than you, don’t even try to understand.”

So to all the bloggers, both left wing and right, I say - “There are so many people out there, so much smarter than you.”

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I Am Staking My Claim

So, the Delta Pavonis idea was growing wings. A friend of mine who read the blog suggested we collaborate on the story. At first I thought it was a silly idea, but after brainstorming a couple of times, we started to come up with something unique and creative.

The premise would be that a civilization from the Delta Pavonis system is dying because their sun is evolving off the main sequence. Our basic idea was that the Delta Pavonis system is similar to the Solar System in that the inner planets are rocky. The premise was that their “Earth” had become unstable due to the evolution of Delta Pavonis. As a result, this civilization had terraformed their fourth planet, which coincidently would be similar to our Mars.

Some centuries later, their Mars would also become uninhabitable due to the further evolution of Delta Pavonis, and they would need to find a new star system in which to live. Since Delta Pavonis is within 20 light years of the Sun, it is reasonable to assume that the Solar System could be their system of choice, since many of the other systems within 20 light years of Delta Pavonis are in some way flawed (some of this we know, some would be speculation).

Now, here is where some further speculation of advanced technology comes in. We assume that through a more powerful type of telescope, this civilization is able to determine that Earth is inhabited, but that Mars is available and can be terraformed. So they send out ships at a speed faster than our technology is capable of producing (but slower than light because I would like some credibility to the premise) and start to terraform Mars.

The above is all pretty much background, as the story would begin with our scientists detecting changes to the Martian landscape and atmosphere, and then discovering the aliens. From here the story would develop. We had not decided on how to structure a meeting between us and our new neighbors, or what the aliens would look like, but those details would eventually have been written by my co-author. By the way – if you want to take a stab at it from here go ahead.

Now my concern is this. The stupid Spielberg Cruise movie involving Mars has pissed me off a bit. I am really afraid that they will incorporate some of our idea of a civilization for another system living on Mars when they attack. So, I am putting my cards on the table now to prove to all 4 of you that this was my idea first. If the dumb movie actually has the dumb premise that the invaders are indigenous life forms of Mars, then perhaps we will write the story, but until then I am not going to waste my time.

Also, I am not a writer.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Good, The Bad, and The Stupid

I finally saw Kill Bill this weekend. What took me so long? This was probably the best movie I have seen since Pulp Fiction. I am upset that I did not see it in the theater. Quentin Tarantino may be the best director of all time. I can’t tell you how many times I was amazed at the camera angles and other aspects of this movie. The fight scene in the snow between Lucy Liu and Uma was fantastic, as was every other scene in this brilliant movie. Tarantino is way underrated, and it’s pretty obvious to me that the reason he isn’t more commercially successful is that most people are too stupid to appreciate his brilliance.

Speaking of stupid. Hollywood stooges Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg are re-making War of the Worlds. Are we to believe that invaders from Mars are coming to fight us? What is this, Attack of the Microbes? Can we really accept a movie in this day and age that has invaders from Mars? Can they really not change this foolish premise? I know it is fiction, but really doesn’t the story need a shred of credibility? I am curious to see how this develops and how this stupid movie will be any different than Independence Day, which was stupid enough.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

I Am Not A Writer

I am not a writer. Some of my friends are writers. You know who you are. I think I do not have the patience to be a writer. Loyal readers will recall my desire to write an alternate history story or timeline based upon the Reagan assassination attempt in 1981. That could have been interesting, but would have required reading and research far above the amount of time that I had. Also, I am not a writer.

I have another idea for a story. Again, it would probably require research and further reading, but alas, I do not have the time. Besides, I am not a writer.

The idea is based upon my recent interest in the stars in our local stellar neighborhood (within 10 parsecs or so). One of these stars is Delta Pavonis. Delta Pavonis is very similar to our own sun in terms of size, mass, luminosity, etc. Also, it is reasonably close (about 20ly or a bit more than 6 parsecs). The main difference is that it seems clear to scientist that Delta Pavonis is a dieing star. This also means it is substantially older than our sun, and if it has intelligent life, chances are it is more advanced than our own society.

So, the premise is that the inhabitants of this Delta Pavonis system are aware of their dieing sun and set out to new systems in hope of finding an uninhabited world in which to live.

I would use the premise that they built a large craft that could travel about 30 percent of the speed of light, and left their star 60 years ago and are arriving today.

I think this could be a realistic and interesting story, but like I said….

I am not a writer.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Star Power

I have been reading a bit about nearby stars lately. I am not referring to Joe Pesci or Bruce Springsteen, but 40 Eridani A and Tau Ceti. I am not sure why this fascinates me. These stars and any matter surrounding them are clearly too far to visit. I firmly believe in the theory that travel even close to the speed of light is impossible, so interstellar travel for humans is not an option.

In any case, the existence of these places fascinates me. A few years ago I read A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. While some of the science in the book is probably out dated now, it is still a fascinating read, and recommended to anyone with half a brain and an interest in the origins and destiny of the universe.

OK – so what is the point? I really can’t say. I know that I love knowledge. I want to know as much stuff as I can (kind of like Travolta in that movie Phenomenon). So, the cosmos fascinates me, because there is so much to know. I think this fascination plays into the “Star Trek” TV show. I am curious as to whether or not the writers have considered where certain places are in the galaxy, other than Vulcan.

So – what’s the point? I still can’t say. One additional observation is that it sucks that the night sky is invisible to us in the NY metro area. It would be nice to look at the sky and tell my kids the names and locations of the stars, but since the starts are invisible to us, that is impossible.

Finally, I wish to add that I really do not know what I plan to do with this knowledge of the stars in our galactic neighborhood. It is funny that with the exception of Sirius, the close stars are all relatively small and hard to find, whilst the easy stars to find (i.e. Betelgeuse, Rigel and the other stars in Orion are quite distant. Another interesting point is that it seems many of the G-class stars (those similar to the Sun) are only visible in the Southern Hemisphere. Weird.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Top 124

I have decided to rank the Iron Maiden songs in order of worst to best. The list is below:

124. Wasting Love
123. Dream Of Mirrors
122. Lightning Strikes Twice
121. The Fugitive
120. Mother Russia
119. Childhood's End
118. Remember Tomorrow
117. The Apparition
116. The Angel and the Gambler
115. Quest For Fire
114. The Prophecy
113. No Prayer For The Dying
112. Don't Look To The Eyes Of A Stranger
111. Sun And Steel
110. When Two Worlds Collide
109. Weekend Warrior
108. Bring Your Daughter .... To The Slaughter
107. From Here To Eternity
106. The Aftermath
105. Flash Of The Blade
104. The Assassin
103. Twilight Zone
102. 2 A.M.
101. Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
100. Fortunes Of War
99. The Unbeliever
98. The Mercenary
97. Public Enema Number One
96. Iron Maiden
95. Be Quick Or Be Dead
94. Look For The Truth
93. Hooks In You
92. Judgement Of Heaven
91. Running Free
90. Fates Warning
89. Blood Brothers
88. Afraid To Shoot Strangers
87. Man On The Edge
86. Tailgunner
85. Lord Of The Flies
84. Blood On The World's Hands
83. The Fallen Angel
82. Only The Good Die Young
81. Gates Of Tomorrow
80. Out Of The Silent Planet
79. The Edge Of Darkness
78. Fear Is The Key
77. Ghost Of The Navigator
76. The Nomad
75. 2 Minutes To Midnight
74. Run Silent Run Deep
73. Losfer Words
72. Deja Vu
71. Gangland
70. Futureal
69. Age Of Innocence
68. Flight of Icarus
67. Sea Of Madness
66. Alexander The Great
65. Can I Play With Madness
64. Brave New World
63. Como Estais Amigos
62. The Ides Of March
61. Revelations
60. The Trooper
59. Innocent Exile
58. Holy Smoke
57. Another Life
56. Transylvania
55. The Duellists
54. Moonchild
53. Wrathchild
52. Charlotte The Harlot
51. Ghengis Khan
50. Sign Of The Cross
49. Montesgur
48. Children Of The Damned
47. Prodigal Son
46. Wildest Dreams
45. Run To The Hills
44. Heaven Can Wait
43. The Clairvoyant
42. Strange World
41. New Frontier
40. Invaders
39. No More Lies
38. To Tame A Land
37. Purgatory
36. Caught Somewhere In Time
35. Chains of Misery
34. Back In The Village
33. The Educated Fool
32. In finite Dreams
31. Rime Of The Ancient Mariner
30. Dance Of Death
29. The Evil That Men Do
28. Where Eagles Dare
27. Total Eclipse
26. Die With Your Boots On
25. Aces High
24. Wasted Years
23. Prowler
22. The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner
21. The Wicker Man
20. Still Life
19. The Clansman
18. The Thin Line Between Love & Hate
17. Rainmaker
16. Sanctuary
15. Stranger In A Strange Land
14. Killers
13. Judas Be My Guide
12. Murders In The Rue Morgue
11. Hallowed Be Thy Name
10. 22 Acacia Avenue
9. Phantom Of The Opera
8. Face In The Sand
7. Powerslave
6. Fear Of The Dark
5. Journeyman
4. Drifter
3. The Number Of The Beast
2. Paschendale
1. The Prisoner

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Top 10 Albums of the Year - 2002

As I stated in an earlier blog, it is impossible to properly review a CD after one listen or two. Good music takes a while to appreciate and understand. It is impossible to tell after only a short time. Sure you can tell if it is garbage or not, but true greatness takes a while to recognize. With that, and with it being a new year, and with CRAIG’s last blog about 1970 movies, I thought it would be appropriate to give my top 10 albums of the year.

For 2002.

10. DoomSword – Resound the Horn. These Italian kings of Viking Metal are so cool. I mean when you think of Italian metal, you think of wussy Power Metal like Rhapsody. These guys are all about Vikings and epic battles and stuff like that. Their music is usually slow paced, but heavy, and never dull. With a lead singer like Deathmaster, you can’t go wrong.

9. Running Wild – The Brotherhood. We go from Vikings to Pirates. Running Wild has carved out a niche as the only band to write about all things Pirate. While Running Wild has better albums than this, it is good enough to crack the top ten in a relatively weak year. Also, it marks and improvement for the band since their last album Victory; which was somewhat weak.

8. Hammerfall – Crimson Thunder. Another album from Hammerfall in the same vein as the first three. A little more grown up and raw with more power than Renegade. While I am not crazy about the two cover songs, as a whole they work with the rest of the album. I certainly wouldn’t call this a classic, but Hammerfall is not about classics, they are about good Power Metal and they do it relatively well.

7. Eidolon – Coma Nation. From the metal hot bed of Canada comes Eidolon. This is an interesting band. Not Thrash because they are too melodic, not Power Metal either, but I don’t need no stinkin’ genre to describe them, they rock!! The album is very heavy, very intense, and very enjoyable to listen to. The last track (Within the Gates) is probably the best epic song of the year.

6. Rush – Vapor Trails. Speaking of Canada…Rush returns in 2002 with Vapor Trails. Certainly not their best work, but there are enough bright spots here (Earthshine, Peaceable Kingdom, etc.) to put this album up with the year’s best.

5. Halford – Crucible. The hot leather dude himself returns with his second solo album. Not quite as good as his first, but more consistent. Maybe not as traditional or “Priestish” as Resurrection, but still a real solid effort for the self proclaimed Metal God.

At this point, I would like to pause. The reason is this; the six albums above are all very good. However, none I would consider outstanding or classic. The next four are clearly a step above. So much so, that they really belong on another list. So, I will pause.

Pause complete.

4. Sentenced – The Cold White Light. This is the album Metallica should have made after Load. I must admit, Sentenced comes dangerously close to sounding too much like Metallica on this record. However, the songs, production, and general vibe of this album are so great, that I can overlook a little lack of originality in some aspects of the songs. Sentenced writes depressing lyrics and themes in the most upbeat and catchy songs I have ever heard. The album is schizophrenic, but it really is great.

3. Agalloch – The Mantle. Agalloch is tough to describe. I have heard them described as avant-garde progressive folk death metal. Well, I don’t know if that is right, but I do know this album is a really enjoyable listen. Very dark and atmospheric, and perfect for a long car ride in the rain. A truly unique and excellent band.

2. Iron Savior – Condition Red. In my review for Hammerfall, I said that they do Power Metal relatively well. These guys do it better, if not best. This is the first Iron Savior album without Kai Hansen, and unbelievably, they don’t miss him. This is the best Iron Savior album to date, and the other three are really good, too, but this one is at the next level. I love the opening, no sappy intros here, just bang!

1. Opeth – Deliverance. That’s right Opeth. Call me a fanboi if you want to, but this album is brilliant. Yeah, it’s not quite as good as Blackwater Park, but it is close. Their use of fast and slow tempos, death growls and clean vocals, and other contrasts are well done. Some of the criticism of Opeth is that the songs are drawn out, and I can see that to a limited extent, really I find no useless filler here. Maybe a bit of self-indulgence, but these guys have earned it.

So that’s it. Stay tuned for my 2003 list, coming in early 2006!!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

La Fanciulla di Ferro

Goodfight caro

Sono genitore di due giovani ragazzi. Mio più vecchio figlio ha mostrato un interesse in una banda di roccia ha chiamato la Fanciulla di Ferro. Mentre pretende che sono immensamente popolari (e così la corrente principale), sono poco conosciuto con loro. Ho fatto una ricerca superficiale sull'Internet e ho trovato molte informazioni (sopra i luoghi di 2,000,000) ed alcune immagini orrende (alcuni è apparso essere il demonic). Comunque, nella lettura alcuna del loro lirico da una registrazione recente, non ho trovato niente terribilmente offensivo (ha paragonato all'altra musica popolare oggi).

Comunque, ho deciso di fare un piccolo più ricerca sulla musica demonically ispirata, e quando ho ricercato l'Internet per “la musica demonically ispirata” ho trovato il suo luogo. Mentre conoscere bene molti degli artisti sul suo luogo, e non è d'accordo con tutte le conclusioni, il suo estratto di “Uccide Sua Figlia” dalla Fanciulla di Ferro disturbava. Disturbare abbastanza per me scriverla. Lei ha fatto ovviamente i suoi compiti, dunque speravo per alcuno consiglio.

Primo di tutto il, ha per quanto tempo la Fanciulla di Ferro è stata intorno (questi individui guardano bello vecchio di essere nel rock and roll)? Sono pericolosi? Che dovrei dire mio figlio?
Non voglio reagire in modo esagerato perché sono sicuro ci sono delle cose peggiori per i miei bambini di essere coinvolte in, ma indosso realmente’t come ciò che ho visto sul suo luogo. Ci sono molti riferimenti di Fanciulla di Ferro sulla tela, ma ci è cosí molte informazioni (e le mis-informazioni) fuori da lí, che indosso’t sa ciò che fare o che credere.

Qualunque informazioni o qualunque maglia di tela utile lei potrebbe fornire farebbe utile.