Metallica

The Grammy Awards disrespect metal music, yet again

I don’t watch the Grammy Awards, or any celebrity awards shows for that matter. It is basically a way for narcissists to feel even more delusionally self-important, and for the rest of us to live vicariously through their questionable wardrobe choices.

The 2017 Grammy Awards had 2 notable mishaps, however, and both were over 2 of the biggest metal bands in existence: Metallica and Megadeth.

-Upon winning a Grammy for Best Metal Performance (“Dystopia”), Megadeth were summoned to the stage to get their awards. And what song should play on cue, but Metallica’s “Master Of Puppets”? For those who are unaware, Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine has had an acrimonious history with Metallica, and even after he left Metallica, he would claim that Metallica stole uncredited riffs from him…up to the Master Of Puppets album. Nowadays, Dave and Metallica get along decently well, and I’m sure he can look back and laugh about this, especially since this is his first Grammy despite being nominated 12 times before this year.

-Metallica performed “Moth Into Flame” with Lady Gaga…which seems positively ridiculous, even though Lady Gaga is a fan of Metallica. Anyway, Lady Gaga was introduced as the sole performer while Metallica stood on stage, and when they started playing, James Hetfield’s mic wasn’t working properly, leaving Lady Gaga to solely sing the lead vocals until the mic feed got fixed. Hetfield was so pissed that he threw his guitar at the guitar tech after the performance. And, who could blame him?

This isn’t the first time that the Grammys have disrespected metal music:

-In 1989, the Grammys first recognized metal music as a category…and they awarded the inaugural Grammy for Best Metal Performance to Jethro Tull, who were never a metal band.

-In 1993, Nine Inch Nails would win for “Wish”, despite NIN not being a metal band (they beat out Helmet’s “In The Meantime”, which is one of the best and most influential metal songs of the 1990’s). NIN would win this award again in 1996.

-And, in 2015, comedy band Tenacious D would win for “The Last In Line”, beating out a true metal nominee in Motorhead (whose frontman Lemmy would pass away 10 months later, in December 2015). At least Motorhead had already won in 2005 for “Whiplash”…yes, a Metallica cover song.

Luckily, most metal fans could care less about the Grammy Awards. But if you are going to actually nominate and give awards to metal musicians, at least take the time to do it right. The Revolver Golden Gods awards show is a good example, even if the Golden Gods has been increasingly ridiculous itself lately.

MUSIC REVIEW: Metallica, “Hardwired…To Self Destruct”

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Metallica is, and has been, the biggest name in metal music ever since they formed back in 1981. For 35 years, they have stayed consistently heavy, despite some minor detours back in the 1990’s with the hard rock and blues inflected Load albums. With their previous album Death Magnetic, they had some promising moments. The hype for Hardwired, therefore, was massive, especially with the first two singles they put out: “Hardwired” and “Moth Into Flame”, which are both fantastic; “Hardwired” with its unabashedly throwback sound, and “Moth Into Flame” which sounds like it could have been the number #1 single off of their Load-era albums.

The consensus thus far is that Hardwired…To Self Destruct lives up to the hype. I will go one further: not only is it a serious contender for metal album of the year, but it is easily one of Metallica’s top 5 albums. They are firing on all cylinders, and the songwriting is diverse and fantastic.

It opens with the song “Hardwired”, which is about as old school authentic Metallica as one could wish for, with its thrashing guitars and two-step drumming. “Spit Out The Bone” is another thrash masterpiece, which features a similar riff to the one that hardcore punk legends Bad Brains used on their song “Sailin On”. “Moth Into Flame” is a well-written song which is as catchy and melodic as it is inducing to headbanging. “Confusion” is another song that sounds old school, that is reminiscent of Ride The Lightning-era songs, and it is an updated version of the anti-war “One” from And Justice For All. In fact, most of the album has an old school sound to it. If Master Of Puppets is your favorite Metallica album (which it is to most people), then you will not be disappointed, and you will be pleasantly surprised.

There are really no bad songs on Hardwired…To Self Destruct. Everything flows together well, and the album sequencing is perfect. James Hetfield still has the best guitar-picking hand in metal, and he bangs out 8th or 16th note riffs as easily as Kirk Hammett nails amazing leads. Lars Ulrich, for as much backlash as he gets, still has his trademark drumming which is heavy on fills and offbeat cymbal hits. And Robert Trujillo is still holding down the low-end, giving Hardwired a tight rhythm section to anchor the blazing guitar work.

Most Metallica albums (and most albums in general) usually have filler or throwaway songs, if only one or two. Hardwired, on the other hand, has no such moments: every song was obviously considered a potential single, and stands alone on their own merits. Further evidence of this is the fact that Metallica released music videos for EVERY song on the album, which is a genius marketing move that will further the perception of Hardwired… being a great album from beginning to end. The last Metallica album that was 10/10 from start to finish was the “Black Album”, and the only other album that could be considered that would be, obviously, Master Of Puppets.

Hardwired…To Self Destruct is easily the best Metallica album since the “Black Album”. And, if you aren’t a fan of the Black Album, for whatever reason, there’s this: Hardwired… is Metallica’s most thrash metal album since the 30 year old Master Of Puppets. Hardwired is a brilliant album, and will certainly stand among Metallica’s finest musical moments.

My top 10 favorite metal riffs

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Guitar tab for Pantera’s “A New Level” riff.

In metal music, the songs are based around riffs. This list is obviously debatable and there are surely some I’m forgetting, but here are 10 that have consistently been my favorites:

Cro-Mags, “Malfunction”

Parris Mayhew, former guitarist for the Cro-Mags, has had a successful career in the video filming industry. But when he was just 15, he came up with some killer riffs, with Malfunction arguably being his most well-known. The chorus riff is only 4 notes, standard tuning…and is still heavy as hell.

Death, “Crystal Mountain”

Chuck Schuldiner is one of metal’s most revered guitarists, frontmen, and songwriters. For me, my favorite from him is the opening riff from Crystal Mountain. It is deceptively simple until he throws in a sweep at the end. It is a catchy riff and a memorable one. RIP Chuck.

Crowbar, “Repulsive In Its Spendid Beauty”

What would a riff list be without the Riff Lord? Kirk Windstein, guitarist, frontman, and songwriter for Crowbar, has written countless killer riffs. But for me, my favorite from him is the verse riff from Repulsive In Its Splendid Beauty. It is fairly simple with some string bending, yet dense and atmospheric.

A close second from Kirk is the chorus riff from his side band Kingdom Of Sorrow’s “Lead Into Demise”, which sounds like AC/DC’s “Riff Raff” on steroids.

Pantera, “A New Level”

Dimebag Darrell is another legendary metal guitarist of Pantera fame. For me, my favorite from him is the chorus riff from A New Level. It is a simple chromatic riff, and is still one of the heaviest things that you and I will ever hear. RIP Dime.

Dying Fetus, “Praise The Lord”

Dying Fetus has long been one of my favorite modern metal bands. And the opening riff for Praise The Lord is my favorite from them. Heavy as hell with some squeals at the end.

Helmet, “In The Meantime”

This is one of the first bands I ever heard as a kid that was legitimately heavy. The chorus riff from In The Meantime is still heavy as hell 24 years later, and is a fun one to play and jam out to.

Machine Head, “Halo”

For Machine Head albums, Burn My Eyes will always be my favorite. But for my favorite MH riff, the verse riff from Halo has to be it. Catchy as hell with Robb Flynn’s trademark harmonic squeals.

Slayer, “Raining Blood”

And what riff list would be complete without a Jeff Hanneman creation? Raining Blood still sounds as heavy and demonic as it first did in 1986. RIP Jeff.

Metallica, “Sad But True”

This was one of Metallica’s first downtuned songs, and the beginning of Sad But True sounds like a brick wall crashing down. This riff is so influential that it became the basis for hit songs by Kid Rock and Avenged Sevenfold.

Napalm Death, “My Own Worst Enemy”

Napalm Death has been consistently awesome for many years now, but my favorite riff from them comes from their most underrated album, Diatribes. The riff at the bridge of My Own Worst Enemy is catchy, heavy, and slightly off kilter like all ND riffs…and it has such an awesome groove. Just try NOT headbanging to this one!

Any suggestions? What’s your favorite riffs?

The 10 most important old school metal albums

People come to me occasionally asking for recommendations for music to check out. Now, my musical tastes are too esoteric and varied to easily narrow down. But, being that I am a proud fan of metal music, I have decided to attempt to come up with a top ten list. I know lists are highly subjective and debatable, but I feel that this one can be somewhat agreed upon, especially since I narrowed it down to old school metal albums (1980’s – 1990’s). Here we go:

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Biohazard, “Urban Discipline”

This would eventually become one of the top selling metal albums of all time, with their single “Punishment” becoming one of the most played metal videos ever on MTV (coincidentally, Parris Mayhew of the Cro-Mags directed this video!). This is one of the first albums to meld metal, hardcore punk, and hip-hop, and it would be a strong influence on the NYHC scene in the 1990’s.

Recommended songs to check out: “Punishment”, “Urban Discipline”, “Wrong Side Of The Tracks”

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Cro-Mags, “The Age Of Quarrel”

The Cro-Mags’ debut album is widely revered as a hardcore classic. However, it was one of the first crossover albums that had a large metal influence. From the slowed-down intensity of “Malfunction” and “Life Of My Own”, to the speed metal of “Street Justice”, this is one of the few albums that is killer from start to finish. Impressive, especially since they were all teenagers when they recorded this.

Recommended songs to check out: “Hard Times”, “Malfunction”, “Life Of My Own”

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Death, “Symbolic”

Death is widely known as a death metal band, mostly because of the name. However, Symbolic has more of a straightforward metal sound, with progressive metal and death metal influences. The best Death album is highly debatable, since there are so many good ones, but Symbolic would be my pick. Chuck Schuldiner had some awesome songs on here, and the drumming of Gene Hoglan is a veritable showcase of his skills.

Recommended songs to check out: “Crystal Mountain”, “Without Judgement”, “Empty Words”

 

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Deftones, “Adrenaline”

Most people don’t think of the Deftones as a metal band, especially nowadays, but their debut album Adrenaline is a prototype for all of the nu-metal that would come out in the late 1990’s. They were the Pixies of the heavy music scene, with their quiet/loud dynamics and knack for catchy melodies. Stephen Carpenter had some killer riffs on this one, and Chino Moreno’s vocals would influence countless metal frontmen.

Recommended songs to check out: “One Weak”, “Nosebleed”, “Fire Engine No. 9”

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Machine Head, “Burn My Eyes”

This is another highly influential album. Burn My Eyes had an old school thrash template, with street sensibilities and a love for guitar harmonics. It is widely considered the best MH album (with the possible exception of “The Blackening”), and is still heavy as hell.

Recommended songs to check out: “Davidian”, “The Rage To Overcome”, “Block”

 

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Meshuggah, “Destroy Erase Improve”

This Swedish band would influence countless bands with this album, with its Helmet-inspired guitar riffing, monotone vocal delivery, jazz breakdowns, and polyrhythmic drumming.

Recommended songs to check out: “Suffer In Truth”, “Future Breed Machine”, “Vanished”

 

 

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Metallica, “Master Of Puppets”

Yep, here is the album that really brought metal into the spotlight. This is widely considered Metallica’s best album, and is a classic from start to finish.

Recommended songs to check out: “Battery”, “Master Of Puppets”, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”

 

 

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Pantera, “Far Beyond Driven”

Cowboys From Hell was a great major label debut, and Vulgar Display Of Power is a classic. But, Far Beyond Driven would find Pantera in their prime. This album redefined heavy, and also helped to put metal in the spotlight with its #1 Billboard first week album debut.

Recommened songs to check out: “Becoming”, “Shedding Skin”, “Hard Lines And Sunken Cheeks”

 

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Sepultura, “Arise”

Arise was a truly innovative metal album. The boys from Brazil would put their own original mark on the metal scene. Arise is a timeless album, which has an old-school thrash sound with their own spin on it.

Recommended songs to check out: “Dead Embryonic Cell”, “Desperate Cry”, “Altered State”

 

 

Slayer_Reign_In_Blood

Slayer, “Reign In Blood”

And…here we go. This is arguably the most important old-school metal album right here. Clocking in at around 30 minutes, this is metal at its head-banging finest. A must-have for any fan of metal.

Recommended songs to check out: all of them!

 

 

Do you have any suggestions or favorites? Let me know!