#1025: According to Megadeth’s ‘Sweating Bullets…’

Q #2,021: According to Megadeth’s ‘Sweating Bullets,’ mankind has got to know his what?

A.

Mankind has got to know his limitations!

Coming off of the legendary powerhouse album ‘Rust in Peace,’ Dave Mustaine and company set to embark on something completely different. Megadeth entered the studio in 1992, with the intention of refining their sound to a new level of precision. The result was ‘Countdown to Extinction,’ which transformed Megadeth from a thrashterpiece outfit, into what was arguably the most technically proficient record of all the Big Four records. While Metallica’s ‘Black Album’ is an unprecedented commercial success, ‘Countdown’ showcased a more mid-tempo, shred-driven polished sound that leaned more towards acceptance of perfection, as opposed to fan perceived ‘sell out.’ This record was far from built in a day, and it is said to have be written, torn apart, and re-written multiple times prior to even entering a studio.

Megadeth, along with producer Max Norman, developed a sound almost exclusively to cater to the stylings of guitarist Marty Friedman. Friedman’s virtuosity really shines through, and juxtaposes Mustaine’s more frantic and aggressive lead guitar approach. Make no mistake, the art of the riff is ultimately what drives the album, and Mustaine brought one of his best vocal performances along to really tie the room together. Recorded in Burbank, California during the Rodney King riots, the band was bound to less than favorable studio hours. The city wide 6pm curfew was considered a hindrance to the recording process, but the final product speaks volumes to the effort put in by all parties involved.

The song ‘Sweating Bullets’ is a journey into the mind of mainman Dave Mustaine, and the lyrics most certainly help carry the song, if they aren’t specifically the reason for the song’s immense popularity. A staple of the live set, the minimalist approach of the main verse riff allows for Mustaine to greatly embellish and act out the lyrics of the song, certainly aware of his own limitations whilst having to play some of the most technical rhythm guitar parts coupled with performing vocally. Dave can really get into character with this one, and this is perhaps due to his particularly introspective lyrical subject matter.

Penned while reading a book written by comedian George Carlin, ‘Bullets’ takes you inside the mind of Mustaine, as he says “There’s someone we all confer with; it’s called our conscience. Some people cannot control their other side; it takes them over. Everybody has that psychotic side. Everyone has a thing that will make them snap.” Bassist David Elleffson remarked that the lyrics are “psychotically perfect. Because, as I heard him reading them, it sounded like the inside of a crazed lunatic’s mind, which is exactly what it’s supposed to be.”

Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell would end each tour with a unique tattoo to commemorate the run, and at the end of a jaunt with Megadeth, he approached Mustaine in Amsterdam saying “Dave! Dave! Look, man! Look at my new tattoo — it’s a blacktooth grin! There’s a line I have in a song called ‘Sweating Bullets,’ which goes, “Someday you too will know my pain / And smile its blacktooth grin.” This is also apparently the origin of Pantera’s inventive drink of choice, the “Blacktooth Grin,” a glass full of Jack Daniels with a splash of Coke.

The video for ‘Sweating Bullets’ was directed by Wayne Isham, who has done dozens of videos for some of the biggest hits of the previous 30 years. From Motley Crue, to Skid Row, to Def Leppard, to the Rolling Stones, to Judas Priest, Isham was no stranger to the iconic. And while ‘Symphony of Destruction’ was the first video he directed for the band, ‘Sweating Bullets’ really captured the schizophrenic, dissociative identity disorder of Mustaine battling with himself. Isham interestingly was also directing the Metallica videos off the ‘Black Album’ release during the same period, and would continue to make Megadeth videos through 1994’s ‘Youthanasia.’

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#1020: Quiet Riot, ‘Bang Your Head (____ ____)

Q #2,016: METAL PARENTHESES: Quiet Riot, ‘Bang Your Head (____ ____)

A.

Quiet Riot’s ‘Bang Your Head (Metal Health)’ appears on the band’s third studio album, 1983’s ‘Metal Health.’ The parenthetical was added after the original vinyl release, and has sometimes also been seen reversed, with the ‘Bang Your Head’ in the parentheses. It’s understandable how a label could have made minor printing errors on a record that was pressed like mad, selling over six million albums to date in the US alone (to compare, ‘Vulgar Display of Power’ was Pantera’s best selling effort and is “only” certfied 2X Platnium).

‘Metal Health’ is far and away the biggest success of the band’s career, and has helped propel multiple incarnations of the band forward throughout the years. Originally formed by famed Ozzy Osbourne guitarist and legend Randy Rhoads, Quiet Riot’s first two efforts ended with Rhoads departing and the band collapsing as a result. Bassist Rudy Sarzo also left Quiet Riot and joined Rhoads in the Ozzy camp. A great amount of Quiet Riot material went on to become Ozzy material but reworked with new lyrics.

When Rhoads died in a plane crash in 1982, vocalist Kevin Dubrow wrote a tribute to him entitled ‘Thunderbird,’ which was recorded with his solo band at the time. The group enjoyed working together on the song so much, that they ended up recording a good chunk of what would become the ‘Metal Health’ album during the ‘Thunderbird’ sessions. The album came together and was re-branded as Quiet Riot once again.

The biggest single off of ‘Metal Health; was a cover of Slade’s ‘Cum On Feel The Noize,’ which was the first heavy metal track to hit #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. ‘Bang Your Head’ would reach #31, and help Quiet Riot achieve a #1 album the same week they had their top five single. The title track appeared on the ‘Footloose’ film soundtrack, while ‘Noize’ was receiving regular video airplay on MTV. This proved to be winning combination for the band, and they reaped the benefits. The album took the #1 album slot away from The Police, and lost the spot to Lionel Richie.

‘Condition Critical’ was the follow up to ‘Metal Health,’ and this proved to not just be a clever name. The album contained another Slade cover, ‘Mama, Weer All Crazee Now,’ which many thought was an attempt to play it safe and copy the band’s previous effort. It’s painful to put the following into words, but selling three million units was considered to be a commercial failure back then. Could you imagine what sales numbers today would have done to record execs during this era of the industry? A 3x Platinum disappointment? Inconceivable!

In perhaps the ultimate metal band qualifier, the current Quiet Riot lineup consists of no original members.

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#1018: MOMENT OF METAL #199

Q #2,014: MOMENT OF METAL #199 – watch it here!

A.

That song is ‘Downfall,’ which appears on the ninth Exodus studio album, 2010’s ‘Exhibit B: The Human Condition.’ Its prequel was ‘The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A,’ the first Exodus albums to not feature a lineup change since ‘Fabulous Disaster’ in 1989.

The album cover (below) is a take on Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” sketch, and is meant to represent “man and his affinity for bloodshed, ignorance, and all-around ability to be led like sheep to the slaughter.”

Exodus

The concept of the human condition is the underlying sense of morality and purpose within life as we know it. Most every religion seeks to explain the human condition, usually as a means to establish a sense of purpose and justice amidst the chaos and conflict. Many great minds have tackled the subject, from Plato’s ‘Republic,’ to Rene Descartes launching a more modern day philosophy stating “I think, therefore I am,” declaring the mind as a faculty of reason.

Guitarist and driving force Gary Holt writes the band’s lyrics, and should be considered a modern day existentialist himself, as he attempts to tackle the reasons for such atrocities in the world that he sees as absurd. The song ‘Downfall’ in particular, tackles the fall of governments through criminal economic recession, and warfare, as is the “human condition.”

The video for ‘Downfall‘ (above) was directed by Jon Schnepp, who had previously directed the video ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pvw6QEbaW60&mc_cid=2684894ee0&mc_eid=6d556098c2’ off their previous album, and is also known for his work on ‘Metalocalypse’ on Adult Swim. In the video, vocalist Rob Dukes is wearing a “Venture Brothers” shirt, another Adult Swim show directed by Schnepp.

Gary Holt puts the whole world on trial in the video for ‘Downfall,’ and presents the court with Exhibits A & B, to be entered as evidence that even amidst a world gone mad, Exodus will always be some of the heaviest philosophy you can sink your teeth into.

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#1010: Happy Birthday to drummer Scott Travis…

Q #2,006: Happy Birthday to drummer Scott Travis, who plays in what “holy” English metal band?

A.

Scott Travis began his drumming career in his home state of Virginia, where he became well know in the area’s Hampton Roads music scene. After finding the area lacking in opportunities, he did what so many did and what many continue to do; he moved to Los Angeles.

Once in Los Angeles in the 80s, Scott’s first big break came from playing in the band Racer X, which featured future Mr. Big guitar phenom Paul Gilbert, and vocalist Jeff Martin. At one point Martin did backing vocals for Rob Halford of Judas Priest, and the two became friends. Halford had even gifted a song to Martin, ‘Heart of a Lion,’ that had been dropped for the Priest sessions of the ‘Turbo’ album. This song appeared on the second Racer X album ‘Second Heat,’ athe first with Scott Travis on drums.

When Jeff Martin found out that Priest was in need of a new drummer, his connection to Rob Haford helped secure the audition for Scott Travis. He landed a gig with a band that he had always dreamed of playing for, and has since become the longest standing drummer in Judas Priest history.

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#1002: Which Cannibal Corpse album turned 20 years this year?

Q #1,998: Which Cannibal Corpse album turned 20 years old this year?

A.

The fifth Cannibal Corpse studio album ‘Vile’ turned 20 earlier this year, which coincidentally means a joint 20th celebration with vocalist George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher in the lineup. Originally titled ‘Created to Kill,’ Cannibal Corpse started recording the album with founding vocalist Chris Barnes before parting ways while in the studio. Corpsegrinder left Monstrosity to join up with ‘Corpse, and re-tracked all the vocals for the record. Monstrosity managed to release ‘Millenium’ in 1996, just mere months after the release of ‘Vile.’ Both albums were recorded at the legendary Morrisound Studios in Tampa, FL, and both were produced by Scott Burns. Burns has produced death metal’s royalty, including (but certainly not limited to) Death’s legendary ‘Human’ release.

The success of this particular Cannibal Corpse record might not have had a massive surging effect on Monstrosity’s release months later, but it got guitarist Pat O’Brien to join as a touring guitarist from 1996 to 1997, and he eventually replace guitarist Rob Barrett, who left after the release of ‘Vile.’ Barret would rejoin the band in 2005, after the departure of founding guitarist Jack Owen. Owen went on to join Deicide, while Barrett would return to join forces with who was originally his replacement.

It’s always a bold move for a band to move on with a different vocalist, and this was no exception. To have recorded an entire album with your founding vocalist, only to bring in a replacement once the majority of the work has been done speaks to the distance between the band and Barnes at the time. They seem to have mutually stated that they had grown apart, and that the band wanted to move forward instead of living in the past with Barnes.

Listening to ‘Vile’ 20 years after its release, it most definitely sounds like the work of a complete band. This was a very convincing effort by a band that believed that they had boundless potential, with a desire to keep pushing forward. Two decades later (and over 2 million albums sold worldwide), these guys are still reinventing ways to implement their brand of devastation.

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