#973: The last album the Melvins recorded for a major label was…

Q #1,970: The last album the Melvins recorded for a major label.

A.

The last major label Melvins release was the 1996 album ‘Stag.’ Signing with Atlantic records, after the booming success of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind,’ the band would make their major debut with the 1993 album ‘Houdini,’ with Kurt Cobain landing guitar, production, and mixing credits across the release. ‘Houdini’ landed the band at #29 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, which you would think a fairly positive endeavor for a new signing during this era of the music industry.

The following year the Melvins would release two albums, ‘Prick’ and ‘Stoner Witch.’ At face value this sounds like a very ambitious undertaking, in a very Beatles sort of release schedule. However, ‘Prick’ was supposed to be an experimental spin off of sorts, and was released through the label Amphetamine Reptile, under a mirrored version of the Melvins moniker, SNIVLEM. Releasing this album one year after a major label debut, under a rival label, more or less under the same name just to dodge contractual obligations could not have made the suits over at Atlantic happy. Their major label counterpart to ‘Prick,’ ‘Stoner Witch,’ failed to reach a chart position. Then, the following year the Melvins released the ‘Tora Tora Tora’ EP through X-Mas Records.

Not knowing any details of their contractual workings, I can only speculate on how things went down. That said, it is more than possible that Atlantic was concerned with the band as a brand, and wasn’t keen on subsequent material being released without their consent, regarding maintaining the overall ‘product.’ I say this because by the time the Melvins made it to their third (and ultimately final) major label release with ‘Stag,’ they managed to regain a chart position, hitting the Heatseekers again at #33 in 1996. The album was co-produced by GGGarth (Garth Richardson), who has worked with Nickelback, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Testament, and Chevelle to name a few (I’ve talked about GGGarth before, on his work with Testament’s ‘Low,’ and Chevelle’s ‘Chevelle – Wonder What’s Next‘).

So, with such a well seasoned producer to keep things solid, and a chart position to boot, it’s a wonder as to why this album would result in the band being dropped. It’s likely a three album deal fulfilled, with the contractual acrobatics not sitting well at Atlantic. Melvins mainman Buzz Osborne has also made it no big secret that he is far more into the legacy of punk rock, as opposed to having dreams of arenas. It makes the band’s signing with a major quite the head scratcher in the first place, and doesn’t likely end with the band being disappointed at their release from the label.

All things considered, it was probably still an good career move to capitalize on the popularity of the Seattle / Aberdeen music scene, likely gaining a few new fans and a few extra dollars from the deal. Feel free to tweet me (@JohanssonShreds) if this period of years qualifies as a “sell out” move, weighing on material vs. belief systems. Sure, the band kept up their no frills experimental nature, but that was more on the side releases, and much less notable on the major label efforts.

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#957: Half of the “Big Four” have released albums with what German record label in recent years?

Q #1,954: Half of the “Big Four” have released albums with what German record label in recent years?

A.

Slayer’s ‘Repentless’ was released on September 11th, 2015 through Nuclear Blast Records. The band’s first album with their new label came six years after their previous effort, ‘World Painted Blood.’ Slayer had previously released every album from 1986 to 2009 on American Recordings. Perhaps a new label helps to drive new life into the band, as their first American Recordings release was the legendary ‘Reign in Blood,’ and their Nuclear Blast debut ‘Repentless’ made it all the way to #4 on the Billboard Charts, the band’s highest charting release to date.

Anthrax’s Nuclear Blast debut, ‘For All Kings’ is a partnered release with their original and long time label, Megaforce Records. Anthrax has been through a much more turbulent and inconsistent run with record labels as opposed to their Slayer counterparts, seeing Megaforce and Island Records release all of the Joey Belladonna era albums, 1985’s ‘Spreading the Disease’ through 1990’s ‘Persistence of Time.’ Elektra Records released the inaugural John Bush fronted album ‘Sound of White Noise’ in 1993, which remains the highest charting Anthrax record coming in at #7 on the Billboard charts in the US. Perhaps another instance of “new label heroics,” ‘For All Kings’ became the second highest charting Anthrax release, hitting #9 on the charts.

Nuclear Blast has been making a great amount of waves in the metal world, with many other legendary bands signing to the label in recent years. It was recently announced that Swedish prog metal giants Opeth were signing with Nuclear Blast, as well as Gotherburg legends In Flames. The newest Carcass album was their Nuclear debut with ‘Surgical Steel,’ another legendary act’s return to form. Fear Factory’s newest release, ‘Genexus,’ is another first on the label, and was helmed by renowned A&R legend, Monte Conner.

Conner was the Senior Vice President of A&R at Roadrunner Records, having started working at the label back in 1987. Overseeing some of metal’s most legendary artists via the label, Monte Conner was responsible for bringing many European bands over to the US as well. He left the label in August of 2012, and announced a partnership with Nuclear Blast in the same month. If you look closely you can see a great deal of Monte-era Roadrunner bands making their way over to Nuclear Blast.

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#914: Name the band and song from this 1987 video clip!

Q #1,910: Identify the band and song from this 1987 video clip below!

A.

‘Indians’ appears on the legendary Anthrax album, ‘Among the Living.’ Released in 1987, ‘Among’ is the third Anthrax full-length, and is considered by many fans and critics alike to be their best effort of their early catalog, if not to date. This album undeniably serves as the launching point for Anthrax’s popularity, as it is the first of four straight certified Gold releases for the band. Not too shabby for a band that could be described as the lesser and overlooked of the “Big Four.”

The second studio album to feature vocalist Joey Belladonna, ‘Among the Living’ capitalized on the band’s rising popularity, and brought in the talents of a producer by the name of Eddie Kramer. Kramer is a South African producer and engineer, who has been a part of collaborative efforts with artists including the Beatles, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton. It’s no mistake that when you mix a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame producer with Anthrax, that you get some of their best and most accomplished work. Still, ‘Among the Living’ wouldn’t be certified Gold until 1990, three years after its release, and a year after their next album, ‘State of Euphoria.’

‘Among the Living’ features a number of lyrical pop culture references, and is accompanied by an album cover that some believe to be directly tied to the lyrical subject matter.

  • The album’s title track focuses on the Stephen King novel ‘The Stand,’ and many believe the character of Randall Flagg to be the character depicted on the album cover. The character also bears a resemblance to the character of Rev. Henry Kane from the film ‘Poltergeist II: The Other Side,’ but there are no known direct lyrical connections to the story in the lyrical content.
  • The track ‘A Skeleton in the Closet’ is also inspired by Stephen King, this time taking its cues from the novella ‘Apt Pupil.’
  • ‘I Am the Law’ is a tribute to the comic book character Judge Dredd, something that guitarist Scott Ian holds very near and dear to his heart. In his liner notes of the greatest hits release, ‘Return of the Killer B’s,’ Ian says, ‘Fuck that lame movie that was made (Judge Dredd). Go back and check out the early Dredd stories from ’86 & ’87 and you’ll feel the true essence of the character.’ If my math on this checks out, then Dredd in ’87 should be on par with Stephen King.

Anthrax dedicated this album to the late Cliff Burton, who was killed while they were on tour with Metallica. Scott Ian talks about that dark moment in metal history on Chris Jericho’s podcast:

“I remember getting off the bus and walking into the lobby and I saw our tour manager and he was talking to some guy … and he said, ‘This is so-and-so, the promoter of the show tonight’ and then he told me. He was like, ‘There was an accident last night. Metallica’s bus crashed and Cliff Burton was killed in the accident. Lars was hurt and everyone else is kind of on their way here now. But Cliff died.'”
Scott Ian, ‘Talk is Jericho’ Podcast Episode #13 (2014, via Loudwire)

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