#1018: MOMENT OF METAL #199

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

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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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#985: MOMENT OF METAL #193 😃

Q #1,982: MOMENT OF METAL #193 – watch my video here for the clue!

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Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ is perhaps one of the most historically revered metal albums ever to be released. Having been certified 6X Platinum by the RIAA in the United States (and their first Gold record), their third studio album has continually received similar accolades around the world. Sadly, it’s the last studio album with bassist Cliff Burton, who passed away on September 27th, 1986 while the band was traveling in Sweden while touring in support of this album.

The album was recorded with producer Flemming Rasmussen at Sweet Silence Studios in Denmark. Metallica wanted to up their production game, and take their songs to another level after their previous two successful albums. They entered the studio with much of the album completed in high grade demo form, and only did minimal arrangement work to the songs in the studio. Despite taking longer than expected to complete the recording, the band was not hung up on writing, just the execution of the material.

For an album that has become so important to influence and shape generations of metal musicians and fans alike, not everyone was as keen on the release when it came out in 1986. Yes, it seems that purists were a thing before that giant megaphone called the Internet! Spin Magazine tipped their hat to the band’s production and experimentation, but ultimately felt it was a disappointment. There is no truth, however, to the rumor that that particular reviewer is now on a bowling team with the visionary who said the Beatles would never amount to anything, or the folks who said the iPod would flop.

Aside from the millions of records sold, and the inclusion on a massive amount of “Best of” lists, the United States Library of Congress recently added the album to be preserved in its National Recording Registry. Less than 500 albums have ever been included, and Metallica is the very first of any metal-leaning acts.

The focus of today’s Moment Of Metal was the song ‘Disposable Heroes,’ which opened Side B of the album and punches you right in the face. The opening riffs compounded by some thunderous drums, really stand out on an album full of greatest hits material. The sound of the track really captures the essence of the vocal passages, where the two seem to really gel and help create more of a sonic landscape as opposed to music juxtaposed to lyrics.

At some point over the years I remember hearing that a bridge section of ‘Disposable Heroes’ was removed and ended up being used in ‘Battery.’ Maybe I heard this at the same conspiracy theorist convention where Dave Mustaine previously laid claim to parts of ‘Leper Messiah.’

There was even a conversation between Lars Ulrich and Rush legend Geddy Lee about working together, before the release of ‘Master of Puppets.’ So there is an astronomical butterfly effect – would ‘Master of Puppets’ have tanked with Lee at the helm? Would the band’s already progressive tendencies on the record have been overly indulged, or mastered? Could Geddy Lee have been to Metallica what Steven Wilson was to Opeth on ‘Blackwater Park?’

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#982: MOMENT OF METAL 192 (WITH VIDEO!)

Q #1,979: MOMENT OF METAL #192 (watch my newest video here!)

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‘Believe In Nothing’ was Nevermore’s lead single off of their catalytic fourth studio album ‘Dead Heart in a Dead World.’ Produced by the legendary producer of all things metal, Andy Sneap (Arch Enemy, Megadeth, Annihilator, Testament) helped to capture the sonic fingerprint of the first Nevermore album to feature the use of seven string guitars. Included on the album is a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound of Silence,’ which enters a musical “celebrity death match” versues the newly released Disturbed effort. I have yet to hear back from Paul Simon or Art Garfunkel’s respective camps to get their final say on which is the superior version.

Speaking of covers, ‘Believe In Nothing’ was covered by two separate bands in the same year; both Gus G’s Firewind and All That Remains covered the track in 2008. I’m inclined to think that Firewind wins the death match on this one, for a few reasons; the two driving forces of this song are the uniquely dark and melodic vocal lines of Nevermore’s Warrel Dane, and the powerful guitar melodies found in Jeff Loomis’s lead lines and guitar solos. While both Firewind and All That Remains seem to easily tackle the musical instrumentation, Firewind seemed to combine that Dane-esque vibe within their own style.

Also, it is greatly worth noting that this style of guitar work could be very easily mistaken for Arch Enemy’s Mike Amott. The wah-pedal sing-songy lead style counter balancing the vocal is something that Amott really has locked in. Both Gus G (briefly) and Nevermore’s Jeff Loomis (currently) have gone on to do time in Arch Enemy alongside Amott, so while this particular track doesn’t feature anything too techincal on this side of the seven strings, it is a great Arch Enemy cover waiting to happen. It would be delightfully humorous to see Amott take the lead on this one, with Loomis providing the rhythm backing.

To recap: ‘Dead Heart in a Dead World’ featured a cover, spawned a few other covers, and it set the bar for Nevermore as far as production was concerned in the eyes of the band’s fans. Three years later the band followed up with ‘Enemies of Reality’ in 2003. This was recorded as the band’s contract with Century Media was ending, and negotiations were ongoing. The two sides struggled to reach an agreement to re-sign before the album went into production, and the label cut their budget down to a mere $20,000. Believe it or not, this was seen as unacceptable to the band, with Jeff Loomis saying the budget was “a nothing deal to do a record.”

Andy Sneap was called back to remix the album in 2005. As I have said before in what feels like 278 Skull Toaster emails at this point, the album was plagued in reviews over the production. Warrel Dane said, “I find it really strange that the production on that album got reviewed more than the songs did.” The songs were different, the production was different, and the band felt they weren’t going to play it safe with attempting to recreate ‘Dead Heart.

The follow up to ‘Enemies, and revered as an instant classic, was 2005’s ‘This Godless Endeavor.’ With Sneap back at the helm, many attributed this to the band’s return to form, but it’s certainly not a Dead Heart knock off. The band has always embraced the “progressive” side of writing, and not limiting themselves to one particular blueprint. Would Enemies have been seen as another “instant classic” if Sneap had handled the mix the first time? Should the mix really determine the quality of a song? Personally, most people should stick to worrying about how they mix their drinks!

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#858: MOMENT OF METAL No. 167

Q #1,853: MOMENT OF METAL #167: Listen here

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‘Raining Blood’ is the final track on the legendary Slayer album ‘Reign in Blood.’ The band’s third studio album was also their first major label release. After their previous efforts on Brian Slagel’s Metal Blade Records, Slagel felt that the band was hot and primed for greater things, so he began to shop the band (while still under contract) to other record labels. Around this time, photographer Glen Friedman (who had produced Suicidal Tendencies self-titled debut) was asked by Def Jam Records producer Rick Rubin if he knew Slayer, as Tom Araya had appeared in the Suicidal music video for ‘Institutionalized.’ It is unclear if Rubin had also asked for a Pepsi.

After speaking with several other record labels, Brian Slagel felt that Rubin and Def Jam had the strongest interest in the band, and the deal was done. Rubin’s first major dabbling into the metal world would turn out to be the perfect storm of excellence with Slayer. One of the key elements that set ‘Reign in Blood’ apart from previous albums was Rubin’s production. The band was blown away that not only could they hear everything, but that the fans would also be able to hear everything. Despite the lead guitar work of Slayer being mostly a blind fury (mostly by design), Kerry King has remarked that it still made the band appear tighter.

‘Angel of Death,’ and ‘Raining Blood’ are the only two songs over four minutes, while ‘Raining has a little bit of opening and closing ambiance. This was very much by design, as the band was said to have grown tired of the repetition of the verse / chorus structure, and that allowed the band to write so many short and to the point songs. As a result, the album has more often than not been played in full during their live sets, and not just on special occasions for anniversaries, live tapings, or birthday parties!

Another hot topic as of late, ‘Reign in Blood’ was Slayer’s first to start lyrically diving into other areas, such as the opening track ‘Angel of Death,’ which is about the human experimentation by Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death” of the Auschwitz concentration camp of World War II. Between the lyrical content, and the album’s artwork, Def Jam distributor Columbia records passed on releasing the album, which would end up being distributed by the kind folks over at Geffen Records. However, Geffen would not add the album to its actual release schedule.

Lyrical themes and the accompanying symbolism have followed the band throughout their career, but it is fair to say that they have at the very least kept up with the imagery from time to time. And in fact, why should they have to stop? Jeff Hannemann’s take on such lyrical themes was that you should know that this person was terrible, and that there needn’t be a line to specifically say it. Would that make the song less edgy, or would it completely be overlooked through a barrage of frenzied notes and Tom Araya’s shrill screams? Do we need in-house lyrical disclaimers in songs these days to clear up confusion ahead of time, or is the ambiguity what sort of keeps everything exciting?

‘Reign in Blood’ was certified Gold, and has probably influenced more bands than it has sold records. I suppose controversy is a small price to pay, unless it entails a visit from Tipper Gore and the PMRC. Then it’s a party.

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