#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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#920: What was Slayer’s first Top 10 album in the US?

Q #1,916: What was Slayer’s first Top 10 album in the US?

A.

Slayer’s very first Top 10 album chart appearance came with the release of Divine Intervention in 1994, shooting up to the #8 spot. Despite being viewed as a more commercially successful album, the previous effort ‘Seasons In The Abyss’ only made it to #40 on the charts, which was still higher than the more die hard favorites ‘South Of Heaven’ at #57, and ‘Reign In Blood’ at #94.

‘Divine Intervention’ sold a monumental 93,000 copies in its first week, which more than likely served as a warm welcome for new Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph. The album would hold the top spot for Slayer releases for twelve more years, finally being unseated by ‘Christ Illusion’ in 2006 which would hit the chart at #5, and their newest album ‘Repentless’ which is now the highest charting release in the band’s catalog at #4. That means that drummer Paul Bostaph has two top ten albums with Slayer, while Dave Lombardo only has one; the same amount of top ten records that Gary Holt has with the band.

Their record label thought the album lacked a “hit song” prior to its release, but selling 90K records in one week was a good start. It was Slayer’s first album in four years, and as a result the album was given far more production time than any record they had done previously. Even with Paul Bostaph injecting new energy and life into the tracks with his furious fills and explosively aggressive style, the songs appear to be far more deliberate in nature. With the band taking so much extra time on the songs’ execution, they felt that they could’ve paid more attention to the overall post production of the record, and have commented that this would be the number one contender for a re-master should the opportunity ever present itself.

Half of the ‘Divine Intervention’ was performed on the band’s first home video release, ‘Live Intrusion,’ in 1995, which likely helped propel the album to its eventual Gold status.

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#890: What Slayer studio album turns 15 this year?

Q #1,886: What Slayer studio album turns 15 this year?

A.

Slayer’s ninth studio album ‘God Hates Us All’ is going to be fifteen years old this September. September 11th, to be exact.

This record, along with Dream Theater’s ‘Live Scenes from New York,’ were both released on one of the most notorious days of modern history, and both had their album covers changed as a result. Slayer gets a bit more of the expected censorship nod, as major retailers (ha! remember those?) weren’t keen on a blood soaked bible with a pentagram of nails (above) getting placed on their end caps in stores. The cover was probably going to get that treatment regardless, and the album’s original title would’ve probably had the same impact based on the release date. ‘Soundtrack to the Apocalypse’ ended up being the title of the Slayer boxed set encompassing their entire career, but it was initially suggested to be the title of the group’s ninth album. See what I mean about how it’s far less “controversial” and more about it being Slayer? Dream Theater’s album cover was far more artistic, and featured a barbed wire apple ablaze, illuminating the NYC skyline behind it, featuring the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. That album cover doesn’t even likely get a second glance as being inappropriate, without being a massively horrible victim of circumstance.

But all visual elements aside, Slayer really came out swinging on this one. At the time, the dropped tune guitars and subsequent material of their previous release ‘Diabolus in Musica’ hadn’t really sat too well across the board with the band’s intense fan base. The band was even split on the release, with drummer Paul Bostaph feeling it was as “experimental” as Slayer could get, while Kerry King admittedly stated that he took a major back seat on the writing process because he was so against the nu-metal movement at the time and its massive popularity. For those that remember my Judas Priest email (#818, right here), Kerry King referred to ‘Diabolus’ as Slayer’s ‘Turbo.’ I can only imagine how much King enjoyed the band being on late 90’s Ozzfests and Tattoo the Earth tours. Then again, he didn’t seem to enjoy this final Mayhem Fest tour, either.

‘God Hates Us All’ continued down the path of the down tuned guitars, and dropped even lower with the use of seven string guitars on some tracks. ‘God’ also sees more Kerry King material, which could account for such a return to form in this later chapter of Slayer history. But one of the most major adjustments was the band not having famed producer Rick Rubin at the helm. Rubin was said to have been out of the loop on all things modern and heavy, and burnt out on making heavy albums. One of the album’s singles that appeared on the Dracula 2000 soundtrack, ‘Bloodline,’ was a test track for American producer Matt Hyde (notable UK producer Matt Hyde worked with Machine Head, Trivium, Slipknot, and 4Arm to name a few.) The band was into the work done by Hyde, and brought him on to produce the new album. Hyde changed the location of the album tracking, taking the band out of Los Angeles, CA and put them into Bryan Adams studio in Vancouver, Canada.

‘God Hates Us All’ would be the final album with drummer Paul Bostaph until his return on 2015’s ‘Repentless’. Upon Paul’s exit, the band recruited original drummer Dave Lombardo to complete their tour schedule. Afterwards, the band opened auditions for the vacant drum throne, to which they auditioned a select few drummers compared to the high volume of applicants. Dave Lombardo even made a pick for the band out to the drummers that participated, but his accessibility to Slayer ultimately ended up being his ticket back into the band. Having just played with Dave, and having him involved with the selection process made it impossible for the band to choose any other candidate. There is still some footage floating around YouTube of my drummer colleague Kevin Talley jamming with Slayer at their rehearsal spot. I might be biased, but I think at least one album with Talley behind the kit would’ve been a pretty insane Slayer record. But alas, Lombardo had to return. This would begin the next chapter of Slayer, and lead to some of the more TMZ-styled controversy that we have become accustomed to over recent years.

Now as the more things change, we have seen Lombardo’s departure and Bostaph’s return. ‘God Hates Us All’ would be the last album to feature Paul Bostaph along with Jeff Hanneman who passed away in 2013.

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#885: Which of the “Big Four” bands has the fewest founding members on its roster today

Q #1,880: Which of the “Big Four” bands has the fewest founding members on its roster today?

A.

Out of seventeen active members in all four “Big Four” bands today, Scott Ian of Anthrax is the lone original member in his band Anthrax. The two Dave’s (Mustaine and Ellefson) are the two originals in Megadeth, metal’s dynamic duo of Hetfield and Ulrich are still providing “YEAHS,” and questionable snares in Metallica, and Slayer’s Tom Araya and Kerry King are still reigning.

It’s hard to argue this group of bands’ continual impact on the always present state of affairs in the metal world, as they continue to headline tours and festivals around the globe, while continuing to release new material that managing to sell enough to keep the metal train moving along.

Seventeen current members of the “Big Four,” and seven of them are original members. We are all more than well aware of Dave Mustaine being in Metallica prior to Kirk Hammett, and this sort of leads me to a point I’ve seen wildly disputed all over the bowels of the Internet.

What degree of participation does one need to be considered a founding member of a band? Mustaine received writing credits on the first two Metallica records so, yes, he was more a part of the band than not, despite not appearing on the band’s debut record. But if you’re merely a body in the room at the point of inception, no more than a William Murderface attempting to snag credit to material being created around you, what is your true degree of involvement?

Anthrax’s Scott Ian being the sole founding member of Anthrax initially confused me, and if you’ve read any of my emails before, my metal six-degrees-of-separation is usually pretty on point. So after discovering an entire page dedicated to Anthrax members, I was pretty shocked to see that there was such a list beyond the 48 (not really 48) members I could already readily name in Anthrax.

There were four lead vocalists in Anthrax before Neil Turbin showed up on ‘Fistful of Metal?’ Three in the same year? Did these guys really help found a band, or shape the sound of what they would release to the world? I’m not saying that musicians can’t help found a band and help shape its sound, only to depart before an official release. But for me, there has to be some sort of qualifier for people to be given a greater amount of credit than merely “was in three rehearsals, had a pulse, drank some beers.”

A band like Anthrax WASN’T Anthrax until certain members added the fuel to take it to new places. I’m going to go ahead and say that drummer Charlie Benante was integral to the formation of the sound of Anthrax. When they went into the studio to record the debut, the songs weren’t even said to have sounded the same way from the last rehearsal to the first roll of tape.

The band in the studio shaped the band that everyone has come to know, not the list of guys that happened to be there beforehand. Sure the band existed before ‘Fistful of Metal’ was recorded, but Dan Spitz’s lead guitars laid the foundation of the band that everyone knows.

If the list of members doesn’t change so heavily around 1983, maybe the word anthrax remains lowercased and only appears in scientific journals and terror-threat press releases. If Scott Ian and company had changed the name prior to the debut release, would that adjust the founding members even if the material was the same? Does it come down more to who wrote the songs and who played on the albums? If you didn’t write the songs, and didn’t play on the albums, are you more of a member or employee? Maybe employee would’ve been scoffed at in 1983, but it’s 2016 and it’s hard not to see these bands as anything but businesses.

I just saw a “press release” circulating about a former AC/DC singer that thinks his fans and fans of the band would like to see him return during vocalist Brian Johnson’s unfortunate hearing loss situation. My first reaction was, “satire site? Who is this? Am I having a stroke?”

Apparently this guy sang with AC/DC from 1973-1974, but he’s listed as only being a member next to Angus and Malcolm Young. Nobody else was even in the band. Is that even a band? No releases, and no complete lineup, but he gets to say he was in AC/DC? Is that mix sounding thin to anyone else?

What do you loyal Skulltoasters think? Who do you think of when you think of the founding fathers of the Big Four? Is it more about who was technically there first, or who is actually responsible for the first works that launched the band forward to success?

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#858: MOMENT OF METAL No. 167

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

A.

‘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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