The Importance of Being Metal: Van Halen-1984

Van Halen-1984
1984; 5150 Studios, Hollywood, California; Warner Records

1. Is It Any Good?

Listen, if you've turned on a classic rock radio station in the past 15 years, you already know if you're going to like this album or not. Your appreciation of 1984 hinges entirely on whether or not you enjoy the music of Van Halen. Does that seem kind of stupid and obvious? Well, it's the best you're going to get, because that's the same qualifier you have to keep in mind for the self titled album and II and Fair Warning and all the damn rest of them.

Look, you know what Van Halen sounds like, probably by the back of your hand at this point. It's brainless, jumpy party rock. If that's your thing than you need to own this album, but if that's your thing you probably already do own this album. "Panama" and "Hot For Teacher" showcase the best of this kind of music, "Jump" and "I'll Wait" show the worst. The synthesizers can make a lot of the songs pretty goofy, but if you listen to Van Halen you're probably not looking for a fucking concerto to begin with.

I hate reviewing albums like 1984 because it's like trying to review tire chains. You know what they are and you know what they do. Will they keep your car from getting stuck in the snow? They're probably good tire chains. Are you in the market for tire chains to begin with? If not then of course don't fucking buy them.

Here's the bottom line: I bought this CD today, for four dollars used. I'm okay with having paid that much for it. I don't think it's worth buying outside of those specific parameters.

2. Is It "Influential?"

Most of the influence would probably come from their first album, but you're kidding yourself if you don't think "Panama" has inspired a whole slew of kids to learn it on the guitar. Van Halen kind of created the hard rock/party hardy genre of music as we know it today, and this album was probably the apex of that formula, making it somewhat a blessing and largely a curse.

Is It A Good Entry Point For Beginners?

I have a really hard time wrapping my head around the idea of calling this album "metal" by any stretch of the imagination, so no, it's not a good entry point at all. If you give this to someone along with Master of Reality and The Jester Race you'll more likely than not just confuse the hell out of them.



The Importance of Being Metal: Megadeth-Countdown to Extinction

Megadeth-Countdown to Extinction
1992; Capitol Records

1. Is It Any Good?

No, not really.

I mean, okay: I'd be lying if I said it was an outright horrible album. It's not. It does a few things right. "Symphony of Destruction" is an intense, driving anthem for the ages that's likely to make the listener feel just a bit giddy, if they're of a sinister mind. "Skin O' My Teeth" has one of the best lyrics I've probably ever heard-"I need a ride to the morgue/That's what 911 is for." The title track is alright. And "Psychotron" is based off of a Marvel supervillain named Deathlok, so...there's that.

But aside from that? Here's the scoop: "Skin O' My Teeth" and "High Speed Dirt", as much as I enjoy the former, are the same fucking song. "Sweating Bullets" takes the growly, muppetesque vocals from "Peace Sells" and overuses them to the point where they turn from "funny and devilish" to "retarded and boring". "Captive Honour" is just dumb as fuck, straight up. Check out this little snippet of spoken-word genius:

"I hereby sentence you to be incarcarated with no possibility of parole for life."

"Life?! Whaddaya mean life?! I ain't got a life!"

Was reading that funny? That's probably because you didn't read the first line as being spoken in a southern accent and the second line as being spoken by Dave Mustaine not caring if he sounds like a lazy dipshit.

And the rest of the songs? I don't even remember what they sound like. I stopped listening to one of them not two minutes ago and I'm drawing a blank. That's the real problem with this album overall, is that it's just boring as fuck. It's exactly like their first four albums, just watered down to the point where it stops being heavy metal and starts being hard rock. And no matter what Wikipedia lists the genre as, you can be sure as shit there's nothing to thrash to here.

2. Is It "Influential?"

God, I certainly hope not. Although...chugging guitar riffs? Ham-fisted political statements? Goofy vocals?

Well, I guess we've found the inspiration behind System Of A Down.

3. Is It A Good Entry Point For Beginners?

This was one of the first metal albums I'd ever listened to in full, and even at 14 years old, when I didn't know anything about anything and couldn't tell you what "good" metal was if my life depended on it, this album still put me to fucking sleep. Countdown To Extinction is considered something of a classic, but in my mind the only notable thing about it is that it was the last Megadeth album ever released that wasn't so bad that playing it could be considered a threat equivalent to flashing a switchblade in a dark alley.



Japandroids - Post-Nothing

2009; Polyvinyl Records; Toronto, Canada

I have been agonizing over how to start this review for quite a wile.

you see, Japandroids sounds like a band you would go see in some burnt out garage, graffiti covered walls, water damage, no stage, one hundred kids clustered around trying to move as much as they can to get this energy out without crashing into the drum set. I've gone to these shows. I've been going to more and more as time progresses. And for most of them I walk out of the building feeling... pumped. feeling energetic, feeling excited and exhausted and alive and like there is nothing more fun in the world. But, I mean, when is the last time I came out of one of these shows feeling inspired? like a religious experience? And isn't that what they're for?

and yeah they don't sound all that original the first time you here it, but goddamn that is made up for by the song writing. Some how these guys have managed to find that oft missed point that is confidence without pretentiousness. And they sound so much more I haven't seen Japandroids live yet despite several attempts, though I haven't given up trying. But listening to their record... man, I can feel it. And when it comes down to it the sound of this album isn't much different from the stasis quo, which is to say it doesn't sound all that original sincere then anything I've herd in ages.

Young Heart Sparks Fire is about realizing how far you've strayed from what you wanted. Its about deciding you're no longer going to worry about dieing, from here on your only going to worry about chasing those sunshine girls. Its about "you can keep tomorrow after tonight we're not gonna need it" Its about staying up all night getting drunk with friends because you damn well can't think of anything better in the world.

Crazy/Forever is about telling the world it can go fuck itself, that you can't find any reason why you and your girl can't make it forever.

This album is about energy. Its about youth. Its about...

I don't know.

I feel as though I'm just spitting hyperbole here but, its just, I here this and, Damn, I don't want to worry about dieing. I just want to chase girls and run races and blast my music and be crazy forever. I WANT TO BE CRAZY FOREVER.

1. The Boys Are Leaving Town
2. Young Hearts Spark Fire
3. Wet Hair
4. Rockers East Vancouver
5. Heart Sweats
6. Crazy/Forever
7. Sovereignty
8. I Quit Girls

and i'll sing the beatles and you'll sing them better


The Importance of Being Metal: Black Sabbath-Master of Reality

Black Sabbath-Master of Reality
1971; Vertigo; Island Studios, London, England

1. Is It Any Good?

his is going to be a refreshing change of pace for me, because there are no qualifiers I have to place before I start talking about this album. No "While this has merit, it's downfall is" or "Many people look on this album unfavorably, but" or "It could be considered a masterpiece if only". No. None of that. Master of Reality is, as a matter of fact, a bonafide metal masterpiece. No ifs, ands or buts about it. This is the real deal, an enduring classic, a doomstomping Goliath trampling through the realms of popular music and into the imagination of the frustrated, the depressed, the just-plain-fed-up and it is a glowering signpost that states, "This is where heavy begins and this is also where heavy ends." This is the motherlode, folks.

It's incredibly difficult to single out one particularly wonderful thing about this album-even the two filler songs, "Embryo" and "Orchid", are entertaining songs in their own rights. I suppose if there was one thing you could single out about this album that makes it so masterful, it would be the unbelievable texture and weight that flows through every song. This album feels heavy. It has an ability to excite and crush simultaneously that is unlike anything I've experienced with any other piece of music. There's an energy in Master of Reality that subsequent doom metal bands have never been able to bottle.

I don't mean to say that this album is oppressive with it's weight, or that it creates a sense of dread. It does not. It excites. It fills the listener with a desire to run and scream and smash things. "Children of the Grave" is the best example of this phenomena of severity mixed with childish jubilation-an anti-war anthem that tops even the band's own "War Pigs", the lyrics and the grounded, rumbling bassline instill the feeling that the earth is about to crack open at the seams while the guitar line compells the listener to dive into the faultline and try to stop it. It's impossible to sit still while listening to this song, as it is for the majority of the album as a whole.

"Sweet Leaf" and "After Forever" are fine album openers-they certainly set the tone for the rest of the album, the former song being slow and thundering and the latter being quick and thundering. (There is a lot of thundering on this album) The real meat, however, lies in the second half, beyond even "Children of the Grave". It lives in two songs, "Lord of this World" and "Into The Void". They are both equally important and impressive and both of them are two of the most stomach-rumbling, planet-crumbling songs ever put to tape. "Lord of this World" is a sneering, mocking anthem of hate and greed, a chiding speech from the Devil about what fools we mortals are to follow his ways. It's impossible not to feel some sort of looming presence hiding in the track itself-it is slow, it is crushing and it is an absolute leviathan of a song, the kind that can make it so that you're down on your knees screaming "LORD OF THIS WO-ORLD! EVIL POSSESSER!" along with Ozzy before you even know what's happening.

Separating this song from the last and most important song on the album is "Solitude", a ballad that's more than a touch indulgent, possibly weepier than is called for, but it is a kind of "we've all been there before" sort of lament about lost love, and it's despairing nature doesn't break very far from the overall feel of the album, so it can hardly be called something "amiss" with the work as a whole, even if it is somewhat unexpected. And it makes the following song so much richer due to the complete 180 it takes from this soft interlude.

"Into the Void". The centerpiece. The testament to human self-destruction, the cosmic space opera of despair and desolation. The holy beast, the golden chalice that rests at the top of an already magnificent album. "Into the Void" is, quite simply, a colossus. It is an enormous song. It takes up physical space in the room when it is played. The song is not about a rocket to the sun, the song is a rocket to the sun. It is a perfect piece of music, one of the very few, one where absolutely nothing can be changed to make it better-the lyrics, the drums, the guitar or that absolutely glorious bass line. It is a gut punch of a song, a wailing god to which all things heavy must pray and give tribute. It is doom, personified sonically.

Master of Reality is a Titan of music. It is a collection of anthems dedicated to the evil and deceit that presents itself as the Devil but shows up in every human soul. I haven't even talked about how amazingly, consistently wonderful the musicianship is, or how Ozzy's voice compliments the lyrics perfectly, or how Black Sabbath never really writes "good" lyrics, just engaging, enthralling ones that pull you into the song like a black hole. I won't talk about these things, because I've already gushed far too much, and this has already gone on far too long. Just know this:

This album will destroy you. In the best way possible.

2. Is It "Influential?"

Master of Reality is almost single handedly responsible for creating the genre known as doom metal. The bass lines and riffs launched thousands upon thousands of teenagers to try to reach the same depths of heaviness. Without this album, decades of metal music would have been irrevocably changed for the worse. It is unquestionably one of the most influential albums of all time, in any genre.

Is It A Good Entry Point For Beginners?

This is one of the places where it all started-this is the blueprint for almost every generation of metal to come after it. If you are to understand where metal comes from and what it's all about than you need to hear this album. It's nothing short of required listening for the novice metal listener.

If that's not enough of a reccomendation, than how about this: Master of Reality is the album that single-handedly turned me into a metalhead.

As if you couldn't tell from the first section of this post.



The Importance of Being Metal: Led Zeppelin-IV

Led Zeppelin-IV
1971; Atlantic Records

1. Is It Any Good?

I've talked about this in detail earlier, but the short answer is yes, it is very, very good.

2. Is It "Influential?"

Is Led Zeppelin IV influential? What kind of Goddamn question is that?

3. Is It A Good Entry Point For Beginners?

No, inasmuch that everyone on the planet has already heard this album and probably doesn't even regard it as metal. So it would be an even stranger place to start than AC/DC. This is part of the public consciousness almost 40 years after its release, it pretty much doesn't even have a genre at this point. That said, if you haven't heard it yet than for Christ's sake get on the ball.

NEXT TIME ON THIS LIST: More substance!(Seeing as how I'll be covering an album that I both love and that I haven't already covered extensively on this site like IV was)