I am in a “dust off” process at the moment. As an avid purchaser of all things musical, especially anything to do with rock and metal, I have a huge collection of magazines from 1986 to today’s date.
At the moment I am flicking through a Guitar World issue from 1995. The first thing that got my attention, is their Top 10 lists for the 1994 year. In the issue, they had a Top 10 list for Rock, Alternative, Metal and Roots/Blues. So here is the list from the esteemed Jeff Gilbert.
1. SOUNDGARDEN – Superunknown (A&M)
“It’s darker than Slayer’s underwear, moodier than Weiland and more depressing than an empty keg. It’s also the best hard music album of the year.”
What a production team of Michael Beinhorn and Brendan O’Brien. Surround yourself with the best and expect them to get great results for you. This is the album that Soundgarden is doing it’s victory lap on. It had a lot of elements that crossed over into the mainstream and it had a lot of elements still rooted in the rock/metal vibe they are known for. The fans agreed, sending the album into the millions. At last count, the album is pushing close to 6 million physical units in the U.S.
2. DANZIG – Danzig 4 (American)
“Danzig kiss the abyss with yet another moon-howling symphony for the devil. All the musical chaos and only one guitar solo. Cool.”
Rick Rubin is on board to produce, along with Glen Danzig. In my view, this shouldn’t be on the list.
3. MEGADETH – Youthanasia (Capitol)
“Dave Mustaine sounds like he’s getting a vacuum cleaner enema, but that’s okay because his riffs and Marty Friedman’s solos are among the best the band has ever spewed forth.”
Youthanasia continued the path away from thrash and more toward a classic rock feel. However the lyrical matter is still dark and depressing, which was perfect for 1994. Max Norman is behind the desk and he completes his trilogy of albums with Megadeth, that also includes Rust In Peace and Countdown To Extinction. In the ends, the fans spoke with their wallets and they liked the mix of rock and metal and another PLATINUM album was on board the “Train of Consequences.”
4. SLAYER – Divine Intervention (American)
“Furious buzz-bomb guitar runs eat away at your face like flesh-eating syndrome. Swarming solos sting you out of your drunken stupor. Slayer know what’s good for us.”
WTF. It’s like a Nostradamus prophecy. I am reading this in 2013, post Jeff Hanneman (RIP) and the term “flesh eating” just sticks out. The next term that sticks out is “drunken”. Knowing what we know now about Jeff Hanneman’s addiction to alcohol and the problems caused by the flesh eating parasite, the review above just doesn’t sit right. Modern metal producer Toby Wright is on hand to produce a 500,000 seller.
5. PANTERA – Far Beyond Driven (EastWest)
“Shits nails and wipes with barbed wire.”
Terry Date is at the boards again and a number one album is released. What can you say about Pantera that hasn’t been said. Due to Dimebag’s passing, we will never see the original band reconcile and perform again, so what we are left is the memories. Who knew back in 1994, that Dimebag would be shot dead 10 years later.
6. SKREW – Dusted (Metal Blade)
“The metallic counterpart of Nine Inch Nails and Ministry and they used one chord on the entire album. What gods!”
Pop, Dance producer Howie Beno is on board for an industrial slab of metal. It’s a peculiar mix, however 1994 was a peculiar time, with a lot of genre mash up’s happening. I don’t remember anything outstanding from this album that would have made me want to play it again.
7. ENTOMBED – Wolverine Blues (Sony)
“Grindcore masters Entombed pay crunching tribute to the coolest member of the X-Men. Maybe we can hook them up with the Silver Surfer and … oh sorry; someones already beat em to it.”
Grindcore was never my thing however the Swede’s sure know how to create something interesting. The thing about this album that I liked is that each song, had certain sections that just killed it. I remember taking out all of those sections from the songs, mashed them up and recorded them all as one track (a note for note rendition). It came to about 7 minutes. Then I started tweaking the song around, moving some riffs into different places, shortening a few and them combining the shorter riffs to form a new riff and so on. Within about three hours, i had a killer 5 minute tune, all inspired by Entombed, however totally unrecognisable.
8. DREAM THEATER – Awake (EastWest)
“Faster than a Silver Bullet, tighter than the jeans i bought six months ago, more powerful than a box of Ex Lax, this shred party left me punch drunk and, for once in my life, fully awake.”
John Purdell and Duane Baron are on board to produce. Again, another peculiar choice from the record label. A progressive band, has been given hard rock / pop metal producers. Not counting the Terry Date produced, “When Dream and Day Unite”, “Images and Words” had David Prater behind the boards. Following up the very unexpected and successful “Images and Words” album, “Awake” already had an uphill battle. For anyone that has read the “Lifting Shadows” book, it is mentioned there, that Derek Oliver was asking for another “Pull Me Under” and the band was trying to oblige.
9. MACHINE HEAD – Burn My Eyes (Roadrunner)
“Machine Head explore the world of religion gone mad with aggressive and severe riffing more dangerous than a cult leader with a vision.”
What a perfect blend of old school thrash and modern metal. Robb Flynn is the star from the outset. He is what ultimately sets Machine Head apart from the competition. Another difference between “Burn My Eyes” and all the rest of the hardcore/grindcore bands from 1994, was that Machine Head could actually write songs and in Robb Flynn, you had a vocalist that could actually sing.
10. KYUSS – Welcome To Sky Valley (Elektra)
“If you ever wanted to know what it feels like to be a laval lamp plugged into a Marshall, this album will take you there. The hairiest thing this side of Kim Thayil’s back.”
This one is a strange addition to a metal list, however it is that good and that varied, it deserves to be on some list. A mix of stoner rock and metal scene with progressive psychedelic elements.
Here are my additions to the above list;
LEVIATHAN – Deepest Secrets Beneath (Rock The Nations)
The best progressive metal album from 1994. It is a very accomplished debut album. While Dream Theater had the backing of a major label, Leviathan was on Rock The Nations, a small independent label. Produced by the excellent Jim Morris (Death, Control Denied, Circle II Circle, Iced Earth and many others).
KORN – Korn (Epic)
Now if this album went platinum or gold in 1994, it would be on the above list. However, this album was a slow burner. It reached GOLD status in 1996, on the back of the “Life Is Peachy” album. Even though I have been a Guitar World subscriber since 1986, it was very typical of what the magazine became renowned for; beholden to the advertisers and the PR companies. This album didn’t rate a mention however years later they trumped it up.
MOTLEY CRUE – Motley Crue (Elektra)
Of course, the Guitar World list is based on what was trending back in 1994 and Motley Crue was not in. However, their self titled album released in 1994, with John Corabi on vocals is heavy as hell and deserves to be on the list. It’s funny that the band that was cool in the Eighties was not cool in 1994. So if you are not cool, don’t expect to get any press from the established magazines. The only magazine that was giving the Crue any press was Metal Edge and then Nikki fucked that up as well.
SAVATAGE – Handful Of Rain (Atlantic)
Another so called “Eighties” band that wasn’t cool in 1994. Reeling from the death of their lead guitarist, Criss Oliva, Paul O’Neill and Jon Oliva wrote the most darkest, sorrowful and heavy as hell album. A worthy addition to any metal list from 1994. Jon Oliva also made his brother proud by recording all the rhythm guitars while gun for hire, Alex Skolnick came in and did the leads.
TESTAMENT – Low (Atlantic)
This is a killer album that got lost in the mix. After the Metallica “Black” album sound of 1992’s “The Ritual” didn’t get a great response, 1994 saw some changes. Guitarist Alex Skolnick and drummer Louie Clemente left. In came James Murphy (Death) and John Tempesta. The end product is “Low.” A different sound and a good one. The songs became lower and faster and groovy. Another slow burner, that kept on selling into 2000 and beyond.
So based on all of the above, here is my top 10 list from 1994;
1. Motley Crue – Motley Crue
What can I say, Bob Rock killed it in the producer’s chair, capturing Motley Crue at their heaviest. It is groove rock, mixed with classic rock, mixed with heavy metal. Listen to the interludes of Droppin Like Flies and Hooligan’s Holiday for supreme Korn like heaviness.
2. Machine Head – Burn My Eyes
Robb Flynn’s vocal style is his life style. A lot of people have tried to imitate it however you have had to have lived his lifestyle in order to pull it off.
3. Leviathan – Deepest Secrets Beneath
A progressive metal band that deserves greater accolades. Think Geddy Lee vocals on a bed of technical metal riffs.
4. Dream Theater – Awake
Worthy follow up to “Images and Words” and the last album to feature the talents of Kevin Moore. Of course Jordan Rudess is a far more accomplished pianist, however to me Kevin Moore is a better band member, due to his lyrical and vocal melody writing.
5. Pantera – Far Beyond Driven
What else can be said about Pantera that hasn’t been said. They kept the flag flying for groove and thrash metal, while other leaders jumped ship or broke up.
6. Korn – Korn
Any album that has an ominous shadow of a man in a kids playground on the cover already has a lot to live up to. In this case, Korn delivered a brutal first album. Not bad for a band that got signed solely based on their demo and no live shows.
7. Savatage – Handful Of Rain
Dark and sorrowful. The best way to pay a tribute to a fallen brother is to keep the music alive. Savatage and especially Jon Oliva, did exactly that.
8. Megadeth – Youthanasia
Dave Mustaine and Megadeth never achieved the “success” in sales as Metallica however to me, they defined and pushed the boundaries of technical thrash metal. Can you ever imagine James Hetfield singing over the “Holy Wars” riff. With “Youthanasia”, Megadeth delivered a killer rock album, which if i had to pick between “Youthanasia” and “Load” from Metallica, “Youthansia” wins hands down.
9. Testament – Low
When a band is more or less written off by the press, that is when they deliver. However due to a lack of label support, the album didn’t get out of the gates properly.
10. Slayer – Divine Intervention
I was going to put Kyuss or Soundgarden here, however my loyalty to Slayer wins out in the end.