Alternate Reality, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

June, 1993

It’s June 1993 and I am flicking through the new issue of Hot Metal Magazine, which at the time was Australia’s premier metal and rock magazine. For $3.50 it was an excellent alternative to the overpriced American and British magazines.

On the cover there was the John Bush fronted Anthrax. Three members are wearing white t-shirts with blue Jeans, and two members are wearing black t-shirts with blue jeans. It was a sign of the changing times as publicists and record labels pushed their artists to have a more grungy look.

“The Sound Of White Noise” got 5 skulls in the magazine review, which equates to ‘KILLER’. A few months after it’s release the album was certified GOLD. This is probably the album that Scott Ian was referring too when he made his comments that in the past they would sell a shitload of albums.

It was a hungry album. John Bush’s transition from a struggling band to a major label act was the catalyst. It was an album chock full of metal “hits”. “Only” comes to mind straight away. Even James Hetfield called it the perfect song. “Black Lodge” didn’t sit out-of-place with the current crop of chart toppers in Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. Credit producer Dave Jerden who produced both “Dirt” from Alice In Chains and “The Sound Of White Noise”. It was the last good Anthrax album and it is not even up on Spotify. Actually none of the John Bush-era of Anthrax is on Spotify which is a shame.

And the critics that said “Worship Music” is a great album cannot understand why it didn’t resonate with the audience. Look at the top ten songs on Spotify for Anthrax. Not one song from “Worhsip Music” is on the list. Same goes for YouTube.

Then you have the bloodbath from the Eighties scene.

Jani Lane (RIP) and Warrant had split and both acts had their contracts reduced to demo deals. So even though you had three albums that had moved 500,000 plus units each, they still ended up on the scrap-heap. Kik Tracee also split with vocalist Stephen Shareaux (bet he wished he tried harder for that Motley Crue vocalist spot) and both of them had been reduced to a demo deal. Looks like all the promo to sell the act just didn’t connect with the audience because in the end the songs where rubbish.

Meanwhile Rowan Robertson from “The Lock Up The Wolves” Dio era inked a deal with Atlantic Records for his new band that had Oni Logan from Lynch Mob on vocals. We all know that this didn’t end up going anywhere.

While, Roberston’s former employer, Dio (RIP) was working with WWIII guitarist Tracy G after his “Dehumanizer” venture with Black Sabbath went sour. These sessions would go on to create the “Strange Highways” album while Jake E.Lee was working with WWIII singer (and i use that term loosely) Mandy Lion.

Reports coming through at that time spoke about the new Bruce Dickinson solo album being an “updated, toughened up Santana vibe with a heavy leaning towards Peter Gabriel type atmospherics and experimentation.”  That album would become “Balls To Picasso” and apart from the song “Tears Of The Dragon” which sounds like an Iron Maiden song the rest of the album was a listen best avoided.

On the drug front we had David Lee Roth getting busted in New York after purchasing a $10 bag of weed. Seriously, for someone like his stature surely he could have done it more discreetly or gotten that $10 bag delivered to the studio. However, Roth is Roth and he decided that he should go out into the town and look for a dealer. On the other drug front, there was news that started coming out about Tim Kelly (RIP) from Slaughter who was alleged to have been involved in a major drug smuggling ring that was busted after a five-year investigation by the F.B.I.

Then we had the Motley Crue vs Vince Neil shenanigans.

The Vince Neil “Exposed” album got a good review in the magazine. I suppose it was inevitable that the solo album from Vince Neil would sound a lot like Motley Crue, even though NIkki Sixx insisted that Vince Neil had nothing to do with the creation of the songs in Motley Crue or the Motley sound. I think Nikki Sixx missed the memo that the actual voice plays a big part in the sound. Credit music business vet Phil Soussan for delivering a stellar performance in the songwriting department that helped kick-start Vince’s solo career.

Then on the other side you had “The Scream” with new singer Billy Scott battling to get their album done in time so that they can tour with Motley Crue as part of the singer transfer deal. For the uninitiated John Corabi from “The Scream” replaced Vince Neil in Motley Crue. However, the Crue’s album was REJECTED by Elektra Records. It wouldn’t be until the following year that the self-titled Motley Crue album saw the light of day. And within 6 months it disappeared from the public conversation and the tour got reduced from arena’s to theaters to getting cancelled.

Finally Pride and Glory was still on hold while Zakk Wylde worked with Ozzy Osbourne on the follow-up to “No More Tears”. Producers John Purdell and Duane Baron took over from Michael Wagener (who produced the first few songs and was then retained to mix the album until Micheal Beinhorn got involved). James Lomenzo was being used as a bass replacement for the recording sessions. The album that would become Ozzmosis would take another two more years before it saw the light of day and the style of the songs would be re-imagined into the modern sound of the day.

In the end the majority of artists mentioned above are still part of the music business in some way. And for the ones that aren’t, only death could separate them from the music world.

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A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Undeniable Greatness with Metallica and Dream Theater

You are a teenager and starting a band. What do you have that could bring you untold fame and riches?

Life is your art right. It forms the basis of the songs that you write. The personal experiences from your life form the themes. So the saying goes, you need to have lived to create everlasting art. So if your definition of success depends upon becoming a household name in the quickest time possible, you’re going to waste a lot of time being frustrated.

The winners that win, do so because they outlast the competition. Metallica isn’t on top at the moment because they were better than everybody else. The same goes for Motley Crue. Both bands outlasted their competition.

What happened to Raven, the band that Metallica opened up for before Kill Em All was released? Even though bands like Slayer, Exodus and Anthrax are still around, they have never done the numbers that Metallica has done.

Anthrax had too many changes and they didn’t have that singer in Belladonna and Bush that could relate to the audience. Exodus didn’t really rate, while Slayer and Megadeth forged out a sustainable career on the back of the Metallica steam train.

Metallica
The best work for me is Ride The Lightning. For others it is Master of Puppets. For others it is the Black album. For this case study, let’s use the sales statistic, so that would mean the Black album is their best work.

The Black album was written in 1990 and released in 1991. James Hetfield, the main song writing force in the band was 27 years old in 1990. Lars Ulrich was also 27. Bob Rock, the producer was 36. The point here is that the people involved in the creation of this masterpiece have lived and experienced.

James, Lars and Kirk Hammet lived through a bus crash, which claimed the life of their band mate and main musical muse Cliff Burton.

Bob Rock by 1991 had worked on numerous big sellers, so he knew what it took to get the best out of the band. Watch the Classic Albums documentary and see how Bob Rock pushed Kirk Hammet to record that classic guitar solo in The Unforgiven.

Some say that Metallica sold out with the Black album, however it is as brutal as all the other Metallica albums that came before it. For all the haters, I dare them to point to any other album as heavy as the Black album that was riding high on the charts.

Forget about the single cuts like Enter Sandman, Sad But True, Wherever I May Roam and Nothing Else Matters. You need to dig deeper to hear the quality. Through The Never is a classic cut from the Master of Puppets era, as well as My Friend of Misery (that has similarities to the Orion breakdown). The best songs by far on the Black album is Holier Than Thou and The God That Failed. While one is classic speed metal in the Judas Priest vein, The God That Failed is the mainstreams introduction to groove metal, a term that Pantera would make famous with A Vulgar Display of Power.

The Black album desensitised everyone and set a standard of heaviness for bands like Korn, White Zombie, Disturbed, Alice In Chains, Rage Against The Machine, Tool, Nine Inch Nails and Ministry to step in and desensitise us some more. It opened the door to bands like Pantera to enter the mainstream.

Dream Theater
The breakthrough album for Dream Theater is Images and Words. Petrucci, Myung and Moore wrote it between the ages of 22 and 24 during the dark days of the vocalist search. The album came out when they were 25 years old. Another Day was written about John Petrucci’s father, who was diagnosed with cancer. Take The Time was written as their struggle at finding a new vocalist and always having to start from scratch when they failed. The music was more mature and better orchestrated. Personality sells. When Dream Theater released Images and Words, they didn’t bland their material to make it more relatable.

Then just when you thought that Dream Theater would go all mainstream, they shook things up again with Metropolis II. In the same way that 2112 from Rush laid the groundwork for what was to come for Rush, Metropolis II did the same thing for Dream Theater. It returned their core Images and Words audience and introduced the band to a large seventies era progressive rock fan base.

The next breakthrough album for Dream Theater was the heavy Train Of Thought. If there was any casual metal fan that was sitting on the sideline, this album made them commit. Of course Dream Theater always had metal styles in their music, however Train of Thought was all metal.

The recent promotion on the new Dream Theater album has the usual spin about Grammy nominated band and so on. Yep getting nominated is cool, however it doesn’t ensure long term success. Dream Theater built themselves away from the mainstream. They figured out what worked for them and what didn’t away from the mainstream, until they became so good it was undeniable. That is what will sell the band over and over again. That undeniable greatness.

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