A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Thrash Metal

I am a great believer that certain musical styles rise to prominence on the backs of social change or a social movement. There is a quote from Deena Weinstein who is a Professor at DePaul University in the Metal Evolution Thrash Episode that goes something like this;

“When Thrash started in the early eighties Thatcher and Reagan were in charge and we had a highly conservative very restrictive kind of society and if you’re a teenager especially a teenage male, yuck, you don’t want to live in a place where they are in charge. This made males feel like they had to fight against the system just to stay in place and that kind of aggression leads to a sense of wanting to be louder and faster.”

By 1988, Thrash Metal in Australia was becoming huge. There was a substantial underground movement of thrash bands or bands that dabbled in rock, thrash and traditional heavy metal and there was an audience for it. Suburban garages became jam rooms for a million wannabe thrash bands.

And then came Metallica to our shorelines for the “Justice” tour.

All of those suburban teens who had seen their parents deal with the Black Monday Wall Street crash purchased tickets.

All of those suburban teens from immigrant families that had seen their parents get dicked around and racially abused purchased tickets.

All of those suburban teens that had seen their parents get shafted from various long-term state governments that dealt in corruption purchased tickets.

All of those suburban teens that had seen their parents get fired from companies that dealt in corruption and bribery of politicians purchased tickets

 

All of those suburban teens who didn’t fit in to the new divide between the haves and the have-nots purchased tickets.

All of those suburban teens who had finished high school or dropped out and couldn’t hold down any jobs or get work, scrapped up enough cash to purchase tickets.

We even made the news. In our excitement to get into the venue, we broke down gates and fences. When the police came we resisted. So many misfits, that just wanted to fit in.

We all stood together with people wearing Venom, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, first two albums Motley Crue, Twisted Sister and Slayer tops. This was our moment and the “…And Justice For All” album with its lyrical themes of corruption and truth being sold to the highest bidder was the same shit that we faced or our parents had faced. We all related to the “injustice” themes throughout the album.

I have always debated with people who was the biggest band in the genre. I always saw it from an influential musical point of view and others saw it from a sales point of view. Metallica and Megadeth to me are the two bands that had their feet in so many genres. With each album they kept on crossing over into new markets. That is why to me, the Black album wasn’t outside of the norm for what the Metallica sound is.

In the doco, Sam Dunn (the interviewer) felt betrayed when Metallica came out with the “Black” album. He wasn’t alone in that view-point. A lot of my peers also felt betrayed at the album however I couldn’t understand their viewpoint.

Metallica always had more accessible shorter songs on every single album leading up to the “Black” album.

What about, “For Whom The Bells Toll”, “Escape” and “Trapped Under Ice” from the “Ride The Lightning” album.

What about, “Leper Messiah” (how good is that bass riff (RIP: CLIFF BURTON) over the E5 power chords from 0.33 to 0.55) and “The Thing That Should Not Be” from the “Master Of Puppets” album while the “…And Justice For All” album had the big one, “Harvester Of Sorrow.”

All of those songs are more or less at the same tempo that the “Black” album songs are at.

I for one am glad that Metallica had the balls to make the “Black” album instead of “And Justice For All Part Two”, which if you look closely at it, the Justice album was more or less, “Ride The Lightning Part III”.

Megadeth on the other hand, in between their drug addictions and overdoses created some definitive songs. All of the thrash fans that felt betrayed at the Black album liked “Peace Sells”. That is why their view points just didn’t make sense.

Yes people, the mighty Dave Mustaine was way ahead of his time. He gave Metallica that technicality and their sound in the early years and by 1986, he gave the Thrash movement a crossover hit song in “Peace Sells”. It was all over MTV.

And that is the reason why this sub-genre has survived and grown. The two biggest bands of the movement just kept on crossing over and those two biggest bands had two super influential songwriters in Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield. It’s hard to believe that once upon a time they were in the same band.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

GUN – Taking On The World

Way underrated and way under-appreciated, it’s almost criminal.

In the beginning GUN got lumped in with the hard rock/glam rock style of bands, however GUN had way more substance. Way more character.

Coming from Scotland, they didn’t conform to the LA Sunset Strip scene. The songs didn’t focus on “Cherry Pies” or “Slipped Her The Big One”. They didn’t focus on spelling Rock, ROK. They didn’t have to compete with any band in the scene for the fastest licks and biggest hair.

Instead they focused on their own brand of rock’n’roll. And their lyrical themes didn’t deal with the usual rubbish that the hard rock bands started to serve towards the end of the decade.

When the band first came together in 1987, it called itself “Phobia” and played Metallica style thrash-metal.

Eventually the style went to a melodic rock style.

And that wasn’t an easy feat to achieve. A rock band from Glasgow, Scotland in the late eighties was very rare. They were the only guitar-orientated rock band in an area dominated by synthesizer dance bands. Even Radio didn’t play rock music at that time, and the ones that did normally stuck to bands like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Guns N Roses, etc.

This depressing dance scene would have destroyed other rock groups, however not the members of GUN. They proved to be resilient. No one expected them to do anything with their music careers. They didn’t have the right contacts and they didn’t have any radio support.

From low expectations, GUN became leaders of the Scottish rock revival. That is what makes their debut album even more special. “Taking On The World” has got the story of “backs against the wall” attitude.

After being signed, the group was offered a chance to record in London with Mick Ralphs (Bad Company) as producer. They went in but didn’t like the completed tracks and spent more time back in Glasgow, re-recording the album again by themselves. Ballsy move that a lot of other bands would never have made.

Taking On The World

Released in 1989 on A&M Records at a time when A&M was negotiation ink on a sale deal to Polygram Records. It was a chaotic time and so far removed from business as usual. The Record Label business was going through another consolidation process as takeovers and mergers happened left, right and centre during this time.

The industry was starting to see greater profits from compact discs and since their introduction in 1983, the prominent record companies had been completely or partially acquired by large media companies vying to expand their market share.

GUN’s debut album was also released at a time when the musical landscape was chaotic and changing.

A&M in 1989 released “Louder Than Love” from Soundgarden. It also released the debut album from Extreme and in the following 12 months released “Pornograffitti”. Hard Rock band “Giant” released “Last of the Runaways” also in 1989 and on A&M. Marketing dollars in 1989 could break a band to the masses or make them go unnoticed.

Competition was also fierce amongst other bands. Skid Row released their debut album. Danger Danger and Warrant also released their debut albums. Then you had the following releases to also compete against;

After the War – Gary Moore
The Great Radio Controversy – Tesla
Alannah Myles – Alannah Myles
Sonic Temple – The Cult
…Twice Shy – Great White
The Headless Children – W.A.S.P.
Blue Murder – Blue Murder
Full Moon Fever – Tom Petty
Badlands – Badlands
Trash – Alice Cooper
The Real Thing – Faith No More
The End Of Innocence – Don Henley
Mr Big – Mr Big
Dr Feelgood – Motley Crue
Storm Front – Billy Joel
Hot In The Shade – Kiss
Slip Of The Tongue – Whitesnake
…But Seriously – Phil Collins

However, not to be deterred, GUN is the definition of resilience. You can hear the “Born To Run” lyrical influence in vocalist Mark Rankin. The “resilient, get somewhere on your own and don’t let anybody else run your life” theme.

Add to that the AC/DC meets Def Leppard hard-rock guitar of Guiliano Gizzi, and you get a feel for what GUN is trying to accomplish.

In Australia it was obvious that the label and the radio stations thought that no one would be interested in an album like this. It got no exposure whatsoever.

“Better Days”

It’s co-written by lead guitarist Guiliano Gizzi and vocalist Mark Rankin.

Read a story in the paper last night people living in fear
It’s easy saying nothing it’s easy just to watch things fall
But I was taught that there’s a time in your life
When you’ve got to stand proud
So tell me don’t you think that it’s time we put an end to it all

Things could be heaven but this feels like hell
So hold your head high cos you know I’d die
For better days

It’s easy to keep our mouths shut. Less involvement in situations equals less complications.

However, ignorance is never bliss. Eventually someone will have to deal with the situation.

Look at all the Copyright and piracy issues today. The public didn’t really care about what laws got passed or if terms got extended. However, when the Copyright extremists started pushing for laws like SOPA and PIPA and it involved peoples’ freedoms, internet access and privacy, something amazing happened.

PEOPLE GOT TOGETHER ON-LINE AND STOOD PROUD, PREPARED TO FIGHT FOR BETTER DAYS.

“Feelin Within”

It’s got this Michael Hutchence vocal style.

What’s lost, nothing’s gained
Eye to eye in the city rain
I’m fighting in a war I can never ever win
The pain that pleasure brings leaves you cold, skin on skin

Ain’t that the truth. We knew about love from music. It is a love song, however it steered away from the normal hard/glam rock cliches.

“Taking On The World”

You’re holding out your hand, are you falling?
You’re talking to yourself, nobody’s there
There’s a burning in your heart like a hunger
There’s something on your mind, nobody cares

When you feel that life is dragging you down day by day
You’ve gotta break away

You’re taking on the world

1989 was the last year from the decade of greed. It was a decade of the corporations taking control of the music industry. It was a decade of radio becoming beholden to the advertisers and the PR firms, putting profits in front of music and culture. And to me “Taking On The World” captures that mood and feeling of 1989. Change was a coming.

In a Kerrang interview with Derek Oliver, singer Mark Rankin said the following;

“Before the ball started to roll we couldn’t get record company interest at all. I really sympathise with any up and coming band because it’s really hard knocking your head against a brick wall trying to get people to listen. Very soul-destroying indeed. We worked hard and got a break.”

That was 1989.

Has anything really changed for any new up and coming band in 2014. They still need to knock their head against a brick wall trying to get people to listen.

Music is a lifer game. Nothing has changed for a band trying to make it.

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Music

Cry For Freedom

White Lion had the balls to tackle the subject of apartheid when all the other bands in 1989 didn’t. That was a long time ago. 1989. The Hard Rock, Glam Rock, Blues Rock, Heavy Metal and Thrash Metal movements where all riding high, at the peak of their mainstream successes.

It is unfortunate that the Eighties degenerated into a state of generic and clichéd derivative lyrical themes and subjects involving sex, partying and drugs.

When bands branched away from that, it was very hit and miss.

White Lion fell into that crowd of misses as the label “Atlantic” would still push the pop metal or pop rock edge of the band. The tours and marketing had White Lion sandwiched amongst bands like Motley Crue, Skid Row, Kiss, Whitesnake, Alice Cooper, Blue Murder and Badlands.

Of course, Motley Crue, Skid Row, Kiss, Alice Copper all had big wins in 1989. Whitesnake released a great album however it didn’t get traction. Call it karma for David Coverdale killing off the promotion on the John Sykes, Blue Murder album.

Actually, Blue Murder and Badlands released timeless and serious albums that in 2013 are seen as cult albums.

Music culture was built by artists taking a stand on a subject. The history of rock and metal is littered with bands that made big statements.

It’s the guitar sound. The way it swells and hallucinates with each shifting chord change. You cant help but be drawn in.

“The fire is burning
We lay our weapons down to rest
This war ain’t over
‘Till all the people will be free”

Growing up in democracy it was hard to fathom how people could be suppressed and denied rights for such a long time. South Africa was never in the news in Australia. It was like a decision was made from the powers that be that South Africa will not be reported at all costs.

Despite the song having a thread of hope, there is still desperation and the idea that freedom was still far away.

“So stand up and cry for freedom
And keep the dream alive”

“Cry For Freedom” is the kind of track that can be played when any uprising to oppression happens. It could have been played during the Arab Spring, the fall of the Berlin Wall or the Syrian Civil War. It never loses its power.

“Our brothers in prison
But no crime was ever done
I call it racism
Ashamed i face my fellow man”

“The children are taken away
And families destroyed
And millions have died from starvation
We can’t go on this way”

And the way it ends, it just makes you want to play it all over again.

Credit Michael Wagener, who produced it and still captured a sound that was rock enough to satisfy the rock community. In the end it makes the track connected to the rest of the album.

The “Cry For Freedom” video has 730,603 views on the 80s Classic Metal channel.

White Lion really tried hard to depart from the rock clichés however the public at that time didn’t want to be reminded about the world. All we wanted back then was to let our hair down and escape from the working week.

Vito Bratta mentioned in his 2007 Eddie Trunk interview that the songs from “Big Game” didn’t really work in a live setting, especially in a rowdy hard rock setting.

It was a concert at the Wembley Arena on Wednesday 01 November 1989 that decided the fate of the album and the rest of the tour.

Mötley Crüe where the headliners with White Lion and Skid Row supporting.

Sandwiched between a wild and energetic Skid Row and a newly sober but still dangerous Motley Crüe, White Lion didn’t have a chance.

Skid Row sang about belonging (“Youth Gone Wild”), sex (“Big Guns”, “Sweet Little Sister”, “Rattlesnake Shake”), street violence (“Piece Of Me”, “18 & Life”) and relationships (“Can’t Stand The Heartache”, “I Remember You”).

White Lion sang about Greenpeace (“Little Fighter”), broken homes (“Broken Home”), organized religion (“If My Mind Is Evil”) apartheid (“Cry For Freedom”), broken romances (“Wait”), sex (“Dirty Woman”, “Hungry”), life on the road (“Radar Love”, “Goin Home Tonight”), a mystic healer (“Lady Of The Valley) and the state of the world (“When The Children Cry”).

All important subjects however the majority of the rock crowd didn’t want to hear heavy themes in 1989 from a rock band. Those kind of heavy themes were coming from thrash metal bands. With the death of Nelson Mandela, this song is back in my life.

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The Development Of Zoltan Bathory – Grit and Determination

Raw talent has to mature. So what we have is the artists that stick with music and mature themselves. All the other wannabes got out when they realised that there sole purpose of being involved in music was driven by money and fame. So when those artists that do stick around break through, guess what happens. The majors come knocking with big money.

It is interesting to hear or read about an artist’s development and the things they did to get to where they are today.

If you look at the Wikipedia page for Zoltan Bathory, the earliest musical output you get is from 2004, where he played bass in the band “U.P.O”. However his story begins a long time, in communist Hungary.

So he grows up in a country where the average person is making pennies. In dollars speak it was like a hundred dollars a month. It doesn’t leave a lot of money lying around for guitars, amplifiers and record purchases. He wants to be a heavy metal guitarist, however that music is censored. He wants to be a heavy metal guitarist but he doesn’t speak English. He is basically trying to succeed in a genre that doesn’t technically have a voice in communist Hungary.

You can see already the grit and determination exhibited by Zoltan just to even get to America. Compared that with people who are cruising on sub-standard effort and constantly told that everything they do is great. You can see that an edge exists in Zoltan’s corner.

Determination has been part of Zoltan’s mindset since childhood. I remember reading an interview that his parents enrolled him in judo classes in an attempt to temper his schoolyard aggression and how that discipline has served him well as he got older.

So he puts together a band that would become Five Finger Death Punch. The band is his first thought in the morning and his last thought at night. He lived and breathed the band. Even the style of music that Five Finger Death Punch produce wasn’t very popular at the time. It was Hard Rock, merged with Thrash Metal, merged with Death Metal and classic Euro Heavy Metal.

I have heard bands like Accept, W.A.S.P., Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Death, Possessed and Annihilator mentioned as early influences.

It was all underground. They had no label but they had people connecting with them on MySpace in the thousands. The record labels started to take notice as this underground band where getting more views and plays than their major label artists.

The first album was recorded on their own. They produced it and paid for it. The version that we all got to hear was the Five Finger Death Punch version. The label at the time just picked it up and released it.

If you look at Five Finger Death Punch in 2013, every single member came from bands that had some level of recognition before. Jason Hook goes back to the late Eighties and early Nineties, with ties to hard rock bands, plus various session work and backing bands for pop stars.

Ivan Moody goes back to the mid Nineties before achieving some recognition with Motograter and his side project Ghost Machine.

Drummer Jeremy Spencer has a similar story to Jason Hook. Hard Rock bands are attached to their stories.

Bassist Chris Kael was doing the Las Vegas circuit with various bands and had made enough contacts to vouch for him when the Five Finger Death Punch bass auditions happened.

They took a risk on their music. They gambled. They didn’t know it would resonate and connect with people the way it did. If the music is good, there’s a ton of money to be made. Not all of that money would be on recorded music.

Five Finger Death Punch are winning because they DID THE WORK…
Five Finger Death Punch are winning because they kick ass…
Five Finger Death Punch are winning because they rock each place they visit…

That’s the way rock and roll works.

Life is tough and no one is owed nothing.

People want bands to make a living because we all want to be involved in some way. It makes us feel good on helping artists by going to a show, buying some merchandise or by purchasing their recorded product.

Remember that all of the music that Five Finger Death Punch has released is available on line for free to either stream, view or illegally download. Yet, they still sell. Funny that.

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