Practice What You Preach
Released August 4 1989
The summer of 89 was winding down when I first picked this album up and I must say the third studio release from Bay area thrashers Testament proved to be a major step up. Firstly, the lyrical content was all about politics and societal issues; placing more emphasis on subjects like freedom of choice, political corruption, hypocrisy and the effects of greed and avarice. The album also provided a more mature sound, toning down the frenetic thrash of the first two releases in favor of streamlining their sound; but still retaining some of their youthful ferocity. The title track became a hit and was heavily featured on MTV, along with “The Ballad”. Many of these tracks have become a continual staple in their live shows, all except “Confusion Fusion” which has reportedly never been played live.
Practice What You Preach received favorable reviews at the time, and in October 89 they embarked on a tour with Annihilator and Wrathchild America. The second leg of the tour took place January 1990 supporting both Mortal Sin and Xentrix. The band would also go on to perform with Savatage, Nuclear Assault and Dark Angel later that year. The album entered the Billboard charts at 200, peaking at number 77 and remained on the charts for 12 straight weeks. They would later go on to record Souls of Black shortly after.
Some of the track highlights include: “Practice What You Preach”, “Envy Life”, “Blessed in Contempt”, “Sins of Omission” and “The Ballad”. I am giving this is a respectable 9 out of 10 and I will say this is a pure thrash masterpiece.
Released April 10, 1990
In 1990, young thrash stalwarts Death Angel released their third effort to much acclaim on the band’s first and only major studio recording. Most critics dubbed this release their finest moment and I must say this to be fairly accurate for the time. The music is polished and mature sounding for a thrash band finding their place in the pantheon of thrash bands of the period. The album produced strong singles with “Seemingly Endless Time” and “A Room With a View”, getting tons of play on MTV’s Headbangers Ball. For my money’s worth, the songs are catchy and more controlled than the band’s previous two efforts and much of this should be attributed to the guidance of veteran music producer Max Norman.
Unfortunately, tragedy would strike the band later in the year, when drummer Andy Galeon suffered a critical injury when their tour bus crashed, halting the remainder of the band’s tour. In fact Andy was out of action for more than a year, prompting singer Mark Osegueda’s exit from the band and effectively ending Death Angel. The band would later reunite in 2001, supporting Chuck Billy’s (Testament) Thrash of The Titans benefit concert and that would prompt the band’s proper reformation for more studio recordings and touring, continuing into the next decade.
As for the some of the best tracks on this release: “Seemingly Endless Time”, “Veil of Deception”, “A Room With a View”, “Stagnant” and “Disturbing the Peace” are all solid efforts. I’m giving this release a substantial mark of 9 out of 10.
The Razor’s Edge
Released Sept 24, 1990
In 1990, AC DC undertook their most publicised world tour in support of the band’s eleventh studio recording, The Razor’s Edge. The album was considered a comeback release of sorts, reaching # 2 on the US Billboard 200 and going multi-platinum with over five million copies sold in the US alone. This was definitely a major feat for the band; spawning successful hits like “Thunderstruck”, “Are You Ready” and “Money Talks”, and was produced by Bruce Fairbairn.
Despite the success of this release, almost everyone in the band was going through personal issues. Singer Brian Johnson was unavailable for several months while he finalized a divorce, drummer Simon Wright left to record with Dio (Lock Up the Wolves) and was ultimately replaced by Chris Slade (Manfred Mann). Even guitarist Malcolm Young was taking time away from touring to recover from a severe bout of alcoholism. Luckily, the band was able to call on nephew Stevie Young to fill in temporarily, while Malcolm got his shit together.
Thankfully, none of the behind the scenes turmoil disrupted the band’s tour, as this period produced AC DC Live Collector’s Edition album as a live version. Many considered this one the best live albums ever recorded by the band. It was also during this tour that the band headlined Monsters of Rock, which was eventually released on DVD as Live at Donington.
My favorite tracks on this release are: “Thunderstruck”, “Fire Your Guns”, “Money Talks”, “The Razor’s Edge”, “Are You Ready” and “Got You by the Balls”. I’m giving this album a solid 9 out of 10 and I consider this album the best release of their 90’s recording period.
A short film review by P.J. Griffin
A while back, I wrote an article about the boom of online horror shorts that are scaring up…well, the scares, on the World Wide Web. I had been getting into the medium for a year or so prior to writing said article, but the final push towards motivating me to do such a piece was when I was sent Alfredo Abaunza’s film Family. It was a lot of fun and had so much spirit that I was inspired not only to write about it, but also to check out what else the filmmaker had done. I saw several other fantastic shorts of his and recently had the good fortune of being able to take a look at his latest. It was a more psychological style film called Nothing but Ants.
The viewer begins the experience with the loud sounds and visuals of an everyday crowded public area, contrasted by the stark quiet of the opening credits spliced in. It makes a bold, strong statement that what we are about to witness is serious and rooted in realism. Right off the bat I felt a sense of unseen danger; the chaos among the normally mundane.
From there, Nothing but Ants takes the viewer on a journey surrounding a day in the life of a young man. As with any short work, to explain too much would be to give away most of the project. I will say that the film gives the viewer a thorough and introspective look into the character’s mind in an impressively short time. It does this while still keeping the audience at bay and separated from the primary person of interest. We are shown what he has to deal with, how he is seen by others. His true state and inner turmoil are only shown to us in glimpses.
The use of locations provides a feeling of both intimacy and legitimacy. The subway, the landscapes, and the outside atmosphere all give the film an ominous feel that carries throughout. The tension builds in such a way where every moment starts to take on its own sinister tone. The music and dialogue are both minimalist, which only accents how strongly they work together. The acting and editing also compliment each other wonderfully and help the film itself leave an impression.
To give away much more would only unravel the tightly wound scenario, but I will say that it’s a film you may find yourself wanting to revisit once it’s all over. It is a thrilling piece that shows the broad talents of the filmmaker. It ends on a bold note, solemn and perfectly in line with the overall feeling of the project.
Nothing But Ants has been entered into several current festivals and will soon after be available to view online. It’s a project that I recommend checking out when possible. It’s a consistent piece of suspense that will stay with you once the final credits have rolled.
Released April 7 1987
In 1987, Whitesnake released its most successful album selling 8 million copies in the US, thus going platinum eight times over. The album also landed at No.2 on the Billboard 200 and No. 8 on the UK charts; spawning the hit “Is This Love” and an even bigger hit in “Still of the Night”. Joining David Coverdale for the album was guitarist John Sykes (Blue Murder and Thin Lizzy), bassist Neil Murray and drummer Aynsley Dunbar. The album also spotlighted another major hit in “Here I Go Again” – which also featured additional guitar duties from Dutch player Adrian Vandenberg. Keyboard players Don Airey and Bill Cuomo were also brought in for additional duties to help bolster the overall sound of the album.
Unfortunately due to personal differences that Coverdale had with his band mates, he let them all go just after the completion of recording. For the new line-up, Coverdale reached out to guitarists Adrian Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell (from Dio), then enlisting Rudy Sarzo on bass and Tommy Aldridge on drums. The new line-up toured in support of the album and also all appeared in the videos for several of the songs featured from the album.
The album features several great tracks. Songs like: “Crying in the Rain”, “Still of the Night”, “Here I Go Again”, “Is This Love” and “Children of the Night” are all pure rock classics. I am giving this album a solid 8 out of 10.
Hall of the Mountain King
Released September 28 1987
The fourth studio album from Savatage really pushed the Oliva brothers into the mainstream metal arena with a stellar release of pure metallic genius. The album marked the beginning of the band’s progressive leanings and is considered to be the turning point in their quest for a clear cut musical identity. At times classy and prolific sounding, Hall of the Mountain King creates a dark and often complex tone. Utilizing classical arrangements (specifically Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt suite) for the core sound of “Prelude to Madness”. The Oliva’s also incorporated Mars, Bringer of War from Gustav Holst’s suite – Planets into the opening section of the song. The usage of classical arrangements to metal songs was ideal for the time, giving way to some incredible pieces of guitar wizardry.
Tracks like “Beyond the Doors of the Dark”, “Legions” and “Hall of the Mountain King” bring out some meaty tones, pushing the power metal template full steam ahead. There’s no mistaking the seriousness in their sound and aided by producer Paul O’Neill, the band became a force of chugging sounds and harmonic brilliance. Their commanding presence wasn’t just in the music, but also the album cover displayed the powerful artwork of Gary Smith, who was airbrushing all of lead guitarist Criss Oliva’s guitars at the time. Obviously this was a band finding an identity to which this album will always be credited starting off their progressive period. The album even managed to reach number 116 in the Billboard 200 albums chart in 1987.
Some of the standout tracks are: “Beyond the Doors of the Dark”, “Legions” “Prelude to Madness”, and “Hall of the Mountain King”. I’m giving this release a solid 8 out of 10.
Released September 22, 1986
In Many ways Alice Cooper’s 16th studio album Constrictor released in 1986 was a new beginning for the rock God. His two previous albums Zipper Catches Skin and DaDa had failed to resonate fully with fans and Cooper for the first three years of the 80s was in his own personal blackout of drugs and alcohol. To this day the rocker can’t remember recording those albums. By 1983 it was time for a break and Warner Bros had also ended their association with him. Though Cooper by the end of that year had sorted his personal problems out and rid himself of his demons, it was fair to say that he seemed to be heading back to obscurity. For the next few years Cooper did just that, although he did star in a video for Twisted Sister’s the deliciously titled ‘Be Chrool to Your Scuel’.
There was talk in the Cooper camp as early as 1985 that he would return with the sequel to Welcome to My Nightmare which was celebrating its tenth anniversary. There was also talk that Cooper would recruit one Joe Perry, yes Joe Perry of Aerosmith fame. Both rumours would indeed come true but that was much later in Cooper’s discography.
A year later after what seemed like an eternity for fans, Cooper returned with Constrictor. Cooper tapped up guitarist Kane Roberts for the record. Roberts would dress up like Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo character when playing shows and with the glam period at the time, men with long hair and ribbed muscles Roberts was perfect for Cooper’s set up. Producer Beau Hill who had helped Ratt with their first record suggested that Kip Winger was brought in, the bassist would later go on to form his own band Winger a year later.
In truth Constrictor was not a huge departure from Cooper’s early 80s records that had failed but fans were quick to see that Cooper had reinvented himself at least personally and was focused. Plus for the tour staple songs from the record were metalled up so to speak and always sounded heavier.
Still fans instantly caught on to tracks such as ‘Teenage Frankenstein’ and ‘He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)”. Indeed there was to be a neat tie in when Cooper teamed up with the makers of Friday the 13th to score three tracks for that summer’s movie which was the often loved Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Cooper added ‘Hard Rock Summer’ as the third song although it doesn’t appear on Constrictor. But Cooper’s teaming up with an instantly recognizable horror franchise was lightning in a bottle. Though he didn’t star in the movie a video was made for ‘He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)” which starred Cooper and some actors from the movie including Jason Voorhees played by CJ Graham. Cooper had always intertwined his live shows with the macabre and this made perfect sense, it was a no brainer.
The record charted at No.59 on the Billboard chart making what appeared to be just a splash in the ocean, but considering his last two records barely scraped the top 200, Cooper was heading back in the right direction.
Constrictor ended up being a huge crossroads for Cooper- had that record failed had he not teamed up with Mr Jason Voorhees and had he not got the right guys in at the time in Roberts and Winger, the future could have been very different. Instead it launched a springboard and gave Cooper a second bite at the apple, and he never looked back.
Blessing in Disguise
Released Feb 7 1989
Metal Church has always been unsung heroes in the American metal scene of the 80’s. Some have compared them to other great thrash bands of the time period, often lumping them in with Bay Area bands like Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth. In fact some even include their sophomore effort (The Dark) from 1986 as a seminal thrash classic, but they had a style that blended thrash, power and traditional metal. If anything they seemed to get lost in the shuffle a bit, when you consider how many important thrash albums were released in the mid to late 80’s. One such release was their 1989 follow-up Blessing in Disguise which should have lifted Metal Church to stardom, but in fact it dwarfed them when you think about albums like Metallica’s Justice and Flotz’s No Place for Disgrace; both released slightly before this follow-up.
But still, Metal Church was a formidable act when you consider the full-bodied sound of the guitars, coupled with the strength of incoming Heretic Vocalist Mike Howe (stepping in to replace David Wayne). Even former Metallica guitar tech John Marshall was added to the roster to help bolster their sound, but something was still missing. The tracks were all solid efforts and this was the band’s highest charting release and best-selling album, so all wasn’t lost as some might make it seem to be.
According to some experts, producer Terry Date’s production of the album is very thin and sounding dated by today’s standards, but there is no mistaking the bestial roar of opening track “Fake Healer”. Even tracks like “Rest in Pieces” and “The Spell Can’t Be Broken” display muscular riffs and give way to a certain dynamic playing to keep the listener transfixed. Personally, epic tracks like “Anthem to the Estranged” and “Badlands” proves the band had more in the kitty then given credit for and the group also supplies a competent instrumental track “It’s A Secret” to boot. There’s much to like with this release and it needs a good re-mastering to rival today’s standards.
Best tracks on this release are: “Fake Healer”, “Rest in Pieces (April 15, 1912)”, “Anthem to the Estranged” and “Badlands”. I’m giving this album a solid 7 out of 10.
Released in 1987
During Alice Cooper’s resurgence in the 80’s as a heavy metal act, his guitarist Kane Roberts flexed some muscle of his own; recording a solo album in between Constrictor and Raise Your Fist and Yell. Kane proved his mettle; boldly showing off his Rambo-like physique on the album cover and laying down eleven tracks of molten metal with the help of some friends along the way. He enlisted popular metal producer Michael Wagener and teamed up with fellow musicians Steve Steele and Victor Ruzzo to bring his first solo venture to life in late 1987. Kane even brought in Alice Cooper and Kip Winger to co-write a few songs, but the majority of the music is solely credited to the man himself.
As for the music; the riffs are beefy, layered with that patented sound we have come accustomed to hearing on Cooper’s 80’s releases. Kane even proves his vocals is up to snuff, capable of delivering an extreme high range on a batch of songs that would prove the man could compete with the best metal bands of the 80’s. Roberts had a unique look and amazing sound for the time, but sadly his solo career never really took off in the way it should have.
Some critics cited the album as being over the top and clichéd, but there is no denying that Roberts set out to accomplish a musical platform to showcase his song writing abilities and his penchant as fret master on the guitar. He would go on to continue his solo career with a couple albums later on and even finding time to cross over into a second career as a graphic artist and video game programmer.
My favorite tracks on this release are: “Rock Doll”, “Triple X”, “Outlaw”, “If This is Heaven”, “Out For Blood” and “Full Pull”. I am giving this album a solid 8.5 out of 10.
Raise Your Fist and Yell
Released on September 28 1987
In the 80’s, Alice Cooper became synonymous with horror films and saw a huge resurgence in his musical career. He starred in Monster Dog, produced a song He’s Back (The Man Behind the Man) for Friday the 13th Part VI and even had a bit part in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. Cooper was catching on with a different generation of fans into gory cinema and fist pumping heavy metal, so it was inevitable he would produce an album to reflect those tastes. His song writing turned towards violent actions, evolved into defiant feelings and ultimately became darker than any other album previously produced. In short, he delivered Raise Your Fist and Yell in 1987 and embarked on a tour (Live In The Flesh) to prove his new predatory ways.
The tour became infamous for its graphic violence and theatricality, but still included some of Cooper’s staple moments from past live shows. The difference here was how it was presented in such grand guignol fashion; including impaling a person with a bike, a multitude of onstage deaths and heaping amounts of stage blood! Cooper was truly a madman during this phase of his musical career and the fans ate it up like candy. The new songs detailed a penchant for murderous deeds and defiant actions in numbers like “Time To Kill”, “Chop, Chop, Chop” and “Step On You”. Alice became meaner and nastier; proving songs like “Freedom” and “Lock Me Up” could sway the metal loving kids of the 80’s. It also helped to have the meaty riffs of guitarist Kane Roberts and Kip Winger to back up this new and improved sound, allowing Alice’s newfound image to gestate fully into the 80s metal period.
My favorite tracks on this release are: “Freedom”, “Lock Me Up”, “Prince of Darkness”, “Time to Kill” and “Gail”. I am giving this album a solid 9 out of 10 and will go on to say this is my favorite Alice Cooper release of all time.