For those who missed last week’s throwback, I’ve decided to use these recent segments to talk about albums that I personally view as flawless efforts. Some may be obvious choices while others will make you scratch your head and think to yourself, “really?”. It all boils down to personal preferences. Below are three more albums that, in layman’s terms, really hit the good spot.
Rush – “2112” (1976)
I’m pretty sure this is heavy metal’s first concept album. If so then it’s a damn excellent start to what would eventually become commonplace among progressive metal acts. All of the songs on this release are gold, but the true gem is the 20 minute long title track. The theme of the song takes place in a futuristic setting in which all materials of the past (our present) have been destroyed, and everything in the world is dictated by a select few high priests. When a young man discovers an ancient tool (a guitar) he learns to play, and eventually presents it to the high priests. Even after explaining how the tool can be used to help benefit their society, his discovery is ultimately rejected. After realizing that the high priests are hindering the creativity of mankind, he becomes distraught and takes his own life. Lyrically, the song is written in a way that leaves the symbolic meaning open to interpretation. The priests may represent anything from the leaders of a totalitarian state to the record labels that attempt to manipulate a band’s sound for profit. Musically, it’s brilliant. Broken down into 7 parts, the “Overture” (part 1) lays down the main elements of the song, allowing the other 6 parts to expand upon the initial template. The music always accompanies the mood in the lyrics, seamlessly shifting between tones of aggressiveness, inquisitiveness, and devastation. One of Rush’s tightest solos can be found on “Presentation” (part 4).
Suicidal Tendencies – “Lights… Camera… Revolution!” (1990)
The revolution started in 1983 with the release of their self-titled debut, but album number 5 in the discography is their true masterpiece. “Lights… Camera… Revolution!” contains all of the ingredients to make a classic metal album. Starting out with the ever-aggressive track “You Can’t Bring Me Down”, it’s easy to be simultaneously mesmerized by Rocky George’s lead work and want to punch your neighbor in the neck. The crushing rhythm guitar on “Lost Again” is beautifully contrasted with the immediate melodic tone in “Alone”. A really cool thing about this album is the funk influences introduced by bassist Robert Trujillo. As odd as the combination of thrash and funk sounded at the time it definitely worked in the songs “Lovely” and “Send Me Your Money”, the second of which also being a hilarious stab at Televangelists. Clearly the name of the game on this release was diversity, yet to even remove one track from this playlist would surely be a crime against nature. “Lights… Camera… Revolution!” had the sound of a mature metal album while still retaining that fun, adolescent punk rock attitude, reminding us all why Suicidal Tendencies are the kings of the Crossover movement.
Unearth – “The Oncoming Storm” (2004)
Although some elitists out there may tell you otherwise, not every great metal album was released before 2000. Just 10 years ago these Massachusetts locals released an album that was both strong in itself and promising for the genre as a whole. The word metalcore often gets a red flag in the metal community, but with “The Oncoming Storm” Unearth proved that this particular style could be just as aggressive and unique as either thrash metal or hardcore punk. Just listen to the song “Failure” if you want proof. A great thing about this album is that, even amongst the chaos, there’s this strong melodic undertone. Take “The Great Dividers” for example. The song is very thrashy in nature, yet there is this driving melodic lead guitar that gives the song somewhat of a transcendent feeling. Finding that solid balance between brutality and melody has always seemed like one of the toughest obstacles that metalcore bands face, with most leaning too much in either one of the two directions. With their second album, Unearth broke past that barrier with ease. Other great qualities of this album include the technical guitar work from Buz McGrath and Ken Susi (check “Failure” and “Bloodlust of the Human Condition”), Mike Justian’s intricate drumming (“Black Hearts Now Reign”), and the earth shattering breakdowns (every fucking song!).