Rage Against the Machine (Rage Against the Machine)
Debate will rage for eternity about the categorisation of RATM. Mainstream reviewers still consider them the pioneers or rap-rock, or so called ‘nu-metal’. Die hard fans still consider them to be out and out hip-hop. Metal fans point to Tom Morello and claim him as rock’s axe-wielding messiah.
Whatever you call them, there was never anything like RATM before RATM, and there really hasn’t been anything since.
Although the debut single from the album was the opening cut, Bombtrack, RATM really hit the scene with their scathing, twisting, grinding and infamous track ‘Killing in the name…’
With its gritty live action video clip and little fanfare, ‘Killing in the name of…’ changed popular music. Heavy, political, equal parts offensive and accessible, and appealing to the disaffected masses of youth all over the world, pretty soon “…fuck you, i won’t do what you tell me…” was the anti-political chant of choice.
But it didn’t stop there. From the thought provoking challenge of ‘Know Your Enemy’, to the history lesson of ‘Township Rebellion’, RATM dared us to not only bang our heads, but use our heads too.
Cowboys From Hell (Pantera)
Although not technically a debut for Pantera, 1991’s Cowboys From Hell introduced us to a young, dynamic Texan frontman by the name of Phil Anselmo.
Like Tom Morello of the aforementioned Rage Against the Machine, Pantera’s ‘Diamond’ Daryl Abbott made his guitar sing in a way that few others ever could. Evidence the opening licks to the opening and self-titled track.
“what is that? a power drill? a chainsaw” “nah man, that’s an AXE!!”
Introducing us to a ‘new’ sub-genre that would later be called powergroove, among other names, Pantera made us wanna bang our heads and dance at the same time. If ever there was a soundtrack to world’s biggest circle mosh, the closing track “The Art of Shredding” is probably it. Following all the rules of metal, from falsetto high notes (which would never really be heard again on a Pantera album), to classic storylines (Indian medicine men, rocking out, stuff about priests and cemeteries) yet breaking all the conventions at the same time, Cowboys from Hell is a debut that will go down in history.
It will always be a shame to consider Anselmo’s subsequent erratic nature, and ultimately the loss of Diamond Daryl.
Also not technically a debut album, but Slipknot’s subsequent ‘Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses’ is evidence enough that even Slipknot themselves rarely acknowledge the existence of the creepy EP ‘Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat.’
Slipknot’s first album achieves everything that Corey Taylor (AKA #8) claims in his monologues on their later live double album ‘9.0: Live’. They stick it to the establishment.
Like RATM, these guys are often written off by the ‘nu-metal’ tag they are usually lumbered with. But they are so much more. In some ways these guys are more metal than metal.
Nine members? WTF?
Masks and costumes? WTF?
‘Custom’ percussion? WTF?
These guys take everything that metalheads call tacky and make it cool all over again. They do it with brains, balls, and integrity. Few bands could ever pull any of those elements off any more, let alone put them all together.
One of the things that sets Slipknot apart is its collective and individual creative integrity. Far from being damaged and torn apart by side projects and differences in direction, Slipknot thrives on it, builds on it, smashes it all together, and makes it something new and great.
Amongst my own peers, I’m part of a small minority who thinks Slipknot have actually gotten better with every album they’ve released. But as an introduction to the world, this eponymous release makes a statement that won’t be repeated.
Kill ‘Em All (Metallica)
Although few will ever admit it, pretty much every american band who picked up instruments and claim to make ‘heavy’ music owe their very existence to this band, and this album. Contained in these 10 tracks is the roots of thrash, death metal, speed metal and glam rock, all wrapped up together.
Kill ‘Em All is the quintessential, post-NWOBHM, american metal album.
Whatever you may think of Lars Ulrich now, with this album he achieved exactly what he set out to achieve – with a single album, he launched american heavy metal into the stratosphere and left european hard rock in his wake.
Right place at the right time? Perhaps. What we have here is the perfect concoction of Ulrich’s ambition, Hetfield’s angst, Cliff Burton’s insistence that the band relocate to the heart of the San Francisco’s Bay Area Thrash scene, and the insight of the now legendary Johhny and Marsha Zazula at Megaforce Records.
The rest, as they say, is history.
With just 8 tracks, at least 6 of which most metalheads couldn’t even name some 32 years later, this short, sharp eponymous rock and roll album heralded the arrival of one of the greatest forces ever in heavy music.
After ironically being tossed out of seminal psychedelic rock band Hwakwind for (allegedly) not taking enough hallucinogenic drugs, Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister spent nearly two years playing dingy clubs with good mates ‘Fast Eddie’ Clark and ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor. Naming themselves after the last track that Kilmister wrote for Hawkwind, Motorhead struggled to gain attention until a chance meeting led to the recording of their 1977 self-titled debut.
Although it was probably their second album Overkill that gained them a bigger following, particularly outside of the UK, Motorhead the album is a classic in every sense of the word.
Opening with the ‘title’ track, this version of the Hawkwind cut, this time without hammond organs, saxophones and mid-70s era synthesizers, is a biting, kicking, scratching wall of noise – hard to fathom from a tight dirty three-piece. Don’t believe it can be done? The proof of this pudding is in 1981’s live album ‘No Sleep ’til Hammersmith’.
Few metal bands today will go past Motorhead when naming their influences. But this understated release may yet be one of the most important heavy metal releases of all time.