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Classic Album Review

Album of the Week: Death – Spiritual Healing (1990)

30 years ago the best Death album (in my opinion) and one of the greatest Death Metal albums of all time (again, IMO) was unleashed onto the world! Spiritual Healing was originally released on Combat Records in February of 1990, and was reissued (with bonus material) on Relapse Records in November 2012. 

It was Death’s third studio album, following Scream Bloody Gore (1987) and Leprosy (1988). The lyrical content was a huge leap forward for Chuck Schuldiner (vocals; guitars); leaving behind the typical Death Metal topics for the more political themes of abortion, the ramifications of drug use, eugenics, and televangelism, etc. Schuldiner had an all-star line up on this record with Terry Butler on bass (Obituary; Massacre; Six Feet Under), James Murphy on lead and rhythm guitar (Obituary; Testament; Disincarnate), and Bill Andrews on drums (Massacre). 

Spiritual Healing is a truly amazing record; with heavy riffs, winding progressions of melody, classic Death Metal double bass, incredible solos, and Chuck’s undeniable tortured rasp of a voice! There is not a single wasted song, space, or bar on this one, folks! Its simply a must have in your collection, classic! I have a favorite song, here, but every one is a masterpiece! What else can I say?! You’ve got to give it a listen to believe it. And if you’ve heard it, then you already know. 

The original Combat Records release in ’90 contained: 

  1. Living Monstrosity 
  2. Altering the Future
  3. Defensive Personalities 
  4. Within the Mind
  5. Spiritual Healing 
  6. Low Life
  7. Genetic Reconstruction 
  8. Killing Spree 

Favorite Song: (as the Butcher Crew already know) Low Life

Rating: 10/10! Simply the perfect album! 

What are some of your favorite songs?

Stay Metal,

THE SAW

Categories
Classic Album Review

Classic Review: Acid Rap by Chance the Rapper

It’s May of 2013. “Time for school, honey!” Your mother calls from downstairs. You get dressed, pairing one of your five T-shirts with one of your three pairs of basketball shorts. Your Nintendo DS is fully charged and you’re off for another day of eighth grade. Unbeknownst to you, Chance the Rapper has just dropped his sophomore mixtape, Acid Rap, which would later be certified Diamond on DatPiff.com.

For me, middle school was a time before I had any aesthetic taste of my own. My musical palette consisted of alternative and other dad-rock my father listened to when I was growing up – that was, until I heard Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap on accident. I remember hearing “Cocoa Butter Kisses” for the first time and being put off by Chance’s raspy voice and trademark “IGH!” ad-lib. But I would not be writing this today if Acid Rap had not grown to become one of my most cherished hip-hop projects to date.

From the very first track, “Good Ass Intro”, Chance the Rapper exudes charisma. Over an equally upbeat instrumental, he establishes himself as the lovable class-clown type that you can’t help but root for. He brings the same energy on tracks like “Pusha Man”, “Juice”, and “Favorite Song”.

However, it’s not all fun and games in Chance’s world. Coming from Chicago’s south side, it is clear that he’s seen his share of terrible things: according to the hidden track “Paranoia”, “Down here, it’s easier to find a gun/Than it is to find a f—— parking spot”. Chance further reflects on the violence he grew up around on the track “Acid Rain”, where he recalls witnessing the murder of his best friend.

While Acid Rap does have its depressive lows, it is clear that Chance chooses joy in spite of them. The confluence of hip-hop, jazz, soul, and Chicago juke music convey a sense of unstoppable excitement that is reflected in Chance’s off-the-wall approach to rapping. Though some tracks pale in comparison to others, this mixtape has a charm that few other records possess. If I were to pinpoint a single project that got me into hip-hop music, it would be Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap.

 Favorite Tracks: Cocoa Butter Kisses, Juice, Interlude (That’s Love), Acid Rain

– DJ Mango

Categories
Classic Album Review

Classic Album Review: A Sailor’s Guide to Earth by Sturgill Simpson

Sturgill Simpson is something of an oddity in the country music soundscape. His 2014 Release Metamodern Sounds in Country Music explored his fascination with philosophy, and 2019’s Sound and Fury was accompanied by a feature-length anime film. But I believe his best work arrived in 2016 with A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.

It would be a gross mischaracterization to call A Sailor’s Guide a country album: sure, there is an undeniable twang to Sturgill Simpson’s voice, but to assign a single identifier to this multifaceted project would be a disservice. Ethereal string arrangements found in “Welcome to Earth” and “Oh Sarah” suggest chamber pop influence, intricate horn sections in “Keep it Between the Lines” and “All Around You” are indicative of funk and soul, and lap steel guitars in “Breaker’s Roar” and “Sea stories” keep the album steeped in Southern sensibilities. Simpson and his band even manage to sneak a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” into the tracklist and it sounds completely at home.

In terms of lyrical content, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is essentially a love letter to Sturgill Simpson’s firstborn child. In classic dad fashion, he shares stories of his younger days in order to give his son guidance. From his teenage years spent selling drugs and smashing mailboxes to his young adult years traveling the world in the Navy, it seems Simpson has led an eventful life. As he says on “Keep it Between the Lines”: “Do as I say, don’t do as I’ve done/It don’t have to be like father like son.”

A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is many things, but boring is not one of them. Its kaleidoscopic sound makes it appealing to fans of any genre – I am by no means a country music fan, but I am certainly a fan of this album. If you’ve never heard it, I encourage you to give it a try!

Favorite tracks: Keep It Between the Lines, All Around You, Call to Arms

– DJ Mango

Categories
Classic Album Review

The Autonomy of an Idea: Bam Bam by Sister Nancy

It has been said many times in many ways that good artists copy and great artists steal. What does this say about the person from which the artist steals?

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Sister Nancy is perhaps the greatest artist of all time. The Jamaican DJ and singer’s track “Bam Bam” has been sampled nearly a hundred times. If you’ve listened to Kanye West’s “Famous”, Lauryn Hill’s “Lost Ones” or Beyoncé’s live version of “Hold Up” you’ve heard the song, which was released in 1982. “Bam Bam” was by no means an instant hit: it wasn’t until 2014, when the song appeared in movies and commercials, that Sister Nancy realized others were using her work without compensation. With the help of a lawyer she was able to win 10 years worth of royalties, but who is to say how much she missed out on?

To complicate the story further, “Bam Bam” isn’t an original work in itself – it’s a cover of a song of the same name by The Maytals and Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, and its instrumental samples a well-known backing track called “Stalag 17” by Ansel Collins. This raises a few interesting questions: What is their role in the creation of one of the most frequently sampled songs in popular music? Are they entitled to credit and compensation? Where is the line between recontextualizing someone’s idea and ripping it off? Is it ethical to impose a system of laws upon something as subjective as the artistic process?

While the ethics of fair use and copyright law make for a contentious debate, it is clear that no ideas are conceived in a vacuum – artists draw inspiration from every corner of the world. If good artists copy and great artists steal, then a few of us are thieves, the rest of us are copycats and none of us are absolved.

– DJ Mango

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Classic Album Review

Classic Review: Section.80 by Kendrick Lamar

In general, discussion of the Kendrick Lamar canon is limited to the holy trinity of good kid, m.A.Ad city, To Pimp a Butterfly, and DAMN., with the occasional nod to untitled unmastered. Rarely is there mention of Section.80, Kendrick’s 2011 debut. It’s true that some of the tracks haven’t aged well (“No Makeup”, “Tammy’s Song”), but in my opinion there are many more hits than misses on K. Dot’s first studio album. It isn’t as focused as GKMC, as ambitious as TPAB, or as eclectic as DAMN., but Section.80 has a story to tell all its own.

That story centers around Tammy and Keisha, two characters who struggle to make sense of the world around them. Kendrick paints a picture of this world in great detail throughout the album’s runtime. On “A.D.H.D”, he reflects on the drug abuse that is so prevalent in his generation by saying “You know why we crack babies?/Because we born in the 80s, that A.D.H.D crazy.” “Ronald Reagan Era” describes Kendrick’s hometown of Compton, California in a way that only a true emcee could. In one bar, he says “1987, the children of Ronald Reagan/Rake the leaves of your front porch with a machine blowtorch”, which speaks to the generation of children who have been negatively affected by president Reagan’s policies. The narrative continues on “Keisha’s Song”, in which the titular character becomes a sex worker in order support herself. Like Tupac’s classic “Brenda’s Got a Baby”, Kendrick shows how this vicious cycle of neglect ends in tragedy. On “Ab-Soul’s Outro,”, the penultimate track on Section.80, Kendrick meditates on the themes presented throughout the album. In a particularly candid moment, he says “I’m not on the outside looking in/I’m not on the inside looking out/I’m in the dead f—— center, looking around.”

Even in 2011, Kendrick – who had not yet reached his prime – was no stranger to the Odyssean task of creating a concept album. He would continue to develop this skill with each project following Section.80, cementing him as one of the most gifted storytellers in hip-hop. While the narrative on this project isn’t as compelling as those found on his later albums, it is definitely worth a listen. To see the world through Kendrick Lamar’s eyes is a one-of-a-kind experience.

Favorite tracks: A.D.H.D., Ronald Reagan Era, Rigamortus, Kush & Corinthians, HiiiPoWeR

– DJ Mango

Categories
Classic Album Review

Album of the Week: Cannibal Corpse – Tomb of the Mutilated (1992)

It is no coincidence that another of my favorite records, and one of THE best Death Metal albums in history, features Chris Barnes! Tomb of the Mutilated was released through Metal Blade Records in 1992. This is their third studio album, and where Cannibal Corpse really hit their stride. Of course, Chris Barnes handles vocals (and all lyrical content and arrangements), Bob Rusey is on guitar (solos in songs 2, 3, 4 and 7), Jack Owen is also on guitar (solos in 3 and 7), Alex Webster is the mastermind on bass, and Paul Mazurkiewicz is the mad drummer.

The record was first banned in Germany because of the album cover and the “extremely disturbed" lyrics. The album cover soon had to be replaced by a tamer version (until some years later). And the band, itself, was banned by multiple countries altogether for several years. As an aside, this is interesting to me because, unless you have a trained ear, you can’t understand a word of Barnes’ gutterals!

I’d like to list the song titles for you, but cannot; for those are also too controversial. I can tell you that one song, “Hammer Smashed Face" was featured in the movie Ace Ventura Pet Detective, where Cannibal Corpse made a cameo appearance (the band was Jim Carey’s favorite), and is featured as downloadable content for the Rock Band video game series. The song is known as a Death Metal Classic. “I Cum Blood" is also featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned. Those two songs, as well as “The Cryptic Stench" and “Split Wide Open,“ are fan favorites and played at most shows. The remaining songs I cannot list, here.

Tomb of the Mutilated has been described as a “high-concept album concerned with extreme necrophilia and sadism” by reviewers Jack Murray and Connur Joyce; especially concerning the last four songs, where the protagonist’s “mental state increasingly deteriorates.” Chris Barnes claims the lyrics are based on a true story, and one of the earlier songs on the record he says is based on his own experience (?!)!

Overall, reviewers rave about this album (as does your Master Butcher). As a rule, all say that it would be hard to pick out a favorite song (though I will) because they’re all awesome! The music is extremely complex and elaborated, especially when compared to their two previous records – unforgettable riffs, crushing bass progression, incredible drumming, and (of course) the unmistakable vocal gutterals.

In 2005, Tomb of the Mutilated was ranked number 278 in Rock Hard Magazine’s book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time.

Favorite song: Hammer Smashed Face

Rating: 10/10!! You must have this record in your playlist! It is TRUE Death Metal (IMO)!

What are some of your favorite songs off of Tomb of the Mutilated? 

Stay Metal,

THE SAW 

Categories
Classic Album Review

Classic Review: Madvillainy

MF DOOM is a figure that takes many forms. Some of his known aliases include Metal Face, Viktor Vaughn, and Your Favorite Rapper’s Favorite Rapper. No matter the moniker, DOOM will rap about anything from his comically nefarious deeds (he is known to send imposters to his live performances) to what he ate for breakfast – all while wearing his signature Doctor Doom-inspired metal mask.

Like his partner in crime, Madlib is known under several titles such as Quasimoto and the Beat Konducta. As a self-described “DJ first, producer second, and MC last”, he has worked with industry giants like J Dilla, Freddie Gibbs, Kanye West and Erykah Badu, and is just as comfortable behind a drum set as he is an MPC. He is known for his distinctive production style that features samples of obscure records and boom-bap drums.

The two joined forces to create 2004’s Madvillainy, which is considered by many hip-hop heads to be essential to the hip-hop canon. A true watershed moment in the history of the genre, Madvillainy had a profound influence on the generation of artists that succeeded it: without it, we would have no Joey Bada$$, no Earl Sweatshirt, and no Tyler, the Creator.

After listening to the album, it is easy to see why it is so influential. Madlib’s dusty beats and DOOM’s stream-of-consciousness verses are indicative of the sound that is now commonplace in the alternative hip-hop subgenre. The album opens with “The Illest Villains”, an instrumental driven by vocal samples of various cartoons and movie trailers from the yesteryear. The balance of urgency and camp perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the project by characterizing our villains as a dastardly duo who, in spite of their unrivaled infamy, spend most of their time smoking weed (“America’s Most Blunted”) or trying to pick up women (“Operation Lifesaver aka Mint Test”).

I could write a dissertation on MF DOOM’s lyrical gymnastics and Madlib’s nuanced production choices on Madvillainy, but since the album was released 16 years ago, I’m sure it’s been done already. Instead, I’ll just say this: if you’re a hip-hop fan and you haven’t heard this album, what are you doing with your life? Even if you aren’t a fan of the genre, give Madvillainy a shot. It could change your mind.

Favorite tracks: Accordion, Raid, Figaro, All Caps, Rhinestone Cowboy

– DJ Mango

Categories
Classic Album Review

Classic Album of the Week: Mötley Crüe: Shout at the Devil

“When this record broke, we were in complete shock and awe over the band’s appearance and sound,” the OG says about Motley Crue’s 1983 sophomore release, Shout at the Devil. “We were listening to AC/DC, Van Halen, Boston, Scorpions, Black Sabbath, and the like; even KISS, with its use of make-up and shock appeal didn’t prepare us for Crüe!”

Mötley Crüe are from Los Angeles, CA, and formed in 1981. The band was founded by bassist Nikki Sixx, drummer Tommy Lee, guitarist Mick Mars, and vocalist Vince Neil. Shout at the Devil (Elektra Records) dropped on September 26, 1983, and sold 200,000 copies in the first two weeks. Many attributes the high sales volume to the record’s (and the band’s) built-in controversy. ’83 was the time just before the PMRC required warning labels on all explicit albums, and Shout at the Devil’s original record cover featured a huge pentagram and photos of the four members in complete costume.

“Every week we were in the record store, looking for the newest record by our favorites, or we’d find new bands to listen to based on record covers. When we picked up Shout, it was the coolest thing we’d ever seen! The cover just drew us in, and we hadn’t even heard any of it! When I got home and played it, and the title track blasted through my speakers, I was hooked! The sound oozed from the record. It was gritty, dirty, and just incredible! It was in your face violent, sexual (straight up, not in innuendos), and overall unlike anything I’d ever heard.”

This was an important time in Metal history, Glam Rock began here, with the edgy sounds and lyrical content of Crue and Twisted Sister. In fact, Nikki Sixx, before forming Crüe, was in a band (“Sister”) with legendary vocalist Blackie Lawless, who would go on to form the infamous band, WASP. Before Glam turned into Big Hair Rock (Cinderella, Britney Fox, etc.) and Pop Rock (Poison, Ratt, etc), it was raw, dark, and (ironically) real. Hey, if it weren’t for Glam Metal (in all its forms), there would have been no rebellion against it, by bands (starting with the letter “M") like Metallica, Metal Church, and Megadeth, etc.

Shout opened the door, for me, to extreme music. It was less mainstream, radio rock and more  underground, less publically acceptable Metal. Crüe changed the game through sound, appearance, and content. Twisted Sister was the first time I had ever heard cussing in a song (F-bombs). Blackie Lawless and WASP pushed all of that to the extremes with song titles, live performance props, and lifestyles! Crüe was kicked off their first KISS tour by Gene Simmons, and Twisted Sister and WASP were continually band all over the world. It was glorious!!”

Favorite Songs: Shout at the Devil ; Looks that Kill ; Ten Seconds to Love

Rating: a perfect 10/10!

What are some of your favorite songs off of Shout at the Devil?

Stay Metal,

THE SAW 

Categories
Classic Album Review

Classis Album Review: Metallica – …And Justice For All

The fourth studio album from Metallica; recorded January – May at One on One Recording Studios in Las Angeles, California, and released on August 25, 1988 …And Justice for All (Elektra) amounted to the end of Thrash Metal as it was known at the time. Helping to mold the genre, Metallica, with this record, effectively brought it to its logical conclusion.

Not only was the album a natural progression of the band’s sound – starting with Kill ‘Em All (1983), through Ride the Lightening (1984) and Master of Puppets (1986) –  …And Justice for All was progressive metal (before there was such a thing). When Cliff Burton unexpectedly died in 1986, Metallica was searching for an outlet of sorts, I think, and with this record came an unleashing of rage and torment. It features staggering complexity, fast tempos, multiple time changes per track, eight or more riffs per track, and lyrics concerned with politics, the environment, legal injustice, censorship, and war. Jason Newsted was tapped for the bass position, though the final mix of the record nearly filtered him completely out. Blame for this fact flies all around, but I think it’s a sign of the struggle on behalf of Hetfield and Ulrich (and to some degree, Hammett) to cope.

Though the lyrical content of …Justice covered new ground, this record is all about the instruments! Specifically, nasty riffs, percussion, and double bass. Speaking of double bass, Lars’ double kicks on this album, have been dubbed, double “paper bass.” I love how they sound! The song “One” was the first music video for Metallica and was seen as an anti-war rant. The track “To Live is to Die” is a bass medley of unused recordings by Burton. Newsted played the medley that Burton wrote on the album. All lyrics on the record were written by James Hetfield, except the Spoken Word on “To Live is to die,” posthumously credited to Cliff Burton. All other music is credited to Hetfield Ulrich, and Hammett (Newsted gets co-credit on Blackened).

…Justice reached Gold in Norway; Platinum in Argentina, Finland, New Zeland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom; 2X Platinum in Australia and Germany; 3X Platinum in Canada; and 8X Platinum, selling 8 million copies in the United States.

Favorite Songs: Blackened; …And Justice for All; Harvester of Sorrow

Rating: 10/10!! And quite possibly my favorite Metallica album!

Stay Metal,

THE SAW 

Categories
Classic Album Review

Classic Album Review: Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction

Released on July 21, 1987, Appetite for Destruction (Geffen Records) hardly even raised an eyebrow. It was the debut album by Guns N’ Roses, and the band immediately hit the road in support of the record. “It’s So Easy" was the first single released, a month before the debut dropped. The single, “Welcome to the Jungle” followed the debut on October 3, 1987. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” came in August of `88, “Paradise City" in November of `88, and “Nightrain" in July of `89. With the radio play of the middle three singles, the video for “Welcome to the Jungle" on MTV, and relentless touring by the band, in`88 Appetite became a massive commercial success. It was #1 on the Billboard 200 and became the best selling debut album of all time (the 11th best selling album of all time with 30 million copies sold).

Guns N’ Roses changed what was acceptable as Hard Rock, though for the general public, the band members themselves were completely unacceptable. Axle Rose (vocals) and Tracii Guns (lead guitar) were the original founders and the band’s namesake. But with larger than life personalities and even larger egos, the two could not keep it together. Guns left to form L.A. Guns, with moderate success (especially from their first couple albums). He was replaced by Slash and the fire was set. Duff McKagan, Seven Adler, and Izzy Stradlin finalized the lineup.

As noted above, G N` R instituted an irreversible change in the music industry, especially in the dark alleys of the Hard Rock / Heavy Metal world. Their appearance was (originally) “Big Hair,” but their sound was something else altogether. The band’s live shows were only an extension of the vision of Appetite. For the `80’s, they were wild! While the record was totally put together, it wasn’t long until the band, individually and collectively, began to show cracks. The song, “Mr. Brownstone,” for example, was about the band’s problems with heroin. They were no strangers to the police (before and during their success) in every town, state, and country; being known for violence and public intoxication. G N’ R were the poster children for “Sex, Drugs, and Rock-n-Roll.”

The original album cover art was based on Robert Williams’ painting Appetite for Destruction. It featured a robotic rapist about to be punished by a metal avenger. Record stores refused to stock the album with this cover, so the label moved this depiction inside and replaced the cover art with the classic Celtic cross and skulls of the five band members. The original artwork was a representation of the band (the metal avenger) wrestling back the power of the people from the system (the robotic rapist).

The song listing for the record reads like a list of chart toppers:

1.     Welcome to the Jungle

2.     It’s So Easy

3.     Nightrain

4.     Out ta Get Me

5.     Mr. Brownstone

6.     Paradise City

7.     My Michelle

8.     Think About You

9.     Sweet Child o’ Mine

10.  You’re Crazy

11.  Anything Goes

12.  Rocket Queen

Album Rating: 10/10!!

Favorite Songs: Welcome to the Jungle; It’s So Easy; Anything Goes

Stay Metal, 

THE SAW