I’ve been planning to do a Retro Fit of Transcendence for quite some time, as it’s easily in my Top 5 Metal Albums You Need To Own Or Get Out Of My Yard chart, but with the tragic death of frontman Midnight (real name John Patrick McDonald Jr.) on July 8th , 2009 it’s become a tribute to greatness. This would still read as a gushing letter of fanboyship if Midnight was with us, though, because Transcendence was an album that took everything I thought I knew about guitar / vocal / prog shred at the time and twisted it sideways. The band wasn’t being overly experimental or increasingly off-the-wall compared to their self-titled debut from ’86; there was just more of everything. Big, open air production (it could have done with more bottom-end, but them’s small potatoes), twin guitar leads for miles backed by insane shred-ability that never fell into the future Dream Theater trap of being too damn technically proficient for its own good, ballsy and unique song arrangements, and a vocal performance that remains unmatched within the genre. Continue reading CRIMSON GLORY – Transcendence (1988)
Having established themselves as something pretty damn close to unique with their classic self-titled EP and weirdo cold progressive follow-up, The Warning, Queensrÿche blindsided pretty much everyone with Rage For Order. The goth-glam promo pictures did a decent job of scaring the shit out of the people who cared, first single / video ‘Gonna Get Close To You’ finished the job with its brooding Depeche Mode-metal vibe. Most folks outside Canada didn’t realize the song was a cover, Canuck metalheads (myself especially) couldn’t believe one of their own would cover Lisa Dalbello, but it had the desired effect. I, like so many others that had dismissed Queensrÿche as being too over-the-top for their own good, weighed hype against weirdness and took a chance on the album, and was pleasantly surprised. Continue reading QUEENSRŸCHE – Rage For Order (1986)
An integral part of Canuck bar band culture – emphasis on the “cult” part, as in favourite – if there was ever a band that deserved ten times the commercial success they received, it’s Helix. Canada’s long suffering answer to AC/DC has been slugging out since the ‘70s with varying line-ups and musical quality, with Wild In The Streets considered by many fans to be their best record. I remember playing the hell out of this thing, the attraction being that Helix was grittier than the mind-boggling amount of fluff making the rounds at the time and a satisfying break from the daily doses of thrash without feeling like I was wimping out. Listening to it now, nothing’s changed. Continue reading HELIX – Wild In The Streets (1987)
From where I sit one of the more mind-boggling cock-ups in metal is how North American and European labels managed to miss the boat completely on a band that was selling out multi-thousand seaters and large arenas in Japan two albums into their career. Particularly when folks like Mr. Moneybags himself, KISS merch / PR god Gene Simmons, was trolling around Japan in the late ‘80s looking for new talent and scooped up the far less popular metal punks Flatbacker (better known as EZO in the years that followed). Can’t blame the pass on the fact most of X’s songs were executed in Japanese either, given the early ‘80s international success of a little export called Loudness. And it’s not like X were a trendy new thing, having built up a loyal following at home since 1982. Me, I didn’t clue in until ’93, when my best friend handed me a tape of a band he’d discovered out of the blue and suggested I check them out. This was the album, and I couldn’t help but wonder how the hell they slipped beneath my radar and that of my favourite import record stores. Continue reading X – Blue Blood (1989)
Danko Jones once told me that the best way to pick a single for radio is to get a bunch of girls to do it. Sound thinking, and with that in mind it’s very clear that estrogen was on tap the day Sony braintrust decided they would release both suck-ass ballads from Warrant’s debut, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich. People blame the rise of grunge for shoving metal to the back of the bus for most of the ’90s, but it was in fact Warrant and their keepers that did the deed. Continue reading WARRANT – Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich (1989)
There are albums in every metalhead’s collection where you just kinda shake your head and wonder how much you’d had to drink prior to hitting the Midnight Madness sale at the local record store. Then there are those albums that you swear no amount of alcohol, drugs and offers of drunken monkey sex combined could ever convince you to listen to let alone spend money on. And yet, there it sits, filed away neatly amongst the pure fucking metal you claim to live your life by, a festering musical zit recalling the glaring lack of taste symptomatic of youth.
Continue reading WINGER – II: In The Heart Of The Young (1990)
I have a vivid memory of driving down Victoria Park Ave. in Toronto with former M.E.A.T Magazine colleagues Drew Masters and Adrian Bromley, with Masters taunting us with a game of “Name That Singer” as he gleefully seared our eardrums with the newest promo CD in his disc-changer. Looking back, I’m embarrassed to admit I couldn’t even figure out who the band was even though the shred and clatter of the music was so obviously Voivodian (read: very Canadian, like beer and hockey). Continue reading Retro Fit: VOIVOD – Negatron (1995)
Yeah, I confess, I was one of the sheep that helped this album go platinum. Listening to it now, I realize I’ve become a metalhead of discerning taste over the past 23 years, and it boggles the mind to think I used to wade through this record (or the cassette in my car) to get to the good stuff. Probably had something to do with the fact that To Hell With The Devil’s predecessor, Soldiers Under Command, offered up a wealth of crushing guitars and introduced me to oft-overlooked vocalist Michael Sweet. Call it a sign of the times, but with the rise of Poison and related Max Factor-sponsored bands, To Hell With The Devil was a polished God Glam record that alternated between a balls-out metal, prissy melodic rock, and two of the worst, cheesiest, (insert derogatory comment here)-est, pre-Dirty Dancing soundtrack ballads ever written. Ever. Continue reading Retro Fit: STRYPER – To Hell With The Devil (1986)
Their third album, easily the best of the four studio records that have come out under the Britny Fox moniker. It featured new vocalist Tommy Paris in place of Tom Keifer wannabe Dean Davidson, giving the band a huge set of balls… something they had been lacking since day one. Totally underrated in spite of the fact it’s a four chord album – hell, if it works for Maiden, why not here? – this is probably one of the last “anthem” hair band records to come out before Cobain and grunge fucked everyone blind for most of the decade. Gorgeous guitar tones and solos for miles, amazing voice, some very cool riffs (and a guest spot by Zakk Wylde), this is one of those better than average cock rock albums I’m actually not ashamed to admit I like. Great driving music as I recall…
Fave tracks: ‘Louder’, ‘Six Guns Loaded’, ‘Black And White’, ‘Over And Out’, ‘Liar’.