Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on April 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Fact: Every time Mighty High guitarist/vocalist Chris “Woody High” MacDermott turns in a new Spine of Overkill column, it makes my damn day. It’s the last remnant in an experiment a couple years back with having outside contributors turn in specialized columns based on things they’re passionate about — in Woody‘s case, classic rock and metal — and it never fails to entertain. This time around, Woody makes the most of the season and recounts celebrating 4/20 30 years ago in Brooklyn by watching Twisted Sister at the renowned L’Amours club while on mescaline because, as he puts it, “We wanted to make it extra special.”

Enjoy:

Spine of Overkill – 4/20/84

This is gonna be a hazy one. 30 years ago on 4/20/84 I got my face melted at close range by Twisted Sister at L’Amour in Brooklyn. Back then 4/20 wasn’t an official day to celebrate marijuana, but I’ve always been ahead of the pack. On this particular 4/20, however, I got a lot more than I bargained for.

I made my first pilgrimage to L’Amour in July of 1983 to see Motörhead and returned in November with my friend Wayne to see Twisted Sister. The show was on a Friday and we went space truckin’ to Brooklyn from Pelham right after school let out. We got to the club around 4:30 in the afternoon. For some reason we felt it was important to be the very first on line so we could grab primo spots right in front of the stage. As we were sitting on the wall smoking a joint this dude that looked just like Damon, the ticket scalper from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, magically appeared and helped himself to our supply. He informed us the club wouldn’t be opening their doors for about five hours and that Twisted Sister would be going on around 1:30 or 2 in the morning. Not knowing what to do in a desolate, industrial wasteland we went searching for food but found only a Carvel.

After chowing down on some flying saucers we just went back to L’Amour and sat on the wall for a few hours. We did get to see Jay Jay French show up and go through the backstage door. I think we might have seen Mark “The Animal” Mendoza’s arrival, too. Eventually the club opened up, we got in with our fake ID’s (we were 16 at the time) and ordered some Jack & Cokes from a hot waitress named Dizzy. Being inside L’Amour was so awesome. Killer metal was blasting over the P.A. and the place was filling up with rowdy headbangers. We were easily the youngest there but no one bothered us. The show itself was incredible. Twisted Sister in 1983 was completely ferocious and really, really loud. The Animal’s bass was so loud it felt like I was going to puke. Dee would get right in our faces and scream the lyrics at us. It was close to 4AM when we finally left the club and had to figure out what to do next. I had told my mother I was sleeping over at someone’s house so she wasn’t expecting me home for hours. We took a slow ride on the B train back into Manhattan and killed time in a hotel lobby before Grand Central opened up. Arriving back in Pelham around 6AM we snoozed for a bit in the laundry room of an apartment building before heading home. The trip was such a success we couldn’t wait to do it all over again.

It wasn’t until Good Friday April 20, 1984, that we were able to repeat the process. We took a later train into the city but knew we would still get to the club really early. Sitting on a wall in Brooklyn was better than doing anything in Pelham. We also came up with the brilliant idea of taking mescaline for the show. Weed, Bud talls and Jack Daniels were standard issue party supplies but we wanted to make it extra special. Mesc was loaded with speed back then so we figured it would help keep us jacked up all night for maximum headbanging.

Here’s where things get a little hazy. I really have no recollection of what we did before getting inside the club. We probably went to the same Carvel for dinner. I’m not sure if we took the mescaline outside or inside the club. Either way I’m sure it was washed down with Jack & Coke. Once inside we saw Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda hanging out at one of the bars. We couldn’t believe it! Wayne had made a Twisted Sister vest and he went up and got him to sign it. The whole band was hanging out, except for Dee. Jay Jay was preoccupied with playing Pac Man but everyone signed the vest and either Eddie or AJ brought it backstage for Dee to sign. We were fuckin’ stoked.

The only snag in my plan was that my mother said I could go out but I couldn’t stay overnight at my friend’s. She was expecting me home around midnight. At some point I went out to a pay phone in the lobby and had the unpleasant task of calling her to tell her I wasn’t going to be home anytime soon. She freaked. It probably helped that I was tripping because I just kept repeating slowly and calmly that I was fine and I would see her around 6AM. It didn’t go over well but I had come too far and retreat was not an option.

At some point during the long wait for Twisted’s set I realized that I wasn’t really enjoying my trip. I felt super uneasy and paranoid. They were showing this horror film called Mother’s Day on the screen while they were blasting Mercyful Fate, Accept and Iron Maiden over the P.A. I was getting pretty freaked. Later on I calmed down when they were playing “Symptom of the Universe” by Black Sabbath. Right when the acoustic part of the song kicked in the video screen started showing a clip of a Tom & Jerry cartoon with them playing acoustic guitars. I laughed about that for a very long time that night.

The opening act was a band called Takashi. I had bought their debut EP, Kamikaze Killers, at the New Rochelle mall. They never carried much heavy stuff so I would buy anything remotely metal that they had in stock. Takashi also got a lot of airplay on Long Island college radio station WCWP during their “Rock ‘N’ Roll Weekend” programming. I wasn’t that impressed with the EP but was hoping they’d be heavier in concert. At one point early in the evening Wayne and I went into the mens room to find lead singer Danny Stanton blow-drying his hair. Never a good sign. Takashi’s set was pretty lame, very Ratt/Crüe. For their big finale they played their song “Kamikaze” and had a big Japanese guy come out and wave around a Japanese flag. A bunch of headbangers in the front row ripped it out of his hands and wouldn’t give it back. Even if I wasn’t tripping, the entire situation would have been totally bizarre.

As always, AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top” signaled that Twisted was about to take it to the stage. Immediately there was a surge of people towards the front. We had a big joint and a little joint left. We debated which one to light up and some huge biker guy ordered us to go for the big one. We respected our metal elders and did as told. When Twisted hit the stage with their usual opener “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” we noticed they had on brand new costumes. After the first few songs Dee told us they were about to release a new album and wanted to try out some of the new songs in front of a raunchy club crowd. It was very cool hearing songs like “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “I Wanna Rock” and “Burn in Hell” for the first time blasting through triple stacks and with Dee in full force. Towards the end of the set Dee said that he had a special song for us called “S.M.F.” Back then S.M.F. was a phrase known only amongst rabid metal maniacs. The place went nuts singing “sick mother fucker” on the chorus. The rest of the show was typical Twisted insanity — “Under the Blade,” “Shoot ‘tm Down,” “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll,” their frenzied version of “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll,” and many more. As it turns out this was a really important show in Twisted history. Not long after, they would become a huge band via MTV and leave the Tri-State bar scene. Also not long after, the drinking age was raised to 21 and the entire nightclub landscape changed.

I kept my word and got home promptly at 6AM to face the wrath of my wide-awake mother. She was beyond pissed. My poor grandmother was already up and toiling in the kitchen, preparing the Easter feast for the following day, and had to sit through all that screaming while trying to fry meatballs. I was still tripping. I went up to my room and tried to sleep for an hour before leaving for work. It was a long day. I’ve had a lot of fun playing shows on 4/20 the past decade but nothing will come close to topping that night from 30 years ago.

Twisted Sister, “The Kids are Back” Live 1984

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on February 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Reportedly “shamed into action” by the recent fifth anniversary of this site, Mighty High guitarist/vocalist and all-around champion of scene unity Chris “Woody High” MacDermott returns with a new installment of his ongoing series, “Spine of Overkill.” It’s been a while, but quite frankly I’m happy to post one of these anytime he wants to send it over. In this edition, Woody recalls CrumbsuckersLife of Dreams album and his first trip to CBGB’s to see them play a Sunday matinee.

Enjoy:

Crumbsuckers — Life of Dreams

My first trip to CBGB’s should be something that I remember really well but I don’t. It was either C.O.C. around the time Animosity came out or it was a Crumbsuckers gig. Either way, it most definitely involved quarts of Budweiser, my bullet belt and my good friend Jon. I knew all about CB’s but hadn’t worked up the nerve to go there on my own just yet. I wasn’t sure how a metal chooch from the suburbs would be accepted at the punk mecca. It took a chance meeting over 300 miles away to finally get me through the doors.

I left for college in Zeptember 1985 at SUNY Brockport, way upstate New York near Rochester. On the very first day I was standing on line for a free hamburger at some lame-ass student mixer wearing my favorite Venom shirt. Out of nowhere this short little dude with huge muscles and a mohawk comes running up to me and says “Dude, I love Venom! Are you into hardcore punk, too?” I told him I was just starting to get really into it. The next thing he says is “Cool! Do you like the Plasmatics?” Of course I loved the Plasmatics! He introduced himself to me as Jon (pronounced “Yon”) and that he was from Yonkers. I told him I was from New Rochelle and from that moment on we caused serious mayhem for several years. Talk about scene unity! He brought me up to speed on New York hardcore and a lot of classic punk stuff I’d missed. In turn I played him Motörhead, The Rods, early Iron Maiden and Slayer’s Haunting the Chapel EP. I really blew his mind when I played him Master of Reality by Black Sabbath. He’d never heard it before and it flipped his lid big time, especially “Into the Void.” He said he never listened to the Cro-Mags the same way after that, and they were his favorite band.

We both worked at the college radio station WBSU. In late ’85 or early ’86, we got in an advance tape from Combat Records — Life of Dreams by the Crumbsuckers. Jon knew all about these guys and said I’d love it. I put the tape into my Walkman and headed off to class with it pounding through the headphones. Holy shit, this was just what I’d been looking for. Hardcore intensity with metal chops crammed into short, speedy songs. The back to back openers of “Just Sit There” and “Trapped” completely floored me. This was like the best of Bad Brains and Exodus rolled into one. I played that tape over and over again. Then we played the hell out of the vinyl on the air once it was officially released. I risked the station’s FCC license by playing songs like “Shit’s Creek” and “Bullshit Society.” I felt these were important messages that everyone needed to hear. Especially “Bullshit Society,” which is still one of the few political songs I’ve ever really liked. I’ve been quoting the lyric, “It’s so true, it’s a bullshit society,” for over 25 years. And every election day I always make sure to crank up “Super Tuesday.” All 16 songs are great but my favorite by far has always been “Hubrun.” On the lyric sheet under the title “Hubrun” it says “words: insignificant” but I disagree. A song about a Long Island weeed road trip is extremely significant. Recently on the Crumbsuckers Facebook page they were nice enough to use Google Maps to show the spot where they used to score dope. They also transcribed the lyrics which include brilliant couplets such as:

Bong hit!
Go for it.
Dusted weed?
Holy Shit!

Strike the flint to the steel and torch up that old bowl.
And that smoke hits your lungs, and its all minty and cold.
Then this rush hits your head, just like a tidal wave.
And before you know it, you’ll become its slave.

Shortly after the album’s release I was talking to Combat’s radio rep, a big guy named MegaDon. Spring break was coming up and I asked him if any Combat bands were playing NYC while I was in town. He said the Crumbsuckers were doing a CB’s Sunday matinee and filming it for some videos. I was fuckin’ stoked! Whenever I was home I’d work a bunch of shifts at Joey’s Luncheonette in Pelham to earn some extra scratch for albums, shirts and beer. On Sundays I’d open the store at 5:30AM and work until 2PM before space trucking into the city. MegaDon put me on the guest list so I had even more beer money than usual. I have no recollection whatsoever who else played that Sunday afternoon but I do remember the Crumbsuckers blowing the roof off the place. I’d only been to a few punk shows before this but this one was more nuts than usual, probably because of the cameras. It was only a few years ago that I saw the actual video for “Trapped.” Thankfully my ridiculous GBH style hair isn’t prominently featured.

As great as the CB’s show was, the one they played in Rochester later that year was even better. They were opening for Discharge at the Penny Arcade on a Tuesday or Wednesday night. This was gonna be a killer show! Then a friend of mine picked up the new Discharge album Grave New World. Holy shit, it sucked! At first we thought it was some kind of a spoof on King Diamond but each song was worse than the next. But there was no way we were gonna miss the Crumbsuckers no matter how bad the Discharge album was. The label hooked me up with a free ticket again and said if we got there early we could interview them. Me, Jon and a few other dudes piled in a car and got there just after soundcheck. The Crumbsucker guys were very cool and answered all of our stupid questions. Guitarist Dave Wynn was especially nice to us. All he wanted to do was smoke pot and talk about Frank Zappa, King Crimson and Santana. They were pretty adamant about saying they weren’t a hardcore band and wanted to be known solely as “Crumb-Rock.” They did some hilarious station ID’s for us using the “Crumb-Rock” tag-line. When it was show time they blasted out a killer set playing just about everything off of Life of Dreams but even faster. There was only about 20 or 30 people there but they didn’t let that bother them. Discharge was completely horrible. They sounded like Zebra. The only good part of their set was when they let Crumbsuckers vocalist Chris Notaro sing “State Violence / State Control” with them.

[If you'd like more info on Discharge's disastrous US tour for Grave New World, check out this report with amazing audio from their San Francisco show.]

Over the next year or so I saw the Crumbsuckers a few other times but those were definitely the most memorable occasions. Round Christmas 1987 I got an invite to the Relativity/Combat holiday party at the China Club in NYC. Most of the Crumbsuckers were there and we got really drunk while Joe Satriani played a set. I was looking forward to their next album but when Beast on My Back came out in 1988 it was a major disappointment. It was more metal but had all these parts that sounded like Queensryche. I was totally confused and not into it at all. That seemed to be most people’s opinion, though I know there are some out there who love the album. The band broke up not long after. They did a successful reunion show a few years ago and it’s just been announced that the Italian label F.O.A.D. is putting out a mint deluxe double album of early demos and live shows (pre-order info here). It looks awesome and I’m definitely ready for some more CRUMB ROCK!

Crumbsuckers, “Trapped” official video

Crumbsuckers, Live at L’Amours 1986

Crumbsuckers on Thee Facebooks

F.O.A.D. Records

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on September 26th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Following a hiatus which was reportedly spent in regression therapy and headbanging to well-worn vinyl — which I suppose is a kind of regression therapy in itself — Chris “Woody High” MacDermott of Mighty High returns with the much-anticipated next installment of his Spine of Overkill column. This time around, Woody recalls picking up Accept‘s fourth album, 1982′s Restless and Wild.

Please enjoy:

I knew I was going to have trouble following up my last Spine of Overkill. How could I top a story about space truckin’ to L’amours in Brooklyn by myself to see Motörhead? I spent a lot of time in deep meditation to relive the details of that day and I’m not sure if I want to do that to myself again. 15 was a terrible age.

One thing that did come up while undergoing that past-life regression therapy was the thrill of hearing “Fast as a Shark” for the first time. I thought I knew all the fastest metal jams at that time — everything by Motörhead, “Delivering the Goods” by Judas Priest, “Mothra” by Anvil, etc. but “Fast as a Shark” completely floored me. I’m pretty sure I asked somebody at the show, “who is this?” I had never heard of Accept before but I knew I had to track down the album as soon as possible. I knew Restless & Wild was the album to get because the DJ at L’amours also played the title track. I knew it was the same band that did “Fast as a Shark.” At first I thought the lyrics were “Let’s dance” but I knew that couldn’t be right. Luckily someone near me screamed the chorus of “Restless and wild!” enough times to make it sink in.

Within a week I was back in NYC on one of my usual record buying trips. Top of the list was to find “Fast as a Shark.” I wasn’t sure if the band’s name was Except or Accept but I started in the metal section under “A” at Bleeker Bob’s and there it was. I was used to seeing rows of Marshall stacks on stage but this album cover offered something different. They had THREE speaker cabinets piled on top of each other rather than the usual two. The drummer was pounding a giant chrome drum kit with two of the biggest bass drums I’d ever seen. One guitarist was soloing on a Gibson SG in a leather jacket while the other had on a leather vest and was chugging on a Flying V. Total Judas Priest. Front and center there was a small guy with short hair strangling the bass player. This had to be good!

It was an import, which meant it wasn’t shrink-wrapped and I could check out the inside. There was an inner sleeve with lyrics on one side and a big Accept logo on the other, perfect size for tracing and putting on book covers. Even better was the clear red vinyl. I knew I was buying the album but that just made it even minter. Everything about it was totally metal, even the record label — Heavy Metal Worldwide. I started paying attention to what labels were releasing metal albums. If it was on Metal Blade, Megaforce, Neat, etc., you knew it was going to be metal no matter what. You couldn’t trust the major labels. They’d market something as metal and it would sound like REO Speedwagon or Loverboy. Fuck that shit! A few months later I saw the German version of Restless & Wild. It had a pair of flaming Flying V’s wrapped up in barbed wire. That was cool but too expensive for me to buy a second copy. In hindsight I should have bought it since I was going to be playing the album to death for the next 30 years.

I could not wait to crank it up and was not disappointed. To this day, “Fast as a Shark” is my favorite opening to any album. I never get tired of hearing the pops, scratches and the “hi-dee-hi-do-hi-dah’s” of a children’s folk song. It’s such a great build up before the big needle scratch and Udo’s opening scream. Many years later I found out the song was called “Ein Heller und ein Batzen” (“A Farthing and a Penny”) and one of the children’s voices belonged to Dieter Dierks, noted Krautrock producer who also worked with Scorpions. Even though the song was written in the 1830s, it was a popular marching song during the Nazi era and caused Accept a lot of grief. “Fast as a Shark” is simply stunning — the perfect combination of Motörhead speed and Judas Priest precision riffing. A lot of headbangers back then considered Motörhead too noisy and chaotic. On “Fast as a Shark” you could hear every note of every chord. This took songs like “Rapid Fire” from British Steel and delivered it at “Overkill” velocity. Fucking awesome. It still sounds incredible today. I remember playing this song for some of my punk rock friends who claimed most metal was too slow. They were speechless.

Following up “Fast as a Shark” with “Restless & Wild” is an unbeatable one-two combo. Certain songs belong together. Separating “Waiting for the Bus” from “Jesus Just Left Chicago” is lame. Same with “Heartbreaker” and “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman).” “Restless & Wild” kicks so much ass. It’s just the right tempo for headbanging and has some built in dynamics to give your neck a rest before the big chorus. The rhythm section drives hard and the twin guitars are so powerful and crunchy, but razor sharp. Herman Frank is pictured and credited as a guitarist but he joined the band after the album was recorded. All of the guitar parts were laid down by the incredible Wolf Hoffmann. He doesn’t get nearly enough credit for developing the tight, powerful riffing style that guys like James Hetfield and Scott Ian would build their own styles off of. Then there’s the powerhouse grunt of Udo Dirkschneider, a shrinky-dink version of Rob Halford with a bark all his own.

The rest of side one is great but falls a bit short of the excitement that the opening two songs generate. “Ahead of the Pack” and “Shake Your Heads” are solid mid-tempo bangers. “Neon Nights” starts off with some fancy, introspective solo electric guitar before it gets all distorted and drops down an octave. Parts of it sound a little bit like what Cliff would do on his bass solo a year later on Metallica‘s first album. When the song kicks in, it’s a moody Scorps-influenced pounder.

Side two starts off with the blatant “Livin’ after Midnight” tribute of “Get Ready.” I’ve always been surprised this song wasn’t a big hit. “Get Ready” and “Rock Forever” by Judas Priest are my two favorite songs to blast with the windows down when pulling into the parking lot of a heavy rock concert. If you’ve ever wondered what Mercyful Fate would have sounded like with a more “normal” singer, then “Demon’s Night” might be a good indication. Wolf fires up a killer riff that’s always reminded me of Black Sabbath‘s “Zero the Hero” from Born Again (released a year after R&W). Back then I used to accuse Iron Maiden of stealing “Two Minutes to Midnight” from Venom‘s “Welcome to Hell” but Accept‘s “Flash Rockin’ Man” might have been the source, too. “Don’t Go Stealing My Soul Away” is kind of a commercial track with some cool woodblock on it. It all wraps up with the outstanding “Princess of the Dawn.” Years later when I started reading about Krautrock I always hoped it would sound like “Princess of the Dawn.” It didn’t. Nothing really sounds like “Princess of the Dawn.” Only Saxon‘s “Dallas 1PM” has a similar hypnotic, driving groove but Accept‘s is a bit more exotic sounding. Only Udo can get away with singing about fairytales and still make it sound metal. The abrupt ending to the song totally confused me at first but over the years I’ve come to really like it. The album starts off with such a big “fuck you” and it kind of ends the same way, too.

After buying Restless & Wild, I went back and picked up their earlier albums Accept, I’m A Rebel and Breaker. They all had some good songs but were pretty uneven. (There are rumors of a version of the song “I’m A Rebel” with Bon Scott on vocals but who knows if that’s true or not). When Balls to the Wall came out later in ’83, I picked up the import immediately. It was a good album but nowhere close to Restless & Wild. By the time Metal Heart came out in 1985 I had moved onto bands who built their entire reputation on every song being like “Fast as a Shark.” Goddamn, what an album. Go crank it right now.

Accept, Restless and Wild (1982)

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on July 31st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

This one is something special, and since the story Chris “Woody High” MacDermott is telling is so excellent, I don’t even want to spoil it with too much intro. Here, 30 years to the day, are Woody‘s memories of seeing Motörhead for the first time ever, July 31, 1983, at L’Amour in Brooklyn.

Enjoy:

It certainly doesn’t feel like THIRTY FUCKIN’ YEARS ago that I first saw Motörhead, but the ticket stub clearly states 7/31/83. And not only was it my first time seeing my favorite band but it was also my first trip to the legendary metal club L’Amour in Brooklyn.

I have no idea how I heard about the show. Probably from one of L’Amour‘s radio ads. They’d loop the opening riff to Van Halen‘s “Mean Streets” as background music and an announcer would read off the list of upcoming shows — Twisted Sister, Johnny Winter, Saxon, etc., etc. Earlier in ’83, L’Amours opened a second location called L’Amours East in Elmhurst, Queens. A lot of bands would play both clubs on consecutive nights. But when Motörhead came to town they had to outdo everyone and play three nights in a row – - Friday, July 29, in Queens then Saturday and Sunday in Brooklyn. The Sunday show was going to be all-ages. (The Queens show was recorded for the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show and later released on CD). I was 15 years old at the time with a fake ID acquired at the Postermat on 8th Street in Greenwich Village. It worked buying beer at Milk-N-Things in Pelham and Jack Daniels at the liquor store next to it, but I had no idea if it would get me into a Brooklyn nightclub. The drinking age was only 18 back then but I didn’t want to get shut down trying to see Motörhead. The Ticketron outlet in the New Rochelle mall must have been gone because I had to take a MetroNorth train into Manhattan to buy a ticket at the Grand Central location. I can still remember the thrill of buying that ticket. I had worked all morning on a Saturday at my job making trophies in the garage of my science teacher. We finished early that day and when he paid me I walked straight to the train station. I didn’t have time to go downtown to buy any records on this trip but I did pick up a Hustler magazine and a Foster’s oil can for the train ride home. Even just a 20-minute visit in NYC provided more thrills than a month up in Westchester County.

In June of ’83. Motörhead had released their latest album, Another Perfect Day. I just happened to be in Bleecker Bob’s the day that it came in. Man, I was fuckin’ stoked. I knew they had a new album coming but had no idea when I’d actually see it. There it was in the bins alongside a 12″ single for “I Got Mine.” Even though they were both expensive imports ($5.98 for the single alone!), I knew I might never see them again. The cover to Another Perfect Day really tripped me out. It looked like someone had the cover to Overkill painted on the back of their denim jacket in watercolors and then left it out in the rain. There was also a cool insert with lyrics on one side and a hilarious comic strip on the other. The band photo on the cover of the “I Got Mine” single was cool. They all looked completely hungover. Brian Robertson‘s designer jeans and silver jewelry looked a little silly but, hey, he was in Thin Lizzy and he looked better than he did on the cover of Fighting. I instantly loved the record. I thought it kicked ass from start to finish and I thought Brian‘s guitar playing was incredible. Totally different from Fast Eddie‘s but it still sounded like Motörhead. There was zero radio airplay and no one else at school had the record so I wasn’t influenced at all by other people’s opinions. Kerrang gave it a decent review but I didn’t give a shit what they had to say neithers.

Anyway, it was complete torture waiting for the end of July to roll around but eventually it was Sunday, July 31. My friend Wayne was supposed to go to the show with me but he made the mistake of telling his parents the truth and got shut down. I, of course, completely lied to my mother. Never in a million years would she go for it. The only reason she let me go to shows at Madison Square Garden was because I bought the tickets with the money I was earning. As long as I put a certain amount in the bank every week, my metal habit was barely tolerated. I had a big decision to make. Should I blow off Motörhead or travel to Brooklyn alone? There really was no choice. (I must mention that about a year later I had to bail out on Wayne for a Metallica show at L’Amour at the last minute. I’m still not over it.)

After an uneventful MetroNorth train ride into Grand Central I had to confront the reality of not knowing how the hell I was going to get to Brooklyn. Don Cherry asked the question “Where Is Brooklyn” on his classic Blue Note album in 1966. Here I was as a 15-year-old dipshit with a Motörhead ticket inside my velcro Motörhead wallet with the same problem. I asked the token booth clerk how to get to 62nd Street in Brooklyn and he told me to take the B train. After a few confused attempts, I finally found where to get on the B and I was on my way. The summer of ‘83 was the first time air conditioning was added to some subway cars. The one I was riding on definitely did not have any for the very long ride into Bensonhurst. When I finally got off the train I had no idea where the club was. I spotted a dude in a Twisted Sister shirt puffin’ on a joint so I asked him. Without exhaling (or offering me any) he just pointed down the street. As I turned the corner I saw a completely industrial block full of headbangers. I could hear someone blasting a Motörhead tape out of a parked car. People were hanging out and drinking beers. Every single person had on some kind of metal shirt and most had a denim vest with something painted on the back and covered in patches. There were lots of bullet belts, studs and spikes, too. I thought I was hot shit in my Motörhead shirt with an Iron Maiden button on it. Not so much.

Stepping inside L’Amour was unreal. The DJ was cranking some of the best metal I’d ever heard and a lot of it was brand new to me. I will never forget hearing Accept‘s “Fast As A Shark” for the first time there. The crowd was singing along to the “hi-dee-hi-doh-hi-da” intro and I had no idea what was going on when I heard a big needle scratch. When the furious double-bass drums kicked in I was completely floored. People were seriously losing their shit and headbanging like crazy. The first band hadn’t even played yet! It was also the first time I heard “Nuns Have No Fun” by Mercyful Fate. Everyone but me seemed to know the words. I didn’t even bother trying to ask anyone about where to get these records or which ones to buy. It was like I was trying to start a fire with two twigs and they had flame throwers. I had a lot of catching up to do. The DJ announced some upcoming shows, including one the following week by Raven and Metallica and people went completely berserk.

There were two opening acts. The first was The Poison Dollys, an all-female metal band. I’m pretty sure the second one was Cities. I don’t remember much about them because once Motörhead stormed the stage they were ancient history. There was no intro tape or anything. The DJ stopped playing records and everyone just started screaming “MOTÖRHEAD” at the top of their lungs. The first one out was Philthy behind the drums, followed by Lemmy and Robbo. There were only one or two people in front of me on Robbo‘s side of the stage. There were three Marshall stacks behind him. Lemmy had three more on the other side. Phil‘s drum set was huge. They started checking their instruments and it was significantly louder than Judas Priest and Iron Maiden at Madison Square Garden. That was a loud show. It was also louder than the Ramones show I saw in the front row of Iona College in New Rochelle the year before which was also loud as hell. Holy shit, this was gonna be awesome.

After screaming something into the mic about today’s show being for the young, Lemmy fired up the bassline to “Back at the Funny Farm,” the opening song on Another Perfect Day. When the band came in the noise was tremendous. You could see everyone sort of lean back for a second. Me and everybody else were banging their heads ferociously. This was at least a year before “moshing” became a regular thing at metal shows and it was glorious. The whooooshing sound of your noggin’ rockin’ only added to the deafening cacophony of Motörhead at full bore. It was no big deal if the dude behind you or next to you rested an arm on your shoulder to steady himself from time to time. The sound was so powerful it could knock you off balance. No worries. There were a few skinheads and punkers around, too but there were no hassles at all. I miss those days.

Most of the set were songs from Another Perfect Day — “Marching off to War,” “Tales of Glory,” “One Track Mind,” etc. They only played a few older songs like “America” and “Iron Horse.” No “Ace of Spaces,” “Bomber” or “Overkill.” I was dying to hear those songs but didn’t really care what they played as long as it was fast and loud. Robbo used some kind of fancy guitar synthesizer on the song “Another Perfect Day” to replicate the stuff he did on the album. I was totally blown away seeing a guitarist that great up close. I was also impressed he could rock that hard wearing satin shorts and a mesh tank top. The club was hot as hell and Robbo kept a bucket of water nearby and he’d splash himself in between songs. He wouldn’t take off his guitar or anything. I thought he’d electrocute himself. He would also duck behind his amps pretty regularly for a second and come back sniffing like crazy. It was obvious all three of them were jacked up to the max. I thought it was so cool how blatant they were about everything. Philthy had a big rotating fan behind him. He had horrible B.O. and it was just getting blasted into the crowd on top of the soundwaves. Lemmy had on a black t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, jeans, bullet belt and white boots. Earlier that day while waiting to get into the club I saw Lemmy come out of the backstage area and cross the street to get on the bus in the same outfit except for flip flops and cut off denim shorts. Bullet belt included.

When the show was over I was basically in a metal daze. I couldn’t hear a fuckin’ thing and my mouth must have been hanging open. It took almost three hours to get home but it was worth it. The next morning my ears were ringing very loudly. I loved the sound. I was amazed that they continued to ring for EIGHT MORE DAYS. After seeing Motörhead at L’Amour life was never the same.

Motörhead, Live at L’Amour East, Brooklyn, July 29, 1983

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on May 29th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

In his first Spine of Overkill column since the passing of Jeff Hanneman, Chris “Woody High” MacDermott pays homage to the late Slayer guitarist and recalls the glory days of Haunting the Chapel and Hell Awaits. It’s as fitting a tribute as I could imagine.

Should you happen to be in the area, Woody‘s band, Mighty High, have a gig this Friday in Brooklyn. The show is at The Grand Victory and Black Thai, Infernal Overdrive and Tarpit Boogie share the bill. More info on Thee Facebooks.

Enjoy:

The death of Jeff Hanneman hit every metal fan hard. Fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR are one of the few bands that all metal heads agree on. When it was announced earlier this month that Jeff had passed away from liver failure everyone was reaching for their favorite fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR album to blast at maximum volume. For most, it’s the 1986 classic Reign in Blood, one of the greatest metal albums of all time for sure. But when old dudes like me want to get nostalgic, we reach for the ones that came before the Reign.

My last Spine of Overkill column was all about picking sides in 1983. Great bands were beginning to get stale and a new breed were emphasizing everything faster, louder and more intense. Fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR‘s debut Show No Mercy came out in December 1983 and there was no turning back for me. Show No Mercy was a great album of Venom-fueled Satanic panic but there was a lot of competition out there. Every month there was at least one new demo tape of blasphemous speed arriving in my mailbox, not to mention the deluge hitting the racks at the record stores. How was fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR going to keep my attention and avoid getting confused with another band called Slayer from San Antonio? The answer arrived in June 1984, when Metal Blade issued the three-song Haunting the Chapel 12″ single. EPs (extended plays) were kind of unusual for metal, even more so in America. British bands like Motörhead, Iron Maiden, Saxon, etc., had a tradition of releasing singles in both 7″ and 12″ formats with great artwork and killer jams on the B-side, usually one unreleased song or exclusive live versions. Diehards would buy both versions but if you could only afford one, it was always the 12″. In early ’84, Metallica put out a 12″ of “Jump in the Fire” with supposedly live versions of “Seek and Destroy” and “Phantom Lord” on the flip side. The cover art was cool even if it was kind of an unexciting release. Later in ’84, Metallica would put out a 12″ of “Creeping Death” from their forthcoming Ride the Lightning album with great covers of Diamond Head‘s “Am I Evil?” and Blitzkrieg‘s “Blitzkrieg” on the back. Still one of the best things they ever put out and my blue vinyl version is one of my prize possessions.

But fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR‘s Haunting the Chapel was a totally different story. This was three brand new songs and no mention anywhere on the sleeve of “from the forthcoming album…” It was also in a legit cardboard album cover, not one of those flimsy, top loading sleeves that 12″ import singles came in. As usual, I waited to read what Bob Muldowney had to say about it in his essential zine Kick*Ass. He gave it a rave review and I picked it up immediately. As great as Show No Mercy was, fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR made a huge leap forward on this release. The six minute “Chemical Warfare” was the only song on side A. The first thing I thought of was of the Dead Kennedy‘s song with the same title. As soon as I dropped the needle down, I instantly forgot it. With “Chemical Warfare” fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR also made me forget about most bands. Holy shit. I knew right away that any band bragging about being the fastest and heaviest was now full of shit. After playing “Chemical Warfare” a few times in a row I decided to give the other side a try, figuring it probably wouldn’t be as good. Turns out I was wrong. “Captor of Sin” starts off with a drumstick count off and someone yelling in the background before launching into a frenzied Mercyful Fate-inspired romp. The pounding chorus is still one of my favorites to yell along with – “Hot! Wings of hell! Burns! In my wake! Death! Is what you pray! BEHOLD! Captor of Sin!” The Venom-inspired title-track wraps up the blasphemy. Apparently, recording engineer Bill Metoyer was a religious sort and the opening lyrics of “the holy cross, symbol of lies” made him question his career path. Another fun fact is that while recording this EP, Dave Lombardo‘s drums were sliding around on the floor. I guess no cinder blocks were around so Dark Angel drummer and fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR roadie Gene Hoglan held the kit together while Dave bashed the skins.

The Haunting the Chapel EP only made impatient headbangers like me want more fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR. Luckily there were new albums from Venom, Exciter, Celtic Frost and VoiVod to keep me happy when I wasn’t blasting Motörhead’s No Remorse for the rest of 1984. Fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR threw us a bone later in the year with another EP, this one a picture disc called Live Undead. Side one had three songs from Show No Mercy recorded live in a New York studio — “Black Magic,” “Die by the Sword” and “Show No Mercy.” The performances were definitely live but the people screaming in the background sounded like they were added later. The other side had the same studio versions of “Captor of Sin” and “Haunting the Chapel” from the EP as well as “The Final Command” from Show No Mercy. I had heard it was going to include a cover of Judas Priest‘s “Dissident Aggressor” but that didn’t get recorded until 1988′s South of Heaven. Live Undead was cool to have for the artwork but only made me want new fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR as soon as possible.

Thankfully, the wait wasn’t too long and in the spring I got my hands on Hell Awaits. I had trouble finding it at first but a dude I was tape trading with on Long Island grabbed a copy for me at Slipped Disc in Valley Stream and mailed it to me. Can’t remember the dude’s name but whoever you are, wherever you are, thanks again. Hell Awaits is still my favorite fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR album. The front cover is low budget but scary. The back cover is even cooler with all the live photos of the band. No more raccoon eye makeup for fuckin’ SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR. Kerry’s armband full of nails immediately made me think of the one Richie Stotts wears on the cover of Coup D’Etat by the Plasmatics. Someone should ask Kerry if that’s where he got his inspiration. The full band shot is awesome. They’re all headbanging, there are upside down crosses on the amps and a huge cloud of smoke so you can’t see the drummer just like on Priest‘s Unleashed in the East. I interviewed Reed Mullin of Corrosion of Conformity for my high school newspaper right around this time and we were both really psyched that Jeff was wearing a C.O.C. shirt on the back cover.

The first spin of Hell Awaits is something I’ll never forget. The long intro with the chanting seemed to go on forever. It sounded like they were saying “synot” over and over but I knew this was a backwards message just like at the start of Venom‘s “In League with Satan.” When I stopped the turntable and began spinning it back I was thrilled to discover they were saying “join us!” Hell yeah, I knew this was gonna be good. Once the music kicked in, it was exactly what I had hoped for. Seven long songs that were totally heavy, totally fast, totally Satanic, drowning in reverb. It sounded like they had snuck into a cathedral and recorded it there under a full moon. I loved every song but side one with “Hell Awaits,” “Kill Again” and “At Dawn They Sleep” remains my favorite SLLLAAAAYYYEEERRR side to this day. The photo collage on the lyric sheet is still fun to look at. There’s a shot of all four members of VoiVod wearing Show No Mercy shirts. There’s another cool photo of them partying with Mercyful Fate. Every tiny photo is jam packed with stuff that I wanted to do back then — snort giant rails off the bar, harass a life size Michael Jackson cutout, hold a can of beer and scream, etc. A fun fact about Hell Awaits is that it was mixed by Ron Fair, who would later go on to be a big pop music producer for the Black Eyed Peas, Pussycat Dolls, etc. Only in Hollywood!

Farewell, Jeff. Thank you for helping to accelerate my bad habits and antisocial behavior the last 30 years. Kill again!

Slayer, “Chemical Warfare” live 1985

Slayer, “Hell Awaits” live 1985

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on April 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Metal aficionado and Mighty High guitarist/vocalist Chris “Woody High” MacDermott returns with a new installment of his column, “Spine of Overkill.” This time around, Woody asks who’s side you were on in 1983: Was it Slayer and Raven or Def Leppard and Quiet Riot? Fortunately for all of us, Woody made the right choice in his younger days.

By way of a plug, Mighty High will be playing a 4/20 spectacular at The Gutter in Brooklyn with Pants Exploder and Smokewagon. More info on that is on the Thee Facebooks event page.

Please enjoy:

In one of my frequent, restless and wild internet pontifications, Swiss metal maniac Erich Keller spontaneously erupted a bold theory about the year 1983. Basically, he pointed out that a lot of great metal bands began to stink in 1983 and the new breed of bands coming up were either lightweight bullshit or mega heavy real deal. 1983 was the year headbangers were forced to choose – are you gonna wimp out or go heavy? Be sure to check out Erich‘s excellent blog Good Bad Music For Bad, Bad Times for some killer vinyl rips from his immense collection. Warning! You will spend a lot of time there.

The 1983 challenge was put out right off the bat in January with two albums representing the extremes – Def Leppard’s Pyromania and Exciter‘s Heavy Metal Maniac. Pyromania was inescapable back then. They were constantly on the fuckin’ radio and MTV. Everyone in my high school would walk around saying that stupid “ooben eeben ouben glouben” thing that starts of one of their songs. Ugh! It was even worse when it seemed like the entire school bought those British flag shorts and sleeveless shirts. I’d been pretty indifferent to Def Lep prior to that point but now, as Tank would say in June of ‘83, “This Means War!” I wish I had scored a copy of Exciter‘s Heavy Metal Maniac when it first came out, it would have made the rest of the year easier for me. I was a diehard Motörhead fan and searching for more stuff like that. It wasn’t until the end of the year that I even saw a copy of Heavy Metal Maniac when I started making regular trips into NYC to buy records. Paul’s Record Hut in New Rochelle carried a lot of cool stuff but not much heavy.

Quiet Riot released Metal Health in March. I bought a copy at Crazy Eddie’s in Yonkers just because it had the word metal in the title. I tried convincing myself that I liked it because I paid full price but after a few plays I realized I’d been tricked. Fuck! Two other albums I picked up in March were better – Saxon‘s Power & The Glory and Thin Lizzy‘s Thunder & Lightning. Both albums had a lot of filler but there were enough killer jams to maintain the steady screams of “turn it down!” from my mother.

In April, things really began to change for me. On a trip to Bleecker Bob’s I saw an album called Forged in Fire by a band called Anvil. Remembering how I’d been burned by Quiet Riot I wasn’t sure if I should take a chance. It was an import, two or three bucks more than a domestic album. Three dollar bags of weeed were being phased out but you could always find someone to split a nickel bag with. Every dollar really mattered. Back then import albums were never shrink-wrapped so I checked out the lyric sheet and the raunchy lyrics of “Motormount” appealed to me so I picked it up. Thankfully the album was indeed heavy and not a repeat of the Metal Health experience. Metal on Metal held its own when I played it back to back with Ace of Spades and British Steel. Now the search was really on for more stuff like this.

Iron Maiden‘s Piece of Mind was a mandatory purchase in May of ‘83. I liked it a lot but not as much as Number of the Beast. Dio‘s Holy Diver came out the same month. I opted not to buy it but to tape it from a friend. By this point metal was getting bigger and most of my friends were getting into it, too. It was great not to have to buy every record. My after school job assembling trophies in my science teacher’s garage didn’t exactly pay big money so I had to spend wisely. My mother certainly wasn’t going to give me any money for albums, concert tickets, t-shirts, beer or weeed so I really had to hustle to keep up. Maiden‘s show at the Garden later in ‘83 was great, even with Quiet Riot opening up, but it was one of my last arena show for well over a decade. There were guys with Venom album covers painted on the back of their jackets and covered with patches of bands I needed to discover.

June was a huge month for me. Twisted Sister‘s second album You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll came out and had a lot of kick ass Godz-like biker rock. But even better were the import 12″ singles with unbelievably heavy live recordings on the B-sides. Twisted Sister had yet to break nationally in the US but were massive in the UK. They recorded some shows at the famous Marquee club and the versions of “Destroyer,” “Tear it Loose,” “Run for Your Life” and the blistering cover of “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)” they released let everyone know this wasn’t a phony glam band. Not yet, at least.

Ads in Kerrang let me know Motörhead was putting out a new album called Another Perfect Day featuring their new guitarist Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy. Motörhead were my favorite band and I made sure to get a copy as soon as it hit the shelves at Bleecker Bob’s. I wore that album out. I fuckin’ loved it and didn’t care that it got bad reviews. I scored a ticket to see them play an all ages show at L’amours in Brooklyn at the end of July. I’d never been there, had no idea how to get there but knew I’d figure it out. That show was an eye opener for sure. It was the first time I ever heard “Fast as a Shark” by Accept, “Nuns Have No Fun” by Mercyful Fate and a ton of other killer jams. Motörhead’s set was devastating. I knew I couldn’t go back to sitting in the balcony of Madison Square Garden after standing about 12 feet away from Robbo‘s triple Marshall stacks. My ears rang for eight days.

Metallica‘s Kill ‘em All came out in July on a brand new East Coast record label called Megaforce. Anticipation for this album was high since the No Life Til Leather demo had been circulating fast and furiously. I scored a third or fourth generation dub of it not too long before the official album. It was a great tape but my copy was so hissy and washed out it was hard to hear anything. I also thought it was dubbed at the wrong speed because the vocals were so high pitched. The same day I picked up Kill ‘em All I decided to buy another new release from Megaforce, Manowar‘s Into Glory Ride. Both these albums blew me away but Kill ‘em All was exactly what I was looking for: Total Motörhead/Venom speed and aggression mixed with Priest/Maiden twin axe attackery.

Megaforce followed up those first two killer releases with another one, Raven‘s All for One. God damn! I was looking for heavy and Megaforce was delivering big time. It is to my eternal regret that I didn’t see the Kill ‘Em All For One tour. I knew they were playing L’amours but it wasn’t all ages and didn’t want to take a chance of not getting in with my crappy fake ID. It wasn’t until years later that I found out they played the Rising Sun in Yonkers. I should have tried getting in to that show. Ugh. What a drag.

Also out in August was Accept‘s new one Balls to the Wall. After hearing “Fast as a Shark” at that Motörhead show I immediately bought Accept‘s Restless & Wild. That album really blew me away but Balls was a bit of a disappointment. It had some great songs but nothing close to R&W. Black Sabbath‘s Born Again came out that same month and it felt like I was the only person in the world that liked it. I’d always been a huge Deep Purple fan and thought it was a great idea when Ian Gillan replaced Ronnie James Dio. I still listen to “Trashed” and “Zero the Hero” all the time. I taped a friend’s copy of Flick of the Switch by AC/DC, another album I still love. I liked it a lot more than For Those About to Rock but I’ve always been in the minority on that point, too. Shit that was a good summer!

Back to school in Zeptember brought Mötley Crüe‘s Shout at the Devil. I’d bought so many albums at Record World in the New Rochelle mall I had a coupon for a free one. I decided to give the new Crüe a try. It had a pentagram on the cover so how bad could it be? Turns out it was Quiet Riot time all over again for me. I liked some of it but was disappointed that the Satanic lyrics weren’t evil enough. I had no idea if Venom were really devil worshipers but “Sons of Satan” was the sound I preferred to “Too Young to Fall in Love.” And while we’re talking about Satan, I got a lot more than I bargained for when Mercyful Fate‘s Melissa was released by Megaforce in October. Jeezus, that album confused the hell out of me. The music was unbelievable. It sounded like the album I wanted Iron Maiden to make after Killers, but I was totally unprepared for the bizarre vocals of King Diamond (or “Queen Rhinestone,” as my hero Bob Muldowney of Kick*Ass Monthly used to call him). The Satanic lyrics didn’t bother me in the least but the screeching got on my nerves until I sort of got used to them. I actually like Fate a lot more now than I did then.

A big bummer in October was the release of Riot‘s Born in America. Restless Breed and Fire Down Under remain some of my favorite albums of all time but Born in America just didn’t cut it. The metal landscape was changing so fast. Riot went in a more commercial direction with disastrous results. After being dropped by Elektra, Riot wound up on a Canadian label. Even if they had the money to really push it, the album just wasn’t very good. It didn’t help that Quiet Riot was the biggest metal band around and no one gave a shit about just plain old Riot. Such a shame. They shoulda broken through in ‘81 or ‘82 and helped “Kick down the Walls” for the next wave of heavy bands. In November, I taped Headhunter by Krokus and Bark at the Moon by Ozzy but didn’t listen to them too much.

1983 ended with the sound of my future – Slayer‘s Show No Mercy. If any album forced you to decide which side you’re gonna be on, this was it. Some of the more mainstream headbangers were resistant to Kill ‘em All at first but were starting to come around. Just as they’re getting used to heavier shit, here comes Slayer. On New Year’s Day 1984 I certainly wasn’t listening that fuckin’ U2 song. I had made my choice. What did you do?

THIS!

Not this.

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on March 13th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Before we get to the latest installment of Chris “Woody High” MacDermott‘s ongoing Spine of Overkill series, you should know that Woody‘s band, the most stoned Mighty High, are taking part in a charity auction of a test pressing for their Legalize Tre Bags album in cooperation with their label, Ripple Music.

Whatever money is raised goes to NYC’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. A good cause worthy of your attention and your cash. There’s more info on the forum, and the auction is on eBay here.

Now then, on to the metal. This time around, Woody takes on 1980 double-whammy of righteousness from Saxon. Enjoy:

1980 was a big year for metal — Back in Black, Ace of Spades, Blizzard of Ozz and British Steel all came out that year. There were also debuts from Iron Maiden, Girlschool, Diamond Head and the Michael Schenker Group alongside solid albums from Thin Lizzy, UFO, Scorpions, Ted Nugent, Blackfoot and Van Halen. Somehow with all of this going on, Saxon managed to release TWO albums in 1980. And not just any two albums, but two of their best — Wheels of Steel and Strong Arm of the Law.

Saxon‘s self-titled debut came out in May 1979, just as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal was beginning to pick up steam. It’s a good album but kind of a mix of Deep Purple with Status Quo, more hard rock than full on metal. The band hit the road supporting Slade, then Nazareth and then Motörhead on the Bomber tour. They originally were trying to get on a European tour with UFO but it turns out that going out with Motörhead was the best thing to happen to Saxon. They had to work hard to win over Motörhead’s rabid fans and helped spread metal fever throughout the UK. Being force fed speed and vodka by Lemmy on that tour must have had something to do with the second Saxon album Wheels of Steel turning out so great. Check out the great Saxon documentary, Heavy Metal Thunder, for all the gory details of that tour.

Recorded in The Who‘s Ramport Studio and released in May 1980, Wheels of Steel was the right album at the right time. Kicking off with “Motorcycle Man” Saxon really lets it fly. This has everything a metal biker anthem needs — speedy riffs, killer guitar solos, frantic double bass drumming and belligerent lyrics. This is metal at its finest. Plus, any metal song that starts off with the sounds of a motorcycle (Manowar‘s “Death Tone,” the On Parole version of “Motörhead,” etc.) is a good thing. “Stand up and be Counted” slows the pace down a bit with a riff similar to Nugent‘s “Yank Me Crank Me” off Double Live Gonzo mixed with some nice Thin Lizzy guitar harmonies. “747 (Strangers in the Night)” is another all-time classic with memorable guitar fills and impassioned vocals from Biff. Side one wraps up with another road warrior anthem, “Wheels of Steel.” They still play it at every gig. This song was designed to be played loud in a car cruising down the highway. It has a groove I like to describe as “speed limit rock” that puts it up there with “Slow Ride” and “Highway Star.” If you play the opening chord of the song on a loop it sounds just like SunnO))). The rhythm section of bassist Steve “Dobby” Dawson and drummer Pete Gill really lay it down on this one while the underrated guitar duo of Paul Quinn and Graham Oliver pull out some great solos. Biff tells everyone about his killer machine and when he says he “don’t take no bull-SHIT” it’s a true fist-clenching metal moment.

Side two opens up with a killer flanged out drum solo before erupting into yet another powerful driving song, “Freeway Mad.” “See The Light Shining” is dedicated to Fast Eddie for some reason. It doesn’t sound anything like Motörhead but is a good fist pumping headbanger. “Street Fighting Gang” has a definite Motörhead “Over the Top” influence and has some awesome solos from every band member including Biff‘s whistling. “Suzie Hold On” was probably their attempt at getting on the radio and bears a resemblance to Nazareth at times. The album wraps up with the all out blitzkrieg of “Machine Gun,” one of their fastest songs. Pete Gill‘s double bass drumming totally smokes and the guitars doing some intense Hendrix/Blackmore whammy bar destruction. This album was hard for me to track down when it first came out. Luckily, I had a friend in high school who would visit relatives in Germany once or twice a year. I’d give him cash and a long list of records to search for at the World of Music store in Munich. The sticker on the front cover confirms he got it for me there in December of 1982. Thank you, Bruce Adler, wherever you are!

Somehow after touring the UK and Europe, Saxon had time to record another album at Ramport and get it released by September of 1980. Saxon were always more into drinking tea than booze or taking speed. Maybe there’s something to be said for reasonably healthy living. It’s hard to argue with the results of Strong Arm of the Law. This album wasn’t released in the US until 1982 and that’s when I picked it up. Imagine my dismay when a few months later I see an import copy with a gatefold sleeve and totally reshuffled track listing. I didn’t bother buying the import and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. I rarely see it anymore. The music’s the most important thing but one of these days I’ll own both.

Side one of the US version starts off with the truly epic jam “Dallas 1PM.” Not only does this six-and-a-half-minute song groove like hell, it’s also a history lesson. This song came in handy when we were learning about the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 10th grade social studies. I actually paid attention to see if what they were trying to teach me matched up with the lyrics of the song. Too bad the rest of the class didn’t kick as much as this album. The title-track is up next and is a real metal thumper. Dobby and Pete Gill set up a heavy groove and the guitars come in with a simple but killer riff. Oliver and Quinn worked so well together, sort of like the middle ground between Downing/Tipton and the Young brothers. More great lyrics from Biff about getting hassled by the cops for being longhaired metal muthas. “Sixth Form Girls” is a very catch ditty about molesting young girls. Most bands approach this topic with a sleazy attitude but Saxon makes it almost charming. Side one wraps up with the mid-tempo heavy rockin’ “Hungry Years.”

“Heavy Metal Thunder” was track one of side one in the UK but starts off side two in the US. Doesn’t matter where you put it, this is one of the most ferocious metal anthems of all time. Fast and totally kickass with great lyrics praising those who decorate their denim jackets –

“If your backs are embroidered, come down to the front
Don’t sit there and do as they say
We’re an army of thousands surrounded by lights
Nobody stands in our way!”

What can you say after that except “fill your heads with heavy metal thunder!!!” AMEN!!!

“Taking Your Chances” and “To Hell and Back Again” are both good songs but have the misfortune of being in between “Heavy Metal Thunder” and the outstanding “20,000 Ft.” Despite having a speedy locomotive rhythm “20,000 Ft.” is about air travel and lifetime membership in the mile high club. Goddamn, that song rocks.

Saxon occupies a unique place in the world of metal. Musically and lyrically they cover a lot of ground. A band like Iron Maiden was based more in fantasy or history, while Motörhead was down on the streets. Saxon has always had a little bit of both. They also have a lot more straight forward hard rock in their music than a lot of metal bands. It was such a bummer when they tried going commercial later in the ‘80s. Holy shit, they looked ridiculous in glam metal attire and the songs they were writing were the pits. But no matter how bad it got I never stopped playing their five or six records and eventually they stopped trying to be commercial and returned to being a kickass metal band. Despite lineup changes and legal problems with ex members, Biff and Quinn have never quit. Saxon‘s never gone more than a few years without releasing an album and they’re always on tour. Denim & leather forever!

Saxon, “Dallas 1PM” live

Saxon, “Machine Gun” live

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on January 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Every time Chris “Woody High” MacDermott sends in one of these Spine of Overkill columns, I just want to spend the whole day listening to classic thrash. So it goes with this month’s, in which — after hearing Ben Smith of The Brought Low talk a bit of smack — he rallies to the defense of Exodus‘ 1985 ripper, Bonded by Blood. Could a Brought Low/Mighty High feud be in the works? Only time will tell.

Enjoy:

Recently Ben from The Brought Low said on the internets that Exodus is whack and that he’s OK going on record with it. Chances are he’s thinking of the stupid videos for “Toxic Waltz” and “Low Rider” that he watched on channel U68 in Queens as a kid. Somehow I doubt in 1984 he was trying to track down a copy of their Whipping Queen demo or live tapes through the pages of low budget fanzines. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions but I’m here to set the record straight. Bonded by Blood is absolutely their greatest album and it fuckin’ kicks major ass!!

Formed in 1980 as a traditional Judas Priest/Iron Maiden-style metal band, the core Exodus members were drummer Tom Hunting along with the guitar tag team of Kirk Hammett and Gary Holt. It wasn’t until they discovered belligerent heavy metal maniac Paul Baloff and made him their singer that the Exodus attack was under way. A demo in 1982 unleashed the songs “Whipping Queen,” “Death & Domination” and “Warlords.” A live demo the following year contained a killer song called “Die by His Hand.” An important part of this song would later wind up in Metallica‘s “Creeping Death” and cause a lot of arguments in parking lots, basements and woods for years to come. It wasn’t until Kirk quit that the Exodus sound would really take shape. Under the direction of Gary, the band starting cranking out the ultra-violence jams that we all know and love as Bonded by Blood.

Opening with a bomber sound effect, the song “Bonded by Blood” explodes out of the speakers and causes immediate psychotic reaction. The first time you hear Baloff screaming lyrics like “Metal and blood come together as one/Onlookers they gasp in dismay,” there’s no going back to “Hot Rockin’” by Judas Priest. “Onlookers they gasp in dismay” is a key line for the time period. If you put this tape on at a party and started raging you might actually get to hear the entire song due the stunned nature of the non-metal brethren, especially when you scream “INTENSE METAL IS ALL THAT YOU NEED!” in the face of a cheerleader. And as you’re getting muscled out the door at least you get deliver the gospel of “Metal takes its price – BONDED BY BLOOD!!”

Now that you’ve been kicked out of the party, it’s time to rage to the rest of it in the safety of an empty field or, if you’re really lucky, in a moving car. Start to finish, this album is the definition of drunken, anti-social pugnaciousness. Their theme song “Exodus” has a pummeling riff that will give you that extra bit of adrenaline you need to pull stop signs out of the ground. “And Then There Were None” is a little slower but is just the right tempo for when you’re rocking a parked car back and forth trying to flip it over. “A Lesson in Violence” is great thing to threaten the old man at the liquor store with who wants to see your ID. All of this means you’re under the “Metal Command” of Exodus, “A wall of sonic sound with amps turned up to 10!” And that’s just side one!

Flip it over and Tom Hunting‘s drums set you up for an attack of “Piranha.” One of their fastest songs, it’s also a great warning not to try and do battle with this “deadly school.” Almost a full minute of solo acoustic guitar starts off “No Love.” That would be totally unacceptable if it wasn’t such a heavy song about human sacrifice. “Deliver Us to Evil” is what Mercyful Fate might have sounded like with John Brannon of Negative Approach singing instead of the caterwauling of Queen Rhinestone. The bloody mess of side two wraps up with the absolutely vicious “Strike of the Beast,” one of Gary‘s best riffs.

Recorded in 1984, Bonded by Blood was actively being passed around by tape traders long before its official release in the spring of ‘85. Exodus were huge in their native San Francisco but had not yet done a lot of touring. By that time Metallica was touring their second album Ride the Lightning and Slayer had put out their debut album and two EPs. But when Exodus finally did go on tour, it was with Slayer as they took turns blowing Venom off the stage. It’s well documented on the incredible VHS tape called The Ultimate Revenge, filmed at Studio 54 in New York City (later to become the “new” Ritz). You get to witness Baloff‘s giant afro, hilarious stage banter and the band’s methed up metal attack. Slayer‘s portion is unbelievably heavy. Poor Venom never stood a chance. Touring on the weak Possessed album and without original guitarist Mantas, they refused to let the live footage shot be used in the video. Instead there’s an interview with Cronos and Abaddon while promo videos take the place of their performance. It is to my eternal regret that I was not at this show.

Paul Baloff got the boot from Exodus not long after and things were never the same. Exodus went on to have some successful albums but they always seemed to be competing with Anthrax as to who could be silliest with the shorts and moshing business. They’ve been cranking out some brutally heavy albums for the past 10 years but a big portion of their set remains the Bonded by Blood album. This album was also a good bridge to the Master of Puppets fans who initially found stuff like Hell Awaits, War & Pain, Heavy Metal Maniac and Morbid Tales way too raw. As Baloff would say “metal rules & if you don’t like it, die!” Rage in peace, Paul. YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Exodus, “Die by His Hand”

Exodus, “The Ultimate Revenge”

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on December 17th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Following up on last month’s tribute to Exciter‘s Heavy Metal Maniac, in his latest Spine of Overkill column, Chris “Woody High” MacDermott takes us back 28 years to a night seeing Exciter, Mercyful Fate and Motörhead share a bill on Dec. 14, 1984, in New York. This is one for the ages. Please enjoy:

YES.

Zeptember 1984 was a big month for me. It was the beginning of my senior year of high school but more importantly, the rebirth of Motörhead. 1983′s Another Perfect Day was a great album with Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson, but was not received well by a lot of fans. I saw them live at L’Amours in the summer of ‘83 and was thoroughly blown away. I’d seen the Ramones up close and personal at Iona College and Judas Priest/Iron Maiden at Madison Square Garden in the cheap seats but neither event prepared me for Motörhead’s live assault. My ears rang for EIGHT DAYS afterwards. After Robbo left I faithfully checked every new issue of Kerrang for the latest news on Lemmy’s next move. It was announced that two new, unknown guitarists were to join the band — Phil Campbell and Wurzel. They looked dirty enough for the job. Then it was announced that Philthy Animal Taylor was leaving to go play in Robbo‘s new band. I was relieved to find out that Pete Gill of Saxon was replacing him. Having worn out Wheels of Steel and Strong Arm of the Law, I knew he was the man for the job.

On a rare Saturday afternoon in Zeptember that I didn’t have to work, I hopped on a Metro-North train into Manhattan then headed downtown to It’s Only Rock N Roll on 8th Street. My mission was to spend every cent I had in my Motörhead velcro wallet on the latest metal releases. Turns out it was my lucky day. They had just gotten in the brand new Motörhead 12″ single “Killed by Death” and a brand new compilation album called No Remorse. Holy shit, I was excited. Not just for new Motörhead jams but No Remorse was in an album sleeve made of LEATHER!! I can’t remember what else I got that day but the awesome photos and liner notes inside No Remorse helped speed up the torturous train ride back to New Rochelle. More than just a greatest hits compilation, No Remorse had four killer new songs and a bunch of rare B-sides that I hadn’t been able to track down yet. The 12″ single had two great new ones, too, both titled “Under the Knife.” Fucking awesome!

But things were about to get even better. It was announced that the new line up of Motörhead were coming to tour the US. In the year since I had first seen them I had browbeaten several of my friends into getting into Motörhead, too. We were all ready. Alcohol and weeed consumption had greatly increased and tolerance for non-heavy jams was now a thing of the past. Metal or die! Motörhead‘s return to New York was scheduled for Friday, December 14, 1984, and they were bringing two of the heaviest bands with them — Mercyful Fate and Exciter. Holy fucking shit. I don’t remember where or when I got tickets but I do recall the weeks leading up to the concert as pure hell. Who wants to go to school or work when the heaviest bands of all time are coming to blow you away?

Finally December 14 arrived and it was time to get a pint of Jack Daniels to slip into the inside pocket of my denim jacket. We met up on the platform of the Metro North station in Pelham to go space truckin’ into NYC. Other passengers were probably going to a fruity Broadway show or something but we were going to see MOTÖRHEAD, MERCYFUL FATE and EXCITER!!! I can’t imagine that we talked about anything other than how awesome it was going to be. Before heading into the Beacon we hung out in Verdi Square on 72nd St. to guzzle JD and Coke and do one hits of cheap Bronx weeed. It was freezing that night but there’s nothing more metal than partying outdoors in the wintertime. Entering the venue was pure heaven. The merch stall was loaded with killer shirts for all three bands. This stuff was really hard to find back then, even in New York City. Not a lot of retailers were interested in carrying t-shirts with slogans like “Violence & Force” on them.

I’m not sure if we sat in our assigned seats or not but we had a killer view in the middle about halfway up from the stage. When Exciter took to the stage I went completely berserk. These guys were my heroes. I played their two albums Heavy Metal Maniac and Violence & Force constantly and I was finally about to see them. They were so loud and so fast I don’t remember seeing much of them because I was banging my head so frantically. Guitarist John Ricci and bassist Allan Johnson were covered in leather and spikes. All I could see of drummer/vocalist Dan Beehler was his enormous mushroom cloud afro behind his giant drum kit and a gooseneck mic stand angled down so he could scream into it. When he wasn’t singing he was headbangning. “Pounding Metal,” “Heavy Metal Maniac” and some other classics were played before Beehler announced a new song. They had a new album coming out called Long Live the Loud and played a song called “Sudden Impact.” Back then I wasn’t used to bands playing songs that hadn’t been released yet but something about this one grabbed me right away. I knew exactly when it was my turn to scream “Sudden Impact” so I did. It was all over and they walked off the stage. What the fuck, that was only like 15 minutes! Man, lemmy tell you, we were PISSED!! We started kicking the seats in front of us and screaming about “what kind of bullshit is this?” etc. Still fuming, we went downstairs to take a leak and stumbled upon an unlocked janitor’s closet. The memory is foggy but I do recall knocking over some shelves full of paint cans, making a big mess while ranting and raving about the injustice of Exciter‘s short set. I mean, really? Why bring them all the way to NYC from Ottawa for 15 fuckin’ minutes? They didn’t even get to play “Iron Dogs!”

Our mood improved when we stole some money off of one of the bars to buy beer. Mercyful Fate was up next and they better be really fucking good if they were going to be following Exciter. I must admit that back then I wasn’t sure how I felt about Fate. I loved their music but found King Diamond‘s singing pretty annoying. Bob Muldowney of my favorite fanzine Kick*Ass had started calling him Queen Rhinestone so I did, too. Fate‘s audience included a lot of dudes who were pretending to be Satanists, which I thought was silly. I had heard rumors of cults in Yonkers and White Plains but the reality was that they were living with their parents and smoking a lot of weeed, just like I was. I had a job after school and on the weekends which didn’t leave me a lot of time to worship Satan. Anyway, Mercyful Fate started playing and most people loved it while some hated it. I was pretty indifferent. I was also completely blotto. King Diamond was doing his banter in between songs in that ridiculous falsetto, which I thought was totally lame. I wasn’t really impressed with his bone mic stand, either but the band was tight as shit. I don’t think I watched their entire set and probably went back to the bar to try and steal more money for beer. I actually like Mercyful Fate a lot more now than I did back then and am able to enjoy King‘s unique voice. I often fantasize about an album I’d love to produce called Diamond Meets Diamond, duets between King Diamond and Neil Diamond. Can you imagine the incredible version of “Delilah” they could do?

Once Fate was done, it was time for the main event – MOTÖRHEAD! Exciter and Mercyful Fate both had a lot of amps on stage but Motörhead’s backline dwarfed them. This was gonna be good. Back then smoking was still allowed at shows and there was always a giant cloud of pot smoke over the crowd. As we were sitting there wishing we had saved some of our weeed, a good samaritan turned around and passed us a HUGE joint. It was Jim and Pete, two friends from Pelham that were a year or two ahead of us. They must have spotted us and decided to help us out. This random act of kindness would be repeated several times over the years – Johnny Winter, also at the Beacon, Bad Brains at L’Amours, Rollins Band at CBGB. Thanks again bros, I owe you both big time.

Now that our attitudes had been fully adjusted and my insanity level was at its peak, Motörhead strolled out. Lemmy picked up an empty Jack Daniels bottle off the stage and yelled into the mic “I get hit with anything, the show’s over!” before blasting off with “Iron Fist.” Just as I had hoped, it was really, really loud. The headbanging I’d done earlier in the night was merely a warmup. “Stay Clean,” “Metropolis,” and “Ace of Spades” were mixed in with the new “Killed by Death” and “Steal Your Face.” Everyone was going completely mental. Rows of seats were now completely loose, not just from people kicking them but from shaking them violently as they clutched them while headbanging. This was before slam dancing, or “moshing,” became expected at metal shows. Hair was flying around, fists pumping and row after row of heads moving in unison like pistons in a giant engine of steel. While introducing the song “Jailbait” Lemmy demanded to see some tits and several ladies obliged. Could things get any better? Yup. When they cranked out “No Class” none other than Wendy O. Williams came flying out on stage to sing it. She had barely any clothes on and was screaming her brains out while running around like a maniac. Eventually it all came to an end with “Overkill,” as it always should. Dumbfounded, everyone left. There was no question that Motörhead wrote the book on what was becoming known as thrash metal and were about to write a few new chapters for everyone else to steal from.

This really was one of the greatest nights of my life. It was so much fun and so full on. Not much has topped it in the past 28 years. As fate would have it, December 14, 201,2 fell on a Friday night and my band Mighty High played a gig at Trash Bar in Brooklyn. Was it anything close to what went down in 1984? No fucking way, but not a bad way to have celebrated this anniversary. Stay clean in 2013!

Motörhead “Steal Your Face” live 1984

Exciter “Iron Dogs” live 1985

Mercyful Fate “Into The Coven” live 1984

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on November 13th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Chris “Woody High” MacDermott‘s Spine of Overkill column just keeps getting better. This month, the Mighty High guitarist/vocalist takes a look at the roots of speed metal, focusing in on Canadian trio Exciter‘s 1983 debut album, Heavy Metal Maniac.

Please enjoy:

EXCITER – HEAVY METAL MANIAC

Just about every day I wish I wasn’t so fascinated by music history, but every single day I’m grateful to be a heavy metal maniac. What do these two things have in common? An awful lot when it comes to Ottawa’s heaviest export, Exciter. They’re often lumped in as “also rans” alongside Metallica, Slayer, etc., but the fact is that they predate just about everyone in the North American speed metal sweepstakes. They recorded a demo in 1980 that contained a song called “World War III” that eventually wound up on Shrapnel Records 1982 compilation US Metal Volume II. The first Metal Massacre compilation with Metallica on it also came out in 1982 but I’m not sure which one came first. Throughout 1982 Metallica was writing their first batch of originals and releasing them on demos alongside covers of obscure New Wave Of British Heavy Metal covers. Exodus, Slayer, Overkill and Anthrax were all doing mainly covers and Megadeth didn’t exist yet. Meanwhile, in the summer of ’82, Exciter were recording demos that would eventually be released as their debut album by Shrapnel in January 1983. Also in the summer of 1982 they got the chance to open for Black Sabbath in their hometown. Kill ‘Em All is often mentioned as the album the really kicked off the speed/thrash/whatever you want to call it movement of the ‘80s but for my money, the prize should go to Exciter. Distribution for this kind of metal was hard to come by, the general metal audience wasn’t ready for it and the label didn’t have enough resources to put the band on the road so most people discovered Exciter about a year later as the market started to get crowded.

Now that the history lesson’s over, Heavy Metal Maniac stands up as one of the heaviest, most belligerent documents of its time. A gust of spooky wind opens the album as a prelude to the brief instrumental “The Holocaust.” At least I think it’s wind. It’s hard to tell from all the tape hiss on top of the hiss coming out of John Ricci‘s guitar amps. An explosion ends the song and piledrives you straight into the metal anthem “Stand up and Fight.” Fast, furious and completely balls to the wall. John Ricci‘s guitar sounds like a swarm of distorted bees rounded out by Allan Johnson‘s thudding bass work. Dan Beehler‘s double bass drumming takes your head off but it’s his frantic screaming that really seals the deal. Any band with a singing drummer gets extra points, but the tally is ridiculously high when you’re hammering out beats like this. When it comes to frenzied metal preaching, Beehler‘s work here is up there with Paul Baloff on the classic Bonded by Blood album. The song “Heavy Metal Maniac” is even more inspired. The opening lyrics “Hey little honey come along with me/Won’t you take a free ride,” not only references Edgar Winter but gets you revved up for the chorus of “I’M A HEAVY! METAL! MANIAC!! STAND BACK!!!” I remember clearly listening to this song in my bedroom and being inspired to do more than just headbang. The music compelled me to jump around like an idiot and it felt good running straight into the walls. This was long before I ever saw “moshing” at metal shows. How do they follow up those two speed metal classics? By reminding everyone that only playing fast isn’t heavy at all. “Iron Dogs” starts off with one of the most crushing metal riffs of all time. I’m convinced that a lot of the New York hardcore bands studied this song for use in their “mosh” parts. For a bunch of dudes from Canada they capture a bleak urban feel as they unfold the horror story of “IRON DOGS EAT THE CITY!!!” When John Ricci switches gears to a faster riff you can hear him almost stumble but there’s no way he was going to stop the take and punch it in. This is raw meat metal at its finest. “Mistress of Evil” wraps up Side Heavy in fine molten style.

Flipping it over to Side Metal, you are under attack. Literally. Dan Beehler unloads a killer double bass fill before the band erupts on the pummeling thrasher “Under Attack.” They try to restrain themselves a bit on the intro of “Rising of the Dead” but quickly things get fast ‘n’ furious. About halfway through a nice “Children of the Grave”-style speed boogie emerges. The seven-minute “metal ballad” of “Black Witch” is interesting. A year later on Ride the Lightning, Metallica would include a seven-minute “metal ballad” called “Fade to Black” that bears some similarities to “Black Witch.” I’m sure Lars was keeping close tabs on the competition. I doubt Metallica intentionally ripped off Exciter but both songs share a lot of common roots. “Cry of the Banshee” gets things back to full on thrashing. Starting off with another classic Beehler drum intro, John Ricci‘s tortured Strat screams out another killer riff. They must have been proud of the lyrics to this one because they blew up one of the lines to print on the back cover – “When twilight burns across the sky you’d better run and hide/The beast will roar from deep inside.” 

As great as the music is, encountering Heavy Metal Maniac in a record store back then was even better. If you were looking for full-on metal, you knew this one wasn’t false advertising. You couldn’t hear this stuff anywhere so you had to go by gut instinct. Sometimes you’d see a killer album cover, take a chance and it would be kinda weak. There’d be keyboards, too many ballads or some horrible Geoff Tate-like vocalist. Not with Exciter. The front cover is an arm with studded leather wristbands and a tattoo of a heart with the word “METAL.” The hand is holding a switchblade and stabbing a Marshall speaker cabinet. The Exciter logo and words Heavy Metal Maniac are in blood red and in a font easy enough for anyone to scribble on a desk, wall or book cover. Flip it over and you see three metal maniacs covered in denim, leather and hair. Their friends and roadies thanked on the back cover have cool nicknames like T.N.T., Clint, Headbanger and Crank It Up. The guys in Animal Collective or Grizzly Bear don’t hang out with anyone named Crank It Up. I’ve never actually looked at one of their records. Maybe their sound guy is named Turn It Down for all I know. I also can’t say how much I appreciated them labeling the sides Heavy and Metal – something that inspired me to do the same on all my homemade metal mix tapes. In 2012, it seems unbelievable that a 1984 UK tour of The Rods, Metallica and Exciter was cancelled due to lack of ticket sales but it’s true. It wasn’t until December of 1984 that I actually got to see Exciter‘s brand of pounding metal live in concert with Motörhead and Mercyful Fate. Details of that adventure next time.

Exciter – Heavy Metal Maniac full album:

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Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Spine of Overkill on October 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

In his latest Spine of Overkill column, Chris “Woody High” MacDermott takes a look back at TT Quick and time spent at the Rising Son in Yonkers. As ever, he’s fucking brilliant. Please enjoy:

Hello to the Yo – a personal history of TT Quick and the Rising Sun

It’s going to be hard to top the reaction I got to last month’s column about the Big 4 Before The Big 4 (Anvil, Riot, The Rods and Twisted Sister). People from near and far went out of their way to lemmy know how much they enjoyed it and shared their own stories of growing up with those bands. I was just a hair too young to catch the class of 1982 in their club daze prime but a band I did get to see many, many times in a bar was the pride of Ozzy Osbornville, NJ – TT Quick. And not just any bar, the legendary, super scuzzy Rising Sun in Yonkers, NY. Truly a match made in metal heaven.

According to Yonkers.gov, “The City of Yonkers, located on the majestic Hudson River, is the fourth largest city in the State of New York and is the largest city in beautiful Westchester County.” There’s no mention of the fact that it was home to a large population of dusted out metal maniacs in the 1980s who made their counterparts in White Plains and New Rochelle (my hometown) seem positively tame. Yonkers Raceway has been rebranded as the Empire Casino, but back in my day it was just a landmark off of the New York State Thruway on the way to the Rising Sun. L’Amours in Brooklyn and L’Amours East in Queens were the metal capitols but the Rising Sun hosted some great shows. It was a regular stop for Twisted Sister on their never-ending club tours of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. The Raven/Metallica “Kill ‘Em All For One” tour also made a pit stop there. Cover bands thrived there. There was still a large crowd of blue collar dudes that just wanted to relax and jam out to some Zep covers after a long day of smoking weeed at BOCES. It was also a total dump, but easy to get into if you were underage during the last days of the 18 (then later 19) year old drinking age. When the drinking age finally went to 21 in New York places like the Rising Sun disappeared and bands like TT Quick were left homeless.

During my last two years of high school 1984-‘85 TT Quick would play the Rising Sun every other Friday. I have no idea how many times I actually saw them play. It feels like dozens but maybe it’s because they used to play two sets a night. Maybe because I was drunk every single time and really don’t remember. Either way, they always kicked ass and put on a great show. Slowly but surely more and more of my friends started coming to the shows and bringing more people with them. 914 area code metal crowds were really strong back then. I have to give special credit to my friend Dave for driving me to every single one of these shows. I still owe you a tank of gas!

TT Quick was a great live band. Heavy enough for the dudes getting into all the new speed metal bands, but not too heavy to scare away the guys more into Zep/Aerosmith. A few girls even liked them. Every show was basically a big party. TT Quick specialized in doing kick ass covers. Without fail you’d get “Back in the Saddle” by Aerosmith, “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead and “Into the Void” by Black Sabbath. “Into the Void” was always killer because they’d line up at the front of the stage and do some cool synchronized moves on the ending riff. They’d get the Led out with “Ramble On” and/or “Out on the Tiles,” give the drummer some on “The Wizard” and get me really pumped up with “Son of a Bitch” by Accept. When singer Mark Tornillo became the new singer in Accept a few years ago I knew he’d be a great replacement for Udo. Hell, he did such a great job on Dio‘s “Last in Line” and “We Rock” he should work with Tony and Geezer, too. The rest of the band could really play. Guitarist David Dipietro was especially good. When all the other metal guitarists were switching to pointy Jacksons and Charvels, he stuck with a Les Paul and played the hell out of it. He gave guitar lessons back then and one of his students was none other than Zakk Wylde. Bassist Walt Fortune was very solid and looked pretty decent in leopard print pants. Drummer Glenn Evans was a monster behind the kit. He’d blow us all away by making it sound like he had a double bass kit by using a second floor tom like Bonham. He later joined Nuclear Assault but my memory isn’t strong enough to recall if he used two bass drums for them.

In addition to their killer covers, they’d throw in originals from their self titled EP released in 1984 by Avalanche Records. Avalanche was a short-lived subdivision of Megaforce and used the slogan “Heavy Metal at its Peak.” The best song on the record by far is “Child of Sin.” It’s got a killer stop/start chugga-chugga riff perfect for headbanging with built in pauses to yell “HEY!” Two years later an almost identical riff appeared as the instrumental “Intro” to I Against I by Bad Brains. I doubt Dr. Know pinched it, since it’s not the world’s most original riff, but it is a weird coincidence. I remember Vernon Reid of Living Colour reviewed I Against I for the Village Voice and described “Intro” as “Mahavishnu-esque.” I doubt he’d say the same thing about TT Quick. “Go for the Throat,” “Metal Man” and “Victims” are great US metal songs that rocked hard live. Oddly enough for a band that specialized in heavy rock covers live, they included “Fortunate Son” by CCR on the EP. It’s not a bad version but who wants Creedence in their metal? I don’t ever remember them playing this one live. Chances are if they did I would probably use it as a chance to hit the can and get another bottle of Bud. TT Quick should have been sponsored by Budweiser with all the empties they’d have piled on the stage by the end of the night. Mark Tornillo had a cool shirt that said something like “Olympic Beer Drinking Team.”

In the fall of 1985 I went upstate for college and that put an end to spending every other Friday night in Yonkers with a great band. I only went to the Rising Sun a few more times after that on breaks from school. One of the most insane shows I ever witnessed took place there in October 1985 when Overkill (listed as “Overhill” on the club’s flyer) with S.O.D. opening up. That was right at the start of “moshing” at metal shows and there was a lot of fights between the guys that just wanted to headbang and the new breed of metal slam dancers. Billy Milano wore my Suicidal hat on stage when they covered “War Inside My Head” that night. Every now and then photos from that night show up on the internet. My hat is prominent but luckily I am not visible. TT Quick went on to release Metal of Honor on Megaforce in 1986. It’s a shame that they didn’t achieve more success earlier in their career. By ‘86 metal was either thrash or poser crap and TT Quick didn’t fit into either category. The Rising Sun is now a strip club, so at least there’s still some seedy activity going on at that address. It’s probably for the best that it closed down because I’d probably be living above the place strung out on coke and waiting for the next TT Quick show. New Jersey bangers are well aware that Mark will be fronting Accept on tour now. Be sure to heckle him by yelling out for “Child of Sin” all night long.

“Child of Sin” live at L’Amours 1986

“Supernaut” live at L’Amours 1987

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Spine of Overkill, by Chris “Woody High” MacDermott

Posted in Spine of Overkill on August 29th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Epic! No other word will do to describe the latest Spine of Overkill column by Woody High. Dude has outdone himself, speaking from both personal experience and critical expertise about the Big 4 before the Big 4. All metal, no marketing. Cheers to Woody and dig this if you dare:

The Big 4 (Before The Big 4)

The past few years there’s been all this hoopla about “the Big Four of Thrash Metal” and who’s in it, who’s not, who should be, etc. Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth are certainly the biggest four bands to have emerged out of the 1980s thrash heap and all of ‘em put out big albums in 1986-‘87. Exodus and Overkill predate some of those bands and paid the price for being a little too early to the party, doing too many whippets and passing out before everyone showed up. Exciter never gets mentioned in the discussion even though their landmark debut Heavy Metal Maniac was recorded in 1982 and released in January ‘83.

But the road all these bands traveled on were paved by what I like to call “The Big 4 Before The Big 4″ – Anvil, The Rods, Riot and Twisted Sister. These bands were all on the wrong continent to be part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal but helped inspire the first wave of thrash and rabid metal mongers in search of faster and louder. If 1986 is looked at as the pinnacle of thrash, then 1982 can be seen as the peak of the underground street metal era.

Anvil

By now everyone’s seen the Anvil movie and there’s even been a bit of a backlash against them because they’re sort of popular. Whatever. The fact remains that their second album, Metal on Metal, came out in April 1982 and kicked major ass. I read about Anvil in the pages of my favorite zine, Kick*Ass, and knew right away I had to check this band out. Anvil took their Ted Nugent, Deep Purple and Motörhead influences and mixed them with potent Canadian beer to form a speedy new hybrid. Metal on Metal contains many classics like the anthemic title-track, “Mothra,” “666″ and the killer instrumental “March of the Crabs.” I was thrilled by the dirty lyrics of “Jackhammer,” “Tease Me, Please Me,” “Tag Team,” “Heatsink,” and “Scenery.” The only song that I was not that into was “Stop Me,” sung by pretty boy rhythm guitarist Dave Allison. Back in 1982, you usually had to put up with one kinda wimpy song that you know the record company made them do to try and get on the radio. Lips‘ lead guitar playing is killer on the entire album. He combined a fancy Michael Schenker/Ritchie Blackmore Euro style with a full on gonzo Nugent malicious intent that’s quite impressive. Robb Reiner‘s drumming took inspiration from Carmine Appice and Tommy Aldridge but he was also smart enough to get hip to the swinging approach from Louis Bellson, an early double bass drummer in the jazz world. (Check out Bellson‘s classic drum solo piece “Skin Deep” if you don’t believe me.)

I never got to see Anvil at their peak in ‘82 or ‘83 when they were deafening everyone at L’Amours and in New Jersey clubs but I caught them a few years later in Rochester, NY. It was either 1987 or ‘88 when they played a club called Backstreets (the radio ads said, “Backstreets is HUUUUUUUUUGE!”) on a frigid, rainy, snowy night in the middle of the week. There was hardly anyone in the place. The guy who I had convinced to drive wanted to leave before they even played when he saw all the gear on stage. Back then, Lips would have three Fender Twin amps sitting on top of three extension cabinets. Bassist Ian Dickson had a pair of Ampeg SVT stacks and Dave had double Marshall stacks. Robb‘s drum kit was enormous with a giant anvil in between the bass drums. There was no way I was going to split so I had to promise I’d buy him a garbage plate from Nick Tahou‘s after the show to get him to stick around. I’d seen bands play to small crowds and it was obvious they weren’t into it. Anvil came out blasting at full volume and went completely nuts on stage like they were headlining a stadium. They really pulled out all the stops. When Lips busted out the vibrator for the solo on “Bondage” he stuck it in some girl’s drink to stir it up for her. I’m sure it must have improved the flavor greatly. Before playing the song “Mad Dog,” Lips pulled his bulldog onstage and showed the crowd the dog’s balls. Classy and classic.

Anvil – “March of the Crabs” and “666″ Live in Japan 1983

The Rods

The Rods traveled a similar path to Anvil. Hailing from upstate NY but making a name for themselves in the clubs of outer borough NYC and New Jersey, The Rods were another deafening live act. The Rods took inspiration from late ‘60s loud power trios like Cream, Hedrix, James Gang, Blue Cheer and sped it up. Playing Led Zep covers in Jersey dumps to underage drinkers requires desperate measures to get their attention. Their independently released debut Rock Hard came out in 1980 but was picked up and repackaged as The Rods in 1981 by Arista. The Rods were getting a lot of attention in the UK newspaper Sounds and toured over there with Iron Maiden. It didn’t hurt that guitarist David “Rock” Feinstein was the cousin of Ronnie James Dio and played with him in his pre-Rainbow band Elf.

By the time they got around to recording their second album Wild Dogs in 1982 it looked like they were going to be a really big band. Wild Dogs is a bombastic, belligerent collection of songs that belonged in the tape deck of every Trans Am in the Tri-State and beyond. Still does as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t matter where I am but as long as it’s warm enough to have all the windows of my car rolled down I’m cranking “Too Hot to Stop” and I don’t give a fuck who doesn’t like it. The opening riff is one of the best that AC/DC didn’t write and the lyrics “I’m low down and dirty/I’m a nasty man” are great to yell at some uptight broad in the car next to you at the red light. And when you’re burning rubber and she’s choking on your smoke everyone knows that you are indeed “Too Hot to Stop.” Unless you’re pulling up to the liquor store, of course. Then it’s okay to stop. But when you get back in there are plenty more kickass jams to blast. There are so many great lyrics on Wild Dogs. “Rockin’ ‘n’ Rollin’ Again” has some of the best like, “Red hot women, snortin’ cocaine/Line ‘em up I wanna hit ‘em again!” The Rods love rock ‘n’ roll and love writing songs about rock ‘n’ roll like, “The Night Lives to Rock” and sleazy road-life-inspired, gonorrhea-drenched love songs like “Violation” (“I didn’t know she was only 17!”) and “No Sweet Talk, Honey.” Their attempt at getting on the radio was with a cover of a cover. Vanilla Fudge had a hit in the ‘60s with a slowed down version of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by The Supremes. The Rods’ version is shorter and a bit faster but didn’t give them a hit.

It is to my eternal regret that I have never once seen The Rods, one of my all-time favorite bands. They’re back in action again and put out a new album last year called Vengeance that was pretty good. I’m hoping they play New York someday and bring down those custom speaker cabinets that Rock and bassist Gary Bordonaro used to play through. The back cover of their Live album shows TWELVE cabinets on either side of Carl Canedy‘s giant, shiny double bass drum kit. Back in the pre-Dave Lombardo days, Carl was the only guy to rival Robb Reiner in the double bass wars. Phil Taylor was too Keith Moon-ish to compete with the accuracy of Carl and Robb. For those who don’t know, Carl plays drums on the first Manowar demo and produced a lot of bands for Combat Records including Overkill, Anthrax, Exciter and Possessed.

The Rods – “Power Lover” live in NY 1983

Riot

If ever a band deserved the two-hour Behind The Music treatment, it’s Brooklyn’s own Riot. Founding member Mark Reale started the band in 1975 and sadly passed away earlier this year. There’s a box set titled A Study in Frustration of swing-era band leader Fletcher Henderson. That same title could be used if they ever decide to make a movie about Riot. The new issue of Classic Rock Magazine has a great article about Riot‘s formation and career struggles through the 1980s that will tell you everything you need to know. If ever a band deserved more success it was them. Bands like Anvil and The Rods were ultimately too heavy and wild for an AC/DC mainstream hard rock crowd in 1982, but Riot could have gone the distance. 1981′s Fire Down Under is an undeniable classic. Heavy enough for a metal crowd, melodic enough for normal people and great playing for the musicianly types. Plus, singer Guy Speranza had a killer afro to rival Handsome Dick Manitoba or Don Brewer.

When Guy decided to cut his ‘fro and quit the band, they came up with a winner in his replacement Rhett Forrester. Rhett had poofy blonde hair, a lot of charisma and a great bluesy voice. The album Restless Breed is another classic. Some purists say Fire Down Under is better but I’ve always put them on equal footing. The only drawback Riot really had was their goofy half-man/half-seal mascot and some people never took them seriously because of the album covers. Their loss. Restless Breed has some of the heaviest songs they ever did like “Hard Lovin’ Man” (not the Deep Purple song), “CIA,” “Violent Crimes,” and “Loanshark.” Backing up Rhett was the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist Kip Lemming and drummer Sandy Slavin and the excellent guitar team of Mark Reale and Rick Ventura. The title-track is a moody slow burn that should have become an afternoon drive time anthem alongside Blackfoot‘s “Highway Song.” If you ever need a song to go riding off into the sunset with, this is it. “Loved by You” could have easily won over Van Halen fans but David Lee Roth always maintained a “no blonde singer” policy for his opening acts. If you had a girlfriend in 1982, she probably would have liked “Over to You” (not the Black Sabbath song), “Showdown” and “Dream Away.” Riot‘s attempt at getting on the radio with a cover of “When I was Young” by The Animals could have worked in getting some older classic rock fans to check them out. Both Guy and Rhett died way too young and under tragic circumstances. It’s sad that Mark‘s passing has made more people aware of Riot‘s classic albums but it would be even sadder if they were totally ignored.

Riot – “Restless Breed” live

Twisted Sister

Rounding out this class of 1982 is Long Island’s own Twisted Fuckin’ Sister. Everybody’s aware of their huge MTV video hits but hardcore metal freaks like me still cling to their early singles, EPs and live tapes. By 1982, Twisted Sister had created a huge following in the NY/NJ/CT area by blasting out a couple sets a night four or five times a week. The drinking age was 18 and fake IDs were very easy to get. When underage girls are at a show that guarantees a ton of guys are going to be there trying to get in their pants. Twisted Sister were loved by blue collar suburban metalheads but looked at as a joke by the industry and hipsters in NYC. They couldn’t get a record deal and rarely ever played in Manhattan. They’d rent out the Palladium and sell it out but would get no media attention. Other bar bands like The Good Rats or Zebra had big followings but Twisted Sister crowds were the rowdiest. They’d rile everyone up with smokin’ versions of “Draw the Line” by Aerosmith, “Sin City” by AC/DC and “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Rainbow before pulling out their originals. As a kid I heard their name all the time on the local rock radio stations concert listings and seen some of the older burnouts in school wearing their shirts. In early 1982 I saw them play live on a tv show and they totally blew my mind. I stayed up late to watch a show hosted by Flo & Eddie from The Turtles but I was a big fan of their work with Frank Zappa. They introduced this bunch of freaks that all looked like Alice Cooper (who I’ve always been a huge fan of) and then they blasted into “Under the Blade.” You can bet when they finally released their debut album, also called Under the Blade, I picked it up the day it came out.

In recent years, Twisted Sister has been acknowledging their early days more often and have answered some demands from fans. One of them was to finally re-release Under the Blade as it originally came out (they remixed it at some point in the ‘80s and Atlantic reissued it) alongside the Ruff Kuts EP. Last year they did just that and packaged it with an unbelievable DVD from their set at the Reading Festival right after they recorded the album. They also put out an incredible DVD of a full show from earlier that summer right before they took off for England to go into the studio with Pete Way of UFO as producer. “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” is one of the best opening fuck-you songs of all time. Very Alice Cooper influenced, it tells lays it down that if you’re not into this then you’re lame and get the fuck out. Twisted Sister often get compared to KISS and there are a lot of similarities, but they always had more in common with Alice‘s blend of anthemic hard rock and theatrics. “Shoot ‘em Down” and “Bad Boys (of Rock ‘n’ Roll)” are classic Bon Scott-era influenced AC/DC songs and “Sin After Sin” is a great Judas Priest song mixed with “1969″ by The Stooges.” “Tear It Loose” is pure Motörhead and “Day of the Rocker” is a great Rose Tattoo tribute. “Run For Your Life” and “Destroyer” are so fuckin heavy but the title track is the real highlight of the album. So creepy and heavy at the same time. If you can’t headbang to this song then you must have been born without a neck. I was lucky enough to catch Twisted Sister a few times in their pre-fame club daze and they remain one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. If you don’t believe me, there’s plenty of evidence out there to confirm it. A friend of mine’s been hooking me up with some vintage live tapes the past few years. Anyone who wants to check ‘em out, get in touch and I’ll be glad to hook you up.

Twisted Sister – “Under The Blade” live 1982

I recently turned 45 years old, which means I’ve been listening to these records for 30 years. Jesus, that’s a long fucking time. Each year some new aches and pains seem to come out of nowhere but I can accurately pinpoint the beginning of my hearing loss.

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Spine of Overkill, by Chris “Woody High” MacDermott

Posted in Spine of Overkill on July 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Continuing to astound in his fifth column for The Obelisk, Chris “Woody High” MacDermott of Mighty High pays homage to The Ramones‘ 1984 album, Too Tough to Die and shares a few NYC memories along the way. Awesome. Please enjoy:

Dude is a fucking genius.

My first “Spine of Overkill” column about Venom‘s Welcome to Hell was inspired by a frigid night waiting for the subway. This month’s column was inspired by the intense heat wave we just had on the East Coast. Waiting for the F train at the Broadway-Lafayette station in hot weather is literally hell. I tend to listen to The Ramones a lot in the summer but when it gets downright hot ‘n’ nasty, their 1984 album Too Tough to Die is my soundtrack to sweating. It was released in Rocktober, 1984, which means it has been pumping into my ears via Sony Walkman, iPod and now fancy new iPhone for 28 consecutive summers in New York City. I used to have a cassette with Too Tough to Die on one side and Live at Max’s Kansas City by The Heartbreakers on the other side that I would blast constantly. Listening to these lowlifes somehow made the fact that my sneakers were melting into the pavement a little more tolerable.

Too Tough to Die was a major improvement over their previous album Subterranean Jungle, which found The Ramones working with people who had hit records for Joan Jett. Not long after that in 1983, Johnny Ramone got his head beat in during an argument with some creep and was hospitalized. While he was recuperating, Dee Dee wrote a bunch of great songs and then wrote more with Johnny once he recovered. The result was a hard-hitting kick ass rock ‘n’ roll album in step with their classic first four. Marky Ramone got the boot for being too drunk and was replaced by the excellent Richie Ramone, also a songwriter. Joey Ramone contributed some great songs to the album but it’s really a Dee Dee and Johnny record. Another reason why this album is so good is because it reunited The Ramones with the winning production team of T. Erdelyi (aka original drummer Tommy Ramone) and Ed Stasium.

Side one kicks off with the kick ass “Mama’s Boy.” Johnny‘s guitar blasts a chord and Dee Dee counts the band in. A slower than usual grinding riff announced to everyone that The Ramones were back in full force. Joey‘s voice sounds huge and Elvis-like. Maybe even a little like Jim Morrison without all the annoying poetry crap. Jim could never write great lyrics like “I don’t wanna work in a hot dog stand, be a busboy, messenger or a door man/It’s an abstract world, you’re an abstract man/Abstract city don’t give a damn.” The song speeds up for the chorus, which will forever be altered in my universe because a friend thought they were yelling “Mama mama mama mama mama’s bald!” Following up that song with the slow, moody “I’m Not Afraid of Life” and the fast title-track is a killer one-two-three combo that’s hard to beat. Joey takes a breather while the band kicks out their only instrumental song “Durango 95.”  Wikipedia says that “Durango 95″ is the name of the car driven by Alex in A Clockwork Orange, but there also used to be a restaurant named Durango next to Joey‘s apartment in the East Village. It was #95. Drinking beer on the sidewalk across from Joey‘s place was a favorite summertime activity of mine. I’d always have my friends meet me there and we often get to say hi to the great man and, occasionally, get a glimpse of his OCD in full effect as he’d try to kick gum off the sidewalk or go in and out of his lobby repeatedly.

Getting back to the album, Dee Dee takes over the mic on the short and fast “Wart Hog.” The original album’s lyric sheet just put a big question mark under the song title. I guess they felt his lyrics about “junkies,” “fags” and “commies” were a little too over the top. Didn’t matter. Everyone knew the words and loved screaming along at the live shows. “Danger Zone” starts off with some hilarious in-studio dialogue with Joey asking “What song are we doing? ‘Danger Zone.’ OK, ready?” before another two-minute blast of real New York punk takes off. Side one wraps up with Joey‘s “Chasing the Night,” featuring a possible James Gang lyrical reference of being up all night and asleep all day.

“Howling at the Moon” starts off side two and sounds like a Joey song but was in fact written by Dee Dee. It’s the most commercial song on the album and was produced by Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics. The record label was looking for a hit and the band said they’d do a radio friendly song if they left them alone on the rest of the album. I’ve always liked the song and they keyboards don’t bother me too much. I don’t think it ever got too much radio play for them. “Daytime Dilemma” is another more pop-oriented song written by Joey with guitarist Daniel Rey, who probably plays on it, too. Things get faster and louder on Dee Dee‘s “Planet Earth 1988″ which features overtly political lyrics. Johnny Ramone probably hated this song. Richie‘s song “Humankind” is a good Ramones song and his writing debut for the band. Dee Dee gets another lead vocal on “Endless Vacation,” a great song that alternates between slow and heavy and fast and hard. Side two ends with the great rockabilly influenced song “No Go.”

There were also some cool B-sides that went along with the album. The import 12″ for “Howling at the Moon” had a good version of the Rolling Stones song “Street Fighting Man” and a great original called “Smash You.” In 1985 another 12″ single came out for a song called “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” that was later retitled “My Brain is Hanging Upside Down” to appease Ronald Reagan lover Johnny Ramone. The B-side of that single contained a song called “Go Home Ann.” The credits for that song read “produced by Ed Stasium, mix by Lemmy.” I pretty much pissed, jizzed and crapped my pants the first time I saw that. Motörhead and The Ramones have always been two of my favorite bands, but back then I was convinced they WERE the same band. I would tell everyone that some day they would announce a Motörhead/Ramones tour and then the world would self-destruct. I got to ask Joey several times about touring with Motörhead and he always loved the idea. I got to ask Johnny about it, too. Businessman that he is, Johnny said that it wouldn’t make sense since they shared such a common audience. His eyes did light up and had a big smile when I told him to think about how loud it would be.

Speaking of loud, I had the great pleasure of seeing The Ramones many times during the Richie Ramone era starting with Too Tough to Die through Marky‘s return in 1987. They were always great and always really fucking loud. When hardcore punk had its inevitable collision with metal, a lot of punk bands started using bigger amps but The Ramones always had triple stacks on stage. I can verify that most of them were turned on and not just for show. But when they would play L’Amours in Brooklyn things would get even louder than usual. I have no idea if this is true or not but I was told that The Ramones used to bring in some of their touring P.A. to supplement the already deafening house sound system at the club. It wouldn’t surprise me if they did. I was at a few shows at L’Amours and there were definitely some metal regulars who were skeptical about The Ramones. By the end of the night they were converted by sheer volume alone. The loudest concerts I’ve ever seen were at L’AmoursMotörhead, Twisted Sister, Overkill — but I think The Ramones might have beat them all by a few db’s. Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny are all sadly deceased but they live on in my tinnitus.

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Spine of Overkill, by Chris “Woody High” MacDermott

Posted in Spine of Overkill on June 19th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

In his fourth column for The Obelisk, the herb-demon known to us mortals as Woody High digs into the dank recesses of rock and roll memory and emerges with a tribute to Killdozer‘s 1989 opus, 12 Point Buck. Please enjoy:

Woddy is a fucking genius, dude.Any discussion of heavy music in the 1980s should include the band Killdozer, but they are often left out. Never a metal band and completely at odds with the hardcore punk scene, the three wild-eyed southern Wisconsin boys churned out some of the heaviest jams of the decade. As Touch & Go recording artists they were often lumped in with so called “noise rock” bands like their labelmates Butthole Surfers, Big Black and Scratch Acid as well as Pussy Galore or even Sonic Youth. Some fancypants New York critic tried to label these bands as “pigfuck,” but that term really makes no sense. Killdozer shared some traits with these bands but they were way heavier and a lot more fun. They released some great albums in the ‘’80s and ‘90s before the farewell “Fuck You, We Quit” tour in 1996. The twin peaks of their catalog are definitely 1988′s all-covers album, For Ladies Only (also the name of a great Steppenwolf record), and 1989′s Twelve Point Buck. For Ladies Only finds the band exploring their roots and delivering outstanding versions of classic rock staples such as “Take the Money and Run,” “Funk #49,” “Hush” and a moving two-part “American Pie.” Their version of “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad” was used during the end credits of the movie Old School. Once you hear Killdozer‘s version of a classic, it’s hard to go back to the original.

Albums like Little Baby Buntin’, Snakeboy and the Burl EP were confounding to many people but instant classics for me and my crew of weirdos. What’s not to love about a band that sounds like The Birthday Party, Venom and ZZ Top tapes all playing simultaneously at half-speed? Songs like “Hamburger Martyr” (opening and closing with a drawn out “fffffffffuuuuuuck youuuuuuuuu”) and “King of Sex” were great for clearing out a room. The lightweights would split and there would be more beer for the remaining few. All the potential that those early albums hinted at was fully delivered when Twelve Point Buck was unleashed. Slower, heavier, funnier, scarier. Everything I already loved about Killdozer was new and improved. The trademark bulldozer bass and powerful bellow of Michael Gerald was deeper. Dan Hobson‘s drumming was meatier and more robotic while his brother Bill‘s guitar playing was piercing.

The album begins with an unaccompanied voice screaming “Enter the 49 gates of uncleanliness!” followed by an acoustic guitar strumming in the background for about 30 seconds. Finally the skull-crushing song “New Pants and Shirt” thunders in at full bore, a cautionary tale of laundry woes. The screeching feedback segues into “Space: 1999,” a slowed-down wah-powered mindfuck with lyrical steals from Hendrix, Nugent and Zeppelin. Twelve Point Buck was recorded, according to the liner notes, “during bow hunting season” by Butch Vig at Smart Studios in their hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, and contains some of Vig‘s best work. Brass instruments are used to great effect on the song “Lupus,” which was the single from the album (an incredible version of Janet Jackson‘s “Nasty” was on the flip side). “Lupus” is an ode to author Flannery O’Connor and offers a nice summary of some of her best stories.

Other lyrical themes on the album include the song “Richard,” written from the perspective of a bank worker sent to repossess land from deadbeat farmers. “Man vs. Nature” celebrates the amazing disaster movies made by “the master of realism” Irwin Allen like The Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno. “Free Love In Amsterdam” starts off with a very unsettling introduction and contains the equally unsettling chorus of, “There’s free love in Amsterdam/We can make love without a care.” If it was just about anyone else singing those lines it would sound corny but Michael Gerald‘s pleading is heartwarming.

Witnessing Killdozer on this tour at CBGB was even better than the album. They were loud as hell and it was great to see parts of the audience recoil in horror once they realized they were rocking to Killdozer covering Bad Company. A few months later I saw the Melvins for the first time and looked at them as sort of Killdozer Junior at that time. Amphetamine Reptile recently released a Melvins/Killdozer split single. “Lupus” appears on the Killdozer side and it’s the same as the version from Twelve Point Buck. It would have been great to hear the Melvins tackle a Killdozer song. Maybe they have some sort of heavyweight collaboration planned for the future. In the meantime, put on your hunting vest and crank this muther:


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Spine of Overkill, by Chris “Woody High” MacDermott

Posted in Spine of Overkill on May 9th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

In his third “Spine of Overkill” column, Chris MacDermott of Mighty High recalls forgotten Long Island metallers Frigid Bich and nights spent throwing garbage on rich people’s lawns. What could go better with classic metal than that?

If you haven’t heard it yet, Mighty High‘s new album, Legalize Tre Bags is available now on Ripple Music. More info at the band’s Thee Facebooks page.

Please enjoy:

Much respect.

Long Island had some really obscure bands with offensive names back in the 1980s. There was Mangled Clit, who at one time included superstar drummer Mike Portnoy, or the legendary Satan’s Penis, an early death metal band that went undocumented. But my favorite of all remains Frigid Bich. I have no idea why they spelled it “bich” and not “bitch,” but in most of the photos that remain of their reign, at least one band member is playing a BC Rich guitar. Or maybe they thought they’d have problems getting their records stocked in chain stores. Who knows? This is a band that I’ve been really into ever since hearing their incredible song “We Rule the Night” on the NY Metal ‘84 compilation, but have always had trouble finding out more about them.

Not much has changed since then. There’s very little info on Frigid Bich on the internet right now, but the equally obscure label Stormbringer Records released a compilation, Tyrants of a Generation, in Zeptember 2011 that I have not been able to find anywhere. Formed in 1980, Frigid Bich were intent on playing fast, loud and being as obnoxious as possible. Early song titles “Savage Lust,” “Reign of Steel” and “Teenage Rebels” need no explanation. By 1984, the lineup had changed and the band became even more over the top. “We Rule the Night” was by far the crudest sounding song on NY Metal ‘84 and I was hooked. What’s not to like about a song that rips off the intro to Metallica‘s “Hit the Lights” before blasting into a rewrite of Venom‘s “Raise the Dead?”

My favorite fanzine, KICK*ASS, was a big supporter of Frigid Bich, and just about anything they liked, I wound up liking, too. At some point I got a dub of a dub of a demo recorded in 1984 that included “We Rule the Night” and four other killer songs. That tape is long gone, but it looks like all of it is on side one of Tyrants of a Generation, plus a song called “Louder than Loud” I’d never heard before. Thankfully someone has posted most of these songs to YouTube and it’s great to be reacquainted with the incredible “Metal on Denim on Leather.” Taking Saxon‘s “Denim and Leather” to the extreme, this song borrows heavily from Metallica‘s “Metal Militia.” Their No Life til Leather demo was pretty crude but Frigid‘s tape makes it sound like it was produced by Bob Ezrin. I have fuzzy memories of blasting “Metal on Denim on Leather” and “We Rule the Night” in a friend’s car at the end of the night. We’d save up our empty Bud tall cans and McDonald’s wrappers to throw on rich people’s lawns in Pelham, NY. Always a good idea. “The Kids are Gonna Fight” and “Tyrants of s Generation” are basically about terrorizing old people that try to get in the way of rampaging metal youth. Never a good idea.

Side two of this album looks incredible, with live covers of Motörhead’s “Overkill” and “The Hammer,” Anvil‘s “Metal on Metal,” “Crank it Up” by The Rods and “Wild in the Streets” by Circle Jerks (yes, I know Garland Jeffreys wrote it, but I doubt Frigid Bich did at the time). It must have been inspiring to have seen these guys in action blasting out these jams at some Long Island dump. I imagine about 30 demented youths banging their heads frantically while the onlookers gasp in dismay. In 1984, the really heavy shit was just starting to catch on and it was important to show the new people how it’s done.

Hopefully I’ll be able to track down a copy of this album. It comes with a 20-page booklet with killer photos and a full band history. I had completely forgotten that Frigid vocalist Joe Leonard went on to be a bigwig at Combat Records. Too bad Combat never released an album from them, it would be considered a thrash classic now. There’s a new tribute page on Facebook and a fanzine called Chips & Beer has done an interview with Joe that will be coming out next month. Maybe the time is right for a Frigid Bich to rule the night again.


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