Raging Slab, Raging Slab (1989)
If you’re the sort of person who likes a clean, clear narrative to your rock and roll history, you’ll probably want to avoid Raging Slab. An anomaly if ever there was one, here was a band based out of New York City playing Southern-style heavy boogie rock… who released their first album in 1987. And then signed to a major label! If you can make any sense of it or put it into any kind of discernible context, go for it. It’s almost like Raging Slab were sent back from the future to disrupt the timeline, is how out of place they were for their day and age. And yet, listening to their 1989 self-titled — released by RCA Records as the follow-up to ’87’s charmingly-dubbed Assmaster debut — one can hear flashes of the era in the semi-metallic “Shiny Mama” (on which Ray Gillen provides backing vocals) and in the post-Motörhead freight-train progression of “Get off My Jollies.” But at its core, Raging Slab is a work of ’70s loyalism that was as much ahead of its time as it was behind it. The band, founded by guitarists Greg Strzempka (also vocals and songwriting) and Elyse Steinman, here featured bassist Alec Morton, lead guitarist Mark Middleton and drummers Tony Scaglione (everything but “Get off My Jollies”) and Steve “Doc Killdrums” Wacholz (“Get off My Jollies”) — though credited in the liner and in the cover photography one finds Bob Pantella, who’d go on to join Monster Magnet, The Atomic Bitchwax, etc. — no doubt earned some sideways glances in the heyday of glam, but in hindsight, it’s just as easy to read their work as boldly defying both the mainstream and the underground of its day.
To wit, the aforementioned glam. Imagine Raging Slab coming out the same year as Mötley Crüe‘s Dr. Feelgood. Sure, there was plenty of metal to be had — the NWOBHM had arguably crested some years earlier, but thrash had by then hit its stride as America’s major contribution to a heavy metal aesthetic. Doom festered in the likes of Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, and Cathedral, but while Molly Hatchet and ZZ Top were still around, they were more Southern than heavy, and Raging Slab were more heavy than they were metal. And elsewhere in the underground, the likes of Earth, the Melvins and Nirvana were solidifying what would in a couple years break out internationally as grunge. Raging Slab didn’t fit there either. In a self-written 1996 bio, they called themselves, “TOO hard for country and western fans, TOO slow for thrash fans, TOO cerebral for hard rock fans and TOO rock and roll for alternative fans.” All true. The self-titled tells that story in cuts like “Geronimo” and “Bent for Silver,” which are too brazen in their hooks to be chic in an underground sense and too weighted to really be pop or country rock. Hell, to listen to opener “Don’t Dog Me,” it’s a cut that today would be right at home in the Ripple Music lineup. 27 years ago, I guess it wasn’t so easy to place.
However they wound up on a label like RCA, they did, and they’d go on to work with Rick Rubin‘s Def American/American Recordings on subsequent outings, Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert (1993) and Sing Monkey Sing! (1996), but in the meantime, a generational shift and the arrival of bands like Corrosion of Conformity — whose Deliverance came out five years after Raging Slab, in 1994 — working under a Southern heavy influence kept wider commercial success elusive, and Raging Slab faded for a time. The turn of the century found them returned to activity on Tee Pee Records with 2001’s The Dealer and the next year’s Pronounced Eat Shit, but apart from a compilation appearance here and there — they notably took on Grand Funk Railroad‘s “We’re an American Band” for Small Stone‘s first installment of Sucking the ’70s in 2002 — that would be their swansong. Strzempka found a home in Sweden’s Backdraft, and there were rumors of another Raging Slab resurgence and a new album as part of that, but a decade later, it’s yet to surface.
Never say never in rock and roll though. If you dig the self-titled, it was reissued in ’09 on Rock Candy Records, and Assmaster also saw a re-press in 2013 through Cherry Red with a bunch of bonus material, including the True Death EP from 1989.
Whether you know this one or not, I hope you enjoy.
Man, this week can’t fuck off fast enough to suit my tastes. Like here’s the week fucking off as fast as it possibly can and here’s me standing with a stopwatch shaking my head going, “Not even close, yo.”
Let’s be optimistic together. 2016’s almost over, and we don’t yet know what fresh, astounding lows the New Year will bring.
Hey, we got over 125 entries in the first day of the Top 20 of 2016 Year-End Poll. That legitimately ruled. Made my week, actually. I was nervous. If you contributed a list, thanks. If not yet, please do. Any help sharing the link is also greatly valued.
In the notes for next week:
Mon: Album stream for Leafy and a Year of the Goat video premiere.
Tue: Albinö Rhinö album stream and the new Lord Loud video.
Wed: A list of 10 album covers that kicked ass in 2016. Because art is fun and talking about it is a fun way to kick off list season.
Thu: A review of The Second Coming of Heavy, Chapter 4.
Fri: Track stream from a Denver band I’m not sure I’m allowed yet to name.
Gonna be a good one. This week should’ve been a good one too. The problem is me. I’m the problem.
It’s okay though. I’ve been down this road before. Gonna spend the next couple days drinking coffee leisurely, playing Final Fantasy XV and hanging out with Slevin, who’s coming north for a visit. It’ll be nice to see him. It always is.
I sincerely hope your week was better than mine and that your weekend is no less stellar. Be safe and have fun, and please make time to check out the forum and the radio stream.