by guest contributor Blade Mancano with Ryan Meehan
The Icarus Syndrome is defined as “a terrible virus that infects music, tainting it to the point of being unlistenable”. Icarus is a fitting metaphor in that the music comes close to passable, similar to the winged demigod’s fruitless voyage to the sun. I can’t stand a bad album as much as the next guy. I hate actually buying something – Yes, I do buy most of my music – be it a pre-order or a “long awaited return-to-form” comeback album that sucks the living shit right through your ears while you find yourself praying to locate the stop button. However, this sad and brief moment in time has an easy fix: Throw it away or sell it, get it out of here – problem solved. Unfortunately there is a far worse fate for music fans: listening to a release that is almost good, hence torturing the listener who is simultaneously “kinda” enjoying it. Similar to putting on a fresh pair of wet socks to go with your dry-cleaned suit for a day at the office, it drives the listener to a crazy level of auditory irritation. A shady, shaky grey limbo of notes accompanied by either word salads or sub-par productions, the results are the same. Purgatory…On…Earth. The world of heavy metal is littered with such releases but here is my personal list of disdain, complete with Meehan’s snarky commentary to boot. This is The Deep Six: The Icarus Syndrome – Metal Edition.
- W.A.S.P. – The Neon God (The Rise) – 2004
Blade: This album approaches greatness so many times, and then is quickly thrown into a void of annoyance at a pace that’s unbelievable. Truth be told, my problems with this release are two fold: a) The vocals are terrible; and b) This is way too similar to the “Crimson Idol” to be likable. This is the story of an orphaned boy who can read minds and (I’m guessing on this one because I didn’t stick around for part 2) becomes some master manipulator musician that loses it all. First the vocals: Really dry, scratchy vocal delivery – similar to Tom Waits – and it does everything but work. The musicianship with W.A.S.P. only got better over the years, but the singing not so much and the separation of the two paths really point out how rough the vocal tracks really are. Some songs work, for example “X.T.C Riders”. It’s a perfect blend of a steady rock disco beat, catchy guitar riff, and cool solos, and the vocals fit like a glove on this song similar to how K.F.D. panned out: Very well. But a song like “Sister Sadie”, it just detracts too much and makes you wonder how the kid in the story made it that far sounding like he was huffing gas and smoking Black Death cigarettes all winter long. The other issue I have with the LP is that it appears Blackie decided to repeat himself and tried to copy his own success of “The Crimson Idol”, one of his many great works and one of the most complicated things he’s ever written. So if you’re gonna write another concept album, does it have to be about yourself as a rock god again? Why? What, giving him super-powers is supposed to flip the script? I don’t get it and don’t recommend it. Pick up “The Headless Children”, “The Crimson Idol”, or “K.F.D.” if you want to hear some killer original writing with all the stuff W.A.S.P. are known for. “The Neon God” is definitely one I would pass on if I could do it all over again. Speaking of which, anybody got a DeLorean with a flux-capacitor?
Meehan: Since Blade took care of all the important stuff, I’ll take Blackie to task for the title of this record because it’s inexcusable. First off, “the neon god” is a line from the Simon & Garfunkel song “Sounds of Silence” so it’s hard to imagine that being the inspiration for an album like this one. Additionally, Blade mentioned the fact that the record bears a lot of similarities to “The Crimson Idol”…and it’s almost like he just substituted two of the words to concoct the extremely uncreative title of this album. The subject matter is another huge problem, as for a hard-partying band such as W.A.S.P. this seems like it’s extremely far-fetched. I can’t stand it when artists make concept records that are essentially based on semi-autobiographical tendencies, and for Blackie to throw something like this together is almost like Pauly Shore playing the role of Richard Pryor in a biopic. Also, why do these stories always have to involve someone who starts out with some major disadvantage before realizing they have superpowers? Don’t any regular Johns and Janes have similar stories? Aren’t there any stories out there about youngsters who were raised well by wealthy parents and it just so happened that their special talent was that they had the ability to telepathically melt the skulls of orphaned boys? I sure as shit hope that someday that will be the case, but even so if it was I probably wouldn’t have wanted the band W.A.S.P. was a little over a decade ago to be in charge of supplying that soundtrack. This qualifies for the Icarus Syndrome based on the fact that W.A.S.P. should have an entire wing of the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame dedicated to them because of how badass they were from 1982 to 1988, but even the good intentions of such an incredible metal band couldn’t save this idea from cockwhipping itself to death before finally coming to fruition.
- Obituary – The End Complete – 1992
Blade: Nothing too drastic, just a record of really weak mid-tempo wishy washy riffs thrown together. With the exception of “Back to One”, this album bores me to the brink of suicide. Despite its title, “The End Complete” provides no closure to its predecessor, the eternal masterpiece “Cause of Death.” For the record, all material released afterward by Obituary buries this coffin. Hard.
Meehan: It’s almost unfathomable that time period between “Slowly We Rot” and this record was only three short years, and it’s even more unbelievable that guitarist Allen West returned to the band to find a much slower pace of song structures that would eventually become this album. I always considered Obituary to be a bit overrated, and there is something about John Tardy’s vocals that have always kind of annoyed the shit out of me. Scott Burns produced this and Cannibal Corpse’s “Tomb of the Mutilated” in the same year? I guess there’s only so much a producer can do…”I’m in Pain”? Yeah, me too. I’m shutting this the hell off. I’m with Blade here in the fact that there isn’t really a whole lot more to say.
- Mötley Crüe – Girls, Girls, Girls – 1987
Blade: As a Crüe fan for most of my life, including now, I listen to this heap about once every ten years to remind me of its sewer bound qualities. When the re-release bonus tracks kick the teeth out of half the original album you have a problem. When that bonus track is “Rodeo”, in the “parlance of our times” the proverbial plane has crashed into the fucking mountain! Let’s take the track “Five Years Dead.” Saying “Rodeo” is better is tantamount to saying “Why, this pretzel flavored cereal is so much better than the corn dog cereal we had yesterday!” How the Crüe have the gall to think “Theatre of Pain” was subservient to Girls is unfathomable. Theatre had “Save our Souls”, “Tonight (we need a lover), “Use it or Lose it”, “Louder Than Hell”, all well above the bar set by Girls’ entire side B. “Girls” does have its gems, “Wild Side” and “Dancing on Glass” show the slightly more aggressive, and in my opinion, better side of the Crüe that largely appears to be absent from their music between the years of 1987-1993. Mick Mars’ bluesy riffs and nasty guitar tone are the only things that save this record from being a crap-sandwich. And since a live version of “Jailhouse Rock” is the last song, better drink a chaser after this one!
Meehan: I don’t care how many records you’ve sold, and I don’t care how many girls you’ve banged in your heyday – It is never acceptable to write a song called “Bad Boy Boogie”. I mean sure…the eighties were full of bad decisions like that, but I think even Doc McGhee knew that song was liquid shit among some solid singles. And what the hell was going on with “Nona”? I realize that was a tribute to Nikki’s grandmother, but was that a really fitting submission for this program? And couldn’t this just have been an EP? It certainly would have been received a lot better if that was the case, and maybe then we wouldn’t have had to be subjected to “You’re All I Need” from the get-go. The burning sensation that some of the band members must have experienced in their genitals through all of the heavy years of sex with numerous groupies seems a fitting punishment for the release of this record, because by song six of this album I want to funnel battery acid into my dickhole until my tears could test positive for crystal meth. Look, this was frustrating for fans of the Crue at the time because everybody knew they were capable of producing a better disc. But to be honest, they mailed a great deal of this one in and it showed. Without the title track and “Wild Side” this album was a block away from the bargain bin, and it very well could have effectively ended their careers if they hadn’t pulled those two hits out of their ass. As long as they could crank out a couple of singles they were going to be safe, and Motley Knue that so they gave us an entire second half of a cassette that sounds like it was written by a fourteen year old girl who had just had her heart broken for the first time. The Crue has had a few solid records, but this isn’t one of them.
- Judas Priest – Jugulator
Blade: Oh my God, where does one begin on this thing? Right off the bat, “Bullet Train ” fucking rocks, and the first half of “Cathedral “Spires” is astounding, soulful, just downright beautiful. The rest if the album contains the most banal, cliché filled drivel I have ever heard a metal band deliver since Manowar’s fighting the world! Let’s inspect the song “Blood Stained”, shall we?
“Blood stained hands
Blood stained times
Blood stained hands
Blood stained lies”.
Wow…deep, guys. Deep. Now I know Rob’s lyrics could be comical at times, and it’s known that Tipton wrote some silly lyrics prior to this poetic nightmare (surprisingly he wrote the words to “Burning Up”), so not sure where the train came off the tracks on this one. If this was the only problem, I could live with it, but…oh god, the vocal melodies are atrocious! The delivery is great, you know Ripper means it, and his voice is top notch, but Tipton’s sing by the numbers approach pigeonholed Ripper’s skills to the point of comedy. A sad comedy. Imagine Carrot-Top and Gallagher staring in Ghostbusters with Gilbert Gottfried and Patrick Swayze’s corpse, and then you might begin to understand the blasphemy. Thank fucking God for Angel of Retribution, Nostradamus, and Redeemer of Souls as they wash away this den of jackassery.
Meehan: What in the holy hot fuck is going on with the intro to this record? I ordered the “British Steel”, not the “Skinny Puppy album that’s been sitting at the back of Disc Replay for four years”. In retrospect, I probably should have known better and all truth be told this album never had a chance even though Ripper will always be the best vocalist to replace a legend. It was their first album without Rob, and if Halford would have sang on this album it could have very well been a total masterpiece. Tuning down a step and a half is a great way to show that you’re not playing around, but in this case it drew harsh criticism from metal critics who legitimately believed that this was done so Owens could hit those higher notes which isn’t true. Although the playing is very good – after all, it is Priest – the way the vocals are supposed to be placed left Ripper with very few options and boy did it ever show. I’m not as well-versed in Priest lore so I’ll have to take Blade’s word for this one, but I’m very aware of their potential and this is hardly an accurate representation of said possibilities. I will say this: I’m a huge fan of dropping the tuning several steps, but for some reason with classic metal it doesn’t really work. It always ends up sounding forced, and if you disagree with me let me word that theory in this manner: If Iron Maiden tuned their guitars like Korn, would you buy that album? Second part to that question: If Iron Maiden tuned their guitars like Korn and for some reason you DID buy that album, how long would it take you to kill yourself? I think I’ve made my point.
- Metallica – St. Anger
Blade: In a weird way, I defend about 60% of the material here. “Frantic” is one of their heaviest songs ever, and parts of the title track follow that compliment to awesomeville. One of my favorite songs they have ever done is “Sweet Amber”, and there are so many interludes in this behemoth that actually connect with my inner Metallica freak that it levels me. That being said, what the hell Lars Ulrich and Bob Rock? That snare drum is the only thing in this world that sounds worse than the kick drum tone on Cradle of Filth’s “Cruelty and the Beast” (where the kick and snare drums are completely indistinguishable). I could only pray for something as sweet as that when I hear the tinker-toy clitter/clatter of drum the kit, followed by the broken sounding steel drum “tone” of the snare. It ruins every song as much as a Ron Jeremy self-produced cum shot would ruin your parent’s funeral. Someone somewhere may like it, but not you, not now, not ever. And the production, was it too much to ask for another “Garage Days” production? That was raw and powerful, completely capturing the essence of what they set out to accomplish. James Hetfield was right in that Lars likes to present things that are different just to be different regardless of its quality. Sometimes it works, sometimes it blows your sister’s rotten cock. What I wouldn’t give to have the Black Album’s mix and snare tone for this record. I would even take Death Magnetic’s production over this thing. In fact, ever single Darkthrone album ever made sounds better that this beast of burden. Yes, I went there.
Meehan: You knew that at some point, Metallica was going to show up on a list like this. But in all fairness, you probably expected it to be “Load”. The difference between this piece of shit and that sorry excuse for a heavy metal album is that with “Load”, that was clearly a band that had just came off of one of the craziest tours in the history of music. And if they didn’t get something out quick, their record company would have probably sued them for so much money that Lars and James would have made Newsted pawn all of his facial wrinkles just to cover the legal expenses. I didn’t feel that’s what they were trying to do with “St. Anger”, where the band actually holed up in a San Francisco studio to record an album that was done entirely on their own terms. I know this of course because I watched “Some Kind of Monster”, a movie that was supposed to be a documentary but ended up becoming one of the most unintentionally funny comedy films ever made. Blade’s right about the snare drum – it sounds like absolute crap which is unacceptable given the length of time it took them to have enough material for this record to completely scrap before relocating to a different studio – but to me, there’s another aspect of its production that is particularly troubling: The vocals. Why did we like “Ride The Lightning” so much? Was it the thrashy guitar riffs? The reckless drumming? One of the best heavy metal bassists on the face of the earth rocking your face off so hard that his name would live on for decades to come? Sure, it was probably a lot of those things but be honest – we love that album because the vocals sound like Hetfield is vomiting razor blades amongst one of the most evil sounding reverbs of all time. Not here. I’m not sure they used any vocal effects on a majority of this record and it just seemed that no matter how heavy and punchy it was at times, the vocals were so clean that it always seemed right around the corner from being a pop record at any given second.
- Kiss – Entire Kiss catalog
Blade: Oh man, you know it’s a fact that for every good song Kiss has written there are six awful ones. They don’t even average out on every album. Take “Unmasked.” Not one good track, not even close (and please Paul and Gene, stop placing “Shandi” on your “best-of” releases, nobody cares about it being an international hit, those international fans are idiots). “Unmasked” is so bad it makes “Music from the Elder” sound like “Master of Puppets.” Then there are records like “Lick it Up” that were as good as they were consistent, and that record is every bit as good as “Creatures of the Night”, better maybe (thanks in no small part to one Vinnie Vincent). For ’80’s cock-rock, “Creatures of the Night” “Lick it Up”, and most of “Animalize” stand firm next to most of their contemporaries. Sadly, not until “Revenge”is released do their fans have a half a chunk of music worth checking out again (again, due to Mr. Vincent’s co-writing). Why must a fan sit through “God Gave Rock and Roll to You II” to get to “Heart of Chrome”? Which brings me to my initial point, the Icarus effect is strong with Kiss, like Yoda and the Force, and their batting average is around .120, shitty for baseball, shitty for music. Do yourself a favor, ask your closest Kiss Army member to point you in the right direction, and download the hell out of their stuff, the nuggets, not their painful filler. As a fan of physical releases (CD, vinyl), that is one gift of the digital age that keeps on giving, being able to bypass all the bullshit and get right to the meat. Kiss are still capable of writing a good song now and then, like “Say Yeah”, but just don’t ask me to point out all the great songs on “Monster.” Well, OK…here they are in no particular order:
See what I mean?
Meehan: Let’s hop aboard the honesty highway for a second: I have never liked KISS. They have inspired legions of heavy metal musicians that went on to make some of the greatest records in all of rock history, yet when you go back and listen to them you can’t help but think that the reason people were so obsessed with them to begin with is because they didn’t have a lot to go up against given the time period in which they released a majority of their material. The concept of having a guy like Gene Simmons next to someone like Paul Stanley will never make sense to me. On one side you have the biggest dickhead in the history of music, and on the other end you have a guy who probably farts so much semen that if John McCain did his laundry he’d end up with quintuplets that all whistled “Hot Cop” as they bounced off of his uterine walls. There’s a fine line between juxtaposition and a bad one-two punch, and although I’m not sure what that line is I can definitely tell you it’s not “Beth”. If you actually go to YouTube and stream the video for that song, the third video down is “Faithfully” by Journey. The two before it are the “Unplugged” version, Lita Ford’s “If I Close My Eyes Forever”, and there is an Advil advertisement with a printable dollar off coupon at the top of the page. Since you probably don’t believe me, here’s a picture to prove that wasn’t a hack joke I just wrote.
Fuck me in a diaper. Good God. KISS sucks. As Blade would say, “Their Christmas is for Real”.
As much as we’d like to hope these situations will get better, the reality is that they will likely only get worse from here on out. If you think that Metallica isn’t going to go “Unforgiven IV” on their next release, my friend Bryan has an old 1994 Ford Tempo on his farm that I think you should buy if you were otherwise planning to set that money on fire. That is, before Gene Simmons claims it’s his money and that he invented the Tempo back in ’77. Good intentions can sometimes come from bad places, and sometimes even if those good intentions appear to be quality in substance you can still end up with an awesome band like Priest or the Crue putting out something that can scar your eardrums for life. And sometimes when you have a band like W.A.S.P. or Obituary who is more than competent of the energy, physical capacity, and sheer stubbornness to make a killer record…it just doesn’t happen. In the original story of Icarus from Greek mythology, the wings that Icarus’ father Daedalus crafted were out of wax and that’s why they melted when he flew to close to the sun. How unfortunately ironic it is that through not much searching on Amazon.com, you can find all six of these albums on vinyl? Let this be a lesson. You can’t win them all, but as long as music will continue to be based off of the same thirteen notes until everybody reading this is eaten down to the bone by maggots you can count on this happening for years to come. We can only hope that it happens to more Nickelbacks than it does Satyricons, and for that our true metal souls will remain eternally grateful.
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Great article. Loved the originality of the concept. As always great reading.