Hardcore + Crossover MARCH: BAD BRAINS

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bad brains

There’s been a lot of bands that are considered a pioneer of a certain genre that are really hard to keep pigeonholed inside that label. Bad Brains is one of those bands. Starting off as, of all things, a jazz fusion ensemble in the 1970s, they developed a rather fast and abrasive punk rock sound which fit in with the emerging hardcore scenes at the time. Of course, over time they’ve proven rather adept at utilizing a wide variety of styles, from funk to heavy metal, hip-hop and soul to reggae, and had more complex rhythms and harmonies than other general practitioners of the hardcore sound.

“Right Brigade”

“Coptic Times”

“I Against I”

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Hardcore + Crossover MARCH: AGNOSTIC FRONT

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agnostic front

Another hardcore punk band that flirted with the thrash metal stylings of crossover at times, Agnostic Front featured a bunch of skinheads (but not the nationalist, fascist kind, the vocalist assured in a 1985 interview) and a New York hardcore upbringing that led to a couple of classic recordings in the 1980s. They broke up in the early 1990s, but then regrouped later in the decade, and continue on.

“Victim In Pain”

“The Eliminator”

“Liberty And Justice”

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METAL MEMORIES: Somewhere In Time (Iron Maiden)

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METAL MEMORIES: Iron Maiden - Somewhere In Time

IRON MAIDEN
Somewhere In Time

Christmas, 1986. It was the family gathering for our annual dinner and gift exchange at my Great Grandpa Wheatley’s place. I had just turned 13, and had been asking for rock and metal albums a year or two prior rather than toys. This particular year, I had requested the recently released Somewhere In Time by some band called Iron Maiden.

Up until then, my foray into the world of hard rock and metal was novice at best. The only actual hard rock albums I owned were AC/DC’s Highway To Hell and Ted Nugent’s Double Live Gonzo, both second-hand copies from my Uncle Jerry and well-played by yours truly. Most of my self education with hard rock was by way of the Omaha radio station Z-92, the self-proclaimed Home of Rock N’ Roll. And while the station did, indeed, rock the face off of this aspiring metalhead just barely out of his tweens, while most of my classmates were content with the sugary wasteland of Top 40 pop station Sweet 98, there wasn’t much actual metal played, mostly album-oriented rock. Sure, more hard rockers than most, but beyond that I had yet to get a good taste of METAL.

Then, one afternoon, while wandering around the music section of Fremont’s ALCO – back when ALCO was a decent small town department store, and they had a good sized music section – I spotted Iron Maiden’s just-released Somewhere In Time displayed in all its glory in the prominent New Releases section.

Laugh if you wish. I had no idea who Iron Maiden was at the time. I saw some of the upperclassmen at school wearing concert tees from time to time, emblazoned with the band’s mascot (who I later learned was named “Eddie”), but beyond a fascination with the gruesome artwork I had no formal introduction to the music of Iron Maiden. Which made things even more mysterious and intriguing.

I remember standing there in the department store, staring at the album artwork on the LP, transfixed by the detail that looked like it belonged on a movie poster with its dystopian futuristic sci-fi theme. I mean, look at it. Go ahead, scroll back up and give it a good look. It was then that I made a silent vow: This album will be mine. I didn’t care that I wasn’t familiar with the band or its music. By the album artwork alone, I made it my quest to acquire that album and discover the mysteries contained within.

Yeah, yeah – don’t judge a book by its cover, and all that. Whatever. Album artwork should be an extension of the music it protects. But, that’s a rant for another time.

Shortly thereafter, when it came time to put in our requests for Christmas gifts, Somewhere In Time topped the short list. Cassette preferred, as I found them much more versatile than vinyl. Looking back, I would have liked to have heard the band on vinyl, but given I was young and extremely stupid the cassette survived better. Believe me. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Christmas came. The Wheatley family Christmas arrived. And sitting there in my pile of seasonal booty haul was, as I had hoped, was a brand new copy of Somewhere In Time. I was ecstatic. I also learned that it was purchased by my Great Aunt Mona, my Grandmother’s sister, and not the first person you would think of to volunteer buying something with that kind of cover art for their young Great Nephew.

That night, when we all got home, I immediately went to my room, removed the cellophane wrapping, took a moment to take in the essence of the cassette (not as weird as it sounds, kiddies), and then popped it in and pressed play on my tape player. And the music that emerged from the speakers? Nothing I’ve heard before at the time. This was what I later learned was Heavy Metal. Not the shiny glam variety metal that I heard from time to time on the radio. This was not Motley Crue, not Poison, not Van Halen. No, this was from the old school, New Wave Of Heavy Metal camp that I had not heard of before. The playing went beyond the three-chords-and-a-hook formula, introducing me to actual musicianship. It was heavy, but darker sounding. And the lyrics were deeper than the usual glut of party good-time stuff. It forced me to think.

So, obviously I didn’t like it much at first. But, I did listen to the entire album straight through, front-to-back. And over time, the album grew on me. To the point of where it’s now one of my favorite nostalgic albums. Recently I got a copy of it on CD (again), and putting it in the car stereo, hearing the opening strains of “Caught Somewhere In Time” coming through the speakers took me back to those days, where I was young and just discovering metal beyond the bubblegum variety. Sure, many point to Somewhere In Time as not one of Iron Maiden’s strongest releases. But, this was my first introduction to the band, and also to proper Heavy Metal itself. Thus, it shall always have a place in my heart, and my METAL collection.

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Hardcore + Crossover MARCH: BLACK FLAG

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black flag

Before he became known as a spoken word performer and writer (and sometime actor), Henry Rollins was the vocalist for the iconic California hardcore punk band Black Flag from 1981 on to their break-up in 1986. In between that time, they recorded one of the more influential hardcore punk albums ever (Damaged), as it’s listed on many punk “greatest albums” lists. Also, they have one of the most recognizable logos out there; though, nowadays one has to wonder if anyone sporting it on either a pin or a jacket patch is making a fashion statement more than an actual anti-establishment non-poser statement.

“Rise Above”

“My War”

“Slip It In”

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Hardcore + Crossover MARCH: MINOR THREAT

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minor threat

It still amuses me to think back to the 1990s, and hearing all the of the teenagers at the time give this “old” 20-something metalhead flack about liking music from the 1980s, as they seemed to think that all hardcore and punk were invented in the 1990s or something. Then I hasten to remind them that what they know as hardcore punk now actually originated in the despised ’80s.

You would be hard pressed to find another band that is as iconic yet short-lived as Minor Threat. They only lasted three years, but in that time they not only released a ground-breaking album and a handful of EPs, but also pioneered the DIY ethic in music distribution and promotion, as well as writing a song that pretty much is the anthem for a sub-movement in the hardcore punk genre: “Straight Edge”.

“Filler”

“In My Eyes”

“Betray”

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Hardcore+Crossover MARCH: The MISFITS

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Misfits Band Logo

You may be thinking to yourself, “Self, why is a punk band like The Misfits on this particular YEAR OF METAL collection?” The answer to that question would be “SHADDUP!” Another answer would be, not only did they fuse theatrical Hammer Horror to punk rock, but they also influenced a little metal band you may have heard of: Metallica. Specifically, it was the late, great Cliff Burton that introduced the band to a mix tape of his of the Misfits, and went a long way to incorporating melody in with the thrash onslaught they were still pioneering back in the day. You may not be familiar with their music (personally, I prefer the post-Danzig era, mainly because the guy’s a jerk), but at least you can recognize their feind logo shirts that everybody and their grandmother has, thanks to Hot Topic.

“Night Of The Living Dead”

“Earth A.D.”

“American Psycho”

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Reflecting On The New Wave Of American Heavy Metal

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As a supplemental aside to this ongoing year-long exercise in extreme music love, I’m posting a link to an article I came across this morning on the Metal Injection website. It’s a look back at the metal resurgence that occurred in the early-to-mid 2000’s, refered to now as the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal. It’s a very well-written piece, and made me reconsider a lot of the bands that I initially gave a pass on, mostly due to my being old and foolish. Check out the article here:

REFLECTING ON THE NEW WAVE OF AMERICAN HEAVY METAL

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