Ah yes! Cassettes! I have a SHIT LOAD of them! I’ve been collecting heavy metal tapes for most of my life. Of course, when tape decks became obsolete in automobiles it was a damning blow to my tape listening days. Even though I no longer have a car with a tape deck, I still buy used tapes when I see them at a dirt cheap price. Anytime I see heavy metal cassettes at a flea market or pawn shop for like $1 a piece, I snatch ’em up. Sometimes I find them at record stores tucked away in a corner. Sometimes I’ll buy a lot on eBay (if the price is right). I’m not sure why I keep buying them, it’s not like cassettes are ever going to make a comeback. If it looks anything like heavy metal or hard rock, even if it something I’ve never heard of, I scoop it up. Now I’m sitting on a large collection of tapes that I really need to give some attention to. So here is the plan; I have decided to make a valiant effort to listen to these tapes. I bought a sweet-ass Sony boombox with a tape deck and loaded it up with some D batteries. I have decided to blast tunes on the boombox whenever I am driving in my car. I have a 40 minute commute to and from work, so I have plenty of time to digest these old nuggets. For volume 1 (of what I hope will become a continuing series that I will call “Tales of the Tape”), I chose ten tapes from my collection (some of which I have never listened to and don’t know much about), and over the last two weeks I have been listening the shit out of them on my boombox in the car. Here’s a pic of the first ten tapes drafted into service…
… and now that I’ve had a chance to give these tapes a fair listen (and do a little online research), here’s a quick review for each…
Raging Slab – True Death (1988)
Raging Slab! I’m glad I dusted off this old tape and finally gave it a listen. I’m glad for two reasons. First, I’m glad that I discovered a pretty killer tune called Shrivel, and second, I’m glad that I now have a new name for my dong… RAGING SLAB!
Released in 1988, True Death was a four song EP that came out on Buy Our Records. It was the follow-up release to Raging Slab’s debut album, Assmaster (1987). Yes, that’s right, they had an album called Assmaster.
True Death consists of four solid tunes that draw inspiration from ’70s style riff-rock. The sound is rust and sludge; a direct affront to everything that was popular in ’88. Therein lies Raging Slab’s appeal I presume. In a way, Slab were a bit of a harbinger of things to come in the ’90s with the emergence of grunge. I do get the feeling that Raging Slab weren’t necessarily paying homage to the ’70s as much as they were making fun of it in a sort of cooler-than-you hipster way. A song title like Thunder Chucker seems a bit tongue-in-cheek to me. Like I said above, my favorite song on here is Shrivel. This EP is a decent discovery, but I’ll move on. My score: B
Tigertailz – Young And Crazy (1987)
Tigertailz? Sounds like the title of a Saturday morning cartoon. They look ridiculous on the cover (those are dudes). These guys were all glamed up. Young And Crazy was the debut album for this U.K. band. It was released by Music For Nations and licensed for release in the U.S. to Relativity/Combat Records. That’s the pressing I have before me. Hard to believe the Combat label got in on the glam craze, as this was a label known for thrash.
Tigertailz sound like a bunch of ruffians that could be swinging pool cues in a bar fight, but they look like they’d prefer to be bent over a pool table instead. Ha! What I’m trying to say is that this is heavier than it looks. A little glam mixed in with some English pub grit. (These guys were from Wales so they didn’t have the whole Hollywood Sunset Strip thing just right.) The results are interesting and at times damn enjoyable. The most infectious cut is Livin’ Without You, which (wisely) was released as a single. My score: B
Iron Christ – Mini LP (1988)
Iron Christ released this four-tracker in 1988 on New Renaissance Records, a label that I often associate with mediocrity. Consisting of hardcore thrash, this tape did little to capture my attention. Sure, it meets all the criteria of standard late ’80s thrash, including Slayer-ish vocals, but there’s nothing here to distinguish Iron Christ from the sea of mid-level, un-melodic thrash that overpopulates my collection. By the way, ever notice that of the so-called Big Four of thrash (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer), that Slayer was by far the most emulated? Was this because they were so influential, or because they were the easiest to rip-off? My score: C
Triumph – Never Surrender (1983)
Triumph seem to be music critics’ resident whipping boys. Everywhere I look I find Triumph getting blasted by reviewers. Why all the hate from the critics? Luckily for Triumph, many fans disagree with the critics. Did you know that this album went gold in the U.S.A.? Me neither. I never really paid this Canadian trio much mind back in the day. In fact, I have no clue how or when I even acquired this tape! Anyway, now that I have given Never Surrender a good listen, I realize the album ain’t half bad at all. The lead track is excellent — Too Much Thinking. It is my favorite cut. Triumph’s m.o. was carefully crafted hard rock that was uplifting and a tad progressive. Triumph have always drawn comparisons to Rush, the more famous Canadian trio. One can understand the comparison, but a Rush rip-off these guys were not (in my opinion). Never Surrender is a decent slice of stadium rock. Kept me rocking just fine thank you. My score: B+
Beau Nasty – Dirty, But Well Dressed (1989)
By 1989, the template for so-called “hair” metal was well-defined and perfectly refined. So by simply following the rules, Beau Nasty made a record that fans of the genre (including myself) have no problem enjoying. I mean this is as paint-by-numbers as it gets. Good musicianship, hooky songs, the obligatory anthem as lead-single (Shake It), a couple of ballads, and even a cover tune. Nothing new. Nothing to separate Beau Nasty from the crowd. Turns out Beau Nasty was one of the unlucky ones and didn’t last long in the business. Bands who were not as good as Beau Nasty got rich and famous, and bands way better than Beau Nasty never made it all. If you like “hair” metal, you’ll enjoy Dirty, But Well Dressed. My favorite track is Gemini, it could have been a hit single in my opinion. By the way, the CD version is pretty hard to find these days and fetches a fairly good price. My score: B
Ratt – Invasion Of Your Privacy (1985)
Of course I am no stranger to Ratt and their Invasion Of Your Privacy album. This was a pretty big deal back in the day. This album has reached double platinum. I even had a Ratt t-shirt, although I wasn’t really a huge fan at the time. I just liked the shirt; it was an iron-on graphic of a rat being electrocuted. Anyway, I haven’t heard this tape in eons, so I dusted it off for a fresh listen.
Invasion Of Your Privacy starts off strong but trails off a bit after that. The first three tracks are the best; You’re In Love, Never Use Love, and Lay It Down. Lay It Down has an especially nasty lead riff. These tracks alone make Invasion Of Your Privacy worth owning. I also like What You Give Is What You Get from side two. Singer Stephen Pearcy never exhibited much vocal or emotional range, and as such he can be considered the band’s lone weakness. But I guess it wouldn’t be Ratt without his sleazy style, so he’ll have to do. Great production by Beau Hill, by the way. My score: B
Leatherwolf – Leatherwolf (1987)
Let’s straighten something out first. This album was actually the third Leatherwolf release to have the title Leatherwolf. Seriously. First, in 1984 Leatherwolf released a five-track EP on Tropical Records called Leatherwolf. In 1985, they expanded the EP to an LP by adding an additional four tracks. They called it Leatherwolf (also on Tropical Records). Finally in 1987 (now signed to Island Records), an LP of entirely new material appeared with the title of, you guessed it, Leatherwolf. This is the cassette I have before me.
I picked up this tape because I though the song The Calling was one of the greatest songs I had ever heard in my life! This song was just heavy metal heaven to me when I was a youngster! Still kicks my ass today! The song has such a majestic, epic feel. A lot of it has to do with the reverb-y production and the chanting gang vocals. It is almost as if they are playing in the halls of Valhalla! The song just makes you want to wear a loin cloth of animal fur and swing a broadsword. I was hoping to get a full album’s worth of The Calling when I bought this tape. Unfortunately, I was just a little disappointed. Only Rise Or Fall really comes close to the brilliance of The Calling. Most of the other songs are okay, but a few are misfires. With three guitarists (yes three!), booming drums, keyboards and a great heavy metal vocalist, this band had all the elements necessary to make an amazing album, I just think they really weren’t really sure of their identity at the time. Had they been fully committed to their more epic heavy side, we may have had a classic on our hands. My score: B+
Chyld – Conception (1988)
A very strange release from the New Renaissance Records label. I associate New Renaissance with second-rate thrash and traditional metal, so I am surprised to see they got behind Chyld. Actually this album isn’t really metal at all, though there is a touch of pop-metal influence. It’s really a kind of an alternative hard rock that sounds like nothing else from 1988.
I listened to the tape a few times and it never really took hold of me. Perhaps I was expecting metal and was not ready for the weirdness that I encountered? But Chyld are pretty well-respected in some circles. I checked out the review of Conception on allmusic.com and was surprised to find a glowing review of 4.5 out of 5 stars! Here’s a quote from the review; “The arrangements are filled with an astounding wealth of unpredictable twists and turns. More and more rewarding with each listen, Conception has a lot going on under the surface. Sadly, this was the band’s only official release, and it’s nearly impossible to find. If a copy crosses your path, do not hesitate to pick it up.” Wow! That’s a rave review!
The man behind Chyld was multi-instrumentalist/singer/producer John Joseph. The album feels like the work of an eccentric singer/songwriter type. The stuff is progressive and a little left of center. Maybe John Joseph was on some different drugs than everyone else? I’m not feeling his vibe though. Just not my style I guess. But if you want a try some pop metal-meets-psychedelia-meets-Jane’s Addiction-meets-not yet invented grunge, by all means track this curio down. It’s very original for its time. My score: C+
Realm – Suiciety (1990)
Realm was a U.S. metal band that released two albums on the Roadrunner label. Suciety was their second (and final) album. The tape I have here was released on Roadrunner’s imprint Roadracer Records.
If you like things like calculus, quantum physics, or doing a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded, that means you like complicated stuff. Well you might like Realm, because this thrash is complicated as hell! This kind of complex technical thrash can be quite burdensome. The changing tempos and schizophrenic arrangements make for a difficult listen. The singer’s high-pitched warbling only intensifies the discombobulation. An album like Suiciety may only appeal to a small niche audience. For those willing to take the time to digest and “learn” the songs, this album maybe the only thing they need for a full year. Musicians may admire the technical proficiency on display, but average bums like myself who only want their socks rocked off may need to look elsewhere. I listened to this tape for a while but I realized I will never have the time to let this one fully sink in. I’m not gonna give it a score because I didn’t really give it a fair shake. If I wanted to study I would go get my high school diploma. Next.
Lord Tracy – Deaf Gods Of Babylon (1989)
This is my favorite tape in this bunch. Lord Tracy released this little-known album in 1989 on Uni Records (a sub-label of MCA Records). It is one of many now forgotten albums from the “hair” metal days. What distinguished Lord Tracy from their peers was their sense of humor and their experimental nature. There are a lot of different styles attempted on Deaf Gods Of Babylon, with some working and some completely missing their mark. The result is an album that is ridiculously inconsistent but a fun one nonetheless. Hey, it is a bit refreshing to come across an original band like Lord Tracy in a sea of late ’80s wannabe hair bands. In the end, they are no richer for it, but they should be commended for their independent spirit.
By the way, Lord Tracy’s singer was Terrence Lee Glaze, who was Pantera’s singer on their first three albums (as Terrence Lee).
I must say, the production on Deaf Gods Of Babylon is superb. The album sounds very robust with a heavy bottom end. The bass is boosted in the mix which is nice because the bass lines are very interesting at times. The album opens on a rather pedestrian note with an unoriginal rocker called Out With The Boys. The second track is a marked improvement, the funked up East Coast Rose. Side one also features the crackin’ Watchadoin’ and the absolutely sublime mellow gem Chosen Ones. Side two features two more well-crafted tunes; the pop-rocker In Your Eyes and the ballad Foolish Love. Unfortunately the end of side two kind of falls apart with Lord Tracy dicking around with too many joke songs and half-assed stuff. There is even a rap song. I wish they had used their energy to come up with two or three more serious compositions. Nevertheless, this is one I will definitely be upgrading to CD! My score: A
High Resolution Pics (click to enlarge):