Stage Dive: Favorite Metal Comeback Album?

Little bit late on this one, but hey! That’s what happens when you spend six hours editing and laying out a newsletter at work. (No word of a lie, that was my day today. Brains were mush by 2 PM.) Anyway, it’s Wednesday, so let’s get right to a new Stage Dive topic. We’ve got one that’s especially relevant this week, so let’s waste no further time. Our question is:

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE METAL COMEBACK ALBUM?

Def Leppard's "Hysteria" would have been an acceptable response if I'd asked for best POP comeback album. But nope, not the case.
Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” would have been my response if I’d asked for best POP comeback album. But nope, not the case.

I say “especially relevant” because as I type this, I’m listening to a rather excellent new album from UK industrial metal legends Godflesh–their first studio album in 13 years, and one that I’m very much looking forward to discussing on this week’s podcast. This, of course, is to say nothing of the fantastic comebacks we’ve already seen from Eyehategod and Behemoth this year, the forthcoming At the Gates record (itself a mere 19 years in the making) and the stellar returns we saw from Carcass and Gorguts last year. Seems like a great comeback records are all the rage, you guys!

But after a bit thinking a bit on this topic, I can really only answer this question one way. As much as I’ve enjoyed all of the above records–at least the ones that are available, anyway–my FAVORITE metal comeback album would have to be Iron Maiden‘s Brave New World.

iron-maiden-brave-new-world-album-cover

Technically, I guess this wasn’t so much a “comeback” album as a “return-to-form;” for better or worse, after vocalist Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith left the band in the early ’90s, Maiden decided to carry on with new Blaze Bayley and Janick Gers, respectively, rather than breaking up. I won’t pretend I’m old enough to have been around during the band’s ’80s heyday, or that I appreciated Dickinson and Smith’s return to the band nearly as much as anyone who was a fan back then. Hell, I wasn’t even listening to metal when this thing came out. But at the time I got into Maiden, this was their then-most-recent album, and thus the one I was drawn to after familiarizing myself with all the “Troopers” and “Wrathchilds” (“Wrathchildren?”) from their earlier discography.

And if I’m being honest…no, this thing isn’t perfect: “The Mercenary” is one of the stupidest Maiden songs ever; “Dream of Mirrors” is four or five minutes longer than it needed to be; I’ve never liked “The Nomad” as much as a lot of people; etc. etc. Is this the best comeback album a metal band’s ever put out? Hell no. But flaws and all, it’s my favorite. Why?

Because “The Wicker Man” is on a shortlist of Maiden’s best album opening tracks ever. Because “The Fallen Angel” is underrated as all hell and at the time was one of the band’s best pure rockers in several years. Because “Blood Brothers” is one of the prettiest, most moving metal tracks you’ll ever hear (even Gers’ solo is mint!). Because the tour supporting Brave New World yielded the band’s infamous Rock in Rio performance and DVD, which I watched religiously as an angsty middle schooler daring to be different. Plus, even if I can’t personally claim to have appreciated it at the time, can anyone deny the importance of the return of Dickinson and Smith to the fold?

Sorry, I’m not having it any other way. When you talk about comeback albums, Brave New World will always be the one I think of first. It’s not the best one we’ve ever seen, but it sure as hell isn’t one you can undermine lightly.

You know what to do now. Share yours in the comments and keep the discussion going!

-Dan

Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.

Stage Dive: Most metal “Lost” character?

So whether or not you actually watched ABC’s long-running mystery/adventure drama, Lost, (in spite of the show’s shortcomings down the stretch, I still say I did with a degree of pride) you’ve likely seen a ton of Internet ramblings this week about the show’s tenth anniversary, which was Monday. Reading some (okay, most) of these ramblings not only has me interested in a potential Lost re-watch down the road, but also got me pondering this week’s Stage Dive question, which is:

WHO’S THE MOST METAL CHARACTER ON LOST?

lost

Now if you didn’t watch the show, or the whole concept of a mysterious island doesn’t interest you…well, tough–I’m talking about it anyway. (Besides, Lost was always more about characters than concept anyway, as Grantland‘s Andy Greenwald put a lot more eloquently than I could hope to on this blog.) Regardless, there were tons of interesting characters with tons of interesting back stories (a drug-addicted former rock star, an estranged married couple, etc.)–each of which you couldn’t help but want to learn more about. And, ostensibly, each of which was “metal” or “not metal” to varying degrees. At least in my head.

So which one takes the cake here, then? Which Oceanic 815 survivor was the most metal of the bunch? There’s a totally obvious answer here: it’s The Man in Black.

man_in_black_wine

Now before I go into explaining why MiB is the answer, (aside from him not having an actual name and just being called “The Man in Black,” which would in and of itself qualify him) let’s briefly go into why I didn’t choose some of the other characters. Charlie, despite being in a band and having to deal with lots of personal demons, seems to have been modeled off one of the Gallagher brothers from Oasis. (And while I love Oasis, they’re most certainly not metal.) One of the first things we see Mr. Eko do on the show is beat Michael, Sawyer and Jin unconscious with a giant tree branch, which has him on the right track here–but then in his POV episode, we learn he’s actually a priest. Nope, no dice there, either.

Ultimately, the Man in Black (emphasized again because seriously, HOW AWESOME IS THE FACT THAT HE’S JUST CALLED MAN IN BLACK?) sets himself apart as most metal for a number of reasons. First off, black. Duh. Secondly, dude’s on a lifelong mission to kill his own brother–just try to tell me someone like Varg Vikernes wouldn’t get a big hard-on over an idea like that! Thirdly, he clearly has a set of powers that could be construed as occult, such as the ability to possess certain characters or just, you know, turn into a giant, all-consuming cloud of smoke at his leisure. Plus, there’s…you know, the whole, being a manifestation of “The Sickness,” as the article I linked to above outlines. That about seals it–easy decision here, folks.

Anyway, you know the drill. Share your thoughts below in the comments, and check back later for today’s Quickies!

-Dan

Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.

Stage Dive: Best “Odd Favorite Song” on an Album?

Generally speaking, it’s easy to pick out and gravitate toward an album’s strongest songs. Take Metallica’s “Creeping Death,” for example–while it may not be everyone’s favorite song on Ride the Lightning, it’s not unreasonable to assume most people would at least have it in their top two or three from the album, right?

But for today’s Stage Dive post, we’re going to delve into cases where one’s personal tastes run counter to popular opinion–where one’s favorite song on an album turns just about every head it comes across in discussion. Like someone saying their favorite song on Master of Reality is “Orchid” (not guilty!) or, in a non metal example, picking “Quiet” from Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream (guilty!). We’ve all got cases like that, so for this week’s edition of Stage Dive, I ask you this:

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE “ODD FAVORITE SONG” ON A METAL ALBUM?

SIASL

For those of you that couldn’t put two and two together based on the picture above, my pick is Iron Maiden’s “Stranger in a Strange Land,” off 1986’s Somewhere in Time.

I don’t know that anyone doesn’t at least like this song, but given the top-to-bottom strength of the material at play here, it often gets left behind in conversation. I mean, think about it: from “Caught Somewhere in Time” straight through to “Alexander the Great,” there really isn’t anything less than “really good” here. You’ve got live mainstays like “Wasted Years” and “Heaven Can Wait,” deep-cut classics like “Sea of Madness” and “Déjà Vu”–pretty much everything you could ask for in an ’80s heavy metal album.

And then…you have “Stranger in a Strange Land,” the album’s Adrian Smith-penned second single. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a weird one–particularly from a compositional standpoint. The intro riff is, admittedly, kind of bizarre. The song doesn’t have the kind of conventional structure–“verse” or “chorus” sections, or progression between said sections–that we’ve grown to love from Maiden over the years. It is, to sum up, not a leading contender in the “best song” game for most people. But it’s always been my favorite–not just on Somewhere in Time, but maybe even from Maiden, period. I love Smith’s terrific slow-paced-then-overdriven guitar solo. I love Steve Harris’s dun–da-da-dun–da-da bass groove at the beginning. Possibly my favorite part, though, is the…I guess you’d call it a “B-section,” if anything? Maybe a pre-chorus? Whatever–the part where Bruce Dickinson sings “What became of the man that started? / All are gone and their souls departed.” It’s just epic as all hell.

I realize it’s a weird favorite here, but that’s the point–and it’s always been mine. So there you have it. Now share out yours! Leave your responses in the comments and keep this conversation going!

-Dan

Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.

Stage Dive: Best Metal Band to Get Suspended For?

What’s that? A second consecutive football-related Stage Dive post? Yep, with just eight days left until the NFL’s regular season kicks off and having already completed two fantasy football drafts, I’m more than a little bit onboard and you should be too. If you’re not…just watch this; it’ll get you in the mood.

Anyway, today in football news came the announcement that the league is upholding wide receiver Josh Gordon’s year-long suspension for substance abuse. This got me wondering: what if listening to metal was a suspendable offense for our favorite ‘roided out jackhammers? Think about it–metal may be in a decent enough spot in public consciousness right now (thanks, indie blogs!) but think about 30 years ago, when the genre’s lewd and occult-based lyrical content brought it under major fire. Would it have been entirely inconceivable for then-commissioner Pete Rozelle to give into public pressure and outlaw the enjoyment of heavy metal in some sort of Ronald Reagan/Tipper Gore wet dream scenario?

(Okay, yes it probably is inconceivable. But I’d bet anything David Stern would have tried if he had the chance.)

At any rate, let’s throw plausibility aside for a second and assume it would be possible to get suspended for listening to metal. Did you throw your plausibility aside? Okay, good. Taking this hypothetical scenario into consideration, this week’s question is:

WHAT WOULD BE THE BEST METAL BAND TO GET SUSPENDED FOR LISTENING TO?

cooper smoke
Your author’s poor Photoshop skills at work

Now the way I see it, if you’re gonna get burned for listening to metal, you may as well go for broke. Why not go for the most extreme, morally repugnant, lyrically tasteless stuff you can find and just kick out the jams? So with that in mind, I think the choice here is obvious–you have to go with Aborted Fetus.

It’s hard to pick against these Russian deathsters when you factor in album titles like Goresoaked Clinical Accidents, and songs like “Postmortal Menstrual Secrete” or “Corp(se)oration of Gluttony.” I mean can you imagine an uptight sporting commissioner trying to read these names out loud? The drama he’d have to add to his inevitable suspension speech? Good lord, it’d be hilarious. (Also shitty, because, you know…someone would ostensibly be getting suspended for listening to it, but…) If you’re gonna go for the gusto, you simply have to get suspended for something like this. (We’d also accept Anal Cunt, God Dethroned, or a whole mess of others, it should be noted.)

Anyway, that’s our answer–tell us yours! Don’t forget to leave a comment for your Stage Dive responses!

-Dan

Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.

Stage Dive: Which Metalhead Would You Want on Your Football Team?

Football season is nearly here! Time for hundreds of overweight, ‘roided out lumberjacks to growl, tackle and play shovin’ buddies as they try and get a turd shaped ball over a line. If this isn’t your favorite time of year you haven’t lived! Anyway, coming in late–again, thanks, day job!–with this week’s topic, but it should be a fun one. For this week’s Stage Dive, we’d like to ask you:

WHICH METALHEAD WOULD YOU WANT ON YOUR FOOTBALL TEAM?

Former NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski, who once ripped off a teammate's helmet in practice and punched him in the eye socket. If ever you need someone to play Nathan Explosion in a movie, here's your guy.
Former NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski, who once ripped off a teammate’s helmet in practice and punched him in the eye socket. If ever you need someone to play Tim Lambesis in a movie, here’s your guy.

So with a question like this, there are a number of different ways you could go. D’you go with someone like Corpsegrinder? Maybe a fictional metalhead like Nathan Explosion? Nah, for me the answer’s pretty clear–it’s gotta be Testament frontman Chuck Billy:

chucjk

I mean, let’s think about this: we’ve got a guy who’s in a bitchin’ thrash band and continues to be absolutely FEROCIOUS on vocals after nearly 30 years. (Proof.) We’ve got a guy who’s beaten cancer and thus could probably beat the shit out of anything football related. (Yes, that includes Richard Sherman.) Plus, dude’s nickname is THE BIG MAN. If Chuck isn’t a guy you’d want your quarterback lining up behind, you’re a moron.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Jeff Hanneman (R.I.P.) – the late Slayer guitarist was a big Raiders fan, plus there’s no way in hell we’re including Kerry King on this list
  • Cronos – when Venom hit a lull in the ’90s, Cronos used the time to pursue his interest in bodybuilding.
  • Mike Portnoy – because every football team needs a guy who fumbles literally every time he touches the ball and serves as a morale-boosting punching bag

Anyway, that’ll do it. Any fun ideas on your end? Let us know in the comments!

-Dan

Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.