Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rocktober Album #14: Metal Massacre Volume One (1982)

Back in the early '80s, American metal was still in its infancy, drawing from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, classic metal and hard rock, and even punk. Metal Blade Records, an independent metal label based in California, decided to put out a compilation of songs by unsigned metal bands. The result was 1982's Metal Massacre. (Only now is it referred to as volume one, since there have been a total of 13 Metal Massacre compilations released.)

Metal Massacre has an interesting history. Most notably, this is the first time the world heard a fledgling band from the Bay Area called Metallica, who contributed "Hit the Lights." Metal Massacre had two pressings, one in 1982 and another in 1984. When it was first pressed in 1982, it had ten songs, including "Tell the World" by then-unsigned Ratt, and "Cold Day in Hell" by fellow Sunset Strip rockers Steeler. Also, Metallica was misspelled in the first pressing as "Mettallica."

The album was then pressed a second time in 1984. The second pressing – which is the one I have – has only nine songs, dropping "Tell the World" (presumably because the song was, by then, on Ratt's debut album Out of the Cellar) and replacing "Cold Day in Hell" with "Chains Around Heaven" by Black 'N' Blue. In addition, Metallica re-recorded "Hit the Lights" because James Hetfield was unhappy with the version on the first pressing. This second pressing version of "Hit the Lights" features Dave Mustaine on lead guitar, obviously before he was booted from the band and went onto form Megadeth.

Some of the songs sound particularly dated or a little too "screamy," while some of the songs are very solid. You can definitely see the bands trying to find their bearings as they attempted to create what would become American heavy metal. It's an interesting mix. The album is available at Amazon for only $6.98, which I think is a pretty good deal for a piece of metal history. I didn't even bother attempting to find any of the songs on, but you can hear samples by clicking on the Amazon link in the previous sentence.

1. Chains Around Heaven - Black 'N' Blue
Black 'N' Blue is one of those bands that just never quite hit it big, which is too bad considering the promise they showed on "Chains Around Heaven." It's a really solid, catchy, relatively straightforward hard rock song. The band was recently inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. Guitarist Tommy Thayer is now, as you may now, in Kiss, playing the part of Ace Frehley.

2. Live for the Whip - Bitch
This song is an ode to sadomasochism, which has a driving riff and nice beat. The lead singer, the aptly named Betsy Bitch, sounds like she is straining to keep up in some places. Other than that, it's a pretty good song. An interesting tidbit: Bitch was the first ever female-fronted American heavy metal band to sign with a record label. Also, the band was a target of Tipper Gore's censor-geared PRMC because of their sadomasochistic themes. As predicted, the publicity spiked the band's sales.

3. Captive of Light - Malice
This song sounds like a slightly harder NWOMBH song. It's pretty good, and it is the first of several songs on the album that seem to disparage lightness. Malice, of course, went on to mild fame due to their performance in the Judge Reinhold-Fred Savage vehicle, Vice Versa.

4. Octave - Avatar
And you thought the word "avatar" was a recent creation. I just hope James Cameron paid the band for use of their name. This song is an instrumental, and it rocks.

5. Death of the Sun - Cirith Ungol
This is one of those "screamy" songs I was talking about. Musically, the song is a fine example of early American metal, but the vocals are what I would describe as banshee-like. It's hard to take the song seriously as a result. I should expect nothing less from a band who took their name from a place in The Lord of the Rings novel that means "Pass of the Spider" in Elvish.

6. Dead of the Night - Demon Flight
This song starts out with a nice dark guitar and bass riff, which gives the impression that the song is going places. Then the lead singer steps in sounding like a castrato, making this song another one that didn't stand the test of time very well. To its credit, it does have a great guitar solo.

7. Fighting Backwards - Pandemonium
I would liken this song to early Mötley Crüe, with different sounding vocals -- kind of a harder hair band song. It has a gritty feel to it, and a nice little drum solo in the middle. From what I gather, fighting backwards is not as advantageous as fighting forwards.

8. Kick You Down - Malice
Two Malice songs on one compilation?! Indeed. This song has a great riff and great guitar work in general. It's just a good metal song.

9. Hit the Lights - Metallica
Like I said, this is the second version of the song. After a drum crashing intro, the band just slaps you in the face with a blinding riff, a breakneck beat, and a glimpse of what would become thrash metal. What always strikes me about this song is James Hetfield's vocals. His voice sounds so different than it does now (or even a year or so after the song was recorded). It's much higher and less of a growl. Regardless, the song is fantastic. I particularly enjoy Mustaine's guitar solo, and I'm sure he'd be willing to tell you about how he can play it better than Kirk Hammett.

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