It’s time to talk some Metal trash. Here are the rules of the game:
- Single out an absolute masterpiece of an album. A timeless release that will endure until the end of time, full of brilliant songs and priceless treasures. We’re talking desert-island-disc material.
- Now identify the flaws in these diamonds. We don’t want the merely mediocre or forgettable; we want the stuff that is noticeably bad.
Pre-emptive counterpoint for all you haters: the point of this article is to address that even the greatest artists are still fallible. No one is Rock n’ Roll Midas, turning every single recording to gold. Give songwriters a fucking break. Give yourself a fucking break. Give me a fucking break.
To be clear: I’m not picking on terrible artists or even low points in great careers. I’m absolutely not attacking these great artists over the songs listed below – – some of my all-time favorites – – just having some harmless fun with these bricks.
“Escape” – Metallica – Ride the Lightning
Even Metallica don’t like “Escape.”
This is a go-to pick when naming bad songs from great artists at their peaks. Impossible to bang your head or rock out to, the awkward cadence would make for the most disjointed moshpit ever. It also almost gets comical hearing young James Hetfield testing the lower limits of his vocal range on the bridge. “See them try to bring the HAMMER DOWWWN.”
It was weird hearing Apocalyptica do a live, all-cello cover of “Escape,” but even that alternate approach couldn’t save this clunker. No harm, no foul, though; it was just a failed experiment of a song, hurriedly written in the studio, according to James. “Ride the Lightning” is still musical perfection, in spite of “Escape.”
“Quest For Fire” – Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
Another one of the easiest targets when naming terrible songs from great bands. Right from the opening lyric: “In a tiiiime when dinosaurs walked the earth,” which leads to vocalist Bruce Dickinson hitting a super awkward shriek in the next line, you know you’re in for some goofy shit. “QFF” is not just a lyrical abomination; the whole musical experiment is a failure. There is some germ of potential in the chorus, but it’s never given a chance to grow. “Piece of Mind” is a 10 out of 10 album, but “Quest for Fire” should have been doused.
“Invaders” – Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast
Yes, yes, I know. Another Maiden song. There are people who sorta-like “Invaders.” I’m not one of them. Bruce Dickinson’s tenure in Iron Maiden would go on to be transcendent, but as the first track on his first Maiden album release, “Invaders” was an ignominious recorded debut, to say the least.
The song actually gets off to an excellent start. Then the verse is. . . fine. But then, the chorus hits and everything falls apart. If they could release “Invaders 2.0” with an improved refrain, this tune could be salvaged. As it is. . . no. “I don’t think it’s one of my strongest songs, really.” – – Steve Harris.
Of course “Invaders” doesn’t drag down “The Number of the Beast” – – which is widely regarded as one of the greatest Heavy Metal albums of all time.
– – Side note: many pick “Gangland” as the polished turd on “TNotB,” but I’m in the minority who think that song is great. There’s no shame in being the weakest cut on an album side with “The Number of the Beast,” “Run to the Hills,” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name.”
“The Time is Coming” – Testament – Practice What You Preach
Testament have released a few albums that would rank highly on any “Tops of All Time” lists, and “Practice What You Preach” would be among them. This record doesn’t get enough love. There are one or two forgettable tunes on PWYP, sure, but “The Time is Coming” is memorably ridiculous. Chuck Billy’s voice could muster legions, but he comes off sounding silly in the chorus. Alex Skolnick’s leads are killer, but otherwise, I don’t know, I think this song has gone to hell.
“Silent Scream” – Slayer – South of Heaven
The title track, which opens the album, is one of the greatest Metal songs. Ever. That riff is pure evil. The song is a captivating experience, featuring Araya’s voice and Hanneman’s songwriting at their best – – escalating to a climactic close, ringing out with this eerie, lingering mononote, like a crashed heartbeat. Your own blood pressure is up, you’re amped with anticipation. . .
. . . And then the most offensively uninteresting song imaginable comes on. Bland tunes are tolerable. Great albums are allowed to have filler – – but this one is unforgivable. Honestly, its putrescence actually does drag down the entire “South of Heaven” album experience for me. This record is loaded with gems, but instead of one of those, they put “Silent Scream” in the pivotal second spot, following “South of Heaven’s” world-smashing opening. “Silent Scream” is what they meant by the “loss of all hope and your dignity.” Oh well, the album redeems itself soon enough, especially with “Mandatory Suicide” and “Spill the Blood.”
OK, I’ll stop at those five. More tough love to come in future columns. Let me know if you have any suggestions.
And hey, maybe you disagree. Maybe you like some of the songs I’ve just roasted. Cool – – more power to you. Just hold my spot if the band plays them live. I’m gonna hit the bar or the men’s room or maybe the t-shirt stand.
Jack Mangan is best known in the Metal world as the co-host of the popular Metal Hall of Fame and MetalAsylum.net livestreams with Rich Catino. He’s also the lead author/project runner for the “Am I Evil?” graphic novel and a journalist with MetalAsylum.net and the official Metal Hall of Fame. In an adjacent life, he was a podcast pioneer, with numerous appearances on Technorama, Dragon Page, Escape Pod/Pseudopod, and many others, including his own productions: Jack Mangan’s Deadpan, and the Podcast novel, “Spherical Tomi.” Friend him on Facebook if you can find him, but be warned: he’s not great about checking Facebook Messenger.