I’ve started listening to a lot of Thrash. I don’t usually listen to a lot of Thrash. Not since I was about 15 or 16. But, ever since then, it has been a component of my listening. I have my favourites.
Metallica’s Ride The Lightning, Slayer’s Reign In Blood, the first few Megadeth albums…early Anthrax, the “Big Four” as they’re known.
I’m not – overly – a metal guy. But I’m also not not a metal guy. And it was such a bloody good time getting the lead out the other week that it has continued. I’m not even sure how it happened, but I thought I’d work through the Metallica catalogue from the start – and found Kill ‘Em All far more thrilling than I had last remembered. After that I just started dabbling back in some very old news. Sepultura’s Roots was so very good. Better than I had ever known it (and I didn’t actually know it super well).
The roots of heavy metal are in things like Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, obviously Black Sabbath in particular and then you can go to slightly lesser-known things like Blue Cheer and even the Johnny Burnette Rock’n’Roll Trio. These are all things I love very much. I still dig AC/DC. I’m never too far from a lot of hard rock – but metal isn’t a staple part of the musical diet most weeks.
But not it is again. And it’s wonderful.
The best thing about it – being a nerd that lists a lot of what I listen to on social media (album cover pics on my Instagram as I’m going, names of albums and artists on the Twitter as I remember, and a whole Facebook page basically devoted to music) – was the encouragement I got from only-slightly baffled onlookers.
Metal is a community. A very accepting community. And old-school Thrash fans came out to play, sharing the first Metallica album they bought, to tell me to check out things like Kreator and to remember Testament too, not just “the big four”; to listen to Exodus, and not just because Kirk was snaffled up by Metallica but because Bonded By Blood was and still is a Bay Area Thrash Metal Classic!
Geez, it was good though, having this help. No sarcasm. I checked out not only Roots but also Arise by Sepultura. Because several people told me it was their best. (And they probably aren’t wrong).
Someone hoped I wasn’t on a Thrash metal listening jag out of irony. And I said that I never do anything ironically. At least, I don’t think so, eh…
Someone else said they’d been a huge Thrash fan in their teens but couldn’t quite imagine a week of the listening I had had. Even back then. Well it’s still going.
Others probably still consider this effort that of a lightweight. And it will stop. Again. But I’ve opened a portal I thought was sealed off to me. What I have found is that thrash metal is very good for focussing you for work. Very good on headphones. Very good when no one else is around to either be grumpy about it or cynical of it or just not at all in enjoyment of it.
And it was wonderful to have such encouragement from the social channels. Such knowledge. It reminds you of the power of community. And more than that, it’s good to have hints and reminders of the ‘good side’ of social media. Ten years ago, it felt like such a fun tribe. These days, not always so much.
The other thing that continues to be interesting is how easy it is to listen to a lot of this stuff – some for the first time, some for the first time in years…
Easy, in that it didn’t feel all that heavy. It just (mostly) felt (and sounded) good.
Way back, in the very early 1990s, as a devotee of Guitar World magazine, I remember an interview with Jeff Beck where he said that all music could be heavy, not just metal. And he added that he’d heard jazz played heavier than the heaviest of metals.
I loved that.
Because as a young jazz fan I often thought of this mind-blowing music as so heavy in the way it burrowed to the soul. And some of my friends caught up only in rock and metal thought that jazz was just a maths problem, or some tight musical knitting. It was only nerdy and uncool. It was dated and/or they just didn’t have the facility for it.
Listening from jazz to the far tougher and wilder free jazz variant, and from there to a lot of experimental/noise music (which is often linked to metal in some way) I found a lot of the 80s and early 90s Thrash (the era/s I love and remember fondly) quite lightweight if anything. Certainly very accessible. More than it had ever been.
Megadeth’s Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? absolutely blasting from my distorted, busted car speakers. It might as well be George Benson. I’m in the home office working with Anvil’s Metal on Metal rolling out like it’s Loaded by The Velvet Underground (well, not quite), or walking through town with Anthrax’s debut in my ears, sounding like, well, like Anthrax’s debut…because that record doesn’t even really sound like anything else the band went on to do and become. But you get the point, maybe?
And to celebrate that point, I made a playlist of some of my Thrash favourites from the week.
Since then I’ve added a bunch more to my listening – but nothing else to the playlist. I actually feel that thrash is about full albums. Not about highlights or compilations. It’s about an artist’s aggression in and of that moment. And the albums play out like horror films or graphic novels or other books or movies. A thematic element is there. Hovering. Or it’s stamped all over the thing in huge, unsubtle brushstrokes. Either way, metal is an album-based genre. I say that, acknowledging that I’m an album-listener for the most part. But I do still dig my wee playlist. And thought you might too.
And I’m loving thrash. Working through the catalogues of all of the “Big Four” and adding Pantera and Overkill and a few others into the mix.