Friday, March 28, 2014

March 2014 - Under the Influence

Hey there, meant to update this while we were on the road, but... you know how things go on the road - Hangovers, layovers, fatigue, lack of internet... Anyway, we finally finished two back-to-back tours with the truly indulgent and most excellent dudes in Toxic Holocaust across the western half of the USA and the vast majority of the  European continent. We're going to be do something really weird next - take six months off touring (with the exception of the Scion Rock Fest in Pomona, California this May) so we'll actually get a bit of time to relax. Anyway, in between catching up on all the TV I've missed while on tour, I've been going through my computer and tidying up files and such (oh yeah, I know how to have a good time) and I came across something I wrote for a Finnish webzine called Imperiumi. They have a feature called "Pirun Tusina" (which translates to "the Devil's Dozen") where different musicians talk about the thirteen records that have had the biggest impact on them and their musical development.

I love this kind of thing and had a blast writing this up, and it turned out to be pretty long-winded. Anyway, I'm not sure if they ever did translate / post it, but I came across the document and thought I'd share it here. I doubt anyone who knows much about me or the band will be surprised at all, but, if you dig this kind of stuff, hopefully you'll find it a decent read. I'll be back with more new content, tablature and - yes, I have heard your numerous requests - I will resume the tour diaries. Anyway, enjoy this for now.

#1. Metallica Master of Puppets

I first heard this around Christmas of 1987. I had turned 12 a couple of months earlier and was gettting into Dio, Maiden, Ozzy, W.A.S.P., and all the requisite 80s mainstream / hair metal stuff. I tried one of those record club 12 cassettes for a penny deals (remember when that was a thing?) and Metallica was a name I had vaguely heard of somewhere, so I took a stab in the dark and ordered Master of Puppet (Peace Sells... But Who's Buying was also in there, which I added on the list because it had cool cover art). After I had sifted through all the stuff I got (Ozzy “Tribute,” Quiet Riot “Metal Health,” W.A.S.P.'s first album, Dio “Sacred Heart,” and a bunch of other stuff I've forgotten) I came to the Metallica and Megadeth tapes. I had saved these two for last, since they looked the most frightening and were unknown commodities. I was at my grandparents' for the holidays and was the last person awake. I remember sitting in the empty living room with the tree and all the presents and listening to music in the dark on my Walkman - that's where I first heard Metallica.

At first I thought, “This isn't a heavy metal tape, this like... Spanish music or something,” until that angular, aggressive verse riff emerged from one of the greatest build-ups in Metal history. When the drums kicked in, I was literally shocked. While I listened, alone in the dark, eyes closed, I literally felt like I was on the most intense roller-coaster ride of my life. When “Battery” ended, I had to stop the tape to catch my breath. I remember looking around the room in disbelief – something fucking amazing had just happened to me, something inside me had woken up – and I was a little surprised that the living room still looked the same, because I felt that things had become, well... fundamentally different than they had been before I heard that song. I took a moment to collect my thoughts, and then proceeded to get into the second track. I wasn't sure exactly what the lyrics were about, and I worried (the pitch-shifted laughter in the bridge actually frightened me at the time) that I would get grounded or something for listening to the record if my parents found out it was satanic (it wasn't). The title track ended and again, I stopped the tape to try and make some sense of what I'd heard. I decided that this record was completely worth the risk of getting grounded and that I would press on through the rest of the album. It was that revolutionary to me, that even listening to the record felt like an act of defiance. And it felt damn good.

A couple of weeks later I saw an issue of Hit Parader or whatever rock mag it was, and there were all these guys with huge hair and sparkly pants, and then there was Metallica and they were just... these four guys. They weren't puckering their lips for the camera – they were scowling, or laughing, or skateboarding. They didn't look like “rock stars,” they just looked like dudes from the nearby high school: ratty jeans; band t-shirts; leathers; puffy white hi-tops. When I saw them, I thought – “Maybe I could do that.” I had been thinking about picking up an instrument, but I never quite made the leap of trying it until I saw Metallica. I thought: “they're just regular guys, and they're blowing everybody else out of the water – no robot dragons, no hairspray, no music video, and they're the most interesting band on the scene. Fuck, if they can do it, why not me?” And so I did. And I'm still playing white guitars, wearing tight black jeans, sleeveless shirts, wristbands and high-tops 26 years later, so I'd say the influence can't really be overstated. So much of what I've done musically stems directly from that night in December 1987.

Even as an adult, I never, ever, ever get tired of listening to this album. Each song is great in its own right, and it has just the right mix of... well, everything. There's youthful aggression, thoughtful passages, touches of Cliff's emotive psychedelic influence, lyrics that are just deep / juvenile enough to stimulate a kid in school but not embarrass an adult, and of course, an endless array of the best riffs in the fucking universe. To me, this album (and to a lesser extent Ride The Lightning) epitomizes how great Heavy Metal can be. For every defiantly triumphal melody, there's a lumbering colossus of a riff or a straight-ahead, face-ripping Thrash section. These guys make using these seemingly disparate elements look easy. I could probably write 800 words on each song, but I'll leave it at this for now.

#2 Slayer Hell Awaits
After discovering Metallica and Megadeth, (who seemed to my young ears to be an inferior albeit enjoyable band to listen to when you were tired of Metallica) anything seemed possible in the realm of heavy music that was just opening up to me. And then... Enter Slayer. I got Reign In Blood first, and was of course overwhelmed by the speed and aggression (I even ruined the “listening to students' music one day a week in class” in Seventh grade by playing “Altar of Sacrifice” and shocking the “cool teacher” at school who was very nonplussed) but I ended up spending more time with Hell Awaits. Sure Reign went for the throat, but Hell Awaits was fucking scary.

I remember buying that cassette (I religiously bought everything on cassette back then, which I profoundly regret in hindsight) very distinctly. I was having a sleepover sometime during early 1988 at a buddy's house, and we went to the record store together where He bought Appetite For Destruction, and I bought Hell Awaits. Back at his dad's apartment, we compared purchases. As I listened to the Gn'R album (which I now completely love) I was cringing with disgust - all I heard was another generic MTV-ready glam band (again, that's a 12 year-old's opinion), but my buddy was totally into it. Then I popped in Hell Awaits and it was clear he just as bummed out with what he was hearing as I had been with Appetite. The next morning when I left his house, I knew that we would never hang out again. And we didn't. I got this feeling that I was on a different path- keep in mind I was twelve years old here, I was changing and everything seemed new and laden with significance – leading to someplace darker, faster and heavier than ever before. Hell Awaits was pointing the way.

This album is verging on pure Death Metal – especially for the time: the dark tremelo picked riffs, songs about hell, necrophilia, serial killers, vampires, and uh... well, amphetamines. Even the bass was audible in the mix! As much as I love Show No Mercy (I used to have it in my auto-reverse tape deck to play over and over while I slept), I feel like this is the album where Slayer became Slayer, or rather SLAAAAAAYER!!! This is the sound that defined their greatest moments, the sound of two guitars slashing and hacking instead of soloing, weaving minor riffs fraught with sinister atonality and quirky harmonies around Dave's breakneck drumming. They streamlined and perfected the formula on Reign In Blood, but give me the experimentation and the sinister feel of Hell Awaits any day. The rough-hewn production and not-quite-professional-yet vibe of the songwriting and instrumentation is something unique and very close to my heart.

#3 Exodus Bonded By Blood

I got Exodus' sophomore album, Pleasures of the Flesh sometime in early 1988. I liked it, but didn't fall in love with it. I think I had a lot of company in that analysis. The atrocious drum sound and hollow production didn't do the excellent songs any favors. That said, I liked it enough to get Bonded By Blood, which completely blew me away. It was the missing link between Kill 'Em All and Show No Mercy, but I think it's quite a bit better than either of those albums. When I hear that intro – I feel my blood pressure rise and the intense desire to just find someone to beat the shit out of. And it feels fucking good. By the time I heard this record I had a few thrash cassettes, and was getting a feel for what the genre was about. This record encapsulates what Thrash Metal is perfectly. It may be the quintessential Thrash album. 

It retains the classiness of pure British metal with Holt and Hunolt's articulate, melodc solos, but pairs it with the nastiness of those... fucking... riffs... Riff after riff just completely rules. Baloff's almost tuneless vocals sound like the roar of a guy you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. There's a palpable sense of danger and menace bristling through every aspect of the record, propelled  by the pummeling drum work of Tom Hunting, one of the most criminally underrated drummers in metal. His fills and fluid bass drumming animate riffs that would sound stale with the Lombardo Polka beat.

I love the lyrics to this album more than I can express. There's an arrogant cruelty and complete lack of taste throughout. It isn't about fighting glorious battles or killing your enemies, it's about stabbing people in the back and raping people's wives. There are absolutely no fucks given and no holds barred on this lyric sheet. The lack of refinement and sentiment is refreshing – there's no pretension there. Slayer used big words like “abascinate,” Exodus were okay with just saying “Bloody corpse, makes me feel great.” Because really, what else do you need to say?

I was talking to a friend from the crossover band What Happens Next? about Exodus years later, and before becoming a straightedge punk, he was a thrash kid and, being a bit older than I, attended the infamous “dead poseur” show at Ruthie's Inn in Berkeley - The show where the “Slay Team” (Exodus' entourage) dragged some random guy in a Ratt or Motley Crue shirt or whatever on stage and kicked his ass pretty badly. The show fell apart and the band left the stage, but the crowd remained behind, chanting “Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!” for several minutes. As he related that story, he ended with “...and that's why I got out of metal.” I simply responded, “That's why I got into metal.”

#4 Celtic Frost Morbid Tales

When I saw this tape in the record store, I had seen the band's name on a couple of compilations, but honestly, Celtic Frost didn't seem that cool of a moniker to me. It still sounds like the name of a soap (maybe Irish Spring's rival?) to me if I think about it objectively. But between the heptagram cover art and the cool song titles, I bought it anyway (I found a ton of great records that way, like The Force by Onslaught). As soon as “Into Crypts of Rays” kicked in... all thoughts of soap were banished. Now the words "celtic frost" could only mean Celtic Frost. The dark, dingy sound of the record was totally different from anything I'd heard before. The riffs remain the heaviest of all time, and this was done without down-tuning and in 1984. That blows my mind.

What made the album even more personal to me was that it was one of the few tapes I had at the time that I could actually play along with on guitar from start to finish. Sure, I knew all the riffs on Kill 'Em All, but it didn't sound like Kill 'Em All when I played it (crappily). But when I played “Nocturnal Fear,” it sounded like “Nocturnal Fear.” I spent so much time playing to this album, its style became engrained in my guitar-playing. By the time I heard Terrorizer and learned their power-chord sliding riffs, my first thought was - “Oh, it's like Celtic Frost, but 4 times as fast, I get it.”

Another thing I really liked about this record was that the cassette I bought had no information on it whatsoever beyond the cover art and song titles. I knew absolutely nothing about the band, the image, the lyrics, anything. That, coupled with the relentless heaviness of the music, the grimy recording, and those ubiquitous “unghs!” created a kind of personal mystique for me (that was promptly shattered when Cold Lake was released later that year). Despite Fischer's attempts to re-shatter it years later with his probably-too-candid autobiography, I can still recapture it when I hear those thunderous, graveyard shaking riffs and every previously “heavy” riff instantly sounds wimpy compared to Morbid Tales all over again.

#5 Venom Black Metal

In October of 1988, my best friend (then and now) and original Exhumed drummer, Col Jones handed me the Black Metal cassette and said “Happy Birthday.” We sat down and listened to “the band that Metallica started out opening for” as we knew them at that time and were blown away by what we heard. What drew me in was the hell-for-leather abandon of it all. Behind the inverted crosses, piles of amps, racks of endless toms, bombastic monikers, and excessive dry ice was something rare and beautiful – a great sense of humor. Any band that could write a song like “Teacher's Pet” and also help inspire teenagers in Norway to burn down churches over a decade later is clearly covering all the bases.

The sloppiness of the proceedings were extremely appealing to a na├»ve young guitarist struggling to master the main riff in “Pleasures of the Flesh.” It's a lot easier and more fun to just play “To Hell And Back,” where the verse riff is essentially two chords. I think by this time we felt comfortable listening to heavy music, because I remember grinning ear to ear when I heard this record. I felt like I was in on a brilliant, tongue-in-cheek farce. Slayer had already cured me of any religious beliefs, so the Satanic stuff had become pure theater for me at this point, titillating but no longer frightening; fear has been replaced by something purer – stimulation. Not sexual, but visceral. Once I saw The Ultimate Revenge, Venom fascinated me even more, and for a good number of years they were be my favorite band. I loved the bombast and the way they were able to make three guys playing sloppy Satanic proto-thrash seem like the biggest deal in the universe. It wasn't just the pyro and the explosions (although those helped), it was the band's swagger and attitude. A life-long love affair with Venom started on my 13th birthday and  continues to this day.

#6 Kreator Pleasure To Kill

Maybe Black Metal was more fun then scary, but there was no laughter in the room when I heard Pleasure To Kill the first time. I remember listening to this record in early '89 (still thirteen at the time) while eating cereal before leaving to catch the school bus. I sat there shoving honey nut cheerios into my cake-hole and thought “holy shit – this is faster than Slayer!” After randomly catching the “Toxic Trace” video on MTV's Headbanger's Ball, I had to get a Kreator album. Endless Pain was the one that was in stock at the record store around the corner from my house, but I hadn't quite found what I was looking for until I picked this one up.

All of a sudden I felt like there was a new level of speed available to bands, and I wondered why they weren't all playing this fast? Why wouldn't everyone want to scream on the verge of comprehensibility like Mille and Ventor do on this album? Why stop at Reign in Blood?!?!? The solos here make Slayer look like Eddie Van Halen, the drumming is off-time and sloppy, the toms sound ridiculous, and some of the riffs are so chromatic they almost accidentally wander into major keys. But who really gives a fuck when it sounds this powerful. This album sounds like it's about to explode out of your speakers and destroy everything in it's path. You feel like you almost have to get out of the way of this album, it's so aggressive. If I could sum this album up in one word, I'd say it's fucking mean. Even the sort of nice parts (the bridge in “Riot of Violence”) seem like a monster giving a girl flowers and accidentally crushing them in his hand and terrifying the girl anyway. There's an energy to this record that is uniquely powerful, and although I love all their early records, this one really pushed me to want to play faster, along with bands like S.O.D., D.R.I., and Cryptic Slaughter.

#7 Voivod Dimension Hatross

It wasn't all about speed and brutality, though (although it mostly was). There was room for something a bit more... dare I say cerebral? Voivod were always the most unique Thrash band, then and now, and Hatross was THE ONE. The record was completely different from its peers from the ground up: fueled by science-fiction concepts, broken English, and dissonant, off-kilter guitar-riffs, the instrumentalists of the band had three uniquely bizarre styles that interlocked in a way that sounded unlike anything else. Maybe if I was jamming Killing Joke, Die Kreuzen, and King Crimson in 1988, I would have had some frame of reference for what I was hearing, but I had never heard of any of those bands yet. I was still popping zits listening to Slayer.

The record brought something really appealing to me personally, a long-time comic book and science-fiction reader - a heady and interesting concept that had nothing to with Satan or any other Metal cliches. There was no treading of the same old waters here – the paradigm wasn't shifted, but shattered. Still retaining the heaviness and aggression of their early years and just beginning to tap into the progressive futurism of the Nothingface era, the band was (and still is) light years ahead of their time. I think this album sounds as innovative and unique in 2013 as it did in 1988. I loved the fact that everything was centered around this weird concept that they could take it in these strange new directions. Best of all, there's an unassuming aspect about this album: in that it's technical and skronky without being showy about it. The music sounds how it's supposed to sound: expressive and personal, whereas most “progressive” or “technical” music sounds stale, contrived and overthought. This is Voivod sounding like themselves: unique and untouchable.

#8 Sodom Persecution Mania

Growing up in the Bay Area, even a thirteen year-old could figure out that Metallica, Exodus, Testament, et al were pretty fucking popular in 1989. As much as I loved (and still love) the Bay Area Thrash movement, I wanted something faster and more brutal. I wanted that same adrenaline rush that I got the first time I heard “Battery.” Like any addict, I just needed more. Sodom seemed like Kreator's crueler little brother. When this cassette landed in my circle of friends it exploded like the nuclear bomb sound effect in “Nuclear Winter.”

There's not really anything innovative or ground-breaking going on this album, it just kicks fucking ass. Witchhunter's endless tom fills rain down like a hail of bombs (a “Bombenhagel” - see what I did there?), Angelripper's sneering growl spits out tales of Armageddon with a movie-villain German accent, and Blackfire's guitar work borders on tasteful (especially in comparison with Kreator's solos) adding a sheen of “musicality” to the proceedings. The cover art alone is worth buying the album for. We spent lots of time in our parents' living rooms plodding through cover versions of “Persecution Mania” and “Bombenhagel” (as well as “Riot of Violence”) in 1989 and I haven't stopped spinning this record (or many of their other ones) since.

#9 Death Scream Bloody Gore

With Kreator and Sodom releasing brilliant but comparatively safe sounding records in 1989 (Extreme Aggression and Agent Orange respectively) it was time to look elsewhere for brutality: Florida. The first time I heard SBG I was actually a little confused by the extremity and the basement-level production. After repeated listens I got it: this album was the deranged, bloody audio equivalent of the B- horror films I loved. Chuck's voice sounded like someone was literally torturing him while he played, and the riffs were a less developed version of what Slayer had done, but still unique. I quickly set to work learning every single fucking riff on the album and we added “Sacrificial,” “Mutilation,” and “Infernal Death” to our semi-competent repertoire of cover songs. 

I remember xeroxing the lyric sheet in the CD (I only had the tape) so that I could pour over couplets like “Vomit for a mind, maggots for a cock.” Once again, there was an element of cruelty to the music. Completely un-PC (and probably regrettable in hindsight) lyrics like “I celebrate, a faggot's death, human disgrace” were actually shocking. I thought after Slayer and Venom there was no shocking me. Wrong. Another friend of ours had “Leprosy” which is obviously the better album in all respects, but I loved SBG more, then and now, and not just because I could play all the riffs at thirteen. Even after honing my playing and getting down the Leprosy (and eventually Spiritual Healing) stuff, the more straightforward arrangements and willfully atrocious lyrics somehow had wormed their way into my heart and have stayed there ever since. One of the greatest pleasures of my Metal "career" was playing and singing "Zombie Ritual" with Gene Hoglan and other Death Alumni at Neurotic Deathfest. Talk about surreal. 

#10 Napalm Death The Peel Sessions

The first time I heard Napalm Death was towards the end of 1989 and I hated them. It was a bunch of racket. It was garbage. Questions arose like: “Is this even music? What the fuck was wrong with them? Why would anyone want to make that sound?” And then, inevitably came the next sentence: “But... play it again.” I wanted the fastest, the most brutal band in the world, and I had finally found them. Within a few months, they went from “the dumbest band ever” to being my favorite band. More than any other extreme band, they represented a paradigm shift in my musical tastes and identity. Just as Metallica and Slayer made listening to Cinderella un-fucking-thinkable, Napalm Death ended up doing the same thing to Metallica and Slayer.

As much as I love (pretty much all) the band's proper records, this recording just shocked me and made such a massive impression. The drumming literally just sounds like an explosion, while the riffs benefit from that distinctive late 80s Bill Steer guitar tone and his great Reek Of Putrefaction-era whammy bar antics make a few appearances too. At the time I heard this record, my friends and I had already been talking about forming a proper band, but before long our original drummer Col and I were holding our own practices where we were free to pursue our love of blast beats. The other guys were still listening to stuff like Coroner, and we were ready to embrace the bash-and-crash style popularized by Mick Harris and the lads.

#11 Carcass Symphonies of Sickness

By summer of 1990, my pimply-faced friends and I were knee deep in Death, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower and Entombed. Earache stuff was still really difficult to find in record stores (for a fourteen year-old anyway), but on a trip to San Francisco with my parents, a quick stop at Tower Records allowed me to locate the Symphonies LP. I didn't have a record player, so I had to listen to the album in the living room on my parent's record player. It's worth mentioning that I had to listen to it on headphones, since there was no way in hell my dad would let me play the god-awful noise I was into at full volume on his stereo (I would buy blank tapes and record LPs onto cassette immediately, then shelve the LP). I remember opening the gatefold and being blown away by the intricately morbid photo collage. As the brief intro slithered to a conclusion and “Reek Of Putrefaction” kicked in, I was not exactly hooked yet. The lyrics were printed in crappy blue font directly onto the gatefold collage and between that and the medical terminology, it was impossible to figure out what the hell they were. My initial thought was that it was like early Napalm Death gone Death Metal. That of course, doesn't even begin to cover it.

The lyrics were what hooked me in first. I've always been a reader, my mom was a nursing professor so the medical aspect was resonant, and the large words created an insular nerdiness to being into the band that I wholeheartedly embraced. A couple months later I saw the band open for Death and Pestilence in Oakland. They were the first established band on Earache to play in the Bay Area (as far as I know), and finally hearing guitars tuned that low and blast beats in person pushed my friends and I fully into playing the more extreme stuff. That was when everything clicked for me - that this band was fucking amazing, not just an interesting stream of weird words. On the ride home that night, after being blown away by Carcass, very, very impressed by Pestilence and disappointed by Death (the band only played a few songs as fill-in guitarist Albert Gonzalez of Evildead had insufficient time to learn the material), we decided to merge our bash-and-crash sessions with our proper “songs” and thus the concept for Exhumed was crystallized in the back seat of a Honda Civic on October 14th, 1990 in Oakland.

#12 Repulsion “Horrified”

When you're a bit of a nerd and obsessed with bands, a natural question that arises is "what are my favorite bands' favorite band?" In 1990, my favorite bands were Napalm Death and Carcass, and in both cases the answer to the above question seemed to be Repulsion. After being intrigued but not blown away by their track “Radiation Sickness” on the Grind Crusher compilation, I tracked down the “Horrified” CD, and... almost didn't buy it because Matt Olivo was wearing a Tina Turner shirt in the band photo. For whatever reason, I pressed on and bought it, and holy shit, am I glad I did. After realizing that Napalm had nicked the opening riff to “Stench Of Burning Death” (for their Peel Sessions version of "Deceiver") I started paying close attention. 

I realized by reading the liner info that everything was recorded in 1986, was was (and still is) astounding. The record manages to combine Death Metal and Grindcore before most people even credit either of those genres as existing. I still think that this is the single most intense Death Metal or Grindcore album ever recorded, period. It has the killer Slayer / Death type riffs, with the snarl and attitude of Discharge, Celtic Frost and Slaughter and the speed of... well, no one else at the time.
Behind all the intensity is some quality guitar work from Matt Olivo, another criminally underrated player, and some genuinely catchy riffs and arrangements. Even their shortest song, “Pestilent Decay” at 1:05 is still a proper song, with hooks and some kind of musical development. The solos flail wildly against the ceaseless battering that Dave Grave inflicts on his drum kit, all beneath the sneering vocals of Scott Carlson, who manages to infuse Death Metal vocals with attitude. 

That's the thing that really sets this album apart and keeps it sounding fresh. If it were simply “the fastest demo of 1986” it would be a novelty. But it's chock full of great songs and a swaggering, sarcastic rock and roll attitude that is so sadly lacking in modern metal. It's no wonder the American metal scene wasn't ready for this band in 1986, they were years ahead of everyone else and remain totally unique.

#13 Autopsy Severed Survival

Every summer as a kid I would spend a couple of weeks with my grandparents (until I got a job in 1991 when I was 15). The last summer I spent with them was the summer of 1990. I spent most of my time at their house by myself in their spare bedroom with a downtuned Epiphone Les Paul learning the riffs on Severed Survival and attempting the solo in “Gasping For Air”- still one of my favorites. If any band makes me think of the adjective “sick” it's Autopsy. The lurching doom riffs on the album are literally the sound of a chill creeping down your spine and vomit creeping up into your throat. 

I know it's Death Metal, but this record sounds really fucking alive. It feels like you're in the room with the band, the oppressive heaviness of the riffs closing in around you like a coffin lid shutting. Chris' vocals literally sound like he's throwing up the entire time, and Stevie D's croaking bass adds a level of real depth missing on every Death Metal from record from Florida of the era.

Just as I thought I was getting away from “rock and roll” and into something much more extreme and dark, the solos on this album showed me that it's all still rock and roll. There are deranged pentatonic leads everywhere, keeping things loose and nasty, when the entire genre was moving towards being tighter and tidier. They've never walked that path, and my ears are extremely grateful for that. The first “real” show Exhumed ever played was opening for Autopsy in January of 1992 (our fourth or maybe fifth overall) and just watching them soundcheck was electrifying. The fact that they were cool guys who were nice to the sixteen-year old nerds playing with them makes that night even more special.
Honorable mentions:
Sepultura Beneath the Remains - the perfect Death / Thrash metal crossover
Entombed Left Hand Path - the perfect template for Swedish Death Metal
Possessed Seven Churches - the blueprint for Death Metal
Bathory Under the Sign of the Black Mark - an album so evil I literally hid it from my parents
Bolt Thrower Realm of Chaos - the grungiest riffs paired with blissfully nerdy cover art
The Cure Pornography - the most fun you'll ever have feeling completely depressed
Sonic Youth Daydream Nation - dissonance that's both jarring and fragile
My Bloody Valentine Loveless - a whirlwind of obscure, beautiful sounds
The Swans White Light From the Mouth of Infinity - the most depressing album of all time
N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton - the hip-hop Reign in Blood
Beastie Boys License to Ill - the ultimate party record and the first cassette tape I ever bought with my own money