Thursday, August 13, 2020

5 Black Rock and Heavy Metal Albums to Check Out.

January 11, 2020 by  
Filed under Ent., Music, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( We’re back on Black rock music! Last time, we looked at some Black frontmen of a few renown bands. In that article and our article on Black rock bands, I also mentioned albums to check out. Now we’re going to do a quick dive into five of those albums from both so that you know what to expect—if you haven’t checked them out yet.

Thin Lizzy – Thunder and Lightning (1982, Heavy Metal)

Thunder and Lightning is a good introduction to heavy metal. Thin Lizzy, led by vocalist/bassist Phil Lynott, played hard rock for most of their career. There were always flashes of heavy metal as the late 70s rolled around and Thunder and Lightning, the band’s final album, is considered the boys’ first and only heavy metal album.

I tend to agree. It’s more heavy than hard and it hits you from the start. Thunder and Lightning cools you down with “The Sun Goes Down” only for you to be hit with a quartet of strong songs. Lyrically, you’re getting songs about life, love, and view on religion. You’re not getting an aggressive or offensive album here.

I enjoy Thin Lizzy but this album and Black Rose: A Rock Legend are the only two Thin Lizzy albums I’ll instantly re-start to listen through again. And now for the hard part—standout songs.

Standout Songs: “Holy War”, “Cold Sweat”, and “Heart Attack”

Bad Brains – Rock for Light (1983, Hardcore Punk/Reggae)

One of my favorites! Early 1980s Bad Brains played a form of really fast, aggressive punk called hardcore punk. They also ventured into reggae during this period.

If you want a textbook tone shift, there are songs like “Sailin’ On”, “Supertouch”, and “Banned in D.C” which are blistering fast songs punctuated by H.R’s frantic vocals. Then you have the reggae tracks such as “Rally ‘Round Jah Throne” and “I and I Survive” which slow things down and feature a different vocal performance.

It’s not unusual to have tone shifts on albums but when an album opens and rides so hard with a particular pace that it becomes the vibe of the album, sometimes tone shifts really stand out. I’m someone who prefers faster, aggressive songs so this hit a lot of the spots to the point that the slower-paced reggae songs didn’t seem out of place.

Of the albums on this list, Rock for Light is a hard “Must Listen” album.

Standout Songs: “Sailin’ On”, “I and I Survive”, and “Banned in D.C”

Sound Barrier – Speed of Light (1986, Speed Metal/Heavy Metal)

I don’t know what happened to Sound Barrier in that three-year period between their debut Total Control and the release of Speed of Light but it was a great thing! This album burns at a fast pace for most of the 36 minutes but it has its heavy moments.

Speed of Light hits that need for speed and screeching vocals whereas Total Control was heavier. Vocals are my favorite instrument and I enjoy hearing singers do different things with their voice. Bernie K’s vocals at this time were incredible. He could screech or hit you with some high-pitched singing such as on “Speed of Light” or give you something epic sounding like on “Fight for Life”.

There’s a Judas Priest—an extremely important metal band formed in the late 1960s—influence here and I love it. If you’re looking for something that touches on life but also give you some sci-fi and fantasy or just something different but familiar, check out Speed for Light. It’s a good introduction to old school heavy metal as well.

Standout Songs: “Fight for Life”, “Gladiator”, “Hollywood (Down on Your Luck)” (Thin Lizzy cover)

King’s X – Out of the Silent Planet (1988, Progressive Rock/Metal)

If you’ve ever listened to Rush, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, and so on you’d be familiar with the progressive rock sound. It’s known for ridiculously tight instrument playing and sometimes ridiculously long songs. It’s one of the subgenres where it’s easy to get turned off listening to it. Especially when the songs are lengthy and focus is on near perfect playing.

That said, progressive rock in the late 1980s mixed a bit with heavy metal and turned up something worth checking out. King’s X is one of those bands that jumped between straight up prog-rock and progressive metal, so they’re a bit hard to describe.

What I can tell you is that Out of the Silent Planet is a strong album. It wasn’t mentioned in previous articles but this trio plays tight songs that don’t float over into being mechanical or too perfect. It’s prog-rock that does make me go “Okay, that is enough” halfway through. As a matter of fact, King’s X is one of those bands where I notice the entire band instead of say the lead singer or the guitarists.

This trio makes sure everyone stands out on performances and Out of the Silent Planet is prime example of this.

Standout Songs: “Power of Love”, “What Is This?”, and “Visions”

Witch Mountain – Witch Mountain (2018, Doom Metal)

This is a new album I didn’t mention in either article. Witch Mountain is a Portland-based doom metal band. Doom metal is often slower-paced metal with an emphasis on the bass guitar. Lyrically, songs are often about the occult, horror, space, and psychedelia.

As a matter of fact, imagine Jimi Hendrix playing “Purple Haze” slower, singing slower, and letting the bass guitar really ride. You’re in the ballpark. The reason I included Witch Mountain is that this particular album features Kayla Dixon, an extremely talented singer with a jazz background who became their lead singer before she turned 20.

Having listened to previous WM albums, they’ve always delivered a tight album that would have your mind wandering with the music. Everything kind of swirled together whereas Kayla’s performance on the self-titled album stands out. This could just be that songs were structured around her vocal ability but she displays a lot on this album.

Standout Songs: “Midnight” and “Nighthawk”

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.

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