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Judgement Night vs The Crow - Round 3
Rappers and Metalheads are all Punks at heart
Last weeks post showed us two of the strongest tracks on both soundtracks. ‘Burn’ is also, in my opinion, one of the heaviest tracks on either/both albums. Sure, it’s not metal. There’s no down picking or real power chords. But thematically and in execution it’s a heavy tune. That was the skill of The Cure. The Cure aren’t metal. They’re barely rock. They are certainly not Goth rock or Goth metal. They are a bunch of Goths that play ‘The Cure’ music. They are masters of nuance. If we’re talking genre, which I’m always queasy about doing, they are technically an evolution of punk music. Sometimes the evolutionary trail in genres is simple to find. Chuck Berry - The Rolling Stones - AC/DC etc. Other times, not so much.
What is easy, is connecting the dots between Punk and Metal. The Exploited started as a punk band and then ended up as a metal band. Formed in 1979 in Edinburgh, The Exploited were basically in the second wave of punk (The New York Dolls and Ramones etc were well before them). This performance below is from 1981. This is around Motörhead time also. You can hear some similarities.
By the late 80s The Exploited sounded more like a Thrash Metal band with Punk heritage. This genre is called Crossover thrash and is hugely diverse including such wildly different acts like Suicidal Tendencies and Corrosion of Conformity (who themselves now have a doom metal following).
I'm not going to write a full on manifesto about Punks here as they are as wildly diverse as any sub culture. Punk doesn’t care about your politics, but yet expounds themes like Anarchism, Anti-Police sentiment, the injustices of inequality, and the savagery of War. The word Fuck is said a lot. The music is usually fast and abrasive. Punks wore torn denim, or studs. They wore defaced Union Jacks or even Swastikas.
It’s a gender neutral grandparent of Rap and Thrash Metal. Critics of both genres will point to racist lyrics, nazi-imagery, and violent-symbolism as problematic. Both genres do indeed have their issues in this regard, but all too often groups like The Exploited were labelled as right wing extremists when they quite obviously Anarchists. If you’re an extreme right of centre punk, then you’re just plainly an asshole.
For the Judgement Night soundtrack Gangsta-Rap legend Ice-T was paired with a controversial (to say the least) Metal band called Slayer. Ice had recently released his first metal album with his band Bodycount and had ignited controversy with lyrics about shooting Police and having sex with the girlfriends of KKK members. Slayer used Nazi imagery on stage, and wrote a song about Josef Menegele’s murders and experiments on Jewish concentration camp prisoners.
The lyrics are tweaked from The Exploited tunes, so that it references the LA riots, instead of anti-Thatcher sentiment - The Gulf war instead of the Falklands War. It works. Tom Araya and Ice-T share vocals on the track. They are both shouters and screamers as vocalists. Slayer are heavy and fast. The Exploited influence on their music is obvious. This tune was drummer Paul Bostaph’s first recording with Slayer. He was replacing Dave Lombardo who is widely regarded as one of the greatest Metal drummers of all time. Bostaph nails it. By all accounts it seems like they all had a blast recording the tune and thankfully there is footage of that time recorded by MTV. Ice-T and Tom Araya seem like really sound dudes and producer Rick Rueben looks like he is in Rap-Metal heaven in the studio.
Ice-T was huge at this time and very productive. In addition to his rap solo-career, he had his metal band Bodycount, collaborations with Black Sabbath, Motorhead, House of Pain, and he won a Grammy for his collaboration on Back on the Block, a Quincy Jones compilation project.
Slayer were coming off the back of two massive tours promoting their fifth album Seasons in the Abyss. Black market Slayer tickets were going for hundreds of dollars at this time, as partially due to the success of Metallica, U.S. Thrash Metal was insanely popular. They lost legendary drummer Dave Lombardo at the end of the tour due to Dave not wanting to spend so much time away from his family. They would release Divine Intervention, their first album with Paul Bostaph in 1994.
This was possibly the peak of the popularity of both Ice-T and Slayer in the 90s. Ironically, they would both suffer a little due to the popularity of Nu-Metal in the late 90s. In later posts we’ll discuss their reinventions as a highly successful TV actor (in the case of Ice-T), and Slayer’s second golden period in a post 9-11 America.
Like Slayer, Pantera are an absolute giant of Heavy Metal and have an important place in Metals popularity in the 90s. Their rise to fame seemed unexpected and furiously fast. In 1994 their album Far Beyond Driven reached the Number 1 spot on the U.S. Billboard album charts. Not the Metal or Hard-rock charts, but the actual over all charts for the U.S. They sold more than the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Ace of Base, and Mariah Carey for a while. In a later post we’ll take a look at how Pantera successfully switched genre from Glam-Metal to Thrash/Groove/Crossover. Pantera had been around for years by the time they hit mainstream success.
In between the release of the breakthrough album Vulgar Display of Power and the number 1 hit Far Beyond Driven they recorded a number of cover versions. Their cover of Black Sabbath’s psychedelic ‘Planet Caravan’ was intended for a Black Sabbath tribute album called Nativity in Black (another great 90s compilation), but due to record company issues they withdrew it. Instead it wound up on the end of Far Beyond Driven as a brilliant, but odd musical footnote and tribute to their musicianship (it’s arguably better than the Sabbath version). The other song they covered was a track by U.S. punk outfit Poison Idea. It’s possible that if the Sabbath cover-song was included on Nativity in Black, then ‘The Badge’ would have been on Far Beyond Driven.
Poison Idea were a Punk band from the Pacific North West of America. They count Pantera, Machine Head, and Metallica as their fans (and they’ve all mutually covered their songs).
‘The Badge’ is a vicious anti-police Punk song. Thematically it could have been written in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis Police Officer in 2020 (or any of the numerous similar examples in the U.S. in recent years). It was originally released in 1990 on Poison Idea’s influential album Feel the Darkness. This is Punk. This is swinging a haymaker at the entire concept of an armed Police force, that is rife with corruption and open to attracting exactly the wrong type of person to become a Cop. Like all music, it is also just noise, vibrations in the air to a melody. It has as much capability of inspiring social change as a SUNN O))) gig, or a Symphonic Epic by Nightwish. 30 years separate the release of Feel the Darkness and the murder of George Floyd. Are there young artists today with similar protest songs? I genuinely don’t know.
Pantera covered it more or less faithfully to the original. The main difference is that Pantera’s guitar player Dimebag was a virtuoso shredder and has a lot of fun with it. It rips, it slaps, it bangs etc. Dimebag adds a solo and a breakdown that no other Metal guitar player would have been able to. It feels oddly out of place on The Crow soundtrack and I think it would have been more at home on an actual Pantera album, or even on the Judgement Night soundtrack.
Who wins in the head to head this week?
Slayer & Ice score due to the medley of the three Exploited tracks. Ice and Tom Araya’s vocals are on point (it’s a real pleasure to hear two iconic Metal singers together) and Paul Bostaph’s drumming adds an oomph to the track. Pantera equalise primarily due to Dimebag’s guitar playing.
Overall it’s now 3-2 to The Crow.
Next week: We double up the death matches. Pearl Jam try their hand at rap-metal and NIN cover an absolute stone cold classic. Meanwhile, the pairing of veteran acts Living Colour and Run DMC take on young whipper snappers Rage Against The Machine.