These posts are written by: Andrew Hatch

The Year of the Beast: How Iron Maiden Heralded the Metal Explosion

The story of metal is not linear. We didn’t arrive at the mayhem lurking in our Spotify playlists through a measured progression of technique, style, and genre. Rather, the evolution came in leaps and bounds, with dead ends and bursts of growth and pockets of innovation. To continue the evolutionary metaphor: the Cambrian Explosion of metal shot off in the mid 1980’s, as subgenres and geniuses and success combined into a specimen closely resembling much of modern metal. But the growth, although frantic, wasn’t instantaneous; rather, it seemed to expand exponentially from a single source, a catalyst in a chain reaction. That incipient band, the patient zero of metal as we know it today, is Iron Maiden. More precisely, the stratospheric success of The Number of the Beast, with it’s intricate compositions, transgressive lyrics, and trailblazing progressivity, diverged metal from hard rock completely and legitimized metal as a commercial viability, heralding the eruption of metal in the years to follow.

Riffs from the Crypt – Lord

Stumbling in funereal darkness, I’ve chanced upon the tomb of a long-forgotten Lord! Their only album, The Second Coming, was released in 1988. That’s a bit late for a Riffs from the Crypt post — generally, I try to reserve them for bands who had the talent to become pioneers in their respective genres (like Rat Attack), but were unable to break into the mainstream. But what’s special about Lord isn’t that they were groundbreaking in any way — rather, the reason this album deserves more attention is because it’s a culmination of everything that was good about metal in the 80’s. Nearly every song on the album seems to represent a different era of metal, from its hard rock roots to thrash metal, prog, and everything in between.

Riffs from the Crypt – Dark Age

Today I’ll be shining some light on riffs long forgotten in the Dark Age of 1984. Much of the 1980’s was an embarrassment of riches for metal. Seemingly every year saw albums catapult bands, and even entire genres, to the leading edge of the metal phenomenon. In the rush and tumble of so much groundbreaking music, it was easy for stellar albums to get pushed to the wayside by albums considered legendary almost as soon as they were released. 1984 was no exception; Metallica continued to Ride the Lightning, bringing the thunder to the thrash metal storm, while Iron Maiden, already the World’s Best Band (in my humble opinion) somehow elevated their position with Powerslave. And all the while, smaller bands oozing talent nipped at their heels, discovering riffs and vocal styles and production techniques never before conceived.

Hey! Listen to Terrifier!

Terrifier probably won’t surprise you. Mostly because their new album is called Weapons of Thrash Destruction. Just like they promised, it’s thrash metal — and thrash done just the way I like it. It’s not overly macho (well, for the most part. See: “Drunk as Fuck”), and it’s got a refreshing sense of humor (see: the beginning of “Skitzoid Embolism”). But mostly, I like sick riffs and crazy solos. And this album has more than your average thrash record.

Hey! Listen to Zud!

Zud are a band you’ve got to hear. In their best moments, they conjure all of the emotional weight of post-black metal with none of the pretense or artifice. However, let me be clear: this is not post-black metal. It’s dirty, raw, black metal in the style of Midnight, with a similarly gnarly guitar tone and and rasped vocals spat with surprising intelligibility. Despite the indecorous rawness, Zud’s spacey, squealing solos take their time to wail and scream with all they’ve got, building into absorbing climaxes laden with soul. Zud’s solos aren’t technically impressive, but they’re arranged with that casual sort of mastery where just the right note is struck at just the right time.

Riffs from the Crypt – The Norway Rocks Split

Welcome back to Riffs from the Crypt! Today, we’re disinterring a mass grave. In 1988, Norway’s Angel Records released a five-band split called Norway Rocks, featuring Anesthesia, Manitou, Shellshock, Get Lost, and Thunderdome. The quality of the tracks featured here is outstanding, particularly the contributions from Anesthesia and Manitou. But alas, not every song could be rescued from their Norwegian tomb: both songs from Get Lost have permanently gotten themselves lost, and Shellshock’s second effort appears to have been obliterated. What is left, then, is seven tracks of speed/thrash/power metal intensity, full of tapping solos, tremolo riffs, and headbanging choruses that deserve a second chance in the light.