Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – Heavy Metal Thunder

Shanghai Aug 2012Defining what constitutes heavy metal is now damn near impossible. Much like the debate on what is or is not classic rock there are not set guidelines. In the seventies heavy metal was pretty easy to define: fast, hard rock, blues based and guitar dominated. Bands such as Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin were the poster boys for the genre.  Things changed in the late seventies with the introduction of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Post punk bands relied less on the blues and performed a faster more aggressive version of metal. metal 4Using the roots of the traditional heavy metal bands and blending them with the sounds of early Motorhead and Judas Priest a new sound developed with Tygers Of Pan Tang, Iron Maiden, Saxon and Def Leppard leading the pack. America quickly caught up to the new sound with Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeath taking the NWOBHM sound and added a little thrash to the equation.  In Canada Voivod was at the forefront of the new sound in heavy metal. For no apparent reason Florida, Brazil, Sweden and Norway became the places for all things death metal with bands Celtic Frost, Venom, Obituary, Sepultura, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse and a host of others pushing speed and metal to the limits. Meanwhile, back in the States, the roots of hair metal began to sprout on the Heavy-MetalSunset Strip with Quiet Riot and Motley Crue leading the charge. MTV gravitated towards that scene and with “Headbangers Ball” took the best of the emerging bands from the Whiskey all the way to Madison Square Gardens. I was always a rock guy with a solid dash of English glam and later a liberal pinch of punk. My youth was spent at Maple Leaf Gardens, Massey Hall and metal 3the CNE (the no-fake ID days) and later at the Gasworks, Knob Hill, Yonge Station and Rock’n’Roll Heaven. My attire morphed from Master John boots and Skin’n’Bones velvet jackets to cowboy boots (toe and heel caps mandatory), skinny belts, red pants and, when applicable, a spray or two of Aqua Net. When the Aqua Net days were over I resorted to the “Little Steven” bandana and Metal 2imagined I was fooling everyone (except heredity). Call it what you want (and I am trying to keep on the letter “H” this week) here are some of the hard rock songs that rocked my world in the seventies and eighties

1.       “Ace Of Spades” – Motorhead – 1980

There is no one more heavy metal than Lemmy. It doesn’t matter who else is in the group if Lemmy is playing it is Motorhead.  Now entering year 38 Motorhead are the classic definition of heavy metal and “Ace Of Spades” is still their finest moment.

2.       “Round And Round” – Ratt – 1984

This is heavy metal powerpop. A band that had their share of tragedy but for a few months had the world at their fingertips. When they were on they could deliver the goods live as I was lucky enough to see them live a couple of times. I once had a Ratt bandana but gave it to Max Collins from Eve 6 as he was wearing a Ratt tee-shirt in the video for “Promise”. Wish I still had it but, hey, I was a nice record company guy.

3.       “Rock The Nation” – Montrose – 1973

Regular readers know by now how much I love this album.  This is the opening track and set the tone for one of hard rock’s greatest albums. This was a young and desperate Sammy Hagar being driven by both Ronnie Montrose and producer Ted Templeman. Although this album was released as Montrose in most of the world it was called “Rock The Nation” in Germany and had a totally different cover. Who knew?

4.       “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” – Black Sabbath – 1973

This has always been my favourite Sabbath song. Love the guitar sounds and the changes in tempo. I think the fact they used the word “bastard” also had an effect on the 14 year-old me. Sounds crazy in this day and age but that was enough to keep the song off radio back then.

5.       “Shoot Shoot” – UFO – 1975

This was yet another band that was recommended to me by one of the staff members from Records On Wheels on Yonge Street. UFO was one of those bands that were always changing members (there have been 35 to date) with this album coming during their Michael Schenker – phase. I did get a chance to work with the band when they signed to Chrysalis Records and released “Misdemeanor” in 1986. It was kind of cool to hear them play “Shoot Shoot” in Rock’n’Roll Heaven and to finally meet singer Phil Mogg.

6.       “Astronomy Domine” – Voivod – 1989

For many it was sacrilege for Voivod to cover Pink Floyd but man did they rock the hell out of it.  Voivod is very famous in the metal world but this was the only record they made that hit the Billboard charts. Together in one form or another since 1982 the one constant in their line-up has been Michel “Away” Langevin. Hell, they are so influential that Metallica bassist Jason Newsted spent six years in the group. Check out the video, it was about ten years ahead of its time and there is no trick photography. Long live Voivod.

7.       “Africa” – Thundermug – 1972

This was the heaviest song I ever heard at the age of 13. The pummelling bass was an instant hook and what other band would have the balls to add a kazoo solo? The pride of London, Ontario these guys came very close to blowing Aerosmith off the stage at Massey Hall when the boys from Boston were on their “Get Your Wings” tour. One of Canada’s original three piece rock units.

8.       “Domino” – Masters Of Reality – 1989

I think I was given this record at the New Music Seminar in New York. I had never heard of them but instantly feel in love with this album. Sounds like Queens Of The Stone Age about ten years too early. I never got the chance to see them live but I imagine they killed.

9.       “Can’t You See I’m A Star” – Moxy – 1975

The guitar hook in this floored me. Yesterday I learned that the guitar parts were played by the late Tommy Bolin. Bolin had replaced Toronto legend Domenic Troiano in the James Gang and later joined Deep Purple. He was in Toronto when Moxy recorded their debut and was hired as studio guitarist. This was a band that was always on the cusp of stardom but never quite reached the levels that many thought they were capable of.  Much like Triumph the band found a huge audience in Texas. Leather lunged singer Buzz Sherman left the band in the late seventies with vocal problems and was replaced for a short time by Mike Reno (Loverboy).  Buzz was also on the short list to replace Bon Scott in AC/DC but his on-going vocal problems prevented him from committing to long term touring and Brian Johnson got the gig. Buzz was killed in 1983 in a motorcycle accident at the age of 33.

10.   “This Flight Tonight” – Nazareth – 1972

Another cover, this one was written by Joni Mitchell but sounds absolutely nothing like her version. Because it qualified at Can-Con this became a radio hit in Canada and Nazareth always did exceptionally well in this market. They also scored with another cover “Love Hurts” which became a slow dance staple at high school dances.  Together since 1969 Dan McCaffrey, Pete Agnew and Darrell Sweet (all original members) are still on tour flying the Saint Andrew’s Cross.

Great lunch yesterday at the Shanghai Cowgirl with my buddy Alex. With the clocks moving forward this weekend you know patio season is not far behind. The Shanghai is at 538 Queen Street West.


Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

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DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener,  The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.

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