(Following up on an NCS post earlier this week in which I invited readers to name five albums that changed their lives, focusing on the albums that led them into heavy music, DGR compiled the following list of his own.)
After Islander saw the success of his “Five Albums That Changed Your Life” post, he brought up the idea of having each of the site’s writers do a list. That way, folks could really get to know the other guys here. I had originally written this as a comment, but since it will likely be amended into the O.G. post (or posted separately, depending on how brave we’re feeling after seeing the albums I wrote about), I figured why not get the album art in there and really blow this thing out. [Editor’s Note: I am feeling brave, though the feeling will probably pass quickly.]
Most folks who have participated in the comments to the “Five Albums” post have stuck with the heavy metal discs that changed their lives – and to be honest with you, it’s a great approach. I wanted to try something a little different since I don’t know if there have been any discs that have really changed my life in the ways that others have been changed, but I do have some albums that were landmarks in my music-listening career – including the ones that set about leading me into other genres of music or turning me on a darker path toward more brutal stuff. Picking five albums of heavy metal may have been easier for me, but this has been a pretty fun challenge. You’ll likely figure out the theme of the music that changed my life pretty quickly.
Stevie Wonder – Talking Book
I lived in the Bay Area when I was really young, and being the typical really young person (at least of that era), there was really no music in the world outside of what I saw on TV and what my parents listened to. Since I was a child of divorced parents, it basically played out that whatever my mother listened to is what I listened to.
In a way, it’s kind of stupidly adorable because of some of the stuff that I thought was legitimately good music or thought was even recent. My mother was a huge fan of the oldies and Motown music, and in the Bay Area we had one of those stations that was devoted to it (KFRC I think? I even met the DJs at an event). Because of this I have a ridiculously vast knowledge of the Motown-era music, alongside a love of heavy metal, and also because of this, one of the first CDs I ever really fell in love with and listened to repeatedly was a Stevie Wonder album.
However; let me be clear, it was also one hell of a Stevie Wonder album because Talking Book had some of his biggest hits on it – including “Superstition”, which is one of the few songs I can listen to repeatedly today and not get tired of it. Blessing in disguise too, considering it’s on the Muzak playlist for my store. I actually thought this disc was recent too, because even in the late 90’s it never potentially occurred to me that the music on the oldies station was, in fact, old. Funny thing too, because I never wound up with another Stevie Wonder album, but since it was literally my first CD and the one that really made me start paying attention to music, this one got stuck in my head for years.
That said, “You’ve Got It Bad Girl” is (a) a deep cut, and (b) one hell of a song, still.
Every Mother’s Nightmare – Wake Up Screaming
Even though my first disc was a Stevie Wonder album, this band gets the joy of being my very first rock disc. As I got older, I began expressing the desire for more rock music, and again, my mother — sweet person that she was — actually encouraged this. She would find me sitting in front of MTV and asking what I was doing and I used to explain to her that I would sit for hours on end, waiting for songs I liked to come on. However, since I was a stupid young child, programming blocks never even penetrated the thick, stupid dome that was my brain. I would sit for hours on end basically waiting for Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Soundgarden, and whatever popped up on Headbangers Ball reruns to show up.
I wound up absorbing a stupid amount of 90’s music because of this. Imagine then, my joy of joys when my mother came home one day to announce that she had bought me an actual rock album. I grew up poor and we had a Rainbow store nearby. My family shopped there all the time. They were the type of store that bought out clearance and expiring food, as well as other clearance bullshit. It should’ve occurred to me that she bought the disc there, but I was too thrilled to have an album that had actual guitars on it.
Boy, let me tell you, this disc is laughable too. Every Mother’s Nightmare were basically a midwest version of Poison going head on with Motley Crue, minus the drag, and an era too late. They released all their albums in the early 90’s and again in the early 2000’s. Looking back at it, they were basically a B-tier version of those bands – probably formed out of the fact that neither of those other groups ever came to their town, so they were filling a niche. You better believe that I wound up listening to the shit out of this album though, because I was a fucking stupid child and this was my idea of rock music – even with the angsty nu-metal starting to fill up the airwaves during my stupid MTV watching. I got this disc in like, ’98 and I still thought it was something recent.
I should probably title this list, “I was a stupid kid”.
Limp Bizkit – Significant Other
I shit you not, this shitshow is the first disc that I actually bought with my own money. When this album was released I actually bought it within a week of release. Best part is that it wasn’t because I actually liked Limp Bizkit. It was because Korn’s frontman appeared on one of the songs, and somewhere along the way I had it stuck in my mind that I fucking loved Korn, and I fucking wanted this disc for the fucking song with the fucking Korn Frontman on it. Enough so, that I wound up doing odd jobs around my neighborhood, recycled cans, picked up loose change, and even saved gift money from a previous birthday to get the 22 goddamn dollars it took to buy this disc at a fucking Sam Goody.
The rest of Significant Other could’ve gone to fuck itself (and as an angsty nu-metal kid, I wound up thinking it was good as it warmed up to me) because I wanted that damn Korn song. First Korn albums I wound up getting were Issues and Untouchables, side by side, when I moved up to Sacramento later on in life, but yeah, Limp Bizkit has the honor of being the first disc I spent my hard-earned money on. It was also my legit gateway into angsty nu-metal, and from there on I started getting into really heavy metal.
Another bonus is that because of this, my family thought they had tabs on what I really liked, and in my family we never asked what you wanted for Christmas. You got what you got and you were fucking happy for it. We still keep this tradition alive too, which explains how I wound up getting an outdoor fireplace for Christmas last year, despite the fact that I was going to move into an apartment complex. I guess everyone figured I was going to have a yard….
But yeah, so because of this, a couple years later for my birthday I wound up getting Chocolate Starfish and The Hotdog Flavored Water.
Arch Enemy – Wages Of Sin
This, alongside Avenged Sevenfold’s Sounding The Seventh Trumpet and Lamb Of God’s As The Palaces Burn, is part of a trio of albums that a friend of mine introduced me to that got me really into heavy metal. At the time, I had been one of those folks who wanted clean singing in my metal, so the heaviest I got was whatever was on the radio and the most aggressive stuff I listened to was probably one of Roadrunner’s nu-metal acts. I went to visit a friend in the Bay Area after not seeing him for almost four years and he had these albums. Not only that, but he had completely changed, growing his hair out, growing a beard. Hell of an accomplishment for a high school student.
We sat around and listened to those albums, and for some reason Arch Enemy really clicked with me. Wages Of Sin was one of the discs (later standing alongside Children Of Bodom’s Hatecrew Deathroll) that made me realize that I really loved guitar and that harsh vocals could really work. I know it sounds dumb, but as an idiot freshmen and sophomore in high school the song “Enemy Within” was a goddamn Revelation. This is the disc that also really kicked off my melo-death love, because from here led the path to In Flames, At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity…and my family had finally gotten with the times (in 2004!) and procured some decent internet, so I wound up devouring as much music as I could. Basically, 2003 to 2006 were my formative years in heavy metal and I discovered so much music because of it. But once those harsh vocals and heavy-ass guitar works clicked with me on Wages of Sin, it was game, set, match.
Strapping Young Lad – Alien
This disc right here. This disc. This disc is THE disc by which I define my heavy metal listening. It is one of the few albums that I absolutely swear by. This album hit at the perfect confluence of time for me. It was everything I was looking for in heavy metal after being so tired of so many generic, cookie-cutter bands during the big metalcore explosion that happened around this time. It was angry, loud, challenging and completely off the wall. Folks now like to speak of Devin Townsend like he’s some sort of musical savant, but goddamnit, Alien was where he just went completely fucking nuts and I loved every second of the descent into insanity.
It’s truly one of the heaviest and angriest albums I have ever heard. Nothing on Alien feels manufactured at all. The songs don’t play into any tropes whatsoever. SYL wrote a whole bunch of heavy songs and Devin came in and just screamed his lungs out. Folks will argue that City may have been Strapping’s peak, but I think Alien was probably a landmark in heavy metal because of its complete insanity from beginning to end. When “Love?” feels like a break in what you’re listening to, that speaks to how much the rest of this disc will kick the fucking shit out of you.
When I first heard this album, it was what triggered my love of this band. It was the one to really challenge me, it made me love getting my ass kicked by music. Made me love the dissonance of heavy metal, made me love getting screamed at. It felt like it was written by an actual human being and not someone who was pretending to be anger incarnate for the sake of their metal image. I think that in Alien Strapping Young Lad made a disc that nobody has ever even attempted to match. It is one of those albums where people hear it and just sigh, because they know they’ll never be able to match it, so why bother? Alien is a goddamned masterpiece, and I think you could probably do away with the rest of this list and just have this one as the album that changed my life and I’d be perfectly okay with that.