The Professor's Annual Review: The Year of Thrash

Hey there rivet heads, my end of year thing is a little late.  It’s not even an end of year thing.  It’s just a bunch of stuff I’ve been thinking about in a whimsical end of year sort of way.  You wouldn’t believe what I’ve been up to for the last three months, so I won’t tell you.  Let’s just say it doesn’t scream “guy who writes about metal (periodically).”  

So, 2010?  For me, it was the year of thrash and of taking stock.  Taking stock as in DIO died, the SCORPIONS are supposedly not touring again, JUDAS PRIEST is calling it a day.  MOTORHEAD is gonna play in Anaheim on the 25th of this month and the Club Nokia in March.  Don’t make me remind you how old you-know-who is.  “Born to Lose, Live to Win.”  Pretty much the most succinct statement of the limitations and aspirations of our little corner of the musical universe, no?   

2010 was the year of thrash because we had all the biggest originals in that genre touring and playing great, and it’s starting to sink in what they came up with 28 years or so ago.  Don’t get me wrong – I personally don’t mind what these bands have been putting out in the interim.  ANTHRAX wrote better songs with John Bush at the helm.  Mustaine tried chord progressions in the 90's.  I can stand Diabolus in Musica and I’ll even set myself up for a mob hit by admitting I’ll always pick up whatever METALLICA puts out just to give it a try (although I think 90% of their ideas should be realized on EP’s rather than 75 minute albums.  Like St. Anger – “hey, let’s loosen the springs on the snare and have no guitar solos – for the whole record.”  If that were a four song 12 incher, people would call it genius).
But one cool thing about genuine artistic development is that it is bigger than the players.  The true age of thrash can't be repeated.  None of those bands will ever be as relevant, because that time is gone.  That doesn’t mean they won’t do great stuff – maybe technically better stuff – but the thrill of the new is gone.  Look at Henry Rollins.  He did way better stuff in the ROLLINS BAND than BLACK FLAG…better played, better recorded, more mature, even more angry.  But the thrill of early hardcore is what he will forever be measured against, and that ain’t coming back because it’s bigger than him.  Same with Shakespeare.  We’re never getting another writer that good because the clash of cultures that gave us three words for everything won’t happen again (unless you  hang around downtown LA long enough, where you get three words plus the crack head version and screaming schizophrenic version.  Anyone who wants to repeal the healthcare law should…have their health care taken away and be dumped at Pershing Square for a few days).  

Punk, crossover then thrash.  That was IT.  Those were the days.  Turn up your guitar really loud, throw a couple of stomp boxes in the signal chain, then play the top string or maybe even the top two strings real fast and mute it just as quick.  Add another guy doing the same thing – try to find one who can play a scale and cut his teeth on IRON MAIDEN or PRIEST.  Find a bassist (nothing fancy – unless it’s Cliff Burton, then you’ve got some other issues). Get a drummer who is just as good with his feet as his hands and can afford a double bass rig and there you have it:  a new musical genre.  Punks and metalheads invited.  

Fast forward 25 years.  New lineups, marriages, divorces, kids, rehabs and dehabs.  All that’s shit under the bridge now, with these guys finally realizing what they created and what they can get away with.  (Too bad the actual GUNS 'N ROSES can’t come to the same realization.)  METALLICA’s official count for the Death Magnetic tour was 215 shows – that’s 40 plus year old men playing “Master of Puppets” or “Fight Fire With Fire” several times a week (except during the break weeks) for over two years.  In the last year, MEGADETH has played the entirety of Rust in Peace once at the Palladium, once with SLAYER at Long Beach and once again with Slayer at Universal.  ANTHRAX even exhumed the body of Joey Belladonna for the Universal show.  

So that’s why it was the year of thrash for me.  And also Joel McIver’s The Bloody Reign of Slayer book.  Whatever he writes may as well be book of the year every year.  (Oh ya and Mustaine wrote his book too; haven’t read it but want to.)  (Actually my overall fave is Martin Popoff, whose Ye Olde Metal series is up to 1978 – featuring in depth treatments of Frank Marino “Live,” Styx “Pieces of Eight,” The Dictators “Bloodbrothers”, Pat Travers “Heat in the Street” and some other unlikely heroes…check this guy out.)  And that’s why the SLAYER/MEGADETH/ANTHRAX show was the show of the year for me.  Well, also because I don’t get out much.  I know there were more “now”, current and happening shows going on.  I even saw some of them at the Mountain Bar.  (SAVIOURS?  Let’s see if those guys are alive in 20 years. Good band though.)  It was a good year.  But I’m getting older by the minute, and when I see my teen heroes getting up there after dealing with a big chunk of what life has to offer and coming back to the same songs and style that meant so much to me in the 80’s, and that brought together two musical cultures I cared so much about, I figure there might be such a thing as good taste.