Even though 1986 was technically a Fire Tiger year, that flaming zodiacal feline had a heart of solid steel. Read the pivotal release schedule and, like, weep: Master Of Puppets (March 2); Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? (July 20); Orgasmatron (August 9); Somewhere In Time (September 29) and Reign In Blood (October 7).
1986 was also the year the Melvins debuted with Six Songs. It was the year the Cro-Mags tore the
Then there’s the most metal movie of the ’80s, River’s Edge. Though it didn’t hit US theaters until May of 1987, it was shot in ’86 and technically debuted in August of that year at the Montreal World Film Festival. Complete with a Metal Blade soundtrack boasting four Slayer jams, a Fates Warning song and the unstoppable Hallow’s Eve cut “Lethal Tendencies” (arguably the precursor to Obituary’s entire musical aesthetic), it was also the only film that year to feature copious weed use, heavy drinking, at least one totally naked dead girl and Dennis Hopper rocking a prosthetic leg. And yeah: He ate so much pussy that year, his beard looked like a glazed donut.
Of course, 1986 wasn’t all peaches and cream and glazed donuts: Thin Lizzy main man Phil Lynott passed away on January 4—technically not the Year of the Tiger, which didn’t officially begin (according to the local Chinese) until February 9th, but still. Cliff Burton’s untimely demise occurred on September 27th. Priest released Turbo. Van Halen did their first album with Sammy Hagar. Black Flag went tits up. Black Sabbath was essentially Tony Iommi’s vanity project, with Glenn Hughes replacing fellow Deep Purple alum Ian Gillan at the mic on Seventh Star, an album that had a song—technically a Black Sabbath song—called “No Stranger To Love.” Meanwhile, Ozzy blew out his hair and went all “Shot In The Dark” on us.
Compare the above awesomeness (minus the last paragraph) to the metal landscape of 1998. Slayer released their worst album, Diabolus In Musica. Metallica grunted out a double album of covers, Garage Inc. Motörhead released Snake Bite Love—not terrible, but not Orgasmatron. Maiden’s Virtual XI doesn’t even deserve to be in the same sentence with Somewhere In Time (and yet, there it is). Meanwhile, Max Cavalera gave Sepultura the finger and graced us with the first Soulfly album. Van Halen finally ditched Sammy Hagar… for Gary Cherone. Sabbath’s original lineup reunited, but a new album never materialized—mercifully, it seems. And Priest were in no better shape than they were a dozen years before, farting out a live album (’98 Live Meltdown) with Ripper Owens at the helm.
In their fetal stages in ’86, the classic American death metal bands were bumming us out by ’98. Cannibal Corpse bequeathed the ho-hum Gallery Of Suicide. Obituary released a posthumous live album appropriately entitled Dead. David Vincent had split Morbid Angel, leaving them to record Formulas Fatal To The Flesh with Steve Tucker. Death released their swansong, The Sound Of Perseverance. Being perhaps better attuned to the significance of cosmic movements, most of the major black metal bands (Darkthrone, Mayhem, Immortal, Burzum, Emperor) didn’t bother to release albums in 1998.
The plus side was minimal: The first Queens Of The Stone Age album came out in ’98. Sleep’s
What this means for our current Year of the Tiger is anyone’s guess. For whatever reason, the local Chinese remain mum on the subject.
This bullshit originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of Decibel magazine.