Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Year Of The Tiger

As of February 15th, 2010, it’s officially the Year of the Tiger. This has been confirmed by the local Chinese. More specifically—and according to their 12-year, five-element (earth, fire, water, metal, wood) calendar cycle—it’s the Year of the Metal Tiger. Again, this is what the local Chinese tell us. One might be inclined to think this bodes well for the readers of Decibel magazine. But the last two tiger years, 1986 and 1998, were pretty much polar opposites as far as actual metal was concerned.

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 Lower East Side a new one with Age Of Quarrel. King Diamond unleashed their full-length debut, Fatal Portrait. Death cranked out their last demo, Mutilation, before finally debuting on wax the following year. Let’s not forget Possessed’s Beyond The Gates, Sepultura’s Morbid Visions or Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends. Meanwhile, Mayhem recorded their first demo, Pure Fucking Armageddon. Napalm Death recorded the first half of Scum. Saint Vitus recorded Born Too Late, though it wouldn’t be released for more than a year. And Repulsion recorded Horrified, which would remain unreleased for three years.

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 Jerusalem finally saw the light of day. Converge released When Forever Comes Crashing. Dillinger Escape Plan released Under The Running Board. Spiritual Beggars released their best album, Mantra III. Iron Monkey’s Our Problem came out, as did Electric Wizard’s Supercoven EP, Buzzov*en’s final studio album and Scissorfight’s Balls Deep. The best movie of the year was The Big Lebowski—not even vaguely metal, but well worth mentioning in a year with so little going for it.

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.


carzy said...


Phil said...

1986 was one hell of a year for music. I was a 14 year old deinquent rolling in pig shit.