Various - The Best Heavy Metal Album In The World...Ever!
Oh dear, what is this that stands before me? The Best Heavy Metal Album in the World...Ever! is a title to make a grown man weep, but let's be clear, this is not a compilation for the grown man. No, this is aimed at those whose forays into the weird, loud and hairy world of Heavy Metal probably begins and ends with The Darkness. You know who you are, but anyone with even a modicum of knowledge would balk at some of the stuff on here.
Another thing to get out of the way is that tedious, semantics based definition of what Heavy Metal is. This review is not going to get bogged down in tedious discussions about the entitlement of Megadeth to be on this sort of album. Thrash metal is a subgenre all of it's own, as anyone old enough to remember the debates that raged in places like the Kerrang! letters page during the mid-eighties about whether or not these noisy and tuneless upstarts by the name of Metallica were worthy of a place in a magazine devoted to Heavy Metal will testify. No, this album, despite it's title, is a round up of rock music that, very broadly speaking, is or is inspired by that most maligned of genres, Heavy Metal. Of course Megadeth are allowed. None heavier and none more metal. The question is, how much more metal could they be? The answer is none. None more metal.
So let's look at the good stuf. Motorhead's Ace Of Spades is a never to be repeated, bona fide classic song of any genre. If the stuttering bass line that kicks this off fails to inspire some sort of reaction in you, even if it's pure loathing, then you are probably dead and beyond help. The mighty Iron Maiden's Run To The Hills is, again, the stuff dreams are made of. Smoke on the Water, that stalwart of the eighties guitar shop should need no introduction and neither should the Sabs Paranoid. Interestingly, Black Sabbath, are afforded no less than two entries on the album but it would have been lovely to have had Faith No More's version of War Pigs instead, given that it's virtually identical and Faith No More are conspicuous by their absence. Deep Purple are, again, represented twice. As well as Smoke, you also get the rather wonderful Burn Judas Priest's Breaking The Law is as wonderful as ever, and it sounds even better in light of certain drummers recent convictions for extremely distasteful things. ("So I might as well begin to put some action in my way" indeed)
It has to be said, there are some wonderful, though predictable, songs on here. However, and unfortunately for you, there is some real dirge. Skid Row are, quite possibly, one of the worst bands ever. Tasteless, bland and contrived, they inflicted some of the worst songs ever written upon the world and here, you get one of the very worst, Youth Gone Wild is some sort of hymn to delinquency that the likes of Motley Crue pulled off much sooner and much better. They did, however, have an interesting front man in the shape of Sebastian Bach, great name and a great, charismatic front man. This is the man who wiped his big, hairy, heavy metal arse on a noise abatement order from Westminster Council live on stage. Respect, at least, is due for that.
No such respect is due to Yngwie Malmsteen, the man who ruined music for many during the hell that was the eighties. Listen to him. Listen to his tuneless, soulless widdling and piddling up and down the fretboard. It'll make you sick. As we wipe the vomit from our mouths, we find we're just in time for Poison and this band will give you some idea of how poor metal can be and inspire nightmares for years to come. Remember, people paid good money to listen to this. Frothy and light, they are neither fun nor funny and a waste of good instruments. Even now, the bottom of the barrel is a long way from us, we still have the horror of Sammy Hager to sit through. The less said about David Coverdale the better. He's represented by the cheese slice of Here I Go Again On My Own, that classic so beloved of middle-aged divorced men and you almost sense the hand of Alan Partridge in this selection. ("That's Whitesnake, folks, classic rock and don't forget the phone-in, coming up later, where we ask, 'what's you're favorite kind of snake?'") and, of course, there, waiting for us right at the end of this most excellent metal adventure, to finish the whole thing off with a bang is, er, Nickelback. Is it possible they could have found us a damper squib? Doubtful, very doubtful, but at least its not Limp Bizkit.
Run DMC and Aerosmith, of course, showed us that things didn't have to be the way they were. Oh, no, metal could co-exist side by side with rap, as anyone who had listened to the early output of Faith No More would have agreed. It doesn't stand out on here as an anomaly, but it would have been more interesting to have had Anthrax's slightly more hardcore collaboration with Public Enemy Bring the Noise instead. Even the aforementioned Faith No More's Epic would have been a more interesting choice and would nicely represent metal of the more funk variety which is sadly absent. Of course, Red Hot Chili Peppers Higher Ground would have sufficed nicely and shown a side to them that many new converts might not be so aware of.
Ahh, but you could play that game for a month of wet Sundays and never grow weary. The game of "Why is this song on here when this much better song isn't?". It's churlish to complain, as there's no doubt that many of the songs on here are absolute classics and belong in any collection. Personal taste comes into it as well, and you may well be the sort of person who needs more Poison/Skid Row in their collection. Best of luck, if this is the case. Some will question the inclusion of older rock such as Uriah Heep and Mountain. Some will turn their noses up at Aerosmith/Run DMC and many will tut at Nickelback but that's the strength of compilations and their downfall. You can never please everyone, but this does have a fair crack at it, and does it rather well and just imagine someone buying this for the Nickelback song; some innocent young skater-dude who's never, ever heard Ace Of Spades before? Imagine the sheer size of their grin when that bass line kicks-in and Lemmy's voice cracks their skull open? Isn't that a heartwarming picture?
On the whole, there's more good stuff than bad, but it's difficult to envisage who will buy this. If you want to kick start a metal collection, you'd be much better off with, say AC/DC's Back In Black, or Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, both of which bands non-inclusion here does leave a rather large hole and either of those albums should make you hungry for more. If you just want a quick fix collection of singles, then look no further than this.
Interestingly, some of you older, more world weary types might just remember, from the dim and distant past, a compilation that crept out in the very early eighties, by the name of Axe Attack which attempted to cash in on the growing popularity of the metal scene and featured a poor chap in make-up and jeans swinging a guitar for no apparent reason. It was widely available from Woolworths and all good record shops. Many of the songs on that 'old friend' turn up on here. Some things never, ever change, and metal changes less than anything else it would seem.