10 Albums That Killed Heavy Metal

While I eagerly await SPIN to finish their Top 40 Metal Albums, I thought I’d take a stab at 10 albums that killed off the genre. Keep in mind that I am an unabashed metalhead. As I write, I await the RockFest Tour to come through Houston so I can get my fix of LA Guns, Warrant, Dokken & Firehouse. Nevertheless, I maintain my right to poke a few jabs at the genre which I love the most. So here we go …

vinnie_vincent_invasion_picVinnie Vincent Invasion – Boys Are Gonna Rock :: Completely over-the-top guitar stylings on top of completely lame songwriting. The really sad part is that both of Vinnie’s releases had good musicians behind him. Two would go on to form Slaughter (think what you will of them), and the drummer went on to perform with Nelson (among a slew of others). Nevertheless, there’s only one thing I get from listening to this CD nowadays … laughter. I mean sure, I can jam out to a few of the tunes, but I have a hard time thinking they were taking this seriously at the time.

Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force – Rising Force :: Fear not, I am not making a broadside against the guitar gods of the 80s. This album also is guaranteed to make my Top 40 list. Yet, at the same time it influenced many contemporary guitar players to learn a few new scales, listen to a little Bach, and speed up a few solos, it also alienated a larger portion of aspiring musicians who did not really look forward to spending 12 hours a day practicing guitar. Yes, I blame Yngwie for grunge … it was the natural revolt as I maintain.

Nirvana – Nevermind :: What? Nirvana’s not heavy metal??? Yeah, tell me about it. But it was on Headbanger’s Ball that “Teen Spirit” debuted on MTV. I merely include it here because a) it DID kill metal, and b) it spawned a new era of confusion in which station programmers had to decide where to fit Nirvana in. Yes, they were included with a lot of hard rock/metal playlists. It took a good while for people to sort it out as “alternative rock.” So while not metal in and of itself, it was spawned in that category (at least commercially) and singlehandedly killed off a genre.

Aerosmith – Permanent Vacation :: This one is painful to include. Aerosmith spawned American rock as it was known in the 80s. Yet when they regrouped for a reunion, they went far far more commercial than their earlier work, leading to the modern era band playing alongside any flavor of the month band that will have them. When played alongside other metal songs (as done on Z-ROCK for instance), its hard to see how this fits together in the metal genre. At least with the 70s releases, you could hear how THAT music led to the current style of metal.

Michael Bolton – Everybody’s Crazy :: Yes, that’s THE Michael Bolton. Ya see, back in the day, he was a wannabe metal vocalist. He even had a heck of a band behind him, KISS’ Bruce Kulick among them. Yet it only highlights how easy it was to be a heavy metal singer back in the day. In hindsight, the music is simplistic and redundant … back in the day … same.

KISS – Kiss My Ass :: A tribute release of KISS songs, as covered by modern day artists, right in the midsts of the grunge era. It was KISS’ attempt to show how their music was still relevant. And somehow, the biggest hit off that release was Garth Brooks doing “Hard Luck Woman.” All in all, it showed the level of desperation that metal bands were sinking to in order to remain viable. The fact that the “tribute” was planned and organized by Paul & Gene only made it even more laughable.

Trixter – s/t :: Coming at the tail end of the metal era, Trixter tried to pull the wool over a lot of people’s eyes. First, their hook was that they were all 16 year olds … then it proved to be a lie. Well, that was really the whole problem, so there’s no need for a second item. Bottom line, they made a mockery of the phoniness that exists in music. In all honesty, there’s a few songs on here that I can get into, but I just have to convince myself that its a different band when I listen to them.

Winger – any album :: When they first came out, Winger had a little bit of a run. Reb Beach still ranks in my book as one of THE most underrated guitar players of all time. But they were done in by one thing and one thing only: “Beavis & Butthead.” Featuring characters that represented “cool” band tshirts (AC/DC & Metallica) as opposed to the lame poseur wannabe neighbor who wore an uncool band tshirt (Winger), this show trashed many careers on a medium that was built by videos of many of the same bands. Adios Firehouse, Enuff Z’nuff, Mr. Big, Extreme … hello Rob Zombie.

(tie) Metallica – Load // Van Halen – III :: Both of these albums came out in the same year. Both saw these respective giants of metal fall to new lows. Metallica was accused of betraying metal, Van Halen was accused of abandoning its standards of excellence. In fairness, I like all of one song off of Load, and while I also like a few songs on VH3, I will readily admit that it was wrong to call it Van Halen. That said, I also went to the concert and thought it was a blast. Gary Cherone’s voice is nothing like Sam or Dave’s, but live, he at least still HAS a voice and he kicked a lot of long lost classics out of the ballpark. Cherone will never get the credit he’s due as a singer due to this one album, but he is one of the strongest singers the genre has seen, IMO. Eddie? I’d go see him if he were playing Mary Had a Little Lamb … I mean its Eddie Van Halen, for crissakes!