There is a strong belief here among the BTSB staff that punk rock is the little brother of metal music. They are not alike at all, yet always seen as related by outsiders. So, for a new feature here on BTSB, we present to you Punk Vs. Metal, in which semi-pro punk rock fan Joe McVeigh and metal listener extraordinaire Mark Rahn debate the virtues and shortcomings of their favorite albums. One will discuss why his chosen album is great, and the other will politely point out why he is wrong. First up, we have two heavy hitters – Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Screeching Weasel’s Kill the Musicians. Also included is a music player so you can listen to a song from each album while reading. We’ll start off with the older brother. Let us know what you think of the arguments and what your favorite albums are in the comments.
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Master of Puppets by Metallica
[audio:Master Of Puppets.mp3]
“Master of Puppets” by Metallica
In 1986 Metallica achieved a new level of excellence with their third major label release, Master of Puppets. The album clearly displayed the band’s growing understanding of song structure and melody, while remaining true to the abrasive speed and aggression that made the band famous.
The first track of the album is “Battery”, which begins with a Spanish-style acoustic guitar that warns you of impending violence. Ignoring the threats, you continue to listen until finally the full force of the band kicks in, and you drown in a sonic tsunami of distorted guitars. You are then greeted by the fiery vocals of James Hetfield that scream, “Lashing out the action, returning the reaction, weak are ripped and torn away,” which definitively sets the tone for the rest of the album.
The music then leads you on a roller coaster ride of amazing guitar riffs that are punctuated with brilliant solos by the legendary Kirk Hammett. Each song is inventive and unique and displays a wide range of tempo and time signatures powered by the domineering drumming of Lars Ulrich. The title track, “Master of Puppets”, is an excellent example of the time and thought that Metallica puts into writing a song. It has all the elements of a classic metal composition, with blistering speed, an amazing interlude, and a guitar solo that sounds like harnessed lightning.
The stand-out track of the album is “Orion”. It starts with a simple guitar riff that drones on for a few minutes, and then stops completely. As the guitars fade, Cliff Burton plays a short, beautiful solo on the bass guitar. The rest of the band then joins in, and begins to play the most impressive waltz that the metal world has ever heard. The last few minutes of “Orion” are truly inspiring, and in my opinion, the best example of Metallica’s incredible talent.
Master of Puppets is the pinnacle of Metallica’s amazing career. It combines the youthful fire and intensity of the earlier albums with the mature song writing of their later career. I place Metallica at the very top of my list of favorite metal bands, which easily makes Master of Puppets my favorite metal album of all time.
Master of Puppets is arguably the greatest metal song ever written and certainly the greatest metal song I’ve ever heard. It makes you wish every metal song could sound like that. With a chorus of “Obey your Master,” the song forces you into being its subject and then commands obedience.
That said, Kirk Hammett is the arguably the greatest metal soloist ever. Actually, scratch that, he is. There’s no argument. His solos sound like someone strangling a cat inside a velvet bag – insane yet soft somehow (cruel yet kind?). I’ve also heard his solos described as being the musical equivalent of the feeling that comes from being in the middle of a battle and having your bullets spread around you instead of in your gun.
For my tastes, though, this album is not as perfect as its fans would insist. It’s just almost perfect. “Disposable Heroes” drags too much and sounds like a filler song on an otherwise immaculate album. It’s not as fast as the forceful songs that precede it and not as melodic as the slower songs that come after it. It just seems out of place and a bit lame.
Kill the Musicians by Screeching Weasel
[audio:I Wanna Be A Homosexual.mp3]
“I Wanna Be A Homosexual” by Screeching Weasel
Screeching Weasel is one of my favorite bands (along with The Ramones and The Violent Femmes). But this is not my favorite Screeching Weasel album; Boogadaboogadaboogada is. But this is by far their most diverse album. It has early songs, demos, covers, live tracks, and, most notably, one of the greatest punk songs ever written – “I Wanna Be a Homosexual” – an anti-homophobic rant that respects the “balls” it takes to be a queer. This song is so great that I’m reluctant to admit that my favorite band outdid themselves with it because it would mean that they couldn’t write such a great song. But they did. And not only that, they are one of the only bands that could. Many, many Screeching Weasel songs are about how much they hate someone or something. But this is the only song I’ve ever heard that basically says, as my esteemed writing partner once pointed out, “I hate you so much that I want to be what you hate.” Oi, indeed.
The song “Six a.m.” is a great example of Weasel’s ability to write oldies love songs, albeit in a more in-your-face and aggressive punk rock manner. In fact, this ability is one of their hidden treasures. As a listener, I often wondered why I liked Weasel’s songs so much, until I realized that they are almost a cross between Buddy Holly and the Ramones.
“Hey Suburbia” is a classic Weasel track that perfectly encapsulates the punk rock mentality with the chorus, “We don’t give a shit about tomorrow”. It first appeared on Boogeda, but here it is longer and has a much better ending.
So, although Kill the Musicians is not one of their go-in-the-studio-and-write-an-album albums, being as it is mainly B-sides and sporadically recorded tracks throughout their early history as a band, it still one of the best punches in the punk rock business. And somehow when a punk band blows you off your feet with an album, it just feels that much better because you weren’t expecting it.
Also, can anyone think of a better name for a punk rock album than Kill the Musicians?
Kill the Musicians is a hodge-podge masterpiece from punk geniuses Screeching Weasel. The album is a collection of songs from various recording sessions that took place over half dozen years. A total of seven musicians combined forces to create the music which was almost exclusively written by Ben Weasel. The few exceptions are a handful of covers including a quartet of Ramones songs, and “I fall to pieces” made famous by Patsy Cline. The highlights of the album are the “Celena”, “Hey Suburbia”, and the band’s punk-rock epic, “I Wanna be a Homosexual”.
Despite its gritty and low quality production, or perhaps because of it, Kill the Musicians is punk rock at its very best. The sloppy, high-paced songs are full of rebellion and a spit-in-your face attitude. My only critique is that the 31-track album has a few filler songs, and it could easily be pared down to a leaner, meaner package.