Were one to dig through to the back of my closet, past the black tennis shoes and acid wash jeans, and even beyond the pompoms and lipstick one would find the last of my cassettes. They would be in a shoe box beside the tube of old blacklight and Iron Maiden posters. These albums had a lot to do with setting the stage for our own musical exploration. They provided a rough set of parameters within which we knew we could do anything we wanted. Commercial success hadn't dampened the pioneering spirit that made underground metal such a wide open landscape for people to roam. I still really enjoy each of these albums whenever I dust them off, and twenty plus years later... that is saying a lot!
- Nasty Savage - "Indulgence": What an abstract metal band! At times they were mean like an underground Van Halen, but as bizzare as any horrifying geometric creature Lovecraft ever attempted to describe. Their guitarists had such an interesting vocabulary of harmonies and a weird application of flourishes that they were an all-you-could-eat, ass kick buffet for me. Powerfully mean, but without adhering to metal doctrine, "Indulgence" helped showed me how to be forceful and creative behind a drum kit. It also gave the band the confidence to follow any train of thought to its end for the sake of creating unique spaces.
- Fates Warning - "Awaken the Guardian": I am not usually drawn to the kind of metal that descends from the school of riffery and of vocal exercises that Iron maiden dominates. I loved them in high school but I just can't get myself back into that place. While I readily acknowledge that Fates Warning would not have written what they did were it not for Iron Maiden, I liked this record far more than anything Maiden ever did. This record was much darker, more emotive and meaner than Iron Maiden would ever conceive of, and where Bruce Dickinson drives me absolutely nuts with his mastery of soulless wailing, Jon Arch sounds like he is pouring his heart out in every song. This is one of those albums that I can't put down for about a week whenever I get the itch for it.
- Trouble - "Psalm 9": I heard Slayer's "Show No Mercy" and Trouble's first record at roughly the same time in eleventh grade. I was hooked on metal again, but this was far more compelling to me than the kind of high school smoking court style of party metal. Those two records pulled me right out of the hardcore world I had been immersed in for a little over a year. Slayer was the meaner band, and provided an even more physical release than did punk rock, but Trouble was the band that created the music that actually 'touched' me. Their version of heavy was the most satisfying sonic experience I had ever had at that point. Trouble's two guitarists sounded as though they were extensions of my own soul, and they were my favorite band for several years. The vocals haven't aged so well, sadly. They were one of those bands where the vocalist got stronger with every album, but the musical spark that they had so much of on their first two records flickered away to almost nothing within a few years. This record more than any other inspired Confessor to be heavy. Our heavy became very different, but there were more than a couple of Trouble inspired moments for us early on.
- Destruction - "Release from Agony": Graham and I were the two guys in the band who flipped hardest for this record. Destruction had been one of those bands that had a touch of punk in them but were better musicians than most hardcore bands ever produced. Still, they had a sloppy enough drummer that they sounded as though they were barely hanging on to the song. That is, until this record came out. "Release from Agony" was the most disciplined, face-peeling metal record I had ever heard back then. There have been countless bands since who were much more schooled, but Destruction had a unique vision that had more to do with heartfelt, sonic evisceration than showing off. They were, and are the guitar gallop masters and this record is a treasure of meanness. The vocals are something to get accustomed to, but that was the norm back then. Nu-Metal hadn't defined the only "acceptable" vocal style as barking out plays from scrimmage, and there was a lot more music being released that was just about creating a distinct sound instead of a money flow. This record had the first transition I ever heard that left me bewildered.
- King Diamond - "Them": I never liked King Diamond's legendary band, Mercyful Fate. They weren't heavy enough or mean enough to get me past his vocals and the thin guitar sound. I was very surprised when I really liked King Diamond's first record on his own but sure enough, I had found in KD one of my new favorite bands. A concept album in the same manner as Queensryche's "Operation: Mindcrime", King Daimond's third offering, "Them" gave underground metallions a "Bat Out of Hell" stylized possession story with enough of an occultist theme to stay on the mantle next to the skull candelabra for a long, cold eternity. Mickey Dee shined as the flawless metal drummer he was, and satan knows there are thousands of Andy LaRocque fans because of the King D records he shredded his fretboard while recording. You cannot play King Diamond without watching people's faces morph from all party and smiles to tortured souls trying to pull themselves out of a fire pit. Those who understand the sublime beauty of his occult inferno line the pit with devil horn fingers turned up toward the sky, mimicking the flames with their own flickering tongues taunting the suffering masses below, but that's what being in the KD Club is all about!