I woke up this morning with one of those cravings that only rock ‘n’ roll can cure. I don’t get how the whole “ear worm” thing happens, but scientists in secret offshore government labs have been studying it for decades looking for ways to use the phenomenon to implant Judy Garland songs into the brains of people like Kim Il Sung and drive them completely insane (or barring that, totally docile) with little success, so no reason to think I have any amazing insights. Other than to recognize that the second my eyes opened this morning I needed to hear “Man on the Silver Mountain” by Rainbow.
Why “Man on the Silver Mountain”? Hell if I know. I’d guess I haven’t heard it in months, but there is something amazing about how Ronnie James Dio sounds on this song. The dude had some pipes, and that my friends is not open to debate or discussion. Fortunately I have a copy of that song as part of The Heavy Metal Box set of four CDs released by Rhino back in 2007.
I assume The Heavy Metal Box was released as a retail item, but I don’t know that for sure. I got mine from a guy I know who knows a guy… sort of a my best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with a girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night kind of thing. Anyway, that’s not important. What is important are the 70 songs crammed onto the four CDs inside the amp-themed box (which as you can see goes to 11… no, don’t touch it… don’t even look at it…) that are a sort of heavy metal history lesson going way back into the 60s to the OGs of the genre.
I’m not going to bother giving you a listing of all the songs. It would take forever to type out and there are lots of places on the web where that info is available, like HERE. The CDs are more or less chronological, with the oldest material on Disc 1 and the “newest” on Disc 4 – though to be fair, if you’re expecting new metal you’ll be disappointed since most of the stuff on the last CD looks like its from the 80s. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, because I love me some 80s hair metal. But it ain’t new.
Once I exorcised “The Man on the Silver Mountain” out of my brain (Someone’s screaming my name / Come and make me holy again!), I took a closer look at this set. I’d forgotten how good it is.
Disc 1 is old school metal – from the opening salvo of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” to Deep Purple, Hawkwind, UFO, Girlschool, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, it rocks like a mofo. This isn’t speed or hair metal. It’s super heavy rock ‘n’ roll, and it can still get you to bang your head. These are the classics that paved the way for the next generation.
Disc 2 starts the way every heavy metal compilation should begin – with “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead. We’re hanging around in the late 70s and into the 80s here with some pretty cool and unusual selections. Sure we’ve got Judas Priest, Dio, and Iron Maiden; but we also have Diamond Head, W.A.S.P., Tygers of Pan Tang, and Mercyful Fate. The songs are getting faster, and I’m cranking up the volume a bit more.
Disc 3 is straight up hair metal. The Scorpions, Ratt, Yngwie Malmsteen, and even Spinal Tap (“Big Bottom”!) make the cut, but the kids over at Rhino snuck a few harder bands in as well with Anthrax and Megadeath. No dogs here.
Disc 4 is the transition from hair metal to the heavier stuff. It opens with Whitesnake, Great White, and Poison, but we quickly move on to Slayer, Metallica, Pantera, and Sepultura. I’m not sure who put “Cowboys from Hell” immediately after “Youth Gone Wild,” but whatever. I’m not afraid to admit I was WAY into 80s hair metal, and I still like it. So sue me.
If you’re a long time metal fan of a certain age (probably late 30s to late 40s, like me) who is into the roots of the genre, The Heavy Metal Box is pretty cool. I checked eBay, and these things pop up from time to time and it looks like a few have sold in the $20-40 range, which is pretty reasonable for 70 songs, none of which are dogs and a few of which are deep cuts. I mean, Black Sabbath isn’t represented by any of their classics, but by “Neon Knights,” and while Metallica’s first big chart hit “One” is included, “Whiplash” was the second song selected. There’s a lot of variety here too – it looks like only three bands have more than one song in the box, with Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest each contributing a pair.
So grow your hair out, throw up the devil horns, pick this bad boy up, and rock out.