October 1986 - Heavy Metal via the pages of Hit Parader magazine
Here's my riff on Heavy Metal from October 1986 and as this follows several prior riffs you might first be thinking, "what happened to September?" To be honest, I couldn't do it to you. I couldn't write another couple of pages making fun of the Led Zeppelin reunion rumors, Van Halen/David Lee Roth war of words, lame pop artists paying lip service to lame pop singles and no import reviews. I thought this "Hit Parader retrospective" might have run its course but, lo and behold, the October 1986 issue has an actual METAL band on the cover. Sure, it's Metallica, but remember, back in '86 they were the kings of Thrash and American Heavy Metal. This was when Master of Puppets was new and Cliff Burton was still alive. With that glimmer of hope, I decided to press on. There weren't a lot of other promising bands listed on the cover, but what the hell?
Upon opening the magazine, the first ad is for Queensryche's Rage for Order album on EMI Records. That's a good follow up to the cover. Next we have a full-page Metal Blade Records ad featuring bands like Sentinel Beast, Flotsam & Jetsam and Deaf Dealer. This issue is really looking up! But all good things must come to an end, this time with the obligatory David Lee Roth interview. In case you were wondering what Dave was up to 30 years ago he recounts a night of debauchery after talking up his album Eat 'Em and Smile. Shocker. Now here's an ad for Poison's debut. Shit, this issue is going downhill fast. Interviews with Triumph and Billy Idol aren't helping but the ad for Savage Grace's After the Fall from Grace stems the bleeding a bit. Checking out the Heavy Metal Happenings column, we learn that Ozzy is going to play an anti-Rock and Roll preacher in the movie Trick or Treat (that actually happened), Tony Iommi says Ray Gillen will be the vocalist that adds years to Black Sabbath's career (that didn't happen as the band obviously went on but Gillen lasted less than a year in the Sabbath camp) and Blackie Lawless claims the band's third album will be "back to basics" (I don't know about that, but Inside the Electric Circus sucked no matter how you slice it). There's nothing else of interest here so let's check out the mandatory Judas Priest article. The headline "Turbo will become a classic album, if it isn't one already" was pretty far from the mark as it wasn't and it didn't.
OK, here we go, an actual column with some balls. Figuratively, anyway, as Wendy O. Williams is the celebrity in this month's Celebrity Rate-a-Record. You just know she's going to rip these songs some new assholes. For example, she says of ZZ Top's "Rough Boy" – "that's horrible. Did they take stupid pills?" Fox the Fox's "Precious Little Diamond" gets this comment – "I've said it before and I'll say it again; death to techno pop." Finally, Fine Young Cannibals "Johnny Come Home" gets this epithet – "I hate pop music." Thanks for restoring the faith, Wendy.
The cover article on Metallica is next and it's really kind of short. All the guys, except Hetfield, participate and nothing new is revealed but as I said at the outset, at least this is an actual Heavy Metal band. Motley Crue and W.A.S.P. foldouts are sandwiched between fluff articles on Quiet Riot and Jimmy Page, who sheds no light on the possibility of a Led Zeppelin reunion (you knew there would be something about Zeppelin, didn't you?) And now, finally, Import Reviews is back! California's Eden gets 4/5 for their self-titled debut but ultimately the band went nowhere, same for New York's glam-influenced Sweet Pain's self-titled debut (3/5). Laaz Rockit's No Stranger to Danger scores 4/5 and we finally get a good call from reviewing Andy Secher. The "black metal" (think Black Sabbath not Mayhem) Dungeon scores 3/5 for Fortress of Rock and Bathory's self-titled debut gets a whopping 1/5. I'm going to be honest and say I most likely agreed with that score back in 1986. I was no friend to extreme vocals until relatively recently and the overtly satanic lyrics never did much for me either. Bathory's early works were the epitome of "raw" back when most bands were moving away from the DIY attitudes of the NWOBHM. Those early albums will always be more respected for pushing boundaries than their quality and it wasn't until Quorthon started exploring Viking Metal that his true genius was revealed. Still, it's funny to read a line like "the execution of the material is so lame it borders on the absurd" in regards to a band that is so respected today.
More dull articles on RATT, Deep Purple and GTR lead up to an interesting article where Ronnie James Dio gives his take on the firing of guitarist Vivian Campbell. RJD claims Campbell's ego got too big and he didn't want to play the same music. As we all know from later reports, videos, etc. these guys simply didn't like each other very much. It was as simple as that.
This month's issue winds down with the usual song lyrics and ads for fake IDs, spandex, money for your poems and, of course, 40 new towels for $1.95. Honestly, get in on this new, how long can this offer last?? Before I wrap this one up I have to talk about what may be the single coolest thing every to emanate from the pages of Hit Parader. In a full-page ad the magazine offered a cassette that contained an hour of "solid metal mayhem featuring 18 of the hottest bands in the world!" Coming from a magazine dominated by Ozzy, RATT, Van Halen, Def Leppard, Led Zeppelin, Quiet Riot, etc. how cool could this possibly be? Well, check out this lineup; "At Dawn They Sleep" from Slayer, "Burning in Hell" from Possessed, "Ace of Spades" from Abbatoir, "Suck it and See" from Grim Reaper, "City's Gonna Burn" from Laaz Rockit, "Eyes of the Night" from Jag Panzer, "Rock Until You Drop" from Raven, "Chosen One" from Megadeth and "Taken by Force" from Agent Steel. Sure there were a couple of weak tracks (Teeze, Lee Aaron) but holy shit! What a great collection, one that holds up 30 years later. I couldn't send my $8.98 to Derby, Connecticut fast enough and I still have that tape today (I'm not just a fan, I'm a bit of a hoarder apparently). Never before and never again would Hit Parader do something on this level but I'm sure glad they did it this once. Well, there are two months left in 1986, who knows what this former icon of rock reporting will bring us next though I'm pretty sure I see Jon Bon Jovi's hair on the cover of the November issue...
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