The Records That Changed The Life Of A Normal Boy And Turned Him (Eventually) Into The Verbose Horror That Is Known As ‘Dark Juan’.
Hi Everyone, It’s Rick. It’s time to bring you another of our special pieces to cope with self-isolation. So far, we’ve had a video from Victor and fiction from ‘Dark Juan’ and Beth.
Now ‘Dark Juan’ presents you with a, hugely entertaining, piece introducing you to some of his favourite ever albums. Be afraid…be very, very afraid!
Once upon a time in a dirty little mill town just outside of Manchester, there was a sweet young boy. That sweet young boy grew up in a happy home and happily went about his business and bought some records. His parents should have known better than to have let him because their Middle years were subjected to a LOT of heavy metal. It was payback for the years of child abuse he had suffered being forced to listen to Patsy fucking Cline and reggae. Then he dressed in black, found and lost religion, acquired illicit underage tattoos and developed a frankly worrying taste for Thunderbird and MD 20/20 “wine” (I use the term loosely because anyone who can drink Thunderbird and not instantly vomit it up back on the spot is either a) alcoholic, b) has no taste buds left, or c) a teenage simpleton who would pour anything down his neck if it had alcohol in it) and girls in Naval uniform.
This, then, is a selection of some of the records that really did change the life of your favourite hellpriest and madman. As a disclaimer – not all of these records are heavy metal records. If you expand your minds, my most metal pilgrims, you may discover that there are all manner of dark delights for your delectation…
The Sisters Of Mercy – First And Last And Always (1985).
Radcliffe Library has much to answer for. I borrowed this cassette tape from there and was forever lost to the world of popular music. Granted, Iron Maiden (more on that later) had already riveted my teenage attention but nothing and no one spoke to my twisted black heart the way the Gothfather Andrew Eldritch did. Sublime lyrics, frequently sinuous and lascivious by degrees and musically a deep black hole of forlorn hope and lost love. The Sisters Of Mercy will always be my favourite band. Every record is classic, every song perfect. Yes, even “Wide Receiver”. This album’s highlight is the closing song, ‘Some Kind Of Stranger’. A heartbroken howl into the night for a love that’s lost.
Iron Maiden – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (1988).
THE record that kicked a lifetime of heavy metal off. Swapped for a Pet Shop Boys best of album with my next-door neighbour, Paul Manning. Two copies on cassette tape were worn out from constant playing and the Mother of Dark Juan was delighted at the teenage howling from my sanctum attempting to emulate the soaring vocals of Bruce Dickinson and hitting all the right notes, just in the wrong order. There were salvos of potatoes slung at the door of my eyrie in increasingly desperate efforts to get my attention and stop the pitiful caterwauling emanating from within. Metal did its job splendidly! Stand out track – ‘Infinite Dreams’. Simply the perfect Iron Maiden song. Intelligent and sprawling.
Cradle Of Filth – The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh (1994).
A shockingly romantic record even though it is avant-garde black metal. This album sounded like nothing else I had ever heard upon its release. Incredibly fast, with doom laden passages and the visceral howl of Dani underpinned with spooky keyboards and songs dealing with love, vampires, evil and sex. Dani shows a superhuman lyric writing talent and the drumming of Nick Barker just floored me at the time. It’s still my favourite Cradle record and although it lacks the almost Vaudevillian quality and decent production jobs of later records it is still a record that will rip your face off but make love to your bleeding corpse. Stand out song is ‘The Black Goddess Rises’. Vampires and romance. Perfect.
Coven – Witchcraft Destroys Minds And Reaps Souls (1969).
Debut from the original Metal Queen Jinx Dawson and her motley bunch in 1969, this is Satanic psychedelia of the most innovative kind. Jinx’s voice is well forward in the mix, but the joy of this record is the happy clappy music transposed with the darkest of dark lyrics and a 13-minute Satanic ceremony recorded as a bonus. Which is also unintentionally hilarious. If you want to find the roots of heavy metal, this record is one of them and if you seek out Sir Lord Baltimore’s first record (the one with Naglfar on the cover) and Black Sabbath’s self titled debut you have the three main elements of metal right there at its birth.
VNV Nation – Of Faith, Power And Glory (2009).
And this is where we go screamingly off-piste, dear friends. This is the group that (because my friend Cafrin had randomly given me a copy) awakened me to the possibility of other forms of music being just as powerful as heavy metal. By turns bombastic, ballsy, soft, gentle, heartbroken and fucking raging, this is the first electronic music record to interest me. Several cybergoth gigs later I was an absolute convert to EBM, futurepop (what this record is classed as) and aggrotech. VNV Nation are fucking awesome. Stand out song is Tomorrow Never Comes. Violent jackhammer beats bludgeon you into submission as singer Ronan asks why peace can’t be celebrated as victory.
Carcass – Reek Of Putrefaction (1988).
The vinyl that got my parents REALLY worried about what I was doing in my inner sanctum! Three vegan Scousers making the most visceral noise ever committed to vinyl at that time and a record cover that was as staggeringly inventive as it was shocking and sickening. A perfect metaphor and visual representation of the horrors lurking within. Also a source of much hilarity at song titles like Vomited Anal Tract.
Morbid Angel – Blessed Are The Sick (1991).
THE quintessential death metal album from a band at the peak of its powers when their scene was the biggest thing in metal. A golden age of brutality and sonic terror. Everything about this record was death metal perfection from David Vincent’s bark to the fractured soloing of Trey Azagthoth and Richard Brunelle. Complex, rapid and yet another reason for Dark Juan’s progenitors to wonder what the fuck was going on in my teenage bedroom, as my youthful wailing a la Bruce Dickinson gave way to an earth fracturing grunt which sounded in no way similar to the music I was playing. Stand out track is the title song. A magnificent beast!
The Berzerker – The Berzerker (1995).
Still the most violent and brutal record I have ever heard with possibly the world’s fastest drummer. This blew me clear into the next county when I heard this absolute beast of a record. Imagine insane gabba techno having filthy, blood soaked sado-masochistic sex involving blades and bullwhips and forced imprisonment with the most visceral and violent death metal around and add distorted 909 kick drums and you have The Berzerker. Australian madmen who really should be locked away for the good of humanity but an absolute landmark in the landscape of extremity. Stand out tracks – ‘Forever’, ‘Reality’ and ‘February’, the theme song of Dark Juan.
Gunship – Dark All Day (2018).
Current obsession of Dark Juan, this synthwave band conjure images of neon-soaked 80’s nights, technicolour splatter films and cool breezes on the Miami strip. This is only a front, however, as Gunship deal with the dark and seedy underbelly of all the art-deco and pink neon around you. Musically light and melodic, the lyrical content is dark, murderous and frankly a musical version of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. It is absolutely incredible songwriting and electronic passion mixed with a true rock and roll aesthetic and that makes it wonderful. Stand out songs are the title track (If you can watch the video it makes it even more special) and ‘Thrasher’.
Blood Ceremony – The Eldritch Dark (2013).
Another recent record that has gripped my soul and just will not let go. A combination of Sabbathian riffing and Jethro Tull style flute playing mixed with lyrics influenced by Wicca and other esoteric subject matter. It is fair to say that Dark Juan fell in love with the voice of Alia O’ Brien and her clear, waspish vocal is the perfect foil to the melodious music she sings over, and the flute she plays is a welcome addition to the metal. It fits surprisingly well! Stand out tracks are ‘Lord Summerisle’ and ‘Goodbye Gemini’.
Combichrist – What The Fuck Is Wrong With You People? (2007).
My first taste of proper aggrotech. Slammingly powerful and more often than not sickeningly violent, Combichrist deal in the worst nightmares you can have, including violent sex, serial murder, rampant drug abuse and every degradation you could think of performing on another human being, set to a soundtrack of pounding steel electronic industrial mayhem. The gut churning roar of Andy LaPlegua adds a very metal dimension to a group who could arguably be described as an electronic metal band – even flirting with metal on the Devil May Cry soundtrack album. Sheer physical attack in musical form and a hell of a live act. Stand outs – ‘What The Fuck Is Wrong With You?’, ‘Paint The Town Red’, ‘Shut Up And Swallow’.
The Damned – Phantasmagoria (1985).
Thanks to two compilation pop albums in the vein of Now That’s What I Call Absolute Shite Vol. 3289 called “Out Now” and “Out Now II”, young Dark Juan was drawn towards the very left field stylings of The Damned. Not the punk Damned, a bizarre post punk goth hybrid of the Damned. I played Grimly Fiendish until the record wore out. And then bought the album and wore that out too. My love of all things goth started here, from melodious baritones to harpsichord. Stand out songs are ‘Grimly Fiendish’ (obviously!) ‘Is It A Dream’ and the utterly amazing full on gothic ballad ‘Sanctum Sanctorum’.
Necrophagist – Onset Of Putrefaction (1999).
For me, the absolute zenith of melodic technical death metal. I have zero shame in admitting that I am a complete and utter Mohammed Suicmez fanboy as the man is just one of the most sublime of modern metal guitarists I have ever seen. The man creates riffs of complexity and perfection and then sets them against hyperspeed death metal to form some kind of roaring neo-classical/ metal amalgam that is surely worth anyone’s time. He is also possessed of a vomit inducing, menacing growl. A criminally underrated band and one that should have been fucking huge, just proving that there is no justice in this cruel fucking world. Stand out songs on this masterpiece are: ‘Mutilate The Stillborn’ and ‘Extreme Unction’.
Sir Lord Baltimore – Kingdom Come (1970).
This is what happens when blues musicians drink too much and absolutely cane the Billy. This record is literally the result of one person saying to his bandmates, “Hey! Drunk and stoned guys! What do you think will happen if we play the blues as fast as we absolutely can?” The answer, my friends, is a proto metal album with bluesy riffs and bizarre ethereal and hippy interludes (Lake Isle Of Innersfree). However, not a second is wasted in this breakneck album. Stand out moments include an outlandish cover of Ray Charles’’ I Got A Woman’, ‘Hell Hound’ and the title track.
Godflesh – Selfless (1994).
Bleak, grey, machinelike and utterly uncompromising, Godflesh are the ultimate industrial metal band. Unusually a two piece, famed for their steamhammer use of a drum machine. ‘Slateman’ is my favourite song, but Godflesh achieved critical mass with this, the third of their albums. Heavier than the core of a neutron star and the aural equivalent of a soulless, implacable Terminator coming to murder you, its weapons being bass that could detach your internal organs and razor-edged guitar sharp enough to lop off limbs and heads. Extreme in every sense of the word, no band have ever equalled the absolute heaviness of Godflesh. Stand out songs are the opener ‘Xnoybis’ and ‘Crush My Soul’.
Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine (1989).
Rampant drug abuse, hypersexuality, industrial electronics and sounds, buzzsaw guitars, pop sensibilities and the tortured genius of Trent Reznor all combined to create this industrial powerhouse of a record. Even more remarkably, it was NIN’s debut and the young Dark Juan discovered it when the White Zombie record he was looking for was not available and bought it on a whim. NIN would increase the bleakness of their sound on the next record, “The Downward Spiral”, but this is an absolute joy to listen to from start to finish… Stand out songs are ‘Head Like A Hole’ (pop genius with a massive hook and killer guitar), ‘Terrible Lie’ and ‘Something I Can Never Have’ (stripped down terror and slow tempo and the heartfelt howl of Reznor over the top).
Sacred Reich – The American Way (1990).
The perfect thrash metal record. Always the underdog in the battle of the thrash bands, Sacred Reich made this absolute banger in the early nineties and they are also blessed with a frontman that is actually capable of singing, rather than some long haired Herbert who dementedly howls over the music. Add a sense of humour and you have a winner. Stand out songs are Love/ Hate and the title track.
Lawnmower Deth – Ooh Crikey It’s… (1990).
The infectious humour and bonkers shenanigans of this British bunch of mentalists appealed greatly to the sense of humour of the young Dark Juan, as did the delights of the song titles and lyrics (Cobwoman Of Deth Meets Mr. Smellymop, Spook Perv Happenings In The Snooker Hall). However, this is a damned fine thrash metal record and one that should have been absolutely massive, but was criminally ignored. However, they served as the blueprint for modern bands like Municipal Waste and have recently (to my absolute delight!) engineered a comeback of sorts and are inexorably climbing the Bloodstock bill. Stand out tracks: ‘Did You Spill My Pint?’ and ‘Seventh Church Of The Apocalyptic Lawnmower’.
Ghost – Opus Eponymous (2010).
This is a polarising choice, but I don’t care because I fucking love everything about Ghost. I love the melody, the massive pop hooks, the clean vocals and the cartoon Satanism. I love the fact that the band are Nameless Ghouls and I love Papa Emeritus. They are a band that bring back memories of Wishbone Ash and Sir Lord Baltimore and old melodic metal from the 70’s and 80’s, but with this Hollywood sheen and sense of spectacle not seen since Kiss raided their mums’ make up boxes and haberdashery supplies and augmented their boneheaded rock and roll with showmanship. Stand out songs are ‘Ritual’, ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Prime Mover’.
Cubanate – Barbarossa (1996).
Industrial of another form – where Godflesh are grim and icily cold, and The Berzerker a killing machine gone absolutely amok and Nine Inch Nails a brightly painted battlewagon, you then have shiny, polished British avant-garde industrialists Cubanate. Melding techno beats with whiplash guitar work and the acid soaked, gravel gargling delivery of vocalist Marc Heal, they were something else entirely. Incendiary and spectacularly violent live shows only added to the mystique of this band to the young Dark Juan. Excitingly, Cubanate released “Kolossus” last year and hopefully this will lead to this 20-year love affair continuing with some live dates. Songs of note are: ‘Vortech I’, ‘Joy’ and ‘Lord Of The Flies’.
Senser – Stacked Up (1994).
One of the few rap/ metal crossovers worth your consideration. The incandescent rage of Heitham’s rapping was perfectly counterpointed by the savagery of the guitar work. Mixed into this were female vocals and some absolutely stellar DJ work. Pure hip hop could be just as vicious, but by god it was nowhere near as muscular. The lyrical content is politically reactionary and anti-racist and as a longtime fan of both hip hop and metal, this record was painfully relevant at the time and it has stood the test of time incredibly well. Absolutely essential listening for anyone with any form of social conscience. Stand outs: ‘Age Of Panic’, ‘Eject’.
Static-X – Wisconsin Death Trip (1999).
This young hellpriest first heard ‘I’m With Stupid’ on a Metal Hammer cover mount CD and was utterly lost in the nu-metal playing, extraordinarily coiffed stylings of Static-X. In my opinion the only nu-metal band worth considering, the band offered dayglo painted, streamlined metal pared down to its bare essentials, but with samples and industrial noises added. It’s a deconstructionist essay about how metal is created and just what makes it tick. The vicious bark of Wayne Static is perfect for the music and increases the savagery quotient. It still sounds fresh twenty years after the release of the album and is an important, nay, landmark, record for a version of metal that died an early death. Stand out songs are: ‘Love Dump’, ‘I’m With Stupid’ and the title track – all slammers!
Queensrÿche – Operation: Mindcrime (1988).
There aren’t any words to describe just how classic this record is. Spectacularly complex and a deep dive into the psychology of society and capitalism and the evil of that system, while taking in the concepts of drug addiction for control and a hitman for a shadowy order. Operation: Mindcrime is a concept album par excellence combining the swooping vocal range of Geoff Tate and the impeccable musicianship of the rest of the band. The production, however, was weedy as fuck and took some of the sheen off what should have been THE concept album of the modern age. Still, Queensrÿche went stratospheric and Dark Juan went with them. The highlight? The ten-minute epic called ‘Suite Sister Mary’.
Wolfmother – Wolfmother (2005).
As if the 1980’s never happened, Wolfmother’s debut record was the antithesis of the increasingly brutal and one-dimensional world of metal in the early 2000’s. This album was a paean to the joy of Hammond organ, Ozzy-esque vocals and huge choruses and soundscapes. Standout track is ‘Dimension’.
Huge thanks to Mr Juan for sending this over. I already love some of these bands but it’s fair to say that much of what happened to Metal in the 90’s frustrated me hugely. I’m older, and hopefully, wiser now so I am going to go back to several that I cursed and swore at 20 plus years ago and give them another chance!
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dark Juan and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.