photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
originally conceived in the late 1950s as part of a new series of four decidedly MODERNIST guitar models by GIBSON pushed by their LEGENDARY president TED MCCARTY (including the EXPLORER, FUTURA and MODERNE) to compete with the FUTURISTIC FENDER STRATOCASTER, the FLYING V was shelved shortly after production began due to low sales. it wasnt until the PROMINENT 1950s BLUES guitarist ALBERT KING and later 1960s ROCK AND ROLL guitar players like DAVE DAVIES (THE KINKS), ANDY POWELL (WISHBONE ASH) and JIMI HENDRIX began using them that their popularity began in earnest. later in the 1970s and 1980s the model found a home and became identifiable with the NWOBHM and THRASH METAL scenes in bands like JUDAS PRIEST, MERCYFUL FATE, DIAMOND HEAD, SCORPIONS, ACCEPT and KING DIAMOND as well as SLAYER, METALLICA and MEGADETH.
the IN-ARTFULLY named, conceived and executed recent FLYING V (TEN NINETY ONE, 2020) documentary is focused on the SYNERGISTIC relationship between those music scenes and that particular GUITAR MODEL. there is something to be said about the GIBSON models LACK OF CURVES and SPACE-AGE AESTHETICS which stood out on stage and literally pointed the way forward. their popularity resulted in a myriad of later brands, most notably JACKSON, ESP, B.C RICH, DEAN, SHECTER, KRAMER, IBANEZ and so on taking their stab at creating POINTIER, more ANGULAR REVISIONS with DIFFERENT ACTIVE PICKUP CONFIGURATIONS that went well beyond the original SETH LOVER humbucking pickups associated with the original. the film is largely an INCOHERENT series of interview clips with the likes of K.K. DOWNING (JUDAS PRIEST), MICHAEL SHENKER (UFO / SCORPIONS), MICHAEL DENNER & HANK SHERMANN (MERCYFUL FATE), BRIAN TATLER (DIAMOND HEAD), WOLF HOFFMAN (ACCEPT), ANDY LAROCQUE (KING DIAMOND), MICHAEL AMOTT (ARCH ENEMY), DAVE MUSTAINE (MEGADETH), JAMES HETFIELD (METALLICA) and KERRY KING (SLAYER) among others about various aspects of the guitars appeal. most of these interviews are pretty TEDIOUS and REPETITIVE and act almost as advertisements for the band members and their particular MODELS, which does the FLYING V ultimately a disservice in my opinion. the film would have been served better by conducting interviews with the manufacturers themselves and those that are continuing to INNOVATE on the original design. there is also LAZY EDITING and the LACK OF LICENSED MUSIC by said artists, which shows both a LACK OF BUDGET and buy-in from the artists themselves. in fact, the same GENERIC background music is repetitively utilized over and over again throughout to the point that it grates as the film rambles on.
in totality, this film was difficult to watch even with a passion for the subject that i have as a fan of guitars and their development in general. this film feels RUSHED and ILL-CONCEIVED and would have been executed in a more talented director's hands with a bigger budget. NOTHING WAS LEARNED here that a thirty second perusal through the first two paragraphs of a WIKIPEDIA entry couldnt have taught me, which funny enough feels like the extent of the preproduction utilized for this documentary. id given this film a hard pass unless one is exceedingly interested in the subject of FLYING Vs to the extent that they could stomach one EVISCERATING the topic.
dont say you werent forewarned.
as ive' written about before concerning RUST IN PEACE (review linked HERE), my introduction to MEGADETH was during my middle school years when my family lived in NIGERIA. for whatever reason, METALLICA, SEPULTURA, PANTERA, WHITE ZOMBIE and MEGADETH were the groups the kids a few years older than me listened to and not THRASH METAL peer bands like ANTHRAX, TESTAMENT or SLAYER (which in retrospect is quite odd). i am almost positive i first heard YOUTHANASIA (CAPITOL, 1994) from my older friends at the time.
i consider this album to be last of the three CLASSIC records put out by the definitive MEGADETH lineup of DAVE MUSTAINE, MARTY FRIEDMAN, DAVE ELLEFSON and NICK MENZA. the other two being the aforementioned RUST IN PEACE (CAPITOL, 1992) and COUNTDOWN TO EXTINCTION (CAPITOL, 1992). once you get into CRYPTIC WRITINGS (CAPITOL, 1997) things get a bit screwy and MUSTAINE really bit hard on his longstanding personal obsession with mimicking the formula paved by his perceived nemesis in his former band METALLICA. the cool thing about these three CLASSIC lineup albums is that the their song-craft and TECHNICAL PROFICIENCY hold up rather well to other peer bands from the same period. i'll be generous and diplomatic by saying that MUSTAINE's singing voice is an acquired taste (one that i can tolerate in small portions). standout tracks include "ADDICTED TO CHAOS," "TRAIN OF CONSEQUENCES," "A TOUT LE MONDE" and "RECKONING DAY." all of them have a more STREAM-LINED aesthetic without sacrificing AGGRESSION or technical VIRTUOSITY. its a pretty solid effort whose formula was unfortunately abandoned on subsequent releases.
at my school in NIGERIA there was a dearth of substitute teachers, so my mom would sometimes sit in for the high school math teacher. she's a former university math professor. i remember hearing from her how the kids would try to get her to let them play "A TOUT LE MONDE" in the class because somehow it would help them with their FRENCH class next period. pretty funny. i never really understood why the chorus of that song was in a foreign language anyway. MUSTAINE is a rather CONSERVATIVE dude with pretty REGRESSIVE views on immigration and foreign policy in general, which makes a song written and sung partly in FRENCH a CURIOUS choice to say the least.
all that being said, do i recommend YOUTHANASIA? i dont know, maybe. its a SOLID MEGADETH album and MARTY FRIEDMAN's solos are generally COMPELLING and TASTEFUL. that said, a DECENT MEGADETH album still probably fails in comparison next to a SUB-PAR METALLICA or SLAYER record, which was the case at the time (i.e. LOAD / RELOAD and DIVINE INTERVENTION). so... yeah, check it out if you are really into THRASH METAL, otherwise i'd advise any number of other more COMPELLING METAL records from the same era that are more worth your time by the likes of PANTERA, NAILBOMB, TOOL, DARKTRHONE, KORN, FEAR FACORY, SEPULTURA, HELMET, DEFTONES, AT THE GATES, KYUSS, TYPE O NEGATIVE, ENSLAVED, NAPALM DEATH, KILLING JOKE, SOUNDGARDEN, BOLT THROWER, EMPEROR, CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, ALICE IN CHAINS, MACHINEHEAD, TESTAMENT and WHITE ZOMBIE among many others.
internal band dynamics are always a tricky thing. there are tons of examples of bands that from the outside looking in seem like a consolidated front made of co-equal partners yet such is far from the case. probably no modern METAL musician is more defined by this in the popular consciousness than former METALLICA guitarist and MEGADETH frontman DAVE MUSTAINE.
his memoir MUSTAINE (IT BOOKS, 2010) written with veteran scribe JOE LAYDEN is very much defined the the shifting internal dynamics of not one, but two iconic THRASH METAL bands and provides a much-needed counterpoint to the popular narrative of this influential yet highly CONTROVERSIAL musician. i'll admit right at the beginning that i am not the biggest fan of MUSTAINE. in interviews he always comes across as a condescending BRAGGART and an unrepentant EGOIST, and that was before his conversion to CHRISTIANITY and conservative politics. his voice and his attitude towards his peers has always been GRATING, but i will say that the dude is supremely gifted as a guitarist and a songwriter. it was no doubt his sense of abandon on his instrument and his reckless behavior that initially lifted METALLICA from obscurity and helped establish the nascent THRASH METAL scene in the 1980s. MUSTAINE as a historical figure is absolutely instrumental in the evolution of METAL music. period.
its interesting how much ink in this memoir is dedicated to the internal strifes of both bands. METALLICA was a band of alcoholics that discarded one of their members, MUSTAINE, in essence for being a mean drunk. that is popular story, but its interesting that MUSTAINE points to his substantial songwriting credits during his period with the band to suggest that it may have been more about artistic control. in essence METALLICA had three main songwriters in JAMES HETFIELD, LARS ULRICH and MUSTAINE. one theme that is carried throughout this memoir is MUSTAINE's sense of being an underdog, which is rooted in his growing up very POOR, without a father figure and with a mother whose identity got taken over by the JEHOVAH's WITNESS community. HETFIELD had similar circumstances with his deadbeat father and a mother that passed on after being taken advantage of by the beliefs of her CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST community. he is portrayed as being psychologically WEAK, UNASSERTIVE and essentially a patsy to ULRICH, who in turn is portrayed as privileged, wealthy son of a bohemian DANISH TENNIS professional. ULRICH is effectively presented as being a duplicitous MACHIAVELLIAN figure (which is probably pretty accurate). METALLICA was very much a surrogate family for MUSTAINE and his dismissal echoed the rejection of his father towards his family. no doubt it was a traumatic effect and was a primal event in his career and personal relationship trajectory thereafter.
but what i found more interesting was his reaction to this dismissal, fair or not. he created a new family in MEGADETH of which he was the sole leader, whose only other longtime member (absent two breaks of which we are now living in the second) is DAVID ELLEFSON whom he deems as dismissively as "junior." the rest of the band throughout is made of a revolving cast of opportunists, scabs, legends and METAL lifers. what struck me in particular is how MUSTAINE never questions his own motives, paving over bad decisions during his many drug-addled years as MISGUIDED or MISINFORMED but not ill-intentioned. he comes across as incredibly naive and largely absent-minded or uninterested in the financial and emotional needs of his bandmates. throughout the memoir he is his absentee father. he wants the leadership and the acclaim but none of the responsibility that comes with it. its interesting that he, more than any other METAL figure, should have been aware of the trauma that comes with bad leadership in a band setting. yet he just kept the cycle going.
the biggest bummer is the whole born again CHRISTIAN nonsense at the conclusion of the book in which he considers whether it is ethical or not to play with "satanic" bands. that is just so beyond LAME. he is an artistic leader who can tour with whomever he wants, but it just feels antithetical to ROCK N ROLL in some basic core manner. it also presumes his own purity as a CHRISTIAN which is beyond DISAPPOINTING and, again, just LAME.
thats my reaction to this memoir basically. MUSTAINE is a supremely gifted musician who deserves credit for his achievements and contributions to THRASH METAL, but as a person he just comes across as an ass. even in his own memoir in which he is trying to counteract the popular opinion of him being an ass. its beyond CONFOUNDING. go figure.
about that voice.
historically critics have been quick to judge GEDDY LEE (RUSH) and BILLY CORGAN (SMASHING PUMPKINS) of having an irritating or unique, depending on your perspective, singing voices. either way they own them and made such an integral part of their band's sound, of which id argue made them stand out. in a good way.
unfortunately i dont share that opinion of DAVE MUSTAINE of MEGADETH. while LEE and CORGAN both have naturally nasally vocal ranges which isnt their fault, MUSTAINE has this batshit off-putting shtick he appropriated from somewhere of doing these awkward voices that make him sound constipated. it comes off forced and just weird. and it doesnt sound cool at all, not even in an acquired taste sort-of-way like with LEE and CORGAN.
while i do hate his singing and politics, which are generally regressive and staunchly conservative, what i do respect about MUSTAINE is his guitar playing and RUST IN PEACE (CAPITOL, 1990) is arguably one of the most cohesive and technically adept THRASH METAL records ever made. id put riffs off this record against anything off of REIGN IN BLOOD or MASTER OF PUPPETS. standout tracks include multi-part epics like "TORNADO OF SOULS," "HANGER 18" and "HOLY WARS...THE PUNISHMENT DUE." at its best, these particular songs showcase a musician with a preternatural dexterity and truly mesmerizing dynamic range on his instrument. not to mention that this is record has the classic lineup of MARTY FRIEDMAN, NICK MENZA and DAVID ELLEFSON. MUSTAINE himself makes great use of his "spider chord" technique that acts as a shortcut to multiple power-chord variations by utilizing all four non-thumb fingers in quick precision, almost mechanical-like succession.
i remember first hearing this record on a compound in NIGERIA i spent my middle school years living in. this was the mid 1990s and in those pre-internet days. the music you discovered is largely whatever CDs were brought back from stateside return visits or trips other families took to EUROPE. i remember other students brought back early CYPRESS HILL, SEPULTURA, PEARL JAM, METALLICA, THE OFFSPRING, PORNO FOR PYROS and GREEN DAY records. amongst that mix someone brought back MEGADETH as well, which was how i came across RUST IN PEACE. in my naive opinion at the time, i thought "HOLY WARS...THE PUNISHMENT DUE" was insane and matched or outdid anything i heard off RIDE THE LIGHTNING and MASTER OF PUPPETS in terms of guitar playing. i didnt know anything about MUSTAINE's history with METALLICA at that point which is interesting. when i left NIGERIA and moved back stateside to attend high school in MASSACHUSETTS, i soon discovered SLAYER and that was kind of it for MEGADETH or METALLICA.
ultimately that singing voice was too annoying. years later when i saw SLAYER play with MEGADETH and ANTHRAX in LONG ISLAND i remember thinking that MUSTAINE's voice sounded even worse live, cementing my opinion of the band. but those riffs man. can't knock his guitar-playing. its impenetrable and beyond reproach.
KILL 'EM ALL (MEGAFORCE, 1983) is just fun. it is not the most polished, accomplished or sophisticated METALLICA record, but it is the most enjoyable. i think part of that is the fact that it was a recording that had everything to do with the lifestyle of the then burgeoning THRASH METAL scene, from the opener "HIT THE LIGHTS" to "WHIPLASH," "NO REMORSE," "MOTORBEATH" and "SEEK & DESTROY." those songs are all about the ethos of going out and unapologetically slaying the competition and your audiences with the power of METAL. alright, yes that lyrical conceit describes any number of JUDAS PRIEST songs of the same era but there is a certain hungry street-level desperation in these songs. they are immediate and precise, almost a RAMONES meets MOTORHEAD kind of vibe.
after KILL 'EM ALL the band understandably grew into and eventually expanded their sound on THRASH METAL classics like RIDE THE LIGHTNING (MEGAFORCE, 1984), MASTER OF PUPPETS (ELEKTRA, 1986) and ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (ELEKTRA, 1988), but this is the one record in their catalogue that has that spit-in-you-eye, devil-may-care, lay-it-all-on-the-line sense of abandon. it also has some gnarly riffs like "JUMP IN THE FIRE" and "THE FOUR HORSEMAN" courtesy of DAVE MUSTAINE, who was famously dismissed before the recording and replaced by KIRK HAMMETT of EXODUS.
another standout track is "ANESTHESIA (PULLING TEETH)" by bassist CLIFF BURTON which displays his impressive compositional chops which would pay dividends on subsequent records. you really got the sense with BURTON that he was a student of his craft and took it very seriously, and this track is early evidence of such.
ultimately this a great record of a band exploding its way out of the gate. most definitely required listening for fans of THRASH METAL or really any METAL genre in general since this is such a pivotal record and longtime fan favorite.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
for the past couple months the legendary, and recently troubled, guitar manufacturer GIBSON has been publishing a series of long-form interviews on its YOUTUBE page. in keeping with recent efforts by other leading manufacturers of musical products like ERNIE BALL and FENDER, GIBSON has used legacy artists to reconnect with their core, and often overlooked, HARD ROCK / METAL audience.
it is probably a smart move of having JERRY CANTRELL (ALICE IN CHAINS), KIRK HAMMETT (METALLICA), and TONY IOMMI (BLACK SABBATH) out front speaking about their careers then having GIBSON themselves selling themselves, especially given the company's recent heavy-handed and notoriously misguided PLAY AUTHENTIC debacle. i also find it interesting that they chose these four players as three of them are well-known endorsees of other manufacturers, CANTRELL with G&L and HAMMETT with ESP, and DAVE MUSTAINE (MEGADETH) with just about everyone (JACKSON, ESP, DEAN and now GIBSON). IOMMI of course is synonymous with the GIBSON SG model. apparently last year CANTRELL became a brand ambassador, whatever that is, but then again live and in the studio he has been known to use LES PAULS. HAMMETT likewise is famous for his use of LES PAULS as well as FLYING Vs, especially in METALLICA's early years.
whomever jumped on this trend at GIBSON of created thoughtful interviews and mini-documentaries on legendary players deserves kudos because these are great. they have only released a handful but they are well worth investigating.
photo by nacrowe
with the impending second bankruptcy of GUITAR CENTER likely to be finalized at the close of this month, it seemed as good a time as ever to look back at the live performance series GUITAR CENTER SESSIONS that they co-produced with DIRECT TV that took advantage of their iconic flagship HOLLYWOOD location.
it feels like the end of an era with their impending doom, but sadly they never took advantage of the internet and basically ceded that ground to competitors like SWEETWATER. it is mind-bogging that COVID knocked them out give that this lockdown period we've been living through has sold more guitars and instruments then any other period in history. just think about that.
oh well, at least we have these performances until they inevitably get taken down.
parodies by nacrowe
tonight's new episode of DEER GOD RADIO at 8PM EST on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC is dedicated to the early career of THRASH METAL icons METALLICA, especially their work with legendary bassist/songwriter CLIFF BURTON (RIP). guest hosting tonight will be my friend VERONICA (biggest METALLICA fanatic i've ever met) who will be broadcasting live from ARGENTINA! gonna be fun, make sure to tune in!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
photo manipulation by nacrowe
what was originally intended as behind-the-scenes footage to be utilized as extra content for their upcoming release transitioned into a seminal documentary about the dissolution of a band in real-time, something that has not been documented before or since to my knowledge.
controversial at the time of its release among METAL fans, the documentary SOME KIND OF MONSTER (THIRD EYE, 2004) by directors JOE BERLINGER and BRUCE SINOFSKY (BROTHER's KEEPER, PARADISE LOST trilogy) has proven in retrospect to be arguably their highest achievement (other than those perfect string of legendary CLIFF BURTON albums in the 1980s). i say this because there is a lot of posturing and machismo bullshit in METAL. it is by far the aspect of the genre i dislike the most and for years METALLICA were the pied pipers of this toxic brand of masculinity. that was until their second bassist JASON NEWSTED departed in order to claim the freedom of pursuing other projects. this was the first domino in a series of internal debate and reconsiderations that led to group therapy and lead singer/rhythm guitarist JAMES HETFIELD's admittance into rehab for alcoholism.
again, given their history with these issues it was a brave move. original lead guitarist DAVE MUSTAINE of MEGADETH fame was booted out for his behavior when intoxicated. he wasn't afforded a second opportunity. to interview him and put all the cards on the table in such a public manner really altered the culture in my opinion. none more so than the issue of therapy.
METALLICA was mocked extensively for going in to group therapy as such was perceived (moronically) as being weak, passive and not metal. if anything this was a power move that took incredible courage. i look back now at a seminal band like PANTERA who had internal struggles that were never dealt with out of a sense of toxic masculinity and they broke up out of spite with one another. they battled each other in the press and ultimately cowered to their corners with their respective enablers and hangers-on, never addressing anything in person, man-to-man. in my mind stepping up and speaking your truth and probably more importantly, the act of listening would have been more METAL. but what do i know?
i feel as our culture becomes ever more coarse and driven by wedge issues that seek to divide us, here is an example of a group of men looking each other in the eye dealing with their internal issues directly with begrudging respect. taking control of their behavior. being adults. thats what this film represents to me.
too bad the album ST. ANGER sucked.