GSA Writer Contest, Entry #3: Five Albums That Changed Raf Gallaher

Guest Column

It’s day three, and here is our next entry

My name is Raf Gallaher and I can’t stop thinking about heavy metal.

Seriously, no other topic statistically appears within the confines of my mind more than heavy metal. Not work, not school, not movies, not books, and not babes. Not even kick ass pirates or sumo wrestlers. No, sirs, as I assume the overwhelming majority of anybody reading this will be — the audible force of turbulent mayhem is my obsession.

Why? Well, as per the parameters of this here competition, I must explain myself: what five albums have kicked my ass hard enough to make me come back for more metal? What five compilations of eldritch fury have ruined me for the likes of country, pop, and other assorted gutless forms of music?

First, there was Paranoid by the almighty Black Sabbath. Yeah, now they are a bunch of bickering, drug-addled nancies with loud wives. Okay, one loud wife. At least Metallica doesn’t have them matched in that respect, am I right? Sabbath used to be the embodiment of terror and darkness in an era where both the Man and the rebellious folks were focused on happiness and colorful peacenickery.

Although Sabbath did their share of peacenickery, Paranoid sounds like the product of a decent, god-fearing Christian boy being slipped a more than unhealthy dose of various FDA disapproved substances while watching “Full Metal Jacket.”

Graphs are good

Paranoid doesn’t bother making pretty protest songs. The songs on this album are rife with riffs that would notably influence doom and black metal, the spookiest of subgenres. And being a 14-year-old Catholic boy at the time, I really was stoked on the occulty feel of the album. I mean, objectively speaking, the music wasn’t that much heavier than contemporaries like Led Zeppelin or the Who, but the beyond nihilistic attitude of this album make old Sabbath still stand out like a dangling yogurt squirter on a Playboy bunny.

After devouring Sabbath, I started a tradition I still hold today. It’s not entirely foolproof, but it’s fun to do. Whenever I go to the CD store, I purchase one CD from a band that I’m a fan of and another that I haven’t listened to a whole lot. The manner of selection for the cd I’m uninformed about is it has to have the evilest album art possible. This is how I got my hands onto Reign in Blood, by SLAYER. Yes, I have to capitalize SLAYER every time I type it. It’s like you can’t just say SLAYER in a calm manner. It’s always “FUCKIN’ SLAYER, DUDE.”

Reign in Blood, in my opinion, is still the most brutal album of all time. It’s hectic, over in just over 28 minutes. It doesn’t give you any time to absorb what you’re listening to, it’s just a blatant ear-gore-fest. SLAYER upped the ante with the lyrical and visual horror themes in metal, but I think they were the first guys to actually put a sound that perfectly matches the ‘tude. Like, if someone asked me what the concept of horror sounds like, I would for sure play something off of this album.

Also, Reign in Blood gave the world a new onamotapoeia language to go along with air guitar.

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When you draw a pentagram in Microsoft Paint, look into the mirror-like glare of your computer screen, and say “Bloody Kerry” three times; nothing happens.

It was around the time I bought my first Angel Witch shirt and got my first job that I started getting into more modern metal. I remember getting super bummed out because I couldn’t get a ride down to Dallas to catch the closest Ozzfest that was coming around. I was so disappointed because my favorite thing to come out of Canada besides bacon and “Wayne’s World” was playing. Of course this band is 3 Inches of Blood, and they had just released Fire up the Blades. This is an album I don’t think they’ll ever be able to top. I remember headed-banging harder than Dave Mustaine at a GOP convention. That album was special because it was groovy, thrashy, had a taste of black metal, and was kind of geeky without being cheesy like Maiden (or anything else by 3 Inches) or sloppily delivered like SLAYER. It was also the first album I can think of legitimately liking with a screaming vocalist and modern era breakdowns.

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It was that same summer that my fellow long-haired metalhead coworker turned me onto The Faceless. He lent me his copy of Akeldama and had to blackmail me to give it back. I then went and bought their next one, Planetary Duality, which impressed me even more. The technicality of that album is astounding. I know, I know, “They’re just a retarded cousin of Necrophagist and they seem incredibly douchey, like in the snooty rich kid sort of way.”

They still mix all kinds of technical metal and jazz together that is simply addictive. I think I still have air-drumming injuries from that one. The Faceless utterly destroyed on that album. From “Prison Born” to the impossibly bad ass “Xenochrist,” the album makes me think they either got their talent from aliens, and that album itself is documentation of it, or the dudes in the band just bought it. Probably the latter.

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As I run out of words, I must admit that the album that has affected me the most, even on an emotional level, which is difficult to do with metal because it is primarily focused on anger, is Lamb of God’s Sacrament.

I’ve lived in the South most of my life, I can identify with the kind of shitty, tasteless, sweaty redneck domain that Lamb of God came from and describes in Sacrament. Sure, a lot of it is about personal obstacles or politics, but I think that Sacrament, how I interpret it, is a tongue-in-cheek love letter to the area of the United States sweltering with a sixer of Budweiser below the Mason-Dixon Line. I identify personally with this album lyrically, and the music is blisteringly brutal. It’s not the best, but it’s my favorite.

So there’s the five albums that have driven me to dive back to the metal section of the music store every time. I hope you’ve all listened to them. If not, pray Satan spares you his unholy wrath.

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