Riff University: Seek and Destroy by Metallica

All aboaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaardahahaha! Welcome to Riff University, where each week, Dr* Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler), with his PhD in Riffology** will walk you through some of the biggest, baddest and boldest riffs of all time, right from the genesis of rock and roll, to some of our future classics. By the end of this intensive course, you will be able to recognise a classic riff from the first note, make pub conversations awkwardly unbearable, and alienate Tinder matches from the word go.

*Abbreviation of “Dad Rock”
**Not a real PhD

Up This Week: Seek & Destroy by Metallica

Read Last Week’s Lecture on Passenger by Deftones here.

Your opinion on them is strong but either way, you know who they are; their albums, the hits, the members, the t-shirts, the drama. The band is a brand, and the brand is Metallica. But long before the widespread commercial success, the thronging crowds and Some Kind Of Monster (2004), a fledgling Bay Area thrash band had just thrown out their first album, Kill ‘Em All (1983).

Marrying the sounds of bands like Motörhead, Diamond Head and Blitzkreig to turbocharged tempo, Kill ‘Em All is widely regarded as a groundbreaking album for the thrash movement as one of the ‘Big Four’ bands along with Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. That being said, Kill ‘Em All is not the first thrash album: that accolade is often given to Exciter‘s Heavy Metal Maniac released in January of the same year, whereas Kill ‘Em All came out in July 1983, nearly 35 years ago.

The groundbreaking sound is what set Metallica apart from their peers in the early eighties. Whilst an album like this is familiar to us now, there must have been nothing like this in 1983. This is the sort of album that is a watershed moment; there was music before Kill ‘Em All, and then there was music after Kill ‘Em All.

The whole album, as is standard with all pre-Black Album Metallica records, is a masterpiece from front to back. Arguably one of the best ways to raise the curtain on your recording career, Hit the Lights announces Metallica right off the bat, then you have Motorbreath, Whiplash, Metal Militia, Phantom Lord and of course the masterful Cliff Burton on Anaesthesia (Pulling Teeth). However, every crown must have its jewel, and the one song that stands taller than all its peers is the legendary Seek and Destroy.

The whole purpose of Riff University is to explore the writing, meanings and impacts of the biggest, baddest and boldest riffs of all time, and in Seek and Destroy’s case, it’s a struggle to find a riff bigger, badder or bolder (please @ us if you think otherwise). Second only to Master of Puppets in terms of live play, having been played nearly, or just over 1,500 times to millions, upon millions of Metallica fans across the globe.

The opening riff is quite simply, iconic; with James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet crawling along the necks of their guitar in perfect harmony, before Cliff and Lars join in the fun. The verse is pretty simple, but to be honest, so is the riff. The real tasty bits of guitar work come into play during the three solos in the song, but the simplicity of the riff is what makes it work so well. Crowds can sing along to the riff as loud as they can the song, and THAT is what makes a riff iconic; if someone can sing the riff as well as they can sing the lyrics, you know you’ve got a major hit on your hands.

The riff, as Lars Ulrich will and has happily admitted, can be traced back to Dead Reckoning by Diamond Head, a New Wave of British Heavy Metal band that greatly inspired the young band, and you can absolutely hear the similarities between Seek and Destroy and Dead Reckoning. Of course, most of Kill ‘Em All was either written by NWOBHM bands, James Hetfield or Dave Mustaine, but bands in their early days should be allowed to write in the shadows of their inspirations, because that’s how we all learn, grow and do better, by borrowing from those who inspire us. Or massively fucking shaft their original guitarist who’s kind of a dick and cause them to start Megadeth, the edgy teenager’s choice of thrash band.

Seek and Destroy is a song that doesn’t run out of puff either, an absolute highlight of the song is right after a burning solo from a fresh-faced Kirk Hammet, and the song slows down, before bursting right back into that riff all over again for a second round.

Whilst not the original lyric, it’s hard not to resonate strongly with “Our brains are on fire with the feeling to kill // And it won’t go away ’til we drink all your beers” from the band’s 1989 performance of the song in Seattle. This video also captures the live power of Seek and Destroy, right at, arguably, the height of Metallica’s thrash metal assault; post …And Justice and pre-Black Album, the mix of a band at full tilt, capacity and power is something to truly behold. Late eighties Hetfield is beyond fucking frightening and has likely sent that ESP Explorer up someone’s arse, body first

That video just sums up Seek and Destroy: it’s a fan favorite, arguably more so than Master of Puppets, as it has closed out hundreds upon hundreds of sets; the song that allows everyone to go home happy, the song that everyone spends the whole gig excitedly bouncing around waiting for. Of course, Metallica offer a wide variety of fine thrash metal tunes that span nearly forty years, but nothing rouses the Metal Militia like the first few bars of Seek.

Lyrically, Seek and Destroy is overtly and unsubtly about wanting to kick the shit out of someone, but not actually doing it. It’s pretty obvious that the band are looking for a fight with “Scanning the scene in the city tonight // looking for you to start up a fight // there’s an evil feeling in our brains // but it’s nothing new, it drives us insane”. Which against why it makes it such a great live track, because “scanning the scene in [your city] tonight // looking for you to start up a fight” is enough to get the coldest of crowds warmed up.

Same goes for the chorus, with “Searchiiin’ // seek and destroy!” making for a fantastic call and response from Papa Het and the fans. Deliberately or totally by accident, Seek and Destroy was designed for the live Metallica show, especially with their fan-centric stage setups. Of course, the lyrics are second to the riff, but the simplicity of “Running, on our way // hiding, you will be // dying, a thousand deaths” just lets you scream it in a car, an arena or an interview, each with the same amount of aggression.

Metallica would go on to hone and develop their craft, especially with Ride the Lightning just one year later, and oh, we’ll get right into that album, but Seek and Destroy loudly heralded the arrival of your new metal overlords, and would go on to be a centrepiece of the Metallica stage show.

Music’s Creepiest Covers

Words from Charlie Leach (@yungbuchan), Josh Adams (@jxshadams), Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon), Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr), Liam Toner (@tonerliam) & Oliver Butler (@notolibutler)

The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” has been used so frequently that it’s pretty much been done to death: while we shouldn’t judge work solely by what’s on the paper in front of it, it’s hard not to pay attention to it, maybe even admire it. Multiple albums have come along with artistic creations that have reached an iconic status while others find themselves memed beyond comprehension

We’re not talking about that today – it’s Halloween and therefore we need to get that spooky dial turned all the way up to eleven! Bashing our collective heads together, along with the help of the good folks over at Patrician Music Chartposting, we’ve comprised a feature full of album covers that are eerie, unsettling, creepy or a mish-mash of all the above. Amongst them is a wildcard to test your courage: continue…if you dare!

TW: Suicide, guts and other NSFW material

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Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin

 

John Dwyer’s absurdist musical rollercoaster has encountered plenty of twists and turns throughout the course of his enigmatic career. Representing one of its highest peaks, Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin – like its bizarre, unnerving album cover – bares its teeth, demonstrating the unique ability of Dwyer et al. to up the ante and produce an album packed with heavy-duty psychedelic-infused DIY tunes.

 

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Painkiller – Guts Of A Virgin

 

The artwork for Guts Of A Virgin by Painkiller is immediately horrifying. Initially banned by UK censors (leading to customs seizing and destroying the first shipment of the physical release), this cover art is a perfect representation of the horrors that await on a first listen to this manic EP.

The psychedelic pattern bordering the graphic photograph help illustrate the EP’s blend of the macabre with hypnotic soundscapes. A band lead by the crazy mind of John Zorn is well deserving of cover art such as this.

 

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Sd Laika – That’s Harakiri

 

How fitting for an album so unashamedly weird, messy and, well, creepy to have an artwork that gives off that vibe? That’s Harakiri is the result of a musician, Sd Laika, meshing rigid haunting rhythms and sounds together in a way that really shouldn’t work but somehow does: the same haunting presence the music evokes can be felt from the creepy smile and desolate black eyes that take up most of this cover.

 

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Xiu Xiu – A Promise

 

A naked man, void of expression, holding a contorted baby doll upside down? Yup, totally normal…

 

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Black Sabbath – S/T

Not necessarily the sp00kiest album cover you’ll ever see, but at the time was definitely more harrowing than your average album artwork. Just look at that dark figure in the foreground and the ominous house in the background. This caused the band to be dubbed satanist and attracts fans of the occult to boot, with the cover certainly contributing to their new reputation.

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Dark Throne – A Blaze In The Northern Sky

When A Blaze In The Northern Sky was released in 1991 – it became a pivotal album, breaking away from the brutal sounding Death Metal that was popular in metal at the time to a completely cold and eerie take on extreme music. The album would be considered as the first Norwegian Black Metal album.

Not just breaking ground musically the band abandoned the painted, colourful covers that you’d see on metal albums and went for a grainy, black and white photograph of guitarist Zephyrous; in corpsepaint, in the dark looking nothing short of a ghost. One can only imagine how this would have stood out sitting on a record shelf amongst the other bright album covers.

 

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Arca – Mutant

Described by Justin Moran as “one-part insect, one-part alien and one-part satan”, the mutant that stares blankly into the beholder’s eyes on Arca‘s sophomore LP is simultaneously stunning and startling. Resembling something out of an SCP Foundation short story, everything about this monstrous creation gives off a weird essence, from the black, devilish horns to the rubbery red texture of its body.

 

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Coil – The Age of Naples

An album cover that by itself is pretty odd but becomes all the more apt and eerie when brought into context. On the 13th of November 2004, John Balance fell from a two-story balcony, killing him at the age of 42. The twisted up, unusual shape of the figure in this artwork’s body, along with the bloody red that covers the face and torso, resemble injuries that such a death would cause, leading this to be subtle but spooky nonetheless. 

 

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Nickelback – Feed The Machine

 

Look at it. Just fucking look at it. If the thought of our mechanical spawn rising up and instigating their physical and intellectual superiority via the controlling of our political leaders like pulling the strings of decrepit, dancing puppets doesn’t terrify you, then listen to the content inside… IF YOU DARE.

 

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Peter Sotos – Buyers Market

Six degrees of separation time: Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu considers Peter Sotos, this album’s creator, as a major influence of theirs! While the artwork itself is nothing horrifying, much like the Coil cover it is given new life when some info is brought to the table. Now Peter Sotos is a bit of a weird one: in his books, Sotos examines sadistic sexual criminals and sexually violent pornography, particularly involving…children.

It’s all in order to examine media hypocrisy on such issues but it doesn’t make it any less chilling and the way this album is constructed is quite sick: Buyers Market consists of sound collages of spoken word samples from parents, law-enforcement officers, and victims of sex crimes. Of course, this is for far more than shock value but looking at the face on this cover, it’s hard not to see it in a new light when you find this out.

 

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The Paper Chase – Now You Are One Of Us

 

 

Kinda self-explanatory this one: a naked man hanging himself in what may be the most bare-bones room imaginable reeks of misery.

 

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Jandek – Ready For The House

You know that way when you see something that looks so simple that it’s just kinda offputting? This Jandek record has a cover that fits that description perfectly: people other than myself have pointed out just how there’s some sort of aura about this artwork that makes them feel…uneasy. The album itself is out of tune and feels like it could have been crafted by a deluded individual, a kind of unnerving charm I guess, but even without listening to it, there’s an undeniable offness about this artwork.

 

Gig Review: Sleaford Mods & Nachtexenpunx @ O2 Institute, Birmingham

Nobody quite does it like Sleaford Mods. From the bare bones, raw musical set up from Andrew Fearn to the inch-perfect lyrical delivery from Jason Williamson, there’s a certain uniqueness about their running commentary on the state of broken Brexit Britain, and their gig at the O2 Institue in Birmingham on Thursday proves that they are indeed, in Jason’s own words, our “loyal public servants”.

You could have easily told me that the gig had been cancelled, due to the fact the stage was completely empty, bar a microphone and a box. But the eruption from the crowd as Andrew Fearn came on stage to place his trusty laptop down showed that it was on like Donkey Kong. No pomp, no circumstance, just one man tending to the laptop, beer in hand, whilst another man delivered his sermons with the same rage and venom as always.

English Tapas felt like an evolution from Sleaford Mods, it kept the same dancey beats, simple yet effective production and enraged rants that make them so likeable, but it just felt they’d moved up a level. Shortly after appearing on stage, there was no real fanfare as Jason Williamson jumped into I Feel So Wrong, sounding inch perfect, clutching the mic as he channelled all his energy into his performance. Seriously, at some points, you could see his entire body tense as he laced every word in copious amounts of venom.

The setlist was quite literally a tapas of English Tapas, with Army NightsJust Like We DoSnout, Moptop, Dull and Carlton Touts being delivered one after another, sounding as crisp and brilliant as they do on the record. I think it’s the fact that there’s no posing as well that makes them so likeable. Andrew could probably have some sort of flash set up, but instead, he stands with his trusty laptop, dropping each beat and grinning his face off, beer in hand. Jason could probably wear some kind of suit, but instead, he comes out in trackies & a t-shirt, because face it, you’re going to get the same songs anyway. There’s no bullshit, pretending or overblown production, just the choice cuts, delivered raw.


I’ll give you a quick intermission to tell you how much I enjoyed one of the supports, Nachtexenpunx, who are a disco-punk? Electro-punk? Disco electro punk? Something along those lines, singing about lad culture, social anxiety amongst other things whilst the vocalist, sipped on a can of Dark Fruits between songs. Find me a more relevant band in 2017, I dare you. But they were great. Highly recommend them, but I’m sure you’ll hear them sooner or later.


 

Thankfully, they dropped in Jolly Fucker after T.C.R & I Can Tell, because everyone around me wouldn’t stop shouting ‘Jolly Fucker‘ and ‘Jobseeker‘. Whether or not they were asking for those specific songs or just trying to heckle is still unsure, but thankfully, both those songs were played. They’re brilliant songs, but when someone’s been shouting them in your ear for close to 40 minutes, you’re just thankful that they got played.

Dropping a few more off English Tapas including the weird and wacky Drayton Manored and the amazing B.H.S, a clear dig at fatcats like Philip Green, the Mods came back on for an encore. Usually it’s eight minutes long, but Jason made sure it was seven minutes, because some of us had trains to get. Fan service at its finest, and I bet you we all got home safe and sound.

Rounding off the show with Jobseeker, Tied Up in Nottz and Tweet Tweet Tweet, there was rapturous applause from the audience. Some people like to scoff whenever Sleaford Mods are brought up because oh it’s so funny that they’ve got a song called Jolly Fucker and the guy just stands there with a beer, but everyone inside that room knew it’s more than that. They hold a cracked mirror to the face of Broken Britain and provide a running commentary on the state of the nation. Now, more than ever, we need Sleaford Mods to narrate our slow descent into the fires of hell.

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