The Most Evil Albums Ever

I was never really into horror movies as a kid. Just didn’t interest me. It wasn’t that I was a little pussy – okay, maybe a little – but I preferred to get my scares from music. I went to a Catholic school and Black Sabbath seemed like the ultimate rebellion to me. I used to hold my breath every time I heard Ozzy sing “Satan sitting there, he’s smiling” because I was sure that the horned one was going to spring forth from the floor and feast upon my innards. It probably will some day, and if not to “Black Sabbath” then probably to one of these:

Black Sabbath – Dehumanizer
There are many evil Sabbath albums (cf: the line “For I believe Satan lives in the souls of the dying” from Headless Cross – I think my heebies just got jeebied), but notwithstanding the unmitigated evil of the Ozzy and Tony Martin albums, the demonic power of Tony Iommi was never spookier than on this 1992 release, in alliance with the late great Ronnie James Dio. The production is swimming in natural reverb, making it sound like you’ve stumbled across the band playing in a crypt or something, and you can almost hear Dio throwing the devil horn hand gesture as he sings. I’m sure you can hear his wrist jewelry jangling if you have a good enough hi fi. Try to get through the opening riff of “After All (The Dead)” without getting the creeps. You can’t do it.

Slayer – Reign in Blood
Sony Legacy
Thirty minutes and 20-something seconds of thrash carnage. Topics include death, dying, mortality, killing, and being killed. Aside from a whole bunch of songs with running times less than two and a half minutes, there’s also “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death,” each at almost five minutes, for those who like their evil to be bigger than snack size. The track “Altar Of Sacrifice” includes another of those lyrics I used to hold my breath for as I awaited the firey arrival of the dark lord: “Learn the sacred words of praise, hail Satan!” AARGH!

Paul Gilbert – Burning Organ
This album as a whole isn’t evil, but it includes the track ‘I Am Satan’ which begins with the count-off “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 6!!!” and goes on to tell the tale of Satan falling in love with a chick, but freaking out about what she’ll do when she finds out who he is. Will she stay or will she go? Burning Organ also includes the track “Suicide Lover,” which features the classic line “She’s a suicide lover. You could say her love’s the bomb.”

Megadeth – United Abominations
Any album loaded with as many puns as this one has got to be evil. Puns are the most evil form of humour there is. This one also gets bonus spooky points for lines like “The Angel of Death is pissed off with me again, just because I got to put you out of my misery.” I like to imagine the Angel of Death as Mustaine’s passive-aggressive flatmate, leaving notes magnetted to the fridge: “Dear housemates. Someone has been putting people out of their misery who clearly have my name written on them. First my a2 milk and now this. I’m sure we would all like to maintain a harmonious household and things would run a lot smoother if we all respected each others’ property. I’d hate to have to consider one of those fridges with separate lockable sections for our individual milks and people to put out of their misery. If it comes to that I will buy it with my own money and then invoice you all for your equal share. Sincerely, Angel of Death.”

Devin Townsend – Ziltoid The Omniscient
Hevy Devy
What could be more evil than a demented alien who shreds like a demon and attacks the Earth because he needs a caffeine hit? Nothing, that’s what. Dude, I know from personal experience the awesome destructive power of a caffeine-deprived shredder because I’ve lived it. Devin recorded and performed all of this monster album single-handedly, and it features some of his best melodic songwriting since Ocean Machine, as well as lots of brutal Strapping Young Lad-style metal.

METAL 101: Face-melting guitar tones

There’s nothing more satisfying in the world of guitar than chugging out a heavy, doomy riff with the tone of the gods. But there are so many variations of the metal guitar tone – where to start?

Let’s have a look at a trio different styles of metal, and how the music influences the general setup.

CLASSIC METAL Chances are, if you’re playing less distortion-drenched heavy rock, or metal with a bit of a 70s twist, the sound you’re hearing in your head is a Gibson Les Paul and Marshall stack. This kind of rig can be assembled on a budget, but if you spend big money you’ll probably feel better about yourself, and bragging rights are fun.

For this kind of tone, it’s more about the impact of the note than the level of distortion. Try keeping the gain at moderate levels rather than boosting the hell out of it, and maybe jack your guitar strings up a few millimetres. This will add bottom end to the tone and allow you to really dig in. All that extra wallop will make for a crushing, crunchy, natural metal tone. It’s important to let the sound breathe, as this type of music has a lot more open space than later, ‘chuggachugga’ metal, so don’t go overboard on the preamp or pedal distortion. Some is good, a lot is too much. Crank your amp to get that punch and grind.

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Cartoon Stars Who Also Rock

Even if you’ve dedicated your life to the rock, chances are that most of us still need a day job. For some that means guitar teaching. For others it’s working in a studio, or as a luthier, or in a guitar store. But while most of us clock on, sit at a computer and zone out for eight hours while we daydreaming of riffs and picks, a select few musos clock on in the wonderful world of animation. As a kid who obsessed over both guitars and cartoons, I can think of no cooler double life than that. And here are six fortunate folks who have lived that double life.

Some of us know Billy West as the voice of Phillip J Fry and Zap Brannigan on Futurama. Others know him as Ren (and occasionally Stimpy). Others still know him as the red M&M. And my four-year-old knows him as the voice of Ellyvan, the blue elephant with wheels on Jungle Junction. West is also an accomplished guitarist, leading a band called Billy West and The Grief Counselors, and if you listen to the commentary tracks on the Futurama DVDs, you might catch him sneaking in some guitar-related trivia (including complimenting the animators on the hand-sync of a scene involving psychedelic folk troubadour Donovan). Check out this video of West talking about his various voices – Fry, Hubert Farnsworth, Dr Zoidberg – and groove on one of my personal favourite Fry moments here.

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Five Song Titles That Must Be Retired

It’s hard enough to write an original song. Even if you think you’ve hit upon the most unique idea ever, chances are it’s something the Beatles already wrote. Or Frank Zappa. But titling your song is different, because they’re easily searchable and easily changable. You can’t really play your entire song into an iPhone app and have it tell you your song sounds a little too much like “Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?” or “Hey Bulldog,” but you can certainly do a quick Google or iTunes search to see whether someone’s already recorded a song called “My Uncle Used to Love Me, but She Died” or “You Stuck My Heart in an Old Tin Can and Shot It off a Log” (I’ll save you the trouble: they have). Some titles though are really, really overused. Here are the five that, well, bug me the most.

5. Sacred Ground
Richie Kotzen, Queensryche, Living Colour, Craig Chaquico,

4. Judgement Day
Van Halen, Whitesnake, Jorn Lande/Russell Allen, Eric Clapton, Hoodoo Gurus, Dokken, Dying Fetus, Snowy White

3. Promised Land
Queensryche, Robert Plant, Chuck Berry, W.A.S.P, Samael, The Band, Big Country, Bruce Springsteen

2. Home
Dream Theater, Joe Satriani, Warrant, Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Sevendust, Foo Fighters, Daughtry, Jack Johnson, Ben Lee, Xavier Rudd, David Byrne, She & Him, Goo Goo Dools, Roger Waters

1. Time
Bumblefoot, David Bowie, Joe Satriani, Ozzy Osbourne, Pink Floyd, Vernon Reid, Gyroscope, Creed, Hootie & The Bow Fish, Supergrass, The Alan Parsons Project, Blink 182, Blind Melon, Chris Cornell, Anthrax/Joe Jackson, Cat Stevens

Honourable mention
Velvet Revolver for having the balls to write a song called “Loving The Alien” even though David Bowie beat them to it 19 years earlier.

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You did WHAT to that beautiful guitar?!?

We guitarists are an enterprising bunch. We think nothing of tweaking our guitars with a replacement pickup here, an upgraded tuner there, maybe even a new bridge. Sometimes the results are subtle. Sometimes they’re really out there. Sometimes they’re really really out there, like these celebrity-butchered axes.

Eddie Van Halen’s Ibanez Destroyer

The Ibanez Destroyer is an Explorer-based guitar which, in its 1970s incarnation, was prized for its Korina wood and very close resemblance to the real deal from the 1950s. Eddie Van Halen was well aware of the tonal benefits of Korina but I guess he felt his Destroyer didn’t feel ‘Eddie enough.’ So what did he do? He chopped the living f^#% out of it.

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So Guitar Hero is dead …what now?

So now that Guitar Hero has been cancelled as an active franchise, what is Activision going to do next? Reports say they’re going to shut down their video game division, but wait, not so fast! I Heart Guitar to the rescue! Here are some game ideas to keep the division alive.

Guitar Tech

The logical spin-off of Guitar Hero, players must try to restring a virtual Floyd Rose while fans spit beer at them. They must also use gaffer tape to hold a vintage Marshall together that the artist insists on using live even though it smells like cat pee and instantly cooks anything placed on top of it.

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Five Gig Cliches That Must Friggin’ Die

The ‘We Might As Well Start Now’ Start

Nothing rocks more than being drawn into a set from the very beginning by a well-conceived opening. Whether it’s some kind of well-done intro tape (like Metallica using ‘The Ecstasy Of Gold’); an atmospheric, moodily-lit stage beginning to swell with sound; or a curtain drop to a harsh white light as the band leaps into a high-energy punkfest, the way you begin your gig has to make an impact. So why do so many bands at the club level think it’s okay to walk out onto the stage, start to tune their instruments and maybe mess around with their pedals a bit until the singer says ‘Um, we might as well start now… uh… okay. 1… 2… 3… oh wait, what’s our first song? Oh yeah. 1… 2… 3… 4…”? It doesn’t matter if you’re just playing at the local watering hole or if you’re filling Madison Square Garden. Establish a definite beginning to your set.

Making A Big Deal About Tuning Down To Drop D

“Okay, that song was called ‘Promised Land.’ Next up we’re gonna play a song called ‘Silent Scream.’ It’s in Drop D. So uh, we’re just gonna, y’know, tune to Drop D.” What follows is about 90 seconds of incrementally descending low notes and out-of-tune power chord strums while everyone zeroes in on that elusive whole-tone drop. Guys, this is what the mute button on your tuner is for. Don’t subject your audience to this crap. Bring along an extra guitar or retune discretely.

The Bit Where You Get On Your Knees And Make Science Fiction Noises With Your Delay Pedal

Did you know that when you turn up the feedback knob on a delay pedal and then move the time control up and down, you get spacey, oscillatey, science-fictony sounds? Yes, of course you did, because every person who ever got their hands on a delay pedal discovered this within about 20 seconds of plugging in. Doesn’t mean you have to torture your audience with it. This is always done with such an air of pretension: “Oh look at me – I’m so awesome that I transcend the mantle of mere guitar player and am in fact a Sound Sorcerer. Listen as I kneel before my pedalboard conjure squealing Theremin-like notes from thin air.” For extra pretension points, throw in a few other pedals at the same time (wah and fuzz are especially cliche) or if you’re really ninja, hit a few delay pedals at once. Show you are a true douche by concluding your noise solo by kneeling with your head down for a few minutes, as if you need some time to come back to the real world after the blissful few minutes spent in your internal Technicolor wonderland.

The Ironic Cover.

‘Dude, we should totally cover, like, Lady Gaga, or um, Britney Spears or something.’ ‘Dude, Britney Spears was like ten years ago.’ ‘Oh. Well what about Hanson?’ *facepalm*

The End-Of-Gig Feedback Thing

Last song’s done. Let’s lean our guitars against the amps and walk off while they feed back. Nah, it’ll be awesome. Then some poor roadie’s gonna have to come out and unceremoniously switch the amps off. Or we’ll have to walk back out onto the stage and turn them off ourselves and then strike our own gear, which really shatters the ‘don’t give a fuck’ image that the End-Of-Gig Feedback Thing is supposed to portray.

Can you think of any others? Comment below!


FEATURE: Gear names that make me blush

I’d like to think that I’m a mature adult with a sophisticated sense of humour. I’d like to think that. But sometimes I’m flicking through a guitar magazine and I stumble across a piece of gear that makes me snicker like a school kid.

Way Huge Swollen Pickle

It’s one of the most revered fuzz pedals of the modern age but there’s nothing about the name ‘Way Huge Swollen Pickle’ (except maybe the word ‘way’) that doesn’t make me feel a little dirty. I swear, if I had one of these pedals back when I was a teenager, I probably would have put duct tape over the words because I was easily embarrassed back them. Today I just think it’s hilarious and I would proudly wear a shirt with ‘Way Huge Swollen Pickle – Step On One Today’ emblazoned across it.
Oh wait. Way. As in ‘going all the way.’ Hehe. That’s rude!


Electro-Harmonix Big Muff PI

I can clearly remember the first time I read about the existence of this pedal. I was reading a guitar magazine in the lounge room when I was about 13 and I came across the words ‘Big Muff’ and I’m pretty sure I was so embarrassed that I covered the word with my coffee cup (yeah, I was jacked up on caffeine even when I was 13. No wonder I play guitar so freaking fast sometimes). Not only is this pedal a ‘muff,’ it’s a ‘big muff.’ And if that’s not risqué enough for ya, there’s also the Double Muff. I’ve heard of people being born with an extra finger or toe, but really? Really?


Gibson Dirty Fingers

The name of this otherwise respectable Gibson pickup gets a mention here because it reminds me of that cheesy old fake Confucius proverb about the man going to sleep with an itchy bum. Ahem.


BC Rich Bich
C’mon, that’s just uncalled for. Even though the BC Rich Bich was unquestionably cool in the hands of Dave Mustaine back in his Metallica days, and had the stamp of approval of metal diva Lita Ford, I’m still kinda surprised that this model name has survived. There’s even a model (pictured) called the Double Neck Bich. I guess it’s designed to be plugged into the Electro-Harmonix Double Muff (and maybe into a Fender Twin to keep the whole ‘double’ thing going, though that’s not particularly naughty unless you’re all like, “Ooh, Swedish twins” or something).


Metasonix $&#^ing $&#^er
Ok, this one isn’t work safe, so I’ve blurred it out for you, and there’s nothing subtle or sly about the name. It’s right there for everyone to see in black and white. Or black and yellow, as it were. Metasonix has a history of being as anarchic and offensive in their marketing as their gear is in its sound, but as Trent Reznor will attest (If you have a keen eye you might spot a Metasonix Butt Probe pedal on the floor in the video for Nine Inch Nails’ ‘The Hand That Feeds’), those sounds can be pretty bitchen in the right context. 

Flangers in general

No matter way you pronounce it (‘flang-er,’ ‘flange-er’), it has the same vague aura of naughtiness around it as words like ‘muckluck.’