In the '60s the sounds of angry young men were apparent in songs and performances by the Who, the Doors and Jimi Hendrix, among others. In the '70s the punk movement allowed the Sex Pistols, Black Flag and Glenn Danzig's Misfits to sound off. The '80s provided a metal background for bands such as Testament, Venom and Metallica to spew forth their fury.
Now it's the '90s. And though Metallica and the Rollins Band (formed by former Black Flag leader Henry Rollins) and Danzig are still fist-poundingly mad, other bands have found new ways to vent their spleens.Among these are Rage Against the Machine, Prong and Pantera. Though their styles are subtly different, anger is their focus, as shown by three new albums.
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE; "Evil Empire" (Epic). * * 1/2
Grind-hop is back for a second leap with Rage Against the Machine's "Evil Empire," the long-anticipated follow-up to the band's 1992 self-titled debut.
And apparently fans felt the album was worth the wait. A couple of weeks back, "Evil Empire" debuted at No. 1 in Billboard's Top 200 album chart. Though its reign was short - one week - it said something about a portion of the music-buying public: Anger sells.
From the beginning, "Evil Empire" lays it on thick, with spiraling guitars and deep, heavy beats on the gut-angry anthem for the Mayans called "People of the Sun."
The rage continues with the gang war lament "Bulls on Parade" and the violent urban connotations of "Vietnow."
The album's pace picks up with the lunacy of "Tire Me" and ends with a screeching arrangement of "Year of Tha Boomerang."
Rage Against the Machine fans will definitely get their fill and will probably wear the album out. Those with more conservative tastes, however, should heed to the explicit lyric label - as with all of RAM's rantings, profanity is a staple.
PRONG; "Rude Awakening" (Epic). * * 1/2
Prong returns with a more earthy release.
While the New York-based band's trademark techno-grind-metal sound is there, it's more guitar- and drum-based this time around. There isn't a lot of programming and sequencing like what was on "Cleansing." But the guitar fills sound a little too much like revamped White Zombie.
"Rude Awakening" is the band's first attempt at the concept album thing. And it works.
From the funky opener "Controller" to the closing credits of "Proud Division," "Rude Awakening" seems to capsulize the ramifications of communism's collapse in Europe.
Scapegoating ("Caprice," which has a feedback intro that sounds very close to U2's "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me"), disenfranchisement ("Unfortunately") and dismay ("Without Hope") are the main features on this album. And the title cut could easily be a mature continuation of the last album's top single, "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck."
Anger and energy for the driving rhythms, jaw-protruding vocals and head-slapping hooks wrap themselves around singer/
guitarist Tommy Victor's angry words.
With "Rude Awakening," Prong continues its musical progression.
PANTERA; "The Great Southern Trendkill" (EastWest Records America). * * * 1/2
Pantera grows with each album. On "The Great Southern Trend-kill," the Dallas-based band is meaner, harder and angrier.
Once upon a time Pantera was among the "hard hair bands" of the '80s. These days the venom it spews even has an edge over the speed antics of the demon-metal gurus of Slayer.
"The Great Southern Trendkill" - the fourth installment in the Pantera assault - coils, zeroes in and strikes with fury, leaving the listener dazed for dead.
But instead of becoming a triple-time drum fest, the album is carefully structured with dynamic speed bursts and menacing guttural growls.
The screaming title cut is an anvil-weight slam on bandwagon jumpers while the lumbering crawl of "Drag the Waters" serves well as the album's contagious, slithering single.
A major surprise emerges with the ethereal twang of "Suicide Note Pt. 1," a lonely, disturbing cut shaped in the form of a fading cowboy ballad (and just as moody as the band's remake of Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan" on 1994's "Far Beyond Driven"). The hypnotic echoes and keyboards don't last, however, when "Suicide Note Pt. 2" blasts shots of lead through the speakers.
The distortion of chainsaw guitars, machine-gun drum riffs and lower-than-the-underworld bass lines provides the perfect toxic cradle to lay the teeth-clenching vocals of "13 Steps to Nowhere," the doom-riddled "The Underground in America" and the canyon-deep ramblings of "Floods."
"The Great Southern Trendkill" is one of Pantera's more experimental albums, but fans will not be disappointed. Be advised, however, that like Rage Against the Machine, the album is full of enough expletives to deserve the parental advisory label. Which means this album is pure Pantera blood, brains, guts and soul.
RATINGS: four stars (* * * * ), excellent; three stars (* * * ), good; two stars (* * ), fair; one star (* ), poor, with 1/2 representing a higher, intermediate grade.