Europe: The Final Countdown.
The Moment 5 Young Swedes Sent Glam Rock Into Outer Space.
It’s been 3 ‘I can’t believe it’ decades since Sweden’s soft metallers released their album and same name single. Now known on just about every dad rock one hit wonder compilations with their synthy rock anthem, which was in fact, never penned to be single. It was written as a crowd warming intro to their live show, and against all other material they had, such as the banging ‘Rock The Night‘, tear jerker power ballad ‘Carrie‘ and the riff -tastic Cherokee, The Final Countdown actually could have been the anthemic stand out on any other album.
Looking back Joey Tempest recalls how the Riff was something he had since he was a teenager and kept a 30-second demo of it, and when it came to the 3rd album the band thought it would be good to use it as an opening track to fire people up at a show. Written at 6 minutes long, no one thought it would ever be a single.
I know it means a lot of different things to different people, but for us, The Final Countdown is still an album track we wanted to have for a big opening to our show. It’s just one of our songs – that’s how I see it.
Produced by Kevin Elson, he with credits to Lynyrd Skynrd & Journey whisked the youngsters away to a small town near Zurich to record the bulk of the album there. Then spanning both Euro and USA studios, the recording process took place across continents and was finished at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, where Aerosmith committed Permanent Vacation to tape.
Now 7 Million albums sold worldwide and with 30 years of packing out arenas under their collective belts, Europe celebrate with this reissue.
Melvins – Houdini
The Sludgiest Major Label Album Ever Recorded With Kurt Cobain.
Picked up by a major Label to ride the coat tails of Nirvana’s recent success, the Melvins were an unlikely choice to gain popularity. They were, however, and ironically one of Cobain’s main influences and even kick started his career from the punk mix tapes friend Buzz Osbourne had earlier given him.
Cobain, a native to the Melvins Hometown Washington had grown up in awe of the band, and leapt at the chance to produce his idols on Houdini. The Melvins at the time were agreeable to the notion until that is, when it became clear the iconic Grunge kingpin could barely function. The band were left with no choice but to fire Cobain from his studio production duties.
Buzz Osbourne recalls the sacking procedure.
I was really happy that he wanted to produce it, but he had a lot of problems. I would have loved to have worked with him in a situation where he wasn’t under the lash of chemical abuse. When he failed to turn up for a session we thought, ‘that’s it’, and I walked into Atlantic and fire him.
Against the band’s initial low expectations, the record did go on to sell well over 100,000 units. Maybe a disappointment for Atlantic records who were quick to jump on the feeding frenzy after the phenomenal success of Nirvana’s Nevermind.
The album featured a cover of ‘Goin’ Blind‘ by Detriot megastars Kiss, and despite being signed to a major label, who perhaps wanted them to emulate nirvana’s growing status, Houdini did indeed keep the Melvins fans happy with their trademark sludge fully intact.
Suicidal Tendencies – Suicidal Tendencies.
Nevermind The Aerosmith & Run DMC collaboration. This album brought guitars and rap together for the first time.
At the start of the 1980’s when it came to music, everyone knew where they stood: metal was metal, punk was punk, and never the twain should meet. But then in 1983 Suicidal Tendencies unveiled their cross-over debut album, Suicidal Tendencies, and, at the time at least, puzzled pretty much everyone who heard it. So all round was the similar opinion, even punk magazine Flipside went as far as to label the 12 song record the worst album of the year.
But if it is true that he that laughs last laughs longest, then Suicidal Tendencies, and their chief songwriter, Mike Muir, are today breathless with hysteria. From the start the band’s shocking mixture of maniacal punk and molten metal has meant that their once ugly duckling has become one of the most influential rock albums of the 20th century.
What’s more, the band fabled for their ‘close to the bone’ subject matter like the grim turn on discovery of a dead mother ( I Saw Your Mommy…) and the self-ridiculed failed suicide attempts on final track ‘Suicidal Failure’ dark sense of humour saw the band ruffling a few feathers in the intelligence service with their song ‘I shot the devil‘. The song starts with the blood-curdling cry of admission “I Shot Reagan” “and then closes the track with the overkill “And I’d shoot him again and again and again!”
Says Mike Muir over the saga.
Because of that song, I got a visit from the secret service. Someone at a record store told me they came looking for me, and had taken a copy of the record. And then three days later there was a knock on the door and it was two representatives from the Secret Service, all ready to go with their ‘good cop, bad cop routine’. I had to sign a form to release my medical and mental health records. It was very interesting
Other notable mentions are the Future classic, ‘Subliminal‘ and the head-check lamenting of ‘Institutionalized‘ which hears mike Muir gasping for ‘just one Pepsi’. Classic.
There was nothing like the Suicidal debut around at the time, and having MTV putting their ‘Institutionalized’ on their playlist it would go on to sell more than 100,000 copies for the Californians who had a leading hand into Skate Punk & Thrash Metal. Now their old and new material with Slayer’s Dave Lombardo behind the drumkit is being opened up to a whole new audience thanks to their recent tour with Slipknot.
Sepultura – Roots
Brazillian Thrash kings make an adventurous journey to new metal territory in the heart of the amazonian jungle.
By 1996, Sepultura had established themselves as the last word in cutting-edge metal. Considering they had come from the mean streets of Sao Paulo Brazil, to get there, a feat unheard of when they formed in the mid – 80’s, their success came with no small amount of genuine respect. And with their album Roots, the furious four returned to their own soil to add a Brazillian twist to the metal they had become kings of.
Not wanting to repeat the past with making another Arise or the excellent Chaos A.D they made a complete turnaround, by challenging and pushing themselves to expand into literally new frontiers of metal. That is, by flying deep into the rain forest to join and jam with the Xavante tribe.
Says Max Cavelera on taking inspiration for Roots.
The concept for roots actually came from a 1991 movie called ‘ At Play In The Fields Of The Lord’ and it gave me inspiration to take the band and go record in the Brazilian jungle. We picked the Xavante because they weren’t just in the rain forest, they were really in the middle of Brazil, in the heart. And they were excited about the prospect of working with us.
Plans were hatched to journey deep into western brazil to live and record with the Xavante tribe. And though the resultant recordings will be remembered as much for being the last with original frontman Max Cavalera, for their 2 million plus sales and their influence on the emerging metal scene, it’s also notable for expanding metal’s frontiers by taking it to people who had literally never heard it before. Twenty years on it still resonates as a turning point in the band, despite fall outs with managers and brothers dividing the group, Roots remains an historic genre defining event.