Brian Posehn picks 10 essential metal albums
Comedian, actor and sometime singer Brian Posehn celebrated his unabashed obsession with heavy metal and his own self-professed genre-specific superiority on the 2010 song, More Metal Than You. One could easily assume that such a true aficionado might view the late '80s/early '90s hair metal era with a pronounced level of disdain, but as Posehn recalls, things weren't all bad back then.
"Hair metal drew cute girls to the music," he says. "I didn’t like Bon Jovi, and I didn’t like Def Leppard at that point – well, their first albums were good – but I would get free tickets to shows because I worked at a radio station. I’d take girls to the gigs and just deal with it. Let's face it, you didn’t find cute girls at Slayer shows. The ones that were there looked like Richard Ramirez wearing a wig."
The passage of time hasn't softened Posehn's stance on hair metal, but it has produced a rather unique perspective in the context of today's music. "I’m so old that I’d rather listen to the worst hair metal from back then than what passes for current pop music," he says. "Warrant’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which is the biggest pieces of shit from the ‘80s, would be most welcome over anything that’s popular right now."
Posehn cites KISS’ Detroit Rock City as the first hard rock record to make an impression on him as a kid, and from there he moved on to AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Van Halen. "After those bands, it was all about finding stuff that was heavier," he says. "I got into Judas Priest, Black Sabbath – the Dio-era Sabbath. When Iron Maiden’s Killers came out, it was so much faster and heavier than anything else I was listening to. That was a really big album for me."
Unlike many metal-crazed teens, Posehn never envisioned becoming a guitar shredder himself, although he did buy his share of Shrapnel Records releases. "It's kind of weird that I liked all that stuff," he says. "Most guys who bought Tony MacApline records were guitar players, but I wasn’t. I liked it, though. I even wrote ‘Yngwie Is God’ on a couple of blank T-shirts. I was into all those super-nerdy guitar records."
In compiling his list of 10 essential metal albums, Posehn was struck by the fact that his choices end after the year 1992. He stresses that he follows new music and stays on top of the current metal scene, but his assessment of "essential" carries with it a certain weight and meaning: "My attitude is, if you didn’t have these records, other things wouldn’t exist," he reasons. "These records make up the foundation of metal, and besides, they’re the stuff I love the most.”
Iron Maiden – The Number Of The Beast (1982)
“They’re my favorite heavy metal band. I loved Killers, and there wouldn’t be a Number Of The Beast without that album, but they made such a turn when they hired Bruce Dickinson. The music just got better with him.
“It’s an instant classic – the second you hear it, you know it’s enormous. I remember waiting for it to come out and knowing there was a new lead singer. The week that it came out, Ihad to make the trip to a record store in Santa Rosa – it was a big deal. I was a little bit concerned – How do you beat Paul Di’Anno? The guy was such a badass – but when I finally heard Dickinson, I was floored. The guy could really, really sing, and he could do all the operatic stuff – the only other singer who could do that was Dio.”
Metallica – Ride The Lightning (1984)
“My second-favorite all-time metal band. I could have gone with Master Of Puppets, which might be their best record overall, but Ride The Lightning was so much better than Kill ‘Em All, which I also love. When Ride came out, it was just like the Maiden thing, with the band really stepping it up in all ways. This shit is so heavy still.
“Fight Fire With Fire, Ride The Lightning, Fade To Black, Trapped Under Ice – there’s so many killer tracks. An essential album, to me, is a full album, one in which all the songs are great. Ride The Lightning is a total metal experience. Each song becomes your new favorite, and your life keeps changing because of that. It’s a perfect heavy record. There’s no weak spots on it anywhere.”
Judas Priest – Screaming For Vengeance (1982)
“I get British Steel, I like British Steel, but I didn’t buy that album the day it came out – I got into it a little later. Screaming came out when I was in high school, and for me, it was another record where I took a trip up to the mall to get it. So it has a lot of meaning for me in how it fit into my life.
“I think it’s one of their fastest and heaviest records. They’re not known for being fast, really – they were just really heavy, and the twin-guitar attack was their thing – but this one is pretty relentless.
“Electric Eye gets a lot of speed going, and The Hellion is a killer opening track. I love when bands open their records with an instrumental to sort of set the mood. It’s like they’re saying, ‘Light up the joints, open that beer and get ready.’ OK, there is a weak spot on here – Fever was never, ever good. That’s a real clunker. But the song Screaming For Vengeance is amazing. It’s one of my favorites.”
Anthrax – Among The Living (1987)
“I think I’ve been on the record as being one of the biggest Anthrax fans, and I wound up being friends with them in my later life, which is so crazy to me. Among The Living is right up there as being one of the best heavy metal records of all time.
“It’s an amazing thrash album, so well produced. I loved it at the time because I was so into Anthrax, but just like the other records that I picked, this was them stepping up their game. They were getting in the groove with their new lead singer, the songs are so much better – it’s just a whole big leap forward.
“Caught In A Mosh, A Skeleton In The Closet, Among The Living – it’s full of great Anthrax moments. I don’t think there’s a clunker in the bunch. I was a big comic book geek, so to have I Am The Law be about Judge Dredd was cool. And there’s two Stephen King references on the record, too, so you can’t beat that. Plus, they had a sense of humor, and you couldn’t say that about most people in metal.”
Megadeth – Rust In Peace (1990)
“This is an incredible record. The Marty Friedman-period Megadeth is the best, in my opinion. That stuff is so heavy, and Marty is such a shredder. The first time you hear Holy Wars, you’re like, ‘Fuck, did that band just get better or what?’ They were bigger and better, heavier and faster than before, which was awesome.
“I knew Marty because of the Shrapnel records he did, so when he got hired I was like, ‘Oh, wow, this is gonna be amazing!’ And I was right. His playing on Rust In Peace is unbelievable. The whole album kills.”
Pantera – Vulgar Display Of Power (1992)
“Now, I love Slayer, and I talk about them a lot in my act, but if we’re looking at records that changed me and that I played the most, it’s Vulgar Display of Power.
“I already loved Pantera – I was working at a record store when Cowboys From Hell came out. I even knew who the band was before that one because I was working at another record store when they put out Power Metal. And the thing about that record was… it was lame! [Laughs] If I was working with Pantera at the time, I would’ve told them, ‘Hey, guys, I don’t think this Van Halen thing is working for you. Either find your own style or stop.’ And they found their own style.
“Vulgar is so good and so heavy. Dimebag Darrell invented his own sound – the squealing thing, especially. Every good guitar player has that special thing that they do – the second you hear them, you know who it is. You knew Dimebag. Even when he guested on other people’s records, you could tell it was him. And Phil Anselmo is at the top of his game on this record. He’s so brutal and so mean.
“I remember telling my roommates at the time, ‘If you hear the Pixies coming from my room, it means I’m sad about a girl. If you hear Vulgar Display Of Power, it means I’m pissed off at the world, so you’d better stay the fuck out of my way.’”
Slayer – Reign In Blood (1986)
“I might have played Seasons In The Abyss more – it’s a very accomplished record, and it feels as if they spent more time making it – but Reign In Blood is Slayer really becoming Slayer. Hell Awaits was really good, but Reign was them working with a different producer, a more famous producer, and they threw more money into the record, but the result was a better-sounding record. It’s slicker but it’s still great. They got down to it.
“It’s a quick record – I think it might be about 40 minutes or something – and it’s right to the point. This is them saying, ‘This is gonna be the heaviest 40 minutes you’ve ever heard.’ And it was.
“Hell Awaits scared me when it came out. It won me over. I wasn’t a big Slayer fan at first because I felt as though their first couple of records were poorly produced – that’s a big thing with me. I need something to be palatable. Reign In Blood was Slayer being fast and hard but extremely well produced.”
Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)
“Let’s go back to the ‘70s, to probably one of the first metal records. This is hard for me because I didn’t spend a ton of time listening to early Sabbath. I got into Ozzy because of Ozzy. I knew who he was and where he came from, but I was more of a Dio-era Sabbath fan at first. That’s just how it was for me.
“But I did go back and check out the early stuff, and to me, Paranoid is the most solid of the bunch. It’s got their biggest hits – it’s got War Pigs and Iron Man – so you can’t go wrong there. And it has Paranoid, too. Great stuff.
“I heard this music as a kid, and to be honest, it felt dated to me at the time. Now it doesn’t, but I think that’s because I just opened up my mind. I was a dick when I was a young [laughs]. I was a little music snob. It was always about when I discovered a band and whether I liked them or not. I think that’s a big part of being a metalhead – ‘I’m more metal than you!’”
Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard Of Ozz (1980)
“Diary Of A Madman is a great record, but this came first. As for what Randy Rhoads means to me, hey, I named my kid Rhoads, so that tells you a lot about me – and that I have a cool wife. [Laughs]
“I remember when Randy died. My grandmother was staying with me because my mom was in Hawaii. I wasn’t part of this conversation, but my mom asked how I was doing, and my grandmother said, ‘Well, one of his rock stars died today.’ And my mother said, ‘Oh, no, that’s terrible. I hope it wasn’t anybody in Ozzy.’ She knew that Ozzy was the big one. He still is.
"I play those records all the time. I play them for my son, and he can pick out Ozzy with Randy Rhoads, Ozzy with Jake E. Lee, Ozzy with Zakk Wylde. He can even tell Ozzy with Sabbath.
“This is a perfect record. Mr. Crowley is scary – it has a little bit of that ‘Should I be listening to this?’ vibe to it. There was a forbidden element to it, like what you had with Zeppelin. You wondered, ‘Are these guys doing bad things? Are they talking to Satan?’ [Laughs] And Dee is great – I love those moments as a kid when you have your mind opened up to new things. Yeah, that song wasn’t fast and it wasn’t metal, but it was beautiful. It was actually musical. The same can be said about Goodbye To Romance. As a kid, you might be like, ‘Man, why are they going so slow?’ But later on you appreciate it.”
Dio – Holy Diver (1983)
“I wore the shit out of this cassette. I remember that cassette so well, and I remember it dying on me and having to buy a new one. Man, I loved this record.
“I knew of Dio with Rainbow – I was always up on my history – but I wasn't into that stuff so much. Of course, I loved what Dio did with Sabbath. Mob Rules and Heaven And Hell were both great records. But when Dio came out with the solo stuff, I was really into it. The guitar playing – it was like, ‘Oh, this guy Vivian Campbell is giving Randy Rhoads a run for his money.’ Now people might disagree with that, but at the time, he was the new shredder, the new badass.
“The record starts out so strong with Stand Up And Shout, and then Holy Diver is an instant classic the first time you hear it – you’re like, ‘Oh, I have a new favorite song.’ There’s no clunkers on it. Rainbow In The Dark and Holy Diver are the two most-overplayed songs on the record, but everything else – Shame On The Night, Straight Through The Heart, Don’t Talk To Strangers – is so solid. Invisible is so fuckin’ heavy. A really perfect album.”