Fozzy's Chris Jericho picks 10 essential metal albums
“Metal means freedom." says Chris Jericho, the WWE wrestling superstar who has, since 2000, led a double life as the vocalist for the popular heavy metal quintet Fozzy. "It’s a release from everything that holds you down. Metal is an exclusive club, and it's one of the biggest clubs in the world, but it's still kind of underground, which is a little strange to me."
Bearing this point out, Jericho explains: "We can go play Rock On The Range in front of tens of thousands of people, and there will be no mainstream media covering it. If it were a Kenny Chesney concert, you’d have media from all over. But that’s OK: Metal is the people’s music. It brings them together and takes them through dark times.”
A lot of people raised their eyebrows when Jericho, a six-time WWE champion and holder of other numerous titles, began spending more of his time on concert stages than wrestling mats. “Sure, there were tons of naysayers," he notes. "‘Who the hell is this guy? Who does he think he is?’ Like I just woke up one day and said, ‘OK, now I’m gonna be a rock star.’ That wasn’t the case at all. I’ve played music my whole life, I’ve been in bands since I was 14 years old – it’s always been there. When I was a kid, I said, ‘I’m gonna be in a rock band, and I’m gonna be a wrestler.’ Those were the two goals I had, and I went out and made it happen."
Fozzy's sixth album, the upcoming Do You Wanna Start A War (due out July 22), is a musically diverse effort. According to Jericho, the band took their cues from groups such as The Beatles, U2 and Queen. "With those bands, there were no rules," he says, "and that's where we tried to go. It didn't matter what kind of song it was, as long as it was a good song. And that brings it back to the mindset of metal: Don't have a map. Don't listen to what anybody who says you can't do something. Enjoy your freedom."
As for the album's provocative title track, Jericho explains that it's not to be taken literally. “It’s not about starting a war with missiles and guns," he says. "It’s about starting a war with things that oppose you. It’s about believing in yourself and getting over the hassles you might have. If something is getting you down, start a war with it and beat it."
Avenged Sevenfold – Nightmare (2010)
“I loved City Of Evil, so it’s a bit of a toss-up for me. But I really responded to the emotions that run through Nightmare. They recorded it in the wake of the Rev’s death, which is a monumental acievement. The fact that they were able to keep going in the wake of such a tragedy is remarkable.
“And it’s a brilliant record by one of the best bands to come along in the 2000s. I’m a huge fan. Avenged Sevenfold really give it their all every time.”
Barren Cross – Atomic Arena (1988)
“They’re a Christian band that a lot of people might not know, a little bit in the Iron Maiden school of metal. Amazing songs, brilliant musicianship – they’ve got the whole thing going on.
“Atomic Arena came out in 1988 and went pretty much unnoticed. If you’re looking for something that you’ve never heard before from a band you’ve never heard of, this is one to check out. I actually re-discovered it myself recently and was floored at how good it is.”
Dream Theater – Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory (1999)
“I’ve been a huge Dream Theater fan for a lot of years. This is the record that really put things into focus for the band, in my view.
“The songwriting, the musicianship, the concepts – it’s a brilliant piece of work. They’re still one of my favorite bands. They’re very original – from top to bottom, they do things their own way, which I think is very impressive.”
Helloween – Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II (1988)
“One of my absolute favorite bands. They’re very underrated, which is surprising as they’re true metal pioneers. This is their best record, in my opinion – just an amazing piece of work.
“I actually discovered Helloween from a friend. We’d go to a record store – remember them? – to see if there was something new. I bought Raven’s All For One, and my friend bought Helloween’s Walls Of Jericho – that’s how I got my name, to be honest. I wound up getting into Helloween from him. Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I hooked me first, but I thought the follow-up was even better.
"Actually, M. Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold are I are good friends. Helloween kind of brought us together. We even got matching Helloween tattoos, so that just goes to prove what real fans we are."
Iron Maiden – Powerslave (1984)
“A tremendous record. I know that a lot of people would say The Number Of The Beast is Maiden’s best – that or Piece Of Mind – but I still think Powerslave is the band's definitive statement. Plus, it’s the first Maiden album I bought, so it holds a special place in my heart.
“The writing, the guitar playing, Bruce Dickinson’s singing, the songs and the themes – it’s absolutely thrilling all the way through.”
Kiss – Alive! (1975)
“This is the record that got me into the band. I started loving Kiss in the ‘80s. That’s my favorite era of the band, which gets a lot of people angry because they see that as a sort of unfulfilling period for Kiss. I don’t care. I love the album Revenge, too, which is early ‘90s.
“After discovering latter-period KISS, I went back and checked out the ‘70s stuff. The Alive! album perfectly encapsulates everything that was great about their stage show. I had it on cassette at first, and then I got it on CD. I’ve got the vinyl, I have it on iTunes – if it told two million records, I think I’m responsible for a few thousand of that.”
Megadeth – Rust In Peace (1990)
“I got into Megadeth with Peace Sells, which is a great record, but Rust In Peace just might be their masterpiece. It was the album that proved that they could go toe to toe with Metallica and that they had what it took to make it to the big leagues.
“I mean, just Holy Wars alone – it’s an epic. The musicianship on that track is off the charts. Marty Friedman brought a whole new level of guitar genius to the band, but I also think that Dave was at his peak here.”
Metallica – Master Of Puppets (1986)
“It’s the quintessential metal record. Not only was it the breakthrough album for the band, even though Ride The Lightning had a bit of a similar vibe, but it was a very important record to me personally.
“I remember waiting for it to come out. I remember going to the record store, buying it and immediately rushing home to record it directly onto a cassette. I was going on vacation with my parents, and I wanted to listen to it while we were on the road.
“I had to beg my mom to wait 45 minutes so I could make the tape. At one point, she was in the car with my dad, and as Damage, Inc. is recording – the last song on the record – I’m yelling, ‘Five more minutes!’ [Laughs] It was that important. I was going to hold up our vacation to get a cassette of that record. And I’m glad I did.”
Ozzy Osbourne – Diary Of A Madman (1991)
“The first heavy metal record I ever bought was Bizzard Of Ozz, which could be on the list, but Diary Of A Madman is even better. I could go track by track and not find a weak spot.
“The album holds up incredibly well. To this day, it doesn’t seem dated. I’m a huge Randy fan, of course, although I will say that I love all of Ozzy’s guitarists. He always had a terrific eye and ear for tremendous players."
Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime (1988)
“The best concept record of all time. The musicianship, the storyline, the songwriting – all killer. And what about the intrigue over who killed Mary? Everybody was trying to figure out what happened and the mystery behind it. People were actually talking about the record, which is amazing.
“I was into Queensryche before Mindcrime, but this is the album that pushed me over the edge. Sometimes it takes a band a few records to really figure out who they are, and with Mindcrime, Queensryche came into their own.”