Metal Essentials II: Leather and Bell Bottoms (1976 - 1979) - Sin After Sin vs Strangers in the Night TIEBREAKER

vote for your FAVORITE songs


  • Total voters
    10

Mosh

The years just pass like trains
Staff member
And we have our first tie! Initially I was going to pit On Fire against a bonus track to be a tiebreaker, but then I realized it makes more sense to let y'all choose your favorite album instead (which is probably how a lot of you would've voted anyway if it was two songs against each other). I'm only going to leave this open for a few days because it shouldn't take that long. I'll try to update as soon as tomorrow if it's decisive by then.

A few thoughts about the match: This was remarkably tough. Van Halen was definitely a bigger influence on me overall but the debut is only my 3rd or 4th favorite album by them, while Lovedrive is probably Scorpion's peak. Still, Van Halen won 6 - 2 for me.

Little Dreamer remains a criminally underrated VH track, but Holiday is a formidable foe.

And one more thing:
[10] Always Somewhere V Ain't Talkin Bout Love [10]​
I'm usually not one to tell people how to vote but I do want to make a friendly suggestion: part of the fun of this game is making decisions between two close choices. These matches are supposed to be tough, that's what makes it exciting. Instead of abstaining because you gave both songs the same rating, I encourage you to listen to both songs carefully and make an informed choice between the two. The whole point of this is deciding preferences.
 

Niall Kielt

Pulled Her At The Bottle Top
Sorry I missed the closing of this. I've heard both albums a couple of times before and I had a song-Vs-song listen the other day and it was pretty tight. There are a couple of songs that I dislike on the VH album but Lovedrive has a fair bit of meh kind of stuff. I'll have to listen again to pick a winner but I'm leaning towards Lovedrive.
Ain't Talkin Bout Love and Coast To Coast are 2 songs I regularly listen to. Career highlights from both bands, in my opinion.
For what its worth I would have voted Little Dreamer over Holiday.
 

Black Bart

Ancient Mariner
I prefer Scorpions overall as a band, but out of VH's discography, their first album is the best, which is not the case for Lovedrive (in my opinion)...so my vote goes to Van Halen.
 
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Niall Kielt

Pulled Her At The Bottle Top
I think the only VH albums I have heard are the debut and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Without derailing the thread, what do fans think of Carnal Knowledge? I remember liking some quite heavy grooves on there.
@Black Bart
@Mosh
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner
And we have our first tie! Initially I was going to pit On Fire against a bonus track to be a tiebreaker, but then I realized it makes more sense to let y'all choose your favorite album instead (which is probably how a lot of you would've voted anyway if it was two songs against each other). I'm only going to leave this open for a few days because it shouldn't take that long. I'll try to update as soon as tomorrow if it's decisive by then.

A few thoughts about the match: This was remarkably tough. Van Halen was definitely a bigger influence on me overall but the debut is only my 3rd or 4th favorite album by them, while Lovedrive is probably Scorpion's peak. Still, Van Halen won 6 - 2 for me.

Little Dreamer remains a criminally underrated VH track, but Holiday is a formidable foe.

And one more thing:

I'm usually not one to tell people how to vote but I do want to make a friendly suggestion: part of the fun of this game is making decisions between two close choices. These matches are supposed to be tough, that's what makes it exciting. Instead of abstaining because you gave both songs the same rating, I encourage you to listen to both songs carefully and make an informed choice between the two. The whole point of this is deciding preferences.
If Always somewhere had an actual chance in this community against ain’t talking about love I’d have done the vote.
 

Cornfed Hick

Ancient Mariner
I was on vacation and didn't get around to voting on the song-by-song match-ups before polling closed. But it doesn't matter, as my votes would have been 4-4 anyway. I give Van Halen a slight edge, just for being a game-changer.
 

The Dissident

Ancient Mariner
Personally for me, Scorps blow Van Halen out of the water as a band. Lovedrive has no filler imo whilst Van Halen is littered with it, the best tracks are a guitar solo, a cover and an absolutely astounding track in Ain't Talkin About Love. Lovedrive is sited as the best album by Scorps by most members of the band. I 100% will go with the album that broke Scorps into NA
 

Mosh

The years just pass like trains
Staff member
We eagerly await the next match-up! Well, at least I do. :D
Guys, summer classes are not a joke. I'm currently halfway through a 2 week accounting course and it's really kicking my butt. The good news for y'all is that it'll be over by the time the next update for this game is due. But it did cause a delay in the update I'm about to post.

I think the only VH albums I have heard are the debut and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Without derailing the thread, what do fans think of Carnal Knowledge? I remember liking some quite heavy grooves on there.
@Black Bart
@Mosh
For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge is largely seen as a return to form for Van Halen after a long string of poppier albums. The keyboards are almost entirely absent and the guitar returns to prominence. Heavier songs but they didn't forget the songwriting skills they had developed over the years. It's a very good album. If you like that, definitely check the first four VH albums.
 

Mosh

The years just pass like trains
Staff member
Scorpions loses to the mighty Van Halen in the tiebreaker!
Queen vs Cheap Trick
The Beatles’ performance at Shea Stadium in 1965 is widely regarded as the first stadium rock concert. Stadium concerts and tours by rock bands began to grow in popularity soon after. Partially due to the growing popularity of rock music and the advances in amplification technology, the concept of an arena rock tour really exploded in the later 70s. This development also had an effect on a lot of rock bands’ musical styles and created what is commonly referred to as stadium or arena rock. Since bands were now performing to larger audiences, a certain amount of intimacy was lost. New gimmicks needed to be created to keep the crowd engaged. Bands began to write songs with huge choruses that were made for singing along. Some songs would identify the audience directly. Instruments were recorded with more reverb to give the illusion of a live stage. This strand of rock music became particularly important for the glam metal movement in the 80s, so it’s appropriate to cover here.

Few bands personified the concept of arena rock more than Queen. We previously covered them in an early and more raw stage of their career in the last installment of the game. By 1977, Queen had released several huge hit singles and two albums that hit number one in multiple countries. With each album, the band grew even more popular and their crowds were getting bigger. Queen’s music was also evolving. While the first two albums had overtones of prog and metal, they had largely shed this by the time they recorded News Of the World. The eclecticity of the band remained, but it was presented in a much more accessible fashion. The band continued to innovate in the studio, but they were also creating songs that were almost tailor-made for the huge stadiums. Of course the most notable of these songs is We Will Rock You, a song that would go on to become a staple of sporting events everywhere. If you saw the movie, you would probably think that the song was written as an outlet for Brian May’s frustration at Freddie Mercury’s delinquency. However, the “official” story is a bit more interesting. Brian May stated that both this and We Are the Champions were written as a response to the audience reaction at the end of one of the band’s concerts. It’s really hard to think of two songs that are more emblematic of stadium rock than We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions.

The rest of the album is not to be forgotten, however. Get Down Make Love, while not as famous, is almost equally as anthemic and was a live favorite. If I could editorialize for a moment, Spread Your Wings is every bit as anthemic as We Will Rock You/Champions but with much more to offer musically. It may be buried on the back end of side 2, but don’t miss It’s Late. This is a tune that showcased guitar tapping months before the release of Van Halen. Brian May’s tapping technique is slightly different, as he uses a pick rather than his fingers. He got it from Texan guitarist Rocky Athas. Also, the raw intensity and heaviness found in early Queen hasn’t completely disappeared. Sheer Heart Attack, originally meant to be the earlier album’s title track, It’s one of the most aggressive songs the band ever wrote and seems to be inspired by the growing punk rock movement of the 70s, but with the signature Queen twist.

News of the World was yet another massive album for Queen, largely thanks to the opening 1 - 2 punch. The album solidified Queen as really the face of arena rock. It also showed the band continuing on a much more commercial path, which they would develop further into the 80s.

In a previous installment, we discussed the importance of live albums during the 70s. There clearly seems to be a link between the growth of popularity in live albums and the emergence of stadium rock. One of the bands that most effectively bridged the gap in this area was Cheap Trick. One of the all time classic albums, Cheap Trick At Budokan was big for both the band and the venue. Bands had performed at Budokan before (the first was The Beatles) but it was Cheap Trick At Budokan that really made it a prime destination for rock bands and a favorite place for them to record. Cheap Trick had released a few albums up until this point and had experienced some moderate success. However, they were really lacking that big hit single. Surrender was positioned to be that single, but didn’t become the classic rock staple it is now until after Budokan. The band did find early success in Japan, however, which led to the recording of Budokan. It was originally going to be a Japan only release, but they eventually decided to import it to America and Europe after seeing its potential. This was a great move as the album became the hit they were going for and contained I Want You To Want Me, which was a big radio single. The album was characterized by the extremely energetic crowd, which was somewhat unusual for a Japanese audience. The crowd cheers were overwhelming throughout the album and they often interacted with the songs (most notably in I Want You To Want Me).

Musically, Cheap Trick is best characterized as being part of the emerging power pop movement that took influence from 60s bands like The Beach Boys and The Beatles. In fact, Cheap Trick often liked to describe themselves as an American Beatles. They did have a harder edge at times though and were influenced by punk rock as well. Prior to Budokan, the band had recorded three studio albums. They intended for their debut to be a showcase of the band’s heavier side, In Color to be a showcase of their lighter/more accessible side, and Heaven Tonight to be a mix of the two. At Budokan features a pretty healthy mix of the three albums, although it leans more toward the pop. It also includes a cover of Ain’t That a Shame and a song that was unreleased at the time: Need Your Love. Many of the songs on here are extremely anthemic. Hello There and Goodnight both address the audience directly. As mentioned earlier, I Want You To Want Me contains audience participation. Lots of huge hooks and choruses. It’s no surprise that At Budokan was huge for Cheap Trick because these are clearly live ready, stadium rock oriented songs.

Not Metal, but these two albums were big for the arena rock movement which did affect Metal in the next decade. All songs from both albums represented.
 

srfc

Ancient Mariner
I don't have News of the World so sitting this one out, but is that not a bit unfair We Will Rock You and We are the Champions versus Hello There! LOL 2 of Queens best ever against not even a real song.

Have a few Cheap Trick albums most don't really click with me but At Budokan is an absolute essential for any music fan.
 

srfc

Ancient Mariner
Um...maybe try YouTube??
I don't like doing that because I'll be subconsciously biased towards the songs I know better from At Budokan. I know this is only a fun poll on the internet, but dammit it's important we take voting seriously ;)
 

Cornfed Hick

Ancient Mariner
subconsciously biased towards the songs I know better
I think that bias probably creeps in for everyone, myself included.

Matching up Cheap Trick's "Hello" and "Goodnight" tracks with the Queen monsters -- "Rock You/Champions" and "It's Late" -- does seem to give Queen a two-vote head start, but otherwise it could be close. By the way, "It's Late" is probably my favorite Queen song of all time.

My vote is 6-4 in favor of Queen. Cheap Trick gets the edge on "Surrender," "I Want You To Want Me" and "Ain't That a Shame," three of the greatest live tracks ever, and "Clock Strikes Ten" simply because I don't like "My Melancholy Blues" -- Queen should've just ended the album with "It's Late."
 
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Mosh

The years just pass like trains
Staff member
I went 6-4 for Cheap Trick. Both are great albums, wish I had time to make a case for Budokan. Great album, I highly recommend checking out the complete performance. A lot of highlights didn't make the cut.
 

Mosh

The years just pass like trains
Staff member
Queen wrecks Cheap Trick in a low turnout round.

And finally we reach our last pairing. For this round we’re looking at two bands that are somewhat difficult to pigeonhole and have both at least flirted with Metal. A late 70s Metal battle jacket would be incomplete without at least one of them. The first band name dropped Heavy Metal in their entry for the previous game and the second band had an undeniably heavy sound with an ethos that encouraged going against the grain, a familiar theme in the Metal world. Of course I am talking about Blue Oyster Cult and Rush.

In the previous game, we looked at Secret Treaties by Blue Oyster Cult. That was an album which saw the band slowly starting to make an impression on the rock world after a few albums that were mostly relegated to the underground. By 1977 with the release of Spectres, BOC had a platinum album under their belt and a big hit single with Agents of Fortune and Don’t Fear the Reaper respectively. The band had somehow found a way to package their eclectic and sometimes quirky signature sound into tight songs that were accessible to wide audiences. It seemed that BOC was on the way up; however, as it would turn out, Agents of Fortune was in some ways a peak. It wasn’t the band’s last taste of huge commercial success, but it was one of their biggest and wouldn’t be matched until 1981. Spectres was still a moderate success and was certified gold. It also most notably contains one of their biggest singles, Godzilla. Unlike The Reaper, Godzilla failed to chart as a single. However, it was picked up by FM radio and grew in popularity to become one of BOC’s most popular songs.

While perhaps not the commercial juggernaut the band’s label might’ve hoped for, Spectres was a huge hit among fans and is widely regarded as one of their best albums. It was another showcase for the band’s various styles and even hinted at a more commercial sound that would develop over the years. The band’s heaviness is still in tact and a few songs even seem to harken back to the roots of their “black and white” era, but with a more polished production.

Blue Oyster Cult is a band that is perhaps better defined by the environment it existed in rather than a certain musical style. Being from New York at a time where artistic creativity and experimentation was at a peak, BOC is a great example of a band that tried a lot of different musical styles and brushed against a lot of different genres in the process. Some of their New York contemporaries included Patti Smith, Brian Eno, and Talking Heads. These artists are probably galaxies away from Heavy Metal, but perhaps Blue Oyster Cult was a conduit between two styles that at least shared a similar ethos and represented some of the most cutting edge music of the time. BOC was certainly one of the heaviest bands to come out of New York that wasn’t part of the punk scene. At the end of the day, Blue Oyster Cult sounds like Blue Oyster Cult, but the best Metal bands tend to be the ones that are unlike any that have come before.

Meanwhile in Canada, we find another band that recently saw a huge commercial breakthrough the very same year as BOC with Agents of Fortune. If you’re a Hard Rock or Metal fan, I urge you to take a moment to appreciate a year where both Agents of Fortune and 2112 were released. If those two albums alone don’t show the vastness of rock music in the 70s, I don’t know what would. But for this game, we are looking at the albums that followed. In 1977, like BOC, Rush was riding a wave of popularity from an album that you wouldn’t expect to obviously become a hit. Of course the risk implied with that kind of success is that it may be a fluke and the band might not have any long term commercial potential. However, Rush had one thing that BOC did not: the emergence of one of the most dedicated fan bases in the business. Critics may have hated them, but it didn’t matter for Rush. The years of grueling bus tours and an unapologetic creative drive were finally starting to pay off. When being pressured by the label to take another commercial direction, Rush instead doubled down on the prog. Clearly the logical move would be to continue to follow their artistic gut. A Farewell To Kings continued the hard rock/prog sound of 2112, but this time with added instrumentation. Geddy Lee added the synthesizer as a normal part of his arsenal, Neil Peart expanded his set to include auxiliary percussion, and Alex Lifeson added some pedal synths of his own along with 12 string and classical guitars. The added instrumentation was an attempt to give the illusion of a small orchestra consisting of just three musicians. Indeed, Rush largely recorded their music live in single takes. Despite having songs that were long and pretty musically complicated, most of what you hear is the band performing live with very little in the way of overdubs. Perhaps the best example of this is actually in the opening minute of the album’s title track. It was recorded outside the studio and each of the three members have their own intricate part to play, not unlike a piece of chamber music. If you listen closely and with headphones, you can even hear the outside ambience and Alex’s guitar gradually moving across the left and right speakers. This isn’t artificial panning: it’s the sound of him walking back and forth between the two stereo microphones. Other examples of the band’s performing abilities can be heard throughout the album. While A Farewell To Kings did not contain a single song as long as 2112, it did feature two 10+ minute epics that combined to exceed the length of the previous epic. Cygnus X-1 Book 1 shows the band experimenting with ambience and tape loops before going into an extremely heavy and frantic track. Xanadu is the more well known of the two epics and also features some ambience in the intro but it’s much more organic and mostly achieved with Alex’s guitar, a synth drone, and Neil’s percussion. That song went on to become a live favorite. The album has a lot to offer in the way of shorter songs as well, in fact it has something that 2112 did not: a huge radio radio hit with Closer To the Heart. Despite the shorter length, these songs still have a lot in terms of musical content. Especially the title track.

Because of the smaller number of songs, we’re also going to be including a second Rush album: 1978’s followup Hemispheres. Hemispheres was recorded just a year later and was very much a continuation of what they were going for on AFTK. In fact, it’s really easy to see the two as companion albums, which is why they’re being represented together here. Hemispheres is Rush at peak prog, with even longer and more complicated songs than on the previous record. Remember how I mentioned the band recording much of their songs live? This was true on Hemispheres as well for the most part, but the band finally saw their limit with the song La Villa Strangiato. Not the longest song they ever recorded, not even close, but certainly the most complex. The band attempted to record the basic tracks live but eventually was forced to split it up. Despite that, the track still stands as a crowning artistic achievement and one of the all time great instrumental tracks. The other long track, if you can believe it, is slightly more straightforward musically despite being the length of an album side. The title track is a sequel to Cygnus X-1 Book 1 and takes our protagonist to the scene of ancient Greek mythology. It’s long but is more narrative driven and contains a lot of repeated musical motives. In other words, it’s much easier to follow than Strangiato. The two shorter songs on the album aren’t any less musically complex. Circumstances and The Trees both contain extended instrumental section that show off both the band member’s individual strengths as well as their musical chemistry as a collective.

A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres proved that 2112 was not a fluke and Rush continued to grow in popularity thanks to a combination of the fans embracing the band’s musical direction and their grueling touring schedule. The two albums are not only the peak of the band’s prog style, but also the last two albums with any semblance of Metal, at least until the 90’s. Rush would go on to expand their use of synthesizers and went into the 80s with more of a new wave and synth pop influence, which turned off many of their fans in the hard rock and metal sphere. Despite that, the band’s 70s output remains

I expect this to be a massacre and I apologize for my limited knowledge of Blue Oyster Cult compared to Rush. That isn’t to say Spectre is weaker, there is just limited information out there. I invite BOC fans to make the case for them and fill in any gaps in my writing. I also urge you all to give the album a fair shake as it is, dare I say it, a hidden gem. All three are deserving of being among the Metal Essentials. All songs from both albums represented.
 

Cornfed Hick

Ancient Mariner
I expect this to be a massacre
Yup.

In fairness, a lot of these BOC songs are decent. But the Rush songs here are just too strong. For example, "Golden Age of Leather" is a lot of fun, but, I mean...it's matched up against freakin' XANADU(!), which, as I recall, won the Rush survivor some years ago. I'll be surprised if even a BOC truther like @mckindog can honestly vote for more than a couple songs from Spectres here.
 
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