When it comes to the most revered names in heavy metal royalty, most of the exalted artists boast careers that span decades and catalogues that extend well into dozens of releases.
Alas, one peril of being so prolific is that no matter how mighty any particular band of titans’ track record may be, an inevitable clunker occasionally squeaks through. In the end, the strikeouts make the grand slams just loom even huger.
So let’s not consider this Turkey Shoot just an excuse to take pot shots at misfires by the metal gods we worship the most; instead, let’s look at it as another opportunity to give thanks for the headbanging bounties and hard rock harvests they’ve bestowed upon us elsewhere.
Now grab your musket, and let’s go!
Test for Echo – Rush (1996)
Dating back to their debut, before they even fully came together with drum deity Neil Peart, Rush has consistently issued one excellent LP after another. Selecting a dud amidst such a deluge of diamonds, then, proves a challenge.
While many fans freaked over the rap interlude on Roll the Bones, overall it’s a rock solid album. That leaves the relatively listless and meandering Test for Echo as the Rush collection that comes closest to qualifying as a miss. It happens to everyone, eh?
Virtual XI – Iron Maiden (1998)
Perhaps targeting one of the two Iron Maiden efforts on which Blaze Bayley sings lead seems a bit like blasting carp in a barrel, but… as impossible as it once seemed to imagine this band ever coming off dull, Virtual XI unfortunately proved that prospect to be all-too-possible, indeed.
Ballbreaker – AC/DC (1995)
After bounding into the ’90s with ballistic bravura with The Razor’s Edge, AC/DC needed a boost by mid-decade, and they turned to producer Rick Rubin to provide it.
The combination just didn’t work. Rubin’s bare bones approach at that time—which worked brilliantly for Johnny Cash’s career-punctuating American LPs—proved an ill fit for the always over-the-top Aussie madmen.
As a result, Ballbreaker is a bust.
Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions – Kiss (1997)
The impact of grunge on heavy metal in the ’90s ran deep enough to muck up the decisions of even the hottest band in the land. Unfortunately, when the world wanted the grunge, Kiss attempted to give them the grunge by way of Carnival of Souls—and then they sort of buried the grunge.
Recorded at the end of 1995, Kiss waited two years to release Carnival, until after the reunion of the original lineup had exploded to re-conquer the world. When Carnival finally came out, it was marketed as the group’s “The Final Sessions” with guitarist Bruce Kulick and drummer Eric Singer.
Diabolus in Musica – Slayer (1998)
Slayer admirably attempted to expand their boundaries on Diabolus in Musica and for that, metal’s most mayhemic will always get full horns up. Unfortunately, DIM doesn’t expand those boundaries to anywhere good.
Consider the time. Nü metal had seized the day. Slayer sounds like they’re reacting to that fact on much of DIM. After all, in 1996, Sepultura had made nü metal work electrifying on Roots, so then why not Slayer?
There is no “why.” There is only DIM.
Jugulator – Judas Priest (1997)
Turbo is the easy pick-off among the Judas Priest canon, but it still rocks rambunctiously in spots, and just try not singing along to the title’s tracks chorus next time SiriusXM plays it on Ozzy’s Boneyard (which, inevitably, will be coming up soon).
As with Iron Maiden’s Blaze Bayley era, it’s also a bit of a given to pick on one of the two studio LPs with Tim “Ripper” Owens doing vocals. Yet, again like with Virtual XI, Jugulator just doesn’t deliver, which renders the absence of the best-loved frontman all the more unpleasantly noticeable.
Cool cover art, though.
Generation Swine – Mötley Crüe (1997)
After spending the rest of the ’90s elsewhere, Vince Neil returned to Mötley Crüe for Generation Swine, but only after behind-the-scenes squabbles and an air of desperation on the parts of all involved made it seem necessary. The finished disc, which had commenced writing and production with replacement singer John Corabi, reflects a rushed, haphazard background and overcompensates by sounding clunky, forced, and mechanical.
Super Collider – Megadeth (2013)
The fourteenth time definitely was not the charm for Megadeth. Fans had been clamoring for a new release from Dave Mustaine and company, resulting in Super Collider debuting at #6 on the Billboard Albums chart. Sadly, those early buyers, by and large, did not come away happy.
Super Collider comes off at once as distractedly scattered and iron-fistedly focused on sounding like somebody’s idea of mainstream. It’s a stumble. Regardless, Megadeth, of course, remains unstoppable.
Forbidden – Black Sabbath (1995)
For many years, Never Say Die, Black Sabbath Mach I’s 1978 final LP with Ozzy Osbourne, took the brunt of fan dislike (although 1976’s Technical Ecstasy is nobody’s secret favorite, either).
More recently, Never Say Die has enjoyed a minor reconsideration among metal fans who have tapped into oddball highlights and hidden treasure moments that previously went undetected.
Not as likely for a similar any kind of similar rediscovery, however, is Sabbath’s string of largely forgotten, rotating lineup albums dotting the thirty years between the 1983 Ian Gillan-fronted gem Born Again and the 2013 reunion platter, Thirteen.
Forbidden reeks as the nadir of Sabbath’s “lost” era. Dreary songs, corpse-like performances, and clueless production convey the sound of an idea (as Sabbath hardly even qualified as a “band” at that point) decades beyond exhaustion.
Ice-T raps on the album opening, “The Illusion of Power.” So there’s that, too.
St. Anger – Metallica (2003)
The temptation, of course, is to slag Lulu, Metallica’s 2011 collaboration with Lou Reed, but that actually does feel like cheating.
To begin with, Lulu lists Reed first, which makes it primarily his album. In addition, Lulu is genuinely weird enough that it’s impossible to judge as any kind of standard metal (let alone Metallica) endeavor.
So, yes, that leaves us with the perpetually—and properly—maligned St. Anger. The songs stink, the production sounds like it was recorded inside a tin can that somebody was kicking, and it’s stupefyingly devoid of guitar solos.
You know all that. Plus, you’ve seen Metallica: Some Kind of Monster.
What makes St. Anger top the list, then, is that Metallica had it all when they bombed us with this atrocity. That makes it more than a misstep, and something closer to an insult.
Well… right back at you, Metallica!