first round game
(5) scorpions, "rock you like a hurricane"
(12) fifth angel, "time will tell"
AND SCORPIONS MOVE ON
Read the essays, watch the videos, listen to the songs, feel free to argue below in the comments or tweet at us, and consider. Winner is the aggregate of the poll below and the @marchshredness twitter poll. Polls closed @ 9am Arizona time on 3/5.
pubes: matt fredrickson on scorpions' "rock you like a hurricane
Pubes • Ages 10-13
I don’t precisely remember the first time I noticed my pubic hair. I have a picture in my mind of what it looked like, but for all I know that image is actually a best friend showing me his freshly acquired patch. Likewise, I don’t remember the first time I heard Rock You Like a Hurricane by Scorpions. What I do know is the emotional memory of both firsts is the same: Holy shit what the fuck is this?! The electricity of seeing your genital hair take form; the raw energy of epic guitar distortion.
Growing up in the 80s, we didn’t have internet porn to molest our young minds at the click of a mouse or tap of a screen. Instead, we found it in nature. No, I don’t mean we watched wildlife documentaries. We, quite literally, found porno magazines in nature. Like, under rocks. In the crook of a tree with Busch beer cans strewn about. A few paces down the hill, in the woods, below that one road that kind of ran by the university. I still marvel at our ability as boys to find it. There was this whole underground knowledge of porn stashes. And it was always the weirdest shit. I’m still haunted by the image of a woman awkwardly squeezing one breast through the mechanical components of a motorcycle. I recall contemplating, in my sweet young mind, that cannot be a good idea...she could burn her boob beyond repair.
We weren’t yet using porn in its intended manner. At least I wasn’t. But, viewing it with friends was certainly formative and important. It was the fuel for a bunch of truly ignorant exploratory discussions of sex. It was one of the main reasons we went outside and got exercise. I see now, though, our camaraderie of bewilderhorny was also a way to shelter against the Rock-You-Like-a-Hurricane of sprouting pubes and girls growing breasts.
Masturbation • Ages 14-19
As I was growing older and learning the self-gratification trade, I came to understand that Rock You Like a Hurricane meant something like Fuck You A Lot Pretty Hard. This added to magic of the song, the glory of rock stars, and left me in wonderment of the lives of German Sex Beasts on Tour.
From the time I started my masturbation career, of course, it would be six years before I would lose my virginity. So, my inspiration was some mix of Spiegel catalogs, woodland porn, and a wholly abstract vision of how being inside a woman might feel. Here, a Scorps solo was a perfect musical analogue to sex in my mind. No foreplay. Forceful, hammer-on pull-off hammer-on pull-off, then meandering, the floodwaters of an exploded dam washing over a community of innocents below. Twelve bars seemed like plenty of time to get the job done and reach maximum exhilaration.
The problem with masturbating is that when you are done, you are not crowned Lord of Heavy Metal and Fucking. You are an awkward teenager with goop on your hand whose family really needs to get into the bathroom already please for the love of god. Meanwhile, Scorpions are somewhere cranking up the Hurricane Machine for another 24 hours of bacchanalia.
So, I learned to play guitar, too. Loud guitar. I started playing in a band. The band moved from Michigan to Louisiana. There are no hurricanes in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Blinded by the Light • Ages 20-23
I lost my virginity the same year my mom hung herself.
Looking back now, it’s very hard to accept that those events happened at the same age. Not so much from a practical standpoint. Obviously, one can lose a family member and have sex in the same year. Still, they seem separate life tracks. Alternate dimensions. Alternate light sources. Chromatic dissonance.
At the very least, my life became a guitar string struck with massive attack. A hard vibration sending an excited and distorted waveform into the amplifier of my budding union with alcohol.
In the crests of the signal, I am having sex for the first time, and she is four years older. More importantly, she is ten older in sex years. She lets me play guitar while she rides on top of me. In fact she demands it. I am rocking like a tropical depression, at least.
In the troughs, denial. Oblivion. The dropping pressure that invites the storm.
At the zero crossings, all is soundless. Motion obscured by the mysteries of the x-axis. I can’t breathe. The one I came out of took herself out. Vaginas are a big deal.
Waveform Entropy (Can Be Gross) • Ages 24-32
Me was afraid to let that string stop vibrating.
Me learned to strum it ferociously.
Me learned to play it underwater.
Me went to the STD clinic several times.
Me developed an anxiety disorder.
My band occasionally covered Rock You Like a Hurricane.
Pull up! • Ages 33-37
Fortunately, my better self never completely stopped transmitting. A dutiful blinking red beacon atop a faraway tower on the nighttime horizon line. A carrier wave I managed to tune into just in time to hear her voice. AM radio on a dusk to dawn drive. Secret and true and the glow of the dashboard lights. Warming sunrise. Cup of coffee. Let’s get married. We’re home.
This was also when I started to truly hear the lyrics to the verses in Rock You Like a Hurricane.
The bitch is hungry, she needs to tell
So give her inches and feed her well
Lust is in cages till storm breaks loose
Just have to make it with someone I choose
The night is calling, I have to go
The wolf is hungry, he runs the show
He's licking his lips, he's ready to win
On the hunt tonight for love at first sting
Well, shit. What else haven’t I been hearing?
#MeThrough • Ages 38-present
Can you really call it change if you simply start being the person you always knew you should be? Or, does it just mean you’ve become less lazy?
Having children doesn’t necessarily make somebody more whole, lightningbolted into a wise seer of greater truth. It does, for most of us reasonably ethical people, force you to be less lazy. There are a couple more heads to keep above water in a hurricane, for example.
In turn, being less lazy can become its own habit. You may start to listen for nuance. If you don’t hear the exact phrasing of your four year-old son’s protest, you’ll never manipulate him into putting on his shoes. And you’ll be late. And worlds will burn. If you waste minutes screaming, and create fear and sadness in your 2 year-old daughter’s eyes, you’ll lose precious time trying to reconstruct your heart.
And, this is the actual hard part, you’ll never get to enjoy Rock You Like a Hurricane without ickiness. Yeah, you’ll love the guitar. You’ll chant along, fist pumping, all the way to the crescendo. But, at the end, you’ll be a teenager again with all of that goopy aftermath. Dude, you got off to what exactly?
Still, here, before the next transition, I want so badly to Rock My Lovely Wife Like a Hurricane. Just the chorus. I’m not a misogynist. Right? Right? I’m happy, but I’m also fucking tired. I’m always listening for the lyrics now.
Matt Fredrickson writing his bio in the third person tends to vacillate between being self-deprecating and having delusions of importance. For example, he’s an okay dad and partner who is also working to modernize the music distribution paradigm by releasing mutable albums in the form of interactive VR software.
When not in the third person, I prefer wood fired saunas and staring at big lakes with a drink in my hand.
joshua borgmann: Time Will Tell…And I Think It Forgot Fifth Angel
Fifth Angel’s “Time Will Tell” is an attempt at a kind of pull yourself up by the bootstraps self-improvement anthem complete with lines like “Take a flame to ignite a try. Indecision won’t satisfy. All the choices must be made when your hand is laid” and a positivity evoking chorus of “Time will tell, stand and begin to fight for yourself. Time will tell anyway. Time will tell, only the strong can take it so well. Time will tell, anyway….” Listening to these lyrics today evokes a kind of cruel irony because the band was right in one way: Time would tell. So what exactly does time tell us about Fifth Angel? The answer to that is the most unkind of truths: Time has very little to say about Fifth Angel. In fact, one could make a case that there were dozens of bands that did more to earn a place in this tournament than Fifth Angel. Neither of the band's two albums is still in print. You can’t find them on ITunes or Spotify. Aside from eBay or third party sellers on Amazon, the best place to hear this band is probably Youtube. I’m pretty sure that this isn’t true of any other band in this bracket. So why are they here (aside from the fact that someone on the committee liked them)?
I say they are here because they represent one of the greatest missed opportunities in 1980s metal. I don’t use the term “hair metal” because I don’t think that term really represents this band. A belief that I likely hold because I judge them more by their self-titled debut album than by the, in my humble opinion, less impressive follow up Time Will Tell. However, even Time Will Tell fails to embrace most of the stereotypes of the “hair” genre. This is essentially traditional heavy metal with a bit of a progressive edge and Christian leaning lyrics that most closely aligns with the work of Queensrÿche and Fates Warning. It certainly has little in common with the Trixters and Warrants that represent “hair metal” to me. I’d put that self-titled album on the same level as early Queensrÿche and surpassing all but five or six hair metal releases of the time: Def Leppard’s masterpiece Pyromania, Guns N Roses’ Appetite for Destruction, Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry, the first two Mötley Crüe albums, and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet.
So if this band was so damned good why are they almost totally forgotten? And I assure you that I wouldn’t be holding out some flame for them thirty years later if they didn’t have something going for them. I certainly never think, “I wonder what happened to Trixter" or numerous other bands in this tournament (some I must admit that I’ve never heard of). Personally, there are many things that doomed much of the metal scene in the late 1980s. First, a lot of traditional metal and hard rock bands tried to bend to the “hair” sound. I for one clearly remember the horror that was Judas Priest’s Turbo. Although I do admit still burning a fire for “Turbo Lover,” the rest of the album is utter crap. If I never hear a song a bad as “Parental Guidance” again, I’ll be happy. Second, the market was growing saturated with major labels snatching up ever would be hair metal band that came along. Poison and Mötley Crüe gave way to weak imitations like Trixter. Third, metal was moving in more extreme directions with bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax quickly rising from the underground and on the verge of taking over the metal mainstream (while a monster named death metal was taking root in Florida). Forth, commercial rock was at a turning point with the Seattle grunge movement about to take over. However, every band of the 1980s faced this and many came out diminished but still kicking. Veteran hard rockers and metal bands like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and the Scorpions continue to have massive success until this day. Hair metal mainstays like Poison, Mötley Crüe, Warrant, Ratt, and Dokken continue to sell as nostalgia acts. However, Fifth Angel fizzled completely. Why? I offer you two key reasons.
- Fifth Angel never found a place in the scene or built a fan base.
- Grunge killed the hair stars.
Let’s take a look at each of these a little more.
- Never found a place in the scene and never built a fan base.
To be honest, at first I had this broken down into a whole list of contributing reasons, but as I did more research on the band, I realized that a lot of it simply didn’t apply. Many of my misconceptions came from the fact that I encountered this band much like I encountered any band in the late 1980s, I stumbled upon them on a sampler and heard them on Headbanger’s Ball. This carried on to my buying the self-titled cassette and digging it a lot. I knew that they recorded another album and that “Time Will Tell” was played on MTV a decent amount, but I wasn’t as impressed and moved on into the much riper waters of Queensrÿche and heavier stuff. So my assumption thirty years later was that Fifth Angel was essentially a hard working band trying to make it like all the other bands play clubs and opening for superstars; however, I learned that this was simply not the case. They were a real band. The members came together on their own. They wrote songs. They recorded songs. They released the self-titled on an indie label. Epic executives heard it, signed them, and rereleased the self-titled. Later, they released Time Will Tell and got airplay from MTV and Howard Stern. That was pretty much the extent of their career until 2010. Records and videos are certainly great for most bands, but a lot more goes into building a successful career in the music business.
Let’s look at Fifth Angel’s closest musical relative, Queensrÿche. Both bands played similar styles and both were from future grunge hive Seattle, Washington. However, one band deservedly rose to the heights of superstardom while the other fizzled away into nothing. What was the difference? I could say that Geoff Tate was a better singer or that when Fifth Angel guitarist James Byrd left before Time Will Tell was recorded it took away any musical advantage the band may have had, but these factors really don’t matter. Queensrÿche underwent many changes but continues to this day as do fellow Seattle metal masters Metal Church. So what exactly did Queensrÿche do that Fifth Angel didn’t? The answer is painfully simple: they played live shows. That is right! During Fifth Angel’s initial run as a band, they never played a single live show. They never played clubs before getting signed. They never played as an opening act for bigger groups. In fact, they claim that the only time they played live in their original incarnation was at a party for record executives. The band reunited in 2010 and played a festival as their first ever official live show. They didn’t play live in the United States for several more years. In comparison, Queensrÿche had been releasing albums regularly for years and touring in support of them. While they were supporting Operation Mindcrime, they toured extensively with hard rock icons Def Leppard and rising metal superstars Metallica. While Geoff Tate credits MTV with finally breaking Operation Mindcrime into mainstream success, massive tours with bands at the top of the charts are certainly going to help build a fan base. Fifth Angel didn’t do this at all. This is nearly unimaginable, and pretty much a death sentence to any band.
It was perhaps an even greater blow to Fifth Angel as they didn’t have nearly as clear a place in the scene as other bands. They didn’t fit into the “hair” metal scene very well. The traditional metal scene was bending toward the hair metal side with the exception of Iron Maiden. In fact, an opening slot with a band like Maiden could have done a lot for the band. Hell, let’s be honest a club tour playing support for early Queensrÿche or Fates Warning could have helped a lot. Thrash and grunge were just around the corner. Where did Fifth Angel belong? It was hard to really say. They didn’t embrace the sleazy side of “hair” metal but lacked the darkness that was rising in other metal areas. Touring and continued development of their sound could have moved them into a position to build long careers like later progressive metal bands such as Dream Theater or Fates Warning, but they weren’t playing live at all. Worse yet when James Byrd left the band, they seemed to lean a little more toward traditional hard rock than the more progressive traditional metal sound of their debut. This gained them some additional airplay, but songs like “Time Will Tell” simply didn’t hold up to songs like “In The Fallout.” However, I must admit that the stellar cover of UFO’s “Lights Out” proves that the band still had some great guitar chops. One gets the feeling that if the band would simply have picked a direction and stuck with it, they might have achieved a much greater level of success. It is sort of ironic that “Time Will Tell” speaks of fighting for your goals when Fifth Angel’s failure to play live seems like not putting much into the fight for their own success.
Honestly, I probably don’t have to say much about this. Everyone knows that Alice In Chains released Facelift, Soundgarden released Louder Than Love, and then some Beatles punk band called Nirvana released a masterpiece called Nevermind, and hair metal was effectively no more. A little later some Neil Young lovers named Pearl Jam nailed down the coffin lid with a massive success called Ten. Still, it is sort of ironic that Fifth Angel came from the same city as the genre that doomed them. The loss of interest in hair metal assured Epic that there was little hope left for breaking a band like Fifth Angel into the mainstream. Of course, they could have went back to the indies and continued, but they didn’t. It’s a shame because there are some great moments on Time Will Tell that suggests a truly great metal band was waiting to be born.
It is easy for me to understand how grunge was able to sweep away Fifth Angel and so many other lesser hair metal bands. I am a child of this transitional period. I love songs and artists from both genres, but grunge spoke to me in ways that “hair” metal never could. I grew up with depression and angst (and honestly never grew out of them), so the addiction soaked and depression fueled songs of Alice in Chains and Soundgarden connected with me on a deep almost spiritual level. On the other hand, Def Leppard and Poison gave me a fantasy where even an ugly fat kid like myself could lead a life of hedonistic pleasure. How I craved that lifestyle (and largely still do), but it was never going to be a reality for me. I was fat and pretty much every female I met laughed at the idea of dating me or in any way being involved with the likes of me and my disgusting rolls of flesh. There was never going to be a garden of hedonistic delights for me. I saw myself living in an endless world of misery and suicidal depression that the “hair” metal fantasy only made worse. My anger and bitterness drove me to more extreme forms of metal, but grunge was always there. I killed the lie of “Pour Some Sugar On Me” with the brutal reality of “Outshined” and “Angry Chair.” Kurt Cobain became my third grand poet after Jim Morrison and Glenn Danzig. Nirvana became my Beatles (so much better than the real thing), and Cobain’s suicide only deepened my connection with him as I didn’t go a day between twelve and my late twenties without considering the same path for myself. In fact, I’m still digging out of that depression nearly twenty years later. I could whine forever about my own misery, but the point I am making is that depression and addiction had taken over the soul of rock from the hedonistic joys of hair metal. Flashy costumes were beaten down under Doc Martens and flannel shirts. And from what I’ve heard from latter day hair metal bands like the aforementioned Trixter or some bands I heard here for the first time like Danger Danger or whoever that awful band was that somehow beat Lizzy Borden, “hair metal” needed to take the beating. Unfortunately, Fifth Angel was caught up in this great purge.
Metal itself soldiered on. However, the bands that remained at the forefront and became massive successes were Metallica and Pantera with Megadeth and Anthrax also tasting a bit of commercial success. Thrash was the new metal mainstream and death metal was the new underground. Traditional hard rock bands like Aerosmith held on by increasingly relying on ballads, and Bon Jovi carried on as what it really was a traditional rock band with more in common with Bruce Springsteen than anything remotely metal. Many other bands survived this purge in a diminished fashion. This song is going up against one of those bands, the Scorpions (one of the greatest hard rock bands of all time), who have put together a massively successful career of over fifty years. They were superstars long before hair metal and remain so to rock fans today. “Rock You Like a Hurricane” is in my opinion one of their weaker songs, so maybe Fifth Angel has a chance to make some noise here. Honestly, if the Scorpions’ song was “The Zoo” or any of a dozen others, I’d say give the Scorps your vote as they are fucking amazing, but it isn’t up against any of those songs, so give Fifth Angel a listen and decide for yourself exactly what time will tell.
Joshua Borgmann dwells in the putrid heart of the Midwest in a crumbling abode filled with a small army of feline familiars. He has been a noble servant of the metal gods since trying to summon a demon in middle school. As a want-to-be hedonist, part of him still clings to the lost days of “hair” metal and honestly believes that Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” is the best rock album ever recorded, but most of him has long ago walked down the darkened halls of extreme metal where he now cries along to the battle hymns of Amon Amarth and worships at the feet of Cradle of Filth, Carach Angren, and Septicflesh. His goal in life is to one day write something so gory and perverse that it will be considered the most disgusting thing ever created. Until that time, he works at a community college, where he is regarded as a “nice guy.” He holds degrees from Drake University, Iowa State University, and the University of South Carolina.