The Last Ten

My wife and I recently started watching the “Lost” series, which we both missed the first time around. For those unaware, the premise of Lost is this: an aircraft flying from Australia to Los Angeles crashes on a deserted island, and the survivors are left to fend for themselves. Strange and mysterious things happen on the island, but that’s not what inspired this post. One of the survivors of the crash, a guy named Hurley, has a CD player with him that he listens to off and on until the batteries finally die. That got me thinking…if I was stranded on a deserted island (or anywhere, I suppose) with no hope of being rescued, what would be the last 10 songs I would want to listen to before the batteries died on my iPod?

Before coming up with my list, I was curious as to how I would compile my list. Would I include a combination of old and new songs? Would I choose songs that reminded me of people, places, or experiences? Would I strive for diversity, considering the 10 as a whole, or judge strictly on each song’s individual merit?

In the end, I chose songs based on pure visceral, gut feelings. I wanted songs that – for whatever reason – struck me to the core. No rationalizations, such as “well this song is considered to be the best by this artist”, or “I should definitely have some jazz in this mix”.

I was surprised to find that 8 of the 10 songs I chose were from albums that I first listened to in high school. I thought that perhaps I might choose newer music, simply because of it’s new-ness. I also though I might choose less metal, but I didn’t. 8 of the 10 songs are metal. I suppose this reinforces the primary reason that I enjoy metal – escapism. It conjures up those feelings I had when I was a teenager in my room, with my headphones on and my eyes closed, listening to these albums for the first time. Feelings of awe, adrenaline, fascination, and pure joy. I guess experienced music differently back then. Metal was new and exciting, and every new album got played over and over until I had the songs memorized. Once in a great while I’ll come across a song that does that to me now. Volbeat’s “The Human Instrument” does, which is why it made the list.

And now, for no other reason than full disclosure, the list (in no particular order):

...And Justice For All

…And Justice For All

…And Justice For All was the first Metallica album I owned. Mostly because I saw the video for “One” (still a classic) and it haunted my dreams. Literally. It was 1988, and I was in eighth grade. I was a budding metalhead, and I was looking for something a little heavier after getting into Guns ‘n Roses. I knew of Metallica, but they were more of a myth to me. I had no idea that they would be everything I wanted them to be. I can still remember what I was thinking when I saw that video:

“Whoa, the dude who’s singing, he plays guitar, too? But not an acoustic guitar? What, no scarves tied onto the mic stand? Badass”…”Are those double bass drum pedals?”

But the star of ...And Justice For All is not “One”, but “Blackened”. Furious, unrelenting, with some of Kirk Hammett’s best solo work.

Imagine my disappointment when the Black Album came out three years later.

Reign In Blood

“Angel of Death”
Reign In Blood

I didn’t discover Slayer until maybe a year or so after I got into thrash music (see above). I was living in Plattsburgh, NY on an air force base. Across Lake Champlain was Burlington, VT, which had a very good college radio station broadcasting out of it. I’d catch the metal show once in a while. Well, one day I was sitting in my room minding my own business, listening to this show when they play…”Angel of Death”. My life was forever changed. At that moment, that song became “My Favorite Song Ever”.

Everything about it was perfect: The changes, the drumming, the no-nonsense singing style. And of course, “The Riff”. When I heard that riff at 1:38 through the song…well…shit. I honestly thought at one point that Slayer must have sold their souls to the devil to get the riffs they got. How else to explain it?

“Mary Jane”
So Far, So Good, So What!

I don’t really remember how I got into Megadeth. It was probably the “Wake Up Dead” video on Headbanger’s Ball. When you have no older siblings or friends to help you with your metal choices, Headbanger’s Ball is like mother’s milk. Although I had to sit through hours of supremely shitty glam metal wannabe videos for those few precious nuggets of Megadeth or Sepultura. Fuck you, Riki Rachtman.

Anyway, So Far, So Good, So What! was my first exposure to Megadeth, and “Mary Jane” spoke to me. It must be Dave Mustaine’s unique combination of theater, anger, bitterness, and guitar chops.

Blessing In Disguise

Metal Church
Blessing in Disguise

I was always suspicious that Metal Church was a Christian metal band. None of their songs ever sounded Christian, but when your band’s name is Metal Church and you release an album called Blessing in Disguise…well, people are gonna talk. That said, I think Blessing in Disguise is Metal Church’s best album. I know a lot of people out there think that’s blasphemy (sticking with the religious theme here), since David Wayne wasn’t in the band anymore, but I actually think Mike Howe is a superior vocalist and the songs are much stronger on this album.

“Badlands” was another discovery-via-video when I was a teenager, and until a few years ago I never admitted to myself how much I love this song. It’s a pretty straightforward metal song, nothing technically outstanding. It’s just really catchy and really well done.

How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today

Suicidal Tendencies
“Trip At The Brain”
How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today

So, my best friend Dave Endersbee and I were totally into ST back in the day (again, high school). We knew Suicidal from their first album, but when How Will I Laugh… came out, we had no idea what to expect. There were rumors that Suicidal went metal, but would it be any good? I took the plunge and bought the tape, and boy am I glad I did. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that How Will I Laugh… is one of the more unique albums in the history of thrash. I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s fun, upbeat, and almost painfully honest. And who can forget the video for “Trip At The Brain”? (click the link above) Amazing. How did they get John Cusack?


King Diamond
“Welcome Home”

I was raised Catholic, and although I never really bought into all of it, I definitely believed in the devil. And King Diamond looked and sounded like pure evil. I loved all of it though: the falsetto, the makeup, the album-as-horror-story. Brilliant.

Again, the video on Headbanger’s ball hooked me. I had no idea what was going on at the time. The last time I saw anyone in face paint, it was KISS, and they certainly didn’t sound this cool. And what’s with the rest of King’s band? Excellent musicians, but they all look like castoffs from the band Europe. Thankfully they stay in the background.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I invested in the whole catalog of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond albums. And although Abigail might be a better album, “Welcome Home” will always be my favorite KD song.


“Secret Face”

Napalm Death and Death were my first forays into death metal. I was really into thrash (who wasn’t), and as before with Guns n’ Roses, I was looking for something heavier, something faster. Death’s Human album was the fastest and coolest thing I’d ever heard. Bands may have played faster before and since, but none have Death’s flawless hooks and Chuck Schuldiner’s beautiful solos. The drums, bass, and guitars seem to be interwoven with each other.

Death is one of those rare bands that pushed the technical and progressive envelope with each album they released. In my opinion, Human is the perfect combination of heavy, fast, technical, and progressive. And “Secret Face” is the gem of that album.

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Public Enemy
“Rebel Without a Pause”
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Our first non-metal song of the list! Since this is a metal blog, I’ll put this selection in context: I was a pretty committed metalhead in high school, but none of my friends (except for the aforementioned Dave) were into metal at all. I was buddies with this guy on my soccer team, and he was always going on about Public Enemy. I’d never heard any of their songs, all knew was Flava Flav, and he looked and sounded like an idiot.

Then the crossover song hit MTV – you know the one, “Bring the Noise” with P.E. and Anthrax. I thought Chuck D was such a badass – that voice! You’d better listen to him, he’ll kick your ass.

Because of that song, I went out and bought Nation of Millions… and wow. I was into Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys before I got into metal, but this was different. This was…serious, political, and flawless. I finally understood the value of Flava Flav – when contrasted with Chuck D, he totally works.

I could have picked any number of songs off of this album and I would have been happy. I settled on “Rebel Without a Pause” because it’s just Chuck D being a badass, and the beat is relentless. Terminator X does some of his best work on this track. Kick it Terminator!

Hatful of Hollow

The Smiths
“Handsome Devil”
Hatful of Hollow

Finally, we’re out of high school. I discovered the Smiths in college, like I assume most straight men do. I wouldn’t have been ready to admit that I loved Morrissey’s voice before then. Hatful of Hollow was the first Smiths album that was given to me. I don’t remember who it was that gave me the tape, all I remember was that she was asian and I think my roommate wanted to date her.

Listening to that tape was like being hypnotized. I knew music like this existed, but I didn’t know it had a sense of humor. I didn’t know it was self-aware. That was definitely part of the appeal. The other part was Morrissey, what a voice.

Like Nation of Millions… , I pretty much love this whole album (which, I know, is a sort of “Best of”). I chose “Handsome Devil” because it’s dramatic and serious in that confused teenager kind of way, and it gallops along and a nice pace. Plus, it has my favorite Smiths line ever: “Let me get my hands on your mammary glands”.


Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil

“The Human Instrument”
Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil

Finally, we come to the last member of the Last Ten: “The Human Instrument”. I surprised myself with this one. It’s the only song that I haven’t been listening to for at least 15 years. In fact, it’s only been a year. Yet Volbeat gets on with pure energy and excitement. Time will tell if I still feel as strongly about this track as I do now, but now is all that matters. I’m on a freakin’ island, remember?

Volbeat’s sound is an odd combination of metal, rockabilly, and punk (Misfits kinda punk). It’s a fun listen if no other reason than that combination. Vocalist and guitarist Michael Poulsen has a deep and unique voice and he’s not afraid to flex his vocal cords. “The Human Instrument” is probably the odd bird on this album. In addition to the metal/rockabilly/punk sound, there’s also a definite folk sound to it.

It’s just so goddamn fun to listen to, it makes me want to sing out loud every time I hear it. Perhaps this song is a bit of an indulgence, but hey, I’m worth it.


~ by mikehill25 on February 3, 2010.

One Response to “The Last Ten”

  1. Great post. I’m going to sit down and come up with my own list. Next thing you know, I’ll be actually stranded on an island, find an ipod, and all that’s on there is Candlebox and Silverchair.

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