Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s Bram and Zach take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
Back in June, former Metal Edge editor-in-chief Phil Freeman wrote on his blog that bands need to stop playing their classic albums in their entirety, calling it “lazy, thoughtless and frankly insulting.” And while our friends at Metal Sucks already gave their thoughts on the matter, Bram and Zach went to see the American Carnage Tour, featuring Megadeth and Slayer this past weekend. After seeing the classic thrash albums Rust In Piece and Seasons Of The Abyss in their entirety, Metal Insider decided in this week’s Headbangers’ Brawl to re-ask the question: should bands continue to play albums in their entirety, or is this beating a dead horse?
Bram: I’ll start this one off. As a huge fan of both albums when they came out, I was happy last week. Hearing Rust in Peace, especially now that Dave Ellefson is back in the band, was awesome, and it made me realize how long it’s been since I listened to that album all the way through. Seasons was great to hear too. I mean, Slayer has already done Reign in Blood in its entirety, and of the “trinity” of Slayer albums, I think Seasons is the most overlooked. I don’t think it really cheapens the live experience to see a band play one of their favorite albums. At the end of the day though, it better be a classic album the band is playing.
Zach: I think it’s a fun thing to see, but as you said, the album needs to be a “classic” one. Plus, there are only a few bands that have such records that justify getting played in its entirety. I love Motley Crue, but does Dr. Feelgood really need to be heard from start to finish? While it would be cool to see certain bands follow this trend on a limited basis, are there really any more “classic” records that haven’t been played in its entirety yet? Not to say that the trend itself is has been beaten to death, but most of the albums that one would want to hear live have already been done. Are there any albums left that you desperately need to be heard live from top to bottom Bram?
B: Desperately? I don’t think I desperately need to hear any album played live. It takes a certain kind of band to play an album in its entirety, one that’s been around long enough to have a pretty big catalogue, yet have one album that defines them. And most bands are smart enough to know that even their better albums have a few duds on them. If you can play a few more songs from other albums people care about, then why waste time? I find it interesting that, as far as I know, that metal/hard rock is the main genre this has caught on at. You’re younger than me. What album or albums would you want to hear in their entirety?
Z: For the most part you are right. It’s been mostly metal/rock band’s that have followed this trend (though I’m pretty sure Public Enemy did it recently with It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, but I digress). And I’d also agree that it can sometimes be a waste of time to play an album in its entirety. Hell, sometimes it can piss off fans when they opt to play a dud in favor of a classic. Remember how we both felt gypped when Megadeth didn’t play “Sweating Bullets”? But then there’s the rare occasion where playing an album in its entirety brings an old rare gem out of the vault, much like when Metallica performed “Orion” during Master Of Puppets.
But what album would I want to hear in its entirety? Well I hate to keep this discussion directed at the Big Four, but I personally would love to see Metallica perform Kill Em’ All from start to finish. It’s an album that is often overlooked but had such a huge influence. Plus, it simply is an awesome record! Metallica have always played “Seek and Destroy” and once in a while throw “Hit The Lights” or “The Four Horseman” in the set, but I’d love to hear “Motorbreath” live! Ok, so maybe there aren’t any albums you’rer desperate to see performed, but c’mon, what album would you personally want to see played live that you haven’t yet? You’re old enough to remember when most of the classics were first released, there’s got to be one you want to see!
B: Ooh, I get it, a “Bram is old” joke – Hilarious! To be honest with you, I don’t have an answer that comes straight to mind, because it just doesn’t matter that much to me. It’s not really that appealing to me, but it’s also nothing I would complain about for the most part. If I have to pick one, I know Blackwater Park is Opeth’s most popular album, and I saw them play it through, but I really like Deliverance and wouldn’t mind hearing it played start to finish.
I will say this though. I think that this trend is limited, mainly because the whole notion of the “album” has gone away in the MP3 age. It’s kind of a lost form. While there are always going to be bands that play their new album straight through (Mastodon, Porcupine Tree), I don’t think that, for the most part, younger fans (like you – get off my lawn, punk!) wouldwant to hear an entire album played through because they likely didn’t even buy the record that way in the first place.
Z: As much as I want to play the youthful revolt role and say “You just don’t understand my generation man! You’re outdated!” (and then get all angsty like a high schooler), I just can’t. If this past week’s Metal By Numbers taught us anything, it’s that albums just aren’t selling any more.