METALLICA, Harvester of Sorrow  (1988, Vertigo)

The skull:
Although he would become one of the most copied rock culture artists ever, the wanna-bes have yet to dilute the greatness of Pushead in his prime. One of the most frequent tools in Pus’s kit was bone; bones ripped from all over the skeleton. Here we have but one skull, qualifying it for inclusion in the Skullection. It’s a fine one too. In the hands of a lesser talent, this could have looked pretty stupid, a fist punching through the top of a skull, holding scales (scales of justice, apparently). The skull looks absolutely wrecked from this probably quite painful ordeal. And there are bandages too. Pushead loved bandage as much as he loved bone. It’s not clear if it’s the arm or skull’s neck that’s bandaged, maybe both, but it kinda looks like neither. I’m thinking the skull is resting on a bandaged tree stump. Yeah, shit gets pretty surreal in Pushead-world. And who knows from where the hand originates? Best not to question these things. I’ll bet it was the record label’s decision to lay this image over the crinkled black stuff in the background. Probably pissed Pushead off at time, but then again, record labels have done much, much worse to desecrate an artist’s version. An A- then.

The music:
Little band outta L.A./San Fran here, never quite got the recognition they deserved. Sound sorta like Gaskin. This 12″ single from 1988 features one of the least interesting songs from that same year’s …And Justice for All, although even the worst on this album is listenable, serviceable, clinical thrash, or in this song’s case, half-thrash. This is one of those Metallica songs that buckles down at half speed and attempts something throbbing, or at least, with its infamous “implied bass” production, let’s say “heavy” instead of throbbing. And it achieves that aim, succeeding as a solid example of where the guys’ heads where at in 1988 and where they would go next. And with Metallica, the good and the bad, you always get a ton of personality from each player. I’ll always stand up for Lars Ulrich’s drumming. He’s not a technical mastermind, but he’s got what many clinicians lack: style and character. His approach is a huge ingredient for what makes Metallica Metallica. People who say they wish Metallica had a better drummer are nuts; it would no longer be Metallica. James Hetfield delivers some of his best lyrics with a menacing sneer, and the solo is one of Kirk Hammett’s most direct, sounding like it was lifted from the Kill ‘Em All sessions. He lays off the wah pedal for once, delivering a short and sweet passage that’s more thematic than solo-y. Favorite moment: James snarling “infanticiiiide.” Elsewhere on the EP, Metallica prove my opinion that they are the best cover band of all time. About 95% of the songs they choose to cover end up sounding absolutely fresh in their re-molded state (one of the best but least known is their bold reinterpretation of Iron Maiden’s “Remember Tomorrow”). The b-side of this slab contains two killer covers: the systematic rape of and power infusion given to Budgie’s “Breadfan” and a totally majestic treatment of Diamond Head’s “The Prince.” So lookie here, an addition to the Skullection boasting a truly killer skull on the cover and equally high-quality music inside. A rare convergence! (Incidentally, I believe Friar Johnsen will be saying the same thing of Overkill’s The Years of Decay, skull328, which comes before this one, but which I have not read yet.) The Council are getting drunk on mead, guzzled out of mugs made of human skulls, of course…these are high times for Big Dumb Skulls!
— Frair Wagner

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