Thursday, August 1, 2013
The Heaviest Album I've Heard - Thin Lizzy - Thunder and Lightning
Thunder And Lightning might be an odd choice as the heaviest album ever considering I like Slayer, Metallica, Exodus et al. However, as some of you may know by now, Thin Lizzy is my favourite band of all time and when Thunder And Lightning was released it simply annihilated anything all the brutal bands had ever recorded and released pre and post this amazing full-length. For a while it was actually my favourite Lizzy album although upon it's release I was a fresh Thin Lizzy devotee still exploring their back catalogue. Therefore it did lose it's place as their best release but it has still remained my heaviest album.
As soon as the opening title track starts with thunder rolling in I am hooked, floored and left completely out of breath by it's sheer force. A short interlude from guitarists Scott Gorham and newcomer John Sykes allows the rest of the band to join in and demolishing time is on. Philip is spitting out the lyrics with pure venom while Gorham and Sykes take turns with some amazing guitar solos either side of a fantastic keyboard solo from Darren Wharton. And despite the heaviness of the song Brian Downey still maintains his trademark shuffle and skiffle groove amidst pounding the life out of the drums. Amazing!
This Is The One moves along the same lines albeit slightly slower in speed. However the skullcrushing is still there mainly thanks to Downey's drumming. No click tracks, no auto tuning Brian makes it sound so easy when in fact he is running a marathon keeping the song together allowing his band members to excel. Lyrically it's a song of hope which actually stands out because most of the subject matter on Thunder And Lightning is dark, foreboding and dejected.
In hindsight you can read anything into a text, whether it's a song, a poem, a novel no matter what. Therefore to this day I always get the feeling Philip wrote The Sun Goes Down for and about himself. Musically it's slow and mellow with a fantastic guitar solo about 3:30 minutes in while lyrically it has all the signs of impending doom as if the narrator knew time was up. Apart from Philip's untimely death a few years later the song always brings my best friend Roberth's premature passing to life but it also keeps the memories of better times alive.
Although faster The Holy War goes hand in hand with The Sun Goes Down in the sense that Philip, THE songwriter in the band, is questioning his god why he is doing what he is doing and what is happening to him. A devout Catholic Philip was always in an inner turmoil regarding his faith and the life he lead. Questions are raised but his god never answers. As a stand-alone track The Holy War has always been one of my favourites where the guitar solo - again - is out of this world. Another aspect that has made this my choice for the heaviest album is Darren Wharton's keyboard playing. I know, I know keyboards aren't heavy and shouldn't be allowed in heavy music but listen intently to all the songs and you know what I am talking about. The sounds he create and what he plays lifts Thunder And Lightning and simply amplifies everything the band is performing. True I am extremely biased when it comes to Thin Lizzy but if you play this kind of music and want to add keyboards into the frame look no further. Darren is greatly overlooked so take the time and listen because he is an excellent musician.
Along with the title track Cold Sweat is by far the most metal song Thin Lizzy ever recorded. Gorham and Sykes are on fire again and their interplay is amazing adding to the paranoid feel of the lyrics. Someday She Is Going To Hit Back, to me, is on the other end of the spectra of Cold Sweat being one of the most progressive songs the band ever laid down. It actually took me a little bit to warm to it but once I got it the song blossomed and is a great piece of music. Downey and Wharton especially excel here. What follows next is Philip's plea to what he has lost being in such a focal band as Thin Lizzy. Baby Please Don't Go oozes with his pain of losing his wife and kids since he can't let go of the rockstar lifestyle he was caught up in. Again the guitar playing is phenomenal. Keeping with the confessional aspect lyrically Bad Habits could be Philip singing about himself again. He loved his drugs and women and that was what brought him down. Of course, like I have mentioned above hindsight is always 20/20 and it's easy to pin his wild life onto this song looking back...which leads to the album closer Heart Attack. Listening to it when it came out it was "just" a great song, now it follows along with The Sun Goes Down, Baby Please Don't Go and Bad Habits. Although Philip passed away due to liver and kidney failure the song is eerie since he sings about his own demise. Looking back it's as if he knew he was going to die prematurely a few years before it happened.
Some of the songs on Thunder And Lightning are amongst the heaviest and fastest Thin Lizzy ever recorded while some of the others move along the band's traditional way of writing. What really makes it my heaviest album is mainly the subject matter which is really dark, brooding and angst-filled. Since English is not my mother tongue it did take me a little bit to catch on to what the lyrics was saying, so the music of course got my attention at first. And musically Thunder And Lightning is heavy as hell but as I grew as an English speaker, so did the lyrical content and I started to realise what it was all about. A great album by the best band in the world.