ME! 2001
picture of the author 2001

To God and My Own Self Be True...
a story of heavy metal and my life!

Heavy Metal is more than just a style of music, its a way of life. It has been a large part of my life as far back as I can remember. In this page I am going to attempt to give a short history of metal as well as tell you a little bit about myself. I was born in Trenton, NJ in March of 1967. I started listening to hard rock and what became known as metal as early as 5 years old because of a neighbors who turned me on to Aerosmith. Being born in NJ and living close to Philadelphia and New York City, I was in the heart of the NY metal movement in the 80's, but I am getting ahead of myself. Lets start from the beginning...

(Please note that this is not a complete history, it is only the history as I saw it and as it happened in my life.)

Heavy metal derived from the loud blues-rock and psychedelia of the late '60s. For the most part, metal lost most of the blues influences and leaving the powerful, loud, guitar riffs. In the late 60's and early '70s, heavy metal began establishing itself as one of the most commercially successful forms of aggressive rock & roll. Guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and bands like Cream, The Who, Steppenwolf, Hawkwind, Alice Cooper, and Led Zeppelin fused heavy guitars with blues based rock 'n roll and began to put on outrageous live performances. These bands also began to gain dedicated and loyal followers, as opposed to most of the "here to today, gone tomorrow" pop stars that would attract instant popularity, only to lose it all within a few months.

Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin)

By the mid-70's, the leaders of the new heavy metal movement were being established and beginning to influence a whole new school of metal fans. Bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Uriah Heep, Nazareth, Angel, and Judas Priest were beginning to gain large audiences. Of course KISS would be one of the biggest bands to emerge from the 70's. Their impact on the 80's metal explosion would be enormous; not just the music but also the gigantic, bigger than life, stage persona and show.

KISS (1976)

Below are some incredible albums that are usually credited with being the true beginning of HEAVY METAL!

Led Zeppelin ('69)
Deep Purple-Machine Head ('72)
Black Sabbath ('70)

While these albums are usually credited with being the start of metal, they were not for the start for me. It was actually the second wave of bands that caught my attention, mostly because this was about the time that I was old enough to start listening to music. I can remember listening to Aerosmith's "Toy in the Attic" for the first time when I was in grade school. I was mesmerized and from then until today have been a huge Aerosmith fan, as well as a big metal fanatic. (Since then, I have bought every Aerosmith album the day it was released. I actually hitch hiked to the mall to buy Aerosmith's "Done With Mirrors" when I was in college.)

Aerosmith (1976)

Even in grade school I would brag to friends that I had the new Aerosmith record. I even got into a playground fight because someone said that Led Zeppelin was a better band than Aerosmith. I can remember being mocked for listening to Rush, Ted Nugent, Queen, Mahogany Rush etc. when the "cool" bands were Bay City Rollers, the Jackson 5 and KC & the Sunshine Band. (GAK!!!) Disco was in; Donna Summer, the Bee Gees, Saturday Night Fever were all the rage-but I was a metal addict. KISS was probably my biggest addiction of the time, as their posters and magazine photos took up every inch of wall space I had in my bedroom. While KISS did disappoint through the late 70's/early 80's, I remained a KISS fan and still am one to this very day. Aerosmith and KISS were actually the first two albums that I bought. (ok, actually my parents bought them for me.) Aerosmith "Toys in the Attic" and KISS "Destroyer"

Two records that changed my life in the mid 70's:

Aerosmith-Toys in the Attic ('76)
Kiss-Destroyer ('76)


The late 70's disco was all but dead and albums like Thin Lizzy's "Live & Dangerous" and Boston's "Don't Look Back" were gracing my turntable. (and of course Aerosmith's "Night in the Ruts") This is also about the time I discovered, what is now refered to as "true metal" or "classic heavy metal"

Through the next decades, metal adapted itself to the times and it would never completely disappeared from the charts. Trends came and went, as did the trendy followers, but metal fans were devoted. In the early 80s, heavy metal exploded in popularity. Judas Priest, although they had been touring and recording albums since the early 70's, experienced a major popularity surge in '82 with the release of "Screaming for Vengeance." It was actually this band that pulled me deeper into the metal culture. Upon hearing the classic "Stained Class" I was convinced that Judas Priest was the ultimate heavy band. This is about the time I discovered bands like Iron Maiden, who had just released "Number of the Beast," Accept "Restless & Wild," Motorhead's classic "Ace of Spades," Raven "Rock til You Drop," Saxon "Wheels of Steel," Scorpions "Lonesome Crow" and "Fly to the Rainbow." Yup, I had discovered the incredible NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal.) This movement never did gain as much popularity in the States, but was an incredible influence on some of the early American Metal bands as well as some of today's popular bands.

Judas Priest (1991)

In high school I bought, as new releases by then unknown bands, Motley Crue's "Too Fast for Love" on Leather Records, Slayer's "Hell Awaits," Venom's "Black Metal," Metallica's "Kill 'em All," and Queensryche's debut EP. A few "local bands" were beginning to gain some popularity as well. Anthrax, from NY released a 45 single called "Soldiers of Metal"; from Long Island Twisted Sister were filling up the clubs and had finally signed a decent record contract; Heathen's Rage were filling local halls and opening for some major acts. We all know what happened with Anthrax and Twisted Sister, both went on to be huge successes. Heathen's Rage released a vinyl EP with a killer track called "City of Hell" and finally a four song demo in 1987 before disappearing off the face of the earth.

Below are some of the albums I discovered in the mid 80's:

Metallica - Kill 'Em All ('83)
Slayer - Show No Mercy ('83)
Iron Maiden - Killers ('81)

From the glam-hair bands like Stryper, Ratt, and Cinderella, to the intense thrash bands like Megadeth, Overkill, Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, and Celtic Frost, to the more traditional bands like Iron Maiden, Helloween and Armored Saint to the hardrockers like Frehley's Comet to the incredible comeback of bands like Kiss, Deep Purple, and especially Aerosmith, the 80's were definitely a strong time for metal lovers. What was really great about this time was that there was a unity among metalheads. The same metalhead that liked Motley Crue and Accept also liked Slayer and Motorhead.

Kiss in the 80's
Frehley's Comet in the mid-80's

The 80's for me was a time of many concerts. Some of the better remembered and highly cherished from that time were:

Black Sabbath with Ian Gillan, which was an awesome experience. Quiet Riot opened that show. Black Sabbath was being chastized for doing "Smoke on the Water" live, which I thought was GREAT! ELO's drummer was filling in for the ailing Bill Ward. Many thought they would do a cover of ELO's "Evil Woman" but they did not.

Aerosmith on the "Rock in a Hard Place" tour and the incredible "Back in the Saddle" show with the return of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, both at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Pat Travers opened up the "R.I.A.H.P." show. He was on his "Black Pearl" tour and Ted Nugent co-headlined the "Back in the Saddle" show.

Dio and Twisted Sister at a small theatre in downtown Philly. The very next year they both returned together and sold out the Spectrum. The year after that Dio did a live video with us Philly maniacs.

Tony Lee
Tony Lee (Heathen's Rage)
on the "Spread It" Tour with Heathen's Rage at City Gardens in Trenton, NJ. I was also privileged to see Anthrax at the infamous LaMore Club in NYC.

Judas Priest "Defenders" tour two times in one month-Spectrum, PA and the Meadowlands, NJ

Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force at a little club in PA. I still have the t-shirt from that show.

Queensryche and headliners KISS in Philadelphia, PA and in Rochester, NY. The metal guard rail in front of the stage broke in Philly and we were able to sit on the edge of the stage for the entire KISS show. I got my picture in FACES Magazine. I have seen KISS several other times since then. The reunion and farwell tours have blown me away!

David Lee Roth with Steve Via and Billy Sheehan on the "Eat 'Em And Smile" tour at the War Memorial in Rochester.

TT Quick and Helstar at a little club in Rochester. After Helstar played, almost everyone left, so we watched TT Quick with about 20 other people, then they hung out with us and drank some beers and played pool. Cool show! Of course, later some of the TT Quick guys went on to be with Nuclear Assault.

Ted Nugent and Alcatrazz (with Yngwie Malmsteen) at Six Flags Great Adventure. Killer show, although my girlfiiend (now my wife) got violently sick from some laced alcohol she drank.! Also saw Petra, Molly Hatchet (on their reuion tour with Danny Joe Brown), and Charlie Daniels at Six Flags. Not a bad seat in the place.

In the mid-'80s thru the early 90's, speed metal and thrash became the most popular form of heavy metal in the American underground. Crossing the new wave of British heavy metal with hardcore punk, speed metal was extremely fast and more technically demanding. Tthe bands played fast, but their attack was precise and clean. In that sense, speed metal remained true to its metal roots. But what it borrowed from hardcore; the insanely fast tempos and a defiant, do-it-yourself attitude was just as important, and sometimes it was even more important. It gave the band not only a unique musical approach but also an attractive "anti-image" for legions fans, including myslef. Of course, Metallica became the leaders of the genre until their recent style changes. Other key bands were Megadeth, Dark Angel, Exodus, Nuclear Assault, Testament, Slayer and Anthrax. Of course, this is only a small list of some of the better known. There were actually hundreds of bands of this style- Vengeance Rising, Powermad, Laaz Rockit, Flotsom & Jetsam, Hallow's Eve, Deliverance, Sepultura, Heathen, Kreator, Coroner, Destruction, Believer, Forbidden, Forced Entry, Mortification, Annihilator are some others that were riding the thrash wave while it was hot. This raw style stood in direct conflict to the chart topping, more commercial, and glammy bands of the 80's and early 90's (Guns n Roses, Ratt, Poison, Stryper, Kix, Dokken, and Motley Crue, among others), Many of the bands developed a dedicated cult following that would eventually allow them to go gold and for some, like Megadeth, Anthrax, Guns n Roses and especially Metallica, platinum+. What was so amazing about this was they they had little, if any, radio support. Unfortunately, this great art form began to fall apart and fracture into what is now either hardcore, grindcore, or black metal. In the 1990's, the few bands who do exist have changed styles. Metallica has gone for a more "alternative" radio friendly sound, while Megadeth have gone for a more melodic radio friendly sound. Anthrax parted ways with vocalist Joey Belladonna and their lead guitarist Dan Spitz and have stayed pretty true to their roots, although I prefer their older music to the newer releases. (Belladonna reunited with Anthrax in April 2005). Testament and Slayer are still together, albeit with some new faces, but are still pounding out some aggressive thrash that sometimes borders early death metal.

Metallica (1991)
Megadeth (1990)

Another form of metal that came out of the 80's is Progressive Metal. Bands like Fates Warning and Savatage, that started out as more traditional heavy metal bands, as well as Queensryche have lead the way for others. Watchtower, Dream Theatre, Veni Domine, Stratovarious, Angra, Viper, and hosts of others took the heaviness of metal and combined it with the progressive tendencies of Rush, Marillion, Pink Floyd, Yes, and early Genesis and even mixed in some classical elements.

Fates Warning (1999)
Savatage (1993)

There was one thing for sure, heavy metal was more than just a passing trend. Some critics, even today, continue to dismiss metal as over simplistic, primal pounding, with annoying screams. Certainly, there is some heavy metal that is nothing but three-chord riffing, but most metal bands place major importance on technical skill. Even those who play the simplistic forms of metal like AC/DC, do so with such skill and attitude, that it cannot be ignored. Metal guitarists have always been innovators in technique, speed, and skill. In every subgenre of heavy metal, the guitar is the center of the music. The songs are assembled around the riff, with the guitar solo taking prominence.

The 90's also ushered in a big change in my life. While I had always been somewhat "religious" it was during this time that I met some friends at a Motorhead/Raven concert in Rochester, NY that changed my life. These guys were in a metal band called Holy Saint and they were a Christian metal band. Through this band I became a Christian. I can honestly say the knowing Jesus really changed my life. While some of the story you are about to read has some regrets, I have never regretted my relationship with Him. Fortunately these guys also opened up a whole new world of Christian heavy metal to me.

From L to R:
Myself (1984), Holy Saint vocalist Chris Books
and bassist Micheal Amico

Dig the poofy hair I was sporting and the blonde streak, inspired by Joe Perry and Gregg Giuffria.

Unfortunately, after graduating from college, I got involved in a church that condemned metal. I got deeply involved along with my new wife of only a few months. We conviced ourselves that "secular metal" was all evil and so we got rid of the, literally, thousands of albums, tapes and the beginnings of my CD collection. (I know, I often cry myself.)

Thank God for Stryper! I would have been without any music I liked if not for them.

Stryper (1990)

I began to discover that there was hundreds of Christian metal bands, ranging in style from thrash to classic rock. I bought up bands like Deliverance, Vengeance Rising, Trouble, Sacred Warrior, Believer, Seventh Angel, Sardonyx, Whitecross, Bride, Haven, Bloodgood, Rez, Barren Cross. These bands got me through some tough times.

me (white shirt) on stage with Sardonyx 1992.

Below are some of the classic Christian thrash discs that still frequent my CD player:

Vengeance Rising
Human Sacrifice

Weapons of Our Warfare
Extraction from Mortality

Eventually, we figured out that Christianity was not about having your life lived for you. We left the church we were in and got involved in a well balanced church. I discovered that a relationship with Jesus was what was important, not a list of man-made do's and dont's. In 1993 I joined a Christian heavy metal band myself, becoming the vocalist for Ultimatum.

A picture of a sweaty me singing for Ultimatum.

Eventually I began collecting some of my old favorites again. Once again, it was Aerosmith that brought me around. I was in my car, flipping through radio station, when I heard a block of songs off "Rocks," perhaps the greatest Aerosmith disc ever. It was a lunch hour album side and they played five songs off that disc. Man, it was like seeing an old friend again. I knew then, after enjoying those five songs, like having a cold Pepsi on a hot day, it was not the music I needed to change, it was me!

In the mid 90's, with the popularity of grunge, metal took a big dive in popularity. Some even went so far as to say metal was dead. This was, of course, untrue as it still had a huge underground following. While the magazine that we all grew to love began to cover trendy garbage, the metalheads began to put out their own zines. The 90's seemed to be a time of short lived trends. Grunge, Industrial, Alternative, Pop-Punk, Techno, Emo, and now Ska, Rapcore and Goth. Death Metal had its time in the spot light too, although never to the extent of grunge or alternative. I, honestly, am not a big death metal fan, as I feel the vocals all pretty much sound the same. That being said, there are some death bands I really enjoy that play their music with a skill not hear before. Amorphis, Children of Bodom, Extol, Metanoia, Death and a few other all mix elements of classic metal with death metal and in turn create some beautiful music.

Despite the trends, metal continued to stay strong. New blood began to emerge, as well as the reformation of such greats as Exodus, Death Angel, Nuclear Assault, Anthrax, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. I was even blessed with the opportunity to join the guys from the original Vengeance Rising as the new vocalist for their new project called Once Dead. The 90's came and went and despite the changes in music, there a host of new, killer bands: Nevermore, Iced Earth, Mortification, Hammerfall, Destiny’s End, Narnia, Extol, New Eden, Teramaze, Place of Skulls, and the list goes on and on. As you can see from my CD list, I have once again attained a large collection of my favorites. For a more condensed list of favorites, see my favorites list.

Heavy Metal Marches On! Let the Onslaught Continue!

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