Band of the Week: A Primer

Estimated reading time: 11 minute(s)

Hola, metalheads! First installment of Band of the Week for you. First, a little introduction to this simple exercise. I have several impediments to being able to enjoy metal indulgence as often as I would like: a wife who does not appreciate the stuff (actually, she won’t let me listen to it in the house when she’s around—I know, don’t say it…), a five-year-old daughter who tends to monopolize my time, and a job with reasonably long hours. While it is hard to complain about having a short commute, the one downside is that I don’t even have that bit of time to rock out in enclosed solitude. Except…for the one week every month or two that I am seeing patients in hospital, during which I drive back and forth between two hospitals and have about 40 minutes per day of driving (read: music time).

So, starting a few years ago, I decided to put that week to good use and started Band of the Week (or BoW, from now on). The rules: pick a band, and listen to as much of their discography as possible, one album/day (only rarely more, or the albums blur together), in chronological order. Primarily studio albums, unless a live album is considered an essential recording.

I started with, appropriately, Black Sabbath. While I know the first 5-6 albums as well as you would expect, I don’t know Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die much at all, and I figured there would be something worthwhile about absorbing the albums in close proximity, which for some reason, I don’t think anyone ever does (hell, people barely listen to albums anymore!). It was great, and I realized that there was a good reason that those two get short shrift: TE is wildly inconsistent, and Never Say Die is just god-awful. Short of that, I’ve tried to choose bands where I don’t know their whole discography, am either only somewhat acquainted with, or not familiar with at all. This was made possible only through the advent of streaming audio, since I was suddenly able to listen to just about anything at a whim—new worlds suddenly opened up! (Yeah, I don’t download illegally, though I will admit that I did in the pre-iTunes era).

Subsequent weeks included: Motorhead, Scorpions, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, Rainbow/Dio-era Black Sabbath/Dio, Blue Oyster Cult, Thin Lizzy, Jethro Tull, Frank Zappa (who has so many fucking albums I gave him two weeks, and still barely scratched the surface), Alan Parsons Project, Wishbone Ash, ZZ Top. I’ve had a couple of theme weeks, such as Satan week (Venom/Mercyful Fate). Some lessons: to start with, not a lot of bands have the depth of discography to stand up to a weeks worth of albums (Wishbone Ash petered out quickly, for example). I’ve learned it’s not always best to start with their very first album, since some bands had really shitty first albums, or at least sounded nothing like what they would become (e.g. Purple).

I’ve been introduced to stuff I totally fell in love with and kept coming back to, e.g., Mk III/Hughes Purple—(their best lineup for my money), Uli Roth-era Scorps, Rainbow. I’ve come to appreciate even finding one or two great or worthwhile albums in the midst of an otherwise uninspiring week (e.g., the first two APP albums). I’ve learned about the different arcs of a bands career: some come fully formed out of the gate, like Sabbath, and others take their time to find a voice (Purple, Top, Lizzy). Some have a great first album and then never really find their way again (Wishbone Ash).

You are probably seeing a pattern in the bands I’ve chosen: largely 70’s proto-metal or hard rock giants, with a few oddballs mixed in. A few reasons: 1. I’m getting old and like listening to hard rock. 2. I’ve had a desire to go back to the roots, and learn about the forefathers more than I did when I was a young whippersnapper and didn’t really see the point. 3. After the mid- to late-80’s albums started getting TOO FUCKING LONG—remember, I’ve only got 40 minutes or so per day, so I can’t do any of this 80 minute album crap! 4. This was back in the day when bands had to put out an album a year, and developed a body of work that can stand up to the BoW. But that’s for another discussion.