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Stephen Rafferty

Name: Stephen Rafferty

Email address: stephen (at) metal-observer.com

Function: CD and Live reviewer

Compatible styles: Death, Thrash, Black, Doom, and Progressive Metal (I see that as ISIS, CONVERGE etc.), also Jazz, some Hardcore, and a few original Emo bands (FUGAZI!...amazing band)

Incompatible styles: Power Metal, Industrial

Thoughts on the main Metal genres:

Black Metal: I really got into this genre later than most and I have started to embrace it a lot more. I can do without the corpse paint and ridiculous imagery all around, but can no longer deny the immense potency of the genre. With such sombre tones and speed, it really is hard not to enjoy plenty of the bands. I wouldn't consider myself a “true” Norwegian Black Metal fan, as I prefer later, better produced Black Metal efforts. The “sounds like it was recorded in a toilet with a RCA tape player” aesthetic isn't one I hold in high regard. Give me later IMMORTAL and I’m much happier.

 

Death Metal: Probably my favourite. From viscerally assaulting bands to Melodic and Technical Death Metal. I love the intensity, tone and power involved. Perhaps it is just a progressive thing, but since first getting into Hard Rock then Metal, I've been hurtling down the path to more extreme forms of Metal.

 

Thrash Metal: Really the first complete Metal movement that had me tightly in its grasp. The expedition of the rhythms was just so captivating. I'm sure the aggression is what enticed many to the form and I am no different. In a time when people were fawning over power ballads, the ripping of Kirk Hammett, Kerry King or Scott Ian was a welcome solace. Even now, this is still a vibrant movement, be it the resurrection of bands like DEATH ANGEL or even the Thrash nuances of some Metalcore bands.

 

Power Metal: Not my cup o’ tea I’m afraid. I can almost never get by the Falsetto vocals and ubiquitous keyboards in so many bands. There are a few songs and albums, perhaps HELLOWEEN’s first (although I think it may be a Thrash effort more than Power) or some by ICED EARTH and BLIND GUARDIAN. Overall though my ears switch off when I hear Power albums more than once.

 

Progressive Metal: See again, I am not sure what everyone considers to be within the genre specified. For me, I find ISIS, CONVERGE, RAPTURE and the like to be progressive. They meld mellower rhythms with utterly ruthless bars of Metal. If this is what Progressive Metal means, I bloody well love it.

 

Doom Metal: Another genre I have very recently delved in to. I cannot tell you how pissed I am MORGION split up! After a masterpiece like “Cloaked In Ages, Crowned On Earth”, it is a damn travesty. As long as there is some cohesion between the lengthy ambiance I am all for letting it take me over.

 

Gothic Metal: Truthfully, I’m not even sure what this defines? Perhaps something I will learn more and hopefully appreciate now I am at TMO.

 

Heavy Metal: I think of this genre as encapsulating what is considered straight Metal, from the NWoBHM to VOIVOD or QUEENSRYCHE. MAIDEN and PRIEST own this area and all else are second to them. When the distortion is there enough and the solos, hooks and drumming push regular Rock into this niche, I’ll always give it a chance. I think it harder to get just plain Metal right also, as you’re not relying on having to conform to certain narrower stylistic choices then the ones I just mentioned.

Nicknames: Raffles

Time at TMO: February 2005

How came to TMO: I had been reading it for a while and thought to mail Alex and see if the reviews I had been sending on a mailing list might be worthwhile.

The best thing as a TMO writer: Getting to share my love of Metal and hopefully expand my tastes.

The worst thing as a TMO writer: Actually having to physically type! When are the thought computers coming?!

Statistics:
Reviews 175
Underground 29
Interviews 2
Live reviews 11
Articles 1
Specials 0
Reviewing methods: I like to listen to the album all the way through once without much disturbance, making no mental notes, just gut reactions. Then, listen to the album a few more times, discerning some details and the flow of the CD.

 

Birthday: April 8, 1971

Birth town: Glasgow, Scotland

Present location: Los Angeles, California

Job: Wireless/Data Technician

Languages: Are there more besides English?

Hobbies: Listening to Metal, Metal shows, compulsively buying Metal, reading, exercising, following Celtic Football Club

Pet peeves: Ignorance, people with no sense of humour, right-wing, pious nut jobs, people who try and go through the “10 Items or less” line with more than 10 items. Hey, we’re all in a hurry pal!

Phobia(s): I have a phobia of phobias

I, about myself: I’m an enigma, wrapped up...oh whatever the hell Dennis Hopper says in “Apocalypse Now”.

Describe yourself in 5 words: Intense, smart, funny, pissed, kind.

Funny childhood story: It involves a goat, two large turnips, a forest and rice wine. You do the math...

 

How I came into Heavy Metal: When I moved to the US a cousin got me listening to Hard Rock, from there I moved to JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN. Once I heard SLAYER’s “Hell Awaits”, it was all over. I had a lifelong mission to find ever increasing extreme Metal.

First Metal CD ever bought: Hmmm, I guess perhaps DIO “The Last In Line” or RATT’s “Round And Round”.

Most embarrassing CD in your collection: STABBING WESTWARD

First Metal concert: QUIET RIOT and W.A.S.P., New Year’s Eve 1984.

What did Metal teach me about life: 99.9% of people have bad taste in music!

Favourite music listening place and why? My room with headphones or sometimes just blaring my stereo. No one to bother me and I can listen attentively.

Most prized Metal possession? Original press of SLAYER’s “Live Undead” picture disc in mint condition.

 

Band & previous band experiences: Played drums with pals in a garage band as a teen. Nothing since.

Instrumental talents: Poorly banging drums.

Favourite bands: DEATH, IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, SLAYER, METALLICA (old), KREATOR, IMMORTAL, AMON AMARTH, DYING FETUS, GOD DETHRONED, OPETH, DISSECTION, MALEVOLENT CREATION, DISMEMBER, SUFFOCATION, VADER, EDGE OF SANITY, NECROPHOBIC

Least favourite bands: DIMMU BORGIR, CRADLE OF FILTH, most Power bands.

Sound you’d like to have banned: Country, Rave, and yes....Nu- Metal!

Most overrated bands: DIMMU BORGIR, MY DYING BRIDE, AMORPHIS

Most underrated bands: DYING FETUS, BLOOD RED THRONE, GOD DETHRONED

Most influential band: None

Favourite musician: Neil Peart

Favourite album cover: DISSECTION “Storm Of The Light’s Bane”, OPETH “Blackwater Park

10 favourite albums: (with reasons for each album)

 

Slayer - Reign In Blood

“Hell Awaits” may have started me on a path, but “Reign In Blood” cemented it. I bought this the day it came out and had heard nothing like it. The production was flawless and still stands the test of time. It outshone “Master Of Puppets” for me that year because it was more intense and unrelenting (and I liked its darkness). It also didn’t contain one bad song, whereas “MOP” has “The Thing That Should No Be”, which sucks. “Reign In Blood” I think also was the start of a crossover to Death Metal, and almost 20 years later still stands the test of time.

 

Judas Priest - Stained Class

While they have heavier albums, and earlier efforts were more melodic, “Stained Class” just hits the right spots for me. Every tune has a great drive and one of the reasons is Les Binks' amazing drumming. Also, Tipton’s solo work is sublime. The breaks on “Beyond The Realms Of Death” alone are worth buying the album. But it has so much more, and Halford at his peak.

 

Iron Maiden - Killers

Yeah, I love Bruce Dickinson also, but I listen to Metal for the music primarily. “Killers” has a cohesion throughout and tight, but superbly dynamic melodies. Again, the drumming is a key and Clive Burr does an astonishing job on this album, from speedy rhythms to solid, perfect fitting fills. As always, Steve Harris’ bass lines drive many of the songs and are strong enough to listen to on their own. Songs like “Murders In The Rue Morgue” and “Killers” are examples of a band that knows itself and puts it all together in every way they can.

 

Death - Symbolic

First, I could easily put almost any DEATH album on this list. “Symbolic” just holds a favourite spot due to the copious amounts of ripping, mid-paced riffs which I love in Death Metal, and seamless tempo changes. The title track, “Zero Tolerance”, “Crystal Mountain” and “1,000 Eyes” all contain these along with Gene “The Machine” Hoglan’s blistering percussion. That opening riff to “Symbolic” grabs me every time. Schuldiner was a god!

 

Immortal - Sons Of Northern Darkness

Though earlier albums from these perennial Norwegian Black Metal stalwarts may be more ferocious and “truer” to the genre, this album is all about tone for me. So much of my love for Metal lies in tone, be it aggression, the feeling of pure adrenaline or simply being crushed with viscousness. “Sons Of Northern Darkness” has a desolate tone that seems tailor made for the barren wastelands IMMORTAL sing of. “Tyrants” conveys this with some added power; the title track with more speed that still maintains the isolation and “Beyond The North Waves” is the jewel of the whole album: from the opening ambiance that is then crowned with tearing riffs that drag you to their world. Abbath’s vocals are note perfect with the tone also, in a callous and disparate way

 

Vinterland - Welcome My Last Chapter

From the first time I heard this album until I finally tracked down a copy of it (which is rare), I couldn’t go long without playing it. Perhaps the most perfect Black Metal/Death Metal crossed album I’ve ever heard. Containing some classic higher key Black Metal chord shredding combined with heavy doses of slower Death Metal dirges. Add enough melancholy, ambient keyboards to channel the dark of the genre and you’ve got a damn near perfect album. Probably the most apt named album ever, as it was the only one this enigmatic band released. A must to seek out.

 

Opeth - Still Life

Like DEATH, picking one OPETH album is difficult. “Still Life” edges the others due to its immense scope, which has been a hallmark of this Swedish outfit. “The Moor”, which open the album is classic OPETH: a softer beginning that through many twists and turns in tempo and range is just a testament to the band’s technical wizardry. Many complain about OPETH being nothing more than the equivalent of musical wanking, but I find the depth and incredible chops to be orchestrated so well, the musicians never overpower the music. With “Godhead’s Lament” and “Serenity Painted Death” the intensity is apparent. Along with this “Benighted” stands as one of the finest acoustic songs in Metal.

 

Blood Red Throne - Affiliated With The Suffering

Pure Death Metal in the American style by Tchort et al. There are dozens of Death Metal albums I’d love to include from SUFFOCATION to NILE, but “Affiliated With The Suffering” has a special place for me due again to its mix of speed changes and chugging riffs. Some you can’t explain exactly why you prefer to other albums, and this may be one. I never tire of hearing this effort.

 

Death Angel - The Ultraviolence

Nostalgia may play a part in picking this album, but who can deny its pure Thrash essence? Rob Cavestany is one of the finest Thrash guitarists around (I’ve seen them twice in the last year, and trust me, he kills). Almost every track on this album is a Thrash anthem: “Kill As One”, “Evil Priests” and of course “Voracious Souls” are just three that you can recall in an instant. The title track is one of my favourite Metal instrumentals, and blisters through so many different tonal and pace changes it is head spinning. The opening “Exorcist” riff slays, period.

 

Kreator - Pleasure To Kill

I guess a theme with me (and I assume many) but again it’s almost impossible to pick one KREATOR album. But, “Pleasure To Kill” started it all for me with this band and is always in frequents rotation. Mille and company put down some seminal Thrash cuts on this album that along with other contemporaries SLAYER, SODOM, DESTRUCTION, and EXODUS laid the map for another two decades of Speed Metal. No question there lies again some roots of Death Metal here, but at the core is unadulterated 80's Thrash. “Ripping Corpse”, “Pleasure To Kill”, “Riot Of Violence“, “The Pestilence“, and “Under The Guillotine“? Sounds like a “Best Of” but they’re all on one original release. Cost of the album? $15. Hearing the album? Priceless (come on, I couldn’t help myself :) )

 

Favourite films: Wild Strawberries, Rashomon, Goodfellas, Ran, Kagemusha, Naked, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, Manhattan, Do The Right Thing, Barton Fink, The Godfather II (I have a Film Degree so I could list hundreds)

Favourite books: Catcher in the Rye, The Elegant Universe, Great Expectations, Fever Pitch

Favourite food: Chinese

Favourite drink: near frozen Gatorade

Favourite smokes: Camel Lights

Which song should be played at your funeral?: Black Sabbath by BLACK SABBATH

Idol (s): Einstein (Albert loved his Heavy Metals)

Person you‘d like to meet: dead- Einstein, alive- Salma Hayek (I did meet her once, and summarily forgot her name she is so stunning. So, I’d like another chance)

Catchphrase: Pure Pish man

Biggest thrill in life (so far): Being my Parent’ Son

Goal in life: To rear an army of horn raising, child replicants to spread chaos and Metal throughout the land.

Secret: none

5 favorites links:

  • www.metal-observer.com
  • www.celticfc.com
  • www.moshking.com
  • www.maxboxing.com
  • www.dailykos.com

      Stephen Rafferty


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