Decibrity Playlist: Karl Agell

If he hasn’t already, I hope Karl Agell gets to read Scott Seward’s “Filthy 50” list from our September 2007 issue (again, probably my favorite Decibel feature ever) and starts downloading compilations from The Day After the Sabbath (Rich has only put together a mere 117 at this point).  After all, the former Corrosion of Conformity frontman (who you can find on HOF approved Blind) and current King Hitter vocalist’s playlist is all about proto heavy metal and masters of the riff.  We’ll let the man himself take it from here: “All right now.  Here I am tasked with the solemn duty of putting together a playlist for you fine people out there in Decibel-land.  We all know what we dig, and damn if it ain’t hard to narrow things down.  There’s just too much.  So give us a theme, pal.  Quit yer waffling. Narrow it down. Well, here it is.  We all know that all roads lead to metal, right?  What came before this grand institution?  Who built the foundation?  You mean to say that Vulcan himself didn’t forge the genre overnight?!? Okay, enough.  Here are some of the bands that I consider precursors, proto metal, if you will.” 

While his picks are in no particular order, you can catch him on tour with COC Blind (featuring Agell and COC drummer Reed Mullin performing songs from said album) and King Hitter (pictured above) on the dates below.  You can also pick up a copy of King Hitter’s debut EP, which dropped last month, here.

 Roky Erickson And The Alien’s “Two Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)” (from 1981’s The Evil One)

I was recently in Los Angeles and had the privilege of getting on the guest list for Dave Grohl’s birthday party at the Forum.  One of the many highlights of the night was Nick Oliveri (and the Foo Fighters) belting out a kickass version of this classic.  Roky basically founded psychedelic music along with the 13th Floor Elevators. This is one of his solo cuts. Yeah, maybe it’s a punk precursor?  It doesn’t matter. I can’t stop singing this motherfucker… so crazy, so badass.

 Sir Lord Baltimore’s “Kingdom Come” (from 1970’s Kingdom Come)

This is the title track to their debut release in 1970.  This trio is like a meaner Cream, though it’s harder to imagine anyone meaner than Ginger Baker. Along with Blue Cheer, these dudes may have invented stoner rock.  Just raw, fuzzy, stripped down, groovy riffs with wailing guitar solos and a drummer singing the lead. Their career was short-lived, with a comeback attempt years later. Some of us can relate. This track stands the test of time. There would be no Fu Manchu or Kyuss without them.  Light one up, dude.

Deep Purple’s “Into The Fire” (from 1970’s Deep Purple In Rock)

Here we have one of the greatest bands of all time, Deep Fucking Purple!  This one exudes a slow, plodding heaviness that is unlike anything else on In Rock and perhaps any of their albums. And to top it off, Jesus Christ himself (read Ian Gillan) unleashes his unparalleled vocal mastery like so much sugar on top.  I wish their faces were actually the ones on Mt. Rushmore.  Sorry, Theodore.  As a wee lad, I would sit and listen to my mother’s German pressing (with the psychedelic album cover) of Jesus Christ Superstar.  Who is this Jesus and why must he die?  Ian Gillan made me wanna sing. And his Judas, Murray Head, delivered yet more vocal nirvana to my young impressionable mind.  He made betrayal sound sweet.  It still makes this godless heathen’s neck hair stand up.

Sweet’s “Cockroach” (from 1976’s Give Us A Wink)

I had this on cassette.  Growing up in Sweden, you had to pick Slade or Sweet.  Kids would actually brawl over this.  I picked the Sweet. Who else could proclaim, “You crawled into my bed like a cockroach / The things you said made me lose my head like a waterfall / You’ve got a mouth like a DC-10…but I love you!” and make it sound awesome.  They started making their mark peddling bubble gum pop but evolved into high-kicking glam rock demons laying down monster chords with stacks of super hooky high pitched vocal goodness.  This track was on Give Us a Wink, which is the pinnacle of their heavy.  Definitely a must own album.  P.S. — I can finally admit I dig Slade, too.  Don’t tell anyone.

Thin Lizzy’s “Warriors” (from 1976’s Jailbreak)

Ah, Thin Lizzy.  How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  I could pick any song, any song, and wax on for hours.  This one just sort of saunters in all non-chalant-like and cool, and them bam, they’re off!  It’s got it all, man.  Phil’s smooth and sultry vocal is delivered over the compelling amazing dual guitar attack of Gorham and Robertson, perfectly propped up by the swinging rhythms of Brian Downey and Mr. Lynott.  Without these guys, there would be no Maiden as we know them. Ask them, they’ll tell you. If Lizzy didn’t invent heavy metal bravado, they most definitely refined it into an art form.  And at the end of the day, amidst all the swagger, there was the songwriting.  Nobody tells a story like Phil Lynott. Yes, I say tells in the present tense because he speaks to me from beyond the grave and takes me to a place where few others can.  They still don’t have the respect they deserve.  He left us way too soon.  I will kill any man who says different.

Alice Cooper’s “Dead Babies” (from 1971’s Killer)

Speaking of Killer…ha! There may have been others, but no one brought in the creepy and ghoulish better than dear Vincent and company.  The band’s live show was the antecedent for every future “scary” misunderstood piece of stage theatrics by so many metal acts.  Them boys worship the devil!  Let’s freak out and ban their shit.  Let’s arrest somebody and make an example out them.  They frightened a lot of ignorant hillbillies back in the day.  And all the while this song is really all about being against child abuse.  Read the lyrics, you bumpkin. You might learn something.  And to top it off, this song shreds musically.  Irony makes my head hurt.

Trapeze’s “Medusa” (from 1970’s Medusa)

Once again, we harken back to 1970 with another power trio.  This tune is so simple, yet so uncompromising.  Just a repeating riff with some lulls with ever increasing vocal tension. It’s brought to you by the vocal phenom, Glenn Hughes, who plays a little bit of bass while hitting some sick high notes. Eventually, he became a member of Deep (Fucking) Purple.  Along for this ride you have the mighty Mel Galley on guitar, who ended up in Whitesnake. And last, but not least, there’s Dave Holland on drums.  Anyone heard of Judas Priest?  This is all about the delivery.  Nothing fancy, just sheer will channeled through the speakers into your ear holes.

UFO’s “Evil” (from 1970’s UFO 1)

And here it is, 1970, again. Yes, I’m obsessed, like Wino, Obsessed.  This is off the first self-tilted UFO album.  All before Michael Schenker graced them with his presence. I like this raw and trippy vibe.  For some reason, Phil Mogg’s vocal on this one reminds me of Scott Weinrich.  And who doesn’t need more Wino in their life.  Back to UFO.  This was the big in Japan era.  Everybody’s got to start some place.  They did their lineup change thing down the road and went on to greater glory.  Everyone probably knows “Doctor Doctor”. That song is like a virtual template for early Iron Maiden. UFO >>>>> NWOBHM.

Hawkwind’s “Motorhead” (b-side to 1975’s “Kings of Speed” single)

What more can I say…from Hawkwind cometh the King himself, Lemmy Kilmister. They were a great band but their loss was our gain.  This was the last song Lemmy wrote for them. And the rest is history.  Long live Motorhead!

*You can pick up a copy of King Hitter’s debut EP here

**COC Blind tour dates (all with Cavalera Conspiracy, Death Angel and Lody Kong):

Apr. 10 – Tricky Falls – El Paso, TX
Apr. 11 – Gas Monkey – Live Dallas, TX
Apr. 12 – Empire Control Room & Garage – Austin, TX
Apr. 13 – Scout Bar – Houston, TX
Apr. 15 – Lincoln Theatre – Raleigh, NC
Apr. 16 – Revolution – Amityville, NY
Apr. 17 – Palladium – Worcester, MA
Apr. 19 – Marlin Room at Webster Hall – New York, NY
Apr. 20 – Baltimore Soundstage – Baltimore, MD
Apr. 21 – Agora Ballroom – Cleveland, OH
Apr. 22 – The Crofoot – Pontiac, MI
Apr. 23 – Newport Music Hall – Columbus, OH
Apr. 24 – Mojoes – Joliet, IL (with King Hitter)
Apr. 25 – The Rave – Milwaukee, WI (with King Hitter)
Apr. 27 – First Avenue – Minneapolis, MN
Apr. 28 – Granada – Lawrence, KS
Apr. 29 – The Summit Music Hall – Denver, CO
May 01 – Studio Seven – Seattle, WA
May 02 – Hawthorne Theatre – Portland, OR
May 03 – The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA
May 04 – House Of Blues – West Hollywood, CA
May 05 – Marquee Theatre – Tempe, AZ