666 Days of Metal with Chip McCabe

There are only three weeks left in 2015, and you know what that means…let the mass ridiculing of each other’s “Best Of” lists begin! We already dropped our Top 40 in the January 2016 issue, but there’s still plenty of time to comb the blogosphere for other lists to drool/rage over.

If you’ve ever compiled one of these year-end lists, you know it’s no easy task, but it’s mere child’s play compared to Chip McCabe and his absolutely bonkers “666 Days of Metal” project. As a giant middle finger to Top 100 lists everywhere, the Connecticut-based writer chose the 666 greatest albums in heavy metal history and, starting with The Gates of Slumber’s Conqueror, proceeded to write a review of each album every single day for almost two fucking years. We caught up with Chip to talk about his massive list and the mind-numbing logistics of sticking with such a daunting project.

What’s your personal history with heavy metal? Do you remember the first time it “clicked” for you?
I’ve considered myself a metalhead for close to 30 years now. I’ll date myself here a bit—I was born in 1975, and in my early youth I was enamored with certain heavier albums my old man had in his collection: bands like Blue Cheer, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, etc. I think metal “clicked” when I first heard AC/DC. While I don’t consider them a metal band, they were my gateway into heavier music. There was one summer in particular where my musical education moved very quickly, and in a very brief period of time I fell in love with AC/DC, discovered and fell in love with Black Sabbath, and then happened to stumble upon this film that some religious group had created at the height of the “Satanic Panic” in the mid-’80s. That film talked about the evils of bands like Slayer, Venom and, believe it or not, Iron Maiden. That was it. I was sold. That same year, I moved back to New Jersey and started hanging with these kids who all had older brothers into metal. Those “dirt bags,” as most of the neighborhood parents called them (seriously, those dudes were straight out of Heavy Metal Parking Lot), turned me on to bands like Judas Priest, Metallica and Megadeth. It was really as though the stars aligned perfectly over a six- or eight-month period, and I’ve been worshiping at the altar of metal ever since.

When did you get the initial idea to do the 666 Days of Metal project? Were you prepared for how much work it would take when you started?
I used to handle the marketing for the three alt weekly papers here in Connecticut (the Hartford Advocate, the New Haven Advocate and the Fairfield County Weekly), but I also used to contribute articles and album reviews to their joint website in my spare time. In October 2012, their keeper of the website keys asked me if I wanted to contribute a “100 Greatest Metal Albums” article that would run on Halloween. Even though I secretly detest “greatest album” lists, I agreed and started to jot down albums as I thought of them. A couple of hours later, I noticed I was already up to 200 albums and thought, “There’s no way I’ll get this back down to 100.” That’s when the light bulb went off and I thought, “The hell with it, let’s do 666 albums,” because that number has become synonymous with the music.

Photo by Alternative Control
Photo by Alternative Control

The next day I went into work and presented my idea, but by then I also came up with the concept of launching it one album a day with a giant photo gallery that we would make people scroll through. The web guy’s reaction was priceless. He said, “You realize that’s an almost two-year project, right?” When I told him I had done the math, he was like, “Fuck it. Let’s do it.” So, the original idea was supposed to live on the Advocates joint site, CT.com, but the powers that be didn’t want anything with “666” in the title on their site. When I refused to chop it to 500 albums, we both said forget it and I launched 666DaysofMetal.com. Why is that part important? Because the Advocates don’t exist anymore and all of the content that lived on the old CT.com was obliterated, which means 666 Days of Metal would have been, too! Sometimes you make what you think is a rash decision and it winds up paying dividends. Ha!

How did you decide which albums to include on the list? Were there certain criteria that you adhered to when making your choices?
This is not an exaggeration—as Hurricane Sandy was obliterating parts of the East Coast, I was sitting at my dining room table with a just-in-case flashlight, culling together all 666 albums ahead of time. The list would morph slightly just before I launched it on Halloween 2012, but the bulk of the work selecting albums for the list was done in advance and during one of the worst storms we’ve ever experienced up here.

Coming up with criteria was the hardest part. Music is the most subjective form of art in the world in my opinion. One man’s greatest is another man’s worst. So, I wanted to make sure this was as inclusive a list as I could make it. With that said, I had to draw the line somewhere, especially when it came to hard rock/proto-metal stuff. One thing I didn’t want was for this to look like some crappy list you see on a lot of mainstream sites, where “metal” is a subjective word and they’re really just praising rock bands. I also refused to use album sales as a prerequisite. Some of the most influential metal albums of all time have sold less than 50,000 copies. Hell, less than 20,000 in some cases. Meanwhile, a band like Korn, who are just fucking terrible, has sold millions of records. If that doesn’t prove my point about subjectivity, I don’t know what does.

This is a massively time-consuming project. Was there ever a point when you thought, “I can’t fucking do this anymore”?
It wasn’t so much, “I can’t fucking do this anymore” as is it was, “What the fuck was I thinking?” I would try to write three or four posts at a time so I could give myself a couple days of rest in between (and have the ability to write for other sites), but there were certainly a few times where it would be like 11pm and I’m staring at the clock thinking, “Shit, I’ve still got to get a post together for tomorrow.” It was a great exercise in self-discipline, though. I never, ever wanted to miss a post, and by the end of it, there was truly a feeling of accomplishment that I wouldn’t have had if I had missed even one day.

Did you receive any feedback from people who were surprised that certain albums made the list or were left off entirely?
Almost every day, I’d get comments or emails thanking me for posting about a band or album someone had never heard before or had forgotten about. It was awesome, frankly. On the other hand, I pissed off a bunch of people on the very first day with my intro post. I made it a point right from the start to tell people what they wouldn’t be seeing on the site (nu metal, the vast majority of glam, Metallica post-Justice). The decision not to include Metallica’s Black Album alone was met with a bunch of “fuck you and your site”-type comments. So be it. I stand by my reasoning that the Black Album is a bloated, over-produced piece of crap that did more to damage metal in the long run than it did to help it. I knew going in that this project would potentially be met with as much criticism as it would praise…because the Internet. But for the most part, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Are there any albums you personally love that didn’t make the final cut?
The exact opposite actually—there are albums on this list I simply detest on a personal level. But I knew I had to include them regardless of my personal feelings because of the influence they had on the metal world. I tried really hard to make this list as subjective as humanly possible, so I included bands from every corner of the metal universe. If there’s a subgenre for it, there are bands that rep it on this list.

You’re turning 666 Days of Metal into a book. How did that come to fruition?
That wasn’t the original plan, but after about 100 days of the project, I got the idea to turn it into a book as well. I started coming up with all of these extras that would only appear in the book, including interviews with artists that have albums on the list talking about their favorite metal records. I also have extensive stats on the list itself, so I’m going to break out a bunch of mini-lists based on geographic region, genre, record label, release year, etc. (i.e. Top 10 albums from Sweden, Top 10 albums on Metal Blade, Top 10 albums from 1987…) I also plan to include an addendum of my Top 25 albums of 2013, 2014 and 2015. So, that’s really 741 albums for the price of 666. It’s a steal! The process of going from blog to book seems to be just as time-sucking as the creation of the original blog posts because it’s a whole different set of issues you have to work through. But if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it.

You also have a website called The Metal Dad. Have you indoctrinated your kids in the ways of our Great Lord Satan yet?
Of course! What kind of father would I be? The Metal Dad is part music blog and part parenting blog. I’ve already waxed poetic about things like my daughter’s battle vest. I also just had my three oldest kids sit down and collectively review songs from recent albums I’ve reviewed and been listening to: Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Gnaw Their Tongues to name a few. There are certain bands my kids and I have really connected over, like Black Sabbath, Dio, Iron Maiden and Amon Amarth. My oldest child, who is 15 years old, is completely following in my footsteps down the proverbial left-hand path. She goes to school every day in my old Neurosis sweatshirt. The younger ones are falling into line quite nicely as well.