To celebrate the release of Unearth’s new album, Extinction(s), we caught up with vocalist Trevor Phipps to find out what five heavy albums changed his life. We came away with a photo of young Trevor listening to KISS’ Dynasty, so it was a rockin’ win-win situation. But we also got a glimpse into what albums formed the metallic psyche fronting a very long-running metalcore/New Wave of American Heavy Metal institution, and we liked what we found, from the aforementioned disco flirtations of Simmons Corp. to a rap-metal crossover and all the way back to hardline straight-edge hardcore.
“Here are my top five influential heavy records,” says Phipps. “Although I like these records, they aren’t necessarily my favorite albums of all time or even my favorite of these bands’ catalogues. My approach on this piece was to show which albums made the most impact on me and my musical journey in the metal world. I’ve listed the albums chronologically and how and when I found them.”
KISS – Dynasty (1979)
As a kid, I would always hear classic rock being played in the house as my father would throw on his vinyl records and play some of the best music from his youth—The Beatles, CCR, The Rolling Stones, The Animals… One of the bands that stood out to me when I was really young was KISS. Part of their allure to me as a three- and four-year-old was their make-up, costumes and flair for theatrics. All of that made a big impression on me, and when hearing their cover of The Rolling Stones’ “2000 Man,” it instantly made me want to play air guitar and sing along. I clearly remember putting on shows with my cousins for our parents, with me pretending to be Ace Frehley, singing and playing guitar. I’d say it was what first got the thought in my head to pursue rock ‘n’ roll, of course premature but I definitely found I enjoyed expressing myself through music with this record. I know this is their more “disco”-leaning album, but there are some solid rock songs on this, outside of their Stones cover. “I Was Made for Lovin’ You,” “Sure Know Something” and “Magic Touch” all will get you singing along and wanting to hear more from the band.
Favorite track: “2000 Man”
Anthrax – I’m the Man (1987)
By the time I hit the third grade, my musical tastes were developing and I found myself at a crossroads of sorts with what I really wanted to hear the most of. I had records by Twisted Sister and Iron Maiden while also having albums by Run-DMC and The Fat Boys, so what better way to satisfy my desire to hear rap and metal than with I’m the Man? What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with a band’s music to the extent that I did. This was only an EP, but the live recordings of “Caught in a Mosh” and “I Am the Law” got me immediately into one of the best thrash albums ever created, Among the Living, as well as me finding Black Sabbath through their cover of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.” Because of that cover, my father bought me Sabbath’s We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll album. This EP is clearly low down on the list of everything Anthrax has done for the world of metal, but what it did for me was open up new musical doors in my world, and they became my favorite band for years and years, and still remain near the top for me.
Favorite Track: “Caught in a Mosh (live)”
Testament – Practice What You Preach (1989)
Fast forward to seventh grade, and I’m a full fledged metalhead with a mullet, dangling skull earrings, concert-T wardrobe and I’m king of drawing band logos on my school desk and books. Testament is one of my favorite bands at the time, and there’s something about Chuck Billy’s voice that grabs my attention and has me wanting to sing along. I had a beginner guitar with a shitty amp, so I plugged a cheap mic into the amp and started singing in my bedroom to this record. “Sins of Omission” is a song that to this day makes the hairs on my arms stand up, and I would belt that one out repeatedly. I found that I had a knack for matching some of Chuck’s sounds back then, and this record was one of a few that helped me find my own style. A year or so after starting to do this I joined my first band, so, thanks, Chuck!
Favorite Track: “Sins of Omission”
Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power (1992)
I already loved Pantera when this came out, but this album spoke to me directly in what I wanted to hear and see from my musical heroes. This band was dangerous, they were fun and they were talented as hell. I’d say this record changed my life more than any other album. The songwriting, the heaviness and personality were exactly what I was looking for and these guys delivered it to so many that obviously were looking for it as well. They quickly claimed the torch as the leaders of heavy metal after this release, because many of the bigger bands that came before them were now experimenting with more radio-friendly material while Pantera just got heavier and angrier with each release. Without Pantera, heavy metal would sound a whole lot different today. You can go ahead and credit these guys, namely this album and Far Beyond Driven, for influencing what eventually became the New Wave of American Metal and metalcore. Every band we came up with will cite them and those two records as some of their favorite music. There’s not a weak track on the album, as everything dominates, from “Mouth for War” through “Hollow.”
Favorite Track: “A New Level”
Earth Crisis – Destroy the Machines (1995)
By the mid-’90s I was on a constant search for new bands. With metal, I was getting burnt out on guitar solos and the glamour of it all, so I went more to the underground to get the aggression without the extravagance. Earth Crisis was exactly what I was looking for, with their crushingly heavy riffs, mid-paced groove, aggressive vocal approach and lyrics with a more socio-political approach. These guys had a message and they wanted to get it across with their music. That method drew me in further and got me more interested in hardcore and the messages bands had. This is an album I would listen to on repeat and keep in constant rotation for years. The opener of “Forced March” into “Born from Pain” is unrelenting and bludgeoning. From there on out, you are in the mood and headspace of this record. It’s dark, it’s heavy, it’s pissed and it’s epic. A must-listen for everyone who likes heavy music.
Favorite Track: “Wrath of Sanity”