Thrash Producers: The Sound And The Fury
Guitar World talks to the producers who crafted the sound on groundbreaking albums by Megadeth, Anthrax, Possessed, Death and other bands from extreme metal’s formative years.
McMackin had begun working at the Music Grinder as a gofer. He had some previous schooling but learned engineering by observing and listening to what was going on around him. Peace Sells was the first album McMackin ever engineered, and Burns says, “Casey should get a lot of credit for that album.”
The most fun song to record was Megadeth’s cover of the Willie Dixon blues classic “I Ain’t Superstitious.” Burns often liked to lay down the bass and drum tracks at the Grinder, then go around to smaller studios in Hollywood and pay $25 to $30 an hour to overdub guitars and vocals. Poland laid down his solos in several different studios and told McMackin, “I like the beginning of this solo from this studio, but I like the second phrase from this studio and this phrase from this one…”
McMackin was against cutting the licks together. As he told Poland at the time, “The sound’s not gonna match,” but Poland didn’t care. Following the guitarist’s instructions McMackin cut the different takes together. To his pleasure, he found that the resulting compilation of takes gives Poland’s solos an effective call-and-response quality.
Peace Sells was released in the fall of 1986, when a number of great speed thrash albums seemingly all came out at once, including the big daddy of the genre, Slayer’s Reign in Blood. With the help of Burns and McMackin behind the boards, L.A.’s Dark Angel would also record their best album, Darkness Descends, which came out right after Reign in Blood and today remains a relentlessly brutal classic. Drummer Gene Hoglan, currently in Strapping Young Lad, was Dark Angel’s leader and he proved to be an intelligent lyricist as well. Hoglan loved to use a lot of big SAT words in his lyrics and a lot of speed/thrash bands at the time were also going thesaurus crazy when they got bored using the same old adjectives to describe something evil. Says McMackin, “I learned a lot of words from Gene.”
Dark Angel's Darkness Descends
Burns and McMackin also had a lot of fun working with a number of New York bands signed to Combat, including Nuclear Assault, the Crumbsuckers and Ludachrist, who later changed their name to Scatterbrain. The New York bands they produced had a healthy sense of humor in their music. Unlike the success-driven Mustaine, they primarily wanted to play and have a good time.
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