Max Norman is someone that had a huge impact on a lot of hard rock and metal we have listened to over the years, and has for the most part not strayed from this style of music. He’s known most for his work with Ozzy and Megadeth, and like previous lists, picking a specific album by an artist can be difficult.
10. Mind Bomb – Mind Bomb – A band out of Chicago that was actually Matt Mercado’s band, the album walks a thin line between alternative hard rock, with industrial elements, and just flat out rock badassery. This is an album, and a track “Segue” that I played the absolute crap out of, especially one of the Al Jourgensen remixes of the track “Segue” back on college radio, and beyond. Still love the track and the album.
9. Grim Reaper – Rock You To Hell – The band that incorporated Hell in a shit ton of song titles, lyrics, etc. but don’t hold that against them, Steve Grimmett’s vocals were always out of this world, and Nick Bowcott, before being all things Dimebag Darrell, Marshall, or Sweetwater, was one of the sickest guitarist of the era. A common theme here, but Max Norman helped them to improve the band’s sound drastically, and helped make this release stand out over a lot of the other albums that were coming out at the time.
8. Loudness – Thunder In The East – As a kid listening to rock radio, and being hooked on MTV it was mind blowing that Scorpions were from Germany, and singing in English. There was hard rock and metal around the world? Sorry the only non-english music I had heard of was Julio Iglesias, Manolo Escobar, and any of this kind of crappy music my folks were playing around the house. So to find out that there was a band from Japan on MTV was almost surreal to me. I thought that you could only be from the US or the UK to know what hard rock and metal was all about. And then there was Loudness. It would only make sense that someone like Akira Takasaki would want to work with the same guy that produced Randy Rhodes a few years before. Obviously he would know how to help the band reach its fullest potential, and make it on the world stage. The single “Crazy Nights” helped the band become one of the biggest Japanese musical exports ever. Akira is still seen as a guitar god by legions of followers from around the world. Norman would work with the band’s multiple times after this.
7. Lizzy Borden – Visual Lies – The band was always known for their visual presentation, but Max helped them deliver that one quintessential anthem that was needed to triumph back in the 80s. The song “Me Against The World” landed them on metal radio, and is a track that is still played on metal programming world wide, as well as featured on many of the hard rock podcasts you love. A staple of Metal Edge back in the day, so even if you had never heard the band, you knew what Lizzy looked like.
6. Dangerous Toys – Dangerous Toys – Did Kurt Cobain like Dangerous Toys? The opening riff to the band’s 1989 track “Teas’n, Pleas’n” does sound somewhat like Nirvana’s 1991 song “Breed”. I can see the Vanilla Ice explanation now, “well theirs goes like this, while ours is like this”. In any event, this was an album that made a dent when Headbanger’s Ball was full of ballads, and when most of the band’s that were debuting on the show around this time were pretty forgettable. A credit to Norman, this album sounds a lot better than the run of the mill cookie cutter material that was coming out at the time, a lot had to do with former Watchtower vocalist Jason McMaster vocal talent, and writing ability.
5. Death Angel – Act III – When bands still took chances, you look at how metal bands write nowadays, and 99% stay safe and would rather regurgitate theirs or other band’s riffs or hits, than step outside of the box and do something different. Act III is that, for a band that was known for “Bored” or “Kill As One”, Norman was able to corral a lot of things that most bands nowadays would shun, or be flat out scared to release, I’m looking at you “A Room With A View”, and “Discontinued”. The album is a noticeable upgrade sonically Davy Vain’s production, it is also the band’s only release on Geffen, which I’m sure helped the band procure Norman. “A Room With A View” predates “The Unforgiven” and “Nothing Else Matters” where thrash bands all started releasing ballads, Death Angel was ahead of the curve.
4. Armored Saint – Delirious Nomad – The band’s second album on Chrysalis, and marked the band downsizing to a four piece. The label was looking to have Norman deliver some heavy metal magic, which it does, but not in the vein they had expected. While the label may have been waiting for another “Can U Deliver” the band was trying to figure out how to be more than an entity that was lumped in with the Priest and Maiden wannabes that had flooded the market. The band tweaked their image, the album cover was atypical, and the songs progressed in a manner that would help separate them from the pack. This is the last album that wasn’t at least co-produced by the band’s Joey Vera.
3. Lynch Mob – Wicked Sensation – For a lot of huge fans of Dokken, like myself, we were waiting to see what George Lynch would do after the band imploded. I heard the title track first, and all I remember doing was listening to it 86 times over and over again. This album is great from start to finish, and in my honest opinion, as a huge fan of George’s, he’s never been able to come close to the first two Lynch Mob albums, within the confines of that band name. And that isn’t me not wanting to listen to other things, because I’ve listened to all of his releases, and enjoy KXM, and like what I’ve heard from Ultraphonix so far, but under the Lynch Mob moniker, they’ve yet to eclipse those first two albums. This album wasn’t your run of the mill release back then, and it wasn’t just a George Lynch album, which is what most guitar heroes would have done back then. The album is multilayered, everyone’s playing can clearly be heard, and takes all the vocals to another level, Oni Logan has never sounded this good on an album again, with Mick Brown and Anthony Esposito’s backing vocals being an important part of each melody/chorus. I credit Norman for knowing how to get the most out of them in order to give us a one in a lifetime performance.
2. Megadeth – Countdown To Extinction – A lot of people point to Peace Sells, and Rust In Peace as the bands quintessential releases, but if it wasn’t for that darn Billy Ray Cyrus, Dave Mustaine would of had a number one album with Countdown. This album although not as hailed as the two mentioned above, is a landmark album, not only because of the chart position, but because they were able to harness elements from all of their previous releases, and for a lot of people one up Metallica in their back and forth battle with both band’s releases. This album had roughly seven tracks that would be played on metal radio, and more than one of those videos were continuously on the old Dial MTV. Yes “Symphony Of Destruction” is the track most people know off of this, even a deep cut like “Ashes In Your Mouth”, which Eddie Trunk used to play religiously when he DJed in New Jersey, showed that the band hadn’t lost its ferocity.
1. Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard Of Ozz – The groundbreaking album that presented Randy Rhodes to the world, and influenced countless guitarists as a result. “Revelation (Mother Earth)” may be the beginning of Thrash metal, given how the song is structured, and how bands like Metallica would do similar acoustic openings to tracks like “Battery” and “Blackened”, and even the transition during the solo which kicks things up a notch before going full speed into “Steal Away (The Night)”, can be felt in thousands of songs, I’ve always felt that this track heavily influenced “Fade To Black” as well. One could argue that Ozzy’s influence in Sabbath is unmeasurable, but the groundwork that was laid on Blizzard can still be felt today as well, whether people realize it or not.