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 When is a band in their prime??? 
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Post When is a band in their prime???
This thread is inspired by a private discussion I had with Myrddin about GNR. He believes that their prime was the Appetite era, whereas for me it extends right through to Use Your Illusions.

The point is this: do we only consider the quality of a band's recorded output when answering this question, or should we be taking other factors into consideration? Perhaps it's necessary to talk about an 'artistic' prime and/or a 'commercial'/popularity based prime? Because it seems rather absurd to me to claim that Metallica, for example, weren't in their prime in 1992 just because you prefer Master of Puppets to the Black album.


Thoughts/comments/criticisms?

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Thu Jul 27, 2017 4:45 pm
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
Prime - meaning best. So no, the Use Your Illusion or Black album eras couldn't be described as prime, far from it. Gn'R were a compromised act at the height of their success. Likewise Metallica.

Where is Myr these days anyway?


Thu Jul 27, 2017 5:25 pm
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
Metallica were a much better live band in that era. That was really their time. So yeah I disagree. Defining a band's prime purely in terms of the very top end of their recorded output just seems wrongheaded to me. There needs to be a more holistic evaluation.

Nobody thinks Danzig IV was the best album from the original lineup, but that whole era was the band's prime for various reasons.

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Thu Jul 27, 2017 5:40 pm
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
Cliff era was prime Metallica.
Appetite was prime Gn'R.
1-4 was prime Danzig.


Thu Jul 27, 2017 5:51 pm
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
robitusson wrote:
Cliff era was prime Metallica.


I'd agree with Rob that the Cliff era was Metallica's best in terms of albums. That much is obvious, MOP is still their overall crowning achievement as artists.

Stat_Rad wrote:
Metallica were a much better live band in that era. That was really their time. So yeah I disagree.


I'm sure this will be debated, but fuck it, I'm going to say it anyway - I agree that they were a better live act overall in the late 80's early 90's.

There is certainly enough raw naivety, youthful energy, self belief and superior material to make the argument that their earlier era was a peak, and of course Cliffs presence is a huge thing in and of itself.

But I genuinely believe that they were a far tighter, heavier and more intense musical force with Newsted on board.

Maybe Jason wasn't as dexterous a player as Cliff, or as much of an equal musical partner when it came to composition, but as a live performer, he was easily his equal. I'm sure a lot of people will call that heresy. But the evidence is clear to me. And he flat out fucking destroys Trujillo on that front, even taking into account the live performances during the Load and Reload era, that much is clear.

He had a far greater and more positive affect on that band than he is given credit for IMO, in his playing style, his enthusiasm and his overall outlook and personality.

Plus Lars was at his best in the late 80's/early 90's - Still sloppy at times of course, but far more on point than the earlier years, and with more enthusiasm and energy than later on. And you could say the same for Kirk. Plus, Hetfield had become a seriously commanding presence. And lets be honest, image wise, the "none more black" thing was just fucking cool.

The Seattle show from 89 is evidence that they were at their peak as a live act from any recording I've seen, or gig I've personally witnessed. They were fucking devastating at that point, you could put them up against any band - even Maiden, or prime era Slayer - and they would more than hold their own.

I can't honestly say, much as I prefer the actual music, that I feel that way about the performances on the older footage.

Especially when compared what I would consider the best performance footage in metal, e.g. Maiden 'Live At Rainbow', Exodus at 'Ultimate Revenge' the Slayer live footage that accompanied the release of 'Decade Of Aggression', or Sepultura on 'Under Siege'.

Obviously I didn't see them in person at that point, seeing as I was 8 years old and living in a one horse town in Ireland at the time, so I don't have a real world comparison. And maybe it is down to what is just my personal preference as far as how bands deliver music with a certain type of energy and intensity, rather than the quality of their playing and stagecraft, I don't know. But nevertheless, I stand behind my assertion.

robitusson wrote:
Appetite was prime Gn'R.


G'N'R were definitely at their best creatively, performance wise and for sheer excitement with the classic Appetite/Lies line up.

They were compromised by success later, even more than Metallica, because they became totally atomized as band mates and writers, which meant both the egotistical need to have everything heard with less thought for quality control, and the fact certain members - And frankly, I would say this is as much true for Slash as Axl - were more concerned with their own interests, be it lifestyle or ambition, than the good of the band.

There isn't a single chink in the armour of Appetite. It is as close as you can get to perfect without becoming sterile or clinical as far as the songwriting goes, plus it was honed in sweaty clubs by a band that was hungry, and the line up had that indefinable "it", or X factor, or whatever you want to call it, and it shows in the delivery.

Which is not to say they didn't have anything to offer with the UYI era as far as songs or performance goes, but they became so massive in such a short space of time, they had no idea how to manage it IMO.

The egos, the productions, the drug & alcohol issues, the loss of two members who were integral to their sound and style (Adler was definitely part of what made them unique, even if his departure wasn't as important as Izzy leaving) they became a totally different beast after that, at best, a very good stadium rock band, and at worst, a total fucking disaster.

They were the most exciting hard rock band in the world on their ascent. They were a fucking circus from that point. An often entertaining circus with huge potential to still deliver something special, but a circus all the same.

robitusson wrote:
1-4 was prime Danzig


Danzig reached their prime - in terms of success, musical quality, and, much as I hate to use the word, relevance, as far as being something that was still genuinely exciting - on How The Gods Kill IMO.

I love 4p, and you can't really quarrel with the songwriting or musicianship or the fact they were all over MTV at that time, but really, the cracks were starting to show stylistically and in terms of personnel at that point.

John Christ's input and playing style was being toned down, Biscuits quit, and the music was moving away from the heavy blues/rock n roll influences of the first three records.

Which was also true of How The Gods Kill to a lesser extent, but it was still a huge element, and it still felt like more of a band (and a genuinely fucking brilliant band at that) effort where everyone's playing style was an integral part of their sound, even if Glenn was writing all of the music.

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Thu Jul 27, 2017 7:55 pm
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
The notion of sales/gate receipts/chart positions isn't relevant to a band bing 'in their prime' IMO. As it's a band, an artistic, creative entity it's the quality of their musical output (both in and out of the studio) that counts, surely?

Metallica were at their best in that Seattle show's period, no doubt. Whatever you think of them during the early '90s, while they certainly put oin more of a 'show'/'performance', they were slipping. Hetfield with his 'yeaahh' shtick, and Ulrich with his ego-driven, attention-seeking insertion of endless fills and rolls detracted from the overall effect, I reckon. Nothing wrong with Hammett or Newsted's playing back then, however.

Speaking of which, I totally agree about Newsted. A real shame that he wasn't given more credit or even room to write. I can't blame him one bit for leaving, I can only assume the money was keeping him there for that length as, as much as he might have enjoyed playing, being creatively stifled has to grate.

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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
I think it varies from band to band, but I think it has to be based on energy and creativity [or insert other factor that originally made the band special], balanced with live performance quality, with a lesser degree of commercial success. The genre is littered with bands whose most commercially successful periods were also characterised by a distinct reduction in creativity.

Personally, I think Metallica reached their peak on the ...and Justice for all Tour. After that, their creativity went down, but their popularity went in the opposite direction. Now, they are still massively popular but I don't think they have many of the qualities that first made their name left.

GnR is an interesting one as you can't argue that UYI were their most creative album/s, that also saw their peak in popularity: However, many hardcore fans still see Appetite... as their peak. I certainly think it's their best album, but not necessarily their most creative.

I guess it comes down to what you think made that band special in the first place and when/if they lost that.

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Thu Jul 27, 2017 10:24 pm
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
Personally, I always go for a band's 'prime' years based on artistic output and live performance. Sometimes this coincides with commercial success, other times not. Some bands also have more than one prime era. Motorhead had a renaissance in terms of songwriting from 1991 on, Maiden had a big resurgence in live performance in the early 90s and a huge return to prime form on all levels in the 00s.

Maiden are an interesting case in how 'prime' eras of bands can be divided into commercial/live/creative aspects, and how these aspects overlap. Creatively, there's no doubt that from 1980-88 Maiden were on prime form. Commercially, this was their prime as well. However, in the live sense, they were only in their absolute prime from about 1981-85 - their late 80s live form is a noticeable step down from the previous years.

Now, in the 90s, Maiden's commercial prime era faded. Some would argue that their creative prime era had gone by this point as well, but I disagree with that personally, as I consider FOTD and The X Factor 5 fist albums. However, what's not really in dispute is that they entered into a second 'prime era' in terms of their live performance, at least until Bruce decided to leave. The 1992 FOTD tour leg is great, some of their best playing and energy ever.

Then in the 00s it all comes together and you have them hitting prime form once again on all three fronts - creatively, on stage and also commercially.


Last edited by Cosmic Equilibrium on Fri Jul 28, 2017 1:08 am, edited 3 times in total.



Fri Jul 28, 2017 12:49 am
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
The One True Wretch wrote:

Stat_Rad wrote:
Metallica were a much better live band in that era. That was really their time. So yeah I disagree.


I'm sure this will be debated, but fuck it, I'm going to say it anyway - I agree that they were a better live act overall in the late 80's early 90's.

There is certainly enough raw naivety, youthful energy, self belief and superior material to make the argument that their earlier era was a peak, and of course Cliffs presence is a huge thing in and of itself.

But I genuinely believe that they were a far tighter, heavier and more intense musical force with Newsted on board.

Maybe Jason wasn't as dexterous a player as Cliff, or as much of an equal musical partner when it came to composition, but as a live performer, he was easily his equal. I'm sure a lot of people will call that heresy. But the evidence is clear to me. And he flat out fucking destroys Trujillo on that front, even taking into account the live performances during the Load and Reload era, that much is clear.

He had a far greater and more positive affect on that band than he is given credit for IMO, in his playing style, his enthusiasm and his overall outlook and personality.

Plus Lars was at his best in the late 80's/early 90's - Still sloppy at times of course, but far more on point than the earlier years, and with more enthusiasm and energy than later on. And you could say the same for Kirk. Plus, Hetfield had become a seriously commanding presence. And lets be honest, image wise, the "none more black" thing was just fucking cool.

The Seattle show from 89 is evidence that they were at their peak as a live act from any recording I've seen, or gig I've personally witnessed. They were fucking devastating at that point, you could put them up against any band - even Maiden, or prime era Slayer - and they would more than hold their own.


Totally agree with all of this. Newstead was one of the strongest assets Metallica had, possibly the most dedicated member of the band and their biggest supporter, and they essentially drove him away in the end - much to the detriment of the band. They just don't have the intensity without him on board.

Metallica's studio prime was from 1984-88 [maybe to 91 if you feel generous], but in the live arena they were pretty much at their pinnacle from 1989-1994. And commercially the early 90s was their pinnacle, no doubt about it. So we have three different definitions of 'prime' Metallica, which overlap to an extent but not totally. Which backs up my previous post.


Fri Jul 28, 2017 12:55 am
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
I do think live form has to be considered as a major element when considering what a band's 'prime' is. IMO, live form is more important than commercial success when analysing a band in this regard.


Fri Jul 28, 2017 1:14 am
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
The One True Wretch wrote:
They were compromised by success later, even more than Metallica, because they became totally atomized as band mates and writers, which meant both the egotistical need to have everything heard with less thought for quality control, and the fact certain members - And frankly, I would say this is as much true for Slash as Axl - were more concerned with their own interests, be it lifestyle or ambition, than the good of the band. .


Although I'm not one to blame a single person, in the case of GNR it seems to be an open and shut case. Axl was largely responsible for the atomization of the band it seems. Slash may have had his problems, but Axl was trying to control the band and this had a very negative impact on their relations overall.

Izzy saw it coming early so he jumped shipped.

I still think the UYI era counts as their prime, if only because they were a legitimate phenomenon then, and there was a certain spectacle in watching them try to keep their shit together under increasingly adverse conditions.



Cosmic Equilibrium wrote:
I do think live form has to be considered as a major element when considering what a band's 'prime' is. IMO, live form is more important than commercial success when analysing a band in this regard.


Your previous point about overlapping categories was a good one, and that was pretty much what i was hinting at above. With some bands that are many factors to consider, with others it's pretty much an open and shut case.

In regards to live performance being more important than commercial success, I agree, but then so is creative success. Commercial success is probably at the bottom of the list, but it's not a completely irrelevant factor. I think acclaim is important too, which brings me to my next point.


SOL: The problem with just looking at the 'creative/artistic' side is that it can get too subjective. For example, while many of us older metal fans don't rate The Blackening as highly as Machine Head's 90's albums, it would be a bit too brash and arrogant to not recognise that period of the band's career as some sort of high point. It's similar to how some Maiden fans brush off the reformation albums with Bruce from 2000 onwards. I personally don't think any of those albums compete with their 80's prime, but I wouldn't dismiss them offhand.

To me claiming that Brave New World is an 'obvious 5 fister' as you have in the past is just as 'nutty' as claiming that The Blackening is 5 fists, but these opinions are shared by a significant number of people.

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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
On the subject of considering live performances and general stature, I think Paradise Lost's prime was quite obviously during the Draconian Times era. Not only were they much better and more confident live in 1995/96, Draconian Times had a spit and polish to it that marked out a new level of professionalism. Sure an argument can be made that it was just a more polished version of Icon, but the band sounded so much tighter and refined on DT. They sounded world class. And in their case they changed styles completely, so it's stupid to claim that One Second and Host represented some kind of huge fall from grace. They simply changed styles. But if you want to compare The Plague Within unfavourably to Shades of God, then that's an entirely different matter.

Also, there are some bands that have experienced different peaks throughout their career. This is especially the case if they have developed their craft over time and/or explored different musical territory. Take Swans for example. Who but the most crustiest of fucks would argue that their 80's albums were their prime and the rest was just the stuff that came after? Swans have had at least 3 different prime periods.

The Seer is just as good as anything they released in the 80's and 90's. If not, it's so close that the difference is negligible.

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Last edited by Stat_Rad on Fri Jul 28, 2017 8:07 am, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Jul 28, 2017 6:30 am
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
doomrider wrote:
GnR is an interesting one as you can't argue that UYI were their most creative album/s, that also saw their peak in popularity: However, many hardcore fans still see Appetite... as their peak. I certainly think it's their best album, but not necessarily their most creative.


Exactly. The UYI albums were flawed, but they weren't flawed because they were the same old bullshit as before only not as good. They were flawed because Axl had this grand vision of the band that didn't always gel with the rest of his band mates (i.e with their tastes, talents and sensibilities) and in some respects they spread their wings a little too far too early, but to deny the effort that went into those albums would be silly, not to mention incredibly biased.

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Fri Jul 28, 2017 6:38 am
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
I like the Illusions, but I'm still of the opinion that there is one absolute classic record in there weighed down by lesser songs. Some people are of the opinion that both albums are great as they are though, and I can understand that.


Fri Jul 28, 2017 9:34 am
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
I wonder if The Doors were in their prime when Morrison sang 'Gonna make it baby in our prime' !


Fri Jul 28, 2017 10:45 am
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
Statters, I think it as you alluded to in your initial post, there are certainly different criteria by which you can judge as a band's 'prime era', and that makes the whole thing a little bit murky and highly subjective.

Obviously something like commercial success can be easily defined and judged (and even compared among artists), but as with the Metallica example, it may not necessarily align with critical success. Metallica are a bit of an outlier in a debate such as this though, as they are such a rare beast, particularly if we are narrowing our view down to the metal genre, where that type of commercial success is pretty much unheard of.

You can't really judge the influence of, say Bathory, in commercial terms - though I'm sure we can all agree on how importantly artistically they were for metal (and in particular black metal) despite very limited commercial success. Their influence is immeasurable, though it is undeniably there.

I think this is perhaps why in a genre such as this we tend to look a bit more towards the artistic endeavours when evaluating an artist's peak or prime. Obviously from time to time our personal preferences may not converge with others, but I think there are enough opinions and data out there these days to at least come to an educated consensus (though certain platforms these days tend to favour outlandish and loud contrarianism).

At the end of the day though, it is of little consequence for myself as a listener. It won't really dictate what I choose to listen to, but it does make for some interesting discussion (as is the case here). I'm awaiting the inevitable lists and polls!

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Fri Jul 28, 2017 11:19 am
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
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Sat Jul 29, 2017 3:09 am
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
I like every Tool album, but their prime was clearly 1996-2002

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Sat Jul 29, 2017 6:31 am
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
Stat_Rad wrote:
I still think the UYI era counts as their prime, if only because they were a legitimate phenomenon then, and there was a certain spectacle in watching them try to keep their shit together under increasingly adverse conditions.


They were already a legitimate phenomenon well before UYI, long before the likes of November Rain and Don't Cry were in rotation on MTV.

You are talking about a band who were fucking massive and culturally significant in a way other hard rock or metal bands couldn't come close to at the time Paradise City hit, and with a persona and reputation that was still on the side of "social misfits" in the rock n roll tradition, rather than the later diva melodrama.

Granted a band releasing a double album in the early 90's, and being high profile enough to have it sell in large numbers, was definitely something notable. But that success and profile was built purely on what they achieved with Appetite and it's aftermath.

Of the songs they are currently playing on their comeback tour, more come from Appetite than any other album, and most of the songs that they are playing from the UYI records are those which were originally performed by/conceived by the Appetite/Lies line - up prior to the recording of the UYI records.

Also, in the US at least, Appetite has sold more than both UYI albums combined, so if we are talking about a measure of commercial as well as creative success, then that record and line-up, and what they represent and mean to people still stands above anything that followed.

Maybe it wasn't their tabloid peak, or the period where they played the biggest stadiums, but all things considered, it is their prime.

Because really, I think if we are talking about bands being in their prime, then we have to take something other than public profile into account anyway, there needs to be a quality of material, live performance, and the progression of fame or recognition that was as a consequence of those merits, rather than just hype and notoriety for all the wrong reasons.

Take Maiden as an example.

They had not only a general high quality of material and live performances, but a steady rise in terms of popularity, and a noticeable and successful musical progression in the 80's, which is their obvious prime.

And the fact they largely avoided the more ridiculous behavior and cliched rock star bullshit that began to become associated with someone G'N'R means that their is a sense of good will, and an appeal which goes beyond just nostalgia and/or notoriety.

It set them up to such as extent that they weren't just able to come through hardships and fallow periods, but return to their most successful line-up with far less in the way of cynicism from either fans or the metal press compared to other comebacks.

And you also have a band where many people are willing to still engage with them as a creative unit, rather than just a spectacle.

I suppose where they peaked artistically is up to personal preference, and/or when you discovered them (or at least, which album you heard first) but I don't think you could debate that the 80's as a whole was a triumph, and one that is clear, as well as fondly remembered and acknowledged for all the right reasons.

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Last edited by The One True Wretch on Sat Jul 29, 2017 4:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Jul 29, 2017 4:21 pm
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Post Re: When is a band in their prime???
Agree with most of that, but Appetite wasnt an overnight success Wretch. The GNR freight train built streadily over time. When UYI dropped there was a level of anticipation that was unprecedented for them. I only became aware of GNR the cultural phenomenon with UYI. Prior to that they were just a really popular rock band.

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