411 Music Top Five 01.15.13: The Top 5 EPs
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 01.15.2013
From Eminem's The Slim Shady EP and Iron Maiden's Maiden Japan to Nine Inch Nails' Broken, Slayer's Haunting the Chapel and more, the 411 staff counts down their top 5 extended play albums of all time!
THE TOP 5 EPs
Metallica - Creeping Death/Jump in the Fire: It was either this, or the original, 'Garage Days' EP, and I decided to give this one the nod. This is a re-release of the 'Jump in the Fire', and 'Creeping Death' singles. Got to love all of the songs on both of them, two classic studio tracks, as well as two of their better NWOBHM covers, and 2 live tracks from 'Kill 'Em All'.
Anthrax - I'm the Man: I may or may not get made fun of for putting this up here, because it's pretty damn goofy. But this is a bunch of really goofy dudes doing a goofy rap song (maybe a rap song). This also has a really good, 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' cover, a good live 'Caught in a Mosh' and my personal favorite Anthrax song, 'I Am the Law'.
Emperor - Emperor: This is the 5.5 on my list. This is EP was the first non-demo release by this awesome band. This EP is pretty much standard black metal fare production wise, but what is under that murky production is what makes it special. Half of the songs on this 4 song EP made it on to the legendary debut album, 'In the Nightside Eclipse'. They all have a great atmosphere and all kick ass.
5. Mercyful Fate - Mercyful Fate
I'll admit, when it comes to Mercyful Fate, I am not exactly the most versed on their discography, I know, metal sin. But after listening to this EP, I am now going to have to go dive, Scrooge McDuck style, into their discography. The song, "Corpse Without Soul," was one I was familiar with through Metallica, but the rest were new game. I can't believe that none of these tracks made it onto, 'Melissa', though those songs are legendary in their own right. This has King Diamond's wailing at a high, which at the time, was probably one of the coolest experiences as a first time listener back in the day, listening to this guy belt it out like few could. The songs are pretty damn awesome, some aggressive, some with just a typical driving beat, but all of them are great and worth many listens.
4. Mayhem - Deathcrush
Maybe I'm overrating this album, but this is pretty significant in black metal history. This album is RAW, not as bad as the bootleg Death demos, but this is pretty raw. Like Oscar the Grouch is pissed because they recorded this in his trash can raw. But regardless, there are some fine songs on here, such as, "Deathcrush," my personal favorite song title ever, "Chainsaw Gutsfuck," "Necrolust," and "Pure Fucking Armageddon." Thrash speed on top of proto-black screams, this is a very odd listen, because there are some things muddled in the production, and some things seem a bit random. But this is more than deserving of being this high, because after a few listens, you'll fall in love with this album like many others have.
3. Slayer - Haunting the Chapel
If only this EP were just a little bit longer, it might have went higher up here. There is no reason why it shouldn't be at #1, as all of these EPs have an argument to be that high. This has three songs that could easily fit on a "Best of" with no problem. All of the songs are old-school Slayer, with fast riffs, lightning quick solos and a few broken necks in between. It was packaged with the re-release of 'Live Undead' if you ever have a problem tracking it done.
2. Iron Maiden - Maiden Japan
I did not know that this was an EP, I was already convinced that it was a full release, since Iron Maiden loves to release live albums. Anyways, this EP is the last one with their original singer, Paul Dianne, and he does a damn good job on this album, that cannot be disputed. Apparently, this whole concert was remastered and released in full back in 1999 and it had all of the songs on it. The songs on here are your typical Maiden classic, "Running Free," "Killers," "Remember Tomorrow," "Innocent Exile." Definitely something to go look back on since Paul Di'Anno's tenure is not as fawned upon as Bruce Dickinson's (though I still do like Bruce Bruce more).
1. Celtic Frost - Morbid Tales
This was the first taste of any Celtic Frost anyone ever got. No wonder they got so popular in the metal community. This EP has everything you could want in metal, great solos, CHECK!, some thrash sections, CHECK! traditional metal sections, CHECK!, Tom G. Warrior letting his typical growl, DOUBLE CHECK! It even has a perfect guitar tone! This is almost death metal, it might even be death metal, and it's pretty much the first band to do death metal, along with Possessed and Death. There is no reason why you shouldn't headbang to this, it was rereleased in the 90s. Go listen to it, NOW!
NOTE: For my EPs, I decided to leave out options such as the many Peel Session EPs, the iTunes exclusives, live performances and so on. This is intended to be extended play albums of entirely (or almost entirely) new music from the bands in question.
Honorable Mention: Interpol - Interpol, Black Flag - Nervous Breakdown, Fugazi - Fugazi
5. R.E.M. - Chronic Town
R.E.M.'s debut EP followed the success of their single "Radio Free Europe." The band worked with producer Mitch Easter for a second time here, and his influence can be absolutely be heard both on the album and throughout the band's career as he encouraged them to experiment with the sound of their music, as well as the way that they recorded. All five songs on this EP show just how good the group had the potential to be; you can hear the signature garage pop sound of the band formulate on this one. This was where one of the biggest acts of the last couple decades in the 20th century came to pass.
4. Alice in Chains - Jar of Flies
My list has a lot of debut EPs that came about before the artists in question became famous. This is not one of those EPs. Alice in Chains was already a force to be reckoned with in rock music when they decided to record Jar of Flies, their third EP, in 1994. The album became the first EP ever to debut at #1 on the Billboard Album Chart and truly solidified the group's popularity. There are almost too many songs to consider it an EP; it ranks at seven songs and thirty minutes, which is kind of the outside length. But an EP it remains and every single song is fantastic. It's probably one of the most well-known EPs and definitely one of the best.
3. Eminem - The Slim Shady EP
This was the beginning of Eminem as we knew it. Released in 1997, this EP was the precursor to The Slim Shady LP and was Eminem's first solo EP after his time in Soul Intent. Some of the tracks on this are ones you'll recognize as much more well known parts of Mr. Mathers' repertoire; "Just the Two Of Us" became "'97 Bonnie and Clyde" on The Slim Shady LP and "Just Don't Give a Fuck" transferred to that LP with the same name. This album was where Eminem debuted the Slim Shady character, he took on more of a story-telling aspect and he began exploring the themes that would be his bread and butter once he hit big. This is where Eminem came from and as such cannot be denied.
2. Joy Division - An Ideal for Living
Joy Division was not the gloomy, atmospheric band that we all came to know and love as the group that changed the post-punk era when they recorded An Ideal for Living. And in fact the four songs contained on this album are a far cry from "Transmission," "She's Lost Control," "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and the rest of the songs the band would become famous for. But that doesn't mean they aren't amazing. Ian Curtis and company are at their absolute punkiest on this album and while it may not be as refined or focused as their two LPs where they would develop the sound we know, An Ideal for Living takes the groups extraordinary talent and applies energy to it. As amazing as the band became in their signature sound, they made one hell of a punk band too.
1. Nine Inch Nails - Broken
This is the end-all, be-all of EPs as far as I'm concerned. Broken is kind of the perfect example of how an EP works best; it is laser-focused and every single song has a power that you just can't achieve on an LP for fear of burning your listeners out emotionally. Broken earned Trent Reznor his first Grammy Award for "Wish" while the rest of the tracks hold nothing back, from "Happiness in Slavery" to "Help Me I Am in Hell" and everything else. It is the quintessential EP and everything that you could ask for in the format.
The Final Word
As always, the last thoughts come from you, the reader. We're merely unpaid monkeys with typewriters and Wikipedia. Here's what you need to do: List your Top Five for this week's topic on the comment section using the following format:
5. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
4. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
3. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
2. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
1. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it