How ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ Brought Together Two Legends of Heavy Metal to Fight Evilby Robert Laronde on Jul 31, 2017 • 12:56 pm No Comments
The early 1990s were a time of transition. ‘The Cold War’ was coming to a close, the United States and the Soviet Union finally agreed to stop pointing nuclear weapons at each other’s faces and our enemies were suddenly our friends. But the vacuum of peace would quickly attract malevolence. New (yet familiar) foes would rise (or be created). No, I’m not talking about Saddam Hussein, I’m talking ‘bout vampires! And, for argument’s sake, let’s say crappy music. And new evils must be met by new heroes. Thus, a passing of the torch must occur.
Enter Buffy The Vampire Slayer. A new hero for a new age. Snarky, uh, not a dude, and decidedly not putting up with any dude’s (or vampire’s) shit. In her first incarnation, embodied by Kristy Swanson, the seemingly vacuous cheerleader is revealed to be a quick-witted force against evil. She would go on (I mean, with Sarah Michelle Gellar in the TV show, not in this terrible movie) to become one of the most beloved and iconic characters in pop-culture. Joss Whedon’s acclaimed TV series ran for 7 seasons and was even spun-off as the moody Angel.
In the 1992 film, however, she’s only just coming into her powers. She would need something kick-ass in her Sony discman to help her defeat creatures of the night the likes of Pee-Wee Herman and Rutger Hauer. She needed a deus ex machina of rock. Enter the Metal God.
“I’d been asked by Sony Pictures to do this song, and I didn’t have anybody to turn to.”- Rob Halford
Who had more kick-ass circa 1990 than “Painkiller”-era Judas Priest and its siren-throated vocalist Rob Halford?
But the metal world was in a state of transition as well. Priest vocalist Rob Halford had left the band following an onstage accident in Toronto involving a motorcycle which exacerbated other tensions. As well, the explosion of Nirvana and grunge music had heavily elbowed into the heavy music market and audiences at heavy music shows were starting to dry up for less aggressive New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands like Priest and Iron Maiden. Halford in particular seemed to be searching for a new identity. While he would be the first major metal musician to come out of the closet as gay in 1998, in 1992 he was looking to unleash his most aggressive tendencies. New alliances would have to be formed.
Rob Halford first crossed paths with Pantera in Toronto, Ontario, in 1990 (local history).
“I was in Canada rehearsing for the Painkiller tour, and I saw Dimebag on MuchMusic wearing a British Steel T-shirt. I called the studio and said, “Is that guy still there? This is Rob from Priest!” They went and got him. They said, “He’s freaking out, you know; he would love to meet you!” I said, “Ask him to stay, if he can, and I’ll just jump in a cab and come over to the studio.” So I did and that was the first time we met. We became instant friends.”
In 1992, Pantera was riding high on the crest of new found success. While they’d floundered in the 80’s with their original glammy sound, they literally found their groove with their major label debut, 1990’s Cowboys From Hell. The follow-up, 1992’s, Vulgar Display of Power would be also critically acclaimed and produce some of the most iconic songs in the metal canon such as the fist pumping Walk.
So who better for the Metal God to turn to in his hour of need?
“I was away from Priest, and it was kind of a rush job. I’d been asked by Sony Pictures to do this song, and I didn’t have anybody to turn to. I thought, “Only Dimebag can help me,” so I picked up the phone and called him. He said, “Yeah, man — can you come down to Dallas?”
Pantera with Dimebag Darrell, far right with the Judas Priest-style “British Steel” razor around his neck.
“Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, the much beloved string-bending, dive-bombing riffmaster of Pantera, would tragically be murdered onstage, along with three others, by a mentally ill fan in 2004 during a performance with his post-Pantera outfit, Damageplan. Despite numerous offers and rumours about high-calibre replacements, the rift between the surviving members of Pantera has seemingly only grown wider following their guitarist’s death.
“His interpretation of the song. His phrasing, the feel was unique. Let’s face it. You look at rock and roll. You’ve got Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, you’ve got Eddie Van Halen. I’m just going through a list off the top of my head, you obviously got Dimebag.”
But here, on the moody rocker Light Comes Out Of Black, they are a tight unit, presenting a slab of chugging metal perfectly suited to the Metal God’s chilling warble. The chorus riff has a Godzilla-sized lumber, which propels Halford and regular Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo’s exquisitely-paired snarls with lashing force.
In the movie the song plays somewhat obtrusively over a scene of vampire mayhem. It sort of works, but can anybody really imagine Kristy Swanson listening to Pantera? Or experiencing it in her interior being as she slays the undead? It’s also an odd entry for the soundtrack, which includes the Divinyls and C + C Music Factory. Clearly they were trying to cover all their musical bases. The only other vaguely metal track is an Ozzy Osbourne b-side, Party with the Animals, which settles near the bottom of Ozzy’s spotty solo catalogue. Light Comes Out of Black, on the other hand, is a lively rocker, which despite completely nonsensical lyrics is a crushing, cohesive metal song that would fit on any Pantera record. Or any solo Rob Halford album for that matter. And the title is pretty fucking cool, hearing the words growled by two of the most iconic voices in metal, it’s shame it’s buried on this terrible compilation of songs from a forgettable film.
“They put the song together so quickly and efficiently; they produced a really spectacular rendition of the demo I’d put together. It was professionalism on a very easy level, but with an absolutely top-notch, top-standard attitude and complete dedication.”
For whatever reason Pantera itself weren’t actually listed as performers and the track, the on the album it’s simply credited to Rob Halford, though it’s pretty obvious to most metal-heads whose steel-pinched squeals and dive-bombs are backing him up. The song itself inspired the style and formed the blueprint for Halford’s first real post-Priest project; the aggressive, thrashing Fight which recorded two records. After several solo outings of various degrees of success, Halford would find his way back to Judas Priest, where he remains defending the faith to this day.
Light Comes Out Of Black by itself is an awesome and unique vision of a supergroup that never really existed, a rare meeting of the metal minds, and a fine slayer’s soundtrack, one that could only be topped by, uh… maybe Slayer.
*Listen to our ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ episode here!