Thursday, 4 July 2019

WWF Full Metal - The Album (1996) A Track by Track Review

WWF Full Metal: The Album Review
If there was any proof that the landscape of the World Wrestling Federation had changed a great deal from the early-mid 1990s, you only had to look at WWF Full Metal - The Album. 

Three years earlier, the company had released Wrestlemania: The Album, an album full of the cheesiest poptastic crap you can imagine.

Looking for an Undertaker dance track (seriously) or Bret Hart mumbling his way through a romantic, spoken-word ballad? That album right there was your jam.

Three short years later, and the company returned to the musical world with Full Metal, featuring musicians from Anthrax and Type O Negative tearing it up on some seriously brutal metal tracks along with a couple of themes that were much darker and more aggressive than anything you'd find on Wrestlemania.

Don't believe me?





Let's dive head-long into this track by track review of Full Metal - The Album and see what's in store.

1: WWF Superstars and Slam Jam - We're All Together Now



Back in the 1990s, pro wrestling companies loved the fact that the words 'Slam' and 'Jam' rhyme. The World Wrestling Federation themselves took advantage of the fact by using those two words as the title for the lead single from the aforementioned Wrestlemania album while -at almost exactly the same time- WCW had used Slam Jam as the name of an entire album

In 1996, the WWF returned to the well, using the Slam Jam name for a group of 90s musicians including:
  • Scott Ian of Anthrax on guitar
  • Kenny Hickey of Type O Negative, also on guitar
  • Jon Oliva of Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra on vocals (for We're All Together Now)
  • Michel Begeame and Olli Schneider of German nu-metal band Such a Surge on vocals (for Thorn in Your Eye)
  • Gary Meskil of Pro-Pain on bass and
  • Tim Mallare of Overkill on drums.
Here, this metal supergroup teamed up with three-fifths of The Clique (Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Razor Ramon), Bret Hart, The Undertaker and Paul Bearer to give us a track that should be familiar to every wrestling fan who was around back in the late 90s.

The song featured heavily on Raw is War for the duration of the Attitude Era, with that beast of a riff still conjuring up images of Stone Cold Steve Austin, D-Generation-X and Sable even to this day.

It's also fair to say that We're All Together Now is by far the catchier of the two Slam Jam songs featured on this album. More so than Thorn in Your Eye, you can imagine having this on your music device and rocking out to it, making it one of those rare 1990s wrestling songs that actually transcends wrestling and works in its own right.

2: WWF Superstars and Slam Jam - Thorn in Your Eye




Over twenty years later, I'm still not sure anybody really knows what the actual lyrics to this song are.

In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if there aren't any lyrics at all, and the guys from Such a Surge were yelling random garbage down the microphone that vaguely sounded like English.

"Too much sun and not enough sky, I lost again, but I gotta make change? Too much sun and not enough sky, war is like a thorn in your eye?"

I mean, that's the best I can come up with.

The unintelligible lyrics aside, there's no getting away from the fact that the main Raw is War theme was another beast of a track, the kind of beast that grabs you by the neck and punches your teeth down your throat so hard you end up peeing them out.

Yeah I know, ouch, but look:

This ain't The Nasty Boy Stomp, this is pure violent musical aggression of the very best kind and it is -as a metal fan- absolutely awesome.

3: Diesel - Diesel Blues 



Say what you will about Kevin Nash's run as The Leader of The New Generation, his theme was pretty bad ass.

Like Big Daddy Cool himself, Diesel Blues is at once bold, powerful and unrelenting, with a certain charasmatic swagger laid over a deep, pounding beat.

This may not be the greatest theme of all time, but I dare you to take one look at Diesel - WWF Champion, then listen to this track and tell me it isn't absolutely perfect for him.

4: Mabel - The Lyin' King 




Up next, it's Diesel's Summerslam 1995 opponent, King Mabel.

If Diesel Blues was the perfect theme for the powerful and charasmatic Diesel, then it's probably fair to say that The Lyin' King was perfect for Mabel too:

It's slow, plodding, and incredibly boring.

I mean, honestly, there's absolutely nothing exciting, or even interesting, about this one. Let's move on quickly, shall we.

5: 123 Kid - 1,2,3



From the porno-swagger of the nWo theme to the balls-out rebellion of DX's music, all the way to whatever the heck that Uncle Cracker thing was supposed to be, Sean Waltman's theme music history has been hit and miss to say the least.

Yet his first theme in a mainstream promotion is an underrated gem; not necessarily the first thing you'd think of when you think 'great wrestling themes'  but insatiably catchy nonetheless.

Its rough-and-ready guitar riff bounces around over a solid beat, creating a kind of driving, high-energy vibe that is totally befitting the 123 Kid character as it was at the time.

Ignoring that King Mabel debacle, I think it's fair to say that Full Metal is shaping up to be one of the best wrestling albums that had ever been released by that point in history.

6: Goldust - Golden 



By now, I think we're all in agreement that Goldust was a game-changing character when he first burst onto the scene back in 1995.

Following a series of vignettes shot -supposedly- in the Hollywood Hills, The Bizarre One made his in-ring debut against Marty Jannetty back at In Your House 4: Great White North. His very look, his mannerisms and, yes, his entrance, were unlike anything we'd really seen before.

Make no mistake about it, this theme played a big part in that entrance, and in making the Goldust character what it was.

Like the original heel character himself, Golden is dark and dramatic with a certain twisted flamboyance and flair for the spectacular.

It's the kind of theme that still sends a shiver up your spine when you hear it, and I think it might just be one of Jim Johnson's greatest creations.

7: Smoking Gunns - Smoking 



I have to believe that, at the time he created them, Johnson had no idea these tracks would end up on a publically available music album.

Had he known, I like to think he would have given them more interesting titles than 123, Golden, and Smoking.

I mention this here because, well, Smoking is about as interesting as its title. Sure, it was a good fit for Billy and Bart Gunn, but here it comes across as rather generic and uninspired.

It's funny to think that The Smoking Gunns were basically the WWF's top tag team for a couple of years, and that they managed to stay in that position despite a really boring theme song.

8: Psycho Sid - Psycho Dance



It's creepy, it's sinister, it's menacing. In a word, it's a great fit for The Master....and The Ruler...of the World.

Inspired by Bernard Herrmann's legendary score to Alfred Hitchock's film Psycho, this track did what all good themes should do:

It enhanced the entrance, and therefore the entire character, of the wrestler it was meant for.

For a period in the mid-1990s, the colossal skyscraper of a man known as Sid would slowly stalk his way to ringside, sweat literally dripping from his body, soaking his ever-present leather waistcoat, teeth gritted, an intense, almost deranged look in his eye, all while this chilling theme played throughout the arena.

It's only when you think about it like that that you start to miss the kind of entrances we used to get on wrestling shows back in the day. The theme songs of today may have more commercial appeal, but they really don't do anything for the character in the way that themes like Psycho Dance used to do.

You could swap Seth Rollins theme or The Miz theme or Roman Reigns theme with just about anybody on the current roster and it wouldn't make too much of a difference, but there was only one man befitting a song as terrifying as Psycho Dance, and that man's name was Sid.

9: Razor Ramon - Bad Guy



The screeching guitars, the slow, confident swagger of the bassline, enough cowbell to keep Christopher Walken happy for years, few WWF themes were quite as iconic as Bad Guy.

You hear this one and you still see Razor Ramon sauntering to ringside, draped in gold chains, holding a toothpick between the kind of cocky grin that said "I can't wait to beat the piss out of my opponent."

The theme was so iconic in fact, that Johnson would later decide to reuse for none other than Stone Cold Steve Austin.

By now, it's well known that Austin's best-known theme sounds more than a little similar to Bad Guy, though what's perhaps not as well known is that Razor's theme itself is a rehash of another more famous song, Those Shoes by The Eagles.

10: Bret 'The Hitman' Hart - Hart Attack 



Can I just tell you at this stage how much fun I've had doing this album review? Reliving
 classic themes like those belonging to Sid, Goldust and Razor Ramon really takes me back to childhood in a way that even the old WWF shows themselves don't always manage.

Hart Attack is an updated reworking of Jimmy Hart's original composition for the Hart Foundation. While that theme certainly had the driving guitars and sense of energy, it pales in comparison to Hart Attack, a hard rocking tour-de-force of massive riffage and wailing synth.

Bret Hart's track isn't just a good pro wrestling theme, it's an exciting piece of music to listen to in its own right, never failing to get the blood pumping and the heart racing.

11: Hakushi - Angel 




It's a shame that Hakushi didn't stick around in the World Wrestling Federation for longer. He had something different to offer than anybody else on the roster at that time and could have produced a quality body of work given enough time.

Instead, we had to settle for a couple of matches with Bret Hart and -if I remember rightly- an outing with 123 Kid. While those were excellent in their own right, they also left you clamouring for more.

His theme music was pretty good too. Slow, dramatic and at times eerily haunting, I dare you to listen to this and not pine for the fact that we never got a Hakushi vs. Undertaker feud.

12: The Undertaker - Graveyard Symphony 




Speaking of The Dead Man, we next come to what was perhaps his most famous and recognisable theme.

Indeed, while this fan personally prefers the awesome theme he had during the Attitude Era, Graveyard Symphony is really the one that he's best known for.

As it is, Graveyard Symphony is basically a reworked version of the third movement of Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2, better known to you and me as The funeral march.

Take that, throw in some haunting strings and scary cymbal crashes and you've got yourself one of the most memorable pro wrestling themes in history.

13: Shawn Michaels - Sexy Boy 

 

He thinks he's cute, he knows he's sexy, he's got the...ah you know the rest, right?

We've talked a lot about iconic themes in this review, but I'm not sure they come any more iconic than Sexy Boy. 

A rehash of the original theme with Sensational Sherri on vocals, Shawn Michaels would use this theme for the better part of two decades and, despite being in his 50s, continues to strut out to this one whenever he makes a post-retirement cameo.

As themes go, it's kind of corny and easily cheesy enough to fit right alongside anything on Slam Jam Vol 1, but hey, it's one of the most famous themes of all time, right, so we'll let it slide.

14: Jeff Jarrett - With My Baby Tonight 



Yes, we all know by now that it was Brian 'The Roadie/Road Dogg' James doing vocal duties on this storming country track, but at the time Full Metal was released, the WWF were still trying to convince us that it was Jeff Jarrett on the mic.

That's especially interesting as I'm fairly certain Jarrett had already jumped to WCW by the time this CD was released.

Whoever got the credit for it, it's fair to say that With My Baby Tonight is a terrific track. I'm usually more of a metal/hard rock guy, but damnit if I can't help singing along to this one every time I hear it.

Whereas Full Metal began with the hostility and aggression of the Slam Jam band, it ends on a high note with this absolute barnburner of a track.

A fitting end to what was -at that time at least- the best pro wrestling album ever produced.




I mean that seriously. The likes of Piledriver and the original Wrestling Album may have had their own fair share of iconic songs, but they also had plenty of cringe too.
Apart from the tracks for King Mabel and The Smoking Gunns, however, Full Metal hits the mark every single time.

Even now, over 20 years later, it's an absolute joy to listen to and leaves this fan in particular with just one thought:

Man, they just don't do wrestling themes like this any more.


Thanks for reading. If you're looking for more pro wrestling album reviews, you might enjoy: 
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Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.