Taco Riffs




“In times of trouble, go with what you know.”
– Red Tank, Scorched Earth

A few weeks back, I spent some time sketching out an idea about discovering the greatest Taco Riff in the world. My friend Lao Tzo is wont to say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step right over to your music collection, so that seems a prudent place to start. I’ve been spending time with some favorite records and, as with most metal types, I keep coming back to the Big Four. So let’s just get into it – the Big Four Taco Riff records.

1. Sleep – Sleep’s Holy Mountain: I had something like four or maybe eight metal records in my collection when I picked up Sleep’s Vol. I, and for the life of me, I can’t imagine why I did that. I spent that whole summer putting that record on at absolute top volume when I would go to bed and, as the band’s name suggested, allow the monolithic darkness just wash over me as I drifted into unconsciousness. Man, was I ever pissed when this record came out – the faceless Dali-entropy of the first record had flipped to full stoner route – the three dooodes on the back cover were wearing bellbottoms, passing time Cypress Hill-style and had gone (relative to the first record) groooovy. “Fuck these Lady Miss Kier looking jokers, they suck now.”

Well … what, you want me to say it? Fine, I’ll say it: I was wrong.

Dead wrong. The worst stuff about this great record are the carry-overs from the first record and the best are the incredible Taco Riffs that wake up the Partnership for a Drug Free America in the middle of the night, full-on sobbing. Holy Mountain indeed. Look, I know you and Axl get TOO HIGH to even remember past the first “Gummo”-riff in ‘Dragonaut’, but the real motherfucker on that song is about the third or fourth of what they just patched together. This thing strings along through a four-part long cycle and is so obviously the whole reason that Orange/Green/Matamp amps were ever even put on this planet. (My band lucked out and got to play some shows in MASSIVE places with Isis a few years back. For sound check I’d run through this riff as my guitar part even though it sounded nothing like anything we play and wasn’t really helpful. But playing it that loud in a gigantic empty room was incredibly fun and I’d recommend that’s what you do if you ever get the chance. The house sound guy usually didn’t know what to do with us anyway, so just go for it, right?)

“Dragonaut” sample

2. Melvins – Ozma: The oddball of the bunch. Drop the weed and the alcohol of the other suggestions here and replace with Big Gulps filled with sticky Jolt Cola. My mental image of the Melvins during this record were a bunch of pock-faced geeks up in the Pacific Northwest, self-branded outcasts obsessing over an oddball vision that it has only taken the world about two and a half decades to worship. (Not too far off, as I have the press photo included in the record sleeve for some reason.) Evidence in favor: about half this record still doesn’t make sense. Huge, awesome Taco Riffs played once, or three times, coming out of nowhere and then instantly imploding. Sure – Lysol is more beautiful, Eggnog is scarier (in the best way) and the AmRep “Night Goat” single is heavier/est, but Ozma is the home of the mutant Taco Riff. I don’t know that there’s a standout, but to get a sense of what I’m talking about, you just have to drop your needle on the end of “Oven.”  Taco Riff from another planet.

“Oven” sample

3. Eyehategod – Dopesick: I went on about this record last time and so I’ll skip the repetition and additional sound sample. Just this – and I’m treading into waters I know little about: the Taco Riffs on Dopesick, the really glorious ones of them, are actually overdriven, cymbal crashing, despair screaming with the feedbacking blues riffs. If the blues, to you, means Stevie Ray Vaughn, neon/funk basses and a bunch of shit that you don’t need I can understand how this might cause you to skip reading the rest of this post and click your DailyKos bookmark. But whether or not it was the birth of that music in New Orleans (carried in the water or just on top of the marshes) EHG have no fear of hitting these incredible 3/4 time signature melodies that would sound at home – a very different home – scraped off the rusty strings of a Gibson L-1 down at yon crossroads.

Oh, fuck it. Here’s another one – from “Masters of Legalized Confusion.”

“Masters of Legalized Confusion” sample

4. Electric Wizard – Dopethrone. Those who follow this stuff are wondering when I was going to get around to talking about Dopethrone. “The band is called Electric Wizard, the record is called DOPETHRONE and it’s got a picture of Satan smoking a bong on the cover. It’s got a picture of Satan. Smoking a bong. Right there on the cover.” When you tell friends who don’t know anything about this band that you’ve got this record that has a picture of Satan smoking a bong on the cover, there’s usually a look of relief on their face. As if, whew, I figured that such a record had to be out there and now there is.
The rest of these records are maybe debatable, but this one is not. The first few songs screw around for a while, but then it’s TACO TIME. The hypno-riff kicking in during “Barbarian,” the psych whirlpool at the end of “I, Witchfinder,” the chrome pipe thunder of “We Hate You,” and finally, finally, the Doom (game, not genre) intro-super Taco Riff and then Odin-Stoned-on-ValHalla “chorus” riff of the title song. “Rise, black amps, rise.” I mean, COME ON, it’s so great.

Here’s the funny thing I realized about Dopethrone a little while back. I’d say the most widely recognized Taco Riff in the world is Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” riff. Well, listen to this (and this will make more sense with headphones):

“Iron Man”/”Dopethrone” comparison

I mean, it’s one thing to rip off early Sabbath. That’s what all this is about, right? But it’s something else entirely to do a wholesale rip off of the most famous Sabbath/Taco/metal (maybe) riff EVER. And, so help me, it’s even beyond all that to rip off that riff and make it better. Because there’s no doubt in my mind that the Wizard did the world a favor by shamelessly pirating the greatest and then full-kicking their ass in the process.

So that’s where we’re at. Four heavyweights sitting on my shelf, each a solid and distinct showcase for a gold standard. Next up, let’s move a little away from the familiar and see what we’ve been missing – let’s branch out into the wide and wonderful world of… the Internet.

(Oh, and I’m working my way through the suggestions that people made in the last thread. Thanks for all of those. Keep them coming if you’re so inclined.)


Justin Foley plays guitar and sings for the Austerity Program.  Their record Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn is out now.  Visit them online at www.austerityprogram.com.  All messages about urban bike riding, vegetarian BBQ and monetary policy will be answered first.

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