Most people grow out of it, but I still collect sports cards. It did make a bit more sense to do so as a kid or a young teenager, giving me another outlet with which I could gaze upon some of my heroes. I have long gave up aspirations of playing professional sports in any capacity, plus I can’t be the next Mario Lemieux if I’m approaching my mid-thirties, nearly a foot shorter than him, and can hardly skate. However, I can still relate to the musicians I grew up listening to whenever I pick up a guitar or bass. The first musicians that I really began to obsess over as a teenager were in heavy metal bands, and thankfully, there was a trading card set out there to satisfy all the little headbangers out there.
Mega Metal trading cards are so metal that they needed a bad-ass logo to match.
Well, at least they tried. Is that a skull with a spike impaling it, or is that a mohawk? Alas, poor Yorich. I knew him HELL!
Unlike the Brockum Rock Cards set I covered previously, I didn’t know this set existed until this past year. The set was produced by the company Impel in 1991, the year where pretty much everything under the sun had a trading card set made. I don’t know much about the manufacturer, but I also own a card set they made of the World Championship Wrestling league (WCW). That set had no musical affiliation, but did feature a Sting and Sid Vicious of a different breed. It had plenty of sweaty mullets too, but I cower in fear over the thought of encountering ‘Dirty’ Dutch Mantell in a moshpit.
I’ll start by showing you what first attracted me to these cards. Feast your eyes on these babies!
Did I purchase a whole set of cards just for five of King Diamond? Maybe I did, maybe it didn’t. What’s it to you?
All the Diamondbangers out there should recognize his makeup design from the Conspiracy / The Eye era of his career. It may be disappointing to some that the set doesn’t feature the rest of the band, though the state of the lineup at the time may explain the company’s decision. These cards is that it commemorate a non-album lineup of the band that many may have been unaware of if they never saw him on tour for The Eye. Following the album’s recording, guitarist Pete Blakk and bassist Hal Patino (who re-joined the band with Abigail II: The Revenge and be on the outs again following Give Me Your Soul Please) were replaced with Mike Wead and Sharlee D’Angelo respectively. Both would go on to join King on future Mercyful Fate albums, and Wead has played in King Diamond’s solo band since Abigail II. I don’t think this lineup ever had any proper promo photos taken because King would soon shift his focus back towards Mercyful Fate.
Let’s move beyond the King, and give you a taste of what to expect on both sides of the cards.
If you’re a Led Zeppelin / Robert Plan kind of guy, count yourself lucky with this set as you get eight cards featuring the legendary vocalist. As a person not too familiar with Plant’s solo material, I appreciate the insight provided on his cards, ranging from discussion of his lyrics, the Zeppelin days, and the creation of what was his latest album at the time, Manic Nirvana.
This is an aptly titled set of cards. When they say Mega Metal, they generally mean Mega Metal. Outside of Billy Squier, the artists within are universally considered to be metal in some form or another, whether it be hair metal, thrash metal, or straight-up ‘classic’ metal.
If you’re a fan of Iron Maiden, you won’t be disappointed flipping through their sixteen cards in this collection. Each band member gets a card, as does each of their albums, all of which feature Derek Riggs’ memorable designs of his beloved creation, Eddie.
Can you truly call a set Mega Metal without including one of the undisputed godfathers of the genre, Ronnie James Dio? “No, you can’t!” is the answer to that rhetorical question.
You get exactly one card of him, as well as one for each of his band mates (minus the bassist, who must have recently left the band), and a band pic. I’m a little surprised that they didn’t throw in a couple more of Ronnie himself seeing as he is Dio.
The main set also contains fourteen cards each for Judas Priest and Bon Jovi, nine for L.A. Guns and Vixen, but a whopping seventeen for Skid Row Cards, I’ll share a few. There were also seventeen Slaughter cards produced, but the only thing of theirs that ever grabbed my attention was their cover of Stick It To Ya (of which there is a card in this set).
Here’s a nifty factoid found on one of the Scotti Hill cards: he is listed at 5’ 11” and 135 pounds, which puts his body mass index very close to the underweight categorization. Yes, I know that BMI doesn’t tell us an entire picture of a person’s fitness, but I just find it amusing they even needed to list this information on a card. Why not list this info for everybody in the set like you would on a sports card?
In addition to the base set, each pack originally included a hologram card highlighting a metal band logo. Here’s the L.A. Guns card, which shows a band photo on the back with the band roster listed beneath.
For some reason, the Judas Priest one only shows Rob Halford, KK Downing, and Glenn Tipton as members. I know the rhythm section don’t get involved in their songwriting with few exceptions, but that’s no excuse for their being excluded. They even decided to make a hologram with the Mega Metal logo on it, which they were so proud of that they list ordering information on the card’s back to sell t-shirts featuring the design.
The ‘Mega’ potion of the Mega Metal title is where this set falls short. Mega, to me, should imply a significant size. This is a set of only 150 cards. I’m not saying they need as inclusive as those 792-cards Topps baseball sets I’m accustomed to, but nearing the 250 to 300 range doesn’t seem like an unreasonable task. There were several hard rock and metal bands flirting with a bit of mainstream success who would have loved to be featured in a trading card set.
On that note, there are a few unlikely bands that managed to squeeze themselves into the stack. For example, I’ve never heard of The Front, who get a pair of cards in the set.
The back of one of The Front cards (that sound a bit like the Who’s On First sketch, doesn’t it?) describes a collection of their songs as “Alice Cooper meeting the Doors with CNN on the tube and little sister ducking out the back with Eddie Haskell”. I didn’t even need to listen to the songs in question (‘Sweet Addiction’, ‘Ritual‘, and ‘Sin‘) to know that whoever crafted that description needs to go read the book A Beginner’s Guide To Writing Similes, but I did listen anyway.
Of all the bands in the set, things gets the most obscure when it comes to the thrash metal bands. You may just get a single card of Dark Angel (the first to feature the drumming talents of Gene Hoglan), but you get a number of cards featuring two New York-area thrash acts, Nuclear Assault and Method of Destruction (M.O.D.), both of which can be tied to the Anthrax side-project Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D.).
Neither band comes close to fitting into the Big Four of thrash (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax), nor would they fit into the next tier of major thrash bands of the 80s (which would include the likes of Exodus, Testament, Overkill, and possibly German-based bands like Kreator or Sodom). You’re getting fairly deep into an already fairly underground genre for a modestly-sized set, so that is rather surprising to me. Each Nuclear Assault member gets an individual photo on a card front, yet the only member of M.O.D. getting one is bassist John Monte, when most would expect that if anyone would get one it would be vocalist Billy Milano. Perhaps this thrusting of a bassist into the limelight is to make up for Dio’s band lacking of one, but this seems like an odd choice in hindsight.
Here’s a few more shots of some card backs to round out this post.
It’s interesting to note that some of these cards have signatures at the bottom of their cards, and others do not. Perhaps there’s a valid reason for this. Is Michael Schenker less likely to sign an autograph for a fan than David Bryan? Maybe an autograph collector out there could confirm or deny my theory.
It doesn’t feel right to end it like that. I’ve got to close this out on a more decidedly metallic note. Here’s my favorite Priest card in the lot, and with possibly the best action shot in the set. It’s not even a scratch-and-sniff, but I swear I can smell that leather…