Song of the Day:- Trail of Broken Hearts by Dragonforce.
I know what you’re thinking.
Dragonforce don’t do ballads, right?
The final track from 2006 album Inhuman Rampage is the calmer more subdued side of the band coming through. Guitar work from Sam Totman and Herman Li is no less technical, but seems altogether more controlled. Lyrically it’s quite cheesy as you would expect, with the usual Dragonforce subject matter (Mountains, Dreams of Endless Time, Flying away, Stars, and Brighter Days) but I’m sure that won’t stop you from enjoying it.
Go on. You know you wanna…
Opinions Column :- Genre-bending Generation
I write music myself.
I can therefore tell you that it is not always an easy task, especially if you want your compositions to resonate with people. Catchiness is often difficult to achieve- will people remember your song? can you sing along? Does it have a “hook” riff? These are all things to think about.
I can also attest to having a vast and varied musical taste; from Iron Maiden to Imogen Heap (above); Def Leppard to Duran Duran, Sublime to Steve Vai and Wagner to Whitechapel without belabouring the point too much. many others claim a similar variation in their appreciation.
Why then, is there such a deficit in good songwriting in both popular and alternative music today?
I’ll not dwell too much on current pop; that is not the focus of this article. There are bands out there who insist on splicing together the most ill- fitting and opposing of musical genres; as ill-fitting- you could say- as the women’s jeans the male members of these bands wear.
Lets get one thing clear, am in no way opposing diversity or innovation in songwriting- such things are a joy in music!
- A leap in time signature from Tool or Dream Theater
- The rendition of Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca on Play with Me by Extreme
- The sigh of acoustic atmosphere after the initial onslaught of Opeth’s Blackwater Park.
- The fact that Mark Morton (Lamb of god) and Michael Amott (arch enemy) are blues driven guitarists despite playing in heavy/death metal bands.
- the composition of Canon Rock by JerryC.
The latter is a guitar piece written to accompany Pachelbel’s Canon in D. The video proclaiming itself as the original has attracted over 12 million hits, and climbs daily. It has encouraged many of youtube’s guitar playing community to cover it and do their own renditions of it, one of which (by guitarist funtwo) has attracted 90 million views. What I am putting across here is that these are examples of when the mixing of genres and musical “feels” yields a positive (and sometimes impressive)result.
And then we have bands such as Attack Attack, A Day to Remember and Design the Skyline.
Attack Attack (Above right) were the first band of this style that I encountered, and their song Stick Stickly has been retained on my I-pod for its presumably unintended comedic value ( a friend and I satirically refer to it as “our jam”) it shows quite unequivocally a collection of musical genres that simply do not cohere well. It is easy to imagine the band members being at loggerheads over the sound of the band, and this being the compromise- a shambolic tug-of-war between Metalcore, Pop-Punk and Electronica. Design the Skyline (above left) don’t even have the benefit of being catchy. I am completely incredulous as to why they have been signed to a record label. The Youtube feedback on their video single speaks louder than my words ever could. Such “scene” music holds absolutely no worth in my eyes- because it’s more about image than the music itself.
To me, this is the musical equivalent of eating a rare steak smothered with custard and Bovril infused strawberries- you can in fact enjoy all of these things on their own merits, but having it all together will succeed only in leaving a strange and unpleasant taste in the back of your throat. Why bother listening to this when there are celebrated and skilled artists in the fields these bands encompass? You could have Blink-182 and Bowling for Soup when it comes to pop-punk, and there are no shortage of great Metalcore acts such as Killswitch Engage and All Shall Perish- why settle for less?. Good music is often good music because the performers are adept at their art. In the case of these bands, the old chestnut rings all too clear- In seeking to be “Jacks of all trades” they only cement themselves as “masters of none”
However, If you are in your early teens, have ADHD, and have to sweep aside your long, lopsided and multicoloured fringe to read this article, your opinion will likely differ from mine- and fair play to you, if you genuinely enjoy this. I would recommend though, that you shop around more when it comes to music. There are more accomplished artists out there, creating songs that provoke thought, push the boundaries of songwriting, and move the listeners. Please take the time to listen to the examples bullet pointed above and scattered around the article; It’ll be worth your while- just click on the linked artist/song names!
Song of the Day:- Tornado of Souls- Megadeth
Since the Big Four have just played Sonisphere festival in Knebworth at the weekend there, I feel it relevant that we should all get our thrash on!
This song was featured on Megadeth’s Rust in Peace alongside other amazing tracks such as Holy Wars, Hangar 18 and Take No Prisoners but I would say that this song is the jewel in the crown of the album. It’s aggressive yet tasteful , frantic, yet catchy! It also contains possibly one of the most well written guitar solos in all metal. It certainly makes my top-ten.
The version depicted here is from Blood in the Water, San Diego in 2008 with current lead guitarist Chris Broderick- formerly of Nevermore and Jag Panzer- who you’ll see noodling insanely in the opening seconds, The song is then expertly delivered on all fonts. Mega-Dave himself is right en forme, with the his vocals and relentless guitarwork not dimmed in the slightest in all the years since the song was penned. While the guitar solo was originally written and performed by Marty Friedman, Chris more than does it justice, in fact he makes it look easy (trust me, it isn’t- tried it.) Apologies for the Spanish subtitles but this was the only copy of this performance in HD, and i wanted to give you quality! The original album version can be appreciated >HERE<
So step into the eye of the Tornado, and prepare to be blown away!
Song of the Day:- Don’t Say A Word by Sonata Arctica.
Today’s song is an epic tale of love, rejection and obsession. Don’t Say A Word Is powerful material- technical in delivery with lyrics that fire the imagination.
“Under the moon I hold a wake for a promise torn
Mortally wounded, feelings sheltered me
Once again my shadow will enter your life
Time to walk with me the last mile”
The song is part of a concept series that the band has written spanning several of their albums, illustrating a troubled, obsessive character named Caleb. In this particular instalment, Caleb feels betrayed by the object of his unrequited love and considers killing her. The more atmospheric sections in the latter part of the song help gradually build mood an tension for a climactic ”Key-tar” Vs Guitar showdown that is well placed and well executed.
I have included the full album version here (with lyrics), as the video edit is dramatically shorter- cutting out several sections. If you want to watch that version with the released video, click here
Song Of the Day :- Parisienne Walkways by Gary Moore and Phil Lynott.
This song is a testament to both of these musicians’ prowess, and although they have now both passed away, the song is remains as strong as ever. Soulful lyrically and moving in guitar melody, I put it forward as song of the day! Personally one of my inspirations for guitar playing, Gary’s control over his instrument is astounding- note the control over sustain (without effects) at 2:34.
Phil Lynott penned the lyrics, the subject matter is romance, in the romance capital. After Phil’s passing, Gary continued to perform it at subsequent concerts.
I include an extended live performance of the song taken from Youtube. Enjoy!
Arctic Monkeys - Suck it and See.
Never has an album title been so fitting as to what I am about to do!
Rarely do I delve into the forays of indie rock, usually because indie bands of today rarely stand out. Run of the mill Indie usually, and regularly results from sucking emotion out of a pop-rock band, but like all genres, it does have those artists who break out into chart popularity, one of these bands- of course- is Arctic Monkeys, and based upon their previous successes, a new record will have the fans buzzing with anticipation.
Let us now, then, take a look at Suck it and See. (yes, that IS the album cover! ^ ^ ^) The band’s latest offering is immediately apparent as a more laid back effort than previous records. Musically, its fairly linear and what you would expect- It’s Sunday driving music for the first four tracks, getting a little heavier for the standout track, and the tempo creeping up briefly thereafter in places. The songs also have moments in arrangement which occasionally creep up on you, granting you something that you weren’t expecting.
However, frankly- it doesn’t save this album from being bland. Painfully so in places. Obscure song titles and nonsense “I Am The Walrus” style lyrics cannot keep the ship afloat either; the songs largely just melt into one another. Tonally it’s hit and miss, and in the sections where the drums are more prominent, the other instruments fall by the wayside, not in the “allowing focus” way, but in the “drowned out” way. They seem to be relying on a lot of reverb effects on both vocal and guitar, perhaps to try and mask the fact that this record has precious little atmosphere of its own. And I’m not a fan of the genre, but I don’t think that because you are an Indie band, there is an automatic licence to sing in a monotone drawl. Aside from the cliched “oooOOO“‘s, the vocals flatline for the duration. Seriously.
Standout Track:- Dont Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair- This song, as aforementioned, stands out because of its darker departure from the typical indie jinglyjanglyjanglyjangly. The feel is almost a dirty blues rock groove. It’s also probably the only song that you’ll remember the title of. Lyrically, it’s… well:
“Break a mirror, roll the dice.
Run with scissors, through a chip pan fire-fight
Go into business with a Grizzly Bear…
But just don’t sit down ‘cause I’ve moved your chair”
I see this as just trying to sound clever. but it’s a damnsight better than some of the rest.
In Conclusion:- There is a bit of “suck” on this album but not a lot to “see” I’m afraid. I don’t think it will grant them the same attention as previous hits such as “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” “Brianstorm” and “Fluorescent Adolescent” et al- simply because there is a lack of lustre, an absence of energy. This record seems to be the equivalent of the dry heaving breaths after an initially triumphant and dramatic sprint; the type where you find it difficult to articulate because of the the head rush you’ve had and the burning in your breadbasket.
Now, without another word on the subject of this, I shall be spending the next while listening to some of The Vines, Franz Ferdinand, and Stereophonics before I fall out with Indie altogether.
Colours to Shame - Colours to Shame EP
Colours to Shame are a Metal band from Glasgow- however, they may not be a metal band as you know it…
Their experimental sound sees them following in the footsteps of Dillinger Escape Plan, Protest the Hero and Meshuggah. I had the good fortune of seeing them fairly recently and picked up their self-titled EP. Their live performance was striking, frantic, compulsive and convulsive entertainment- but do the recordings do it justice?
As its an EP, and Has only 4 tracks I am going to just take it blow by blow!
- Brianpepperspray [0:41]- Letting us know what we’re in for, the band’s penchant for jerky “stop-start” rhythms becomes apparent in this 41 second introduction. Inclusion of vocals seems somewhat redundant.
- The Crushed Ruby *standout Track* [7:47]- The track opens in a grand fashion with the guitar leads soaring. However where this song really shines is in the chorus, it is catchy, and a respite from the harsher vocals is welcome( not that they aren’t well executed- they are) It’s similar in sound to Buckethead, I find- and this sound would not sound out of place on his 2004 release Cuckoo Clocks of Hell, with it’s dissonant sections providing an unsettling feel. The softer interlude section also prevents this song from feeling overbearing and self indulgent, and the more melodic sections minimise the risk of people being alienated from this song.
- Dead above Ground [4:14]- A stab at a more straight-laced modern metal effort, but it is not without its quirks. In this song, it appears to be less about technique, and more about songwriting, and that makes it a compelling listen. They lead guitar and rhythm guitar parts compliment each other very well whether creating a complex counter melody or delivering that all important rhythmic punch. I’ve never put much stock or held much of a candle for “pig squeal” vocals- They appear in the latter stages of the track, and I must say that this song isn’t doing much to help the case any. To each their own I suppose.
- In Search of Sasquatch [7:29]- I’ll admit- the title of the song had me drawing breath. It’s one thing for a band to be able to take itself less seriously, but the amount of ridiculous, puerile, and plain daft song titles out there is astounding. Thankfully, this song -musically- is a good listen; it’s catchy and once again has the technical prowess to back it up. I do find the “stop/start” sections becoming tiring and awkward listening as this album goes on, it’s a good technique, but sometimes it just seems so redundant and over the top. It once again makes use of a clean interlude, but this one is far better utilised and appears at a more unexpected time, which is interesting. I also love the unsettling chord/ arpeggio choices, which create mixed musical feeling in the listener- it is also reprised in the dying seconds of this solid track.
In Conclusion:- The band have the skill, and from watching them I know they have growing presence- but I do have my reservations. They play tightly and show prowess in the demanding style that getting yourself noticed in this field of metal requires, but sometimes I feel it’s at a bit of a consequence to the songwriting. Showboating is all well and good, (and as a lead guitarist I can without a doubt attest to doing it,) but when it’s at the extent of being a detriment to the song itself, maybe a bit of pruning and shaping is necessary. I’d say they are on the right track with Dead Above Ground, as it is concise, yet still contains many of their style elements.Overall The Crushed Ruby Is a better song- but including two tracks over 7 mins in length on your EP doesn’t seem like a recipe for wide appeal. I don’t want to sound overly harsh, because there is good material here and it is worth the listen, but I stand by my comments here.
This band shows real potential, but it’s really important for them to use it wisely.
Opinions Column- Music in Recent News
The British Government has recently made a report into factors contributing to premature sexualisation of children.
Among the talk of banning the sale of padded bras and suggestive clothing, there is also a call for age certification for music videos. While I find that excessive censorship is a bane on music and arts- (note I say excessive) Personally, I find that this action will have some advantages:-
- Music videos will be more focused on music rather than using “sex to sell”
- Popular Artists will perhaps be more focused on music, rather than using “sex to sell”
- Children will not be exposed to age inappropriate material sooner than they should.
- It may improve the general image of what is considered acceptable by young people, as well as for them.
- Young people may not be as likely to use such artists as poor role models.
- It may open out and level the playing field of popular music- Those relying almost solely on sexualised imagery and explicit lyrics for sales will take a blow unless they can adapt, and new, genuinely talented artists can take their places.
- Artists will genuinely reach their target audiences.
Some of these may be a little over zealous and hopeful. That said, it must be admitted that it’s sensible to do it. Motion pictures and video games are classified and restricted to age appropriate audiences, why not music videos? How can the age restrictions placed on concerts be justified if watching and hearing this content is so easy at any time of day, especially with the likes of the all powerful ones- and at our disposal? And even so, it’s not saying that they can’t be shown at all- that’d be ridiculous- what it’s saying, is only show them after the watershed at 9pm, as is acceptable on other televised broadcasts.
As a fan of Metal, I am no stranger to lurid and sometimes violent subject matter in lyrics and music videos, but the fundamental difference is, the vast majority of these are not in the mainstream, and therefore poses less of a risk. I would however welcome such moves on all genres. Would I encourage a child to listen to rock music and its associated derivatives? Yes- To allow them to find a sort of music, over time that they can identify with, and speaks to them. Would I have them subjected to lyrics they will not understand and music videos they arent really ready for? No- children (naturally) deserve a childhood. And it’s rather sad that in some instances, you actually have to describe what that statement means. Take the whole experience out of context and it becomes a nightmare (the idea of letting Katy Perry onto Sesame Street in THAT outfit) one enthusiastic jump, and we’d have had extra funbags on this episode.
If as this blog suggests, we Let the Music do the Talking, these skimpy outfits, the suggestive poses, the throwaway innuendos in lyrics- are they really worth anything? Largely, do they contribute to the music itself? No.
Then surely it’s not going to be a big deal when it’s told “Oh put them away dear.”
Opinions Column - Sharing is Caring!
Have you ever known someone to say this?:-
“Awh, I used to like “_Artist_” but they are too popular now! I don’t like them anymore!”
Or indeed this?:-
“I don’t tell anyone about who I like (Musically) because then they wont be special to me anymore, I dont share my music with anybody- it’s MY music.”
I must say, this is a standpoint I really do not understand. Surely, if you are a fan of a band or artist, it would make you happy to know that other people share your fandom, that they appreciate the artist’s talents? Also, would you not be happy because the artist you enjoy is reaching more people other than you and a few others like you? I do grasp and acknowledge the concept of a song that is “overplayed.” a classic example of this of course is the song “Don’t Stop Believing” by the rock band Journey. This song has been played on tv, radio and has been reissued and covered to death. However, I still like the song. I am glad that the general public recognise that it is an awesome song, even if it took an appalling cover on a US musical TV show for them to come to that resolution.
Issuers of the second statement, congratulations. Not only are you thoroughly selfish, you also have a backwards logic system. The whole reason that artists record music is to share it with people. True, there is a monetary motivation for many, but to a lot, getting heard is the main thing. Given their way, can you think of all the fantastic, more obscure bands out there that would never see the light of day? That would be doomed to playing small pubs and clubs all their days to a few fanboys/girls who think they are “so deep, and just amazing”? Bands dream of playing to huge crowds under bright lights in darkened halls, and hearing cheers and applause in response, but no, you’d rather they stayed in your own little bubble, rather than realise that dream. Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to hear about bands first hand, the internet is all well and good, but hearing from people what they actually feel toward the music is a different thing entirely. If i discover a new band, and love what they do, one of the first things I do is say to a friend,
“Hey man, you heard this band Mutiny Within? ( for Example, check ‘em out!!) They are amazing! where have they been all my life?!”
What I don’t do, is shut myself up in my room/headphones like Gollum, keeping it all to myself. “Music isss mine, my own… my Preciousss…”
Music is a thing to be cherished, and it is all the more enjoyable when you find other individuals that share your taste, because there might be a band that you know that they don’t, and you have the pleasure of introducing that band to them. For example- A fan of classic rock may never have heard the more modern rock bands with a classic vibe, such as AirBourne or Black Stone Cherry. A fan of “power metal” may not ever have heard of Stratovarius or Firewind. An easy listening/acoustic enthusiast may have never encountered Andy McKee or Rodrigo Y Gabriela. Imagine being able to share that happiness with somebody? A happiness that the good music brought to you in the first place?
As I draw this to a close, I wish to reiterate that music is best when shared, and that anyone who shuns a band that they formerly adored, just because they now have more fans is a very sad individual. Anyone who feels so insecure that they cannot enjoy sharing a good tune with friends is even sadder. And, because sharing is caring, here is a short list of bands and artists in various genres- some a tad on the obscure side, some not- that some of you might like! Tell your friends! Tell your siblings, your mum even!
Lets Share the musical love!
- Nightrage (Melodic Metal)
- Andy McKee (Acoustic)
- Bob Katsionis (Electro-Keyboard-Powermetal!)
- Devin Townsend (Progressive)
- Doctor P (Dubstep)
- Freak Kitchen (“freaky” Alt. prog- Rock)
- Guthrie Govan - (Jazz-fusion)
- Imogen Heap - (Electronica)
- Jeff Loomis- (Metal)
- Joe Bonamassa- (Blues)
- Orianthi- (Pop-rock)
- Van Canto (A’ Capella Power Metal)« Yes, read it again.
- Cake- (Alt.)
- Man Must Die (Death Metal)
Enjoy! and Share!
Arch Enemy- Khaos Legions Album Review
Arch Enemy are a big name in scandinavian melodic death metal. Or at least they were. Their last offering “The Root of All Evil” Was a good album, but the trouble was, there was no original material on it. That is to say, all of the tracks are re-hashed versions of songs written written and performed before current vocalist Angela Gossow fronted the band.
The band initially had more of a thrash metal sound with melodic elements and was fronted by a male vocalist- Johann Liiva. Some of the songs translated well, but many did not embrace the more sophisticated sound that is Arch Enemy today, or rather, the sound that they had been flaunting up to this point. It is for this reason (I think) that Arch Enemy have been pretty much off-the-radar for a while.
However, they are back with a new offering. Khaos Legions. (sic)
First off we have the album intro, which fades in hauntingly, but in true AE style. I would say the spoken word section lays it on a little thickly for my tastes, but it does lay foundation for a conceptual undertone to the album- one of uniqueness, uniting with other around us, and standing up. The material does have a few surprises, with some new fresh song inspirations for Arch Enemy. I feel that this is a more (dare I say) refined and grown up album, as lyrically there is definate subject matter, and in song writing style it is more laid back in places, and varied, which is always good. We still (thank goodness) get the usual liberally applied guitar harmonies and in some areas Michael and Christopher Amott really shine. However some of the melodies sound a bit familiar, in the sense that they are quite similiar to other tracks in their catalogue. They have, since writing and releasing R.O.A.E. revisited their roots somewhat. There are elements of earlier Arch Enemy mixed in with the newer sounding material, so in a sense they seem to be attempting to bring together the fans of both eras of their work. As somewhat of a bonus, we also get 2 live tracks. from Rise of the Tyrant - I Will Live Again, and from Black Earth (debut)- Dark Insanity.
Standout Track:- Yesterday is Dead and Gone- I’ll admit I was less than taken with this when i fist heard it, it is the video single choice for the album and I head it first- however it’s a “grower”. This album opening song retains many of the good elements of Arch Enemy that so many people love. It has memorable lyrics, it has a catchy chorus guitar melody, it has fierce solos from both of the Amott brothers, and you can really tell the two playing styles apart- Chris’s forte is with shred and neo-classical influence, whereas Michael opts for a more bluesy and emotive style of playing. There are other strong tracks such as City of the Dead, Bloodstained Cross, Through the eyes of a Raven and Secrets, but I’ve got a feeling this is the one that people will end up coming back to.
In Conclusion:- Khaos Legions will not be for everyone- even among Arch Enemy fans themselves I can see it causing somewhat of a divide. It is good material, but it seems to have lost some of the high polished finish we saw on Doomsday Machine and Rise of the Tyrant. There seems to be some magic missing in some of these songs, the thing that made these two previous records sound utterly massive. It’s good, but despite some strong material, it’s not nearly as good as I’d hoped, and am sure my thoughts are echoed by the legions of fans out there.