Articles

  • Shuffle Shuffle

    24 jui. 2010, 8h15m

    Put your music player on shuffle.
    Post the first 40 songs that come up.
    You can repeat artists if you want.
    If you have any repeats, skip to the next track.

    1.Leprosy
    2.Brown Moses
    3.Once Upon The Cross
    4.12
    5.In Times of Sorrow
    6.4th of July
    7.Your Call
    8.The Curse Of Feanor
    9.Know Why the Nightingale Sings
    10.Guardian del Destino
    11.Life in a Glass House
    12.Today I Started Loving Again
    13.Somebody’s Calling Me
    14.Black Sails
    15.Painting on the Wall
    16.Symphony Of Terror
    17.Hunted by a Freak
    18.Polly
    19.So Much Left Behind
    20.Subtraction
    21.Pitter Patter Goes My Heart
    22.Possession
    23.Cuckoo’s Nest
    24.Transcending
    25.The Smell of Rain
    26.Pure and Easy
    27.Aghartha
    28.Sgnl>1
    29.How’d You Pin That One On Me
    30.Aquatarkus
    31.7/4 (Shoreline)
    32.Sorrow
    33.Coney Island Dreaming
    34.Dope Fiend
    35.Trapped Under Ice
    36.Blood Tears
    37.I don’t believe you (she acts like we never met)
    38.Let It Rain
    39.I’ll Believe in Anything
    40.Wicked World

    Questions:
    1. Which song do you prefer, #1 or #40?
    40

    2. Have you ever listened to #12 continuously on repeat?
    Nope

    3. What album is #26 from?
    Who's Next

    4. What do you think about the artist who did #15?
    The singer sounds a lot like Bruce Dickinson and that in my book is a good thing.

    5. Is #19 one of your favorite songs?
    Not even my favorite by COC

    6. Who does #38 remind you of?
    The fact that Eric Clapton was a huge drug addict who for the most part I find boring

    7. Does #20 have better lyrics or music?
    Music but i'm not big on either

    8. Do any of your friends like #3?
    Most like Deicide on principle, only one actually listens to them

    9. Is #33 from a movie soundtrack?
    Wow. That is uncanny. It's from the Requiem for a Dream score.

    10. Is #18 overplayed on the radio?
    I think I may have hear it on the radio, but murder ballads don't seem fodder for popular listening

    11. What does #21 remind you of?
    Scene kids mostly, but also of their other song Lover's Spit

    12. Which song do you prefer, #5 or #22?
    5

    13. What album is #17 from?
    Happy Songs for Happy People

    14. When did you first hear #39?
    I bought the album when a friend suggested it. This became an instant hit with me. 2004ish

    15. When did you first hear #7?
    Some time in early 2009 when I went through a heavy Ulverphase

    16. What genre is #8?
    Power Metal

    17. Do any of your friends like #14?
    One in particular who is in love with Grand Magus

    18. What color does #4 remind you of?
    Gray

    19. Have you ever blasted #11 on your stereo?
    Back in high school. But I don't know about "blasting" it

    20. What genre is #37?
    Folk

    21. Can you play #13 on any instrument?
    I can't play midi controller/keyboard/whatever

    22. What is your favorite lyric from #30?
    Its an instrumental

    23. What is your favorite lyric from #23?
    Its a little preachy lyric wise

    24. Would you recommend #24 to your friends?
    If they don't already know it, then sure

    25. Is #2 a good song to dance to?
    Not really

    26. Do you ever hear #16 on the radio?
    A radio station that starts playing Jag Panzerwould be a radio station I listened to

    27. Is #32 more of a “nighttime” or “daytime” song?
    Nighttime.

    28. Does #36 have any special meaning to you?
    Other than being a favorite among power metal songs, no.

    29. Do any of your friends like #31?
    Not that I know of

    30. Is #25 a fast or slow song?
    Is it even a song? Its rain noises. Slow I suppose

    31. Is #35 a happy or sad song?
    Sad, but I'm happy when I hear it

    32. What is one of your favorite lyrics from #9?
    Taking a step to the world unbound/ Spinning my fantasies all around/ Freed from the gravital leash/ I swear the heaven's in my reach

    33. Is #34 better to listen to alone or with friends?
    With friends. Because true friends like Acid Bath

    34. When did you first hear #27?
    In the great summer of 2006 when I went through a bigSunn O))) period

    35. Name 3 other songs by the artist who did #29:
    Blowin' It, Green Mind,I Live For That Look

    36. Do you know all the words to #6?
    No

    37. Does #28 have better lyrics or music?
    Music

    38. What album is #10 from?
    Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II
  • If your life was a movie, what would the soundtrack be?

    11 août 2009, 0h58m

    Here's how you do it:
    1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
    2. Put it on shuffle
    3. Press play
    4. For every question, type the song that's playing
    5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
    6. No cheating!

    IF YOUR LIFE WAS A MOVIE WHAT WOULD THE SOUNDTRACK BE?

    Opening Credits:
    Kooks

    Waking Up:
    Handel: Messiah - Chorus

    First Day At School:
    You'll Accomp'ny Me

    Falling In Love:
    The Festival

    Losing Virginity:
    Birds Of Fire

    Fight Song:
    Bloody Mary

    Breaking Up:
    Ad Lib on Nippon

    Prom:
    CNN War Theme

    Life:
    Run to the Hills

    Mental Breakdown:
    Civil war

    Driving:
    Lost & Damned

    Depression:
    Biotech Is Godzilla

    Partying:
    Where Angels Die

    Happy dance:
    Jessica

    Betrayal:
    Want Some Slaw

    Regretting:
    Crazy Train

    Long night alone:
    Wind

    Flashback:
    Half

    Getting Back Together:
    Take on the World

    Wedding:
    Folsom Prison Blues

    Birth of Child:
    spOOL

    Final Battle:
    No Way Out

    Death Scene:
    Settle Down

    Funeral Song:
    The Day I Tried to Live

    End Credits:
    Let's Go Away for a While
  • My Favorite Albums: #78 The Allman Brothers Band’s “At Fillmore East”

    21 juin 2009, 20h04m

    I am usually pretty skeptical when it comes to live albums. Something about me has been conditioned to find studio albums as the best you can get. I mean, you get all the best takes. You get awesome layering and effects that are troublesome to reproduce live. And you’re guaranteed the best every time. So why bother with live albums? Well, every so often you get a live album, where the energy of the band is more than the studio track. Where all the extended parts are just brilliant. Where the album is like being there. It’s a beautiful thing; though not one I would claim every album can pull it off. The Allman Brothers Band's “At Fillmore East” brings together all these great musicians, letting them take blues standards to new heights and their originals blaze with new energy. I love a band where all the musicians are top notch in their own right and of course it great when technical skill can me overall composition. To be able to demonstrate this live is truly the peak of what makes a good band.

    One of the most immediately memorable parts of this album is the guitar work. And why not? There were few guitar duos as powerful as Dickie Betts and Duane Allman, as brief as their recording time together was. Something about Duane’s slide guitar style, where the notes become so fluid and expressive has always impressed me. And Betts was able to drive a strong layer of both rhythm and leads into the mix, making it more of a two lead guitar band. Take a look at “Statesburo Blues”. The song opens with a driving blues line on organ and Betts’s guitar, but when the slide comes in, in a halting stretch of a note. The blues line drives on, while Duane brings to life this guitar sound that swoops and soars, in such a beautiful tone. Betts enhances Duane’s line by bringing an almost jazz like sense to his blues back beat, moving the song along but with a more interesting backdrop. It’s not a race in musicianship, but about what sounds best in the song. Or “Done Somebody Wrong”, which has a more traditional driving line. But this is where Betts thrives, dancing slowly in forceful scale. The other guitar comes in a mean wailing way. The tones they get are almost like that of a harmonica, and in true blues fashion, it’s all about improv. And if you really want some nifty improve, try “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed.” Around the 4:30 mark, there is this wonderful guitar line that I can’t begin to explain as it feeds off the audience, moving forward and backwards, but always maintaining this wonderful tonality. I often have trouble telling separate guitar lines apart, but the Allman Brothers had a duo so powerful that it didn’t really matter.

    I am also impressed by Greg Allman, the organist and vocalist of the group. The organ is a very ebullient instrument, capable of dirges for funerals or the racy lines that the Doors would use. Greg Allman had a difficult task, as the organ could very well have been delegated to the backbeat rhythm in songs with such overwhelming guitars. But in times of restraint, the organ’s voice not only enhances, but actualizes some musical power. “Whipping Post” has such wonderful organ segments, capable of rising in what feels like multiple layers, especially right at the choruses opening. This is another of the instruments on the record I think has a great tone. And Greg as a sing, well, go back to “Whipping Post,” where his voice starts so soft but turns into that Louie Armstrong like bellow during the choruses. For a man basically out there on his own, Greg rises above the instruments and manages to push the melody and lyrics to the forefront. “Midnight Rider” uses the vocals as the lead perhaps best of all the songs. Greg sounds desperate yet strong, capturing the songs lyrical essence. And during the “One more silver dollar” line, when his octave jumps, it automatically draws the attention. The song is a great sing along, maybe even chant along.

    My final point is “Stormy Monday”. I have heard so many versions of this song, thanks in part to a friend’s father wanting a CD with nothing but different versions of this song on it. And I will go ahead and say it; this may be my favorite blues song. It allows infinite variation, dynamic sounds and tons of improv. And the Allman Brother’s version may very well be the best. The guitars are restrained, but enter in at time, in these small lines that just tease us with a taste of the escape they want from out under the thumb of the “blues”. Greg Allman’s organ is a slight dirge like part, perfectly capturing the idea of the stormy day, tickling out from its usual melody in wonderful variations at time. And his solo is one of tonal amazement. The rhythm section, which really drives the song, keep the pace restrained, gradually rising in power as we come into the guitar solo. And the vocals and lyrics of course, are pitch perfect; restrained, sad and capable of conveying honest emotion.

    The Allman Brothers Band during this time was such a great band, made of so many great musicians. And it was all cut short just 3 months after this performance, when Duane Allman got into a motorcycle accident. But this album stands as a fitting tribute, not to just his prowess, but to how much his music was capable of, but of how much their fans were capable of bringing them to their best.

    Favorite Track: “Stormy Monday”
  • My Favorite Albums: #79 Black Sabbath’s “Volume 4”

    17 juin 2009, 3h26m

    I guess if you’re going to pick an album to be better than an Iron Maiden album, you better pick one by Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath is one of the easiest roots to trace to heavy metal’s origins. Their music is dark, heavy and aggressive in varying degrees. The heavy blues-rock they developed would be used as the basis for countless imitators and set a new standard about what music could sound like. As Black Sabbath progressed through the years, they also helped to develop the metal image, doing massive amounts of drugs and women while managing to churn out records. For most purposes, it is the first four records, “Black Sabbath”, “Paranoid”, “Master of Reality” and “Volume 4” that are considered classics. While the other Ozzy Osbourne/Black Sabbath records that followed had some shining moments, they generally deviated away from the formula that made them famous (look for an example of this in the excellent album covered “Technical Ecstasy”). “Volume 4” was during this transition period, as evidenced in the general makeup of songs. Sure, many are similar in style to the older records, but it’s hard to deny the sonic tidbit “FX” or the piano ballad “Changes” would likely have cropped up on a “Paranoid” era Sabbath album. The thing that I find great about an album like this is the fact that the album’s makeup manages to maintain balance, as the songs can still gel despite some variation in composition. As Sabbath roiled under the influence of massive amounts of cocaine, they still managed to show why they were heavy metal founders.

    I guess I’ll start with “Snowblind” which was nearly the album’s title. Black Sabbath decided to write what they know here and do so with gusto. The song is very spacey, driven by a slow riff that chimes in beneath Ozzy’s powerful vocals. The lyrics manage to expand a good amount of metaphor on such a simple subject with good lines like “My eyes are blind but I can see /The snowflakes glisten on the tree /The sun no longer sets me free /I feel there's no place freezing me.” The track is haunting, with light touches of orchestra and the whisper of “Cocaine.” It truly is a classic. It’s funny to have this follow a song like “Supernaut.” “Supernaut” is driven by the crashing rhythm of Bill Ward and Geezer Butler. I am always pleased to be reminded of Geezer’s bass ability, such a flowing style with a muddy tone; it’s straight bass. The riff of the song might as well be a bass line as well. Metal heavy and deep. And look at this preceded by, “FX” a track they really should have skipped. It’s basically just silly sounds put on top of each other, stuff we would see more in later records. I can do without, but in only three tracks we’ve gone experimental, heavy fast, and heavy slow.

    A song like “Changes” seems somewhat out of place on the album, as it’s a light piano ballad. Sabbath is not a band I would pick as the “ballad” type, but this song is largely bolstered by a fairly dynamic performance by Ozzy. At times it comes off cheesy, but Ozzy seems pretty genuine and earnest in his delivery, something not usually conveyed in metal music. “Laguna Sunrise” is also in this mode, featuring a rolling acoustic line supplemented with orchestral parts. It seems to me that it serves to show off just how heavy the song that follows (“St. Vitus Dance”) is. Now, contrast these to “Wheels Of Confusion/The Straightener” and “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes”. Both are multi-part affairs, similar to what was done on the first album. “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener” opens with a great riff, with multi tracked guitars bouncing off each other in soloing glory. This crashes into the bassy synth part on the “Straightener” section. This song contains probably my favorite riff on the album, as the soloing guitar serves. It is a great riving opener, that it very complete in its structure. “Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes” starts with a pounding bass riff, really seeming to slow down. Iommi enters, pushing into a guitar riff that allows the rhythm section a little bounce. The fills before the verses are especially cool. The singing is typical Ozzy, sort of like a mad preacher shouting prophecies in the street. The end section slows down to such a doomy pace, bouncing a very bluesy riff. Right up until the end, you hear the gears stop grinding as all the darkness of the record culminates in an end. It is a very good closer.

    So we have an album with a lot of disparity in songs. But surprisingly, it all works well. The general tonality just makes it seem like swells in the overall whole, as opposed to totally unconnected songs. Granted, I could do without “FX” but I’ll take what I can get. While the albums that would follow this would have their moments, and the Dio era was pretty good, this album serves as a good capstone to Sabbath’s early career.

    Favorite Track: “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener”
  • My Favorite Albums: #80 Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast”

    13 juin 2009, 22h17m

    If Metallicawas the first band I got a metal album by, I guess Iron Maiden was my first non-Metallica metal band. To be honest, I’m not sure what turned me on to go look for Iron Maiden. They’re not as mainstream as Metallica and I wasn’t into the full blown metal phase just then, so I can’t help but wonder where I heard of them. Nonetheless, I am thankful everyday that Iron Maiden exists. They are what is so great about heavy metal, with this intense melodies loaded with speed and power, a singer full of bravado putting forth memorable lyric and chantable choruses and a rhythm section that keep it all together. Iron Maiden keep the formula of their success very close, as they don’t really step away from what made them famous on any of their album, but on “Number of the Beast” we get to see where it all started. Since it holds this position as the starting point many people see it as the penultimate classic or on the flipside, as overplayed. Likely it’s both, but it still remains one of my favorites. It is massive and powerful and fun to listen to always.

    So when I thought of how to approach this review, I had trouble deciding how to go about it so. So I came up with the idea that I would do a usual song by song, but I would do them in order of my favorite down through my least favorite. So I guess this starts us at the classic “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. I might be even so bold to pick this as my favorite Maiden song all together or even further than that, one of my top 5 all time songs. It is that good. The lyrics to the song deal with a man awaiting execution and his crisis of faith. He seems to rail not only against his fate but against the God who made him capable of committing a crime that could revoke his life. There are lots of great lines in the song, my favorite among them being “Tears form but why am I crying/After all I’m not afraid of dying” which really is a good highlight of human frailty. The lyrics are of course, impressively delivered by Bruce Dickinson who manages to get them to swell and fall and swoop and howl in anything needed, especially the despondent last “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. However, I would be remising to discuss this song and never mention the guitars which are certainly the best part. Building from the slow intro, the guitars have such life and manage to bring interesting riffs to the next level, like the bridge between the two bouts of singing in the beginning. The guitars never hold to a single riff but continue to be dynamic throughout culminating in the battling solos of Smith and Murray which are among the best solos and most fitting solos ever recorded. In short, this song is epic and is a perfect album closer because of its thematic qualities and falling bravado at the end. Maiden just goes out on a blaze of glory.

    22 Acacia Avenue” is another classic from the album and is the second part of the Charlotte the Harlot trilogy ("From Here to Eternity" from "Fear of the Dark" is another of my favorite Maiden songs). The song builds on a good tonal riff that is dotted by Harris’ famous bass tone, drum fills and Dickinson’s vocals, which are more restrained here. The song moves along, the timing changes and we come to a bouncier rhythm when all the instrumental parts come together, and Dickinson dances on top of them. It is an interesting section that is pleasing in its complexity. The solo for this song I also a highlight, remaining slower but manages to move along within the frame of the song and is kind of haunting in its own way. It is a very complete song. “The Prisoner” is another good example of something Maiden does that I really like. Starting with that very memorable speech from the Prisoner television program, the song builds quickly with very punchy lines. Dickinson really drives this song with his masterful vocals like the abruptness of the verse lines “I'm on the run, I'll kill to eat /I'm starving now, feeling dead on my feet” , the powerful shouting of “Break the walls I'm coming out” or the wonderful double tracking of the chorus that cuts off right as he says “out”. The instrumentals are good and move along with the song and seem to be one of the more downtuned riffs on the album. The time changes really help build it to a fever pitch. It is a very wide ranging song.

    It would be hard to mention “Number of the Beast” without talking about “Number of the Beast”, one of Maiden’s all time classics. The talking intro to this one is classic and easily recognizable. The intro section is wonderful, subdued but rising quickly into the wonderful “What did I see can I believe that what I saw/that night was real and not just fantasy” line. The solo is classic and the song moves along well in vigorous fashion. “Children of the Damned” is a slower number, so it means that Dickinson is really pushed to the forefront to make it interesting. The vocals contrast with the guitar and bass parts well, really bringing the idea of the “damned” to life. As the song picks up life, it really moves into some excellent harmonic guitar playing, which is really what having two guitarists is all about. “Invaders” opens with a great set of drum rolls and Harris’ banging bass which move into a quick riff. I enjoy the singing of the song especially, as the urgency gives it a lot of energy. Add to the fact that I just like to be able to hear the bass part and you can see why I’m happy. As an album opener, it’s alright, as the upbeat time signature means a strong start but I think the title track would be a more classic album opener. “Run to the Hills” is a classic that everyone knows and the reason I rank it so low is just that I hear it way too much and I need a break from it to appreciate it again. Don’t non-metal fans know any songs besides this by Maiden? Finally, “Gangland” is a fine song, but comparatively to the rest of the album I find it kind of boring, especially that the chorus could have used more bravado. It has a good rhythm line, but if I had to cut one song, this one would be it.

    I don’t really think more needs to be said for a metal classic. If you don’t own it, buy it and see what all the fuss is about.

    Favorite Track: “Hallowed Be Thy Name”
  • My Favorite Albums: #81 Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”

    12 juin 2009, 6h49m

    Ya know, when I was making this list, I didn’t realize I had made such a pocket of metal. But I must admit, it was good timing for these reviews since I’ve been in a metal mood recently (like that Pat Boone album! - http://www.amazon.com/Metal-Mood-More-Mr-Nice/dp/B000005KOE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1244786256&sr=8-1). Anyway, I’m sure it’s no surprise that a metal lover like myself would eventually have a Metallica album on the list. After all, for many of us Metallica was our introduction to metal. Although Metallica’s “Metallica” (aka the Black Album) was the first of their albums that I got, I purchased “Master of Puppets” not long afterwards. All of the albums recorded before Cliff Burton’s death are outstanding, bringing the chug-chug riffs of metal alive. I am sad that Metallica’s sound moved away from what it was here and into questionable territory (though I did like “Death Magnetic”). So now I have to put into words what this fine example of metal has meant to me.

    It’ funny that I thought this album was boring the first time I heard it as a 13 year old kid. I must have been really stupid because this album has lots to think about. I think I’ll start with “Orion” the instrumental track. I always feel funny about instrumental tracks because they can be so prone to failure. They can’t be nearly as structured as most songs, because a riff repeated over and over again becomes boring. At the same time, it should be structured, not just noodling. I like Yngwie Malmsteen, but sometimes he just loses sight of things in his music and goes on a shredding tangent. Instrumentals about giving voice to the tools that you use to make the music. “Orion” does this with its moving voices. The main riff rises up from a sci-fi like sound, chugging at the listener in glorious double tracking. It is kept interesting by the little variations added over top of it. Lars, who is very easy to hate on sometimes, doesn’t lose sight of the rhythm but keeps his drums quieter, as they aren’t meant for melody here. And when we come to the bass solo, well, it’s orgasmic. Cliff Burton had a way of really making the coolest sounds on a bass. Something about the little triplets that nearly turn into a chord amazes me. And do I love hearing a Rickenbacker, the same kind of bass I own? Yes. Yes I do. And when the little harmonic fills from the guitar start coming in, it’s just awesome icing on an awesome cake. This song alone could justify the album, as it is intriguing and beautiful and a fitting tribute to my mystical master, Cliff Burton. But, oh, there is more! Much more. Come and see.

    I feel like highlighting “Battery” would be good, as it brings Metallica’s metal side to a peak that was difficult to repeat. It starts with this acoustic intro, with guitars sort of moving over top of each other. I always found Metallica’s like of doing acoustic intros strange, as you can them doing it quite a bit on “Ride the Lightning”. I think it supposed to bring some contrast to the speed and distortion of the main lines of the song. A “look how comparatively metal we are” moment. Not that I think this is a bad thing. It is a nice lead in and makes the album open well. But the body of “Battery” is pure aggression. Each moment is about the wall of sound, as drums, guitar and bass all crash at the same time every time. And they do it fast. The speed of the song is great, really moving the blood. Hetfield’s vocals are the only thing that don’t blend into this wall, as he growls out the words, before he started ending every word with –ah! Even the lyrics drip metal, telling of the body crushing battery, which is rolling over the world without mercy or relent. This is what metal is all about.

    The final song I’m going to talk about is the underappreciated “Leper Messiah”. There is just something about this song that I really enjoy. The way the riff is so methodical and heavy, much the way Tony Iommidoes his riffs. The moving bass undertones that swirl around the formula of the riff. The way James Hetfield can make the lyric seem so bleak while not losing that growl. The double tracking on certain words are just haunting and accusatory. Hell, even the count off at the beginning works well. This song about religious leaning taken too far is sums up what Black Sabbath did with metal, but adds more edge to the evil. I talked about Slayer’s evil in my last review and comparatively I guess Metallica isn’t all that evil sounding. Instead they present an evil of the world around us encroaching in on the little bubbles we live in. Evil isn’t the aberrant near mythical terrors of Slayer here, but something more real that we all could fall prey to at any time. This song is a straight forward example of this, summing up the slower metal sound that works so well. It is a complete song in every respect.

    I’ve decided to only discuss these three songs, since I think they speak so well for the body as a whole, but that doesn’t mean the other songs aren’t great, because they certainly are. I don’t think “The Thing That Should Not Be” is a particularly memorable song but it isn’t bad by any means. As a whole the album works and as expressed before “Battery” is a great opener and I like “damage inc” as a closer because it means the album goes out strong instead of fading away. “Master of Puppets” is a necessary metal album that I regret must be so high up on the list, but tune in soon for the metal masterpiece that could outrank this classic!

    Favorite Track: “Battery”
  • My Favorite Albums: #82 Slayer’s “Show No Mercy”

    11 juin 2009, 4h44m

    Few things are as metal as the first couple of Slayer albums. Right up to and including “Seasons in the Abyss” they show the ability to make metal everything it was meant to be: fast, evil, and harsh and in any combination imaginable. For some reason, I feel the albums that follow this really must that was great about these thrash legends work, but “Show No Mercy” is a perfect example of how Slayer put their stamp on the era. And of the four “great” thrash albums (Anthrax’s “Fistful of Metal”, Megadeth’s “Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good” and Metallica’s “Kill Em All” being the other) it is the only one that doesn’t suffer from a rawer production. No, it is actually benefited it by it in some ways. Slayer’s aggression is metered out perfectly as a raw almost primal force, beating drums and distorted riffs all brought to a head by Tom Arraya’s intense growling vocals. “Show No Mercy” set a brutal standard as to what thrash was and should be.

    I feel that if I try to do a song by song I may belabor my point quite a bit, so I’m going to discuss it in the three areas I bring up above: fast, evil and harsh. Starting with fast, I think it’s obvious how Slayer fits this role. Virtually every song on the album is done at an impact speed. “Evil Knows No Bounds” is really pounded into the listener’s ears with its fast picked intro, compounded with the bounding of the main riff. Tom Arraya’s vocals really add a powerful urgency and Dave Lombardo’s drums really keep the pace up with its fills. The little solos also help with as they sacrifice tonality for just raw sound on top of fast raw sound. “Fight Till The Death” shows how much drums can drive a song forward, as the relentless high hat and bass drum are jammed at intense speed. “Black Magic” is just jammed together riffs that show off the guitar tandem and Arraya’s clipped vocals make it seem all the faster. The solo is also remarkably moving, but manages to stay within the confines of the songs “musicality”. The speed just comes off as pure metal punch and show that metal and speed are meant to go together.

    Flip this over to the idea of metal as “evil” sounding. Now it’s not hard to imagine how Slayer can be considered evil. I mean just look at their lyrics. Take a look at “The Antichrist” with its screamed chorus of “I AM THE ANTICHRIST” and lines like “Searching for the Answer /Christ Hasn't Come/Awaiting The Final Moment /The Birth Of Satans Son.” Or how about “The Final Command” evoking the image of the German Army in WWII “Blitzkrieg Tactics of the German Command /Born with the Power of God in His Hand /Withdrawn from Fighting He Now /Takes His Leave /Seeking out Goals That Can’t Be Conceived.” The music itself is also very demonic sounding, as the distorted guitars growl like wild dogs and screams at you like in “Metal Storm/Face The Slayer.” The evil builds even further in the slower songs, “Tormentor” being a good example of this. The riff evokes a somewhat classical feel it seems to me, but when the two guitarists play on top of each other it becomes haunting and domineering. The songs are all about despair being flung at you, heavy metal as a blunt force, with the satanic image of heavy metal really used to full effect.

    Harsh is another one that isn’t hard to explain. Slayer is meant to be abrasive. If it wasn’t, they would turn off their damn distortion pedals. “Evil Has No Boundaries” is basically a cacophony of sound, as the riffs and singing really get in your face, but retain this edge of just beyond live. They might step on each other, the possibility exists, but it works well as this style makes it more in your face. Look at “Cryonics” where the lines are just barely distinguished for the guitar, giving this running effect of distortion. The rawness brings the speed and evil to life, forcing the listener to deal with a heavy and loud sound. The rawness is especially present in solos, where the tonality it remarkably similar for all songs, but it works. The solos aren’t meant as tonal oddities or melodic enhancements but as another pounding pulse in the music. Sure, the production might differentiate things better and the production on later records is great, but this really captures a lot of what’s great about seeing Slayer live.

    I don’t have much to say about this record negatively, though I would like to have had the bass mixed higher. I think “Evil Has No Boundaries” is a great opener summing up Slayer’s sound on the record and “Show No Mercy” is a great closer because it sums up their sound as a whole. Slayer continues to be a great live band, but this record reminds me how much I like their albums as well.

    Favorite Track: “Black Magic”
  • My Favorite Albums: #83 Megadeth’s “Countdown to Extinction”

    10 juin 2009, 5h25m

    I have been told by a radio host that there are two types of Megadeth fans: those that think “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?” is the best Megadeth album and those who think “Countdown To Extinction” is the best. Personally, I like to think I am neither, as I enjoy all their discography (“Risk” excluded). I have pondered the meaning of this and I guess it’s meant to signify the earlier thrash albums versus the more mainstream sound that Megadeth had during this era. I wonder why people worry about this, as if the popularity of “Symphony of Destruction” impedes their ability to like the album. Okay, so the album is different than the earlier stuff, but what this really mean? Overall, I would say better song structure and cleaner production. Megadeth’s dueling guitar sound is greatly enhanced by the clarity of the production, bringing out the nuance of their shredding, whereas it was muddy before. And yes, I think Mustaine’s song writing ability got better as time went on, when he introduced more melody. It wasn’t less metal. Just less heavy and exploratory.

    Now, “Countdown to Extinction” is an album that I really feel lacks bad songs. Of all the songs, only “This Was My Life” is not immediately recognizable to me. The rest have outstanding moments that make them memorable. “Skin O my Teeth” is a great album opener, striking immediately into a fast paced drum roll and a chugging riff that Dave manages to get an interesting cadence over. This song is further enhanced by one of the best solos on the album, as it fits the music perfectly but still manages to diverge into interesting speed and phrasing. “Symphony of Destruction” is a song that may be recognizable to non-metal fans, having cropped p in many other places. It has kind of a start stop riff that really lay out a good rhythm and gets even more interesting in its digressions leading up to the chorus. This is one of Mustaine’s more restrained vocal performances on the album, but they are rather present and luckily, the lyrics aren’t too shabby. “Architecture of Aggression” is a stand out on the album, as the machine gun drum intro and the guitar sound really harkens back to the older Megadeth. Add the fact that Dave’ growl is so strong here, talking of course war/politics and you have an archetypal Megadeth song. Although not their fastest song, it really highlights the guitar and that is what Megadeth is all about.

    Foreclosure on a dream” is an interesting divergence, as I guess it could be classified as a ballad. Although I wouldn’t call the acoustic part particularly striking, it comes to a head with its conflict with the electric guitar, which provides a moving background for Mustaine’s singing. Surprisingly, it also features a really badass solo for a ballad. My complaint with this one is the damn George H.W. Bush talking segment. What is with Dave Mustaine and talking songs (see album “World Needs A Hero”). “Sweating Bullets” may very well be the silliest song on the album. I’ll go ahead and say it: Dave Mustaine can write some really laughable lyrics. This interplay between him, made even wackier by Dave’s rising at weird times vocals and you have a recipe for disaster. What saves it is the same stop start effect made so present in “Symphony of Destruction”. For some reason, this style really seems to drive the heavy home, which is really enhanced by the drum beat and a really simple solo. “This Was My Life” has a promising vocal intro, but I think it gets a little too high pitched at times. The riff is good, but just not as memorable as most of the other songs. “Countdown to Extinction” is one of the more interesting ones compositionally. For instance, the bass is more present, jumping out every so often to really drive in the rhythm. I also like this best on the album for Mustaine’s vocal delivery, especially the rising intro and the subdued but multi-layered chorus. Plus, the riff in the chorus is extremely well voiced and entertaining.

    High Speed Dirt” is another song with a rawer sounding tonality, driving a little faster than most of the other songs. Dave really comes off challenging in his vocal delivery and something about the rhythm here, delivered so well by the drums; push the song along into the chanting chorus. “Psychotron” is another of the stupider lyrical songs and at times the delivery of the song’s body verges on rapping. But some reason, I really like this song, to the point where I would probably pick it as my favorite on the album. The riff is among the heaviest on the album and I like the little noodling segments as each line’s delivery. The snare drum really adds a snap to each line. The solo really rises above the backing section, in a very powerful but subdued way, even permeating into the main body of the song. And let face it: the weird lyrics make it very memorable. “Captive Honour” is immediately memorable to me because of the talking segment which features Mr. T. However, the rest of the song is good, especially the intro’s acoustic lead in that provides an interesting plucking line as well as good contrast to the rest of the song. Dave really snarls the vocals here, which is usually when his vocals are at their best. The chorus is also very memorable. “Ashes In The Mouth” works well as a closer, as its heavy style really satisfies why you listen to Megadeth. The riff at the chorus lead ins are quite well timed to draw attention and the solos work well. I also enjoy the layered chorus that provided lyrics thematically appropriate for the end of the album. And let us forget that it’s the albums best example of the duel solo where Mustaine and Friedman each take turns shedding only to combine in harmonic lines. I find this to be an orgasmic effect.

    This is a great album. I don’t care if Megadeth sold out as long they write me more songs like “Architecture of Aggression” and “Psychotron”. Although it doesn’t have a much duel solos as some of the other albums, it is still a speed metal dream with enough variety to keep it all interesting.

    Favorite Track: “Psychotron”
  • My Favorite Albums: #84 Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”

    4 juin 2009, 4h14m

    Motorhead is the first to have a repeat on the list, though certainly not the last. And here I picked what many consider the ultimate Motorhead album, or at least the most recognizable. Like all Motorhead albums, "ACE OF SPADEs" is consistently good because it does not disregard the formula that made Motorhead a band of such longevity: loud, fast and heavy. It is simply the degrees of these elements and the way that they are delivered that changes from album to album.

    So I got to thinking about what made this the “classic” Motorhead album. If it had followed right after “Overkill” this would be an easier comparison, as “Overkill” featured many shred of the Hawkwind kind of sound Lemmy was used to, though certainly geared further to heavy (“Metropolis” is a good example of this) but instead it followed “Bomber” which seems to me stylistically similar to it, though a little less polished (I discount “On Parole” since this was supposed to be their first album but wasn’t released until right before “Ace of Spades) so a comparison of styles on albums might not work. It is likely more due to either this being people’s first exposure to Motorhead or thus making it more memorable to them or because the title track, “Ace Of Spades” sums up Motorhead’s sounds so well.

    “Ace of Spades” is the song that even people who do not know Motorhead will be able to identify. It is fast, driven by the double pounding of bass and guitar that is backlit by the drums. Lemmy’s growl is right up front and the imagery of the song really brings the whole outlaw image of heavy metal right up front. Although I would never claim it is my favorite Motorhead song, it is nevertheless, a classic, that demands to be chanted along with, yelled along with, screamed along with or whatever. It quickens the pulse. Its guitar tone is simply awesome and the bridge when Lemmy declares matter of factly “Take one look and die!” is burnt into memory. It makes a strong case for itself.

    As for the rest of the album, if you’ll forgive a bad pun, it really follows suit. All the tracks have that heavy vein that demands attention. “(We Are) The Road Crew” is a classic with a great driving drum beat, complimented by a good cadence in singing and attention drawing lyrics. “Love Me Like A Reptile” has that classic Motorhead chanted chorus and I must say the title makes a great hook. “The Hammer” has a great rising aggression in it, as well as a moving tempo, very akin to the title track. And “Jailbait”. Hilarious with a great bass line and good singing.

    Even the songs that differ from the tempo like “Dirty Love” and “The Chase Is Better Than The Catch” take blues to a new level, featuring great solos, on guitar and bass respectively. They take the idea of “British Heavy Metal” right to heart and make a more aggressive version of what Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin were so complimented for. I’ll even go so far as to say that the bonus track on my cd, “Please Don’T Touch” is great, since I am a sucker for duets and the beat and backing vocals make it a track that is almost danceable to, akin to “Johnny B. Goode”.

    Yes, it is a classic of metal, but I would also pick it as an overall classic of rock music. Sure, heavy metal has its detractors, but they’re all wrong. Dead wrong. Motorhead is in fine form and we owe a lot to this album for exposing them to such a big audience.

    Favorite Track: “(We Are) The Road Crew”
  • My Favorite Albums: #85 Al di Meola/John McLaughlin/Paco de Lucía’s “Friday Night in…

    3 juin 2009, 4h44m

    I have been really searching for a way to accurately review this album. Obviously an instrumental album is harder to really pick apart, especially one like this that has so much virtuosity. I made a good attempt during my review of “The Fountain” OST, but that required knowledge of the movie. Here I will have to go more with my intimacy with the music. I was introduced to "Friday Night in an Francisco" by a friend of mine who seems to like pure technical skill in his music and this album has plenty of that. I remember marveling at the sheer speed but it took me a while to really listen to it. To really get all the phrasing and interplay. Now it all seems so big. I love exposing people to this album, so they can see just how wide a range classical guitar can provide. My Dad even remarked upon hearing it the first time, “Wow. I didn’t think humans could play that fast”

    Mediterranean Sundance - Rio Ancho” is immediately noticeable to me by the way the guitars volumes are done. One distant, the other close. But they build quickly into their lines, showing why one was highlighted and one was not. One acts to invoke the imagery, while the other compliments it but also gives a backbeat, so that rhythm is not lost. At times the backbeat takes precedence, allowing the other guitar to change voicing or pace but till stay in the framework of the piece. And one of my favorite parts comes around the 4:30 marks, when the lower pitched backbeat takes the stage, crashing down and forcing the voicing into unison for just a brief moment, maybe a chord or two. At 7:00 you get another unison moment that generates such an interesting tone. The brief break and return at 8:10. The call and answer at 10 minutes. It’s hard to describe since this is such a bit song, but everything interplays well and yet remains light and listenable.

    Short Tales of the Black Forest” is an interesting opener, starting with what seems to be just fast runs up and down the strings with an occasional chord banged out. But the interesting play here comes in the dynamics of the two guitars interplaying. Different volumes and different speed play off each other to create a strong tapestry of sound. The music gets even more playful towards the end when an almost 12 bar blues starts and the audience start clapping along. Jut good fun. The end shows a marked drop in volume, but not speed, indicating the end of our journey, only to rise quickly to a vibrant conclusion. Our emergence from the piece complete.

    Frevo Rasgado” immediately comes in with a more flamenco feel to it, likely due to De Lucia’s influence. One guitar is kept lower, banging out heavy but fast chord that form the backbone of the song, while the other guitar acts as the dancer to the song, moving quickly over the music. Each change in the line is a break or whip from the dancer signaling the audience to draw attention in the detail. As the song progresses, the two parts draw together, becoming two dancers providing their own music. It finally cools down a bit towards the end but remains very sensual, refusing to just fade out.

    Fantasia Suite” starts with a run as well, of course at high speed. But it’s the light touch at the 50 second mark that is quite interesting. Not just raw speed, but ability to understand the way the tone is played to the audience. It relaxes and invites into the music. It builds into this weird echo effect at 3:20 which is quite interesting, seeming distant but working into the dynamic of the tones volume and tempo. Then at 3:40 it seems to change into a whole other song, with one part using slower chords, the other guitar bouncing off it but keeping the same tune. It becomes very… big sounding I suppose? The suite works well, but if I had to complain, I’d say there is a slight drop that makes the change of parts more noticeable. Still, it’s hard to beat the speed and voicing around minute 8.

    Guardian Angel” is the only one to feature all 3 players and also the only studio song. It starts picking lightly, careful to keep them from stepping on each other’s toes. But it picks up speed, only to be cut out to another part, almost seamlessly. Each part that comes to the forefront lowers the key a bit, letting it stand apart from the others. And the light ending is the perfect way to end the album. It is well arranged and never overwhelming. Simply well put together.

    Now, I haven’t really seemed to add a whole lot of judgment and I have been much consternated on how to do this review. Can I really tell you why? No. Am I hearing things not in the music? Maybe. But I still think this is a great album with great guitarists.

    Favorite Track: “Mediterranean Sundance - Rio Ancho”