My Stories

Holidays

Its been a crazy week.

It all started with the MH17 disaster. Waking up on Friday morning, I was in shock along with the rest of the world at the loss of innocent lives. And I was concerned.

I was concerned because I was flying from Australia to Europe the next day (Saturday afternoon) at 4pm. So I asked my wife to call the travel agent and see if anything has changed for our flight.

Of course, our flight got changed to 10am. I was like WTF.

And I had questions.

Like when was the travel agent going to call and tell us that the flight changed. Of course the travel agent put the onus back on us. She said that they advise all of their customers to call and check 24 hours before they depart in case something changes. I have no problem with calling, however when I booked the flights back in January, she did not mention nothing of the sort.

Anyway, it got changed, it got changed. What else could I do except roll with the new schedule. So I asked if our connecting flight at Bangkok got changed as well.

The answer was NO. I was not happy right now. So instead of having a 2 hour stop over at Bangkok, we now had a 8 hour stop over. With three kids aged 9, 7 and 2, I did my best to book a flight that had hardly any waiting time. And now it was coming all undone.

And it had nothing to do with MH17. It was just airline politics. But if it wasn’t for the M17 disaster I would have missed my flight because I had no intention of calling the travel agent.

So on Saturday morning at 4am we got up, left home at 5am and drove to Sydney airport. We checked in at 7am, had some brekkie and then boarded a Thai Airways plane to Bangkok. 9 hours later we arrived in Bangkok.

The Bangkok eight-hour wait was a killer. And the following lyrical line from the song “City Limits” just kept on repeating in my head;

ARE WE LIVING OR ARE WE MERELY KILLING TIME.

While we walked the airport to kill time, the Thai workers just kept on saying “how cute” to my little guy. And they always reached out to touch him.

Now my little guy is not a strangers person, so he always moved his head or body away to avoid their touch. And then, a few hours before our midnight flight, he avoided another strangers touch and this time in his tiredness his chin hit the ground and he split his lip. He screamed and screamed and screamed until he fell asleep on my shoulder.

And to top it off, the Austrian airplane we caught was even worse. While the Thai Airways plane had a decent amount of leg room and space, the Austrian airplane had neither. 10 hours later we arrived in Vienna.

And we had a four-hour wait before we caught our final plane to Skopje. This wait was okay and bearable. However it was not without hiccup. Austrian Air had overbooked the flight, so they asked people if anyone wanted to surrender their ticket and they would be compensated 260 Euro and given a flight six hours later.

After two flights totalling 19 hours and two waiting periods totalling 12 hours, I was not giving anything up.

So as is the norm, hundreds of people stormed the boarding gate.

As I had kids, I had priority to board first and thank god for that. We caught our plane and 1 hour and 30 minutes later we touched down in Skopje and prepared ourselves for a three-hour drive to our destination of Struga.

And holidaying is meant to be relaxing and easy.

Advertisements
Standard
A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Technique x (Emotion + Feel) = Angel Of Mercy from Black Label Society

I just finished doing some hard late nights and early mornings watching the FIFA World Cup tournament for the last four weeks.

As a football youth coach, it was great to see a positive attacking mindset employed by the teams. And football coaching is getting better all the time as the modern-day managers and their coaches try to find a balance between technique and understanding the game. I have seen coaches spend a lot of time on technique that the players train in isolation for such long periods that they get lost when it comes to a game.

The problem is that too much focus on technique takes away time spent on the deeper aspects of the game. Players might be great at performing drills. But without understanding how the game is played, they can’t use their technique effectively. Sure, they can take on a player and beat them with incredible technique however soccer is a team game. While Brazil has Neymar and Argentina has Messi and Portugal has Cristiano Ronaldo, Germany has a team. And it was that team that won the FIFA World Cup.

Musicians are no different. There are millions of guitarists out there that have unbelievable technique. But how many of them are great songwriters. Because we all know someone with an amazing voice or great guitar talent. And maybe they should have made or could have made it. But they didn’t make it. Because the best and the brightest don’t make it the top on technical abilities alone. Music is a game and it needs to be played like one.

I just finished watching a YouTube view of Kelly Valleau playing an acoustic cover of “Fade To Black” from Metallica. The technique exhibited at pulling off the arrangement involved him combining the rhythms with the vocal lines and the lead breaks. It’s first class. All up the video has had 463,658 views on Youtube. Has anyone else heard of this phenomenal guitar player.

And the thing is, “Fade To Black” was written and arranged by James Hetfield who is the anti-hero of a technical player however his style of fast palm-muted down-picking ushered in a new style of rhythm playing. Look at any Metallica story out there and you will see that James more or less learned/mastered his craft in a band environment instead of spending countless days performing drills on his own. That’s not to say that if you woodshed you will not get far.

A favourite of mine is Zakk Wylde and he woodshedded from the age of fourteen, amassing an amazing technique. And no one can say that Zakk hasn’t created or being involved in creating some memorable songs. Just listen to “Angel Of Mercy” from the “Catacombs” album and you will see what I mean. It demonstrates unbelievable technique in the solo section while the verses and the chorus show the emotive side.

Hell, listen to his whole career and you will see what I mean. Same goes for a lot of other guitarists.

Great music must contain emotion. That is why “Angel Of Mercy” connected with me. It hits me emotionally and it makes me feel something. All the great songs do? And because I care for the song, I can’t stop sharing it and talking about it with people who want to listen. And when music is done right, it sells itself.

I am a great believer that technical abilities are a good tool to have in your arsenal as a musician, however it should be just one tool of many tools that are employed in the creation of your latest masterpiece. Don’t lose focus that a song has many moving parts and the vocal melodies along with the actual lyrics go a long way to making that connection with the audience as much as the riff.

Like the new Judas Priest album “Redeemer Of Souls”. A lot of the songs have some great musical moments and some cool riffs however the vocal melodies just missed the mark on the majority of the songs. “Halls Of Valhalla”, “Sword of Damocies”, “Secrets Of The Dead”, “Battle Cry” and “Beginning Of The End” are the exception, especially “Battle Cry”. And most of these songs are part of the deluxe edition.

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Compendium – Zakk Wylde

Before the Ozzy gig, Jeffrey Wielandt (aka Zakk Wylde) was just another guitarist among thousands of guitarists that worked day jobs, gave guitar lessons to make extra cash and spent their nights playing the local bar scene. In Zakk’s case, his night gig was a band called “Zyris”. And it was after a “Zyris” performance at a club in Sayreville, New Jersey that got the attention of a person called Dave Feld.

Feld asked Zakk to put together a demo tape with some press photos and he will try his best to get his friend Mark Weiss (fresh from just doing a Ozzy shoot), to hand it over to the Osbourne camp.

Eventually the tape found its way to the Osbourne camp and an audition was organised in L.A. Present at the audition were drummer Randy Castillo and bassist Phil Soussan.

In the end it came down to Wylde and one other candidate, a guitarist named Jimi Bell who had worked previously with Joan Jett. Bell would go on to play with Geezer Butler’s solo band and, more recently, design the Shredneck guitar practice tool.

Before the Ozzman audition, Zakk had already changed the spelling of his last name from Wielandt to Wylant as no one could ever pronounce the original. The Zack part came after his wife mentioned that it would be a cool name if they have a kid. The final piece of the name came after a drinking session with Ozzy, and hearing a song from Kim Wilde, the British Pop Singer.

“Miracle Man”

It’s 1987. Ozzy, Zakk, Phil Soussan and Randy Castillo had just begun writing songs for the “No Rest for the Wicked” album in Brighton, England. In the end, “Miracle Man” is credited to Zakk Wylde, Ozzy Osbourne and Bob Daisley.

The riff. A metal classic. Taking its cues from Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”, Zakk did what any metal player would do. Add some fast F# pedal point 16th notes, give it some distortion, give it some attitude and the rest is history. Make sure that you pay attention to the Aeolian/Pentatonic lead break.

“Breaking All The Rules”

This is Zakk Wylde referencing a lot of Lynch’isms and Rhoads’isms. As a fan, it is a damn good listen.

“Devil’s Daughter”

It’s the chicken picking licks merged with the traditional pentatonic licks that shatter this song out of the stratosphere. The song works because it’s structure is not the usual pop format.

Coming into the “No More Tears” sessions Ozzy’s piece d’ resistance was still the “Blizzard Of Ozz” album and it was an album that came from a band firing on all cylinders. While the albums that came after still sold a million plus, it was purely because we liked a few songs. Until 1991’s “No More Tears”. I was blown away. There is no filler and each track is killer.

“No More Tears” gave Zakk Wylde a career and Ozzy another re-birth.

“Mr. Tinkertrain”

Musically, it is a great opener, from the Jewelry Box intro, to the groovy verses and the heaviness of the chorus. It’s like a Big Top, Step-Right-In Circus opener. And Ozzy’s voice was the ringmaster. Step right in if you are brave. And the drumming from the departed Castillo is just powerful.

It’s written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo with a sinister lyrical theme that borders on the uncomfortable. But hey, if anyone can get away with it, it’s Ozzy and maybe Alice Copper.

“I Don’t Want To Change The World”

It was the lead-off single and it more or less summed up what it was to be a metal head.

I don’t want to change the world
I don’t want the world to change me

Just leave us be. Don’t try to change us. The song is written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde, Randy Castillo and Lemmy Kilmister. And Lemmy delivered the killer lyrics;

Tell me I’m a sinner I got news for you
I spoke to God this morning and he don’t like you

Musically, the song takes its structure from the Randy Rhoads classic “I Don’t Know” even all the way down to the slow interlude. Zakk was very good at referencing Randy and he did it tastefully.

“Mama, I’m Coming Home”

Only Zakk Wylde could have written the music to this song. It has all of his trademarks over it. The Southern Rock intro, the pinch harmonics, pentatonic runs. You name it, this song has it. And yes, this song is way ahead of its time. Hell, all of those country artists that crossed over with Rock songs had a perfect template right here.

The song is written by Zakk Wylde, Lemmy Kilmister and Ozzy Osbourne. Legend has it that the term “Mama” is a nickname that Ozzy has for Sharon.

Times have changed and times are strange
Here I come, but I ain’t the same

“Desire”

It’s another metal head classic written by Zakk Wylde, Lemmy Kilmister, Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Castillo.

I always knew what I wanted to be
I knew for sure, I knew for sure

All we wanted was our music and we wanted it loud.

I gotta keep rocking cause it makes me crazy
It makes me crazy who needs to be cool

Being a metal head is all about being uncool. That is why so many genres started to appear. When metal became mainstream and cool, other more extreme genres started to appear so that people could be uncool again.

“No More Tears”

“No More Tears” has a song writer committee all over it. Listed on the credits are Zakk Wylde, Randy Castillo, Ozzy Osbourne, Mike Inez and producer John Purdell.

The bass intro just gets the groove happening and it sucks you in. Again another song that only Zakk Wylde could have written over one hell of a bass riff.

It’s got that Black Sabbath down tuned grunt. CHECK.
It’s got slide guitar. CHECK.
It’s got a descending chromatic riff in the Chorus. CHECK
It’s got a melodic lead break just before a wicked Pentatonic lead break. CHECK

And at seven minutes long, there is no filler. Every second counts.

The light in the window is a crack in the sky
Then the riff.
A stairway to darkness in the blink of an eye
Then the riff.
A levee of tears to learn she’ll never be coming back
Then the riff.

Brilliant.

“S.I.N”

The song is written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo. It’s the Randy Rhoads “Goodbye To Romance” reference that grabs me in the PRE-CHORUS.

And what about the chorus?

Whoa – Who turned off the lights ?
Whoa – A shadow in the night
Whoa – It wasn’t meant to be
I can’t take this alone
Don’t leave me on my own tonight

As popular as Ozzy is, the reason why we love him is because of his flaws. A tragic hero.

Shattered dreams lay next to broken glass
I wonder if tonight will be my last
I need an angel who can rescue me
To save me from my mental symphony

Yep, the morning after a rampage.

“Hellraiser”

Legend has it that Killerwatt bassist Terry Nails wrote the bass riff that kicks the song off. Nails was one of the bassists on the “No More Tears” sessions and he is uncredited for his role is shaping some of the songs on the album. In the end “Hellraiser” is listed as being written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde and Lemmy Kilmister.

With the song sitting at number 7 on the track list, only the real fans would have gone this deep in. And it is another great track. It shows just how good “No More Tears” is as an album.

I’m living on an endless road
Around the world for rock and roll

This is what every aspiring musician wanted to do. Travel around the world, playing the music that they created, getting up to mischief and just living the life. It was never about the money, but about the lifestyle.

Walking out on another stage
Another town, another place

Motorhead also did their own version, however you need to be fan of Lemmy’s voice to appreciate it.

People keep telling me it’s bad for my health
But kicking back don’t make it

Don’t know how people could have bought the stories of Ozzy’s retirement. He more or less states that he just can’t kick back.

“Time After Time”

A ballad. Not as good as “Road To Nowhere” or “Mama, I’m Coming Home”, but still a worthy addition. It is written by Zakk Wylde and Ozzy Osbourne.

Day after day
I watched love fade away
I wanted love to stay

Yep, what one desires in love doesn’t mean that the other desires the same.

“Zombie Stomp”

It is written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo.

I don’t need no doctor
But I need something to kill the pain
Don’t know what I’m after
But the pressure driving me insane

The life of an addict is summed up right there. Finding issues and fires were fires and issues do not exist.

“A.V.H”

It is another song written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo.

Never forsaking what a dreamer needs to know
Rules meant for breaking and the seeds I have to sow
Riding on a train that I can’t control
No one else to blame and I can’t let go

Don’t forget what you want to be, because if you do, you are going to be on a train that you can’t control. And there will be no one to blame.

“Road To Nowhere”

Another ballad and at song number 11, the quality is still there. It’s better than “Mama I’m Coming Home”. The song is written by Osbourne, Wylde and Castillo.

The wreckage of my past keeps haunting me
It just won’t leave me alone
I still find it all a mystery
Could it be a dream?

One part of the legacy of Ozz will be the drunkenness. The bat, the dove, the Alamo, the line of ants and the rest. In other words, the wreckage of the past just keeps on coming back. The other will the music.

“Pride And Glory” is Zakk’s most underrated work. The self-titled debut came out in 1994 and it was way ahead of its time. Hell, Kid Rock made the style of merging Country, Southern Rock and Metal into a multi-million dollar business. People said that Zakk Wylde was crazy to leave Ozzy. They said to him that he could have played arenas forever, instead he is going to be playing small clubs from now on. But those people just didn’t understand. Zakk Wylde is in the business to play the god damn guitar.

Pride and Glory’s musical equation was one for the mathematicians’. This is what happens when the Allman Brothers, Black Sabbath, Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Al DiMeola, Randy Rhoads, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cream and the Marshall Tucker Band are all added and multiplied and divided together.

“Horse Called War”

The groove and that riff are heavy as hell and the title was perfect. The track could have been done on a Ozzy record, hell it could have appeared on a Metallica record as it’s got a real thrash rhythm.

And that solo was recorded all live. Yep, there is no backing rhythm guitar track. It’s just Zakk, James and Brian.

If the end be a comin’
I soon be a bummin’
All you Jesus freaks I hope you’re wrong
I’ve got so much left to live for

The humour.

“Harvester Of Pain”

Again, it’s got a killer groove and a great nod to some tasty southern rock in the verses and the chorus just rocks it out of the ballpark.

Every day’s a living hell
The reaper be weaving his spell
Sergeant take me aside
Tell me son, Peace ain’t what we’re here to sell…

War is not pretty, but you know what, neither is the six-o-clock news.

“The Chosen One”

It’s got that Dazed and Confused feel, and as is the norm with Zakk, he keeps the Southern Rock grooves rooted in Black Sabbath grooves. Checkout the strings from Paul Buckmaster in the Chorus. The song also pays tribute to Zakk’s father.

So glad I got to know you papa
I’m so glad I was the Chosen One

“Cry Me A River”

If Kings Of Leon recorded the song it would have been a hit. Hell the vocal line sounds like Kings Of Leon and it is almost 10 years before they broke through. It’s very Creedence and the solo starts out as a pedal steel lick that Zakk borrowed from Jerry Donahue of The Hellecasters. And then the song develops into a country metal tour de force. And it was the oldest song to be included on the album, written back in 1990.

Tell me now girl
Where have all the good times gone?

How many times have we said those same words throughout your life.

“Found A Friend”

Road To Nowhere Part II. A great song.

And no one said it was gonna be easy
I found out that ain’t no damn lie

Brilliant. You know when I was young my father kept on telling me that life is never easy. But back when I was young I was bullet proof. No one could tell me any different. Fast forward to now, I’m with a job, a mortgage and a family to support, I can tell you that life is not easy. It is beautiful, but never easy.

“Fadin Away”

A great piano ballad in remembrance of Zakk’s mother and a real testament to the talent of Zakk Wylde. He is a fantastic guitar player that has a great knack for riffing and soloing and he is also a very competent piano player. Check out his acoustic solo as well. Brilliant.

Ossmosis was next. It was a troubled album with a lot of changes. Ozzy was working with Steve Vai at one stage, then with other hit maker writers and then with Zakk Wylde back in the fold. Michael Wagener was first hired to produce.

“Perry Mason”, “See You on the Other Side”, “Tomorrow”, “Old LA Tonight”, “Aimee”, “Living with the Enemy” and “Slow Burn” got the Wagener treatment. Of these tracks, both “Aimee” and “Living with the Enemy” have been released as B-Side singles. The track “Slow Burn” has never been released. The label initially wanted the new album to sound exactly like “No More Tears” however they then changed their mind and they wanted the album to sound like “Soundgarden”. In came Michael Beinhorn.

“Perry Mason”

Musically, the song is brilliant. Lyrically it is terrible. It is credited to Zakk Wylde, John Purdell and Ozzy Osbourne. The song is packed with plenty of Zakkisms from the bends over the bass riff in the intro/chorus to that shredelicious lead break.

“See You on the Other Side”

Another gem that Zakk and Ozzy co-wrote with Lemmy Kilmister. How good is that simple syncopated bass drum/bass intro and then Zakk cuts in with a G to Em to C arpeggios.

“Thunder Underground”

This is the birth of Black Label Society right here. It’s heavy, it’s aggressive and its violent. And it’s written by Zakk Wylde, Geezer Butler and Ozzy Osbourne.

Your Appetite For Power
Subvert Your Every Hour
But Every Time The Mighty Fall

Lyrics that ring true today.

“Old L.A. Tonight”

Another world-class ballad. It is another Wylde, Purdell and Osbourne composition. The pentatonic lead breaks from Zakk kill it.

Tell Me Where We’re Going
I’m So Afraid ‘Cos I Don’t Know
What’s Going On With My Life

Yep, when you are young you don’t care about the future. As you get older you start to care.

“Throwin It All Away”

“Book Of Shadows” tried but it didn’t get out of second gear except for “Throwin It All Away” which is about the passing of Shannon Hood from Blind Melon.

“The Rose Petalled Garden”

1999 saw the release of “Sonic Brew” and the arrival of Black Label Society. It was one of the heaviest and most hostile record ever made. And it shredded, just when Nu-Metal made it even more uncool to shred.

“All For You”

A year later, “Stronger Than Death” came to be. It was a violent album and “All For You” got the violence started.

“Counterfeit God”

Also from the STD album.

We’ve washed your brain and cleansed your soul
Till’ nothing’s all you need to know
Hand over your will and then you’ll see
Now get on your knees and worship me

It looks like the Miracle Man or Metallica’s “Leper Messiah” got out of his cell and is back to his old tricks of getting

“Bleed for Me”

1919 Eternal came in 2002 and it is one of my favourite Black Label Society releases. And what a story behind the making of it. Like how some of the songs came from the “Down To Earth” sessions or how the original title of the album was Deathcore WarMachine Eternal. Or how the album is dedicated to Zakk’s father, who passed away before the release of the album. 1919 was the year his father was born and Zakk described his fathers credo of strength and determination as the basis for Black Label Society. Then there his fathers story of being raised in an orphanage, going off to fight in World War 2, coming back from war, getting married, raising a family and then outliving his wife.

By now the Black Label Society tours became campaigns. Recruitment drives. There was no such thing as fans as all of the fans became chapter members. When BLS went out on stage, the venue resembled a clubhouse. They made it their own.

The lyrics say it all. Zakk’s bleeding for you and you are bleeding for him.

“Lords of Destruction”

By track 2, it was clear that 1919 Eternal was a more pissed off and angrier album than the last two albums. Musically, it was a revolution against the Nu Metal movement led by Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. “Lords Of Destruction” has two classic lyrical lines.

Peace is a word that no one cares of knowing
Death is the drug of choice amongst the masses

“Bridge to Cross”

Another Black Label motto that life is just another bridge to cross. You ask no questions. Whatever work it is you gotta do, you gotta do it.

Just think about the bridges Zakk needed to cross. He got dropped from Geffen. Then he tried to play nice, kiss ass and secure a deal with Interscope. They wanted him to drop the denim and leather, wear shorts and get a haircut. Just the fact that Black Label Society exists is a testament to the bridges that needed to be crossed.

And what about the emotive lead break.

“Berserkers”

It’s the Tool like groove that got me hooked. While other songs like “Mass Murder Machine”, “Genocide Junkies” and “Graveyard Disciples” had great intros or a great groove, “Beserkers” has it all.

Drinkin’, pukin’, pissin’, and fightin’
Startin’ all over again

It’s comedy. Like the fictitious band Bad News and their song, “Warrior”.

“Raping, rooting, looting and a shooting”

“Doomsday Jesus”

“The Blessed Hellride” came a year later in 2003 and it looked like Zakk went out riding that horse called war again.

Horsemen rolls, tomorrow’s fading fast
Make damn sure, aint nothings gonna last

“Stillborn”

It’s got Ozzy Osbourne guesting. Bet ya that you can’t differentiate between Zakk’s vocal style and Ozzy’s. And what a F#m groove that Zakk locks down.

“Fire It Up”

“Mafia” came in 2005 and it is one of the band’s most commercially successful releases. And what about this little beauty. It’s like Cream on peptides and steroids.

“In This River”

The track “In This River” was written before the death of Zakk Wylde’s friend and fellow guitarist Dimebag Darrell, but it has since been dedicated to him

“Concrete Jungle”

“Shot to Hell” is one hell of an underrated album. After the successful sales of “Mafia” a bigger label came knocking in Roadrunner Records. Coming out in 2006, it was the band’s first (and only) record to have been released by Roadrunner.

“Hell Is High”

This is the offspring of “Paranoid” and “No More Tears”.

“New Religion”

Great 2 minute piano intro and then it goes into a Tool like groove.

“Faith Is Blind”

Chaotic and heavy.

“Blood Is Thicker Than Water”

Beatles like vibe.

“Lead Me to Your Door”

Reminds me of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”.

“Not Going Away”

By the time “Black Rain” came out in 2007, you can tell that Zakk’s style and abilities had far outgrown the Ozzman. Written by Zakk Wylde, Kevin Churko and Ozzy Osbourne. Again the BLS style swampy groove is prominent.

Get out of my way
There’s nothing you can do to change what I say

“I Don’t Wanna Stop”

Another song written by Zakk Wylde, Kevin Churko and Ozzy Osbourne.

All my life I’ve been over the top
I don’t know what I’m doing
All I know is I don’t wanna stop

What does the Chorus sound like?

“Countdown’s Begun”

The song is written by the normal trio of Osbourne, Wylde and Churko. It starts of like a Zakkified version of “Rock N Roll Aint Noise Pollution”. During the verse riffs, it sounds like the “Facing Hell” intro. Then the Chorus references the “No More Tears” chorus.

I see the death and the disaster
There is no happy ever after
The time has come
Countdown’s begun

“Godspeed Hellbound”

“Order of the Black” came out in 2010 and this should have been the opening track. Instead it was track number 8 on the album and it is one damn good album. The song is fast and groovy and how good is that ode to “Diary Of A Madman” that comes in at the 2.20 minute mark.

“War of Heaven”

It comes right after “Godspeed Hellbound”. It shows the depth of the album were some of the best tracks appear very late.

“Overlord”

It’s track 2. The song has Black Sabbath influences all over it. Hell, Zakk does Ozzy and Black Sabbath better than Ozzy and Black Sabbath. How good is that “Children of The Grave” section and lead break.

“Parade of the Dead”

It comes after “Overlord” and it has a violent bastard riff that reminds me of “Immigrant Song” from Led Zeppelin.

“Shallow Grave”

I always dig a piano style ballad from the Zakkster and man for some reason I can’t shake the Coldplay resemblance.

“My Dying Time”

“Catacombs of the Black Vatican” was written in 25 days. And “My Dying Time” sums up the 25 credo. It is groove heavy and very jam like. The lead breaks again take the song to a whole new level, from the calculated harmonies to the pure shred abandonment that comes in between. Plus the song sounds references the musical feel of “Stillborn”.

“Angel of Mercy”

It’s one of the best ballads Zakk has recorded and it’s the solo that takes it into the stratosphere. It is thematic, and it builds dramatically. Back in the Nineties, people looked down on artists who worked out their solos. Well they should listen to the worked out solo on “Angel Of Mercy”. The intro is like a “Stairway”-type thing with a bend, A minor pentatonics, and then some Al Di Meola scales. All of them are written. I can play any one of them for you note-for-note, back-to-back.

“Damn the Flood”

High energy blues boogie that breaks down into a half-time groove just before Wylde takes the best solo.

“Empty Promises”

The drum groove sets it up and Zakk starts to reference “Would” from Alice In Chains and then it goes into a “Heaven And Hell” style riff. Brilliant.

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit, Unsung Heroes

If Game Of Thrones Was A Rock Band

Game Of Thrones is on everyone’s lips these days. In Australia, it is also one of the TV shows that a lot of Australian’s download via peer-to-peer networks. With such a high piracy rate of people obtaining their content for free, you wouldn’t expect people to spend a decent amount of money to travel large distances and queue outside a Game of Thrones exhibition in Sydney.

But that is exactly what happened. Even though the exhibition is for free, the fans of the show spent their hard-earned dollars to get to the venue and then spend their time waiting to get in.

On opening day, people waited for six hours to get in. See what happens when a TV show is available to all even though it is meant to be locked up behind paywalls. You get people queuing up for days on end just to see the Iron Throne. This is the world we live in today, where a TV show based on a cult novel is bigger than a rock star. It used to be that people queued in lines like this for their favourite act.

And in this case the term groupie involves everyone. Teenagers to the elderly and moms and dads and their obsession for the series is all at different levels. And super fans paid above $500 in travel related expenses to be at the exhibition. It’s like when your favourite band comes to town and you fork out your cash for Meet and Greets and VIP passes.

No one could have predicted that George R.R. Martin would have created a cultural phenomenon. However as good as the stories are from Martin, it is the visual aspect from the TV show that is overseen by the show runners that is causing the cultural impact. Plus the casting of Sean Bean in Season 1 as Eddard Stark was a master stroke.

And as much as the Corporations moan and complain about piracy taking away from the artists or the creators, what piracy is showing is that people from all over the world can access and be involved with a cultural phenomenon. Piracy leads to greater opportunities.

If Game Of Thrones was a rock band and the band had those levels of piracy, expect their shows to sell out in minutes.

If Game Of Thrones was a rock band and the band is doing a free show like the GOT exhibition then expect pandemonium to ensure.

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit, Unsung Heroes

The Money Business

As bad as the RIAA makes out the piracy epidemic sound like the end of the world, is piracy really taking away from sales of recorded music.

I have been looking at some metal sales recently.

All up, from June 18, 2014 to July 2, 2014 in total there have been 289,810 hard rock/metal sales. It total that is a retail gross taking close to 3 million dollars. Not a bad take for two weeks.

Mastodon’s “Once More ‘Round The Sun” makes up 12% of that total. And that is their label “Reprise” only entry. Eleven Seven Music had two entries with “Hellyeah” and “Nothing More” and those sales in total came to 6% of the total.

Warner Bros along with “Linkin Park” take up 50% of those sales. And this fits right in with the “Blockbuster” strategy of Anita Elberse that has proven that a very very small percentage of artists make up the majority of the sales.

Warner Bros also have Avenged Sevenfold and Gemini Syndrome on their roster, with Avenged Sevenfold having moved 490,000 units of “Hail To The King” in the US and Gemini Syndrome having moved 22,000 units of their “Lux” album in the US since their release dates.

Yep, that Avenged Sevenfold release in actual sales has generated close to $5 million for Warner Bros. And of course, let’s not forget the streaming income, radio plays income and so on.

There is a few takeaways from this.

There is still a lot of money in hard rock and heavy metal music.

Aggregate sales of 300,000 over two weeks, equates to 7.8 million sales in the U.S alone for 52 weeks, with a gross retail sales value of $78 million. And of course, let’s not forget the streaming income, radio plays income and so on.

The issue is that the sales are spread over a lot of releases.

And it’s good to see labels like “Artery”, “Fearless”, “Prosthetic” and many other independent ones flooding the market with releases. It’s good to see a lot of bands self releasing and recording sales. And you still have the regulars like “The Pretty Reckless”, “Five Finger Death Punch”, “Chevelle” and “Volbeat” still moving units.

And yes, the recording business still generates a lot of money. It’s just a shame that every band is held captive to the creative accounting of the record labels, especially the larger ones. It’s also a shame that every band is configured with band agreements that take into account payments to managers, accountants, lawyers and the band members themselves. Heaven forbid if a band member leaves. Then the money business starts to get messy.

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Life In Lucidity

“Today I Caught the Plague” was first. I thought the band name was crap but the debut album “Lore” was a real stand out for 2011. I came across the band by sheer luck when I saw a tour poster from “Protest The Hero” and it had “Today I Caught The Plague” as one of the supports.

Their 2011 debut album was over 10 plus years in the making.

While “Lore” was an independent release, “Life In Lucidity” is on Sumerian Records which is the home of PERIPHERY. A label that is perfect for them. Because labels are still the answer to get your name out to the masses. As much as the internet was meant to level the playing field, the labels have more power than ever. So if you want to be on a label, you need to be on a label that specialises and deals with bands that are of similar styles.

The first song I listened to was “Heritage” and I bought the album on iTunes not long after, ordered the CD from Amazon and put it as a favourite on my Spotify playlist.

The album title alone gets me thinking about “Silent Lucidity” from Queensryche. Vocalist David Journeaux explained the title meaning in the following way;

“The album title, Life In Lucidity, relates to the concept of life being nothing more than a very lucid dream, wherein if you were to wake from it you may either wake in to another dream or in to true reality. It also toys with the notion that if you can realize you are dreaming within this world you can gain complete control over everything that happens within it; complete responsibility for the path your life takes.”

Wolvish

“Wolvish” is a perfect concise musical and melodic statement of the djent and progressive rock movements. That opening riff is absolute killer.

It’s got horns, it’s got groove, it’s got meter changes, it’s got a spaghetti western flavour, it’s got a cabaret circus big top feel and that Coheed and Cambria inspired chant ending is just sublime. Basically it’s got everything that a progressive song should have and it all sounds natural.

I must go
Off alone in wild
Where I just might escape my restraints

So simple and one of the best lyrical lines of 2014. It is a simple summation of just cutting yourself free from the society and the life that is unjust. Jump in the car, hit the gas and escape the restraints of society into the unknown. Or in some cases, go online and escape that way.

Heritage

The frantic intro with the chants got me interested, however it was the build-up in the middle from 2.28 that got me hooked.

I would be happy to pay good money to see the band pull off the song. It actually starts out with a quote from “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe”.

“He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth”

The song’s topic is what the Copyright Industries are fighting against.

“Heritage” explores the idea about building upon the knowledge of predecessors, by understanding what came before and then applying our own thoughts and ideas to them.

Music is a perfect example of building upon previous works and changing them enough with our own ideas and words. And it’s got a perfect summation for what it is to be human.

Now, stand on the shoulders of history’s tallest thinkers
See that their height is borrowed from predecessors
And even the worst ideas can spur better conceptions
Pushing humankind along an evolutionary rite of passage

We are copyists, borrowers. We always have been and always will be.

Everbound

Again the mathletic intro hooks me in and the old school style vocal melodies seal the deal. A song that deals with being away from a loved one. It will not be as big as “Turn The Page” or “Wanted Dead or Alive” because it is an intelligent ode to life on the road.

On long nights, the feeling grows so strong
But still stronger, my resolve that all I need is her word
Nothing can shake this
For twin hearts, inherently kindred
Know all despair will be resolved at companion’s side

An Evolution Of Thought

Is the level that Tool should be at right now. The song has everything in it that I love.

Old School. CHECK.
DT style prog. CHECK
Coheed and Cambria style prog. CHECK.
Tool style prog, CHECK.
Protest The Hero style prog. CHECK.
Periphery meets Scale The Summit style prog. CHECK

And yeah, those vocals kill it. It’s well written, and once again features an ending buildup that leads to an atmospheric chanting chorus that hangs around long after the song is finished.

Ebb and then flow
In time may we learn we never knew one thing
Ebb and then flow
In time may we learn we grow staying open
Ebb and then flow
In time may we learn from those we would estrange
Ebb and then flow
In time may we learn the laws of change

We knew once that the Earth was flat. We believed it. Now we know that is not the case. The takeaway is the line “WE GROW STAYING OPEN”.

Decades

Just look how everything can change
Perspectives falling through with age

Tell that to the Copyright Industries. They don’t want nothing to change. They want it to be like it was twenty years ago. Gated Releases, distribution controlled by them and politicians on their payroll passing laws to benefit their business models.

No moment’s ever the same
Embrace the shift

Seeing the change that the Internet has brought to my life is exponential. Embrace it, don’t fight it.

Years pass by, what was is changed
As years pass by, what is was revised
As years pass by, what was gives rise to now

Again, the perfect takeaway of what life is. What was, is changed. What was, is revised. What was, has given rise to something new. Steve Jobs is the definition of this principle. He took what was invented, revised it, changed it and out came the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Millennia

The blues’iness is perfect and brilliant. For an instrumental I didn’t need the feel to skip it. Love the Pink Floyd feel it gives me, ala “Dark Side of The Moon”.

A Grand Debate

Interpret the words unspoken
The benefits they bear

The one who controls the story is the one that controls the narrative. That is what the Copyright industries like the movie studios and the record labels are trying to keep control of. If they lose the narrative, then they lose the debate.

Do you see that our lies disguise shortcomings?

A perfect lyric.

Seekers and Servants

The lyrics drive this song.

How’d we become so pliable?
How’d we get so loose with trust,
Giving it up to the likes of the ruthless few who
Exploit naive, to ensure their incomes will grow?

Yep, while our parents focused on building a home and saving, the ruthless few kept on plotting and scheming. So what we have is a world that allows the criminals of the GFC to go on public speaking tours. What we have is a world that allows Corporations who contribute nothing to culture to lock it up. What we have is a world that allows democratic governments to spy on its citizens, acting the same as the totalitarian governments they went to war against.

Let’s choose to educate ourselves; question everything

Truer words have never been spoken like this.

But what we’re told and what we’re sold relate
So keep an eye on bottom lines

Living in a world we’re the leaders that we vote in work for the corporations instead of the people. Living in a world we’re everyone focuses on the bottom lines.

If initially we knew to
Work upon ourselves, not everyone else,

Any change happens by starting on numero uno. Get that right. But instead, we want to mold and shape everyone to conform.

Dreambender

Shape the life which you’ve defined

Again another classic lyric.

Like A Long Life

Greed deceives,
Turning everyone to slavery
Causing everyone to live life for salaries

Slavery in 2014 is just that. The rich are not stupid. They lost the war on slavery in the eyes of history, but what they did and what they created is much worse.

Why live a short life like you’re living a long life?

So wrapped up in building mansions for a life that is so brief.

Progressive music in general is having a pretty good run recently and I’m not complaining one bit. The step up from “Lore” to “Life In Lucidity” is a god damn big one.

Standard
Copyright, Music, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

I Want My M.P.3.

The last cinema movie I watched was “The Hobbit” back in December. I decided to give Captain America, and Spiderman a miss because the kids were little pests and I decided that even though I wanted to watch the movies, I wasn’t going to go without my kids.

Anyway, they have been good little boys, so I decided to have a movie weekend with them recently, while my wife stayed home with our two and a half-year old. So over the weekend, I had my son’s birthday party on Friday, had kids football on Saturday morning, watched “X-Men Days Of Future Past” on Saturday night with two of my boys, had more kids football on Sunday morning and then watched “Transformers – Age Of Extinction” on Sunday night with my boys again. Plus I took in the Brazil vs Chile game and the Colombia vs Uruguay game.

As is the norm with any Marvel movie these days, we hang around until the end credits scene appears and once that scene finished, there was a notice that said something like, 15,000 people contributed to the making of the movie. And I thought to myself, this is typical of the Movie Picture Association. Treating the people who legally watch a movie like criminals and hitting them with an anti-piracy statement.

It was like when I purchased a DVD at the start of the piracy epidemic and I was hit with the “You Wouldn’t Steal A Car” advertisement that could not be skipped. Yep, I am sure that the people who pirated the content kept those advertisements in their pirated release of the movie.

Everyone with a decent internet connection has dabbled in getting their music, TV or movie content via peer-to-peer downloading. Even the ones that work for the Copyright Corporations have illegally downloaded.

Because as successful as Spotify is in fighting piracy, or iTunes is at converting digital mp3 pirates into customers, people still get want their mp3’s for free courtesy of a favoured supplier. And it turns out that the pirate versions of the legal commercial offerings far surpass the simplicity and ease of use of what the Entertainment Industries offer up. That is because the pirate versions offer everything, in any format a user prefers and they do not geo block, so there is no way that a person will get the stupid “not available in your country” message.

Basically the amateur sharers of culture and knowledge are miles ahead of the Entertainment industry. The Pirate Bay is over ten years old. Name me one Record Label technological start-up that has reached a decade.

The kids of today just grab stuff from where it’s easiest. That is why YouTube got traction. While the record labels procrastinated about licensing Spotify, YouTube slipped under the radar. The only thing that YouTube is missing is the free mp3 version that fans of music still want.

Standard