Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Astonishing

9 songs would be a perfect album.

  1. Dystopian Overture
  2. Moment Of Betrayal
  3. Our New World
  4. The Gift Of Music
  5. A Savior In The Square
  6. A Life Left Behind
  7. When Your Time Has Come
  8. A Better Life
  9. A New Beginning

45 minutes all up. Sequence your playlists and you will see how beautifully it flows. I have been playing it all day. Because at 2 hours and 10 minutes, so many good songs are lost because only the hardcore fans would stay the course to hear the full album.

This is a review of the best songs on the album in my opinion.

“Moment Of Betrayal”

It’s a cross between “Forsaken” and “Metropolis Part 1”. Especially in the Intro and first verse. So if you like the feel and groove of those songs, you’ll like this one.

I have sworn to live and die
By the warrior’s code
Never leave a man behind
May God redeem my soul
I will give you what you need
My brother for my son
Guilt and shame will burden me
Until my days are done

The things we do for our children far outweigh what we would do for our brothers. Here is a person, who is conflicted by the situation he is in. But the path forward is clear for him. Betray the “Chosen One” and his son will be returned.

“Our New World”

It has one of the best Petrucci riffs ever. Petrucci always makes major music riffs sound heavy. Plus the vocal melodies of the verses are hypnotic. By far one of the best compositions from Dream Theater. You actually hear the main riff at the start of “A Savior In The Square” however it is restructured to maximum effect right here. In relation to the story, this song comes in close to the end, but man, it’s a knockout song.

So together we’ll build a new world
A better world

That’s all we are asking for today. A new and better world, free of the corruption and betrayals of our Governments and the Corporations that bank roll their campaigns.

“The Gift Of Music”

Again, a riff in a major key and it sounds fantastic. I also dig the interlude section from “The Gift Of Music” that sounds like a section from “Erotomania”. The whole song, musically is spot on.

We are living day to day
Forced to bear the lion’s share
People just don’t have the time for music any more.
And no one seems to care

Is this John Petrucci bringing modern-day issues into a dystopian society. The truth is, people don’t have time for music like they did before. There are so many distractions. Music is competing with so many different forms of entertainment, it’s not funny any more. Gone are the days of three TV stations and expensive computers.

And you know what, we can skip tracks. Back when we had vinyl records, we would drop the needle and after hearing our favorite track, we waited to hear what came next because we couldn’t be bothered to get up and move the needle back!

And then the playlist is geared up so that “The Gift Of Music” flows into “A Savior In The Square” and that brilliant riff from “Our New World” is heard again for the first minute and a half. This time it is in clean tone and Petrucci breaks out a brilliant lead. If you like how “The Count Of Tuscany” starts off, then you will love how this song start offs.

Then from 1.50 it goes into this regal “here comes the King and Queen” like musical rhythm.

We have come to hear him sing
To see this gift your savior brings

There is nothing more pleasurable than watching live music. I love it and when bands do their live shows as events, it’s even more special and memorable.

“A Life Left Behind”

I love the street busk feel of the guitar riff that kicks the song off. And once the drums and keys come in, the groove feels very progressive.

All this time while I’m sleeping
The world changed around me
Now I’ve never felt more alive

I’m waking up
From a life left behind

For a concept album set in the future, the sounds of the songs are set in the past. And it is in those sounds, that I feel alive.

“When Your Time Has Come”

The piano intro that morphs into the synth, is brilliant. For feel, the song reminds me of the verse riff of “Finally Free” when James sings “I ran into Julian and he said we should get together soon”.

The Chorus is a great piece of pop songwriting. Very memorable.

When you’re facing the path that divides
Know that I will be there by your side
Find your strength in the sound of my voice
And you’ll know which choice is right

That’s it. The freedom to let your mind drift and allow the music to lift you into new skies and new destinies.

“A Better Life”

The verses are heavy. I like it.

For many years, I’ve seen
Our people starve and suffer
How many more will die before we stand and fight?

“A New Beginning”

Love the palm muted intro and when the keys and drums come in, it’s prog and roll, baby. But the best part is the 4/4 drum beat at the 5.20 mark and Petrucci just goes to town. Not in a shred way, but in a groovy and melodic way, with some blues attitude.

Listen without judgement
Keep an open mind
If you cannot see the truth
You’re the one who’s blind

The guys in Dream Theater love to play. Even when they go into pop rock territory, there are still no three-minute cuts with safe moves. The pre-chorus can be a 10 second prog interlude. Creativity is all about risk. And sometimes artists fail or succeed wildly, but if they will never know until they try.

In Dream Theater’s case, they do what they want, because they have a loyal fan base that generates a significant part of their revenue. That is why their super deluxe editions sell out. That is why their concert tickets have gone up exponentially over the last 10 years. There’s a demand for them.

Now that music is free, people will still buy it, if the artist gives them a reason to.

That’s one of the movers behind vinyl and deluxe editions/packs. They make great souvenirs for the hard-core fan. Let this be a note to all musicians. Stop crying about the theft of MP3s or the streaming rates your label pays you. Wrap your music up in something that your hard-core fans want.

Coheed and Cambria have been using this business model since 2003 and they have built a successful career from it. Because in the end, every artist  has  to have fans to survive. And those fans are led from one thing to the other. We didn’t know that we wanted to use Napster but as soon as we acquired music via the Internet, at home, and so easily, we were hooked. Especially when those hard to find rare albums surfaced and those expensive imports.

Dream Theater and Portnoy during this period were at the forefront of the bootlegging culture, releasing their bootleg recordings via their various fan websites and their own Ytse Jam Records. All of their music was free and we still purchased it and more. I suppose that is the gift of music.

 

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

1982 – Part 3 – The Winds Of Change Are Blowing Softly

Y&T – Black Tiger
1981’s “Earthshaker” started Y&T’s rebirth. “Black Tiger” released in 1982 would enhance and refine their signature sound.

The album was recorded in England and produced by Max Norman. At that time, he had just finished working with Randy Rhoads on two career defining albums. He obviously knew how to work with excellent Californian guitarists.

It was a perfect combination, merging the hunger and melodicism of Y&T with the producer of the moment. Norman has stated that he wanted to do the “Meanstreak” record however, he believed that Y&T were mad with him, so they got Chris Tsangarides instead.

The sad harmony guitars from “Forever” introduce the album via “From The Moon” and then “Open Fire” kicks it off.

The ultimate song for the stage. It has elements of Deep Purple in the rhythm section. It’s very derivative of “Highway Star” from Purple, and Meniketti does a mean Sammy Hagar impersonation. It’s your typical, waiting for the weekend to let your hair down and have a good time song.

“Don’t Wanna Lose You” is up next and musically it’s very melodic. Polar opposites to the AC/DC vibe of “Open Fire”.

The super melodic and groovy “Forever” is up and the whole melodic rock movement is built upon this song. It’s the best cut of the album by far.

“Winds Of Change” could have been the best cut, but man the lyrics don’t do the song justice. Musically, Y&T did ballads / slow rockers the best. I would even put it out there, that the popular power ballad moniker could have originated with Y&T.

Winds of change
Blowing strongly

I know that “Barroom Boogie” and “Black Tiger” are known as essential Y&T songs. For me, other bands did those kind of songs better. Y&T is a favourite and a big influence to me because of how they did the melodic songs.

It was after the “Black Tiger” tour with AC/DC that Ozzy and Sharon approached Meniketti to join his band.

Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast

The band had come a long way from that Melody Maker 1979 ad for a second guitarist that said;

“Iron Maiden (Based In East London) want 2nd Guitarist capable of tight fast harmonies, tasty chordwork and the occasional ripping solo. Must have good gear and be a fast learner. Only dedicated, image conscious people need apply. We’re still semi-pro as yet, so no breadheads please”.

So I looked up what breadhead meant and it is a person who is motivated by, or obsessed with, making money. And in essence, that is the truth. Great everlasting music is never created by people who are obsessed with money. Great everlasting music is created by people who have a need to create and a story to tell. The ad is all class by Steve Harris.

And I was struck by the power of Steve Harris, to make things happen. One person, with a vision, excellent execution and a desire to stay the course can achieve success. He got rid of members when they didn’t execute properly or strayed from his vision. After each band member change, he moved on. To bigger and better things.

“Hallowed Be Thy Name” is my favourite Maiden cut. However the best version of the song is the live version on “Live After Death”. It was the first Maiden album I got (on double cassette), and I played it over and over and over again. The speed is also a bit quicker and it works well for the song. Plus who can forget Bruce yelling “Scream for me Long Beach”.

So when it came to purchasing the full “The Number Of The Beast” album, I was very late to the party.

How come no one believes in a riff anymore?

Once upon a time, songs stood on the shoulders of the guitar riff and “The Number of The Beast” is full of those riffs.

“Children Of The Damned” is a damn good song. Structurally it is brilliant.

He’s walking like a small child
But watch his eyes burn you away

“22 Acacia Avenue” is all class for a song about a brothel. The “Number Of The Beast” and “Run To The Hills” need no introduction.

Selling them whiskey and taking their gold
Enslaving the young and destroying the old

But the album and all of its everlasting glory belongs to “Hallowed Be Thy Name”.

I’m waiting in my cold cell, when the bell begins to chime
Reflecting on my past life and it doesn’t have much time
‘Cause at 5 o’clock, they’ll take me to the gallows pole
The sands of time for me are running low

Death row ain’t a good place to be.

As the guards march me out to the courtyard
Somebody cries from a cell “God be with you”
If there’s a God, (then) why has he let me go?

What a powerful line. It brings back memories of James Hetfield’s man at losing his mother in “The God That Failed”.

Frankie Miller – Standing On The Edge

One of the best bluesy singers that no one even knows. This 1982 album is one of those recordings that I picked up in a discount bin for $5 and played over and over and over again. Then I forgot about it, until the internet made me search him up again and I was still blown away by the album.

“Danger Danger” is the reason why this album became a classic for me.

There is a movie called “Thunder Alley”. I watched that movie a lot. You could say I was a fan.

The story of the movie is about a hard rock band that tries to make it in the music business. In between, people need to choose between a normal job and the rock and roll dream. They need to decide if the drugs and party lifestyle is for them. And in the end, what they think they have achieved is nothing because as they climb the ranks of the gatekeepers, each gatekeeper wants to bring in their own favourite musicians into the band. And it was in “Thunder Alley” that I heard the song “Danger Danger”.

I was hooked.

It’s a Frankie Miller composition. The album would also have co-writes with a certain Andy Fraser, who was in a band called Free once upon a time and a long time friend of Frankie. The album is pretty solid and how Capitol Records managed to fuck up the promotion of the album is beyond me.

There is a review of the album at Martin Leedham’s WordPress site. You can find it here.

Stay tuned for 1982 – Part 4.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Second Comings

Music history is littered with artists having second or even third careers after their original claim to fame band splintered.

In some cases, artists re-invent themselves and the music they write. In other cases, artists just continue to write what they normally write, in the same genre and experience a second coming.

Like David Grohl and his little pet project called “The Foo Fighters” which today is one of the biggest rock bands around. Like, Ozzy Osbourne who went from Black Sabbath to a solo career and surrounded himself with excellent songwriters in Randy Rhoads, Bob Daisley, Jake E. Lee, Zakk Wylde and the mighty Lemmy Kilmister. Like Rob Trujilo who went from Suicidal Tendancies to Ozzy Osbourne to Metallica. Like Nikki Sixx who did Motley Crue and Sixx A.M at the same time and now is exclusively focusing on Sixx AM.

Dave Mustaine from Metallica to Megadeth
Mustaine is one of the many unsung heroes who pushed thrash metal guitar playing to new levels. His influence on Metallica cannot be underestimated. The songs “Call Of Ktulu”, “Ride The Lightning”, “Phantom Lord” and “Metal Militia” all brought in a certain technicality to the thrash world that was different from just playing metal at break neck speeds. The foundations that these songs set up would reach its zenith with the “…And Justice For All” album for Metallica and with Megadeth, he would reach that lofty height with the classic “Rust In Peace”. The first true Metallica album for me without any strands of influence from Mustaine is their biggest one to date, “1991’s self-titled “Black” album.

If Metallica are recognised as Hall of Famers, then Dave Mustaine is a must to be included on his own merits and technical song writing contribution to the world of thrash metal.

Marc Tremonti from Creed to Alter Bridge to Tremonti
Tremonti is a guitar hero, as good as any of the Eighties shredders. He had multi-platinum success with Creed, an act that was devoid of guitar solos and lumped in with the Nu-Metal, Alternative Rock scene. It brought out the haters, jealous that a person who could shred, didn’t shred. In the end, people live and breathe on the songs they write, not on the guitar solos they write and Tremonti has built a consistent legacy. The pinnacle of his career in my eyes would be when his second act, Alter Bridge played the Wembley Arena.

Here is a band that doesn’t have any platinum awards. In the past only platinum acts would be booked to play the Wembley Arena. It goes to show if people have access to your music, they will pay eventually. Spotify and streaming in general is very popular in the UK, so is it any surprise that Alter Bridge sold out the Wembley Arena.

Amir Derakh from Rough Cutt to Orgy to various soundtracks to guitar designer and Producer
This re-invention or second coming is one of the more special ones. In the majority of cases, artists go from one band to another and play the same style of music within the same era. In this case, Amir went from a hard rock band into an alternative industrial metal band.

“Rough Cutt” was a hard rock pet project by Wendy Dio. Even Ronnie appeared as a co-writer on a few songs. They had Tom Allom and Jack Douglas produce album number 1 and number 2 respectively, but they never caught on. Shortino would leave to join Quiet Riot and that would be the end of the band.

Many years later the industrial rock band Orgy would break through.

Apart from Orgy and Rough Cutt, he was involved in releases by Coal Chamber, Spineshank, Danzig, Julien-K and Dead By Sunrise. From a soundtrack point of view, Amir has been involved with Strangeland, Bridge Of Chucky, Scream 3, Zoolander, Freaky Friday, Sonic Heroes, Transformers, Underworld and many others. Like Marc Ferrari, he never was on the cover of magazines, but it doesn’t mean he wasn’t successful in what he did. He’s had a longer career in the music business than a lot of the platinum stars of the Eighties.

Jack Blades from Rubicon to Night Ranger to Damn Yankees to Shaw/Blades to a solo career, back to Night Ranger and Revolution Saints
Tommy Shaw from Styx to a solo career to Damn Yankees to Shaw/Blades to a solo career and back to Styx
Ted Nugent from The Amboy Dukes to a solo career to Damn Yankees and back to a solo career

Damn Yankees were huge. As a super group, they really lived up to the hype and the name. It was no frills classic rock, with a modern pop twist. It was removed from the hair and glam metal at the time. It was a project that was able to stand on its own two feet and build on the foundations of the three creative forces in the group.

There is no escaping Jack Blades commitment to having a career in the music business. He tasted limited success with Rubicon in the 70’s, hit MTV stardom with Night Ranger in the early 80’s and by the late 80’s and early 90’s, he furthered his career with Damn Yankees. Add to that, the song writing partnership he struck up with Tommy Shaw. Their songs would grace albums from Aerosmith, Vince Neil, Ozzy Osbourne and Cher.

The mighty Nuge is a constant on the live circuit. That is how he made his money in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties and that is how he is still making his money. You don’t see the Nuge worry about piracy. As far as he is concerned, the more people who hear his music equals a bigger pool of people who could come to his shows.

Joe Leste from Bang Tango to Beautiful Creatures
DJ Ashba from Bullet Boys to Beautiful Creatures to Sixx A.M. and Guns N Roses live guitarist

Joe Leste had minor success with “Someone Like You” from Bang Tango’s debut album “Psycho Café”. “Dancin’ On Coals” was a much better album, but it just didn’t sell. By 1995, the band split up. By 1999, Joe Leste formed Beautiful Creatures with DJ Ashba and had the same level of success as he did with Bang Tango. From 2003, Bang Tango is still going with a revolving door of musicians. There is actually a Bang Tango movie coming out or it’s already out.

Beautiful Creatures claim to fame is the licensing of their songs to various movies and television shows, like Smallville and Sons Of Anarchy. They had a major label deal with Warner Bros. Then the merger happened between Time Warner and AOL and Beautiful Creatures suddenly had no record deal.

DJ Ashba on the other hand has gone on to bigger and better things. He was a solo artist to begin with, then he joined Bullet Boys in the late nineties, when no one even cared if the band existed. Then he was in Beautiful Creatures for two years, went solo and hooked up with Nikki Sixx. Along with James Michael, they have become a force to be reckoned with in the song writing world. They have written songs for Marion Raven, Drowning Pool, the whole “Saints Of Los Angeles” album, James Durbin, The Last Vegas plus their own project Sixx A.M. Add to the list a lucrative spot in Guns N Roses as one of their live guitarists and you can see why life is good for DJ Ashba.

There are many more who have changed and moved on to greater things or long careers. Some others that come to mind quickly are;

John Sykes went from Tygers Of Pan Tang to Thin Lizzy to Whitesnake to Blue Murder to Sykes to a Thin Lizzy tribute band and back to a solo career.

Ronnie James Dio went from Elf to Rainbow to Black Sabbath to a solo career and back to Black Sabbath, which would morph into Heaven And Hell.

Vivian Campbell went from Savage to Dio to Whitesnake to Def Leppard.

Gary Moore went from Thin Lizzy to a solo career.

Slash went from Guns N Roses to Slash’s Snakepit to Slash with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators and now back to Guns N Roses.

George Lynch went from Dokken to Lynch Mob to George Lynch to Lynch/Pilson to Sweet and Lynch to Shadowtrain to Souls Of We and always stepping back into the Lynch Mob scene.

There are many more.

This could come as a shock to all of the kids forming bands and recording songs in their own studios. There is a pretty good chance that the people you are making music with right now, will not be the same people you will make music with, years later. That’s just how it the music business rolls.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Jet City Woman

It’s a Chris DeGarmo and Geoff Tate composition and another Queensryche single that clocks in over 5 minutes. It’s basically a love song and a road song rolled into one, but devoid of clichés and overused words. On the Japanese edition of “Empire”, Chris DeGarmo said that the song was inspired by “being on the road for a very long time and Geoff Tate was thinking about a woman he loves”.

In the December 1990 issue of Metal Edge, Geoff Tate basically said “”Jet City Woman is about a woman from Seattle.” Wikipedia tells the story that it was written about Geoff Tate’s first wife, who was a flight attendant

The song has so many mood changes that are absent from so many of today’s “hits”. Hell, the first 43 seconds of the song is all instrumental. In the FFDP/Shinedown world they would be into their second chorus by then.

INTRO A
0.00 to 0.07
The simple bass and high hats groove has me nodding my head almost instantly. It is not made for radio, but a radio hit it became.  It’s interesting how Eddie Jackson employs picks for the studio and uses his fingers for performing live. Using a pick, just brings out the mids so that the bass line stands out.

INTRO B
0.08 to 0.25
Then Chris DeGarmo comes in with a little lead break.

INTRO C
0.26 to 0.43
Then Michael Wilton comes in, with power chords crashing all around and the energy of the song picks up, with a lead break full of bluesy double stop bends. Check out the progressive way Scott Rockenfield drums this simple 4/4 section, especially towards the end as it phases from the intro into the verse.

I’m hooked by know.

VERSE 1
0.44 to 1.17
Then the verses come. The arpeggiated chords with the B and E as open strings, showed me a different way to play. Years later, I would learn that this method is something that Alex Lifeson employed a lot in Rush. Anyway, hearing the clean tone arpeggios, over the intro bass guitar line is familiar and new. Rockenfield makes the verses rock when they shouldn’t. For any drummer in the scene, listen and learn.

Every time I leave
You say you won’t be there.
And you’re always there.

The road songs are a dime a dozen. The best ones, live forever. “Wanted Dead Or Alive”, “Home Sweet Home”, “Long Cold Winter” and “Turn The Page” are a few that come to mind immediately.

PRE CHORUS
1.18 to 1.33
The last word of the verse leads into the pre-chorus. Brilliant

Over a simple chord progression, I love the way DeGarmo and Wilton employ octaves to enhance this section. I never used power chord octaves prior to learning “Jet City Woman”.

What you do to me!
Waited so long I can’t wait another day without you.

CHORUS
1.34 to 1.52
There’s so much to learn as a guitarist in this chorus, like the phrasing of the power chords, the use of octaves to enhance the melody of the music and act as a counterpoint to the vocal melody, the way the drums groove and the bass locks in either with the drums or with the guitars.

Jet City Woman.
It’s a long way, home to my
Jet City Woman.
I see her face everywhere, can’t get her out of my mind.

1990 was an exciting time for bands who wanted to push boundaries. I had no idea that “Jet City” referred to Seattle. Listening to music and coming across unknown terms, led to research.

DOWNER SECTION
1.53 to 2.04
Back to the Intro B section lead guitar but this time with the arpeggios of the first verse.

By now, I was thinking, how the hell did this band ever open up for Metallica.  “Empire” was the only piece of music I had from them and three songs into the album, it was progressive pop rock, which is a far cry from Metallica’s technical thrash metal.

Then we are back to the verse and the song goes on.

GUITAR SOLO SECTION
3.38 to 4.12

A 30 second guitar solo is unheard of today from bands on the rock radio charts.

Tremonti and Alter Bridge are pushing some boundaries there. Sixx AM with DJ Ashba are also breaking out some shred. Avenged Sevenfold don’t mind going for a minute or two, however for the rest it’s like a 10 to 15 second section, if any. Unless you are on the fringes and have a cult following like Black Label Society, Evergrey, Protest The Hero and so forth. But this was a guitar solo from a band at their commercial peak.

“Jet City Woman” is a brilliant song that’s been completely forgotten. One YouTube user account has racked up 2,079,291 views. On Spotify, it has 1,525,122 streams. Compared to some of the junk songs that have over 100 million streams, these amounts come to nothing.

Megadeth’s “Symphony Of Destruction” has five times more streams than “Jet City Woman” and Megadeth didn’t sell anywhere near what Queensryche sold during the same period. It just goes to show that multi-platinum sales in the nineties mean nothing 20 years later if you don’t release music consistently and on occasions of a certain quality, the artist ends up a shadow of themselves or in some cases, they end up in the history books.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Dystopia

Dave Mustaine is a legendary songwriter. His fame is not as big as Metallica’s but artistically, he has pushed so many boundaries with each release. Sometimes he wins, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes his words get him in trouble. But one thing is clear when it comes to Mustaine. He is real and he speaks his mind. Which is against what everyone tries to be today. Everyone wants to be liked, so they hold their tongue.

Which brings me to “Dystopia”.

In thrash metal circles, it’s up there. Each song is chaotic and expertly crafted, which means after 4 to 5 minutes, when the song ends, your ears are bleeding and you are left trying to remember how the song began.

Welcome back Mr Mustaine and one of the best decisions you’ve ever made is getting Chris Adler to beat the skins and Kiko Loureiro to decorate the songs with his tasteful leads and a few co-writes. Adler by far is the best drummer to appear on a Megadeth album and from hearing the work that Loureiro did on the album, he is up there as well as one of the best guitarist. He is more complete and well-rounded than all who came before him.

It would have been easy and maybe profitable to get the “Rust In Peace” line up back together. Hell, all of the press about it, sealed the fate for Broderick and Drover.

But Mustaine had the balls to bring in new talents who grew up on Megadeth and respect the band’s history and place in metal history.

It’s a triple knockout, right off the bat. “The Threat Is Real” is classic old school thrash metal, while “Dystopia” is classic melodic metal and “Fatal Illusion” is classic technical thrash metal.

THE THREAT IS REAL
As soon as the riff kicks in after the middle-eastern style voices, you know you’re in for a classic Megadeth song. Chris Adler drives the song forward, with his galloping beats.

Justified obliteration
No one cares anymore
The messiah or mass murderer
No controlling who comes through the door

It’s typical Mustaine. Angry and snarly.

The clock runs out, the weakest link
A deadly strike, the threat is real

Brilliant lyrics over a chaotic bed of war like riffing.

DYSTOPIA
That intro riff and the controlled double kick under it, is enough to get the blood pumping. Add to that the lead breaks, and what you have is the foundations for another classic Megadeth song. Words cannot describe the power of that intro and the way it fills my head space.

The combination of the vocal melody over the “Hanger 18” inspired verse over the double kick gallops from Adler is fist pumping stuff. Do you reckon Mustaine would sue himself for copying himself?

“What you don’t know” the legend goes “can’t hurt you”
If you only want to live and die in fear
They tell us to believe just half of what we see
And absolutely nothing that we hear

This resonates.

Dystopia
And then a lead break.

Dystopia
And then another lead break. It’s an inventive way to do a chorus. Each time it appears, the lead breaks from Kiko are different, which makes each Chorus new.

And then that outro. As with the intro, words cannot describe how that outro makes me feel. The riffs are spectacular, but the moment belongs to Chris Adler. It’s the way he aggressively builds it to a climax with his drum patterns. It’s a note to all drummers to sit up and take notice. As soon as the song is over, I press repeat.

FATAL ILLUSION
This is classic progressive/technical Megadeth. The proggy intro, the double bass drumming, shredding between the verses (which is what Chris Poland did on the first two albums) and the lack of a song structure. It feels like each section is verse after verse. A drug trip

Guilty of the crime of nonconformity

Then when the Motorhead sounding flat line bit kicks in, the groove makes me want to snap the table in half.

DEATH FROM WITHIN
It’s got that “Kingmaker” vibe, which is the same vibe and feel as Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave”, which I dig. Actually the whole album has that triplet 12/8 feel. Maybe it’s due to Adler bringing a certain galloping swing to it all.

Its judgment time… when death comes from within

That lead break in the song is wicked. Kiko brings out a lot of Petrucci inspired lead breaks. No Megadeth guitarist has done that before. Chris Poland brought a jazz fusion element, Friedman brought a neo classical edge at the beginning, while Pitrelli brought his classic rock influences, Drover and Broderick brought a technical scholarly element to Megadeth and now Kiko brings all of his influences to the fore, and one of them being Petrucci.

BULLET TO THE BRAIN
It’s got this Draiman Disturbed like feel in the Chorus. I love it.

The start of the lead break again feels like it’s written by Petrucci.

POST AMERICAN WORLD
It’s got this “Symphony Of Destruction” feel in the first verse. It’s the first song on the album to feature a co-write with Loureiro.

We see each other through different eyes
Segregating ourselves by class and size
It’s me against you in everything that they do
This planet’s become one big spinning disaster

If you don’t like where we’re going
Then you won’t like what’s coming next
What will we look like?
In a post American world

And that Chromatic riff after the Chorus is typical Mustaine. It started with “Phantom Lord” from his Metallica days, continued with “This Was My Life” from Countdown and now that riff is all over this album. Each time it sounds different because of what Adler does under it with the drums. His patterns and phrasing are unique and it makes a normal derivative riff sound original and awesome.

POISONOUS SHADOWS
That classical like intro and the lead break that comes after is brilliant. It’s a Mustaine and Loureiro composition.

Is it my face you see, do I haunt you in your sleep
On your hands and knees, when you crawl through your nightmares
When there’s no more grace, does your heartbeat start to race?
Clawing everywhere in the dark, poisonous shadows

It’s a great mid tempo song, more in the vein of the “The World Needs A Hero”.

CONQUER OR DIE
It’s an instrumental written by Mustaine and Loureiro. For under 3 minutes its a cool little intermission in the album sequencing.

LYING IN STATE
This is the song that is my favourite on the album purely for a certain section in the song.

Another day, another manufactured crisis keeping the people distracted

The “new normal” or just more of the same?

The section from 2.21 to 2.54 is infectious. What a groove. It makes me want to break stuff. And then when Kiko chimes in with a Maiden like lead break from “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” at 2.32 to 2.54, I’m ready to elevate.

Get ready to have your mind blown.

THE EMPEROR
Because you make me sick, you prick
Don’t you know… don’t you know who I am?
You know I like your face, to kick
If your lips are moving, I know you must be lying

Fucking brilliant lyrics by Mustaine.

The album is near perfect and monstrous. And yes, it’s a comeback album from Megadeth and Dave Mustaine. He’s recaptured the magic of metal and thrash in general. It’s an artistic triumph.

Will enough people care?

Time will tell.

I sure do.

It has been on constant rotation on Spotify for me, plus I purchased the CD from Amazon. And when will people just stop complaining about Spotify payments. We went from vinyl to CD’s to Napster to iTunes to and to streaming. And the enemy is copyright infringement, otherwise reframed as piracy or theft. Get more people to pay for Spotify and listen on it and watch the payments grow. Then you’ll need to negotiate a better rate with your label.

“Dystopia” is a love letter to a metal past that everybody over forty remembers and now everyone under 40 will also remember that same past.

History will show Metallica as legends of rock/metal and Megadeth/Dave Mustaine as a mere footnote.

However, history is judged and re-written by what is popular and there is no album more popular in the Soundscan era than Metallica’s self-titled “Black” album, which is an excellent album. Meanwhile, Megadeth never had sales as high as Metallica.

But. Megadeth and Mustaine were always first.

First to make a video clip. First to do a thrash titans tour.

Does anyone remember the “Clash Of The Titans” tour?

I can tell you, not a lot of people do, however everyone remembers “The Big 4” tour. Funny how an innovative tour featuring thrash bands and headlined by Megadeth and Slayer in the Nineties is largerly forgotten, but a similar tour, almost 20 years later, organised and headlined by Metallica is legendary, innovative and original.

Welcome back Megadeth.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Best I Can – Chris DeGarmo

By the late eighties, Queensryche had broken through in the U.S, however failed to make a dent in the Australian market. I came across their name, when Dave Mustaine called them “Yuppie” metal in a Guitar World magazine, and Metallica had them opening on the “…And Justice For All” tour.

I wanted to hear their music. Records were expensive, so radio thrived. However Queensryche never got played on the radio in Australia. Then “Empire” came out and it was all over the record store. It was my first purchase of the band. A blind purchase based on the press I read.

“Best I Can” is the opening track of Queensryche’s biggest album. It clocks in at 5.30, which for the time was a rarity to have a song clock in over 4 minutes.

Chris DeGarmo is listed as the sole songwriter, in the same way, he is listed as the main songwriter on “Silent Lucidity”, the track that pushed the “Empire’ album to multi-platinum sales. So how do you follow-up your breakthrough album, which against the odds, was a concept album.

You follow it up with a kick ass rock album that tackles serious subject matter. And “Best I Can” has some serious issues to bring forth.

As DeGarmo once said in the October issue of RIP

“Empire was a change of direction, in that we just wrote about whatever it was we wanted to write about. It was all written while we were at home, so there’s a lot of inspiration from Seattle.”

In the Kerrang, June 1990 issue, Chris DeGarmo said the following for “Best I Can”;

“It’s about a young boy who has a tragic accident as a child, and has to overcome his handicaps to make something of his life, and overcome what others perceive to be a handicap. It’s a song, basically, about beating the odds.”

“Don’t worry, dear. He’ll never find the gun.”

And then, the ominous piano line kicks in and the child like operatic voices come in.

Brilliant.

Queensryche had my attention.

A child alone in daddy’s room
The gun was hidden here
No one home to catch me when I fall

Then the band kicks in. It’s a stop start of music and vocals, sort of like “Crying In The Rain” and “Still Of The Night” from Whitesnake but still it’s unique, it doesn’t sound like anyone else.

A young man now in a private chair
I’ve seen the world through a bitter stare
But my dream is still alive
I’m going to be the best I can

There is the positive message that DeGarmo is talking about. The dream to be somebody is still alive, regardless of the situation. We are always looking for more, not satisfied with what we have. And music always opened up my horizons. “Best I Can” isn’t mindless dancing and money music. It’s grim, truthful and hopeful.

Geoff Tate had the following to say in the December 1990 issue of Hit Parader;

“Best I Can touches on gun control, but it’s really the story of a young boy who gets shot and is paralysed. He just strives to be the best he can be – it’s really an upbeat story.”

Tate further elaborated on the song in the December 1990 issue of Metal Edge;

“Best I Can touches on gun control, how a young child finds a gun in his parents’ room, maims himself with it and becomes handicapped but doesn’t give into his handicap. He keeps pushing ahead to be a better person and achieve his goals.”

I want to be a busy man
I want to see a change in the future
I’m gonna make the best of what I have
I want to write for a magazine
I’m gonna be the best they’ve ever seen
I know I’ll win if I give it all I can

The piano groove is back and it’s magic.

The man in the chair and the man that’s in my dream
I’m going to melt the two men into one

Chris DeGarmo’s idea to tackle subjects so far removed from the hard rock infrastructure proved to be Queensryche’s X factor in the musical industry.

It’s worth noting that DeGarmo’s musical influence far exceeded the amount of units Queensryche moved.

He inspired legions of guitar players to step up and be more complete songwriters. If I look at my favourite guitarists from the Eighties, not many of them wrote any lyrics and vocal melodies. They wrote riffs and leads.

For all of Eddie’s innovative guitar playing, David Lee Roth and then Sammy Hagar had sole responsibility over the lyrics and vocal melodies. John Sykes’s biggest career songs are co-writes with David Coverdale and Phil Lynott. Randy Rhoads needed the magical words of Bob Daisley to bring his riffs to the masses. George Lynch needed Jeff Pilson and Mick Brown to write lyrics and vocal melodies for his riffs. And the list goes on.

But Chris DeGarmo didn’t need a vocalist to write a complete song. He wrote the vocal melodies, lyrics and music to “Best I Can” and of course to “Silent Lucidity” which proved to be Queensryche’s biggest song.

I see the influence of DeGarmo in another favourite of mine, John Petrucci from Dream Theater.

I see the influence of DeGarmo in different genres. In the mid-nineties, Fuel came out with Carl Bell on guitars and of course as the main songwriter. Once Carl Bell left Fuel, the same thing happened to Fuel as to Queensryche, after DeGarmo left.

And Chris DeGarmo gave it all he can and he won.

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Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

There Is A Reason Why Copyright Terms Are Very Long

There is a reason why Copyright terms are very long.

Yep, older recordings are outselling newer recordings. So instead of those older recordings being in the public domain as they should have been, they are locked up for terms that seem like they will never end.

So what does this tell us about people and music consumption?

We don’t mind purchasing music, especially music recorded a long time ago which has shown itself as enduring and forever. Hell in twenty years’ time, don’t be surprised if “Hail To The King” and “The Blackening” are outselling all before them. But in 20 years’ time, who would benefit from those catalogue sales.

Would Robb Flynn from Machine Head (or the rest of the guys that played and performed on the album) benefit from those catalogue sales?

Same deal for Avenged Sevenfold.

“Hamlet” by Shakespeare is the biggest seller when it comes to books. The book was written in the 16th century, in the public domain for centuries after that and people still could make money from it. So is the public domain such a bad thing.

Would Hamlet be as popular today if it was locked away under copyright protectionist practices.

Think of all of the people who have made money from longer Copyright terms.

  • Lawyers (from all of the lawsuits)
  • Record Labels (from signing artists to one-sided contracts)
  • Publishing/Licensing Agencies (set up by the record labels, so they could double dip)
  • Collection Agencies (set up the record labels, so they could triple dip)

Each song I write has two separate copyrights. One for the sound recording and the other for the musical work.

If I sign a record deal, the label will licence the rights to exploit the ‘sound recording’ copyright from me (and then own it for a long time) and the publisher (an agency set up the label) will take care of my ‘musical work’ copyrights. Who benefits from this arrangement in the long run?

If I write a song with other people, I would need to put a contract in place that agrees on the percentage splits.

If I write a song and I have a session musician or just a friend who comes in to play an instrument, I would need to have an agreement in place (via writing, which means lawyers) about what payment they will get for playing on the song and how does that transfer over to royalty payments down the line on the sound recording.

Because Copyright Laws are written to suit the interests of the Corporations who licence (in other words, own) copyrights, we live in a world where copyright is a mess.

A court decided that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams are guilty of copyright infringement for their hit song “Blurred Lines,” because of a “feel”. The court ordered the duo to pay $7.4 million to the estate of Marvin Gaye.

Yes, that’s right, the children of Marvin Gaye, who have contributed nothing to the musical industry have a secure pension fund set up because copyright terms changed to include another 70 years after death. The Corporations give them a bone, while they take in the gold.

The bigger the song, expect the lawsuit to come.

Even when people do get clearances to use the music of another artist, they still get sued. The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft negotiated a cost to use a sample from the Rolling Stones ““The Last Time” for “Bitter Sweet Symphony”. The Stones sued after, when the song became a hit, because the sample that was cleared was the song.

In the end, Copyright is important for a creator, however the current mess that is known as Copyright, benefits the Corporation, otherwise known as the Record Labels, the Movie Studios, the Publishing and Collection Agencies and of course, the Lawyers more than the creator.

John Fogerty said something similar like “Get yourself a lawyer to look over the contract and then get yourself another lawyer to look over the contract and what the other lawyer said” after he was duped out of his Creedence songs;

For those that don’t know, I will let Wikipedia tell his story about being sued for copyright infringement because he copied himself;

John Fogerty was the lead singer of the popular rock group Creedence Clearwater Revival. In 1970, while part of the group, he wrote the song “Run Through the Jungle.” Fantasy Records, the record label to which Creedence Clearwater Revival was signed, eventually acquired the exclusive publishing rights to the song.

Creedence Clearwater Revival disbanded in 1972, and Fogerty began a solo career with another music label. In 1985, Fogerty published the song “The Old Man Down the Road”, which he released on Warner Bros. Records.

Fantasy sued Fogerty for copyright infringement, claiming that “The Old Man Down the Road” was essentially the music to “Run Through the Jungle” with new words.

So I end this post, the same way I started it; there is a reason why Copyright terms are very long.

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