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

Discover Playlist

We still live in an environment where artists insist on making albums and then spending time promoting a body of songs, believing if they yell loud enough people will care. But we don’t. Volbeat singer/guitarist Michael Poulsen hit the nail on the head, when he said “kids these days have a new favourite artist each week”.

Sometimes it takes months or years for excellence to rise to the top. So it’s always interesting to see what songs the Discover Playlist comes up with, because I have been pretty slack at following or liking or saving some of my favourite artists in Spotify.

I am always surprised when songs from artists I normally support come up, or from artists I haven’t heard in a while. Sometimes, it’s from an artist I have heard off, but haven’t heard any music from. Other times it’s from artists where I have heard an album or a song, but never really got into it. Other times it’s from artists where I own an album or two and the songs are from an album I don’t own or haven’t heard.

Alter Bridge – Slip Into The Void
I have the CD’s of Alter Bridge and their music on my iTunes, however the Spotify service had no idea I liked Alter Bridge. But, from my listening habits on the service, its algorithms worked out that Alter Bridge could be a band I would be interested in. That’s one point for the algorithms.

It’s from 2010’s “ABIII”.

How good does the song start off?

It’s a hypnotic riff, and when Myles comes in with the vocals, it feels dangerous.

Slip to the void
To the dark
To the fall
Crawl to the life you shouldn’t know
You should never come this way
To test the hands of fate
You don’t belong here

In our life we have highs and lows and as much as we believe or want to be happy all the time, none of us can be all the time. “Slip Into The Void” is a dark song

Then from 1.30 the intro is over and the song cranks to eleven.

John Norum – Love Is Meant To Last Forever
An important ingredient to Europe’s breakout success in 1986 is John Norum. He played on the album, was on the original cover and is included in “The Final Countdown” video clip but never toured behind the album support.

Who knows why Norum left Europe at that time.

Having a step father who was high up at CBS/Sony at Sweden might have influenced him, while on the other hand, the death of a close friend in a drowning accident while Europe filmed a concert for live broadcast might have affected him.

My John Norum exposure post Europe goes something like this. He played with Don Dokken on the excellent “Up From The Ashes” album, and then he went solo again with “Face The Truth”. That album I do have because of Glenn Hughes doing guest vocals on it. It’s an excellent piece of melodic rock. However, “Love Is Meant To Last Forever” is from “Total Control”, Norum’s first solo album released in 1987 and post his departure from Europe. I remember seeing the album advertised in the Guitar magazines I purchased during the time, but I never picked it up.

From the intro, I am hooked.

I always enjoy melodic rock/metal music. A lot of the times the lyrics in those songs would make me grind my teeth, but musically, the genre is spot on. Future Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist Goran Edman provides vocals for the song.

You are my best friend
And I will try to understand
The moment you need me
I’ll be there so just take my hand

We are all just visitors to this world, so our time is short and one thing we are all looking for is a love that will last forever.

Dynazty – Titanic Mass
Matt Heafy from Trivium tweeted that he has found his new favourite band. And I don’t disagree with him at all.

Sweden has a healthy hard rock and metal scene and Dynazty is another to add to that list. The band was formed in 2007 and it wasn’t until 2008 that they found a lead singer. Fast forward 8 years later and I am hearing the band for the first time in 2016.

The whole song is a perfect example of the style of music I enjoy and that Chorus reminds me of “The Fire Still Burns” from Twisted Sister.

As an added bonus, how good is the harmony interlude section that kicks in at 2.30.

It makes me want to scream “Fire, Flames, Fury”.

Rev Theory – We Own The Night
I got into this band with their 2008 release “Light It Up” and the songs “Hell Yeah”, “Broken Bones”, “Wanted Man”, “Ten Years”, “You’re The One” and “Far From Over”. After that I heard the “Justice” album and it just didn’t connect with me, so I sort of lost them afterwards. But this track is up there with my favourites.

The band’s journey has been going since 2002.

They released “Truth Is Currency” in 2005, on Element Records, an EMI subsidiary. In 2007, they got a major label deal with Interscope Records and released “Light It Up” in 2008. “Justice” had the big name producer in Terry Date and it was released in 2011 on Interscope Records. In 2012, they release an EP called “Take ‘Em Out” on Killer Tracks, a subsidiary of Universal.

In August, 2014, Rev Theory signed with Another Century Records a subsidiary of Century Media/Sony Music and here we are in 2016, with “The Revelation”.

“We Own The Night” has a groove that I dig. It starts off with a distorted arpeggiated guitar riff. Then a simplistic “We Will Rock You” drum groove comes in, along with the emotive and catchy vocal line. When the Chorus kicks in, I’m hooked.

Head down
Walk the line with no opinion

Ideas and opinions can shape the world but our degree factories condition us to believe we don’t have an opinion and as soon as we get into debt, we fail to voice any opinion, just in case it gets us dismissed from work, because without work, we cannot pay our debt.

Turn up the audio, lose yourself and all control tonight
I’ll keep on clawing my way until there is a change

An old message of turning it up appears in 2016. Quick call the plagiarism lawyers.

Place Vendome – Streets of Fire
The song begins with a beautiful sounding piano lick merging the chorus chords with the vocal line. After 25 seconds, the song moves into melodic rock territory.

Frontiers Records is doing its best to keep melodic rock and metal going. Place Vendome is one of the many “supergroup” projects put together by Frontiers Records president Serafino Perugino and one of his earliest that dates back to 2004.

Michael Kiske from Helloween fame is on vocals while Denis Ward from Pink Cream 69 is bassist, producer, mixer and engineer. The songs are all written by outside writers. In the end, it is a full on AOR project, where the music decisions are made by the A&R departments of Frontiers and not the artists themselves.

Our time has come, we must take justice in our hands
I feel heavy and hard, but that’s just the way it is
There out to steal our dreams, our pride, our dignity
Will we find in the art we play, will we roll the dice?

It’s the rebellion theme of the 80’s.

Streets of fire
The rise and the fall
In the streets of fire
War raging on

Once the fight begins it never really ends. The loser will bide their time, until they strike again.

Also check out the tasty finger tapped lick in the solo.

Days of Jupiter – Bleed
The do Disturbed better than Disturbed and I mean that in a good way. The song is from their “Secrets Brought To Life” album released in 2012. Of course they are from Sweden. Where else would good heavy rock bands come from these days?

Life will make you
Bleed
It’s down to who you wanna be
It’s down to you
You wanna
Take another bite from insanity
Take another bite from reality
Bleed
Step up to who you wanna be
Step up to who you wanna
Take another bite from insanity
Take another bite from reality

Life will make you bleed. There is no doubt about it. Decisions made in the past will make you bleed. But it is down to the person as to how they respond to the insanity that reality throws at them.

Black Trip – Die With Me
It’s heavy rock and it has this Seventies attitude that I dig.

No loss, no life, let go and die with me

The Chorus. Once it comes in, it just hooks me in.

The will is struggling in a state of despair
These broken pieces I cannot repair
There’s nothing here that I can argue about
It’s just a shame I couldn’t figure it out

I know nothing about this band. Spotify tells me the song is from an album called “Shadowline” released in August, 2015. So I went to their website and saw the band is no more due to a band member departure, however the band will continue under a new name. It comes as no surprise that they are from Sweden.

A few press releases found their way to Blabbermouth explain the band a bit more.

So the genesis of the band goes back to 2003. Like Audrey Horne, Volbeat and The Night Flight Orchestra, the artists wanted to create a band based on their musical upbringing. But things don’t go as smooth and the project got put on the back burner until 2011. There is another album called “Goin Under” that came out in 2013 that I will check out as well.

Marillion – Hooks In You
Love the intro riff on this. Guitar player, Steve Rothery is excellent and he deserves more attention for his deeds.

It’s from the “Seasons End” album released in 1989 and the first to feature current lead singer Steve Hogarth, following the departure of former vocalist Fish in late 1988. I have the Marillion LP’s and nothing of them on digital, so another bonus point to the Spotify algorithm for recommending Marillion based on my listening habits.

She’s got her hooks in you

No one else ever sounded like Marillion, either then or now. As a result we’re left with a body of work from 1983 to 1989, which really gets no accolades today. A cult like fan base sustains Marillion and to the hard-core fans they will never be forgotten.

David Lee Roth – Just Like Paradise
Wow, it’s been 20 plus years since I’ve heard this song. It’s amazing how time makes you forget but as soon as you hear a song from your past, you are familiar with it, you know every word and it takes you back to a point in time, to MTV, to the video clip, to Steve Vai and his heart guitar, to big hair, to over the top lead singer antics and just a feel good innocent time where I believed I was indestructible.

The power of music.

Rockin’ steady in her daddy’s car
She got the stereo with the big guitars
And that’s all right

The scene is set with lyrics no one will ever forget.

This must be just like livin’ in paradise
And I don’t wanna go home

The undeniable chorus hook .

“Just Like Paradise” appeared on 1988’s “Skyscraper” album and the last to feature Steve Vai. I saw the album for sale when it came out but passed on it for AC/DC’s “Heatseeker”. I suppose Angus coming out of a television was a better marketing angle than David Lee Roth hanging on a mountain. Then that night, I caught the clip on MTV and I went back to the store the next day. I was afraid I’d missed my chance. Was that one LP still available?

It was. The impact of a song to sell an album cannot be underestimated. So I came home and dropped the needle and fell into confusion again. Like “Eat Em And Smile”, it was a very hit and miss album. But there is no denying the star of the album. It was a perfect MTV song for a band who’d paid their dues with previous artists, because, once upon a time paying your dues mattered.

Eclipse – Bleed and Scream
That intro riff over the foot stomping drum beat is addictive. This is from 2012.

Now you’re begging on your knees
And you’re begging me to stay
You beg me to look past your little mistake
There’s nothing you can say to me
No nothing you can say to me

Did she sleep with someone else?

I can handle the pain
Handle the betrayal
Handle the knife you stabbed in my back
You’re nothing but a memory
Someone I’m gonna forget

Man, this is an angry break up song and that solo takes me back to the 80’s. It’s structured and well thought out.

Another band from Stockholm, Sweden, formed in 1999. Currently they are on Frontiers Records and singer/guitarist/bassist Erik Martensson is constantly used by the label to write songs for other artists. If you don’t believe me, check out W.E.T and Revolution Saints covered an Eclipse song.

Marys Creek – Hypnotized
Mary’s Creek hail from (drum roll………) Sweden. Formed in 2004, they have a Euro Pop vibe happening in the Chorus and the verses are a combination of heavy rock Euro metal.

The song is from the “Infinity” album released in 2016.

The intro to this song is like a commercialised edited version of “Seasons In The Abyss” from Slayer. Then from the 30 second mark, it goes into a very heavy AC/DC, “Long Way To The Top” vibe.

I try to love
I try to hate
Don’t give me pain
Cause my soul can’t take no more

You Want It, You Want It So Bad,
I will never let you go,
Come take it, you can take what you want, you’ve got me hypnotized

So I was curious to check out the album. Of course “Hypnotized” is the opening track and an excellent introduction to the band.

The next track to grab my attention is “So Afraid (To Live). Musically it’s a foot stomper and a modern take on the grooves of AC/DC.

So afraid you can’t go on this way
You have to live your life, you have to live

“The First Day” is up next and it’s pretty hooky.

This is the first day of the rest of my life

“The Ghost Inside” is more of what I expected from the album based on the song “Hypnotized”. It has that metallic edge and the cowbell comes out in the interlude.

Insanity is the ghost inside

“Forever Lost” is another track that deserves more attention, however it is buried at the tail end of the album. It crosses between metal and rock.

Could it be today I take my final breath?

You just don’t know when that day will be, so it goes without saying, don’t waste any time.

Slash – Wicked Stone
From 2014’s “World On Fire” album.

It starts off like a Van Halen song, but then when the main riff comes in, it reminds me of “Locomotive” from “Use Your Illusion II” and the vocals of Myles Kennedy are instantly recognisable.

I have this on CD, so I never told Spotify that I liked the band. Another bonus point for the algorithm.

It’s a great song, with a groovy swagger and an arena rock chorus.

Once a rolling stone
Now a falling star
Was so close to home
Now so far

Fame is fleeting. Each artist has a peak which is followed by a low. Some make it back to new highs, some just make it back and some just get off the grid.

Work Of Art – How Will I Know?
To be honest, with power been taken away from the labels as to who can release music, it has brought about a new era of artists who have no real reason to try to sound a certain way. Artists don’t have to worry about trends.

And that’s how Work of Art comes into the picture.

This song just brings back memories of the 80’s for me. It’s from the “Framework” album, released in 2014 and of course they are from Sweden. The bands origins go back to 1992 and the project got put on hold. They tried again in 1998. It got put on hold. Then they tried again from 2002.

How can I know if this love can be true?

We don’t and we never will. From what I have experienced, love changes as the years go on. That lustful love at the beginning changes a lot as time goes on.

The track was good enough to make me go to the album and hear it. And it was a cool listen. It’s classic melodic rock from the 80’s done at its best and for any fans it’s a worthwhile listen.

Other stand-out tracks are “How Do You Sleep At Night” and “The Machine”. Both songs have excellent guitar playing and that jazz fusion lead in “The Machine” is sublime.

Thunderstone – Through The Pain
How good is that groove in the intro?

That Chorus.

Melodic metal from Helsinki, Finland at its best. Formed in 2000 but the member’s origins go back even further. In 2001, they got a deal with Nuclear Blast. Their self-titled debut came out in 2002 and since then they have released 5 albums and changed members.

Give me your heart, give me your soul
You’ll feel alive again, take my hand, I’ll set you free
I will take your through the pain with me

The song is from the “Apocalypse Again” album released in 2016 and based on the strength of it, I immediately went to hear the album on Spotify.

After a generic power metal opening track, I was hooked by “The Path”. Wow, what a track. A foot stomping intro riff leads into a subdued verse, which is followed by a middle eastern sounding pre-chorus and capped off by a massive arena rock chorus.

You will always find your way back to your home
This is the path you’ll always roam

Damn right, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Higher” is the next track that hooks me in with the intro guitar lick that reminds me of Ozzy era “Hellraiser meets Zombie Stomp meets Welcome To The Jungle intro”. It doesn’t have that big power metal chorus and it relies solely on the groove and that intro lick.

“Days Of Our Lives” is another foot stomper. For some reason, when Thunderstone move away from the fast power metal songs the songs are just better and more addictive. This one has a Kashmir like drum groove.

These are the days of our lives
The time to be alive
Get wings and learn to fly
Soar up in the sky

I know, it’s been said so many times before, but who cares. This is heavy metal. Fly on your way like an eagle. Oh, wait a minute that was “Flight of Icarus” from Maiden. It doesn’t end well for poor Icarus.

UFO – Rock Bottom
At 7 plus minutes, you forget how powerful this track is. No one has the time these days to spend 7 minutes on a track. But back in the 80’s, all we had was time. And to anyone who wanted to listen, I’ve always said this track is the embryo that gave birth to the NWOBHM and speed metal movements in general.

Almost 40 years later the track still gets the head nodding and the foot tapping.

In the solo you can hear why Michael Schenker became an influence to a million guitarists. And he’s still doing it tough financially due to bad contracts, bad management deals and bad accountants who took large chunks while they drip fed him pennies.

Rock bottom (x6)

From a time when Choruses had the title repeated over and over again.

Lucifer goes walkin’
Down for you to meet

Good old Luci gets a mention. How did this song pass the censors back in the 70’s?

Warlock – All We Are
It’s from 1987’s “Truimph And Steel” album and it was perfect for MTV. A hot looking blonde front woman decked out in black leathers and an MTV friendly backing band.

Think of Warlock as the record label experiment that would lead to Mr Big a few years later. All of the members were recruited from bands that had either a good guitar player, a good bass player or a good drummer and nothing else. So the label A&R heads decided to keep the talent and eventually something will come along.

All we are
All we are, we are
We are all, all we need

How catchy is that Chorus?

That was the hook. A call to arms to all rock and metal heads to realise that all we need to make it or to be somebody is the unity. The strength of the pack.

Harem Scarem – Slowly Slipping Away
I passed on the LP because of the band name and that doll on the cover. Many years later, I heard the record and I was an instant fan.

We’ve had our share of confusion
We’ve been let down so many times before

Simple, yet so right.

Black Country Communion – One Last Soul
I’m a big fan of Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa, so I was very interested when I heard they got together. The usual outlets wrote a lot of good things about their little project, that also includes Jason Bonham. But I didn’t know where to start musically. I didn’t want to invest time into the whole album. I wanted recommendations. So thank you Spotify Discovery for bringing me “One Last Soul” from the debut self-titled album, released in 2010.

You’re the one last Soul
Who can win it
You’re the one last Soul
If you try
You’re the one last Soul
If you live it

The solo has this classic rock, Michael Schenker vibe.

And after three albums, they are on hiatus or broken up. I read some interviews with Glenn. He was angry at Joe’s commitment during the recording of the third album recording.

Sacred Mother Tongue – Evolve/Become
The song is from the album “A Light Shines” released in 2012.

This one is interesting. It’s got a huge arena rock melodic rock/metal chorus, with thrash style riffing and barking lyrics in the verses. I dig it.

Reflection of our failings, and all we’ve done
Our power is in numbers, unite as one
We’ll wash away destruction, when said and done
Evolve in forward motion / We must Become

Fates Warning – One
From the addictive “Disconnected” album, released in 2000 and to me is a perfect blend of Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Tool and “Images and Words” era Dream Theater. This one is very influenced by Porcupine Tree.

Under the spotlight
I feel our world becoming one

You know the feeling when the spotlight shines on you. You cannot see anyone else and you feel like you’re the only one.

 

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

We Are The Ones

“Forget anything from the past. Most of my heavy metal fans are gonna hate it; I’ve abandoned my past to move forward.”
Dee Snider

The key to this project working is Dee Snider’s voice. He doesn’t sound like a whiny teen. He doesn’t sound like he’s auto-tuned to robotic levels. He doesn’t sound like he hasn’t lived and experienced life’s ups and downs. He sounds like a rock star. He sounds like a man who battled rejection after rejection for over 10 years to get mainstream fame. He sounds like a man who had it all and then lost it all and then got it back it again. His voice has an attitude and a grit that is hard to explain in words.

We Are The Ones
When everything else counts us out, we are the ones

On my Spotify Release Radar playlist, Dee Snider’s “We Are The Ones” came up as the first song. I was aware he had new music coming out via my Google Alerts, but to be honest I was caught by surprise. It felt like yesterday, when Dee offered up “To Hell And Back” as a free download from his website and everyone ignored it because it wasn’t convenient for them to download it like that on their phones. And back then, the new album was promised for a February 2016 release. Fast forward to October and it is finally here although very different to what was intended.

“We Are The Ones” is an amalgamation of rock, punk and pop. Dee Snider nails the vocal and I wanted to hear more. So I went to listen to the album on Spotify. It’s also the opening track and a great introduction to the album. To be honest it’s not a far departure from what Dee Snider is known for. Dee also mentioned in a Billboard article, that the first song producer Damon Ranger brought to him was “We Are The Ones” and it set the tone of the album.

We are the ones who are taught to hate
We are the hearts that were born to break
We live our lives from all of your lies
We wear our scars like a badge of pride

It’s a new anthem for me.

Our kids these days are taught at school to not bully, to not be racist and to not discriminate. Well something has gone terribly wrong, because what we have in 2016 is the exact opposite of what our kids are being taught. We have the highest incidences of bullying being reported. Racism is back in the media like it was the 60’s and all those laws about discrimination have given useless organisations power they don’t what to do with.

So what we have is a generation told they are the best and when the best doesn’t come knocking, we start to have disappointment. Like the words of Master Yoda, disappointment leads to hate and hate leads to suffering and suffering leads to the dark side.

We are the first, we are the free, we are the suffering

The vocal delivery and how Dee sings sufffffffering nails it for me.

Have you ever been afraid?
We live in fear everyday

As much as social media connects us, we feel more lonely than ever. And it’s our greatest fear. Being lonely, with no one to talk too and share stories with.

Over Again
This reminds me of the Widowmaker song “The Lonely Ones” merged with The Foo Fighters. It’s got that major key rock vibe which I dig.

So easy to fall back in your bed

Damn right. It takes courage to get out of your comfort zone.

Close To You
Dee’s vocal delivery borders on demented Jon Bon Jovi levels. I swear I couldn’t tell the difference. Have a listen to how the song builds over a simple guitar riff before it starts to rock. In the end, it’s hard to explain this song. It sounds like Stabbing Westward from the late nineties.

I’m watching every move, your standing next to me

Is it a love song, a stalk song, a song about unrequited love?

Rule The World
It’s 30 Seconds To Mars but with Dee Snider singing. Because of it, the song has an attitude that rocks.

With hands held high, we can rule the world

It’s a call to arms to the rock heads and the metal heads to all join together and rule the world again.

We’re Not Gonna Take It
I’m not gonna take this version at all.

Crazy For Nothing
This song is a cross between Foo Fighters and what Sixx AM are trying to do.

What’s the use of trying if your only gonna shut me down?

We overthink a lot and it stops us from trying.

Believe
This is a great song, a cross between Imagine Dragons and Thirty Seconds To Mars and it has a lyric that has so much truth in it.

It’s the worse when you lose when you know how hard you tried

I remember I once went to a football trial to get into a rep team. I played out of my skin, every pass found a player, I overlapped, I underlapped, I pressed and won the ball back. And I wasn’t picked. And I was gutted for the first time. I had failed before many times, but in those times I knew I didn’t do my best. But on that day, I tried my hardest, I stood up to be counted and I didn’t get noticed.

But I never stopped trying and I kept building my experiences.

Head Like A Hole
I never really got into NIN.

Superhero
Is this song a departure? It sounds like those songs the kids mime to on Musicly.

There aint nobody better than you
Got to fight and make your dreams come true
Don’t let em hold you down try an push you around
Because you got something to prove

I don’t know who wrote all of the songs on the album as Spotify doesn’t mention any credits. Regardless if Damon Ranger wrote it, it’s classic Dee Snider. It’s been his message all along and a perfect example

Raise your voice and let the whole world know

Dee Snider raised his voice against censorship in 1985. Now in 2016, he is raising his voice for better payment rates for musicians.

So What
It’s the emotion that gets me. It kicks off with an acoustic guitar and a classic Dee Snider vocal delivery.

“Middle fingers in the air, singing we don’t f….. care, when we say “So What”.

A fitting farewell message.

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\::/ \::/ \::/

By the start of the 80’s, the recording business was putting its dollars into new wave and releasing “hits” made by a committee of songwriters. On the odd occasions, a band would come from left field and have a “hit”. It’s hard for people to believe this in 2016, but all of the great Seventies bands had more or less finished up.

Aerosmith was a shadow of itself, Bad Company was on its last legs, Led Zeppelin was no more, The Eagles fractured, Alice Cooper gave in to his nightmares, Kiss was fading and the graveyard list just goes on and on.

And then the revolution slowly started. 1980 gave us “Heaven And Hell” from Black Sabbath, “Iron Maiden” by Iron Maiden, “British Steel” by Judas Priest, “Blizzard Of Ozz” by Ozzy and “Back In Black” by AC/DC. 1981 gave us “Killers” by Iron Maiden, “Point Of Entry” by Judas Priest, “Diary Of A Madman” by Ozzy, “Too Fast For Love” by Motley Crue and “Mob Rules” by Black Sabbath. 1982 gave us “The Number Of The Beast” by Iron Maiden and “Screaming For Vengeance” by Judas Priest.

And then heavy metal came to the masses and wiped all styles off the map. Bands with roots who didn’t care about convention and the establishments. Bands who refined their sounds away from the mainstream without interference from know it all A&R reps. Bands who delivered songs with an honesty and angst that was undeniable.

And overnight the youth switched allegiances. We found new leaders in artists and music. MTV brought those leaders into our TV rooms. We finally had artists speaking some truth. Opportunities were slim and the odds were really stacked against us. We all wanted something to believe in and heavy metal/hard rock became our religion.

And when thrash metal came smashing through the boundaries and lunacy had found me. The words of anger and unrest got turned up even more.

Remember the truth?

That’s why certain artists became so big. Not because they were the best musicians or their records had the best sound. They spoke a truth that resonated.

And we all knew the truth. Our lives being controlled by the establishments, but we didn’t dare say it. So we persisted to live in a fake land. Fake, because, we all swore in reality, but on TV it was beeped out. We saw violence daily, but on the news, the pictures are blurred and classed as distressing. We knew the game was rigged, but we still played in it anyway. Why do you think cable TV become popular. It was a step towards common sense.

So “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” resonated. Same deal with “You Got Another Thing Coming” and “Livin After Midnight” from Judas Priest. “Cum On Feel The Noize” exploded. “Fight For Your Rights” from Beastie Boys was written as a parody to heavy metal music, but it became a hit because of its message. “Shout At The Devil” and “Smokin In The Boys Room” by Motley Crue connected. “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne told us life is not easy. “Seek And Destroy” by Metallica made us want to break stuff or each other.

We needed heroes. We needed leaders. Heavy metal artists spoke for the underclass and the repressed. We felt like we could take over the world and for a brief commercial period, we did just that. Actually, recent research has shown how heavy metal listeners have risen to positions of power in corporations and governments.

But as it the beast got bigger, we started picking sides. Black metal over thrash metal. Death metal over heavy metal. Heavy rock over hard rock. Metallica over Bon Jovi.

And then Grunge came to save us from our distress. Suddenly our leaders had no record deals. Judas Priest fractured by the start of the 90’s. So did Motley Crue. Bon Jovi took a break. Guns N Roses was on its last legs. Black Sabbath tried to roll again with Dio. Ozzy toured under “No More Tours”. And from those ashes, Metallica was there to capitalise. At exactly the right time, they released a sonic behemoth with the “Black” album and it was the lyrics of James Hetfield that people connected with. His anger at his Mum’s beliefs in “The God That Failed”, his anger at his childhood in “The Unforgiven” and heartbreak in “Nothing Else Matters”. Added to that a scorched earth marketing blitz and in 2016, we have the highest selling Soundscan album.

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The Storm Within

“When we were making this album a lot of these relationship issues were going on around me; people losing a partner or a loved one and grieving. The Storm Within is about a search for identity, trying to make yourself full when you feel half empty, and I placed that storyline in an interstellar world.”
Tom Englund – Evergrey 

Before I left Australia, I pre-ordered the CD via Amazon. And of course, the album came out while I was in a country where I couldn’t obtain it legally. So I went to the pirate sites and downloaded it.

What else could I do?

I couldn’t wait.

Does that justify downloading the album illegally?

Of course not, but if I could have purchased it legally at the time I would have, even if that meant having two copies of the album.

And people need to understand, all we care about is where can I find the music, in a fast, convenient and cheap way. I am listening to the album on Spotify non-stop in Australia and the CD is still in its wrapping, a collector’s item.

Evergrey is one of those bands that connects musically and lyrically with me. Vocalist/Guitarist and founder, Tom Englund has a unique voice and his vocal phrasing is different to the normal progressive melodic metal singers who are either David Coverdale, Bruce Dickinson or Rob Halford. And for 20 years, Englund has kept Evergrey going, building on the loyal following, one fan at a time.

“Distance”
Dissonant piano chords start this song off. When the syncopated guitars, bass and drums kick under a math rock vibe, I’m ready to break stuff. Then the vocal melody kicks in and those same dissonant piano chords are back.

Distance is taking me to new places.

It was the second song written for the album and the vibe of the song caught the attention of the band. Along with the song “Disconnect”, the tone and feel of the album was set in stone. According to vocalist and guitarist Tom Englund, the desolation inspiration came from a French electronic band called “M83”.

It’s not over
We’ll soon be closer than before
Can’t let this distance
Keep our destined souls apart

Relationships are difficult to maintain. Our needs change as we get older. Our tastes change. Pressures of family and work lead to further changes and suddenly those promises of being together forever seem so far away.

And that math rock desolate dissonant vibe is hooking me in even more. Of course it had to be a Swedish band that commercialised math metal.

So many times when I was misunderstood
I just wish we had spoken so much sooner

Life is funny in hindsight and sometimes painful to replay. We all would love to live with no “what if’s” however it never happens that way.

“Passing Through”
It was one of the last songs written for the album.

According to the Spotify commentary, the inspiration came from guitarist Henrik Danhage. It was he who came up with a guitar melody that was then converted into the main keyboard melody during the intro.

The label heads wanted this to be the first single from the album. To me it’s a straightforward rock song with some power metal vibes incorporated and a pretty cool listen.

Ten years from now I’ll watch from far away
Ten years from now I might have found my way
Ten years from now I’ll see through different eyes
Better, wiser and not as blind

There is a reason why artists normally produce their best works after they have experienced life, the highs and the lows. One thing that’s certain is ten years from now we are wiser and not as blind. It doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes, far from it. It just means we don’t have that same innocence of our youth.

I always looked for acceptance
I understood what it’s like to be different

Growing up I was looking for acceptance from my peers about how cool I was. To show how cool I was, I wrote a letter on behalf of my father that demanded his son be demoted to the lower classes, so I could be with my friends. Looking back, it was the dumbest decision I ever did, however I was so cool to do it, because I didn’t want to be called a nerd. While the majority of people grinded away in high school to get into a good college/university, I did the opposite. And those same friends I wanted acceptance from are nowhere to be seen in my life right now.

Then I finished school and entered the workforce and I’m looking for acceptance from my bosses or workmates. And then I got married and I’m meeting new people and looking for acceptance from those people.

For Evergrey, they are still looking for acceptance. Even though they are 20 years into their career, they are still a fringe artist when it comes to the mainstream, making a living from the loyal cult like following of their fans.

“Someday”
The main riff is written by drummer Jonas Eklund and how good is it. At first Jonas drums it exactly the same as the riff and then he goes into overdrive with a build that leads into the verses.

The lyrics ask the question if you had a chance to do certain things the same way, would you.

I was once like you
Used to be like you
Embrace the same horizons
And shared the setting suns

Tom Englund always grabs me and pulls me down the rabbit hole with his lyrics. It’s like those words came from me. I remember

“Astray”
The chorus was taken from an old Tom Englund song and the key change from the verse to the chorus almost killed the song off. With toil came great reward.

This is not for me
I can’t persist or breathe that which poisons me

The moment when you have to move on and break away from a relationship, a job or some other event that was bringing you down. It’s not an easy decision to make and some people never make it, until it’s too late. The unknown terrifies us and it takes courage to break away from toxic situations.

“The Impossible”
It’s mellow and calm and it originated from a Rikard Zander piano riff.

I’ve been watching from the outside
Dying to be on the inside
It’s colder and it’s freezing
While you’re asking the impossible
Because it’s impossible
To be this alone

And there you have it, the difference between eras. Growing up, with so little information, we believed everything was possible to achieve. Now with all the information at our fingertips, I can see the disillusionment. We worry about a terror attack, we worry about the lack of job security, we worry about our children not being able to afford to purchase a house, we worry about repaying our credit cards and in general we think more negative thoughts then positive ones. But, we still have hope that things will be better, but we are more cautious.

“My Allied Ocean”
The heaviest song on the album and written by the band on tour while in Bratislava, Slovenia. It shows the “in your face” vibe that Evergrey are capable off as a unit.

And there’s nowhere to turn
At the end of the road, I can’t hold on

The end of the road has many meanings. Literally it means the place where the road stops, however it also means death. And people don’t talk about it in a meaningful way. It’s our greatest taboo in 2016, in the same way sex was.

“In Orbit”
Nightwish’s Floor Jansen contributes guest vocals. Keyboardist Rikard Zander was the fuse that kicked this song into motion and it’s one of their most streamed songs on Spotify from the new album. It’s got that symphonic Within Temptation groove and it rocks.

I run, but not getting closer

There is always something in our lives that is elusive. A goal or a dream that is hard to attain, but we still strive for it.

Evergrey songs are not on the radio. Their name was driven by the fans. Adoption was driven by word of mouth. This song is very radio friendly but in 2016 what is the point of trying to get a song on radio, when you have the internet.

“The Lonely Monarch”
According to the Spotify commentary, the song was originally called “Moonchild” because the main riff sounded like “Moonchild” from Iron Maiden. The construction of the song came from the various jam sessions the guys did in the rehearsal room.

It’s written across the sky, it’s clear for all to see
That it’s not you, it’s only me who keeps us from falling down

We see ourselves in the songs and world we live in. It’s why we keep listening. Owning my f ups, it’s a hard thing to do and it takes time. Sometimes years. And in that time, a lot of things could happen, especially if people start to abandon you.

“The Paradox Of The Flame”
Englund’s wife Carina contributes guest vocals.

So here we are
I understand our intentions are different

Life teaches me that situations are always evolving and relationships (friends, love, work) are one of those cradle to the grave life lessons. And as the years go on our goals and intentions change. That favourite movie from 20 years ago is not so funny to one person anymore. That favourite band from the past is causing division right now.

Then you have kids and your lives depart even more. Sometimes the departure is so great there is nothing that can save the relationship.

“Disconnect”
How cool is the effect where Floor Jansen does symphonic vocals and it’s blended the keyboards.

If this is all I have now
Then I need to disconnect now
I never meant to be indifferent
Never wanted you to feel irrelevant
You were never insignificant

How good is Floor’s symphonic vocal, especially the vocal that cuts in at the 3 minute mark. Isn’t that the power of music?

It then leads into a guitar solo, then an Iron Maiden like section that morphs into a “Learning To Live” like section from Dream Theater and into another guitar solo. At this stage I’m ready to crack my work desk in half from the emotions the music evokes.

“The Storm Within”
The atmospheric epic title track.

It’s more about the feel than the hook. Evergrey is shutting the door on the album, having said what they needed to say. As soon as the song blasts through the headphones I am hooked by the vibe. It’s about mood, the song is reflective.

According to the Spotify commentary, bass player, Johan Niemann was very influential in the writing of the song and it’s really beautiful music captured within a time limit. According to the Spotify commentary, Jonah had to catch the train back home and they had two hours before he left.

How many people dreamt that a life in a band with a record label, would involve catching a train to and from the rehearsal space?

It’s a tough business.

The lyrics are about celebrating the life you have with someone.

It is dark I can hear the crows
And the autumn leaves falls and falls
Trees asleep still stretch for the sky
They belong to me, they stretch for us you see

The scene is set.

If all were just dreams we’d be safe
But we’re all just pale prints of passed days

Life is fleeting and our life footprints do not last forever.

And I know I’d heal better, if I’d surrender to feel

It’s the whole, “we can’t do it alone” vibe. I feel like Emperor Palpatine telling Luke to surrender to his feelings and give in to his hate.

And we wrote life as it passed
As nothing else could matter at all

Having the courage to live without a safety net.

How cool is the keyboard melody? It’s in the background and then from 4.30 minutes to the end it’s closing the song. And it’s a perfect closer, because it makes me want to press play again to hear the whole album again.

In a world where nobody cares about a bands new stuff, Evergrey are far removed from that view. People go to their shows to hear the new album, as well as the old stuff. And let this be a lesson to all wannabe musicians, you can have a career in the music business and still live in obscurity or in some cases poverty.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Metallica – A Lot Has Changed Since 2008.

Seduced by fame
A moth into the flame

I have been listening to “Moth Into Flame” on Spotify daily. I must say it’s one of the their best songs written since we entered the 2000’s. The structure of the song, the brilliant intro, the lyrics, the barking verses and the melodic chorus all stand out.

Infamy
All for publicity
Destruction going viral

It could be about anyone in the entertainment business. Hell, it could be about Metallica’s Napster lawsuit.

For “Hardwired… To Self Destruct”, I like the lyrical message and the story behind the title more than the song in itself.

“Fifteen years ago, when you put out a record, there was a particular way that you did everything. Now it’s just whatever works for you. We’re in the process of putting a new record out this fall, and we’re just doing whatever we feel is right. There’s no particular way that it should be.”
Lars Ulrich – METALLICA

The last time Metallica released an album was in 2008. First week sales of “Death Magnetic” in the U.S market topped half a million units. But back then, streaming didn’t exist in the U.S market. It also didn’t exist in the major European and Asian markets. Now streaming makes up a large portion of the record label revenue however the price points are still debated. The customer has the option to purchase an album digitally, purchase the album on vinyl or CD, subscribe to a paid streaming service, subscribe to Spotify’s free tier or illegally download the album for free. Depending on the country you are in, the price points range from $0 USD to $10 USD.

As the Forbes article states, there is no alternative price in between even though research has shown that a $4.99 USD monthly subscription fee would convert the 60 million free tier streaming users into paid users.

What is better for the recording industry, 30 million users paying $9.99 USD a month or 90 million users paying $4.99 USD a month?

Do the math.

30 million paying users at $9.99 = $299,700,000

90 million paying users at $4.99 = $449,100,000

Metallica are masters of their own destiny, masters of their own recordings. For them, they do not have the high risk unknown that other labels have. They do not spend close to 20% of their revenue on artist development. They can negotiate their own streaming rate with Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon and Google. But they still do it the old way, taking time out to write and record 10 plus songs for a release. They will still judge this album on amount sold, instead of the amount streamed.

The article at Forbes, states what the record labels of the future would look like in six bullet points and one of the points is an artist-run record label.

Metallica own their masters. With the help of their management team, they have set up their own label. This gives the band negotiating power and it allows them to monetise their masters for the best price possible. Spotify has Metallica on it and it was on Metallica’s terms. You don’t hear Metallica complaining about the lack of money given to them by streaming services. Actually Kirk “I need a wah wah pedal for leads” Hammett might complain.

“Back in the day when Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning approached the music industry with a little baby they had called Napster, and the music industry refused to entertain any kind of deal with them on any level. Instead they open-sourced it to the world, and that changed the face of music. And so the industry’s reluctance to go with technology back in the day is something that we’re all, unfortunately, suffering from to this very day. Thankfully, the industry has seen the error of their ways, and they are embracing digital and technology on an unprecedented level, and we’re going through an adjustment period. It’ll take time.”
Dan Draiman – DISTURBED 

Instead of working with Napster, the recording industry got Lars Ulrich on board and went to war against the consumers of music. But in 2016, the recording industry is at another crossroad. It needs to decide on a price point for streaming that converts the 60 million plus free users into paid users. But the record labels want an increase in the current $9.99 price point. As far as the labels are concerned, it needs to be more.

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Music, My Stories

That’s What The Success Made Me

Do you reckon Jon Bon Jovi’s debut as a wedding singer recently would ever be forgotten?

Maybe in a pre-Internet world, but not in the current copy society we live in. Hell, the viral wedding singer clip could be the biggest news item from the Bon Jovi brand in 2016, if no new album was expected to drop this year.

On the one hand, I feel sorry for him. He wasn’t there to sing. He was there to celebrate a wedding and the amateur wedding band singer crossed a line. If you tried to script the awkwardness, you couldn’t.

But on the other hand, these types of privacy invasions come with the territory of being famous. And we all want some fame and recognition. The motive of the amateur wedding band singer is to be famous and well-known. Who better to use as your muse than Jon Bon Jovi.

For Bon Jovi (the band), the last album “What About Now” came out in March 8, 2013 and the biggest news item around that album was the departure of Richie Sambora. Gone are the days of “You Give Love A Bad Name” exploding out of car radios in the 80’s and in, are the days of the story, the controversy, especially when the recording business is saturated with new music and we, the listeners cannot decide what to give our listening time too.

It’s the story that gets traction. Why do you think Game of Thrones is the biggest thing on Earth?

The mainstream press hailed “What About Now” and it’s Number 1 debut. Of course they would as they got paid a lot by the record label promotions team. But six weeks later, the album didn’t exist on the charts anymore. The speed at which listeners move on to other things is astonishing. But, the super fans lap everything up, but a lot of listeners would check something out for nostalgic reasons.

Hell, when “Burning Bridges” came out, the biggest story around the release was the goodbye message to the record label. Then there was the other story about how Richie Sambora is being written out of Bon Jovi’s songwriting history.

So what should we expect from Bon Jovi in 2016, without Richie Sambora?

I hope it’s not another One Direction themed album like “What About Now”. The album did have some moments like “That’s What The Water Made Me”, but overall, the songs should have been given to younger artists to record and release. It’s out of touch for the “older” Jovi fan base to sink their teeth into and it just wasn’t good enough to convert younger fans to the band. However, the earlier 80’s and 90’s material is still doing a good job at converting new fans.

In the promotion interviews for the new album, JBJ has stated that he has nothing left to prove, but he has a lot to say. From the new tracks released so far, “Born Again Tomorrow” is the best by far but heavily clichéd in self-help/philosophical quotes. “Labour Of Love” is garbage, “This House Is Not For Sale” has potential and “Knockout” is a good song that should have been given to a younger artist to record.  

 If you were born again tomorrow,
Would you live your life like yesterday?
If you were born again tomorrow,
I wouldn’t live my life any other way!

If a person who has no attachments, no children and on the edges of depression was asked the question the chorus asks, you would get a different answer to Bon Jovi’s answer. For me, a father of three, I wouldn’t change a thing. The butterfly effect would come into play and I wouldn’t have the children I have.

You learn from your mistakes
Bones grow stronger where they break

We do learn from our mistakes and trust me when I say it; the bones don’t grow stronger where they break. There is a painful scar in the corners of the mind that always replays when you feel like crap and as you get older the breaks start to hurt as early arthritis sets in.

Every day I wake up with my back against the wall
Anytime you get up someone wants to see you fall
If you’re afraid to lose it all, you’re never gonna win

In “Knockout”, JBJ gets personal but keeps it generalised. Dylan once sang, “He is who not busy living is busy dying” and some of the best advice I got was when you feel like your life is comfortable and your cruising at 80km/per hour, it’s time to do something outside your comfort zone and hit the gas.

Did you really live your life
Or did it pass you by?

In my Eastern Europe travels, a lot of citizens felt like they didn’t really live their lives to the fullest and that opportunities passed them by. When you see the lines on their faces, the backs hunched from overwork, fingers deformed or missing from work accidents, you understand that it wasn’t easy for them. But it is not easy in the U.S or Australia. We all work long hours and most of us have two jobs, rushing from place A to place B for our families and when we get some free time we try to go on holiday. Provided the stress doesn’t lead to arguments and arguments don’t lead to a breakdown in communication.

But for Jovi, it looks like his career lays in politics. From Christie to the Clintons, to playing private gigs for politicians and corporations, he’s all over it. He’s been a politician since 2004. And with his popularity, you would expect him to be voted in seamlessly. But man, he has said some dumb things in the past that I don’t agree with, like Steve Jobs killing the music business. Then again, so do all politicians. It’s all water under the bridge for them.

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My Stories

Macedonia

I reckon if Yugoslavia stayed in-tact, it would be a European powerhouse today. It was well on its way before the civil war in the 90’s. Instead of one country, Europe now has Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia as separate countries. And none of them can ever come close to the power that Yugoslavia had as a country. As part of my European holiday, Macedonia was a place I visited and stayed in for 4 weeks. Afterwards, I did Barcelona and Mallorca in Spain, Marseille in France and the Cinque Terre Coast, the Amalfi Coast and Rome in Italy.

But this post is about Macedonia.

The kingdom is ransacked, the jewels all taken back
“Clampdown” from The Clash

After the First and Second Balkan Wars booted the Ottoman Empire out of the Balkans, Tsarist Russia demanded that Macedonia be broken up into three parts as it didn’t want a Macedonian identity so close to its borders. Eventually, one part was given to Greece, one to Bulgaria and one to Serbia. Bulgaria was not happy with the spoils of war and went to war against its allies for a larger piece of Macedonia. But by then, all of the riches got taken to Istanbul.

And since then, the Macedonia that exists as a country today is known as The Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia by some or Macedonia by others.

The country has a population of about 2 million. It’s hard to know the exact number because the last census was held in 2002 and back then some issues came about. The Albanian Macedonian’s either refused to participate, or complained that the line of questioning was too personal and their answers could be used for the wrong reasons in the future. And history in the Balkans has shown that old grudges and past wrongs always come back to haunt. Plus, the census took place after an Albanian Macedonian uprising was defeated.

The current government is the VMRO party. The party leader was the leader of Macedonia, however due to some tapes and questionable dealings, he is now just the “party leader” and another member of his party leads the country. Seriously, this doesn’t make sense to me at all. Surely the party leader is also the leader of the country. But this is the Balkans.

Brussels sends millions of Euro into the country. Roads are getting built and agriculture is prospering, however there is an uneasy feeling that a lot of Ministers and their underlings are pocketing a lot in the process. Euro inspectors are always questioning the lack of “work” compared to the monies/grants “given”. And the opposition party, SDS, is not really that much better. To add further complexity, people’s careers are tied to the ruling party. When the SDS party was in power, SDS supporters held all of the well-paying jobs. As soon as VMRO came in power, the SDS workers got sacked and replaced with VMRO supporters. This is a general Eastern European problem.

But putting Government politics aside, the country is unbelievable. The history and the places to see are very well worth it.

You have Struga and Ohrid, two cities on the shore of Lake Ohrid. In Ohrid, you will see excavations of a city from Ancient Rome and the Byzantine times. On the way to Sveti Naum, you will see a reconstructed city on water. Leaving Ohrid to Bitola, you will pass the rotten egg smell of the Kosel Volcano. Driving to the monastery of Sveti Jovan Bigorski, you take the winding mountain roads past Debar and are wowed by some unbelievable scenery.

In Bitola, you will see how strong the Ottoman influence was over the country and excavations in Bukovo unearthed the Ancient Rome settlement of Heraclea.

In Radozda and Kalista, you have the cave churches, created as a way to keep their Orthodox faith in hiding from the ruling powers of the era. Religion is big in Macedonia. There are so many churches for such a small land area, it’s not even funny. The city of Ohrid alone has a tourist book on sale that shows you the 365 churches around Ohrid for each day of the year. And that’s just one city. It goes to show how much power, religion has over the masses. And Macedonia has Orthodox Christians and Muslims, in other words a Balkan volcano ready to explode. But for the people of the area, let’s hope it remains dormant.

For expenses, one Australian dollar buys you 40 to 42 denari. One Euro buys you 60 to 62 denari. One American dollar buys you 55 to 57 denari. When you take into account that a 500ml bottle of alcohol costs 50 denari, a packet of cigarettes costs 68 denari and a kilo of tomatoes costs 40 denari, you can see how cheap it is to be there.

You cannot walk into a record shop and buy a CD of an artist. There are none. The ones that exists are all copies, downloaded by someone and put to CD. So downloading music illegally is huge. There is no Spotify or Apple Music or Amazon. Google Play exists, however it has no traction there and no one is going to pay for it, when the majority of Balkan artists are not even on it and for the English speaking artists, they are just a few clicks away on the pirate sites.

For an artist to sell CD’s, they have them at their concerts. When I got to Macedonia, the Ohrid Calling Festival was in progress. Al Di Meola was on the bill and the closer was Prodigy. From the stories I heard, 15,000 plus tickets were sold however that figure cannot be verified. But, there is money in live music and let’s hope the artists are fairly compensated by the promoters.

For Government meddling, a copyright dispute was brewing while we holidayed.

You see, in Macedonia, they had only one music copyright collection agency called ZAMP.

First, the Culture Ministry reduced the rate at which broadcasters had to pay ZAMP. Then the Culture Ministry granted a licence to a newly formed entity called SOKOM MAP. ZAMP believe it’s a ploy by the Government to get their hands on money meant for the artist so they banned the music of its 6,000 members from being broadcast in protest. Regardless of what ZAMP believes, I agree with what the Techdirt article states;

“ZAMP took a dispute over how much money it got to collect as the only collection group in the country and managed to reduce that amount of money to absolutely zero by banning that music from broadcasts entirely. Seems like a recipe for new legislation that will further neuter ZAMP, as one imagines the artists it represents will be screaming bloody murder any moment now.”

Nothing like Balkan politics in music. ZAMP had a monopoly and the Government decided to create another entity of its own and get some of that royalty money pie. And how is this helping the artists of Macedonia. It’s all about lining the pockets of people who contribute nothing to culture and music in general.

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