Tonic (for this album) is Emerson Hart on vocals and guitar, Jeff Russo on guitar, Dan Rothchild on bass and Kevin Shepard on drums.
The band was formed in 1993 and three years later they had a massive debut album on the back of one song. In the U.S, it has a Platinum certification. Then again, there is a saying that everything went platinum in 1996.
And for the ones who purchased the album, they would be surprised that there is a lot more to Tonic, than just the one “hit” song.
“Open Up Your Eyes”
It feels like a Collective Soul song, heavy and it opens the album, but it isn’t the song that sold it.
It feels like a Pearl Jam song. Actually, this is the style that Nickelback would use and sound like on “Silver Side Up”.
“If You Could Only See”
This is the song that sold the album. In Australia, it was all over radio and it pushed the album to Number 12 on the ARIA charts.
And at 87.3 million streams on Spotify, it’s also the song that will keep paying em for a long time. Nothing else comes close. “Open Up Your Eyes” is at 6 million streams and “Lemon Parade” is at 1.2 million streams.
The simple light intro strummed chords of Am, C, G, F hide the heaviness to come. I used to cover this in the bands I played in and it always got a reaction.
The first 40 second opening is excellent, almost country rock like as they employ an open D tuning D-A-D-F#-A-D.
The vocal melodies from Hart are emotive, about a certain someone who is there to support a hurting little girl.
The first four songs are all killer.
This one could have come from a Rolling Stones album, as the riffs smell on Keith Richards. And the lead section harmonies could have come from a Thin Lizzy album.
There is 40 second acoustic guitar “around the campfire” intro, which reminds me of the 70’s blues rock sounds before that sound returned again with a vengeance in the 2000’s, rebranded as country rock.
And when the vocals start, it feels like a “Live” track.
“Mountain” isn’t throwaway pop music. It’s a career song. After the quite of the acoustics, it amps up.
Like a fire I’m drawn to her lust I can’t run from her, but lord I must Like a demon I’m drawn to her flame I’m gonna burn calling her name
The guitars are preaching religion and the words are preaching truth about love and desire.
And then it gets quiet again, with the acoustic guitars. And then explodes again, with a lead break. Reminding me of the British blues rock bands.
“Mountain” is as fresh today as it was yesterday.
It reminds me of a Led Zep track in the first 30 seconds, before it moves into a groove similar to “If You Could Only See”.
It’s back to the rock of “R.E.M” merged with “The Tragically Hip”.
“Mr. Golden Deal”
It’s back to the feel of “Soldiers Daughter”. More ballad country blues rock like.
It’s got a wah wah infused main riff, which scratches and wheezes its way into my brain. There are these jangly open D like chords which remind me of Rush and the great Alex Lifeson.
It’s a track that’s more filler.
“My Old Man”
Hart brings the emotion to this one, a slow blues rock closer that takes you back to those 70’s albums that pushed boundaries.
If you like the rock music of the 70’s then you will like this album. Give Tonic a go.
This October, Machine “Fucking” Head will make 30 years!
In the early 90s, Robb Flynn decided to quit the band he was in, to start Machine “Fucking” Head, so he could call the shots and not have to answer to anyone.
Throughout the years he’s had different versions of the band with “The Blackening” line up being the most favored and then the “Burn My Eyes” line up.
Over the last three years, Robb’s motto is simple. If he has a song, or two, he’s going to get it recorded and released. And he’s still calling the shots.
Jared MacEachern on bass is still there, a dedicated right hand man.
In 2019, “Do Or Die” was released.
In February 2020, “Circle The Drain” came out.
In June 2020, the “Civil Unrest” single, featuring the tracks “Bulletproof” and the Jesse Leach collaboration “Stop The Bleeding” came out.
In November 2020, the stand alone “My Hands Are Empty” was released, a collaboration between Robb Flynn and Logan Mader from the “Burn My Eyes” version of the band.
And on 11 June 2021, the 3-Song digital single, “Arrows In Words From The Sky” dropped.
In total 8 songs have been released. They could represent an album that came out today, but we all got to spend time with these songs when they came out and make em special at that particular point in time.
On his blog, Robb said that, “these three songs represent Machine Head better than anything I could ever try to explain here.
The way these songs grew and took shape over time, tells us our future is more exciting than even we would like to admit.
Being able to corral all the chaos, pain, confusion, and yes, hope, into music has never made me feel more alive. These songs will hopefully do the same for you, after all, that’s who they were written for.”
Arrows In Words From The Sky
As soon as the droning open string tones and natural harmonics kick in, I was hooked.
It sounds sad and when the vocal melody comes in, it’s mournful. But all of this is the calm before the storm.
Centuries of pain, under a paper sword Arrows in words from the sky
When the distorted section with the vocal melody “breaking down (I am reborn)” kicks in, it’s desk breaking stuff. It hits a raw nerve and unleashes a lot of emotions.
Listen to the lead break.
It’s guitar hero stuff from Robb Flynn. His lead work is so underrated.
Remember when Taylor Swift and Neil Young removed their music from Spotify. The narrative was very strong about poor artists vs big bad faceless tech giving the masses inferior sound quality and not paying enough. Then their music returned to Spotify and there was crickets.
In the end streaming is king. The sales charts had to amend their formula to include streaming and suddenly an artist can controlling the whole Top 10. And artists from the past have now returned to the Charts.
The old certification awards now include streaming in their formula and guess what, artists are getting platinum awards on streams alone. That’s right, no sales. Just listens. What a brilliant concept.
“Good artists copy, great artists steal” is the saying. We can paraphrase it to “Good artists try to sound original by hiding their influences”, while “great artists let their influences show”. It’s how the language of music is learned. We imitate our influences.
If you don’t believe me, what is the first thing a person does when they are learning an instrument?
They start by learning songs created by other artists.
Inspiration is not theft. Theft is taking something and the person who has it, does not have it to use anymore,
Which isn’t a bad thing if that’s how you defined your career. Like AC/DC.
But Sabbath was more progressive minded and pushed boundaries. For an act that was considered “extreme” in the 70s, they played it really “safe”.
However, one thing I do like is that they have stayed away from the Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Bridge – Solo – Chorus structure.
Which led me to write a post called “Risk Management”. The message of the post was basically this;
If you are not on the bleeding edge of society, you are just part of the fabric of society. You want to be a rock star, you cant do it working a nine to five job. You cant do it if you are beholden to your employer. You cant do it if you are beholden to the family.
The only way you can do it is if you throw all thoughts of risk management out the window.
Prime Circle from South Africa had my attention as I had just heard the 2012 album, “Evidence” and I felt the need to write about them.
And they are still pretty active, releasing studio and live albums.
Check em out as their brand of modern rock is anthemic and infectious.
There first EP released in 2007 is also called Dead Letter Circus. Hence why I put 2018 in the title of this LP.
Dead Letter Circus is a well loved prog rock band. To me their music is hard to describe as the songs are all in the 3 to 5 minute range, something that bands listed as prog don’t really do. They don’t have a million notes per minute sections either. It’s all music and vocals. And awesome drumming.
The band is Kim Benzie on vocals, Clint Vincent and Luke Palmer on guitars, Stewart Hill on bass, and Luke Williams on drums.
The Armour You Own
The bass and drums set the groove and the guitar locks in with em. It’s familiar and I like it, in the same way AC/DC play it safe within their blues rock style, DLC do the same in their prog alternative rock style.
You will reach You will fall down Every time you fail you will change
It’s how we learn.
At 2.50 it quietens down before it builds up again. You need to hear it, to feel it.
The Real You
Hey you there Show me the real you Here in the physical Because I see right through
Social media allows us to portray an image that is fake. Take a photo from above your head and suddenly you look slim and with deep fake photos and videos doing the rounds, no one can tell what is real anymore.
People need to get back to what was real. F
ace to face communication. And we can’t even do that in 2021 because of social distancing and lockdowns.
Another song with a familiar sound from the earlier albums.
You alone the reason The architect of all this time Now you own this life Build it Fill it
It starts with you and no one else. Don’t blame others. It’s your life, own it and if something is not right, you have the power to change it.
It starts with you.
Running Out Of Time
How good is the Intro?
It’s an anthem. This is the band at their best.
Hoping maybe one day everything you want will fall into your hands You don’t need to try
Life doesn’t work that way. Being a good student and then getting a job to pay bills and a mortgage will not give you what you want. You need to seize it.
We Own the Light
After four rockers, this one is almost ballad like.
No one else can understand my headspace I’ve been slipping from my happiness This whole time
We can only fake it for so long before we hit the wall. And we are not alone. So many others experience the same.
The vocal melodies are memorable and hooky. This song just needs to be listened to, so it can be fully understood. one of my favorites.
Ladders For Leaders
Another song that lives in ballad like territory. It percolates and simmers.
Somehow they defeated us with no one even bleeding No resistance or debate They just covered our eyes Villains created, become ladders for leaders To keep us from asking who’s holding the strings coming from their backs
A brilliant verse.
We like to be comfortable and that means we like to have a stable income to get us through life. And for a lot of us, stability is good and we are happy building someone else’s dream while we believe we are building ours.
But for a small percentage of us, stability is not what we desire and we change the world.
This song would not be our of place on their debut album “This Is The Warning” released in 2010.
Yeah if you and I and them trade places Make our stand in generation Let the truth collide
Say It Won’t Be Long
This is the best track on the album and it’s deep in the album order.
The way it percolates and builds towards the end, it needs to be listened to.
Now I feel my confidence is growing My sense of self worth is unfolding I am now fearless facing forward So I start crawling
The mental awakening when you stop pretending to be someone else.
I love the grooves and riffs on this one.
I know I’m chasing something I can find home in Think of all that I’ve been through Every scar that I’ve grown through There is nothing to fear now I am ready for change now To find my soul in it
What a great message to end the album with.
Lay back, crank it and have the lyric sheet or the lyrics via the net in front of you.
Album number three, released in 1985. “In My Dreams” had MTV circulation, and it pushed the album to a Platinum certification in the U.S.
Neil Kernon and Michael Wagener are on hand to produce, engineer and mix. Don Dokken had a certain fondness to work with Wagener on his vocals. He met Wagener when he did a club tour of Germany in 1979.
Don then got a deal with Carrere Records in 1981 with the songs that Lynch and Dokken wrote and he did the Don Dokken “Breaking The Chains” album.
Fun fact, it was Gaby Hauke Hoffmann aka Deaffy who did the lyrics for those Accept records who got Don the record deal. There was another bass player who didn’t work out and Peter Baltes from Accept took over.
George Lynch and Mick Brown came over to Germany and did their bits and the album was re-released. It did good business in Germany and Cliff Burnstein from Q Prime picked the album up on import and liked it.
Burnstein then signed Don to a management deal. After a small tour in Germany with Juan Croucier on bass, they came back to the U.S. Lynch left the band and Croucier joined Ratt. It was just Don and Mick.
Don signed a deal with Elektra and Warren DeMartini was in the band for a short period before Lynch decided to come back in.
“Tooth And Nail” came out and the guys went back to their day jobs. But the album blew up. It started selling, “Alone Again” was in the charts and the label decided to put the band into the studio again.
According to Don, he wrote 80% of the songs for “Under Lock And Key” but got dipped on the credits as the band wanted the credits to state “all songs written by Dokken”. Lynch and Pilson also wrote a lot of music and A&R exec, Tom Zutaut had the most dangerous job in the world. To pick the songs to go on the record.
It was a time of excess. The album cost $150K to make and they then spent $250K on video clips.
Unchain The Night
The guitar intro immediately had my attention.
And Don was lost in the middle, running around in circles and unable to touch someone who had a knife in their heart.
Confused. Me too. Even the title confused me as I couldn’t understand how someone could chain something that isn’t an object.
But I didn’t care.
The music was excellent and the Lynch lead.
Wow. Its fast and shredalicious, but it’s got feel and emotion and melody.
And the outro, when the intro riff comes in, the power chords crash down around you and Lynch gets a chance to wail again. He’s playing for the song, its restrained and beautiful. Then the singing is back in and I don’t want to song to end. And they didn’t fade it out. They ended it like how they would end it live.
So I picked the needle up and replayed the song.
Lynch brought in the music and he wanted it to be his instrumental on the album. Don thought otherwise and he took the jam session home with him and wrote the lyrics. The instrumental then became “The Hunter”.
Don wrote a memorable hook for the Chorus and how good is the guitar lead from Lynch?
In My Dreams
According to Don, he wrote most of the riffs and lyrics for this song. With the opening vocal hook, this song was going to crossover into the mainstream. MTV loved it, played it and it pushed the album.
And for all its commercialism, you cannot take away the power of the metal lead break.
After the first three songs, this was a letdown. The shining light here is Lynch’s “Journey – Neal Schon” like solo break.
Lightning Strikes Again
But they made up for the small slip previously.
This is my favourite song on the album and along with “Kiss Of Death” some of the most heaviest riffs committed to tape.
From the interviews I have read, this song is a collaboration.
The intro riff is part of the “One Riff To Rule Em All”. Just think “Power And The Glory” from Saxon and “2 Minutes To Midnight” from Iron Maiden.
And if you think the riff sounds similar to another Dokken song, it does. Check out “Unchain The Night”.
And also check out Lynch’s call and response lead break.
It’s Not Love
Don refers to this song as “their” song.
It’s got the Lynch like power chord to devils tritone kind of riff. The intro riff always gets me thinking of the “Warriors” movie.
And those street gang like vocals in the Chorus.
How good are the verses?
The acoustic riff, the vocal melody, everything.
Don’t Lie To Me
As soon as I heard this song, I thought of “Rock You Like A Hurricane”.
Will The Sun Rise
It’s like “The Hunter”. More mellow and subdued, about liberty, fighting to be free and how one mistake, could make it all go to hell.
Til The Livin End
It retains the metal edge of “Tooth And Nail” and “Turn On The Action”. If anything it’s a speed metal track. And I like how it finishes, like a live track. There’s no fade out.
P.S. Pilson likes this album, but in a recent interview he said that “Tooth And Nail” is his favourite.
P.S.S I also like this album a lot that I have it purchased it on three occasions.
“Test for Echo” was released on 10 September 1996 on Anthem Records. Rush was one of the earlier leaders in forming their own label to release and distribute their music.
Anthem was formed in 1977 and Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson became associate directors of Anthem. Apart from Rush, they also releases other Canadian acts like Max Webster.
I’ve already written about the tracks “Test For Echo” hereand “Driven” here but I still haven’t done a review on it.
After taking a well earned break after “Counterparts”, Lee focused on starting a family, Lifeson went to work on a solo album and Peart studied with Freddie Gruber, the guru of swing drumming. Peart’s constant reinvention of his style is a huge component to Rush not sounding the same on each record.
“Test For Echo”
Here we go in slow mo
To me, it’s the best Rush song from the 90’s.
The guitar riffs from Alex Lifeson are so easy to digest, powerful, heavy and groovy, even when they are down tuned a whole step.
Lifeson begins the song with interesting arpeggios. He achieves the unique sounds by combining root five power chords and leaving the 1st and 2nd strings open.
Geddy Lee and Neil Peart lay down a solid foundation, especially in the Chorus, when Lifeson just plays those arpeggios and Lee and Lifeson, set the groove.
Also check out how Peart plays a subdued half time beat in the verses and then starts to pick it up double time. A good drummer could make a simple riff sound fresh by doing just that.
And of course, no Rush song is complete without the lyrics of Peart, a critique of the American justice system which turns criminals into media stars.
Some kind of trouble on the sensory screen Camera curves over caved-in cop cars
As technology progressed so did the coverage of real time situations. It’s one of the big reasons people watched the news to begin with, to see what was breaking.
Don’t touch that dial, We’re in denial
We didn’t touch the dial at all, we just kept upgrading our TVs, giving the TV makers billions of dollars in revenue. Because we loved having all of this entertainment in our houses. Live news was the first form of reality TV.
Now crime’s in syndication on TV
Crime and sex always got eyeballs. It didn’t matter the medium. And now with the internet, where everything is available, it feels like we are all so desensitized to it.
It was one of the first tracks finished for the “Test For Echo” album, featuring three separate bass tracks; the main part, the harmony part and the sub bass bottom end, and they sound as one massive bass track.
Neil Peart also plays a little bit behind the beat which gives the riffs a heavier character.
Driven up and down in circles Skidding down a road of black ice
You know the saying of “going round in circles” well in this case, the feeling is that we are not achieving anything because someone else is controlling the wheel and we keep coming back to the same point or problem.
But it’s my turn to drive
We need to take the wheel and be in control of our choices and decisions. We need to learn from them, grow with them and take ownership of our choices and actions. There is no one to blame when it’s our turn to drive.
The change from distortion to acoustic is soothing before the fuzz kicks in. And the simple chord progression of F, G and Am makes it so accessible.
Driven to the margin of error Driven to the edge of control Driven to the margin of terror Driven to the edge of a deep, dark hole
How driven or ambitious can we be, that we find ourselves driven to the edge of control, or a deep dark hole?
Driven on By the road to somewhere I’ve never been
A simple meaning of what it means to drive. It offers us the freedom to leave our city limits and go to another city and another.
The road unwinds before me And I go riding on
It’s what we always do, we get up and live and go riding on. And we sacrifice or give up control, a little bit of our freedom each time which brings us back to the first verse and the words of being driven up and down in circles.
And the cycle repeats.
“Half The World”
The mix of acoustics and electric is a Lifeson thing. This song along with “Totem” and “Resist” feature the 10-string Mandola that Lifeson first utilized on “Victor”.
“‘Half the World’ is one of our finest moments as songwriters as far as writing a concise song without being wimpy or syrupy.
It’s got a little bit of everything: nice melody, and yet it’s still aggressive. It’s hard for us to write that kind of song, really. You’d have to go back to ‘Closer to the Heart’ to find an example of that.”Geddy Lee in “Merely Players”
The Color Of Right
It’s almost a pop song with its major key Intro and Boston like riff after it.
Make it easy on yourself There’s nothing more you can do You’re so full of what is right You can’t see what is true
So relevant over the last 15 years, especially in our democratically elected governments who tried to pass laws that totalitarian governments have.
Time And Motion
This is the Rush I like. Heavy enough to give all of the 90s acts a run for their money and a bit proggy.
The Intro alone is worth the price of the CD. It wouldn’t be out of place on a Dream Theater CD.
It’s very Celtic like.
The “angels and demons inside my head,” line is visual and sums up the song about what people should believe in.
I believe in what I see I believe in what I hear
Religion is a very divisive subject when it comes up, depending on which side of the discussion you sit on.
At the start it’s like a punk song. Only Rush can get away with this kind of goofy subject matter.
How good is the Intro riff?
The blues swagger and jazz like swing beat.
And that line “net boy, net girl, send your signal around the world”.
I was singing it for years afterwards and whenever anyone mentioned “internet”, I would start singing it. And I would cop weird looks I’m the process.
Such an underrated album cut. It’s my favourite.
Geddy Lee mentioned it’s one of his favorites in the book “Merely Players”. Wikipedia tells me that Alex Lifeson states the same.
I like the Celtic like sounds that the Dulcimer brings.
An instrumental, pieced together from different bits of ideas that the group had sketched out but remained unused, but it’s not “La Vila Strangiato”.
“Carve Away The Stone”
And the album is complete with a song about the Sisyphean myth. I don’t what it is and I’ve never researched it, but I’m sure it will send me down the rabbit hole if I do.
Crank it loud and don’t forget to check out “Resist”.
Elektra wanted to drop em. Lynch and Dokken wanted to drop each other. Croucier dropped them for Ratt. Werman dropped the producing gig because of the baggage that came with it. Lynch dropped in and out of the band a lot of times. Eventually Pilson dropped into the band to replace Croucier on the recommendation of Shrapnel Records boss Mike Varney. Michael Wagner dropped in to record the vocals, while Roy Thomas Baker dropped in to do the rest.
For a band threatened to be dropped, the production team was top notch in Werman, Roy Thomas Baker and Michael Wagner. And then you have the record deal that Don Dokken got by using the songs Lynch and Brown had written. Imagine being in a band where Don Dokken would get the money and then he would need to pay Lynch, Brown and Pilson.
But they had Q Prime Management in their corner. In Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch, Dokken had an influential team who could build them up into global superstars, organise the tours, the record deals, the funding, the video clips and what not.
The “Breaking the Chains” clip was all over MTV but no one was buying the album of the same name.
The band was doing an arena tour with Blue Oyster Cult and the label still wanted to drop them.
“Tooth and Nail” was Dokken’s last shot. Released in 1984. The band recorded it and Mick Brown and George Lynch went back to driving trucks while Don Dokken went back to buying, fixing and selling cars.
Then the album blew up.
Put aside the band politics and the legendary Lynch/Dokken wars. Just pay attention to the songs, especially the backs to the wall attitude that you can hear emanating from the speakers.
“Without Warning” kicks it off the one/two punch, with its ominius minor key build, before it breaks into the frantic “Tooth N Nail”.
The song is written by Mick Brown, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson and it is a definitive piece of hard rock and heavy metal. To me , the song is up there in the same throne room as the work that Randy Rhoads did with Ozzy.
Desperate living, driving me mad Writings on the wall Crushed all our hopes and the dreams we once had Just to watch them fall
What a lyric.
Dokken’s last chance. The hopes of a musical career are hanging in the balance.
Dokken delivered a speed metal anthem to open up their do or die album.
And with the rise of the “Guitar Hero”, George Lynch really announced his presence, when he delivered a Randy Rhoads inspired lead break that is reminiscent to “Flying High Again”.
Also isn’t it funny how in 1984, the same theme resonated. It was always that “us versus them” attitude. The “We’re Not Gonna Take It” message of Twisted Sister. In this case, “Tooth and Nail” is a protest song against the record label that wanted to drop them.
Seriously, what kind of life is it, when someone has so much power to make or break a career. But that is exactly what the recording business came to be. A business with gatekeepers who could crush dreams or make dreams. Like “Chainsaw Charlie” in “The Crimson Idol”. Or like “Mr Recordman” from Ugly Kid Joe.
MTV took the artists from the magazines and brought them into our lounge rooms. And it was free. Yeah I know there was radio, but if people wanted information on artists, they had to buy magazines or their albums. Suddenly, their TV set was doing it all for them. The reason why blank VHS cassettes sold like crazy was music and movies. People dubbed/taped their favourite clips from TV or from VHS to VHS.
“”Just Got Lucky” written by Lynch and Pilson came next and it was the single that announced the arrival of the album but it didn’t get as lucky as the label wanted it to on the charts. George Lynch’s playing is excellent.
“Heartless Heart” written by Brown, Lynch and Pilson deals with a heartless baby who lied.
And finally, lead singer Don Dokken gets a song writing credit for the side 1 closer “Don’t Close Your Eyes” co-written with Lynch and Pilson. Lyrically it could have been used for the first “Nightmare On Elm Street” movie.
“When Heaven Comes Down” is another Mick Brown, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson composition. This time they veer into heavy metal territory.
Ashes to ashes, sorrow and shame Look at the future again Angels in heaven walking the streets Searching for someone to blame
Again, when you don’t have the pressure to write to a formula and when you throw everything against the wind, you end up with something great. In this case the subject matter is darker. It is not the usual sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.
“Into the Fire” is a Don Dokken, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson composition and this is more in line with the LA Glam sound hence the reason why it became a single.
“Bullets to Spare” is written by the band and seriously it’s terrible lyrically, linking bullets to spare to a certain substance that comes out of a male.
“Alone Again” is a Don Dokken and Jeff Pilson composition and for a power ballad it is wicked.
How good is that solo section?
It is a song within a song lead break.
“Turn On the Action” is another speed metal song by the Mick Brown, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson composition.
I’m looking over my shoulder I’m running reckless through the night Forever young not getting older Satisfaction guaranteed tonight
Who didn’t do something naughty or slightly illegal in their youth and when we made our great escape, we laughed but constantly looked over our shoulder in case someone was chasing us.
“Tooth And Nail” was released at the right time of the hard rock movement and within 12 months it was certified GOLD for sales in the U.S. It paved the way for Dokken to become a household name.
On “Tooth And Nail”, Pilson is a co-writer on all of the 10 tracks and he is the true unsung hero of this album, the glue between George Lynch and Don Dokken. And if you listen to the album, you will hear speed metal (“Tooth And Nail” and “Turn On The Action”, heavy metal (“Don’t Close Your Eyes”, “When Heaven Comes Down” and “Bullets To Spare”), hard rock (“Just Got Lucky” and “Heartless Heart”), ballads (“Alone Again”) and mixtures of all those styles in (“Into The Fire”).
And while Lynch got a lot of press and front covers in the guitar mags, and Don Dokken got a lot of press and covers in Hit Parader, Metal Edge, Faces and what not, the real hero is Jeff Pilson.
“We’ve never been a radio friendly band, which is three minutes, a three minute song. Our label always wants us to edit songs and we refuse to do that.
We grew up in a time when all our favourite albums by bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd weren’t quite radio friendly.
They were working out a lot of emotions in their music, and as long as it took for them to record the songs, whether it was three minutes or 12 or 24 or a whole side of an album, that was fine. We’re sort of getting back to that approach.” Adam Jones – Tool; Guitar World – August 1996
“Aenima” is the follow up to the platinum selling “Undertow”. That album spawned the single “Sober” and a memorable video involving a creepy little meat puppet guy.
Released in 1996, but I heard it a year later.
It was such an eye opening album for me. Musically and sonically. An hour and 17 minutes in length. Pushing the limits of time on a CD.
And people responded. 3x Platinum in Australia and the U.S.
It’s also the first album to feature bassist Justin Chancellor, replacing Paul D’Amour, who became a victim of indie guilt as the band was getting bigger then D’Amour was comfortable with.
Chancellor joins guitarist Adam Jones, vocalist Maynard James Keenan and drummer Danny Carey. And this version of the band would go on to remain the same to this day.
Another big change is Dave Bottrill producing in place of Sylvia Massey. Jones in various interviews said he would never work with Massey again. They had outgrown what she could offer.
Written by Keenan, Jones, Carey and the departed bassist Paul D’Amour.
The general impression I got from the lyrics (“finger deep inside the borderline”, “knuckle deep inside the borderline”, “elbow deep inside the borderline”) and the title is that the song is about “fisting” but other interpretations mentioned that is about getting your hands dirty with hard work.
A weird effect is added to the guitar for the intro just before the heavy distorted groove riff fades in. Watching em live, I saw how powerful this groove riff is, as a sea of bodies swayed and jumped in unison with it.
At 3.30 a different riff and groove comes in which makes me want to break my desk in half.
And by the end of the song, Maynard is “shoulder deep inside the borderline” as he tells the person to relax, turn around and take his hand.
Also written by Keenan, Jones, Carey and D’Amour.
Another weird effect starts it off, which sounds like it’s coming from drum pads. But it’s musical. It percolates as it builds and at 1.58 the song starts. The bass is playing a middle eastern like bass riff while the guitar is jamming on a pedal point. Maynard is singing through a loudspeaker while Carey sets a solid foundation.
When the Chorus riff kicks in at 2.40, its powerful and electric, a complete contrast to the subdued verses.
Make sure you check out the section from 6.10, when Maynard is singing “don’t you step out of line”. Allow the power of the music to fill you.
Also written by Keenan, Jones, Carey and D’Amour. It was the song that hooked me in. The fuzzed out groove in the intro had me turning the volume knob higher. But it’s the King Crimson and Pink Floyd like verses that got me to pick up the guitar to learn it.
I don’t know lyrically what it is all about, but from the various interpretations I have read, it’s got to do with those angels or devils sitting on your shoulder, that whole Ego and Id and Super Ego argument from Sigmund Freud.
Venomous voice, tempts me, Drains me, bleeds me, Leaves me cracked and empty. Drags me down like some sweet gravity.
Which part do we allow to control us?
Which voice do we listen to?
When the Chorus kicks in. Its powerful and head banging.
Then there is the “I don’t mind” section from 4.50. Check it out.
“Forty Six &2”
Now we get to the first song on the album that is written by the band that recorded it, which is Keenan, Jones, Carey and Chancellor.
And what a way for Justin Chancellor to announce himself.
The bass riff to start off this song.
If you like “Stockholm Syndrome” from Muse, then you’ve heard Tool. If you like “Home” and “The Great Debate” from Dream Theater then you’ve heard Tool. If you like “Live Or Die” from Reach then you’ve heard Tool. This riff spawned a lot of songs across metal, hard rock, melodic rock and progressive rock.
And the title.
Doesn’t it make you curious. It sure made me curious from the outset. It’s so bizarre.
So, if you like theories then check this one out from Carl Jung. The premise is humans would deviate from the current state of human DNA which contains 44 autosomes and two sex chromosomes. The next step of evolution would likely result in human DNA being reorganized into 46 autosomes and two sex chromosomes. And by doing so, it changes everything. Check out people’s views on 46 and 2.
Change is coming. Now is my time. Listen to my muscle memory. Contemplate what I’ve been clinging to. Forty-six & 2 ahead of me.
“Hooker With A Penis”
I met a boy wearing Van, 501, And a dope Beastie T, Nipple rings, New tattoos that claimed that he Was OGT, Back from ’92, From the first EP. And in between sips of Coke he told me that he thought we were sellin’ out,
The song refers to a fan who accused the band of selling out after their first EP.
I sold out long before you’d ever even heard my name I sold my soul to make a record, dipshit, then you bought one
Truth right there.
Before anyone accuses a band of selling out, remember they had to sell their rights for a very long time just so people could hear them in the first place.
A character from an earlier song on “Undertow”.
Eleven and she was gone. Eleven is when we waved good-bye. Eleven is standing still, Waiting for me to free him, By coming home.
The ghost known as Eleven is waiting to show him the truth. Very different to “Charlotte The Harlot” and “22 Acacia Avenue”. By the 90’s Tool was singing about “Prison Sex” and “Jimmy”.
Another song written by the “Undertow” band in Keenan, Jones, Carey and D’Amour.
The title is a combination of “Put Shit”.
How good is the intro riff?
When the drums come in, they set a slow percolating groove. The song could be a non-identical twin of “H.” musically.
Pushing and shoving Pushing me There’s no love in fear
Can the song be as simple as an argument in a relationship and that the relationship ends with one saying to the other “I love you” while they claw at their throat. Because it can’t end in no other way.
An earthquake comes to wash away the fake and superficial people of Los Angeles. This one is also written by the “Undertow” version of the band, in Keenan, Jones, Carey and D’Amour. New bassist Chancellor had to audition with this song.
The title Ænima is a combination of the words ‘anima’ (Latin for ‘soul’ and associated with the ideas of “life force”, and a term often used by psychologist Carl Jung) and ‘enema’, the medical procedure involving the injection of fluids into the rectum.
Take whatever meaning you want from that.
Here in this hopeless fucking hole we call LA The only way to fix it is to flush it all away Any fucking time, any fucking day Learn to swim, I’ll see you down in Arizona bay.
And the band goes to town against everything that is celebrity culture, drug addicts, rappers and even Scientology (“Fuck L. Ron Hubbard and fuck all his clones”) and asking Mother Earth to just wash em all away
The spiritual “Third Eye”.
Can magic mushrooms be the key to opening the third eye?
Bassist Brian Marshall was out after giving up on communicating with Scott Stapp, so Tremonti stepped up and did the bass parts for the album.
“I couldn’t pick a single player who’d be a blue print but Jimmy Page is one of those guys that’d be in there.
Even though his playing is 70% blues oriented, I still feel close to him. I didn’t get into Zep till I was in high school.
In Junior High, I listened to Slayer, Venom, Mercyful Fate – real dark and heavy stuff.
Tesla was a big inspiration to me as well. I loved how they would have a little intro and a little outro like they do on “Love Song”. Those are the cool little tangents that took me away.” Mark Tremonti: Guitar One – January 2002
I’ve written it and said it so many times. Mark Tremonti is the reason why Creed became a favourite.
He is the modern day Jimmy Page, as he can move between fast metal riffs, blues rock riffs, heavy groove rock riffs, to folk rock and even classical. There is a lot of variation on the albums he’s involved in. Similar to how Page moved between so many different styles on each Led Zeppelin album. And Page did it by using various open string tunings which Tremonti also employs.
Four years ago, Creed was looking for a record deal. And by 2001 they had become one of the biggest acts on planet Earth. During this time, Tremonti graced the covers of Guitar One on four occasions and Guitar World on three occasions, winning numerous “Best Rock Guitarist” polls.
The third album “Weathered” was anticipated. And they didn’t disappoint.
It’s a great album opener and a concert opener. A “grab you by the throat” full throttle metal tune.
After the clean tone bass riff plays, a speed metal like riff kicks in. It’s angry and its perfect. After the big anthemic hits of “Higher” and “With Arms Wide Open”, this one is anti-anthemic.
“At least look at me when you shoot a bullet through my head”.
If you’re going to talk trash, than do it to their face.
There is also an interlude/bridge section here which was only brief but excellent and it is similar to the “Weathered” interlude/bridge section which is fleshed out a little bit better.
It has this Texan blues groove but done in a Pantera style for the verses.
“Who’s Got My Back?”
It’s typical of the style of the Creed songs I like (think “Faceless Man”), with atmospheric finger picked riffs in clean tone percolating in the verses, which leads to open string tuned chords and eventually crunching and distorted chords across different intensities.
How heavy is that verse riff in “Signs”?
At one stage its reminding me of Stone Temple Pilots and “Vasoline” or Disturbed “Down With The Sickness”.
“One Last Breath”
Then you are treated to the excellent finger picked lines of “One Last Breath”.
On YouTube it’s got a massive amount of views. On Spotify, it’s at 135.3 million streams, higher than “Higher” which is sitting at 110.1 million streams or “My Sacrifice” at 127.3 million streams.
In a Guitar World issue, Tremonti mentioned how he would have devoured all the Classical/Baroque stuff, but subliminally his style developed by devouring the acoustic pieces from metal and rock artists, like the style of Frank Hannon or the fingerstyle stuff from Metallica on their slower tempo songs and instrumentals like “Call Of Ktulu”.
If you’ve heard the intro to “Love Song” from Tesla, then you would have heard the main riff to “One Last Breath”.
This song doesn’t get the respect it should. The riffs are stellar and the vocal melody is iconic.
It pushed this album to multi-platinum status in Australia and the U.S
And while I liked the song when I heard it on the album, it wasn’t until I saw Creed live that I really enjoyed the song and the way they played it.
It was the closer, it was delivered with power and a lot of pyro and they made sure they left you wanting more.
“Stand Here With Me”
“Stand Here With Me” came next and its similarity to “My Sacrifice” made me ignore it initially, but the riff stands on its own.
And there is a lead break in this song, which got me paying attention.
“Weathered” is my favourite track, especially that whole interlude/bridge section from the 3.27 mark and that riff. It reminds me of heavy metal from the 80’s.
And don’t forget the Bad Company/Led Zeppelin like intro and verse feel and groove.
But let’s talk about the section which gets the head banging and the foot moving.
The metal like interlude and bridge from the 3.27 mark. Think of the song, “Fighting For The Earth” from Warrior. That’s the song which used the riff prominently throughout, however the riff appears in so many 80’s music.
Even Bullet For My Valentine used the riff for “The Last Fight”.
But what makes the riff different in this song is the groove. Its slower, its menacing and Tremonti builds it nicely, starting off with single notes and by the end of it, he’s combining single notes and octaves, heightening the intensity.
It’s “My Sacrifice” part 3 and although it is derivative, it doesn’t get boring.
How good is the verse?
The drums and bass stop, and it’s just the guitar with Stapp’s vocals.
The Chorus riff reminds me of “Goodbye To Romance” from Ozzy and Randy Rhoads.
“Don’t Stop Dancing”
It has a nice little melodic lead from Tremonti, who really picks his small lead break spots to perfection.
“Ready An’ Willing” came out on 31 May in 1980. In 2017 it was its 37 year anniversary. Just recently it had it’s 41st birthday.
Like many others, my Whitesnake fandom started with the 1987 album. I went forward with them and the “Slip Of The Tongue” period and backwards after that.
But I had heard “Fool For Your Loving” as the B-side track to the 7 inch single of “Give Me All Your Love”. And eventually I got the album it was on.
I believe that most metal and hard rock fans have relatively wide musical tastes. A lot of times we come across music that doesn’t necessarily form part of our normal listening habits, but we are still happy with it and enjoy it. The saying normally goes; meet a person rooted in metal and you will find other non-metal music that form their listening habits.
The “One Riff To Rule Them All” is a perfect example of how a lot of songs can have the same riff conceptually and still be able to stand on their own.
The riff is heard in “Hell Bent For Leather” by Judas Priest released in 1978, in “Power And The Glory” from Saxon released in 1983, in “Stand Up And Shout” from Dio released in 1983, the intro and main riff in “Two Minutes To Midnight” from Iron Maiden released in 1984 and the main riff to “Skin O My Teeth” by Megadeth released in 1992.
A small variation of “the riff to rule them all” morphed into “Welcome To Hell” from Venom released in 1981.
And this morphed into “Looks That Kill” from Motley Crue released in 1983 and became known as the Sunset Riff. So it was no surprise that other Sunset guitarists started using it.
“Young Girls” from Dokken in 1983 and “Tell The World” from Ratt, also have it.
Fans of Kiss smiled when they heard “Sex Type Thing” from Stone Temple Pilots. The main riff is influenced by “War Machine”.
Did you hear the one about me giving a shit?Cause if I ever did I don’t remember it.
I shared a photo of my Dream Theater collection. The soundtrack to my life.
And I was putting out Nostradamus like predictions about what would happen with certain bands and I was terrible with all of em.
I watched “The Great Gatsby” which got me googling about it and I was surprised to read that author Scott Fitzgerald, started planning the novel in 1923 and when the book is released in 1925, it sells poorly.
In 1940, Fitzgerald died, seeing himself as a failure and believing his work is forgotten. And at the time of his death, “The Great Gatsby” had sold only 25,000 copies. By 2013, “The Great Gatsby” had sold over 25 million copies worldwide and it still sells 500,000 copies annually.
And I wrote about “The Pirate Bay” and how it was still operating after so many raids and web blockades. And I imagined an alternative history if the music and movie labels purchased the technology in 2003 when it started operating.
I was listening to Dave Nadolski who has a voice similar to Chris Daughtry.
For those who don’t know, Dave Nadolski is the lead singer of the band Under The Flood.
Under The Flood have been doing the hard roads since forming in 2005 by brother’s Matt (guitars) and Dave (vocals) Nadolski.
The first album, “The Witness” was released in May 2008. “Alive In The Fire” was released in June 2010 and “A Different Light” in February 2012.
And I felt they would break through like Shinedown and Chris Daughtry did but they didn’t and I haven’t heard anything new from em since 2013.
“Revenge” made Kiss relevant again so I wrote my thoughts on it.
And I reminisced how I felt every time “Lick it Up” came on TV. It made me stop and watch. This was all about the music. The band had removed their make-up and they needed to make a statement. That crunchy and distorted guitar from Vinnie Vincent is what makes the song roll.
And I did another douche blog post on Mike Portnoy because he did nothing wrong except change bands from Adrenaline Mob to Winery Dogs but I knew it would be clickbait.
Douchebag posts are not what I would want the site to be so I stopped doing em. But then I blasted “Supercollider” from Megadeth. Lol.
Apart from the opener, “Kingmaker” and the cover, “Cold Sweat” from Thin Lizzy, I didn’t like it. For me to say that, it’s a big thing. If anything, I’m a Mustaine Fanboy. But the post then went on a tangent as to why are creators still following the old rules.
Since I was listening to a lot of a Five Finger Death Punch, I wanted to show my appreciation to Kevin Churko, the unsung hero behind the band.
And from Five Finger Death Punch to Imagine Dragons.
“It’s Time” and “Demons” are two songs that are just stuck in my head. They are catchy and they have enough rock in them to get my attention and keep it. But they haven’t done anything remotely close to those songs.