A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, Unsung Heroes

1996 Part 3.4: Opeth – Morningrise

Opeth is a Swedish progressive metal/rock band from Stockholm, formed in 1989. The group has been through several personnel changes, including the replacement of every single original member. Lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Mikael Åkerfeldt has remained Opeth’s primary driving force since the departure of original vocalist David Isberg in 1992.

Opeth has consistently incorporated progressive, folk, blues, classical, and jazz influences into its usually lengthy compositions, as well as strong influences from death metal, especially in their early works.

The band rarely made live appearances supporting their first four albums, but since conducting their first world tour after the 2001 release of Blackwater Park, they have led several major world tours.

So “Morningrise” is part off the “first four” albums.

It’s the second one, released on 24 June 1996.

Opeth for this album is Mikael Åkerfeldt on vocals and guitars, Peter Lindgren on guitars, Johan De Farfalla on bass and Anders Nordin on drums, percussion. All lyrics are by Akerfeldt and music is by Akerfeldt and Lindgren.

Åkerfeldt has mentioned that “The Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden and “Lick It Up” by Kiss made him a metal head, but he also was heavily influenced by “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” by Black Sabbath and his favorite metal album is “Sad Wings of Destiny” by Judas Priest.

Lindgren had a nice diet of Iron Maiden growing up and was heavily influenced by “Master of Puppets” from Metallica along with ’70s progressive rock band Camel.

So with similar influences as mine I was more than interested to listen.

I didn’t hear this album until 2005/06 as I started listening to em after “Blackwater Park”.

5 songs clocking in at 60 something minutes.

Advent

The song is almost 14 minutes long as it moves between sludgy grooves, acoustic guitars and fast double kick metal like passages.

Vocally, Opeth during this period was more death metal like with some clean vocal passages.

At 3.20, this acoustic guitar riff kicks in, arpeggio based and very Rush sounding and I’m like where did that come from.

It becomes abrasive again with death metal vocals which don’t impress but the music does impress.

At the 6 minute mark, a different acoustic arpeggio riff kicks in and this time, the vocals are in clean tone and I’m all in.

At 8 minutes a Thin Lizzy/Iron Maiden/Helloween like galloping riff kicks in which is great to play on the guitar.

But it gets better, there is this metallic riff at 9.20 which has a jazz like bass line behind it with double kick drums. It feels unsettling and jarring.

The Night And The Silent Water

At 11 minutes long, it’s another short song.

Im not a fan of the death metal vocals, but goddamn I really like the music and it’s movement between distortion and acoustic.

Around the 8 minute mark, this “Children Of The Grave” feel/gallop starts. It keeps building until the guitars explode into playing octave melodies.

Nectar

At 10 minutes long it’s maybe the shortest song on the album.

The music is very Iron Maiden”ish” like. There is this riff that kicks in at the 2 minute mark, which is excellent.

At 7 minutes there is another acoustic like arpeggio passage which comes out of nowhere and yet it fits nicely. And the last 90 seconds has a riff which appeared on a Dream Theater album in a few years’ time.

Black Rose Immortal

Almost 20 minutes long.

The song has a lot of harmony leads that feel like they are influenced by Thin Lizzy as it’s got that major key Celtic like vibe.

Check out the Maiden like instrumental sections from 7.30 and the excellent volume swell section around 9.30 to 9.43 which is way too short. But hypnotic and very violin line.

To Bid You Farwell

Another 11 minute song to close the album. A “Fade To Black” like arpeggio riff starts it off.

And the song percolates in the acoustic domain until it explodes into distortion at the 7 minute mark.

The amount of acoustic progressions in this song, another person could have written 10 different songs.

The vocals are clean tone and make sure you check out the bluesy kicks at the 4 minute mark.

And it returns back to the acoustics for the last 90 seconds to end the album on somber note. Like Empire Strikes Back.

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1996 – Part 3.3: Kiss – Unplugged

I wasn’t sure I needed a Kiss “Unplugged” album but after pressing play, I became a fan of it instantly. The songs they selected worked so well in an acoustic setting.

For a band that was trying to find a way to fit into the mixed up 90’s, the “Unplugged” setting was perfect for them.

Apart from Stanley, Simmons, Kulick and Singer, they are also joined by Ace Frehley and Peter Criss for a handful of songs. In Australia it went to Number 4 on the charts. Argentina and the U.S certified the album Gold.

Comin’ Home

I wasn’t a fan of the distorted version that appeared on the album “Hotter Than Hell”, but goddamn I really like this acoustic version. By far the best song on the album and my go to version for this song.

Plaster Caster

I think this is the weakest one.

Goin Blind

Acoustically, it sounds like a progressive rock song from ELP, something which seems to be lost with the studio cut.

Do You Love Me?

A good song works in any format.

Domino

This song works so good in acoustic format, as it brings out its sleazy swampy Delta blues influence.

And how good is Bruce Kulick.

Sure Know Something

One of my favourite Kiss songs. Hated by American fans and loved by the Australian disco rockers.

A World Without Heroes

A perfect song for the “Unplugged” format. Paul Stanley is an excellent rhythm guitarist and Bruce Kulick shines here with the leads.

Rock Bottom

I didn’t think this would translate well, but it did.

See You Tonight

It’s like the Beatles walked into the building.

I Still Love You

This song is a masterpiece in hard rock balladry. The acoustic arpeggio riff which makes up the Intro and Verse is haunting and it sets the tone of the song.

Stanley delivers a killer vocal but the unsung hero is still Bruce Kulick. And check out Eric Singer, as he pounds those drums like the track is electric.

Every Time I Look At You

I’m not a fan of the studio cut, but it really works here and I like the way the guitar lead break sounds. And Stanley is a crooner, he loves doing vocals like this.

2,000 Man

Some members of the family are back, in Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. And I’ve always seen this Rolling Stones track as a punk rock song.

Beth

The big hit. I prefer it as an acoustic guitar led cut, instead of a piano led cut and this version rocks, even though the song is a ballad.

Nothin’ To Lose

It sounds like a Motown cut in this format.

Rock ‘N’ Roll All Nite

It’s a campfire song and a perfect closer, sing-a-long to end the night.

The “REVENGE” band sounds great and this show along with the “Kiss III” release serves as a great testament to their abilities.

But the magazines I purchased at the time, hated it and didn’t write kindly about it. But good rock and roll was never meant to be the critics’ darling.

Here are some reviews that I agree with.

And if you want to check out the views of 2Loud2OldMusic, who gave it an easy 5.0 out of 5.0, then click here.

Or from Mr Mike Ladano who also gave it 5/5 stars, click here.

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1996 – Part 3.2: Bryan Adams – 18 Till I Die

“Reckless” was massive and is still massive. The follow up “Into The Fire” was seen as a failure but “Waking Up The Neighbours” re-established Bryan Adam’s as a tour-de-force. Mutt Lange was on board for that album as co-producer and co-writer, with Jim Vallance only appearing on half of the tracks as co-writer.

Released in 1996 and five years after “Waking Up The Neighbours”, “18 Till I Die” hit the streets.

Bryan Adams and Mutt Lange are back at producing and writing most of the tracks but Jim Vallance is missing.

The band for the album is Bryan Adams is on rhythm guitar and vocals, Keith Scott is on lead guitar, Mickey Curry is on drums, Dave Taylor us on bass, Mutt Lange is on guitars, Michael Kamen is on piano and string arrangements.

The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me

It’s like a ZZ Top track. No blues purist would give them the credit but ZZ Top with “Eliminator” and “Afterburner” brought back the blues into the pop mainstream in a big way. And those little lead breaks and fills on this song are loaded with Texan spice.

The title is one of those cheesy pick-up lines, but hey, Adams makes it work as he sings about how they stick like glue and how she’s the only thing that looks good on him.

Do To You

It reminds me of a song called “What I Like About You” from The Romantics merged with a bit of “Love Shack” from the B-52’s and a little bit of punk from The Clash and somehow it still sounds like Bryan Adams.

And I like the harmonica licks that kick in between the vocal melodies.

Let’s Make A Night To Remember

This is a Def Leppard cut through and through about getting together and getting it on. It could easily be interchanged with a song from “Adrenalize” and people wouldn’t notice.

The video clip has various women posing for Bryan Adams as he photographs them, an attempt to change his image to fit into some voyeur playboy kind of image.

I like the lead break although its only four bars and way too short.

18 Till I Die

I like the arpeggios in the intro.

When the power chords come crashing in, I feel like it’s like a Rolling Stones or The Kinks like track musically. Lyrically it’s about maintaining youthful traits, even as you grow older.

Star

It’s different, more ballad like and very similar to another song he co-wrote called “Glitter” with Motley Crue. And melodic rockers from Sweden would start to have ballads like this in the mid 2000’s.

I guess Adams was a bit ahead here.

(I Wanna Be) Your Underwear

Stupid title, but hey, management and the label were trying to alter Adam’s image from working class hero to playboy.

Keith Scott has got some Steve Vai talking guitar happening with the guitar whistles to kick off the song.

Check out the bass work in the verses from Dave Taylor. Excellent.

We’re Gonna Win

It’s a punk song, but a rock song. And I like it.

I Think About You

A ballad, but more in the country rock ballad arena, something which Mutt Lange was using a lot of Shania Twain.

I’ll Always Be Right There

Strings, an acoustic guitar and a Steve Perry like vocal delivery. It feels like a movie song but two ballads in a row, lost me.

It Ain’t A Party, If You Can’t Come Round

The cheesy titles are back which also reminds me of a Vince Neil song title and so is the loud country blues rock.

Black Pearl

The country blues rock from the Mississippi Delta continues with this one and a riff inspired by “Peter Gunn”.

The lead break (although brief) from Keith Scott is Grade A Nashville stamped.

You’re Still Beautiful to Me

I like the feel of this song. It’s a simple drum beat, a strummed acoustic guitar, a great Adams vocal deliver and how good are those licks in between the verses and Choruses and under the vocals.

Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?

Written by Adams, Lange and Kamen and featuring the excellent flamenco guitarist Paco DeLucia.

I came across DeLucia via Al DiMeola and the trio they had with John McLaughlin and became a fan with his acoustic guitar playing.

Featured in a movie I can’t remember but these movie placements ended up being huge promotional vehicles for Adams.

It was a Top 10 album in Australian, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Holland, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K (which also had it go to Number 1).

In Australia and Canada it was certified 3× Platinum. In the U.K it was certified 2x Platinum. Platinum in the U.S, New Zealand, Japan and Switzerland. Gold in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany and Spain.

And the label still saw it as a disappointment.

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1996 – Part 3.1: Scorpions – Pure Instinct

Man, the Scorpions sure know how to cause a bit of controversy with their album covers. Remember “Virgin Killer” or “Lovedrive” and to a lesser extent “Animal Magnetism”. Well, you can add “Pure Instinct” to the list.

And all of this controversy generated an alternative cover, with the Scorpion guys acting like animals..

And the music catalog of Scorpions is all over the place when it comes to streaming services. This album like many others from the Scorpions is not available on streaming services like Spotify, Deezer or Apple, but hey YouTube has it.

So “Pure Instinct” is album thirteen. Released in 1996 it’s basically forgotten.

Klaus Meine is on vocals, Rudolf Schenker on rhythm guitars, Matthias Jabs on lead guitars and Ralph Rieckermann on bass. For drums they used a session player (aka a “Hired Gun”) called Curt Cress.

The main Producer is Erwin Musper with 80s legend Keith Olsen, producing tracks 1 and 7.

“Wild Child”

Produced by Keith Olsen.

Bag pipes play a Celtic like melody before the crunchy guitars of Rudolf Schenker kick in. Its classic Scorpions delivering a kick ass rock song.

Check out the lead breaks from Mattias Jabs especially the outro solo.

And to close out, the bag pipe melody is back in. Musically it’s as good as any hard rock track from the Scorpions.

“But the Best for You”

Klaus Meine wrote the song.

It’s more Bryan Adams in the Intro than the Euro Scorpions Rock and the verses are very heavily influenced by ELP and the song “From The Beginning”.

What is it with that ELP track?

Dokken covered the ELP track a year before on “Dysfunctional”.

The Chorus also has that “You Give Love A Bad Name” vibe.

“Does Anyone Know”

Another Meine composition and its the first ballad on the album.

Another day has just begun
Life goes on there’s no return
How can I trust anyone
When honesty is such a dirty word

A breakdown in a relationship is not easy especially when you’ve been deceived.

The guitar solo from Jabs is excellent, reminding me a bit of a certain UFO guitarist who did time in Scorpions.

“Stone in My Shoe”

The hard rock of Schenker is back and its got that 70’s feel.

“Soul Behind the Face”

The intro remimds of the Uli Jon Roth era with a bit of Neal Schon.

And even though the acoustic guitar is prominent in the verses, i class the song as a rocker.

And Meine’s lyrics are better here, questioning who he’s real friends are.

And What a Chorus!.

“Oh Girl (I Wanna Be with You)”

A mix of “No One Like You” and “Passion Rules the Game”.

“When You Came into My Life”

A ballad written by Meine and Schenker along with Titiek Puspa and James F. Sundah.

The intro arpeggios remind me of something, but I cant remember what.

The acoustic lead break by Jabs is brief.

“Where the River Flows”

I thought of Collective Soul when I saw this title, even though their version came after. A rock song but with a strummed acoustic as the main focal point.

Under suburban skies
Where life is bleeding
Where concrete skies are grey
There’s plenty of room for dreaming

My hometown has sure changed. Suburbia has moved from the house into the apartment which goes up many levels.

“Time Will Call Your Name”

It’s like a long lost cut from Led Zep III.

“You and I”

A boring ballad to me but it got played live.

“Are You the One?”

A ballad to close the album with.

Skip.

And the album was a Top 10 album in Germany and Finland. It was also a Top 20 album in France, Switzerland and Austria.

It was also certified Gold in Germany, France and Finland.

In the end, it was a release to keep the Scorpions brand going. But the songs feel dull and uninspired. Other artists who had fame in the 80s ask struggled during this period, unsure of what to write, how to sound and how they fit in. Like when Slayer delivered a Nu-Metal album, you knew as a fan that bands were doing it tough.

Klaus Meine at 48 years of age was still writing about “Wild Child’s” and other irrelevant 80s cliches. But on some songs he showed us that there is a questioning human behind the rock star bravado.

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1996 – Part 2.7: The Wallflowers – Bringing Down The Horse

I got on board The Wallflowers train in the 90’s. When this album came out, I had a 140 minute commute to work and home and I listened to mix CD,, purchased CDs and a lot of radio.

“One Headlight” was everywhere. They even made Bowie hip again in the 90’s with their cover of “Heroes”. If you don’t believe me, go and check all of the accolades the song has received post 1996.

And who knew that The Wallflowers released their debut album in 1992 on Virgin Records. They then lost the label deal and went back to playing clubs. By 1994, they got a new deal with Interscope Records.

Music is a lifers game. You don’t quit when the times are tough. Jakob Dylan was never going to quit. He grew up with music in his life. But others in the band didn’t have the same perseverance. In between the debut album and this one, they changed bass players, drummers and during the recording lost their lead guitarist.

And through all the struggles, Jakob Dylan created a 4x Platinum selling album.

“One Headlight”

A galloping groove, a memorable vocal line and southern rock country guitar licks dominate.

We can drive it home
With one headlight

It connects immediately, as I had a Nissan Pulsar that had a wiring problem and one of the headlights kept switching off. Hit a bump and I have two headlights. Hit a bump and I have one headlight.

Man, I ain’t changed, but I know I ain’t the same

Truth.

We don’t change our views or habits that much, but as we got older we are not the same spirit. Death changes us. Relationships change us.

“6th Avenue Heartache”

It’s like a Tom Petty cut and it’s also one of the older songs that was written pre-90’s.

And it’s a whose who of musicians. Mike Campbell from Petty’s band does slide guitar on this and Counting Crows vocalist Adam Duritz does backing vocals.

Sirens ring, the shots ring out
A stranger cries, screams out loud
I had my world strapped against my back
I held my hands, never knew how to act

Jakob Dylan describes the streets, much in the same way Nikki Sixx described L.A in “Wild Side”.

And check out the descriptions in the last verse.

Now walkin’ home on those streets
The river winds move my feet
Subway steam, like silhouettes in dreams
They stood by me, just like moonbeams

Can you picture it?

“Bleeders”

It’s got a strummed riff that feels like it’s ascending and it makes me feel good.

But this ain’t my first ride
It ain’t my last try
Just got to keep a-movin’ on

That’s right, it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to be disappointed. Don’t let it get the better of ya. Just keep on moving on. That brighter day is just around the corner.

“The Difference”

This one reminds me of “Born To Run” from Springsteen and I like it.

The only difference
That I see
Is you are exactly the same
As you used to be

Great lyric.

“Laughing Out Loud”

Another “Born To Run” vibe.

Laughing out loud
When I didn’t ever know just what it was all about

I’ve been in situations like this before when I was the joke but I didn’t know it. I wish I knew back then what I know today, that it’s so easy to change my situation as nothing is absolute.

Well I’m doing time inside a grapevine
Little things amuse little minds

You know the grapevine of rumours and b.s. Each day, there is a different topic. I have it at work, at the football grounds, in society, within the family and so on. The grapevine is everywhere.

“God Don’t Make Lonely Girls”

It’s a rock song, in the Mellencamp/Adams way.

“I Wish I Felt Nothing”

Great title. The barroom country rock ballad feel is back.

Say when you’re alone
It’s better cause nobody knows you
When no one’s your friend
It’s better cause nobody leaves you
So you turned your back
On a world that you could never have

Easier said than done, because humans like to belong to a tribe.

And then the band just disappeared. But they didn’t really disappear. The press abandoned em, in the same way the press abandoned other artists and genres. And the rise of the internet, made it easy for other artists to participate and suddenly, the market is flooded with new music and peer to peer sharing.

The follow up album “(Breach)” came out in 2000, and it went unnoticed in Australia.

I never heard from em again, until this year with the release of “Exit Wounds”, which got me googling the band name and I was surprised to read that there was another three albums by the band after “(Breach)” and three Jakob Dylan solo albums in between plus a lot of soundtrack work for movies and TV shows.

True lifers to the arts.

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1996 – Part 2.6: Corrosion Of Conformity – Wiseblood

“Wiseblood” came out in 1996. The band for the album was Pepper Keenan on lead vocals/rhythm guitar, Woody Weatherman on lead guitar, Mike Dean on bass guitar and Reed Mullin on drums.

It kicks off with the excellent titled “King Of The Rotten”.

The riffs are down-tuned, groovy and bluesy. The vocals on this one are very James Hetfield influenced with a Layne Staley/Jerry Cantrell style Chorus.

“Long Whip / Big America” reminds of ZZ Top “La Grange” era. It’s got that spirit.

Saw the news today, some D.C. suit trying to break away,
said he lost another million
just another old man trying to pass the buck with a dirty hand
good thing he knows his bible

Man, does anything change when it comes to politics, corruption and money. The same shit happening in 1996 happened before and after.

And when it all goes to hell, they turn to God. How many criminals have said “I’m sorry your honor for stealing millions, but I have found God and I’m a good Christian now.”

“Wiseblood” and “Goodbye Windows” bring the Southern Rock vibe. It also sounds like Zakk Wylde was listening because I feel that Black Label Society took this sound.

I’ve seen them devils pound our bible
You saints and sinners are both my rival

Can a person live a life without the influence of religion and pressure from society to conform?

How good is that harmony solo section in “Goodbye Windows” from the 3.46 minute mark, with the vocals over it?

Past regrets and future fears
Turns a boy to a man sooner than planned
All the same, the boy remains
Even though he’s free, he can’t fly with these heavy chains

There is a lot of self-assessment happening on this album.

What does it mean to be free in democracy?

Its basic meaning is “not under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes”.

Do you live a life that meets the criteria in the definition?

And the bluesy Sabbath like tunes continue, along with the excellent song titles, like “Born Again For The Last Time”, “Drowning In A Daydream” and “The Snake Has No Head”.

When the bones that you own have long been dusted
You realize who you’re not supposed to be

The above lyric is from “Born Again For The Last Time”. Its only when we get older, we realise how much time we wasted being someone else.

But the body fills with greed and we spill when in need
And all the slaves are on probation growing fat in a comfortable nation

The above lyric of from “The Snake Has No Head”. They are referencing the same snake that’s on the cover of the Metallica self-titled “Black” album.

“The Door” and “Man Or Ash” are cuts that would not be out of place on a Metallica “Load” or “Reload” album. And if the vocalist sounds familiar on “Man Or Ash”, it should, it’s none other than James Hetfield.

Then there is the excellent titled “Redemption City”.

Simple words remind me
Cluttered room haunts me

It’s never easy being alone, with your thoughts and your vices.

“Fuel” is a thrash-a-thon and I had to keep telling my friends at the time that it’s not a cover of the other “Fuel” that appeared on “Reload” even though this one came out before.

And after “Wiseblood”, the band got dropped from Columbia Records because it didn’t meet the commercial expectations. And it was strange to read that, because the band was still at a creative high.

Lucky for them, Sanctuary Records picked em up otherwise they couldn’t participate in the recording business unless they went the “self-release” route, which no artist did in 1996.

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1996 – Part 2.5: Matchbox 20 – Yourself Or Someone Like You

It’s all rock to me.

Writers of the music mags back in the day did their best to give Matchbox 20 a more “current” or “hip” genre.

Modern Rock, Alternative Rock, Traditional Rock, Post Grunge and Grunge Rock are a few that come to mind today. I would even say hard rock as well, as structurally some of the songs have Cinderella and Tesla vibes. These two bands got lumped into glam rock and glam metal, but goddamn they had so much variation on their albums with each subsequent release.

Everyone knows Rob Thomas.

But the rest of the band, while they didn’t write any of the songs, performed and added their own uniqueness to the songs. That is Kyle Cook on lead guitar, Adam Gaynor on rhythm guitar, Brian Yale on bass and Paul Doucette on drums.

And man, didn’t people get behind em on this one. In Australia, it went 10x Platinum. In New Zealand, it went 5x Platinum. In Canada it’s 8x Platinum. In the U.S, its certified Diamond for 10 million in sales and at the moment its sitting at 12 million.

Production is done by Matt Serletic.

“Real World”

A John Cougar Mellencamp/Bryan Adams chord progression and guitar lead starts the song off.

I wish the real world would just stop hassling me

Sometimes I just need to get away and block the noise. It’s my own fault as I used to have a problem saying “no” to people. I’m a lot better at saying no these days, but sometimes it’s back to the old ways.

“Long Day”

What an intro?

The voice, an infectious vocal melody and an acoustic guitar. Then the rest of the band crashes in, as the melody continues.

And the Chorus.

Reach down your hand in your pocket
Pull out some hope for me
It’s been a long day, always ain’t that right

The guitar solos are little melodic interludes instead of the usual (towards the late 80’s/early 90’s) “play a million notes per second”.

“3AM”

We used to cover this song when we played 3 sets.

The first set was all originals, then the second set was 60’s/70’s and 80’s and the last set covered the 90’s, along with tracks like “If You Could Only See” from Tonic.

She’s got a little bit of something,
God, it’s better than nothing

Sometimes nothing is better than something because when you have something to lose, you are not free.

“Push”

It was a hit but it never resonated with me.

“Girl Like That”

If AC/DC used acoustic guitars, it would sound like this. If you don’t believe me, listen to the rhythm guitars.

But I roll with the changes is all
I’m same old trailer trash in new shoes

I rolled with the changes in the musical landscape that the labels wanted us to go with, back when they had control of the distribution. But I was always the hard rocker that grew up in the 80s.

“Back 2 Good”

The Chorus is excellent.

And I would like to know, how do we get things back to good?

Relationships are hard and when words are said in a breakup, the disconnect gets wider and resentment seeps in.

Then it’s done.

And the second half of the album is okay.

I remember “Kody”, about a person using alcohol to numb themselves. But the album was sold because of the tracks mentioned.

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1996 – Part 2.4: Dio – Angry Machines

“Angry Machines” came out in 1996.

By now, Dio’s glorious 80’s highs ceased to be. He was already struggling during the “Dream Evil” and “Lock Up The Wolves” eras. Even though fans like those albums, they didn’t translate commercially and the label was not happy.

His return to Black Sabbath was inevitable and with “Dehumanizer”, they released a critically acclaimed album, which the hard core Dio and Sabbath audience liked, but the same old issues of playing second fiddle to Ozzy reared its head again and Dio left, as he didn’t want to be an opening act to Ozzy.

“Strange Highways” came out in 1993 and it was well received by the hard core fans, but there wasn’t a mainstream market for 90’s Dio, let alone a 90’s Dio trying to sound relevant.

My mate, “Nick The Stick” (6ft 4 of just bones) worshipped at the altar of Dio and he burnt me a copy of this. I didn’t listen to it right away, because I had lost interest in Dio at this point in time.

Apart from Ronnie James Dio on vocals, the band is Tracy Grijalva (a.k.a. Tracy G) on guitars, Jeff Pilson on bass, Vinny Appice on drums and Scott Warren on keys.

Most reviews I have read cited this album as carrying grunge like influences, however, it is more groove metal (think Pantera) and progressive metal than a hard rock artist attempting to add Grunge influences to their sound.

And most artists who had successful careers in the 80’s didn’t really know what metal sounded like in the 90’s.

In the 80’s everything with a distorted guitar was classed as metal. Then by the mid 80’s, different genres started to come out. By the 90’s, bands advertised as metal didn’t even sing in clean tone anymore. Suddenly Black Sabbath sounded like a pop band compared to the metal bands of the 90’s, but in the 70’s Sabbath was seen as an “extreme” metal act.

On “Angry Machines”, there isn’t a perfect song or a great song or a good song. There are good bits in the songs.

“Institutional Man”

Written by Appice, Dio and Tracy G. Dio sounds uninspired and tired. But the biggest problem is the lack of good riffs.

In saying that, the verse riff would sink “Sad But True” for heaviness and in between the verses, there is this chromatic riff which came from the fingers of Iommi and the song “Buried Alive”.

“Don’t Tell the Kids”

Written by Appice, Dio and Tracy G, it’s speed metal, done in a 90’s Pantera way.

“Black”

Written by Dio, Tracy G, Appice and Jeff Pilson. On my initial first listen, I was ready to press stop. I didn’t like it. It was to atonal.

Hearing it again today, I like it for what it is. A way to keep Dio relevant. It’s got this E7#9 sounding shape in the intro riff which makes it sound almost progressive in its song writing.

Tracy G. shines in the lead department here.

“Hunter of the Heart”

Written by Appice, Dio and Tracy G, this song has potential.

The bass grooves to start it off are worthy, very Sabbath sludge like. When the band crashes in, it’s head banging time. The verse riff’s remind me of songs from the “Dream Evil” album.

“Stay Out of My Mind”

It again showcases Pilson’s strength as a songwriter (he is solely credited), bringing in psychedelic rock and heavy metal influences into this.

And in the middle, it’s almost theatre “Andrew Lloyd Weber” like.

Check out the outro, it’s like “She’s So Heavy” from The Beatles getting a 90’s makeover.

It could have used some editing, but… it is what it is.

“Big Sister”

It starts off with a vocal line that says, “Who controls your mind?”

Written by Dio, Tracy G., Appice and Pilson, this is when Big Brother turns into Big Sister, and you are given a number and another name, while others watch what you do.

If you like Tool, then you will like the Tool like riffs between 3.20 and 3.40.

“Double Monday”

Written by Appice, Dio and Tracy G.

Check out the awesome acoustic guitar mid-section. It’s only 30 seconds long, but totally worth the listening experience.

“Golden Rules”

It starts off eerie like, as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” is played on a music box. The song is written by Appice, Dio and Tracy G.

It then has a chugging riff and drum groove which kicks in and I like it.

“Dying in America”

Written by Dio, Tracy G., Appice and Pilson. They delivered a nice piece of groove metal.

“This Is Your Life”

Its written by Dio and Tracy G and it’s more Beatles like. The track remained ignored, only to be noticed after Dio’s death.

If you haven’t heard this album, there is no reason to go out and invest time into it. It’s not classic Dio. People claim he sold out, but he didn’t sell out chasing trends, he just didn’t know what metal was meant to sound like, so he went in and tried to create something different.

P.S.

For an album that did terrible commercially, it put Dio on the road from November 1996 to November 1997. There was a U.S leg, a European leg, another U.S leg, a Canadian leg, a Japanese leg and finally a South American leg.

The venue sizes ranged from 400 people to 3000 people and Dio had quite a few sellouts.

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

1996 – Part 2.3: Tonic – Lemon Parade

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.

“Casual Affair”

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.

“Soldiers Daughter”

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.

“Lemon Parade”

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.

“Mountain”

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.

“Thick”

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”.

“Wicked Soldier”

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.

“Bigot Sunshine”

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.

“Celtic Aggression”

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.

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

1996 – Part 2.2: Rush – Test For Echo

“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” here and “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.

“Driven”

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.

“Totem”

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.

“Dog Years”

At the start it’s like a punk song. Only Rush can get away with this kind of goofy subject matter.

“Virtuality”

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.

“Resist”

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.

“Limbo”

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”.

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