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

1996 – Part 4.7: Semisonic – Great Divide

Those 70’s Classic Rock vibes came back in full force in the mid 90’s, rebranded as Alternative Rock.

“Closing Time” in 1998 made them Superstars so I was curious to hear more.

Semisonic is an American rock band formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1995.

The band has three members: Dan Wilson (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), John Munson (bass guitar, keyboards, backing vocals, guitar), and Jacob Slichter (drums, percussion, keyboards, backing vocals).

“Great Divide” is the debut album released on April 9, 1996 by MCA Records. The band had signed a record contract with Elektra Records to record the album. During recording, Bob Krasnow, the president of Elektra Records had quit, and in the changeover to a new president, the Neglektra dropped Semisonic. The band then signed with MCA Records, and finished recording the album.

F.N.T

The main riff is catchy.

If I Run

I like the groove on this and the way the vocal melody sounds.

Delicious

It reminds me of Everclear and that whole power pop and post-grunge scene.

Down In Flames

Very Pearl Jam like and bleak.

Temptation

Press play on this just for the bass groove and the way the guitars and keyboard play the riff.

The sort of falsetto like vocal melody is also different and catchy.

The Prize

Before Creed wrote “Higher” there was “The Prize”.

Brand New Baby

The best song on the album. Press play to hear the Chorus.

Hearing this album so many years after it’s release is a fun trip. A lot of people see this album as better than the second album. Then again, they are labeled as a “one hit wonder”.

Ignore all that and just press play.

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Australian Method Series and 1996 – Part 4.5: Powderfinger – Double Allergic

“Double Allergic” is their second album released in 1996.

It peaked at No. 4 on the ARIA Albums Chart and was certified triple platinum by ARIA for shipment of 210,000 units by 2007.

Like all second albums it contained material that had been written for the debut album.

You know the saying. Artists have their whole lifetime to write their first and second album and only a few months to write their third.

They worked with an expensive producer on their first album but worked with a less well known producer for this.

From 1992 until their break-up in 2010, the line-up consisted of vocalist Bernard Fanning on vocals, guitarists Darren Middleton and Ian Haug, bass guitarist John Collins and drummer Jon Coghill.

“Pick You Up” was the first single and is by far the best pop song on the album.

“D.A.F.” is the the second single, and it’s title is the chord progression.

“Living Type” was the third single written about the Manson Family cult, and came with an X-Files style music video.

But if you want to press play on a song, then press play on “Oipic” and let the Led Zep exotic Sounds take you away.

By the way, this isn’t the album that got me interested. It was the next one “Internationalist” and the song “Passenger”. But that’s for another post.

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1996 – Part 4.4: Pantera – The Great Southern Trendkill

Pantera was popular in Australia. Once they broke into our market, they stayed until they remained as a band.

“The Great Southern Trendkill” came out in May, 1996. It went to number 2 on our ARIA charts and it reached number 4 on the Billboard 200 chart.

It’s listed as their eighth album, however for the Phil Anselmo, Dimebag Darrell, Rex Brown and Vinnie Paul version of Pantera its album number 5 as their first album begins with “Power Metal” but it’s number four from their major label debut “Cowboys From Hell”. And that’s when the Pantera I know really started.

Terry Date and Vinnie Paul are producing, recording and mixing the album.

Coming in to the album, even a band like Pantera was on the outer. The marketing machines of the labels had put their dollars in Grunge and Industrial Metal acts like NIN and Ministry.

Internally, the Abbott brothers were not too impressed when Anselmo took time out to do the “Down” project and then do a 13 date tour with the group. And to top it off, Anselmo moved out of Texas and back home to New Orleans so his vocals were done on his own.

Anyway to the music.

The Great Southern Trendkill

It’s like Death Metal.

I like the riffs and the guitar solo, but the song doesn’t really resonate with me.

War Nerve

It’s very Black Sabbath like, doom sludge metal.

Drag the Waters

The main riff is bone crunching.

10’s

Iommi would be proud of this riff. Actually Zakk Wylde in Black Label Society would be proud of this riff. Vocally, Anselmo is strong here.

But press play on this to hear the acoustic arpeggio passages and Dimebag’s unbelievable solo over em.

13 Steps to Nowhere

It’s weird to explain this song. It’s experimental, a mixture of blues like grooves with a lot of distortion and Sabbath like doom breakdowns.

Suicide Note Pt. I

Synths and backwards effects and then the acoustic guitar kicks in. It’s almost Led Zeppelin like, with a bit of Southern Rock and I like it.

Suicide Note Pt. II

And then what happened. It’s death metal like, with blast beats and fast riffing, with some heavy metal like riffs chucked in here and there.

Living Through Me (Hells’ Wrath)

The riffs on this are “fists in the air, head banging” riffs.

Vocally I’m not a huge fan and halfway through it goes into a weird spoken interlude with weird industrial like effects.

Then a cathartic scream from Anselmo and the head banging riffs are back in.

Floods

The clean tone intro with the acoustic guitar under it, grabs my attention immediately. It’s almost Alice In Chains like, even though the band was critical of the Grunge movement.

Then again, Pantera songs like “Cemetery Gates” and “This Love” come to mind.

The whole “Die” section is heavy and demented but there is no denying the power of Dimebag and his bro Vinnie. These dudes nail every syncopated beat and lick down.

It’s been written extensively that the solo on this song is Dimebag’s best. And it is. If you need to press play on a track, then make this the one.

It’s composed of all these little guitar solo ideas he used for his live guitar spot, while Brown and Paul are simple in their foundations, letting Dimebag fill up the space with his leads.

The Underground in America

Musically, I like it. Vocally I hate it.

(Reprise) Sandblasted Skin

Dimebag brings the riffs again.

In the end it was certified Platinum in the U.S and it charted well in a lot of other countries.

And while the relationships were strained during the recording, things got even more estranged when Brown decided to leave the tour bus he was sharing with the Abbott brothers to share a tour bus with Anselmo. Brown described it as a way to feel comfortable, because Dimebag would be up early and start cranking the guitar, which upset Brown who wanted to sleep.

During the tour, Anselmo overdosed on heroin and was legally dead for four to five minutes. According to Anselmo, he started using heroin for relief of his chronic back pain. Mick Mars has a degenerative spine issue and never turned to heroin, but then again, he did turn to alcohol and lots of it.

For the record, I hate the hardcore death metal vocals that Anselmo resorted to. His clean tone voice is one of the best. He could move between James Hetfield and Tom Araya style vocals to Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson siren wails. It’s why I became a fan of the “Cowboys From Hell” album.

And I don’t know the exact specifics of what happened with Anselmo and the white power salute he gave at a gig he did about 5/6 years ago. Robb Flynn from Machine Head called him out on it. Which led to a lot of issues for Robb Flynn, receiving death threats and venue owners who supported Anselmo refused to book Machine Head.

One more album would come from Pantera and that would be the end. The air is thin at the top of the mountain, which means that you are not meant to hang around at the summit for long. Anselmo would put the band on hold because he wanted to deal with the back pain and then went on to record and tour with his side projects with the band officially finished in 2003.

Dimebag recently had a 17th Anniversary from when he was tragically shot dead at a gig on Dec 8, 2004. And it’s been three and bit years since Vinnie Paul died from heart disease.

While Anselmo wanted to reconnect, Vinnie Paul didn’t. And that’s how it ended.

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1996 – Part 4.3: In Flames – The Jester Race

In Flames was founded in 1990 by Jesper Stromblad as a side project from his then-current death metal band, Ceremonial Oath as he wanted to write more melodic songs.

Three years later, he quit Ceremonial Oath due to the overused “musical differences” reason and began focusing on In Flames.

By 1995, Stromblad grew tired of using session musicians to record an album or to do live shows, and the first version of the band was assembled.

“The Jester Race” released in February 1996, is the second studio album. The album is considered a classic album of the melodic death metal genre, along with At the Gates “Slaughter of the Soul” and Dark Tranquillity’s “The Gallery”, exhibiting the dual guitar leads, growled vocals and acoustic sections typical of the genre.

The band for the album is Anders Friden on vocals, Jesper Stromblad on Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar and Keyboards, Glenn Ljungstrom on Lead Guitar, Johan Larsson on bass and Bjorn Gelotte on Drums and Additional guitars. Yep, a drummer who also plays guitar, and this is a common thing in Sweden to have musicians who can play multiple instruments in a component manner as they promote the Arts sector in schools.

It’s produced by Fredrik Nordstrom (who also plays additional keyboards) along with the band members.

Moonshield

The Medieval sounding acoustic guitars to start the song sets the tone of a journey to come. After about a minute the distorted guitars crash in.

Musically speaking, it is similar in melody and structure to bands such as Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. However, the death metal influence lies within the vocals.

The Jester’s Dance

It’s an instrumental.

Full of different moods like “The Call Of Ktulu” and a bass groove that could have come from the fingers of Eddie Jackson from Queensryche.

There is even a section that reminds me of “Wasting Love”.

So if you want to press play on a song without vocals, press play on this or on the other instrumental “Wayfaerer”.

Artifacts of the Black Rain

I like the twin harmony melodic riffs on this.

Graveland

It’s fast very “Ride The Lightning” like.

Lord Hypnos

How good is the intro on this?

It’s some of the best metal music written in the 90’s, reminding me of 80’s Judas Priest and Queensryche.

And the subject matter this time around are Greek Gods.

Listen to the musical section between 1.33 and 2.43.

Dead Eternity

It’s very Iron Maiden like when it starts off, before it moves into a power metal like riff with blast beats. Something which Parkway Drive uses a lot of.

Its spoken word intro is haunting; about death, and how once you die you never have to worry about dying again, as you are stuck in a purgatory known as dead eternity.

The Jester Race

The intro is like a “Top 10 Hard Rock riff with a bullet” like. And throughout the song, its littered with melodic riffs and harmonies.

December Flower

Fast, angry with a lot of tremolo riffing and blast beats.

Check out the guitar leads between Verses and the guitar lead itself is “guitar hero” worthy.

Wayfaerer

An instrumental.

Very Judas Priest and Helloween like.

And then at the 1.50 mark, there is this Van Halen “Dance The Night Away” vibe with a bit of Joe Satriani “Crushing Day” and “Lords Of Karma” chucked in.

Dead God in Me

The closer.

It’s almost thrash metal like, with disturbing lyrics about a recollection of a molestation that took place.

The album took some criticisms from being too melodic in its riffs and harmonies from Melodeath purists, but that’s why I listened to it.

For me, that melodic element was the selling point.

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1996 – Part 4.2: Slayer – Undisputed Attitude

“Undisputed Attitude” is the seventh studio album by American thrash metal band Slayer, released on May 28, 1996.

The album consists almost entirely of covers of punk rock and hardcore punk songs. It also includes two tracks written by guitarist Jeff Hanneman in 1984 and 1985 for a side project called Pap Smear and its closing track, “Gemini”, is the only original track.

The album was largely the brainchild of guitarist Kerry King, who stated that the songs chosen were from highly influential bands who “made Slayer what it is”.

The album was initially to feature material from classic heavy metal artists such as Judas Priest, UFO and Deep Purple. However, after several rehearsals “things didn’t pan out” according to King, so the band instead elected to cover punk songs. Then again, maybe Tom Araya’s rough bark just didn’t suit the Judas Priest, UFO and Deep Purple style of songs.

The band for this album is Tom Araya on Bass and Vocals, Kerry King on Guitars, Jeff Hanneman (RIP) on Guitars and Paul Bostaph on Drums. The way Araya sounds vocally on this is how James Hetfield would sound on “St Anger” in six to seven years’ time.

The album is produced by Dave Sardy with Rick Rubin listed as an Executive Producer, whatever an Exec Producer means.

“Disintegration/Free Money”

The original artist is Verbal Abuse and its 1.41 of fast and aggressive metal punk.

“Verbal Abuse/Leeches”

And its followed up by another Verbal Abuse cover, which clocks in at 1.58. While its fast and aggressive punk, there is a small breakdown section which slows things down a little.

“Abolish Government/Superficial Love”

A T.S.O.L. cover and it’s a full 1:48 in length.

Three songs in and it’s like listening to one song.

“Can’t Stand You”

Written by Jeff Hanneman and listed as a Pap Smear cover which clocks in at 1:27. And Tom Araya doesn’t take a breath as he spits out the verses.

“DDAMM (Drunk Drivers Against Mad Mothers)”

Another track written by Jeff Hanneman and listed as a Pap Smear cover which clocks in at the super long length of 1:01.

“Guilty of Being White”

A cover from Minor Threat and it clocks in at another super long time of 1:07.

When the album was released in 1996, there was no controversy over the song or any possible message of white supremacy.

But the internet and social networks are different beasts and people take a moral high ground.

The other controversy was changing the lyrics in the songs ending from “guilty of being white” to “guilty of being right”.

This little changed didn’t go down well with Minor Threat front man Ian MacKaye, who found this change “offensive”.

“I Hate You”

Verbal Abuse makes another appearance on this album with a song that goes into the 2 minute range. This one is more punk like, with a rock tempo and Sex Pistols “Anarchy” style attitude.

“Filler/I Don’t Want to Hear It”

And Minor Threat makes another appearance with a super-fast punk hardcore song.

“Spiritual Law”

A cover from D.I. and its pushing at being the longest song on the album at 3 minutes long. Press play to hear the intro which is very Metal like, otherwise the rest is stock standard fast beats, vocals that cover the microphone in spit and fast alternate picked punk metal riffs.

But at 1.20 a Sabbath like doom groove comes in, before it picks back up into the fast punk metal at the 2.10 mark.

“Mr. Freeze”

A cover from Dr Know. Its 2.24 in length and at times when the song goes into its rock riffs I feel like I am listening to Beatsie Boys, “Fight For Your Rights”.

“Violent Pacification”

A cover from D.R.I. at 2:38 in length.

All I can say about this song is chaos until the 46 second mark, when the drums start a rock style groove and the tempo of the song goes down a notch for the band to rock out. And Tom Araya is barking out “Violent Pacification” over and over and over again.

“Richard Hung Himself”

A cover from D.I. and this song takes the title for the longest song of the cover songs at 3:22.

And for a song with a grisly title it’s actually a catchy rock song.

“I’m Gonna Be Your God” (“I Wanna Be Your Dog”)

A song from The Stooges, clocking in over the 3 minute mark and it received a makeover and some slightly modified lyrics and a faster tempo.

It’s by far my favorite cover and it leads in perfectly to the original track.

“Gemini”

Written by Kerry King and Tom Araya, and it is the longest song on the album at 4.53.

The song begins as a sludge/doom number reminding me of “Season In The Abyss”, before becoming a more typical Slayer song.

But being added to the end, doesn’t do this song proper justice. It’s one of their best tracks written in the 90’s.

And Tom Araya is evil reincarnated with his melodic but sinister vocal melody.

In the end, this is a 33-minute-long release and Slayer wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s not a classic album but the song “Gemini” makes up for it.

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1996 – Part 4.1: Black Crowes – Three Snakes And One Charm

The problems began with a project tentatively titled “Tall”. This project was being produced by Chris Robinson, which his brother Rich objected to. And as brothers do, they got into a huge fight.

The reason for the fight was that Chris wanted to strip back the sound of the Black Crowes. More horns and percussion and less guitars. But his bro, Rich is the guitarist.

In the end, Rich won the argument and the result of this project are the re-recorded songs that Rich Robinson predominantly wrote, which made up the “Amorica” album. This pissed Chris off as his songs were ignored.

So it’s no surprise that during the “Amorica or Bust” Tour of 1995, the relationships within The Black Crowes soured even further, and the Robinson brothers basically hated each other.

But they made it through somehow.

And the band began planning their fourth album in 1995. “Three Snakes and One Charm” was eventually released in July 1996. Recorded in a house that they shared together, the album captures a relaxed band, ready to plug in and jam with friends.

The Black Crowes for this album are Chris Robinson on Vocals, Rich Robinson on Guitar, Marc Ford on Guitar, Johnny Colt on Bass, Steve Gorman on Drums and Eddie Harsch on Keyboards.

The Dirty Dozen horn group appears, along with banjo players, pedal steel players and various backing vocalists. Basically some of the stuff that Chris Robinson wanted to implement earlier was being brought in.

Under A Mountain

I like the exotic Zep vibe on this.

Good Friday

I disliked this song when I first heard it and when I covered The Black Crowes in The Record Vault post a while ago, I ignored it, but goddamn, time passes, moods change and suddenly the Country Soul Rock vibe of the song is hooking me in.

Nebekanezer

If the title doesn’t capture me, I’ve already formed a bias against the song. And while the song has a sludgy Blues groove with a little bit of a Beatles influence in the vocals, there isn’t enough meat to satisfy.

One Mirror Too Many

The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones and the psychedelic 60’s and 70’s are re-incarnated into this song.

Blackberry

Soul Rock was big around this time in Australia because of the movie “The Commitments” which came out in 1991.

Girl From A Pawnshop

It was my favourite track when I first heard the album and it still is today.

The whole country ballad rock vibe just connected with me and the vocal delivery from Chris Robinson is excellent.

Only Halfway To Everywhere

With the horns, guest vocalists and Chris Robinson bordering between BB King and Steven Tyler vocally, this song feels like a group of musos getting together and having a jam session, with a lot of booze flowing.

Bring On, Bring On

Like other songs on this album, it’s the Led Zep acoustic influence which shines through on this track that hooks me in.

How Much For Your Wings?

The reddest of lights shine on you, young man, let God be with you..

And the acoustic guitars start and there is something about the vocals when Chris Robinson sings, “how much for your wings?” that captures me.

Let Me Share The Ride

A blues groove, but the horns give it that soul rhythm and blues feel.

Better When You’re Not Alone

More acoustic guitars and then the band kicks in. And I feel like I’m driving on the open road out of my town, hopeful and excited.

Evil Eye

It’s too psychedelic for me.

And they went on tour for this album, which took em towards the end of 1997. After this, the band got together and recorded another album with the working title of “Band”.

Which was also scrapped.

Guitarist Marc Ford was fired and bassist Johnny Colt subsequently left the group, dissolving the Crowes’ line-up of the previous three albums.

The unreleased tracks from the “Tall” and “Band” sessions surfaced among tape trading circles and were later officially released on the 2006 compilation “The Lost Crowes”.

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Australian Method Series and 1996 Part 3.7: John Farnham – Romeos Heart

“Romeo’s Heart” was released in Australia on 3 June 1996 by John Farnham.

His comeback to mainstream success started with “Whispering Jack” released in 1986. It is certified 24x Platinum in Australia, Platinum in Sweden and Gold in Canada and Germany.

“Age Of Reason” came in 1988 and it is certified 11x Platinum in Australia.

“Chain Reaction” in 1990 is 7x Platinum in Australia.

“Then Again…” in 1993 is 4x Platinum in Australia.

This album is also 4x Platinum in Australia.

The band is top notch as well with Brett Garsed from Nelson fame on guitars along with Stuart Fraser from Noiseworks.

Joe Creighton from The Black Sorrows is on Bass and Angus Burchall also from The Black Sorrows is on drums with Steve Williams on harmonica.

Vocals are provided by John Farnham with Lindsay Field and Lisa Edwards providing excellent backing vocals.

And from when Farnham made his comeback in the mid 80s as a solo artist, the songs he performed on his albums were written by other artists/songwriters.

This album is no different, with every song on it coming from outside writers.

Have a Little Faith (In Us)

Written by Russ DeSalvo (who at the time was writing and working with Celine Dion) and Arnie Roman (who also was working with Celine Dion).

Great song title and a major key chord progression to give its uplifting vibe.

But press play for the gospel like backing vocals in the outro which

Little Piece of My Heart

Written by C. Celli, A. Levin and Jack Ponti.

The same Jack Ponti who co-write “Shot Through The Heart” with Jon Bon Jovi and a heap of songs for Baton Rouge, Alice Cooper and Babylon A.D.

I’m not sure on why they would use this song title for a totally different song. It’s like reusing “Smoke On The Water” for a totally different song and not for a cover.

But in the end a simple funky rock groove is heard throughout the song and it’s cool to jam to.

A Simple Life

Written by Jon Lind and Richard Page. The same Richard Page from Mr Mister and Jon Lind had written or co-written songs like “Crazy For You” for Madonna and songs for Earth, Wind And Fire.

This one is a soft rock song.

Check out the vocal melody for the Chorus.

All Kinds Of People

Written by Eric Pressley, Sheryl Crow and Kevin Gilbert.

Yep the same Sheryl Crow and her songwriting partner Kevin Gilbert from her debut album were in demand and writing songs for other artists as well.

It’s in that soul contemporary pop rock vibe which was prominent in the 90s.

Romeo’s Heart

Written by Jennifer Kimball and Randy VanWarmer it appeared on Randy’s solo album “The Third Child” released in 1994.

And here it is a few years later as the title track. It has a soft rock Springsteen vibe.


Don’t Let It End

Written by Aaron Hendra an Australian-born songwriter, singer and guitarist who lives in the U.S.

It reminds of “Time Of My Life” from the “Dirty Dancing” movie.

Hearts On Fire

Written by Tom Kimmel and S. Lynch. I was wondering which S Lynch is a co-writer.

Could it be the Steve Lynch from Autograph?

Nope it’s Stan Lynch, the ex drummer from Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers who became a successful producer and songwriter.

On a side note, “That’s Freedom” was also written by Kimmel which Farnham recorded and it became a Top 10 hit for him in late 1990. So it’s no surprise that Farnham used him again.

The “Rocky IV” track comes to mind but it’s not it. The song is more blues soul rock.

Hard Promises To Keep

Written by Kimmie Rhodes ‎and the song appeared on her “West Texas Heaven” album released in 1994 and it’s in the vein of country ballads musically, but the vocal melodies are more in line with pop melodies.

Over My Head

Written by Ricard Pleasance and A. Tanner.

Richard Pleasance is an Australian rock musician and producer. He was a founding member of Australian band “Boom Crash Opera”.

It’s a ballad and it’s chord progressions is more like country rock ballads, reminding me of current songs like “Home” from Daughtry.

May You Never

Written by John Martyn it’s an up beat acoustic track that is played in the way Nuno Bettencourt plays on “More Than Words”.

John Martyn, is a British singer-songwriter and guitarist who released 23 studio albums over a 40-year career. He’s been described as blurring the boundaries between folk, jazz, rock and blues”.

Second Skin

Written by John Farnham, producer Ross Fraser and Chong Lim.

Finally Farnham gets a co-write in a track that is a cross between “Superstition” and “Play That Funky Music”.

If you want to hear John Farnham in a rock way, then “Whispering Jack” and “Age Of Reason” would suffice. If you want to hear Farnham in a soul and country rock way, then this album would donyje

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1996 – Part 3.6: Apocalyptica – Plays Metallica By Four Cellos

It could be seen as a gimmick to mimic hard rock and heavy metal songs on cellos.

But it’s no gimmick.

Because what you hear are technical players playing the the vocal melody, the guitar leads, the main riffs and sometimes the drum beat.

“Plays Metallica by Four Cellos” is the debut album by Finnish metal band Apocalyptica, released in 1996. It features instrumental Metallica covers arranged and played on cellos.

The band was invited to record this album by a label employee after a 1995 show in which they performed some of the songs. The members were initially unsure and thought nobody would listen to such a record, but the employee insisted and they recorded it.

And people liked it, especially in Europe. In Finland it was certified Platinum and it was certified Gold in Germany and Poland.

Enter Sandman

When you hear the vocal melodies of James Hetfield shifted from a voice to a cello, you get to understand how musical Hetfield’s vocal melodies are.

Master Of Puppets

So many good sections in this.

The way they play the Verse and Pre-Chorus with the vocal melody is a must listen.

But you will be pressing play on this to listen to the solo sections as they move from the clean tone arpeggios to the fast sections. And that whole clean tone arpeggios section is very Ennio Morricone sounding, when played on the cellos. But I never thought that hearing it with the electrics.

Harvester Of Sorrow

Great sequencing to have these three tracks one after another. Imagine an album that had this three punch combo.

The slow metal groove on the original version is a favourite and the guys in Apocalyptica do it justice, especially the cello that becomes like the percussive drum.

The Unforgiven

This song was made to be played via orchestras and cellos however I don’t think that was the intention of Hetifeld and Co. Yes, you can hear some of those Ennio Morricone influences in the original cut that appeared on the “Black” album, but goddamn when you hear the track in this medium, it’s a soundtrack song to a Clint Eastwood Western.

The intro, the chorus and the solo sections are essential listening. You really get to hear the quality and melodicism of Metallica.

And the sequencing of these four tracks is perfect.

Sad But True

When I first heard this song, I heard a bone crushing heavy metal cut with a Kashmir like groove. But when you hear it with the cellos, you immediately pick up on the Ennio Morricone influence.

Creeping Death

The Verses and the Chorus played on the cellos along with the vocal melody is essential listening.

Then instead of repeating the Verse and Chorus, the Apocalyptica guys go straight into the excellent Hammett lead break and the Conan The Barbarian “Die” section.

Wherever I May Roam

The middle Eastern style intro suddenly sounds like a Genghis Khan Mongolian soundtrack when played through cellos.

Welcome Home (Sanitarium)

This song was always going to work on cellos.

When the arpeggios start and Hammet’s lead begins in the Intro , its haunting and sad.

Basically if you like Metallica, you will like what Apocalyptica does here

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1996 – Part 3.5: Victor

If you search for Alex Lifeson in Spotify, this album would not come up, because even though “Victor” is a solo album by Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson, its released under the name of “Victor” and filed away under V.

Released in January 1996 on Anthem Records and recorded between the Rush albums “Counterparts” and “Test for Echo”, two of my favourite Rush records of the 90’s.

The musicians behind “Victor” are Alex Lifeson on guitars, bass and keyboards, plus spoken vocals on a few songs. Les Claypool makes an appearance on bass for “The Big Dance” while other bass tracks are handled by Peter Cardinali. Bill Bell is a Canadian guitarist who has toured and recorded with Jason Mraz, Tom Cochrane, Alex Lifeson and Danko Jones to name a few, also appears on guitar and Blake Manning is on drums.

For vocalists, Lifeson speaks on a few tracks, and a singer called Edwin (who I found out later is from a Canadian Rock band called “I Mother Earth”) does vocals on “Don’t Care”, “Promise”, “Sending Out a Warning”, “The Big Dance” and “I Am the Spirit”.

Another Canadian singer called Dalbello (otherwise also known as Lisa Dal Bello) appears on “Start Today”

“Don’t Care”

The track is written by Alex Lifeson.

The sound is grungy. But take away the studio sounds of the day and play the riffs through a 5150 amp, you’ll hear how heavy metal they are.

Some of the open string riffs do bring back memories of 70’s Rush.

Lyrically it’s so different from what Peart would write for a RUSH album. Its crude, full of fuck words and it’s basically about sex. The Rush elitists crucified him on the Rush boards back in the day for the lyrics. But Lifeson didn’t care.

“Promise”

Written by Lifeson and Bill Bell, it’s got this REM/Tragically Hip feel in the verses with a bit of “Limelight” in the Chorus.

I like the solo section. It has a riff which keeps repeating, while Lifeson does ambient like guitar noises and various note bends. It’s not technical, but its more abstract and it fits the vibe of the song. Then again it could be Bell on the solo. I don’t know.

“Start Today”

Written by Lifeson, check out the intro riff on this. Its huge, simple and yet progressive.

And Dalbello sounds a lot of like Geddy Lee when she hits her highs. A young Geddy Lee.

“Mr. X”

An Instrumental written by Lifeson. It sounds like a King Crimson cut, very Avant-garde, but the lead breaks are like blues jazz fusion.

“At the End”

Written by Lifeson and his son Adrian Zivojinovich. Adrian actually provides most of the computer programming which gives the songs he’s involved in, that Industrial tone.

Check out the riff at 2.24. I went straight for the guitar.

“Sending Out a Warning”

Another track written by Lifeson and Bell. And the riffs are interesting enough to get me to try and jam along.

The main riff by the way is excellent.

“Shut Up Shuttin’ Up”

Written by Lifeson and Bell, along with Lifeson’s wife Charlene and a person credited as Esther who basically provide the talking voices complaining about their husbands.

Musically, its funky, a bit bluesy and full of soul and every time the female voice overs say “Shut Up And Play The Guitar”, Lifeson begins to wail.

By the end of it, Lifeson is screaming back at em to “SHUUUT UUUP!”

For some reason, “The Audience Is Listening” from Steve Vai comes to mind.

“Strip and Go Naked”

Another Instrumental written by Lifeson and Bell.

The intro riff is one of this “Copperhead Road” riffs. Even Maiden used a similar riff on “Writings On The Wall”. Aerosmith on “Hangman Jury”.

But a Lifeson song moves within different musical pieces and this song is no other.

Check out the bluesy licks from the 2 minute mark over an ascending like bass riff and a strummed acoustic riff. And at 2.48 it goes back to the “Earle/Maiden” like riff.

But from 3.28 to the end, Lifeson takes that simple riff and makes it sound progressive. Listen to it.

“The Big Dance”

Written by Lifeson and Adrian Zivojinovich.

Man, that intro riff, so heavy.

And Les Claypool is on this, so the bass is prominent, syncopated with the kick drum.

“Victor”

Written by Lifeson and W.H Auden as the song is based on a poem written by Auden.

Its more experimental, with programmed drums and synths being prominent throughout while Lifeson recites the poem to us. It does nothing for me.

“I Am the Spirit”

My favourite song on the album and a perfect closer.

Written by Lifeson and Bell, it’s the most Rush sounding song on the album but the heavy rock sounding Rush.

“Tragically Hip” comes to mind here for the Verses with the vocal delivery, but musically, its Rush through and through.

The Chorus shows “The Spirit Of Radio”.

At 2.40, it quietens down and you hear some synth chords being played. Then Lifeson comes in with a clean tone guitar riff and man, what a riff it is. Different variations of it are heard throughout the song, but the way its delivered in this section, really brings it to life. One of his best riffs for the 90’s.

Then he goes into a guitar lead, which is emotive and perfect. But too short.

A great way to close the album.

Overall it’s not a perfect album and the spoken work melodies don’t really do much for me, but it’s that outside the box thinking which also draws me in, plus Lifeson always includes a riff or two in a song which makes me want to pick up the guitar and play along.

Check out this eclectic mix of blues rock, soul, funk, progressive, grunge, hard, industrial and alternative rock.

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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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