A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

New Music Releases vs Maintenance Music Releases

Looking at the recent spate of releases from bands that I like, I am asking the question;

When did new music change from being about new and original music to a maintenance model of new music?

Five Finger Death Punch’s new album “The Wrong Side Of Heaven Vol. 1” is “American Capitalist” Part 2. So I am assuming that volume 2 of “The Wrong Side Of Heaven”, will be “American Capitalist” Part 3.

In order to define what I mean by new, I will use Metallica as an example.

Metallica released “Kill Em All” in 1983, which paid homage to the “New Wave Of British Metal” movement with the tempo’s increased to 200 beats per minute. It was new, and there was a technical element to it. It spawned a thousand imitators.

In 1984, they released “Ride The Lightning”. It wasn’t the same as “Kill Em All”. It was vastly different musically and lyrically and it was new. The people responded and Metallica went into refining the “Ride The Lightning” model with great success.

“Master Of Puppets” is a very similar sounding album and the track listing mirrors “Ride The Lightning”. The difference between the albums was the songs. Metallica improved as songwriters. The people responded even more. Then came the technical masterpiece of “..And Justice For All”. Again, the structure of the album was built around the “Ride The Lightning” model. However, even though it was a new album, it was still released under the maintenance model built around “Ride The Lightning”.

Then in 1991, they pressed the reset switch and released “Metallica”. It was back to the new and the people responded in the twenty millions. The “Load” and “ReLoad” albums that followed fell into the Maintenance model of releases that followed the format of the mega successful “Metallica Black” album.

Then in 2003, they pressed the reset switch again and released “St Anger”. It was back to something different. Regardless of what others thought of it, it was a gutsy move to release an album that sounded like that, along with chaotic song structures.

Then in 2008, they pressed the reset switch one more time and delivered a new album rooted in the old. They had taken the best things from the “Ride The Lightning” model and the “Metallica Black” model to deliver “Death Magnetic”.

All bands encompass these transitions.

Let’s look at Dream Theater.

In 1988, they released “When Dream and Day Unite”. It was new, taking influence from the metal bands at the time and merging those influences with progressive elements.

In 1992, they released “Images and Words”. It was new again. They didn’t go and re-write “When Dream And Day Unite”. The people responded and the album was a success.

In 1994, they released “Awake”. This album formed part of their maintenance. A good album, however you can tell they tried to rewrite “Images and Words.” The people didn’t respond to this album as they did to “Images and Words.”

Then in 1997, they released “Falling Into Infinity”. This was a new album as it moved the band into a more mainstream progressive sound. Although it had progressive elements from all previous releases, the band was pushed to enter this direction. Again, it didn’t meet the expectations of the record label and it also caused division amongst band members.

In 1999, they pressed the reset switch and released a career defining album in “Scenes From A Memory”. People responded again to the band. It was a new album in every sense.

So in 2001, they went into part new and part maintenance mode. “Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence” kept with the concept theme on CD 2. CD 1 was all new tracks that showcased a very metallic element of the band as well as a very Tool style progressive element. Of course by 2001, Tool were huge all over the world.

Then in 2003, they pressed the reset button again and came out with the best progressive metal album in “Train Of Thought”. Any die hard metaller that wasn’t sure about the band, committed to them with this release. People responded as well, as metalcore was also on the rise and those young kids were looking for other forms of heavy music.

So in 2005, instead of re-doing “Train Of Thought”, they went into a part new / part maintenance model again with “Octavarium.” A notable influence this time around was Muse, who by 2004, were huge all over the world.

With the change of record labels, “Systematic Chaos” saw the band return to the metallic elements of “Train Of Thought” in 2007 with great success.

2009 saw “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” which encompassed everything that Dream Theater is in six tracks. It was New and it set a standard.

2011 saw “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”, the first album to not feature Mike Portnoy, who wanted the band to take a 5 year break and when the band said no, he departed. This album following the maintenance model of “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” and “Images And Words.”

2013 saw the release of “Dream Theater.” It has three songs that really stand out in “Illumination Theory”, “The Bigger Picture” and “The Looking Glass”. In the end, this is Dream Theater trying to create something new, however it is another maintenance album.

When you put these bands against the hundreds of millions of other musicians all making music, how does it all stack up.

There is a lot of great music out there that hasn’t been heard. There is a lot of good, a lot of okay and a lot of crap music as well.

With so much music being made every day and released every day, it is impossible for everyone to listen to it all. So when the label bands do end up releasing music, they need to make sure they captivate us to stick around, otherwise we just move on, trying to find something else in the meantime. Some other new niche. That is the new music business.

When an artist has an audience they need to be thankful for that audience. They need to show some respect towards that audience. The label bands have a head start, however if they turnover too many maintenance style of releases compared to something new and refreshing, the audience will move on.

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Alternate Reality, Music, My Stories

Top 10 Metal Albums of 1994 According To Guitar World (& then a new Top 10 is born with my additions)

I am in a “dust off” process at the moment. As an avid purchaser of all things musical, especially anything to do with rock and metal, I have a huge collection of magazines from 1986 to today’s date.

At the moment I am flicking through a Guitar World issue from 1995. The first thing that got my attention, is their Top 10 lists for the 1994 year. In the issue, they had a Top 10 list for Rock, Alternative, Metal and Roots/Blues. So here is the list from the esteemed Jeff Gilbert.

1. SOUNDGARDEN – Superunknown (A&M)

“It’s darker than Slayer’s underwear, moodier than Weiland and more depressing than an empty keg. It’s also the best hard music album of the year.”

What a production team of Michael Beinhorn and Brendan O’Brien. Surround yourself with the best and expect them to get great results for you. This is the album that Soundgarden is doing it’s victory lap on. It had a lot of elements that crossed over into the mainstream and it had a lot of elements still rooted in the rock/metal vibe they are known for. The fans agreed, sending the album into the millions. At last count, the album is pushing close to 6 million physical units in the U.S.

2. DANZIG – Danzig 4 (American)

“Danzig kiss the abyss with yet another moon-howling symphony for the devil. All the musical chaos and only one guitar solo. Cool.”

Rick Rubin is on board to produce, along with Glen Danzig. In my view, this shouldn’t be on the list.

3. MEGADETH – Youthanasia (Capitol)

“Dave Mustaine sounds like he’s getting a vacuum cleaner enema, but that’s okay because his riffs and Marty Friedman’s solos are among the best the band has ever spewed forth.”

Youthanasia continued the path away from thrash and more toward a classic rock feel. However the lyrical matter is still dark and depressing, which was perfect for 1994. Max Norman is behind the desk and he completes his trilogy of albums with Megadeth, that also includes Rust In Peace and Countdown To Extinction. In the ends, the fans spoke with their wallets and they liked the mix of rock and metal and another PLATINUM album was on board the “Train of Consequences.”

4. SLAYER – Divine Intervention (American)

“Furious buzz-bomb guitar runs eat away at your face like flesh-eating syndrome. Swarming solos sting you out of your drunken stupor. Slayer know what’s good for us.”

WTF. It’s like a Nostradamus prophecy. I am reading this in 2013, post Jeff Hanneman (RIP) and the term “flesh eating” just sticks out. The next term that sticks out is “drunken”. Knowing what we know now about Jeff Hanneman’s addiction to alcohol and the problems caused by the flesh eating parasite, the review above just doesn’t sit right. Modern metal producer Toby Wright is on hand to produce a 500,000 seller.

5. PANTERA – Far Beyond Driven (EastWest)

“Shits nails and wipes with barbed wire.”

Terry Date is at the boards again and a number one album is released. What can you say about Pantera that hasn’t been said. Due to Dimebag’s passing, we will never see the original band reconcile and perform again, so what we are left is the memories. Who knew back in 1994, that Dimebag would be shot dead 10 years later.

6. SKREW – Dusted (Metal Blade)

“The metallic counterpart of Nine Inch Nails and Ministry and they used one chord on the entire album. What gods!”

Pop, Dance producer Howie Beno is on board for an industrial slab of metal. It’s a peculiar mix, however 1994 was a peculiar time, with a lot of genre mash up’s happening. I don’t remember anything outstanding from this album that would have made me want to play it again.

7. ENTOMBED – Wolverine Blues (Sony)

“Grindcore masters Entombed pay crunching tribute to the coolest member of the X-Men. Maybe we can hook them up with the Silver Surfer and … oh sorry; someones already beat em to it.”

Grindcore was never my thing however the Swede’s sure know how to create something interesting. The thing about this album that I liked is that each song, had certain sections that just killed it. I remember taking out all of those sections from the songs, mashed them up and recorded them all as one track (a note for note rendition). It came to about 7 minutes. Then I started tweaking the song around, moving some riffs into different places, shortening a few and them combining the shorter riffs to form a new riff and so on. Within about three hours, i had a killer 5 minute tune, all inspired by Entombed, however totally unrecognisable.

8. DREAM THEATER – Awake (EastWest)

“Faster than a Silver Bullet, tighter than the jeans i bought six months ago, more powerful than a box of Ex Lax, this shred party left me punch drunk and, for once in my life, fully awake.”

John Purdell and Duane Baron are on board to produce. Again, another peculiar choice from the record label. A progressive band, has been given hard rock / pop metal producers. Not counting the Terry Date produced, “When Dream and Day Unite”, “Images and Words” had David Prater behind the boards. Following up the very unexpected and successful “Images and Words” album, “Awake” already had an uphill battle. For anyone that has read the “Lifting Shadows” book, it is mentioned there, that Derek Oliver was asking for another “Pull Me Under” and the band was trying to oblige.

9. MACHINE HEAD – Burn My Eyes (Roadrunner)

“Machine Head explore the world of religion gone mad with aggressive and severe riffing more dangerous than a cult leader with a vision.”

What a perfect blend of old school thrash and modern metal. Robb Flynn is the star from the outset. He is what ultimately sets Machine Head apart from the competition. Another difference between “Burn My Eyes” and all the rest of the hardcore/grindcore bands from 1994, was that Machine Head could actually write songs and in Robb Flynn, you had a vocalist that could actually sing.

10. KYUSS – Welcome To Sky Valley (Elektra)

“If you ever wanted to know what it feels like to be a laval lamp plugged into a Marshall, this album will take you there. The hairiest thing this side of Kim Thayil’s back.”

This one is a strange addition to a metal list, however it is that good and that varied, it deserves to be on some list. A mix of stoner rock and metal scene with progressive psychedelic elements.

Here are my additions to the above list;

LEVIATHAN – Deepest Secrets Beneath (Rock The Nations)

The best progressive metal album from 1994. It is a very accomplished debut album. While Dream Theater had the backing of a major label, Leviathan was on Rock The Nations, a small independent label. Produced by the excellent Jim Morris (Death, Control Denied, Circle II Circle, Iced Earth and many others).

KORN – Korn (Epic)

Now if this album went platinum or gold in 1994, it would be on the above list. However, this album was a slow burner. It reached GOLD status in 1996, on the back of the “Life Is Peachy” album. Even though I have been a Guitar World subscriber since 1986, it was very typical of what the magazine became renowned for; beholden to the advertisers and the PR companies. This album didn’t rate a mention however years later they trumped it up.

MOTLEY CRUE – Motley Crue (Elektra)

Of course, the Guitar World list is based on what was trending back in 1994 and Motley Crue was not in. However, their self titled album released in 1994, with John Corabi on vocals is heavy as hell and deserves to be on the list. It’s funny that the band that was cool in the Eighties was not cool in 1994. So if you are not cool, don’t expect to get any press from the established magazines. The only magazine that was giving the Crue any press was Metal Edge and then Nikki fucked that up as well.

SAVATAGE – Handful Of Rain (Atlantic)

Another so called “Eighties” band that wasn’t cool in 1994. Reeling from the death of their lead guitarist, Criss Oliva, Paul O’Neill and Jon Oliva wrote the most darkest, sorrowful and heavy as hell album. A worthy addition to any metal list from 1994. Jon Oliva also made his brother proud by recording all the rhythm guitars while gun for hire, Alex Skolnick came in and did the leads.

TESTAMENT – Low (Atlantic)

This is a killer album that got lost in the mix. After the Metallica “Black” album sound of 1992’s “The Ritual” didn’t get a great response, 1994 saw some changes. Guitarist Alex Skolnick and drummer Louie Clemente left. In came James Murphy (Death) and John Tempesta. The end product is “Low.” A different sound and a good one. The songs became lower and faster and groovy. Another slow burner, that kept on selling into 2000 and beyond.

So based on all of the above, here is my top 10 list from 1994;

1. Motley Crue – Motley Crue

What can I say, Bob Rock killed it in the producer’s chair, capturing Motley Crue at their heaviest. It is groove rock, mixed with classic rock, mixed with heavy metal. Listen to the interludes of Droppin Like Flies and Hooligan’s Holiday for supreme Korn like heaviness.

2. Machine Head – Burn My Eyes

Robb Flynn’s vocal style is his life style. A lot of people have tried to imitate it however you have had to have lived his lifestyle in order to pull it off.

3. Leviathan – Deepest Secrets Beneath

A progressive metal band that deserves greater accolades. Think Geddy Lee vocals on a bed of technical metal riffs.

4. Dream Theater – Awake

Worthy follow up to “Images and Words” and the last album to feature the talents of Kevin Moore. Of course Jordan Rudess is a far more accomplished pianist, however to me Kevin Moore is a better band member, due to his lyrical and vocal melody writing.

5. Pantera – Far Beyond Driven

What else can be said about Pantera that hasn’t been said. They kept the flag flying for groove and thrash metal, while other leaders jumped ship or broke up.

6. Korn – Korn

Any album that has an ominous shadow of a man in a kids playground on the cover already has a lot to live up to. In this case, Korn delivered a brutal first album. Not bad for a band that got signed solely based on their demo and no live shows.

7. Savatage – Handful Of Rain

Dark and sorrowful. The best way to pay a tribute to a fallen brother is to keep the music alive. Savatage and especially Jon Oliva, did exactly that.

8. Megadeth – Youthanasia

Dave Mustaine and Megadeth never achieved the “success” in sales as Metallica however to me, they defined and pushed the boundaries of technical thrash metal. Can you ever imagine James Hetfield singing over the “Holy Wars” riff. With “Youthanasia”, Megadeth delivered a killer rock album, which if i had to pick between “Youthanasia” and “Load” from Metallica, “Youthansia” wins hands down.

9. Testament – Low

When a band is more or less written off by the press, that is when they deliver. However due to a lack of label support, the album didn’t get out of the gates properly.

10. Slayer – Divine Intervention

I was going to put Kyuss or Soundgarden here, however my loyalty to Slayer wins out in the end.

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Music

Dream Theater

Article at Loudwire

I will be up front here and say that Dream Theater is one of my favourite bands.  I thought i was pretty good guitarist and then i heard Erotomania from the Awake album.  I was dumbfounded.  Here in Australia, we were saturated with the grunge movement.  As a guitarist that meant no solos.  In all of this, you had Dream Theater.   Awake was my first introduction to them, and i quickly went back to Utopia Record Store at Clarence St and purchased Images and Words and When Dream and Day Unite.  That is how we did it back then.  You had to catch a bus, then a train, then walk a little bit, just to purchase music.

250,000 people voted.  This poll/vote contest could seem to be a silly exercise, however it is far from that.  Dream Theater found out that they where in the final, and they put it out there to their fans.  The fans responded.  They took time to go and vote.  That is the key.  Connections.  The DT fans felt enough of a connection with the band, to respond to their call to arms.  They beat Metallica, who makes them look like small fish when it comes to selling concert tickets.  

Dream Theater are in the midst of recording their next album.  They have an online presence.  They all use Twitter and Facebook.  They offer video updates, video interviews and whatever else they can offer.  They even hired Michael Brandvold to be their Internet marketer.  They do Guitar Clinics, Keyboard Clinics and Drum Clinics.  That is a face to face connection.

If the fans respond to the album the same way they responded to DT’s call to arms to vote, expect big things.

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