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

John Sykes Compendium

Mirror

It’s from 1981’s “Spellbound” album that John Sykes played on with the Tygers of Pan Tang. There are numerous other songs that showcase Sykes leads however it is this song that showed he can compose majestic pieces.

Don’t Hurt Me This Way (Please Don’t Leave Me)

With Phil Lynott. A great song and even though on its initial release it wasn’t a hit, time has made sure that it is remembered as one.

Cold Sweat

As part of Thin Lizzy and this is John Sykes showing the world that he could write an indelible riff. “Cold Sweat” was the most famous and played track off “Thunder and Lightning”. This is heavy, hypnotic music. The song’s longevity is further cemented by the amount of times it has been covered by other bands.

Phil Lynott was unique in his vocal style and his lyrical style. At some stages he was even comical. To me he was the Frank Zappa of Classic Rock. Here he is touching on gambling. As a songwriter it is important to co-write with others. In this case, Sykes was learning and fine tuning his craft. By the time Sykes joined Whitesnake he had worked with numerous people who have had success.  These experiences are valuable. People who have had success can offer a perspective no one else can.

Bad Boys

From the true breakthrough album, 1987’s “Whitesnake.” Yep, it took a decade plus and a plethora of albums with a plethora of musicians for both John Sykes and David Coverdale to achieve international stardom.

Bad boys
Running undercover of moonlight
Bad, bad boys
Getting wild in the street
Wild in the city

No one wants to be a loner. We live in the era of group mentality. And we all wanted to be the bad boys howling at the moon. But it is the riff the hooks you in and the song throughout features blistering guitar work.

Still Of The Night

This was my first exposure to Whitesnake and John Sykes. Pure genius. The merging of all things nice from Led Zeppelin.

Immigrant Song. CHECK

Black Dog. CHECK

Kashmir. CHECK

The whole segment of the opening riff is a nod to the mighty Zep. I also love the cheesy break down where the guitar is treated like a violin. The heavy rock of the album was way ahead of its time. Nobody was doing ‘Still of the Night’-type classic rock in 1987 as everyone had jumped on the Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet” pop metal bandwagon. The album was right time, right place and right sound. It satisfied the hard rock Led Zeppelin fans as well as the glam metal, hard rock and heavy metal fans of that period.

The vocal melodies are rooted in the blues. David Coverdale is a master adaptor. It was the hit that anchored Sykes career however it wasn’t the hit of the album. That title went to “Here I Go Again”. But this song was unique enough so that everybody could relate to it. These kinds of songs don’t come in a flash. Time and effort is taken to craft them out. It’s longevity is due to its structure. It doesn’t follow the verse – chorus dynamic.

Looking For Love

I didn’t hear it until many years later as the song wasn’t available on the normal edition that I purchased. It is better than “Is This Love” however at over 6 minutes long, it wasn’t a commercially viable song. David Coverdale was shocked when he heard that John Kalodner would be cutting the song from the final album release. “Out Of Love” from Blue Murder’s 1989 debut is a derivative version along with “I Need An Angel” from Blue Murder’s 1993 “Nothin But Trouble” album. The “I need an angel / To take away the fear and the heartache” can easily be sung as “Im looking for love to rescue the state of my heart”.

Gimme All Your Love

You’ll be nodding your head to this. It’s the blues again.

Is This Love

This song was so good that John Sykes re-wrote it a lot of times. Derivative versions can be heard with “If You Ever Need Love” on 1995’s Out Of My Tree.

He struck too late with Blue Murder. Blame John Kalodner. Blame Bob Rock. Blame Geffen Records for catering to David Coverdale’s needs. The window of opportunity is small in the music business. Whitesnake’s album came out in April 1987. Sykes was fired towards the end of 1986. Blue Murder’s debut album came out in 1989. The iron wasn’t hot anymore by then. And because of that the debut album never gets any love, despite being solid throughout. Can’t say much about the pirate swash buckling image, however the music was epic and majestic. The songs. First class.

Bob Rock produced it and his connection with John Sykes was first developed while Sykes was a member of Whitesnake. At that time Sykes was in Vancouver recording basic tracks for the  1987 LP and Bob Rock was next door working with Bruce Fairbairn on the Honeymoon Suite album. Mike Fraser who was working on the Whitesnake album had a week off and Bob Rock came in. According to Sykes, Rock was responsible for creating the guitar sound on the Whitesnake album.

Originally Blue Murder was going to have Cozy Powell on drums. Eight months into the project Powell decided he wanted to do session work instead. Vinnie Appice from Dio heard that Sykes was looking for a drummer and he called his brother Carmine. Through various friends and record industry acquaintances, Sykes also hooked up with former Firm bassist Tony Franklin. They spent six weeks recording in Vancouver. Then the project came to a halt while Bob Rock went to work on the “New Jersey” album for Bon Jovi and then the “Sonic Temple” album from The Cult. During this period, Sykes kept on trying out singers as he never intended on doing the lead vocals himself.

Black Hearted Woman

My favourite song on the album and it is a derivative version of “Children of The Night” and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” from his Whitesnake days.

Valley Of The Kings

Co-written with Tony Martin.

“You’re workin’, slavin
Into death every day

Depending on how people view a 9 to 5 job, not much has changed since the time of the Pharaoh kings.

Jelly Roll

It’s the ballad like ending that rocks however an ending that good is lost within this song.

Billy

This is Sykes’s first real nod to Phil Lynott’s vocal style and story-telling.

Ptolemy

How heavy is the song. And what about that groove!

Listening to Blue Murder it doesn’t sound dated. The music has lost none of its power in the decades that have passed. That is the power of the riff and John Sykes was damn good at creating an awesome riff. The album is heavy without being bleak. You can listen to it while driving and you can listen to it in the comfort of your home. It is such a shame that the Blue Murder album got stiffed by David Coverdale playing record label politics and it’s follow up “Nothin But Trouble” got stiffed by the record label playing grunge politics. While “Nothing But Trouble” didn’t have the same impact has its predecessors, it is still a very satisfying album and it’s a John Sykes album I still listen to today.

We All Fall Down

From the second Blue Murder album “Nothin’ But Trouble”.  Sykes is channelling his Phil Lynott inspirations.

“Well Louie lost his daughter
Down behind that shack
The sweet brown sugar took her
And she did not make it back
It’s another form of suicide
Now I know the reason why I’m runnin’ “

You can imagine Phil singing it. The track had limited impact upon release, the album was a stiff, but the song lived on in live performances.

Cry For Love

“You promise heaven, but hell is all I see
(Mojo rising on the wind)
If there’s a lord above
Come rescue me
(Mojo rising on the wind)”

Any song that starts off with the above lyrics has my attention. “Cry For Love” is another derivative version of the “Valley Of The Kings” and “Still Of The Night” style that John Sykes is renowned for, however it doesn’t sound like a forgery.

Runaway

The song has a clichéd lyrical theme that was done to death in the Eighties, with Poison’s “Fallen Angel” and Bon Jovi’s “Runaway” being two notable examples. Still Sykes makes it sound original and heartfelt.

Then the shift from rock to grunge happened and Sykes was categorised as a rocker and a shredder. And by 1994, John Sykes is without a record deal.

What does he do next?

He goes solo. In a gatekeeper controlled market, interest in John Sykes was still high in Japan and Europe. The U.S market got pushed onto the grunge and alternative band wagon. Hard Rock fans had to pay top dollar for imports to satisfy their musical needs. The brand changed from Blue Murder to Sykes for 1995’s “Out Of My Tree” album. The line up included Maro Mendoza on bass and Tommy O’Steen on drums. The same musicians he used to cut the “Nothin’ But Trouble” album.

Soul Stealer

It kicks off the album. It was available as an import in Australia for more than $80 dollars. That was the beauty of geo-restrictions. Higher priced products. I didn’t hear this album until Napster hit in 1999 when I downloaded it illegally.

That bluesy groovy riff that kicks off the song just grabs you from the outset. Musically the whole song is solid but the lyrical message of a black hearted woman turning your world over was dated and out of touch. But that lead break. It is typical John Sykes shred. And very melodic.

I Don’t Wanna Live My Life Like You

A classic and it is the punk attitude that grabs your attention.

Why?

Because it is anti to what John Sykes is known for. Don’t get me wrong it still has all the technicality of a John Sykes song. The only difference is that Sykes found a way to make it sound simple and catchy. The song was way ahead of its time. And the lyrical theme was perfect. Sykes rewrote the song with “System Aint Working” from 1997’s
20th Century Heartache”.

Standing At The Crossroads

It’s Jimi Hendrix crossing the road with Free/Bad Company.

Jesus and Mary

Another song that is musically brilliant. The groove and the Kashmir chromatic bass line connect on so many levels however the lyrical theme about evil thoughts and a body buried in a cellar just doesn’t connect at all.

Black Days

It comes in at number 6 on the album and what a song. It’s the piece de resistance. First, the riff hooks you in and the John Bonham style drumming gets the foot tapping and the head nodding. It’s pure classic rock. The groove behind the music is undeniable. There is a guitar and drum call and response section before the solo breaks out. In 1995 no one had a chance to hear this song as the album was only available as an import outside of Japan. If you like what Sykes did to “Crying In The Rain” then you would love this song.

Do or Die

If it sounds like you have heard this song before, you have. It is a derivative version of “We All Fall Down”. But this is a classic John Sykes tune. It has all of his guitar styles especially the palm muted pentatonic riffs that go back to his Whitesnake days. Actually some of the stuff he does can be linked back to the NWOBHM. The track comes in at number 8 so you had to go deep into the album to hear it. And the vocal melody is another ode to Phil Lynott.

Cautionary Warning

From 1997, listen to the instrumental version. You cannot help but visualise that you are driving on the open road with the song cranking. And the thing is most people would not even know that it is John Sykes or they would not even know of him. It was the opening theme song of the Japanese anime TV series called “Black Heaven which is about the middle-aged members of a short-lived heavy metal and their unexpected role in an alien interstellar war.

The lyrical version is also a worthy listen.

Look In His Eyes/20th Century Heartache

It’s a good one/two punch from 1997’s “20th Century Heartache” album. This is the album when the complete switch happened to the Phil Lynott style of singing. Both songs have this punk attitude. At the end of the guitar solo in “Look In His Eyes”, listen how he uses his control of pinch harmonics to make his guitar sound like a siren. On a side note, Sykes was doing pinch harmonics with wide vibrato way before Zakk Wylde made it his trademark.

2 Counts

Again Sykes is on a groove mission. Musically brilliant, lyrically not so much.

Defcon 1

Musically, it is classic Judas Priest meets Ace Of Spades Motorhead.

Till The Day I Die

It’s John Sykes in Aerosmith mode. It’s from the “Loveland” album released in 1997.

From 1994 to 1997, John Sykes was in the “create constantly” cycle. Hell that is the modern paradigm today. He kept on making music. Some of it was good and some of it wasn’t. However that wasn’t the intention. He was creating so that he is not forgotten. The key to survival in the music business is to be remembered.

We Will

Six years between albums. Sykes toured as Thin Lizzy as a tribute to Phil Lynott in between. He got lost making a living. He went on the road with Thin Lizzy for financial reasons. “Nuclear Cowboy” came out in 2003. There was a change in sound however there are still enough Sykeisms in there to bring it back to the classic rock groove that he is renowned for. This is the opening track and it surprised a lot of us with the use of samples and drum machines. It was a bold and brave attempt to sound current however if you hear this song today, those samples and drum machines make the song sound dated.

Talkin’ Bout Love

The vocal melodies and the music is hooky and poppy.  One of the most adventurous songs.

One Way System

Another derivative version of “I Don’t Wanna Live My Life Like You”, “Look In His Eyes” and “20th Century Heartache”. A worthy addition to the list and it is as close to the old Sykes you will find here.

I Wish It Would Rain Down

Has an unbelievable Parisienne Walkways influenced solo. It is the ballad of the album and a good one at that.

And since 2003 it has been a long time between albums.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit, Unsung Heroes

Music Trends in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal – What’s On The Up and What’s On The Down

ON A DOWN SLOPE

DAUGHTRY

The band leader, Chris Daughtry messed up big time chasing the crowds of “Train” and “Imagine Dragons”. He was a hard rocker from day dot and that is what gave him his legion of fans. For the ill-fated and recent “Baptized” album, he committed career suicide, throwing his lot with the hit songwriters. The songs are good, however they are not Daughtry songs. It would have been better for him as an artist to have given those songs to other artists that are more electronic pop rock minded. Daughtry needs more music right away and they need it to ROCK.

RECORD LABELS

The major metal and rock labels will continue to sign the bands and artists that had success in the Eighties and Nineties and get those bands to release forgeries of their greatest hits. It’s all about locking up the songs under copyright. “He who owns a lot of copyrights, will make a lot of money in the future, when said artists are dead and buried.”

In relation to new bands, they will sing fewer bands on even more shittier deals and shift their efforts to breaking them. It doesn’t mean that we will pay attention. It will be bands from certain niche’s that will break out and we will gravitate to them.

Also no one wants to pay. Look at the APP business. The highest downloaded APPS are all free ones. And they are still making money. We are happy to provide our private data to Apple and Google, as long as we get what we want, with no strings attached. If a record label has a business model that is dependent upon people paying, re-evaluate.

KIRK HAMMETT

He is out of touch. We live in a world right now that is connected 24/7. A lot of those connections happen because of social media. So his recent, “Ivory Tower” comments about social media show just how out of touch he is. Also from seeing him play live on three occasions, he has made a career on the coat tails of James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. Don’t believe me, watch the making of the Black album, especially the scene when Bob Rock tells him that the solo he just put down for “The Unforgiven” is garbage.

HYPE

We can see through the hype and we hate it. So much hype was around Dream Theater’s self titled release and it disappeared from the conversation within six weeks. Megadeth’s “Super Collider” is being outsold by the Black album. Daughtry’s “Baptized” took forever to record and it did nothing. You can’t have a song called “Long Live Rock N Roll” and not have it sounding anything like ROCK. It sounds like that one hit wonder song “I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker With A Flower In My Hair.”

RESPONSE SYSTEMS FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT

NAPSTER showed the music business and the entertainment business at large, how fans of music, movies and books want to consume content. They want to download it easily, free of DRM, use it in any way they want and they want to do it for free.

For all of the talentless CEO’s that flew in private jets off the hard work by the artists, this was a big NO NO. So off they went to their lobby group arms, the RIAA and MPAA and they started to lobby hard the governments. The various sister associations around the world started to do the same thing. The best thing they could come up with is a graduated response system, financed by the ISP’s. It failed in France. It failed in New Zealand. In the U.S it is hard to tell, especially when you have a copyright troll like Rightscorp shaking down IP addresses. So if Rightscorp is sending shake down notices to ISP’s, then why does the US have a graduated response scheme?

The bottom line is this, the people who the RIAA and MPAA want to catch are years ahead of them in INNOVATION. And INNOVATION is what they should be focusing on.

THE ALBUM FORMAT

We are challenged with time and we only want the best. Since we are allowed to cherry pick, we will. Heavy Metal and Hard Rock artists need to understand they are in the hit business. It doesn’t matter if they are radio-friendly or not. Each band in each metal and rock genre, needs to create that song that hits us on the first listen.

That is why bands like Five Finger Death Punch, Avenged Sevenfold and Shinedown are so successful. They get the game. That is why Killswitch Engage is successful. Adam Dutkiewicz understands the power of a massive chorus. That is why Trivium is having a career. Over the course of all of their albums, they always had a song that had “hit potential” for the genre they are in.

Making money is hard. Just because a band releases an album, it doesn’t mean that we want to pay for it in its entirety, especially if it has got a couple of crap songs on it. It’s better to release 8 songs that a “certifiable smashes” instead of 12 songs that have four crap ones. However, it turns out the public still has time for Metallica’s “Black” album. It is still moving two to three thousand units a week and it is expected to pass 16 million by May.

Artists need to think about the no limits that digital offers them. We want the good stuff. Artists need to think about how they can provide us the good stuff, without resorting to the album format. Don’t base your career on dropping an album every two years. An artist needs to base their career on constant events.

GOING GOING ALMOST GONE

CLASSIC ROCK

The artists are on their last legs. Motley Crue is ceasing to tour, however stand alone shows, plus new music are still in the works. They have hit the same markets over and over again since their 2004 comeback and in between they have released 3 new songs on a “Greatest Hits” album, 13 new songs on “Saints of Los Angeles” and 1 new song in 2012. The train is slowly coming to a halt.

Aerosmith released a DUD. The train is not a rolling anymore for them. All up, Classic Rock bands have maybe have another 10 years left.

A transition is happening. The younger acts are generating touring dollars, playing smaller venues and at affordable prices. It’s happening.

ON THE UP

STORYTELLING

That is why TV shows are the most downloaded torrents of all time. Tell a good story and the world will be at your door step.

RICHIE SAMBORA

Seeing him in Australia, he is invigorated and he is having a blast. Not having to play second fiddle to Jon Bon Jovi, he is branching out again and this time, his roots are strong enough to balance his branches. The “Aftermath Of The Lowdown” is the best hard rock record from 2012 that went unnoticed because it was released so close to his Bon Jovi work.

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High Wire – The Streets Cry Badlands, Till The Day That I Die

With Jake E Lee excommunicated from the Osbourne camp no one was sure what he would do next. In 1988, Badlands formed however the connections that made this happen go back to the years that Jake spent with Ozzy.

The original Badlands line up was Ray Gillen on vocals, Eric Singer on drums, Greg Chaisson on bass and of course Jake E Lee on guitar. And we will never be able to see the band that cut the self-titled debut album reunite. Ray Gillen has passed and Eric Singer said in an interview on the Daves on Tour website that his memories of Badlands aren’t good ones.

“I saw a lot of potential with really talented people turn into a sad situation.”

Eric Singer auditioned for Ozzy back in 1985 and he didn’t get the gig. Greg Chaisson also auditioned for Ozzy around the same period and he also didn’t get the gig. Both of them lost out to Randy Castillo and Phil Soussan. The outcome for both Singer and Chaisson was that they got to meet Jake E Lee and have a jam with him. That is the Jake E Lee connection.

Eric Singer also did a stint in Black Sabbath during the Glenn Hughes/Ray Gillen era. That is the Ray Gillen connection. Music is a relationship business and it was these relationships, albeit small ones once upon a time, that ended up getting together to create one hell of a debut album.

In an interview with Kerrang from May 1989, this is what Ray Gillen had to say on the bands beginnings;

“I was particularly keen on the project because I had to pick myself up off the floor after my involvement with the Blue Murder project had gone sour. I was basically asked to leave the band due to outside record company pressure. John Kalodner, one of the top people at Geffen Records, simply said that I couldn’t sing!”

John Sykes’s search for a singer for his post Whitesnake project was legendary and in the end it was John Kalodner who decided it.

By 1989, metal music needed a re-invention. The answer was a new breed of bands with guitar gods as their centrepiece. Enter, Badlands, along with Blue Murder, Mr Big and Lynch Mob.

Wearing their Seventies classic rock influences on their sleeves and very cleverly merging the minor key riff remnants of the mid-Eighties heavy metal sound, Badlands hit the target. Each song was unique. Engineer James A. Ball mentioned in a Guitar World interview from July 1989, that the album was recorded in about ten studios. Each studio brought its own sound to the songs and you can hear it.

This is what Jake E Lee had to say on the band in an interview with Guitar World from July 1989;

Badlands is purer because I didn’t have to filter my ideas through Ozzy. Ozzy encouraged a flashier, trick-oriented style. Badlands is definitely more blues-based. When we got together we started by playing old Cream, Free, Led Zeppelin—the things we all grew up on. When we started writing songs, it carried over. I naturally went back to my pre-Ozzy approach. Our bassist, Greg Chaisson, says he’s relieved. He used to see me in my club days when I was playing in Ratt and Rough Cutt, and said I was his favourite. When he heard “Bark At The Moon”, he was disappointed.

Paul O’Neill was also the producer and was also their manager. He is well-known today with his work with Savatage and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. One thing that Paul O’Neill does not credit for, is his song writing skills. He didn’t have mainstream hits like Desmond Child or Jim Vallance or Max Martin, however he was involved in writing some hard rock and heavy metal classics.

The standout song on the debut is “High Wire” and that song is a Jake E Lee and Ray Gillen composition. It cemented Jake’s reputation. You can’t keep a super star down and what a great way to open the album.

How good is that opening riff?

If anyone has heard the song “Transatlantic Blues” from The Night Flight Orchestra, you will hear this riff re-used. It is a hidden gem and a piece of kick ass hard rock. Adrenaline Mob also covered it last year on “Coverta” and paid tribute to the original in a damn good way.

The beauty of the song is the simplicity. It is a simple A to C, A to D riff, the cornerstone to all classic blues/classic rock songs.

“Winter’s Call” is written by Jake E Lee, Ray Gillen and Alex Gonzalez. It is the most Zeppelinesque song on the album, especially in the verses, combining Middle Eastern drones with Celtic modes. It is also one of the oldest songs on the album, as the song’s roots go back to 1983.

“Streets Cry Freedom” is the next gem and the song is written by Jake E Lee, Ray Gillen and Paul O’Neill. What a great way to close off side one. When vinyl was king, albums got sequenced by having a great opening track and a great closing track.

“Till the day that I die”.

The comparisons to Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie and Bad Company are prevalent in this song. The song’s verses are a typical 12 bars blues. Instead of playing it in the standard way, Jake E Lee shows his guitar smarts by arpeggiating the verses.

Again, the song sounds complex, however it is simple, especially the way it picks up towards the end.

“Seasons” is a gem on the second side. It is another song by the Jake E Lee, Ray Gillen and Paul O’Neill song writing team and man, it reminds me a lot of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”.

This was 1989 and MTV ruled. Bands needed a hit to get recognition. So while “Dreams In The Dark” did the video rounds, as the record label decided it had the most “hit” potential, songs like “Winters Call”, “Seasons” and “Streets Cry Freedom” slipped under the radar. This is Jake E Lee at his best. He soars on these songs, like a free bird. And Ray Gillen made John Kalodner eat his words.

Then there are the stories about how “Hard Driver” reminds me of “Death Alley Driver” from Rainbow. How Jake E Lee used a black Les Paul Custom originally owned by Carlos Santana for “Rumblin’ Train” and how the song was written while Jake E Lee was tuning up his guitar.

The self titled album is brilliant. While other artists went with the one hit single per album and the rest as filler, Badlands delivered an album strong from start to finish. I sort of forgot about these albums and it was Jake’s re-appearance last year that re-awakened all of these memories.

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The Best Metal and Rock Top 10 for 2013

Well the year is almost over and it is time to look back at the albums that connected and hit the mark for 2013. Anyone who has been a constant visitor to this blog will notice that I have spoken about these albums in previous posts in more detail.

1. Protest The Hero – Volition

Disclaimer; I was one of those fans that contributed to this album, so the competition for the best album of 2013 wasn’t even close. Protest The Hero wins hands down. They delivered an album for the fans. It has everything that a condensed progressive technical metal album should have. Plus it has Chris Adler on drums. In 2011, “Scurrilous” was number seven on my list.

If you want the detailed breakdown, here it is;

This album also shows how the mainstream media is out of touch. Despite all the hype around Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold, Dream Theater, Korn and Black Sabbath, the biggest release of the year belongs to Protest The Hero.

And deservedly so.

They connected with their audience via Indiegogo. They have cut through all the internet noise without the need of major label. In the age of information overload, Protest The Hero relied on their audience and their music to get their message through.

2. Avenged Sevenfold – Hail To The King

Call this album what you will, however no one can take away the fact that it is a damn good listen. Having those nods to the past and building on those influences is what music is all about. In twenty years time, this album will be revered and copied, because that is how music is made.

3. Five Finger Death Punch – The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell Vol 1

Part 1 is a killer classic metal album with arena melodic rock chorus. Watch You Bleed, Lift Me Up, The Wrong Side Of Heaven, Anywhere But Here are all rock sing a longs.

4. Killswitch Engage – Disarm The Descent

Jesse Leach is back and man can he write a catchy chorus. Each song goes through so many vocal emotions, it’s one heck of a roller coaster. The Times Of Grace project brought Jesse back into the metal world. “The Hymn Of A Broken Man” was one great album and it was in my top 10 list for that year.

In 2009, I also had the self titled Killswitch Engage album at number five in my top 10 list.

5. TesserAcT – Altered State

This band is really branching out from the Djent constraints by embracing atmospheric style song writing. The math metal is still there and the vocals bring it all home. I have always said, TesseracT will be seen as the new Pink Floyd by a whole new generation. In 2011, TesseracT came in ninth position with the album “One”. I was pleasently surprised to see this one pop in Robb Flynn’s top 10 list.

6. Trivium – Vengeance Falls

Trivium have always had the balls to make decisions. Working with Dave Draiman is one of them. Seriously i cant see an issue with how the vocal melodies are phrased or delivered by Heafy. I really like this album. The music is top-notch and the songs are of high quality. In 2011, Trivium came in tenth position with the album “In Waves”.

7. Coheed and Cambria – The Afterman – Descension

Another band that is employing data to connect with fans. They have been on the road since January and released two slabs of music within 3 months. This album doesn’t have Domino The Destitute, but it has Sentry The Defiant plus others.

8. Five Finger Death Punch – The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell Vol 2

A Day In My Life. Man that chorus just hooks me in. Put to the side the cliché rhyming from Moody and just focus on the musical melodies and you will be hooked as well. It’s been played on repeat on my iPhone on my way to work and on my way home.

“American Capitalist” was fifth in my 2011 list and “War Is The Answer” was 2nd in 2009, just behind “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” from Dream Theater.

9. Volbeat – Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies

I was a fan of this band before they broke through in the U.S. It was the “Rock The Rebel/Metal The Devil” album from 2007 that made me a fan. I was really looking forward to this release and the band didn’t disappoint. It has all of their trademarks with a dash of country and hillbilly thrown into the mix.

10. Alter Bridge – Fortress

Mark Tremonti is one hell of a guitar player and most importantly a hell of a songwriter. Teaming up with Myles Kennedy has been a godsend. Alter Bridge get better with each album and they rarely fail to disappoint.

Notable Mentions

Audrey Horne – Youngblood

If you don’t know this band, you should. I swear every genre of music and time period associated with music is heard on this album. Give this band the attention they deserve. Their whole catalogue is on Spotify so there is no excuse to not check them out. Any band that is from Norway and with a black metal post deserves to be heard in a hard rock context.

Mutiny Within – Synchronicity

The only thing holding this band back is what their definition of success is and Chris Clancy. He is so hung up on fighting for the old system and how it used to be, he is failing to see opportunities in front of him.

Hearts And Hands – My Own Machine

A great pop metal or pop rock album. Hearts and Hands started off as a side project for Chelsea Grin vocalist Alex Koehler. However since he departed after their 2012 self titled EP, the band has undergone a significant transformation and their sound has shifted away from breakdowns and screams to effected guitars, acoustics and great songs.

Love and Death – Between Here and The Lost

A hundred times better than the new Korn album. They even sound like Korn on some of the songs. Brian Head Welch is a star and this album proves it.

Sound Of Contact – Dimensionaut

Progressive Rock and a voice that sounds very similar to Phil Collins. Plus any album that has a concept attached to it, always gets my attention. Its plot follows an alienated, unnamed human who is tired of humanity and embraces his fate as a traveler of dimensions, time and galaxies. Throughout the story, the dimensionaut constructs his escape from reality, realizing new experiences and encountering love in the process.

Faith Circus – Turn Up The Band

If this band had the same attention as Avenged Sevenfold, critics would come out and comment how each song sounds like a rip off from every successful glam rock and blues rock album made in the Eighties. Music is derivative and Faith Circus deliver. It is a great listen from start to finish. Another band from Norway that deserves your attention.

Final Notable Mentions

Due to my kids overdosing on the music I placed on their iPods certain classic rock albums have come back into my life.

Twisted Sister – You Cant Stop Rock N Roll
Twisted Sister – Stay Hungry
Kiss – Lick It Up
Kiss – Asylum
Kiss – Destroyer
Deep Purple – Machine Head
Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet
Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger
Europe – The Final Countdown

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Music Isn’t Just About Record Sales

Change is hard and in the end it is always worthwhile. There is a cliché that goes that after being fired or rejected or dumped one door closes and a million other doors open that will lead to a better place. It is true, however the main part that nobody talks about is how long it’s going to take to get to that better place.

The highs of success and fame are brief. It begins to fade and then what are you going to do next?

Vince Neil

On July 6, 2013, Vince Neil played a solo show in Mexico City. The venue was Jose Cuervo Salon. The capacity of the venue is 1,500. The attendance was 64 people. That’s right, less than 5% of the total venue size. Total Gross sales for the night was $2,286. There was only one ticket price at $35.72. So does anyone really care about Vince Neil outside of Motley Crue? Based on the ticket sales, Mexico sure don’t.

What a hard truth that is? Music is a tough business and this is what happens when you go out every night with Motley Crue and sing out of tune. Also why is he touring. He hasn’t released anything new recently. Also when he does tour, all he does is play Motley Crue songs. No one wants to hear Vince Neil do Motley again. I don’t know why, as there are some great songs in the Vince Neil catalogue that fans would love to hear live.

His debut album “Exposed” celebrated 20 years this year. He should have commemorated that release? It is a great album and there is an audience for it. It might mean he plays smaller venues that fit a couple of hundred. However he needs to sing in tune to get people to come back time and time again.

It is a good thing he is getting into the restaurant business and the Tequila/Wine business.

Classic Rock and Southern Rock Rule in Gilford, New Hampshire

On July 3, 2013, the Gigantour tour hit Gilford, New Hampshire. The venue was Meadowbrook. The capacity of the venue is 6,657. The attendance was 1,308. That’s right, 1,308 people turned up to watch Megadeth, Black Label Society, Device and Hellyeah. Total Gross sales for the night was $49,860. There was three tiers of ticket prices ranging from $42, $33 and $23.75.

My first opinion was that the low attendance is due to the poor recent albums put out by the bands involved. Don’t get me wrong, all of those albums are worthy of a listen, but there is nothing really engaging to go back for seconds.

This show should have been a sell-out. The Gigantour tour has never hit Gilford, New Hampshire before. So it is not a market that has seen the Gigantour tour before. However, if you take just the town of Gilford and its population of 7000, then you see it is a small market and the attendance of 1,308 people is not a bad result. Add to the mix that other rock shows are playing the same venue in the weeks leading up to the Gigantour show and in the weeks after, you start to form a different viewpoint.

With most shows a lot of people come from surrounding towns as well. I know in Australia that Sydney is the place that most bands play, however the audience is derived from places in NSW that are a decent hour or three or five away from Sydney.

On July 9, 2013, Daughtry, 3 Doors Down, Halestorm and Bad Seed Rising also played the Meadowbrook at Gilford, New Hampshire. The attendance was 2,718 in a venue that fits 6,219 (for this shows the capacity was reduced due to the stage size). Total Gross sales for the night was $142,431. There was four tiers of ticket prices ranging from $59.50, $49.50, $39.50 and $29.50.

Again not even half full. Daughtry is a platinum selling major label backed super star. 3 Doors Down are also in the same league, although they haven’t reached the same heights as the early two thousands and Halestorm are Grammy award winners. So what’s gone wrong. Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company is what went wrong.

On July 26, 2013, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company also played the Meadowbrook at Gilford, New Hampshire. The attendance was 6,671 in a venue that fits 6,671 (that’s right people, classic rock and southern rock sold out the venue). Total Gross sales for the night was $407,641. There was three tiers of ticket prices ranging from $79, $59 and $33.25.

Classic rock and southern rock trumped everyone. Lynyrd Skynyrd released “Last of a Dyin’ Breed” in August 2012 however that album was dead and buried by the July 2013. Bad Company on the other hand haven’t released anything worthwhile for a long time. However when you combine the two acts, put a 40th Anniversary name to the tour and you have people from that era interested. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first album release and Bad Company’s formation happened 40 years ago. To prove my point, I am going to watch Bon Jovi in Sydney, because I want my kids to experience it.

Classic Rock Rules Part II

On July 19, 2013, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band played a show in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The venue was the MTS Centre. The capacity of the venue is 8,397. The attendance was 8,397. Total Gross sales for the night was $724,948. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $107.15 and $63.31.

Talk about turning the page. What a comeback from the man with the golden voice? Thank Metallica for their cover of “Turn The Page” in 1998. The Metallica version made Bob Seger cool with the metal community and who can forget the Metallica clip with Ginger Lynn.

Another turning point for Bob Seger’s comeback was 3 Doors Down and heir song “Landing In London” that Bob Seger sang on.

Once “Landing In London” came out in 2005, interest in Bob Seger was renewed. It was followed by a new album in 2006 and a few Greatest Hits / Live packages in between.

Guess what else is happening in the world of Bob Seger? A new album is on its way. Isn’t that like the old guard. He is hot at the moment so let’s release a new album. Why don’t the people that advise Seger release a new song first and see how it resonates with the public before dropping a slab of them.

Classic Rock III

On July 2, 2013, Alice Cooper played a show at South Bend, Indiana. The venue was Morris Performing Arts Center. The capacity of the venue is 2,552. The attendance was 1,662. Total Gross sales for the night was $77,967. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $69.50 and $39.50.

This is Alice Cooper fresh from his run with Marilyn Manson that ended in June. This show was billed as “An Evening With Alice Cooper” and it was his first show in South Bend in 4 years. There is still juice in the tank of a cultural icon.

On July 28, 2013, Ted Nugent and Laura Wilde played a show in Nashville, Tennessee. The venue was the Ryman Auditorium. The capacity of the venue is 2,037. The attendance was 1,254. Total Gross sales for the night was $67,893. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $59.50 and $39.50.

Just like Alice Cooper, Ted was coming off a Classic Rock run with REO Speedwagon and Styx. As with Alice, there is still life left in our favourite gun toting / wildlife hunter.

Wish they would take a leaf out of the Black Star Riders playbook? Their album, “All Hell Breaks Loose” is a great slab of classic rock songs. I was always a fan of Rick Warwick from The Almighty days so it was great to hear him rocking out again with a Phil Lynott swagger this time around, instead of a Brian Johnson swagger.

What Does A Grammy Award or Nomination Mean in 2013?

Halestorm (along with Age Of Days) played a show on June 26, 2013 at Edmonton, Alberta. The venue was the Starlite Room. The capacity of the venue was 700. The attendance was 492 and the total gross sales for the night was $12,778. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $27.61 and $24.76.

Halestorm are still paying their dues. The Grammy win means nothing to today’s music public. The record labels that pay the entry fee are the ones that can compete. It’s got nothing to do with public opinion.

Hell, Dream Theater and Megadeth were nominated for Grammies last year and their current albums can’t move past the 100,000 mark in sales. If the music is great it will sell itself.

Both Dream Theater and Megadeth should look up the Wikipedia entry of “Instant Karma” from John Lennon.
“It ranks as one of the fastest-released songs in pop music history, recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios the same day it was written, and arriving in stores only ten days later. Lennon remarked to the press, he “wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch, and we’re putting it out for dinner.”

This is what both bands need to be doing. Writing some new material ASAP. Forgot about the next album or the tour coming up and go back into the studio and churn a couple of songs out. Surprise us for Christmas.

Alice In Chains is still powerful

On July 11, 2013, Alice In Chains played a show in London, Ontario, Canada. The venue was Budweiser Gardens. The capacity of the venue is 5,248. The attendance was 4,801. Total Gross sales for the night was $237,558. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $56.57 and $30.90.

I can’t say I am a fan of the new Alice In Chains album. It’s pedestrian. However the fans are there. If they are there because of the old or the new or both, it doesn’t matter. The band is a quarter of a million per show band.

Power Metal Rules In Europe

On April 18, 2013, Helloween, Gamma Ray and Shadowside played a Power Metal feast in Hamburg, Germany. The venue was the Docks. The capacity of the venue is 1,500. The attendance was 1,171. Total Gross sales for the night was $51,299. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $52.52 and $43.33.

You have German bands playing in Germany. Enough said. The thing with power metal bands is that they know the size of their audience. You won’t see them playing venues larger than the above size. Maybe 3000 max. it is a niche and it has a hard core and devoted fan base. They even have power metal outdoor festivals where fans even get dressed up in medieval clothing and enact sword fights and so forth.

This is a good indication of bands still carving out a living in a time where they have no promotion in the large US market. This is a good indication of bands still carving out a living in a time where people download music illegally or stream it legally.

The Black Crowes still do good business

On July 19, 2013, The Black Crowes, Tedeschi Trucks Band and The London Souls played a show in Nashville, Tennesse. The venue was the Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel. The capacity of the venue is 4,056. The attendance was 3,273. Total Gross sales for the night was $215,641. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $115 and $49.50.

I watched The Black Crowes at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre on April 1, 2008. The venue had less than a thousand people in attendance in a venue that has a capacity of around 10,000, so the stage was moved heaps forward to accommodate for the smaller audience.

It was the best show I saw. They jammed, they extended songs and just had fun. Rich Robinson was the sheriff. He was the one they all looked too for when the jam starts and when the jam ends.

That is a sign of a true champion. The night before, they played to a sold out Sydney audience 70 minutes away. They could have chucked a hissy fit at the small turn out for the Wollongong show, however they didn’t. They came out and they rocked.

There is plenty of money available in music and the more people that have access to your recorded music means more fans that could turn into customers.

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The State Of Heavy Metal

There it is again. Heavy metal. It doesn’t matter how many times the labels tried to kill it, mainstream it or commercialize it, Heavy Metal has remained consistent from when it began. Whenever pop music becomes pretentious, heavy metal rises up as an alternative answer.

What does the term “heavy metal” mean?

Black Sabbath started something in 1969 in the UK. Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin started something on the hard rock front. In the U.S you had Kiss, Styx, Ted Nugent, Journey. In Australia, you had a pub rock band called AC/DC. Progressive Rock became a force to be reckoned with on the backs of Pink Floyd, ELP, Genesis and Yes.

By the mid Seventies, disco, punk and new wave became the darlings of the scene and heavy metal and all forms of rock went underground again, waiting for the day to rise again.

Then came the New Wave of British Heavy Metal between 1979 and 1983. At the same time, hard rock, glam metal and speed metal roared out of the Los Angeles and San Francisco scene. Think Motley Crue, Ratt, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer.

When heavy metal and hard rock drops off the mainstream scene, it is never gone for long. Heavy Metal is the answer to all things corrupt. It is the soundtrack.

Typically most metal fans come from working-class homes or changed family dynamics. According to a recent study, all us metal heads must have low self-esteem, because that is why we listen to metal music.

The mainstream always ignored metal music, seeing it as too dumb. Of course, when a band breaks through, the mainstream are the first group of media outlets to jump on the wagon. Remember Metallica. Ignored by the mainstream completely. The only mainstream press they got was the sad and tragic death of Cliff Burton. Then the Black album comes out and it is undeniable. It’s a juggernaut and everyone wanted to be a part of it.

So here is the list of the current state of heavy metal.

CLASSIC EVERYTHING

Rush – enough said. Move on.

AC/DC – enough said times two.

CLASSIC METAL

Iron Maiden – they need another great album like “Brave New World” soon or they will be playing to smaller and smaller audiences with each tour.

Metallica – they need to start making better decisions and they need to release new music. Look at their decision-making process. A project with Lou Reed (RIP) that just didn’t connect with the fan bases of each party involved and an $18 million dud of a movie. In relation to new music, they can only go back to the same market place year after year before the fans get burned on it.

Megadeth – Dave Mustaine said on “The Metal Show” that his top five Megadeth albums are “Countdown To Extinction”, “Rust In Peace”, “Peace Sells”, “So Far So Good So What” and “Killing Is My Business”. He needs to have a current album in that Top 5.

Slayer – are finished in relation to new music without Jeff Hanneman. He was the main songwriter in Slayer, full stop. To hear Kerry King saying that if the Jeff Hanneman music in the archives is not good, it will be not used is a load of B.S. Who made Kerry King the gatekeeper?

Judas Priest – is not Judas Priest anymore. It’s all about the dollars.

Black Sabbath – is all about the last paycheck. Anyone remember the recent album? Name me the whole track list without Googling it. I bet if i asked you to name me the whole track list on “Paranoid” or “Heaven And Hell” I would get an answer.

Pantera – lets hope that no one is stupid enough to reform Pantera with a “guitarist” paying tribute to Dimebag. Stick to your guns Vinnie. Pantera died completely when Dimebag died.

CLASSIC ROCK

Led Zeppelin is still big business in the market place. That is what the mighty Zep has become. A Corporate entity.

Pink Floyd are on hiatus however Roger Waters is still doing the rounds. He is the real deal anyway.

Motley Crue have gone back to the same market places year after year since 2008. The fans are getting burnt on this grab for cash as no new music has been forthcoming expect for the song “Sex”. The movie and the farewell tour are constantly dropped to the public.

Deep Purple should call it a day. They are out of ideas and inspiration.

Styx, Journey, Toto and Night Ranger are shadows of their former selves, doing enough to make a living in the current music business, but out of touch of what the music business fans want from their artists today. Which is a direct line, a connection.

THRASH/GROOVE METAL

Machine Head is the leader in this group. In Robb Flynn, they have a work horse of epic proportions who has the grit to see things through.

Trivium are real contenders. Say what you will about them, one thing is clear; they are not afraid to try new shit out and take risks.

METAL (all styles)

Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch lead this group. They are ticking all the boxes. They have the sales on the board and both are part of the public conversation.

Bullet For My Valentine – have a great album in them. Can they write it?

Stone Sour – should have released one album instead of two.

Sevendust – I love them and the new album was a welcomed return to form.

Disturbed – The Device album had the same impact as the last Disturbed album. Do they still have a place in the Metal world?

Heartist – could be the next big thing or they could crash and burn with their next album as now they have a record label A&R department in their house.

ROCK (all styles)

Shinedown are the new ROCK GODS. Volbeat are not that far behind with Black Veil Brides and Skillet as decent contenders.

Eve To Adam – released a great rock album but no one has heard it.

Buckcherry – veterans of the scene and play to a niche.

Thirty Seconds To Mars – took too long to release a good album. If you are going to take 4 years between releases, you need to release a great album.

Airbourne – fill the AC/DC void when AC/DC is on hiatus.

Alter Bridge – are an experienced team that deliver consistently.

One Less Reason – great music, great songs however if people buy a physical product from them, they need to deliver.

10 Years – a great fan funded release in 2012. Now they need to make some hard decisions. Do they go the fan funded route again or do they seek to get a deal or something entirely different.

DO IT YOURSELF ROCK

Digital Summer – they run their band as a company that puts money back into the band and they still hold down jobs that gives them money for living.

Burnside – released a great album that no one has heard.

Vaudeville – another band that released a great album.

SUPER GROUP

The Night Flight Orchestra – If you haven’t heard “Internal Affairs” from 2012 you need to. TNFO is made up of melodic death metal bands playing classic rock and metal.

PROGRESSIVE METAL/ROCK

Tool – it’s going to be an event when the new Tool album comes out. Is it too late? Time will tell.

Coheed and Cambria – can’t do nothing wrong currently. Excellent double releases, plus great fan perks.

Dream Theater – are doing their best to maintain the success they achieved 10 years ago. Need a great album otherwise it’s bye bye.

TesseracT, Protest The Hero and Periphery are the new leaders of Progressive Music.

Today I Caught The Plague, Sound of Contact, Op Shop, Scale The Summit and Lizzard are rookies to take notice off.

METALCORE (MELODIC DEATH METAL)

Killswitch Engage are firing on all guns.

In Flames need to bring out new music.

All That Remains needs to head back to the studio.

The rest of the bands in this movement need a re-think.

SYMPHONIC METAL/ROCK

Within Temptation – enough said

DEATH METAL

Lamb of God – they are angry and they are pissed off. A bullshit murder trial and banned in a South East Asian country by ignorant pricks.

SHOCK

One final mention; “Du, Du Hast, Du Hast mish a fraud.” Rammstein has a dicka, so let’s get together, what is the problem?

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