Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

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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A to Z of Making It, Derivative Works, Music, My Stories, Piracy

2013 Metal and Rock Releases. Are they Derivative, Evolutionary, Original or Clones?

Artists need to think about their music as a product. In the end we (the fans) are all suckers for good products. Give us a good product and we will reciprocate.

So I am listening to the new Protest The Hero album, “Volition”. What a product it is! For the record, I was one of those fans that contributed to the Indiegogo campaign so you can say that my views are biased.

And what about this for a piece of PR? As soon as they were made aware of a few leaks hitting the internet in bad quality, Protest The Hero hastily arranged a download site for their Indiegogo contributors, sent an email to everyone about it with instructions on how to get their unique download pin and away we went, downloading the album.

The best way to fight piracy is to communicate with your fan base. They are your only concern. In relation to people downloading the album some will come to a show and some will download it and hate it.

So what was my immediate thought on the new album?

Original and evolutionary. This is Protest The Hero continuing on from what they have created in the past by adding a few more bells and whistles. The decision to go the fan funded route was just the beginning. During the recording process they lost a drummer and got an even better drummer in Chris Adler. They then got some friends to build some IT support to store all the data of the fans that contributed via Indiegogo.

So to sum up, Protest The Hero were able to record, mix, master and produce an album without having any record label support and without the need of a record label advance that they would have had to pay back AND they are still able to use the record labels to distribute the standard release worldwide.

Going back to the drumming, what a brilliant job from Chris Adler? It’s inspiring in the sense of “I Want To Break Stuff” inspiring. It just feels very metal like.

While Dream Theater and Korn get a lot of ink in the press, it is bands like Protest The Hero, Machine Head and Digital Summer that are stealing the thunder by reaching out to their fans, connecting and doing it the new way. They are cutting out everyone that gets in the way of them and their fans. It is a band to fan connection. It is a fan to band connection.

On a side note, when I listen to new music from bands, I normally place the music in the following categories;

1. Progress is derivative (to others this is the stolen or copied bucket).

2. Evolutionary (this is bands building on their past a little bit each time. It is the iterative approach)

3. Original (this is something that is so divergent or out there that it hasn’t been done before)

4. Maintenance (this is where the band delivers the same album over and over again)

So looking at my top 20 list of music so far from 2013, in which categories do they fall in.

Progress Is Derivative
Avenged Sevenfold with the “Hail To The King” album.

“Lift Me Up” from Five Finger Death Punch and “Kingmaker” from Megadeth also fit into this category.

Evolutionary

This list has quite a few releases in it.

Protest The Hero leads the way with “Volition”. It builds on all of their previous efforts.

“Vengeance Falls” from Trivium is also an evolutionary album, building on the shorter song structure from “In Waves” with better melodies and technical precise riffage.

The concept album from Black Veil Brides falls into the evolutionary bucket for me. While the overall musical themes of the album are still rooted in the previous releases, there was enough growth to show a band evolving.

Mutiny Within hit the evolutionary path with the release of “Synchronicity” which shows the band moving further away from the metalcore stigma that Roadrunner put on them.

30 Seconds To Mars went all world music on “Love Lust Faith Dreams” which is again an evolution of “This Is War.” My wife loves this album.

Audrey Horne released “Youngblood” which is a further evolution from their previous album, moving more into a blues rock/metal vibe.

The next two albums are debut albums and the reason why I saw them as evolutionary is that the evolve from the sounds of Korn and Genesis/Pink Floyd.

Brian Welch’s solo project, Love and Death released the excellent “Between Here and The Lost” which is an evolution of what Korn was doing prior to Head’s departure. If i had to pick between Korn’s new one and Love and Death, my vote goes to Love and Death.

Sound Of Contact released a sci-fi concept album with “Dimensionaut” that captures the eerie spirit of sci-fi soundtracks merged with Pink Floyd/Genesis and Marillion prog.

Original

I see Volbeat as an original band.

With “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” they merge country with their metal/rockabilly style. This album could have fitted in the evolutionary bucket as well, however in my opinion there is another of a blend of different music styles to class it as another original release.

I just finished reading a post on the Classic Rock Magazine website with Michael Poulsen, the lead singer from Volbeat. In that interview, he states that artists cant make any more money from record sales and that selling records doesn’t put food on the table anymore.

This is strange coming from a band that shifted 300,000 units in the U.S with their previous album. So if you do the math 300,000 at $10 a CD comes to $3MIL gross earnings on the CD. The current album is sitting at about 130,000 units in the U.S so far. So if Volbeat are not getting any money from the sales of recorded music, they should be speaking to their label about re-negotiating their deal.

TesseracT’s “Altered State” to me is a great piece of work. It isn’t just a bunch of songs put together and called an album. This is an album that needs to be listened from start to finish, with high quality headphones. There is so much happening that each listen is a new experience. It’s original to me.

Maintenance

All of these releases are good releases showcasing what the band does best. In a lot of cases, bands produce their greatest album by doing this and in some cases bands produce a few forgettable albums as well.

Coheed and Cambria – “The Afterman –  Descension”

Dream Theater – “Dream Theater”

Bullet For My Valentine – “Temper Temper”

Stone Sour – “House Of Gold And Bones Part 2”

Alter Bridge – “Fortress”

Killswitch Engage – “Disarm The Descent”

Five Finger Death Punch – “The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell Vol 1”

Pretty Maids – “Motherland”

Buckcherry – “Confessions”

An artist and their music can move up or down in these categories throughout their careers.

The lessons here are that bands don’t have to be ground breaking original to be successful. They just need a well thought out approach that is executed well.

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A to Z of Making It, Music

Who Cares About Sales?

It’s not just about the sales anymore.

Who cares if an album had a good opening week in sales. What matters these days is how long will the music remain in the public eye. Will people stream it, YouTube it, share it. That is the new model.

NOTE: Sales figures are U.S figures.

Megadeth’s Super Collider moved 30,000 copies in its first week. Big deal. It will not last more than 8 weeks in the public eye. The fans need to spread it and talk about it. In this case they won’t be. It’s a forgettable album.

Alice In Chains, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here has sold 80,000 after two weeks and 30 Seconds To Mars, Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams has sold close to
70,000 after 3 weeks.

Will they have the same staying power as Halestorm’s The Strange Case Of…which is 60 weeks old and sold over 236,000 units or Shinedown’s Amaryllis which is 64 weeks old and it has sold over 410,000 units.

I believe they will.

Volbeat’s Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies has moved 90,000 after 8 weeks and Killswitch Engage, Disarm The Descent has moved over 90,000 after 10 weeks.

Will they reach the 500,000 mark of Kid Rock’s Rebel Soul after 30 weeks or Five Finger Death Punch, American Capitalist, which has moved over 500,000 in 87 weeks.

The Revolver Gods Most Hated, Black Veil Brides, Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones has moved over 110,000 in 23 weeks. On the other hand, In This Moment, Blood is 44 weeks old and moved over 163,000 units.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

Jesse Leach – What Do Ya Mean I Don’t Write Good Lyrics

I am always asked the question, how can I like a band like Killswitch Engage and then like bands like Kiss, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen at the same time? The answer is easy, I like music. I don’t care how people look, I don’t care what niche they are playing too. If the music is good and the song is good, I am interested. When I tell them that Chuck Schuldiner from Death is a song writing influence I get blank stares, like who is Chuck?

So I have been cranking the new Killswitch Engage album, Disarm the Descent on the headphones recently. I normally hear albums when they come out, and then I put them into four folders, the YEAH folder, the POTENTIAL folder and the SO SO folder. Of course the fourth folder is the TRASH.

The YEAH folder basically has albums or songs where on first listen through, grabbed my attention all the way through. The POTENTIAL folder has albums that have between four to six good songs. The SO SO folder has albums that have 1 to 3 good songs. I normally go back to the YEAH folder and those albums end up on my iPod for constant rotation.

Going back to the story, the Killswitch Engage album ended up in the YEAH folder on first listen through and the new TesserAct album Altered State will join it soon when it comes out officially. If any fans haven’t heard these albums, you can hear them in their entirety on YouTube. The TesserAct album is streamed by their label Century Media. This is interesting, as Century Media once upon a time pulled their whole catalogue from Spotify and other streaming services due to the low fraction of a cent payment per stream. The Century Media catalogue is now back in the streaming game however it looks like they are getting an additional stream income, by streaming albums before their release.

As every Killswitch fan knows, this is Jesse Leach’s comeback into the Killswitch Engage family. In my view, his comeback was set in stone by the excellent Times of Grace project that involved Adam Dutkiewicz and Jesse Leach.

I saw Times of Grace at the University of Sydney Roundhouse in 2012. It was a Machine Head gig, with Times of Grace opening, Shadows Fall on second, Chimaira was on third and then Machine Head. This was a side-show for the bands, as all of them appeared on the Soundwave Music Festival.

The touring band was Adam Dutkiewicz on guitars, Jesse Leach on vocals along with Joel Stoetzel from Killswitch Engage on guitars, Matt Bachand from Shadows Fall on bass (even though he plays guitar with Shadows Fall) and Dan Gluszak from Envy On The Coast on drums.

I am getting side tracked again. This post is about Killswitch Engage. Verdict on the album, I prefer Times of Grace.

How does the new Killswitch stack up against other 2013 metal and rock releases; This release is in my top 10 of releases for the year so far.

It’s brutal, it’s heavy and it makes me want to break stuff. It’s sorrowful, its melodic and it carries a message of power and hope. As expected, it has the usual progressive elements that Killswitch Engage are renowned for. The melodic stuff is done top-notch and Jesse Leach is exactly where he should be. No offence to Howard Jones, he sang on three brilliant Killswitch albums, however to me, it was just a matter of time before Jesse was back in the fold.

One thing is clear, Jesse is a brilliant lyric writer, so here is a selection of brilliant lyrics written by Jesse Leach.

1. Strength In Numbers – from the Times of Grace self titled album.

Our roots must balance our branches

This line speaks a million words to me. Before we branch out in our lives (this can be anything from a personal or professional viewpoint), how strong are our roots. Can our roots balance what we want to do. It’s that old saying, the foundations need to be strong before anything else can be done.

2. Fall From Grace – from the Times of Grace self titled album.

Aspirations bled dry
Eyes that once beamed with hope now only stare in remorse
Even through this pain
I will feel again
Even through these tears
I will love again

It doesn’t matter how bad it is, and how much we suffer. We still have this feeling that things will get better, that we will love again, that we will better people from the experience. It is this hope distortion field that all humans have, regardless if they believe in God or in something else. Even The End of Eternity which is from the same album has a similar theme “We are blind, our future’s crushed and forgotten, Destroyed by guilt, But there is beauty, There is life, hold fast for this could be, the end of eternity.”

Again the same message, from all the destruction of our dreams and hopes, there is still a beauty to be found, and that beauty is life. That is what no one tells you at school. Spending our younger years thinking that we are immortal, and then spending our thirties and forties as slaves to the tax system, trying to find out on what side of the income inequality gap we are on. No wonder I am on blood pressure medications. In Due Time from the new Killswitch Engage album deals with similar themes. “All that we suffer through leads to determination, the trials we all go through gives us the strength to carry on, something within us burns, desire feeds the will to live, a reason to believe I will see redemption.”

All the hardship and suffering we face strengthen us. Anyone that tells you they haven’t experienced hardship or suffering are lying. Our will to live gives us the desire to rise up again and again and again. The message is the same, it doesn’t matter how bad life gets, we always find to see the beauty of the day.

3. Live In Love – from the Times of Grace self titled album.

Don’t mistake kindness and compassion for weakness,
It takes so much more strength to be selfless and live in love.

Again another statement that puts a thousand different meanings into my head. I have gone out of my way to help others and all I expected back was respect. I wonder why when you show someone kindness, in time they then believe that they have the right to walk over you. There is always one or two that ruin everything. Rise Inside from the Killswitch Engage, Alive or Just Breathing album conveys the same message, The time has come to make a difference, Why have we forsaken love, The time has come to raise our voices, So rise up and fight with me.”

 

4. Numbered Days – from the Killswitch Engage, Alive of Just Breathing album.

This is the voice of the voiceless,
We have learned by making choices

That is the only way to grow. Make choices. Don’t be a follower, be a leader. Some choices will pay off and some will hurt. We all have a voice these days. The internet made sure of that. My Last Serenade – from the same album, also covers the same ground, with the lyrics, “Your destination is a choice within yourself, Will you rise or become a slave.”

So the next time you come across a person, complaining about their lot in life, remind them, that they are this destination, due to a choice they made once upon a time.

5. The Forgotten One – from the Times of Grace self titled album.

Lead me to the crossroad, I can find my way home
Devils on my back and angels in between
The scars and dreams that made me believe
Where’s the crime scene in remembrance to me
When our eyes meet do you know the man beneath
Walk the line between desperate and redeemed

The classic story of making a deal with the devil at the crossroads. How far will we go to make it? That is what the whole verse is about. We walk a fine line in life. We can be sinners and saints. The crime scene depends on which side of the line we fall. If we choose to betray the ones we love, so that we can get ahead, will we still see the real person inside of us, when it comes time to look into our eyes.

6. Something’s Got To Give – from the Seemless self titled album.

All your money and possessions,
They mean nothing in the span of time

Isn’t that so true. In the end we all die. We will either be buried or cremated. We live with a large income quality gap. When judgement day comes, death doesn’t discriminate. There is no death gap.

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Music, My Stories

Black Sabbath – Are They Still Relevant?

I watched Black Sabbath at the Allphones Arena, in Sydney last night and i was wondering, if they are still relevant.

Black Sabbath owned the beginning of the 70’s.  Towards the end of that era the band was bleeding and Ozzy was fired.  The beginning of the 80’s, saw Black Sabbath have the Heaven and Hell period, with Ronnie James Dio on vocals.  After that, you can say the band didn’t really set the world of fire, however i must admit that i have a soft spot for the Eternal Idol and Headless Cross albums with Tony Martin on vocals.  The Dehumanizer album in 1992 with Dio was an attempt to make both Dio and Sabbath relevant in the 90’s, however it didn’t really hit the mark.  

In the crowd around me, there was an audience of young and old.  Fan T-Shirts of the younger generation showed a lot of Ozzy colours (especially the Diary/Blizzard era), so it is safe to say, that Ozzy’s solo career has played a big part in Sabbath finding a new audience.   That is how i got into Sabbath, from Ozzy’s solo career.

Then I saw Machine Head, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Rob Zombie and Metallica t-shirts on fans.  These concertgoers are fans of those bands, checking out Black Sabbath, as all of those bands have mentioned Sabbath as an influence.  Rob Zombie is one person who speaks very highly of Sabbath.

One thing that really irks me, is Rick Rubin.  He was an extraordinary producer once upon a time.  Not anymore.  Black Sabbath did wrong taking him on board for the new album.  From what I have heard so far, it is a dead set joke.  It is basically Black Sabbath 2013, covering Black Sabbath 1969 – 1972.

Black Sabbath of the 70’s questioned authority, challenged institutions and preyed on people’s fears of heaven and hell.  They don’t do that anymore.  Why is why the current music they are releasing sucks.

What happened to the two new tracks Psycho Man and Selling My Soul from the Reunion CD?   They are better than the two songs they have released so far from 13.  I was re-listening to God Is Dead! again.  I have given this song a few go’s now, trying to find something to like about it, as all the celebrity metal / rock musicians have spoken what a great song it is.  

It is still mediocre.  Then I came across a song called In Due Time from Killswitch Engage.  It got me interested.  It hit a nerve inside of me, and I needed to know more.  The melody in the music is captivating and heavy, the chorus is unbelievable melodic and catchy, the screaming in the verses borders on insanity… SHADOWS GIVE WAY TO LIGHT…  

Listening to In Due Time brought back memories of Live In Love from Times of Grace, which is more or less Adam and Jesse from Killswitch.  After listening to Live in Love, I went back to the 2009 Killswitch album and cranked The Forgotten, hearing Howard Jones singing it and if he is reading this, he will never be forgotten.

When i listen to Sabbath, i think of Randy Rhoads and the unbelievable version he did of Children of the Grave on the Tribute album.  When i listen to Sabbath, i think of Ronnie James Dio.  When i listen to Sabbath, i think of Ozzy.   To me Ozzy is more relevant than what Sabbath is.  Ozzy really didn’t have to go back to Sabbath for a new album, he didn’t need it.

So is Black Sabbath still relevant.  For their influence and legacy, YES.  As a band writing new music, NO.  It is great that they are attempting to release a new album, however as i have mentioned previously, if it is not great, people will move on.  Our time is short these days.

Life has its highs and it’s lows.  Careers are the same.  I don’t want to waste time listening to lame music anymore, I’m ready for great.  Black Sabbath have been away for a while now.  The Ozzfest shows gave them some leverage again.  People saw them, appreciated it, but no one was eagerly waiting for them to reform and do a new album.

The new Black Sabbath album will be a hit.  It will sell at least a million in my view.  These days, it’s not about the hit record anymore, it’s about sustaining the buzz.  In my mind, 13 is already in the rearview mirror and it hasn’t been released yet.     

 

 

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