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

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Piracy

It’s Not The Media’s Job To Keep Artists In The Public Eye. The Difference Between The Past and The Present.

By September 1986, Yngwie Malmsteen had released Trilogy. As a solo artist that was his third long player in the same amount of years. In total, if you include the Steeler and Alcatrazz releases, that made it six long players in four years. You see, back in the Eighties, it was all about the music. That was the only way that artists could get traction back then. It was Malmsteen’s job to keep himself in the public eye.

So what has changed in 2013. Nothing really. It still is about the music. This is what every artist should be doing in this day and age. Releasing music and doing it frequently.

A big difference between the Eighties and Now is the label support. Back in the Eighties, a label would front the money for recording and tour support, with a view to recoup those monies through sales of the long players. It was a deal stacked in the record labels favour. Today, the labels are all about the safe bet, so even though the recording costs are at super lows, it is expected that the artists would front this cost.

Continuing with the Malmsteen example, he released “Odyssey” in 1988 with Joe Lynn Turner on vocals. The album became Malmsteen’s most successful album of his career. As soon as he became commercially successful, he fired the singer and started over again.

When shredding and neo-classical went out of fashion in the record label controlled U.S market, Malmsteen still forged a successful career in Europe and Japan during the 1990’s. He remained true to himself and he never sold out to cash in. People might disagree with his comments, I sure do, however when everyone is trying so hard to be liked by all, fans never really get to see the artist beneath the silt.

The world is going through a revolution and it is all about intelligence. That is why when an artist makes a remark, one side of the Internet calls it uneducated. That is why people jumped on Malmsteen’s remarks about piracy.

However it’s not about winning every time. The metal record labels and the artists they sign are still clueless. If the first album is not a success, the label just lets them go. They are playing it safe. What the labels should be doing is allowing the artist they sign to take multiple chances. The artist is not going to take risks if they have only one chance with the Record Label.

That is why all the risk takers in metal music are the outliers, the DIY’ers. Then when they break through, the majors come knocking. Look at the Djent movement. It started in forums and soundboards back in 2004 and just kept on growing. By 2009, most of the labels had a Djent artist on their roster.

Look at Machine Head during 2002 and 2003, financing their own sessions and recording of “Through The Ashes of Empires.” When the album started to get traction, Roadrunner U.S came knocking again.

Look at the TV networks from the Eighties. You had 3 to 4 networks, and they all played it safe. In 2013, you have hundreds of TV channels, all looking for an edge. They are all looking for content, and they are giving cash to talented people to deliver. Netflix is a perfect example of taking risks with innovation and content.

If the record labels want listeners, they need to let artists push the envelope and try some stuff out.

If an artist wants listeners, they need to understand that there is just too much information out there. That is why there are over 4 million songs on Spotify that haven’t even been heard yet. No matter how big a story artists have, they will be pulled under by all the information coming down the cyber pipeline, if their music is not great.

Suddenly the album that the artist worked so hard for is in the rear view mirror, 3 to 4 weeks after it’s been released. The only way that sales and charts matter today, is that it shows all the new product released. That is what the public wants. Something new.

Here today, gone tomorrow. Artists need to create constantly now. That’s the only way you can stay in the public eye, in people’s minds. Robb Flynn is doing this with his journals while the world waits for the album. An artist doesn’t want to be forgotten and the album format unfortunately works against the artist today. Somehow other musicians just don’t know it. They want someone else to do the work for them. They don’t want to try new ways and the new way is to bond with the fans. Robb Flynn gets it.

It’s not the media’s job to keep him in the public eye, it’s HIS!

The number one thing a fan wants is more music by their favourite act.

Dream Theater released an album for a new audience. It is the only thing that John Petrucci talked about. “If someone is hearing the band for the first time” was the catch cry in all the press releases. Forget about the new audience, focus on the old. The old will sell the artist to the new. It’s done through music and connection.

If the artist thinks that they gain traction by hanging with the record label, then they are idiots. They are better off blogging, responding on Facebook, spreading news on Twitter. However, there is a still a misconception that getting your story in the newspaper or in the magazines is a sign of traction. Forget that. When a magazine comes out with a three-month lead time, it’s already old news. The magazine is dead on arrival. No one cares about the stories written by the PR/marketing team of the artist.

The way I see it, if an artist is making an album-length statement, they need to have a story or a concept around it. Otherwise ten tracks strung together is not a concept. If you look at society in general, there is almost no place to buy a CD. The world is moving to streaming. Via mp3’s, people will still download/ cherry pick their favourites and there is nothing that artists can do about it.

Nikki Sixx asked his fans to immerse themselves in the whole album experience. In order for them to do, the album needs to be phenomenal, otherwise the fans will just cherry pick the great and leave the rest to be.

We live in a direct to consumer society. Amazon and Google get it. Some artists get it. What about the rest?

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

It’s Time That Artists Leave The Old Way Behind and Be Leader’s Once Again

I still don’t agree with the old business model of putting together twelve tracks just to sell them for ten dollars as a package. I would like to see established bands like Machine Head, Dream Theater, Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown and Trivium lead the way with a new paradigm. Leave the old way behind.

I know that Five Finger Death Punch are about to release a double album and Trivium have a new one coming along as does Dream Theater and Machine Head is not that far away either. All of these new releases are based on the old way. The album still has a place if done right and what that means is that all the tracks have to be of high quality. No one has time for filler these days.

Five Finger Death Punch started the writing process for their new album/s on the Trespass Festival Tour at the start of 2012. They brought out a mobile recording studio with them, to hash out riffs and put bits and pieces together, so when they got into the studio in September 2012, they already had the songs.  This is where they should have been releasing some songs. At the end they had 25 songs written that they are releasing on two CD’s.

Five Finger Death Punch are signed to a label, so of course they will need to release an album, as that is what the labels demand. So keeping that in mind, FFDP should have picked the best 10 songs for a CD release and from September 2012 to July 2013 they should have been releasing a song a month from the other 15 songs they had left. It is a different take on the old way. It is keeping the labels happy as they are still stuck in the past and it is keeping the fans happy as they are living in the future and just want content.

One thing that artists need to be clear on; streaming has won the war. YouTube is the original and unofficial streaming king. That is where the kids go to watch and listen. If artists pull their albums from legal services like Spotify, those same albums will still be available on YouTube to be streamed unlicensed. The fans have spoken. The fans killed off the CD, by embracing new technology. It is time the artists take note.

One more thing that artists need to understand: Spotify gives them 70% of the revenues. The exact same amount as iTunes. The difference is that Spotify pays you over time instead of right now and that is the problem that a lot of artists with the pressure of the label and the manager do not understand. The reason why they don’t understand it, is because the label and the manager all want to be paid RIGHT now.

Go on to Black Sabbath’s Spotify account and check to see which songs are the most streamed from them. It is all the songs written 40 years ago and nothing from the new album. Streaming services do pay.  If the artists have a problem with not getting “paid” by streaming services, they should be checking with the company they sold their rights to. Black Sabbath might scream piracy, however who is collecting the monies from Spotify streams for their back catalogue. The answer: the company that holds the rights is collecting.

I remember a time when musicians used to lead. Now technologists lead, while the artists entourage of money leaches are screaming they are not making any money, while the association who represents the Record Labels (and who claims incorrectly that they represent the artists as well) the RIAA plays Whac-A-Mole with technology. They killed Napster only to get Kazaa and Limewire. They killed Kazaa and Limewire, only to get BitTorrent and The Pirate Bay. They kill one cyber locker like Megaupload and another ten more appear. They send DMCA takedowns to Google and then another 100 new links spring up. Seriously does Google need to be doing all this work, just for providing a service like a search engine.

What artists and the labels do not realise is that Spotify and YouTube has made a dent in people’s downloading habits. Progress doesn’t happen overnight or right now. It takes years and sometimes decades. Invest now for rewards later, however the record labels do not believe in this, the managers do not believe in this and they convince the artists that they sign to not believe in this. So what do they believe in; short term profits.

The answer to success is right there in front of the artist. If an artist wants to make plenty of money in music, they need to be a superstar as no one has time for anything less. Just like there is one Facebook, one Google and one Amazon, the same filtering will happen in music and their respective niches.

Five Finger Death Punch is knocking on that Superstar door for the metal genre. They have competition from Stone Sour, Bullet For My Valentine and Disturbed, however if fan engagement is an indication then Five Finger Death Punch are the new superstars.

Shinedown is already the new superstar for the hard rock genre. Bands like Hinder, Adelitas Way, Alter Bridge, Seether, Halestorm, Three Days Grace, Black Stone Cherry, Saving Abel, Pop Evil, Rev Theory, Breaking Benjamin are the challengers.

Dream Theater is already the superstar for the progressive genre. They are unrivalled and really unchallenged at the moment.

Periphery are the Djent superstars.

TesserAct are the new Pink Floyd superstars.

Machine Head are the new superstars of the thrash genre.

Metallica have surpassed superstar status and have moved into the Legends space.

If you want to survive in the future, you need to live in it. Metallica now understands this, however AC/DC still doesn’t understand it. For some insane reason, AC/DC is holding their music back from Spotify (which is licensed and pays) while it is on Grooveshark and YouTube (which are unlicensed and do not pay).

Spotify might not even win the streaming war. Maybe Google will come up with something better, maybe iTunes Radio will win, or some other new player will come on the scene and blow everyone away. One thing is clear, there will be only one streaming champion. Diehard fans will still pay up front for songs they have never heard, however with so much music coming out at the moment and our time so limited, this is not the business model that artists should base their future on.

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Music

What Can Daft Punk teach the rock/metal heads?

Daft Punk entered the charts this week at Number 1, moving 339,000 copies of their Random Access Memories.

So what can other genre’s learn from Daft Punk.

1. You need to be in it for life.  That is the committment needed to music.  Instant successes do not end up having a career. There will be times when doubt rears its head, and trust me, it is a hard obstacle to overcome.  It’s a normal feeling to just walk away.

Vito Bratta from White Lion is one example.  He just walked away from it all, where Mike Tramp (White Lion vocalist) and James  Lomenzo (White Lion bassist) have just kept on going.  Mike Tramp formed Freak Of Nature, then went solo, then reformed White Lion with a whole new suite of musicians and is not running solo again.  James Lomezo went with Zakk Wylde into Pride and Glory which morphed into Black Label Society, as well as a stint in Megadeth.

How many bands break up because they do not have instant success?

2. You need to engage your fan base.  The fans are loyal to the artist, not to the record label.  The fans will talk about the new song or the new album, they will spread the word and share the new video clip.  That is how marketing is done today.  Forget about the scorched earth marketing policy of Bon Jovi, David Bowie or even Black Sabbath. If no one is sharing your work, it’s time to create new work that is better.  It’s time to start engaging.

3. Excellence.  I don’t even like dance/electronica music, however I still dig the single Get Lucky.  It’s got that classic seventies funk disco vibe in 2013.  You need to be able to find your voice.  For any artist starting off in music it normally means writing songs in a style similar to what your heroes write about.  If that is your voice, cool.  However i suspect it isn’t.  Refer to point 1, you are in it for life.

TesserAct said that they put screaming vocals in their songs when they where starting out, because that is what was expected of bands in the Djent movement, however they never liked screaming vocals.  Check out their new album, Altered State.  There is not one screaming vocal line in it.

4. Streaming is king.  65% of Daft Punk’s sales came from digital downloads.  In addition, the buzz created by the fan base caused high streaming on Spotify. The Get Lucky – Radio Edit has been streamed over 33 million times.  Other songs from the album have been  streamed more than 10 million times.  Of course the RIAA will still scream piracy, and order that Google take down links via its search engine.

Compare this to say Stone Sour (I’m only using Stone Sour as an example as they have a new release), where Absolute Zero is getting close to the 2 million streams.  The only song from Stone Sour that has broken through the 10 million stream mark is Through Glass and that is from an album released 7 seven years ago. Songs from House of Gold and Bones Part II are not even in the million stream range and I really like that album.     

Standard
Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

TesserAct – Altered State

Okay I have given the new TesserAct album a few listens. I have been looking forward to it, since the excellent One was released in 2011.

Altered States has Ashe O’Hara on vocals, who has become the groups fourth vocalist. Remember people, it’s a tough gig holding a band together. Different interests and different styles always clash.  

It would be interesting to see how O’Hara handles the growl style vocals, even though Tesseract has gone on record stating that they screaming style of singing was not what they had in mind for TesserAct, however it was something they felt they needed to have in there, because that is what was required for any Djent band coming out.   

Of Matter – Proxy opens up the album.  The reverb wash on the guitars, the atmospheric melodic vocals and then the technical math progressions come into the song, at first it is all sitting under the clean reverb guitars and then the technical progressions take center stage.  I must say, O’Hara on vocals has some pipes on him.  

Direction by the open door
All the chances I ignore

Of Matter – Proxy is all about trying to do something in life.  It’s about the endeavour.  The lyric means a lot.  The open door signifies opportunity.  Looking for direction as to what path to take.

Of Matter – Retrospect is a quality song on the album.  It is a song that gets me in the mood to wreck stuff, especially when the heavy bits kick in at the 3.50 minute mark.

I don’t begin to proclaim that i know
I can’t continue down this road

Of Matter – Retrospect continues the theme of the first song, however in this instance, the path taken didn’t turn out to be the right choice.  Making the decision to stop and start again, is a massive mental burden.  I have been in those situations, thinking that if i see the path through, things will work out.  They never do.

Of Mind – Nocturne is a stand out.  It starts off with the classical math groove.  The difference is again the melodic atmospheric vocals.

Climb (you’re dehydrated)
Fly (your wings are jaded)
Cry (you’re enervated)
Die (for what you believe in)
Try (you’ve nearly made it)
Why…

So true.  We are climbing each day on our life.  It could be the corporate ladder, it could be a personal goal, it could be musical dream.  Whatever the case, we climb something every day.  And when we get to the top, what will we do.

We will be so tired, we could collapse.  How can soar, when our wings are broken, when we are weakened and all of our vitality and strength has been destroyed in the quest to make it.  We have died for what we believed in and then we question ourselves.

To get to the top could take years, it could take decades, however the fall only takes seconds.

Of Energy – Singularity is the future of the Djent movement.  It’s mathematically technical, with soaring melodic vocals and loads of crazy polyrhythms going on.  Trying to follow along is a challenge.  For some reason, it reminds of Tool – Lateralus, with a math rock rhythm behind it.  

All up, Altered State is a great follow-up to One, and just like One was a favourite of mine for the year that it was released, so is Altered State.  This album goes straight to the YEAH folder.    

I really dig what TesserAct have going and in my eyes Altered State is a Djent genre defining album.  In years to come it will be looked back as a Classic Album and a game changer for the genre.  There sound is very personal sounding and it’s very for me to connect with it.

Standard
Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music

Periphery – Ragnarok – Classic Song Waiting to Be Discovered

Djent.  Who comes up with these terms for music?  Do people really need music to be labelled and categorised to like it.  Why can’t music just be music? It’s not like we are walking through super market isles with a list of what to get.

Seriously I grew up on 80’s hard rock / metal bands.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t like glam rock, thrash metal, pop rock, pop, death metal, technical metal, progressive metal (yawn as more labels come to mind)etc…   See how ridiculous it is.  The problem is when a niche explodes, it becomes mainstream and like it or not its part of the mainstream music machine.  Does anyone refer to Pearl Jam or Alice In Chains as grunge bands or Limp Bizkit as NuMetal anymore?  No they are just bands releasing music and playing shows.   

Coming back to Djent and Periphery.  I saw these guys live at the Annandale Hotel in Feb 2013, as a sideshow they did from the Soundwave tour.  They were good.  Very good.  Technical and melodic.  Technical and aggressive.  Technical and progressive.  Technical and rocking.  Technical and serene.  Technical and mechanical.  It was a pleasure to be there.  To me it is music.  I don’t see it as a Djent movement.  I don’t see it as a niche where only an elite group of fans can participate because they all like Djent style bands and everything else out there is crap.  Its music, that encompasses all the terms I mentioned. 

Periphery was formed in 2005 by guitarist Misha Mansoor.  It wasn’t until 2010 they released their debut album.  Are people prepared to put in 5 years of service these days without making a dime from music and working a full time job to support the dream of being a musician?  

Misha got traction by connecting.  He had a Soundclick account that he regularly updated with riffs and songs.  He went on to forums that mattered.  He didn’t spam everyone.  He went after the people that had a similar interest in the style of music he was into.  In this case, it was the Meshuggah, Dream Theater, John Petrucci and Seven String forums.  He met other musicians like this?  Those other musicians would end up as members in Periphery.  So from just Misha and his computer originally, now it is a band of six musicians.  Vocals are provided by the gifted Spencer Sotelo.  Where did he come from?  In the first two minutes you think he’s singing from the depths of hell and then the angelic melodic voice carries the outro of the song. 

Ragnarok.  The end of the world in Norse mythology by submersion of the world in water.  Afterward, the world will resurface anew and the world will be repopulated by two human survivors.  Does this sound familiar to all the Christian’s out there?  I will be clear from the outset, I am not a fan of screaming guttural vocals.  I appreciate what they bring to a song and what they try to add to the message/context of a song however I don’t really like them.  However, I like how the music is technically aggressive from the outset but to me this song explodes from the 2.20 minute mark to about 4.30.  I remember playing this song to people that like more of a commercial sound.  They were looking at the ceiling and then from the 2.20 minute mark they are paying attention.  Is this the same band they ask me.  I answer yes it is. 

Somewhere in time…
Off in the distance we can see, shining, clear, our demise to be.
We’re not listening to ourselves.

The end of the world.  We can see it, but we failed to stop it.  Allowing Corporations to influence legislation so that it protects their bottom lines and takes away from our liberties.  We need to stop it.  Allowing politicians to serve the lobby groups instead of the people that voted them in.  We need to stop it.  Allowing our privacy to be stored and traded on hearsay evidence.  We need to stop it.  Experience the end of the world with Periphery.  Be amazed.  For the ones that don’t like the death metal vocals, hang in there until the two minute mark.  

You Tube

Standard