Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

A Nightmare To Remember

“Black Clouds and Silver Linings” is Dream Theater’s last album with Mike Portnoy.

The opening track “A Nightmare To Remember” is 16 minutes plus. Four songs in one to sink your teeth into.

The opening 2 minutes could have come from a black metal act or a thrash metal act. But it didn’t. It came from these Jersey dudes. Then from about 1.50 to 2.20 some of the best hard rock bands in the world wished they were writing head banging riffs like this.

The first verse riff is palm muted, with the swagger of Guns N Roses “Appetite For Destruction” album. Then John Petrucci brings out the wah wah pedal, showing Kirk Hammett how it should be used and the. its back into the head banging verse riff.

And the song’s music just keeps morphing as the lyrics detail a car accident that John Petrucci’s family had when he was young.

I really like the clean tone section from the 5 minute mark. It’s very “Diary Of A Madman” and it connects immediately. It’s like a different song, and that chorus like section when James LaBrie sings “hopelessly drifting” is super melodic.

And by 8.30 that clean tone part is done, as Petrucci moves into a jazz fusion solo, then Jordan Rudess starts to solo on the keys and the instrumental section of the song is before us.

They trade solos until the 10.30 mark and the song is back to the black metal style intro with a lot of chromatic style soloing. Portnoy takes over on the vocals here, bringing a growl element to it. It was hated by reviewers and elitists but we liked it. As I’ve said before, you need to accept the cheese elements with Dream Theater.

Then at about 12.10 it moves to another instrumental section. This section has got more of a “Learning To Live” vibe from “Images And Words” which I like.

And at 13.20 its back into the singing, before it moves into a few familiar riffs played throughout the song and then back to the intro black metal riff to close the song off. This time, Portnoy brings out the blast beats.

And at 16 minutes, the ride is over.

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The Best Of Times

This song has three distinct movements that grab me.

The excellent melancholic intro which comes in again as a sad and tragic symphony around the 6.20 minute mark.

If you like Rush, you will like this song. That riff that comes in at the 2.45 mark, reminds me of “The Spirit Of Radio”. And you can’t escape the Rush’isms in the first verse vocal delivery and phrasing.

That Petrucci solo from the 10 minute mark to the end. It’s emotive, it’s sad, its hopeful, its classical and from the 10.50 minute mark, he shows why he is one of the most formidable guitarist when he decides to step on the pedal, ease off, and step on it again, to ease off again. And after 13 minutes, the song ends.

The lyrics are written by Mike Portnoy for his dad Howard Portnoy as he was dying of cancer. This song has never been played live by Dream Theater. When Portnoy was in the band it was too emotional for him to play it and after he left, it hasn’t been included in a set list without him. There is a demo version as well with Portnoy actually doing the vocals. It appeared as a the B-side to the “Wither” single.

But as a guitarist, I need to mention again, the ending solo from Petrucci. It’s emotional, it’s got shred, and a lot of melody. Basically you don’t want it to end.

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A Rite Of Passage

“A Rite Of Passage” is the second track on the “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” album released in 2009.

The music is written by John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy, Jordan Rudess and John Myung. The lyrics like “The Count Of Tuscany” are written by John Petrucci.

There are always accessible songs on each Dream Theater album. Accessible in Dream Theater’s language is shorter.

The main riff on this song is a metallic masterpiece. The riff moves between the E major and E minor scales.

Actually John Petrucci recorded this song using a 6-string guitar tuned 1 whole step down (D-G-C-F-A-D) so even though you play the riff like you would play it in standard tuning, the actual tone is D major and D minor.

And the song is filled with so many good bits like;
– The heavily palm muted verse riff.
– The pre chorus riff and the vocal melody.
– The chorus riff and the melodic lead break over it and the vocal melody. It’s an AOR arena rock chorus.
– Then when we go back to the next verse, the foundation chord progression is the same, but Petrucci decorates it with fast arpeggio and single note lines, before it moves back to the familiar pre chorus and that excellent Chorus.

After the Chorus, the intro riff is back and in your face.

Then it goes into this Megadeth style riff, like how they do in “Holy Wars” for the solo section. And man, John Petrucci brings it. Especially that chromatic little section with sweeps and single note lines.

Then Jordan Rudess makes chicken noises and gets a chance to throw another million notes at us, but I wanted Petrucci to take this one. It was perfect just for the guitar to shred over.

And then the solo section abruptly ends as it goes back to the intro riff for 10 seconds before it moves into the Chorus.

Did I mention that the Chorus is excellent?

And it ends the same way it started, with the bone crushing intro riff which fuses major and minor modes in E, but it’s in the key of D because Petrucci down tuned.

Lyrically the song is about secret organisations, like the freemasons.

As the lyrics state, “a brotherhood of wisdom, strength and dignity, its rituals and secrets, remain a mystery.”

These kind of organisations are shrouded in conspiracy, and are either up to good or evil. Just think of Dan Brown’s novel – ‘The Da Vinci Code’.

And these kind of organisations have so much power, but not a lot of people know much about them. There was a quote from a documentary I watched which said, there is a very high chance that a person would have had dealings with a person who is a freemason, and they wouldn’t have known it.

Beneath an ever watchful eye
The angels of the temple fly

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The Count Of Tuscany

The intro and the outro are two of the best musical pieces put together by Dream Theater.

For the start, Petrucci took the chord progression from the song “Another Day” (which was released on “Images And Words” in 1992), changed the phrasing, added a few extra bass notes and chord movements and made it into one of his best Dream Theater riffs. But it’s also the solo that he takes, which makes it even more memorable. And it builds and builds for the first 3 minutes and 27 seconds. To me, it’s essential listening. I call this Section A.

Then the vocal part comes in. I call this movement between 4.23 and the 11 minute mark Section B. Musically its brilliant. Melodically its brilliant.

Lyrically it falls down for a lot of people. And when you think of Dream Theater lyrics, sometimes they are great and sometimes they are loaded with cheese. Personally I don’t mind the cheese but this one has a lot of it. Get ready.

It’s about a trip years ago. The band went on a vino tour with a young eccentric man who became their guide. The young eccentric man had an older brother, who had a unique library, which served as inspiration for a few scenes in the “Hannibal” book.

And as part of this tour, they kept moving more away from the city and into the isolated country side of Tuscany.

Then their guide, introduced the band to his brother, a bearded historian, with a distinguished accent who didn’t mind sucking on his pipe. Dream Theater sleuths even worked out who the Count of Tuscany is and how he also appeared in the “Hannibal” movie.

And the guys in the band are now frightened for their lives, because they are offered a vintage glass of wine that gets better with age. But this offer of wine comes after the Count tells them the tale of French soldiers who hid in the barrels and never made it out of alive.

And then we are up to Section C of the song. This nature section between 11.01 to 14.19 could have been left out.

Because the last bit, known as Section D from 14.20 is one of those moments of awesomeness. The 6/8 time signature, the vocal melody, how it slowly percolates until it explodes, the lead break to finish it. Everything about this last section is addictive.

And the song ends with the Count saying to them to not be afraid, as these are stories passed down through generations.

The chapel and the saint
The soldiers and the wine
The fables and the tales
All handed down through time

Of course you’re free to go
Go and tell the world my story
Tell about my brother
Tell them about me

The Count of Tuscany

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2019 – Part 2

The year in review continues.

The “Feral Roots” Album
Rival Sons

Album number six. They started off the release cycle in 2018, by dropping four or so songs that got me interested.

And after the album dropped I started saving songs like “Do Your Worst”, “Sugar On The Bone”, “Back In The Woods”, “Look Away”, “Feral Roots”, “Too Bad” and “Shooting Stars”.

In other words, the majority of the album, took me by the throat the same way the dog on the cover would if it got a hold of me. And the earlier Rival Sons albums didn’t grab me like this one.

It’s like they did a deal with the devil at the crossroads. Even the opening lyric to “Do Your Worst” introduces the devil by saying, “see that stranger coming up the hill, though you don’t recognize him, I know your preacher will.”

Burn
Testament
War
Corroded

Another band from Sweden who write music in a way that I like and can easily relate to. And they have been doing this since 2004 and releasing albums since 2009.

The “Bitter” album is basically loud, aggressive and heavy and people who read this blog know that I have covered Corroded previously.

The Gathering
The Runaway
Gathering of Kings

The “First Mission” album is like a who’s who of melodic rock artists around Europe and “The Runaway” stands out to me because of Bjorn Strid doing some impressive vocals.

Home
Horizon Ignited

From the album “After The Storm”.

I haven’t heard the album yet and I probably won’t at this point in time, however “Home” did come up on a Release Radar playlist and it was good enough to get added to my 2019 list. And I’ve been listening to this song for most of the year, but I know nothing about the band.

So Google tells me they are from Finland, with melodic and death metal influences.

There’s no light beneath the waves, the silence feels like home

Evergrey’s Tom Englund is very big on using water as a metaphor or analogy to convey a feeling and Horizon Ignited are no different, finding comfort at the bottom of the ocean.

Fall Into The Light
Dream Theater 

From the “Distance Over Time” album

It’s probably my least favourite Dream Theater album, but this song has all the things I like about Dream Theater. Killer riffs, frantic drumming, emotional guitar solos and that outro solo with its sweep string skipping is finger breaking.

Never Let You Go
DeVicious

From the “Reflections” album. They are a band based in Germany with German and Serbian members. This song is a duet with Norwegian singer, Age Sten Nilsen from melodic rock bands, Wig Wam and Ammunition.

Mettavolution
Battery
Rodrigo y Gabriela

From when they released there self-titled album in 2006, I have been a fan. I enjoyed their “11:11” album in 2009, their Area 52 band style project in 2012 and their “9 Dead Alive” album in 2014.

Basically I like the shit they create.

And “Mettavolution” is the title track of an album that has them covering Pink Floyd’s 19 minute “Echoes” song plus there is a bonus cover of “Battery” from Metallica. If you are fan of Metallica, you will be pleased of the acoustic rendition, because Gabriela is so percussive in her style, she covers the drum feel along with the rhythm guitars so easily, it allows Rodrigo to flourish the song with the vocal melodies and everything else melodic.

Break These Chains
The Brink

From England and signed to Frontiers “New Breed” roster. And their sound is like the glam rockers of the past and their names mimic the past names as well, like Izzy Trixx, Lexi Laine and Tom Quick.

Break the chains that bind you I say.

Radio Song
Buckcherry

Buckcherry have been going since 1995.

Each album has a song or two which gets me interested and on the “Warpaint” album, “Radio Song” is a ballad about time slipping away and looking for you’re an escape, while you hear the radio playing your favourite song, so you turn it up and have some fun.

Shock
Tesla

One of my favourite acts. Their first four albums became so influential to me, in my song writing, plus the interviews of Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch spoke of influences I didn’t really know of, so based on their recommendations, I brightened my musical horizons.

Blood In Blood Out
Mustasch

Another band from Sweden, which I have mentioned before in my yearly write ups. They are basically dudes wearing moustaches with some serious musical ability to craft aggressive, abrasive, metallic and melodic rock songs.

I was born to be defiant

It’s the lifestyle of a metal head.

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Prog Music And Disconnected From Fates Warning

In the Year 2000, the mainstream was ruled by Nu-Metal bands and progressive music was really at opposite ends of the spectrum.

On one side, you had the Dream Theater style of progressive music. This involved a lot of time changes, with the focus on high-octane technical musical workouts and each song exhibited a smorgasbord of riffs.

In this period, Dream Theater was also rebuilding their brand into something that matters. After breaking through with “Images and Words” in the early 90’s, they kept on moving into a more “record label” pressured sound, which alienated their fan base and even the band members themselves. Mike Portnoy expressed his disgust that John Petrucci was sent by the label to work with song doctor Desmond Child on the song “You Not Me”.

But the creative arts history is littered by artists tricked into taking the wrong path by label executives who chased dollars instead of career longevity. Bigger is merely bigger. “If it’s better”, is a debate for another day.

In the end, the best way to re-build their brand was to stand for something, instead of standing for everything. That meant that Dream Theater stood up for progressive music instead of standing up for progressive music that could have commercial appeal with the hope that it crosses over into the mainstream. And they reset their career with “Scenes From A Memory”.

On the other side of the progressive music spectrum, you had the Tool style of progressive music. This involved time changes, but the focus was on groove and atmospherics, with each song building on a unique riff or bass line or drum pattern. Tool always stood by their brand and never wavered from it.

In between you had Porcupine Tree, merging Tool like aggression with Pink Floyd like atmospherics and on the extreme end you had Meshuggah with their focus on groovy, technical polyrhythms.

The missing link is Fates Warning.

Fates Warning released an album called “Disconnected” in 2000. With “Disconnected”, Jim Matheos merged the Tool and Porcupine Tree progressive elements with the Dream Theater progressive elements and put them through the Fates Warning blender. It’s a fusion of all the best progressive elements at the time into a cohesive piece of work that can be listened to over and over again from start to finish.

With so much access these days, it’s only natural that albums are overlooked, especially albums that didn’t really set the commercial charts on fire. Hell, the press behind the album was even a whisper.

But the album sticks with me, in the same way that each lick and melody from “Images and Words” by Dream Theater sticks. In other words, both of those albums made progressive music sound simple on the ear. Other people might have the view that progressive music is about doing something different (like not following the verse – chorus structure) and pushing musical boundaries (like time signatures, exotic scales and different musical styles). I would add that making something technical sound simple to the ear should also be part of the definition.

Metallica did it with each album up to “…And Justice For All”. They got technical with each release, but it still sounded simple to the ear. Rush are the original kings of pushing the technicality with each release, until they reset their career with “Signals”. Dream Theater nailed it with “Images And Words”. Fates Warning nailed it with “Disconnected”. Tool nailed it with “Lateralus”.

Who is going to nail it next?

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2016

2016 will be seen as the year when the populations of the world, fresh from dealing or seeing terror hit their streets, decided to enforce change with their vote. Whatever side of the fence people sat, it was shown in major countries that the major cities and the governments are out of touch with the rest of their country. When people voted in 2016, it was a protest against the last 30 years of democracy and how the ruling classes became richer while the middle classes became poorer.

Megadeth kicked the year off with “The Threat Is Real” and it sure was. Megadeth released the better album this year, however Metallica’s “Hardwired To Self Destruct” would be more popular.

The messiah or mass murderer
No controlling who comes through the door
THE THREAT IS REAL – Megadeth

The shepherd led, we blindly followed
Into the world of no tomorrow
THE ENDLESS KNOT – Haken

Tyrants overtaking intoxicate with lies
There is no escaping, not this time
The simple man receiving, defending every crime
Somehow still believing they are right
THE LAST HERO – Alter Bridge

Omnipresent endless knot
The architect of every thought
Through the prison walls made by your design
A chameleon hides behind Orwellian eyes
THE ARCHITECT – Haken

We give up more of our liberties and privacy, but how secure are we?

For all the spying our governments do, they have no idea when an event will happen. Sure, they might identify persons of interest and then what. No one stopped the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels but somehow the mainstream media and the police read and believed the fake news sites on the internet.

We will grow strong from this
We will not be defeated
However hard they try
Over and over and over a thousand times
RISE OF THE MELANCHOLY EMPIRE – Sixx A.M.

With hands held high, we can rule the world
RULE THE WORLD – Dee Snider

It’s a call to arms for the “good” people of the world to band together and defeat the “bad” people of the world.

When terrorist bombs go off, the lines between good and bad are clear, we are the good ones and the terrorists are the bad ones. During the U.S election lead up, Trump was portrayed as the bad one and Hillary as the good one by the mainstream media. The fact that over half of the country voted for him, does it mean that all of those people are bad.

The bottom line is everyone is clueless and the future is exactly that, with endless possibilities and outcomes.

So together we’ll build a new world
A better world
OUR NEW WORLD – Dream Theater

But for all of Petrucci’s clichés, the world is much more complex. Robb Flynn asked “Is Anybody’s Out There” that feels just like him. One simple song, with two powerful verses addressing abandonment and racism.

Now I stand as a father, to men with no honor
Ashamed of the racists I used to call brothers
Cause no flag can mean bravery,
when bloodied by slavery,
The rebel, a devil, disguised as a savior
IS ANYBODY OUT THERE? – Machine Head

And he didn’t stop there. After Trump’s election win, he released (via YouTube) an acoustic song called “Bastards”. A simple D to A to Bm to G chord progression, underpins some personal viewpoints about the state of his world. And “Bastards” generated some heated discussions amongst the Machine Head fans, especially the ones who voted for Trump.

I am disconnected from a system I’ve rejected.
ALONE WE STAND – Killswitch Engage

A sign of things to come with Brexit, Trump and the Italian referendum serving as perfect examples of the disconnected people rejecting the current systems in place.

  • And the system allows Volkswagen to cheat on their emissions tests.
  • And the system allows the banks to get away with running the country into the dirt.
  • And the system allows lobbyists to lobby/bribe elected officials into writing laws to benefit corporate profits.
  • And the system allows the CEO’s to scream help to the government for a bail out, while the people, the workers, need to sell because they lost their jobs or they can’t make repayments.

I’ve seen rock bottom and I’ve smashed my fists against it
Just keep telling yourself it will be alright
STRENGTH OF THE MIND – Killswitch Engage

And there’s nowhere to turn
At the end of the road, I can’t hold on
MY ALLIED OCEAN – Evergrey

I’m just a creature of a broken past
We’re all looking for a second chance
PRAYERS FOR THE DAMNED – Sixx A.M.

Who hasn’t been there?

You know the moment, when you feel like you are not winning and everything you do just turns to crap. And you cant get out of the rut, because you’re spending your days doing things for others, through obligation or duty to the family. And your life is so far away from the world of possibilities you had when you where young.

Somehow through it all
We carry on (we carry on)
WE CARRY ON – Killswitch Engage

And that’s our lives in a nutshell. We overcome setbacks, deaths in the family, wins and losses. Through it all, we still carry on. We rise.

Speak out, don’t let the status quo define you
This is your world, just put the fear back in their eyes
RISE – Sixx A.M.

Did I decide
Or did the road choose me?
1985 – Haken

Free will is an illusion. We believe we have it, but it ceases to exist when we start to follow the rules set by institutions.

 

Falling from the sky
Cast out from heaven’s light
Drenching the soil with blood
Baptized in the fire hole
THE DEVIL’s BLEEDING CROWN – Volbeat

I always looked for acceptance
I understood what it’s like to be different
PASSING THROUGH – Evergrey

From the day we are born we are looking for acceptance especially those outliers cast out from heaven’s light who do not conform to what the institutions what from them. The key is to stay true to who you are and be accepted and not be the artist who created safe art, looked safe, walked away from their fans to be in partnership with the corporation and so forth.

What have I got to lose
When I’ve already lost it all
PRAYERS FOR THE DAMNED – Sixx A.M.

When you’re at the bottom, the only way is up. For a lyric to work for me, the person writing it, has to have experienced it.

It’s the worse when you lose when you know how hard you tried
BELIEVE – Dee Snider

So many times when I was misunderstood
I just wish we had spoken so much sooner
DISTANCE – Evergrey

Life is funny in hindsight and sometimes painful to replay. We all would love to live with no “what if’s” however it never happens that way.

Just like tragedy
Folks line up to see
We forget and the problem’s gone
It just ain’t right to move on
MY LAST MISTAKE – Tremonti

We show outrage initially and then we move on like it never happened. It’s a sick symptom of society where we fail to hold to account, the people responsible for the tragedy. The GFC perps went on college speaking tours and high-five jobs at the financial firms they organised laws to benefit. They escaped unscathed, while the middle class and lower class got their homes foreclosed.

Every time there is a shooting there is outrage, however nothing is done after on gun reform.

For all of the laws passed to spy on citizens in the name of terror, not one terrorist act have they stopped. And after each terrorist attack, our privacy and liberties erode a little bit more.

The people need to hold to account the people responsible. But we cannot devote the time because the people responsible have us hooked line and sinker. We can’t take time of work because the income means more to us than the cause.

Sold my soul and signed my name in blood
Stole it back, now praying in the dark
Fooled the devil, begging for a fight
Count the dollars, make your bet tonight
SEAL THE DEAL – Volbeat

Seduced by fame
A moth into the flame
MOTH INTO FLAME – Metallica

Infamy
All for publicity
Destruction going viral
MOTH INTO FLAME – Metallica

If you wanna lead or be a star
They’ll expose all that you are
Are you sure you want this now?
They will only tear you down
CROWS ON A WIRE – Alter Bridge

Facebook and social media has created a culture wherein everything is on show. Ask yourself the question. Is it fame you want or a career as a musician/artist?

Middle fingers in the air, singing we don’t f….. care, when we say “So What”
SO WHAT – Dee Snider

It’s become the soundtrack to “Standing Rock” in 2016, but it’s been my motto since I got into hard rock/heavy metal music.

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Score Card Inc

Three years ago in November, 2013, I posted a score sheet on certain artists/trends and how they are dealing with the music business.

Three years later, how are the artists fairing.

Robb Flynn
He still understands that it is not all about making records. From Nov 2013 to now, Robb Flynn via Machine Head, kept on releasing his Journals both video and written. In April, 2014, “Killers and Kings” came out for Record Store Day and the band went on tour. He started a clothing range called “Killers and Kings” that didn’t really take off. In November, 2014, “Bloodstone and Diamonds” came out and the band embarked on a lengthy “An Evening With” world tour. In June 1, 2016, “Is There Anybody Out There?” came out as a stand-alone single.

His connection with his audience runs deep. People either dig him or detest him or some people will not just forget him in an orange jumpsuit during the Nu-Metal phase of the band’s career.

Protest The Hero
Back in 2013, “Protest The Hero” showed how the record labels are so out of touch with its customers. PTH was dropped because the label told them they have no audience. However, a fan funding campaign showed a pretty impressive hard-core audience that was willing to cough up some serious dollars for the band. Even the band was blown away at the response.

And they did it again between Nov 2015 and April 2016 with “Pacific Myth” an innovative one song per month release over six months via Bandcamp. Fans had the option of two packages, and I selected the one that also had the six video releases. In between, the guys would upload drum videos, cooking videos, song transcriptions and what not.

Nikki Sixx
In 2013, he talked about a farewell tour. Well that tour finally happened and concluded in 2015. The Crue fan base didn’t really need one more world tour however, they wanted to finish up in their own way and the world tour is what we got, with a new song called “All Bad Things”. The movie is still in the works, they have their own pleasure toys, a rumour of The Dirt 2, plus lawsuits from photographers and opening bands to contend with. Seriously, squirting piss at a bunch of guys who paid $1 million to be on the tour would always end up in the courts.

With Sixx A.M. he has released an albums worth of music and the next album is coming in a few weeks. They are on tour with Five Finger Death Punch, he does his Sixx Sense Radio Show and he doesn’t like to wash his hands after going to the toilet.

Coheed and Cambria
By November, 2013, COCA had been touring non-stop on the back of “The Afterman” two album releases that came out within a 4 month window. Add to that Comic Con appearances, plus Sci-Fi conventions and appearances in Comic Shops and you get the idea that this band realises that it is not just about music and money. It is about creativity.

Since then, Claude Sanchez became a dad. He wrote more comics with his wife called “Translucid” in 2014 and in 2015 managed to release another slab of songs called “The Color Before The Sun” and go on a another world tour.

Metallica
Back in 2013, I wrote;

They need to make new music soon. There are only so many times that a band can go on a worldwide victory lap on the same piece of music. They need to be back in the studio.

Well, we are almost one week away from that new music hitting the streets and in the meantime, we have been treated to three tracks.
It’s a welcome relief to hear Metallica doing what they do best and I believe they have enough new music in their archives for another album to drop within two years this time, instead of eight.

And after hearing the album – yes it is available on the pirate sites, I can honestly say that it’s not worth the 8 year wait at all and maybe 4 song EP’s is the best way to go.

Dream Theater
I wrote in November 2013, that they need a great record soon or they will become yesterday’s news. Dream Theater has a knack for popping up with some goodies, like “Images and Words”, “Scenes From A Memory”, “Systematic Chaos” and “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”.

So in January 2016, they dropped the 130 minute “Astonishing” concept album, about a dystopian future society. Concept albums lead to different revenue spin offs like a stage play, comic book stories, video games, animations, TV series, a movie and so forth. But then again, Slayer are doing a graphic comic book series and have never done a concept album.

Stone Sour
I wrote in 2013, that something went south with their career trajectory. Of course, a beast called Slipknot would devour the creative forces of the band. Their take on modern metal is good, but with Slipknot getting more melodic, is there a reason for Stone Sour to exist.

Five Finger Death Punch
They have an audience who purchases and streams their product. Along the way, each album has received certifications for so many units moved. An onstage meltdown, a record label lawsuit and then a change of label has not slowed the band down in any way. If they can remain together, they will remain a powerhouse.

Trivium
Back in November, 2013, their new album “Vengeance Falls” was called a Disturbed covers album. The truth is, if people are talking about you, it is a good thing. And that album gave Trivium a concert classic in “Strife”. Since then, they released “Silence In The Snow” in 2015. They are always looking to reinvent themselves constantly while staying true to heavy metal. Plus Matt Heafy has a pretty cool Top 10 list of albums that changed his life.

1. Metallica – The Black Album (1991)
“A kid lent me The Black Album at school and it changed my life. I had never heard anything like it before, and I started playing guitar all the time.”

2. In Flames – Whoracle (1997)
“That was at the time of Napster, and I was into the classic great metal bands. I was on Napster and I found In Flames. I had never heard melodic death metal before, and it changed my ear on what kind of music I wanted to play.”

3. Queen – A Night At The Opera (1975)
“What I’ve always loved about Queen is that they’ve never released the same thing twice. Everything is drastically different while still sounding like Queen. Every song on A Night At The Opera sounds different to the next one and they all stand up as fantastic.”

4. Iron Maiden – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (1988)
“With Iron Maiden it’s hard, because I love so many of their records. They’re all so important. Seventh Son, though, is the one that really got me into Iron Maiden. It’s one of their more epic records; there’s vivid storytelling going on. Getting into Iron Maiden helped me trace the roots of the music that I love. I could see where so many metal, death metal and black metal bands had taken things from.”

5. Ihsahn – Eremita (2012)
“Emperor changed my life, and Ihsahn changed my life again with this album. He spun the idea of black metal on its head by incorporating jazz chords, interesting production and clean singing. That record taught me to never be afraid of making whatever I want to make. We’ve always done that, but this album drove that home for me.”

6. Boston – Boston (1976)
“The vocal production is insane. Everything about this record epitomises the best things of rock ‘n’ roll.”

7. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)
“The Beatles blow my mind in the same way that Queen do in that every song and record is so different to the last. Both of those bands have incredible songwriters as well. It’s not like nowadays where you might have one songwriter in a band.”

8. Emperor – Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk (1997)
“This is where Emperor really changed the dynamic of where black metal was going. Black metal was the rebellion to rock and metal, and was supposed to be different. “When there’s a movement like that, a lot of bands come out playing semi-similar music. That record opened up with clean guitar and there’s this classical singing; it has chaotic moments and beautiful moments all in one. Emperor makes such interesting black metal with these big dramatic moments.”

9. Depeche Mode – Violator (1990)
“Listening to Depeche Mode, you can hear that Rammstein is a combination of Depeche Mode and Metallica. Violator is one of the darkest, scariest records I’ve ever heard. It has this different kind of sadness that you feel in the music.”

10. The London Symphony Orchestra – Mozart’s Requiem (1791)
“The gothic artwork of that record is incredible, and this version for me is just the best. Listening to this, you can hear that out of all contemporary music, metal is the closest living relative to classical. It is the most epic moments of music that have always drawn me in, and I feel that with Mozart’s Requiem that is where you’re getting into the blueprint for everything that was to come.”

Shinedown
They have an audience who want to listen to them and so far, no one’s doing hard rock better than them. Their new album “Threat To Survival” has taken its influences from Adele, Imagine Dragons and other pop artists and they still made it rock hard. Daughtry and James Durbin should take note. Along the way, their fans purchased and streamed all the way to certification after certification.

Avenged Sevenfold
Say what you will about the “influences” on “Hail To The King”, doing that album was a bigger risk for Avenged Sevenfold then their new album and it paid off for them.

Fast forward to 2016, and their new album drops early. It is a creative tour de force but to me it’s already in the rear view. All of the good bits in each song are undone by the creativity of trying to push the boundaries.

Piracy
In 2013, I wrote that piracy is not that large of a problem as the majors and the RIAA make it out to be and with revenues in 2016, approaching the pre-Napster era, it’s further proof that piracy does not affect their bottom lines, especially when there are services out there that can compete with piracy.

Evergrey
The pure definition of perseverance with 20 plus years in the music business and still going strong.

By November 2013, the “new” version of the band that delivered “Glorious Collision” had splintered again and lead vocalist/guitarist Tom Englund was not sure on the next step. A reconnection with drummer Jonas Ekdahl and guitarist Henrik Danhage (who departed before “Glorious Collision”) spawned the excellent “Hymns For The Broken” in 2014 and a few months ago, “The Storm Within” builds on the atmospherics created by “Hymns”.

Megadeth
In 2013, Megadeth’s new album “Supercollider” was outsold by Metallica’s self-titled “Black” album. In 2015, Mustaine got his metal chops back and in 2016, “Dystopia” came out. Another Mustaine Resurrection was at hand.

Tremonti/Alter Bridge
Mark Tremonti knows it’s about putting new music out there and consistently. In 2013, we had “Fortress” from Alter Bridge. In 2015, we had “Cauterize” from Tremonti and 2016 has given us, “Dust” from Tremonti and “The Last Hero” from Alter Bridge. In three years, Tremonti has been part of 4 albums while Metallica ……

The Night Flight Orchestra
The best classic rock side project ever from Soilwork and Arch Enemy band members. The first album “Internal Affairs” came out in 2012 and the second “Skyline Whispers” in 2015. Essential listening to any hard rock fans of the 80’s.

Sales
In 2013, I wrote that sales are not the best metric to measure a bands reach and pull in the market. In 2016, listens are more important than sales.

Bullet For My Valentine
By November 2013, people had lost their “Temper Temper” with them, but in 2015, the band found their “Venom” again, which leads us to new music hitting the net in November 2016.

Revolution Saints
In 2013, this band existed in the head of the Frontiers President. In 2015, they released an excellent melodic AOR rock album. So much potential, so many good songs, great musicians and it all went to hell because Castronovo couldn’t keep his 5555t together. Let’s hope that Jack Blades and Doug Aldrich forgive him and they try for another album. This time with the three of them writing.

TesseracT
One of the hardest working progressive bands out there, building their fanbase, city by city. In 2011, they released “One”. In 2013, they released the excellent “Altered State” and in 2015 we got “Polaris”.

Days Of Jupiter
An unsung Swedish melodic groove rock band, that’s a cross between Evergrey and Disturbed. In 2012 they released “Secrets Brought to Life” and in 2015, “Only Ashes Remain” came out.

Sweet and Lynch
Another album would be sweet.

Muse
They play stadiums but they don’t have the same sales figures as the 70’s and 80’s legends. A perfect example of the modern world, in which massive single songs sell concert tickets.

Live
In 2013, I wrote;
Remember the excitement and the buzz of going to the show. It was uncontrollable. Everyone waiting in line to get inside, to watch a band that rules, in an era that music ruled. Today, it is too expensive to take kids to a concert and that is only for a glimpse in the back. This business needs a reset.

Concert ticket prices are still high, especially for the superstar acts. The price gauge happened as an offset to dwindling revenues from recorded sales, however with recorded music revenue now as high as the pre-Napster era, there is no reason for the high concert ticket prices.

Slash
As an artist, he didn’t need to go back to Gunners. He had enough momentum to keep going as a solo artist and with Myles Kennedy, a better front man than Axl Rose. Slash kept on releasing new music consistently, while Duff and Axl complained of piracy and artistically were dead in the water. Money triumphs over creativity and in this case, it’s really sad.

Album
Back in 2013, I wrote how everyone talks about the money that is lost due to piracy as album sales shrink. Back then 20% of the tracks on Spotify have never been played. So what is the point of the album, when people ignore the songs that are not “hits”. When I go to Spotify and I come across an artist I haven’t heard before, I go to their Spotify page and hear the tracks in their top 10 list. Those tracks in most cases are pulled from many different albums.

And if any of those tracks connect with me, I might dig deeper into the album.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela
Created by their love of metal and rock music and when that same genre put up roadblocks to a career in music, they changed tact and went all flamenco acoustic on the world. Talk about paying their dues and taking risks. They moved from Mexico and took a chance in Europe. Over an 8 year Dublin residence, they honed their style and songs, so when their “official” debut album hit in 2006, what seemed like an overnight sensation was 15 years in the making.

There is nothing more difficult in the world then trying to make it as a musician. You need to show up day after day, week after week, year after year. And your brand or movement might just make some small gains. Then it hits a few speed bumps, like Rodrigo and Gabriela’s metal band losing their recording contract in 1997 and suddenly you are back at the start. But they kept on showing up, on the coast of Mexico and playing their acoustic guitars in the bars. Because showing up day after day, is the hardest part of making a difference. If you look at the history of the artists we like and admire, you will see many years in pursuit of their dreams.

It is a work of a lifetime to create an impact and build something of substance. In 2013, they were riding the highs of their 2012 “Area 52” collaboration, which involved re-working their best songs with a full flamenco band. Then in 2014, “9 Dead Alive” dropped and new music is needed ASAP.

Sebastian Bach/Skid Row
They shouldn’t get back together, because no one cares about Skid Row in the way they used too. They might have a large audience in Japan, like Dokken, but the rest of the “Youth Gone Wild” have moved on. Sebastian Bach is actually bigger than Skid Row and releases way better music than Skid Row have done without him. But, what was he thinking when he approved the photo for his memoir’s cover.

The Kindred
From Canada and the healthy progressive scene. They started off as “Today I Caught The Plague” from the ashes of another band called “A Legend Falls”. In 2011 they released the excellent “Lore” and went on tour with one of my favourite bands in Protest The Hero and their “Scurrilous Tour”. Then in 2013, a name change happened to “The Kindred” and the excellent “Life In Lucidity” came out at the start of 2014.

However, PTH needed a drummer for their “Volition” tour and it was no surprise that they tapped Mike Ieradi (who also co-founded the group) to fill the spot. Then in 2015, vocalist David Journeaux departed, with Johnny McArthur as their new vocalist and Kenny Saunders as their new drummer. So now I wait to see what comes next.

Streaming
Back in 2013, I wrote that everyone talks about the money which isn’t filtering down to the artist and how streaming is too entrenched to be replaced. Since then the record labels have grown their revenues on the back of streaming. Artists who negotiate deals with the streaming services like Metallica and Motley Crue have never complained about streaming. Suddenly, luddites Anthrax are not complaining and Scott Ian even mentioned how he believes streaming is the best thing to have happened to the recording industry.

Streaming is the future and those artist who don’t grow with this future will be too busy shrinking.

The Gaslight Anthem
They do the early 80’s Bruce Springsteen better than Bruce Springsteen these days. It was like a supergroup of independent musicians that came together in New Jersey in 2006. Their 2010 album, “American Slang” spawned an unexpected hit with the title track and “45” from their 2012 album “Handwritten” became their biggest hit. Since then, “Get Hurt” came out in 2014 and by July 2015, the band went on an indefinite hiatus.

Since the hiatus, singer Brian Fallon released a solo album called “Painkillers” in March 2016, and on April, 2016, a vinyl EP called “Georgia” was released for Record Store Day 2016 with a limited pressing run of 2,000 copies on 10″ vinyl. Let’s hope that “The Gaslight Anthem” get together for more music over the next three-year period.

Volbeat
Seen as overnight sensations however they are over 25 years in the business. It all started with “Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood” in 2008 and being added to the Metallica “Death Magnetic U.S. Tour”. Then in 2010, “Beyond Hell/Above Heaven” came out and while that was still selling, they released “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” in 2013 and they hit every major music market over and over again. Since then, they released “Seal the Deal and Let’s Boogie” and are continuing on their merry ways. For all the newbies, check out their streaming numbers. They are huge compared to other major label metal/rock acts.

Killswitch Engage/Times Of Grace
In 2013, Killswitch Engage released “Disarm the Descent”, their comeback album with Jesse Leach on vocals. And how good is “In Due Time” with brutal verses and an arena rock chorus. Then in February 2015, a new track called “Loyalty” appeared on “Catch The Throne: The Mixtape Volume 2” to promote “Game of Thrones”. They then toured and kept on working on “Incarnate” which finally came out on March 11, 2016. Since then, they toured and are planning on releasing a beer. Meanwhile, “Times of Grace” have five songs completed for a new album to come out, with their last one coming out in 2011.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Astonishing

9 songs would be a perfect album.

  1. Dystopian Overture
  2. Moment Of Betrayal
  3. Our New World
  4. The Gift Of Music
  5. A Savior In The Square
  6. A Life Left Behind
  7. When Your Time Has Come
  8. A Better Life
  9. A New Beginning

45 minutes all up. Sequence your playlists and you will see how beautifully it flows. I have been playing it all day. Because at 2 hours and 10 minutes, so many good songs are lost because only the hardcore fans would stay the course to hear the full album.

This is a review of the best songs on the album in my opinion.

“Moment Of Betrayal”

It’s a cross between “Forsaken” and “Metropolis Part 1”. Especially in the Intro and first verse. So if you like the feel and groove of those songs, you’ll like this one.

I have sworn to live and die
By the warrior’s code
Never leave a man behind
May God redeem my soul
I will give you what you need
My brother for my son
Guilt and shame will burden me
Until my days are done

The things we do for our children far outweigh what we would do for our brothers. Here is a person, who is conflicted by the situation he is in. But the path forward is clear for him. Betray the “Chosen One” and his son will be returned.

“Our New World”

It has one of the best Petrucci riffs ever. Petrucci always makes major music riffs sound heavy. Plus the vocal melodies of the verses are hypnotic. By far one of the best compositions from Dream Theater. You actually hear the main riff at the start of “A Savior In The Square” however it is restructured to maximum effect right here. In relation to the story, this song comes in close to the end, but man, it’s a knockout song.

So together we’ll build a new world
A better world

That’s all we are asking for today. A new and better world, free of the corruption and betrayals of our Governments and the Corporations that bank roll their campaigns.

“The Gift Of Music”

Again, a riff in a major key and it sounds fantastic. I also dig the interlude section from “The Gift Of Music” that sounds like a section from “Erotomania”. The whole song, musically is spot on.

We are living day to day
Forced to bear the lion’s share
People just don’t have the time for music any more.
And no one seems to care

Is this John Petrucci bringing modern-day issues into a dystopian society. The truth is, people don’t have time for music like they did before. There are so many distractions. Music is competing with so many different forms of entertainment, it’s not funny any more. Gone are the days of three TV stations and expensive computers.

And you know what, we can skip tracks. Back when we had vinyl records, we would drop the needle and after hearing our favorite track, we waited to hear what came next because we couldn’t be bothered to get up and move the needle back!

And then the playlist is geared up so that “The Gift Of Music” flows into “A Savior In The Square” and that brilliant riff from “Our New World” is heard again for the first minute and a half. This time it is in clean tone and Petrucci breaks out a brilliant lead. If you like how “The Count Of Tuscany” starts off, then you will love how this song start offs.

Then from 1.50 it goes into this regal “here comes the King and Queen” like musical rhythm.

We have come to hear him sing
To see this gift your savior brings

There is nothing more pleasurable than watching live music. I love it and when bands do their live shows as events, it’s even more special and memorable.

“A Life Left Behind”

I love the street busk feel of the guitar riff that kicks the song off. And once the drums and keys come in, the groove feels very progressive.

All this time while I’m sleeping
The world changed around me
Now I’ve never felt more alive

I’m waking up
From a life left behind

For a concept album set in the future, the sounds of the songs are set in the past. And it is in those sounds, that I feel alive.

“When Your Time Has Come”

The piano intro that morphs into the synth, is brilliant. For feel, the song reminds me of the verse riff of “Finally Free” when James sings “I ran into Julian and he said we should get together soon”.

The Chorus is a great piece of pop songwriting. Very memorable.

When you’re facing the path that divides
Know that I will be there by your side
Find your strength in the sound of my voice
And you’ll know which choice is right

That’s it. The freedom to let your mind drift and allow the music to lift you into new skies and new destinies.

“A Better Life”

The verses are heavy. I like it.

For many years, I’ve seen
Our people starve and suffer
How many more will die before we stand and fight?

“A New Beginning”

Love the palm muted intro and when the keys and drums come in, it’s prog and roll, baby. But the best part is the 4/4 drum beat at the 5.20 mark and Petrucci just goes to town. Not in a shred way, but in a groovy and melodic way, with some blues attitude.

Listen without judgement
Keep an open mind
If you cannot see the truth
You’re the one who’s blind

The guys in Dream Theater love to play. Even when they go into pop rock territory, there are still no three-minute cuts with safe moves. The pre-chorus can be a 10 second prog interlude. Creativity is all about risk. And sometimes artists fail or succeed wildly, but if they will never know until they try.

In Dream Theater’s case, they do what they want, because they have a loyal fan base that generates a significant part of their revenue. That is why their super deluxe editions sell out. That is why their concert tickets have gone up exponentially over the last 10 years. There’s a demand for them.

Now that music is free, people will still buy it, if the artist gives them a reason to.

That’s one of the movers behind vinyl and deluxe editions/packs. They make great souvenirs for the hard-core fan. Let this be a note to all musicians. Stop crying about the theft of MP3s or the streaming rates your label pays you. Wrap your music up in something that your hard-core fans want.

Coheed and Cambria have been using this business model since 2003 and they have built a successful career from it. Because in the end, every artist  has  to have fans to survive. And those fans are led from one thing to the other. We didn’t know that we wanted to use Napster but as soon as we acquired music via the Internet, at home, and so easily, we were hooked. Especially when those hard to find rare albums surfaced and those expensive imports.

Dream Theater and Portnoy during this period were at the forefront of the bootlegging culture, releasing their bootleg recordings via their various fan websites and their own Ytse Jam Records. All of their music was free and we still purchased it and more. I suppose that is the gift of music.

 

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Fame Game

“You let them know you are large and in charge. It’s the way you stand, the way you carry yourself. Being a front man is less about your voice than your ability to connect with a crowd. A front man is a salesman. Steve Jobs was a front man. Wozniak was the great songwriter, but he couldn’t sell the thing he created. He needed the cock rocker Jobs to say, “Pay attention to this!” I wasn’t always confident, but confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It starts as false bravado—you’re acting like you’re cool and confident even when you’re not—but if you’re convincing enough, people start to believe it. Then you start to believe it and then it’s the reality.”
Dee Snider on his philosophy on how to connect with an audience

You see, fame ain’t what it used to be. In the past, very few people made it and when they did, we all knew their name, regardless of their style of music. Now, no one even knows who the “stars” are. The odds of breaking through your inner circle are tiny, but people keep trying.

So where does that leave the artists who are trying to sustain a career in an ever-changing marketplace because fame is a game. It’s not always about the music, but more about communication and participation.

Sully Erna is a salesman. He goes on a radio show and Nikki Sixx becomes the topic of his conversation. He generates a ton of interest, a lot of discussion and he played the fame game. But that was weeks ago. The feud is old news again. Forgotten for the time being. The audience moved on to another topic, to another artist.

Remember when music records and singles used to be number one for ages. Well, that doesn’t happen anymore in music and it definitely doesn’t happen when it comes to information. News is an on demand item. The only question is where are we going to get it from. The usual suspects are far from impartial. Look at the Top 20 lists at Loudwire and Noisecreep and Ultimate Classic Rock and you will see that the lists are made up of the bands that had big PR campaigns with the website; not because the albums are worthy of being in the top 20.

Music is not the leader anymore. Information is. And with a million ways to occupy ourselves, artists need to find a different way to make us pay attention. So with everything available, we are drawn to very few.

Like James Hetfield.

The “SoWhat” fan club magazine interviews offer up personal viewpoints and feelings that people can connect with. He doesn’t do side projects because it needs to add to what he is about and not detract from Metallica. However he is now okay with his band mates side projects. He told us that Metallica lost millions doing the Orion Music + More festivals and he offers his insights as to why that might be the case. He gives us his feelings on “Lulu”. Then there is the movie “Through The Never” that cost the band millions. Again more insights or “excuses” as some metal websites called them.

So even though Metallica hasn’t released new music in seven years, Hetfield is constantly out there playing the fame game.

Whether you agree with the viewpoints or not, it’s actually good to listen to artists having a say instead of not saying anything. Even artists like Scott Ian, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley who fail to understand or realise that the record company model is based on stealing everything from the artist, are good at playing the fame game, especially when they have nothing new to offer musically.

Because it is virtually impossible to get mindshare in todays cluttered and chaotic world. We had MTV, Hit Parader, Circus, Rip and Metal Edge magazines and they reached everybody. Today, we get the popular squeezing out the less popular and what we have are people complaining there is no money in music.

And who cares what sales record is broken. Adele is all over the news about her sales figures. Star Wars the same. Michael Jackson and Thriller just passed 30 million.

Does anyone know who many records Black Sabbaths “Paranoid” sold, or Motley Crue’s “Shout At The Devil” or Dream Theater’s “Images and Words” or Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet” or Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry” or Journey’s “Escape”.

Hell, even the bands won’t know how many albums they would have sold, as the accounting of it all was dodgy and secretive. But the music has maintained. Dream Theater is still doing victory laps from the success of “Images and Words”. I just forked out $170 for “The Astonishing” pre order of the deluxe edition.

In the end, everything is a game, with winners and losers.

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