Music, My Stories

The Artbook Saga Ends

The Artbook finally arrived. The saga is over.

It was posted on 18 February, 2021.

Cleared for international departure on 20 February, 2021.

The album was released on 26 February, 2021.

A few weeks ago, I followed up the whereabouts of the Artbook as the tracking number still showed it as cleared for departure in Frankfurt, Germany. The record label responded in their usual, it’s on its way and out of their hands. A typical helpful record label response to the people who make them money. It was beneath them to do any further investigation.

It arrived in Sydney on 14 April, 2021 and arrived at my door on 16 April, 2021.

It’s a nice package with a lot of studio photos, artwork and lyric pages.

I like the size. It’s basically the same size as a vinyl record and fits nice with the vinyl collection.

You get the CD and a 7 inch single bonus track.

It’s a smart marketing move to include the bonus tracks as a 7 inch single. As a collector, I like it.

In previous posts, I have been critical of the album format and why artists would spend so much time recording a slab of songs, just to release them, have their name in the news for a 4 to 6 week period and then nothing. But as a collector and if the edition is done right, it does deliver a cool piece of art.

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2001 – Part 1.1: Evergrey – In Search Of Truth

It’s time to start a new year in review.

And I normally have about six to ten records on a post but in this case it had to be one album as it’s one of my favorite Evergrey albums.

So Part 1 is broken up into 1.1 and 1.2.

“In Search of Truth” is the third studio album and first concept album by Evergrey. It is the first album to feature guitarist Henrik Danhage and bassist Michael Håkansson, as well as the only one to feature keyboardist Sven Karlsson. Founder and mainstay, Tom Englund is on vocals and guitars with the very underrated Patrick Carlsson on drums.

Produced by Andy LaRocque, who had produced all the band’s previous albums up to now.

The album deals with alien abductions, based on the allegedly factual account of alien abduction victim Whitley Strieber’s book “Communion”.

The album cover was created by Swedish graphic designer Mattias Norén, who I once contacted for a possible album cover for an album I was involved in, before I decided to go with Brazilian artist, Gustavo Sazes.

An alien abduction story can be sort of blah, but Englund is the master at showcasing his personal side in the lyrics. So what we hear lyrically is how the main character struggles to understand what is happening and how scared and confused they are.

“The Masterplan”

Less than 5 minutes and what an opener. One of my favourite songs from Everygrey. Make sure you check out the live version on “A Night To Remember”. They do a Maiden “Running Free” singalong after the lead section which is perfect.

And the music video clip, with people painted to blend in the walls is unsettling as their eyes open, as the main character is being watched at all times.

“I have decided to keep this tape recorder with me at all times. Just so that I maybe one day can explain all the strange things happening to me. The lack of sleep…the loss of time. But most of all, the sensation of never being lonely…always being watched…”

And then the 7/8 syncopated intro blasts off.

Then that Chorus. The constant double kick, the power chords and the vocal melody which sings;

We are all a part off, forced to live within, a conspiracy for ages, the masterplan

The next time the second chorus rolls around, there is a little melodic lead before it. It’s a “why not” moment, to break up the verse and chorus structure.

The instrumental section in the interlude, the lead break and how they come out of this interlude and back into the Chorus. A masterpiece.

Make sure you check out Henrik Danhage’s outro lead break.

“Rulers Of The Mind”

It has another memorable intro.

The stomping drumming in the verses reminds me of “Kashmir”.

There is this orchestral choir happening over one of the lead breaks, which is unsettling.

And how good is the Chorus vocal melody and we had to live through an intro, two verses and a solo before we got to it. And then there is silence and a piano line. And slowly, it rebuilds up.

Make sure to check out the lead break at the 3.50 mark. Then at 4.21 those orchestral choirs come back in. They are cinematic and desperate. And the last 50 seconds, the Chorus reappears.

At 6 minutes long it didn’t get boring and I press repeat.

“Watching The Skies”

It feels like a Malmsteen or Dream Theater cut with the keyboard solo. And the double kick drumming from Patrick Carlsson is relentless, fast when it needs to be and syncopated when it needs to be.

Check out the section from 4.05 and the excellent lead break kicks in at 4.45.

“State Of Paralysis”

It has a haunting piano riff to kick it off and Englund is in theatre mode as he plays a fearful and confused abductee.

“They’re coming, they’re coming”

Englund keeps repeating those words.

“The Encounter”

“State of Paralysis” and “The Encounter” are basically the same song split into two different tracks. This one is progressive. Like Dream Theater “Awake” style of album.

Make sure you check out the guitar solo at the 3 minute mark and there is this ten second guitar melody that plays between 3.50 and 4.00.

And those same words, “they’re coming” keep reappearing.

“Mark Of The Triangle”

This is probably Evergrey at its progressive best, with tempo changes and technical playing. But still accessible.

The start alone has the bass locking in with the kick drum while the synth plays chords and the guitars play a lead.

This morphs into the guitars syncopating, with double kick drumming and the keyboard playing a melodic lead.

And it quietens down to the verse, which is just bass, piano and drums with a vocal melody.

At 1.30 the trademark Evergrey syncopated riff kicks in. It’s their style.

The whole guitar solo section from 3.55. Listen to the piano riff that kicks it off. All the pop songs from Max Martin use it. It’s a Sweden thing.

At the 5 minute mark the synths become dominant and its cinematic.

“Dark Waters”

The symphonic choir is haunting.

At 2.44 there is a different symphonic choir for a few seconds that reminds me of “Suite Sister Mary” from Queensryche. Which isn’t surprising as Queensryche is listed as an influence.

And the last three minutes of the song is epic, reminding me of songs like “The Aftermath” and “The Storm Within” from their recent albums.

“Different World’s”

How good is the piano intro?

And then Englund sings, with all his emotion.

The piano takes centre stage again at the 50 second mark with another iconic riff.

Then it goes back to the piano intro and an acoustic guitar with more vocals.

At 3.26, it’s the tape narrative again about, “oh god, it’s happening again”. The piano is haunting and at the 4 minute the guitar solo begins with big bends.

“Misled”

The album closer. It starts off with a piano riff and then the band cranks in.

Listen to the ahh choir before the Chorus and then there is a blast beat section of furious double kick before the Chorus kicks in.

Each verse has a different riff but within the same chord structure. Its creative and a progressive way of thinking.

At 2.59, it’s the style of Evergrey that they have carried to this day, syncopated staccato guitar riffs with a keyboard melody over the top.

The whole guitar solo section and coming out of it needs to be heard.

And then its silence, with a taped piano riff playing and Englund singing, “I’m crawling back to sleep” before the whole band kicks in.

I have to mention again that Tom Englund is a very underrated vocalist. Each song bears his emotion and soul. You hear anger, sadness, hope, fear and happiness. His voice is strong, ballsy, unique to him and it avoids sounding like a Geoff Tate or Ray Adler or Bruce Dickinson or David Coverdale copycat which a lot of artists started doing to get a break in the market. And throughout this album, his voice moves between strong and bold to panic, crying and whimpering in “Different Worlds” as he narrates, “Oh, god, it’s happening again / I don’t wanna be here / I wanna go home”.

This was also Evergrey’s first release on German label, “Inside Out”, a move up to a bigger label from their previous independent label. For the label, Inside Out, 2001 was a big year as they released “Burn the Sun” from Ark, “Terria” from Devin Townsend and “In Search Of Truth” from Evergrey, all seen as defining albums in the progressive metal genre.

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Escape Of The Phoenix

Release Day Friday and the new Evergrey album “Escape Of The Phoenix” dropped onto streaming services.

The line-up has been stable for almost a decade now and this sense of comradery is coming across in their music. While the subject matter is dark and serious and personal, I get a sense of fun and smiles when they are writing the riffs, like those “hell yeah” moments, when you come up with a good riff or an awesome lead.

Tom Englund is the mainstay, the founder, the vocalist and guitarist. He is one of those unique voices that is instantly recognisable. His vocal phrasing moves between so many different styles. When he needs to rock out, he rocks out. When he needs to be aggressive, he gets aggressive. When he needs to be soulful, he gets a little bit of soul. And the dude can play that guitar at a maestro level.

And he has another maestro in Henrik Danhage as his co-guitarist. A true guitar hero if those words are applicable in 2021. If you don’t believe me, check out his lead break in “Eternal Nocturnal”.

Drummer Jonas Ekdahl lays down a solid foundation, while also contributing more than enough riffs for the songs as co-writer

I follow Evergrey on Twitter and during the recording of the album, they would mention when each stage was completed and then certain members would talk about their sound set up and other things. Bassist Johan Niemann spoke about his bass sound which was cool to see.

Rikard Zander has dramatically increased his scope within the band especially from when “Hymns Of The Broken” came out. Instead of following what other keyboardists do (which is play chords or follow the guitar lead), he’s taken to decorating the songs with sounds that take you places, from barren landscapes, to underground tunnels, to echoe’y’ church scapes and what not. In other words, the keys are unique enough that they are their own beast.

Opener and first pre-release single, “Forever Outsider” showcases the power of the band at its metal best, while second pre-single release “Eternal Nocturnal” showcases the power of the band at its hard rock best with sing-along Choruses and Henrik Danhage stealing the spotlight with his unbelievable, shredalicious and memorable solo spotlight.

“The Beholder” is a melodic metal cut, with the keyboard riff from Zander giving it a dystopian and barren feel. That section from three minutes, when it quietens down and builds back up.

Brilliant.

“In Absence Of Sun” is heartfelt, melancholic, mournful and emotive. The piano riff is memorable and it remains with me, long after the song finishes. When the choir voices begin, it gives the track this ominous feeling. But then the band kicks in, and it becomes a different beast. Progressive, but that Chorus, goddamn, it’s so good.

“Escape Of The Phoenix” has a melodic chorus over a ferocious double kick drum pattern. “You From You” has this Michael Schenker like vibe in the intro. It’s a slower song, it cranks and it’s a favourite. They’ve done songs like this on previous albums.

Check it out.

Finally, a rant to their German based label.

Surely it can’t be that hard to post the physical art book/CD I purchased a bit earlier, so it gets to me on release day, even if it arrives a day or two earlier.

But they won’t, because they are scared of piracy and leaks and whatever other phantoms they could come up with, plus there is no way they can get the album to the fans a day or two before the actual release date. What an absurd idea they say.

So the labels punish the real fans.

What the labels seem to forget is the fans support the band, but when it comes to hearing the physical product on release day, it never arrives on time, always after the release day and sometimes weeks later in Australia.

Thank god for streaming services which allow me to listen to it on release day, otherwise if I had to wait for my physical copy to come, it would be another 10 days at best. In relation to buying the album from a record shop in Australia, let’s just say that Evergrey is not that large of a commercial band that stores in Australia would stock.

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Evergrey – Eternal Nocturnal

Those lead breaks from Henrik Danhage.

Wow.

So many Guitar Hero moments here, full of melody, emotion and when required, putting the foot to the floor and shredding.

And those tapping licks and legato taps over multiple strings. I’m smashing my guitar right now.

The “Eternal Nocturnal” is that help/support or voice or friend that you need in certain times.

As the lyrics in the Chorus state, it will be the hope when you fall, the shelter when you need a home and in the end it will be there when the time has come.

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2019 – Part 1

A few years ago I stopped doing albums of the year lists and started doing “songs released that year lists”, along with the yearly playlist which Spotify generates for the songs I listened to in the year. These two lists (my lists and the Spotify list) are more precise for what is hot and what is cold in my life in 2019.

And those Spotify end of year lists always surprise me, because even though I didn’t think I listened to certain artists that many times, they still come up. Hey, who am I to argue with the AI counting and tracking my listening habits.

So here we go, here is the Part 1 list of my favourite songs, released this year (except for a few songs released last year that I really got into this year).

The whole playlist is here.

I Am Fuel
Panoptical
Sons Of War
The End Will Begin Again
From Days Of Jupiter

Yep, this album “Panoptical” came out last year, but I dug these songs so much that I kept listening to em this year as well.

And I have written about Days Of Jupiter before, another band from Sweden who is playing a brand of heavy rock which I like.

And I’m still confused as to why “New Awakening” their 2017 release is not on Spotify Australia.

Promised Land
Revolution In Black
We Are Here
Faith In Life
Homes In The Sky
Whats it To Ya!
Raise Our Voice
The World We Live In
From Free Spirits Rising

“Across the world we have grown up knowing, what it means to have terror touch our lives” …from “Raise Our Voice”.

“Our weapons are the way we choose to live, freedom of thought, freedom to love” …from “Raise Our Voice”.

From Australia, the themes of the songs got me interested and there is a lot of guitar in the songs and there is no album release, just a song a month and a very garage sound which reminds me of the 80s albums before MTV required each band to have polished harmony vocals and guitars all sounding sterile and the same.

“Promised Land” and “Faith In Life” deal with enjoying your only life, it’s here, it’s now and you are living in the promised land which you have created for yourself.

“I believe in, living the right way, I believe in, having a say” …from “Promised Land”

“We are here to right the wrongs, we are here to throw back the stones” …from “We Are Here”

“What’s It To Ya!”, “We Are Here”, “Raise Our Voice” and “Revolution In Black” are like the protest songs, about standing up for yourself and using your voice to speak up and try to make change happen.

“What’s It To Ya!” if I like my music loud, and “What’s it to Ya!” if I live my life proud”.

“The World We Live In” just sums up society, and how we like to fill our cups and look the other way.

“Freedom comes, when you have nothing left to lose” …from “Revolution In Black”

Crazy – Acoustic
How You Like Me Now
Hard And Loud
Paranoid
Adrenaline
Light Of The Moon
Devil With Angel Eyes
Be Original
From Royal Bliss

From the self-titled album.

The modern rock sound which combines elements of the 80’s with the Shinedown/Sixx AM style of rock chucked in, really hooked me in, and I became a fan instantly.

When I googled the band name, I found out they are from the US, have been around since 1997, had a major label deal once upon a time and that this self-titled album is number 10.

And the funniest part of their history is that, vocalist Neal Middleton audition for the second season of “The Voice”, but no judge turned their chairs, so he was eliminated. However the eventual winner of “The Voice”, a person the judges felt they needed to turn their chairs for, has more or less disappeared from the music scene, while Royal Bliss and Matt are still at it, releasing albums frequently.

You can’t keep a good rock and roller down. \::/

Never Surrender
West Bound

It came up on a release radar, and the “give it what you got” message with its arena rock chorus and hard rock guitar riffs got me interested.

So I looked em up and Blabbermouth tells me it’s a rock band on Frontiers featuring vocalist Chas West and guitarist/producer Roy Z. And I was interested because Roy Z did a few albums with Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford that I enjoyed.

The song “Never Surrender” is about going through struggles in life and never giving up on your dreams as the tough times can help you define your true character.

Bringin On The Heartbreak
From Matt Nathanson

Matt Nathanson released an acoustic Def Leppard covers album called “Pyromattia” last year. I saw it on a fellow bloggers EOY list for 2018 and I was interested. I checked it out and loved this cover version of one my favourite Def Leppard songs.

Stalfagel featuring Alissa White-Gluz
You Aquiver
Bleeder Despoiler
The Nurturing Glance
The Ageless Whisper
From Soilwork

To me “Verkligheten” (the Swedish word for “Reality”) is Soilwork’s best album. A combination of their aggressive, abrasive and melodic sides. It’s a metal rock album.

Plus, I am a fan of the work that Bjorn Strid and guitarist David Andersson do with Soliwork and The Night Flight Orchestra.

Live Or Die
Shame
From Reach

The album “The Great Divine” came out last year but I really got into these songs in 2019.

Again, it was an EOY list from a fellow blogger that got me interested to check out this release.

And “Live Or Die” with its Muse like vibe resonated straight away, especially that soaring Chorus vocal melody.

The Ending
Problems
From Papa Roach

“Who Do You Trust?” is a weird album for me to digest.

It’s not one of my favourites from Papa Roach but it’s not a bad album either.

Just weird at this point in time and over the last few albums there has been a shift in the sound to the current popular rock train sound.

“The Atlantic” Album
From Evergrey

What can I say?

Evergrey delivers. I have already written my review on this album here.  

And Tom Englund is keeping himself busy with various projects, like his vocalist stint with Redemption and now a melancholy soundtrack like project called “Silent Skies

Check out the song “Horizons”.

You will not be disappointed.

Part 2 coming up.

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Soaked – Evergrey

A vocal line, three heavily distorted palm-muted chords and then the next vocal line.

An intro which gets your attention from the outset.

My chest is open
My heart’s on the ground
My bare feet soaked in my blood
As I leave you without a sound

When you enter the depths of a relationship (friends, family or lover) argument, there is no winner, just a lot of bad blood. And you might smile and pretend that everything will be okay when you make up, the truth is, nothing is the same.

There will always be the words said, and the hurt that came with them. Each make up is a reset and a recalibration.

No one to reach for
Even though I stretched too far

It’s an empty feeling, when you are in the depths of loneliness and your thoughts are getting the better of you.

No one sky to warm me up

There are days like this, when you don’t want to get out of bed and face the different situations the day has in store for you or to see the people you need to see.

As darkness clouds the blue

The darkness of the mind and the thoughts that live there, the thoughts that you are scared to confront or seek help for.

I’m leaving
I couldn’t live with the shame
No more denying
I’ve stopped the search for blame

Leaving and making the choice to leave, is the most difficult decision a person can make. And once it is made, nothing can stop it.

Even at the basic level of leaving a job, a home or a school. Once the decision is made, it’s made. There is nothing that can stop you.

Twenty-seven years of falling
Twenty-seven winters slave
Twenty-seven years of dreaming
And this is all the strength life gave
Twenty-seven summers weaker
And the autumn’s just the same
Twenty-seven years…

When I first heard the song, I associated the 27 years to the years given to a relationship. But then I read an interview and this is what Tom Englund had to say about it;

SOAKED is about a friend of mine who killed himself.
Tom Englund

And suddenly all of my interpretations and meanings took on a different light. And 27 is in that zone which the media reports so frequently when celebrities take their lives. It’s the zone of having lived long enough to decide if their life is worth it.

Because from young, people are conditioned to believe that life is an upward trajectory. And when it doesn’t pan out like that, with more lows and disappointments than highs, well….

And if you’d ask then I’d deny that
I didn’t have the strength to fight that drowning weakness
And I buried all signs to cover what I feel underneath
The hollow remains of me

You basically give up. You portray one side of yourself to people and another side, within the four walls of your room. Even if people asked “are you okay?”, you would smile and say “yes”.

And the outro solo from Henrik is impressive in its melodicism.

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Evergrey – The Atlantic

The way the music in “A Silent Arc” starts off, it feels like I am in the turmoil of the ocean, getting thrown around with the currents and waves, taking a quick breath before the next wave pushes me under.

And in the lyrics Tom Englund is using the ocean as an analogy for the breakdown of his marriage.

In the first chorus he mentions how their Heaven is dead and how they have been adrift for years.

But in the middle section, he’s seeing all the years of drifting come to an end.

And it’s all backed up by music which echoes the chaos and turmoil and calmness of the ocean, in the same way chaos and turmoil and calmness happen in our lives.

In “Weightless”, Englund looks back and reassesses his past.

I can’t help to think that we got lost because of me
Can’t help to feel that I brought on this travesty
Been lost so long that lost is the only thing I’ve ever known
Can’t help to feel that I’m alone

It’s real and heartfelt and anyone who has been in a relationship knows how easy it is to tear it apart so quickly.

And sometimes it’s nothing big that breaks people up, it’s just the different paths you started a few years ago end up being too far apart to reconnect.

And in the chorus, the ocean analogy is there again.

I’m weightless in the water
Surrounded by the deep

How fucking heavy is the intro to “All I Have”?

It’s all I have
It’s all I have
All I have
All I own that I can give to you

The emotion and agony in Englund’s voice hooks me in.

And that outro solo is excellent.

“A Secret Atlantis” is your typical Evergrey sound.

I stare the skies of abandoned hearts
Dare I break the wave will I be safe?
Our secret Atlantis
We were the only one who knew
what we were hiding
You from me and me from you

They both had in their minds a secret place to hide from each other. Sad and yet so powerful.

And I wanted to let you know
That I’m leaving to let this go
And the sky is painting my sorrow
The sky is painting my sorrow

Sometimes you need to let it go for the sanity of all involved. And it’s hard, it’s sad, especially when children are involved but if it didn’t happen, the relationship would just decay into something worse.

In “End Of Silence” the heaviness introduces the first three lines.

Adrift, the sleep made us liars
It kept us close and
convinced us we’d be fine

How many times after an argument, you go to bed together, sleep so close and yet so far away emotionally.

Our wishes similar but not the same
and with sunrise the reason came

And it’s the crux of every issue. When do you start to take care of you and put you first?

And that harmony lead from 3.15 brings all the emotions to the forefront.

At the Atlantic edge awaits the end of silence

Most people want to disappear when relationships breakdown. Because your partner was also friends with your friends and so forth. And people pick sides. And it sucks.

In “Currents”, Englund sees the water rise but he hopes the threat goes away so everything would stay the same.

Come
Come save me from these waters
These waves too tall for me
They’ll bury me in silence
The currents forcing me to sea

How fucking good is this chorus?

It’s catchy and that keyboard riff under the vocal melody is addictive.

“Departure” is one of my favorite tracks on the album.

We were the reasons for us losing ground
We were the reasons for why the lights went out
We were the reasons for the years we had
And we were the reasons to why it had to end at last

A perfect summation of a relationship.

And the vocal melody when Englund sings, the struggling, the reaching, the searching for feeling, weren’t there no longer” is emotive and sad. Because relationship break downs are fucked.

And how cool is the riff and piano lines after the chorus. I had the guitar out ASAP.

And when those harmonies come in from about 4.28 it’s a fuck yeah moment.

It’s quality. It doesn’t have to be heavy and loud to sound heavy.

In “The Beacon”, Englund is looking for that light to point him into the direction of life again.

Conformed to comfort
Our sanctuary it was worth the unease
It offered shelter and at bay in silence
the spreading disease

It’s why so many stay together who shouldn’t. The comfort. It’s hard to escape what you know and head out into the unknown. But when you do head out, you need that beacon to get you back to civilization. Because it’s easy to get lost.

In “This Ocean”, Englund mentions how he cried this ocean.

I’ve cried this ocean
And the tears that I wept
Shadows the apparent horizon
I’ve cried this ocean

Tears are expected when something for so long breaks up.

And that section from about 2.50 minutes. It’s heavy, melodic and progressive.

Also in the chorus there is this guitar lead in there which is addictive.

And the song ends with a lot of evil intent.

For a band that has remained stable for three albums, Tom Englund, Henrik Danhage, Jonas Ekdahl, Rikard Zander and Johann Niemann have captured an excellent vibe here.

If you also want to read a cool interview with Tom Englund and Jonas Ekdahl, go over to the Man Of Much Metal website.

And here is a review I totally agree with, also from the same website.

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Removing Music From Spotify

Once upon a time, it used to cost a lot of money to record. Very few acts, got signed and even less acts got a chance to record and get distributed. In other words, getting inside the record label machine was hard, however if an act could penetrate, they could have a long career even if they never had a hit.

The label kept you in business and the label promoted you to get you fans. However the truth is, it was even harder to keep a record deal than getting a record deal. Especially if you didn’t sell. And even more so, once MTV came out and you didn’t sell.

Kiss was one of those bands who benefited from this business model. They relied on the label putting some money upfront for the recording of the album, for the film clips and for tour support.

Then Napster came, then torrents, the iTunes store and streaming and Gene and Paul just kept on shouting it loud to everyone about how there is no music business, while they toured non-stop and made money from the music business.

In the process they recorded two albums in this period. Yes, you read that right, since Napster came out, Kiss have put out only two albums, “Sonic Boom” and “Monster”. But for all of the complaing about streaming, the Kiss catalogue was on Spotify Australia. Then when I looked at the Kiss catalogue a few days ago to listen to the “Lick It Up” album, it was gone. Actually, Kiss took off half their catalogue from Spotify Australia.

Are they serious? Is their label serious?

Talk about a slap in the face to the fans who actually pay for a premium account. Didn’t they get the memo that distribution is king and Spotify is the medium. It’s like taking your records out of record shops. If people cannot get access, they will just move on to something else.

Yeah, I know you can get the “classic” songs or the “hit songs” on one of the many compilations still available on the service, however those compilations don’t contain the more obscure tracks which are my favourite. I have no issue bringing out the CD or the LP as I have most of the Kiss stuff on both formats, but that’s not the point in this day and age.

Even my cult favourite band, Evergrey are hit and miss on Spotify. You don’t know what part of their catalogue will remain on the medium with each passing year. I’m against it. I’m against bands withholding their music from a service I pay for.

We are in a new era, where it’s all about consumption. Funds are tight, but Google and Spotify is not the problem. The artists are getting squeezed by the consumer. The consumer either listens or doesn’t want to listen to your music.

Stupid misguided artists bitch about streaming but it’s saving the recording business. Revenues are moving upward. And for the labels, streaming is the best, because it means less costs.

For any artist thinking of withholding their music from a streaming service, don’t do it. Don’t hold back progress. Because if you look at the past, you will see people who said the internet would kill the incentive to make music. Wrong, there’s so much more music than ever before. People said streaming would kill the business. Wrong, revenues are up and not it’s seen as it’s saviour.

Think forward, not backwards.

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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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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

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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