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

Guitar Heroes

“There are guitar heroes and there are band guys. Guitar heroes are the top dogs – whatever they say goes. Band guys are team players, committed to the chemistry of the whole. Steve Howe is a band guy from way back.”

October 1989 Guitar World…

Players like Zakk Wylde, Slash, John Petrucci and Marc Tremonti could easily be classed as band guys. James Hetfield is all about Metallica and of course there are many more that have come and gone.

In that same issue George Lynch spoke about his relationship with Don Dokken and how his new band Lynch Mob is a band that will not have a revolving door of musicians just because the band leader might have woken up on the wrong side of the bed. We all know how that turned out.

So it got me thinking about guitar players who are plying their trade day in and day out without getting the recognition they really deserve. It’s tough to be an artist regardless of era. Today, the main focus is on money. However music slays money all the time if done right and when it is done right it usually generates a pile of it anyway.

And I started focusing on two guitar bands that are doing the rounds at the moment. The only criteria I used is that the guitar partnership was formed/created at the start of the 2000’s with their respective bands.

Tom Englund/Henrik Danhage

Evergrey is about to make twenty years in the business and they are stronger than ever in popularity. Thank Tom Englund for keeping the flame burning. They are a band that doesn’t go out to write hit singles however some of the fan base believe they did just that with the “Monday Morning Apocalypse” album in 2006. For me, Evergrey is Evergrey. Dark, honest, melodic and hopeful.

The Englund/Danhage partnership started in 2000, ceased in 2010 and rekindled again in 2013. Clearly the magic is still there. For the uninitiated check out the albums “Hymns For The Broken”, “The Inner Circle” and “Torn”.  “The Inner Circle” album gave me a whole new inspiration to create music again.

They are the antidote, the complete opposite of our phony culture.

Zoltan Bathory/Jason Hook

Five Finger Death Punch are record label darlings at this point in time. With the first three albums all going Gold and the current Volumes 1 and 2 both pushing close to that mark what isn’t there to like from a record label point of view.

Underpinning the mighty PUNCH is the rhythm playing of Zoltan Bathory. Rooted in European metal and its modes, with a dash of hard rock and melodic death metal, Bathory consistently delivers head banging, foot stomping riffola. And no one could have predicted the success that would come.

The Bathory/Hook partnership started in 2009. For the uninitiated check out “War Is The Answer”, “American Capitalist” and “The Wrong Side Of Heaven Volume 1”.

And yes, Five Finger Death Punch are consistent sellers proving once again, people will invest their time and money if they believe in the MESSAGE!

Adam Dutkiewicz/Joel Stroetzel

This partnership started before 2000, however Dutkiewicz was the drummer back then. But in 2001, Dutkiewicz took up the guitar again and a whole new era kicked off.

For the uninitiated check out “The End of Heartache”, “As Daylight Dies” and “Disarm the Descent”. “As Daylight Dies” was an important album for me, as it combined melodic vocals, with brutal riffs and technical playing. Even though the band is not classed as a progressive band, they are progressive. It is a shame that in 2014, progressive music is seen as how fast and technical you can get, where in the past progressive music didn’t mean that. And that is the definition that Killswitch Engage inherits.

Robb Flynn/Phil Demmel

They are like an old act that took four albums to find their voice and hit a groove. And what a groove they found in “The Blackening”. Enough said.  Also “Unto The Locust” is no slouch either and from what I have heard so far, “Bloodstone and Diamonds” is shaping up to be a monster.

Their Machine Head partnership began in 2003 although they knew each other from their time spent in Vio-Lence, it wasn’t until they got together to write the follow-up to the backs to the wall comeback album, “Through The Ashes Of Empires” that they set a new standard in metal and thrash circles. A three-year touring cycle followed. A deserved victory lap for a brilliant album.

And the thing about Robb Flynn that I like is that he fights back. If he is wrong, he apologizes however if he is not wrong he defends himself. Just because someone is criticizing him it does not mean they’re right. And Robb Flynn doesn’t give in so easily.

Claude Sanchez/Travis Stever

Coheed and Cambria have played a vital role in my developing skills as a songwriter. The “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth” and it’s follow up, “Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV” showed what can be achieved when you mash-up so many different styles into a story line. “Welcome Home” is a perfect example. It has punk elements, pop elements and classic rock elements. “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth” they showcase prog rock, atmospheric rock and classic rock with a twang of modern rock.

In other words, Coheed and Cambria are unlike anything else. They are so far from the me-too artist that is always trumped up by the media reporting outlets. An artist tests limits and Claude Sanchez definitely falls into this space.

Synester Gates/Zacky Vengeance

There is nothing about Avenged Sevenfold that hasn’t been planned and analysed to the smallest detail. Before they even started they decided on stage names, which is a throwback to the classic rock artists and the Eighties metal heroes. With their BLACK album “Hail To The King” they finally have songs that just rock on the stage.

I witnessed the energy the new songs output compared to the older more complex material. In relation to guitar playing, check out “Afterlife” and “Second Heartbeat”.

Even the mighty Zakk Wylde said that Gates is “the torchbearer for the young kids now to play solos, learn the scales, and develop a feel.”And with Synester’s influences ranging from Zakk Wylde, Dimebag Darrell, Slash, John Petrucci, Allan Holdsworth and Frank Gambale, a torchbearer he is.

Luke Hoskin/ Tim Millar

These guys are a perfect example of succeeding through hard work and hewing to their own vision and refusing to adjust to others’ input. While other artists might have had more of the limelight, all this did was allow the Protest The Hero guys to refine their song writing in relative obscurity.

For definitive albums, you can’t go past their new one “Volition”. Funded by the fans and written for the fans.

Matt Heafy/ Corey Beaulieu

Many of us are hooked by something. Trivium is one such band that hooked me. I put it down to their cover version of “Master Of Puppets”. Hell, they sounded better than Metallica.

And the thing that really connects with me is that they are always exploring themselves as artists. They don’t know if they are on the right path, but they are always trying to get there and that is important.

“Shogun” will be seen as their masterpiece album however songs like “In Waves” and “Strife” have proven to take a life on their own. I am really looking forward to their gig with In Flames in November.

Jake Pitts/Jinxx

With so many hard rock or modern rock bands out there, who does a person decide what band to gravitate to as our time is precious.

Having two guitar players that bring back memories of the early eighties is a good start. And that is where Black Veil Brides come in. Now the vocals are hit and miss but there is no denying the quality of the guitar playing and the song writing.

Dee Snider even called them “rockstars”.

Matthew Tuck/Michael “Padge” Paget

A similar set up like Trivium and their career trajectory is almost identical.

Like “Shogun” for Trivium, “Scream/Aim/Fire” is a definitive thrash metal album for Bullet For My Valentine.

Then there are songs from “Fever” and “Temper Temper” that have taken a life of their own. In this case “The Last Fight” and “Breaking Point”.

With so much new music, I usually stop paying attention and go back to my favourites. The above artists have proven themselves since the start of the 2000’s to become my favourites. For other up and comers, yell at me to notice you and I will ignore you. Yell a little bit more, and I will just retreat and burrow down deeper into my favourites.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Anthem (We Are Trivium)

Matt Heafy was asked to describe Trivium in three words in an interview;

“First word–kinda smart about it–would be Trivium. The second word would be metal. These are individual words, not to be connected, by the way. And… lifestyle. Because, the way I look at the metal scene, it isn’t just a genre that you turn on and off. Metal is a lifestyle that is meant to be eaten and breathed, and to rectify people who enjoy it. In the U.S. it’s not so much this way…metal is… I’m not saying that it isn’t respected here, but it isn’t respected the way that say, Germany or South America looks at metal, where it is legitimately a cultural way that people live. There’s a small population in this country that does that, but I would like to see that enhanced.”

I was listening to “Vengeance Falls” on the way in to work today. I haven’t cranked it in about 5 weeks. Man, those opening four tracks I really dig. Metal is a lifestyle is what Heafy said, and when done right it is only style.

Trivium has never had it easy. They basically grew up in the eye of the public. Seriously, Matt Heafy was only 17 when Trivium released “Ember To Inferno”. At one stage Trivium was hailed as the future of thrash, while at the same time they where also called Metallica copycats.

With each album release it is like deja-vu for Trivium. People slam it, people love it or people just cant decide.

When “The Crusade” came out, everyone blasted the vocal melodies because they sound like James Hetfield in style, phrasing and tone. If it wasn’t the James Hetfield vocal melodies, it was the lack of screaming in the vocals.

This is what Matt Heafy said in an interview with the Phoenix New Times blog about their albums;

“And every album has been received bigger or smaller in certain territories. “Ascendancy” for example did incredible well in the UK and the U.S., and didn’t really do anything anywhere else. “The Crusade”, as far as the popular mind went, wasn’t well received in the UK and the US but it opened the doors for us in Europe. “Shogun” wasn’t anything that was really talked about when it first came out, but nowadays people hail it as our best album. “In Waves” blew the doors open for us in Germany, and “Vengeance Falls” blew the doors open for us in Japan. With every record we have a different faction of fans who appreciate it. It’s refreshing I would imagine for the fans that we’re a band that never releases the same record twice.”

One thing is clear; Trivium is not afraid to try things out and I like that. Every album is different in a way, and every fan has a different favourite album. There is no unanimous favourite album amongst fans.

I’m a fan of all their albums as they all have something different or special about them. It is like the fan is taken on the Trivium journey/odyssey of trying to find their sound. As a fan it keeps you interested, and they never diverge too far from their core feel which is always heavy/thrash/melodic metal. They are doing a good job at it and they always produce some pretty tough songs.

“Ascendency” has “Pulling Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr” which is just epic, along with “A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation”.

“The Crusade” has “The Rising”, “Tread the Floods”, “Anthem (We Are Fire)” and “The Crusade”.

“Shogun” has “Down From The Sky”, “Into The Mouth Of Hell”, “Throes Of Perdition”, “Kiruste Gomen” and of course the epic masterpiece that is “Shogun”.

“In Waves”; I would only skip probably 3 songs on that whole album and that’s the special edition.

All albums have a different feel to them, yet are still brutal in many ways. They are definitely one of the main Heavy Metal players of today. Hopefully for the next album they take on a Prog approach, I think that would be pretty special. Heavy + Thrash + Prog. I’d be pre-ordering that for sure!

I will finish the post with some final words from Matt Heafy from the recent Revolver issue (Dec 2013/ Jan 2014);

“Our skin has toughened and now we just do what we want to do, whenever we want to do it.”

Keep on doing it.

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