Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Deja-Vu. 2011 vs. 2013 with Dream Theater and Trivium – Random Thoughts on their new songs

It’s like déjà vu again. In 2011, I was listening to new songs from Trivium and Dream Theater. Trivium had just unleashed In Waves as its promotional single for the In Waves album and Dream Theater had unleashed On The Backs of Angels as its promotional single for the A Dramatic Turn of Events album.

I remember listening to both songs back then and taking into account both of the band’s position in the musical landscape. Dream Theater to me, had the most to prove, as this music would be their first without founder Mike Portnoy.

In my opinion In Waves is a stronger song than On The Backs of Angels. The song wins all the time. I was listening to Images and Words yesterday and the reason why that album is awesome 21 years after its release is the songs. Learning To Live, Metropolis and Take The Time are progressive as hell, but man, I can physically hum the whole songs to anyone including the progressive interludes.

Images and Words is Dream Theater. That album represented what Dream Theater are all about and it set in motion everything that was to come. This new album is self-titled, therefore it should represent what Dream Theater is all about.

Anyway I digress, going back to my 2011 experiences. In relation to the albums, both of them had a six week U.S sale run (physical sales) and then disappeared. Will history repeat itself? I think so.

Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn Of Events
Week 1 – ending 21 Sept 2011 – 35,750 units sold
Week 2 – ending 28 Sept 2011 – 8,030 units sold
Week 3 – ending 05 Oct 2011 – 4,430 units sold
Week 4 – ending 12 Oct 2011 – 3,120 units sold
Week 5 – ending 19 Oct 2011 – 2,600 units sold

Trivium – In Waves
Week 1 – ending 17 Aug 2011 – 20,640 units sold
Week 2 – ending 24 Aug 2011 – 6,700 units sold
Week 4 – ending 07 Sept 2011 – 2,890 units sold
Week 5 – ending 14 Sept 2011 – 2,890 units sold

Artists are so scared if an album under performs these days. WHY? The album sales figures quoted above is not the metric to judge success on. Dream Theater have hardly sold any music in South America, however they play to their biggest crowds there. I wonder how that came to be?

As Nicko McBrain said in Flight 666 The Movie, Iron Maiden hasn’t sold an album in Costa Rica, however they are playing a stadium show that is sold out with 30,000 people attending. Put it down to piracy, file sharing, Bit Torrent or copyright infringement. The bottom line is this, if what you create is great, expect it to be shared.

Before the Internet, before YouTube, before streaming services like Spotify, fans had to own the music to hear it. That is no longer the case. The history of recorded music is at our fingertips. Fans are participating in this new arena, while artists and labels are still banging their heads against the wall judging success by album sales.

Even Mike Portnoy asked fans to buy The Winery Dogs as a show of support to the label and to show to them that this project is viable. Why does he care about sales? Look at all his posts, show after show. He is blown away at the reaction they are getting. Isn’t that the validation he should be seeking?

So here we are in 2013. We have Trivium’s new song Brave This Storm and Dream Theater’s The Enemy Within.

So what is the verdict.

I can’t say that The Enemy Within is anything special. Some bits remind me of Scenes from a Memory, but really, I could see this song fitting on A Dramatic Turn of Events. It is not a great leap forward in musical terms. Let’s hope that the other songs make the “definite statement.”

Hopefully what we heard was their “Commercial” piece for the album, in the same way that Forsaken was seen as the “Commercial” piece in Systematic Chaos. If this new album turns out to just be ADToE part 2, then yeah I’ll be pretty disappointed, and everyone will know what a pivotal role Portnoy played in the band and how directionless they are without him.

On the other hand, I was very cautious as to how the Trivium and David Draiman collaboration would work. From hearing Brave This Storm, I would say they are on a definite winner. The song is heavy, it is a progression from what they started with In Waves, it is all math in the verses and it is very melodic. Let’s hope that the other Trivium songs are not Brave This Storm 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on.

For some reason this got me thinking about a song from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers called Rebels which is the lead off track on his 1985, Southern Accents album.

With one foot in the grave
One foot on the pedal
I was born a rebel

Are musicians/artists rebels in 2013? It seems that they all want to be winners. Seen any posts from a musician recently about what they think, what they feel, what they are going to do and it doesn’t relate to selling music. Our heroes are even beholden to the Corporations.

Randy Blythe is one artist that shows his humanity. He uses his photographs and puts stories around them, which always relate to a personal part of his life. We are all human. We win and we lose. Blythe focuses on his work, not the sales pitch.

There is new news every day, so if Dream Theater and Trivium want their story to survive, they need to keep it alive by making news every day

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

The Song Needs To Be A Song First – Words of Wisdom from Zoltan Bathory

“Every one of us can play. We are technical players. When it comes to songs, there’s a difference between just shredding and showing of or writing songs. That’s a different talent. First and foremost, the song has to be a song then you start to think about yeah, let’s add a guitar solo.”

(Zoltan Bathory from Five Finger Death Punch in a recent interview with Loudwire.)

I remember towards the end of the Eighties, hard rock and glam rock bands are getting signed up left, right and centre by all the record labels. The greedy labels over saturated the market with diluted quality. They got talented musicians and sold them the dream of fame and fortune. Once they had their signature on paper, they told them to go and write songs like Cherry Pie.

Have you read or heard what Jani Lane (RIP) said about Cherry Pie. He wishes he never wrote the song. The album was done, it was going to be called Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The label wanted a hit song or they wouldn’t release the album. Jani had two options, tell the label to go F themselves and by doing that he knew that his songs will never be heard or he could comply with their request, write them a sugar pop song and get the album out.  We all know how the story goes?

Writing songs and playing technical are two different things and it’s good to see Zoltan make that distinction.

Would people still be interested in Dream Theater if they just played technical passages, without having a real song as the springboard. Pull Me Under is the song that you can say broke Dream Theater to the masses. It is the most simplest Dream Theater song to learn and play, however it was written by musicians who have great technical ability. The second track, Another Day is another Dream Theater  song that is simple to play and again it is from the same well. Of course Images and Words has Learning To Live, Metropolis, Take The Time and Under A Glass Moon and the reason why those songs have become cult songs in the progressive genre, is because they are songs first and technical masterpieces second.  The bottom line is, you need a great foundation.

When Ozzy relaunched his career with the Blizzard Of Ozz band (that then became the Ozzy band when the record was released), it was on the back of great songs and great technical guitar playing from Randy Rhoads. A simple catchy AC/DC style song like Flying High Again, had a dazzling tapped lead break. The Crazy Train solo is one of those songs within a song guitar leads, however who would have cared if it was there, if the song it was on is terrible.

The bottom line for both Dream Theater and Ozzy Osbourne is; if you take away the progressive instrumental breaks and guitar leads from the songs that we love, you still have a great song and that is the essence to everything.

When the Whitesnake album exploded in 1987, it was on the back of great songs and great guitar playing from John Sykes. Listen to his lead break on Crying In The Rain. John Kalodner, the A&R rep that signed Whitesnake to Geffen, knew that was a great song. It just need to be re-done in a way that it could get massive exposure. The song was a song already as it already did the rounds on the Saints and Sinners album from 1982 and by adding the one minute plus tour de force lead break by Sykes to it, it made the song even more dazzling and a product of the times. However, as I mentioned above, if you take away the lead break, you still have a great song.

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