A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Michael Poulsen

We all come from different bands, mainly death metal bands and punk bands. So we’ve been in the scene for many years since the ’90s. I released my first demo with my first death metal band in 1991 or something. I also released four albums for a death metal band called Dominus back in the day. My song writing was kind of changing. It turned into be a little bit more rock songs. It seemed like all the inspiration that I had from my parents when they were playing their records from the ’50s got to me in a way that when I was writing, I wanted to include that ’50s feeling in my song writing. That came very naturally. But I just wanted to keep a distorted sound from the guitars and the pounding drums.
Michael Poulsen 

Volbeat started to break into the U.S market in 2010 on the back of their “Death Magnetic” opening slot. But the journey to fame/success or world-wide recognition started a long time ago. Almost 20 years before their U.S breakthrough. It started in a totally different scene and in a different continent.

A million bands will start-up today, however a very small amount will stick it out and become lifers in the game of music. And from the lifers who stick it out, an even smaller amount will end up rising above the noise and get some recognition. And even a smaller amount will make some serious money from it.

It turned into a very unique thing where we combined a lot of different styles. We kept the distorted sound, but you could definitely hear inspiration from a lot of the rock music of the ’50s, as well heavier music from the ’70s and ’80s. When you mix all that together, it becomes Volbeat. We never really branded the band in a certain style or direction. It was all about just playing. I think that led us to being who we are today. For us, it’s not important to be 100% metal or 100% rock ‘n’ roll or anything. It’s music, and we’re inspired by so many different styles and bands. You can hear that in the Volbeat music.
Michael Poulsen 

What an awesome concept!!

To take what came before as influence and use it to create something that is different. And the borrowing from different eras and cultural appropriation is what music is all about.

I also like how it’s seen as “Volbeat’s music” and not some term that came from a record label rep or a magazine editor. For those that don’t know, record companies (in most cases) came up with the terms that bands got labelled with. For example, Nikki Sixx is very vocal on Twitter about how “a record company came up with the derogatory term “hair metal” so they could sell new metal rock to a new generation.

A lot of metal histories try to track back the movement of heavy metal to a single artist. In most cases they pick the artist who had the most success. However like any popular invention, it is a combination of many little things. The first Apple Mac didn’t just come from nowhere without any influences. It was an amalgamation of products from other companies with some new additions and interface tweaks courtesy of Wozniack and Jobs. And music is no different. Music is a combination of influences with a few little tweaks here and there.

When you look at metal history, you don’t see a lot of black musicians listed there as influences, yet the whole metal movement was heavily reliant on the blues in those early formative days. Black Sabbath, the band seen as the first metal band, covered blues songs as Earth. But when you look at the written history of Black Sabbath, the writers talk about the blues of white musicians as influences to Sabbath. They talk about the influence of classical music to Black Sabbath which again is mainly written by white people.

The Beatles played Blues, Soul, Motown and Rock and Roll covers in their early days, made up predominantly of black artists. So did Black Sabbath. Hell, the Beatles even took a Chuck Berry song and called it “Come Together”.

Robert Johnson is cited as a large influence to Keith Richards who was introduced to his music by Brian Jones. Eric Clapton worshipped at the altar of Johnson and many years later, re-recorded all of Johnson’s classics. Howlin Wolf had a lot of songs covered by many white artists across many different genres.

We were sacrificing a lot of stuff in the beginning like jobs, education, girlfriends. Being away from family. And it was just to dedicate ourselves to the road and all the hard work there is to be an active band, to survive. We’re from that generation where we built everything up. There was no internet, no mobiles. It was old-school and I’m very proud of that. That could be part of why we’re still around. We earned our stripes.
Michael Poulsen 
Paying your dues and building up experiences matter. Esepcially when it comes to creativity. The pain of loss manifests itself into art. The happiness of life ends up as a song and so forth.

Today, bands are so eager to get the attention, to get the success, before the work. I’m not a fan of that. I think there are too many youngsters who concentrate too much on the success before they actually concentrate on the music. The music is what it’s all about, and it has to come straight from the heart. We started playing in small bars and it was never because we wanted to be a successful band. We just wanted to do something. We wanted to belong somewhere. Friendship, brotherhood. And it just escalated. Somehow we got bigger and bigger, and the success came. So success was never the important thing for us. It came along and of course it feels good now and we do embrace it. But there’s a lot of stuff we don’t do because we still want it to be about the music. There are lot of TV programs in Denmark where we were getting offers to be on every f—–g day. All the commercials. But we turned it all down because it’s not the reason why we started a band. We’re very aware of not overdoing anything that is Volbeat. We want to be on the road, we want to make records and we want to earn the right to be successful. And we did that from the very beginning. So I can only say that too many young bands concentrate on success before they concentrate on the music. They will fail because that’s not what music is all about.
Michael Poulsen 

We’re living in the social media connection revolution. With so many people connected to each other and everyone building monuments of their lives online, young artists believe success is around the corner. Music is seen as a way to become successful. But if you get in the game with the mindset to be successful over creative, you will not last. Your success is based on your creations. Your success is based on your experiences and your community. It’s easy to license your music to TV shows and Commercials. It’s seen as a way to make easy money for a lot of artists. But then your music turns into a jingle. At least you got paid, right.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

Bullet For My Valentine

I have been cranking Bullet For My Valentine lately. I started off with the new “Temper Temper” album released this year. “The Poison” album was next. I then went back to the “Hand of Blood” EP. Then “Scream Aim Fire” and “Fever”. On top of all that I have also seen the band perform live.

The music that BFMV creates is very reminiscent to the hard rock / heavy metal music created between 1981 and 1986, before Bon Jovi released Slippery When Wet and then the majority of bands started chasing the pop metal / pop rock “pot of gold”. It is the same music that I grew up on.

Metallica – CHECK
Iron Maiden – CHECK
AC/DC – CHECK
Slayer – CHECK
Megadeth – CHECK
Judas Priest – CHECK

Modern influences like Machine Head, Pantera and Metallica “Black” album period are also found in the songs. That is why I probably connected with the band.

As I have mentioned previously, all artists are a sum of their influences. No one creates art in a vacuum, waiting for that spark of super originality to come. Sometimes, a band takes all of these influences and creates something original, however in most cases, bands fall into an evolutionary category.

Bullet For My Valentine as a band have an unbelievable chemistry. The drumming is sensational. Just listen to how the drums build the intro in “Waking The Demon”. The guitar leads are very Randy Rhoads like, the riffs are melodic and the bass playing is solid.

“The Last Fight” is a classic example of the band nailing it. Listen to the rock version and then listen to the acoustic version, with the piano and violin. Dealing with addictions is difficult and this song captures it. The lead break in the rock version is classical heaven to start off with and then harmonised in the vein of Iron Maiden.

“Breaking Point” from the new album is a dead set classic opener. I don’t know why they went with “Riot” and “Temper, Temper” as the lead off tracks to promote the album. It should have been “Breaking Point” all the way.

Who can forget the punch and groove of “Your Betrayal”? Another perfect song to get the body moving into high gear.

Then you have the speed metal style of Slayer and Machine Head in “Scream, Aim, Fire” and “Waking The Demon”?

The Iron Maiden influence is heard in “Alone” while the Judas Priest influence is heard in “Eye Of The Storm”.

Add to that the slower songs like “Hearts Burst Into Fire” and you have a band that is varied and influenced by a lot of great styles.

This band still hasn’t written their “Blackening” or “Dr Feelgood” or “Back In Black” or “Black” album. They are working towards it. Great albums come from experience. Great songs come from having lived. The band (provided that they stay together) is on its way to achieving this.

They have hooked in Terry Date for the upcoming album, so it is a step in the right direction for album number 5. Matt Tuck even mentioned that the music is no holds barred metal, unlike the previous two releases.

I didn’t think I liked BFMV to start off with. Then I heard their cover of “Sanitarium” from a Kerrang tribute album to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of “Master of Puppets” from Metallica. That tribute album was also my first introduction to Trivium and their unbelievable cover of “Master Of Puppets”.

The modern paradigm of success is to create great music and reap the benefits later. “The Poison” came out in 2005 and by 2009, it had a GOLD certification in the U.S. market.

So I purchased “Scream, Aim, Fire” when it came out without hearing a song and I suddenly realised that I liked the band.

Just like Pantera had to emerge from the shadows of the inferior hard rock / power metal scene in the late Eighties, Bullet For My Valentine had to do the same. The metalcore movement has committed the same sin as hard rock and glam rock committed. Too many derivative bands are doing the rounds and there is no substance. With the release of “Scream, Aim, Fire”, BFMV showed that they are a metal band in the true sense. With “Fever” and “Temper, Temper”, they have showed that they can rock with the best of them.

The Bullet For My Valentine VEVO account shows that “Tears Don’t Fall” has been viewed 55,738,093 times.

“Your Betrayal” has been viewed 17,391,181 times.

“Waking The Demon” has been viewed 23,947,044 times.

“Hearts Burst Into Fire” has been viewed 13,500,316 times.

“The Last Fight” has been viewed 3,232,789 times.

“Temper Temper” has been viewed 2,254,641 times.

“Breaking Point” has just been released and it has been viewed 686,885 times.

“Hand Of Blood” has been viewed 12,069,227 times.

The above figures are from the official BFMV account. Those same songs have been circulated on other user accounts with high view counts as well.

Spotify has the following top 10 songs for BFMV. For some insane reason, the “Scream Aim Fire” album is not on Spotify.

“Tears Don’t Fall” is at 18,297,766 streams.

“All These Things I Hate (Revolve Around Me)” is at 9,878,085 streams.

“Your Betrayal” is at 8,335,370 streams.

“The Last Fight” is at 5,337,727 streams.

“Fever” is at 3,696,842 streams.

“Bittersweet Memories” is at 2,673,920 streams.

“Temper, Temper” is at 1,187,795 streams.

“Tears Don’t Fall (Part 2)” is at 1,030,904 streams.

“Breaking Point” is at 884,423 streams.

“P.O.W.” is at 670,708 streams.

I am sure that if the songs from “Scream Aim Fire” could be streamed, the above list would be a touch different.

So what is this saying about the band.

They have a reach that a lot of other bands do not have in metal. Kirk Hammett said that there isn’t any new bands coming out on the scene because of the internet and social media. Tell that to BFMV and their fans. Michael Poulsen said that bands can’t live off record sales alone. He is right, they can’t, however a band can live off record sales, iTunes downloads, streaming fees, YouTube views, licensing, merchandise and live revenue. You just got to be prepared to put in the hard work.

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A to Z of Making It, Derivative Works, Music, My Stories, Piracy

2013 Metal and Rock Releases. Are they Derivative, Evolutionary, Original or Clones?

Artists need to think about their music as a product. In the end we (the fans) are all suckers for good products. Give us a good product and we will reciprocate.

So I am listening to the new Protest The Hero album, “Volition”. What a product it is! For the record, I was one of those fans that contributed to the Indiegogo campaign so you can say that my views are biased.

And what about this for a piece of PR? As soon as they were made aware of a few leaks hitting the internet in bad quality, Protest The Hero hastily arranged a download site for their Indiegogo contributors, sent an email to everyone about it with instructions on how to get their unique download pin and away we went, downloading the album.

The best way to fight piracy is to communicate with your fan base. They are your only concern. In relation to people downloading the album some will come to a show and some will download it and hate it.

So what was my immediate thought on the new album?

Original and evolutionary. This is Protest The Hero continuing on from what they have created in the past by adding a few more bells and whistles. The decision to go the fan funded route was just the beginning. During the recording process they lost a drummer and got an even better drummer in Chris Adler. They then got some friends to build some IT support to store all the data of the fans that contributed via Indiegogo.

So to sum up, Protest The Hero were able to record, mix, master and produce an album without having any record label support and without the need of a record label advance that they would have had to pay back AND they are still able to use the record labels to distribute the standard release worldwide.

Going back to the drumming, what a brilliant job from Chris Adler? It’s inspiring in the sense of “I Want To Break Stuff” inspiring. It just feels very metal like.

While Dream Theater and Korn get a lot of ink in the press, it is bands like Protest The Hero, Machine Head and Digital Summer that are stealing the thunder by reaching out to their fans, connecting and doing it the new way. They are cutting out everyone that gets in the way of them and their fans. It is a band to fan connection. It is a fan to band connection.

On a side note, when I listen to new music from bands, I normally place the music in the following categories;

1. Progress is derivative (to others this is the stolen or copied bucket).

2. Evolutionary (this is bands building on their past a little bit each time. It is the iterative approach)

3. Original (this is something that is so divergent or out there that it hasn’t been done before)

4. Maintenance (this is where the band delivers the same album over and over again)

So looking at my top 20 list of music so far from 2013, in which categories do they fall in.

Progress Is Derivative
Avenged Sevenfold with the “Hail To The King” album.

“Lift Me Up” from Five Finger Death Punch and “Kingmaker” from Megadeth also fit into this category.

Evolutionary

This list has quite a few releases in it.

Protest The Hero leads the way with “Volition”. It builds on all of their previous efforts.

“Vengeance Falls” from Trivium is also an evolutionary album, building on the shorter song structure from “In Waves” with better melodies and technical precise riffage.

The concept album from Black Veil Brides falls into the evolutionary bucket for me. While the overall musical themes of the album are still rooted in the previous releases, there was enough growth to show a band evolving.

Mutiny Within hit the evolutionary path with the release of “Synchronicity” which shows the band moving further away from the metalcore stigma that Roadrunner put on them.

30 Seconds To Mars went all world music on “Love Lust Faith Dreams” which is again an evolution of “This Is War.” My wife loves this album.

Audrey Horne released “Youngblood” which is a further evolution from their previous album, moving more into a blues rock/metal vibe.

The next two albums are debut albums and the reason why I saw them as evolutionary is that the evolve from the sounds of Korn and Genesis/Pink Floyd.

Brian Welch’s solo project, Love and Death released the excellent “Between Here and The Lost” which is an evolution of what Korn was doing prior to Head’s departure. If i had to pick between Korn’s new one and Love and Death, my vote goes to Love and Death.

Sound Of Contact released a sci-fi concept album with “Dimensionaut” that captures the eerie spirit of sci-fi soundtracks merged with Pink Floyd/Genesis and Marillion prog.

Original

I see Volbeat as an original band.

With “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” they merge country with their metal/rockabilly style. This album could have fitted in the evolutionary bucket as well, however in my opinion there is another of a blend of different music styles to class it as another original release.

I just finished reading a post on the Classic Rock Magazine website with Michael Poulsen, the lead singer from Volbeat. In that interview, he states that artists cant make any more money from record sales and that selling records doesn’t put food on the table anymore.

This is strange coming from a band that shifted 300,000 units in the U.S with their previous album. So if you do the math 300,000 at $10 a CD comes to $3MIL gross earnings on the CD. The current album is sitting at about 130,000 units in the U.S so far. So if Volbeat are not getting any money from the sales of recorded music, they should be speaking to their label about re-negotiating their deal.

TesseracT’s “Altered State” to me is a great piece of work. It isn’t just a bunch of songs put together and called an album. This is an album that needs to be listened from start to finish, with high quality headphones. There is so much happening that each listen is a new experience. It’s original to me.

Maintenance

All of these releases are good releases showcasing what the band does best. In a lot of cases, bands produce their greatest album by doing this and in some cases bands produce a few forgettable albums as well.

Coheed and Cambria – “The Afterman –  Descension”

Dream Theater – “Dream Theater”

Bullet For My Valentine – “Temper Temper”

Stone Sour – “House Of Gold And Bones Part 2”

Alter Bridge – “Fortress”

Killswitch Engage – “Disarm The Descent”

Five Finger Death Punch – “The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell Vol 1”

Pretty Maids – “Motherland”

Buckcherry – “Confessions”

An artist and their music can move up or down in these categories throughout their careers.

The lessons here are that bands don’t have to be ground breaking original to be successful. They just need a well thought out approach that is executed well.

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