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

Lizzard

They have a sound and a style. Their debut album “Out Of Reach” is an experience in itself, merging alternative rock and metal music on a background of progressive and experimental grooves.

And they are a three piece band from France, formed in 2006 that no one even knows about. The vocalist in the band is Mathieu Ricou. The bass player is William Knox and the drummer is Katy Elwell.

Who?

They sure don’t sound like a rock star names like Synester Gates or Zacky Vengeance.

Back when the Record Labels controlled who got signed and who got heard, the French metal scene was more or less ignored. For a band/artist to come out of anY European country that band/artist had to more or less dominate the country. And Europe always has a habit of turning out intriguing acts who only occasionally managed to gain widespread attention.

The Tool influence is very prominent but there are overtones of at least four other bands.

Chevelle, Earshot, 10 Years and Karnivool.

“Out Of Reach” is a perfect example of their style that merges Tool like grooves with Dream Theater like progressive grooves. All of it is underpinned by the melodic vocals of Ricou, who shifts between a Maynard James Keened to an Aaron Lewis to an Chino Moreno.

My personal favourite is “Loose Ends”. The bass groove from William Knox is hypnotic and the drum patterns from Katy Elwell just enhance the groove. Mathieu Ricou knows how to enhance the song with his vocals, his melodies, his phrasing and his guitar lines. “A Perfect Circle” also comes to mind. I still call it hard rock. At 3.05 the trance takes effect with a solid Tool like groove. Then at the 4 minute it goes into a Pink Floyd style atmospheric outro full of dissonant volume swells.

“Twisted Machine” is a stand out. It looks like all three members lived and breathed, “Aenima” and “Lateralus” from Tool while writing this album. From 3.40 the song goes into a wicked groove, ala “Schism”. I actually cranked “Schism” after and thematically the two songs flow in together. And that whole section from about 3.30 in “Schism” got me thinking of “Ragnarok” from Periphery and off I went to digest that song.

At 44 minutes “Out Of Reach” is a compact album, which is how it should be.

Since Tool is on hiatus, Earshot are more or less no more, Chevelle are trying out new musical horizons and Deftones are here and there when they want to me, Lizzard is a perfect replacement to fill the gap. They haven’t just filled the gap, they have made it their own.

They have a fan funding campaign up for their new album on Ulule. It’s in French and the Google translator is working spasmodically. 61 contributors so far and they have achieved 89% of their target. The target is 3,500 Euros.

Did I contribute?

No.

Fan funding to me is about delivering something unique to a fan. The perks are just not unique enough and $15Euro for a CD (which equates to about $22 Australian) is above what I would pay for a CD. So it will be a Spotify album.

If an album sold 61 CD’s it would be seen as a dud.

Fan Funding a CD and offering fans what the old legacy gatekeepers offered fans, is not embracing the new. It is using new and exiting platforms to prop up old business models.

People want access to the music and they will contribute for a perk if they believe they are getting value for their money. Make it worth their while, otherwise it is leaving money on the table.

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

It’s all MIRRORS and MISDIRECTION: Tilting Against Windmills with Protest The Hero

That vocal section in “Tilting Against Windmills” from about 2.28 with the lyric “Father Forgive me for I have sinned” sounds huge. It’s epic and it just comes out of nowhere. Isn’t it funny how a small section totally makes the song. The whole “Volition” album is full of great sections.

“Without Prejudice” has the base line that comes out at about 3:10 which just builds to a mad climax. It also has an awesome lyric line. “Jump from the nearest tallest building and reach new heights.” What a brilliant way to say the clichéd and overused Reach For The Sky term.

“Clarity” has the excellent lyric line of ‘This drought is relieved with acid rain”. Love the lyrical statement.

“Yellow Teeth” has a mad chorus guitar melody.

“Plato’s Tripartite” has a tough progressive bit from about 2:54 to 3:32.

“A Life Embossed” has an awesome progressive guitar lead that starts at 3:44.

“Mist” has the major key ending with the dark lyric line of “You’re as deep as the grave, marching to the heartbeat of the land.” It just comes out of nowhere and after a chaotic math metal interlude.

The last song “Skies” is the perfect closer. It feels like it’s got some subliminal message that says, “play me again… play me again… play play play….”

Every song on “Volition” has something that just stands up and slaps you in the face with awesomeness. I am starting to sound like Bill and Ted. And what about the drumming. It is a tragedy that Chris Adler isn’t touring on the back of this release. Everything just sounds more powerful. From the double kick to the hitting of the skins.

I decided to do some Google searches on Protest The Hero because that is what we do these days. I was at first interested to see what kind of gear they use which is a pretty basic set up. Then in my searches I came across some YouTube clips of them giving tutorials for some of their songs.

All I can say is Whoaaa….

First off, I wanted to break my guitar, just because they make what they are playing look so easy. What I am finding out is that by “trying” to take on some of their stuff it is opening myself to a whole new world of composition and it is breaking me out of my rut.

I also watched some interviews with the guys as well and they talked about their influences especially Paul Gilbert and John Petrucci. What was funny to me is that they actually aren’t major Rush fans at all, which I thought was bizarre as they are Canadian and Rush is Canadian. Rhythm guitarist Tim Millar said something like “I have like a Greatest Hits album but that’s about it”.

Even before the Ron Jarzombek connection on “Drumhead Trial” I was always saying to anyone who listened to me that Protest The Hero remind me of Watchtower, a technical thrash band from the Eighties. Watchtower released a brilliant album called “Control and Resistance”. I remember picking it up for $2 in a second hard record store around 1989. What a bargain?

In relation to Watchtower and their album “Control And Resistance” this is what Guitar World said about it in a list of Top Ten Shred Albums of the 80’s.

“Sounding like the twisted scion of Metallica and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, WatchTower was the most brilliant weird band of its time. Guitarist Ron Jarzombek, with his complex harmony solos, strange scales and furious staccato lead bursts, performs tricks on his guitar that will leave you more than sufficiently breathless.”

Their 2nd singer Jason McMaster was tapped to join Pantera before Phil Anselmo joined. Then he left and formed a hard rock band called Dangerous Toys and had some mainstream success. The original guitarist Billy White also went all hard rock and joined Don Dokken for his solo project (and was also the main songwriter on it). Remember the album “Up From The Ashes.” The bass player Doug Keyser was asked to audition for Metallica after Cliff Burton died. Watchtower has a history man with so many different MIRRORS and MISDIRECTION.

Also another band that Protest The Hero always reminded me off is Leviathan, another progressive technical metal/rock band. Their album “Deepest Secrets Beneath” is essential listening.

I’ve cranked “Volition” to death already, so yesterday I decided to go through some other progressive bands. I played the new Dream Theater, played Periphery II and played Tesseract “Altered State” and then went back to “Volition”.

Progressive music is in a good place as far as I’m concerned.

All four bands mentioned above have different and unique sounds but yet are undeniably progressive. Protest The Hero is by far the most intense, and I think that’s why they stand out above the rest.

Listening to the new Dream Theater and then going back to “Volition” was a real eye opener. I hold Dream Theater in high regard from a technical point of view, however the stuff that Protest The Hero do is technical to the max and it’s the tempo they do it in that gives this overwhelming impression.

It just made listening to Dream Theater sound so slow and old. Speaking of old bands, the new Fates Warning album is better than Dream Theater’s self-titled album. I really dig what Fates Warning is all about, merging hard rock, with Tool/Porcupine Tree/atmospheric Pink Floyd like movements and Iron Maiden style lead breaks. Plus as a Dream Theater fan, Fates Warning get Kevin Moore to contribute with each album.

When I was going through the booklet I noticed that their producer Cameron McLellan was involved a lot in the song writing process. It’s no surprise that he is filling in for bassist Arif Mirabdolbaghi. Like how un-metal is that. He pulled out of the U.S tour because he is involved in a stage play and because the recording ran over the tour dates conflict with the dates of the stage play. So of course for the US tour Cameron McLellan is filling in for him.

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Uncategorized

The State Of Heavy Metal

There it is again. Heavy metal. It doesn’t matter how many times the labels tried to kill it, mainstream it or commercialize it, Heavy Metal has remained consistent from when it began. Whenever pop music becomes pretentious, heavy metal rises up as an alternative answer.

What does the term “heavy metal” mean?

Black Sabbath started something in 1969 in the UK. Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin started something on the hard rock front. In the U.S you had Kiss, Styx, Ted Nugent, Journey. In Australia, you had a pub rock band called AC/DC. Progressive Rock became a force to be reckoned with on the backs of Pink Floyd, ELP, Genesis and Yes.

By the mid Seventies, disco, punk and new wave became the darlings of the scene and heavy metal and all forms of rock went underground again, waiting for the day to rise again.

Then came the New Wave of British Heavy Metal between 1979 and 1983. At the same time, hard rock, glam metal and speed metal roared out of the Los Angeles and San Francisco scene. Think Motley Crue, Ratt, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer.

When heavy metal and hard rock drops off the mainstream scene, it is never gone for long. Heavy Metal is the answer to all things corrupt. It is the soundtrack.

Typically most metal fans come from working-class homes or changed family dynamics. According to a recent study, all us metal heads must have low self-esteem, because that is why we listen to metal music.

The mainstream always ignored metal music, seeing it as too dumb. Of course, when a band breaks through, the mainstream are the first group of media outlets to jump on the wagon. Remember Metallica. Ignored by the mainstream completely. The only mainstream press they got was the sad and tragic death of Cliff Burton. Then the Black album comes out and it is undeniable. It’s a juggernaut and everyone wanted to be a part of it.

So here is the list of the current state of heavy metal.

CLASSIC EVERYTHING

Rush – enough said. Move on.

AC/DC – enough said times two.

CLASSIC METAL

Iron Maiden – they need another great album like “Brave New World” soon or they will be playing to smaller and smaller audiences with each tour.

Metallica – they need to start making better decisions and they need to release new music. Look at their decision-making process. A project with Lou Reed (RIP) that just didn’t connect with the fan bases of each party involved and an $18 million dud of a movie. In relation to new music, they can only go back to the same market place year after year before the fans get burned on it.

Megadeth – Dave Mustaine said on “The Metal Show” that his top five Megadeth albums are “Countdown To Extinction”, “Rust In Peace”, “Peace Sells”, “So Far So Good So What” and “Killing Is My Business”. He needs to have a current album in that Top 5.

Slayer – are finished in relation to new music without Jeff Hanneman. He was the main songwriter in Slayer, full stop. To hear Kerry King saying that if the Jeff Hanneman music in the archives is not good, it will be not used is a load of B.S. Who made Kerry King the gatekeeper?

Judas Priest – is not Judas Priest anymore. It’s all about the dollars.

Black Sabbath – is all about the last paycheck. Anyone remember the recent album? Name me the whole track list without Googling it. I bet if i asked you to name me the whole track list on “Paranoid” or “Heaven And Hell” I would get an answer.

Pantera – lets hope that no one is stupid enough to reform Pantera with a “guitarist” paying tribute to Dimebag. Stick to your guns Vinnie. Pantera died completely when Dimebag died.

CLASSIC ROCK

Led Zeppelin is still big business in the market place. That is what the mighty Zep has become. A Corporate entity.

Pink Floyd are on hiatus however Roger Waters is still doing the rounds. He is the real deal anyway.

Motley Crue have gone back to the same market places year after year since 2008. The fans are getting burnt on this grab for cash as no new music has been forthcoming expect for the song “Sex”. The movie and the farewell tour are constantly dropped to the public.

Deep Purple should call it a day. They are out of ideas and inspiration.

Styx, Journey, Toto and Night Ranger are shadows of their former selves, doing enough to make a living in the current music business, but out of touch of what the music business fans want from their artists today. Which is a direct line, a connection.

THRASH/GROOVE METAL

Machine Head is the leader in this group. In Robb Flynn, they have a work horse of epic proportions who has the grit to see things through.

Trivium are real contenders. Say what you will about them, one thing is clear; they are not afraid to try new shit out and take risks.

METAL (all styles)

Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch lead this group. They are ticking all the boxes. They have the sales on the board and both are part of the public conversation.

Bullet For My Valentine – have a great album in them. Can they write it?

Stone Sour – should have released one album instead of two.

Sevendust – I love them and the new album was a welcomed return to form.

Disturbed – The Device album had the same impact as the last Disturbed album. Do they still have a place in the Metal world?

Heartist – could be the next big thing or they could crash and burn with their next album as now they have a record label A&R department in their house.

ROCK (all styles)

Shinedown are the new ROCK GODS. Volbeat are not that far behind with Black Veil Brides and Skillet as decent contenders.

Eve To Adam – released a great rock album but no one has heard it.

Buckcherry – veterans of the scene and play to a niche.

Thirty Seconds To Mars – took too long to release a good album. If you are going to take 4 years between releases, you need to release a great album.

Airbourne – fill the AC/DC void when AC/DC is on hiatus.

Alter Bridge – are an experienced team that deliver consistently.

One Less Reason – great music, great songs however if people buy a physical product from them, they need to deliver.

10 Years – a great fan funded release in 2012. Now they need to make some hard decisions. Do they go the fan funded route again or do they seek to get a deal or something entirely different.

DO IT YOURSELF ROCK

Digital Summer – they run their band as a company that puts money back into the band and they still hold down jobs that gives them money for living.

Burnside – released a great album that no one has heard.

Vaudeville – another band that released a great album.

SUPER GROUP

The Night Flight Orchestra – If you haven’t heard “Internal Affairs” from 2012 you need to. TNFO is made up of melodic death metal bands playing classic rock and metal.

PROGRESSIVE METAL/ROCK

Tool – it’s going to be an event when the new Tool album comes out. Is it too late? Time will tell.

Coheed and Cambria – can’t do nothing wrong currently. Excellent double releases, plus great fan perks.

Dream Theater – are doing their best to maintain the success they achieved 10 years ago. Need a great album otherwise it’s bye bye.

TesseracT, Protest The Hero and Periphery are the new leaders of Progressive Music.

Today I Caught The Plague, Sound of Contact, Op Shop, Scale The Summit and Lizzard are rookies to take notice off.

METALCORE (MELODIC DEATH METAL)

Killswitch Engage are firing on all guns.

In Flames need to bring out new music.

All That Remains needs to head back to the studio.

The rest of the bands in this movement need a re-think.

SYMPHONIC METAL/ROCK

Within Temptation – enough said

DEATH METAL

Lamb of God – they are angry and they are pissed off. A bullshit murder trial and banned in a South East Asian country by ignorant pricks.

SHOCK

One final mention; “Du, Du Hast, Du Hast mish a fraud.” Rammstein has a dicka, so let’s get together, what is the problem?

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Music, My Stories, Review in 40 Words

Review In 40 Words – Sound Of Contact – Dimensionaut (2013)

The vocalist is Simon Collins, the son of Phil Collins, who also formed the band with David Kerzner. This is great prog without all the technical mastery wrapped around a concept story about a traveller of dimensions and galaxies.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The World Of Prog And Metal Will Be Changed Forever By The End Of October.

The world of Progressive Metal and Heavy Metal will be changed forever by the end of October. It wont be my mammoth sales or by charting in the top 10. That is old school. It will be years later, that the greatness of Trivium and Protest The Hero will be hailed.

We live in a blockbuster world and these two releases “Volition” from Protest The Hero and “Vengeance Falls” from Trivium are two such blockbusters.

The two songs from Protest The Hero released so far are killer. They have that WOW factor. The first one “Clarity” I have already spoken about in my 40 word review.

The second one, “DrumHead Trail” has got this Maiden gallop vibe I am hearing. The drumming on the whole album is by Chris Adler from Lamb Of God.

You can really hear that metal edge that Adler brings to the table, especially around the double kick sections of the first two songs. It is also super progressive. What an excellent job. To be honest I really thought that Dream Theater would be entering territory like this with their self-titled release on at least one song.

Protest The Hero deliver insanity like prog in 5 minutes. I really can’t wait for the fan funded version to hit my mailbox. Hearing the two songs so far from Protest The Hero, it sure looks like a huge stamp for Prog as well.

I’ll tell you one thing, it’s not mainstream and it’s never going to be embraced by everybody, however Protest The Hero have created a niche.

Plus there is still Trivium’s new one to come, which sounds like it will be a huge stamp for Metal.

From what I have heard, I have no issues out laying the money.

“No Way To Heal” is the new song doing the rounds. It follows on nicely from “Brave This Storm” and “Strife.”

“I’m running on empty / I’m chasing a dead dream / I’m all out of time / Clutching the will, only to feel / No Way to Heal!!!”

Trivium working with Dave Draiman was the best thing to have happened to them. Next in line, they should work with Kevin Churko.

Also, for any young kid that is getting into metal and progressive music for the first time, these two releases are perfect introductions. For the hardcore fans, these two releases will satisfy. For the casual metal fan, they will bite at these two new releases.

Life is long and artists need to have perserverance for that delayed gratification.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

New Music Releases vs Maintenance Music Releases

Looking at the recent spate of releases from bands that I like, I am asking the question;

When did new music change from being about new and original music to a maintenance model of new music?

Five Finger Death Punch’s new album “The Wrong Side Of Heaven Vol. 1” is “American Capitalist” Part 2. So I am assuming that volume 2 of “The Wrong Side Of Heaven”, will be “American Capitalist” Part 3.

In order to define what I mean by new, I will use Metallica as an example.

Metallica released “Kill Em All” in 1983, which paid homage to the “New Wave Of British Metal” movement with the tempo’s increased to 200 beats per minute. It was new, and there was a technical element to it. It spawned a thousand imitators.

In 1984, they released “Ride The Lightning”. It wasn’t the same as “Kill Em All”. It was vastly different musically and lyrically and it was new. The people responded and Metallica went into refining the “Ride The Lightning” model with great success.

“Master Of Puppets” is a very similar sounding album and the track listing mirrors “Ride The Lightning”. The difference between the albums was the songs. Metallica improved as songwriters. The people responded even more. Then came the technical masterpiece of “..And Justice For All”. Again, the structure of the album was built around the “Ride The Lightning” model. However, even though it was a new album, it was still released under the maintenance model built around “Ride The Lightning”.

Then in 1991, they pressed the reset switch and released “Metallica”. It was back to the new and the people responded in the twenty millions. The “Load” and “ReLoad” albums that followed fell into the Maintenance model of releases that followed the format of the mega successful “Metallica Black” album.

Then in 2003, they pressed the reset switch again and released “St Anger”. It was back to something different. Regardless of what others thought of it, it was a gutsy move to release an album that sounded like that, along with chaotic song structures.

Then in 2008, they pressed the reset switch one more time and delivered a new album rooted in the old. They had taken the best things from the “Ride The Lightning” model and the “Metallica Black” model to deliver “Death Magnetic”.

All bands encompass these transitions.

Let’s look at Dream Theater.

In 1988, they released “When Dream and Day Unite”. It was new, taking influence from the metal bands at the time and merging those influences with progressive elements.

In 1992, they released “Images and Words”. It was new again. They didn’t go and re-write “When Dream And Day Unite”. The people responded and the album was a success.

In 1994, they released “Awake”. This album formed part of their maintenance. A good album, however you can tell they tried to rewrite “Images and Words.” The people didn’t respond to this album as they did to “Images and Words.”

Then in 1997, they released “Falling Into Infinity”. This was a new album as it moved the band into a more mainstream progressive sound. Although it had progressive elements from all previous releases, the band was pushed to enter this direction. Again, it didn’t meet the expectations of the record label and it also caused division amongst band members.

In 1999, they pressed the reset switch and released a career defining album in “Scenes From A Memory”. People responded again to the band. It was a new album in every sense.

So in 2001, they went into part new and part maintenance mode. “Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence” kept with the concept theme on CD 2. CD 1 was all new tracks that showcased a very metallic element of the band as well as a very Tool style progressive element. Of course by 2001, Tool were huge all over the world.

Then in 2003, they pressed the reset button again and came out with the best progressive metal album in “Train Of Thought”. Any die hard metaller that wasn’t sure about the band, committed to them with this release. People responded as well, as metalcore was also on the rise and those young kids were looking for other forms of heavy music.

So in 2005, instead of re-doing “Train Of Thought”, they went into a part new / part maintenance model again with “Octavarium.” A notable influence this time around was Muse, who by 2004, were huge all over the world.

With the change of record labels, “Systematic Chaos” saw the band return to the metallic elements of “Train Of Thought” in 2007 with great success.

2009 saw “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” which encompassed everything that Dream Theater is in six tracks. It was New and it set a standard.

2011 saw “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”, the first album to not feature Mike Portnoy, who wanted the band to take a 5 year break and when the band said no, he departed. This album following the maintenance model of “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” and “Images And Words.”

2013 saw the release of “Dream Theater.” It has three songs that really stand out in “Illumination Theory”, “The Bigger Picture” and “The Looking Glass”. In the end, this is Dream Theater trying to create something new, however it is another maintenance album.

When you put these bands against the hundreds of millions of other musicians all making music, how does it all stack up.

There is a lot of great music out there that hasn’t been heard. There is a lot of good, a lot of okay and a lot of crap music as well.

With so much music being made every day and released every day, it is impossible for everyone to listen to it all. So when the label bands do end up releasing music, they need to make sure they captivate us to stick around, otherwise we just move on, trying to find something else in the meantime. Some other new niche. That is the new music business.

When an artist has an audience they need to be thankful for that audience. They need to show some respect towards that audience. The label bands have a head start, however if they turnover too many maintenance style of releases compared to something new and refreshing, the audience will move on.

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Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Going Back to 2005 with the City Of Evil

The new Avenged Sevenfold album got me into a A7X mood, so i went back to 2005 and cranked “City of Evil”. The “City of Evil” album from 2005 was my first introduction to A7X and it became one of my favourites back then as I only had a few albums that I really liked from 2005 like Disturbed – Ten Thousand Fists, Dream Theater – Octavarium, John Petrucci – Suspended Animation, Coheed And Cambria – Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Thirty Seconds To Mars – A Beautiful Lie, Alter Bridge – Alter Bridge, Trivium – Ascendancy, Cog – The New Normal and Bullet For My Valentine – The Poison

Then came the self-titled 2007 album and after that it was the 2010 album “Nightmare” and now I am into another listen of “Hail To The King”.

That lead break on the song “Afterlife” from the 2007 album is insane x infinity. Synester puts so many different styles into it and those sweeps are killers. It is a far cry from the neoclassical sweeps of Yngwie.

“M.I.A” from City of Evil is another great tune. Great music on it.

I sure miss the Dream Theater and the cabaret progressive influences from “The Rev” (RIP).

I was reading a lot of articles on A7X last night and I even went back to some of the Guitar World issues I have. Man, talk about polarizing. They are either loved or hated. There is no in between.

Even from way back in 2006, there are articles on the web that call A7X, Guns N Roses and Metallica rip offs.

Then Black Veil Brides are accused by A7X fans of ripping off “Unholy Confessions” for the BVB song “Knives and Pens”.

I couldn’t stop laughing. This world has gone to hell….

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