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

John Sykes

How do you follow-up “Still Of The Night, Bad Boys, Give Me All Your Love and Is This Love”?

You don’t. You change tact and form a super group with musicians that have some real rock credentials.

Forming a new band or going solo (depending on how people see the Blue Murder project) after being fired from Whitesnake before the huge success of the 1987 self-titled album, John Sykes believed the world was his oyster. Surrounded by the expertise of John Kalodner and a big money offer from Geffen Records, he believed he would have instant success now that he could play by his own rules.

However that was not to be. The Blue Murder self-titled debut got stiffed from the outset, due to the Geffen label bosses doing everything to please David Coverdale. David Coverdale even threatened to withhold the next Whitesnake album if the label didn’t pull its marketing of the Blue Murder project.

The self-titled Blue Murder album is a classic album. It was an accumulation of who John Sykes was at the time. Can’t say much about the pirate swash buckling image, however the music was epic and majestic. The songs. First class.

It is a shame that it is not on Spotify, however the follow-up “Nothin But Trouble” is on Spotify along with a folk band called Blue Murder. If you don’t own or haven’t heard it before, go to YouTube and you can hear the full album in a high quality stream.

Released in 1989 it was produced by Bob Rock. It kicks off with “Riot”. There is so much intensity and drama in this song and I remember when I heard John Sykes’s vocals, I was like damn, this guy can sing. I couldn’t believe that John Sykes considered getting someone else to do vocals.

It contains the majestic “Valley Of The Kings” which ironically was co-written with Tony Martin. Of course, if you listen to the Black Sabbath album “The Headless Cross” with Martin singing, you will hear a lot of similar melodies to “Valley Of The Kings”.

“You’re workin’, slavin
Into death every day
Set us free”

Depending on how people view a 9 to 5 job, not much has changed since the time of the Pharoah kings.

How heavy is “Ptolemy”? What about that groove!

“Black Hearted Woman” is co-written by with Carmine Appice and Tony Franklin and it is a derivative version of “Children Of The Night” and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” from Whitesnake.

“Out Of Love” is the result when John Sykes combined “Is This Love” and “Looking For Love”.

“Billy” is the Thin Lizzy influence coming through.

It’s nine songs and no filler, however this great album was still eclipsed by the work that John Sykes did with David Coverdale.

Look at the track list to the John Sykes “Bad Boy Live” CD, and you will see “Bad Boys”, “Crying In The Rain”, “Is This Love” and “Still Of The Night” on the track list. Those songs still get played live by Whitesnake and by John Sykes.

Listening to Blue Murder it doesn’t sound dated. The music has lost none of its power in the decades that have passed. That is the power of the riff and John Sykes was damn good at creating an awesome riff.

The album is heavy without being bleak. You can listen to it while driving and you can listen to it in the comfort of your home. It reminds me of a time when music ruled.

It is such a shame that the Blue Murder album got stiffed by David Coverdale playing record label politics and it’s follow up “Nothin But Trouble” got stiffed by the record label playing grunge politics. While “Nothing But Trouble” didn’t have the same impact has its predecessors, it is still a very satisfying album and it’s a John Sykes album I still listen to today.

“You promise heaven, but hell is all I see
(Mojo rising on the wind)
If there’s a lord above
Come rescue me
(Mojo rising on the wind)”

Any song that starts of with the above lyrics has my attention. “Cry For Love” is another derivative version of the “Valley Of The Kings”, “Crying In The Rain” and “Still Of The Night” style that John Sykes is renowned for, however it doesn’t sound like a forgery.

“We All Fall Down” is Thin Lizzy heaven and this track would have satisfied all fans of Thin Lizzy in John’s vocal delivery and lyrical style.

“I Need An Angel” is one of the best power ballads that John Sykes has composed.

“Runaway” is a clichéd lyrical theme however there is nothing clichéd about the song and it’s delivery.

“Dance”, “I’m On Fire” and “Love Child” are no different to “Sex Child” and “Jelly Roll” from the debut.

All of these songs can stand on their own. Anyone that listen’s today, cannot help but nod their head and tap their foot, because the music is so good!

It’s the guitar work, it’s hypnotic, it’s majestic, it’s all riff-a-delicious, it’s heavy, it’s melodic and it’s passionate. It’s like Sykes didn’t care who was paying attention, he was just going to go off and do his thing. If he wanted to chuck in a 2 minute guitar solo, he would.

So it is 1994 and John Sykes is without a record deal. What does he do next? He goes solo. In a gatekeeper controlled market, interest in John Sykes was still high in Japan and Europe. The U.S market got pushed onto the grunge and alternative band wagon. Hard Rock fans had to pay top dollar for imports to satisfy their musical needs. What can I say, the people who run the record labels are complete idiots.

In 1995, “Out Of My Tree” drops. I didn’t hear this album until Napster hit in 1999. I couldn’t justify paying the $80 for it in Australia, just because it was a Japanese import. So when Napster hit the Australian shoreline, John Sykes was the first name I searched out and to my delight, I found all the songs that made up the “Out Of My Tree”, “20th Century” and “Loveland” albums.

“Soul Stealer” opens the album with a very sleazy and groovy riff. Again it is derivative and it is perfect. There is a swing and it’s infectious. “I Don’t Want To Live My Life Like You” is next, with it’s very punky Sex Pistols vibe and super catchy chorus.

“Standing At The Crossroads” channels the spirit of Jimi Hendrix. Following that is the slow “I Don’t Believe In Anything”. It sounds psychedelic, very Beatles like and it sounds like it came from an era when everything on an album didn’t sound the same. It’s not a glam rock or pop metal power ballad. It is jazzy and the bass line is even funky. You believe that Sykes truly feels it. It’s structure is classic rock all the way, with a verse, chorus, lead break, back to the chorus and we are only half way through the song.

The piece de resistance is “Black Days”. It harkens back to the classic rock riffs that John Sykes creates. The groove behind the music is undeniable. It gets the foot tapping and the head tapping. It’s got a small drum solo, a classic Sykes solo and a slow, “Whole Lotta Love” style breakdown, before building up to that epic riff. Then we get a classic outro complete with Sykes soloing over a repeating vocal line and the drums building it up nicely until they are in a double time frenzy.

“Jesus and Mary” has an ascending riff like Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”. The lyrics let the song down in my opinion as the music is so good.

“Do Or Die” is a derivative version of “We All Fall Down” and “If You Ever Need Love” is a derivative version of “Is This Love”.

John Sykes even reformed Thin Lizzy as a tribute to Phil Lynott however some of his best work is on albums that have more or less been wiped from the map. Everyone should check those albums out.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The Unexpected Slow Metal Hit

We live in a world that is all about the NOW. Music quickly comes and it quickly goes. Look at all the Top 10 Lists or the Charts for each week and you will see that it is a different list each week. There is just so much new music coming out at the moment and people are just churning it up.

For example, I didn’t get a chance to get into the new Trivium album because a week later, I had the new Protest The Hero album and that has taken all of my attention.

However, there are always songs that sit on the outside. Songs that the artist or the band didn’t believe could be a “hit” (I use that term lightly) or a song that should be used as a promotion tool.

But they didn’t count on the fan choices. The fan that today has the power. The fan that could pick and choose what track they could listen too.

Killswitch Engage released “As Daylight Dies” in 2006 and it is there cover of “Holy Diver” that proved to be the sleeper hit. Don’t believe me, check out Spotify. it has 6,136,523 streams. Still don’t believe me, go on YouTube and you will see it has 9,013,222 views.

Alter Bridge released “One Day Remains” in 2004. “Open Your Eyes”, “Find the Real” and “Broken Wings” followed as promotional singles. However it was the metal heavy “Metalingus” and the moving ballad “In Loving Memory” that the fans selected as the hits. Don’t believe me, check out Spotify. “Metalingus” has 3,362,193 streams and “In Loving Memory” has 2,690,909 streams. Still don’t believe me, go on YouTube and you will see that “Metalingus” has over 5,500,000 views from all the combined channels and “In Loving Memory” has over 6,000,000 combined views.

In 2011 Trivium got blasted for the “In Waves” album, however the title track is their biggest so far. On Spotify “In Waves” the song has 3,038,061 streams. On YouTube, the Official Video on the Roadrunner Records channel has 3,423,215 views and a live version of the song on the Trivium Official channel has 2,767,455 views.

Volbeat broke through in the U.S on the back of “Still Counting”. The song was released in 2008 on the “Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood” album and on 21 July 2012 “Still Counting” was the number-one song on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks US chart. Go on Spotify and it has been streamed 19,779,202 times. Go on YouTube and count the views from all the various channels. They add up.

Bullet For My Valentine led the promotional campaign for their “Temper Temper” album with the song “Riot”, however the fans didn’t care about that song as much as they cared about “Breaking Point” and “Tears Don’t Fall (Part 2)”.

As much as Dream Theater is trying to promote the current version of the band, they can’t escape their past. The Spotify Top 10 of Dream Theater has the 9 songs from the new self titled album (that proved to be a dud), plus “On The Backs Of Angels” from the previous album. However if you go on YouTube the fans don’t care about the new album currently. “Wither”, “Pull Me Under” and “Another Day” still get the attention.

This is very different to Avenged Sevenfold, who have people very interested in their new album. In addition, all the other media outlets and bands that are talking about the album, all they are doing is adding to the legend of it. Hail To The King I say. “Shepherd Of Fire” is doing the rounds on my iPod.

Protest The Hero have led the promotional campaign of their new album “Volition” with “Clarity”, “Drumhead Trail” and “Underbite” however, it is “Mist” and “Skies” that is getting the conversation.

The market place today isn’t about the hit song now. It is about new songs vs old songs. Metal and rock songs are always late bloomers. There is no formula as to why certain songs resonate more than others with fans.

I like the story about how Dave Mustaine assisted Stryper in selecting their lead off single from the “No More Hell To Pay” album. They had a different song choice for the lead single and changed their minds after they had a chat with the Megadeth front man. Dave told them that his favourite track is “Sympathy”. This made Michael Sweet change his mind for the lead off single. That track is listed as Number 11 on the album and to be honest it is a kick arse song.

Sure, back in the day when the record labels ruled, they would employ a scorched earth policy to market a band and the lead off single and naturally we would bite as we had the time to invest and there was nothing really else out there.

YouTube and Spotify play a big part today in transforming a song into a phenomenon. Television also plays it’s part. Look at all the hit shows and they all have a section where a certain song plays and it conveys the emotion of the scene that no other music can.

Sons Of Anarchy comes to mind here, especially at the end of Season 2, when the song “Hands In The Sky (Big Shot)” from Straylight Run played in the epic last 5 minutes of the final episode.

Look at what Breaking Bad did for “Baby Blue” by Badfinger.

My wife was a fan of Grey’s Anatomy and because of that show she got into Snow Patrol (“Chasing Cars”) and The Fray (“How to Save a Life”).

In the end all artists need to do is create great music. The fans will latch onto it eventually.

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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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