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.

Standard
Music, My Stories

Saint Control: James Is Madly In Control With You

Some Kind of Monster was on TV a few nights ago. It has been a long time since I watched it, so I stayed up late to refresh my memory. I have been meaning to re-watch it for a long time, however with so much new content released each day, it’s hard to find the time to revisit something from the past.

Basically, Kirk and Lars are beholden to James Hetfield. That is the message that I got out of the documentary this time around. During the whole “James in rehab” period, Kirk and Lars did nothing and could do nothing. The documentary is really about James Hetfield and his personal struggles. By adding crappy footage of an art auction that involved Lars and footage of Kirk surfing, the directors were as diplomatic as they could be to the other members of Metallica. In the end it was all about James.

There is a scene. James and Lars are arguing about control. James doesn’t like how decisions are made without him being consulted and he is blaming Lars for controlling the decision-making process. Lars counters back by saying that even though James talks about having no control, James actually has all the control.

The band was on hold until James got his act together (one form of control), the band is working on a time schedule designed by James (another form of control), they cannot listen and discuss the “St Anger” songs without James present (another form of control) and they cannot make changes to songs once James has departed for the day (another form of control).

It all comes down to this. James could replace Lars, Kirk and Rob with other musicians and the band is still Metallica. However Lars, Kirk and Rob cannot replace James with another singer/guitarist and still call it Metallica.

Standard
Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, Piracy, Stupidity

James Hetfield – Semi Obscure Metallica Songs – What Do You Mean I Don’t Write Good Lyrics

Metallica have done a lot of work to try and restore their battered image since the Metallica vs. Napster debacle circa 1999/2000. While people see this court case as Metallica taking up arms against their fans and innovation, I saw it as a case where Metallica tried unsuccessfully to get back control as to how their music is distributed and consumed. In the end, the whole debacle was handled poorly by Lars Ulrich.

So in 2003, they started Metallicavault.com, an online site, controlled by the band. It could be accessed by purchasing the terrible St Anger CD. Each CD came with a unique code. The band had live mp3’s and videos available for fans to download. It was nothing spectacular and the promise that more content would be uploaded weekly never came to be.

In 2006, Metallica joined iTunes and finally made their music available digitally in a legal sense. Prior to that, to get Metallica mp3’s you had to either rip your own CD or download illegally. This was done on their own terms and on a separate payment arrangement than other artists. At first it was just in the US and Canada as their overseas label wanted a bigger slice of the pie than they deserved. They basically controlled the negotiations as iTunes wanted them.

Then in 2008 they launched Mission : Metallica. The band advertised that any users that signed up to the Platinum package, will be allowed to download live shows, the new album (plus a physical copy of it), along with the normal membership of watching (heavily edited) footage of the band in the studio. Again this was all controlled by the band.

In 2012, they finally joined Spotify and the streaming revolution, again under their own terms and rules.

Anyway, the reason for this post is to highlight some Metallica tracks that could be classed as obscure.

Leper Messiah

It’s written by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. It’s worth noting that Dave Mustaine claimed he wrote the song’s main riff and was not given credit by Metallica.

For all of those haters that said Metallica had sold out with the black album obviously didn’t know that Metallica had similar style songs on their earlier albums. Leper Messiah from the Master of Puppets album is one of those songs.

The best part comes in around the 30 second mark. Cliff’s trademark bass lines just rumble along while James lays down staccato power chords.

The messiah refers the ministers or evangelists and the lepers refers to the lowly people who give their money believing whatever they are told.

Send me money, send me green
Heaven you will meet
Make a contribution
And you’ll get a better seat
Bow to leper messiah

Phantom Lord

It’s written by Dave Mustaine, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich and it was released on Kill Em All. Mustaine even used the Phantom Lord progression from about 2.30 to 3.10 in the Megadeth song, This Is My Life from the Countdown To Extinction album.

Overall the song is very influenced by Ace of Spades from Motörhead.

Hear the cry of war
Louder than before
With his sword in hand
To control the land

When metal music came out screaming in the Eighties, every band had a song about the movement. Twisted Sister called it Rock N Roll whereas Metallica called it Metal. The sword in hand is the instrument of choice.

Escape

Kirk Hammet gets a credit on this song on top of the usual Hetfield / Ulrich combination.

That intro. It’s brilliant. The song is more rock than metal. Like Leper Messiah, this song would not be out of place on the Black Album and it was released on Ride The Lightning. Lars wanted a more commercial sounding song.

The song is about escaping from the prison that is someone else’s reality for you. You can call it another anthem for living the way you want to. It’s the first of a string of songs that references James childhood. The prison mentioned is his home.

Rape my mind and destroy my feelings
Don’t tell me what to do

Take note of a theme in this song that will appear again on later Metallica albums.

Feed my brain with your so called standards
Who says that I ain’t right

This theme of control and manipulation will come up again in Dyers Eve and The Unforgiven.

Dyers Eve

It’s written by Hetfield, Ulrich and Hammett and it closes the ..And Justice For All album.

The song lyrics are one of struggle. In this case, James is struggling against the efforts of the ones who want to control him. The theme was used again for The Unforgiven.

“Pushed onto Me What’s Wrong or Right” can be replaced by “They dedicate their lives to running all of his.”
“Hidden from this Thing That They Call Life” can be replaced by “With time the child draws in, this whipping boy done wrong.”
“Always Censoring My Every Move” can be replaced by “Deprived of all his thoughts.”
“Cannot Face the Fact I Think for Me” can be replaced by “What I’ve felt, what I’ve known, never shined through in what I’ve shown.”
“Clipped My Wings Before I Learnt to Fly” can be replaced by “New blood joins this earth and quickly he’s subdued.”

The Unforgiven III

The Unforgiven from the Black album set a new standard for the modern power ballad. It has been imitated by a thousand bands. Even Metallica referenced themselves with The Unforgiven II, however The Unforgiven III was unique and powerful enough to grab my attention. From all the other songs on Death Magnetic, you can say that The Unforgiven III has slipped into obscurity.

The piano intro that references Ennio Morricone sets the sadness and it is a different take to the acoustic intro of The Unforgiven (which borrowed from Ennio Morricone as well).

These days drift on inside a fog
Its thick and suffocating
This seeking life outside is hell
Inside intoxicating

James is documenting his battles with alcohol.

How can I blame you when it’s me I can’t forgive?

Reflection and hindsight. How can a person learn forgiveness if they cannot forgive themselves?

Holier Than Thou

It’s a Hetfield, Ulrich composition. It was supposed to be the leadoff single to the Black album, however Lars had different ideas.

It’s not who you are it’s who you know
Others lives are the basis of your own
Burn your bridges build them back with wealth
Judge not lest ye be judged yourself

The theme continues on from the corrupted justice themes of money buys immunity from persecution. Just like Leper Messiah and Escape would not be out of place on the Black album, Holier Than Thou would not be out of place on any of the earlier Metallica albums.

The God That Failed

The most saddest song on the Black Album is also the most grooviest. The God That Failed deals with Hetfield’s mother’s death from cancer and her Christian Science beliefs which kept her from seeking medical treatment. It’s another Hetfield/Ulrich composition, however I am sure this one is all Hetfield.

I see faith in your eyes
Never you hear the discouraging lies
I hear faith in your cries
Broken is the promise betrayal
The healing hand held back by the deepened nail
Follow the god that failed

Prince Charming

Prince Charming is written by Heltfield and Ulrich and it appeared on the Reload album. It is on this list for a few reasons. The most important one for me, is that James Hetfield breaks out his Ride The Lightning era voice in the verses. That melodic Ride The Lightning bark comes in at 1.13 to 1.23 (lyrics below). It continues during the Chorus and then appears again at 2.13 to 2.23 (lyrics below).

I’m the suit and tie that bleeds the street and still wants more
I’m the 45 that’s in your mouth in a dirty Texan whore

I’m a nothing face that plants the bomb and strolls away
I’m the one who doesn’t look quite right as children play

The song structure of Prince Charming is no different to the Kill Em All song structures. It’s based on the NWOBM style. The only difference is that the tempo is slower and the drumming is more rock driven then metal driven. Otherwise, you add those two elements to Prince Charming and you have a song that would not be out of place on Kill Em All.

The Outlaw Torn

Its written by Hetfield and Ulrich.

This song is heavy as hell. The F to E intro groove is super heavy (pay special attention to when Newsted does it during the solo breaks – it’s the swampy delta blues clashing with a heavy groove) and when the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath riff kicks in at the 30 second mark, it makes me feel like I want to break stuff.

Hear me
And if I close my mind in fear
Please pry it open
See me
And if my face becomes sincere
Beware
Hold me
And when I start to come undone
Stitch me together
Save me
And when you see me strut
Remind me of what left this outlaw torn

Don’t Tread On Me

With all the other classic songs on the Black album, this is just another song that was easily overlooked. This is classic Metallica, in the vein of For Whom The Bells Toll and The Thing That Should Not Be.

Liberty or death, what we so proudly hail
Once you provoke her, rattling of her tail
Never begins it, never, but once engaged..
Never surrenders, showing the fangs of rage

I like the lyrics, democracy never begins war, but once you engage it, prepare for its wrath. James said that after putting down the U.S for so long, he wanted to write a positive song for America, sort of a “no place like home.”

To secure peace is to prepare for war

It’s doublethink like the classic 1984 novel.

Standard