Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Utopia Records

It had the motto “The Home Of Heavy Metal” and for a long time it was my home.

I first visited the store when it was located in Martin Place, Sydney. It was basically a tiny hole in a wall. Actually the first location in Martin Place was from 1978 to 1980 and the second location in Martin Place was from 1980 to 1990. The second place is the one that I remember.

As mentioned it was tiny, but packed with metal and rock vinyl from every band I could ever imagine and more.

I’d never seen pictured vinyl before, well Utopia had them. I’d never seen 12 inch singles of metal bands before, well Utopia had them as well. And those yellow and black plastic bags with the logo and branding proved to be a badge of honor. It’s like we got patched in to the club the same way bike gangs patch in their members.

I remember the stories about the owner, how he couldn’t get a job at other Sydney record stores and he borrowed some money from his Dad, imported some boxes of vinyl, got himself a business partner and the rest is history.

Then from 1990 to 1995, they moved to Clarence Street, Sydney, not too far from the original shop. Instead of getting off at Martin Place, I would get off at Wynard.

It was bigger but below street level. Actually you walked in at street level and proceeded to go down a few flights of stairs. If I didn’t go up to visit, I ordered via mail. Lynch Mob’s “Wicked Sensation” on LP and Don Dokken’s “Up From The Ashes” on CD are two purchases i distinctly remember via mail.

I waited in line for a Sepultura meet and greet because my cousin Mega was a fan of the band. He took in his battered snare skin for signing. Even Igor the Sepultura drummer was impressed at the brutality of the snare skin.

Hours would be spent here and some big decisions would be made as to what to buy between my cousin and I. Then as soon as we got back to my cousins house I would dub the records he purchased and he would dub the records I purchased.

From 1995 to 2001, they moved to George Street, Sydney next to Hungry Jacks and then from 2001 to 2006 they moved across the road under the cinemas. For these stores I would get off at Town Hall.

Again, another step up in size and a lot of my money went Utopias way.

Between 2001 and 2003 I was working as an Insurance Broker in Sydney, about a 10 minute walk from the George Street store and I got a few of my band mates and some metal friends jobs with the same company.

Even though we had corporate haircuts and wore three piece suits, you couldn’t take the metal out of us metalheads. Twice a week we would venture into the store and of course we would get some funny looks like what the fuck are these guys doing here. But we always purchased something. After about a month it was the norm to be seen there in a suit.

But for some of the stuff I was after, the prices did border on the ridiculous. I remember the John Sykes solo albums listed as Japanese Imports and they had $50 on them. I already had downloaded them via Napster but wanted the originals. I got em eventually via Amazon in 2010.

And for the music I was seeking, the second hand shops, the record fairs and other smaller independent shops started to prove better value. Because the bigger Utopia got, the uniqueness culture it cultivated got lost.

Eventually online and especially Amazon proved to be the place to go and purchase what I needed. That was until Amazon closed their US site recently to us Aussies because they didn’t want to charge GST and the Aussie Amazon site is a total waste of space.

The last time I walked into Utopia was at an address on Broadway in Sydney. I actually drove to this store and parked at The Broadway Shopping Centre.

They occupied this store between 2006 to 2010. By then I felt it was a shadow of itself. Peer to peer downloading was at full swing. I still purchased some albums because that’s what I do but it felt weird being there. It felt barren and totally void of the culture that made Utopia popular.

But during this time they did things differently by having live bands in store and battle of the bands contests. They kept it going. They kept the name in the conversation.

From 2010, they have been at their Kent Street address and I haven’t been.

I either purchase from the bands directly these days those super deluxe box sets or I stream. And on Record Store Day, there is a shop locally called Music Farmers that stock the releases I’m always after.

But I will return, because that’s what us Metal fans do.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Maiden Live

On Friday, 6 May, 2016, I took my wife and three boys aged 10,9 and 4 to watch Iron Maiden on “The Book Of Souls World Tour” at the Qudos Bank Arena, formerly known as the Allphones Arena, formerly known as the Acer Arena in Homebush, Sydney.

The last time I saw Maiden was on the “Somewhere Back In Time Tour”. I went to both shows then, on February 9 and 10, 2008. The venue was then known as the Acer Arena and there wasn’t a spare spot on the floor or in the stands. But this time I saw red seats and spaces on the floor. Is it a sign of fading popularity?

I don’t think so, because prior to the show, Maiden got a “Gold” Certification for recorded music sales in Australia for “The Book Of Souls” album released in 2015.

As in 2008, the lights went out as soon as “Doctor Doctor” started playing from UFO on the backing intro music. And then it started with the little movie of the Maiden plane stuck in vines in a jungle.

“If Eternity Should Fail” and “Speed of Light” was the 1-2 punch from the “The Book of Souls” album to kick off the album.

When you have a legacy like Maiden’s, it’s a double-edged sword to spend the first 15 minutes of the concert playing tracks from the new album. There was some debate afterwards if this was a good thing or a bad thing especially when the audience was made up of people like me, dads and mums bringing their children to watch Maiden for the first time and children who were raised on the classic Maiden songs.

Anyway, the Dickinson penned “If Eternity Should Fail” is a great opener, and when the band kicks in with the intro lead is game on.

Waiting in line for the ending of time
If eternity should fail

It’s got a great sing a long chorus and that’s why it works live. By the time the “Ace Of Spades” influenced interlude kicks in, the floor is swaying with bodies. This song worked well live.

But the Smith/Dickinson composition, “Speed Of Light”, like “From Here To Eternity” and “Holy Smoke” before it, just don’t work as live songs. Boring and pedestrian.

“Children of the Damned”
Maiden takes us back to 1982 and we are all “Children of The Damned” again.

It’s the first of three songs from “The Number of the Beast” album and the first time, I am hearing this song live, as it wasn’t played on the 2008 “Somewhere Back In Time” tour. “Live After Death” was my first exposure to Maiden, and this song proved to be a favourite.

You’re Children of The Damned
Your back’s against the wall

Steve Harris wrote it about a book/movie, but those two lines above speak to me.

Because back in the Eighties, metal heads and rock heads got discriminated against. Since everyone that listened to metal and hard rock got classed as “devil worshippers” you can say that we were all damned and our backs were against the wall, trying to prove to others that we matter and have something better to offer this world.

Great live track and the quicker live tempo suited the song.

“Tears of a Clown” and “The Red And The Black” came next.

So Maiden went back to the new album. While I understand the importance of the song to Maiden and how it’s about comedian Robin Williams, “Tears of A Clown” just didn’t work as a live song. It’s best kept as a studio track.

Which brings me to the Steve Harris penned “The Red and the Black”. When I first heard this song on the album, I loved certain sections of it and after a few listens could honestly say it could do with some edits. Hearing the song, live, I can honestly say they should have been creative and exercised some control and edited the song down to 6 minutes instead of 10 minutes.

There is a harmony lead section of the song towards the end of the song that is excellent, however I think Maiden missed big time with these songs. Even the chants felt forced. “Fear Of The Dark” has the chants because the people/fans decided to chant along with the leads, not because Maiden wrote a song that has chants in it.

By now my four-year old fell asleep, which was a shame as his favourite song is “The Trooper” and that came up next. Actually I was surprised he fell asleep with the loud volumes.

“The Trooper”
So Maiden take us back to 1983 and the “Piece of Mind” album and play a speed metal version of the song. It was funny because in the car on the way up to the show my kids were singing the song super fast as well .

Actually, the song was that fast, that even Bruce couldn’t get all the words out in time.

Did it matter?

Not at all. My ten-year old and nine-year old lapped it up.

You’ll take my life but I’ll take yours too
You’ll fire your musket but I’ll run you through
So when you’re waiting for the next attack
You’d better stand there’s no turning back.

The stop of the music and the start of the vocal line is done brilliantly. It will remain a classic forever because of it.

“Powerslave”
The Dickinson penned title track from their 1984 album was up next and it’s one of my favourites.

When I was living this lie – Fear was my Game
People would worship and fall –
Drop to their knees.

Has our world progressed since the time of the Pharaohs?

Instead of whips and chains to work, we have wages and loans to keep us as slaves.

Tell me why I had to be a Powerslave
I don’t wanna die, I’m a God,
Why can’t I live on?
When the Life Giver dies,
All around is laid waste,
And in my last hour,
I’m a Slave to the Power of Death.

Then we are back to two more songs from “The Book Of Souls”. This time “Death or Glory” is up and to be honest it is another miss. But, “The Book of Souls” written by Gers and Harris deserves to be in the Maiden set forever and a day. It’s epic and grandiose and on par with “Powerslave”.

By know the clichéd stage antics of Janick Gers was bordering on “Dark Helmet” ludicrous proportions. Foot on the monitors like he’s doing ballet, swinging the guitar around his neck like anyone in 2016 cares about it, the Richie Blackmore splits and grabbing the guitar so the pick-up side faces the floor proved to be silly and funny at the same time.

But there was no escaping the power of  “Book Of Souls”.

A life that’s full of all the wealth and riches
Can never last an eternity

Sort of sounds like our current world. According to certain media reports we are living in a gold age of prosperity. I am sure that people in third world countries would disagree, but as the lyric states, what we have currently cannot last forever. But what is guaranteed is that the people in power and wealth would pay tooth and nail to ensure it does last forever.

The set is rounded off by “Hallowed Be Thy Name” from “The Number of the Beast”, “Fear of the Dark” from the album of the same name released in 1982 and “Iron Maiden” from the debut Maiden album released in 1980.

Now, “Hallowed Be They Name” to me, is a classic and man, the audience resonated with it.

Reflecting on my past life and it doesn’t have much time

When the end is near, all you can do is go back through your memories one last time because once it ends, those memories will be forever lost. It’s pretty sad when you think of the knowledge we could have if memories in our brains can somehow be preserved.

When the priest comes to read me the last rites
I take a look through the bars at the last sights
Of a world that has gone very wrong for me

In order to write “The Trooper”, Maiden had to write “Hallowed Be Thy Name” because both songs have very similar elements, especially the stop start sections of the verses, where the music stops and the vocals start.

The Harris penned “Fear Of The Dark” has achieved a new sense of immortality courtesy of the “Rock In Rio” performance on the “Brave New World” tour. Every section in the song is more or less a sing/chant along.

Fear of the dark, fear of the dark
I have constant fear that something’s always near

I always saw “Fear Of The Dark” as an analogy for fear of the future, the unknown and how the world is always throwing good and bad times into our lives. And to be quite honest it’s pretty scary sometimes.

But “Iron Maiden” to me is a big letdown. I understand its historical importance but in the end it’s a really average song.

The encore kicked off with “The Number of the Beast”, then “Blood Brothers” from the “Brave New World” album released in 2000 and the set finished off with “Wasted Years” from the “Somewhere in Time” album released in 1986.

I’m coming back I will return
And I’ll possess your body and I’ll make you burn

Metal music was known as “The Beast” in the 80’s, because it possessed our bodies and minds. And when the establishments thought it was dead and buried, a bigger beast in Grunge, Industrial, Metalcore, NuMetal, Death Metal, Black Metal all came forth, until Metal music returned once again.

Bruce made special mention that the audience and Iron Maiden are “Blood Brothers” and how in the audience he is seeing parents with children and so forth. At this time I got a lot of high fives from people around me, that I had the balls to bring my children to the show. So without any surprises, the Steve Harris penned “Blood Brothers” was up.

Maybe all the things that you know that are precious to you
Could be swept away by fate’s own hand

Live each day to the best that it can be lived, because the world doesn’t care about the houses, cars, iPads and record collections when it comes calling for you.

Finally the big one and the favourite of my eldest son, the Adrian Smith penned “Wasted Years”. I always associated this song as another “Turn The Page”, “Home Sweet Home” and “Wanted Dead Or Alive”. And it’s also a love song.

The guitar intro is legendary and Adrian Smith as a songwriter has contributed to a lot of “classics” from the Maiden 80’s era. I would call him the unsung hero of Iron Maiden.

I close my eyes, and think of home
Another city goes by in the night
Ain’t it funny how it is, you never miss it ’til it’s gone away
And my heart is lying there and will be ’til my dying day

So Maiden came to Australia. For some reason I feel that it was for the last time. I hope not.

My eldest son, he loved the show and enjoyed it along with me. My middle son, got super tired half way and just kept on yawning. My youngest son fell asleep at the concert by “Tears Of A Clown”. My wife held him the whole time.

What kind of father buys concert tickets for a Friday night show, which is the end of a school week and the start of a sport filled week playing football. We got home at 1am and by 7am we all got up for the morning Saturday games.

Metal all the way.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Machine Head Experience

By 9.24pm, on Wednesday, 24 June 2015 at the Metro Theatre, I had consumed my sixth beer in one hour waiting for Machine Head to hit the stage. A pretty awesome metal playlist was doing the rounds that had songs like “Sad But True” from Metallica and “In Due Time” from Killswitch Engage.

Then “Diary Of A Madman” started playing. It was ominous. The volume was initially low and the house lights were still on. Then the outro of “Diary” kicked in with the choir voices and the volume got cranked and the lights went out.

The chant went up, “Machine Fucking Head, Oh” (a point that Robb Flynn made later on in the show, that Australia is the only country to say Machine Fucking Head OH..) and the clean guitars started for “Imperium”. Everyone in the sold out venue knew that all hell was going to break loose. I was standing close to the mixer and I had a great view to the stage and to the circle pit. It was pandemonium.

Machine Head’s career was re-built upon “Imperium” and the 2003 album “Through The Ashes Of Empires” that it came from. The song is even more special based on Robb’s journals that covered the hardships in getting the album recorded.

“Through The Ashes of Empires” was released in December 2003 in Europe only. It took months to gain some traction and be discovered. In April, 2004, it got a U.S release and a subsequent world-wide release. Suddenly everybody knew it and everybody wanted to go see Machine Fucking Head live.

The knockouts kept on coming with “Beautiful Mourning” from “The Blackening” and “Now We Die” from “Bloodstone And Diamonds”.

“The Blackening” was another game changer for Machine Head. Released in 2007, it put them on the road for three years and in the process it cemented Machine Head’s reputation as a solid unit. That trend continued with “Unto The Locust” and “Bloodstone And Diamonds”.

I still think “Now We Die” should have been called “Now We Rise”. It would have been perfect in my eyes.

“Bite The Bullet” came next and then “Locust” sent everyone into a frenzy. It’s no coincidence that the first five songs all came from their last four albums.

I saw a person on crutches enter the circle pit and I said to myself that is not going to end well. Later on, I saw that dude on someone’s shoulders. He was okay, the Head Cases took care of him.

“From This Day” from 1999’s “The Burning Red”, “Ten Ton Hammer” from 1997’s “The More Things Change” and “Clenching The Fists Of Dissent” from “The Blackening” kept the knockout punches coming.

How good is that “fight” part in “Clenching”?

“Beneath The Silt” from “Bloodstone and Diamonds” was slow and groovy and “Crashing Around You” from 2001’s “Supercharger” album picked it all back up.

When I first heard “Crashing Around You”, I said to myself what an awesome rock song. It was better than anything that was mainstream back then. However, Roadrunner didn’t know what to do with the song, or how to market Machine Head and because of record label stupidity the song didn’t cross over. It’s one of my favourite cuts on “Supercharger”.

“The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears” from “The Burning Red” came next.

But it’s all about “Darkness Within” from “Unto The Locust”.

What a song, what a groove, what a melody and what a guitar solo by Phil. Along with “Bulldozer” from “Supercharger” and “Killers and Kings” from “Bloodstone And Diamonds” those three songs proved another killer trilogy in the set.

How good are the lyrics in “Bulldozer”? Another unheralded cut from “Supercharger”,

Somebody told me, I should do what they told me
But there’s a hole in their plan, and I’m tearing it down

You can almost picture the scene. Record label A&R douche telling Robb to wear an orange jumpsuit. Robb agrees for the greater good but…..

Trust our guts, follow our hearts, no one can break these nuts
These lips ain’t kissin’ asre
The path of most resistance tests all of our strength
The strength will not be denied

It’s like Robb foresaw the crap that would come their way post “Supercharger” and the mission involved to get “Through The Ashes Of Empires” recorded and then released.

Bulldozer goes against the odds
Bulldozer goes against the grain

You can interchange “Bulldozer” with “Machine Head” as both have three syllables. Machine Head goes against the odds. Machine Head goes against the grain. And thank god they did. It’s like their story before it even happened, getting dropped, then rejected. What makes the track rock is the groove.

“Sail In The Black” was excellent (although in some sections the backing synths overpowered the intro vocals) and “Davidian” from the 1994 debut “Burn My Eyes” followed.

You would think it would be over, but, NO it wasn’t.

“Now I Lay Thee Down” from “The Blackening”, “Aesthetics Of Hate” from “The Blackening” again, “Game Over” from “Bloodstone And Diamonds”, “Old” from “Burn My Eyes” and “Halo” from “The Blackening” again rounded out the night.

I didn’t see a phone or a camera recording the show. Everyone was there to experience it.

If they played “A Farewell To Arms” from “The Blackening” I would have completely lost it.

From the set list, you can see how important “The Blackening” is to Machine Head and to the Head Cases.

Yeah, Machine Head did have a catalogue before and after “The Blackening”, however their entire career will be attributed to this one album, showing the power of excellence.

A defining album, and in time it will be held in the same light as Metallica’s “Master Of Puppets” or Pantera’s “A Vulgar Display Of Power”.
By the end of the night, I had consumed 13 beers and still had room for many more.

To Machine Head, thanks for another great night in Sydney.

The future looks good, as the band is constantly replenishing their audience base. The crowd was a mixture of teens, twenty something’s, thirty something’s and forty plus. It was also a mixture of dudes and chicks. Like the song “Truckin” from The Grateful Dead, Machine Head just keep on truckin’ along and winning new fans along the way.

Two days later my ears are still ringing and I am still talking about the experience. That is what live music is all about. The experience

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

The Changing Times and The Record Label Business Model of STEALING From The Artist.

I remember waiting in line for an in store appearance of the band Sepultura at Utopia Records back when Utopia Records were situated on Clarence Street, Sydney. It was the early nineties and the in-store had the classic Sepultura line up. My cousin at that time (who was a drummer) had a real bashed in snare skin for Igor to sign, I had a couple of CD’s and a poster and the others all had various forms of music (LP’s or CD’s or drumsticks or guitar cases and so forth).

Sepultura was cult like popular then. They sat in an area that satisfied a few different markets. You had the “betrayed” original Metallica fans. You had fans of the original “thrash” movement. You had fans of the “Death Metal” market. You had fans of the “Extreme Metal Market”. And you had fans of the new “Groove Metal” market. Shredders appreciated them.

I remember asking one of the Utopia guys who was doing line management outside the building, why so many people came to Utopia on a daily basis just for chit-chat. He replied that they come to buy CD’s and I disagreed with him. I told him that nobody wakes up in the morning and says to themselves I need to spend $30 on a CD. We wake up in the morning and we say to ourselves, we want to hear the new Sepultura album, the new Motley Crue album and we want to hear it right now. And in order to hear that song, we HAD to buy a CD or an LP. Because radio sure wouldn’t play it.

So a bit of talking goes back and forth and the Utopia dude goes on to tell me I have no idea what I am talking about as Utopia sell hundreds of thousands CD’s a year.

The recording industry failed to realize that it existed not to sell records or CDs but simply to find the fastest, easiest way to let fans hear the song we wanted to hear. If they realised that, then they would have invented the iPod and iTunes. Instead history shows that a company not even in the music industry, did that instead. And now Apple makes billions of dollars selling music. So going back to my Utopia example, they are nowhere near the force it was back in the early to mid nineties and I wouldn’t be surprised if it shuts its doors eventually (which I hope never happens \:::/).

Apple has been selling tracks at the iTunes store since 2003. Apps, books, movies and TV shows came after. Yet, no one complained about the accounting and to my knowledge no one has sued Apple for unpaid royalties. Artists may complain about Apple taking a 30% cut, however that was the deal.

YouTube and Spotify have been streaming songs from about 2006 and 2008 respectively. Of course there are others on the market as well that offer streaming services like Pandora, Google, Deezer and so on. However, one thing these companies have done is they pay. They honour their deal. Which is the reverse of what the record labels did.

You know, those record labels that got sued by artists for their accounting practices, claiming they’ve been screwed over by the label. You know those record labels famous for paying late or paying at all. You know those record labels for never honouring a deal. You know those record labels that threatened to derail your career and you end up settling for less than you deserve.

What pisses me off is that while people complain about Spotify stream payments and YouTube stream payments and Pandora royalties,  at least these techies are honest in their deals at this point in time. It just seems that the record labels who are the majority rights holders are not passing on the monies.

Because a deal is never a simple deal to the recording business. The labels don’t want simple. The labels don’t want royalties to be computerised because that would mean there is transparency and with transparency, profits would disappear. The major label business model is based on STEALING from the artist. That is why you have artists like Eminem, Dave Coverdale and others suing their labels for unpaid iTunes royalties. That is why you have artists suing their labels for unpaid monies due to creative accounting practices.

Believe me, if an CEO’s pay packet was suddenly short, he’d drop everything and do his best to get it right if the problem wasn’t immediately rectified. But if it’s the artist?

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Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Protest The Hero at The Manning Bar

I got back from Eastern Europe last Thursday morning and by Friday night I was at the Manning Bar in Sydney Uni watching Protest The Hero. The ticket for the night was $45 Australian plus booking fee of about $6. Compared to some of the prices I have paid for tickets, this was a good deal.

Clarity

A perfect way to kick off the show with the opener from “Volition”. Guitarist Luke Hoskin was shredding while co-guitarist Tim Millar was rock solid. Also impressive was Mike Ieradi on drums who comes from another favourite band of mine called “The Kindred” or otherwise known as “Today I Caught the Plague”. Touring bassist and producer Cam McLellan was also very comfortable on the bass guitar.

“Affluence permitting a mutual annihilation”

I love that lyric. Money and power permits people to rewrite history to suit their point of view. What do you think the corporations that got rich from buying the copyright of the creators are doing right now.

Bone Marrow

From 2008’s “Fortress” album. Rody Walker rocked. In between songs he gave us some stories and laughter. He was comfortable on stage and well seasoned. It was like a rock comedy.

“And there he sat like a stone
With promises broke like a bone”

Power and wealth corrupts the soul. How many times have our leaders or our employers promised us something and then broken that promise all in the name of keeping the numbers on their bank accounts ticking forward.

Underbite

Anyone seen the fantastic puppet clip for this song? Another song from the “Volition” album.

“So is everyone having a good time tonight?
Good, I’m glad (I couldn’t actually care less)”

Some of our musical heroes came to this level. They couldn’t care less. It was all take and no give back.

“Now you comprehend our complex relationship—consumer/consumed.
You’re just some stupid kid and I’m a megalomaniac”

Sounds like Gene Simmons to me right there.

Hair-Trigger

From the excellent “Scurrilous” album released in 2011.

“I wrote a Goddamn love song to praise everything I hate”

There are some funny lyrics in the catalog of Protest The Hero. Rody Walker doesn’t mind having some fun and he doesn’t take himself too seriously. This is what music and the live show are meant to be. FUN.

Bloodmeat

Also from 2008’s “Fortress” album.

Mist

If Gene Simmons believes that rock is dead then he should have been at this show. Although the venue is a small one, it still didn’t stop the floor from erupting. By now we had a few more stories from Rody and an audience member did a back flip on stage that everyone thought was going to end bad. “Mist” is by far the most catchiest and hectic song in the Protest The Hero catalog. Especially the whole outro sing-a-long section.

“You’re as deep as the grave, and you’re marching to the heartbeat of the land”

Bury The Hatchet

They went back to the full length debut, 2005’s “Kezia” album.

“Well place your justice in my palm
And then I’ll make a fist
And punch your grimaced face”

How many times have you said, “that’s not fair” or “they can’t do that” in your life? I bet a lot. And people still get away with shit. These lyrics sum up my feelings about people who get away with crimes both civil and criminal just because they had the capacity to pay for justice to be tweaked and argued from a certain point of view.

The Dissentience

Another song from 2008’s “Fortress” album.

C’est La Vie

From the “Scurrilous” album released in 2011.

“Stepped off a building to find concrete evidence,
Concrete evidence that he’d ever make an impact
Fiction splattered into fact
And his fiction splattered into another sidewalk painting on display”

Again the comical overtones about stepping off a building and splattering your brains and blood all over the sidewalk.

Sex Tapes

Also from the “Scurrilous” album released in 2011

All the editors are hard, all the journalists are wet
All the boys are jerking off in private on the internet

The world needed Rody Walker to tell it like it is.

Everyone’s naked!
Somewhere out there in-ter-net
Somewhere out there in-ter-net

So true on that. Forget about piracy on the web. Nudity and sex still rules the search engines.

Reflected, directed, by one simple fact
Be careful what you’re looking at because it might be looking back

With all of the Celebrity Cloud hacks that happened, private photos now have over a million other eyes looking right back at them.

Get if off, get it off online
Get it off get if off get it off online

Again some of the most funniest shit i have heard. Getting off, online. What a classic.

Plato’s Tripartite

Oh how the system fails you completely
when monstrous children get treated so sweetly.
The violence is praised, the decision cemented
(they seem like nice kids)
Crimes go committed, but never lamented
(that doesn’t change what they did)

When PTH go all serious to get a message of injustice across they do it pretty good.

No one is innocent if they go free

How good is that lyric! Just because a guilty person was set free it does not mean that they are innocent.

Blindfolds Aside

From 2005’s “Kezia” album.

We woke up as men but tonight we’ll sleep as killers
Five soldiers forever sedated with the, “No one’s responsible”
psychological drama of our social justice dribble, dribble, dribble

Again they deal with the injustices of life. In this case people have to carry out the duties of their job. The lyric line of “a sin that paid his debts”.

Sequoia Throne

The closer for the show came from 2008’s “Fortress” album.

They’re not the ones who cause us harm – we are!

And in the end that is how the funny and intellectual show ended. We are the ones responsible for our lot in life.

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Thirty Seconds To Mars

Jared Leto is a star in every sense. He was born to be in the arts.

I watched “Thirty Seconds To Mars” last night at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Actually, it has been renamed the “Qantas Credit Union Arena”. The beauty of corporate sponsorships.

Leto had the crowd in his grasp from the word go and he manipulated the audience to jump, chant and sing with him throughout the whole performance.

I got into the band from the “A Beautiful Lie” album. It was the song “Attack” that hooked me in. And then after I purchased the album I was blown away by just how strong it was.

I then found out that they had a previous album and I purchased that as well and I really enjoyed the Tool-Pop Rock sound throughout. The song “Fallen” comes to mind immediately as I type this. Also produced by the excellent Bob Ezrin, who of course was a name I was very familiar with from all of the classic rock albums that I had.

So by the time they released “This Is War”, well that was the album that I enjoyed and it also hooked my wife in. When the new album came out, I became hooked on “Conquistador” while my wife became hooked on the whole album.

First let’s get the bad out-of-the-way. If there was a point of criticism it was that stupid white bright light in each corner of the stage. By looking at the stage, the one on the left corner was shining out towards the audience and all I saw from the show was that lovely bright light. For the few sections and songs that it didn’t go on, it was good, otherwise that stupid bright light made it torturous.

The biggest surprise.

“End Of All Days”.

I didn’t rate it when I heard it on the album because after being blown away by “Conquistador” I sort of felt that the album went too soft. However after seeing “End Of All Days” performed live, I was converted. Even thought it is a ballad, the song is powerful and man it resonated with the audience.

And seriously look at their worldwide digital numbers. Yes, that’s right. While stupid executives and mainstream rags focus on sales within a country, the fans of music have shown over and over again that it is a world wide music industry.

“Closer To The Edge” has 46,243,437 views on YouTube and 12,480,144 streams on Spotify.

“This Is War” has 39,320,835 views on YouTube and 13,992,986 streams on Spotify.

“The Kill (Bury Me) has 31,501,058 views on the official channel and 20,922,479 views on a fan channel called mina58 for a total of 52 million plus views. Add to that the 12,303,344 + 5,479,614 = 17,782,958 streams on Spotify.

“Kings And Queens” has 19,382,518 views on YouTube as well as 19,683,580 streams on Spotify.

“Up In The Air” has 19,220,663 views on YouTube and 7,994,167 streams on Spotify.

The point. They are a success story.

Sales on the board. Tick. Streams. Tick. YouTube plays. Tick. Box office score. Tick. Merchandise. Tick. The line ups for the merch store went forever at the gig. Talented front man. Tick. Super talented live performer in the front man. Tick. Social media presence. Tick.

Did that happen off the bat?

Of course not. They worked hard at it. The first album didn’t set the charts alight even though it had a brilliant supporting cast and some real Tool like pop rock gems.

“A Beautiful Lie” became a juggernaut on the backs of four songs, “The Kill”, “From Yesterday”, “Attack” and the title track. This is the album that gave them a career. This is the band rocking out and they should have played these songs with the full band set up instead of bringing a few of them up with the acoustic part of the set.

Remember, it is about the songs and they need to be great.

So I was surprised after I finished reading a few reviews from journalists that write for the Sydney Morning Herald. The review is critical of the songs. First, they say that the band doesn’t have the songs to be a big act. Maybe, they just had the sales from ARIA in front of them, because if they did some digging they would have seen the digital stats.

But then again, this is a mainstream institution that still believes it’s about selling newspapers and locking up news content behind subscription models. Hello, it’s 2014.

While the “New York Times” and all of the other main papers in the US tried these subscription models, the very free Huffington Post came from left field and overtook their online presence. You procrastinate, so prepare to be overtaken by the ones who innovate.

In the end the band is on the road until the end of September. That is the music business. Hit the road and deliver. And with Jared Leto as the front man, Thirty Seconds To Mars do deliver.

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Music

Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch at the Big Top

I wrote this post on Wednesday morning, however I didn’t post it as I was in a rush to get to work and then once work was over I had to rush over to the Richie Sambora show. Then I spent Thursday morning writing up the Richie Sambora post and after posting that, I was off to work and then after work I was off to see Mrs Browns Boys at WIN Entertainment Centre. So here I am, three days after the event, back to this post.

I attended the Five Finger Death Punch and Avenged Sevenfold Sidewave on Tuesday, 25 February at the Big Top in Luna Park. It was my first time seeing them both live so I didn’t know what to expect.

Did I mention that Asking Alexandria opened up?

Yep, they opened up and regardless of how much Revolver Mag creams their pants over them and cross promotes them in corporate sponsorship deals, the bottom line is this; They still need a lot of work. I caught the last three songs of their set and it didn’t make me want to go out and buy them. The best releases the band has done are the cover songs.

I caught up with an old school friend at the show who came one out to watch Avenged Sevenfold. I asked him if he had heard any music from Five Finger Death Punch and he told me that he hasn’t. Half way through the set, he yelled in my ear that he will be downloading their collection when he gets home tonight.

So on to the mighty Five Finger Death Punch. They started with “Under and Over It”. A great selection for an opener and a surprise one. “Burn It Down” came next and to me, the song just didn’t really work in a live setting. “Hard to See” and the show was back on the road.

“Lift Me Up” actually lifted the Big Top. It was anthemic all the way and what a great live song it is. “The Ultimate Sin” vocal melody was sung word for word and the crowd chanted chorus drowned out the band.

“Burn MF” didn’t really do much for me on the recording, however as a live song and the way Ivan Moody gets the crowd involved in the chant, it works brilliantly. This song was the biggest surprise on the night.

Another big surprise was Chris Kael. He looks like a cross between Kerry King and Zakk Wylde and what a performer he is, backing up on clean tone vocals and deep guttural vocals. Definitely a great choice for the FFDP band.

“Coming Down” actually kept the energy levels up for a mid tempo song and the band finished off with “Never Enough” and “The Bleeding”. As a live band, Five Finger Death Punch nail it. It’s no wonder that when they hit a city, sales of their albums increase the next day.

One thing about Five Finger Death Punch that a lot of people don’t understand is that they are sort of like a supergroup of independent bands. Each musician in the band has paid their dues in other bands. Some of those bands had small record deals, some of them played on large tours and some of them just played the club scene. So when you see Ivan Moody, Zoltan Bathory, Jeremy Spencer, Jason Hook and Chris Kael on stage, you are seeing a group of talented musicians who have over 50 years combined in the music business.

On a side note, it looks like Ivan Moody got into some trouble on his Qantas flight from Brisbane to Sydney due to being an intoxicated unruly passenger and assaulting a stewardess. With his past alcohol struggles well documented in his lyrics and interviews, the latest occurrence is just another chapter in this saga. As a fan of the band, let’s hope that the other band members don’t over-react to this, because Ivan Moody is the key ingredient as to why the band resonates and connects with the audience. Changing him will be the death of Five Finger Death Punch.

Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch along with Machine Head, Protest The Hero and Shinedown are currently providing the music for the soundtrack of my life. It is the familiarity of the songs and the energy that familiarity brings that provides the connection. I have this drive home playlist that is littered with A7X and FFDP songs.

So up next was Avenged Sevenfold, with their Machine Head inspired curtain logo opening up to the “Shepherd Of Fire” stage set. Some people in the audience wore Machine Head tops and they were getting heckled for it. It was all in good taste and everyone was having a laugh about it.

It is safe to say that “Shepherd Of Fire” and “Hail To The King” are great live songs. The best of the night along with “Lift Me Up” from Five Finger Death Punch. So regardless of what people call those songs or from what bands A7X and Five Finger Death Punch borrowed from in creating them. They are undeniable in a live setting. And didn’t we resonate and connect with them.

As is the norm, “Shepherd of Fire” opened up the sing along. It’s all about roots. A great song to kick off a concert with a sing along chorus.

“Critical Acclaim” from the 2007 self-titled album followed. It’s a hard song to pull off in the live setting, especially when you are playing a song that has “The Rev” on vocals via a backing tape.

“Beast and the Harlot” from the “City of Evil” album came next. The “City of Evil” album was the one that resonated with me and it was the album that got me into Avenged Sevenfold. I loved that whole Dream Theater meets “A Night At The Opera” approach.

Then it was back to the sing along with “Hail To The King”. I was actually singing “Sign Of The Cross” from Maiden throughout it as a test. “Eternal Rest” from the “Waking The Fallen” album came next and it hasn’t been played live since 2009. Personally, I would have loved to hear “Second Heartbeat” instead.

Then it came to the Nightmare vs City Of Evil part of the set. “Buried Alive” from the “Nightmare” album kicked it off, followed by “Seize the Day” from the “City of Evil” album.

Then the song “Nightmare” was played, followed by “Burn It Down” from the “City of Evil” album. It was also the first time they have played “Burn It Down” live since 2008.

The songs from the “Nightmare” album worked really good in the live setting. It gave me a new appreciation for those songs, as I saw that album as a very confused album and missing some direction.

A little Guitar Solo by Synester Gates introduced “Afterlife” from the 2007 self-titled album , that has that unbelievable shred solo that Synester made it to look completely effortless.

The main set finished off with “Almost Easy” from the 2007 self-titled album.

The Encore kicked off with “Unholy Confessions” from the “Waking the Fallen” album and finished with The Rev masterpiece “A Little Piece of Heaven” from the 2007 self-titled album.

In the same way that all the great bands had a definitive guitar player, Synester Gates is up there from the current trend. He worked that fretboard all night, sweeping up and down it, tapping it, pulling off and hammering on fast legato style leads on it and then doing some machine gun picking on it. This was a TRUE guitar hero.

And memories came back of practicing in my room, honing and refining my skills, hoping that one day, I will get a band together and have people appreciate what I do. It was never about riches. It was about the art of creating and connecting. I look at my kids and if I mention the words “Guitar Hero”, they think of the game. They fail to realise the hard work that goes into the practice.

It was entertaining and I got my money’s worth.

Compared to the Richie Sambora concert, Richie wins hands down. Sambora didn’t play it safe, taking us into improvised jams and sing alongs. Metal bands are not renowned for doing that. They are too scared in case they lose the audience.

What are the chances of metal bands playing it safe? Metal music is known for its rebellion and you have two of the big metal bands today, playing it safe in a live setting.

On a bad note, the $32 parking was a dead set rip off, especially when other venue parking stations charge between $12 and $16 dollars.

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