Music

While My Depression Gently Weeps – Part 1 of The Music My Savior Chronicles

I gave up smoking in 2010. My last cigarette was at Thessaloniki Airport, Greece in August, 2010. I had the last drag, coughed and gagged like I was choking and said with determination that I quit.

I haven’t had a smoke since then. You see back in November 2008, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. For a 32 year old, this came as a big surprise. When I went into the doctors surgery complaining of migraines, my blood pressure was 170/120. This was on a Tuesday and the doctor said to come back on a Friday to see if it was just an off-spike. So what did I do after hearing this news.

I started drinking straight whiskey, three shots a day, believing that whiskey will ease the pressure readings. I walk into the Doctor’s office on Friday and proceed to sit down while the doctor puts the arm band on, presses start on the machine and I am confident that all will be well.

210/130. The Doctor’s eyes popped out of his head. He wrote referreals for echograms, cardio tests and blood tests for blockages, along with scripts for blood pressure meds. He asked me if I was a smoker and I said yes. He said to me to STOP immediately if I want to watch my kids grow up. He asked me to lose weight and to start taking the medication and to come back on Monday morning.

So of course, I started taking the medication however I didn’t stop smoking. On Monday, my blood pressure was at 150/110. Another type of tablet was added to my dose that involved two tablets in the morning and one at night. I went back on Friday and it was all better. 140/90.

I was still smoking and every month when I went for a check up the blood pressure was still up but “controlled” in my own twisted way. I was spending $90 on Blood Pressure medication a month, along with a $200 smoking habit. The good deeds of the medication was getting undone by the smoking habit.

It wasn’t until 2010 that I started coughing and gagging every time I had a smoke and eventually that year I stopped smoking. Apart from the blood pressure problem, I was in between houses, selling one house and building another house, while the Global Financial Crisis was happening all around me. On top of that, one of my boys was hospitalised on two occasions for urinary tract infections and had to undergo two procedures. I swear I couldn’t see the light at the end of this journey. To top it all off the band I created was splintering and I had so much money invested in it, I couldn’t walk away from it without the guys paying me back. So during this period 2008 to 2010, I started listening to music with sad and depressing lyrics.

Breaking Benjamin entered my life around this time. The “Phobia” and “Dear Agony” albums got played constantly.

Machine Head’s “Descend The Shades Of Night”, “Goodbye To Romance” from the Blizzard Of Ozz band (yep, every time I refer to the Randy Rhoads era it will be via the name Blizzard Of Ozz) and Megadeth’s “A Tout Le Monde” came back in my life.

And as depressing as some of the songs are they helped me through my own depressive period.

The reason why I started thinking about smoking is because I was at a party on the weekend and everyone smoked, making it very difficult to interact with the people.

20. Give Me A Sign

It is from the album “Dear Agony” by Breaking Benjamin released in 2009. On YouTube it has 7,088,460 views and on Spotify it has 1,229,610 plays. The song is a superstar in the modern metal and rock circles.

Daylight dies
Blackout the sky
Does anyone care?
Is anybody there?
Take this life
Empty inside
I’m already dead
I’ll rise to fall again

Benjamin Burnley sings the above over a slow haunting riff about losing his way and screaming for help, looking for the sign. My advice to myself from listening to this song is that “when it comes to the end, you have to let go”.

19. Break Away

It is from the album “The Illusion Of Progress” by Staind released in 2008. One YouTube channel has the song up to stream and it has been viewed 382,520 times.

Like a wheel
That keeps turning
If I could break away
From this moment
Break away
What is real
Break away
Never showing
Break away
How I feel
If I could break away

Apathy
The ignorance it brings
The tragedy
Of all these things
We keep repeating

I felt like the song was about me when I heard it in 2008. It is about repeating the same actions everyday, looking for a change and not having the guts to make it happen, believing that some deity in the sky will do it all for me.

My advice to myself from listening to this song is that it was time to make the change and break away. By the end of 2010, the band was over (at a large financial loss to me), the house was finished and I had quit smoking. I made the change/s.

18. What A Shame

It is from the album “The Sound Of Madness” by Shinedown released in 2008. On YouTube, 4 channels have it up with a combined view count over 2.5 million.

Two packs of cigarettes a day
The strongest whiskey
Kentucky can make
That’s a recipe to put a vagabond
On his hands and knees

When I heard the opening verse, I said to myself, damn, that is me. That is exactly what I am doing. Brent Smith nails the emotion in this song. It is about his uncle and a beautiful song. So many of us are judged from everyone around us. It is wrong. Even I do it. Sometimes we all need some help and what we get is criticism instead.

My advice to myself from listening to this song is the chorus line; “What a shame, to judge a life that you can’t change.”

17. Broken Bones

“The Rev Theory” is a very underrated hard rock band. “Broken Bones” is from their 2008 release “Light Me Up.”

Caught in the confines of the simple life
And I am
Holding my head high in the rising tide
And I can’t win
And I can’t fight
I keep holding on too tight
Running away from the world outside

It’s the denial principle within us all. We run away from the problems we are facing by putting on a smile when all we want to do is cry. And when we have problems, the person that we need the most isn’t there to help or is there and doesn’t understand what the hell is going on, which is a shame.

I’m not coming home now
I know
I’m so far away
So far from home
I’m not coming home now
I know
I’m so far away
I’m so far away

This part is emotional. I know that the song is about a band member that they lost along the way, however when i was in hospital with a shattered foot waiting surgery to reconstruct it, this song got me through the days. Coming into 2010, I was in a dark place that I didn’t think I would survive to see the end of the year. “Broken Bones” helped me through it.

My advice to myself from listening to this song is that I needed to get back home and realise that everything that loves me and everything that I love is right in front of me. Like the Three Doors Down song “Heaven” released in 2011 on the “Time Of My Life” album, “I didn’t have to let myself get so far gone, I didn’t have to make the ones I love feel so alone, I didn’t have to die to go to heaven, i Just had to go home.”

16. Let Me Be Myself

Three Doors Down nailed what I was feeling in this song. It was released in 2008, on their self-titled debut. To me it is all about doing what society and my family wants me to do, instead of doing what I want to do. You only get one chance at life, so why waste it living someone else’s life.

I guess I just got lost
Being someone else.
I tried to kill the pain,
But nothing ever helped.
I left myself behind,
Somewhere along the way
Hoping to come back around
To find myself someday

Life has its highs and lows, however I made the choices that got me in these situations. So when I made the choice to get married, the part of the word “me”, I should have left behind and focused on the word “we”. However for years, I focused on the ME and the I. Even after I had kids. Listening to this song when it came out, I said to myself, damn, this song nails my feelings.

Then listening to it at the end of 2010, my view was different. When the lyric states “I guess I just got lost being someone else”, I saw that as me being lost on how to be a dad, thinking I had to do things in a certain way because hey, everyone is a judge in life.

15. Alias

Released in 2009 by In Flames on the “A Sense Of Purpose” album.

Don’t tell me,
Tell my ghost,
Cause I blame him
For all I don’t want to know

In Flames are a great band. I love this song and the title and the Freudian lyrics.

We all keep the real part of us hidden. That is why we are able to adapt to different situations. The ghost is the face that the people all see. It is the mask that we all wear to keep ourselves protected from the truth.

Life’s wrapped in a riddle,
Easier said than done,
Hate to play the victim,
Rather run and hide.

It was time that I acknowledged that I was in fact my own victim. Only I could make the decision to change.

14. Wake Up

Story Of The Year are very underrated in the metal community. From the outset the band got labelled as Emo. However, to me I always saw them as a metal band. It took an album about “The Black Swan Theory”, released in 2008 that got my hooked.

So what is “The Black Swan Theory”. It is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight;

Wake up!
To the sound of this time bomb
Wake up!
To it’s deafening song
Wake up!
Cause you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone
Until it’s gone

With all the chaos in my life at that point in time, this song made me feel alive, calm and confident. It was like it understood me. The message was simple. Wake Up.

13. That Was Just Your Life

Call it the “Enter Sandman” riff backwards. Call the harmony guitars at about the 5.50 minute mark Thin Lizzy rip offs. Call it that they plagiarised “Jump In The Fire”. Call it a great song, to open up the “Death Magnetic”.

“Like a release from a prison that i didn’t know i was in”

What a brilliant lyric. That is what music is on the days where the blues kick in. A release from the prison we are in.

“I blind my eyes and try and force it all into place,
I stitch them up, see not my fall from grace.
I blind my eyes, I hide and feel it passing me by
I open just in time to say goodbye.”

Denial and acceptance of what I believe the version of the truth is. You can easily combine verses from so many different songs and come up with a new Buddhist mantra that is a hundred pages long.

12. The Forgotten

The last album of the Howard Jones Killswitch Engage era released in 2009 and what an album it is.

What have you given up will never return again
Now you’re dead inside I hope it was worth the cost

This is like looking in the mirror at your own reflection and asking yourself “was it worth it”. Sometimes it is better to be the forgotten.

11. The Unforgiven III

Set sail to sea, but pulled off course

A welcome return from Metallica. By 2009, I thought I was doing what I wanted to do and that I was going out to be the best that I could be in my own way, however, I started to see that I was getting side-tracked, following paths that I never should have walked on. By the end of 2009, I was frustrated and I got even more frustrated when I realised that the position I was in, was all of my doing. There was no one to blame except me.

These days drift on inside a fog
It’s thick and suffocating
This seeking life outside its hell
Inside intoxicating

Alcohol and tobacco. It’s easy to numb the feelings when you are intoxicated. The funny thing is that even the songs mentioned deal with dark subject matters, I saw a sense of hope in them and when Robb Flynn screamed “Music My Savior – Save Me” in “Darkness Within” two years later, I knew exactly what he meant.

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Call Me – Shinedown

This song is a hit, however it was never released as an “official” single. How can that be? The fans have spoken. “Call Me” has racked up 12.83 million streams on Spotify and 11.2 million plays on YouTube. These are the numbers that matter. It is the most played/streamed song from Shinedown.

In a recent interview with the website “artistdirect”, Brent Smith, the vocalist from Shinedown was asked the question if they had played “Through The Ghost” live yet.

“We have not. We’ve actually been asked if we’re going to do that. “Call Me” also gets asked for quite a bit. It wasn’t a single, but it is asked for. There might be a possibility of adding a few songs.”

I can understand the reasons why the band is not playing the song, as it is deemed a ballad and probably not suited for the high energy show that Shinedown puts on, plus they already play a ballad in “Second Chance”. However based on the numbers above, it is a fan favourite.

When I first heard “Call Me”, I immediately thought of Tracy Chapman. The vocal style and the phrasing was the trigger. It is written by Brent Smith and Tony Battaglia.

Tony Battaglia is an interesting choice. He is a frequent colloborator with Shinedown and has also co-written songs for Puddle of Mudd and Submersed (a very underrated band that is sadly no more. Eye Empire has the vocalist and Creed has the original guitarist as its backing guitarist). He also played guitar and composed songs with the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. He was the vocalist in a band called BlackJack that goes back to 1978.

Having the additional song writer can be a double edged sword. The song could be clichéd or it could sound forced or it could lack personality. In this case, it works well. The song is perfect with as a piano/orchestra style song, as the vocal melody is so strong, it doesn’t need anything else.

Wrap me in a bolt of lightning
Send me on my way still smiling
Maybe that’s the way I should go,
Straight into the mouth of the unknown

If you have been addicted to something in your life, you would understand the bolt of lightning reference. You are charged up, electrified.

I left the spare key on the table
Never really thought I’d be able to say
I merely visit on the weekends
I lost my whole life and a dear friend

Coming into this album, Shinedown took 18 months to get it right. Brent Smith wanted “The Sound Of Madness” to be the record that would define him. You know the saying, that an artist gets their whole life to do their first record and then they are given about three months to do their second one.

That is what happened to Shinedown. The first album, “Leave a Whisper” took a lifetime and it achieved platinum status. The follow up “Us and Them” had all the writing, recording and everything else done in six months and it achieved gold status. While all of this “success” is happening, the main creative force behind Shinedown is getting burned. Two band members would leave before “The Sound Of Madness” was even started.

That is what you hear on the album and in the strained voice of Brent Smith. His experiences. This is what Rock Music got right once upon a time. It was about music that defined culture. Then came the dollar signs and that is where Rock Music has remained. Shinedown’s “The Sound of Madness” is a monster of an album on the same playing field as Motley Crue’s “Dr Feelgood” and Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet”.

I’ve said it so many times
I would change my ways
No, nevermind
God knows I’ve tried

When Brent Smith decided he wanted no time limit for this album, he wasn’t looking for anything connected with money. He was looking for that raw and honest connection. The music became the vehicle for it. That is why songs like “If You Only Knew”, “Second Chance” and “Call Me” resonate with people. We have lived it and we have experienced something similar.

Call me a sinner, call me a saint
Tell me it’s over I’ll still love you the same
Call me your favorite, call me the worst
Tell me it’s over I don’t want you to hurt
It’s all that I can say. So, I’ll be on my way

Great music will last forever. Five years since “The Sound of Madness” was released, “Call Me” is still being played/streamed/viewed. “Call Me” wasn’t the hit song from the album, however it is the song from the album that will not be an obscure footnote in history.

I finally put it all together,
But nothing really lasts forever
I had to make a choice that was not mine,
I had to say goodbye for the last time

When you are at rock bottom, you find something to get you through. As much as people talk about support from family and friends, in the end if you don’t want to fix yourself, no one else can make you. Music is always there for you. There is a reason why Motley Crue didn’t give us “Dr Feelgood” as a debut album.

I kept my whole life in a suitcase,
Never really stayed in one place
Maybe that’s the way it should be,
You know I live my life like a gypsy

Are we settled in life? Are we happy with what we have in life? We always want something else, that when we are asked what we want, we answer back that we don’t know, but we know that we want something else.

Brent Smith broke down a lot of walls on “The Sound Of Madness.” It’s personal and as a fan it is an emotional roller coaster ride. It’s evolution through experiences.

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Brent Smith (Shinedown) – What Do You Mean I Don’t Write Good Lyrics

Another week, another “What Do You Mean I Dont Write Good Lyrics” post.

This week, Brent Smith from Shinedown is under the microscope. For the first two records Leave A Whisper (2003) and Us and Them (2005) he was addicted to cocaine, OxyContin and alcohol. By the time The Sound of Madness (2008) came out, he was drinking a lot of alcohol. For some reason he reminds me of Nikki Sixx.

Burning Bright from Leave A Whisper (2003)

There’s nothing ever wrong but nothing’s ever right
Such a cruel contradiction

Such a cruel contradiction it is. We tell everyone that everything is okay, however it never is. It could be debt problems, work problems, gambling problems or something else.

Adrenaline from Amaryllis (2012)

Which way is up, when your high is low?
It’s time to find it are you ready to go?

How do we know how to go up when we have been down the whole time. When the time comes to go higher, are we ready to go? Do we want to go higher?

Cry For Help from The Sounds Of Madness (2008)

‘Cause when you lie like the devil himself
No angels gonna hear your Cry for help!

I have been friends with quite a few people like that. All they do is lie. With each lie, they dig their hole deeper. Then one day no one is going to give a shit about them anymore. The song Enemies from Amaryllis (2012) also has a similar lyrical theme. “You started something that you just couldn’t stop, You turned the ones that you love into the angriest mob, And their one last wish is that you pay for it, And there’s no way you’re getting out of this.”

Bully from Amaryllis (2012)

Seems I’ve crossed the line again
For being nothing more than who I am

This is how the metal / rock community was treated in the Eighties. Employers bullied us, teachers bullied, the police bullied us.

Atmosphere from Us and Them (2005)

Once I met a leader
Born from genocide
Once I knew a preacher
To his faith, he said goodbye

The lyrics are great in this song. It’s just about how messed up our world has become. A leader born from genocide, what a brilliant line. It brings up so many different meanings.

Second Chance from The Sound of Madness (2008)

Sometimes goodbye is a second chance

I have always seen goodbye as one door closing and a million other doors opening.

Sound of Madness from The Sound of Madness (2008)

Somehow I’m still here, to explain,
That the darkest hour never comes in the night

The darkest hour comes when you least expect it and it is never at night.

Call Me from The Sound of Madness (2008)

I kept my whole life in suitcase,
Never really stayed in one place
Maybe that’s the way it should be,
You know I live my life like a gypsy

When I first heard this song, I immediately thought of Tracy Chapman, as the vocal delivery is very similar. Are we ever settled in life? We always want something more, something different, something else.

Heroes from Us and Them (2005)

All my heroes have now become ghosts
Sold their sorrow to the ones who paid the most

We all die in the end. What legacy will we leave behind?

My Name (Wearing Me Out) from Amaryllis (2012)

My name is revenge and I’m here to save my name

Enough said.

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Music

Sales Numbers for the U.S.

Metal Insider

I was looking at the sales figures in the above link.  A lot of people focus on the sales aspect of everything, so if something is sold a lot of times, they class it as being successful.

So if you look at the sales, you will see a lot of hard rock and metal bands doing low numbers for the week.  One can easily jump to conclusions.  The album is bad, it bombed or the industry favourite, piracy.

However, to me the sale numbers mean nothing.  What is important here, is the length of time the music has been out.

Let’s start with Volbeat.  They have two albums that are selling.  Yippee, you say.  Here’s the thing, Beyond Heaven/Above Hell was released in September 2010.  Yes, 2010.  It has been around for over 2 and a half years.  What does this tell you?  They did it without the mainstream sledgehammer across the head marketing like Bon Jovi and Justin Timberlake.  They did it by creating great music and letting the people spread the word.  The funny thing is, the song that made them popular in the U.S, Still Counting is not even on this album (it is from an earlier album from 2007 called Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood) and was added as a bonus track later on.  Talk about great music waiting to be found.  It was released in 2007 and it wasn’t until 2012, that people really heard Still Counting, appreciated it and starting buying it.

You need to remember, there is so much music released each days, (I checked the new release schedule and i counted over 400 releases on one day).  Multiply that by 52 weeks, and you have a lifetimes worth of music to go through.  We need a filter and what better filter than people spreading the word.  Not by the hundreds, but the by the thousands and in PSY’s case, by the millions.

Volbeat’s new album Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies entered the charts in the top 10.  They had the usual big first week sales and second week drop, however this time around, the audience was waiting for a new release.  Time will tell if this album will have the same longevity.

From hearing it, it’s a good album, but it doesn’t have the defining song, and that is what fans want.  Bon Jovi had Wanted Dead Or Alive on Slippery When Wet, Motley Crue had Kick Start My Heart on Dr Feelgood, Metallica had Enter Sandman on the Black album, Poison had Nothing But A Good Time on Open Up and Say Ahh.. and so on.

In This Moment has been doing business since August 2012.  34 weeks.  Bon Jovi’s What About Now, has more or less stalled.  Justin Timberlake’s is slowly declining as well.  Will they still be selling in 34 weeks time.  For Bon Jovi, i am sure they will not.

Otherwise, is a band that i have been following for over a year now.  Each week, you see them move between 400 and 700 units.  They are touring their arses off, picking up new fans along the way.  The album came out in May 2012.  It will make a year, where it has been selling low numbers.  To me this is a success story.  If they stay at the rate they are, they will be passing 40,000.  What’s 40,000, I hear people saying?  That is a year’s worth of touring.  The music is the entry-level to all the other things in the business.  You don’t make money from selling music.  You make money from the doors that music opens.

Stone Sour have two albums that are selling, House of Gold and Bones Pt 1 and Pt 2.  The concept story is the entry for the multimedia projects to come, like the graphic novels, the motion picture movie and the tour.  It’s not all about sales, it’s about different income streams.

Coheed and Cambria has already walked the path that Stone Sour is walking right now.  They have had their concept albums put into comic form, graphic novel and companion books.  Claudio Sanchez has also signed a deal to develop the Armory Wars story into a motion picture film.

Black Veil Brides is another band, involved in the multimedia aspect, with their concept album, Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones.  

Shinedown is one of the best hard rock bands doing the scene right now.  Amaryllis has been out for over a year now and the band is still moving units.  Why, because people are spreading the word, they are hearing the songs live and are liking them.

For the critics that have called this album a failure, just because it didn’t move the same units as The Sound of Madness is a shallow viewpoint to have without any analysis.  A song like Second Chance comes around once in a decade.  That song alone moved over 2 million mp3’s.  The Shinedown tour is doing decent business at the box office.

The key here is longevity.  You don’t want to be here today and gone tomorrow.  You want the music, the band, to remain public, to be in people’s’ minds.  So many have released albums and have been forgotten.  Does anyone remember that Joe Walsh released a new album last year, or that David Bowie and Bon Jovi released an album in the same week.  They have been forgotten.  The hardcore fans will say otherwise and that is okay they are entitled to their opinions.

Life today is all about information.  We have a tonne of it.  We are connected 24/7.  There is always something coming out that takes the flavor of the minute.  Black Sabbath released God Is Dead, and it was tanking, regardless of what the artists and Loudwire said about it.

Ozzy then releases a statement about his fall back into addiction, trying to drum up press and then Sharon chimes in.  It ain’t working, the song is a dud at nine minutes long.  It’s a four-minute song on a 12 inch extended remix.

I am seeing them in two days at the Allphones Arena in Sydney.  I might eat my words after hearing it live.  No one is talking about them.  The 13 album is already in the rear view mirror and it hasn’t even been officially released.  They are touring Australia and there is no buzz.   

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