A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Guitar Heroes

“There are guitar heroes and there are band guys. Guitar heroes are the top dogs – whatever they say goes. Band guys are team players, committed to the chemistry of the whole. Steve Howe is a band guy from way back.”

October 1989 Guitar World…

Players like Zakk Wylde, Slash, John Petrucci and Marc Tremonti could easily be classed as band guys. James Hetfield is all about Metallica and of course there are many more that have come and gone.

In that same issue George Lynch spoke about his relationship with Don Dokken and how his new band Lynch Mob is a band that will not have a revolving door of musicians just because the band leader might have woken up on the wrong side of the bed. We all know how that turned out.

So it got me thinking about guitar players who are plying their trade day in and day out without getting the recognition they really deserve. It’s tough to be an artist regardless of era. Today, the main focus is on money. However music slays money all the time if done right and when it is done right it usually generates a pile of it anyway.

And I started focusing on two guitar bands that are doing the rounds at the moment. The only criteria I used is that the guitar partnership was formed/created at the start of the 2000’s with their respective bands.

Tom Englund/Henrik Danhage

Evergrey is about to make twenty years in the business and they are stronger than ever in popularity. Thank Tom Englund for keeping the flame burning. They are a band that doesn’t go out to write hit singles however some of the fan base believe they did just that with the “Monday Morning Apocalypse” album in 2006. For me, Evergrey is Evergrey. Dark, honest, melodic and hopeful.

The Englund/Danhage partnership started in 2000, ceased in 2010 and rekindled again in 2013. Clearly the magic is still there. For the uninitiated check out the albums “Hymns For The Broken”, “The Inner Circle” and “Torn”.  “The Inner Circle” album gave me a whole new inspiration to create music again.

They are the antidote, the complete opposite of our phony culture.

Zoltan Bathory/Jason Hook

Five Finger Death Punch are record label darlings at this point in time. With the first three albums all going Gold and the current Volumes 1 and 2 both pushing close to that mark what isn’t there to like from a record label point of view.

Underpinning the mighty PUNCH is the rhythm playing of Zoltan Bathory. Rooted in European metal and its modes, with a dash of hard rock and melodic death metal, Bathory consistently delivers head banging, foot stomping riffola. And no one could have predicted the success that would come.

The Bathory/Hook partnership started in 2009. For the uninitiated check out “War Is The Answer”, “American Capitalist” and “The Wrong Side Of Heaven Volume 1”.

And yes, Five Finger Death Punch are consistent sellers proving once again, people will invest their time and money if they believe in the MESSAGE!

Adam Dutkiewicz/Joel Stroetzel

This partnership started before 2000, however Dutkiewicz was the drummer back then. But in 2001, Dutkiewicz took up the guitar again and a whole new era kicked off.

For the uninitiated check out “The End of Heartache”, “As Daylight Dies” and “Disarm the Descent”. “As Daylight Dies” was an important album for me, as it combined melodic vocals, with brutal riffs and technical playing. Even though the band is not classed as a progressive band, they are progressive. It is a shame that in 2014, progressive music is seen as how fast and technical you can get, where in the past progressive music didn’t mean that. And that is the definition that Killswitch Engage inherits.

Robb Flynn/Phil Demmel

They are like an old act that took four albums to find their voice and hit a groove. And what a groove they found in “The Blackening”. Enough said.  Also “Unto The Locust” is no slouch either and from what I have heard so far, “Bloodstone and Diamonds” is shaping up to be a monster.

Their Machine Head partnership began in 2003 although they knew each other from their time spent in Vio-Lence, it wasn’t until they got together to write the follow-up to the backs to the wall comeback album, “Through The Ashes Of Empires” that they set a new standard in metal and thrash circles. A three-year touring cycle followed. A deserved victory lap for a brilliant album.

And the thing about Robb Flynn that I like is that he fights back. If he is wrong, he apologizes however if he is not wrong he defends himself. Just because someone is criticizing him it does not mean they’re right. And Robb Flynn doesn’t give in so easily.

Claude Sanchez/Travis Stever

Coheed and Cambria have played a vital role in my developing skills as a songwriter. The “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth” and it’s follow up, “Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV” showed what can be achieved when you mash-up so many different styles into a story line. “Welcome Home” is a perfect example. It has punk elements, pop elements and classic rock elements. “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth” they showcase prog rock, atmospheric rock and classic rock with a twang of modern rock.

In other words, Coheed and Cambria are unlike anything else. They are so far from the me-too artist that is always trumped up by the media reporting outlets. An artist tests limits and Claude Sanchez definitely falls into this space.

Synester Gates/Zacky Vengeance

There is nothing about Avenged Sevenfold that hasn’t been planned and analysed to the smallest detail. Before they even started they decided on stage names, which is a throwback to the classic rock artists and the Eighties metal heroes. With their BLACK album “Hail To The King” they finally have songs that just rock on the stage.

I witnessed the energy the new songs output compared to the older more complex material. In relation to guitar playing, check out “Afterlife” and “Second Heartbeat”.

Even the mighty Zakk Wylde said that Gates is “the torchbearer for the young kids now to play solos, learn the scales, and develop a feel.”And with Synester’s influences ranging from Zakk Wylde, Dimebag Darrell, Slash, John Petrucci, Allan Holdsworth and Frank Gambale, a torchbearer he is.

Luke Hoskin/ Tim Millar

These guys are a perfect example of succeeding through hard work and hewing to their own vision and refusing to adjust to others’ input. While other artists might have had more of the limelight, all this did was allow the Protest The Hero guys to refine their song writing in relative obscurity.

For definitive albums, you can’t go past their new one “Volition”. Funded by the fans and written for the fans.

Matt Heafy/ Corey Beaulieu

Many of us are hooked by something. Trivium is one such band that hooked me. I put it down to their cover version of “Master Of Puppets”. Hell, they sounded better than Metallica.

And the thing that really connects with me is that they are always exploring themselves as artists. They don’t know if they are on the right path, but they are always trying to get there and that is important.

“Shogun” will be seen as their masterpiece album however songs like “In Waves” and “Strife” have proven to take a life on their own. I am really looking forward to their gig with In Flames in November.

Jake Pitts/Jinxx

With so many hard rock or modern rock bands out there, who does a person decide what band to gravitate to as our time is precious.

Having two guitar players that bring back memories of the early eighties is a good start. And that is where Black Veil Brides come in. Now the vocals are hit and miss but there is no denying the quality of the guitar playing and the song writing.

Dee Snider even called them “rockstars”.

Matthew Tuck/Michael “Padge” Paget

A similar set up like Trivium and their career trajectory is almost identical.

Like “Shogun” for Trivium, “Scream/Aim/Fire” is a definitive thrash metal album for Bullet For My Valentine.

Then there are songs from “Fever” and “Temper Temper” that have taken a life of their own. In this case “The Last Fight” and “Breaking Point”.

With so much new music, I usually stop paying attention and go back to my favourites. The above artists have proven themselves since the start of the 2000’s to become my favourites. For other up and comers, yell at me to notice you and I will ignore you. Yell a little bit more, and I will just retreat and burrow down deeper into my favourites.

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A to Z of Making It, Music

Blowsight

Nikki Sixx is a fan and he endorsed the band on his Sixx Sense Radio show. Celebrity endorsements in other genres would normally see the endorsed act get some serious traction. However the very divisive metal and rock communities fail to pay the same attention to celebrity endorsements like other genres.

Lorde broke through because of an endorsement. Credit Sean Fanning. I got into the band Avatar because Zoltan Bathory endorsed them during the “American Capitalist” tour. Endorsements from our heroes makes us pay attention. However in the end musicians endorse little. Google “musicians endorsing musicians” and you don’t really see any list that Google can recommend. However you see a lot of pages on musicians that HAVE endorsements with manufacturers.

Anyway, someone who is famous said that Blowsight are great. So the band gets a look. Now it is up to them to capitalise on it. Bands don’t get a lot of chances in the music business. They need to deliver when they do get the chance. And it is always about that one song. If the song is okay, kiss that chance goodbye. And that brings me to Blowsight.

First YouTube. The official video clip for “This Pain” is sitting at 28,651 views. The official video clip for “Hit On The Radio” is sitting at 16,874 views. The official video clip for “Days Of Rain” is sitting at 72,837 views. Hardly earth shattering numbers, especially since “Hit On The Radio” is talked up as “the song”.

However their cover version of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” is sitting at 120,231 views on one user channel and 55,918 on another user channel for a combined view of 176,149. Their cover of Britney Spears “Toxic” is sitting at 119,072 views on a different user channel. So for two cover songs, the view counts total 295,551. There is a fan base there for sure that can be monetized.

However the two most viewed YouTube videos are on user channels and not on the official Blowsight channel. Actually there is no Blowsight channel. The official videos mentioned previously are on the Fastball Music Label channel. This is a big mistake on their part.

Spotify has the following list as today;
1,272,112 streams for “Bandit For Life”
1,031,547 streams for “Poker Face”
430,068 streams for “The Simple Art (of Making You Mine)
357,917 streams for “Toxic”
266,551 streams for “I Wish You 666”
143,881 streams for “Invisible Ink”
60,108 streams for “Hit On The Radio”
50,681 streams for “It’s Me You’re Looking For”
49,634 streams for “Through These Eyes”
32,553 streams for “Back Where We Belong”

To put into context the million dollar stream figures for the songs “Bandit For Life” and “Poker Face”. Dream Theater is a world-renowned and Grammy nominated band and their song “On The Backs Of Angels” has 1,205,759 streams. Blowsight is more or less a small-scale Swedish based band.

Remember the best artists of the Sixties and Seventies became famous because of cover songs. Look at Jimi Hendrix. “Hey Joe” and “All Along The Watchtower” come to mind immediately. Linda Ronstadt’s fame came because she took other peoples forgotten songs and made them hers. Led Zeppelin even covered songs and called them their own.

Blowsight – Destination Terrorville

It was late in the afternoon at work, my head was fried and then “Destination Terrorville” filled my ears pace through my budget TDK ear pieces. What can I say, I stuck with TDK during the cassette wars, so their name still resonates with me.

For an album that was released in 2007 it sure sounds fresh and new. Of course, I wanted to know more, so I Googled them.

Of course they are from Sweden. Stockholm to be precise. Another Swedish act like Avatar, April Divine, Takida, Corroded and Days Of Jupiter trying to make a difference in the modern rock scene. The roots go back to 2001 and they released demos of their material on the internet and allowed listeners to freely “collect ‘em all!”. Hey what a great idea, competing with free to get some market share.

Back in 2007, front man Nik Red was known as Niklas Fagerstrom (of course a totally perfect rock star name and a scene from the movie “La Bamba” comes to mind right now. You know that scene where Richard Steven Valenzuela is told to shorten his name to Ritchie Valens, so that he has more mass appeal).

My first impression is that it is very reminiscent to two bands I dig. One is Evans Blue, the other is Breaking Benjamin.

They are a band that is able to take the best bits of the pop, rock, metal and punk worlds. In the end it still comes across as modern rock/metal. That is not a bad thing, however it is a very crowded marketplace and they need to be really great at what they do.

“All That Is Wrong” has got a sleazy middle eastern sounding bass line that is reminiscent to Tool “46 x 2” especially when the guitars crank in. The verses are punchy and syncopated and it makes up for the Chorus that falls flat.

“Over The Surface” has a very classical sounding arena rock chorus that is very reminiscent to the style of Finnish band “The Rasmus.”

“Red Eyes” is Alice In Chains/Soundgarden with a Euro Metal vibe. In the vocal delivery, you can hear the influence of Nick Hexum’s (311), Phil Anselmo (Pantera) and Layne Stayley/Jerry Cantrell (Alice In Chains)

“Bus Girl” has got this classical Beethoven vibe as well. It is a minor key song and you can feel the sadness fill the headspace. It is one of the best songs on the album and it was a bonus track.

“If You Were Me” is a great track, starting off with echoed natural harmonics but a ballad it is not. It has a lot of different genre hoping styles in it.

“How I Get What I Deserve” is canvassing Three Days Grace and any song off the “One-X” album.

“The Simple Art (Of Making You Mine)” sees Blowsight turning into Papa Roach.

All the songs are good, but not great.

Blowsight – Life And Death

This album was released in 2012 and it’s damn good. It has that anything goes attitude with some tasty shredding along the way.

“Sun Behind The Rain” has an unbelievable pop hook in the chorus and it comes from out of nowhere as the verses are syncopated head banging heavy rock.

“Through These Eyes” is a combination of all the Top 40 genres, ranging from pop rock merged with R&B and hip hop. Think Coldplay, Black Eye Peas, Red and Linkin Park.

“Surprise” has a tasty intro. It grabs you from the outset.

“Hit On A Radio” is a replacement for Good Charlotte since the band is on hiatus.

“This Pain” is melodic metal in a certain “In Flames” kind of way.

“Blackout Time” starts off like a Beyonce/Destiny Child song.

“Red Riding Blues” starts off with a cabaret swing feel.

“Dystopia Part II” starts off with a Muse feel and then it enters Avenged Sevenfold territory. The bio states that the song is “the off­spring of Queen’s “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody” mating with “November Rain” by Guns N Roses”.

“It’s Me You’re Looking For” is an energized cross between Avatar, Rammstein and Volbeat.

“Back Where We Belong” is System of A Down on adrenaline.

Singer Nick Red has stated that the band’s focus is “to break down the bar­riers by bringing dif­ferent genres to­gether whose fans would openly fight each other out in the streets”.

So can they break down the doors to the large U.S market?

Why am I talking about them when I am being critical?

Yes they can and I believe in them. I believe in what they are trying to do and that is important.

“Sun Behind The Rain” is the star of the show.

Blowsight needs to get out of the old school thinking, which is to release an ALBUM. The album ideology was built for a different time. This was a time when people waited for radio to play in a “new” single years after the album was released. That worked when albums had gated releases. These days the whole slab is available for free on the very day it comes out.

Do artists seriously believe that people will decide to purchase their albums 12 months later just because they liked a few songs when it came out?

That was the old gated system, where if the artists delivered enough singles, it would convert those who were unsure to financially commit. However the new game is to constantly release music so that the audience will be continually engaged and committed.

Black Sabbath released an album that got a bit of traction out of curiosity, then disappeared. It looks like all the people wanted was the tour.

Avenged Sevenfold had the album hit of the summer and are now following it up with an animated series and a mobile game.

Bon Jovi released an album, but all the people wanted was the tour. The album stiffed, however the tour was the highest grossing tour for 2013.

Dream Theater didn’t really have the material for a follow up album to “A Dramatic Turn Of Events” and the album disappeared from the conversation. They should be back in the studio right now, recording cover songs, some originals and some instrumentals. Kiss your solo albums goodbye and focus on Dream Theater.

Blowsight are going to lock themselves away to record another album. Then what.

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The Development Of Zoltan Bathory – Grit and Determination

Raw talent has to mature. So what we have is the artists that stick with music and mature themselves. All the other wannabes got out when they realised that there sole purpose of being involved in music was driven by money and fame. So when those artists that do stick around break through, guess what happens. The majors come knocking with big money.

It is interesting to hear or read about an artist’s development and the things they did to get to where they are today.

If you look at the Wikipedia page for Zoltan Bathory, the earliest musical output you get is from 2004, where he played bass in the band “U.P.O”. However his story begins a long time, in communist Hungary.

So he grows up in a country where the average person is making pennies. In dollars speak it was like a hundred dollars a month. It doesn’t leave a lot of money lying around for guitars, amplifiers and record purchases. He wants to be a heavy metal guitarist, however that music is censored. He wants to be a heavy metal guitarist but he doesn’t speak English. He is basically trying to succeed in a genre that doesn’t technically have a voice in communist Hungary.

You can see already the grit and determination exhibited by Zoltan just to even get to America. Compared that with people who are cruising on sub-standard effort and constantly told that everything they do is great. You can see that an edge exists in Zoltan’s corner.

Determination has been part of Zoltan’s mindset since childhood. I remember reading an interview that his parents enrolled him in judo classes in an attempt to temper his schoolyard aggression and how that discipline has served him well as he got older.

So he puts together a band that would become Five Finger Death Punch. The band is his first thought in the morning and his last thought at night. He lived and breathed the band. Even the style of music that Five Finger Death Punch produce wasn’t very popular at the time. It was Hard Rock, merged with Thrash Metal, merged with Death Metal and classic Euro Heavy Metal.

I have heard bands like Accept, W.A.S.P., Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Death, Possessed and Annihilator mentioned as early influences.

It was all underground. They had no label but they had people connecting with them on MySpace in the thousands. The record labels started to take notice as this underground band where getting more views and plays than their major label artists.

The first album was recorded on their own. They produced it and paid for it. The version that we all got to hear was the Five Finger Death Punch version. The label at the time just picked it up and released it.

If you look at Five Finger Death Punch in 2013, every single member came from bands that had some level of recognition before. Jason Hook goes back to the late Eighties and early Nineties, with ties to hard rock bands, plus various session work and backing bands for pop stars.

Ivan Moody goes back to the mid Nineties before achieving some recognition with Motograter and his side project Ghost Machine.

Drummer Jeremy Spencer has a similar story to Jason Hook. Hard Rock bands are attached to their stories.

Bassist Chris Kael was doing the Las Vegas circuit with various bands and had made enough contacts to vouch for him when the Five Finger Death Punch bass auditions happened.

They took a risk on their music. They gambled. They didn’t know it would resonate and connect with people the way it did. If the music is good, there’s a ton of money to be made. Not all of that money would be on recorded music.

Five Finger Death Punch are winning because they DID THE WORK…
Five Finger Death Punch are winning because they kick ass…
Five Finger Death Punch are winning because they rock each place they visit…

That’s the way rock and roll works.

Life is tough and no one is owed nothing.

People want bands to make a living because we all want to be involved in some way. It makes us feel good on helping artists by going to a show, buying some merchandise or by purchasing their recorded product.

Remember that all of the music that Five Finger Death Punch has released is available on line for free to either stream, view or illegally download. Yet, they still sell. Funny that.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Who Is the Real Star? The Band Name or the Personnel In The Band

There is an article doing the rounds at the Hollywood Reporter about how “The Walking Dead” is TV’s number 1 show and that the stars of the show are still largely unknown.

So it got me thinking. I was very interested to check out the show based on my love of the Horror genre. Once I checked it out, I was hooked. I didn’t start watching the show because they had certain actors in it. The only actor I was aware of was Daryl’s brother and that was from the movie Cliffhanger with Stallone and that was after watching a few episodes. So I got into the show because i was a fan of the horror genre.

However I got into “Sons Of Anarchy” because hard-core friends eventually got me to invest some time in it.

The point I am trying to make is that we get into certain TV shows, movies or artists based on a thousand different reasons. One thing is clear; we don’t get into these cultural icons because of the people in them.

For example, when Metallica started on the scene, no one was walking around saying that they got into Metallica because James Hetfield was such a cool cat or Lars Ulrich was the man. We got into Metallica for multiple reasons. For example, we were fans of the metal genre, the songs connected with us; we wanted to be part of the conversation and so on. From the outset, we become fans because of the music we hear.

That is what culture is all about. Sharing stories about the things we love.

Of course some outliers do exist and some artists have a cultural influence that transcends their music. They become institutions themselves. For example, Slash is now a cultural institution. Ozzy Osbourne is a cultural institution albeit with a lot of help from his “friends”. Nikki Sixx is a cultural institution. Robb Flynn is a cultural institution. Dee Snider is a cultural icon. These artists can all survive on their own. They are brand names themselves.

It’s taken Slash almost 14 years from when he left Gunners to re-establish and re-brand himself as a force to be reckoned with. That happened in 2010 with the release of his solo album and with a little help from his friends.

Randy Rhoads and Bob Daisley helped Ozzy Osbourne break the shackles of Black Sabbath. Jake E. Lee and Phil Soussan enhanced what Randy Rhoads and Bod Daisley created. Zakk Wylde turned it all into a blockbuster with “No More Tears” being the pinnacle.

Nikki Sixx re-invented himself and Motley Crue by first gaining control of Motley Crue’s back catalogue from Elektra Records. A task that no other artist had accomplished before. Then he pushed for the writing of “The Dirt”. Since then, he has become a solo artist with Sixx AM, a song writer for other artists, a social media junkie, a photographer, a literary writer and a radio personality.

Robb Flynn showed the world that he can survive. He really went out of his comfort zone recently and performed acoustically. He survived the “Through The Ashes of Empires” era and lived to tell the tale. Talk about Grit and Roll. It was music all the way, with no safety net. No plan B. His Journals are pure gold. Even if you don’t like Machine Head’s music, you can still appreciate the Journal Ramblings. For any artist starting off, there is information in there that is real. There is information there that is not sugar-coated by a mainstream writer.

Dee Snider, what else can be said. Read his bio.

These artists have all connected with us on different levels. They have become so large in people’s lives that they have become cultural institutions themselves. We then stick with these institutions through the good times and the bad times.

So what about all the other artists. Well for the remainder of the artists it is still about the music. They need to have the music pumping out and they need to make connections.

Dee Snider once said that there are no more rock stars in this day and age. I took that to mean, that in the internet age, there are no real recognizable faces to put to certain bands. While I agree with that comment in parts, I also disagree with it.

For example, Coheed and Cambria has Claudio Sanchez. Watch them live and you get to see the hair. Instantly recognizable.

Five Finger Death Punch has Zoltan Bathory with the dreadlocks and the UFC/mixed martial arts look. They have Ivan Moody and the Mohawk.

Shinedown has Brent Smith, who performs like an adrenaline injected Steve Tyler.

Black Veil Brides have, well they have the whole band.

Avenged Sevenfold have Eighties rock star stage names with instantly recognisable faces.

However if any of the band members in the above mentioned bands, decide to go on their own, it will be a tough slog for them as the bands they are in have all become cultural institutions. Then you have a band like Protest The Hero who look like normal guys going to University.

So going back to “The Walking Dead”. The show is the rock star. That is the cultural institution.

So for any wannabe rock stars, think about all of the above for a second. No one is going to wake up tomorrow morning and think to themselves, “damn, I want to hear some music from Zoltan Bathory, or “Insert New Artist name here””.

We wake up in the morning and think to ourselves, “damn, we want to hear some Five Finger Death Punch. We wake up and go “damn its “The Walking Dead” tonight.”

That is what a lot of misguided artists fail to grasp when they leave a certain cultural institution citing musical differences. They (meaning the person) were never the stars. The band name is the star and it always will be.

That is why Guns N Roses is still rolling along, playing to large audiences.

That is why Tommy Lee returned to Motley Crue.

That is why James Hetfield returned to Metallica after rehab. That is why Lars Ulrich never contemplated anything else except Metallica during this period.

That is why Dave Mustaine resurrected Megadeth after he disbanded the band.

That is why Dimebag didn’t want Pantera to end. He knew that Pantera was the star.

That is why David Lee Roth worked with Van Halen again. That is why Sammy Hagar wants to work with Van Halen again.

That is why Alex Skolnick returned to Testament.

That is why there is a fight over who owns the right to the Queensryche name.

That is why Benjamin Burnley went all legal for the right to use the Breaking Benjamin name.

That is why Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned to Iron Maiden.

That is why Rob Halford returned to Judas Priest.

That is why Black Sabbath reformed with three of the original members and released ’13’.

That is why bands like Ratt, Quiet Riot, Dokken, Poison and Skid Row are still continuing.

That is why Joey Belladonna returned to Anthrax and why Scott Ian is still continuing the band.

That is why Slayer is continuing without Jeff Hanneman.

To finish off with the immortal words of Ronnie James Dio “And on and on and on and on it goes….”

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

The Uncanny Valley – Be brave, make the decision, stick with it and move on

The Uncanny Valley is a song from Stone Sour and it appears on the House of Gold and Bones II album. Corey Taylor explained it as a song that is about fighting off pessimism and trying to reach for positivity and being brave enough to make a decision and stick with it. If you are a musician starting off, that is the unwritten rule. Make a decision, stick with it, be positive about it and don’t let the haters drag you down.

Five Finger Death Punch recently covered Mama Said Knock You Out. When Nu-Metal came on the scene 15 years ago, this would have been an accepted practice. Nu-Metal was riding high in the charts, it was a successful genre and it was the norm mixing hip hop with metal. These days, you don’t see any bands mixing rap with metal anymore. So what does Five Finger Death Punch do. They do the uncool thing and cover a hip hop song, in a metal fashion. Being brave enough to make a decision and stick with it. Being strong enough to fight off all the haters and pessimists. Being positive about it. Raising their stiff middle finger at what the norms are. This is what artists need to do.

As Ivan Moody and Zoltan Bathory have stated in countless interviews, there is no grey area when it comes to Five Finger Death Punch. People either love them or hate them, and all that matters to them is to focus on the people who get excited about music that comes from Five Finger Death Punch. In an age where people are supposably not buying music, Five Finger Death Punch have been able to achieve sales of over 500,000 in the US alone for each album cycle. It is clear that that the fans are supporting them and that is because they have been brave enough to make decisions and stick with those decision.

Dream Theater is also a band that has gone through a period of a dramatic turn of events. The departure of Mike Portnoy was unexpected to say the least to the fan base. However, Dream Theater soldiered on, held auditions and hired the mega talented Mike Mangini. The haters and the pessimists came out. Dream Theater continued on. Then Mike Portnoy reached out and asked back in. Dream Theater showed how brave they are and said NO. They made their decision to hire Mike Mangini and they are sticking with it. They see positives in this change.

So fast forward three years and Dream Theater is at another milestone. September 24, is when the self-titled album drops, the first to involve Mangini for the writing process. In the press statements, Petrucci is saying that this album is Mangini unleashed. They have come to this point in time, by making the brave decisions back in 2010/11 and sticking with them. It would have been easy from a fan point of view to bring Portnoy back into the fold.

Which brings me to Mike Portnoy. Yes, I am critical of his decisions, however one thing the Portnoy cannot be faulted with is making a decision. Love him or hate him, he makes career defining decisions and sticks with them.

Hell or Highwater is the band that Atreyu drummer Brandon Sailer formed. The difference here is that Sailer is the lead singer and songwriter on this project. He wrote 8 of the 11 songs, before he even had a band together. While Atreyu was known as a metal core act, Hell Or Highwater is heavy melodic rock. It’s no frills hard rock, and that is what people are gravitating towards again. The big difference between Hard Rock now and Hard Rock in the Eighties is the subject matter in the songs. It is back to being personal, it is back to conveying a feeling, it is back to storytelling. Gone are the goofball Eighties style lyrics of Slipped Her The Big One and sticky side up.

The reason why this is mentioned in this post is the brave decision Brandon Sailer needed to make when Atreyu went on hiatus. He stepped away from the drum kit and became a front man. He started writing songs that are connecting with people and he is sticking with it. He is seeing positivity in this change, already thinking ahead to the next record. If you haven’t heard Hell or Highwater check out the tracks Gimme Love, Find The Time To Breath, Hail Mary, Go Alone (with M.Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold), We All Wanna Go Home and Rock Waters Edge.

Be brave, make the decision, stick with it and move on.

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

Five Finger Death Punch Encompass Their Past and Improve On It

When Zoltan Bathory was putting together a new band in 2004, his vision was to bring metal back to the masses. The first foundation was established with  2007′s ‘The Way of the Fist’. 2009’s War Is The Answer and 2011’s American Capitalist both added to the foundation. The house that Death Punch built is still going full steam ahead with two new albums about to hit the streets in the next seven months.

Chris Kael the bassist of Five Finger Death Punch said the following on the new album in a recent interview;

“It’s basically all the things that Death Punch have learned over the last three albums, we put into this new album, so it’s basically the best of Death Punch all in one brand new release. The melodies are strong, Ivan’s still pissed as hell, the musicianship is at its best and we are really proud of it! “

Ivan Moody the vocalist had the following to say on the new album;

“This is everything Death Punch has ever done and it pushes the bar up. That’s the great part about doing two CDs—we got to experiment this time. We didn’t want to change our style—the machine isn’t broken. So instead, what we did is encompass what we’ve done already and advance on it.”

So what do the above statements say in relation to Five Finger Death Punch. Inspiration doesn’t take place in a vacuum. All day long you are experiencing. All year long you are experiencing. If people think you can write quality songs with no prior experience, they are delusional.  Our whole life is a database of information. Be ready to index it and then reference it. Use it to create something better. Learn from it and create something better.

Five Finger Death Punch are merging all of their experiences and influences into a new double album.  They have their signature voice and they are not changing it for anybody and they are still playing to their fans. In the end it is the fans that matter. They are the ones that give the band the chance to create and release albums. Not the record labels or the money that they throw at the band. The fans are king here and FFDP are playing to their core. As I have said many times before, don’t spread your wings too far. Focus on your core audience as that is your foundation.

Just listen to Lift Me Up. If you are a music fan, you will hear the vocal melody inspiration from the song The Ultimate Sin by Ozzy Osbourne, released in 1986. Ivan Moody experienced that song, he heard it, he allowed it to take him somewhere and he stored it. Fast forward 26 years and Ivan Moody is referencing it, twisting it and making it his own.

Some people will call this plagiarism, I call it being influenced. Allow yourself to be influenced.

I am pretty sure in fifty years’ time some publishing company that will end up owning the Ozzy Osbourne catalogue will end up suing the publishing company that owns the Five Finger Death Punch catalogue for plagiarism, much the same way the Men At Work songwriters were sued for a flute solo that they didn’t even write that referenced a long forgotten children’s classic.

This is real. This is happening in the Entertainment business. People are trolling for lawsuits. Companies have been formed for this purpose. While everyone tries to get legislation passed to protect the entertainment business models from 1980, they should be focusing on these trolling organisations that are stifling innovation and progress with B.S cases.

The point in all of this. Experiences are everything in music. It is the difference between making a connection with a fan or not making a connection. Sometimes that experience can be the influence of another song. It is okay to allow it. That is how music has evolved throughout the ages.

Five Finger Death Punch have paid their dues, they have lived and experienced life, they have been patient, they have mined their lives for content and they didn’t quit.

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

The Song Needs To Be A Song First – Words of Wisdom from Zoltan Bathory

“Every one of us can play. We are technical players. When it comes to songs, there’s a difference between just shredding and showing of or writing songs. That’s a different talent. First and foremost, the song has to be a song then you start to think about yeah, let’s add a guitar solo.”

(Zoltan Bathory from Five Finger Death Punch in a recent interview with Loudwire.)

I remember towards the end of the Eighties, hard rock and glam rock bands are getting signed up left, right and centre by all the record labels. The greedy labels over saturated the market with diluted quality. They got talented musicians and sold them the dream of fame and fortune. Once they had their signature on paper, they told them to go and write songs like Cherry Pie.

Have you read or heard what Jani Lane (RIP) said about Cherry Pie. He wishes he never wrote the song. The album was done, it was going to be called Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The label wanted a hit song or they wouldn’t release the album. Jani had two options, tell the label to go F themselves and by doing that he knew that his songs will never be heard or he could comply with their request, write them a sugar pop song and get the album out.  We all know how the story goes?

Writing songs and playing technical are two different things and it’s good to see Zoltan make that distinction.

Would people still be interested in Dream Theater if they just played technical passages, without having a real song as the springboard. Pull Me Under is the song that you can say broke Dream Theater to the masses. It is the most simplest Dream Theater song to learn and play, however it was written by musicians who have great technical ability. The second track, Another Day is another Dream Theater  song that is simple to play and again it is from the same well. Of course Images and Words has Learning To Live, Metropolis, Take The Time and Under A Glass Moon and the reason why those songs have become cult songs in the progressive genre, is because they are songs first and technical masterpieces second.  The bottom line is, you need a great foundation.

When Ozzy relaunched his career with the Blizzard Of Ozz band (that then became the Ozzy band when the record was released), it was on the back of great songs and great technical guitar playing from Randy Rhoads. A simple catchy AC/DC style song like Flying High Again, had a dazzling tapped lead break. The Crazy Train solo is one of those songs within a song guitar leads, however who would have cared if it was there, if the song it was on is terrible.

The bottom line for both Dream Theater and Ozzy Osbourne is; if you take away the progressive instrumental breaks and guitar leads from the songs that we love, you still have a great song and that is the essence to everything.

When the Whitesnake album exploded in 1987, it was on the back of great songs and great guitar playing from John Sykes. Listen to his lead break on Crying In The Rain. John Kalodner, the A&R rep that signed Whitesnake to Geffen, knew that was a great song. It just need to be re-done in a way that it could get massive exposure. The song was a song already as it already did the rounds on the Saints and Sinners album from 1982 and by adding the one minute plus tour de force lead break by Sykes to it, it made the song even more dazzling and a product of the times. However, as I mentioned above, if you take away the lead break, you still have a great song.

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