Friday, May 15, 2015

RIP B.B. King

Legendary Blues musician Blues Boy "B.B." King passed away on May 14th, at the age of 89.

New York Times article about B.B. King

Why am I writing about this on my Hard Rock/Metal blog? Because King influenced so many guitarists over generations, including Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.

Even if you do not like Blues music you must respect it. All forms of popular music today can directly trace their origins to American Blues. And on of the best Bluesman of all time has passed, so listen "The Thrill Is Gone" and say thank you to Blues Boy King for all the music he gave the world.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Future of Heavy Metal

Just another prediction post from yours truly.

This is just an abbreviated history to lead into my main point, a great resource is the documentary Metal Evolution: The Definitive History of Heavy Metal & Hard Rock

I often ponder, to the point of obsession, about the evolution Heavy Metal has taken. From the Proto-Metal roots in the Psychedelic/Acid/Progressive rock scenes, with bands like Iron Butterfly, Cream, The Kinks and guitarists like Hendrix and Robin Trower, even Surf guitar god Dick Dale. Then came the Unholy Trinity, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Led Zepplin. These bands being, arguably, the first "Metal" bands, some other early Metallers being Blue Cheer, Uriah Heep, Nazareth, Rainbow, and the mighty Judas Priest.

Metal transformed through the following decade into the NWOBHM, which in turn brought forth Thrash Metal, Power Metal, Progressive Metal, Black Metal, and even influenced Hair Metal.

Now I'm going to narrow down a bit. Thrash and Speed Metal brought about Death Metal. Death Metal combined with Hardcore Punk, becoming Deathcore. The sound seemed to always become more extreme with each successive generation of bands in the Black and Death subgenres. I kept thinking, "How much more extreme can this sound go? Are we topped out?" Then I heard a band open for Static-X (RIP Wayne Static), that band was The Browning. Their name is ridiculous, but I realized that they were the future of Metal. They were pioneering what was coming next. They combined the sounds of Deathcore/Metalcore with Dubstep. It only made sense that the deep bass laden sounds of Dubstep would eventually merge with Metal. Synthesizers are going to make a big comeback in Extreme Metal. Another band, PAIN, a side project of Melodic-Death Metal band Hypocrisy frontman Peter Tägtgren, has been fusing Metal and Techno/Electronic for almost 2 decades. But the Electronic music scene became heavier and weirder in the form of Dubstep, and it actually sounds really cool with the heavy and weird sound that Deathcore/Metalcore has become. I am a big fan of both PAIN and now The Browning.

Like I said before, this is just another prediction, but I'm willing to bet I'm right.

YouTube playlist contains PAIN and The Browning. Check out both bands!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Skid Row and The Future of Album Releases

Yes, Skid Row is still around. After the departure of Sebastian Bach the band found a new vocalist in Johnny Solinger, who has now been in the band longer than Sebastian was. When I first discovered this fact it was by accident. I picked up the album "Thick Skin" and was so disappointed that it was not Sebastian singing. I really disliked the new sound the band had. But after listening to it a few times I fell in love with it. So since then I've become a Johnny Solinger fan. Now that we've established that, lets discuss why I've labeled this "...and the future of album releases."

In 2013 Skid Row released the EP "United World Rebellion: Chapter One," followed up in July 2014 by another EP "Rise of the Damnation Army -- United World Rebellion: Chapter Two." Why is this important? Well one, they are full of great songs, and two, I am willing to bet that we start to see a shift in recorded music from releasing full length albums to bands releasing smaller EPs at shorter intervals. The way musicians (or rather record companies) sell music is by having a hit single on the radio, YouTube,  etc. But as has almost always been the case, most albums only have one single. So in today's iTunes and Amazon mp3 fueled music scene, only the single is being downloaded. The rest of the album is losing money. That is why it only makes sense that EPs are the future. Like Skid Row, and also a reunited Ugly Kid Joe in 2013, did by concentrating on making a few REALLY good songs to release and not worrying about so called "filler" songs to round out an entire album. This way, especially in pop music, an artist is only worried about recording a couple great songs that make money every 12 months or sooner. More people will be willing to buy or download the entire EP if the last one was pure gold, then release a new EP of 3 or 4 songs 8 months later and they will purchase those ones as well. It is also a way for artists to try that weird avant-garde phase they all go through; don't alienate fans with an entire album of terrible music, just try a few songs out and if it bombs you go back to the old sound. New bands will still have to release entire debut and sophomore albums for touring purposes, but after that they can hop on that EP gravy train.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

New Judas Priest and Overkill Album Reviews

I'm very behind on reviewing the new albums by two of my favorite bands.

First there is Judas Priest's "Redeemer of Souls." This is the first album since the departure of founding guitarist K.K. Downing, the followup to 2008's "Nostradamus" album, and their first album since their announced "retirement". I saw the farewell "Epitaph" tour in 2011, and now they are coming back on tour this year (much like how I saw Scorpions' farewell tour in 2011...and 2012. And let's not even discuss the amount of KISS farewell tours). When I first listened to the album I was not that impressed with it. It sounded like a generic Judas Priest album, and nothing stuck out to me. Since then I've learned I was completely insane on that first listen. My father said, "[The album] gets better the louder you listen to it," and I completely agree! There is so much intricate and technical guitar work by founding guitarist Glenn Tipton and K.K.'s replacement Richie Faulkner that is lost when the album is not allowed to blast through the speakers. Songs like "Halls of Valhalla" and "Cold Blooded" are great examples of this guitar work. Added to that is the amazing drumming of Scott Travis and the heavy doomy bass of founding member Ian Hill. Then of course we have the Metal God himself Rob Halford, arguably THE voice of Heavy Metal. Halford's voice on this album is something special and different. After 40 years of hitting almost impossible notes with his vocal performances, his voice has taken on a more raspy sound as compared to his 70's and 80's style. While he still makes the amazing heights on the songs, this raspiness adds so much more "Metal" to his performance in my opinion. One song in particular is "Halls of Valhalla," in which there is a point he goes from the deep growling vocals reminiscent of Black Metal and then soars to the top of his range. What is different about this is the growling vocals (at around 4:20 in the video below). While it is only for a very short period during the song it was something he had not really done before, and I have a theory as to why he tried it. After 2008's "Nostradamus" album Halford had expressed a desire in making a Black Metal album with former Emperor frontman Ihsahn. While he's made solo albums since then, he has never made a Black Metal attempt. So my guess is that perhaps in exploring that style he tried it on the song "Halls of Valhalla," which is of a lyrical theme common in Black, Folk, and Viking Metal (Maybe lyrics he had left over from that desire in making a Black Metal album? And yes, by the way, Black Metal is not all about Satan. I mean most is, but almost all Black Metal bands have Viking themed songs or albums as well). The next song that sticks out vocally to me is "March of the Damned." The reason it sticks out is that it is almost like someone dared Halford to hold his voice back, and for some reason it is so exciting to me. But I usually enjoy when bands, especially vocalists, try something different (I'm going to admit that I love Van Halen III with Gary Cherone on vocals. Judge away). It is awe inspiring that a band that helped form and create Heavy Metal, can create such technical and heavy album, that it rivals and in most cases surpasses the Heavy Metal music being released by new bands today. Just like remaking a movie, the original is always better. So next to Judas Priest's 2005 "Angel of Retribution," this new album is my favorite JP album. Any fan of Judas Priest, and any Metalhead for that matter, must own this album. Oh and definitely get the deluxe edition with the bonus tracks, very worth it.

Now for Overkill's new album "White Devil Armory". Overkill has been one of my favorite bands since I discovered them in Junior High School, as I've posted before, so I'm going to be biased when it comes to their music. Even knowing I'd enjoy anything they released, I was still shocked at how great this album was. The intro track "XDm" spoke volumes from the start, it is a style that this straight forward band hasn't done before. While the playing on the album has the classic Overkill sound, there is just something more technical in the music that I can't explain. I think it is the drumming on the album. It feels like the band is performing at the same Thrash Metal speed that they've always had, but the drummer is trying to go faster than the rest of them. The song "Where There's Smoke..." is a great example of this. You may think I'm crazy, but I feel like the blast beats from the drum are quicker than on previous recordings. Drum theory aside, this album is truly amazing; any fan of Thrash and Speed Metal will be very pleased with this album. It has that classic sound of eastcoast Thrash that Overkill and Anthrax had of a high pitched singer, as opposed to westcoast Thrash bands Megadeth, Metallica, and Slayer's bass toned and growly vocalists. Another treat I got was a bonus track on the album. I was listening to the album while I was doing stuff in my apartment when suddenly I thought, "That sounds like Nazareth's 'Miss Misery'," and I was right. Normally I hate cover songs, but hearing one of my favorite Classic Metal songs turned into a Thrash Metal song was pretty awesome. The song features Mark Tornillo, who was in another 80's New Jersey Thrash band called T.T. Quick, and is currently the singer of the reformed Accept. Unfortunately I could not find a video for "Miss Misery" on YouTube, but trust me its good. I would recommend this album to any fan of Thrash.

Friday, July 18, 2014

RIP Johnny Winter

Blues/Rock musician Johnny Winter passed away July 16th at the age of 70.Link to NY Times article.He was on tour in Europe at the time; but I have to assume that is how a musician wants to go, playing the music you've created for fans right until the end.
My neighbors probably hate me because I currently have his "And" album blasting from my turntable at full volume, and it is 2am. 
It saddens me that yet another extremely talented musician has passed away, and good music is dying with these artists. I'm so thankful for our technological ability to save the music of these pioneers indefinitely, below is just one of these amazing songs by the late, great Johnny Winter.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Concerts 2014

Here's the shows for 2014 so far:
1. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
2. Amon Amarth / Enslaved / Skeletonwitch
3. Dark Tranquility / Omnium Gatherum
4. Children of Bodom / TYR / Death Angel
5. Hottest Chicks In Hard Rock Tour: Lacuna Coil / Sick Puppies / Cilver / Eyes Set To Kill
6. Faster Pussycat
7. Slayer
8. Cage The Elephant / Foals
9. Powerman 5000 / Knee High Fox
10. KISS / Def Leppard
11. Mushroomhead
12. Jack Russell's Great White
13. Mötley Crüe / Alice Cooper
14. Boston / The Doobie Brothers
15. Deep Purple
16. Faster Pussycat
17. The Pretty Reckless
18. Combichrist / William Control / Davey Suicide
Lifetime total: 173

Concerts 2013

Better late on posting this than never I suppose. Here is the list of shows I saw in 2013:

1. The Who
2. Sabaton
3. Testament / Flotsam & Jetsam
4. Black Veil Brides / William Control
6. Bon Jovi (in SLC)
7. Bon Jovi (in Las Vegas)
8. Alice Cooper / Marilyn Manson
9. Green Jellö
10. Dick Dale
11. Ted Nugent
12. Rush
13. Gigantour: Megadeth, Black Label Society, Hellyeah
14. Whitesnake
15. Danzig / Doyle
16. Havok
17. Andrew WK
18. Kamelot / Delain
19. Dokken / Firehouse
20. Helloween
21. Watain
22. Living Colour
23. Rob Zombie / Korn
24. Overkill / Kreator
25. Faster Pussycat
26. Mike Tramp

Lifetime total at the end of 2013: 155