Our fellow blogger Full Metal Attorney published a new post on his site today entitled, in intentional Buzzfeed-speak, “7 Metal Bands That Will Blow Your Mind”. He began it this way:
I’ve been reading about Babymetal since No Clean Singing first covered them two years ago. Now I’m starting to read about them everywhere, and it’s blowing the minds of regular people. Even my six-year-old son–who has grown up completely immersed in pop music and extreme metal–had a “WTF?” look on his face: “Why are those girls there?” You’re right, son, it doesn’t make any sense.
It hadn’t occurred to me that Babymetal would be so interesting to non-metalheads (outside of J-pop fans, anyway). So I started thinking: What else might blow the mind of a normal person? Metalheads, this list isn’t really for you: Share it with your friends.
And he then proceeded to provide a list — a list of bands who in very different ways have combined musical elements with “mainstream appeal” (my words) and elements more familiar to metalheads. The idea struck me as one that might generate some discussion here at NCS.
So, no, this isn’t yet another NCS post about Babymetal (because they’re even getting coverage from the likes of USA Today as well as currently holding down a spot on iTunes Top 10 Rock Albums chart in 7 countries — the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Japan and Sweden). Those of you who think Babymetal are the greatest threat to our way of life since the fluoridation of water can relax.
I would guess that established metal bands face a quandary every time they begin work on a new album. By “established metal bands” I mean those who have put out enough records over a long enough period of time that they have a well-defined sound and, by metal standards, a large and relatively devoted fan base. I’m guessing, because I’m not in an established metal band and don’t know anyone who is. Fortunately, lack of first-hand knowledge has never held me back from expressing opinions.
Here’s the quandary: You can continue to do the same kind of thing you’ve done before. This is the safe route. You know you will probably please the die-hard fans, because you’re giving them what they’ve liked in the past. You’ll please your record label, because whatever pleases your established fan base most likely means predictable sales. And because it’s the same kind of music you’ve done in the past with success, you can be reasonably confident that you won’t fuck it up.
But maybe it’s not so safe. Because there’s a difference between writing good new songs that are recognizably YOU and… coasting. Coasting is risky, and I would guess (see above re my complete lack of personal knowledge) that it’s also boring for the people in the band. And when people in a band start to get bored, they’re on the brink of a death spiral.
(TheMadIsraeli decided to make this list of the people he judges to be the top metal guitarists of all time, with sample music. Comments are welcome, as always.)
I decided to take a much needed break from NCS activities, mainly due to the fact I had shit I had to do, and stuff I wanted to do. Stuff and shit has pretty much dominated my life for the last couple weeks, but now it’s time to get back to doing this shit.
First thing on my list? Well, the name of the post should tell you everything. My top guitar players of all time is a pretty specific calculated list, with some choices that may turn out to surprise people. I’ve played guitar for 15 years now, and have gone through my share of temporary idols, but these are the guys who’ve stuck with me. Being able to shred and having ridiculous skill is not a sufficient qualifier for this list. At the end of the day, while you’ll find almost all my choices are excellent shredders, riffs at the end of the day will matter more.
A lot of people of the more shred persuasion, like Rusty Cooley for example, can write all the cool solos they want, but he for example can’t write a riff to save his life. That perfect balance between riff and virtuosity in the lead department has always been something that’s very rarely accomplished. I think probably for awhile, Yngwie Malmsteen was the only guy in that department who knew how to write good overall SONGS that exhibited technical prowess combined with memorable moments and recognizable style all at once.
I value riffs more than solo-crafting ability for the obvious reason, that it’s what you mostly hear in metal; especially metal with vocals. Those riffs have to tell a story, convey a definite idea, one that contrasts with or enhances the solos when they crop up. And those solos? They have to be fucking mini voyages through the cosmos. They can’t be just sheer displays of technical skill. You get people like Rusty Cooley or a lot of other solo shredders, and it’s becoming even worse in the djent market with all these pseudo-sloppy fusion guys coming out of the woodwork who just follow by rote basic fusion melodic progressions or simply execute solos that their songs could’ve well done without. Half-assed fusion influence is probably the worst offender in modern metal guitar playing right now.
As is usually the case with my lists, order doesn’t signify better or worse here.
(Andy Synn shares some thoughts about bands who change their sound over time, with two contrasting examples.)
Here’s something I’ve noticed, and I don’t doubt you will have, too. Pretty much anytime a reviewer (or a commenter) sees fit to question a band for changing their style – whether it’s a legitimate question or not is almost irrelevant – someone’s panties get in a bunch and they feel the need to hit back with an accusation that:
“You guys just want everything to sound the same! I applaud this band for changing and progressing! You just want everything to sound like Cannibal Corpse, etc, etc…”
What’s interesting about this is that – whether consciously or not – it’s reframing the terms of the argument, not addressing the original issue. It’s cleverly saying that anyone who questions a band’s decision to change its sound is clearly closed-minded and of limited intelligence. And while that’s probably true of a certain percentage of the metal community, it still doesn’t say anything about the band in question.
artwork by Kati Astraeir, which has nothing to do with this post
The subjects of this post are a bit awkward for me to discuss, but they’ve been on my mind lately and the more I can get off my mind and put onto yours, the more light-headed I’ll feel. So here goes:
Premiering new music or new videos is something that music sites and metal blogs like to do. Premieres are publicized by the people who get to do them and by the bands, as well as by labels and PR agents, if they’re in the picture for a particular release. That drives traffic to the sites who get to host the premiere. When you get to premiere a music or video, you also have the pleasure of sharing something you like (though I guess some sites will premiere music regardless of what they think of it).
You’ll notice that a lot of sites prominently use the word “exclusive” when they do a premiere. When used correctly, “exclusive” means that the site in question is the sole source for the music — you can listen to the premiere at that location, and nowhere else. In some cases the exclusivity period may not last long — the band or label may upload the music somewhere else a day or two later — but sometimes it may last for weeks or even longer.
The way to ensure exclusivity is to premiere the music in an embedded player that can’t be copied and embedded by anyone else. For example, if you upload music to SoundCloud for streaming, you have the option of disabling the “share” feature that allows other people to copy the embed code and use the widget to stream the song or album on their own sites or blogs. Why do people do this?
NCS writer Andy Synn delivers a rant. Discuss!
Have you ever noticed that some people just have better taste, and better opinions, than you do?
And no, I’m not just talking about the stunningly sexy, intellectually gifted übermensches who write for NCS.
I’m talking about that guy. You know that guy. No matter what you’re saying, or doing, or talking about, he’s always there, ready to jump in and tell you – in no uncertain terms – why your opinion, (cute though it is) is fundamentally wrong.
Now that guy comes in a lot of forms (the sniggering, puerile troll, the condescending “teacher”, the offensively arrogant “comic book guy”), but one thing’s always the same — he knows better than you do, he’s more “real”, and he knows a “sell-out” when he sees one!
EDITOR’S PREFACE: No, I don’t normally give a shit what appears on MTV’s “Guy Code” Blog. Until last week I didn’t even know the thing existed, and now I’ll try to forget that it does. But an article that appeared there on January 29 has been splashed around metal circles in the interhole (e.g., a re-post by Dying Fetus on Facebook), so it was kind of hard to ignore. Regrettably, I read it. It can be summed up as follows:
More “hot ladies” are showing up at hardcore and metal shows than ever before. This is further evidence that “metal and hardcore music no longer solely appeals to angry misanthropic males with poor social skills.”
“The internet has helped demystify extreme music, making it more accessible and less intimidating. A girl can watch clips from a Napalm Death concert and see that it’s not so scary after all, which makes her much more likely to attend.”
“It can be easy to pick up a woman at such a concert if you follow a few quick preparation tips.”
And I won’t bother with the tips.
Late last week I saw a reaction to the article, and to comments about the article, by Shannon Void on her FB page. Shannon hails from Philadelphia and is the owner/psychic doomstress of Anthropic Records, home to such fine bands as Hivelords and Sadgiqacea. I liked what Shannon wrote and the way she wrote it. I asked her if I could post it here at NCS. She agreed. Here it is:
(Mike Yost is a good dude and a good writer (check out this blog here), but he is from Denver, and this week it’s really hard for me to be civil to people from Denver. Because of that sportzball thingie that’s being played on Sunday. But I’m a big fan of metal bars, and so Mike’s piece about his visit to one in Denver overcame my instinctive desire to nuke the city. Besides which, the Broncos are already in NJ, so that would be a wasted nuke.)
Beer and Metal: A savagely harmonious combination. Not unlike peas and carrots. Or masturbation and razor wire. Or sex and nipple clamps attached to car batteries.
So, why not cultivate that vicious amalgamation into a metal bar that serves craft beer? Well, a few Denver entrepreneurs did just that, opening a brewing company called TRVE, the bar rooted just south of downtown Denver on a bohemian stretch of asphalt called Broadway.
“Our goal is to give you a rad place to hang out and drink killer beer,” their website reads. “ . . . Our mission has always been to create beers that are beyond the pale. To us this implies new ideas, channeling Loki, and embracing chaos. It means drawing from the sounds and sights that inspire us most in life.”
They used the word rad. How fucking rad is that?
(Our Denver-based friend and writer Mike Yost, who remains our friend despite that sportzball thingie that’s being played on Feb 2, wrote the following piece, which I should have posted 6 weeks ago. It originally appeared at Mike’s own blog here. Do you listen to music when you write?)
As an author, I listen to a wide variety of music while I write — from metal to electronic ambient to classical music. Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) is one of my favorites. The composition was inspired by one of Saint-Saëns’ own poems where death plays a violin at the stroke of midnight surrounded by skeletons dancing in their shrouds. Pretty damn metal.
Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club) once said in an interview that he prefers to draft novels in the waiting areas of emergency rooms, feeding off the noise and drama unfolding all around him. Hemingway is often attributed with the quote: “Write drunk; edit sober,” which I often do in noisy bars downing pint after pint of fermented liquid happiness. But several authors I work with can only pen the future great American masterpiece in complete silence.
For me, silence stifles my ability to write. It’s deafening. In truth, silence is really fucking distracting. It opens the black iron gates to that cacophony of shrill voices in my mind that come crawling out of the obsidian that is my subconscious—their pointed fangs and claws flashing white in the darkness just before sinking deep into my trembling eyeballs.
And it’s not easy to write with bleeding eyeballs.
(In this post, our man Andy Synn provides observations about the so-called Loudness War.)
The so-called “Loudness War” is an interesting – if ill-defined – phenomenon. Granted, it’s not a real war (as far as I know, no-one has died, nor have any regimes been overthrown or countries subjugated purely because of differences in mixing/mastering preferences), but it’s still a source of conflict among listeners, bands, and engineers.
To those of you unaware of the term (possibly due to being prematurely deafened), it is:
“a pejorative term for the apparent competition to master and release recordings with increasing loudness.” (Wikipedia)
And the main complaint about it is that it reduces/compresses the dynamic range of music, so you’re left with something aggressively homogeneous – with neither ups nor downs, neither highs nor lows… something actually less than the sum of its parts.