I’ve seen and heard a lot of metal things on this Monday. I thought I’d try to collect all of them for tomorrow’s first post, because that way I could do some other things with what’s left of my Monday, such as doing some work for my fucking day job, because there are some people who actually think I should do something I’m actually paid to do. But fuck that. I decided to make a start right now and finish everything up in tomorrow’s first post.
Last week the European Space Agency landed a small spacecraft named Philae on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a 2.5-mile-wide ball of rock, ice, and dust that was moving faster than 40,000 miles an hour and was 317 million miles from Earth at the time of the landing. Not a bad piece of work. I have trouble landing my car in my driveway.
Unfortunately, the spacecraft shut down on Saturday after its batteries were drained. Apparently it landed against a cliff or crater wall where it couldn’t get enough sunlight to recharge those batteries. Before that happened, Philae did send back some photos. As you can see above, one of them looks suspiciously like the cover of Monuments of Exalted, the new album by Infestum from Belarus that was released by Lacerated Enemy Records just a couple of days earlier. If you’ve heard anything from the album, you may be less convinced this was a coincidence.
(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.
Last July I wrote about a crowd-funding campaign that had been launched by Conquering Dystopia — the band created by guitarists Jeff Loomis of Seattle and Keith Merrow of Portland, which also includes bassist Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse) and drummer Alex Rüdinger (The Faceless, Ordinance). That campaign was wildly successful. I splurged on it myself, with a donation that offered a very enticing perk — a meal in Seattle with Loomis and Merrow. And yesterday that happened.
We met at the Hard Rock Cafe at 3:00, and what followed was an extremely enjoyable 2 1/2-hour conversation that ended only when the two needed to hit the road for the drive to Portland, where Jeff is helping Keith and his wife move into a new house (I think we can all agree that there are few truer measures of friendship than one dude helping another one move).
It wasn’t intended to be an interview, but I can’t resist sharing some impressions of the people and some news about both Conquering Dystopia and the future plans of both men. First, the news…
The Conquering Dystopia album is nearly ready for release — perhaps a matter of two or three more weeks. But the guys want to be definite before announcing an official date, and they’re not quite to that point. They are both clearly delighted with the way it turned out and excited for people to hear it. Jeff described it as a “guitar roller coaster, with hills and valleys, cinematic soundscapes, and some experimentation”, and he said it’s very heavy.
Yes, my friends, yet another crowdfunding campaign has been launched by yet another band (Conquering Dystopia) who need help financing a recording. To be precise, they would like to raise $15,000, with most of the money going to professional audio mixing and mastering and the rest to be used for travel expenses and creating merch. And in less than a day they’ve already raised $12,301 as I write this.
When you see who’s in this band and the perks they’re offering for donations, you’ll understand why the money is already rolling in at such a fast pace. Here’s the line-up:
Jeff Loomis (guitars)
Keith Merrow (Demisery) (guitars)
Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse) (bass)
Alex Rüdinger (The Faceless, Ordinance) (drums)
That’s an awful lot of metal goodness in one band. All the way back in January, Keith Merrow put up a Facebook status in which he said that he and Loomis had decided to collaborate on an album, but not many details have surfaced since then, until yesterday. Last month we featured a video jam by those two (plus Ola Englund), still not really knowing what was cooking. Now we know.
Oh, they make it look so easy.
Jeff Loomis and Keith Merrow (Demisery) were trying out their new signature amp packs for Jamup Pro. And they decided, why not throw together a new jam? And they spontaneously wrote and recorded an instrumental track in a couple of hours. And then they decided, what the hell, let’s invite Ola Englund (Feared) to come bust out a solo for this thing. And voila! They produced de-li-ciousness.
And they videotaped it, too, so that all of us can bask in all the delicious riff wizardry.
Watch these three guitar dynamos tear it up right after the jump. You’ll be glad you did.
My NCS comrades and I follow a large number of bands and labels on Facebook and through other news outlets. Not a week goes by without seeing a report of some new misfortune befalling one or more of them. During some weeks it’s a daily occurrence. Many of the misfortunes involve van break-downs or vehicular accidents while on tour. Others involve theft of gear or money. Sometimes, as you’ll see below, even the weather gods get involved.
The past week saw a string of calamities affecting bands we like quite a lot around here. They’ve all reached out to fans for financial support. This is not exactly a sure-fire means of getting back on your feet, because the average metal fan isn’t exactly swimming in free cash, but what else are you going to do?
We could easily make this a weekly feature: bands who’ve been fucked by human scum or fisted by the fickle hand of fate and who need help. I’m not saying we’re going to do that, but we’re doing it today. Here are stories and appeals for help from A Hill To Die Upon (Illinois), Jeff Loomis (Washington), and Eyeconoclast (Italy).
Sweden’s Soilwork have been working with producer Jens Bogren on a new double-CD album, The Living Infinite, which will be released sometime next year by Nuclear Blast. Today, they announced the first North American tour in support of the album — and it’s a mammoth one. It will begin on March 12, 2013, in West Springfield, Virginia, and finish on May 7 in Worcester, Massachusetts.
I’m sure I’ll see this tour, especially because it’s coming to a relatively compact venue in Seattle, but also because I still have a warm spot in my heart for Soilwork despite a musical trajectory over time that’s been less than completely satisfactory, given my tastes. With a new double-CD worth of new music to promote, I suspect there won’t be much room for the really good, hard, older stuff, but we’ll see.
Also, Jeff Loomis is along for this ride, and I’d see this show even if he were the only name on the bill.
The line-up on the whole is curious — you certainly can’t accuse the organizers of lacking a taste for musical variety. In addition to Soilwork and Loomis, the tour will include Blackguard, The Browning, and Wretched. As for me, I’ve never been able to get into Blackguard, The Browning are a guilty pleasure, and Wretched — they kick ass. And what do you think?
Look what I found! New song streams! They crash and froth in rapids, they meander slowly through dark canyons, and they explode in white water again. They are new songs by Jeff Loomis (U.S.), My Dying Bride (UK), and Nidingr (Norway).
Have you listened to the new solo release by Jeff Loomis, Plains of Oblivion? Well, it turns out that Jeff Loomis is already writing and recording new songs, and he plans to roll out three of them through online debuts. The first one premiered today on Metal Hammer’s web site, and it may come as a surprise to those who have Plains of Oblivion still ringing in their heads. Loomis recorded “A Liar’s Chain” with his current touring band, and they’ve been performing the song on tour this year. Guitarist Joe Nurre provides the vocals.
The hard-charging song is as extreme as anything on Plains of Oblivion, or more so. The central riff is a hammering, quasi-industrial beast; Nurre’s vocals vary between death-metal growls and paint-stripping screams (with something like a nu-metal styling in some of the vocal rhythms); and Loomis’ inevitable extended solo brings a dose of satisfying spitfire flash. Cool shit. It’s right here:
I saw this album cover. It’s for the next album by Dysrhythmia, Test of Submission, which Profound Lore says they will be releasing on August 28. No test is needed . . . I am ready to submit.
I also saw that Be’lakor has just put HD versions of all the songs from their terrific new album Of Breath and Bone up on YouTube. Find those tracks here. Read Andy Synn’s review of the album here. (And thanks to NCS reader Daniel for the tip on this news.)
I also saw that Doris Yeh from Chthonic is on the cover of a fashion magazine called FHM. I no longer have to wonder what she looks like naked.
(TheMadIsraeli dragged himself out of his phlegm-soaked sickbed to write this retrospective about one of his guitar idols and to provide a brief review of Plains of Oblivion.)
I’m going to share something personal and meaningful about myself with you NCS folk.
I want to be a musician, in a band, and doing the albums-and-touring deal for a living. If I were, I wouldn’t be doing this music journalism bullshit [editor’s intrusion: I’m sure he meant that in the nicest possible way]. It’s pretty much my alternative as a means of remaining close to something I love. I’m a guitar player. I’ve played the instrument for over 10 years now (13, to be precise), trying my best to hone my skill and technique. I’m all too broke to realize any of these dreams though — so broke that I can’t afford to buy a suitable PC, camera, or other gear necessary to produce anything of respectable quality. So I sit here, wishing, waiting.
I like to think I’m a guitarist first and a music journalist second, as much as it seems The Good Lord doesn’t want to arrange the cards in that order. But even though that’s not the hand I’ve been dealt, it doesn’t change a simple fact about me . . . I love metal, and I love the fucking guitar.
We guitar players hold onto our idols — those people who for each of us were the inspiration, the people who are our personal golden standard of WHAT IT IS to be a badass riff-writer or shredder. For myself, I’m unable to pick one favorite, but I can tell you the 5 definitive icons in my evolution as a guitarist:
Chuck Schuldiner, Christofer Malmstrom, Per Nillson, Jeff Loomis, and Alex Skolnick.
If you’ve been paying attention to news in the metal world lately and know what day today is, you would probably know who this piece is going to be about even without the post title and photo.