(Here we have another of our UK scribe Andy Synn’s collections of five favorite things. The last such post was about five of his favorite guitar solos. This one is going to take us outside our usual stomping grounds.)
Ok, so if you follow the site at all closely, I’m sure you’ve got at least a vague idea of the areas each of the regular writers tends to specialise in. You might even be able to make reasonable predictions about what bands we listen to, and what bands/albums coming up we’d be expected to like and give coverage to.
You’d know, for example, that my bread and butter these days is black metal, the more interesting the better, with a side helping of more melodically inclined (but still heavy as hell) death metal. I’m not so much of a thrash or hardcore guy as I was when I first started my metal journey, and while I still have a soft spot for some metalcore (and its ilk), that’s very much on a band-by-band basis. Overall though, I like metal for its variety, for its honesty and integrity, and for the skill and effort it takes to compose.
So what I’m thinking is that I’ll throw away any remaining kvlt or tr00 cred I have left, and namecheck 5 bands – all peripherally related to rock/metal – who I absolutely love, but who I don’t think any of you would guess at in a million years.
DEATH BY STEREO
A nice touch of punk adds a bit of variety to my listening sometimes. Somewhere between Slayer and Comeback Kid lies the angry polemic of Death By Stereo’s anthemic, at-times-metallic, punk/hardcore, mixing justifiable angst with a more positive, uplifting vibe. You might remember TheMadIsraeli covered this band in a column some time ago, and though we might disagree on a lot of things, here is something we are most certainly united on.
DBS have actually been known to get some stick from punk/hardcore purists for their incorporation of the occasional metal riff or solo, leaving them stuck between a rock and a hard place in many ways – not heavy or nasty enough for the metal crowd, but a little too far in the wrong direction for the punk crowd. But their perseverance and refusal to change or compromise has led to them develop a dedicated, fanatical fanbase.
Here’s a quick shot of pissed-off adrenaline that highlights the variety of their vocalist and the multiple influences behind their instrumental structures.
“Let Down and Alone”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/08-Let-Down-And-Alone-Album-Version.mp3|titles=Death By Stereo – Let Down And Alone]
Clever, stream-of-conscious story-telling rap with as much emphasis on the instrumental parts as on the lyrical delivery. I’ve seen this band live around 4/5 times and they keep on changing things up and adapting their delivery. I’ve seen them as just a two-piece, with only a DJ and vocalist. I’ve seen them on a double-header with Brother Ali, both vocalists sharing the stage and working with each other’s material seamlessly. And I’ve seen them with a full band line-up, featuring a hugely talented array of musicians, capable of carrying off the riffs, solos, smooth bass lines and skittering drum work without missing a beat.
The vocals and lyrics have a brutal honesty, and you’re never more than a line away from a clever turn of phrase or a revealing set of images which demand clever interpretations and analysis. There’s a big cross-over with the rock scene here, with the band’s DIY ethic, focus on live instrumentation, and general attitude all allowing them to hold their own on more rock-oriented bills, bringing the funk and the style wherever they play.
Here’s one of their funkier jams, telling a story in clever, lyrical rhymes.
“Dreamer”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/04-Dreamer.mp3|titles=Atmosphere – Dreamer]
A-Ha meets Strapping Young Lad? Duran Duran meets Soilwork? Still reading? Good for you. The epitome of a “love it or loathe it” band, the Danish purveyors of “Death Pop” (a tongue-in-cheek genre term if ever I’ve heard one) are still going strong, with 5 albums to their name. While I didn’t think much of their last one, they have a couple of stone-cold classics in their discography. Big, shiny, cyber-riffs melded with shamelessly poppy keyboard melodies, raging screamed lyrics, and ecstatically 80s-influenced clean vocals, plus some extremely underrated drumming (capable of pummelling force as well as clever, catchy nuances) make up the Raunchy sound, where seemingly no boundary of good taste or excess is forbidden. Truly a guilty pleasure, but with far more emphasis on the pleasure, these guys don’t really get the credit they deserve, producing some absolutely massive anthems perfect for a night in the clubs or a day cruising in the sunlight.
Off their second-best album (after the awesome Confusion Bay), entitled Wasteland Discotheque, here’s a song that encapsulates the sugar-rush melodies and strutting power of the band.
“Warriors”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/04-Warriors.mp3|titles=Raunchy – Warriors]
Absolutely love this band. Everything they’ve done. From the scrappy hardcore of their early years, to the goth-punk flavourings of their early-millennial output, to their steady transition toward stadium-bothering new-wave influenced rock godhood. Davey Havok’s voice is a phenomenal instrument, equal capable of delivering cathartic screams of anguish as a romantic, wounded croon. The bass lines are noticeably complex and stand-alone by their own merit, punked-up fuzz meeting 80s extravagance. The drums are clever, subtle, and have a knack for always being in the right place at the right times. And the guitars… well the guitars show more variety in a single album than many bands do in an entire career, veering from raucous punk-metal riffs, to sweet glam-rock soloing, hardcore beatdowns, and goth-rock chord waltzes. They absolutely kill it live, too, with a mix of melodrama and energy largely unequalled.
Here’s one of their more aggressive, anthemic, tunes. Huge chorus, punk energy, throat-ripping screams. It’s got it all.
“Kill Caustic”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/02-Kill-Caustic.mp3|titles=AFI – Kill Caustic]
That’s right, I saved the best for last. If you had any respect left for me, I’m sure it’s gone now. But fuck you, and the horse you rode in on.
I was raised by my father on a number of different bands, chief among them the “Big Three” of Pink Floyd, Queen, and Bon Jovi. My dad has damn good taste. Out of all of them it’s probably Bon Jovi I’ve had the most affinity with, making sure to see them live several times, whenever the opportunity has presented itself. But are they relevant here? I think so. Yes, they do love to produce full on radio-rock hits, tinged with an all-American, can-do spirit, but never forget they’ve had their more metallic moments in the past, too. In fact, they’ve had some more metal-friendly songs on some of their recent albums, just hidden in amongst the array of Springsteen-but-with-better-hair songs they’ve become famous for. You should also never forget that Jon Bon Jovi himself is a great singer, and Richie Sambora one of the most underrated guitarists of his generation.
Here’s a more riff-friendly tune from the more metallically-inclined Bounce.
“Hook Me Up”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/07-Hook-Me-Up-Album-Version.mp3|titles=Bon Jovi – Hook Me Up]