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Author Topic: Shit I have written for the inter tubes (bout music)  (Read 2263 times)

Hat

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As per Jeph's request in the other thread, I thought I'd post some reviews of albums I had kicking around on my computer, as well as a rant piece I wrote for a friends metal zine a month or two ago.

Symphony X - Paradise Lost

Broken down and analysed as separate parts, Symphony X appear underwhelming, both in terms of individual tracks, and of individual instruments. Their songs are rather unimpressive compared to their contemporaries, but as a whole, they intertwine perfectly to create a solid album. In the age of the mp3 and talk of the death of the album format, its always good to hear an album that is designed to work perfectly as a whole work, and nothing less. As a literature nerd, I'm obviously drawn to albums like Paradise Lost, hearing a musician interpret a classic work of writing and create their own work based on it is fascinating. Admittedly there is a cynical part of me that considers the process somewhat of a cop-out, creatively speaking, but it can be done well, and this album is a fantastic example of it. Rather than schisming the album between several different literary inspirations, it picks a coherent central idea and runs with it. I'd much rather hear an album full of separate tracks adding to the central story than one epic 25 minute song constantly having to jump styles to express an idea. Even though this does result in a few moments where songs sound drawn out, they don't grate or detract from the core theme to any significant degree.

I'll be the first to admit that Symphony X are a one trick pony. Step one: Read Book. Step Two: Create music based on book. Step Three: Add pinch harmonics and record.  However, Paradise Lost is a near flawless execution of this formula. The guitar work is some of Michael Romero's best, showing technical brilliance without degenerating into drawn out wankery, and Michael Lepond, while mostly doing the grunt work of simply supporting the guitar in the low end, has a solo at the beginning of Domination that sets the theme for the single hardest rocking track on the album. Russell Allen's vocals are hit out of the ball park. It seems like his attempt to branch out musically with his solo album has given him a new realisation of what he's capable of, pushing harder for his guttural vocal parts to gnash and evoke anguish and rage, while his soft melodic lyrics hit higher notes and soar alongside the orchestral keyboard parts in the ballads.

If you haven't heard any Symphony X, but think the idea of neo-classical power metal (lawl) might just appeal to you, get this album. If you remotely enjoyed any of their previous work, get this album. Don't expect anything groundbreaking or genre defying, but Paradise Lost is an hour of extremely listenable musical storytelling.

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Rush - Snakes and Arrows

Rush are one of those acts like David Bowie that have been around for decades, and have proven adept at shifting styles to stay contemporary. Without a class in advanced musical history, its difficult to tell just where they've been influential, and where they've been derivative, but aside from their self titled debut album, they've always merged a fairly modern sound with theirprog -rock mentality. It's always proven extremely hit and miss, with every era of their music having albums that are cemented as timeless classics, alongside those that are kind of embarrassing to listen to. Their latest work Snakes and Arrows manages to avoid this, but compared to their previous effort Vapour Trails, Snakes and Arrows doesn't really stand up. It isn't a bad album, but as a devout Rush fan, I can't find a lot to write about. Vapour Trails was middle of the road in itself, but it rocked fairlyconsistently , and had some great standout tracks. However, on S&A, we're treated to an extremely rocking opening track, and left hanging until the track Malignant Narcissism to really reach that peak again.

Another issue I have with this album, that admittedly stinks of an unwashed dude in a 2112 shirt yelling "YOUR NEW STUFF SUCKS" is the complete lack in their modern music of the concept tracks. If it wasn't for Neal Peart's drumming, I wouldn't even dream of calling this or any of their recent albums "prog-rock". I know music evolves, and I support it, but I guess when you have built up a legion of fans who are giant nerds, you have to expect this kind of thing.

However, with that said, I really had to find things I dislike about this album. If you're a Rush fan, Geddy Lee's voice has probably become sweet, sweet ambrosia to you, and his delicious bass tone, coupled with Peart's love of hitting as many different drums as possible will soothe you. If you are a fan, even in passing, this is a good album. If you're not a fan though, this sure as hell won't convert you. It's not particularly imaginative, although their musicianship is as tight as ever, and its main saving grace is that it's not Test for Echo.

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Yelling about Sub-genres

I have formed a new band. We have five members, an awesome name, some tight songs we have down pat. Are we missing anything? OH GOD WE ARE MISSING A GENRE. CANCEL THE GIGS. TEAR UP THE FLYERS. WE DO NOT HAVE A CONVENIENT LABEL WITH WHICH TO IDENTIFY. I am not starting a band, I have about as much musical talent as a brick being thrown through a window into Jessica Simpson's house. My point, however, is the ridiculous weight people place on genre names. You think your band isn't death metal? You think you're neo-classical-folk-death-metal? So you're death metal with some nice acoustic parts and orchestral parts, with some deliberately unconventional ideas about what constitutes "death metal"? Ok, well heres a news flash. You are still Death Metal. Its idiotic how offended some people will get if you apply the wrong sub-genre. You think the average twee pop kid gives a shit about the difference between Black and Thrash metal? Allow me to demonstrate how much they care. They care about as much as you care about the difference between twee-pop and power-pop. That is exactly how much they care. When it comes to sub-sub-genres, most bands are creative enough to transcend them anyway.. If you feel the need to place the adjective "symphonic" in front of the genre "power-metal" I am ok with that I guess, but don't get up in my grille when I call Symphony X "power metal" like I am completely ignorant of their music. I just don't feel the need to restrict my opinions by placing bands in little tiny boxes. And just in case anyone is wondering what it means when a band is post-(genre) what it means "Man, people are going to get real fucking uppity if we call these guys (genre), it doesn't sound anything like (genre) but I dont know what the hell else I can call it"

The purpose of genre labels is to approximate a bands sound. I suppose theres a few times when being able to say "No, they're not post-hardcore thrash-folk, they're thrash-core anti-folk" might just make the difference between someone checking out a band you like, and them dismissing it as garbage, but why would you give a shit about whether or not this person likes Buzzsaw if they're not even willing to crawl out of their rigidly defined taste to check out a band they've never heard of before? If people don't have the desire to listen to something new and interesting, let them rot in their stagnating musical tastes, in ten years they won't be able to find a single new album they enjoy and with any luck, they'll give up listening to music and work on stamp collecting.
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Quote from: Emilio
power metal set in the present is basically crunk

Hat

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Re: Shit I have written for the inter tubes (bout music)
« Reply #1 on: 07 Jul 2007, 07:17 »

Worf treats progressive metal very seriously
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Quote from: Emilio
power metal set in the present is basically crunk

MadassAlex

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Re: Shit I have written for the inter tubes (bout music)
« Reply #2 on: 09 Jul 2007, 05:52 »

Quote
Broken down and analysed as separate parts, Symphony X appear underwhelming in terms of individual instruments.

Double yoooou teeee eff.

The fact that they're progressive metal, first off, is a sure sign that they're already going to be technically amazing. I'm not even sure of the names of the musicians (blehblehbleh no excuse), but what I do know is that they pretty much stack up to their counterparts in Dream Theater.

You're right in that their whole albums work together as a cohesive whole, although I feel that should be a given in most really good progressive music. Devin Townsend Band, Mastodon and Dream Theater are other good examples.
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Hat

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Re: Shit I have written for the inter tubes (bout music)
« Reply #3 on: 09 Jul 2007, 07:14 »

In reference to other prog-metal bands, I stand by what I said.

Jason Rullo is no Donati or Portnoy, and Romero writes the music almost exclusively. There's no excessive demonstrations of technical ability. I think while it would be detrimental in other genres of music to have a band full of awesomely talented people playing other peoples songs, prog-metal bands with too many songwriters wind up far too busy, and I think this is Symphony X's biggest strength. Theres no doubt they're all fantastic musicians, but they're playing what they've been told to, and so they don't have to show off.
« Last Edit: 09 Jul 2007, 07:16 by Hat »
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Quote from: Emilio
power metal set in the present is basically crunk
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