Category Archives: music

The Soundtrack: February 2018

It’s that time again where I release 4 songs that best describe this month. Those who are new to this I pick 4 songs from music released in the particular time, in this case February of this year. These 4 songs I feel capture the emotion of the month. I don’t look at which songs I like, or genre, or anything of the sort. It’s all about the music and capturing the mood.

Now that I got some of that out of the way, here’s what I picked for this month.

Rhye “Song for You”

Yeah, there are going to be some sappy, bittersweet love songs in here. February seems to be the month for heartbreak so I thought I’d roll with it.

Alele Diane “Yellow Gold”

This is another sappy love song, and admittedly I thought with the title it could tie into other events of the month. It doesn’t but, hey, sappy bittersweet love song for Valentine’s Day.

Pop Evil “Waking Lions”

In America students are marching and protesting for gun control after the umpteenth mass shooting. While gun control is a divisive issue no one can deny how these students, some of whom were running from gunfire just days before, gathered the strength to fight for their beliefs. If that’s not admirable I don’t know what is, and I feel this song captures their spirit.

Don Diablo “Echoes”

This is another one that I felt captured the indomitable spirit that humans possess. Whether it’s competing against the world in a sport of lifelong dedication or fighting to fix a broken system I think this song captures that feeling quite well.

If you want to check out what I picked last month you can check out this post or go to my YouTube playlist.


Elantris Review: “This Sacrifice”

Well folks, I’m back in the saddle again and I’m finally reviewing again. What better way to ease back into things than an album review? This review already starts off interesting, or at least interesting to me.

Elantris, formerly Blackthorn, is a symphonic metal band out of Ohio that formed in 2014. One of their noteworthy points is how they recently toured with Lacuna Coil. The band’s new name is possibly taken from a novel of the same name, but that’s speculation on my part. What I can confirm is “This Sacrifice” is their debut album released sometime recently. I can’t seem to find anything else about them. I actually came across them in a Facebook group and they were looking for reviews to post. Naturally I’m drawn to bands with bits of mystery and thought I’d bite.

Here’s something that was interesting for me about buying this album. I searched for this album to purchase on iTunes (yes, I know you’re judging, and it’s OK. I am disappointed in myself too) and review only to find it wasn’t under their current name. It was still listed under their old name. If I recall you can find it under Elantris on Spotify and other platforms. Despite a minor incident, though, I finally got the album and gave it a listen.

The album kicks off with “Ellie”, and it barrages the listener with rhapsody of heavy tones tempered with a smooth synthesizer. One thing I really appreciated about the intro is how is gradually changes into a more complex time signature and gradually brings the listener into a battle march. I’ve come to expect many things to happen in symphonic metal, which includes complex meter, lots of bravado, but I didn’t expect other things from this song. The female vocalist was one of them. I’ll admit I’m pretty sheltered when it comes to symphonic metal but I’d grown accustomed to hearing vocalists with operatic or at least classical vocal training. The female vocalist has more of a pop star style. It is certainly different and while it jarred me at first I see how the style pairs well with the lyrics. The lyrical content was another aspect I didn’t expect. It felt like lots of angst came out with lines like “you don’t know me, you don’t know anything about me”, but again I see how it all comes together to something that foreshadows how the dark tones of the song are completely alluding to a dark nature. This dissonance carries throughout the album and adds elements that invoke doubt about the genuine nature of what’s presented without fully jeopardizing the composition of the songs.

Next up is “Ascension”, and it’s interesting to me in how it creates dissonance that’s ultimately cacophonous. It opens up with some black and heavy metal aesthetics of blast beats (though sometimes it slightly throws off the tempo), extreme vocals, and some shredding, but at times it seems to hearken back to the symphonic metal elements. At times it’s problematic as clearly the symphonic elements feel a little carelessly thrown in, though it’s clearly meant to bring a calming element to the song and allude to the lyrics about moving past terrible things. One moment where it’s problematic is when the transition from black metal to symphonic –or vice versa –prove slightly awkward as the blast beats either are a hare off or they drown out the vocals. When the same rhythm is transferred to other instruments it makes the other chord progressions awkward and feel thrown in to display skill rather than add to the song itself. Regardless of the problems I feel anyone can appreciate the powerful build ups and the earthy, aggressive tones of the instruments that pair with an airy, dolce voice. It’s as if the idea of whether the speaker can rise above the past is brought into question due to the speaker’s integrity.

Speaking of integrity I felt some parts of “Denied” may have lacked some of that. Each particular movement provides something powerful and provocative, but when placed together lacks anything cohesive to tie it together. One movement will have a powerful breakdowns paired with raw vocals and blastbeats, but other times it tries to take a legato turn with bittersweet tones. Sometimes there’s an attempt to transition between these movements with blast beats or with the synthesizer or arpeggios, but it ends up feeling out of place. I definitely see these things matching the lyrics where they sing about being broken or living moment to moment, but instead of fully conveying these ideas it feels like an awkward juxtaposition of things that were awesome that should make a song with no real agreement how to bring it together.

This disjointed composition seems to continue with other songs. Throughout “Forgotten” there are lots of things that, while cool, don’t cohesively mesh. I feel the lyrics, while superficially dark (and given the theme of things forgotten fitting) demonstrate why I personally don’t like end rhyming. Most people tend to place the end rhyming at the end of a line, and paired with the tendency for native English speakers to speak in an iambic rhythm, end up often with rhythm structure of “ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum-ba-dum baaaaah”. I personally feel that particular rhythm is generic and a go-to when writing on the fly. It doesn’t add anything to the song other than leave me grasping at straws to justify the composition. I feel, however, there is a lot of potential with this song as I do notice an attempt to tie things together. The spoken part meant to bridge back into the vocals, while falling into the trappings of end rhyming, allude the most lyrically to the feelings conveyed about forgetfulness and being forgotten. The synthesizer seems to be arbitrarily thrown in, but that’s because while there is a theme and variation with the rhythm it’s marred by the lyrics and the barrage of blastbeats. Everything feels like it’s built around them, though I’m guessing it was intentional as the things pointed out are overdone and make a song forgettable.

Following such a cliché song is a more redeeming song:”Project 000”. The composition is more complex and more cohesive and more to what I’m accustomed with symphonic metal. Overall this is a song that provides the listener with more of everything. There is a more fluid transition between the blastbeats and breakdowns in the song and the chord progressions not only compliment these moments fantastically but really emphasize the mood of the song. The harmonies even help convey some sort of humanoid creature in more blended vocals than previous tracks. The synthesizer is more purposeful with its contribution to the song. While the lyrics are still lacking it feels like turning this into a disjointed duet emphasizes the internal conflict of promises from an unknown versus the promise granted, more so than other tracks. This is a song that, if I had to pick a song for radio play, would top the list.

If “Project 000” was a promise of a more complex turn in the album it wasn’t a good one when followed by “Odium”. That’s not to say that it’s a bad song, but it starts off deviating slightly from their other songs and eventually succumbing to their formula. As with the previous song, it starts of with a slow tempo, but doesn’t jump in with blast beats. However it does go into the usual pattern of having screaming vocals paired with faster rhythms and the clean vocals paired with more legato themes. It also fell back into lyrically bludgeoning the listener with end rhymes, albeit it didn’t always fall into iambic rhythm. The clean vocalist wasn’t hitting the hitting all the notes when she needed to jump up in pitch, and I suspect has to do with the fact much of the time it was lyrically when it needed a strong emphasis on the consonants at the start of the word. This is a common issue with singing, which is why many pieces tend to compose pieces where lyrically the high pitches coincide with an emphasis on vowel sounds. It provides an easier jump between high and low pitches because it’s easier to do with sounds that are more “open” and have less to push through.

The next song completely deviates from the rest of their album, let along symphonic metal, by invoking sea tunes and djent in “Seas of Torment” in the first few minutes. It does goes back into their trademark blastbeats and screams followed by melodic, clean vocals, leaving their venture into pirate metal short lived. I understand why they’d invoke those elements with a title like that but as I said with other songs it didn’t seem cohesive, even with their album. I feel like everything else with this song I’ve covered in other songs so I’ll move on…

The next few songs I feel actually go together in some fashion so I’ll deal with “Strings of Silk”, “Dawn”, and “Captivate” together. “Strings of Silk” seems to be the expected fanfare from the album with the violin setting on the synthesizer until I heard “Dawn”. The first song sets a theme that is carried into the second. The dolce voice paired with the piano really lets not only the vocalist, but the band shine. We see lyrics and composition noted of symphonic metal but also the strengths of the band as a whole. This, in turn, segues into “Captivate”. It opens up to deliver all the punches in the form of blastbeats, screaming vocals, driving tempos, and clean vocals that only warn of more to come. The lyrics talk about leaving this as a standard at one point, and I couldn’t agree more. This is the climax and standard for the album.

The album finishes with the eponymous title “This Sacrifice”. It delivers the grittiness that we saw in previous songs paired with oftentimes ballad-eque movements and a fitting conclusion lyrically and musically to the album. Rather than being disjointed and sacrificing cohesive composition it seems this was thoughtfully pieced together, knowing full well this was to end the album. The ending brings everything together in an epic piece fit of the genre and leaves me hoping that Elantris continues in this direction for other albums.

Overall Elantris promises symphonic metal but delivers something out of the norm for the genre, be it breaking from traditional vocalists or surprising elements from other genres. The big problem this serves, however, is the tendency to lean towards what sounds cool rather than bringing everything together to make the song contribute something new to the genre. Instead of sounding like symphonic metal with other elements at times it sounds like people from several metal backgrounds coming together to try out symphonic metal and creating a hodge podge of a song. Once the band does commit to being a symphonic metal band, though, the results are amazing.


Soundtrack for January 2018

One of my secret fans contacted me and told me how much they loved the idea of a soundtrack for the year and suggested I have one for each month. I thought about it, and not one to be above puff pieces and fodder of the like, decided to go forward with it.

Those of you who aren’t bots reading my blog will remember that, rather than picking favorite or least favorite songs, I go with the songs I feel best describe the time. I don’t look at genre, I don’t consider the song’s popularity, nor do I consider my personal tastes. This is the about the music and mood. The only thing I consider is whether or not it was released at a certain time, in this case it’s January 2018. For the time being I’m going to have four songs a month, because why not? I gotta be lame and have my themes, after all.

Jeff Rosenstock “YR Throat”

I felt this month had an element of feeling suppressed simultaneously with the vocal expression going on, or saw some consequence to expressing oneself as I also saw this month.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club “Little Thing Gone Wild”

Some are probably thinking about correcting me about how this song was technically released last year. The video was released last year, but the album on which it belongs was released this month. At any rate I felt it captured how some things did, well, get a little crazy this month. This song captured it quite well.

Joe Satriani “Energy”

I feel this song really captures the, well, energy of this month. If it isn’t the zeal that comes from the start of a new year it’s the zeal to set out to right wrongs, fight against longstanding oppressions, and political figures who epitomize hatred.

Watain “Sacred Damnation”

This was another song where the video was released before the album. That aside I felt this was another song that meshed well with public outcry for change and finally having a voice in those issues.

I also decided to start a playlist on YouTube of the songs I pick for this year. If you want to check it out feel free to do it.

My 2017 Soundtrack

I thought I’d do something, for me, a bit different to cash in on “end of the year” posts. Instead of acknowledging that another year has gone by and continue as normal I’ll put together songs from the year that I feel best serve as the “soundtrack” for that year. So I’ll use songs from 2017 that I feel best describe the year. I feel 12 songs, one for each month, should suffice for this purpose.

Now, this “soundtrack” is by no means a pick of my favorite songs or anything. It’s just a list of songs I think best describe the year and why. Admittedly it is heavily influenced by the politics of this year and I’m sure many are exhausted by it, but I still felt it set the mood for the year.

Phoebe Bridgers “Motion Sickness”

I feel the way this year has been an emotional roller coaster with everything from scandals to political upheaval we’re all a bit emotionally numb. Besides, someone somewhere is probably going through some relationship drama. It’s certainly great for capturing emotional turmoil.

Thievery Corporation “Ghetto Matrix”

The political climate of the year, especially when it concerns human rights, and the political influence that shows up in this duo’s music their latest album The Temple of I & I came to mind. The reggae influence, paired with how reminiscent it is in musical and political nature to “Get Up, Stand Up”, serves as an anthem for a new generation of oppressed and disenfranchised people worsened by corporate exploitation.

Overkill “Goddamn Trouble”

If this year wasn’t tumultuous on a sociopolitical level it certain was on a personal level. What better way to let out some old school nonsense than with some old school metal attitude, and Overkill still delivers on that front.

Lana Del Ray “Love”

OK, judge all you want. There was enough political turmoil to parallel the 60’s so I think this song with its 60’s vibe complimented it to also remind people there were elements of superficial escapism via pop culture.

Kesha “Rainbow”

This is a year where in the turmoil lots of healing came out of it. If it wasn’t healing there was some closure. Who could be better to include than Kesha, after her very public turmoil with her label?

P.O.S. “Pieces/Ruins”

There is a lot going on in this song. For many it felt like this year was a constant fight, and this song captures that aspect. They also felt like they were being pillaged and exploited like this song covers. This song also covers how many feel disenfranchised and have to pick up the pieces. Again, this was a politically charged year and the song definitely reflects it.

Björk “Blissing Me”

I think most people can relate to how a song can be incredibly intimate for the listening. The disjointed nature of the song adds another layer that I felt described this year: a search for intimacy and interconnection that ends up slightly hollow.

Poppy “Bleach Blonde Baby”

Admittedly I was reluctant to include Poppy as the whole thing is a really cool yet complex art project. Seriously, check it out. It’s a commentary on pop culture. So why did I end up including Poppy? I decided that while the commentary is not new it’s done in an interesting way, and it did sum up a lot of YouTube pop culture this year.

Julien Baker “Turn Out the Lights”

This album has an overall melancholy air and this song is no exception. This year has left a lot of unfinished business and messes to clean in the wake of the political turmoil. The overall tone of emptiness give it that much more reason to add it to this year’s soundtrack.

Alice Glass “Natural Selection”

Just as 2017 was disarming and dissonant so is this song by Alice Glass. The year was seemingly disjointed, jarring, and full of chaos with sweet tones just like this song.

Waxahatchee “Sparks Fly”

This goes back to my 60’s pop culture vibe I got this year. Unlike the other songs that I felt captured it this year this really captures both the political awakening vibe and the superficial pop culture vibe.

Mastodon “Steambreather”

Not gonna lie, I just wanted to include this song because it’s Mastodon. Plus, have you seen the video? Check it out.

This pretty much sums it up for me this year. See you guys in 2018, where I’ll have quite a few more reviews and other things happening.

In Music, Only Credentials Matter

I wasn’t sure I wanted to blog about this topic as it was sparked by Gene Simmons’ latest stunt to trademark the devil horn gesture, as I feel my response somehow dignifies his actions.  At the same time I feel his actions, intentional or not, are something of a reflection of the current state of music.  We saw this with the burning of millions of dollars worth of punk memorabilia with much of the same response from me.  The publicity stunts provoke some thoughts as whether we’re placing our value in the right aspects of music.

While the case of the punk memorabilia was mostly about the commercialization of a counter culture that ironically stands against such ideas metal has veered more towards one of the other issues, namely with social stratification.  Where in punk there’s need to be more punk than everyone else in metal there’s a need to be more metal than others.  The ordinary metalhead manifests this with various elitism, but it ultimately boils down to being the first one to do it.  Whether it’s the first to become a Children of Bodom fan or the first to hate Dragonforce being a “true” metalhead is about setting the trend or being part of the right trend.  These comments aren’t new and can be found in any culture.

So what does this have to do with trademarking the devil horn gesture?  One of the toughest things about art is making it relevant.  When the art can’t be relevant I’ve noticed an artist will try to be relevant in other ways.  The best ways to do this are through shock value or appealing to nostalgia.  Gene Simmons is notorious for trying to be “the first” of things, and in this aspect tries to appeal to nostalgia.  I suspect in this way he wants to ensure his music was / is relevant.  Trying to trademark something closely tied to a community not only appeals to the shock value aspect but also to the sense of nostalgia by trying to cement his place in metal history.

While Gene Simmons did withdraw his trademark application (like we knew he would) the implications will live on.  I’d say it has damaged his career, but this stunt will be forgotten until the next one occurs.  The stunts will keep happening as long as the focus will be more on the image of music and less about creating music that meaningfully contributes.  How to determine what is meaningful to a community, however, is another matter.

So You’re Stuck in the Mosh Pit: a Survival Guide

If you’re like me you try to get as close to the stage as possible at concerts.  If you’re also like me you know you have to toe that line between being able to watch the show and getting sucked into the mosh pit that is always around the stage.  Sadly I have failed in maintaining that line more times than I care to admit.  I’ve also learned a few tricks on how to not get completely bruised while retreating and planning my harrowing escape.  Want to know how I do it?  I act on these strategies.

Know the mosher archetypes.  Just as there are the types of people everyone meets at a concert there are different types of moshers.  The more you understand if you’re dealing with a guy who thinks he knows karate or the guy who had too much the better you’ll manage.

Expect strange liquids.  Sometimes when threatened, especially folks like overly enthusiastic mosher, moshers will go into a frenzy and knock the drink out of someone’s hand.  Sometimes the guy who had too much decides that chucking his pisswater at the stage is the equivalent of throwing confetti.  Sometimes ignorance as to what is soaking you is the best.  Regardless of how you got wet…

Don’t leave your mouth open too long.  There’s more liquid in store.  If that’s your thing I won’t judge you too much, though.

Don’t fight against the moshers.  If you want to join the moshing, join the moshing.  Since you’re probably reading this to eventually get out of your situation you probably don’t want to try that.  If they get too close and the group is small enough just nudge offenders back into the hoard. I promise you they won’t notice.  If it’s a wall of death you may want to pray to Jesus and join the moshing.  There is no escape once you’re caught in that.

Know the moshers will eventually thin out. The guy who wants to practice karate will either get tired or folks will get tired of him.  The guy who had too much will eventually have to pee and pass out in the stall.  Some folks will leave because they only wanted to see certain bands.  Whatever the reason the crowd will get thinner and you can make your escape.

Even if these tips don’t help yu as you’re being smashed around at the concert you can take comfort in knowing that you probably aren’t alone in trying to survive the situation.  Who knows, maybe you’ll run into them and survive through solidarity.  Or you’ll get knocked around into someone who will know your pain.

Opeth Builds a World of Nostalgia and Trance

Opeth has made waves in recent albums as longtime fans noted a change in theircreative direction.  Any time Opeth is mentioned it provokes the debate of whether or not it’s for the best.  Regardless Opeth still knows how to synthesize a visually appealing aesethetic and a set list bound to appease even the most stringent fan.

I won’t deny that there is a major difference between Opeth’s older music and their newer stuff.  It’s obvious.  Their newer stuff has more pronounced jazz and rock elements and subdued more modern aspects of metal.  I feel like much of it is a nod to music from the ’70s.  Given I really enjoy music from that era I see it as a boon.  What did make it feel like a ’70s throwback were the psychedelic visuals and emphasis on red and yellow lighting.  It certainly harkens to a different period, and I question the meticulous attention to detail.  There seems to be a clear purpose in going this direction but I can’t figure out if it’s for artistic or personal preference. 

 As for their older content it stands strong in its own merit.  Ot was amazing to watch the audience dynamic go from a subtle rocking out (at least compared to the rest of the night) to the same frenzy found with the other acts.  When the older songs were played the frenzy came out.  It even led to a few hilarious moments where Mikael Åkerfeldt demonstrated just how well he can handle hecklers.  That is the first time I saw anyone handle hecklers with deft and poise.

Opeth was able to handle more than just hecklers and visuals. The set list itself was created in such a way where the audience truly gets lost in the musical experience.  It may be the answer to my earlier ramblings about why the meticulous recreation of ’70s aspects.  I’ll be honest it was just as easy for me to get lost in the moment there as it is for me to get lost in ’70s music.  It may just be about creating an experience rather than any particular aesethetic.

Whatever the reason Opeth provides powerful music tempered by melodic tones.  In doing so it provides the audience an experience that permits not only getting lost in the music but a sense of nostalgia and, for me, lots of enjoyment.

Technique- 4


Audience Interaction-3

Brownie Points-0