Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dream Theater-Images and Words

Post #153 [Poll Winner: Favorite Dream Theater album of the 90's]

Dream Theater established themselves in the 90's as the premier force of progressive metal. 1992's Images and Words, their second album overall, was the album that put this band on the heavy metal map. It contained their highest charting single, 'Pull Me Under', an 8 minute progressive-thrash song that in their early days, drew some comparisons to Metallica. The rest of the album illustrated how truly versatile they were. Images and Words was just the beginning for Dream Theater, but it remains one of their most memorable albums, as confirmed by your votes in the recent reader's poll.

Dream Theater quickly became masters of grand thematic elements in the music and lyrics. Now a trademark of the band, there were several 8 minute-plus songs on Images and Words. Songs that sometimes seemed to push the limit of musical intricacy. They contained a blend of heavy and melodic elements, with balanced instrumentation of guitars, keyboards and drums. Long instrumental segments of some songs were where you found the band jamming on a catchy chord progression, highlighted by multiple leads and solos that traded off from one instrument to the next. Then, just when you thought they've exhausted the musical potential of a given chord progression, they fell back into the song's chorus, or another verse, and brought the song to a conclusion.

Dream Theater are now a major influence to many metal bands. Though their career may be far from over, they already have a unique and significant legacy. They have no shortage of fans. Their ambitious musicianship has given them a strong and diverse following. Should you not already be among that following, here are my picks from this classic album from their early days- my favorite songs from Images and Words:
-Pull Me Under (Their first single, and biggest hit, this song foreshadowed a promising career.)
-Another Day (A softer, keyboard-driven number. More of a ballad than a rocker)
-Surrounded (An uplifting tune that builds in intensity near the end.)
-Metropolis-Part I: "The Miracle and the Sleeper" (This one is a heavy, thrash inspired epic! It's musical themes have resonated so strongly within the band that they made their entire 1999 album it's sequel. You can listen to this song, then their 'Scenes From a Memory' album, and you'll hear many melodies incorporated from Metropolis-Part I.)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Don't Miss Deadmanswake at Dame Nation 2011!!!

Post #152
On Friday July 29th, don't miss the biggest Chicago event to feature independent, female-fronted heavy metal bands: Dame Nation at Reggie's Rock Club! Included on the bill is DEADMANSWAKE, current independent band-of-the-year here on Heavy Metal 107! Not to be overlooked, Losing Scarlet, last year's independent band poll-winner, are also performing. Don't miss the rare opportunity to see these featured bands perform together!

Dame Nation has developed a reputation for gathering the best independent, local talent when it comes to female-fronted rock and metal bands. This year that reputation stands to grow even further, drawing a few out-of-state performers. Other bands appearing include: Avariel (from Boston, MA), The Unvoiced (from Montreal, Canada), Angelical Tears (from Oklahoma City, OK), A Sound of Thunder (from Washington D.C.), Lindz Riot of Mary and the Black Lamb (from Ontario, Canada), along with Shield of Wings, and Solarsphere (both from Chicago).

It all starts at 5pm on Friday the 29th - less than a week away! Click the image below for more information and how to get your tickets!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Losing Scarlet-Learning to Bleed

Post #151

Every so often a CD comes around that I just can't get enough of. These are the albums that live in my CD player for months on end. You know this kind of album: the one that just grabs you and you can keep playing it over and over and never get tired of it. I've had this experience several times, when I'll listen to the same CD on a daily basis week after week. In the past it's happen with albums like GN'R's 'Appetite for Destruction', Pantera's 'Far Beyond Driven', System of a Down's 'Mezmerize'... Well, this summer it's happened to me again. The album that did it this time: Learning to Bleed by Losing Scarlet.

Losing Scarlet have held strong to their signature sound they established on their self-titled 2009 debut, but Learning to Bleed sounds like a much stronger, crisper, and more established effort. It's not that they've done anything different on this album, I just think they do what they do much better this time around. The recording quality seems a couple notches higher to my ears as well. As you listen to this album, it flows really well from one song to the next. Each song seems to add a slightly different element or effect to their repertoire.

Overall I can still describe their sound as the half-way point between Evanescence and Disturbed. So if you have checked out Losing Scarlet's first CD and found it enjoyable, then don't wait another second and pick up a copy of Learning to Bleed today! Here are my recommended track to get you started:
-Learning to Bleed
-Halo of Stone (My personal favorite. This song rocks hard with a lot of attitude.)
-Dick Whiskey (Their first single from this album, with a cool video on youtube!)
-Kiss the Guilt Away (Melodic segments mixed with some fast-paced thrashing!)
-Afterglow (The closing number is perhaps the best example of Losing Scarlet expanding their horizons. A softer, slower number, but still electric. Lyrics are introspective and full of emotion, describing the aftermath of a failed relationship.)

(Click the album cover above to visit the band's website to order your CD, check for upcoming shows, and join the band's mailing list!)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Scream The Prayer Tickets available... for Sunday July 17th!

Post #150.5
For anyone in the Milwaukee area; I have tickets available for THIS SUNDAY'S show: SCREAM THE PRAYER TOUR! Headliner: NORMA JEAN. Also featuring: Sleeping Giant, The Chariot, Close Your Eyes, Texas in July, I the Breather, The Great Commission, As Hell Retreats, Sovereign Strength, AND St Louis' heroes of underground metal- STRYCH9HOLLOW (see posts #98 & #133), plus many more!

Show starts at 4pm!!!

Send an email to: happyheadbanger@gmail.com for more information! Hurry if you're interested! Only 3 days until the show!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lyric Quotes of the Month (Nov. '08 - Dec.'09)

Post #150
Hey there, readers! It's been awhile since I've posted a collection of my monthly lyric quotes. If you've missed a couple over the last few months, don't worry because I do intend to write posts like this one periodically. So, to pick up from where I left off way back in '08, here we go...

November '08: "Now I know there's trouble in the middle-east. I'll spend all my money when I stop the arms race. All my brothers in the desert gonna have themselves a feast. And when that's done then we'll start on world peace." from 'When I'm President' by Extreme

December '08: "On my Heavy Metal Christmas my true love gave to me... A tattoo of Ozzy!" from 'Heavy Metal Christmas' by Twisted Sister

January '09: "The world is full of kings and queens who blind your eyes and steal your dreams. It's Heaven and Hell" from 'Heaven & Hell' by Black Sabbath

February '09: "Life burns from the touch of the Reaper, all things must pass." from 'Life Burns!' by Apocalyptica

March '09: "When you combine heartache with misery sets up a challenge for destiny." from 'Tainted Past' by Armored Saint

April '09: "As long as one of us is chained, none of us are free." from 'Who Has the Right' by Sammy Hagar

May '09: "I woke the same as any other day except a voice was in my head. It said 'seize the day, pull the trigger, drop the blade and watch the rolling heads.'" from 'The Day I Tried to Live' by Soundgarden

June '09: "Don't drink from the cup of human kindness. It's a strange brew and poison to the touch." from 'Follow the Tears' by Heaven & Hell

July '09: "I will try to pour all of myself into this life before I die. If I go before my time, then take these words evermore into your life." from 'Into the Mouth of Hell We March' by Trivium

August '09: "Does following faith lead us to violence?" from 'In the Name of God' by Dream Theater

September '09: "I pound the walls, I shake the cage! I will not fall, I will not fail!" from 'Become the Catalyst' by All That Remains

October '09: "I pledge allegiance to the underworld, one nation under Dog, there of which I stand alone. A face in the crowd, unsung, against the mold. Without a doubt, singled out, the only way I know." from 'Minority' by Green Day

November '09: "Sleep my friend and you will see the dream is my reality." from 'Welcome Home (Sanitarium)' by Metallica

December '09: "Stop searching the sky for answers, and look within." from 'Still I Rise' by Shadows Fall

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Avenged Sevenfold-Nightmare (2010)

Post #149
After the tragic death of their drummer, Jimmy 'The Rev' Sullivan, Avenged Sevenfold faced a tough decision of whether or not to continue their musical career. Having already written most of their next album, they decided, after taking some time off, to stick it out and continue on with A7X. As a fan, I was okay with their decision. I can't believe The Rev would have wanted them to give up making music.

My curiosity was peaked as I anticipated this latest album. How would they finish it up? What would the mood be? Would there be tracks with The Rev's unique vocals, either as lead or background? What would they do to honor him? And most obvious, who would finish up the drum tracks for the album?

All of these questions and more were answered with the release of Nightmare. The first answer I learned of, as I followed this project, was that Mike Portnoy, former drummer of Dream Theater, would be filling in on drums. This was at the band's request; Portnoy came to mind as he was The Rev's favorite drummer. Portnoy accepted the offer graciously and performed like a pro in the studio.

This notion is just one of several ways the band honored The Rev in the production and release of this album. There is a 'thank-you' in the liner notes both to Jimmy and to his family. He is depicted in a drawing of 5 skeletons that represent the 5 band members, his tell-tale hair style making him easy to recognize. Another photo of the 4 remaining band members at a bar also includes an empty bar-stool with a full glass on the bar in front of it. The picture behind the CD is of the band embracing, with text below reading, "R.I.P JIMMY "THE REV" SULLIVAN, 02/09/81 - 12/28/09". There are vocals from The Rev recorded on this album in the song 'Fiction', and you can imagine many of the lyrics could be about The Rev, or how the band is trying to cope with their feelings of grief and mourning. Most obvious, however, has to be the lettering on the grave stone on the album's cover-art, which reads, "FOREVER".

All the references to The Rev aside, Nightmare proves to be the most versatile album yet from Avenged Sevenfold. There are a few heavy songs, like the title track and 'Welcome To The Family', and also several softer tunes like 'So Far Away' and 'Fiction' that make liberal use of clean guitars or piano. Some tracks bring elements of progressive metal into the fold, much like they did to some extent on their last couple albums. The biggest surprise, to me, was hearing the song 'God Hates Us', which employs an extremely harsh, screaming vocal-style that hearkens back to the band's early years. It seems like they included this song to prove to their fans from those early years that they can still scream like that if they want to, however I believe M Shadows' history of vocal cord surgery is still a deterrent from using this style to excess.

Avenged Sevenfold have always written songs with dark and haunting tones and themes, and Nightmare brings those moods out again. This time, though, it feels more personal. There is a definite somber mood in many of the songs. I am sure that in many ways recording this album was a catharsis for the band, helping them to deal with their emotions surrounding the loss of their band-mate and friend. No doubt there are a multitude of fans out there who have felt their own emotions brought to the surface while listening to this album too.

Now to honor The Rev one last time, by recommending my favorite tracks from this important album, because music truly does live forever, and with it the memories and experiences of the musicians who created it. My top picks from Nightmare:
-Nightmare (of course, the title track & first single gets my thumbs-up. It shows right from the start that A7X are still heavy, in touch with the scary side of music, and continuing their legacy in fine form!)
-Welcome To The Family
-Buried Alive (This one brings a strong progressive element; starts slow and melodic, but transitions near the end into a mid-tempo thrasher)
-So Far Away (This song, to me, really sounds like it's about The Rev, but it could be about losing any loved one.)
-God Hates Us (As I hinted at, this song sounds like it could have been on one of their early albums; 'Sounding the Seventh Trumpet' or 'Waking the Fallen')
-Tonight the World Dies (Slow & melodic number, but very dark & haunting in its tone)
-Fiction (Perhaps the last time we'll get to hear The Rev singing on an A7X record, "...let it burn under my skin, let it burn!")