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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Gackt Journey Through The Decade Review

Gackt is without a doubt one of the biggest musicians in Japan.  Many people credit him as the one who made Malice Mizer famous back in the 90's.  Once he left Malice Mizer, he embarked on a solo career that took Japan by storm.  Playing to sold out arenas and stadiums all over Japan, Gackt became one of the biggest celebrities in Japan and has since been a hero to many modern bands and artists in Japan.  His music ranges from pop, rock, and some people even say he has metal thrown into some of his songs as well.  One thing Gackt has done quite a bit of is soundtrack songs.  While many them have gone on to be hits, one that I feel is underrated is "Journey Through The Decade".

This song does a good job of mixing mystery and hard rock.  The song starts out relatively slow, soft, with the bass doing some lead work in the verse.  Then when the chorus comes, the song gets a lot more energetic and heavier.  The transition to that heaviness is done very well and doesn't feel out of left field.  The song then continues with the heavy feel from then on and while the rhythm patterns and chord progressions are pretty standard for the most part, the song sounds good and maintains a good heavy energy. 
 One of my favorite elements of this song is the guitar solo.  One problem I have had with some Gackt songs is how repetitive the guitar solos can be.  Some examples that come to mind are the solos in the songs "Redemption" and "Flower".  Basically, the guitar solos in those songs are simply repeating a flow while adding an additional note at each repeat and some times it comes off as very simple and predictable.  However, in this song you get a good melodic solo with some bits of speed tossed in and it sounds really good.  It is not the best guitar solo I have ever heard, but it is good and considering the guitar solos in some of Gackt's other songs, it feels refreshing.  

Lyrically, this song is about going on a journey of discovering who you are and realizing your potential.  Very fitting for the show "Kamen Rider Decade" that this song is the theme for.  The message is very uplifting and good to take in when you are not in a good mood, or just need a good mental boost.  While I do like the message, I must admit that it is very generic and is super common in Japan.  I also get a sense that Gackt made it more for the Kamen show rather then have it coming from a personal and authentic place in his soul. Having said that, the lyrics still flow well and this is a message I would rather listen to all day then songs about sex and partying. Overall, pretty good lyrics.

This is a good song and in my opinion one of Gackt's best songs.  The music is good, Gackt sounds good, and the message is good.  The instrument work is good in this song and is very refreshing compared to some other songs by Gackt.  I give "Journey Through the Decade" a 4 out of 5.  

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Comatose The Breakthrough Album for Skillet

Skillet is considered by many to be the biggest Christian Rock and Metal band in modern music.  With so many hits ranging from "Monster" to "Not Gonna Die", this band certainly has created one heck of a catalog.  While these songs are some of the bands biggest hits, many people consider Comatose as the album that broke the band to big time success. 

Before Comatose, Skillet sounded like many other alternative metal/rock bands of the late 90's and early 2000's such as Three Days Grace, Seether, and Breaking Benjamin.  It got the band a good cult following, but it didn't separate from all the other bands of their genre.  Skillet knew they had to do something different and when they brought that mentality to Comatose, they delivered.

The opening song, "Rebirthing", showcases a very cool orchestra and metal sound that is very deep and more mysterious compared to their previous music.  This is a style the band also used on other songs on the album such as "Comatose".  In addition to the orchestra they use used a combination of melodic and heavy guitar work that really stands out in songs like " Whispers In The Dark" and Falling Inside The Black".  both songs have real heavy sounding guitar, but you combine that with the melodic lead guitar and you got some real solid songs.

Another noticeable addition to this album is how the bands uses ballads on it.  Song like "The Older I Get", "Yours To Hold", and "Those Nights" really show not just a soft side to the band, but authenticity.  Some rockers and metal heads say that ballads are bad and are signs of selling out.  I don't that is a fair criticism.  Ballads can be a good way for rockers to express their emotional side as long as it is authentic,  which all these songs are.  Not only are they authentic but they are very relatable. The song "Those Nights" is about how the problems and difficulties of life can make us better and improve us as people.  Everybody has troubles in life and most people use those trouble to learn and grow from them.  Then there are the ballads that can interpreted in more than one way.  For Example, "Yours To Hold", can be interpreted as God longing to be with the people on Earth.  However, it can also be interpreted as a relationship song, saying that you either long to be with somebody, or you are willing to be with you someone and comfort them in their darkest hours.  Both messages make sense and go well with the feel of the song.

  This album is great at appealing to both a Christian and Secular audience.  The music is great and would be used as inspirations for more of the bands songs going forward.  The  orchestra and rock combo would be used again on songs like "Awake and Alive" and "Not Gonna Die", while the ballads would inspire other songs like "One Day Too Late".  The authenticity of the album is one of the best aspects to me.  I get a real sense of authenticity and really no sense of any sell outs or cash grabs which why this album got has such a great appeal. With great music and true authenticity, I highly recommend checking this album out.   

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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Steve Earle Copperhead Road Review

Steve Earle is one of the most interesting country artists I've come across.  Even though he is considered a one hit wonder in the mainstream, he is very successful in the country scene itself.  However, his one crossover hit, "Copperhead Road", was a big hit and one of the most unique country songs out at the time. A lot of people give Garth Brooks credit for bringing dark themes to country music when he came out with "Thunder Rolls" in 1990.  However, this song came out in 1988, 2 years before Thunder Rolls.  So while I do like Thunder Rolls and consider it a bold song, I do think that Steve Earle deserves more credit then Garth Brooks for going in a dark direction.  With that, lets take a look at one of the 80's most famous country songs, Copperhead Road.

First of all, when I call this a country song, I feel that I am using that term very loosely with this song.  Honestly, the second half of this song almost feels more like a hard rock song then a country song.  I mean, even the beginning kind of makes me feel like I should be bracing to rock out. I do hear country elements with the mandolin but the drum work gives more of a rock feel.  Steve Earle's voice really is on that thin line between rock and country in this song.  On the one hand, I hear that classic country sounding voice, but on the other hand his singing could fit very well in a hard rock or metal band of the 80's.  Then after the second chorus is where this song goes big time rock and roll.  The drums are heavier and the guitar gets heavy as well.  However, the guitar still has enough of that twang in it to remind you that this is supposed to be a country song.  What I really like about the music is how well the 2 genres are blended together in this song.  No genre is over powering the other and nothing sounds or feels out of place, giving the song a very good flow.  As far as the music goes, this is very unique style that isn't that common in country music, not even today.

Now the lyrics is where this song gets dark.  Basically this song is about a man named John Lee Pettimore III telling his life story.  He starts out talking about how his father and grandfather were bootleg moonshine makers. His grandfather comes only twice a year on Copperhead Road to get supplies to continue to making moonshine. His grandfather got ambushed and killed and his father died in a car crash while delivering moonshine.  After this, Pettimore enlists in the army on his birthday, thinking he was going to get drafted anyway, and does 2 tours of Vietnam.  After which, he returns home and starts growing Marijuana as implied by ( I take the seed of Columbia and Mexico).  He then uses tricks he learned in Vietnam to make booby traps for anyone who wonders down Copperhead Road.  What I really like about these lyrics is how well the story is communicated.  I can tell what is happening and it flows very well.  If there is one song that can have a movie based on it, it's Copperhead Road.  I also like the fact that Stever Earle was willing to do a song that wasn't all that uplifting compared to a lot of other country songs of the 80's.  This is a dark song about a family basically living the crime life.

I am not the biggest country fan in the world, but I got to say, I really like this song.  It has a really unique sound that isn't done that much even today.  The combination of rock and country in this song makes it truly unique, even by today's standards. For it's unique lyrics and amazing combination of rock and country,  I give Copperhead Road a 5 out of 5.  

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Mungo Jerry In The Summertime Review

The 70's was an era filled with amazing music and musicians.  You had Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and many more.  One artist that helped kick off that era was Mungo Jerry.  In 1970 he put out what is easily one of the most catchy songs I have ever heard,  "In The Summertime".  While many people consider Mungo Jerry a one hit wonder, especially in the U.S., he created a hit that has stood the test of time and is really fun to listen to.  Lets take a look at "In The Summertime".

I have to say, the music in this song is very simple, repetitive, and not much technicality to it.  However, this song is able to make that work very well.  That opening piano is really catchy and even though it is played through out the entire song, I never get tired of listening to it and I enjoy listening to it.  The same pretty much goes for the vocals as well.  While it was repetitive, I enjoyed every minute of listening to it.  Clearly, Mungo Jerry knew what he wanted this song to be.  He wanted to do a simple jam band song and he delivered on it.  The music is catchy enough to keep you engaged but not technical, this just truly is a fun, jam song to listen to. 

The lyrics in this song are pretty simple as well.  The message of the song is just about having fun in the summertime and going out.  So many phrases such as "have a drink, have a drive" and "go swimming in the sea" are all expressing about having a good time in the summertime.  While the lyrics are not some of the best I have ever seen or heard, they work well with this song and really gives it a unique spin.  

While this song may be Mungo Jerry's only hit (at least in the U.S.) it is a great hit.  This song is fun in its simplicity and one you never get tired of listening to.  I enjoy this song and highly recommend it, if you are looking for a good taste 70's music.  I give In The Summertime a 4.5 out of 5.  

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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Skillet Monster Review

Skillet has without a doubt one of the biggest Christian Rock bands in modern times.  With successful songs like Rebirthing, Live Free or Let Me Die, and Never Surrender, this band has proven to be the real deal.  Those songs made the band successful but when they came out with Monster, they rose to big time fame.  This song was my introduction to this band, I saw the music video on Fuse TV when the song came out and man was I impressed.  

Musically, I love the energy of this song.  The opening guitar riff is awesome and really gets you energized. Not only is that riff energizing but the way it sounds dark and heavy is really cool.  It has just the right level of distortion and the down tuned guitar chords create a slightly eerie sound that would work in a horror soundtrack, as many people have shown on YouTube.  Like I said in a previous review of this band, I don't think John Cooper is a great singer, but I will say that this song is great for a voice like his.   His voice really works well with the distorted guitar and he builds on that heavy, yet, eerie feel the song goes for.  

Lyrically, this yet another good song that bridges the gap between Christian music and Secular music. The lyrics in this song address how everybody has a dark side to them which is something that everybody has and deals with, no matter your perspective or religion.  It is a topic everybody can relate to and that really helps to make people enjoy the song.  The lyrics themselves are overall  written very well.  They flow well and the way they are paced works very well with the song. I will also say that they do a good job with rhyming in this song.  They all sound great and blend really well.

This is without a doubt one of Skillet's most solid songs.  I doesn't surprise that is has over 200 million views on YouTube and considered the bands biggest hit.  While it is not my all time favorite Skillet song, it is very impressive and is a song I love listening to.  If you have never heard Skillet before, this song is a good introduction to the band.  I give Monster a 4.5 out of 5. 

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Tarja O Come O Come Emmanuel Review

When it comes to metal and classical vocals, few have  made that combination work as well as Tarja Turunen.  Tarja rose to fame during her time with the famous band "Nightwish".  While there were plenty of female vocalists in metal before Tarja, she brought her classical style vocal to the genre, which no one had done before her and it made a huge impact on the metal music scene.  Her vocal work would play a huge part in the creation of symphonic metal.  This would make Nightwish one of the biggest bands in Europe and would earn them a strong following through out the world.  Sadly, Tarja got fired from Nightwish in October 2005.  The reasoning for this is still being debated today among Nightwish fans today.  However, Tarja moved on and has since had a pretty successful solo career.  Most recently she decided to try her hand at Christmas music and put out her version of the classic hymn, " O Come O Come Emmanuel.

From a musical stand point, she certainly has taken a different take on this song. It sounds more mysterious and classical.  Early on in the song, it sounds mysterious with subtle orchestra music playing and Tarja singing with it.  The bridge really gets louder and more energetic.  The sound is deeper, heavier, and more big as the song goes on.  She does this to try to add more depth and it actually works.  The one problem I have with this song is how she tries to make it sound dark at times.  For example, when the orchestra really pics up at first, it sounds more like trying to escape in a horror movies then listening to a Christmas song.  I understand that she is going for that, but for an uplifting hymn like this I don't think it fits.  She doesn't go too far with it though and she brings it back to more classical feel it started with.  Tarja's vocal work is superb in this song.  She continues to display that amazing deep classical voice she has and it really brings a unique spin on this classic hymn.

When it comes to the lyrics, there isn't much to explain.  Whether you are Christian or not, you have heard this hymn more then a few times in your life.  The message is basically about awaiting the birth of Jesus Christ and celebrating his arrival.  The message is simple and very effective.  It gets to the point and is written in a way that both Christian and non Christians alike can really enjoy it.  It never gets old and is something everybody can pick up on.

I must say, I give props to Tarja for will to trying something different that hasn't been done before with a Christmas song.  I think it gets a little darker then a Christmas song should be, but it doesn't get over blown and she seems to keep it in check, more then some of the other songs on the "Am Spirits and Ghosts" album.  However, this isn't a song for everybody though, even among rockers and metal heads.  If you prefer Trans Siberian Orchestra or the classic style Christmas music, then you will not like this song.  On the other hand, if you are a Tarja fan and/or you are looking for a new take on Christmas music, then you might enjoy this song.  I give Tarja's cover of O Come Emmanuel a 3 out of 5.  

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Gary Moore Over The Hills And Far Away Review

Gary Moore is famous Irish guitarist who has is famous for his time with the famed Thin Lizzy, as well as his amazing solo career.  One of his songs that brought out the best in him was "Over The Hills And Far Away".  Most people who know of this song know the Nightwish version.  However, it is actually a cover of the version written by Gary Moore in the 80's and while it wasn't huge in the U.S., it is a classic song in Europe and has established Gary Moore as a rock hero in that continent.  

The music in this song does a great job of catching that Irish feel.  The way that the violin and the bagpipes are used in this song is really unique and and wasn't common in rock music at that time.  The instruments blend really well together and create a really cool intro that hooks you into the song.  Gary Moore's guitar playing is very superb and well executed in this song.  His guitar solo is very well done and continues to display the guitar excellence he has.  Gary Moore isn't a fantastic singer, but he is decent and he does a great job of carrying this song.  Overall, a fantastic song from a musical stand point.

The lyrics in this song tell a story about a man accused of a crime he did not commit. The lyrics tell this story very well and the flow very nicely.  You can tell whats going on and easily pick up the progression of the story.  It starts out with the guy feeling hopeless when imprisoned and ends with him having a glimmer of hope while reading letters from his wife.  I love it when people are able to write good stories in lyric form and this is one of the best I have ever heard.  The lyrics are solid, easy to understand, and flow very well.

It's a shame that this song isn't that well known here in the U.S. and even in Europe a lot of people think that Nightwish wrote it.  Don't get me wrong, I love the Nightwish version and think it is amazing.  What I am saying is that this version has become very underrated and deserves a lot more recognition then it has.  I give Gary Moore's version of Over The Hills And Far Away  a 5 out of 5.     

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