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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Unite Rev Review

I have stated in another blog post that I like this band and their music.  While they are one of the more poppy visual kei bands, they are still very heavy with very well composed music.  They are, for the most part, a more uplifting band with positive music.  The very first song that I ever heard from this band was Rev.

Musically, this is definitely one of the bands more heavier songs.  The build up in the beginning itself starts out with heavy, deep sounding guitar that leads into a main intro where everything is heavy.  The guitar continues with the heavy chords, the drum work is heavy as well.  This really builds up the energy in the song and is really effective in keeping the listener engaged. The way the music is composed  almost makes you think you are listening to a story.  With the verse sounding down and depressing, the pre chorus shows hope, and then the chorus is the happy ending.  It is done very effectively and really helps to communicates the songs message.  The guitar solo is another great point in this song.  Shiina Mio bust out a very melodic solo that builds up to the final pre chorus and it is done very effectively.  It isn't technical but it doesn't need to be.  It is a brief melodic solo that is supposed to set you up for the final portion of the song and it does it very effectively.  Vocally, this is one of Yui's best songs.  He really captures the song perfectly by how he sings each section.  In this song he is able to match his vocals with each section very well.  When the song is depressing so are his vocals. When the song is happy, so are his vocals.  Also, this is one of the few songs that he sings a lot of English in.  The verses in this song are completely in English and Yui actually sings it pretty well.  He does have a bit of an accent, but you still understand him and he is able to make himself sound very good vocally.  

Lyrically, this a song about pushing yourself to be better and do great things.  Like I said earlier, this is one of the few Unite songs with a lot of English in it.  The verses are completely in English and basically talk about pushing and wanting to be something great.  The rest of the song is completely in Japanese with the exception of Revolution at the end of the chorus.  The lyrics in both verses are exactly the same though.  The band probably did this to make it easier on Yui.  While this is a turn off to some people, it doesn't bother me.  The verse is constructed well enough that they can use it twice though. Overall, the lyrics are great and well written, they flow well and really get the point across.  

When it comes to Unite, this is a unique song.  Musically, this is one of their heaviest as well as one of their best vocally.  Yui does a fantastic job on vocals and the band really busted out a very energetic, yet deep song.  The lyrics are uplifting and really communicate to someone about striving for more.  I consider myself to be very fortunate to have this song be my introduction to Unite.  It is a great song and really showcases this bands talent.  I give Rev a 4.5 out of 5.   

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Are Ballads Bad For Rock and Metal?

When it comes to soft music, or ballads, in metal in rock opinions can get strong sometimes.  Some people think they are a good thing because it brings out the soft, emotional side of a rocker.  Other people hate them because they think that those songs are just easy hits to get bands fame.  Basically, they believe that if you make a ballad then you have sold out.  However you feel about this kind of song, they have become very common today and most bands, if not every band has one.  With that, lets answer the question of are ballads bad for rock and metal?

Let's start with the good things about ballads.  One thing I like about ballads is that they do bring out the emotional and vulnerable side of a rocker.  This is good because one of the biggest elements of rock and metal is being real.  A metal band cannot be angry and rebellious all the time or they are being fake, as Tommy Lee of Motley Crue once said.  One good example of this is "Something To Believe In by Poison".  This is a good example of a song coming from the heart.  Bret Michaels found out that Poison's manager had died from a heroine overdose and that devastated him.  He wrote this song to express what he was feeling and it was a good way to express his pain.  Another good example is "One Day Too Late by Skillet".  John Cooper stated that he wrote this song to express how much he loves his family.  These are good songs because they are real and you get a real sense of authenticity from the people who wrote them.

Even though good things can come from ballads, there are some bad things about them as well.  While they can be very effective at expressing a rockers emotional side, they were also used by bands and record labels to make an easy hit song.  This reduces ballads as nothing more then easy money makers.  This problem was huge in the 80's.  While a lot of bands wrote ballads that came from a real place, most bands either wrote them for a hit or were forced by their record label to write them. While not all them were bad songs, they were over done to the point that ballads became cliche.  There were so many of them that were clearly inspired by nothing more then to get an easy hit that they lost their meaning.  By 1993 people were tired of ballads and it was one of the reasons for the rise of grunge.  This was made clear by songs like "More Than Words by Extreme" and "Nobody's Fool by Cinderella".  The music wasn't bad, but the lyrics were so generic that people didn't take them seriously.  As a result, many of these bands and the ballads they wrote would fade into obscurity along with ballads being virtually unused in rock and metal until the 2000's.

So after looking at to good things about ballads as well as the problems with them we ask, are they good or bad for rock and metal? The answer, in my opinion, is that they are good for rock and metal.  While they can be abused and used as nothing more then a cash grab, they can also be one of the biggest forms of honest expression.  It makes rockers look human and it shows that rock and metal is about more then anger and rebellion.  After the 80's, newer bands have learned from that era and as a result most of the ballads today are authentic and more people can relate to them then before.  Ballads are also more diverse today then they were in the 80's.  Most ballads in the 80's were about relationship with women, but today they are also about loving your family, the death of a loved one, self reflection, and the list goes on and on.  To people who see ballads a sign that a band has sold out or that think you're not a rocker if you like them, I say look a little deeper and see what inspired a band to make that ballad.  Just because it isn't heavy or rebellious, that doesn't make it rock or metal.   

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Alice In Chains No Excuses Review

Out of all the grunge bands of the 90's we remember 4 of them today.  They are Nirvana, Sound Garden, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains.  Out of all those bands, Alice in Chains is considered by many to be the heaviest and most technical of all the grunge bands.  Through out their career they have had many in your face songs that are considered by most to be more metal then grunge.  Even the band themselves have admitted to having mostly metal and hard rock influences.  However, they were also able to tone it down and take it slow when prompted.  One of their best slow songs is "No Excuses".

Out of all the slow songs that Alice in Chains has made, "No Excuses" is the easy listening song. The acoustic guitar sounds very soothing and relaxing.  The drum work is pretty basic, but for a song like this you don't want to be over the top so this is a good thing.  The bass lines in this song are very catchy and adds to soothing sound that this song goes for.  I have to give props to the vocal work in this song.  While I don't think that Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley are the best singers on the planet, they do have a good vocal combination that not a lot of bands have and this is one song that showcases that combination very well.  They sound good singing together and as a result it creates very good sounding vocal work on this song.

Lyrically, this is a song about knowing someone with drug addiction.  By this time, it had become clear to Jerry Cantrell and the rest of the band that Layne Staley had drug problems.  He had become addicted to heroine and the band was concerned.  This song addresses that and basically talks about dealing with someone in that state.  Jerry Cantrell was basically saying that he wants to help Layne overcome his addiction but even if he didn't they were still friends.  These lyrics are clearly personal and truly reflect what the band is feeling and that is what makes good lyrics, is when you know they are personal.

Clearly, this is a very personal song to the band and they executed it very well.  The music is good and is pretty unique to the genre that they were associated with.  Lyrically, it is coming from a real place that expresses what the band is feeling.  This makes the song real  and very expressive, which is very important in music.  I give "No Excuses" a 4.5 out of 5.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Demon Hunter One Thousand Apologies Review

Demon Hunter is considered by many to be one of the best modern Christian Metal bands. They are  known for their interesting combo of melodic metal and metalcore.  Over the years the band has developed quite a catalog of good music.  With so many great songs like (Carry Me Down) and (Last One Alive), this band has quite a catalog. One of my favorite songs from this band is One Thousand Apologies.

The song has a heavy, yet sorrowful melodic tone that really works well with the lyrics of the song.  The melodic guitar playing really creates and carries that sad tone that really defines the song.  None of the music in this song is tricky or super technical but it still sounds great and the music does a great job of bringing out the message it is going for. The vocals in the song are great as well.  The sad, melodic melody really brings out the lyrics and makes the listener feel the sorrow this song is expressing.  While there is some growling vocals in this song, it doesn't happen much and in a song with this kind of tone I don't think that is a bad thing.  For a song that has a slower beat and music that doesn't really sound super heavy, I am not sure it would be a good thing to have a lot of growling vocals in this song.  My only problem this song is in the bridge.  My problem with it is that it is repetitive and repeats the same lyrics over and over.  I feel it would have been better if they added a few different phrases or instead did a melodic guitar solo.  However, this is a minor problem that really doesn't effect the song overall.  

 The lyrics in this song are great and are written in a way that works for both Christian and Non Christian people.  The song is about realizing the mistakes you have made and feeling sorry for them.  To Christians this can mean they are apologizing to God while Non Christians can see it at as apologizing to someone they were in a bad relationship with or someone they hurt.  Demon Hunter was really able to bridge the gap between Secular Music and Christian Music with these lyrics. Contemporary Christian Music should really pay attention to this song, lyrically, and learn from.  See, part of the problem with Contemporary Christian Music today is that it does a good job celebrating God and his glory, but that is mostly all it does, (with a few exceptions).  There is not much music that expresses sorrow or allows someone to lament in the Contemporary Christian Music Scene.  This is a problem because it leaves out a big part of being human, we all feel sad and we all feel regret.  If we don't acknowledge that side then we are not being real and are not relating to people in that state.  Demon Hunter does a great job expressing that side of humanity and they do it very effectively.   

Like I stated in the beginning, this is one of my favorite Demon Hunter songs.  Musically, it is expressive and really captures a tone that matches the lyrics perfectly.  The vocals do a fantastic job of communicating the lyrics to the listener.  The lyrics in the song are fantastic.  People can understand them and relate to them, if they are in that state.  I give One Thousand Apologies a 4 out of 5. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Top 5 Songs Used In Horror Movies

Along with music, I love good horror movies.  Through out time and time again, both have merged well together and created memorable moments for the songs and the movies that used them.  For this list I will be counting down the top 5 songs used in horror movies.  In this list I will not be using strictly songs that were written for the movies they were in.  I will be using songs written for a specific movie, as well as songs that were made famous by being featured in a horror movie.  With that, here are the top 5 songs used in horror movies.  

5.  Midnight, The Stars and You by Ray Noble and Al Bowlly, From The Shining

One thing I always found interesting about the big band music of the 20s all the way through the 50s was how people use it for so many different moods today.  One big example of this is (Midnight, The Stars And You) that was used in (The Shining). Lyrically, this is supposed to be a romantic song about being in love with someone.  However, when you listen to the song in (The Shining) it makes you feel uneasy and uncertain.  Some people think that this is a good thing because it is making the music relevant again.  Other people hate it because they feel it is ruining what the songs were originally supposed to be like.  Either way, I like this song a lot.  It is simple, but very catchy and flows very well.  Al Bowlly does a great job singing this song, even though he doesn't have a lot of lines.  However, with the lines he does have, he delivers them well and makes them sound great.  This is a song that really did its job effectively in the movie it was placed in.  When I heard this song in the movie I felt uneasy and it made me wonder what was coming next.  Ever since then, I have wondered, do I play this song when I am on a date?, or when I am in a Halloween maze? Either way, this a good song that does it job very effectively in (The Shining).

4.  Tiptoe Through The Tulips by Tiny Tim, From Insidious
I remember when I first heard this song after hearing (Living in the Sunlight) while watching (Spongebob Squarepants).  I found the song very funny and it just made me laugh hard.  However, my perception on that changed after watching (Insidious).  The way that song was used in the movie scared the crap out of me and ever since then I haven't been able to listen to it the same.  Now, every time I hear this song I feel uneasy and always want to look around for anything suspicious.  It is very ironic because Tiny Tim was actually considered a very funny musician.  Throughout his career he always got to people to laugh and enjoy his music by the use of his high voice.  However, in (Insidious), it is used to set up a scare with a ghost boy that just takes you by surprise.  Ever since then, this song has become a staple in this movie series. Every time someone hears this song they think of (Insidious).  

3. Love Kills By Vinnie Vincent Invasion, From Nightmare on Elm Street 4

When it came to horror movies in the 80s, metal was a great thing to pair up with them.  One good example of that is (Love Kills).  While this song is more of a relationship song, the music has an eerie feel to it that works very well for the movie.  The acoustic guitar plays a big part to create that uneasy feeling and Mark Slaughter's voice really takes it over the top.  The man is a good singer and he really captures the uneasy mood the song needs.  While Vinnie Vincent isn't the greatest guitar player in the world, he still does a good job on this song and he is able to play a style that fits the movie very well.  

2.  Dream Warriors by Dokken, From Nightmare on Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors

Dream Warriors is considered to be one of the best songs to be the theme of  a horror movie.  With Don Dokken's awesome vocals and George Lynch's great guitar playing,  you can get a real great song and this is one of their best.  George Lynch starts of with that slow guitar build up and then it transitions into a heavy rock song.  Through out the song the band keeps a good balance between heavy rock n roll and eerie creepy music and they execute it very well.  The main intro and the chorus bring out the heavy side, while the build up and verse focus more on the eerie feel to match the movie.  Overall, not just a great song for the movie but a great metal song.

1.  Hip To Be Square by Huey Lewis and The News, From American Psycho

When it comes to the movie American Psycho, the one scene that sticks out in every body's mind is the scene where the guy is murdered while the song (Hip To Be Square) is playing.  This is one of those songs that couldn't be further from the horror movie genre, but they still managed to work it in.  Music wise, this is a clearly upbeat song that is about that makes you want to have fun.  Lyrically, it does fit with the main character and that is the reason why it works in the movie.  The lyrics can be translated to represent the main character and that is why it fits.  However, aside from that, you wouldn't think it would work in the movie.  For me, I can still listen to the song and enjoy while not thinking of the movie.  

Saturday, September 2, 2017

TNT Intuition Review

I have stated in a previous post how underrated this band is.  They have a great singer and the musicians are really great.  What separated these guys from a lot of other 80's bands was how uplifting they were.  Unlike how most bands were about partying and rebelling, these guys were about lifting people up and making someone feel good.  They did have some partying and rebelling songs, but overall they were about lighting up someones mood.  One song that makes that very clear is their song (Intuition).

The first thing I love is the opening guitar riff in this song.  It has a good heavy rock sound that really hooks you into the song.  The guitar solo in this song is also very good.  It has a great melodic, European inspired sound that is really catchy and actually very unique for 80's.  The best part of this song is in the vocals.  Tony Harnell with his high vocal range creates a very good uplifting vocal melody.  He is also a very energetic in his singing and that really helps the listener to get more engaged in the song.  There are also some keyboard parts in the song as well that really helps to post the positive feel of the song.  You don't hear keyboards in the entire song, but when it comes in, it really helps shape the feel of the song.  Musically, TNT did a fantastic job on this song.

Lyrically, this song is about being who you are and appreciating who you are.   It is about not doubting yourself and never letting people tell you differently. The message is really good and very uplifting, if you are in a bad mood then these lyrics will get you in a good mood.  Along with a good message, the lyrics are constructed very well.  The phrases flow well and as a result, the singer can communicate the message more clearly and effectively.  

This song is one of the best songs I have every listened to from this band.  The music is great, the lyrics are uplifting and very well written. Tony Harnell is a very good singer and this song brings out one of his best vocal performances. Even today, the guy is still a fantastic singer.  I give Intuition a 4.5 out of 5.       

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Gackt Setsugekka ( The End Of Silence Review)

Gackt is without a doubt one of the most popular celebrities in Japan.  He is a famed actor and a great singer in Japan and has developed a cult following all over the world.  I personally, have come to be a fan of most of his music.  He has a lot of good rock songs as well as some good ballads.  One my favorite songs from him is the rock ballad, (Setsugekka- The End of Silence).  

The first thing I really like about this song is the build up intro.  The intro starts off real soft and subtle with the piano and then when the drums come in, it really sets up the rest of the song well.  Sometimes, these kind of intro's can drag out and make the listener board, but this is intro has just the right amount of time to it.  Gackt does an amazing job singing on this song.  He is really good at projecting the songs mood through singing and in this song he demonstrates that very well.  Another thing I like about this song is the chorus in it.  It is heavy, yet very powerful, and really captures the sorrowful mood of the song.  The violin in this song is a great and is a unique twist musically.  In music today, it is usually the guitar that is the lead instrument in rock and metal.  While that is certainly not a bad thing at all, it is still cool hear a different instrument become the lead every once in a while.  This violin solo that shows up after the second chorus is great, it sounds great and matches the music perfectly.  This is one of my favorite songs that uses violin in it.  

Lyrically, this is a great sorrowful song. It is about losing someone you love deeply and missing that person.  The way the message is conveyed is done very well and feels very personal.  Gackt typically does a great job with writing his lyrics and this song is no exception.  The Phrases really work well with the melody and that really helps to make the message stand out.   Some people don't know how important phrases are, but without good phrases, the songs message can get lost and as a result your audience can get confused on what your message is.  For this song though, there is no such thing,  the phrases are good and you completely understand what message Gackt is trying to get across. 

This is without a doubt one of, if not, my favorite Gackt songs.  The music is fantastic, a nice combination of heavy and melodic melodies that really work well together.  The violin gives a unique take that isn't common in metal, but is well executed.  The lyrics are well composed and people can easily relate to them if they have lost a loved one.  I give (Setsugekka) a 5 out of 5.