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Thursday, 5 June 2008

A (most well-deserved) Tribute to the Four Horsemen

I have heard a fair share of tribute albums to Metallica e.g:Kerrang! Remastered and Metallic Assault.No doubt I've liked them,what with some of them being performed by so many legendary bands themselves.But this particular one,a Nuclear Blast Records tribute,has to be the best in my opinion.The selection of songs,the 'all-star' nature of the selection of bands and most importantly,how each band has tried to throw in THEIR signature style into a song rather than just playing it EXACTLY the way the original sounds;all contribute to make this one legendary tribute album.Which is why I'm discussing each song.So read on and as before, just click the name of the song to hear it.

1. Primal Fear-Seek and Destroy: Well this song has pretty much been done in the same way as Metallica originally did it.But yes,Mat Sinner's pounding bass does add 'feel' to it.An enjoyable song nevertheless,and Primal Fear are a pretty good power metal band themselves.The link only provides a 30-second preview,but that was all I found.

2. Therion-Fight Fire with Fire: Though I'm not entirely sure,I don't think this is the Swedish Opera Metal band,but the British Thrash Metal band.Anyway,well the violin version of the same intro tune sounds very promising,but the way it just abruptly gives way to a 'more-than-necessary' staccato version of that killer verse riff,and the vocalist's snappy,irritable growling style kinda disappoints.Also,the solo section is a far cry from its glorious original counterpart.I appreciate the endeavour to write an original solo,but it was nowhere around the same league of song-writing as the original.All in all,a just-about decent cover is all that this song is.This link is a youtube fan video with clips from the Ghost Rider movie.

3.Destruction-Whiplash: Well with Nuclear Blast being a German company,there are no surprises at the fact that the majority of the bands on this album are German.Primal Fear are,so are these guys.In fact,Destruction,along with Kreator and Sodom,are credited with starting the German Thrash Metal movement.Now their version of this song can be generalised as more maniacal,in a good way.Something that adds to the aggression of this song.The lyrics are screamed out loud,the riffing is heavier(thanks partly to the fact that one guitar and the bass are playing 16th notes while the other guitar plays 8th notes,and partly to the guitar tone) and there's a constant double bass pattern thats maintained.A very enjoyable cover,something you shouldn't be surprised about instantly headbanging like a retard to.The link is another youtube video,this time with clips of skateboard crashes .

4. Anthrax-Phantom Lord
: Well,I wasn't ever much of a fan of this song and Anthrax's cover hasn't changed much of that either.Which goes to say that this is a very decent cover of the song.Even the vocals are almost the same.What they HAVE changed (and not for the better) is that the 'nice clean' guitar arpeggio interlude has been played on a VERY suppressed,'minimum flanger' tone,that just takes away ALL the feel that the original gives.But don't let this deter you,its not THAT BAD a cover either.

5. Sonata Arctica-Fade To Black:
Well, till now,I haven't pointed out any EXCEPTIONAL covers on this album.This song puts an end to that trend.To generalize,it is BEAUTIFUL.Sonata Arctica have always made beautiful music.Music that is emotional.And the way they have added THAT feature of their music to this song,gives you the impression that it was the song that chose them,and not the other way round.Right from the synth-guitar intro,to the self-composed 2nd solo and of course,that PHENOMENAL latter half.With that improvised 'distortion-less' latter half,they just made the song's message EVEN more evident:Death is not the end,it's just a new beginning.And Tony Kakko's voice just fills the gaps in the song,if any at all.It makes it all the more atmospheric.The keyboardist though,has more of a 'guitarist's' role on this song,though there is a keyboard riff towards the end.Thank you Sonata,for making this flawless masterpiece.Take a bow.

6. Burden of Grief-Master of Puppets: All right,there's no denying THIS fact:When one hears about a cover of THIS particular song,one expects the highest of standards.Now,Burden of Grief,a German melodic death metal band,have not really done a remarkable job of this song.On the other hand,just the use of a heavier guitar and bass tone has made this song very interesting to hear.The vocals are traditional melodic death style harsh vocals,which don't go too well with this song,but you get used to them.The part where they blew is,very predictably,the harmonic solo in the middle.Now,I heard this happen on the Dream Theater cover as well as the Apocalyptica one,which is that the tune played is actually the HARMONIC of the actual tune.The only band that did harmonic justice to this tune was Trivium,where each guitar played a different harmonic.But the major deterrent was the bass.A very 'empty' tone that just followed the guitar just DIDN'T click.But they made up with a BRILLIANT fast solo,so overall,no real complaints against this song.In fact,barring the pooped harmonic solo,its a very enjoyable cover indeed.

7. Dark Tranquillity-My Friend of Misery: Just when you thought that the presence of Anthrax,Destruction and Sonata Arctica was 'all-star cast' enough,in come the godfathers of melodic death metal themselves.Now I mentioned something like 'the song finds the band' on the Sonata Arctica description,remember?Well,the same is applicable here.And HOW.The melancholy mood of the song is something everyone associates with Dark Tranquillity's music as well.The bass intro had just the right amount of 'flanger' to sound good and yet not overcooked.Even Mikael Stanne's harsh vocals found a place in the song.The rest was executed perfectly.Nothing new.But nothing bad either.One could be excused for mistaking this song as a DT original even.

8. Crematory-One: Well,this is the 4th German band so far on this album (not that that is a problem in any way) and,as with MOP,one expects REALLY high standards from a cover of this song as well.And I'm actually quite proud of what Crematory,a Darkwave Gothic Metal band,has made of this song.The intro starts with that 1 guitar,but when the solo starts another rhythm guitar enters the song with a harmonic of the intro riff.A pleasant surprise.The pre-verse section introduces the keyboards that play a very industrial 'harmonic' of the vocal tune.During the verse,the keyboards go symphonic.The vocals are clean during the verse and are growled for the chorus,something that brings out the contrast between submission and despair pretty well.But,as with almost every other cover,the 2nd solo is missing and the band very abruptly switches to the heavy,double bass-dominated latter half.All of this is growled and while the rhythm section is good,the fast solo has been replaced by a not-so-fast self composition that is basically just the vocal tune of the song (Kurt Cobain,anyone?).The rest of the song is just techno keyboards but all said and done,a very innovative and inventive cover.

9. In Flames-Eye of the Beholder: Well,I never said that the 'star cast' ended with Dark Tranquillity, did I?But now since you know its In Flames,please don't get disappointed if I say that they didn't do anything special with this cover.It sounds just like the original,just sped up a bit.Hell,they even decided to use some other vocalist who sounds much closer to Hetfield than Anders Friden.The only innivations that are present are 'FREEDOM' beings screamed by a backing harsh vocalist during the chorus and then during the harmonic interlude,the keyboard atmosphere.Apart from that,its the same as the original.But then again,its grittier with the heavier guitar and bass tones,so an overall enjoyable listen nevertheless.

10. Primus-The Thing That Should Not Be: Well,there you go.Yet another addition to the 'star cast'.But...stop.Because the reputation of the band is their only saving grace in this case.The song,to put it mildly,is ATROCIOUS.A very sloppy and almost ZERO-distortion
guitar tone,averagely played drums and semi-irritating vocals are the highlights of this song.And the bass?Oh NO.OK,I know that Les Claypool is one hell of a badass with anything that has 4 strings,but what kind of a tone was THAT?!?Was that even a BASS guitar?Or did he just cut out a hole in a shoebox and put 4 rubber bands around it and go 'plonk-plonk'?Nuclear Blast could EASILY have used a more METAL band like Dimmu Borgir to cover this song(in fact,this song would sound rather wonderful if it was covered by Borgir).By far the weakest link on this album.Thankfully for you,the link provided is only to a 30-second snippet,should you actually take the bold step of hearing this song.

11. Apocalyptica-Harvester of Sorrow: And so,the 'all-star' trend continues.This band has always amazed me.The bold step of playing metal on cello and actually doing it well is very admirable.This cover is just another example of that.Although the original song has a lot of sustained notes,Apocalyptica have done the best one can possibly do with sustained notes on cello.I also like the way they use the bassoon as an all-important foundation to the song,in true Classical fashion.Even more admirable are the way they handle vocals and soloing on the cello/violin.A great cover,but not their best (but you can't really blame the band for that).

12. Die Krupps-Battery: If you think the previous song is innovative,wait till you hear this one.Die Krupps (German for 'The Crips',a German rip-off of the infamous American gang's name) are a,well,German industrial/electronica band.SO the whole song is played on turntables and weird digital noise-makers.There is a drummer though.And a vocalist.And there's a constant 'lightning' sound that keeps punctuating the rhythm,adding to the 'charged battery' feel of the song.Brilliant innovation,my friends.Keep it up.Unfortunately,this link is also a 30-second snippet.Sorry,that was all I could find.

13. Sinner-Wherever I May Roam: Well,yet another great German band.Interestingly,their vocalist/bassist also handles the same duties with Primal Fear.And I firmly believe he's the driving force of their music.Brilliant high-pitched power metal-style vocals and POUNDING bass,this is yet another example of 'the song finding the band'.They took care with the 'nice-clean' arpeggio that accompanies the chords in the verse,but cut out the trademark sitar intro and the 1st solo and latter half of the 2nd.But that shouldn't bother you too much,as just about everything else more than just compensates.Another great song on this album.Unfortunately (again), I couldn't find the song on youtube so you shall have to suffice with an Amazon 30-second snippet.Just click the 'play' icon to the left of the song's name.Ditto with the next song.Really sorry.

14. Rage-Motorbreath (live): Well,a nice idea to conclude with a live cover.This particular song has the 'live to ride,ride to live' vibe to it,and Rage does a good job of not destroying it.Te cover is again,almost a copy of the original.What IS different though is that the filler riff between 2 verses has no rhythm guitar playing the 16th notes on the bass clef,just the hammer-ons(and that too throughout on the same not,no change of note on the 3rd measure).But,no point complaining.The crowd cheering along and going 'aye,aye,aye,aye!!!' also adds to its vibe.A decent end to a great album.

OK,so that about wraps up this highly monotonous review.What I liked about this album was that equal importance was given to each of the albums that the songs are originally from.Also quite happy that it was just the 1st 5 albums.But they could have added just 1 more each from Ride the Lightning and The Black Album and got 2 more of Nuclear Blast's greats like HammerFall and Nightwish perhaps to record them,but...what the hell.Hehe.Thank you for reading.I hope its influenced you to buy/download the album.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

The DLF Indian Premier League:All surprises,all the time

Ok,its time for the final.After watching both teams during their run,one would have been more than just disappointed to not see the Rajasthan Royals in the finals.As for the other team,well going by the fact that the Kings XI Punjab had a much more ferocious batting line-up,one would think that it was their complacency more than the bowling attack of the Chennai Super Kings that got the latter through.

But what about the other teams?Well no doubt that the teams that made it to the semis deserved to be there(although I would have preferred the Mumbai Indians to go through rather than the Daredevils.And I'm a Delhi boy).But,why on earth did the Deccan Chargers lose out?Initially,when I saw their batting line-up,I wouldn't have been able to imagine a more destructive one.Just imagine the havoc that the 'big 4 of the big hits'(Adam Gilchrist,Herschelle Gibbs,Shahid Afridi and Rohit Sharma) could have wreaked.Throw Andrew Symonds into the mix and you have 'total annihilation'.Even the bowling,though not a very impressive line-up,WAS led by R.P Singh and Chaminda Vaas after all.But I guess this boon turned out to be their bane as well.Since there were so many world class players,everyone just ended up playing for his own personal records.Throughout the series you could see that they weren't really gelling together.And with a TEST player as captain (V.V.S Laxman),that about drove the final nail into their coffin.

The other 'hahafest' were the Bangalore Royal Challengers.Poor Mr. Mallya.Apart from Misbah-ul-Haq and Cameron White,everyone else was a test player.This was a bunch of geriatrix caught in the wrong job.And the reason for this was 'cricket expert' Charu Sharma who thought he had got it all covered.Well,Vijay Mallya will need to get some pull to work in his favour if he wants to entertain ANY hopes of reaching the semis in the next season.

So,all said and done,the IPL was a ROARING success.For those 2 months nearly,it became a way of life for India AND the rest of the world.May the Force be with you,Mr. Modi.