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Friday, 26 September 2008

Dream Theater: Gods of Prog-Metal? Debatable

I've always noticed how Dream Theater is the 1st name that springs to mind when the term 'Progressive Metal' is mentioned. How everyone marvels at their sheer ingenuity with time signatures and technique. How (surprisingly) many people think that James LaBrie is one of the best vocalists in Rock/Metal ever. I personally, don't really agree.
Granted that each and every instrument player in that band is HIGHLY,extraordinarily talented. I myself am a HUGE admirer of John Myung(bass), John Petrucci(guitar) and Mike Potnoy(drums)(I think Jordan Rudess overdoes the honky-tonk on the keyboard). But THAT very talent is something that works against this band at times. Overall, I feel their music is just TOO calculated (weird time signature-this and beat skip-that). Once you think you've FINALLY figured out the beat pattern of one section of the song,they change the damn pattern to another mind boggler. It just gets too frustrating. I mean,music is something that connects with the soul as much as it does with the mind. I feel the soul connection lacking in bulk in Dream Theater's music. And lets not even START with the solos, those things go ON AND ON!!! Its like: "Yeah OK,you can play.I believe YOU!!!NOW can you stop??". Another aspect that troubles me is the vocals. At times, his voice is soothing, but for the most part of the song he's just WAILING. There's no other description. They are the kind that make you want to say "SHUT UP!!!" more often than not. And I'll never forgive him for pooping all over 'Master of Puppets'.

These were the reasons why I seldom heard Dream Theater and for the most part, Progressive Metal itself. But then there came a time when I thought "They can't ALL sound like DT,can they?" and that was when I treated myself to a HOST of AMAZING bands. Bands that strike the perfect balance between progressive thinking and melodic outlook. Bands that make catchy YET intelligent music. To hear them,click on their names. To all you adamant worshippers of Dream Theater, let me help you free your mind...

1.Opeth :

Well, lets just say that if you're HALF the metal (or even music) fan that you claim to be and you haven't heard Opeth, hiding your face around other metal-heads would be a good idea. For me, Opeth are nothing short of phenomenal. Their unique style combines progressive song structures, unconventional time signatures, switches between aggressive and calm moods and between clean and harsh singing. Yes,their songs are long as well, but at least there are no 4 to 5/4+5 minute long solos and frustrating beat skips involved. Opeth instead,rely on continuous rhythm and scale changes AND of course,the vocal style changes. The latter is the reason why Mikael Akerfeldt counts as one of the best vocalists in metal today,and THE best for me. To sum it up in layman's language, expect soft,haunting melodies laced with fast,aggressive ones,topped with vocals of both dark and light kinds and seasoned with jazz-influenced basslines and occasional death metal-influenced drum patterns. A treat indeed.

2. Symphony X :

Well if Opeth were progressively haunting, these guys are EPIC. With a guitarist who could give more than fair competition to John Petrucci (Michael Romeo) what with his 8-finger tapping style and all, these guys take the 'Progressive' aspect to a whole new level. Expect sweep tapped neo-classical leads, atmospheric keyboard rhythms as well as solos, neo-classical bass shreds, well above average drum playing and semi-aggressive yet clean singing. All nicely packaged within a progressive shell of long,multi-rhythm songs with well-placed beat skips and unconventionally epic time signatures. Unleash the FIRE!!!

3. Amaseffer

Well if you've visited my blog regularly,you would have noticed my review of Amaseffer's debut album 'Slaves For Life'. If not, well these guys are a VERY new band from Israel whose debut album released in June this year. Their style is basically storytelling oriented. They use traditional instruments along with the regular guitars and drums (AND symphonies as well). Their song-structuring involves continuous rhythm shifts and is regularly punctuated by dialogues in Hebrew,serving as the perfect backdrop for the story of Moses. The vocals on this album have been given by Mattias Levin (most well known with Therion) and are REALLY well delivered. All in all,these guys are going to be under many a watchful,hopeful eye of fans of great music.

4.Into Eternity :

This particular band from Canada is one of the most enjoyable prog-metal bands I have heard till date. Their music is a combination of modern Death Metal and Progressive Metal styles. Think fast,technical(yet melodic) riffs, mood and time signature swings, the occasional blast beat battery among the regular double bass-dominated drumming style and VERY dexterously played bass. The vocals,as in Opeth, are both clean as well as harsh. But instead of the progressive singing style adopted by Mikael Akerfeldt, Into Eternity's Stu Block uses a very modern rock style of clean singing and guttural death metal vocals. All in all, VERY catchy and very progressive at the same time. DO NOT overlook. I mean it.

5.Evergrey :

Another very talented band is this one from Sweden. Evergrey's music can be described as dark/gothic progressive metal. They regularly use symphonies and clean guitar tones. Their music tends to be very dark and a bit ambient and their lyrics are usually about negativities associated with society e.g kidnapping, extortion, war, abduction etc. But this band also has its fair share of romantic poetry. They tend to not use very unconventional time signatures but their 'progressive' stems from their rhythm changes and choice of note sequences. Highly reccomended.

6.Circus Maximus :

When I heard this band, I was simply SWEPT AWAY. Even more so when I learned that these guys are from Norway (the world's unofficial black metal beehive). Their style comes a bit close to Dream Theater's at times, but they maintain their originality by playing heavier,more aggressive riffs and dabbling less in beat skips. The vocals are a very power metal-reminiscent style but also have a bit of James LaBrie in them (but NOT the irritating wailing thankfully). Their rhythms tend to be epic and laden with lots of palm-muted powerchords. A brilliant band and a MUST HEAR.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Blood & Iron: Power Metal raises its epic fist in India

India does not lack musical talent. If you look beneath the deceptive talentless surface of beat-bastardized,simplistically created indipop 'music' that is doing very well to reduce the overall IQ of the country,there's no dearth of talent. Especially in the metal circuit. Gone are the days when bands were cheered on for covering favourite songs of people in the crowd. Now bands like Kryptos, Demonic Resurrection, Acrid Semblance, Bhayanak Maut etc, are making the effort to write orginal music and are getting BRILLIANT responses for it. And that's happening in almost EVERY sphere of metal: Thrash Metal, Death Metal, Black Metal, Melodic Death Metal, Metalcore, Nu-Metal etc. Now I say ALMOST because, barring Bangalore's Slain, there was no word of a SINGLE Power Metal band in India. Even Slain are TOO busy preaching Christ to the public using a very generic NWOBHM/Old School version of the genre. Its not bad music, but Power Metal's 'Power' comes from its very EPIC sound. But breathe easy fellas, that aspect has been taken care of very well.

Say hello to Blood & Iron from Chennai. They are epic in every sense of the word. Long songs, atmospheric keyboards, driving,marching fretwork and aggressively melodic and powerful vocals. Their songwriting is a sort of amalgamation of old school and new wave power metal, with groove and thrash-influenced instrumental moments (occasionally). Their sound is very rightly an original one, reminiscent of many styles, but doesn't let you conclude that they follow only those styles. Their lyrical themes range from history to spirituality to personal struggles. And who knows what else they could conjure up. They plan to release a concept album as debut. I personally hope it carries forward the World War II theme heard in 'Stalingrad'. I'll be damned if I don't buy that album. And I hope they come to Delhi regularly. Listen. Indulge. Surrender.

Monday, 8 September 2008


Okay for those FEW,scarce people who are loyal to this blog and expected part 2 of the 'The Force' discussion, that will have to wait because this current thought is eating me up.Its a very simple rant; what the FUCK is the purpose of religion? Now, don't run away,I'm going to give you reasons for this rant. I personally think religion has given nothing to this world except war, hatred, austracization, destruction, death and many other not-so-good things. Think about these: Godhra riots, Sikh riots in 1984, 'The Da Vinci Code' banned, Christ Illusion banned, Amarnath row, Shiv Sena+Raj Thackeray (the MF that he is), Sethusamudram Project etc etc. And these are just problems in India. Worldwide problems include The Crusades, Khartoum, Gaza Border (though that's largely political), the general vendetta against 'Anitchrist' heavy metal music etc. What's common amongst all of these? Religion. Every conflict, every battle, every ban has some 'religious sentiments getting hurt' as the primary reason. I just don't see how people can actually fight over something whose existence has not been proven. How people can actually create a set of rules and principles based on what someone that may not even exist would be happy or angry about.

But I guess this stupidity and blind faith is part of human nature. Man has created god so that he can hide behind someone for HIS crimes, blame someone else for HIS lack of action, use someone else as an excuse to kill/destroy/party-poop. But you know what? Even I pray to god every night,but actually I guess that's just out of habit because I've never got what I asked for. But obviously I have to WORK towards getting what I want right? In that case what the hell does god have to do with that? Will he jump up and down screaming 'GO ISHAAN GO!!!' as I toil to reach my goal? Or is he the true 'Keeper of the Seven Keys'?

And for the few sensible people who are not religious, don't say so in public man!!!You have no shame.You have no direction in life.Because you can't contribute towards that religion that you 'rightly belong to' and more importantly, you're not secretly abusing every other fucking religion in this world.

Seriously,if global warming doesn't get there first, the world will implode because of religion.Mankind will cease to exist because everyone will kill off everyone else in the name of Jesus/Allah/Shiva etc. This thought is shared and expressed very beautifully in the form an album by power metal giants Iced Earth in 'Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked part 1)'. The story is such:

Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1 tells the story of the Setians, who were the original inhabitants of Earth, and are directly descended from the "Great Architect". They are said to have nearly omniscient knowledge. Humans, who have developed space travel, invade Earth in a bid for "ultimate power and ultimate knowledge", killing all but ten thousand Setians.

''The remaining ten thousand go into hiding in the mountains in the east. The Setian High Council, which consists of the twelve Elders and the High Priest, make a plan to get revenge on the invading human race. They plan to initiate "The Clouding", which involves brainwashing all the humans and making them forget their origins. Once completed, the Setians will manipulate history by creating religions--Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc.,--to further divide the humans. Once human kind is sufficiently divided, after ten thousand years, the Setians will await, as the prophecy told millennia ago, the birth of the Antichrist, Set Abominae. Set Abominae will destroy all of the human race and execute the revenge the Setians have long awaited.

Framing Armageddon tells the story from the prophecy to the events right before the birth of Set Abominae.''

Set Abominae is Iced Earth's mascot BTW.