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Friday, 29 February 2008

Metallica: Lightning Raiders or Puppet Masters?

Of all the artistes in the world,I doubt whether any have faced reactions as varied as Metallica when their name is spoken.Some would outright kill for them, some would outright kill them for selling out,some like just the '1st 4' and some don't give a shit. But none can deny that Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets are by far the 2 most definitive,if not legendary, albums by them. Both have so much in common,yet different in their own ways.Both have 8 songs with similar track structuring, both have bass god Cliff Burton 'pounding out the low-end aggression' and...well...both are legendary.And this exactly what makes you want to compare the 2 albums.Not necessarily in a critical manner,but just how different they are in their similarities and similar in their differences as well.I know I'm not the 1st person in the world to do this,but I sure as hell won't be the last either.

So,here's a head-to-head,blade-against-blade,song-v/s-song review of 2 of the most influential albums in metal ever.May the best record win...

  • Fight Fire with Fire v/s Battery: The classic thrash metal album openers, these 2 songs are a perfect example of how the songs on these 2 albums are different in their similarities. While both have an acoustic intro giving in to raging melodic madness, Fight Fire with Fire has a very deceptively happy tune as compared to Battery (which starts melancholy).The verse riffs differ as well. FFWF has a very Slayer-like 32nd note sequence with E being the root note and '3-2-3,2,1' measure ending note on the 1st 3 frets. Battery, on the other hand, has a very groove-based fast version of the 1 8th note, 2 16th notes sequence with powerchord doublets ending each measure. The aggression is more evident on FFWF. But the crowning moment of the song is its solo. Played in classic thrash metal style(full-on shredding, arpeggios and tapping), its more melodic than most thrash metal solos of its time. In contrast Battery has a bend and whammy-dominated solo, something that does not give you much musical feel. The vocals on Battery though, are much more rhythmic than FFWF. So, final conclusion: Fight Fire with Fire wins over Battery. I’ll give the former 4.7/5 and the latter 4.2/5.On to the next.

  • Ride the Lightning v/s Master of Puppets: The showdown of the title tracks. Judging this one is not too difficult (but lets not be too conclusive going about it). The intro to RTL packs more of a punch than MOP’s does with its low end-high end guitar interpolation, Lars pounding away on the bass drum and Burton slapping away on his bass guitar. After that its pretty much the same tunes for verse, pre-chorus, chorus and bridge respectively being played twice. MOP has a similar approach, only its intro has 2 rhythms instead of 1 and is much more technical. The singing on RTL involves more screaming while that on MOP basically delves in higher pitches. After this is when things start to change drastically. ‘Ride the Lightning’ goes into a pre-solo classic thrash section where Hetfield goes insane on the vocals, followed by a well-written technical, almost progressive masterpiece of a solo. MOP just stops, with fading ‘Master…’ chants. This gives way to probably the most well-known piece in metal today; the harmonic solo. The most striking feature of this part is the way the mood changes from happy to depressive to happy again, repeated again. After their solos is where the songs take totally different paths. While RTL goes back to the verse and ends the song with the intro tune, MOP goes into ANOTHER solo, this time a total contrast to the harmonic one. The verse is then played twice, and the song ends with fading distortion and cackling, evil laughter. The judgment : score one for Master of Puppets(the album).4.8/5 to MOP and 4/5 to RTL.

  • For Whom the Bell Tolls v/s The Thing that Should Not Be: The reason why I have chosen these 2 songs is because both are well known for their bass handiwork a la Cliff Burton (R.I.P). The former is a bold and legendary experiment with distortion and wah pedals, while the latter leaves the listener wondering whether there was a ‘detonate’ button on the bass guitar. The bass intro on ‘Tolls’ is probably the 1st thing a metal bass beginner tries to play. In fact, this is one of the few songs I have heard where bass overshadows everything else. Now, this is probably the only song on this album that has no solos, but the lead riffs in the latter part of the intro as well as the bridge more than compensate, giving a very epic feel to the song (which fits the lyrical theme of a battle for a hill very well). ‘The Thing’ starts with a doomy guitar doublet that later becomes a groove, and what follows is a sound pounding to the ears. The main tune lacks the feel that was present on the previous track on the album and the pre-chorus sounded very haphazard to me. The part that DOES sound good though is the verse with its lyrics doing prefect justice to the menacing effect created by the trailing chords and the intro tune played again. This song DOES have a solo, a very…vengeful sounding solo. The end to this song is where the pounding bass is felt most strongly with chorus riff being repeated and trailing off. The ‘jet’ flanger effect on the guitar just makes it all the more better. The ending of ‘Tolls’ is easily more convincing, a doomy interpolation being played, backed by screaming, furious lead. Good work Mr. Burton on both songs, but ‘Tolls’ is the undoubted winner here; 4.5/5 and 3.4/5 respectively.

  • Fade to Black v/s Welcome Home (Sanitarium): These 2 are the ballads in their respective albums, and probably have the most sensitive lyrics in their respective albums as well. While FTB gives a very calming, inevitable image of death, ‘Sanitarium’ is about how the sense of rebellion keeps growing when you are treated as nothing more than a test subject. The song is based on the Jack Nicholson starrer ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. Both may be ballads, but again, songs on this album being different in their similarities, each has a different emotion being portrayed. FTB has a very soothing vibe throughout the song (even in the heavy latter part) while ‘Sanitarium’ starts melancholy and then becomes one raging fireball of anger. FTB starts acoustic in a very classic rock fashion with powerchord notes being separately picked, whereas ‘Sanitarium’ has a slightly eerie, resonating, ‘nice clean’ twang, with higher note doublets. The verse in FTB is all chords, whereas that in ‘Sanitarium’ has powerchord notes singularly picked over 3 scales. Overall, Sanitarium generates more emotion to me, including the vocals. During the heavy latter parts, ‘Sanitarium’ takes a thrash metal turn whereas FTB has a very hard rock-oriented sound, something like a heavier Deep Purple. FTB’s solo has more feel to it, even though its less technical than that of ‘Sanitarium’. But the aspect that I love most about ‘Sanitarium’ is that its bass lines are SO intelligently created, from the verse riff to the last riff after the solos. Overall, ‘Sanitarium’ gets the better points than FTB; 4.5/5 to the former, 4/5 to the latter.

So, the scores at half-time: Ride the Lightning: 17.2/20
Master of Puppets: 16.9/20

We have now reached the point where corresponding songs cease to be similar, but the similarity within songs itself does not cease. So, on with side-B…

  • Disposable Heroes v/s Creeping Death: The reason why I chose these 2 songs is because…well…I had no choice. There were similarities between each of the 3 remaining songs in both albums. But, on closer evaluation, the similarities start becoming evident. Both have a heavy staccato intro, both have the same riff in the verse as well as the post-intro section, both have chants in the middle portion and both…ummm…both….are Metallica songs!!!!! Sorry, that’s a bit escapist of me, but I couldn’t think of anything else. Anyway, while both begin with the same staccato intro, the former has a longer measure, which means ‘Creeping Death’ is a faster song. The verse riffs themselves differ and the most evident difference of course, is their durations. ‘Death’ is a more simply-written song than ‘Heroes’, with the latter having 2 chorus rhythms (‘Soldier boy……’ and ‘BACK TO THE FRONT!!!!!!’) and a MUCH longer soloing session. Still, the solo (and overall music itself) has a very epic tune to it, in a very catchy manner. And the ‘DIE,DIE’ chants are absolutely legendary! Hence, the winner: Creeping Death. 4.2/5 to ‘Heroes’ and 4.5/5 to ‘Death’. Might I add, Metallica continued their winning habit of writing anti-war songs with Disposable Heroes. The next album saw another anti-war song, probably the most legendary one in the history of metal.

  • Leper Messiah v/s Escape: One is a song about the pointlessness of religion, the other is about freedom denied. Both are moderate tempo songs with the same beat. But the main riff of ‘Leper’ reminded me quite a lot of ‘Money for Nothing’ by Dire Straits whereas that of ‘Escape’ reminded me to shut up and listen to the song. Also, the bass tone in that song seemed to be ‘beefed up’ quite a lot, giving a pretty powerful punch. The overall effect given by ‘Leper Messiah’ is pretty, well, random. But wait, halfway into the song, everything suddenly speeds up!!!!! A furious double bass groove on the drums, and a total thrash metal barrage of riffs from the strings. Even the solo starts with a really psychedelic tune, and overall ends up as a very good one. But the solo of ‘Escape’ bleeds finesse, and is much more thoughtfully written. Even the fade-out ending of the song with blaring alarms in the background beats the sudden end to ‘Leper’. Hence, we have a winner in Escape. 3.8/5 to ‘Leper’ and 4/5 to ‘Escape’.

  • Orion v/s The Call of Ktulu: Ah, the instrumentals. Integral to their respective albums, they are each brilliant examples of what Cliff Burton could create from his bass guitar {with the other members involved as well of course; unlike the 1st Metallica instrumental ‘Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)’ which is basically a bass solo}. ‘Orion’ starts with a very atmospheric bass triplet intro, whereas ‘Ktulu’ starts nice clean on guitar. Orion has a bass interlude where Burton plays a slow,jazzy bass solo with a slow guitar riff played by Hetfield, but in contrast, Burton’s solos are heard every time the filler between 2 riff sections is played on ‘Ktulu’, WITH distortion and wah!!!!!! Fast and technical, the songwriting is as good as the technique(even for those 3 seconds or so). Both songs though, are brilliant examples of Burton’s versatility. The solo on ‘Ktulu’ sounds much better in writing and speed, than Orion (which basically has a more progressive focus). ‘Orion’ has a more complex beat pattern, with one section having additional beats every alternate measure. Overall, ‘Orion’ has a very progressive sound, something the band carried forward into and elaborated on in their next release ‘..And Justice for All’. In total contrast, ‘Ktulu’ has a very symphonic sound to it, WITHOUT any orchestra or keyboards. Such is the power in Metallica’s songwriting. Keeping these in mind, I declare ‘Ktulu’ as champion. ‘Orion’ gets 4.3/5 and ‘Ktulu’ gets 4.9/5 (I was tempted to give a full score, but maybe the slight repetitive nature of the main riff held me back).

  • Damage, Inc v/s Trapped Under Ice: The ‘other’ classic thrash metal songs in each album. While the latter starts pretty abrupt, the former has a very ‘Fight Fire with Fire’-like deceptively slow and happy intro that ALSO gives way to melodic carnage with a distortion feedback interval on guitar. The riff of the latter has a bit of a punk rock feel to it, while that of the former has a very menacing sound. Even the difference in the vocals is similar. The latter has punk rock-like screams while the former has an aggressive, gravely tone. Though the solos may sound similar, the former’s sounds much less random and is technically sounder (and the fact that it SUDDENLY explodes after Hetfield shouts ‘GO!!’ adds to its brilliance). The theme of ‘Damage’ (mob violence) also seemed better to talk about than just being frozen in time in ‘Ice’s case. So ‘Damage jackals’ get 4.4/5 and ‘Trapped Under Ice’ gets 3.9/5.

As you may have noticed, I have not really commented on the vocals much as they sound pretty much the same on both albums, but where they deserve mention, I have done so. Another thing you may have noticed is that in the 1st half, I have compared RTL songs with MOP songs,and in the 2nd I have reversed roles. Thats just to maintain symmetry.

So, that about wraps up the match, the final scores: Ride the Lightning: 34.5/40
Master of Puppets: 33.6/40

So, the winner is Ride the Lightning. The outcome that I wanted (and I DIDN’T fabricate it). Somehow, I always felt that RTL ‘had it’ more than MOP did. Still, that doesn’t stop MOP from being the phenomenon that it is, doesn’t stop it from continuing to inspire the songwriting for bands of today and most importantly, helps all metal-heads to remember the phenomenon that was Cliff Burton (this being his last album and his tragic death occurring in the same year as its release).

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

YES!!!! The Force has just grown stronger with George Lucas!!!!

Just when I thought that 'Revenge of the Sith' was going to be my only Star Wars 1st-day 1st-show movie,George Lucas has lived up to his statement of Star Wars never dying!!!!!!!! August this year will see 'Star Wars:The Clone Wars' , the animated movie based on the clone wars!!!!!!Again,Lucas' production team has ensured that 'ground-breaking' continues to be synonymous with Star Wars.And this time its with animation.Don't get put-off by the slightly comical look to Yoda and co, just LOOK at the lighting,texturing and overall detailing man!!!!!!!!

Anakin Skywalker has an apprentice in this movie by the name of Ahsoka Taanu(whats with George and all the Indian inspiration for names? Depa Billaba, Yoda and now Ahsoka).Interestingly ,Ahsoka is a FEMALE Togruta(the same species as Jedi 'Mistress' Shaak Ti...another 'Indian' in the Star Wars galaxy).

All right, I'll shut up already and leave you guys to check it for yourself (if anyone has dared to set foot on this desolate web space in the 1st place):

Enjoy Star Wars fans.May the Force be with you,always.

For those of you who DON'T like Star Wars: "You underestimate the power of the dark side".

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Anterior & Detonation live at NSIT,Eastwind

Ever since Iron Maiden performed at Bangalore last year,India has officially become recognized as a nation with great potential for metal.After them we have had Sepultura as well as another appearance by Maiden and later this March,Megadeth and Machine Head will also perform.But people were then scared that it would be just bands that are seasoned and have more than 10 years experience making their presence felt,and not lesser known bands that could even be bursting with more talent than the likes of Machine Head and Sepultura.But all that fear can easily be flushed down the toilet now that Anterior from Wales(UK) and Detonation from The Netherlands have made a mark as difficult to erase as that on a branded cow.Impeccable songwriting,crafty solos and great stage presence have now had hundreds of metal fans wanting to hear more and more from them.I'm one of them.

Though I had heard Detonation before they came,I had never cared to hear more by them.Now I realize what a mistake that was.Their music can be described as a bit of an extreme form of Melodic-death Metal(Check out the radio on my page,maybe you end up hearing them).Their knowledge of time signatures is amazing,and they have an amazing lead guitarist who could easily be classified as above average(what with all the sweep-tapping and shredding he can do).They are pretty adept at jumping moods in their music.Their bass player is the only OTHER bass player I have heard of who plays a 6-string bass(the other is John Myung of Dream Theater of course).AND he plays it well.I had the good fortune of talking to him(pretty chilled out and friendly guy).Overall,great band!!!!Would love to see them play live again.

Hmmmm.Anterior.Sorry,wrong reaction.......ANTERIOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Amazing band!!!!!A crafty fusion of melodic-death metal and metalcore, they create an aura of total brotherhood with their music and stage presence.Epic rhythms,fast-as-hell drumming,a thundering bass foundation and cathartic vocals,Anterior is every mosher's dream(not mine though.I don't like moshing).They combine solos played with finesse and classic metalcore breakdowns without overdoing either.Great guys to know as well.I spoke with the drummer and bass player.Thats the best thing about metal artistes.They don't have this "I am legend" aura around them.They know that while they make great music when they are on stage and in the studio,outside of those 2 environments,they are just one of us.They don't have their noses high in the air and max-security around them,and basically an overall '' i am out of bounds to you,commoner" vibe to them.

Even though Anterior are relatively much newer than Detonation,I preferred them to the latter.Still,I'm glad I could see both of them live and hang out with them as well.Hopefully,I get to meet Children of Bodom and Mercenary in the same way as well.


Tuesday, 12 February 2008

The Times of India's competence with abbreviations

If I was working with TOI,I would have written Toi instead.Seriously,don't tell me no one has noticed this. Every time there is an abbreviation in their report,they always end up capitalizing just the 1st letter.Ever known anybody who works at Unicef or Unesco?Or maybe you've heard how those 6 Lashkar terrorists were planning to blow up the Sensex and the Isro? I mean how difficult is it to just NOT PRESS THAT CAPS LOCK KEY AGAIN!!!!!!!!!??!!?One would think that they get a raise in salary for each time they press the caps lock key.

Thursday, 7 February 2008


As Dr Bhataudekar says:'Man eez also A social enimal'.We all find the need for company. Someone to talk all those random thoughts in your head to. All those things that your family would dismiss as 'pointless'. Yeah,friends basically. And we keep making new ones. Friends are supposed to be those with whom you can be yourself. But is that the only time we can be ourselves? Why do I get the feeling that thats the case with most people in this world.

When we are at a social gathering,we inevitably end up meeting new people. But why is it that we have to pretend to be someone else?The same kind of personality EVERYONE else chooses to be?Why do we all greet that new person in the same way?Pretend to like all those same things that the world likes?Pretend to be polite when you may not really be?And,possibly the most potent, pretend to have a good sense of humour? And when somebody with a different approach,different tastes, different mindset, DOES come by, why is he touted as WEIRD?

Hmmmm. Do we then start showing our true colours when we get on more familiar terms with that someone new?Colours that may seem a bit TOO bright or dull?Why can't we just BE and not PRETEND?