If you pay any attention to our biweekly playlists (click here if you missed last week), the Heavy Blog staff listens to a lot of weird music that is frequently outside the metal genre. This is a feature where two staff members face off and listen to each other’s…
For those who missed our last installment, We post biweekly updates covering what the staff at Heavy Blog have been spinning. Given the amount of time we spend on the site telling you about music that does not fall neatly into the confines of conventional “metal,” it should come as no surprise that many of us on staff have pretty eclectic tastes that range far outside of metal and heavy things. We can’t post about all of them at length here, but we can at least let you know what we’re actually listening to. For those that would like to participate as well (and please do) can drop a 3X3 in the comments, which can be made with tapmusic.net through your last.fm account, or create it manually with topsters.net. Also, consider these posts open threads to talk about pretty much anything music-related. We love hearing all of your thoughts on this stuff and love being able to nerd out along with all of you.
A month or so ago, I wrote a post titled “The Occult in Modern Day Metal”. In it, underneath countless of apologies for the simplifications I was about to present the readers, I took a brief look at how the occult has lent words, images, ideas and themes to the metal genre. Charting three main movements, I attempted to offer an initial direction for asking questions, a jumping point for something much more extensive. Perhaps where I’d left the most gaps was with the last part; the post was getting long, the hours were getting late and the subject matter was growing more complex. This should come as no surprise to those versed in the source material itself (and my writing/sleeping habits, if we’re being honest). You see, that final part dealt with the New Age and its ties to progressive metal. The thing is, however, that New Age is one of the most loosely defined, scholarly debated and impossible to understand spiritual movements to have ever existed. It’s right up there with Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Swedenborg-ism (I swear that’s a real thing, you can Google it) and other obscure, esoteric belief systems.
Once upon a time, there was a decade called the 90’s. During it, or so the legend goes, culture was preoccupied with the breaking down of things, with stark realization that the world which past generations had been promised would not come to be. In the east, the hazy dream of Sovietism, always tinged with the darkness of reality, had just collapsed. In the west, war and economic distress was the rule of the day. In music, all of this was expressed in song. Grunge, nu metal, death metal, harsh noise, dark rap and more were all birthed in the cultural fires which made the 90’s go.
Progressive metal, often deemed a “brighter” genre by forgetful generations comparing it to today’s heavier arrangements, was also informed by these trends. It dealt mostly with mental breakdown and disease, social disaffection or escapism, preferring the technicality and promise of musical alchemy to the realities of current music. Thus, we have Falling Into Infinity. What was to be Dream Theater’s break-away moment, their capitalization on the name they had made themselves with previous releases, ended up as a failure, commercially and critically. While the band’s opinion has always been unclear, with some voices lauding it while others claimed malicious influence and pressure from the label, it is certain that the fans reacted badly to some of the more approachable tracks.
Welcome to a new feature where we give a quick snapshot of one main band, in this case Caligula’s Horse, and some other projects which share past and present members, or with whom there is some easy point of reference to be drawn. So without further ado, let’s get stuck…
Calling the past back into the present is a tricky endeavor. In music, it can often lead to the opposite of what a band intended, leaving their music derivative rather than innovative. However, for those bands who manage to skillfully reach back to bring some part of what made past…
I’ve been on a power metal kick lately. Oh, you’ve noticed have you? What with writing about Blind Guardian recently (and Iron Maiden, the power metal precursors), I’ve been dusting off old CD’s. These pieces of plastic were the adornments of my teenage years, confused and lost in the same generic haze that envelops most people at that age. It was a good time, I must say. I had just discovered so many great bands: Dream Theater, Pantera, Metallica, Opeth, Children of Bodom. And Edguy. I was at the perfect age for their antics, particularly those of their earlier albums, then fresh off the press. Before they had turned up their personas to eleven, before they had signed to Nuclear Blast and released their massive Hellfire Club, Edguy was a brave band, doing many different things within their power metal classification. Mandrake is the perfect example of that, featuring a dark perspective on what power metal should be doing along with plenty of 80’s pop influences. From the first track, I was hooked, my Blind Guardian saturated ears opening up completely to this new-yet-familiar sound.
Record Store Day is less than a month away, and vinyl fanatics like myself have been stoking our anticipation with the massive list of special releases being featured this year. Of course, it truly is a massive list, and since lines at record stores will almost certainly be even bigger, it’ll behoove all of us to have a game plan prior to fluffing our sleeping bags to camp out at the door. That’s why I decided to sit down – with input from Eden – and list what we believe to be the essential release from this year’s RSD; records that truly capture the essence of that “special release” vibe that the pseudo-holiday has built its reputation upon. This won’t be a comprehensive list by any means, and I encourage everyone to comment with the releases that you’re most looking forward to snagging next month. That being said, head past the jump to see the vinyl nerd in me gush about what RSD 2016 has to offer.
When Scott and I started up The Jazz Club the better part of a year ago, we had intended to make this a monthly feature that would give us and other Heavy Blog staff members a forum to discuss music from all over the jazz spectrum, both new and old. Given the fact that we only got through two articles and the last one was from July 2015, clearly we have fallen well short of that goal. But now we’re back, and we’re more determined than ever to make this a regular monthly column. For our comeback piece, we’ve chosen another recent release that’s attracted a surprising amount of crossover and mainstream appeal, acoustic piano trio GoGo Penguin’s Man Made Object. Along the way we also discuss a couple of other groups who have been blending groove-heavy jazz with electronic elements and influences, Portico Quartet and Skalpel. Scott and I were joined by fellow editor Eden for this one, and our conversation definitely ran a bit on the long side, but we’ve decided to keep it largely intact as we really enjoyed where it went. We hope you enjoy it, too!
Death comes for us all; this is a lesson that 2016 seems intent on teaching us. The latest to fall victim to this brutal curriculum is Riverside‘s Piotr Grudziński, a truly gifted guitarist who had his own unique timbre and voice within one of the most important progressive metal/rock bands of the 2000’s. In his memory, and because Riverside is such an important band, we’ve decided to do something different: instead of writing a post focusing on the band’s career but, perhaps, missing out on the depth and power of their earlier releases, we’ll be releasing three Heavy Rewind posts, each one dedicated to one of those albums. We’ll work our way up chronologically, beginning with the first, Out of Myself and ending with the last, Rapid Eye Movement. While these posts won’t focus on the lyrics, there’s no denying the strong conceptual nature of these albums and so, perforce, we shall delay a bit on their concepts. On a more personal note, these albums were essential for me when growing up and when expanding my tastes beyond the original bands that had started me on music. Rest well, Piotr. Your voice will not be forgotten.