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 music. Sometimes we don’t always agree, but it’s nonetheless a great experience to get beyond our own tastes and try something new for a change.
This week’s post brought Editor Noyan and Staff Member Jimmy Two to duke it out via playlists. FINISH HIM!
Noyan’s Grid and Jimmy’s Comments:
Noyan: I don’t think it’s a secret that I love Babymetal, especially if you listen to the podcast. Sure, they’re a gimmick band, but even ignoring the gimmick the music is fucking great. This track is one of my favorites by them, as it blends their trademark approach with ska elements. I don’t even consider them a guilty pleasure, they’re something I legitimately love and sing out to myself! Yeah, it looks pretty silly but hey, I’m an adult.
Jimmy: I’ve been hard-pressed to find a modern band that’s as divisive among metal fans as Babymetal. Either you love them, or you wish that they never existed. That being said, though, I really don’t care either way about the band. I’ve never been incredibly swayed by their music, but I don’t really hate it; it’s just something that exists to me. (Also, for all those people that say Babymetal “isn’t metal,” get over yourself; the exact definition of “metal” is so indeterminate that it’s just trite to comment on what is and isn’t.)
Twice—Page Two—“Cheer Up”
Noyan: This is what having a significant other does to you. Sometimes they fixate on one K-pop song (let me act like I’m not the one who got her into K-pop for a second) and listen to it over and over and at some point it fucking sticks with you and you start enjoying it and end up listening to it a lot. Again though, no regrets! It’s a good song.
Jimmy: Wow…okay…I didn’t expect Noyan to listen to K-Pop. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just so out of left-field. But besides my surprise, I didn’t think it was too bad of a song. I’ve never really listened to K-Pop, so this was a bit of a new experience. I don’t think I’d listen to more—there’s just nothing hooking me into the song—but this is cool for what it is.
Nile—At The Gate of Sethu—“The Fiends Who Come To Steal The Magick Of The Deceased”
Noyan: This album by Nile is definitely underappreciated, perhaps due to its production (though who really comes to Nile for crisp production), but they do a lot of cool stuff on this album that they haven’t explored in their career before (or after). This song specifically has super catchy lines and the goofy “CROCODILES OF THE NORTH” declaration, which I love.
Jimmy: Nile is probably my favorite death metal band, if only for the fact that they’re obsessed with Ancient Egypt and incorporate it so damn well into their music. I haven’t really given At The Gate of Sethu a lot of time (I love Ithyphallic so much more, honestly), but listening to this track is making me rethink that judgment. It’s not the best from Nile that I’ve heard, but it’s still Nile, damn it.
Stump—Does the Fish has Chips?—“Buffalo”
Noyan: I saw this song yeaaaars ago when someone posted it as some sort of nightmare fuel thing, but I unironically enjoyed it and it’s stuck with me ever since. It’s essentially avant-garde prog rock, I guess? Fretless guitars and unconventional techniques combined with off-kilter vocals and ridiculous lyrics make this song a really entertaining experience.
Jimmy: I almost burst out laughing when the singing started on this track. Great pick, Noyan, and I seriously mean it! I can’t say I’ve ever heard of this band, but it is so fucking goofy and great that I might need to check out more. I like how obvious it is that the band doesn’t take their music too seriously. And the lyrics—“I’ve forgotten the toothpaste, Harry!” “Where are the oranges, Marilyn!”—it’s fucking great.
Noyan: This album is fucking amazing. I’ve sung its praises many times and it will probably end up on my AOTY list. I could talk more about it, but I’ll let my previous writings on the matter and Jimmy’s impressions do the talking.
Jimmy: I keep seeing this album being really praised, but I have yet to check it out. This is, admittedly, some over-the-top tech-death, probably the most technical I’ve ever listened to. The way the guitar licks went in the first thirty seconds (read: faster than Roadrunner on PCP), it almost seemed like it was going to be a short song, but instead I was greeted with five minutes of tech-death fury. In short, I’ll really need to listen to this album in full, because that was pretty rad.
Dream Theater—Systematic Chaos—“In the Presence of Enemies Pt. 1 & 2”
Noyan: Dream Theater are one of my favorite bands, and this is probably among their least appreciated albums, yet one of my favorites. They went full-on heavy with Train of Thought, and ended that streak after this one by doing some weird stuff on this album. They’ve written a lot of suites, but the “In The Presence of Enemies” suite was probably the one that took me the longest to get into. I had to see it live to get it, and now I love it. Definitely has some of their best moments and is a great showcase of this era of their career.
Jimmy: Dream Theater is a band whose mysterious, semi-esoteric aesthetic I adored, but whose music I was less impressed by. Of course, there have been exceptions—Train of Thought and a few tracks off of Systematic Chaos and Octavarium are some—but overall I’m not a Dream Theater fan. (I will hand it to the band, though; they’re all virtuosos at their respective instruments.) All that being said, though, I actually liked this song (suite? I mean, fuck, it’s 25 minutes altogether); it has that groovy and mystical Dream Theater prog that I’ve grown to love. The vocals can get a little too whiny, but for the most part they’re good. And, of course, Petrucci’s guitarwork is nothing short of incredible. Yet another album for me to give another chance!
Rings of Saturn—Lugal Ki En—“Godless Times”
Noyan: This isn’t my favorite Rings of Saturn album, and I’m not even really a huge fan of them, but hey, sometimes you listen to stuff. “Godless Times” isn’t perhaps the most representative song, but it’s easily the most memorable one from this album so I decided to stick with it. It’s just a series of memorable riffs, and it starts with a Guitar Pro intro to self-deprecate in response to all the criticism they’ve gotten. Sure, the album is obviously recorded using tricks, but does that really matter? Just sit back and enjoy.
Jimmy: I’ve heard of Rings of Saturn—I mean, who hasn’t heard of them after that whole speeding-up controversy?—but I’d never really listened to their music. Nothing against them, I just never had enough time to pursue them. I can’t say I like this too much—the breakdown is a little too deathcore-ish for my taste and there’s not much that really keeps my interest—but there’s definitely some good songwriting present, and that album artwork is just sick. Still though, I think I’m good.
Trivium—In Waves—“Caustic Are The Ties That Bind”
Noyan: Trivium are hands down my favorite band, and In Waves is one of their best albums. “Caustic” is a song that shows a bit more of their progressive side and is just very powerful.
Jimmy: I used to really like Trivium—Ascendancy was one of those albums that I incessantly spun as a teenager—but I sort of grew out of them around the time this album (In Waves) came out. I still think they deserve some respect, though; they’re a pretty decent metalcore band when you get down to it. This song isn’t my favorite from In Waves (the title track probably takes the credit there) but it’s a cool song nonetheless.
Dragonforce—Maximum Overload—“The Game”
Noyan: Dragonforce are fucking awesome. They’re the logical extreme of power metal. I think this song is among their faster ones, and it’s also quite lovable. The lyrics are about interpersonal relationships instead of slaying dragons and stuff, which is pretty uncharacteristic of them, but they make it work well. It also guest features Matt Heafy from Trivium! This song has it all – soaring choruses, headbanging heavy riffs, blast beats, ridiculous solos and everything else you can ask for from a Dragonforce song.
Jimmy: I’ll be the first one to admit it: I played a lot of Guitar Hero, and listened to “Through the Fire and the Flames” an insane amount of times. But as much as I tried to get into more Dragonforce than just that song, I couldn’t make myself do it, for the same reason that I don’t like this song: it all sounds the same. Now, this isn’t to say that all power/speed metal sounds the same; there are some great bands in both genres. But Dragonforce seems so obsessed with shredding that creating any variance in their music is impossible. Give me Rhapsody any day over this.
Jimmy’s Grid and Noyan’s Comments
Jimmy: As I explained in my Stepping Stone article about this album, Ministry is a band that’s been with me for a long time now, and it sucks that I haven’t listened to it more. “NWO” is a song that got me thinking about the current state of affairs in the world (despite being released the year I was born), and how to deal with it. On a musical level—where I usually put the most emphasis—Al Jourgenson delivers some fucking awesome vocals, and generally puts together a bitching industrial metal song.
Noyan: Ministry are a band who have always escaped my attention for one reason or another. Industrial metal is probably one of the least appealing subgenres of metal for me, so I’m not really surprised. This one in particular is quite repetitive as well. Unfortunately this stuff just isn’t my thing, so it goes over my head! Seems like this song is more about the message than the music, or at least that’s how I could try to justify it, but it’s still not connecting with me.
Billy Joel—An Innocent Man—”For the Longest Time”
Jimmy: Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man album isn’t my favorite of his—The Stranger will always hold that place—but it’s a great album nonetheless, and a great interpretation of some of Joel’s earliest influences, like doo-wop and Motown. Although I like every song on it, “For the Longest Time” is a chill song that’s really fun to sing along to.
Noyan: When I was a kid, the first album that I had a copy of was River of Dreams by Billy Joel. I used to listen to it all the time. Almost no one knows this about me! I don’t really know what this genre is called (barbershop quartet music?) but Billy Joel has always been great at it. This song is simultaneously very upbeat and also weirdly sad. This is just simple, good stuff.
Depeche Mode—Playing the Angel—”John the Revelator”
Jimmy: Like the previous entry on Billy Joel, this isn’t my favorite Depeche Mode album, but it’s a seriously underrated one. Yes, it’s not up to the standards that Violator set years before, but it’s a great bunch of tunes in its own right. “John the Revelator” brings my two favorite things about the band—their heavy electronic influences and Dave Gahan’s incredible vocals—together in a way that I can’t even describe, but that I nonetheless love.
Noyan: Again with the industrial! This album by Depeche Mode is a classic, but it’s just not my thing. Also, generally overly Americana-feeling music is a turnoff for me, and the vocals have that kind of vibe. Perhaps it’s because I’m a guitar player, but I can’t really find much to latch onto in industrial type music. One would think the vocal talent alone would keep me hooked, but industrial elements don’t work for me.
Punching Swans—Nesting—”Pigeon Street”
Jimmy: I’m a sucker for weird band names, so when I saw a band called Punching Swans on RateYourMusic, with an album in the top 100, I felt the need to listen to it. And, surprisingly, I was not only not disappointed, but this album went beyond any expectation I had. It’s pretty much just math rock, but it has a lot of weird energy to it, and (I think) a lot of humor, which is always good.
Noyan: Now here’s something I can latch onto! Weird, off-kilter stuff like that always draws me in. Funnily, I accidentally listened to another song by the band (“Pecked to Death”) and really enjoyed it, but “Pigeon Street” I didn’t enjoy as much. I don’t agree with Jimmy that this is just math rock, there’s a bit of oddity to it that you don’t usually see in bands like this, or maybe I don’t, with my limited view of the genre. Clearly I need to explore more of this album though, because there’s some interesting stuff going on here!
Jimmy: I did a piece on this band earlier this week, but it doesn’t hurt to talk about Throwers again; simply put, this band kicks ass and takes names, and this album might be the best hardcore release of the year so far. It’s noisy and mean but also written incredibly well. Just listen and enjoy!
Noyan: Gotta say, seeing Jimmy’s description of the band I was bracing myself with a “ugh” before going in, but this is really cool. It’s rooted in hardcore, but has a “thinking man’s” aspect to it – it’s introspective and post-y at times instead of being simply angry. I like the slow, brooding parts more than the hardcore parts, so it will be interesting to check out the rest of the album to see how it stacks up.
Perturbator—The Uncanny Valley—“She Moves Like A Knife”
Jimmy: Simon made me listen to this track in the last playlist swap, and I really took a liking to it. I ended up giving The Uncanny Valley another try, and I can say I enjoyed it a lot. Unless Dan Terminus comes out with another album this year, you can pretty much chalk this up to be my favorite synthwave album of 2016.
Noyan: To be clear, I have absolutely nothing against Perturbator. He’s great and I enjoy every track I listen to by him, but I’m never particularly compelled to go out and listen to retrowave stuff. If this was in a video game I’d dig this really hard, but on its own it feels like passive listening material to me which I don’t really enjoy. In a live setting, at a party/club or in a game, this song would destroy. It’s great, energetic, and the synth line is sweet. Good stuff.
John Zorn—The Last Judgment—“Trinity”
Jimmy: The Last Judgment is (I believe) Zorn’s latest Moonchild album, featuring none other than Mike Patton on vocals. This probably isn’t the best Moonchild album I’ve heard, but it offers a different soundscape than the other releases I’ve listened to, staying more quiet and esoteric, and using silence as an instrument in itself, in a sense.
Noyan: I’m not familiar with John Zorn (a grave error I should fix by reading Jimmy’s starter kit), but anything involving Mike Patton has to be good. I don’t even know how to describe this, but it’s quite ridiculous. Free jazz meets noise, I guess? While I’m not big into noise, free jazz always intrigues me and I always wish I had more time and know-how to get into it, so I guess now I have an excuse! I keep seeing the name John Zorn come up, so this is a good excuse to dive in.
Jimmy: I remember Scott Murphy turned me onto Danny Brown years ago, playing “I Will” as loud as he could in his car as we drove to the CD store. “XXX” is the opening track of his titular mixtape, and it’s lyrics have a cool combination of humor (referencing Squidward Tentacles of Spongebob fame) and seriousness, as he describes a hedonistic life gone askew. Lyrics like “And it’s the downward spiral, got me suicidal / But too scared to do it so these pills will be the rifle” are what makes this an incredible hip-hop album.
Noyan: While I’m generally not big on hip hop, and especially versions of it that originate from this side of the pond (I prefer grime and its offshoots, for example) but I know this album is highly acclaimed and thus I should give it a shot. I also know it’s supposed to be a concept album though, so I probably can’t get the full picture from a single song. It has an interesting retro vibe, and I should delve into the rest of the album to see what’s up.
Herbie Hancock—Head Hunters—”Watermelon Man”
Jimmy: When I first listened to this song, I turned it off after about five seconds because I thought it was too weird-sounding. But it grew on me pretty fast; the intro (and outro) features a sound that is apparently supposed to be reminiscent of hindewhu, a type of indigenous African music, but what makes it stand out to me is how Herbie Hancock combines this with whistles and other things and makes a goofy Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang jalopy of a song. It’s just awesome. Enough said.
Noyan: I love funk. I love weird shit. Well, putting two together, I love this. There’s just something different about how artists from the 60s-70s approached jazz, and this oozes with that character. The song is also deceptive with how simple it sounds, but try to keep time to the drums. It’s ridiculous. Gotta add this to the “check this stuff out” list!