How does one incorporate elements of poppier, more upbeat music into metal’s mix and perhaps even its external themes like album art, lyrics and delivery?
While many bands have taken a pass at this question, none of have solved it quite as well as Ninjaspy. In 2013, the Canadian band released their short (and excellent) debut EP, coupling it with a home-brewed, Ninja themed comics that elaborated on and worked together with the album (NOTE: we’ll not be referencing the obvious similarities between Ninjaspy and a certain Australian band who shan’t be named. A simple look at a timeline will give you all the facts you need). Their music incorporated elements of reggae and surf right into heavier influences from hardcore and modern metal. The result drew comparisons to System of a Down, SikTh, Limp Bizkit and others.
Though Swans has had several sonic reincarnations, The Great Annihilator is one of the most important phoenixes in the flock. After five perverse, punishing records, Michael Gira and crew began to slowly drift up from the gutters into some puzzling territory. The band followed up Children of God (1987) with an unexpected absolution and released The Burning World (1989), a collection of gothic-tinged neofolk album which was easily the most pleasant offering they’d composed up until that point. Then came sister albums White Light From the Mouth of Infinity (1991) and Love of Life (1992), which strayed slightly from their predecessor but took the general framework along with them. Swaying between dismal post punk, morbid folk and unidentifiable bliss, these albums flirted with a sound that Gira and crew would perfect on The Great Annihilator (1995), one of the greatest achievements of Swans initial life as a band.
Sometimes, I get to do really cool things as a music journalist. Sometimes, I get to do amazing things and this is one of them. Arjen Lucassen, AKA Ayreon, has been a musical hero of mine every since the first notes of The Human Equation played in my ears, right after I had purchased the album in Paris (I was there seeing Iron Maiden and Dream Theater. Good trip). It was a split earphone cable arrangement and I was listening to it with one of my best friends, who had insisted I get it. Sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed; vocal lines by some of the my favorite singers (James LaBrie, Devin Townsend, Mikael Akerfeldt, Devon Graves, to mention just a few) echoed in my ears, set to amazing, progressive instrumentation. An obsession was born; over the next few years, I bought every single Ayreon album I could get hold of and start following him fervently.