It’s hard to believe that there was a time before the steady stream of blasé lyric videos, but at the turn of the millennium, music video purveyor MTV had to “bring back” the music video. The artform was essentially replaced by trashy reality television and cartoons by the late 90s, but eventually came MTV2 - a quality sequel (well, for a few years) nobody really deserved. So I guess it only made sense that they also resurrected their metalhead favorite from the 80s and 90s soon thereafter - Headbangers Ball. After all, this era had a ton to offer. The NWOAHM movement was all the rage, metalcore was hitting its stride, and melodeath was pretty much the coolest shit ever. Given that the combo of Kazaa and my dial-up setup wasn’t doing me any good - true story: I waited days (plural) to download Meshuggah’s Chaosphere only to find out that some jerk just relabeled of Neurotica tracks (some truly evil bastards out there), this couldn’t have been better timing for a dude who had recently gotten his license and began to fall in love with hanging out at the record store - the internet, for me, sucked for digging up new tunes.
I deliberated a lot on how to start this piece. How can one even do justice to an album so timeless and revered; and more importantly, an album that has been written about to hell and back for over a decade now? An album that not only single-handedly jump-started the band's illustrious career, but also manages to retain its impeccable excellence next to releases today?
As a 39 year-old guy, I have a bit of a confession to make: I’m a huge mark for the band A Day to Remember. Whether it’s fair or not, I believe there’s a tendency to lump these guys in as a band for the younger set, namely the Warped Tour and Hot Topic crowd. However, I’m not going to spend a lot of time here talking about the kind of comments and judgments that get lobbed so often at this band. Rather, I’m going to tell you, and them, why I love this band.
For all the ubiquity it enjoys today, our current, 'mainstream' iteration of progressive metal was hardly all that visible before the turn of the last decade outside of a few relatively tight internet circles. The community around it remained constrained to a few forums, as current ringleaders such as Misha Mansoor and Acle Kahney quietly uploaded bedroom recordings to relatively small audiences.
On October 16, 2010, the world lost one of its best-kept secrets. Michael “Eyedea’’ Larsen was only 28-years-old when he passed away, and there’s been an unfillable void left in music ever since. As an emcee he was one of the greats, wearing his heart on his sleeve with every bar and often giving the listener something to ponder and even some life-affirming comfort. He was loved by both his fans and peers and those who knew him bestowed him with high plaudits as both an artist and human being. Eyedea was one of the good ones. His music is introspective, philosophical, socially conscious and profoundly human. And like all great music, it’ll never be irrelevant.
When Sugar Ray released their breakthrough reggae-infused pop hit “Fly’’ in 1997, they were still very much a punk metal band for the most part. If you listen to any other song on Floored, then you’ll hear nothing else that resembles “Fly’’ in the slightest. The success of that single inspired the band to adopt the more mainstream approach they became known for after that, and while you could place all of their subsequent releases in the pop rock category, the truth is that no Sugar Ray album sounds the same. The beauty of Sugar Ray is that they were a band who just liked to make music, and even though their records catered for the masses during the height of their popularity, they were never without moments of unpredictability. However, before their rise to fame, they released Lemonade and Brownies in 1995, and it was pretty wild. A party-centric blend of funk metal, punk rock, soul and even a touch of country and western, with a front cover displaying a naked Nicole Eggert, the album is the very definition of mindless; however, it boasts such a carefree attitude and knack for memorable tunes that it’s pretty gosh darn irresistible as well.
Editor's Note: the below fan letter was submitted to the blog by Steven Jaynes, and is being published with little to no edits. If you're interesting in sending us your own love letters (to an album, a band, a genre, whatever), please don't hesitate to do so at mail[at]heavyblogisheavy[dot]com! Remember, as Elbow say: "love is the original miracle".
Jeremy Bolm and his band Touché Amoré have kept me good company lately as I've grappled with these questions under the red glow of cancer. Their album, Stage Four, detailing Bolm's grieving process after his mother died of the same terrible illness afflicting my father-in-law, lives on a loop in my mind and heart now. The lyrics are honest, passionate and absolutely heartbreaking. Bolm's incredibly vulnerable declarations of hurt, loneliness, regret and suffering are absolutely necessary and equally wonderful. I find myself comforted, listening in gentle communion, to a work of art that shares my grief brilliantly and empathetically.