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.
Those of you who like controversial topics, we've got them this week! Jay-Z gaming the RIAA with Sprint to make his latest album go platinum, Spotify creating "fake music" to game their own algorithms for profit (read this article!), Soundcloud laying off 40% of their staff, and the all-female music festival in Sweden. These take up a good bit of our time. We also discuss metal though! The new Archspire song (we manage to make this controversial too), new music from Stargazer, Contaminated, and Blind Guardian's new live album. Speaking of live, Eden went to Be Prog! My Friend and somehow thinks we care about his adventures there, so let's listen to him talk about Leprous, Mike Portnoy playing Dream Theater songs with Haken, Anathema, Jethro Tull (lol), Devin Townsend, Animals as Leaders, etc. We then reflect on how well Vildhjarta's Masstaden has aged. Finally we discuss something actually fun, a.k.a. Spider-Man: Homecoming! Also Ratchet & Clank, I guess. Enjoy!
I'm here today, regardless of what the intro paragraph above might say, to premiere a track from an album which is innovation writ large. Lör's upcoming "In Forgotten Sleep (which will see release on August 11th) not only innovates but also does it in a genre which is often known for its progressive attitudes or its contemporary relevance. I'm talking, of course, about power metal, a genre that's perhaps the most calcified of all metal sub-genres. The last album I can recall that did anything fresh with it was Elvenking's The Pagan Manifesto or perhaps Heid's Alba. However, Lör do not seem content with letting that stay that way, as the title track streaming below will more than attest to that. Head on over there now for your listen and let's meet after for a brief discussion on how Lör is dragging the genre, kicking and screaming, into the future.
The story of metal is not linear. We didn’t arrive at the mayhem lurking in our Spotify playlists through a measured progression of technique, style, and genre. Rather, the evolution came in leaps and bounds, with dead ends and bursts of growth and pockets of innovation. To continue the evolutionary metaphor: the Cambrian Explosion of metal shot off in the mid 1980’s, as subgenres and geniuses and success combined into a specimen closely resembling much of modern metal. But the growth, although frantic, wasn’t instantaneous; rather, it seemed to expand exponentially from a single source, a catalyst in a chain reaction. That incipient band, the patient zero of metal as we know it today, is Iron Maiden. More precisely, the stratospheric success of The Number of the Beast, with it’s intricate compositions, transgressive lyrics, and trailblazing progressivity, diverged metal from hard rock completely and legitimized metal as a commercial viability, heralding the eruption of metal in the years to follow.
A small, personal preface before we begin: if you're wondering about the slew of Ayreon related content on the blog lately, this album is the reason. Ayreon has always been of my favorite artists but I've had a rough time connecting with his latest releases. Spoiler: The Source changes all that and has allowed me to reconnect with one of my all time favorite musicians. There aren't a lot of things as great as that out there, the rush of familiarity, nostalgia and enjoyment that breaks down the barriers of suspicion and anxiety that come before a beloved artist releases new work. Fortunately, in this case, my worries were completely misplaced.
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.