If the purpose of Stepping Stone is to shine a spotlight on the bands and artists which started us on our way to metal, then Ronnie James Dio is one of the biggest stones in our path. Whether just by listening to his music at an early age or being influenced by his vocal style, the number of artists who have owe a debt to Dio is immeasurable. He is one of the largest names in a scene obsessed with the cult of personality, with plenty of drama and lore to back that figure (Ozzy vs. Dio, the “horns” and more). But I’d like to focus on a different story for this Stepping Stone, on mine rather than on the grandiose depiction of grand narratives within our scene and community. I’d like to take you back to the days when I was jut discovering metal and the power it had and what that power meant for the teenage version of Eden.
Swedish act Lechery was born when Martin Bengtsson left Arch Enemy to pursue his own musical vision. The band, who play a very traditional and familiar style of classic, epic heavy metal, released their debut album Violator in 2008, and it was well received, but the band subsequently fell on hard times, with a series of unfortunates accidents and setbacks keeping them from capitalizing on the album release as well as they should have. Luckily, they managed to find their footing again, and now in 2018 they’ve released their third, and likely best, album, We Are All Born Evil.
Last week on Voices of The Void, we discussed the idea of fachs in the metal world. If you haven’t read up on the Dio fach, do yourself a favor and get caught up. After Dio established his voice as uniquely metal, new personalities quickly hit the scene with new vocal ideas. The next big metal voice was Rob Halford, frontman of legendary metal gods, Judas Priest. For this segment about him, you can follow along with our nifty Spotify playlist at the end.
I guess this was inevitable. When I originally conceived of this column, there was a lot of details I wanted to get into. Vocalists who started as screamers and turned into great clean singers. Vocalists who pioneered new styles. Vocalists who simply have unique voices. But before we get into all of that, I feel as though we have to establish some of the basics of metal singing. Back in the 70s, metal singers were simply rock singers with a louder band behind them. There weren’t distinctive styles. However, as metal became more and more separate from hard rock, the playing styles of each instrument involved in making metal developed their own identity and distinct style. In opera and classical singing, teachers and singers refer to voice types as “fachs”. The fach system was developed by the Germans to make casting operas easier. As we talk about the emerging styles of metal singing, I will be using this term. Arguably, the first metal fach was the Dio-fach. So, to establish these metal basics, I will be doing an overview of Ronnie James Dio’s voice, his career, and how he established this fach.
This week we talk mainly about Woe’s show in Hamburg being cancelled due to them sharing a stage with Inquisition, who organizers think is NSBM. That’s a cool discussion, but for those of you who just want the news, I guess we have some stuff along those lines as well. New music and stuff from Exist, Suffocation, Dragonforce, Shadow of Intent, Jamiroquai, Artificial Brain, Tombs, Bestia Arcana. Also the mini-feud between ESP guitars and Linkin Park, and hologram Ronnie James Dio being a thing. Also the new Sikth album. Then cool people time on a bunch of TV and movie stuff. Prison Break, Ryan Reynolds, Cillian Murphy and more.
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.
Neil Fallon (Clutch) needs little introduction. Not only is he an amazing vocalist but his lyricism is unparalleled in its mythology and world building power. He seems blessed with a true midas touch as far as side-projects go, with every track he features one (like the guest spot on HARK’s previous album) turning to gold. What happens when you put him together with three other experienced musicians in a heavy metal band inspired by Iron Maiden and H.P Lovecraft? Dunsmuir happens and excellence happens. Dave Bone (The Company Band), Brad Davis (Fu Munchu) and Vinny Appice (Dio, Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell) joined forces with Fallon to make this beast comes alive and alive it is.
It was truly impossible to keep up with all the great music released in 2016, so prepare to see us talking about releases from last year a bit more in the next few weeks/months. Time is arbitrary anyway, right? Back to the matter at hand; stoner metal had an even better year than many other genres. Countless releases in just as many styles graced the smoke-filled skies of the sub-genre, running the gamut of infectious riffs and honey-drenched vocal stylings. Shining bright in these constellations is Netherlands and their poppy, insidious stoner-punk. Like a blend between Floor, Black Sabbath and Witchcraft, Netherlands (who hail from Brooklyn by the way) produce hip moving stoner of the highest degree, aimed to be heavy and oppressive but also pop-y and dance-able.
When news broke that the legendary Bruce Dickinson was diagnosed with cancer, the metal community was stunned and quite rightly so. The iconic frontman of Iron Maiden is one of the most revered vocalists and performers that have ever graced a stage in the name of metal. Well, the trooper…
I’m going to be honest with you people: Pain of Salvation are one of my favorite bands. They’ve always had their fair share of cheese but underneath the antics lay a pulsing heart of progressive metal and originality. I’ve been with them from the beginning, through all the twisting pathways that band…