Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Dream Theater – The Astonishing

While here at Heavy Blog we usually err on the “for its own merit” side of the album/career debate, choosing to focus on an album’s singular traits rather than its place within a band’s discography, this would be a mistake here. While  The Astonishing , one of the most anticipated albums of the year, is certainly a departure from everything  Dream Theater has been giving us in the past few years, it’s also a return to several key sounds from the beginning and middle period of their career. Even that departure requires an understanding of the bigger picture of their trajectory; to depart from something, you need to understand something. And so, the first thing that is immediately apparent when the first real track (that is, not the intro) of  The Astonishing begins to play is: this is a rock opera. When the second track begins to play, something else becomes immediately apparent: the main touchstone for this album within the extensive Dream Theater discography is  Six Degrees of Inner  Turbulence . That spring in the step, that hopeful and cheery outlook, screams of that intricate album, the closest the band have come to a rock opera in the past. Yes, OK, but is it  a good album ? That’s what we’re all here to find out. In two words: yes and no. In more than that,  The Astonishing  contains some amazing tracks, possibly the best the band have produced since the lukewarm  Octavarium  trickled into our ears. When the tracks are playing, it’s impossible to resist how downright energetic this album is. At these moments, the cheesiness is perfectly balanced with that old-school  Rush  feel that Dream Theater have always been famous for and things work. They work really well in several points: on “Lord Nafaryus” for example, LaBrie delivers the intricate villain role with brilliant precision, doing things with his voice that he never has, as far as register and delivery goes. The artificial strings blend perfectly with the over the top piano, accentuated by signature guitar bridges from Petrucci. This cohesion is perhaps one of the best marks of a good Dream Theater album: when they work together, instead of playing against each other, they sound best. The slightest, cheesy touch from Petrucci near the end really closes the deal, making this one of the best tracks on both albums. This track is followed by two more excellent iterations of this new-fangled sound: “A Saviour in the Square” is epic to the exact degree needed, with a splash of horns to spice things up. LaBrie returns to more conventional grounds and reminds us that, regardless of personal taste, he is one of the most consistently excellent singers in the industry. Personal note time: when “When Your Times Has Come” kicks in, the next track down the line, I get teary eyed. This song is cheese to the maximum degree, but Rudess has chosen old school synth effects, with a wink to Kevin Moore perhaps, and LaBrie executes beautifully. This is “Hollow Years” territory: you know it’s cheesy rock but it just touches something within you and it works. Which brings us to the major defect with the album. Honestly, what band can expect to release 33 tracks and get that perfect balance between emotional propensity and technical achievement? Even Dream Theater, one of the most veteran and influential bands operating today, can’t pull it off.  The Astonishing  is replete with filler tracks, songs that really have no right existing other than an obscure parts they play in this (rather underwhelming) story that the album attempts to tell. And that’s not enough: cliche guitar parts mix with over-sweetness in LaBrie’s voice and bounce off the most cliche lines that Rudess can make from his keyboards. And they’re repetitive as well. There’s no reason for “Act of Faythe”, one of the cheesiest songs ever made by Dream Theater, to exist when a track like “The Answer” exists as well. There’s supposedly a common theme being iterated upon here but it’s not interesting enough to carry the tracks forward. Nor are the ways in which the band iterate upon it interesting in anyway: they include shifting the mood just a bit to give it a lighter or darker spin and nothing else. All of these flaws extend to the second “CD” as well, and then some. “A Life Left Behind” for example is a track which could have come right out of  Awake but it’s successor, “Ravenskill” is completely pointless, taking too much time with its intro and failing to deliver when the main theme is introduced. Since the flow between the tracks, a famous trope of progressive records, has been completely abandoned here in favor of the “track by track” structure of rock operas, the second CD is hard to pin down and connect to the first. By the time you’ve reached it, so many filler tracks have gone by without a clear approach to thematization that the thread is almost impossible to grasp. The narrative has been completely lost and every track, even the good ones, start to sound the same. That’s no accident: even the good tricks utilized on this album are the  same old tricks  that we know from this album itself and from past entries in the Dream Theater discography. While the overall style of the album is new, in that it taps into tropes that were only lightly present in their careers so far, the track progression is the same tried and true method. OK, we’ve saved the best (worst) for last. Sharp-eyed readers might have noticed that we haven’t mentioned two current members of the band. The first, John Myung, might not surprise anybody; his absence, both in sound and words, from the band is a thing of legend by now. On  The Astonishing , or at least on the copy that we of the press received, he is almost 100% missing. Whether in the mixing or in the recording, the bass was completely swallowed by the other instruments and is completely absent from the final product. However, now we come, here at the end, to the most egregious and unexplainable flaw in this record: Mike Mangini. Throughout the album, Magini displays an almost impressive amount of disinterest in what’s going on around him. The drums line are not only performed in a lackluster way, they also sound as if zero effort was put into their writing. We  know  Mangini is a talented drummer but that talent is nowhere to be found here: obvious fill after obvious fill churn out under paper thin cymbals and pointless kick drums, ultimately amounting to nothing much. There’s literally no moments on the albums that are worth mentioning for their drums and this infuriatingly frustrating, given what we know of  his obvious ability. At the end of the day, when you put all of the above together, you get a disappointing album. If this had just been a bad album, we could have chalked it down to age, momentum and being out of touch. That’s impossible though, since when the album is good, it’s really quite good. If only it had been cut to about ten tracks and purged of the incessant repetitions, it might have been the best Dream Theater album in years. Instead, it’s a puerile attempt at a grand gesture that ultimately falls on its face, caught too close to the sun with wax spilling over, giving all its features the same, bland, indecipherable structure. ? Dream Theater – The Astonishing gets… 3/5

August Burns Red Begin Work on ‘Most Ambitious Album Yet’

Facebook: August Burns Red August Burns Red have enjoyed their break from the road, but now have enough material to begin recording their next studio album. The group confirmed their return to the studio via a series of Facebook posts this past week, with drummer Matt Greiner getting his tracking out of the way first. One of the first studio photos can be seen above. Even before a note was recorded, Greiner had been pounding away. In a photo posting , it was revealed that the drummer physically wore down his drumsticks during the writing process. Guitarist JB Brubacker told Alternative Press , “2012 turned out to be quite intense for us from a touring standpoint. We did more traveling than we had ever previously done in our career and after three straight months on the road to end the year, I think we were all ready to come home and shift into writing/recording mode. Now that the writing is complete, we are all itching to get started with the actual tracking.” Speaking about the sound, the guitarist added, “This new record will push the boundaries of our genre more than we ever have before. We set out to write a record where every song stands out from the last. There is a lot of ground covered here and a ton of meat to this album. It’s full of odd metered rhythms and breakdowns, unexpected twists and turns and some of our most technical riffing to date. Each of us have parts that make our heads spin and we have had to practice like crazy to get some of this stuff together.” Brubaker says that the album, which he calls their “most ambitious album yet,” is expected later this year via Solid State Records. [button href=”” title=”Next: Watch August Burns Red’s ‘Empire’ Video” align=”center”]

Young Guns Join 10 Years for 2013 North American Tour

Wind-Up U.K. upstarts Young Guns recently crashed the rock radio charts with their single ‘Bones,’ and soon fans in North America will be able to catch the band playing that song and more. The group has announced that they’ll join rockers  10 Years for a string of dates that will find them traveling the county through February and March. The tour launches Feb. 18 at the Exit/In in Nashville, with dates booked through March 16 in Houston. Tickets for the tour are currently on sale. After building their following in the U.K. with their 2009 EP ‘Mirrors’ and the follow-up album ‘All Our Kings Are Dead,’ the band finally broke through to a larger audience with last year’s ‘Bones’ album. The title track helped the group become the highest charting new band at Active Rock radio in 2012, with the song currently hovering around the Top 10. The band’s video for ‘Bones’ has also been a hit, garnering over 1.3 million YouTube views. The disc is currently available here . While the band is anxious to hit the road, they did reveal in a recent Facebook posting that they’ve been busy with the writing process and are “working on something special.” 10 Years / Young Guns 2013 Tour: 2/18 — Nashville, Tenn. — Exit/In 2/19 — Columbia, Mo. — Blue Note 2/21 — Colorado Springs, Colo. — The Black Sheep 2/22 — Denver, Colo. — Marquis Theatre 2/23 — Salt Lake City, Utah — In the Venue 2/24 — Boise, Idaho — Knitting Factory 2/26 — Spokane, Wash. — Knitting Factory 2/27 — Seattle, Wash. — Studio Seven 3/1 — Chico, Calif. — Senator Theatre 3/2 — Reno, Nev. — Knitting Factory 3/3 — Sacramento, Calif. — Ace of Spades 3/4 — Los Angeles, Calif. — The Roxy 3/6 — Las Vegas, Nev. — Vinyl 3/8 — Tempe, Ariz. — The Marquee 3/9 — Flagstaff, Ariz — Orpheum 3/10 — Farmington, N.M. — Top Deck 3/12 –Tulsa, Okla. — The Vanguard 3/13 — Dallas, Texas — Trees 3/15 — San Antonio, Texas — Backstage Live 3/16 – Houston, Texas — Scout Bar Watch Young Guns’ ‘Bones’ Video

Singer A. Jay Popoff on Lit: ‘This Band Has Always Been a Brotherhood’

Liz Ramanand, Loudwire Lit have had one heck of a journey as a band, releasing their fifth studio album, ‘The View From The Bottom,’ last year after an eight year break. They were also recently part of 2012’s ShipRocked Cruise, which featured numerous talented acts on a boat sailing from Florida to the Bahamas and back. While on the cruise, we had the chance to chat with frontman A. Jay Popoff about the new how, how the tragic death of their drummer Allen Shellenberger affected the band, as well as future plans for Lit and much more. Lit have endured numerous hardships as a band; how has that made you stronger individually and as a group? It definitely changed perspective on the big picture. This band has always been a brotherhood, you hear any band say that but our band literally grew up together. To lose a brother, it’s hard enough not only when you’re best friends and you’re partners in something like Lit – it’s our business and our life, it’s like losing a limb. It definitely brought the rest of us together — Kevin [Baldes] and Jeremy [Popoff] and I –and [we] pulled some deeper, sentimental songs when we wrote ‘The View From The Bottom.’ There are songs that are therapeutic for us. Lyrics have always been important to us but it’s a little less about the partying and drinking – we have those songs on here but it’s more about, just life. What does the title ‘The View From the Bottom’ specifically mean to you? It was an image that came to us more than what it actually says. On the cover, it’s us raising our glasses and it’s sort of like this new beginning in a way and we have a song called ‘Here’s To Us’ – this whole record is all about family and unity and that’s just the toast. ‘The View From the Bottom’ is looking up at the bottom of a glass. It was great seeing you onstage [during your ShipRocked set]. You guys have been away for a while – what did you guys miss most about playing shows and touring? That was the part we missed the most – getting out there. We did continue to do occasional one off shows, it was just enough to keep us going but really getting out on the road over the summer was awesome – just everyday waking up on the tour bus, hanging out after. You have nowhere else to go except back on the bus so it’s cool to hang out with people and reconnect with fans, new fans that were too young to come out to the shows before –we’re meeting a lot of those people and now they’re old enough to drink, so a lot of raising glasses with new people. What made you guys decide to write and create music again? Nathan Walker, our drummer now, he was really close with Allen [Shellenberger], it was when we decided to induct him into the group — I don’t know it was weird, everything just lined up and that’s when songs started to flow. We continued to write because we’re songwriters outside of the band, as well, but actual Lit music just wasn’t coming to us, everything we would right we’d be like “That’s not Lit.” My brother and I we do most of the writing and the songs just started feeling like Lit again and so we just went for it. Was there every a moment where you thought you and the rest of Lit might not ever make music together again or did you feel that it would take some time and happen naturally? We knew that we would always make music together because there really isn’t any other option. We’ve spent our entire lives doing this and it’s just what we are and we just have such a cool fanbase all over the world and constantly getting hit up by people who want new music. I just felt like we owed it to ourselves as a band, we owed it to the fans that have been so patient and we didn’t want to put out some half assed record just because it had taken so long. We wanted to deliver something that we’re proud of. What are plans for Lit in 2013? We’re planning on getting back out on the road and probably writing another record, too. We’re not going to sit around and wait, we’re feeling creative. The fire’s back and passion’s there and we just want to keep it going. Watch Lit’s Music Video for ‘The Broken’ ? [button href=”” title=”Check Out Photos of Lit Performing on 2012 ShipRocked Cruise” align=”center”]

Dream Theater Enter Studio to Start Next Album

Robert Cianfione, Getty Images It’s a new year and Dream Theater isn’t wasting any time getting back to work. Guitarist John Petrucci has checked in online with a photo update , showing off the band’s studio and suggesting that recording is about to commence with the caption, “Let the fun begin …” Petrucci, recently speaking with Metal Insider , revealed that the group was in the early phases of preparing for a new disc. He explained, “So far it’s not very developed at all. We’re scheduled to go into the studio in January … We have a handful of ideas we compiled while we were on the road, and we have those archived. And since I got back from the road, and have had some time off, I’ve been spending more time compiling, writing and demoing some things.” The guitarist said that there is a definite direction that’s in place for the new album and all of the details concerning players and studio time are locked in. While Petrucci was reluctant to talk about the specific direction, he did add that he prefers not to wing it when heading into the studio. He explained that the band members have met and everyone is on the same page and in the right headspace toward achieving their common musical goal. As for Mike Mangini, the drummer who took over for Mike Portnoy with the band’s last album, Petrucci says this will be the first time he would be included in the writing process. “He going to be in from day one, so we’ll write together as a full group,” says the guitarist. “The tapes that we have from doing that a bit on the road have been incredible. At soundcheck, if I’d come in with an idea and we’d start jamming on it, he was really quick and had great creative concepts. I think it’s going to be a very cool experience.” Facebook: John Petrucci [button href=”” title=”Next: Dream Theater Shoot Buenos Aires Shows for DVD” align=”center”]

Lars Ulrich Confirms Metallica Have Begun Work on 10th Studio Album

Facebook: Metallica Worry not, Metallica fans, for your thrash heroes have officially begun the writing process for a new album. As the follow-up to the band’s 2008 album, ‘Death Magnetic,’ the as-yet-untitled album has so far been described by drummer Lars Ulrich as “heavy,” “energetic” and “fast.” Ulrich spilled the beans to Metal Hammer for the publication’s January 2013 issue, describing the potential framework to Metallica’s 10th album, which is expected to drop in 2014. “The stuff that we were banging out yesterday, it felt heavy, it felt energetic, it was loud, it was fast, it was rocking, it was crazy,” gushes Ulrich. “The snare drum was on there and there were guitar solos, in case anybody was wondering. What we’re doing now certainly sounds like a continuation of where we left off four years ago.” Despite Ulrich’s transparency in discussing the upcoming album, the drummer would not confirm nor deny the inclusion of legendary producer Rick Rubin, who took hold of the board during the ‘Death Magnetic’ recording sessions. “I love Rick, we all love Rick,” assures Ulrich. “We’re in touch with Rick constantly. We’ll see where it goes.” Metallica’s 2014 album will be their first to be released via Blackened Recordings , a label the band recently launched after taking ownership of all their master recordings. “It’s always been about control for us as a band,” says drummer Lars Ulrich. “Forming Blackened Recordings is the ultimate in independence, giving us 100 percent control and putting us in the driver’s seat of our own creative destiny.” Stay tuned for more news on Metallica’s upcoming 10th album as news breaks. [button href=”” title=”Get All the Latest Metallica News Here” align=”center”]

Lamb of God Drummer Chris Adler Discusses ‘Resolution’ + Plans for the Band’s Next Album

Mary Ouellette, We recently published Part 1 of our interview with Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler, in which he went in-depth about frontman Randy Blythe’s incarceration in the Czech Republic this past summer and legal issues related to the incident. Now, in Part 2 of our interview, Adler discusses Lamb of God’s most recent disc ‘Resolution,’ as well as plans for the band’s next album. Lamb of God are currently on tour with In Flames, Hatebreed and Sylosis. Check out our review and photo gallery of NYC show here . The trek continues through a Dec. 16 show in Seattle. For ticket info, click here . Without further ado, here’s Part 2 of our interview with Lamb of God’s Chris Adler: After all the band went through this past summer, it must be a good feeling to get out and promote your latest album ‘Resolution’ again. I know it came out back in January, but can you take us back to the recording process of the disc and how it differed from past albums? Well, you’re right, it is very exciting to get out and tour. This [is] actually our first [full] U.S. tour since the album came out. We were supposed to be doing something this summer but obviously that got derailed a bit, so yeah we still have some work to do on [promoting] the record and we’re pretty excited about it. But going into the process, the biggest difference was our willingness to try different things. I think on previous albums, we’ve always had a specific kind of direction that we wanted to go in, like on ‘Sacrament’ we really wanted to embrace the songwriting and we weren’t afraid of studio ideas that the producer had … But when we did ‘Wrath,’ it went back to being a raw, aggressive, 100-miles-per-hour band. Our challenge coming into [‘Resolution’] was to somehow outdo ourselves and find a way for the band to evolve and go in different directions that we haven’t done before. Meanwhile, [we were] keeping note of the things that had worked well for us as a band — not just trying to replicate the hits or whatever but finding those interesting moments on the B-sides of those records that we could kind of explore further now that we’ve had done what we wanted to do as a metal band. So now, what can we do as far as pushing ourselves as songwriters and as a band? So, coming into it, that meant that ideas weren’t immediately popping out like they did before — like the orchestra and the opera singer on ‘King Me’ or Randy’s vocal delivery on some of the songs, letting him kind of sing instead of just scream. [We were] trying to find a more dynamic approach … in these songs to make them have more impact and build a more dynamic picture. Are there any songs in particular on ‘Resolution’ that you most enjoy playing live? I think that ‘The Undertow’ is probably one of my favorite ones to play live … When we started in the band in the ’90s, we were really influenced by a lot of the crossover bands, like S.O.D. and stuff like that. I think ‘The Undertow,’ while it’s certainly a technically proficient song, it encompasses of that idea of real strong punk rock energy mixed with the kind of speed metal proficiency, and that’s always been one of our favorite things to mix those two things up. So that’s a lot of fun to play live. Of course, ‘Desolation,’ the second track on the album that starts with the little drum solos, I may be a little biased but that’s a lot of fun for me to rock out to every night. And ‘Ghost Walking’ … has got an interesting little acoustic intro that kind of sets it apart … and has a really good groove to it. So, those are probably my three favorites right now. Randy has mentioned that he was inspired to write lyrics while he was in the Czech prison, and I was wondering if that will serve as motivation to hit the studio sooner than planned for the next album? It’s really going to depend. It’s like you said, Randy let us all know as well that he did some writing while he was there, and both Mark [Morton] and Willie [Adler], the guitar players, have let me know at different times that they’ve been working on a couple of different things, too. So I think that together, the elements are there for us when we do decide to go back in, at least a good starting point for us. But, this is all contingent on what happens in getting there. Obviously, we feel like Randy is innocent and justice will prevail. But we really don’t know what’s going to happen and the worst-case scenario there is that he’s locked up for 10 years. So, that would certainly put a damper on any studio or touring plans. But right now I think the focus is … to support this record [‘Resolution’], which we’re all very proud of, to get out and to do as much work as we can. The plan was originally to tour until the end of 2013 and to begin the writing process for another record in 2014. Assuming things go well with Randy, hopefully that plan plays out by the time we get there in 2014. With this process behind closed doors already starting, we’re going to have some good ammunition to get it going. [button href=”” title=”Part 1: Chris Adler Talks Randy Blythe, U.S. Tour + MOre” align=”center”]