Posts Tagged ‘voice’

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

Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen

In a time when the world remains under the omnipresent threat of a new Nickelback album, news of Irish-Celtic folk-laden black metal masters Primordial releasing their eighth full-length come to comfort the weary misanthropic modern metalhead. Despite having been around for more than twenty years, the wise men in Primordial have never really chosen to be in the limelight, instead opting for a rewarding career where fans with three digit IQs can digest their music and appreciate its subtleties over multiple listens. On this new record, entitled Where Greater Men Have Fallen , the layering of sound is as meticulous as ever with nary a catchy segment in sight; which is a good thing. Primordial’s modus operandi is based on the construction of an immense wall of sound rife with subtle nuances only available to the discerning ear. The guitars complement each other with various drawn-out chord arrangements while the drums and bass do most of the muscle work in the background. In the infrequent instances where they opt to add some lead guitar work, it’s never in the flashy sense of a guitar solo; instead it’s a more measured line where one guitar shines without eclipsing the rest of the band. Frontman Alan Averill (aka Nemtheanga) on the other hand uses this wall of sound as a platform for his ever so theatrical vocal delivery. Song lengths are usually upwards of six minutes which allows the band to take its time with build-ups and allows Alan to dramatically orate his haunting stories. The album kicks off with the patiently plodding title-track as Alan revisits the themes of nations oppressed and abused under hollow promises. The powerful start is not capitalized upon though in spite of some noteworthy lead guitar work because ‘Babel’s Tower’ and ‘Come the Flood’ drag on just a little, but ‘The Seed of Tyrants’ comes as a swift return to form. Alan screams ‘TRAITOR!’ and then a furious blast explodes for almost three minutes, compounding a feeling of unease. The guitars shriek and wail in despair while the drums thunder forward and then suddenly…it’s all over. Alan steals the show again on ‘Born to Night’ where he sounds like an inspiring leader for the downcast and the downtrodden; the one people should have listened to before everything went awry. This is also the case on ‘Wield Lightning to Split the Sun’ as the anguish in his voice couples wonderfully with the choice of chords to create a bleak and dreary image that is simply sublime. Where Greater Men Have Fallen is another fine example of what Primordial is capable of as a band yet it honestly fails to re-create the glory of their 2007 effort To the Nameless Dead . The album starts and ends on a very high note but these peaks are not maintained throughout the album’s fifty-eight minute span. A couple of slow pieces do in fact weigh the album down but there’s still a lot to feast upon for the die-hard fans. There are lots of emotional and evocative moments on this record and they are done with class but it’s the album’s compositional inconsistencies that keep it from shining brightly on the current scene. ? Primordial’s Where Greater Men Have Fallen gets… 3.5/5 -AHEN

Author & Punisher – Women & Children

Author & Punisher Women & Children 01. Women & Children 02. In Remorse 03. Melee 04. Tame As A Lion 05. Fearce 06. Miles From Home 07. Pain Myself [06/11/13] [Seventh Rule] The marriage of metal and electronic music is not a new concept, and often ends up with shoddy or campy results. Industrial metal is one such genre born from this union and even still, results may vary; Bands like Godflesh and Jesu are regarded quite favorably as innovators whereas the likes of Marilyn Manson and Static-X get mixed reception. Recent developments within the genre have lead to wild avant-garde experimentation, where Norway’s SHINING and Californian one-man band Author & Punisher are met with repeated acclaim for their furtherance of industrial music in their own right. The latter act, Author & Punisher, is a relatively little-known project from mechanical engineer and sculptor Tristan Shone that broke out last year in some ways with his sophomore album Ursus Americanus, which ended up on many critics’ year-end lists of favorites because of its unusual exhibition; Shone makes all of his instruments himself and rigs them in a way that allows him to perform his complex doom and drone inspired compositions entirely by himself. This makes for some highly unique music and performance art that is currently unrivaled in the genre. Only a year after Ursus Americanus wowed privileged listeners, Shone’s third record Women & Children explores Author & Punisher’s dark and twisted sound further and adds some much needed heart into this band of machines. Despite the short wait between releases, Women & Children is the next logical step in the Author & Punisher evolution. The sonic palette established by Shone is still omnipresent; after a soundscape of crickets and buzzing flies, the opening title track kicks in with downtempo grooving drum machines passed down from Godflesh and massive droning synths churn together in a hypnotic fashion while Shone chants distorted syllables through the track’s dynamic rise and fall. Shone is no stranger to writing heavy and oppressive music, and shows with immediacy that he still loves the feeling of overdriven bass. However, what makes Women & Children so different from his previous records is its moodiness and diversity. When compared to Ursus Americanus , Women & Children seemingly dials back the machines and instead focuses more on Shone’s range of emotion. For instance, on the album’s second track In Remorse, we hear glimpses of Shone’s clean singing voice, which was previously a bit of a rarity. Later, ‘Tame as a Lion’ almost catches listeners off guard, as we hear Shone at his most vulnerable as he sings quite melodically along to piano in verse-chorus structure, though his voice with his is distant and somewhat shrouded in distortion. The piano and Shone’s singing voice even make a reprisal in the album’s chilling closer ‘Pain Myself.’ While no mere piano ballads, these seemingly out of character tracks show a whole new breadth of character and marks a new direction for Author & Punisher to explore. Following this trend, Women & Children is much more stripped down in terms of electronics, and the album is largely more atmospheric and pensive than the in-your-face aggression of Ursus Americanus . Previously, it was more often than not that distorted synths would drone longer and louder as well as rhythmically attack in a dubstep sort of fashion as the main event, as in the new track ‘ Fearce ‘. Now, Shone is seemingly more mindful of his songwriting on Women & Children, with tracks like ‘ Melee ‘ and ‘ Miles From Home’ taking time between spastic vitriol for moments of sober atmosphere and dynamic ebb and flow. As such, Women & Children feels more real and human on some level, as if the tyrannical machines of past had suddenly became sentient and empathetic. This isn’t to say that his previous work was somehow immature or lacking of emotion, but Shone has transcended what was once thought possible for Author & Punisher’s sound and created a brilliant album with some newfound variance and depth. It’s good to see Author & Punisher material pushing forward into newly emotive territory, even if it does make for more accessible songwriting. Despite this appreciation for atmosphere and melody, Women & Children is still a remarkably bleak and sinister record that explores the depressive and psychedelic in entirely new ways. Author & Punisher – Women & Children gets… 4/5 – JR

Ailing Meshuggah Frontman Jens Kidman Returns for New York Show

Nuclear Blast Records Meshuggah were back at full strength Friday night (Feb. 15) in New York, even if frontman Jens Kidman was still a bit under the weather. The vocalist has been suffering from the flu and recently had to miss a couple of the band’s shows , but he triumphantly returned for the New York performance. Though Meshuggah’s voice was conspicuously absent over the past week, the band was not. The group got through their scheduled performances placing a cardboard cutout of Kidman on the stage and requesting that the audience members provide the singing for the evening while the band delivered their usual pummeling passion during the sets. Following his return to the stage Friday night, Kidman took to Facebook and posted the following message: New York! Thanks to all of you for the amazing support tonight. It has truly been some rough days for me, but I refuse to let you guys down. You rule and you never disappoint!! Hats off, /Jens Meshuggah’s Marten Hagstrom admitted that playing without Kidman was a unique experience. Speaking to the Village Voice , he explained, “The way it sounds is not that different … but it’s more the way you feel walking up onstage, not seeing the entire band, because we’ve never done this before. You’re used to being that five-piece unit, walking up and doing this together. But there’s no use in complaining about it. The only thing we can do is try to make the most out of it. We’ve travelled over here now. A lot of places we play on this tour we haven’t really played for a long time, so canceling is not an option.” It’s expected that Kidman will be able to continue with the band after returning to the stage Friday. The group’s remaining dates on the trek can be seen here . [button href=”” title=”Next: Check Out Other 2013 Must-See Metal Concerts” align=”center”]

Disturbed vs. Avenged Sevenfold – 2013 Loudwire Rock Bowl, Quarterfinals

2013 Loudwire Rock Bowl Quarterfinals Disturbed against Avenged Sevenfold may be the toughest battle of the 2013 Loudwire Rock Bowl quarterfinals, as both bands won decisively against their opening round competition. Disturbed’s ‘Indestructible’ proved to be exactly that when facing off against Trapt’s determination anthem, ‘Headstrong.’ Recording just under three quarters (72 percent) of the total vote, Disturbed emerged victorious. And as we move forward, there’s little doubt that ‘Indestructible’ makes for a great football anthem, with David Draiman singing about “carrying the colors” and defending an oath. But do they have what it takes to be the “master of war” over Avenged Sevenfold? ‘Seize the Day’ is a pretty powerful message, so it’s no wonder their fans seized control of the voting fairly early on to distance themselves from Shinedown’s ‘Devour.’ The band received just shy of 64 percent of the final vote to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2013 Loudwire Rock Bowl. Will Avenged Sevenfold’s fans continue to “seize the day” and help the band advance to the semifinals? This should definitely be a tight matchup, so every vote counts. Make your voice heard by voting in the poll below. Then click the red button at the bottom of this post to vote in the next 2013 Loudwire Rock Bowl matchup. You have until Wednesday morning (Jan. 30) at 10AM ET to vote for your favorite. Listen to Disturbed’s ‘Indestructible’ Listen to Avenged Sevenfold’s ‘Seize the Day’ Sorry, you need to have javascript running to see this poll. [button href=”” title=”Next Rock Bowl Matchup: Pantera vs. Korn” align=”center”]

Black Veil Brides Turn New York City’s Best Buy Theater Into Church of the Wild Ones

Liz Ramanand, Loudwire Black Veil Brides and their Church of the Wild Ones tour make a stop in New York City on a snowy Friday night (Jan. 25) for a sold out show. As the front row was lined with screaming girls, a couple of them even started to cry as Black Veil Brides graced the stage. BVB kicked off their set with ‘I Am Bulletproof’ and performed other new songs from their latest album, ‘Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones,’ including ‘Overture,’ ‘Shadows Die,’ ‘Nobody’s Hero’ and the title track ‘Wretched and Divine.’ In addition, the BVB Army sang loudly to favorite tracks ‘Knives and Pens,’ ‘All Your Hate,’ ‘Perfect Weapon,’ ‘The Legacy’ and ‘Fallen Angels,’ among numerous others. The band’s set came to an end with an encore consisting of their current single ‘In the End.’ William Control , who offers the voice of F.E.A.R. on the new Black Veils record, donned a wicked pompadour as he served as support. He got fans bouncing with his electronic rock vibe, not to mention some serious mic swinging skills. New York City natives Wildstreet opened up the show with a solid performance and warmed things up the for frigid fans who waited hours on line just to be front and center. For a full list of dates where you can catch Black Veil Brides on tour, go here . Check Out Photos of Black Veil Brides, William Control and Wildstreet in NYC: Black Veil Brides: Liz Ramanand, Loudwire Liz Ramanand, Loudwire Liz Ramanand, Loudwire Liz Ramanand, Loudwire Liz Ramanand, Loudwire Liz Ramanand, Loudwire Liz Ramanand, Loudwire William Control: Liz Ramanand, Loudwire Liz Ramanand, Loudwire Liz Ramanand, Loudwire Wildstreet: Liz Ramanand, Loudwire Liz Ramanand, Loudwire

Watch Chris Cornell Perform at President Obama’s Commander-in-Chief’s Ball

YouTube President Obama began his second term with his inauguration earlier this week and with the ceremony came a number of galas . Soundgarden ‘s Chris Cornell , one of Obama’s many supporters, was invited to perform at the Commander-in-Chief’s Ball, which recognized Medal of Honor recipients and Wounded Warriors, and video footage of his entire performance has surfaced online. Cornell, armed with an acoustic guitar, took the stage to perform a trio of cover songs. However, with some microphone problems on the guitar, the set really provided a spotlight on his voice. The vocalist took the stage, telling the audience, “I’ve got to say this is an honor to play for you guys and to celebrate this event, the re-election of President Obama, so thank you so much.” From there he launched into ‘(What’s So Funny Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,’ the Nick Lowe song popularized by Elvis Costello. After making note of the microphone issue, he would perform his other two tracks with a little more amplification for the guitar. First came a powerful performance of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic ‘Long As I Can See the Light,’ which really showed off the wonderful rasp and emotion in Cornell’s voice. He followed with what he called “a song of hope or an impossible dream maybe” — a cover of John Lennon ‘s ‘Imagine.’ The full almost ten-minute performance can be seen below. Cornell would return later in the evening with the full Soundgarden lineup to perform at the Inaugural Ball , doing a three-song set of ‘Been Away Too Long,’ ‘Outshined’ and ‘Rusty Cage’ for those in attendance. Watch Chris Cornell’s Commander-in-Chief’s Ball Performance [button href=”” title=”Next: Chris Cornell Discusses Soundgarden’s Future” align=”center”]