Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Album of the Week 11/27/06
Devin Townsend - Ocean Machine: Biomech

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Suggested by: MJ

MJ: In 2005, I discovered the genius that is Devin Townsend. My first entry into Devdom came from seeing the video for “Love?” off of Strapping Young Lad’s “Alien”. I would usually watch Headbanger’s Ball and fast forward through most of the crap – but this one caught my attention. It was quite extreme, but with a little hook that gave me something to sink my teeth into. I did a little research and picked up a different SYL CD. I really enjoyed it, but I wasn’t quite head over heels in love. Yet.

I continued to read about Dev’s other band, aptly titled The Devin Townsend Band. The brief synopsis was that this was much different than SYL, less extreme, more melodic, etc. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that and, without rushing into it, picked up some DTB stuff.

I was pretty much instantly blown away. The music was so…how do you describe it…HUGE. Very ambient, heavy at times, but mostly just really good songs. I found that the ability to weave in and out of intensity levels and “heaviness” really added to the overall effect, making the heavy heavier and the less heavy sound very delicate and beautiful (the McDLT effect – hot side hot, cool side cool...). Interestingly, it gave be a better appreciation for the SYL stuff. Sometimes, you just want to rock, you know?

“Ocean Machine: Biomech” was the one album of DTB (their first) that really grabbed me from the start. It is likely my favorite DTB album, although I will admit that I need to give the others more love. I seem to play this one a lot more than the others. During this week’s listen (which blended into the month), my love for this album has been solidified. This one ranks very high on my list of rock/metal faves. There are MEGAJAMS on this. I’m not sure if I know of a better one-two punch than the songs “Funeral” and “Bastard”. To add to that – the first song of that tandem is about eight minutes, the second is over ten. So yea, that’s over 18 solid minutes of ridiculous uninterrupted rocking. Put that in your hookah and take a lung-filling monster tug…

Of course, this solidification of my love does not come free. In my enthusiasm, I bought three CD’s and a DVD from Hevy Devy’s website the other night. One disc is his second ambient release, which is much different then both SYL and DTB. He says it’s good to go to sleep to. I could use that sometimes. The other two CD’s are demo and outtakes, some from this album. So I had to get those. I’m pretty much in for any and all that Dev has to offer…

MH: First off, I love Devin Townsend. I think he is so infinitely talented that it almost pisses me off. He is so prolific and all of his stuff is, even if I don't dig it, it is, at least, interesting. When QM and I started to find him, I remember looking at a magazine and seeing his "Skullet" and thinking, "I don't think I can handle this guy". It was then when I called QM and told him, "I don't think I can handle this guy". Then I saw a video for "Relentless" by Strapping Young Lad. It was the heaviest and most relentless riffage I had heard up to that point. I was kind of hooked. It had all the noise and melod that I love in metal. I think I called back QM and said "I might have been wrong about this guy..." So in classic form, QM then managed to download the entire catalog and in hours I had the whole Strapping Young Lad catalogue. It was then that QM found out that he had a series of solo albums that he released when he wasn't doing SYL. Awesome. We now had MORE by this guy!!! I think one of the reasons I like him is his sense of humor about his industry. (He's Canadian and their SYL DVD is called "For Those Aboot to Rock.") I also think I like him because his songwriting is as close to what I wish I wrote songs like. All melody and rock.

So let's get to this album. Ocean Machine: Biotech. I love it. I lose myself in his albums all the time. They actually are able to make me float away and I sometimes forget what I was doing before that. My personal favorite song on this album is "Life". That is one of the best songs I have heard period. It has a great sing-a-long chorus. It's got cool guitar scales in it. It sounds like it could have been in a 80's movie when the main character is learning that everything was going to be allright. Maybe a "Training" scene. And I mean this in the best possible way. It's one song that has remained on my IPOD since we got all his stuff. It's suprisingly accessible. Most of the other tunes on this cd are relatively long, 6 to 7 minutes, and I couldn't have been happier. I totally dug the riffing in "Funeral." And I think it's very ambitious to write a song called 'The Death of Music" Right on, Dev. Go on, you maniac.

Strapping and Devin Townsend are now on the VERY top of our lists to go see in concert. Strapping came around with Ozzfest last summer, but I couldn't bring myself to buy a ticket for System Of A Down and Disturbed. I think they are not that good, and it would have only been twenty minutes on the side stage. QM and I deserve a whole show. It would be perfect if SYL and DTB played together. He'd be tired, but hey, that's rock and roll. You can't say you're relentless without being so. I think he could do it. He's got the perfect Skullet after all....
Top 5 Songs that Contain the Word "Rock" in the Title

1. Rock Candy – Montrose
2. For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) – AC/DC
3. Rock Of Ages – Def Leppard
4. There’s Only One Way To Rock – Sammy Hagar
5. Rock You – Helix

This exercise made me realize there were quite a few songs to choose from. I know I missed some, and there are others that are Top 5 worthy. But I just had to include Helix...

1. Rock and Roll's Gonna Save The World - Y & T
2. Rock You Like A Hurricane - Scorpions
3. Rock You - Helix
4. Rock of Ages - Def Leppard
5. Rock Hard in a Funky Place - Prince
6. Rockaroid Rollazoid - Y & T (Honorable Mention...)
Album of the Week 11/20/06
Evergey - Monday Morning Apocalypse

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Suggested by: MH

MH: Ok. I picked this album. I did because I have now seen these guys twice and I have enjoyed them live both times. I think the singer is very enigmatic and the music is very entertaining. Plus I also know QM likes them alot and wanted to give this new album a shot. But to be honest, I could not STAND this album. At all. It is so polished that there is no danger, spontinaeity, or from what I could tell, passion. By about the third song that was about how his father didn't love him, I was done. I like my metal to be a little scary or aggressive. Which while the riffs tried to be hard, they just for some reason weren't to me. Oh well. That's all I really have to say about that one. Tune in next week...

MJ: Interesting pick, BOM. That’s cool that you picked one from a band that I totally embraced and you think you should listen to more (probably due to my constant ramblings!).

I REALLY like these guys. They are one of my favorites of the new metal bands that we’ve discovered over the last few years. Definitely progressive metal (I say with confidence, however can’t really pinpoint what that means – I just know it is). Their album “The Inner Circle” was my favorite album of the year a couple years ago. They usually have good melodies, lots of tempo changes, nice riffage, and cool special effects (voiceovers, etc.). This was a band that made me proud to have a Swedish heritage…

Mark and I saw them for the first time when they warmed up for Iced Earth. I never heard a lick from them previously. I wasn’t completely blown away, but I remember being captivated. Rarely do I go nuts about a band on the first listen. I don’t think I ran out and bought anything by them after the show either. But I kept thinking about it, and soon got the goods and fully sunk my teeth into them.

I was really excited when this was coming out, as well as the previously released live DVD. But for some reason I didn’t play either of them all that much. I seem to be describing this a lot on this blog. I think I’ve been getting so much music this year that I’m suffering from audio ADD. There’s so much I want to listen to, and no time to really sink into any one thing. I need to work on that in 2007. So this was a very good call as an AOTW pick.

On initial listens, I didn’t feel this was as good as a lot of their other releases. I think I would still argue this, but by no means does this mean it’s a weak release. It sounded pretty damn good to me this go around. It could be that I haven’t been listening to that much metal lately so this sounded a lot heavier to me. And one thing that is still true is that I really dig Tom Englund’s voice. Very versatile and unique. He’s just got a really good chops, and is definitely not a stereotypical metal voice.

Which leads me to a sort of embarrassing story, but what the hell. When Mark and I saw Evergrey the second time (warming up for In Flames in Grand Rapids, Michigan – and the fact that we drove there for the show is not the embarrassing part!), we were up pretty close for their set. At my age, I don’t know why I should get a kick out of things like this, but sometimes I try to find a moment when I think I can get a bandmember’s attention and get some acknowledgement of my ability to rock. Usually I’m not that close so it’s not even an option, but this time I felt I had a shot. Everyone was kind of focusing on the band, rocking in their own fairly reserved way. I picked a moment when the singer was kind of looking our way and giving him full eye contact I rose up an arm with vigor and pumped the tried and true devil horns in his direction. Much to my delight, he kind of raised his eyebrows in acknowledgement while continuing to sing, as if to signal to me “yes, I know we (or I!) rock, thanks for noticing”. So I was way too excited about this outcome and nudged Mark who saw the whole thing. Pathetic? Yea, sort of, but screw it – I’m comfortable in my role as an audience member and what that entails. And sometimes it entails pumping your damn fist and showing the band what is up….

There have been a couple times Mark and I have gotten positive acknowledgement from a singer. One was from an Iron Maiden tribute band with a singer that looked like Eddie Murphy. The other was from a band that I think will show up here at some point. In both cases, the singer was quite pleased with the level of rocking that he was witnessing…

Sidenote: I didn’t actually follow this particular season of “Survivor”, but doesn’t the guy in the upper right hand corner of the album cover look like that one guy that was on the show? This guy:
Top 5 Drummers Kicking it Now

1. Brann Dailor (Mastodon)
2. Jean Paul Gaster (Clutch)
3. Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden)
4. Neil Peart (Rush) - Of course
5. Scott Rockenfield (Queensryche)

1. Jack DeJohnette - here's my total dick pick - he's a jazz drummer and in my opinion they blow all other drummers away!
2. Neil Peart (Rush) - so hard to accurately air drum to him
3. Levon Helm (The Band, solo) - bonus points for being a great singer as well!
4. The dude from Mastodon
5. The dude from Strapping Young Lad

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Album of the Week 11/13/06:
Tom Waits - Frank's Wild Years

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Suggested by: MJ

MJ: Eventually I had to make a pick for AOTW that would show that I don’t just listen to metal. I was on a roll there. Come on, Dokken and Fastway back-to-back? Was anyone worried about me just a little bit?

Got to see TW for my second time this year, which is always a treat. He’s one of my favorites, and a just felt I would force Mark to listen to one of my favorite albums by him. Also, he put out a fabulous 3-CD box set of unreleased and new songs a couple weeks ago, so I was getting myself in the mood…

I lean more towards the older, slower Waits stuff. I still like the wilder songs he does, but much prefer the quieter, balladesque (I think I made that word up) songs. This album is a good mix of the two styles. There are many different musical stylings on this one. It’s such an interesting album, and hangs together as a whole so nicely. He was on such a roll at this point of his career – “Swordfishtrombones” and “Rain Dogs” were his previous releases.

“Innocent When You Dream” (both versions), “Cold Cold Ground” and “Train Song” are among the album’s highlights for me, but as I said before, it’s the sum of the parts that make this album so special. A certain atmosphere is created throughout that binds it all together.

Okay, I’m in the mood now. On to discovering that box set…

MH: Here's is my Tom Waits story. He took a long time for me to like him. When I was living in Indiana, I kept hearing about him, and that I was supposed to love him and respect him. The only thing was, I couldn't stand his voice. I found it grating and obnoxious. I started to like and admire his songwriting, but I couldn't listen to any of it because he freaked me out so much. Then, Glory Be, two TWO albums came out of other artists covering his stuff came out at the same time. I bought them immediately. It was "Holly Cole Temptation" and "Step Right Up" by various artists like 10,000 Maniacs, Violent Femmes, and my fav at the time Frente! I was thrilled. I got to know all of those albums pretty well, and really liked Tom Waits enough to give him a shot. ( I know, How BIG of me) I bought the album Closing Time while I was in Scotland at this totally cool cd shop that I think at the end of the trip everyone in Schadenfreude had purchased at least 5 cds each. They were cheap for albums that we didn't have. They bought a lot of Zeppelin. I bought Tom Waits and Meatloaf. I also bought Justin some Roberta Flack, yo. No Big Deal. Anyhoo. Closing time became one of my favorite albums. His piano work and the mood of his songs on that album were perfect.

When I hear Tom Waits, these images always pop in my head. Trains, pork pie hats, stale beer smell, ripped leather or vinyl barstools, coughing, unkempt beards. It all winds up having the same I could have been or done more sense. Sad, but not melancholy in a way. Like he's gonna go on, but is wiser for the lesson. And it always seems like he's coming home...

When I had the radio show for our pilot I used the song "Depot, Depot" off the "Heart Of Saturday Night" for a scene. It just fit perfectly.

Which brings me to this album of the week. I loved it. I knew a couple of the songs already since I just recently saw him in concert. The album as a whole is fantastic. He is such a good songwriter I can hardly stand it. I wonder if his real life is as interesting as his album's alter egos. It would be interesting to talk to him about it. I listened to it while I was on a train coming up to the city. With every clickity clack of the rail, I felt more at home with this record. I just want to travel in a boxcar when I hear his stuff. Of course, a boxcar with a bathroom and at least ONE comfortable seat. His arrangements are so simple too. Like all good music, Simplicity is beautiful. His piano work is fantastic. I hope to own everything he has and to put one song on every mix tape I make. Because I feel people need to be reminded of his brilliance...Well done, Brother of Metal. Good Pick....

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Top 5 Artists/Bands You Would Like to See Live for the First Time (that aren’t dead or disbanded with a very low likelihood of reforming):


1. Fish solo (ex-Marillion singer)
2. Strapping Young Lad/Devin Townsend Band
3. Nevermore
4. Manowar
5. Pete Townshend solo


1. You Am I
2. Swervedriver
3. Van Halen (Roth) (It could happen)
4. Strapping Young Lad/Devin Townsend Band
5. Oasis

Album of the Week 11/06/06:
Demons & Wizards - Touched By The Crimson King

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Suggested by: MH

MH: Why I like Demons and Wizards. Jon Shaeffer. He is the mastermind of Iced Earth and half of Demons and Wizards, (along with the lead singer of Blind Guardian). The thing I like best about him, is that you can totally tell when you're listening to his bands. He has such a fast playing style, and I think, secretly (or not so secretly) wants to be in Iron Maiden. This album is one of the reasons I wanted to start an Album of the Week place. It's an album that I have, like, but don't listen to enough. Pretty much all of my Iced Earth catalog and the other Demons and Wizards have been listened to but not as much as they could be.

Sometimes his playing is so fast that I wonder how it is done. Then we saw them in concert and I focused on his playing to see how he did it. I found out that at least on one song he has the same guy playing the same riff,but alternates hitting certain notes so it sounds like this incredible riff done by one guitar, but it is done by two. God, if he was that good, I'd have to worry about whether or not he was of this earth. This Iced Earth.

One of the things I like best, and it is exemplified in this album, is his usage of mystical themes and old world imagry. All very visual and tough at the same time. I mean, the album is called Touched by the Crimson King. Wicked Witch was a stand out track to me. I also love his useage of background operatic vocals. I think he wishes that he lived in the time of Wagnerian Double basses and monks chanting their chants. Cause with the current album, they are all on there, but for this generation. Now, I'm not sure how much lasting power this album has though. Sometimes after I get done listening to this, I put it away and don't bring it out unless I have a jones for it. Which I don't know if it's a flaw, or if it just takes a certain mood to listen to this stuff.

Plus, he's kind of hot. He rides a Harley, and has a bad back. Hot.

MJ: Lo and behold – the riffmaster himself, Jon Schaffer! This was a good pick for the AOTW. I was so excited when this was coming out - I didn’t even know they were working on a new album. Then it came out and I didn’t really listen to it that much. And truthfully, it’s not like I play the first Demons & Wizards all that much either.

So what’s the deal? Well, it’s certainly not a problem with the music. Schaffer’s riffs are extra-meaty, per usual. He’s definitely one of my favorite metal shreaders. The lyrics? I don’t think so. I don’t even now what the hell they’re talking about on this one, but they certainly don’t get in the way. So what’s left? The voice. The singer is the guy from Blind Guardian, Hansi Kursch. I’ve tried for a while to get into Blind Guardian. I’ve bought some CD’s – thought it sounded pretty good, but in the end I don’t go back to them. His voice is not awful – in fact it’s very unique and he can hit the notes. But I guess it’s just not for me. This week’s AOTW made that clear to me for the time being.

I thought about how I would rank the vocalists Schaffer has worked with, and came up with:

Matt Barlow
Tim “Ripper” Owens
Hansi Kursch

I’m not ruling out my ability to revisit this at some point in the future. Maybe his voice will grow on me. But I couldn’t help but think how awesome this album would have been if Barlow or Ripper were on vocal duty. Wow.