UG Articles Archive

Monday, March 28, 2011

Metal does it again - another metalhead is born

Well, I stumbled upon another video of metal being played to calm a crying baby today, and it's possibly even better than the one I linked to last summer. 

I love the little scowl the kid adopts at 0:49, priceless.  This guy is clearly raising his kid the right way.  I mean that was one seriously upset child almost instantly pacified by Norwegian black metal. 

I also really dug the song.  Never really listened to Satyricon, but since this kid obviously is a man of taste, I will have to check them out in the near future.

In other news, Amon Amarth's "Surtur Rising" releases in the USA tomorrow, so get out to your local independent record store and support metal by buying the cd.  I know I will, because I've given up downloading albums for Lent.    

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Power of Close Listening

Ever just sat down, closed your eyes, and just listened to music for a while?  Not listened while writing a paper, or playing games, or lol'ing with your friend on facebook chat, just listened?

I hate to admit it, but I am one of the people that tend to use music as background noise, something to drown out the silence and keep my brain occupied while I do things that are less intellectually challenging.  I play music in the background while I play video games, while I write articles, while I do the dishes at work.  Rarely do I just sit and listen to a song and do nothing else.  Last week, I had an epiphany, as if Dio himself reached down from heaven to slap me in the face and say "you're doing it wrong."

I wrote an article for Ultimate-Guitar about's "Top 50 Metal Songs of All Time" list, which included only one song written in the last 10 years.  That song, Tool's "10,000 Days (Wings for Marie pt. 2) was received with a lot of skepticism from the UG community, with many asking "why not Schism, or Lateralus?"  I'll admit I was asking similar questions, until I decided to pull up the song on my Zune ("hah hah, he has a Zune!") and read along with the lyrics while I listened.

The experience made me realize that "10,000 Days" is now my favorite Tool song.  By a mile.  It's not even close.

What makes the song great is that the music and atmosphere perfectly complement the incredibly emotional and poetic lyrics, which are among the most powerful I've ever heard.  Singer Maynard James Keenan wrote the song about his mother, Judith Marie, who had just passed away after struggling with paralysis for 27 years.  27 years is a just little more than 10,000 days, hence the song's name.  His mother was a devout Christian, something Maynard never understood and even resented (see A Perfect Circle's "Judith").  He questioned why she would believe in God, when to his eyes, God had never given her anything, while taking so much away.  In "10,000 Days," Maynard seems to give his mother's beliefs the benefit of the doubt, essentially telling her, "I hope you're right, because God owes you one for the life he gave you."

The song quietly builds from the understated introduction, the sound of a thunderstorm ever-present in the background, as Keenan's vocal delivery goes from reverent whisper as he remembers his mother's faith and virtues, to a triumphant yell as the song reaches its climax and he sings:
Ten thousand days in the fire is long enough,
You're going home...

You're the only one who can hold your head up high,
Shake your fist at the gates saying,
"I have come home now!

Fetch me the spirit, the son and the father,
Tell them their pillar of faith has ascended.

It's time now!
My time now!
Give me my
Give me my wings!"

Maybe it's not the same for you, but this passage really speaks to me.  I may rip on poetry from time to time, but this song has some of the most purely brilliant, emotionally powerful lyrics of any song I've ever listened to, and I wouldn't have even noticed them if I didn't stop whatever crap I was doing and just Listen. 

I'm sure there are many songs in your library that may have the same kind of impact for you as this one did for me.  Go find them!

Close listening homework: remember "Rapture" by Hurt?  It was a huge radio hit while I was in High School and all the rock stations had it on heavy rotation: "This next one is from a band called Hurt,  time to ROCK OUT with 93X YEAHHHH!"  Well, I challenge you to sit and just listen to the tune and contemplate its meaning.  I have deciphered what I think it's about, and, well, it's not the straightforward headbanging rockin' good-times tune I remembered from High School.  Post in the comments or on Facebook and let me know how you interpret the song, then I'll let you know what I think it's about.    

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Bit of War Metal and a Brief History Lesson for St. Patrick's Day

I don't always like to write posts to promote a single band, but today's focus of discussion is about a fairly obscure band in a genre of its own: War Metal.

Found by me via, Sabaton is a Metal band from Sweden whose songs, lyrics, and instrumental style deal with war, soldier life and war related topics such as the Holocaust and P.o.W. camps. This band is unique because it takes numerous different "sides" in their songs--such as the Polish, Finnish, French or German during World War II for their lyrical inspiration, telling us about individual battles and events in a form most Metal fans can enjoy.

For example, in the song below, entitled "Uprising," the song's lyrics tell the listener about the Warsaw Uprising. This uprising was the rebellion of Polish civilians and militia against Nazi-occupied Warsaw, whose goal was to soften the German defense of the town as the Russians marched through Poland towards the city. Unfortunately, the rebellion was quashed due to Russia's desire to see Poland fail, causing more than half of Warsaw's citizens to be killed and 85% of the city destroyed. But enough with the history lesson, the song describes it better than I can:

I chose this song for a couple reasons: first, I generally think it's a good idea to accompany a song with a music video, to give you a scope of the plot of the song and let you see the musicians performing it. Second, the beat reminds me of a marching troop, a common theme in Sabaton's work. Lastly, being half Polish, I can't help but feel half-connected to this song and the limitless amount of respect I had for the Warsaw citizens to rise up against impossible odds.

Uprising and the next song have made the band extremely popular in Poland for obvious reasons, and wherever the band tours, if they've written a song about that country's military history, it will be played and the crowd will go insane. This might sound a bit gimmicky, but I feel that it's justified because the entire song revolves around this country's war history, unlike songs that just arbitrarily list cities the band enjoys. 40:1 (the song below) is another World War II Polish song, telling about the start of WWII--the invasion of Poland. With Nazi Germany marching East and Soviet Russia marching West, Poland was doomed, but at the battle of Wizna, with the Polish Army face odds of roughly 60:1, they held the bridge for three days against even more impossible odds and a technological disadvantage. The title of the song actually refers to the casualty count the Nazi army suffered at that battle, despite eventually taking the town of Wizna. In the video, you can see the band playing in Poland, as this battle is something to the effect of Thermopylae (300) or the Alamo for the Polish:

This band also piqued my interest in their "Metal Collage" songs they do at the end of most of their albums, where the lyrics are not-so-subtle nods to the bands that inspired their musical style. The lyrics aren't essentially "good," but the song is a lot of fun, noting how many bands are mentioned. In this video, the helpful uploader of the video pictures each band mentioned in the song (pay special attention to the pronunciation of UFO and Annihilator):

I wouldn't think this band has the lasting effect of some of our favorite bands, but I will promote them up and down as an awesome band with a unique theme to their music.

What I like about the band:
Consistent theme to their music and this consistency does not get redundant; every song has a fresh style to it, and the lyrics are enjoyable for any casual to serious history buff.
Well written music which honors those who participated in the battles/events of which the song describes.
Seem to have an amazing live show (though I will probably never get to find out, see weaknesses).

Weaknesses of the band:
Vocalist is not the clearest English speaker in the word.
They have not and do not plan to tour in America, perhaps they do not have a strong enough following here. :(

If you're looking for more songs to get into by Sabaton, I would simply go to their Wikipedia page, go through their albums and find a song title that touches on a particular aspect of the great wars that interests you. I've enjoyed every song by them that has come up on, so I can't really tell you any songs to avoid. Additionally, there are two more "Metal Collage" songs that you might enjoy if you liked "Metal Crue." There's Metal Ripper and Metal Machine (such clever titles!) that follow in suit with Metal Crue.

Keep on rockin'!

P.S.: If you're interested, this was the first Sabaton song I heard on; the sound--rather than the lyrics--were the attention grabber in this case. A straight up rocker...Warrior Soul!:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hansi Kursch promises new Blind Guardian, Demons and Wizards material

In a post on the band's web page, Blind Guardian vocalist Hansi Kursch promised that the band will continue working on its "orchestral project," will produce more new songs for the summer touring season, and that he and Iced Earth's Jon Schaffer will hook up to write some new Demons and Wizards material this summer.  Busy guy. 

Demons and Wizards is an Iced Earth collaboration project with Kursch, injecting the darker tones of Schaffer's band with the more fantastical, magical themes of Hansi's.  It's really pretty awesome.  They do some great cover songs too, including Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" and Cream's "White Room."  Check em out.

Apparently Hansi and Schaffer discussed the future over drinks on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise, where Schaffer was seen drunkenly stumbling around the stage during Blind Guardian's set.  That video will wrap up this post and can be seen below:

"If you think there's...not...real the''re LIVING A LIE!"  Ahahahaha.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Excellent "Comfortably Numb" piano cover

I was directed to this video by a website I have come to value quite highly,  Their Music subsection and Metal subsections are full of music links and suggestions, though I have to warn you that both are dominated by elitist jerks.  Seriously, there are people in the Metal section that will tell you that Pantera sucks and isn't even metal, that they're really Post-Grunge-Southern-Groove-Fuzzrock or some crap.  Ignore those people and you may come to like it.

Anyway, the player in the video performs a very moving rendition of an already powerful song, and it sounds great on the piano.  Though I would have preferred the ol' wailing electric guitar for the solos, the tones from the piano put a fresh spin on things.  I love watching people perform numbers like this, both covering and innovating upon an already great song.  Hopefully you'll agree.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Amon Amarth video journal of their trip to the Caribbean

Amon Amarth got to take part in the 70,000 Tons of Metal concert cruise - I wrote about it a while back - and they decided to film some of the stuff they did while on the cruise.  The cameraman is none other than Johan Hegg, the band's vocalist.

Here are all three parts of their, well, let's call it a video-journal:

And just for fun, here's Hegg doing a karaoke version of System of a Down's "Aerials" on the ship.  I really should try to get tickets to this thing next year.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Devin Townsend sings Sinatra

A new track from some lame band called SIN-atra (they make metal covers of Sinatra songs) featuring Devin Townsend on vocals has fans of the singer dropping their jaws further than they ever imagined possible. 

After listening to the song (link below), I'm still trying to figure out how I haven't listened to more of Devin's stuff before now.  It's simply one of the best performances from a metal singer I've ever heard.  Listen for yourself, and if his vocals don't blow you away then you need to get out of here, this blog's not for you anymore.

  SIN-atra - New York, New York feat. Devin Townsend by Eagle Rock Entertainment

Sepultura wrap up new album, cover The Prodigy

Brazilian thrash metallers Sepultura have announced that they have completed the recording process for their upcoming album, including two cover songs - one of which may surprise fans.

The band has recorded 13 tracks, and while the complete tracklist has not been released, it has come to light that Sepultura will be covering Ministry’s "Just One Fix" and 90’s electro-dance group The Prodigy’s "Firestarter," expected to be released as bonus tracks on special editions of the album.

Produced by Roy Z. (Halford, Judas Priest, Bruce Dickinson), the upcoming album is expected to be released in May via Nuclear Blast Records. The band has not revealed the album’s title at this time.

The band plans to embark on a US headlining tour this Spring in support of the new album, featuring Austria’s Belphegor, Norway’s Keep of Kalessin, California’s Bonded By Blood, and others as support. Nevermore will join the tour after May 23rd, replacing Belphegor in the lineup.