Wednesday, May 19, 2010

American Idol and Current Events

So a couple random notes:

First of all, lemme explain my random post last night. See, I really do appreciate good music, and I can understand why American Idol is popular, especially at the early stages (where its funny) and at the later stages (where its awesome). I think the show is really silly, after a fashion, and I find it interesting that despite have so many seasons only a few of the winners are actually really, really famous. What’s most interesting is how the show really proves that a good voice is a dime-a-dozen. Every finalist has lots of talent in terms of vocals.

But, see, the thing is, I think I feel really strongly that vocals, while important, really won’t sell your music 100%. Sure, in pop vocals are the most important thing and you really need a good vocalist, but there are other things to consider as well. I watched a Adam Lambert performance today (linked to me by an American Idol fan) and while Mr. Lambert himself may be a bit of a weirdo, he really is one of the best vocalists I’ve ever heard and he wipes the floor of most people, even the good vocalists. But here’s the thing… the music he had to back up was weak at best. The drums were nice, but boring, the bass was just… there… I mean it was the very definition of how to not do bass: play a boring beat and don’t even appear on stage. The coolest bassists in the world did amazing things on their bassists just like guitarists do amazing things on their guitars. Even mediocre bassists can make this up by writing cool lyrics or an awesome stage presence. Drums… I understand why drums tend to be really boring and basic, because really, the drums are just there to keep the beat. If the band is good, and they have lots of other rhythm instruments (guitar, bass, even the piano/keyboard) then the drummer can mix it up, and I’ve seen bands do a good job of combining “keep the beat” with tasteful drumming. I think Nightwish is a good example of this, listen to Planet Hell or Ghost Love Score. The drums in those songs (at least the intros) are awesome. Listen to Eva or While Her Lips are Still Red (technically not a Nightwish song, but whatever) and the drums in those… they just work perfectly. Basic, but perfect.

I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. The reason Pop bothers me isn’t because its mostly garbage, I mean, it is, usually, but I’m okay with that. 90% of everything is crap. There is plenty of bad metal out there, I admit it. What bothers me about Pop is that so much of it just relies on the vocalist, but to such an extent that the other musicians don’t get any credit. Amon Amarth is amazing both because Johann Hegg has an awesome voice and because the other four guys in the band help him to create really good music. Dio is a great vocalist, but he needed a good band to support him. I don’t think Dio would have done what he did without the help of the other musicians who supported him.

Other stuff…

Thailand is still a mess, but it looks like it could be getting better. Let’s hope that the two parties can actually sit down and honestly try to work out their differences.

Zia called a Strike on the 27th of June here. I’ll be gone, but I really hope that this doesn’t start the “Hartal Culture” up again. Hartals help no one and are just an excuse for the thugs of Dhaka to go around and smash things up. Oh, and for the police to smash the thugs… ya! -_-

And, its official, North Korea did blow up the South Korean ship that sank a while back. Great… you know, it’d be nice if South Korea would just go ahead and invade, but they can’t do that, there are too many risks. First of all, North Korea has nukes, and even if they only have one rather weak one, its still a freaking nuke. One bomb = one city. That’s a lot of dead civilians. In theory, I suppose a combined task force of UN commandos could disable the nukes before they were launched, but that would take UN backing and the UN won’t do that because China is part of the UN and China doesn’t want a war. That’s another problem, actually, because China… is a factor. I’d like to think that should South Korea go ahead and invade, China won’t actually respond with direct military action, because China isn’t really that stupid. But that doesn’t mean they could still do a lot… and the US really isn’t in a position to fight China right now, Afghanistan and Iraq are already a mess. Oh well, I guess we’re just gonna have to hope that things can settle down.

In other news: I completed Physics today. No more Highschool Science Ever. :D
This is completely out of character of this blog, but I gotta say it.

American Idol can keep their epic vocalists as long as I get my epic guitarists. Youngblood, Adrian Smith, Emppu, Buckethead, and a whole slew of others that blow my mind. You are amazing and I want more! :D

Monday, May 17, 2010

Within Temptation -- Still Boring

You know, there are some really intriguing things in this world. Within Temptation has to be one of the premiere female-fronted bands out there. Sharon den Adel has such an amazing voice, one of the best I have ever heard. But see, the thing is, Within Temptation makes… really boring music. Really boring music.

Their first album was really interesting actually, because it was a pure Goth-Metal album and I do see some really good talent. It’s Gothic, and I hate Gothic, but at least one of my friends says it sounds amazing with a proper sound-system. Their second album, Mother Earth, is a really dramatic departure from their first and is basically a Folky sorta album. Folk themes and it kinda sounds folky, but not entirely, without a doubt Mother Earth is Within Temptation’s best album.

The rest of their music… is all meh. There are a few jewels here and there, The Truth Beneath the Rose, Angels, Somewhere and Utopia, and a few others I guess. But really, most of their music is just boring. There is no energy to their music, no life, no passion, just really good sounding music. It doesn’t even strike me as particularly technical in the way that say, Dream Theater or other Progressive Rock and Metal does.

What’s even stranger is my brother found this concert of Within Temptation on Youtube and downloaded it (the pirate that he is… he has all sorts of strange video software). I watched a little of it and I was appalled.

See, when most bands perform on a big stage, that’s awesome. This gives everyone more space and you generally have a bigger budget for special effects like pyrotechnics and smoke machines, etc; if you play at night, you can even throw in awesome lighting. But this thing was horrible. First of all, the bassist and two guitarists look like clones. Okay, we get this is a female-fronted band and that Sharon is your front-woman and the heart of your music, but really… this is a METAL band right? A METAL band, where the lead guitarist is almost just as important, if not more important, than the vocalist? This is a Symphonic Band, right? So why is your keyboardist off in some obscure corner of the stage when you have a freaking huge stage? This is a band, not Sharon’s solo project, so why are the other six members of the band mostly confined to the rear area of the stage while Sharon sings up front. Finally, as a bit of a minor complaint: please, for the Love of all things Metal, GROW YOUR HAIR. I know this might sound absolutely stupid, but it’s really quite hard to call yourself a metal band when none of your guitarists (bassist included) can headbang properly. Demon Hunter, Live at Nashville, despite having a very Hardcore-Punk look, felt more metal than these guys. Jon Dunn HEADBANGS, and no matter what Don Clark did, he looked freaking awesome. Oh, and no jumping on stage. Jumping is cool, but it’s not metal. Don’t jump, headbang. So yes, again Within Temptation gets a thumbs down from me. I’ll give them another chance when they drop all their lame Goth influence.

Oh, and Ronnie James Dio died, so, if you haven’t already, go buy all his music and listen to it. No crying, cuz metal men don’t cry, but you man scream at the top of your lungs like a true Viking/celt/biker/klingon warrior.

Darn, now I want to know what a Viking/Celt/Biker/Klingon warrior would look like. A hairy Klingon with Woad tattoos driving a chopper… that could be scary.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bullet For My Valentine

Funny story I have today.

There is this Metalcore band called Bullet For My Valentine (BFMV) from Wales that is kinda, sorta popular… I guess. Anyways I heard of them and I finally got around to watching some of their music videos and live performances.

First thing I noticed: Despite what anyone tells you, they have emo influences. They may not be true emo, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have emo influences. Bullet for My Valentine is a emo name, they have at least one emo sorta love-song and furthermore, the screaming in that song is very emo. I admit, bands like Killswitch Engage have similar emo songs, but the difference is, somehow, Killswitch Engage pulls this off without sounding emo. Don’t ask how, they just do, it probably has someone to do with the vocal styles they employ.

Second of all, BFMV have weak clean vocals. Their lead vocalist messed up his voice a while back, but even before that he wasn’t anything special. The guy is also their rythmn guitarist, and while there is nothing wrong with doing that, I really think it’s a shame that the band didn’t realize they had bad clean vocals (and it seems the majority of their songs employs LOTS of clean vocals) and found someone who can you know… sing?

Finally, interestingly enough, BFMV has someone managed to combined a sorta Emo sound with… Thrash. Without a doubt, they are channeling a thrash sound and appearance in all the videos I watched. Their solos really reminded me of my Master of Puppets CD.

Now, here are my problems with BFMV: First of all, I realize many bands do not have good vocals, this does not bother me. What does bother me is that these guys, basically, have bad clean vocals. Ryan Clark, Demon Hunter’s lead vocalist, while no master without a doubt, puts these guys to shame with his clean vocals. Yes, they have brilliant guitarists, but in the world of heavy metal, I’ve noticed that every band has a brilliant lead guitarist: a good lead guitarist isn’t all you need in a bad. I mean, looking at it, even Alestorm’s vocals, which are really quite bad, are better, not because they are “better” but because they channel the right vibe. This guy was just bad…

Second of all, I’m no fan of thrash. That’s a personal thing, I’ll admit, and I won’t argue if you like thrash then there is still no way you’ll enjoy this band because they are horrible or something, because that’s not true, it’s quite possible you’ll still like them.

Finally, Bullet For My Valentine has to be the worst name I have ever heard for any band that plays any form of metal that is not Gothic. I mean yes, Killswitch Engage sounds kinda emo, but the meaning behind it isn’t emo at all. They said when they formed the band, it was like someone had taken the big master control switch and turned it from on to off, Killswitch Engage. Makes a lot of sense, eh? As I Lay Dying, I admit, is somewhat emo, but at least I don’t feel any emo vibes coming from their music. Seriously, why call yourself Bullet for my Valentine, and then claim you’re hard rock while playing a combination of emo-influenced Hardcore and Thrash Metal (someone said Thrashcore… that kinda works, if you assume the “core” refers to Hardcore).

Oh, and they can talk all they want about being “hard rock” but I’m sorry, anyone who goes to a METAL Festival like Wacken and uses the amount of screaming in the particular fashion they do cannot, in my book, be considered Hard Rock. Maybe not Metal, but surely not Hard Rock. Actually, that itself kinda bothers me. Make up all sorts of stupid names for your style of music (Marco called Nightwish Gothic Symphonic Power Metal, Alestorm refers to itself as True Scottish Pirate Metal), but at least be somewhat accurate. Saying, “We’re hard rock,” and then screaming your face off right before performing a face-melter right out of Metallica’s book is lying, don’t do that.

So yes, if you didn’t notice, I thought they kinda… were not that good. I guess I’ll have to stick to Demon Hunter, As I Lay Dying and Killswitch Engage for my good Metalcore.

And right now I’m listening to Eluveitie, because there is something amazing about the combination of Flutes and Death Metal. *nods*