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Archive for the ‘Queensrÿche’ Category

[ATTENDED: October 24, 2019] Hyde

I had taken C. to a couple of live shows before and he had been to see Ice Nine Kills with his friends.  But this was my first time taking him to see a club concert.

This was going to be a long night too.  Four bands!  With the opening band going on at 7 and Starset ending around 11 (and it was a school night!).

After A Brilliant Lie, some people moved around and we were right in the middle for Hyde.

When I looked up this concert I saw that  lot of people were more excited about Hyde than anyone else.  Someone even suggested that Hype might play solo–just him and his guitar.

I had no idea who Hyde was, but based on that (erroneous) information I assumed he might be a metal guy doing some mellower songs.

Boy was I wrong. (more…)

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[WATCHED October-November 2012] Metal Evolution

metal evolutionVH1 aired this series last year and I was intrigued by it but figured I had no time to watch an 11 hour series on the history of heavy metal.  Of course, this being VH1, they have since re-aired the series on an almost continual loop.  So, if you’re interested, you can always catch it.

This series was created by Sam Dunn, the documentary filmmaker who made the movie Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey.  I had heard good things about the movie, but never saw it.  After watching the series, I’m definitely interested in the movie.  Dunn is a keener–A Canadian heavy metal fan who is really into his subject.  He knows his stuff and he knows what he likes (heavy metal) and what he doesn’t like (glam metal, nu metal).

The sheer number of people he interviews is impressive (as are the number of locations he travels to).  Part of me says “wow, I can’t believe he was able to interview X,” and then I remember, “X is really old and is nowhere near the level of fame that he once had.”  Given that, the few hold-outs seem surprising–did they not want to have anything to do with VH1?  Are they embarrassed at how uncool they are now?  Just watch the show guys, you can’t be as low as some.

The only mild criticism I have is that the show relies a lot on the same talking heads over and over.  Scott Ian from Anthrax, whom I love, is in every episode.  Indeed, he may be a paid VH1 spokesman at this point.  There are a few other dudes who show up a little more than they warrant, but hey, you use what you got, right?

What is impressive is the volume of music he includes with the show.  I assume that he couldn’t  get the rights to any studio recordings because every clip is live.  This is good for fans in that we get to see some cool unfamiliar live footage, but some of it is current live footage which often doesn’t compare to the heyday.  Having said that, there’s a lot of live footage from the early 80s–of bands that I never saw live anywhere.  And that’s pretty awesome.

With an 11-part documentary there’s the possibility of exhaustion and overkill, but Dunn is an excellent craftsman  he jumps around from old to new, talks about how the history impacts the current and, because of his own interests, he makes it personal rather than just informative. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HELLOWEEN-“Halloween” (1987).

Back in the late 80s, I loved Helloween–they played speed metal, they had intricate solos, and they were German–what’s not to love?  Oh, and also, they were quite funny, with their little pumpkin mascot.

In 1987, they released The Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1, a concept album (hooray), with this song as the 13 minute centerpiece.  They also released a “radio friendly” version that’s about 3 minutes long.  How do you eliminate ten minutes of a song?  Take out some verses, some riffs, a whole middle section of vocals, a cool section that sounds like Queensrÿche, a little spoken word section and a whole lotta solos.  Surprisingly you do get the essence of the song, just none of the theatricality.

So Helloween are still around, although I gave up on them after the sequel to this album (Part Two) which really didn’t live up to the majesty of Part One.

But this song is fun and whether you choose the 13 minute or the 3 minute version, Happy Halloween.

[READ: November 7, 2012] The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror #18

Yes, that’s right, I read this after Halloween!  Hurricane Sandy means I can throw convention to the wind until I catch up.  Sarah bought this for me before Halloween, but I didn’t really feel like reading it on Halloween, so here it is.

Unlike in the TV show, this Treehouse of Horror has four stories!  The first thing you have to get used to in Simpsons comics is that the characters don’t look like the ones on TV.  This is deliberate–they get different artists to draw the pages, so the artist’s own style comes in.  The characters are obviously The Simpsons; it’s amazing how many liberties can be taken with icons and have them still be recognizable.

The first story is a parody of Evil Dead.  Homer takes the family to a cabin in the woods where Henry K. Duff created the secret recipe for Duff beer.  But when the recipe is read aloud…the spirit of the beer possesses the family.  This story is actually kind of gruesome, although my five-year old enjoyed flipping through the pages.  The twist at the end is completely unexpected and wonderful. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: QUEENSRŸCHE-Rage for Order (1985).

Thinks looked to be very different for Queensrÿche on Rage for Order.  I mean, look at them.  On the back of The Warning they were leather-clad hellions.  On Rage, they are quite the dandys (man, I wanted Geoff Tate’s coat!).   This would be the first of many times that they confounded their fans with a style change.

Yet despite the look of them, the album opens with a scorcher, “Walk in the Shadows.”  It’s not as heavy as their earlier songs, but it has perfected many of the elements of those earlier records: the chanted vocals, the great riffs and the screaming solos.  “I Dream in Infrared” shows their they’ve always been interest in technology.  It’s ballady, but it’s got some really sharp guitars and some more soaring vocals.

The keyboards at the end of the song segue into “The Whisper,” the first indication that things would be different on this record–orchestra keyboards hits (which I have always loved) are used to punctuate verses, and there are cool, whispered words (which would be used prominently on Operation: Mindcrime

Then comes the big shock, “Gonna Get Close to You” a weird synth/metal hybrid with a strikingly catchy and poppy chorus (that seems ever-so-80s to me)–see below for a fun surprise about this song.

Then “The Killing Words” opens with a keyboard riff that sounds not unlike 80s-era Marillion–Tate even whispers words not unlike Fish does on early Marillion albums.  Of course, when the chorus comes in it is pure Queensrÿche .  There’s more orchestral hits and cool effects on “Surgical Strike.”

I love everything about the opening of “Neue Regel,” from the unusual guitar to the “steam” sounds used as percussion to Tate’s processed, minimized voice–it makes for a wonderfully claustrophobic song.  It’s made even more so by the overlapping, intertwining vocals later on. 

“Chemical Youth (We Are Rebellion)” is a cool sparse song (the opening in particular). But it also shows their interest in, if not politics, then at least contemporary society (again, more foreshadowing of Mindcrime).  “London” just builds and builds in intensity, while “Screaming in Digital” takes the technological aspect one step further with all kind of sinister synthesized sounds and the crazy way it ends.

The album ends with “I Will Remember,” an acoustic song complete with mournful whistling from Tate.   But even as a ballad, it’s not your typical lyrical content: “And we wonder how machines can steal each other’s dreams.”  I don’t love it as an album ender, although it does wind things down pretty nicely.

This is my favorite Queensrÿche album, hands down.  I know most people like Mindcrime better, but for me, this one is more progressive and showcases a lot of the risks the band was willing to take.

Incidentally, there’s a wonderful review of Rage here, in which I learn that “Gonna Get Close to You” is actually a cover of a song by the Canadian singer Dalbello (who is really crazy and fun, and whom I’ve never heard of until I just looked her up).  How did I not know it was a cover?  (Or more like, I knew it, but forgot it over the last twenty some years)?  I might actually like the original better.

[READ: October 25, 2011] “This Cake is for the Party”

This was a very short story that crammed a lot of emotion into two pages.

As the story opens, Bonnie is finishing a cake for a party.  The party is to celebrate the engagement of Janey and Milt.  Janey is one of Bonnie’s older friends and she’s happy for Janey.  She likes her fiancée, Milt (even if he did just get a black eye).  The black eye came from a misunderstanding.  Milt was in a pub “lasciviously” twirling the mustache that his high school class dared him to grow.  Someone in the pub thought he was making advances on his woman and punched Milt in the face. 

But Bonnie’s boyfriend, David doesn’t like Milt.  He won’t say why, he just doesn’t.  It could very well have to do with the fact that he and Janey used to date, and it’s possible that Janey dumped David for Milt (that’s a little unclear in the story). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: QUEENSRŸCHE-The Warning (1984).

Queensrÿche fulfilled the promise of their debut EP with this album.  It takes the blueprint of the EP and expands it wonderfully.  They introduce some cool low vocal chants to compliment Tate’s soaring alto (like on “En Force”), they also introduce some wonderful effects and riffs and scales (also on “En Force”).

There’s also some really great, odd “keyboard” bits thrown in as kind of sound effects or jarring moments (“Deliverance”).  “Deliverance” also has great backing vocals, and I love the way the “Deliver Us” part of the song is quite different from the soaring of the rest of the vocals.  The back and forth of “No Sanctuary” also showcases the bands skills very well.

The band even shows signs that they’re not sticking to standard heavy metal.  On “N.M. 156” there’s some sci-fi chanting and the really cool section of the song in which Tate sings “Forgotten…Lost…Memories” and the “Lost” part is a completely unexpected note.   They were taking chances from the beginning.

“The Lady Wore Black” is updated with the stunning “Take Hold of the Flame,” a slightly more progressive version of that first song.  “Before the Storm” was the first song I heard from this album and it has always been my favorite on the record (this is one of those few albums where the better songs aren’t front loaded).  “We watch the sun rise and hope it won’t be our last” (they were always happy guys).

“Child of Fire” opens with a wonderful riff and the compelling, “the souls that are damned by the pain that you bring send you higher.”  The song settles down into a slow part and Tate growls “Damn you and the pain they must feel” and you can tell he means it (whatever else the song is about).

All this time I don’t think I ever realized that “Roads to Madness” was nine minutes long.  It is definitely foreshadowing the kind of epic work they would do later.  And it closes out the album in a cathartic blast.  It’s wonderfully pure metal from the mid-80s.

[READ: October 20, 2011] Celebrations of Curious Characters

I had never heard of Ricky Jay before getting this book, but apparently he is a reasonably well know radio personality (on KCRW), he is also an actor on Deadwood, and he’s a magician.  This book is a collection of his KCRW radio show broadcasts along with accompanying pictures from his vast collection of obscure ephemera.

There are forty-five entries in the book–each one is a page long (it’s an oversized book and they are two columns each).  Each essay is Jay’s take on a particular subject or, as the title says, curious character.  Jay is a collector of esoteric information, especially that related to magic and, for lack of a better word, freakish behavior.   One of the most enjoyable parts of the book are the pictures that accompany each entry.  The pictures come from Jay’s collection and each picture’s provenance is given in the back of the book.  So we get pictures like “The little Count Boruwlaski, engraving by A. van Assed ([London]) Borowlaski [sic], 1788). or Lithograph of Chung Ling Soo (Birmingham: J. Upton, c. 1912) or Frontispiece portrait from George Devol, Forty Years a Gambler on the Mississippi (Cincinnati: Devol & Haines, 1887).  Some of these photos you can see on his website.  Or you can enjoy this picture of a chicken firing a gun that is not in the book (it comes from his site). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: QUEENSRŸCHE-Queensrÿche EP (1983).

Back in high school, I spent many a night listening to M-m-m-m-metal Shop on the radio.  When I first heard “Queen of the Reich” I was blown away.  It was heavy, with blistering guitars and, amazingly, that Voice.  Many is the argument that my friends had about just how great Geoff (Jee-oph) Tate’s voice was. 

But this EP came out before most people had heard of them.  At this state they were a speed metal band from Seattle.  And, yet, despite all of the accolades they would later receive and the huge hits they would have and the prog-metal sound they would develop, for me this EP is the purest Queensrÿche.

I am particularly in love with the wild soloing that happens at the end of “Blinded.”  The guitars are sailing and wailing way.  Then the voices begin chanting and Tate’s voice is screaming (then hitting a minor note) and then screaming again until it just–

Opens the awesome “Lady Wore Black.”  Queensrÿche (yup umlaut on the y, thank you much) have done ballads throughout their career and this is where it started (true, nothing original about a song that starts slow and builds to heavy, but man how heavy this song gets).  The solos are also stellar.

My version of the vinyl has only 4 songs.  The CD added an extra track and the remastered version added like ten more songs.  But to me, these 4 songs are quintessential heavy metal.

[READ: October 27, 2011] “Tenth of December”

This was a surprisingly moving and reasonably dark story from “humorist” Saunders.  I really enjoyed it quite a lot and was very engaged with the whole thing.  And, yes there was a funny line or two in it, but it can hardly be called a funny story.

There are two main characters in the story: Robin, an overweight boy who spends most of his time playing with imaginary friends and Eber, an old man who is slowly losing his faculties.  While they have nothing to connect each other, it soon becomes apparent that their stories will intertwine.

Robin is playing a game in the woods–it’s the kind of game that I think is wonderful for kids to play, and I have to say that I didn’t think it was sad that he had such a creative imagination and played with imaginary friends–of course, since he doesn’t seem to have any friends in real life, I guess it is pretty sad.  (more…)

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rockstar.jpgSOUNDTRACK: RADIOHEAD-In Rainbows (2008).

inrainbow.jpgOK Computer has been my favorite album for many years. And since then, I’ve been consitently blown away by Radiohead. Even their willfully obscure phase is pretty awesome in my book.

I’m not going to say much about Radiohead’s decision to sell this record online. I congratulate them for going on their own and selling so many copies. Good for them.

I bought the CD.  I would have bought the crazy expensive package, except that it was crazy expensive, so…no.

Anyhow, this album is really great. Really, really great. Radiohead have mellowed since the gorgeous cacophony of “Paranoid Android” but their songwriting has never sounded better. The songs all just sound so good. Which is sort of like saying I like eggs because of the way they taste, but the point is tsill there.

If you were to compress all of the things that Radiohead has done since OK Computer into one album this is what you would get. Not to say that it’s derivative, because it isn’t. I’m listening to it right now, and the amazing hook of “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” blows me away every time. The first time I heard “Werid Fishes/Arpeggi” I was instantly sucked into the groove. Even the opening song, which starts out with a weird staccato drum beat leading you to think here’s another techno-Radiohead disc is taken in a whole new fantastic direction by the great, weird and wonderful guitar lines that soon follow.

It’s just an amazing creation. It’s almost alike a greatest hits record of all new material. Great basslines, great harmonic vocals, astonishing guitar work, and best of all, crazy beats that keep you off balance and in the groove at the same time.

I’m curious to hear what some of these originally sounded like (there was a lot of talk of fans hearing these songs in different versions on tour, so if they ever release some live shows, that would be pretty neat. In the meantime, I’ll take this compact token of Radiohead’s output.

[READ: March, 2008] Rock Star Superstar.

So, this is my first serious foray into YA books. I got this book purely for the title. I was showing a patron the YA section, and this title jumped out at me. I’m thrilled that I took it out. In continuing with my YA theory (see What I Learned… (18)) this book is very short. It also cuts right to the chase. Our hero is Pete, a very talented bass player. He has been playing for years and is very skilled, and in the way of most high school musicians that I knew, he’s very uptight about the difference between “real” musicians and “amateurs.” I can recall having endless discussions with my fellow classmates about the merits of various musicians, (shout out to Al Crisafulli, Mike Hoblin, Tom Fitzpatrick and Steve Angelone…let’s see if you find this by Googling yourselves! “Is Geoff Tate a better singer than Bruce Dickinson?” “Is Yngwie Malmsteen a great guitarist or an overrated poseur?” (more…)

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terry.jpgSOUNDTRACK: COHEED & CAMBRIA-Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, Vol. 1: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness (2005).

coheed.jpgFor reasons I’m unclear about, I had the completely wrong perception of what this band would be like. I had read a few things and heard from a few people some differing stories. I decided to check them out based on this input, and I decided, against my anal retentivity, to get Part IV of their five part collection. (This is because it was really cheap on Amazon).

So, given this, I don’t know what C&C sounds like on the first records, and maybe they sounded more like what I assumed they would sound like. And, frankly, given the images that the album comes with, coheed2.jpg one would tend to think that deep dark heavy metal is contained within. In fact, I was pretty sure that I was in for a heavier sort of Dream Theater. The imagery of this collection is very dark/scary/spooky, and I was told many times that the band was quite prog-rockish, often sounding like Rush. Oh, and the singer sounds like a woman.

Imagine my surprise then to play the CD and (ignoring the opening string intro which doesn’t signify anything anymore) hear a whole bunch of relatively short, really pretty, uncomplicated songs. There are a number of tracks on this that could be huge hits. As I listened some more, I realized what I thought the band sounded like…they sounded like Queensryche. In fact, they sound like any number of 80s metal bands. It was really weird and unsettling to have my expectations totally blown.

The first 11 songs are, for the most part, short, uncomplicated songs. They have beautiful melodies, and yet often have very disturbingly violent lyrics. (In what practically sounds like a lullaby–“I’ll do anything for you; kill anyone for you.”) There’s an awful lot of killing and threatening and the like going on here. And, yes, the singer can sound like a woman. Evidently this killing and violence is rampant through the sequence of discs, and there is some kind of “story” that explains it. But I didn’t really read closely enough to decipher it.

It’s not until track 12 the indicatively titled: “Willing Well I: Fuel for the Feeding End” that the prog stuff kicks in. Now we have some seven minute songs, we have some complex riffing going on and an occasional time change. There’s also call backs to earlier sections of the album. This was certainly more of what I was expecting, although, indeed, it’s still not THAT heavy. Some of the tracks so resemble Rush’s proggy heyday. Most unusual for me was that the long meandering guitar solo on the very last song “The Willing Well IV: The Final Cut” sounded like it could have fit perfectly as the long, meandering guitar solo in Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.” Go ahead, listen for it, I’ll give you fifteen minutes.

The first time I listened to this disc, I really didn’t like it because it wasn’t anything like what I expected. On my second and third listens I started to enjoy it a lot more. I started to really groove to the songs. I also subsequently read a description of the album on allmusic to see if I was crazy, and indeed, I was not. They say that the band is very emo in an 80’s metal sort of way. And, I totally agree. They mentioned Queensryche as well (although they say Operation Mindcrime and I say Rage for Order) and as soon as I saw the “emo” tag, I thought about My Chemical Romance as a recent soundalike band.

As for the content of the epic, I have no idea what’s going on. I haven’t been able to read the lyric sheet yet (as I listen in the car) and I know I am coming way in the middle of this whole thing, so I know that I’m missing boatloads of information. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it enough to seek out some other parts just to see what the whole thing is about.

It’s nice when an unexpected surprise turns pleasant.

[DIGRESSION: BACKSTORY:] When I was 12 my sainted Aunt Lil and I used to travel from our little ‘burb of Hawthorne, all the way to the Willowbrook mall in Wayne by bus. A transfer in Paterson was required, and retrospectively, I am amazed that this little old lady traveled all that way, and made an exchange in a fairly “bad” neighborhood all the time. Once in a while I would go with her and we’d make a day of it. My “reward” for going was that I’d get a record or two. (more…)

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