Smothered and Covered- 30 Cover Songs That are just as good or better than the originals.

When it comes to music there are only a certain number of chords or melodies that can be created, so often times we hear songs that are new that have resemblances to ones of old. One good example of this is Sam Smith’s recent hit “Stay with Me” that sounded very similar to Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down”. There is often a fine line between similarity and down right theft, take Vanilla Ice’s explanation of how the bass line on “Ice Ice Baby” differed from Queen’s “Under Pressure”. As you can see this is a pretty thin way to talk yourself out of copyright infringement.

However, within music there are instances where new bands cover old songs in their own style. Often this is used as a way for the record company to try to guarantee a hit on the record that they are otherwise unsure of. Regardless of the motivation for recording a cover song it is easy to say that within the realm of this particular musical endeavor the results are either completely disastrous or all together amazing.

As a music listener of pretty widespread taste and knowledge I tend to like cover songs that are done in a style different from their original genre. However, being a child of the 80’s and early 90’s, songs from this era tend to have a soft spot in my heart when it comes to being covered by newer groups. Below is a list of 30 cover songs which I think are some of the best. Some do cover songs within the same genre’s, however, I have tried to make the list more diverse in terms of original genres. I have included both the original and the cover for comparison. Comments are welcome.

Song: Boys of Summer

Original Artist: Don Henley (1984)

This particular song reminds me of my childhood and it is one that has just stuck with me. When The Ataris covered this song in the early 2000’s it gave me a new reason to like the song.

Covering Artist: The Ataris (2003)

Song: Who Wants To Live Forever

Original Artist: Queen (1986)

While covers of Queen songs are few and far between (for good reason, nobody can duplicate Freddie Mercury) there have been a few that have snuck out that sound pretty decent. This was always one of my favorite Queen songs from the 80’s.

Covering Artist: Breaking Benjamin (2005)

Song: Drive

Original Artist: The Cars (1984)

The Cars are probably one of the most under recognized bands from the late 70’s and early 80’s. I will be completely honest, this is bar none my favorite Cars song ever. The fact that the Deftones are covering it is just gravy.

Covering Artist: Deftones (2005)

Song: Midlife Crisis

Original Artist: Faith No More

This song was on the album that came out after the album that everybody listens to from Faith No More. That being said, a lot of people jumped ship on the band prior to the really good albums that they made.

Covering Artist: Disturbed (2008)

Song: Possession

Original Artist: Sarah McLaughlin (1993)

As a part of the “Lillith Fair” crowd, most people only listened to Sarah McLaughlin if they were trying to get some or impress a girl. However, as an artist Sarah McLaughlin managed to write some decent tunes. This is one cover that is probably the most different from the original.

Covering Artist: Evans Blue (2006)

Song: Cars

Original Artist: Gary Numan (1980)

Along with the Cars, Gary Numan was one of the musical geniuses from the “New Wave” movement that is seriously underrated. Fear Factory’s cover of this song remains faithful to the original while adding some edge, a plus to have the original artist guest on the cover.

Covering Artist: Fear Factory feat. Gary Numan (1999)

Song: (She’s Got) The Look

Original Artist: Roxette (1989)

I only remember Roxette being around for about three years and in total having about the same amount of singles. This cover version is a lot heavier than the pop original, but still a good listen.

Covering Artist: Candlelight Red (2011)

Song: Have a Cigar

Original Artist: Pink Floyd (1975)

Not many artist cover Floyd and for good reason, generally the songs have no room to improve because they are already great. This version by the Foo Fighters was included because it is a solid cover.

Covering Artist: Foo Fighters (2011)

Song: While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Original Artist: The Beatles (1968)

Many people have covered this song over the years, but I think this version is the best one included on an album (see the Rock & Roll Hall of fame performance from George Harrison’s solo induction for the best live version, Prince is amazing). This version showcases the Canadian Bluesman’s bands solidness as well as his prowess as a soloist (even more amazing considering he was born blind).

Covering Artist: Jeff Healey band (1990)

Song: The Times Are a Changin’

Original Artist: Bob Dylan (1964)

While the original version by Dylan remains relevant in most recent times, let’s be honest, it was in need of an update. This version was recorded for the Chimes of Freedom tribute album. I think that the Irish jig provided by Flogging Molly gives the song a more upbeat feeling that is needed.

Covering Artist: Flogging Molly (2012)

Song: Ultraviolet (Light My Way)

Original Artist: U2 (1991)

For the longest time I was not a fan of the Achtung Baby album, but in recent years it has become one of my favorite U2 albums. This particular version, in my opinion, is a little bit of an upgrade on the original.

Covering Artist: The Killers (2011)

Song: Romeo and Juliet

Original Artist: Dire Straits (1981)

Surprisingly not a lot of people are aware of this song by Dire Straits. I blame it on this song being on an album prior to Brothers in Arms. While the original is still my favorite, the Killers manage to do a good version.

Covering Artist: The Killers (2007)

Song: Hallowed Be Thy Name

Original Artist: Iron Maiden (1982)

I know that I said that I tried to keep this list to cover songs from different genres, but I can’t not include this particular version of the Iron Maiden song.

Covering Artist: Machine Head (2008)

Song:Tainted Love

Original Artist: Gloria Jones (1965)

Marilyn Manson has proven that he is pretty adept at crafting good cover versions of songs. In this case, some songs are just good regardless of application. To many people’s surprise this is not the first time the song was covered. In truth, many people think that Soft Cell were the original artists.

Covering Artist: Marilyn Manson (2001)

Song: Dead Souls

Original Artist: Joy Division (1980)

There are few times when a cover song actually gets me into the original artist, however, with this song Nine Inch Nails managed to up the production value of the original while still maintaining the original feeling that Joy Division conveyed. This song is forever tied to The Crow  for many of my generation.

Covering Artist: Nine Inch Nails (1994)

Song: In the Air Tonight

Original Artist: Phil Collins (1981)

Few songs have the amount of urban legend attached to it as In the Air Tonight. Phil Collins wasn’t the first frontman from Genesis to prove himself as a solo artist, but this song lives in the mind of many 80’s kids. Nonpoint recorded a revamped version that is heavier and that serves as an anthemic song in some cases.

Covering Artist: Nonpoint (2004)

Song: Space Oddity

Original Artist: David Bowie (1969)

What can be said about Bowie that hasn’t already been said? Given the history of Powerman 5000’s music you would think that they would turn out a mediocre cover, but I think they did a pretty good job considering this is one of THE definitive songs from Bowie.

Covering Artist: Powerman 5000 (2011)

Song: Hallelujah

Original Artist: Leonard Cohen (1984)

Man.. Talk about a song that has been covered by pretty much everyone. Hallelujah is one of the biggest songs to be recorded repeatedly. While other versions are really good (Rufus Wainwright) I find that the Jeff Buckley conveys the most emotion to the song.

Covering Artist: Jeff Buckley (1994)

Song: Burning Inside

Original Artist: Ministry (1989)

Most people haven’t ever listened to a Ministry album, but those of us who have can appreciate the mad genius of “Uncle Al.” Having met Static-X once early in their career, their music has always been kind of special to me. Their version stays true to the original but adds the special elements that made Static-X a standout in the “Nu metal” pack.

Covering Artist: Static-X feat. Burton C. Bell (2000)

Song: Careless Whisper

Original Artist: George Michael (1984)

I have always loved this song and I’ll be honest, the first time I heard this cover I said “What the Fuck? Really?” out loud. However, over the years the cover has grown on me and I can say that Seether has done a good job revamping the song to service a new generation.

Covering Artist: Seether (2009)

Song: Jack the Ripper

Original Artist: Morrissey (1993)

Unlike a lot of my contemporaries I did not get into the Smiths or Morrissey in my teens so I came to the party late on this one. While I found the original to be one of my favorites, the cover I feel is a large improvement on the feel of the song.

Covering Artist: AFI (2006)

Song: Hurt

Original Artist: Nine Inch Nails (1995)

Very few artists take a song and truly make it their own. When Johnny Cash recorded this song he was in a renaissance of his career and turned this NIN song into a song that you feel was made for him.

Covering Artist: Johnny Cash (2003)

Song: Would?

Original Artist: Alice in Chains (1992)

Probably the most memorable song on an album full of memorable songs. Would? is always a song that can prop you up because it is just that good. Opeth services the song quite well while paying tribute to one of the great bands of the early 90’s.

Covering Artist: Opeth (2008)

Song: Eleanor Rigby

Original Artist: The Beatles (1966)

Beatles songs are some of the most covered tunes in musicdom (three covers show up on this list). However, sometimes good songs need a darker vibe put to them to match the lyrical content. In this case Godhead did just that.

Covering Artist: Godhead (2001)

Song: Across the Universe

Original Artist: The Beatles (1969)

George Harrison is my favorite Beatle. However, there are one or two Lennon/McCartney compositions that I actually do enjoy. Again, Seether does a pretty decent job of introducing the song to a new generation.

Covering Artist: Seether (2008)

Song: In Your Eyes

Original Artist: Peter Gabriel (1986)

People in the 80’s got sick of this song after it showed up in the movie Say Anything, but honestly it is hard to keep a good song down. An updated version with some rock grooves helps to bring this forward for the turn of the century.

Covering Artist: SR-71 (2004)

Song: Come on Eileen

Original Artist: Dexy’s Midnight Runners (1982)

Probably one of the most catchy but oft forgotten song from the early MTv era, this song is a staple on some pop and rock stations. Save Ferris did an excellent job of making a pop hit a pop/ska hit a decade and a half later.

Covering Artist: Save Ferris (1997)

Song: Hazy Shade of Winter

Original Artist: Simon & Garfunkel (1966)

While most people would gravitate toward the Bangles cover version from the 80’s, I prefer the more rock version provided here.

Covering Artist: Bodyjar (1999)

Song: Holy Diver

Original Artist: Dio (1983)

Dio.. What can you say? Every person who interacted with him can only say that he was the most talented and giving musicians and people on the planet. While the original is seen now as cheesy 80’s rock, HoJo and company managed to make a rocking song rock harder.

Covering Artist: Killswitch Engage (2007)

Song: Rainbow in the Dark

Original Artist: Dio (1983)

I had to include this song on the list. While the lyrics are nonsensical to the casual listener and the original music with synths was cheesier than Provolone, this version just kicks serious ass. Who better to service Dio’s vocals than the Great Big Mouth?

Covering Artist: Corey Taylor (2014)

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Music That I’ve Discovered/re-discovered in 2016.

I thought I’d venture into different waters with this blog and write about some music that is a little more broad in taste. I know some people who have read my blog before may wonder what happened to the Metal and to that my response is that you can’t be the \m/ guy all the time. So here is a list of 5 albums or bands that I’ve been enjoying throughout the year.

  1. Lera Lynn- The Avenues

r-4938032-1420517218-9669Most of the world (myself included) were introduced to this artist by her appearances in the second season of HBO’s True Detective series. Sometimes an artist leaves an impression on you from the song you first remember them by, in this case “My Least Favorite Life” which she co-wrote with T-Bone Burnett and performed on one of the episodes, left enough of an impression to remember her name. There is something about her voice that is haunting and somber and the musical components leaves me in a closed-eyed foot tapping state.

The Avenues was released in 2014 so, while this isn’t her most recent work, I believe it is fully indicative of the artists talent. While her music is hard to place, often falling between singer/songwriter, folk, and Country, it is always emotional. While most songs are a slower tempo and the musical arrangements are simple and full of space, it manages to do the one thing that music is made for.. to make you FEEL something.

A few of my favorite songs on this album are “Out to Sea,” “Standing on the Moon,” “Letters,” and “Sailor Song.”Standing on the Moon” tends to be the one song that I lean towards as I sometimes wake in the middle of the night with the chorus stuck in my head.  Check it out.2.

Imogen Heap- Speak for Yourself

As a music lover and overall nerd, I often find myself watching documentaries about artists and just music in general. Recently, I found myself watching the Sound Breaking series. Imogen Heap is one of the artist that is interviewed throughout the series and there were a few scenes that displayed a little of her process of songwriting that intrigued me. Using looping pedals and a variety of instruments, she managed to create an interesting effect in the music that she was making.

I picked up this album at a local record store (yes they do still exist) and the owner asked if041c982efd2942e3815be4b8845db821 I had listened to any of her previous music with the group Frou Frou which she was a part of. Honestly, I looked at him a bit bewildered because I hadn’t research her as an artist prior to buying an album. I realized that I had heard at least one song from Frou Frou in the past, the cover of “Holding Out for a Hero” that they had recorded for the Shrek 2 soundtrack. While I liked the track (as I have an affinity for 80’s cover songs, which, may or may not come up in the future) I had never bothered to look into the artist who recorded it.

Overall, the Speak for Yourself album is really good. The music has a blend of the pop sensibilities that Imogen Heap had produced as part of Frou Frou, along with some singer/songwriter and avant-garde elements that shows that she has a style that is her own.

Some of the songs that stand out for me on this record are the opening track “Headlock,” “Have You Got it in You?,” “Clear the Area,” and “The Moment I Said It.” All of the tracks showcase the artists ability to blend musical styles and elements to create a very melodic and pop-y sound that works well as something to have in the background while cooking or as an album to sit back and chill to.

3. Leo Moracchioli

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Youtube has been both a blessing and a curse for music. While it allows us to view our favorite videos anytime (even more important that MTV and VH1 have completely given up on the medium they were built on) it has also produced some terrible “Youtube Stars” that really had no business being popular. However, stumbling through a Youtube chain that started god knows where I managed to find Leo.

Leo is a musician/videographer/producer who lives and works in Norway. Yes, I said Norway! Anyway, this guy does both metal and acoustic covers of songs and generally produces a new song and video on a weekly basis. The thing is.. every cover that I’ve found that this guy has done has been done very well. As far as I can find (with the exception where noted) this guy records and plays all the instruments and sings on ever song. While doing a cover may not be considered doing anything original, Leo manages to create solos and other parts of the instrumentation that is actually his own to put a new spin on the songs he covers.

As I mentioned above, Leo also produces videos and the ones that accompany his covers often show him jamming in his studio or goofing off around his house. While this may not sound very exciting, often times he does something fun in the video to keep it interesting including playing on children’s instruments, having puppets perform his songs, dancing with his daughter, or dressing up in full costumes. While this may sound gimmicky, again, the pure musicianship of this man is enough for me to check out the new song each week and pay for his music. I can honestly say that I’ve learned more of the newer pop songs from his covers than I have listening to the radio.

It’s hard to pick a favorite song from the many covers that he has done because they are so well done. Some notable standouts are “Hello” (Adele), “Shake it Off” (Taylor Swift), “Bad Romance” (Lady Gaga), “Feel Good Inc.” (Gorillaz), “All About that Bass” (Meghan Trainor), and lastly “Highway to the Danger Zone” (Kenny Loggins). Check him out on Youtube at Frog Leap Studios, I can almost guarantee that you will find one of his songs that you will like.

4. Red Sun Rising- Polyester Zeal

polyester-zealIf anybody reading this has read any of my other blogs then you know that I have an undying dedication to a band called Sevendust. What does this have to do with this band you may ask, well, Sevendust always manages to have an amazing bill when they tour, often including bands that are not quite stars yet, but have great music.

This last tour which I saw Sevendust live Red Sun Rising was one of the two openers that I really liked (the other being Gemini Syndrome). However, these guys stood out to me because they had a really good stage presence and the music to go with it. They blend some STP style rock and swagger with their own elements of good hard rock and melody. While there were technical issues (mics dropping out and even off stands) they took it in stride and played a pretty killer show. I bought their album on iTunes the moment they left the stage I was so impressed. If these guys don’t become huge in the next few years I will be seriously surprised.

Some notable tracks off of the album are the radio friendly singles “Amnesia” and “The Otherside,” “Emotionless,” and “Bliss.” However, the song that stands out to me and is my personal favorite from the set is “Worlds Away.” I’m not sure what it is about this song (possibly the groove, the lyrics, or just the overall mood) but I can’t help but sing along with it, which is always a good thing for music to be memorable.  Give it a listen and tell me that it doesn’t just have something to it that makes you like it.

5. Big Head Todd and the Monsters

bhtWe all have an artist that we listened to a long time ago but sometimes forget about because either our tastes change a new artist takes their place as the one we listen to a lot. For me, BHTM was one of those bands that I just kind of forgot about. Every now and then “Bittersweet” (their big radio hit from the 90’s) would come across the radio and I would remember how great a song it was, but that would be the extent of my thoughts.

However, this year I had a few pretty big life changing experiences and oddly enough I ended up re-discovering the band and caught up on the music that they have created since the 90’s. Looking back, I realize that a lot of non-alternative bands actually got lumped into the genre for no reason other than
that they became popular at the same time the movement was popular in the post-grunge landscape. Along with The Refreshments, Big Head Todd was one of those bands. Decidedly not alternative, but a blues rock band, Big Head Todd and the Monsters have kept producing albums and touring pretty successfully in the midwest for the duration. Each album they have written maintains a core of solid songwriting and blues solos that any good music lover can find enjoyable.

Along with “Bittersweet,” “St. Vincent of Jersey,” and “Please Don’t Tell Her,” one of my favorite songs of theirs is “Broken Hearted Savior.” Mentally, this is as close to a ‘Friend Zone’ anthem as you can get. It displays the broken-heartedness of being so close, yet held at a distance from someone that you care about. I could be way off base about the lyrical content, but that is what I get out of it. Here is a particularly good version recorded at Red Rocks.

2016 was a difficult on many levels for most of us, be it the death of musicians and actors or just on personal levels, but music is always a good place to find solace. The music I’ve written about above are just the newest additions to a large library of music that I find peace within. I hope that at least one of these artists help either inspire you to find new music or to rediscover some that you haven’t listened to in a while.

Anyway, that’s if for this time. As always, comments are welcomed.

20 Late 90’s/ Early 2000’s Metal Albums That Saved the Genre

Musical tastes are constantly in a state of flux and metal fans know that there will always come a time once a decade where it isn’t fashionable to admit that you’re a metal fan. The same thing happened in the late 80’s and luckily bands like Metallica, Guns & Roses and others managed to kill the Aqua-netted monster that we knew as “Hair Metal.”

Recently we had a similar experience towards the end of the last century and the beginning of this one in which metal became unfashionable among all of the Pop, Rap, and boy band crowds. Luckily, like a bad case of the crabs, metal will always have something in the pipe that will revive the genre enough to keep it going for a few more years.

I’ve compiled a list of 20 albums that, in my opinion, helped to keep the metal genre fresh and alive between the late 90’s and mid 2000’s. Many people will dispute this list and if you care to chime in you can do so in the comments section, however, if you feel the need to, please put some content in your argument. Saying “There’s not one Tool album in there” is not a valid argument (mostly because anything Tool does is pretty genre defying and amazing anyway).

These are in no particular order….

ChevelleWonderWhatsNext

  1. Chevelle- Wonder What’s Next (2002):

With this being their second album you would think that the “sophomore curse” would affect their writing, however, Chevelle had not become overly popular yet so they had nowhere to go but up. This album was a good example of how you could meld pop melodies into metal songs and come up with something simple, catchy and oddly enough didn’t have a rhyming structure to the words. A lot of people will cite “The Red” as their song, but I lean towards “An Evening with El Diablo” because of its solid groove.


Deftones_-_Around_the_Fur

  1. Deftones- Around the Fur (1997):

While still working to find their sound the Deftones first two albums were considered to be one of the bands that defined the “Nu Metal” sound. However, Around the Fur is an example of how a blend of groove, melody, and heaviness can all mix well and create a cohesive album. The Deftones third album White Pony rocketed them into the spotlight but Around the Fur offers some of the staples of the Deftones’ setlist including “My Own Summer” and “Be Quiet and Drive” My favorite song on this album is actually the title track. This album helped expand the frontiers of metal that moved it into a more open and experimental format that would make it highly popular at the turn of the century.


Disturbed-TheSickness

  1. Disturbed- The Sickness (2000):

In the year 2000 Disturbed burst onto the scene with a highly successful debut album that was almost unheard of from any Chicago based metal band. The Sickness managed to keep heavy riffs in focus while David Draiman monkey OOOO ah ah ah ahed their songs into popularity. I remember that back when this album first came out, not of the radio stations were censoring “Stupify” even though the word fuck was said repeatedly. Disturbed managed to insert subtle electronics into their sound to expand their sound, which was nothing new at that point. However, the reason I think that this album deserves to be on this list is the fact that Disturbed was able to successfully catch women’s interest which, as any metal head knows, a band that your girlfriend can get into is one less Taylor Swift song you have to listen to in the car. I know it’s an obvious choice but my favorite song on this album is the cover of Tears for Fears “Shout” which was done very well. This was the first of many covers that Disturbed have managed to record that actually stand up to the original.


ill-nino-revolution-revolucion

  1. Ill Nino- Revolution Revolucion (2001):

While Ill Nino may not be as mainstream as the bands preceding it on this list, they did make an important contribution to the genre. While Latin inspired drums were nothing new thanks to Sepultura, but they were very prevalent in the music of Ill Nino. Their debut album had one single “What Comes Around” however; the title track is a showcase of the heaviness the band is capable of. My favorite on this album is “I Am Loco” because of its simplicity but also its straight heaviness.


The end of heartache

  1. Killswitch Engage- The End of Heartache (2004):

I think two words sum up why this album is amazing “Howard Jones.” The man is a beast. This album was actually my first exposure to the band (I have however become a huge fan of Jesse Leach as well) and to the New England heavy metal scene that included Shadows Fall as well as others. “The Rose of Sharyn” and the “End of Heartache” were the major singles on this album but I think the entire album is a great indicator of what was brewing up in North East. This album brought back huge anthemic chorus vocals back to the metal genre that had been missing for a while.


Korn_Follow

  1. Korn- Follow the Leader (1998):

Think back to the end of the century and could you point out a bigger metal act than Korn? This album finally focused all of the elements that made the early Korn albums so great. The heaviness of the self titled album meshed with the funky-rap elements Life is Peachy, it was bound to be a monster. This album spawned hits including “Freak on a Leash” and “Got the Life” as well as included guest appearances from Ice Cube, Fred Durst, and Cheech Marin on the Cheech and Chong hidden track “Earache My Eye.” Korn was probably the biggest reason the Nu Metal genre took off and while some people will bemoan its existence to begin with, you have to admit that the melding of styles managed to make heavy music exciting again.


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  1. Linkin Park- Hybrid Theory (2000):

Not much can be said about Linkin Park that hasn’t been already. While we all got burned out on them at the time, they actually did metal a service by bringing in a lot of young people who otherwise would not have listened to any heavy music. While their style has grown outside of the heavy genre, they managed to have dedicated positions for both a rapper and singer that managed to play off of each other in a highly cohesive sound. It’s hard to point out any single song on this album because it is seriously one of the best debut albums front to back that has come out in years.


Mudvayne LD50

  1. Mudvayne- LD 50 (2000):

It is fair to say that there was something weird in the water in the Midwest at the turn of the century. One of the bands that managed to stand out in the mask/makeup wearing bunch is Mudvayne. The band burst onto the scene with the leadoff track “Dig” and didn’t really look back. As far as pure musicianship this band was like Tool only heavier. While the album may not have as many catchy songs as people would like it does have some great moments throughout. The band continued to define a genre and push the boundaries of experimentation and musicianship for another four albums before going on hiatus, but their pure talent started a trend that put musicianship back into the metal genre after the Nu Metal bands proved that you can do anything with a dropped tuned guitar.


Statement_(album)

  1. Nonpoint- Statement (2000):

This little known band from Florida managed to put out a number of good records with its original lineup before members started to leave. Their debut Statement stands out because of Andrew Goldman’s unique approach to guitar. Goldman managed to change the focus of riffs from being a chug-o-riffic entity the like in which 7-string playing bands were playing to something in a higher register. The album had two singles that I can recall, one being “What a Day” and the other being “Endure.” Blending funky with heavy the debut album had a number of standout tracks (in my opinion) and honestly the band should have been more popular than it was (I bought this album for $7.99) at the record store because they hadn’t had a big hit yet. This album helped push metal forward by bringing it out of the low register dirge it had been stuck in for five years.


Powerman5000ttsr

  1. Powerman 5000- Tonight the Stars Revolt! (1999):

It isn’t very often that a band manages to create its own sub-genre but PM5K managed to create “Action Rock.” This album was a stark departure from their sound on their debut album Mega! Kung Foo Radio. Gone was the percussionist and the funk influenced songs based on cartoons and comic books and the arrival of straightforward sci-fi rock had come. Bringing the entertainment factor that his older brother is known for (Spider One is the younger brother of Rob Zombie) PM5k managed to create a high-octane form of metal that managed to get you to sing along while rocking out. The album managed to put out a number of singles, however, my favorite song is “Operate, Annihilate.”


Sehnsuct

  1. Rammstein- Sehnsucht (1998):

This fucking album… what can I say about this fucking album…? Rammstein proved in 1998 that it doesn’t matter if you can understand one goddamned word being said you can still rock out. This album is full of great songs that put the band on the map in America (along with their highly unusual stage show). Rammstein is a band that you either love or hate. I had an ex that wouldn’t let me listen to them in the car because the music gave her a headache. Rammstein’s uniqueness as well as their huge guitar riffs managed to endear the band to American audiences who don’t speak a word of German. Notable songs that people will remember is “Du Hast” which sported some Reservoir Dogs references in its video, “Engel”, and the now infamous “Buck Dich.”The band has had a steady output of albums since 1998, unfortunately, because the douchebags who shot up Columbine were fans the band got a bad rap and haven’t managed to regain a mainstream foothold in the states since. Sehnsucht helped save the genre by allowing a breakdown in language barriers which allowed other European bands to have a shot at popularity in the states including bands like Japan’s Dir En Grey. It doesn’t matter what you sing about as long as you rock right?


sevendust

  1. Sevendust- Home (1999):

Sevendust is a band whose mainstream popularity has been a yoyo over the years. Despite (or possibly because of) this the band has one of the most intensely loyal fan bases I have ever seen. As a diehard “Duster” since the self titled debut in 1997, I can honestly say that this is one of the best live shows going in metal. I’ve seen them three times and never get tired of paying to see them live. Often Sevendust is hard to define because they manage to keep a heaviness that is not overbearing while providing melodies and singable choruses that are easy to remember. Home was the sophomore effort from the group that managed to have a few hits including “Waffle” and “Denial” as well as introduced the audience to a female singer with a killer voice (Skin from Skunk Anansie) on the song “Licking Cream.” For me the highlight of the album is the duet track with Chino from the Deftones titled “Bender.” Sevendust is one of those bands that doesn’t change their sound very much from album to album, but the consistency is what makes the band great and they continue to fly the flag for metal without compromising.


Slipknot_Iowa

  1. Slipknot- Iowa (2001):

Say what you will about Slipknot, the fact still remains that they are probably one of the hardest metal bands to create and maintain a mainstream success that has lasted two decades. While their incendiary debut album put them on the map, Iowa was their finger to the mainstream that shouted in defiance that they would continue to make their brand of metal and the maggot masses would continue to love it. Slipknot managed to save the genre by making people scratch their heads at their approach. Nine members?! How can you afford to live having to split shit nine ways? Yet somehow they managed and also managed to combine all of the elements the nine members contributed to create a hard charging, in your face kind of metal that tells you it’s ok to scream “People = Shit” out of your window at full volume while stuck in traffic. Slipknot have managed to have socially conscious lyrical content without coming off preachy or overbearing. Every metal head should be able to relate because most of us are pissed off and intelligent enough to see what is going on.


Soulfly

  1. Soulfly- Soulfly (1998):

Soulfly managed to take everything great about Sepultura and bring it into the new era. Max Cavalera managed to break free from his former band and create new and exciting music that brought his musical roots more into the forefront. I saw Soulfly in 2000 and was amazed by their stage show and intensity. Unfortunately, Max also managed to take a promising new band and fuck it up by writing basically the same fucking album for the next decade. The poly rhythmic style of Latin beats set Soulfly apart from Sepultura in a way that made it its own entity. While lumped in with the unfortunate Nu Metal sludge riffed masses, I think that the first Soulfly album helped the genre by showing that embracing your cultural roots and including them in the metal genre could work and work well. Ill Nino owe a lot to Soulfly for creating an audience of Latin American metal heads for them to convert into fans. One stand out song on this album is “Tribe” which I managed to see live once where Max brought out a number of drummers to do a drum line.


Dysfunction

  1. Staind- Dysfunction (1999):

Of all the albums on this list I think this one will be the one I get the most shit for. ‘It’s just a guy whining over heavy music’ some might say, but the honest truth is that Aaron Lewis is baring his soul for people. This album is important to the genre because it showed that you can have the realness and emotionality that made a band like Alice in Chains so great and still manage to make it heavy. Their rotation on MTV (back when they actually played music videos) may have burned people out on them, but those who loved it understood that you can use lyrical content as therapy, and a lot of people will be able to relate to it. With a number of great singles to choose from, oddly enough, my favorite song is the hidden track “Excess Baggage” because it was a representation of my feelings at that time in my life (all 19 years of age of me).


Spineshank_The_Height_of_Callousness

  1. Spineshank- The Height of Callousness (2000):

My god what an album… While some people will argue that Spineshank was another Nu Metal band that utilized electronics to augment their sound, the truth is they were much more than that. Spineshank managed to bring heavier screaming vocals to the Nu Metal genre, which was very focused on rapping at the time. Pure and simple, this album is heavy as fuck but doesn’t sacrifice listen-ability for weight. Some people may remember “Synthetic” being on the MTV back in the day but the last few songs on the album are the strongest for me. “Seamless”, “Negative Space”, and “Transparent” are probably the strongest three songs to end an album of this weight in the era it was release.


SW

  1. Stabbing Westward- Darkest Days (1998):

Stabbing Westward was always an odd duck on the landscape of heaviness. They managed over time to carry the torch of industrial while infusing elements of pop and funk into their sound. Darkest Days is probably remember most for the song “Save Yourself” which was a big hit in its own right, but the lyric and musical content was more expansive in terms of covering mileage in the sonic landscape. “Everything I Touch” harkens back to the days of early grunge while “Haunting Me” manages to add some industrial/dance elements to the album. Stabbing Westward contributed to the metal genre by blending everything going on musically at the time into a dark landscape and spitting it out to create a Tim Burton-esque land of Oz. While SW has been done for a while The Dreaming (which consists of the singer and keyboardist from SW) continue to carry sonic contributions that Stabbing Westward left us with.


220px-Static-X_-_Wisconsin_Death_Trip

  1. Static-X – Wisconsin Death Trip (1999):

Speaking of genre creating bands… Fuck! Static-X created and owned “Evil Disco” until the end of the band. I had the pleasure of meeting the original lineup before they were an MTV hit and can honestly say that they were the most down to earth, endearing, and funny guys I ever met. This album was like a star exploding, because with the force it hit MTV it caused an impact that the band managed to maintain for the life of the project. While their style changed and grew heavier the deeper you go in their catalog, there is something about the birth of Evil Disco that was just amazing. Static-X managed to add some excitement back into the genre at a time when everybody was depressed and bitching about their parents. Nonsense lyrics, Zombie-esque audio samples, a straightforward guitar attack made the male fans want to bang their heads and the females shake their asses and any music insider can tell you that that is a hit. Bar none my two favorite songs on this album are “Trance is the Motion” and “December.”


StrataAlbum

  1. Strata- Strata (2004):

I don’t expect many people to know about this band, but they are important in the fact that there was elements of all three things that I consider important to music. 1. Emotionality, 2. Musicianship, 3. Power in the message. While they might be considered a “screamo” band by some, I classify Strata with the likes of the Deftones or Evans Blue as a genre I call groove metal. There is a definite groove to the music, but there is a connection to the emotion that is conveyed in the songs. I think that Strata made a contribution to the genre by bringing an arena rock element in the big choruses and subdued verse formula. It could be that I’m just emotionally attached to the album due to its significance at a point in my life but I don’t care, fuck it, it’s a good fucking album. “The Panic” was the one video I ever saw on MTV from these guys but with the exception of “Trustkill” the entire album has a high level of repeat listenability. By far my favorite song on the album is “When It’s All Burning.”


Ascendancy_album_cover

  1. Trivium- Ascendency (2005):

Last but not least is Trivium’s major label debut Ascendency. With one album these young guys from Florida (WTF is it with the swamp?) managed to reignite the fire of thrash in the new century. I remember hearing “Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr” for the first time and being blown away. The best of thrash without all the bullshit.

 

These guys can flat out play period. Don’t believe me? Check out Matthew and Corey from the band rip a solo for the King Diamond song on the Roadrunner United album. Their most recent three albums In Waves, Vengeance Falls, and Silence in the Snow have been fucking amazing and they continue to grow musically with each release. Trivium is important to the genre of metal because these are the guys that are going to fly the flag for years to come and hopefully inspire the next generation of guitarists to learn how to circle head bang while shitting out riffs from hell.

Well that is my take on shit. If you feel compelled to contribute your voice to this then leave a comment.

90’s Albums That Refuse to Age Part 3

Album:

Astro-Creep: 2000 Songs of Love, Destruction and Other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head

Artist:

White Zombie

Release date:

April 11 1995

This post will seem like a departure from the strictly “grunge” focus of the previous two posts in the series, however, this is one of the albums that makes my top 5 list of the 90’s repeatedly. My first memories of hearing this album are of sitting in my Junior High friend Corey’s room listening to three albums consistently and playing Nintendo. Those albums were Green Day’s Dookie, The Smashing Pumpkin’s Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness, and White Zombie’s Astrocreep: 2000. These albums were all formative to my expanding taste in music and still continue to rotate through my music choices to this day.

As with any White Zombie album the question is “Where do I start” with this one? To try to understand Rob Zombie’s themes beyond the outward appearance conveyed by cover art and lyrical themes is always a challenge. While outwardly it is a pretty good example of how electronic and groove elements can work in a metal format, the concept of the album is always intriguing to me.

 

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How can you not love a guy who has a stage show like a freak carnival? Complete with dancing robots and a myriad of other ghoulish surprises…

It is often cliché to say that an album sounds as fresh today as it did when it came out, but in this case it is especially true. With the path that metal took in the late nineties and early 2000’s with the heavier incorporation of samples, rap and groove influences and the like, this album could fit anywhere in the progression of the genre over the last 20 years. The samples and placement of electronic elements defy making this album sound “dated,” in fact, one could still confuse the album with anything new that Rob Zombie has put out over the years since White Zombie disbanded (with the exception of the most recent stoner rock output).

Still heavy as hell the album is really a journey through discovery in my view. In the great words of the intro to the first song ‘Electric Head Pt. 1 (The Agony)’ perhaps we should start from the beginning. This album really is a showcase of Rob Zombie’s artistic style and his ability to craft sample into a song. In fact none of the samples on this album detract at all from the super tightness of the rhythm section or the guitar work of J. Yuenger.

Lyrical themes range from everything from horror movie plot to hard racing cars, from super villains to crazed haunted carnivals. All varied, but also well crafted enough to create a continuous line of thought throughout the album.

 

Bright Spots:

While most people know this album solely for ‘More Human than Human’, some of my favorite songs include the ‘Electric Head’ duology, ‘Super-Charger Heaven’, ‘Grease Paint and Monkey Brains’, and the final track ‘Blood, Milk, and Sky’ which is as haunting as it is ethereal in some of the audio samples.

Conclusion:

Freshness meter is always certified on this one. No matter how many years pass since its release, this album is always new sounding. As stated above, it can fit into any progression of the “metal” genre that has come and went over the last 20+ years since the album’s release. Oddly, this is an album you can get lost in while listening to it. Much like a movie its thematic cohesion moves you from one scene to the next not realizing that you are reaching the end until you get there. Anyone who hasn’t listened to this album but love the first two solo Zombie albums should give it a listen so that you can see the natural progression of the artist.

Heavy Metal Albums Every Metal Fan Should Own: Released in the Last 30 years

First off I’ll preface this list by stating that I’ve been an avid metal fan since I was 12. Thanks to my brother, who had a pretty heavy influence on my musical tastes for a bit, I was introduced to Metallica, Fear Factory, and Pantera. This is my list of albums that I feel anybody who likes heavy metal should own. I in no way am saying that it is expansive enough to cover everybody’s tastes, but it does give a broad range of styles. I know that a lot of people will argue for certain Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Juda Priest or Dio Albums, but this is my blog so they can suffer. Overall, as usual, I chose most of these for pure listenability and the fact that I don’t skip any of the songs on the albums. So…. Here we go.

  1. Fear Factory- Demanufacture:

TDemanufacturehis is the album that started it all for me. Industrial Metal at its best. Period. The terms “machine gun riffs” is an accurate descriptor of the sound. Dino Cazares was one of the first in metal to utilize the 7-string guitar for the extra low string that it could offer and his extremely accurate picking makes the riffs killer.

Best track:

This is difficult because there are more than a few really good ones. “Pisschrist” is the one that stands out most. Not because it is overwhelmingly technical or melodic but instead it has one of the best endings of a song ever!


  1. Metallica- Master of Puppets:

As far as metal albums go, this one is pretty much a no brainer. Although I started at the “Ride the Lightning” album, Puppets is still the standMetallica_-_Master_of_Puppets_coverout of the earlier albums. Melodically and structurally, the songs are just solid. This album is pretty much a greatest hits package unto itself with songs like the title track, Orion, Disposable Heroes, and The Thing That Should Not Be.

Best track:

I can’t choose just one on this album, but I take all three of the last songs together as the best core of the album. Starting with “Leper Messiah,” moving on to “Orion” (which showcases the playing of the late great Cliff Burton) and finishing with “Damage, Inc.”


  1. Megadeth- Youthanasia:

Youthanasia

I know a lot of people would choose earlier albums like “Killing is My Business” or “Countdown to Extinction” as the Megadeth album to be included in a list, however, I feel that this album really showcases the strengths of the Mustaine/Friedman/Ellefson/Menza lineup. Overall it shows the strength of the songwriting at this point of Megadeth’s career and has few tracks that I ever skip over.

Best Track:

For this album I would have to say that “The Killing Road” is probably the best one. It has the chugging riffs that you would come to expect and probably one of the best solos on the album.


  1. Helmet- Meantime:

As far as metal bands go, Helmet didn’t really get a lot of the attention the deserved. With the exception of the videos on Headbanger’s Ball for “Unsung” and “Milquetoast” they were not really recognized by mainstream media. Meantime does include “Unsung” and was probably one of their bestselling albums over time, but the music tHelmet_Meantimehat they produced was more meaningful than it was given credit for. Helmet blended industrial and metal together as well as Nine Inch Nails or Ministry and they should have been able to contend with both for real estate on the Industrial scene but somehow they were left out of the pack. I personally think that Page Hamilton’s riffs are underrated.

Best Track:

“Unsung” is one of the strongest tracks on the album and it still stands the test of time in listenability, however, “You Borrowed” is also a strong song in a similar vein as “Unsung”.


  1. Faith No More- The Real Thing

The_Real_Thing_album_cover

I know that this is the album that everybody knows from FNM due to the popularity of “Epic” in the MTv rotation, but as far as their heavy side, it is also the best post-Mosley album that they have. Songs like “Surprise, You’re Dead!” showcase straightforward metal riffage not particularly utilized on the more funk/poppy songs like “Falling to Pieces”. Front to back this is a solid offering and should be included in any metal head’s library.

Best Track:

“Zombie Eaters” and “Underwater Love” are two of my favorite tracks on the album. Both are a little outside the box for metal but are still great. Another great song it the title track because you cant help rock out to the drum beat. As a Post script to this, there is a great cover of “Zombie Eaters” by Ill Nino that you should check out.


  1. Deftones- Around the Fur

Deftones_-_Around_the_Fur

Ok, Ok, I know that they are classified as “Nu Metal” however, I think that the Deftones have long established that the tag no longer refers to them. For this instance I bring up the sophomore effort. Heavy play of “Be Quiet and Drive” and “My Own Summer” helped the Deftones establish themselves in the mainstream on this album. However, the album overall is stronger and more focused than their debut album.

Best Track:

“Around the Fur” is one of the strongest tracks on the album in my opinion. It shows the Deftones’ ability to set up a grove and craft a pop-worthy song.


  1. Pantera- Vulgar Display of Power

PanteraVulgarDisplayofPowerBar None, one of the best metal albums released in the 90’s. Period. Most people flock to Cowboys from Hell or Far Beyond Driven, but in the progression of things, I think Pantera hit the nail on the head with Vulgar. Songs like “This Love”, “Walk” and “Fucking Hostile” showed the power and melody of Pantera. For me, this is the definitive. Solos and riffs are on point and the rhythm section is solid as hell.

Best Track:

Besides the obvious ones stated above, the bookends of the album stick out to me. Starting it off with “A New Level” and finishing with “Hollow” showcases both sides to Pantera, the power and the ability to craft melody as well as for Dimebag to play a full melodic solo instead of half a solo and half noise shows a band in transition, but also at the top of their game in the power metal art.


  1. Trivium- In Waves

Triviuminwavescover

I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this album. It covers the spectrum of metal, from power, hardcore, melodic, and a little bit of black metal it shows the influences of an already solid metal band. There are plenty of good songs on this album and it really shows how Trivium have managed to continue to progress as songwriters over the span of their career.

Best Track:

As far as the standard release goes, I really enjoy both “Forsake not the Dream” and “All These Yesterdays”. However, I purchased the Special Edition when this album came out and the inclusion of “Shattering the Skies Above” that was previously on a God of War soundtrack makes it my favorite song on the release.


  1. Slipknot- All Hope Is Gone

Put it simply, I love this album. To All_Hope_is_Gone_(original)me this is a great culmination of the elements of Slipknot that are endearing. They allow melody and a “pop” sense to some of the songs not detract from their heaviness. The anger shows through well, but the sorrow and desperation also shine on this album. This may have additional sentimental value being that it is the last album that Paul Gray worked on but honestly, it is a great album throughout.

Best Track:

Two tracks on this album stand out the most for me, “Snuff” and “Child of a Burning Time.” “Snuff” makes me emotional pretty much every time I listen to it because we all have had a person that we feel the sense of despair and loneliness that the song conveys to me. This is an example of a song that keeps building throughout and finishes strong. “Child of a Burning Time” is hard to explain as far as my affinity to it. It’s just one of those songs where the chorus I just have to sing out loud every time I listen to it.


  1. Sevendust- Cold Day Memory

This particular album is a little more recent in their catalog, Cold_Day_Memory_album_coverhowever, the return of Clint Lowry brought back a feel to their music that hasn’t been present since he left. This album has the power, the melody, and the anthemic choruses that anybody who loves Sevendust has missed on some of their interim albums. No offense to Sonny Mayo, he did a great job, but when you have the original chemistry, you have the original power.

Best Track:

This one is difficult because I’ve loved 7D since I bought their first album in 1998. If I had to pick one however, I would have to say that “Unraveling” is my favorite. With some albums, there is a song or an entire album that fits a specific time in your life and for me, “Unraveling” was very fitting for the point in life that I was going through when the album came out.

The 90’s: Albums That Refuse to Age Part 2

AIC_Unplugged

Album: Unplugged

Artist: Alice in Chains

Release Year: 1996

When it comes to MTV “Unplugged” shows most people consider the Nirvana Unplugged in New York the best of them, however, I find the Alice In Chains Unplugged superior as far as listenability and overall cohesiveness of the set list. I know that some people will strongly disagree but that is why there is a comment section on this page.

Front to back this album is great. Overall, it comes across as an acoustic “Greatest Hits” disc but it is much more than that. The performance showcases AIC dark and often melancholy lyrical content in an acoustic environment that brings a new feel to almost all of the songs (with the exception of the ones that were previously recorded in the acoustic format on an album).

As I stated earlier, this is a great album all the way through. The set list is filled with a good mix of songs from most of their albums, with the exception of Facelift, (although, honestly, most of the songs on the first album probably wouldn’t be served well in an acoustic format but an acoustic version of ‘Love, Hate, Love’ may have been something interesting to hear). The show was

On a personal level, songs like “Nutshell”, “Brother”, and “Angry Chair” are my favorites from the show. Other notable listens are “Sludge Factory”, “Rooster” and, of course, “Would?” (“Would?” Is just an amazing fucking song regardless of whether it is being played in an electric or acoustic format.)

Of all of the albums released by AIC, I constantly find myself returning to the Unplugged for enjoyment. In fact I love it so much that I bought the concert DVD at one point because just watching this show is still great (I mean the show and music of AIC was great enough for Metallica to actually show up for the show.)

If you haven’t watched it, the full show is available to watch on YouTube. I suggest giving it a watch because it shows exactly how great the Unplugged template can be when done correctly.

This was one of the last few live performances Layne Staley had in his lifetime. Throughout, he manages to show, that even though he was in the grip of addiction, he could still sing his balls off with raw emotion. It is unfortunate that his addiction ended his life so early because he had so much talent and I’m sure there would have been even greater songs produced had he been able to continue work. Be that as it may, I think Unplugged is a great testament to the talent of Layne as a vocalist, as well as the talent of the surviving members ability to craft great songs.

90’s Albums That Refuse to Age Part 1

In the world of music it is not uncommon for an album to feel “dated” by the kind of music, social themes, or lyrical content it contains. This is especially prevalent in today’s “throw away” musical landscape where songs are big for a few weeks, but you forget about them shortly after and later cannot believe that you listened to them only a short time after that. However, looking back over the last two decades there are a few rare exceptions to sounding dated. Over the next few posts I will explore some of the albums that, in my opinion, refuse to age.

I gauge my judgment on these albums by a few different criteria:

  1. Overall listen-ability: Is the entire album worth listening to or just a few tracks?
  2. Repeat listen-ability: Regardless of how many times you’ve listened to it, do you ever tire of hearing the music and songs?
  3. Social theme/lyrical content: Are the lyrical/social themes still relevant today?
  4. Music: Does the music still sound fresh? I.e. if it were released today would it still sound new and have an impact on the soundscape?

So with that I will start this off with a bang!

core

Album: Core

Artist: Stone Temple Pilots

Release Year: 1992

The debut album by Stone Temple Pilots remains as fresh a listening experience today as the day it was released. Often confused as both being from Seattle (actually from San Diego) and being grunge, the album leans more toward a straightforward rock album than it’s contemporaries.

In my opinion this is one of the strongest debut albums ever and arguably the best since Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction (released just 5 years earlier), and stands the test of time as much as AC/DC’s Back in Black does.

From front to back the album tracks are cohesive and flow well from one to the other. Borrowing from the classic rock of Led Zeppelin, STP employs a constant build throughout the songs on the album (opening with a mid-tempo “Dead and Bloated” and moving on to “Sex Type Thing” easily while increasing the tempo. The band is able to put together a hard charging show of their talent and rock chops, while still displaying a mind towards how their live sets would be composed, they allow some slow burners and even ballad-esqe songs like “Creep” to give a bit of an audio rest between the heavy tracks. Even the two non-traditional song tracks (‘No Memory’ and ‘Wet My Bed’) are listenable and even amusing in the case of the latter.

My personal favorites on the album are ‘Sin’, ‘Naked Sunday’, ‘Piece of Pie’, ‘Plush’, and ‘Where the River Goes’. While almost everybody knows ‘Plush’ and ‘Creep’ from their heavy MTv rotation (yes kids, MTv used to actually show music videos) I find the more unknown tracks just as pleasing.

The social themes of the album have to (as of yet) become dated because they are still things that haven’t changed much over the last 23 years. Religion, Sexual stereotypes and gender relations, as well as kidnappings and isolation/insecurity of being different than what is considered “normal” are all things that will continue to be relevant for some time to come.

The music on the album still sounds fresh. Some rock never ages and I believe it is because, even though it is an ever-evolving form of music, the same elements make the great songs great. If Core were released today, I believe that it would fit into both the contemporary rock radio and hard rock radio just as well.

Listening to this album, it is hard to tire of it. The songs are catchy yet rocking, infinitely sing-able (imagine the looks I get when I belt out Plush with my windows down), and often times if find that the album has played all the way through without realizing it.

As far as I’m concerned this album fits all of the requirements of an album that doesn’t age. Until society as a whole becomes utopian, the lyrical themes will still be relevant and the music will always give you a reason to rock out.

stp

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