Saturday, July 6, 2013

Modern Metal Production (And Why I Hate It! Part One)

Its been asked by friends and others why I don't listen to a lot of modern albums. For awhile, I looked at it as just a sign of being jaded after hearing literally thousands of albums, having been a long time veteran of the Metal scene, etc. But as I dug deeper and deeper into self-analysis on this subject, something became clear. I found that the problem I have with a lot of modern Metal isn't neccesarily because of stylistic permutations or lack of songwriting skills (though sometimes this is a culprit), its been because the production on a lot of modern albums are lacking. What does "lacking" mean? Well its not some "necro black metal" trend of production or anything of that matter. As a matter of fact, I am a big fan of the mid-nineties Black Metal scene, and did not like some of the commercial derivations of that, including bands like Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir. Emeperor, Mayhem, or Satyricon may have sounded raw but their production had dynamics that were still exciting and entertained the listener. And it is well known my love for early punk and hardcore. So its not the rawness of a production that turns me off, and at the converse end its not a "slick" production either. Even if its lacking in songwriting power compared to their first four, I still find Metallica's Black Album to have a lushly sheen and very dynamic and full range of sounds. If you hear songs from it on "Solid Rock" or hard rock radio, it stands against the Shinedowns or Five Finger Death Punches which sound flat in comparison. And therein lies the problem. Many bands choose compression over dynamics, and "loudness" over quality in production. In this series I'll explore the history of the phenomenon and my theories on why it has permeated the music industry.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Queensryche Split VS Pink Floyd Split Part 1- Is Geoff Tate like Roger Waters?

About a year ago, the whole current debacle with Queensryche started with the band splitting in two camps: Geoff Tate with hired musicians, and Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield, Eddie Jackson and newcome Todd Latorre. I had done a review of the band's latest album "Dedicated to Chaos" previously, and reading articles through the recent years and seeing live clips, etc, it actually came as no surprise to a lot of people. The (alleged) knife wielding of Tate, the spitting on the drummer (though spitting on band members doesn't always have malicious intent, just ask Mike Portnoy!) as well as all the allegations in the press by Tate vs the rest of the band did come as a shock however. The remaining band's legal depositions came out in public, and me being the music nerd I am, read all of them. All of what transpired really stood out to me as being extremely similar to what had happened with Pink Floyd in the 1980's. Roger Waters had claimed to write all of the songs, (read Tate's "81 percent quote") and diminished the other band members contribution. Now Chris Degarmo was not Queensryche's "Syd Barrett" in the least, but a lot of what came out in the press was very similar. For one, let's look into Roger Waters and his claim of being the centerpoint of the band. Its true that he would come up with rough demos and sketches for the rest of the band to flesh out, but the whole band had come up with the music for many of the songs, including their high point as seen by many, Dark Side of the Moon. Roger Waters and Geoff Tate seem to both have the impression that lyrics and lyrical concepts= whole songs but that is just not the case (and as a side note, Roger Waters in recent history has kind of redeemed himself for many of the nasty things he said in the 80's). Geoff Tate plays saxophone, but if he had written "81 percent of Queensryche songs" as he claimed, why the increasing reliance of outside songwriters? Why not present us evidence in demos and guitar tracks he had written and recorded? The truth is already out there, on Queensryche song credits. They are credited to individual band members that cowrote the songs (or in the case of Degarmo occasionally wrote alone) with Geoff, and about 45 percent are Michael Wilton, 55 being Degarmo and occasionally someone else. The idea that Tate was the main SONGwriter (not main lyric writer) is preposterous and not grounded in fact. But a comparison can be made with Waters again as well, though at least Waters actually contributed to more than lyrics and vocal melodies. But listening to the solo demos that Waters did by himself for the Wall for example, its obvious that they were very rough and needed Bob Ezrin and to a lesser extent, David Gilmour, to make them shine. The ideas on Operation Mindcrime as far as concept may be Geoff's, but it took Chris Degarmo and Michael Wilton (alot of Wilton on that one, especially the faster songs and the whole first half) to flesh it out musically, many steps beyond what Floyd had to do with Waters demos. Roger Waters wanted Floyd to stop using the name, and they won the rights the name and had some of the most successful tours while Rogers (somewhat) floundered in comparison, Tate wants the Queensryche name for himself while the band outsold his version of the band nearly double and put out an album, while not perfect, had a lot of the hallmarks that once made Queensryche great. The idea that Momentary Lapse of Reason stylistically took a lot from 70's Floyd but with the flash and not as much substance is a solid argument, and one can also make the claim about Queensryche's new album, while good, doesn't cut as deep as the classic material. Time will tell what will happen with the name and the future history of the band. I will say this, The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking album stomps all over Frequency Unknown a million fold, and that may be an understatement.