Monday, April 7, 2008

I'm Donny, and I'm Out of my Element

Up until the fall of 2007, I really didn't listen to any music outside of hip-hop, R&B and classical. You can throw in a few video game soundtracks in there to account for any style of music that doesn't fall into above (WipEout 3 was probably my only real exposure to electronica, and Sim City 3000 sported some amazing jazz), but that's about it. It's probably even sadder that the catalyst for me venturing outside of my little bucket was yet another video game (or, at least a game franchise): Guitar Hero. It's sad not because it's got to do with games -- fuck y'all who still think that all people who play games are either pasty, societal rejects venturing out of their basements only when necessary, or fat awkward slobs who poop-sock in order to stay glued to a World of Warcraft session for as long as they can -- rather, it's because my brain just couldn't open up to the possibility of something different until one of my favorite hobbies pushed me to it.

So, with a heavy exposure to the single tracks licensed by the Guitar Hero franchise, I went about exploring the vast rock genre and its various sub-genres. At the recommendation of my good friend Al, master of the lead guitar (as in "to lead a group", not as in the element Pb, Sara ^_^), I listened to some Avenged Sevenfold. Anyone who knows me will understand that this is a departure without precedent for me: I did not and still don't like growly shouting over thrashing tracks. Sure enough, I didn't like the group's earlier stuff, so he pointed me to what I was familiar with Guitar-Hero-wise and got me listening to City of Evil, in which the lead singer actually -- you know -- sings. Never you mind that the entire album is in the key of D minor -- I kind of dug its gritty riffs.

Al also pointed me to the prog-rock band Dream Theater, to which I instantly took a liking. There's something about how the melodies, harmonies, and piercing vocals come together; about the way they play with their time signatures; about what feels, to me at least, like a singular passion for exploring new and strange ways to make shit sound good. Not in the haphazard I'm-Andre-Benjamin-and-I'm-gonna-stop-rapping-and-start-singing-poorly experimental way, but a more calculated, wait-until-we're-sure-that-this-chemical-mixture-doesn't-explode way.

This mini-explosion of willingness to venture out into the musical wilderness led me to explore other such bands as Metallica (One being my favorite track to play off of Guitar Hero III), Weezer, Queens of the Stone Age, The Killers, The Strokes, The White Stripes, and my current favorite, Muse.

Muse is -- and if you'll please pardon my ignorance of any bands to which Muse sounds similar, I'll thank you heartily -- quite something else. I started exploring them after enjoying my run-ins with Knights of Cydonia (from Guitar Hero III, natch), and while listening to the album "Black Holes and Revelations" I get kind of the same feeling as I do with Dream Theater when listening to the tracks "Starlight" and "Map of the Problematique" because of how they've mixed different sounds together into this almost whimsical yet focused and direct sound.

So here I come to the part where I explain why I asked you to pardon my ignorance of similar bands. I'm pretty sure that Muse isn't the only band to produce this kind of wonderful sound, and I'm pretty sure that it isn't the first. I'm looking for more bands that have not necessarily the same sound, but a sound that, at least, could have come from similar inspirations. If you're unfamiliar with Muse and need an example, take a quick gandar raught thar:

Map of the Problematique

I'm still out of my element in this strange new world. I'm frightened of venturing into a new space and potentially wasting my time with a band I thought I'd be into but ultimately end up not digging at all. Thus-hence-forth, if you've any sexy suggestions with regards to any bands that share similar sonic sensations with those two songs above, I may just give you a cookie.


Anonymous said...

Hey, this is Anthony (amlabella) from gamespot. I also like Muse, they have a kind of space rock sound that's cool. They've often been compared to Radiohead, even though I don't completely get that. But I think you might like an album or two by Radiohead. The album "The Bends" is a great one that's easily accessible. You should preview it on amazon and see if you like what you hear. But stick to their earlier stuff if you're checking them out, they got VERY experimental later on. I love it, but you might not.

Blair said...

Hey Austin,

I've been listening to Arctic Monkeys quite a bit recently. My tastes run towards the mainstream, and that's a pretty good way to describe them. Mainstream indie Brit rock. They have some catchy stuff.

If you liked Cochise in GH1, I can wholeheartedly recommend Audioslave. Even better, if you liked Black Hole Sun in Rock Band, you should take a listen Soundgarden. They're one of my favorite bands ever. Chris Cornell was the singer for both bands. Awesome voice.

Blair said...

You Suck at Photoshop reference?

MrCHUPON said...

Nah, that was a Big Lebowski reference, but that's a pretty friggin' funny vid :) New bookmark!

Adam said...

If you enjoy "One" (which comes from the ...And Justice for All album), you'll like Metallica's previous album, Master of Puppets, even more.

Puppets is like Justice but with bass guitar. (Has anyone ever explained why little bass can be heard on Justice?) It (Puppets) is considered by many to be the best thrash album ever. (I wouldn't say that, but it is pretty good.)

Beyond Metallica, try the other pioneer thrash bands: Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer.

Megadeth is like Metallica, but higher tempo and less thrashy. Rust in Peace (which includes "Hangar 18") is often considered the band's best album, but if you want something with more variety, including some melodic songs, Cryptic Writings might be a better choice. The music on Cryptic Writings isn't as complex as that on Rust in Peace, though. Just avoid anything from Megadeth after 1997, including the "remixed and remastered" album re-releases; it's awful.

Anthrax differentiates itself from other thrash bands by having a vocalist who sings instead of just screaming and not being afraid to perform music out of its genre. (Anthrax created rap metal with "I'm the Man" and re-defined punk with its cover of Joe Jackson's "Got the Time.") The band's early albums are almost as much punk as they are thrash, and when John Bush replaced Joey "Belladonna" Belardini on vocals, it was able to expand into both melodic and more thrashy music. In recent years, Anthrax's music has become so "tight" that guitar solos often feel forced. Anyway, I reccomend the album We've Come for You All. It has just the right mix of thrash and melody--no punk songs, though. Of note, Charlie Benante's drumming on "Nobody Knows Anything" should not be humanly possible.(And no, it's not overdubbing.)

Slayer is pure thrash. It's faster, more thrashy and more annoying than the other pioneer thrash bands, which are heavy thrash. The only album from Slayer that you should listen to is Reign in Blood, because all good Slayer albums sound about the same, and Reign in Blood is the best of that same.

Adam said...

Damn spelling errors. I know that it's recommend, not reccomend.