I've been thinking about writing this for a few weeks, but there's no other way to state this than Progressive Music in general is the coolest fucking music around. In the case of Progressive Metal, Dream Theater are considered the archetype, although they clearly had influential assistance along the way.
I love many bands, lots of music, both old and new, going back to the 60's with Hendrix, The Who, Deep Purple & such, all the way up til' Dimensionaut by Sound Of Contact (read my review on them, trust me, I'm a doctor). My three favourite bands of all time, while I'm strongly thinking about it, are Rush, Iron Maiden & Dream Theater, all for different reasons but yet all for the same. Starting with they all do their own thing in their own way and they do it very, very well, very well indeed.
When it comes to Dream Theater, what I particularly like about the band before the music even starts to play is that there are no egos to cast a cloud over what you're listening to. It is all about the music and the music is what DT are all about. DT have gone through various changes in line-up in their 28 year history, starting out with the line-up of Mike Portnoy, John Myung, John Petrucci, Kevin Moore & Charlie Dominici (who created the band's Majesty symbol, after all, his name is in it. Clever stuff). Their first record 'When Dream And Day Unite' honestly didn't get the credit it deserved. of course, if it had had the Remastered (2002) production values then, surely, it would have been received differently, but for the album as a whole and the tracks within, a good album. Ytse Jam is fucking brilliant. 'Images And Words' is probably my favourite album. I say probably because I am quite partial to their new eponymous album and 'Six Degrees' and even 'Systematic Chaos' (which I'm surrently listening to as of writing this), but yeah, fuck it, Images And Words is their 'classic' album, though they have great albums throughout their catalogue of quality music. Even with line-up changes of Dominici to James LaBrie & Moore to Derek Sherinian, followed by Jordan Rudess and yes, Portnoy for Mangini, I'll address my thoughts on that in a sec, but the music has a clearly defined evolution that cements the band as legends of a legendary genre that itself evolved from Prog Rock.
With the current line-up (pictured left) the band did indeed feel like a rebirth, so their latest album being self-titled was indeed quite fitting of that notion, but for those that to this day still bith and moan about Portnoy being gone, believe me, I am a huge Portnoy fan, but seriously, move the fuck on. He has, the band have. Maybe the lanets will re-align one day down the road and the fan boy's will get their wish come true, but for now, be grateful that a) the spirit of the band carried on and b) that Mike Mangini is that fucking good a drummer that he can fill the incredibly gifted shoes of Mike Portnoy. For the time periods that the certain line-ups existed, they certainly fitted the mould and upon looking through their history, it's clearly understandable where certain things needed to change in order for the band to be where it's at today. Arguably, five of the best individually gifted musicians, in the same band. What are the odds. With reference to Mike Portnoy, if you are wondering whether he has disappeared into obscurity, obviously he hasn't, he's been with AX7, Adrenaline Mob and formed a brief band with Billy Sheehan, Tony MacAlpine & Derek Sherinian (PSMS) and their live dvd is awesome. Plus, The Winery Dogs (Portnoy, Sheehan & Kotzen) and finally Transatlantic (with Neal Morse & co, review of theirs to come). So, if you're missing Portnoy then don't threat no more, there's plenty of music for you to listen to.
For the 'metalhead' in you, may I recommend a dose of Train Of Thought followed by a dash of Black Clouds, arguable Dream Theater's two heaviest records (though the new one is definitively in the same mix). Train Of Thought is what Metallica's St Anger coulda, shoulda and woulda been if someone held an axe to Kirk Hammett's surf board collection and gave him an ultimatum. Though as much as one can admire Hammett for his metal guitar status, he ain't no John Petrucci........fact!
I can hear the "WTF's" through the minds of metal diehards daring my questioning of Metals "greatest guitarist". Bitches, please, he's good but he ain't even Dave Mustaine ffs. Here's the truth, Metallica evolved quickly, Kill 'Em All was a quality debut, Lightning would've been better with MOP's production. MOP was great, just should've had some better songs like on AJFA, which had the worst fucking production of the four albums mentioned. Then, they became a har rock band and became huge, you know the rest, but Hammett didn't evolve as much as Petrucci has and, to this day, you can hear it in the music.
Compare Metallica's last full length album (not fucking Lulu, yes, Lou Reed RIP but, no, just no, ok?). Death Magnetic, Metallica's ninth album, released in 2008, match it side by side with DT's Systematic Chaos, their ninth album from a year earlier. Death Magnetic, despite the overall creativeness of the songs, had fucking horrible production. Not as bad as St Anger with a bucket lid for a snare drum, but the tracks, they distort through the speakers. There's no sound engineer on the album notes and I can't blame them for not wanting to be affiliated with it neither, because for a band of Metallica's stature, it's fucking terrible. The songs on the other hand....well, they're just as bad, especially when you compare it to Systematic Chaos, an album who's main singlewasn't reliant on ripping off their own song from seven albums before. Where's the creativeness?
Dream Theater themselves have always claimed to be a mix of Yes with Metallica's sound. I can see why, but I'd swap Yes for Rush and then you're abit closer to the mark. The irony of DT "taking" a Metallica approach and ultimately bettering it without compromising the quality of their song writing and over produced sound is simply quite cool. I'm just greatful as a fan that they've done so in such a fashion that has meant that, unlike many Metallica fans, I don't need to sit around twiddling my thumb(s) waiting for Lars to do the press rounds and for my sense of impending excitement to catastrophically come crashing down like a fucking moonsault from the top of a ladder, minus a crowd of 15,000 people shouting "Holy Shit!" in unison.
I've just had a flick through my musi collection and remembered a German Prog Metal band I came across back in the glory days of Myspace (oh, what fond memories one has of that now baron wasteland of spam and tears of Justin Timberlake) called Dreamscape (no, it's not that similar....ok it is). Despite the (similar) name, I can't deny, they do indeed bare a similar resemblance in sound....and style....and in general. But you know what, they actually do their own thing in the shadow of DT. I will post links and videos below of both the Theater & the Scape so that you may compare for yourselves, but take my word, Dreamscape are a decent band. I haven't much of them in the last few years, but there's always hope.
In terms of progressive music, whe it comes to DT, there's always something to be said. The consistency of their songwriting is quite unique, especially when factoring in their musicianship. I mean, fuck, check out the Liquid Tension Experiment video I've posted below for proof of that. Prog has some brilliant bands to look back on, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, Rush just to name a few, two of those I'm a huge fan of, though funnily enough, for me, Yes-West was more to my liking than some of their prog stuff. I said some, not all, prog has changed dramatically over the years, but different bands did it differently. Rush, in my humble opinion, are the greatest Prog Rock band, ever, period. The journey from 2112 to Hemispheres solidifies that, then going into Permanent Waves and into Moving Pictures. They evolved from a great Prog band into a great Rock band while maintaining their core balance and evolving. If they regressed back to 2112, it would've been a yawnfest. Subdivisions et al needed to happen, though with the seven albums Rush released in the 80's, with permanent Waves being the very 1st album released i the 80's (Fact) all the way up to 'Presto' (love that album), they were the backbone of the 80's sound and came out of it a better band just as bands like Dream Theater were getting ready to grab the passing torch and hold onto it tight.
Click Here for the Metal Evolution documentary series on VH1 Classic - Progressive Metal is the final part in the series. For anyone wondering why this blog is only part one. Think about it, I haven't addressed that other prog band yet........Tool!
Heavy Metal has always been silently known as the bastard child of the music world, but as we know, some bastard children grow up to do great things and in this instance of metal, there's a lot of good music out there.
Black Sabbath are considered to be the Godfathers of Heavy Metal, though some say Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple & even bands like Steppenwolf are the first heavy metal bands. In that time period, perhaps, but any casual fan of metal sees these bands as hard rock/classic rock acts at best.
Metal is heavy, hence the name. Sabbath were not just heavy sounding, but heavy lyrically. Just read some of Geezer's lyrics, then read some of Zeppelin's or Purple's. They paint very different pictures entirely, given metal's evolution.
But, given the Godfathers rightful place in musical history, are they the best? It's a very open question as any true die-hard Black Sabbath fan would say yes. Any hardcore Ozzy fan will say maybe, but might without question say yes to Ozzy himself, given the propelling solo career Post-Sabbath. Even after Ozzy was fired in '79, Sabbath continued with Dio, Tony Martin and others behind the mic as Iommi kept flying the Sabbath flag high and clear.
Metal has spawned some of the greatest bands in music's quite short history. We seem to forget that although music has been around for thousands of years (Blackmore's Night springs to mind.... #Drumroll) and although solo artists and bands only started emerging in the early 1900's, so much musical history has been made, especially in the metal world. Enter Metallica. Anyone that knows the name most likely knows the history, from Mustaine, Cliff, Justice, Grammy's, Black Album, Hair-cuts, S&M, Some Kind Of Monster (fantastic film), Death Magnetic (with the un-named record engineer) and now Through The Never.
Metallica have sold more albums than the rest of the big 4 combined, even though many metal fans will argue 'til the end of time that Megadeth are a betterband, that Slayer, Anthrax among others are "the better band". It really is down to personal perception as to what "makes" the better band. Record sales? Legions of fans? Musical accolades? Branding/Franchise? The songs themselves, the albums they were on, or the MTV videos?
The answer is, whatever makes you happy. Personally I feel Metallica have made a couple of great albums. I like some tracks from Kill 'Em All. If Lightning had Master of Puppets production I would probably say Lightning is their best album, but it's not, Puppets is. Justice would have been a step-up if it had any bass. I don't really care for the Black Album bar The Unforgiven & Sad But True. Ironically, I like Load, though it should have been a double album with only the good half of Re-load making an appearance. Funny thing is, if that album had been released under a different band name, it would have sold twice as much and been considered a great hard rock album, but because it was a Metallica album that wasn't "metal up your ass", a lot of their fans unfortunately dismissed it as the Black Album part deux.
St Anger would have been half a decent record if the snare drum was tightened up and if Bob Rock threatened to kick Hammett in the nuts if he didn't record a fucking guitar solo. It ended up becoming an album of average songs averaging seven minutes long for each track. Having no solos is a worse move than the most pretencious prog rock album you will ever find. Don't ask me which one, there's a few out there. Death Magnetic & Beyond Magnetic were a step back in the right direction, but the guitars are distorted. I don't mean through the amp, that is guitar distortion, I mean through your speakers. It's not your speakers making that fuzzy, buzzing sound, it's Rick Rubin taking his eye off the ball and just telling the band to "get on with it". Look at the album sleeve and try to find the sound engineer's name in the album credits, I guarantee you won't find it & with good reason too, but even that doesn't beat Lulu.
Moving swiftly onto and away from Lulu as fast as humanly possible. What the actual fuck were they thinking, exactly? Maybe it was their mid-life crisis album. The greatest thing that album spawned was the lyric "I am the table". If you wish to see my thoughts on the shittest album I've probably ever heard, watch this old podcast video from YouTube below.
Now that you're thinking about it, are Metallica truly the greatest heavy metal band of all-time? Did you watch Some Kind Of Monster? Did you listen to Lulu from start to finish? Would you consider a band that has made quite a number of wrong turns on their path to metal stardom to be considered the benchmark for what makes heavy metal one of music's best genres and a household name when it comes to all things hard rock & heavy metal?
Undeniably, they are a great band and have made great music, but so have bands like Megadeth, with Peace Sells, Rust In Peace, Countdown & even Youthanasia, which isn't as metal as the aforementioned, but is to Megadeth what Load is to Metallica. What a fantastic album that is. Even a couple of their more recent records, United Abominations stands out for me. Put that up against Lulu and ask yourself what do you honestly think? Is Master of Puppets the greatest thrash metal album ever made? Or is it Reign in Blood? Personally, if we're talking about Slayer, Seasons in the Abyss, the album, was their best. The song, I personally consider is up at the very top with Puppets as the best thras song. Granted, it came 4 years after, but still a very strong contender to that particular crown. As a fan of prog rock & metal I would strongly make an argument that Dream Theater are one of the best and simultaneously, most underrated bands that fall into the metal genre. Like Metallica, they have had albums that hit & miss with their fanbase, but records such as Images And Words, Train of Though, Six Degress & Black Clouds are some of the finest collections of music (not just metal) I can honestly say I have ever heard. If you doubt my opinion, check out tracks from their Live Score album. They're an even better live band.
And y'know what, I haven't even gotten STARTED with Iron Maiden yet, who are my favourite heavy metal, whom without you have no heavy metal.
Iron Maiden's last 4 albums, in my honest opinion, are some of their best. Brave New World & A Matter Of Life And Death are their best albums. Nope, not Somewhere in Time, not Killers, not even Seventh Son, those two, which really is a testament to their greatness that they came back with music like that and with some of their best material they've ever written.
Dance of Death & Final Frontier also featured moments of true Maiden magic, but BNW & AMOLAD stand far out from the rest. Rock in Rio is also a great live album. Infact, Metallica, Maiden & Dream Theater have definitely been a huge influence on my own music. If you head over to the music section of my site, scroll down to my very 1st ep and listen/download the track titled 'Within The Temple', you'll hear a metallica influence in there.
Iron Maiden & Dream Theater's John Petrucci have heavily influenced my guitar playing over the years and in general. There are some tracks on my debut album MindsEye that have definitive moments of Maiden & Petrucci-esque guitaring. Try to figure out which songs. You can stream the ENTIRE album for free on Spotify (link here to my music section) or download it now via iTunes, Amazon or other android markets worldwide. Check out & subscribe my YouTube Channel, Like my Facebook page. If you're a guitarist, check out my Youtube Guitarist's Facebook Page too. And feel free to message me or leave your comments here, there or on Twitter @benjaminteacher. Thanks for reading.
This is where I'll blog about the things I like and don't like from music to wrestling & thensome for everyone to read and enjoy.