While everyone is indeed entitled to their opinion, for anyone that questions why this blog (Part Two) is centered around Tool, well, allow me to educate you. After all, what's in a name? Everything, apparantly.
Class is in session, so shut the fuck up, put on 'Ænima' and remember where you left your reading glasses because the subject matter of the matter is the flipside of the progressive music coin personified. Magazines like Rolling Stone would have had you known that when Tool were shat out of the womb into the world that they were alternative metal, nothing more, nothing less. Well, how does it feel, knowing that was all a ruse to get you to subscribe to their way of thinking? Tool, for me, show that growth is not just an important factor, but it's going to happen however you decide to perceive it. As people, we grow, we evolve, we learn, we fuck up, we try again and move forward. Taking that philosophy and put it into music and you've already learnt something new. You can call it a formula, I'm gonna call it a fact.
From their 1st record (or EP, or whatever) 'Opiate', they certainly swam in the pool of alternative metal/hard rock and added a dash of (I wanna say) enlightenment to the sea of alternative bands that were out by that point. The 90's were a strange period for music in many ways, but in other, they were a true highlight, 'Opiate' started Tool off nicely and granted, it wasn't a progressive record, but the band themselves from then until now.....(pretend it's 2006) have certainly progressed from an alternative metal band into progressive metal skyscrapers. The two live tracks were a nice touch as it gave potential and thus new fans an insight as to what to expect live from a new band. You don't see this as much these days, more simple demos or an EP and if you like it, you might go and see the band live. They already gave you a taste of the live feel, smart bear style.
'Undertow' was the follow-up full length debut album and a solid debut full length record. I found out difficult to care for at various stages, but overall it's a solid alternative metal album. Intolerance, Flood, Prison Sex & Sober are great tracks for their time, even still to this day, but it was Tool's third album, 1996's 'Ænima' that stood out for me when I first heard it all the way through.
I can honestly say at one point in time, this was definitely my favourite Tool record. It wasn't definitive of any one style, boasting elements of Metal, Alternative Rock, Prog and a peak through the looking glass into Art Rock (in particular) with tracks like Ænema & Eulogy. The band seemed to truly become a unit (pun intended) in this record. It's not like a typical rock or metal record where the drums are your backbone, the bass is the heart, the guitars are the limbs and the vocals are the driving force at the fore front of the whole scene. No, with Tool, like Dream Theater (In Part One), every instrument is it's own entity and plays their own part so fucking well that you think you've heard this all before, when you haven't. Originators all day long.
Of course, 15 tracks is a lot to put into a record, trust me, my debut album was the same length and would have been a lot more if I was left entirely to my own devices, so 'Ænima' does have a few "filler" tracks that you could easily skip through if you felt like it to get to the good stuff. It eventually contributed to why it no longer remained my favourite Tool album after so many listens. Still a good album, some quality tracks on there, Stinkfist was the first video of Tool's I ever saw, but tracks like Pushit, Forty Six & 2 and Ænema are "classics" if I could use that term properly. Ah sod it, classics they shall be known as.
I never got into Tool properly in the 90's though. It was when 'Lateralus' arrived in 2001 that I started to check out their previous records along with it and see just what a band that doesn't rely on epic guitar solos in every song really sounded like. Whether you like it, don't like it or are indifferent, 'Lateralus' is a Progressive Metal album and a very fucking good one at that. I guess one (be it you or I) might state that this album had a more focussed style, slightly industrial without compromising the bands sound. I remember vividly when MTV2 would play the Parabola video on loop when it came out. Was a pretty decent video, but the track(s) are very good themselves without the visual to captivate you and fuck with your inner being. Random side note, because the tracks are seperated into Parabol & Parabola, I wanted to have the track(s) like they are in the video, without the skip mid crescendo from part A to part B, I decided to mix both tracks together, making the one song and taking the tracklisting down from 13 to 12 tracks. This has no useful information other than if you wanted the tracks to be fluent, even a fucking monkey could do what I did with them. Aaaaanyway, whatabout Schism? Yeah, love Schism. Every time I'd walk into a guitar shop there'd usually be someone playing that riff while trying to sing "I know the pieces fit" before someone inevitably shouted at them to stop playing a song from "The List". I think you can guess for yourselves what comprised of said list.
I don't know about you, but way back when listening to older (70'sish) prog I couldn't help but sometimes find myself becoming somewhat slightly bored by what I was listening to. I guess it would depend on the mood I was in (duh), but that's why Pop and basic Rock are more universally accepted on your TV & Radio, it's good but simple, whereas Prog is more food to digest, a greater process with deeper meaning enveloped, giving it that niche quality that makes it awesome when done well. Bands like Yes & Rush started out as many bands did from obscurity, but bands today have all the music and inspiration elsewhere in the world at their feet and fingertips, Yes & Rush (as examples) didn't have as much influence to garner musically as there wasn't as much music back then, they relied on what they knew, what they thought, art, literature, and out of this they had misses, but then had some great hits, Closer To The Edge & 2112 immediately come to mind. Both bands evolved from prog bands in the 70's and became radio rotated rock throughout the 80's and received not only success and critical aclaim, but gained new fans while losing some old ones in the process. Shit happens, but personally, I like both eras of both those bands as there's a lot of great music on some great albums to be heard at anytime. Meanwhile, back in the 90's & noughties....
Tool certainly fitted the mould of change, the world is not always a colorful and beautiful place, sometimes it's just plain black and white. A term I once heard about Tool's musical style and sound referred to them as "Thinking Man's Metal". Think about that for a second, because in a (slightly) pretentious way, it makes accurate sense. Most music in general requires no thought other than your basic attention. When you're nodding/shaking/banging your head or tapping your foot/hand/stick/stump, you feel the music and it consumes you from there. When you're actually sitting and thinking about what Maynard's singing, you may find yourself thinking about Danny Carey's drum patterns and how they mesh with Justin Chancellor's very distinctive bass playing, before Adam Jones' haunting clean swipes fused with crunching electric riffs put shift into overdrive and start to fuck with your eardrums in forgivable fashion. Like DT, Tool is a great band that is only so by all the members individual greatness.
Fasting forward back in time by eight years and '10,000 Days' opened with my favourite Tool song, Vicarious. "THAT FUCKING RIFF THOUGH!". Needless to say, it was worth the long-ass wait, though again a good album, it depends on the day whether I could say definitively that this is their best album. As good as Lateralus is, because it is a great album, there's something about '10,000 Days' that truly cemented them as a great Prog Metal band. I truly believe that Tool are the only band in history that could legitimately get away with playing the same riff over and over again (mixed and mashed) and it will NEVER get old, boring or overplayed. I'm slightly exaggerating, but the proof in my statement could easily lie in Rosetta Stoned, which is more than just the one riff of course, but is one of their best too. While I'm writing this I've now got upto to this album as I'm typing along, taking slight time outs to write a tweet or two and it's fucking hilarious when you think, it's been eight years since this album arrived and now that they've announced tour dates in the US, the album rumour mill is writhe with speculation and unanswerable questions.
If you think Tool are gonna give anything away in the form of information, fuck that, that's the beauty and brilliance of the dance. You'll get the record when it's done. It's not done until it's done. They haven't gone wrong before, so the odds that Vegas are offering probably won't be changing anytime soon. I don't think that '10,000 Days' should be taken literally, that's 27 years, it's been eight thus far.....actually, maybe your cynicism is understandable, but guess what, like the dragons in Game Of Thrones, Tool's new album is coming, just hold on damn you, impatient fuckers. You have hours of music to keep you at bay until that needle drops in addition to the many, many Prog & Metal bands out there, some I mentioned already, but others like Mastadon I will mention now. To appease the impetuousness within you, allow Adolf Hitler to summerise for you below (Pt 1 of 3).
Click Here for the Metal Evolution documentary series on VH1 Classic - Progressive Metal is the final part in the series.
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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.
I want to take you all on a journey through my musical career from the very beginning with the background of how I start out musically, culminating in the creation of my own label & producing my debut full length album, MindsEye. You may wanna put the kettle on.
I feel very privileged to be a professional musician, especially knowing my own personal physical limitations, I've never been one to moan about disadvantages or being different. You only live once, so that's what I always intended to do and I wanted to play the guitar, sing and write music. My Bio gives you the modern day jist, but here I will tell you a tale.
A long time ago....
I made a few EP's before making MindsEye. I wanted to do something far more grandiose than I've ever done before. Every single song I have ever written I have recorded and produced myself. I have played with many bands and musicians before I decided that I wanted to do my own thing. I look back on these times with an optimistic point of view. Not every musicians first band is their greatest, only & last band. We can't all be Rush eh?. : )
The 1st band I was in was called D.V.D (Damned Via Distortion) which pretty much started from High School. My fellow classmate was a drummer who could pluck a few chords on the guitar and I was learning the guitar every day, singing and (oy vey) writing lyrics. The songs we wrote weren't completely laughable, but I wouldn't compare our set list to the 1st R.E.M EP neither. It was a learning curb. We stepped off of it and did one gig, which went spectacularly wrong, mainly because our bass player didn't turn up....well, his physical presence was there, but his mind was at the bar........in another venue. The band experience was just that, an experience. a valiant attempt of finding a new bassist just didn't pan out, thus t'was time to move on. First band, end scene.
I then formed a new band with a new bass player, new drummer and my friend Matt on vocals. Seriously, the guy sounds like Sebastian Bach. I wrote all the songs, even recorded all the basic demos for the band to learn from and bang out in the studio and with no word of a lie, our very 1st band practice was fantastic. The lads learnt 4 songs, actually learnt them. We sounded like an actual hard rock band. Unfortunately, Matt had another band who he was in 1st, so understandably we took a back seat priority wise, which sucked at 1st, but given that our drummer was abit mental and our bassist was sniffing spare charlie off his bass before practices (nice guy though), I just wasn't into that shit. Long story short, this band (with no name) disbanded, as Matt's band, Structured Chaos, released a couple of EP's before their cloak wearing guitarist and their drummer (who couldn't keep time) took their over inflated egos and movedon.
In the words of Victor Caroli, It is the year 2005 and, in this case, no Transformers in sight. I decided to form a new band after playing various gigs with other bands that includedmy brothers. Only this time, sharing the song writing load. After placing a few ads in some local mags & rags I found Sandra, a local female rock singer. With common musical ground we formed a band called Miraje (pronounced Mirage). We were a duo searching for a decent rhythm section whilst simultaneously playing small acoustic gigs & working on some songs. Three tracks of which for a demo EP (What You See Is What You Get) which was never released bar a track or two posted on Myspace.
This band experience was a mixed blessing. On one hand I got to finally experience a collaborating process, working with a singer who wrote lyrics and came up with their own melodies. Compromising in a band is harder than it seems. We couldn't completely agree on musical directions, which ultimately led to a split. Thankfully I took all the positives from this and decided at this point I was better focussing on the music I wanted to write, even though I was not the best vocalist in comparison to my band mate, who to hercredit had a decent range & power, reminiscent of a female Dio (as someone once said after a gig). I needed to work on my vocals and thus began the solo venture........*costume change*.
There were a couple of tracks that written around this time period that I rewrote and used for my 1st solo EP, Divine Inspiration, including the tracks Nightcrawler (featuring my mate Matt on vocals), Within The Temple, D.I (Instrumental Intro) and Vagabond.
Limits In Expectations was my 1st real solo effort in the fall of 2005, finishing it and releasing it on Myspace in 2006. Originally I recorded 15 tracks for it, though I brought it down to six. Musically, this was more of the indie rock direction that I grew up listening to a fair bit in England, bands like The Verve/Richard Ashcroft, Radiohead, Embrace, Oasis/Noel Gallagher, Coldplay and others. For some reason I always seperated the styles that combined my all-round taste. Not many musicians will list their overall musical influences from bands like The Verve & Radiohead, adding bands like Iron Maiden, Dream Theater & Yes, then following that up with Steve Vai, JoeSatriani, Planet X and then others like Eric Johnson, Vince DiCola, The Cardigans, 30 Seconds To Mars and so on. It took me a while, but I did eventually realise that it doesn't matter who or what musically influences me, it's the music I write that IS me, whatever the "style" or "genre" it falls into, that IS my genre, my style.
Limits featured some of my most honest lyrical content from life experiencessimplified, guitar driven sound. Each track had a different reflection of time, though a similar musical theme throghout. When January 2006 came along and the Arctic Monkeys were the flavour of the UK music scene, Richard Ashcroft was releasing his 3rd solo record Keys To The World and was signing autographs/cds at HMV's Oxford Street store in London. I'm a huge Verve & Ashcroft fan & influenced by all of his music, so, I went down with a copy of Limits in hand to meet the man himself. I saw him live at the Astoria in 2002, which was a great show, though meeting him & being able to personally thank him for the inspiration & just to tell him that I'm a huge fan of his music was great. What made the day better was his reaction when I handed him my cd & telling him I did the whole thing myself, he was very humbled, polite and a true gentleman, gave me words of great encouragement and belief in my abilities as a musician & a songwriter inspite of my disability, that, the free signed album & posters (you gotta love free stuff #Jew) made that one of the best days of my life. Not bad for a birthday gift as well.
Continuing through to the following year with writing more music I was still seperating tastes and styles. I like ALOT of music spanning across various styles. Trying to fuse these styles and sounds together was a challenge unto itself, one that I eventually managed to figure out.
With that in mind, 2007's Violet Sky EP was the complete opposite of Limits, being completely instrumental, no vocals. This was quite the challenge as I found it difficult to create melodies with the guitar as the vocalist. VS was a very Vai & Satch influenced EP, showcasing my passion for the electric guitar. This was also the EP that featured the restructured instrumental version of the track that I was constantly working on, titled ThunderLightningBolt. This track was one of the original songs written two years prior in Miraje. Singing this song was not possible. At the time, my voice was still progressing and certain ranged were too demanding. TLB is still one of my personal favourite instrumental songs I have written. It was the most challenging piece of music I had written at the time, fusing many overlays of harmonic guitars into varied time signatures. At the time I spent alot of time on this one track that it felt like a personal theme tune that still had room for growth and potential, but the Violet Sky EP as a whole had potential. The opening track Welcome To The World is the 1st of a trilogy, with part 2 being featured on my debut album. Myspace lended a hand with the promotion of this EP, tThis track and video were featured in an MTV America animated pilot 'DJ & The Fro' in 2010, a modern day Beavis & Butthead styled show that was never picked up for a full time schedule.
In the spring of 2008 I recorded a more acoustic based called The Code Breaker, which I wanted to gig and thus re-formed my solo/backing band with an entirely new line-up. with an Indian chap on guitar, uncle fester spliced with cousin IT on bass and someone's grandad on drums. This sounds as funny as it looked, and you know what, it was funny. Some of the gigs we played were fantastic, tight musicianship, bold sounding & lots of fun, but some of them were beyond shocking. You only hear these stories all the time and wonder if they actually happened, well these actually fucking happened. These shows were known as;
The Gigs of UGH!
In late 2008 I was approached by and signed with Stone Island Records (but never actually released any music through them). When a band or an artist gets "signed", the automatic assumption is "new record, touring, merchandise, magazine articles, etc". Unfortunately this was not the case. I was under management that didn't manage anything. As a band, we wanted to gig, but never got many gigs....saying that, they got me one, ONE fucking gig. The supply of free booze was the only upside I can recall, reason being because I don't drink alcohol and thus could remember every single detail, right down to the hole in the venues ceiling, the bucket of rain water on the dance floor and my pissed up, but very talented drummer shouting "don't kick the fucking bucket!" mid-song while pissing himself laughing. Looking back, it was funny as hell, but at the time I was seething beyond belief while I got the cheshire cat grin treatment all-round. This wasn't be repeated, that's for damn sure.
Coming to the end of a long stretch of gigs there was a couple in Camden that stand out. The Dublin Castle with the drumkit share from hell. We couldn't use ours because the "headline act" (can't remember, wouldn't wanna remember their name) already set theirs up, same shit, different venue. Naturally for a bunch of tossers, they didn't take kindly to my drummer pointing out the obvious flaws with their swinging toms and non-existent bass pedal sound, so that was a fun night I can tell you. One of the other Camden venues we played at on a Monday night had a sign on the door saying "Closed Monday"....WTF? Despite the stupidity, the venue opened to a man & his dog & we played with a band from Hornchurch called Corporal Machine & The Bombers. I love this band. If you're ever in London or Essex, check them out. They were a great live band who like to have a fucking laugh.
The proverbial last straw came at a venue in Romford that made us start playing without a fucking sound check as the gaggle of cretins that were due to perform after us had took it upon themslves to over-run their sound check by 25 minutes in a vain attempt to set up their laptop, simultaneously strumming one chord to a repetitive beat. Understand this, to the average person, it's completely irrelevant, but when you're a band, in a venue, waiting to sound check before you gig to a packed out pub and you have to sit there, downing over-priced tap water, watching wounded ducks trying to turn on a Mac, you wonder "Why?".
Collectively, these experiences certainly put me off gigging in these venues for a very long time. There's no passion, no commitment, no energy or even mere common sense in 98% of these venues that we played. Bands, don't think about getting paid unless you bring your own crowd and expect to get treated like a bunch of idiots by a complete moron. Also, make sure the venue has it's own PA, just in case they "expected" you to bring your own. This is not a joke.
When 2010 came about I wrote the 4 track Instrumental Rock EP UltraViolet Lights and would be busking/gigging this alot around London minus the now defunct backing band. This was the closest to a metal record I've ever produced with some eccentric guitar playing, which may appeal to the Guitar Hero in you, if that is indeed your thing.
Rolling into 2011 came the Supernova EP, blending sounds of electronica, acoustic rock, hard rock & world music, mixing vocal & instrumental tracks that silently paid homage to the musical direction I ventured from. If anything, Supernova, for me, was a platform by which to build on. The ideas were there to build on the foundations and take it to the next level. It was from this that I wanted to expand my sound to greater boundaries, learning to play piano/keys more efficiently, bettering my bass playing & my drumming in a wholehearted effort to write the album that I've always wanted to write, record & perform where possible.
You will find all the links to my entire music catalogue in the 'Music' section via the tab above.
For now, to be continued for a future blog....
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.