I decided to post a few classic albums here, but they are classics -- I wouldn't feel worthy giving them reviews like every other album here. So instead I'll write a little on my opinions of the concepts of "making it" and "winning" in the industry, which are often unfortunate consequences of creating a "classic" album.
There are many different ideas about how to "make it" in the music world. Some are more accurate than others. One view is simply that the band that makes the most money has definitively "made it" -- this band "wins", and is "in". If you're reading this, you know damn well that this isn't the case; the "artists" (using the term very loosely) that make the most money are usually the ones that pander to a certain demographic for the sole sake of making money. These are not so much artists as businessmen, and as such they have "made" absolutely shit in terms of musical value. The next concept is the artist who gets the most fans. Although this falls prey to the same problem as the former idea, it is less wrong than the former idea; the artists who we genuinely describe as "winning" are often those who do have many fans, though for very different reasons. The last view I will present -- the idea that an artist "makes it" permanently by creating something that will be remembered through the generations -- is probably the closest. This is definitely a quality of all "classic albums"; the albums I'm uploading in conjunction with this post range from 5 years older than me to 18 years older than me, and they don't sound (that) dated. That being said, in this case I would say the art itself "won", not the artist. What, then, is the surefire way to determine if an artist has "made it"?
It's very simple, really: There is no way for an artist to definitively "make it".
Consider the case of Metallica. They're a band who invented a genre with their debut album, and have at least 3 definitive, almost unarguably "classic" albums, Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets (for the sake of playing devil's advocate, I'm not including the hotly contested Justice or the black album). Just a few years ago, however, the band put out what I (and many fans) would consider an awful album, St. Anger. Regardless of the album's content, I've seen statements from at least three well-respected artists saying that Metallica can do whatever they want muscially because they "won" for whichever album (usually in reference to Puppets or Black). They do have a point, in the sense of the aforementioned classic albums. However, they also put out St. Anger -- something of an extremely lacking album for a band who "won" as definitively as is said of them, don't you think? Thus is my point made: the band didn't win, as almost everyone has noticed since about 1991 until the present, the art won.
Artists cannot ever "win", in terms of the big picture. Eventually, every artist fails, either through inattention or simply through stopping recording. The art itself is what "wins". Audiences "win", as they experience the effect of art that "wins". Until artists understand this, we're going to continue to be bombarded by all this weak, sophomore-slump, "we just got a big check so we can do whatever we want, because we're famous and we WON" crap. No exceptions.
Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath
Metallica - Kill 'Em All
Iron Maiden - Killers
Friday, February 23, 2007
When I reviewed another Sonata Arctica album, Silence, I only had a few real complaints. One of them was the cheese factor, one of them was the bad ballad factor, and one of them was the AWFUL lyrics factor. I am pleased to say that these have been heavily mitigated with Winterheart's Guild, while both remaining true to the core sound and innovating. It's almost like they took a time machine from some time in the future and read my articles back to 2003, changed all that shit, and then went on like nothing happened. Except that would probably, y'know, open up a GIANT WARP PORTAL of redundancy. INTO HELL. Whatever, my point was that everything improved universally. Fuck.
Anywho, I was impressed right off the bat with this album. Like "Weballergy" of Silence, the first track of WG is a nice, speedy song, but with a lot less uber-gay than the other aforementioned opener and a reasonable sense of urgency. The next song really threw me for a loop the first time I really listened to it -- clocking in at 7 minutes, "Gravenimage" is definitely the best Sonata Arctica song I've ever heard, hands down. Even if the song didn't really kick in after a few verses, it would still be the best slow Sonata Arctica song. As it stands, the kick-in is probably one of their best ever, and the vocal leads within are absolutely to die for. The lyrics, the instrumentation, the non-tongue-in-cheek-ness, the structure...it all works SO well together with Sonata Arctica's unique qualities.
After that song, it remains pretty good up until "Broken"; even more "fun" songs, and even their single, "Victoria's Secret", stay mostly within the region of decent taste ("Champagne Bath", with its flanged solo and stupid lyrics, toes the line a lot). "The Misery" is a great slow song, albeit a little cheesy; it gets nowhere near the cheese levels of, say, "Tallullah", though, so even that was cut back a little. "Broken" is the one fluke bad song on the album; like "Sing in Silence" from Silence, it serves no purpose and nobody likes it. After that, though, we're back to good music: the album ends with "Ruins of My Life", a fast track, and "Draw Me", a very tasteful ballad. A very impressive effort, and one I've been listening to almost daily (especially "Gravenimage"...now THAT is an amazing song).
8.4 general, complete sound improvements out of 10.
Grab thy mouse, and with its unholy power smite the undeserving linkage
Thursday, February 15, 2007
I'm not going to lie, this album is really, really confusing from a reviewer's perspective. For one, it's diverse as all hell, while maintaining enough similar themes to seem cohesive. At its most basic core, the album plays mostly kind of like old, punk-based, 3-or-4-chord metal, with pretty decent/fitting soloing and leads, a drummer who (occasionally) goes into thrashy and deathy territory, and a vocalist who switches between guttural growling and guttural singing (in both German and occasionally English) and sounds rough and possibly slightly drunk. It's the stuff on top and between that which brings the real interest: the power metally orchestra-hits and sweep arpeggios in the intro of "Friede Sei Mit Dir", the odd prechorus acoustic guitar in "Riders on the Storm", the violin leads throughout "Seemann", the one-two of neoclassical instrumental "In the Land of White Horses" and slow song "Liebe," and many more. Almost every song (except "Revolution", almost definitely the weakest track) has some distinct quality to set it apart from the others on the album. This album is really hard to do justice in words, so I'm just going to leave it at that. All in all, a very enjoyable listen that goes good, interesting places. Not my favorite album, but definitely worth it for an interesting listen.
7.3 riders of the apocalypse out of 10.
Interestingly, packaged with the album was a bonus track which is "Friede Sei Mid Dir" in English. No, I don't understand why they recorded it either. Whatever.
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