Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rock and Roll After Forever

By the time you're my age you're supposed to be waxing nostalgic, remembering the music of your youth with great fondness and grumbling about modern music.  Well, I do have some grumbles about modern American music, that's for sure.  Not that I'm particularly up on some of it, but all in all, the "angry dog rock" that seems so prevalent makes me want to scream.  And not in a good way.  Yeah, metal went a bit too far with the pop shit back in the 80s (and let's not even get started on the lifestyle--sheesh).  I hated grunge when it hit but I had to agree with the Wilson sisters (Ann and Nancy) who said in an interview "Whew, were we glad when that was over."

I'm a metal-head.  I banged my head to Ozzy, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Savatage, Queensryche, and Metallica in particular.  In the 90s I discovered Dream Theater, but found successive albums just didn't hit the mark.  But I was always on the lookout for something special.  When the Scorpions unloaded their album with orchestral accompaniment, I was like "Hey, now this is something I could get behind."  Then Metallica did something similar and I was like "Uh... wtf?"

I was a man in search of my music.  I've found bands I've enjoyed over the years, only to watch them fall by the wayside as I grew bored of the music they were making.  None of it fit.  None of it was the timeless sound I was looking for.

Now, I like classical.  I never knew much about it, but the sound of the bow sliding across the strings was like an angel's choir in my ears.  Violins, violas, cellos... all make music I love to hear.  Over the years I discovered artists who used such instruments in their music and I took what pleasure I could from it.

Evanescence hit in the early part of this century and for a moment I was thinking "Shit, yeah!"  Amy Lee had a voice like we'd never heard in rock and metal and I was ecstatic.  The first album was phenomenal, the live show at Bumbershoot nothing short of sublime.  I was suffering from a blown out back (and, yeah, I mean 'suffering') yet it remains one of my favorite concerts ever.

Then a couple years back I was scanning the On Demand music menu on my local cable and stumbled across a little song called "Bye Bye Beautiful" by a band called Nightwish.  I thought it was okay, but wandered off to watch a video by another band called Kamelot entitled "Rule the World."  I loved the progressive flavor of the Kamelot song.  So I started looking for other stuff they'd done and stumbled across "The Haunting," featuring Simone Simons of Epica.

Simone has the voice of an angel.  I searched out some of their music on YouTube and then last.fm and was instantly hooked.  That, of course, led me back to similar music and I got to hear more of Nightwish.  Let me say that while I like Tarja's voice, for what she does with it, I think she could do a hell of a lot more.  That's one of the reason I actually prefer Anette Olzen's voice fronting Nightwish.  More variation.  Sure, Tarja's voice is cleaner than Anette's, but I think the range of, say, Floor Jansen or Simone is far more accessible.

I told my wife soon after stumbling across all of this that "This is the music I've been waiting my whole life for."  She doesn't get it, but that's okay.  She's never been one for female vocals and I always have been.  I lamented that the few real female rockers in the eighties got short shrift.  I wanted to hear them let loose.  Unfortunately I had to wait nearly another twenty to twenty five years to get what I wanted.

I've even discovered, much to my surprise, that I like the gothic "beauty and the beast" flavor of bands like Epica, After Forever, and other similar acts.  I don't mind the "death grunts" if they're contrasted by the ethereal power and beauty of a prime female voice.

I think bands like these are poised to explode into America.  It's just a matter of time.  Evanescence was merely a hint of what was possible.  Compared to bands like Flyleaf and Paramore, the gothic and symphonic metal bands from Europe are a veritable nuclear blast of intensity.  These are musicians and composers at the top of their game, with female vocals ranging from the graceful to the truly amazing.

I added a link to last.fm to this post.  My user name there is saje3d, my library featuring many of the bands I've mentioned, along with many others.  Pay no particular attention to the number of plays, if shown, because I also rely on Grooveshark and Pandora to give me a full taste of the music I enjoy before buying it through either itunes or my emusic membership.  And, yes, I buy the music I hear.  I happen to think downloading music illegally (or anything else for that matter) is the act of a common thief.  I use services like last.fm, grooveshark, and pandora to discover music.  But I like to take it with me, which requires me to actually purchase it.

If any of this sounds at all interesting to you, go have a listen.  Pay particular attention to Epica, After Forever, and Edenbridge... along with Within Temptation, Lunatica, Gwyllion, and Nightwish.  If you like male vocals too, check out Kamelot, Falconer, Sonata Arctica, and Amorphis.

Go forth and be saved, my children.  These bands are the worthy successors of such luminaries as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queensryche, and Rush.  This is the music I've waited my whole life to hear.  How about you?

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