Friday, September 29, 2006

Clothing Does NOT Make the Man!!!!

I never truly understood the purpose of fashion trends. To me it seems like too many people in our society are obsessed with their image and go out of their way to buy and wear all of the latest trends. This is completely contrary to my personal creed and ideology. To me, the substance of a person's character is of much greater importance than the type of shoes or clothes they wear. Buying a $150 pair of pants will not make you a better person inside. I think the reason that a lot of people are obsessed with dressing themselves up in a conucopia of designer clothing is to cover up what little they have to offer intellectually and emotionally. Many of these people lack any sort of intellectual merit or self esteem.

Physical attractiveness is not what determines the quality of a person. Granted I understand the need for basic personal care such as proper sanitary practices (ex. Showering, brushing one's teeth, combing one's hair, and wearing clean clothes), but outside of these couple basic cosmetic necessities it is just vanity that causes us to buy that Abercrombie and Finch shirt or spend $175 on Doc Martens. Do we lack a moral conscience? Have we forgotten what is truly important in establishing our worth as human beings? Do we honestly think that expensive clothes and plastic Hollywood looks will make up for our inadequacies as human beings? These are the questions I ask myself when I see all of these image obsessed sheep flock in herds to the night clubs and other places of socialization to show off their latest credit card purchases.

I guess it is a scene that I will never understand. Maybe it is because I am not hip enough to get it. Or maybe it is because I have more important things to do with my life than sitting around and worrying about making up for my imperfections with expensive and meaningless purchases. Perhaps someday we will realize that there is more to life than what we look like. Perhaps we may figure out that what we do and who we impact is more important than how we look while we are doing it.

Podcasts

The Unsigned Rock Show This podcast is a radio style podcast in which the podcaster introduces all of the underground rock bands he is listening to and plays songs from these bands. The sound quality of this podcast was average with a few glitches. I found this podcast on www.podcast.net. It was apparently this person's first podcast and it took place only a few days ago so it is not surprising that I did not find any other updates. The length of the podcast itself was rather long. I sat through approximately ten minutes of it before I decided to go to something else. For the most part this podcast was well done. The only problem I had with it was that the host's taste in music is particularly poor, in my opinion.

Contrast Podcast This is an excellent podcast much in the same vein as the previous podcast but with much better sound effects, cleaner sound quality, and more eclectic and interesting music. The podcast was approximately 40 minutes in length and is operable in iTunes, Juice, or Yahoo. Overall this was a very cool podcast with some interesting musical samples. Updates are available several times a week, keeping the podcast fresh and interesting. A highly suggested podcast for anyone with a taste in eclectic underground music of all sorts.

All Songs Considered Includes an interesting and eclectic mixture of music from many different genres all mashed into one giant podcast ran by NPR. Discussions involving many people arguing about the value of certain types of music provides for some interesting and heated debate; however; makes the podcast quite long at just under an hour. There is also a lot of discussion on general music news and upcoming album releases. The sound quality of the podcast was okay, but a little fuzzy at points. Updates and new podcasts seemed to be few and far between. As to why this is I cannot completely determine. This podcast can be found directly at Yahoo podcast site.

The Metal Show This particular podcast was hosted by Randy from Lamb of God and was basically one big hour long tribute to the fallen metal god Dimebag Darrell. The sound quality was surprisingly good considering the low quality software program they used to transmit the broadcast. The only complaint I had is that this podcast is not updated very often with the latest podcast having taken place several months ago. The contents of the podcast were excellent and definitely appeals to us true metal warriors. A highly suggested podcast for anyone into heavy metal.

Apparently I am the Bomb at Doing the Worm A really boring podcast with goofy unimaginative garage rock. The sound quality was very clean though the content of the podcast itself was rather boring and insignificant to my own personal interests. This podcast is available at the Digital Detroit Radio website. The podcast is just a simple audio sample file running approximately 20 minutes in length offering very little insight into the music played on the show or the topics discussed. The updates are of an adequate number but not overly active. If you have a chance to listen to this podcast, pass on it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Common Misconceptions About Heavy Metal

Lately I have been thinking about the state of heavy metal music in this country and I have come to realize that there are a lot of misconceptions about what exactly heavy metal is and what the heavy metal subculture is all about. First of all, not everyone who considers themselves a fan of heavy metal worships Satan. That is a very common fallacy affiliated with the music. It is true that there are quite a few references to Satan and other anti-Christian themes in heavy metal music however, very few of us are actually Satanists. I myself happen to be an atheist.

Another common misconception is that every metal fan is a long haired drug addict who lives in their mother's basement. Again I must insist that this is a completely misguided stereotype. I won't deny that there are a few loser drug addicts who listen to metal but you probably wouldn't find them in any higher numbers per capita than you would with fans from other types of music. Most of us are hard working honest citizens who maintain our own homes, pay our bills, raise our families, and are contributing members to our communities. Long hair is only an option if you are a metal fan. By no means is it a requirement. Some of the most purist of heavy metal musicians have short or shaved hair (i.e. Rob Halford, Kerry King, Jack Owen, Bruce Dickinson).

The thing that pisses me off the most besides all of the above is how so many bands get listed as heavy metal bands even though they are not. Some of these bands are okay but many of them are not very good and are destroying what society views as heavy metal. Just because a band uses distortion pedals doesn't make them a metal band. Below is a list of bands commonly misclassified as heavy metal

MUDVAYNE-Sorry folks they are simply a hard rock band and not a very good one at that!
SLIPKNOT-Some of their earlier releases could fit into the spazcore scene pretty well but their newer material is definitely not metal.
KORN-This is just a hard rock band tuned down very low with disco, funk and rap elements. Nothing metal about them at all.
TOOL-Though a very good band that is quite interesting musically, their sound is way too soft to be metal.
THREE DAYS GRACE-They suck and are definitely not metal.
MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE-They are a fucking emo band!
BREAKING BENJAMIN-Just a simple untalented hard rock band. They are not even close to anything metal.
SEETHER-They are a decent hard rock band. Definitely not metal.
LINKIN PARK-They are rap rock band at best. They have no metal elements whatsoever.
LIMP BIZKET- Another shitty rap rock band
LOST PROPHETS- How could anyone even confuse these guys for metal?
NIRVANA- Sorry just a grunge rock band.
HED PE- Metal? Give me a fucking break!
LED ZEPPELIN- Okay I really love this band. They wrote some of the best rock songs in history. However, they were nothing more than a hard edged blues rock band even though they did influence the first heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath they themselves were not a heavy metal band.
DEF LEPPARD AND ANYTHING ELSE THAT IS GLAM- 1980's glam rock is by no means metal. It is hard rock performed by cross dressing ninnies.
HATEBREED-These guys are hardcore. Hardcore music has it's roots in punk and is therefore not metal. That goes for all other hardcore bands.
AFI- They are a punk rock band. Period. End of story.
MARILYN MANSON- This shock rocker is merely a goth influenced artist that makes industrial rock. He is probably the most misclassified musician as he most certainly is NOT a heavy metal artist.
NIN- Good industrial music though still not metal.
ATREYU-Are you fucking kidding me? How could anyone mistake these no talent soft sounding pussweeds as metal? They are a really bad screamo band. Which brings me to my next point. Screamo is NOT metal either. It is just a different form of punk music, just as emo is.
HIM-This band is gothic rock at best.
AVENGED SEVENFOLD-Though somewhat metal sounding with their guitar work they lack all the other qualities a metal band must have to truly be a heavy metal band.
PAPA ROACH-Originally started as a rap rock band, they are now emo. They never were metal.
STONE SOUR-Just an acoustic version of Slipknot without the retarded outfits.
AMERICAN HEAD CHARGE-despite popular belief this industrial hard rock band is not metal by any means.
MONSTER MAGNET- This is a stoner rock band. Nothing more, nothing less.
CHEVELLE-This band is a crappy punk influenced hard rock band with less than stellar guitar work and song writing abilities. They lack any sort of metal qualities.
TAPROOT-Another hard rock band misclassified as metal. They are definitely not heavy enough to be metal.
EVANESCENSE-These Lacuna Coil wannabes are trying to make metal but failing at it miserably. Lacuna Coil actually succeeded at making female fronted metal. This band however is a joke.
WICKED WISDOM- Jada Pinket Smith is not metal neither is her band.
KITTIE-Another crappy all female outfit trying to make metal but merely producing poorly written hard rock.
OTEP-This is more of a screamo band. I fail to see how anyone could confuse them for metal. Tuning down and screaming does not make a band metal!
STAIND-Started as a hard rock band but have gotten progressively softer and more boring as time has passed.
POWERMAN 5000-This is an industrial rock band that is commonly misclassified as heavy metal because Spider is the brother of Rob Zombie.
DOPE-Just a rap rock band.
POD- Christian hard rock with crap for guitar riffs.
CREED-More crappy Christian rock garbage.
COLD- Really boring commercial hard rock.
ANY KIND OF NU-METAL-Nu-metal is not truly metal in the sense of what heavy metal is all about. All nu-metal bands are exactly the same. Their formula is boring and predictable and it consists of tuned down hard rock with bad singers, shitty guitarists, and poorly written songs. Most people who think they are into metal but are actually posers listen to nu-metal. In other words, NU-METAL IS NOT TRUE METAL!!!!!!

BANDS THAT ARE IN BETWEEN HARD ROCK AND HEAVY METAL:
GODSMACK-Cool band that writes catchy songs. It is hard to consider them a heavy metal band even though they are heavier than most hard rock.
SYSTEM OF A DOWN-Interesting mix of traditional Turkish music, hard rock, funk, and metal elements. They definitely have moments of metal however, they have lots of non-metal material that keeps them from truly being a heavy metal band.
ALICE IN CHAINS-Dark like a metal band and great songwriters at the same time. These guys are so close to being metal it is scary. Their lighter material keeps them out of the heavy metal realm though.
BLUE OYSTER CULT-Another dark sounding band that has too much soft material to truly be a heavy metal band though they are much more sinister than most hard rock groups.
DEEP PURPLE- As much as I love this band it is hard to call them metal. It is true that Ritchie Blackmore's guitar riffs set the stage for some classic metal innovations and conventions, though the band themselves were not really a heavy metal band. Maybe if I were alive in 1971 and had just bought the Machine Head album I would have thought differently; however, compared to their contemporaries (i.e. Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Motorhead) they are a classically influenced hard rock band with proto-metal elements.
GUNS N" ROSES-Though a strong band with great songs and a hard hitting attack, I see these guys as an even mixture of hard rock and heavy metal. Ultimately making them neither a hard rock band or a metal bands but something in between.
AC/DC-These Australian madmen provided some of the chunkiest blues based riffs ever heard in the history of rock. Their sound is signature to that of hard rock however their very hard edged guitar attack almost makes them a metal band. Again I must insist that they lie somewhere in between hard rock and heavy metal.

SOME EXAMPLES OF TRUE HEAVY METAL BANDS:
BLACK SABBATH
IRON MAIDEN
SLAYER
JUDAS PRIEST
MOTORHEAD
METACLLICA UP TO 1988
MEGADETH
ANTHRAX
PENTAGRAM (US)
MANOWAR
DIO
PANTERA
CANNIBAL CORPSE
MORBID ANGEL
OBITUARY
MAYHEM
IMMORTAL
SAINT VITUS
CANDLEMASS
EXODUS
KREATOR
KING DIAMOND
DARKTHRONE
OPETH
CHILDREN OF BODOM
LAMB OF GOD
VENOM
CELTIC FROST
BATHORY


As you can tell the term heavy metal is probably one of the most misued genre classifications in the music business. I would bet that there are probably more bands misclassified as heavy metal than any other genre in existence. When determining what separates true metal from false metal one must keep in mind that putting distortion on a guitar and tuning down does not necessarily mean that the band is metal. Being a heavy metal band requires much more than distortion. To be a true heavy metal band the attitude, sound, style, and technical abilities of the band are of utmost importance. If the band seems to write its songs strictly in a radio format than they are probably not metal. If the band is more worried about sex, drugs, and rock n' roll, that they are about the quality of their songs than they are probably not a heavy metal band. The heavy metal attitude is one of putting the quality of the music and the message of the songs as the biggest priority over radio success, album sales, or fame. True heavy metal musicians live for the music they make. This is the reason why heavy metal bands are usually the most technically proficient musicians in the rock n' roll world, next to progressive rock musicians of course.

Qualities such as heaviness, darkness, lyrical content, and overall effectiveness of the composition do help define what true metal is; however, there is much more to it than that. It is an attitude and a way of life. So the next time you try to pass judgment onto heavy metal bands or metalheads themselves, stop and ask yourself, "Is this band truly a heavy metal band?" or"What kind of person is this heavy metal fan?" You never know. Perhaps you have worked with or interacted with true metalheads and didn't even realize it. Perhaps that guy with the hair down to the middle of his back wearing an Iron Maiden T-shirt is one of the most intelligent people you will ever meet. Maybe that girl dressed in black with combat boots and a Slayer long sleeve shirt is the sweetest girl in the world. I guess what I am trying to say is before you go and judge something, get an informed opinion. Also, don't let mainstream society tell what something is and isn't because most of the time its wrong and is based on overly generalized classifications that do not pertain to any set standard or specific undeniable qualities. So go out and find the truth my friends. I think that you will all be the better for it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Independent Record Labels

Southern Lord
This is a very cool independent record label that caters mostly to doom metal. They do have some ambient and experimental black metal bands amongst their ranks. For the most part they sign droning and extreme doom bands. They also do reissues of older doom metal recordings. The site is very easily navigated. All of the links and different sections of the site are in working order. This site is well done and self explanatory. Links to band websites, audio samples, and merchandise of all sorts are all available on the site. For the most part I was extremely impressed with this site considering how underground of a label it is.

Nuclear Blast
This record label signs heavy metal bands of all types. Most of the groups under this label fit into the death metal and black metal subgenres, however they do have plenty of doom metal, hardcore (unfortunately), and grindcore groups. Another cool thing about this label is that they sign a lot of legendary heavy metal bands that are and were extremely influential to the underground heavy metal scene, some examples of which include Candlemass, Agnostic Front, Death Angel, Exodus...Etc. The site itself is very colorful and professionally done. The tabs to each section of the site are clear; however, they are very bland and boring in comparison to the rest of the site. There are of course audio samples and merchandise links but they are a tad bit tricky to operate. Also it takes quite a bit of time to load some of the sound files. Overall I think that Nuclear Blast could have put more time into ensuring that the quality of their site matches the quality of the music they put out.

Metal Blade
Metal Blade is a legendary extreme metal record label that gave many influential heavy metal artists their start (i.e. Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Saint Vitus). The label still carries a lot of death metal and thrash metal acts. It seems to me that they are starting to sign and distribute more hardcore and metalcore acts now than other extreme metal bands. This is rather unfortunate considering that the original purpose Metal Blade was founded was to rebel against the trends. It is sad to see them selling themselves into the trends. Despite the fact that I feel this label is going downhill musically, their site is by far one of the best independent label sites I have seen on the web. This is true probably because they have had quite a bit more success than many other metal record labels. The colors and fonts are very appropriate to the content. There are a lot of images, links, audio samples, and merchandise on the site also which makes it a fun site to navigate through.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Some Random Thoughts On Music

Being a music major I have had a lot of opportunities to play and experience many different types of music. These experiences have not only shaped me as a musician and human being but they have also illuminated me to different ideologies and cultural traditions. If there is one thing that we as human beings have in common it is our need to communicate. Music is an immensely effective medium of communication and can sometimes say more than words alone can accomplish. Though we all come from various backgrounds, economically, culturally, etc, a need for music is one thing that we all have in common. From the richest CEO to the African tribe member, we all can find some value in music. In truth, music is the great equalizer. It is something that we all experience and can relate to in one way or another. To not have developed some sort of appreciation for music is to not truly be in touch with oneself.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Review of Several Music Blogs

1+1=3 This blog has a very thorough discussion of an extremely important classical music record label by the name of Deutsche Grammophon. This blogger did a wonderful job researching the label and explaining its importance in the classical music realm. I found the information in this blog to be fascinating and very useful. This was an excellent blog.

We Make Money Not Art This blog has a couple of different posts regarding music made by feet walking on large electronic keyboards. Each of the separate posts gave a brief overview of each musical exhibit and who designed it. The concept of the "walking keyboard" is one that could be fun for people of all ages. However, I have trouble taking it seriously as a possible new realm of music or a medium for composers to write new music for.

Nameless Writer's Thoughts on Music This writer contemplates the regional and cultural differences amongst the musics of the world. He or she concludes that those listeners that only limit themselves to one type of music are essentially narrow minded and truly do not fully understand the purpose of music in its many different forms.

Animation ID This blogger made a post relating to how Jerry Beck identifies Woody Wood Pecker dancing to Rossini's Barber of Seville as on of the top 50 animated scenes in the history of cartoons. The author proceeded to explain the fine details of the animation and how it interacts with the music. A very informative yet dry post.

Christians and Secular Music This blog is a very biased one stating that Christians can only listen to certain types of secular music. It specifically makes a strong statement against gangster rap and other forms of hip hop calling it sexually promiscuous and irresponsible. That to me, represents a very narrow viewpoint on this type of music and shows that the author wrote this blog clearly to wag his or her finger at music they don't care for themselves. My mother taught me that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Maybe this author should take that advice.

Sociology and Music This was a very fascinating post discussing the relationship between music and sociology. After reading through the post I never realized how much music and sociology intertwined. This is a must read for any sociologist interested in music or musicians with an interest in the cultural importance of music.

British Music Resource This particular blog is a very detailed resource specifically pertaining to British music and bands. The author provides a large list of online resources and critiques each one. Most of the resources listed look credible and his citations are right to the point. The only complaint I had about this blog is that it was a little too busy for my eyes. Otherwise it was a very cool blog.

Paul Simon The author of this blog decided to write about his love of music and how his mother introduced him to all of the great music he listens to. He seems to really enjoy the music of Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, The Stones, Willie Nelson, and tons of other 60s music icons. For the ,most part I found this blog to be really boring and pointless. I happen to like a lot of the same bands as this author, however he fails to make any points as to the merit of the bands or defend his reasons for liking them.

John Mayer Album Review This blog provides an informed critical analysis of John Mayer's Continuum album. The author makes some very solid points in his critique of the album including an equal mixture of compliments and criticism. Overall I found this review to be informative and well thought out.

Rough Mix The author of this blog writes about what type of bands and music groups he prefers. According to him he would rather see a band of singers and songwriters who use as much instrumentation as possible in order to create complex compositions. I do agree with this idea to a certain extent however, I do feel that in a rock n' roll setting too many instruments can detract from the creative process and in turn create an arrogant sound, making the band ultimately unlistenable.