The Ocean – Pelagial (an epic journey to the bottom of the ocean)

As I write this review, I am in fact listening to Pelagial for the first time myself. This is going to be quite the experience. Usually when people write reviews of albums they have listened to them all the way through multiple times and really dissected the music fully. I want to give a different point of view, because most people when reading reviews are listening for the first time. I have already read about this album a bunch and am really excited to take it in. From what I have heard it is a concept album which relates sinking to the bottom of the ocean with the struggle of life. Lyrical analyses takes a while so I probably won’t get too deep into that and instead focus on first-impression things that stand out to me.

The albums is split into 5 sections from what I can tell based on song titles, the mesopelagic part must be the surface of the ocean, bathyapelagic is the layer underneath that, abyssopelagic is the depths and Hadopelagic is the ocean floor. The final two songs (again, haven’t heard them yet) are names demersal and benthic, which are probably a reflection/tie it all together sort of thing of the album.

Mesopelagic: Into the uncanny does have the feeling like we are embarking on a long journey. I really like extensive the use of the piano so far. One thing The Ocean [Collective] has struggled with in their previous album is the mixing of the vocals. Having seen them live, the singer has a good enough voice, it just never quite was balanced right with the instruments, often getting muddied during heavier sections and losing clarity. This is not the case anymore, every word comes out clear the first time, and he sounds fantastic.

Now Bathyalpelagic I is starting. I now notice that the song titles directly represent my original assumption that they are relating sinking to the bottom of the ocean to the struggle of man, each song title has the part of the ocean that we are in right now, and then what the song is about as it relates to us. Bathypelagic I: Impasses for example uses ocean themes words (drifting, floating) in conjunction with the story of a relationship that came to an impasse. Both parties wanted things out of the relationship that the other could not provide. I feel as though we are just scratching the surface however (see what I did there?)

I thought the sections of the album would string together as one song in several movements, but each movement instead is its own idea. Not sure if I like that, but each song so far has enough content to keep my interest

There is a lot of groovy rhythms that are not typical of The Ocean, especially in this song at 2:58. It grabs your attention, only 2 notes in a repeating rhythm, almost like a breakdown. I like it.

Now we are getting to the Abyssopelagic section. The tone has turned darker here, fitting for the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere surrounded by water for miles in all directions. The introduction of a violin helps to get the minor key in the listeners ear and let them know that there are some sad feelings here.

Part 2, signals of anxiety, the intro you can hear an ambient sound of water flowing around the perimeter of a submarine, as it slowly drifts through the depths. The deafening silence and minimalism alone tells the story to come. Again ocean themed lyrics come in “she was getting close to the shore”, this must be a memory that the singer is having from near the bottom of the ocean, thinking about what he left behind up above. Having anxiety about if he ever should have come, signals of anxiety. The vocals are especially powerful in this song, it repeats the same stanza twice in the second half, and then the ambient sounds of the depths come back. I sense now is the beginning of the end for the protagonist of the story.

Those are some sexy diminished chords on Hadopelagic I: Omen of the Deep. Once again the recurring ambience comes in without any words in this track.

Part 2, Let Them Believe is 9 minutes long, and the only section of the Hadopelagic with lyrics. They split the track after only a 1:07 transition in part 1, they wanted to simply remind the listener of the journey they embarked on at the beginning that the signals of anxiety distracted them, and the protagonist, from.

The whole song is in alternating 2-3 meter, but it’s really a 6/8. It is a very interesting groove. At 4:20 the piano and violin are playing together polyphonically. I now realize that the piano was used in the bathypelagic section and the violin in the abyssopelagic. Combining them here is an excellent use of motives. Usually a motive is a short sequence of notes that repeats throughout a song or album, but in this case it is simply the timbre of the instrument.

WOW that drop at 7:07 was so well done. All of the instruments drop off at 6:47, then slowly one by one come back in, building to the climactic moment where they finally tell the message that this section is about : “let them believe in themselves, and let them live with their contradictions.” This goes back to my previous post about The Great Metal War, The Ocean is taking a side for atheism here. The whole time that we are sinking to the ocean, the protagonist is having doubts about the faith of mankind in popular religions. When we finally hit rock bottom, quite literally, he realizes that human strength is found not in faith in a god, but in faith in one’s self.

Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance has a negative, foreboding tone to it. The Demersal zone of the ocean is almost the deepest part, so we are almost there. These last 2 tracks are the only ones that do not have the suffix “pelagic” in the first part of the title. I’m not sure what the significance of this is yet, but I’m sure there is something. This song is the first one to use mostly aesthetic or “screaming” vocals. Overall the album slowly became more and more aesthetic oriented than clean vocal oriented. The deccelerando for the last few minutes of this song are a really cool effect, as the vessel we are in approaches the very absolute bottom of the ocean, it slows down preparing to stop. Another awesome musical effect in this album.

Now we are entering the Benthic zone: The Origin Of Our Wishes. The guitars and drums drone on at a repeating slow pace, and the vocals often follow suit. It’s as if the entire album is winding down, the entire vessel is running out of momentum. There are many false stops, where the song seems like it is going to be over, then continues at an even slower rate. This is the kind of story you can’t tell with just words. “There’s no one here. No one to hold down here, All dead.” Are the closing lines of the song. The protagonist went on this journey searching for something, something that he did not find. And now the vessel, out of energy and breathable air, will be his tomb.

(this is the instrumental version and as of now only one available to share with you in this way)

In conclusion: I really need to listen to this again. And again. And again. Not just because I didn’t fully understand it, because I there are many parts I want to hear again. There was not much complexity harmonically, or rhythmically (compared to other progressive musicians), but the complexity of the album is when you view it as a whole from start to finish. The way the songs transform as you metaphorically go deeper and deeper into the ocean, the way the story is told, that’s what makes it so stellar. The songs that stood out to me were Signals of Anxiety, Let Them Believe, The Origin of Our Wishes, and Disequilibrated (notice these are the finales of each section of the album). While they all can be listened to by themselves and still be excellent tunes, listening to the entire album front to back is the way to go. It’s hard for people to appreciate music like this when they only have time to listen to a few songs, or when they listen to one song to sample the whole album. You have to prepare yourself for a musical journey to the bottom of the ocean and press play at the start and then let it go, no skips, no repeats, no shuffle. For me, it’s a journey I hope to take many more times in the future.


The Great War Of Metal

I decided I need to elaborate more on this disagreement between sub-genres of metal, because it was my most successful post to date, and because I received a small amount of hate mail telling me how wrong I was and that I don’t know anything about music even though I believe I proved to the contrary in my first few posts.

There is a war going on. We are all at fault. We all think our personally preferred sub-genre is the best one and that other subs are worse than Justin Bieber. I’m exaggerating only a little. Whenever I go through comments on Youtube videos, or Facebook posts, or metal forums and blogs, I notice there is nothing but a giant flame war. Why does this happen? Even if you find another form of metal to be bland, its still metal. Would you rather the artist make songs about going to the club and getting drunk with an electronic sound at 140 beats per minute? This is absurd. It makes all of us look bad. It makes the bands look bad. It makes the whole scene look bad. How do you expect to get more people into metal when all the rest of the fans do is push everyone else away? This post is going to make a lot of people very angry, because I am angry, and what I am going to say needs to be said.

What is metal? It is expressing darker emotions using specific styles of guitar playing (power chords, dissonance, fast syncopated rhythms or slow heavy ones), specific styles of drumming (double bass drum pedal, multiple cymbals, loose snare), and specific styles of vocals (screaming, grunting, pig squealing, growling, whatever you call it). Anything that uses all these techniques can be considered metal. This ranges all the way from Cannibal Corpse to Attila. Yes, Attila is metal, get over it. I may not like them, you may not, but it is.

Everything I have posted before will tell you how lame this is, how derivative it is, but some people like it. Over a million people actually. This isn’t “bad” music it is just basic music. Imagine having never heard metal before and hearing this for the first time. It would be very different than anything you have heard, even though to a long time metal head it sounds the same as everything else. I believe even though this is boring for me to listen to it, the artist actually enjoys making it. Metal bands aren’t in it for the money like some popular musicians; they want to live the rock star lifestyle playing the music they like. If this is it, that’s fine, to each his own. Read some of the comments, I don’t mean the top ones (which will almost always be in defense of the band) read deeper. Look at how caustic and offensive these people are. Aside from the assholes, also notice how completely brainless most of the defense comments are, they usually counter attack and feed the fire instead of coming up with legitimate reasons as to why they enjoy this while the other guy does not. You don’t defend music by saying bad things about the person, you explain why you like it. Nobody can deny your own opinion, but calling someone a faggot online on a public website makes people want to not be on that website anymore, causing potential fans to leave.

Now for the other side of the argument

again go deep into the comments, see how terrible the people who comment on this video are. Putting a band or its fans down on a Youtube video isn’t going to make a difference. Most of the arguments amount to “this sucks” or “you suck” or “I don’t understand how people hate this good music” or “I don’t understand how people like this bad music.” If you are going to say”this sucks” like I often do, you have to explain why. I again want to remind all of you that the point of this blog is not to convince you to like metal, it is to get you to critically THINK about the music you listen to no matter what it is. Imagine how much stronger of an argument it would be if you said “I really wish Cannibal Corpse would explore more themes in their music instead of using human mutilation as imagery for their feelings, I know that’s their gimmick but sometimes I feel like they don’t try and evolve as a group.” Someone would probably respond with “you suck your taste in music is bad” or “you’re a faggot”, but who looks like the idiot now? It’s respectful and explains exactly what I don’t like about Cannibal Corpse. You can’t say I’m wrong for feeling that way about them. In fact I would love to hear arguments for why people DO like Cannibal Corpse, there must be an appeal, and they have several million views on multiple videos. If you can tell me from a musical or thematic perspective what you like about them please comment below. I am very interested in reading.

There are more layers to this war than you may originally think. It goes beyond sub-genres. It is a war of ideals, specifically between atheism and theism. Now I can talk about the first video from this post.

Norma Jean are a devout “Christian” metal band. I put Christian in quotes because I believe that although they believe in Christ and god, they are not exactly traditional Christians. Many of NJ’s songs and albums are about trying to convince atheists that faith is not just for bible waving fools. Sometimes, like in this example, they challenge atheists and speak poorly about the way they treat believers, but usually they are simply trying to express themselves. NJ is one of my favorite bands. I am an atheist. How can this be? Again I will say that what I appreciate about many metal bands is their ability to express their feelings, to really be able to understand what is going through their head. I don’t have to agree with it, I just want to hear pure un-adultered emotion coming straight out of my speakers and into my brain. NJ is one of the best bands at this.

This song is a very good example of Norma Jean having a conversation with their atheist listeners. “you will have all of your answers soon enough my friend” “do you really think all the saints are just lying, just lying in their graves” (using the meaning of lying to be dishonest the first time the word is said and laying down the second time) “where are we supposed to go, want you to remember this, just because I understand doesn’t really mean I care” meaning he understands why the atheist thinks the way he does, and he wants the atheist to take what he says to heart, but he doesn’t really care about his fate because the atheists decided for himself.

Now for the other side of the argument.

The Faceless, like NJ, are very effective at expressing their feelings. However, they feel the exact opposite of Norma Jean idealistically. This song is about destroying religious institution because it is holding our society back. “In a godless universe with logic as the reigning scepter of power
Revel in the mysteries of our reality” meaning our existence, which is explainable by logic, is filled with so much complexity and mystery that it doesn’t make sense for there to be a god. “Nailed to the cross,
drained of it’s blood, piety dies, crucify this lie” using biblical imagery in a very satirical way is a strong statement. Surely any Christian would find this very offensive, which is what The Faceless are trying to do. They find Christianity to be such a lie that they are using imagery from its own lore to deface it.

I gave only one example of each, but there are entire record labels for Christian metal bands, facedown records, and rise records both adamantly that god still belongs in music regardless of the genre. There are also many, MANY bands that make the atheism argument, usually they aren’t hard to find, the name of the band is often religious satire if they mainly write songs about that (Lamb Of God the most well known, Impending Doom was in a previous post of mine, as well as Whitechapel).

What do I think about this whole situation? I think it is AWESOME that musicians can write music about such a touchy subject. I personally don’t care which side you take as long as you mean what you say and say it like you mean it.

this is just a picture of the Summer Slaughter lineup for 2013. Notice DEP, and also notice NJ. Aside from being my dream lineup, these two bands are very different idealistically (as I have discussed in previous posts with DEP) but they are both playing to the same audience. This my friends, this is what the metal scene should be like. We can’t keep calling each other “faggots” and attempting to undermine each other’s musical tastes. If the artists can get past their differences so can we. We all understand the anger, we all understand the hatred, but let us not direct it outward toward other people (except for in the mosh pit), direct it toward what triggers these emotions in yourself, or even better, what the artist is trying to share with you. Look at how great the audience at Lollapalooza and Coachella is every year, artists love playing there and it just gets bigger every year because the fans don’t waste their time on the internet yelling at each other. The metal scene is not like these scenes, but I believe it can grow to be just as big if we can set aside our differences.

Stay heavy, I’ll see you in the pits.

Killswitch Engage – Disarm the Descent (between rock and a heavy place)

Killswitch Engage comes off of a nearly 4 year hiatus with a bang, bringing back ex-vocalist Jesse Leach from their debut album Alive or Just Breathing. It is pretty rare for a vocalist to leave a band and then come back, so needless to say this album has been very hyped up in the metal community. Due to this and the fact that this is the band that truly got me into metal, I feel obligated to make them the feature in my first ever full-album review!

I too was quite excited for this release. Even though I have moved on from melodic-metalcore KSE has a special place in my heart. First I will talk about the instrumentals. Very straightforward melodic-metal sound, this means it alternates between low chugs and higher moving melodic lines. The rhythms they use are as they always have, 16th note division with syncopation using extended note values. This album definitely chugs, Adam D. knows the winning formula for writing guitar work in his style. It will at least get you tapping your foot or bobbing your head with the steady beat. The drums are also very true to their style, alternating between bass drum pedals and snare while keeping quarter notes on the cymbals, using the last beat of every phrase for fills. They don’t stand out, which drums shouldn’t; they just help add to the constant beat the guitars are laying down.

This is the first song of the album. It takes no time to let you know exactly what the entire album is going to sound like. It also lets you know what one of the recurring themes is going to be from song to song: inner struggle. KSE has been singing about this since 2003, and it is good to see them go back to their roots. After the end of the heartache they fell into a love/loss breakup trend that needed to stop. At least they are singing ABOUT something, regardless of your opinion on the vocal style. The vocals have taken a turn against my personal preference, but for them I feel in the right direction.  KSE has a pretty big audience for a metal band. They even managed to slip a few of their bigger hits onto alternative or “hard rock” stations in the past. People who hear about them who are not fans of metal will instantly be attracted to how smooth Jesse’s voice is on this album. They use some harmonizing and verse/chorus/verse/chorus structure that most people are comfortable listening to.

Then there are these tracks that appeal to the heavier crowd, they have semi-breakdowns to head bang/mosh to at shows, and a guitar solo to make the fans feel like they are a talented and valid band. I don’t mean that to be snarky, I like that they try to appeal to the “br00tl” crowd,  but I think KSE will grow as a group if they stick to their style and let their fan base happen naturally. Besides, there is nothing you can do to please the “br00tl” crowd except be named Cannibal Corpse or Pig Destroyer.

I have said some good things about this album, and I mean them, but now it is time to get down to business. This is the kind of album that I listen to one time and never again. I enjoyed it, a little, but it was SO derivative and predictable that I feel like I absorbed the whole thing on the first listen. Not one track stood out to me, not one lyrical line made me think. All the tracks start off hard with “heavy” chugging guitar lines, then eventually get to the chorus where Jesse sings in a clean melodic style. I’m not against clean “real” singing in metal, I’m not against screaming the whole time either

what I AM against, is stuff like at 2:50. I don’t mean the singing/screaming combo, sometimes this is very effective, but listen to what he is saying. He is not angry at all, he doubling the vocals because it sounds cool.  This goes across the board. In my opinion, if you are going to scream, THEN SCREAM! Don’t do it to try and please metal heads (because again, you can’t), scream because you mean it. I want to hear the pure emotion coming straight out of the inside of your body, not half-assed yelling. The clean parts of the album are the best parts because you can FEEL what he is saying, he uses the harmony and melody to make the words stand out. It is beautiful at point, and there is nothing wrong with that. Do what you do best, play off your strengths, don’t force it.

There was a point in the album, where I had totally not realized that one song had ended and another had started. Not because of a good transition, because it literally sounds exactly the same. This is why none of the songs are memorable. The song writing is a proven formula, but they don’t do enough to add to it or change it to make it stand out. Ok that must be the chorus so here comes another verse of exactly the same length, followed by a chorus again. Then it is going into a bridge followed by another chorus. I made an entire post about this bad habit artists have of creating music without any creativity being involved at all. KSE knows how to sell albums; they do NOT know how to make different ones.

In conclusion, this is my favorite album that I have forgotten about completely so far this year. I love how incredibly bland it was. KSE has put out another smash hit that will outsell any other metal band this quarter, possibly this year. The hard rock fans will flock to it and revel in the glory of the clean vocals while still feeling like they are hardcore because it has some elements of metal in it too. There is nothing wrong with it; it is probably the best release of its sub-genre since Temper Temper. To me and most other metal heads, it will gather dust inside our ‘downloads’ folder on our hard drives and never be heard again.

Crossover Attack! (more styles = more profit)

For the sake of simplicity I am going to refer to any song or artist that uses more than one musical style in their music as a crossover. As with the rest of my posts I’m going to analyze good and bad examples of crossovers and why I judged them that way. I feel like crossovers are a rising trend in metal especially, but they are apparent in popular music as well.

This first example is an excellent crossover (says the biased metal head). It should be obvious which styles Wintersun is using here:  classical instrumentation with power metal. Power metal to me is usually a joke, singing about epic journeys and complete non-sense (Dragon Force, while the worst power metal band of all time, is a prime example of this), but has some of the best instrumental writing in any sub-genre. There are blast beats here and there, but the song doesn’t stick to any one groove for too long before switching to another. The way it uses the classical elements doesn’t distract from its power metal core. Instead it uses the symphonic parts to add harmonic layering to the already epic instrumentals which are standard to power metal. There is so much going on at every point in the song that I could listen to it again and again and enjoy it.

With every good crossover there is a bad one.

First of all, if this was metal without the electronic treatment, it isn’t good by itself. For the first example I feel it would still be a pretty good without the symphonic midi. This is very straightforward bland metal. Then they decide to add electronic beats to it on top. The band is clearly trying to target more than one audience here, the ravers and the head bangers. What I feel like the browning fails to realize is that no raver is going to listen to screaming vocals and breakdowns. Wintersun doesn’t try to appeal to the classical audience, it is purely metal, this song awkwardly goes back and forth between electronic and metal breakdowns, when they use both at the same time it doesn’t really add anything to the song. They just put it in because one member of the band likes it while the others like metal. This mix of metal/techno can be done well, and it has been done well. This isn’t it though.

This takes an extreme approach to the mix of metal/techno. This is purely electronic, with a drummer added for the beats. All of the guitar chugs and riffs are sampled from existing music and altered to the rhythm he wants. This song doesn’t awkwardly go between metal and electronic, the beat is almost purely heavy and syncopated like in metal, but then the sounds he uses are computer generated. Again this is my biased opinion, but this is far more interesting to listen to than techno beat-metal breakdown-techno beat- metal breakdown. He uses both styles of music together to create a unique sound.

I have to admit, as derivative and bland as this is, this is better than The Browning. As metal, it is still follows the hardcore formula and doesn’t do anything that interesting, but the electronic aspects are much better employed in this song. The Sounds are played in conjunction with the instruments and actually adds to the sound as opposed to going back and forth between the two for no real reason. Alright, enough metal/techno for now. What do more popular artists do for crossovers?

Timbaland does mostly collaborative work with artists from many genres. I feel like he is highly over looked and one of the more talented producers in the industry today. I know he still produces music about getting bitches, getting money, going clubbin, but of that sort of music his tracks are usually more interesting than most. Other songs on this album feature Fall Out Boy, Elton John, and of course Apologize features One Republic. He likes challenging himself by working with artists farther from his own hip hop style. He likes to let the artist do their thing, but also do his thing. This song has a very Hives repetitious melodic line, but a very Timbaland hip-hop beat. This is what makes good collaborations, it also in this case makes for good crossover songs. He uses many styles in his music because almost every song features someone else’s.

Muse makes many avant-garde songs that have really oddball beats and strange vocal styles in them. This song was the first song Muse released to its fans before their newest album The 2nd Law came out. Many fans were very confused and upset by it because of the use of the style which gained a lot of popularity in recent years called dubstep. Of course the rest of the album was more pertaining to Muse style (if you consider them to even have a defined style), but this song stands out as the only one which uses “dubstep”. I for one think it was an excellent crossover and a good decision to write the song this way. The song/album concept is the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which is basically that a closed system can only lose energy and heat thus resulting in the eventual heat death of earth and the universe. The use of the electronic style gave them the freedom to explore sounds that cannot be produced on a guitar or voice, it allowed them to represent this concept of the 2nd law of thermodynamics sonically with electronic sounds. They also use symphonic effects throughout which seem to portray that something bad is coming, the inevitable heat death of the earth. The “Drop” is this heat death happening in an instant, everything is dying, and then they return to the symphonic sounds and  use those amazing vocals to represent the earth, or its population, crying out one last time before they slowly die. This is a good crossover because they had an idea in their head that they knew they could not represent with their limited instrumentation so they explored other options and it blends together well with the album concept.

Last example is a fun one, but also a good one.

the song is very normal for Between the Buried and Me’s style. There are many moments throughout this album where the band juxtaposes in some strange part of the song in a different style than the rest of the song, or anything else they have every done. The part in this song to listen to is at 11:40. Bluegrass. Yes. Bluegrass style. You probably think I’m going to say this is a bad use of crossover, because The Browning just arbitrarily switches between styles and this seems to be the same sort of thing. It does very randomly switch to bluegrass and then back to metal, so why on earth is this a better crossover than The Browning? First take notice to what else you hear during this part, it sounds like it is in a bar and there is clinking of glasses and drunkards yelling at each other (the dialogue, if you are interested, is pretty hilarious by the way). It also comes after an extended guitar solo, leaving little lyrical context for this part of the song. Therefore we have to use what happens after to understand the reasoning behind doing this. Ah yes, the very same theme from the beginning of the song. Listen at 1:10 to 1:50, now listen to just before the bluegrass section till the end. The bluegrass section seems to be a transition back into the opening theme of the song. I don’t know why it had to be bluegrass other than some comic relief for this otherwise emotionally exhausting album. I think it was just that.

Next post (whenever school allows me to get to my computer again) will be a review of Killswitch Engages’ Disarm the Decent , because a long time ago they were my favorite artist and they deserve my attention.

Musical Idiosyncrasies

I lied, another relatively long post.

First, what do I mean by musical idiosyncrasies.  I think the easiest way to describe it is with lyrical idiosyncrasies first. Saying the phrases “drop the bass” “on the floor” “you and I” “in the club” would by an idiosyncrasy because those short individual phrases are repeated many times by different artists in different tracks. So basically, it means it’s a habit that occurs across the board I music. It goes beyond lyrics, it also involves certain rhythmic patterns, certain chord progressions (see cadence post), and structural tendencies. This post is going to identify specific ones that I find annoying, and hopefully enable you to notice them when you hear them in the future. The first one we are going to talk about is a rhythm that is used far too often in ALL genres of music: triplets.

A triplet is 3 notes evenly spaced across the duration of a certain number of beats, but while the time signature is in 4 (a duple). It’s hard to imagine what this sounds like so I made it easy. At :51 of this song (which I have used before, I apologize) you hear quarter note triplets followed by 3 eigths notes. The first three notes are evenly spaced along beats 1 and 2, the last 3 notes are in time with the duple coming in on the upbeat of beat 3. This repeats over and over for literally the entire song. At 1:44 you hear quarter note triplets only repeated over and over again until 1:59 (the drop) where the original rhythm returns. Sorry I made you listen to that for so long; it’s just a perfect example of this rhythm that is really easy to hear.

Hmm. That rhythm sounds familiar doesn’t it? It seems to be especially recurrent in dance music. The reason is that the strong beats in dance music are 1 and 3. A quarter note triplet pattern helps define these beats even more than 1 and 2 and 3.

1 2 3 4 1  I 2 3 4 quarter note triplet pattern x2 repeat. I’m not trying to say don’t use this rhythm ever, but it’s the foundation of way too much music these days and I feel like when trying to pump out a dance hit they just use this rhythm because they know it works instead of employing creative thought (who needs that in the music industry anymore?). For lengths sake ill let that be enough examples of this, but I’m sure you will hear it again and again. I’ll use this video to transition into my next idiosyncrasy, that one trance sound at 2:23.

Above the melody, listen to the virtual instrument that is above the beat. It is laying down quarter note triplets (of course). Do you recognize that sound? I do.

This song is pretty good overall lots of good filtering and a decent drop. Listen closely starting at :34. That sound that is creeping in, that is the same virtual instrument. What it is is a 3 oscillation synth of a I III V minor chord, detuned to your own liking and put through a resonance filter. I know this because I’ve done it before. Often it is even a preset which comes standard with many digital audio workstations (which is how you make electronic music or mix anything). I’m going to repost an example I have used before again to really get this sound in your head.

1:39 it comes in again (of course, that rhythm is the same quarter note triplet pattern from ‘Don’t You Worry Child’). It doesn’t sound EXACTLY the same, but hopefully you can tell the similarity. I guarantee all 3 of these examples were based off the same default virtual instrument. It sounds so epic doesn’t it? Again I’m not trying to say never use this sound, it is quite effective in all 3 of these examples, but also again it seems like it is a go-to sound for many artists who don’t want to have to come up with their own sound, because that takes work.


some of you may have seen this video before.

:48. There it is, in that quarter note triplet pattern. Again notice it changes every time based on how they tune each oscillation and the density of the resonance filter, but they aren’t fooling me.

Metal isn’t immune to these idiosyncrasies either. (please don’t hate me STFS, you are my favorite deathcore band)

Right at the beginning, the rhythm that is repeated over and over is quarter note triplets. There are more parts with this rhythm too as you listen on, see if you can hear it.

again. That rhythm is everywhere. Lets talk about some other idiosyncrasies that are exclusive to metal. Again using the previous example to transition: blast beats.

OK metal heads, I understand that blast beats are an element that help define the genre, so is the trance sound to dance music that I listen above. But it needs to be said. At the beginning listen to the drum pattern, metal heads love this (guilty) (1:28, really good example of a breakdown from my state of the union part 2 post.

at :24 is where they begin here, but a bit slower, then it doubles in speed at 30. I am not a drummer and cannot explain to you exactly how this rhythmic pattern works, but I know it involves hitting a lot of drums really fast and sounds like that. I don’t think it’s bad, but sometimes a little creativity in drumming couldn’t hurt. One last example of blast beats

right at the beginning

Alright one more, this one is a particular chord progression that is more and more popular (even more than the one I pointed out in my cadences post). It is VI VII I  (so it starts below the root)

The reason this progression is effective is because of the lingering leading tone. A leading tone is basically the VII of a scale, the note right before you get to the top. If you want to drive a musician NUTS, play a musical phrase and stop on the leading tone and don’t resolve it.

The drop obviously is not really in a key, but the part in between is VI VII I then it leads back into VI with a measure of I VII so its circular. Since I have made it a habit to criticize Skrillex, listen to the next two links and notice the chord progressions in them…


(:31) what a guy

Hear the same progression here at the beginning repeated over and over until :29 (the verse is in an alternating structure of I VI I VI etc.). It comes back again at 1:37 for the bridge/solo section

Go back to the gangnam style video, at :47 (the same part with the other 2 idiosyncrasies in it) he goes through this progression twice. So that is 3 of the idiosyncrasies at once. No wonder this song is so damn catchy.

Another metal song using it. (1:05)

This guy uses loop recording and makes a lot of sick tunes (he very clearly spells it out in this one starting at 1:24)

Finally to wrap it up, Dillinger Escape Plan using an idiosyncrasy (also because this is one of their most approachable songs which I left out of my last post)

It starts creeping in at 3:52, more obvious once you get to 4:08, very obvious at 5:12. Quarter note triplets repeated over and over.  See how it really defines beats 1 and 3 and makes you nod your head when you finally get to it?

That’s all for today. Next post will be about cross over artists who attempt to include multiple styles in their music.

The Dillinger Escape Plan (also the longest post of all time)

The Dillinger Escape Plan, and any type of metal, is not for everyone. Music like this is written based on the emotions of the artists, and to enjoy it the listener has to be able to relate/understand these emotions. DEP is full of rage, chaos, and dissonance. For me it is perfect. For most of you, it’s probably a load of garbage and mush thrown together by total idiots who don’t know anything about music or song writing. My goal with this post isn’t to convince you to like DEP, although it would be great if you did, instead the goal is to make you realize at least that the statement is not true.

Now to talk about the first example, this is DEP’s first ‘hit’ song. It was featured on Head Bangers Ball vol. 2 which is what lead me to discovering them. Head Bangers Ball was a TV show that used to run on MTV2 at 10pm on Thursdays that played the trending metal of the time. Of course since the show was about music they had to take it off the air. Due to this DEP managed to break out with their new singer Greg Puciato after their first vocalist left. This is the first song on the album Miss Machine. I know what you are thinking if you are a loyal reader, the hit is not supposed to go first. I still standby that statement, but I feel that DEP never intended for this song to be the hit on the album. I’ll talk more about which song I think is the strongest on the album a bit later. Panasonic Youth is about the human tendency to fight death through medical advancement while some other humans want to kill themselves. It sort of satirizes the way people in different situations seem to put a different value on a human life. “The lifeless test tube with infant in arms, the lifeless test tube look what she’s done.” This is a direct criticism of abortion, stating how it is hypocritical to get an abortion when you already have a child. It’s a specific situation, but it happens in our society. This is the type of thing DEP is disgusted with and what this song is about.

Now, at 2:10, listen carefully to the guitar line that is repeated until the end of the song. This will be important later on.

Another great song by DEP, but during their transition between vocalists, Mike Patton heard about them and decided to do a 1 time EP with them that only have 4 songs on it. This is one of these songs.

Sorry for going backwards chronologically, I thought by starting with their most popular song I might draw more attention. Mike Patton is the vocalist for Faith No More (which is a band you have heard of from the 90’s alternative scene. listen to the song Epic you will recognize it). This is a much different song than anything by FNM. This album is the only one that Mike Patton was involved with, and is what spring boarded DEP into fame and caused the success of Miss Machine.

Now what the hell is this song about? You know I’m going to be honest with you, I really have no idea what some of the lyrics can be made out to mean, but overall I can explain. One line in particular is repeated “I’m the best you’ll ever have.” This makes it pretty clear that this song is a breakup song. It has an angry/chaotic feel for the first few minutes of the song, representing the anger involved with getting dumped (he yells out single words about his feelings). Then at 2:05 the song changes completely. Each line seems to stand apart from itself. The artist is getting rid of the memories, in this case physical objects that remind him of her. Again the song takes a turn at 3:24. Most DEP songs do not have a tonal center; there is no key and no apparent chord progression. This part has both of those things. Now the lyrics start getting confusing to me. Mike seems to be talking about social environments and the fakeness of people inside of them. Of course at some point the original theme has to come back. At 4:07 “I guess it’s time to pay the bill, but you know I never will, I’m hungry still…” the singer is relating this environment back to what the song was originally about; getting dumped. Perhaps he met his  significant other in a place like this, it is never directly said, but I think that might be the case. Because right after this line the anger and chaos comes back. This is one of the best climaxes in the entire DEP back catalog. “RUN AWAY.” The singer needs to escape this place because he is being reminded of his lover and it brings back all the feelings he thought he got rid of earlier in the song.

After this the song goes back into the progression at 3:24 again. A second verse if you will. Its not very characteristic of the band to do verses, but they do it anyway. Now the singer is back to talking about the social atmosphere, could really be a club, a restaurant, a movie theater, anywhere. “In this crowded place I could swing a cat and not even hit a soul, just a lonely vacuum of human black holes.” People seem to be soulless and all the same in these situations. He realizes it is time to leave and calmly asks for the check, referencing the end of the first verse “promising to set me free, waiter, check please” and then repeating the RUN AWAY sequence once again. “mercy killing on the way, never thought I’d here you say, fall on to your knees and pray now.” Seems to be describing the exact situation of what happened during the breakup. He felt like he was dying, didn’t see it coming, and begged for her not to leave, but in the end all she could do was run away.

The feels…so many feels…

So yeah it’s just another song about a broken heart, but DEP tells the story in a much deeper way. He doesn’t simply just say “she broke my heart. I’m sad. Guitar chords.” He has to make you think about it so that once you understand, it hits you much harder. You feel it on a much different level when you have that much understanding of what the artist is trying to tell.

That was a lot of words. On to the next example. Were going forward in time to their most recent album (as of post) Option Paralysis, back with current front man Greg Puciato.

Now remember that guitar line I told you to remember from the end of Panasonic Youth? Listen to the last 30 seconds of it again to be sure. Then play Farewell, Mona Lisa. Do you hear the same exact motive used again? A motive is a short sequence of notes or a rhythm that is often repeated. Usually it represents a particular idea or feeling. In this case it is to represent their style on Miss Machine, as it is the closing groove from their biggest hit Panasonic Youth. Why did they do this? Explaining what the song is about will help you understand, and hopefully blow your mind as much as it did mine when I came to this realization.

This song is about the changing style of DEP, and how it was critically received by fans on the album Ire Works. Ire Works had many similarities to Miss Machine, but they tried many new things and as with all change, a lot of people did not like it. Isn’t that stupid? Greg appears to agree with me here, “don’t you ever try to be more than you were destined for or anything worth fighting for” is the chorus of sorts in this song. That is a pretty depressing set of lyrics taken out of context. What the singer is saying is, if you try new things, if you try and make a statement or evolve as a band, nobody will appreciate it so you might as well do the same thing over and over. At 3:38“What did you expect, that we would never leave home?” This is DEP speaking directly to their fans and listeners. Their music is so different and chaotic to begin with, of course they are going to change. They have to leave home because they are nothing but “murderers and liars and rapists and thieves” of the music industry. “you should never put your trust in any of us.” If you don’t expect them to try new things. At:3:55 the motive from the beginning, and from Panasonic Youth, returns as they repeat “that we would never leave.” Not only are they just talking about the “home” or the style of miss machine that everyone liked, they are using the motive from the first song on that album to reference this “home.”

Absolutely mind blowing how effectively they re-used a motive from a song from an earlier album to get their point across. This is the appeal of DEP to a metal head, the absurd amount of thought they put into their song writing. Even the song title, Farewell, Mona Lisa, means something within the song. Mona Lisa was a masterpiece that defined da Vinci’s career as an artist, just like Panasonic Youth did for DEP. They are saying farewell to their masterpiece as they move forward as musicians and people have to accept that they will never try to recreate that album.

I saved this next example for last, because it is absolutely my favorite song they have ever written. It is definitely because of a personal relation to the story in the song. Think of your favorite song, if you have one. It speaks to you. It understands you. It helps you understand the truth of your own feelings. To me this song does all those things.

This song again is about a breakup. Most songs about love/loss are from the view of the one whose heart was broken, and this is no exception. They play with this perspective a bit though.

The first third of the song is definitely an angry chaotic feel that DEP does so well. The protagonist in this story seems to be very angry at his ex-significant other. “I’m burning alive tonight, you know we couldn’t get it right. Come save your life tonight you know we’ll never get it right.” “Don’t try to swim to shore because you can’t go back” “say three words, they’ll be the last you speak.” All of these phrases are directed at the antagonist in anger, as if they came back and wanted to get back together, but he refuses them. At 1:25, right before this remember that he says “dropping curtains down concealing appearances of heaven.” And the middle part of the song begins. As I noted in my song structure post, you can assume based on how completely juxtaposed this is inside the song that something different is about to happen. The guitar plays minor chords, in a 4 chord fashion as per most pop songs. The chords aren’t the same progression as the one discussed in my cadence post, but it still a 4 chord repeating cycle. Why would DEP do this? They are a band founded on chaos dissonance and anger. Aside from the project they did with Mike Patton this is unheard of. Because of this, and the line “curtains drop”, I believe that this part is supposed to be his true feelings and the first part of the song was the singer acting all tough and angry when really, he feels differently. Observe 2:06. After you pick up your melted face off the floor, we can try and figure out what it means. “DESTROYER, there’ll be another just like you, you’re not the only one, I’m not the only one/DESTROYER” The words here, tell the story of how he really feels. At first, I thought that his life is so shattered by the breakup that he calls his ex the destroyer. After a closer look though, notice the word play at the end of this line. He says one and destroyer at the same time. He says HE is not the only destroyer. Now this completely changes the meaning of the whole song. So what does he mean by destroyer, since so much emphasis is put on this single word? I believe after years of listening to this song that the protagonist in the story is the destroyer, not the ex. The ex was the one who was heartbroken, which is why they wanted to try to “swim back to shore.” The protagonist realizes that he has completely broken their heart and he feels terrible about it. “Walking where time stands still, see  how this love kills.” Walking where time stands still refers to this section of the song, in between the “curtains drop” line (there is one directly before and directly after) meaning that in this part of the song where he is revealing his true feelings. You can see that I too was harmed by this breakup, because I couldn’t bring myself to love you and I have destroyed this perfect relationship we had at no fault of your own. I am the destroyer. Loving me Kills. “you’re not the only one” meaning that he has been through this before, he is unable to love anyone and ‘destroys’ every good relationship he has ever had. This is why he is upset, not because of the one heartbreak.

After this the “curtains drop” and conceal appearances of heaven once again. The singer puts back on his angry face and acts all tough, because he doesn’t want her to know that the true reason for the heartbreak was that even though she was perfect, he didn’t love her. “Without my existence, you are nothing. Without my affection, you wilt.” He knows she is completely crushed and destroyed, but he is acting like he doesn’t care. Even though as the middle section suggests, he does.

Like I said at the beginning, 2390 words ago, The Dillinger Escape Plan is not for everyone. Even if it is, you probably need to listen to it more than a few times to understand what the songs are about. They are releasing a new album in May called One of Us Is the Killer and I can’t wait to get my hands on it and have my mind blown over and over again. I hope that the next time you hear any song that is outside of your comfort zone you give it another chance and try to understand why they wrote the song that way. Sometimes it might surprise you.

This is probably my last long post. From now on I will probably start to do individual song reviews and analysis, as usual of both pop and metal. I hope you don’t think I’m crazy based on my music preference, and I hope you stick around to read more.