The Path of Thorns

Archive for December, 2010

The Game Has Changed

by on Dec.16, 2010, under death, human emotions, movies, music

Many times in my life, I’ve been asked, or have indirectly heard, the question “What’s good music that really pumps you up?  For when I want to work out or get going for the day?”  Heard that question asked several times in several different ways.  My usual answers?  Pantera, Sevendust, Metallica, to a lesser degree 3 Doors Down and Paul Oakenfeld – and let’s not forget Tchaikovsky.

The suggestions in the answers to that question have a similar tone to me; intense, passionate, fierce, without needing to be angry or enraged, or any other similar negative feeling.  Sure, a lot of pump-up music involves anger, but it’s not needed to get your blood going, at all.

Daft Punk proves this remarkably well in their soundtrack to the new movie Tron Legacy. What I like most about this soundtrack more than most is that the artist takes a creative turn while keeping the core of what they do intact.  I’m used to Daft Punk as bizarre, mostly lighthearted, with beats that usually entice a house party or rave.  They’re consistently fresh in their melodies, and they continue that powerful trek here.

The album is very dark, very intense, and very emotional.  “Nocturne” is a brief song that sounds like a funeral scene, and tunes like “Overture”, “Armory” and “Recognizer” set the tone for the album as a whole; intensely passionate and gruesome, but with brilliant harmony.  Daft Punk seems to take themselves more seriously than ever before, and you can hear it.  And it’s brilliant.

The most traditional-sounding Daft Punk tracks are certainly “End of Line” and “Derezzed.”  It has an old school sounding tempo, with sound bytes that you could swear were taken out of the video game Galaga, and brings you back to the time of the original Tron in that sense.

The execs for Tron either gave Daft Punk generally free creative reign, or they told them to write a strong set of songs that balance the Daft Punk we know with the Daft Punk that they want to create going forward.  If you like tough, competitive-sounding symphonic instrumentals with a touch of that funky Daft Punk touch, then the soundtrack to Tron Legacy is right up your alley.  It’s as inspiring as it is moody.

Good to have you back, boys.

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Velvet drapes, glowing candles.

by on Dec.02, 2010, under heavy metal, inspiration, music

Another favorite band of mine – top 5 all-time, I’d say – is an Italian band who recently found fame out west.  They call themselves Lacuna Coil, and last year they came out with an album entitled Shallow Life.

I couldn’t wait to hear it.  When I did, I found myself disappointed.  Their debut album, In a Reverie, was brilliant, though a bit unfinished; I feel the same way about this new record once again.

They had continually grown – through the excellent melodies and strong songwriting and harmony in Unleashed Memories, which also happens to include my favorite song of theirs, the Italian-worded “Senzafine.”  That song has a chorus intense enough to wake anyone up from any somber state and make them feel like they can take on anything.  It was heavy, it was soft, it was developed and a large growth from In a Reverie.

They really hit the center of the target with the perfect (in my opinion) record Comalies.  Familiar songs in the hard rock community like “Heaven’s a Lie”, “Swamped” and “Self Deception” blew me away when I first heard them at a club in Chicago when they were opening up for the late Peter Steele’s goth-metal band Type O’ Negative.  The songs are a perfect craft, a well-blended mix of catchy melody with the same bone-crushing guitar work and epic-sounding vocals that make them as excellent as they are.  With Comalies, they stayed true to their core while perfecting their sound on an album of songs that could only go together, like a fine-woven quilt.  I figured this would take them to the top of the charts to come – unfortunately America still hasn’t noticed them enough yet – but I digress.

They began to sound a bit more commercial in Karmacode, which excellently put out their biggest song yet, “Our Truth”, and a powerful cover of Depeche Mode’s most well-known song, “Enjoy the Silence”, a song with a title you could never forget.

Sorry, wanted to catch you up on Lacuna Coil a bit before I begin my slightly disappointing post of Shallow Life. If you like Evanescence, you’d like Lacuna a hell of a lot more.  I can’t get enough of this band.

Shallow Life, to me, reflected a problem a lot of bands go through.  They work hard, hone their skills, perfect their songwriting and direction, get fairly well-known, and end up selling themselves short trying to gain approval from a mass audience.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the album because like very few other bands I love, Lacuna Coil can do no wrong to my ears.  But I think they limited themselves too much with this one.

They continued the trend of having an album-busting song entitled “Spellbound”, which had the same strong effect on Shallow Life that “Our Truth” had on Karmacode.  Makes sense – if you want your album to be heard, open it up with a catchy, strong first single.  However, Shallow Life mostly goes a bit downhill from there.  The songs are shorter, and they hurry themselves up the same way a great storyteller rushes a story when they’re not in the mood to tell one.

“I Won’t Tell You”, “Not Enough”, and “The Maze” are nicely crafted tunes with riveting choruses I spend a lot of time listening to, but the rest of the album falls forgotten on my ears despite hearing them hundreds of times.  I don’t believe they ‘sold out’ because I rarely believe in such a meaning in the first place, but Lacuna Coil could have let these songs grow, develop and widen like they have so well in the past.  You hear a song, you like it, you want to experience more, and then the whole thing’s over when you feel it just began.

It’s a common flaw when trying to find a commercial sound when you should only spend time making an album for yourself.  And maybe Lacuna Coil did, maybe Shallow Life was written with the same frame of mind that they always have in the studio.  Beats me, I don’t know them personally, unfortunately.  However, it seems like they went into it with the thought that it would be a short-sweet, catchy album.  And it is; but Lacuna can do even better.  They can give their songs that heavy, epic, wandering sound that makes them one of the best hard rock bands on earth.

I hope they find their perfect sound again, without getting bored of what they’ve done so far.  I never want a band to sell themselves short, no matter what they want to do, but I worry one of my favorite bands did that with Shallow Life and I don’t want a band with their talent, passion and intelligence strangle their own sound like that going further.

They’re at the highest level of performance and songwriting, in my book.  I want them to write like they know that!

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