It’s about time to get back to some music. This time though, I’m not writing a review of an album but I rather picked the first song of several albums I own, based on the premise that it is one hell of an opener to the record.
I developed the idea over quite a long time span, initiated by a few songs that are on the list and a few that are not, simply because they’re not the first track of the album. There are some songs that are so stunning that you can’t stop hitting replay once they’re over. They are just mind-blowing, either by very intelligent arrangements, melodies and outstanding individual performances or very simple, primal brute force. This is about those kind of songs.
Why does it have to be the first track? For one, if I had picked just any song then it would be nothing more than a boring best-of. Secondly, it is the first thing you hear after inserting the CD into the player and hitting play. This is either the appetizer that wets your mouth for what’s coming next or the downer to kill the mood. A good first impression if you will.
The songs I chose cover a wide variety of Rock and Metal. I ordered the list by (relative) favorite, starting with the least powerful to the most impressive I could find. As you’ll read through you’ll see that this is a little bit unfair, just by the nature of different music styles. However, this is not meant to discredit any of the entries on the list. Each of them open up the album in their own special way as you will learn to known. But, to be honest, number one (the one I’ll present last) just kicks some serious ass. The name of the band, the song title and the music, it just fits perfectly.
Enough with the introduction, let there be music!
The history of this band from Ireland dates back to 1976 and features one of the more distinctive voices in Rock music, that of Bono (Paul David Hewson). “Vertigo” is the opener to the 2004 released album “How to dismantle an atomic bomb” (what an awesome name) and, from what I know of U2, one of the more heavy songs they’ve written. Heavy in this case doesn’t mean dark, it’s quite the opposite. The song has a very positive feel, empowered by strong guitar play, a high pace and a simple but effective chorus. Not only is this a good start into an album, but also to this list.
“Burnt offerings” from the likewise titled album brings with it the third vocalist for the third record. As it turns out, Matt Barlow was the most successful one and stayed for several years. “Burnt offerings” as a whole, and the track in particular, broaches the issue the band had with the music industry since the previous release. It reflects Jon Schaffer’s frustration with a very dark and heavy music comprised of many changes in speed and melody, thus creating a complex piece of music. It reaches its climax with the final song “Dante’s inferno”. “Burnt offerings” starts off slowly, but soon alternates between aggressive snarls and a clear voice. It is pushed by Schaffer-typical fast riffing accompanied by equally fast drumming, but still creates a very slow pace from which results a dark and menacing atmosphere. It all explodes in a ferocious guitar solo that resembles something like mayhem, which is fitting, only to finally slowly fade away with the chorus.
The easiest way to describe this song is along the lines of aggression turned into music. The lead vocalist Corey Taylor is also the voice for Slipknot, a band known for its, well… aggressive take on music. Stone Sour offers more diversity throughout the album which features a lot of clean singing and even a track with only acoustic guitar and voice. “Get inside”, however, is none of that. This is just music throwing punches. Without any detour the song starts with fast and heavy riffs paired with frantic drumming. This makes way to a very hard headbanger’s beat, a short demonstration that the man can sing and off into the chorus that displays what Corey Taylor can do best: shout, shout and fucking shout. That’s not only a good first song for any album but for the very first release as well.
Now fellow fans of guitar music, put on some tight leather pants, strap your studded wristbands and get yourself a permanent wave, it is time for a Heavy Fucking Metal classic.
Where Stone Sour jumps you with down tuned guitars, “Painkiller” opens up with an impressive drum solo. As is the main objective of Heavy Metal, the focus is on guitars and you don’t have to wait all too long. There are solos all over the place, fast solos that is and even in between there’s a solo here and there. This is a perfect display what you can do with two skilled guitarists (topped by Iron Maiden’s three). The music is very fast, close to a point where it could be labeled as Power or Speed Metal. Rob Halford’s screams give this music a very unique sound, which are not always the best, but good enough to be listened to for a prolonged period. He also alternates between his screams and his clean voice, which I like a lot better and that fits the music very nicely.
“Dark passion play” was the first release without Tarja Turunen, the lead singer that gave Nightwish its unique opera like vocals. Anette Olzon was nothing like Tarja Turunen, which totally changed the sound. What stayed constant, of course, is the genius songwriting of Tuomas Holopainen. “The poet and the pendulum” is one of the best examples of his talent. Clocking in at 13 minutes and 55 seconds, this song never gets boring, it just has so many different facets to it. They slowly evolve over time without ever changing the feel of the song. The emphasis is on a strong orchestral background that carries the classic Metal instruments from the start all the way to the end. At 1:19 the song starts to pick up the pace by slowly introducing the orchestral part and then the guitar, bass and drums. What follows is a typical verse, bridge and chorus structure until around 4:15 when it all slows down again. This is where this track really gets interesting. I just love the way how this part is sung, a high, childlike voice that is eventually replaced by the normal sound of Anette Olzon’s singing. What follows is a very dark musical part with a young voice talking about horrific events and her feelings towards them that finally leads into the highlight of this song at 7:11. Now it’s getting heavy, and a lot of it. The next one and a half minutes are dominated by double bass, low-key guitars and Marco Hietala’s shouts. Awesome! This song is never light fare but this just pushes it further. It eventually gets resolved by the very bombastic chorus, only to slowly end the song over the next four minutes. This is a welcome relief after the very intense part just before.
After just five songs I’m already way past 1000 words. I’ll stop right here and have to put you off until the second part of what has now become a series.