In the first „The Most Powerful First Song of an Album“ I stopped after five tracks, just because I had already written a lot of words. But it also made sense from the perspective of how many items I actually have on my list. If it all works out (read: this post will be quite long as well) then there will be another post with the last five tracks.
So, let’s continue with the next five songs, shall we?
Fear Factory – Slave Labor
I discovered this one by accident. It was on a CD in the glove compartment of my car, a compilation my sister created and for whatever reason put there. In reality I have a litte bit of a conflict with this kind of music (Hardcore / Metalcore is where I would place it) because it doesn’t really fit my perception of rhythm and melody (coming from someone that likes Blast Beats quite a lot). But for some reason this song had me hooked. Maybe it is because it is so different from what I normally listen to. The main rhythm is comprised of short salvos of riffs and drums and a simple atmospheric keyboard sound in the background. The way the lyrics are sung is somewhere between shouts and hip hop. As a short bridge into the chorus, the vocalist shows his versatility by using a clean voice, something that is often (mis)used in Metalcore. In the chorus the play suddenly speeds up and gone are the salvos which are now replaced by a rapid fire like guitar-drum combination. This all is played with extreme precision and the sound is sharp and clean, a little bit industrial if you will. In addition to the very intriguing music, the lyrics are smart as well. Through clever metaphors they describe a sort of legal modern slavery happening in the music business.
A comment I read somewhere in the Youtube comments section did describe quite well how I feel about this song (you have to know the lyrics to fully understand): „I don’t always pray to god… but when I do it’s for help pouring gas on myself“.
Crosscut – Focus
Crosscut is a German band that, like Fear Factory, is an exception to the rule that I don’t like Metalcore (isn’t it funny how two of ultimately 15 tracks are of a genre I dislike?). Focus is a nice mixture of starting slow and building up tension until it is released with force – multiple times in the song. The track has many changes in speed and rhythm but it doesn’t really feel convoluted. It is one cohesive piece of music that is entertaining from start to finish. You never get the idea that some part is out of character. The singer changes from clean singing (which is very different in style compared to Fear Factory) to a more emphasized singing (just short of shouting) and ultimately fierce shouts / screams. The second singer and guitarist occasionally adds shouts as well which are a bit rougher than the rather high shouts of the main vocalist. They seem to lack a little bit of power in comparison but it still fits the music nicely. The verses are very rhythmic and either end in a high paced chorus or aggressive shouting that is emphasized by slower but heavier music. These parts are close to what can be called breakdowns, but only almost. There’s a bit more speed and dynamic to them which makes it bearable for me.
Dark Tranquillity – The new build
Dark Tranquillity is one of the many famous bands of the Swedish Melodic Death Metal scene like At the Gates, Soilwork and many more. This album hits a sweet spot with its opener The new build. After a short drum solo the band attacks your ears with beloved Blast Beats and an awesome riff that could be fierce Death Metal, but since it is of the melodic kind it is played at a higher pitch and doesn’t sound as dirty. But don’t let that fool you though, it’ll hit you fast and hard. The overall pace is high. Most of the verses are accompanied by technical staccato guitar play (prevalent throughout the whole album) and the chorus that is at the same high pace and intensity that was set at the beginning of the song. Mikael Stanne’s voice supports the intense music with his snarls and short growls. After around two and a half minutes it all slows down a bit, giving you a short relaxing break only to attack you one last time. The whole album consists of many great melodies and somewhat catchy refrains (for Melodic Death Metal at least) but none of them is as strong and intense as this one.
Volbeat – Caroline leaving
Time for something cool, isn’t it? Get yourself a tumbler and pour some whiskey into it, light a cigar and enjoy the greatest mix of Metallica, Elvis and Johnny Cash that ever existed. This first album of the Danish band is the most impressive overall piece of music I have ever heard. The music just lives off of a ton of fun and hard riffs, fast music and, of course, the very unique voice of Michael Poulsen. This all combined with a very powerful production creates one hell of a delight for your ears. Caroline leaving isn’t even the best song on the album, but after just 30 seconds into the track you certainly know what’s coming your way (yes, it’s wicked, but it’s not a curse) and it won’t stop until the track and the whole album is over. Did I mention a ton of heavy and fast riffs? Oh, and don’t forget the double-bass drums all over the place. And there’s this Poulsen dude that sings like Elvis and Johnny Cash, only to a whole lot faster music. This is stunning music. It’s hard and heavy for Metalheads to like but not too hard to be just another Death Metal act. This is a very unique style the band unfortunately gave up just a little bit more with every release that followed. I don’t know what else to write other than GO LISTEN TO IT, NOW! Wait with the next one until you have given Volbeat a shot. If you ever happen to be near a place where those guys are playing then don’t hesitate, go there. Although they’ve changed their style to be more accessible, their shows are still full of energy and fun to watch. Most of the times (one out of two times I’ve seen them in person and once on DVD) they even play their own version of Slayer’s Reign in blood intro – which is one hell of a song in itself. I need to move on to the next song…
Amon Amarth – Twilight of the thunder god
Are you keen on Vikings or Norse mythology? Do you like those topics packed into powerful Melodic Death Metal? Look no further, Amon Amarth will suit your need just fine. The previous song by Volbeat is one son of a cool bitch but Twilight of the thunder god is something else. The album artwork says it all, this music is not just throwing punches like I described Stone Sour’s entry into the world of music, but battling some giant mythical monster and leveling everything else that’s in the way of victory. This song was a strong contender to the very top spot of my list, but since I split this into a three-part series it now finishes of a very classy second part. And it does so with a frenzy. You could think those guys only played fast because they had something better to do and wanted to be done early, but no, this song lasts four minutes and three and a half of them is 150 mph non-stop pedal to the metal (pun intended). Johan Hegg (I’m naming a lot of vocalists this time) lends this high energy battle music the perfect voice. He has such a powerful growl the devil might mistake it for his doom and at the same time he is able to pronounce the lyrics quite clear when he is “singing”. The song specifically picks the artwork scene as its main theme and you certainly get the feeling as if you were in the midst of a thunder storm somewhere on a boat in the roaring ocean. The guitars just give you that feeling of dread of the situation as well as the motivation to continue fighting the beast for the ultimate victory. The drums provide the necessary speed and are as fast as the guitar play and in this case it is fast as hell. Twilight of the thunder god is just a perfect combination of music and lyrics and a very worthy conclusion to the second part of the Most Powerful First Song of an Album series.
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[…] about a little music again? In my two previous posts (part 1, part 2) I alluded that I had selected a total of fifteen songs from my music library which I consider to […]