Featured Artist of the Month: The Verve

Resurgence of the alternative wave of rock popularized back in the early 1990’s in the United Kingdom coinciding with the cultural revival that was underway and emerged as “Britpop” which intended on being fairly approachable to the commoners and relevant to the mainstream British culture. Britpop largely stormed out of the UK as a reaction to the US-led grunge music and the two have been heralded as opposing musical forces. Among all the bands that contributed to embodiment of neo-psychedelic swells of guitar with the melodramatic convergence of pop rock and shoegaze, “The Verve” still remains worthy of generous attention despite their short-lived career often associated with the front-man, songwriter and vocalist for the band, Richard Ashcroft‘s inflated ego. Formed by college mates Richard Ashcroft, Nick McCabe, Simon Jones, and Peter Salisbury in 1989, their fresh and minty jams are what the commercial scene of rock music owes a lot to. The guitar-driven solace of their melodies and Ashcroft’s cutting vocals fine-tuned to resonate with the shoegaze sensibility delivered some of the most memorable sing-along tunes of the 90’s. The ornate and hyperbolic themes like love, longing, euphoria, music and sedation mainlined with surreal sonic goodness and bittersweet melancholy navigated the distinct arcs of their vaporous sound. Accredited to their masterful production and genre-based knowledge of the 90’s, in no time they found their niche in the britpop, alt-rock market.

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Choosing three best albums out of their discography comprising of four studio albums in entirety was considerably easy. However, the discreet mixing of tracks and inculcation of ambient atmospherics set every album apart from the other which demands a serious intellectual expertise.

3, A Northern Soul

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Composed around the intoxicating simplicity and sharpness of acoustic ballads for the most part, The Verve’s second studio album “A Northern Soul” is filled with  and bourgeois psychedelic influences. The magnetism of the album opener “A New Decade” is built upon an array of dizzy guitar hooks and raving vocals. Lyrics like “The youth coming up and making you dance, ’cause I’ve got some living inside of me, so come on I could use the company” are very reaffirming and does justice to the feel-good vibe of the song. “This Is Music” is dissonant and largely a noise rock number. “On Your Own” marks the point where the album is set in the direction of mellow string acoustics and a sadder demeanor. A sense of abandonment, loneliness and complaining is projected with a halcyon vision. However, the low-spirits subjected to heartbreak on “So It Goes” is ubiquitously depressing. “A Northern Soul” written about Oasis’ front-man Noel Gallagher floats in the haze of shrieking guitars and a peachy bass. “I’m gonna die alone in bed, this is a tale of a northern soul, looking for his way back home” versed in Ashcroft’s expressive vocals adds to the structural genius and emotional pacing of the song. “Brainstorm Interlude” is largely an instrumental with a fuzzy melody followed by two back-to-back beautiful ballads ‘Drive You Home” and “History” citing sermons of a doomed lover about helplessness and unreciprocated love immersed in the soulful magma of acoustic guitars and a wrist-slitting tranquility making up for potential tearjerkers. The opening verse “Life’s an ocean, too much commotion, too much emotion, dragging me down, living for today, don’t have time to pray, ready for the game, take a line of fickle flame” is a piece of very well-versed poetry that not only delivers the essence of the song about the apathy of life but waves a little flag of truce with the ending track “Stormy Clouds” which is bleak, dark and zones out into oblivion as it unfolds. “A Northern Soul” gleefully portrays the innerworkings of an emotional wreck and a hopeless romantic in a brutally simplistic way.

2, Storm In Heaven

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The Verve’s debut album “Storm In Heaven” can easily be regarded as one of the best shoegaze albums of all time. It is enriched with spaced-out, distorted guitars and breezy repercussions that are universally in proximity with the art of shoegazing. “Star Sail”, “Slide Away” and “Already There” have pensive songwriting that pulsate with summery guitars and wishful lyrics. The bass-oriented stompbox mechanics are utilized to create the perfectly dark and ravenous habitat for the heartsick romantics out there. The lush, dreamy tune of “Beautiful Mind” and “Virtual World” draped in the fabric of escapism finds itself very close to bands like Slowdive on the musical spectrum. “She’s breathing life into lonely dead stars. Have you ever seen it? I ain’t seen nothing at all” symbolizes shimmery-eyed love and chastity.  “Make It ‘Til Monday” and “Blue” strongly hinted towards narcotic escape and tripping hard are honed delicately to be in sync with the drone-laden guitars and ambient delays. “The Sun, The Sea” and “Butterfly” dabble in chaotic symphonies with jangling saxophone harmonics pitched in for a change. “See You In The Next One”, “Endless Life”, “Where The Geese Go” and “No Come Down” melodically and lyrically symbolize the zenith of a hallucinogen-induced coma with somnolent and mind-bending gearing. “Storm In Heaven” is what the name signifies, a tempestuous turbulence in a place as serene as the heaven above which artfully justifies the implied oxymoron.

1, Urban Hymns

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Released in 1997, “Urban Hymns” is a strong contender for the greatest album of all time, in my honest opinion. It serves as a detox formula to the lingering trance of the former Verve albums, “Storm In Heaven” to be more specific. Often deemed synonymous with the groundbreaking single “Bittersweet Symphony”, there remain so many multidimensional facets and sonic twists to this record which are more than usually foreshadowed or have gone painfully unnoticed. That rhetoric aside, “Bittersweet Symphony” with those opening strokes of majestic violins will forever have a nostalgic worth authorized to a few rock numbers in this ever-expanding world of music. It elaborates the powerlessness one can’t help but feel over the rigidity of life and its consuming struggles. “Sonnet” is written about the complex subject of love and resonates with Ashcroft’s swooning, heartfelt vocals with a main chorus “Yes, there’s love if you want it. Don’t sound like no sonnet, my lord!” which fits right in. “Catching the Butterfly” reflects the childlike fancies and the innate sense of joy which dances on an undulating psychedelic groove of britpop. “Rolling People” is a song I can do without but had it been a bit shorter, it might’ve worked out just fine. “Drugs Don’t Work” is an acoustic ballad defaming drugs and confessing to find eternal peace only by reuniting with your deceased loved one in the life hereafter. The phantasmagorical interlude “Neon Wilderness” offers to the album is ephemeral yet ecstatic. “One Day”, “Space and Time”, “Velvet Morning” and “Lord I Guess I’ll Never Know” are crafted around McCabe’s delicate guitaring and Ashcroft’s tenor vocal quality with reshuffling themes like love, life, relationships and dreams. Meaningful verses like “You’ve gotta tie yourself to the mast my friend and the storm will end” in “One Day” for instance, quotes human selflessness and liberation from cyclic battles of life in return. “This Time” is a great upbeat alt-rock song. “No time for sad lament. A wasted life is bitter spent, so rise into the light. In or out of time, gonna rise straight through the light” intently reveals the optimism he’s beaming with at this point. The emotional appeal and the haunting analogies of “Weeping Willow” are directly indicative of suicide contemplation. Still, for me it’s unarguably one of the best Verve songs ever recorded. The pacifying guitar chords and the fluttering bassline adds to the sentimental quotient of the song as it dissolves the sorrowful rhyming to progress into the very warm and blissful “Lucky Man” headlining a primal sense of happiness. The violins waltzing  in the outro sound so redeeming and inspirational, it is almost unreal. Finally, the album closes with “Come On” and “Deep Freeze”, the latter giving the album an atmospherically wired finishing touch. “Urban Hymns” is pivotal to The Verve’s transitory career that polished their sound essentially as britpop and alt-rock that rewards the listener with positive vibes and a “start fresh” ideology. Primarily evolving from the shoegaze and indie rock variants, The Verve showcased a more mature songwriting tendency with this record that successfully garnered both, a great commercial reception and critical acclaim which is not warranted to a lot of artists in this business.

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Featured Artist of the Month: Pink Floyd

Progressive rock was seen burgeoning back in the mid-60’s that vigorously advocated for the transcendentalism and platonic realms of music to be decoded into tape and that, there brought together the hypnagogic fusion of fuzzy guitars, airy reverb, electronic synthesizers, phasing effects and classical eclecticism. It was a huge musical milestone that not only bridged the convergence of blues, folk, psychedelic and jazz into an entirely new musical genre but immortalized the meditative appeal of these long, trance-inducing jams to this day. Speaking of, a name that “shines likes a diamond” and is substantially interchangeable with the genre itself is “Pink Floyd”. The brainchild of Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason that surfaced as “Sigma 6” in 1963 also known as the “Pre-Floyd Days” only lately to evolve into Pink Floyd a year later in 1964 involving the initial three members, Syd Barrett and lastly David Gilmour joining the band in 1968 around the time when Barrett’s mental health got severely unbalanced. Pink Floyd went on to produce records that were not only conceptually superior to its contemporaries but alienated the generic norms that in retrospect were deemed essential for the music to sell giving a whole new dimensional twist to the the hippie counterculture facing a decline back in the late 60’s and helped it thrive over the years.

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You can pick out any Pink Floyd album and there’s a guaranteed chance you’d be bewildered by the generous experimentation that conjured surreal soundscapes into being. The lush cascade of a hallucinogenic drone hybridized with the kaleidoscopic spell of acoustic & electric guitars is downright phenomenal. Growing up with this sort of music as a hermit was very rejuvenating on a personal level. My favorite Pink Floyd albums would undeniably be:

3, The Wall

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Released in 1979, “The Wall” is Roger Water’s abstraction that is fairly autobiographical and features 26 tracks composed entirely by him. A concept album that transcribed the story of a character “Pink” juxtaposed with themes like war, fascism, paranoia, tyranny, drug abuse and mental detriment. This two-disc album has majorly a resounding rock opera compositional form with an art rock directed dynamization. First disc opens with “In The Flesh?” which has a projectile solo with reverberating drums that towards the ending fade into the cries of a baby to merge with the prelude of the next song “The Thin Ice” which basically includes soothing pianos and high-ranging guitars. “Another Brick in the Wall” is a song shredded into three parts comprising of a curtain raiser, main body of the song and the climax.  This best-seller of a rock anthem is self-navigating in its upbeat symphony and that sublime guitar solo glistens it to perfection. The kids chanting “We don’t need no education” in defiance is a great sing-along tune. Songs like “Goodbye Blue Sky”, “The Happiest Days of our Lives”, “One of My Turns”, “Don’t Leave Me Now”, “Goodbye Cruel World” and “Mother” encompass the depressive mania that follows the period of adolescence directly exposed to war and being love-forsaken. One of my favorite moments on disc 1 is when “Empty Spaces” with the wearisome delivery of the verse “How shall I fill the final places? How should I complete the wall?” kicks off with the brazenly pushing rock template of “Young Lust”. It’s a straightforward confession of a rockstar giving in to empty sex as an aftermath of being cheated by his partner to get rid of the frustration it brews. Disc 2 starts off with “Hey You” which is concurrently empathetic and introspective. It’s a direct calling to the emotionally burdened central figure of the story and his state of social isolation sang like a compassionate appeal to retreat back to his sanity. A near-perfect song with soaring guitar solos and insightful lyrics. “Is Anybody Out There?”, “Nobody Home”, “Vera” (a song about the famous singer British singer Vera Lynn during the 1940’s and the WWII), “Bring the Boys Back Home” have transient melodies and cite the sense of abandonment seeping in as the war takes its toll. An sensitive oxymoron like “Comfortably Numb” for a song-title is pretty self-explanatory about the sonic manipulation of tranquil guitars, galloping prog-rock influences and mind-altering beats to conceive a song that’s therapeutic yet sardonic, heart-breaking yet insanely beautiful. It’s written about the protagonist’s inward battles, narcotic escape and solitude. “The Show Must Go On”, “In The Flesh”, “Run Like Hell” and “Waiting for the Worms” mark the point where Pink goes off the rails after being inflicted with medicine-induced psychosis, mental imbalance and fascist propaganda. The speedy textures of the songs and the inbred lunacy conforms to the demanding turning points. “Stop”, “The Trial” and “Outside the Wall” are the album closers. The story concludes with the bitter realization that it’s this vicious cycle that crippled his sense of rationality and he takes an antidotal refuge in the memories of his innocent days to combat the self-destructive ways that led him to personal seclusion and consequently hit rock-bottom. Water’s and Gilmour’s vocals offer a unique contrast of harsh and soft variants as per the fluctuating mood of the songs. Conclusively, the album gets more liable to a storytelling perspective than conventional songwriting being a promising conceptual album demanding short junctures and dramatic meddling throughout.

2, Dark Side of the Moon

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The magnanimous amount of musical integrity that the era-defining album “Dark Side of the Moon” emanates is what makes up for one of the most unique listening experiences in the history of rock n’ roll. The panoramic diversity and futuristic psychedelia integrated into the song structures declared it an ahead of its time creation. “Speak to Me/Breathe”, “One the Run” and “Time” embark on the spaced-out lead melodies with unconventional transitions. “The Great Gig in the Sky” has an immensely liberating vibe and features Clare Torry’s rhapsodic choir that gets escalated to a maniacal disposition giving a significant operatic value to the song. “Money” is crafted with pompous guitars, interposed jazz solos with a meandering funk storm. “Us and Them” and “Any Color You Like” are distinctly soulful and proto-prog electronic numbers. “Brain Damage” concerns a man’s mental derangement as he spirals down through his life towards absolute insanity that allegedly signifies Syd Barrett’s schizophrenia citing deep lyrical gems like “You lock the door and throw away the key. There’s someone in my head but it’s not me”. “Eclipse” finishes of this conceptual package of prog-rock grandeur with the ending verse “Everything under the sun is in tune but the sun is eclipsed by the moon” reciting the overpowering paradoxes it’s hugely inspired from and eventually making peace with the inevitably turbulent phases of life. “Dark Side of the Moon” is an iconic record with an unshakable credibility that accomplished a witty play on the human dilemma corresponding with astronomically-oriented themes, byzantine analogies  and cryptically poised lyrics.

“If your head explodes with dark forebodings too. I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”

“Brain Damage” by Pink Floyd

1, Wish You Were Here

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Back in the day when local radio stations were still a thing and aired some exceptionally good classic rock and explored the various obscure sub-genres of music, as a little girl I stumbled upon a beautiful ballad titled “Wish You Were Here” and I vividly remember waving my phone in the air to pick the right frequency being tricked by the intentionally vague opening notes of the acoustic guitar which only within seconds got clearly audible casting a spine-tingling aura that lived on for the rest of my life. That little incident marks the starting point of my journey with these prog-rock maestros. “Wish You Were Here” is a close to flawless studio album that epitomizes the otherworldly sound of these connoisseurs of music. “Welcome to the Machine” is a critique on the worldly humdrum that’s inevitable and our prosaic generation in general. It’s primarily electronic and fidgety in progression that mimics the elusive bouts of a nervous breakdown. “Have a Cigar” is satire directed towards the music industry and its controlling ways that violate a musician’s psych and soul. Instrumentally, it’s a very flippant and playful composition therefore qualifies as a great jam to wind out to. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is a sensational tribute to the band’s former seminal member Syd Barrett which the quintet has done total justice to. It’s a delicately weaved sonnet with  awe-inspiring verses like:

“Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision,
Rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!”

“Shine On You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd

It comprises of nine parts that are split between two songs fluently running the span of more than 10 minutes each and is intelligently wired with transcending guitars implied on scintillating solos that are addictive to tireless degrees, saxophone fragments, crooning vocals and an ambrosial groove of the 60’s.

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Pink Floyd’s enigmatic song-writing and maneuvering with multiform conceptual challenges had an artistic loftiness and experimentally bold approach that received critical acclaim throughout their musical career. The penetrating miasma of escapism and anarchic scheme of things spawned the evolutionary templates of their anthems. Their concept-guided adherence to jazz, blues, electronic and psychedelic spicing defined what progressive rock virtually is today.

 

Featured Artist of the Month: Type O Negative

August is here. So is the time to consider another artist and their finest works. I have chosen “Type O Negative” this month. The self-proclaimed “The Drab Four” which fits them quite appropriately considering their signature thick, draggy and sleazy guitar riffs. One of my all time favorite bands but that won’t make my opinions biased or too partial. Although, for me they were completely armed with all the essentials and weaponry to conceive some of the most authentic, out-of-the-box and demented gothic doom metal. The front-man; bass guitarist for the band Peter Thomas Steele was a beast of a vocalist gifted with an inimitable, incredibly deep and a monstrous bass-baritone range voice possessed by none else. Evoking the sense of vampiric and nocturnally ambient themes, they created some of the most unforgettable and major gothic metal albums of the 90’s.

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While all the other bands in the gothic-doom vein like Paradise Lost, Tiamat, My Dying Bride, Moonspell etc were just as dark, doomy-gloomy and sensational but you could easily find similar influences within their sound engineering but Type O Negative was a different domain. Their controversial lyrical themes, satirical disposition and little pranks in their full-length albums hinted how they were not afraid at all to laugh at themselves and at the end of the day, do their job just right i.e. to produce some seriously morbid gothic anthems you’d still be humming no matter how old you get and they will still sound just as epic. Some of my favorite albums from these goth giants would be:

3, World Coming Down

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Released in 1999, “World Coming Down” is one of their most depressive works to date instilled with compelling misanthropy and pessimistic notions. For some reason, whenever I give this album a listen, I always assume it’s their last album they ever recorded which is not the case (the last album being “Dead Again” released in 2007) perhaps because of the experimental sound which is varied from their earlier and subsequent offerings. It opens with one of their aforementioned pranks “Skip it” which is entirely consisting of 11 seconds of CD skipping. “Sinus”, “Liver” and “Lung” not exactly pranks but include sounds like metal scraping, heartbeat, sobbing, crying, pouring of liquor, gasping and beeping of an ECG machine. The second track “White Slavery” debunks the vices of addiction and “cocaine” in particular addressed as “the summer snow but it’s not cold”. The down-tuned, heavy guitaring by Kenny Hickey is structured around Peter’s distinct bass-baritone vocals with Johnny Kelly‘s throbbing drums adding to the murky and desolate tune of the song. “Everyone I Love is Dead” is about relationships gone sour over time and incorporates more uptempo riffs with a flair of punk and doom combined, compared to the other tracks. Side-note: I absolutely love when he shrieks “Goddammit!”. “Who Will Save The Sane?” begins with keyboard notes as Peter mocks the “unsurreal world” with all its pretentiousness quoting mathematical formulas and degrading sciences meanwhile drawing attention to his bad experiences in psychotherapy. One of the strongest track on the album. “World Coming Down” has some really thoughtful verses like, “Better to live as king of beasts than as a lamb scared and weak” and “It’s better to burn quickly and bright than slowly and dull without a fight”. “Creepy Green Light”, “Pyretta Blaze” and “All Hallow’s Eve” have lethargic, rough doom melodies exhibiting occult themes like returning from the dead, pyromania and dark rituals. There’s also a take on The Beatles’ songs in a very Type O-esque way in “Day Tripper Medley”. “Everything Dies” is just phenomenal! The verse “I’m searching for something which can’t be found but I’m hoping” is delivered with such an unhinged sentiment, it’s downright heartening. The sluggish riffs, crushing metal chords, the extravagantly thick bassline and melodies rioting at the razor’s edge of funeral doom and gothic metal with a dash of blues define this sonicfest in a nutshell. The songs are lengthy and slow-paced which might contribute for a draining listening experience but Type O fans have exactly no complains about what they’re in for.

 2, October Rust

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Prevailing nocturnal bliss, primal instincts, erogenous desires, sensual love, dark humor, carnal yen, flaming passions and a wee bit of trolling. Yeap. That’s pretty much what “October Rust” is all about. Released in 1996, the album ought to be deemed as one of the finest gothic metal albums of all time. I’m still convinced Type O managed to blend gothic elements with the perverted propensity of metal in a way that’s highly commendable. The twisted sense of art that goes into making some of the most eyebrow raising lyrics and controversial themes sound a-okay on tape is an achievement in itself. The album commences with two back-to-back tracks where the listener is clearly being trolled while the glitched distortions of tape player last for 38 seconds followed by the band members intervening (hysterical laughters included) to introduce themselves and it kicks off with the magnificent “Love You To Death” which is a legitimate gothic serenade you’d love every minute of. It’s soulful, sensuous and bluesy. “Be My Druidess” opens with swirls of a thrash guitar riff that I absolutely adore to death. While it’s undoubtedly grotesque and obscene, I still reckon it just had to be there on the album. “Green Man”, “Red Water (Christmas Mourning), “Die With Me”, “In Praise of Bacchus”, “Burnt Flowers Fallen” and “Haunted” are relentlessly dismal songs with implied storytelling orchestrated in an abhorrent atmosphere. The piano sequences add beautifully to the theatrical side of these goth ballads. The melody of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl”  is triumphed by the sensuality of electric guitars and an edgy bassline. “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” is dark humor galore and criminally cheesy. Still with that spooky composition and Peter’s grave vocals, everything’s acceptable and just right. “Wolf Moon”, for instance. While the musical arrangement is typically medieval and primitive, the ridiculous lyrics still take nothing away from its eccentricity. One of the strongest songs on the record, in any case. “October Rust” emphasizes the more poppy, unapologetically straightforward and barbaric side of TON. If anything, this album will definitely distort your theories about romantic idealism. Warning: Listen at your own risk.

1, Bloody Kisses

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While the mere title “Bloody Kisses” is quite said enough, the plain mastery and glorious transitions packed into this single album is bewitching. Personally, it’s my favorite album because of:

  1. The 9 minute long “Christian Woman” with all its three parts, the mystical choir, the iconic “Jesus Christ looks like me” outro featuring an intense and thunderous guitar solo.
  2. The simmering punk, thrash and hardcore influences from “Carnivore” with a provoking sense of rebellion & ruckus on songs like “We Hate Everyone” and “Kill All The White People” with an effortless mockery on political warfare.
  3. The brooding dynamics of classic gothic metal (if that’s a term?) “Black No. 1” is richly infused with.
  4. The creeping sense of horror and staged melodrama contributing to the bloodthirsty aura of these gothic symphonies featuring sitars and harmonics.
  5. Peter’s godly bass-range vocal quality befitting Type O’s macabre and unnerving songwriting.
  6. The divergence from the archetypal gothic doom overtures and sludge dynamics of heavy metal making the album a pure masterpiece.

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Type O Negative was one of their kind. Sometimes, perceived as a match made in hell of The Beatles and Black Sabbath. I, for one, still see no convincing evidence at all and merely cover versions of their songs wouldn’t suffice. Type O Negative is the soundtrack to your nightmares and the bare whimsical drollery only amplifies the psyched atmosphere they rejoice in. The programmed drums adjusted to avoid overpowering the downbeat tempo of guitars and the spooky keyboards is still a plus. Even though the overstretched song compositions might still be a critical affair,  it’s obligatory to listen them in continuity to appreciate the psychodrama and gothic-doom driven virtuosity that remains almost impossible to replicate or excel.

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Featured Artist of the Month: Tool

For July, I intend to focus on the American progressive metal titans known as “Tool”. Luckily enough, I came across them in my adolescence mainly because of having people around with an exquisite taste in music and also because one of my favorite local bands’ front-man regarded Maynard James Keenan as his true idol so I just had to acquaint myself with this new shiny thing properly. Later, having experienced some of the most intense progressive rock that ventured clairvoyant themes and soul-searching melodies syncopated with alternative and psychedelic influences in the early teenage years of my life was nearly earth-shattering for me. The bizarre lyrical content, oscillating drum beats by Danny Carey, a vague bassline and intricate riffs with a hint of psychedelia stirred to life by Adam Jones instantly set them apart giving them their trademark groove. Keenan’s multi-octave vocal range is essentially articulate and dynamic varying between the angelic, mellow quality to fierce screaming as per the contemplative mood of the song which makes this sonic journey even more worthwhile. You can clearly decipher their eccentric yet ambitious sound with only a handful of albums they’ve put forth over the years.

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Charting out my favorite albums in a particular order without wasting anytime. So here goes..

3, 10, 000 Days

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Released in 2006, “10, 000 Days” is their third studio album and it certainly dishes out that raw “Tool-esque” energy which permeates nearly every musical technique they incorporate. I love how the album kicks off with a dramatic note to evolve into a total banger “Vicarious” with cacophonous riffs and hard-hitting crescendos. As the album unfolds, you begin to interpret the mathematics of progressive rock and the propulsive drive of metal on songs like “Jambi”, “Rosetta Stoned” and “The Pot”. The unconventional elements like the tribal beats, complex song structures axial to their creative domain and deep lyrical themes explore the various whims of human nature and the universe with all of its demented humor. “10, 000 Days” might have not as many mesmerizing numbers but on the whole, the album cleverly infuses just the right instrumentation to justify the intended play on existentialism and psychological axioms.

2, Ænima

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Released in 1996, their second full-length album “Ænima” is pessimistic and satirical beyond measure but still transpires profound meaningfulness. The album title with a conjoined “Æ” represents two polar opposites. “Anima” which is often associated with a psych & soul, and your subconscious while the other “Enema'” refers to a medical technique mainly to examine and restore bowel movements. The dark humor is almost comical. Songs like “Stinkfist”, “Eulogy”, “Ænima” and “Third Eye” exude blatant cynicism and intends on highlighting the hypocrisy of human race. The track “H.” is a conundrum of chaotic thoughts and unrestrained paranoia. The song is thought to have a great personal significance for Keenan as it’s more or less of an ambiguous manifestation of the effect fatherhood and the birth of his son (with a middle name “H.”) had on him as stated by himself once. That detail aside, it is undeniably one of their most powerful and expressive songs. The innovation in “Die Eeir von Satan” is mainly in the industrial vein and those sermons delivered in German remind you of some sort of voodoo magic or black magic rituals which funnily enough, is actually a recipe for cookies. Well? I can’t help but point out the tad bit pretentiousness they portray with every album albeit taken way too seriously by Tool fans. I can’t really get round that fact, to be honest. The album has its fair share of flaws. Some songs are unnecessarily prolonged and are plain fillers. It gets a little out of focus in that regard. Nonetheless, it’s an authentic slab of progressive and alternative aspects of heavy music.

1, Lateralus

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Lateralus. Now finally, there’s your foolproof remedy for emotional and philosophical devastation. My first Tool album, for a fact. It came out in 2001. The overflowing aggression, dissonant guitars and polyrythmic drumming on the opening track “The Grudge” successfully reveals what you’re in for. The progressive escalation into the emotionally purging interludes textured with erratic riffs and throbbing drums alongside cryptic lyrics heard on songs like “The Patient”, “Parabol”, “Parabola”, “Ticks & Leeches” and “Triad” give the album a pulse. “Schism” is unarguably a beauty and my favorite Tool song of all time! Its simple and minimalistic song structure grows on you. The majestic bassline is akin to a sedative. The guitar solo instills a meditative spell into the song and gives it a proper breathing space. “Finding beauty in the dissonance.” epitomizes the integrity of Tool in a single verse. “Lateralus” is another breathtaking gem that lasts for about 9 minutes. It intends on digressing from the fabric of reality which worked out splendidly. The innate energy and obscure lyrics like “We’ll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one’s been.” give the song a certain mystical value. It concludes with looming guitars and bouts of frenzy which panned out perfectly. There’s liberal amount of Tool-oriented experimentation on “Lateralus” as well. Quite possibly, it is by far their most profound offering which exploits all the tricky elements of progressive rock to procreate something that stems from the unique individuality of the band and falls nothing short of a quintessential masterpiece.

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Tool achieved a great deal of virtuosity with only a number of full-length albums that usually takes an artist years and years to accomplish. The complex album concepts, unusual time signatures, tongue-in-cheek humor which is oblivious to most and maneuvering with modern and primitive tactics of music in their compositions is an art they’ve mastered quite well. Often criticized for being overwrought and pretentious which might be their conscious intention more than usual (so it’s a given) and producing questionable music videos, they redefined the grotesque disposition of humanity and the innate sense of spirituality. You can easily pick out some impulsive takes on nihilism, religious symbolism, collective psychological archetypes and the deeper realms of higher cognition. What they’ve created over the years is something that feeds on your negative energies to transform into a unique mystical experience. They don’t even really force a link to any other artist in terms of their sonic diversity. You ought to have a proper frame of mind to listen to Tool, at times. Either ways, you’ll be a mess.

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“I embrace my desire to feel the rhythm, to feel connected enough to step aside and weep like a widow to feel inspired, to fathom the power to witness the beauty, to bathe in the fountain to swing on the spiral of our divinity and still be a human.” 

                             “Lateralus” by Tool

Featured Artist of the Month: Soundgarden

So I have decided to do a monthly post dedicated to a single artist I have either grown up listening to, have become fond of over the years, loved in the first listen, has influenced me in any way possible or is simply of some nostalgic value to me. I would also do a list of some of my favorite albums from that particular artist, just in case.

This month, it just felt natural to choose a band that involved the late Chris Cornell; the high-strung rocker, a fine grunge vocalist with a four-octave vocal range and a songwriter/guitarist for multiple bands, whose untimely death on the 18th of May, 2017 has left a massive void in the world of rock n’ roll that can’t be filled for long. I personally love “Soundgarden” the most of all his projects because it has that essential Sabbathy, eerily heavy sound and that edgy hard rock energy making them one of the most distinct grunge bands of the 90s that reinvented the varied dynamics of the genre in question.

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These grunge giants are all about the oddly tuned guitars, intense vocals and dark lyrics. Highly influenced by bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, their signature sound is an eccentric dichotomy of the trademark punk rock/post-punk and the grave, greasily tardy metal sound. The band has been through certain rocky patches and was disbanded in 1997 which then later reformed in 2010 after a 12 year gap. Still they managed to produce seven brilliant studio albums, a few live recordings and a couple of EPs under their belt. Together with the other three grunge maestros i.e. Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Nirvana they helped invent and refine this specific sub-genre of alternative rock.

Time to list my favorite Soundgarden albums so here goes.

1, Badmotorfinger

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Released in 1991, Badmotorfinger is a smashing record which is why I declared it their finest work. My favorite number “Rusty Cage” with that mesmerizing opening riff has that dissident essence of a nonconformist’s anthem and the hard-rock wholesomeness with a main chorus comprising of verses like “I’m going to break my rusty cage… and run.” is so provocative. The record features Kim Thayil’s dirty guitar riffs with mid-paced drone that trails back to Sabbath’s signature sound and not to forget, Cornell’s screams that are full of angst and agitation. What is there to not like about this record, in all honesty? Especially if you’re into rock/metal and find yourself questioning religion, your existence and politics, it’s a quality pick for sure! Songs like “Outshined”, “Searching with My Good Eye Closed”, “Stray Cat Blues”, “Jesus Christ Pose”, “Holy Water” and an on-point cover of Black Sabbath’s “Into The Void” are a perfect musical and lyrical depiction of the themes they like to play around with an air of sarcasm & aggression. You’re basically in for some seriously heavy grunge rock with an overtly funky vibe and an unremitting frenzy of sludge/doom. A great pick for someone in his or her teens to battle it out with their sense of individualism and the relative catalytic chain of contradictions.

2, Superunknown

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If a record truly defines the standard sound of Soundgarden, it is this album, most probably. “Superunknown” was released in 1994 and still sounds profound with an outburst of an impending doom. It is loaded with crass riffwork, drab & tuned-down guitars evocative of Black Sabbath’s heavy sound and the melodic ballgame of Led Zepp’s blues rock accompanied by a swampy bassline. Cornell’s vocal range overlapping between the tenor and baritone is well-suited to sing the blues behind the veil of grunge rock that’s undeniably coarse and gritty. Lyrics basically focus on the pessimistic side of things which isn’t hard to tell. Bitter verses like “Times are gone for honest men and sometimes far too long for snakes.” in “Black Hole Sun”, “If you don’t want to be seen you don’t have to hide, if you don’t want to believe you don’t have to try to feel alive.”  in “Superunknown” or “With an ounce of pain, I wield a ton of rage. Just like suicide.” sound expressive more than ever now that the songwriter is no more. Nevertheless, “Superunknown” might as well be one of the best grunge albums ever recorded. It’s full of back-to-back breakout singles with not even a single mediocre song making it a powerhouse of a rock record which is introspective enough to deliver an impact that doesn’t wear off over the years.

 3, Louder Than Love

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While I would totally agree that 1990’s “Louder Than Love” doesn’t showcase their coherent musical genius but still it’s an accomplished record that highlights the punk side of grunge/alternative rock which is plain raw and you can hear some major “The Stooges” worship somewhere in there. You have a vigorous blend of grunge, hard rock, psychedelic and alternative metal at the end of the day driven mostly by a sluggish bass, slithery riffs and spasmodic drumming. It’s not all that dark and thought-provoking rather just these lads trying to have some fun. “Hands All Over”, “Get On The Snake”, “No Wrong No Right” and “Gun” are really groovy tracks. It’s one if their earliest albums and the crude energy it emanates is typically old-school and heavy. Cornell’s multi-octave vocal quality is unique and impressive. However, they’ve made it pretty clear how they can’t part ways with their well-tamed Black Sabbath influence.

While rest of their studio albums (Ultramega OK, Down On The Upside and King Animal) are worth a mention, still do not come close to the aforementioned flawless releases.

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Soundgarden revived grunge on so many levels and successfully churned out some of the most unforgettable hard rock riffs by hitting a nail on the head with their overflowing ferocity and musical creativity by being true to their roots of rock/metal. No wonder in no time they worked up their way to become one of the most acknowledged grunge bands of the 90s. You’re in for some serious nostalgic blues if already a fan and if not, you’re definitely missing out. Give the records a spin and you’ll know why they’re one of “The Big Four” grunge bands.

P.S: Farewell, Chris!