Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 10 metal songs to begin 2014 with

Another year has come to an end. Equal parts of happiness, melancholy, rage and laughter filled up these 365 days. "Tomorrow is a beautiful day", has been my attitude always. And it is persistent. I've had a stark realization that more often than not, everything important really boils down to what you believe in and what you really want in your life. Nothing else matters at the moment. And every action you take, has consequences.

Sailing through these consequence filled waters, on a happy boat, is what life is all about. Of course, with metal blasting in the background speakers throughout the journey. It always will.

I'm going to welcome 2014 with these metal anthems listed in the order of my favoritism.

10. Victory Song (Victory Songs) - Ensiferum
Thanks to my twin, I've grown fond of this particular genre, melodic folk metal. Ensiferum weaves a beautiful fabric of acoustic riffs, classic heavy rhythm backing, solid drumming and historic lyrics. As the name suggests, this song will lift up your spirits and give you this sense of elation. And I can bet the first time you'll give it a listen, you'll repeat. 

9. Who We Are (Unto The Locust) - Machine Head
We are the change, the world needs to see. Look in our eyes and see our belief..
I think the above lyric excerpt is enough to justify why I picked this song for this list. Weakness is never a good characteristic in anyone. Believe in yourself and strive for inner strength, fit to face anything life throws at you. This is what "Who We Are" taught me. The song starts of with a school girl marching band singing the chorus and then transforms into a groove-metal fury, where the drummer reigns.

8. The Lay Of Thrym (The Lay Of Thrym) - Tyr
Consistency is the word. If you are good at something, stay consistent. Not many agree with this logic, but I do. And this quartet has bested this art of staying consistent to their viking-style, fast paced metal. As the title-track, it keeps up the standard of the album. Starts off slowly and immediately picks up speed into an epic fusion of riff/drum playground, where Gods play. Heri Joensen's vocals are awesome as usual. Oh, btw, the song is about king Thrym who dared to steal Thor's hammer, as the nordic myth goes.

7. Blackwater Park (Blackwater Park) -Opeth
When I first heard this song, I was like 'Oh. My. F--king. God!". Seriously, this is no mere composition. It's like a magic potion which will cast and spell and drags you into 11 minutes of pure exhilaration. A perfect example where Åkerfeldt talent peaks. Complex acoustic passages, god-like riffs, growl-vocals, and an extremely unique solo make this song what it is. Critically acclaimed and highly favored by fans, Opeth broke new grounds with this progressive-death metal gem of an album!

6. Trust (Cryptic Writings) -Megadeth
What we have here is a Grammy nominated song for the "Best Heavy Metal performance". The lyrics are about the downfall of a relationship because of dishonesty and mistrust. The main riff is a lot of fun to play on the guitar. Although the band is unconventional and doesn't stick to classic thrash-roots in this album, this song still remains a fan favorite and is a staple in most live shows. Fun trivia; Currently, the drum intro is played before every home game of Arizona State University. As an alumni, I couldn't be happier!

5. The Glass Prison (Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence) - Dream Theater
As Mike Portnoy fought with his alcoholism, he penned down lyrics for this masterpiece, which spearheaded the twelve-step-suite, a collection of five songs which span through  five albums before ending in Black Clouds & Silver Linings. This is my second favorite song of theirs and every time I hear it, I get transported into this introspective alternate reality in my head. Progressive, heavy, shred-tastic!!

4. 22 Acacia Avenue (The Number Of the Beast) - Iron Maiden
Only Maiden can tell a prostitute's tale with such style and get away with it. The second and also the best part of the "Charlotte the harlot" triad, it is about a prostitute named Charlotte, and a man trying to convince her to a come with him for a better life. It is my favorite song of the album as it offers everything a classic metal head wants. Impeccable vocals and instrumentation throughout, with a kick-ass outro solo. I watched them play this live in 2013!

3. You've Got To Belong To It (Reinventing The Steel) - Pantera
Have you ever in your life ran that extra-mile because a powerful-as-f--k song suddenly came on your playlist? THIS is that goddamn song. It is bad-ass groove riffage, swirling in with heavy drums and powerful vocals, concocting to form a motivational elixir which makes you feel invincible. This entire album heralds the true old-school heavy metal spirit and strengthens the bond that ties all of us together.

2. Loner (13) - Black Sabbath
The founding fathers of heavy metal blessed the fans this year with this brand new album which was received with high levels of excitement. Although, Bill Ward parted ways with the band, the rest did an amazing job in preserving the Sabbath sound. I mean c'mon, these are guys are a bunch of 65-year olds still churning out metal. This track is unequivocally Black Sabbath. The riff is simple and classic, tailored extremely well with great drum-rhythm and Ozzy's vocals hit the nail on the head.

1. Victim Of Changes (Sad Wings Of Destiny) - Judas Priest
This song epitomizes the year that has been. Change happens, no matter what. At some point or the other, we all end up becoming the victims of change.
My words cannot describe the heavy metal mastery this song has to offer. I was born 10 years after this song was released. And this is one of my favorite heavy metal songs. That's gotta tell you something. It's a heavy metal epic, with landslide-riff structures, vocal performance, packaged and delivered in the only way Priest knows; Legendary.

Metal forever! \m/

"So live for today, tomorrow never comes.." - Die Young (Black Sabbath)


Sunday, June 2, 2013

13 albums which will most definitely get you into metal music.

I'm not playing a heavy metal advocate here, but metal kicks ass! It's empowering music if you ask me. It is your friend in your time of need. It is your escape, a mental refuge, during sad times. We humans cannot avoid life's reality. For me, my passion for metal get's me through the day. I like to listen to different metal genres, practice some riffs, even sing along like a maniac in the shower. Hehe. I enjoy it in every way.

Six years, hundreds of artists and thousands of songs later, I still can't be confident of what genre I like the most. That's the thing. Metal is so versatile, that you can't pin point a favorite genre. And that is also the reason why it can be liked by anyone.

I've compiled a pretty solid list of all my favorite metal albums, which if you give a listen, might turn you into a metal head. Read on..

13. Follow The Reaper  - Children Of Bodom (Melodic Death Metal) 
This Finnish band is named after the Lake Bodom murders and play classic melodic death metal. They use symphonic elements in their songs, while playing at fast tempos. Sticking to their routine, this album contains songs tailored with rocket-speed riffs, growl vocals and melodic keyboard pieces. The overall theme for the album is horror and they pretty much fit right in the death metal super-genre like a jigsaw piece fits into it's puzzle.

12. Mesmerize - System Of A Down (Alternative Metal)
Alright, I'm going old school now. This is a band I started listening to 6 years back. I STILL have their entire discography in my music library. All the members look like freaks but they are quite the opposite. All of them are genius composers and disciplined instrumentalists. Mesmerize is one of their last albums they've released before they went on a hiatus. Much like their previous albums, with oblique lyrics, progressive riff-structures and versatile songs, Mesmerize blew me away. The single 'B.Y.O.B' won a Grammy in 2006!

11. Blizzard of Ozz  - Ozzy Osbourne (Heavy Metal)
Ozzy released this album after parting with Black Sabbath, which acted as a launch pad for his solo career. Blizzard heralds one of the best guitarists of all time, Randy Rhoads, before unfortunately passing away in an accident. 'Crazy Train', 'Mr. Crowley', 'Goodbye To Romance' are some of the songs which stand out from this album. With beautifully crafted heavy riffs, tight drum tracks,  and the ever-powerful Ozzy vocals, this went on to achieve 4x platinum status in the U.S.

10. Damnation  - Opeth (Progressive Metal)
After I heard this album, I had only one word for Opeth. Diverse. Damnation is Opeth's mellow masterpiece. It is unlike any of their other albums. Most people categorize this as "progressive rock". I don't know why, but to me, it has a very metal vibe. Devoid of growling vocals and distortion guitars, it takes the listener on a heavenly trip down melancholy lane. Akerfeldt's composition and arrangement is godly, which makes this album, divine.

9. Vulgar Display Of Power - Pantera (Groove Metal)
I can listen to this album starting form Track 1, 'Mouth For War' to Track 11, 'Hollow' without any breaks. One of the most influential heavy metal albums of all times, it's a raw, unadulterated mix of aggressive vocals, groovy riffs, heavy drumming and powerful lyrics. This is a staple in my "Muscle Music" playlist and I kid you not, during workouts, it slowly injects resolve into your brain, and you won't even notice it, you will however, feel it.   

8. Reign In Blood - Slayer (Thrash Metal)
This has been one of the saddest years in the history of metal. Jeff Hanneman, an integral part of Slayer, passed away. When I read the news, I had that sinking feeling. It was one of those moments which made me realize, that I'm a part of a huge family and I don't even know it. This album is Hanneman's best work IMHO. The composition and lyrics of each song are eternal. Obviously, the band recorded the songs with precision and passion alike. Critically-acclaimed and highly-favored by fans, Reign In Blood resides carved in stone, high up the metal mountain.

7. Images and Words - Dream Theater (Progressive Metal)
The album that got me into DT. Holy mother! The versatility in this album is incomprehensible. All these guys are in a different league when it comes to musical arrangement and song structures. The band stands in the forefront of progressive metal genre, and this is the album that started it all. The beginning track 'Pull Me Under' is the first song I ever heard of Dream Theater and I was hooked. So you see why I have a soft spot for this album. What do you get from a band full of perfectionists? A perfect album.

6. Sacrament - Lamb Of God (New Wave Of American Heavy Metal)
We are half way, and this list is already gotten heavier than plutonium. Listing this album now is like adding uranium to it! Excuse my chemistry geekery, but this is one bad-ass album. I'm going to be honest; It took me some time to get used to them. If you think groovy-thrash riffs, heavy duty percussion and growl-to-screech vocals is all there is to this album, you are wrong. It neatly disguises the technical proficiency, cleverly lurking under all the aforementioned attributes.

5. Peace Sells...but Who's Buying? - Megadeth (Thrash Metal)
One. Of. A. Kind. Album. This will remain in one of my favorites of all time, till I die. It is a treasure chest of awesome riffs and melodic solos. Each song is probably loaded with 5 to 6 classic thrash riffs, which are so much fun to play on the guitar. Dave Mustaine is a one-man army as all songs are written and composed by him. Peace sells... is a thrash metal classic and a must-listen. Do me a favor; Play 'The Conjuring' from the album and forward it to 2:55 and just shut your eyes. You'll see.
4. Paranoid - Black Sabbath (Heavy Metal)
Black Sabbath's magnum opus.  Everyone should listen to this album, doesn't matter if you're into metal or not. That's because it's not just an album. It's an essential event since the heavy metal epoch. Sabbath took heavy to a different level with this one. It's filled with doom-riffage galore, excellent drumming and Ozzy's ominous vocals. This album is omnipresent in almost every rock magazine's "Greatest albums of all time" list.

3. Metallica - Metallica (Thrash Metal)
The biggest of " The Big 4".  Metallica had a huge influence on me and I credit this album as my pathway into metal. 6 and half years ago, I heard 'Nothing Else Matters' and boom! I was sold. This album is 60 minutes of exhilarating music and has some of best compositions in Metallica's history.  Get ready, coz, it will engulf you into a heavy metal tornado and throw you out as a Metallica cult-head. Exit light. Enter night.

2. Sad Wings Of Destiny - Judas Priest (Heavy Metal)
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this. This is my personal favorite album OF ALL TIME.  Every time I listen to this album, I feel the hairs stand up on my neck. You can feel the passion of the musicians. I have such undying respect for all of them. Especially, for the metal god, Mr. Rob Halford. He's like a sniper who strikes the metal bullet right in your head and it will stay there until you die. Heavy metal assault right here.

1. Number Of The Beast - Iron Maiden (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal)
Here it is.. I'm just some average joe, lost in a sea of millions of metal heads, writing this post. But I know this.. when I listen to this album, I always feel redeemed as someone who believes he's so much more. Music like this makes me realize that I'm not alone. I was never alone. Phenomenal instrumental and vocal performance in this album. The Number Of the Beast is the heavy metal classic waiting to be heard.

“Tears they flow, but why am I crying? After all, I’m not afraid of dying.." -  Hallowed Be Thy Name (Iron Maiden)


Friday, May 10, 2013

The pointy end

The corpses lie everywhere.. Left to be decayed. The army that once was. Now lies in a sea of blood..where they belong.

My cloak wisps in the wind as the man lies on his knees before me. His whimper is loud and liberating, as the cold of steel lies firm, on his sweat dripping neck. I hold my sword with a solemn grip, while I feel the sharp edge pushing against his soft skin...

This man had it coming. I lost everything to him. My world was shattered when he took away my love. Those eyes. They've left me marooned. Never to return. The first few months were the hardest. I cried every night. Soon, the tears dried out, only to leave vengeance behind. A cold-blooded revenge awaited. I found a purpose to live again. I knew that getting to him would be a tough task. I had to go through his army of assassins before I get to him. So I trained myself. Day and night.

Two years later
I was ready to meet my maker. So I set out on my redemption quest, ironclad and ready to kill. It was a long journey to his estate. Each determined step only reminded me of what awaited at the end. Death. I was going to kill them all. I knew that once I stepped foot in his territory, his guardians would descend upon me with all their might. The dark grey clouds above cast melancholy, almost signifying the day. I enter his gates. In the distance, our eyes meet, and I see a smile form upon his face summoning his guards. It's almost as if he knew.

There I was, alone, yielding a sword, and in front of me, was a army of hundred men. All of them, trained to kill. I fleeted towards them like a mountain lion. The battle was long and fierce, kill after kill, I moved forward. I savored each swing of the blade as I felt it thrust into warm bodies of these men fighting for a lost cause. One after another, they dropped dead. I emerged victorious, inflicted with deadly wounds but nothing bothered me anymore. The one-on-one awaited.
I saw his face aghast, as I walked slowly towards the deadly end.  He fell down to his knees, begging me to pardon him.

Blood red fury filled my eyes, my sword lifted and with one swift swing,  his head parted from his body.

I heaved a sigh and looked down upon my body riddled with cuts. I closed my eyes, as tears streaked across my face. I turned my sword around and pushed hard, as I felt the pointy end tear through my heart. The final cut.

The eyes. They return to me, at last...


Friday, April 12, 2013

Why I love Calvin and Hobbes...

Art, in any form is a real treat to your soul. It has the ability to speak to you just through your senses. Over the years I have realized that it plays a major part in our lives. The brilliance of art is that it not only challenges your interpretation, but also feeds it.

When I was growing up, as much as I can remember, the first art I really started appreciating was in the form of comics. That one page which I used to fight my brother for, to read first. We literally took turns day after day, on who gets to read the comics first, kinda like "early bird gets the worm" scenario. Might I enlighten you, I still love comics. I still read cartoon strips, comics, watch cartoons on TV and love collecting memorabilia.

Archies, Peanuts, Tarzan, Beetle Bailey were some of the strips which appeared on the paper, in my region. All these comics were witty and humorous . But there was one comic, which to my opinion, was the most enlightening of them all. The one and only, Calvin and Hobbes. You rarely come across a genius like this, in your life. I'm very aware I'm talking about a "comic strip", but it is treasured as the opposite. The mastery and the greatness of the comic unfortunately, cannot be quantified in words and this strip has outwitted and outclassed every comic strip in the print syndicate.

The funny part is I didn't understand the comic fully back then. The real wizardry enchanted the shit out of me, after I started reading this comics again, as a grown up individual. Below, I've interlaced some of my favorite strips with a few snippets of my emotions, explaining why I liked the comics, hopefully getting my point across to you all, that whoever has missed this, PLEASE START READING, and co-fans, let's revel in our joy.

One of the first reasons I loved the strip, was how amazing the art really was. Using that much little space to draw something like this, is no easy task. Finding this quality art in a comic strip. Are you kidding me?

The versatility. A guy who draws comical characters, can also draw realistic pieces like this. And let's excuse the art here, see the vernacular change. And Hobbes's words in the last bit, perfect!

Hahaha. This strip makes me laugh everytime. Never gets old. Bill Waterson not so subtly gave the readers a take on hunting rationale. The use of the 2D space is also worth noticing. The strip is non-linear but you still follow the comic exactly how you're supposed to.

Calvin's alter ego strips are just mindblowing. Spaceman Spiff, Tracer bullet, Stupendous Man, to name a few. As any kid, Calvin day dreams a lot. Let's take a moment and realize that all these are one man's creativity. We are literally in Waterson's head right now.The strip above exemplifies how alone Calvin actually is.

Never has a comic strip, ever, induced so much emotion in me, than this one. It is THAT simple. A 4-block non-colored, left to right, classic newspaper strip

I didn't want to make this post too long that is why I've limited to just 5 strips. Hopefully, you'll go and read the rest. Your world will come alive with snowmen, monsters under the bed, childhood denial of parents, pet bonding, school bullies, transmogrifiers, philosophical conundrums and the meaning of life itself.
Mr. Waterson, I genuinely thank you!

Calvin: "That is why I want to ask you. As a tiger, a wild animal close to nature, what you think we're put on Earth to do. What's our purpose in life? Why are we here?"
Hobbes: "We're here to devour each other alive"


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Top 10 heavy metal songs to ring in the new year

Every year's end, people chime in with a new year message, a philosophical retrospect, a wish, a resolution...
For some, it is a celebration of a new beginning, for some an end relief and for some a hope of good things to come..For me, it's just a reminder that time is ticking away and it is important we cherish the present and hope things don't turn to shit.

I write this post not as an ode, but a reminder to myself that what I am, has been impacted over the years by what I listen to. And it is important we remember our influences and respect them.

10. Ace of Spades (Ace of Spaces) - Motorhead
Life's all about how you play the game. It's not whether you win or lose. That's my philosophy. And what a better song than this. Lemmy turns up his bass into overdrive and picks the hell out of that thing.    Speed drumming and riffing support him throughout. This song stood the test of time and remains the definitive Motorhead track. Don't take life too seriously and more importantly, "Don't forget the joker!".

9. Toxicity (Toxicity) - System Of a Down
There is no denial that no matter who you are, think, your government or your society messed up the place where you live. Some places more so than others. I visited my hometown in 2012 and there was so much of disorder and chaos, I instantly got reminded of this song. The band introduces this song with a clean guitar and gradually moves on to become aggressive with vocals and solid drumming. Toxicity is a cerebral track. 

8. Darkness Within (Unto The Locust) - Machine Head
When you include a song and an acoustic cover of that song, in the same album, you have balls. Machine Head aced it with "Darkness Within". Although I like the acoustic version better, I have to say, this is one monster of a song. What makes it special are the lyrics. Music my savior, save me
It starts off with an eccentric riff, and slowly builds up into a groovy-thrash anthem advocating self-redemption and salvation. A 'note to self' for anyone who wants to make it big in music. Also, don't forget to check out it's music video.

7. Countdown To Extinction (Countdown To Extinction) - Megadeth
On Dec 21st, 2012, idiots all over the world wanted to "celebrate apocalypse". That's one oxymoron which doesn't any need explanation. They LITERALLY counted down to extinction. The rhetoric really reminded me of this tune. Part of the best selling Megadeth album, it's an awesome composition. Whenever I get reminded of the date, I only reminisce in the palm-muted thrash riffing and Mustaine's  vocals in this song.

6. Set To Fail (Wrath) - Lamb Of God
What do you expect from an album titled "Wrath"? That is exactly what you get. "Set To Fail" is the best song of this album IMHO. There is no lead-up or a slow beginning. Right from the start, the brutality is in-your-face. The inherent anger is there for you to see, to listen, to feel.. The entire band's technical prowess pounces on you with extreme groove riffs, kill-force drumming and enraged growls. If you don't headbang or start air-drumming, better get yourself checked.

5. Nothing Else Matters (Metallica) - Metallica
This album, a.k.a the Black album is a gift to humanity. One does not simply miss listening to it.
And this song, is the album's trump card. Not many people know this, but power ballads by heavy metal bands are a big deal. Because, if they screw up, they remain like ink blot stains on a white shirt. Metallica, however nailed it. It is insanely popular and rightly so as it finds the right balance between easy listening and heart-touching lyrics.

4. Rock Hard Ride Free (Defenders of The Faith) - Judas Priest
The main reason I picked this is because I heard this song for the first time, in 2012. Hmph. I know. Can't believe I didn't discover this goldmine of a song much earlier. Insane distortion riffs, signature Priest sweeps, unbelievable high-pitch screams by my favorite vocalist, it is bound to leave you motivated for the coming year. Here's a lyric excerpt
Rock with a purpose, got a mind that won't bend. Die hard resolution, that is true to the end.  
Keep the faith!

3. Forsaken (Systematic Chaos) - Dream Theater
DT is a progressive metal mammoth. In the past year, I've heard their songs extensively. The lyrics are about a man in a illusion of believing beautiful things while infact, his blood is being sucked by a vampiress. The lyrics are entirely credited to Petrucci and might I suggest, to research on this guy. He is one impressive dude. His dedication and discipline are immortalized in his guitar playing. Although, Forsaken is not their best or technically complex as the others, I chose it because every single band member shines in this melodic song.

2. Brave New World (Brave New World) - Iron Maiden
Symbolism? Hell yes. Iron Maiden has been a huge influence and I cannot stress this enough. It might sound funny when I say influence, because it's a band which plays music.  This band is a global phenomenon, a vanguard of the NWOBHM movement. When you get to know them enough, through the music they create, it becomes so much more. It becomes a part of your life. 
An acousitic intro, groovy drums, perfectly synced rhythm guitars, and to top it all, poetic lyrics which Bruce justifies by singing in his operatic vocal style.

1. Heaven and Hell (Heaven and Hell) - Black Sabbath
The lover of life's not a sinner, the ending is a just a beginner.
The closer you get to the meaning, the sooner you'll know that you're dreaming...

Dio is a magician and this is his greatest trick. With lines like these in a song, you know you've struck gold. The song talks about the eternal good vs. evil battle inside of a human being. Clocking in at 7 minutes, this epic is a fusion of classic Sabbath riffs, captivating vocals, fluid tempo changes and possibly the best solo ever written. To me, this is a perfect blend of Iommi's boundless musical talent and Dio's powerful delivery. I probably heard this song every single day of 2012.

Have a very metal new year, all! \m/ \m/

"Oh, Angel...we can find our way somehow, escaping from the world we're in, to a place where we began.." - Angel (Judas Priest)