Wednesday, June 15, 2011

ZI Kill - Calling

News flash, Japan rocks!

There is a certain level of fascism in the music industry in regards to language. When the Scorpions started getting their band together they wisely choose to sing in English knowing it would help sell records globally, and it appears the majority of European bands have followed that business plan since; Avantasia (Germany), HIM (Finland), Nightwish (Finland), and Power Symphony (Italy) are all past Music in Review examples. There are few exceptions, like Rammstein who mostly sing in German but even then they became popular in North America with English versions of songs like “Du Hast.” The point is, if you want to get attention in the global music market odds are you had better be singing in English.

I understand why the English language dominates the airwaves, especially here in North America, people like to sing along. The one thing you will notice with most (if not all) pop hits they are all easy to sing along too. What’s the most important money marking market in the world? America. What’s the most common language in the world? English, especially as a lingua franca. So it makes sense, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily fair to non-English speaking musicians, or fans that couldn’t care less about what language the song is in.

As you should have surmised by this point in this month’s music in review the song we are talking about is not in English, it’s in Japanese.

A long, long time ago, my big brother Sean and I were watching “Fatal Fury 2” the anime based on the fighting game, and at the very end when my hero and yours Terry Bogard throws off his hat and yells “okay!” as he is want to do, the end of the anime is signaled and the ending credits roll. In silence Sean and I sat through the entire ending credits, something which we never do, I mean who bothers to watch the ending credits? But we both sat there amused by the song being played. After the credits finished Sean and I turned to each other and just before I could say it to him he said it to me “that song really rocked out.”


We watched the ending credits a few more times to soak in the song, and yeah it was a full on, kick ass, rock song. We surmised by the English chorus that the song was called “Keep on Calling,” and later learned that it was actually just called “Calling.”

Interestingly “Calling,” was the first mp3 I ever downloaded. This was like 1995 or something so downloading music was new and very new to me. I remember downloading the mp3 and not having anything to play it on, my computer had no idea what an mp3 was. It was almost embarrassing at school when I asked my friend Steven La’Roche “what’s an mp3?” Steven always being the cynical sort told me rather insultingly what I needed to know to play the song, and thus my life of listening to music on the computer was born.

Later on I learned the song was by a band called ZI Kill, and after listening to other songs by them they are a pretty good rock band, but there is no question in my mind that “Calling,” is by far their best. Maybe it helps that I always think of Terry Bogard when I hear the song now. It was also interesting to me to learn that ZI Kill actually had a small following in the U.K., in fact their single “Calling” was recorded there.

I think it’s important to keep an open mind in regards to music, because you never know where a good song will strike your ears, like the ending of an anime, in fact this is not the first time you have heard me reference a song from an anime; Seatbelts – Blue was reviewed way back in November 2007, and I can assure you, it won’t be the last. I still haven’t talked about the interesting sub-genre of rock and roll in Japan known as “Super Robot Rock and Roll,” I don’t know if they actually call it that or not… but yeesh they have a lot of rock songs about giant robots in Japan. If this last sentence wasn’t enough to convince you Japan rocks, nothing will.

ZI Kill give them a chance, they are a good rock band.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Flaw - Only the Strong Survive (Acoustic Version)

“It’s mine,
It’s pure,
And as decent as I can,
Make myself inside.
We all know,
Only the strong survive.”

At one point in time I was on a musical mission, I mean other than the one I’m currently still on known as the “Music in Review,” I was making an issue with one solid idea, that faster wasn’t always better.

For several years the friends I was staying in touch with musically were really into hardcore metal. I understood their love for such music, it was inherently rebellious, and in concept and in style it was bold and daring, but that didn’t mean it was good. I remember watching videos of various guitarists and being really upset with what I saw, they were playing amazingly fast and clearly had talented hands but the songs they were playing were a blur of uncomplimentary sounds. My more musically talented friends, and I have several since I have no talent, would be in awe with what such guitarist could physically do since they knew to appreciate the difficulty of it, but I was at an odd advantage, being an untalented ignoramus I saw the final product for what it really was, shit.

A lot of metal music, suffered from this for years. There was never a thought put forth to create a melody or rhythm and no matter how fast you can thrash a guitar if what you’re playing is an incomprehensible mess you are going to sound terrible.

I found the perfect song to illustrate this point, though the point may have been better made three or four years ago, I’d still like to make it. Flaw is a metal band that I do not know much about, but I do know one thing the music they make is, for the most part, an incomprehensible mess. Just another example among many who thought that they could create enough flash in their playing style to offset their lack of song writing ability, but Flaw did something that halfway proved me wrong. Flaw proved they could write a good song if they stopped being stupid.

Flaw – Only the Strong Survive, is not a very good song, in fact I would go so far to say it is a bad song. Nothing offensively terrible but definitely bad, that is until you hear the acoustic version. The acoustic version only has piano and acoustic guitar, no bass player demanding the lead guitarist’s attention, no drummer so stupid they forget they have a responsibility in the band, no metal mess, just a simple solid and very heart felt good song. They stopped trying to impress everyone with how dumb they can carry on and focused on the song itself and low and behold it made a world of difference.

Now this mission I was on was never a mission against metal music, I like a lot of metal music, it was a mission to save metal music, and while I doubt my influence made a great big deal of difference it seems with the central European movement towards symphonic metal change has come. But still any band that is all flash and no substance I can point to one song and say, “that’s what you’re doing wrong.” That song is Flaw – Only the Strong Survive.

Now to focus on the song itself for the last few paragraphs; it is a strong chilling song about death, and “we all know; only the strong survive.” Death has always has been a topic of great interest to me, and why not, it is the end of all things, the final chapter, the loss of someone forever, how is that not important and therefore interesting. It has become something that I now take for granted, but we all know, that only the strong survive, it is a major theme in everything I write, the strong surviving and the weak perishing, I believe it’s true and so does Charles Darwin. Even in our day and age of peace there will always be physical and emotional troubles that plague us, and the only way to survive them is to be strong. This is not a declaration of motivation, it is more of a mandate, it is a statement of fact, you must be strong, there is no recourse there are no other options. You must be strong.

Flaw managed to do a very good job of capturing this in “Only the Strong Survive,” it helps in the acoustic version you can actually make out what the singer is saying, instead of trying to sound metal cool, he pours his heart into the lyrics giving it a much more emotional and gripping tone. Being able to make out the words helps in a big way since the chorus is very solid and poetic, even though the verses are a little weak. It is a song that pulls you in, and by the end when the singing is over and the piano plays till the finish, every last note played seems to echo like the song is never going to let go of you.

Arguably Flaw got lucky with this song, but I’m pretty sure they just finally started using their talents intelligently.

“You will survive, I will survive, we will survive...”

Until later this month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly