Thursday, December 25, 2014

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Old City Bar

“Old City Bar” is one of the few original songs by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, who are primarily known for their Christmas themed rock operas, they also have a bulk of songs that are rock and roll adaptations of classical music. Since most Christmas songs are in fact modifications of old folk songs and classical music, I believe it is fair to say that the vast majority of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s music is rock opera versions of classical music. While “Old City Bar” is undeniably Christmas themed it is one of the few completely original tracks by the group.

I was curious just how few Trans-Siberian Orchestra songs were original after writing the above paragraph and I was surprised to find just how many songs were attributed to O’Neill, Oliva and Kinkel, but they take credit for songs like “Mephistopheles' Return” and "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” which I know for a fact are collections of various classical pieces glued together. While going through each song and figuring out the percentage of Trans-Siberian Orchestra songs that are one hundred percent original is the sort of thing I am want to do, I will decline doing so at this time, I am not made of free time. Sorry Internet, I failed you. The point remains however, I am very confident that “Old City Bar” is one of the very few completely original songs created by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

I mean no real criticism when I point out that the vast majority of Trans-Siberian’s songs are quasi covers, after all just about the only thing I like about the holiday season is the music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I would not be caught dead listening to Christmas music until “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” came out in 1996. This tiny bit of information however does help support what makes a song like “Old City Bar” special however.

The guitar is the instrument that speaks to my soul, and there is little I love more than a nice guitar melody, acoustic or electric. Like any simple charming acoustic song I always get it in my head that I can learn to play it myself, and “Old City Bar” is such a nice song it would be advantageous to know how to play it, but being layman I struggled terribly. This is not too surprising really, many of the acoustic songs I have sat down to learn have turned out to be much more intricate and complicated then they sound; which should really give us all a greater appreciation for the sheer talent of the professional guitar players out there who make it look so easy. If you really want to learn how to play “Old City” bar, this girl explains it pretty well I think:

The real charm of “Old City Bar” is the quaint nature of the story and the uplifting message there within. A quick synopsis of the story is a women is stranded in the cold streets on Christmas Eve and a child recruits the help of a bar keep to help her get home safe and sound. The child suddenly vanishes after the good deed is done and the rumor emerges that the child was an angel. In a turn of great generosity the bar keep lets everyone drink for free, and the bar is like home to those to dwell inside. These two verses perfectly capture the spirit of the song;

“If you want to arrange it,
This world you can change it,
If we could somehow make this,
Christmas thing last.

By helping a neighbor,
Or even a stranger,
And to know who needs help,
You need only just ask.”

I think we have all heard a variety of explanations as to what constitutes the true meaning of Christmas. We technically have two primary cultural influences that dictate two completely different messages. The various Pagans of Europe would celebrate their Winter Solstices as the rebirth of the sun and the coming of new life as the deepest days of winter were passing. The Christians, who effectively stole the holiday from the Pagans, celebrate the rebirth of their savior Jesus Christ. The commonality is the theme of rebirth, that is not a coincidence and also not important to a discussion about “Old City Bar.” A lot of people have come to terms to with the idea that the Holiday season is about “peace on earth,” which is a nice try, but more pragmatic people are forced to recognize the truth that the holiday season has become more to do with commercialism than anything else, but perhaps the healthiest message we should believe in is the one O’Neill and company are encouraging for us to share, and that is charity and kindness.

I would be lying if I pretend to care about the “reason for the season” I do not even like Christmas, I’d rather be working. Can you imagine how much work I could get done around the office if no one else was there to sideline me with unpredictable problems? It would be so nice. However as much of a scrooge you may qualify me as, I really like “Old City Bar” and I really like the message it invokes. If you want to make a better future, go make it; be the difference you want to see in the world; help a stranger; pay it forward; and other clichés. Every day is the future. We are the future, all of us.

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

- King of Braves

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bloodbound - Moria

Bloodbound is a Swedish power metal group that formed around 2005 and since that time they have already gone through two drummers, three bass players and an impressive four lead vocalist. What’s all the more impressive is that they have released six studio albums which means they manage to replace the lead singer once every one and a half albums on average, which is pretty fucking crazy when you think about it. Still congrats to Tomas Olsson (lead guitar), Fredrik Bergh (keyboard) and Henrik Olsson (rhythm guitar) for keeping the dream alive and sticking it out with such volatile line up changes in such a short period of time.

The original vocalist Urban Breed actually performed on the first and third studio albums, which only raises more questions about the coming and goings of band members. Finally on their forth studio album Bloodbound found their most consistent lead singer to date Patrik Johansson.

This seems to be a very common thing in Europe, band members hopping from one band to another. I mentioned this before when talking about musicians like Michael Kiske, Kai Hansen, and Jorn Lande, and how they have managed to be in approximately half a dozen different metal bands each. Like Skwisgaar from Dethklok they have basically been in every band ever. The past and current members of Bloodbound have been involved in a number of bands I have never heard of before and could barely find any information about any of them online, which in this day in age is a shock, but this does explain why I have heard so little about Bloodbound despite them having several decent songs, and there is still a lot I do not know about Bloodbound, but one thing I am confident in saying is “Moria” is a damned awesome song.

Coming off of their 2011 album “Unholy Cross,” the first album to include current lead singer Patrik Johansson, “Moria” is my favorite song I have heard from Bloodbound so far. I am very big on song structure, now admittedly I am untalented fool of a musician so I likely miss a large variety of subtle details in the music I listen too, but I think I listen well enough to pick up on the big picture. The songs I have always enjoyed the most have set pieces, verses, chorus, and bridges with a logical, simple gluing together of these things. “Moria’s” intro is a nice slow crawl towards excitement and the verses have one rhythm pattern and the choruses another. We have a nice guitar solo in the middle, like every great rock song should have, and the outro repeats the chorus into gradual departure of the instruments until only Johansson’s voice remains. And it is a really, really, I can’t emphasize this enough, really good chorus.

Not all metal songs are catchy, in fact, sometimes it is frowned upon in the metal community to be so, but I love the hook “Moira” has with its chorus. The lyrics are simple but meaningful and they are sung with the exact right amount of intensity, and it helps the guitars leap out with the vocals.

“Bang your head to hell and back,
Shaking the ground of Moria.
Raise the dead our time has come,
Show me the horns of Moria.”

Show me the halls of Moria, oh he said "horns?" Well that makes less sense.
Of course it is impossible for me to ignore the obvious “Lord of The Rings” reference. For those of you who missed it (somehow) Moria is the underground Dwarven kingdom the fellowship travel through in the “The Fellowship of the Ring.” The same place Balin led a group of dwarves into who met their doom at the hands of the goblins and orcs within, you should remember Gimli morning the dead as Gandalf read the journal of their fate. The same place Gandalf fought the Balrog, you know “You shall not pass!” that place; Moria. Presumably everyone would agree that the battle in the halls of Moria is a perfect event to write a metal song about, however... it is doubtful to say the least that Tolkien’s “Moria” is literally being referenced in this song. I mean the “horns of Moria?” It is as though they are referring to a demon named Moria or something. Maybe they thought the Balrog was named Moria? Maybe not, or maybe no one should care?

Despite expecting fantasy literature reference the lyrical content of “Moria” is actually rather agnostic or atheistic. The bridge into the chorus is;

“The night has fallen,
And the sky is clear.
You feel the darkness,
Surround you.
I’ll pray for mercy,
When I’m six feet underground.
I’ll pray for mercy,
When Eden’s found.”

And then slightly modified the second time around;

“The light is crawling,
And the time is near.
A touch of evil,
That bind you.
I’ll pray for mercy,
When my heart has stopped to pound.
I’ll pray for mercy,
When hell is found.”

And both bridges conclude with this fantastic little bit;

“Heavenly pictures try to rape your mind.
Tormented creatures you will find.”


I am very partial to these lyrics. It is a sort of “fuck you” to people threatening non-believes with hell and bribing them with heaven. Effectively all that is being said is, “I will believe you when there is a valid reason to believe you,” and also “I will not be intimidated,” in a very powerful manner. I really like the “tormented creatures” line, it could mean that those obsessed with “heavenly” ideas will become tormented, or it could be that they search so desperately for validation for their absurd believes they project horror onto everything and will either create or falsify the hell they so desperately feel the need to believe in as a counter weight to their imaginary heaven. Good stuff.

I like the guitars, I like the energy, I like the Tolkien reference, I like the song structure, and I like the whole atheistic theme; basically a perfect song for my subjective tastes. Good work Bloodbound, I hardly know anything about you, but I think “Moria” is among one of the best songs I have heard in recent years. Keep up the good work and good luck keeping your lineup intact.

- King of Braves

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Uriah Heep - The Wizard

Uriah Heep is many things. They are a largely forgotten progressive rock band from the greatest era of music ever (the sixties and seventies). They are an endearing band that has existed for over forty years, thank you Mic Box for keeping the dream alive. They are a fun band that frequently visited themes of fantasy and science fiction. Also Uriah Heep is a prime example of what the seventies were. While largely forgotten in time, Uriah Heep did enjoy a splash of success in the early days of their career and part of it probably had something to do with just how well they fit in with the peace and love movement.

There are few things more relaxing and easy going then mellow hippie music, and some of Uriah Heep’s early tracks fit that moniker well, perhaps most notably “The Wizard.” Like many early Uriah Heep songs “The Wizard” is very simple, all you need to play it is the C, D, and G on a string guitar. In fact “The Wizard” is one of the few songs I learned to play adequately well, and I am but a dabbler.

This ties in directly to what I would consider the two culture primary points of a song like “The Wizard.” There is the obvious fantasy theme, which I love and there is also the overlap of the seventies hippie moment present throughout.

The music video is soooooo nineteen seventies:
Everyone seems so happy in that video.

The first instinct most people is to assume anything about a kindly old wizard is based off of Gandalf or possibly Merlin, I do not feel Uriah Heep is singing about any such specific individual in “The Wizard.” As described in the second verse;

“He had a cloak of gold and eyes of fire,
And as he spoke I felt a deep desire,
To free the world of its fear and pain,
And help the people to feel free again.”

Gandalf never wore a cloak of gold. The wizard in question comes off like some kindly old hippie which directly ties into the second primary cultural inspiration.

“He was the wizard of a thousand kings,
And I chanced to meet him one night wandering.
He told me tales, and he drank my wine,
Me and my magic man, kinda feeling fine.”

Basically the song is about getting drunk and stoned with a hippie, who happens to be a sorcerer, which is amazing. If I was foolish enough to indulge impossible things on the bucket list of my life, it would include getting drunk and stoned with a wizard.

It is easy to see just how strongly this all ties into the peace and love moment, after all the message of the Wizard is about cooperation and understanding:

“Why don’t we listen to the voices in our hearts?
Because then I know we’d find were not so far apart.
Everybodys got to be happy, everyone should sing,
For we know the joy of life, the peace that love can bring.”

So spoke the wizard in his mountain home.
The vision of his wisdom means well never be alone.
And I will dream of my magic night,
And the million silver stars,
That guide me with their light.”

It is simple notion that likely is invoked constantly but is nearly thought of in such terms, why don’t we listen to the voices in our hearts? The truth is, no matter for culturally different we are, with open hearts we will always find we are not so far apart. It is a really message in a really mellow song, and I find it so completely calming.

“The Wizard” is the first track off of Uriah Heep’s 1972 album “Demons and Wizards” evidently “The Wizard” along with “Paradise/The Spell” satisfy the “wizard” half of the album title. Meanwhile “Rainbow Demon” one of my favorite songs of all time which obviously is the “demon” side of the equation. The theme of wizards and magic would carrying on to Uriah Heep’s next album, released the same year “The Magician’s Birthday” and I suspect the magician and the wizard are the same lovable hippie, but perhaps I will discuss more on that another day.

- King of Braves

P.S. Also fun, the Blind Guardian cover:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Black Sabbath - The Wizard

When I was a kid discovering music I was drawn primarily to classic rock from the sixties and seventies, and one of my first loves was Black Sabbath. Like most young men of my time I feel in love with Black Sabbath through the songs I heard on the radio, their big hits like “Paranoid,” “Iron Man” and “War Pigs.” For the longest time my affinity for Black Sabbath resided entirely on the “Paranoid” album, the only CD of theirs I owned for a long time. Back in my youth I was very dependent on the radio and friends to introduce music to me, and without the sufficient funds it was often a gamble to buy a whole album without first knowing what was on it, I needed a hook, I needed an incentive, and for me in my dire need to expand my Black Sabbath catalogue the next step was introduced by Sabbath’s fourth big radio hit, at least where I live, “The Wizard.”

“The Wizard” is basically a perfect song for young me’s sensibilities. It had a highly unique intro that my brother and I could recognize after only the first note during a trivia contest (true story). It had blues influence which tied in with my love of the music of that time, most notably Led Zeppelin. The harmonica is a fantastic and underused music instrument. The distortion on Toni Iommi’s guitar is the exact amount necessary to create a unique sound that is catchy and fun and does not cross the line into distracting from the rhythm section. The song is about a wizard and fuck yeah wizards!

So without much hesitation the second Sabbath album young me purchased was their debut self titled album “Black Sabbath.” This was a good purchase, obviously, because the entire first half of the album is amazing with songs like “Black Sabbath,” “The Wizard” and “Behind the Wall of Sleep/N.I.B.” while the second half of the album is also really good. It was also a chronologically logical place to start discovering Black Sabbath, you know, at the beginning.

"Paranoid" and "The Wizard" that
would have been a really good single.
“The Wizard” is infinitely memorable. The way it opens with the long notes from the harmonica and allows Iommi, Ward and Butler to be introduced one at a time and then coming together in the first movement is... “magical.” It is probably the most blues inspired song by Sabbath and it gives a very unique sound even when compared to other Black Sabbath tracks. It is not a very heavy song, at least not by today’s standards but being “metal” does not by itself make a song good, style and pose; levels and variety of sound are “The Wizard’s” strong suites.

In many ways “The Wizard” is a silly song. Black Sabbath had a lot of intense songs about death, darkness, the devil and other dangerous themes beginning with a “d,” including dreams. So a song about a magic man making every one joyful with his presence is rather calm in comparison, but I like it. Not only is “The Wizard” a charming upbeat song it is very humorous when we pause to consider the lyrics.

The two immediate possible interpretations for “The Wizard” are literal and metaphorical; obviously, what other options do we have really? “The Wizard” is quite possibly, literally about a wizard spreading his magic and making everyone happy, or “The Wizard” could be, metaphorical be about a drug dealer spreading his unique form of “magic” and naturally making everyone happy. Judging from Ozzy’s attitude on both subjects I think it is fair to suggest that it is both, a wizard who is a drug dealer.

A psychedelic adventure?

It is often sited that, “The Wizard” is inspired by famous “The Lord of The Rings” sorcerer Gandalf the Grey. It is not too far of a stretch to imagine Gandalf as a drug dealer, after all he was found of the halfing’s leaf, and the whole walking by element fits well with Gandalf’s wandering ways. I think it is fun to imagine Gandalf as a haphazard drug dealer, spreading the joy of his “magic,” but truth be told I am not convinced Black Sabbath’s “The Wizard” is necessarily inspired by, or at all about, Gandalf the Grey. I think our cultural perceptions of the fantasy theme wizards are fundamentally inspired by Gandalf and Arthurian lore’s Merlin, so much so, that everything wizard related harkens back to them. So in a weird way every wizard, ever, is inspired by, or based on, Gandalf and/or Merlin, either directly or indirectly, but in this case I think the connection may be the later, indirect, and I do not know how much that really counts as being inspired by, or at all about, Gandalf, really.

Oh well, who cares? Gandalf selling pot is a great idea for a song and I am sure Ozzy would be happy if all just assumed “The Wizard” is about exactly that. That is what I like to believe anyway.

Image taken from some youtube video.  I could have just as easily made my own, but I didn't.
The important thing is “The Wizard” is one of Sabbath’s most unique songs both in style and theme and in my humble one of their best. I hesitate to say “The Wizard” is my favorite Black Sabbath song, but only because Black Sabbath have so many great songs. In the end, I think “The Wizard” is my favourite, but perhaps that just my affinity for Gandalf and pot talking.

- King of Braves

P.S. Also fun, Pride and Glory cover:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Savatage - The Hall of The Mountain King

Savatage is a band with a lot of history. Forming in 1978 it would be five years before they released their first album “Sirens,” and after that they remained very active by releasing an album every year for five years. It was the fifth year of this workmen’s approach that changed and defined Savatage with the release of their best known album “The Hall of The Mountain King.”

Savatage’s early works were fantasy related rock and roll, but they drifted away slightly from that theme in years three and four with their albums “Power of the Night” and “Fight for the Rock” and enthusiasm for the band was starting to wane, not just commercially, Savatage was largely ignored by the mainstream, but even the members of Savatage were starting to get distraught and disinterested in their own work. At one point the band broke up and the primary reason was because they were not making enough money to stay alive. Times were hard for Savatage.

The Oliva brothers, Jon on vocals and Criss on guitar, were the leaders of Savatage, they wrote basically every song and performed arguably the two most important functions. I have always been under the impression that they grew up with Paul O’Neill, all three are from New York, but regardless their friendship was established forever when O’Neill was brought in to produce Savatage’s fifth studio album “The Hall of The Mountain King.” With O’Neill’s help Savatage returned to fantasy and embraced the power metal stylization they had intended to be all along. The future of progressive metal was born, and most critics consider “The Hall of The Mountain King” as the first ever progressive metal album, yet one more unique subgenre of metal had come to forefront of human musical imagination, much to the betterment of all humankind.

O’Neill is a hell of a producer, rarely is the producer credited for primary song writing but in the case of “The Hall of The Mountain King” O’Neill is credited for co-writing four of the tracks, including the two of my primary admiration, “Prelude to Madness” and the title track. Evidently O’Neill’s creative efforts were very welcomed by the Oliva brothers and he is considered by some to be a member of the band insofar. I believe it was O’Neill’s influence more than anything else that helped shape “The Hall of The Mountain King,” as well as what Savatage would become thereafter, and obviously he was fundamentally important in the creation of The Trans Siberian Orchestra.

Before there was the Trans Siberian Orchestra there was Savatage, and I think this is an important point in retrospect, because a lot of people, including me, discovered Savatage retroactively after discovering the Trans Siberian Orchestra. The combination of hard rock and classical music is a great glorious idea, and it is the 1987 Savatage album “The Hall of The Mountain King” where we see perhaps some of the earliest endeavors by O’Neill and Oliva (Jon) in creating this specific style of music.

The song “The Hall of The Mountain King” would become Savatage’s flagship song, and it is arguably the best guitar work by Criss Oliva, and it is this song along with its intro “A Prelude to Madness” where we see the direct crossover of classical music with rock and roll for the first time (I think) in Savatage’s history. I think it is pretty obvious that Savatage’s “The Hall of The Mountain King” is connected to Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” why am I so confident in saying this, because the interlude “Prelude to Madness” is a instrumental that is an rearrangement of Grieg’s classic piece with the exception of the intro which is based on Gustov Holst’s “The Planets.” The primary song “The Hall of The Mountain King” has less in common with Grieg’s classical music but in many ways fits together perfectly. “The Hall of The Mountain King” feels like the appropriate rock and roll extended version of Grieg’s classical piece. There are not very many examples of rock bands and guitarists reimagining, reworking, and expanding classical music like this before 1987, so this album and song are not just important because it rocks the world but also because it was an important link in the development of the high art that would later became The Trans Siberian Orchestra as well as hundreds of other inspired talents.

Edvard Grieg - In The Hall of The Mountain King

Savatage - Prelude to Madness

I have often imagine “The Hall of The Mountain King” might just maybe be about Thorin Oakenshield from “The Hobbit,” he was after all the king under the mountain after Smaug was dispatched, but I think it is safe to say that this song is not about anything so specific. Most interpretations of Grieg’s “In The Hall of The Mountain King” suggest that the song is about a troll, or a king of trolls. This makes sense, Grieg was Norwegian and the troll is a mythological creature from that area of the world. In Savatage’s song though I believe it is a being of their own creation. Judging from the cover art and the music video, the Mountain King is a big old dude with a big white beard, and I think it is safe to assume he is meant to be some sort of earthen god. It does not really matter though, what makes “The Hall of The Mountain King” special, at least for me, is the connection to classic music and Criss Oliva’s electric and lively guitar licks.

One of many animated interpretations of Grieg's "In The Hall of The Mountain King"

Savatage is soon to begin another reunion tour, and I hope they come to Calgary. The bucket list of my life is long and Savatage is on it, and the way they keep breaking up and reuniting makes me wonder how many more reunion tours they plan on having.

- King of Braves

Friday, October 31, 2014

Locust Toybox - Hyper Darts Challenge

I am a big fan of David Firth.

A lot of people took notice of Mr. Firth, after he released the dark and humorous “Salad Fingers” videos on and I guess you could say I was one of them. If you haven’t seen the “Salad Fingers” series, or are wondering what the hell kind of name “salad fingers” implies, then I suggest you go watch it at Mr. Firth’s site:, however be warned, it is strange and creepy.

Dark, humorous, strange, and creepy are just some of the words I would use to describe David’s work. He truly understands what makes things scary, unnerving and uncomfortable. It is not jump-scares that truly frighten viewers, nor is it just the unusual or unexpected that make us truly uncomfortable, more than both those things it is the uncanny. When things almost feel normal, but there is something out of place, or when there is something very wrong and yet the scene and the characters do not respond to the weirdness, and it makes us the viewers uneasy. By not explaining twisted visuals or actions we are forced to try to rationalize in a hurry strange scenes that really have no earthly explanation. By withholding information from us, we are forced to try to make sense of the unknown, and it is the unknown that frightens us. Mr. Firth is a genius at creating such scenarios.

It also helps tremendous that David Firth has a great talent for creating atmosphere. Within that atmosphere is his choice of music.

I guess being an animator and story teller is just two of David’s skills, he is also something of a musician, and impressively he creates all the music for his own videos.

A million years ago (October 2008) I did an amateur review of Grape Digging Sharon Fruits’ “Chasing Butterflies” I probably did a poor man’s effort to support the acoustic band endeavors of Firth and his friends, but hey I tried:

I think it’s high time I ramble about Locust Toybox, Firth’s solo music endeavour.

David makes it an issue to use as many different instruments as he can, from broken flutes to toy pianos. He will create a rhythm section by manipulating a broken record’s sound on a beat up old record player and add the necessary melody from seemingly any source, so long as it brings a distinct and unforgettable sound forth with. The music of Locust Toybox makes great white noise in the background while working or studying, but it is also hypnotic when taken in fully and completely. Best of all it helps create that atmosphere I was talking about earlier in his videos.

I think my favorite single video by David Firth is “Roof Tiling.”

I really like the voice of and presentation of Jonathan, and I really like how it is never fully explained what he is so afraid of being found out for, though presumably him being a murderer is the focal issue. I love the dialogue.

“Is there some music playing?
No!  You do.
I wish you had cancer.
I’ll watch you rot.”

That is a perfect set of sentences to entice and scare people. There is so much mystery and so much madness. It is disjointed and chaotic and yet coherent. But what really brings “Roof Tiling” alive is the background score. A song Firth has titled “Hyper Darts Challenge.”

Knowing what we know about David Firth and his flash videos, “Hyper Darts Challenge” is unsurprisingly a hypnotic song of various sounds from unknown sources. Maybe a toy piano is being used for the melody? Maybe a conversation from parliament has been greatly distorted into sounding like water sounds make up the rhythm? I have no idea and no way to know for certain. I guess we could email David and find out.

Whatever unorthodox approach Firth has undertaken to create “Hyper Darts Challenge” is really missing the point, the song on its own would and probably should be considered cool and relaxing, but of course this collection of sound was created for a video about roof tiling and after that experience it is nigh impossible to remove the dark ideas and the decent into madness our protagonist Jonathan experience from the groovy beats within. Is there some music playing?

David Firth is not a greedy man you can enjoy everything he produces for free on his site. He is yet another example of a diamond in the rough that we can find on the muddy swamp that is the internet if we just look hard enough. Another radical artist that may never have found a home if not for the strange wonder that is the online world. I spend a lot of time talking about music, and the music Firth makes is really good, but he is so much more than just that. Check out and experience it all for yourself. There hasn’t been too much activity on there for a while but there is a new Locust Toybox album that fits nicely into the vein of this dialogue.

Happy Halloween;

- King of Braves.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Rolling Stones - Sympathy For The Devil

The Rolling Stones were a major part of the British invasion in the rock and roll music scene in the sixties. They were so successfully they were, and are, to this day, often compared to The Beatles as obvious rivals, but rivals for what? The public’s affection and admiration? They are the two best selling rock bands of all time, and they were both British, they both had gigantic success early in their careers, and for the surviving member, continued gigantic success into their old age.

In the beginning The Rolling Stones wrote primarily radio friendly, youthful rock songs, that everyone could enjoy. They, like The Beatles, were the pop rock of their time, they were also among the first ever rock bands ever, so for a brief moment of time the Beatles and Stones were the only pop rock bands in the world. Something changed in The Rolling Stones creative direction as they entered the seventies, as they began write songs with much darker themes. Most of their songs remained as playful and fun as ever, but there was an inclusion of challenging and even uncomfortable subject matter for the sensitive hearted, and they drifted away from anything resembling pop, and again, like their perpetual rivals The Beatles, their new innovations proved to be highly engrossing art that was accepted by all walks of life all over the globe.

I love many of the early Rolling Stones songs, namely “Ruby Tuesday,” but there is no denying that the Stones stepped their game up in the late sixties and early seventies when they started producing tracks like “Paint It Black,” “Gimmie Shelter” and “Sympathy For The Devil.”

The devil is quiet possibly the most multifaceted character in all fiction. The history of the devil is only partially biblical, and it is never clear in the bible if Lucifer, Satan, and the devil are even the same person, then again nothing in the bible makes much coherent sense. Some people even believe the talking snake is the devil. Our cultural concept of the devil started to take form during the Christian reign over the Roman Empire. The Devil adopted several characteristics from the Hades the Greek god for the dead, most notably his pitchfork, in an effort to make hell seem scarier. When that did not work the Roman Catholic Church began giving the devil anthropomorphic goat characteristics taken from the pagan god Pan, who was a god of music and celebration, in an effort to make people afraid of all Pagan cultures. Keep it classy Christendom. The devil was largely forgotten until American marketing started using the character in jest to advertise how “devilish” or delightfully “sinful” their products were. After movies like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist” we had finally created a fictional character we liked enough to recreate in nearly every mythology and fiction since then. This is the devil The Rolling Stones would be familiar with when they wrote “Sympathy For The Devil,” the same devil we are all familiar with at this point.

I have a very vivid memory from my youth involving “Sympathy For The Devil.” In my grade eleven high school English class our teacher was trying very hard to think outside the box to get us to think about our literature studies differently. To this end, while we were reading William Golding’s “Lord Of The Flies,” she tried to draw parallels between the book’s theme to classic rock songs, Supertramp’s “The Logical Song,” and The Rolling Stones “Sympathy For The Devil.”

The rationale behind how Supertramp’s “Logical Song” was relatable to “Lord Of The Flies” was that ignorance makes you innocent and once you learn about the world you will unavoidably be corrupted. The shoe does not exactly fit because Supertramp are literally lamenting the pain of growing up while Golding was focusing more on the natural of evil of humans, but the connection of growing into something dark kind of work, so whatever, nice try.

“Sympathy For The Devil” on the other hand....

At age sixteen (or seventeen I do not remember) I was well versed in the classic rock styling’s of Supertramp and even more so The Rolling Stones. So I when Mrs. Laird played “Sympathy For The Devil” for us I was visibly happy about it. When she asked the class what was the song “Sympathy For The Devil” was about, my hand shot up and I enthusiastically said “the song is a satire about how the devil is a hard working gentleman and we should probably show him some respect.”

Mrs. Laird rolled her eyes and said, “no Colin, that’s not what it is about.”

She went on to explain that the devil was always present on earth which meant he was actually one of us, and in “Lord Of The Flies” the devil was humans as well. She was wrong on both fronts.

I believe I said bluntly, “no Mrs. Laird, that is not what ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ is about.” We did not argue about it further but I made my opinion clear on the report I had to write on the subject when I stated the connection between the two pieces of art was flimsy and forced, and that The Rolling Stones “Sympathy For The Devil” was absolutely about the devil being a hard working gentlemen worthy of our respect, despite him being evil.

In Mrs. Laird’s defense she did give me a pretty good mark on that assignment even though I completely contradicted her. Also to her credit, good taste in music. Also that lesson stuck with me forever. Also don’t roll your eyes at me when I’m right and you’re wrong.

So anyway The Rolling Stones “Sympathy For The Devil” is a very clever, very funny song about the devil working hard to corrupt souls and how he expects our respect whether or not we like him. The song is additionally fun in presentation because Mick Jagger never just comes out and says “I’m the devil” until the very end when he says;

“Just as every cop is a criminal,
And all the sinners saints,
As heads is tails,
Just call me Lucifer,
'Cause I'm in need of some restraint.”

Further proof to the idea that “Sympathy For The Devil” is about the devil expecting some, you know, sympathy, is that Mick Jagger has said in multiple interviews he was interested in stories told from the devil’s point of view and he wrote this song from the devil’s point of view. Also there are potential parallels between this song and the Russian novel “The Master and The Margarita.” Most notably these lines;

“I stuck around St. Petersburg,
When I saw it was a time for a change,
Killed the czar and his ministers,
Anastasia screamed in vain.”

From what I understand “The Master and Margarita” is about the devil paying a visit to Russia right around the time the communist revolution has taken place and with that I suppose he would have been around in St. Petersuburg and for the killing of the Czar. I do not believe “The Master and Margarita” is from the devil’s point of view though.

Maybe we should have read “The Master and Margarita” in English class....

Most damningly for Mrs. Laird's theory is the final threat by the narrative style. The devil has a human audience attempting to guess his true identify which he completely reveals and then threatens to waste our souls if we do not tread lightly. I have heard other theories about this song that suggest it is an cautionary tale about how evil is everywhere, and while this interpretations holds up pretty good it only really works if you are willing to work without the context of the devil’s forbidding presence.

Some people like to think this song is about god, and as much as I approve of people pointing out just how diabolically evil the god of the bible is, it does not work for “Sympathy For The Devil.”

As we look over the many different interpretation of the devil we are forced to realize that most of those incarnations are not truly evil. The devil behaviors more like Loki, playing tricks on us and seeing how we fare. The devil is more like Starscream from the Transformers, as in he is a constant nuisance, antagonizing us, ruining our good times. Rarely is the devil a force of destruction and death, usually he is a goofy trouble maker, and The Rolling Stones represent that less threatening more playful version of the prince of darkness very well.

“Sympathy For The Devil” came out in 1968 and captured what the devil’s personality might be like if he were in fact real. It was the perfect depiction of the character then and still is now. Like most classic rock “Sympathy For The Devil” is timeless.

- King of Braves

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pretty Maids - Motherland

I had never heard of the Pretty Maids up until last year, or if I had I had forgotten them entirely. It could be because Pretty Maids found their biggest commercial success in the late eighties early nineties when I was still very young. It could be Pretty Maids never got very popular in North America, in fact outside of Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Spain, Pretty Maids are not altogether popular anywhere. It could also be just something as simple as me not paying as much attention to Denmark’s rock scene as much I should be.
Bad ass, Ronnie Atkins

I first became acquainted with Pretty Maids when Ronnie Atkins hit the stage in Berlin during the last Avantasia tour, which as you know was a big deal for me since I went to Berlin and Hamburg to see it. I had no idea who Ronnie Atkins was but when I first saw him and he started killing it on the microphone, I knew right away he was a badass. After the show in Hamburg (best day of my life) I had the good fortune of meeting Eric Martin of Mr. Big and after a delightful half hour or so of hanging out with him he promised get somebody else to come hang out with us in that back alley behind the Grosse Fahrenheit 36, and that somebody was Ronnie Atkins. Mr. Atkins was not as enthusiastic about hanging out with us as Eric was but he was undeniably a really cool guy. My new found Dutch friend Fabion asked him if he would be touring with Avantasia in South America later that year and he told us no. Pretty Maids would be on tour, presumably in Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Spain, and that was the priority, which is fair. I asked him about the new album “Motherland” since Eric Martin had mentioned it was really good, after a joke about how Eric had not even listened to it yet despite being given a copy by both Ronnie and his son, he informed me, quiet strongly, that it would be in my best interest if I bought a copy and listened to it.

And so I did.

And it was amazing.

Like so many central European metal bands I am late to the party discovering Pretty Maids greatness. It is a great challenge for all musicians to remain inventing and productive after many years and many albums, and with that in mind it is a delightful surprising just how good “Motherland” is. Ronnie Atkins and guitarist Ken Hammer started the band back in 1981, so being able to produce a great album after thirty plus years is incredibly impressive. For me this was the first big introduction to Pretty Maids and it made me very eager to investigate their earlier works and very quickly Pretty Maids became yet another band to add the song list on my computer, on my MP3 player and in my life.

The big single off of “Motherland” is “Mother of All Lies,”

Mother of All Lies

There are many tracks from “Motherland” that have a political commentary of some kind and I respect the nature of Ronnie’s messages. Too often bands that fancy themselves insightful in regards to politics come off as juvenile or wimpy, and there is nothing immature or meek about Aktins and Hammer. My favorite track on the album is the title track. Unlike some of the more critical theme that prevail throughout a majority of the album the title track is rather positive, in fact in contrast to the foreboding concerns in their political oriented songs “Motherland” is patriotic. The chorus is:

“I praise you,
I'll never ever betray you,
Pledge my allegiance to save you,
You are my soul you're my,

The motherland land for Atkins and Hammer would be Denmark, so this could be a song about their loyalty to that nation, and I would not blame them, Denmark is pretty cool. It could be a generic song about family, heritage and home, a theme song for all people from all lands maybe. It could be satirical, in light of the other challenging songs of nation’s governance, perhaps “Motherland” is showcasing the foolishness of nationalism, but I doubt it.

Here is what we do know “Motherland” is a hard rock song with a very busy lead guitar with simple and heavy rhythm drums and bass, and powerful vocals. We also know there is something very natural and instinctive in loyalty to one’s family and tribe and with that there is something very powerful and motivating to fight and protect those you love and the ideals you believe in. Hence why “Motherland” has such a great energy about it and why I said it could be a generic song about family, heritage and home for anybody, because very nearly all of us have all three of those things and most of everyone is proud of who they in and in turn where they came from. More important than all that, “Motherland” kicks ass, and isn’t that what is really important?

“Motherland” great album and great song.

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Airborne Toxic Event - Numb

XFest, a lot of people talk about, but I had never been until this year. XFest is an annual music festival hosted by local radio station X92.9 FM. This year’s XFest’s main event was well accomplished weirdo Jack White. White is a mean musician and a very talented song writer, who may be the most influential musician in the past decade, at least according to my friend he is. However if I am to be perfectly honest I was actually more excited to see Airborne Toxic Event, and I appreciate the fact that I was probably the only one. Make no mistake, Jack White is crazy talented and he put on a great show; I am just a weirdo who really likes Airborne Toxic Event.

It was not very long ago I was telling everyone to go listen to “Welcome To Your Wedding Day” and it might seem too soon to talk about Airborne Toxic Event again, but if you come through my home town and I really like your sound, it seems the least I can do to share how good of a job you are doing, so let’s talk about “Numb.”

I really liked Airborne Toxic Event’s second album “All At Once” and as already stated I am very fond of the two song set that is “The Kids Are Ready To Die” and “Welcome To Your Wedding Day.” Alas, Airborne Toxic Event did not play either of those two songs at XFest, in fact they only played two songs from “All At Once” the title track and one other, “Numb,” which might be my favorite song by them after the above mentioned two song duo. I understand they only played two songs from “All At Once,” they have a new album out and a hit song from the “Dallas Buyer’s Club” soundtrack and they got to share those tunes, but I don’t, and that’s why I am talking about “Numb.”

A long echo is joined by the repeating of a single cord and then accompanied by the drums and lead guitar, and lastly a distorted howl finishes the intro and sets the entire song up. The melody instruments come and go and are present exactly when they are needed most, during bridges and silent vocal moments. It is like the guitar is wailing along with the words of troubled sombre hurt. “Numb” is a song that somehow manages to be both happy and sad at the same time. The lyrics are moody, and for all intents and purposes, depressing, yet the instrumental is upbeat with cool rock distortions and catchy guitar sounds. Front man and primary song writer Mikel Jollett has created something not unlike a really good Bruce Springsteen song with “Numb,” insofar it makes me feel pretty good about feeling pretty bad.

I make a constant effort to not make these reviews not about me because no one cares about me, including me, but it is very difficult sometimes because all I am really doing to telling the world why I personally like this song or that song. It is hard for me not to take a song like “Numb” as a personal reflection on things because a lot of the personality Jollett presents in his lyrical content and tone is something I would very much express if I made an effort at poetry, though presumably I would not be anywhere near as good at it as he is. It is not just an exclamation of sadness but an acknowledgement of great grief with a stubborn stance of stoicism; after all, the goal the chorus suggests is “I just want to be numb.” This is not a submission this is a position of belligerence, a willingness to endure.

“If I drink tonight I’ll get you off my mind,”

This is the only line in all of “Numb” that directly suggests the numbing taking place is alcohol induced, but the whole song just feels like it might be an ode to the sweet escape of liquor. There was a time when I took to the bottle on occasion, trying to chase demons out of my head and I just wanted to be numb. When I reflect on the bad times on my life, my creative writing and my general outlook on life, it has always been dark, but it was never solely about the darkness it was about overcoming it, and when I was overwhelmed, it was about putting up with it and giving up was never an option. That’s the flair of me that I see in a song like “Numb.” I hear myself trying to feel good about feeling bad, and that feels pretty good when I listen to this song.

Live the Airborne Toxic Event did not just perform the song “Numb” they rocked the shit out of it. It was different then the studio version in mood, it was sped up just slightly, I think, and played much harder, I know. During the live performance at XFest, and presumably elsewhere, Airborne Toxic Event made “Numb” a little less sad and a little more angry, a little bit stronger, bolder, and with all that, a little bit happier. Jollett was not giving in to great pain and despair on stage, he was flipping it the bird, (arguably the opposite of what Death Cab for Cutie would do later that same day at XFest) and it was great. Being able to make a stand against your own misery is the most empowering thing someone can do, feeling good about overcoming past bad feelings might just be the best feeling there is.

Welcome to Calgary Airborne Toxic Event, I am glad you came. Come again sometime. Why not?

- King of Braves
Anna Bulbrook on violin.


The biggest pop Airbone Toxic Event received was when they played “Sometime Around Midnight” and Anna Bulbrook opened with the violin. Two things, violins are awesome and Anna is adorable, Jollett, I am not your manager or anything but if you are reading this, let there be more of that. Cheers.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - Into The Great Wide Open

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers played in the Saddledome on August 19th. Between this and Arcade Fire being in town literally one week earlier and X-Fest at the end of the month, it has been a pretty good month for music in Calgary.

Everyone knows Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have a lot of good songs, but it really sinks in when you see them live and fifteen of the songs they play are classics where I knew every word, and the new songs they played were really quite good. Musicians like Tom Petty have a true workman’s approach to their music. They write good music consistently, tour frequently and during their live performances there is a no nonsense approach, they play through many songs and perform them flawlessly. The focus for many modern musicians is on theatrics, whereas bands like The Heartbreakers, a live concert is about the music they can perform. I appreciate the honesty and reality of, you know, actual music.

The nature of the Music In Review as I have constructed it, is that I typically try to select one song to write about as to really dig deep into the cultural, historical, emotional, or artistic qualities of that piece, but sometimes it is very difficult to pinpoint one individual song to talk about. As stated a moment ago Tom Petty has so many equally good songs, that no one in particularly really stands out, at least to me. However during the concert on the nineteenth Mr. Petty said a few things before playing “Into the Great Wide Open,” that really made me think.

The first thing he said was “this song came out in 1991” to which the crowd cheered and Petty responded with a chuckle and said “I’m glad that was such a good year for you.” Honestly? 1991 was not a good year for me. Granted I was only eight years old back then, but I do not remember that year all together fondly, at least not musically. Maybe I was too young to appreciate some of good music at that time, or maybe I just was not exposed to it, but for the most part I remember the entire decade of the nineties as being a low point in musical creativity. Having said all that, at least we had Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers making great music at that time.

Next Petty went on to talk about living in California and how everyday he would see some new kid arrive off a bus with a guitar and how so many came but so few made it. This meant something to me. Like most young boys with long hair I had dreams of being a rock star, but things did not play out that way. I have always taken cool comfort in being a fan and not an artist, for the world always needs more fans then artists, and in a much less significant and direct way I am doing my part for cultural growth of our shared civilization, but still it stings, somewhere deep down, knowing I am one of the many who will not make it, at least not that way.

It can be weird how personal songs can be, and weirder still what sort of ideas surface depending on our personality. “Into The Great Wide Open” like so many Tom Petty songs is about the good feelings of good music, and the general narrative this time around is about a young couple realizing their dreams as they wander forward in life and musical rock stardom. It is a happy song, as it is a song about the kid with a guitar who does make it, one of the few in question, but the mere mention of those thousands that fail made me reflect differently about the song then I had previously. The dream is over for me, more or less, but not entirely, there is still a glimmer of hope that something else I have invested a great amount of artistic effort towards might eventually come to promise, and maybe then one day I will fall into the great wide open, or whatever that might mean for me. When I, or anyone else, think like this, the song sort of becomes our own, as though a small part of us is present somewhere within the song itself. Following that logic there is very big piece of Mr. Petty within “Into The Great Wide Open,” and whatever I feel is only a fraction of what he represents.

It must be nice being a rock star.

I wonder how much of “Into The Great Wide Open” is autobiographical to Petty, or perhaps one of the Heartbreakers. The story is generic enough to be about just about anybody, and therein lays the classic charm of art; just about everyone can relate too, or desire to be like, the kid in “Into The Great Wide Open.”

I don’t know I’m just rambling.

I wanted to say something special about Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers but there is little to add to what everyone already knows. They are a very good band that writes consistently good music, and have been doing so for an impressively long time. They are honest, down to earth, and relatable. They put on a good show in Calgary and I am glad I saw it. I have no new insights to offer, only my respect.

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Friday, August 15, 2014

Arcade Fire - Supersymmerty

On August 12, 2014, Arcade Fire came to Calgary. I have been a fan of Arcade Fire since the beginning but this was the first time I was able to see them live. Last time Arcade Fire was in town I missed them because I was already committed to seeing Black Label Society that night, and I am one of the very few people on earth who is a fan of both of those bands. This time around there was no metal concert scheduling conflict.

In October of last year (2013) Arcade Fire released their fourth studio album “Reflektor” a two disc experiment that, like every other Arcade Fire album, is hard to describe. A major reason I love Arcade Fire is that they are always inventing new ways to create new music. When I say “Reflektor” is like every other Arcade Fire album in that it is hard to describe I mean that in a very thorough and complete way, The common characteristic of every Arcade Fire album thus far has been that each one was a brave new musically approach, and with that in mind “Reflektor” does not sound like any previous Arcade Fire album. Basically Arcade Fire is so unique they don’t even sound like Arcade Fire.

The Mirror Man
The August 12th concert was part of the “Reflektor” tour. The show opened with a man wearing a full suite of mirrors including a hat and mask and everything, he walked to the centre of the open crowd and announced “Calgary! Arcade Fire!” He later appeared in the same spot and danced in small circles during the song “Afterlife” at least I think that was the song playing, either way his presence was a tripped out visual. Arcade Fire has become known for their pranks and gags, like pretending to be Daft Punk. This time around they used the icon of their giant papier-mâché heads from the “Reflektor” music video on two occasions during the live concert. Once to have a fake opening with five people pretending to be them by wearing the fake heads and then being interrupted by the real Arcade Fire, and then again later by having the same imposters play a recording of Loverboy’s “Working For The Weekend” which they again promptly interrupted with the much needed encore.

But the real fun, at least for me, was the wild storm of interchangeable roles everyone in the band has. Win the leader of the group sings primary vocals, most of the time, plays lead guitar, and sometimes plays keyboard. Regina sings background vocals, sometimes lead vocals, plays the keyboard and drums, and the accordion at one point. William, Win’s younger brother, plays the keyboard and bass guitar as well as backing vocals. Sarah plays the violin, keyboards and backing vocals. Richard kept swapping between drums, bass and keyboards, and of course backing vocals. Tim was consistently on the bass, but not always. There were three other guys I am unable to figure out the names of and they too were all over the stage. It was an impressive sight, seeing the band members of Arcade Fire transition between songs from one discipline to another and made all the more impressive how multitalented all of them are. A true artistic musical experience, I am the richer for having witnessed it.

This is the “Reflektor” tour and it was expected we would primarily hear songs from that album, but naturally Arcade Fire performed some of their most popular tracks from previous albums like “Rebellion (Lies),” “No Cars Go,” and “Sprawl II,” you know these songs;

I love the first three Arcade Fire albums a lot, and if I had to rank the Arcade Fire discography I would place the newest one “Reflektor” last, but that does not mean that “Reflektor” is not a worthwhile album. As stated early it is yet another completely new adventure by Arcade Fire and a lot special moments have come from it.

David Bowie guest sang on their first single off of “Reflektor” the self titled track of the same name. This is also the music video where they broke out the giant papier-mâché heads, which have become fairly iconic. 

The second track off the album is “We Exists” a song about trans-people, because you know, they do in fact exist. The list of songs in support of, or defensive of, trans-persons is few, so Arcade Fire has done something kind of noble for writing a song reflective of their condition. It is a very clever approach too, a simple acknowledge about the mere existence of someone can have something of an avalanche affect in the minds of the otherwise complacent.

We Exists

Also, what better way to show humor, humility, and showcase your new songs than by having a multi-part music video/movie? Including cameos by the likes of Michael Cera, Zach Galifianakis and others, who mostly show up just to insult Arcade Fire; charming.

Mini Movie/Music Video

But my favorite tune on the new album is “Supersymmetry.” Now woe is me because they did not play “Supersymmetry” at the concert, but that is okay, presumably I will be live. “Supersymmerty” is a very electronic song whose bass is composed of multiple keyboards and soft drums, and the melody is mostly violins and gentle guitar chords. It is very soothing and relaxing. I initially thought the song was about sound coming together, because that is what the song is. There is lot of different sounds coming together in many Arcade Fire songs and “Supersymmerty” is a very strong example, so I believed the idea of the fictional term “Supersymmerty” was about harmony of sounds melting together into a soup for the soul, and I guess I am sort of right, no matter how you feel about it, because that is the song structure of “Supersymmerty” in a nutshell.

Scarlet Johansson's perfect
face is not on the cover because
she is only a voice in the moive.
“Supersymmetry” was included on the soundtrack for the Spike Jonze movie “Her.” “Her” was a daring film, it stars Joaquin Phoenix and his impressive mustache, and the plot is he falls in love with the artificial intelligence that serves as the operating system to his personal computer, voiced by Scarlet Johansson. It is a strange movie because nothing you think is going to happen happens. Anyway once I saw “Her” and “Supersymmerty” played I thought to myself that the lyrics were a little to perfectly appropriate for the film, and I was forced to consider the possibility that the song was written specifically for the movie “Her,” which according to Spike Jonze is the case:

It is not as though my initial interpretation in contradicted by this discovery, rather I feel it enriches my take away message of systems working in symmetry. The unorthodox love story in “Her” is about connecting with people and technological systems in emotional ways and that too could be thought of as “Supersymmerty.” A massive number of carefully crafted sounds coming together to form a great song, that’s “Supersymmerty.” Yeah I like it; it can be as deep as you want it to be.

I could muse on about Arcade Fire and “Supersymmerty” for a long while but I believe I have said enough. Your homework assignment is to listen to “Reflektor” and watch the movie “Her” and then think about things for a long time, because that is what I did, and I enjoyed it.

- King of Braves

Giant papier-mâché heads

Monday, July 28, 2014

Freedom Call - Freedom Call

My friends, and yours, the Germans, have won the world cup. You probably heard about it, it is not everyday Brazil loses seven to one, also it was the first time in history a European team has won the world cup in South America, and Germany may be the first team to defeat Brazil and then Argentina back to back.

If you are observant at all you may have noticed that I am particularly fond of a lot of German music. I have already written at length about the Scoprions, Blind Guardian, Helloween, Edguy and Avantasia. It just seems like Germany has a fantastic talent for music as well as football. In celebration of Deutschland’s recent football success let us continuing talking about German music.

Enter Freedom Call.

Freedom Call is yet another rock solid German metal band that affectively no one in North America has ever heard of; shame on us.

Like so many European metal bands Freedom Call has a mixed history with other European metal bands. Front man Chris Bay started Freedom in 1998 with his friend Dan Zimmermann, who is better known as the drummer of Gamma Ray. Dan Zimmermann is no longer with either Freedom Call or Gamma Ray now, and thus he continues to contribute to the many odysseys that exist in European metal careers.

The best song to introduce Freedom Call to those who have never heard of them before is probably their flagship song that has the same name as the band, “Freedom Call.” It is a very common thing for power metal bands to have a song of the title as the band name, I think Black Sabbath might have been the first, and often times the flagship song captures the spirit of the band in one short musical synopsis. Having said all that “Freedom Call” the song should serve my rock and roll goals nicely.

As a power metal band, Freedom Call have a lot of songs about high adventure, with fantasy themes throughout. “Freedom Call” the song tells a tale of another world, as the opening line would suggest, “An Island lies in the sea of stars, So far from time.” We do not really get to know much about this world beyond a noble group of strangers fighting against the magic of some demon; that alone sounds like a good idea for a book and maybe it already is and I just cannot identify it. I like to believe this strange world is the Crystal Empire, only because that is the name of the album from which the song is recorded.

Some of the fun surrounding a lot of power metal is trying to piece together the story being told to us, when not everything is exactly clear. I have made something of an effort in the past to make sense of songs like Helloween’s “Keeper of the Seven Keys,” or Queens “Ogre Battle,” but strangeness of fantasy coupled with the lack of specifics leaves just about everything open to interpretation. The song “Freedom Call” appears on Freedom Call’s second album the 2001 “Crystal Empire,” and the entire album, like many Freedom Call albums, has an overarching story, so the adventure of “Freedom Call” is wonderfully expanded into the rest of the album, and I dig that shit.

As much as I love a good and mysterious fantasy adventure set to the back drop of power metal it was not this that made me initially notice and fall in love with Freedom Call. They have a great sound Freedom Call. In the song “Freedom Call” specifically the introduction is methodical, the rhythm guitar and drums both steady and simple start us off and then a great little rift from lead guitar brings us to a change in tempo with a keyboard primary leading us. The tempo remains the same but changes into a galloping drum beat that leads and the rest of the song follows this pattern. Complexity through layered beats that are simplistic is something I have always loved and the rhythms and melodies of “Freedom Call” and many other Freedom Call songs are excellent at drawing you in this way.

Freedom Call will be, or already has, toured with Edguy through Scandinavia this year, and it is a great regret that I will not be able to see them together, that would be a hell of a show. I am super jealous of my friends in Sweden who are going. The point of this review is simple, Freedom Call is another superb metal contribution by the fine people of Deutschland, and yet another central European power metal band I sure hope my fellow North Americans discover hereafter.

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.


Germany rules.

- King of Braves