Unsung Masterpiece

Unsung Masterpieces: Danzig III- How The Gods Kill

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The year is 1992 and most of the musical world is caught up in the Seattle sound. It seems as though metal and music of that ilk has been swept aside. But was it really? No it wasn’t, instead it quietly stayed in the shadows and began to create it’s own entity just as punk music did in the 80’s and early 90’s. During this time many bands found a new way to evolve and grow to create albums that would become monumental and impactful. One such album is Danzig III: How The Gods Kill.

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Unsung Masterpieces- Alice In Chains- Alice In Chains

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When you look back at Alice In Chains’ discography, most people tend to look at Dirt and Jar Of Flies as the bands masterpieces. Facelift is often looked as a great album as well. Their self titled and final album with Layne is often overlooked. The album, most commonly referred to as “the tripod” album due to the three legged dog on the cover, is quite possibly one of the deepest and darkest albums the band has ever written.

This album is truly a remarkable record filled with all the things you know and love about Alice In Chains. In a way, it has a bit of a Jar Of Flies vibe to it with the way the acoustic layers are put in, as well as the signature heavy sound. Something else that I’ve always held in high regard about this album is that Layne wrote all the lyrics for the album minus three songs (“Grind,” “Heaven Beside You,” and “Over Now,” all of which Jerry sang lead on). Before this album was recorded, Layne spent his time working with Mike McCreedy on the Mad Season album.

I remember first hearing this album when it came out in 1995 and I was hooked, and that’s not just because “Again” was a rad song. There are so many great songs on this album that have truly become timeless classics like “Sludge Factory,” “Shame In You,” “Brush Away,” “Head Creeps,” “God Am,” and “Frogs.” Though Alice In Chains never toured on the record, probably due to Layne’s increased drug use, some of these songs were performed live during their Unplugged performance. My favorite of these songs done at that time has to be “Sludge Factory.” What a great song that is. I really wish the band would play more from this album live these days. Layne’s performances on these songs are absolutely remarkable. He’s always had a knack for creating great vocal melodies but on this album he really set a standard for how it should be done.  Something else about this album that I’ve always loved is the way it flows. The themes of depression, isolation, drug use, anger and death are all found throughout but, the way the arrangement of the songs are on the album, really leaves a lasting impact the way all the emotions hit you.

I highly recommend you all taking some time and re-introduce yourself to this unsung masterpiece. Not only will it leave you with a sense of awe but, it will add another level of love for Alice In Chains.

 

Alice In Chains- Self Titled:

 

 

 

 

Unsung Masterpieces: Godsmack- Awake

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There are a lot of bands out there that catch a lot of flack. Sometimes it is justified and others well it’s just unwarranted. Recently,while putting together some topic ideas for an upcoming podcast and radio show (stay tuned for that!!!), a thought crossed my mind. Why do people hate on Godsmack so much? I will admit that their name isn’t the most original and at times the lyrics are a bit juvenile but, Godsmack are a band that is absolutely necessary. Think of them more as a gateway band into heavy music. Godsmack are a really solid hard/heavy rock band, mixing bit of Alice In Chains and “Black Album” era Metallica. They emit a sense of accessibility and melody, that sometimes gets lost in translation as you delve into heavier genres. For someone that is young and is starting to get into “rock” music, a band like Godsmack is a great place to start.

The reason I mention all this and single out Godsmack, is because of how good their second album Awake is. They really stepped up their game from their debut. The sound of the album kept a “raw” edge to it, without sounding too polished. The songs were riff heavy but with a ton of groove to them. For a second record, the band shows a sense of maturity throughout the music written. You can tell on the first single “Awake” that they were trying to separate themselves from being lumped into the “nu-metal” tag, by adding guitar solos, and the song being 5 minutes long. “Sick of Life” and “Greed” are solid rock songs, minus the lyrics. Other tracks on the album like “Mistakes,” “Trippin,” “Forgive Me,” “Vampires,” “The Journey,” and “Spiral” really make this album as good as it is. The production on this album was top notch as well.

Godsmack delivered a solid heavy rock album, and continue to do so. Over the years, the juvenile lyrics have subsided and matured. Awake showed a range of songwriting. Songs that weren’t all about depression and hopelessness. Instead themes of reincarnation, and rebirth were very prevalent. The band also has a secret weapon in bassist Robbie Merrill. He has a feel to the way he plays that stands out. Guitarist Tony Rombola, is a student of the 70’s and early 90’s. He’s able to blend those two together just as Jerry Cantrell, but on a simpler level. Sully Erna, on this album started to come into his own. It wasn’t until their fourth album though, that he really found his own voice. The drums on this album are something else to be intrigued by. Tommy Stewart laid down some really great grooves. Though I will say, Shannon Larkin has really taken the songs from the first two albums and made them his own. He’s a true underrated drummer, that should get a ton more credit.

Say what you want about them but, know this, without bands like Godsmack, generations of kids wouldn’t get into heavier music. Take a listen to Godsmack’s Awake and just appreciate the music if anything.

 
Godsmack- Awake:

 

Unsung Masterpieces: Korn- Issues

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Lets travel back to 1999. The peak of the nu-metal genre was riding high and Korn was on top of the mountain. Fresh off their success of their mainstream breakthrough of Follow The Leader, Korn followed that up with a more melodic simplified album, Issues. Issues saw Korn maintaining their signature heaviness while incorporating a slew of guitar hooks, vocal melodies that enhanced the lyrics, a dash of electronics, and production that really made their sound bombastic. Korn was also able to go back to its bare essentials, dropping their hip hop flair and rapping. Working with Brendan O’Brien allowed them to stay on track, and make an album that sonically sounds great and cohesive. Granted all of Korn’s albums have the same themes throughout, Issues was the absolute pinnacle of what became their signature. “Falling Away From Me,” “Trash,” “Beg For Me,” “Make Me Bad,” “Somebody Someone,” “No Way,” and “Dirty,” are absolute standouts on the album. The short interludes in between songs like “Dead,” “4U,”and “It’s Gonna Go Away,” add to the already dark lyric tones, but actually provide a nice bridge to carry on the flow of the album. I can remember buying this album and being absolutely enthralled by it. There was something about this record that really hit home with me. During this time in music, it wasn’t hard to write angry lyrics and such, but to do it with conviction and actually mean it was something Korn did perfectly. Yes, they have repeated the same thing for years, but they really know how to do it.

I’m bringing all this up because Korn are releasing a new album later this year that they promise will be more in the vain of their older efforts like Issues and Untouchables. They released a new song called “Rotting In Vain,” that really does have an old school Korn feel to it. Needless to say I’m actually intrigued to hear it. When I heard the new song, I felt compelled to go back and listen to a few of their albums. Issues was always the one besides their debut that stood out to me as a solid album. It’s quite strange to think that 22 years later, Korn is still releasing music and selling out venues, but they keep doing it and people keep listening. So take a trip down memory lane and listen to Issues.

 

Korn- Issues:

 

Korn- Rotting In Vain:

Unsung Masterpiece: Rage Against The Machine- The Battle Of Los Angeles

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The year is 1999, people are starting to get hysterical over Y2K and Rage Against The Machine are about to release their final album, the very underrated unsung masterpiece, The Battle Of Los Angeles. Debuting at number one on the billboard charts, the twelve songs on the album are armed with heavy influence from George Orwell’s 1984, making for some very eerie foreshadowing statements on what the future will bring us. Songs like “Testify,” Guerrilla Radio,” “Sleep Now In The Fire,” “Voice of the Voiceless,” and a few others have direct quotes from the book, and go on to mention more Orwellian terms. The album kicks off with 3 songs of explosive rage (pun intended haha) with “Testify,” “Guerrilla Radio,” and “Calm Like A Bomb.” Then the album shifts for a song with “Mic Check.” “Sleep Now In The Fire” takes the album back up a few notches with anger and fury, leading us into one of the best songs on the album “Born Of A Broken Man.” The next couple songs musically, tend to lean towards showing off Tom Morello’s talents with a whammy bar and a fuzz pedal. Lyrically though “Born As Ghosts” and “Maria” are strong and angry, showing off Zach De La Rocha’s venomous lyrics. “Voice Of The Voiceless” has strong connections to a favorite of the band in Mumia Abu Jamal, as well as 1984, as I mentioned above and has a bit of a funk vibe to the music. “New Millennium Homes” is a solid song, with a cool groove, that perfectly sets up my favorite Rage Against The Machine song appears on The Battle Of L.A., “Ashes In The Fall.” Lyrically and musically, Ashes brings something different to the table. This is along the same lines as how epic some songs on the first album were. The song also brings a brilliance to how tight and good Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford are together. Tom Morello’s guitar work especially in the bridge section and the ending highlight his talents even more. Closing out the album is “War Within A Breath” which picks up where Ashes leaves off, then finishes with a fury of signature Rage.

The Battle of Los Angeles to me is the second best album the band put out. In terms of songwriting and passion, this album soars above Evil Empire. Tom Morello, Brad Wilk, Tim Commerford and Zach De La Rocha were magical together. They were able to create awareness and invoke the youth to open their eyes and stand up. Something that is missing from music today. Battle is an album that upped the game a bit more for the band. Their albums stand the test of time. Keeping in mind that the band hasn’t released anything new since 1999, not much has changed in the world, making their albums more relatable than ever.

 

Rage Against The Machine- The Battle Of Los Angeles:

Unsung Masterpiece: Poison The Well- You Come Before You

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There comes a time for every band to take the next step with their music. When that time comes, the final product is often times misunderstood and takes a while for the fans to come around. Then there are the new fans that come aboard and really take a liking to the change. In the early 2000’s following the success of their album Tear From The Red, Poison The Well found themselves signing to Atlantic Records and from that point started putting together what would become their third album You Come Before You. They enlisted Swedish producers Pelle Henricsson and Eskil Lövström who worked on Refused’s monumental album  The Shape Of Punk To Come. Recording for the album started at the legendary Sound City Studio and then moved to Sweden. The end result of these sessions brought out the absolute best in the band. You Come Before You is the album that breaks the mold of post hardcore and allows the bands other influences to shine through. The use of melody throughout really helped to sharpen the bands edge without taking away from their hardcore roots. Opening song “Ghostchant” shows just that. Other stellar songs include “For A Bandaged Iris,” “A) The View From Here Is…B) A Brick Wall,” “Zombies Are Good For Your Health,” “Apathy Is A Cold Body,” “Sounds Like The End Of The World,” and closer “Crystal Lake.” The entire album is sensational if you are into this genre of music. It has even been talked about as one of the most influential albums of the “metalcore” genre. The band really stepped up on this album. Singer Jeff Moreira really developed an identity on this album by taking chances vocally and lyrically. The riffs, tones and all around playing from guitarists Derek Miller and Ryan Primack are crisp and heavy, allowing all the notes to come through. The rhythm section of Chris Hornbrook on drums and Geoff Bergman on bass, are one of the most in the pocket in this genre. After the record was complete, the band started a year and a half tour cycle that took them to around the world. Towards the end though, many of the band members were worn out and unsure if they wanted to continue with Poison the Well. Sadly, guitarist Derek Miller did part ways at this time.

Poison The Well would go on to release 2 more albums that further expanded upon what they started on this album. After the release of their final album The Tropic Rot, the band took a long hiatus, only recently returning to the stage in 2015 for a reunion show. Here’s to hoping they continue on. Poison The Well are one of the more underrated bands in heavy music and helped to make it acceptable to allow melody into the genre.

 

Poison The Well- You Come Before You:

Unsung Masterpiece: Oceansize- Everyone Into Position

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It’s a real shame when a band releases an album that is so good and then it goes unnoticed by so many people. Ten years ago the highly underrated band Oceansize released their masterpiece Everyone Into Position. This album was something special and different. The elements of prog rock, space rock, and ambience all find their right place in this album. The band themselves have mixed feeling about this album for some reason. This is one of those albums that with every listen it all starts to sink in more and more. There were bright spots for some of the songs on this album. “Music For A Nurse” was used in an ad campaign for Orange and “Meredith” was used in an episode of The OC. Many regarded this album as a regression for the times. I instead like to look at it as an album and a band that was influenced by a lot of different bands and situations. Sure this type of music for the time seemed dated to some, but to those of us who grew up in the 90’s and loved the feelings we got out of the music, Everyone Into Position was an album that we had been waiting for. Now ten years after its release, the people that disregarded this album are starting to come around to it. It’s amazing what time can do, and how peoples listening habits change. Take this album for a listen and you’ll hear a gem that has gone unappreciated. There isn’t a song on this album that warrants being skipped. Enjoy!

Oceansize- Everyone Into Position:

By: Brian Lacy