It’s been a while since I have listed the bands I’m listening to on this blog.
Now, my taste in music remains the same as it has been for a while: ++epic metal. My favorite bands are still Rhapsody(of Fire), Blind Guardian, Kamelot, and TÝR. But I have started listening to some different bands recently too, and there’s a new TÝR album out as well, Land. So, without further ado, a list of bands I listen to that I haven’t described before:
- DragonForce. You might have heard of this band; they’ve gained a sort of popularity due to the opening track of their album Inhuman Rampage, “Through the Fire and Flames”, being the final bonus track in the game “Guitar Hero III”. (I have actually played that game a few times, though I don’t own it, and beaten TTFAF on ‘medium’ difficulty; it is quite a fun song for that game, and I can see why they picked it.) Their strengths are that they have two really good lead guitarists, a quite good keyboardist, and a lyricist who is rather good at writing cool-sounding fantasy-themed lyrics even if they don’t really hang together into a coherent, well, anything.Their weaknesses are exactly what you would expect given those strengths; they rely too much, IMO, on long guitar solos. First of all, almost all of their songs are formatted like so: introduction with lyrics and guitars and/or keyboard, guitar/keyboard solo(s), short stretch of lyrics and guitars/keyboard again, a long series of guitar/keyboard solos, and an ending with lyrics and guitars/keyboard. Their songs tend not to have much of a sense of purpose – they have some lyrics, and then play around on their instruments – which they are quite skilled at, no doubt – and then they have some more lyrics and the song ends. Their songs tend to be 6-7 minutes long, but they could stop after 3-4 minutes and it would be just as good – they just keep going because they like to play around with their instruments. This results in the listener being really into the song for the first few minutes and then growing bored (since I find lyrics more interesting than instruments, this usually happens for me about when the singer stops singing). My second complaint is that their lyrics tend to not really make sense. This is somewhat intentional on their part; I remember reading somewhere that they take their music seriously but not their lyrics. Still, I would like to be able to tell, for example, whether the lyrics are from the point of view of the “bad guys” or the “good guys”, and sometimes I can’t even tell that much – not because the story seems to be morally ambiguous, but because you just can’t tell what’s going on, or if there is anything going on at all rather than just a bunch of cool-sounding fantasy lyrics that don’t mean anything.Still, for all my complaints I do like DragonForce, and listen to them a lot. My favorite song at the moment is “Soldiers of the Wasteland”.
- Elvenking. You know it’s a strange band when the members refer to themselves as “Aydan”, “Damnagoras”, etc, rather than having actual names. Last.fm claims they’re similar to Rhapsody(of Fire), but, really, they’re not – Rhapsody(of Fire) is much better. I don’t really know how to describe Elvenking; their songs somewhat irritate me, but I keep listening to them, and they do seem to have a sort of merit to them.
- Ensiferum. This is one of the only bands I listen to that does “death growls”. I normally don’t like death growls, but they work well with Ensiferum, I think. This band sounds, I think, basically like a harsher, angrier version of Rhapsody – they have the bombastic guitars and keyboard, and a real strong fantasy sound, but the vocals are more aggressive. I rather like it; much better, anyway, than something like Amon Amarth which has the anger but not the power. They are rather similar to, but better than, I think,
- Turisas. Both of these bands are Finnish, too; it must be something about how much power metal has come out of Finland that makes even the non-power metal bands (these two are viking metal) still sound something like power metal – the fast guitars and orchestral sound being key. Turisas uses death growls as well, in about equal proportion with normal vocals.
- Falconer. This band is Swedish, and does not have a whole lot going for it, but not a whole lot against it either. It is somewhat generic power metal. Still, it is fairly good; they have some folk influences, a decent guitarist, and their lyrics are not bad at all. They also have an instrumental song on their album Northwind called “Black Tarn”; any use of the word “tarn” gets them points, in my opinion.
And, finally, a summary of the new TÝR album Land. It’s quite good, but not nearly as good as Ragnarok. I actually have some of the complaints I have with it as I have with DragonForce, even though their sounds are wildly different from each other – namely, that the songs on this album tend not to have much arc to them, and rather they just find a cool riff and noodle around with it for five minutes. Some of the songs don’t have this problem – the opening track, for instance, though it almost doesn’t count since half of it is just a poem being recited, not really music at all – but tragically, the two longest songs both do.
Now, I’m a big fan of long, >10 minute epic metal songs, but they have to be done correctly. Blind Guardian and Rhapsody both know how to do this; the longest BG song, “And Then There Was Silence”, about the fall of Troy, manages to have enough variation, what with tempo changes, dynamics changes, and sudden stops (about three minutes into the song everything goes almost silent for about five seconds), to remain interesting for the entire 14 minutes 3 seconds. The same with the two longest Rhapsody(of Fire) songs (they have seven over ten minutes, but only two are over fifteen minutes) – Rhapsody even goes so far as to divide them into five sections for one and three for the other, and each section (they’re 3-6 minutes in length) each has its own feel to it. And it certainly helps that all three of these epic-length songs tell a story. With Ocean (ten minutes) and Land (sixteen minutes), though, there is no real story to be told, and so while the lyrics are cool, the music is cool, and the sound effects are cool (the sound of waves on the open ocean is used at the end of Land, and in Ocean, if I recall correctly), I come away from both of them just thinking, “these are just too long“… which is a real shame.
Also, only three and a half of the songs are in English (Ocean, Land, Hail to the Hammer, and part of Brennivin), and, as cool as it is to listen to songs in Faroese, Norwegian, and whatever else they throw at us, I honestly prefer listening to songs in plain old English – it means I can understand what they’re saying and follow the storyline of the song. For me, lyrics tend to be more important than anything else (not to say that nothing else is important!), and so while I can handle having a few songs in other languages, I would have preferred to have a bit more English on the album.