As I’ve mentioned in the past on here, one of my other passions is music (in fact, this is a passion that has dominated far more of my life than books and reading). I used to spend hours each day investigating new bands, albums, songs – subscribing to multiple magazines (even importing them from the US). I even ran a little fanzine, “MWRI” – a Terry Pratchett reference, “Music With Rocks In” (even then, I was a SFF fan). Recently, however, I’ve been listening to less new music.
Partly, this grew from an impression that things were starting to stagnate a little in the rock and metal communities. “Heavier and Louder” were the order of the decade, it seemed. I like plenty of groove and melody, though, so when ever some of my favourite bands started to conform to the “bludgeon thy listener unto death” gospel of rock, I lost ever-more interest, narrowing the number of bands I followed religiously. True, this is just a personal impression resulting from exposure to what felt like endless hardcore clones. Nevertheless, I felt slightly disillusioned with the scene I had called home since I bought Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion I and Iron Maiden’s Fear of the Dark as a kid (I should thank Chris Green, a school friend, for lending me his discman and these two albums when I was ill – eternal gratitude). Although, I think Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA was the first album I loved (not as “hard” rock, but still part of the same larger community, I’ve always thought).
Over the past couple of years, though, melody and groove seem to be making a massive come-back, as bands and fans remember that it’s rock and roll, and that there’s nothing wrong with writing hooks. One of my favourite bands, Five Finger Death Punch, have been releasing consistently excellent (and progressively better) albums each year. Trivium rediscovered their love of classic, Metallica-esque metal, and released a stunning album. And so on. Recently, I finally discovered to new (for me) bands that write in the bounds of my tastes: HEARTIST and ASKING ALEXANDRIA.
HEARTIST is actually a new band – their debut EP, Nothing You Don’t Deserve was released last year by Roadrunner Records (to whom I used to be a staunch, buy-everything devotee). I have a great many fond memories of interviewing RR bands, getting into their gigs for free (I was, quite literally, “On the guest list” – which made me feel oh-so-special). Nothing You Don’t Deserve is a pretty solid EP, too – a perfect introduction to their music, if you haven’t come across their music videos on YouTube – as, I’m sure, most people now do when discovering new bands (remember MySpace? Yeah…). The band mixes a lot of influences into a very modern-sounding punk-rock-metal melange. “Heart of Gold”, for example, has elements of Linkin Park and Funeral For A Friends more radio-friendly sounds, but still sounds different enough to not be a rip-off. Probably the best two songs on the disc, which meld a number of their influences and tempos, are “Where Did I Go Wrong?”…
… and “The Answer”.
If you get the chance, I’d recommend them very highly.
ASKING ALEXANDRIA are a pretty well-established metalcore band, but I only sat up and took notice when I stumbled across their video for “The Death of Me”, from their latest album From Death To Destiny (Sumerian Records):
As it turned out, this is actually the Rock Version of the song – the main album version is a fair bit heavy, with melodies that are more understated, but by no means absent.
These guys have added a hell of a lot more groove-elements and melody than in their previous albums. And it works really well. They’re still firmly in the metalcore camp, but damn they can pen some catchy songs. Some songs on From Death To Destiny are far more commercial and less aggro – such as “Poison”, “Moving On” (reminiscent of Bon Jovi, this one), “White Line Fever” and “The Road”. But the aforementioned “The Death of Me” and “Run Free” are sufficiently heavy to please metalheads of yore. Here’s the video for “Run Free”, which highlights perfectly their heavy groove and soaring melodies…
I love this album, and it’s been on near-constant rotation since I bought it. Very highly recommended.