the moment I start worrying…

…the band posts this update =)

I’m honestly excited about Carmen doing what they call “rock” vocals, even if it’s “some”. Yes she is quite officially my favourite classically trained soprano in metal. But check out the “sieben Jahre, sieben Meere…” chorus!!

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never been a fan of Apple…

…but that Genius algorithm in their iTunes player is damn robust.

I mean, it’s smart enough to start off a Blind Guardian track and then play a selection of Hansi Kürsch session appearances, only getting distracted by Helloween and Falconer. And given that my library only contains one Kiske!ween track (guess what it is… yup, Tale; everyone’s first Helloween track back then in the 90s) and no Derris!ween at all, this is all plain great.

 

what’s that with…

…80s US bands recruiting Angra members? First Megadeth, now W.A.S.P.

I suspect it’s because Brazilians aren’t yet aware of the fact that the leaders of these two bands are notoriously hard to work with. =D

I just wish W.A.S.P. would go back to actually working. As in, writing songs and recording albums. It’s not like Blackie Lawless has to slave away at a day job in two shifts, right? You’d think he would have an album’s worth of songs in no time.

this is among the most offensive things…

…I’ve ever read.

TheRangePlace permanent page on Stevie Nicks.

TRP have a history of this shoehorning non-classical people into Fachs that make zero sense. I sort of kept on getting annoyed, but was willing to let that slide.

But this!..

Stevie’s voice finally seems to settle as a contralto as opposed to a lower set mezzo-soprano here – she seldom reaches above A4, with notes in the fifth octave being particularly rare and uncomfortable for her. However, her lower register begins to sound really strong – she reaches into the second octave occasionally, with notes in the lower third beginning to sound like mid range to her.

I don’t even know where to begin because blatant self-absorbed ignorance of this sort makes me violent.

So I’ll show you something.

Contralto

This is a page from the vocal score of Rossini’s Tancredi that I downloaded off one of the best sites on the web, International Music Score Library Project. This is a fragment of  (everybody’s) favourite Perché turbar la calma. I highlighted the contralto part for you and marked two notes, two Cs.

Unlike the tenor part, the contralto is written as-is, no mental transposing done. Yes it’s your general G-clef. No magic here.

Now look. Just how many C5s are there, just in these few phrases? Can you locate the E5? And what’s the lowest we’re dipping to here? Any “low third octave” in there?

Of course not.

Not even every tenor would willingly go down to the tenor low C, C3.

And most contemporary “contraltos” out there would start creaking a bit even under that C4.

A true contralto voice – who can sustain above a tenor and dip well down into the tenor tessitura every now and then, down to F3, and project equally well at both extremes – is a very rare and prized voice.

A woman who has trouble singing above A4 is not a contralto.

There is no name for that voice in classical European music, it just doesn’t exist.

You cannot belong to a Fach if you can’t sing standard roles of that Fach; that’s obvious, I hope.

So here’s a true contralto… who can actually sing below the tenor low C, but it’s not what is generally required from a “generic contralto”. You want F3-F5, and that high F should always.be.there.period (which means your warmup range should extend at least a tone above that). Yes you may only need the high F a couple of times per evening, but you will need it. Listen on.

…how do we call those “low-voiced” female singers who aren’t contraltos, then?

The answer is: by their names.

so while we’re waiting…

..for Stet Howland to recover, let’s look at the history of the band again.

I haven’t managed to figure out the exact date when the video for In Harm’s Way was released, so I can’t tell for sure whether Mike’s “It’s about a serious subject” remark on the Dynamo’91 live recording is related to the video or not.

The point is, the video is… I hesitate to say “glamorous”, but, well, it’s as close as it gets with Metal Church, right?

David Wayne once said that Queensryche were “a good looking bunch of guys” while the MC guys apparently “always knew [they] were the ugly band”. Which is kinda perplexing to me because the concepts of “Queensryche” and “good-looking” never mixed in my world. Quite the opposite.

But, well, there is a grain of truth to this statement, in the sense that the Wayne era looked a bit lacking as compared to the Howe era.

If anything, there are very few frontmen of Mike’s caliber. Dickinson maybe. Younger Snider. And that’s kinda it.

So we get all this rock star splendour coming from Mike, moves, bare chest and all; Duke Erickson being a worthy competitor in everything but the hair department (he’s taller, though – can’t have it all =P ); and let’s not forget John Marshall’s almost Goth-like impression (well someone did write those lyrics based on a Poe’s story… yeah right, you get a new guitarist in, and it’s, like, the first thing he does).

But the song is indeed about a serious subject. It’s about child abuse.

Kurdt Vanderhoof wrote the lyrics for it, and there’s that line:

It’s not that mommy hits that hurts me, it’s when she goes away

Kinda ties in with what I was saying about psychological violence being way worse.

“age-appropriate”?

I’m not buying into the popular adage that goes along the lines of “exposing a kid to –something– depicted in media will hurt their psychological development”.

Why?

Well, simple: I’m not the world’s most psychologically stable person, and yet I sort of grew up fine.

Even though my classmates smuggled porn mags and extremely explicit punk rock to school way before we were of age (and I checked all that stuff out and giggled at it).

Even though my classmates smoked and drank way before we were of age (and I didn’t, and giggled at them).

Even though in our Russian lit classes, every May, since we were ten, we’d had to read and analyse WWII fiction chock full of very graphic written depictions of actual Nazi violence (and I felt sickened, but had to write the essays because good marks looked nice next to my name).

Even though I’ve been playing FPS, RTS and CRPG since I was around 13, with all the then-8-bit blood and gore you could only imagine.

It’s all fine.

It won’t hurt. It’s all very innocent. And in the case of games, therapeutic even.

It’s damn easy to blame someone’s mental disorder on the media they consume. It’s the Judas Priest 1990 case all over again. I know firsthand that whether you want to kill yourself or not comes from other sources, not media. Ah heck, there’s a song about just that.

// disregard that album cover, plz; it’s not their worst, but it really… doesn’t fit, period //

Let’s be frank: we – most of us – have short memories. We forget what we were like. Or maybe some remember too well and they’re ashamed. And they want to pretend their children are different. Pure. Whatever. And they should be protected.

yeah right

Dudes and dudettes, you’d better learn to be open and honest with your kids. Don’t shrug off any “difficult” or “inappropriate” questions they may have. Yes it will make _you_ vulnerable. But it will make you better people. And your kids will thank you.

saw it coming *shrugs*

Dianne quits Xandria.

About time, I say. Herr M.Heubaum rotates his minions only a bit slower than DAZ3D puts out a new base figure line.

This even prompted Lisa Middelhauve to remember she still has a well-followed fb page. Damn, any update from Lisa is good, even if its just a tell-it-like-it-is. Great reading. She’s a character.

…I grew up on Deep Purple and related bands. All those Rainbows, Whitesnakes and the like. And then there were other British bands, the “art/prog” ones: Van der Graaf Generator, King Crimson, Asia, jne jne. You don’t need a degree in music history to know that lineup changes are the norm in that scene, and drama abounds.

So I’m more surprised when any given band remains a cohesive unit for any considerable period since they enter the spotlight. Three singers in 30+ years? Spooky stable!! As you can see, some go through as many in only ten!

the past, present and future of music reviews

One of the websites that I hit way more often than mental health professionals would recommend is Encyclopaedia Metallum aka Metal Archives. I find it to be better organised than something like Discogs, although, of course, it only covers metal. But since metal has been this wildly diverse umbrella term for decades… you get the drift.

Metal-archives for me are more than just the best site to do fact-checking and the like, though.

I do read their reviews.

Well of course, way too much stuff I listen to has not warranted a single review (yet? what about albums released ten+ years ago?). But the fact remains: reading those reviews is a bit of a hobby. And I will read other reviews I come across on the web.

However, unlike the print media reviews I poured over in the 20th century, I’m rarely reading online reviews for the sake of figuring out whether I would enjoy the music or not – remember, youtube is a thing!

A lot of the time I read reviews of albums I know by heart.

The question is: why then?

To be honest, I have no sane answer. It makes no sense. It’s just… interesting. I will argue with some in my mind, and I will violently nod to some.

Why are those reviews up there at all now that it’s 2017, youtube and all?

Case by case… Metal-Archives are old enough for their review section to be something of a leftover from the days of yore, when checking new music out was a very involved process, so people would rely on reviews. Webzine-type websites are obviously patterned after printed media, and so reviewing albums is something of a convention, even if a link to an official stream is included. But personal blogs?..

Easy. There, reviews are conversation strikers.

I believe that in this status, reviews are here to stay, even when the media mutates completely. This is their future. And the more reasonable portion of the present.

Doesn’t matter I will do traditional album reviews, though. Unless someone decides to pay me for it, of course. It’s just not the format I think in, anymore.

Continue reading “the past, present and future of music reviews”

all right; here we go! (c)

Yes there are times when I’m lost for words. Today’s Mike Howe’s birthday, and while not an anniversary, it’s probably the best date to finally write this down.

Metal Church is the church of love.

There, I said it.

They’re awesome. Artistic integrity? Check. Dedication? Check. And that unique way of making everyone welcome? Check.

It’s fairly amazing how a band that writes serious, scary and sarcastic songs manages to turn their live shows into a veritable celebration.

Check out a report full of impossibly glamorous photos taken on July 2nd in the Volta club here in Moscow.

This is the spirit.

The truth is – you can’t see in those photos just how much perseverance there is behind that show.

The Volta club, well, it was my first time there. It’s a tiny cozy place, laid out just about perfect. But one thing is sorely missing.

Air conditioning that actually works.

See, when you enter a club and you feel it’s already fairly stuffy, even though there’s not that many people in there, no moshing, no whatever – it does make you worry.

Old Tochka used to feel rather problematic right away as well, but during a show they made sure to crank their AC up to the max at certain intervals. You could feel the cold wave hitting you with quite some force.

Not the case here.

A lack of oxygen and too much heat obviously takes a toll on everyone. It’s worst for drummers and singers, those who use their whole system to perform. Add in some extra stress for a singer who is actually a dynamic frontperson.

And yet, they delivered. And Mike dialled down his antics only slightly. No shortcuts regarding actual vocals at all. I swear the dude is physically non-human.

When a singer is well over six feet and approaches two hundred pounds, you sort of expect them to conquer everything. Like, rib cage size and all. Naive, yup, but those huge guys do not surprise you when they never run out of breath. Especially if they stand fairly still.

When the singer is built like a DnD elf (or a particularly compact witcher) and yet holds an aggressive note for several bars without visible effort, now that’s when you really start questioning yourself. Because it’s just surreal.

Well, it is very much real; it’s plain proper technique. Which is all in all rare outside the classical world. Yes, one of the reasons Metal Church converted me so fast and so efficiently =)

Somehow Russians didn’t post that many videos on youtube, so here’s a relatively “tame” rendition of the pre-Howe classic Start the Fire:

Yes, that was rather tame. As compared to other songs on the set, like the newer Killing Your Time. Or another pre-Howe classic Watch the Children Pray.

Here’s a page where you can find a very nice bootleg of the full show.

What the video shows well is how small the stage (and the whole club) actually is.

I only hope the band gets bigger. They deserve it. After all these years.

You have no idea how much they mean to me now.

yes we can go back to breathing now

I kept all the possible fingers crossed for this, and then some. Not just because Stet has been one of my alltime favourite drummers since forever. But because he’s really the best drummer for Metal Church today.

Jeff Plate is a good drummer, but rather… straightforward. At least, with the Church. You could probably think of him as following the style Dave Holland mostly kept to while with Judas effing Priest. Economical, to the point, you know the drill.

Stet is Stet is Stet. His playing is… lush. Yeah, this is the best word I can find. He is different enough from Kirk Arrington, the original drummer, but they share the same intensity and freedom. They create a foundation that breathes. Which is the perfect complement to those little rhythmic shifts and accents you find in Mike’s melodic phrasing.

Celebrate.

PS I still owe y’all that concert review! I remember!