synths do not progmetal make, o Arjen

This is a preview of that mega Ayreon DVD. The chances of me ever getting it are damn slim because no store I know of sells DVDs as digital downloads and I do not buy physical media unless I’m attending a gig… but that’s not really relevant.

What matters is that the editors made a very annoying mistake several times in a row.

Okay I get it, Hansi messed up something in the chorus and they decided to fix it by turning the backing vox up to eleven. Good. Smart.

But why would the video editor ever cut to Hansi then, right at the very moment when you can’t hear anything but the backing vox? It’s just so jarring, so disconcerting. When editing lives, you cut to whoever matters sonically at a given moment. You try to make it a natural experience, and we bipedal unfeathered look at the source of the sound that dominates. At least, that’s the way all good lives I’ve seen in my life were done.

That’s the biggest complaint. It just screams incompetence. Arrrrgh EXTERMINATE.

Complaint no. 2 is the mix overall. It’s uneven; it’s plastic. But I can let it slide because let’s face it, most metal (and “metal”) mixes over the last twenty+ years have been meh. For understandable reasons. Shame, but good sound engineers don’t grow on trees.

Complaint no. 3: it’s third place because it’s been expected. The music itself. I have said it before, I’m anything but a fan of Ayreon. Lucassen has never been a lyricist of the caliber that would impress me; and musically, Ayreon is just very emphatically not.metal. It’s pop music. Hard rock at most. No virtuosity would ever change that. It’s not a problem per se, y’know; but it’s a problem when it gets marketed as “metal”. “Prog metal”, to boot.

Most prog metal is, of course, not even remotely truly progressive; it’s all same old same old chromatic guitar noodling and showy synth runs. Like the ones featured here. But at least prog metal is trying to be “uncommercial” by flirting with unconventional harmonies, experimenting with rhythm, borrowing riffs from thrash and death…

Nothing of the sort here. This music is saccharine. Probably it’s exactly the reason why it’s so popular. Outside of the clever “all star singer cast” marketing.

See, I wouldn’t be talking about this if it weren’t for people like Hansi, Floor and Maggy.

Complaint no. 4: a real petty and silly one, but hey. Suppressing emotions is bad for your (my!) health. So I’m venting. Maggy’s hairstyle. WHAT WAS THAT?! WHY?!?!?!

But hey. At least all these awesome people got to know each other. I truly hope this event sparked some new friendships. If it did, then it’s the only thing that really matters.


Tarja Turunen…

…has all those names up on her fb page with a mysterious hashtag “expecttheunexpected”. Including Hansi Kürsch.

Plain awesome, on the one hand. And – unlike with Doro – honestly unexpected.

On the other hand… she has names on the same list that totally scare me. Like, y’know, Michael Monroe.

A number of others are those “well-respected” popular names in contemporary metal. Whom I happen to immensely dislike – Sharon den Adel, Tony Kakko, Timo Kotipelto; and whom I just dislike – Cristina Scabbia and Simone Simons. Purely because I’m not impressed with their singing chops. I can haz a different opinion as compared to a gazillion rabid fans, right?

And then there is freaking Joe Lynn Turner. Who seems to have popped up on this year’s Raskasta Joulua roster as well. I mean, dude! Back off! It’s not your playground! It’s European metal! Go back to your English-speaking “classic rock” format, ibegyaplz. You’re too old for this. Have the Kulick brothers run out of tributes to record?

Yeah, I have almost zero respect for Mr Turner. Not that he’s a bad singer. He’s actually quite a good one. Especially, as they say, for his age (no, honest, the dude can sing for real). But let’s just say that in my time I’d followed his career way too closely for way too long, so if there exists a poster child for questionable artistic integrity, it’s him. And Eric Martin as well, another “well-respected” and widely loved (and technically impressive) vocalist. I can only hope Tarja steers clear of that one, hah.

See, being a proficient singer in and out of itself isn’t enough to win the heart of this 30+ edition of me in this day and age. Again, there are stupendous singers in English-speaking mainstream pop music today (broadly taken pop music, please; I don’t differentiate between rock, dubstep, hip hop or whatever – it’s all pop to me).

The question is: what music do you choose to apply your voice to?

And this choice speaks volumes to me.

not a fan of Ayreon…

…but for this, I’m immensely grateful.

…and this really puts things into perspective re:heights. See, Floor Jansen is like six feet, and she’s likely wearing heels as well. And Marco, I’ve hugged Marco. He’s also freaking tall.

Holy hell, Hansi is about the same height.

Let this sink in for a minute.

Then think of how tall André and Peavy must be, then…

everything’s under control (c)

Okay, the topic of suicide in metal lyrics, you say, Kettu, you criticise the way Orden Ogan did that, now who did that right?


Dontcha know.

Cantcha guess.

Funny how both these songs ended up as “official promo videos”. Funny how both are sorta kinda edited out of live footage. Because how the hell are you going to stage a story to that?

In chronological order. 1993, the USA. 1995, Germany.

Nothing is framed as certain in the character/narrator’s fate. And yet..

Whether this narrator is more optimistic or not, is up to you to decide.

…no retreat!

The Bards are apparently compensating the fandom for all those variously horrid (or simply missing) promo videos over the years =)

Frederick the drummer had a birthday on Wednesday but we weren’t celebrating it here much because it’s not an anniversary yet =) Either way, fun fact: Frederick is the youngest Bard and the only one who has actual music education.

And a couple of fan bootleg vids from a recent (June 16th) RockFels appearance – Prophecies is sadly incomplete, but just in case…

I have to say that this stage looks _a_w_e_s_o_m_e_.

and here, o dear ladies, gentlemen and young ones of all ages…

…we hear what a badly set up compressor can do to your live sound.

I have an audience recording of this show (it’s also on youtube), and I have wondered about the vocals – audience recordings are always hit or miss; a lot will depend on the particular recording equipment, any frequency band can drop out. Now that I have found this clip, I understand that it’s not just about the camera; the problem was what was coming out of the PA.
But the problem here, contrary to what the comments speculate, isn’t that Hansi was that ill or whatever, really. I’m not sure he even was. He did have certain “register blending” issues all over the late 90s and early 2000s – I’m using inverted commas because these aren’t limited to your traditional concepts of vocal registers aka mechanisms; we’re also dealing with extended technique here, that raspy thing. But really, most of the time – with Blind Guardian and their magically oiled touring machine – he managed just fine (outside of shows like Moscow 2002 where our gruesome reality likely threw his monitors off big time and caused all sorts of WTF).

Why does his lead part sound so freaking weird here, then?

Because from the sound engineering point of view, getting a mixed-technique vocal line to survive electronic processing required for amplification and recording is not exactly a trivial task (I’m speaking from experience).

The thing about classically informed clean singing is that it carries effing well. It’s designed for that. With a peak around the “singer’s formant” range.

Whenever you manipulate your instrument to produce extended technique sounds – or even “folk” style sounds – your peak frequencies shift.

So if you have a multi-band compressor set up way too far on a way narrow band (around the traditional singer’s formant frequencies), or an equaliser in your FX chain before the compressor, again, emphasising the singer’s formant (but this time your “generic” compressor is too lax)… you’ll get this weird overdone dynamics that actually sounds wrong because cleans shouldn’t overshadow those aggressive parts, y’know. And yet it happens because your cleans are focused already, they don’t need that extra boost, while the “harsh” parts could use some because the energy of your sound wave gets kinda dissipated when you add rasp via this particular technique. But the frequency band is selected incorrectly.
That’s all.

Other than that, Demons and Wizards was the band where Hansi the frontman was born. Remember, it wasn’t easy for him to transition from hiding behind a bass guitar to just being up there with nothing but a mike stand for company.

this is actually weird…

…that someone as not exactly opposed to recording (consistently excellent) covers as Hansi Kürsch never released studio versions of those tracks Demons and Wizards played live (when they were playing live, which wasn’t long cuz other commitments =)) To be honest, I’d take either the Maiden cover or the AC/DC one over that Immigrant Song that came with the Touched by the Crimson King album.

Here are two Maiden versions: with more audience participation…

…and a bit less of that:

The AC/DC one is positively phenomenal:

<3 <3 <3

This song is dangerously close to being my favourite song of all time – at least, one of the two BG songs I’m literally obsessed with, the first one being Bright Eyes. But I swear half my youtube history is bootleg live shots of Prophecies.

And now this! Awwww.

Check out the story about how Frederik Ehmke was putting the vid together!

And here you can get the singles (and older stuff) in FLAC format! C’mon, nothing beats lossless.

Oh, and now that the Bards are hinting they’re not going to tour for the next couple of years after they’re done with the summer dates, what does it mean? Yes. Yes. Don’t say it out loud, lest it be jinxed.

a yet another live bootleg vid, but.

This one’s special. I might have heard worse-sounding soundboard recordings. Of course there are missing parts to the frequency spectrum, and yet it’s just so damn cool sound-wise. It may be worth it not to look at the screen even because the camerawork is somewhat jumpy.

Whatever. It’s taken from a recent Imaginations show in Japan; not the full album tracklist, obviously, ending with The Script for My Requiem. As honest as it can get, really. Showcases beautifully how Hansi can move in a single breath from those almost-Baroque, ornate and vulnerable cleans of his to a ferocious distortion, remaining hypermelodic throughout. “Too much character,” some would say. But who would deny the skill?