Sunday, 24 January 2016

A Song A Day: Ghost - "He Is"

I don't know about you, but I seem to go through massive shifts in what I listen to every now and then. I'm not sure whether it is that as I age, my ear hears differently, or whether I am just in a different place and more ready to accept things, or whether bands themselves are changing. Probably a bit of everything. In the last year I have started listening to bands and artists that I have previously dismissed or overlooked.

Ghost were one such band. They released their third album last year, Meliora, to great critical acclaim. I don't remember why I started listening to them, but after just a few listens to "From the Pinnacle to the Pit" and I was hooked. Then I discovered by chance that they had been on the bill at Nova Rock 2 years ago when we went, and I didn't pick up on them then, despite doing my usual 'listen to at least one song by every band on beforehand' thing.

The sound is hard to describe. It's kind of proggy, but also heavy, but also not. It's a little bit Queen 1+2, it's a little bit something else. However you put it, it's good.
The arrangements are packed with so many rich details, I sometimes wonder if they are channelling the spirit of Freddie Mercury. I love music, and I love a lot of bands, but Ghost evoke something in me that only a few have managed (Queen mainly).

I saw them live in November last year, one week after the Paris attacks. It was an interesting atmosphere, because that time the previous week the Eagles of Death Metal had been taking to the stage and then the unthinkable happened. Although tensions never seemed palpably high in Vienna, you could tell people were a little worried. Ghost didn't make a huge thing about it, but there was a definite air of defiance running through their set, and as I commented at the end, there is no bigger fuck you to those intent on causing terror than a mass sing along to a song about Satanic fucking.

This is not that song.

"He Is" is the latest release from Meliora. One of the things that really caught my ear the other day was the instrumental bridge towards the end - it sounded a little bit familiar, then I realised it has echoes of one of the refrains from Queen's "Fairy King". Another reason to love it!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

A Song A Day: Holman Climax Male Voice Choir - "Brightly Beams"

There is just something about male voice choirs that stirs something deep in the soul. A tradition that sprung out of Methodist communities that were often dominated by mining and rugby, the future of male voice choirs faces significant challenges.
In Wales and Cornwall, two areas particularly famous for their male voice choirs, average choir ages are rising, and the pressures of modern life mean it can be a struggle to recruit new members.
An article in the Guardian a few years ago noted that younger men are disinclined to join because the twice weekly rehearsal schedule is a serious commitment and there are always other things to do. For others, the traditional repertoire of songs may prove unappealing.

Singing is often an important part of life in the community, whether it is formalised in a choir or just a sing song down the pub. I went to see Elbow a couple of years ago at the Eden Project, and when it came for some audience participation, the crowd embraced it with gusto and a three part harmony. That's just what we do down there. I hope the choirs can continue long into the future, maintaining a fine tradition that brings joy to so many.

While a more modern song book may help attract new members, there is something to be said for the old traditions. Today's pick is Holman Climax, a choir from Redruth, singing at the inauguration of the new lifeboat and lifeboat station down on the Lizard. The song is "Brightly Beams", a hymn most closely associated with fishermen.

Friday, 22 January 2016

A Song A Day: "Sound of Silence"

This whole blogging thing was going so well, until I came down with a cold. Cue feeling like death warmed up for a few days, but I'm finally back to working order. On with the show!

This song is a double header, hence there being no band in the title. The song means so much to so many people, myself included. The original, by Simon and Garfunkel, is probably one of the defining songs of the 20th century. True story: Despite my parents being massive fans, I didn't like Simon and Garfunkel until I was 16, when my friends starting listening to them all the time. I actively eschewed their genius until that point. I guess I just wasn't ready.

Fast forward to late 2015 and a new version of the song is circulating on the internet. Disturbed, a band that I am a pretty big fan of, returned from their hiatus with a new album Immortalized (their 5th Billboard 200 No. 1 no less), which includes as ever, their take on a classic song. And boy what a cover this is! David Draiman showcases just how powerful his voice is in their version, swapping out his trademark style for a more classical clean sound.

The song is stripped back, perhaps in homage to the song's origins as a folk song featuring only a guitar and the vocals of Simon and Garfunkel. This makes for a spine tingling, emotion filled rendition that adds new dimensions. I particularly like the piano bass parts - the simplicity of the music is allowed to shine. The percussion utilises more melodic instruments that allows an echo of the melody and accompaniment. While it doesn't have the exquisite harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel, the arrangement creates a similar feel.

So enjoy both versions - it is worth it.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

A Song A Day: Gloryhammer "Rise of the Chaos Wizards"

Gloryhammer were recommended to me by a couple of friends last year and I only really got round to giving them more attention just before Christmas when I put a couple of their songs one my current listens playlist on YouTube. Then this morning when I woke up I read SteffMetal's post on her Top 10 albums of 2015 and "Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards" made her cut. That was it. Since 7am this morning I have had the title track stuck in my head.

When I first fired this track up on YouTube last year, it was a moment of pure pleasure. Bombastic sound, crazy imagery and the kind of piano chords that make a sometime pianist like myself jump with joy. If I hadn't been in the office I probably would have leapt up and struck some kind of air punching pose!
Gloryhammer most definitely deserve a place in my music collection - they embody the more epic side of metal that doesn't take itself too seriously. Sometimes I think we all need a bit of that!

So without further ado, I present to you Gloryhammer, and "Rise of the Chaos Wizards".

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

A Song A Day: Queen ft. David Bowie - "Under Pressure"

After what feels like forever, I have the urge to start writing again. I listen to music all the time, and my musical taste is varied and very broad. So I thought I'd write about a song or piece of music I have listened to each day. It might be something that gets stuck in my head, it might be something that I listen to repeatedly. It could be a classic song, a new song, or a piece of classical music. It could be anything, from rock and metal, to orchestral or hip hop.

For the first song, I have picked Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie. When I heard the news that David Bowie had died, after a few expletives, this was the first song that popped into my head.

The death of a musician for many brings previously unanticipated emotions to the surface, often randomly and without warning. I wouldn't describe myself as a massive Bowie fan, but I shed a few tears at various points yesterday, and the day just didn't feel as bright as it should have done. I kept thinking as well that I didn't have the same reaction when Lemmy died a couple of weeks ago, but I guess in some ways his death wasn't unexpected; he'd been ill for a while and had cancelled more gigs than he'd performed. Even though the rumours were being denied or brushed off, it was in some ways obvious that something wasn't right. Bowie on the other hand, managed to keep all that hidden, in keeping with his very private nature. The fact that he released an album just last week (which now seems to have been a carefully planned goodbye) made it all the more shocking. 

Freddie Mercury and David Bowie were both one of a kind performers. Both highly creative, visionary minds who pushed boundaries and reshaped the music industry. Tales from the recording of this track tell of clashing of personalities and egos, but there is no denying that the end result is an absolute triumph. As a song it stands out on an album that is not one of the stronger albums in Queen's catalogue.

So, sit back, close your eyes and enjoy.


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