Metal Monday: Metal Fusion

Metal, as a genre, is pretty distinct and not very easily digestible by most people (but you probably already knew that). From time to time, there are some acts that crossover to other genres or slip into the mainstream and start to gain some traction. Alongside the crossover acts are bands that decide they like to play metal as well as another genre“so much so that they decide to play both simultaneously. Over the years this has led to some very interesting results; some awesome, some not. Metal fusion: apparently a thing.

What are the most prominent and successful styles of music fused with metal, you ask? No fusions so far really seemed to have caught on to become a movement, but the one that could is jazz metal. Both jazz and metal seem to have a perception of and focus on extremely proficient musicians, soloing and grand showings of musicianship. Mostly populated by solo instrumentalists (like shred guitarist Steve Vai, for example), many of these artists are also very closely related to their “classical metal” counterparts like Yngwie Malmsteen. Jazz metal isn’t solely filled with solo acts, however, as bands like Exivious and Fredrik Thordendal’s Special Defects prove. As an aside, some musicians just choose to jump ship on metal to join a jazz fusion band, such as Chris Poland (ex-Megadeth) joining the jazz fusion band Ohm:.

Behind jazz and classical fusions with metal, metal fused with electronic dance music has taken a very strong hold in the last handful of years. Born from the industrial metal movement that started mostly in the ’90s with bands like Nine Inch Nails, the current trend takes the sound a bit farther. Bands like Enter Shikari feature heavy amounts of dance rhythms and synthesized keyboards alongside their hardcore-tinged sound one their debut album Take To The Skies back in 2007. More recently, Earache Records band The Browning dropped their debut album Burn This World which features and even heavier amount of metal and electronic music smashed together. The Browning’s song “Bloodlust” is a fantastic illustration of this juxtaposition, switching quickly and often between trance/house and deathcore.

Some fusions, however, are not taken so kindly. I’m sure we all remember rap metal, right? The year was 1987, and the boys in Anthrax and the fellows in Public Enemy decided it would be awesome to do a song together: and it was. Theresulting remake of “Bring The Noise” was great. A couple years later, Rage Against The Machine dropped their debut, and that, too, was awesome. Unfortunately many of the bands inspired by these acts turned out to not be so great,  (See: Limp Bizkit or Crazytown, who were both very famous for a couple years).

That’s not all, either, some other metal fusion genres include funk metal and folk metal.  Bands like Machinae Supremacy and Skindred even come up with their own metal fusion subgenres (Machinae Supremacy call themselves “SID Metal” and Skindred “ragga metal” by the way).

OurStage even has a handful of solid acts that pair metal and other genres together to create very unique music, including Brothers Fighting, Mara, MAG Project, The Living, The Last Barbarians and LaughingSkull. Check out some of their tunes in the player below!

Metal Monday: 2011 In Metal Album Art

The metal world is a world saturated with pretty mediocre and often stereotypical artwork. Graphic satanic imagery, violent imagery, militaristic imagery, fantastical imagery, you get the point. Once you’ve seen enough album covers, you know how rare it is to find something that truly surprises or impresses you. This year seems to have had a really nice mix of fresh, interesting takes on album art as well as wonderfully executed standard-issue album art. This is not to say, however, that 2011 didn’t have its fair share of stinkers. In fact, some of the worst metal album art to come out of the last decade very well may have been this year. We’re going to count down the best and worst of the lot.

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The EditoriaList: Ten Totally Righteous Covers

A friend of mine suggested some good ground rules for this one: You have to strip out covers of old blues tunes (sorry Stones and Beatles). Also strip out cover bands (sorry Joe Cocker and Nouvelle Vague) and cover [tribute] albums. He suggested “Police & Thieves,” with which I concur, as well as Souxie And The Banshees’ “Dear Prudence,” with which I do not. This could still be a huge, huge list, but these are some of the very best, in order.

 

10. Benny And The Jets “ Beastie Boys w/ Biz Markie (original by Elton John)

Benny And The Jets is my least favorite of Elton’s hits (I’m not counting anything after 1989, cause why would I?), but it is given a reason for existing here by The Biz, who was fucking around in the studio with The Beastie Boys, checking out old records, and decided to cut this version, where he slurs lyrics he clearly doesn’t know, ridiculous crowd noise included. Hilarity ensues.

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Musical Chairs

We recently caught wind of vocalist Joey Belladonna talking about his concerns over being a permanent fixture in Anthrax during his third tour of duty with the band. As unfortunate (and probably well-founded) as Belladonna’s concerns are, we won’t be focusing on his particular case today. His statement got us thinking on how commonplace lineup changes really are; we’re interested in how bands, especially those considered seminal in their genres, are able to maintain their sound and fanbase throughout the years with completely different members. After some research and many generalizations, we have made this list of what can happen to a band when new members are recruited.

Nirvana

Stroke of Luck Bands: AC/DC, Nirvana, Pantera

AC/DC was a band that had an established position within their scene, but would Back In Black have been so immensely successful if Bon Scott had still been on vocal duties? Would Nevermind be the grunge postersong if it weren’t for Dave Grohl‘s performance on the skins? Would the Cowboys From Hell have exploded onto the metal scene without Phil Anselmo‘s growling screams and falsetto? Probably not.

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Discourse & Dischord


The Good

OK Go team up with Muppets on Muppets Theme Song

This week the Muppet’s The Green Album was released, along with this video to the theme song featuring OK Go. Feast your eyes on a bounty of Technicolor existentialism, wherein the Muppets send the band back to their treadmills and their Rube Goldberg machines and treat them like the puppets they are. It’s not like a kind of torture to have to watch this show.

West Memphis 3 released from prison

In 1994, three teenagers were convicted of the murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, largely due to the fact that they listened to heavy metal. And even though DNA evidence emerged in 2007 that linked one of the victim’s stepfather and his friend to the crime, the trio”known as the West Memphis 3”remained imprisoned. The case attracted the attention of many celebrities, most notably Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder, who have both campaigned for the release of the WM3. With news that the trio were finally set free this week after eighteen years in prison, band members from Pearl Jam, Anthrax, and Dixie Chicks took to Twitter to celebrate. You can read all about it here.

The Bad

Jerry Leiber and Nick Ashford pass away

Two legendary songwriters, Jerry Leiber and Nick Ashford, passed away this week. Leiber, who wrote perennial hits like Hound Dog Yakety Yak, and Stand By Me with songwriting partner Mike Stroller, passed away at the age of seventy-eight in Los Angeles. Ashford penned some of the greatest songs of the Motown era with his songwriting partner and wife, Valerie Simpson, including Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing Baby. He passed away at the age of seventy in New York. R.I.P.

Pit Bull sued by Lindsay Lohan

Pit Bull probably felt like he was just stating a fact when he said I got it locked up like Lindsay Lohan on his song Give Me Everything. Lohan didn’t think it was too funny, and slapped a lawsuit on the rapper, claiming the lyric does irreparable harm to her reputation. We would say this is another one of her megalomaniacal schemes to stay relevant and make some money while remaining unemployed by Hollywood, but we don’t want to get sued. So we will just think it quietly to ourselves.

The Ugly

Mexican teens auction off virginity for Justin Bieber

After some Mexican teens failed to secure tickets to an upcoming Justin Bieber concert, they took a sharp left into Disturbia and offered to trade their virginity for a ticket on Facebook. We once paid money for a ticket to see Vanilla Ice and it has haunted us for years. This seems like slightly more regrettable action.

Miley Cyrus tops Rolling Stone‘s worst covers list

The artist formerly known as Hannah Montana singing Smells Like Teen Spirit sent icy shivers up the spine of Rolling Stone‘s editorial staff, who named Miley Cyrus’ cover the absolute worst in the whole history of the universe, ever, ever. She probably feels pretty stupid (and contagious).

Miscellany

Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Joe Jackson Loves It Live

For a guy like Joe Jackson, who’s got a trail of great songs that go all the way back to the late ’70s, it must be tough to strike a balance in his shows between trotting out the tunes his fans adore and demand, and keeping things fresh for himself. Nevertheless, he’s an artist who loves the experience of laying down his tunes in front of an audience. In fact, he’s popped out a number of live records over the years, starting in the ’80s with Live 1980/86, and running up to his latest release, the generically titled Live Music. “I’ve done a few live records, because I’ve always loved playing live,” Jackson told us, “and I’ve always felt like that’s the best part of what I do.”

Jackson’s restless muse and his passion for performance have led him to reinvent his catalog onstage from the beginning. As early as the aforementioned ’80s live album, he was recasting his classic tunes in radically rearranged formats, delivering the new wave/power-pop hit “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” as an a cappella doo wop tune, and finding ways to re-imagine songs originally recorded by a guitar/bass/drums lineup for a band with two keyboardists and no guitarist. He manages a similar feat on Live Music, where he pumps out cuts from all across his career in piano-trio mode. “In some cases they never had guitar in the first place,” Jackson says. “People often forget that Night and Day had no guitars on it.” In fact, Live Music boasts a number of tunes from that 1982 album, Jackson’s biggest ever, including “Steppin’ Out,” “Slow Song,” “Another World,” “Cancer” and “Chinatown.”

Backing Jackson up on Live Music are the bassist and drummer from the original Joe Jackson Band, Graham Maby and Dave Houghton, with whom he seems to have found a brand new groove. “We’ve been doing this together for a few years now and it’s been great,” Jackson says. “For one thing, we’re old friends, and that’s always nice.” But beyond the bonhomie, Jackson enjoys interacting with Maby and Houghton in a trio format. “I feel like the trio is stripping it down to the absolute bare minimum and then seeing what you can do with it. It’s pretty amazing what you can do if you use your imagination. It can sound big, it can sound really varied.”

Besides redefining his old songs with the current live lineup, Jackson mixes things up by including a few carefully chosen cover tunes on Live Music. Probably the only artist whose songs have been covered by both Anthrax (“Got the Time”) and Tori Amos (“Real Men”), Jackson picks his own outside material with an ear for adventure. David Bowie‘s “Scary Monsters,” The Beatles‘ “Girl” and Ian Dury‘s “Inbetweenies” all get Jacksonized. “We actually do a lot of covers,” says Jackson. “I think it has to be something that I can get comfortable with vocally, and that I feel I can sing in my own way. But it also needs to be something where I can see a different way of doing it, because I don’t see the point in trying to imitate the original. I’m trying to make them as different as possible.”

In that spirit, Jackson has also got another project in the works, a tribute to the compositions of Duke Ellington. He’s been performing his own version of Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” for some time, but this recording will find him interpreting a whole host of Ellington tunes in typically eclectic fashion, aided by everybody from guitar hero Steve Vai to The Roots. “It’s starting to come together finally, after years of thinking about it and planning it. I’ve done so much touring over the last few years that I really haven’t had much time to work on anything else. I just spent a week in Amsterdam working with a [Brazilian] band called Zuco 103”they’re so good. We collaborated on two tracks. I’m gonna be in New York again picking it up with Amir from The Roots. We’ll have a good chunk of it done by June. I don’t know if it’ll be out this year, it may not be until next year.”

In the meantime, Live Music will serve to remind listeners that the man who spent the last three decades recording everything from big-band swing to orchestral suites never tires of offering up new sides of his musical personality. “We’ve done so much touring the last few years,” Jackson says, “we’ve done so many great shows”it needed to be captured. I’m really happy that it’s documented.” Of course, that’s no guarantee that by the next time Jackson toddles into your town, some of these tunes won’t have been drastically reinvented once more.