Picture this: You’re a wildly-talented, successful musician in a wildly-successful, talented group, but you have more musical ideas than your band can record and release. What do you do? Well, you could just leave all that creativity dormant but who wants to do that? Any musician worth their salt will just decide to start a side project, and anyone who is really great will release a solo record (a popular trend these days). If you’re wondering how exactly you might go about releasing a solo record, here are some tips.
First, you need to make sure you have material that showcases you and your talents. After all, it is your side/solo project, right? You need to find a backing band to play the rest of the parts if you don’t want to be concerned with writing memorable parts for the other instruments. There’s a reason they’re the “other instruments” after all. If you’re feeling ambitious, however, can you tackle those parts yourself instead of hiring extra musicians.
Once you have the material, you need a name. This is probably the easiest part of the whole process. All you need to do is take your name, then add the word “project” to the end, and you’re done! Voilí ! Worked for Devin Townsend (ex-Strapping Young Lad) and Francesco Artusato (of All Shall Perish), why not you too? If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can leave off the “project” part and go the Yngwie Malmsteen way.
What’s left to do after you have material, backing musicians, and a name? Well, you might need a label to release the album. This part is optional, especially if you have no issues recording it yourself. Touring? Well, that’s another issue. Same with promotion. If you’re famous enough, that will all take care of itself, or with a little do-it-yourself effort, can come together without many hitches.
The last point you need to consider is whether or not your band is going to hate you by releasing your solo/side record and becoming more popular without them (we all know they’re holding you back). There are pros and cons to each situation, you just need to know how to leverage them. For instance, if your band still likes you, then perhaps you could work in material from both projects to a live show with either. If your band ends up hating you, then use that hatred to fuel a really brightly-burning PR fire and skyrocket to the top of all the music news blogs. Any PR is good PR, right?
Deciding to indulge on your own solo project is a pretty big undertaking, and it’s not for everyone. But, if you’re going to do it, at least do it right. Aspiring metal solo artists can take their cues from a litany of examples, such as the aforementioned Devin Townsend, Francesco Artusato, Yngwie Malmsteen, as well as people like Jeff Loomis (ex-Nevermore), Evan Brewer (The Faceless, ex-Animosity), Serj Tankian (System of a Down), Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah), ICS Vortex (ex-Dimmu Borgir) and perhaps the most obvious example of all, Ozzy (like I need to say, but, ex-Black Sabbath). If you think you can hang with these phenomenal acts, then by all means make a go at it. If you can’t, maybe you’re not ready for the big leagues.
June was a pretty gigantic month for metal music, with upwards of twenty-five notable releases, some by pretty powerful players in the metal world in recent years. Not everyone has the time and energy to check out all the big releases week to week and month to month, so I’m here to help you to stay on top of this busy time. Here’s a collection of mini reviews covering a bunch of June’s metal albums to help you figure out where to begin:
In Flames – Sounds Of A Playground Fading
In Flames, one of the more famous names in the metal world, has seen their fair share of disappointment in recent years due to the flops that were A Sense Of Purpose and Soundtrack To Your Escape. Sounds Of A Playground Fading falls in line with those releases in terms of style, but is much less disappointing. Still not great, though.
Jungle Rot – Kill On Command
If you’re a regular reader, then there’s a pretty good chance you already saw my full review of this album. Still, to sum it up: this is a straight-forward, stripped down metal album in time when they are few and far between. If you haven’t read the post yet, check out the in-depth version from a few weeks back.
Devin Townsend – Deconstruction
Regarded by many as one of the most talented individuals in the metal world today, Devin Townsend rarely disappoints audiences with his music. And Deconstruction is no different. Though musically brilliant, it may take some people a bit of time to become accustomed to his odd themes, lyrics and humor. If you already know and love Devy, Deconstruction will absolutely make your day.
Tombs’ second (sort of third) full-length album is definitely their best work to date, and quite possibly one of the best records of the year. Their signature mix of black and sludge metal meld flawlessly when taken to a new, extreme level. Fifty-eight minutes of pure metal awesomeness with not a single dull moment.
Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus
I’m still not sure if Morbid Angel are just executing the biggest troll on the metal community or not, but there’s no denying that Illud Divinum Insanus is just plain not good. Trying out a new style of music, or trying to fuse new styles into a genre in which you’ve already proven your worth is admirable, but in this case it went horribly wrong. It’s not a good death metal album, it’s not a good electronic album, and it’s certainly not a good mix of styles. If you’re looking for electronic/metal combinations, maybe try “Self Vs. Self” by Pendulum and In Flames.
August Burns Red – Leveler
August Burns Red’s fourth full length album sees the band departing even further from the somewhat standard brand of metalcore that propelled them to success. Leveler incorporates a litany of different musical styles, such as a nice flamenco guitar interlude, within their signature level of tightness and high energy.
Arch Enemy – Khaos Legions
The extra time Arch Enemy took between albums, along with Michael Amott’s short stint reuniting with Carcass, clearly had a huge effect on the band. Khaos Legions is a bit of a departure from the band’s other recent works“and for the better. Each member’s best efforts focused into one album makes for a really solid listen.
Every now and then a band tries to do something interesting with the currently played-out, generic deathcore sound without falling into the very well-defined box that deathcore has become. Fit For An Autopsy gets points for their effort, but there are still traces of the cookie-cutter style. A solid listen, though I’m not so sure that this is even close to the best the band can offer.
Job For A Cowboy – Gloom
With every new release, Job For A Cowboy make a case for being one of the best pure death metal acts and Gloom is no different. As an EP, it’s only four songs, but each of those songs is remarkably well-executed and shows the band isn’t even close to done yet.
Limp Bizkit – Gold Cobra
Calling Limp Bizkit a metal band that this point is really more of a joke than it is a serious claim, but this record is worth noting due to the fact that it perfectly sums up all of the music Limp Bizkit has made to date, except for their first (and best) album, 3 Dollar Bill Y’all. From the high energy tracks with angry raps to the somewhat ballad-like tunes, you get to hear a little bit of everything Limp Bizkit is known for.
Here’s a few other June metal releases that I’ve heard some good things about:
Symphony X – Iconoclast
From the looks of comments and ratings around the Internet, most people seem pretty pleased with this album. After 194 ratings on metalstorm.net, Iconoclast sits at an 8.5/10 rating, which isn’t too shabby at all (but is lower than the respective ratings for each of the three albums prior to it). It would appear that Symphony X have put out yet another solid album.
Like Symphony X’s latest effort, most opinions of Entity seem to be very positive. It’s averaging an 8.4/10 after 57 votes, which is right on par with their last record. The only real complaints I’ve seen seem to be that some of the songs are quite short, and the album can get a bit lost in its overly-technical style at times.
Amorphis – The Beginning Of Times
The Beginning Of Times is the follow up to this Finnish monster band’s great 2009 album Skyforger, and by most accounts, is equally as good. Described by some as being a bit more melodically complex and reaching, Amorphis is not, historically, a formulaic type of band so overlooking a release is usually a folly.
June really turned out to be quite a climax in an already fantastic year in metal, and the releases keep rolling out. There are at least a few more albums coming out in 2011 that could very well dwarf the rest of the year’s releases (such as Revocation, Decapitated, Opeth, All Shall Perish, Skeletonwitch, etc.) but we’ll have to wait and see.
Any June metal releases you’re especially fond of that you think people should give a listen to? Post it in the comments section!
If a person is to consider themselves a metalhead, they had best know the roots”the basics. Be aware of all subgenres, who dominates them and know the albums that helped shape that subgenre. For the next few weeks, I’ll be schooling you on some essential metal albums from metal’s biggest subgenres; making sure you know the biggest and the best in the metal world while giving you some essential albums to add to your metal collection.
This week’s topic seeks to stretch the genre boundaries of metal, and, quite literally, the length of songs. I’m referring to progressive metal.
‘Tis the season to be… metal! Unlike many genres of music, winter is a popular touring season for metal bands. This year it seems some of the biggest and most highly- regarded acts are teaming up for mammoth tours. From death metal to progressive metal, there’s something for everyone. If you’re looking to see some metal veterans, there’s some of that. If you’re looking to see some of the metal rookies looking to make waves, there’s lots of that too. Exodus, Scale the Summit, Revocation, Nile, Between the Buried and Me and many more are all hitting the road!
New to OurStage this year, Kris Norris is a fifteen-year veteran in the metal community. He floated around from obscure metal band to obscure metal band until he landed with Darkest Hour in 2001”his first successful gig. Recently he parted ways with the band to pursue a solo project (The Kris Norris Projekt) and production ventures as well as make instructional videos for JamPlay. Back in May he landed among the Top 10 in the OurStage metal channel. We recently caught up with Kris to ask him a few questions. Here’s what we got:
JM: You have worked on a few different projects in your career as a guitarist, which was your favorite?
KN: Probably the Undoing Ruin CD with Darkest Hour. Having Devin Townsend as producer really expanded my guitar playing and brought me to a new level.
JM: How about at an engineer/producer?
KN: I really haven’t done too many at this point, but so far doing the Kris Norris Projekt getting to produce myself was an interesting and fun experience.
JM: Are you working on anything big in the studio these days, either as a producer or a musician?
KN: Not really. Doing my full time job and doing side work for James Murphy at his studio doing drum editing work. Not many bands have come to ask me to produce their stuff yet, but I think that’s because I have yet to prove myself as a producer.
JM: If you could have a solo face-off with any guitarist” alive or dead”who would it be?
KN: John Petrucci definitely. I know he’d kill me but it would be such an honor to lose to my idol.
JM: Who is your favorite artist/band these days?
KN: My favorite band these days is still and always will be Dream Theater” they never cease to excite me in their records.
JM: What’s the strangest fan interaction you have ever had?
KN: People getting the same tattoos that I have then showing them off to me. Always strange.
JM: If you were forced to work under a pseudonym, what would you choose for a name?
KN: I actually have one and it’s Kaiser Rune [laughs].
JM: What was the most influential album for you while your music taste blossomed?
KN: Probably Lunar Strain by In Flames.
JM: Any good, young, bands you think we should keep an eye on?
KN: There’s a band from [New] Jersey called Mutiny Within. Just awesome melodic power-metal-ish stuff.
JM: How about some advice for young, aspiring guitarists?
KN: It’s so cliché but never give up. In my teens I worked at Wendy’s with the drummer from Darkest Hour in our early teens. Who would have ever thought that we would tour all over the entire world later on playing music together?
JM: If you could only eat and drink one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
KN: Hmmm… Well porterhouse steak to be exact for food and I know I couldn’t live on it- but Vanilla Coke. Always stocked in my refrigerator!
As the perfect accompaniment to this feature, check out the playlist of Kris’ best songs here on OurStage, as well as a few other face-melters from similar artists.