“a staccato hit, three more accents, then the infamous descending chromatic riff”

My brother, Dante, runs one of my favorite blogs focusing on Metal, and recently featured an interview he held with former Iron Maiden and Wolfsbane singer, Blaze Bayley. It intimate and revealing look into his struggles.

Rock Nightmare: “interview with blaze bayley”

Another of my favorite Metal blogs has been running a series of ruminations on individual songs from Metallica’s first four albums. A few entries that are must reads – not because they express exactly why *I* had thought those songs so interesting, but because they might pique your interest if you’ve never really listened to them, or if you are fan, provide you with a new perspective (he’s also a guitarist so there is that ingredient as well). Among my favorites:

“Seek and Destroy” – A Metal anthem.

“Escape” – On asserting individuality.

“Fade to Black” – A song that hasn’t aged as well, that lifts up musically, while lyrically is about giving up.

“For Whom The Bell Tolls” – An analysis of the music, rhythm, speed, and lyrics and how they work so well together.

“Creeping Death” – Again you have a synthesis of music and lyric that few bands could muster.

“Disposable Heroes” – A powerful anti-war song. From a thrash metal band. Not what people who don’t listen to Metal would expect.

“Master of Puppets” – Where the title of this post comes from. Brilliant analysis of a brilliantly structured, visceral song about drug addiction and being manipulated – a theme of the album.

“Sanitarium” – Probably my favorite Metallica song and as his analysis puts it, “thus ends the greatest side to the greatest metal album ever.”

“One” – Metallica’s “Stairway to Heaven”. What is required to play a song like that night after night. Do you think you’d be up for it convincingly? How good are your acting chops?

Invisible Oranges sometimes features guest writers, and recently Beth Winegarner who wrote about the issues with Metal’s culture and women – and most important – steps to improve it.

YouTube: “Metallica – Creeping Death (Moscow, 1991) HD”

“Master of Puppets” turns 25

“Master of Puppets” was the among the first three Metallica cassettes I owned. I bought “…And Justice for All” and “Garage Days” at a music shop in Kensington during 1988 and worked my way back through their releases shortly thereafter. My brother and his friends were Metallica fans and “Master of Puppets”, along with “Ride the Lightning”, with a mix of other terrific bands of that era, were the soundtrack to some heady years.

Metallica, from “..And Justice for All” and back, were extraordinary. Push aside the musical changes they went through after the “Black Album” and what you will notice is the lyrics. Prior to the “Black Album” they tackled heavy subject matter head on. It was thinking-person’s metal. Geek metal. There were other bands; Megadeth, Anthrax and especially Iron Maiden and Queensryche, who could match early Metallica for thought provoking music, but few looked *just like you*. Metallica had no videos. They were not on the radio. Had no singles. They wore t-shirts, jeans, and looked like you and your friends. They had a sneaker-net of fans who traded in stories and bootlegs. And with that they sold millions of albums and sold out stadiums. If you’re in a band today, you would probably want to emulate Metallica’s early rise to fame, swapping the sneaker-net for the Web and social media.

I could go on about the reasons why I’m not much of fan anymore. It isn’t about growing out of anything. The band changed how it looked, how it sounded, and in its overreaction to Napster and its lyrical content (“Don’t Tread on Me” versus “Disposable Heroes” or “One” for example), what it stood for. They seem to, just recently, be coming around to what they lost. We’ll see. They were always authentic. And that has carried them through. Anyways, enough of that, 25 is a milestone. Thank you Metallica.

Invisible Oranges: Cosmo Lee: “Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ turns 25”

Wikipedia: “Master of Puppets”

Adrien Begrand: “Great moments in Rock N’ Roll”


A metal band that bridges cultures

Al Jazeera: “The Maiden frontier”:

As many metal fans from the region have pointed out to me, Maiden’s songs remind them that they should not trust the hype and slogans promising a better tomorrow, that progress demands putting aside easy prejudices in favour of a much harder but more honest discussion about the future and that they should remember the past but not be afraid of the future.

…Of course, building a successful career as a rock band, however difficult, is nothing compared to building an alternative economic and cultural system in a region plagued by war, occupation, authoritarianism and poverty. But the point of music and the artists who produce the culture the rest of us consume is rarely to provide a direct blueprint for action.

Instead, it is to inspire, to give a vision of a different future and the courage to get up in the morning and figure out how to survive and even thrive in a system that is very much not set up for your benefit.

More than one member of Iron Maiden has told me that perhaps the greatest gift they can give fans is joy. And whether in Dubai or Madison Square Garden, the concerts were filled with joy, from musicians and fans alike.

Metal is often accused of being music about death, and certainly Iron Maiden’s songs can often seem, on the surface, violent and blood-soaked. But as one Iranian metal musician said about the genre, and Maiden in particular, “what’s amazing is how a music about death in fact affirms life”.

Ronnie James Dio – Rest In Peace

Ronnie James Dio, one of the greatest songwriters and singers in heavy metal, passed away this weekend.

I put together a Ronnie James Dio Playlist on YouTube to try and share some great moments, but no one song, or article, will be able to capture his influence on the genre, and the positive uplift it gives thousands of kids who look for a place to belong, a music that sings of fighting for something against incredible odds, all wrapped in a cloak of fantasy, sorcery and lightning.

The following three threads have great discussion:

Blabbermouth: “Metal Legend Ronnie James Dio Dies At 67”

Metafilter: “Shiny diamonds.”

reddit.com: DIO R.I.P.

NPR did the best job I’ve seen so far in a mainstream news source of covering his passing:

NPR.org: “Metal Legend Ronnie James Dio Dies At 67”

NPR.org: “Ronnie James Dio: Remembering A Vocal Cannon”

Friends and family links:

Rock Nightmare: R.I.P Ronnie James Dio”.

Thoughts on Religion (and other things): On Ronnie James Dio.

You can pay your respects at Ronnie James Dio.


Economic situation leads one to source of relief: Metal

NYTimes: Josh Max: “Dance With the Devil”:

…I was carried off into a boiling sonic river of brutal, obscene, blasphemous noise that blasted me like a cannon out of my depressed cave and directly into the fury I was experiencing each waking day. For the next three weeks, all other music disappeared from my world. I listened to “Piece by Piece” as I dropped off to sleep at night, and the first thing I did in the morning, en route to the john, was cue up “Angel of Death.” Any gap of spare time during the day, no matter how small, was filled with “Post Mortem,” “Epidemic,” “Jesus Saves” and especially “Raining Blood.” Every other type of music seemed silly, trivial, light and useless.I didn’t bother listening very closely to the lyrics, either, despite my lifelong Ira Gershwin obsession. In fact, the less I could understand, the better. All I connected with were the screams.

After 30 days of Slayer saturation, I downloaded a blizzard of Death Metal onto a single iPod; 171 songs. Pantera. Anthrax. Venom. Cannibal Corpse. Devil Driver. If I previewed a band at iTunes and there wasn’t a WARNING: EXPLICIT label there or the tempo wasn’t insanely fast, I wasn’t interested.

Something was happening beyond the mind, the emotions and the circumstances. Music, for the first time in my life, was penetrating my body and shaking it. The force of Death Metal moved me out of my mind and into my arms, legs, head and belly. It compelled me to pull over in the car and bang the steering wheel, to run faster and farther in the freezing cold, to lift more weights and smash the heavy bag at the gym with renewed ferocity, and massively upped the intensity in everything I said, did and felt.

It also made me feel powerful enough to fight back against the injustice the world had delivered to me, to meet and embrace that inner demon who had always been told, since I was a little boy, “Smile.” “Be nice.” “Look at the bright side.” “Be reasonable.” “Don’t be angry.”

Make sure to read the whole piece and reader reactions.