Today’s Art (12th October 2018)

Although heavy metal is one of my favourite genres of music, I don’t own a battle vest (T-shirts are more my thing). But, I was reminded of these awesome things in a few online articles I happened to read. So, I thought that it might be fun to imagine what my ideal battle vest would look like.

I vaguely thought about making a stylised original picture featuring fake album covers, but then I remembered all the fuss about when a fashion company tried this. So, instead, I thought that I’d turn it into a fan art picture about some of my favourite metal bands and/or albums (and, yes “Virtual XI” is criminally underrated!).

Since this is fan art, this picture is NOT released under any kind of Creative Commons licence.

“Fan Art – If I Had A Battle Vest” By C. A. Brown

First Impressions: “Firepower” By Judas Priest (Album)

Well, although this is more of a rambling “first impressions” article than a full review, I thought that I’d share my thoughts about the new Judas Priest album. Interestingly, I originally hadn’t planned to pre-order this album (mostly since I worried that it would be like the songs I’d heard from the band’s previous album).

But, then the music video for “Lightning Strike” turned up on Youtube and I thought something along the lines of “Even if this is the only good song on the new album, then I’ve got to have it“. So, I pre-ordered it (something I only usually do with albums by Iron Maiden and The Offspring).

This decision was confirmed to be a wise one when the official audio for “Firepower” appeared on Youtube sometime later. And, well, it’s finally arrived 🙂

So, let’s take a look at “Firepower”:

Fun fact: This adorable fellow is called TITANICUS! *metalgasm*

One of the first things that I will say about this album is that it starts out astonishingly well. Seriously, I’ve found it literally impossible to listen to parts of the opening track (“Firepower”) without reflexively cranking up the volume, flashing the heavy metal horns and headbanging like a motherf… Well, headbanging a lot.

Seriously, this track is proper, intense “Painkiller“-level heavy metal. Not only that, many of the song’s lyrics are also hilariously ironic too (eg: “With open arms we fight for peace/We fight with FIREPOWER!!!!”). It is, at the time of writing, probably my absolute favourite song on the album.

The second song (“Lightning Strike”) is an absolutely perfect follow-up to “Firepower”. It’s the kind of fast, intense Judas Priest song that could also easily have appeared on their “Painkiller” album. Seriously, this song is Judas Priest. Literally, the only thing that could make this song even better than it already is would be if they’d added a couple of crackling lightning sounds after Rob Halford sings “…lightning to strike”.

The third song, “Evil Never Dies” is this really cool mixture between gloomier “Angel Of Retribution“-style Judas Priest and some of their slightly older stuff from the 1980s. Whilst it lacks some of the sheer intensity of the first two tracks, it is still quintessentially Judas Priest.

The fourth song, “Never The Heroes”, is another interesting mixture. Basically, the intro and chorus are epic, resplendent stadium metal and several of the verses are sung in a slightly quieter, slower, more understated and menacing way. Then the song builds up into a surprisingly epic mixture of the two styles.

The fifth song is called “Necromancer” 🙂 Needless to say, it’s another song that is reminiscent of the band’s “Painkiller” album 🙂 It also contains a few hints of their “Angel Of Retribution” album too. Seriously, it is literally impossible for a band like Judas Priest to write a song called “Necromancer” and it not be amazingly epic 🙂 Ok, “Firepower” is still my favourite track from this album, but this one is definitely in the top five.

The sixth song, “Children Of The Sun”, is another “Angel Of Retribution”-style song which contains a really interesting mixture of louder and quieter/slower segments. It also contains a few interesting hints of 1980s-style Priest too (eg: some segments very vaguely reminded me a bit of songs like “Nightcrawler” or “A Touch Of Evil”).

The seventh song, “Guardians”, is an instrumental piece that starts out as a slow piano tune that gradually rises in intensity until it perfectly segues into the opening of the eighth track (“Rise From The Ruins”).

This song is kind of interesting since, the slower and more solemn segments of the song reminded me a little bit of Bruce Dickinson‘s solo stuff (which is never a bad thing 🙂 ). But, the chorus is very much a Judas Priest-style chorus, which sounds like an interesting blend of “Angel Of Retribution” and some of their songs from the ’80s like “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll”.

The ninth song, “Flame Thrower” is more of an ’80s-style song. It’s occasionally a little lighter and slower than the song’s title would suggest but it’s still a reasonably good song, and it sounds like a modern version of a song that the band could have put out in the 80s. Seriously, this is a 1980s Judas Priest song made in 2018 🙂

The tenth song, “Spectre”, is another interesting blend of 1980s and 2005-style Judas Priest, with a few interesting vocal flourishes from Rob Halford (even including a brief spoken segment) and a few unexpected influences (is that a second of… dubstep.. I hear in the intro?) . Although the main guitar hook somehow didn’t quite seem like a good fit with the rest of the song, this is a wonderfully varied song that really shows off the band’s range.

The eleventh song, “Traitor’s Gate” starts with a menacingly slow guitar intro, before exploding in intensity. This is another intense Judas Priest song and is pretty cool, with the stand-out parts of the song probably being some of the guitar segments (which wouldn’t be out of place on the “Painkiller” album).

The twelfth song, “No Surrender” is…wow! This song is wonderfully ’80s 🙂 It’s slightly lighter in tone and it’s probably one of the more catchy songs on the album. The opening guitar segment also reminded me a little bit of an ’80s rock version of the intro to “Beheaded” by The Offspring, which was really cool 🙂

Plus, I love how Rob Halford’s singing style is a little bit more melodic for most of the song and then, near the end, the instruments fall silent for a second and he growls “…with no surrender!” in a really “Painkiller”-style way. It’s a really dramatic moment 🙂

The thirteenth song “Lone Wolf” starts out with a slightly funky and gothic intro, before turning into a distorted wall of guitars. But, this song seems a bit less varied and dynamic than many of the other songs. It isn’t exactly a “slow” or “quiet” song, but it isn’t as intense as I’d have liked. Still, I could detect a few subtle hints of 1960s/70s style Black Sabbath in this song, which is cool 🙂

The final song, “Sea Of Red” starts with a slow, acoustic introduction. Seriously, the early parts of this song are like a Judas Priest-style version of some of Bruce Dickinson’s slower solo stuff mixed with the song “Angel” from Priest’s “Angel Of Retribution” album. And then the song begins to build in intensity. This song ebbs, flows and crashes… like a sea.

All in all, my first impressions of this album are really good. It’s certainly on the same level as the excellent “Angel Of Retribution” and it reaches “Painkiller”-like levels of awesomeness during quite a few moments too 🙂 Ok, it would have been beyond amazing if the whole album had sounded like the first two tracks, but it’s cool that the band wanted to use a greater variety of sounds and styles in the album, and most of this works really well 🙂 Seriously, this is a heavy metal album 🙂

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get somewhere between a five and a six. Because, it’s 2018 and Judas Priest are still making songs that sound like stuff from “Painkiller” and “Angel Of Retribution” 🙂

Music And Artistic Inspiration

2014 Artwork Music Inspiration Sketch

I’m sure that I’ve probably talked about music and creativity before, but I thought that I’d look at the subject from a slightly different angle today. I am, of course, talking about using songs for inspiration when you have artist’s block.

Although I’m not a copyright lawyer, this seems to be one of the few forms of direct inspiration you can use that has little to no copyright issues attached to it – unless you directly quote lyrics from the song in your art and/or substantially and directly copy a scene from a music video (or the cover art for a CD), that is. Don’t do any of those things.

Being inspired by the atmosphere and/or story of a song and creating a completely original work of art as a result probably won’t cause too many copyright issues but, if you’re really worried about this, then just don’t mention exactly which song inspired your painting. If your painting is original enough, then people won’t even be able to tell that it was inspired by a song.

Whilst I haven’t really used this technique that often (even though I listen to a lot of music), it can certainly work sometimes. For example, this painting from late last month was inspired by “The Sentinel” by Judas Priest:

"Amidst The Wrecks" By C. A. Brown

“Amidst The Wrecks” By C. A. Brown

It’s hard to say exactly why this song is so inspirational, but it contains all sorts of tantalisingly vague descriptions of post-apocalyptic wastelands and cool-looking battles. Not only that, it has a real energy to it and a thoroughly badass 1980s sound as well.

“The Sentinel” is the kind of song that you can almost imagine Tipper Gore and the PMRC gasping in shock at and delivering puritanical moral lectures about.

It’s the kind of song which I should have listened to when I was thirteen (I had the “Priest…Live” CD then, but I only listened to about five or six tracks from it repeatedly for some weird reason). It’s the kind of song that everyone should listen to when they’re thirteen.

It’s a fast-paced and rebellious song which, to my jaded adult self, could never sound quite as cool as it would have done if I’d listened to it when I was a naive teenager who had recently discovered an amazing new musical genre called “heavy metal”.

But, enough poetic descriptions of Judas Priest songs. I’m guessing that the exact songs which can easily fire your imagination and inspire you to create art will probably be different from the ones that fire my imagination.

So, go for the songs that really stand out to you. Go for the songs which make you daydream whenever you hear them and go for the songs which you’ve listened to more than a few times and still absolutely love.

But, at the same time, be aware of the kind of art that you really love to make. If you’re the kind of strange person who loves making bright and cheerful art, then listening to gothic rock for inspiration probably isn’t a good idea (even though it sounds really cool).

Likewise, if you love painting gothic horror art, then listening to some cheerful and uplifting pop music probably isn’t a great way to get inspiration either.

Whilst it might sound like a good idea to listen to an “unfamiliar” genre of music to get inspiration when you’re feeling blocked, I wouldn’t really recommend it. This is because your favourite genre of music is usually your favourite for a reason. It’s the kind of music which really resonates with you on both an emotional level and an imaginative level. And, as such, it’s the kind of music which is most likely to give you inspiration when you’re feeling blocked.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂