What Tribute Bands Can Teach Us About Fan Art- A Ramble

Although this is a long and rambling article about being a visual artist, I’m going to have to start by talking about music. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.

A few days before I prepared this article, I happened to watch a gameshow on TV (called “Even Better Than The Real Thing”) where several pop/rock music tribute bands competed to see who was the best. The program was a truly surreal affair, since the studio audience consisted of other tribute bands/celebrity lookalikes. Yet, it was absolutely fascinating to watch.

Although the few tribute bands I’ve actually seen perform live have been fairly faithful recreations of the bands they’re based on, one intriguing thing I’ve seen on the internet are tribute bands that put a slightly different twist on the traditional idea of a tribute band.

These are bands who play covers of songs by many different bands in the same genre, bands who use a different musical style to the band they’re paying tribute etc..

But, why have I been talking about tribute bands? Simply put, because they offers some interesting lessons about making fan art.

One of the things that always puzzles me are artists who only ever seem to make fan art. Although I’ve already written about this topic, I felt like returning to it again. Because, although I originally used “tribute acts” as a disparaging metaphor for the lack of originality these artists displayed, thinking about the subject of tribute bands more deeply made me reconsider what they can teach us as artists.

One of the central appeals of tribute bands is that they make big-name bands more accessible. For example, during my mid-late teens, I saw Iron Maiden perform live in London and I also saw a couple of concerts by an Iron Maiden tribute band (Hi-On Maiden). The two experiences couldn’t have been more different.

When I saw Iron Maiden live, I was sitting near the back of a large theatre. The music was, as you would expect, amazing and I consider it to be one of the coolest moments of my life. There were also a few amusing moments during the concert, such as when the lead singer of the support band (Trivium) ranted at the audience for throwing bottles onto the stage, or the ten-minute power cut during Maiden’s set when one of the pieces of sound equipment caught fire and had to be replaced. During this, there were synchronised waves, things thrown in the air, songs sung by the audience and other such tomfoolery. Seriously, it’s a testament to the band that they can still hold the audience’s attention even when their microphones and instruments aren’t working properly.

But it was a somewhat different experience to the visceral thrill of being near the front of the crowd in a small venue, being almost deafened by the speakers and singing along until my throat was hoarse. Seeing the tribute band was like what I imagine seeing the original band during their early days must have been like. The tribute musicians on the stage weren’t famous, so the focus was almost entirely on the music they were playing. They were fans of it, just like we in the audience were.

And, maybe fan art is kind of a bit like this. Because the artists who just make fan art are maybe internet-famous at the most, the emphasis is more on the art itself. They aren’t going to end up in galleries or anything like that. And their art is meant for a general internet audience. So, although it may lack the vision and originality that an artist who comes up with their own ideas will have, it is at least more of a “ground level” thing than the things it is based on are.

But, a more interesting type of fan art (both to make and to look at) is – like the inventive tribute bands I mentioned earlier – the type of fan art that tries to do something a bit different. Whether it is using a different art style, different art materials or making some kind of parody or pastiche, this is a much more creative and interesting type of fan art. Here are some examples of my own attempts at this style of fan art:

“Fan Art – Blade Runner – But, Then Again, Who Does?” By C. A. Brown

“Alchemist (After Joseph Wright Of Derby)” By C. A. Brown

“After Oskar Zwintscher” By C. A. Brown

So, if you’re going to make fan art, then try to put an original twist on it. Use a different style, use a different palette, be a little irreverent or challenge yourself to use different materials to the original artist.

But, finally, it’s also worth noting that – like all musicians – all artists are tribute artists. Every artist has their inspirations, the artists who have made them want to make art or who have influenced their art in some way or another.

This is, by far, the best type of “fan art” – totally original art that has been inspired or influenced by another artist, but is also it’s own thing too.

It is art where the artist has asked themselves why their inspirations fascinate them so much (eg: the lighting, the composition, the colour palette etc..) and then used these answers to create art that doesn’t directly copy any part of their inspiration.

Although this type of “fan art” is more difficult to make, it is by far the best! Not only is it actually original art (that you can proudly call your own), but it also forces you to use your imagination more. It forces you to work out exactly why you love the things you do and then to use these elements in an original way that appeals to you.

Plus, the awesome experience of making something genuinely original that is inspired by something else will make you want to look for other things to take inspiration from – which will make your art even more unique and distinctive.

So, yes, if you’re going to make “fan art”, then be creative about it.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

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Review: “Time Stands Still” By Unleash The Archers (Album)

A few months ago, I was watching random heavy metal music videos on Youtube when I happened to stumble across one for a song called “Test Your Metal” by a band that I’d never even heard of before called Unleash The Archers. I was astonished. This song was proper old-school 1980s-style metal from a modern band πŸ™‚

Fast forward a few months and, eventually, I got round to ordering a copy of the band’s third album “Time Stands Still” (2015) after noticing that it was only about a fiver or so on Amazon. Because if the rest of it was even half as good as the music videos I’d seen, then it was worth getting.

So, let’s take a look at “Time Stands Still” by Unleash The Archers:

And, yes, this album cover is EPIC! It could almost be an Iron Maiden album cover πŸ™‚

The best way to describe the overall sound of this album is that it is a really interesting blend of old-school NWOBHM-style heavy metal and classic European-style power metal, with some more modern Scandinavian-style elements too.

Seriously, some parts of the album sound like they could have come from an old Iron Maiden, Helloween, Judas Priest or Saxon album and some parts of it sound like they could have come from a Wintersun, Ensiferum or Hammerfall album.

One of the early lines in the album’s fifth track, “Test Your Metal”, is ‘You’ve been around town/ with an original sound‘ and this sums up the band’s style perfectly.

Although it’s easy to see who they have been inspired by, they don’t sound exactly like any one specific band. Like all great metal bands, they’ve come up with their own uniquely distinctive sound that is both instantly recognisable as heavy metal, yet also intriguingly different from everything else.

Even though the album isn’t a concept album, most of it has an “epic fantasy/sci-fi” type of atmosphere that wouldn’t be totally out of place on an Iron Maiden, Hammerfall or Helloween album.

But, the album also includes a fair amount of variety too, from the vaguely Iron Maiden/DORO/Saxon-like “Test Your Metal” to the subliminally more gothic/horror-like “Crypt” (which contains some hints of death metal/black metal in some parts) to the opening instrumental “Northern Passage” – which wouldn’t be totally out of place on a Nightwish, Lacuna Coil or Wintersun album.

The best song to sum up the overall atmosphere and style of this album is probably the third track, “Hail Of The Tide”.

The early parts of this song sound vaguely like a mixture of a song like Ensiferum’s “Into Battle” and an epic sci-fi themed Iron Maiden song like “Caught Somewhere In Time” or “If Eternity Should Fail” (but is thematically closer to Iron Maiden’s “The Talisman” or “Ghost Of The Navigator”). Soon, the song goes in a very slightly more Helloween-like direction with a more sustained vocal segment, before returning to classic-style fast paced metal vocals. After this, there’s an utterly epic growled backing vocal segment that wouldn’t be out of place in a Wintersun or Amon Amarth song. And this is only the first half of the song……

The vocals on this album are absolutely outstanding. Lead singer Brittany Slayes’ vocal style is very much in the tradition of singers like Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), Rob Halford (Judas Priest) and Michael Kiske (Helloween), but she also adds many original flourishes to this traditional style.

Mostly notably, she seems to be an absolute expert at sustaining a single note for long periods of time, which adds an extra sense of epicness to the songs. But, she’s also an incredibly versatile singer, who can sing more ordinary classic rock/ metal vocals (eg: in “Test Your Metal”) and vaguely Nightwish-like vocals (eg: in the early parts of “Dreamcrusher”).

In addition to this, backing singer Andrew Kingsley adds more modern-style growled vocals in some songs (with his vocals in “Hail Of The Tide” reminding me a lot of Wintersun’s first album). Not only that, the song “Time Stands Still” features some absolutely epic Viking-style clean backing vocals/chants, which reminded me of a band like Ensiferum or TYR.

Instrumentally, this album is wonderfully sumptuous. It is a beautifully complex feast of different sounds and styles, that all blend together perfectly.

Not only are there lots of awesome 1980s-style guitar segments, but the album’s atmospheric opening instrumental “Northern Passage” also contains a wonderful mixture of gothic piano/violin music and electronic elements. Likewise, the guitar segments in other parts of the album also have a crunchier and more modern sound too.

Plus, the longer version of the song “Tonight We Ride” even features a brief bass solo at one point (4:17-4:27, if anyone is curious) too. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a metal band do this before, but it works!

Another interesting thing about the longer version of “Tonight We Ride” is that it ends with a brief audio segment which imitates flicking through several radio stations (a bit like the beginning of “Starlight” by Helloween), which culminates with a single tone rising in volume. This segues absolutely perfectly with the beginning of the next track “Test Your Metal”.

And, yes, there are actually two versions of “Tonight We Ride” on the album (eg: a longer album version and the shorter version used in the song’s “Mad Max”-style music video).

All in all, this is a heavy metal album! If some of my favourite metal bands got together and made an album, it would sound a bit like this one! It is an absolutely brilliant blend of both old and new style metal, whilst also being totally unique at the same time.

If you love bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween, Saxon, Wintersun, Hammerfall etc… then you’ll find something to love about this album. If you’re unsure, then go onto Youtube and look up both “Test Your Metal” and “Hail Of The Tide”. You won’t be disappointed.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a five.

When Nostalgia Isn’t Defined – A Ramble

Although this is a rambling article about nostalgia, creativity and gaps in popular culture, I’m going to have to spend the next 3-4 paragraphs talking about music. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.

A day or two before I wrote this article, I was clearing part of my room when I happened to find a CD that I’d forgotten that I even had. It was a free music CD that had been attached to the March 2006 issue of “Metal Hammer” magazine.

Although I was initially pleasantly surprised to discover that it contained “Cyanide” by Deathstars (a song that really reminds me a lot of 2008/9), I listened to a few of the other tracks out of curiosity and, although I didn’t know or remember any of them, one of them stood out in particular.

It was a song called “The Last Sunrise” by Aiden and it was the absolute epitome of mid-2000s heavy metal. With a mixture of clean vocals, emo-style vocals (that almost have a whiny early 2000s-style pop-punk quality to them) and shouty vocals, it couldn’t have come from any other era in history.

Even the intense, but sharp, guitar parts of the song sound very much like something from this part of history. Likewise, the emotional angst-filled lyrics are also very mid-2000s. I suddenly found myself feeling incredibly nostalgic about the mid-2000s (of all times) just by listening to a song I didn’t remember.

But, as you can probably tell from the convoluted description in the previous paragraph, the vocabulary for describing and defining mid-2000s nostalgia doesn’t really exist yet.

I mean, if I was to talk about – say- 1990s Hollywood movies, then I could talk at length about the chiaroscuro lighting that was popular back then. Or I could talk about how being made between the end of the cold war and before 9/11 gave these films an optimistic emotional tone that can’t be replicated today.

I could probably talk about how the fact that the internet was less widely-used back then affected the stories films told. I could probably talk about how the larger number of mid-budget films back then was beneficial to popular culture (and how smaller-scale stories can often be more dramatic than larger-scale ones). I could probably go on for a while.

But, when talking about something as simple as a song from 2006, I’m forced to use convoluted descriptions that may or may not make sense. Yes, I know what sets heavy metal music from the mid-2000s apart from heavy metal from other parts of history. But, finding a way to express that knowledge is somewhat more challenging because popular nostalgia hasn’t really caught up to this time period yet (eg: there’s usually at least a 20 year gap when it comes to nostalgia becoming popular).

So, what is the best thing to do if you’re a creative person who wants to express a type of nostalgia that hasn’t really been explored in popular culture?

Well, the first thing to do is to try to work out which qualities make something from a non-nostalgic period of the past so distinctive. Use your memories, do some online research, look at examples of things from that time etc.. and try to work out what they have in common. Or, failing that, find some creative works from the time period in question and take inspiration from them.

Even if you can’t concisely express what makes things from a particular time period unique, gaining a greater knowledge of it (through research and thought) will help you to find less direct ways to express this particular quality (eg: the way you describe locations, your characters’ personalities etc..).

If you’re an artist, then you have an advantage here, since you can try to replicate the “look” of a particular period of history, even if you can’t quite find the words to articulate what makes it do distinctive. For example, here are two paintings of mine that are based on a stylised version of the early-mid 2000s:

“Future 2004” By C. A. Brown

“Like 2005” By C. A. Brown

Finding ways to turn nostalgia that isn’t widely shared into art, fiction etc.. can be a bit of a challenge. And, you probably aren’t going to get it right the first time. Still, it’s certainly worth trying nonetheless.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Finding Good Things In The Mainstream – A Ramble

Although I sometimes take a somewhat cynical view of modern “mainstream” culture, I had a rather interesting experience that made me think about it in a slightly different way.

This was mostly because, during a nostalgic moment, I remembered that there was a brief period during the late 2000s/early 2010s when modern British pop music was actually really good.

In 2009-11, La Roux had released songs like “Bulletproof”, “In For The Kill” and “Tigerlily”. Tinie Tempah had released songs like “Pass Out” and “Written In The Stars”. Ellie Goulding put out a song called “Guns And Horses”, Clare Maguire put out a song called “Ain’t Nobody”, Jessie J released “Do It Like A Dude” and Mini Viva released “Left My Heart In Tokyo”. For a couple of years, modern mainstream pop music here was actually worth listening to.

Despite the fact that modern mainstream culture is often eye-rollingly terrible, it does contain good things. Although lots of them rarely appear at once (eg: the only other recent example I can think of is how both a remake of “Ghost In The Shell” and a sequel to “Blade Runner” were released in 2017) and some even have high barriers to entry (eg: system requirements for modern “AAA” computer games etc..), they are certainly there. Not to mention that many of the old things from the 1980s and 1990s that I love so much were probably at least slightly “mainstream” when they were originally released.

Yet, finding good things in the mainstream is often either a rare surprise or more like panning for gold. This is, of course, why “mainstream” stuff from the past often tends to be far better than modern mainstream stuff. Leaving aside the awesome historical nostalgia in many “mainstream” 1990s TV shows, movies etc… History usually has a habit of ensuring that only the best things are remembered.

Although this isn’t perfect – since contemporary classics (like “The Matrix” or “Half-Life) can overshadow other good things in the same genre released at the same time – history does serve as a very good quality filter for “mainstream” things.

So, one of the best ways to find good things in the mainstream is simply to either wait a few years or to look at things that were mainstream a couple of decades ago. Generally, if something has stood the test of time, then this is usually a good sign.

But, often the best way to find good things in the mainstream is just to trust your own instincts. If something sounds like it could be good, then check it out (when the price has gone down a bit) and see how you react to it. I mean, some “mainstream” authors that I really like include Lee Child, J.K.Rowling, G.R.R Martin and Dan Brown. Yes, their popularity was the thing that first introduced me to their novels, but it was the quality and/or enjoyability of their work that kept me interested.

So, let your own quality standards be your guide (instead of advertising or whether something is “popular” or not).

Because, yes, sometimes good things become popular. Sometimes they don’t. Although there are a lot of criticisms to be made of the mainstream, the fact remains that there are occasionally good things that can be found there.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

Review: “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” By Cradle Of Filth (Album)

Note: I prepare these articles quite far in advance. So, this title illustration was made before I reviewed Judas Priest’s latest album about a month and a half ago.

Well, I thought that I’d take a look at a heavy metal album that I’d meant to get over seven years ago but only finally got round to buying a while before I wrote this review. I am, of course talking about “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” by Cradle Of Filth.

This album by the venerable heavy metal/ symphonic black metal/ gothic metal band was originally released in late 2010. I actually remember this quite well since the band took the unusual step of giving out free MP3 copies of the song “Lilith Immaculate” on their website at the time.

This track really bowled me over, although I couldn’t afford to get the full album at the time. I then pretty much forgot about the album (apart from checking out another couple of songs on Youtube) until I noticed that it had come down in price and was able to snap up a second-hand copy on Amazon for about three quid.

One of the first things that I will say about this album is that it is very much it’s own distinctive thing. It mostly eschews the grandiose fire and brimstone drama of 2008’s “Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder“, but it is also a far cry from the decadent De Sade-ian opulence of 2012’s “The Manticore And Other Horrors“. This album is a lot “colder”, more melodic and more gothic. And, it is probably one of the best Cradle albums that I’ve heard. Seriously, it’s almost up there with classic albums like “Cruelty And The Beast” and “Nymphetamine”.

“Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” is a concept album about the mythological character Lilith. However, it also focuses on a tragic character called Victoria Varco, a 14th century noblewoman who bears an illegitimate child and suffers unspeakable cruelties at the hands of the church because of this. This eventually leads to her having visions of Lilith (and possibly being possessed by Lilith’s spirit), before being brutally murdered by the church’s torturers.

She is then exhumed by her grief-stricken lover, Isaac, in a scene vaguely reminiscent of Heathcliff and Cathy from Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights“. The later parts of the album focus both on Lilith herself and on Isaac’s memories of meeting her through Victoria.

The final song ends with a mildly Lovecraftian flutter, with Isaac saying: “…These words I speak are gates to hell“, evoking the ‘last words’ narrative device used in many of H.P. Lovecraft‘s short stories. In addition to this, it is also a repetition of an early verse from the first song on the album. This gives the album an intriguingly circular storyline, which also hints strongly at a Lovecraft-style unreliable narrator.

And, yes, this album actually has a continuous story. However, this actually harms the album’s lyrics very slightly. Whilst I’ve written before about how Cradle Of Filth songs are basically old-school poetry in disguise, the lyrics in “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” often read more like a historical ballad of some kind.

Whilst the lyrics still contain a fair number of poetic flourishes (eg: “By flights of morbid fancy/ Psychomancy, rites of ancient wrong”), the focus on storytelling means that the lyrics are often a little bit more “functional” and can occasionally lack some of the dark eloquence of Cradle’s other albums.

But, enough literary criticism. What about how this album actually sounds?

Well, for the most part, it sounds like Cradle Of Filth. However, unlike some of their albums, this one has quite a few melodic elements, such as a vaguely harpsichord-like segment at the beginning of the first song in addition to other creepily gothic string and keyboard segments throughout the album. These go really well with the more intense guitar segments, which often sound more like a “heavier” version of traditional heavy metal. Personally, I really love all of these melodic elements, but more “traditionalist” fans of the band might not like them.

Likewise, despite the occasional well-placed death growl from Dani Filth, his fast-paced and guttural singing in this album is considerably more understandable than in some previous albums. As much as I love Dani’s older vocal style, his more modern style certainly has merit too.

Plus, like in many of Cradle’s albums, Dani’s harsh vocals are counterpointed by more elegant female vocals. In “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa”, these are provided by Lucy Atkins (and Dora Kemp).

Like with some of Sarah Jezebel Deva’s vocal segments in “Cruelty And The Beast”, Atkins speaks rather than sings. This lends the character of Lilith a stern, cold gravitas that goes really well with Dani’s more emotional vocals.

The best songs on the album are probably “The Persecution Song”, “Deceiving Eyes”, “Lilith Immaculate”, “Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)” and “Beyond Eleventh Hour”.

“The Persecution Song” begins with a beautifully haunting instrumental segment, which manages to be both creepily cold and reminiscent of the warm lushness of Cradle’s “Nymphetamine” album. Dani’s vocals near the beginning of the song are noticeably slower too, which helps to add to the oppressively gothic atmosphere.

Musically, the song is dark, intense and overwhelmingly powerful. Vocally, Dani alternates between several singing styles (eg: slower singing, emotional growling, ominous whispering etc..) which helps to add to the surprising array of musical variety within this song. Seriously, it is one of the most atmospheric songs on the album.

“Deceiving Eyes” has some really intriguing hints of both thrash metal and traditional heavy metal. Although it is mostly just a fairly solid Cradle Of Filth song, these extra musical elements really help to turn it into something a bit more distinctive.

“Lilith Immaculate” is a fast, powerful, opulent and intense song. The opening instrumental is vaguely reminiscent of something from “Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder”, but, as soon as Dani begins howling, you’ll remember that this is a very different album. This song is something of a duet between Dani Filth and Lucy Atkins, and it is brilliant! It is filled with dramatic descriptions and powerful emotion. If it wasn’t for the fact that this song tells a later part of the album’s story, it would have been a perfect opening song.

“Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)” is a slightly lighter, faster and more “goth”-like song. The opening segments of it are something of a palate cleanser from the heavier and more intense songs earlier in the album. Likewise, the guitars sound a little bit less distorted here, which lends the song a very distinctive sound. Like with “Lilith Immaculate”, it is also something of a duet between Dani Filth and Lucy Atkins – which is always cool to hear.

“Beyond Eleventh Hour” is the stunningly opulent ending to the album. It begins in a creepily understated way, with quiet keyboard music and some poetic vocals from Atkins. But, it quickly builds to a spectacularly dramatic climax soon after Atkins intones the words “…and hell will come with him”.

The lyrics in this intense and dramatic song also contain a few gloriously obscene “classic Cradle Of Filth”-style flourishes too. This song is Cradle at their most eloquent, poetic, debauched, blasphemous best! At one point, there’s even some vaguely horror movie-style cackling in the background too πŸ™‚

All in all, “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” is one of Cradle Of Filth’s best albums. It’s a cold, heavily atmospheric, furiously intense and creepily gothic album. Yes, it isn’t quite their best album in purely lyrical terms but – musically – it is absolutely stunning. Like with all great metal bands, this album manages to be both the kind of unique thing that only one band could make whilst also being noticeably different from both previous and subsequent albums.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.

Three Other Things That Heavy Metal Music Can Teach Creative People

Although I’ve written about this topic a couple of times before, I thought that I’d return to the subject of what heavy metal music can teach creative people. This is mostly since I seem to be going through another phase of listening to even more metal than usual (mostly songs by Cradle Of Filth this time round).

So, what else can heavy metal teach creative people?

1) Sophistication (appears in unlikely places): Believe it or not, modern heavy metal is one of the most complex and sophisticated genres of music out there. Since I’m going through a bit of a Cradle Of Filth phase at the moment, I’ll use this band as an example.

At first glance, they don’t really look like a “sophisticated” band – mostly due to the zombie make-up, the borderline-incomprehensible shouted vocals and the fact that some of their songs have “shock value” lyrics.

But, although I’ve already written about how their lyrics are basically old-school poetry in disguise, they are sophisticated in so many other ways too. At least a couple of their albums (eg: “Cruelty And The Beast”, “Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder” etc..) are concept albums based on various obscure parts of European history.

Not only that, if you listen to the instrumental parts of many of their songs (especially their stuff from the late 1990s/early-mid 2000s onwards), you’ll notice that it can almost sound like a heavier version of classical music of some kind sometimes. Their music videos usually tell a story of some kind or another, and frequently look like small self-contained gothic horror movies.

Especially in the present day, heavy metal is a very sophisticated genre (just listen to Nightwish or most songs by Iron Maiden if you don’t believe me). Yet, there’s surprisingly little pretentiousness surrounding it. Heavy metal bands do all of this amazingly complex and sophisticated stuff, yet metal is one of the most welcoming, generation-neutral (eg: some metal bands are in their 20s, some are in their 60s etc..) and unpretentious musical subcultures out there.

So, what relevance does this have to writers, artists, poets etc…? Well, it all has to do with letting your work speak for itself. It is about putting substance over style. It is about the importance of skills and practice, rather than trying to become popular for the sake of it. It’s about building up a fanbase because of the quality of your work rather than “being famous for being famous”.

2) Personality: One cool thing about metal bands is that they each have their own unique personalities and sensibilities. Even when they seem slightly similar, they are still unique in different ways. You can usually tell two metal bands apart from each other just by listening to the way that they play their instruments, write their own songs etc… (Seriously, I cannot overstate the “write their own songs” part enough!)

Even bands within the same sub-genre of metal who have had members in common with each other (such as Gamma Ray and Helloween) are very distinctive. For example, Gamma Ray’s music tends to be a lot louder, slightly slower and more intense, whereas Helloween’s music tends to be slightly lighter, faster and more horror/fantasy-themed. The two bands still sound like they are related to each other, but they also sound different to each other too.

So, again, what relevance does this have to writers, artists, poets etc…? Well, it is all to do with the value of developing a unique and recognisable style. This is something which is typically developed by taking inspiration from a unique mixture of things that you consider to be “cool”. It also involves, amongst other things, looking for what these “cool” things have in common with each other.

For example, in my own art – many of my influences (be they heavy metal album covers, old horror novel covers, cyberpunk films, old computer games etc..) often make use of high-contrast lighting (or “Tenebrist” lighting, to use the fancy word for it). This is where the colours and/or light sources in a picture are made to look bolder by contrasting them with a darker background. So, naturally, this is a part of my art style. It looks a bit like this:

“Scaffolding” By C. A. Brown

3) Maturity: This might surprise you, but heavy metal is probably one of the most sensible and mature genres of music out there. And, I don’t mean “mature” in the sense of one of those silly 1980s “explicit lyrics” stickers that are still somehow a thing these days.

In short, the metal genre has got a lot of the more immature “rebellious shock value” stuff out of it’s system during the 1980s/90s. Since metal is a non-mainstream genre these days, metal bands are thankfully spared the endless controversies that seem to plague anything vaguely popular.

As such, metal bands don’t have to worry too much about either courting controversy or about inadvertently causing it. After all, the only people who listen to metal these days are fans of the genre, so they’re unlikely to be shocked by more traditional elements of the genre.

In other words, metal bands have more creative freedom and, after using it to rebel for a while, they’ve got most of this out of their system and instead usually focus more on making music that is meaningful (or just fun), that sounds good and impresses their fans.

This means that when long-running or modern metal bands use things like four-letter words, disturbing descriptions, risquΓ© descriptions etc… it is often done in a way that is either more moderate, meaningful, infrequent, creative, comedic and/or carefully-considered than you might think. And, surprisingly, the music still sounds just as good!

Since there’s no point in shocking people just for the sake of it any more, these elements either have to be used in a way that actually has artistic merit or not used at all. And, despite heavy metal’s historical reputation as an “edgy” or “controversial” genre, you’d be surprised at how many modern metal songs could probably be played on the radio without censorship if DJs were willing.

So, yet again, what relevance does this have to writers, artists, poets etc…?

Well, simply put, it’s a good example of how creative people mature over time, if given the creative freedom to do so (eg: without having to worry about and/or court controversy all the time). It’s an example of how immature “shock value” will often give way to maturity and artistic merit if creative people aren’t held back by constant controversies etc..

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Extra Review: Rage Of Light – Complete Digital Discography (Music)

Although I first discovered a couple of music videos by trance metal/ melodic death metal band Rage Of Light on Youtube a month or two ago (and bought a couple of their songs at the time), I recently ended up finding a video that included clips from several of their older songs from 2016.

And, after noticing that a MP3 copy of their current digital discography (containing an EP and three singles) cost a little over six quid on Bandcamp (the listed price is six Euros, but it was more like Β£6.20-30 when UK VAT was automatically applied), I decided to splash out on it. Hence this review.

So, let’s take a look at Rage Of Light’s current digital discography:

This is what the band’s digital discography currently contains at the time of writing.

Let’s start with the digital singles. “I Can, I Will” is one of the first songs by this band that I heard and it is probably their strongest song. It is a brilliantly intense mixture between melodic synth-pop/ symphonic metal- style vocals and growled death metal vocals.

All of this is backed up by a complex, resplendent mixture of crunchier guitars and electronic trance music that reminded me a little bit of a much heavier and more intense version of the background music from an old computer game πŸ™‚ It is a fast, complex, cathartic and catchy song.

The next digital single, “Mechanicals”, is a song that I was indifferent to at first, but it grew on me after listening to it a couple of times.

This is a sci-fi themed song about some kind of robot attack on a space station. It starts with an echoey distress signal, before some ominous clanking and tapping sounds play over piano music. Then, an electric guitar cuts in and there are a few ominously slow/quieter vocals. Then there’s a shout and the death metal-style guitars kick in.

Like with many of the band’s songs, this one contains a good contrast between melodic and more intense music. Personally, I vastly prefer the melodic segments of this song – with the chorus vocals (“Here come the mechanicals…”) and guitars just sounding a little bit too much like generic shouty/intense metal. But, the rest of the song has a really cool symphonic metal/ power metal kind of sound to it that is really awesome. At 7:18 minutes long, it is also the band’s longest song too.

Also, a couple of the quiet electronic background sounds are vaguely reminiscient of Iron Maiden’s “The Final Frontier” and some of Perturbator’s music πŸ™‚

The final digital single, a cover of Amon Amarth’s “Twilight Of The Thunder God”, is pretty interesting. It starts with a wonderfully gothic piano solo, before the guitars kick in and lead singer Melissa Bonny lets out a suitably intense and prolonged death metal growl.

As a whole, this cover version is a little bit more “electronic” and “gothic” than Amon Amarth’s original version of the song. The growled vocals have a suitably hoarse sound to them and – for the most part, the electronic and guitar music roils menacingly in the background – with a few sudden moments of intense guitar and/or synthesiser music. It’s a pretty cool cover that is both reminiscent of the original song, whilst also being it’s own thing at the same time.

The band’s 2016 EP “Chasing A Reflection” starts out with a song called “Beautiful Slave” that initially sounds a lot like a vaguely Xandria-style symphonic metal song, before the trance music really kicks in. All of this melody is later contrasted with a few brilliantly intense growled death metal segments. There are also a few classic heavy metal-style guitar flourishes too πŸ™‚

This song is one of the more melodic Rage Of Light songs and, after “I Can, I Will”, it is probably one of my favourite songs by the band. It is a wonderfully brilliant mixture between melody, intensity, metal and electronica πŸ™‚

“Deception” starts out with a jauntily gothic piano instrumental, paired with some dramatic drums and, later, some menacingly understated gothic synth music. The intense electronic background music that plays during many parts of this song is pretty cool too. Like with the other songs, there’s a contrast between growls and melody, intensity and quietness. However, the lyrics to this song seem a little bit random. Even so, it’s still a reasonably cool song.

“Lollipop (Candyman)” is comedy metal at it’s best πŸ™‚ If you have childhood memories of the 1990s, you’ll probably remember an annoyingly catchy pop band called Aqua. Well, this song is a trance metal-style cover of one of their songs, and it is hilarious. Plus, due to the fact that it is heavy metal music, the song’s catchiness actually works in it’s favour too πŸ™‚

“Sick” is a more intense, growly kind of song. The trance elements fade into the background slightly and there is more emphasis on the heavy, crunchy guitars. The melodic vocal segments in this song are also more like traditional symphonic metal than synth-pop too. This is one of those songs where, although it didn’t really impress me when I first saw the music video for it, it has grown on me a bit after listening to the MP3 a couple of times.

The final song on the EP, “Requiem” starts out in a slower and more melodic way, before becoming more intense. This song contains a lot more electronic elements than many of the other songs and is probably the most “trance music”-like song in their current discography. It also includes a couple of vaguely dubstep-like electronic segments too. Of course, it also contains death metal and symphonic metal elements too. The more intensive mixture of styles is a little bit puzzling at first, but it works reasonably well.

All in all, this discography is pretty cool. Although only a few songs really grabbed my attention at first (eg: “I Can, I Will”, “Lollipop” and “Beautiful Slave”), the rest of the collection has grown on me after listening to it a couple of times.

If you like intense metal that isn’t afraid to be melodic and creative too, then you’ll like this. Somehow, the mixture of trance music and metal works surprisingly well and this is a modern band that is probably worth taking a look at.

If I had to give the discography a rating out of five, it would get a four.