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Monday, October 5, 2009

Song of the Week: Avantasia - Lost in Space

The saga of pop sounding metal continues at zetalambmary! This time with what is positively the lynch pin of Avantasia's latter day career, "Lost in Space". Why is that? Well this catchy melodic song first made its appearance in a single entitled (you guessed it) Lost in Space in 2007 and went on to feature in 2 EPs (Lost in Space (Part 1) and Lost in Space (Part 2)), one compilation album (Lost in Space (Part 1 and 2) yes the creativity with album titles are not lost on us) and just for good measure, was included as the last song in Avantasia's most recent album, The Scarecrow. About half a dozen different versions of it exist, but they don't deviate from each other a great deal, which makes it either a really good song, or Avantasia is simply milking it for as much as it can fetch in aesthetic value.

As a side project of Edguy's frontman Tobias Sammet, this symphonic power metal band was founded in the turn of the new millenium and has since released 3 studio albums, with Toby as the consistent vocalist while numerous guest musicians lend their hand in this endeavour to create "a world beyond human imagination". This is aptly reflected in "Lost in Space", with its lyrics attempting to place a setting for introspection in a out-of-this-world context. And I dunno, there's something about the debonair charm of Toby that allows the suave German to pull it off. Musically though, it resides very comfortably within the pop zone that ensures a guarantee that even if one isn't hooked on the song, they're not likely to dislike it. After all, what's there to dislike? There's a handsome young guy with an interesting voice (am I sounding way too jealous here? XD) singing a totally catchy chorus that at least has more depth in content than most gormless pop songs out there. It exhibits a sense of romance and wanderlust. How many metal songs out there can accomplish that?

Ah but therein lies a cause for repulsion- "Lost in Space" hardly constitutes as rock, to say nothing of metal. There are generic female vocals at the back, largely simple tunes are coming from all instruments that serve as ambiance at best and without Toby's voice driving this song, it could very well serve as a backdrop for taichi or meditation. In any case, "Lost in Space" is not particularly original or amazing, it just sounds.. so difficult to dislike. Just that as a matter of principle, metal fans would utterly resent the fact that Avantasia seems to be selling out to a larger audience and neglecting the core metal community that it first based its very existence on. But I'd say give the guy a break, its his side project, he's doing his time with Edguy. This isn't bad anyway if you're willing to let your prejudices go. I'd pick this over Backstreet Boys any day.

Official MV for "Lost in Space". Watch it, and get a feel of Avantasia's world.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Dead by April: Dead by April

Year released: 2009
Official website: http://www.deadbyapril.com/
Label: Universal Records


1. Trapped [3:08]

2. Angels of Clarity [3:41]

3. Losing You [3:57]

4. What Can I Say [3:08]

5. Erased [3:26]

6. Promise Me [3:34]

7. Falling Behind [3:26]

8. Sorry For Everything [4:44]

9. In My Arms [3:25]

10. Stronger [4:00]

11. Carry Me [3:48]

12. A Promise [3:37]

12. I Made It [3:49]

Ah haven't been doing this for a while. A spate of bad karma tsunami-ed its way into my life these coupla months and pushed me down a path of desolation. This in turn brought my musical tastes to more mainstream areas of teenage emo-ness and angst. Life isn't exactly looking all that way up just yet but its definitely feeling good to be back in the business of talking metal. Still, with the influences of the recent past still fresh, we're looking at some angst-filled, pop sounding metal today.

Since the release of their first single, Losing You, this Swedish outfit have garnered enough popularity to release their self-titled debut album in May this year. Not a great deal of it is original, with 11 of the tracks being demo songs that were remastered, but they do sound more clean and professional now. But from one song to one album, I still stand by what I said earlier: they sure don't sound much like a metal band. Nor look like one, for that matter. The radio-friendly sound of their mixed post-hardcore/melodic death metal/pop style isn't quite as unique as the rising-to-fame quintet would make it out to be, but that doesn't mean they do it badly.

Lets face it though, metal critics would probably put this album down because it simply doesn't have much to offer in terms of technicality and complexity. Y'all are a freaking metal band after all, not some country singers armed with a single acoustic guitar. The guitar riffs are pretty simple, and the 'boards sound like they could be played with only one hand. And while the bass could be heavier and the drums are actually not bad, the whole thing just lacks energy and power. But if you're not specifically looking out for metal songs, they're pretty ok. Like country singers, they carry forth a kinda simple beauty in their music, which is really more accessible to the masses than say, deathcore. The popularity factor is further enhanced by the fact that despite lead guitarist Johan supporting Jimmie's growls and screams, the harsh vocals seem pretty tame and downplayed while the pleasant (albeit unconventionally high-pitched) clean singing gets a lot of the spotlight, with some songs like the opening track "Trapped" and "Sorry For Everything" featuring exclusively clean vocals. Perfect formula for pop chart-hitters I'd say.

Some of the half-heavy songs are really pretty cool, like "Erased" or "A Promise", and might be useful in trying to introduce new listeners to heavier metal works. I felt that the remastered version of "Losing You" really lost me though, which is a pity because the earlier version featured in the single had more raw energy that really contributed better to this song's atmosphere. As a whole though, there are certain serious limitations to the album. The lyrical theme plays up well to my sad ol' woe-is-me self but from an objective point of view, pure emotional angst is shallow and hardly introspective. Nobody's setting Kamelot-style philosophical musings as a benchmark but there really can be more intelligent stuff than normal teenage ails. More critically, there seems to be a need for Dead by April to do some study in poetry or something to learn about diction, rhythm and rhyming structures to their songwriting. The singing can sound awkward at times because the rhythm is erratic between differing number of words in each line and the fact that some of the lines don't even remotely rhyme makes for some rather weird results that can completely destroy even the most compelling vocal hooks. If the songs had better flow, the smooth singing could really carry off better.

Its October already, y'all ain't Dead by April!
Left to right, Pontus (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Marcus (bass), Jimmie (vocals), Alex (drums), Johan (lead guitar, backing vocals)

Ultimately, catchy and sheer pop-sounding melodies are what power this album's music and opinions of its style will surely revolve around the listener's take on Dead by April's concept of metal "that refuses to be locked in to standards and preconceptions". Make no mistake, it sounds agreeable. And with some work in songwriting, it can get even better. The bottomline is that they look punk, they sound a bit punkish and if you're ok with that for a metal band, then there's not much stopping you from liking this album.

Below is Dead by April's second music video for "Angles of Clarity". Their first one is "Losing You", which you can read about and watch here.

Verdict: 7/10