Indihut is, for the uninitiated, a website/service that gives you “access to the rarest non-commercial talents from this side of our planet (read: North-East India)”. More information here.
As a staunch metalhead with few friends, I am largely insulated from other forms of POPular music. It is as well since I don’t find them particularly fulfilling but that doesn’t mean I hate them. Heck, I was brought up on a diet of Eurodance (eurotrash?) music (think Vengaboys, Toybox, Mr President, Aqua, Ace Of Base). I do listen to those ‘rare non-commercial’ songs put out by our local artists via Indihut and find great enjoyment. Here’s a list of ten standout tracks in no particular order. Before that though, two things. One, it’s a subjective list. Two, only those songs currently available on the site for free are included.
Yeah, she’s “shouting out (t)here”. And you need to listen! Supremely confident, the song jumps at you. The delivery is effortless and doesn’t sound forced or worse, fake — a blunder local artists are prone to make.
The folky strain (shoutout to Wordsworth for the word) underlying the song is enthralling. That and the soothing and immediate vocals. And the flute. Oh the flute section. Also the guitar solos. The sole problem is that the song is only 5.46 mins.
How good? 70k-and-counting-views-on-YouTube-and-not-one-negative-comment good. Magical, calming, graceful, gracefully magical, magically calming — I could come up with some more permutations. These two ladies are simply essential.
The violin mourns solemnly as Tali intones the inevitability of defeat and that ‘there is no remedy for how it feels’ when you fail someone. Whether its the vocals, the layered instrumentation or the thoughtful lyrics — the song has immense depth.
Sounds like the classic rock ballads of the 80’s and 90’s (think When I See You Smile, When I Look Into Your Eyes, Miss You In A Heartbeat). I can’t tolerate songs like this in huge doses but as a single, it’s exactly what I need to punctuate my dreary playlist.
Despite the unwarranted detour into rock territory, the song achieves its objective in style. The song is no mere statement but concrete proof of what “she” can do. Also, any song with a bamhum part gets my undivided attention.
There are many great songs with more virtuosity and better production values but these tracks stood out in some weird inexplicable way. What are yours?
It’s only been a month since I became aware of Babymetal‘s existence through an over-enthusiastic friend. Babymetal is, I’ve since learned, a Japanese band that is… well, on second thoughts, just google it. What I can say is that they are anything but typical. The vocalists are three teenage girls, Suzuka Nakamoto aka Su-Metal, Yui Mizuno aka Yui-Metal and Moa Kikuchi aka Moa-Metal, who combine dance routines along with singing during live performances. They are supported by a live band, Kami Band.
I was not sold on the idea of cute Japanese teens singing to heavy music while dancing about in frilly skirts. And to claim that “that” was metal? Audacious. Sacrilege. But when their second album, Metal Resistance, was featured by Loudwire alongside the likes of Megadeth‘s Dystopia and Amon Amarth‘s Jömsviking as the year’s best metal albums so far, I was tempted. I eventually gave in.
Metal Resistance is a refreshing record. One reason for that is simply the fact that listening to the usual metal bands takes a toll on your senses, physically and mentally. Just listen to a Meshuggah record. Yes, it is ultimately rewarding but the abrasive singing (growling? grunting?) enervates your ears and the technicality of the instruments strains your brain. It becomes exhausting. With Babymetal, there is something reinvigorating and welcoming about the clean, and at times, almost graceful vocals. This is not to say that Metal Resistance is a low-tech no-frills album. Quite the contrary actually as the top-notch production and the stellar musicianship attest. Yet, it is accessible without being tawdry.
The other reason is the variety. Really. Metal albums are, as a general rule, genre specific. Not so with Metal Resistance. Each song in the album has a different character. You’d be surprised at how much the creators crammed into this album. The album keeps you on your feet. It doesn’t bore you with repetition. From the power metal pryotechnics in Road of Resistance (thanks to, not unexpectedly, Herman Li and Sam Totman of DragonForce) to the military rhythms of Meta Taro to the full-on ballad complete with an uncanny Brain May-esque solo that is No Rain, No Rainbow, the album is on the whole an aural treat. The standout track for me was Amore. It is fast; it is refined and damn it, it is, as you might have guessed from the title, a song about love. Well there are other songs about chocolate and bubblegum but that’s beside the point!
Resistance is Futile…
Or so would Blabbermouth have us believe. I initially disliked the band based on nothing more than a vague description of their external imagery. I had not heard a single song then. How foolish of me! I am glad that I checked them out. I am a convert now. It is difficult to imagine the band having the same appeal in say ten years from now, but for the moment, resistance is indeed futile.
Shocking? Blasphemous? Shockingly blasphemous? To anyone who has dared to stay on despite the appalling cover1 and the sacrilegious headline, there is good news on this side. For blessed are those that stick around!
Hallowed be Thy Name is the closing track of Maiden’s path-breaking third album, The Number of the Beast. (Even if you haven’t heard the original, you’ve at least heard the cover by Cradle of Filth which, by the way, is a total mess.) This is a song that is ratedfrequentlyamongst the greatest Heavy Metal songs of all time. And for good reason. The guitars, especially Dave Murray’s intro, create a sad almost grimy atmosphere. No surprises there as the song explores the thoughts of a person in a prison cell about to be executed. The guitar harmonies and the extended solos are present as is Steve Harris’s ever audible bass. Nicko McBrian’s monstrous rolls add depth to an already engaging track. And who cannot recognize the desperation in Bruce Dickinson’s voice when he screams Hallowed be Thy Name as the song draws to a close. The perfect song? Arguably. However, this post not about the music — a field in which I have little if any competence — but about the lyrics.
Iron Maiden is known for, among many other things, its mature and sophisticated lyrics. And the lyrics to Hallowed be Thy Name represents, to me, the most philosophical words to have ever been written by Harris.
Lets break it down…
I’m waiting in my cold cell when the bell begins to chime
Reflecting on my past life and it doesn’t have much time
‘Cause at 5 o’clock they take me to the gallows pole
The sands of time for me are running low
The first stanza reveals the impending death of the prisoner for a crime that is not disclosed. He is going to be hanged.
When the priest comes to read me the last rites
I take a look through the bars at the last sights
Of a world that has gone very wrong for me
Can it be that there’s some sort of an error?
Hard to stop the surmounting terror
Is it really the end not some crazy dream?
Denial: The general feeling initially is that of disbelief. ‘Is this really the end? No. There must be some sort of error. This must be some sort of dream.’ Such a response is only natural. It is difficult to consider death when it is not expected. And it is instinctive to seek deliverance from the menacing waves of reality by hanging on to thin straws of bogus hope.
Somebody please tell me that I’m dreaming
It’s not easy to stop from screaming
But words escape me when I try to speak
Tears they flow but why am I crying?
After all I am not afraid of dying
Don’t I believe that there never is an end?
Depression: The next stage is the realization of the futility of denial. The reality can’t be helped. Death is certain. And that leads to depression. No one wants to die, at least not before it’s time. We always have dreams unfulfilled and promises unkept. To leave them as they are without making amends is highly distressing.
As the guards march me out to the courtyard
Someone calls from a cell “God be with you”
If there’s a God then why has he let me die?
Anger: ‘How is this fair?’ When faced with insuperable calamity, it is easy to become frustrated and angry. Loss of faith during suffering is all too common. Unfounded rationalizations like the one expressed in the concluding line of the stanza are constructed and used to question and vilify religion.
As I walk all my life drifts before me
And though the end is near I’m not sorry
Catch my soul ’cause it’s willing to fly away
Mark my words believe my soul lives on
Don’t worry now that I have gone
I’ve gone beyond to seek the truth
When you know that your time is close at hand
Maybe then you’ll begin to understand
Life down there is just a strange illusion
Acceptance: Sooner or later, the inevitability of death is bound to hit home — mortality triumphs, eventually. And when that happens, reconciliation with death becomes possible. The purpose, or rather the ultimate lack of purpose, of life is understood. One becomes calm and seeks — and generally finds — solace in spirituality. ‘I may die, but my soul is immortal.’
Yeah, yeah, yeah,
Hallowed be Thy Name
Yeah, yeah, yeah,
Hallowed be Thy Name
The song concludes with the prisoner uttering the Lord’s Prayer as he is about to be hanged.
The point being…
There is the pervasive notion that Metal is for low-lives, losers, rebels and anti-christs. That is utter poppycock and baloney cooked up by narrow minded (often religious) zealots who take song titles and album art at face-value. And people are too willing to partake these fantastic, literally as in created out of fantasy, stories. Yes, Metal has its share of zealots too. But it is a cardinal sin to stigmatize and condemn the entire metal community. What I have tried to do with this post is simply present a side of Heavy Metal often misunderstood or ignored. And its the fact that Metal is an intelligent genre — it is a thinking man’s genre.
The progression of thoughts explored in Hallowed by Thy Name is an exemplary instance of lyrical maturity and, at the risk of being grandiose, philosophical inquiry. And if you know what is well-known in medical studies as the Kübler-Ross model, Harris’s writing skills are even more impressive. There is an entire universe of awe-inspiring (and some less inspiring, I’ll admit) music to be found in the Metal genre. The initiation is not easy. Big mental investments are required. But the dividends are great.
One example. Listen to Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It is a 13-minute plus epic by Iron Maiden. Get a lyric sheet too. Survive the fast and heavy riff-laden first five minutes. Yes, you can appreciate air-raid siren Bruce’s pipes. Then relax for two and a half minutes as two stanzas are whispered over Harris’s slow bass. Feel the momentum increase as the guitars explode into two successive solos followed by the Maiden-patented dual-guitar harmonies. The pace is maintained and the song fades to a majestic close at a little over thirteen and a half minutes. The song by itself is a clincher. It is, unsurprisingly, a fan-favorite. But more than that — and you already know it if you have read the Lyrical Ballads — the song retells Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 625 line poem of the same name. Parts of the poem are even used verbatim. Sweet!
1. The featured image is the cover-art for the track’s 1993 live single from the album A Real Dead One. Eddie, Maiden’s mascot, is impaling vocalist Bruce Dickinson in the image which is because it was Maiden’s last single with Bruce on vocals (he returned to the band in 2000 and has stayed ever since). Similar artwork appeared when vocalist Paul d’Anno left the band in 1981.