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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Great Debate

Is Falling Into Infinity an album so evil? Is it not?

The record company forced the band to write a more song based album, less progressive, for spreading the masses. Evil evil capitalism, really.

To draw my "lines in the sand", let me start at the beginning.

It was in 1990, prog seemed dead to me for many years, I was into metal, King's X was the high end of greatly crafted music, metal itself was beyond the edge of a mass product, my musical self was dumb, my interest almost dead.
When I listened to a friend's copy of "When Dream And Day Unite" I was very much impressed that someone does make this great music again and I instantly got me a copy myself. It took many listens over some months to explore and understand the full divineness of this recording. A good, good sign.
"Image And Words" was so different, it was almost shocking, but still, another divine album. Their first gig in my area, supported by Fates Warning. Awake came out, another album, again heading another direction. The fusion elements Sherinian introduced to the band combined with a new move of progmetal. Another gig, where they played "The Great Medley", a pre-release tour. Awesome, awesome! I already was a big fan of them. "A Change Of Seasons" again took me months to really understand everything they did put in there, as every album before.
It went on and on, every new album showed some new directions and skills of those guys, it was unbelievable.
"Falling Into Infinity" simply showed that they have those fine skills in writing "normal" songs too. Nothing bad for me, and I loved those songs and still do. As for gaining fans, it may have helped, but wasn't necessary anyway. The band Dreamtheater got mentioned in every corner of the global metal scene, like wildfire.
Gods. Creators of the universe.

Then came "6 Degrees Of Inner Turbulence". Looking back in 2009 now, I think this album introduced the turning point. It sounded to me as if they lost some love, some enthusiasm.Still the fine writing of those gods, but it didn't touch me emotionally. I never warmed up on it and never will.
"Train Of Thought" hit me better, it was a bit like back to "Awake". But less innovative, harder, faster, but almost without all those fine ideas in writing that made them being the gods of DT. "Octavarium" got even worse. 7 normal-length tunes that plainly pump out guitar - aggression without saying anything or leaving any kind of impression or emotion. The prog epic Octavarium sounds like an interwaved collection of prog clones; you simply never hear a DT-identity in any of its notes. The band regresses tragically.

They move to Roadrunner Records. Light at the end of the tunnel?
"Systematic Chaos" - oh no, the regressing line continued linearly. As BG said so perfectly: They are nothing more than a proggier, better Metallica. I didn't purchase this album.
What will the next album be like? A prog - Motörhead with LaBrie - vox. I better do not imagine that....
I don't think so, rather than that I bet they will not change any further and keep up doing the same and the same, stating that this is the DT sound. Their place in the market.

Twisting this article by 6 degrees, I go back to "Falling Into Infinity", the fan collecting album Atlantic insisted on.
The album is good, it ever was, it just showed another aspect of those geniusses.
I have no idea for what reason they changed label. Not knowing anything is good in that case, gives me a chance to speculate:
Atlantic saw where they are heading to and tried to bring them back on the track of being innovative and spectacular. DT didn't want to, they intend to reinforce their place in the market as the DT sound. A tross on a money collecting quest.
Now would that be better than the intention of releasing "FII"?

If they wanna get me back in the boat, they better concentrate on new musical adventures, bring in a couple of different styles and genres, show their incredible skills, set up more new, higher levels in prog metal, give me a reason for studying an new album for several months.
What we got for the last few albums was a bunch of so extremely high skilled geniusses hanging in the couch of a progmetal-Bonjovi. Please guys, stop that tragedy!!!!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

What's it gonna take to get noticed these days?

If you're George Bellas, it takes a lot.

I think the postmen in Finland must be underpaid. Lion Music used to send out their album promos in the mail quite unprotected in nothing but paper sleeves, and some of them that arrived in my mailbox looked like they had been smashed with a hammer. It doesn't take a huge amount of force to crack a CD, but it does to smash one into many pieces. These postmen must be venting all of their salary frustrations on the Lion Music promos. In any case, Lion Music recently stopped sending out promos in the mail, and have opted for a new digital download system. One of their recent offerings is a new album by George Bellas, his second release in 2008 if anybody is keeping track.

When I casually glanced at the new album on the Lion Music download center I noticed that this Bellas album only had one track available for download, and thought to myself that it must be a promo song for his upcoming album or something which is not uncommon to see in the music business. After the download started I walked away and came back several minutes later and it was still only about 10% done. "Hmm, Surely it would have been done by now. I do have broadband," I said to myself. It was then I realized that there was something special here, because after going back to look again track 1 on the disk was 75 minutes long! What could it be? Did Lion Music compress the whole album into one download for convenience? No, their other albums aren't like that. What is it then? Did George Bellas really write and record one song that's 75 minutes in length? My curiosity was piqued.

Take a look over at the Truth In Shredding blog and look at the right hand column. There are so many guitarists there are with solo albums these days. Some of the names I've heard of, but most of them look totally unfamiliar to me. It must be pretty tough to get noticed if you are one of them. I don't care to speculate on the reasons why musicians write music the way they do. There are probably as many different answers as there are guitarists on that site. But an album with one 76 minute song on it means several things to me. One, that they have definitely stretched some musical boundaries, especially in the world of instrumental guitar albums. And two, that they are intellectually capable of writing such a song. He has my attention. Now here's a quote on the Lion Music website about the album:

George’s goal on "STEP INTO THE FUTURE" was to compose ultra-modern sounding music that used composition techniques that he had not previously used on any of his other releases. George comments, “I did not initially plan to write a 76 minute song, it just came out that way. I just kept writing and writing and as more ideas came to me, I eventually realized that this was turning into a behemoth of a song. The album was not a bunch of separate tracks that were merged together after the fact, but it was indeed written as one long continuous piece. There are several factors that differentiate "STEP INTO THE FUTURE" from my previous releases, one of which is that this album contains only one song that is 76 minutes long. Other significant factors are the compositional techniques that I employed. Although I am known to compose very complex, progressive music, I did not want to use the same elements found on my previous releases. So, all fresh scales, meters and chords were written specifically for this album. I was very much inspired by advanced compositional techniques such as: Interval Sets, Twelve Tone Serialism, Poly-Meters, Poly-Chords, Quartal and Quintal Harmony to name a few. I was also inspired to have a bunch of very melodic guitar playing with very lyrical themes that at times had a melancholy feel to them. To put it simply, I was imaginatively inspired with what the future may hold. I would also say that "STEP INTO THE FUTURE" is the most dynamic album I have released so far. This album was not written as a showcase for guitar solos, it is composition in the truest and finest sense there is. I really strived for something that captivated my senses with ultra imaginative, highly unique, creative writing”.
Sounds pretty intriguing, and indeed the album really is. Thankfully it is not chock full of some guy playing 64th notes and arpeggios as fast as humanly possible the whole time. There's real song structure here writing in the prog epic style, with lots of dynamics and plenty of imaginative ideas, odd time signatures, and slow and fast-paced passages. There is musical genius here, that much is clear.

The challenge for me was how to present this album in a radio-friendly format for the station. While it would be nice to hear this whole thing in it's entirety, I decided that it would be better to break it down into several lengthy segments that would still give it an epic feel without being so lengthy that it would aggravate the listeners.

I hope you take some time to get to know this CD, I think it's really a unique creation and I hope it does get George Bellas some notoriety. He sure got my attention in a BIG way this time.