Saturday, December 10, 2011

Top 10 epic albums (part 1 of 2)

It's a dead concept, epic albums.  Probably died-off around 1988 or so.  Huge masterpieces that span the entire length of the album.  Huge story-arcs on a grand scale.  Sure, there's a few weak attempts, such as R.Kelly's over-repetitive, Trapped in the Closet in 22 painful chapters, or Coheed and Cambria's rather pretentious, relationship-based Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV tetralogy are throwbacks to early opuses of days gone yore, but there's a good 20 years of it beforehand.  Both of these did not inspire thousands.  People didn't kill themselves over them, or become president of anything.  Weak shadows of epic, life-moving albums gone past. 

I'd like to note that this top-10 is not my favorite album list, just ones that I have noticed have a huge impact on society as a whole on a grandiose scale.  Listed is in no particular order.  I'm going to start with Rush to get it out of the way.

Rush:   2112  -  Farewell To Kings  -  Hemispheres  3-disk story-arc

Rush was in their progressive-metal prime during these 3 albums, heavily based on Ayn Rand's dystopian society, particularly with 2112, the story arcs are vaguely related to each other.  2112's first half (side 1, back in the day) is a science-fiction anti-government piece in 7, 2-minute chapters, ending with the song, Grand Finale, "Attention all planets of the Solar Federation: We have assumed control." in the last 20 seconds is pretty awe-inspiring.  The guitar work for 1976 when it came out was inspired also lightly by the 1812 Overture with cannons and other interesting bits placed throughout the album.  Truly an experiment in musicmanship for its time, and incredibly heavy guitar-work and drumming.  The 2nd half explores drug use and other AC/DC-like riffs.  Continuing with the story of the Temples of Syrinx, A Farewell to Kings explores the failure of government as a whole, particularly with monarchies (as in the album cover showing a marionette king in a destroyed land taken-over by technology) and finishing off with the glorious opus of the song, Cygnus X-1 Book I about a voyage into a black-hole.  The trilogy codas at the album, Cygnus X-1 Book II, Hemispheres about a planet being dominated by two demigods, Dionysus and Apollo reeking havoc over the inhabitants.  Second side of Hemispheres has one of the best instrumentals ever performed, in one take, La Villa Strangiato in 11 parts.  Truly amazing musicmanship that other bands only stare, slack-jawed in awe.  Neil Peart and Geddy Lee are year-after-year praised even still for these 3 works, and both still receive drummer and bass-player of-the-year awards even after 35 years of playing and have never lost their edge.  Oh, and well, I just like Alex too, though he never wins jack-squat.

Joe Satriani:  Surfing with the Alien

Released in 1987, Joe Satriani single-handedly defined rock guitaring to it's best, most tasteful degree.  This guy taught Steve Vai (the devil's champion in the film, Crossroads) is quintessential solo metal work.  There is no better before or after.  Eddie Van Halen is shamed as an amateur in comparison.  The style had thousands running to their guitars to learn bits of each lick.  Few come even close today.  Every song on the album is epic and inspiring instrumental work and has affected guitarists worldwide.  There are no real guitarists who don't know who Joe Satriani is, because of this album.  Here's a clip eponymous of the first song.

Dream Theater's:  Images and Words

Last of the hold-outs of math-rock where time signatures on sheet music look like algebraic equations, Dream Theater manages to make melody out of mayhem as if their music represents string-theory aligning all the four forces of nature together with ease.  A few popular hits like Pull Me Under and Take the Time made radio-play as an excuse to get their message out.  Each member schooled at Berklee College of Music, this band thinly hides Christianity behind their work.  Every song an opus in itself inspiring tragedy and victory, the whole makes for an unjoined rock opera of insanely epic proportions.  The guitarist, Petrucci, like Satriani, has his own line of guitars, and has been rated the second best guitarist of all time.  Each song has dips, dives, and triumphant rises throughout for a roller-coaster of adventure and awesomeness, inspiring the most devout in it's clean production perfection.  Dream Theater is a religion of music on it's own, and the stuff of legends.

Blind Guardian:  Twist in the Myth

Blind Guardian backed-off on this release to a more melodic metal.  Known affectionately as "Hobbit Metal" as Hansi Kürsch will layer his vocals on a track sometimes 36 times over to create a medieval group sing-along in a tavern effect like a hobbit-bard.  Most of Blind Guardian's work involves Lord of the Rings material, such as parts from The Silmarillion stories, the one ring, etc.  This album strays from Tolkien's work a little, and some of the songs have been featured in movies as credits-rolling music, such as in the surprisingly not-horrible, Jason Statham movie, Dungeon Siege.  Blind Guardian has also been recently featured in certain MMO video games as well.  Music-wise the material is very exceptional and each song inspires epic, grand awesomeness, urging the listener to grab the Goblet of Metal each spin.

Final in this instalment of 10 is:
Doro Pesch:  Love Me in Black

Everyone loves girls that rock.  Doro of the now-defunct band Warlock went solo and her stuff is hardcore as all hell like Shirley Manson on Jack and cocaine.  Each song a smack in the head, "Do you like it in your head; do you like it on the phone?  You must, 'cuz you're all alone."  Excellent change-ups in songs like, "Poison Arrow" and sings with Lemme of Motorhead on a few tracks as he admires her very much.  Each song puts a highlight on the darker side of relationships, along with the eponymous track.

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