The Catalyst – Linkin Park

Earlier this week, Linkin Park released “The Catalyst,” first single from their newest album. “A Thousand Suns” is to be released in mid-September, so this gives fans and critics alike plenty of time to take this first morsel of Linkin Park creativity and enjoy it. It should get us pumped up to go out and buy it, despite the slight letdown that Minutes to Midnight was.

Right?

And then, there was this:

I didn’t like it at all upon first listen. It debuted on the morning show I listen to on the way to work, with most listeners calling in saying they didn’t like it at all. This was my initial reaction as well.

I gave it a few more listens, and my opinion of it is improving, gradually.

The of electronia melody and synthetic beats, while not really entirely new to the LP brand of music, is much too prevalent- at least for a single. There are plenty of songs in the LP catalog that make great use of sampling by the band’s mixer. What has made them great in the past is HOW Chester’s piercing voice and lyrics combine with Mike Shinoda’s clever rhymes. How samples of violin (Faint) and woodwind instruments (Nobody’s Listening) come together with their talented musicians on guitar, bass, and drums. Or how rap and rock come together to form EPIC songs (In the End, One Step Closer)

LP can be raw emotion (Crawling), a screamfest (Given Up) or a gentle reflection (My December). The most important part of every song LP writes is the cohesion of the parts, because there are so many. The cohesion of instrumentation with computer generation. The cohesion of genres. (Collision Course, wth Jay-Z)

Now don’t get me wrong, “The Catalyst” is not a bad song at all. It just isn’t great, and it doesn’t set any sort of expectation for the album. Then of course, perhaps this was done on purpose.

I’d even venture to say that it is a very well written and produced song, harboring an industrial, futuristic sound. The song seems to take the form of a prayer for humanity in the backdrop of a chaotic near apocalyptic setting- a setting where even the non believer might have no resort but to pray for salvation when humanity’s sophistication becomes the supreme oppressive weapon. The electronic melody towards the end of the song fades away and all that is left are words and piano.

“The Catalyst” is a prologue, and nothing more. I don’t know why this song was chosen as a single. This is the type of song that as you’re listening to the entire album you stumble upon and you’re like, “Hmm, that’s different. It’s not bad at all. It’s kind of catchy, almost infectious.” This song does NOT get my excited for the album. It is a new direction, but I would hardly call it refreshing or ground breaking.

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

The Heap’s Song Stuck in the Pile: “Savior” – Rise Against

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(Click on link to listen)

\”Savior\” – Rise Against

It kills me not to know this but I’ve all but just forgotten
what the color of her eyes were and her scars or how she got them
as the telling signs of age rain down a single tear is dropping
through the valleys of an aging face that this world has forgotten

there is no reconciliation that will put me in my place
and there is no time like the present to drink these draining seconds
but seldom do these words ring true when I’m constantly failing you
like walls that we just can’t break through until we disappear

so tell me now

if this ain’t love then how do we get out?

because I don’t know

that’s when she said I don’t hate you boy
I just want to save you while there’s still something left to save
that’s when I told her I love you girl
but I’m not the answer to the questions that you still have

but the day pressed on like crushing weights
for no man does it ever wait
like memories of dying days
that deafen us like hurricanes
bathed in flames we held the brand
uncurled the fingers in your hand
pressed into the flesh like sand
now do you understand?

so tell me now
if this ain’t love then how do we get out?
because I don’t know

that’ s when she said I don’t hate you boy
I just want to save you while there’s still something left to save
that’s when I told her I love you girl
but I’m not the answer to the questions that you still have

one thousand miles away
there’s nothing left to say
but so much left that I don’t know
we never had a choice
this world is too much noise
it takes me under
it takes me under once again

I don’t hate you
I don’t hate you

so tell me now
if this ain’t love then how do we get out?
because I don’t know

that’s when she said I don’t hate you boy
I just want to save you while there’s still something left to save
that’s when I told her I love you girl
but I’m not the answer to the questions that you still have
I don’t hate you
I don’t hate you, no

Introducing a new segment for us here at The Heap! Song Stuck in the Pile will function as a “Song of the Week (or moment) that has gotten in my head and I just can’t stop listening to.

This week, for our initial entry, it’s Midwest rock group Rise Against, with the latest single “Savior” of their new album “Appeal to Reason.” RA often includes one “love song” on each album, though this song in particular does offer a particularly perverse love story.

The lyrics hint at a couple who have already broken up, and the guy is responsible. In addition, there are hints of some sort of addiction as the overwhelming vice. Recognizing this, the girl tries to intervene before he ends up doing serious damage to himself in the long run, thus, “wanting to save you while there’s still something left to save.”

But, as expected from a band with the sophistication of RA, there has to be multiple meanings. The lines referring to “the telling signs of age” and “aging face” suggest an older woman. We must keep in mind the name of the album- Appeal to Reason.

Could it be a reference to Lady Reason? I believe so, particularly how Lady Reason defines love in “The Romance of the Rose” by a woman named Christine de Pizan who challenged the misogynistic tendancies of her society in the 15th Century. In essence, she is considered one of the first prevalent voices in the movement for equality between sexes, at least in the arts.

Lady Reason begins:

“Love is hateful peace, love is hate in love. It is disloyal loyalty, it is loyal disloyalty; it is fear that is completely confident, it is hope in despair. It is reason completely mad, it is reasonable madness…” and so on.

The key words of interest are Love and Hate, not to mention that at this part of the story Lady Reason intervenes to advise the struggling traveler. Interesting.

Read the rest here (it’s actually pretty interesting!)

An off the wall reference from the boys from Chicago. But it keeps to the theme of the band’s concerns with human rights. (Re-education Through Labor touches immigration, but that’s for another day) Definitely a catchy, borderline poppy song, but nevertheless demonstrating Rise Against’s concern with issues as well as their knowledge of history and literature!

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

The heap. Reviews “All Hope Is Gone” by Slipknot

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It’s been four years since their last album was released, but at long last, Slipknot has returned to the music scene with the release of All Hope Is Gone, their newest album. During these past four years, the band took a much needed hiatus, with most of the nine going their own ways, working on other side projects. Rumor had it that the band had even broken up. Yet, for months now, anxious maggots, the “affectionate” nickname given to Slipknot fans, have known that All Hope Is Gone would be released on August 26th.

The main question of fans is what could be expected of the band, especially after the glorious curveball of an album, Vol 3: (The Subliminal Verses) (2004), was criticized by fans of the style of the older albums, Slipknot (1999) and Iowa (2001), for not being as hard and brutal. Lead singer Corey Taylor, or #8, has explained during multiple interviews that this album would be Slipknot’s “hardest album ever.” Regarding the content and the album as an aesthetic whole, Taylor stated that “It’s [the album] going to rip your face off… I don’t think the world will be ready for this album.” Expectations have clearly been set quite high.

Commercial success for the album has been there since the 26th, providing at least some evidence of quality. In a blog post, the band disclosed today that the album is currently #1 in the US, as well as in other leading global music capitals. General reviews and critique have been overwhelmingly positive. But again, the reception by the most dedicated fans has been lukewarm, again citing the diversity in style, sound, and content as “selling out” or being heavily influenced by Taylor’s affiliation with his other band Stone Sour.

The heap. attributes the change in Slipknot’s music to relative maturity. The band, in a sense, has grown up. Earlier records capture (and perhaps define) pure thrash metal, with thematic elements covering the portrayal of the masses, and being an outsider, just for starters. You’ll still find some of that in All Hope Is Gone, but I feel it’s for a different reason. You find men who are in their mid thirties, who now have valuable life experience, rather than younger individuals trying to stake their claim to musical success. The intertwining of political ineptitude, excessive blind faith (and forceful imposition of that faith), as well as the inclusion of deep, personal influences, such as reflections on various types of relationships such as with people, a significant other, God/ supreme beings, and even the government, all culminate in a tasteful rendering of what Slipknot has always been about- attempting to be the voice of reason by their realist approach.

All Hope Is Gone is fantastic. Sure, Slipknot is a little late to the government denouncing game, but we’ll give them a break, since it’s been four years since they last released an album. But it is certainly not for everyone. Despite it functioning as an aesthetic blend of symbolic tempo changes and as a piece which begs of the listener to not just hear, but listen, the genre of music often won’t attract the casual music listener. I would suggest reading the lyrics, and perhaps trying to understand the method in which they are presented. Taylor’s vocal talent is proven by the sheer brutality in his shouts, but also his ability to sing melodically. Drummer Joey Jordison has reached a new level in this album as well. His work, though subtle, would be quite noticeable if a less talented drummer would be attempting to play. The guitar/bass work is good, an above average effort. There are certainly some memorable solos, but the riffs are often repetitive and in a few songs, they sound quite similar.

joey

The album begins with .execute., which begins as a vintage-sounding recording of a speech. As the speech gets more aggressive, white noise begins to fill the air, resulting in a garbled message and effectively preventing the listener from hearing. Symbolic of censorship, and more specifically, controlled information divulged by the media.

The message leads into a stellar drum solo by Jordison, which leads immediately into Gematria (The Killing Name), opened by a minute or so of an instrumental segment, reminiscent of The Blister Exists. The title refers to the practice of interpreting text by giving letters numerical values, used primarily in Hebrew text. For instance, if Yahweh in Hebrew equals a certain value, and the addition of the values of love and understanding equals the same number, Yahweh = love and understanding! In this song, the vocals reveal that “America is a killing name,” presumably, that America equals killing and I’m sure a load of other things. Sulfur, a song challenging the conventions of fear-based organized religion and Psychosocial, oozing with political satire and straightforward critique round off the first high energy, pounding, fast tempoed tracks.

The pace and sound of the album changes in Dead Memories, as the theme shifts from sheer ideological attack to personal, inner reflection. Perhaps the first thought of maggots is that this track screams Stone Sour. I would agree with this notion, though again, I feel it allows the band to showcase their diversity in style and talent. The lyrics of the track can be interpreted differently, though it is apparently based on a rough time in Corey’s life.

Vendetta picks up the pace, almost suggesting brutal retribution or an effort to forget the cause of pain in the prior song, while Butcher’s Hook seems to suggest a symbolic situation in which the band puts the government (and other positions of superiority) on the hook (a helpless position) and have their say.

Gehenna slows things down again, introducing an eerie, almost supernatural melody. The song bears many similarities with Korn in sound and themes. Gehenna is the term for the Jewish hell/ purgatory. So plausibly, we are hearing the speech of a chastiser who is struggling with identity. This track is followed by This Cold Black, criticizing those in charge again, but also reflecting on the mental state of a soldier forced to go to war and how his perception of the world has consequentially changed.

The band challenges the blind upholding of “traditional” values in Wherein Lies Continue, as well as the struggle between generations as the younger ones try to extricate themselves from values imposed by fear and not reason. The song also seems to criticize those who “want to believe in everything,” or in essence, won’t stand by one view strongly and rationally. It definitely resonates of the Biblical account of the Garden of Eden rebelling against unexplained rules. But yet again, Snuff slows everything down again, with the use of an acoustic guitar. It’s about a forbidden love where the other person in the relationship essentially quits trying. What ensues is a touching hymn of resentment. It could also (possibly) be interpreted as the sorrowful lament of a sinner, who similarly chooses resentment of what has occurred in his life.

The album concludes with All Hope Is Gone, amounting to a proverbial concluding paragraph supporting they thesis that “all hope is gone” in most areas of public life: government, religion, and even others (relationships). Yet, almost ironically, the song screams optimism, as the most important lines of the song are “We’ll find a way, when all hope is gone!” and “We’ll end the world when all hope is gone!”

I think that Corey Taylor is right, that the world isn’t ready for something so sophisticated from the often scoffed at band. You have to do research and really read and listen to the way the music delivers the message to really get it (I had no idea what gematria or gehenna was!). the heap. gives it

9

9 trash bags, filled to capacity.

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