Let's talk about my favourite subject (I mean me [I am a narcissist])


Mag 31 2011, 3:01

Spurred on by a post on reddit in which people were asked to name five albums to represent their taste in music (which I can't imagine finding easy unless you're the sort of weirdo who decides what he likes based on how well it fits a genre [I'm looking at you Blabbermouth posters (three nested parentheses!)]), I was thinking on my walk home from work about how not all that long ago, I hadn't even heard of any of the bands I listed, with the exception of King Crimson (I don't listen to them a ton so it seems weird to include them but I felt they best captured all of the aspects I like in prog, so better them than mentioning two or three bands). It also made me realize that I can pinpoint certain bands and albums over the last 10 or 15 years that mark huge growths in my taste, like a series of Cambrian explosions only without the extinctions or anybody actually giving a shit. But in defiance of everyone who doesn't give a shit I'm posting about it anyway because I figure that's a better, or at least more personally interesting, waste of my time than whatever homework I don't know if I have.

The first key album along the way was Load, which I guess sucks or whatever but it contained the first songs that really clicked with me and made me realize music wasn't just a decent thing but a thing I could really get into. I had liked and bought and listened to music before but my introduction to Metallica through the unbelievably underappreciated medium of Dragonball Z music videos made me really start hearing music, if I may be so pretentious. Aside from my regular rotation of animu videos with cool metal songs, Metallica inspired me to look for music similar to them, which I found in bands of varying actual similarity like Megadeth, Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath. For a few years (looking it up I realize it was probably 3 or 4) I was always within the relatively narrow confines of Metallica-associated metal and the classic rock my mom and dad liked.

Then at some point while being the definitely charming and not at all idiot 14 year old I was, I got into an argument with someone online about how Metallica was clearly the most talented band around because listen to the solo in One how could anyone else play anything that good? and the other guy told me to check out a band called Dream Theater, so I did. I think the first song I heard was either Fatal Tragedy or The Glass Prison, I don't remember but I know I was fixated on those two songs early on. They blew my mind and I had to let everyone I knew know about this amazing band that I had never heard of before. Listen to this, man, it's called A Change of Seasons can you even believe a 23 minute song that doesn't get boring? I KNOW! Dream Theater did two important things for me: first they made me realize I could find music I liked outside of a narrow scope of a genre (not that Dream Theater is a huge departure from Metallica or Maiden), and second they made me take note of insanely skilled musicians and for a while I went looking for a lot of similar bands who play oodles of noodles kinds of prog and wound up finding bands I still love today, like Symphony X and Pain of Salvation. But carrying on from that the ridiculous showmanship of these bands made me relisten to and gain a whole new appreciation for the likes of Jimi Hendrix and David Gilmour - here were guys that weren't playing a million notes per second but were clearly just as masterful if not moreso at the guitar than a guy like John Petrucci. If I may use the most idiotic analogy I can think of, it was like having the choice between a cake you see on Cake Boss and a cake my grandmother made. One of them is flashy and impressive as hell and was clearly made by someone who loves their craft, but the other one is so personal and finely crafted, with no excess. It is just what it needs to be, nothing more and nothing less. By learning to appreciate one kind of mastery over an instrument, I learned to appreciate basically the exact opposite end of the spectrum. As much as I hate to actually say it, Dream Theater changed the way I look at music.

Then sometime later I was looking for metal a little heavier than I was listening to - at this time I hadn't really gone anywhere but sideways from Metallica and Maiden, also finding their contemporaries like Judas Priest and the like but largely looking into progressive metal. At some point somebody recommended Opeth, since they weren't far off from the prog metal I was listening to but were a lot heavier. I got Blackwater Park and basically ignored it once the growly vocals started because I just couldn't get into them. I don't know if it was that I had always found them incomprehensible or because I was afraid they sounded too close to what my dumb childish mind thought Satan would sound like or something but I couldn't stand them. At some point I heard Harvest on shuffle and really dug it and wished that they could just sound like that all the time. After listening to it a handful of times and liking it more and more, I decided to give the album another chance and listened to The Drapery Falls, which "is a bit of a poof song" to quote Mikael Akerfeldt. It starts off with clean vocals for a while so by the time the harsh vocals kicked in I was pretty hooked, and I realized I could reasonably comprehend what he was saying. I stuck with it and listened to the whole album and adored it, and looked into their other stuff and almost immediately made the fantastic related discovery of Porcupine Tree thanks to Steven Wilson's involvement with that record. It was a fruitful experience because, not only did I find a lot of other music directly from exploring links to Opeth or similarity in sound (and then, years later, finding a bunch of great old prog rock at the mention of Akerfeldt and/or Wilson), but it taught me the extremely valuable lesson of being willing to stick with something that doesn't grab me right away.

Then a few years later, on a whim and a memory of positive things, I bought the Clutch because it was four dollars at HMV (also got Holy Diver and Reign in Blood, so 2 out of 3 ain't bad). This one doesn't feel quite as important as the others because it didn't lead to any kind of epiphany like the others did, but it introduced my to my current favourite band and a whole sound I hadn't really explored before, which have in tandem led to an absolute boatload of bands that I love now. Whether directly tied to them due to touring or collaboration I've been introduced to Murder by Death, Kamchatka, King Hobo (and from them, Mojobone and Spiritual Beggars), Lionize, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Five Horse Johnson, and The Company Band, just to go off the top of my head. And then from recommendations from this site and the Stoner/Doom thread on Something Awful, there are too many to list but that's directly responsible for me checking out bands as diverse as Ufomammut and Galactic. Clutch's work ethic and killer live show, as well as their habit of grabbing stellar opening acts, has had a huge impact on who and what I listen to just by going Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon through an amazing group of bands.

And then most recently has been Tom Waits, who has a wide enough variety of music in his stellar catalogue to almost count as a reasonably varied taste in music on his own. Building on the earlier lessons from Opeth about giving a difficult piece of work multiple shots, I had tried to get into Tom Waits due to the universally brilliant praise he gets but it took me a long time before everything fell into place and Rain Dogs hooked me. There's such an emotional resonance to his music, it feels like every story he tells is an intimate and strongly held memory, whether one cherished or regretted. While his music isn't extremely weird, at it's most out there it is certainly far away from ordinary with its jangled structures, DIY instrumentation and, at times, complete disregard for traditional notions of music, and it taught me the value of not only pushing boundaries but stepping completely outside them if you feel like it. I've since felt kind of stupid that I "learned" that lesson so late in life with regards to music (it was only a year ago, maybe two at most, that I started regularly listening to Waits), but it's given me a stronger appreciation for music as a craft, as something to be played with and experimented with, if not for the sake of pushing boundaries then for the sake of the joy in experimentation itself. Conveniently, like Dream Theater, this also gave me a second further appreciation for Hendrix because I realized just how much of what he did was the result of him playing with and retooling ideas he had and things he liked just because it was new and it was fun to experiment. Not all of it worked but when it did, well, pretty much every modern rock guitarist owes a debt to his successful experiments.

Anyway that is a journal entry where I spend like an hour typing about me a whole bunch and namedrop bands that don't impress anybody and I'm not even going to proofread it because I'm a fucken stone cold rebel with a badass 'tude.


For the record the five albums I posted in that thing, that I already figure were an incomplete representation of what I would call my current tastes, were:

Small Change by Tom Waits
Souvenirs by The Gathering
Back To Times of Splendor by Disillusion
In the Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson
From Beale Street to Oblivion by Clutch

Which is an extremely White Dude list but what can I say, I'm an extremely white dude and I need to diversify my listenin's.


  • intoTHEvoid

    not sure if serious. you only started listening to metal in what? 2000+ ? PS, fuck your shitty pretentious starbucks abusing apple fanboy taste in music.

    Giu 10 2011, 20:50
  • CthulhuFunk

    Started listening in 1999, although only really "exploring" a year or two later. I would have been, at the oldest, 13. Sorry I'm too young, I guess? PS congratulations on getting worked up about somene else's taste in music, I hope it literally angers you

    Giu 11 2011, 14:11
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