Gildan's Guide to Good Music
The world of music is a vast ocean of crap - join me on a voyage to the tiny isolated islands of excellence.
As the tagline not so subtly suggests, it's really easy to find terrible music - you have but to turn on your radio, and lo, bad music abounds. The good stuff though, well that's rarely quite so easy to find, and while some popular music actually deserves the accolades it receives, most excellent music languishes in comparative obscurity. And that's where I come in!
What I typically aim to accomplish with these articles is to showcase quality albums from bands you've never heard of, in the hopes that at least one of the comparative handful of people who actually read my rambling and
rampantly egotistical definitely quite humble prose will find it useful.
Today though I'm going to sing the praises of something that isn't actually all that obscure (among Metal fans anyways), but which holds great personal significance to me, so I'm writing about them anyways - my own self-imposed rules be damned! And since they're virtually unknown among non-metal fans, there's always the chance this will still serve the intended purpose (expanding musical knowledge) rather than serving as an outlet for the confirmation bias of prospective readers like most reviews tend to (one can only hope).
The Heart Of Everything [US Version]
Musical Genre: Gothic Rock/Metal, Symphonic Metal
Running Time: 64 minutes
# of Tracks: 13
Particularly noteworthy songs: The Howling, What Have You Done
I found this band via my (entirely justified) obsession with Sarah McLachlan.
Wait, let me start over, as that's kind of a non-sequitur. Bear with me here, I'm going to go on a bit of tangent: Growing up, I didn't listen to much in the way of contemporary music - my father loved classical, jazz, and folk music, so that was what we listened to for the most part. Well, that and Andrew Loyd Weber musicals and whatnot, as I and my siblings were all members of a show-choir for the better part of a decade, so that sort of came with the territory - if I heard popular music (or just music from the past century at all), it was probably courtesy of an arrangement for show choir.
So for a long time, the music I listened to voluntarily was largely classical, the odd modern works I happened to have for whatever reason, or mellow singer-songwriter fare that another family member owned or happened to be playing. What little popular music I encountered outside the constraints of my self-imposed isolation served mostly to confirm the extreme rationality of that isolation, as it was almost always crap.
Fast forward a few years to when I was first watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer - some of the music used during that show was terrible, some was passable at best, but a few pieces were sublime. At that point I was still far too apathetic to look things up if they caught my ear, but my brain filed away one particular song, so when I later heard it playing for the Nth time on one of my father's various Pandora stations, my curiosity was piqued just enough to get up and check to see what it was: Full of Grace by Sarah McLachlan, which is hauntingly beautiful. Further attentive listening revealed I liked other songs she sang, and I ended up making my own Pandora account just so I could create a station based around her music.
For a good spell that station was just Sarah and other very similar artists, all of which I'd added as seeds after they started playing on their own, so mostly mellow acoustic fare with female vocalists. And it might have remained as such if it hadn't been for one particular song by the electronic music project Sleepthief, one of the first songs that came up when I created that station. I really liked that song ("Tenuous") you see, but Pandora never played anything else from that artist/album on my station, and given how much I enjoyed the one song I had heard, I was understandably curious to hear the rest. So I added Sleepthief as a seed in the hopes that doing so would make Pandora play other Sleepthief songs.
It did, but the music that started playing before it got around to playing more Sleepthief is where this rather extremely lengthy tangent starts coming to the point that I've been failing to make over the course of the last several paragraphs: my mellow singer/songwriter folk/pop/rock station suddenly started playing music that Pandora described as Gothic Metal, a song from the Dutch band Within Temptation.
Like many non-Metal enthusiasts, up to that point in my life my general impression of Metal had always been that it was mainly noise, and involved people dressing up in hilarious ways that they took completely seriously (which just made their outfits even more hilarious) - if I thought about Metal at all, it was invariably to point and laugh. So my initial reaction went something along these lines: "Why the hell is a Dutch Gothic Metal band playing on my station?!". But, in deference to the old "give them enough rope to hang themselves" adage, I kept listening, fully expecting I'd be thumbing it down and bemusedly ranting about it to somebody later... but I never did, because the song was, in a word, awesome. By the next day I'd bought that album... then their previous album... then I started subjecting various family members and acquaintances to them (to a consistently positive reaction)... yeah, at that point it was pretty safe to say I was really into Within Temptation - huzzah for Pandora introducing me to them, huzzah indeed!
And thus I discovered the wonderful world of female-fronted symphonic metal bands, my personal springboard to all the other sub-genres of Metal - the vast majority of music I listen to today can be traced back to that moment, with the list of perhaps dozens of artists/bands I enjoyed rapidly expanding to comprise hundreds upon hundreds (the musical OCD I have now set in with a vengeance) - and I couldn't be happier!
So why do I love them? Originally, it was because they reminded me of Evanescence, circa Fallen - a combination of clear sweet female vocals with guitars, keyboards, strings, choirs - merging more traditional rock structures with symphonic elements that, as an avid fan of classical music, I found to be pure ear candy.
But Within Temptation has been a Gothic rock/metal outfit since long before Evanescence veered (temporarily it seems) in that direction - and in point of fact the release of their first album, along with that of their Finnish contemporaries Nightwish, effectively marked the birth of the new "symphonic metal" sub-genre that Swedish pioneers Therion had earlier laid the groundwork for - so technically Evanescence reminded me of them, and I just didn't know it at the time thanks to the undeserved obscurity this band enjoys in my homeland (opposite of yay!).
Consider this rambling account my small attempt to fix the lamentable musical ignorance my countryman (and quite possibly yours) have regarding this wonderful band - that they aren't immensely popular here is a crime, a heinous crime I say!
A note about the video: There are a few seconds of silence at the beginning, as this music video was apparently produced in collaboration with a video game publisher, so it uses footage from an (at the time) upcoming video game throughout the video, and there's some text to that effect at the beginning and ending. But seeing how the "official" version cuts a full minute out of the song, my selection of this one was something of a no-brainer.
Additional note: Since I first penned this article, embedding has been disabled on the video I used, so you'll have to click through to YouTube to watch it.
I can only hope the concentrated wonderful that is Within Temptation has found a receptive audience thanks to my
not particularly humble efforts. And with that, it's time to bring this edition of the Guide to an end - thanks for reading the only guide to music that an astonishing 5 out of 5 people named Gildan agree is totally infallible; you can trust them because surveys are always 100% truthful, that's just science fact!
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