Musical Storytellers

Following on from my previous post where I mention that music is a passion of mine, I want to talk about using music to tell stories.

I love music, but I am a huge musical snob. I don’t believe that people who use autotune in any way deserve the title of singers, and I equally don’t rate singers who don’t contribute to writing their own lyrics or don’t use real instruments. I think it’s a copout to talk about the emotionality behind songs if you didn’t actually contribute to it – how can you demonstrate the emotion if you didn’t feel it enough to write it? The same I believe is true of instruments, you simply can’t compare electronically generated music to the raw power and epicness of a full orchestra. Given what the Top 40 looks like these days it’s a sure bet that I’m usually the most unpopular person at a party!

My two favourite bands at the moment are Kamelot and Iced Earth. Both bands fit into the metal genre (cue eyerolling and accusations of me being a satanist) but that is no reason to dismiss them if you aren’t a fan of bands who let out gutteral screams instead of regular singing (what we metalheads call clean vocals). To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the screamy bands either but I do make certain exceptions in cases where it makes sense (like Amon Amarth for instance, who don’t sing about anything that isn’t Viking related – and you can actually understand them…. and they are amazingly awesome live!).

Iced Earth is the brainchild of this man:

john1

Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth – aka my personal hero

Yeah I know, he just looks some dumb scary biker dude, right? Wrong. He’s a very intelligent, free thinking man who is responsible for one of the best semi-concept albums in history, Dystopia. It was his latest album that inspired my dystopian novel idea and this album that I listen to at the gym. In fact, it’s been rarely a day since I met him earlier this year where I haven’t listened to this album. It’s an album that Schaffer himself admits is inspired by classic dystopian literature and films, such as Soylent Green (an actual track title) and Orwell’s 1984. I’d always been a fan of his music, but the storytelling on this album in particular really sold it for me. And these songs do tell stories, as opposed to the popular themes of Top 40 music today which seem to revolve around either bignoting themselves or making thinly veiled sexual suggestions.  Trawl YouTube looking for interviews with him and you won’t be disappointed.

This is the title track, Dystopia.

Kamelot is in a somewhat different vein to Iced Earth, but they are equally good at storytelling. Their latest song, Sacrimony, just will not leave my head no matter how hard I try. Their latest album is a concept album telling the story of a family destroyed by the tragic death of a daughter and the ripple effects it has on their lives.

I really wish more artists would put as much thought, creativity and passion into their songwriting as these two bands. There was absolutely nothing as awesome this year as standing amongst a group of people watching Iced Earth sing their song V, a song about resisting the bonds of tyranny and becoming free, and having everyone around you feeling the exact same thing as what I’m sure Schaffer felt when he penned it.

Iced Earth

Me, meeting Iced Earth!

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