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!
If it's thought provoking, epic, eccentric, or exceptional (or possibly all of the above), I take it upon myself to write about it in the hope that at least one of the comparative handful of people who actually read my rambling and
rampantly egotistical definitely quite humble reviews will find it useful - or if not useful, at least momentarily entertaining; I take what I can get really.
If you've read my previous Guide to Good Music pieces, you may have noticed that I make a lot of satirical requests for reader suggestions on what I should talk about next, which I clearly have no intention of actually acting upon; I've always just written about whatever the hell I want to, reader suggestions be damned (ha ha!). Which makes the bit where I'm taking a reader suggestion to heart all the more surprising - enjoy this out of character departure from the norm while it lasts!
Arjen A. Lucassen's Star One
Victims Of The Modern Age
Musical Genre: Space Rock/Progressive Metal
Running Time: 53 minutes
# of Tracks: 9
Particularly noteworthy songs: Earth That Was, Victim Of The Modern Age, Cassandra Complex
Of all the wonderful albums released in 2010, Victims Of The Modern Age is perhaps the most surprising simply because I didn't expect it to ever be made... but I'm getting ahead of myself! Some background is in order - time to put on our knowledge (of pointless music trivia) hats boys and girls and Great Old Ones come to devour all, it's learnin' time!
As you probably noticed because it was in rather large text just up above, in the thread title, on the album cover to the right, etc, Star One is yet another one of Dutch multi-instrumentalist/composer Arjen Lucassen's side projects (making it the third one I've talked about in this series so far). You might also know that it's a Progressive Metal resurrection of the classic 70s Space Rock genre, featuring a slightly heavier spin on Arjen's usual synth-heavy compositional style, with songs that are all based on iconic science fiction properties.
What you probably don't know about Star One though is that it was originally born out of a collaboration between Lucassen and Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson (Arjen writing the music and Bruce writing the lyrics), which Dickinson initially proposed; they'd already completed 4 songs together when Bruce's manager found out about the project (via Arjen talking about it on the internets) and put the kibosh on it for some reason or other.
Rather than simply abandon the project entirely at that point, Lucassen decided to put his own lyrics to the music that he'd already written, compose additional material, and put together a small (for him) ensemble cast to record it, and thus the 2002 Star One album Space Metal came into being; the result was both sublime and exceptionally nerdy, considering the source material consisted of iconic science fiction franchises such as Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, Dune, Alien, and 2001: A Space Odyssey - I laughed so hard when I realized "Songs of the Ocean" was about Star Trek IV that it hurt, heh. Fans loved it, and there was even a fairly successful tour.
And that, as far as the subset of the population who cares about this soft of thing knew for the better part of the intervening 8 years, was that - Lucassen had initially suggested that he would "probably" make another Star One album, but later stated that he thought an attempt to make a 'sequel' might ruin the magic that the first Star One album possessed and so he wasn't going to release a follow-up; after a while the people who really wanted another Star One album (like say... me) gave up on him ever changing his mind.
And then he changed his mind, and there was much rejoicing, yay!
Everything that I loved about Space Metal, such as the stellar vocal cast (Damian Wilson, Dan Swano, Russell Allen and Floor Jansen), the Prog-Metal spin on 70s Space Rock that's heavier than the composition in his main Ayreon project (more guitar riff-based versus the chord progression that's the focus of Ayreon music) while maintaining the multi-layered vocals and expansive synths, and the oh so nerdy source material (this time around we have songs about The Matrix, Firefly/Serenity, A Clockwork Orange, Planet of the Apes, Escape from New York, 12 Monkeys, Children of Men, and Blade Runner) is back - the result is an album that kicks ass at what it sets out to be, and a worthy sequel to the original.
Which I invite you to verify for yourself by giving these tracks a listen.
I am under no particular illusion though that this is anything but an album which you're either going to A) adore or B) question my sanity for recommending it to you, because there's just not a tremendous amount of 'mainstream appeal' to be found in a modern revival of Space Rock as seen through the lens of Progressive Metal - we are very much operating in "niche audience" territory with music like this. With any luck you are part of the overlap in the Venn diagram between "people who read this Guide" and "that particular niche", and my effusive praise has therefore fallen upon receptive eyes (and the music itself upon receptive ears). If you aren't a part of that niche, well
it sucks to be you I guess? I suppose you should go write your own guide to good music then! you might enjoy what I'm going to talk about next more.
Or not, as I haven't actually narrowed down just what that is going to be quite yet (just that I have a notion to do something... a bit different), I guess you'll have to read the next edition of the only Guide to Good Music that you need because I said so (and you can trust me when I say that because I am completely infallible (because I said so)) - tune in... whenever I actually get around to typing up another article, so... soonish? Or not? Only time will tell!
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