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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dawn of the Heavy Metal Composer-Guitarist

I have been queried as to whom I consider to be my peers. As far as guitar playing, there are some guitar players out there that either shun the cliches or have worked through them toward their own personal style, and they are the ones I consider my peers. Many of them aren't especially well known, but that doesn't make them any less great.

As far as overall compositional ability goes, I think that besides Uli Roth I am without peer in my genre. That is, I am the trailblazer in guitar-based heavy rock/metal composition. The way that I apply techniques like remote keys, multiple voices, motivic permutations that positively reinforce the lyric and musical themes, radical yet smoothly transitioned tempo changes, polytonality, durchkomponiert, and involved orchestration is unparalleled. I have taken the element of dissonance far beyond the worn out "extreme metal" method of obnoxious cantankerousness, and made the orchestra's involvement overall more heavy metal than it's been since Richard Strauss.

Speaking of the orchestra (I include both the Rock instruments and vocals in this designation), in our music the orchestra goes far beyond simple accompaniment. It often portrays alternating, intertwining situations and landmarks. The orchestra will also represent the inward workings of characters; it will serve the story in the way that scholars theorize the Ancient Greek choruses worked in the Classical tragedies.

The literary and thematic ramifications of all this are groundreaking developments in the genre of guitar-based heavy metal. In fact, they are landmarks for the entire Rock field. It's widely understood that Pete Townshend of the Who invented, pioneered, and perfected Rock Opera, and as brilliant as his work assuredly was, the abovementioned facets of my work revolutionizes the genre.

With my opera, Rock/Metal finally makes the full maturation from Popular Music into the profoundly Erudite, all without the losing the hard edge that constitutes the best of heavy Rock/Metal.

Up until me most everyone in Metal has been too awed by past masters. The guitarists who call themselves neo-Classicists are typically quick to be made afraid of the Great Composers and their works. Most of the blame for this lies in the musicians' putting too much stock in the opinions of critics. Yes, the works of the old masters can be unbelievable, awe-inspiring. But today is today, and what I'm doing is today. Most critics themselves are failed musicians, and will bitterly bare their teeth at anything innovative and daring, labelling it "pretentious". My question is: why defer to people whom have failed, better yet why defer whatsoever. I say, let critics toss off my work as mere entertainment, when from all perspectives it is some of the highest Art in this century, and history will prove it, long after my detractors have been buried in their own anonymity.


As intimated earlier, the only contemporary person whom I see as being especially advanced these days from a compositional perpective (operating within the same guitar-driven Rock/Metal genre as myself) is Uli Jon Roth. Though the music Uli did with Scorpions was the best they ever did, it's especially inspiring  to hear how he much he's progressed since then, both as a composer and guitar player . His work from Beyond the Astral Skies to this present day has been mostly sensational. He probably set the only real precedent before me as a heavy rock guitarist who became a Composer of real quality. I don't include Townshend in the heavy rock guitar designation, as he worked more within the British Invasion context of Rock, the one that didn't focus as much on the lead guitarist.

I've listened to/endured alot of Heavy Progressive Rock/Metal, and I can tell you as a composer that Uli has taken it the furthest before me. I feel it neccessary to mention both Karl Sanders of the band Nile and Ihsahn's work with Emperor as outstanding examples of advanced and risk taking composers, however those two are specialists in the Extreme Metal genre, a genre that I only partly explore in my own music. I respect and admire both of them.

I must mention Allan Holdsworth, as the man is probably the greatest guitarist-composer of the past fifty years, and right up there with Liszt in terms of combining virtuosity with compositional brilliance. But Allan is known by most as a Fusion Jazz-Rock musician, and rightly so. That doesn't take away from that fact that he stands above everyone in any genre, from any and all musical perspectives. He has set the bar for guitarist-composers dauntingly high, no one has even begun to scale his heights, only imitators abound.

Getting more into the genre I'm about, I also greatly admire the groundbreaking styles that players like Ritchie Blackmore and Tony Iommi brought to the fore, but ultimately none of those players (as spectacular as they are) can be categorized as composers, they are great songwriters.

I would now like to take the time to make distinctions between the words "Songwriter" and "Composer". A songwriter typically uses ideas from pre-existent structural models. That is, he or she will most often use set progressions and melodic patterns, including the classic I-V and I-IV-V, to base things on. A songwriter will also rely on harmonies and rhythms that resolve predictably, in order to set a "cruise control" type of flow to the song. Most songwriters aren't composers because they lock themselves (or are impressed upon to retain) a certain style. This is not always by choice: many feel compelled to not bring forth or even try their hand at more advanced writing because of monetary considerations, comfort issues, etc. And hey, songwriting is a more than legitimate, fulfilling way of making a living and expressing oneself.

Now, a composer can and often will apply the songwriting techniques described above. But the composer will be more often interested in adjusting the chords, progressions, harmonies, and tempos to suit his or her inspiration, not to suit some borrowed structure. The composer will use, disuse, blow up, and/or ignore traditional song progressions if those progressions are not expressing what he or she feels. If a composition requires a modulation that is remote from the home key, or an abrupt stop or start to get the composer's point across, so mote it be.

I am here to announce that there will be a wave of the future, pioneered by Uli Jon Roth and brought to fruition by me: the Heavy Metal Composer-Guitarist.