Typecast

When an actor plays a certain role for a long period of time, that actor can become what is known as typecast. This means that they have become so strongly connected with a particular role, that people automatically think of them as that character and they may even struggle to get work in roles that contrast with what they are known for. In the film ‘The Woman in Black’, where actor Daniel Radcliffe’s identification with Harry Potter is hard to see past. Actors like Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger have become typecast as the strong, robust character, who can’t seem to die in action films.

I believe the same principle can apply to music too. When a singer decides to do a side project, even if the musical style of the new group is radically different, it’s hard not to think of that new band as an evolution of the same thing. In many cases the fan base will be shared across both bands. This effect is most common for vocalists, as they tend to have the biggest presence in the factors that make us like or dislike a band, but naturally it can happen to any band member – guitarist, drummer or even triangle-players (especially if you’re a connoisseur in triangle solos).

I have brought this up in response to the news that Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington has announced that he has joined Stone Temple Pilots. Founding member and previous vocalist Scott Weiland was fired from the band in February (who also left the bands Velvet Revolver (he was about to be fired anyway) and Camp Freddy in 2008 following disputes), leaving the position of vocalist open.

As well as Linkin Park, Chester is also vocalist for his own side project called Dead By Sunrise, who are a prime example of a band which suffers from the vocalist being musically typecast. Dead By Sunrise play an almost identical style of hard rock, so much so that slipping the odd song into a Linkin Park playlist would go unnoticed. This is what surprised me about the hiring of Chester for Stone Temple Pilots, because although Chester is a very talented vocalist, he is also tremendously typecast in rock.

Upon listening to the first new track released with Chester, called “Out of Time”, it is evident that he has purposely change his vocal style to imitate the grunge-tonality which Scott Weiland was known for. Where some might say it’s a very wise decision, others may say it’s a cheap impersonation which detracts from the music. In my opinion, it was the only option if they wanted to avoid the typecasting. Business-wise it also makes sense: by changing his style, not only does it please the current Stone Temple Pilots fans, but also attracts along the Chester fans from Linkin Park, significantly increasing the fan base.

I look forward to hearing the results.

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JFK and Mickey Mouse

I remember reading the promotional sticker on the front of the CD case. It read something along the lines of: ‘like Pantera mud wrestling with Slipknot’. The description was for the debut album for a band named Five Finger Death Punch, which on first judgements, seemed to tick all the right boxes. The album, which was called ‘The Way of the Fist’, was an incredible debut, filled with everything from blistering solos, to melodic and screamed vocals and nu metal influences – it was sure to be the birth of a true metal heavyweight.

Their second record, ‘War is the Answer’, came out two years later and continued where they left off, with bigger songs and an aural hammering from vocalist Ivan Moody’s anger-filled lyrics.

Unfortunately their third album, ‘American Capitalist’ saw the band take a move in the wrong direction. Instead of evolving their sound, they were stuck on repeat, but the tracks they produced were very predictable and as a whole just sounded like a mediocre B-side collection. It’s a worrying sign when your favourite song off the album sounds like Nickelback turned nu metal, including its very own Chad Kroeger sing-along verses. After ‘The Way of the Fist’ in 2007, no one predicted they would be hit with the sickening lyrics:

“Hey ey ye yeah, Hey ey ye yeah, Hey ey ye yeah, Hey ey ye yeah, Hey ey ye yeah, Hey ey ye yeah , Johnny Cash and PBR, Jack Daniels, NasCar, Facebook, Myspace, iPod, Bill Gates, Smith and Wesson, NRA, Firewater, Paleface, Dimebag, Tupac, Heavy Metal, Hip hop…  Disneyland, White House, JFK and Mickey Mouse, John Wayne, Springsteen, Eastwood, James Dean, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Playboy, Text me, NFL, NBA, Brett Favre, King James.” (From the song ‘The Pride’)

Hardly the Pantera mud wrestling with Slipknot!

Five Finger Death Punch are currently preparing to release their latest double album effort called ‘The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell’ and have just released a new single featured Rob Halford (vocalist of Judas Priest) called ‘Lift Me Up’. When I saw this news I had hope again for the band – Rob Halford would not want to associate himself with anything too tragic. How I was wrong. Sadly the new single is another continuation of the mediocrity from ‘American Capitalist’.

The members of Five Finger Death Punch are undoubtedly very talented musicians and their debut album proved they could write decent songs, but to be a success in the future they need to evolve their sound and truly experiment with their song writing. Although just look where the bland, formulaic rock of Nickelback has got them…

I’m a Potato, are you?

I was idly looking over the line-up poster for this year’s Tech-Fest, mentally splitting bands into ones I would want and ones that I wouldn’t want to see, until my eyes were drawn to the word ‘potato’, which made up part of the band name ‘Destiny Potato’. It may look like a joke band name thought up whilst drunk in the midst of the fruit and vegetable isle , but this name is actually a genius choice because I was intrigued enough to search them in Google.

Tech-Fest is a UK festival dedicated to progressive, math-rock and djent style bands and sure enough Destiny Potato fall into the latter category. Djent is a word initially used by the band Meshuggah to describe their low, percussive, chugging style of guitar playing, until it expanded at the end of the ‘noughties’ (how I hate that term), producing enough bands to be classified as its own genre. Like all past genre-explosions (thrash, nu metal and more recently ’emo’), djent produced a spectrum of talent ranging from the lame copycat attempts, to the experimental front-runners like Tesseract, Animals as Leaders and Periphery.

Destiny Potato bring something that I haven’t heard in djent before (granted I’m not a die-hard djent fan and my aural databanks only scrape the surface), which is the use of a female vocalist. Their debut album is due to be released soon and from the handful of songs I could find online (‘Dark Side of You’ and ‘Love Song’ namely), they sound very experimental and the vocals are powerful and combine a mix of styles. On their Facebook page they call their fans potatoes – in a loving way – and I can honestly say that I have been converted to being a potato too. I’m probably looking forward to their debut album more than I’m looking forward to Tesseract’s second album ‘Altered State’, which is a testament to just how good Destiny Potato could end up becoming.

From the Oceans…

  • It’s not been a good week for metal, as both the As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis and ex-Obituary guitarist Allen West have been arrested in a murder for hire case and producing methamphetamine respectively.
  • Finnish ‘love metal’ band HIM have postponed their North American tour due to singer Ville Valo being diagnosed with asthma and assumed pneumonia. HIM were touring to support the release of their new album ‘Tears on Tape’ and this week premiered the video for the song ‘All Lips Go Blue’.

Reunions

Reunions are as much a staple of rock music as breakups are. In fact when a band splits up it is almost expected they will be back together at some point, which in many ways is a good thing, because it gives the fans hope that they will hear their favourite bands play again. There are negatives too of course; many groups will gravitate back towards each other, not for the love of music or the fans or even the friendship, but solely to milk the potential cash cow that is a reunion tour. However, the line between this and an honest reunion is greatly blurred, because when all is said and done, a band is a business like any other, with profit margins and balance sheets.

It is perhaps refreshing to see the news that the band Korn have reunited with their old guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch, who quit in 2005 after he turned to religion in an attempt to eradicate his addiction to drugs. In the January of this year, Head joined Korn on stage for some one-off shows after becoming friends with the band again and creating peace following several years of accusations from both sides. Soon after, Korn confirmed he would be playing a whole tour alongside them and during this time Head naturally integrated himself (officially) back into the band, without a large headline-grabbing announcement. Korn are now currently in the studio together, signalling the band’s intent to continue onwards with Head.

The difference between most reunions and this one, is that is was completely natural and came about through good chemistry and honesty. It also wasn’t used as a publicity stunt to announce a new album, the events just unfolded without any lavish celebrations and unnecessary attention-seeking. With the addition of one of the original members back in the band, it will be interesting to see what direction Head steers Korn, who with the last couple of releases seem to have been a bit lost and unsure where to head (pun intended).

In Other News…

  • Continuing on the theme of reunions, Black Sabbath’s new single ‘God is Dead?’ actually surprised me with how good it was. It is everything a good Black Sabbath song should be – dark riffs, eerie vocals, with solid drumming and rumbling bass lines. With the reunion being partly overshadowed by drummer Bill Ward and the rest of the band not coming to an agreement on the contract, I was expecting a rushed release and a long tour to try and please the fans, but if the album ’13’ continues on in the same vein as the single, it could be a contender for album of the year.
  • On a sad note Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman passed away on Thursday at the age of 49. He was an inspirational guitarist and responsible for Slayer classics like ‘Raining Blood’ and ‘Angel of Death’. R.I.P.