Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Variety week + Heavy MTL recap

This week we're back for a double dose of DLC, including the amazing variety of new songs from the last 2 weeks (Juanes, Avenged Sevenfold, The Stooges, Bad Religion, plus all the great RBN tracks).

Phoenix and I are back from an amazing time at Heavy MTL 2010. The festival was back in force after its 2009 sabbatical with a great line-up of 34 bands. Dates are already announced for 2011 (July 23rd and 24th), so it was a definite commercial success (40,000+ fans).

Highlights include the amazing stage theatrics of Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper, the 1st post-The Rev show with Mike Portnoy for Avenged Sevenfold, the technical wizardry of Megadeth, the chaos of Slayer, the high-flying stunt of Airbourne, the contagious enthusiasm of Anvil, plus the impressive crowd interaction of Five Finger Death Punch (see video).

We were also witness to a live rendition of 2 classic metal albums, as Megadeth played "Rust in Peace" (2010 RB DLC) and Slayer played "Seasons in the Abyss" in full. I was always impressed with Dave Lombardo's drumming on "Seasons" and it was great to see him live. As for Megadeth, their amazing new guitarist Chris Broderick played each difficult solo note for note to perfection.

Here is my top 3 DLC from last week (after playing them on drums, guitar and bass):

3. "50,000 Unstoppable Watts", by Clutch: This week was once again very impressive for RBN releases on the PS3 (top 3 all RBN). This rockin' song with a "Rage Against the Machine"-like chorus has some good riffs and some fun guitar and bass charts. The drum chart is also great as it has an awesome flowin' drum beat with frequent triplets. The sound quality of this 2009 song is much improved over their 2004 RBN song ("The Mob Goes Wild").

2. "Approach the Podium", by Winds of Plague: This group had lots of energy at Heavy MTL, opening with their great song "Chest and Horns". It was refreshing to see a metalcore band that mixes in other metal genres, in this case one of my favorite (symphonic black). "Approach the Podium" has some great riffs in the 1st half, plus some neat keyboard sections in the 2nd half. The sound is quite epic at times, with a great black metal feel at the end that sounds a bit like "Dimmu Borgir". Dimmu should definitely be in Rock Band one day, especially tracks like "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" and "Blessings upon the Throne of Tyranny". The amazing drumming of Nicholas Barker and the well-integrated keyboard sections would be lots of fun with Pro instruments in Rock Band 3.

1. "Indigo Friends", by Reverend Horton Heat: This song marks the return of psychobilly virtuoso group "Reverend Horton Heat" to music games. They had a really fun and difficult song in Guitar Hero 2 called "Psychobilly Freakout". "Indigo Friends" has a really unique jazz swing beat with lots of variety. The double pad hits and fast strumming are tough to hit at first, but when you get the hang of it it's amazingly fun. As for their GH2 song, "Reverend Horton Heat"'s music is chaotically beautiful, the riffs and solos coming in a flurry from all directions. As an added bonus the song has a neat walking bass during the guitar solos, a good "stay away from drugs" message, plus a surprise Big Rock Ending in a RBN song (I didn't know it was allowed)!

Honorable mention. "New Dark Ages", by Bad Religion: If the RBN tracks aren't your cup of tea, the regular DLC also had some interesting offerings. "The Stooges" are a classic rock band with a neat distorted sound ("No Fun" is the best of the pack). There is also a couple of songs by punk pioneers "Bad Religion". If you've played their songs before (ex: "Sorrow"), you know you can expect some fast paced drumming with lots of pedal, plus some complex strumming patterns. These 2 songs were no exception, with my favorite being "New Dark Ages". It has amazingly fun fills and a beat so fast it's hard to keep up with the deluge of alternating bass pedal patterns. The song sounds great, with many interesting vocal sections. It is probably one of the funnest recent songs on guitar and bass if you like intense strum patterns.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Break week + Heavy MTL

This week we'll be taking a break due to conflicting schedules, but we'll be back for another double DLC week next week ("The Stooges" and "Bad Religion" + "Juanes" and "Avenged Sevenfold" weeks).

The Heavy MTL metal festival in Montréal this weekend will be a treat, with 34 bands playing on Saturday and Sunday. The festival bands that have Rock Band songs are Rob Halford (22 songs, including Judas Priest), Megadeth (18), Alice Cooper (6), Rob Zombie (6, including White Zombie), Avenged Sevenfold (4), Testament (4), Anvil (3), Norma Jean (3), Five Finger Death Punch (2), In This Moment (2), 3 Inches of Blood (1), Airbourne (1), Despised Icon (1), Korn (1), Lamb of God (1), Mastodon (1), Skeletonwitch (1), Slayer (1) and Winds of Plague (1). That is 19 of 34 bands!

One interesting thing to note is that Harmonix released the RBN track by "Winds of Plague" on the PS3 this week, just in time for the festival (they are playing Sunday)! That is perfect timing, thanks! :) Perhaps someone read some of my previous posts?

Here is my top 3 DLC from last week (after playing them on sightread voxtar and solo drums):

3. "The Girl at the Video Game Store", by Parry Gripp: This was an especially strong week once again for RBN songs, with no regular DLC making this list ("Future Perfect Tense" came close with its neat intro and outro). This comedic song by singer-songwriter Parry Gripp is short and sweet. It has fun lyrics, plus a great drum chart due to the variety of fills.

2. "Trippolette", by Andrew Buch: This awesome instrumental prog song is also very short. It has a fun drum beat that is quite varied, plus a very challenging guitar solo. Apparently this was a secret song in Guitar Hero 1, but you needed a cheat device like a GameShark to unlock it.

1. "Dogs Can Grow Beards All Over", by The Devil Wears Prada: This song is interesting by default because of its quirky title, but it is my favorite of the week due to the variety of metal sounds. It is always refreshing as it goes from blackened death to brutal death to groove to metalcore to industrial... I also like the sliding bass note near the end.

Honorable mention. "Top Back", by Alias Unknown: This song deserves a special mention as it is one of the only urban or hip hop song in Rock Band (after the ones by MC Frontalot). I really like the growing diversity of genres that the RBN brings. Hopefully this trend will continue. The song sounds great, although it can be slightly repetitive. The main beat is fun and it has a few slightly more difficult sections.

Castlevania music

Last week we followed the current trend and played 2 weeks of new DLC ("CCR" and "The Vines" weeks). We gained 22M points (1281M to 1303M), which will help us move up the "All Songs" Leaderboards.

One interesting music section was the intro and outro of new DLC "Future Perfect Tense" by "Sweet Billy Pilgrim". It sounded a bit like some old school Castlevania music. But I have to say that the best Castlevania-like music sequence I've ever heard has to be in "Fatal Tragedy" by Dream Theater (starting at the 4:12 mark). The same theme is repeated slower later on the amazing "Metropolis Pt.2: Scenes from a Memory" album. That album would be really fun as the 1st RB3 full album DLC! We saw Dream Theater play "Home" in Ottawa a few weeks ago and it was epic. I can just imagine what some of the solos would look like on Pro instruments... :)

- Stars breakdown for the 28 songs: Gold stars (7), 5 stars (17), 4 stars (4, for "Trippolette", "1348", "Henchmen Ride" and "So Says I")
- Phoenix and Raikan tied for the most songs as "Top Performer" (14 each), followed by Bongoo (12)
- Bongoo was the "Worst Performer" for the most songs (26), followed by Phoenix (3) and Raikan (2)
- Raikan had the most FCs (4), followed by Phoenix and Bongoo (1 each)
- Raikan's funniest wah-wah bass moment was during "Run Through the Jungle"
- The toughest song for Bongoo to sightread voxtar was "Henchmen Ride"
- Phoenix does an amazing job playing "Henchmen Ride" on Expert drums, allowing us to get 4 stars

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Vines + CCR

This week we'll have another double DLC session, combining the "Creedence Clearwater Revival" and "The Vines" DLC weeks (28 new songs: CCR 12-pack, Vines 5-pack, 1 single, 10 RBN singles).

Here is my top 3 DLC from last week (after playing them on solo drums):

3. "1348", by Umphrey's McGee: This RBN song has one of the most unique drum charts I've seen in a long time. You never know what to expect, but each beat is fun in its own way. They categorize themselves as being a "progressive rock jam band", or doing some "progressive improvisation". It would be an amazing band to see live.

2. "Henchmen Ride", by Testament: This an another awesome song by the Bay area thrash pioneers. It has some very heavy riffs and a really tough drum chart. I had to play it on Hard drums, but it still was one of the funnest charts I've played in a while. There are at least 3 really fun beats. For some odd reason I had half the overdrive at the end but couldn't activate it. I've seen this problem in a few RBN songs, with the last energy section being too close to the end.

1. "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", by Creedence Clearwater Revival: The CCR 12-pack is highly recommended as it has an amazing variety of classic Southern Rock songs (ex: "Bad Moon Rising", "Up Around the Bend", "Fortunate Son (Original Version)", etc...), plus a surprisingly challenging drum song ("Travelin' Band"). I chose this Motown cover as my favorite because it is truly epic, being more than three times the length of the average CCR song. There is a nice variety of drum beats and fills. I love the jam feel with the lengthy guitar solos.

Honorable mention. "Battles and Brotherhood", by 3 Inches of Blood: This Canadian band has some great old school metal riffs and good energy. The drum chart was lots of fun, especially the faster part at the end, but I think it should have been classified as tier 6 instead of 7. We'll be seeing them at Heavy MTL this summer. Hopefully "Winds of Plague" and "Skeletonwitch" (other Heavy MTL bands) will soon have their RBN songs released on the PS3.

Extreme heat break

Our RB session was cancelled last week due to the extreme heat. We'll be back this week for a double dose of new DLC.

Phoenix and I braved the weather and watched the great documentary "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" in anticipation of the Heavy MTL festival in late July. It is quite the inspiring human story, I highly recommend it. Being a career musician can definitely be a challenge...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

CCR 12-pack + Anvil documentary

This week we'll play the new "Creedence Clearwater Revival" 12-pack, plus the new RBN songs on the PS3.

A few weeks ago I mentioned some RBN bands playing at Heavy MTL this summer that have some songs not yet released on the PS3. It turns out my release wishes came true as "3 Inches of Blood" and "Testament" are part of this week's PS3 RBN batch. Thanks Harmonix! The only remaining Heavy MTL bands that still have older RBN songs not released on the PS3 are "Winds of Plague" and "Skeletonwitch". These would be ideal for the next 2 weeks! :)

Anvil is another band that will be at Heavy MTL so we'll take the opportunity to watch their excellent documentary "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" before tonight's session (8.1 on IMDB).

Here is my top 3 DLC from last week (after playing them on sightread voxtar and solo drums):

3. "Burn It to the Ground", by Nickelback: There was lots of great Canadian content last week on the PS3 with Nickelback, Silverstein and Bif Naked. The Nickelback songs were lots of fun overall but they all typically follow a certain pattern. "Burn It to the Ground" was a nice surprise with some awesome riffs, a tough solo, and some very dynamic guitar and bass charts. The song is catchy and energetic and has a good variety of beats. I liked the ending on drums. Another fun drum song from Nickelback last week was "Figured You Out".

2. "Battle Royale", by The Word Alive: This is another RBN metal song that is all over the place, but as I stated in previous weeks, that can sometimes be a good thing. It is quite heavy at times and even has a tinge of electronica. The drums chart has a neat pattern with fast double bass hits, plus lots of pedal throughout. I think it should have been categorized as a tier 6 drum song instead of tier 7.

1. "Undone", by All That Remains: This is the 6th song by All That Remains in RB and once again they do not disappoint. It has awesome Gothenburg metal-like riffs, plus the usual highly technical and melodic solo. I also really liked the heavy riff after the solo. Jason Costa is a beast of a drummer, this song being another with lots of bass pedal.

Honorable mention. "American Dream", by Silverstein: This song has a great flow on drums, with a few really fun patterns. The singer can sometimes be a bit annoying, but overall it is a very energetic and catchy song with a few heavier sections.

Epic wah-wah bass moments!

This week we had some epic wah-wah bass moments that either had us shaking in our boots (or socks), or made us stop playing as we laughed hysterically.

Of particular note was "Last Night on Earth", where during the overdrive it really felt like a 2nd earthquake had hit Ottawa (we had a 5.0 one recently). We did turn on "Bass Boost" in the options recently, but I'm sure it still would have felt pretty intense without it.

The craziest wah-wah bass moment definitely goes to "See You Again" by Miley Cyrus, where even the non-overdrive intro had a bass sound that was hilariously over the top. We hardly ever restart unless we miss the first unison bonus, but the sound that came out of those speakers during the overdrive was the cause of our first ever laughter-induced restart... :)

DMan couldn't make it to the session after all, so we had our usual line-up with Bongoo on voxtar, Phoenix on drums and Raikan on bass. We actually managed to finish all the remaining Green Day songs on top of the 2 weeks of new DLC, so it was an especially long but productive session. It helped that it was Canada Day the next day.

We gained 37M points (1244M to 1281M), which would technically move us up to 9th place in the "All Songs" Leaderboards the next time it is updated.

- Stars breakdown for the 45 songs: Gold stars (6), 5 stars (34), 4 stars (4, for "Burn It to the Ground", "Battle Royale", "Before the Lobotomy" and "Jumper '09"), 3 stars (1, for "Undone")
- Raikan was the "Top Performer" for the most songs (27), followed by Phoenix (11) and Bongoo (7)
- Bongoo was the "Worst Performer" for the most songs (39), followed by Phoenix (2) and Raikan (1)
- Raikan had the most FCs (2), followed by Bongoo (1)
- Raikan's funniest wah-wah bass moments were during "See You Again", "Last Night on Earth", "21st Century Breakdown", "American Eulogy" and "Sick"
- We all get 99% on "Restless Heart Syndrome", but Phoenix gets the edge as "Top Performer", giving Raikan his first and only "Worst Performer" song of the night