Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Disturbed

This week we'll play the new DLC, as well as play our worst songs by star. This includes 3 songs from the new Disturbed album. I've played them on solo drums and I know that Phoenix will wish he already bought a dual bass pedal for his KD-8 (at least for 2 of the songs)...

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

3. "Sins of My Youth", by Neon Trees:

This pop-rock song has a good sound, but what makes it stand is its awesome drum chart. It has 2-3 fairly simple but fun beats, then a great "Maps"-like section closer to the end. The bass chart has enough movement to stay interesting. There is also a fun triple chord pattern on guitar.

2. "Blow at High Dough", by The Tragically Hip:

As Canadians, it's hard not to love playing this "The Hip" classic from 1989. The band has a great rockin' sound with a steady beat that is simple but fun. The repeating bass pattern has some good movement and gives the song a good backbone. The lead guitar is pretty simple but it is always interesting due to its variety.

1. "Unfurling A Darkened Gospel", by Job for a Cowboy:

This death metal band has an awesome heavy sound, alternating between fast and slow sections. The song is crazy on Expert drums (failed right away), but it is great on Hard drums due to its variety of patterns. The guitar and bass chart are also very fun due to the neat hammer-on sections. It is my favorite song of the week because it has great charts for all instruments and it is always changing and interesting.

Honorable mention. "Mandelbrot Set", by Jonathan Coulton:

This week had some good moments like the simple but great sound of "The Black Keys", the fun "Science Genius Girl"-like beat at the end of "Let The Games Begin", and the amazingly dynamic hammer-on sections of "Hook, Line, and Sinner", I have to give another nod to the great Jonathan Coulton. While "Mandelbrot Set" is not as obviously funny as some other Coulton songs due to its subtle math humour (except for the hilarious "badass f'n fractal"), it is worth mentioning due to its awesome drum chart. It has 3-4 fun beats, the best part being the complex but doable fills with some great pad action. The bass chart is simple but it has a great guitar chart with a variety of chord patterns.

All songs played

Last week we managed to catch up by playing all 32 unplayed songs. That will allow us to concentrate only on new DLC this week, as well as our worst songs by star (ex: we have 5 3-star songs). We added 26M points to our total (1324M to 1350M).

- Stars breakdown for the 32 songs: Gold stars (5), 5 stars (19), 4 stars (7), 3 stars (1, for "Crushed Beyond Dust")
- Raikan and Bongoo were the "Top Performers" for the most songs (14 each), followed by Phoenix (8)
- Bongoo was the "Worst Performer" for the most songs (17), followed by Raikan (6) and Phoenix (5)
- Bongoo had the most FCs (4), followed by Raikan (1)
- Raikan's funniest wah-wah bass moments were during "Blow at High Dough", "Bulletproof", "I Got Mine", "The Crying Machine (Live)"
- Bongoo got double "Top Performer" for "Is There a Ghost" (FCs for guitar and vocals), while Raikan and Phoenix tie for "Worst Performer" (both at 99%). Apart from a few full band FCs, this might be the 1st time we have 4 people to mention for top and worst
- Phoenix showed great skills on drums, allowing us to pass "Crushed Beyond Dust" and "Hook, Line, and Sinner" on Expert (even getting 4 stars for the latter)
- Raikan managed to get "Worst Performer" and "Band Savior" on the same song ("Hook, Line, and Sinner")...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rammstein confirmed + RBN metal

This week we'll catch up again as we have 21 songs remaining from previous weeks, plus the 11 new ones from this week (2 new bands with 3 songs each, plus the 5 RBN). This includes another Jonathan Coulton song ("Mandelbrot Set") and the first one by Canadian rockers "The Tragically Hip" ("Blow at High Dough").

It's almost certainly a coincidence, but a few days after my Rammstein wishlist post, it was confirmed that "Du Hast" will be in RB3! :) Thanks Harmonix! Hopefully we'll eventually get some DLC as well.

I was looking at the genres for the 90 RBN songs released so far on the PS3:
32 - Metal
26 - Rock
10 - Indie Rock
7 - Alternative
4 - Novelty
3 - Punk
2 - Pop-Rock
2 - Prog
1 - New Wave
1 - Nu-Metal
1 - Other
1 - Urban

I find it awesome that metal tops the list. Most of the time it is songs that are selling well that are ported over to the PS3 so it proves that there was untapped demand for it. A whole range of metal subgenres would never have been represented if not for the RBN (ex: blackened thrash and technical melodic death, the 2 genres for songs that are 1st in my top 3 for the last 2 weeks).

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

3. "Tree Village", by Dance Gavin Dance:

Once again the top 3 is all from the RBN. The normal DLC had some fun old school Ministry classics like "Jesus Built My Hotrod" (ding-a-long-ling-long...), but the variety and quality of RBN offerings makes them stand out. First off we have a "metal" song that is amazingly mellow and melodic for a complex and heavy song (Wikipedia says the band is "post-hardcore"). I loved the part with the heavier vocals and the clean vocal one that followed. There are 2 or 3 really unique and fun beats, but if you're on Expert watch out for a really difficult rolling beat. It's even tough to hold a streak on Hard drums during the first roll and intense last section. The guitar chart is also fun due its variety. There are some tough sections with lots of movement and complex strumming (ex: 4 notes when you expect 3).

2. "Icarus' Song", by Furly:

Apparently this was a day 1 RBN song on the 360 that was composed entirely for the RBN. This really shows in the high quality of the charts, but the song itself has a great sound and is very melodic. The singer has a good range and the keyboard fits in nicely. The highlight by far is the variety of the drum chart, which is always changing with 3-4 interesting beats. The best section is the awesome fast beat with lots of pad action near the end. The bass chart is pretty simple, but the guitar one has enough chord changes to stay interesting.

1. "We Are The Nightmare", by Arsis:

Be afraid, be very afraid... When the RBN release info for this song mentioned that playing "Visions" on drums would be a warmup for this song, they weren't kidding. This is the 1st song in 1400+ RB songs I've played where I couldn't even 5 star on Hard difficulty. It pretty much exists on its own as a "tier 8" drum song. It made for an interesting first play on Expert: Odd the intro isn't charted, this doesn't sound too difficult, hmm the drum in the background has an awful lot of bass pedal, it'll probably start soon... WTF wall of notes, fail! :) Arsis is a technical melodic death metal band, and you can guess from my warning where the "technical" aspect comes from. The song's great variety of complex riffs have a well-balanced mix of melody and heaviness. It was really fun to FC on Medium drums (even the Medium chart has a few tricky parts...). The blast beats near the end sound insane so I can just imagine what they look like on the Expert chart. The bass chart was quite fun but it is actually overtiered (should be a 5 or 6).

Honorable mention. "Descend Into the Eternal Pits of Possession", by The Project Hate MCMXCIX:

I could easily have picked "The Crying Machine (Live)" by Steve Vai due to its awesome bass line during the main riff and its interesting violin solos, but I can't help to give a special mention to this epic track due to its value for money. The song is roughly 10 minutes long and costs only $1. This is in contrast to the occasional average length song at $3 (ex: "Blow at High Dough"). If you play this melodic death metal song on Expert drums, watch out for a crazy fast beat 3 minutes into the song (at least it's not at the 9 minute mark...). The song has lots of interesting sections, alternatively sounding like "Lacuna Coil" (female singer sections) and "Bolt Thrower" (male voice chorus). It likely would have made my top 3 if the charts and\or audio didn't have a disjointed and muddy feel, for example during the intro and before the 1st off-tune piano section. This is another song where I wondered why a section wasn't charted (drums during 2nd off-tune piano part). The guitar was fun during the "Bolt Thrower"-like sections (at least on Hard; Expert has some really intense strumming).

Kevin Bacon tastes odd

Last week we managed to catch up a bit and played 13 songs out of the 34 on our to-play list (unplayed + 3-star), gaining about 12M points.

- Stars breakdown for the 13 songs: Gold stars (3), 5 stars (5), 4 stars (5)
- Raikan was the "Top Performer" for the most songs (6), followed by Bongoo (4) and Phoenix (3)
- Bongoo was the "Worst Performer" for the most songs (8), followed by Phoenix (2) and Raikan (1)
- There were no FCs
- Raikan's funniest wah-wah bass moment was during "Yerbatero"
- Bongoo got "Top Performer" (vocals) and "Worst Performer (guitar) on the highly unusual "Tastes Like Kevin Bacon" by "iwrestledabearonce"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Catching up

This week we'll have a shortened session, but we'll still try to catch up on some unplayed DLC. We have the 26 songs we planned to play last week, plus the 8 new ones from this week (3 old school Ministry songs + 5 RBN).

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

3. "Sturm & Drang", by KMFDM:

I didn't expect industrial metal pioneers KMFDM to be back so soon, as they recently had a RBN song released to the PS3 ("Juke Joint Jezebel"). It's nice to see that are now part of the bands with "offical" Harmonix released DLC. This newer song has great flow and a neat drum beat. I liked the part in the quieter section that has a rolling beat with missing notes. The highlight of the song is the bassline as it is quite dynamic. It might seem like a marathon song on bass due to the constant movement and strumming, but for the main riff it is much easier if you hold your index down and tap the rest of the notes. For guitar, I liked the synth section after the solo. Now if only they could release a Rammstein DLC pack (see last post)...

2. "Saturday Morning", by Eels:

I knew nothing of this group so this rockin' song was a nice surprise. It has a great sound and lots of energy. The beat sounds simple but the drum chart has amazing variety. It would be a great song to practice different pad patterns while doing constant pedal (ex: like some common "The Who" beats but slower). The guitar chart is quite simple, but it has enough variation to stay interesting, especially in the last solo.

1. "Crushed Beyond Dust", by Skeletonwitch:

Unfortunately we missed this group at Heavy MTL last month while walking towards the festival grounds (we missed only 2 of the 28 festival bands from the 2 main stages). What makes them unique is that they play a really unique genre called blackened thrash metal. You can often associate black metal with death metal (ex: Behemoth) or symphonic metal (ex: Dimmu Borgir), but I've rarely heard it incorporated into thrash metal. This band blends these styles really well (ex: section in middle of song). What is also neat is that the singer's voice blends really well with the music. The drums on Hard difficulty were lots of fun due to the nice flow (too crazy on Expert). The bass chart was also really fun due to the variety of non-stop riffs. If you play guitar, prepare for some crazy fast strumming on Expert, plus a really insane chord pattern at the end.

Honorable mention. "Elements", by Texas in July:

Last week's charts had lots of great moments, including the fun double hit patterns on drums in the 2nd half of "Heads or Tails? Real or Not", the fast pattern that happens twice on guitar in the 1st half of "Bulletproof", the rolling beat at the end of "The Perfect Crime #2", the surprising chords on bass in "I Only Want You", the interesting sounds of "Rapture" and the fun bass pedal pattern during "Jesus Freak", but the guitar chart of "Elements" takes the cake for being one of the most dynamic ever. It is really hard to keep up with its frenetic pace, but it is really fun to try. The bass chart was also fun due its variety. As for the song itself, I'd say it is above average for metalcore, but the neat charting more than makes up for it.

Rammstein night

Last week we didn't play Rock Band because Raikan was unavailable. Phoenix and I took the opportunity to watch some amazing Rammstein concerts (1998: Live Aus Berlin DVD, 2005 from France: Völkerball DVD).

They have the best live show in the business, with amazing pyro effects, interesting stage theatrics (especially between the singer and keyboardist) and great atmosphere. I can attest to that as I've seen them live every time they've come to Canada:
- 1999: Metropolis - Montréal
- 2001: Metropolis - Montréal
- 2010: Plaines d'Abraham - Québec

I've managed to get to the front for each concert and really feel the heat from the flames. The highlight was definitely the show in Québec as it was outdoors with a crowd of more than 100,000 people. The open sky allowed for an even greater variety of effects (see "Rammstein Québec" videos on Youtube). It's the craziest concert I've ever seen for many reasons (size of crowd, fight for survival at the front, raw energy from the band, variety of pyro and fireworks, etc...).

If you want to see their concert for this tour in full, search for "fuckingdevotee 2010-05-22" on Youtube (link here). It was 1 of 3 nights in Berlin in May, with all 18 songs filmed in HD by a fan. The band might eventually release a DVD from one of those nights. Here is the setlist if you want to see it in order:

- Rammlied
- Bückstabü
- Waidmanns Heil
- Keine Lust
- Weisses Fleisch
- Feuer Frei
- Wiener Blut
- Frühling in Paris
- Ich tu Dir weh
- Du Riechst So Gut
- Benzin
- Links 234
- Du Hast
- Pussy
- Sonne
- Haifisch
- Ich Will
- Engel

In Québec it was the same order of songs, but without "Weisses Fleisch" and "Engel". They played after it was dark outside so the effects were even more prominent than at the beginning of the Berlin show on Youtube. Some of the pyro and fireworks were also a bit more elaborate (ex: "Pyro line over crowd and explosion on stage during "Du Hast", intense flames at the end of "Sonne", etc...).

It is high time that this truly unique band comes to Rock Band (they have 1 song in "Guitar Hero 5" and 1 in the upcoming "Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock"). I'm surprised this hasen't happened already considering the recent support for industrial metal in Rock Band (ex: Ministry, KMFDM).

There are so many good songs to choose from, but if I had to limit it to a 12-pack, it would be:
- Ich Will
- Du Hast (EDIT: already in RB3, so I'll put "Tier" instead)
- Sehnsucht
- Du Riechst So Gut
- Mein Herz brennt
- Sonne
- Mutter
- Engel
- Morgenstern
- Ich tu dir weh
- Benzin
- Reise, Reise

Thursday, August 5, 2010

13 different bands!

This week will be awesome for diversity as the new DLC includes 13 different bands (8 singles + 5 RBN)! We'll also be playing the 9 DLC we didn't have time to complete last week, plus we'll play the 4 songs where we got 3 stars at the last session. This will keep our "4 stars +" record intact for the entire Rock Band catalog on the PS3.

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

3. "River of Tuoni", by Amberian Dawn:

Finnish symphonic power metal standouts Amberian Dawn are back with another great track. Their previous RBN release "He Sleeps in a Grove" was one of the best in recent memory and this one also sounds great. Their singer has a really good operatic voice that meshes well with the music, especially in the chorus and the buildup to it. I liked the guitar riffs throughout the song, the guitar solo, plus the neat sound they create in the intro. The guitar chart is very dynamic and includes some tough trills. Watch out for some crazy bass pedal on drums! It is songs like this that make me want to buy a dual pedal right now (will need it for Pro drums in RB3). I hope this genre gets some more releases in the future. I would especially like some Tarja-era Nightwish (ex: the epic "Ghost Love Score").

2. "La Camisa Negra", by Juanes:

This Columbian rocker creates an amazingly catchy sound in many tracks (ex: "A Dios le Pido", "Mala Gente"), but none more so than in "La Camisa Negra". The melodic Latin disco sound in this song is highly infectious. In most of his songs the Spanish guitar riffs and solos are a refreshing change to the usual fare. Some of his tracks also layer in a lot of instruments to create a neat wall of sound effect (ex: I love the addition of the accordion in "Fíjate Bien"). I was happy to learn this morning that he will have a song in RB3. What would be amazing for Latin songs in Rock Band would be "Canción del Mariachi (Morena de Mi Corazón)" by Los Lobos (intro song from the movie "Desperado"). It is very melodic and has some some impressive guitar playing.

1. "Nightmare", by Avenged Sevenfold:

Seeing Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy play with Avenged Sevenfold for the 1st time was one of the highlights of the Heavy MTL festival (sadly, their drummer "The Rev" passed away late last year so Mike is filling in temporarily). I can also say that playing some Mike Portnoy in a song from Avenged Sevenfold's latest CD is also quite a treat. The short fills in the intro are a challenge because they are blazingly fast, plus it has a few really fun and rapid alternating "bass pedal\double pad" sections. In the same sections, the guitar and bass charts have some awesome fast single note sequences. Overall it's a great song due to its many interesting transitions and impressive sound. As usual for this band, it is very melodic and technical. If you get their other DLC, watch out for the mother of all trills at the end of "Seize the Day"!

Honorable mention. "Goth Girls", by MC Frontalot:

Nerdcore pioneer MC Frontalot's "Goth Girls" is a great example of what makes this artist unique. It has impeccable sound production and a great theme. I quite enjoyed the lyrics of his previous track "Origin of Species" due to it parodying of intelligent design and creationism, and this one is also quite entertaining. It has a dark sound with a groovy bassline and a fun unique beat. If you're a fan of unique sounding guitar charts, you'll have a treat with this song. You'll be playing some guitar, piano, violin, accordion and some bells, all on the same track! :)

Honorable mention #2. "Tastes Like Kevin Bacon", by "iwrestledabearonce":

I'll make an exception this week and have a 2nd honorable mention, if only for the zanyness of the band name and song name. But you'd be mistaken if you thought the crazyness didn't extend from the lingual to the aural realm. Avant-garde metal is probably one of the most chaotic subgenres of music ever invented. Pretty much anything goes (ex: Montrealers "Unexpect" are said to include elements of black metal, death metal, thrash metal, progressive metal, melodic heavy metal, classical music, dark cabaret, opera, medieval music, jazz, funk, electro, ambient, noise, gypsy music and circus music...). That can sometimes be a disaster, but you'll occasionally get some moments of brilliance. I'm a bit on the fence on this particular track by "iwrestledabearonce", but it does grow on me on each listen, which is generally the mark of good music (like a fine wine that ages well). Be prepared for an onslaught of sounds, from brutal death metal, to dance metal, to avant-garde Disney deathcore! :) From a player's perspective, watch out for a tough up and down chord section on bass in the middle of the song. I was very surprised to hit the pattern correctly once (no lost multiplier).

RB3 practice session

Last week was almost a Rock Band 3 practice session as Phoenix used his Roland electronic drum kit to get a feel for playing with more inputs. Apart from some lag issues that I assume won't be an issue in RB3, it was a good way to practice for the transition to Pro instruments this Fall.

For Rock Band 3 we'll be doing some 3-part harmonies, so Raikan had his turn practicing doing 2 instruments at once (Vocals + Bass = Voxass?). Normally Bongoo does some sightread voxtar for the new DLC (Vocals + Guitar). Perhaps Phoenix can give it a try soon while drumming (Voxrum?).

The session was also special due to a surprise visit by Phoenix's high school friends. Sylvie also showed up and she played 2 songs on Bass. We had time to play 15 of the 24 new DLC of the last 2 weeks, gaining 9M points (1303M to 1312M) in the process. This will help us continue our climb of the "All Songs" Leaderboards. We had a lower average points per song than usual due to the RB3 practice but it was worth it for the experience gained.

- Stars breakdown for the 15 songs: 5 stars (6), 4 stars (5), 3 stars (4, for "Gotas de Agua Dulce", "Mala Gente", "New Dark Ages" and "Nightmare (Avenged Sevenfold)")
- Bongoo was the "Top Performer" for the most songs (13), followed by Sylvie (2) and Pheonix (1)
- Raikan was the "Worst Performer" for the most songs (9), followed by Phoenix (6)
- Bongoo had the only FC of the night
- Raikan's funniest wah-wah bass moments were during "Approach the Podium", "La Camisa Negra", "How We Roll", "Goth Girls" and "Indigo Friends"
- It was awesome to play the accordion twice in 1 session on guitar ("Fíjate Bien" and "Goth Girls"). What were the odds of having 2 accordion DLC in 1 week?
- We kept failing during the "Nightmare (Avenged Sevenfold)" intro, only to realize after 6 tries that we had accidentally removed the overdrive before the set! :)