Thursday, September 23, 2010

Last session at Phoenix's for now

This week will be our last session at Phoenix's house for the time being as Raikan is moving west of Ottawa and won't have transportation. We'll likely have our sessions at his place for the next little while.

Our goal will be to continue to catch up on September's DLC.

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

3. "Writing on the Walls", by Underoath:

This song is from a 2006 album, right in the middle of the other 2 Underoath songs previously released for Rock Band (2004 was emo, 2008 was metal). This song seemed like a good mix of the two genres, blending quiet melodic segments with pretty heavy sections very well. I liked the drum chart due to its variety and good pad action, plus its fills with varying speeds. There were a few challenging sections but it never felt impossible. Always assume the song is not over until it's over (played the last section with my hands in the middle of the drum sticks...). The bass chart is not too exciting, but the guitar one has enough variety to stay interesting (ex: a few hammer-on sections are fun).

2. "The Final Episode (Let's Change the Channel)", by Asking Alexandria:

This song has awesome riffs and also has a great blend and heaviness and melody. I liked the techno add-in at the end (not typical in metal, but can add some flair when mixed in correctly). The drum chart is pretty diverse and has lots of bass pedal, while the bass one has a dymanic 1st half. The guitar chart has some fast strumming in the 1st half and is quite fun during the techno part.

1. "Holy Diver", by Dio:

This is a classic epic metal song from the late Ronnie James Dio, which you'll remember from Guitar Hero 80s. It has a great driving rhythm with lots of variety, including some fun fills and quick hits. The neat galloping riffs on guitar and bass are a treat to play. The guitar solo seemed tougher than the one in Guitar Hero 80s.

Honorable mention. "Nightlife Commando", by Bang Camaro:

This week had a lot of other great moments, including the fun solos in "Swallow the Razor", the groovy bassline of "This Charming Man", the tough triple chords of "Irish Blood, English Heart", the fun driving beat of "Stand Up and Shout" and the unique tribal beat and vocals in the intro of "Africa", but I have to give my special nod to Bang Camaro's "Nightlife Commando", another bombastic rock song from this charismatic group. It has a good simple drum chart with a neat roll in the middle. The acoustic guitar in the intro sounds neat and is fun to play. The bass is fairly simple, but the guitar chart has a neat chugging riff and some melodic solos. You kind of wonder why they need so many singers to just repeat the title of the song, but I guess that's what gives this group that special something...

Party time

Last week we finally managed to have a session and started catching up on some DLC. We played 17 songs, going up 17M points in the process (1350M to 1367M).

One interesting event was the knock on the door mid-session. We assumed it was Phoenix's next-door neighbour, who would usually ask us to turn down the volume past 11:00 PM. What we had forgotten was that this was a once-in-a-blue-moon Friday night session, so it turned out to be one of Phoenix's female neighbours from down the hall inviting us to a party (he had only met her once a year prior). Phoenix is recently single, so he was happy to find out that almost all attendees were female. After the mini-party, we came back to our session and wondered, what the hell just happened? I guess you never know what can happen when you're rockin' to this great game... ;)

- Stars breakdown for the 17 songs: Gold stars (4), 5 stars (11), 4 stars (1), 3 stars (1, for "Buster Voodoo")
- Bongoo was the "Top Performer" for the most songs (10), followed by Raikan (8) and Phoenix (4)
- Bongoo was the "Worst Performer" for the most songs (12), followed by Phoenix (6) and Raikan (3)
- Raikan and Bongoo had 1 FC each
- Raikan's funniest wah-wah bass moments were during "The Price" and "Asylum"
- We get 999K for "Seasons"...

Friday, September 17, 2010

4 weeks of DLC

We didn't have a chance to play last week due to Raikan's new work hours, but we'll be back this week for a special Friday session. We'll start catching up on 4 weeks of DLC (Disturbed, Country, Snoop Dogg and Dio weeks).

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

3. "Valkyries", by Amberian Dawn:

This is another fun symphonic power metal song. It is not as heavy as previous Amberian Dawn RBN releases, but is still worth checking out. The constant pedal beat is fun but can get tiring. The guitar and bass charts have tough variable strumming, with some sections that are constant and fast. The guitar solo is short and challenging. The keyboard part in the intro would be fun to play in RB3, but it is unlikely that current RBN tracks have that charted. The vocals were not too difficult, but as usual the female singer has a good operatic voice.

2. "Wake Up", by Me Talk Pretty:

This neat sounding group is like a "rock" version of Lacuna Coil with soaring vocals and heavy riffs. The drum chart is really fun due to a unique flowing beat. It has an odd pattern due to the bass pedal and lots of pad action, but it feels great when you get it. There is nice variety in the groovy bass chart, with slow and fast parts, plus occasional chords. There are simple chord changes on guitar but they are still fun. The singer has a good range.

1. "Bleed", by Meshuggah:

This song will make your ears bleed, but in a good way... :) The volume for RBN songs is louder than regular DLC, so after playing the Snoop Dogg tracks on drums, it was kind of a rude awakening to play this song, especially with my right speaker being fairly close to my drums. This 8 min. song has an awesome chugging technical death metal feel, with non-stop heavy riffs with complex time signatures except for one short interlude near the end. The drum chart is really tough but has at least 4 really fun patterns with loads of bass pedal. There is crazy strumming on Expert guitar and bass, so I had to play it on Hard difficulty. The guitar chart on Hard has some interesting sections that mix singles and chords.

Honorable mention. "We Are the One", by Anti-Flag:

Last week had a few interesting songs from Snoop Dogg (more so the Re-Records than the Mixes due to the better instrumentation, ex: guitar, flute), but the song that deserves special mention is the neat sounding RBN punk song, "We Are the One". It has a fast beat with 2-3 patterns so it can be challenging to keep up. What makes it stand out is a really awesome dynamic bass chart. On guitar there is also a great variety of chord patterns, plus the "Whao, Whao, Whao-ao" section is fun to sing.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Disturbed, Country and... Snoop?

Last week we couldn't play due to conflicting schedules, so we're finally back this week for a triple dose of new DLC! I think this will be one of the most diverse session we've ever had (Disturbed, Country and Snoop Dogg)! If they ever released more SpongeBob SquarePants songs, followed by more Cannibal Corpse the following week, then it would beat this combination... :)

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

3. "Women", by Jamey Johnson:

This cheekily funny song ("they're all craaaaaazy"...) is my 2nd favorite of the 4th Country pack, mainly due to its really fun hammer-on sections in the guitar solos. The twangy guitar chart also has some quick singles and chords throughout the song, plus a somewhat odd outro. The bass is constant and simple. As for the drum chart, there is enough variation for it to stay interesting.

2. "What Was I Thinkin'", by Dierks Bentley:

Dierks Bentley had one of my favorite tracks of the 1st country pack with "Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)", so I'm wasn't too surprised that he ended up having my favorite of the 4th. As usual for this artist, the song has great rhythm and energy. The drum chart includes 3-4 fun beats, including a neat one with the green pad. The song has a very dynamic guitar chart with a great mix of chords and singles, plus a fun solo. The groovy bass chart also has lots of movement. On top of all this, the semi-raunchy story will keep you entertained.

1. "Seven", by Sunny Day Real Estate:

This RBN song tops my list due to its really amazing drum chart. It has 3-4 fast beats with constant movement and variation, but it is never impossible. There is a great section with stop/start sequences, plus another fun one with "double pad/bass pedal" alternating. The bass chart has a tough pattern at the beginning, but it then gets easier. The fast and fun chord patterns on guitar can sometimes be challenging. If only all emo songs were as enjoyable to play as this one...

Honorable mention. "Do Not Disturb (Tell Me How Bad)", by Let's Get It:

There were lots of other higlights last week, including some great hammer-ons and taps on guitar in "Bang Camaro" (also features an army of cowbell vocalists...), the always impressive riffs and solos of Five Finger Death Punch in "Hard to See", the awesome unique flowing beat at the very end of "Days Go By", the challenging patterns and variety on guitar in "Would You Go With Me", the quick double notes on guitar and bass on "It Happens", plus the impressive range on vocals in "Hell on the Heart" and "Fancy", but I have to reserve my special mention for the neat sounding pop-rock RBN song by Let's Get It. The main reason is due to its challenging and fun vocals that are all over the place. It also includes a tough rolling beat on Expert and a good diversity of beats. The guitar and bass charts are simple but the rhythm changes keep them interesting.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Country is back!

This week we'll catch up on last week's DLC (Disturbed, etc...), plus play the new Country pack. That's right, country is back with a vengeance with an all-new 9-pack (called pack #4, although #2 and #3 were released as one "Track Pack" last summer). The country songs in RB are usually a lot of fun on guitar and sometimes have complex vocals, so they will be fun to sightread on voxtar.

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

3. "Bury Me Alive", by We Are The Fallen:

This gothic metal band with ex-members of Evanescence is quite melodic. Their singer has a deeper voice than Amy Lee and has a good range. I liked the orchestration in the background near the end, but the outro is overly long. The drum chart has a nice steady beat with a good amount of variety, especially in the buildup and the outro. The guitar and bass charts are fairly simple, but the song is fun to listen to so it's not really an issue. I know I've mentioned this before, but I'm hoping we eventually get some Tarja-era Nightwish (ex: "Ghost Love Score"). I think of this every time I hear this genre in RB.

2. "The Great Plains", by Scale the Summit:

This song is an awesome prog instrumental from some very talented musicians. It has a neat flowing beat with great variety and a nice use of triplets. The guitar and bass charts are also quite diverse. I especially like the hammer-ons throughout on guitar (especially in the 2nd solo). The song is not overly difficult but it is always fun and interesting. We definitely need more from this genre, and the RBN is a great platform for it. I hope the Guitar Hero 2 instrumental classic "Gemini" is eventually added.

1. "The Animal", by Disturbed:

This song is my favorite of the week due to its really amazing drum chart. It has a great flow with 3-4 rolling patterns. It doesn't have a crazy constant pedal section like the other 2 new Disturbed songs. The song itself has a neat groove and some nice melodies with a good vocal range. There is a great bass section after the interesting but slightly off-tune guitar solo. As usual for Disturbed, the song has some triple chords on guitar, but it is fairly easy. I wonder why these new songs are classified as metal instead of nu-metal (all previous Disturbed songs), even though they are very similar to their older material. Nu-metal has a negative connotation as a genre due to its commercialization and simplification of metal in the late 90s and early 2000s so that might be the reason.

Honorable mention. "Buster Voodoo", by Rodrigo y Gabriela:

This is another great instrumental RBN song, this time omitting drums as well. The Spanish-style guitar strumming is quite a challenge, alternating between sections with 3, 4, 8 notes, etc... I like how they charted the rhythm guitar as the bass (reminds me of Guitar Hero 2 co-op). The song is quite unique and it has some really tough guitar solos.

Hong Kong Cinema

Last week we didn't play RB as Raikan was sick. Instead, I shared one of my favorite Hong Kong movies with Phoenix.

As you can imagine from this blog and the website I created (, I tend to get pretty involved in my hobbies. My passion between 1996 and 2001 was Hong Kong cinema. I owned hundreds of DVDs and even went as far as writing a movie script.

Like most people who got into Hong Kong cinema, it started with Jackie Chan movies. My collection grew to include classics from John Woo, Jet Li, Stephen Chow, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Wong Kar-wai, Anthony Wong, etc...

Last week we watched an original version (Cantonese + English subtitles) of what I consider to be Jackie Chan's greatest achievement, "Drunken Master 2" (released here as "The Legend of Drunken Master"). The final 20-minute multi-part fight sequence is one of the most impressive in movie history. The period between "Drunken Master 1" (1978) and "Drunken Master 2" (1994) is to me the pinnacle of Jackie Chan's career.

In future weeks, we'll likely watch what I consider to be Jet Li's best ("Fist of Legend") and Tony Jaa's best ("Ong Bak", a Thailand modern action classic). We'll also see the John Woo movie with the best action scenes ("Hard Boiled", although "The Killer" is a better overall movie). I might even share my favorite Stephen Chow comedies ("God of Cookery" and "Love on Delivery").