Before we continue the final countdown, the honorable mentions for this batch will be listed first. They are: Edguy - King of Fools; Jason Aldean - Tonight Looks Good on you; Mark Chesnutt - Bubba Shot the Jukebox; Avantasia - Sign of the Cross; Highwaymen - Born and raised in black and white; Ricardo Arjona ft Intocable - Mojado; Otep - Apex Predator; Mago de Oz - La Costa del Silencio; Rata Blanca - Mujer Amante; Thursday - Cross out the eyes; Macklemore - Starting over/10,000 hours; Lil' Wayne - Drop the world
Author update: So, I had typed up every song entry and then lost the damn page. So I'm re-writing everything and that is why this Tuesday blog is going live on Wednesday. UGH.
20. QBO - No Mas
A great song by a great band. It talks about leaving an abusive relationship, which again, had no bearing on my life at that point. I just really liked the message of hope in it: "Al fin, no tengo mas cadenas, no, mas, de, ti!" (At last, I don't have any more chains! No more of you!"
19. Amon Amarth - Deceiver of the Gods
Amon Amarth puts on some badass shows and when they introduce this song, frontman Jonah Hegg leads with "THIS SONG IS ABOUT DECEITFUL MOTHERFUCKER....LOKI!" in his thick Swedish accent. The chorus goes: ASGARD'S ALWAYS BEEN MY HOME / BUT I'M OF DIFFERENT BLOOD! / I WILL OVERTHROW THE THRONE! / DECEIVER, DECEIVER OF THE GODS. God, that call to rebellion makes me want to write furiously.
18. Stratovarius - Hunting High and Low / Black Diamond
The reason I think why I was so drawn to power/symphonic metal during my formative metalhead years was that I discovered that metal didn't always have to fit into this dark, gloom-and-doomy stereotype. (Not always, anyway, as I'm sure bands like Suffocation, Entombed, Severe Torture, and Septicflesh aren't singing about puppies and butterflies) Stratovarius has a wide wealth of lyrical content and the two songs I picked focus on love searching, and love lost. Black Diamond in particular is a good way to exercise the fingers as the song leads in with a harpsichord-sounding solo.
17. TIE: Immortal Technique - The 4th Branch | Symphony X - Masquerade '98
Two songs that are good writing songs because they portray just how diverse two things (lyrics and music) can be within the span of a song. Immortal Technique raps political songs and the first verse is SO GOOD that every time I hear it I want to write rap.
The voice of racism preaching / the gospel is devilish / fake church called the prophet Muhammad a terrorist / forgetting God is not a religion but a spiritual bond / and Jesus is the most quoted prophet in the Qur'an
Now Symphony X doesn't do much in the way of lyrics. They have them, don't get me wrong, but the main effort of their music goes beyond that, creating soundscapes with just music.
16. Theatre of Tragedy - A Hamlet for a Slothful Vassal
This song is one of my favorite driving songs and because of that it is also a favorite writing song. Unfortunately the band went more electronica when vocalist Liv Kristine left but their old stuff is so good. One thing I like about writing to Theatre of Tragedy is because their songs are all in old English and because I don't speak Old English, my brain can ignore the lyrics and write. If you want to check them out, also check out: Venus, A rose for the dead, a distance there is, Lorelei. The way they combine the rough male vocals with Kristine's angelic voice is amazing.
15. Bright Eyes - Lover I don't have to love
So, Bright Eyes is very emo. I recognize this. What people should recognize though is that Mr. Oberst is a great lyricist and this song embodies that.
14. Placebo - Special Needs
Picking one Placebo song out of the six or seven that came to mind when I sketched out this list was a tough one. I ended up going for Special Needs because it brings that emotion of leaving, of departure, sadness, beauty.
13. Gorillaz - Rhinestone Eyes
A point I'll make over and over again: my poetry is based on images and a lot of those images come from moments frozen in time. Rhinestone eyes, for instance, is a rainy Sunday afternoon driving down Upper Kirby from the Galleria in Houston.
12. Panteon Roccocco - La Dosis Perfecta
If you can't dance to this song there's something wrong with you.
11. Otep - Ghostflowers
Like the last song, this song just gets me up and moving and any song that can do that is always good to have on a writing list, even if I get the urge to stand and air-guitar and air-bass throughout the entirety of this song.
10. The Album Leaf - Always for you
Back to the poetry of imagery. Always for you represents my last semester in college and Friday afternoon trips to Forever 21 with my best friend. I never shopped much, I just encouraged dumb purchases. Given how small the Valley was, going to this particular store was a great way to hide (as much as one can hide in the RGV) from everyone else and just enjoy the silence and each other's companionship. That's friendship, that's comfort, when you're able to be in someone else's presence without the need for words. To date, that bittersweet song takes me back to those car rides. We're still close, and I'm very thankful to have this friend's presence in my life.
9. Edguy - Mysteria
Tobias Sammet is my homeboy. This is the first metal CD I actually purchased and I am inspired to write just because of the way the album starts: LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO THE FREAK SHOW!
8. Ana Tijoux ft. Shadia Mansour - Somos sur
A politically-charged song, I have the following lyrics scribbled in my last poetry notebook:
Caballito blanco / vuelve pa ' tu pueblo / no te tenemos miedo tenemos vida y fuego / fuego en nuestras manos / fuego en nuestros ojos / tenemos tanta vida y hasta fuerza color rojo
White horse, go back to your town
we're not afraid, we have life and fire
fire in our hands, fire in our eyes
we have so much life and even strength colored red
7. Avantasia - The Seven Angels
Y'all want to talk about ambition, let's talk Avantasia, a Metal Opera supergroup originated by Tobias Sammet and including a who's who of some of the most significant symphonic and power metal bands in Europe and South America. I picked this song in particular because it's fourteen minutes long, has a shitton of instrument, and seven different vocalists summing up the events of all the songs in Vol. 1 of the Metal Opera. I once thought it'd be so cool to write a novelization of the opera but as with a lot of ideas in the early aughts, I lacked the follow through.
6. Timo Tolkki - Soldier's Prayer
One of the very first metal songs I got to listening! Another thing about Tolkki is that he has amazing dedication (used to practice 8-10 hours a day when he was a kid) and now he's considered one of the 500 best guitarists of all time.
5. Sonata Arctica - Wolf and Raven
There was no way I was going to leave Sonata Arctica off this list. Wolf and Raven was the song that got me listening to metal in the first place after being stashed for a year in an mp3 folder in my computer. And I've never looked back. Also, the abstractness of: "I had a nightmare of a wolf eating the raven" makes NO sense even in the context of the song and that's why i love it.
4. Brand New - Sic transit gloria...glory fades
Jesse Lacey is one of my favorite lyricists. A lot of his songs are straight up poetry. I picked this song because it does two things that I really try to capture in my own writing: invert a trope (in this case, the whole first time sex thing) and do so subtly AND having a gray duality. Case in point:
You don't recover from a night like this
a victim, still lying in bed, completely motionless
A hand moves in the dark to a zipper
hear a boy bracing tight against sheet barely whisper, 'This is so messed up'
Obviously, the song is about a lot of things, first time sex, coming of age, but it really captures the emotion and the nervousness that lets you know that it's not just a black and white picture. And the verse above is muttered, frantic, scared. The chorus, though, is screamed.
The fever, the focus
the reasons that I had to believe you weren't too hard to sell
DIE YOUNG AND SAVE YOURSELF
The tickle, the taste of...
it used to be the reason I breathed but now it's choking me up
The song goes on and it tells a story. A short story, it's almost microfiction and it is SO GOOD.
3. Sabaton - The Price of a Mile
Sabaton and Iron Maiden have something in common: lyrics and music about historical subjects (only Sabaton makes that their ENTIRE schtick) but other than the history geekiness, I I picked this Passchendeale tribute because of how steady the beat is (it's a marching tune) and also because one time recently, while writing at Inversion Coffee, I forgot to plug in my headphones correctly and a lot of patrons were treated to two minutes of this song.
2. Amaranthe - True | Drop Dead Cynical
I am not ashamed to say I have the biggest crush on the soprano Elize Ryd. I discovered them at House of Blues (at my friend's prompting) and fell in love with their sound. Drop Dead Cynical had so much power over me the video was 80% of the reason why I took up kickboxing last year. True is one of my favorite songs ever and during their last concert at Scout Bar she actually held my hand as she sang a verse. Talk about being starstruck. As I mentioned last week, the phrase: if my dreams set everything to fire / then I would still belong to you means a lot to me.
1. Nightwish - Sleeping Sun
This whole list started because of this damn song. Let me take you to the video above, which features another soprano, Tarja Turunen on vocals. It shows the present and aftermath of a battle scene and the members of the band as different crusaders or barbarians or what have you. Then it cuts to them either dying or mortally wounded and this look of "war is futile" in their faces while Tarja walks/rides between them as an angel. That's how I wanted to write my fantasy epic.
The kicker is the song isn't even about war or battles, it's about an eclipse in Germany in 1999.