Question Of The Week: “Lead Singer’s Disease (Instrumental)”
Lead singers: Can’t live with ‘em, can’t shotgun them in the scrotum. Of course, some bands hit the lottery by landing an ace singer with great stage presence and nice vibes. I mean shit, look at Tom Araya. But in many cases, a vocalist’s skills come at a hefty price: lateness, cluelessness, egomania, grabs for undeserved royalties and credit, smelliness, groupie-hogging, drug-gobbling, scarves … ugh. What a chore. Look at Sebastian Bach! lol xoxo
So let’s banish all those self-worshipping, girlfriend-hiring, drool-spewing dunderheads and just make music that’s … just music! Well, not permanently. Just for today’s MS Question Of The Week!
Fearless. Controversial. Half-baked. We give it to you straight every Friday afternoon. Straight out the spit valve in a drifting string of slob! Here’s this week’s question:
Inspired by the prospect of an end to Lead Singers Disease, we asked our staff the following:
Are u deeply connected to any all-instrumental album(s)?
Read us then answer below! Don’t say “Axel F” lol
Instrumental albums are fucking boring. Too much of the same riff over and over. I’m not necessarily a lyrics-fetishist, either; I’m all about that complete merge of music, lyrics, vocal style and rhythm, percussion — the whole nine yards. I love the occasional instrumental track (Metallica’s “The Call of Ktulu,” Cannibal Corpse’s “From Skin To Liquid,” Anvil’s “March of the Crabs”) because they stand out when sandwiched between tracks with vocals, and their creators must make them especially good to equal the album’s other songs. But the one instrumental album I really love is Mono‘s Hymn To The Immortal Wind. Something about that band’s sound is really cinematic, and versatile, and human. I’m not sure I’d want it as one of my desert island albums, but it’s pretty damn great.
The Scorpions‘ “Coast to Coast” is probably my favorite instrumental. The way it builds up and flows makes me happy and sad in ways I don’t know how to describe; when I saw them play it in concert, I almost bawled. It’s such a strong song with such bittersweet undertones. That sounds like I’m describing a cookie, but there you go.
Nothing particularly metal, except maybe Pelican. Stuff like Death In June and Musk Ox can be pretty cool though. It’s not like I’m going to break these tunes out in front of anyone I want to continue associating with, but when it’s late and I’m already kind of bored, they hit the spot.
At least one all-instrumental metal album will live forever in my brain, heart, and ballz: Chris Poland‘s Return To Metalopolis. Sure, over two decades I haven’t settled on a pronunciation of fucking “Metalopolis,” but the shit is genius! Still I wonder: Does this masterpiece by the brilliant guitarist, then-newly departed from Megadeth, fully qualify? I mean, yeah, it has zero vocals, but in a small way Metalopolis mimics an album with vocals: In places, it seems like Poland’s stirring legato runs and astounding tone might as well serve as guide for a never-undertaken vocal track. Or maybe I’m groping for an explanation for how this solo guitar album is way deeper, feely-er, and awesomer than the other million with which it shares a genre. U jam?
We all know how I feel about vocals in modern metal, so it’s no surprise that there are many instrumental albums that are near and dear to my heart. Vocals have a time and a place, but when it comes to certain types of metal — stuff that’s got really intricate musical shit going on, which is, like, most current metal — I’d rather just focus on the instruments, the interplay between them, the tones, the production, the arrangement, the orchestration. Animals As Leaders‘ self-titled debut is a modern-day classic that kids will be talking about five, ten, and 20 years from now. Scale The Summit’s most recent album, The Collective, was a masterpiece that brought the band to a new level. Dream Theater’s Scenes From A Memory is one of the best instrumental albums of all time; oh, wait, that band has a singer?
The last couple of Cloudkicker albums have really struck my fancy (most masculine way to say that). And though they seem to be moving away from heaviness with each of their new releases, that’s fine: the band they are now is great. But Beacons is the crossroads of their tech-metal past and their heavy shoegaze present. Those big, prog metal riffs; that omnipresent atmosphere adding a progressively sadder layer to the Meshuggah-isms chugga-chug-chugging (or djent-djenting?) their way along; those song titles (each one the last bit of dialogue recovered from crashed airplane black boxes) … they all add up to something magnificent. Like most good instrumental albums, there’s a gap between the explicit message of the whole thing and what one actually hears. But instead of a sin of omission, it provides a necessary mystery for the mind to create a wider tapestry on which to paint. It’s like how rooms feel bigger in the dark: without the definition of objects (or, in Beacons‘ case, lyrics), you’re left to your own devices to decide what’s there. I can’t definitively say Beacons is destined to be the band’s best, as it wouldn’t surprise me if frontman Ben Sharp does something a few albums from now that blows it out of the water. But I don’t think Cloudkicker can recapture what’s so special about Beacons somewhere else. And it couldn’t have been done with words.
I grew up in Galveston, Texas, a humid shithole island an hour outside of Houston, the birthplace of Screw music. DJ Screw slowed down and scratched up hip-hop records, turning party jams into lumbering psychedelic voyages blurring the line between dream and nightmare. This was to replicate the feeling of sipping purple drank, a combination of cough syrup (containing codeine and promethazine), Sprite, and Jolly Ranchers. I was a burgeoning metal nerd in high school, devoted to Metallica’s First Four and Pantera, but I also was undoubtedly enthralled by the bass rattling from cars jamming Screw tapes. There had to be a link, but I couldn’t find it. Enter Sunn O)))‘s 00 Void. This was metal, no doubt, but it was so slow, so droney, the bass was spilling over, one could count the total amount of riffs on two hands. No vocals, no structure, just massive guitars going boldly nowhere. It was the heaviest thing I’d heard at the time … and the chillest. Someone had finally made Screw Metal.
Since MS writer Kip Wingerschmidt introduced us to it in 2009, I’ve been mesmerized by Collapsar‘s 2007 release Integers Thick. Dissonant textures shift and mutate alongside hardcore-tinged sensibilities. Integers is technical as a tax form, but cuts out the monotony and abrasion that instrumental math bands all too often generate. The album probably has more drum fills on it than it has beats. Collapsar are now defunct, but Integers was a hell of a final release.
I don’t usually get into instrumental metal that lasts a whole album; I’m more for a nice sprinkling of instrumental tracks on a release. But I’ve really been taken by Sannhet’s new one Known Flood. It’s a powerful work that really doesn’t need any vocals. In fact, vocals would only hold it back from reaching its pinnacle of awesomeness.
DAVID LEE ROTHMUND
People gonna be raving their shit off about The Ocean Collective’s Pelagial, and rightfully damn so cause it’s utterly brilliant, but it hasn’t dropped just quite yet so imma throw this one out there: The Algorithm’s Polymorphic Code. It’s a little inbred child of metal and electronic — on coke no less, which is more or less perfecto for holding its own without the power and emotive quality of any vocal backgrounding. Plus it’s heavy as shit at points while still maintaining a dynamic fluidity throughout – ups and downs, buildups, drops, riffs, and beats to keep your brain tickled. This dynamism of Code is what makes vocals more or less irrelevant; they would almost muddy up the super-clean synth riffage and neon-rave beat. Here’s a taste, eat it up!