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Concept Albums — A Lost Art?

It seems that I always come in at the end of trends, especially when it comes to music.

My latest “discovery” has been then progressive metal band Kamelot.  I stumbled upon them from a track called Moonlight that came up in my Pandora station one day.  The accompanying blurb indicated that their style of music was similar to that of Dream Theater, another group of the genre and one that I have a couple CDs of already and have even seen in concert once.  So, I decided to give Kamelot a try.

What impressed me early was the range of the lead singer, Roy Khan‘s voice.  I later learned, through the wonders of Google and Wikipedia, that he had three year’s of formal training in opera.  Opera, for a metal band’s lead?  Egad!  I also learned that Kamelot had put together a few concept albums — ones that have a theme throughout or tell a story through song, one track after the other.

I like concept albums.  To me, any band can make songs, but it takes a more creative talent to produce a concept album.  And here is where I come in at the end of trends.

Most bands just don’t do concept albums anymore.  It’s a lost art.  In the past, though, well that’s a different story.

My first introduction to concept albums was Styx’s Kilroy Was Here.  This one I did catch in concert, but at the time it was a marketing dud.  What I didn’t know was that the idea of concept albums had been going on for years!

Most from my generation would immediately point to Pink Floyd’s The Wall as one of the greatest concept albums ever, and to a great extent they would be right (perhaps a step or two behind The Who’s Tommy).  But there are others that I have since found and still enjoy.

Rush’s 2112, although not a concept that spans an entire album, is a classic in and of itself.  Produced well in my early youth (and before I listened to anything not defined as pop at the time — hey, it was a musically sheltered childhood), it wasn’t until my high school years that I heard it which was a good ten years or so after its inception.

And I wanted more.

During college, Queensrÿche hit the mainstream with their album Empire and the smash hit single Silent Lucidity.  I couldn’t stand that track as the radio stations saturated the airwaves with it; however, I had turned a corner and found a harder, more rocking style of music quite beyond that of Rush and the more mainstream “rock”.  But I missed Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime tour that featured their cornerstone concept album of the same name.

The not-yet-at-the-time Mrs. Kharmin introduced me to Queensrÿche as well as another concept album composing act: Iron Maiden.  Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son concept album was again, something that I had missed (although they played much of it in concert this summer when we saw them!).

So, it was with great enthusiasm that I dove into Kamelot and their back-to-back concept albums, Epica and The Black Halo.  Then, I read that they would be touring in the US this autumn and not too far from me that I couldn’t drive to see them.  But… their lead singer, after much personal reflection, had decided to quit the band.

I was deflated.  The lead singer is the voice of the band.  Sure, they have their own distinct sound and style, but the thing that really hits you is the singer because he is the one belting out the lyrics and telling the stories in the songs with his inflections and emotions.

So, once again, I am late.  I will miss out on hearing my current favorite group, intact, as I have heard them on their albums.

© 2012 – 2013, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.


Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son

A few weeks back, in 2012, Mrs. Kharmin and her sister took me to see Iron Maiden.  They played most of their songs from their Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album.  I had seen them in concert before and enjoy most of their tunes on my iPod from time to time.  What made this experience different for me was the ability to bring cameras into the venue.

I can hardly see how concert halls and outdoor auditoriums can keep cameras out anymore, what with every mobile phone having one now.  The pictures I took with my DroidX were anything but worthy of posting here on my site.  The resolution is so small that if I were to enlarge these for any profitable purpose, potential buyers would scoff at the mere notion.

Anyway, the evening was enjoyable; Alice Cooper was the opening act.  The performances were great.  Both made use of many props — Alice, of course, was beheaded via guillotine and Maiden had multiple Eddie incarnations — and the crowd just ate it up.

They just don’t write music like this anymore.  Bands don’t rock like they used to … or in Alice’s and Maiden’s cases, still do.  They don’t create epic albums with concepts and stories that transcend generations to bring a listener to a point in time, whether it be a historical lesson of the past or some prophetic outlook granted from when the songs were penned.

You should see these acts, live,  before they’re relegated to the digital age of YouTube, for watching them on your computer can in no way compare to experiencing first-hand these bands in the venues for which much of their music was written.

© 2012, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.


It Was A Dark And Stormy Night…

My writer friends will appreciate the title of this post, I’m sure.  However, literacy is not the point; rather, the insane summer thunderstorms we’ve been having in 2012.

Invariably, they arrive — unannounced — at the god-forsaken hours of the early, early morning.  How early?  2:00am.  Sometimes 3:00am.  And they range from a solid half-hour of house-rattling thunder to a several hour barrage in what it must’ve felt like during the Civil War with relentless cannon fire.

Of course, our daughter hasn’t yet managed to calm her fears.  She tells me that she isn’t afraid of the lightning and thunder, only that it’s too loud and it scares her.  Would that my fears be so simple!  What age hath wrought, no?

Still, we have a few more months of summer to go and I’m sure we’ll experience more of the same.  For me, I’ll take thunderstorms over winter blizzards any day.

© 2012, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.