Xendra – Xendra

Xendra

Xendra was a heavy metal project from the Central American country, Honduras. Rumor has it that their only album was recorded within one week around the turn of the century. The simplicity of the production would never put this into doubt as it is just barely satisfies the requirements of the music to be listenable.

 

As Brett Stevens said in a previous article, one could make the experiment of imagining music played through a primitive or simple device or format like a midi output and then see how interesting the music becomes then as a measure of the actual resulting power of the composition. It is in this respect that the barely satisfactory production in this album becomes a test for the music. Despite the production, the compositions’ musical qualities shine through, modest as they admittedly are in the very-large scale of music appreciation.

 

Xendra’s brand of late heavy metal also takes on speed metal characteristics with melodic tendencies. This is a typical 1990s mid-paced, simple melodic heavy/speed amalgam that is exemplified today by Cruxiter. Most of the most iconic and prominent Central American metal bands played in this style. Its raw yet singable character being particularly apt to work as a channel for a kind of urban folk style. I often use a word callejero(“of the street”) to describe the particular brand of heavy metal that developed in Central and northern South America. It is a folk heavy metal not because it makes use of old aboriginal melodies for motifs, but rather because it is the language of the young people in touch with the crudest reality of their modern countries. As such it tends to be be full of socio-political protest, prone to melancholic bouts and occult visionary prophecies. We should stress that the latter is appropriate and perhaps even mandatory for any respectable underground metal genre. As a kind of folk music, a few simpler songs in verse chorus manner are sparkled throughout the sixteen tracks of the album. These do not sound pandering as indulging themselves or the singer but are veritable laments voiced impersonally.

 

Claiming to be influenced from the more mainstream rock and hard rock progressive outfits like Rush and Dream Theater, someone listening in a slightly distracted manner would miss where and how Xendra makes these influences manifest. While we hear Dream Theater making technical acrobatics and the contrasts from one section of the music to the next the main point of the music, a more sensible and humble band like Xendra uses them in key points as tools towards smooth expansion or creative and beautiful articulation between sections. The rendition of the heavy metal callejero as presented in 2000’s Xendra is one of the best of its kind. Displaying elegant songwriting, subtlety and the restraint of talented instrumentalists using their technical abilities where the music needs them, rather than when their ego fancies it.

 

The full album can be downloaded here.

 

 

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Rush – Permanent Waves

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Emerging from a hard rock background, Rush made increasingly ambitious attempts at being on par with the European progressive acts of the early 1970s. Although dubbed a progressive rock band, Rush’s music would be best described as a “poor-man’s” progressive rock. A naive and straightforward attempt at emulating the workings of the music of more refined bands like Yes or King Crimson. As such it has been one of the most easily comprehensible progressive bands to the general public.

Released in 1980, Permanent Waves is the Rush album that most closely approaches the ideals of the by-then defunct progressive rock movement. Being the highlight of the band’s technical competence, here we find Rush at its most bombastic and dynamic. As a preamble to later so-called progressive rock and metal (henceforth referred to as pseudo prog), this album features songs which make use of elements of contrasting musical styles (the listener will even find a reggae-styled section) to break the spell of a mood. In doing so it aligns itself with music appropriate for listeners who prefer a casual but engaging distraction.

Despite this stylistic digressions ,Permanent Waves manages to be generally constant in its artistic voice. Rush’s expert and moderate use of synths, the ease of transitions, and the satisfactory clarity of the goals in their structure-building-oriented songs make this release the peak of Rush’s works.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV6k1JRMgN8

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12 Months of Rush

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With the exception of the debut album, Rush’s remaining 14 albums originally published by Mercury will be reissued through 2015. The reissues are made available in vinyl format with an accompanying download card to access the digital audio files corresponding to the release.

Additionally, three of the releases will be released on Blu-ray Pure Audio. The three albums to be released in this format are Fly By Night, A Farewell to Kings and Signals.

The albums release schedule is as follows:

1. January 26: Fly by Night (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio / Blu-Ray Audio)
2. February: Caress of Steel (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
3. March: 2112 (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio), All the World’s a Stage (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
4. April: A Farewell to Kings (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio / Blu-Ray Audio)
5. May: Hemispheres (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
6. June: Permanent Waves (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
7. July: Moving Pictures (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio), Exit… Stage Left (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
8. August: Signals (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio / Blu-ray Audio)
9. September: Grace Under Pressure (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
10. October: Power Windows (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
11. November: Hold Your Fire (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)
12. December: A Show of Hands (Vinyl+Download Code / High Res Digital Audio)

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Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion by Durrell Bowman

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Canada’s Rush keeps its fingers in many worlds, including that of 70s heavy metal, and as a result often attracts metalheads. Durrell Bowman attempts to explain the appeal of this band through perhaps the best method possible, which is to analyze the music itself and only secondarily and sparingly reinforce what is learned with extracts from interviews. Unlike most rock writers, he focuses on the output from the band rather than the discussion or buzz surrounding it, and as a result is able to pull out intention through the band and its reaction to the changes in the experience of its members of the years and how that translates into artistic voicing.

Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion walks through Rush by eras of the band from its early hard rock days to its more progressive-rock influenced middle period to the later middle period of AOR (although this term is not used) very similar to 80s music like Boston, Asia, ZZ Top and the Eagles. In his analysis, Bowman attempts to answer one of the fundamental questions: is Rush a progressive rock band? If not, what are they? And how does this reconcile with their many different internal influences and the many different external styles, including a technologically-hip 90s format, which have cloaked the music of this band? Bowman gives his conclusions in a short introduction and then analyzes the work of the band song by song, divided into albums and the aforementioned eras. The result is a picture slowly emerging of a rock band with many different influences who wanted to play essentially power pop but with a guitar-driven appeal, like later Yes albums such as 90215. Into this, the self-taught musicians mix material from a wide range of influences as part of a philosophy of the band which Bowman slowly peels away during successive chapters: a leftist-libertarian political outlook, a personal individualism, dogmatic atheism and a studied eclecticism to find support for these ideas across different cultures and disciplines. Like their music, their philosophies are a grab-bag of what supports their fundamental worldview, which Bowman reveals as very much localized to and shaped by their experience growing up.

What Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion offers to the world of music is not so much conclusions, however, as critical points for analysis. The entire book functions as an outline of the output of the artist with vital points addressed such as musical techniques used, including juicy details on time signature and scale/harmony, but also rather intelligently looking into the music as a series of patterns and avoiding a deep immersion in music theory. As a result, Bowman compares abstract patterns found in the music to what they symbolize in life, which works well for progressive rock bands who tend to be mimetic in their approach generally, but works doubly well for Rush, who are differentiated from progressive rock (although they incorporate many of its techniques) by their tendency toward music that is more symbolic or defined in human terms rather than imitating the objects or experiences the humans are undergoing. This rather fine distinction highlights why many progressive rock fans find Rush distasteful, and why many Rush fans find progressive rock inscrutable: the two take different approaches, and the Rush approach is closer to that taken by power pop bands than what progressive rock bands attempt. It both makes the music easier to comprehend, because the meaning in the lyrics is “acted out” by the music, and explains how Rush is able to escape its normative AOR format by incorporating so many different styles as if they were brush techniques in a painting, namely that it uses whatever techniques are appropriate for rendering its vision, much like it picks from disparate philosophies, literature and religion bits and pieces which it can use to illustrate its own philosophy and ideology. Through this insight Bowman stands heads above the other writers on this topic.

Turning from the technical arts of the band to the technique of the writer, Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion shows us what rock journalism could be — some of us would say should be — by digging into this band in the only way that honors their efforts, which is to take them seriously as people by investigating their art for what it attempts to express as a communication between artist and fans. DMU has always taken this approach to death metal which has made us a minority in not just a metal underground but a rock scene which would rather write about where a band is from, their ironic personalities, the production of albums, how much the fans love it, or what trend the band belongs to. This treats artists like simpletons and fans like yeast with credit cards (although some might say this accurately portrays humanity anno 2015). Bowman takes the opposite approach, which is to avoid academic-ese and also rock journalist ideo-jive, and instead to look at this band with an intelligent common sense approach by picking apart each song to see what makes it work, both as a communications device and as an experience to enjoy. With the force of Rush fans behind him, hopefully Bowman can convince more of the music world to join him in this approach, which like the scientific method for materials should be the de facto standard for music.

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