How to kick metal into overdrive


In a saner world, all children approaching the age of purchasing their own music would be given the 2-disc set of Andres Segovia entitled The Art of Segovia and made to listen and understand it before moving on. This collection of songs reveals not just how good music can be, but how to think about music both as technical musicianship and as art.

A collection of songs arranged and performed by Andres Segovia, this set shows instrumental prowess at its best where it seems more controlled. Most of these pieces came from composers who originally wrote either for guitar or small ensembles, and Segovia laid them out so he could play multiple melody lines on guitar over the length of each song. As a result, these songs are dense in a way that most popular music is not, in that each part relates to the previous material in the piece but seeks to not just complement but expand upon what is there. Melodies grow from a few notes to a full-fledged expression and then modify themselves with material from contrasting voices in each song, creating an effect like reading a great book where every character changes over the course of their adventures while simultaneously influencing the course of that journey. What at first sound like fills and turn-arounds are not spurious material but continuation of the song, with every note played serving some purpose and nothing extraneous or for the sake of showing off. This alone puts the lie to technical music of the current time, where a simplistic song if dressed up in recognized “hard” techniques becomes “technical,” even if those adornments contribute nothing to the song itself. The technical art here is in the writing and arrangement of the music in addition to the performance.

In addition, The Art of Segovia forces us to look at what makes a song — one medium among several for the mental process we call “art” — strike us as great instead of simply adequate plus novel. Each of these songs evokes a feeling that is both unique to the song and can be found in life itself, not a subjective sense but more a subjective perception of the objective translated into a form that any logical mind can process. This transcends the limitations of not only the medium but the human mind itself, creating a commonality based on an accurate view of reality that is nonetheless interpretive, instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator that a crowd would find pleasing. All of the tools of art — rhythm, melody, harmony and phrase — apply themselves to revealing the inner essence of a complex experience, not so much distilling it to a simple statement as walking us through its evolution and reaching a moment of clarity, then allowing it to fade away as we absorb what we have sensed.

Very few people who listen to rock, metal, jazz or blues have sat down to listen to a great work, understand it, and understand outside of its medium what makes it great. As with a great book, a great piece of music reveals something in life that we have not discovered or denied. It shows us the truth within, not creating another surface category, and in doing so makes us consider how this experience is universal to those who invest the time in understanding it. Truth meets us halfway between our perspective and the world. Great art lifts us out of the subjective, transforms the objective through not just the power of personality but the insight of talent, and delivers it to us in a form that re-discovers life with freshness through a vividly accurate portrayal that shows the hidden possibility lurking even within the mundane. When we have that level of expectation for art, the trivial novelty and diehard pandering to comfortingly familiar sounds fades away and instead we seek something of greater clarity, power and ultimately meaning. Naturally this is not popular with record labels, for whom discovering a Segovia each month is impossible, but for those who value their time and want to listen to music that shows the best of what humanity can do, The Art of Segovia gives us a yardstick against which all great albums must compare.

Not all of these will be as technical as Segovia’s playing or the writing of the composers he arranges. They do not need to be. If they uphold the same spirit of discovery and revelation that makes this art so profound, they can do so with fewer musical techniques. But if they do not live up to that understanding of what art and by extension music can be, they sound hollow in comparison to Segovia and stand no chance of comparison. The best of metal lives up to this standard and it refuses to be controlled by those who wish to dumb it down so they can sell more of it or use it to push a message. As we go into a new year, and the second half of a dubious decade, demanding metal that live up to this standard ensures that we will have less to listen to, but enjoy it more.

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15 thoughts on “How to kick metal into overdrive”

  1. Aldo says:

    Excelent! This must be the fortress of what we defend the true art. Segovia is the art music master that keeps the trascendental and mythological face of the world for joy of all us.

    If you are interested in classical music, only search in this Spanish Web site:

    The number of post are titanic, and, if a link is broken, the blogger admin. will repost only request the specific album on the inbox or in comments section of that album.

  2. Dismember your Member says:

    Great piece … A goodway to start the new year
    Hails !

  3. I blew my head off like Per Ohlin says:

    I know nothing about theory and have never delved much into classical music, but just the few moments of listening to this is wonderful.


    1. Richard Head says:

      Every fan of music should learn a little bit about theory. The basics of scales and modes are no more complicated than learning your multiplication tables as a child. A few days of reading and your perspective on songwriting and playing will change; you will see the Matrix.

      1. Guy says:

        Is there somewhere you would recommend for this? Or as a general starting point.

        1. Richard Head says:

          Do you play music? Do you a guitar or keyboard handy? I’m a guitarist at first and have only worked on keyboard for a short while so I’m not as familiar with it, but scales are a little easier to visualize on the keys because you only have to worry about notes going up or down in one dimension (left or right), whereas you have to worry about two dimensions of notes on a guitar (left and right along the frets as well as up and down the strings).

          Anyway, for guitar players I would recommend simple charts like this:

          You will feel retarded at first, but all you have to do is repeat the pattern up and down (try to vary your picking pattern if you get bored, for example; pick each note twice or three times, or play a pattern like up up up, down down, up up up, down down, as that helps you build dexterity as you ingrain muscle memory). If you are creative at all then you will make up ways to keep the drills from getting too boring. And after a week or less of drilling those scales up and down, you can move on to other parts of the neck and more complicated positioning. Just stick with it and you are sure to advance your skill.

          1. Guy says:

            I don’t play a musical instrument, no. I had figured what you wrote was meant purely from the standpoint of music appreciation, being it was addressed to “every fan of music”. I just wouldn’t mind learning some basic theory to help “see the matrix” as you put it, that doesn’t necessitate learning an instrument, if that was ever what you meant.

            1. Richard Head says:

              If you can find a way to see the Matrix without actually picking up an instrument and creating sound yourself, then you’re somewhere way beyond where my mind can go.

              I’m pretty good at synthesizing abstract concepts but music theory would be completely inaccessible to me if I didn’t practice creating noises through an instrument myself.

              It’s not like a decent acoustic guitar or electronic keyboard is a huge investment anyway; $100 or less, and there isn’t much better to spend your money and time on.

      2. Subhumanist says:

        Memorizing tables and formulas was never my thing. If it doesn`t affect me instantly at this very moment, then I have no use for it.

        1. fenrir says:

          Learn a bit and learn how to apply it. That is the best way.
          Learn the C major scale, learn what are the important centers in it, and then practice making melodies, practice rhythms with it. You’ll see how a basic melody is made. Then you move on the next level and integrate it. So on and so on.

        2. Richard Head says:

          Honing your skill on an instrument doesn’t affect you instantly? Hmm. Maybe you just suck.


    I recently started playing guitar again and noticed that some styles come more naturally than others. It probably has to do with DNA or some shit

    1. Richard Head says:

      I’ve played guitar for 10 years and cannot play classical style to save my life. I’m not so sure it’s genetic, probably more a matter of how long you condition yourself in one method or another.

  5. Smoke On The Water Deep Purple says:

    Always nice to remember good, complex music exists outside of metal.

  6. Count Ringworm says:

    “As with a great book, a great piece of music reveals something in life that we have not discovered or denied. It shows us the truth within, not creating another surface category, and in doing so makes us consider how this experience is universal to those who invest the time in understanding it.”

    In a saner world this might rightfully replace all hitherto definitions of “literature,” or “literary merit.”

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