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Linkin Park – Lost in the Echo

Linkin_Park_-_Living_ThingsLost in the Echo is one of the singles from American rock band Linkin Park’s fifth studio album, Living Things. It marks the return of the sextet after a few years of laying low. The track is also the band’s first attempt at taking advantage of social media, by releasing an interactive music video.

Lost in the Echo’s interactive music video takes advantage of a user’s facebook account in order to pull pictures from the user’s gallery, which are then made part of a pre-shot video footate, featuring a mysterious man carrying a briefcase full of photos (which contains the sourced pictures), which he then hands out to various people who cry over the pictures then turn to dust.

As for the music itself, Lost in Echo shows what seems to be a little forward progression in the band’s musical stylings. It’s still their trademark alternative rock with slow sections punctuated by crunching bridges and hard guitar-driven choruses, and Chester Bennington’s crooning still melds well with Shinoda’s simple rapping. What’s different is that the song is now less formulaic than their previous efforts (which used to be simple ballads riding on a descending chord progression), and they have abandoned the passe symphonic organ and orchestra in favor of synthesizers that bring to mind dubstep acts like Skrillex, resulting in slightly more refreshing Linkin Park song.

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AC/DC – Back in Black

Back in Black is one of the most recognizable tracks out of AC/DC’s 1980 album of the same name, and is also notable for being the band’s tribute song to their former vocalist Bon Scott, who died of acute alcohol poisoning earlier in the year.

The lyrics were written by his replacement, Brian Johnson, who was asked by the band to ensure that the lyrics be a celebration instead of a morbid remembrance. Which led Brian to pen lyrics that he described as “mumbo jumbo”. And it worked. Nine Lives, Cats eyes, Abusing every one of them and running wild” does not have any deep connotation. It was just fun to sing and fun to listen to. Exactly the same attitude that Bon Scott had with performing when he was alive.

As far as the backbone of the song, Back in Black represents AC/DC’s trademark sound: straightforward, no frills hard rock serving as an antithesis to the pompous art rock and overly complicated arena rock that became prevalent during the early 80s. The power chord-backed riffs are tense and aggressive, without being too self-conscious.

Clocking in at 4 minutes and featuring a guitar solo that’s superlatively played yet didn’t overstay its welcome, Back in Black doesn’t require a lot of commitment to enjoy, making it one of the first songs you should check out if you want to sample the best that the Hard Rock genre has on offer, but don’t want to be buried under too much genre baggage.

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The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army

The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”, off of their “Elephant” Album, was released as a single back in 2003, and is most notable for reaching the top spot on the Modern Rock Tracks for 3 consecutive weeks, as well as winning the Best Rock Song award at the 2004 Grammy Awards.

Seven Nation Army’s most recognizable part is the underlying riff that plays throughout the major parts of the song, which sounded like a bass guitar. This is worth noting because The White Stripes is famous for never using a bass guitar up until that point (the band is made up of a single guitarist/vocalist, Jack White, and a drummer, Meg White). The bass-like sound is actually Jack White’s semi-acoustic 1950s style Kay Hollowbody guitar, run through a digitech whammy pedal and set down an octave lower.

Seven Nation Army is possibly the best representation of The White Stripes trademark minimalist, garage rock style – no bass guitar, no keyboards, no overdubs. Just a guitar, a thumping drumbeat, and Jack White’s strained, yet powerful vocals. If there ever was a good reason why the White Stripes are credited as the frontrunners for the garage rock revival during the early 2000s, it would be this song.

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Soundgarden – Been Away Too Long

Been Away Too Long is the first single released from Soundgarden’s sixth studio album, King Animal, and serves as its lead-in track. The song’s title is a great reference to the fact that King Animal is the first album from the band after a 13-year hiatus. Soundgarden’s been away too long, but they’re back now, reminding everyone why they became one of the frontrunners of an entire genre back in the 90s.

Fans of Soundgarden’s trademark hard rock-leaning grunge will feel right at home. For someone who’s nearing his 50s (and someone who has just recovered from a crippling drug addiction), Chris Cornell’s voice retains the same intensity it had during his 20s, able to shift between soothing melodies and growling hooks seamlessly. Fans who felt that his stint with Audioslave was too formulaic will be happy to note that Been Away Too Long returns him to his less radio-friendly, but more creative vocal stylings.

Been Away Too Long also features the return of a familiar sound: guitarist Kim Thayil’s midtoned snarling riffs and a short blistering solo. In a way, it reminds people that Soundgarden’s talent goes beyond genres, as the band’s technical virtuosity did not prevent them from finding success in a genre that looks down upon superlative playing (as a lot of grunge music were embraced as a way of rebelling against the formulaic, and overly theatric hair metal of the 80s.). Soundgarden’s been away Too Long, but they’re back now, in fighting form.

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Three Days Grace – Chalk Outline

Chalk Outline is the lead-in single to Canadian rockers Three Days Grace’s fourth studio album, Transit of Venus. It was released last August, 2012, but fans have already heard parts of it prior to the release, due to the band themselves leaking several snippets in order to tease the fans of the upcoming release.

Chalk Outline continues Three Days Grace M.O. of writing heavy, fist pumping alternative rock songs that have equally angst-ridden and aggressive lyrics. This time around, Chalk Outline focuses on the story of a man who has become a shell of his former self after a relationship that has gone sour. It’s what Yesterday would have turned out if Paul McCartney had access to a distortion pedal and was bombarded by gamma rays.

Even if you find the song’s lyrics and message a bit too grating, Chalk Outline is still an excellent showcase for lead vocalist Adam Gontier’s powerful voice, as it continues to drive the track with the raspy, catchy melody framed by guitarist Barry Stock’s heavy riff, while drummer Neil Sanderson does his best to give the song that much needed oomph with his thundering beats.

In a way, Chalk Outline is the same old Three Days Grace belting out the same angsty heavy alt rock, but that’s not exactly a bad thing, considering how consistently good they’ve been in the past. The song is still better than 90% of what passes for rock music these days, provided that you’re not turned off by angsty, somewhat juvenile song lyrics.

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Avenged Sevenfold – Carry On

It’s a shame that Avenged Sevenfold’s Carry On is gaining a lot of popularity simply because it’s featured on the popular videogame Call of Dury: Black Ops II’s soundtrack, because the song stands on its own and is arguably one of the band’s best songs to date yet.

The first thing you’ll notice when you start listening to Carry On is that Avenged Sevenfold has abandoned the Nu Metal trappings that have plagued some of their more popular songs. For one thing, it opens with a leaner-sounding, yet airtight shredfest from Zacky Vengeance and Synyster Gates, featuring a blistering guitar solo that is sadly few and far between these days.

The shredfest is supported by Johnny Christ’s rumbling bassline, which does its level best to provide a solid bottom end without completely disappearing under the sonic rubble. On top of it all, M. Shadows has fully emancipated himself from the limited vocal stylings associated with modern alt rockers, and shows that he’s got enough control of his range to alternate between a rock croon to a modern theatrical growl without missing a single beat, and without sounding out of place. Of course, there’s the pounding outro that brings to mind rock anthems from the likes of DragonForce. Not bad for a band that was once compared to Linkin Park (blame it on the Chester Bennington-like bridge on Afterlife)

At the end of the day, let’s hope that being featured on a popular First Person Shooter’s soundtrack brings Avenged Sevenfold to a wider audience, and convinces them to do more songs that are on the same level as Carry On.

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AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long

Iconic Australian rockers AC/DC were already experiencing a bit of a resurgence this past few years, thanks to Marvel’s Iron Man movies featuring some of their best hits for its soundtrack. It seems that Hollywood has finally discovered how good AC/DC’s trademark brand of short yet intense hard rock works well as soundtracks.

You Shook Me All Night Long, in particular, has been used copiously by many TV shows and movies, with its gnarly stanza riffs capable of making shoulders bop, until the fist pumping chorus kicks in and does exactly what it says, it shakes you all night long.

You Shook Me All Night Long’s lyrics is easily one of its key factors. While Brian Johnson has admitted that he wrote it based on the story of a night with a beautiful woman, the double entendres and vaguely sexual lines lend themselves well to just about any subject. The line “she was a fast machine…” was applied by Hollywood to everything from cars to Iron Man’s Mk. III armor to yes, even loose women.

Currently, You Shook Me All Night Long is considered as one of AC/DC’s most recognizable songs, competing with Back in Black and Highway to Hell on most lists and rankings.

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Guns N Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine

In an age of Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Glee one can’t help but miss the good old times when you don’t have to cringe when you hear a song. It’s hard to believe that you have to dig up old songs just to listen to something not just good but great.

When feeling especially bombarded with nonsense, one of my go-to pick-me-up song is Guns N Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine. It’s hard to believe that it has been more than two decades since this masterpiece was aired and up until now, it still has the same effect on people. Well, to most people.

Who knew that this magnificent song started out as lead guitarist Slash just messing around and fiddling with his instrument and Axl Rose getting inspired into writing about his lady love Erin Everly. It is even said that penning down this unforgettable song took only minutes to finish. The band saw it as filler and certainly didn’t expect it to be the band’s first and only number one single in the US.

But fate and fans clearly had different idea and the song is now a part of Rock n Metal History.

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Metallica – Enter Sandman

Most music critics point to Metallica’s album Load as the point in the band’s career when they “sold out”, due to the band’s decision to depart from Heavy Metal both in their image and their songs, but rabid fans and purists will point to the Black Album, particularly one of its singles – Enter Sandman – as the point where Metallica “sold out”.

Of course, the claim that Metallica turned their backs on heavy metal during the Black Album is harsh and a bit of an overreaction. The album and its songs still belong to the heavy metal genre. The only difference is that the songs are a bit more radio-friendly and commercially viable, and that’s not a bad thing at all – Enter Sandman on its own brought Heavy, Speed, and Death Metal to the attention of music lovers who would not have checked the genres out if Hetfield and the gang didn’t dangle a softer brand of Metal in their faces.

That’s not to say that Enter Sandman is soft. It features angular chord progressions, thumping basslines, growling vocals, and featured a heavily overdubbed rhythm guitar track that features Hetfield playing and recording the same riff three times in order to create a sound he describes as “wall of guitars.”

Many fans of metal’s heavier, rougher acts (such as Metallica’s earlier material) were introduced to it via Enter Sandman. If you’re looking for a jumping off point for the genre, or just want to be reminded of the time when Metallica managed to toe the fine line between commercial and niche metal, you should check out Enter Sandman.