Posts Tagged ‘Cacophony’

Hello and welcome to the sixteenth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year buying and reading Batman comics, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

Following my previous discussion of Kevin Smith’s Batman debut Cacophony; I will spend today writing about the second part of his Batman work, The Widening Gyre.

Cacophony was 3 issues long. ‘Gyre was double that length at six. With more space to play with, it is a lot wilder and more adventurous. Its a lot less enclosed and more sprawling. Its picked up on the most bombastic elements of its predecessor and used that as the default. Its also added a whole romance and couples-having-fun-and-being-silly-together angle, as well as taken a shining to highlighting the less realistic side of Batman comics.

The linear notes credit Walt Flannegan’s requests to draw numerous favourite characters as a reason for this as much as Smith’s initial story vision, and the fusing of these two goals creates something pretty memorable. If you are kind its a colourful (arguably gaudy), less-psychedelic and metaphore-filled version of what Grant Morrison was doing. If you are unkind, its an anachronistic mess and self-indulgent wish-fulfillment session by a duo with no taste.

Where do I sit, kind or unkind?

Batman

Batman – The Widening Gyre:

– Writers: Kevin Smith
– Art: Walt Flanagan
– Colours: Art Lyon

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Late Career, but Pre-Morrison’s story.

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains: Baron Blitzkrieg, Atomic Skull, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Joker, Deadshot, Calendar Man, Crazy Quilt, Polka Dot Man, Cornelius Stirk, Black Manta, Funland, Mr Freeze,

– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police), Baphomet, Dick Grayson as Robin & Nightwing, Tim Drake as Robin, Catwoman, Superman, Aquaman,

– Bystanders: Silver Saint Cloud, Gavin Adam, Mulligan, Arvin Flemming, May, June, Dirty Dan Yellpoon, Barry “Stiff” Saunders, The Spade of Clubs, Dr. Wolper,

– References: Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd, Mad Hatter, Onomotepeia, Riddler, Clayface, Connor Hawke as Green Arrow, Etrigan the Demon, Tweedledum, Two-Face, Evan Gregory, Toyman, Aqualad, Cyborg, Changeling, Kid Flash, Raven, Starfire , Wonder Girl, Black Spider , Doctor Phosphorus; Harley Quinn, Ocean Master, Planet Master; Captain Stingaree, Cavalier, Killer Moth, Kite-Man , Black Lightning, Geo-Force, Halo, Katana, Metamorpho, Baron Bedlam, Coldsnap, Heatstroke, New Wave, Shakedown, Windfall, Swamp Thing

– Story: [/Spoilers] Nightwing calls Batman to Bludhaven to view an old villain’s costume in a fit of sentimentality, as well as to inform him of a murder by Poison Ivy. Batman goes to meet Ivy in Arkham, where he finds out she is trying to hide from Etrigan the daemon. Etrigan turns on Batman, and Batman is overpowered, but saved at the last minute by new superhero Baphomet. Fearing Tim Drake will one day leave him just like Dick Grayson did, Batman starts toying with the idea of partnering-up with Baphomet, who is nervous and over-familiar, but likeable nonetheless. Bruce respects Baphomet’s lack of publicity-seeking or media interest, and Baphomet catches a villain that Bruce lets escape in order to save a hostage, making the two seem like a good team.

Multiple flashbacks to various periods in Bruce’s past go on through the story to underscore points. Scenes are saw of Batman with a young Robin, with a teenage Robin, with Robin becoming Nightwing, with Batman joining The Outsiders.

The other part of the plot is that Batman’s former lover Silver St Cloud returns and the two start a relationship that builds and builds until Batman eventually proposes to her, and the two get engaged. Silver allows Bruce to feel less obsessed with crime-fighting than usual and he starts to question his future.

Batman spends more time with Silver and leaves Gotham to Tim Drake and Baphomet. He is mistrustful of the new people in his life but after investigating them both all fears are removed. Life is good. Bruce is becoming a little too happy… maybe he’ll give up the Batman career in a few years.

I won’t spoil the ending because it is really, really strong.

– Art: Much less inconsistent than Cacophony in terms of quality, but fittingly inconsistent in style to reflect all the different eras of Batman. Its well done. There are hidden View Askew references (Buy Me Toys, Nails Cigarettes etc). There is a lot of detail, a lot of effort is clearly vissible. I don’t really like the style myself on a personal-taste level, but a lot of effort has gone into it, and it is functionally good as well as a huge improvement over the previous installment.

– My Thoughts: This is a real multiplication of the first one. Everything that was wrong with the first one (inappropriate language and swearing, jokes that don’t fit, dialogue Bruce would never say by any other writer’s choice, open discussions of sex, rude jokes etc) are here, way less subtly, way more often. If you don’t like the sound of that, you won’t like this book.

If you think it’s a bad idea for Catwoman to say “Wait, I’m not wearing any panties” then you won’t like this book at all. Because she does indeed say that in this book. Poison Ivy also tries to get Batman high on cannabis. Its Batman as written by Kevin Smith… so if you don’t think Smith’s personal taste fits in with the tone you want from Batman, then avoid, avoid, avoid!

Even I had huge problems with some parts, and found it difficult to continue reading at points. (And there’s a lot of Jewish jokes that seem a bit dodgy to me).

Once you get past the taste issue, the story is a big, colourful, bombastic tour of Batman’s history, as I’ve stated its very much like Grant Morrison’s “it all happened” style with a lot of references to the past and obscure characters and things like Batman’s work in teams (Justice League/Outsiders) with Superhumans. If you only want Batman to be realistic and only deal with humans… this isn’t the book for you…

Then there’s the love story. The Bruce can retire because he found love story. The Bruce lightens up a bit story. Depending on your taste this can be interesting or really lame.

As for the controversial “Batman wet himself” thing that people obsess over in this book… it is really not a big deal, or sacrilegious or anything like that. That issue is blown way out of proportion, and out of all the non-Batman things in the book, that is probably actually the least important. Its arguably handled rather well in the book actually.

On the plus side, some of the comedy is good (Calendar Man’s attitude to being sick was funny), some of the story is interesting, some of the references are neat (a young Dr. Wolper in particular). Baphomet is a good character and really likeable. The ending is superb. The ending is worth reading the book for alone. I won’t discuss it further to avoid spoilers or hype-disappointment-syndrome.

Overall; a very hit and miss book. It really depends on your mood and your sensibilities. It is intended to be colourful and fun and show off the bits of the Batman universe that aren’t over-done all the time in the grim and gritty era. Just like everyone praises Grant Morrison for. Smith definitely has a unique voice too. The ending is great, the amount of effort is great and the new guy is great.

However… there is so much just, un-Batman stuff in there that even with the biggest leniency and fandom for Smith, and a “this is his take on it, not mainline continuity” attitude, all the dirty jokes and drugs-talk and madcap ideas work way better on a podcast as a hypothetical than in the actual comic. Its kind of Smith-has-gone-too-far almost.

Its hard to get over that, and recommend it for being the very good book that it is, because I know fine rightly how awful it might seem if you aren’t forgiving of the sheer un-Batmanness. Smiling-Batman-of-the-70s as a fun book yes! Recall that spirit, good idea. A Bruce Wayne that isn’t psychologically tortured or borderline insane, yes! Refreshing, good idea.

Calling people “bitches” “turds” “emo-boys” “goths” and being overtly sexual… not for me thanks. That aspect, while again, it would be great to hear on a podcast with excitement in Smith’s voice and his co-host laughing, just doesn’t sit right with me in a comic.

So; In answer to the question, “where do I sit?” I’m afraid my answer is “On The Fence.”

Hello and welcome to the fifteenth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year buying and reading Batman comics, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

This week, I’ll be covering Cacophony; a brief three-issue story (but part of a wider trilogy with The Widening Gyre and Bellicosity) which was written by Kevin Smith. Kevin Smith is best known for his films and impressive podcasting empire, as well as his part on the TV show Comic Book Men, and has worked on numerous comics before including Green Arrow and Daredevil. I haven’t read those. I haven’t read his comics about other superheroes yet. I have read his comics about his own films though, in the Tales From The Clerks compilation, but that’s about it.

I’m a huge, huge fan of his podcasting though (amazing free entertainment by the bucket full), and still have a lot of fondness for most of his films which I loved as a teenager but have seen too much and heard too much criticism of, and overall learned too much about to be able to ever really “just watch” anymore.

Kevin has a sense of humour which includes frequent jokes about sex, sex organs, drugs and scat-humour, as well as a tendency to talk about and reference real life people he knows. These seem sort of incompatible with Batman. All the other Batman I’ve ever read has avoided joking about sex, or talking about Batman’s genitals, or involving all that much faeces.

Needless to say, people, as far as I’ve read online did not appreciate when Smith included some of his sense of humour in Batman. Its very un-Batman to use the words “I saw a bit of your Junk when you were getting changed.” It just is.

I would just say this however… what did you expect? Kevin Smith + Batman = Kevin Smith’s Batman, surely? Why would you get someone unique like Kevin Smith and then have him just lose his uniqueness and not seem like Kevin Smith? That would be like getting Quentin Tarinto to direct an episode of a TV show and then just expecting him to do what the previous director was doing… a bit of a waste.

If you really dislike Kevin Smith…why did you read it? Its not as if there is any shortage of alternative Batman books to read. Its not like Metallica, where they only make one album every five years. There are many, many Batman books released and re-released every year and if you really can’t stand Kevin Smith it would be quite easy to give Cacophony a miss.

I’ve been wanting to re-read this for quite a while (every time I listen to Fatman On Batman I get the urge to read it) but I’ve been saving it until I was ready to write one of these articles about it. I’ve kind of shot myself in the foot a little by starting this series, but oh well.. I got to re-read it now and that’s all that matters.

Batman

Batman – Cacophony:

– Writers: Kevin Smith
– Art: Walt Flanagan
– Colours: Sandra Hope

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Late Career

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains: Joker, Zsasz, Deadshot, Onomotepeia, Maxie Zeuss

– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police)

– Bystanders: N/A

– References: Barbara Gordon, John Paul Valley, Jason Todd, Mad Hatter, Amygdala, Calendar Man, Scarface, Riddler, Clayface, Connor Hawke as Green Arrow,

– Story: [/Spoilers] A new villain called Onomotepia, comes from Star City to Gotham to kill Batman, via the means of distracting him by freeing the Joker from Arkham. He interrupts an unrelated assassination attempt by Deadshot during which Joker learns that Maxie Zeuss is selling Joker Venom as a designer drug. Joker is offended and starts a war with Zeuss including murdering his nephew and setting fire to his nightclub with a flamethrower while impersonating a celebrity DJ. Batman, fresh from stopping Zsasz kill random innocents tries to recapture joker, meets Onomotopia and they battle. Onomotopia betrays joker to save himself leaving Joker mortally wounded and Batman choses to save Joker’s life rather than pursue Onomotopia despite the arrival of Commissioner Gordon who tries to convince Batman to just let the Joker die from his wounds. After a lengthy coma, Joker awakes to find Batman, dressed as Matches Malone meet him in hospital to clear up this issue of whether the two want to kill eachother or not. Batman says no, Joker says yes. In an epilogue Batman jokes with Alfred and Onomopepia goes back to his life as a family man and his secret plans to kill Batman.

– Tone: I’ll discuss this at the end, because they kind of go hand in hand.

– Art: Inconsistent. Walt draws so many different faces for the same Joker. Gets better as it goes along though, just needs more consistency. Also, he draws humans better than either Batman or Joker. His Gordon and Maxie Zeus-as-businessman look perfect, I’m just not keen on the way Batman’s face and mask look. The book is beautifully coloured actually though, it looks gorgeous with glossy paper and vivid colours.

– My Thoughts: Not the worst Batman story I ever read. Not even close. I actively enjoy Cacophony. If you ignore the fact that the dialogue has a bit more Smith-esque humour than would usually be found, this is actually a pretty entertaining and enjoyable story with some neat, memorable moments. And you know what, some of the jokes actually made me smile too. Its not like its 100% liking it despite the jokes, sometimes its just liking it… on its own terms. I liken it to listening to Megadeth. At first you are like “Dave Mustaine has a weird voice” but then you are later like “Screw it, a good song is a good song.” Admittedly, nowadays I love Mustaine’s voice totally and completely… can’t say I’ll ever love penis jokes within a Batman story, but hey, I can’t make every analogy 100% critique-proof.

I really enjoy some moments such as Zsasz getting surprised and also getting kicked through the door in a presumable homage to Madlove. I really love Jokers’ “Now do you get the Joke?” moment with Maxie.

Also, I just really love Onomotepia. He is a really neat villain uniquely suited to the medium he was invented for. Good look, good gimmick. If I ever wrote a Batman story, I’d include or at least reference him. His coolness adds a good few points in the book’s favour.

Negatives-wise; I do question some of the Jewish humour, slightly wary that it’s a bit distasteful (“Unholy Bris” ? Hmmm…). …And admittedly some of the dialogue and choices are contradictory to a lot of other writers (Gordon encourages Batman to let Joker die when other books make Gordon stop situations like this.)

It’s a Batman book I don’t regret buying, and would have no problems reading again. Maybe I’m being unfairly lenient to balance out people who were unfairly critical, that is possible, I mean, I don’t think I’d forgive other writers for a Batmite-themed Deadmaus-style DJ or a letter in which Joker calls Batman emo-boy (does Joker keep abreast of music trends and internet-era humour and expressions? Maybe, maybe not…).

Either way, I don’t think I’d recommend it to you if the idea of toilet humour in Batman is appalling, but I enjoyed it more than all the negative internet vibes made me think I would. That’ll do…

Hello and welcome once again my friends to the show that never ends this fourth round of my “Get (Into) What You Paid For” challenge, in which I attempt to not buy anything for a month, and reevaluate my opinion of records I bought previously but never really became a true fan of, taking this purchase-abstinence as a chance to finally “get my money’s worth” out’ve the more undervalued albums in my collection. That; and present thoughts and musings that don’t fit elsewhere on the blog.

Its now eight days into the challenge and yup…didn’t cave last night and buy anything. I don’t think I’m all that tempted at the minute. Maybe I am though. Who knows, maybe I’d sneak in during the middle of the night and buy Girls Girls Girls on eBay? I listened to Accept’s Balls To The Wall yesterday, that made me pretty tempted to pick up Restless & Wild actually. Ok…so maybe there are temptations. Get off my back!

A lot of my blog viewing this week has featured Savatage…maybe I’ll just quickly get the albums of theirs I’m missing?

No. Stay strong!… Ok. So. You’ll be glad to read (unless you’re an Amazon employee) that I didn’t do any of that. I’ve still been listening to that Motely Crue album I mentioned yesterday. Also a lot of Pantera. Boy do I enjoy Pantera. Sometimes you take them for granted and ignore them, and then all of a sudden you are refreshed and hear them again and its all like “Wow…how good are Pantera guys? Seriously!” as if it’s the very first time again. Excellent, timeless, brilliant band.

In non-music realms, I’ve been reading Batman Cacophony, a title (written by Kevin Smith) that I picked up and read over half a year ago but haven’t blogged about yet, but I’ve kept that in a separate post, in the Amateur Batfan series. Temptations-wise? Maybe I might buy Kevin Smith’s work on Green Arrow or Daredevil? I am curious… but, no, not now. Its still just Batman time for me.

So, what else is new then?

I’ve been reading a lot online today about the best selling Metal albums of all time. I would like to see how Avenged Sevenfold and Slipknot compare to Dokken and Quiet Riot…how Dream Theater did, if Anthrax or Exodus ever went platinum over time… things like that.

A few of the places to check out are: here and here, and also here. Furthermore, there’s here and here and here.

What I found out however is that there are massive, massive, massive differences in opinion/supposed facts/plain old lies about how well certain albums sold. Here are some examples of such disputed sales figures:

AC/DC – Back In Black: 49 x platinum (or 25/40 as reported elsewhere)
Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon: 45 x platinum (or 22 as reported elsewhere)
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV: 37 x platinum (or 29 as reported elsewhere)
Nirvana – Nevermind: 30 x platinum (or 26 as reported elsewhere)
Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet: 28 x platinum (or 12 as reported elsewhere)
Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction: 28 x platinum (or 18/21/30 as reported elsewhere)
Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory: 24 x platinum (or 10 as reported elsewhere)
Metallica – Metallica: 19 x platinum (or 16/30 as reported elsewhere)
Pink Floyd – The Wall: 17 x platinum (or 30 as reported elsewhere)

How can there be such discrepancies? Some of these are nearly double the amount! That’s not something you can mistake in your bank account, or shipping company traffic.

Here are other some surprises however:

Kid Rock – Devil Without A Cause: 11 x platinum
Limp Bizkit – Significant Other: 7 x platinum
Limp Bizkit – Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water: 6 x platinum
Quiet Riot – Metal Health: 6 x platinum
Guns N’ Roses – Greatest Hits: 5 x platinum
Guns N’ Roses – GN’R Lies: 5 x platinum
Alice in Chains – Dirt: 4 x platinum
Black Sabbath – Paranoid: 4 x platinum
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral: 4 x platinum
Linkin Park – Meteora: 4 x platinum
Disturbed – The Sickness: 4 x platinum
Godsmack – Godsmack: 4 x platinum
Metallica – Kill ‘Em All: 3 x platinum
System of a Down – Toxicity: 3 x platinum
Queensryche – Empire: 3 x platinum
Tool – Aenima 3 x platinum
Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine: 3 x platinum
Rage Against the Machine – Evil Empire: 3 x platinum
Cinderella – Night Songs: 3 x platinum
Cinderella – Long Cold Winter: 3 x platinum
Papa Roach – Infest: 3 x platinum
P.O.D. – Satellite: 3 x platinum
Audioslave – Audioslave 3 x platinum
Ozzy Osbourne – Diary of a Madman: 3 x platinum
Ozzy Osbourne – Bark at the Moon: 3 x platinum

P.O.D, Cinadrella, Papa Roach and Disturbed stand out to me as odd. These guys all sold more than Slipknot? My perspective is way off. They all sold equal to System Of A Down…really? Also, I never, ever thought Godsmack would be that successful… You just do not hear of those guys over here in the UK (Godsmack’s record here is MORE Successful than Black Sabbath, RATM and Ozzy Osbourne? Really?).

Tool sold so many despite being so proggy and weird? Good on them!

RATM sold so few relative to this list despite the enormous crossover appeal?

What’s with the large gap between Metallica albums? If you like Metallica enough to buy Ride The Lightning, why not buy Kill ‘Em All too?

Significant Other sold more than Chocolate Starfish? – It really didn’t feel that way at the time.

Audioslave?

Queensryche did that well? Why were they so unheard of two years ago?

An unwanted, cover-song-filled GNR compilation so, so late in their career outsold Toxicity and Meteora? They seemed sooooo famous at the time to me, while that compilation seems so throw-away.

But anyway, enough about sales.

DT – A

Here’s something to reevaluate. Dream Theater’s 1994 album, Awake. It’s their third album, it’s the third of theirs that I heard if memory serves. I heard Metropolis’ and didn’t like it (this has since changed), then I heard Images & Words and liked that, then I bought a boxset and listened to the other albums in that; which included Awake, Falling Into Infinity and Train Of Thought.

The album opens up with drums on their own, and kind of reminds me of Jethro Tull’s ‘No Lullabye’ in a very vague way. Opener “6.00” comes in and samples say “Six O Clock On A Christmas Morning” in a way that is sort of cool because they made it rhythmic and part of the song like Ministry might do, but also slightly annoying. Sometimes this part is offputting and sometimes I love it, depending on my mood. They pulled the whole samples and randomness thing off way better on the previous album during “Take The Time.”

I like the keys, this actually feels like there is a lot of 70s Prog in it. The drums are nice and flashy and awkward. Its kind of, with the exception of the pre-chorus though, its kind of cooler to appreciate than to actually enjoy. You sit with your minds eye, casting it over the different things going on, focusing for a second on each, like watching Slipknot on stage with your real eyes, and that process is fun. The song isn’t as good on the ears as that process is on the brain however.

I like it during the middle during the “Inside coming outside” bit where it goes a bit Misplaced Childhood. After this point the song is pretty bad-ass actually. The solo and the parts underneath are all excellent.

Much like Theater Of Pain I kind of think this album-opener is a bad choice. Its doesn’t set up a good first impression. I think you have to know you like the song before you hear it to trust it, otherwise its just gimmicky and overly bouncy without being memorable. Its not. But it seems that way until the half-way point if you are unfamiliar. It should be buried later in the album, where it would be the exact same song, but better, because you’re already warmed up. Do you follow?

Next up comes “Caught In A Web.” I didn’t know that at the time, because as a rule I think I hate “Caught In A Web.” I hear some Dream Theater song though… The first minute…awesome. (Well; awesome except the synth… a weird seering synth over the top that feels like its mocking me. I had problems with Camel’s fifth album in the past, when the toplines mocked me even when the bottom was cool. The bottom of this song during the first minute or two is awesome, but boy-o-boy do I dislike that top-part.)

Anyway, the first minute is more or less great. Nice, the same excellent sound from their previous record Images & Words, but maybe a little tiny bit slower and with a tiny bit more Pantera creeping into things. Then a really ugly, ugly, sheen-y chorus which just doesn’t fit. Oh, I guess its “Caught In A Web.” Damn, I don’t like it anymore…I think?

It then bounces into a cool Alternative Metal/Groove Metal riff that really reminds me of Pantera and Pissing Razors a lot. Then there’s bits when they prog out on that riff and it sounds like Death and Opeth because of the long winding, ever-shifting guitar lines aspects. The whole mid section is fabulous. The drum build-up is cool, the Eastern-tinged keys are cool, the guitars are rhythmic and interesting.

I often think I dislike this song, but this song is fabulous, its just got the wrong chorus for my tastes. I’d love to edit the chorus out of it, and then it would be one of my favourite Dream Theater tracks.

Next up comes “Innocence Faded,” which opens like some sort of Tennis Match montage music. Its clean and commercial and not unpleasant. It then goes down into a quiet, diamondy sort of sound like Donkey Kong Country levels in an Ice Cave. The next bit is cool, kind of Genesis-reminiscent. The chorus is a bit “nothing” …a sort of swing-and-a-miss, but there are many other cool parts. LaBrie is awesome around the 2.05 mark. The drums are nice and flashy between there and the chorus too. Very nice. After that there’s some very 80s Rush sounds. Rush albums later than Moving Pictures. I like it. Its not very Metal in any way, but in and of itself, its nice. It kind of reminds me of Van Halen’s “Jump” and Genesis’ “Turn It On Again” combined in some sort of The Fly situation.

The instrumental “Erotomania” is next. A lot of Van Der Graaf and King Crimson influence here. It opens sounding like a warning siren on a train track. Its quite nice to sit and concentrate on, but not really background music. Queensryche and Tool, and even Mastodon can make Prog that you can not even notice is all that complex if you don’t pay attention. This is more like The Mars Volta in that…no one’s mistaking that for simplistic. It gets really cool from 2 minute mark onwards, all these parts are way cooler than the start part. Its interesting the mix of 70s Prog, with 80s sounds and then also even a bit that sounds like its trying to be Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” hidden in there in the background. Its also cool when it goes Neoclassical a minute later. This is the sort of thing you listen to a hundred times and never truly hear the same thing twice. I think two fans can hear it and their brains will tell them two completely different things depending on how closely each guy is paying attention.

The brief Metal bit towards the end, but before the repetition of the bits from the start, is cool. Also, the actual end-end really, really reminds me of both “The Trees” by Rush, and the bit in “2112” by Rush where it transitions from the heavy bit to the soft bit where the character discovers the guitar.

The lengthy “Voices” follows up. It is thunderous and reminds me quite a lot of “Suite Sister Mary” by Queensryche during the opening, but its a lot more technical and multi-faceted. It builds up quite slowly over almost the first three minutes, there’s sort of a “Don’t Leave Me Now” by Pink Floyd vibe to that build.

The those same bright ugly keys from the “Caught In A Web” chorus come in. The Metal bit which follows is really rather neat. I hear bits that would influence Protest The Hero in there. The ugly chorus is ugly to me. There’s a touch of the “Caught In A Web” problem, where this one part is causing a false impression of a good song and lowering my overall impression of it accidentally. Even though the rest of it is deadly, like the following part with double-kicks. I like the talk-boxy solo a little while afterwards. That whole section is excellent. The only problem I have is that this song really feels like an album-closer. But its track 5 of 11. Well it makes me want to stop listening because the record is obviously finished, only it isn’t, is it?

This album has a problem of being in the wrong order. That’s my diagnosis.

Anyway, next comes the brief, perfect ballad, “The Silent Man.” It is excellent; succinct, tasteful, memorable and interesting. Its just right, not too cheesy. A few more tiny hints of Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” hidden in the mid-section. Deceptively varied and creative vocals. A neat little guitar lead. All good stuff.

“The Mirror.” Opens up in a huge and obvious Pantera tribute. Parts seems practically lifted whole-sale from “Domination” and “Walk.” Then it speeds up and some Phantom of the Opera chase keys come it, its all very intriguing. Then a fun guitar line that I’m sure inspired Avenged Sevenfold follows, the drums are fast and Metal. Back to Pantera.

I think this is my favourite song from the album. Maybe that’s just because I like Pantera so much? Interestingly though, its all the bits that don’t sound like Pantera which really make it cool though. I think I’ll change my iTunes tracklist of this album so that this and “6.00” switch places. This would be a much better opener.

It seamlessly transitions into “Lie.” That means “Lie” and “Caught In A Web” will have to switch places too, oh well.

“Lie” is really strong. Apparently it was a single. Its catchy enough. I love the Mary/Contrary/Promise/Doubting Thomas bit. That was always the one bit of the record that stuck out in my mind. I’ll have to remember that this song is the one with that in it.

Hey! A bit that sounds like Tool! That riff underneath the bit about leashes is reminiscent of Undertow-era Adam Jones. This is a nice song. Also the groove at 3.30 and the subsequent complex bit with the solo are possibly the most enjoyable Dream Theater moments that I’ve heard which aren’t on Images And Words. Skip to the 5-minute mark and yeah! That’s what I want to hear. This song is top notch! Yes, these two songs would make a much better album opener, get the blood pumped, the enthusiasm up, and then I’m ready to accept “6.00” because I’m in the mood now.

“Lifting Shadows Off A Dream” comes next, all broody, and seems as if its going to be Queensryche’s “I Don’t Believe In Love” for a few seconds, until it reveals its true intentions. Its almost a ballad, its almost a big build up. Its almost Hogarth-era Marillion. Its none of these things, its its’ own tasteful pop song with a lot on small toms and splash cymbals. Its kind of sprawling…its like King Crimson’s “Starless” in structure, but much, much, much, much more clean and bright and commercial. It sounds like a basket ball team in a movie winning its first victory whilst the dad shows up to see his son for the first time because he’s finally learned what’s important in life.

“Scarred” follows that. Also sprawling. Slightly jazzy flavoured but without any actual jazz. Full of mischief. Threateningly full of potential. Which way will it go? – Lots of ways it would seem. Groove parts. Staccato Metal parts (various ones in fact). Clean syrupy pop parts. Numerous time-sig changes. It’s a real “Hey, we can do a lot of stuff and we’re good at our instruments” piece. The clean chorus is a lot less lame than in either “Caught In A Web” or “Voices” though.

Then there’s another kind of chorus which feels like its got a sort of grunge influence. A touch of the “Evenflow”s about it, ey?

Do you know when bands say that their heavier stuff is heavier and their lighter stuff is lighter…this actually is. There’s not much on Images And Words that’s overly syrupy. Anyway… There’s also nothing as heavy as the part between the guitar solo in the 7-8 minute bracket.

Also, why does nothing Dream Theater ever play sound like Yes? I was promise Metallica meets Yes. Whoever promised me that (Classic Rock Presents Prog Magazine) doesn’t listen to much Yes… or Metallica for that matter.

This song could benefit from lots and lots of repeat listens, because there’s tons of cool parts to enjoy, but its lack of purpose or structure make first-impressions a bit confused.

Finally comes depressing album closer “Space Dye Vest” which I already know that I enjoy, but will listen to here anyway. Its moody, its tasteful, its got samples that are mechanical sounding instead of dialogue. Ok, actually it does have diagloue samples too… something Anathema do a lot actually… this reminds me of the whole Anathema rant about “Death is not the opposite of life, death is the opposite of birth, life is eternal.” I guess a woman is not a possession then, sample guy. Anyway, the end of the song is fantastic.

Ok. That was the album.

What do I think? Four awesome songs in “The Mirror,” “Lie,” “The Silent Man” and “Space Dye Vest.” The rest… good bits, but not good songs, or maybe good songs with bits that aren’t to my taste. Except maybe “Erotomania” which is good but just has an intro that makes me think I won’t like it.

Meh… Its worth owning. I think a lot more listens are required before it hits me properly. Or maybe, its just a case of I should listen to half of it a lot and ignore the other half because I could listen to better music instead? Who knows…

Hope that was entertaining. Now, continuing the theme established yesterday, and based on this article’s inclusion of the Prog Metal band Dream Theater… here are some Top 5s from some Progressive Metal bands in my collection:

Coheed & Cambria :
1. Apollo I: The Writing Writer
2. Far
3. No World For Tomorrow
4. Key Entity Extraction I: Domino The Destitute
5. Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry The Defiant

Dream Theater:
1. Take The Time
2. Metropolis Prt 1 The Miracle And The Sleeper
3. Strange Deja Vu
4. Honour Thy Father
5. The Silent Man

The Mars Volta :
1. Cotapaxi
2. Cygnus….Vismund Cygnus
3. Vedamalady
4. Goliath
5. Day Of The Baphomets

Mastodon :
1. Blood And Thunder
2. The Czar
3. This Mortal Soil
4. I Am Ahab
5. Crusher Destroyer

Porcupine Tree :
1. Anesthetize
2. Drawing The Line
3. Normal
4. The Sound Of Musak
5. Deadwing

Protest The Hero :
1. Turn Soonest To The Sea
2. Sex Tapes
3. Skies
4. Mist
5. Dunsel

Queensryche :
1. Revolution Calling
2. Roads To Madness
3. Where Dreams Go To Die
4. Murder?
5. My Global Mind

Rishloo :
1. Downhill
2. Weevil Bride
3. Alchemy Alice
4. Scissorlips
5. El Empe

Riverside :
1. Hyperactive
2. Celebrity Touch
3. Second Life Syndrome
4. Rainbow Box
5. Egotist Hedonist

Savatage :
1. Hall Of The Mountain King
2. Castles Burning
3. Believe
4. Edge Of Thorns
5. Of Rage And War

Tool :
1. 10,000 Days
2. Jambi
3. Eulogy
4. Ticks And Leeches
5. Vicarious

There’s dozens of others in my library, but for one reason or another I don’t feel comfortable choosing a Top 5 for them.