Beethoven

Beethoven est le plus grand des héros ! Épopée en ut mineur, chevauchées diatoniques ou escalade tonale, il fît accoucher son génie sans jamais nuire à autrui ; il donne et construit, jamais ne détruit… Et quel cadeau pour l’humanité ! Halte, naïf ! Ces sonates, ces concertos, ces symphonies, il les a aussi faites pour lui. Par amour du dépassement et joie de l’accomplissement…Car Beethoven, c’est la lutte. Une symphonie ? Une bataille ! Il est un plus grand guerrier que Napoléon, à qui il dédicaçait sa symphonie héroïque avant d’apprendre, furieux, son couronnement « N’est-il donc, lui aussi, rien de plus qu’un homme ordinaire? » dit-il en arrachant la couverture du manuscrit.

Mozart l’enfant prodigue noircit ses partitions d’une seule traite, sans ratures. Beethoven rature, gribouille, déchire, éructe – souffre ! Mozart le surdoué, Beethoven le surhomme. Mozart le mondain, Beethoven le révolutionnaire ! Est-ce pour ça qu’on trouve chez le second une dimension, une profondeur et une colère absente chez le premier ?

Imaginez un peintre a la vue défaillante, un comédien a la voix éteinte, et un musicien dont l’ouïe décline inexorablement….Perspectives odieuses, absurdes ! Ca ne se peut pas, et pourtant ça est.  Voila le scandale, l’injuste fardeau que Beethoven dû porter…Pourquoi un tel mal doit il tomber sur celui pour qui les oreilles sont le bien le plus précieux ! Pourquoi pas sur l’homme insensible à la musique ? L’idiot ou le salaud ? La vie…Dans tout sa laideur et son arbitraire, elle le frappe sans relâche, dissout ses rêves et détruit des illusions. Croit-il aux miracles ? Un horizon obscurci, un quotidien pourri d’humiliations enchainées, cumulées, ravalées. Et pourtant cette foi désuète et forte, ce suspens religieux de l’âme, qui résiste aux assauts et au poids d’une réalité devenue ennemie ; c’est la matrice de Beethoven. Et pourtant, la grâce aérienne du 4ème concerto pour Piano ! L’espièglerie du sextuor pour vents, la majestueuse sérénité de la symphonie pastorale !

Ecouter Beethoven sans connaitre le personnage et sa vie d’épreuves annule toute possibilité de compréhension, d’empathie et donc de connexion avec l’œuvre. Si le motif rageur, puissant et autoritaire du 1er mouvement du concerto pour violon est né des tourments de Beethoven (c’est là le cri de l’homme blessé mais pas désespéré : Il secoue sa tête ! Brulante ! Ébouriffé !), les dernières sonates et particulièrement l’adagio de l’op.106 – le sommet du pianisme- relèvent de l’introspection testamentaire et métaphysique.  Les derniers quatuors, écrits au crépuscule de sa vie sont des témoignages monumentaux d’un homme que la mort guette – une âme apaisée par le baume de la délivrance ? (Schubert mourant fera jouer l’opus 131 à son chevet). Clair obscurs musicaux, subtilité et fracas,  tonnerre et ruisseau, telle est la dualité qui marque l’œuvre du maître.

On dit que certains spectateurs de la 5ème symphonie furent victimes de crises et d’évanouissements, pris à la gorge qu’ils étaient par une musique si nouvelle, brutale, si folle mais si honnête ! Il ne triche pas, le compositeur échevelé, il ne se réfugie derrière aucun paravent, et cette prodigieuse pureté frappe l’auditeur de tout son poids : il est nu face au génie, troublé comme Goethe…Soudain tout petit, bien médiocre ! Cette symphonie dite du destin consacre la réconciliation de l’homme avec l’artiste, l’acceptation déterminée de la maladie, et en définitive, le triomphe de la volonté. La puissance ! Voila la constante beethovenienne, de la 5ème à la 9ème en passant par le concerto Empereur et l’accord plaqué de la sonate pathétique…Si la frustration et la douleur sont autant de formidables moteurs pour le compositeur, le feu de l’optimisme n’aura cessé de brûler en lui, comme en témoigne l’explosion chorale de la neuvième symphonie, universelle et fraternelle. Avec la nature, voila qui rapproche encore Beethoven de Rousseau !

Beethoven n’était pas lâche et chez lui la résignation est toujours triomphante.  Tel un cycliste grimpant une cote étroite bordée de précipices, le seul choix honnête, la seule option morale (Kantienne !) est d’avancer, toujours. Cette dialectique du malgré tout qui constitue le ferment créateur chez Beethoven, héro maudit qui porta l’âme humaine à son firmament, par le travail et le talent.

Le génie est intemporel, il transcende et s’affranchit du temps, tyran de nos vies. Il a conquérit son éternité en survivant à sa propre mort de manière quasi christique.L’œuvre de Beethoven traverse les âges inaltérée telle une étoile dont la lumière éteinte nous parvient encore. La qualité d’une musique n’est pas seulement subjective où socialement construite, oh non ! La 9ème retentit et l’inuit, le pygmée et le juif ne deviennent que six oreilles en batterie !  Quelle est la preuve ? Peut-on objectiver ces louanges délirantes ? Oui, mille fois oui, le temps est le seul juge, le temps !

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Hey Shredders, Leave Mozart Alone !

 

I love electric guitar (my wallet knows it) and appreciate classical music. So the association of those two elements sure looks cool on paper. Yet it is often terribly disappointing, why ?

The interest, the very nature of electric guitar is dynamic, namely the ability to make the saturation and volume of your playing vary with the intensity of your right hand (picking or strumming). Instead of being flat, the guitar’s volume is going (lightly) up and down and up, depending on the strength you decide to apply to the strings. This warmth, subtility and duality in sound is the reason why tube amps are so praised. The problem with neoclassical shredders is that their playing is often dead flat (volume and intensity don’t vary much) and they use an ugly-ass ultradistorted, deaf tone. In all these « classical pieces on Ibanez » videos, you can witness the tyrannic rule of EMG pickups and high-gain, processed, compressed modern tone. I like when my tone breath, I like an overdrive with bite and personality. I know Ywingie plays Strat, but he always hit those strings like a hammer-smith, goes faster for the principle, and rarely show subtility in leads.  But this is one side of the coin. There is a reason why certain musical pieces were made for violin, other for organ, cello or piano :  because the music is adapted to the instrument it’s designed to be played with. So why trying, blindly to play not-for-note a violin piece (a violin covers far more octave than a guitar) ? next to the purity of violin and cello, the fast runs with buzzing distortion just sounds annoying. The attack of a pick is indeed radically different from the stroke of a bow. Plus how are you supposed to replicated the dozens of instruments present in a classical work with one single guitar ? The strength of many classical masterpiece is the subtility, the dramatic tension that comes from the different instruments and variations in volume and intensity (like Chopin’s nocturnes, Shubert’s 8th symphony….). That’s why the Requiem of Mozart covered on electric guitar is the biggest butchering/waste I ever witnessed.

If you don’t know what i mean or think I’m being unfair, look at this, it will hurt your ears :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLX2JNVP4Ws&feature=player_embedded

Note that I don’t consider that playing classical on electric is automatically crap, far from it, I just complain about the way it is often made. So there is some exceptions : « canon rock » wins a point : it is an adaptation of a beautiful piece into a rock format and it’s simply great. Also, there is one guy neoclassical players should look at, like a kind of messiah : it’s Uli Jon Roth. He combined great technical skills with a sensitive touch on the fretborad, a great musical sense and tons of dynamics and feeling. I do think that Blackmore, Uli and Randy Rhoads were geniuses to incorporate classical element into heavy-metal, because they did it in a clever way.

Another element is the pitfall of ulra-technicality. Let’s go through an open door : When a guitar players develops fine technical skills, he tends to transform his music in a demonstration, an ego-boosting sonic masturbation. I’m asking you ! Do you prefer stairway to heaven solo or Angelo Batio ultra fast runs ? I bet my right arm that most of people dig in the emotion and majesty that rose from Page or Rory Gallagher guitars rather than ultrafast stuff. For a guitarist it is a rare and great feeling to be in trance and spit a solo from the guts. In that extent, I actually think that Petrucci is so good, has so much control that attitude, soul and groove lacks in his playing.  Attitude is a primordial thing in guitar, it is a very expressive instrument and should be played as such. For instance sweep picking is a plague for electric guitar : it is a convenient way to pick arpeggios. But if it sounds good at moderate tempo, it however sound like total shit(a bunch of angry bees) at blistering speed. There is many sweepers who indeed play so fast that you don’t have time to actually hear –digest – the notes. Keep in mind that the first rule of soloing is to phrase, articulate the licks so it means something and the auditor can fully enjoy it. Take “Whole Lotta Love” solo, It is a bunch of licks with a repetitive rhythm pattern between them, same thing for « another brick in the wall » solo, there is silences between phrases.To sum up, sacrificing melody and groove in the name of technique is a mistake.

Then there is no point to diss speed for the principle, and praise « soul » as an excuse for being a crappy and lazy guitarist.  Tons of great solo are fast and hard. Some, rather rare players combined great skills with great musicality, like (my favorite guitarists) the unmatched Randy Rhoads and Dimebag Darrell.

But to me electric guitar is associated with sweat and beer, In your face riffs from Angus or Joe perry, on the edge passionate solos ala Garry Moore or Jimmy Page, maybe sloppy but surely intense for both the player and the audience. Not ultracontrolled diminshed sweep picking shredding, boring and soulless !

The Scorpions Scandal

– “Do you know Scorpions” ?

– ” Still loving you right ? Mmmh, Babybooming Hair Rock from the 80s , I don’t like it that much”.

What do I call this dialogue ? I call it a fucking scandal ! The Scorpions Scandal :  while most people only know the 80s main hits : Rock You Like A Hurricane, No One like You….some ignore that they actually made five great albums before the 80s. It feels like their famous slow virtually erased their may previous records. This is the curse of the hit, just like Stairway to Heaven for Led Zeppelin and Hotel California for the Eagles, the supersong atracts all the light, thus tending to throw the other material in the shadows. The blond frontman of Zeppelin, Robert Plant  even begun to hate Stairway, and guitar shops in London would fee those who played its intro. In the case of Scorpions, the five first albums are undoubtedly  the treasure of this band, a pearl of musical alchemy and talent. Just like Aeromsith : before they went MTV and teenagegirl-friendly, they delivered some amazing bluesy Hard-Rock that smelled sweat, blood and beer (such as Movin’ Out or One Way Street).  Don’t get me wrong : I enjoy the 80s and 90s Scorpions. Lovedrive and Blackout are killer records and sure deliver some high quality hard-rock, but in my opinion nothing beats what they came out with in the 70s. Just listen to the melancholic We’ll burn the Sky, dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, the original and dramatic In Trance and the motivating Pictured Life and you’ll be amazed by the singer’s incredible high voice, the guitar wizardry and the very solid songwriting.

The adventure starts in 1965 when the Schenker brothers started jamming together. Later joined lead singer Klaus Meine, and the first album, lonesome Crow was out in 1975. It can be labelled psychedelic rock, being very different from everything the band will release in the future. Soon, Michael Schenker leaves the band to join UFO and is replaced by Uli Jon Roth. Uli’s virtuosity had a tremendous influence on the band’s sonic identity. His guitar style has been called schyzophrenic since it is on the one hand very Hendrix-ish, and on the other hand classicaly influenced and technically evolved. Uli jon Roth’s style, sound and composition will pave the way for upcoming classicaly influenced guitarists such as Randy Rhoads.  With his white stratocaster, he not only shows flawless technical abilities (the futuristic diminished scales of Sails of Charon) but also a rather developed taste : instead of a flashy demonstration, his solos are very well built, blessed by a “each-note-at-its-place” genuine melodic sense.

The new line-up releases Fly To The Rainbow, containing the straight rock speedy’s coming. But the album has a lot more to offer. The minor arpeggios in the intro of They need a million are mesmerizing and Meine’s voice raises up high with a spectacular ability to put some soul and drama in the music. His particular and high and expressive voice, with a slight german accent, will become the trademark of Scorpions. In these times, the band was not yet playing Stadium Rock : The title song Fly to the Rainbow is a ten minutes long, adventurous melodic piece and was really magnifiez by its live version on Tokyo Tapes.   Great hard rock anthems such as He’s a Woman She’s a Man or Steamrock Fever. Their next album, In Trance, featuring the fantastic title song, did not disappoint the previously hooked ears.

In a word, early Scorpions records are an oasis of creativity and soul piercing melodies, listen to it !

God Is Irish

Saying that Rory Gallagher left a tremendous impact on the Blues-Rock guitar world is a starck euphemism.

The flabergasting beauty that ooze from his compositions, like I fall Apart or I’m not Awake Yet, revealed his great sense for melody and subtle arrangements. But above all, Rory was a concert animal : his live performances are not likely to be forgotten by those who were lucky enough to attend. The rather slim young man, who almost seems shy, indeed turned into an angry and passionate god of larsen, deversing litters of sweat on the stage. With that two-sided image, he may have incarnated that rock-icon paradox : adored by thousands yet lonely.

I believe that Rory is one the few artist that had a deep impact on his audience. One night, I came home drunk after a party and played the live DVD Irish tour. The stage performance and passion were so overwhelming  that I would sometimes drop an awestruck laugh. It almost seemed like this man had been created above to let his gift shine and thrive. In a word as in thousands, Rory Gallagher floored me. 

Effective riffs (Laundromat, Secret Agent), a square rythm section, and a pushed raw voice  were always a part of the man’s style, but became his trademark from the end of the 70s, when he decided to let down elaborated and subtle compositions for more simple and effective rock anthems such as Bad Penny, Cradle Rock or Philby. If Bad Penny doesn’t make you want to ride a drakkar in the heart of the storm, you might need medical assistance). It is however clear that rory was not a single shot gun, he knew to how to diversify his records : his love for acoustic guitar, slide,  and old blues never left him and he greeted us with jazzy tracks such as Can’t believe it’s true or calling card. Moreover, he was a rather complete artist since he sung and played saxophone, harmonica & mandolin….My favourite record remains the first one : listen to I fall Apart and you’ll understand why.

As a guitarist, Rory cannot let you numb. If he never less a “trademark eternal solo” like page on Stairway to Heaven, his fervent passion for music is audible -and visible – in his guitar playing : very expressive phrasing, vibrato, and effective turnarounds are some key features of his playing. His best leads are in my opion the intro solo of “Edged In Blue”, that make you feel like floating on a cloud, the angry and soulfully harsh solos on For the Last Time, A Million Miles Away and the passionate roaring leads on Moonchild.  When I walk in a guitar shop, it’s  always the same thing I first play : the intro of A million miles away’s live version, it’s simply classy, beautiful and suspensful. Because of its lyricism, this song can be labelled as “epic” (we all know that amercians annoyingly overuse that term). Its solemnity and dramatic tension simply raises it above the “meat & potatoes” Rock N’ Roll mass.

Rory Gallagher is a word that rhymes with honesty and passion, unlike many others, he never left his roots for some MTV-friendly pop oriented empty-assed balads or easy songs that would sell better. Fidelity, also, to his one guitar, a fender stratocaster which painting didn’t resists the years, giving it a unique look. Simplicity and authenticity might be Rory Gallagher’s motto for his first album was recorded with a small Fender amp, in a live configuration.  A refreshing fact that shows that you don’t need to spend thousands on guitar gear to sound good.  When Clapton or Joe Bonamassa (the suits and-sunglasses kind of players) are people who decide to play Blues (and they do it well), Rory genuinely sweats blues (and bourbon ?). In joy or pain, he was never counterfeited. Of course, the eighties didn’t left him unharmed : the brillant inspiration of his st(r)a(r)t was beginning to fade out in a downward spiral illustrated by the weakness of “Jinx”. But like a plane pilot, he would pull up and keep his head over water with an efficient new record, Defender (heavier sound that takes no prisonners).

Rory Gallagher can be portrayed as a humble knight of blues, giving himself to the limit, walking wounded, but standing still until the very end. Like if he bought a one way ticket to music dedication, Rory Gallagher never ceased to make the music he loved and so he deserves our greatful eulogy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RftQdHoDB90&feature=plcp

Randy Rhoads

Randy Rhoads. To all heavy metal guitar lovers, this name sounds like a slogan, an icon. Randy’s tremendous playing is still echoing in our brains, and influencing thousands of guitar players around the world. I will always remember the first time I listened to Mr.Crowley’solo. Boy, that was the exact same feeling that I got as a kid listening to Page’s solo on Stairway to heaven, namely, pure amazement, the feeling of something Divine, and the rape of the replay button. Before analyzing his guitar playing ,lets read a little bit of history. Randy grew up in a musical environment  since his mother directed a music school an was a musician herself, he thus got his first guitar at seven, and started taking lessons. His favourite players growing up were Leslie West, Ronnie Montrose, Allan Holdsworth, and he obviously  was very inspired by the young Eddie Van Halen, a “guitarhero” who was at the time refreshing rock guitar with virtuosity and flashy playing.

In the end of 1979 Ozzy got kicked out of Black Sabbath due to his heavy drug addiction. Ozzy then decided to start a solo career, the first essential step being to find a guitar player. Nothing predisposed randy to become ozzy future guitarist . Randy, who then played in a L.A band called Quiet Riot, was surprisingly not a black Sabbath fan, and it’s actually randy’mother who convinced him to attend the audition ! There starts the legend, Randy had just strated warming up when Ozzy told him “You got the part”. Straight up !

Randy was very surprised and of course grabbed the opportunity of playing with Ozzy. Indeed, many claim that randy’s guitar playing truly shined when he joined ozzy . Randy said himself that there were more room for guitar with ozzy than they were in Quiet Riot, his former band were indeed bound by their record deal and had a “pop” element to their music. Zakk Wylde also stated : “where do you put mr. Crowley solo in a quiet riot song ? where do you put Revelations mother earth solo ?” acknowledging that being with ozzy freed randy from his Chains and allowed him to express completely. But it would be unfair to occult randy’s guitar work in Quiet Riot. His solo on “trouble” for instance is absolutely gracious and amazing, revealing his classical influence. At the times, not many players played with that classical edge, only blackmore can boast about bringing it to table in the first place. This kind of modern blacmorism made heavy metal guitar reach a new level and paved the way for armies of upcoming longhaired metal players.

The most evident proof of randy’s playing “classical” element is his solo on Revelation Mother Earth, he also composed the piano part introducing the solo, showing his great composition skills. Ozzy being drunk for most of the recording session, it his safe to say that we owe randy rhoads for the final results. Mr Crowleys solos also have a slight classical taste to them. However, randy always managed to incorporate his classical inspiration in a clever way, namely that his solo are still rock n’ roll solos, but they just fly a lot higher than your next door pentantonic shedder. Randy also used very subtly and scarcely the tapping technique, popularized by Eddie Van Halen : the final run (tapping)  in Flying High Again Solo is very tasty and serves the song well. He also used some refreshing scales in some of his solos such as the one on the live version of no bone movies. In a word, randy’s effective yet complex playing is the missing link between overused chuck berryesque rock licks and the upcoming ultra fast and boring metal shredding.

Solos are not the only strenght of our little protege, his riffing is responsible for thousands of bedroom guitarists recording themselves playing the anthemic and happy sounding crazy train riff. Again, his guitar rythm work is above the mass, because he never settle for powerchording all the times. Little melodic parts thrown during the verses like in Mr. Crowley and complex rythm playing like in little dolls are also part of his greatness. His use of diminished scales can be heard on the mysterious and epic Diary of a Madman intro and during his famous live  “spotlight” solo. (which is a kind of randy’s own eruption). 

Randy was not at all the ego-trippin lazy-ass rock star, partying all night and day. He was definitely the anti random rock player, since he was taking his job very seriously, was very focused and dedicated to what he was doing. When they were touring, he would seek for guitar teachers and have lessons, which would often end up with him paying to teach his teacher. He would also jam with the local band. Before he died, he was very much into classical guitar and had bought a very good one with his blizzard of ozz Royalties. The acoustic guitar track song Dee is actually composed by  Randy Rhoads for his mother. Therefore his curiosity and dedication to music widen his guitar toolbox ( you never know what he’s going to play – unlike for instance, angus young who his shuffeling for 40 years)  and allowed him to be a very confident and perfectionist musician (he would double-track all of his solos). Double or triple tracking solos requires a dead-on accuracy, he was also a very technical player (his fastest solo must bee Mr Crowley) but his work never lacked musicality, his solos are always a song within the song.  Another quality to credit him for is the ability to make the live show sounds like there’s two guitar players while he’s the only one. He mastered the art of playing some quick ornemenation or transition licks, or even play one single high note to decorate his riffs, like in the live rendition of suicide solution, the result is pretty badass.

As mentioned before, Randy Rhoads was into classical guitar before he died, and he was feeling less and less happy in the Ozzy Band, according to friends and family he actually wanted to leave and follow his own path, namely get a degree in classical guitar. Of course, after he died Sharon (ozzy osbourne money-gripping wife) and ozzy made and ideal portray of a smooth relationship but they were apparently some tensions in the end, due to randy considering leaving the band.

During the  diary of a madman tour, a plane pilot found it funny to bump the wheels of the small plane randy was in on the roof of the band’s tour bus. At the 4th bump, the pilot lost control and the plane crashed. All aboard the plane died. Randy Rhoads was 25 years old.

Randy Rhoads was an innovative guitar player who played some mezmering music. His sudden death is in my sense the sadest and most regrettable rock early death, since he had some much to offer and only played on four studio records, only two with ozzy. But why am i so enthusiatsic about this guy ? well because he’s one of the few players whose talent revive your interest for the instrument and whose playing is deeply inspirational. Moreover learning a randy rhoads solo is always a challenge and an ego-stroking achievment.But I still haven’t heard anybody playing Mr.Crowley’solo exactly like randy, no matter how hard you try, there will always be that magical thing that made his playing absolutely unique, and unfortunately unreplaceable.

check this out  ! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnKrNyZJJk0&feature=relmfu

Dimebag & Pantera : Getcha’ pull

When the young Darrell started jamming with his brother, Vinnie, his heroes were called ace frehley, Randy Rhoads and Tomy Iommi…you got it, All Darrell wanted was to play loud, bad-assed heavy metal. Yet Pantera didn’t became huge in one day, before their first huge success (CFH), they realeased no less than four albums, the best one being “power metal” (1989) with the freshly hired phil anselmo on vocals. This period is commonly refered to as their “glam days” even though the music sounds more like traditional 80s heavy than glam.

After the realease of Cowboys from hell, Dimebag quickely became a metal guitar legend : not only did he threw some bone breaking chunky groovy riffs (clash with reality, heresy) on the table, but his talent also exploded on his lead-work. Indeed, instead of shredding for the sake of showing off – being blessed with great technical abilities, dime said that he always cared about coming up with what the song needed, and the music speaks for itself. In that sense, Dimebag managed to escape metal guitar’s main pitfall : shredding a solo without melodic plan, percussive element or original ideas. Indeed,compared to other metal solos, Dimebag’s leads can be sung and are easily remembered. In my opinion, the ability to sing a solo, the fact that it stays stuck in your head and inspires you to pickup your guitar to replicate what you heard are criterias for a great guitar lead.

Cowboys from Hell  solo flows in genuinely,  cleverly using the dimished 4th  and harmonic minor runs. Cemetery gates’one, starting slowly and melodically before reaching a fast climax is a one way ticket to shivers.  On the same album, the lead on “the sleep” is epic and an instant jaw dropper. Plus the man was also known for his ability to play after having swallowed impressive quantities of whiskey. On the furious trash anthem Domination, Darrell delivers his most technical solo, and also one of the more agressive and tough one, its a musical knock-out.

As a guitarist, Dimebag is particularly inspiring : hearing the badassness and the southern attitude that sweat from his riffs and solos really makes you want to play like him. His playing on “Cowboys do more dope” (From the Rebel Meets Rebel album, the song feels like a drunken hellraising party) is a good exemple of the attitude that oozed from his axe. Darrell shaped is own style (acid Bending, strong and expressive vibrato, fluidity & great melodic feeling and his own technique of squealing) and developed a  very unique and aggressive tone, perfectly serving the brutal  machine that was pantera : a talented singer who’s not afraid of pushing the limits of his voice, a bassist with a huge tone and the sense of groove and a kickass drummer who blast his double pedals as easily as one claps his fingers. With his “southern style” approach of riffing and his innovative use of the whammy bar, Dimebag Darrell pushed metal guitar to a New Level, the way Hendrix made rock guitar evolve.

What distinguished Pantera from other metal bands is their solid songwriting and their ability to draw catchy melody for the vocals, in spite of the violence and harshness of anselmo’s voice. Take a band like Exhorder for instance, they have all the features of pantera : aggressive riffing, pissed off voice, blasting drums, yet, you’re not convinced by their songs because they lack this catchiness and songwriting ability. That’s why even people who thought they didn’t like metal can like Pantera : the music makes sense.   the song “walk” for instance owns its success to the simple yet heavy riff that became a classic. On this song, dime played an innovative solo, using what he calls the “fake-echo technique”. This whole album (Vulgar display of power) is a master piece that really established pantera style and trademark : heavy and powerful groove metal with that southern spice.                                                                                                                       Again, they shined in the art of dropping the decibels for a while with “This Love” and its perfect bridge riff and soulful solo, then “Hollow”, a very convincing melodic and sad piece of music. The next record is pushing that powerfull recipe even deeper : Far beyond driven must be good to box to. Pure straight up metal destruction : the anger (and booze?) fueled 5 minutes alone is one of the best track. “Hard lines, Sunken cheeks” and “Shedding Skin” are two successes thanks to the quality of the composition and the dramatic and dark atmosphere that they convey. Slaughtered and throes of rejection are  brutal and rythmicaly challenging songs, with that syncopated  groove that would make your grandpa headbang like crazy. Really, the intro of slaughtered is like a sledgehammer hit to the chest. Never in the album the band shows sign of weakeness : 25 years and strength beyond strength might be a bit under the lot, but the quality of the rest is so blatant, the guitar work being as astonishing as ever, that the overall good impression is not affected.

Pantera has a particularity: they never compromised their sound, and grew heavier and heavier with time.  In that extend they escape the trend of charts-friendly heavy metal bands releasing power ballads. Their 1996 album is therefore genuinely called “The great Southern Trendkill”, the title track being a master piece of its kind : take-no-prisoner metal rampage. But then comes the track “floods”, pantera having a true talent for calmer yet brilliant songs such as the sleep, cemetery gates, this love, hollow. The solo on this is often present in those absurd “100 greatests guitar solos of all times” rankings. It is truly a song within the song, starting with a very inspired and tasty minor lick on the upper part of the neck, it then grow in intensity with always that vibrato and feeling, the outro is just pure and beautiful, the kind of stuff that you want to be cranked at your funerals. If not the best,this is clearly the maturity release from pantera. Then will come the honest yet disappointing reinventing the steel.

Dimebag’s also a hell of a characher. When he was shot dead during a Damageplan concert in 2004, the tragic event heavily shook the metal world and beyond. Not only was he a tremendous guitarist but he was a very down to earth and generous person, who just did what he liked : raising some hell on and off stage.  Dime’s authenticity and warmth is visible on the video footage that was recorded by the band. When signing posters for his fans, the guitarist would for instance treat each one like a good friend. Because of his skills, but also given the influence that he had on so many people, I consider him to be part of top three metal guitarists, along with Randy Rhoads and Marty Friedman.

Check this out ! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCzfSAf5Sp8&feature=relmfu

Dimebag Darrell’s post-death Interview

In december 2004, Pantera and Damageplan’s brilliant guitarist was shot on stage. We had the opportunity to climb a stairway and have a talk with him.

Interviewer : Man, first of all I really want to tell you how much you are missed down there, it’s such an absurd tragedy. You are really being praised by the whole metal community right now, everybody is saying how down-to-earth and cool you were, and well, still are since we’re talking !

Dime : (moved) Thanks man, Its always touching to see the reactions from here, I feel especially sad for my brother, dude me were really like a pair you know ? I gotta say I didn’t see it happen, the asshole that shot me came out of nowhere on stage, I had barely noticed him that I was on the ground with bullets in my head…

I : But I guess you don’t want to talk about it too much so let’s move on and leave that behind. You’ve been here in heaven for two weeks now, how does it feels ? tell us a bit about what’s happening above our heads !

D : Well first I was a bit skeptical right after I passed out, I was like, man I’m supposed to be a Cowboy from Hell and the whole metal thing isn’t that god-friendly, so what if I go to hell?  But then I said to myself : fuck that, I’m a positive person and after allI just did what I liked, straight-up. (drinks beer). And then I saw a blinding light and god welcomed me, It was a really warm feeling. He said something like “I really like your solos on cemetery gates and floods”, I was kinda speechless so he opened the gates for me and there I was, like an impressed kid walking in that white glow.

When I saw all the people there, It was a huge adrenaline rush. I was facing john Bonham, Layne Staley, they were welcoming me and suddenly Randy Rhoads walked in, man I was in awe, we hugged like two ol’friends even though I never met him before. I bet you know already, but the man was a big influence on me as a guitar player…So we went straight-on jamming ! I can tell you that since randy’s been here for a while he had a lot of time to practice, and boy, he’s even better than he was in 1982 if that’s possible ! he’s really into classical guitar but he didn’t drop rock n roll, so we were just playing some ozzy and zep tunes. Bonzo was all drunk and burping but he was rocking those drums hard.

I : Heaven is jamming !

D : Definitely dude !  I got to discover Rory Gallagher some more too, he’s a real angel on the guitar. Irish Tour is one of the best live album ever recorded. We don’t play the same style but I have the deepest respect for him.

We weren't allowed to take pictures so this one from his days as a simple mortal.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures so this one is from his days as a simple mortal.

: So you also met Hendrix, Jim Morrisson, Cobain ?

D : Hell yeah ! Jim is the “sit all day writing poems” kinda guy and jimi’s really chill and nice, very polite and old fashioned, but he’s also deaf as stone man !…Jimi is suprisingly humble and doesn’t seem to realize that he is considered the god of rock guitar by a lot of people.  Miles Davis and him finally got to play together. I wish you could hear the music that we put together in here. Like cobain and staley got together in a kinda grunge supergoup, I suggested they call it “alice in nirvana”.

I : You got some heaven tales to tell ?

D : Shit, got a lot of em. As strange as it seems, there’s a lot of hellraising happening up here !! And guess what ? Mozart and Beethoven are pretty heavy drinkers ! By the way did I tell you that we don’t suffer hangovers here ? That’s not gonna help my liquid absorption, but its not gonna kill me now, is it ?(takes a sip)  But I was talkin about Mozart : he’s really into Randy’s stuff, imagine that!   Cause Randy managed to to a clever fusion between classical and heavy metal, but not in the dumb note-for-note way like malmsteen – Mozart disses him a lot-. He considers that if he wrote pieces for violin, its because they sounded good on violin, not on guitar ! Wolfgang might be oldfashionned, but he’s actually a loud-mouth ! He once said that malmsteen’s “as fast as fat”.

I : Does Mozat like Pantera ?

D : Haha, he said he likes some of my solos for their musicality but Pantera is way too brutal for him. He told me that at first he really dispised rock n roll, since its a very raw and simplistic music to his precious ears, but as he’s stuck here with loads of rockstars, he just got used to it…

I : And did you get to know god personnaly ?

D : (finishes beer, throws it away and grabs another one) Want some ? those beers are brewed in the south of Heaven, I always forget the name of the brand since its written in latin….Mmmh..i wouldn’t say personnaly cos the guy is pretty busy ya know ? But we had a few talks and he told me that in his opinion, Dick cheney’s a hell more satanic than Iron Maiden so he’s really not backing the whole “Christian against rock n roll” stuff. He’s also pretty angry about all our assholish presidents swearing on the bible. Actually from here, he looks way more open than it appeared to me back in time. But i’m still convinced that for you on earth, the only god you can rely on is the strenght and determination of your own mind.

I : Does he play music? You know his favourite song ?

D :He’s pretty skilled at harp and violin. Yeah I asked him that and, hold on, god’s favourite rock song is “yellow raven” by Scorpions ! (laughs) Imagine that ! god’s really into early Scorpions.

I : Okay let’s go back on hearth for a second, What do you feel about phil (Pantera’s singer) being forbidden to go to your funeral

D : Let me tell you somethin’, I really forgave phil for all the shit he threw at me and my brother faces , cause you know ain’t no point in being revengefull and bitter, my philosophy was always to try to still be positive , even when I thought I was in a hole…On the other hand I can’t blame my family for being pissed of against him…I look at all this shit from above, and it’s just fucking sad.

How would you describe your guitar style and were you satisfied with your playing ?

Let’s start from the start, as a kid I was a realy big fan of Kiss, especially Ace Frehley, Van Halen, of course Zeppelin and Sabbath, so you see I was not very jazzy from the start !! I need to mention that Def leppart’s first album really jammed,so did Judas Priest, and then came Metallica and Megadeth..I worked hard on my technique man, and as for the inspiration, I guess it gotta come from the guts ya know ? Hours of jamming with my brother on the drums sure helped a lot shapping my style. As for my perception of lead guitar, I never played a fast solo for the sake of burnin’. You should never do that otherwise you’ll just turn into a robot, you gotta feel ! For instance in “5 min alone” I bend a note for a really long time and that’s about it, I was just tryin what could sound good, and I said “Damn, that shit sounds cool” so I just stuck with it. I guess I also got a fucking brutal vibrato, and sure like to d*ck around with the whammy bar and harmonics !  As for being satisfied ? Dude, im not goin to be hypocrite, I know I kick some serious ass but then again there’s so many good players in the world. I think the key is to keep tryin to improve, learn new stuff, experiment ! Take randy, he was never satisfied with his playing and kept practicing really hard,even on tour. No need to say that in Pantera we weren’t serious kids, man the mess we made…If I had learned one new lick for each beer I drunk I guess I would be a beast by now…

I : Thanks a lot dime, among the livings, people says rest in peace.

D: No way, I do not intend to rest, got some jamming to do !! With those heaven designed amps and pickups we all got killer tones, Randy and I are currently working on something, I’ll send you the tape bro! Don’t forget to pour yourself a blacktooth grin !