The Music Of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

This is another post that I was about done writing last month when a person involved with the work died. Actor Ray Liotta, famous for his roles in movies such as Goodfellas, was also the voice of GTA Vice City’s main character Tommy Vercetti. Liotta died on May 26, 2022. RIP Ray.

Video games and music have had a love/love relationship since the point where games had the storage space and processing power to play actual music during the games. Sometimes it’s an original score for the game – the soundtrack to Skyrim has been big business and the Red Dead Redemption series has very acclaimed original songs.

In other cases it’s a soundtrack of curated songs that play while the game is going. The Tony Hawk Pro Skater series is as beloved for its soundtracks as for its legendary game play. And many driving games have a selection of radio stations for fans of many different kinds of music to get their fix as they traverse pixelated highways.

But when it comes to music in video games, absolutely no one got it as right as Rockstar Games and the Grand Theft Auto series. A host of radio stations occupy whichever vehicle the player feels like stealing and interspersed with the songs are a variety of satirical ads, on-theme DJs and even original talk radio programming. The GTA series soundtracks are achievements unto themselves and have been a major highlight of the games.

Today I’m going to talk about the soundtrack to my favorite video game of all time – Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Set in mid-1980’s Florida and modeled after Miami, Vice City is a pit of sin and debauchery full of drug deals and a power struggle for the top of the criminal food chain. The game took the revolutionary elements of the wildly successful GTA III and added more voice acting and game play hijinks to really take the series to the forefront of gaming accomplishments.

I could go on and on about the game but this is about the music – and there’s plenty of it. Vice City’s radio stations are loaded with songs. There are seven music stations that offer about fifteen songs on average, the original Playstation 2 release featured 103 songs. Two other radio stations are talk-based programming and are also hilarious, it is Rockstar satire at its best. For anyone who has played the game for any length of time and gotten tired of hearing the same songs over and over again, K-CHAT and Vice City Public Radio offer audio detours that provide absolute laugh riots.

The music runs the gamut of everything great about the 1980’s – everything from pop, new wave, soul, rock and metal, and early hip-hop are represented in the radio stations.

Had this just been a bunch of radio stations with music, Vice City would have been an absolute delight. But wait, there’s more – Rockstar not only provided the music, but also gave each station its own legitimate feel with DJ’s and commercials. The DJ’s fit the spirit of each station they’re on, one personal favorite is the creepy Fernando on Emotion 98.3. The DJ talk fits between the songs probably better than most real-life radio DJ’s can accomplish, at least from what I’ve heard. And of course in-game events can influence what is said on the radio, though this would be something the games would give even more life to in future installments.

And the commercials are a worthy listen on their own. Satirical ads for retirement homes, knives and clothing are all worth a chuckle. And the Ammu-Nation ads pretty much get their own award for their over-the-top portrayals of Second Amendment Rights and also the war we had against Australia. All of it adds up to an experience that rivals or even surpasses actual radio, even back when radio was good.

The soundtrack wasn’t without its subsequent issues – mainly, licensing. Vice City the game has been re-issued and re-mastered for many new console generations as well as mobile. But being able to put the music on the new versions of the game would require new licensing for the songs, something not every record label was behind. Sony was most notable in demanding a king’s ransom for use of their songs, which Rockstar declined. This removed a signature track from both the radio and game’s opening, Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” (It also removed Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark At The Moon” from the metal station).

Almost every radio station was affected by licensing issues – only Wave FM was apparently untouched by the problem. It has become a standing issue in video games, as it is lucrative practice to re-release classic titles on new hardware. It has also affected the game streaming community, as a Twitch user is fine to broadcast video game play, but if they are playing copyrighted music during that broadcast, it becomes an issue. Yes, even if the game publisher secured a license for the music to be in the game. These game and music licensing issues will likely continue to play out as entertainment evolves but the recording industry does not. (This is also why there are no videos with cool gameplay footage and the radio going – content creators have to mute the songs when they play).

One funny aside about the songs – if you reload a save, the exact same songs play when you re-enter the game. Some of the side missions can be very difficult and this results in hearing the same few song snippets over and over and over again. I got a few pointed words thrown my way by my girlfriend in the past when I was doing something like the vigilante missions over and over and she heard the same few bits again and again. But hey, there’s nothing like flying an attack helicopter to wipe out drug dealers along with the sweet sounds of Night Ranger, Mister Mister and Hall And Oates.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was a masterpiece at tying music and video game together. Everything in the game and the music evoked the 1980’s atmosphere the creators sought for the game. ’80’s music of all genres cranks out from the game’s stations, and the developers took the extra steps to make sure the radio personnel and commercials supplemented a totally immersive experience. A player truly is in Vice City when playing, it isn’t just a case of farting around with casual interest in a game.

I’ve spent all this time talking about the music of GTA but I barely mentioned the rock and metal station V-ROCK. That’s because it gets its own post, coming Friday.

The ads from the radio stations in one big video

Upcoming Releases – Dog Days Of Summer

The upcoming music section had been a bit bare for awhile, not much was trickling my way. That is until last week, when the floodgates opened and everyone and their mother put out new tracks. It’s a full docket now with some expected stuff and a few surprises. And also the one I’ve been going on about for months now.

Lamb Of God – Nevermore

Nevermore is the lead single from Lamb Of God’s upcoming album Omens, due October 7. It’s a fairly quick turnaround for the groove metal purveyors, as they are only two years removed from a self-titled release.

The song is pretty good, has a bit more of the classic LoG feel that I thought was a bit lacking on the last record. I do admittedly need to give that album another spin and chance. But I like what I hear with Nevermore and am looking forward to what the new album will bring.

Bulletboys – Holy Fuck

A real blast from the past here, the Bulletboys were some great sleaze rock back in the day. I haven’t kept up with them and I gather that they haven’t been active the entire time but they have regathered and have this new song on offer. No news on an album as yet. The song is pretty good and I’m digging what they’re up to, hopefully this is the start of more to come.

Ozzy Osbourne – Patient Number 9

The Prince of Darkness is back with the lead single from his new album of the same name, which releases September 9. It will be a fairly quick release after 2020’s Ordinary Man and follow the same format – produced by Andrew Watt and featuring several guest appearances. This track features Jeff Beck providing a guitar solo.

I think this approach is good for Ozzy at this point in his life – these grab-bag collaboration albums are far better than what he was doing through most of the 2000’s. Sure, it’s all a far cry from his otherworldly solo prime, but that was eons ago and no one’s going to ever recreate that.

This song is pretty good. I do think the production has the song buried a bit and the song also kind of meanders off in the end, but it’s still a pretty good listen. With all Ozzy has dealt with recently health-wise, just being able to do albums is an achievement in and of itself.

Queensryche – In Extremis

The new effort from Queensryche, titled Digital Noise Alliance, is set for an October 7 release. It will be the fourth album to feature singer Todd La Torre, who replaced Geoff Tate in the 2010’s after a very messy split.

I’ll be upfront – this song doesn’t move me much. I do think La Torre is a brilliant singer and that the material Queensryche have done since the split is leagues better than what they were churning out with Tate in the 2000’s, but the stuff just doesn’t grab me. It is competently executed music but it, well, doesn’t feel like Queensryche. I know there is no going back to the glory days, but I have a hard time getting behind the modern incarnation of the band. Maybe something else from the new album will be more compelling.

Amon Amarth – Get In The Ring

The Swedish Viking troupe had a single earlier in the year but a bit ago they released another new song as well as details for their new album. The Great Heathen Army is just around the corner on August 5.

The song is an original composition, not a cover of the Guns N’ Roses tune. It is pretty standard Amon Amarth fare. No, the band aren’t taking creative chances but their formula has made them one of the most successful metal bands of the 2000s so why would they mess with it? I’m fine with it and will be waiting for the new disc to drop here in a month or so.

Spirit Adrift – Mass Formation Psychosis

One of the 2010’s most interesting doom prospects return with a new record. 20 Centuries Gone will hit August 19. I’ll also be checking out these guys live next month as they open for Crowbar. The new stuff sounds great, this project hasn’t missed a beat since its inception.

Megadeth – We’ll Be Back

Well, well, well – what do we have here? After months of all talk and no song, here finally is the lead single from the new Megadeth album. The record, The Sick, The Dying … And The Dead! Will see release on September 2, a slight delay from a planned July release. It’s a highly anticipated release after several years and a lot of drama.

And wow, did they spit out a banger to open things up. We’ll Be Back is top notch thrash and a relentless track from start to finish. Dave Mustaine’s vocal delivery on the verses recalls the 1986 classic Black Friday, something I presume was intentional given the small nod to it also in the lyrics. And the riffs on this song are just all over and in your face. It is quite a statement from a band that has proven to be unpredictable over the years.

The video also serves as part one of a story arc, and there were rumors swirling around that this story is the origin of Megadeth’s long-running mascot Vic Rattlehead. I can’t find any information to truly confirm that, however. Either way, we’re getting some sort of hard-boiled war story told across the songs of the new album.

That wraps up the present edition of stuff to look forward to. Now with Megadeth finally offering something I don’t really have a long-anticipated thing to pine for next. Just gonna have to see what comes down the pipe next.

Album Of The Week – June 27, 2022

I wasn’t sure what this week’s album would be, then for, uh, no reason at all I recalled this 1992 incendiary masterpiece.

Rage Against The Machine (self-titled)

Released November 3, 1992 via Epic Records

My Favorite Tracks – Bombtrack, Bullet In The Head, Killing In The Name

Rage Against The Machine exploded onto the scene in 1992 with a combination of hip-hop and metal that expressed disdain for the political machine. The album and band would become a smash success, spreading their revolutionary message to an entire generation and also shaping the tides of the transforming metal scene in the 1990’s.

The idea of combining rap and metal together was explored in a handful of places before RATM hit. (Anthrax, Ice T with Body Count, etc.). In 1992 the concept would cease being abstract and come to the front lines of music, with Rage leading the charge. The rest of the early 90’s would be filled with this caustic combination of concerned parents’ two least favorite forms of music.

For Rage it was not simply doing rap and doing metal. The band were based in groove were definitely playing metal, but were also using hip-hop elements with Tom Morello’s unconventional guitar stylings and Zack de la Rocha’s vocal delivery. This was truly blending both forms of music together into one thing, not just a mash-up of two styles.


It’s a whole new ballgame from the word go – a distinct bass line leads into the explosive opener and album’s third single. The song depicts revolutionary ideology and the video outlines the struggles of Peru’s Shining Path movement. The music is other worldly, while the message behind it was perhaps a bit obscured to us in the pre-Internet early 90’s. It was much harder to just look up elaborating information on stuff like this way back when.

Killing In The Name

Likely the best-known song from the album, even people who have never sought out RATM are likely familiar with the chant “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me.” The song was written in response to police brutality, specifically the Rodney King beating and the Los Angeles riots that resulted from the not guilty verdicts in the criminal trials. The song continues to be referenced to this day – Tom Morello brought it up after off-duty cops were found to have been among the January 6, 2021 insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol building.

Take The Power Back

Another protest anthem that encourages people to throw off the shackles of Euro-centric, capitalist education and reclaim individual liberty from the corrupt system. Zack de la Rocha is in staccato rap-mode delivery on this one.

Settle For Nothing

A bleak song about the harrowing experience of growing up poor in America and choosing the gang lifestyle for what is usually the only shot at any kind of life. We’ll settle for nothing now and settle for nothing later is this super heavy tune’s ultimate and sadly accurate conclusion.

Bullet In The Head

The album’s second single, this tune outlines the role of hollow consumerism and its place in suppressing the population. Tom Morello provides a host of odd guitar flourishes here to really make the song stand out.

Know Your Enemy

This time the band takes aim at the illusion of the American Dream and the idea that it’s available for everyone. It defines the purveyors of that dream as the actual enemy to be fought, not the people of foreign lands that the country often wound up fighting. The song features a guest vocal shot from Maynard James Keenan, whose outfit Tool was just about to find their own place in the music scene.

Wake Up

This song looks at the American government’s quest to suppress the African-American political movement of the 1960’s. The song references FBI memos from J. Edgar Hoover as well as a speech from Martin Luther King Jr. The idea that the FBI led the way to dismantling the black political movement was once controversial (and probably still is in some circles) but is a generally-accepted matter of fact now.

Fistful Of Steel

No reference to any specific events this time around, this is a generally-worded protest song that encourages action. Zack de la Rocha is fired up and ready to fight, and also to take out anyone who bows down to the regime.

Township Rebellion

Here we see the band encouraging rebellion through community. As with the rest of the album, it is a visceral attack on the institutions the band sees responsible for the ills of the world (the machine being raged against, of course).


The album closes with its fourth and final single. The song explores the controversial case of Leonard Peltier, an American Indian Movement member who was convicted of murdering two FBI agents in 1975. The case is fraught with massive legal arguments I don’t have space to elaborate on here, Wikipedia of course has a summary of key points. Peltier has been in prison since 1977 and has had many unsuccessful appeals for clemency or pardon on his behalf in the decades since.

Rage Against The Machine was an explosive album that gripped the attention of the music masses in 1992 and beyond, as the “alt-metal” sound filled a vacuum left after 1991 blew everything apart. It was clear that rap and metal were going to get together at some point, and RATM became the true focal point of that marriage. Many more bands would incorporate groove-based elements as well as hip-hop into their music which would eventually lead to the late-90’s nu-metal scene.

But this isn’t about blaming Rage for all of that. Their music put the disparate elements together in a unified focus and showed that such a combination was not only possible but viable. They weren’t the first to do it but they were the ones who got the formula down in a unified manner.

And of course the true legacy of Rage Against The Machine might lie in their politically-charged lyrical content. The band did not hold back any revolutionary thought or spare anything out of fear of reprisal – they went all-out against what they considered the evils of the day.

It is very confrontational and dark content that in some respects was missed or went over some listeners’ heads. The band were everywhere when they broke out and the album sold over three million copies, and they got even bigger with their next record. Yet to this day, people act shocked that the band were “so political.” I don’t see how people missed the true depth of their political leanings but I guess that’s just how things go. But I also have to believe it inspired a new level of hard line activism among others – recalling the 1999 Seattle protests is one such example.

The concepts RATM presented in 1992 seem to be relevant 30 years later, which is probably not a good thing. The more things change, the more they stay the same I guess. I don’t know for myself how much I feel that call to power presented here (or if it would matter if I did). But I do know that Rage Against The Machine recorded a hell of a debut album all those years ago.

The Song Remains The Same – Tormentor

It’s time again to pit several songs with the same title against each other. This time around it is one hell of a matchup – four legendary metal bands with the same-named song. In an odd coincidence, each instance of the song is on each band’s debut record. And they were all released within two years of each other between 1983 and 1985.

Today’s song is Tormentor,as the title suggests. This was also originally going to be my first post in this series but I punted this because it’s such a tough decision. And while I’m sure many other bands (especially metal bands) have recorded songs called Tormentor, I’m pretty sure this pool of four heavyweights of the industry can’t really be topped. Let’s begin.


The original 1985 recording
The sonically much-improved 2000’s re-recording

Starting off with the venerable German thrashers, their version of Tormentor came in 1985 on their Infernal Overkill debut. I also included their 2000’s re-recording of the song because the original is pretty rough.

Destruction is the one I’m less familiar with because I didn’t get into them until the 2000’s, while I’ve listened to the other three bands for decades. The song is good, if perhaps under-developed. It is a simple tune that gets straight to the brutal point. While I’m usually bored by re-recorded stuff, Destruction has a famously bad sounding early discography and I think the re-recording gives new life to the song.


Back to America and 1983, where Slayer started the Tormentor game on Show No Mercy. The song was a standout for me from the album. It’s a simple yet effective riff with some badass Tom Araya wailing and the requisite tortured solo section. The verses and chorus are clearly delivered and paint a vivid picture of hunting someone down in the shadows, the delivery on this song is great.


The video and audio are hilariously out of sync

One year ahead to 1984 and the self-titled debut of Blackie Lawless and company. W.A.S.P.’s take on Tormentor got a music video as the song was included on some obscure movie that the band also appeared in. This is also an album I covered in the Album of the Week series back last October.

Tormentor wouldn’t be considered the highlight of the debut album but the song still offers the raw, aggressive sound on offer from a startling and brilliant record. The song gets the job done and was part of a sound and image that scared the hell out of suburban America in the 1980’s.


We’ll head back to Germany and 1985 for the final version of Tormentor. It comes from Kreator’s debut Endless Pain, a very noteworthy album in the annals of thrash metal. Tormentor is a fitting inclusion on the album and is a savage and raw attack with a snarling vocal delivery and a pounding riff through its brief three minute run. While Kreator may have shared some production woes with countrymen Destruction, Kreator were able to make it work on this buzzsaw of an album. The gruff and unpolished sound would actually go on to influence metal bands.

So there we have four songs all named Tormentor from four of metal’s most well-known and loved groups. And it’s time to sort out who wins this little contest. I can rule out Destruction early, while I do like the track I think it pales a bit in comparison to the other three.

But this is where the trouble lies. The W.A.S.P. tune is great, but the Kreator song is snarling and savage, also just how I like it. And the Slayer song is a brilliant early performance from their first era.

And after a bit of review, it is Slayer who takes home the crown. In the end their song just goes places and communicates its horror story in a way that stands out from the pack. It’s a gem of a cut from their hallowed debut and a unique piece of sound from before their turn towards more straightforward and brutal thrash. And Tom Araya’s screams on that, holy hell how did he do that?

While these games can be fun when acts from all across music have cut songs with the same name, it gets really interesting when it’s all bands from one part of the spectrum. I guess tormenting people was a common thought among metal musicians in the early 80’s, I don’t know. I would be afraid of the night if I had all these long-haired metal freaks coming at me in the dark in 1984.

Album Of The Week – June 20, 2022

The album pick this week is one of rock’s immortal records. It is such a piece of history and lore that the album is almost beyond discussion. It is one of music’s best and most important debut albums and it redefined what could be accomplished on the guitar.

Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced

Released May 12, 1967 via Track Records (Reprise US)

My Favorite Tracks – Hey Joe, Purple Haze, Fire

Getting into this record does involve choosing a version – the original UK release had different songs than the US version. Today there are expanded reissues with 17 songs (on CD, though can also be found on vinyl) that bridge the gap between the two original versions. In order to keep things concise I will be going over the original North American release with 11 songs. I can’t leave off Purple Haze, Hey Joe or The Wind Cries Mary, which were not on the UK album. I’ll run through the reissue’s other tracks quickly toward the end.

Here’s the Cliffnotes version of the Jimi Hendrix story for anyone maybe unfamiliar – he toiled as a side player in R&B bands for years, then got noticed in New York nightclubs. He eventually got a manager in the form of Animals bassist Chas Chandler, who decided to give Hendrix total creative control and simply form a band around him. The Jimi Hendrix Experience would be Noel Redding on bass, Mitch Mitchell on drums and, of course, Jimi Hendrix with guitar and vocals. They got in the studio and this album happened. And since then, the name Jimi Hendrix is synonymous with the guitar and is a giant among men in music.

Purple Haze

Our version opens with what would become one of Hendrix’s signature songs. It is a showcase for his unique guitar talent as he unleashes a psychedelic trip through six strings. I don’t think anyone was playing guitar like this before it, but everyone was trying to after it. The song gives the vibe of an acid trip, though Hendrix denied that being an influence. Music really doesn’t get better than this and we’re just getting started.

Manic Depression

It’s off into a quick-paced jazzy number that keeps the beat going and retains the psychedelic vibe. The song was not about the clinical condition but rather simply being hung up on a woman, according to Hendrix. Jimi’s solo on this song is just insane. While rock music was obviously around before this, listening to this illustrates the shape of rock music to come.

Hey Joe

A song originally composed by Billy Roberts, a folk musician, the song was covered by legions of people and involved multiple legal disputes. Chas Chandler had been looking for someone to do a rock version of the song even before managing Hendrix. Once he and Jimi got together, this became the first single released by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

The song is a murder ballad, telling the tale of a spurned lover who is off to shoot his old lady down and then run off to Mexico. This plotline was the basis for roughly 36% of songs back in the 1960’s, I think. Hendrix keeps up the guitar theatrics even on this more subdued tune.

Hey Joe was also the final song played at Woodstock. Hendrix closed his set with it at roughly 11 AM on Monday, August 18th, 1969.

Love Or Confusion

It’s jazz odyssey time for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The song goes nuts with the riffs and the trippy vibes. It’s not one of the more celebrated tracks from the album but it’s still a nice tune under the radar.

May This Be Love

100% a 60’s song, this is a psychedelic number that is a product of its time. Hendrix isn’t changing the game on this song, which given his abilities makes this feel like a secondary song. Still a nice effort that does fit atmosphere-wise on the record.

I Don’t Live Today

A hard rock attack before hard rock was really a thing, one might even call out shades of heavy metal here. The song doesn’t go much of anywhere lyrically but the music does the talking. There’s a bit of fade out and then back in action in the last minute.

The Wind Cries Mary

It’s ballad time and Jimi Hendrix knocks this one out of the park. The words were based on relationships present and prior for Hendrix and the music evokes the sweet, somber tone of the lyrics. No need for any guitar theatrics here, the six string simply lays the atmosphere and accompanies the singing.


Another hard rocker and one of Jimi’s most-celebrated works. It’s the drums getting a workout here as Hendrix keeps the guitar in simpler territory. Still the trippy vibes ring through and the band has another hot song on their hands.

Third Stone From The Sun

It’s another trippy jazz number that’s mostly instrumental, with a few half-speed spoken parts about alien invasion. It’s not so much a departure as it is further exploring one tangent that influenced Hendrix’s playing.

Foxey Lady

Back to the more straightforward rock and one of Hendrix’s signature tunes. It’s a widely known and celebrated song that doesn’t require an introduction. It’s all riffs and red hot action in the lyrics and has been used many times in movies and other such fare. It’s often been voted one of Hendrix’s best songs and also one of the best in rock in general.

Are You Experienced?

The title track closes the original version of the album. Hendrix apparently recorded the guitar and drums backwards for the song, giving it an odd movement. Whatever the case, the song gives another trip to ride off into the sunset with.

While this concludes the original US version of Are You Experienced, these days the reissued versions include six additional songs. They aren’t just throwaway tracks either – Stone Free is a monster jam that easily fits on the record and was originally used as a B-side. Red House is a somber blues number that was on the UK version of the record and was a glaring omission from the original US cut. The extra songs bring the album’s runtime to an hour and the modern reissue is certainly the definitive version of the album worth owning.

Note – there are several newer vinyl reissues that are single LPs. Both the US and UK versions have been reissued and have their original track listings, a 2008 vinyl reissue does have two LPs with all 17 songs. The CD reissues all have the 17 tracks as well as bonus DVD material.

No matter the configuration, Are You Experienced was a red-hot debut from one of the most important musicians to pick up a guitar. The legacy of Jimi Hendrix started on this album and would run for a few more years until his untimely death in 1970. His legacy is immortal and very few have really even come close to doing what he was capable of.

The album is a guidebook to rock music and has held up amazingly well in 55 years since its release. Roughly half of the songs across all the album’s versions are staples in Hendrix greatest hits sets and many of the songs are featured across his bountiful live recordings.

I could keep typing for hours about how amazing this album is but the point has already been made. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir in most cases anyway. If, by some odd circumstance, someone who has never heard this record happens to be reading, well, stop whatever you are doing and get to it.

A Story And A Song – Angels In The Outfield

This time around, the song has almost nothing to do with the story. My reason for going with this song will be evident soon enough.

Our song today is Your Love, the big hit from The Outfield. It’s a very nice power pop offering that I’m sure most people have heard. It’s one of those ear candy songs that settles in and doesn’t go away, but I can live with having it stuck in my head for awhile.

And our story involves baseball. It does also involve music. This also isn’t so much a “story” as it is a news recap of stuff that happened last week.

Back last Wednesday on June 8th, the Los Angeles Angels found themselves mired in a 13-game losing streak. It was a franchise record for losing consecutive games. After a pretty hot start to the year, the Angels were getting beaten left and right. They fired their manager and were flailing for anything to reverse their fortunes and get back to winning.

In baseball it’s fairly common for players to have walk-up music play as they go to bat. It’s a bit like a pro wrestler’s entrance except not as dramatic. In fact, Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies uses Your Love as his walk-up song and the Rockies fans get pretty into it when he goes to the plate.

The Angels back over a week ago decided to change up their walk-up music while playing against the Boston Red Sox. Every single Angels player came out to a tune from the same band.

The band? Noted slump-breakers Nickelback.

Yes, every Angels player that night came to the plate to one of Nickelback’s many hits. The usual suspects were there – Someday, Rockstar, How You Remind Me and Animals were all accounted for. Other players used songs I honestly haven’t heard. And Shohei Ohtani, one of baseball’s best players and the face of the game, used Photograph. (not my favorite song).

The idea apparently came from someone on the team’s coaching staff. According to this NBC Sports article via Yahoo! News, Angels quality assurance manager Tim Buss is a huge Nickelback fan and offered up the idea to get something going.

So did the ploy work? No. The Angels lost the game 1-0. The team had no extra-base hits and it appears they never got a runner past second base. A lot of things could be blamed for the Angels’ woes – like the lack of roster depth beyond two of the best players in the game, one of whom was injured that night. But it’s far more fun to blame Nickelback.

Nickelback’s Twitter account got in on the action, tweeting an inspirational sports message to the Angels. Wrong sport, but hey, whatever works.

The Angels would end their suffering the next night – they beat Boston and ended their losing streak at 14 games. Since that time they’ve gone 2-4, not a great run but winning a few is better than not winning at all. The team doesn’t appear poised for a playoff run but could sneak in if they could generate a hot streak.

I’m not horribly invested in what the Angels do on the field, I’m a Cardinals fan. It is fun to watch Angels games on occasion to see what two of the game’s best players in Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout get up to, but the team as a whole can’t seem to get the job done.

As for Nickelback? I mean, I do think the band takes far more shit than they really deserve. It doesn’t lead me to seek out their music, I have no real need to hear any of it again after being bombarded with it in the early 00’s when they were ever-present. And I do think Photograph is an pretty cringe song, that one always did rankle me.

But that’s all neither here nor there. I’ll keep jamming to The Outfield’s hit song. But it does appear that Nickelback doesn’t bring any good luck to the sports scene.

Heaven Can Wait – Would Iron Maiden Replace Bruce Dickinson (again)?

This is a kind of “current events” post I’m not all that into doing, but the topic at hand is significant enough to warrant my interest. It involves my favorite band and I just talked about them on Monday, so when this bit of news dropped the same day it certainly got my attention.

Iron Maiden’s legendary singer Bruce Dickinson recently gave an interview to UK tabloid Daily Star. The interview’s contents are transcribed via this article. In the interview, Bruce gets at the (dark) possibility of not being able to perform to his usual standard as age wears on. He is on board with the band finding a replacement singer, with Bruce perhaps making small guest spots. It would be a situation like what Glenn Tipton does with Judas Priest, making spot appearances here and there as his battle with Parkinson’s disease keeps him from touring full-time.

In the abstract I honestly don’t see anything wrong with the sentiment. I get the thought here – if I can’t do it the way it needs to be done, get someone else who can. I’m generally not opposed to a band going out without a key piece for whatever reason – it is a job and if you can function as a unit with a replacement, go for it.

But we’re not in the abstract. This is Iron Maiden, and this is Bruce Dickinson. People don’t want a replacement for Bruce because it would be insanely tough to even find one, and because we’ve been down this road before. Bruce was replaced in the 1990’s by Blaze Bayley, who found rough footing behind the mic and took a lot of heat for his tenure. While a lot of Maiden’s backslide during the 90’s isn’t the fault of Blaze at all, it is true that he had a difficult time with some of the band’s classic material. With the band unwilling to step down in tuning to help, it left Blaze hanging at times in the live department. It was one oft-cited complaint from fans of that era.

Casting someone else in the role of Bruce Dickinson just isn’t going to work. There are some very talented singers out there, but is anyone really going to replace Bruce? Even if it was limited to being a touring vocalist, I just don’t see it happening.

And Bruce doesn’t see it happening either – he flat-out says “this will never happen” in the interview, referencing both being replaced and the idea of a hologram tour. And this is what leads to the speculative but curious part of the interview – if it isn’t happening at all, why discuss the topic with the media?

I have to begin with this thought – the Daily Star is a tabloid and one with a not-always sterling reputation. While I doubt there was any deception involved here, did the paper simply lead Bruce into this line of questioning? I don’t have access to the paper itself so I didn’t see the whole interview, and we know that media types know how to lead interview subjects into lines of questioning that provide sensational headlines. I can’t say either way but it’s a possibility.

The interview sent Maiden fans into a bit of a tizzy. One possibility discussed was that Bruce was foreshadowing – maybe he knows something we don’t and that his time as Maiden’s air raid siren is nearing its end. Of course we have zero evidence of this, and also the band is presently on tour and Bruce doesn’t sound like Jon Bon Jovi, er, someone who needs to step down from his duties. I doubt this is the case and I also hope it isn’t. Bruce has survived throat cancer and was able to return to the stage, and is presently in fine form on tour.

Some fans are speculating that Bruce is talking in code here – that he is in favor of replacement of a member who can’t continue, and that the rest of the band is against it. While it’s a wild theory that leads down a few rabbit holes, it’s also purely based on speculation about things we have no information on, so I’m going to leave it at that. I don’t see enough based in reality to commit more words to the series of ideas and I don’t think that’s what Bruce is doing here.

At the end of the day I’ll take the part where Bruce says “this is never happening” as the gospel from the interview. He could very well have just been making conversation or talking off the top of his head, who knows? It gave me and others pause, but after looking at it a bit there’s probably nothing of real concern here.

Someday, of course, Iron Maiden will ride off into the sunset. That day is closer than it ever has been, but it’s also not happening tomorrow or anytime soon. They have this tour to finish, they have a planned tour to air out the Senjutsu album in its entirety, and there has been talk about new albums and other things. This lineup of the band has remained in tact for over 20 years and the band has cemented its legacy as one of metal’s greatest acts in this time. Hopefully when they do call it a day, it will be with this lineup bowing out.

Album Of The Week – June 13, 2022

This week it’s time look at a much-anticipated album that marked a reunion. It wasn’t to be just a reunion album though, it would kickstart a new chapter for the band that now marks their longest era and has continued to this day.

Iron Maiden – Brave New World

Released May 29, 2000 via EMI

My Favorite Tracks – Blood Brothers, Dream Of Mirrors, Ghost Of The Navigator

Brave New World was released to the world with a lot of suspense and anticipation. What were Iron Maiden going to sound like in the new millennium? The group had ruled the 1980’s with their epic take on heavy metal, yet the 90’s saw the band founder as times and members changed.

Maiden were an afterthought by 1998, when former singer Bruce Dickinson released an acclaimed masterpiece with The Chemical Wedding. (My post on that album here). The album saw Dickinson working with former Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith and the consensus was that the two ex-members outdid Steve Harris and the remaining group.

In 1999 the two entities decided to reconvene and start a new chapter for the once-legendary Maiden. Dickinson’s replacement Blaze Bayley would exit, but rather than jettison Adrian’s replacement guitarist Janick Gers, the group made the decision to function as a three-guitar outfit. The group toured a “hey we’re back!”/greatest hits set and then got to work on was going to be a highly judged reunion album. Nostalgia tours are fine and honestly probably the best way to reintroduce one’s self, but could Iron Maiden be a relevant force in the 2000’s?

The answer would be yes, as we’ll see in the 10 tracks with a run time of 67 minutes.

The Wicker Man

Iron Maiden have a solid history of hot opening tracks and The Wicker Man would add to that. The song is a simple one with an identifiable riff and with the world’s easiest chorus to sing along to, a stated goal of the tune. The title is borrowed from the 1973 British film but the song’s words do not tell that tale, instead presenting a hodgepodge that keeps the song moving.

Ghost Of The Navigator

This song heads back to the high seas, a place the band previously explored on their beloved epic Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. The lyrics use a difficult sea voyage as a metaphor for life and death. The music is bright and melodic while also moving and hitting hard – after several years of sounding dark and dour, the signature Iron Maiden sound is back.

Brave New World

The title track is vintage Maiden – galloping riffs and bass lines, guitars all over, and a one-line chorus that repeats many, many times. That repetition is a sticking point for some listeners but it never really bothered me.

Blood Brothers

A song written by Steve Harris after the death of his father. The song highlights the hardships of mortality and the “great beyond” after life. Blood Brothers was a much-discussed track when the album released and has been featured in Maiden’s live set several times in the years since. The chorus has been a rallying cry for Maiden fans in the reunion era.

The Mercenary

We’re on to one of a handful of songs from the band’s prior era that was used for this album. It’s a pretty simple affair about a soldier of fortune. While not being one of the album’s standout moments, the song still gets the job done well and is far above “filler” status.

Dream Of Mirrors

Another track conceived during the Virtual XI sessions. The song is a long epic, running over nine minutes and providing the first hint that reunion-era Maiden were unconcerned with song length. The song depicts the confusion and non-linear form of dreams and how harrowing they can be. The band knocked their first reunion epic out of the park and provided a template for many more to come.

The Fallen Angel

An uptempo number about good and evil, this song is one of the least-heralded among the fanbase from Brave New World but still isn’t lacking for quality. It’s nice to hear the band let loose a bit after keeping things mid-pace (save The Mercenary).

The Nomad

Off into another nine-minute monster and this time we’re in the desert on high adventure. Steve Harris stated the song was inspired by the epic film Lawrence Of Arabia. The Nomad does not suffer for its length – the atmosphere invoked by the music and each guitarist getting a solo keeps things moving along just fine.

Out Of The Silent Planet

We’re getting to the close with the penultimate track and also the album’s second single. The song was based on an old sci-fi film called Forbidden Planet, about aliens who tore their own planet up and are now targeting us. Although the song was released as a single, it was rarely played live during the touring cycle for the album. While the song gets mixed reactions I personally have no issue with it.

The Thin Line Between Love And Hate

We close with another lengthy track at over eight minutes. It’s your usual song about the choices between good and evil and the ultimate consequences of those choices. You know, typical pop fare. The song doesn’t break any new ground or anything but is still a nice way to close out this epic return to form record.

Brave New World marked a huge milestone in the career of Iron Maiden. The album charted well across Europe and was beloved by a long-suffering fanbase that thought the group’s best moments were 20 years behind them. Tours for the new album saw half or more of the record being aired out live, Maiden were not content to go out as a pure legacy act. The line between playing classics and new material would be an issue several years later but that is another story unrelated to this album.

This album was very, very important in so many ways. It brought the band back into the spotlight, it rejuvenated the fanbase and it succeeded as a recording without leaning on past glories. Maiden were able to record songs they wanted to on their own terms, they didn’t try to revisit the past or move in some experimental direction.

And most importantly – it was just the beginning. The “reunion” era of Iron Maiden is now in its 23rd year, with the group having cut six albums and are heading out on tour yet again. Their reputation and legacy have only grown in the past two decades and they are rightfully heralded as one of heavy metal’s most significant acts. While opinions on their reunion albums differ, there is no arguing with the success they have had in this period.

On Scene And Identity – Edgelord

It’s time for another entry to my occasional series looking at aspects of scene and identity in music. Sometimes they can get a bit personal and heavy in subject matter but today’s won’t be anything like that.

Today I’ll be looking at the (mainly) Internet phenomenon of the “edgelord.” It is commonplace today to see edgy comments in every corner of social media. It might be people just saying extreme things to get a rise out of people but that aspect of it isn’t really what I’m looking at.

Also wrapped in the edgelord identity is the insatiable need to communicate “I don’t give a shit.” It is that disaffected, nihilistic aspect I’ll be examining today as it relates to music. I will also wrap a few other things into it, like perpetual negativity. There will probably also be a little bit about gatekeeping, though that’s certainly its own topic overall.

The Internet and music have had a hell of a relationship – the ‘Net totally altered music distribution and price mechanisms. It gave bands a platform to reach far more listeners than print media and replaced that media as the leading source of news and information. It allows music collections and rare releases to be identified and cataloged. And all this is just the tip of the Internet iceberg when it comes to music.

One other thing it did? It allows fans of music to speak their minds on songs, albums, bands and issues of the day. It used to be very tough to run into other fans of underground or independent music before the Internet, now legions of fans of the same thing are just a click away.

And, since pretty much everyone has Internet access, we all get to read a whole bunch of bullshit.

It isn’t hard to find – just read the comments of any piece of music news on social media or anywhere. I’m sure the people who drop in here on the regular know exactly what I’m talking about – some piece of music news, maybe nothing more than a new single from a band or even less significant than that, and the comment section will be filled with trolls either slagging off the band or proudly broadcasting just how much they don’t care about said news and band. It’s as if broadcasting indifference is its own art form now. And sure, it’s nothing new, this has been going on for many years.

It is all over the place, certainly not limited to music. I’ve seen it around for eons, dating back to the early 00’s in message boards and the like, before social media. It’s like some people take it as a challenge to communicate how much they don’t give a shit about whatever thing is being discussed. I think that’s mutated into its own behavior subset over the past several years, it certainly plays out in political discussions. It’s as if not giving a damn and proving that point at every turn is its own political party (oh wait … it is).

But back to music – honestly, it does get to be a drag reading comments and seeing all of this shit. Between the “LOOK AT ME I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT SO AND SO” and the widespread negativity, it makes reading comments not worth it. Reading them does become its own perverse form of entertainment and drama, but what a waste of time.

I don’t know if I can really speculate what the causes are for this sort of thing. I do think gatekeeping is a part of it, or at least some feeble attempt to gatekeep. It’s like “Hey, look how cool I am not giving a shit about band X” and the part that’s left off the comment is “because my taste is so much better.” It’s at least a part of it for some people anyway, I’m sure the pure flexing over how cool it is to be a disaffected asshole who doesn’t care about anyone or anything is a big reason for it all.

I can’t say I was entirely immune to this in my past. I think I was as guilty as many others of thinking that I should broadcast every stupid impulse thought to a public audience. I’m not sure how much I got into the “edgelord flexing about apathy” thing as much as I did the “I’m better than you because I listen to stuff you haven’t heard of” deal (its own obvious entry in this series). Maybe it’s sad that it took until my 30’s but I finally grew up, at least in this aspect.

The edgelord phenomenon can be found in any music discussion, regardless of genre or popularity. I doubt the London Philharmonic can make a post without someone trying to prove how cool they are about not giving a damn about whatever the Philharmonic is doing. It’s very evident when any of the old hair metal acts have news about anything. The splintering factions and constant line-up changes are their own form of parody and comment memes, and the edgelords are always out in full force on one of those articles. It’s great that you don’t give a shit about the latest volley between Phil Lewis and Steve Riley, does anyone else give a shit that you don’t?

And I’ll go ahead and make this point – the edgelording is especially bad when the subject is women. Have a look through comments on any article about Phoebe Bridgers or Billie Eilish – holy shit, is it bad. I can’t make any great claims about what that says regarding society, but I do think it validates what many feel about how much crap women take. It doesn’t stop with those two, of course – I’ve noticed it on articles about any known woman you can name in music. Just the sheer amount of venom brought toward women in music and elsewhere is something I’ve absolutely noticed.

I can go on and on about specific instances of the edgelord, they are everywhere. But what’s the point, really? Me writing this isn’t going to change anything. People will make snide comments on things on the Internet. Nothing I write or say is going to stop it. No edgelord is likely to read this post, much less alter their behavior. That’s not my goal anyway, I’m just observing. Sure, the whole edgelord thing might point to some deep-seated psychological issues in society – what is the cost of spending time, thought and energy to demonstrate apathy? I’m sure there’s something there but I’m not the one to find it.

I would ask one question of the edgelord – why waste the time? I honestly couldn’t find the time in the day to do everything else I do and also spend all that time commenting about how much I don’t care about things I see that I don’t care about. Between work, writing this blog, reading others’ blogs, using social media and other stuff, hobbies and other interests, I don’t feel like wasting time commenting about what I don’t care about is a productive use of time. The edgelord disagrees, obviously, but I think that wasteful use of time is one of the adverse byproducts of this whole phenomenon.

Again, at the end of it all, there’s not much I can do about the case of the edgelord. There are plenty of them, they seem to love wallowing in negativity and apathy, and so it goes. I can read music news without paying mind to the useless comments of the “I don’t care” crowd. They can go on fulfilling their life’s greater purposes by demonstrating to the world at large that they are too cool to care.

After all – why should I give a shit?

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 11

It’s time for yet another S-Tier song. To see the list as it now rapidly expands and to get an overview of what this is all about, head to the page that lines it all out.

Today I’m going to delve into the world of power metal, though this pick is from an act that broke out of that categorization. The song on it’s own is a gruesome tale of lovelorn heartbreak and just how far a person can go in that desperate mindset. As we’ll see, the song isn’t in isolation and is part of a long-running story told in several songs across the band’s career.

Sonata Arctica – Don’t Say A Word

Note – the video is an edit that cuts a spoken word portion from the song. The full album version is posted at the end of this post from Spotify.

Our song today hails from Sonata Arctica’s fourth album Reckoning Night, released in September 2004. Don’t Say A Word was given advanced release as an EP the month prior to the full-length.

Sonata Arctica had made a name for themselves in the early 2000’s power metal scene but also had quickly showcased that there was more to their songwriting chops than the typical fare found in the genre. Though replete with guitar and keyboard riffs as well as soaring vocals, the band exercised a higher form of songwriting on tracks like Fullmoon and The End Of This Chapter that separated them from the pack. On Reckoning Night they began the process of departing the usual power metal scene altogether – still incorporating its structure but also bringing in new influences and stylistic departures to liven things up. It would be a prelude to the next phase of their career, where the group would pursue different directions than the power metal they’d come up on.

While the album has a share of standout songs, none ring quite as true or hard as Don’t Say A Word. It is a lively track despite its dark content. Both guitars and keyboards ring with melody through an uptempo affair. Singer and band mainman Tony Kakko’s voice soars in some parts and goes hauntingly quiet in others, doing well to tell this messed up story. The track does a great job of keeping a balance between flowing music and darker, heavier parts. Sonata Arctica didn’t abandon their calling cards on this track or album, they simply repurposed and refined them.

The lyrical matter is very dark and disturbing – it is from the perspective of a scorned lover seeking the ultimate retribution for their pain. There is no room for ambiguity – the subject intends to end the life of his former mistress. The message is communicated in very eloquent fashion through the lyrics, this certainly isn’t a Cannibal Corpse song.

The song paints a terrible picture of the subject’s suffering – the love that’s meant to fade away, I tolerate your hate as long as you’re afraid, all I wanted was to be with you and suffer everyday. These are heavy and desperate thoughts, far beyond the stock thoughts often communicated in typical “break-up” songs. Obviously this work is removed from that, though the same general sentiments remain.

Purely taken on its own, Don’t Say A Word weaves a dark tale of a jilted lover who sets out to murder his fallen object of desire. It is a great song despite its treacherous story. And, as luck would have it, there is a lot more story to the principal actors in the song than what’s in this lone tune.

In 2006 Sonata Arctica released the album Unia and on it was a track named Caleb. That song serves as a prequel to Don’t Say A Word and also the aforementioned The End Of This Chapter. Caleb the song gives background on Caleb the man, the dark subject of today’s song. Caleb had a pretty bad childhood, wound up in and then out of a relationship with a woman who he then sets out to smite in Don’t Say A Word. The background provided from the song Caleb helps explain Don’t Say A Word’s chorus, where Caleb refers back to things his mother said.

The saga has been added to occasionally over the years, the song Juliet finally giving a name to the woman and seeing her enact (seemingly) cold revenge on Caleb. The band performed the entire saga live in the 2010’s, just before adding to it again in 2019 with The Last Of The Lambs, which is possibly an alternate ending to Juliet’s grim conclusion.

I’ll admit that I’m not very well-read on the Caleb Saga as a whole, a lot of fan theories tend to cloud the truth. It may be something I dive into on a future post, but as it stands and through piecing together interview fragments with Tony Kakko over the years, it would seem that the saga has six songs currently. And while most of them do tell a fairly coherent story, there might be more than one ending as I mentioned above. Either way, Don’t Say A Word plays an integral role in the story and is immediately after The End Of This Chapter in chronology.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Don’t Say A Word is a fantastic melodic metal tune that stands out well in a band’s catalog already somewhat crowded with signature songs. It tells a harrowing, pained story that would later be expanded on in a rare lore-building exercise. It’s not every day we get that in music, especially spaced out across several albums and years. But even on its own the lyrics deliver a gripping tale beyond the conventions of a lot of popular music.