Friday, December 9, 2011

Metallica's "Blackened" by Jonny Barker

  After a good month's break from posting on the blog I finally found some inspiration to get back into it thanks to my friend Jonny Barker who sent me this awesome version of Metallica's Blackened. Jonny is the lead guitar player in Sworn Amongst, an amazing thrash metal band from England that I had a pleasure of getting to know last year on the Total Annihilation tour of Europe. Jonny really impressed us all with his chops and his ability to put on a very energetic show while playing mind-blowing solos. Well see for yourself, and don't forget to check out Sworn Amongst new EP Evolution

  This is what Jonny had to say about the song:

  "Hey! My name is Jonny Barker and I am the lead guitarist in the UK band 'Sworn Amongst'. We were fortunate enough to go on a 2 month European tour with Alberto and the other guys in Annihilator last year and we had a blast! I've decided to cover a Metallica track for Al's blog site. As a teenager I was obsessed....

'...And Justice For All' is hands-down my favourite Metallica record, I remember hearing it for the first time when I was a teenager and being totally blown away. I think that this period was the band's greatest, musically and in terms of image. 'Blackened' has always been my favourite Metallica track, I think it's the perfect metal song, it has everything...speed, an awesome mid-section, guitar harmonies, shredding solos...and Hetfield's voice! It's just a bad-ass track. 

This album introduced me to metal, and I've never looked back!

Anyway, enjoy!" 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Alice Cooper - Ghouls Gone Wild

Article first published as Music Review: Alice Cooper - "Ghouls Gone Wild" from Welcome 2 My Nightmare on Blogcritics.

Just in time for Halloween, I'm tackling Alice Cooper's "Ghouls Gone Wild" from his latest album Welcome 2 My Nightmare, a sequel to his 1975 masterpiece Welcome To My Nightmare. The song is a throwback to the surf-rock era with witty lyrics and a surprise ending that connects this song to the original 1975 album. Here's the video of myself playing the song:

Recently I was talking to a friend of mine about how most "classic rock" bands/artist seem to lose their fire or passion in making music, and their new releases just seemed forced and lackluster. This new Cooper album is a definite exception: its full of great songs, stellar performances by every musician, pristine production, and lots of Cooper's twisted sense of humour.

"Ghouls Gone Wild" is a clever play on words in reference to the very popular videos Girls Gone Wild, but that is only the beginning of a series of funny puns and double-meanings in the lyrics. My favorite is "We're gonna dance our heads off and we're gonna keep it tight/ If we keep ourselves together we might make it through the night."  It immediately summons the image of decaying bodies dancing to the song. The song would fit perfectly in one of the Scary Movies or Teen Wolf.

Mark Volman, singer from The Turtles, makes a guest appearance here singing the back up vocals. I'm particularly fond of the second chorus where the back-ups answer the main vocal line. Check out what Cooper has to say about the song and Volman's involvement.

The bass part is pretty simple, mainly keeping a steady eight-note rhythm throughout. At the third chorus, the song shifts up a tone and the bass line has a lot more movement and melody.

The guitar solo section is the only "modern" sounding part of the track. It has a harder edge to it, and builds nicely with that chromatic run. In the video I played that part on a different place of my fretboard the second time through. I'm not sure why I did it that way; it just happened naturally.

Scary Ending
If you were a big fan of the original Welcome to My Nightmare record, you might get chills when listening to the end of "Ghouls Gone Wild": if you listen carefully there is the same creepy "backwards" piano sample as in the end of the song "Steven" on the original album. Both songs are track number nine on their respective records.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Top 5 - Annihilator

  For this post I decided to do an Annihilator song, seeing as how we just played in Quebec at the Trois-Riviere Metalfest, but I had a hard time deciding which song to play. So it occurred to me to pick my favourite five sections to play live with the band. These all are all short, maybe one or two minutes long each, but they capture the parts that are the most fun for me to play. Check out the video and then I will talk a little about each section.

#5 - The Trend

  This song is a real challenge to play live for me, because its very fast and tiring, by the end of the song both of my hands are screaming for some rest. This part comes right after the guitar solo, and its an instrumental section where I just plant my feet down and rock out. Its difficult to headbang while playing this, but I always try. The drum part here is very cool, it starts in half time and builds in intensity all the way to the climactic fill that brings back the last verse.

#4 - Set The World On Fire

  From the album of the same name, this part took me a long time to learn and get clean when I joined the band. Its a trademark Jeff Waters type of crazy riffing, which happens right after a nice and mellow bridge. Another section where I have to concentrate hard to play it perfectly live. The original had Mike Mangini playing the drums, but this is a live version with Randy Black.

#3 - Like Father, Like Gun

  Schizo Deluxe is one of my favourite Annihilator albums ever, its so angry, so aggressive, and yet very melodic and technical. The album really showcases Dave Padden's versatility as a singer, and this song he does it all: sing clean or gritty. What I'm playing is from the bridge into the guitar solo and the last chorus. There's a little bass "break" in there, and that last chorus is the best one for me, the drums go into that half-time Pantera-like beat. I cannot help but rock out to this song. Live we play this song in "Drop D" as opposed to the original which is in "Drop C".

#2 - The Fun Palace

  I remember when I bought this album ten years ago listening to this song and loving the solo section. Its very different from the rest of the song, and even from the rest of the album: its funky! It really stands out from stuff like "Imperiled Eyes" or "Sixes and Sevens". And for its syncopated groove I love playing this part. I keep challenging myself to play the whole thing live without looking at my fretboard, I just look up and have a huge grin on.

#1 - Welcome To Your Death (W.T.Y.D.)

  This is THE song that got me into Annihilator, and into Thrash Metal really. I heard it the first time on a bus in London, England, and immediately something in my brain clicked into place and I "got" it. I understood what was the appeal my friends had for this type of music. What I'm playing here is the end of the live version found on the "Bag of Tricks" album. It has Coburn Pharr singing, instead of Randy Rampage who did the original. This version is faster and meaner; it has a new section that wasn't in the studio version (right after the solo guitar part with no drums); and Coburn is amazing here, very raw and full of energy, and he has this scream, kind of like David Lee Roth's, where it sounds as if he sings two notes at the same time!

  There you have it, my five favourite parts to perform with Annihilator live. Maybe I will play one of these in full for a later post. Any requests? 

  A very special "Thank You" goes to Fred Laroche from Capitale Du Metal for letting me use his pictures. He does amazing work, so check out the rest of the galleries from Quebec City, Montreal, and Trois-Riviere. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Van Halen's "Little Guitars" by Andrew Roudny

Andy and I in "Black Hour"
  This post will feature another great friend of mine, the second best guitar player I have ever played with, Andrew Roudny (and he is only second because I am incredibly lucky to play with Jeff Waters, who is one of the best in the world). Andy and I met way back when I was in college; I will never forget it, I answered my phone one day and I heard "hey, you don't know me, but I'm looking for a bass player, and I hear you're pretty good". That was the beginning of a friendship that has been one of the most gratifying of my life. With Andy I played in a band that had TWO bass players playing at the same time! we recorded an instrumental album that has some of the best bass parts I've come up with to date; we then performed as an acoustic instrumental duo for some time before finally splitting into separate musical paths. My admiration for Andrew continues, and here I am again blown away by his ability to make really hard things seem easy as pie. Watch him rip through Van Halen's "Little Guitars":

This is what Andy had to say about the song:

  "Alberto Campuzano, wizard of the bass guitar and the best musician I know has invited me to cover a song on his blog. I am well and truly grateful to perform for his one thousand plus readers. So let’s start with the excuses! I haven’t played any serious electric guitar (by which I mean I haven’t played on stage for grumpy music execs) in nearly 3 years (wow), so I hope I’m up to the task.

  The song I’ve chosen to play is Little Guitars from Van Halen’s 5th album, 1982’s Diver Down. It’s not my favorite VH song (that’s Girl Gone Bad). It’s not the one everybody else likes the most (that’s probably Jump or Panama) and it’s certainly not the one the radio plays the most (I guess when you’re playing Born to Be Wild every 14 minutes, you don’t really have time to diversify). So why have I chosen this tune? Well, it’s been a pet project of mine for a number of years. When I was in a classic VH tribute band, we played the song but it was never part of our regular set. I once spent 4 hours at a rehearsal studio playing only the verse riff, but I never really got into all the corners of the tune and finished it off. So here’s my chance.

  There are lots of reasons I like this song. Here are three.
  1. From a guitarist’s point of view, it’s a truly odd work of genius. Only a musician with strong classical training and thousands of hours spent practicing and performing hard rock guitar could ever conceive a song like this and make it work so that regular folks can actually listen to it. Don’t even get me started on how far ahead Eddie is compared to today’s crop of rock guitarists. Even bands than “can play” these days couldn’t hope to write something like this. The ultimate genius of Eddie Van Halen may be this very thing: He made music that’s so goddam brilliant that it was at the same time completely progressive but totally accessible to the masses. So accessible that he doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves for his blazing musical intellect. As far as I’m concerned, he’s in the same league as Mozart and Beethoven. Little Guitars shows all this, despite not even having a proper guitar solo section.
  1. Any other rock singer would hear this song and run screaming. Or at least say something weak like, “I can’t sing over that…. Ughhh….write something simpler”. But our hero, Diamond David Lee Roth, a wild west cowboy with his massive ego in tow behind him like two saddle-bags full of gunpowder, took it on and did a wonderful job. Painting a compelling picture of a shady L.A. dude seeking solace from the law in the arms of a Mexican waitress (stripper, dancer, biker slut, choose your own adventure). Despite not having any formidable instrumental training, Dave is indeed a musical and lyrical genius.
  1. Like almost all Van Halen songs, it’s better live than on the original recording. As I write this, I’m listening to a YouTube playlist of live versions of Little Guitars. I implore you to stop reading this right now and go listen to the US Festival version of this song. It is positively transcendent. This is probably the thing I like most about Van Halen: They are fantasy land. They are the place where the sun shines, the parties are epic, the strippers are sympathetic tan gals with hot legs and hearts of gold. Everything glistens in Van Halen land, and this song is one really good example of their skill in bringing you not just a set of notes but a time and a place and an experience. As good as they’ve been over the years in the studio, in their prime they were even better on stage, drunk or sober.
So, down to the technical particulars.

The Guitar For The Practicing Musician Magazine transcription that I used initially to learn this song is written for a miniature Les Paul tuned to one half step above standard tuning. I tried this on a full sized guitar and I found that either it was impossible or I didn’t have the skill to pull it off. What’s the difference? Other people?? Malarkey! It became clear that I had to modify things to my situation. First, I do not own a ¾ sized Les Paul (and I can probably make a list of 100 ways I’d rather spend that money). Second, I needed to be able to play this song on a guitar in standard tuning because I only have 2 decent guitars and by the third set I’m too drunk to switch competently from one guitar to another anyhow. So I re-jigged the riff a little and played it mostly around the 7th fret E barred chord area. You’ll see this in the video. This allowed me to get the basic idea of the riff but not have to switch guitars. The only tradeoff was that I had to play the tune a half step lower than recorded in order to accommodate the open high E string. I’ve remedied this in the video version you’re seeing here because I’ve tuned the guitar up a half step. That’s F Bb Eb G# C F for those of you keeping score at home.


  I’ve seen a lot of transcriptions on line calling for a drop D tuning with a capo on the 3rd fret. I even saw one guy try it that way on YouTube, and it sounds terrible. I hope my version does more justice to the song than his does. But in the end, playing a cover is all about capturing the original feeling and mood of the song. Even though I still haven’t learned every last note of Little Guitars (and I probably never will), I hope I’m in the ballpark enough that it makes you ponder how great the original really is.

  So, I hope you enjoyed my version of Van Halen’s excellent song, Little Guitars. Though it might be harder to do in 2011 than it was in 1982, I say to you all, ROCK ON!!!!"

  Andrew Roudny began playing classical guitar at age 9. Soon after discovering hard rock, Andrew started his first cover band, No Cash Value, at age 16. After scoring the independent film Held Secular, Andrew was a finalist in the North American Rock Guitar competition in 2003. He appeared in the nationally televised documentary Driven To Play, as well as in the May 2005 issue of Guitar Player Magazine. He has released several CDs and opened for such classic artists as Kim Mitchell, Honeymoon Suite and Loverboy. Andrew is currently working on a rock version of Vivaldi's Four Seasons and his own symphonic/rock instrumentals.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Brazilian Girls "Jique " by Tyler Emond

Tyler Emond
  This post is going to be a departure from my usual rock-oriented ones, but I'm quite happy about that. I love all kinds of music and therefore want to explore them here in my blog. For those of you that are rockers or metal-heads, have an open mind and check this one out before you judge it.

  When I studied at Humber College's Jazz Performance program I had the privilege to meet some amazing musicians, and I don't just mean the professors, but also the other students. Most people had their own style of music that they excelled at, but some others just seemed to have a natural talent and ability to play any kind of style, and do it very well. Tyler Emond was one of those guys, he has amazing skills, a wicked ear, he can rip on either the electric or the upright bass, but more importantly he is a genuinely nice guy, always available to help out or give advice. He became my favorite bass player out of the whole group at Humber and I tried to watch him perform, or practice, as much as I could. Tyler has done very well for himself since those college days and I'm quite thrilled that he agreed to be a guest on my blog. So here is my friend Tyler Emond, Playing "Jique" by Brazilian Girls, from their 2006 album Talk to La Bomb:

  This is what Tyler had to say about the song:

  "Brazilian Girls are a really great band out of New York combining electronica, dub-step, punk, soul, rock and lot's of other fun stuff. I first saw them play at a jazz festival for an older crowd where they did not tame down their set, and they closed with a song called "pussy". I've been a fan ever since.

  The bass player is Jesse Murphy (who's also played with John Scofield and Me'Shell Ndgeocello), and he's always got creative things to say on the bass. I'm not using any effects on this but I'm pretty sure Murphy is using an octaver or synth on the verses as well as the keyboard player doubling the line. He's playing a Fender Mustang.

  There are two main parts of the bass line. There's the synthy intro/verse part, and the funkier James Jamerson-ish chorus line. I found the verse part needed emphasis on the upbeats to make it pop and push forward. The chorus on the other hand, is a little more laid back in terms of tone and touch. This helps when playing all the fills at the end so they're not too "in your face".


  Highly sought after bassist, Tyler Emond, has quickly become a first call player in the Canadian music scene. Known for being adept on both acoustic and electric instruments, he has tackled a wide range of genres and situations.

  Born in Ottawa, Tyler came from a family of musicians and was taught electric bass by his father. Continuing his music education he attended Humber College in Toronto to focus on double bass. In 2007 he graduated at the top of his class, receiving the Oscar Peterson Prize for excellence.

  Since then he has recorded and/or toured throughout Europe, the United States, Canada, and Central America with artists such as Matt Dusk, Mr. Something Something, Nick 'brownman' Ali, KC Roberts and the Live Revolution, Mr.Marblesz, Ruth Cassie, Jessica Stuart, Del Dako, Adrean Farrugia, Sundar Vishwandi, Al Kay, Alex Dean, Dave Restivo, Jaron Freeman-Fox, and Larra Skye. Notable international artists he has played with include Randy Brecker, Dead Prez, Aaron Staebell, Dave Liebman, Steve Gadd, Dave Douglas, and Bryan Vargas.

  He currently divides his time between Toronto and Vancouver composing works for his own projects.

  Visit him at

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chickenfoot's "Up Next" and on Steve Jobs' influence

Michael Anthony rocks!
  I have to admit that when Chickenfoot first got together I had no interest whatsoever in even hearing the band. I'm not a fan of either Joe Satriani or Sammy Hagar, and so I never checked them out. However, there has been so much hype surrounding their second album (strangely entitled "Chickenfoot III") that I caved in and listened to it. I was pleasantly surprised and found a couple of songs that I liked. In particular "Up Next". Check it out:

  This song jumped out at me and got stuck in my head from the very first time I heard it. It has so much more energy than the rest of the songs on the album, Satriani's playing is meaner and more aggressive, Michael Anthony's backup vocals are so amazing, and, most importantly for me, its so damn catchy! The whole song is covered with hooks that just make you want to bob your head and sing along.

"I'll show respect, the best I can"

  The main guitar riff at the beginning is awesome because all of those "off-beat" notes contrast so well with the basic quater-note pulse of the bass. Satriani uses a lot of little licks and fills (and a lot of them using harmonics) throughout the song. And the guitar solo is brilliant, very different than the rest of the song in that its moody and dark, and Joe uses his delay effect perfectly to make it sound very space-y. Although when I first heard the solo I was totally expecting it to break out into a ripping shred-fest before going back to the verse. I'm looking forward to seeing if they extend that section live. Also I really like how Satch changes the lick before the chorus and plays it in three different places on the guitar neck.

  Michael Anthony is fantastic in this song, there is so much attitude in his playing here, sliding all over the place, adding fills everywhere, and just generally laying it down with his mean round tone. I'm a big fan of how he takes the spotlight during the choruses, while the guitar lays back and just strums the chords Michael is showcasing himself and adding fills at the end of every 2-bar figure. Oh and did I mention his backing vocals are phenomenal? yeah he rocks!

At the Pearly Gates

  While doing a little research for this post I watched the short videos that Chickenfoot posted previewing the different tracks on the album. It was there that I realized what this song is really about, because even though its very upbeat and energetic, the subject of the lyrics is rather grim. The topic here is death, and how it will come to all of us at some point, and for a lot of people when they least expect it. Unfortunately the one that was "Up Next" was Steve Jobs and I personally owe a ton to him and his team at Apple because I use their products for everything.

  We have all been touched by his influence. In fact, Joe Satriani was commenting on the preview video that he had recorded the demo for this song on his iPhone while sitting in a hotel room. I recorded the audio and video for this on my iMac, using Garageband and iMovie, and I used Safari to put it all on the web. So thank you Steve and everyone that worked with him at Apple for making my life better and easier. And if there is a lesson to be learned here is that life is short, make the best of it and enjoy good music!

  Oh and by the way, is it just me or does Sammy say "I'll PEE myself"?? check out the video at 1:21.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Tribute to Cliff Burton - Metallica "No Remorse"

Rocking Out came easy to Cliff  
  A week ago today marked the 25th anniversary of Cliff Burton's tragic death on a tour bus accident. His name was mentioned everywhere on the internet, and places like Facebook were covered with profile pictures of Cliff on stage rocking out. As it turns out the friday prior I had played a show with a Metallica tribute here in Toronto (Sandman, check em out here!) and so there was a lot going on to remind me of the greatness of Cliff's playing. But what really made me want to do this next post about him was the video that surfaced on YouTube where his father was speaking about what a great person Cliff was, not just an amazing musician and entertainer. If you have not seen the video I invite you to please check it out here. It's very touching. So I pulled out my old '76 Rickenbacker and did one of my favourite songs that Cliff Burton played on with Metallica: "No Remorse"

Metallica - No Remorse - Bass Guitar Cover from Alberto Campuzano on Vimeo.

Click HERE if you can't see the video.

 This song was track number 8 on Metallica's 1983 debut album Kill 'Em All, and as such I find it may get lost for some people, as many late tracks do on a lot of albums. But to me it really showcases the band's and Cliff's abilities and creativity in writing and performing. The song has a lot of different sections, which is normal for Metallica, but what i find is not that typical of them is that this song does not repeat as much as some of their other songs on the album. What I mean is that the song changes a lot: by my count there are 9 different riffs or sections in the song, with the Verse, Pre-Chorus, and Chorus being the only ones that repeat.  All these different sections, with their changing tempos, keep the song interesting, and at 6 minutes and 26 seconds it never gets boring for me.

  As for Cliff's playing, it is not the most impressive demonstration of his skills, but to me it is a great example of why he is regarded so highly, he is creative with his part. He does not merely follow the guitar parts all the time, he plays different notes, adding harmonies that "thicken" the sound. Every Chorus is like that, he is mostly playing the fifths below the chords that the guitars are playing, so when the guitars are playing an "E" power chord, he plays a "B" note. Cliff also adds harmonies at the end of the big solo in the middle of the song. At around the 4 minute mark he plays an "F#" while the guitars play a "D" power chord, turning it into a D major chord. And then he plays a "G" note while the guitars play a "C" power chord, so he is playing the fifth of the chord. It may seem insignificant, but it adds a lot of colour to that section.

  I count myself as one of the many people out there that wished Cliff was still with us. I can only imagine what he would be doing to blow our minds. Rock on brother, we'll meet up some day \m/

Thursday, September 29, 2011

W.A.S.P. - L.O.V.E. Machine - and about touring with WASP

Last year I had the privilege of going on tour with my band Warmachine around the north-eastern United States opening for the legendary Blackie Lawless and W.A.S.P. It was a terrific experience that I wish could have lasted longer. I was recently thinking about that tour because W.A.S.P. announced that next year they will be going on a pretty big tour (check out the details here), so for this post I decided to cover one of the songs that became a favorite of mine, and one that I watched them play every night for two weeks: "L.O.V.E. Machine" or like our drummer called it HE-LLO BEE-EE haha.

About the song

For me this song reminds me of Kiss, I'm not really sure why, but it sounds like a meaner, heavier, darker Love Gun. Maybe its the similar titles of the two songs that makes me relate them. The song is very straight forward, with lots of energy and a great melody. I didn't play the lick before the verses too well, but I faked my way through them haha. For the first half of the verse, where there is no guitar, I palm muted my notes to keep the volume a little lower and make the next section when the guitar comes in sound more powerful. However I didn't use the standard right-hand palm muting, I used my left hand to do it. That's a trick I learned from my college professor which allows your right hand to have more freedom of motion in instances like this one where the left hand does not need to move much.

I remember Mike Duda (WASP's current bass-man) playing the end of this song an octave lower than I did, but I just played it the way it is on the record. Speaking of Mike Duda, he is one of the most entertaining and energetic bass players that I have seen in a really long time, it was a treat to watch him, and if you haven't seen him I invite you to check out some live videos of the band, or better yet, go see them live next time they're around.

About the tour

As I was saying before, I was really lucky to be able to share the stage with WASP last year. It was a hard tour to do but it was a lot of fun. For one, we tried to save as much money as we could, so we went in a mini-van, no trailer. That meant having 4 guys plus all of our drums, amps, instruments, clothes, and boxes of CDs and shirts crammed into it. It was so tight that I didn't have enough room to bring an amplifier. I did the whole tour by plugging in my trusted Sans Amp directly to the sound board and cranking the bass through the side-fills on the stage. Plus our drummer had to pack his drums like a matryoshka doll and put toms inside one another and putting them all inside his bass drum; which we then strapped to the roof of the van.

We all took turns driving through the different cities. Luckily for us the weather was pretty good most of the time. But there was one drive from Wisconsin to Massachusetts that took us a whole day to complete with all of us driving straight through the night. I had the 2 am to 8 am shift if I remember correctly. We slept in cheap motels, had to pee in bottles while driving, and changed into our stage clothes in the van. But even though it sounds rough (and it was a little bit, looking back on it), we had an amazing time and I would do it all over again.

We became great friends really fast with the band and crew, who seemed to love our music and our sense of humour. Their guitar tech helped me fix my strap button when it fell off while I was playing. Their merchandise guy always gave us tips and helped us find the best spot to set up our "booth". And in the end they all wanted us to stay and finish the tour with them, but unfortunately we could only do those two weeks at that time. You can see from the picture at the top that we all had a blast together, and we still keep in touch, which I'm very happy about. Oh and of course the crowds were amazing, and very open and receptive to our music, we made a lot of fans during that tour. I can't wait to do it all again.

Do you guys have any good "road" stories? please share them in the comments box. See you soon! What will be Up Next??

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nickelback - Bottom's Up

  I know this post might surprise some of you, considering that most of you know me as a "metal-head", but that's part of the reason why I've chosen to talk about Nickelback here. I want to explore the reasons why we all love or hate a particular band, or song, or style of music. Of course most of the reasons are completely subjective, a matter of personal taste, but lets talk about the specifics of why a song or a band or a singer may makes us cringe or give us goose bumps.

 We all have those bands that we can't stand, and others that we adore but our friends can't understand why. For me some of the bands I cannot listen to are The Tragically Hip, or Coldplay. On the other side, I like Paramore, Jimmy Eat World, and Nocturnal Rites, all bands that most of my friends don't like and can't figure out why I would.

 I find that what makes me like or dislike a song or band may change, for example I don't like Coldplay because I find their sound very depressing, and generally I don't like to listen to music that brings me down. However, I love Billy Holiday, and she is a "blue" as it gets. Maybe its my fascination with her tone of voice and her way of phrasing her parts that attracts me to her music. So its difficult for me to pinpoint what exactly makes me decide if I like something or not. Sometimes I may like a band's music but not their singer, and at times its ok and I can still put up with listening to their songs while ignoring the singing, but other times its bad enough that I cannot listen to them at all.

 With Nickelback there is the opinion that they are just one more of a mass-produced group of bands that just put out songs in a very formulaic way, with the sole purpose of getting more radio play and as many listeners as possible. I call it the "junk food" of music, everyone eats it up but its not very good for you. Although listening to the radio has never been bad for your health, and there are good songs on the radio. This "Bottoms Up" is a good example, I kind of like the song, its got a very catchy tune, aggressive guitars and drums, a ripping guitar solo, some great vocal harmonies, and it makes for a good party song. Its a good "snack" for your ears; I wouldn't put it on my iPod and listen to it all the time, but i wouldn't change it if it came up on the radio. Does that make me a Nickelback fan? not at all, everything else that I have listened to by them has not been of my taste, but I have to admit that probably part of my reasons for not liking them are simply that everyone else in the world does, and I like to fool myself and think I'm "different" from everyone else. So I tried this, I listened to the song without thinking who was playing it. If I had never heard of Nickelback, and I was hearing this song for the first time, would i like it? and the answer was yes, its a cool tune. A song is either good or bad, regardless of who's playing it. For me anyways. I'm still going to put on my Mars Volta and Mahavishnu Orchestra CDs.

 What do you guys think? what makes you hate, or love, Nickelback? or any other band for that matter.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Meshuggah's "Straws Pulled at Random" by Maurizio Villeato

Ok so here we go with another guest post. This time its my good friend Maurizio Villeato, all the way from Italy!

  I met Maurizio last fall when I was out on tour with Annihilator. He is the bass player of Adimiron, a progressive metal band from Italy, and they were opening for us for the first couple of weeks of the tour. We all became friends very quickly since they are all very nice people; they are very funny and light-hearted guys, although you can't tell when they're onstage, at that point they're all business and they kick some serious ass. Maurizio impressed me very quickly because he is very versatile in his playing, he can use his fingers, pick, and slap, and he does it all very well and in great context within the band and whatever song he's playing. Here he is playing a song by what I'm sure is one of his favorite bands. This is Messhugah's "Straws Pulled at Random":

  Maurizio had this to say about this song:

  "Why did I choose Meshuggah? Very simple, at the moment it is my favorite band. I really love their sound, their way to conceive music, the melodic and rhythmic structures of the songs. Specially this song I think contains the most important Meshuggah elements: catchy intro and verses, powerful chorus and bridge, a beautiful solo, and a simple but circular outro. Don’t forget the tuning! I tuned the bass half a tone up, in F, and I have to say that this little change, if added to a good distortion, gives a unique and violent sound to the bass, which makes it the leading instrument of the song, and of the band. Whoever has seen Meshuggah live in concert knows what I mean; I understood it when we played with them in Turin, Italy.

  "This is the live version, which is the same as the studio record, but just a bit faster, and more violent. This band gives no space for improvisation during live shows, so I tried to be the most faithful as possible, Hope you like the performance!

  "I just wanna thank you guys for watching my video, and my friend Al who gave me the opportunity to play for you from the other side of the ocean, thank you very much brother!

  "Bye guys, see you on the road. Respect!"

  Maurizio Villeato was born in Rome, Italy in 1989. At the age of 14 he started to play bass after watching Steve Harris on TV. He has always listened metal and rock music in his life, and has played all metal genres, from death to power, from classic to thrash. But when he joined ADIMIRON in 2007 he found his real dimension. He recorded “When Reality Wakes Up” in 2008 and “ K 2 “ in 2011 , having the honor to tour around Europe with some metal legends such as Annihilator and Death Angel, and open for  Sepultura and Meshuggah in Italy. Since 2009 he has also been studying Double Bass in The Academy of Classical Music, to play and understand music in all its forms.

Don’t forget to check out ADIMIRON on the net

  Thanks again for checking this out! Don't forget to leave your comments. 

Brought to you by the code 3RJUAHHFG2KH

Monday, September 19, 2011

Edguy - Pandora's Box

  My last post was a big hit, and I thank you all for that. It seems a little variety is appreciated, and believe me I also like variety. So I will be having more guests on here, in fact I already have the next one lined up (who could it be??) Please feel free to leave comments and don't forget that you can sign up to receive notices of whenever I have a new post up. Ok on to our new topic.

  For the past two weeks I have not been able to stop listening to the latest Edguy album, Age Of The Joker. It's full of great, catchy and epic tunes. I knew right away that I wanted to use one of them for this blog, the hard part was figuring out which one. I opted for Pandora's Box because it is probably the most different in style on the record. It has that very bluesy sound right from the beginning that makes it stand out right away from the rest of their songs. Here it is:

  I love the whole this song all the way through. Tobias Sammet vocals are raw and soulful. Interestingly they use the word Badlands in the lyrics, and that is precisely the band that came to mind when I first heard this song (check some Badlands here) I wish that riff around the 01:14 mark would come back later, but at the same time it's made even more special since it only happens the one time. It's great to hear the slide guitar and harmonica on the acoustic bridge, and by contrast it makes the solo section so much more powerful. I had to keep reminding myself  not to kill my strings during that guitar solo, but its SO much fun to play hahaha. 

  This actually was a tricky song to play for me. Its not that complicated, but I had a bit of a hard time locking in with the feel of the drums. They are very laid back, and a little hard to hear at times, so I had to concentrate to keep from rushing the eight-notes. I think it turned out ok though. 

  I am really looking forward to seeing Edguy live again. I have to say they put on one of the most entertaining shows I have ever seen. In fact, when i saw them it was the first time that I have seen a Toronto crowd get into a show so much. Everyone was clapping, jumping, singing along, and even laughing, because the band is really quite funny. Check out their music videos and you'll see what I mean. Big thanks to AvaloN-TLW for the picture I used on my video \m/

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Annihilator's "Betrayed" by Mike Harshaw

  Well this time I'm changing things up a little bit, I'm having a special guest do this post. I'm hoping this turns out to be a sort of regular thing where I can showcase some of the great musicians I have been fortunate enough to work with at one point or another. This week is Mike Harshaw
Mike Harshaw
Mike with Warmachine
  I remember the first time I saw Mike, it was June 6, 2006. I know that because he was playing a show at a metal club celebrating the date: 6.6.6. I was immediately blown away by his skills. He looked so young and yet he played as if he had been doing it forever, lots of confidence and power even back then. Being in the same scene meant that I obviously saw and heard a lot from Mike and his band at the time, Nexus. We did a bunch of shows together (including both the filming and the release of Warmachine's DVD) and eventually Mike got hired by Mastery, a band in which he can display his full abilities. Most recently I had the pleasure of playing a show with Mike as we opened for Accept here in Toronto. I am very happy to have him as my first guest on the blog, I guarantee he will blow your socks off with his rendition of Annihilator's "Betrayed" from their latest, self-titled album. Enjoy! 

  Here's what Mike had to say about the song:

  "Annihilator is one of those bands that I've always known and liked, but not untill recently did I really start to seriously get into the band. Being Canadian myself, I am pretty proud to call Annihilator a Canadian act. I really respect that after such a long career they have managed to put out such a variety of albums while staying true to their sound. That is why I decided to "Betrayed" off of their latest self-titled release "Annihilator". I was really impressed with how awesome this record was being such a recent album. I sometimes have trouble getting into some of the newer cd's and find myself constantly listening to classics like Megadeth's "Rust in Peace" or Metallica's "Master of Puppets" and other greats from the past. 

  "I chose Betrayed because I can't listen to this song without getting really pumped up. A really catchy and driving song like a lot of Annihilator's material. I liked the drums a lot in this song. One of the first things that caught my ear was the cymbal grab fills that happen in the middle of all the choruses, such a tight fill and works so nicely with the guitar riff. I also dig the fills that appear at the end of each verse before the chorus: building off the snare, going down a couple toms and then making the fills more complex, incorporating different snare/tom fill combos as the song goes on. I really love how the drummer builds the fills progressively as the song goes on. You can tell the attention to detail in how the fills are placed and created. As the song progresses, so do the fills.

  "When I was coming up with how I would play the song I tried to sort of take that idea a little further, changing/extending a couple fills. Especially the fill at the end of the last verse before the last chorus. Another cool part is the intro when the actual beat starts. I've always been a fan of those type of slow double bass/low tom grooves. With flams being played on the snare drum and toms to give it that extra fat sound. Of course the end is totally killer, all out double bass with the snare on the downbeat for a fast heavy finish. Can't deny that haha. The guitar, like any Annihilator tune, was really catchy and driving while also being melodic. The one part that especially caught my ear was at 3:12 to 3:30 in the video. This melodic lead section totally reminded me of the Amott brothers and Arch Enemy. Just a supper cool harmony part that really did it for me. Back to the drums for this song, I tried to stay true to what the drums do on the record but I can never help putting my own little twist on things. Hope you enjoy! \m/"

  Mike Harshaw (Michael Arthur Andrew Harshaw) was born in 1988 and has been playing drums for about 8 or 9 years. He enjoys playing anything from classic rock to heavy metal, specializing in progressive speed metal. He has played in many different groups along the way, currently with Mastery: A Toronto/Austin TX speed thrash metal band fronted by Billy Milano, (S.O.D/M.O.D). Hailing from Grimsby, Ontario, Canada Mike plans to have a future playing drums and music.

  See you guys next time. Don't forget to add your comments and follow me if you want to be informed when the next post is up \m/

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Megadeth's Public Enemy Number One

Megadeth - "Public Enemy No. 1"
David and I
  Some of you know of my connection with Megadeth because of David Ellefson's involvement with the first Warmachine album, which he co-produced and played on a few tracks. Since then David left and returned to Megadeth, and now is putting out a new album called TH1RT3EN. This first single is pretty kick-ass so here it goes: this is Megadeth's "Public Enemy Number One".

  This one is one of the best songs I've heard from Megadeth in quite a while. It's got a good groove, cool guitar riff, and more importantly (for me at least) it's catchy. Before I do these videos I listen to the songs constantly for a couple of days just to really get all the parts and the arrangement in my head. But for this one I didn't need to use my iPod because the song kept playing over and over in my head. For me that is always the sign that I really like a song.

  It's a pretty straight forward tune, nothing too special or particularly impressive when it comes to the performance of it. However, there are a few highlights for me: I really like how the second half of every verse has a totally different sound because of the change in the bass line. While on the first half Ellefson just rides on the "A", during the second half he changes it and goes to the F-F#-G. I also really like that David uses the whole range of the bass, he often plays parts an octave higher than normal, and on the second half of the guitar solo he goes to the B string and rattles your head. After listening some more to my video I realized that I made a mistake during the last chorus at 04:05 and 04:17 I played a "F#" when it should have been a "D".

  I think I will have to do a video of one of those Warmachine tracks that David played on. Any suggestions as to which one?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Blog #3 - Coheed and Cambria - "When Skeletons Live"

It's been a long time since my last blog, I know. I got quite busy getting ready for and then playing some shows with Annihilator. They were great shows. Specially since it was the first time the band had played a show in North America in about 17 years!

This time I decided to play a Coheed and Cambria song in honour of their great bass player Mic Todd. No he is not dead, thankfully, but it seems that he has been going through some difficult times. I wish him all the best. Here is me playing Coheed and Cambria's "When Skeletons Live" from their last album "Year of the Black Rainbow"

Coheed and Cambria - When Skeletons Live (BASS guitar cover) from Alberto Campuzano on Vimeo.

This is one of my favourite songs from this album, and I think this album is one of the best Coheed has put out (but they're all awesome). It's very characteristic of their material: lots of catchy melodies, harmonized vocal parts, busy guitars, and a wicked team of Mic Todd and Chris Pennie on bass and drums that grooves very hard; they make it difficult not to listen to just them throughout the whole tune. The whole song is full of great interactions between the rhythm section. Mic plays every pass of each verse differently, getting busier and busier, but always locked in with the drums. It is very refreshing to hear that they have opted to not just copy and paste sections like too many bands do nowadays. It's no wonder they are categorized as Prog Rockers.

There is so much more syncopated rhythms in here than in most average rock tunes. I had to pull a trick I wouldn't normally use: plucking ghost notes. Which is when i use my right hand finger(s) to pluck a string while I dampen that string with my left hand, creating a thumping muted sound. Its more percussive than anything, and its not very noticeable at first, but when you listen carefully it helps to connect the bass and drum parts together, and makes the groove tighter, or more in sync. The most obvious place to catch the ghost notes is during the chorus (first time at 1:14) where I play a set of eight-notes grouped in threes, with the first one being played and the other two being muted. However, there are a lot of other little spots where you can hear the "thud" of a note, but without a pitch. Its a technique used mostly for Funk or R&B bass parts, but its used very well here.

Another favourite part of mine in this song is the end of the pre-choruses (1:02 and 2:08) because each one is slightly different. The difference is so minute that before i started learning how to play the song I did not even notice it. Both of them have a two-eight-note shot that both Mic and Chris play together, but it happens from the "and" of beat 1 to beat 2 the first time (and Chris plays it with the floor toms), and then from the "and" of beat 3 to beat 4 the second time (and Chris plays it on the snare). So the whole thing is displaced by two beats the second time around. Its the little subtle things like that that keep me really excited about a song haha. Last but not least, even though the song is mostly pretty upbeat and energetic, the band really balances the vibe with that half-time groove at the end that just makes you wanna headbang. Great stuff!

Ok that's it from me for now. I will try to get another entry going for next week. Any suggestions for what i should tackle next? See ya next time. Thanks for checking this out \m/

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blog #2 - Exciter's "World War III"

For this week I have picked an old classic and favorite of mine, Exciter's "World War III" from their 1980 demo. There are a few reasons for me picking this track: for one Exciter is coming to Toronto to play a show at the end of April (of course I will be attending) second, I recently got their latest album Death Machine and it's a very solid record, pure thrash of the best kind. I'm particularly impressed with the pipes on Kenny Winter, their current vocalist. Actually I remember being blown away by him live when I saw them back in '07.

But the main reason why I wanted to play World War III is because it was one of the first speed metal songs I ever heard. It was on one of my mother's cassette tapes that I first heard it. She had a mix of heavy metal songs on that tape, but I didn't know who the artists were at the time. Later I recognized songs by Dio, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest. But it wasn't until that August of 2007 that I realized who played this awesome song I liked so much. I had gone to see Exciter with my friends from Into Eternity, Tim Roth and Stu Block. Tim is a big fan of Exciter's and so we went to check out their show. I was totally amazed by them, they sounded great, had lots of energy, and were very entertaining to watch. When they burst into WWIII it hit me like an angelic choir "these are the guys that play that rocking song!" I thought to myself; and now I'm playing it for you.

Exciter - World War III (BASS Guitar cover) from Alberto Campuzano on Vimeo.

This song was sent to Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records back in 1980 and was used in the compilation CD "US Metal Volume II in 1982". Exciter later released it as a bonus track on the 2005 reissue of Heavy Metal Maniac. The song has an ominous and dark intro, the evil mood generated by John Ricci's guitar put through some nice delay. All of a sudden and without warning the whole band kicks in full force with a chugging barrage of "E flats". Alan Johnson keeps that pedal tone on the bass throughout the next section while the guitar goes into the main riff. We can hear a bit of a Steve Harris influence in the bass fill at 0:43. The verses of this song are short and groovy with a nice syncopated line. On the second chorus we can hear a Geezer Butler lick at 1:33. The instrumental break is a fun one to play, beginning with that almost "surf rock" downward slide; although I did have a small issue with my volume knob during that part: the knob on that Gibson Thunderbird is so close to the G string that I hit it accidentally and rolled it down a little. You can see me turning it back up at 2:15. My favorite part of the song is the end, where each band member gets two bars to play a small solo, and while Ricci's seem a little frantic and "off the cuff," Johnson's and Beehler's are a little more polished. It sounds to me like the bass solos were overdubbed, because the sound of the bass is different there: its louder and more gritty, plus it sounds like the end of the solos overlap the bass from the main riff. The ending is very reminiscent of early Iron Maiden.

Next time I think i will be doing a tune by another Canadian band that I mentioned earlier in this blog...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

First Post!! - Children of Bodom's "Was It Worth It?"

Welcome to my new Blog! This is my first time blogging so I am still getting to know how this whole thing works. Please feel free to send me any tips and comments.

The purpose of this blog is to explore songs I really enjoy; whether because of the lyrics, the production, the technical ability of the musicians involved, or maybe for no particular reason at all. In the process maybe we can discuss other things about the song, band, or genre. I'm open to anything! Since I'm always learning tunes at home on the bass or the guitar I figured I would video tape myself playing some of those songs and post it up here.

For my first post I picked Children of Bodom's "Was It Worth It?" A new single from their upcoming album Relentless Reckless Forever due out March 8th, 2011. I chose this one because since this is a brand new ordeal for me (blogging that is) I thought it appropriate to use a new song to start.

Children of Bodom - Was it Worth it? - Bass Cover from Alberto Campuzano on Vimeo.

This song is great! lots of energy, catchy melodies, cool riffs, harmonized guitar parts... Basically everything I've come to expect from COB. The intro of the song sets up a very haunting mood with the choir sounds in the background, but as soon as the beat kicks in it is obvious this is not gonna be a slow song like Angels Don't Kill.

The thing that really caught my attention with this song is the feel of it; the beat can be felt as a regular 4/4 meter, but it has an underlying triplet feel, which makes it more of a 12/8 groove, and the rhythm section sure plays around with that dual sense of time. At first when the whole band kicks in the feel of the song is almost of a shuffle, with that "limping" or swinging eight notes, but by the time the guitar and keyboard solos come by you can hear the bass and drums playing around with the triplets to make for an interesting effect: at around the 3:00 minute mark you hear the bass pattern is to play the first and third triplet for two bars, and then change to play the second and third triplet for the next two bars, and they keep alternating for the duration of the solos. Very cool indeed. I am really looking forward to hearing this one live, because i have the feeling that the solo section will be stretched out and Alexi Laiho and Janne Wirman will be melting everyone's face off.

The bass sound on the song is the trademark sound of Henkka Blacksmith, crunchy! its got tons of attitude and its up front in the mix, so it was not very difficult to hear what he was playing. However, at times i had difficulties making out exactly the rhythms he was playing when chugging on those low Cs, so i mostly followed with the bass drum patterns.  I'm a big fan of bass parts that stand apart from the guitar parts but occasionally jump in and join with the guitar to give a section more power and energy, and that is what happens during the intro: the first time through Henkka plays a very subdued part, but the second time through he joins in at the end of the guitar riff. You can hear that at around 0:32.

The highlight of the song for me is the chorus. Plenty of melody coming from the harmonized guitars, over a simple but cool chord progression, and topped with the angry lead and gang vocals \m/

Ok thats it for this post, I will try to have another one up next week. Thanks for reading!