A Plea for Help

CW: sick pet

Good morning, dear readers.

I may have mentioned my ESA, B’Elanna, in past blog entries.

She needs surgery. Without it, she can’t breathe properly and may die.

Please share my GoFundMe for her if you can’t donate: https://www.gofundme.com/f/get-belanna-the-feline-esa-necessary-vet-care

Thank you,
Amaranthe

Favorite Bassists

CW: drugs (cannabis)

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to my blog entry on my favorite bassists. Now, if you have been following this blog for any length of time, you know I love a good bassline. What you may not know is that I actually prefer writing music with complex basslines and simple lead guitar work to music with complex lead work and simple basslines (speaking of which, I am still working on Escape, I promise). I also love listening to music like that. So I felt it only made sense to write an entry on my favorite musicians who play those awesome basslines. As such, I let my Patreon supporters choose between this topic and a few others.

This entry was scored a little differently than most of my others. Yes, I scored the bassists based on an average of attributes, but I used a weighted mean. I graded the bassists on this list on how much I like their basslines, the presence of the bass in the mix (and my resulting ability to hear it), and the consistency with which the bassists produce basslines I like. But I weighted how much I like the basslines twice what I weighted the other attributes because it’s by far the most important attribute. Note: I’m generally pretty pants at hearing the bass in a song without the bass boost on in the EQ, and I wasn’t able to figure out how to use that feature on Spotify. I can generally only hear bass as well as most people when I’m high on THC. I’m not really sure if this is because of my auditory processing disorder or what, but please note that the “presence” scores may have to be taken with a grain of salt.

A few more things: I will only be including living bassists on this list. May Lemmy Kilmeister’s memory be a blessing, but I will not be talking about him in this blog entry. Also, I will only include bassists who are in bands that I enjoy/listen to. For example, Flea is a tremendously talented bassist, but I just don’t care for Red Hot Chili Peppers or Antemasque (or any of the other various projects he’s contributed to, really). And I know that Les Claypool is the G-d Emperor of the bass guitar, especially in metal, but I just don’t much like Primus (or Electric Apricot or The Claypool Lennon Delirium).

That said, onward!

10) Linh Le (Bad Cop/Bad Cop)

For those who are new here, Bad Cop/Bad Cop is an all-female feminist, leftist punk band, and I love the shit out of them. I’ll be real here, though: I have a hell of a time hearing the bass on Bad Cop/Bad Cop songs. It’s almost weird that I love Bad Cop/Bad Cop so much considering I have to be extremely blazed to hear Linh Le’s basslines. I guess their lyrics, vocal harmonies, and guitar lines are that good? That would make sense; they’re a kickass band. In fact, I saw them on tour a few years back, and they knocked my fucking socks off. 

One of the things that knocked my fucking socks off was how talented Linh Le is. I remember hearing her warm up on stage prior to the band’s first song and literally taking a step backward at how cool the lick she played was. I also had a pretty good view of her and could actually see her playing, and it looked like her fingers were coated in butter, the way she played so quickly and fluidly. And it seemed like pretty much every song had some interesting bass in it, too. Even when her basslines were more simplistic, she could play really damn fast. From what I can tell from listening to Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s albums on Spotify, my impressions were right. Linh is a very consistent and talented bassist. And, while I didn’t grade her with this in mind, she often pulled these basslines off perfectly while singing!

Am I basing my ratings of Linh’s attributes as a bassist at least partially on one concert, and not what I can hear on the albums? 

…yes. Okay, yes.

Is that fair, seeing as I haven’t seen any of the other bassists on this list in concert?

No, but I do what I want. And I say Linh Le is number 10 on this list. If you want proof that her basslines are fun and often fast as hell, listen to “Rip You to Shreds,” “Warriors,” “Retrograde,” and “Breastless,” especially if you can find live performances of those songs on YouTube.

Basslines: 7
Presence: 3
Consistency: 10
Total: 6.75

9) Mikey Way (My Chemical Romance)

I know that MCR is not a band typically known for their expert bass playing, but bear with me here. Maybe Mikey’s line work in verses tends to be a little basic, but come on, there’s no denying that attention-grabbing intro to “Give ‘Em Hell, Kid.” Mikey also tends to shine on instrumental breaks; for example, that driving bassline in the break before the last chorus of “The Sharpest Lives.” There’s also that fun, catchy line in the instrumental break before the last two choruses of “Teenagers.” Oooh, and there’s a great bass lick near the end of “The Only Hope for Me Is You,” one of my favorite MCR songs. It’s not just intros and instrumental breaks that Mikey can play nicely, though; I just fucking love that bouncy bassline on “Kill All Your Friends.” Even when Mikey’s bass work isn’t all that complex, it’s very effective; see (hear?) the bassline in “Planetary (GO!).”

But…I have a hard time hearing the bass on MCR’s albums. Yeah, that could be my fault, or it could be the mixing. It’s hard to tell. But usually when I’m high on THC, I can hear basslines way better, and that doesn’t happen for me with MCR. Is that my auditory processing disorder? Maybe, but regardless, I can’t give Mikey a high score for presence. But he does have kickass basslines on every one of MCR’s albums, even their first one—ever listened to the bass on “Vampires Will Never Hurt You”? It’s nice—so he gets a high score for consistency.

Basslines: 7.5
Presence: 5
Consistency: 9
Total: 7.25

8) Paolo Gregoletto (Trivium)

Ah, Trivium. So, full disclosure: I didn’t really pay attention to Trivium’s basslines until their most recent album when Paolo Gregoletto’s bass work was prominently featured in the single “Feast of Fire.” Because of that, I may not be giving him his due. After I heard “Feast of Fire,” I went back and listened to a bunch of my favorite Trivium albums while trying to listen for the bass, and I really liked Paolo’s basslines…stop me if you know where I’m going with this…when I could hear them. Maybe I have trouble hearing the bass when bands have two guitarists because there’s so much guitar going on, and (again) the auditory processing disorder acts up? But most of the time—even while I’m high, in fact—I have trouble picking out Paolo’s basslines.

But when I can?

G-dDAMN.

One thing I really appreciate about Paolo’s work is his bass guitar tone. It’s so heavy and hard-hitting, perfect for Trivium’s music. Also, I like how catchy and ear-pleasing Trivium’s guitar lines are, especially for metal, and the same is true about the basslines. I get “Feast of Fire” stuck in my head with relative frequency because of that bassline. From the same album, In the Court of the Dragon, “The Phalanx” also has some really driving, impressively complex bass in it too. It’s not just those two songs, either, or just songs from that album; the song that got me into Trivium, “Silence in the Snow” from the album of the same name, also has a bassline I really enjoy. I remember first hearing that song and loving the way the bass growled along through the verses when the guitars weren’t playing. “Thrown Into the Fire” (from The Sin and the Sentence, possibly my favorite Trivium album) also has a pretty badass bassline, especially that intro. I love when the bass gets to shine early on in a song.

You may have noticed that I’ve already mentioned three different albums. I’m not the hugest Trivium listener ever, but it seems to me that Paolo consistently shows up to kick ass on every album, so he gets a high score for consistency. I can’t wait to hear what he does on Trivium’s next album. I just hope the bass is a little more prominent in the mix on that album.

Basslines: 8
Presence: 4.5
Consistency: 10
Total: 7.625

7) Jonathan Gallant (Billy Talent)

Unlike with some of the other bassists on this list, it actually didn’t take me an embarrassingly long time to realize how much I like the basslines in Billy Talent songs. It was actually the bassline for “Rusted From the Rain” that made me realize how much I liked Jonathan Gallant’s bass work; that song came out in 2009. I started listening to Billy Talent in 2008 when they opened for My Chemical Romance. My ex-father, who already resented bringing me and my sister to see MCR (he called MCR “ranty,” and to this day I don’t know what he meant by that), refused to bring us to the concert in time to see the opening act. I figured that since they opened for MCR, they must be pretty great, so I checked them out on iTunes and fell in love.

Jonathan’s basslines are often very melodic. What I liked about the bassline for “Rusted From the Rain” was that it followed the vocal melody so closely, and also that it’s a damn catchy melody. Sometimes Jonathan’s basslines directly follow the guitar melody, like in the verses of “Definition of Destiny,” another Billy Talent song with bass work that I love. I’m also a sucker for complex basslines, like the one Jonathan plays during “Devil in a Midnight Mass.” (Seriously, if you have a moment, look up bass covers of that song on YouTube. WHEW.) And then there’s my weakness for when all of the other instruments drop out, letting the bass shine, during an intro or a bridge, and that happens in the song I linked above, “Devil on My Shoulder.”

And hey, this is the first entry on the list for which I can actually say I can hear the bass in the mix without the aid of drugs! Yay! It’s not always super prominent, but it only took me a year to realize I really loved Jonathan’s bass work, as opposed to…I want to say 16 years to realize I really loved Mikey Way’s bass work. (Yes, really.) I can also say that I find Jonathan’s work very consistent; his basslines always do a great job serving as the backbones of Billy Talent songs. Even if they’re not always as complex or rapid-fire as they are in “Devil in a Midnight Mass,” they’re solid.

Basslines: 8
Presence: 6
Consistency: 9
Total: 7.75

6) Hunter Burgan (AFI)

Is it weird to call Hunter’s basslines “bouncy”? Because I feel like “bouncy” is a good word to describe his bass work, especially on more up-tempo tracks like “Miss Murder.” Even on slower AFI songs like “The Great Disappointment” and “Endlessly, She Said,” Hunter’s basslines are always interesting, sometimes rhythmically if not melodically. And sometimes they’re just blisteringly, impressively fast, like on “Sacrifice Theory.” 

I especially like it when Hunter’s bass carries the song forward while the other instruments (or at least the guitar) take a backseat, like the intro to “Death of Seasons,” or during the verses of “Days of the Phoenix” and “Totalimmortal.” Yep, even “Totalimmortal,” which is a song from 1999. Hunter has been kicking ass on the bass for a long time. Oh, and it’s also really cool when AFI songs have little interludes where the bass can shine, like between the first chorus and second verse of “Kiss and Control;” I love the bass lick there. 

What I’m not a fan of is when Hunter’s bass is buried in the mix. I mean, AFI’s last two albums were mixed like ASS. Sorry, Jade, but I don’t like your production work on AFI records. Even on some of the older AFI albums, I sometimes have trouble hearing Hunter’s bass. “Girl’s Not Grey,” for example, has an excellent bassline, but I can’t hear the damn thing. “The Killing Lights” also has a nice, catchy, bouncy (that word again…) bassline, but again, it’s really hard to pick out. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen all that often when you look at the broad scope of AFI’s extensive discography. Speaking of that extensive discography, I’ll be honest and say I don’t listen to all of it—I’m not really a fan of pre-1999 AFI or post-2013 AFI—but on the albums I do listen to, Hunter is there kicking ass with impressive consistency.

If only AFI didn’t suck now.

Basslines: 8.5
Presence: 7
Consistency: 8.5
Total: 7.875

5) Mike Dirnt (Green Day)

Okay, here’s the thing with Mike Dirnt for me: he has written some of my favorite basslines, period. “Longview.” “Welcome to Paradise.” “86.” “Stuck With Me.” “Castaway.” “Minority.” He writes some of the most bouncy, catchy, melodic, interesting basslines I’ve heard. He is capable of going above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to providing the backbones of Green Day songs. I don’t think anyone who knows the first thing about bass (or even if you know fuckall about bass, like me) would try to dispute the fact that Mike Dirnt has chops for days.

But with some exceptions (“Dirty Rotten Bastards,” for example…which is a song I don’t even like, in part because Billie Joe uses the r-slur), Mike Dirnt’s bass work is just not nearly as interesting or complex as I know he can pull off from 21st Century Breakdown onward. Hell, even their 2004 album, which I adore (except for the ableist title and the r-slur in “Jesus of Suburbia”) isn’t Mike’s best showing. Okay, fine, that “Holiday” bassline does a really nice job supporting the song, but I can’t think of any other basslines from that album that stick out to me unless you count “Governator,” which is a bonus track.

So yeah, Mike Dirnt is immensely talented, and I really appreciate that Green Day’s albums are usually mixed so the bass is nice and present. But dude has been slacking recently.

Basslines: 9
Presence: 10
Consistency: 4
Total: 8

4) Emma Anzai (Sick Puppies, Evanescence)

Except for Linh Le, this list has been a little bit of a dudefest so far, yeah? How about we get some more women on here? 

Maybe it’s because I generally like Sick Puppies’ sound more than I like the sound of older Green Day, but I tend to like Emma’s basslines even more than I like some of Mike Dirnt’s. Yes, really. The bassline for “Longview” is delightful, but when push comes to shove, I’d rather listen to the bassline to “Anywhere But Here” or “The Bottom.” I’d even rather listen to the bassline on “Riptide,” although I hate the lyrics to that song (anti-vaxxers can fuck off). 

I also love the tone on her bass. It’s so punchy and heavy. It hits like a truck, especially in the intro to “Cancer.” It’s very appropriate for the music Sick Puppies makes, though, especially on songs like “You’re Going Down.” I can’t wait to hear how Emma fits in with Evanescence; Jen Majura, Evanescence’s guitarist, recently parted ways with the band, and their bassist, Tim McCord, is switching roles to become guitarist and Emma Anzai has joined as the bassist. Seeing as I LOVE Evanescence and Emma made number four on this list, I’m excited to hear whatever music Evanescence makes next.

You know what else I really like about Emma’s bass work? I CAN HEAR IT. Maybe it’s because Sick Puppies has only one guitarist, but so does AFI, and I can’t always hear Hunter’s bass. In any case, I love how present Emma’s basslines are in the mix on Sick Puppies’ albums. Well, I like that on Dressed Up as Life and Tri-Polar, anyway. I have no use for Welcome to the Real World, Connect, or especially Fury. (Maybe I should give Fury another shot, since when it came out, it was the band’s first album without Shim and my Autistic ass was all “They changed it, now it sucks!” despite the sick basslines on “Earth to You” and “Beautiful Chaos.”) In any case, Emma kicks ass.

Basslines: 9
Presence: 8.5
Consistency: 9
Total: 8.825

3) Alejandra “Ale” Villarreal (The Warning)

Alejandra Villarreal, more commonly known as “Ale,” has been a badass from a very young age. I first encountered The Warning, a Mexican band consisting of three sisters, when a friend showed me a video of them covering “We’re Not Gonna Take It”…eight years ago. Not long afterward, The Warning covered “Enter Sandman” and went viral after receiving praise from Metallica. 

Fast forward to this year, when I’m listening to The Metallica Blacklist, hear The Warning’s updated cover of “Enter Sandman,” and decide to look them up only to find that they’ve just dropped their single “MONEY.” I samesonged that and listened to their 2021 EP Mayday and their 2018 album Queen of the Murder Scene with borderline embarrassing frequency until their 2022 album, ERROR, dropped.

And one of the things I love about The Warning is how well I can hear all of the instruments clearly in the mix, because all three Villarreal sisters are amazingly talented, and I love being able to hear Ale’s skillful, interesting basslines. From the nifty riffs on “CHOKE” to the steady but driving line on “ANIMOSITY” to the rock solid, catchy as fuck groove of “MONEY,” Ale has serious chops. I can honestly say that there isn’t a single bassline on ERROR that I don’t love, even on songs like “KOOL-AID KIDS,” where the bassline is more functional than intriguing. This is partly because Ale always finds a few moments to shine; there are fantastic bass licks before the second verse and in the bridge of “EVOLVE,” for instance. And even on “KOOL-AID KIDS,” the bassline really helps set the ominous mood of the song. I have to say I really prefer The Warning’s more bass-driven songs like “Z” and “DISCIPLE,” but Ale kicks ass on every The Warning song I’ve heard.

Basslines: 9
Presence: 9
Consistency: 10
Total: 9.25

2) Misa (BAND-MAID)

Maybe Misa shouldn’t be this high on the list, seeing as I don’t listen to BAND-MAID as extensively as some of the other bands on here. I love the album World Domination and I like Just Bring It, but their two albums after World Domination, The Conqueror and Unseen World, don’t hit me quite as hard. The Conqueror was overall softer than I like to hear from BAND-MAID, and Unseen World…okay, maybe I should have given Unseen World more of a chance. I only listened to it a couple times to see if any songs from it would make my end-of-year list, and none did (although in retrospect, “Warning!” could have been an honorable mention).

But in any case, Misa’s basslines—with the caveat that I’m discussing Misa’s basslines on World Domination, Just Bring It, and Unseen World (which I listened to more as research for this entry)—are consistently BADASS. You may notice that I gave Misa a 10 for her basslines—the first 10 on the list for basslines—and I stand by that. Hell, the bass parts for “I can’t live without you.” and “No God” alone make me think that Misa’s basslines are 10-worthy

Something I haven’t talked about much (enough?) in this blog entry is tone. Like I said, I know fuckall about the bass, but I do know that Misa’s bass tone is extremely pleasing to my ear. It’s so thick and heavy and punchy. It perfectly complements how driving and solid yet catchy her basslines are. Her tone might be part of the reason I love Misa’s basslines so much. I also found out she uses a custom bass that has five strings. I don’t know enough about bass to comment on why that influences how much I like her work, but hey, it’s cool.

What else, what else…I don’t think I’ve listed enough songs on which Misa kicks ass in this section, but that’s hard because she seems to kick ass with great frequency. And I can actually hear her bass pretty damn well in BAND-MAID songs, so it’s hard to narrow down which of her basslines are my favorite. Let’s see…well, “Dice,” which I linked above, has an unbelievably badass bassline, and so does their latest single, “Sense.” Even some BAND-MAID songs that I don’t often listen to, like “Real Existence” (from their 2015 album New Beginning) have bass work that I love. “Real Existence” has some really cool bass solo sections; I love me some bass solos. My favorite BAND-MAID song, “Fate,” also has some delightful bass licks in moments where the guitar drops out.

*Overly Sarcastic Productions voice* So yeah. Misa kicks ass. 

Basslines: 10
Presence: 8
Consistency: 9
Total: 9.25

1) Chris #2 (Anti-Flag)

Listen to the bass in the song I linked. Holy shit, right??

I’m just in awe of how technical Chris #2’s basslines are. He plays in a straightforward punk band. He could get away with playing a bunch of root notes and fifths, maybe the occasional melody. But no, he plays these ridiculous complicated lines, and not slowly, either. You may notice that he and Misa are the only 10s I gave to basslines. I think it was the bassline of “Anthem for a New Millennium Generation” that earned Chris’s 10 for me. Well, and “No Future.” And “This Is the New Sound.” Oh, and “On Independence Day,” that one’s super fun and impressive. Okay, fine, there are myriad basslines of Chris’s that I think warrant that 10 rating.

Chris is also a very consistent bassist. He always shows up to turn out some badass bass work. Even on Anti-Flag’s latest album, there are basslines I adore, like the ones on “Hate Conquers All,” “It Went Off Like a Bomb,” and “Concrete Breeds Apathy.” His bass is also nicely present on Anti-Flag’s records. Even when the other instruments are going full blast, I can pick out the bass…even when I’m sober. 

Honestly, it was really hard to choose between Misa and Chris #2 for the number one spot. If not for the fact that I can hear Chris’s bass super well on Anti-Flag’s work, they might have been tied. And honestly, they’re both immensely talented. But I am slightly more comfortable giving Chris the number one spot (although it would have been hilarious if Chris #2 got the #2 spot) because I have been listening to Anti-Flag for much longer than I have been BAND-MAID, and I listen to Anti-Flag much more frequently than I listen to BAND-MAID because, well, Anti-Flag is one of my all-time favorite bands. And Anti-Flag wouldn’t be so high on my list of favorite bands without Chris’s amazing bass. These lists are only my opinion, but I think Chris deserves the top spot here.

Basslines: 10
Presence: 9
Consistency: 9
Total: 9.5

So that was the list! And it comes with an announcement: after July, I am closing down my Patreon. I am stretched too thin trying to maintain three blogs and make original music at the pace I have to for Patreon, especially while also trying to draft an original novel. I will still be blogging and creating Escape, and anyone who has supported me on Patreon will still get Escape for free.

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me. Please make sure you cancel your pledges ASAP so you don’t get charged for August ❤

  1. Chris #2 (Anti-Flag) (9.5)
  2. Misa (BAND-MAID) (9.25)
  3. Alejandra “Ale” Villareal (The Warning) (9.25)
  4. Emma Anzai (Sick Puppies, Evanescence) (8.825)
  5. Mike Dirnt (Green Day) 8
  6. Hunter Burgan (AFI) (7.875)
  7. Jonathan Gallant (Billy Talent) (7.75)
  8. Paolo Gregoletto (Trivium) (7.625)
  9. Mikey Way (My Chemical Romance) (7.25)
  10. Linh Le (Bad Cop/Bad Cop) (6.75)

Favorite EPs

Content/trigger warning: murder mention, suicide mention, addiction mention

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to a topic I’ve been hoping to discuss for a while: my favorite EPs. I’m usually an album listener, but a lot of bands drop EPs before their first albums or release EPs when they want to release something but don’t have enough material for an LP. Sometimes bands release EPs as teasers for albums and then just put all the songs from the EP on the album, which…I’m not fond of, if I’m honest. That sort of EP will not end up on this list. Actually, here is a list of rules for this list:

  1. No EPs that are comprised entirely or almost entirely of songs that later ended up on an album
  2. No EPs that are comprised entirely or mostly of covers
  3. No live EPs
  4. B-sides are allowed (what? I like B-sides)
  5. In the case of a tie, the EP with the higher lyrics score takes the higher spot

I have also returned to ranking things with math, which I haven’t been doing much recently. I will be rating each EP on vocals, lyrics, instrumentation/sound, and overall enjoyment, and I use the arithmetic mean of those scores to sort the list. With that said, onward!

10) The L.I.F.E. Project, The L.I.F.E. Project

Those who read my favorite songs of 2021 blog entry may remember that a song by The L.I.F.E. Project, “A World on Fire,” made it onto that list as an honorable mention. What was it that I said? Oh yeah, “The L.I.F.E. Project is a band spearheaded by Stone Sour guitarist Josh Rand and featuring Paralandra singer and guitarist Casandra Carson. Stone Sour-esque heavy, melodic, driving guitar riffs and a badass female vocalist? Yes please, inject that shit straight into my veins.” And the EP from which “A World on Fire” came was a debut. I’m always hella impressed when a debut is solid. I know and love so many bands whose debuts were, uh…rough, let’s say. 

Is The L.I.F.E. Project staggeringly great or anything? No, not really. It’s in the same realm as Halestorm or Cilver; female-fronted rock bands with tremendous talent and potential but the execution never rises above good. (Although I think, with the exception of a few Halestorm songs, Cilver has lived up to their potential better than Halestorm has. I said what I said.) But it is good. Very good, even. And, yes, it’s total Amaranthe bait, but still, I look forward to more original material from this band. In the meantime, those riffs on “Ignite” and “The Nothingness” are still killer and I am jealous of Casandra Carson’s timbre.

Vocals: 7.5
Lyrics: 6
Instrumentation/Sound: 7.5
Overall Enjoyment: 8
Overall Score: 7.25

9) Made an America, FEVER 333

Oh, hey, another band whose music has made it onto a favorite songs of [year] list! FEVER 333’s song “Supremacy,” from their EP WRONG GENERATION, made it onto my favorite songs of 2020 list. I also mentioned FEVER 333’s debut LP, STRENGTH IN NUMB333RS, in my entry on recent awesome debut albums. However, I’m not going to talk about WRONG GENERATION or STRENGTH IN NUMB333RS today. No, I’m going to talk about FEVER 333’s debut EP, Made an America.

Now, for those who are unfamiliar, the frontman of FEVER 333, Jason Aalon Butler, is not only one of my favorite vocalists who performs multiple types of vocals, but he used to front a metalcore band called letlive. And I was a huge letlive. fan. I wasn’t as devastated when letlive. disbanded as I was when, say, MCR broke up, but I was still disappointed, especially since the band seemed to be really finding themselves on their final album. So when Jason Aalon Butler came out with a new project that was very different from letlive., it already had an uphill battle getting me to like it. I was afraid that it was going to be a case of It’s Different, So Now It Sucks (a thing that my Autistic ass is very prone to thinking; I have a hell of a time dealing with change).

Fortunately, FEVER 333 blew my expectations out of the water. No, it wasn’t letlive., but it wasn’t trying to be letlive. It was something different enough that I was able to see it not as a change, but as an entirely new entity (which was the idea, I know, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to see it that way). I’ve liked hearing rapped, sung, and screamed vocals over rock-esque instrumentation ever since my 13-year-old ass decided she loved Linkin Park, and FEVER 333 did a damn good job at that. But what impressed me the most about FEVER 333 was their lyrics. Fiery AND eloquent condemnations of injustices in the US? Absofuckinglutely, yes please! I think “We are the melanin felons/We are the product of/Plunder and policy that you gotta love/Casinos, amigos on forty acres, uh/They built this shit on our backs/Made an America” is particularly brilliant, and that’s literally the first verse of the first song. Talk about starting off with a bang. And the lyrics remained that incredible throughout the EP. Seriously, if you’re a leftist and a lyrics fiend, check out Made an America.

Vocals: 8
Lyrics: 10
Instrumentation/Sound: 7
Overall Enjoyment: 7.5
Overall Score: 7.875

8) Alpha//Survivor, Drown This City

All right, Drown This City. Number six on my favorite non-US bands list and fronted by number eight on my favorite female screamers list. Also, one of the only bands I really love from Australia since Shim left Sick Puppies and I found out what a dick the lead singer of The Smith Street Band is. Alpha//Survivor is Drown This City’s second EP, released in 2019, three years after their first EP, False Idols. It was False Idols that first put Alex Reade and her scream on my radar, but Alpha//Survivor really exemplifies everything I love about Drown This City: Alex’s fearsome growl—she can both false cord and fry scream, which is just impressive as hell—and her cleans that were vastly improved since False Idols, guitars that are both stimmy and heavy, and more than serviceable lyrics. I don’t think I’ve given Drown This City enough credit for their lyrics in the past, actually; they’re often about trauma, depression, and recovery, which I can naturally appreciate.

Drown This City really doubled down on those lyrical themes with their 2021 EP, Colours We Don’t Know, but…yeah, I wasn’t nearly as big a fan of that EP as I was Alpha//Survivor or even False Idols. Why?

THEY STOPPED LETTING ALEX SCREAM.

The bassist, Toby Thomas, screams now, and Alex’s vocals are all clean. They did this with no explanation, too! I actually prefer Alex’s scream to Toby’s, and it’s not like Alex suddenly lost her ability to scream or even decided she didn’t want to scream anymore (as far as I know). I’m still going to continue supporting Drown This City in their future endeavors, but I have a feeling that unless they bring Alex’s screams back, Alpha//Survivor is going to be my favorite record that Drown This City ever releases. So I will just continue to still blast “Stay Broken” and “In Your Image” in 2022 even though Alpha//Survivor is three years old now and I mostly listen to newer music. It’s that good.

Vocals: 9
Lyrics: 7
Instrumentation/Sound: 9
Overall Enjoyment: 8
Overall Score: 8.25

7) A Benefit for Victims of Violent Crime, Anti-Flag

The chick with the Anti-Flag tattoo just had to get Anti-Flag on this list, didn’t she? Well, it’s a damn good EP. I’m especially obsessed with the bassline and the guitar solo on “Anthem for the New Millennium Generation,” which is seriously one of my favorite songs Anti-Flag has created. The basslines on this EP are particularly tasty, really, even though Chris #2 is consistently a great bassist. The lyrics are razor-sharp societal commentary as always—especially the line in which George W. Bush is encouraged to off himself if he wants to end terrorism—and the songs are hard-hitting while still being catchy and accessible in sound. I also love the fact that the EP was recorded as, well, a benefit for victims of violent crime, and that the band was able to create something positive in light of a tragedy. (For those who don’t know, bassist Chris #2’s sister and her boyfriend were murdered, and this EP was the band’s response.) It’s straightforward punk without any frills, but it’s some of the best fucking straightforward punk without any frills I’ve ever heard.

And it’s only number 7 on this list because I LOVE Anti-Flag, but at the end of the day, I’m still a choir geek. Punk isn’t about round vowels and crisp consonants and pretty timbres and all that shit, and Justin Sane’s vocals suit the style of music well, but I just don’t think the dude has a great voice. I tolerate it when he yells instead of sings, but I don’t love it, and I’m not the biggest fan of his timbre when he sings. Still, A Benefit for Victims of Violent Crime is one of Anti-Flag’s strongest offerings.

(Yes, there are live recordings on this EP and I said live EPs weren’t eligible for this list. Enough of the songs on this EP were original studio recordings that I decided it counted. Also, it’s my list and I do what I want.)

Vocals: 6.5
Lyrics: 10
Instrumentation/Sound: 9
Overall Enjoyment: 8
Overall Score: 8.375

6) All Hallow’s EP, AFI

Long-time readers of this blog will know that AFI’s The Art of Drowning was my introduction to the band. What I haven’t talked about is that after I decided I liked The Art of Drowning and the friend who gave me that album told me that AFI’s older stuff was better, I went searching on YouTube (and, okay, Limewire…fuck that was a long time ago) for more old-school AFI. I first found the music video for “He Who Laughs Last…” on YouTube, and it was a little too rough around the edges for me, but then I found the music video for “Totalimmortal,” and I immediately loved it and Limewire’d the rest of All Hallow’s EP. 

To this day, all four songs on that EP are on my Halloween playlist. When I have an AFI listening marathon in chronological order (what? I do that, and yes, it’s probably an Autistic thing, similar to samesonging), I start with Black Sails in the Sunset, because I’m not a fan of pre-Jade Puget AFI, but after Black Sails comes All Hallow’s EP. Sometimes I even eschew chronological order and listen to All Hallow’s EP first, because horrorpunk AFI is my favorite AFI, and while Black Sails was definitely the start of that era, I feel like All Hallow’s EP was the first release on which they perfected that sound. Also, I’m not sure how Davey pulled this off, because Black Sails and All Hallow’s EP came out the same damn year, but Davey’s timbre sounds a lot less whiny to me—a severe problem I have with pre-1999 AFI—on All Hallow’s EP than it does on Black Sails.

“Totalimmortal” may be short, but it crams more surprisingly poetic words into a couple of minutes than some five-minute songs, “Halloween” drapes the Misfits classic in AFI trappings, and “Fall Children” and “The Boy who Destroyed the World” are both strong showings. All Hallow’s EP was one of the first releaset with the band’s current lineup, and all four members are firing on all cylinders. Hunter Burgan (bass) and Jade Puget (guitar), the newest members of the band at that point, sound fully integrated into the band’s sound and are kicking ass. Jade plays some very nice guitar licks. Part of me wishes he had added a shredding solo to one of the songs on All Hallow’s EP, but other than that? My only complaint about the EP is that Davey Havok has never been my favorite vocalist, particularly pre-Sing the Sorrow (which is when I feel he really reached an apogee with his vocal skills, especially his scream). If I ever wrote a blog entry on records I wish could be re-recorded, All Hallow’s EP would probably be on that list, because horrorpunk AFI + Davey’s current vocal chops? Holy SHIT, that would be awesome.

Vocals: 6.5
Lyrics: 9
Instrumentation/Sound: 9
Overall Enjoyment: 9
Overall Score: 8.375

5) Delusionary, Blackwater Drowning

Oh hey, I get to talk about another favorite female screamer of mine: Morgan Mortality, number two on my favorite female screamers list! Morgan also snagged the number five spot on my list of favorite vocalists who perform multiple types of vocals.

But I focus on vocals too much, so let me talk more about the instrumentals on Delusionary for a bit. Blackwater Drowning is melodic death metal, and their sound isn’t too different from what you’d hear on an Arch Enemy or Darkest Hour album: lots of heavy riffing and double-kick drumming. Actually, I want to give a particular shout-out to Blackwater Drowning’s drummer, Chris Peavy. I know fuckall about drums, but I do know that the drumming on Delusionary (and all of Blackwater Drowning’s work, really) sounds very complex, and it’s also so. Stimmy. What can I say? I love that double kick thunder! Chris Peavy’s drums also always sound so crisp and precise. I can’t imagine the talent it takes to play like that. 

Regarding the rest of the instrumentalists, I admire the ability of the guitarists, Jeremy Bennett and Ron Dalton, Jr., to create riffs that straddle the line between heavy and melodic. I’m not usually into death metal—MDM bands have to lean pretty far into the “melodic” part of MDM for me to like them, or add lots of keyboards like Children of Bodom, or symphonic elements like MaYaN—but Blackwater Drowning is probably the least frilly MDM I really enjoy. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the band’s badass female bassist, Aria Novi! The backbone of a good heavy band is the bass, and Aria does a great job supporting the rest of the band with her playing. (I mean, as far as I can tell; we’ve established that I know very little about instrumentals beyond “I like how this sounds”). I say Blackwater Drowning isn’t frilly, but they also aren’t afraid to play with subtle electronic elements, especially on “Making Glass,” which might be my favorite song on Delusionary.

All two people reading this who know Blackwater Drowning may be wondering why I picked Delusionary, which came out in 2015, over Ruthless, the EP the band released in 2019. The answer is actually pretty simple: I love all of the songs on Delusionary, but there are a few songs on Ruthless that don’t really grab me. I was a little worried that Blackwater Drowning was out of ideas that I liked, but then they came out with the single “Saint” in 2019, and that’s my favorite Blackwater Drowning song. So I can safely say I’m looking forward to the band’s upcoming debut LP, Sonder//Satori, whenever it drops. Until then, I’ll keep regularly spinning Delusionary.

Vocals: 10
Lyrics: 7.5
Instrumentation/Sound: 8.5
Overall Enjoyment: 8
Overall Score: 8.5

4) Broken Bride, Ludo

When I made this list, I really thought this EP was going to top the list. I was a little surprised at how the math shook out, because this EP grabbed me by the collar and hauled me through a heartstring-tugging, tear-jerking, epic journey the first time I listened to it way back in high school. That was in 2005. Listening to this EP still gets me to fucking bawl. Yeah, to this day. It’s that affecting.

Let me back up: Broken Bride is a short rock opera told from the point of view of a man whose wife was killed in a car crash, and who worked on a time machine for fifteen years with the aim of traveling back to the day his wife died to save her. His time machine malfunctions and takes him to prehistoric times (the Jurassic period, presumably, based on the fact that he sees pterodactyls), then to the end of the world. There’s also a zombie apocalypse in there. I won’t spoil what happens, but like I said, it makes me fucking bawl. 

So why isn’t it topping the list? Well, to start, there’s Andrew Volpe’s voice. Broken Bride is fairly different, stylistically, from most of Ludo’s output. Ludo’s usual style is very…well, nerdy. It’s nerd rock. Andrew Volpe’s voice suits that style perfectly, but it’s not ideal for an epic story like Broken Bride (although Broken Bride is still pretty nerdy, with “the constant c, the speed of light” being referenced right in the first verse of the first song.) He’s a perfectly competent singer, but his timbre just isn’t my favorite for epic storytelling, especially as someone who listens to a lot of symphonic metal. If Joakim Broden or Magali Luyten were singing on Broken Bride, it’d be a different story. 

Ludo also doesn’t have my favorite sound out there. They have a Moog synthesizer, which is just cool, and it’s used to great effect on Broken Bride. But that aside, their sound is a fairly standard guitar/bass/drums/vocals setup, and they don’t do anything earth-shattering with that setup. They’re great at crafting fun, catchy melodies for their other albums, which have comedy-tinged songs with titles like “Cyborgs vs. Robots” and “Drunken Lament,” and while they did a damn good job adapting their sound to a story as dark and sweeping as Broken Bride, it remains…well, like I said, not my favorite sound out there.

I also had to take half a point off of the lyrical score, despite Broken Bride having some of my favorite lyrics ever written, for a reference to “Christ” in “Pt. 1: Broken Bride” and some very Xtian interpretations of the end of the world in “Pt. 3: The Lamb and the Dragon.” Sorry, Ludo, I’m pre-Jewish now. What? I don’t rank things by quality, I rank them by how much I like them.

Vocals: 6.5
Lyrics: 9.5
Instrumentation/Sound: 8
Overall Enjoyment: 10
Overall Score: 8.5

3) Spiritbox, Spiritbox

Oooh, fuck yeah, Spiritbox! My favorite difficult-to-categorize Canadian metalcore(?) band fronted by my favorite vocalist who can perform multiple types of vocals. Spiritbox’s song “Circle With Me” was number one on my favorite songs of 2021 list. Spiritbox has released a handful of singles, one album, and two EPs. I love everything Spiritbox has done, and I feel like they’re only getting better with time. So why did I  choose their self-titled EP—the first thing they ever released—over their second EP, Singles Collection? A couple of reasons: one, Spiritbox is more cohesive, with several songs (“The Mara Effect” Pts. 1, 2, and 3) all sharing themes, whereas Singles Collection is just…that. A collection of a few singles. Also, I like the songs on Spiritbox just slightly more than some of the tracks on Singles Collection. “Bleach Bath” and “Belcarra” in particular had to grow on me. 

Spiritbox is just excellent from start to finish: stimmy and heavy guitars, interesting melodic textures, and Courtney’s unparalleled powerful vocals. I also like the use of unusual song structures (“Aphids,” “Everything’s Eventual”) to keep things varied, especially the decision to start “Everything’s Eventual” with the chorus. The only reasons this EP isn’t number two or number one on the list is that Spiritbox’s lyrics are a little abstruse for me and that I think Spiritbox would go on to do even better with Eternal Blue. Still, “Aphids,” “The Beauty of Suffering,” and “Everything’s Eventual” remain some of my favorite Spiritbox songs, with “The Beauty of Suffering” holding a special place in my heart because it’s the song that got me into Spiritbox. 

Vocals: 10
Lyrics: 8
Instrumentation/Sound: 9
Overall Enjoyment: 8.5
Overall Score: 8.875

2) Recovery, Dream State

Have I mentioned that Dream State is filling the hole left in my heart when I found out that Lacey Sturm, former lead vocalist of Flyleaf, is homomisic as fuck?

Too many times to count?

Have I mentioned how devastated I am that the lead vocalist of Dream State, CJ Gilpin, has left the band?

No?

Well, I am. (Even though I Tweeted at the band that I would be willing to audition to be their new singer/lyricist. Because of fucking course I did. Would you expect anything different from me?) Dream State is basically the band I wish I were fronting; a post-hardcore band influenced by mutliple heavy genres with lyrics about mental illness, fronted by a mezzo who mostly sings but can also scream (HI). I’ve talked about this before, though; what I haven’t talked about is that I think that the EP Recovery is the best thing Dream State has put out. Yeah, even better than their debut LP, Primrose Path, which I love.

Granted, I may be biased because Recovery got me into Dream State, but the biggest problem I had with Primrose Path (note that “problem” is a very relative term here; Primrose Path is still a 9/10 album for me) is that the guitars weren’t quite as present on that album as they were on Recovery. Recovery is a little heavier-sounding than Primrose Path to me, and of course I like that. Also, while there aren’t any songs on Primrose Path that I skip, there are a few that I think aren’t quite as strong as the album’s high points. With Recovery, on the other hand, I feel like every track is excellent. Yes, that’s easier to do with an EP than it is with an album, but I’d rather talk about how awesome Recovery is than quibble about that, so I’m just going to continue gushing.

“In This Hell” is my favorite song off of Recovery, but I can only say that because it’s on the list of songs that literally saved my life. Every other song on the EP is amazing. I want to give a special shout-out to “Solace” for having some of CJ’s best screams and some surprisingly effective speak-singing, a technique I’m not usually fond of. “Help Myself” delivers a gut check to the feels while also pulling off a mood of despair with a glimmer of hope, something I both find hard to do and try to pull off in my own music (see why I should be Dream State’s next singer?). “White Lies” is surprisingly catchy for a song about cocaine addiction in addition to being a typical Dream State emotional heavyweight banger, and “New Waves” closes out the EP with defiant optimism. 

So if I’m gushing so much, what could possibly beat this EP?

Well…

Vocals: 9
Lyrics: 10
Instrumentation/Sound: 8.5
Overall Enjoyment: 10
Overall Score: 9.375

1) The Black Parade B-Sides, My Chemical Romance

Yep. MCR.

What? You can’t be surprised. My Chemical Romance was saving my life long before Dream State was even formed. No, that’s not fair, but I think we all know my music tastes are stuck in high school, and The Black Parade came out when I was a junior. But seriously, it isn’t just bias that gets this EP of B-sides to the top of this list. Note: depending on which platform you listen on, this EP also has two live recordings, one of “Welcome to the Black Parade” and one of “Famous Last Words,” but the version I grew up with just had the studio recording B-sides, so that’s the version I’ll be discussing.

“My Way Home Is Through You” is my favorite song MCR has ever written, and even made it onto the list of songs that saved my life. That song still makes me feel less alone, even in my darkest moments. Not to mention it has a kickass guitar solo—y’all know I’m weak for guitar solos—and is one of my favorite MCR songs, if not one of my favorite songs period, to sing.

“Kill All Your Friends” and “Heaven Help Us,” the other two B-sides, are also among my favorite MCR songs. “Kill All Your Friends” has some awesome guitar licks, is ridiculously catchy, and employs one of my favorite rare musical tricks: using “la la”s, “na na”s, or “doot doo”s as lyrics…and actually pulling it off. Those little “ba ba ba, ba ba ba”s in the chorus are really fun to sing as well. I also love the slight modifications to each chorus, especially one of the tricks that I commonly use in my songs: replacing a two-syllable adjective that isn’t profane in the first few iterations of the chorus with a “fucking” in the last chorus. It’s just a damn good song.

As for “Heaven Help Us,” that song very nearly made it into my blog entry about songs that saved my life. Keeping it off that list hurt and, in retrospect, I probably should have gone ahead and included it. The catharsis that comes with belting out “heaven help us” in that chorus aside, it’s an interesting song musically, with some lovely signature MCR guitar noodling in the chorus, effective singing on the offbeats in the second verse, and really cool vocal counterpoint in the outro. 

I get why these songs were left off The Black Parade, which was a concept album that was already long enough, and these songs didn’t really fit on it. But I am SO GLAD MCR saw fit to release them, because fuck they’re good.

Vocals: 8.5
Lyrics: 10
Instrumentation/Sound: 9.5
Overall Enjoyment: 10
Overall Score: 9.5

And that was my list of favorite EPs! It was fun to write; EPs need more love. Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! Reminder that it’s only $1 to be as cool as them, and that also gets you early access to all my blog entries AND free copies of every song from my album Escape. Oh, right, my album; I have two songs from it on Bandcamp so far: https://amaranthezinzani.bandcamp.com/album/escape Please check it out 🙂 

Favorite Vocalists Who Perform Multiple Types of Vocals

Hello, dear readers! For this entry, I will be discussing a topic I’ve been interested in exploring for ages: my favorite vocalists who perform multiple kinds of vocals. This can include rapping, singing cleanly, singing with grit, fry screaming, and false cord screaming. Note: I’m not the greatest at distinguishing fry from false cord screaming, but I will do my best here. At times, it can be pretty impossible to tell for sure what kind of scream someone’s doing unless you’re looking at their vocal folds with a camera. Also, this list will be about artists who perform in rock, metal, punk, etc., so as in awe as I am of Dessa’s rapping ability and her lovely singing voice, she will not be on this list. She is amazing, though. Oh, and Janelle Monae! If this list included rappers/singers that were outside my usual jurisdiction, she’d be at the top of the list, and not just because she can also act, dance, and write.

ANYWAY. I tried figuring out how to rank these vocalists using math, and I couldn’t come up with anything; this will just be a list of vocalists who perform multiple types of vocals ranked by how much I like them. Note: I tried to rank the vocalists by how much I like their vocals, not how much I like the music they make, but there may be some bias involved in that regard. That said, let’s get to the list.

10) Lauren Kashan (Sharptooth)

Some of you may be surprised to see Lauren only coming in at number 10 on this list because she’s my #1 favorite female screamer. Well, this list is about vocalists who perform multiple types of vocals, and Lauren is almost exclusively a screamer. She sings very rarely. I think in the song I linked above, she only sings one line. Honestly, I would have picked a different song to showcase Lauren’s talents, but I’ve already shared the two songs in which she sings the most on this blog, and I don’t like to share the same song multiple times. (But in case you want to hear those songs again:

I honestly have a hard time telling what kind of scream Lauren does. I think it’s false cord, but regardless, she has fantastic control, and her range and stamina are also hella impressive. As for her singing voice, though…well, it’s certainly good, and she’s able to convey a lot of passion with her singing, just like with her screaming. She just does it so rarely that I feel like #10 was an appropriate spot for her on this particular list. I can’t even tell what vocal part she is; she’s likely a mezzo because she hits a low C in “The Gray,” but she could easily be a contralto. That’s just less likely because contralto is the rarest voice type. Anyway, she’s an immensely talented screamer, but her singing voice doesn’t seem nearly as tremendous as her scream, especially because she sings so little.

9) Jason Aalon Butler (FEVER 333, ex-letlive.)

I miss the fuck out of letlive., partly because my favorite thing Jason Aalon Butler does with his voice is scream. He still does that in spades in FEVER 333, of course, but he raps and sings more in FEVER 333 than he did in letlive. Yeah, you read that right. He screams, raps, AND sings. His delivery when he raps on up-tempo songs reminds me of Zack de la Rocha, and trust me, that’s a compliment.

So…why is he only #9 on this list, then? The answer is “personal preference.” I’m simply not a huge fan of Jason’s timbre when he sings. He’s not my favorite screamer, either. If I made a list of my favorite male screamers, he either wouldn’t make the list or he would be in the honorable mentions. Still, his technique is excellent throughout all his types of vocals. I also feel the need to point out that his diction is very clear, and maintaining good diction while you’re singing, rapping, and screaming is fucking hard; harder than I can pull off, and I was known in my choir for my consonants that had a Mohs hardness of 10. Jason is talented as all fuck. He’s just not my favorite multi-talented vocalist who is talented as all fuck; he’s my 9th favorite. I’d still see FEVER 333 live, though; I hear Jason is exceptionally dynamic live.

But I maintain that I miss letlive. And they broke up on my 27th birthday. That’s just rude.

8) Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy, ex-The Agonist)

Ah, Alissa White-Gluz, the frontwoman I like of a band I don’t. Okay, that’s not fair; I like Arch Enemy fine. I just don’t go out of my way to listen to them. I’ll listen to them if they come up in a mix or my YouTube recommendations, but if I feel like listening to MDM…well, I said before that I’m more likely to go to MaYaN or older Children of Bodom (may Alexi Laiho’s memory be a blessing), although that’s less true now; my favorite MDM band at this point is Blackwater Drowning.

Anyway, Alissa White-Gluz’s low-pitched false cord scream is still just as stimmy to me as it was when I wrote my favorite female screamers blog entry. She still has a good range on her scream and impressive diction. And now I get to talk about her cleans! I love it when Alissa uses both her clean and guttural vocals, as she’s very talented at both. She has a lovely and unique timbre when she sings cleanly. She sounds just as powerful on her sung vocals as she does when she screams. I also like how both her sung and screamed vocals sound unique enough that I could probably identify them even if I didn’t know she was guesting on a particular song.

Speaking of which, as per usual, I tend to like Alissa White-Gluz’s work better when she’s a guest artist on other people’s songs. Like this song with Tarja, for example.

But like with Lauren Kashan, I don’t get to hear Alissa sing cleanly much. She might be higher on this list if I’d heard more of her clean pipes and could judge things like her range more accurately. So here she is at #8.

7) Sam Carter (Architects)

Okay, full disclosure: I don’t listen to Architects much, or at least I haven’t until recently. Was their album Holy Hell a spellbinding gut check to the feels? You bet. But I wasn’t always prepared for the onslaught of feels that listening to that album would bring, so I didn’t actually spin it much. Holy Hell also got me into Architects when I heard the glowing reviews of that album, and I haven’t really traversed their back catalog, which is large and intimidating. When they dropped For Those Who Wish to Exist, I checked it out, and it was excellent. I listened to it quite a bit during 2021, and one of its songs—”Black Lungs”—made my favorite songs of 2021 list, and I stand by that.

I love many things about Architects—their songwriting, their lyrics, their sound—but my favorite aspect of Architects is Sam Carter’s voice. His singing voice is immensely powerful, both when he’s singing with grit and when he’s singing cleanly. I’d kill to be able to sound that intense. His fry scream is also excellent. He also has a very flexible voice; he can switch from singing to screaming on a dime. I’m jealous as hell.

I also can’t overstate how effortless he makes all of this sound. I know I say this a lot, but as someone who can sing and scream, I’m extremely aware of how hard it is to 1) sound effortless when you do either and 2) sound effortless when you switch between those two things. It’s hard because you have to significantly change what your vocal folds are doing. That takes control, practice, and talent. This might be a hot take, but I feel like some people can take years and years of vocal lessons and not be as good as someone who naturally has pipes and has also practiced and learned a lot. Sam Carter sounds like one of those people who has bucketloads of natural talent. And, again, I’m jealous. As fuck.

Now I really need to listen to more Architects. They have something like seven albums I haven’t heard yet.

6) Lauren Babic (Red Handed Denial)

You know, Lauren Babic’s clean pipes had to grow on me. I thought her singing voice was too poppy for me at first. Now I like how unique she sounds compared to many other metal vocalists. I always loved her scream, though. Her fry scream sounds, to me, like the ur-example of fry screaming; i.e., when I think of how a fry scream should sound, what I imagine sounds a lot like Lauren Babic’s fry scream.

Lauren also has an absolutely incredible ability to switch from singing to screaming, not unlike Sam Carter if not better. She also apparently has more lungs than a Klingon, because she can hold screamed notes for an unreasonably long time. She also has a really nice range on her scream. It sounds a little like her lower screams are false cord, not fry, which would be extra impressive because that means can perform two different screaming techniques where a lot of screamers can only pull off one.

I’m not really sure what else to say here. Lauren has an excellent and unusual clean singing voice, a fierce fry scream, tremendous breath control, a sick range, and incredible flexibility. She’s top tier. The only thing left for me to ponder is whether or not that black ring she wears on the middle finger of her right hand is an ace ring. Because that would be beyond cool.

Okay, fine, I’ll explain why she’s only number 6 on this list. You guessed it: personal preference. I like Lauren’s clean pipes, but they’re still not my favorite, and I also tend to prefer the sound of false cord screaming over fry screaming. Lauren Babic is still #VoiceGoals.

5) Morgan Mortality (Blackwater Drowning)

Those of you who read my favorite female screamers blog entry have probably been waiting for this one: Morgan Mortality of Blackwater Drowning. Morgan has one of my favorite false cord screams period. I just love the sound of it. It’s so dark and rich and stimmy. I’m especially impressed by her stamina when it comes to false cord screaming. I can probably perform one Blackwater Drowning song before my vocal folds get tired, even if I’m really warmed up.

I also really love Morgan’s clean pipes. She reminds me a lot of Tsunami Bomb’s Kate Jacobi, who you may remember from my blog entry on bands that successfully changed singers. She has a surprisingly beautiful timbre, and it works really well with her band’s brand of MDM. She even uses vibrato sometimes, and as a choir geek, I can’t help but love some vibrato in my MDM. You know what else I like about Morgan’s clean singing? She sings quite a bit! Many songs by Blackwater Drowning have screamed verses and sung choruses. As much as I love, say, Lauren Kashan from earlier in this entry, Lauren only made #10 because this list is about vocalists who perform multiple types of vocals, and Lauren barely sings. Morgan’s exceptional screaming and singing land her at #5 on this list.

4) Jayant Bhadula (Bloodywood)

I’ve been super into Bloodywood lately—their first album dropped this month and it’s fantastic—and Jayant is rapidly becoming one of my favorite vocalists out there. He has a masterful false cord scream with incredible stamina. I really love the timbre of his false cord scream, even when he uses it in a low enough range that some might call it “Cookie Monster” screaming. (Note: “cookie monstering” is also a type of incorrect screaming technique in addition to slang for deep death metal growls. Right now, I mean the latter, which is usually not my thing, but Jayant is just that skilled.) Also, his ability to sing with grit is unparalleled. He can also sing without grit, and quite beautifully, I might add. But you know what really impresses me about Jayant’s vocals?

This. Guy. Can. SPIT.

Seriously, he has some patters that are Hamilton-level fast, and he’s fucking screaming them, AND spitting out those consonants like it’s nothing. I would bet that if I could understand Hindi, I would understand what he’s screaming on those rapid patters, his diction is so good. (Me being able to understand fast patters is harder than it is for most people, because I have auditory processing disorder. Note: yes, I’m Autistic with APD. You don’t need to be Autistic to have APD, and APD is not part of Autisticness, it is a co-occurring condition. This is an important distinction.)

I don’t really have much else to say about Jayant. He has a phenomenal ability to scream at a mile a minute and a kickass singing voice. Honestly, he might be higher on this list if I had heard more of his work, but Bloodywood is a young band with only one album under their belt. I mean, I wish I’d heard a little more of Jayant’s singing and had a better sense of his range. But at the moment, I think #4 is a fair spot for Jayant.

3) AJ Channer (Fire From the Gods)

And here we have another vocalist who can sing, scream, and rap. Oh yeah! AJ Channer has such a rich voice with so much character. Like Jason Aalon Butler from earlier, AJ Channer’s delivery can remind me a lot of Zack de la Rocha’s, and I mean that in a complimentary way. In addition to well-supported rapping with a lot of volume, AJ also has a strong singing voice and a solid scream.

One thing I like about AJ’s voice is how fluidly he switches between singing and rapping. Sometimes it’s hard for me to even pinpoint which technique I should call what he’s doing. Yet again, that is something that my choir geek ass cannot do and it makes me jealous. I’m also jealous of how powerful his singing voice is. Fire From the Gods’ music is (appropriately for their name) fiery and passionate, and AJ Channer is the perfect frontman for their sound. He doesn’t have to scream in order to sound loud and forceful; he can accomplish that with clean singing. Again, jealous.

AJ Channer’s scream is…good. It’s quite good. It doesn’t knock my socks off like some of the other vocalists on this list, but let’s face it, it’s probably still better than mine. I also feel like AJ doesn’t scream all that much, so I don’t have much opportunity to hear him scream. I have trouble telling what technique he’s using to scream, too. I think it’s false cord, but with his timbre, it’s hard to tell. And like I said before, sometimes the only way to tell which screaming technique someone is using is to look at their vocal folds with a camera. Anyway, he doesn’t seem to have the same amount of stamina some other screamers on this list have, but he still has a very powerful voice no matter what he’s doing, and again, dude can sing, rap, and scream. Which is why he’s #3 on this list despite the fact that I’m not blown away by his scream.

Oh, and one more thing. AJ Channer is actually Jamaican, or at least his father is (AJ was born in the Bronx). Interestingly, he also went to boarding school in Ghana, and has also lived in the UK. You can really hear the Jamaican influence on his voice in songs like “They Don’t Like It.” I kind of wish he would do that more, because it’s really cool, and not something you hear in a lot of metal. Cool accents also will get you high on this list.

2) Rou Reynolds (Enter Shikari)

Oh hells yeah, Rou Reynolds! He fronts the English band Enter Shikari, and he sings, screams, and raps, and he does all of those things frequently (with maybe slightly more of an emphasis on singing, especially on more recent albums), so I can hear how fucking good he is at all of them. It’s impressive as hell, and he has a really cool accent (remember what I said about accents getting you high on this list?). His rapping is crisp, his singing is impeccable, and his fry scream is fierce. He’s a g-ddamn powerhouse.

Enter Shikari’s sound is really diverse. It takes a lot of influence from metalcore, but also uses an electronic soundscape. One thing I really like about Enter Shikari is that I can listen to an album of theirs and each song sounds so distinct. (Well, except for The Spark, which was just slow and boring for the most part. Don’t @ me.) And the skill it takes to change one’s vocal technique up in order to fit with such a varied sound? Rou has that skill, and it impresses me to no end. In addition to being able to scream his head off and rap extremely well, he’s extremely skilled at dynamics when it comes to his sung vocals. He can sing softly and mournfully, or he can bust out a much fuller, louder singing voice.

And his diction is excellent. Whether he’s screaming, singing, or rapping, I can understand him really well, even with my APD-riddled brain. I don’t think I’ve ever had to look up Enter Shikari’s lyrics to see what Rou was singing/rapping/screaming. For those of you who aren’t familiar with how bad my APD is, that’s unfuckingbelievable.

I really can’t praise Rou enough. He’s one of the most talented vocalists I’m aware of.

So…why isn’t he #1?

Well…

1) Courtney LaPlante (Spiritbox, ex-iwrestledabearonce)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I know, I’m predictable as all fuck, but readers, you know I’m a Courtney LaPlante fangirl. You may wonder why she is #1 on this list list, since she only sings and screams, whereas Rou Reynolds sings, screams, and raps.

Well, Courtney not only sings cleanly, fry screams, and false cord screams, but she has one of my favorite singing timbres and one of my favorite screaming timbres ever (both fry and false cord). Even if we’re talking skill, not personal preference, I have one word for you: control. Courtney has some of the greatest vocal control I have ever heard. Period. Her dynamics are varied and effective, her breath control is top-notch, and her ability to switch between singing and screaming is unparalleled. Everything she does sounds effortless and exquisite. Even the one-take videos of Spiritbox songs that are on YouTube are fucking stellar.

If I made a list of my favorite vocalists ever, regardless of genre, Courtney would probably be in the top 3 if not number 1. (Magali Luyten might beat her out for that #1 spot. Maybe. I might have to figure that out with math one day.) Her cleans are gorgeous, her screams are ferocious, her control is impeccable, and her talent is undeniable. She absolutely deserves to be #1 on this list.

And that’s the list! I hope it was enjoyable to read. Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! Reminder that it’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, which includes seeing blog entries 2 days early and getting to vote in polls about blog entry topics.

The tl;dr of the list:
1) Courtney LaPlante (Spiritbox, ex-iwrestledabearonce)
2) Rou Reynolds (Enter Shikari)
3) AJ Channer (Fire From the Gods)
4) Jayant Bhadula (Bloodywood)
5) Morgan Mortality (Blackwater Drowning)
6) Lauren Babic (Red Handed Denial)
7) Sam Carter (Architects)
8) Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy, ex-The Agonist)
9) Jason Aalon Butler (FEVER333, ex-letlive.)
10) Lauren Kashan (Sharptooth)

Favorite Songs of 2021

Content/trigger warning: weight talk, suicidality mention (brief), abuse mention

2021.

What a fuckin year, am I right? But a lot of music I loved came out this year. Seriously, I had a HELL of a time narrowing my list of favorite songs down to fifteen. I had someone jokingly suggest to me on Twitter that I should have 21 songs in this entry for 2021, and I easily could have done that. So many great albums, EPs, and singles that I love came out in 2021, and this is a list of my favorite songs, not my favorite albums, so songs from EPs and singles can count on this list (whereas many music reviewers and bloggers, especially in the rock/metal/punk world, tend to talk about albums in their year-end wrap-ups).

I didn’t use any math to rank these. This is just a list of songs ranked by how much I enjoyed them. Onward!

Honorable mention 5: “Flight of the Valkyries” by Burning Witches

Burning Witches’ current vocalist, Laura Guidemond, made the number 10 spot on my favorite power metal singers list. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that the vocals are possibly the most important part of enjoyment of music for me. You may also know that I also love shredding guitar solos. So a song with a shredding guitar solo courtesy of new guitarist Larissa Ernst and range-scraping, gritty vocals from Laura is, of course, going to be my shit.

Other than that, it’s…well, I’ll be real here, it’s kind of just another Burning Witches song. It’s old-school sounding power metal with lyrics about the occult and/or mythology. But I’m a sucker for Viking aesthetics in metal (side note, I need to listen to more Amon Amarth), and I also really like how the slower section at the beginning picks up and barrels into the faster rest of the song. And that solo still makes me happy.

Honorable mention 4: “Skin” by Beartooth

“I’m so uncomfortable with the skin I’m in,” sings Caleb Shomo in the chorus of this song. I’ve been dragging myself kicking and screaming into eating disorder recovery this year, and that has resulted in me gaining weight. I already had terrible body dysmorphia, but now it’s so bad that saying I think “OH G-D KILL IT WITH FIRE” every time I look in the mirror is only a slight exaggeration. So “The mirror’s telling me that I never win,” the second line of the chorus, also rings extremely true to me.

Aside from the lyrics hitting me right where I live, “Skin” is a pretty typical Beartooth song, if more melodic and less screamy than their music can get. In fact, I don’t think there’s any screaming in “Skin,” except for one half-screamed “yeah” in the bridge. If you like Beartooth’s more melodic moments and don’t care for Caleb’s scream, you might actually like this song, but in general I don’t think this song is going to win over people who aren’t already down with Beartooth. But I have loved Beartooth for years now, and when Below came out, I figured a song from that album would end up on this list. In fact, I was a little surprised that no songs on Below were higher up on this list, but…yeah, this year was absolutely bursting at the seams with music I liked. Below was still an excellent album.

Honorable mention 3: “A World on Fire,” The L.I.F.E. Project

Now, usually I hate Spotify’s autoplay feature, but in this case, it introduced me to The L.I.F.E. Project, so I can’t be too mad at it. I was listening to the band Plush, having found out that they toured with Evanescence, and I liked them okay. When Plush’s album was over, Spotify’s autoplay feature switched over to The L.I.F.E. Project, and damn if it didn’t get my attention way more than Plush did. (Sorry, Plush.)

The L.I.F.E. Project is a band spearheaded by Stone Sour guitarist Josh Rand and featuring Paralandra singer and guitarist Casandra Carson. Stone Sour-esque heavy, melodic, driving guitar riffs and a badass female vocalist? Yes please, inject that shit straight into my veins. This band has only one EP out at the moment, and I had a hell of a time picking just one song from that EP to make this list. Eventually I decided on “A World on Fire” because not only is it the catchiest song on the EP (in my opinion), the lines “I do the things I do/For me not you” really spoke to me this year. As I write this, my escapiversary—the anniversary of the day I escaped from an abusive household—was two days ago. It’s been difficult since then to try to do things for me and my mental health after so many years of just surviving as best I could. And the song ends on a defiant “I’ve got nothing to prove.” Hells yeah.

Honorable mention 2: “Eye of the Storm,” Battle Beast

Those of you who have been reading for a while may be surprised to see a Battle Beast song this low on the list. After all, Noora Louhimo, the kickass frontwoman of Battle Beast, was number 3 on my favorite power metal singers list. Well, Battle Beast may be fucking amazing, but they’re not always fucking amazing. They put out an album in 2019, No More Hollywood Endings, and the title track only made it to number 9 on my favorite songs of 2019 list. “Eye of the Storm” is a great Battle Beast song, but Battle Beast has done better, particularly on their 2017 album Bringer of Pain.

Still, Noora’s voice is top-notch here as always, especially on that last blistering “YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAH.” And the lyrics about wanting a sanctuary in the middle of chaos are extremely relatable, especially as the pandemic drags on. Bonus points for understanding that the eye of the hurricane is the only calm part; many bands (*cough cough* SHINEDOWN *cough*) think the eye is the worst part. (That’d be the eye wall.) And there’s a nice guitar solo, which I love, and of course I’m a huge sucker for a good Truck Driver’s Gear Change. Nightwish isn’t the only power metal band that can pull that off.

Honorable mention 1: “More of Us Than Them,” Stick to Your Guns

Now here’s a band I wish I got to talk about more often! Stick to Your Guns and their album Disobedient got me through grad school. I’ve only mentioned them on this blog a couple of times; this is due in part to the fact that I haven’t been maintaining this blog very long and their last album was in 2017. Their song “Nothing You Can Do to Me” is definitely on my top 50 songs ever list, and it also made it into my blog entry on songs that saved my life (https://rockrollnstim.wordpress.com/2021/08/24/songs-that-saved-my-life/). I was overjoyed last year when I found out that Stick to Your Guns had released a new single, and…

…I was actually disappointed at first. It wasn’t as up-tempo as I expected for a Stick to Your Guns song, and I actually thought the lyrics in the chorus were a little subpar. But—thanks, auditory processing disorder—I was actually wrong about the lyrics in the chorus, and I noticed something about the song that I missed at first but how I love: that bassline. I fucking love a sick bassline. If I could play an instrument that would be suitable for a rock band…well, okay, it’d probably be the keyboard, but I also would love to learn the bass guitar. When I compose my own music, the bass part is often more complex and/or melodic than the lead guitar. Also, that breakdown is wicked. I believe Architects’ Tom Searle (z’’l) worked on this song, which just makes it more appealing to me. So yeah, this one was a grower, but I think it deserves an honorable mention, and it definitely has me excited for what I hope is new Stick to Your Guns music coming soon.

10) “Black Lungs,” Architects

I’ve mentioned that I’m not the biggest fan of metalcore. In order for me to like a metalcore band, it has to be really fucking good or somehow innovative. It has to have the sheer power and talent of Code Orange or have the virtuoso guitars and vocals of Glass Cloud.

Or it could be Architects.

I got into Architects with their 2018 album Holy Hell. It was the band’s first album without guitarist and songwriter Tom Searle (z’’l), who lost his life to skin cancer. It was an album of about facing down death, and as someone who has been suicidal since elementary school, holy hell (lol) did that album speak to me. So when Architects released their follow-up, For Those That Wish to Exist, I decided I had to check it out.

It wasn’t as good as Holy Hell, but that’s like saying that Against Me!’s Shape Shift With Me wasn’t as good as Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Of course one of the most gut-punching albums of the decade was a tough act to follow. Although one thing I will say about the whole album For Those That Wish to Exist is that the lyrics on it are almost as good as they were on Holy Hell, and if that sounds like damning with faint praise, it’s not. It’s high praise. I tried to pick just one lyric from “Black Lungs” to share, and it was a tough choice. I think I will have to go with “What would you do to stay alive if the planet was burning?” though. We’re heading into the third year of an unprecedented global pandemic. Climate change is causing “once-in-a-lifetime” weather events to happen within the span of a few years. Late-stage capitalism is crushing the life out of workers. “Black Lungs” seems to me to be about the younger generation(s) struggling to survive after being handed a hostile world.

And the song hits like a fucking sledgehammer. When Sam Carter sings “Good Lord, it’s enough to plague a saint” at the end of a surprisingly catchy chorus, it really sticks with me. While the lyrics and the melody of the chorus are both extremely appealing to me, I also have to discuss Sam Carter’s vocal delivery. The man is one of my favorite male vocalists who can both sing and scream, and he sings with grit like a champ too. And his scream of “Where were you when the gods clipped the wings of the phoenix” in the outro? Holy shit, way to end a song. It’s only this low on the list because there was SO MUCH OTHER great music this year.

9) “Feast of Fire,” Trivium

Trivium continues to fucking slay. As you may remember, Trivium’s song “The Defiant” made it onto my favorite songs of 2020 list. This song contains a lot of what I love about Trivium: a shredding guitar solo, Matt Heafy’s clean and unclean vocals in top form, and an ear-pleasing melody. But you know what else this song has that I absolutely love?

That. Fucking. BASSLINE.

No, seriously, go back and listen to the song again.

I’ll wait.

Wasn’t the bass on that song absolutely sick? Paolo Gregoletto has bass chops for days. I especially like how present the bass is in the verses and the bridge.

I also want to bring up the lyrics. Now, all genres can have bands with exquisite lyrics and bands with cringe-worthy, ham-fisted lyrics, but I feel like metal as a genre isn’t known for having deep, thought-provoking lyrics. I feel like there are metal bands out there whose lyrics I like better than Trivium’s, but Trivium’s lyrics are consistently strong. They work within the typical tropes of metal lyrics while putting their own particular twist on things, and I like that. “Feast of Fire” is no exception, even though I’m not entirely sure what’s happening in the song. (That might be because I have to listen to the rest of the album; Trivium said they were trying to create their own mythology with this record.) There’s a somewhat usual lyrical structure going on with “Feast of Fire,” too, that endears it to me.

I’m not sure what else to say about this song. I feel like it’s very typical of Trivium and won’t convert any holdouts who think Trivium is too mainstream or just doesn’t like their style, but it’s also one of the best singles Trivium has ever released, and it’s top tier Trivium and top tier metal however you want to slice it.

8) “Back From the Dead,” Halestorm

This is the song I’ve been waiting for Halestorm to make.

I said back in my blog entry on my favorite LGBTQIAP+ musicians that “I still feel like I’m waiting for Halestorm to live up to their potential and that Cilver is the band that I keep wanting Halestorm to be.” Hell, all the way back in my blog entry on my favorite covers, I said that “Now, Halestorm as a band frustrates the hell out of me. I feel like they have a lot of chops and potential, but the songs just…ugh, they aren’t there except for maybe one or two pieces. I feel like they are at their best at their fastest and heaviest, and many of their songs just feel kind of…held back.” 

“Back From the Dead” is the first song from Halestorm that I heard that didn’t leave me thinking that it didn’t live up to its potential. Well, maybe the second—”Black Vultures” fucking wrecks—but regardless, this song sounds like the best Halestorm can do. “Back From the Dead” has so much energy, like the recording really captured everything the band is capable of live (I’ve heard that Halestorm are much better live than they are in the studio and, having seen some live recordings, I’m inclined to agree).

I also am a sucker for survivor anthems (see: me also loving “Black Vultures”). Combine this with my love of jokes about how I am undead because trauma destroyed the person I would have been so completely and the song literally being called “Back From the Dead,” well. This song was tailor-made for me. In addition to the lyrics making this song total Amaranthe bait, though, they’re some of Lzzy Hale’s best. Lzzy is a powerhouse vocalist and a shredding queen, but her lyrics can be a little clumsy. And yes, okay, she rhymes “prisoner” with “oblivion,” but “Hell couldn’t hold me down” is one of the most raw lines she has ever written.

Like “Feast of Fire” by Trivium above, I don’t think this song is going to win over people who previously weren’t fans of the band, but it is the band at its absolute most kickass. “Back From the Dead” is unmistakably a Halestorm song, and if you don’t like Halestorm, you likely won’t be a fan. But if you do like Halestorm’s previous work, this song will knock your fucking socks off.

7) “Part of Me,” Evanescence

Evanescence making my best list two years in a row? YEAH. THAT’S RIGHT. IT’S MY LIST AND I AM RIDE OR DIE FOR EVANESCENCE. DEAL WITH IT.

Okay, yes, I do wish The Bitter Truth could be remixed. I’m not a fan of how the guitars sound. But not only do I not know enough about mixing and mastering to really care about that, if the songs are there, I’ll put up with some iffy mixing. And “Part of Me” really hits a mark for me, right from the moment the song starts with Amy’s powerhouse voice singing “NOT ON YOUR LIFE” with as much force and passion as she’s ever had. If I’m honest, it was the line “I will be more than my survival” that got this song on the list. As I mentioned before, I’m writing this almost three years to the day since I escaped an abusive household. Since then, it’s been hard to do anything but survive. But I recently landed my dream job (as a medical writer of cancer clinical trial protocols, working at a major research institution). I feel like I’m finally doing more than scrambling to keep my head above water while struggling with severe CPTSD.

This song is not groundbreaking. It’s probably going to be dismissed as just another overwrought, mediocre Evanescence song by critics. I cannot emphasize how little I care about that. I love the guitar riffs and harmonies in this song. Amy Lee kills her vocal performance as always. I love how the song gets quiet before the last chorus so Amy can really bring it home. And most of all, I love how the song is about surviving anything—”Set me on fire/I like it the way it burns”—and continuing to live your best life despite everything that has happened to you. How could I not love that, being me? 

6) “Ahi Ka,” Alien Weaponry

Oh hells yeah, who’s up for some trash metal from Aotearoa performed in te reo!?

*crickets*

WELL, YOU SHOULD BE. Because it kicks ass.

Now, being a huge fan of non-US metal, especially if it’s folk metal or uses traditional sounds or languages from its locale of origin, I’ve been on the Alien Weaponry bandwagon for a while. This is a very young band—the members are literally teens—but they know their shit and they’re good at it. The vocalist, Lewis, is only 17, and he sounds much better on 2021’s Tangaroa than he did on the band’s 2018 debut album, Tū. Honestly, he could still probably improve a little bit—I know damn well my voice hadn’t peaked yet when I was only 17—but he sounds much more forceful on this album than he did in 2018. The vocals sound (to me) more like haka than they do traditional Western guttural vocals or clean vocals, but that’s a feature, not a bug, and more importantly, it’s awesome.

Tangaroa is a strong album. There’s not a single song on it that I skip when I listen to it. It was damn hard for me to pick only one song from it for this list. I ended up going with “Ahi Ka” partly because of its meaning, and because of how creative it was for the band to include a recording of the Queen of England saying she felt “at home” in Aotearoa (which she refers to as “New Zealand”). This is creative—and chilling—because “Ahi Ka” translates loosely to “the burning fires of occupation” and the song is about how, in the band’s own words, “In 1952, in preparation for a Royal visit by Her Majesty the Queen, the Auckland City Council, in a misguided attempt to beautify the city, evicted the local Ngāti Whātua people from their village at Ōkahu Bay and burned it to the ground.”

Yes.

Really.

That happened.

I can’t help but admire the way the band is using their music to spread knowledge of atrocities committed against the indigenous people of Aotearoa, especially when they’re doing it with such skill. This song just sounds so dark, foreboding, and eerie, especially with that kōauau (a traditional bone flute) at the beginning. It’s a really effective piece and I love the hell out of it.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may be scratching your heads, though, because you know I love lyrics, and songs with lyrics I can’t understand don’t tend to rank high on my favorites lists. Well, I think I’m growing out of that, especially when the bands who make non-English music are kind enough to provide translations or at least explanations of their lyrics, and Alien Weaponry did that for the songs on Tangaroa. So this song that’s entirely in te reo is my #6.

5) “Lush Rimbaugh,” Senses Fail

Senses Fail has only gotten better since Buddy Nielsen accepted his queer identity and began writing lyrics about leftist issues. He’s always been the beating heart of Senses Fail, too; he’s the only remaining original member. “Lush Rimbaugh” is about Buddy’s feelings about Rush Limbaugh’s death and his bigoted bullshit. “When I was young I used to hate myself/Because bigots like you were given pedestals” is such a cutting line that I don’t even care that “hate myself” doesn’t rhyme with “pedestals.” Honestly, I wish I could quote the whole song here, because there are so many good lines in it.

Also, can we acknowledge that it’s okay to feel glad when someone who wanted you dead or nonexistent dies? “Have some respect for the dead” my ass. So they’re dead. Everybody dies. It doesn’t make a bigoted piece of shit fucking special when they die. With “Lush Rimbaugh,” Buddy perfectly captured what it feels like for queer people when a famous, powerful, queermisic fuckbucket bites the dust. I don’t even believe in hell, but the line “there’s a special place in hell for you” still makes me happy.

The lyrics aside, this is a fairly standard Senses Fail song. It sounds like it came straight out of the heyday of post-hardcore (circa 2002, I’d say), but while it’s nostalgic, it also sounds more refined than many post-hardcore bands of that era because Buddy has been at this for so long at this point. There seems to be a theme to many of the songs on this list: “this song won’t convert non-fans of the band, but damn does it sound like the band is pulling out at all the stops.” It’s an exceptionally well-crafted post-hardcore song with catchy, heavy riffs, and Buddy’s clean and unclean vocals are top-notch. Now I’m counting down the days until Hell Is in Your Head, Senses Fail’s next album, comes out in July of this year.

4) “Breaking Point,” No Bragging Rights

This is a melodic hardcore song about a woman leaving an abusive situation and being called strong just for surviving the abuse.

Do I even have to say anything else? 

…okay, fine, I will. The song “Breaking Point” is like if “Face Down” by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus were musically harder and lyrically much more mature, and “Face Down” was a pretty good song. As for the band, No Bragging Rights is actually one of the only hardcore bands I listen to. I’m not super into hardcore. But their particular brand of social justice-oriented melodic hardcore is absolutely my shit. When I first found them—particularly their song “Outdated,” which is about how depression is a real illness and how NTs need to stop gaslighting people with mental illnesses—I described them as “the band I would be fronting if I had a band.” At this point I understand that my voice is more suited to symphonic metal than it would be to melodic hardcore, but still, I fucking love this band and relate to their lyrics way too much.

All that aside, is No Bragging Rights anything special, and is this song special? Well, yeah, I think so. Like I said, I don’t listen to much hardcore, but that’s partly because a lot of hardcore seems kind of…well, “boilerplate” might be the right word, but it’s also that I really do mean “a lot” of hardcore seems boilerplate. And I mean “boilerplate” in the sense of “mediocre” and also “lacking depth” and “mostly very similar.” I am probably stretching the denotation of that word, but whatever. Sharptooth did a biting critique of the lack of depth in hardcore with their song “Say Nothing (In the Absence of Content),” which includes lines like “Just regurgitate a couple concepts/And hope it all pays well” and “Generic mosh call/It must be nice to say nothing.” Actually, you know what, check that song out:

I’m not well-versed enough in hardcore or to say what, musically, makes No Bragging Rights special. But I can say that their meaningful lyrics are special, and those lyrics are rarely clunky or awkward. This is a band that has a lot of compassion for people who are suffering. This is a band with heart, and the song “Breaking Point” has heart too. It’s not just proud of the survivor for escaping, but for surviving the ordeal in the first place. And as someone who did escape but took years upon years to do that…yeah, that sentiment really appeals to me.

Okay, I could go on and on about this song, but I’ll move on.

3) “Gaddaar,” Bloodywood

Yep, another song with non-English lyrics! What is happening here!? 

What is happening is that this song fucking SLAPS (and, okay, Bloodywood is kind enough to provide an English translation of their lyrics in their music videos). Bloodywood hasn’t released a bad original song (I haven’t really listened to their covers), and this song is my favorite of Bloodywood’s original pieces. All of Bloodywood’s latest songs blend Indian folk music elements with metal, but I feel like that synthesis is done most effectively in “Gaddaar,” and that’s saying a lot, because all of their folk metal songs are great. This song has a fantastic groove and both vocalists are at their best. Jayant, the singer/screamer, has some of the most impressive patters I’ve ever heard screamed in this song. He’s on par with Henrik Englund of Amaranthe if not better. Raoul Kerr, Bloodywood’s rapper, sometimes has something of a pre-Rakim style when it comes to his flow and lyricism, and it can come off as a little clunky. But his work on “Gaddaar” is by far his best, I think.

“Gaddaar” also has a monstrously huge and catchy chorus that I often find myself singing to myself. (I have to be careful not to sing it around anyone who speaks Hindi, because there’s a “fuck” in there.) The verses are catchy, too. This is probably the catchiest song that Bloodywood has written. That chorus is just so anthemic.

Speaking of being anthemic, I also love the message of this song. It may be primarily about Indian politics, but its message about not being silent in the face of fascism’s rise is horribly relevant here in the States, too. So is Raoul’s verse about insisting that politicians enact the positive change that they promised before they were elected.

I could sing the praises of Bloodywood and “Gaddaar” all day, but instead I’m going to say I’m stoked as hell for their new album in February and move on.

2) “Rules of Play,” Rise Against

Okay, this song has me questioning whether Tim McIlrath is allistic, because “Rules of Play” is Being Autistic: The Song. I mean, the lyrics to the chorus go “Because this life is a game I don’t know how to play/So many lies and disguises I can’t tell what’s fake/But I can tell by the same sad look on your face/You and me, we are the same.” Granted, there could be a multitude of reasons, many of them related to societal oppression, why an allistic person might find life to be a game they don’t know how to play with so many lies and disguises they can’t tell what’s fake…but I swear to fuck those lines perfectly describe my experience of being Autistic and trying to navigate allistic society with all its arbitrary and nonsensical rules. It really is like playing a game whose rules you can’t make heads or tails of and nobody thought to give you the rule book, either.

That aside…I fucking love Rise Against. I have loved Rise Against for years, as those who have read my entry on songs that got me into bands will remember. Rise Against is a very consistent band, too, but this is probably the most ferocious they’ve sounded since Endgame in 2011. I love their sense of melody, I love their wall-of-sound approach, I love Tim McIlrath’s voice, and of course I love their lyrics. “Rules of Play” seems to not only be about struggling with life being a game you don’t know how to play but connecting with someone who feels the same, and that’s how I feel with pretty much all my close friends, and of course my wife. I could have ghostwritten this song (if I were as good a lyricist as Tim McIlrath, which I am very much not).

I’m not really sure what else to say about this song. Like many other songs on this list, it’s not going to win over people who weren’t already fans of the band that made it, but it’s some of the band’s best work. That really does seem to be the theme for this year, doesn’t it? 

1) “Circle With Me,” Spiritbox

I mentioned in my correction to my entry on my favorite non-US bands that my favorite Spiritbox lyric comes from “Circle With Me,” and that lyric is “I held the power of a dying sun/I climb the altar and I claim my place as G-d.”

Damn, Courtney.

So, okay, yeah, this isn’t in any way, shape, or form a surprise. I fucking love Spiritbox and I’ve shared this song on my blog before. And this song also fits with this year’s theme of “not going to win over new fans, but holy fuck, this is some of this band’s best work.” “Circle With Me” showcases Spiritbox’s heavy side and their melodic side, it has one of my favorite sets of Spiritbox lyrics, and Courtney’s vocal performance…I’ve called her “voice goals” before, but I swear, she’s one of the greatest to ever do it. I feel like this one-take performance of “Circle With Me” really demonstrates that even better than the studio version:

You hear how she fry screams the “all” in the penultimate and final “this could all be yours,” as well as the final “yours,” instead of singing it cleanly? But she switches easily back and forth between clean singing and the scream?

That’s.

Fucking.

HARD.

Take it from someone who knows how to both sing cleanly and scream, that shit is fucking difficult, and to pull it off as seamlessly as she did takes deity-tier talent. Courtney LaPlante is deity-tier. As a vocals nerd, how could I not make this song my number one of the year?

Okay, okay, yes, fine, there are many other songs on Spiritbox’s debut LP Eternal Blue that i could have picked. There’s not a slouch on the entire track list. There were four different songs from Eternal Blue that were on my “favorite songs of 2021” playlist when I was trying to narrow it down. I want to give a particular shout-out to “Silk in the Strings,” which I could have written about how my CPTSD has not fucked off despite escaping from the people who caused it. There’s literally a lyric in “Silk in the Strings” that goes “I escaped, but I carry you with me.” Here’s that song if you’re curious:

In the end, though, the sound of “Silk in the Strings” was just heavy throughout, and while I did love that, my favorite Spiritbox songs demonstrate the band’s softer side and their harder side in the same piece. Is that unfair? Maybe, but I’m not trying to be objective here. This is not a list of the best songs of 2021; this is a list of my favorite songs of 2021. And my favorite song of 2021, when it came down to it, was “Circle With Me” by Spiritbox.

And that’s the list! I hope you enjoyed it!

Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! Reminder that it’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, see blog entries two days before everyone else, and vote in polls to help me choose blog entry topics!

The tl;dr of the list:

  1. “Circle With Me,” Spiritbox
  2. “Rules of Play,” Rise Against
  3. “Gaddaar,” Bloodywood
  4. “Breaking Point,” No Bragging Rights
  5. “Lush Rimbaugh,” Senses Fail
  6. “Ahi Ka,” Alien Weaponry
  7. “Part of Me,” Evanescence
  8. “Back From the Dead,” Halestorm
  9. “Feast of Fire,” Trivium
  10. “Black Lungs,” Architects
  11. “More of Us Than Them,” Stick to Your Guns
  12. “Eye of the Storm,” Battle Beast
  13. “A World on Fire,” The L.I.F.E. Project
  14. “Skin,” Beartooth
  15. “Flight of the Valkyries,” Burning Witches

Bands I Want to Reunite

Content/trigger warning: mention of suicidality

Hello, dear readers! This month’s topic is bands that have broken up that I wish would reunite. I sorted these by one metric: how badly I want this band to reunite. No math this time. I think this is pretty self-explanatory, so, onward!

5) Glass Cloud

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5wt2OOLOCg

You know how I’ve talked about how I’m bitter that Joshua Travis, the incredibly talented guitarist of Glass Cloud, is now in fucking Emmure and playing guitar lines that I could probably replicate?

I’M STILL FUCKING BITTER. It’s nothing less than a tragedy. Imagine if Yo-Yo Ma started only playing cello covers of children’s songs in a band fronted by a total douche. (In case you aren’t familiar with Emmure…well, I’m jealous, because they’re heinous, but their frontman and only original member Frankie Palmeri? Yeah, he’s a piece of shit.)

In case you haven’t been reading my blog for a while and aren’t familiar with Glass Cloud, they were a djenty, progressive metalcore band that breathed new life into the metalcore formula with Joshua Travis’s virtuoso guitar playing and Jerry Roush’s staggeringly powerful cleans and screams. I actually got into Glass Cloud when I found their song “If He Dies, He Dies” on a list of the best screamers in metalcore, and I listened, and I found Josh Travis’s guitar breakdowns immensely stimmy. I found Glass Cloud’s sound weirdly comforting, and their album The Royal Thousand got me through grad school.

I’ve had people tell me that Jerry Roush is kind of an ass, so it’s unlikely Glass Cloud will reform, but there’s no way he’s a bigger ass than Frankie fucking Palmeri. So I hold out hope that Glass Cloud may reunite. I’m probably kidding myself, but dude, we only got one Glass Cloud LP. That’s not enough. The universe needs more Glass Cloud.

4) Krypteria

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64JL-oIDEkQ&list=OLAK5uy_m_a2Q4HpTpqElGM7m4m4tjyO2Pb2hVhNA&index=5

Krypteria is one of my favorite female-fronted metal bands; in fact, they were number 5 on my favorite non-US bands list (https://rockrollnstim.wordpress.com/2021/05/21/favorite-non-us-bands/). Ji-in Cho’s unique voice and the gothic atmosphere of the music made Krypteria instantly memorable to me in a sea of Nightwish wannabes. They never hit it particularly big–their two last albums, My Fatal Kiss and All Beauty Must Die, both of which I LOVED, aren’t even on fucking Spotify–and in 2012, they went on hiatus. They reformed as And Then She Came (yes, really; has no one told these European rock bands to run their names by American middle schoolers to see if they giggle first?) in 2016.

And Then She Came has a lighter sound and more electronic elements than Krypteria. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it is just a thing that does not endear me to them. But what I really dislike about And Then She Came is that they seem to have forgotten how to write a catchy, pleasing melody. None of their music as And Then She Came sticks with me in any way, shape, or form, and I really gave it a fair shake. So they went from a band with a cool vocalist, a compelling, gothic soundscape, and spooky lyrics to a band I couldn’t give a fuck about. Is it any wonder I want Krypteria to re-form?

3) Delain

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmo06CrXP4M

I bet some of you are surprised that Delain isn’t number 1 or 2 on this list. Well, you’ll see why, but I’m still devastated that Delain broke up. Charlotte’s solo work is…well, it’s damn good music, but most of it isn’t really my thing, even though Charlotte’s voice is lovely as always. Her voice is very soothing to me.

Delain made my all-time favorite bands list and was number 4 on my favorite non-US bands list. They were also number 10 on my guilty pleasures list, but if I’m honest, I only put them on there because so many people in the music reviewer sphere I was part of when I wrote that entry thought Delain wasn’t shit, calling them “Diet Within Temptation” and the like (that’s going to make me mad for the rest of my life, isn’t it?). I said in that entry that Delain “epitomizes ‘nothing special’” and I hereby retract that statement. Delain was special, at least to me. They had a good sense of melody, their lyrics were meaningful, and they wrote the song that got my wife to propose to me when I sang a modified version of it at an open mic night (“We Are the Others”).

I also feel like Delain wasn’t a band that was out of ideas when they broke up. I didn’t love Apocalypse & Chill as much as I loved Moonbathers, The Human Contradiction, or We Are the Others, but I still really enjoyed it and I thought that Delain still had several good albums in them…and then they fucking broke up.

So part of me wants to audition to be Delain’s new vocalist and live out my pipe dream of fronting a symphonic metal band, but most of me wants Delain back.

2) Beautiful Sin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObxoPhLD9bo

Some of you who have been reading my blog for a while may remember that Beautiful Sin snagged the number 2 spot on my list of 10 bands with only one album, but that album kicked ass. They were also number 8 on my list of favorite non-US bands. And if I were to make a list of my favorite female-fronted European metal bands, they’d rank high. REALLY high. The lead vocalist of Beautiful Sin, Magali Luyten, is also my all-time favorite power metal singer.

So why, Universe, did you give me only one Beautiful Sin album!?

I know, I know, Beautiful Sin is kind of a supergroup. They’re comprised of Helloween’s drummer and songwriter Uli Kusch, Masterplan’s Axel Mackenrott on keyboards, Pagan Mind’s Jørn Viggo Lofstad on guitars and Steinar Krokmo on bass, and of course, frequent Ayreon collaborator Magali Luyten on vocals. All of the members of the band have their own shit going on.

But AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH their one album, The Unexpected, was so fucking good! It was an excellent vehicle for Magali’s badass contralto voice in addition to being really damn solid power metal. Many female-fronted power metal bands out there are just trying to be Nightwish or Within Temptation, but Beautiful Sin was really out there kicking ass as themselves. If anything, their biggest influence was Helloween, considering Helloween’s g-ddamn songwriter was part of the band.

You may be wondering why Delain was number 3 on this list and Beautiful Sin made number 2 despite the fact that Beautiful Sin, unlike Delain, did not make my all-time favorite bands list. Well, that’s because the only reason that Beautiful Sin narrowly missed being on my all-time favorite bands list is that they only have one album, so I didn’t have as much music to love from them as I did the other bands on my list. Also, again, Beautiful Sin has only one album; I have six whole Delain albums I can revisit when I’m missing Delain, but I have tragically little Beautiful Sin music and I. NEED. MORE.

1) My Chemical Romance

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrABcSBc9_U

Was number 1 on this list ever going to be anything else?

Do I even have to say anything?

MCR was one of the greatest bands to ever do it. Their musicianship was excellent and their music punched thousands of us members of the MCRmy right in the g-ddamn feels. Yes, okay, their debut wasn’t good–I’ll admit that–but they damn sure deserve a Most Improved award for the leaps and bounds they made between I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love and Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. And of course, The Black Parade exists in its own little pocket dimension of perfection. If it’s possible to get one’s ashes pressed into a CD once they die, I’m probably going to do that with The Black Parade. Also, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is underrated. It’s a fantastic album. I know a lot of fans were pissed that it wasn’t The Black Parade Pt. 2, but lightning was never going to strike twice on that one and I’m glad they didn’t try to make it strike twice. Granted, fewer songs from Danger Days kept me alive than did songs on The Black Parade–you may recall that “Famous Last Words,” the penultimate song on the bonus track edition of The Black Parade, made it onto my list of songs that saved my life–but I still loved Danger Days and will defend that album to the death.

I was looking forward to more fantastic music from MCR when they broke up. I literally bawled when I heard the news. I know they’ve released statements that they were out of ideas. Maybe it’s good that they broke up instead of churning out creatively exhausted mediocrity like, say, AFI. But I believe that a group of people that creative could have given us at least one more phenomenal album.

What else can I say? I brought them my bullets and took their love, I gave three cheers for sweet revenge, I marched in The Black Parade, I lived out the danger days with the fabulous killjoys. I am not afraid to keep on living, and they’ll never take me alive!

And that’s the list! Happy New Year if you celebrate! Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! If you want to be as cool as them, it’s only $1 a month to see my blog entries early and vote on entry topics.

Bands That Changed Singers Successfully

Hello, dear readers! Sorry there were no entries in November. I was NaNoing.

Anyway! Bands that changed singers and did well with it. Now, I have seen many lists like these. They tend to feature Van Halen, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, and other bands that are no longer active. And then sometimes there are bands on those lists that are financially successful but that I think suck musically, like Three Days Grace. So this list is going to consist of bands that are still active and whose music I think stayed equally good (or almost as good, or got better) after the singer changed. Also, some of these bands changed singers multiple times. I’m only going to talk about one singer change.

I used math for this one. I scored each band on how much I liked the bands before and after their singers changed and calculated the difference. I could go into how I scored the befores and afters, but I don’t think anyone cares about that.

Also, Nightwish is not going to be on this list.

No.

Shut up.

Nightwish is not on this list. Tarja!Nightwish is the best Nightwish, Tuomas Holopainen never knows what to do with the first album with a new singer, and Tuomas has never been able to tailor Nightwish’s sound to Floor’s voice (not to mention their lyrics have had themes inspired by Richard Dawkins, who is antitheist, pro-eugenics, and transmisic, so all of the fuck that). Okay, fine, Imaginaerum was good. Very good. But one good album does not mean I think Nightwish has been good in general since Tarja was fired. (I could listen to Floor cover older Nightwish songs all day, though, especially “Ghost Love Score.” G-ddamn.)

I don’t have any honorable mentions, so let’s get to the list.

10) Killswitch Engage

Before (Howard Jones): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tbgu-03NPI 
After (Jesse Leach): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqHJPpXmYuI 

Okay, this one’s a little weird because Jesse Leach was actually the vocalist for Killswitch Engage for their first two albums in 2000 and 2002, and then Howard Jones took over not long after the 2002 album Alive or Just Breathing and was featured on the 2004 album The End of Heartache. But Killswitch didn’t really have their heyday until HoJo joined, so many metalcore listeners who aren’t diehard Killswitch fans think of Howard Jones as the “main” Killswitch vocalist. I personally got into Killswitch Engage with their second self-titled, but around the same time that I started listening to that album, I started spinning As Daylight Dies as well. I even sang/screamed “My Curse” on Rock Band at a con that I attended. Interestingly, performing “My Curse” made me have more respect for Howard Jones, because that song is hard. 

Killswitch Engage is number 10 on this list because while I feel like Atonement was a damn good showing, I also feel like Disarm the Descent and Incarnate, the two albums that came after Leach’s return, couldn’t touch what Killswitch was capable of with Howard Jones. I even feel like Atonement wasn’t quite as strong as Killswitch Engage was capable of with HoJo. I mean, HoJo was pretty instrumental to the evolution of the band’s sound after he joined. He was a crucial part of the band, and he helped Killswitch Engage become a household name in metalcore.

I don’t have a lot more to say here because…well, full disclosure, I’m not the biggest metalcore fan. A metalcore band has to do something really special and unusual (see: Spiritbox) for me to really love them, so I’m a casual Killswitch listener at best. Still, Jesse Leach is doing a solid job at the helm of Killswitch, and I look forward to their next album.

Score with original singer: 8
Score with new singer: 7
Difference: -1

9) Tsunami Bomb 

Before (Emily Whitehurst): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYL_YsixCmw 
After (Kate Jacobi): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3zl5QuN9nU 

Now here’s a band I wish I got to talk about more! I LOVE Tsunami Bomb. Horrorpunk is my shit, and it’s been tough out there for a horrorpunk fan like me recently since AFI lost their fire inside and Creeper totally revamped their sound into something I don’t care for anymore. So in 2019, when I found out that Tsunami Bomb, a band that was first active from 1998 to 2005 with a blip in 2009, had become active again in 2015 and had released a new album of original material, I was overjoyed. My enthusiasm was dampened when I found out that Tsunami Bomb had reunited without their original singer, whose voice I had loved; it had so much character and pathos, and seemed to me to be a pretty critical part of Tsunami Bomb’s sound.

Turns out Kate Jacobi is a damn good replacement, though! Her voice reminds me a bit of Amy Lee’s, so it’s perfect for spooky music. She seems to really get Tsunami Bomb’s sound and ethos, too, as shown not only on the original material but on re-recordings of Tsunami Bomb’s older music. Do you have any idea how good a re-recording with a new singer has to be for my Autistic ass to enjoy it? I hate change, even good change. If I first hear a song with a particular singer, then my brain wants to hear only that singer singing that song with that band, now and forever. In order for me to like a band’s new singer covering their older work, you have to be Floor Jansen covering Ghost Love Score. Or Kate Jacobi covering “El Diablo.”

So if Kate Jacobi is so damn amazing, why is Tsunami Bomb only number 9 on this list? Well, because she had such a tough act to follow, and because she does a thing that’s a major pet peeve for me: she tries to sing outside her range. I like it when singers know their limitations. The song “Dead Men Can’t Catcall” (off of the 2019 album The Spine That Binds), which otherwise is a great song, especially lyrically, is too low for Kate and it doesn’t sound very good when she tries to sing it. So that knocked Tsunami Bomb’s post-singer-change score down a bit. Still, I really enjoy Tsunami Bomb’s new work and hope they stay together and keep releasing new albums.

Score with original singer: 9
Score with new singer: 8.5
Difference: -0.5

8) Saosin

Before (Cove Reber): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9hNd54Nljk 
After (Anthony Green): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hc449MVJep0 

This is another one like Killswitch Engage; singer A was fronting when the band first got together, singer B took over, and then singer A returned. And for both, I’m talking about singer A returning after singer B’s departure. This is especially because Saosin, a California-based post-hardcore band that deserves to be way bigger than they are, only released one EP before Anthony Green left and was replaced by Cove Reber. Cove was with the band for two albums, Saosin in 2006 and In Search of Solid Ground in 2009. I adored Saosin and wasn’t as warm toward In Search of Solid Ground, which had a slightly more accessible sound that I wasn’t quite as into, but I still liked it.

When Cove Reber was dismissed from the band for smoking right before shows (which fucked with his vocal ability), it took a while for Anthony to return…but Anthony did return, and when Saosin released Along the Shadow in 2016, their sound was almost identical to their work with Cove. Yeah, I really do mean almost identical. Fun fact: after Anthony and Saosin parted ways back in 2004, Cove Reber sent in an audition tape of himself singing Saosin’s song “Mookie’s Last Christmas,” and it sounded so much like Anthony that the band thought it was Anthony playing a prank at first. I say “almost” identical instead of “identical,” though, because Along the Shadow is screamier than Saosin and In Search of Solid Ground. I love screamed vocals, but the songs on Along the Shadow weren’t quite as appealing to me as the ones on Saosin, so I ended up scoring Saosin’s work with Cove and with Anthony exactly the same. Still, I love both iterations and hope Saosin releases a new album soon. I mean, come on, dudes, it has been 5 years!

Score with original singer: 7.5
Score with new singer: 7.5
Difference: 0 

7) Burning Witches

Before (Seraina Telli):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OCmwMFKDlE 
After (Laura Guidemond): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1p95tf2jlo 

Ah, Burning Witches. Such a classic example of “Amaranthe loves power metal that isn’t from the US.” In this case, I saw a Burning Witches video show up in my recommended videos on YouTube, looked them up on Facebook and saw that they described themselves as “Swiss all-woman heavy metal band,” and immediately ran to Spotify to check them out. When I first started listening to Burning Witches, they were about to come out with their 2018 album Hexenhammer, and the title track ended up on my favorite songs of 2018 list.

About two years later, I was very disappointed when I found out that vocalist Seraina Telli, whose sick range and ability to sing with grit had won my heart, had left Burning Witches. But I decided to give the new vocalist, Laura Guidemond, a shot, and lo and behold I liked her voice. Hell, as I mentioned in my entry on my favorite power metal singers, Seraina Telli didn’t make that list and Laura Guidemond was number 10. It was a tough call, but I like Laura’s timbre just a little bit better than Seraina’s. In 2020, Burning Witches released their first album with Laura, Dance With the Devil, and none of the songs on that album made my favorite songs of 2020 list…but if I can be real for a second, that was a total oversight. If I could redo that list, I would swap out a song from Dance With the Devil–probably the title track, “Threefold Return,” or “Lucid Nightmare”–for “The Currency of Beauty” by Svalbard, which I haven’t revisited once. 

And in 2021, Burning Witches released another album, The Witch of the North, which was surprisingly solid for being produced in just one year. I’m having a hell of a time narrowing down my 2021 list to just 15 songs because so much music I liked was released this year, so we’ll see if anything from Witch of the North ends up on that list. Regardless, Burning Witches is still kicking ass with Laura fronting. Their sound of old-school-influenced power metal hasn’t changed, and I still love it, so Burning Witches lands at number 7 on this list.

Score with original singer: 7.5
Score with new singer: 7.75
Difference: .25

6) iwrestledabearonce

Before (Krysta Cameron): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuWCOKUgpEY 
After (Courtney LaPlante): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqjChIgzP5Y 

So…you know I’m not really into metalcore, right? Yeah…that includes iwrestledabearonce. I’m not a fan. Yeah, yeah, I know that iwrestledabearonce was a famously genrefucky band, but I also am not a big fan of the wild genre shifts–sometimes within songs–either.

So if I don’t even like iwrestledabearonce, why are they on this list?

Because I’m a raving Courtney LaPlante fangirl. She’s my number 5 favorite female screamer (and would probably be higher on that list if I chose to redo it), so of course a band that features Courtney screaming her head off is going to appeal to me more than a woman who didn’t even make the favorite female screamers list screaming her head off. (I did listen to iwrestledabearonce with Krysta for research for that list. She’s talented, she’s just…not Courtney. I especially wasn’t huge into her higher-pitched screams.) Also, Bjork was a major influence on Krysta Cameron when it came to her sung vocals, and…well, Bjork’s affectations work for her. I feel like they don’t work for anybody else.

I did actually try to get into iwrestledabearonce with their 2013 album Late for Nothing because I am a sucker for melody and a music reviewer who I was into at the time said it was more melodic than their previous work. So I gave it a few spins. I loved Courtney, but I wasn’t super into iwrestledabearonce’s musical style. Also, I know some people like when bands don’t take themselves too seriously, but I am not a fan of that, so iwrestledabearonce really wasn’t for me. Still, I could tell that I much preferred Courtney’s vocals to Krysta’s, and while the music wasn’t my thing, I could still appreciate that it was executed skillfully, both before and after Krysta’s departure.

Score with old singer: 6.75
Score with new singer: 7.5
Difference: .75

5) Arch Enemy

Before (Angela Gossow): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPlVbLpuEhI 
After (Alissa White-Gluz): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_m2oYJkx1A 

Awwww yisssss, MORE female screamers. My first-ever entry on this blog was about my favorite female screamers, and Alissa White-Gluz made it to number four on that list. Angela Gossow did not make the list, although if I’m honest, that’s because when I made that list, I hadn’t listened to Arch Enemy’s work before War Eternal, their first album with Alissa. Also, because pedants will get mad at me if I don’t mention this, Angela Gossow was not the frontwoman of Arch Enemy when they first formed; the band was originally fronted by Johan Liva. I could talk about that, as the band had significant success with Angela, who is talented as hell, but if I didn’t really listen to Arch Enemy with Angela Gossow, I really didn’t listen to Arch Enemy with Johan Liva. Also, it’s my list and I do what I want. Eat me.

I did listen to some Arch Enemy with Angela for research for this list. I can tell that her technique is good, but she just doesn’t have one of my favorite timbres out there, so I stand by leaving her off my favorite female screamers list. (I might regret putting Alissa higher on the list than Courtney LaPlante, but that’s a conversation for another day.) Their sound didn’t change much when Alissa took over; they were damn good MDM with Angela and they’re still damn good MDM with Alissa. They’re not my favorite MDM act–that honor goes to Blackwater Drowning–and, yeah, I’m still more likely to listen to Children of Bodom (may Alexi Laiho’s memory be a blessing) or MaYaN when I want MDM, but I can still acknowledge that they pulled off their change in singers extremely well. Not only that, I like them better with Alissa at the helm because I like Alissa’s timbre better than Angela’s. Her low-pitched false cord scream is just A+.

Score with original singer: 7.5
Score with new singer: 8.5
Difference: 1

4) Escape the Fate

Before (Ronnie Radke): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4I7Ak1N2z8 
After (Craig Mabbitt): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tf-VTR_A1Y

Oooh, boy, I bet I’m getting some weird looks for putting Escape the Fate, a band that is not good, at number 4 on this list. Those of you who have been reading for a while may even remember that Escape the Fate was number 2 on my guilty pleasure bands list last summer. So if Escape the Fate is a guilty pleasure that I’m aware is bad–especially their latest album, Chemical Warfare; fucking ouch–why are they number 4 on this list?

Because Escape the Fate with Craig Mabbitt is merely inconsistent, mediocre at best…but Escape the Fate with Ronnie Radke? My g-ds, they fucking sucked. Ronnie Radke is a competent screamer, but his singing voice sounds, to put it mildly, like ass. Craig’s timbre may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but at least he can sing! And Ronnie’s lyrics…okay, both Craig and Ronnie can be pretty embarrassingly bad, but at least Craig’s lesser lyrical efforts just sound like he’s out of ideas. But Ronnie’s bad lyrics? Woof. One of Escape the Fate’s biggest songs with Ronnie, “Situations,” has the lyric “I touched her ooh, she touched my ahh.” And the “ooh” and “ahh” noises he makes are the least sexy things I’ve ever heard. Granted, I’m gray-A, so I’m not the best judge, but still. Yikes. At least Craig’s songs with bad lyrics tend to be deep cuts! (Except, unfortunately, on their latest album. Honestly, Escape the Fate was even higher on this list before that album dropped. So bad, you guys.)

To sum up, some of Escape the Fate’s work with Craig is currently a guilty pleasure of mine, but before Craig Mabbitt joined the band, they weren’t even that. They were just ear poison. (Well, except for the guitar solos. Readers, you know I love shredding guitar solos, and Escape the Fate has always had those.) So Escape the Fate gets to be high on the list because of the sheer level of improvement Craig brought to the band.

Score with old singer: 3.5
Score with new singer: 5
Difference: 1.5

3) Northlane

Before (Adrian Fitipaldes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArEeqHL3a0A 
After (Marcus Bridge): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGba1gDibw4 

Yep, more metalcore, even though I’m not big on metalcore. So how did a metalcore group make it to number 3 on this list? Okay, fine, this one’s a little weird because the group made major changes to their sound around the same time that the singer changed…with one not necessarily having anything to do with the other. And as I’ve said before, a metalcore group has to do something special for me to like them, and Northlane…well, they’re no Spiritbox or even Architects, but around the time Marcus Bridge joined Northlane, they changed their sound from bog-standard (but not bad) metalcore to a more melodic and djenty sound.

Whether or not you consider djent to be a genre (I personally do not give a fuck about whether or not it’s a genre), I tend to like music that gets called “djent” or “djenty.” This is mostly because I find djenty guitars stimmy. Glass Cloud was the band that first demonstrated that to me, but Northlane was another band that made me realize that I liked that sort of sound. This was especially true of the 2017 album Mesmer, but 2015’s Node as well. Not to mention that 2019’s Alien had the song “Bloodline,” which perfectly describes my relationship with my shitty abusive family, and holy shit did that song hit me in the feels. “Bloodline” is one of my favorite metalcore songs ever and only didn’t make my favorite songs of 2019 list because there was so much music I loved that year.

This list is about vocalists, though, so I’m going to talk about the vocalists now. I was never a big fan of Adrian Fitipaldes’ scream. It wasn’t bad by any means, I just personally didn’t like his timbre much. Marcus Bridge’s scream reminds me of Spencer Sotelo’s scream, and I fucking love Spencer Sotelo’s scream. As far as the cleans go, I feel like I didn’t hear Adrian sing cleanly very much. When he did sing, he had a perfectly fine timbre and often used grit, which I like, but he didn’t sing clearly very much. Marcus’ cleans weren’t always great, but I feel like he has only improved with time. Seriously, I had this blog entry written and was about to post it when I decided to listen to “Clockwork” and “Echo Chamber” (Northlane’s most recent singles) while blazed…and I was so impressed with Marcus’ cleans that I came back to this entry and deleted a sentence about his cleans only being okay.

Score with old singer: 6
Score with new singer: 8
Difference: 2

2) Helion Prime

Before (Heather Michele): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4l0QgDr6Dw 
After (Mary Zimmer): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOii-m5u8f8 

Hey, Helion Prime? It’s nitrogenous base, not nitrous base.

Still, Helion Prime wrote a song about Photo 51. How delightfully nerdy is that!? I’d have lambasted Watson, Crick, and Wilkins for fucking over my girl Rosalind Franklin more in the lyrics had I written them, but I still love this song. Unfortunately, I only found out about it in 2021, so even though it had come out in 2020, it was too late to put it on my favorite songs of 2020 list. Sigh.

Okay, okay, back on topic.

Helion Prime is a power metal band whose lyrics are inspired by science fiction but also real scientific discoveries, which is the nerdiest fucking thing ever and I love it. They have actually had three different singers, but I’m only going to be talking about their switch from Heather Michele to Mary Zimmer. Full disclosure: I’m a huge fan of Mary Zimmer’s voice. The woman’s not only a true contralto–the rarest voice type, and my favorite voice type–she can sing cleanly, sing with grit, fry scream, AND false cord scream. She either was blessed by a vocal deity or IS a vocal deity. She shows off her scream in this song:

That’s her fry scream. She showed off her false cord scream in Helion Prime’s cover of Nightwish’s “Pharaoh Sails to Orion,” which I’m not going to link because you’re probably yelling “We get it! You worship Mary Z’s voice!” at your screen. Which means you understand the point of this section; Helion Prime was awesome and nerdy and power metal-y before Mary Z joined, but when Mary Z joined, that basically made the band Amaranthe bait. Seriously, though, they are very talented and very underrated. If you like power metal, definitely give them a shot. Especially if you also like hearing figures like Rosalind Franklin, Gregor Mendel, and Katherine Johnson extolled in song. Helion Prime deserves more attention. 

Score with old singer: 7.75
Score with new singer: 9.75
Difference: 2

1) Battle Beast

Before (Nitte Valo): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BynN8aJNTJA 
After (Noora Louhimo): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZzhUPe-Bck  

So…I like power metal. This is known. It’s not hard to get me to like power metal, especially if the person singing is a soprano, mezzo, or contralto. And Nitte Valo isn’t a bad singer; not at all. Nitte’s voice is very much suited for power metal, and she sounds like she’s having a great time when she sings, which is perfect for fun/cheesy power metal like Battle Beast.

But Noora Louhimo? The woman has one of my favorite singing voices in power metal (as those of you who have read my entry on my favorite power metal singers will know). Hell, she has one of my favorite singing voices in general. What did I say about Noora before? Oh, right: “She can sing beautiful cleans and I love the gritty timbre she can also pull off. She can sing in a high register with grit and never sound grating or screechy. She also has an extremely commanding voice that makes all her sick high notes sound totally effortless.” I really do mean that thing about singing in a high register with grit without sounding grating or screechy, which is something that I feel like can happen with a lot of power metal singers. For example, the aforementioned singers of Burning Witches from number seven on this list; Seraina Telli can get a little screechy at times. Noora? Never. The woman sounds like she was born to sing power metal; she can sing her guts out but also has a great sense of control and dynamics, and her ability to sing with grit is unparalleled.

Battle Beast’s sound didn’t change much if at all after they changed singers. Their massive improvement following Noora joining the band is due entirely to Noora being such a fucking badass. And she is a fucking badass. I’m currently remembering Noora grabbing the mic and belting “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAH” at the beginning of “Straight to the Heart” when I saw Battle Beast live. It damn near knocked me on my ass. I can’t praise Noora’s voice and stage presence enough.

But that would get boring, so I’m just going to end the list.

Score with old singer: 7.5
Score with new singer: 10
Difference: 2.5

Thanks for reading! And a special thank-you to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! It’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, and that also gets you early access to my blog entries and access to polls about what I should write about next!

The tl;dr of the list:

10) Killswitch Engage
9) Tsunami Bomb 
8) Saosin
7) Burning Witches
6) iwrestledabearonce
5) Arch Enemy
4) Escape the Fate
3) Northlane
2) Helion Prime
1) Battle Beast

Favorite Power Metal Singers

Hello, dear readers! This month I will be writing about possibly the most predictable topic for me ever: my favorite power metal singers. Ground rules:

  1. The singer has to have done vocals (guest vocals count) for at least one band that can arguably be called power metal
  2. The singer has to be currently active

I think that’s all the ground rules I have for this one. Regarding how I chose the ranking, I actually didn’t do any math this time; I tried to rank the singers by how much I like their voice, and nothing else. This was hard for me because I found myself biased towards singers whose bands I listened to more often, and I had to reshuffle the list a few times. But I think it’s pretty accurate now.

Onward!

10) Laura Guidemond (Burning Witches, ex-Shadowrise)

I was devastated when I heard that Seraina Telli, the vocalist of Burning Witches, had left the band a few years back. However, I was overjoyed when I listened to Burning Witches’ music with the new singer, Laura Guidemond, and liked her timbre even better than Seraina’s. Granted, it’s a pretty close call, but Seraina’s voice could get a little grating to me; Laura’s less so. Yes, okay, Laura sounds very similar to Seraina, and her voice is definitely “standard power metal,” but she’s damn good at what she does. And that gets her the number 10 spot on the list. That and I’d kill to be able to sing with grit like she does.

9) Mike Mills (Toehider, Ayreon)

Mike Mills sings the intro and the first two verses of the song I just linked, and his part comes back later on in the song. You know what, this will make it easier to really get a sense for how fantastic this guy’s range is; here’s a live version:

Fucking amazing, right? I know, I know, I could probably make a list of my favorite singers just in that video (and some of them will come back, hint hint), but I don’t listen to Mike Mills’ band Toehider, so I decided to use an Ayreon song. Okay, fine, I did check out Toehider for research for this list, but I chose “Everybody Dies” because it displays Mike’s range so well. 

If you didn’t watch the video…well, you should, but what’s getting Mike on this list is his range. Dude has four octaves. FOUR. And he performs range-scraping songs like “Everybody Dies” on stage like it’s nothing. I thought he was two different people on the album The Source because his range is so fucking massive. Not only does he have a sick range, but I really like his timbre in his higher register, which is something I can’t say about many male singers (well, except for number 8 on this list).

Speaking of which…

8) Yannis Papadopoulos (Beast in Black)

Okay, you’ve got me: I don’t listen to Beast in Black. They’re very similar to Battle Beast, which I love–they were formed by an ex-Battle Beast member, Anton Kabanen–but they sound even more 80s than Battle Beast to me, and there’s only so much 80s I can take. But Yannis Papadapolous, their vocalist? The band’s name is a reference to the manga Berserk, not Yannis’ pipes, but the dude is absolutely a BEAST vocally. One of my friends showed me his cover of Nightwish’s “Ghost Love Score,” and even though I don’t care much for his main band’s work, his talent was so undeniable that I put him at number 8 on this list. Not only is his range ricockulous, he also is amazing at singing both cleanly and with grit. 

What I was most impressed by, though, is his control. He sounds like he has absolute control over every single nuance of his voice. Usually I’m not super into the high-pitched singing with grit that some male power metal singers do because it sounds like they’re just kind of shrieking artlessly or with little control. Yannis sounds like the polar opposite of artless shrieking. He’s one of the most artful singers I’ve ever heard.

Now cover more Nightwish songs, Yannis!

7) Joakim Brodén (Sabaton, Apocalyptica)

I feel like Joakim’s voice is so perfectly suited to power metal. He doesn’t have the stereotypical screechy high range–he’s a baritone–but his voice just sounds so fucking epic. I love his timbre. He just sounds so commanding. I also love when he rolls his r’s, even when singing in English. In short, his voice perfectly suits Sabaton’s topics, which are mostly about heroism in war. I’m a raving peacemonger–I have a pacifist Anti-Flag tattoo, as you may recall–but when I listen to Sabaton, I can actually enjoy the music primarily because of Joakim’s voice. Especially when he’s singing about the Night Witches, a badass all-female regiment that bombed the fuck out of Nazis. (I’m a Jewish conversion student, so of course I’m all about a song about women bombing the fuck out of Nazis.) Joakim is one of those singers who could probably sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and I’d listen to it as long as it was suitably epic, and Joakim could make it suitably epic.

6) Elize Ryd (Amaranthe)

No, Elize did not make this list because the band she sings for shares my name. She makes this list because I fucking love her voice. She also has a very commanding stage presence; I got into Amaranthe when I saw them open for Within Temptation back in October 2014, almost exactly 7 years ago (WHAT IS TIME EVEN). I immediately loved the way Elize worked the stage (and how, like me, she was constantly fixing her ponytail; I felt that). I also thought she absolutely killed her vocal parts live.

Elize is a soprano, and while I usually like big ranges and lower voices on women, the way Elize makes everything she sings sound effortless really wins me over. I also like her timbre and the way she always sounds like she’s having so much fun while singing. And she can false cord scream! Okay, fine, she does that only once, on Amaranthe’s silliest song ever (“BOOM!1”’), but I still think it’s cool that she can false cord scream, especially since fry screams are more common. I also think it’s cool that Elize had the pipes to cover for Anette Olzon one night in 2012 when Amaranthe was touring with Nightwish and Anette was ill. You know someone has pipes if they can sing Nightwish.

Speaking of which…

5) Floor Jansen (Nightwish, Northward, Ayreon, ex-After Forever, ex-ReVamp)

Yes, this is the second version of “Ghost Love Score” on this list. It’s my list. I do what I want. And I love that song. Also, fun fact: Floor has said it’s her favorite song to sing live!

Also, I feel like it’s one of Floor’s best showcases. Floor’s vocal part is sopralto* and her range is go fuck yourself, and I feel like nothing that Nightwish has written for her really showcases how talented she is. (I also hate…I’ve said something rather good about Nightwish’s recent lyrics, what was it…oh yes, the lyrical blowjobs that Nightwish has been giving that piece of shit Richard Dawkins. I can’t enjoy Floor’s voice when she’s singing about that shit.) I feel like Floor is at her best when she’s singing Nightwish’s stuff that was written for Tarja, oddly enough. Northward is…fun, and it showcases her rockier side, but it doesn’t really knock my socks off, vocally, and this list is about my favorite power metal singers. Also, Northward isn’t power metal.

ANYWAY. Floor Jansen is a g-ddamn powerhouse. I don’t think I even have to justify why she’s on this list. Her huge range, her phenomenal clean pipes, her ability to sing with grit and scream, her stage presence…she’s got it all. Actually, some of you might be wondering why Floor is only number 5. Well…it has to do with the fact that my favorite work of hers is covering Nightwish’s older stuff. I feel like nothing I’ve heard on a studio record has really showcased what Floor is capable of. Also, this is total personal preference, but she doesn’t have my favorite clean timbre out there. But game recognize game, and Floor Jansen is unbelievably talented.

*Technically Floor is a dramatic soprano, I think, but I’m being silly to make a point

4) Karsten “Attila Dorn” Brill (Powerwolf)

Awww yissss classically trained power metal singers are my SHIT. Yes, Attila Dorn is classically trained! His style is extremely operatic, and he sometimes sings with grit, a combination that is just A+ to my ears. He also has my favorite timbre of any male power metal singer. Joakim Brodén has an epic-sounding timbre too, of course, but Joakim can be a little bit…much sometimes. I feel like Attila Dorn has just the right amount of epicness in his timbre and delivery. 

Also, you know how I said that Joakim Brodén could sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and I’d listen to it? Well, Attila Dorn actually does sing shit that ordinarily I wouldn’t want to hear. I’m a semi-repulsed gray-asexual and Powerwolf has songs like “Demons Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” “Undress to Confess,” and, I shit you not, “Resurrection by Erection.” But Attila sells those songs so fucking hard that I can’t help but listen and even dance sometimes when I’m listening to those songs. (I listen to Powerwolf a lot when I cook; it helps me keep up my energy.)

3) Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast, Pentakill)

Noora Louhimo is a fucking badass singer. She can sing beautiful cleans and I love the gritty timbre she can also pull off. She can sing in a high register with grit and never sound grating or screechy. She also has an extremely commanding voice that makes all her sick high notes sound totally effortless. I’ve actually run into people who didn’t know she was a soprano, she makes those high notes sound so easy! 

The two things I am most impressed about with regard to Noora is that 1) her voice is immediately identifiable and 2) she has very good dynamics. You hear Noora and you know it’s Noora. Yes, her voice is perfect for power metal, but she doesn’t sound like every other power metal singer. She’s also capable of toning it down at times; it’s impressive to blow people’s ears out 100% of the time, but it also gets old when singers do that. Noora can perform softer dynamics without sacrificing intensity, especially on songs like “Endless Summer” (which was maligned by many Battle Beast fans, unfairly so, in my opinion).

2) Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish, solo work)

Some of you may be surprised to see Tarja not in the number one spot. Well, I’ll get there. But still, Tarja is one of my favorite singers ever. I love operatic vocals from classically trained power metal singers, and Tarja has that in spades. I also love how unique but also gorgeous her timbre is. I mean, do I even have to talk about how amazing Tarja is? She’s Tarja fucking Turunen. She fronted Nightwish during their best years (Tarja!Nightwish is best Nightwish, don’t @ me). She makes ridiculous high notes sound effortless. She has a cool accent. And her solo career is totally underrated, if you ask me; that’s part of why I included one of her solo songs in this entry. (Speaking of Tarja’s solo career, hey Spotify, why don’t you have her album Colours in the Dark? It’s a good album!) She also does great covers; she has covered “Darkness” by Peter Gabriel, “Poison” by Alice Cooper, and “Supremacy” by Muse, and they all kick ass.

Could I be biased because Nightwish was the first power metal band I listened to, leading me to think of Tarja’s voice as the definitive sound for power metal? Maybe, but the fact that I’m biased doesn’t mean I’m wrong about what a vocal badass Tarja is. I’d never heard such an effortlessly powerful vibrato-filled voice in metal before, and I still don’t think I have since. 

1) Magali Luyten (Ayreon, Beautiful Sin, ex-Nightmare)

(Magali sings the chorus, and that’s also her going HAM at the end of the song)

Remember in my favorite non-US bands blog entry when I mentioned that Magali Luyten is one of my favorite singers ever?

Yeah, about that.

Look, Tarja’s a phenomenal talent with a spectacularly unique and powerful voice. But she’s a soprano, and at the end of the day, I’m all about women who can sing low. And Magali Luyten is a true contralto, not a mezzo-soprano who thinks they’re a contralto because they sing 4th in SSAA (like me until recently, lol); she can hit an A below low C. That’s rare as fuck. (And really hot, if you ask me. Yes, I may be biased because of my romantic attraction to low voices on women.) Magali also has one of my favorite timbres ever, and she has an amazing scream. She would have been a candidate for my favorite female screamers list if she used her scream more often. Remember that video of Ayreon’s “Everybody Dies” from the Michael Mills section of this list? That’s Magali in the badass studded jacket singing The Chemist’s part (“Then ominous skies materialize/And everybody dies”) and then some of the Diplomat’s part, etc. She screams on the second “And everybody dies” and I get chills, I swear. And she does that LIVE. She also has buckets of stage presence. I’d kill to see Ayreon live before I die, and Magali is a big part of why. She recently became the vocalist for a new band called The Prize, and you damn well better believe I’ll be listening to their first LP.

And that’s the list! I hope it was enjoyable to read, and I hope that if you like power metal and weren’t into Ayreon before, you are now. Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! It’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, and that also gets you early access to my blog entries and access to polls about what I should write about next!

The tl;dr of the list:

10) Laura Guidemond (Burning Witches, ex-Shadowrise)
9) Mike Mills (Toehider, Ayreon)
8) Yannis Papadopoulos (Beast in Black)
7) Joakim Brodén (Sabaton, Apocalyptica)
6) Elize Ryd (Amaranthe)
5) Floor Jansen (Nightwish, Northward, Ayreon, ex-After Forever, ex-ReVamp)
4) Karsten “Attila Dorn” Brill (Powerwolf)
3) Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast, Pentakill)
2) Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish, solo work)
1) Magali Luyten (Ayreon, Beautiful Sin, ex-Nightmare)

Favorite Acoustic Versions

Hello, dear readers!

Okay, let me start out this blog entry on my favorite acoustic versions with a confession: I don’t like acoustic versions.

Well, typically I don’t. Let me explain.

One of the first albums I bought with my own money was Flyleaf’s eponymous debut. (Ugh, I’m still so mad at Lacey Sturm’s homomisia that I can’t listen to Flyleaf anymore, even though I miss it. They had some bangers. And some feels-punchers.) I got the deluxe version, which included some videos…and some acoustic versions. The acoustic versions were markedly different from their original versions, with most of them having different melodies and some of them even having different lyrics. So it stuck in my head that acoustic versions are new, different, interesting twists on the originals.

Almost every acoustic version of a rock song I’ve heard is definitely not that. 

It seems like most acoustic versions are just acoustic versions, i.e., they’re the original song but with acoustic instrumentation. Maybe the singer sings a little differently, with softer, less dramatic dynamics. And I just don’t listen to music for that. An acoustic song, whether or not it’s a version of a song with electrically amplified instrumentation. has to be really fucking good in terms of lyrical content, melody, and vocal performance before I will listen to it. Acoustic instrumentation tends to bore me to tears.

You see where I’m going with this?

No?

Well, the gist is this: in order for an acoustic version of an electrically amplified song to not piss me off for being a boring version of a song I like, that acoustic version better do something damn interesting. Because of this, I only really have five acoustic versions that I think are worth putting on this list. That said, they’re all very good. So let’s get started.

5) “Nothing You Can Do to Me” by Stick to Your Guns, originally by Stick to Your Guns

Acoustic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUcB_DBbs0g

Original: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSidjTG2zww

One reason that I frequently don’t care for acoustic versions of my favorite electrically amplified somes is that rock, metal, and punk singers often have voices that aren’t very suited to softer music. Jesse Barnett’s voice works fine on this acoustic version, though, I think. I also like how he handles singing the parts of the song that were screamed in the original. I also like how the guitar almost entirely drops out before the penultimate chorus, leading to a nice crescendo into the ending. The acoustic version also still has some intensity to it, unlike other acoustic versions I’ve heard. Yeah, this is a good version. I like it.

It doesn’t hurt that I really like the lyrics of this song, which are about being so down in the rough that it feels like nobody can hurt you anymore because what else are they going to do? I feel like in order for a song to work as an acoustic version, the lyrics have to be very strong because there’s so little else happening musically. If you’ve read my blog entry on songs that saved my life, you know this was one of them. So while acoustic versions usually aren’t my thing, this one is good enough and the lyrics are strong enough that I still quite enjoy it.

4) “Truth to the Weak (Not Built to Collapse) – Reimagined” by Fire From the Gods, originally by Fire From the Gods

Acoustic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWaHjqNDldA

Original: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PqLRPxkve0

I like this version for similar reasons to why I like the acoustic version of “Nothing You Can Do to Me.” One, the lyrics are fantastic, and two, I like the sung lyrics that were not sung in the original. Of course, in “Nothing You Can Do to Me,” the lyrics that were originally not sung were screamed and in “Truth to the Weak (Not Built to Collapse)” they were rapped. In the electrically amplified version of “Truth to the Weak (Not Built to Collapse),” both verses are rapped, and in the acoustic version, they are sung. And I really like the melodies that AJ Channer came up with for the verses. The melody of the last chorus is also changed to make it more climactic, and I think it works very well.

Also, like I said before, the lyrics are fantastic. While I loved the sound of the original song, it was the lyrics that got this song onto my favorite songs of 2019 list. (Amaranthe loving a song for the lyrics–what a shock.) I love songs about social justice and I love sounds about carrying on despite adversity, and this song manages to be about both. Also similarly to “Nothing You Can Do to Me,” I feel like “Truth to the Weak (Not Built to Collapse) – Reimagined” doesn’t lose intensity in its transition from being electrically amplified to being acoustic. Additionally, I can understand the lyrics better in the acoustic version, and I can really hear more pathos in AJ Channer’s voice with that version as well. Good job, Fire From the Gods. Now don’t abandon your leftist politics because you’re on the label belonging to fucking Five Finger Death Punch’s guitarist. 

3) “Constance (Acoustic)” by Spiritbox, originally by Spiritbox

Acoustic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0qbJUvZmY4

Original: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mY_oDyqRM1A

You know how I fucking love Spritibox? Yeah…I love Spiritbox so much that even their acoustic versions are my jam despite my usual distaste for acoustic versions. Yeah, yeah, Spiritbox’s stimmy electric guitar lines are absent in this version, but I still love it. It’s that good. I also feel like this song works well as an acoustic version because the electrically amplified version is one of Spiritbox’s softer pieces, and one of the only ones (if not the only one) in which Courtney doesn’t scream. See, Courtney’s grandmother asked her to write a song with “none of that scary screaming,” and Courtney decided to then write a haunting track about dementia. Seriously, as much as I love this song, I find both versions hard to listen to because they’re just so damn…yeah, “haunting” is the best word I have for it. 

And as sad as the electrically amplified version is, the acoustic version is even sadder. Maybe it’s because I’ve listened to the original more, but it doesn’t make me cry anymore. The acoustic version? Yeah, I shed a lot of tears listening to it for this blog entry. I think it’s the violins in the background. They really do a lot for the melancholy mood, even in the absence of the creepy electric guitar breakdown.

Courtney LaPlante also has a gorgeous singing voice, and this song really showcases that. You know how I said earlier that a lot of rock, metal, and punk singers who record acoustic versions don’t really have voices that suit acoustic versions? That could not possibly be less true for Courtney LaPlante. Her dynamics and emotive singing on the acoustic version are perfect. She’s voice goals, honestly. Now go listen to Spiritbox.

2) “Nowhere Generation” by Rise Against feat. Meg Myers, originally by Rise Against

Acoustic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6ZOFd9Bo9Y

Original: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBvgDRjFlbo

Here’s an interesting thing about this song: when it goes from electrically amplified to acoustic, it goes from full of bitterness and rage to touching (although still with some bitterness) and surprisingly beautiful. It’s also a duet, which gives it major Amaranthe Points for being different from the original. And I love Meg Myers’ voice. You know, I don’t think of Meg Myers as having a voice that will blend well with others, and I really don’t think of Tim McIlrath as someone with a voice that will blend well with others, but they sound quite nice when they sing in harmony. I also really love how Meg Myers alternates between octaves during the last chorus, and how Meg Myers uses her lower register, and…how Meg Myers is Meg Myers. Okay, you’ve got me, I’m biased because I really like her voice. 

Another interesting thing about this song: it was originally number five on this list, but when I relistened to it while high and heard those delicious harmonies, it jumped up to number two. So…thank THC for your placement on this list, Rise Against. That’s a bit hilarious considering all but one of the members of Rise Against are straight edge.

1) “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” by Axis of Awesome, originally by Against Me!

Acoustic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grJeGZtJEc8

Original: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_5JQLUyuJ0

This song is so perfect I don’t feel like I can even say much about why, but I’ll try.

Jordan Raskopolous has a beautiful voice and excellent technique, and she really works the heartstrings with this version. Her voice is so evocative and moving. I also feel like this song works wonderfully as an acoustic ballad. Laura Jane Grace writes all of Against Me!’s songs on acoustic guitar before turning them into electrically amplified versions, so that might be why, but regardless of why, this song works better as an acoustic version than any other rock, metal, or punk song I’ve heard.

I also love this song because…well, growing up marginalized without seeing yourself represented in popular culture can make you feel like you can’t accept yourself for who you really are, or like you’re not really human, or like what you are isn’t a ~real thing. But Laura Jane Grace and Jordan Raskopolous are providing representation for trans women with this song. It’s not my lane to judge how good the representation is, but I’m glad it exists.

Rock on, Laura Jane and Jordan. Rock the fuck on.

And that’s the list! I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! It’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, and that also gets you early access to my blog entries and access to polls about what I should write about next!

Songs That Saved My Life

Content/trigger warning: suicidality (a LOT of it), abuse, self-harm, inappropriate behavior by a teacher, reclaimed slur

So my Patreon supporters unanimously voted on this month’s Rock, Roll, ‘n’ Stim topic: songs that saved my life.

You guys realize that in order to talk about songs that saved my life, I have to talk about my life being in danger, right?

Are you guys okay?

Well, all right, here we go. When I started brainstorming for this entry, I had sixty songs on my list of songs that saved my life. Yes, you read that right. Sixty. Six-zero. Guess my life has needed a lot of saving, huh? I managed to winnow that list down to 15. (Er, well, 15 slots; for three bands, I couldn’t pick only one song they wrote that saved my life, so I’m going to talk about one band per slot, and with three exceptions, each slot is only one song. You’ll see.) Instead of ranking the songs by how many times they saved my life or how good I think the songs are, I am going to list them in approximate chronological order. And by chronological order, I don’t mean when they came out, I mean when I started using them as musical antidepressants. 

One more note: when I say “songs that saved my life,” I’m not exaggerating. I really do mean songs I listened to when I was suicidal that helped convince me to not go through with dying. I first remember being suicidal when I was about 10. My fifth-grade teacher told the class about a former student who had hanged himself. I hadn’t realized before then that suicide was an option, and I was jealous of the dead former student because I *Lydia Deetz voice* wanted to be dead. I didn’t start habitually listening to music that I liked until about three years later, and that’s where the list starts.

One more note before we get going: this list is going to discuss songs in terms of their lyrics more than anything else. All of these songs are heavy and their sound provided some catharsis for me, but not a single one of these songs would have kept me alive if not for their lyrics. So if you don’t care much about song lyrics, you may want to skip this entry, because it’s going to bore you.

With that, let’s get to the list.

  1. “Bring Me to Life” and “Tourniquet,” Evanescence, 2003, age 13

Yeah, you knew this was coming, didn’t you? I’ve talked about both of these songs on this blog before, so I’ll try to get this over with quickly.

“Bring Me to Life” was the first song that saved my life. I had never heard a song that captured the anguish I was feeling when I wanted to die before. “Tourniquet” filled a similar role. I didn’t have a therapist and I couldn’t tell my abusive parents that I was suicidal, so listening to a song that captured how badly I wanted to die was cathartic enough that it could help curb the suicidal urges. Also, “Tourniquet” made the process of dying by suicide sound terrifying enough that I wanted to avoid it.

  1. “…but home is nowhere,” AFI, 2004-2005, ages 14-15

Yes, I’m bitter about AFI sucking now because they used to make music like this. 

“…but home is nowhere” is an interesting song to me because I actually saw a lot of parallels between the lyrics and one of my high school SpIns: The Phantom of the Opera. The film version of Phantom (which, yes, has many things wrong with it, but please give my 14-year-old ass a break) came out in 2005, and I got Sing the Sorrow (which came out in 2003) for Xmas 2004. Lines like “my intimate is no one,” “absent of grace/marked as infernal,” and references to a new director buying a show and a new actor stealing the show made me think it made sense to imagine Erik as the person singing “…but home is nowhere.” (I know, I know, the song starts with “26 years end” and Erik is obviously older than that. Don’t @ me.) 

Being a heinously lonely little ball of depression and other undiagnosed neurodivergent conditions, I related hardcore to Erik even though now I know he’s just an incel with a Freudian Excuse who can sing. When I was feeling particularly depressed and alone in the world, I would play “…but home is nowhere” and imagine myself as Erik singing it. I yearned to be able to scream so I could sing the song myself, especially that screamy bridge about feeling like an incomplete puzzle. (Ironic that I would end up a mortal enemy of Autism $peaks–whose logo is a blue puzzle piece to represent how ~mysterious Autisticness is–later.) I distinctly remember several incidences of me waiting for my abusive mother to pick me up from school and knowing she would come down on me like a ton of bricks for getting B’s in honors algebra, blaring “…but home is nowhere” through my headphones, feeling slightly less alone, and barely managing not to cry. Instead of listening to this song in my darkest moments, I listened to this song to prepare for my darkest moments. And it helped. As disappointed as I am in AFI’s last two albums, I’ll always have Sing the Sorrow and “…but home is nowhere.”

  1. “Famous Last Words” and “My Way Home Is Through You,” My Chemical Romance, 2006 and 2007, ages 16-17

“I am not afraid to keep on living” is not a statement that was true for me for much of my life, but when Gerard Way sang it in “Famous Last Words,” I could believe it. I also sure as hell related to “a life that’s so demanding/I get so weak,” because that was basically my default mood before I was finally put on an SSRI in college. Okay, fine, it’s my default mood even medicated, but it was way worse without medication.

As I’ve mentioned, high school was hell for me. My mother abused me constantly when my personality tried to manifest itself or when I got B’s or when I was obviously Autistic, and the school emotional wellness counselor wasn’t equipped to help someone with issues as severe as mine. I found solace in music, and from the time The Black Parade came out in 2006 til the time I graduated high school, “Famous Last Words” stayed in my top 5 most played songs on iTunes.

“My Way Home Is Through You” stayed in that top 5 most played as well after I found The Black Parade: The B-Sides on iTunes. (All of those B-sides are great, actually.) “My Way Home Is Through You” particularly helped me through my college application process, which was a special level of hell. Without going into details, I applied Early Action to my top college, which I was particularly excited about because I thought it would be the perfect refuge from my fucking asshole parents. I was deferred and then later rejected (although that school did take one of my classmates who was a much worse student than I but her grandparents donated a shitload of money to the school. So that sucked). I played “My Way Home Is Through You” constantly throughout that time, thinking that my way home was through that college and that I had lost it. Thankfully, I ended up at Smith College, which was wonderful and I don’t regret it one bit, but when I felt lost, “My Way Home Is Through You” made me feel less alone.

  1. “It’s the Fear,” Within Temptation, 2007, age 17

I’ve already mentioned my friend Katie who showed me her “favorite band, from the Netherlands” while we were on a choir tour in Austria, and how that band was Within Temptation and the first song she showed me was “It’s the Fear.” I immediately fell in love with WT’s sound and the entirety of the album The Silent Force, especially the song “It’s the Fear,” which I immediately began samesonging.

Around the time I started samesonging “It’s the Fear,” I had started realizing that there was something deeply wrong with the way my brain worked (i.e., I had depression) and was terrified of what shit my brain might pull next. I had started figuring out that my suicidal impulses weren’t me, but the depression…and unfortunately I didn’t have the diagnosis or the vocabulary to figure that out. I was also developing PTSD from the intensifying abuse from my parents. “It’s the Fear,” with its lyrics “Fear of the dark is growing inside of me/They have won, they will come to life” and “My fate is horror and doom,” perfectly encapsulated how I was feeling. When I felt what Sylvia Plath might call the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, descending again, I would listen to “It’s the Fear” and be, ironically, less afraid.

  1. “Planet Hell,” Nightwish, 2007-2008, ages 17-18

It wasn’t long after I got into Within Temptation that I also started listening to Nightwish, having realized that symphonic metal was my shit. Once is one of my favorite symphonic metal albums of all time, as well as my favorite Nightwish album. I mentioned that high school was hell for me, so “Planet Hell” was the perfect song to help me get through it, especially my junior and senior years when the college application process handed my ass to me on a platter and my mother took it worse than I did and then took her frustrations out on me. (Having an abusive parent try to live vicariously through you? Not a fun time.)

I also listened to “Planet Hell” a lot while doing homework. In high school, I had essentially no free time, except a little bit on weekends; if I wasn’t at school or in an extracurricular activity, I was doing homework. I realized later that homework was a distraction; a way to avoid thinking about how miserable I was. No wonder I listened to so many songs that saved my life while I was doing homework. I also listened to “Planet Hell” at school a lot; it helped me brace myself for some of my worst teachers. (Especially my AP Spanish teacher, whose idea of teaching was to stand in front of the classroom and rant in Spanish about how malls were the graves of forests and that when he went shopping he could hear the screams of the ghost trees. That is, he’d do that when he wasn’t being physically inappropriate with students. I helped get him fired for being a creep. I remember once he asked me what I was listening to when I was blasting “Planet Hell” into my headphones, and I replied “Una banda de metal sinfónica de Finland” and he got mad at me for not knowing how to say “Finland” in Spanish.)

  1. “Survive,” “Make It Stop (September’s Children),” and “I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore” by Rise Against, 2006, 2011, and 2014, ages 16, 21, and 24

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP4clbHc4Xg (trigger warning for suicidal ideation, sexual assault, and queermisic bullying in the video; here’s the audio only if you need it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIGqnneLUWc

Yep. THREE Rise Against songs in this slot. And WHAT can you do about it?

*Nathan Explosion voice* NOTHING.

Although I’ve talked about all of these songs before on this blog, so I’ll just summarize:

“Survive:” The song I played on repeat during my involuntary psych ward stay. Notable lines: “We’ve all been sorry/We’ve all been hurt/But how we survive is what makes us who we are.”

“Make It Stop (September’s Children):” The first punk rock song I ever heard openly condemning queermisic bullying. Notable lines: “Proud I stand/Of who I am/I plan to go on living.”

“I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore:” The song that got me through living in my abusive home after grad school. Notable lines: “Your paradise is something I’ve endured,” “Something has to die to be reborn.”

  1. “Family Tradition,” Senses Fail, 2008, age 18

Now here’s a band I would like to talk about more! Senses Fail is one of those bands that aged like fine wine. I don’t have much use for their really early stuff like Let It Enfold You and Still Searching, but starting with Life Is Not a Waiting Room, I really like most of Senses Fail’s work. Okay, Renacer was iffy and Pull the Thorns From Your Heart was disappointing, but If There Is Light, It Will Find You was a wonderful return to form. “Family Tradition” is a surprisingly touching song (unlike other “my daddy’s mean” songs by, say, Staind) about how both Buddy and his father suffered from alcoholism. “Family Tradition” has several “Oh fuck those were my feels” lines, including “I tear myself to shreds to try to be someone/That I could never be/Now these unsightly marks define me,” “I wish I could drain out his half of blood in me/But I’d still have his face” (note: thank fuck I don’t look like my mother), and “Your son who so unluckily/Fell right next to the tree.” 

Neither of my parents are alcoholics, but my mother is an abuse survivor, and her abuser was also her mother. I’m having an ongoing identity crisis that started in college about how I felt like I was doomed to become an abuser too (“Is this my fate?”). Sometimes I would feel suicidal when thinking about my future and how I could never have kids because I was afraid I would abuse them, and “Family Tradition” would make me feel better. Sometimes I’d sing it while walking home from the library late at night on campus. (If you’re a Smith alum and I woke you while doing that, I’m sorry.)

  1. “Loser,” Smile Empty Soul, 2010, age 20

You know, it was really rude of Smile Empty Soul to write a song that’s literally my internal monologue without crediting me. Just so rude. The chorus goes “Give me something good/And I’ll fuck it up/All my life I’ve tried/But never had much luck/To be happy but I guess it’s just not meant to be/I’m gonna die a loser,” and…yeah. Ripped directly out of my head.

I know, I know, the lyrics are almost comically simplistic. But sometimes you need that kind of directness. I mean, they also have a song called “The Hit” whose bridge is simply “Take me away from these people/Who want shit from me/Just tell them I’m busy/So fuck off and die.” (That was my ringtone for a while while I was in grad school.) Also, the lyrics are, like I said, eerily similar to my internal monologue when I’m depressed. I think the key to why a lot of the songs on this list make me feel less like dying by suicide is that they make me feel less alone. “Loser” is definitely one of those songs. That’s kind of all there is to it. Although I will say it also sits nicely in my lower register; it’s the perfect song for me to belt out in the shower when I feel like every time I’m given something good, I fuck it up, but I also want to feel good about my singing voice.

  1. “I Don’t Wanna,” Anti-Flag, 2012, age 22

I was both surprised and not surprised when I saw that someone (that someone was Sharptooth, btw) had covered an Anti-Flag song for Songs That Saved My Life, Vol. 1. Surprised because I didn’t think of “Die for Your Government” (which, for those who don’t know, is about how the States has horribly mistreated both veterans and civilians alike, and how dying for your country is bullshit) as an antidepressant song, but not surprised because Anti-Flag has saved my life too. I feel kind of silly saying this, but I didn’t pay much attention to most of “I Don’t Wanna” until recently. You see, it was only one line of “I Don’t Wanna” that saved my life at first; that line was “The hardest battle you’re ever going to have to fight is the battle to just be you.”

Story time: the summer after I graduated college, I ferret-sat for seven ferrets that belonged to the director of a singing group that I had been in while I was at Smith. I spent three weeks living in the house with the ferrets, alone, and it was bliss. I got to live as an adult without my parents’ interference. While I was on the train back to my parents’ house, I was actively considering getting off the train and throwing myself underneath it. I decided to listen to something comforting and familiar, and I put on Anti-Flag’s The General Strike. When I heard Justin Sane holler “The hardest battle you’re ever going to have to fight is the battle to just…be…you!,” it was like I was hearing it for the first time. I knew instantly I would eventually get a tattoo with “just be you” in it. I told myself that I should stay alive for another year and a half–I have a personal rule that I have to want a tattoo for a year and a half before I get it; that way I don’t get any tattoos that I’ll regret–so I could get the tattoo.

I had to wait more than a year and a half to save the money. But I have the tattoo now. My parents, of course, were furious when I got it. They hated it more than any of my other ink because of what it said; they were adamant that the “real” me (read: the child they ordered) hated tattoos.

There will be more tattoos when the Delta variant isn’t ravaging this country, too. Eat that, fuckhead ex-parents.

  1.  “I Will Not Bow,” Breaking Benjamin, 2015, age 25

I had just turned 25 and wasn’t planning on turning 26 thanks to the soul-crushing bullshit that is grad school when I found out that Breaking Benjamin was playing a few blocks away from my apartment. Had I been in a better place mentally, I probably would have wanted to save money and not go, because grad student stipends aren’t enough. But at the time, I didn’t give a fuck about saving money and I wanted to do something to do that wasn’t class, lab work, or homework. So I bought the ticket.

There’s nothing like live music. Maybe it’s an Autistic thing, but when I’m at a concert, it feels like the very air around me is made of music, and I’m practically swimming in it. That Breaking Benjamin concert…well, it would have been more apt if it had been an Evanescence concert, because that shit woke me up inside. And the last song that Breaking Benjamin played in the regular set (they did an encore later) was “I Will Not Bow.” I had always liked the song, but something about hearing Ben Burnley bellow “I will not bow! I will not break!” along with an entire venue full of singing people was next level. I walked home from the concert, high-heeled boots that were hurting me and all, grinning like the Cheshire cat and full of energy. Would any concert have done that for me? Probably not. Would any number of other concerts done that for me? Okay, yeah, probably, but as it was, “I Will Not Bow” became an official part of the unwritten (until now) “Songs That Saved My Life” playlist.

  1. “Pittsburgh,” The Amity Affliction, 2015-2016, age 25-26

Another “grad school almost killed me” song. As I’ve mentioned, my school fucked me out of my PhD because I’m cr*zy and Autistic, and my last semester at grad school was a slow-motion train wreck. I was struggling to prove myself and I couldn’t do it. Part of me knew I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to keep going. I didn’t want to keep living. “I’ve been spending every waking moment/Wishing I was dead” was basically the inside of my head (except I would have said “wishing I WERE dead” because I use the subjunctive). “Please tell me I am not undone” is another line from “Pittsburgh” that hit me in the feels every morning when I listened to the song while on the way to the lab. Yep, every morning. Literally every morning. (What? I samesong.)

I don’t know what else to say about this one, really. I guess it’s a damn good metalcore song in addition to being a song that saved my life. Normally a song that saved my life is not necessarily an indication of quality–let’s be honest; I have terrible taste a lot of the time–but I think that “Pittsburgh” is genuinely a well-crafted song.

  1. “Nothing You Can Do to Me,” Stick to Your Guns, 2015-2016, ages 25-26

Man, grad school almost killed me a bunch of times, didn’t it? “Pittsburgh” was the song that I listened to to prepare for lab work every day; “Nothing You Can Do to Me” was the song that I listened to to deal with my advisor. She believed in me until I had to take a medical leave. I don’t want to think about that ableist asshole, so I won’t go into this song much. But g-ddamn was it perfect for telling myself that my asshole advisor couldn’t tear me down. Especially the lines “I was nothing to no one/Fucking worthless and so on/So young, so fucked, so numb, you’ll see/There’s nothing you can do to me.”

I guess another thing I can say about this song is that I joked on Twitter that I should thank Anti-Flag and Stick to Your Guns in my thesis acknowledgements section. Stick to Your Guns ACTUALLY REPLIED asking me what my thesis was on. I told them–identification of cancer from a liquid biopsy (blood sample) without invasive surgery–and they told me it sounded like I was doing important work. So that was fucking cool.

  1. “Ungrateful,” Escape the Fate, 2016-2019, ages 26-29

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1a3_S-2dA_I (trigger warning for blood and violence in the video; here’s the audio only if you need it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kDUZs5tiYM)

When I first learned how to scream, “Ungrateful” was one of the first songs I tried to perform with guttural vocals. This is because it was the perfect song for living with my abusive parents. (Yes, I limped back to them after grad school because I couldn’t find work and ran out of money.) The meaning of “Ungrateful” was twofold for me; not only did the idea of being ungrateful perfectly describe how I felt toward my parents for destroying me instead of nurturing me, but lines like “With bleeding hands I fight for a life that’s beat me down/Stand up and scream while the rest of the world won’t make a sound” perfectly described how I felt about being a Disabled self-advocate. My parents, who knew I was Autistic and that I had depression and PTSD, still refused to admit I was Disabled, so it felt especially apt that I was standing up and screaming about ableism online while the people in my immediate world wanted to shut that down.

“Ungrateful” also worked well as a saved-my-life song because of lines like “There’s still blood inside this beating heart” and “Rising again from the fire/A phoenix alive and inspired.” By that point in my life, I had acknowledged that I was a living dead girl and that trauma had destroyed the person I would have been had I not been abused. I was already considering changing my name because of this. (What, you thought my shithead parents were cool enough to name me Amaranthe? Nope.) “Ungrateful” reminded me that I was still, in the technical sense, alive, and that maybe I should continue being, in the technical sense, alive.

  1. “Sick and Disgusting,” Beartooth, 2016-2017, ages 26-27

While I was still living with my parents post-grad school, I used to self-harm by pushing myself too far at the gym, especially while running. I didn’t even realize that was what I was doing, but yeah. This is the song I would play on repeat while I was running. I don’t really want to think about the exercise self-harm I used to engage in, but yeah, the refrain of “G-d, I’m ready to die” was pretty damn true. Similarly to some of the earliest songs on this list, this song made me feel less alone when I wanted to die. And the line “But if you want me, I’m gonna stay here and fight” reminded me that staying alive was an option, even in the depths of suicidal ideation.

Beartooth may be considered “cringe” by some people because Caleb Shomo dares talk (er, sing and scream) about mental illness. But unlike some of the other bands on this list that I consider guilty pleasures (Escape the Fate) or just not that special (Breaking Benjamin), I’ll go to bat for Beartooth despite the shit that they get. Yeah, okay, “Sick and Disgusting” is kind of overwrought. Caleb sounds almost laughably distressed. But you know what? He sounds like he fucking means it, too. So I’ll stick up for him, even though sometimes I want to tell him “Jeez, Caleb, don’t cough on the mic,” especially on the album Disgusting.

You know, some of the more recent songs on this list are harder to talk about than the ones I listened to almost twenty years ago. Especially this one, because it wasn’t until recently (okay, fine, it wasn’t until I wrote this damn blog entry) that I realized that COVID has been an excuse for me not going to the gym, not the real reason I haven’t been going to the gym. I haven’t been going to the gym because I don’t know how to work out without it being self-harm. It’s been hard to listen to “Sick and Disgusting” recently, because it reminds me of when I was self-harming without realizing it. It kept me alive at the time. I don’t endorse self-harm, but it was better than dying.

ANYWAY. Moving on.

  1. “In This Hell,” Dream State, 2019-2020, ages 29-30

Escaping from my parents’ house didn’t solve everything. I crashed like a tsunami after I escaped. It was ugly. I had to leave my job at the time. After a year of struggling to find work, I finally got a job as a medical editor, but money was still tight and I still was suffering from hella CPTSD. I was beyond disheartened that escaping hadn’t solved everything I wanted it to and that I was still damaged. I worried I was too damaged to survive even after my parents were no longer part of my life. Lines like “I can’t sleep at night from all this anxiety” and especially “I’m beyond repair/I’m hopeless/It’s all endless/Battle of affairs/Always in my head” fit my state of mind perfectly. 

This is the hardest song to write about. The benefit of hindsight and years of therapy helped me discuss the earliest songs on this list. It’s painful knowing that I’ve been actively suicidal as recently as a year ago. It’s frustrating. It makes me angry. I hate that I’ve been so wrecked and fucked in the head that I want to end my own life thirty-odd years into it. But on the bright side, I have Dream State. I still listen to them on the regular even if I don’t need “In This Hell” to keep me alive anymore, or at least I don’t need it nearly as badly. I can just enjoy Recovery and Primrose Path for the excellent works that they are without needing them to talk me out of suicide. And both Recovery and Primrose Path are excellent. I don’t think Dream State has made a bad song, actually (yes, that includes their cover of “Crawling” by Linkin Park, which I love).

I feel like I haven’t even talked about “In This Hell” as a song. I didn’t anticipate how hard it would be to write about the songs that saved my life in the past few years. In any case, “In This Hell” is an excellent song, one of the few songs on this list that I can recommend on the basis of quality instead of just having lyrics that helped make me want to keep living. I’ve mentioned that Dream State has filled the hole in my heart left by Flyleaf? I think I could actually say that Dream State is better than Flyleaf ever was.

And that’s the list! I hope it wasn’t too relentlessly depressing. I know it was too long, lol. Maybe the next one will be shorter. Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! Reminder that it’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, see blog entries two days before everyone else, and vote in polls to help me choose blog entry topics!

Oh, and I have music out now, too! Check out my latest single, “The Warrior in Peacetime,” which is about PTSD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmApdRxJyDI&t=2s. It’s also on Bandcamp here: https://amaranthezinzani.bandcamp.com/

The tl;dr of the list:

  1. “Bring Me to Life,” Evanescence and “Tourniquet,” Evanescence, 2003, age 13
  2. “…but home is nowhere,” AFI, 2004-2005, ages 14-15
  3. “My Way Home Is Through You,” MCR and “Famous Last Words,” MCR, 2006 and 2007, ages 16-17
  4. “It’s the Fear,” Within Temptation, 2007, age 17
  5. “Planet Hell,” Nightwish, 2007-2008, ages 17-18
  6. “I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore,” Rise Against and “Survive,” Rise Against and “Make It Stop (September’s Children),” Rise Against, 2006, 2011, and 2014, ages 16, 21, and 24
  7. “Family Tradition,” Senses Fail, 2008, age 18
  8. “Loser,” Smile Empty Soul, 2010, age 20
  9. “I Don’t Wanna,” Anti-Flag, 2012, age 22
  10. “I Will Not Bow,” Breaking Benjamin, 2015, age 25
  11. “Pittsburgh,” The Amity Affliction, 2015-2016, ages 25-26
  12. “Nothing You Can Do to Me,” Stick to Your Guns, 2015-2016, ages 25-26
  13. “Ungrateful,” Escape the Fate, 2016-2017, ages 26-27
  14. “Sick and Disgusting,” Beartooth, 2019-2020, ages 29-30
  15. “In This Hell,” Dream State, 2019-2020, ages 29-30
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