In this day and age in Singapore, music on the radio has become lifeless, predictable and has a sensation that never challenges, enlightens or inspires. The same soulless tunes manufactured in a studio at the push of a button. Let’s face it, all you need is a pretty face, lingerie and use ‘tap dat ass’, and you’ll likely get a hit. Who cares about the complexities of songwriting anymore? Same moves, same tune, same high pitch scream, same beat, same tune, repeat, enter new artiste, same beat, same tune……zzzzzzzzzz.
Gone are the days when I would religiously listen to 91.3 FM at 10pm on a Monday night for Paul Zach to introduce listeners to bands that we have never heard of, for Chris Ho and his passion of freely playing what he felt was the future of music, and spend a large proportion of my pocket money during secondary school on BIGO magazine (which is now online). These outlets were essential and their dissolution brought about the robotization and facelessness of Singapore radio.
If you feel that same acridness each time to turn on the radio, here are some bands that are popular, but will never get a second of airplay. For each artiste, a song or two (or three) will be introduced, that I feel signifies them the most and what you can expect if you decide to delve a little deeper to listen more of what they have to offer. So, in no particular order:
1. Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails (NIN) is all about Trent Reznor. If you’ve never heard of Reznor, you deserve to stay in the same hole you were living in. Not only has he created some of the darkest songs that will make you feel like either slitting your wrists or grabbing a baseball bat and smashing that microwave oven to dust. Reznor is (most of the time) a one-man songwriting machine and changes his touring musicians extensively.
He gave birth to Marilyn Manson’s best album, Antichrist Superstar, has won a Grammy for his excellent work on the soundtrack for the Social Network, and is Chief Creative Officer for Beats Music. However, to me, the ultimate trophy has to be that legendary country singer, Johnny Cash, covered the tragically epic Nine Inch Nails song (Hurt)… which will soon be overplayed as a Johnny Cash song as it’s been recently featured on the new Wolverine movie, Logan, trailer. When NIN performed in Singapore and ended with ‘Hurt’, it nearly brought me to tears. Enough said… now listen.
Head Like a Hole
Hailing from Stavanger, Norway, listening to this band makes you feel like you’re are strapped on (that’s right… on) a high speed train that’s never going to stop. Although formed just under 10 years ago, their 3 releases have been absolute magic. At times their songs come close to the roughness and rawness of Foo Fighter’s Wasting Light – coarse guitars, destroying vocals and a mad drummer. All you need to enjoy Kvelertak, a couple of kegs of beer, an all-out bar-fight and a sound system to play over all of the chaos and let them pull you through the absurdity of it all.
Apart from the music though, check out the artwork from each album. It will simply blow you away. Also, it doesn’t even matter that all their songs are in Norwegian. Just listen and punch yourself in the balls. I just did.
3. At the Drive-In
When this Texan band called it quits in 2001, many fans were left in shock. At the Drive-In were on a high and no one really saw it coming. Just a year before this happened, they released the critically acclaimed Relationship of Command album and to this day, listening to it makes you wonder what else they could have put out before they broke up. Cedric Bixler (Vocalist) and Omar Rodriguez (Guitarist) moved on to more experimental outfits such as the Mars Volta and Antemasque, and the rest of the band delved into their own musical continuity through Sparta.
Very few bands have showed the same amount of absolute insanity as they did. Akin to wild animals, At the Drive-in were epic to watch live. However, in 2016, after the members had creatively released what they had wanted to outside of the band, they’ve since reunited and fans can expect a new album in 2017. Check out the new song below, “Governed by Contagions”
Governed by Contagions
4. Coheed & Cambria
It is a wonder why this band has never had any (that I know of) radio play in Singapore. Brilliantly composed songs with equally breath-taking lyrics that are conceptualised from singer/guitarist Claudio Sanchez’s science fiction comic books called The Armory Wars. My favourite song by them is a sentimental tune, Wake Up, where Sanchez sings:
So leave yourself intact
‘Cause I will be coming back.
In a phrase to cut these lips,
I love you.
The morning will come
In the press of every kiss
With your head upon my chest
Where I will annoy you
With every waking breath
Until you decide to wake up.
Around for over 20 years, each Coheed & Cambria’s albums have been consistent, with heavy progressive guitar work that has rarely failed to deliver. Loosely described as pop-punk, their music would be better described as progressive rock/metal. To fully experience the talent of this band, check out their Guitar Centre Sessions. I hope they never slow down.
Guitar Centre Sessions
5. A Day to Remember
Always fun to listen to, A Day to Remember, had me wanting more from the first time I listened to their Homesick album. They have six LPs that contain ballads, punk and screamo tunes that make you either want to look in the mirror and sing along to, or use as a great playlist for the gym to push you through that last motherfu**ing set. Personally they fall in the same vein as how punk/pop pioneers Green Day started, but one significant difference – they have stayed true in making music that they believe in and not what they think would be good for radio (Sorry Green Day).
Their cover of Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone is one of the best rock/metal covers of a pop song ever made, and there aren’t that many to name. This is a band that you can listen to every single day.
The Downfall of Us All
If it Means a Lot to You
6. Funeral for a Friend
Sadly, this Welsh band called it quits in 2016 after more than 15 years and seven albums. Throughout the years, there were massive changes to their line-up and to be honest, they never looked the same after their first four offerings in 2010. Clearly split between two eras, the first, in which their albums will be better remembered for, Funeral for a Friend certainly deserved much more recognition and, although gone forever, they crafted some of the most explosive guitar riffs to ever come out of the UK.
They have performed in Singapore twice and I had the opportunity to attend both of their shows. They will always be a band that I wish had made a better impact and it was certainly sad to see them on their goodbye tour.
Your Revolution is a Joke
2016 was an important year for heavy metal. Releases from heavyweights like Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax certainly fed starving metalheads like me. However, there were so many other bands that made a massive impact and kept this “non-radio compliant” genre alive and kicking. One of these bands was Gojira. Hailing from Bayonne, France, Metal Hammer, a heavy metal magazine that has long provided metal fans with much needed news about their favorite genre, named the album, Magma, as their album of the year.
To readers who have never heard of Gojira, the concept of this band is heavily influenced by Mother Nature. They sing about life, death, spirituality and saving whales. They have worked with conservation organisations and helped raise funds to save and protect marine animals. And they sound awesome… ’nuff said.
8. Lamb of God
Lamb of God has been kicking ass, in the genre of thrash metal, for more than a decade. Each album has been consistently strong and this is a band that has one of the best all round group of musicians you can ever find. Their vocalist, who infamously went to prison in the Czech Republic after being accused of causing the death of a fan during a concert (but he was later released of all charges), is one of the best metal front-men out there. Strong lyrics, hard hitting drums, combined with fast melodious guitar riffs, all brought together by their bassist, they are one of the best metal bands around today.
Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, they were first known as “Burn the Priest” but had to change their name as they were banned from playing at venues as they were mistakenly being taken for a satanic metal band. Since their inception, they have crafted seven extremely good albums and they have never failed to disappoint.
When I first listened to Mastodon, I couldn’t tell what had hit me on the head. I was unable to place my finger on what the fu*k was entering my ear canals but it sure sounded good. Mastodon have fast become one of the most respected bands out of the US that have constantly headlined rock/metal festivals all over the world. Their members have been busy doing other side projects such as the very notable Killer be Killed which features Max Cavalera (Sepultura) and Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan).
Rolling Stone magazine called them the “Greatest metal band of their generation – nobody else comes close”. They have been working on a new album since 2015 which is slated to be released in 2017. Listen for yourselves.
10. Faith No More
What else can be said about this legendary rock/funk/metal/grunge/alternative band? They are legends and many true music enthusiasts will agree that they are one of the greatest bands of the 80s and 90s. Faith No More have made music their own and no one can truly classify them into any particular genre. The most endearing fact about FNM is that they partake in a very eclectic range of music which stretches from the very listenable to the weirdly morbid.
In 2015, they released their first album in about 17 years with the brilliant song, “Motherfucker” and went on a world tour. I was lucky enough to watch them live in Melbourne at Soundwave 2015 where they played in front of 40,000 fans who sang along and jumped to each and every song. Mike Patton and gang are truly masters of their alchemy. Pure magic.