Uncategorized - posted on January 30, 2017 by

The Best Metal Tracks Of 2016 – Part Four

We’re finally done! After powering through Part One, Part Two and Part Three, we’re closing out our series on the 20 best metal tracks of 2016. But while these came last, they most definitely are not the least.

For those of you on Spotify, we’ve compiled all 20 of our favorite tracks from 2016 into one playlist – click here to check it out!

With that behind us, here we go.

Dark Tranquillity – Atoma

You know what you’re going to get with Dark Tranquility. When it works, as it does on Atoma, it’s one of the most unique sounds in metal. Atoma combines the classic DT power-gloom formula with nods to early 80s British rock (a la The Smiths and The Cure). One of the few bands capable of creating a mournful beauty that will never be found in the playlist of suburban goths.

 

Circle Of Dust – Machines Of Our Disgrace

Machines Of Our Disgrace by Circle Of Dust ticks a lot of boxes that don’t get checked off near enough in metal. Homage to vintage sci-fi? Check. Legitimately high-quality riffing set against an industrial backdrop? Check. Powerful vocals featuring equal parts pitch and bark? Too often, the marriage of metal and electronics is either too subtle or too hamfisted. Circle Of Dust strikes a perfect balance few are able to achieve.

 

Pain Of Salvation – Meaningless

A dark, brooding treat for fans of Anathema and Katatonia. Meaningless by Pain Of Salvation oozes melancholy from every pore while avoiding the faux woe common to late 90s arena rock. A towering chorus with hair-raising dual vocals complements the minimalist composition and mournful lyrics. Not music I’d recommend firing up after a breakup, funeral or existential crisis, but staggeringly beautiful nonetheless.

 

The Algorithm – boot

My criticism for people who turn their nose up at The Algorithm? You write something like this by yourself. The level of detail in boot is absolutely insane, perhaps moreso when you consider The Algorithm is a one-man project. Composer Rémi Gallego frequently cites the Dillinger Escape Plan as a primary influence in interviews, and it shows. The Algorithm’s ability to harness sequencer-infused chaos and craft it into art truly represents the next frontier in metal.

 

Gojira – Magma

This fearsome French foursome has been among metal’s best for a long time, culminating in Grammy nominations for best rock album and metal performance. And while singles Silvera and The Shooting Star have received the lion’s share of attention (not undeservedly), it’s the title track from 2016’s Magma that’s the true hidden treasure. Listening to the six-minute Magma is like gently paragliding over Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland complete with psychedelic verses, driving 16th note jackhammers and mutated versions of Jerry Cantrell’s leads from Alice In Chains Nutshell.

 
 
 

Part One: Greenleaf, Haken, Humanity’s Last Breath, Jorn, Equilibrium

Part Two: Nails, ColdWorld, Helix Nebula, Ghost, Evergrey

Part Three: Devin Townsend, Kreator, Heaven Shall Burn, Machine Head, Allageon

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Uncategorized - posted on January 15, 2017 by

The Best Metal Tracks Of 2016 – Part Three

A week ago, we posted Part Two of our favorite metal tracks of 2016, including Helix Nebula, ColdWorld, Ghost, Nails and Evergrey. This followed Part One, which included Haken, Greenleaf, Humanity’s Last Breath, Jorn and Equilibrium.

But we’re not done yet! Here are five more standout tracks from 2016.

Devin Townsend – Offer Your Light

One of the things I enjoy about Devin Townsend is his fearlessness. Few artists match his indifference to pleasing others while exhibiting such range in their songwriting. Unlike much of his work, however, it’s the sugary sweetness of Offer Your Light that’s likeliest to repel the metal faithful. The nursery rhyme-like repetitiveness and the K-pop overtones will definitely act like garlic and sunlight to the true kvlt. And in the hands of a lesser craftsman, this could have been awful. But Townsend’s signature galactic production and sparkling vocals make this three minute equally powerful and dessert-like.

 

Kreator – Gods Of Violence

One of the culprits in the marginalization of thrash over the years has been the genre’s leaders inability to evolve. At best, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer have recorded some nice tracks here in there, but nothing you’d ever trade for their old material. But don’t tell Kreator, who quietly just released one of the best tracks in their 30 year history with Gods Of Violence, that the ability to write great metal fades with age. Gods Of Violence taps into the melodic hooks and catchiness that secretly powered Metallica without sacrificing any of Mille Petrozza’s trademark dirt.

 

Heaven Shall Burn – Passage Of The Crane

For our money, little metal was as good as In Flames three-album run from 1997 to 2000. Sadly outshined by Ozzfest nu-metal at the time, Jesper Stromblad’s and Bjorn Gelotte’s blend of folk, melody and death defined the Gothernburg sound. Passage Of The Crane, by Germany’s Heaven Shall Burn, does a first-rate job replicating this classic sound, replete with a Moonshield-like intro, ferocious Swedish riffing and dynamic interplay between vocals and guitars.

 

Machine Head – Is There Anybody Out There

When he’s on his game, as he is on Is There Anybody Out There, nobody manufactures metal quite as effectively as Robb Flynn. Is There Anybody Out There does not stray far from Machine Head’s proven formula – the production is slick, the harmonics are immaculate, and Flynn’s vocals carry the song in a way that makes you wonder why this band hasn’t had more mainstream success. Not only that, Flynn deserves credit for lyrics which unambiguously denounce racism in metal – something we’d like to see more bands do.

 

Allageon – Subdivisions

Sometimes, great minds think alike.

 
 
 

Part One: Greenleaf, Haken, Humanity’s Last Breath, Jorn, Equilibrium

Part Two: Nails, ColdWorld, Helix Nebula, Ghost, Evergrey

Part Four: Dark Tranquility, Circle Of Dust, Pain Of Salvation, The Algorithm, Gojira

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Uncategorized - posted on January 9, 2017 by

The Best Metal Tracks Of 2016 – Part Two

A week ago, we posted Part One of our favorite metal tracks of 2016, including Haken, Greenleaf, Humanity’s Last Breath, Jorn and Equilibrium.

But there was so much good metal last year, we couldn’t keep our list to just five. Without further adieu, here’s what else turned our crank in 2016…

Nails – Savage Intolerance

Is it possible to make an angrier song than Savage Intolerance by Nails? If this song was any longer than a hair over two minutes, I feel like I’d need to attend court-ordered counseling. There’s no cartoonish metal tropes here. No tongue-in-cheek glorification of the macabre. No adulation of things that go bump in the night. Just pure 190-proof rage that’s best enjoyed when unleashing violence upon an inanimate object (or perhaps a willing participant).

 

ColdWorld – Void

If ambient, shoegaze and black metal can be used to describe music, there’s a pretty good chance it won’t be my jam. But somehow, Void by Germany’s one-man ColdWorld works. It’s melancholic, haunting, yet truly beautiful. If you need a powerful guitar riff, chorus hooks or “brootality” to get it up, this won’t be for you. That said, I can’t think of a better backing track for six minutes spent ruefully contemplating the afterlife.

 

Helix Nebula – God Is God?

Frankly a masterpiece. God Is God? by the Madrid-based Helix Nebula has everything you want out of an epic-metal track and more. God Is God? is somewhat unique in that the technicality is on the lighter side compared to a lot of progressive metal. But the (relative) simplicity of the tablature belies the complexity of the composition. There’s a lot going on here, and the skill needed to make all the disparate little elements work together is substantial.

 

Ghost – Square Hammer

Being born in 1979, I often wonder what it must have been like to be into metal when Master Of Puppets was released. I assume people knew it was great, but did they know it would be historically great? Continuing to fire up Ghost in my car is likely the closest I’ll get to replicating this feeling today. It’s been a long time since a band has had the three-album run of greatness that Ghost is currently on, and the late 2016 single Square Hammer took it to another level. Compositionally, Square Hammer is perfect, and the execution is equally flawless. Eventually this band will disappoint me, but for now, I’m just enjoying the ride. Watch the video and prepare to be insulted by YouTube’s suggestion that you might enjoy watching anything else.

 

Evergrey – In Orbit (featuring Floor Jansen)

Few tracks underscore the difference in European and American taste in metal like In Orbit by Evergrey. In Orbit, featuring the inimitable Floor Jansen in a supporting role, should absolutely be a mainstay on commercial radio. And in Europe it is – the album reached #29 on the Swedish charts. Unfortunately in America, it’s too metal to be truly hip, but not commercially crass enough to move any Jägermeister, thus relegating it to niche status. If nothing else, In Orbit is the perfect track to start drawing your significant other into metal – don’t worry, they’ll get into Carcass eventually.

 
 
 

Part One: Greenleaf, Haken, Humanity’s Last Breath, Jorn, Equilibrium

Part Three: Devin Townsend, Kreator, Heaven Shall Burn, Machine Head, Allageon

Part Four: Dark Tranquility, Circle Of Dust, Pain Of Salvation, The Algorithm, Gojira

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Uncategorized - posted on January 2, 2017 by

The Best Metal Tracks Of 2016 – Part One

When we were younger, people discovered music from fewer places. MTV. Radio. Magazines. Friends. Whatever you were listening to, chances are there were millions and millions of others listening to the same thing.

Not only that, it was much more expensive to record. Self-financing was hard, so most bands had to go through labels which were more likely to fund commercially viable music.

Today, there’s no limit to the number of places you can discover music. And because recording has become relatively cheap, there’s more music than ever to discover. But the number of hours in the day has held steady, and as a result, people are less likely than ever to have overlaps with others in their musical tastes.

Bottom line – it’s harder than it used to be to discover new music. But that doesn’t mean it’s not being produced – you just have to look for it.

While many of our fans are steeped in metal, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite tracks from 2016. In fact, we have so many, we’re going to make this a four-part series!

So without further adieu, and in no particular order…

Haken – Earthrise

Progressive metal’s answer to Stranger Things? Cynic with a predisposition for major keys? Whatever the label, Earthrise by UK’s Haken was the best track from one of the year’s most brilliant albums. Somehow blending Dream Theater with the soundtrack to 80s era NBC Saturday morning cartoons and pulling it off, Affinity is the polar opposite of a Black Label Society SMDF vest. Like most Haken tracks, Earthrise is not music that metal fans are likely to appreciate at first glance – only through repeated listens do the subtleties emerge.

 

Greenleaf – A Million Fireflies

When a band is called Greenleaf, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect both musically and facially. Unlike most Sabbath acolytes, however, A Million Fireflies offers more than generic detuned progressions at 72 BPM. A Million Fireflies delivers perhaps the year’s best pentatonic-based riffage, pairing perfectly with a Hellraiser-grade chorus hook. The perfect accompaniment to an evening of binging retro Italian horror like Suspiria or Lisa And The Devil.

 

Humanity’s Last Breath – Harm

Is it electronic? Is it djent? Is it hardcore? Is it death metal? Whatever it is, the track Harm from Buster Odeholm’s one-man project Humanity’s Last Breath is a severe blunt force that pummels without discrimination. Beneath the guttural vocals and sub-sonic Morse code lies as thoughtful and deliberate a composition as you’ll hear. Every buzz, whir and chunk has been methodically assembled into a deadly contraption that’s best avoided if you’re sitting in a traffic jam trying to stave off road rage.

 

Jorn – I Know There’s Something Going On

For some metal fans, no taste is as sweet as the willful disregard of commercial viability. Sometimes though, you just need to lighten the fuck up and let the power of gated-reverb snare drum take you to the boozy arena in your imagination. In other words, relax and listen to Jorn – the famed Norwegian vocalist who released an album of cover songs titled Heavy Rock Radio. I Know There’s Something Going On, the album’s featured track (originally done in 1982 by Abba’s Anni-Frid Lyngstad), is five minutes of Dio-caliber righteousness, fortified by perhaps the year’s best vocal performance.

 

Equilibrium – Prey

Your feelings about Dark Tranquility are likely to mirror your attitude towards Prey by Germany’s Equilibrium. Prey is a clean, polished piece of melodic death metal that veers closer to traditional, symphonic goth than the folk-inspired riffs of classic Gothenburg. A very strong take on a proven formula.

 
 
 

Part Two: Nails, ColdWorld, Helix Nebula, Ghost, Evergrey

Part Three: Devin Townsend, Kreator, Heaven Shall Burn, Machine Head, Allageon

Part Four: Dark Tranquility, Circle Of Dust, Pain Of Salvation, The Algorithm, Gojira

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Uncategorized - posted on September 21, 2016 by

Chilton Family Metal Benefit

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If you’ve been a part of the Minnesota metal scene, chances are you know Greg Chilton.

As lead vocalist for Twin Cities mainstays Necromis, Sublevel and Outside The Murder, Greg has been throwing it down on stage for longer than a lot of musicians have been alive.

Greg has also hosted over 100 episodes of the Ritual Madness Podcast, a program that has provided exposure to countless Minnesota musicians and artists.

On September 10th, Greg and his family were involved in a pretty severe car accident. Thankfully, nobody suffered life-threatening injuries. All the same, some bones were broken, a car was totaled and the bills are unforgiving.

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Jordan Dwayne Swanson of Zerobudget Records family members Echoes Of The Fallen has stepped up to organize a benefit show for the Chilton Family, currently scheduled for November 19th at Opinion Brewing Company. Proceeds from the show (including money raised from a silent auction) will go to help the family get back on our feet.

Greg has lent considerable support to Cwn Annwn throughout our career. Greg offered us one of our first high-profile shows when we were very young – an opening slot on the Necromis “Burnscar” CD release at the Triple Rock (one of my favorite local CDs to this day). This was the first of many shows we would play with Greg, including when Necromis supported us for The Method Of Murder CD release at 7th Street Entry. Greg was also kind enough to have us as a guest on Episode 64 of the Ritual Madness Podcast.

What’s really fantastic about Greg is that we’re only one of probably a few hundred bands to have benefited from his support. I find myself consistently astonished by his selflessness and the generosity to he shows to anyone who works to make this state just a little louder.

If you can attend, RSVP to the benefit show on Facebook. And whether you can or can’t go, take a moment to share this event and help a good family through this troubled time.

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Uncategorized - posted on September 11, 2016 by

We’re Back…

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I’d love to tell you an exciting story about our absence.

But the truth is. unfortunately, somewhat boring.

In the past 12 months, two band members had babies. Several have had exhaustive work schedules.

No drama. No fights. No squabbles.

Just keeping our lawns trimmed, our boats clean and living the suburban dream.

But our hibernation has extended long enough, and we’re ready to return.

On Friday October 14th, Cwn Annwn will be headlining The Reverie in Minneapolis with our friends in Cold Colours, Rad Enhancer and Hex Vortices….it is our first show in over a year.

We’ve also been writing a lot of new material, and will be debuting some of our efforts at this show.

Public appearances from us are rare these days, so we’d love to see you. Click here to RSVP on Facebook, and help us spread the news.

@NeilAnnwn

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Uncategorized - posted on July 20, 2015 by

French Metal You Need To Hear: Klone

Klone - French Metal You Need To Hear

Who will like it: Fans of Devin Townsend, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd. People who wished Toad The Wet Sprocket had a dark, brooding streak.

Who won’t like it: People who find Five Finger Death Punch to be too subtle. Fans of high-end frequencies in distorted guitar.



by Neil James

Of all the sins musicians can commit, I find “indulgence” among the most difficult to forgive.

And while there are many great things I can say about progressive metal, the genre tends to be a red-light district for yielding to selfish artistic desire.

Play the above YouTube video to hear an example of said indulgence. It isn’t enough that Timo Tolkki wants to write music that people regard as genius – he wants the listener to recognize him as a genius. One that can be held alongside Beethoven, Tolkien and Freddie Mercury.

At some point, somebody should have told him no. His bandmates. His engineers. His label. His conscience.

But one has to assume they did. And he blazed on ahead anyway.

And this happens all the time in progressive metal.

When writing or reviewing music, I have found that just a little bit of restraint goes a long way in maintaining quality. Bad Religion will let the ‘oozin aahs fly, but will never descend into being a barbershop quartet. Iron Maiden will spit forth the righteousness, but barring a few notable exceptions, they tend to stay clear of overt schlock. Dave Mustaine gives us glimpses of what he’s capable of artistically on songs like Sweating Bullets, but he never descends into the subterranean depths inhabited by Jeff Waters and Annihilator.

Which brings us to Klone.

Klone - Here Comes The Sun - French Metal

Poitiers France-based Klone is one of those rare progressive metal bands that not only practices restraint, it wields it as a blade, carving its unique surreal dreamscape. In a world where too many bands attempt to cut through the clutter by pushing the boundaries of ostentatiousness and being “extreme”, Klone is a refreshing change of pace. Its mission – to create sophisticated yet understated beauty – is highly noble, and one the band has proven more than capable of achieving.

Although they’ve shared the stage with bands as macabre as their French brethren Gojira, Klone rarely conforms to metal’s traditional conventions. The rate of clean guitar per minute on the band’s newest release, Here Comes The Sun, is well beyond acceptable limits for most Metal Injection commenters. The distortion used by guitarists Bernard Guillaume and Aldrick Guadagnino has more in common with a persistent head cold than the saccharine, processed tones dominating metal today. And if you’re looking for guttural screaming, keep on searching – vocalist Yann Ligner is far closer to Toad The Wet Sprocket than Joe Duplantier.



Klone’s metal credentials are ultimately defined by their ability to paint a dark, dichotomous sonic landscape. Here Come The Sun’s opening track, Immersion, is at once both somber and inspiring. Punishing clockwork strokes, a motif repeated throughout the album, punctuate an airy guitar that evokes rusty windchimes singing softly over a world that life has forgotten. The combination of Ligner’s gripping vocal phrases and the sedate chording of Guillaume and Guadagnino conjures shades of Devin Townsend while avoiding the sense of impenetrability the skulleted can sometimes known for.



Few tracks exemplify Klone’s ability to author the soundtrack to melancholy dreams as well as Nebulous. Like any expert progressive band, Klone discards the very notion of time signatures without calling attention to having done so. Only Ligner’s haunting vocals and the driftless chord progressions provide the listener any point of anchoring. The morose melody orients a ghostly ship as a it crosses the meridian that separates life from death, exquisitely contrasting the persistent distorted drone that rumbles underneath the chorus like hot magma trapped beneath a tranquil, serene forest.

Klone’s longevity and work ethic is a significant contributor to the group’s expertise. Here Comes The Sun is the band’s seventh release. The above album, Black Days, came out in 2011 and was the band’s fourth. You don’t just roll out of bed and write music with this level of intricacy and make it seem effortless. Klone’s music is a labor of love and a function of sweat – and it deserves more recognition than it’s received.

A natural byproduct of this experience is a refined palate and capacity for strong decision-making. In Klone, this manifests as the good sense to avoid a choral recitation of elements – the understanding that the restraint to leave words unspoken and notes unplayed is sometimes the strongest artistic statement that can be made.

Check out Klone on their website: www.klonosphere.com/klone

Check out Klone on Facebook

Check out Klone on Soundcloud

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Uncategorized - posted on July 8, 2015 by

Twin Cities Metal You Need To Hear: Cymothoa

Cymothoa - Minnesota Metal

Who will like it: Fans of Mastodon, Intronaut and The Mighty Boosh. People who like to color outside the lines, and then on the walls.

Who won’t like it: Fans of the human voice. People who like to label song sections as “verse” and “chorus.”

by Neil James

Imagine that you’re ambling through a sunny countryside. Your gait is slightly unsure, its certainty robbed by cheap whiskey and unmet expectations. Beyond defying your maker’s calling, your journey has no purpose. Eventually, after all sense of orientation has dissipated, you come across a stone obelisk bearing a desolate face. Its blank eyes become aglow as it prepares to transmit ages-old secrets through its piercing stare. As the connections between your neurons and muscles begin to break down, your body falls to its knees. At the same time, your consciousness swells, transcending location and time.

That exercise in psychotropic meditation reflects my best attempts to capture the surly, uncompromising imagery evoked by the above track – “Hammer Party” by Cymothoa.

The songwriting core of Cymothoa, guitarist Jef Ries and bassist Justin Boehne, have an extended history with Cwn Annwn. Ries’ and Boehne’s breakthrough project, Less Than Nothing, actually shared the stage with us at the 7th Street Entry for the Method Of Murder CD release show back in 2006. Upon the dissolution of Less Than Nothing, Ries and Boehne formed Lavinia, an act similar at its core but less beholden to the conventions of traditional songwriting. After losing their vocalist, Lavinia slowly transitioned into Cymothoa, a three-piece instrumental outfit whose artistic allegiances extend to no one beyond its members.

Dotted Quarter Notes Vs Triplets

I once visited Justin and Jef in their practice space, and I remember the above graphic being scrawled on their whiteboard. While not exactly a controversial statement among those who’ve taken lessons or studied music theory, it stuck out in my mind. It surprises me how many bands will spend countless hours practicing sweep licks or dialing in their amp settings, but somehow fail to grasp the rhythmic subtleties that differentiate pedestrian from great acts.

And Cymothoa’s grasp of rhythmic subtleties extends far beyond differentiating triplets from dotted quarter notes. Throughout the band’s debut EP, Cymothoa displays a mastery of advanced metal concepts: seamless tempo changes, polyrhythmic looping and machine-tool caliber riffing precision.

Cymothoa’s command of metal riffage is highly evident on Snake Denim which blends the modern American thrash barrages of Lamb Of God with the disjointed mash of accents and staccato stabs made famous by Mastodon and other progressive acts. Just as impressively, the band smoothly transitions out of its complex compositions into tasty grooves, highlighted by a sophisticated, melodic chord progression that bears the scents of functional-addict era Stone Temple Pilots.
   

   
Sesame Street Fighter begins with a series of white noise waves lapping at the shore of an onslaught to come. A Kreator-esque “verse” composed of a flying flurry of power chords paints a landscape of aggression Randy Blythe himself would be proud to spit acid over. The song concludes with a thunderous earthquake of detuned insanity that threatens to rip the earth apart at its fault lines before descending into a Call Of Ktulu-esque fadeout.
   

   
One of the challenges an instrumental act faces is that you’re foregoing what is often a band’s most distinctive quality – its vocalist. But the mark of great instrumental, a mark that Cymothoa routinely hits, is that it’s not difficult to envision a variety of vocal stylings. Little effort is required to picture Brett Hinds or even Ozzy caterwauling over the chromatic 16th note slap fights and sneering atonal holds. A clean interlude that sounds like it was ripped from the notebook of a zombie redneck Billy Corgan provides a welcome respite before the song devolves into the chaos suggested by its chimerical title.
   
Cymothoa Monkey
In a world of 140-character hot takes, Hollywood remakes and Bitstrips, the likelihood that the worlds of a sophisticated, progressive instrumental band and commercial success will ever collide is remote. But faced with the tradeoffs required to achieve the watered down mainstream success of Five Finger Death Punch and Bud Light, Cymothoa has thankfully opted for the path of self-fulfillment. Those of us with taste and an appreciation for craftsmanship look forward to many years of introducing the band as one of the Midwest’s best-kept secrets to others.

Check out Cymothoa on Facebook.

Check out Cymothoa on Reverbnation.

Check out Cymothoa on Zerobudget Records.

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Uncategorized - posted on May 27, 2015 by

Audiokite Music Review Service – We Tried It Out So You Don’t Have To

Audiokite music review service

By Neil James

You just finished playing a show. Chatting up a friend at the bar, you ask how your band sounded.

The response you hear 99 times out of 100 – “you sounded great, bro!”

If post-show feedback was the truest, most objective standard of quality, we’d all be polishing our Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speeches.

Deep down, you know that you’re probably not as good as the “Great Show, Man” chorus suggests. But by how much? Is everybody just telling you what you want to hear?

The good news is that if you’ve got $35, now you can find out!
 

Enter Audiokite

Audiokite is a web-based service designed to give you honest, objective reviews of your music. For $35, Audiokite gets 100 people to listen to a song that you upload for at least 40 seconds. These people then provide quality scores and feedback.

By getting 100 people to review your music instead of a blogger/reviewer whose critique may depend on how long its been since they last ate, you can get a more accurate of sense of how good your music is relative to others in your genre.
 

The Test

As a guy who does market research for a day job, one of the limitations of Audiokite is that 100 people is still smallish for a sample size. To feel totally confident about Audiokite scores, you really should have upwards of 400 people reviewing your music. Surveying just 100 people gets you in the ballpark of where your music sits, but if you were to repeat a 100-person Audiokite review for the same song multiple times, you would likely see some swing in the results in both directions.

In fairness, you can pay Audiokite more money to survey more people, but that’s going to cost quite a bit more than $35, defeating one of the principal advantages of the service.

To get around this limitation, we ran four tests, paying $140 to have four songs reviewed. We would expect to see some fluctuation from song-to-song, but by having 400 people review four tracks from the same CD, we could figure out approximately where our sound on a whole sits on the quality scale based on the range of results.
 

The Results

After a few days, we received our Audiokite reports. To say you get a lot of information is an understatement – for every song, you get a rating on a 10 point scale, written feedback, an analysis of commercial viability, licensing recommendations, listener sentiment, critique of individual elements and geographic segmentation.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff.

If I swap my musician for my market research hat, I can comfortably say that not everything Audiokite gives you is useful. A good general rule for determining whether information is useful is whether or not knowing it causes you to act differently. Knowing that our music would be a much better fit for use in an action/adventure movie versus romance, for example, isn’t super helpful. Even if that wasn’t patently obvious to us, it isn’t as if one of our problems is that we’re wasting time trying to license our music in inappropriate places.

But acknowledging that some of what you get from Audiokite is fluff, there’s still plenty of really helpful intelligence to be gleaned.
 

Percentile Score

All users who review your music are asked to rate it on a 1-10 scale. After getting our reports back, we found uur song The Accuser had been rated 7.5 out of 10. Stay Forever was rated 6.9 out of 10.

In a vacuum though, that’s hard to draw conclusions from. Some people will look at 6.9 or 7.5 out of 10 as a failure. Some will view it as success.

The more useful metric is where your music sits in relation to others. At 7.5 out of 10, The Accuser was rated in the 99th percentile of all music uploaded to Audiokite, meaning that for every 100 songs reviewed by the service, only one received a higher score.

Now that’s pretty good! We can feel alright about that.

In fact, of the four songs we uploaded, the lowest rated (Embodied Chaos) placed in the 75th percentile. Stay Forever and Seasons hit the 87th and 94th percentile respectively.

Knowing that all four of the tracks from Metamorphosis fell within the 75th to 99th percentile of submitted music, we can feel good about the decisions we made recording our latest album. Our choice to work with Eric Blomquist, Ian Combs and the team at RiverRock Studios – Minneapolis Recording Studio was an objectively good one. The extensive pre-production work we did was also time well spent. And we can also feel confident that our artistic decisions were sound as well.

Here’s our rating score for The Accuser.

The Accuser - Audiokite Review
 

What Do People Like And Dislike About You?

It’s one thing to know where your music stands on a 10-point and percentile scale. It’s another thing to know what you should do differently. Is there something your band is really good at? What do you suck at?

One of the ways you can learn answers to these questions is by reading the written feedback that reviewers leave about your music.

Frustratingly, you’ll find that a lot of the feedback you receive is contradictory. Consider both of these reviews of Embodied Chaos:

Embodied Chaos 1
Embodied Chaos 2

That sort of stuff is irritating, but that’s not Audiokite’s fault. You could ask 100 people to review a classic Metallica song and probably run into similar contradictions.

What you need to keep an eye out for as you’re reading feedback is trends and recurring themes. Unsurprisingly, people don’t dig our band name.

Band-name-1
Band-name-2
Band-name-3

And while there were plenty who loved that our singer is female, that ended up being a turn-off for others.

Female-1
Female-2
Band-name-4

In each of these instances, people don’t like artistic choices we’ve made. That happens – you can’t please everybody. But at least we can feel more confident that if people don’t like us, it’s because they’re not on board with the parts of our band that aren’t going to change – not because we’re grossly deficient in some part of the craft. And besides, even if we were prone to overreacting to criticism, we can look back on where we fit in the percentiles of reviewed music – at the scores we got, we’re doing a lot more right than we are wrong.
 

Limitations

Besides the aforementioned sample size issues, the more niche your music, the less useful Audiokite is likely to be. When prompted to select a category for our music, nothing seemed to fit better than “hard rock / metal.” Even that feels like a broader audience than we’re trying to appeal to, and we’re a lot more accessible than many other metal bands. If you’re a death metal band, Audiokite is not going to be very representative of the audience you’re trying to appeal to, and your scores will reflect that.

Another limitation of Audiokite is that you don’t get a great sense for how you compare against bands who are successful. Our music definitely over-performs relative to the base of competing independent music uploaded to Audiokite. But where does it sit against actual signed acts? Audiokite does provide a chart that shows how we rate compared to songs in the Billboard 100, but it would be nice to get a clearer idea of how far our art is from touring acts in our genre.

Billboard 100 Comparison
 

Is it worth it?

Is Audiokite perfect? No. The cost needed to obtain statistically significant sample sizes is a little prohibitive. The more niche or extreme your genre, the less useful the reviews will be. And the data tends to err on the side of being overwhelming and unhelpful.

But $35 to get 100 people to review your music and get a directional sense of where your music sits in the marketplace is a pretty good deal, and one that I would recommend most bands invest in. If you can learn just one thing that helps you improve your art and your craft, it’s pretty safe to say your money was likely well spent.

Check out the Audiokite reviews of Cwn Annwn music:

The Accuser on Audiokite
Stay Forever on Audiokite
Seasons on Audiokite
Embodied Chaos on Audiokite

Check out Audiokite – Market Research For Every Musician

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Uncategorized - posted on May 18, 2015 by

On Ian And Tragedy

Ian-1

By Neil James

I’m 35 years old and am fortunate to say that I’m still barely acquainted with death.

In many ways, the greatest achievement of modern-day America is my generation’s unfamiliarity with the great beyond. I know nothing of cholera. Tuberculosis. Starvation. War. Death is an abstract concept known only to our grandparents and distant figures on the local evening news.

This freedom from capricious mortality, however, is not a birthright nor an entitlement. It is random privilege. A chance blessing. A gift we “earned” by the happenstance of being born into a nation of abundance and wealth.

It is only in those moments where we are deprived of our random privileges – when the possibility of doing without brushes against our existence – that we recognize the fleeting nature of our blessings.

These are the thoughts that pass through my mind when I reflect on Ian Dailey.

Ian, a friend to myself, Mike and Harry, passed away in a tragic accident two months ago, leaving behind a loving wife Sara (née Hasledalen) and young son Evan. His passing was sudden, unexpected, and by everyone’s account, undeserved.

Many of Ian’s interests naturally lent themselves to friendship with the members of Cwn Annwn. Ian loved metal music and possessed particularly good taste within the genre. Ian also had an affinity for two of our culture’s finest institutions: comic books and pinball. It takes very little effort to picture Ian, ponytail flowing against the back of his At The Gates t-shirt, setting another unattainable record on the Spiderman pinball machine at Station 4. I remember expressing admiration for one particular extended run, to which he responded by detailing his frustration that broken table mechanics prevented him from completing all possible in-game missions.

More importantly, you’d be searching for a long time before you found a person with unkind words for Ian. Ian was a very generous and thoughtful man. A reflection of his limitless compassion and caring, Ian worked hard to put himself through nursing school and served in what can be a thankless, unappreciated profession with arduous pride.

As often happens, when the insidious roots of adulthood crept into our lives, our encounters grew more infrequent. This distance, however, barely buffered our shock and sadness when we learned of Ian’s sudden passing. We can barely imagine the void his loss has created for Sara and young Evan, and to even attempt to do so with words feels trivializing.

The outpouring of support for the Dailey family has been enormous, and we in Cwn Annwn are very grateful that they possess such a strong support network to help them through this difficult time. In a world where we’re quick to casually unfriend one another on Facebook because of a difference of opinion or a flippant remark, it’s been truly amazing to witness the reflexive, unthinking selflessness that so many have displayed.

On Friday, June 5th, Cwn Annwn will be performing at a show commemorating Ian’s life and helping to raise funds for his wife and young son. Joining us will be two acts whose members were similarly close to the Dailey family, Cold Colours (featuring Brian Huebner and Jon Rayl) and The Grande Machine (featuring Glen Wadie). All proceeds from the evening will be donated to Sara and Evan to assist them in their time of need. We hope that everyone reading this is able to attend for what will certainly be a special and heartfelt evening.

Even if you can’t attend, however, we hope that each of you can take a moment to reflect on the blessings in your life. Maybe it’s your spouse. Your mother. Your bandmates. Your cat. Your eccentric Uncle Jack. Despite our daily grievances, when you take inventory of the love, camaraderie and caring that surrounds you, you can’t help but appreciate those whose presence truly matters else just a little bit more.

Click here to visit the show’s official Facebook page and learn more about the event.

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