Throwback Thursday: An Adventure in Esoterica – An Introduction and An Unexpected Opportunity

these friggin guys...
Here’s your throwback. L to R: author of this entry, creator of this blog, and mutual friend Daniel… Bowie? (c. 2003)

By Adam Schloss

My name is Adam, and I mostly listen to progressive metal.

Now, if you’re reading this blog, chances are good that you don’t really know what that means. While I suppose you could review Wikipedia’s page on the (sub-) genre, allow me to offer my own description as well:

The genre has sometimes been called “thinking man’s metal” due to its complex song structures and lyrical tendency towards elaborate storytelling, similar to progressive rock in its early-1970s heyday (think of Yes, early Genesis, or Emerson, Lake and Palmer in their prime). Its practitioners tend to be highly skilled and technically gifted; in fact, some of the most prominent musicians in prog metal have studied at institutions such as Juilliard or the Berklee College of Music.

Unfortunately, this combination leads to a set of pervasive stereotypes. The average prog metal song lasts far longer than the typical pop/rock song, sometimes stretching well over 10 minutes in length. It features lots of instrumental noodling, often without readily apparent purpose (or just to show off). Its lyrics (if it has any) tend to be cheesier than a pile of loaded nachos. I, for one, appreciate the noodling, and rarely listen to music for the lyrics – although that has never stopped me from singing along anyway.

Oh, right – I should probably also mention that I’ve done some organized (for lack of a better term) singing on and off over the last decade or so. Lately, that has been as a member of District Karaoke, which is a subject for a completely different post – but I digress.

It’s in this context that I received an interesting message last week from a friend of mine, a fellow prog metal aficionado – who also plays in a few local bands, including keyboards and bass for Cassandra Syndrome:

m: hey Adam, would you want to be a guest vocalist on one of our songs?

Whoa.

Well, of course I would! (So I told him that.) But what would I be singing? More importantly, would I like to sound more like Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth, on The Drapery Falls…

… or Kevin Moore of OSI, on The Escape Artist…

… or Darroh Sudderth of Fair to Midland, on Rikki Tikki Tavi…

… or maybe I could even belt out something like James LaBrie of Dream Theater, on Innocence Faded?

While I could try to emulate any (or none) of these singers, that last one is definitely not happening, considering my low vocal range. And while I’ve tried to growl along with songs that have low growls, the results have been lacking. I anticipate that I’ll sound most like a less-scratchy Kevin Moore, though if I really show off the low end of my range, it’ll sound more like the male vocalist of Diablo Swing Orchestra (this one gets really weird – you have been warned). Regardless, I certainly won’t be making any final decisions until I’ve heard the song as it is.

Here’s what I know so far: I’ll be singing for Master Sword, a Zelda tribute band. To the extent that I’ve listened to video game music, it has never had vocals included, so I’m not entirely sure what to expect. I imagine that I’ll most likely end up singing of Link’s epic battles against Ganondorf, kicking chickens, finding the triforce, or maybe the fact that it isn’t safe to go alone. No matter what the whole thing sounds like, I look forward to sharing the results with you!

Until then, here’s a video of me singing Renegade by Styx in karaoke. No, that isn’t a real guitar.

Adam Schloss is a late twenty-something Washington-area native and erstwhile Pittsburgh enthusiast. He studied physics in college and works in the software industry. In his free time, he can most often be found gallivanting about the DC area, singing karaoke, playing pub trivia, watching hockey, and occasionally performing air guitar in public.

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