Inside The Ears of Bill

Billy says:

What I've been listening to-

Megadeth - Dystopia

The band released their 15th album this past January and is the first since 2004 and 2007 to not feature their longtime drummer Shawn Drover and guitarist Chris Broderick. Interestingly enough, the two announced their departure last November and formed a new band altogether. Nonetheless, the album is a fiercely aggressive album with tons of riffs and some might say that it's a return to form by the band after their last album Super Collider. Boosted by killer tracks like Lying in State, The Threat Is Real and Fatal Illusion, the album hosts some atypical tracks you wouldn't normally associate with the band. Tracks like the sole instrumental track Conquer or Die! features plenty of acoustic guitars from new guitarist Kiko Loureiro then rips into a full-blown metal barrage. A very solid album by the band overall.

Dream Theater - The Astonishing

There's a lot of music to listen to with Dream Theater's 13th album The Astonishing; it may even be too much for one single play through all at once. With over a little two hours of material, the band's second concept album features a wide range of styles matched by masterful song writing by guitarist John Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess with strong lead vocals by James LaBrie. Considering the storyline and the need for many different characters, LaBrie plowed through and delivered a great performance. Songs like Three Days, The Path That Divides and Moment of Betrayal are some of the standout tracks. It will definitely take a few more listens by me to get the full experience.

Trivium - Silence in the Snow

I'm not that big of a fan for screaming/harsh vocals so to hear that Trivium finally did an album without any harsh vocals certainly stirred my interest. Released in October 2015, this album is the band's seventh release. It seems like the band is trying to move away from their traditional niche sound and more towards a deliberate, "popular" sound that was usually devoid from their previous releases. The title track, Blind Leading the Blind and The Ghost That's Haunting You still have crunching riffs but at a more relaxed pace.

Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls

After five years from their last album, Iron Maiden released their 16th and first double album back in September. The original release date and subsequent tour were delayed so singer Bruce Dickinson can recuperate from a small battle of cancer but the band is currently on tour supporting the album. Not straying from the band's signature post-2000 sound, the album has plenty of songs that herald as "classic" Maiden including Speed of Light, the title track and The Red and the Black. The album's last track runs at slightly over 18 minutes and can be referred to as a cinematic powerhouse. Another standout track is Tears of a Clown, whom bassist Steve Harris wrote it about Robin Williams' depression and suicide in 2014. The album is great by Maiden's standards and I think it's amazing that Dickinson did his vocals before receiving his cancer treatment.

School Days: Billy Gives It A Grade, Again

Billy says:

Earlier this year, I rambled on about some musician books I've read so here's part two. I'm definitely open to more suggestions too.

Justice for All: The Truth about Metallica: Author Joel McIver wrote this comprehensive account of metal band Metallica. I liked how he covered the band members' history before they all joined Metallica and how he portrayed Metallica's up rise with how the music landscape was changing and evolving throughout the 80s and 90s. The book is incredibly detailed yet the book is structured where there's no direct dialogue between the band and the author; all of the facts are recounted through established interviews with other media outlets and secondhand accounts to people close to the band. Lastly, the author gives his own opinions on the band's albums. He hated Load/ReLoad and spends numerous chapters crushing those albums. Now, I'm all about opinions, but devoting that large of a portion of the book to that subject wasn't warranted.

Grade: C+

Watch You Bleed: The Sage of Guns N' Roses: The first 300+ pages of the book are devoted to the band's history from the early 80s to its demise around 1994. It's very detailed but the last 25 pages cover the band and its former members from after 1994 to around 2009. Granted GNR wasn't as prevalent during those years as it was from the 80s and early 90s, but dedicating those few pages to that large amount of years was kind of disheartening. Much like many other band biographies, there are no direct interviews with band members in this book. While the author had 13 people interviewed for the book for details, they asked to remain anonymous, thus the book doesn't have that direct appeal or personality.

Grade: C

Reckless Road: Guns N' Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction: This book is unique in a way where it solely focuses on the time before and during the band making their debut album Appetite for Destruction. There are tons of pictures and behind-the-scenes photos of the band during that time and it gives the book that personal feeling. Marc Canter, personal friend of the band during the early days, compiled the book together and framed the book by detailing all of the gigs and venues the band did leading up to making their debut album. Canter even listed all of the set lists the band did and you can clearly see when and where the band debut all of the songs that would eventually land on Appetite. Details like that made this book very interesting to read.

Grade: B+

An Oral/Visual History by The Red Hot Chili Peppers: The band collaborated with author Brendan Mullen by giving their own accounts of the band's 20+ year history. There were even interviews from past members of the band which provided that extra little detail to the topics. In addition, there are tons of photos throughout the book that give a different outlook that other books tend to be missing. The structure of the book is a little confusing since it just jumps around from subject to subject. The titles of each "chapter" are taken from a song by RHCP so it’s unclear on what's about to be presented. Nonetheless, the book is very informative and expressed new facts that I previously didn't know.

Grade: B

Let's See Who Passed My Test...

Billy says:

Some quick reviews of musician books I've read over the years. I'm always on the lookout for suggestions too!

Slash (Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver, and solo career): Very detailed orientated account of the guitarist's life and career. He talked about the formation of Guns N' Roses, his reasons on why GNR broke up, his various solo projects during and after GNR's demise, his marriage, his drug addictions and recovery and the formation of Velvet Revolver. I really enjoyed the immense detail behind his song writing and other tidbits, like what guitars he used for which songs. Other than some grammar errors, the book is highly recommended.

Grade: A-

Scar Tissue (Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers): The book talked about Kiedis' life starting from his birth all the way to around 2004. The book delves heavily into Kiedis' various battles of drug addiction and is very detailed about his thinking and opinions during those times. I did enjoy his explanations behind many of the lyrics for various RHCP songs but like his lyrics, his explanations and phrasing of words could be confusing. 

Grade: B

Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir (Dave Mustaine of Megadeth): As the first lead guitarist for Metallica to his entire career with Megadeth, Mustaine doesn't miss a beat with this book offering. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed because I felt it focused too much on his personal life and his new found outlook on religion. Being the front man of a massive metal band, I thought Mustaine would go into way more detail of his music career but he only offered a few details regarding each of the band's albums; so much for the subtitle of "Heavy Metal Memoir".

Grade: C

It's So Easy: and other Lies (Duff McKagan of Guns N' Roses, Loaded, and Velvet Revolver): McKagan is one of the bassists that had a huge influence on my bass playing so this book was very high on my anticipation list. Fortunately, the book delivered and is highly recommended. He goes into heavy detail of the bands he's been in over the years, the background of his musical upbringings and his recovery from alcohol addiction. The last half of the book explained his new outlook of living a healthy lifestyle along with pursuing business ventures and martial arts. Articulate guy and the book content are very comprehensive.

Grade: A

I Am Ozzy (Ozzy Osbourne): It's a gigantic narrative of the singer's career and it does take a little while to get used to his rambling and "distinct" manner of speaking. But after that, his stories are hilarious, enlightening, interesting, weird, and bizarre. The book has its charm but the subject matter can twist and turn at a drop of a hat. 

Grade: B

Lifting Shadows: The Authorized Biography of Dream Theater: The book is a very large and thorough account of Dream Theater's 25+ year lifespan starting from its humble beginnings of three guys from Berklee's College of Music. Its layout is told through mostly quotes from the band members extracted from interviews and statements so it's not a firsthand experience. I really enjoyed the chronicles of the band's career and the book presented many previously unknown facts about the band to me. The only detraction is the author inserts his own personal opinions on other bands and Dream Theater's catalog and his perspective is a little ridiculous.

Grade: A-

My Life with Deth (David Ellefson of Megadeth): When you think of Megadeth, one could think of just front man Dave Mustaine but there has been another person in the band since the beginning and that's bassist Ellefson. I liked the book because he doesn't mention Mustaine a lot and instead talks about the band from his own point of view. He delves into his lows of addiction but also highs of his success, staying sober and finding religion. Like Mustaine's book, he does talk a lot about religion and I respect that but sometimes that subject is not for everyone. Still, it's very recommended.

Grade: B