The Rock Band Network is an invaluable source of new music but, perhaps because of the quantity of songs or the unfamiliar nature of the artists, it can be a little hard to find the type of music you want. As a tester and charter for the Rock Band Network, I get a lot of exposure to songs coming through the pipeline and there are definitely songs that deserve more recognition. This feature will help you discover new favorites, find a new challenge, and support the independent Rock Band scene. Each week I’ll highlight one new Xbox 360 song, one new PS3 song, and even a song released awhile back – all of them worthy of a listen!
Dance for the Dying are taking over the RBN channels this week, with this song releasing on the Xbox 360 and two more coming to the PS3 (and deservedly so!). With synth-infused rock and melodic, beautiful vocals – not to mention superb instrumentation and production – with Death in the Garden, Dance for the Dying’s self-titled EP becomes available in its entirety on the Rock Band Network. If you’re a fan of Metric you cannot afford to ignore this band – especially because, at 80 MSP a track, these songs are a steal!
An ascending spacey synth begins the song before it kicks off with a driving beat and some meaty bass. It’s a bouncy bass track that keeps you constantly moving around the frets, while the keys track switches between synth and glockenspiel to change things up a little. Once guitar enters – a mix of different chords that might require some alt-strumming – you’ll already be caught up in the moment. Drums continue, offering a few different patterns that focus a little more on the toms, while bass and guitar plug away.
It’s the vocals are stunning in this song and are equally impressive in other Dance for the Dying tracks. The harmonies on this particular track are worthy of note; there are some ‘oohs’ that, if sung properly, will sound truly amazing. There’s incredible range at play here, including dynamics as well so prepare to sing softly, loudly, high and low! It’s also worth mentioning that the lyrics are wonderfully macabre for such an upbeat song – I don’t believe I’ve ever repeatedly sung ‘decomposition’ with such verve before.
If you haven’t done so already, take a listen to the song in the video. You’ll see that it’s the perfect fit for Rock Band and, again, the 80 MSP price point is fantastic for such radio-ready fare as this. The remainder of their EP is up for purchase as well – Thug Love and Kitty Fight Song are two other favorites – and let’s just hope there’s more to come from the band in the near future!
Sounds like: Metric
Perfect for: Vocalists, keys, full band
It’s not everyday that you get to sing Bible quotes as part of a quasi-prog-rock song but Eden’s Curse provide that very opportunity as No Holy Man comes to the RBN, bringing with it excellent charts and rock pedigree in the form of Dream Theater lead vocalist James LaBrie. While it’s not as fast or complicated as some other metal/progressive songs, No Holy Man is a worthy candidate for your Rock Band library thanks to interesting charts that leave no band member forgotten.
Thanks to the epic vocals of Mr. LaBrie, this song is really one for vocalists to get their teeth into (or should that be vocal chords?). Everything that you’ve heard from Dream Theater is present here – the range is huge, often staying in the hard to hit upper reaches although long, drawn out phrases allow singers unfamiliar with the song the time needed to find a particular note. Lyrics prominently featuring Biblical quotes and prayers are just the right side of awesome – especially given the song title – that they feel grander rather than a little weird similar to Ozzy’s use of crosses and such. Harmonies add texture to the chorus, tending towards layered vocals rather than counter-melodies. That’s not to say they are any less difficult; there are some phrases that will take a few listens to nail down but, again, the extended note tubes mean that some vocal experimentation will eventually hit upon the right pitch.
Guitar and drums provide the meat of the song. Drums are a heavy, relatively straightforward set of patterns (at least for the majority of the song) that are constantly changing but never stray into arm-flailing wackiness. Nearer the denouement of the song they ratchet up the tempo a little, with a brief emphasis on kickpedal that provides an appropriately grandiose outro. However, it’s a short and snappy flourish that won’t cause too many to fail out. Guitar follows suit – an unostentatious beginning with solos and technical noodlery later in the song – but the initial simplicity doesn’t diminish its power. If anything, it’s the perfect difficulty curve; warming you up with some power chords before throwing you some challenging skittles down the board.
Bass provides a muscular rhythm accompaniment. There’s not a whole lot of opportunity to show off – it sticks to triplets for the most part – but the occasional hammer-on will keep you on your toes. Far more apt to impress would be the keyboard track – everything from Europe-esque synths to diabolic organ is represented here in an expertly charted track that’ll challenge even the most jaded ivory-ticklers.
No Holy Man is a must for anyone looking for a smart, impressive metal song with excellent production values. Top that off with a frankly ludicrous 80 MSP price tag – for a near six-minute song! – and it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a worthy purchase.
Sounds like: Unmistakably Dream Theater
Perfect for: Vocalists, guitarists, keys
Throwback: Poets of the Fall – Lift
This past week saw the long-awaited return of everyone’s lovable alcoholic detective Max Payne. While a lot has changed since the last entry – way back in 2003 – Max is still a grumpy so-and-so and the game is a welcome return to his seedy, corrupt world. However, one thing lost in the transition between studios was the attachment of original developer Remedy and the band Poets of the Fall. Their song, ‘Late Goodbye’, was a pitch perfect ballad that capped Max Payne 2 off in such a poignant way.
While they haven’t composed a song for Max Payne 3 (leave that to the band HEALTH) the media blitz surrounding the game inspired me to replay Lift by Poets of the Fall, available through the RBN. Again a result of their connections to the games industry, Lift might be familiar to anyone using the 3D Mark software in 2006 – it was the end credits song for the pixel-pushing software.
Lift is another example of a relatively high-profile band that would tend not to get a look in as regular DLC but which shines through the RBN. With soaring vocals, an instantly recognizable guitar riff and a chorus that will linger in the mind for hours, Lift is a fantastic debut for Poets of the Fall on the RBN. Markus Kaarlonen has a distinctive vocal timbre which gives the impression that the song will be easy to sing but in actuality is pretty tricky. Add in the fact that there’s often not a whole lot of space to breathe and it nudges the difficulty up a little bit.
Watch out for the flipping hard solo from nowhere half way into the song – it’s a sure winner to send that crowd-meter shoot down if you aren’t ready for it. Bass and drums chug along nicely although, being an RBN 1.0 version, the drums are susceptible to a few wrong cymbals if you’re playing Pro Drums.
Poets of the Fall are a band so ingrained in the gaming landscape, from Max Payne to Alan Wake, that it’d be a shame not to see any more songs from them hit the RBN, especially Late Goodbye. In the meantime, check out Lift – it’s catchy, fun and will probably trigger mild nostalgia for a few PC users to boot!
Sounds like: Finnish awesomesauce (aka the soundtrack to any Remedy game)
Perfect for: Vocalists, guitarists fond of short but difficult solos