New Song?

Got another rough cut for you all.  Have a listen and let me know what you think!

We have a simple intro that leads into a pretty bluesy progression at 0:41.  The banjo parts on this will be great, I’m certain.

Also, keep in mind that this should be recorded on acoustic guitar, but I used my electric to make it easy to go from clean to distorted.

Anyhow, at about 1:36 we reach this transition that leads into a heavier chord progression.  I can hear some strong clear-throated singing with perhaps some screaming mixed in.  This allows for the portrayal of strong emotion.

At 2:14 though, we definitely invoke some death metal influence.  This makes this song a good candidate for Track 7, which has the epic battle between Abram and the lynch mob.  The breakdown that starts at 2:27 seals the deal for me. (It’s repetitive right now though, needs to be spruced up!)

There is much work to be done on this song, but again, it’s a start.  I didn’t write this with Track 7 in mind, but knowing this now will help me shape this song into something appropriate.

You may have noticed that each track has its own page now. From here it should be easy to track the progress of each song. Check it out in the left menu!

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From Story to Album: Tracks 6-10

Not a bad start, but now we need some more action, and a good climax and resolution.

We return to our saga the morning after Abram’s transformation.  His work did not go unnoticed, and the town soon learns his crimes.

Track #6

The town courier returns downtown after an early morning delivery to Abram’s house.  He never made the delivery, though, as he witnessed Abram dispose of his wife and dig a grave for his children. The town is deeply disturbed, and a leader emerges from the crowd.

This leader decides that a lynch mob is in order, and motivates everyone to storm Abram’s property that very evening.  The song ends with them chanting something as they fade out into the distance.

Track #7

Back on Abram’s estate, he is singing as he finishes a large monument in honor of his family and Jesus’ word.  He notices a crowd coming up his drive and there is confrontation between him and the lynch mob leader.

Scouts have already stolen Abram’s axe, but Abram is completely dedicated to his new purpose.  Should the mob not stand down, he swears to kill them all with his banjo, and then go to work on everyone left in the town. A battle ensues.

Now, I don’t have music or lyrics yet, but for some reason the words “100 MURDERS, 5 STRINGS” come to mind.  I think I’ll keep them…

clearly, i’m a photoshop expert

Track #8

After what will be a whirlwind of death metal electric guitars, we’ll go into one last instrumental.  This song will represent Abram’s rampage through the town, and the heaven’s lamenting response.  Hm, I suppose I’m gonna need a chorus of “angels.”

Track #9

Abram returns home to find that his wife has been resurrected and has given birth!  There is another duet, and his wife tries to convince Abram to raise the son.  He entertains the thought, but realizes that she has been turned evil. He breaks his banjo over her, killing her at last.

He is then left with the newborn, and must kill it with his bare hands to fulfill his task.  But he cannot. The boy is the only family he has left, and Abram gives in to mercy for the child.  He decides to raise it.

Track #10

This will be the closer: a song about the impending doom and certain apocalypse.  At this point, Abram doesn’t care that his son is the spawn of Satan, he is going to do whatever it takes to make the boy happy.  If there is any song that will be completely metal on the album, this will be it.

Well, there you have it. Now we have a good starting point for lyrics! Though it looks like I’ll have to do some more recruiting as well… Progress continues though, so that must be good!

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From Story to Album: Tracks 1-5

We have a complete story. Great.  Still lots of work though. Our next step now is to divide the plot into logical pieces that are appropriate for individual songs.

The challenge here is to break up the story into coherent sections. Each song must have a consistent theme and cover important developments along these lines. However, we can’t bog down the lyrics with too much storytelling (we can’t have 20 tracks either.)

I think I’m going to aim for 10 tracks total, including a few instrumentals, though that’s not final.

Here are descriptions of the first 5.

Track #1

This has to be an instrumental intro track, obviously. Something to set the tone and introduce blackgrass to the listener. This will be much like the opening overture to your typical musical stage production.

but please don’t ever compare Blood and Banjos to RENT…

Track #2

Abram is drinking and playing banjo alone by the fire, and is soon joined by The Apparition (Satan posing as Jesus.) They go back and forth singing and discussing the Apparition’s claim that Abram’s wife is pregnant with the Antichrist.

This song will end with Abram committing to doing “God’s work,” and leaving the fire to kill his sleeping wife.

Track #3

This song will be an emotional duet between Abram and his wife. Abram is hesitant and sad, yet still goes through with it. I’m thinking that if any song will feature solely bluegrass, this will be it. I already have ideas with the “insert banjo” song that I posted earlier.

Track #4

Abram is morally overwhelmed, and is starting to lose grip on reality. This song will represent his change from sane to bat shit crazy. He takes his duties to the next level and butchers his sleeping children. Abram has completely lost it, however, he does have renewed purpose in his life! We all need something…

Track #5

I’m thinking a short instrumental or a choral piece would go well here to take us elsewhere in the story. Perhaps even some third person narrative. We’ll see!  If we ever bring some piano into the project, this will be the spot.

So, there is half of the album! Well, music aside

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Who Says Bluegrass Isn’t Metal Already?

Alright, folks.  I must apologize for my lack of content this week.  I’m in the middle of moving, and you know how that goes

In the meantime, please enjoy this video. It is fantastic for several reasons.

First off, this guy’s hair.  It’s incredible.

Besides that though, this music actually shows quite a few similarities to metal.

Firstly, the musicians are just shredding it.  Especially Bill Monroe, who is none other than the father of bluegrass.  The music is mostly in a minor tonality, has a fast tempo, and a good intensity.

Check out the guitar solo at 3:03.  An important note to make is that acoustic guitar strings are stiffer and more spaced than electric guitar strings, making it slightly more difficult to play quickly.  I’m sure this guy would just kill it in a metal band.

Finally, if you’re not convinced, check out minute 4:20.  Is that not the most metal stance you’ve ever seen a mandolinist take?

The Father of Bluegrass and this guy have more in common than you might think.

Anyhow, I thought the song was pretty rockin…  See if you can find other similarities between bluegrass and metal, and let me know!

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Southern Metal Influence

As I previously had warned, I’m likely to bring some southern metal into this project. What is southern metal, you say?  Well, take southern rock and make it a more intense, more technical, and add more screaming vocals.  There you go.

Some of the most renown bands in this genre include Every Time I Die and Maylene and the Sons of Disaster (or The Jonbenét, if you’re into southern hardcore instead.)  Other bands such as He is Legend and Memphis May Fire used to have a good hold on it, but have definitely dropped out with their more recent albums.

Here’s a good tune from my favorite band, Every Time I Die.

So I’m a big fan of southern metal, if you couldn’t tell.  Maybe it is apparent in this rough sample, which starts off with a metal riff before going cold turkey into a more bluegrassy progression.  I keep the progression going extra long so I can think about melodies and vocals for the future.

Again, I promise sound quality will get better than this.

So let’s break this down. It starts out with fast paced riffage that will likely warrant screaming vocals.  It’s a far cry from black metal, but that’s not a deal-breaker. I think southern metal provides a good bridge between black metal and bluegrass, but I’ll try to avoid sounding too much like my influences.

Anyhow, I found a way to flow from the riff straight into a more folk-sounding progression.  Right now it’s still recorded with electric guitar, and probably doesn’t come across as very bluegrassy. I think if this is going to be usable, we’ll have to rely on the instrumentation to bring it to proper bluegrass stature. Getting this to the right level of black metal is another issue though, but the theme may help us out…

I’ve decided that I’m not throwing this guy out, but he needs quite a bit of work. Your thoughts?

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Solidifying a Storyline, Part 2

Alright, so we left off with Abram killing his wife and kids. We haven’t specified the exact location or era of this story, but I’m still pretty sure this is illegal.

Anyhow, the town courier makes his way to deliver some mail to Abram’s residence the next morning, and discovers what has transpired over night. (Perhaps he witnesses Abram hacking his wife and discarding her into the well.) Aghast, the courier runs back into town to report what he has seen.

she chose down

Of course, his story earns much attention on Main Street, and the town leader quickly rallies everyone together. He decides they are going to hang Abram that very evening.

They storm Abram’s property, but not before sending a scout in to steal his axe.  There is a verbal confrontation, and Abram explains that his mission is a divine one, and they should not stand in his way.  When they persist, Abram threatens to kill them all (including the remaining townspeople) with naught but his banjo.

And guess what, folks.  He totally does.

It’s an awesomely violent battle, and we’ve got a front row seat… except we can’t see anything… because it’s a music album.

After taking care of the lynch mob, Abram ventures downtown to finish off the populous.

…and the heavens lament.

Once he is satisfied with his work, Abram returns home to rest. To his surprise, he finds his wife resurrected and holding a newborn baby.  A duet ensues, of course.

His wife has obviously been converted, and attempts to persuade Abram to raise the son.  Abram is convinced for just long enough to kiss his wife one last time, before breaking his banjo across her skull. She is gone for good.

Abram is left with his newborn son, or rather Satan’s newborn son. His entire mission has been about preventing this from happening, and now he must fulfill his task. His banjo broken and axe elsewhere, Abram decides to do it with his bare hands.

He holds up the child, looks it in the eyes, and realizes that this boy is all he has left.  His family and friends are gone, and Abram would be completely alone without his new son.

So he lets the boy live.

Together they bring about the apocalypse to the tune of dueling banjos!


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Moving on to Transitions

As I’ve been jamming lately, I’m discovering an interesting issue.  Do I make music that is simultaneously black metal and bluegrass, or do I write songs that incorporate both genres distinctly?

i'm just not sure...

I think there are merits in each option, and I’d like to accomplish both.  When a song incorporates both bluegrass and metal, however, there arises the issue of transitions.  In my first try at blackgrass, we noticed a pretty rough transition going from clean to distorted guitars. This is not always bad, however, if used correctly.

Let’s talk about the various categories of transitions, and how they are utilized. I’m not talking transitions between chord progressions here, or going from verse to chorus.  I’m talking transitioning between two very different feels or rhythms.  It can be tricky to pull off, but when done well it can really add to the music.

I don’t want to infringe on any copyright, so I’m using music from my old band DQ=Victory.  It’s a different genre, but we did utilize many transitions.

I.) The Guitar Riff / Drum Fill

This technique is one of my preferred methods for transitioning.  It’s quick, efficient, and allows for some musically creative writing. This is actually what I used in the “First Blood” track that I posted.  Here is a good example of a lead in guitar riff that takes us from the chorus to a swinging breakdown.

Here is another example of a transition that highlights the drums.

We have too many of these to share, but I think you get the idea.

II.) The Cold Turkey

This type of transition is represented by the absence of one.  The song abruptly goes from one feel to the next without any warning.  My band typically didn’t use these, but they are definitely effective for shock value, and accentuating the change itself.  Here is the only example I could find that is abrupt (Notice we smooth it over when we add drums.)

III.) The Black Hole

When the music stops completely for a few beats then comes back in with a vengeance, this is called a black hole.  It’s very dramatic and builds anticipation and tension.  Now that I think about it, this technique is also used in just about every explosion you see in sci-fi movies or video games…

Anyhow, the next example is from a rough draft that my band never recorded in the studio.

IV.) The Build Up and Release

This is actually more of a “bridge,”  but it is definitely a widely used technique. It is also commonly used in conjunction with The Guitar Riff / Drum Fill or The Black Hole:
(builds up, builds up even more, stops… BOOM).

Here is DQV’s example.

V.) The Stranger

Of course, there are some transitions that defy explanation.  Or they incorporate unique musical aspects that are not repeated elsewhere.  One example might be a horse neighing right before a down beat, or a sound clip from a movie (Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes are the best…)  The possibilities are endless.

In this example going from a breakdown to a new chord progression, my old band used an acoustic guitar strum with Latin flavor, then added choir-like harmonies.  It comes out of nowhere, but I love the effect!

VI.) The Sneak Peak (aka Foreshadowing)

This is what happens when you get a little preview before it really transitions.  I don’t have a sound clip, but imagine a chorus that has a short break filled with a guitar riff.  We return to the last measure of the chorus, finish it up, then it goes cold turkey into a breakdown using the guitar riff we just heard.  Happens all the time…

Anyhow, you can see we have plenty of options. (Let me know if you think of any others!) Some are innappropriate for our use, but I’ll see what I can do.

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