Heavy Halleluja

As previously claimed in this blog, a distinct heaviness is indisputably inherent in a wide variety of  classical music. Have a choir of 50 onstage, percussions, several basses, a heavy set of cellos, and tubas – the atmosphere will make your hair stand on end!

Georg Frideric Handel as painted by Balthasar Denner in 1726 to 1728

Georg Frideric Handel as painted by Balthasar Denner in 1726 to 1728

A master of dramatic shows and powerful melodies was German Baroque composer Georg Friedrich Händel, who was born in 1685 and settled permanently in London in 1712, adopting the name George Frideric Handel. Aged 56, Handel created his world-famous oratorio “Messiah”, which was completed with biblical lyrics. An extensive musical concert piece employing choir and soloists next to an orchestra is called ‘oratorio’. Although the soloists often impersonate particular (musical) characters, they are neither costumed nor do they act in any way but by song. Handel’s “Messiah” premiered in Dublin on the 13th of April 1742 and today is one of the most popular choral works of Western origin. It mostly reflects on Jesus Christ’s role as Messiah and is therefore preferably played around Christmas time. The most influential and famous melody of Part II is its closing sequence, “Hallelujah”. Since I have been listening to it during a church concert yesterday, I have been longing to share with you this great and festive melody.

For Christmas I give you “Hallelujah” as performed by the ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien (ORF radio symphonic orchestra of Vienna), the Wiener Singakademie (singing academy of Vienna) and the Wiener Sängerknaben ( Viennese boy’s choir) in 2010.


I wish you all a relaxing, peaceful and happy Christmas and hope you thoroughly enjoy the New Year’s celebrations!


Outsider Section – Popcorn

Of course non-Heavy Metal musicians have produced instrumentals as well. A very famous, purely electronic instrumental is Hot Butter’s “Popcorn” (1972), a cover version of the original instrumental by Gershon Kingsley (1969). The German-American composer Kingsley pioneered in electronic music and extensively used the analog Moog synthesizer to create exceptional music. Just compare both versions of the song. The link at the bottom leads to a beautiful piano version of the song, played by 85-year-old Gershon Kingsley himself.



Voiceless Heavyness

We all know these Heavy Metal opponents, who grimace whenever they hear the screams, screeches or growls typical of heavy music. Feeling the urge to spread my favourite music all the same, to make Heavy Metal’s instrumental beauty available for the tentative, I went for the one form that connects Metal to any other musical genre in the world: I introduced my faint-hearted victims to instrumentals!

There is hardly any category of music around the world that strictly depends on vocals (no Hip-Hop, no R’n’B, definitely no Schlager without a singer, I suppose). Purely instrumental songs did not only emerge in indigenous cultures, but were popular in every musical era from baroque styles to Viennese Classicism, from Romanticism to Jazz, Swing and Folk music. It is said that one of the oldest instrumental tradition originates in India, where musicians played the nadaswaram (the world’s loudest non-brass acoustic wind instrument) and the tavil (a drum shaped like a barrel, of which one side is played with the hand and thumbcaps and the other with a thick stick). The tradition of creating music purely centred on the instruments has not ceased to be a matter of fascination.

Since wikipedia (I am aware that this is a debatable source…) states that an instrumental “might include some inarticulate vocal input”, the first heavy instrumental I want to introduce to you contains quite a number of imported audio records. Machine Head’s debut album (“Burn my Eyes”, 1994 ) features “Real Eyes. Realize. Real Lies.”, which – upon listening very closely – actually contains a critical message, albeit remaining rather simple musically. It can be called instrumental even though vocalist Robb Flynn screams once towards the end of the song, because he merely utters the title’s five words.

Helping to establish the instrumental by putting it to the test were Black Sabbath, who recorded “Rat Salad” for their second album “Paranoid” in 1970. It is a classic example of Tony Iommi’s modern, skillful guitar play and Bill Ward’s occasional epileptic drumming seizures, both of which fit together perfectly to create a hitherto unknown sound.

Stunning guitar work and a martial rhythm characterise legendary British Art Rock band Queen’s instrumental “Chinese Torture” (from “Kind of Magic”, 1989). I am not sure about the connection to the method of Chinese water torture, which means the slow dripping of water onto the victim’s forehead until he or she retreats into insanity. Indeed, Brian May’s guitar experiments might seem like torture to some listener’s ears, but they are fascinating all the same.

Since Heavy Metal veterans Metallica are undoubtedly the kings of prolonged intros and endless riffing before getting to the point, it is small wonder that they have produced a number of excellent instrumentals. In fact, they appear to get quite lost in their music now and then – with pleasant results! In their instrumental “Suicide & Redemption” (from “Death Magnetic”, 2008) they seem to create an invisible storyline, because the song guides the listener through different stages. It’s quite an artistic journey, Metallica riffing at length as usual but – for once – with the sole purpose of doing so.

James Hetfield likes his little joke (“Should I tell them the title – I mean, that’s stupid..? – Ok, you’ll know it!” – Do they?). Enjoy a high-quality live performance, and while you’re at it, pay attention to Robert Trujillo‘s awesome bass work!

It was October this year when the latest record of my Scandinavian favourites Scar Symmetry, “The Singularity (Phase 1: Neohumanity)”, was published. I fell for their guitar solo-centred instrumental “Children of the Integrated Circuit” immediately. It’s a shame that this of all tracks is not available on youtube. However, I found an amazing guitar cover by a user called Jamie Williams, which I urgently want to share with you because it is extremely close to the original, and I find it fascinating to watch his fingers work.

Having no voice to sing for it doesn’t make a song voiceless.