When evaluating the musical art form, songwriting ability ranks as the highest determinant to a band’s long term success. When I say long term, I’m talking decades.
The latest catchy pop-tune that skyrockets up the charts might have temporary appeal, but ultimately if a song fades from existence you can bet it didn’t have that nearly unachievable touch of songwriting that is known to only the greatest bands of all time.
Seeing as music is an obsession of mine, I like to think about and debate the factors that make a song so damn memorable or full of feeling. I study the greats and try to hone in on different elements that push them to the top.
As far as bands go, The Beatles are the Titans of songwriting, with an overall appeal that will never be forgotten. Just my opinion.
My bandmates and I have written a total of 5 songs over the course of about 2-3 years. This doesn’t sound like much, but we generally have taken the time to really think about it and try to come up with something people will dig, especially live.
That being said, I wanted to break down the first track we ever wrote and give you a window into the mind of a musician at work.
Take a few minutes to listen to the damn song, or the rest of the article is meaningless.
“Storming the Castle” is a war epic inspired by books like Game of Thrones and stylistically influenced by some of our favorite classic metal bands. We play in Eb tuning, mainly because this gives the singer a slight break in a live setting. Unless you are professional and make it your life, it is difficult for a singer to maintain stamina and pitch over the course of an hour+ set.
0:00 – 0:32 – The song opens with a chuggy triplet attack, inspired by one of our favorite bands Iron Maiden. The chords follow a simple E-D-C-D pattern that is quite common in many genres of music. Many times there is no reason at all to get overly complicated. Keeping it simple let’s you pile on other elements to create your song.
Because we use a twin-guitar attack, we had to toss a harmony in the opening sequence, something Maiden does better than most.
0:32 – 1:00 – As you can see, we employ clean, falsetto vocals. I personally find this far more appealing than the average growl/death scream band. You’ll see shortly how it translates live. The execution of this was actually suggested by our friend Danny who played bass for us originally, but ended up parting ways due to life commitments. He had a real knack for song writing, and felt that that “wavy” execution heard at :35 was the way to transition from line to line. There is probably a musical term for this but I have no idea what it is.
The chugging pattern remains but we switch up the chord pattern slightly, to distinguish the verse from the main riff sequence.
1:01 – 1:30 – We all drop hard into the chorus, adding more of a halftime beat while letting chords ring out over the vocals. This let’s the singer really go for it on the vocals without competing with an overly complex riff.
1:31 – 1:45 – This is what I like to call “returning to the song.” After the first chorus, we return to the main drive down chug street. This time we come straight in with the harmonies, unlike in the beginning where we introduced the riff first.
1:45 – 2:43 – 2nd verse, 2nd chorus.
2:44 – 3:26 – This is where the song really comes into fruition, and begins the “build.” Now we hit the same chord progression as the chug but with open chords. This keeps the “feel” and let’s the vocals and lead guitar really shine through. The crowd tends to love this change of pace, because we set them up for another ride on the chug train.
If you listen closely, the number of bars is not quite the same as we change patterns during this segment and into the solo. Also, the vocal-guitar harmony was suggested by ex-bassist Danny.
3:36 – 3:55 – Solo. Just sit back an enjoy. Our lead player Ronan actually came up with most of this on the fly during a live show a year prior. We particularly loved how he ended it, which was caught on tape (below). We all immediately agreed that this execution needed to be in the recording.
3:56 – 4:10 – Bam, right back into the harmony chug. As the tension builds the crowd always responds to this transition.
4:25 – 4:40 – My favorite part of the song. Ronan began fucking around with licks during a few practice sessions and this came out on the fly. I immediately told him to remember it and that it had to be on the track. In Show Stealer, I discuss the idea of simply winging it from time to time, in practice and while recording. I personally love this touch to the third verse, and how it lines up with the words “our only hope…” This does not appear in the live video because he hadn’t come up with it yet. Now it’s a real headbanger during our set.
4:40 – 5:38 – Final chorus. Two times through this time.
5:39 – end – “Ride into the sunset.” We had originally ended this track the way we do on stage, with a big rock ending. I thought that it deserved more of a “record” feel to it so I suggested we return to the main chug and fade out with a power scream.
Storming the Castle – Live
I am a firm believer in the live performance. It should give the audience something to remember, and anything you do on the record should translate to the stage show.
Always treat it the same though….
Reward the fans
Guys, I am just an average guy that couldn’t play a damn thing just a few years ago. I’m still not even that good – but I get to live out the moments I always dreamed of through hard work and dedication.
Piece of shit venue that no longer exists – 2013
Here’s us rocking the song at some troll-hole of a bar. Quality ain’t great but you get the point. Primo the drummer was a bit wacked on this one, playing a rapid pace near the end. We were ready for it though…always be ready for drummer-off-the rails (compared to normal pace). The stage was so small you could barely move.
The Trocadero Theatre w/ Game of Thrones Intro – 2014
Our singer is friends with a guy who put us on as the headlining band for a local showcase. This one put the nerves through the roof but again, treat it like any other show, and the sound will be there. When we played our first gig in 2012, I thought we should do something to set us apart from other bands. My idea was to play the Game of Thrones theme because the show had been gaining popularity and people connect with it. Now it is our “signature” opening and if we don’t do it, people bitch!