Anatomy of an Album: The Classic Approach

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Take a look at the first three entries in our Groundbreakers series and think back to some of the objectively greatest metal albums of all time. Do you notice any trends or commonalities? An argument can be made that every great metal release shares a certain number of traits, and although these variables vary in significance, they all still contribute something to the successful model. A groundbreaking album requires excellent, memorable songs. It needs to be both a culmination of the great works that preceded it and to look forward to the evolution of the genre. It needs timeless album art that will accentuate the mood. However, an often overlooked but absolutely essential component is the track arrangement. Sure, not all albums follow the same path; there is plenty of room for variation in album construction that allows different tones and emotions to take root. Each path, though, should accomplish the same goal: creating a memorable and engaging experience throughout.

Great albums rarely just come together by accident. Many artists will write songs out of order from how they appear on the final master, but there is almost always some intent to the way the final songs are arranged. An album should start and end with some purpose in mind. Gene Hoglan once commented that the force of the first Dethalbum was lessened by a strange track arrangement. Great albums avoid that pitfall, and a tried and true method to doing so is the center of our discussion in this post. Today, we’re examining one model of track arrangement: the classic approach.

When I say “classic,” I’m referring to the timeless, relatively conventional track listing that almost never fails. The sort of arrangement that follows a well-trod path that never forsakes quality for ingenuity. This classic approach can be found on some of the greatest metal albums of all time, but where does it come from? To be honest, I’m not quite sure. However, it certainly has its parallels in some of the most timeless pieces of literature, drama, and oral tradition. In many ways, the classic approach to album construction follows the standard plot diagram so often employed in the greatest novels ever written. For those of you who don’t remember your high school English Lit classes, Exhibit A below shows the standard plot diagram.

Exhibit A: The Plot Diagram

The formula, however simplistic, works because it engages readers (or listeners) all along the process. Think of any classic novel or play you’ve ever read. Great Expectations. Julius Caesar. The Illiad. The Hobbit. They all essentially follow the same format, and in every case it works.

All of these stories that we as humanity collectively carry in our consciousness follow a format of rising tension before the climax breaks. We crave that tension because it makes the conclusion feel justified. It hooks our imagination and captivates us, carrying us along for the ride. A great album does the same thing. Therefore, the following tracklisting displays the classical and quintessential approach to album construction.

Track 1: The introduction – This can be either an introductory track or the actual first track with a slight introductory portion, but most classic albums employ some sort of tone-setting development at the beginning. Often a slow instrumental build transitions into a full-blown frenzy, setting the pace for what is to come.

Tracks 2-6: The rising action – These tracks build the drama of the album. They don’t all have to be the same pace. In fact, stronger albums tend to vary the rhythm and song length here to take listeners up steps with false peaks and plateaus. Often, slight changes are used to lull the listener into a sense of calm before again introducing a variation into the mix to galvanize interest. However, when examined in the meta-context of the album itself, each little hill and valley still leads ever upward to the summit.

Track 7: The climax – The climax can take many forms. It may be a jarring and emotive instrumental track. It may be a somber ballad. It is always a powerful moment that strips the listener of their preconceived notions and leaves them vulnerable. The journey has led to this point, and some resolution must be achieved. Changes in tone and keys signify that the end is nigh, that the voyage is almost at an end. In many ways, this track, wherever it falls, is the most important part of the album.

Track 8: The falling action/denouement – Often on metal records the two last steps are one and the same. Listeners are led back down the path, but at a much more emotionally charged state. The final track may fade into nothingness (a resolution), or it may simply blast its way downward until coming to an abrupt halt (falling action). Either way, the journey is completed, and the listener is left on some other plane, never again able to view the world as before.

Skeptical? You have every right to be, but let’s examine a classic album to demonstrate the ubiquity of this archetype. Press play on Metallica‘s Master of Puppets and see if you can follow the trajectory above.

Track 1: “Battery” – Yep, those guitars set the mood and provide all the introduction we need.

Tracks 2 through 6: “Master of Puppets,” “The Thing That Should Not Be,” “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” “Disposable Heroes,” and “Leper Messiah” – As each track builds upon the one before it, you are driven along by the invisible hands of the creators, gaining elevation towards some end goal, some point of no return. Each little variation, each valley and each subsequent crest, energizes your adrenaline and pulls you like the twitch upon the thread.

Track 7: “Orion” – It is on this track that the levee breaks. All expectations are laid bare, and the listener is given a quiet moment to collect his or her thoughts and reflect on all that has transpired. The melody strips away all pretense and exposes the vulnerability at the listener’s heart. The only way left now is down.

Track 8: “Damage, Inc.” – Metallica opted to simply conclude the album on a falling note. The fast and vicious “Damage, Inc.” rampages downward, rocketing the listener back towards the firmament. It is the last shot of adrenaline that allows the listener to finish the journey. After the emotional climax, the only resolution offered is completion. The reward is survival, and for the very perceptive, a strange satisfaction in and longing for the thrill of the adventure. The fast ending is a perfect symmetry of the beginning, concluding a perfect album.

So, now it’s your turn. Think back to some of your favorite metal records. Do they follow this format? Sound off in the comments.

(Photo VIA)

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
    • Dr. Dubz

      Good example!

    • This really is the perfect album.

    • This album fucking rips.

    • Hotdog Clifford

      This was literally the first album I thought of after reading the article. It is one of my top 5 albums of all time.

    • john

      So, so good.

  • Guacamole Jim

    It’s worth noting that these elements of an album (which I agree with, btw) are also crucial elements for a good individual song.

    The other thing I was thinking about, is how a live concert doesn’t follow this pattern (or it shouldn’t). The concert is a different experience, and should be treated differently:

    Very excellent article!! This bears a re-reading. Just wanted to share my initial thoughts.

    • Stockhausen

      Ooh, good point.

    • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

      Concerts should be a different story. If a band just plays like the album with no emotion you won’t enjoy or remember it fondly. That’s why bands like Rush, The Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead had massive followings and still do even if they’re gone. These bands and many others played with emotion and an intensity very few could match.

    • Akerskronks ov Steele
      • Right.

        • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

          heady stuff…

          • Akerskronks ov Steele

            I remember back when I could do those formulas at the drop of a hat. Can’t remember shit now.

          • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

            me neither, lol!

          • Maik Beninton

            It didn’t got real, It got complex.

      • i think Deafheaven fits in the hyperborean black metal category!

  • The Beargod

    As great as this article is, it leaves me a little unconvinced. I can see what you are saying and it’s good and true but something, possibly your album of choice, keeps me from agreeing. Which could also be a matter of personal preference.

    • Dr. Dubz

      I don’t think this format is the only one available. In fact, some albums, like Mastery’s VALIS, are powerful because they don’t follow this archetype and follow more of a sinusoidal shape.

      • The Beargod

        *Googles sinusoidal, agrees upon*

      • RepostedA7XFan2

        Nobody likes a music nerd.

        -Rampant Redneck, 2 months ago

      • EsusMoose

        Other similar variations of track listings, I’ll use Reign in Blood as it was released near the same time as Master of Puppets. It does set the mood but runs at full speed till the end, so it lacks a falling. You have Sunbather which arguably does this with every duo of tracks, Dream house sets, rises climaxs and then combined with irresistible falls and resolves. tldr: rises,climax,end and making this simple style be set within subset of songs

      • Dagon

        This brought me back to the Acid King album I reviewed. The riffs in that album definitely give it that sinusoidal feeling… but even that one definitely has a musical and lyrical climax and a structure that resembles the one you posted.

  • RepostedA7XFan2

    I hadn’t heard One by metallica b4 i heard the korn version but they definately put some life in it. i liek metallica n everythin but compared to korn they’re version sounded…. well.. flat

    – MaGic_BeaN, 14-10-2004 21:11

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      God damn it, gimme some fucking cunt pics.

      • RepostedA7XFan2

        You probably are sitting in your mothers basement right now eating doritos in a beanbag chair.

        You probably can’t play a musical instrument of any kind, including your ass, if your life depended on it.

        You probably still wear the same shit that you were wearing in 1985.

        You probably have never seen a pussy in your life.

        -Steven Berry • 5 years ago

    • M Shadows!

      HEY! I KILLED YOU! FUCK OFF N STUFF!

  • Tyree
    • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

      Picnic Of Love is better.

      • Tyree

        I Respect Your Feelings As A Woman.

        • Dagon

          but do you respect my Life As A Woman?
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU6l_mprdD4

        • KJM

          Greed is something we don’t need.

          • Tyree

            I’d Love to Have Your Daughter’s Hand in Marriage

          • Akerskronks ov Steele

            Hey I’m not that kind of boy

          • Tyree

            But, she’s My Woman, My Lover, My Friend.

          • JamesGrimm

            ……………………..sister?

    • TheCheezFace

      I like their song ”311 Sucks”. The wigger lyrics make me laugh everytime.

  • The Battle Born NDN

    This album is what I thought of off the top of my head.

    http://youtu.be/msxbcwSucF0

  • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

    A great article, it doesn’t apply to every great album, but it does apply to a lot of them. Its also good that my favourite album of all time follows this almost exactly.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dteL3lvN9h8

    • Dr. Dubz

      Yup. Not ubiquitous by any means, but common enough.

    • Dagon

      Do you know what a “Caralho Voador” is?

      • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

        Its Flying Dick in Portuguese.
        I wish I was kidding.

        • Dagon

          Good to see you know the gospel.

  • Stanley

    Very interesting article, W. This EP that I posted on to the FB group earlier follows your model to a T. And it’s accomplished in only 3 tracks.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtsBlnabHPk

    • Dr. Dubz

      What style is this? I’m keen to check it out.

      • Stanley

        Death. Black. Melodic. FFO Immortal and Dissection IMO. It’s fucking superb.

        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          Fuck, this is excellent so far!

        • Dr. Dubz

          Wow, Stanley, this is ripping.

    • The Beargod

      Total Goodness.

  • The Beargod

    So… I’m just listening to this album… called The Malkuth Grimoire for the second time.
    It’s a good album with no bad songs really, actually only good songs, or so I’d say for now.

    Nothing much stays with me so long that I could recall it after a song though.

    • It’s a grower, but it grows fast, I did’t like it on first listen but the second time it blew me away

      • The Beargod

        I liked it right away ( I skimmed through a lot of it though). No bad songs, but I wish they had released an album and an EP.

        I mean if you’re idea of prog is hard to digest for it’s own sake and the length is your tool…

  • I think a lot of tech death bands lose themselves in their playing and don’t make well structured albums. The ones that do ie: Spawn of Posession, Obscura, Vale of Pnath usually end up as the best ones.

    • EsusMoose

      Most tech death is that way to me, singles songs can be good but full length albums can’t hold up well

    • Dr. Dubz

      I tend to agree with you. The song themselves are often impressive when taking alone, but when trying to absorb a whole album it just becomes a blur.

      • Yea I agree, in the past few months I’ve focused more on the structured ones. I would make the arguement that Archspire are more structured than they let on after hearing the album so many times. But bands that just play crazy with no rhyme or reason dont really do it for me anymore. Also fuck Brain Drill, they are a perfect example of doing it wrong.

        • The Beargod

          Oh oh, more talk about Alkaloid. Why I think I can add them (probably) to the four or five tech bands I like is not just because of their more prog than just tech tendencies, but also because…

          The album is well structured, despite it’s excessive tendency. It follows the pattern above but has sort of multiple climaxes and falls, in which I guess the length does help.

          So well constructed that it’s rather easy to listen and doesn’t make me wanna turn it off.

          • Agreed. That group of guys knows what’s up

        • Hubert, Goat Among Insects

          I’ve found that all my favorite Tech-Death albums are really short, just over 30 minutes. I think that’s the best way to for a Tech-Death band to write a good, coherent album.

      • Stockhausen

        There were so many weedles and deedles on this album that I wanted to dislike it. But man, that record rips.

      • Tyree
        • Scrimm

          By far the best tech death band around.

          • The Beargod

            Have ye tried Unhuman? or De Lirium’s Order?

            Not saying you’d love them, just curious as they were my passage to Tech-Death and I strongly still dislike most of it.

            And I think they are both superior to SoP

          • Scrimm

            Yeah I listen to a ton of it when I’m in a phase for it(I shift between genres every so often), no one has come even close to them for me.
            Edit: I enjoyed both of those bands ok.Who knows what will happen the next timeI come around to that stuff.

      • LobsterAttack

        This may, for my money, be the perfect tech death album.

    • tech death sounds different to everybody, people are going to pick up on different nuances and/or have interest in various aspects. there never are clear-cut winners in that particular genre.
      having said that, Incurso bores me to tears even though i know many of the tech death elite seem to really dig it

  • This is another kind of narrative, W. This would be like a more instrospect kind of narrative:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHA8JyIzaBE

  • This is like a tales book. When you listen to it, you will see that’s a puzzle:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKf_R2WtkZ4

    • Dagon

      I love this album.

      • me too! All the proggy part and the muddy production makes a great contrast with the very meticulose lyrical theme. That’s what I love on this album, the verses are really a exercise on writing.

        • Dagon

          I feel like a need a dictionary everytime I listen to it.

          • You’re Dr. Dagon, at least you can understand the context 😛

            “Welcome to my theatre, the stage upon which I act,

            Turning into a sumptuous perfomance, heiniously I hew and gash,

            Churning out a deep gulch, the incision a major nick,

            A quick toke of nitrous oxide is how I get my kicks…”

          • Dagon

            Jeff Walker has always been a great lyricist

          • bro, this gave me the feels, for real :/

            “This was no new Jerusalem

            But a Golgotha that you created

            Oiling the machines of your opulence

            A sprawling barrio spawning an open living grave

            Mountainous Calaveras

            Come hold my hand witness the truth

            Mass execution of juvenility

            The liquidation of a whole ungodly youth”

  • Guest

    This is pure gold:

  • Hubert, Goat Among Insects

    I was thinking about this a few days ago when listening to Pandora’s Pinata by The Diablo Swing Orchestra, a favorite of mine. It follows the pattern on here completely, and it’s incredibly well done.

    It starts with an explosion of guitars and horns on Voodoo Mon Amour. It immediately mixes styles and genres without giving a fuck, and it’s all extremely catchy. Next is Guerilla Laments, Kevlar Sweethearts and Black Box Messiah, which follows the same structure. It keeps hammering home that it’s not in any way restricted to a genre, and the music has a constant sense of PARTYPARTYPARTY.

    After that comes Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball. This song still has the insane genre mixing of the previous tracks, but it’s a lot more dramatic, emotional and heavy. The song is significantly longer than the ones before it, and ends with a harrowing scream, the only one on the record.

    This is continued on the next few tracks. Aurora gives the listener the necessary breathing room, while still maintaining the dramatic atmosphere of the Exit Strategy. The next track, Mass Rapture, is a lot louder, but continues the Middle-Eastern theme of the last part of Aurora. This track is a lot more threatening and tense than the others.

    After that comes Honey Trap Aftermath. It gets back to the fun of the first few tracks, it’s like a break from all the drama of the last few tracks, and a preparation for the last two. Kali Ma Calibre is the heaviest and most Metal of all the tracks, with a few sudden explosions in tremolo picking and blastbeats, along with the Opera singing. it seems like a release of the tension built on Mass Rapture.

    And the last track, Justice for Saint Mary, is just phucking amazing. It has a single theme that just builds up and builds up, adding more and more instruments as it progresses. It’s a very different structure than any other song on the album. Eventually heavy guitars and drums come into the song, and it seems like the band is going for some kind of epic crescendo, and it does, but not the way you think it would. Suddenly everything is replaced with this bizarre Industrial/Dubstep explosion. It sounds incredibly weird, and it’s SO GOOD. It perfectly ties into the beginning of the album, in that the band, again, let’s you know that they are NOT tied to any rules or conventions.

    • Dr. Dubz

      I love that album. There are a number of fans round these parts.

    • Stockhausen

      I love DSO, and I just realized I haven’t sat down with a full album all the way through. I’ll do that with Pandora’s Piñata.

  • I can’t think of anything because the way I consume music has changed. I’m primarily concerned with taking best songs on the album and put them on the Ipod. I cut out all the filler, instrumentals,ect. so that I’m left with the highlight reel. Agree with the Master Of Puppets analysis. I don’t think many artists these days are trying to do that. If it happens, it’s probably by accident.

  • Story time: I grew up/live/work in the Dayton Ohio area. The home of the Wright Brothers. You know, the ones who built and flew the first “heavier than air” aircraft? Yes, those Wright Brothers. Growing up we were inendated with the fact that every one of the dozen replicas of the 1903 Wright Flyer that are scattered all around Dayton are indeed just that – replicas. So, when my wife and I went to the Smithsonian in Washington DC I was thrilled that after 26 years of life I could finally see the “real” 1903 Wright Flyer in person! So what was it like to see the real deal? Well, when we showed up to the exhibit all I could hear was some some dick wad talking to his wife about how “THIS ISN’T EVEN THE REAL AIRCRAFT, WHY WOULD THEY HAVE IT HERE. BLAH BLAH BLAH THIS IS A REPLICA.” I wanted to correct him, but couldn’t. People can be so stupid. Myself included.

    I thought to share this story because the main image shows the plans for the 1903 Wright Flyer.

    Happy Friday!

    GL

    • Tyree
      • Short length carpet is the only way to go. It holds up incredible well. I approve of your message.

        GL

    • Akerskronks ov Steele

      We need to have an aircraft discussion on a thread someday. I literally spent all day yesterday researching just how to back up my position that I think the A380 is a superfluous waste.

      Edit: Iused to be huge in collecting model passenger jets. I also think American airlines used to have some of the best looking livery before they changed it to something that looked lolbuttz.

      • Dr. Dubz

        As someone who has flown on an Emirates A380, I agree with your assertion but revel in the excess.

        • Akerskronks ov Steele

          I still have yet to fly on a 747. 90% of all plane flights I take are on southwest. So it’s just every time the same ‘ol 737.

        • Akerskronks ov Steele

          Not to shock anyone but Emirates has apparently the highest order number for the A380 than any other airline currently.

          • *shocked*

          • Dr. Dubz

            It’s like a party bus in the sky!

      • Seems to me that if it was not economically feasible to operate the aircraft that they would not operate it. How would you define it as a waste?

        • Akerskronks ov Steele

          Maybe not a total “waste” per say (Keep in mind I’m a 20 year old former model collector so it may be just my initial perspective and that I don’t really know what the hell I’m talking about) But I don’t always see how they could get consistently full flights on those. That and I think they have to have special handling at the gate. But what I did read was that for US carriers especially, they find it more economically feasible to fly two 777s into say Narita daily than one big ‘ol A380. Actually I’ve read so many different little things about how one aircraft may be better than another that I might have to go back just to clarify.

    • Stockhausen

      I’m going use this slightly off-topic post to go more off topic: a new episode of Rational Funk is up. If you don’t know what this is, it’s the greatest (joke) drum instructional series there has ever been.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPsfusBzOXw

  • This one is like a assymetrical verse poem book:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2GDjP6RMDk

    • Dagon

      This band keeps popping up in my Spotify recommendations. Is it good?

      • The Beargod

        Yes.

      • The final part of this album is very good. I can recommend it!

        • Stanley

          The send half of the album (the 6 part songs) is the highlight.

          • The Beargod

            I felt that while it was good in it’s own right, it didn’t really stand up enough and was a little disappointed with the album overall. Which is not to say it’s bad. It’s good.

          • Stanley

            I really dig the whole thing due to it’s diversity. It’s like a book, a movie and an album all rolled into one piece of art.

          • The Beargod

            I like it.But I guess I like the earlier ones more.

          • Stanley

            This is the first album that I’ve heard by them. I do plan to check out their previous work though.

          • The Beargod

            A heads-up more violin and more excessive, in a way. This I think is a very artsy album and so are the rest, but in a different way.

            This is probably the best album to begin though, and in it’s own right has couple of AFoS’s best songs.

          • Stanley

            What is your favorite album by them?

          • The Beargod

            All really hold their place. The Corpse of rebirth is the one I’ve listened to most, but it’s hard to get to and has excessive songs only.

            Opportunistic Thieves of Spring is maybe my favorite, it’s a little sketchy overall and hard to say.

            But A Shadowplay For Yesterdays is probably the one you ought to go to next, for one the songs aren’t as long as previously.

            But maybe OToS

          • Stanley

            Thanks for your sage advice.

          • The Beargod

            No problemo, less and less people believe in old deities like me’self. I need to find new ways of being of use. 😉

          • Sir Tapir the Based

            Yo, better not make listening to him a habbit or you’ll find yourself in his porridge!

      • Stanley

        ooh, yes.

  • Akerskronks ov Steele

    To me what made Covenant so great was not only the wild solos and amazeballs hooky riffs. but there were songs like God of Emptiness and Angel of Disease which sounded different than say Rapture or World of Shit. Combine that with where they were positioned in the album and you’ve created the right amount of consistent diversity that makes the album never lose steam from start to finish.

    • Tyree

      Good pick.

    • Dr. Dubz

      That diversity is essential for a lot of albums. Sometimes the slab of brutality approach works, but a little diversity never hurts.

      • Dagon

        Too me the full on assault works better on shorter releases.

      • The Beargod

        I think diversity is essential for all albums. If we were to make a difference between EP’s and LP’s in the old lengthwise sense.

        If you’re just about brutality ans speed keep it short and DO NOT diversify it. If not, make it longer and more different moods.

      • Akerskronks ov Steele

        I should note that I feel Death followed along (or more accurately Morbid Angel followed along) with that method for Human. Vacant Planets feels a bit different than the other DM tracks on that album

        • Dr. Dubz

          Vacant Planets is probs my favorite Death song.

  • This is a record on which I would say that it’s a record I listen in special times because the narrative:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSar1bDiI0M

    • Dagon

      This was the first Mastodon record I really got into, but nowadays I like Leviathan and Crack The Skye more.

      • Hubert, Goat Among Insects

        Crack The Skye = Best Mastodon album.

        • Lacertilian

          Really?

          • Rho Stone

            I believe I think so as well, I still like Leviathan the most but Crack the Skye is a close second, it’s their most expertly crafted album imo

          • Lacertilian

            I guess I’ll never be able to blank out the disappointment I had when it came out. Remission was heavy, Leviathan was tops, then Blood Mountain was a good follow up to a great album. I enjoyed Crack The Skye but wasn’t as satisfied as before. (<– greedy)

            The paths they chose to explore were the different to the ones I thought deserved a wander down.

      • Akerskronks ov Steele

        I lyke Remission, and only Remission. Because its moar brootal than poppy shit Leviathan.

        • Dagon

          Ayy lmao

  • Dagon

    I just realized the climaxes of the albums I love tend to be my favorite tracks. Orion is my favorite Metallica song.

    In 2014 I am yet to hear better climaxes than these:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79kvvA3YUIY

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-6gxrK6BQw

  • Tyree
  • Stockhausen

    I probably talk about BTBAM too much, but I love how aware they are of the album format. The Parallax II, whether you liked it or not, was a masterfully planned album. Goodbye To Everything set an excellent tone that continued right into Astral Body, then the first big kick came with Lay Your Ghosts To Rest. You got some downtime with Autumn (droning noise interlude), then Extremophile Elite really kicked it back into gear. The middle two tracks (spoken word and only clean singing) were enough of a departure to signal a shift, and then Telos, Bloom, Melting City, and Silent Flight Parliament was a huge, shifting journey to the climax in Silent Flight Parliament with a lot of oddities and landmarks along the way. Then the symmetry and cohesion that Goodbye To Everything Reprise provided at the end was the perfect finishing touch. 73 minutes long, and nothing feels excessive (to me anyway, and given the narrative).

    • Hubert, Goat Among Insects

      I loved this about the Parallax II. I feel that Colors on the other hand was bad at this. It felt to me like nothing but a constant slideshow of riffs, while Parallax II felt like an epic Sci-Fi story.

      • Stockhausen

        I love Colors, but I totally agree. If you drop the needle anywhere in the last half, it can be hard to figure out where you are. It was a huge step forward in maturity though, and they really refined it over the next couple albums.

        • Stanley

          Wat! Viridian and White Walls!

          • That closer totally rips!

          • and they topped it with “Swim to the Moon”!

          • Stockhausen

            Oh, I love those tunes. And really, I love the whole album. It was the beginning of their really mature phase, so after they had developed more I think the longer tunes on Parallax II are more distinguishable, and the album is better paced. Even so, Colors was still years ahead of its time.

          • Stanley

            Ok. Good. I was concerned for a moment that your dead composer brain was getting a little shriveled.

  • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

    There are many ways to make a classic album. Astral Weeks by Van Morrison was just recorded in a way that made it timeless. Sometimes one song can define a band like Free Bird defined Lynyrd Skynyrd. Bad Companys debut was tailor made for classic rock by the way it sounded and because of the players on it. It’s a shame classic albums are becoming harder and harder to make.

    • Dr. Dubz

      If I was in a band, I’m not sure I’d want to be known for just one song.

      • Shrimp in a Pizza Box

        That seems to be what most pop musicians go for nowadays actually, I really like about 1 or 2 songs on a pop album and the others just sound like filler.

      • The Beargod

        Sweet Home?

        On that note they never really got that spot again. Which would’ve sucked for me, but the guys don’t seem to mind. Even if no one truly cares about the new stuff, which by the way is Nickelback.

        • Dr. Dubz

          I hate Sweet Home Alabama more than a lot of things.

        • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

          It was a hit but in my opinion Freebird defined them. It was emotional and showed off all their talent.

          • I am not sure who I hate more… Aerosmith or Lynyrd Skynyrd. It is such a tough choice!

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            Aerosmith wins in my opinion. They made a few good songs but not one of their albums was a classic.

          • The Beargod

            I don’t know what you’re smoking but “not one of their albums was a classic” is the stupidest thing I’ve heard all year.

            Even if I don’t like Aerosmith.

          • i could tell you something more stupid.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I want to hear this statement.

          • The Beargod

            Tell me, plz

          • Meshuggah is boring. That is my stupid statement.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            That’s not as boring as it is controversial.

          • The Beargod

            …I agree, for the most part at least.

          • i’m going to see Kelly Clarkson live this summer, as i did last summer.
            #ToiletConfessions

          • Sir Tapir the Based

            BOOOOOOO

          • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

            Not a fan of her music, but at least she can play an instrument and sing without autotune. Same goes for Taylor Swift. Not a fan of either, but I’ll give them that much. Beats Rhianna singing in her ear-grating monotone on autotune, and singing lyrics that sound like she abused a thesaurus.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            Their albums had classic songs but they also had a lot of filler.

          • The Beargod

            Aye, maybe so. regardless they managed to make multiple classic albums in the genre. That one isn’t really for any of us alone to defy.

          • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

            I’m gonna guess you hate Journey. Their new one is a masterpiece.

          • The Beargod

            They actually had some good songs.

          • if you’re talking about Eclipse, ya it’s really fuckin’ good

          • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

            Indeed I was! Only album of their’s I can think of that was solid back to back.

          • Wins as in they are more terrible? That was really what I was getting at.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            That’s what I meant. They win the who’s worse contest.

          • KJM

            Nah, ‘Toys In The Attic’ and ‘Rocks’ are total classics.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I’m not a huge fan of Aerosmith.

          • KJM

            Neither am I except for those albums.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I always preferred Draw The Line and Live Bootleg.

          • The Beargod

            B’sides on the album department, Aerosmith did a whole lot better than Skynyrd, they only had a fillerless, classic debut debut, before turning into a songband. Aerosmith managed to do multiple classic albums.

          • CT-12

            Completely agreed. Flush all the rest of Aerosmith’s melodic garbage rock albums.

          • KJM
          • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

            I can’t choose. Let’s just agree that Nelson was and is worse than either one.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I agree with that. I fucking hate Nelson.

          • Sir Tapir the Based

            Both suck rotten ass.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I knew you’d show up.

          • Sir Tapir the Based

            Where there is classic rock, I’m there to call it shit.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            What sacred cow are you going to defile today? Will it be The Allman Brothers? Lynyrd Skynyrd? How about something less known like Jefferson Starship?

          • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair
          • Maik Beninton

            I don’t care about Lynyrd Skynyrd (however you pronounce that) but Aerosmith is one of my favorite dad rock bands.

      • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

        It’s hard to make a classic song. Its damn near impossible to make an album full of classic songs. That’s why most artists are known for one song or one classic album.

        • Dr. Dubz

          You know, I’m going to disagree with you on this. There are a number of albums that have been dropped every year for the last few years that I think stack up just fine against classic metal albums. I don’t think metal is dead at all, and I think current musicians are able to write albums just as good as their predecessors.

          • Scrimm

            You are correct sir.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I’m not saying metal is dead. I’m just saying that in the rock world it’s become very hard to make a classic album. Metal is a different story.

          • Dr. Dubz

            Ah, that’s fair enough. I don’t really listen to straight up rock.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I don’t listen to current rock because it doesn’t excite me. Classic rock excites me and watching live performances or listening to live albums from a bands peak is about as exciting as rock can get. I still get chills when I hear Fillmore East by the Allman Brothers and I still rock out whenever I hear Rush or Zeppelin live.

          • Dr. Dubz

            I don’t care much for classic rock, but I see what you’re getting at.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I love classic rock and metal equally.

          • Dr. Dubz

            How’s your job at the Old Navy going?

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            It’s going good. I have work on Sunday and next Saturday.

          • CT-12

            I was bumping the hell out of BOC’s first album this morning, great stuff. You ever heard this cover? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itCQrrUnsxo

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            No. Is it good? I’ve been on an Allman Brothers kick today so I’m listening to them.

          • CT-12

            Yeah man, check it out

          • Maik Beninton

            What do you think of Royal Blood?

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            Never heard of them.

          • Maik Beninton

            They launched their first LP last year, it’s pretty great.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhgVu2lsi_k

          • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair
        • The Beargod

          It’s just the coverage they get and the amount of bands and albums there among other things that make it hard for an album to achieve that status. But every year an album full of classic songs is released (or more).

          • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

            As I told JJD, M83’s ‘Hurry Up We’re Dreaming’ is the last one I can thing of where every song was memorable.

      • Scrimm

        That would be a nightmare.

        • Dr. Dubz

          I was trying to think of metal bands that might fall into this category, and most of the ones that came to band are nu metal bands.

          • The Beargod

            Metalcore I guess would fall into this pit too, at least some bands.

            I think a lot of bands if you look into bands that from the beginning went just for the mainstream exposure. It comes with the style.

            Actually I guess same goes for everyone, motivation=money = a quick fall after a short success.

          • The Beargod

            Oh and some bands who experienced a sudden crossover success and then went into their dark hole again.

          • Scrimm

            Yeah none come readily to mind for me. Metal seems to have a lot of more bands who fall under being known for one album, oftern the debut. Like poor Dismember, whose albums get written off a lot execpt for Like an Everflowing Stream, even though all 8 of their albums are great.

          • Dr. Dubz

            Hmm. Wolverine Blues tends to overshadow the rest of Entombed’s discog, although those in the know know better.

          • The Beargod

            Really? I’ve never run into a guy who wouldn’t have raved about Left Hand Path and then not care about the rest.

          • Dr. Dubz

            Maybe it’s just the Wolverine Blues controversy overshadows the rest.

          • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

            What’s the controversy? Never heard about that one.

          • Dr. Dubz

            Eh, most relating to them switching to death’n’roll and purists not liking it.

          • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

            What’s your opinion on the Entrails reissue?

          • Scrimm

            I’ve encountered a little of both opinions.

        • Dumptruck Full Of Nose Hair

          But lucrative. I’m sure any one of us can name one artist who’s made a living off of one song. Chubby Checker is still touring and making a living off of ‘The Twist’.

  • Shrimp in a Pizza Box

    Never really looked at an album this way, actually. I always felt that track arrangement is important, but never really actually cared about it.

  • The four song closing suite here is actually a narrative, so I think that ought to count for something, yeah?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4OHI6Rk3-E

    • Akerskronks ov Steele

      Dude ruins, OMG

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    lynyrd skynyrd/aerosmith–

    in the early 90s—-commies took over the “allowed” radio playlist—and changed the name of rock–to “classic rock”(meaning “antiquated”)—and started playing aerosmith on the radio non stop—for at least 20 years so far

    fcc regulations–and non regulated stiff radio playlists—designed to prohibit free information to rock fans–

    aerosmith=banality/psych warfare

    lynyrd skynyrd=”control of the south”/pro rockefeller (“watergate dont bother me”)–

    another strange thing about skynyrd–is the whole “southern flag” thin)g—-while displaying “outlaw” tendencies—
    which part of the u.n. plan is to display “nationalism” as being “against the law”–which began in the 70s–and is a big part of the msm agenda nowadays

    the first band to fly the southern flag was bob dylan–and the band—which i guess was part of identification of “the band” (who sang anti south songs–like “the nite the drove ol dixie down)—part of dylan/rockefeller “war on the south” type bullshit

  • DARKBEARD

    I understand this concept but I think it strangleholds literature and music.

    • Tyree

      I got you in a stranglehold, baby. I’m gonna crush your face

    • Dr. Dubz

      It obviously isn’t universal, dankbeard.

      • DARKBEARD

        Close enough. All is rote. All is boring. If you think about it, that graph equally correlates to a person’s life. That same formula runs humanity. I don’t like it.

        /skips to track 7

        • Dr. Dubz

          Studies have shown that maintaining an active lifestyle causes that falling action to be much shorter and much steeper. You tend to live longer and in better condition, but when your time comes, you crash hard.

          • The Beargod

            I’d like to crash hard, as hard as possible. That’s why ropes were invented tho…

          • DARKBEARD

            /stops weightlifting

          • Dr. Dubz

            I suppose the valleys make the peaks even sweeter.

          • That’s the plan!

          • *SWOLLY MAMMOTHS WENT EXTINCT 4000 YEARS AGO*

          • Joe,

            I love how you keep pandering me with the whole Swolly Mammoth thing. Thanks, lol.

            GL

          • Dr. Dubz

            It’s not a bad way to do it. Less expensive.

          • DARKBEARD

            I want my life’s graph to look like an ekg readout

  • God damn drumming is awesome.

    GL

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cLb2ZRS_4M

  • Howard Dean’s favorite album (and one that’s in my top 10), Deathspell Omega’s Paracletus has perfect album structure too!

  • OldMetalHead

    Seems plausible. Is that why my favorite track on both “the Number of the Beast” and …And Justice For All” is the last one?

  • Max

    Well, wracking my brain as much as I can over breakfast, I think the best example I can nominate of a band who followed this narrative is Brutal Truth on Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses. The last song on that record could only ever have been a last song.

    Partly relevant, interesting story about their second record, Need to Control: I originally bought it on vinyl, and it came as a box set with five discs: a 5″, 6″, 7″, 8″, and a 9″. Because the smaller discs could barely fit much music on them, they had to completely re-sequence the album with the shorter songs on the smaller discs, leading to the longer, slower numbers on the bigger ones. It took me years to get used to the actual setlist once I upgraded to the CD.

    • Dr. Dubz

      Thanks for sharing that. That’s very interesting.

    • MoshOff

      Extreme Conditions is one of the best Death/Grind albums of all time. Scott Lewis >> Rich Hoak any day.

      • Max

        I’m in total agreement about Scott Lewis over Rich Hoak. I only ever got to see Brutal Truth live with the Hoak line-up, and he was basically not able to do it from what I could tell. The blast sections were lapsing into triplet (or almost). I think you can actually hear that on the record in places, although they’ve mixed it to kind of obscure the detail of what he couldn’t quite do.

        Scott Lewis is perhaps the most truly underrated extreme metal drummer in terms of the blast speeds he accomplished at that time. It’s still fast by today’s standards. There are plenty of drummers who can reach that speed now (and beyond), and they’ve obviously formularized the techniques more thoroughly, but it’s still not something you hear every day – and he was doing it first. I’ve never understood why more people didn’t make a fuss about it back then.

        • MoshOff

          Rich Hoak and Danny Herrera from Napalm Death should be BFFs haha.

  • CT-12

    Super good article, and there are definitely a lot of ways to look at album flow, which I feel some bands don’t pay attention to (Prong’s “Rude Awakening” is one of the best examples of an album I feel is entirely fucked up by the tracklisting). Kyuss’ “Welcome to Sky Valley” is very exempliary of exceptional album flow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEwrRZMLa7w

    • Dr. Dubz

      The original Dethalbum has a weird tracklisting too. Two slow songs right at the start.

  • Óðhinn

    Holy shit! Exactly how much drugs do you have to do before this happens?:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=_qNOWn4wYCs

  • Óðhinn
    • Dr. Dubz

      Haven’t seen you round these parts. New here?

      • Óðhinn

        Yes.

        • Dr. Dubz

          Greetings and welcome! And yah, a lot of the best stuff from the 80s followed this format. I will note that Justice is my favorite Metallica album and one of my favorite metal albums ever.

          • Óðhinn

            Thanks Dr. Dubz. Yes. Justice is a classic. m/

  • Óðhinn

    I love the way Agalloch songs flow and build slowly.

    http://youtu.be/B1x8q64NXxA

  • Óðhinn