Entries in loud rock (4)


A reversal: more KGLT changes for David

I'd actually gotten used to the idea that KGLT's role in my life was on the downswing. I had received the very clear message that my opportunities there were incredibly limited and there was no well-defined hope on the horizon. I was continuing my Loud Rock Director activities and staying well-informed about new releases but was only scheduled to do two shows before the end of 2012, each of those as a sub for AK on Friday night.

Just like that, it's changed (again). I received word on Friday that Justin Adams, who alternates with AK on Fridays at 9pm, is leaving KGLT. The one time slot where I can do my show suddenly came available and was offered to me. It's effectively a no-brainer. I said, "Yes".

So, starting Friday, November 2nd, the "Heavy" show is back on the air, 9pm to midnight (Mountain time, like Denver), every other week. I'll actually have three weeks in a row starting on the 2nd, because I'm scheduled to sub on the 9th. I'm hoping that will very quickly get me back to full engagement at KGLT. I'll be able to play the new stuff shortly after it's released and can once again really get involved in maintaining the Loud Rock library.

I'm hoping a few of you will join me as I get the show back in full swing.


Loud Rock at KGLT - playlist analysis and demographics

Ever since I began doing my radio show at KGLT, I've been collecting playlist data and coalescing it into a spreadsheet. I've been interested in analyzing that data to answer some questions about my listening and playing habits. Early on, I just didn't have enough data to evaluate, then life got busy and I didn't have time. Now that my steady show at KGLT is no longer, I wanted to analyze the data (over a year's worth) and see what it tells me.

I've often made the claim that a "lot" of the bands I listen to are from Finland and Sweden, however, I've never quantified that. That's one area I wanted to investigate using my KGLT playlist data. I also wanted to look at my data in the context of some of the "metal demographics" maps that are out on the web. They typically show Scandinavia, especially Finland and Sweden as contributing a disproportionate amount of metal to the world per capita (see Demographics of Metal). Of course, my analysis will only be one view of the problem, specific to the music I play at KGLT, but I still think it's interesting to analyze it in the context of the bigger picture.

My data is arranged to show every band I've ever played at KGLT and how many times I've played them. The simplest version of the spreadsheet sorts that data from most often played (#1 Nightwish, #2 Amaranthe) down to all the bands I've only played once. Right off the bat, I see hints of what I already suspected: in the top 10 most played bands, 3 are from Finland and 3 are from the United States. However, Sweden only has one band in the top 10. Looking at the top 20, Finland and Sweden each show up 4 times but the US is there 5 times. So, at the simplest level, yes, I do play a lot of Finnish and Swedish bands, but not at any obvious cost to the US.

However, the US starts showing up in heavy numbers in slots 21 and below, quickly establishing a higher play count overall than even Sweden and Finland combined. In fact, the US swamps everyone else with 462 plays, with Finland the next closest at 86 and Sweden following at 77. That, however, feels a bit distorted to me. I'd spent many months reviewing the entire KGLT Loud Rock CD collection and had played any band that got my attention. That collection is fairly weak in imports, so the pool I had to pull from was a bit skewed against Finland and Sweden. Many of the bands during that library review period I only played once. With that in mind, I decided to trim down the data set and regenerate my charts. I ended up with charts just like the original except restricted to 3 or more plays, 6 or more plays and 8 or more plays. Only the most restrictive (8 or more plays) chart levels the tables, showing Finland in the #1 spot followed by the US and then Sweden, but all in comparable numbers. Clearly, when push comes to shove, the music I like to play the most is, in fact, biased towards Finland and Sweden.

I also have claimed that I lean toward new music, playing lots of recent releases and bands from the 1990s and 2000s. To test those claims, I rearranged the data to look at number of plays per year the band was formed. I was pleased to see the 669 of the songs I played were from bands formed in 1990 or later. Only 223 of the plays are from bands formed prior to 1990. Being disappointed by the prevalence of "Classic Rock" stations and the dearth of new music on the radio, I was happy to see that I've been doing my part to reveal all the recently released heavy music out there in the world.

Having confirmed my suspicions at a very high level, I started to wonder how that relates to the population size that's generating these bands. I was highly suspicious that the main reason the US dominates the overall list is based on population size. I've seen the "metal demographics" maps and know how small the Swedish and Finnish populations are compared to the US. In addition, given my own knowledge of variation in metal style between states here in the US, and relative populations, I was curious about how things would change if I treated states as comparable to countries elsewhere in the world.

The first chart I generated considering states as countries showed something that won't shock anyone. The entity that generates the most plays on KGLT is California, immediately followed by Finland, Sweden and then the state of New York. Also, as no surprise to anyone, England and Germany land in the 5 and 6 slots. The next 10 are mostly states, including a number that I would have guessed (MassachusettsFloridaGeorgia and Texas). I don't know that I'd have guessed New Jersey and Illinois would be this high in the list, but Washington makes sense considering Seattle's contributions to music. Those of you outside the US will be pleased to see Canada at #8, the Netherlands at #12 and Australia at #16, immediately followed by NorwayItaly and Greece.

I was still a little surprised to see California dominating the list but once again remembered all those single-play bands from my library review efforts. We know that California, especially the southern part of the state, churns out a ton of bands, so it might still be simply the result of excess availability relative to imports. With that in mind, I decided to try looking at bands with higher numbers of plays. Even at 3 plays, the playing field levels quite a bit, with California leading at 88 but Finland in the same ballpark (73) and Sweden at 56. Being even more restrictive and looking at 5 plays or more pulls Finland into the lead at 63, with California at 61 and Sweden at 44.


I also wanted to look at the cities spawning most of these bands. Now, at this point my data is a little less robust, since the Wikipedia, where I gathered band information, is a bit spotty on how it describes where bands are from. Places like New York City and Los Angeles often are credited for bands that were formed in a borough or nearby city. Even so, I think the table is interesting, keeping in mind that Los Angeles and New York City probably have higher numbers than reality. It's definitely interesting to see Gothenburg as contributing the second largest number of plays and Helsinki in the #4 spot (note I'm skipping the true #1 in the list which is "undetermined").

With all those questions answered, I still had a nagging curiosity. How much do the large populations of California, Germany and England help them generate large numbers of playable bands (for my show). So, I made one more table, scaling the number of plays by the population of the state or country.It's impressive that California has so many plays that it still lands in the #4 spot despite its large population. Sure enough, Finland and Sweden, with their smaller populations and large number of plays land in the #2 and #3 spots, but what about #1? I had to laugh when I saw it. I love Tyr and a played them a number of times, but they had never generated an entry anywhere near the top of my tables before this. Thanks to the tiny population of the Faroe Islands, however, it lands in the #1 slot. Basically, I can conclude that the Faroe Islands, per capita, are the most effective country for generating music I like to play on the radio. Go Faroes and Go Tyr!!

In the end, the data simply reinforces what I already know. I love Finnish and Swedish metal. Those two countries are highly efficient at creating new bands that I like, and at the same time generate a wide variety of sub-styles within the metal umbrella. The United States and California, where I was born and raised, clearly generate a ton of listenable heavy music, and I should not overlook many parts of the US for their contributions to the overall metal pool. Sadly, Montana does not even appear in the data. Perhaps I can take small solace in knowing that Oregon does not appear in the data either, and Portland is currently a lively music center. So there's always a chance I just didn't get around to playing that one metal gem from Montana.


New Loud Rock - mid July 2012

As KGLT's Director of Loud Rock, I now receive a steady stream of new loud rock releases. It's exciting to have a supply of brand new music to review for the station, and I want to start sharing bands and albums with the rest of you. Here's my first installment, reviewing new material from four exciting bands.


Icarus Witch - "Rise"

As a big fan of heroic metal, just a few seconds into Icarus Witch's latest release, "Rise", and I was hooked. Lots of melodic singing, lots of guitar and full of energy; I feel right at home throughout the album. "Rise" stands out to me in that it captures the triumph of heroic metal but remains raw and real (in Tolkien terms, think "more Gimli, less Legolas"). There are definitely technical elements to the album, particularly in some of the guitar work, but Icarus Witch remains far afield from the polish and structure of symphonic metal. As I listened through the album, I was reminded of Riot, Pink Cream 69 and a recent favorite, Lillian Axe's "The Days Before Tomorrow". That's not in any way meant to suggest that Icarus Witch derives from any of those bands; it's more that they capture a similar balance between melody and technique while establishing their own unique rawness and character. "The End" and "Break The Cycle" jumped out at me and "(We Are) The New Revolution" is a classic anthem in all respects.


Baroness - "March To Sea", "Take My Bones Away" (Yellow & Green album July 17th)

I'm really excited for Baroness' upcoming July 17th release, the "Yellow & Green" album. If the two pre-release singles, "March to Sea" and "Take My Bones Away", are any indication, this will be a powerful, well-crafted album, the kind we may look back on in years to come as the band's break out moment. Baroness combines raw energy and dark tonality to create haunting and intense songs. While their overall effect is raw, they layer dirty and clean guitars to create spacious arrangements, punctuated by vivid but realistic vocal harmonies. While listening to "March to Sea" I was impressed by the dynamic variation over the course of the song. Unlike much of the smash-limited, wall of destruction metal these days, Baroness is refreshing because of their willingness to paint a full and varied picture. Check out the two singles and get ready for the full release on the 17th!


Paradise Lost - "Tragic Idol"

Paradise Lost delivers yet another unique and masterful step in their fascinating evolutionary journey. "Tragic Idol" satisfies my love for gothic metal, and fits well in my collection next to the Charon, Sentenced and Poisonblack albums, while delivering an impact reminiscent of Metallica and Systematic. The songs on "Tragic Idol" are dark and mysterious, spacious and yet powerful. The album is gripping much like an intense action drama and worth every minute of its 10 songs. If you enjoy music that balances raw power riding on a layer of intricate texture and aggressive guitar, you should give a listen to "Tragic Idol". If you're short on time, the defiance of "Crucify", the despair of "Honesty In Death" and the deep moodiness of the song, "Tragic Idol" will do a great job of capturing the overall character of the album, whetting you're appetite for a full listen when time allows.


Vintersorg - "Orkan"

Each time I listen to "Orkan", Vintersorg's latest album, I'm more intrigued. Their Viking/folk influences come through clearly on "Orkan" as do brief flashes of black metal. What intrigues me though, is the delicate balance they maintain throughout the album, with an ongoing sense of community and folk quality, yet an overall sense of detail in the arrangement and sonic textures. Fueled by complex, intricate and rough-edged guitars, Vintersorg balances that with a steady dose of keyboards, giving their songs an intense but open feel throughout. Their songs are propelled by sections of steady single-note guitars and big chunky chord harmonies. Their music is both dark and upbeat; for me, it brings the Beowulf saga to mind in both intensity and mood. I've included "Istid" in my last two KGLT playlists, but I recommend listening to "Polarnatten" and "Norrrskenssyner" to get a full overview of Vintersorg's latest release.


Director of Loud Rock!

We all have had an opportunity drop out of the sky, completely unexpected. Usually, looking back later in life we see those opportunities as the key building blocks to what differentiates us. Well, a couple weeks ago, I ran into another of those opportunities. Jim Kehoe, the music director at KGLT bumped into me in the studio while I was prepping my show. Out of the blue, he said, "Hey, how'd you like to take over as Loud Rock Director?". The student who had previously handled loud rock wrapped up her studies at MSU this term and was moving on to other things. It sure sounded really cool and important but, beneath the surface, Jim's question made a ton of sense.

This summer, KGLT is down to only one DJ that focuses on loud rock. You're reading his words right now. There are definitely other DJs that play loud rock but their shows tend to mix things up more, while my show is 99% based on the content of KGLT's "Loud Rock" drawers and my own collection. Our loud rock broadcasting took a significant hit when Cara Paul and Jodi Metzler left at the end of the Spring term. I'm not sure there's anyone else that even makes sense at the moment, so Jim knew what he was doing.

So, this wasn't exactly the result of an exhaustive talent search; perhaps this is meaningless, one of those "little" titles that we take on that has no real significance. Although I've joked about getting business cards made, or many a T-shirt, I probably will refrain for now. However, there definitely is substance to this opportunity and it will immediately impact my radio show, as well as any loud rock that's played at KGLT.

Y'see, now I'm the guy deciding what gets added to our loud rock collection and what isn't. I'm the one that interacts with the radio promoters for the various loud rock labels, and I'm the guy they ask to play their current "high priority" releases. No longer do I have to questions why certain albums never make it into the KGLT collection. If it's not there, it's my fault and I'm happy to take on the responsibility of keeping us well stocked. I also need to prepare weekly Top-10 Loud Rock reports for the College Music Journal (CMJ). That way they know what we've got in "heavy rotation" even if that's currently limited to my biweekly show.

There's more to it than that. I've been thinking lately the only real way to give metal and other heavy music a fair shake here in Bozeman is take the bull by the horns and actually make it available, on the radio, in the clubs, etc. I've been talking to some of my friends about forming some type of Heavy support group here in Bozeman, one that can help make sure that Heavy bands aren't missing opportunities or being overlooked. I see this opportunity at KGLT as a chance to really make sure we're shining a bright spotlight on great Heavy music.

You might also think I'd be feeling a bit lonely these days, the lonely loud rock guy amidst an ocean of country, blues, Americana, bluegrass, electronica, hip hop, jazz, etc. When Cara and Jodi left, I benefitted because my biweekly show shifted from midnight on Fridays to 9pm on Saturdays. That made my sleep cycle a lot more manageable, but it meant I was no longer part of a solid block of loud rock DJs (Cara at 6pm, Adam Kish at 9pm and yours truly at midnight. It also means I no longer have the chance to hang out with Adam at the end of his show, talking Iron MaidenThin Lizzy and heavy music in general.

Having told you that, you're probably asking yourself, "Why aren't you lonely, David?". On the surface I've got some good reasons to be lonely but that's before you factor in my good friend and fellow guitarist, Jake Quittschreiber. Thanks to a perfect bit of timing on Jake's part, I've got more company in KGLT loud rock than ever before. Jake is taking the summer DJ apprentice class and has been spending time with me on my show. Much like Adam did for me, I was quick to get Jake on mic and behind the console. It's always better to dive in and not think/worry too much about being on the air. Jake's a star student and has added fun and excitement to my last few shows. Better yet, Jake gives me even more motivation in my new role as Loud Rock Director.

Now I'm not just populating the loud rock library for myself, I'm also doing it for Jake. I fully expect Jake to take over his own radio show after he finishes the apprentice class. When that happens, there'll be two of us loud rock DJs and that much more reason for a well-stocked collection. Better yet, Jake's taste overlaps quite a bit with mine, but he also covers areas of metal that supplement my own tastes. He loves death metal and knows that genre way better than I do. Because of that, my first week as Loud Rock Director was incredibly rewarding. Jake and I worked together to identify CDs we wanted to review and then sat together in the studio annex, reviewing songs together. Jake will join me for my show again next Saturday, and through our collaboration, around two thirds of the show will be new loud rock releases. It will also be fun because it truly was a joint effort to prepare it and I'm hoping we'll be able to present the show to all of you as a joint effort.

I am also optimistic and excited that this may just be the beginning for Jake and me. I'm really looking forward to working closely with him to raise the Heavy bar at KGLT, as well as promote heavier music in Bozeman. I also see my Loud Rock Director role as an opportunity to get you, the audience, more involved in the show. Both Jake and I believe strongly in the steady flow of new music, the ever-changing evolution that keeps us exposed to new ideas and experiences. We both like playing new music because we're sharing songs and bands with our audience that perhaps would otherwise go unnoticed. On the flip side, I hope that there will be times when you share new music with us. Comment here on the blog or send me a message and tell me about new musical discoveries you've made in the land of Heavy. Now I'm the guy who's responsible for getting those into KGLT's library...