Wednesday, May 26, 2004

What a Concept?!?

I hate concept albums. They are usually self-serving, self-indulgent drivel from an artist who thinks he is more insightful and intelligent than he really is. Rarely, and I mean rarely, is a concept album better than its predecessor.

I think the problem is when a band decides to do a concept album, they are limiting themselves creatively. They have forced themselves into this little box, and if a brilliant idea comes up that is outside the box, then it is either scrapped or shelved. Either way, it is lost. I will never understand why artists would pigeonhole themselves like that. I guess the one exception is Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime. Let’s look at some other examples however.

Savatage was coming into their own in the late 80s. 1987’s Hall of the Mountain King and 1989’s Gutter Ballet were arguably the best consecutive albums from an American metal band at the time. Then, they thought they were too good for a regular album and released Streets: A Rock Opera. This piece of crap is so campy, so trite, and so just plain stoo-pid, that it is a joke.

How about Fates Warning? I thought Inside Out was their best album to date when it came out in 1994; the two before it (Parallels and Perfect Symmetry) were also great. Then comes the concept album, A Pleasant Shade of Grey. Yaaaaaaaawwwwwn.

Even the great Iron Maiden tried the concept album with Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. While I certainly like it, it is clear to me that this is the worst album the band has ever released with Adrian Smith in the lineup.

I’m sure there are other examples of crappy concept albums from otherwise good bands that you can find in your CD collection as well.

This brings me to the point of this post. I recently picked up Evergrey’s new album, The Inner Circle. This is their fifth album and until this point, the band has improved with each release. Their fourth album, Recreation Day, was really an outstanding effort, and I was even considering trying to see them next time they came around. With a wife and two little kids, I rarely go to shows, so I don’t go to shows on a whim anymore.

Well, not to worry, I will not need to plan an evening out. The Inner Circle is yet another concept album, from yet another band whose sense of self-importance and self-righteousness has become more important than making a good metal album. So it seems, Evergrey’s nice run is over.

Now Into Eternity is a different story, for now.


CRAIG said...

Interesting point, but I think this may just be a problem with metal bands who's "concept" usually involve some government conspiracy or a hack Sci-Fi idea that isn't even fit to be the plot of an episode of SG-1. Mindcrime, like you said, is one expection. Now if you go outside of the realm of metal, you'll find some great concept albulms. Tommy by the Who, Freak Out by The Mothers and Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys (which isn't really a concept albulm, but a cycle of songs that deal with the same subject) all come to mind. I agree though, that unless yoy have something really great to say, "locking" yourself into a concept is ridiculous.

T-_Bone said...

That is a fair retort. Pink Floyd's The Wall, while not even close to their best, is a good album, so perhaps the problem is more pronounced in the metal field.

I do think it may be fair to say that rarely is a concept album the group's best effort. Here we can look to The Who again. While Quadrophenia and Tommy are resectable albums, they do not represent (IMO) The Who's best moments.

Steve said...

This isn't, of course, limited to metal. Styx had a series of excellent albums, then Dennis de Young decided to lob Paradise Theatre and Kilroy was here on us. Crap crap and more crap.

T-_Bone said...

Perhaps you are right Steve, all I can say is that this Evergrey album is bad - not as bad as Streets from Savatage, but bad nevertheless.