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5 Unique Neo-classical Acts

If you think classical music is boring, think again. Neo and avant-garde classical music is coming around in a big way, blending Romantic-era emotionality with modern pop sensibility. If you love the sound of classical instrumentation but aren't looking to be lulled to sleep with chamber music, here are five unique neo-classical acts for you to check out.

Zoe Keating

A classically trained cellist, Zoe Keating is among the most well-known neo-classical performers of the twenty-first century. In what she lovingly refers to as her “cello cave,” Zoe writes and records beautiful, sweeping, and often stimulating melodies with layer upon layer of harmony. Zoe's husband died of cancer in 2015, and in addition to her career in music, she has become a tireless advocate for cancer patients and their families. Born in Canada, the San Francisco-based musician tours regularly and is currently at work on a new album.

Rasputina

An old-school gothic act as well as a neo-classical one, Rasputina is best described as a cellorock band that utilizes cello and percussion to create a wholly unique and diverse array of music. They've toured with Marilyn Manson, Cheap Trick, The Goo Goo Dolls, and many others. Rasputina is unique in that they incorporate both visuals and sound that represent and reflect women in history that were important but overlooked, as well as cultures often ignored by the west. Immensely popular among classical music lovers, their most recent EP's presale has sold out.

Blood Moon 

Founded by violist and violinist Laura Welch, this avant-garde classical music act incorporates elements of Romantic-era classical music, metal, and grunge. Her haunting music frequently explores deeply personal topics, like mental illness, as well as subjects of global concern, like antifascism and socialism. Laura is presently at work on Blood Moon's debut album, and plays shows routinely in New York's Capital Region.

Qntal

Based in Germany, Qntal combines world classical musical sound with post-gothic electronica. Qntal represents one of the longest-standing neo-classical acts around, having been founded in 1991. With vocals in multiple languages and a seamless blending of multiple genres of music, Qntal's heavily medieval vibe is comfortably modified by modern music sensibilities. They have appeared at some of the world's largest music festivals, include Wave Gotik Treffen and M'era Luna.

Faun 

Faun is a German medieval music act that focuses centrally on Pagan and Neo-Pagan themes in their music. They tour routinely throughout Germany, and bring together beautiful vocals and unique instrumentation – such as the hurdy-gurdy and the nyckelharpa – to create a mystical and yet driven neo-classical sound. Faun has become a great favorite in the worldwide Pagan community, as well as lovers of early and medieval music. Putting a new twist on an ancient tradition, Faun was founded in 1998, and recently completed a support tour for their most recent album, Midgard.

Each of these five acts has innovated on historic classical style in a unique way – so if you're looking for a brilliant classical sound that won't make you feel as though you need a nap, all of them are well worth your listen.

5 Weird Bands You Should Check Out

Every so often, a musical act comes along that makes us prick up our ears and exclaim, “Wait, what?!” But weirdness – whether musical or visual – has helped propel many a highly creative artist to success and renown. From pop to industrial, here are five weird bands you should check out.

Death Grips

Founded by vocalist and rapper MC Ride, the Death Grips are about as bizarre as you can get in terms of both musical style and stage performance. The group is known for a highly experimental hip hop style combined with industrial and electronic influences, and their stage performances feature everything from drumming in handcuffs to destroying instruments. If you're looking for a uniquely bizarre musical experience, the Death Grips are not to be missed.

Zolar X

A truly original glampunk band, Zolar X was well-known for nearly convincing people that they were truly from outer space. They wore silver vinyl onstage for performances – along with alien-head masks – and, wonder of wonders, talked to one another utilizing a unique “alien” language that they had constructed. Though these alien enthusiasts disappeared from the scene in the early eighties, their style has yet to be fairly imitated.

Captured! By Robots

Jay Vance or JBOT, the founder of Captured! By Robots, built an entire army of instrument-playing robots powered by air compression. A mixture of musical comedy and performance art, Captured! By Robots has released five studio albums to date in the style of thrash metal and ska influences. Currently, JBOT is at work on a sixth release.

The Monks

Picture a band of classic garage rockers – wearing monk robes and with heads shaved in the classic monastic style – and you'll have the Monks, a rock band that utilized unique instrumentation and stream-of-consciousness style vocals. A group of friends stationed together in Germany in the 60s, the Monks went on to become one of the most talked about groups on the rock scene.

Teddybears

A curiously adorable hardcore band, the Teddybears were a direct response to the cliched death metal scene of Sweden in the nineties. The Teddybears performed extensively, and made their name by remixing a huge range of songs in varying genres and styles in a vociferous and unusual fashion – all while wearing teddy bear masks.

If the fringe element and the truly bizarre is your thing, make sure to check out all five of these skilled – but incredibly weird – bands, and prepare to either giggle in amusement or furrow your brow in confusion (maybe even both!).

Bringin' Tha Noise: 5 Industrial Acts You Should Know

Industrial music is one of many modern offshoots of the gothic school of music. From industrial rock to hardcore, this powerful genre of music is heard often in goth clubs from Fort Lauderdale to Berlin, and can sometimes even be heard on your local radio station. Well-known for thunderous beats and aggressive lyrics, the industrial genre has blossomed in the twenty-first century, giving birth to a wide range of new and skillful merchants of its sound. Here are five industrial acts you should know.

Ad-ver-sary

Founded by Jairus Khan and based in Toronto, Ad-ver-sary is an industrial act that combines the hard rhythms of industrial and aggrotech with the smooth and sonorous melodies of darkwave music. Khan has toured with a number of notable industrial acts, including Terrorfakt, and has played at several industrial festivals, including Kinetik, one of the most famous worldwide. Ad-ver-sary reached further acclaim when Khan openly criticized the use of misogynist and racist imagery by other industrial acts as a way to promote their music, and has continued to call for these trends to end.

Doomsday Virus

Based in Albany, New York, Doomsday Virus was founded by vocalist Ndru Virus and is one of the region's best-known industrial rock bands. Although the lineup has changed over the years since its creation in the nineties, Ndru and guitarist and backup vocalist Rahb have returned to performing and production after a several-years-long hiatus. Their most recent album, “Mutually Abusive,” was released in 2016 to incredibly positive reception among both fans and music publications. The band combines driven industrial percussion with hard rock and equally aggressive vocals.

Suicide Commando

Suicide Commando's heavy sound has influenced modern industrial in a big way – and they are among the most requested bands in goth and industrial clubs around the world. Founded in 1986 by Johan van Roy, Suicide Commando combines hard industrial beats with a variety of synths and artificial and organic vocals. The act has played at numerous industrial and gothic music festivals around the world, including Kinetik and Wave Gotik Treffen.

Feindflug

A classic industrial band, Germany's Feindflug is a must-listen for anyone a fan of industrial and aggrotech. Feindflug exhibits true stompworthy style with harsh synth and vocal sound, riveting beats, and exploration of sociopolitical themes, particularly with regard to military history. An entirely instrumental act, Feindflug's only vocals are sampled from film and recorded speeches, especially military-themed ones. Though Feindflug's demonstration of political and military themes in their music has occasionally earned them enmity, they have continued to insist that their music is meant to inform on the issues it discusses – not to support violence or prejudice.

Centhron

Founded in 2001, one of industrial's youngest children has nevertheless made an impact on the German and global industrial scene. Centhron combines classic industrial with EBM, harsh scream-style lyrics, and darkwave, and explores the themes of sex, violence, and global politics. Their latest release, Allvater, is slated for release before the end of the year.

If you're looking for something to get you out of your seat (and maybe onto a dancefloor), each of these five bands boasts danceworthy sound, thought-provoking lyrics, and adrenaline-boosting beats.

The Evolution of Goth

Goth – that dark, romantic, and elegant tradition of music – is a many-faceted genre that found its roots centuries ago in the Romantic era of classical music. It has given birth to a great number of related genres, like synthpop, gothic industrial, and goth rock. Here, we'll take a chronological look at the birth and evolution of goth music.

The Romantic Era

The Romantic era of music was filled with emotionality, as well as beautiful melodies, extensive experimentation with instruments, and intense lyrical content. Hallmarked by the symphonies of Berlioz and the lieder of Schubert, the Romantic era laid the foundation for musical traits that would later be explored by gothic artists. The Romantic era of music did not officially conclude until the early twentieth century.

American and British Rock 

Skipping forward sixty or seventy years, the melancholy and emotion of the Romantic era had been extensively explored through various mediums, including literature and art. In the sixties, gothic rock bands – including, technically, The Doors – had begun to emerge, and American and British rock gave birth to a number of post-punk and gothic acts, including some of the best-known acts of the genre like Bauhaus, Siouxie and the Banshees, and The Cure. As the eighties emerged, goth was a thriving genre that a number of musicians plugged into, including David Bowie and Joy Division. Although this “golden age” of gothic music was perceived to be relatively short-lived in comparison with other musical genres, goth continued to evolve.

The Synthpop Era

As the nineties boomed, a number of synthpop bands – bands that used almost entirely electronic means of producing music to produce dark, emotional, and even spooky sounds – emerged. Covenant, VNV Nation, The Cruxshadows, and many others became some of the best-known faces of the gothic music movement, and in addition to some of their predecessors, these bands are still performing and producing into the twenty-first century. Synthpop became a dance floor standard in goth clubs around the world, with its driven beats and sonorous melodies creating an energetic – if sometimes sorrowful – mood.

Twenty-First Century Goth 

As goth has continued to evolve, synthpop, industrial, darkwave, gothic industrial and even post-goth renewal has made the rounds, with different subscenes under the gothic umbrella creating a uniqe cultural exchange that few other genres of music have given birth to. In modern gothic clubs around the world, one can hear everything from the original parents of goth, like Siouxsie, to modern industrial and aggrotech bands like Centhron or darkwave standards like Blutengel and Assemblage 23. The goth movement has also influenced other genres lyrically and musically, like symphonic metal (Nightwish, Epica) and hellbilly rock (Rob Zombie).

The goth movement, rather than dying out, has continued to evolve and expand into a wide body of music that we can hear today – whether in the clubs or even on the radio. Even if Bela Lugosi is dead, goth definitely isn't – and its influence will be felt for a long time yet.

5 Crazy (and true) Stories From Music History

Music history is littered with some of the best and brightest minds in the history of the world – and some of the craziest stories to boot. From Berlioz to Schumann, here are five crazy (and true!) stories from music history. 

The Premiere of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring"

“The Rite of Spring” is one of the most famous ballets of all time – but when it first premiered, it was not at all well-received. The musicality of the ballet was incredibly different from the usual sounds of the day, and it made the audience so incredibly angry that they very nearly rioted. The audience eventually calmed itself and the ballet went on, but some of the critiques that followed the premiere mocked the avant-garde style of the music of the ballet and the unusual choreography that Nijinsky, the premier ballet choreographer of the day, had designed.

Schumann's Finger Stretching Device

Schumann was one of the most famous composers of the Romantic era, and his performance career was one of the most celebrated in Europe. Schumann, who was unhappy with the level of dexterity of his fingers, invented a strange finger stretching device that he used daily while practicing. Eventually, the device inflicted permanent injury on two of the fingers of his right hand, completely destroying his career in performance. Schumann continued to compose, but he never again played piano in public.

Mozart's “Don Giovanni”

Still one of today's most celebrated composers, Mozart was an immensely skillful composer that could dash off an overture in a single morning – literally. His opera, “Don Giovanni,” had its overture composed by a completely hung-over Mozart the very morning of its premiere. Most fortunately, the musicians made it through the overture at that evening's premiere without incident – no mean feat, as the score to the overture was extremely messy due to Mozart's hangover.

Berlioz's Threat

Some of the great Romantic composers were not only contemporaries, but friends. One day, Liszt, Chopin, Mendelssohn and Schumann – among several others – were gathered in a Parisian eatery discussing their craft among other subjects. Abruptly, Berlioz stomped through the door, announced that he was sick of life, and intended to kill himself immediately thereafter. He ran out the door before anyone could stop him, prompting a frantic search by both the composers and the city's police for Berlioz. Eventually, he was found in a haystack on the outskirts of Paris – and still very much alive. 

The Faulty Memory of Scriabin

Scriabin, another brilliant Romantic era composer, wrote a work entitled “Fantasie in B,” which to date is still considered one of his most beautiful works of music. One day, while visiting friends, he overheard another musician playing the work on the piano in the other room. When he asked his host what the music was – remarking that the piece sounded very familiar – his host informed him that it was his fantasy for the piano. Scriabin had been so unthrilled with the work that he had entirely forgotten that he'd written it!

These are just a few of the bizarre – and sometimes hilarious – tales of composers throughout history. A huge variety of books on the lives of composers exist, so if you're keen for more crazy stories about some of the most brilliant minds in music, visit the library – and prepare to giggle.

Music Therapy: A Rapidly Expanding Field

Music therapy is becoming by far one of the most popular career choices for musicians who also have an interest in psychology or sociology. Combining practical musicianship with deep understanding of social sciences, music therapy has become one of the highest-paying careers in the realm of music.

While all music therapists must complete at least a master's degree in the field, the roads to get there are varied. Many universities have designed and adopted curriculums for undergraduate degrees in music therapy, but music majors with minors in psychology, sociology, or criminology may also apply for master's studies in music therapy, particularly if they took available music therapy classes during their undergrad degree studies.

Music therapists have many roles. Many music therapists work in hospitals, where they assist in the recovery of patients who are suffering from mental illness, emotional crises, or even stroke or heart attack. Music therapy can help to address the symptoms of a wide range of physical, neurological and cognitive disorders, including depression, anxiety, autism, hypertension, eating disorders, and bipolar disorder.

While formerly music therapists were mostly find in mental institutions, the study of music therapy's effect on a broad range of health problems has resulted in a tremendous expansion of the profession. Music therapists may also be found in regular state and private hospitals, outpatient clinics, and even in prisons.

For musicians who are interested in music therapy, the acquisition of a master's degree represents an investment rather than a risk – which is the case for many practicing musicians, as music is still not yet a lucrative profession in the United States in particular and the west in general. Qualified music therapists will generally receive a generous compensation package even from their first year of practice. Music therapy combines heavy use of musical skill with knowledge of the social sciences, making it a well-paid profession that still permits the musician to actually make music all through their working hours.

The field of music therapy is expected to continue to grow over the next decade, and scholastic programs in the discipline with it. Sometimes, music therapy can be adapted as a part-time or secondary career option to composition, performance, or teaching, depending on the candidate's specialization; and sometimes music therapy can be adapted to a dual master's degree program in another musical discipline. Regardless of how the musician chooses to pursue work in music therapy, it is one of the most lucrative – and for many, one of the most fulfilling – work options available to musicians in the twenty-first century.

The Death of the Record Company: Music in the 21st Century

The twenty-first century has ushered in a tremendous variety of technological and social tools for musicians to utilize to create music – and to promote and manage their careers. The end result? The standard record company label – still booming just a decade and a half ago – is dying.

Increasingly musicians are turning to the digital realm to create and market their work. Previously, many marketing platforms and digital tools were only accessible by record companies on merit of financial ability to purchase or pay for them. Now, marketing music has become dramatically more simplistic. While musicians must still develop skills in marketing and advertisement, social media outlets and social media management tools have become available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection – and significantly reducing the need for record companies to market musicians' work for them. 

In addition to increased access to marketing platforms, digital recording and mastering tools, like Acid Pro, Logic, Cubase and ProTools, have become more affordable in recent years. With increased access to these and other freeware audio production tools like Giada and Rosegarden, musicians are building home studios and purchasing or downloading cheap and free audio production platforms and doing all their recording at home. While previously record labels might have fronted the money for bands and solo acts to pay for studio hours, this has become – with some exceptions – almost entirely unnecessary. More often than not, musicians will record their material at home and digitally send it over to a studio for mastering, saving themselves a ton of cash in the process.

Finally, musicians are opting to create their own record labels – often collaborative efforts in which musicians on the label work together to market and promote each other's work. This new approach creates a much more artist-centered platform that is less about simply making money off the work of musicians and creating new opportunities and lucrativity for the musicians themselves. 

Will the record company die off entirely? Probably not – but the old model is almost completely out the door, and record companies must adapt to provide musicians with what they are unable to do themselves, and with the rising reign of technology, that has become comparatively rare. The next decade or two may witness the death of the record company entirely and give way to an entirely new generation of musicians that does everything digitally – and keeps the returns for themselves.

We Do It For the Lulz: 5 Acts That Will Make You Laugh

Music and laughter go hand in hand, and a great many musicians in the world have made their way by making millions cackle with glee the world over. From slapstick to sarcasm, check out these five musical acts that are sure to make you giggle.

Weird Al

Easily one of the most famous comedic musicians of all time, Weird Al Yankovic has made his living through hilarious parodies of mostly Top 40 pop hits, like Michael Jackson's “Beat It” (“Just Eat It”) and Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone's “Ridin” (“White and Nerdy”). Drawing from quintessential American and Jewish humor, Weird Al has toured worldwide and is one of the most successful musicians of the twenty-first century.

The Gothsicles

From poking fun at gothic industrial culture and clubbing to epically hilarious tunes about video games, The Gothsicles – the brainchild of Chicago's Brian Graupner – will make anyone giggle, especially those entrenched in the rich culture of video games or are goth scene participants and contributors. The Gothsicles are touring to support its latest release, “I Feel Sicle,” and will be touring in Europe throughout autumn 2017.

Nice Peter

The highly creative – and hugely hilarious – progenitor of Epic Rap Battles of History, Nice Peter has contributed a wealth of material to the comedic music range. Although he's come under fire a time or two for some insensitivity in his material, the pop artist has responded to his critics with grace – and improvement. Famous for his “photo songs,” on YouTube, where he strings a series of images together and improvs lyrics based on the images, Nice Peter plays live regularly and continues to record music and videos. 

The Lonely Island

Anyone who's ever heard “Threw It On the Ground” or “Motherlover” has heard The Lonely Island, a comic trio comprised of actors Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. They've worked with some of the biggest names in pop and hip hop, including Justin Timberlake and T-Pain. With a large body of work consisting of gloriously inappropriate humor, The Lonely Island's latest album, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” was released in 2016. They've been featured regularly on Saturday Night Live, and have dipped their toes into filmmaking as well. 

Tom Lehrer

The definition of dark humor applied to music, Tom Lehrer's catchy and yet gruesomely morbid tunes are more than adequate to elicit a creepy Uncle Fester cackle from even the most straitlaced of folks. One of his most famous ditties, “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park,” has become a standby of those who love darkly sarcastic humor. Now in his late eighties, Lehrer has since retired – but his discography is still well worth the listen. 

Opera Versus Broadway

Opera and Broadway style are dramatically different from one another in many ways – and yet many people still confuse the two for being rooted in the same art. If you've ever heard someone describe Phantom of the Opera as an opera, you'll have heard a classic example of this confusion. Here are three ways in which Opera and Broadway are significantly different from one another.

Vocal Technique 

While many Broadway stars study classical and operatic technique, the vocal styles used in each are hugely different from one another. Operatic technique often features more of what one may think of as an antique or classic style, very elegant, strong, and emotive; Broadway style features belting more often than gradual dynamic shift, vibrato is not often heard or even encouraged, and emotionality is expressed more with movement than with the voice (with some exceptions).

Broadway style, regrettably, tends to induce “vocal fry” in many singers if not rooted in classical singing technique, reducing the vocal careers of Broadway singers significantly when compared with opera or classical singers.

Opera versus Musical Theatre

One of the major differences between operas and musicals is that in opera, everything is sung – even dialogue between characters; there is no spoken dialogue whatsoever. In musicals, arias, duets, and chorals are interspersed with actual spoken dialogue. Additionally, what people have come to expect in terms of artistic discipline is different – in opera, the singing is expected to be superb, but the acting does not have to be, whereas in musicals, excellent acting is expected alongside more mediocre singing. 

Part of what accounts for the difference in discipline acumen is the training that opera singers and musical thespians receive if they pursue degree study. In musical theater degree programs, much more emphasis is placed on stagecraft and acting, and the study of singing is fairly minimal; in opera and classical music programs, the main emphasis is on musicianship and performance, and acting and stagecraft classes are secondary to the musical studies. 

Musicality

In addition to the aforementioned, the ways in which operas and musicals are composed are quite different. Operas tend to be musically complex, and this is a hallmark of the craft itself; musicals, having popularly sprung to light during the twentieth century, has its roots much more in pop and rock style, making it musically far more simplistic (with exceptions such as Phantom of the Opera). Operas also rarely boast modern instrumentation, whereas musicals frequently do. 

While certainly opera and musical theatre have certain similarities, the study and execution of them are wildly different – and as for enthusiasts for either craft, it simply comes down to personal taste in musical style.

5 Folk Metal Bands You Should Know

Folk metal – that curious mix of heavy metal and global folk music – has taken the world by storm to such a degree that whole music festivals are dedicated to it. Originating in Scandinavia, most of the best-known folk metal bands are from that area of the world, combining traditional music and even drinking songs with the driving rhythms of metal and rock. Here are five folk metal bands you should know.

Wintersun

Founded in Finland by Jari Mäenpää in 2003, Wintersun combines harsh and melodic male vocals with driven folk metal sound, often exploring themes relating to Finnish mythology, culture, and the human perspective on the universe. Utilizing not only the classic instruments of heavy metal such as guitar, operatic vocals, and drums, Wintersun also uses traditional and electronic elements in its work, creating a harmonious balance of grit and beauty.

Korpiklaani

Easily one of the most fun-sounding bands in the folk metal scene, Korpiklaani also hails from Finland and combines heavy metal style with lyrics in both English and Finnish about drinking, partying, and other such drolleries. Korpiklaani – whose name means “Forest Clan - also uses accordion in its music, making one feel as though they're listening to heavy metal on a pirate ship sailing the waters of the Baltic.

Blackguard

Hailing from Canada, Blackguard is a melodic death and folk metal band that has made waves as a strong opener for other metal acts like Epica, Kamelot, and Finntroll. With a flawless and energetic fusion of power, death, melodic, and folk metal, Blackguard has become one of the most respected names in folk metal.

Gåte

Gåtehails from Norway, and represents one of the truest examples of folk metal to this day. The band combines traditional songs and stories of Norway and the surrounding Scandinavian region with heavy metal and electronic elements, enriched by the angelic voice of its singer, Gunnhild Sundli. Its name translates to “riddle,” and after a lengthy hiatus, the act has returned to touring and production.

Orphaned Land

Founded in Israel, Orphaned Land combines the eastern influences of Arabic and Asian music with the western influences of metal and rock to promote messages of peace, unity, and hope. In particular, Orphaned Land focuses on the dichotomy of the universe, the nature of religion (especially the Abrahamic faiths), and frequently utilizes stories of the Abrahamic traditions and traditional songs of the Middle East. The band has toured with some of the biggest names in metal, and has played some of the largest metal festivals, including Wacken Open Air and Gods of Metal.

With varying styles and regional influences, each of these folk metal bands offers a different message and style – all worth the listen.

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