Obviously we LOVE the Smashing Pumpkins but there are lots of other great bands too. There are many bands that I listen to on a daily basis that my friends and peers seem completely oblivious to. Of course, there is a certain charm in having music that you feel is your discovery, it can define your music taste and give you a sense of really owning the songs. While I would never listen to something just because it is unknown, I will listen to anything that I like, whether it is popular or not. In this article, I’d like to introduce three of the bands that I like most yet seem almost entirely unknown.
Oceansize is a band that defies classification. Founded in Manchester in 1999 Oceansize play a unique blend of progressive, indie, heavy and melodic rock. Blending driving guitars, complex rhythms and beautifully melodic passages the band scale heights rarely seen in music since Pink Floyd. They are unafraid to break convention with their songs often reaching past the ten-minute mark in strange time signatures with complex structures. Oceansize is a band that writes the music that they wish to play without ever conforming to what a band typically should be doing, and the music is much stronger because of it.
The band are led by singer-guitarist Mike Vennart and have released three full-length albums to date, 2003’s Effloresce, 2005’s Everyone Into Position and Frames in 2007. Extensively touring the UK, they have also scored numerous support slots with much bigger acts, enabling them to reach new listeners. I discovered them when they supported The Smashing Pumpkins at the O2 arena in London. They have found it hard to break into the USA however, but with a new album coming out soon as well as more big support slots the future can only get brighter for Oceansize. I hope that they gain more fans, but at the same time, I wouldn’t want them to get too big. After all, the best live shows are always at the smaller venues.
From Irvine in California Thrice are a four-piece band that has crossed genres in a way that none of their contemporaries have. The band has kept the same members ever since their formation at school in 1998, singer-guitarist Dustin Kensrue, guitarist Teppei Teranishi and brothers Eddie and Riley Breckenridge on bass and drums.
The band initially started out playing a style leaning towards punk with elements of metal. The early material predominantly features heavy driving riffs with screaming vocals. It didn’t take long for the band to experiment and their second and third releases would see much more experimentation and deviation from their original style. The most recent album, 2007’s Alchemy Index, showed the depth to the band’s writing as they blended styles from metal, electronic ambiance, indie and acoustic folk.
What drew me to the band was their ability to write weighty songs but at the same time keep a melodic edge and break into mellower sections to keep things interesting. So many bands seem to feel that they must play heavy the whole time, but it is by breaking up the songs that the heaviness has an impact. Something that Thrice has down to a fine art. They are also an excellent live act and are a band that you’ll likely see playing at a small venue, giving you a much more intimate show than you’d likely see from a more public act. Almost entirely unknown in the UK Thrice are one of my favorite discoveries of the past couple of years.
When you listen to the music of Chroma Key, it is easy to see why keyboardist Kevin Moore left progressive metal giants Dream Theater. The New York based band’s sound is built on the driving forces of drummer Mike Portnoy and guitarist John Petrucci and features a massively overblown sound with incredibly complex songs that often verge on the self-indulgent. The difference between Moore’s final album with Dream Theater, Awake, and his first as Chroma Key is like night and day. Chroma Key’s music is a lesson in understatement and subtlety, drifting from ambient to electronica and back to indie.
Moore uses his keyboard to weave intricate soundscapes full of masterful touches and effects. Gone is the virtuoso noodling from Dream Theater and in its place are songs that are both relaxing and interesting to listen to. The material at points crosses into the radio-friendly territory, as single Colorblind shows. Moore also shows that he has a great singing voice taking vocal duties on his songs. While not the live powerhouse of the other bands I’ve mentioned Chroma Key remains one of my favorite acts to listen to when I need something a little more chilled out. A great band that pretty much no-one seems to have heard of.
I think the fact that some of my favorite bands are those that I’ve found myself and that few people know of them speaks volumes about the quality of popular music. There is the most amazing music out there to be discovered it’s just that the majority of people are too lazy to discover it and instead just listen to what is given to them by the radio or television. I hope that this article will inspire you to look beyond the MTV playlist and start to build up your music collection. You’ll have a much more fulfilling musical journey because of it.
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