Top Ten Week 2014 – Top Ten Songs, Artists or Albums That Should Be In Rock Band

Rock Band 3 CoverOn the opposite spectrum from yesterday’s list, today I want to point out a few artists, songs or albums that I really feel should have made an appearance in the Rock Band series. Some of these may have shown up in the competing Guitar Hero franchise, but never in Harmonix’s Rock Band, which I felt ended up being the superior product. I tried to not have any repeats, as well as hitting a few different genres and tones. Otherwise it would just be the list of metal acts that needed to be in Rock Band.

Starting off with a killer hardcore punk band out of England, Gallows is one of those bands that appeared on Guitar Hero 3, with their hit In the Belly of a Shark. Despite that game’s success, Gallows never appeared on another rhythm game. Instead of sticking with Shark’s album, Orchestra of Wolves, I went instead with the follow up concept album Grey Britain. Dark, really heavy at times, and full of intense riffing, it’s an album that would have translated perfect to the Rock Band formula. It would have had to be censored pretty heavily – which is one point I hope Harmonix can work around with the updated parental controls – but I still think it would have been really fun to play through.

Aqualung and Hymn 43 both showed up on the setlist during Rock Band 2‘s lifespan, but there are a few other tracks from the English band that I would have liked to play. A little heavier than most other rock choices from that time, Teacher and Bungle in the Jungle both feature some really solid guitar work, as well as killer vocals; while Locomotive Breath would take great advantage of Rock Band 3‘s keyboards to set the stage for the song. Based on how Harmonix used to release tracks each week in 3-packs, this would be a great 3-pack of Jethro Tull songs.

There were a couple songs by the flamboyant piano player that came out, including one on the downloadable game Rock Band Blitz, but three of his biggest hits never materialized. Each is a classic rock staple in their own right, and thanks to Rock Band 3 adding in a keyboard, playing his music would have been a no-brainer. Each song’s tone is different enough to appeal to a pretty wide audience, not just Elton John fans. Guitar players might not be shredding as much as usual, but keyboardists and singers could really shine with these three tunes.

It’s a little hard to pick one of these seminal hardcore punk bands to point out as needing to be on the game. Either choice would be perfect – Bad Brains gives you a little more variety in their music as they feature a strong reggae influence; while Black Flag provides nothing but punk, played at top speed. There’s nothing super complicated musically going on – just riffing at mach speed, which challenges each instrument. Beyond that, it’s always good to expose a new audience to the bands that really formed their genres, and Bad Brains and Black Flag are two of the most important punk bands ever.

Shadows Fall is one of the better metalcore bands to emerge from that genre’s explosion back in the mid-to-early 2000s. Either of these classic albums would have fit perfectly on the game, each filled with superior riffs, solos and drum work. The War Within’s The Light that Blinds actually appeared on Guitar Hero 2 as a bonus track, and was one of my favorite tracks to play on the game. Seeing Harmonix take a full Shadows Fall album and give it the treatment would have been really awesome.

It’s really hard to specifically point to one or two songs that really shine and deserved to be on the game – instead I would have loved to see a bigger sampler pack. With three full albums of songs to pick from, there are a number of potential winners. Thunderhorse was also a bonus track on Guitar Hero 2, but was only the promotional single version – the actual album cut is longer and has more guitar work going on. Add in songs like Murmaider, Crush the Industry, Murmaider II: The Water God, and Skyhunter, and I think you’ve got a pretty solid DLC pack right there.

The Boss has never really appeared too much on rhythm games – only a few songs on Guitar Hero World Tour as DLC if memory serves – and never on Rock Band. With a career as long as Bruce’s there’s plenty of classic songs to choose from, any of which would fit superbly in the Rock Band formula. From guitar rockers like Born to Run or Born in the USA, to more synth songs like Dancing in the Dark – to even softer songs like The Ghost of Tom Joad – there’s really no end of songs that could be picked.

Another guitar god that never showed up on the Rock Band setlist, despite being in a number of classic bands, Clapton has a huge discography of songs that would translate perfect. From his time in Cream we would be able to rock through Sunshine of Your Love or White Room, each classic rock staples that still get plenty of air time. Derek and the Dominoes gave us one of the greatest guitar riffs ever in Layla – and the full song, complete with its somewhat over the top outro, would be perfect for the Rock Band 3 full band. Clapton’s solo work could have given us songs like Cocaine or Crossroads to play through – each fantastic examples of his guitar work.

This pick is more of acknowledging what could have been, based around what actually was. Metallica signed a deal with Activision back while Guitar Hero was still going strong and released a full game based entirely around their career. As such, we never really got the chance to see Metallica songs show up on Rock Band after that point – the most we got was five songs total – Enter Sandman and Battery were on discs, and a three pack that launched the weekly DLC. Each of their first four albums are guitar masterpieces, with tons of riffs that would be a blast. In particular, if I had to pick only one, I would go with what I think is the best heavy metal album ever – Master of Puppets. I say that because it’s really a perfect album – there isn’t a weak song on there. We already had Battery after all – playing the whole album would have been so killer – tons of hard riffs to learn, solos that would shred your fingers, drums that would give you the fittest legs in the land and bass lines from one of the best bassists ever.

What should really come as no surprise, since fans have been clamoring for it since Guitar Hero, seeing Led Zeppelin make an appearance of any sort in Rock Band would have been perfection. There’s the obvious choices like Stairway to Heaven, Rock ‘N Roll, Immigrant Song and Kashmir, but the list really could go on for ages. Houses of the Holy, Ramble On, Communication Breakdown, Moby Dick…it just doesn’t end. Each song is tailor made for guitar, drums, bass and vocals – the meat and potatoes of hard rock. Every instrument would be challenged, thanks to the incredible musicianship of the four members. Singers would be trying to keep pace with Robert Plant, bassists with John Paul Jones, guitarists with the legendary Jimmy Page and drummers with the unbelievable John Bonham. It’s a no-brainer that just never panned out.

This is another list, much like yesterday that really could keep going. I could point to songs like Monochrome by Helmet, albums like Appetite for Destruction by Guns ‘N Roses or artists like Pink Floyd and still miss perfect choices for the game. It’s reasons like this that really make me think that there’s going to be a Rock Band 4 eventually. Hopefully Harmonix can take advantage of the new generations parental controls to allow for full, uncut versions of songs as well. It’s something we have to wait and see happen, but I hate that part.

Top Ten Week 2014 – Top 10 Rock Band Songs

Rock Band 3 CoverContinuing the theme for this week of doing countdowns each day, today I want to look at one of my all time favorite series – the Rock Band games. While the series may currently be dormant, I hold on to hope that Harmonix will bring back the games on the Current-gen platforms within the next couple years. Until then, we still have the huge music library, with tons of super fun songs to play around with. I thought I’d offer up my ten favorite songs to play. I’m looking at them mainly from a guitar/bass perspective, but a lot of these are good full band songs still.

Starting off with one of the oldest downloadable songs in the series, becoming available November 20, 2007. Ride the Lightning is off of the 1984 album of the same name. It’s a song from when Metallica played fast, complex thrash metal songs – this is no different. There are a couple distinct riffs that rotate throughout the arrangement, each of which plays really well with the chart Harmonix went with. And of course, smack in the middle is a kick ass Kirk Hammett solo. It’s a difficult solo to nail, thanks to the intro tapping section, but does have sections that feel super awesome to hit. The only problem at this point is that the license has run out for this track pack, meaning if you don’t already have it downloaded, you’re out of luck.

Really cheating with this pick, but honestly, any song off of the first Boston album is a ton of fun to play. Foreplay/Long Time is an on-disc song from Rock Band, so it’s pretty easy to come across, while Peace of Mind and More Than a Feeling are still available to download. Each are classic rock standouts, with different feels to each. More Than a Feeling has a bit softer feel to it, with a good guitar lick; Peace of Mind is a bit more of a rocker, with a killer lead line; and Foreplay/Long Time is the proggiest of the bunch, with a solid bass line, tough drumming and a nice solo in it. Each song is also a challenge for singers, thanks to Brad Delp’s unmistakeable voice.

Going back to my bread and butter of Metal, this offering off of the album The Fall of Ideals is a pretty damn solid metalcore offering. With a really heavy triplet riff for the verses, contrasted with a more melodic chorus, along with a truly kickass solo, this song is pretty much a total winner for guitar players. Drummers also will be challenged, thanks to double bass drum sections – bassists and vocalists, not so much. Even still, shredding the solo is always a super awesome feeling, plus it’s still available on the marketplace.

There are a couple Coheed songs on the setlist for the game, but in my opinion, there isn’t a more fun game than Welcome Home, which appears on the first game in the franchise. Coming from 2005’s Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV: Volume 1: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness; this is a great example of modern prog rock. The intro acoustic guitar riff is a really memorable one, and the song weaves it’s way through a few different riffs on it’s way to an epic final minute or so. The dual guitar solo at the climax of the song has some somewhat difficult licks, but when you nail them, it’s really satisfying; not to mention it’s a really awesome sounding song.

This classic from Ronnie James Dio’s classic album Holy Diver appears on Rock Band 3 – and doesn’t pull any punches. It’s got a classic main riff, solid keyboards, and one of the hardest solos on the disc. This song was in fact the last solo I needed to get to 85% for the achievement, which I finally got around doing within the last year. It’s a challenging song from start to finish – every player has a few tough spots to navigate, but guitar and vocals definitely are the stars of this song. It’s truly a fantastic song, a classic metal tune by one of the best singers ever. And since it’s on disc, it’s easy to get hold of.

Another cop-out here, it’s hard to point to one Megadeth song and say it’s the best one to play. So I picked three. Peace Sells is off of the album Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying, and appears on Rock Band 2 – it’s a really well known song, thanks to the intro bass line being the theme for MTV News back in the 90s. As is the case with any Megadeth song, it’s fast, has a crazy solo, and requires a lot of precision to nail. My other two picks, Hangar 18 and Holy Wars…The Punishment Due both appear on Rust in Peace, and are also classic thrash metal tunes. Hangar 18 also appeared on Guitar Hero 2, and is loaded with solos, especially in the second half of the song. Holy Wars really features two distinct sections – each with a different feel – and a crazy technical solo.

Maybe not an obvious pick, but this song off of the album of the same name really has all the parts that makes for a great Rock Band song. The verse riff is a heavy hitter that translates really well to the buttons on the controller. Drumming has a great chart, that keeps you pounding the bass pedal, while also moving all over the drum heads. And to top it off, there’s a killer solo in the middle of the song. Disturbed might not be the most obvious choice for a technical song, but the solo will quickly change your mind.

One of Iron Maiden’s longest songs, and also one of the most recent additions to the downloadable library, this 13 minute epic is exactly what you want in a Rock Band song. It’s got a really solid guitar line throughout, killer drumming, soaring vocals and Steve Harris on bass. Each player has moments throughout the song where they can really shine, and since it’s so long, scores can shoot up above 7 figures in no time. Plus in terms of bang for your buck – it’s a 13 minute song you can grab for $2.

Another twofer, in this case both are actually songs that come from the player curated Rock Band Network. Both are prog metal masterpieces, with guitar work that is relentless, bass lines that challenge you throughout and drumming that might be the hardest around. Selkies is off of the album Alaska, and features one of the band’s best guitar solos in their catalog – super technical, but also full of emotion, it’s a ton of fun to play. And Obfuscation, off of The Great Misdirect, has the same qualities that makes any song fun. Guitar work that moves all over the neck, bass lines that follow the guitar, drumming that’s relentless and a blistering solo. Even non-metal fans can respect the musical mastery of Between the Buried and Me.

The only cover song on the list, and perhaps the only one that is worth playing (that isn’t a cover by another professional band) this song from Rock Band has long been one of my very favorites to play on guitar. It’s very similar in arrangement to another classic – Free Bird – but to me, it’s a more engaging song. The softer intro section is more up-tempo than Free Bird’s which translates to a more engaging guitar line to play in the game. Plus I think the solo sections measure up with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic just fine. Even though it’s a cover version, they actually do a very good job – it sounds very close to the Outlaws version.

And with that, we’ve reached the end of our list. This isn’t even close to scratching the surface on the setlist of awesome songs available for the Rock Band series. There are tons of awesome songs – some incredible guitar songs, other killer bass tracks, some thunderous drum songs and others that put the spotlight on the ivory keys. Even though the franchise is dormant right now, there’s no reason to not hop online and grab a few songs to jam to. I will also post a list soon on my picks for songs that really should have appeared on the series – and who knows, they might some day.

Top 10 Week – The Top 10 Halo Multiplayer Maps

Halo Master Chief CollectionI’ve been in a countdown frame of mind, thanks to watching a bunch of videos on YouTube, so with that in mind, I thought this week I would come up with a few countdowns of my own. Since I’ve been playing Halo a lot still with my friends, I thought I would go through my picks for the ten best multiplayer maps in the series.

Starting things off with an old map, Battle Creek goes all the way back to Halo: Combat Evolved. It was such a popular map, that it was brought back as Beaver Creek in Halo 2. the only real changes between the two versions really is the removal of the ladders and additions of ramps that lead up to the sniper perches. At its core, the map is a symmetrical, small box canyon with two identical bases. Each base has three points of entry, not counting a fourth on the roof that is only accessible through some jumping. It’s a map that functions really well with CTF and Oddball, and Slayer of course always works. It’s a fast paced map, thanks to the placement of the warps behind the bases, and multiple routes that players can take.

Halo 2 brings us a perfect example of a huge asymmetrical map that works for pretty much any kind of game – multiflag, one-flag, oddball (with a high score count), assault, snipers, SWAT – plus the addition of vehicles really helps keep it fresh. Since it’s a really big map, there are plenty of different ways to get around, including warps, grav lifts and plenty of multiple level structures. The sightlines are awesome, with plenty of long range fights, that a good sneaky player can get behind the enemy to disrupt.

Halo 3 Guardian

The first entry from Halo 3 is one of the smaller maps in the series, with close range fights being typical. That said, there are still some longer sightlines, including some that criss-cross the open central arena. It works best for games of oddball, multi-team games, and infection or swords variants. And with Halo 3 having Forge, there’s plenty of options to turn the map into whatever you want. It’s a map that makes flankers shine, with two main levels that you need to keep eyes on, and thanks to the presence of active camo, close range weapons can swing a match.

One of the more popular maps in Halo 2 for arena matches, I’m actually in the minority with this one. I get why Midship is so popular, but I’m not the biggest fan of it. To me, the spawns have never been kind. But regardless, it’s a really great small team map – multiflag is fast-paced, oddball is hectic, and slayer is always close. Heretic, the updated version from Halo 3, plays pretty similar, but with the new mechanics some weapons play different. For example, sword clashes are more common, the shotgun’s smaller clip means you have to show a bit more control with it.

A bit of an under the radar choice, Longest has always been one of my favorite maps from Halo: CE. The basic form of the map is essentially a giant figure 8 – just a bit boxier. The two long hallways are great for the original pistol and shotgun in Halo, and in the Halo 2 remake, Elongation, it plays phenomenally with the battle rifle. Oddball is great, CTF is fun, and Infection can be pretty tense. Even with long sightlines, which in the remake are broken up with the boxes on conveyer belts, close range weapons excel. All around a really fun map.

My personal favorite map from the first game, Chill Out is one of those asymmetrical maps that still plays perfect in CTF games. Custom variants using the shotgun as the primary are fast paced, insane and totally fun. Taking the shield off makes it even quicker. The Halo 3 remake is pretty similar in pacing, but with changes to the shotgun, there are other game modes that are better to play. King of the Hill, with a focus on close ranged weapons is fun, and Infection is also a pretty good fit.

The Pit

Perhaps the best map in Halo 3, it’s a symmetrical map that works for almost any game mode. CTF, oddball, King of the Hill, VIP and Infection all work – as do Slayer variants. And of course, thanks to Forge, it’s possible to tweak the map around in all sorts of ways – closing off sections to redirect flow totally changes the matches. The updated Halo 4 version includes a couple changes that help make the sword spawn harder to lock down and camp, which is actually a good thing, just play with classic settings and no ordinance drops.

Another standout that has become a series main-stay, Hang ‘Em High features a semi-asymmetrical layout, with the two bases identical to each other, and a large open expanse between them. All sorts of games work – CTF, with lots of weapon variants are fun, straight pistols is a classic, and snipers is also a really tense one. The updated versions, from Halo 2 and Halo: CE – Anniversary, make use of the newer mechanics. In Tombstone, they added in grav lifts to open up new ways around the map, and the BR totally adds a whole new way of playing the matches.

There’s a reason this map has been remade so many times, and also served as inspiration for Halo 3‘s Valhalla. It’s giant, so bigger parties work well, and vehicles add another dimension. Since it’s symmetrical, CTF games are great – any variant really work well, and even games like oddball work. Even with the long range, it’s important to keep an eye on weapons like rockets and the shotgun to help keep the base safe. With the update in Coagulation, they added a whole new dimension by adding the Banshee. Just adding one level of the base and one vehicle made the map have even more depth.

Halo 2 Lockout

My pick for the best map in the series is Lockout from Halo 2. Hands down, it plays the best in the series and has the smoothest flow of any map. Even with the changes they made to the map with Blackout in Halo 3, it still plays solidly. But overall, the Halo 2 version plays better. The sightlines are clearer, the weapon balance is a bit better, and the jumps are a bit easier to manage. CTF works, oddball is fun, infection is fast paced, king of the hill is hectic and the slayer variants that play well are numerous. The Halo 2: Anniversary version adds in destructible icicles that hang over three major points, which can help prevent camping.