More New Rock Band 3 DLC From Harmonix

Rock Band 3 CoverIn yet another somewhat surprising move, yesterday’s Harmonix newsletter again announced that there would be more new DLC for Rock Band 3 today. Last time we got three songs, while today we’re only graced by two new tracks. That said they both look fun, and both are pretty damn good songs. Let’s take a quick look over them.

“RIZE OF THE FENIX” – TENACIOUS D
Fresh off of their Grammy win for best metal performance, Tenacious D return to the Rock Band 3 setlist with a song off of their most recent LP. “Rize of the Fenix” wasn’t a standout like “Tribute” or “The Metal” had been, but it’s still a really solid song all around. It’s got all of the standard Tenacious D flair – clever, funny lyrics, Jack Black’s surprisingly awesome singing, and a great mix of acoustic and rock guitar work. The charting looks like a fun one – it’s not exactly my cup of tea, since it’s got a lot of somewhat tricky chord changes with a lot of strumming in there. But it does look like a song that guitarists and signers will both really enjoy.

“BACK TO THE SHACK” – WEEZER
Another band that’s got a pretty solid track record – as well as history with rhythm games – we get a new Weezer song this week. Weezer had songs on Guitar Hero 3 (“My Name is Jonas), as well as on the first Rock Band (Say It Ain’t So), along with a number of DLC songs for both series. “Back to the Shack” was the first single off of last year’s new Weezer album, so we get a nice, fresh song. Like a lot of Weezer songs, there’s nothing super complicated going on – lots of power chords, with a few flairs throughout. The solo definitely has some weird strum patterns in the chart, but still the whole song looks like a pretty fun and easy one. The lyrics are great, drums would be a great one to pound out – all in all a solid choice for a couple bucks today.

It’s still hard to really say just what Harmonix is up to with this return of Rock Band 3 DLC. I really don’t think we’ll get back to weekly DLC until we see a new full game, but if this monthly DLC is their plan, at least until E3, I think that’s a great sign of potential future games. They are being pretty sneaky with it too – these DLC announcements have come on Monday’s the week they come out, which makes it hard to really predict where we could head with them. No matter what, I’m really glad that Rock Band 3 is getting some more love these days – it really is an incredibly fun game.

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Weekly News Recap – Week of January 19, 2015

For the most part the news this week was dominated by the Microsoft press event for Windows 10 on Wednesday. I wrote at length about the major details to come from that already yesterday, so let’s take a look at a couple other stories this week.

Resident Evil Remastered

NEW GAMES RELEASED THIS WEEK – SORT OF
I’ve mentioned in the past that January tends to be a slow month for new games. This past week saw two new launches – of course they aren’t actually new games, but still. This week we saw the launch of Resident Evil Remastered for current-gen as well as Saints Row IV: Re-Elected, along with the new expansion Gat Out of Hell. Both are current-gen updates to older games – Resident Evil being a major upgrade to a classic game. I loved the Saints Row games, but the fourth game honestly left a little sour taste in my mouth – it felt a little rough around the edges, almost like it was rushed a bit. Maybe the new update has smoothed out those issues.

Borderlands Handsome Collection

BORDERLANDS CURRENT-GEN EDITION ANNOUNCED
In a somewhat surprise move, 2K Games announced this week a two-game collection of Borderlands games for the current-gen consoles. The Borderlands: Handsome Collection will include both the recent Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel as well as Borderlands 2, along with all of the DLC for both games. The best part of the package isn’t the HD upscale to me – it’s that the price point is being set at $60. That’s a crazy amount of value – two full games, which cost $60 at launch, along with the DLC for each (which the season passes for were $30) all for the $60 – that’s unreal. Bringing it to current-gen helps set the table for future games by ensuring that there is an audience on the current-gen consoles ready for more. The low price helps doubly ensure that that audience is pretty sizable.

Rock Band 3 Cover

HARMONIX SENDS INTERESTING NEWSLETTER
Harmonix late last week sent out their usual email newsletter. Normally it’s just a typical update on what’s going on with the company. This one was a little different. It included a link to an online survey, spurred due to the recent DLC for Rock Band. The survey featured a whole slew of questions about the Rock Band series as a whole, including a number of questions spinning the series forward. To me, the entire survey felt very much like early market research for a current-gen addition to the series. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen, but it’s certainly encouraging for fans of the games.

What The DLC for Rock Band Means

Rock Band 3 CoverI have always been a huge fan of the Rock Band series. So with this week’s surprise DLC announcement and subsequent (rocky) launch, it got me thinking about other songs that really need to show up on the game. I did a similar post a few weeks ago, but I’m going to take a little more specific approach with this one. Instead of looking at classics, I’m going to look at more contemporary songs.

AVENGED SEVENFOLD – “PLANETS”
Since this recent DLC pack included a song off the same album, I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility to think that we could see another song off of Hail to the King make an appearance. While the lead single off the album was the title track, which does feature some really kicker shredding; my choice would be the more atmospheric “Planets.” The chorus in “Planets” is so intense, that it alone I think warrants inclusion to the game. Great instrumentals, and it may just be the heaviest song on the album. Honorable Mention goes to the ten minute epic “Save Me” from Nightmare.

SLIPKNOT – “THE DEVIL IN I”
Slipknot returned last year with the first new music since Paul Gray’s passing, and while “The Devil In I” wasn’t technically the first single off the album, I think it’s the stronger of the two pre-release singles. I would personally pick this one off .5 The Gray Chapter purely for the drum work during the bridge section. Slipknot’s already featured on the game, with songs from each previous album, so I don’t see why a song or two off the new one can’t join the fun.

WE HUNT BUFFALO – “BLOOD FROM A STONE”
With a bit of a surprise choice here, we have Spotify to thank for this one. I was trying to find King Crimson on there one day, and instead found We Hunt Buffalo’s cover of “21st Century Schizoid Man” and then looked to see anything else they had. I found the title track off of their EP and fell in love with it. “Blood From a Stone” is a great example of a modern sludge drone song – it’s got a killer riff that drives the song. Give it a listen, then hope Harmonix puts it on the game.

ENTER SHIKARI – “THE LAST GARRISON”
A band that I’ve never really understood how they haven’t showed up in the game yet. Blending a whole bunch of genres to create a sound that is purely their own. With their most recent single, “The Last Garrison” they use their electronic music side to create a pretty intense breakdown during the verses. Musically it’s varied, with both heavy sections and clean melodic ones as well. It would need a little censoring to show up on the game, but it’s worth the effort.

BRING ME THE HORIZON – “DROWN”
With one last pick, I went with the most recent single from the British metalcore rockers, “Drown.” It’s a little more straightforward than their other singles, but it’s got a really good feel to it. The groove is strong – with a feeling to it that keeps the song moving forward the whole time. There really isn’t anything super over the top with this song, although there is a pretty solid drum-roll section during the bridge. It’s just an all around great song choice that would fit well in the game. If we’re talking about a song off their previous album,Sempiternal, I would go with “Sleepwalking,” “Shadow Moses,” or “Antivist.”

Rock and Roll Ain’t Dead After All

Rock Band 3 CoverIn a surprising move yesterday, Harmonix announced a brand new three-pack of songs for Rock Band 3. This new set of DLC is the first new content for the game since April of 2013. Whether this means that consistent DLC is back for the game remains to be seen. My personal thought is that seems unlikely, but this is encouraging that there might be some more coming along the way. So to celebrate the release today of the three songs, let’s take a look at them.

ARCTIC MONKEYS – ” R U MINE?”
The indie choice of the three-pack, this is a pretty solid rocker on all fronts. It’s definitely got a great guitar riff that repeats through the song, with some really solid drum work to go with it. That said though I think the “instrument” that really shines on this track from the English rockers is the vocals. Alex Turner has a really strong voice that carries weight with the song – it’s got a smokey feeling to it, kind of like some of the rock singers of old. I’m not the worlds biggest Arctic Monkeys fan – I think I just missed their radio play when they got big, but this song is definitely a strong opener to the return of DLC.

FOO FIGHTERS – “SOMETHING FROM NOTHING”
It wouldn’t be a DLC pack for Rock Band if there wasn’t a song from the Foos. A band that is featured incredibly prominently in the existing DLC for the series, this song is off of their most recent album, Sonic Highways. Like a bunch of the newer Foo Fighters songs, this is a bit of a slow burner – it starts with a nice low-key verse or two, before the guitars really start to pick up the pace. It’s got a pretty nice riff, that’s pretty reminiscent of Dio’s “Holy Diver” – different for sure, but it echoes it. It’s a pretty standard Foos song, solid on all instruments, with a great use of dynamics; and complete with a hell of a solo out of nowhere in the final minute or so. If you’re burnt out on Foo Fighters, I can understand skipping it, but I think it’s a pretty damn solid song.

AVENGED SEVENFOLD – “SHEPHERD OF FIRE”
Rounding out the new three pack, we get another old favorite band, Avenged Sevenfold. While the band might get a bunch of flak from the metal know-it-alls, I think they’re a really great modern metal band, and the new album, Hail to the King has a few really good choices that I think would translate well to the game. They picked the more recent single, “Shepherd of Fire” which is pretty typical of the band’s sound, but definitely works well. Great guitar riffs through the song, strong drums, and great vocals – M. Shadows’ voice is so unique and sounds great on this song. Add in a killer solo from Synyster Gates at the bridge section and you have a winner for the final song in the new three-pack of songs.

Hopefully this new pack of DLC can revitalize the game a bit – even though it’s a last-gen game. I would really love to see there be a bunch more packs, especially since there’s no word on a new full game release. Rock Band 3 is one of the few games that I still play consistently on the 360, and I’m super, super happy to see more come out.

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.

10. RIDE THE LIGHTNING – METALLICA
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.

9. PEACE OF MIND/MORE THAN A FEELING/FOREPLAY-LONG TIME – BOSTON
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.

8. CHIRON – ALL THAT REMAINS
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.

7. WELCOME HOME – COHEED AND CAMBRIA
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.

6. RAINBOW IN THE DARK – DIO
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.

5. PEACE SELLS/HANGAR 18/HOLY WARS…THE PUNISHMENT DUE – MEGADETH
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.

4. INDESTRUCTIBLE – DISTURBED
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.

3. RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER – IRON MAIDEN
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.

2. SELKIES: THE ENDLESS OBSESSION/OBFUSCATION – BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME
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.

1. GREEN GRASS AND HIGH TIDES – AS MADE FAMOUS BY THE OUTLAWS
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.