You know what button this was on your Casio keyboard. No, not the one that played the Rick Astley tune; that was the “Demo” button. I’m talking about that string/synth abomination called “Orchestra Hit”. If you don’t know what it is, think of it as a Ceti eel put in place by a MDMA-relaxed Freedom Williams. If you don’t know what a Ceti eel is, or who Freedom Williams is, then you’re reading this post on your phone. Just a guess. Every orchestra hit is horrible. Here are the worst.
1. “I Want Out”, Helloween
If you’re wondering, “Who is Helloween”? Good question. Helloween made an album, Keeper of the Seven Keys, Vol. 1, that was influential in the world of Power Metal(If you’re wondering, “What is Power Metal”? Good question. Power Metal is a sub genre of speed metal, with a focus on clean choral-like vocals, bright major-chord symphonic sounds, and fantasy-inspired lyrics, ofter listened to by Chris Greene types[If you’re wondering, “Who is Chris Greene”? Good question. Chris Greene is a dipshit who abuses dogs.]).
The song, “I Want Out”, is actually on the follow-up album, Keeper of the Seven Keys, Vol. 2 (duh). The actual album is pretty crappy (the guitarist, and main song writer, bailed out after this album), but this song still encapsulated the mantra of Power Metal; raise-your-fists-in-defiance lyrics, a high pitched delivery by Michael Kiske in the tradition of testicular nondestended vocalists like Bruce Dickenson, and the usual trappings of guitar riffs and weedle-weedle solos.
If you’re wondering, “What in the Hell is an orchestra hit doing in a Power Metal song”? I have no idea. It hit me less ridiculously in my youth, but I did notice it. There’s only one. It punctuates absolutely nothing, musically. It’s worth watching this whole video for reference, but the money shot is at 3:44 in.
Totally unnecessary. The orchestra hit, I mean, not the video. . .
2. “Techno Syndrome”, The Immortals
What? You’ve never heard of “Techno Syndrome”, by The Immortals? Oh yes you haaaaaaave. . .
That’s right: the theme to Mortal Kombat. Let me share a tiny secret with the ladies reading this; every guy that listened to more than ten seconds of that song made an elaborate ninja warrior fantasy in his head, and this song, silly orchestra hits and all, was the soundtrack to it. Also, if you ladies are partnered to this man, he wants to have sex with you now(gay men reading this; substitute “wants” with “continues to want”).
3. Symphony No. 6, Gustav Mahler
What? You’ve never hear Symphony No. 6, by Gustav Mahler? Oh yes you haaaaaaaaaaaave. . .
That’s right: the “Terrible” Symphony. Sure, Gustav might say he refered to it as “Terrible” because of the blows the Hands of Fate delivered the protagonists represented my the music(the blows physically represented in the final movement), but the real “terrible” things about this symphony are all-too apparent; the poor direction given to instrumentation(harps in particular), the unsatisfying demand of the orchestra to create suitable “hammer”blows, the overall lack in thematic velocity(so much that even the order in which the middle movements are to be performed has come in to question), and the maudlin “shocking” end chords(M. Night Shyamalan was reported to have been influenced by the end flourish when he made the ending of “The Happening”, another gigantic turd) all mark this symphony as one of the worst(George Solti said it was “like openly masturbating at an eighty-two minute long funeral and being shocked into release in the final seconds from being goosed in the derrière by the Vicar”.
That this symphony made the final track listing for Now! That’s What I Call Early Twentieth Century Symphonies Vol 17 is nearly indefensible, and is the only reason I could comment on it as an orchestra “hit” in good faith.
4. “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, Yes
Every scrap of this song screams, “This is the Eighties, and we need to sound like it!” Was this ever a good idea? I don’t know who was a part of the decision making for pretty much every artist in the Eighties, but this infection of Eighties sounds was highly contagious. I don’t really care for the music of Alabama, but there’s no way I can hear “The Closer You Get” without actually laughing at the synthed-out drums. Frank Zappa, one of my music heroes and a musician with an incredibly discerning ear, used horribly dated sounds in the embarrassing re-release on We’re Only In It For the Money. It is easy to hear these sounds as dated in hindsight(I know, you don’t “hear” with your “sight”, kiss my ass), but even at the time the appeal of those sounds must have been limited. Maybe this was all that the electronic instrument makers were promoting. I’m not sure.
Whatever the reason, “Owner of a Lonely Heart” is chock full of the sounds of the Eighties, from the bright bass sound and the clean, muted guitar picking to the extra synth bass and piano fills. And the orchestra hits; used as punctuations throughout and silly as any one ever played. The previous album, Drama, was full of synthesizers, as they are all, but nothing with the reek of the Eighties. Given, Drama was recorded in 1980 and 90125 was recorded in 1983, but the difference in the synth sound is dramatic, and not for the better.
5. “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, Yes
Holy crap I am not finished.
A quick story:
When I was in seventh grade I heard “25 or 6 To 4” for the first time on the radio. I immediately called the station up to ask who it was playing that song.
“That’s Chicago, buddy,” the DJ told me.
“No, it wasn’t Chicago,” I told him back. “This song was awesome.”
When I was in seventh grade, Chicago had a number-one hit with “Look Away”.
This was not the same band, and I was convinced the DJ was wrong until I was older and saw it for myself.
This phenomanon has struck many bands, but Yes falls into the catagory with Genesis: Bands I Had No Idea Didn’t Always Suck. I had never heard any Yes before “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. I wish I could have seen the look on my friend Tim’s face when he first tried to convince me that Yes was awesome. It had to be a put on.
To be fair, the only thing that 90125 and Close to the Edge have in common is Jon Anderson, and Anderson was barely on 90125, being brought in after the album was basically written for a band to be called Cinema. Still, the branding of art rock bands that go all pop on their fans should change. Pick a new name, and let both sets of fans duke it out.
Prog rock fans will win, by the way. FATALITY.