My Adventures with Cassettes

17 November 2014 Comments Off on My Adventures with Cassettes


Listening to music in the car is a great experience. When listening to music elsewhere, we are generally busy with something else and regard music as complementary background entertainment. We don’t focus on the music in order to discover and really appreciate it. Driving, on the other hand, is quite an automatic task most of the time and doesn’t keep us from simultaneously diving deeper into the music. In addition, driving prevents any distractions and possible external interruptions by isolating us in the car, giving us the opportunity to dedicate our otherwise idle time to concentrating on the music. I think this is one of the reasons why radio stations are still functioning today.

Unfortunately, my car has only a cassette player, besides the radio, and with one or two exceptions, I have always found the radio stations in Ankara very unsatisfying. The music they play is mostly recent, unoriginal and cheap “hot” tracks, which I have no intention of wasting my time on. That’s why I couldn’t enjoy music in my car until recently, when my small cassette archive started to form. I have been buying cassettes from a secondhand bookstore and now have around a dozen.

As you may have guessed, it wasn’t possible for me to find many recent albums on cassettes. In fact, since I buy from a secondhand shop, my range is limited to a time period from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. So I bought many albums that I had never heard of and discovered some fantastic records. After all, album titles and artwork are always good guides. Here, I want to review my favorite cassettes and demonstrate how great the cassette player has been in terms of helping me make some musical discoveries.

Aria – Calm

The moment I saw this album, I knew I would be buying it. The album cover was a cartoony demon sitting in the middle of some fearsome flames, with Cyrillic writing. I had heard many good things about recent Russian rock music, but I had never given it a real chance.

As it turns out, this is a compilation album, and Aria is one of the most famous Russian heavy metal bands. They can be categorized as a Russian interpretation of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) genre, though in my opinion, they are much more creative and talented than any of the NWOBHM bands. The instrumentation is really varied, and it is easy to hear very diverse influences in this album, from jazzy riffs to rapid, thrashy guitar solos. The strongest element in their sound is definitely the vocals. The vocalist has quite a dynamic and adaptive voice with a very large range and unique tone. In addition, it seems like the Russian language is phonetically a great choice for this kind of music. If you like NWOBHM, definitely check out Aria—you will not be disappointed.

Dr. Skull – Wory Zover

Dr. Skull was an amazing Turkish NWOBHM-ish thrash/heavy metal band with great ambition and incredible  musicianship. They unfortunately lasted only two great and one weak albums long, and then disbanded. I really admire the amateur spirit they represented and their courage for being the way they were in 90s Turkey, as well as their unique and fascinating sound. Dr. Skull deserves a whole column reserved just for them, so I will not spoil the fun and will instead leave the details for a future column.

I actually had this album for quite some time—it is one of the best gifts I ever got. However, because of its meaning for me and my indescribable love for Dr. Skull, I was always too afraid to play it. After all, I had had no experience with cassettes, but I already knew they were quite vulnerable to damage. Once I had gotten used to the system with other albums, I started playing this one too. Listening to this on cassette was nothing like listening to the low-quality digital recordings on the Internet. It was a truly great experience for me. Without spoiling Dr. Skull further (as I promised), I highly recommend this album, and also their next one, for anyone who likes instrumental diversity and creative musicianship. I will talk a lot more about Dr. Skull in a future column.

Faith No More – King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime

I have encountered many recommendations of Faith No More, but despite listening to them now and then  over the past few years, I never got into their style. However, when I listened to this whole album a few times on cassette, I could clearly see how much they deserved the praise.

The album was released in 1992, and as someone listening to it for the first time in 2014, I am very impressed. I can easily trace the styles  of many modern mainstream rock bands to these songs. “King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime” was meant for a much more mature and advanced music community than that of the early 90s. The album is so wide-ranging  and has such a dynamic sound that it is not really possible to limit it to any particular categorization. From time to time, I can hear jazz saxophone, progressive rock influences, amazing vocal experimentation, and early industrial and nu metal. Diversity and creativity are bursting out of this album. If you listen to it, you can easily understand the huge influence Faith No More has had on more recent  rock and metal communities.