My band, Transpose, released our second album, Retribution, seven years ago this month. It had been four years since our first album, and we had played enough shows within those four years where we really wore out that first album. It was time to not only have some new material to play live, but way past due to give the fans a new batch of songs.
This album was the most unique album I have ever been a part of. It is the only true concept album I have ever written. The songs can't be listened out of order; there are characters, dialogue, a plotline, a climax, and resolution. We began writing this album right around the time I was in the editing stages of my second novel, Welcome to Parkview, and there was a part of that novel (which was eventually removed and did not appear in the published version) that was about 20 pages long and told the story of a man who knew his wife was cheating on him, so he follows her and spies on her meeting some random man at a hotel. When he confronts her the next morning, she won't tell him what happened, so he burns the hotel where the affair happened to the ground, killing everyone inside, but ultimately forgiving his wife in the process.
I removed this part from the book and instead rewrote the 20 pages into lyrics, keeping some of the dialogue to be sung in the songs. We were really going for a true concept album like Pink Floyd's The Wall, Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, or The Who's Quadrophenia. An album that is really just one long song; a story put to music.
It was also the first album, of the now 7 albums I have written, where the lyrics were written first, and THEN the band put music to what was happening in the story. Up until Retribution, every other albums' songs had been finished musically first, and I would come in and write the lyrics and vocal pattern around the preexisting music. This time, as a band, we had to verbalize what was going on in the "scene" and then write the music to that action.
In the studio, we added sound effects to accent what was happening in the scene: alarm clocks, sounds of people eating, a woman moaning, footsteps on stairs, firetrucks etc. It was a lot of fun to drop those into the songs throughout. This was also the most amount of keyboards I had written/played on an album since Drop Kick Jesus' album Splatterguts, which came out in 1998, so it was also a lot of fun to get behind the keyboard and compose again.
As soon as the album was finished, it marked the birth of a totally new live show for Transpose. Gone were the random order of songs from the first album. Our shows were now Retribution from start to finish, and then our encore; which consisted of about three songs from the first album, A Delicate Impact. We moved the songs from the first album to the end of the show and performed the new album in its entirety as the meat of the live shows. We toured pretty extensively on the Retribution album for two years.
I even made a film to go along with the album; a visually journey of the story as the album plays. That film can be found here on my site under the MEDIA tab or on YouTube. We would play the film at our merch table on a TV during the tours and shows.
I have been a part of 7 albums in my musical career total, and Retribution, still to this day, is the album I am most proud of than any other album I have written. I don't know what the future will bring in regards to how I will feel about future albums, but this one will always be super special to me. It was one of those albums where I felt everything just clicked the whole way through. And not just because it was the first time one of my stories had been turned into an album that I could sing every night on stage.
Oh, and we also recorded a cover of Digital Underground's "The Humpty Dance" during the recording sessions and added it as a hidden bonus track on the album. Ha!