Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Basic Instructions

I think I've mentioned on here before that I'm a pretty big fan of webcomics. There are several that I follow, but none more closely than Basic Instructions. It's the one that got me started reading webcomics in the first place, and it's one of those things that I've followed for long enough and from such an early stage in its development that I've grown to feel like I know the writer personally (I don't, though). Anyway, I'd highly recommend that anybody with some time on their hands take a stroll through the BI archives.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Out of Town

I'll be out of town until Monday night or Tuesday morning, so I probably won't post any blogs until then.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sci-Fi Poster

I was browsing through the discount poster bin at a local shop when I happened across this:










Maybe it makes me a nerd, but I think this poster is awesome. I love retro-futurism in all its various incarnations, so I felt compelled to buy it. Now I just have to figure out where on my overcrowded walls I can put it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises

By now the news is all over the internet about the first publicity photo of Bane for the upcoming Batman movie. And many of us have also already read about how it was released.

For those who haven't heard, though, there was a twitter hashtag embedded in the visual spectrum of the bizarre chanted shouts on the film's official website that lead enterprising fans to tweet that particular phrase (#thefirerises). Doing so revealed a channel which linked to a photo of Bane hidden on the official website.

I personally think that The Dark Knight, while very good, was significantly over-hyped. I expect the same will be true of this next installment. That said, I have to admire this extremely creative display of viral marketing.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Un-Metal Mood

Oddly, I find that recently I haven't been in the mood to listen to much metal. Almost every time I put on a metal song these past few days I've grown bored and turned it off halfway through. Instead, I find myself playing a lot of the music I liked before I got into metal (particularly ZZ Top and Breaking Benjamin). I go through occasional phases like this, and I think this one was brought on primarily by a feeling of nostalgia.

The point is I probably won't be posting much about metal over the next week or two, but I'll get back to it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

International Street Fair

This was International Week at my school, and today they closed down the main downtown street to hold the International Street Fair. I spent a couple hours there, had a good time, and was thrilled to actually have some clear calm weather for a change. Below are a few pictures of the festivities. [click to enlarge]









Friday, May 20, 2011

Randy Savage

A minute ago I read that 'Macho Man' Randy Savage just died. I haven't watched WWF, WCW, or any other TV wrestling in years. When I was a kid, though, Randy Savage was my absolute favorite. After Hulk Hogan he was probably the biggest wrestling star at the time, and I was sad to hear that he died at such a young age (58). RIP.

YouTube Musicians

YouTube has become an increasingly common platform for launching young musicians' careers. Its reputation, though, has been pretty negative since to date the most notable musical product of YouTube has been Justin Bieber. The largest demographic of YouTube users is probably teenagers, so that's not terribly surprising. On the other hand, there is nothing to stop a more interesting musician from attaining notability via internet videos.

For some time now I've been following a young power metal vocalist, PelleK, on YouTube. Recently he has launched a new channel and started recording studio vlogs of his work on a new album. His style is more flowery than what I typically listen to, but it still illustrates a valid point: it is possible for far more talented and diverse musicians than the typical teen pop fodder to launch their careers via YouTube.

First Metal Song?

Black Sabbath are almost universally proclaimed as the pioneers of heavy metal. Inarguably they had the biggest impact on the early development of the genre, but it's always interesting to ask what the very first metal song was. Some people will claim it's Black Sabbath (the song, not the band). Others will cite Summertime Blues as played by Blue Cheer in 1968. Personally, I'm somewhat inclined to give the nod to The Beatles' 1968 release of Helter Skelter.

It's all fairly subjective, just like deciding what the first rock'n'roll song was, since it's retroactively labeling points in a gradual evolution. Still, I find the question intriguing, and I'd be interested to hear what any of you consider to be the first metal song.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Cyber Bullying"

I think we can pretty much all agree that bullying is a bad thing. Some of us dealt with it when we were kids, some of us only saw it happen to others, and some of us may have even been bullies ourselves; regardless of our specific relation to it, we know it's not good.

That being said, I find that the increasingly common term "cyber bullying" really pisses me off. To paraphrase Terry Gilliam, we're living in a society where people's lives are so easy that they think the worst thing you can possibly do is say something that might offend somebody. Well, at the risk of offending anybody who puts stock into the idea of cyber bullying, I'd like to say a few things on the topic.

To start with, yes it sucks that some people like to be assholes on the internet. Seriously though, if a few lines of text unbalance your emotional state to the point where you feel like a victim of bullying, you need to toughen up a little bit. There are much worse things out there in life, and if you can't handle this I'd hate to see what happens when you actually have to confront a REAL problem.

Leaving a nasty comment on a YouTube video may make somebody kind of a jerk, but it's certainly nothing to be compared with actually following and tormenting a person in real life. To even suggest as much is not only an act of nauseating self-pity, it is also an insult to anybody who has ever had to deal with a legitimate bullying problem. Are people genuinely so thin-skinned and hyper-sensitive these days that anonymous text comments on the internet are now seen as a valid threat to their mental and emotional health? I can't help feeling that the current generation of overly reactionary helicopter parents have a lot to do with this trend.

And to the parents of young children: if you truly think your kids are too young to deal with the aggressive things people are saying, just keep them off of those websites. It's called "supervision" and it's a big part of your job description. If they get into something they should not be hearing, it's not the community's responsibility to tailor its behavior to your needs. Don't lead a crusade to try to stop people on the internet from behaving they way they want. Instead, take some responsibility for your child's online activity and limit them to websites you feel are "safe" for them until they're old enough to deal with unpleasant people. You can't expect the whole internet to be G rated just because you aren't watching where your kids go when they're online, so stop trying to dump your lack of responsible behavior on "cyber bullies".

Of course, if the bullying is coming via Facebook (or something similar) from a person you actually know, then it becomes more personal and thus more valid as a form of bullying. It's still not terribly difficult to un-friend somebody and ignore their messages, but if they are persistent to the point that their behavior leaks into your real life (remarks to mutual friends, posting embarrassing videos of you, etc) then we've moved beyond the point of "cyber bullying" into actual bullying and obviously that's a real problem. I think it was this type of behavior that the term was originally coined to describe, and in that sense it is perfectly relevant. It is, however, increasingly being used to instead describe functionally anonymous hostile commentators on YouTube videos and blogs. In that sense, it is a gross misuse of the term "bullying" and does nothing but create reactionary panic over something which really shouldn't be that big of a deal.

For those of you who use the term in this overly sensitive and irrelevant way, I'd like to link this little rant* I found with which I wholeheartedly agree.

*The part I'm referring to begins at 2:46. If the link gives you an ad and then starts the video at the beginning, close that tab after letting the ad finish and then click the link again. It will jump you straight to the relevant section.

Deliver Us (new In Flames)

Well I finally checked out "Deliver Us", the lead-off single from the upcoming In Flames album. It was... well... frankly I'm not exactly sure what the fuck it was.

I know the old In Flames is dead. I know that Jesper Strömblad's departure can't have helped matters. But evidently even the lukewarm newish In Flames has ceased to be. This was worse than A Sense of Purpose. This was downright depressing. I see no hope for this album. My only wish is that there is at least one good single on it, since I already know I'll end up buying it anyway and it would be nice to have a little something to justify the purchase.

Tell me, am I being too harsh or is this really as bad as my initial reaction tells me it is?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

6 Months of Beard

Today officially marks 6 months since the last time a razor touched my face. I recently did some light moustache trimming to get it out of my mouth, but otherwise the beard has remained untouched by any sort of cutting implements. I'd like it if my soul patch and moustache would thicken up, but otherwise I really can't complain. I'm happy I've gone this far, and I plan to let it grow for 2 years without any trimming before I decide what length to keep it at, so this puts me 1/2 of the way to a year and 1/4 of the way to my goal.

In other news, my interview went well yesterday, and last night I attended a guest lecture by Arun Gandhi where he discussed the philosophy of nonviolence as advocated by his grandfather. This week is "International Week" on campus here, so there are going to be special lectures, workshops, art exhibitions, fairs, and international cuisine all around the school for the next 5 days or so. I'm looking forward to the festivities, especially since several of my class sessions have been cancelled for this week.

And on a sad note, Harmon Killebrew died today. RIP

2011 WBMC Winners

I'll give a fuller post later, but I have to run so I just wanted to post this since I found the winners and their photos.

Winners

Monday, May 16, 2011

Interview Today

In a few hours I have a job interview, and though I'm typically a very relaxed person I'm feeling pretty nervous about this. Hopefully all goes well.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 WBMC

Today the 2011 World Beard and Moustache Championships are taking place in Norway. It would have been fun to go and watch, but Norway isn't exactly next door. Instead I'll just have to root for Beard Team USA from afar and I guess I'll see the results whenever they go up online.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vegan Black Metal Chef

I was just poking around YouTube and I discovered this alternative cooking show that I thought was an interesting concept. The title pretty much says it all, now are you ready to have a black metal song teach you to cook?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Shave That Mess!

Recently it's been incredibly hot and sticky around here, and the mane of hair surrounding my face and head on all sides was beginning to annoy me. So I decided this evening to take action and make with the buzzing. Here's a little before and after:



Passport

I thought I'd mentioned this already, but I can't find that post so I guess I'll say it now. Last weekend I finally got my passport. I'd been planning to do it for several years and just never did until recently. I'm glad to finally have that taken care of.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Beards 6 Minutes

I found a video from a series of 6-minute documentaries done on various Adelaide artists. This one is about the band The Beards, who I've mentioned before. I just love how straight-faced these guys are able to play their schtick.

6 on the Street

Monday, May 9, 2011

Manos: The Hands of Fate

I was in a Best Buy the other day, and I picked up one of those boxes that has 50 cheap crappy horror/sci-fi movies for like $12. On looking at the back, I saw that Manos: The Hands of Fate was in that collection. Well I have something of an ongoing love affair with horrible movies, so as soon as I saw that such a legendary bad film was in there, I had to buy it. Upon watching it I will agree to its status as one of the worst films ever made. It wasn't as fun as Troll 2, but nonetheless I was not disappointed.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Album 12 of 12

Album that changed my life:
"Dopethrone" by Electric Wizard

And here we conclude the series. Dopethrone was my first exposure to Electric Wizard, and it was the album almost solely responsible for getting me into doom. I honestly didn't like this the first time I heard it. Or the second time. Or the third. I kept periodically coming back to it and giving it another try, though, and eventually it grew on me to the point that Electric Wizard became one of my favorite metal bands. I'm glad I was so persistent in listening to this band (which was pretty much just because I thought they had an awesome name) and now I can point my finger straight at this album whenever I listen to Saint Vitus, Cathedral, or Weedeater and say "that's the album responsible for me liking this."

There you go, those were the 12 albums that changed my life.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Album 11 of 12

Album that changed my life:
"Jaktens Tid" by Finntroll

I'm not exactly sure of when I first heard this album. What I am sure of, though, is that this was the first full-blown folk metal album I ever heard. The past couple albums on this list had set me up for the folk metal scene, but it wasn't until I encountered Finntroll that I officially broke into the sub-genre. This was huge for my musical tastes for two reasons. First, folk metal itself is one of the main branches of my musical listening. Second, it was through this, rather than Bathory, that I first became aware of Viking metal groups like Windir, Ensiferum, Thyrfing, Moonsorrow, Månegarm, and Falkenbach. Truth be told, this album probably belongs in the top 3 or 4 in terms of how much of my current musical tastes it opened for me. Oddly, though I have nothing specifically against them, I find that I rarely listen to Finntroll these days. Their impact on my musical development, though, has been massive.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thor

I'm not generally a big one for 3D. Nor am I a big one for doing something just because it's popular. Here are a few things I AM very interested in, though: Vikings, Marvel Comics, and mythology. So yeah, I was exited to see Thor. I had my reservations, considering the odd sci-fi slant, but I figured it was worth the risk. Thus, I headed out for the midnight premier in 3D. And overall, I was pleased. It was Hollywood blockbuster fair, so there are certain things one knows to expect, but it was an entertaining movie. It had plenty of action, an ample sense of humor, and it actually looked pretty cool in 3D. They actually brought in some good actors, and I was surprised to see that Kenneth Branagh directed it. Plus I blasted Twilight of the Thunder God in the car while I drove home, which served as a perfect close to the evening.

"Thor! Odin's son, protector of mankind. Arise to meet your fate! Your destiny awaits!"

Death Metal Quiz

I was playing around on Sporcle.com yesterday, and I decided to make a death metal quiz. It's really more of a "see how many of these American death metal bands you can guess" than a proper quiz, since outside giving the State they originally came from, it doesn't really give any clues. Whatever, it was just for the fun of it anyway. If you want to give it a try, I'll link it here.

Album 10 of 12

Album that changed my life:
"Hammerheart" by Bathory

In my last entry, I noted that the slower material by Nile had sent me looking for long, epic metal. In my humble opinion, it doesn't get much more epic than this. I bought Hammerheart some time in the late fall or or early winter of 2006, and it was one of the first albums (besides the In Flames back-catalog) that I can remember buying online. My search for epic, sweeping metal had yielded an all-time classic that introduced me to Viking metal, introduced me to one of my absolute favorite bands, and contained my single favorite metal song ever recorded (One Rode to Asa Bay). In a nutshell, this was one of the best musical purchases I ever made, and though I love much of Bathory's material, this remains my favorite of their albums. Through this record I would find myself latching onto numerous other bands. Admittedly I did not hear bands like Moonsorrow, Falkenbach, and Månegarm until somewhat later but Hammerheart prepared me to receive them when I finally did. It would also not be a stretch to say that, by acquainting me with a different element of Scandinavian metal, this album primed me for the next entry on this list.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Evoken - Antithesis of Light

Until I got this album earlier today, I had never heard Evoken. Right now, as I listen to it yet again, my only wish is that I'd heard them sooner.

This 2005 release is an excellent example of death-doom, admittedly more on the doom side, which sounds to me like a fusion of Solitude Aeturnus and Incantation. With the exception of a 49-second intro, each and every track on the album runs over 10 minutes. The songs are slow, plodding, and gloomy with a darkly Gothic atmosphere and deep guttural vocals.

After the intro we hear In Solitary Ruin, which is possibly the strongest track on the album. The Mournful Refusal would probably be my other primary candidate for the title. I'm not quite sure yet, though, because honestly everything on here just sounds so good it's hard to choose a single song.

In summation, this thing is a monster. If you haven't heard it, I'd strongly suggest you give it a listen.

Album 9 of 12

Album that changed my life:
"Black Seeds of Vengeance" by Nile

As you may have noticed with Obituary and Bloodbath being my two most recent album posts, at this point in my musical journey I was starting to explore distinctly heavier music. It was at around this point that I entered that phase (which I think most budding metal heads have at some point) where I began to consciously look for the heaviest music I could find. Queries both online and in music stores turned up several names, but the two most common seemed to be Nile and Cryptopsy. Armed with this information, I took to the record store and came home with Nile's "Black Seeds of Vengeance" and Cryptopsy's "Once Was Not". Aside from Flo Mounier's amazing drum work I was fairly unimpressed with my early taste of Cryptopsy, but Nile really struck a chord with me. Not only was it probably the heaviest thing I'd heard up to that point, it also primed me for my later love of folk metal by bringing in all manner of unconventional instrumentation to add atmosphere to the tracks. Additionally, Karl Sanders set the new standard in my mind for deep, monstrous death vocals (which stood until I heard Craig Pillard with Incantation). This is still my favorite Nile album, and the overall impact it had on my musical direction was strange. Despite being very heavy, it actually did a lot to turn me away from just seeking brutality in music. Tracks like "To Dream of Ur" showed me a grand, slow, atmospheric side of metal that would guide me in a new direction as I continued my journey.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Album 8 of 12

Album that changed my life:
"Ressurection Through Carnage" by Bloodbath

There was a bit of a dry patch in my musical expansion after that initial fertile explosion. I had been exposed to a ton of new music, and now I was just busy weeding through it and trying to catch up on the styles I had found. I discovered several other bands that I would grow to love, like the mighty Amon Amarth and the pioneering Dark Tranquility. It was not until the end of that summer, though, that I would stumble upon an album that introduced me to something genuinely new to me. Around the end of August I found myself in a record store in Las Vegas looking for interesting music, when I made a discovery. There was this band that had the same singer as Opeth! I had to listen to that, so I bought it and took it home. The first thing I noticed was how cool the guitar tone sounded, and how incredibly catchy the riffs were. This was a very heavy album, yet it was bouncy and energetic and fun as hell to listen to. It was also my introduction to "old school" Swedish death metal. Little did I know at the time that the sound I was hearing had been carefully crafted in imitation of other bands, but when I learned that Bloodbath was essentially a tribute band to groups like Entombed and Dismember, it made me decide to check out those bands too. And of course it didn't take long for Left Hand Path, Like An Ever Flowing Stream, and Into The Grave to convince me of what a good decision that was.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Album 7 of 12

Album that changed my life:
"Frozen in Time" by Obituary

In Wal-Mart yet again, I continued my search for more new metal, spurred on by my string of successes and not yet feeling the full sting of my failures (and there were plenty of misfires). I was browsing the racks and spotted a really cool looking album by a band called Obituary. I'd never heard of them, but the name sounded pretty metal and the cover art was cool so I decided to give it a shot. I was not disappointed. The vocals were strange and a little off-putting, but the overall sound was excellent. It was a different kind of heavy, one which I could not yet identify but would come to learn was good old fashioned straight death metal. And that was Obituary's contribution to my vocabulary. Through them, and my searches for similar bands, I learned of what I saw labelled as the "big 5" of Florida death metal: Obituary, Death, Morbid Angel, Deicide, and Cannibal Corpse. I might argue with one or two of those selections today, but the the point is that via Frozen in Time I was exposed to the world of American death metal. I learned then that not all good metal was from Europe, and not all the metal coming from the USA was as crappy as I had suspected after buying albums from groups like Chimaira and Dead to Fall.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bin Laden

I don't know how much this changes things in the middle east, but it sure came out of nowhere to hear that Osama Bin Laden has apparently been killed.

Story

A huge group cheer of "USA! USA! USA!" just went up from my neighbors' house, and I guess we'll get confirmation soon. This would be a good time to own a TV.

Monkeytail

I have recently been made aware of a new beard trend called the "monkeytail". I could explain, but allow me to just illustrate it instead:




















The hair dye is a non-essential part of the look, but you get the idea. This trend even has its own website here. I'm not the biggest fan in the world of weird beards, but at the same time if somebody wants to go for something unique it's certainly not my place to tell them they shouldn't. In any case, I'm still not sure if I like this look, but it's certainly interesting and I can see the odd sort of appeal it would have.

Album 6 of 12

Album that changed my life:
"Follow the Reaper" by Children of Bodom

In the wake of discovering In Flames and Opeth, I went crazy searching for new metal. It wasn't too long before this entry by Children of Bodom emerged from the rest of the new material I had acquired and established themselves amongst my new favorites. Growing up I always liked guitar and guitar soloing, so the extensive displays of technical virtuosity here were one of the really big elements that stood out to me. Prompted primarily by this album, I went on a brief foray into more power and progressive metal, listening to bands like Sonata Arctica and Yngwie Malmsteen. That didn't last terribly long, but for a short while it was a major factor in my musical listening, so I think it's still notable in discussing the evolution of my metal tastes. Besides, despite Children of Bodom's generally lackluster material over recent years, Follow the Reaper remains extremely enjoyable today.

Metal Country #1

As per METALLATTORNEY's earlier prediction, this one wasn't even a contest.

#1 Sweden
Favorite bands:
1. In Flames (melodic death metal)
2. Bathory (thrash/black/Viking)
3. Opeth (extreme progressive metal)
4. Amon Amarth (melodic death metal)
5. Månegarm (Viking metal)
6. Dark Tranquility (melodic death metal)
7. Hypocrisy (death metal)
8. Dawn (melodic black metal)
9. Grave (death metal)
10. Entombed (death metal)
11. Gorement (death metal)
12. Vomitory (death metal)
13. Bloodbath (death metal)
14. Unleashed (death metal)
15. Dismember (death metal)
16. Runemagick (death-doom)
17. At The Gates (melodic death metal)
18. Thyrfing (Viking metal)
19. Evergrey (progressive metal)
20. Vintersorg (Viking/progressive)

When dissecting my metal collection, there are two main categories into which bands can fall: "Swedish" and "Other". Those of you who read my Top 25 post will notice that the top 4 bands I listed were all Swedish. For that matter, I couldn't even bring myself to stop at 10 bands on this post, since there are just too many Swedish bands I love. It even took some effort to reign myself in at 20. It's probably a product of my means of introduction to metal (coming through Swedes like In Flames and Opeth) but I tend to think that Swedish metal is just better than everybody else's. In terms of specific bands, there are too many to discuss individually. As an aside I'd like to note that I stole my classification for Opeth from the Metal Archives, because I couldn't think of how to properly classify them in so few words. Stylistically, Sweden is most notable for its death metal and melodic death metal bands. Many strong black, progressive, doom, and Viking/folk bands have come from Sweden as well. Truly, in my mind at least, Sweden is the nation that reigns supreme as the king of metal.