Friday, July 29, 2011

Mayhem Festival

Just got home a little bit ago from the Mayhem Festival. We went to the venue outside Pittsburgh, same place we went to Ozzfest last year. We arrived shortly before 3:00pm, so we missed some early opening acts, but between the 3 stages we still saw 10 bands play. I should add that by having 2 smaller stages where one played while the other got set up, they vastly improved the experience by totally eliminating downtime between bands. The groups we saw were, in order:


-All Shall Perish- (Thoroughly mediocre and generic, but I already knew that.)

-Kingdom of Sorrow- (I saw them at Ozzfest last year two, and they failed to leave much of an impression. A second viewing didn't do much to change that.)

-Suicide Silence- (Despite being familiar with the name, this was the first time I'd ever actually heard any of their material. Stolen riffs, endless breakdowns, annoyingly screechy vocals, and a front man who spent way too much time trying to get the crowd to jump and mosh every 5 seconds. I'd call them the worst band we saw.)

-Unearth- (Second time seeing them. They're by no means a favorite of mine, but they're decent, and they played a reasonably entertaining set.)

-Machine Head- (One of the side stage closers. The best band we'd seen up to this point, though nothing terrifically special. I'll admit I'm starting to sound pretty negative, but honestly there were a lot of lackluster performances amongst the openers.)

-In Flames- (The other side stage closer. It was my third time seeing them, and if you've read many of my music posts you can probably already guess that I really enjoyed watching In Flames again. It was the first time I'd seen them since Jesper left. They weren't as good as the last time I saw them, but they still put on a very entertaining show and were far and away the highlight of the small stage performances, in my opinion.)


-Trivium- (Second time seeing them. Meh.)

-Megadeth- (Second time seeing them, too. One of the better performances of the show, unsurprisingly. They didn't have the time to cover all the material I'd have liked, but they sounded good playing what they could.)

-Godsmack- (They sounded good, assuming you like hard radio rock. The vocals were surprisingly similar to the quality of their recordings. The caveats would be that they had the audience sing the choruses far too often, so we rarely heard the actual appropriate vocals for those, and that while the quality of the performance was perfectly solid, there just seemed to be a general lack of energy. On the whole they were pretty good, but certainly not great.)

-Disturbed- (Big production values, plenty of energy, and good quality performances by all the members. Regrettably, their song selection left quite a bit to be desired. They left off many of their hits in favor of an odd assortment of filler tracks. They may have been holding on to those as ammo for an encore, but they ended at 11pm and I think the crowd was about out of steam, since there was surprisingly little noise calling for more. As such, they didn't come back out and we walked away feeling just a little bit cheated. Much like Godsmack, this left their set at pretty good, though again certainly not great.)

I had a fairly fun time. Compared with some of the other shows I've been to with large bills, though, this one was rather lacking. I can't REALLY say that I was flat-out disappointed, but at the same time I was a little. Admittedly this was more of a hard rock affair than my typical show selections, but I've seen enough hard rock bands live that I feel I'm perfectly capable of approaching this objectively. And for me, the show overall landed a grade somewhere between a C+ and a B-.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Finally Writing Again

I had been making excellent progress on my personal writing project up until I started work. At that point, I almost totally stopped. Over the past few days I've been trying to sort out where to go next with it, and last night was the first time in weeks that I got any significant amount of writing done.

Friday, July 22, 2011

In Flames - Sounds of a Playground Fading

A funny thing happened today. While killing time in the air conditioned mall, I happened briefly into a Hot Topic. An annoying, whiny song was playing (as usual) and for a minute I just kind of phased it out. Then suddenly a a slightly louder vocal bit caught my ear and I froze. I knew that voice. I grabbed my brother and said "Oh crap, you hear this? That's Anders Friden singing. This is In Flames." He had my sister go up to the counter to ask who was playing, and they confirmed what I already knew.

I was crushed by what I was hearing, and I beat a hasty retreat. The episode did serve as a reminder, though, that I had yet to check out their new album. And even though I fully expected to hear a mountain of garbage, I dutifully went into Best Buy and picked up a copy anyway.

I have to say that, at least after my initial listen through the album, I'm pleasantly surprised. The old In Flames is long gone, and we all know that. I was expecting an even bigger train wreck this time, though, from the bits I'd heard and from the really weak nature of their previous release. Instead (though there are certainly a few weak tracks, like "Liberation", the one I'd just heard) I found myself reminded quite a lot of Reroute to Remain and, at times, Come Clarity. It was quite a relief I must say, and already I can tell that I like this new material substantially better than A Sense of Purpose. They mixed some decent guitar leads in, they've tried incorporating some of their traditional jester imagery (including one song title), and while most of the songs are relatively mid-paced and moderate in terms of aggression there are a couple tracks that actually stand out as some of the heaviest material they've released in years.

Of course the loss of Jesper is something I'm not thrilled about, but at least it appears the band is capable of functioning in their new form without him. There are several tracks that sounded fairly derivative of previous In Flames songs, but I suppose by the time a band releases 10 full-length studio albums that's bound to happen. I can't give a good, comprehensive review having only played the album once, but my initial reaction is that this is something I'll find myself playing and enjoying again several times in the future.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Industrial Metal?

I have heard the argument advanced that, since "real" industrial music eschews any conventional form of structure in favor of an anti-musical approach, it cannot truly be combined with any standard musical form. As such, the arguer claimed, "industrial metal" is a false term that represents a musical style which is not really a fusion of its namesakes. Personally I am neither a fan of nor an expert on industrial music. I typically just use the term to refer to metal which includes elements of electronic music. I can't vouch for the "correctness" of the term, but that's how I use it and most people seem to understand what I mean when I use it that way.

I'm curious what others' thoughts are on the matter. Also, does anybody out there with a more specific expertise in the area of industrial music have anything to add?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Human Centipede

I just finished watching The Human Centipede. I know I've written about people who don't know how to watch horror movies, but that movie was flat-out disappointing. It probably would have gone down better had I not spent months hearing about how it's the goriest, most intense and disgusting movie anybody has ever seen. Honestly, I didn't even think it had the gore factor of standard torture-porn fair like Saw or Hostel, let alone the savage gruesomeness of underground gore horror à la August Underground's Mordum.

I probably need to step back a little for perspective and realize that my penchant for death metal and gory movies has almost certainly left me far less sensitive than most viewers. That said, even people who have seen other gory movies have claimed that this one was too much for them, and frankly I don't get it. I really wanted to enjoy The Human Centipede, but it just plain did nothing for me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Before and After

As per request, these shots I took right before and after trimming my beard.

Oh Deer!

Last night I was driving home from town. Maybe half a mile from the house, I saw a small deer standing in the opposite lane about 30-40 feet in front of my car. I started to slow down. When I was maybe 6 feet or so away, the deer suddenly walked right in front of my car. I locked down on the steering wheel and mashed the brakes. Suddenly the deer stumbled and fell down on the road, with my bumper hitting the middle of its back as I came to a stop with the front of my car right on top of it pinning it to the ground. Switching on my 4-ways, I sat there for a few seconds thinking "oh shit, oh shit, oh shit" and watching a few tufts of hair drifting through my headlight beams. Then I heard it cry out from under my car. Slowly, I backed up about 4 feet. The deer stood back up and ran away into the night. I drove home, and upon checking the front my car found no signs of any damage whatsoever.

So in short, last night I somehow managed to hit a deer without hurting it or damaging my car in any way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Beard Trim

I decided over the past couple weeks that my beard was getting a bit too unruly, to where it was bothering me. Different parts were starting to curl in different directions and while I make a rule of ignoring what other people say about my appearance, it just looked bad to me. So today I tried to do some light trimming, but it didn't seem to help (possibly even made it worse). As such, I decided to just trim it way back. So I still have a beard, but now it's down to about an inch long. I actually rather like the way it looks right now, so I think I'll keep it this way for a little while.

In 5 days it would have been 8 months without trimming.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Internet Phone Pranks

Well, evidently there are websites now that one can visit to prank call their friends. The caller can select any of a number of sound clips, choose a number to call, and choose a number they want it to display as on that person's caller ID. I got a call early today, courtesy of an annoying friend of mine, which came up as being my brother, and started with a girl's voice saying "Hey baby." I was taken by surprise. I could see my brother at the time and had him show me his phone right then, so naturally since I'd just been watching a bunch of Doctor Who I assumed it was an alien. Turns out I was wrong, but the fact that some random website can remotely manipulate the functions of my caller ID is almost as unsettling as the idea of getting hit on by an alien. Not quite, but almost.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Back From Canada

Got back to my parents' house late this morning. We didn't spend as much time in Toronto as I had hoped, but we went to Montreal too, which wasn't originally part of the plan. In all honesty, I enjoyed the visit to Montreal more. For one thing, the fact the it's a French-speaking city made it feel more, for lack of a better word, "foreign" than Toronto felt, which added to the overall experience. Plus, in Toronto we mostly saw the new parts of downtown and the main attractions (I did enjoy visiting the Art Gallery of Ontario), while in Montreal we spent a chunk of time just wandering the streets and soaking in the city. We also met some very nice people in Montreal who pointed us to a few interesting locations worth visiting. They also told us some about the community programs they were involved with in the area we were in, which happened to be a very low-income part of town. One thing I was struck by, was that despite the fact that we were in a poor, somewhat dirty area with graffiti around us it never felt at all dangerous in the way those parts of US cities tend to feel. Also, we happened by chance to be there on the last day of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, so we got to enjoy some live music before we left.

After we crossed back into the states, we hit the northeastern corner of our country, since my dad wants to set foot at one point or another in at least the lower 48 states, and he hadn't visited most of that region yet. So we saw Vermont (Montpelier is a beautiful little town), New Hampshire (where we visited the Old Man of the Mountain and learned that his face fell off a few years ago), Maine (where we spent a good amount of time, with the highlight being an hour or so spent in a lobster fishing village called Friendship talking to a local lobster dealer about the life of a New England fisherman).

The trip back down after that was mostly just driving to get home today, but we did stop off last night in Concord, Massachusetts so my mom could see Louisa May Alcott's house.

It was a pretty eventful trip, and overall I'd call it a success. I wouldn't mind going back to visit Montreal and/or Toronto again with a smaller group (there were 6 of us) and with a little more time to spend. For now, though, this little slice will have to do.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hark, Canada lies on the horizon!

Yup, tomorrow we head to the great northern wastelands to check things out. Should be fun.