Friday, December 30, 2011


I'd planned to start posting again after Christmas, but I've been sick, so I probably won't really get back to it until next week.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Our Little Graduate

Congratulations to my little brother on his commencement. Hopefully I'll get there myself at some point.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My 25 Favorite Metal Songs

While sitting in the living room playing music today, I decided to put my leisure to good use. To that end, here is a list of my 25 all-time favorite metals songs. I repeat, these are MY FAVORITES. This is not an objective list of the best metal songs.

Some of the cuts I had to make were rather painful, and of course any list like this is subject to almost constant change. I tried to step back and look at my listening habits over the past year or two rather than just my current mental state, so I think the end result is fairly representative, with the songs near the top being particularly stable in my mind. My one condition was that only one song per band could make the list. That was only a relevant issue with a few bands, though, so that rule didn't affect the final list very much.

Anyway, without further ado, here it is:

25. "Into the Grave" by Grave
The crushingly heavy, catchy, infectious title track from 1991's Swedish death metal classic Into the Grave.

24. "Majesty and Decay" by Immolation
I appear to be in the minority of this one, since Immolation's new 2010 album Majesty and Decay is my favorite album of theirs. The main riff in the title track is one of my favorites in all of death metal.

23. "The Morning Never Came" by Swallow the Sun
Yet another title track (I promise I'm not doing this on purpose), this time the 9-minute epic from 2003's death-doom masterpiece The Morning Never Came.

22. "Brother Blue Steel" by The Obsessed
The opening track from 1991's Lunar Womb is the one of the catchiest traditional doom metal songs you'll ever encounter, and I love Wino's vocals.

21. "Screaming For Vengeance" by Judas Priest
1982's Screaming For Vengeance has a title track with one of the best choruses in metal history. Rob Halford stands out, really showing off his pipes on this song.

20. "Hallowed Be Thy Name" by Iron Maiden
1982 also saw the release of one of metal's most celebrated records in The Number of the Beast. The closing track is a heavy metal classic of monumental proportions.

19. "Brothers of Metal, Part 1" by Manowar
Cheesier than hell, but I don't care. This track off 1996's Louder Than Hell is just pure over-the-top fun.

18. "Symphony of Life" by SpiRitual
A brilliant, complex fusion of electronic, folk, and gothic metal with widely varied vocal styles. This track comes from the EP Pulse, which was released in 2005 and is sadly the only record the band has ever produced.

17. "My Ending Quest" by Gorement
Stunningly beautiful, the opener from 1994's criminally unknown The Ending Quest is probably the single greatest old school death metal track I've ever heard.

16. "Lord of the Seas" by Nomans Land
Coming from Hammerheart, the 2005 release by a largely unknown Russian outfit, this was one of the first Viking metal songs I ever heard, and it's still one of my favorites. It's lighter and bouncier than many of the more subdued songs in this style, but it's a fun, catchy listen.

15. "A Tout Le Monde" by Megadeth
From 1994's Youthanasia. I've heard considerable debate as to whether or not this was still thrash metal, but regardless of what you call it I'll keep playing this song again and again.

14. "Black Sabbath" by Black Sabbath
Possibly the first heavy metal song. Definitely the first doom metal song. The eerie, atmospheric classic from 1970's monumental Black Sabbath is more than just a personal favorite, it's one of the greatest and most groundbreaking tracks in metal history.

13. "I Was Buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery" by Woods of Ypres
A slow, faintly unsettling track from the largely unknown Woods IV: The Green Album, released in 2009. This is an idiosyncratic blend of atmospheric black and doom metal which is hard to describe to somebody who has never heard it.

12. "Enter Sandman" by Metallica
Yes, I know Metallica (The Black Album) was where the band "sold out" in 1991. And I know this gets played every day on every rock station in the country. I don't care. I still love this song, and I enjoy listening to it more than any other single track in Metallica's formidable thrash catalog.

11. "Holy Diver" by Dio
Probably the best-known recording by the legendary vocalist Ronnie James Dio, the title track from 1983's Holy Diver has seemingly infinite replay value. It has become one of heavy metal's most recognized classics.

10. "Born Too Late" by Saint Vitus
The title track and opener for 1986's Born Too Late is good old traditional doom metal at its absolute best. The entire album is just well-executed Black Sabbath worship, but this particular song really stands out to me as something special.

9. "Return Trip" by Electric Wizard
Incomparably heavy and inhumanly slow, this monolithic wall of crushing psychedelic fuzz opened the 1997 release Come My Fanatics.... A nearly-10-minute slab of thunder and bong water, it's everything an extreme doom metal song could hope to be.

8. "Token of Time" by Ensiferum
Marvelously energetic and melodic, this ultra-catchy track appeared on the band's 2001 full-length debut, Ensiferum. It's brilliantly executed and surprisingly upbeat Viking metal that makes me want to start jumping up and down every time I hear it.

7. "Gods of War Arise" by Amon Amarth
This was one of the bands I had to institute my 1-song-per-band rule for. Picking a favorite Amon Amarth song is like picking your favorite individual berry from a blueberry pie. That said, I love this track from 2006's awesome melodeath album With Oden on Our Side and I feel perfectly happy placing it high on this list.

6. "Monkey Junction" by Weedeater
From the first time I heard this hateful southern sludge monster, I was hooked. It is from And Justice For Ya'll, which was released in 2001. This thing is fuzzy, druggy, and hostile in a strikingly catchy way.

5. "Dunkelheit" by Burzum
I'm not the biggest fan of Norwegian black metal, but I love this song. It's dark, atmospheric, and strangely haunting in a way that many later acts have tried to capture but have never succeeded in equaling. It was released in 1996 as the opening track of Filosofem.

4. "The Jester Race" by In Flames
As my longtime favorite band, I naturally had a little trouble picking out my very favorite of their songs. After some thought, the title track from 1996's melodic death metal masterpiece The Jester Race came out on top. This is a slightly redundant, ultra-catchy, chorus-oriented affair that many fans would claim is not even one of the better tracks on the album. This is my list, though, and I've played this song into the ground without ever tiring of it.

3. "The Leper Affinity" by Opeth
The opener for Opeth's phenomenal 2001 album Blackwater Park was possibly the single most pivotal song in forming my metal tastes. I encountered it early in my journey, and I was blown away. Nothing was ever the same after that for me, at least not musically. This deathy, progressive titan occupies a very special place for me.

2. "Inis Mona" by Eluveitie
I just love this song. This carries no deeper explanations or personal history, just pure enjoyment. Coming from Slania in 2008, this wonderfully balanced melodeath/folk metal track is insanely catchy and a ton of fun to listen to, no matter how many times I play it.

1. "One Rode to Asa Bay" by Bathory
I didn't even have to think about this one. This 10-minute-plus epic from 1990's Viking metal classic Hammerheart stands in a class by itself in my mind. Beautiful and deeply emotional, the narrative surrounds the forceful Christianization of Scandinavia, and the subsequent demise of that region's traditional culture. The compositions is amazing, and Quorton's warbling voice cracks with such genuine heartbreak that I find it impossible not to be totally captivated. My feelings about this song are so strong that I even made it the subject of a college essay last school year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

So I Think I Can Write?

I've started up a new blog as a home for my own short fiction writing. For now, I'm doing short installments of a story I've just begun writing, and I intend to put up another few paragraphs each day. In the future I may add other extended series or possible some stand-alone short works, but I don't really know yet. Since I started it for my own use and benefit, I'm not terribly concerned with developing any kind of readership for that blog. If you happen to be interested in taking a look, though, or if you're just bored and you feel like telling me whether or not it's total crap, I'll leave a you link to it here: Fictional Tidbits

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Metal Christmas

After some searching, this was the best metal Christmas song I was able to locate. So, in celebration of the season, here is some Dio. God rest ye too, RJD.

Does anybody else have any good metal Christmas songs they would like to share? And no, I don't count the songs off Christmas ist Krieg as "good" (though some of them are rather amusing in their own odd way).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Winter of the Beard

The Winter of The Beard from Michael Schwartz on Vimeo.

I found this documentary film to be quite engrossing. It follows the actions, journeys, and personalities of a group of men who record their lives individually while they all grow beards for 6 months.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

As Always With Lists...

As per usual when it comes time to start making lists, I already find myself wishing to add amendments. This is always the case when making lists, but this time I think there are two very distinct problems I'm encountering. The first is that, as previously stated, I've kept poor tabs on new releases this year, so I'll likely still be uncovering things for quite some time that were released in 2011 and that I really like. The second is that I've found myself so heavily drawn to new pagan/viking/folk metal that I had to restrain myself to keep from totally losing any trace of balance in my genre distribution. I was already pretty lopsided, and on second thought I probably should have been even more so than I was.

That top 10 list is done, but just as a couple quick honorable mentions, I'd like to note "Book of Dowth" by Suidakra and "Heiðindómr ok mótgangr" by Helheim. Some good material was also released this year by Absu, Vomitory, Skeletonwitch, Autopsy, Purgatory, and other groups too but the two aforementioned albums are the ones that I feel most strongly deserve mention.

My guess is six months from now I'll look back at my list and shake my head, but oh well.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Top 10 Metal albums of 2011

Well, it's December, and we all know what that means. It means this is the time to start releasing our best-of-the-year lists. Before I start mine, I'd like to make a few notes:

- I did not do a very good job this year of keeping up with new releases, so it's quite possible that I missed out on a number of albums that deserve "Top 10" status. I can't rank what I haven't heard yet, though, so these are the top 10 albums from 2011 that I've heard.

- This list is just my personal opinion, so when you see that releases by groups like Mastodon got left off, don't freak out about it. I'm not claiming they're bad by excluding them, I'm just saying that they didn't do much for me personally.

- You'll notice that the genre distribution is not terribly balanced. To be fair, I'm not crazy about power metal, and only a handful of thrash groups interest me. There may well be many great releases this year in those genres, but I don't follow them closely enough to be a good source of information on them. Death metal, on the other hand, is a genre I really enjoy. Unfortunately, it didn't produce much that really stood out to me this year, though I guess I could give honorable mentions to the newest releases by Vomitory and Autopsy. As such, for me this was a year dominated by pagan/folk/viking and sludge/stoner/doom.

Alright, time for the list.


10. Opeth - Heritage
I was a little torn over this album. On the one hand, I love Opeth and I love that they are willing to experiment and expand their sound. On the other hand, the end result of this particular experiment was not one of their best efforts. The weird, proggy developments and lack of death vocals made this an unusual release. It was still interesting, and there were some excellent moments here and there, but considering the strength of their back catalog, this record simply settled to the middle. That's still good enough to make my personal Top 10, just barely.

9. Moonsorrow - Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa
Another good-but-not-great release by one of my favorite bands. This one was not weird, though. It just didn't do much that other Moonsorrow albums haven't done already. These Finns are probably the best viking metal band on the market, and I don't really have much to say about this album other than that if you like Moonsorrow or just epic viking metal in general, you will probably like this.

8. Weedeater - Jason... the Dragon
These sludge/stoner doomsters are like a great, lumbering beast. This time around they produced something a little slower and more druggy than their last album. It's not them at their harshest, but the deep, fuzzy grooves make for some fun listening.

7. Amon Amarth - Surtur Rising
I'll assume that anybody who likes metal enough to read this list already knows who Amon Amarth are. I also assume that if you're familiar with this pack of Swedes, you already know what this album sounds like. With that in mind, there's not much reason to describe this record. As an aside, this was the only death metal release to make this list.

6. Kroda - Schwarzpfad
The Nazi-esque politics of this Ukrainian pagan metal outfit make mass appeal somewhat improbable. However, their music is brilliant and I highly recommend this album to anybody who enjoys black/pagan/viking/folk metal. The songs are all long, with just 5 tracks in 50-minutes, and they tend to start slow and mellow before building to heights of cold northern hostility and then returning to quieter passages. The hard/soft dynamic is not unusual in long metal tracks, but Kroda handle it better than most bands in my opinion.

5. Cruachan - Blood on the Black Robe
This Irish band produces some of the most genuine-sounding Celtic metal you'll ever find. With this release, they opted for a much heavier approach than on their previous albums that I've heard. The folk instruments are still present and this is still clearly Celtic folk metal, but for all those listeners who feel that folk metal allows those elements to sap all the harshness from the music, this should be a pleasant surprise.

4. Wizard's Beard - Pure Filth
Who knew a group from England could sound so much like they belonged in a deep southern swamp? On their debut album, Wizard's Beard have created a brilliant slab of sludgy doom that sounds like a cross between Weedeater and a pissed badger. This is heavy, hostile, and infectious in the extreme. It's also my favorite surprise find of the year, despite its rather short run-time. I'm really excited to hear more from these guys in the future.

3. Gernotshagen - Weltenbrand
Yet another entry from the pagan/folk/viking metal sphere, this time from Germany. I had thoroughly enjoyed their previous release, but by adding more melodic structure and variety this time around, I feel that they outdid themselves. Multiple vocal styles, tempos, and song lengths help keep things fresh without ever disturbing the flow of the record. This album also expertly balances the harshness of black metal with the catchiness of folk.

2. Witch Mountain - South of Salem
I don't like female metal vocalists, so when a female fronted metal band captivates my attention, it's something special. Portland's stoner metal outfit Witch Mountain have succeeded in doing just that with their newest release. The heavy, groove-laden music contrasts wonderfully with the clean female vocals, creating a sound that at times borders on bluesy. It's an excellent, though not conventional sounding, album. Those who like some variety in their collections should really look into this.

1. Primordial - Redemption at the Puritan's Hand
After I brought this album home, I couldn't stop listening to it for about 3 weeks. That alone stands testament to the quality of this release. I've long been passingly familiar with these somewhat un-folksy Irish Celtic folk metallers, but it wasn't until I bought this album that I finally gave them a real listen. I was impressed. The gritty vocals which had always grated on me when I'd heard bits of them previously really hit a sweet spot for me on this record, and I came to realize why fans always cite them as Primordial's standout feature. In the end, I got more enjoyment from this album than anything else I heard released in 2011, and that's why Redemption at the Puritan's Hand is my selection as the top metal album of the year.


Streetlights cast a dull yellow glow, reflecting the rickety wooden storefront facades along Union Street. Fog settles densely in the silent autumn night, wrapping the short block in a glowing sepia blanket. It is four in the morning: a time when all truly sane men in this small Ohio town are settled comfortably in their beds. Yet on the corner, staring blankly into the night, looms a lone figure in a long dark coat. Motionless and silent, he would have been frightening were there even a single soul to witness his eerie vigil. There is not. This is his time. Nobody else knows that, but it is true nonetheless. Alone. He is always alone. But with that solitude comes power, for is not power merely the ability to control all those in your presence? In the absence of outside opposition, the lone man has that control, for the self becomes the entirety of the world he inhabits. He is lord and master in that place and time, unopposed in his control over all he sees. This grasp is tenuous indeed, for with the mere approach of another soul, his power is lost. That is why he occupies the depths of night, where he can stand alone and strong. In the luminous fog on this now deserted street, he finds himself the god of an empty kingdom. Lord over nobody, but lord just the same. Nothing in all the world can compare with such an experience as this. Nothing.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's a Sad Day in Baseball

For 11 years, Albert Pujols had been more than just a stellar baseball player. He had become an idea. His image of integrity, loyalty, and hard work stood out amongst the team-hopping, money hungry, disgustingly selfish world of professional athletes. He was a symbol of a bygone age when great players like Lou Gehrig were the type of man that kids could look up to as heroes. In a world populated with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and his ilk, caring more about inflated stats and big paychecks than their teams or the lessons they taught the kids who looked up to them, Albert Pujols was different. He was the last titan. Today, that titan fell. The great symbol of all that was best about the game has become a sellout.

It's a sad day, and I'm truly disappointed.


While poking around on a few sites I haven't visited in a while, I came across a short video I found interesting to watch. It's a brief piece on Jack Passion, the former world beard champion. You can check it out here if you're curious.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Nov 18th

In facial-hair related news, while I was offline I missed posting about the amusingly titled "Have Sex With a Guy With a Moustache Day". I find the ad video amusing, personally, so even though I was offline at the time I'm posting it now.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's Been a Month

Well it's December 1st, so that means my self-imposed exile is at an end.

I feel that this exercise has been highly productive. Rather than spending all my free time online, in the past month I have used that time to write a short story, several poems, read 2 Icelandic sagas, and design and construct a strategy/role playing board game set in 7th century England.

The productivity has been nice, but the important test is to see if I can walk away from this with a healthier approach to internet usage. I think I can. Longer posts may follow on the matter, but I'm not sure about that yet. Mostly I just wanted to say "I'm back" to my readers.