On Valkyries and new tech…

 

Blind Guardian's early experiments with 3D were not a success...

I’m testing out WordPress and Spotify‘s new integrated plugin and thought that this would be an ideal opportunity to inflict my musical taste on you (you’re welcome).   To wit – do you enjoy epic fantasy/rock music/nice German men?  Have some Blind Guardian on me (you’ll need access to the modern marvel that is Spotify for this to work).

Blind Guardian – Valkyries

If it works for you – fantastic.  If not?  Well, you can always try listening to the band on their MySpace page (yes, still a thing…)

(Don’t) Steal This Music

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Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my opinions about illegally downloading a band’s music.  If you want to try a track out, there are probably streaming services that you can check out and, most likely, the band will post samples of their songs on their website. There isn’t really a great argument for stealing a band’s work – as frustrating as it can be when a record isn’t easily available, there are usually legal ways to get a cd or pay for an album.

For the most part, I feel that serial downloaders just grab music so that they can say that they have it – they arguably have no intention of ever listening to the stuff they’ve got on their hard drive, but they have boaster’s rights on having 20,000 songs on several drives.

Lead singer of Canadian metal band The Agonist, Alissa White-Gluz, has a very direct and honest take on the effect that stealing an artist’s music has on them over in an interview carried at Blabbermouth.net, ahead of the summer release of the band’s next album, “Prisoners”.

Bands at The Agonist’s level do not have the support of CD sales to help support touring costs any more and can’t rely on selling a quarter of the records which they might have done before the advent of P2P and file-sharing decimated the careers of ordinary working musicians – that side of things has gone almost completely by the wayside.  This would be fine if iTunes/Amazon and stores of that ilk had stepped in to fill the gap left by physical retail locations and if consumers bought music rather than nicked it, but we know that there’s an entire generation of kids who don’t have an issue with theft if it means that they can listen to songs and music on a whim.

As to who pays for those songs to be recorded, who funds artwork, mastering, the cost of musical instruments, rehearsal space hire, pays rent or buys food – none of that stuff seems to occur to a kid searching a torrent site and seeding and reseeding the latest album by a band or artist which they profess to love.

I wonder if it’s a problem of perception – a kid sees Katy Perry or Will.I.Am living the life of tabloid-created pop celebrity and somehow conflates that exaggerated single example into a deluded narrative where every musician lives large.  A single download of their favourite band’s album is justified because somebody’s buying the record, surely and we don’t live in a world where the vast majority of people who would have bought music no longer do so?

This kind of logic-skipping justification is easy to imagine and, I feel, one factor in why this problem exists – it’s a crime where the after-effect isn’t seen by the perpetrator because it happens at a remove and anonymously, for the most part.

None of which is part of my clarion call to get you to stop doing what you might be doing and to save the recorded music industry.  I think that the best effect of making music more digitally available should be to remove the barrier between fan and artist – a punky, DIY approach to distribution of music rather than a model which hides bands behind artificial barriers and doesn’t allow artists to directly communicate with the people who love their work.  If you can buy from the band’s website and giving them more money than they were ever getting under the model of CD buying, shouldn’t that be a goal?

Most people don’t have a lot of cash at the moment but that isn’t an excuse to steal from people who’ve worked hard at their art and deserve some recompense. Not an imagined millionaire’s lifestyle, but a decent amount of money for doing their job.

International Metal Day

File this one under ‘right up my alley’ – it turns out that December 12th 2012 is the inaugural International Heavy Metal Day.

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The above image employed, of course, because there’s nowt more metal than the late, much missed Ronnie James Dio and I do like to think that he would approve of the idea of a day celebrating a genre of music that he loved and performed in so proudly for the majority of his storied musical career.

Day organiser Iron Matthew doesn’t have any major ambitions for the day at this point – he confesses that he’ll probably just be cranking his tunes a bit louder on the December date and letting the music do the talking, but I’m sure that if you choose to follow his splendid lead in following this day of celebration, you can make up your own celebrations which seem appropriate.

German awesomenauts Blind Guardian, and the cover for their recent "At The Edge of Time" record...

So, making biscuits of Iron Maiden mascot Eddie whilst wearing one’s best Norwegian Black Metal inspired ghoulish face paint and playing the bass line to Blind Guardian’s “Valkyries” it is, then.

God of Thunder

A mystery bag - but what could it contain?

Right on schedule, as I hurtle towards my 40th birthday in the Autumn, comes the opening salvo in what promises to be a truly HILARIOUS mid-life crisis.

Whilst I have so far resisted the urge to buy an absurd sports car and a questionable pair of leather trews to accompany it, I have rather caved in on the ‘living out your teenage musician fantasies’ aspect of that regrettable, middle-aged bloke’s triumvirate of woe and bought…

Behold, my mighty axe! And weep in awe as you gaze upon its affordable curves and single pick-up!

A bass guitar.  Yep, I’ve resisted the urge to believe that I’m going to buy an entry-level guitar and be transformed, overnight, into Joe Satriani and instead plumped for an instrument which is, frankly, far more in keeping with my disposition.

Les Claypool of Primus - knows his way around four (or more) strings...

Just a pro-tip for anybody out there of a similar age who’s thinking about taking up music in your dotage – don’t go to YouTube and check out videos of Les Claypool from Primus in full-flight – it’ll only depress you.

Nope, with the best will in the world, I would love to keep going and learn as much as I can on the instrument, but my goal is to be able to play along to songs that I love and maybe jam with mates at some point – musical virtuosity is a boat which may have sailed, I fear, but musical competence is the middle-of-the-road goal that I’m setting out to reach.

If I could play like anybody?

Melissa Auf Der Maur - formerly of Smashing Pumpkins and Hole, now very much of herself.

I’ve been to see Melissa Auf Der Maur, and on top of being the most glamorous and unflinchingly eccentric Canadian arty space viking that I’ve had the pleasure to encounter, she’s also a kick-ass bass player and quietly distinguished and singular stylist to be reckoned with.  If I can get to approach being as rhythmically solid and cool as she is, I’ll be quite chuffed.

More progress reports will be with you as and when I, you know, make some actual progress…

 

“Imaginaerum” teaser trailer online

This one is purely for the Nightwish fans out there.  Everyone else…well, this won’t take long.

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If you like this band as much as I do, you’ll probably be aware of their film project, inspired by the music on their most recent album Imaginaerum“, which relates the death-bed fever dreams of an ageing composer whose reflections on his life are intermingled with his fantasies and his life’s creative works.

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The song "Slow, Love, Slow" will be in the film if this still is any indicator.

The first teaser trailer for the film is available on YouTube via Nightwish’s channel and looks about as heavily indebted to Terry Gilliam and his brand of emotional, artistic, expansive fantasy as it’s possible to be – which is a recommendation in my book.  I’m getting Fellini, Gilliam, riffs, Marco‘s beard and singer Anette Olzon looking like she’s auditioning for “The Fabulous Baker Boys 2” from this trailer, which make me very intrigued to see more of this film.

Marco Hietala- possessed of one of Rock's best screams...

I doubt that it will make a lick of sense and I wouldn’t have it any other way…

Meet Hagrid

Part Greyhound, Part Saluki, all besotted energy and doggy madness

We said goodbye to our beloved Minnie last Saturday morning and still miss her terribly – anybody who’s ever had a pet become a real part of their family in the same way can appreciate how the sense of loss carries on for weeks and months afterwards when being abruptly reminded of small things which you used to do together.

Time moves on and new dogs come along to do their best to fill the void – to that end, meet the lovely and utterly insane Hagrid, a two-year-old Saluki/Greyhound cross who is best described as a Lurcher who thinks that he’s a lap dog.  It’s not much of an exaggeration to suggest that this dog wouldn’t disgrace his J.K. Rowling created namesake’s bestiary of  unusual creatures – there’s certainly something magical about his ability to stand upright and nearly leap over the garden wall or to displace the water from his bowl everywhere but his mouth…

No, I'm not ready for my close-up - fetch some kibble, if you please...

He’s come to us on a weekend visit, but I’m probably not breaking any family confidences in telling you that he’s hopefully going to be staying put and filling the canine-shaped gap in our life from this point on.

Hagrid is an endlessly curious two-year-old who loves to say hello to any dog that he meets and can currently be seen dragging me around various woodland walks in my city – he seems to know where he’s going and it would be rude to correct him (yes, he and I will be going to training classes – but if you’re in my area for the next few weeks, I apologise in advance for the daft, white furball running amok and sniffing your pooch’s behind without so much as an introduction).

Welcome Hagrid – may your time with us be long and happy.

 

 

 

Make Mine Metal…

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Diabulus In Musica - a most unexpected treat...

Sometimes, a record just sneaks up on you.  Such is the case with Spanish symphonic metallurgists, Diabulus In Musica, whose latest album “The Wanderer” made it into my hyper-nerdy collection of European Metal Bands fronted by three-octave wielding neo-divas after checking out samples on Amazon and iTunes.

It’s a rare band who can win you over via ninety seconds of streamed thrashing and wailing  but this band managed to do it – they’re at the heavier end of the spectrum for this kind of band.  Less akin to the more recently radio-friendly tunes of Within Temptation, more akin to the full-on, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink theatrics of your blissfully unfashionable Euro bands like Xandria or Edenbridge.

Hmm...a symphonic metal band you could happily take home to meet your parents...

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Diabulus In Musica could comfortably slot into a True Metal summer festival like the UK’s Bloodstock or Belgium’s Graspop without too many of your self-appointed taste police questioning their credentials.

You can check out the first single from the album, “Sceneries of Hope”, at YouTube and marvel at the parp-tastic keyboard intro (see if you can beat my record of waiting five seconds before yelling ‘prog!’ at nobody in particular).

My Dog’s Life.

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Minnie, our lovely terrier, had to be put to sleep yesterday.

She had been gamely battling multiple health conditions since the Summer of last year and had finally run up against the limits of treatments which our vet could administer – as her quality of life had deteriorated so much, we took the difficult and absolutely heart-breaking decision to end her life quickly and as peacefully as possible.

A sign of her decline was provided by her last visit to the vet – where the waiting area normally made her tense and eager to get the hell out of there as soon as possible, this time around we couldn’t help but notice that she wasn’t reacting in any way to the place.

We feel that she may have been much older than our best guesses for her age – as she was a rescue dog and previously a stray, there’s so much about her history which we were never privy to, and her previous medical history was a complete blank.

Though we knew little about her, we fell in love with her from our first meeting with her.   She came to us from Rotherham Dog Rescue, an animal charity in the town adjacent to Sheffield, and was the skinniest little thing we had ever seen – one of the first joys of our far too brief time with her was to see her gain weight and muscle tone.

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She loved to run, as all dogs do, and changed so much when out walking with us and our other dog, Golden Retriever and Occasional Diva, Ella.  Initially, Minnie was quite protective of us and herself – when another dog tried to sniff her or play with her, Minnie would give her sternest growl and warn the other pooch off in no uncertain terms.  Over time, she mellowed and allowed other dogs around her and around us.

There is no easy way to approach days like the one we had on Saturday – there’s a little comfort to be taken from knowing that your beloved pet is no longer experiencing pain and is at some kind of peace.  Being an atheist, I can’t really take succour from God or an afterlife, so I have to derive comfort from memories of Minnie at her happiest and from the absolute delight and glee that her simplest sneeze or wag could give me.

I think I will remember her best this way – waiting behind the kitchen door for me when I came home of an evening, her tail zipping rapidly and merrily from side to side, delighted (a little bit) to see me and overjoyed (a lot more) because she knew that she was about to have her tea.

We miss you little girl – but we thank you for the utter happiness that you gave us.

Metal Soundtracks for Friday the 13th…

Alice? What's the matter?

Over at the Metal Hammer blog, writer and podcaster extraordinaire Merlin Alderslade presents a list of top quality metal soundtracks to listen to on this most numerically challenging of Fridays.

I will, of course, concur with his choice of the excellent soundtrack to the first Resident Evil film (the first place that I heard Slipknot, fact fans) which features a selection of Marilyn Manson‘s score cues, Rammstein, The Crystal Method and improbably-barnetted nu-metallists Static-X.   Happy days.

Horror and Metal, after all, go together like fine Italian coffee and a deliciously crunchy piece of biscotti – perfect bedfellows that it would be foolish to try and separate.

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If I had to choose one thing to listen to on this particular Friday which perfectly marries these two socially unacceptable and outcast genres, then I’m going back to the Eighties for a slice of glorious, retro hard rock from Dokken and their theme for the third “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie, ‘Dream Warriors’

And, yes – Don Dokken’s fluffy 80’s hair is by far the most terrifying thing in the video…