Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Time doesn't heal all wounds.

This post has come about after several days of contemplating. I thought it might be time to actually write this thing.

Recently I got a private message on Facebook from a guy who I didn't bear any particular grudge against, but wasn't to fond of either. It was a message of an apology for stuff said and stuff done to me some years ago. Though the person I would most like to get an apology from hasn't done so yet, and I'm not holding my breath for it either. It was the second time I've received a message like that, and both times sort of got me down a little bit because it forced me into thinking about past events.

On the whole I would say that I had a fairly happy childhood. I lived in a small town with less than 2000 residents(most of the time). What I didn't have was a happy school time. I hated every year of my ten years that I spent in primary and secondary school. For ten years I had to live with being called names, mocked, made fun of and generally being targeted for reasons unknown. I took every opportunity to make sure that I was sick so I wouldn't have to go to school. During those sickness periods I would spent watching TV, reading books and listening to music. So it could be said that they were the making of the person I am today. 

So yeah, I was the outcast, the loner, the freak if you will of my class. Anything and every thing that I did was wrong in some kind of way. I hated studying for school but I loved spending time in the library (where my mum worked) and read books. I rarely did my homework, which was one source of taunts and when I did do my homework I was also made fun of. So no matter what I did I would always be made fun off.




Made to feel less of a being than the rest. All of this was mainly due to one person, but the rest didn't help. Some encouraged him, some joined him, most just stayed out of the way and ignored it.

As my sister so elegantly put it, No one asks to be bullied. No one. And anyone who suggests otherwise never had to go through life thinking it wasn't worth living.

I remember once plucking up the courage to speak to the principal at the time, I never told my parents what was happening though, who very quickly dismissed it and mostly just didn't want to know. And the class teacher(the same class teacher for 5 years) seemed to give the class even more fodder, whether she did it knowingly or not I don't know. But to this day I do bear a little grudge against her as well.

A lot of people seemed to think bullying is just a normal part of childhood, that it is there to "toughen up" weak kids, while ignoring the quiet suffering of so many. Well it is not a normal part of any childhood, no one let alone a child deserves to go through life like they are some how inferior and less worthy of life then others. That is what bullying teaches the victims. Not self-sufficiency, so it teaches us that we are better of dead. But towards the end part of those ten years that is what I had started to believe. The sad truth being that sometimes it takes someone dying to make a difference.

At the tail of of the secondary school I was depressed verging on suicidal. But I didn't tell anyone. During that period I had also started listening to heavy metal quite intensely and I was open about my music taste at school as well, and again I was the odd one out. Though since then I've come to find out that shit loads of my peers listened to the same or similar music as I did. It might have been my affinity for classical music as well, that didn't help.

In my head it all sort of collapsed when I tried to kill myself.

I had been contemplating it for some time. How easier it would be all around for everyone if I just wasn't there any more.

Then I tried it again.

Neither time anyone knew of it. The first time I couldn't go through with it and the second time I finally realised what it would do to my family. Especially if anyone found my body.

I tried it twice.

What followed was a gradual realization of that I didn't deserve any of this. Why would I should I let bastards wear me down. My sisters didn't deserve what they were going through either. And at the time I created the first Icelandic website  dedicated against Bullying. Though that website seems to be lost in the midst of the might Internet Jungle. The idea at the time was to start a group, and I had started all the planning. Got some posters made by my brother(third one). Things written. But it wasn't to be. But I would like to think that it got the ball rolling, because now there's at least two big groups in Iceland dedicated to fight against bullying.

There had been discussion before in the media, some talk in the school that I had attended (New principal), and I still remember the day when I walked in there to complain to both the principal and the vice principal to complain about the treatment of my youngest sister. One of her bullies at the time also happened to be the vice-principals son.

Due to the website I started getting phone calls from both victims and parents of victims. And I realised that I was not on my own with my experiences. One of the phone calls was from a political blogger who wanted to make a documentary entitled Bullying: Hell on Earth, and he wanted to interview me. The day before it was shown on national television I had written a blog naming and shaming few people in my home town, especially some higher uppers in relation to my eldest brother and his treatment. It sparked a huge discussion in my home town, some of course questioned why I decided to publish it in an open forum. Some people suggested that what I had done constituted as bullying, which just goes to show that some people don't know what bullying is. Most supported what I had written and thanked me, because those were the sort of issues that everyone knew of in a small town. But no one talked about, because it just wasn't the sort of thing that was talked about.

Today. Today I am a fairly happy individual. I moved away from Iceland. I got two kids that I love dearly and I am finally enjoying being in the educational environment.

The memories still hurt, but not as much these days. Time doesn't heal all wounds, it just makes it more bearable to live with.

I wrote a companion piece to this entry called The Social Price of Bullying, with some selected studies on why bullying IS a very important issue and does affect all of us.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Glorious surprises, Disillusion comes out with Gloria.

One of my favourite albums of all time is Back To The Times of Splendor by Disillusion. I still pull that album out regularly to listen to, 6 songs spanning nearly 57 minutes of eternal beauty. I bought my copy in 2004, and I was captivated. But also perplexed as to why they didn't get the press that they deserved! Here's a band that shits out an instant classic first time trying and barely a whimper was registered in the metal press. And I could not wait for a sequel. Which never came. But never mind, they did publish another album called Gloria in 2006.

What an absolute off the wall straight from the left field that was. And I loved it. Most people didn't. Most people wanted 'Back to the Times of Splendor II'. But with 'Gloria' Disillusion were showing their progressive side, which for some reason seemed to irk people. There were shouts of sell-outs going of course, but you can't really be a sell-out if you are not delivering what people want.

So what happened. Welll, what seems to have happened is that Andy Schmidt, nee Vurtox,  got sick and tired of playing BTtToS live over and over again. And having the stress of trying to find a backing band and preferably a small orchestra as well. Probably wanted to play something slightly simpler. More hard hitting in some ways, and rest his larynx!

Andy uses on this album mostly, baritone singing, bass singing, occasionally he'll a sort of melodic spoken word or pure spoken word and only couple of times will he break and use his death rattle. I loved his vocals on BTtToS but he really does come into his own on Gloria. His vocal performance on here is simply glorious. The overtly German pronunciation of some words that has sometimes distracted me in the previous album and the EP's released before that.  I might be putting a lot compliments onto him, but the man deserves it. Though of course I don't really want to take away from the rest of the band, the drummer Jens Maluschka does fantastic job as well if only in keeping up with Andy's vision. The fills and the rhythm are just right every time and always interesting as well. Just listen to this song:

Though where Gloria really wins is how unusually built it is. It weaves, breaks and turns in all sorts of directions, but those weaves, breaks and turns are never unnecessary and most importantly never for show, well maybe a little but it never feels like it. I hesitate even calling this album Metal, because there is so much else going on but no other label really fits, and with metal being THE most diverse genre going it is probably the only label that fits. The closest would be industrial metal, some people will probably complain(and did) about how similar Andy sounds like Till, but the proof is in the listening. And while I love Rammstein, they haven't put out an album that sounds as interesting as this one. Yes in one song "The Hole We Are In" starts out as blackish Death metal song, but then just towards the end swerves into sort of lounge-ish dance song.

Then there are two instrumental songs one of the called Lava which always makes me envision flying over Iceland and seeing two separate volcano's going off in between grassland and black deserts. Maybe the reason I imagine flying is because of the previous instrumental called Aerophobic. Both of these tracks are very bass heavy and often it sounds like they've thrown away the guitars and replaced them with basses.

So as I said previously no it isn't 'Back To The Times of Splendor: In search for more money' that everyone was hoping for (me included) but it is a brilliant album completely blew away any misconceptions (mine included) about these guys and proves that they are quintessential progressive musicians. But the only problem is that this album was released in 2006, and nothing has been heard or seen since of these guys. Which makes me a very very sad blogger.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

It's Louder Than Hell! Manowar.

Soo... with all my writing on heavy metal and the like. I started thinking about an album that I've got in my collection and only comes out of my collection every 3-5 years or so now. Why? Well, every time I listen to it nowadays I cringe... just a little. But enough. I was in my teens when I saw this album on sale in my local store, and for some reason I got really really fascinated with the album cover. The overwrought testosterone on display. Plenty of metal on display. At the time it was my favourite album bar none. My teenage hormones overloaded. Big time. This was THE BEST BAND IN THE WORLD! They are the Kings of Metal. The true warriors of True Metal. The Loudest Band in Existence. The True Heirs of True Metal. The power that was being displayed was just AWESOME. Even the ballad was great. Those drums. Those guitar licks! Those basslines!! That VOICE!!! I mean they even have a song called Number 1 singing about how they are Number 1!

Nothing could compare to these Metal Gods. The cover was one of the best I had ever seen. The songs suitable simple to sound extremely complex to my teenage inexperienced ears. Bombastic and overblown, but fucking hell I didn't care. It was the hardest, fastest and most emotional album in my very very very small collection.

I did at some point acquire Hail To England, which unfortunately was to my ears just an unlistenable mess, turgid turd of an album that should never have seen the light of day or my money. Bridge of Death was good and the verse sections of Kill With Power were okay, but the rest was as bad as anything that Limp Bizkit shat out.

Oh dear.

Now that I look back. With slightly older eyes and listen to it with even older ears, I cannot really hear what it was that I used to love about this album.

For those who do not know Manowar, they are the self styled loudest, heaviest, truest metal band in the world. Today. Their motto is DEATH TO FALSE METAL, I'm still not sure what False Metal is, but what the hey lets just say that it's Linkin Park for the hell of it. But yeah, they dress in loin cloths and lots and lots of leather, well oiled and worked out muscles. They sing about Nordic Gods, Klingons without the foreheads, used Orson Welles to provide narration in their first album and when the remade that album they hired Christopher Lee as a replacement, you can never see the face of their mascot(Presumably the artist is just shit at painting faces, like a reverse Da Vinci), motorbikes, guitar solos, how they are united in everything lots of death and Valhalla singing, choirs, Wagner worshipping, songs about Heavy Metal and how they are the best and truest heavy metallers, overlong over complicated bass solo songs and so on and so forth.

It all started in the 80's, DeMaio was a roadie for Black Sabbath and during one of the tours he met his soulmate called Ross The Boss. Yes... Ross... The Boss. Somehow they found a drummer and their shining light of a singer Eric Adams. DeMaio has since got rid of Ross... The... umm... Boss, who now has a solo band called Ross The Boss. DeMaio apparently is the, mmm, brains, of this band. He writes most of the music, all of the lyrics and is generally the one who plans and pans out their ideal image and such like.

Now, this I will concede. Eric Adams is a phenomenal singer. Though he does use his 'rough' whiskey voice on most of the songs on Louder Than Hell, which does irk a little bit. But he actually pulls it off. But then he utilizes his natural voice on the power ballad Courage, a true lighters in the air, hug your metal brother song if there ever was one and most of King. He breaks out in falsetto during The Gods Made Heavy Metal frequently. The man has pipes made of steel, no doubt about that.

Karl Logan is a fairly nifty guitar player, nothing remarkable. Just a slightly heavier version of Ross... the Boss. Though he does get a chance to shine in both Today is a Good Day To Die and My Spirit Lives On. The latter one he is trying his very very best to channel Yngwie Malmsteen. This was his first album with Manowar, so I suppose he was still just finding his feet (fingers).

DeMaio. Well. Meh. He provides a good base with his bass (See what I did there!). Might just be a little bit one-dimensional with his music and lyric writing. But so far he's managed to make a living out of the same songs since the early 80's, so who am I to argue.

Scott Columbus, may he rest in peace, apparently needed specially re-inforced drumkit due to his heavy hitting. But it doesn't really come across on this album.

But yeah. I've still got this album in my collection, I will probably never get rid of it, unlike my copy of Korn's Untouchables or Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory. And while I was writing this I listened to it again. And actually, yes there are cringe worthy moments, like when they sing:

"Wearin Leather On A Horse Of Steel I Ride"

"Had To Punch My Teacher Out Now He's Chilled
I Might Stay In School Or Die In Prison
Either Way It's My Decision One More Beer And Heavy Metal
And I'm Just Fine"

"Brothers Of Metal
We Are Fighting With Power And Steel
Fighting For Metal Metal That's Real"

"The Gods Made Heavy Metal And They Saw That It Was Good
They Said To Play It Louder Than Hell We Promised That We Would
When Losers Say Its Over With You Know That It’s A Lie
The Gods Made Heavy Metal And It’s Never Gonna Die"

"The Time Has Come All Training Done
The Muscle And The Blood Will Come To Pay"

But you know what, yes it is all very silly, but the music isn't bad, Eric Adams has got great pipes, and on a drunken night this is quite enjoyable to put on. So far all of you who haven't listened to it, here's the whole album.

Friday, 4 October 2013

He is not the Silicon Messiah, He's the man who wouldn't die!

Blaze Bayley is a man who's career I've kept a fairly close eye on. He was working as the frontman for my favourite band of all time, when I first started getting into metal. I bought Virtual XI when it came out and loved it back then, still like it now. I just wish that the rest of guys had held Steve Harris down, and hired some one competent to mix and produce that album, oh and The X-Factor(Oh and if someone could have hidden the notes from The Angel & The Gambler that would have been even better). After listening to some of the Wolfsbane stuff I can understand why he was hired as Bruce's replacement, and of course after hearing how dark X-Factor is, Blaze's vocals fit perfectly.

But couple of years later he was asked to leave, in favour of the return of Bruce Dickinson.

Which in so many ways was the correct decision. That year (2000) we were honoured to be bestowed with TWO excellent heavy metal albums. One being Iron Maiden's Brave New World, and the other Blaze Bayleys Silicon Messiah. While Brave New World was a good album, Silicon Messiah was a mother-fucking great album! It just sounded to good, and Blaze sounded revitalized. Like a man with a point to prove, which he did in spades. Blaze has always had an interesting voice, a very bass oriented baritone, he carries his notes very well and has a lot of passion. There isn't a lot of breadth to it, but he more then makes up for that in emotion and he never hits a false note either.  For that record he hired 4 extremely hungry (metaphorically of course) and extremely talented musicians. And boy do they let rip throughout the album. And the one that came after this Tenth Dimension. Which follows in the same Sci-fi tinged Heavy Metal. During the early part of his career Blaze hired master music producer Andy Sneap, who does have this amazing ability to make things sound big, clean, yet not too polished, with a HUGE emphasis on the guitar sound. No wonder he has done jobs for Nevermore, Megadeth and many many more. Now maybe if only Steve Harris had hired him for both X-Factor and Virtual XI they wouldn't have been so violently shat upon. On his very first album Blaze wrote a song that he still hasn't been able to top, and probably never will. Not that it matters that much, but this song is massive, it's huge, emotional, victorious, ponderous and all around a beautiful song.

Unfortunately it wasn't to last. The band started slowly crumbling, with the drummer leaving first, followed by the bassist. Still he did have the guitarists left, and Andy Sneap was still around to help when Blood & Belief came out. This one was a lot more personal record. It seemed that Blaze's world was coming apart, as can be demonstrated in the song Hollow Head, which apparently was written using Blaze's counselling sessions. In some ways it's also the most controversial song he's done, but that's more to do with fucking metal hipsters who didn't like that fact that it had a lot of groove going on.

Fuck you Metal Hipsters.

There were some other great metal assault tunes like Alive and Tearing Yourself to Pieces. The former being a song where Blaze releases his catharsis of hatred towards his critics, very much like when Iron Maiden did a song(With Blaze) called Virus. As can be guessed Blaze doesn't have much love or patience for those who continually criticise him for nothing else except replacing Bruce Dickinson. Which unfortunately is a legacy Blaze will never get rid of, and shouldn't either. The latter is about... well I'm not entirely sure. It's sort of seems to be in the same vain as Alive... and Virus. But it's got a great groove, fantastic riff and a brilliant chorus section. It would appear that it's about someone who bigs himself up, but refuses to show why he thinks he's such a big guy. Essentially, possibly maybe it's a take down of bullies who suffer from low self esteem and penis envy.

But where Blood & Belief really really strikes gold is in the Power Ballad department. There are three absolutely mind boggling, lighters in the air, hair at the back of your neck rising power ballads to be shown. Blood & Belief, Life and Death and Regret. The one I can relate most to is the last one, where Blaze puts all of his regrets on the table, about all the things that could and should have happened, what he should have, could have done instead, how he should have learned his lesson sooner, that there's a hole in his chest. At first it could be said that he's singing about his time in Iron Maiden, but then again we don't know that for certain. But as I said before, this song is the one I can relate to the most, and it always without fail brings tears to my eyes when I listen to it.

Then things started going tits up. The rest of the band left. With Blaze having to piece is all together again. The one theme that has been going throughout of Blaze's career is that he soldiers on, never gives up, no matter how often life kicks him in the teeth.

After working with several journeymen musicians, even publishing a live DVD, he came across the Bermudez brothers. Formerly of Under Threat Columbian fame. Well sort of anyway. Under Threat play this Thrashy Death Metal, who's singer was probably their weakest link but musically. Not bad. Not bad at all. And thankfully those influences can be heard on the the two albums he made with them. With them he was joined by a guitarist and artist called Jay Walsh, who also created the album covers for both of the albums that he played on. And of course there's a journeyman drummer, who also wrote a book about their experience of working together called At The End of the Day. To round all of this off Jason Edwards from Wolfsbane did the music production, now there's a man who also deserve a great future in that field. Because the job he does on these two albums was phenomenal.

The first one being The Man Who Would Not Die, it seems now that with every album he has to make the point again that he's here, and he's here to stay regardless of what the nay-sayers say. Again it's just a journey of thunderous heavy metal, maybe slightly heavier then previous output. Which isn't surprising considering the musicians backgrounds. It starts galloping with the title song, and doesn't really let up one bit. Even the power ballad which is probably one of the most touching love songs I've heard. And it all ends with an absolute monster of a track called the Serpent Hearted Man.

I went to see them playing in Lancaster in the Yorkshire House. And I have to say that it was one of my favourite gigs that I've ever attended. I lost my hearing for three days, and it was worth while Blaze ripped through his back catalogue and even did some Iron Maiden songs as well. I had the opportunity to speak to Jay whilst out back smoking in between bands. Got a picture taken with Blaze! So I was an extremely happy metal bunny.

I can imagine that this period was probably the hardest for Blaze, but not musically speaking. Sweet Jebus, he had a sweet band going on. Had just released a brilliant metal album and was about to release another. Then in 2008, his wife died.

Then the following year his father had taken ill and died after battling an illness.

I just... I just... No. I've got nothing. Except enormous respect. He still toured through both of those tragedies. And I was always struck by that tattoo he had on his shoulder with scissors and a microphone crossing each other.

Through all of this, he still managed to publish Promise & Terror. Which was a logical continuation of solid block of newly minted metal. No new ground being broken, just solid lumps of metal assaulting your ear canals like re-inforced cast iron gondolas sailed by Charon himself. But the real crown jewel are the last four songs. Remember when I said that Blaze will probably never release as good as a song as Stare At The Sun. Wellllll, I lied. He did four songs tying with all the emotional shitstorm that had been plaguing him. The thing is, while each song are individually great, they are even better when listened together.

Sadly again, this wasn't to last. There were some major problems in camp, and Blaze dissolved the band citing financial and medical reasons. The financial aspect was mainly because of the Bermudez brothers Visa's, and the medical being Blaze's own fragile mental state.

Since then Blaze has been touring by hiring local bands all around Europe. Been doing stuff with guitar wiz Thomas Zwijsen. Mainly on the acoustic front. He's also toured with another former Iron Maiden singer and benefit fraudster Paul Di'Anno. And published another album bravely called King of Metal. Now it has to be explained that when he's singing about King Of Metal, he's not singing about himself but rather his fans. Then there are rather touching tributes to both Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag. The only thing is I've listened to the album a few times, and I just can't get myself to like it. I want to. The lyrics are as good as ever. But musically... and possibly production wise, well the whole instrumentation sounds a bit flat, there's hardly any oomph going on there especially on the guitars. What made such a big difference on the last albums was that Blaze had guys who were very very guitar oriented producing and mixing the albums... and that album cover. I just can't. I can see what he's going for and I'm really happy to see him going on.

But now that the Best Of is coming out with two new songs, I think the next album might actually be good if those two songs are any indication of what is to come. Though again, he might want to get either Andy Sneap or Jason Edwards to do the mixing again.

I am Metal
I hear Metal
I see Metal
I feel Metal
I think therefore I am