Monday, 30 June 2014

A whole year of blogging.

Well today is a special day. For me that is. Maybe other people, but mainly me. This blog has been going on for a whole year now. It started of as just some rambling about music on Facebook, in the form of Facebook Notes. I had already written a few notes and wanted to expand it a little bit so decided to revisit Blogger and make a new account. I had already used blogger for my now defunct Judas Disciple and Mind of the Buddha. My very first entry was my defence of Sepultura's Roorback. Mainly I had just concentrated on writing about music, because I really really like listening to music. I didn't really expect to reach a big audience, this has purely been for my own satisfaction. Well... sometimes it does feel good when you receive nice feedback, it was especially nice when Queensryche shared my blog about them and all of the sudden I had this massive surge of like-minded Queensryche fans. Which I had never seen before. As most people will have noticed (and quite a few have commented on) I do have the tendency to write about heavy metal music. But from time to time I have also written about something completely different like Baby Dee, Jon Lord and Bill Hicks. Often I try to write about rather obscure bands that, in my mind, deserve a lot more attention. Bands like Xanthochroid, Thy Catafalque, and Blaze Bayley.

Then one day I came across this stupid meme shard by 9Gag on Facebook. About how people who are bullied should stop whining, or some kind of stupid shit like that and it pissed me off and then I got an apology message from an unexpected source. So I decided to write about my experience of being bullied at school. It was one of the most shared blogs I had written up to that point and I felt like a load had been lifted off my shoulders, again. Then I returned to writing about music. Shortly after I received a message from Throwdown Syndicate asking me if I fancied writing about them, something completely new to me. So I did. Then I started getting itchy palms about writing something else. One day while cycling I started noticing how many cyclists weren't using helmets, the following day I counted how many cyclists and how many of them were using helmets. It pissed me off so much that I decided to hit Google Scholar and Quest, thanks to me being in a university I was able to read even more studies. This was the result. This was followed up with a, uhhh, follow up to my bullying blog talking about the social impact and the social price we all pay for bullying.

I had been an avid reader of the Skeptical Raptor and other science-y debunk sites and wanted to get in on the game. Then after a little while I wrote a blog about the Flu Vaccine, which in turn got changed to Student Nurse Perspective entries. Then Mr Skeptical Raptor asked if he could reblog it, which I would have been a fool to say no to. Since then I've written about IT in healthcare, importance of education, being male and GMO's. These have been the most satisfying to write because I always feel like I've learned something after I've written them, and this series has also been my most successful one in terms of views. If there is one thing I will miss when I qualify it's the University's journal database. Sure I can probably still read the books, but I won't be able to access the database.

I still write mostly about music. But on the whole this blog has become my platform to vent out. I still use it to develop my writing skills. And I still publish on a very regular sporadic basis. I've tried to make money out of, but I don't think I'll ever be able to make a living out of it. Currently my income from this blog stands at 55 pence. As it stands I have had 11123 pageviews, which in the grand scheme of things isn't much, but in my little bubble it is a fairly considerable amount. This is the third month in a row where I get more then 1000 views. Which is fairly considerable for considering that at one point I was struggling to get over 200.

Thanks to the blog I have also come across some wonderful people, some who I'd tentatively probably call friends. I have no idea if I've got some regular readers, if I do. Please leave a comment... or not if you don't want to.

But on the whole, thanks for reading.

Yours Truly,
Ingvar Arni Ingvarsson.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

We all follow the call, as Fjoergyns voice sounds in us

Here is another band, called Fjoergyn, that I had been aware of some time. I had given them a listen few years back and then somehow just buried the memory of it. I had liked what I heard. I recently re-searched for them on Spotify and it was worth it. They have been advertised as Avant-Garde Black Metal, while I agree with the Black Metal portion, I'm not so sure on the Avant-Garde one. Oh certainly they are unusual and unique. But I'd say they are more Progressive then Avant-Garde though how I'd exactly define the difference I am not too sure about. These guys aren't afraid to mix it, for example they've got a song on their album 'Jahreszeiten' called 'Wie Jahr Um Jahr', which seems to be built upon a lullaby in structure and it is beautiful to listen to (As it turns out there is a song on that album that uses a lullaby, but it's not this one). There is a lot of classical going on, some Viking Metal thrown in for good measure, it's epic as epic can be. We have our black metal screecher mixing it with a clean vocalists, flutes, acoustic guitars, lots of nature elements on display and all sung in the second best metal language available to humankind. One of the aspects that really drew me towards them was their album cover designs. Which I have to say are the least metal album covers I have seen, especially for a black metal band. Their light and full of rather pleasant colours. They've been around since 2003 in some kind of form, though to be honest there is only one guy left of that original line-up but for the most part it has contained two guys Martin L. who originally played the bass but now occupies the drum seat and Stephan L. who has done guitars, keyboards and all manners of different vocals. And for a long period they worked as a duo but currently they work as a five-piece with an extra vocalist and an extra guitar player. It had originally been conceived as Stephan as a solo project with the aim to get some orchestral compositions. But as with so many good things it got even better when he decided to add some guitars to it.

Ernte Im Herbst
Their first album came out in 2005 and it was called 'Ernte im Herbst', which roughly translates as 'Autumn Harvest'. But before I go into the music, just take your time and look at that album cover will you. It is beautiful. Something you can't say often about metal album covers let alone black metal album covers. It's beautiful, it's serene, it's tranquil. Like a Quantum Weather Butterfly that flaps it's wings to create a storm. I was half-expecting an album full of pan pipes with thunders in the background. Apparently this is a first of a trilogy regarding nature's revenge against humankind, which makes these guys metal eco-warriors a bit like Gojira. From the start we are lulled into this false sense of security in the form of sort of medieval orchestra with bells and suchlike then towards the end of the first song we get thrown into a black metal song with plenty of blastbeats. For a debut album it is really well crafted, well accomplished and really well thought out. The interplay between the vocalists provides a great contrast, as well as the acoustic instrumentation against electric. The symphonic element almost sounds genuine and not just something hammered with synths. In one song called 'Requiem', they manage to reinterpret Beethovens 'Ode To Joy'. The flowing melodies intertwine very well with the eco-viking brutality that comes with it. A lot of credit has to go to Stephan Löscher, he seems to be the mastermind behind Fjoergyn. His guitar work is excellent, his keyboard playing is excellent and his singing which goes from clean baritone to screaming, screeching and howling. In terms of vocal talents I'd say he ranks alongside Martin Wiese from Enid. He obviously has also been listening to a lot of Solefald and Vintersorg and has been modelling his singing to that style. The drum programming is really well done, so well done I never actually paid it any notice that they weren't real until their Last.FM profile pointed it out, though now that I listen to it again the double drums should have given it away but I suppose that is the good thing about good songwriting like the one that is one show here, you ignore like quibbles like that in order to enjoy the whole. Towards the middle we have an instrumental called 'Wenn Stürme Ruhen' which is another beautiful (I know I've been using that word a lot but it applies so often) I would pay good money to hear that song being performed by a proper orchestra. It comes with sort of renewed hope in mankind, though the song that follows quickly demolishes that. For a debut album it is almost as close to perfect as you could get.

Sade Et Masoch
In 2007 Fjoergyn released Sade Et Masoch. The title refers to Marquis De Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. The men who lent their names to Sadism and Masochism. Now the album cover has a little bit more of sinister feel to it. Presumably the apple is meant to represent the forbidden fruit and the maggots for what happened after it was bitten. Or it could be representing the apple that Snow White was given thus we also have the angel wings. Who knows. But it is another very simple, very elegant cover. On this one Martin decided to take his place on the throne behind the drumkit. And boy does it show. The production is again crystal clear, the musicianship has improved and the songwriting that was already great has become that little bit greater. The melodies are bigger. The ideas thrown about all hold together. There are more notes taken from the Falkenbach book of Viking Metal. There is even some groove metal thrown in for good measure on the song 'Katharsis'. Stephan still duels with himself on the vocal front, though not as much as on their debut and does it well. With plenty of Norwegian style black metal vocal screeching. There isn't a weak spot to find on either of these albums.

Then in 2009 they released the conclusion to their story called 'Jahreszeiten', which translates as 'Seasons'. This time we have a four piece playing. And now we're back to the elegant beautiful album cover. Again the cover completely betrays the content of the album, the only thing I could imagine it representing the end yet with the seeds of new beginnings floating off. The music follows the same game plan as the past two, but it's more fleshed out with those two added musicians. There is some great bass slapping going on which I always enjoy listening to, probably because of my love of Iron Maiden. Talking of Iron Maiden there are some great dual guitar playing going on on this album, with harmonized guitars that Dave, Janick and Adrian would be proud to play. Out of all three this album has to be my favourite, those two extra musicians added a lot to the sound even though the sound was already big, but they provide more oomph, more meat onto the juggernaut that is Fjoergyn. It all flows a little easier then on the previous releases, which you would only really notice when you listen to them in sequence. And my gods Martin proves what an excellent drummer he is on this album, with no unnecessary fills, knows when to show restraint and when to go full on ear canal attack. Some new idea's are explored for instance in the song 'Jera', Stephan decided that the best tactic was to narrate the song with orchestral music in the background and again that is a piece of music I would so love to hear with a full symphony providing the music. The main melody from 'Sturmzeit' is lifted from a German lullaby (Yes they exist) called 'Guter Mund, du gehst so stille'. Some Alt-Rock is attempted then aborted for a better song in 'Der Herbst ist da'. And some industrial is thrown in for good measure on 'Der Himmel fällt'. All in all it's a brilliant album, again they are unafraid to throw ideas about and see which ones stick. But the really great thing is that all of those ideas do stick.

Monument Ende
And now for their latest opus. 'Monument Ende', this was released in 2013. Now we have what could be construed as a classic metal album. Black with some greys, faded out trees and this beautiful red aureole. What it all means I have no idea, but it is another gorgeous album cover. On this one Martin decided to opt out of the lead vocals and hand in those reins to Marcelus, he had been playing the guitar for them for a while and does seem to be slightly more professional singer. Now Martin doesn't have to duel with himself. There is more death metal going on here then in the previous albums. They still follows this throw everything at the wall technique and somehow everything does. While they are obviously influenced by a lot of other bands,  music is mostly derived from classical compositions. Those orchestra moments are done so well it's nearly impossible to figure out whether Martin did it all on his computer or if he managed to hire a small symphony in order to flesh out his ideas. There aren't really any weak songs, only songs that could be said to be weaker then others, but even that doesn't do justice to how really really good the songwriting is on this album. In fact not just on this album but all of them. My personal favourite has to be 'Thanatos', it's big and majestic, it leaves a trail of destruction after listening to it. There are black metal riffs, classic heavy metal riffs, galloping bass playing, harmonized singing. In essence it's the perfect song to showcase their talents. It most definitely wouldn't sound out place on a latter day Rotting Christ album that is for sure. The story seems to be centering around a destruction of a town, there is a malevolence permeating the whole album. One of the songs is even called 'Der Monolog des Antichristen', occasionally you will hear the laughter of children being slowly faded away into the sound of burning. Thankfully there seems to be some kind of salvation towards the end of the album, though it doesn't quite feel like it. It took them four years to create this album and it is four years really well spent. I'll be very excited to hear the next one because I would love to hear how they are going to top this album. So far they've improved every time they added another musician so the next one should be something groundbreaking.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

The Lone Rangers

I was going to write another Usual Locations article, which I decided to change as I started noticing that all of them essentially were one-man projects. So with a quick rewrite it has become the Lone Rangers. There are a lot of articles about one man bands bandying about, mainly centred on Black Metal. An interesting documentary has been made exploring the idea of one man black metal projects. One WikiHow you can also get a guide on how to start your own Lone Ranger. The great thing about one man bands from the the one man's perspective is that it gives them a complete control, but the problem for the listener, often not always, is that the instrumentalists rely an awful lot on drum machines and synths, both that can be used for extremely good effect and can be done really really well, but more often then not it comes across as half-hearted shit that should have stayed in the mix longer. My personal favourite would be Thy Catafalque who I've written about previously, though I'm not too sure on it's One Man stand, even if it is Tamas Katai's brainchild. Well here is a choice selection of one man projects of varying quality, mainly from Very Good to Great.

Ars Moriendi
La Singuliere Noirceur D'un Astre
First in line is a French one man band called Ars Moriendi. In the recent years there seems to have been a bit of an explosion of good quality metal bands coming from France. Gojira, Hacride and Alcest being probably the top of the pile. Though I should probably also mention Grorr and Psygnosis who are very interesting to listen to. Ars Moriendi is manned by a multi-instrumentalist named Notre Amertume. Though whether that's his real name I have no idea. He's been steadily releasing albums since 2001. But the only album I have heard is 'La Singuliere Noirceur d'un Astre', The music on show here could be defined broadly as Black Metal. It is very experimental in nature, symphonic and atmospheric, with horror movie samples used as start. There is a fair bit of ambience used that could at first be construed to be just some padding in order to make the songs sound longer. So far I am very impressed with the instrumentation, a lot of thought has gone into what goes where, even the synths don't sound out of place and provide the necessary symphonic oomph the he needs. There is a lot of buzzsaw guitars on display, but that is then punctuated with some classic metal guitars and bookended with acoustic guitars as well. His singing veers from screeching, gutturals and whispers. All in French. The language of love is not on display or at least it is not showing it's intimate side here. It's all rough and edges, with side drip of evil going on. This is pretty much how I imagine Vincent Cassel if he was bathed in blood of thousand virgins screaming for the devil to forsake him while covering songs by early Enslaved. He isn't breaking any new ground here, but it all does sound good if some times a little generic in black metal terms, though the breakdown that happens in De l'intouchable Mort is pretty nifty. The bass playing on here is really something else to listen to, it's not often you get to hear such clear bass playing in Black Metal. None of the songs go below the 8 minute mark so there is quite a bit to digest, but all in all pretty good. I'll happily put this on and enjoy the screaming of French Horror.

Neurotech hails from Slovenia. I knew Slovenia existed, but as far as I'm aware I had never heard any music from there let alone metal music. I was introduced to this by Blacksmith Biologist and boy am I grateful. Lately I had been listening to a lot of Samael, who play a sort of symphonic techno metal with lots of rather uplifting lyrics to boot. The focus is on synths with programmed drums and rough baritone singing with droning guitars. The only thing that Neurotech doesn't do, as much, is the uplifting bit. The music would be very fitting for a cyberpunk apocalyptic Mad Max style future. Neurotech is one guy, who likes to be called Wulf but his real name is Andrej Vovk. Well that's at least according to the Holy Book of Armaments. To be honest there is a lot more symphonic elements going on here then Samael have tried to incorporate. Being the clever dick that I am, I decided to listen to the albums chronologically, which has really paid off. The earlier albums like Transhuman and  Antagonist  have a lot more rawness to them, though maybe raw isn't the best description. But at the same time there is a certain clinical coldness to them.  Antagonist is probably a bit more party-oriented which makes the similarities to Samael even more evident. Whereas Blue Screen Planet and The Elysian Symphony seem more, well, sophisticated. There is a lot of symphonic elements at play in those two and so far they've become my favourite of his work.

Dommedagssalme. Now I'll have to admit to having close connections with this project. No it is not mine. He is the godfather to my youngest child. His name is John Marshall and he has been involved in the black metal scene, albeit very very very underground, for quite some time. First being part of a duo called Circumscriber, which then morphed into Contra Ignem Fatuum, but since 2004 he's been releasing on a infrequently periodically basis as Dommedagssalme. The music itself has been described as Depressive Black Metal, a title that John doesn't agree with. Though I can see why people want to label it as Depressive. It is all very hard listen. But not without rewards. There is a lot of distortion going on, it's bloody hard to understand what the hell he's singing about, the drums are droning, the keyboards provide a constant ambience, there is so much fuzz and buzz on the guitars it's like a chainsaw going through a ever multiplying featherfilled pillows. But, you (well me that is) feel a certain cathartic feeling when the songs are over. I personally always feel like there's a load that's been lifted off my shoulders and I somehow feel happier about the world. The vocals sound like they are sung from the fifth circle of hell. The one item that is possibly missing are interludes with the sound of footsteps in snow. The last album came out in 2012 and was called Division which only contains two songs. Those two songs are to be fair over 20 minutes long each. But his confidence in songwriting and all around maturity is best on show on that one. There is more going on, more breaths being taken with some interludes between fuzzfilled riffs. There are more technicalities on show, the vocals are slightly more audible yet still incomprehensible. The production is really rather good as well. Most of the time, this wouldn't be my cup of tea (I tend to drink coffee), but I had to listen to his work and I am glad that I have. It still isn't my cup of tea, but I can certainly appreciate John's work without it I probably wouldn't feel as relaxed.