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I've long felt that if there's ever a band that will break progressive death metal to the masses, it will be Opeth. They're the closest band I've found to stirring me the way Metallica did back in the 1980's, and after nine (!) albums, they're getting even better.

Some food for thought:

Metallica - Master of Puppets
1986 - Billboard - Position: #29
1986 - UK Albums Chart - Position #41

Opeth - Watershed (praised by the NY Times, Pitchfork, Blender, AMG, etc, reaching 88 on Metacritic)
2008 - Billboard - Position: #23
2008 - UK Album Chart - Position: #34
2008 - Finland - #1
2008 - Sweden, Norway & Australia: #7

Not that I'm predicting anything. I'm just sayin' that Watershed is, I hope, a sign of things to come.

p.s. I'm really looking forward to Death Magnetic too, by what I've heard so far. It's been over 12 years since I've been able to say that about a Metallica record.

Iron Man

Best. Trailer. Evar.

Rick Rubin on new music distribution

via John Gruber

Rubin: “You would subscribe to music,” Rubin explained, as he settled on the velvet couch in his library. “You’d pay, say, $19.95 a month, and the music will come anywhere you’d like. In this new world, there will be a virtual library that will be accessible from your car, from your cellphone, from your computer, from your television. Anywhere. The iPod will be obsolete, but there would be a Walkman-like device you could plug into speakers at home.”
Gruber: To argue that subscriptions are the future of music is to argue that DRM is the future of music, and the evidence points to the contrary.

I don't think this necessarily requires DRM. The point is that people would pay to have streaming access to an unlimited library anywhere they were. This would require pervasive, high-speed wireless Internet access. Which, at least in urban centres, has begun to be a reality.

Combine this with a social observation: music tastes are ever changing, fragmented, and time-irrelevant. While some may still focus on radio hits, I find it increasingly hard to pick out a "song of Summer 2007", for example. I've heard some say it was Rhianna's Umbrella (at least the most over played), or Kelly Clarkson's new one, etc. But that's so far from the reality for those who adored Nine Inch Nails' Survivalism, or White Stripes' Icky Thump, or Linkin Park's What I've done. This was the year that I rediscovered Skinny Puppy, for example, which lead me to predominantly listening to circa-1987 through 1992 music that sounds fresh and original even today. In early August I discovered the Montreal band Unexpect, who blew me away. The best concerts this summer were Lamb of God, still touring for a Summer '06 album, Emperor, who "broke up" in 2001, and The best concerts this summer were Lamb of God, still touring for a Summer '06 album, Emperor, who "broke up" in 2001, along with Skinny Puppy and VNV Nation's tours for their 2007 albums.

Further, with people having home, work, and portable computers, it's a pain in the ass to manage a collection of music across all of these hard drives. One has to ensure synchrony, deal with duplicates, and not forget anything because you can't re-download it from iTunes.

So, the solution would be -- provide an unlimited library of music available any time, anywhere. If you need to download ('cache') the song, go ahead. Or you could just stream it. The subscription you're paying for is the management of storage across all these bloody devices. It's not the iPod that becomes obsolete, it's "mandatory syncing".

P.s. I recommend reading the whole NY Times article on Rick Rubin. I've liked his work for 20+ years, since I was in grade school (!)...

Sopranos

I just wanted to say, I really did love the way the Soprano's ended. The whole episode was very reflective of most of the Sopranos -- real life goes on, there are no real book-ends. There is resolution of a sort (the NY war). But Tony & family "goes on, and on, and on, and on...." It reminds me of an episode in Season 3, where Patsy Parisi threatens Gloria with a gun mid-episode, and then ends the episode picking up groceries.

Yes, the cut to black was jarring.
Yes, I thought my cable cut out.
When the credits rolled, I laughed.

But, what a scene -- every trick in the book was created to raise tension, to get the viewer into Tony's state of mind. Everyone entering the diner was a potential hit man. Externally, he was just Tony: "focus on the good times". Inside, he was a knot of paranoia. And so were we.

I felt frustrated, but also relieved.
And then, I thought back, and liked the journey.

The ending works, not because it was a cop out, but because it makes you feel. It celebrates the utter ridiculousness of life, like Meadow's inability to parallel park, the weirdness when surrounded by strangers that keep looking at you, and those moments of clarity that happen in the silliest places, like, oh, when you're in a diner, groovin' to a Journey song.

Don't stop believin', indeed.

oscar! oscar!

I'm an Oscar nut. I think I've watched every one of them since I was 2 years old. I find they're long and can drag, but otherwise are a fabulous Sunday night. As fun as watching the Superbowl. Yep, I guess I'm odd.

Marty Scorcese gets his well-deserved Oscar. I think The Departed was by far the best movie of the year, followed by The Queen. I think Little Miss Sunshine is good, but not that good. Pan's Labyrinth had a better screenplay. But at least Pan's got three well-deserved golden dudes.

I liked Ellen. She started off nervous, but seemed to improve, with only a few bad jokes. The Jack Black, Will Farrell & John C Reilly skit was hilarious, as were Steve Carrell & Greg Kinnear, and even Jerry Seinfeld was ok.

The Oscars this year seemed goofier, quirkier, more self-aware that all the glam and pomp is just a front. Which does seem a bit like Ellen's personality. It was a long night, dragged at times, but felt a bit livelier than last year (though I enjoyed Jon Stewart).

Pearl harbour for World of Warcraft

Ironforge was near-completely destroyed by High Lord Kruul on Dalaran server this evening.

Live footage:

.

Thousands dead

The burning crusade has come... (i love this game ;)

Emperor reunion in New York City

A friend and I took a weekend jaunt to B.B. King's in New York City to see Emperor play one of four exclusive reunion dates in North Amerca.

(courtesy Flickr)(courtesy Flickr)

While I continue to think Opeth is mandatory listening for anyone who likes either heavy or progressive music, Emperor is not for the faint of heart. It is moody, atmospheric, and rather frightening at first. Progressive song structures, huge, layered guitars, spooky (and slightly cheesy) keyboards for atmosphere, and obscenely fast drumming. The closest I can liken it to is a very dark, disturbing series of audio Jackson Pollock paintings, arranged into a theme focused in stages around a particular riff or overarching and faintly discernable minor keyboard melody. The vocals sound like alternately like a screeching witch or a marching viking warrior. Fun for the whole family! Compared to most mainstream music, it takes complexity and layering to a different place. One way to think of it is a combination of Mercyful Fate (or King Diamond), Celtic Frost, and Kill 'Em All -era Metallica.

Anyway, the show was fabulous, everything I expected: fast, loud and heavy, but with tremendous musicianship, even though co-founder & guitarist Samoth couldn't make it due to immigration holdups. Ihsahn impresses with his stage presence and sincerity. He's one of the few musicians in death or black metal (along with Mikael Akerfelt) that conveys a passion for epic music tempered with a dose of humility and a strong interest in outside genres.

Metal documentary

Metal: A Headbanger's Journey is playing in several Canadian cities: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal. It's a great documentary and touches upon most of the aspects of Metal as a music genre, and has a good sense of history. Naturally, it doesn't cover absolutely everything, but I think it really captures the aspects of the music that I find so fascinating.

Opeth Chronology - New York City

A friend and I flew to NYC to see Swedish progressive death metal act Opeth play at the Town Hall theatre near Times Square. The venue was quite impressive - well maintained, smallish multi-level theatre, with great views of the stage all around, and the sound quality (finally!) was decent. Too often I've felt that their stage sound was muddy, but this time, other than some relatively minor level issues, it was much clearer than on past tours.

This event was part of 3 special shows, "Chronology MCMXCIV - MMV, A live Observation by Opeth", in NYC, LA, and Chicago -- seated venues, where Opeth would play a 2 1/2 hour set going through their 12 year album career -- all 8 albums.

Here's the setlist. Ballet Deviare opened, which was entertaining - four dancers strutting to Opeth's Deliverance.

(The following is a variation on what I wrote on the Opeth message board). It's been a great time watching Opeth grow into a world class live presence. I remember in January 2003 watching Opeth play Toronto's Opera House, and they were so nervous.. in such a short time they've gotten so much more relaxed, tighter and confident. (All that's left is hoping that their main drummer, Lopez gets better!)

I thought this show put the band on a different level. Genres of music entertain in different ways. What makes Opeth special is that they have the ability to hit the intensity of death metal and also those "sublime" moments that one only gets with great progressive rock like Pink Floyd. This was the first time (for me) they hit both moments in spades. Between The Amen Corner, White Cluster, Deliverance, and Ghost of Perdition, the energy in the room was peaked. And in terms of sublime moments, I would have to say that A Fair Judgement and Closure were tops. The middle section of Closure, where Per does his keyboard solo and Mikael doodles on the guitar just elevated the show to another level, it was like watching a great Jazz band or Prog Art Rock band at work. I'm not sure how they can top this show, short of replicating it on a larger scale.

A number of older fans are complaining about the setlist lacking older material. Frankly, a lot of those old songs are repetitious, meandering, and not very entertaining to see live -- they're meant for personal enjoyment on headphones. There are lots of great Opeth songs, and the ones they chose are some of their best, including some that we haven't heard very often. Yes, there is a place for yesterday, but we are dealing with a band that is arguably getting better with every album release...

Cookie monster vocals

The Wall Street Journal has an article on death metal's distinctive vocal style. Courtesy boing boing.

Though Mr. Conner from Roadrunner Records suggests that death metal acts are no longer selling, this is not to say that some artists are selling very well, and growing in popularity. One of my favorite bands is Opeth, a hybrid progresive / death metal band from Sweden, who have reached Billboard positions, and have sold Their music can be described as a dynamic mix of early Led Zeppelin, mid-70's Pink Floyd, and older Metallica, but with growling. I highly suggest them, particularly the latest "Ghost Reveries" if you like intense, dynamic music. If you just like progressive rock, give "Damnation" a try - no growling on that album.

Several of Cradle of Filth's albums have reached gold status (100k) in sales, and most recently Dimmu Borgir's Death Cult Armageddon has reached 100,000 in sales in January 2006, according to Soundscan. Dimmu is (for lack of a better term) a symphonic black metal band, in that they incorporate live orchestra with growling vocals and guitars. Some of their music was featured in the original Hellboy trailer.

And, finally, I must say that Sirius Sattellite Radio's Hard Attack is very entertaining, with a good mix of all metal genres, including plenty of cookie monsters!

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