Stratovarius – Intermission Review

220px-Intermission_(Stratovarius_album)_coverIntermission is a mish-mash compilation album by the Finnish Power Metal band Stratovarius from 2001. It was released as a stopgap between their commercially successful Infinite album from 2000 and their ambitious and slightly Prog Metal double album series Elements Parts 1 & 2 from 2003.

Its got linear notes from the band about the release and a very well designed cover art referencing previous albums (kind of like Pink Floyd’s Echos compilation does).

The album opens up with four brand new songs, first of which is the slightly power ballad style ‘Will My Soul Ever Rest In Peace?’ Its nice solid melodic Hard Rock stuff. Next comes ‘Falling Into Fantasy’ which starts off with a shimmering Empire-era Queensryche style vibe. Think ‘Della Brown.’ It sounds like the sort of stuff the band were doing on the popular Destiny album. Speaking of Queensryche the chorus is quite reminiscent of ‘Jet City Woman’ too actually. The song livens up further with a nice energetic guitar solo and a fun drum pattern underneath with a very nice tom fill at the end of the solo. At the start you thought it was just another ballad (Statovarius do a lot of ’em) but really it turned out to be one of the best songs they do in this particular direction, if a little derivative of Degarmo and company (for me that’s a good thing really).

That’s followed up by the traditionally power metal track ‘The Curtains Are Falling,’ a speedy double-kicks-a-flailin’ headbanger with a catchy chorus and memorable neoclassical keyboards. Its got a lot of energy and probably would have been the smarter choice to open the album with, I think. Probably would’ve worked better going from most to least energetic, but hey, its sequenced how its sequenced folks, I don’t make the rules.

Finally there’s a track called ‘Requiem’ which is essentially just a typical instrumental intro or outro. The sort thing most people will skip after the first few listens. A slow, keyboard driven atmospheric build up with no Heavy Metal payoff.

That’s it for the brand new specially written for this songs. The rest are gathered from mixed sources during their classic period. There’s two demos ‘Neon Light Child’ and ‘Freedom’ both of which are OK but forgettable (just the same as the final versions but with less polished production really). Then two live tracks, ‘Hunting High & Low’ (their very fun hit single) and ‘I Surrender’ (which is actually a Rainbow cover, and very fun, if a bit out of place), which are nice but kind of pointless on a compilation as opposed to a proper full-length live album. There’s two studio cover songs; ‘Bloodstone’ originally by Judas Priest (which they nail) and ‘Kill The King’ originally by Rainbow again (which has been done better by other bands, but its decent if you aren’t over-familiar with it).

The majority of the rest is all the bonus tracks from deluxe editions of the last few albums etc. ‘Keep The Flame’ is a very somber and emotional piano ballad. ‘Dream With Me’ is a power ballad that gets very jaunty towards the end when the solo kicks in. Then there’s another power ballad called ‘What Can I Say?’ which is slightly similar to track one, but with a bit more bite to it. OK yes, sensing a theme here? There are a lot of ballads on here. Its not all ballads though…

‘Its A Mystery’ is a very strong more commercial Power Metal tune in the vein of ‘Hunting High & Low’ which sounds like it would’ve fit perfectly on Infinite and probably would’ve made a great single if they’d released it that way. Its one of the best songs on this compilation. ‘Why Are We Here?’ the bonus track from Infinite is similarly just another really strong track from them in their commercial direction, and also baffling that it wasn’t a big single either. ‘Cold Winter Nights’ is typical perfect up-tempo Stratovarius, with that sort of Judas Priest’s Electric Eye vibe only with more keyboards and melody. Its also one of the best songs here and a nice surprise if it wasn’t on your version of Destiny already. ‘When The Night Turns To Day’ is a stomping mid pace track with a whiff of Queensryche’s Empire about it, just like the new track mentioned above. It would also have fit best on Destiny (even though it was initially from as far back as Episode, if you can believe that).

As you can imagine, Intermission is just a jumble of odds and ends with no particular theme or flow or consistency. Its not a must-have release or anything. Hey, if you like ’em doing ballads and covers you’re quids-in. If you want ’em doing more of a Speed Metal thing there’s not so much of that on here though, so maybe don’t start here if you are new, pick up one of the records in their glory run from Episode to Elements Part 2 instead.

If you like the band already though, and just want a cheap, easy and quick way to get the bonus tracks and b-sides in one place then this is great for that purpose, and hey there’s four solid new songs too to flesh it out. Nothing life changing, but worth a look if you’ve ran out of other Stratovarius products to check out from this era.

Queensrÿche – Condition Hüman Review

Queensrÿche – Condition Hüman

With their previous album, the self-titled one, American Progressive Metal band Queensrÿche had the eyes of the world on them due to the much publicized split with Geoff Tate and the existence of two competing Queensrÿches. There was the intrigue of a new singer, and the “they’ve gone back to their Metal roots” tagline to get everyone’s attention. Luckily, It was a brilliant album, but people would’ve been paying attention anyway. In 2015, with all the dust settled, and no more special taglines, the band have to sink or swim solely on the merits of the music.

Like their previous self-titled effort, Condition Hüman was crowdfunded, and if like me you pledged I’m sure you’ll already be very familiar with the first three tracks which the band let you download while you waited for the full album to be released. As it turns out, these three tracks are actually a pretty fair cross-section of the album proper and display the different moods explored on the record quite adequately. Opening with ‘Arrow Of Time’ which is now firmly in the band’s live setlists, the band show off their Heavy Metal roots, going for a “remember, we wrote ‘Queen Of The Ryche’ and ‘The Needle Lies’ too you know!” sort of feel. Promotional single ‘Guardian’ is next which I would say is the average sound of the album overall, so go out and listen to the song and watch the video because I think it is a pretty clear indication of what you can expect from the band nowadays. Then comes the slower, darker, less conventional ‘Hellfire’ which explores the progressive side of the band – never going so far as to have a 7-minute keyboard solo or songs about flowers developing split personalities in space, but certainly finds the Seattle group putting more thought into structuring, dynamics and unusual ideas than your average bread and butter Heavy Metal bands would. It wouldn’t feel too out of place on Promised Land beside ‘Damaged’ or even Hear In The Now Frontier beside ‘Hit The Black’ at a push but there’s a more modern feel too it… making it feel more like a logical successor to the type of music the band were writing on Operation Mindcrime II (an underrated album in my opinion).

The band do explore more of their overall discography on this one, which feels fair to me. It was unquestionably good to go back to the EP-Empire days, but it would also be a shame to outright ignore the best parts of what came afterwards and keep an artificial boundary in place forever. This album seems to be a reconciling of the previous Todd-fronted album with the post-Empire material to excellent effect; ‘Selfish Lies’ for example sounds at first like a bit the Tribe album, then goes a bit Empire-esque towards the end once the delicious album-highlight guitar solo comes in. ‘Eye9’ opens with a nice Tool-esque bassline and heavily processed vocals that reminds me of a mixture between ‘I Am I’ and ‘The Hostage’ from previous releases, but the song takes so many twists and turns in its duration it crosses all sorts of territory from American Soldier to Rage For Order, and when the (also album highlight) guitar solo came on for the first time it made my already high estimation of the song double or even triple (the lead guitar on this album is simply joyous!). Most surprising of all, ‘Just Us’ is an acoustic-flavoured, jangly Alternative Rock song that wouldn’t be out of place on either Hear In The Now Frontier or Q2K and even though the thought of that is off-putting to a lot of the fanbase, well, the rejuvenated band show us how good it can be, (and hey, when you’ve not got a full album of it, it works as a nice contrast) injecting an almost Houses Of The Holy feel into the proceedings and elevating it to something special.

The album lasts twelve tracks long, (with one of those just being an intro for the final song), and clocks in at 54 minutes, which is a lot more substantial than the trim and cheerful album which the Todd-lineup debuted with. Not only is it in the addition of more tracks that this extra length manifests itself, but the individual tracks themselves are all a little longer…the previous record’s tracks all lasted between two-and-a-half to four minutes in length and this album sees that average shift to something like between four and five, with the final track lasting almost eight. What you get for your extra invested time isn’t simple repetition or wasted time or filler… you get extra guitar solos, more thoughtful and sophisticated song writing and the ability to work in slower tempos alongside the fist-pumping Metal. You could make an argument that it isn’t as lean and focused, but you could also make the argument that there’s more depth.

Yes… my two favourite songs are predictably ‘Arrow Of Time’ and ‘All There Was,’ (which just happen to be the two most traditional songs on the record and the closest that the album comes to Speed Metal because I’m dreadfully predictable) but the band’s experimentation here is a profound success… with the record’s most progressive moment, the album-closing Title Track being not only one of the best songs on the album but one of the best songs the band have written in years and years, ending on an almost Voivod note and showing the guys still aren’t afraid to try new things.

All the background history and discography comparisons certainly get you to adjust your expectations, to guess what type of music might be here and get you interested in talking about it… but its all for nothing unfortunately, if the actual music is cack. Well, to put your mind at ease, it isn’t cack. Not by a long shot… stick on ‘Hourglass’ and just drink in those vocals, stick on one of the aforementioned guitar solos and bathe in the whip’s distinctive playing, pay close attention to the drum fills and hi-hat teasing from the unique and enjoyable Scott Rockenfield (in my opinion, one of the most important things in separating Queensrÿche from their peers). Yes, the musicianship is out of this world, with the same renewed passion and energy as the last album but more time to show off in! On top of that, the production job is better, with a more satisfying, less harsh sound and a clearer more balanced mix.

Overall; Condition Hüman was a surprise to me, but a really welcome one. I love the Todd line-up and I’ve loved their previous album so much that I still can’t stop listening to it ahead of numerous other classic releases, so when this record abandoned the formula slightly it could’ve been a bad move for this particular listener… but hey, the whole point of Queensrÿche was that they evolve between every album, never sounding the same twice. This album is not only another evolution, but a reaffirmation of everything that worked with every era of the band’s prestigious history, and its an album I’ll be listening to for a long time to come. Get yourself a copy without delay!

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 78: Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Trilogy

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 78: Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Trilogy

I think my usual long intro for these articles is too long so I’ve condensed it from here-on to this simpler version:

Forward 1: This is not a review, but a stream of consciousness written as I hear something for the first time. It’ll be subjective, personal opinions and un-researched speculation. The tone goes for fun rather than informative.

Forward 2: If you wonder what I’m talking about you can stream anything I reference on websites like Spotify nowadays and read about anything I reference on databases like Wikipedia.

Forward 3: Everyone is a nerd about something. Maybe its Heavy Metal, maybe its football, maybe its beauty products and grooming tips but we all get our nerditidy from somewhere, whether or not society currently thinks its nerdy or not right now.

So; today I find myself listening to the third studio album by Yngwie J. Malmsteen, a nine-track record from 1986 entitled “Trilogy” with very Targarian looking album art and featuring in the line-up not only the titular Swede but also the very talented Jens Johansson who later went on to join Stratovarius to awesome results.

I have no idea what to expect… I have heard the name Yngwie Malmsteen bandied-about before (was he the guy who said “you have unleashed the fucking fury” on an airplane??) by people citing great guitar players, and I half-remember that he helped popularize the neoclassical guitar style in Heavy Metal (alongside of course Ritchie Blackmore and the late Randy Rhodes) but other than that I’m a blank slate.

Is it instrumental? Is it heavy? Is it Rock or Metal? …I have no idea. Let’s find out together…

[Play]

“You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget” energetically bursts the record open, with bright shiny ’80s keyboards and some chugging NWOBHM-esque guitar stabs. Seconds later and it sounds like I’m listening to Dio’s classic Holy Diver album. Hey…speaking of which, the vocals (ah, so there ARE vocals?) come in and what’s this? The guy sounds massively like Ronnie himself! Is that Ronnie?

Hmmm… a quick sly look on Wikipedia reveals its someone called Mark Boals…. My oh my, I feel like I did when I heard Eric Adam’s name for the first time.

Oh hey! A guitar solo kicks in… hmmm that IS a nice guitar solo… and I’m a sucker for a good guitar solo…oh and hey before the end there’s plenty more guitar soloing.

Then Foghat’s ‘Coming On Down The Line’ plays because I forgot to unselect ‘shuffle’ in my iTunes. Its got a nice boogie, I have to admit, but its not strictly relevant so I’m going to have to stop listening to it and get back to the matter at hand.

Next comes ‘Liar’ which opens up with one of those great gallop parts like ‘Aces High’ by Iron Maiden or ‘The Needle Lies’ by Queensryche. When the vocals come in there’s a sort of feel like Rainbow’s ‘Stargazer’ (oh Hey… DIDN’T DIO SING ON THAT?) but with a nice NWOBHM-y chug underneath. This song is right up my alley. Then hey, when he says the word ‘Liar’ the song jumps a bit into a syrupy Power Metal mould for just a second and the whole mixture together is intoxicatingly perfect. I imagine this album was probably an influence to some of the early Power Metal pioneers for sure. Wow… its like listening to Tygers Of Pan Tang’s ‘Gangland’ along with ‘The Needle Lies’ and ‘Stargazer’ at the same time, and then at the break when all the neoclassical guitar heroics break in its like a big slice of Stratovarius pie as well! Then when the actual guitar solo follows it sounds so fresh and unique and unlike anybody else that I feel all nice and warm inside.

The next song comes on and its is pure shimmering 80s Dio. Are we sure iTunes didn’t shuffle again and actually stick on Sacred Heart? Nope? OK. This one is called ‘The Queen Is In Love’ and its amazing. I feel like I’ve heard it before. It sounds like it would’ve been on Grand Theft Auto Vice City.

Guitarwise, I think Yngwie is even further down the neoclassical spiral than Randy or Ritchie are. A lot further. Its cool that its on such a nice ’80s Metal record though. I thought it might’ve just been pagganini lines on an electric guitar but not actual songs and not heavy or catchy on the rhythm section. I like how they throw in double-kicks for the last verse of the song, I always like when a song will do that.

‘Crying’ comes next and really reminds me of Dream Theater ballads for some reason. Will it be a ballad? There’s some nice clean guitar. It’s a bit softer. The keys remind me of Hammerfall album closers, especially ‘Glory To The Brave.’

Two minutes in and still no vocals. Not a ballad per sae but rather a slightly softer instrumental. Not brushes-instead of drumsticks levels of soft though. It sounds like the music in a movie’s credits. Vague as that could be literally anything… but its what the song makes me visualize.

Then next he unleashes the fucking fury so to speak, in as much as the next song is called ‘Fury.’ It starts off with a nice ‘The Needle Lies’ sort of drumbeat… but the music sounds a bit more like Iron Maiden’s ‘Invaders’ than ‘Aces High’ if you need a Maiden reference point (because of course you do, right?). The keyboards dampen the heaviness a bit, and the vocals, though still Dio-esque are a little less biting so it feels like a laid back kind of heaviness. Then the guitars and keyboards dual in the way great Power Metal often does and it is delicious. I like this drummer, wonder who he is?

Hey hey, wait up… the drummer is Anders Johansson out’ve Hammerfall? Well I’ll be a son of a paladin! I had no idea. That is a nice bit of business. Hey, this record has members of Stratovaris and Hammerfall on it? If I’d known that I’d probably have tried it out quicker!

Next up is ‘Fire’ which is very much the kind of song that is the most-commercial song on a Dio album. It REALLY sounds like the 80s due to the keyboard sound… it feels like it’d be in the soundtrack to an 80s movie and by extension sounds hugely like GTA Vice City again. I can imagine competing against the rich preppy kids as a poor but determined underdog in a Ski Tournament in a montage to this song. Side note: A lot of these songs just fade out and don’t have a specific ending.

‘Magic Mirror’ follows. I’m getting more Dio, it’s a mix between the Speed Metal ones and the commercial ones. It doesn’t have the Maiden/Queensryche thing of the other two I mentioned. Its Still pretty Dio sounding though. And yes, after a period there’s a nice fat slice o’ neoclassical. The guitar solo in this one is wonderful, if brief, sort of that Black Label Society paradox where the band famous for guitar would be expected to really have mostly guitar solos but it isn’t the case. Nice song though, catchy, fun, easily digestible but Metallic enough to satisfy that urge as well. Its like a halfway point between Cacophony’s Speed Metal Synmphony and Ozzy’s first four solo albums.

Next up is ‘Dark Ages’ and it’s slower. I don’t know if its going the ‘epic’ route or the doomy route. I think it might be a bit like ‘Egypt (The Chains Are On)’ where it’s the ‘epic’ route without the bells and whistles, and only a regular length. A similar example would be Exodus’ ‘Like Father, Like Son’ which you imagine lasts ten minutes but it really doesn’t… or a modern example would be Trivium’s ‘And Sadness Will Sear.’
Its not an especially memorable song, but towards the end, when the song starts fading out, there’s a really nice guitar part that is pretty entertaining.

The album closes with ‘Trilogy Suite Op 5’ which has an unwieldy title but a nice guitar intro that actually reminds me of the aforementioned Speed Metal Symphony, up until the drums kick in with a sort of shuffle that reminds me more of Saxon’s ‘A Little Bit Of What You Fancy’ and ‘This Town Rocks.’ This song seems to be 7 minutes of solid guitar solos (and instrumental, and much more neoclassical focused) and in that respect is exactly what I expected from the album (I never figured all that Dio stuff would be on it, but lots of guitar solos is exactly what I predicted).

Side note, the drums are excellent, all the fills and little touches with the ride’s bell are right up my street. Oh wait, what’s this… it goes the ‘2112’ route and stops the rock in the middle for some quiet acoustic guitar! Its remarkably well done. At 2.51 it comes back to rock and boy what a fun riff! Nice and bouncy! At this point its not too dissimilar from Michael Schenker Group at times but then there’s also great heavy guitar that’d be happier with Dave Mustaine than Mr. Schenker, but again the keys dampen it so you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t looking.

I really like this last song. Heck, I like the album rather a lot… Its like if the Europe song ‘Ninja’ was a whole album… but that album wasn’t The Final Countdown.

No… I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore… I’m going to bed.

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Round 4 – Day 40

Hello and welcome once more to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 40, and I haven’t spent anything new in the last three days… hey, I’m getting the hang of this! Maybe if I keep this going long enough I’ll be able to break free of the habit of spending so frequently. I could use that money for fresh fruit and vegetables! (I’m on a health kick at the moment and that seems like the best use of my money in my current state of mind). I’ve also been experimenting with baking and online grocery shopping with mixed results. I’m planning on being a more successful human being for the next year, more organized and nourished and with more strings to my bow.

Continuing this self-improvement theme, I’ve also decided to cycle for 20-minutes after work every day from when I return to work following my current time-off, all the way up until Christmas. To sure-up this decision, I spent last night making dozens of 20-minute playlists in iTunes for cycling to. (Well, most of them end up being 22 minutes). The main theme of each playlist is pick about 5 songs from about 5 different artists within one subgenre.

So for example: 1 Saxon song, 1 Diamond Head song, 1 Iron Maiden song, 1 Angel Witch Song, 1 Motorhead song…. and then call that playlist “NWOBHM 1.”

In this spirit I have made: 9 Classic Rock Lists, 9 Thrash Metal lists, 9 NWOBHM/Early Metal lists, 9 Thrash Metal lists, 8 Glam Metal lists, 6 Power Metal lists, 5 Metalcore lists, 4 Groove Metal lists, 2 NYHC lists, 2 Indie Lists, 2 Nu Metal lists, 1 Stoner Rock list, and 1 Melodeath list.

Oh yeah, and two lists of Thrash bands’ ‘90s hits…like “Symphony Of Destruction,’ ‘Only,’ ‘Enter Sandman’ etc.

I only chose jaunty up-tempo songs; no ballads, no interludes, no intros, no doomy songs, nothing proggy… just stuff that would make me want to continue cycling. Its basically that I always get a shower when I get home from work, but I am always hesitant to do any exercise once I’ve had a shower because it’s a waste of water and therefore money, and so I’ve decided that I could squeeze in a small bit of exercise after each work day so its not too tiring (and get rewarded by hearing 5 or so classic songs) but since I’ll still work up a sweat it would be advisable before my usual post-work shower. Hopefully it makes me squeeze in exercise all the time, rather than doing it properly when I’m in the mood, but more often ending up doing nothing when it can’t be done right… as they say: “Don’t let Perfect be the enemy of Good.”

Anyway, enough health propaganda, on to the main article:

Since my recent birthday, I’ve been describing how I’ve been reading Martin Popoff’s Top 500 Metal Albums book, and this has not changed. I’ve been happily reading away at this yesterday too, now up to around number-300. It’s a damn good book and I highly recommend it. Even if there are a few small mistakes (eg. he said that Michael Kiske was the singer on Helloween’s Walls Of Jerhico, but it was really Kai Hansen) and sometimes his sentences lack all grammatical logic or you can tell he forgot to type words here and there, it is still a very entertaining and well put-together product.

I’ve also spent the last few days listening to the following albums:

I decided to put this record on again because I recently read an article online which was about biggest disappointments/flops. Untouchables was in it. I thought to myself…”surely not?” I remembered at the time, everyone loved it. They filmed the successful comeback show with loads of songs from it. People on Metal podcasts I listened to remembered it fondly. I listened to it again last night, and yeah, there’s a wee bit of filler (like EVERY Korn record) but it is in no way a weak album for them, plus lead single and album opener “Here To Stay” is just an absolute smasher! Oh yeah, and I looked it up on Wikipedia this morning and that also suggests it is one of the band’s most popular albums. What about the verse to “Embrace” ? …or the chorus to “Wake Up Hate” ?

Disappointment? Pfft…

This album is a weird one for me; I listen to tracks from it almost daily on shuffle, but I have this weird “I don’t listen to this album enough” feeling all the time because I don’t sit down and listen to it in its entirety often enough. Well, I tried to put that right, and its one of my favourite Motorhead records when you add up all the songs I like (although I just usually don’t listen to them together… something it shares in common with Faith No More’s Angel Dust as a matter of fact). Some people called this one a disappointment, or dislike the production. Not me, I love it. Love it all. So many great tracks. Great atmosphere. Its charming. “(Don’t Let ‘Em) Grind Ya Down” is especially fun. Heck it all is; no filler!

I listened to this yesterday whilst weightlifting because I have elderly neighbors in my temporary accommodation and I didn’t want them to have to hear Hatebreed, which is what I was really in the mood for at the time, but I’m a considerate neighbor when all is said and done.

I remember I bought this for super-cheap (around a penny I seem to recall, or maybe one pound at an absolute maximum!) just to have something to talk about with a coworker in my last job, who had an Alkaline Trio tattoo. I’m not really keen on it. I always liked their single “Private Eye” but unfortunately its about the only song on this album that is memorable. Its all competent but its just a bit bland and forgettable. Oh well, a Penny for a few conversations and “Private Eye” …not too much of a waste. Its not like I’ll have to quit doing fucked-up shit.

I’ve mentioned before about how I got this in 2010 and never felt like I’d listened to it enough. I still feel that way. Even with a recent attempt at a revival of it by adding it to my phone on work trips and during my Dutch holiday. To its credit, there are some great songs on the record, like the Title Track, “The Alchemist” and “Talisman.” I just somehow never feel like I give it enough attention though. I’ll keep trying, because it is good, its just… demanding.

This was a birthday gift. It’s the modern Helloween line-up trying to do their version of the Keepers’ albums. BOTH Keepers! It’s a double album, each with a 10 minute epic, a few fast thrashers, a ballad each, and a fun off-the wall song.

Its kind of exhausting. I can tell there’s good stuff on it, because I like Deris-era Helloween a lot anyway. But, its just a huge amount to take in at once. Without the mental division of individual albums the way the original Keepers Part 1 & 2 had. You feel overworked listening to it.

Some people are down on sequel albums, especially those late in a career. I like Operation Mindcrime 2 and Thick As A Brick 2 though… so I’ll give this one a chance as well. It just might take a long time to absorb.


I went for a run the other day, and the soundtrack to this sweaty affair was the suitably sweaty Manowar albums I got for my birthday, all together (Not just the one pictured, but Triumph Of Steel and Fighting The World too) on shuffle. These albums are really growing on me. Sure the drum solos in “Achilles” are pace-killers and that spoken word track is too long, but this is a seriously fun band with some seriously great Metal songs to offer. All of their fast songs are almost instant-favourites of mine, catapulted into Best Of playlists already. This is a good boxset and these albums are showing some real promise to join the best of Helloween and Gamma Ray at the top of my Power Metal pile… almost eclipsing Stratovarius already!

Absolute masterpiece. I’ve spent enough time talking about it. I think its one of the best records ever made, by anyone. I just need to listen to it regularly because I don’t want it to slip out of listening. (Once I let “Crack The Skye” go, it didn’t come back the same).

Another birthday gift. Very fun, pleasant, upbeat and happy record. Perfect listening for this sunshine, and for this good-mood inspired by the exercise and healthy-eating zone I’m in. Also nice and brief, lightweight and succinct. Easily digestible, quick and cheerful stuff for instant gratification and no-brains smiles being put on my face.

I’ve tried once more last night, despite feeling like it wasn’t very good and even with new attention, I just don’t really like this album much at all. I really like their debut, don’t get me wrong, its not just thoughtless Poison-bashing here, I just don’t like this Posion album. This one is just a bit empty. There’s nothing in the style I want from them, and there’s no catchy perfect fun in an alternative style to the one I want either. Its just very bland and unexciting. Nothing “grabs” me.

Halfway between the first and the third. Not just as memorable as their debut, or as forgettable as their third album, this has stuff going for it, but isn’t “wow, this album is great!” either. An enjoyable listen, that will eventually be boiled down to just the best few tracks and mostly ignored otherwise. I like “Back On The Rocking Horse,” “Bad To Be Good,” and “Look But You Can’t Touch” as well as the Kiss-esque hit single “Nuthin But A Good Time” of course.

I used to listen to this all the time last year. It got pushed out by new purchases. I still tend to listen to the post-Ralph albums a lot, but the first three of their albums have done a runner from my limited-storage-space phone long ago, which is a shame really, they deserve more attention. I’m pushing them back in now though. How can you argue with “Money” on a sunny day?

I’ve been listening to this constantly since its release, and so this listen here is just another go-round, rather than any attempt to appreciate an under-appreciated hidden gem. I’ve been constantly listening to it all year because its really good! …Even their absolutely shoddy live gig this time last year didn’t stop this being a good record in my eyes.

I enjoyed listening to it out in the sun today whilst chopping down (or rather trimming to acceptable tidiness, its not like I actually felled them with an axe) the trees surrounding my current accommodation, in the glorious sunshine. The title track and “Fall From Grace” are brilliant cheerful songs to hack trees by! (Although maybe I should’ve listened to Rush, now that I think about it… that’d be good, ey? I wonder if the neighbors would’ve got the joke?).

It took a long time to trim those trees. This was the second album I put on, because its not too-heavy for neighbors. I love this album, any excuse to listen to it is fine by me… even if my thumbs are covered in blisters afterwards! Good album. “Sleeping By Myself Tonight” is superb.

Man, I just never listen to this. I’ve owned it at least a decade, and I think I’ve listened to it fewer than twenty times in all that time (shame it wasn’t Somewhere In Time so I could use yet another “time” in that sentence), with about ten of those listens being made in the same month I bought it.

I love the title track (man, title tracks are usually great, aren’t they?) and “Be Quick Or Be Dead,” which I will always love for its Carmaggeddon 2 memories! (It was in that game’s soundtrack beside “The Trooper” and “Man On The Edge.”) Other than those two tracks however, I almost don’t even recognize over half of the record. I wasn’t even all that fond of it when I listened to it yesterday again either. I must try yet again tomorrow! Maybe it’s a grower, and I’ve never put enough time into it?

This album is fantastic. Its taken me years to think that though. A bit of backstory: I bought Cowboys’ and Vulgar’ on the same day on a Dublin holiday when I was about 12 or 13. I loved Vulgar instantly and forever. The high screams and weird production (and infuriating lack of snare drums on “Primal Concrete Sledge”) on Cowboys however, at the time made me think of it as being bad and cheesy and out-dated and un-Pantera, and for about two years afterwards I only liked the title track. (Title Tracks again, see?). Over the years I’ve liked more and more of it, and getting into thrash unlocked more of its charm, getting into Maiden unlocked yet more. Getting into Priest unlocked the final missing piece. Now I love every second of it… it just took me a while. A kid who mostly listens to Powerman 5000 and Limp Bizkit doesn’t have the palate suitable for “Heresy” or “Psycho Holiday” just yet. Well, it was worth the wait!

Another “I am listening to this all the time anyway” album. I’m surprised how much I’ve come to really enjoy this record. It’s also “unlocked” the band’s first two albums for me, and I can appreciate them as real music now, instead of just a clown-parade of druggy chancers and womanizers writing 80% filler and getting unnaturally lucky with a few hits, like I used to view them. Moving on…

Yet another “I am listening to this all the time anyway” album, like the above. This is my definite album of the summer. It will likely be my album of the year at this rate. Every listen and it gets better, just like Stalingrad did. I’ll be watching the free Blu Ray a lot over the rest of the year too. Good value. I’ve been avoiding new albums recently because I can get boxsets of albums for the same price as individual new albums, and about 5 cheap old albums for the price of one new album, so it just seems wasteful to buy new albums…. This one however was unarguable value for money considering how much enjoyment and use I got out of it!

When I first got the boxset of Dokken’s first five albums (well, four and a live album), I sort of overlooked this one a lot. I’m slowly rectifying that oversight. “Paris Is Burning” and “Live To Rock (Rock To Live)” are excellent jaunty Judas Priest-style Speed Metal tracks (although with a softer production, admittedly).

This still isn’t my favourite Dokken album, or one I’d share with any friends who don’t listen to this sort of thing to convert them, but it’s a nice enough album and worth my time.

This is a classic, everyone loves it. Its not hard to see why. Phil’s voice is excellent here, Pepper and Kirk’s riffs are really memorable and everyone loves a bit of Bower Power, that Bonham-esque groove he can inject songs with really putting the cherry on top.

Good songs (most of a Down setlist most times, ey?), great performances, faultless production… pretty good record. Its not even monotonous, there’s plenty of variety from the brief stunners like “Lifer” and “Hail To The Leaf” and then the acoustic “Jail,” for variety, yet further diversified by the unique genre-of-one in hit single “Stone The Crow” and then topped-off by the big weighty monolith of an album-closer (and live-favourite) “Bury Me In Smoke.”

Its just all good, and there’s a nice mix so you aren’t bored or wore-down. I just need to remind myself to listen to it as often as I listen to Pantera or C.O.C. I’ve been constantly hammering The Purple EP all year, or at least its highlights, so I’ve probably been getting enough Down overall that I didn’t notice the dip in NOLA plays, but Martin Popoff’s book just reminded me to go back to the reason I liked Down in the first place.

I listen to the title track (how many times with the title tracks?) and “Rock N Roll Rebel” all the time, and I have it on Vinyl mounted on my wall, and I listened to the whole record all the time for about a year after I got it… but I’ve noticed a massive decrease in listens recently. I’ve just put it on again (another Popoff inspired move) and noticed that apart from the aforementioned hits, I’ve forgotten most of this record, and there’ actually a lot more good moments on here than I’ve been giving it credit for recently, certainly since last Christmas I’ve not listened to it in full. Well, now I have once more, and it was entertaining. Not the best Ozzy album, but better than the two-tracks-only footnote that I’ve been treating it as! Also the bonus track “One Up The B Side” is great, despite its cheesy joke title.

I bought a set of the first two V.O.D. albums a while back, around the same time I bought the boxset of Life Of Agony albums (I remember mixing the two bands up because of their triple-word names with “of” in the center, their association with ‘90s American Hardcore, and both having tracks with “River” in the title. This “River” song has a guest appearance from Phil Anselmo, Life Of Agony’s didn’t.

I ended up becoming a real fan of the Life Of Agony material… but upon initial listen I wasn’t keen on V.O.D. much at all. Their albums seemed like an exhausting barrage of samey, brash, rough-around-the-edges violence. To be fair, that’s still true, but its more of a compliment than an insult. This album is full of absolutely brilliant tracks. Each one, in isolation, is a blow-away-the-cobwebs breath of fresh air… intense, threatening and very very lively. Their singer reminds me of Chimaira’s Mark Hunter a little… but a less melodic, more screamy version.

Highlights for me are “Jada Bloom,” “Twelve Steps To Nothing” and “Landslide.” I’m warming to this album, its just a bit exhausting all at once… they’re still a band I can only take in small doses.

Another Popoff inspiration. I bought this record around this time last year, wasn’t amazingly sold on it really, and kind of just listened to it in small doses here and there from then on, with decreasing frequency until its now mostly ignored altogether. I stuck it on yesterday and was really impressed, there’s a whole heap of stolen Anthrax, Megadeth and Overkill parts and apart from the slow, grungy tempos and Rob’s unusual voice, this is pretty much a nice Thrash album. “Thrust” and “Black Sunshine” are good. The only problem with the album is that the band seem a bit too relaxed, too calm, holding back a bit. V.O.D are too unhinged and aggressive and abrasive, put this is the opposite end of the spectrum… its very chilled out and softened-down. You can tell the songs are good though, it’d be cool to hear them covered by someone with a bit of energy. Perhaps V.O.D. could cover them and split the difference?

This album is associated with sunshine for me. I was listening to it in the wonderful sunshine in the zoo in Rotterdamn, and I listened to it today whilst going out on a long walk in the countryside while trying to put more of this healthy stuff into action and make the most of this last week away before its back to early 4am work mornings and grey city sludge. The whole album is so bright and clean and uplifting that really sunshine is the only environment in which you could take it seriously… you already need a big smile on your face before it even starts.

What about the record itself? I used to think it was pretty samey, pretty bland, and lacking in the x-factor of its more famous cousin Inhuman Rampage. Listening to it carefully for the first time today, I guess that’s only half true… there’s a little more to things here than I initially credited it with, and while it can wear a little thin all at once its pretty much an honest record with good intentions. Not soon to become a favourite, but worth a few more listens at least.

Ok. That’s enough for one article. I’ve dropped my thoughts on most of the albums I’ve been listening to in the last three days; I’ll leave discussions of Death, Carcass, Cro-Mags and Deicide to another time as I’m pretty sure most people will’ve stopped reading by now anyway.

Oh well, it stopped me from splashing out on Spiderman comic collections, Early ‘80s American Hardcore bands’ debut albums, Musician’s biographies (Five Finger Death Punch’s drummer has a book out!?) and all the live concert DVDs going at the minute (or indeed b-sides and bonus tracks to albums I have but haven’t got all the bonus material from.)

‘Til we meet again…

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Round 4 – Day 37

Welcome to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For. Its day 37, and I haven’t spent anything new today. Well, I bought concert tickets on behalf of someone else if we’re being 100% honest, but I’m not “counting that” as a failure in the challenge.

Yesterday, I described how I’d been reading Martin Popoff’s Top 500 Metal Albums book, and it had gotten me to sit back and listen to albums that I haven’t been focusing on lately (and some that I have, but from the same era). I’m very much at the same business today. Every time he brings up an album I like, it has me running to the iPod or CD player to revisit some gem.

Here’s what I’ve got through today:














In between lifting weights, consuming more fruit and veg than I would’ve in an entire year in my teens, and other health-related activities now that I’ve got my motivation back, I’ve managed to refresh myself of a lot of things.

Some that I heard today like Rainbow’s Long Live Rock N Roll, I usually only listen to one or two tracks from, but if I’m honest I have never really fully got into, perhaps because of picking them up at the same time as a bunch of other albums. (I can’t believe how unfamiliar I am with Queensryche’s song “Nightrider” despite how much I listen to the band overall). I still feel like that Rainbow album is new. Its in my “new pile” in my brain. I actually bought it in 2009. That’s five years now. Similarly, Iron Maiden’s Final Frontier was got even earlier in that year and I feel like its still new too, however I got Arctic Monkeys’ Humbug on the same day, but they’ve had two records since then and it feels super old. Perception is a strange thing, ey?

On a similar note… I barely ever, ever, ever listen to “Gyspy” by Dio. Why not? Why has that song just been deleted from my memory? It was on the album when I bought it, I didn’t delete it, I listen to other songs from the album. I listen to the other albums of the first four Dio albums a lot. Why has “Gypsy” just been jettisoned? Oh well, its back in my brain now…

Some that I heard today, like the Anthrax albums, are among my favourite albums ever, but have for some reason been a bit ignored in the last two years, and now its time to get them back into rotation. It strange how long I can go without listening to Anthrax actually…. I remember saying so many times in my teens that they were my favourite band in the world (but hey, so were Biohazard and Napalm Death at different stages too, and I’ve somehow basically not listened to them in 2014).

Some that I heard today, such as the Saxon ones, I’ve been caning a lot recently anyway, but hey, they fit with the general theme of the rest of my listening, and I’m in the mood for them.

I also went for the two Judas Priest albums that I listen to the least nowadays. Wow, how good is Defenders Of The Faith, seriously? Why am I not listening to that more often. I remember thinking it wasn’t as good as some of the others and tails off towards the end, and mostly I just listen to “Eat Me Alive” on its own. Strange that this has fallen out of favour, because I liked it at the time I bought it, and gave it a good review, but somewhere in the last three years I forgot all about this one. Taken for granted! Well no more!

I guess it is just a matter of how much new stuff you buy. Even the absolute gold gets ignored due to time constraints (when was the last time I actually listened to And Justice For All come to think of it?). I love this whole Get (Into) What You Paid For system because it really gets me not only to save money, but feel a real pleasure in rediscovering things, like Rob Halford’s vocals on “Love Bites” or the ending to Rainbows “Kill The King” (- a song I feel I’ve heard a lot due to Heathen and Megadeth covering it, and yet, the ending was a surprise joy!).

I’m thinking of extending this round now from 1.5 months to 2 months! This is great fun.

Get (Into) What You Paid For – Round 4: Episode 2 Day 8

Hello and welcome once again my friends to the show that never ends this fourth round of my “Get (Into) What You Paid For” challenge, in which I attempt to not buy anything for a month, and reevaluate my opinion of records I bought previously but never really became a true fan of, taking this purchase-abstinence as a chance to finally “get my money’s worth” out’ve the more undervalued albums in my collection. That; and present thoughts and musings that don’t fit elsewhere on the blog.

Its now eight days into the challenge and yup…didn’t cave last night and buy anything. I don’t think I’m all that tempted at the minute. Maybe I am though. Who knows, maybe I’d sneak in during the middle of the night and buy Girls Girls Girls on eBay? I listened to Accept’s Balls To The Wall yesterday, that made me pretty tempted to pick up Restless & Wild actually. Ok…so maybe there are temptations. Get off my back!

A lot of my blog viewing this week has featured Savatage…maybe I’ll just quickly get the albums of theirs I’m missing?

No. Stay strong!… Ok. So. You’ll be glad to read (unless you’re an Amazon employee) that I didn’t do any of that. I’ve still been listening to that Motely Crue album I mentioned yesterday. Also a lot of Pantera. Boy do I enjoy Pantera. Sometimes you take them for granted and ignore them, and then all of a sudden you are refreshed and hear them again and its all like “Wow…how good are Pantera guys? Seriously!” as if it’s the very first time again. Excellent, timeless, brilliant band.

In non-music realms, I’ve been reading Batman Cacophony, a title (written by Kevin Smith) that I picked up and read over half a year ago but haven’t blogged about yet, but I’ve kept that in a separate post, in the Amateur Batfan series. Temptations-wise? Maybe I might buy Kevin Smith’s work on Green Arrow or Daredevil? I am curious… but, no, not now. Its still just Batman time for me.

So, what else is new then?

I’ve been reading a lot online today about the best selling Metal albums of all time. I would like to see how Avenged Sevenfold and Slipknot compare to Dokken and Quiet Riot…how Dream Theater did, if Anthrax or Exodus ever went platinum over time… things like that.

A few of the places to check out are: here and here, and also here. Furthermore, there’s here and here and here.

What I found out however is that there are massive, massive, massive differences in opinion/supposed facts/plain old lies about how well certain albums sold. Here are some examples of such disputed sales figures:

AC/DC – Back In Black: 49 x platinum (or 25/40 as reported elsewhere)
Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon: 45 x platinum (or 22 as reported elsewhere)
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV: 37 x platinum (or 29 as reported elsewhere)
Nirvana – Nevermind: 30 x platinum (or 26 as reported elsewhere)
Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet: 28 x platinum (or 12 as reported elsewhere)
Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction: 28 x platinum (or 18/21/30 as reported elsewhere)
Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory: 24 x platinum (or 10 as reported elsewhere)
Metallica – Metallica: 19 x platinum (or 16/30 as reported elsewhere)
Pink Floyd – The Wall: 17 x platinum (or 30 as reported elsewhere)

How can there be such discrepancies? Some of these are nearly double the amount! That’s not something you can mistake in your bank account, or shipping company traffic.

Here are other some surprises however:

Kid Rock – Devil Without A Cause: 11 x platinum
Limp Bizkit – Significant Other: 7 x platinum
Limp Bizkit – Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water: 6 x platinum
Quiet Riot – Metal Health: 6 x platinum
Guns N’ Roses – Greatest Hits: 5 x platinum
Guns N’ Roses – GN’R Lies: 5 x platinum
Alice in Chains – Dirt: 4 x platinum
Black Sabbath – Paranoid: 4 x platinum
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral: 4 x platinum
Linkin Park – Meteora: 4 x platinum
Disturbed – The Sickness: 4 x platinum
Godsmack – Godsmack: 4 x platinum
Metallica – Kill ‘Em All: 3 x platinum
System of a Down – Toxicity: 3 x platinum
Queensryche – Empire: 3 x platinum
Tool – Aenima 3 x platinum
Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine: 3 x platinum
Rage Against the Machine – Evil Empire: 3 x platinum
Cinderella – Night Songs: 3 x platinum
Cinderella – Long Cold Winter: 3 x platinum
Papa Roach – Infest: 3 x platinum
P.O.D. – Satellite: 3 x platinum
Audioslave – Audioslave 3 x platinum
Ozzy Osbourne – Diary of a Madman: 3 x platinum
Ozzy Osbourne – Bark at the Moon: 3 x platinum

P.O.D, Cinadrella, Papa Roach and Disturbed stand out to me as odd. These guys all sold more than Slipknot? My perspective is way off. They all sold equal to System Of A Down…really? Also, I never, ever thought Godsmack would be that successful… You just do not hear of those guys over here in the UK (Godsmack’s record here is MORE Successful than Black Sabbath, RATM and Ozzy Osbourne? Really?).

Tool sold so many despite being so proggy and weird? Good on them!

RATM sold so few relative to this list despite the enormous crossover appeal?

What’s with the large gap between Metallica albums? If you like Metallica enough to buy Ride The Lightning, why not buy Kill ‘Em All too?

Significant Other sold more than Chocolate Starfish? – It really didn’t feel that way at the time.

Audioslave?

Queensryche did that well? Why were they so unheard of two years ago?

An unwanted, cover-song-filled GNR compilation so, so late in their career outsold Toxicity and Meteora? They seemed sooooo famous at the time to me, while that compilation seems so throw-away.

But anyway, enough about sales.

DT – A

Here’s something to reevaluate. Dream Theater’s 1994 album, Awake. It’s their third album, it’s the third of theirs that I heard if memory serves. I heard Metropolis’ and didn’t like it (this has since changed), then I heard Images & Words and liked that, then I bought a boxset and listened to the other albums in that; which included Awake, Falling Into Infinity and Train Of Thought.

The album opens up with drums on their own, and kind of reminds me of Jethro Tull’s ‘No Lullabye’ in a very vague way. Opener “6.00” comes in and samples say “Six O Clock On A Christmas Morning” in a way that is sort of cool because they made it rhythmic and part of the song like Ministry might do, but also slightly annoying. Sometimes this part is offputting and sometimes I love it, depending on my mood. They pulled the whole samples and randomness thing off way better on the previous album during “Take The Time.”

I like the keys, this actually feels like there is a lot of 70s Prog in it. The drums are nice and flashy and awkward. Its kind of, with the exception of the pre-chorus though, its kind of cooler to appreciate than to actually enjoy. You sit with your minds eye, casting it over the different things going on, focusing for a second on each, like watching Slipknot on stage with your real eyes, and that process is fun. The song isn’t as good on the ears as that process is on the brain however.

I like it during the middle during the “Inside coming outside” bit where it goes a bit Misplaced Childhood. After this point the song is pretty bad-ass actually. The solo and the parts underneath are all excellent.

Much like Theater Of Pain I kind of think this album-opener is a bad choice. Its doesn’t set up a good first impression. I think you have to know you like the song before you hear it to trust it, otherwise its just gimmicky and overly bouncy without being memorable. Its not. But it seems that way until the half-way point if you are unfamiliar. It should be buried later in the album, where it would be the exact same song, but better, because you’re already warmed up. Do you follow?

Next up comes “Caught In A Web.” I didn’t know that at the time, because as a rule I think I hate “Caught In A Web.” I hear some Dream Theater song though… The first minute…awesome. (Well; awesome except the synth… a weird seering synth over the top that feels like its mocking me. I had problems with Camel’s fifth album in the past, when the toplines mocked me even when the bottom was cool. The bottom of this song during the first minute or two is awesome, but boy-o-boy do I dislike that top-part.)

Anyway, the first minute is more or less great. Nice, the same excellent sound from their previous record Images & Words, but maybe a little tiny bit slower and with a tiny bit more Pantera creeping into things. Then a really ugly, ugly, sheen-y chorus which just doesn’t fit. Oh, I guess its “Caught In A Web.” Damn, I don’t like it anymore…I think?

It then bounces into a cool Alternative Metal/Groove Metal riff that really reminds me of Pantera and Pissing Razors a lot. Then there’s bits when they prog out on that riff and it sounds like Death and Opeth because of the long winding, ever-shifting guitar lines aspects. The whole mid section is fabulous. The drum build-up is cool, the Eastern-tinged keys are cool, the guitars are rhythmic and interesting.

I often think I dislike this song, but this song is fabulous, its just got the wrong chorus for my tastes. I’d love to edit the chorus out of it, and then it would be one of my favourite Dream Theater tracks.

Next up comes “Innocence Faded,” which opens like some sort of Tennis Match montage music. Its clean and commercial and not unpleasant. It then goes down into a quiet, diamondy sort of sound like Donkey Kong Country levels in an Ice Cave. The next bit is cool, kind of Genesis-reminiscent. The chorus is a bit “nothing” …a sort of swing-and-a-miss, but there are many other cool parts. LaBrie is awesome around the 2.05 mark. The drums are nice and flashy between there and the chorus too. Very nice. After that there’s some very 80s Rush sounds. Rush albums later than Moving Pictures. I like it. Its not very Metal in any way, but in and of itself, its nice. It kind of reminds me of Van Halen’s “Jump” and Genesis’ “Turn It On Again” combined in some sort of The Fly situation.

The instrumental “Erotomania” is next. A lot of Van Der Graaf and King Crimson influence here. It opens sounding like a warning siren on a train track. Its quite nice to sit and concentrate on, but not really background music. Queensryche and Tool, and even Mastodon can make Prog that you can not even notice is all that complex if you don’t pay attention. This is more like The Mars Volta in that…no one’s mistaking that for simplistic. It gets really cool from 2 minute mark onwards, all these parts are way cooler than the start part. Its interesting the mix of 70s Prog, with 80s sounds and then also even a bit that sounds like its trying to be Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” hidden in there in the background. Its also cool when it goes Neoclassical a minute later. This is the sort of thing you listen to a hundred times and never truly hear the same thing twice. I think two fans can hear it and their brains will tell them two completely different things depending on how closely each guy is paying attention.

The brief Metal bit towards the end, but before the repetition of the bits from the start, is cool. Also, the actual end-end really, really reminds me of both “The Trees” by Rush, and the bit in “2112” by Rush where it transitions from the heavy bit to the soft bit where the character discovers the guitar.

The lengthy “Voices” follows up. It is thunderous and reminds me quite a lot of “Suite Sister Mary” by Queensryche during the opening, but its a lot more technical and multi-faceted. It builds up quite slowly over almost the first three minutes, there’s sort of a “Don’t Leave Me Now” by Pink Floyd vibe to that build.

The those same bright ugly keys from the “Caught In A Web” chorus come in. The Metal bit which follows is really rather neat. I hear bits that would influence Protest The Hero in there. The ugly chorus is ugly to me. There’s a touch of the “Caught In A Web” problem, where this one part is causing a false impression of a good song and lowering my overall impression of it accidentally. Even though the rest of it is deadly, like the following part with double-kicks. I like the talk-boxy solo a little while afterwards. That whole section is excellent. The only problem I have is that this song really feels like an album-closer. But its track 5 of 11. Well it makes me want to stop listening because the record is obviously finished, only it isn’t, is it?

This album has a problem of being in the wrong order. That’s my diagnosis.

Anyway, next comes the brief, perfect ballad, “The Silent Man.” It is excellent; succinct, tasteful, memorable and interesting. Its just right, not too cheesy. A few more tiny hints of Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” hidden in the mid-section. Deceptively varied and creative vocals. A neat little guitar lead. All good stuff.

“The Mirror.” Opens up in a huge and obvious Pantera tribute. Parts seems practically lifted whole-sale from “Domination” and “Walk.” Then it speeds up and some Phantom of the Opera chase keys come it, its all very intriguing. Then a fun guitar line that I’m sure inspired Avenged Sevenfold follows, the drums are fast and Metal. Back to Pantera.

I think this is my favourite song from the album. Maybe that’s just because I like Pantera so much? Interestingly though, its all the bits that don’t sound like Pantera which really make it cool though. I think I’ll change my iTunes tracklist of this album so that this and “6.00” switch places. This would be a much better opener.

It seamlessly transitions into “Lie.” That means “Lie” and “Caught In A Web” will have to switch places too, oh well.

“Lie” is really strong. Apparently it was a single. Its catchy enough. I love the Mary/Contrary/Promise/Doubting Thomas bit. That was always the one bit of the record that stuck out in my mind. I’ll have to remember that this song is the one with that in it.

Hey! A bit that sounds like Tool! That riff underneath the bit about leashes is reminiscent of Undertow-era Adam Jones. This is a nice song. Also the groove at 3.30 and the subsequent complex bit with the solo are possibly the most enjoyable Dream Theater moments that I’ve heard which aren’t on Images And Words. Skip to the 5-minute mark and yeah! That’s what I want to hear. This song is top notch! Yes, these two songs would make a much better album opener, get the blood pumped, the enthusiasm up, and then I’m ready to accept “6.00” because I’m in the mood now.

“Lifting Shadows Off A Dream” comes next, all broody, and seems as if its going to be Queensryche’s “I Don’t Believe In Love” for a few seconds, until it reveals its true intentions. Its almost a ballad, its almost a big build up. Its almost Hogarth-era Marillion. Its none of these things, its its’ own tasteful pop song with a lot on small toms and splash cymbals. Its kind of sprawling…its like King Crimson’s “Starless” in structure, but much, much, much, much more clean and bright and commercial. It sounds like a basket ball team in a movie winning its first victory whilst the dad shows up to see his son for the first time because he’s finally learned what’s important in life.

“Scarred” follows that. Also sprawling. Slightly jazzy flavoured but without any actual jazz. Full of mischief. Threateningly full of potential. Which way will it go? – Lots of ways it would seem. Groove parts. Staccato Metal parts (various ones in fact). Clean syrupy pop parts. Numerous time-sig changes. It’s a real “Hey, we can do a lot of stuff and we’re good at our instruments” piece. The clean chorus is a lot less lame than in either “Caught In A Web” or “Voices” though.

Then there’s another kind of chorus which feels like its got a sort of grunge influence. A touch of the “Evenflow”s about it, ey?

Do you know when bands say that their heavier stuff is heavier and their lighter stuff is lighter…this actually is. There’s not much on Images And Words that’s overly syrupy. Anyway… There’s also nothing as heavy as the part between the guitar solo in the 7-8 minute bracket.

Also, why does nothing Dream Theater ever play sound like Yes? I was promise Metallica meets Yes. Whoever promised me that (Classic Rock Presents Prog Magazine) doesn’t listen to much Yes… or Metallica for that matter.

This song could benefit from lots and lots of repeat listens, because there’s tons of cool parts to enjoy, but its lack of purpose or structure make first-impressions a bit confused.

Finally comes depressing album closer “Space Dye Vest” which I already know that I enjoy, but will listen to here anyway. Its moody, its tasteful, its got samples that are mechanical sounding instead of dialogue. Ok, actually it does have diagloue samples too… something Anathema do a lot actually… this reminds me of the whole Anathema rant about “Death is not the opposite of life, death is the opposite of birth, life is eternal.” I guess a woman is not a possession then, sample guy. Anyway, the end of the song is fantastic.

Ok. That was the album.

What do I think? Four awesome songs in “The Mirror,” “Lie,” “The Silent Man” and “Space Dye Vest.” The rest… good bits, but not good songs, or maybe good songs with bits that aren’t to my taste. Except maybe “Erotomania” which is good but just has an intro that makes me think I won’t like it.

Meh… Its worth owning. I think a lot more listens are required before it hits me properly. Or maybe, its just a case of I should listen to half of it a lot and ignore the other half because I could listen to better music instead? Who knows…

Hope that was entertaining. Now, continuing the theme established yesterday, and based on this article’s inclusion of the Prog Metal band Dream Theater… here are some Top 5s from some Progressive Metal bands in my collection:

Coheed & Cambria :
1. Apollo I: The Writing Writer
2. Far
3. No World For Tomorrow
4. Key Entity Extraction I: Domino The Destitute
5. Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry The Defiant

Dream Theater:
1. Take The Time
2. Metropolis Prt 1 The Miracle And The Sleeper
3. Strange Deja Vu
4. Honour Thy Father
5. The Silent Man

The Mars Volta :
1. Cotapaxi
2. Cygnus….Vismund Cygnus
3. Vedamalady
4. Goliath
5. Day Of The Baphomets

Mastodon :
1. Blood And Thunder
2. The Czar
3. This Mortal Soil
4. I Am Ahab
5. Crusher Destroyer

Porcupine Tree :
1. Anesthetize
2. Drawing The Line
3. Normal
4. The Sound Of Musak
5. Deadwing

Protest The Hero :
1. Turn Soonest To The Sea
2. Sex Tapes
3. Skies
4. Mist
5. Dunsel

Queensryche :
1. Revolution Calling
2. Roads To Madness
3. Where Dreams Go To Die
4. Murder?
5. My Global Mind

Rishloo :
1. Downhill
2. Weevil Bride
3. Alchemy Alice
4. Scissorlips
5. El Empe

Riverside :
1. Hyperactive
2. Celebrity Touch
3. Second Life Syndrome
4. Rainbow Box
5. Egotist Hedonist

Savatage :
1. Hall Of The Mountain King
2. Castles Burning
3. Believe
4. Edge Of Thorns
5. Of Rage And War

Tool :
1. 10,000 Days
2. Jambi
3. Eulogy
4. Ticks And Leeches
5. Vicarious

There’s dozens of others in my library, but for one reason or another I don’t feel comfortable choosing a Top 5 for them.

New Rishloo Song!!! Landmines

Rishloo, my favourite band in the world, (suitable for fans of Tool, Mars Volta, Porcupine Tree, Coheed & Cambria, Cog, Amplifier, The Dear Hunter, The Mayan Factor, Soen etc.), have released a new song from their long awaited reunion album Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth. I am a keen kickstarter contributor to this album, I have a Vinyl of their previous album Feathergun up on my wall as decoration, and I advise all my readers to give them a listen.

I haven’t been as excited about new material since Queensryche got together with Todd La Torre, that’s how big a deal this is.

Official KCP recommendations: Listen to this, encourage it, give it lots of views, get into the band, buy all their albums, go see them live.

I’ve Just Been To See Tesseract and Protest The Hero Live

I’ve Just Been To See Tesseract and Protest The Hero Live at the Manchester Academy, on Thursday the 6th of February 2014. Fuck me. What. A. Gig.

What a gig, and I almost missed it. All week, I’ve thought that this concert was on on the Friday, so today after Uni I had dinner then got undressed and into my pyjamas (well, I don’t own pyjamas, so, into the normal clothes that I wear if its too cold to sleep without clothes) and got ready to drift away to sleep. At the last minute, for no reason I can discern, I got up to look at the tickets. Not to check the date or anything, just to look at them, covetously. That’s when I noticed that the gig was on tonight, and had to get dressed and head straight out the door and walk to the venue. Luckily doors hadn’t opened yet, but I wasn’t in the que very long.

I got in, walked straight to front row center (well, two human body’s distance to the right of center, to be specific) while others where buying beer or t-shirts, and rooted myself in for the night. I remembered jerk crowds the last few time I was here in this section of the Academy (upstairs, not the biggest part that’s in a separate building, where bands as big as Megadeth get to play), so I expected thugs to try come and uproot me. It never happened. Much like the Queensryche crowd, this was the politest, most honourable crowd anyone could hope for. I was really pleased. A little faith in humanity is restored every time you spend a whole evening in the company of people who don’t act like assholes.

The evening was opened up by the Canadian Djent band, Intervals. I didn’t know much about Intervals (no songs, so that’s pretty little) beforehand, but they really won me over. They were really, really impressive. Their musicianship was incredible for an opening band, they had a pretty professional demenour and good songs. A very good band indeed. The sound didn’t really help them out, but they were so good you could tell through the bad sound that they were seriously talented. They were also kind of the heaviest end of Djent you can be, without using any Death Metal parts. Their singer was pretty charismatic and their drummer was straight up awesome (at one stage he hit a cymbal so hard, he broke a big wedge straight off of it and left it looking like a shark had taken a bite out’ve it). Great band. Go see them if you can.

Next up came The Safety Fire. Who were a British Tech Metal/Prog Metal/Djent band. They were also absolutely excellent. Their sound was a bit lighter, more radio-friendly in parts, and sometimes they actually played little guitar runs that sounded like Protest, or those bits on Periphery’s new album that John Petruci from Dream Theater played.

Their drummer was freaking incredible. He plays like he’s trying to pass an exam. Watching him drum was like playing a videogame without dying on the hardest difficulty. Everything about that band seemed on, but the drummer especially was hot, hot stuff. Plus, no Death Metal. They were more like if a Djent band listened to a lot of At The Drive In.

The sound for them was less muddy but the vocals were mixed very low. Again, luckily, they were clearly brilliant so it didn’t matter.

They were really good. Go see them if you can.

Then Tesseract came on. Tesseract are a fucking incredible live band. I took a punt on them just before Christmas and went to go see them live without knowing them, just because I like Periphery, and the two are often spoken of together (like Metallica and Megadeth). Also because Karnivool were headlining and Karnivool are often spoken of alongside bands like Cog and Rishloo, so I wanted to try them out too. Tesseract stole the show, hands down and unequivocally. That show was absolutely incredible (despite a small section of annoying honking fans making clown-horn noises endlessly) and completely sold me on the band. I got their new album for Christmas as a result and absolutely love it.

Seeing them tonight was even better than the first time. These guys are one of the best live bands going. They are like fucking superstars, from their casually cool world’s-tallest-man guitarist, to their Danny Carey’s-maths-homework drummer, their business-looking bassist and the friendly looking other guitarist. That and the new singer. My goodness. That man can sing. Remember what I said about Jesse Leach? Yeah, well double that!

That guy is the best live singer I have ever seen with my own two eyes (and I’ve seen Maynard James Keenan!). If I could give him some sort of award I would.

In fact, maybe I can.

I hereby award Ashe O’Harra the ‘Kingcrimsonblog Best Live Singer’ award

Done. (And well deserved).

Tesseract are such an incredible live band, they just really draw you in, they are so powerful and captivating, it really makes my enthusiasm for live music grow and both times that I’ve seen them, they have absolutely dominated. Furthermore, they had great quality sound. Thank you Tesseract’s soundman.

As if that wasn’t enough, I got to see Protest The Hero too.

If you’ve ever read this Blog before, you’ll probably know that I love Protest The Hero. Since I first got their debut album as a birthday present, I have listened to and talked about them absolutely constantly. Constantly! – According to my LastFM account, I’ve listened to them 1,361 times since August (at time of writing), and in that short time, they have become the band that I’ve listened to Eighth-most, in the entire last three-and-a-half years!

So, with that sort of context, you should be able to figure out that I was beyond excited for this gig. You may however have also seen my write-up about their Live DVD, which I was actually a little disappointed by. That made me a bit fearful that Protest’ were more of a studio band. I mean, their albums are some of the best ever made by anyone. Kezia, Scurrilous and Voltion especially. I mean, I just hammer those albums constantly!

Even if Protest’ were poor live, at least Tesseact had been headline-worthy.

Protest’ weren’t poor live though. Protest The Hero were one of the best bands I’ve ever seen. I had suuuuuch a good time. The energy level was off the charts. They were so good that they pulled out all my reservations. I’m more like a Japanese audience member than a western one usually, but boy did I make an exception. Ever since Lamb Of God’s concert, I’ve been getting more and more into things. I screamed my lungs out, I jumped about, air-drummed, air-guitared, gestured descriptively for all the lyrics and generally banged and danced away like I was having a damn great time (which of course, I was). I haven’t ever thrown more of myself into a gig since I was about 15. I had more enthusiasm here for that hour than I’ve had all year. I looooooved it.

But enough about me, the band, the band were unbelievable. Absolutely nailing such complex, multifaceted, incredible music like it was easy. Even the new drummer who didn’t write any of this bonkers material was absolutely phenomenal. Every musician was entertaining to watch and great fun to listen to.

The setlist was brilliant. They played more or less all of my absolute favourite songs, including ‘Underbite,’ ‘Mist’ ‘Sextapes’ ‘C’est La Vie’ and ‘Blindfolds Aside.’

The crowd seemed to be going pretty wild for them. Proportionately, it was probably the most sing-along concert I’ve ever seen, with the most knowledgable and into-it fans I’ve ever witnessed. It seemed like an absolute love-fest. Deservedly so. They make brilliant songs, and they’ve backed it up live with a stunning performance. I think the fact that they have some of the best and most interesting lyrics I’ve ever read also helps. People sang along like their lives depended on it, which I think is a big endorsement of the quality of those lyrics.

The sound for them was great too. Thank you Protest The Hero’s soundman too.

Roddy was pretty entertaining, commenting on a security guard being the world’s strongest man (which is not an unreasonable assessment) to the point where the bouncer even cracked a happy smile, joking about Buckfast, referencing WWF, WCW and Holywood Hulk Hogan, inviting a handsome crowd member up on stage to be ‘hunk of the week’ (the band played him a little specially-written hunk-of-the-week theme tune too!) and then joking about getting him into bed. He also started singing football chants about Stephen Gerard to annoy the football fans in the crowd, and fake-dedicated a song to Stephen Gerard. It was pretty amusing stage banter. I guess he takes what he written in ‘Underbite’ seriously.

The band’s performance overall was so, so strong. That DVD must have been an off-night, because what I saw tonight was a frigging phenomenal Live Band. It was such a good, good show.

It was such a good show I even bought a t-shirt afterwards (a thing my wallet has stopped me doing since seeing Queencryche Live – so you can tell how much I was impressed to be moved to t-shirt purchasing)

The gig, as a whole, is one of the absolute best I’ve ever seen. Two great Djent bands supporting Tesseract’s world-class superstar-quality live show and the most fun gig (Protest The Hero) that I’ve been to in the last decade.

If you have any interest in modern Metal, live music, or any of the bands mentioned, try and see them live. This was a fabulous bill and a brilliant night. The only way it could be any better is if Periphery also played, and Protest’ got a slightly longer set and were able to fit in ‘Dunsel’ ‘Skies’ and ‘Turn Soonest To The Sea’ – then it would have been the hypothetical best gig ever. As it stands it was pretty damn close.

“So How You Fucking Feeling Tonight?” – Boy, am I in a good mood!

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Vol. 3. Day 34 – More Little Thoughts

Its day 34 of my third Get (Into) What You Paid For challenge. I’ve been adhering to the challenge and haven’t broken the challenge yet. To be honest it hasn’t been too challenging. Challenge, Challenge, Challenge. So; Christmas has came and went, and the kind people in my life have provided me with a brilliant collection of very-well-thought-out gifts, which has definitely taken the urge to buy myself stuff away for a while.

I’ve been given numerous biographies on bands I like (including Sabbath, Megadeth, Slipknot, Jethro Tull); Power Metal albums from Iced Earth and Gamma Ray; Prog Metal albums from Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation and Tesseract; Thrash from Testament. Even a bit of Grunge in the form of the new Pearl Jam album. My listening habits from the last year are all very well served by this.

I’ve been given a massive load of comics from my friend Magnum, and I’ve been given the new Batman videogame. My gaming and reading habits from last year are all pretty well served by this too.

Pretty much, I’ve just had a massive influx of things I like and so that quells the urge to buy more things I like.

Another reason I’ve been doing OK with not buying things is that I’m completely and drastically broke. Its easier to exert some restraint when there’s more reason to do so. Maybe I’m fianlly an adult, now that I can confidently say I’d rather be able to pay my rent than buy myself something entertaining. I’ve got so bloody much stuff already anyway that its becoming easier to shrug off the itch to get more, I’m beginning to learn some perspective and tone down my overspending.

Taking this financial situation into account, and the fact that I didn’t blog as frequently on the subject this December as I had in the previous two GIWYPF challenge months, I’ve decided to extend this one into a two-month epic. That’s right. I’ll try not to buy any books, comic books, DVDs, Blu Rays, Band T–Shirts, Books, Music or Videogames for another month, making it a stretch from December 1st to February 1st. I don’t think I’ve ever went that long without buying something of this nature since turning 18.

But if I was going to break the challenge, what would I break it on?

Riverside’s debut, Haken’s whole discography, the two Psychotic Waltz reissues, some of the more famous Fates Warning albums, and DreamTheater’s Awake all spring to mind. As does Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff and Angra’s Angel’s Cry.

I’d also like to get the two most recent Batman collections, the Death Of The Family main story and side-stories books. Everything I’ve read from Snyder so far has been good and I’d like to be a bit more “In The Loop” with things, if it wasn’t so costly.

Oh. And there’s one new Arctic Monkeys B-side that’s came out during the challenge. I like to always buy those B-Sides pretty much as soon as they are released, this is the longest I’ve gone without getting an Arctic Monkey’s B-Side since the release of their second album.

To be honest though, I don’t think there’s much risk of me breaking the challenge. Having a massive exam schedule that requires serious, dedicated revision for, having no money, and having been given those excellent Christmas gifts should keep me busy and thinking straight.

So; today, having done my revision for the day, I’ll take a little break and do a quick little series of mini-reviews/thoughts of what I’ve been listening to lately. As you might imagine, most of it will be the gifts I got for Christmas that I’ve described above. Here goes:

I got a copy of Tesseract’s new album Altered State for Christmas. I went and saw them live about a month ago and was completely blown away by them. They were supporting Karnivool who I’d imagine were less big than them, but who weren’t. They had an annoying loud fan who wouldn’t stop screaming for songs they didn’t play (“Dead Man”) and making a clown’s horn noise. I wish that fan had kept their big mouth shut, but the concert was awesome. Tesseract’s guitarist is very tall… Anyway; This album completely lives up to my expectations. Its absolutely fantastic. Such incredible musicianship and utterly spellbinding vocals. I can foresee this band becoming huge, if there’s any justice. Also, there’s a Saxaphone solo. Always a plus for a Floyd/Tull/Crimson fan!

I think I’m going to be dedicating a heck of a lot of listening time to this record in the near future.

Keeping with the Prog theme, Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing. I’ve been craving Deadwing for quite a while now. Ever since I got into the band, Deadwing has been my number one, most-wanted album of theirs, although I’ve managed to get everything around it first.

Interestingly, on just one listen, I was able to tell instantly that is their best record. I’ve had about five or six listens now and am still firmly of that opinion. The title track and ‘Arriving Somewhere But Not Here’ are absolute gold, and ‘Lazerus’ is a haunting, magical ghost-ballad. If this had the three best songs of Fear Of A Blank Planet on it too, it would be one of the best albums of all time.

I think I might make some sort of Porcupine Tree best-of, with ‘Sound Of Musack’ ‘Drawing The Line’ ‘Normal’ and then the majority of Blank Planet and Deadwing on it.

What else have I listened to? I recently talked extensively about listening to Pain Of Salvation’s The Perfect Element album so I won’t go into too much detail about it again here. Anyway, I listened to it again while I was weightlifting and although I had understandably reduced-concentration on it, I really am impressed by this album. If you like any sort of Prog Metal you should really pick up a copy. Its only about £3 on Amazon.

Tesseract, Porcupine Tree and Pain Of Salvation are three very different bands, and they all scratch very different parts of my brain, but any way you look at it, Prog Metal is pretty well served by that trio of absolutely phenomenal records. What about Power Metal then?

I also got given Horror Show and The Glorious Burden by Iced Earth for Christmas. I’ve listened to them both quite a few times now. I like Iced Earth, they play 40% Judas Priest, 40% Testament and 10% Warning era Queensryche. Pretty well suited to me then. Both albums are great, as was Something Wicked, which I got given for my previous Birthday. The three of them together feel like one big album. There’s sort of a continum between the three of them. Its hard to explain.

On The Glorious Burden, there’s a nifty bit where the lead guitars play the rhythm of “Johnny We Hardly Knew You.”

Interestingly as well; The Glorious Burden has Tim Paper Owens on it instead of Matt Barlow, who at the time had left the band to join the US Police force in the wake of 9/11. He’s a perfect replacement for Barlow. Both are brilliant at high screams, both sing with manly authority and both do a fine impression of Forbidden’s Russ Anderson. I don’t know if its actually the guitarist doing those bits. Could be. They’re so similar across the two records. I’ve also got given their live Blu-Ray for Christmas, so I’ll have a look when I get a chance to watch it, and see if I can crack this mystery. Is Schaeffer the phantom Russ Anderson impersonator? Or do both Barlow and Ripper both have that one particular style really well honed?

This record makes me want to try out the two Ripper-Era Priest albums that I avoided. Tim is certainly an incredibly talented guy. Replacing Halford can’t have been easy. Just look Blaze Bailey. The fans really didn’t go for him even though he’s very talented. Also – Maaaaaaaan hunt. Maaaan, Hunt. Manhuntmanhuntmanhuntmanhunt.

In addition to the serious, Thrashy, USPM… I’ve been listening to the fun, bright, melodic German Power Metal of Gama Ray. I’ve been hammering their 2007 album Land Of The Free II recently; its met with mixed reviews, but I really like it. Its such a fun, energetic, and pleasant record. The guitar solos are magnificent. Kai is one of my favourite guitarists of all time. I read a lot of people complaining about stealing that bass-bit from Maiden’s Rhime Of The Ancient Mariner. Gama Ray frequently steal bits from Priest. They’ve even stole bits from Deep Purple. Its just something you have to deal with. Its still a good song. I don’t know, maybe I should be harsher, but, I just can’t help but love everything Gamma Ray do. Its difficult to listen to Gamma Ray and not just be put into a good mood. I’d absolutely love to see them live. I wish I’d been a fan when they did that tour with Helloween recently. That must’ve been brilliant to behold.

Also, after having listened to Tesseract, I had another listen to Periphery. Periphery’s album is such a shapeshifter. Every time I’ve heard it I’ve listened to it in a completely different way. Sometimes I hear it as a radio-friendly Metalcore record, sometimes I hear it as a crushing desne Messugah-influenced affair, and sometimes I hear it as a rapid-fire, all-over-the-place, highly technical, Protest The Hero style modern prog mish mash.

That’s happened to me before, with Machine Head’s Burn My Eyes. I’ve heard it in completely different ways at different times. Makes you wonder what your ears and brain are up to.

Its also interesting just how different it is to Tesseract’s album. Its like the difference between Anthrax’s Spreading The Disease and Megadeth’s Peace Sells But Who’s Buying. Both are defining albums of Thrash, but both sound vastly different. Same goes here. Animals As Leaders’ Weightless album is as vastly different as those two are from eachother yet again. Perhaps that’s throwing Slayer’s Hell Awaits into the second albums by Thrash bands analogy. If all those Djent bands are Thrash, then what does that make Messugah? Judas Priest?

Oh. Y’know what. I can add three more things onto the “to-do-list” / risk-of-me-buying-these pile. Skyharbour, Monuments and Circle’s new albums.

Anyway, there are some seriously brilliant songs on this record. I particularly love ‘Erised’ and the single, ‘Scarlet.’ The whole album is fantastic though; the musicianship and vocals are incredible. There are parts that are so heavy, parts that are floaty electronic dreams and a lot of memorable clean choruses. Periphery – Love that shit.

I forgot just how good Tool’s Undertow album is. I usually think of the subsequent three albums when I think of Tool. There are some seriously fun, memorable, enjoyable riffs on this album. Some damn catchy vocal parts, some interesting lyrics, and it’s a lot more succinct and serious than I remember. I guess having gotten into all the Tool-influenced bands recently also helped. And the grunge; there’s a slight bit of grunge about Undertow that I may previously have been put-off by.

Speaking of being put-off; I think the thing about the carrots made me forget about all the completely awesome songs on the record. Tool usually have one or two little comedy moments or unusual additions, so I don’t know why that particular one took over. Well, at least I know better now. Songs like ‘Intolerance’ and ‘Bottom’ are absolute gems. I can see this working its way into a much more regular rotation from now on.

Ok; that’s enough for one installment. I’m going to have to keep it up all the way through January. Let’s hope I stick with the whole financial-discipline thing a while longer, ey?