Archive for July, 2015

First Impressions: Symphony X, Underworld

July 31, 2015

So first off, for a little background: I first discovered Symphony X with 2011’s Iconoclast and 2007’s Paradise Lost and really enjoyed the heavier sounds of those albums. Last year I picked up 2002’s The Odyssey and really enjoyed it as well, though it was more on the melodic side with a lot more cleaner vocals from Russell Allen. To be honest I did like it, though not quite as much as I did the albums after it. If I remember correctly, it was guitarist Michael Romeo who said the band was going back toward the earlier sounds with the new album (which was released last Friday), and I was pretty curious as to how it’d sound. I really liked the first song that was released from it, “Nevermore,” but as you all know, one song is never really indicative of the full quality of an album…

Holy hell, did they ever hit the sweet spot between those two styles. Just as a few examples, the title track and “Kiss Of Fire” may well be the heaviest songs the band has ever recorded, with Allen roaring like a pissed-off demon on both, and the latter even has blast beats! Killer, just absolutely KILLER. And toward the other end of the spectrum, the closing track “Legend” is a thing of utter beauty, as the guys channel the relatively softer tones of songs like “When All Is Lost” and the title track of Paradise Lost, albeit at a faster tempo, about the speed of Iconoclast’s “Bastards of the Machine.” And “Charon” sounds like it would have probably fit right in on The Odyssey. (Side note: There are precious few things that bring out the inner music snob like listening to a song based on Greek mythology.) And the intricate guitars and synthesizers are present throughout, as are the ethereal choral sounds. I could probably write a freaking book on this album, but here’s what it all boils down to:

Classic modern metal, classic Symphony X, quite possibly a desert-island album.

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Oh, this is delicious.

July 20, 2015

From Dwight Silverman’s TechBlog:

If you’re a man or woman intent on cheating on your spouse, you might have signed up for an account at AshleyMadison.com, a dating website designed for people looking to have an affair. As with other dating sites that charge a fee for access, your public profile doesn’t reveal precisely who you are, but the credit card and other personal information you must enter on the back end tells all.

What could possibly go wrong?

How about this: Hackers have gained access to AshleyMadison’s database and are threatening to release its members’ personal information, according to Brian Krebs at KrebsOnSecurity.

Yeah, I know. It’s a crime. And the people who are responsible ought to be prosecuted.

But come on. Schadenfreude ist die schönste freude, as the old saying goes. Just like Steve McNair, those idiots on that site don’t have anyone to blame but themselves. As one of my Facebook friends put it:

So…Ashley Madison trusted another organization to uphold commitments and obligations – no matter how hard or personally inconvenient that might be. That trust was disregarded and abused behind AM’s back…

Huh.

The dancing chicken speaks!

July 10, 2015

…or, Luke Bryan channels his inner Blake Shelton/Jason Aldean, and it’s an ugly, ugly thing, indeed:

I think that people who want Merle, Willie and Waylon just need to buy Merle, Willie and Waylon. I’ve never been a “Those were the good old days” kind of guy. I’m not big on looking back on the past. I’m not an outlaw country singer. I don’t do cocaine and run around. So I’m not going to sing outlaw country. I like to hunt, fish, ride around on my farm, build a big bonfire and drink some beers—and that’s what I sing about. It’s what I know. I don’t know about laying in the gutter, strung out on drugs. I don’t really want to do that.

Honestly, what does one even begin to say to that? Yet again with the straw man that everyone who doesn’t like him just wants the old stuff and doesn’t want the music to, well…evolve. That’s not true and has been shown not to be true on numerous occasions.

About the whole “laying in the gutter, strung out on drugs” bit…I suppose one could say the old guys did know about that, and that it did affect their music to a great extent. But it still strikes me here that Luke Bryan is insinuating that the drug use was the overwhelming thing defining the Outlaw movement, and it’s just so disgustingly self-serving and disingenuous. I really couldn’t put it any better than Trigger did at Saving Country Music:

Being an Outlaw was about being yourself, insisting on having creative control of your music, and moving country music forward while still respecting the roots of the genre and all the greats that came before—all virtues Luke Bryan and many others could learn from.

And sure, maybe Luke Bryan’s being himself, but even that and the second thing…well, those are both questionable at best, considering (at least what I heard from) his first album was so radically different than what came after it. And as far as “moving the genre forward”…well, I’ve asked the question before and will ask it again: Why is it that every time these new hacks talk about how country music has to evolve, it is always, without exception, in the context of the music sounding dumber and, well, less country?

And then there’s this:

I like to hunt, fish, ride around on my farm, build a big bonfire and drink some beers—and that’s what I sing about. It’s what I know.

Now, if you’ll think about it, that line of reasoning has some pretty ugly implications of its own, namely that, among other things…

• Steve Earle was a fraud as an artist because he didn’t do “two tours of duty ina place called Vietnam.”

• George Strait wasn’t being, well, straight with his audience when he sang of being “14 and drunk by 10 AM.”

• Charlie Robison was full of crap because he isn’t doing LWOP in Huntsville for killing an old rich woman and stealing her diamond ring.

I could go on, but you get the point by now. As another commenter put it at SCM:

If all he knows is bonfires and drinkin’ beer at 40 years old, that’s not much experience to draw from. You’d think he’d have picked up some more experiences by now, especially with touring all over the world and whatnot. 

When I hear “I write what I know” I respond with “you must not be very imaginative or creative, then.” Or maybe it makes (his) head hurt to read and learn stuff. Thank God the great songwriters of yore didn’t only write what they experienced. Paul Simon may have never written “The Boxer”. Springsteen wouldn’t have written hardly anything. Melvin never fought a whale, so what’s he doing writing about such?

Good question. And if you read that whole interview, you’ll see that the interviewer didn’t even ask him about any kind of controversy regarding the bro-country sound or any of that. He just went right into that whole ugly tirade. Which makes one wonder, why is he so defensive?…

How far does this go?

July 4, 2015

I have a few questions upon reading this, in order:

If we’re going to call The Dukes of Hazzard racist solely because of the name and imagery of the iconic Dodge Charger driven by the Duke boys in the series — even though said imagery and name had little if anything to do with the show’s theme — how far do we go with this? And why to that point and not before or after?

Was the cast racist for their very participation?

Was Waylon Jennings a racist for writing and singing the show’s theme song and for narrating the show?

Were the advertisers racist for buying time during the show?

Was the audience racist for watching?

I think we deserve clear, logical answers to this. It might be pedantic of me, but if racism is going to be acknowledged, it does need to be defined, at least to an extent. Why? Because with the definition of racism continuing to be so nebulous, then people will continue to be unjustly accused of racism when they’re not the slightest bit racist, and what’s that going to do? It’s just going to make people pay even less attention to actual racism.

(Speaking of actual racism, how about George Takei’s comments on Clarence Thomas? Clown in blackface? Well, all righty then. And Takei later doubled down on his bigotry by claiming that “blackface (was) a lesser-known theatrical term”? Really? Freaking everybody and their dog knows what “blackface” refers to! It’s like, “Hey, George, why didn’t you just call Justice Thomas the Supreme Court’s ‘house slave’ and be done with it? We all knew what that’s you were getting at!” But I digress…)

Now, if we want to talk about the soft racism of Hollywood making a show that was mostly white that was set in a region that had a sizable black population, then by all means let us do that. But if we’re going to do that, we need to talk about not just The Dukes of Hazzard, but everything that’s come out of Hollywood since that time. Otherwise this entire flap is exactly what so many people claim it is — yet another opportunity to dump on Southerners and Southern culture.