Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Year Of The Comeback: Blink-182 - Neighborhoods

This band. Yes, this band. They defined me from the moment I got Enema Of The State for my birthday. They were the voice for a growing smart-ass like myself. We just fit together. Even now, over ten years later, those albums just make me smile whenever I hear them. The music has never been brilliant, but it doesn't matter. It's just fun. Fun is all it aspires to be. And it is.

The Mark, Tom, & Travis Show will forever be a favorite no matter how old I get. And I wear that with badge with honor. As a 23 year old (that nobody likes) I am proud to say that I still love Blink-182, and for that reason, I was terrified when I heard Up All Night, the new single, and I didn't love it. It scared the shit out of me. It's not a bad song, but it's not a first single. It's not Dammit, it's not Feeling This, it's not The Rock Show, and is definitely not What's My Age Again?. I instantly feared the worst.

Neighborhoods has finally hit the shelves. The results are in. And it's not what I expected. I don't think it's what anyone expected. I'll admit I wasn't a huge fan of their self titled album in 2003, after hearing it some more I realize that it's a decent effort, I just wasn't into it at the time. It didn't catch my attention, and I kinda skipped through it.

But in the case of this new album it just feels darker. No more dick and fart jokes... At least not on the studio album, I expect that the live show is a whole different story (I look forward to that). The boys who went streaking have kinda grown up.

Nobody expects a Blink album to be a musical masterpiece, and it isn't. But it is surprising how much they've progressed yet kept themselves faithful to their musical style. From the opening drum beats and melodies you can clearly hear their distinct sound, and Ghost On The Dance Floor is a very nice first step back.

Right off the bat, you can tell that the album is carried by Travis Barker's beat heavy and diverse style, along with Tom DeLonge's and Mark Hoppus' joint vocal melodies. It's just like it's always been. Just musically better. The potty humor might be missed at times. It's not that they take themselves seriously, but we're just not in the 'porn stars on the cover' era anymore. And the music reflects that.

Travis easily steals the spotlight on another Blink album, the guy is as dynamic a drummer as you'll find these days. But Mark and Tom have really upped their game as well. It's not like he's carrying them around anymore. They're nothing spectacular, but they do what they need to do, they play to their strengths and they do it well.

The rest of the songs are spread pretty well in what is a mostly upbeat album. Some may be more memorable than others. Heart's All Gone and Snake Charmer come to mind as really interesting songs. While others like Kaleidoscope keep true to the Blink formula we all know and love.

My one true gripe with Neighborhoods is the album length; the deluxe edition clocks in at almost fifty minutes, with the regular version barely cracking half an hour. It may be the norm for a pop-punk album, but it shouldn't be. If you want to make two minute songs, then make more than fourteen of them. It's not very motivating to spend money on something that would keep my attention for less than an hour.

With this new album Blink-182 have once again proven that the pop-punk genre can mature and keep itself relevant. They may have (temporarily) moved on from their fun and crazy antics, and it's quite refreshing to know that they can. I can appreciate a band trying to reinvent themselves, and I think they did a great job.

Neighborhoods might not be the instant classic that Enema Of The State was to me... But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy it. It's almost a whole different band, and it should be. You can't do the same thing forever.


Year Of The Comeback: Limp Bizkit - Gold Cobra

Do you guys remember when Limp Bizkit was the biggest thing in music? When they were kicking boy bands in the ass? When we used to root for them on TRL every afternoon? I do.

I was almost in my teen years at that point, and I thought they were amazing. Significant Other was one of the first things I had to buy for myself and at the time, it was the greatest thing I'd ever heard. I remember throwing together a last minute Fred Durst outfit for Halloween one year.

My point is, I was a fan.

But 2011 is a whole new world. I'm older, and I'm (supposed to be) wiser, so when I heard that Gold Cobra was on the way, I guess I was slightly indifferent. I mean, after 2003's Results May Vary I was just about done with the band, I didn't like that album at all. Since then they put out The Unquestionable Truth (Part I) which I didn't even listen to, and from what I've heard, I made the right choice.

So why would I even give Gold Cobra a chance? Well, it carried some interesting hype with it. The first thing that got me interested was the fact that Wes Borland was back with the band. I've always been a fan of Borland's guitar work. And he's probably the best thing on the album.

Gold Cobra has been touted as the comeback of the old Limp Bizkit sound, and I agree with that. The problem is that I'm just not interested anymore. Yes, I do go back and listen to Significant Other, Chocolate Starfish, and Three Dollar Bills from time to time. But it's really just a few select songs, and almost purely for the nostalgia.

This new album really does go back to those roots, but it just doesn't appeal to me anymore. Every couple of songs you get some good stuff from Borland, which quickly crumbles back into the dried routine. John Otto also shines in certain spots; his drumming has really come along since the last album, but it's still not enough to stop me from wanting to skip through these songs.

My thoughts on Fred Durst haven't really changed through the years. I've always said he's a much better singer than he is a rapper. And it has always dumbfounded me that he insists on rapping 80% of the time. He does have a unique sounding voice, and when he sings, it's pretty good. But he rarely does it. It would be a much better album if we got cool vocals instead of weak repetitive rhymes all the time.

So, is Limp Bizkit back? Well, yes they are. But the real question is, do I care? No, I really don't.

The music is as good as it was I was in my teen years. But I'm at a point where I'm realizing that the only value those records have to me now is purely nostalgic. And unfortunately Gold Cobra will never have that sort of value for me. Maybe if it had come out in 2003 instead of that crap Results May Vary I would be into it. But this is just too little too late. I'm sure there's a group of people out there that are really enjoying this comeback. I'm just not one of them.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Year of the Comeback: Bush - The Sea Of Memories

Is it just me, or does every band I used to really be into have a new album all of a sudden? I got three new albums last week, all of them from bands that I got into right around the fifth grade, all of them considered 'comeback' albums.

The one I was most excited for would have to be The Sea Of Memories by Bush.

Bush isn't exactly one of those really well known bands, but they've always held a soft spot for me. They were one of those groups I just happened to stumble upon just as I was really getting into music. They also happen to be one of the most consistent bands I know. Through their four albums spanning from 1994's Sixteen Stone, to 2001's Garden State they not only made good music, but more importantly they kept their sound fresh. Ten years later, they're finally back, and they have a lot to live up to.

I've known this album was coming for a long time now, it's been delayed a couple of times. I'm never one to complain about delays on things like this, when it's done it's done. But in this case it caught me by surprise, because apparently I'd been hearing the single for the past year and I didn't even know it was Bush, because it really doesn't sound like them. Afterlife has a much more mainstream pop sound than what we're used to from these guys. It's not a bad song at all, but it just doesn't sound like this band, and it almost doesn't fit in with the rest of the album. You can really tell they were recorded in different moments, almost a year apart. It's a testament to how much a band's sound can change in a year.

The second single The Sound Of Winter is a much more accurate representation of what the new album sounds like. It's catchy a riff heavy alt rock at it's finest. Once you hear it, it's like Bush never left.

Gavin Rossdale is still just as good at what he's always done. He's never had the most amazing voice, but he really knows how to use what he has and make it sound great. He just has one of those unique sounding voices that just gets stuck in your head, and it just makes the songs that much catchier. And I really do think it's what carries the band.

The album itself keeps true to the Bush sound. Some have said it's their best since their first, I'm not sure I agree, being quite partial to The Science Of Things. But I will say it is a good album. Like I said before, more than anything, Bush is consistent. Their sound doesn't feel dated at all, and the sound still holds strong.

I can't complain though. It's not every day that a band you like this much makes a comeback album this good. It saddens me to say, that most comeback efforts end up quite disappointing (trust me, more on that in the next posts). So, all in all, Bush is back, successfully. And for those of you who know me, I'd like to inform you that my tiny man-crush on Rossdale had no impact on my rating this album. I swear

He's just so pretty.
In my book, The Sea Of Memories is quite enjoyable. Not their best, but a welcome return.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Netflix Reviews #5

The Conspirator

I saw the trailer to this movie a couple of months back but when I watched it I had forgotten about most of it. Just remembered that it was sort of a court room drama that had to do with the assassination of President Abe Lincoln. Director Robert Redford assembled a really talented cast that includes James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Tom Wilkinson, Kevin Kline, among others. They all do great work together, especially between McAvoy and Wright. You can almost feel the conflict inside of her as she juggles her love for her son to her duties as a mother. The same can be said about McAvoy who plays an ex-military lawyer who has to defend the mother of a traitor as she is accused of conspiracy. The movie is pretty straightforward in its delivery with no real surprises, but we see characters like McAvoy's Frederick Aiken go from one end of the spectrum to sacrificing his own future in order to defend someone who everyone else thinks is guilty. It was a pretty good movie that I'd recommend to anyone who is a history fan or a fan of court room dramas.

7 out of 10

Battle Los Angeles

I wasn't looking forward to watching this that much. From the trailer, it seemed like a lot of special effects and no substance, and that is pretty much what you get from this one. Jonathan Liebesman, who also directed horror movies like Darkness Falls and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, didn't really make me any more confident that this was going to be any good. This movie didn't really feel like a sci-fi movie but it was more like a straight up war movie that just happened to have aliens. The effects throughout the movie were very well done. The emotions in the movie were hokey at best. Truth is, I can't remember anyone other than Aaron Eckhart's character. It was just a war movie with no filling. Nothing to make it memorable at all.

4.5 out of 10

Sucker Punch

Ever since I saw the Dawn of the Dead remake that Zack Snyder made back in 2004, I knew this director would go on to do good stuff. After that, both 300 and Watchmen were two of my favorite graphic novels that he turned into movies, but even better than that, into good movies. Sucker Punch is a strange one. It's a strange movie in the way it is told. It's basically a fantasy within a dream. Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung and Vanessa Hudgens do a good job here, nothing amazing, but good. I would have liked to have seen some more back story given to the girls but as an action movie, it's okay. The really great thing about this movie are the fantasy sequences. Giant stone samurai, zombie nazis, robot guards... it all looks incredibly cool. I have to admit, even thought there's a lot of faults and stuff I could find wrong with this movie, I couldn't help but enjoy the movie.

6.5 out of 10


There are movies that have sad endings, there are movies that have incredibly sad scenes, and then there are movies that make you want to cry yourself to sleep and never ever wake up. This is one of those movies. Javier Bardem plays Uxbal. He lives in the fringes of society doing anything he can to feed and give a nice life to his children. Uxbal has an ability, though, he can communicate with the dead. It isn't long before everything goes haywire and we find out that there is something incredibly wrong with Uxbal. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu is used to making movies with doomed characters just trying to get by but this movie takes the cake. It's a great movie and Javier Bardem does a wonderful job, but this is a really really depressing movie. It reminded me of Never Let Me Go in terms of how depressing it is. I could understand why people wouldn't enjoy this movie, but it's also hard not to be enthralled with it. I sort of wish they would have focused some more on Uxbal's ability. Maricel Alvarez is also pretty good as Bardem's love interest Marambra. The movie doesn't deal with black and whites but with shades of grey, a lot like the real world.

7 out of 10

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Love Muppets - The Green Album Review

When I was a kid, The Muppets were everywhere. From The Muppet Show, to the Muppet Babies, the ride at Disney's MGM Studios, and the numerous movies. Not Ninja Turtle level stuff, but they were still something I looked forward to watching.

With the first Muppet movie in over ten years coming up this November, obviously the Disney promotional machine is in full force. We're getting bombarded web shorts and creative promotion for what I consider a huge comeback film. And with that promotion comes what they've called The Green Album, which is an album of twelve classic Muppet songs covered by contemporary and indie artists.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love good cover songs, especially when done in creative fashion. I'm a big fan of compilation albums where interesting artists play songs that you would never expect from them. Sometimes it just takes a good cover to remind you how much you really love a song.

I'll be honest, I bought this album (Yes, again, I did buy this) just to hear Weezer sing Rainbow Connection. And it is by far the song I've heard the most off the album. It's always been my favorite Muppets song and I might even like this better than the original. No offense to Kermit, but Rivers Cuomo has a much better voice. This might also be the first time I've really enjoyed Hayley Williams from Paramore. The song just sounds so pretty, and I've caught myself just listening to it over and over at times. But I was really surprised with the rest of the album as well.

Notable mentions on  here go to OK Go for their very interesting take on The Muppet Show Theme. It actually opens up the album, and it sets the mood wonderfully for what turns out to be quite the quirky trip. I give them credit because taking on a theme song, especially one everyone has heard doesn't sound like an easy task.

I'm not big on Alkaline Trio, but their version of Moving Right Along is deadly accurate to the point where they're flat out quoting The Muppet Movie. And I respect an accurate cover, especially when you're mimicking Fozzy Bear half way through.

Without a doubt the funniest, and yet most puzzling cover on the album is by The Fray. I mean, The Fray is a band known for their melodies and lyrics. So obviously they cover Mahna Mahna, which has no words at all. It just proves that not all bands take themselves that seriously. It's a refreshing attitude and great to see a good band goof around and have some fun while making a really catchy tune.

The rest of the album is good, nothing spectacular. It's obviously meant to be a fun listening experience, full of nostalgia. Anyone looking at a Muppets album looking for musical brilliance is seriously misguided. We do get nice performances from Evanesence's  Amy Lee, My Morning Jacket, and a great rendition of Bein' Green by Andrew Bird.

The only problem with The Green Album is that it's for a very niche crowd. If you don't like the Muppets, this album obviously isn't for you. And if you don't like contemporary/indie music, then this album isn't for you. But if you're into both, then you're set for the month. For someone like me (who's smack-dab in the middle of both those categories) it's a very enjoyable experience. As nostalgic as watching Power Ranger reruns.

With that said, I'm going to have to pull a page out of Fefi's playbook and give The Green Album two scores: One for that niche crowd that I'm proud to belong to, and one for the rest of you sad, sad people.

And by sad people, I of course mean these two.

Chiko's personal score: 7/10
Statler and Waldorf score: 4/10

Friday, September 16, 2011

I'm With You - The Peppers' Triumphant Return

Talk about personal hype. If there was ever an album that had a tough one to follow, in my book, it's this one. I mean, I'm sure you know by now how much I love Stadium Arcadium, and after five years of waiting it's hard to even imagine an album that could live up to my expectations.

Does it? Well, yeah, somewhat.

I'm With You is a solid album. But more than that, it's an interesting album, which isn't a surprise from the Peppers. Being their tenth album, I expected a new sound from them. And on that they did deliver.

It's also the first appearance of the band's new guitarrist Josh Klinghoffer who had some huge shoes to fill in the absense of John Fruciante. I really do think this has been played up way too much. It's not the first time the the band has changed guitarists, and it always turns out fine. Yes, even the Dave Navarro years were good in my book.

On top of that, I challenge anyone who's complaining about Klinghoffer to check out who he's played with. The guy is no slouch. He's done five albums with Fruciante, played with Gnarls Barkley, Beck, and the Butthole Surfers just to name a few. So don't count him out yet. The dude has some pretty impressive references.

But on to what really matters, the music.

It's funny, but it feels like Raindance Maggie came out months ago. I've heard the song so many times it almost feels old. But when I first heard it the only worry I had was that it would be the fastest song on the album. I was scared that we had another By The Way on our hands, and after reviewing Incubus' latest and being let down I was way skeptical.

But when that first track comes on my worries were erased. Monarchy Of Roses smacks you in the face with a heavy bassline and a catchy everything. Truly the best song to welcome you back. And honestly, it's all downhill from there. The Peppers are still the Peppers. Once you know it's a good RHCP album, you just sit back and enjoy the ride.

The first thing that really shocks you about the album is the backing vocals first heard on Did I Let You Know. At first listen you want to know who that girl with the haunting melodic voice is. And it surprised me because I really can't recall the guys using female backing vocals since Under The Bridge, and that was a fucking choir. It's never been one single person.

After checking the booklet (yes, I actually bought the album) I couldn't find any female singers credited, so I turned to the internet. Wikipedia failed me. Google got nothing. So, I resorted to checking comments on YouTube, where I found many people asking my same question, and I finally found out that Josh Klinghoffer has the most haunting female voice I've ever heard on a man in my life.

I also need to point out how great the album sounds. Quality is usually hidden in the details, and this album has it in buckets. From the simplest of sounds, maybe a clap in the middle of a chorus, it all sounds crisp and important. No wasted motion here, just things that compliment the sound, and in turn, the music.

The other thing I need to praise is the order of the tracks; I'm With You has an amazing flow to it, and no song is one-dimensional, it knows it's strengths and it plays them up directly so you'll really notice them. I called the album a ride earlier, and I meant it. The best example of this at the end of the Goodbye Hooray which is the heaviest song on the album and it's placed right in the middle of it. As this heart-pumper of a song comes to a close, the next song's opening totally shocked me, because it was led by a piano. That's right, Happiness Loves Company, a Red Hot Chili Peppers song led by a piano. It still sounds off to me, but it works and I loved it. And the fact that it came right after the hardest song on the album just made it that much bigger an impact.

For those wondering, the pianist is Greg Kurstin, another one of those guys who has played with everyone. That seems to be the running trend in this album. Along with Kurstin we also have guest percussionists Mauro Refosco, and Lenny Castro; with at least one of them present in all the songs on the album, it makes it beat heavy and easy to move to. I've never been much of a dancer, but I'm not ashamed to say that I rocked around my room to most of this album.

Then we have what we knew we were getting, and yes, the Peppers 'still got it' where it counts. I've always thought that Anthony Kiedis was a much better melody maker than a lyricist and singer. He has a great voice, but his ability to create melodies is something to bow down to, and it might not be as acknowledged as Flea's basslines and technique, but to me is just a big a staple of the Pepper's unique sound.

Chad Smith has always been a good drummer, but it's nice to see them bring in some reinforcements for the percussion every once in a while. It fills out the sound nicely and really adds to the music.

And Mr. Klinghoffer does his job rather well. It's obvious that he's still settling into the role, but he changes the sound just enough to make it his own. He doesn't steal the album, but when he needs to shine, he does, and he does it with style. Josh brings a heavier style than Fruciante, a bit grungier, and as much as that doesn't sound like the Chili Peppers it might just be the next step in this ever-evolving band's sound. And I like that.

So, did it live up to my expectations? Well considering that their previous is my favorite of all time, then no. But that by any means a knock on this album, it's just more praise for Stadium Arcadium.

I'm With You is a great, fun album. And it fits perfectly into the Pepper's stacked discography.


Friday, September 9, 2011

The Ten Albums That Changed My Life (by Alexis)

After encouraging Loren to post his list and seeing it the next day, I knew I had to deliver my own version as soon as possible. Here it is; I hope you enjoy it.

                                         The Beatles – Meet The Beatles!

 While channel surfing on a boring night in 1996, a quartet of smiling young men appeared on the screen performing a song called “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. I immediately knew that my life had changed. The next day, I asked my mother if she knew who these musicians were. Overcome with emotion, she gave me her collection of Beatles LPs. Naturally, the first one I listened to was their US debut, “Meet The Beatles”, whose opening song was the same one I had heard the night before. From that point on, I wanted to immerse myself completely in music, especially Rock & Roll.

                                                     Led Zeppelin IV

 When I told my 5th grade guitar teacher that I wasn’t familiar with the name “Led Zeppelin”, he lent me his copy of the fourth album of this legendary group and told me to listen to the song “Rock & Roll”. As soon as I pressed the play button, the loud and aggressive crashing of John Bonham’s cymbals scared the hell out of me, and I immediately turned off the record player. Fortunately, my curiosity would not allow me to disregard what I heard. I played the song again, realized I had discovered a new style of music, and began my life-long infatuation with Hard Rock.

                  Bob Marley & The Wailers – Natural Mystic: The Legend Lives On

In 1998, every teen and pre-teen in Puerto Rico had Bob Marley’s greatest hits compilation “Legend” in his/her personal collection. I thought it was nothing to fuss about, but decided to give his music another chance and bought this collection. Most of the songs on “Legend” focused on Marley’s romantic side, but the ones on “Natural Mystic” were much more politically charged. The attacks on racism and social inequality found on “So Much Trouble in the World” and “War” (as well as the call to unity on “Africa Unite”) showed me that music could serve as a powerful tool for social change and personal growth.

                                    Rage Against The Machine – Evil Empire

 Although I prefer their debut, this is the RATM album that changed my life. The picture of dozens of books that was found inside the booklet set off my interest in politics. When I saw that one of my favorite bands encouraged learning about people like Che Guevara, Malcolm X, Karl Marx, and the Black Panthers, I was never the same. The music was also life-changing; even if he was working within an Alternative/Hard Rock context, Zack de la Rocha was the first rapper I liked, and this would eventually lead me to the Hip Hop genre.

                                         Redman – Doc’s Da Name 2000

 By 1999, I was anxious to listen to something completely different from the Classic and Alternative Rock that I was used to. I proceeded to explore Rap music more deeply, and the first album I bought was Redman’s platinum-selling release from the year before. Although the catchy beats rooted in 70s Funk caught my attention at first, the clever wordplay and the musicality of Redman’s delivery made me love the album and turned me into the Hip Hop head that I am today.

                                      The Roots – Do You Want More?!!!??!

 A few months after my 12th birthday, I was given The Roots’ second album as a present. After listening to Black Thought’s and Malik B’s literate raps and the jazz-influenced grooves played by ?uestlove and the rest of the band, I knew that Hip Hop had much more to offer than the stereotypical images and sounds seen and heard on TV. This was my first encounter with the subgenre known as Alternative Rap, and I was dying to find other highly creative rappers that existed outside the mainstream.

                                                       Nas – Illmatic

 I will never forget the first time I heard “N.Y. State of Mind”. The first verse was so mind-blowing that I must have played it ten times before moving on to the second half of the song. The intricate lyrics that demand and reward close attention, and the hard-hitting, jazzy, and elaborate beats, make “Illmatic” far and away my favorite album of all time. With this seminal record, Nas set the bar incredibly high, and I became much stricter with the way I judged rappers after this experience. 

                                              Willie Colón – Lo Mato

Growing up, I always thought Salsa was lighthearted dance music for people my parents’ age. That perception was erased forever as soon as I heard “Calle Luna, Calle Sol”. The heavy-sounding trombone showed that this was no pop tune, and the cautionary lyrics about one of Puerto Rico’s most dangerous streets resonated in a way that I could have never imagined. This song, as well as the rest of the album, not only made me love Salsa music, it also instilled a sense of cultural identity and pride that will forever define me.

                                             Miles Davis – Kind of Blue

 Even though my parents always took me to Jazz concerts as a child, I did not explore the genre on my own until I turned 17. After reading an article that named this the best Jazz album of all time, I decided to give it a listen. Much like “N.Y. State of Mind”, “So What” was such a perfect song that it took me a few weeks to move on to the rest of the album. Complex in execution but simple in approach, the majestic sounds of “Kind of Blue” made me eager to listen to other genres of music that I had previously avoided.

                                     Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction

 I bought this landmark recording in 1998 at the age of 10, but it did not have a profound impact on me until 2008. Disillusioned with the state of music at the time, I sought refuge in an undisputed classic, and it felt like I was listening to it for the first time. Every song impresses by sounding so raw and menacing while having unforgettable hooks. My infatuation with this album kick started my obsession with dirty and bluesy Hard Rock, which to this day remains my favorite style of Rock music.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Top Ten Albums That Changed My Life

Eddie Trunk has worked in the music business for a while now in different roles. He basically specializes on Hard Rock and Metal but mostly the former. Not too long ago, he released his list of Ten Albums That Changed His Life. While his list was a good one, there were not many surprises. While its definitely a very personal list, I decided to do my own. Let me make this clear, this is NOT my favorite albums list. This is just the albums I believe changed my life in some way. This was Alexis' and Yhann's idea and I thought it was cool and hope to see their lists very soon and maybe implement them here so you can all see them. So, without further ado, here's my list...

Honorable Mentions

Pantera had released a couple of sub par albums in the eighties that were okay but nothing extraordinary. In 1990, they changed the metal world by releasing this fantastic album, Cowboys From Hell. While they were not the thrash style that had been made mainstream by the Big 4, this was sort of post-thrash heavy metal. The energy of the band onstage (I was never able to see them live but through DVD's and such) was unrivaled by most of the metal world and the music was powerful. Sadly, 'Dimebag' Darrell is gone from this world, but this album will be remembered by me as an integral part of my metal growth.

I am not a huge fan of the extreme metal genres. Sure, there are a band here and a band there, but traditional Death Metal and Black Metal have never been my cup of tea. About 6 years ago, I stumbled upon this band completely by chance. Arcturus was a sort of supergroup in the Black Metal genre with guys like Garm, Samoth and Hellhammer coming together to form this interesting group. Their first album was the normal black metal fair, but with 1997's Le Masquerade Infernale thet became something else entirely. With 2002's The Sham Mirrors, they were able to come together and really become an interesting band that shunned traditional black elements and implemented an avant garde style that made the group stand out from most. This is a fantastic album to discover and it really made me dig deeper into the subgenres of black metal and discover other nice gems.

The List

I first heard vocalist Devon Graves (Buddy Lackey) when he created the band Deadsoul Tribe. While his voice was interesting and incredibly haunting, I would never know his real potential until I heard this album. In 1990 progressive metal was still in its infancy. Psychotic Waltz's first album A Social Grace is an underrated gem of an album that will blow fans of the genre away. Listen to the energy of this album and the weird time signatures and especially the unique vocals of Graves and you will see why this album is so great. This album showed me that you don't need to do things the same way as everyone else does them. You can make your stuff unique.

I don't think this is Pain of Salvation's best album, but it's certainly their most creative one. This prog metal band has definitely evolved with each new album, but it wasn't until their concept album BE that Daniel Gildenlow and his band truly showed how creative and innovative they could be. Sure, it may be flawed in its way as it probably tries to do too much, but that is not what attracted me to it in the first place. What some more arrogant reviewers might view as pretentiousness, I see as Gildenlow's way to show everyone his vision. The mixture of music, spoken word pieces, and such make this a listening experience that should never be taken out of its own context and even less, viewed individually as different "songs". This is much more than that, which is why I am a big fan of this album and will continue to be for a long time.

I have to give a lot of thanks to my father for showing me the classic rock legends way back when I was little. Without having listened to classic bands like the Stones, The Who, etc., I would have probably been listening to reggueton or some shit like that. What better album is there to discover when you are at a young age? Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker's landmark album, Disraeli Gears, is a gem of classic psychedelic blues rock. There is nothing better than to rediscover this album when you are a older *wink* *wink*. This album helped to turn me into a fan of the 60s which I am still one now. Slowhand is also one of my favorite guitarists.

I remember when I first got this album like a thousand years ago. I was interested by the album cover. I had heard a friend of mine talk about Joe Satriani before, but I really didn't know what to expect when I bought it. While most people consider Surfing With the Alien to be their favorite Satch album, The Extremist was my first album of instrumental guitar, and it still holds a place in my heart. Besides all that, this is just a fantastic album. Satch has always been one of my favorites because he is not just one of those really fast guitarists and nothing much more. He is a talented song writer and his music is full of soul (for lack of a better word).

I have always been one of those music fans that just likes to demand more from his music. I don't like to settle for just a collection of songs put together under the same name. When I heard that this album had one of the most talented vocalists out there, some kickass prog metal music, and an interesting story to boot, I was in from the get go. This album was the one that made me realize that there exists music that doesn't just want to be music alone but can also come together in an album (and through different albums) and tell a coherent story. Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime is probably the best concept album in the metal genre (including all its subgenres). Geoff Tate's vocals are just amazing and I still like to listen to this album after about 13 years of discovering it.

Okay, okay... I admit it. I'm sort of cheating in a way. But not truly. The Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble should be in anyone's blues rock collection... hell, in anyone's music collection period. When I got this album, I had never heard any of Stevie's songs. I was getting it purely on a friend's recommendation. I'm incredibly glad I did. This collection of Stevie songs is incredibly deep with some fantastic songs that really showcase Vaughan's guitar work and deep voice. This album and Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar made the transition from blues rock to delta blues for me seem seamless. If you don't like this man, you don't have a soul.

If there is one album that I would love to take with me to a deserted island, it would probably be Pink Floyd's seminal work The Dark Side of the Moon. Pink Floyd always released incredible albums, but there is something about this album that just propels it over everything they ever wrote with Syd Barrett or after. I remember when I first heard this album it was like nothing I was used to hearing. I had heard the classic rock of the 60's but this was more than just that. It was my first foray into prog rock. From there, the other classics of the genre where obvious in my journey (gotta give props to King Crimson as well!). Listen to this masterpiece and be awed by it.

I never thought death metal could be beautiful. I never even knew it was possible. That is until I heard Mikael Akerfeldt's growls and then suddenly an acoustic interlude with incredible clean vocals coming from the same mouth. Not only are his growls amazing, but Akerfeldt's versatility quickly made him one of my favorites and Opeth one of my favorite bands. The music is complex and interesting, its ugly and beautiful, its raw and at the same time crisp. This band has everything I want in an band. Blackwater Park, for me, is the perfect album from a band like Opeth. This album made me believe that death metal could be beautiful and I also found one of my favorite bands in the process.

Can anyone go wrong with a Led Zeppelin album? I don't think so. I never got into Zep early in my life. My dad liked them but he was more into the Stones and The Beatles. When I first heard them in a movie's soundtrack, I knew I needed more. I went out and got Led Zeppelin IV or The Fourth Album or ZoSo... however you may want to call it since it has no name. When you look at the track list, its filled with unquestionably fantastic songs. This album really did open a lot of doors for me in the classic rock world and it was when I knew that this was the style that I liked the most. This was the genre that spoke to me the most. It was the day I knew that I loved this kind of music and there was nothing that could ever change it.

Now, I know what you are about to say. "You chose Fear Factory over Led Zeppelin!? Are you mad!?!?". It's a fair question. Yes, I did pick Fear Factory's Demanufacture over my favorite band ever. Why? When I started listening to Zep earnestly, I was already a heavy metal fan. One day, I had been paid by my mother for cleaning something I don't remember. I had 20 bucks in my hand and was in a music store. I saw the cover of this album and bought it because it looked incredibly cool (still does). I knew it was harder and harsher than anything I had heard before (it was on the metal section) but I never expected it to be what it is. It was a visceral experience. From the moment I put on the CD, I was blown away. This was some heavy shit, especially for someone not used to this kind of music. It took me a bit to really get into it, but when I did, I was hooked. The Slayers, Metallicas, Iron Maidens, Judas Priests of this world came after Fear Factory for me. In my musical life there are many different experiences, but I divide it simply as the Years of Silence (when music wasn't a big part of my life) and After Fear Factory.

Well, there is my list. I hope you enjoyed it and maybe discovered an album you hadn't given the time of day before. I am sure yours is also an interesting read. Comment below what you think and if you want, gimme your list as well.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Epic Finale. A Review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

The end has finally come for Harry Potter and his saga on the silver screen. After 8 movies and countless hours of the young wizard and his adventures, it is finally done. The world had its collective breath held until this movie was finally out. Everyone knew how it ended, but people still flocked to the movie theaters to see this spectacular even much like they did when the final book came out. And who can blame them? Millions of people grew up alongside the thunder scarred wizard. This is not just a simple coming of age story, this was a growing up story. From the first few books and movies that were obviously more directed towards a younger audience and how they evolved into a much darker story of the battle of good and evil and everything in between. Now, my biggest problem with writing this review was finding a way to review only this movie and not all the movies or all the books or even just the last book. It's hard to even separate it from the first part.

Before I start this review, let me tell you what I think of the rest of the series (books and movies) and then I'll finish the review for this particular movie.

I think the Harry Potter series is entertaining. I don't think its the best thing in the world, but for what it wanted to be, it worked. The movies were a little bit less successful. Other than The Prisoner of Azkaban which was directed by Alfonso Cuarón, the rest of the movies went from good to mediocre. I think the biggest problem with the latter films was director David Yates. I don't think he is talented enough to take such complex themes and emotions and weave them with the action sequences needed. This is why we get two parts of the last book that are so unbalanced.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I is a boring mess of a movie that could probably be skipped and not matter. It's slow and uninteresting and not worth anyone's time. I just don't get dividing the last book in two parts when one of the parts is just going to be filler and the other have all the action. It makes no sense. Thus, we get a second part filled with action but with no emotion.

Apparently, you two die at some point. Not that the movie cares or anything...
oh yeah, and that orphan you left behind... who takes care of him? Movie doesn't really care either.

**Spoiler Alert**

What do I mean by emotionless? Consider the deaths of Lupin and Tonks. It has been established in the past movies and books that Lupin is like an uncle to Harry after the death of his father and then the death of Sirius Black. When he and Tonks die, not only do they not show it, they pan up as Harry looks at the survivors and there they are dead on the floor next to each other... and cut away to next action scene. It screams of bad directing and editing. That should have been a bad moment for Harry which is brushed off and it shouldn't have been.

**End Spoiler Alert**

Don't get me wrong. The movie is not all bad. I really liked that they finally made Voldemort seem vulnerable and open to making mistakes because he is gradually getting weaker with every horcrux that gets destroyed. Details like that, make me feel that there was a lot of potential for this movie to be really amazing. Also, its one of the most anticlimactic endings for a series that I have ever seen. I stand firm on my thought that the epilogue was incredibly weak and probably ruined what the series could have become. And if you thought it didn't translate well in book form... in movie form, it sucks the life right out of the movie.

Nevertheless, it was only a couple of minutes and the movie is pretty long. One other gripe I had with the movie was the fact that you could only watch it in 3d. I dislike 3d. While there were some cool looking scenes that used 3d to its fullest (the scene in the bank vault with the replicating goblets is pretty cool), the point of using 3d is beyond me. It makes what is already a dark movie a lot darker. There are some cool effects, but is it worth making the whole movie darker in order to have a couple of scenes that really use 3d. It doesn't seem like its worth it to me.

In the end, I believe the movie ends with a whimper instead of a bang. And while I have to agree that the movies were entertaining, there is nothing groundbreaking here other than how the kids really grew up into their roles and that no one should forget the acting talent of one Alan Rickman. His performance as Severus Snape carried all the films from day one and he should be given the recognition he deserves as a fantastic actor. The role of Snape is one of great importance in the series as a whole and it is almost as much about Severus Snape as it is about Harry Potter. Rickman really gave this character life. He really nails the seedy, greasy haired, scowling face that haunted Harry for most of his time at Hogwarts. The reveal about his character was well done, but I would have preferred a little bit more.

"Oh, yes. What was it you said to me before? 'Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker.'"

7 out of 10