Friday, June 17, 2016

Hiatus / The End?

It's been quiet around here lately, and for the first time, on purpose. I guess I didn't want to say anything just in case I've changed my mind, but I'm taking a break from blogging. I don't know how long this is going to last - I'd like to think that it won't be forever, and that maybe once in a while I'll feel the need to post something amidst the hiatus (I'm looking at you, promised Epica masterpiece The Holographic Principle), but I really don't know.

I'm not a journalist - that much should be pretty obvious by now. This blog has been dedicated primarily to fangirling, and I've been okay with that. I still am. But the thing is, reviews take time, as does writing anything... and I don't have time.

I promised myself at the beginning of my summer break to do what's most important to me, especially since I'm working more than I have previously and have less free time. I have three goals for this summer, in no particular order:

1. Tackle the TBR, because my book buying has gotten out of control, and read whatever the hell I want when I want

2. Write more stories

3. Sell the book I've already written to a publisher

I know I don't talk about my life outside of fangirling much on here, but the truth is I'm more of a creative writer. That's my call, and finally, it feels like everything's falling into place.

As always, thanks for reading. Maybe I'll be back someday, even if it's not for very long, but for now, all I'm really using Blogger for is to read the blogs I follow.

In the meantime, take care, read everything you can, and do yourself a favor and listen to some metal now and then.

'Til we meet again. ♥

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sovran | Draconian

My experience with metal mostly lies in the symphonic realm, and I tend to just dabble in other metal subgenres. Hence, I haven't listened to much doom metal just yet. I've always known I must be bound to enjoy it since I love some of the doom influences in Tristania's older work, and I whole-heartedly adore Within Temptation's debut album Enter, which has often been thrown into the doom category. (In fact, Enter is what introduced me to grunts/growls in general, let alone "beauty and the beast" vocal contrasts.) Since Draconian is a female-fronted band that has appealed to symphonic fans, I heard a great deal about the release of their latest album Sovran, and I was intrigued. Doom metal with beauty and the beast vocal contrasts? Dark and complicated songs? A singer that sounds like Sharon den Adel? - Wait a minute, that's impossible: Only Sharon can sound like Sharon, right?

But, alas, I gave one of Sovran's singles a try and that led me to buying the album... Good Lord am I impressed - and I've been pretty nitpicky lately. Sovran is a masterpiece.

Let me give you the highlights of this musical discovery as it awaits your full attention. The first few times I heard the lead single single "Rivers Between Us," which features vocalist Daniel Ă„nghede (Crippled Black Phoenix), I wasn't too impressed. I appreciated the band's overall sound but struggled to hear what was special about this collaboration at times, but it's grown on me quite a bit since those first few listens. The single (and gorgeous music video) that really grabbed my attention was "Stellar Tombs," with its wonderful chord progression in the chorus and intriguing lyrics. The final line, in which Heike is only accompanied by piano, always leaves me feeling a stange combination of hope and melancholy.

Since Sovran is my first and only Draconian experience, I cannot copmpare Heike to the band's previous singer. Heike Langhans does indeed sound similar to Sharon den Adel - apparently it's possible after all. When I heard the first track "Heavy Lies the Crown," as Heike sings "A haunted, starless sky, / Fragile and oh so deep / The dying softly wakes / And smiles in painless peace" I actually had to remind myself that I wasn't listening to Sharon. Her voice is so peaceful and light, but also haunting - a combination that usually only Sharon is the master of. Anders Jacobsson does all of the grunts/growls, and Heike's voice meshes so wonderfully with his deep voice. (Personally, I like hearing growls that are deeper than the higher-pitched scream/growl hybrid that some bands occasionally work into their music... Am I the only one who has this off-the-wall preference?) Perhpas the best example of their blend is about three quarters the way through "The Wretched Tide" (which has some of the most interesting riffs from Sovran), at the lines "So we're leaving today / As dust-ridden shutters close..." The section Heike sings that goes "Tired and cold / A tale since eons of old / So elusive this intemperance of escape..." is pure perfection - not only for her voice, the steady soaring top notes in the band's wonderful chaos, but the vocal line in general is genial.

Another highlight is "Pale Tortured Blue," my personal favorite. It's kind of ballad-like, for between the emotion in Heike's voice, the A+ chord progressions, and the somber violin section, it feels sadder than the other songs. The guitars at the end give me chills every time. I found a similar appeal in the middle eight of "Dishearten," and Jacobsson growls "we're too tired to sleep / and these bodies confound..." but towards the end, "Dishearten" ends up having one of the fastest tempos found on Sovran, and once again, Heike's voice steadily soars as the band jams on.

In truth, there isn't a single bad or boring song on this album. There isn't a bad lyric, either - all are so well-written, poetic, and thought-provoking. And structurally, each one is compelling and complex with chord progressions that are at once hair-raising and heart-melting. Even my least favorite, the album-closer "The Marraige of Attaris," has some seriously strong points in its solemn middle eight and its haunting ending: "So tired, so tired... / I need to feel the freezing blue / Leave me here! / Let the coming of spring / Carry me back to earth. / Leave me here!" After discovering the beauty of "Stellar Tombs" earlier this year, I knew this band was capable of making great music, but I never predicted loving Sovran this much. My mind is blown and my weave has been snatched.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Favorite Music Videos: Part 2

Click here for Part 1, which also serves as a little introduction to this series and gives y'all a heads up on what kind of videos I like best.

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"Stellar Tombs" - Draconian 
"Stellar Tombs" is still a pretty fresh single as this video was only released at the end of last January. This song, this video, can only be described as an epic. Everything about it. And it's so open-ended, so while I think I understand it, it's all a matter of interpretation. Creation imagery (the science kind), hunting imagery, and war imagery are all utilized respectively in the beginning, middle, and end, signifying a tumultuous or abrupt beginning, a search, and perhaps a final battle. Lead vocalist Heike Langhans is the one being searched for/hunted, that much is obvious, and altogether this video seems to represent a problematic relationship... Maybe even a problematic search for truth as well, or an example of natural selection - who knows? One day I might write a big post analyzing all this and put my literary theory skills to use. But the imagery is just gorgeous - if you skip everything else because this isn't your genre, look at 3:47. And that ending, when Heike runs away, breaks free... Gives me chills and damn near makes me cry every time. This video means so much to me personally, AND it's well-executed. Glorious.



"Oblivion" - Grimes
Grimes' single "Oblivion" is delightful, strange, and once one understands the overall meaning, a haunting testimony of what it's like to live in fear after surviving assault, as Grimes mentioned in an interview with Spin. Yet, the music itself almost sounds... happyish despite being kind of dark? So, naturally, the video would end up being something totally different from anything we typically encounter, and it actually looks like it was really fun to make. Grimes dances around and sings in a lot of stereotypical 'masculine' settings (a football game, some sort of dirtbike thing I don't understand) and plays on some of the sexist imagery we see on TV. Instead of a guy being in a locker room with a bunch of half-naked girls (ahem, I'm looking at you, cologne and men's hygiene advertisers), Grimes (fully-clothed) is hanging out with some half-naked guys. They even have a pillow fight. While Grimes could have made a video that deals more directly with women being sexually assaulted, she flipped the masculine hegemony upside down to make us pay more attention.



"Lithium" - Evanescence
Evanescence has made quite a few gorgeous music videos over the years, but none as beautiful as "Lithium," which is also one of their most gorgeous and emotional songs - and considering how many tear-jerking ballads Evanescence has, that's saying something. The band plays in a pretty snowy location (although sometimes petal-sized pieces of black soot falls on them, contrasting with the world of whiteness) as Amy wanders around forests and swims in chilly waters. She needs to 'let go' of past sadness and leave baggage behind; a relatable theme packed in an accessible metaphor.



"The Sound of Silence" - Disturbed 
Disturbed really impressed fans and non-fans alike with their perfect (yes, I dare use that word) cover of the Simon and Garfunkle classic "The Sound of Silence." (If I found this on time last year it would've been somewhere in the top five of my singles countdown.) This video had so much potential for cheesiness (and anyone who's seen Disturbed's video for "The Vengeful One" knows that a cheesy Disturbed video is not impossible), but I think this was handled very well. Some people write music, some people play music. But they have to meet one another and be willing to work together in order to make music happen... A nice metaphor for the lyrics. The people we need to hear are often unheard. "The Sound of Silence" is a truly epic cover that is well-represented in video form.



"The Mute" - Radical Face
Radical Face proves time and time again that you don't need to have loads of money/funding to make great music, and "The Mute" proves that you also don't need to have an enormous budget to make a music video. He made it with the help of friends and family, and frankly, it's better than most videos. A child who doesn't speak with words and dresses unusually finds refuge in the world of imagination... But that world might be more real than everyone else believed. It's a wonderful concept and the simplicity of the video matches this indie song perfectly.



Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Blogging for SIX Years and Ramblings About Music, TV, and Miss Peregrine

This blog turned six years old today... I feel really old. I say that every year, but seriously: Time goes by so damn quickly!

Sorry the posts have been coming really slowly lately - I'm afraid it might take a little while before things really pick up again. University + an assortment of major personal problems = no time for bloggie. I haven't given up though, and I'm still always thinking about stuff I could post, but those ideas are stored for a less hectic day.

After all, so many exciting things are happening. In the indie music world, we got new albums from Daughter and Radical Face (I've only listened to portions so far), and later on we'll be getting new metal albums from Lacuna Coil and Epica - I'm really excited about those. The new Lacuna Coil album is going to be called Delirium, and I have a feeling it'll resonate with me considering the craziness of my life this year and the hints the band has given about the overall direction and concept.

In terms of television, the only show I have been able to keep up with, Mob Wives, came to an end. Everyone's favorite star from the show, Angela "Big Ang" Raiola, passed away after battling cancer, and that broke my heart. She was so sweet and full of energy - I cried when I heard the news.

Now I somehow got sucked into Family Therapy with Dr. Jen... how the hell did I jump onto the reality TV bandwagon?

Also... have y'all seen the trailer for Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children? It seems like the rest of the Internet is pretty happy with it, so I imagine I might annoy some people, but... I'm not digging this at all. Like, nothing I enjoyed about the book in terms of feel/atmosphere looks like it'll be present. I think I might skip out on this one.


Well, that was nice catching up, but I'm going to do more homework now.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Anything But Typical | by: Nora Raleigh Baskin

Jason has autism. The world tends to overstimulate him and sometimes he can't control his movements. He doesn't say much, and that only seems to cause drama in a world that is constantly searching for a response. But that doesn't mean there's nothing in his head: Jason writes stories quite often, and he posts them to a website called Storyboard, where he meets a member named PhoenixBird. He thinks she might actually be his girlfriend... but in a world where even his mother struggles to understand him, how can he expect PhoenixBird to accept who he truly is? 

Anything But Typical is the second book I've read from someone on the autism spectrum's point of view (the first being Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, one of my favorite books of all time). Seeing the world through someone with this condition's perspective is of course intriguing and insightful, but simply as someone who enjoys writing and connecting with others through the Internet, I was immediately interested in this novel's premise. The idea itself is golden (as is this cover).

The execution? Not as much.

Don't get me wrong, Anything But Typical did not outright falter. I think Baskin did a pretty good job of showing readers what was going on in Jason's head as he interacts with the world and struggles to be the socially-superior person everyone wants him to be. I could feel his hopelessness and I often felt angry at how some of the adults around him would react - fictional adults who represent what happens all too often in real life. The teachers are not trained as well as they should be to work with him, his mother struggles to understand how her son can possibly feel anything when he is not very expressive, and his grandmother... Well, his grandmother doesn't understand much of anthing. I also thought it was good to see how Jason's stories reflect his views of himself in relation to the world around him, even if it does get borderline corny at some points.

However, the last quarter of the book just felt clunky, which is odd because I would have expected that issue to arise when Jason is flashing back to past times as the present story continues. But that element was done well enough. There is so much build up to the climax, but once we get there, it's a bit underwhelming and doesn't have a very good flow to it. Keep in mind I totally understand the need to have a 'realistic' ending that is not totally happy or totally miserable - I like that aspect of the book. (And really, that's what's accomplished in the book I mentioned earlier, Marcelo in the Real World.) But the pace was weird and one of the moments where he was daydreaming wasn't written in the clearest way.

Since I was so excited to read this book based on the premise, I have to say I'm a bit disappointed in how this one turned out. Genius idea, rocky execution. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Ocean at the End of the Lane | by: Neil Gaiman

So, you might have heard of Neil Gaiman. Dude's done pretty well for himself as a writer; basically everyone has heard he's great. Unfortunately, I have not read any of his books since Coraline when I was twelve despite the fact that I really enjoyed it. But when I had to read a couple of his short stories for a class about two years ago and The Ocean at the End of the Lane was released, I became quite curious. I had a feeling that it would be a good book.

Even though this is technically an adult book with an adult-aged protagonist, as the narrator returns to the lane he grew up on, he relives memories from his childhood, and those memories take precedence in this small novel. He returns to his neighbors, the Hempstocks and their farm, where he experienced mind-boggling, near-death experiences with his friend Lettie, who protected him from the monsters of other dimensions as they entered the world as us ordinary people know it. Memories fade with time, and some are simply unreliable, but going back to the place where such beautiful and horrible things occurred makes it all come back to the narrator.

To be honest, in the first half of this book I was a little unsure of how I felt about it. Even though the writing impressed me right off the bat and the general uniqueness of the monsters intrigued me, I felt it might be a little too far in left field for me to truly love. After all, some of these monsters are hard to fathom. I mean... A canvas? Really? And Ursula is the kind of antagonist bound to make readers' skin crawl. She bugged me. But I rolled with it all and was determined to give it a fair chance. It all had to be leading up to something, but I couldn't quite tell what it could be. 

I think the last 25% of the book is when I realized that I was completely in love with it despite any initial thoughts, because it certainly did lead up to something, and my God was it beautiful. I wasn't expecting something that seemed so creepy and quirky to end up being so gorgeous. If these are the types of feeling all of Gaiman's work leaves people with, then I need to buy the rest of his books ASAP. I can't stop thinking about it. The Hempstocks are so intriguing, as are the revelations our narrator had as a child. Childhood is important to our understanding of the world, even if we can't make sense of what we see.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is full of imagination and beautiful passages that I just want to reread forever.