Saturday, September 28, 2013

Within Temptation and Tarja Release "Paradise (What About Us?)" Music Video

"Paradise (What About Us?)" is the first single from Within Temptation's upcoming album, which features Tarja Turunen, another highly popular force of symphonic metal. For many fans of the genre, the two doing a song together is a dream come true, and this finally brings an end to the constant teasing by the band, for they've released a few snippets of the song and video off and on for what seems like eternity.
In a few days, I will review the digital EP of the same name that "Paradise (What About Us?)" will be part of, which will include demos of a few songs that will appear on the January LP. But for now, I ask everyone to just enjoy the song and video. It's a bit heavier than the singles from their previous album, The Unforgiving, and I haven't heard anything too negative about it thus far. I honestly believe that anyone who wasn't a fan of The Unforgiving will see this as an improvement - even I do, and I really loved The Unforgiving. The video is definitely one of my favorites; it's very epic and we get a little twist at the end. Truthfully, it's possibly their best music video.
So, here it is. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My Favorite Television Shows

Recently, I came to the realization that I rarely ever talk about TV shows on this blog. I must admit, I don't watch that much television, but it's impossible not to watch any shows at all. Sometimes, one can find a really good show and become hooked 'till the end. The main problem I end up having is the inability to stay committed and keep up with each and every episode; I rarely ever succeed. Still, I've discovered some seriously amazing shows over the years, and it's time I share them.

Gilmore Girls
Out of all the shows I've ever watched in my whole life, Gilmore Girls is the only series I've watched several times through in its entirety. I love this show. Everything about it makes it stand out, from the wonderfully-crafted characters, to the comedy they bring, to the plot (which is always bound to have some drama). It was, and still is, so different than anything else on TV. It was kind of... perfect. There will never be another Gilmore Girls.

The Twilight Zone
When I say that I love The Twilight Zone, I mean the original black-and-white classic with Rod Serling, not that awful remake of the show that made me want to vomit. This oldie has a lot of elements that I think are missing in today's thrillers, which aim to entertain by making audience jump in their seats. The original Twilight Zone was so subtle on the scare-scale in that sense, but it could be horrifying nonetheless. More than anything, though, it never fails to make me think. It explored so much more than science fiction; it explored real-world philosophy concerning subjects such as what beauty and difference really are.

Teen Wolf
*You can read my appreciation post here.
Oh, Teen Wolf. People don't always understand my continual fangirling over it, but how can I not love it? It's so fun!  The characters are so well-developed, and its been so cool to watch them grow over the past few years as the plot becomes crazier and more dramatic. It's so addictive! And the commercials for this season have been so tormenting, asking viewers "who will die?" or telling us "more will die" and "an alpha will die"; whoever they hired to market this did a little too well. Those commercials make me crazier than I already am with the plot's growing complexity.

The X Files
I'll admit, I haven't watched this show nearly as much as I always want to, but I've seen enough to call it one of my favorites. (Plus, it has the best theme song ever. FYI.) It's so creepy, full of mystery and intensity. And there's something quite meaningful about how it's all presented, particularly with how Mulder is presented. His personal backstory makes this science-fiction show into something more meaningful as he investigates odd cases that often involve extraterrestrials ... "I want to believe" is such a powerful phrase.

Kyle XY
When it first began, I was sort of opposed to Kyle XY; I thought it looked a little stupid. I don't remember exactly when I became so fascinated with it, it just sort of happened at some point. It was an intriguing series filled with mystery and drama, making it relatively easy to get addicted to. However, I must complain... The series finale was not even a series finale. It was hardly a season finale! It was so abrupt, right in the middle of a scene. Even now, I wonder if the writers were initially planning on having another season and were faced with the show's cancellation at the last minute.

The Middle
The Middle is such a cute family sitcom; it always makes me laugh. I love how quirky and weird the characters are. In fact, I don't think there's a single one I don't like. But seriously, what's not to love? Brick's a bookworm that whispers to himself, Sue is a very colorful and loud peppy teenager that is somehow invisible to everyone at school; Axl is a lazy, moody teenage boy that is somehow invisible to no one at school despite his laziness; and their parents, Mike and Frankie, are a happily-married couple that deal with an assortment of their own issues, from weird neighbors, to financial hiccups, to miscommunication hiccups, and everything in between. It all contributes to a life of real-world adventure.
Sure, sometimes this show can probably be a little far out, but in some ways, it's incredibly realistic in the most hilarious way possible. Anyone who has lived in real-life suburbia will likely understand the humor of Tessa's neighborhood, and I imagine that there are a lot of teenage girls that can relate to Tessa's general personality, trapped in a 'suburban purgatory' of preppy Dalias.

Modern Family
I don't think I know a single person who dislikes this show; it's so hilarious! It paints such a comical picture of the reality of families today with Phil and Claire and their three children (the more stereotypical family), Jay and his much younger wife and their children, and Mitch and Cameron (a homosexual couple with a very outspoken adopted daughter).

Mob Wives
I don't usually watch reality television, but when I do, I watch Mob Wives. This show is pretty intense. When people think of the mob, they don't always think of the women that have to watch their men go in and out of prison and wait with one another. They don't think of people like Drita, whose husband had to do his time while she raised two children, and how emotionally draining and conflicting it can be. They also probably don't think of all the drama that goes on with these women. These aren't your typical cat fights, because these women are tough.

Heroes (the first season)
I kind of forgot about this series until compiling this list. I was unable to keep up with it after the second season, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but the first season seemed to really stick with me. It was so epic! The first season's finale blew me away! Hiro, Peter, and Isaac were my favorite characters.

Sailor Moon
*You can read my appreciation post here.
Granted, I still haven't seen all two hundred episodes, and I mostly watched this as I was growing up, but I still have a place in my heart for Sailor Moon. I always will. Ever since the manga has been reissued, I've been purchasing the books and watching the anime again, regenerating my inner fangirl. As a little kid, I was too young to understand all that it enforced, but now I realize how empowering this series is, how it is the perfect series for girls. Anyone could watch this anime (or read the manga) and pick out characters that they can relate to. Making connections with characters is great with any story, but this one is particularly special because it makes us feel like we can overcome anything, that the Sailor Scouts really aren't that different from us after all.

Another show I liked for a while was Wildfire, which was on ABC Family for a while. The first season really held my attention, but after some time, the love triangle became so crazy that I couldn't take anybody seriously. But while I'm at it... What happened to Happy Town!? Seriously? ABC pulled it off the air two episodes away from the season finale! I get it, not that many people watched it, but I highly doubt it would've been that strenuous to keep it going for two more episodes.

But anyway, these are my definitive favorite TV shows. The supernatural, the hilarious, even the dramalicious have ignited so much hype in me. I hope your favorite shows have done the same.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Time I | Wintersun

I've been desperate. I've been hopeless. And then I finally ran into the Finnish band Wintersun.
Allow me to explain. I've spent much of my symphonic metal fandom on bands like Within Temptation, Nightwish, and Epica. These bands have spoiled me by being so over the top and so different from one another. I love them all dearly; I admire their music so much that I can't really listen to other symphonic metal bands. I'm not saying that all other symphonic metal bands other than those three are bad, because I haven't found any bad ones. The problem is that a lot of them just don't stand out to me. They blur together. But I've been searching on Amazon for (new to me) bands I might like, which has led me to several dead ends until discovering Time I, Wintersun's latest release and the first of two albums in a planned musical chronology (the second is to be released in 2014).
As one may assume from all that, Time I doesn't have the blandness I've been coming across; it has a very unique sound that I think many metal fans could enjoy with its undeniably fantastic songwriting, execution, and differences from other bands in this subgenre. In fact, I truly believe that this band could be a gateway for fans of general heavy metal to get into symphonic metal.
The album begins with an instrumental, acoustic, and not to mention adventurous track called "When Time Fades Away." This is a masterpiece. It's classical, it's cultural, it's a song that grows and grows until the end, eventually thickening with more percussion and intensity. It is by far one of the most beautiful and epic album openers I've ever heard.

That impressive first piece leads into the first electric song on Time I, "Sons of Winter and Stars." Once again, I was floored. Right when the heavy guitars and drums make an entrance, I could hardly believe I'd finally found something so good. The boldness of it made me so excited; I knew I was witnessing something great... But then lead vocalist Jari Mäenpää began to scream/growl/however you want to say it (it's like a higher-pitched form of grunting). I am personally not a fan of his specific vocal style (but only in those types of sections), and I was afraid it would put a damper on everything from then on, but it didn't. The music behind his voice is so big and epic; I particularly enjoyed the choral parts that were occasionally intertwined with riffs. And his voice doesn't always sound like that. He sings as well, with a metal roughness in some parts, but with clarity in others - thus communicating the otherworldly lyrics effectively. Besides, it was quite intriguing to see how Wintersun breaks the symphonic metal tradition of having an operatic female vocalist.
But anyway, to put it in a nutshell, that song is about thirteen minutes long, and I only complained about one element. There is seriously never a dull moment in "Sons of Winter and Stars."

 "Land of Snow and Sorrow" is the third track, opening silently with electric guitar, strings, and a pretty piano line before the full instrumentation is realized. By the time Mäenpää is singing, I'm reminded of Metallica's "The Unforgiven" in terms of the melody and his style of singing. It's much more relaxed than "Sons of Winter and Stars," and it almost feels like a power ballad in some ways, but it's not really a ballad. Either way, I'd say it's a great song for the average new listener to try first.

The next song is significantly shorter than the others, and it's called "Darkness and Frost." Some synthy electronic elements are found in this song amid the relaxing guitars, and somehow it's assembled in a very folky way. It's definitely a likable little track, and is indeed small but powerful.

"Darkness and Frost" leads into "Time," where the music picks up more than it has since "Sons of Winter and Stars," and Mäenpää's form of grunt-screaming returns (but, as usual, he also sings, and quite effectively at that). Lyrically, this song can be taken the most literally from the entire album and musically, it's just as huge as "Sons of Winter and Stars." (Those two songs seem a bit similar to me in a few ways.) "Time" ends the album with a semi-long outro, which pays tribute to the first song's cultural influences.

And believe it or not, that's where it ends. While there are only five songs, three of the five are unusually long and Time II will be released next year, which I will definitely listen to. Time I has intrigued and impressed me, and it's been too long since I could say that about a band I newly discovered. It's refreshing in both musical and lyrical senses. Plus, (as I've mentioned before), it's something that fans of any type of metal can find some happiness in, and the same can be said for fans of classical elements.

But if you're one of those people who seem to believe classical music is dead: Once again, I must redirect you to the genre of symphonic metal. There are geniuses in this realm. An album like Time I will help you see that.