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I see that I’ve a few new subscribers,  and with this blog here there really isn’t much to subscribe to as I don’t post here quite regularly.  I am still very active in the blogoshpere over at my now main site A Metal State of Mind(http://ametalstateofmind.com/) .  So if you are cool, you can head on over there and check it out as I post very regularly there mainly on the topic of well, metal (and sometimes other genres) and sometimes video games and books.

Peace Love and Metal.

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Some weeks ago my wife surprised me with a pair of books from George R.R. Martin’s back catalog (Windhaven and Hunters Run).  Needless to say, with A Song of Ice and Fire being my favorite series of all time, I dove right in starting with Windhaven first (currently reading the other at the time of writing this).  While it pales in comparison to his current epic, Windhaven is a delightful read filled with wonder and imagination.

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Living in Milan, Italy is great.  There’s beautiful architecture on every building, getting from Point A to Point B is relatively easy and cost-effective with an excellent Metro system, and living in the city center I can find just about any store I may need to get just about anything or service I want.  All in all, over the past few years I’ve transformed from a suburbanite to a city boy, and have no qualms about it.  Well, there may be a couple of qualms.

The big thing that really grinds my gears to a fine dust is the sidewalks.  No, it’s not the fact that they are narrow because the city wasn’t really designed to accommodate cars and what not when the city was designed centuries ago.  That’s a nitpick that my American ass has gotten quite used to over the years.  What really ticks me off about the sidewalks is how people treat them, especially dog owners.  Whenever I am walking somewhere I give myself a neck cramp from having to keep my head down and eyes pointed at the ground so I don’t end up stepping in dog shit.

When you adopt a dog you gain more responsibilities over just feeding it and walking it daily.  One of those responsibilities is cleaning up the little presents that your canine friend leaves behind from time to time.  If you can’t clean up after your puppy or the thought of getting a plastic bag to pick up and dispose of its poop disgusts you, don’t get a dog.  Not only are you disrespecting the city in which you live in, you are also disrespecting and inconveniencing everyone who lives in the city by leaving your dogs shit everywhere.  Stop it!!

And then there’s all the other goodies that some delightful people leave strewn about the sidewalks, being in Italy, it’s mainly food-related garbage (half a kebab or a McDonald’s burger, oddly enough you won’t find a pizza crumb).  Is it that hard to use a trashcan?  C’mon people, what year is it?  If you want to be treated like a civilized human being, act like one.  Again, you are disrespecting and inconveniencing your city and also the environment.

When I’m out and about I always see AMSA (Milan’s cleanup and garbage crew) at work, so I can’t say that the city isn’t doing anything to keep the sidewalks clean, but I guess in a city not even a Swiss-perfect service could compensate the amount of disrespectful people going around – the city offers everything in large amounts, and that goes for litterers too.  My proposition, the city needs to start cracking down on these people let their dogs shit anywhere or leave their litter or bodily fluids all over the place.  Start handing out fines like candy and make some major repercussions to those who don’t pay their dues.  With the huge amount of money the fines will bring in, the city funded AMSA can hire more workers and equipment to clean up the city even more and eventually the people will get the hint that leaving dog shit on the sidewalk is wrong and will stop doing it.  I know very little about Italian politics, and I guess this issue is not top priority on the list, but don’t see this being anything extremely difficult to accomplish.  You can do it Pisapia (Milan’s newly elected mayor, who’s a major step up over the previous mayor)!!

Don’t let this post let you think that Milan is a filthy city, (or anyway filthier than any other big city, apart from Swiss ones, that I hear are quite pristine), which it is not, I have seen much, much worse in my life, and for the sake of lamentation, I’m exaggerating quite a bit.  It’s just that this dog poo and litter problem needs to be solved and if it is Milan can go on truly being on of the most beautiful and most unique Italian/European cities.  Places like Milan’s Duomo, the Navigli, and the famous and overpriced Quadrilatero della Moda (‘quadrilateral of fashion’) show how gorgeous the city really is and with some cleaning around the edges, man, could Milan really shine.   Peace Love and Metal!!!!

Here’s a music video by the Italian half comedy half serious rock group Elio e le Storie Tese (Elio and the Tense Stories) that takes place on the Navigli (a must go to area of the city for all visitors and residents).  The song is called “Spalman” (roughly translated as “Spreadman”) and it’s about a superhero who defeats his enemies by spreading shit on their faces, maybe my blog title makes more sense now…  There are no feces or superheros in the video, so it’s safe for work, just a dude walking around the Navigli.  Enjoy!!!

Neglect No More

So I know I have been completely neglecting this blog for quite a while, and without making any promises, I will be trying to pay more attention to my personal blog a bit more.  If you were unaware the reason for my negligence is that I was putting my time and energy into A Metal State of Mind with my buddy Reggie and we saw a huge increase in readership and all that happy stuff.  It was and is and will continue to be great!!!  Me and Reggie also started a short-lived video game blog which was recently assimilated into A Metal State of Mind, so what started out as a metal blog, now also has the occasional video game post, 2 of my favorite things.  Now, while I still think that the bulk of my writing will be going on over at Metal State, I will be trying something a little bit different here on my personal blog.

Along with an occasional update on what I’ve been doing on over at Metal State, I will be writing more personal posts here about whatever I feel a muse to write about when the blogging bug hits me.  I figure that it will mainly be opinions, complaints, and grievances on things going on around me or little snippets about my travels around the world.  There will be other stuff, just don’t know what yet, but one thing for sure, I will be trying to pay more attention here.

Also, later today I will be posting my Top 15 Albums of the Year over at Metal State, so be sure to head on over to check that out.  It was one hell of a year and music and I’m happy with just about every music purchase and every minute I spent listening to music in 2011, let’s hope that 2012 is just as awesome, if not better!!  Peace Love Happiness and Everything In Between!!!!!

It’s been well over ten years since Primus fans have been treated to a proper release from the oddball trio. 2011 will mark the return of Primus to the studio for their first full length album since 1999’s Antipop, and in-between the previous and now the members of Primus have been busy, especially Les Claypool. He went on to work with various side projects such as Oysterhead(with Trey Anastasio of Phish and Stewart Copeland of The Police) and The Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, and released a number of solo albums all along with going on a few tours with Primus. One can really tell Les was enjoying what he was doing, because it really rubs off on Green Naugahyde.

After giving Green Naugahyde a good amount of spins, I find it to be a progression of Les Claypool’s sound than a natural progression of Primus. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for those that enjoy his solo and side project work, but for those that may not have kept up with a few of his other work may find this album slightly jarring. Some may argue that his solo work sounds like Primus, but to me in his other work there was more of an “open” sound, which is very present on this album, meaning that the sounds on the older Primus albums felt mixed together where as here and his solo stuff everything feels more separated(if you can follow my logic here, bravo!!). Everything is in time and each part works well with its counterpart, but there is a “hollow” feel. That open feel worked well with his side and solo projects as it functioned to show off each member very individually, here in Primus I want to hear Primus the band, not really the individual members. So on that end, I was left a little dry.

All the members perform excellently, Les doing what he’s know for and being a madman on the bass with his unique playing and vocal style, Larry LaLonde gives quirky guitar lines and blues licks, mood setting sounds, and reggae touched rhythms, and Jay Lane, well, he steals the show.

Before I get into commending Jay Lane, a couple lines of background. Jay Lane was an original member of Primus at the start of their inception in the 80’s. He left the band right before they went to record their first studio album but remained a good friend and collaborator with Les Claypool participating as a core member of Sausage and many of Les’ recent solo projects. When Tim Alexander left the band Jay stepped in to fill his shoes immediately. The relationship between a drummer and bassist is almost as tightly knit as a husband and wife, of all the members in a band those two are the ones really working off each other, and when you have such a talented and eclectic bassist such as Claypool, you need a drummer who can compliment him perfectly. Jay Lane compliments Les to a T, and to a degree steals the show from one of the main draws of listening to Primus(Les). He pulls off tweaked out jazz beats and tons of oddball patterns that you may never hear outside of a Claypool/Primus record. I found myself tailing off and really getting focused on some of the really cool beats he does, which in part would never have worked with any other bassist.

The songs on this record are kind of hit or miss. There’s some really great tracks and a handful that were just ok(about 75% great tracks). While some of the great songs sound like they belong right at home on a Primus record such as “Last Salmon Man”, “Jilly’s on Smack”, “Lee Van Cleef”(my personal favorite off the album) and “Eyes of a Squirrel”, some feel like they were to belong on a Claypool solo album such as “Eternal Consumption Engine”, “Hennepin Crawler”and “Tragedy’s A’ Comin”. A couple of songs just seem to be there as filler and really don’t add much to the record as a whole and come off as slightly boring to listen to(“Green Ranger” “Extinction Burst”). But in the end, the great really outweighs the bad.

My other main gripe with this album is lyrical. Often Les has been very topical in Primus and with his music, but almost always tackled the subjects with his quirky wit. Here his lyrics are oft at times less than wit-full and while he has written some dark and depressing lyrics before, here they come off as just sad. For example on “Eternal Consumption Engine” the lyrics come of as a straight up bash of American lifestyle and while the song has a catchy beat and cool music, the witless lyrics really drag the song down(and personally I lean towards his view on the subject, so it’s not a matter of topical disagreement). And there’s “Jilly’s on Smack”, again some great catchy music, but his lyrics, instead of coming off as a “Zappa-styled” story come off as just sad as he sings about a heroin addict that’s “not coming back for the holidays”, and they kind of hurt the song as a whole(which does have a really awesome jam about halfway through which saves it). On the flip-side he does also write some great lyrics on Green Naugahyde often too, as heard in “Eyes of the Squirrel”, “Moron T.V”(more on T.V…see what he did there, lol), and “Lee Van Cleef”(my personal favorite track on the album).

There’s enough great stuff on Green Naugahyde to warrant me to recommend checking it out, especially if you’re a long time Primus/Claypool fan such as myself or want to hear some superb drumming. I wouldn’t say that this is the best collection of songs that Primus has put out, but it does deserve a place among every fans collection. For all it’s short comings it’s still a fun listen, even if you will find yourself skipping a track here and there. Let’s hope that Primus’ next venture into the studio will be more of a Primus affair instead leaning toward a Claypool affair. PRIMUS SUCKS!!!!

Take a look at the picture of the album cover artwork over to the left there. That picture pretty much sums up what to expect from Marrow of the Spirit by Agalloch. It’s dark, wintery, foreboding, and overflowing with a viscous atmosphere. As you immerse yourself in this album you will take a harrowing walk through the haunted forest that Agalloch has grown and when you finally escape its chilling grasp it will stick with you for a long time to come as you constantly cough up chunks of that viscid air that you were inhaling throughout your journey, and it couldn’t be a more rewarding experience.

The style of music Agalloch creates is a strange beast to describe. It’s soul is rooted from black metal(raspy vocals, tremolo picking) but past where their roots are their sounds branches out into something rather unique as they incorporate various vocal and instrument styles and textured song building akin to prog and post-metal bands(think Isis). All the songs on Marrow of the Spirit have a very earthen sound to them and the lo-fi production really hammers home the organic feel to this record. That organic, earthen feel is what really makes this band, and record, something special.

As you start up the album the sounds of a babbling brook come into focus along the chirping of various birds in the trees which then gets layered by the somber music of a cello brandishing its lost soul. Then the album just bursts and smacks you into confusion with the heaviest and fastest section on the whole record and then evens itself out and gives you an opportunity to regain your focus and from there they let you loose to get lost and explore the dusky winter forest and its various moods and textures. Throughout your journey you will stumble upon a darkened lake that is known as “Black Lake Niðstång”, and here you will, at the same time, meet true beauty and terror and you will not be able to pull yourself away from its dark and beguiling sorcery. Some time after this encounter you will find you way out of the entrapment of the woods, but not unscathed, and the haunted woods will beckon for you to return to discover all they have to show you, and you will oblige…

Like spring and summer flaunts its charm, so does autumn and winter. The color of the fall leaves, the taste of the fresh, cool air, the way snow reflects the moonlight to brighten you path, the proud yet barren trees, those seasons have their own captivating spells and Agalloch really knows how to capture them musically like none other that I’ve heard. While they may focus on the dark sides of the spectrum the light often shines through and makes Marrow of the Spirit a truly breathtaking spectacle to behold.

And bonus points for the artistic designer on the album packaging. There is some wonderful photography and I loved how the band logo and song titles were placed on with the raised clear ink(can’t be seen in any scan, but it’s there and it’s pretty damn cool). I hope this trend of excellent album packaging continues.

My Favorite Films

It may be rather obvious what #1 will be by taking a quick gander around the site, but anyways, here’s my favorite films of all time.  Hope you all enjoy, and if you have never seen some of these check them out, there all great for their own reasons.  What are some you your favorite movies? View full article »

If one wants a gimmick to work there are really only two ways to go about making it succeed. The first is to take the Amon Amarth approach and be completely serious about it, the other, and more difficult way is to do the complete opposite of that and not take the gimmick entirely serious and just have fun with it. Scottish Pirate Metal outfit Alestorm‘s latest album there is a song about pirates traveling back into time to battle vikings and steal their gold and a song called “Midget Saw”. I think it’s pretty obvious where these metal buccaneers hoisted their anchor. View full article »

I’m sure by now you’re familiar with the formula for a Rockstar game. Open world, a plethora of cars to drive around in, plenty pedestrians to run over and torture, shooting stuff with shoddy gun and cover mechanics, a large variety of mission based gameplay and narrative advancement, a decent narrative and story wrapped around a pretty one dimensional protagonist with a lot of cool friends, America, political commentary, and the words Grand Theft Auto in the title, but for the most part, with as many flaws their games might have, they made up for it with witty humor and giving the player freedom to reek havoc in almost anyway that they may choose. Recently Rockstar have noticed that their company can’t survive on Grand Theft Auto alone, so they released the stunning Grand Theft Horse, err, Red Dead Redemption. They kept the basic gameplay elements of the Grand Theft Auto series such as the open world, mission base, ect. But they went and made some major tweaks to their style such as improving the gunplay mechanics, pulling the style out of modern America into the wild west, creating one of the more interesting video characters out there, and also crafting one of the best game narratives available today. While from a technical stand point the game was filled with flaws, it completely won over gamers as they got sucked into John Marston’s wild west and his quest to hunt down his ex-gang members. Along with the great narrative, the game its self was just damn fun to play and in its own right, Red Dead Redemption was a very ambitious game. Now Rockstar pushes its self further and brings players into Los Angeles during the 1940’s right after the end of WWII and the ambition scale is through the roof. View full article »

So, for those that may not be familiar with the band Suidakra, they are a German trio(quartet for live shows) that play music reminiscent of Scandinavian Melodic-Death Metal and Black Metal and have an affinity for Celtic lore along with the music of the Celts and they do an excellent job of bringing all those elements together. Since their first album they have been constantly pushing their sound forward and refining themselves with just a couple bumps in the road. Their tenth album, Book of Dowth, is where they stand today and it is a culmination of all the hard work and progress they have shown in their musical career. View full article »