I am a multimedia designer and aspiring writer from Central Illinois who dreams of bigger things. You are entering the hub of my online world. Welcome. Make yourself at home, read some stuff, click a few things, maybe check out my online portfolio. And of course, if you enjoy your stay, please subscribe.
*NOTE* This blog occasionally contains coarse language. Please use discretion when viewing.
In honor of my favorite day of the year, all of my Draw Something drawings today were done with a Halloween theme. Here are a bunch, along with a few other recent Halloween-/horror movie-themed drawings, just to maintain the spirit of the season. Enjoy!
Disney is un-friggin-stoppable. It's like that crazy Playstation game Katamari. Pixar, Marvel (I died a little that day too) and now Lucasfilm... What will that monstrosity of a Hollywood juggernaut devour next?
Three new Star Wars movies? Really? Why, for God's sake? Well, I don't care what they say. They won't be canon.
And let's not forget Indiana Jones. Any plans there, Disney? Actually, Lucas did a good job on his own of screwing up that franchise. It could use some fresh life.
If they remake Labyrinth I'll scream, I swear to God.
OK, so this is the last I'll blog specifically about this album. Please indulge me one last time, and I swear you'll never need to hear one more time about The Lord of Steel.
I finally got hold of the retail version tonight--not gonna say where, but let's just say it was a great deal. (And not a SPECK of guilt, mind you.) Let's give it a spin:
1. The Lord of Steel - Still a quite solid track. Great mid-to-fast tempo, almost thrash-type song (reminiscent of "The Power") with an incredible riff that really grabs you. The lyrics are among the least silly on the album. Makes a decent title track and introduction to the album's direction.
2. Manowarriors - Definitely sounds better with this mix, that much is undeniable. Once again, Joey's fuzzy bass is appropriately buried, popping out every now and then for the spotlight. I still dislike the song, but not as much as before. I just really hate that one line, "Never gonna change our style, gonna play tonight for quite a while..." Oh, and I'm not crazy about "We come from different countries with metal and with might, we drink a lot of beers and play our metal loud at night" either. This song seems more camp than metal anthem. As an offhanded aside, Karl Logan's solo reminds me of Vinnie Vincent (what ever happened to that guy?)
3. Born in a Grave - HOLY SHIT! YES! The intro alone is a major improvement. I wish they'd have hit that single clock strike a bit harder after the whispered intro, and of course they drag out the chorus a few too many times at the end, but everything else about this tune is EPIC. This is what I'm talking about! ...And they finally figured out a decent way to end the song too. Perfect!
4. Righteous Glory - I loved this track before, when it was on what I declared an inferior album. This mix is simply amazing--fuller, more emotional, more raw, and more beautiful than just about anything they've ever recorded. This is just the most fantastic and personal song about Valkyries carrying a dead warrior into the sky ever. It's literally haunting, and the final 30 seconds actually brought tears to my eyes and a chill down my spine. This is the band I have grown to adore over the last 25 years.
5. Touch the Sky - Another good track turned great. The new mix is so much more balanced than the previously released version. I don't really care for the breakdown they implemented around 2:15 in the song, but I can get used to it. Being only 3:46 in length, I feel like a bunch of chorus repetitions wouldn't have hurt this song like it affects some of the others. They should have just let the momentum carry it out until the natural end. Still, a wonderful tune.
6. Black List - One of the two tracks I was not looking forward to listening to again, in any form, no matter the mix, especially after seeing that it's still 6:47 in length. It feels like perhaps Joey was unable to compromise on this one with the remixing team, and they left it more or less as-is to satiate his ego and insistence on having a bass-heavy, mostly instrumental song on the album. Whatever happened, at least the mix sounds more full and less tinny and cheap. I still don't "get it" in general, and I continue to dislike the song. I'll be skipping this one every time.
7. Expendable - I like it more now than I did before. Even the old mix has kind of grown on me since first I heard it, though. They didn't do a whole lot to this one in the remix; nothing major anyway except (I believe) making it a tad shorter. Hmmm... Single???
8. El Gringo - Well, my DVD still hasn't arrived from Netflix, but when it gets here I'll be watching it straight away. Gotta see if it's a good match for the song. I did notice that the spaghetti western type theme seems to be a but more buried than before, like in the background, less obvious. The bass is predominant in this one, more so than in the album's earlier tracks. And they figured out some way to stretch this one out to 6:53, which is about a minute and a half too long for me. It reminds me of Neil Young's song "Sample and Hold," from the album Trans, the only Neil Young album I can stand to listen to. I have the LP in my collection (complete with the track list typo), and that particular song is one of my favorites on the platter (remember when they were called that?). When the CD release came out, it had a version that's about twice as long and half as good as that originally released mix. Believe it or not, what I'm saying is that I like the earlier version of "El Gringo" better than this more recent mix.
9. Annihilation - The second track I wasn't really looking forward to listening to, but after listening to it, I'm not sure why I felt that way. It has great drums, kick-ass guitar solos, again reminiscent of Vinnie Vincent for me (are Karl's fingers getting faster?), and not incredibly silly lyrics. By all rights, this turned out to be a decent song.
10. Hail, Kill and Die - This was my absolute least favorite song on the Hammer edition of this album. I really tore this track a new one in my review. I called it shameful. Once I heard the 90-second iTunes preview of this new mix, though, this was the one I was most looking forward to hearing in its full, remixed glory. Man, oh, man. POUNDING rhythm, a simple repeatable chant for the chorus, a great riff, Eric's killer vocals... It now seems like a perfectly logical--and rather welcome--updated version of "Blood of the Kings." It's really a new generation's version of that song I heard closing out the fantastic and best-selling Kings of Metal album in 1988--that song which introduced me to song titles I did not know but I realized at that time I had to seek out no matter the cost. I owe "Hail, Kill and Die," Manowar and Joey DeMaio an apology for my previous comments about this track. Not only was I wrong; I can't wait to hear this one played live. It's going to tear the place apart.
11. The Kingdom of Steel - This is the bonus track which was not released on the Hammer version of the album. I don't know what to think going in, other than that the iTunes preview gave away very little, being the first 90 seconds (mostly Stairway to Heaven-type guitar instrumental lead-in). It's a seven-minute-plus epic that I am hoping will not be too self-indulgent... [Time lapse] It's very plodding in pace... I guess I could have done without most of that 90-second intro, for one... Not sure I care for the chorus, or for the musical direction it goes. I don't know much of anything about music and theory or how to explain what I'm hearing, but I guess the best way I can describe it is that the chorus "goes down" when I was expecting it to "go up." ...And then the song modulates down even more at around 6:00... Seems like the songwriting was not too bad or silly. That is, there's a certain amount of respect given to the subject matter. Where songs like "The Gods Made Heavy Metal," "Die for Metal," and this album's own "Manowarriors" are obviously a bit tongue-in-cheek, this one is more akin to "Master of the Wind." On a side note, twice now I've listened to this song, and both times at 1:52 I get the jeepers creeped out of me by a small, childlike voice calling in distress into my right ear from afar, "Daaaaad!!!" Haha. It's like that "Shaaaane!" that I still, to this day, hear my mother calling from within the frenzied electrical guitar cacophony at the end of "Blood of the Kings."
ALL IN ALL:
Yep. I was wrong. I take it back. Well, most of it, anyway. The Lord of Steel still carries with it a certain cheese factor. But what Manowar release doesn't? However, I stand by my convictions that between this album and Louder Than Hell you will find some of the most pedestrian examples of songwriting in the band's nearly 30-year catalog.
Surprisingly, The Lord of Steel turned out to be a solid addition to that catalog all the same. I still think that 2009's Thunder in the Sky EP is a stronger body of work, but I will definitely be listening to this one again very soon, and probably even singing along before too long. I already do so to at least three tracks. It's a good dog walking or lawn mowing companion.
Thank you, Manowar, for coming through in the end. Oh, but no thanks for that Hammer edition. I'm going to delete it now and never give it another thought (well, maybe when I'm listening to the last half of "El Gringo.")
New list (up two spots to number eight):
1. Battle Hymns MMXI
2. Warriors of the World
3. Kings of Metal
4. Hail to England
5. Fighting the World
6. Gods of War
7. The Triumph of Steel
8. THE LORD OF STEEL
9. Sign of the Hammer
10. Battle Hymns
Now that the retail edition has released on iTunes and will be shortly released on CD to the world, and I've also had the opportunity to give the Hammer edition a few more spins, I can confidently say that I was right. :P That Hammer edition sucks balls.
I have heard the 90-second previews of all 11 tracks on iTunes, and just from that little bit of information I can safely say that the mix was the biggest problem with the preview release. Thank God they decided to tone down that overamplified, fuzzy, farting bass guitar in the new mix. Each song snippet I've heard is so much fuller and more powerful than before. Believe it or not, "Hail, Kill and Die" might be one of the stronger tracks on the album now that there's some true, thundering, visceral power behind it.
Now that this album's been out for a while it seems like there's a little bit of backpedaling going on, with the Manowar camp saying the Hammer edition was meant to be a rough cut preview of the final project. That's not what their own hype machine said in June. Back then they billed it as a special edition which, "blazes with pure power, untamed energy, and a sound as raw and wild as a force of nature...features sure-to-slay tracks like El Gringo, Hail, Kill And Die!, Annihilation and Expendable and is an essential album for every true metal fan's collection." It wasn't.
Well, regardless of that fiasco, at least we finally have the definitive version releasing worldwide in a couple of days. I'm curious to hear the rest of that eleventh track, too, as the iTunes preview doesn't really do it justice. I will end up downloading this one, but I doubt I'm going to pay for it if I can get away with it. I'll shore up my guilt by deleting the only copy of the shitty version I already have, never to speak of it again. I did the same thing with Metallica's Death Magnetic when the Guitar Hero version got out, since they really screwed up the mastering on that original release too. My conscience is clear.
Moving on, here's some exciting news:
Manowar has been tapped to do the soundtrack for an upcoming Jean-Claude Van Damme action flick.
"Sons of Odin" has been appropriated as the theme song for an online PC RPG-type fighting game called Smite, wherein players take the roles of gods and goddesses from various cultures throughout the history of the world. The game is currently in beta version with over 500,000 players worldwide. A trailer with gameplay featuring the Manowar song can be found on YouTube.
El Gringo releases on DVD today. It's at the top of my Netflix queue. I'll let you know how it is once I've watched it, and how well the Manowar tune fits it.
Joey said in a recent radio interview with Eddie Trunk that the band has been approached by two major touring agencies in the US regarding tours that would give us around a dozen US dates each. No word on whether the band will be entertaining their offers yet, but the interestalone is a freaking FANTASTIC piece of news. They are finally making a mark in the States! The rest of 2012 is already on paper, but maybe 2013 can be the year of the Conquest of the Stateside Manowarriors.
Once I've given the retail edition of Lord of Steel a couple of listens, I'll share my views on it. Hopefully that will be by this time next week. I hate to pay for the damn thing, but if I have to I will. It won't be the worst 15 bucks I've ever spent. That would be the dough I coughed up for the Hammer edition.
This is a very short story about a couple of guys who are thrill seekers. It's similar to "Herbert West: Reanimator" in that our protagonist sort of paints himself as the willing accomplice following along on these insidious adventures instigated by the other guy.
Here's the synopsis: As I mentioned, these two guys have grown bored with life and even with the pursuits that exist on the fringe of society. Before long they realize in order to get excited about anything it must be dark, sinister or morbid activities. Eventually they resort to grave robbing for their adrenaline fix.
One day they get a line on this grave in Holland that is supposed to contain the body of a centuries-dead grave robber. He was purportedly buried with his last great prize, an amulet of some kind. They decide to target that grave next.
See, they consider themselves artists of a sort; they revel in the atmosphere of each plunder. And they see it as suitably poetic to rob the grave of a legendary grave robber.
They end up taking this gargoyle-looking amulet from the grave and hightailing it out of there, back to their elegantly and morbidly described museum of the disturbing known as their lair. That turns out to be a horrible mistake.
I really like this story. It's got some of the most unsettling stuff I've read in the descriptions of the loot they have in their hideout, (though I have discovered that one word I have in mine was a typo in the PDF translation**) and at the same time there are humorous passages that give a hint that Lovecraft penned this as kind of a parody. It's very reminiscent of Poe in certain parts, which is nothing new for Lovecraft, but this time it seems to be almost poking fun at not only Poe, but the whole Gothic horror genre in general.
There's this really cool bit of the story where Lovecraft shows that it's not supposed to be taken too seriously by doing this sort of "Rattling Bog" repetition about how the moon is full, the shadows are long, the trees are grotesque and drooping, there are huge bats flying around, there's a church steeple pointing like a finger into the sky, the fireflies are dancing, and there's a spectral howl of some sort of hound in the distance... He repeats that like three times nearly word for word during the story. I like that part. It's so graphically atmospheric, yet the way it's delivered is totally tongue-in-cheek.
"The Hound" is an easy, quick read that doesn't take itself too seriously. There's not much of a scare factor at the end, but definitely a worthwhile read. Highly recommended. **I have to share this because it's kind of funny. When the protagonist describes the treasure trove the two villains have collected, at one point he says (in my ebook version), "Niches here and there contained... the flesh and radiantly golden heads of new-buried children." Picturing that, I cringed. Wow, I said to myself after reading that. Not only the heads of small children, but they flayed off the flesh too. God, that's horrible.
Once I heard an audiobook version of the story, I realized that my copy was wrong. It should have been the "...fresh and radiantly golden heads of new-buried children." Ohhhh, I said to myself upon my new discovery. 'Fresh!' They were just cutting the heads off freshly buried children and taking them home as trophies; they didn't flay the flesh to keep as well. That's not quite so morbidly sinister. But honestly, in retrospect, is there truly any difference? LOL
A non-profit near and dear to my heart, the Peoria Ballet, is currently attempting to raise enough donations to purchase a beautiful hand-painted backdrop for their annual performance of The Nutcracker at the Peoria Civic Center.
The rental fees on this thing are exorbitant, so owning a brand new one outright would be a wonderful boon for the organization, as the financial burden of putting on this traditional show (now in its 30th year) would be eased significantly.
More and more, arts programs are being cut from public schools due to lack of funding. The Peoria Ballet's Nutcracker has a day devoted to two performances just for our local schools. Many of those children will be seeing a production like this for the very first time. Each year I watch from backstage or the side aisles as a hush of wonder falls over those kids when the curtains open. It's an amazing feeling to be a part of inspiring so many young minds at once like that. That is what this production is all about.
Please help the Peoria Ballet maintain the majesty of this gorgeous production while exposing new generations to the classical beauty of the art of ballet, inspiring the dancers of tomorrow year after year. Make your pledge today, even if you have never been to the ballet or live too far away to come take in the show. You can still make a difference.
Visit the Kickstarter page and help the Peoria Ballet keep this Peoria family holiday tradition going strong. And check out the cool PowerPoint video featured on the page. That's my work. Only took about four hours to throw together. :)
Herbert West: Reanimator was originally written as a serial that was published in several installments in a weird fiction magazine.
Watching the Reanimator movie again prompted me to finally read this short story. As much as I love the movie with all its campiness and over-the-top gore effects, I think I enjoyed the written version even more.
The story is told by our protagonist, who was a colleague of Dr. West and can only speak of the events which he shared with West in the most hushed of tones and with some fear and trepidation.
A bit of a longer read than the other pieces I've discussed, this one took me two sittings to digest.
In a nutshell, West is a medical student who believes that a man's life force is purely chemical and physical in nature. To wit, if one could procure a body in decent shape, one could effectively reanimate that corpse artificially and prolong life indefinitely.
Shunned by the science and medical departments at Miskatonic University, West turns rogue and begins terrible experiments to prove his theory.
Through one ghastly failed experiment after another, his creations (the ones that technically work but appear to be devoid of any intellect) escape and pop up later as monsters of a sort. West repeatedly blames the lack of freshly deceased specimens, and he begins his quest to try his procedure on fresher and fresher corpses, until the day comes when he kills a man himself in order to try his reanimation serum out on the freshest possible corpse.
In the end he gets what's coming to him, but I don't want to give it away.
It was definitely an enjoyable read - well written as always, with some great descriptions, genuinely creepy moments and some surprisingly laugh out loud humor. That last attribute I was not expecting. Lovecraft was apparently a pretty witty fellow somewhere behind that grim, long face.
Supernal: adj / of exceptional quality or extent / My second cousin Melvis is by far the most supernal numbskull with whom I ever had the displeasure of sharing a sham of a political discourse.
Sumptuary: adj / relating to laws limiting private expenditure on food or personal items / a communist society enacts sumptuary laws because a person's capital is best used on expenditures that benefit the community as a whole.
Acidulous: adj / sharp, bitter or mean-spirited / My seventh-grade social studies teacher had an acidulous way of responding to challenges to her flawed essay grading methods.
Lubberly: adj / big and clumsy; oafish / My supernally idiotic cousin Melvis was a lubberly fellow who reminded me a lot of John Coffey or the death-by-hugs guy from Of Mice and Men.
I had no idea what to expect when I started reading Pickman's Model. I was afraid it was going to be a dreamlike tale of building a model ship and sailing away to distant esoteric shores and such. I hate that "walking on moonbeams" crap. I'm happy to report, though, without spoiling anything, that it certainly ain't about model ship building and it ain't no boring Dream Cycle story. It's a doozy, too.
This story is told in a different fashion than any other Lovecraft tale I've read as yet, or any other story I've ever read come to think of it. We are told the story through the words of the narrator as he holds a conversation with a business acquaintance whose side of the discussion we are never privy to as readers. Think Bob Newhart's old phone call standup bits, or Clint Eastwood and his chair. I like the way Lovecraft used this style of narrative. It's a nice change of pace from his usual modus operandi.
The narrator is Mr. Thurber, a man nervously relating to his friend the story of why he suddenly and unexpectedly cut ties with a close friend of his who happened to be one of the hottest and well-known painters on the Boston art scene. He was particularly highly regarded for his ghoulish and fanciful pieces that were unlike any other current style in the market.
That painter's name was Richard Upton Pickman. And some time after the narrator cut ties with him, Pickman went missing.
Thurber describes to his friend the happenings of the time when he went to visit Pickman's studio space. He saw canvas upon canvas of very realistic and sometimes serene backgrounds crawling with horrific monstrosities, each one more disturbing and violent than the last.
The descriptions of the paintings made me think of the website dedicated to showing the works of people who procure art prints from rummage sales or thrift stores and then paint over them with foul creatures swarming a pristine farmhouse, squamous tentacles emerging from a placid lake, dead and rotting flesh dripping off the cheek of a previously innocent portrait subject, etc..
The scene in which he describes in detail the various horrible paintings in Pickman's studio, though not the climax, is definitely the highlight of the piece.
The "model" in the story relates to an artist's model. Pickman has a camera in his studio which he says he uses to photograph the backgrounds so he can look at the photos later in his studio and paint them without lookers-on or interruptions.
I will describe no more for fear of revealing spoilers. Please read the story yourself if you are interested. It can easily be consumed in one sitting, and it's worth the short amount of time invested.
This is one of my favorites so far because it skirts the line between simple, creepy dude story and infinitely powerful, cosmic monster from the void story. It doesn't lose itself in lengthy, circuitous descriptions of unimaginable things or places. Any color copy or descriptive text feels completely in place and helpful. And I only had to look up two words:
Parvenu: noun / someone who has recently or suddenly risen to a place of wealth or power but has not yet gained the prestige or manner associated with it. / To witness the true parvenu in action, observe the character Roseanne Conner, post-lottery win, as she orders an armload of greasy burgers at the drive-through window.
Mephitic: adj / Foul-smelling / Two hours after consuming an armload of greasy burgers in her car, the air trapped inside the enclosed vehicle became so mephitic as to throw the cameraman into full-on vomiting convulsions.