Friday, February 29, 2008

Don't Let Me Down, Marvel

So I just checked out the latest trailer for Iron Man. I must say, it's looks pretty bad ass. Robert Downey, Jr. seems to be the perfect Tony Stark and the story doesn't look like it'll be too cheesy. I'm only wondering if we're going to be treated to another Hulk where the majority of the movie is a long, slow build-up to when we actually get to see the super hero. It could definitely end up that way, but even if it does, I think Downey, Jr. is charismatic enough to keep things interesting. That was probably the biggest problem with the Hulk movie--Eric Bana was just really uninteresting.

I also hope they shore up the special effects a little as well. The last shot in the trailer looks like an ad for a new Xbox 360 game not a blockbuster movie. Given the amount of time until the movie hits theaters, I think they can smooth things out.

This is going to be a make or break movie for Marvel since it is the first one to come out of the Marvel owned movie studio. Whereas all of their past superhero movies have been from other studios who were licensing the use of their characters, this is a complete in-house project. I'm really, really, really hoping that it does well. Partially because I want to see more good superhero movies and partially because I own Marvel stock. If they can get some movies to really take a hold with the movie-going populace, it'll cause quite a nice uptick in share price, which I would most definitely not complain about.

I know I've been burnt in the past by awesome looking movie trailers that led up to supremely disappointing movies (I'm looking at you X-Men 3, Fantastic Four, and all of the Spider-Man flicks). I'll keep my fingers crossed, however, and keep my hopes as low as possible. And besides, if it sucks I have The Dark Knight to look forward to and there really is no way that could suck. Seriously.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bullet for My Valentine - Scream Aim Fire CD Review

The Poison was actually a pretty good release for what it was, which happened to be a less complex and friendlier version of Trivium. With Scream Aim Fire Bullet for My Valentine have actually went and pulled a Trivium in that they managed to change just enough to be way less enjoyable than their previous effort, much like what happened on The Crusade.

Most notably changed on this release is the vocal approach. The melodic vocals are not as smooth as in the past, probably in part due to Matthew Tuck’s severe laryngitis and tonsillectomy in 2006. The raspier vocals are not necessarily bad, but considering how crystal clear and glossy the rest of the band are, having this one rough edge is troublesome. If the songs themselves were of a grittier nature, it wouldn’t matter, but the fact is BFMV are a glossy band. Their debut EP, The Poison, and Scream Aim Fire all sport slick production values and a nice shiny gleam.

Speaking of shining up their album, there are a lot of little annoying things on this album that could no doubt have been fixed either while recording, mixing, or mastering the album, but were somehow left in place or, oddly, probably added during those processes. For instance, on the title track's later chorus chants, Tuck screams out, “Scream! Aim! Frrriiiiaaaaaarrrrrr!” Dude, say “fire”, I know you can do it. Being from South Wales is not an excuse. You named your album Scream Aim Fire, not Scream Aim Friar after all. Then there’s the hand claps in “Eye of the Storm”. Seriously? Are they really necessary? This isn’t a pop punk album. Then there’s the obviously campy 80’s hair metal gallop of “Hearts Bust into Fire”. I’m sorry, but 80’s hair metal will never make a comeback. Atreyu couldn’t do it and there’s no way BFMV will do it either. Speaking of 80’s hair metal, listen to the band as they sing the chorus to “Waking the Demon”. The synchronized, almost synth tinged melodies are a dead ringer for every arena rock band that has ever graced the radio airwaves.

And that’s just the first four songs. Now that’s not to say this entire album is terrible and cheesy because it is not. It gets better as it progresses. It’s mostly just a big let down after the decidedly fun The Poison. It is good to hear the band branching out and trying to incorporate some influences outside of Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Testament, but still, the majority of this album simply leaves you with a big, sighing feeling of… “Meh”. BFMV, years into their career, still haven’t managed to create their own identity and are instead merely expanding the amount of influences they try to fuse together.

Yeah, you could do a lot worse when it comes to trying to find modern metal bands, but you could find a lot better as well. BFMV’s dual guitar attack, competently structured songs, and somewhat interesting solos do lend this album to being very listenable, but in a very simplistic way. Metaphorically speaking, Scream Aim Fire might not be the steak dinner you are looking for when your stomach is growling, but it’s a nice little candy bar that will probably hold you over until you get to meal time.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Those Sad, Sad Timberwolves

Last night I managed to get to my second Minnesota Timberwolves basketball game of this season. Surprisingly, we won. It was only our 12th win all season, which next to our 43 losses so far looks pretty abysmal. But that's what happens when you trade away your franchise player and face of the team Kevin Garnett for a bunch of ok and/or unproven players. It's really sad that in one off season we went from a playoff caliber team to the second worst team in the NBA.

Earlier this season I made it to the T-Wolves final home preseason game and the Target Center was about half full, which was to be expected for a preseason game. Now, a few months later, at a regular season game against the number one team in our division, the Wolves couldn't even draw a half capacity crowd. At tip-off I'd say that the place was about a third full, and that's being generous. By the time the game was drawing to a close there was hardly a soul left in the arena. I've seen more people at high school games.

This pretty much goes to prove the point that Kevin Garnett was our team and was the draw for fans. Now we have what, Randy Foye? Al Jefferson? Rashad McCants? Come on. And of course we trade away Green at the deadline. The one guy who could maybe be a fun player in the future. It's frustrating to see how terribly managed this team is getting.

Yeah, it was fun to see us win, but it's one small positive in a season full of negatives, bone-headed moves, and a complete lack of enthusiasm by players and fans both. It's going to be a long few years until this team is anywhere close to decent again.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sneaky Pee-Man

Just a quick warning up front, this post involves bathroom talk so if you don't want to discuss what goes on in the rest room, turn away now., I've had an interesting set of occurrences at work recently. There has been three separate instances of the same situation happening. Most guys, especially when there are others present in the bathroom, wash their hands after taking a pee. Sometimes only to keep up the appearance that they do. I know many guys just skip that step when no one is around.

Anyways, last week I was hanging out in a stall taking care of my business when the bathroom door opened, someone entered, headed over to the urinal, and started taking care of his business. Once he finished, the first interesting thing happened--he didn't flush. Seriously, who doesn't flush a toilet when they're done? That's just bad etiquette. Then, the next thing I hear is the door to the bathroom opening and closing again. This guy also didn't wash his hands.

Ok, so maybe the guy was in a hurry or something and I can accept that sometimes you forget to flush, especially if there's something on your mind or you are in a hurry. The thing is, this situation has repeated itself TWO MORE TIMES! This leads me to believe I work with someone who does not believe in the concept of flushing or washing his hands, which is kind of hard to fathom because even toddlers get the concepts of flushing and washing.

If this situation ever arises again, I may just have to dart up, take off, and see who the heck this mystical person is. I need to know who this no-flush, no-wash man is...

Monday, February 25, 2008

More Bus Talk

So, two more things about buses. First, when a bus doesn't show up, whoever was responsible for the bus not arriving should be flogged and then drug behind the bus for the entire route. It's unbelievably annoying to have to wait, doing nothing, for an extra 30-45 minutes because a bus didn't show up. Especially when I'm standing outside in sub-freezing temperatures.

Second, on a positive note, bus rides can be very interesting at times. Not only on account of the somewhat interesting people that will ride the bus, but also because of the interesting bus drivers you can get. Every now and again I have some old, white haired woman who must be in her late 50's or early 60's who is actually a pretty decent driver. However, she finds it her solemn duty to inform everyone that gets off at every stop to have a wonderful evening and for peace and happiness to be with you. It's nice and all, but by the time I get off I've heard it about 15 times and am ready to strangle her to death.

Also, I recently had a middle aged bus driver who thought he'd give riders some background information on money laundering. "Ok everyone, do you see the fish and chips restaurant on the right up here? Now, think back to every time you've driven past it, either on the bus or on your own. Have you ever seen it open? Yeah, me neither. You see, this is what we call a money laundering front. No doubt some local drug dealers or other unsavory characters are using this supposed restaurant to launder their illegally gotten gains through. So if you ever come across a business that never appears to be open, it's probably a front for money laundering. Just thought I'd point that out to you. We'll be downtown shortly."


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Demon Hunter - Storm the Gates of Hell CD Review

Storm the Gates of Hell is Demon Hunter’s fourth album in their five year career and comes only a little more than a year after their last album, The Triptych. It’s been interesting to see how this band has progressed from their mysterious, enigmatic beginnings to their current radio-rock influenced nu-metal incarnation. It’s been a continual progression that has shown the band keeping certain elements consistent throughout each release, but continuing to soften their edge with each release.

Storm the Gates of Hell is easily the band’s least “heavy” album to date and shows the band focusing most of their efforts on putting together songs that are less concerned with brutal ferocity and more focused on bringing out their decidedly melodic moments. By doing this, the band is walking a fine line between appeasing current fans and appealing to a wider mainstream rock audience. It’s a line that they could have toed a little better, as Storm the Gates of Hell comes off as nothing more than a neutered version of the band creating watered down songs that lack the punch (both musically and lyrically) of past efforts.

The biggest change that you will notice is the severe lack of crunching breakdowns on this album. Sure, there are some pseudo-breakdowns here and there, but they’re extremely simplistic in nature. As opposed to previous albums where the crunching nu-metalcore beatdowns accentuated the melodic tendencies of the band, most of the songs here seem to include the heavy elements simply as an afterthought. There are a couple of exceptions, however. “I am You” is notable in that it has a heavy swagger that shows the direction the band should have traveled down -- the crunchy pre-chorus leads into a melodic, yet heavy, chorus followed later on by a meaty bridge before transitioning back into the heart of the song.

Another strong song is “Sixteen” (featuring Bruce Fitzhugh of Living Sacrifice fame). The first 50 seconds of the song lead up to the most pummeling breakdown of the album, which moves into a standard heavy verse, melodic chorus structured song (although it does have a nice drawn out bridge), but it is still a solid effort and shows the band writing a song that is catchily heavy.

Beyond the few strong songs, however, you’re going to be treated to some pretty simplistic lyrics tossed over bland, nu-metal inspired, radio friendly metalcore. It’s sad to see a band that has put out lyrically intelligent and musically competent albums in the past resorting to dumbing themselves down for a wider appeal. Let’s hope that this is simply a misstep that Demon Hunter will correct with their next album.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Friggin' Bus

If there was ever a day for the bus I take in to work to break down, today was not it. When I left the house this morning it was a whopping -9 degrees outside. Needless to say, waiting out on the corner of the street for my bus to magically appear was not a fun experience. True, I was only standing at the bus stop for probably 15 minutes, but it was a cold 15 minutes.

While I waited there, I thought back to when I was in middle school stuck riding the bus to school. I couldn't wait to get my license so that I could drive to school and bypass the 45 minute bus ride. When I finally received my license and ability to drive completely on my own that fateful March 18th, I thought I was free from the confines of bus interiors forever. Too bad I was totally wrong.

I still had to take buses to all of my away sporting events. And these bus rides sucked even harder than my everyday bus rides since they were usually just as long (if not longer) and usually had not only other kids packed into the bus, but sporting equipment as well. Track was the worst, but the best at the same time. As cramped as we were during track, I actually found myself enjoying my time spent with my fellow track runners.

Once high school was done, I was surely finished with bus riding, though. Right? Not so much. I just so happened to choose a college (St. John's University) that had a sister campus 7 miles away. I had many classes, intramurals, sports practices, and drinking activities at that campus and you can only guess how I got back and forth most of the time. Yep, by bus.

College came to an end and I had a couple of years without any run ins with buses and it was all good. However, once I moved to Minneapolis I found that it was so much more cost effective (and easier) to take public transit (ie: the bus) from home to work and back again... so here I am at 26 years of age--a decade after I thought I was free from buses--still using them just about every day.

It's crazy to think about, but I'll probably be utilizing the bus routes for the foreseeable future. It just makes way more sense than driving. So I've learned to embrace the bus. Instead of it being a royal pain in my ass, it has become my time to veg out and decompress after the day is over, or to attempt to start waking up on my way in to work. It's nice, actually.

Just goes to prove how dumb I was at 16 years of age.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The 10 Best CDs of 2007 (According to Me)

10. Explosions in the Sky - All of the Sudden I Miss Everyone

All of the Sudden I Miss Everyone It seems like a lot of people were disappointed in this album, but for me this was a beautifully created effort. And if you consider the bonus remix disc when rating this album, it gets even better. There aren't a lot of bands that can weave the atmospheric soundscapes in the particular way EITS do. There's simply something unique about their approach that clicks with me. This is a great album to relax to.

9. August Burns Red - Messengers

Messengers This album has functioned as my weightlifting soundtrack for the last few months. The plethora of blast beats, breakdowns, aggressive vocals, and all around badass-ery gets the blood pumping with each listen. In a scene where bands are content to recycle the same songs over and over and listeners are content to listen to the same recycled crap over and over, hearing a metalcore album that manages to pack this much raw power into 11 songs is unbelievably refreshing. This CD is a powerful kick to the balls, in a good way.

8. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - In Glorious Times

In Glorious Times This is avant-garde, progressive, pseudo-pretentious music at its finest! From the 10 minute opener "The Companions" to the dark twang of "Angle of Repose" to the Oriental flavored "The Widening Eye", there are more genres touched by SGM than you can possibly imagine. To top it all off, the band not only plays traditional instruments, but also integrates a slew of homemade sound-making creations. This album is crazy, as well as crazy-good.

7. Dance Gavin Dance - Downtown Battle Mountain

Downtown Battle Mountain This is such a puzzling release. Initially I thought it was bland, boring crap (probably because they were signed to Rise Records). Then I actually listened to the album. Turns out it is actually pretty damn good. The soaring melodic vocals careening over the post-hardcore instrumentation is what makes this album work. The harsh vocals are a little oft-putting at times, but they'll grow on you. Surprisingly, the instrumentation is actually pretty mature, which I wasn't expecting but later realized helped make this album work. The band strikes the perfect dichotomy between Circa Survive melancholy and mid-career Dead Poetic screamo.

6. As I Lay Dying - An Ocean Between Us

An Ocean Between Us In talking about this album with people, it seems that most people either think it is a big disappointment or some of the best stuff AILD has ever done. From the album's presence in my top 10, I fall into the latter camp. AILD has upped the ante, keeping their sound heavy and maturing their songwriting techniques. People who criticize the "slower" songs I don't think really appreciate the maturity it shows the band having. Once again, As I Lay Dying has created a metalcore gem that is the pinnacle of the genre. And I dare you to find a better one-two punch than "Nothing Left" and "An Ocean Between Us".

5. Machine Head - The Blackening

The Blackening This is metal. Balls out metal. Pedal to the floor metal. Groove-filled, thrash influenced, heavy metal. Who would have thought that Machine Head would be able to top Through the Ashes of Empires? I was expecting this to be a good album, but not as ragingly aggressive as it is. Even the one pseudo-ballad, "Halo", pummels through you. Some may knock this album as being self-indulgent with the 9-10 minute length songs, but I disagree wholeheartedly. Each song is a metal epic all its own. This is a tough metal album to top and I don't know if there will be any bands to do it in the near future.

4. Holy Roman Empire - The Longue Duree

The Longue Duree I really haven't understood all of the hubub around Paramore this year. They aren't really anything more than Fall Out Boy with a female singer. Similar in some small ways to Paramore, Holy Roman Empire are a female fronted post-hardcore/punk band, but the difference is simply the level of maturity between the two bands. Whereas Paramore is a manufactured, cliched, run-of-the-mill band, Holy Roman Empire uses the years of experience that the members of the band possess to craft songs that are both heavy and friendly at the same time. This is the band that everyone should be hopping on the bandwagon for, not that lame ass Paramore band.

3. Strata - Presents the End of the World

Presents the End of the World It's hard to imagine that this is the same band that released their self titled album in 2004. No longer are Strata a hard rock band, but instead they've grown into a very Dredg inspired, versatile, and mature group. It's hard not to have your heart stolen by songs such as "Hot/Cold (Darling, Don't)" and "Coma Therapy". Strata has put all of their emotion on their collective sleeves and reinvented themselves into an infectious modern rock band.

2. Oceansize - Frames

Frames Oceansize is, quite simply, an amazing band. They have yet to release an album that is lackluster and Frames is yet another example of why this band is so good. In the course of nine songs, the band again runs the gamut of progressive rock, creating songs that have no regard for length, structure, or predetermined ideas. Letting songs run their course, no matter how long or short (the shortest song is 6:30 and there are four tracks over 10 minutes in length), Oceansize simply creates gorgeous music. Anyone unable to appreciate what this band does is really missing out.

1. Alcest - Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde

Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde It's hard to really put into words how I view this album. The easiest thing to do is describe it--shoegazer folk pop (and some would throw metal in there, but I sure don't hear much of it)--but that doesn't explain how emotionally personal this album is. Each track (the shortest being a little over 6 minutes long) is simply bathed in the beautiful melancholy of life. The combination of the wall of sound guitars, light rhythm section, acoustic guitars, and ethereal vocals produces a mix of amazing sounds that, despite their differences, go together perfectly. Alcest bleeds life into every song and this is by far the most beautiful album of 2007.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Symbolism Everywhere

Isn't it nice to be able to just shut your brain off, chill out, and not think about a damn thing? Your mind a blank slate, nothing running through it, and everything is just on pause... relaxing, isn't it? Be thankful if you can do it. I can't. Sure, I can try to veg out, but no matter how hard I try to flick the off switch on my brain, it never completely powers down. It's both a blessing and a curse. Some days it would be wonderful to be able to go blank, sit back, and let myself be enamored by the garbage dump of reality programming on tv, but then I realize I actually don't know if I would want that.

I'm not going to lie, having a brain that soaks up everything and whose gears are constantly turning has its benefits. There's no way I would have been valedictorian or graduated cum laude from college or made it as far in my job as I have without being able to be always thinking, processing, and analyzing everything that I take in. It's given me an advantage in life that not many people have.

It's also helped me to understand things way beyond my years. I've had multiple people tell me that I'm an "old soul", which was a phrase I had never heard before. In looking up the euphemism, I found that an old soul was someone who was wise to the world, weathered to the everyday storms of life, level-headed, empathic, and often understanding of the uniqueness of every experience. Is that really me? Probably. Is that what I really want to be? I don't know.

Sometimes it would be nice to go through life not realizing every consequence of every action you take, to live impulsively, to live selfishly, and to be ignorant when faced with a lose-lose situation. So many people do live that way, but I don't. I can't. And I don't want to, despite all of the downsides that come with it.

And this is all just my rambling in a long-winded lead up to mentioning two small events which most people wouldn't even consider worthwhile of any attention or a second thought. Ever since my freshman year of college, I have worn two necklaces--one being a cross on a silver chain and the other being any random necklace I felt like wearing for the week. If I didn't have two necklaces on, I would feel naked, incomplete, and exposed.

In the last couple of days, I've had two necklaces break on me. The first time was at home and I could have easily went to replace it, but chose not to until the next day. The second time it happened at work and I was forced to spend the entire day without it... and unlike the previous time, I craved having something back on my neck. I was forced to be open and exposed and I hated it.

They're just necklaces, and it was just a coincidence that two broke so close together. But that's not how it is for me. These seemingly insignificant events have brought about hours of analyzing the symbolism behind what this "coincidence" could mean or represent. I also reflect on how I felt to be so exposed, to have something missing that is always there. And I forced myself to go without a necklace again today, forcing myself to still be exposed, to be naked, to explore things outside of what I was used to for so long.

Yeah, I know this is a pretty lame, emo-tinged, overly dramatic rambling, but sometimes I wonder if anyone ever takes the time to sit back and think about all of the small things in life any more. I want to know I'm not the only one who sits around wondering if there's symbolism in even the tiniest events. I hope so...

Monday, February 11, 2008

I Never Knew

That I'm only about a month younger than Paris Hilton. I thought for sure this skeez-bag was way older than me, like in her whoring early 30's or something. It's a little bit of a shot to the brain to realize that, if circumstances were bizarrely different, Paris Hilton and I could have potentially been in the same peer group. *Shudder* I can feel myself getting herpes just thinking about it.

On the other hand, it was always kind of fun to know that Jessica Alba was the same age as me. Now I definitely wouldn't have complained if I was in her circle of friends, although I'm pretty sure I'd have been booted out of that circle after a few days... and kidnapping attempts. Really, who wouldn't try to kidnap Jessica Alba, make her wear a homemade Invisible Girl outfit, and lock her up in a basement? I can't be the only one...

Hmmm... I'm now really interested to see what the Google ads in the sidebar will start displaying after mentioning both Paris Hilton and Jessica Alba in the same post.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Me Day

You know how I said I haven't really had a chance to have any "Rick time" lately? Seems like fate was listening in and is giving me an entire day tomorrow by myself. The roommates are heading out of town. So is the gf. And so are most of my other friends. This leaves me at home, by myself, hanging out with the cats. What am I ever going to do with all of that time? Sadly, I have it all planned out already. There's just too much stuff I want to do.

First, I think I'll sleep in until 7:00 or maybe even 7:30. Then I'll get up to have my morning coffee and do some reading down by the fire place with some music playing in the background. Once I get through all of my coffee, it'll be time to start cleaning. The house is desperately in need of a vacuuming and dusting and general clean up so I'm actually looking forward to digging into cleaning. I can only take messiness and dirtiness to a certain point and then I am compelled to clean.

With the cleaning mostly out of the way, I might lay down on the couch to watch some Battlestar Galactica and X-Files before I take a late morning or early afternoon nap. Once I get up, I'll probably make my way over to the gym to put in some miles and do some lifting. Once I get back and get all cleaned up, I'll get to work finishing off some work that I have to do for Decoy Music, as well as some stuff that got put on the back burner at work this week. By the time I'm done with that, it'll be supper time. I'll probably cook myself some Asian food and have a beer or glass of wine (depending upon my mood) and enjoy my meal in front of the television.

The rest of the evening I'll either head out with some friends who are getting back in to town late or, if they're not back, pop in a movie or sit down for a reading marathon.

Who would have thought having a planned out day such as that would be something I'm anticipating like you can't believe. Sometimes you just need a day or two to yourself. As much as I'm a people person, I do have my times when I need some solitary confinement and tomorrow will be that day.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Once Nothing - First Came the Law CD Review

Recently there really hasn’t been anything coming out of the Solid State Records camp to get hyped up about. Demon Hunter put out the quite underwhelming Storm the Gates of Hell. Oh Sleeper weren’t really anything to write home about and didn’t possess anything unique. Cry of the Afflicted showed that they don’t know how to do anything more than blatantly rip off Saosin. Haste the Day’s latest was a joke. It’s simply been a tough time for the Tooth & Nail Records imprint. Trying to break out of their slump, they’ve put out the debut album from Once Nothing -- First Came the Law.

It’s totally understandable if you really don’t have any burning desire to give these guys a chance considering their label’s recent track record, but you’ll really be missing out on a great album if you let this one slide by. Truthfully, Once Nothing are doing nothing utterly unique or ground breaking, but it’s readily apparent that they know this. They know the confines and stigma attached to the genres that they’re blending together into a potent mix of southern rock and crushing metalcore spiced up with some Botch and Norma Jean influences. Because they are quite self aware of what their musical climate is, they are able to play to the strengths of having that knowledge.

Southern metal, arguably, has been done to done to death lately, with the genre even influencing some decidedly un-southern bands (check out Still Remains' latest for a prime example), and there have been some great albums to surface in the last year that take the southern metal genre to their pinnacle, like the latest albums from Maylene and the Sons of Disaster and Down. However, this doesn’t stop Once Nothing from giving it a go and giving us one hell of a ride.

Throughout most of the album, you’ll hear a band that has a swagger, a lot of confidence in themselves, and the ability to drill through you with some heavy as hell breakdowns & riffs. Some of this is no doubt due to the immaculate production that is a staple of Solid State releases. Every level has been perfectly set and when songs are supposed to hit you, they freaking hit you.

Now, having said that, this album does have a few weak points, foremost being the fact that many people will think that this is nothing more than a band hopping on a popular trend. If that’s why the band came together and wrote this album, well, so be it. That doesn’t change the fact that they know how to write some quality southern metalcore, especially when it comes to getting the vocals down. There’s no clean singing here. It’s all gritty, whiskey soaked and loud. Well, except on “My Sweet Medusa”, which happens to be another weak point. The song is an acoustic number complete with harmonica and sung vocals… placed right in the middle of the album, totally destroying any pace the album had going for it. The final track, “…And Then Came Grace”, is also extremely weak, but outside of those two tracks, you’ve still got 10 solid tunes.

And how solid those tracks are. Really, when I think about it, this is what the latest record from The Showdown should have sounded like instead of the watered down tripe they called a sophomore effort. Seamlessly switching gears between bludgeoning metalcore breakdowns and groovy, thick southern rock licks is what this band does best. They may telegraph their transitions, but it's done it a way that actually helps the songwriting instead of hindering it. If only more bands could be this solid on their debut albums.

Southern metal hasn’t quite reached its saturation point yet, but it could be getting there soon. Before that happens, however, make sure to give Once Nothing a listen. They know what they’re doing -- creating huge songs that will keep you spin-kicking the night away, all while wearing a cowboy hat and set of spurs.

Holy Crap

Has it really been like three weeks since I've posted anything? I know it's been a while, but I didn't know it was that long. Guess I've been way more busy that I thought I was. In all honesty, though, it has been an extremely busy few weeks and at times I feel like there is rarely a moment I have to actually just slow down and have some quality "Rick time", but that might not always be a bad thing since it means I'm not bored, but sometimes you just need to be bored, right? You need to give your brain a chance to slow back down. So what have I been up to? Gosh, too much. And since it's been so long, here's a nice, cute, bulleted list of random crap.

  • I was in Orlando for work for a few days. It was nice to escape the record setting cold of Minnesota, but since it was a work trip I didn't get to actually do anything fun while I was there.
  • I was also in Chicago for a few days for work. Again, it was for work so there was no real chance to do anything on my own. Went out to dinner at a really nice restaurant, but that was really the highlight of the trip.
  • Worked on Decoy Music's top albums feature. That was a ton of work compiling everything, entering it into the database, and just doing work to get it to display right. Go check it out and find some good music to listen to.
  • Finished out our broomball season with a record of 3-1-1. It was a pretty good season and was over way too quick. Our last game was pretty rough. We played a team full of dickheads that like to take cheap shots and cross check at will, so much so that one of their players eventually got ejected from the game. I was pretty battered and bruised after the game, but we ended up winning, which felt awesome.
  • Continuing to play winter league ultimate. After starting with some strong wins, we've been on a slight slide with a tie and a loss and a close win the last three weeks.
  • Went out to the Guthrie to see Peer Gynt. It was a fine play, funny, interesting, and well executed. The only issue I had with it is that some scenes were a little long and the entire play could have been reigned in a little, but that's a minor quibble.
  • Plugging away at work on some projects that are all coming to a head here in the months of February and March. It's been hectic, stressful, and busy, but it'll be great when it is all over.
So, yeah, I'll try to get back on the writing horse here, and hopefully not be out of the loop for so long.