Saturday, July 31, 2010


As said in yesterday's piece, the goalie mask is a good way to express yourself.  Today's mask, or I should say "masks," do just that.

Take a good look at the picture above.  Notice something about the three masks in the picture?  If you guessed that the creature on all three masks is Eddie the Iron Maiden mascot, then you are correct.  Now, I know what you're saying, and yes, there were three different masks that had the Iron Maiden icon on them.  What you may not know is that they are all attributed to one man: Roman Turek.

Turek was an NHL goaltender in the late 90's to mid 2000's and played on three teams in that time: the Dallas Stars (top), St. Louis Blues (lower left), and Calgary Flames (lower right).  His best years were in St. Louis, leading them to the conference finals in 2001, but many who consider themselves heavy metal fans will remember the masks the most.  Good thing, since most of his numbers were above average, but hardly Hall of Fame worthy.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Shark

As many of you know by now just by reading this rag, one of the things that I cover that is hockey related is unusual jerseys.  What you may not know is what it was that got me into hockey in the first place.  Today, you will get to see an example of what got me into hockey.  For years, the one thing that has always fascinated me has been the goalie masks.  I've always wanted one in the style that best expresses who I am, and in many respects, that is exactly what a goalie mask is about.  Sure, it has to fit within the confines of the team that you play for, but other than color scheme, the mask is about you, Mr. Flaky Goalie (and I mean that with respect, as I think of myself as one, even though I'm a buck-forty with a brick in the pocket).

So, what would be the best mask to begin this discussion?  Why, it would be what you see in the picture above.  When the San Jose Sharks began play in 1991, their color scheme of black and teal didn't exactly intimidate opposing players.  So, in an attempt to give the team identity, goalie Brian Hayward decided to don this beauty you see here.  It looks like he's peering from the mouth of a shark, which was one of the few highlights of that season, as it didn't help him with his game that year.  To be fair, many expansion teams rarely ever do well in their first years in existence.  Hayward had a so-so career (to put it politely), but the mask lives on in the annals of great hockey masks.  It sparked the beginning of the modern day goalie mask designs, as many others have followed suit.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Il Gatto a Nove Code

Remember when I said that I would try to get through Dario Argento's Cat O'Nine Tails?  You don't?  For the sake of this piece, let's say that you did, and for the record, I could not.  Was the movie terrible?  No, but it felt like an eternity to even try and get through the first 30 minutes.  I realize that many giallos are like this, but this movie felt like it was moving even slower than usual.

The plot of the movie is that a blind man (Karl Malden) with the assistance of his niece overhears a conversation between two men outside of a laboratory near his residence.  A few hours later, one of the guards gets killed and something important is missing from the lab.  The man finds out about this because his niece reads him the news.  Soon, the man and a snoopy journalist are on the case to determine who is behind the murders.  I say murders because like many giallos, anyone who holds key information for the main protagonists is usually killed off.

Along with Mother of Tears, I found this movie difficult to sit through, though the reasons for it are different from the most recent Argento piece.  Cat O'Nine Tails just happens to run slower than most movies feel, the production is fairly grainy, and the death scenes aren't quite spectacular (though to be fair, Argento didn't have many in the Animal trilogy, as this was part two of that).  Saying that, there is a murder mystery element that keeps the viewer in suspense until the end.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Headlocks and Takedowns (Yes, another wrestling piece)

Last night was a time to rest from the last seven days of metal, so in an effort to try and catch up on movies, I attempted to watch Dario Argento's Cat O'Nine Tails.  Unfortunately, I think this will be a test to see if I can make it through, since the movie runs slower than I would like.  After about 30 minutes or so, I scrapped it, for now, in favor of some WWE and the Hell in a Cell compilation.  In case you don't know what Hell in a Cell is, here is a sample of what has happened in such a match:

The matches I saw last night were on disc two, and the ones I managed to get through were HHH vs. Chris Jericho from 2002 and Undertaker (when he was in his biker phase) vs. Brock Lesnar, which was also from 2002.  And in case you're asking, people really do get hurt in these kinds of matches.  I know what you're thinking, and yes, it is scripted.  However, one wrong move, and the line between real and fake gets dangerously blurred.

The concept, in recent years, has been watered down with the WWE deciding to name its PPVs after matches such as this and having more matches with an alarming frequency.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thrashers Home Jersey

When I write about the most unusual jerseys of all time, I try not to make it about something that is still in use.  However, this entry has been bugging me for a while to the point that I can no longer ignore it.

Every year since the 2004 season, I have always asked the following question about the Atlanta Thrashers (other than why can't they be competitive in their own division): What the hell is up with their home jerseys?  The first image you see is the original incarnation of the Thrashers' current home unis.  As you can see, this is one of the most unusual, if not downright ugliest jerseys of all time.  Originally introduced as a third jersey, it eventually became the home jersey, replacing the jersey you see below:

Now, what was wrong with this jersey, other than the fact that the logo on the front is one of the worst of all time?  All one would have had to do was switch the logo on the front with the one on the shoulders.  As if that wasn't enough, when Reebok decided to make their Edge jerseys, every team had to adjust their jerseys to fit according to the design of the jersey.  Here is Atlanta's home jersey design, in accordance to the RBK Edge look:

The look is marginally better, as there isn't that blue blob running from the armpit down the sides.  However, that design on the left sleeve, namely the "ATLANTA" running down the side, combined with nothing really going down the right side kind of makes you wonder who in their right mind would want to be wearing this jersey 30 games or so out of the year.  I say 30 because Atlanta has a third jersey, which looks like this:

If the hockey Gods are kind, this would be the team's new home jersey and perhaps we can finally put an end to the ridiculous notion that the current home Thrashers jerseys are an acceptable look.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tables, Ladders, and Chairs!

The last seven days have been pretty hectic, with five metal shows (if you count tonight and tomorrow) happening within a ten day period, and technology being uncooperative with me.  So, you could imagine things being like the comet in the picture: coming down at a blistering pace and no way to stop it.  I still haven't gotten to some of the movies that I have wanted to get to, and the book reading has been at a slow crawl (what else is new?).  And since I had to back up some stuff from the old laptop, pics and a video from Friday will have to wait another day, since I left it at home (along with my house key).

That's been my week in a nut shell.  What about yours?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Foligno Hop

It's been a few days since the last piece due to lack of ideas.  So, to keep things going, here's the Foligno Hop.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 3 of ProgPower from 2007

Once again, I found this post for Saturday's ProgPower VII, and copied and pasted, so hooray for laziness.

It's Saturday, and the final night of ProgPower for 2007.  This time, we made it to the venue on time, largely because Jodi didn't want to miss Firewind.  Fire wind took the stage around 4 PM with vocalist Henning Basse filling in for Apollo.  Henning proved to be an even better fit for the band, at least on the live set.  Gus G was good, as usual, but it was the other guitarist that stole the show by playing solos on the guitar and keyboards at the same time.  Even a former Firewind vocalist made an appearance during the set.  At some point towards the end, I left to get a spot in line for the After Forever signing session.  If Firewind was a sign of things to come for the evening, then it was going to a great evening.

Next to hit the stage was Threshold.  I missed much of their set, but managed to catch enough to at least be intrigued by them.  Fast forward to Primal Fear, who was one of the more anticipated bands on the bill.  They were in promotion of their new album, which unless you were at ProgPower this year or have access to the European distribution stores, you will have to wait for it in the U.S. until January.  They did play four songs off the new album and they sounded good, but the highlight of the evening was the closer, Metal is Forever.  There is a line that best sums up the whole experience: Metal is forever; nations come together.  How true.

The last band to hit the stage before the All-Star Jam was After Forever, who was making their first foray onto North American soil.  For me, this was the show stealer of the evening outside of the All-Star Jam, as vocalist Floor Janssen showed a great deal of energy.  They were promoting their new self-titled album and even played a few songs off of the album.  Included in the set list was the Metallica cover of For Whom the Bell Tolls(sorry, Floor wasn't singing on this one) and a snippet of Enter Sandman.  I was actually at the railing in front this time, so I got to see everything, including powerful ballads.

The All-Star Jam was the last thing to go on and much of the supporting band was provided by Pagan's Mind.  Vocalists for the session included Floor from After Forever, Ralf and Mat from Primal Fear, Nik from Redemption, Zak Stevens from Circle II Circle, Nils from Pagan's Mind, the Freak Kitchen guys, Lance King from Krucible, Bill, Chris, and Mike from Cellador, one of the Threshold guys, Gus G and Henning from Firewind, one of the Raintime guys, and the lead vocalist from Communic.  This was clearly the highlight of the evening and didn't end until around 2: 30 AM.  Afterwards, we got to hang with the guys in Communic and Ralf from Primal Fear.  I even got to say hello to some of the guys in After Forever.  As with all good things, they had to come to an end and that also meant no sleep for me until I got home, as I had to go back to the hotel at 4 AM and pack.

Other notes: That weekend marked the first time that I was on an airplane.  They always say waiting is the hardest part, but the second hardest part is not being able to do much on the plane.  Since then, I've always tried to make it a point to be able to leave a little later than 7 AM for the airport, if possible.  That way, I can actually get sleep if I happen to be out the evening before.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

17 Years? Really?

Today, I postpone writing the Saturday happenings of ProgPower VIII so I can bring you an opinion piece.  Many of you know that I follow hockey, and imaginably, there are a few of you that are wondering (or not) what I think of left winger Ilya Kovalchuk resigning with the New Jersey Devils for 17 years and $102 million.

Before I sound off on the deal, I would like to say that any team would benefit from having a perennial 40 goal scorer...if they can handle getting next to nothing on defense.  I believe that the Devils and Los Angeles Kings (the other team interested in bringing in Kovalchuk) were the best destinations.  However, the reported contract demands prevented him from being signed until yesterday, about 19 days after the NHL free agency began.  Money is not the issue with me as far as Kovalchuk is concerned.  Yes, he doesn't play defense like Alexander Ovechkin does, but then again, neither one really shines their brightest when the playoffs arrive (see last season for an example).  Remember, if you were to sign Kovalchuk, it would be to score goals, and he does that, a lot.  My issue is length: 17 years?  What were the Devils thinking?  You cannot tell me that he will still be in the NHL at age 44, let alone, still be with the Devils.  Did the Devils not learn from their tri-state rival New York Islanders and their mistakes?  For those of you who aren't familiar with the Islanders and their blunders, here are their two best examples.

1. When the Islanders acquired center Alexei Yashin from the Ottawa Senators in June of 2001, the Islanders signed him to a 10 year, $87 million contract.  After the 2007 season, the Islanders ate that contract, allowing him to leave for a league in Russia, all with the Islanders having to pay the remainder of that contract.

2. Prior to the 15 year, $67 million contract that he signed prior to the 2006-2007 season, goaltender Rick DiPietro was a rising star.  Since then?  A string of concussions and other injuries have left him a shell of his former self.  It is uncertain when he will play again for the Islanders, or for any other team, for that matter.

Now, back to the Devils: the Kovalchuk signing is a huge gamble, where more often than not, the team loses. 17 years is way too much of a committment to one player; heck, very few players even play 17 years in their professional career.  Let's hope for Kovalchuk's sake that the Devils win a Stanley Cup or two during the life of the contract with him on the team.

UPDATE: It looks like the NHL agrees, since they rejected the deal.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Advent of Biffle 3:12

I managed to find my write up for the Friday edition of ProgPower VIII, so rather than retype it, I copied and pasted.  Lazy of me, I know.

Friday didn't officially begin until about an hour or two before the show began, as just about everyone slept until that point.  We actually arrived late at the venue, as we had to eat and got caught in traffic.  That meant missing Raintime, which wouldn't have meant says Scott.  By the time we got to the venue, Communic was about to hit the stage.  They actually put on a great show for a band with relatively little stage experience compared to some of the other acts.  I caught much of the set before I had to try and secure a spot in line for the Sonata Arctica autograph session.  I missed the Virgin Steele set, so I have nothing there.

Next band to play after Virgin Steele was Redemption, who are one of the rising stars in the progressive metal scene.  Listening to the CDs do not do the band justice, as they are even better live.  Vocalist Nik van Dyk had missed some time from the tour with Dream Theater, but he was in rare form that evening.  I was pleasantly surprised about the band's ability to hit the notes well without it sounding too far off.  This is one of the bands that I wouldn't mind seeing again.
Pagan's Mind was next and for the most part, the crowd on the floor was virtually squeezing in just to see them.  I caught three songs from their set on the floor before I got squeezed out into the lobby, where I caught the rest of the set.  Overall, it didn't seem that the band was missing much, given the recent events concerning a former member.  Vocalist Nils K. Rue had a powerful enough voice to bring the aural assault to even the last row in the upper reaches of the venue.

It wasn't until around midnight that Sonata Arctica took the stage.  Having been a fan of theirs since Silence came out in 2001, and having heard countless good things about their live shows and even watching the live DVD, I actually kept a small inkling of concern that the band was going to fall short on the expectations.  Once the first notes to "In Black and White" hit, those thoughts went away and I was immediately immersed in the sound, as I was within two to three spots of the front of the stage barrier.  There wasn't as much humor during this performance as there was the DVD, but there was enough to keep the crowd loose.  The new guitarist showed that he could more than hold his own with the band.  Highlights included Tallulah, Full Moon, 8th Commandment, and a snippet of Stratovarius' 4000 Rainy Nights.  The sing-a-long preceeding the encore was Ol' MacDonald.  The set ended around 1:30 AM and afterwards everyone in the group decided to go to the post-party with a few of the guys in Cellador.  That lasted until around 4 AM, when we got back to the hotel and crashed for the evening.

P.S. This was also the introduction of sorts of the man referenced in the title.  If you hear stories about Biffle 3:12, that would a guy from Kansas who got obnoxiously drunk.  A few of you may know him as Biffle, and some of you may know him as Ian...I know him as "Shitbag."  And if a girl in a Stratovarius shirt likes the shirt you're wearing, then you know that the night is great.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Annual "Summer Can Piss Off" Spiel

Since this coming week the temperatures in the Midwest are going to be in the upper 90's with a heat index of 105 (maybe higher), I can't put off writing a "Summer Sucks" piece any longer.  Sure, I had opportunities before I left for New Mexico last month and when I came back a week later.  However, today is the breaking point for this rant.

As many of you know, I am a Winter person, so any excuse to break out long sleeves I have, I will take.  Is there any redeeming qualities to Summer besides the fact that really good looking women wear less?  Well, if I was writing this in New Mexico, I would say that Summer is brutal, but with some incredibly cool mornings. Such is not the case in Kansas City, though, and that is why I would like to punch the sun in the face.  It might as well be Death Valley the way it is going here.

Bug Off!

I know I missed a day, but summertime colds are a bitch.  I still have this problem, but I have something to write about.  The Friday and Saturday events of ProgPower VIII autobiography will wait until tomorrow so that I may bring you a really old movie.

The Wasp Woman was a Roger Corman movie that featured some incredibly lo-fi effects and was one of the first B-movies made.  The basic story: a scientist offers an aging cosmetics president a serum that would make her look younger.  The serum? Something taken from the wasps that he collected.  The serum works, but it also turns her into a hideous wasp-like creature.

The movie is in black and white, which covers up some flaws within the movie.  The "wasp woman" looks more like a third grader's project of Cat Woman.

In addition, there isn't much in the way of either actual horror or for that matter, science fiction.  It plays out more like a 50's television show, which is one of the charms of the movie.  Overall, The Wasp Woman is the definition of B-movie, but not a total waste of 73 minutes.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My First Metal Journey, part I

Writing about the Lost in Manhattan (Kansas) piece yesterday got me to thinking about what else happened in some of my other Metal Night adventures.  What would be a better night to talk about than the first such time that I have had Metal Night, or as today's piece will indicate, Metal Weekend.

It was October 2007 on that first Thursday morning when I made my way to the airport for what would be my first trip without family.  That morning, I was to head to Atlanta, GA for ProgPower VIII, with a stop in Denver.  They always say waiting is the hardest part, and the two hours that I had to wait until the plane left were the longest.  Since this was the first time that I was going to be away from family, naturally, my family had their share of worries about me.  I got into Atlanta about 2 PM their time, and as per the agreement for when I got in, I had to phone them to say I made it in one piece.  Atlanta's airport is one really long walk from where you get off the plane to where you had to pick up your baggage.  The trains that they had going between terminals are only marginal help, as many take it, which makes the time between two spots rather pointless.  At some point, I phone a friend of mine who was already at the hotel where I would be staying that I made it in, and had to call when I got there.  That would take a while, as the shuttle I got on made a detour to Cobb County to drop off a couple of folks before heading to the hotel where I would be staying.  I got there, and there wasn't much time to relax, so I changed shirts and me and the two people I was staying with all headed out to the venue, which by the way, would be the only time that we would have to take a cab to the venue, as I will explain later.  When we got to the venue, we find out that Vanden Plas, a band that was supposed to play that evening, had to drop off the bill due to visa issues.  So, to kill time, we headed to the nearest bar and grill for food and beer.  Incidentally, that would be the cheapest that I would have to pay for a beer that weekend.

Opening the evening's show was a local band called Halcyon Way, who I only remember because they had a belly dancer on stage with them for the first and last song of their set.  Next on stage was Krucible, which was one of the bands fronted by Nightmare Records owner Lance King.  They were alright to the point where I even bought a shirt.  It was before Cellador hit the stage that we, the people that were there already, met up with the couple from Las Vegas, NV.  They had gotten in later than us, and adding to their lateness was the pickup of a rental vehicle.  And given that Atlanta was a money drain, that kind of thing was greatly appreciated.  Back to the show itself, the Living For Metal Weekend was in full force, as four of the five in the group were a part of the webzine in its heyday.  Cellador hit the stage, and for all of the flack that they get for their age, they did put on a great show that evening.  Closing the evening was Freak Kitchen, a weird progressive metal band from Sweden.  Read that last part for a second, and tell me if that sounded redundant because the words "weird" and "Sweden" are almost synonymous with one another.  The band put on a show that many enjoyed.  We got back to the hotel about 12:30 AM, since there wasn't any parties going on at the nearest hotel from the venue, but not before some goofy pictures took place in the SUV.  If I find them, I will have them up somewhere.

Friday and Saturday will have to wait for another day.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lost in Manhattan (Kansas)

If I ever get an opportunity to write my own autobiography, there is much assurance that the mini-Metal music experience known as Lost in Manhattan (Kansas) will have its very own chapter.  Beginning that fateful Thursday evening would be a 36 hour period that would see drinking, partying, and other wackiness that comes with metal music nights.

The adventure began one September evening on a Thursday, when the Canadian trio Cauldron came through Kansas City for a show along with the Swedish band Enforcer.  For that show, five bands played: Ancient Creation, Meatshank, Vanlade, Cauldron, and Enforcer.  Despite it being a good show, there weren't many people at the show, as it unfortunately had to compete with another show a couple of blocks away.  The fact that it was also a Thursday also didn't help, as that is one of the quietest days for evening entertainment.  Friday morning wasn't kind to me, as I had headache issues (Gee, I wonder how that happened?).  While trying to recover, I got a text from a friend of mine who wasn't present at the show the previous evening.  She had asked if I wanted to tag along for the road trip out to Manhattan, KS for (wait for it) Cauldron and Enforcer.  I said I would think about it (read: see if the headache would go away long enough for me to accept), and did just about everything to get rid of the headache.  Okay, so that was a lie, I didn't do anything about the headache until I picked up a couple of Tylenols and downed them along with some hot tea in the afternoon.  Decision time came about 3 PM, when the friend asked if I made up my mind. I accepted, and the wait began.  We left for Manhattan about 5:30 PM, but not before getting lost in the casino parking lot because we were to meet another person who was also tagging along.  As we were going through Kansas City, KS (yes, there are two towns called Kansas City), another friend asks if he can join in. To make that happen, we had to stop in Lawrence, KS and pick him up from a bar.  Before long, it was off to Manhattan, with a stop in Topeka to pick up snacks.

We arrived in Manhattan about 9 PM and I, at least, could figure out where the venue was because the band's van was parked out in front.   The venue was pretty small, maybe about 100 at most, could fit into the place.  Drinks were reasonably priced, though the Jack and Cokes were actually cheaper than the bottled-beers.  The "stage" was small, and if you were in front, you had a very good view of the package of Enforcer's vocalist.  Opening the show was some band whose name I forget, which is just as well, since I forgot what style they actually played.  The evening wasn't too bad, with everyone in the group acting like clowns and even a pool game.  The real fun began as we were trying to find our way to a hotel in town.  As you can imagine, finding a way was no easy task, and eventually, we stumbled upon an IHOP and had some late night breakfast.  As luck would have it, there was a hotel not too far away from the IHOP.  However, the hotel wasn't in price range, so the trek to Lawrence went through some winding back roads on the way to Topeka.  We made it to Lawrence at 4 AM, where 2-3 hours of sleep was the standard there.  Everyone who didn't live in Lawrence left about 9 AM Saturday for our respective homes.

So, what did I learn?  Metal Nights always bring out the crazy in people and where there's metal music and booze, there's a wild night ahead.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Headlock of Doom

As some of you who read the ramblings known as this blog know, my interests are varied, with some being more popular than others.  Since baseball hasn't held much interest this year and futbol is now over and likely headed to oblivion in the United States, that leaves one thing to talk about (and you may run in horror as to what I am about to say): pro wrestling.

In a previous post, I made my review of Wrestlemania 2, which is one of the worst Wrestlemanias of all time in that it took place in three different cities and was a total mess.  Today, I would like to give my take on the state of pro wrestling right now.  Those that follow the WWE know that there is a pay-per-view event going on this Sunday called Money in the Bank.  The name itself refers to a type of match where the object is to grab a briefcase that is suspended above the ring and the only means to do so is by ladder.  In the briefcase is a contract that allows the holder to challenge for a major belt anytime he chooses.  Sounds simple enough, but the name of the pay-per-view is one of the many problems that plague the WWE.  Not only is it uncreative, but it also displays a large level of laziness.  Consider for example the other names for the WWE PPVs: "Fatal 4-Way," "Elimination Chamber," "Bragging Rights," etc.  Do any of those names inspire you to drop $35 or so to pay to watch a WWE PPV?  I didn't think so.

Another complaint of mine about the WWE, and for that matter, Total Nonstop Action wrestling (I refuse to shorten that one), is the pushing of the same talent from even ten years ago.  In any business, the key to long-term survival is to have some young talent ready so that when the current group finally decides to call it quits, that young group can take over without losing much.  The WWE has been a little better about pushing young talent, though it has been rough sailing, since people have rejected this young talent.  In fairness, the WWE hasn't given fans reason to care about the new group for the most part.  Total Nonstop Action, otherwise known as a resurrected World Championship Wrestling, had been pushing some young talent in the beginning.  What happened?  They bring in Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair.  Now, why would two guys pushing 60 be brought into a wrestling organization other than to push their own agendas?  In a word: money.  At the expense of them coming in is the pushing back of the young talent.  Is it any wonder why they have the ratings that they do?

That's all that I'll say about the subject for now, so back to your regularly scheduled activities.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird Turns 50

This past Sunday marked the 50th year that the Harper Lee book To Kill a Mockingbird was published.  The novel centers around Atticus Finch and his willingness to be the attorney to one Tom Robinson against the plaintiff Bob Ewell.  Robinson, as you can gather from the photo, is black, and given that the novel is set in the South, you can imagine the racial tension there, if you haven't read about it from other accounts first.  Also in the story is Atticus' children Jem and Scout, who are on some level, oblivious to the racial conflicts of the South, which is most evident when Robinson is eventually found guilty, despite overwhelming evidence that he was in fact, innocent.  The Finches receive some unlikely help in the end from the reclusive Boo Radley, who for the most part, was thought of as being a menace to the neighborhood.

Even today, the book is still relevant to today's issues, as race is still a conflict in today's society.  The book is also one of the few that has managed to translate well onto the silver screen, which is an accomplishment in itself.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Halfway through the 2010 MLB Season...

...And I have not paid much attention to the baseball season at hand.  So, what did I miss?  Well, to begin, the Washington Nationals are finally relevant again, thanks to pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who had a big debut, striking out 14 in his first major league start, and even had some debate on his inclusion into this year's All-Star Game.  Also, the San Diego Padres are at the top of the NL West when many predicted a dead last finish for them.  More East Coast bias, as there has been a litany of Yankees and/or Red Sox games on television, which quite frankly, makes me sick.  Why not have some Giants/Dodgers games on?  Yes, I know it'll be on past my bed time (while I'm still in Kansas City), but it wouldn't hurt to tell fans that baseball is more than Yankees and Red Sox, as well as the Royals eating it every year.  Minor league games bring more interest than the whole tired Yankees/Red Sox series, and speaking of minor leagues, is it too late to trade Sluggerrrr to Albuquerque for Orbitt (pictured)?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Woods of Ypres interview from 2008

In light of Woods of Ypres touring North America this Summer, I am sure that those who did make it to their shows have seen some good metal.  And if you are yet to see them and they are coming to your town, make it a point to see them.  Even though Woods of Ypres isn't heading anywhere near where I live, I can say that they put on an excellent show.  How is this possible, you ask?  Well, there was this little thing in November 2008 called Heathen Crusade Fest III.  The following interview took place after Heathen Crusade III with lead man David Gold and was originally posted on Living For Metal webzine.

2008 was a banner year for the Ontario band Woods of Ypres.  From their inclusion as the cover story for Canadian publication Unrestrained! Magazine to their tour with fellow Ontario band Wolven Ancestry, the band has had a coming out of sorts.  And did I mention that they released an album in Woods III: Deepest Roots and Darkest Blues?  All of that was capped off by their inclusion on the Heathen Crusade Festival in St. Paul, Minnesota on November 15 as part of the tour with Wolven Ancestry.  Main man David Gold took the time after the band’s electrifying performance at Heathen Crusade to talk to Living for Metal.

Peter Santellan: Just a few hours ago, you played at the Heathen Crusade Festival.  What were your expectations and how did you feel you either met or exceeded those expectations?

David Gold: We knew we were going to play this since March, so we’ve been thinking about that since then.  So many months pass by before we actually pack the van and get ready to do this and it sure was nice.  Even since arriving, some of it has been smooth and some of it has been a pain in the ass.  Out here in St. Paul, we spent all day just trying to get breakfast and everything was closed, so I think it was a real good day where we were kind of grumpy with the inconveniences, but then we get to the venue, load up on stage, and everything was cool.  We knew we were going to have a good time and the crowd was in a good mood, so that part was easy.  The crowd made it easy for us to do this and we were comfortable and had a good time at the show.

PS: Heathen Crusade is a part of a tour you have with Wolven Ancestry.  How did that come about?

DG: Wolven’s been around since 2004 or 2005, and we’ve talked with those guys a bit and I think I thought, “Inevitably, we’re going to do a tour with those guys because they are like the next town over from us in Ontario.”  We’re based in Sault Ste. Marie and they’re based in Sudbury, and there are not too many bands in Ontario doing black metal, but there’s a few of these, maybe one per city chance that there’s a really good black metal band.  In North Bay, there’s Vanquished and a band called Empyrean Plague.  Toronto has some black metal bands as well, but we identify more with the northern Ontario black metal scene.  Wolven Ancestry got invited to play Heathen Crusade and so did we, and we got to talking with them and decided to make a whole tour out of it.

PS:   With the tour, a new album to support would make sense.  In your case, the album would be Deepest Roots and Darkest Blues.  Could you say a few things about it, production-wise or anything else that comes to mind?

DG: Sure.  For Woods III, it took about three years to do.  In terms of writing, recording, and releasing the album, it took three years.  We felt that for this tour, being that this is the first time that Woods of Ypres is really going to tour, we wanted to go back to the first record.  It, being Fall, and us wanting to give an opportunity to the listeners who maybe listened to all three records.  If it’s the first tour, we’re going to do the first record and play those songs because in 2009, we plan to do some more touring and we’re going to cover songs from the second Woods album and then the third Woods of Ypres album perhaps next fall.  We wanted to go back to the beginning and play the songs off the first record, so that’s what we did tonight, basically.  We played one song off of Woods III, which was “Your Ontario Town is a Burial Ground,” and then we played Against the Seasons from beginning to end.

PS: Are there any desires for the band to sign with a major record label or move from your current label Krankenhaus Records?

DG: I talked to a guy who was a part of the Royal Carnage forum and we were just kind of sitting around and he makes some kind of comment that he’s surprised that we’re not on this label or that label, and we were talking about what big record labels could offer Woods of Ypres something, but they’re not good deals, though.  They get the music out there and I’m sure we could become more famous and people would listen, but it’s not a good deal for us in terms of sustainability and us being able to continue with this band, and that’s what I really want to do and I’m sure that these guys want to do as well.  So in having an idea that we want to be doing this for a little while and be successful at it, it does come down to money in the sense that we have to have enough to survive and to keep things going and be able to write and record albums and not be in a position where someone else has us by the balls, so that’s just that.  If you sing to a label, it might work between $0.50 to a $1 for coffee.  We’re independent right now, which means $10 for coffee.

PS: Speaking of creative freedom, there’s a theme about your part of the woods, Northern Ontario.  What is it about your home area that inspires you?

DG: I think it was, in terms of just a few songs, just that frustration a lot of people have if you’re living in a small town and in any particular place where you know that if what you want to do can’t be done where you are, so you know you got to leave.  So you’re in this position where you’re living somewhere, but eventually, you have to move away, you got to get out of there; you have to go somewhere else to get what you want in life.  That’s what inspired a lot of maybe the first record and traces of moving different places have influenced the other records as well.  Right now, being from northern Ontario is a cool thing actually because after having done Woods of Ypres and now returning there, it’s cool in terms of we’re in a small town and we’re able to focus more time on our band and being creative and not spending time in traffic or dealing with other bullshit that you would have in a big city.  Rent isn’t as high, so we’re able to focus more on the music and waste less time.  Being where we are right now is actually a really cool thing.

PS: Are there any plans for a new album or are you content with touring right now and seeing what happens later on?

DG: We’re planning some touring for 2009 and for 2010, and we hope to have Woods IV out by early 2010.  So basically, between now and then, we have time for touring and then we have time to write and record this new album and then it’ll be ready to go for Spring of 2010.

PS:  Is there anything else you would like to add, off-topic or anything else that comes to mind?

DG: Sure.  I think we’re all very happy that we came and played Heathen Crusade 3 and I heard rumors that maybe this was going to be the last one, but I hope it’s not.  We’ve talked to the promoter tonight and we were kind of hinting that we really hope that they can continue this.  I really like the legacies of the European festivals and how they can keep going for five to 20 years, and I’d like to see the same thing happen with the festivals that are happening in North America.  No regrets on our part for doing what we needed to do and busting our asses to get down here and once we did that, playing the show was easy.  It was a good time and we’re going to have a good time five minutes from now, when we start drinking some beers and seeing what’s left of this hotel.  Rumor is that the cops are already in the hotel and the party’s been busted, but we just got back, and it’s only a quarter to three and we still have beer to drink.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Holy Grail of Metal

You may not agree with me about today's title of the piece, but this is my writing, so roll with it.  When it comes to metal music and seeing it live and in person, there are three very specific instances that I can point to and say, "I have reached the Holy Grail."  The three?  Seeing Agalloch last year on Halloween weekend in Portland, getting to see Iron Maiden for the first time last month in Albuquerque, NM, and seeing Sonata Arctica three years ago in Atlanta, GA as part of ProgPower VIII.  The last of the three is the subject of today's piece, and what better way to tie in the live theme than with the For the Sake of Revenge CD/DVD combo that was released in 2006.

I don't make it a secret that Sonata Arctica is one of my favorite bands, so it should be no surprise that I would throw lots of praise for the DVD.  Filmed in Tokyo, Japan as part of the Reckoning Night tour in 2005, Sonata Arctica plays up to the cameras with their trademark humor and the crowd is into it, even participating in a sing-along directed by vocalist Tony Kakko.  There is never a dull moment with Sonata Arctica live, but the picks of the litter include Kakko's intro to "Sing in Silence," "Fullmoon," and the set closing "Vodka," which is sung in the style of "Hava Nagila."

I'm fortunate enough to have seen the band twice, and even going as far as to have interviewed them in person.  And let me tell you, before the interview was when I was at my most nervous.  They always say that waiting is the hardest thing to do, and in that instance, those people would be right.  Those same people who say Sonata Arctica put on a great show would also be correct, and For the Sake of Revenge is proof of that.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The "Lost" Blues Jersey

The mid-1990's were not kind to the St. Louis Blues.  Every year that they made the playoffs, they always had to go through the likes of the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche, often losing such battles.  When they decided to jazz things up on their jersey, they went with more red in their jerseys, and even went as far as to lift from the original Mighty Ducks of Anaheim jersey design.  If you asked me what I thought was the worst Blues jersey design, that would be it.

However, there was one jersey design for the Blues that was infinitely worse.  Thankfully, it never made its way onto the ice.  The jersey you see before you was to be the team's third jersey for the 1994-95 season.  However, due to the lockout that wiped out half the season, combined with coach Mike Keenan nixing the jersey, it never saw light of day on the ice.  Two questions come from this jersey: Who thought this would look good on a professional hockey team, and would Brett Hull have asked for a trade before he even had to wear this jersey?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Playing With Your Devices

Scuffling on what movie to watch last night, I tried to get through Mother of Tears.  That lasted all of maybe half an hour before I switched to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Sure, I can write about the latter, since I have seen that many times.  However, everyone knows that movie, so I wouldn't be adding anything really meaningful to the mix.  So, to fill up some space on this blog, here is a movie that I have seen (or at least know enough about to make something up) that few people know.  From the same movie distributor that brought you Premutos: Lord of the Living Dead and Zombie Doom comes a movie that is actually quite dumb: Screaming Dead.

When I say dumb, I mean a piss poor excuse to get hot half naked women into a horror movie, which is exactly what Screaming Dead does.  In fact, it becomes obvious from the opening scene, as a nearly naked woman is seen trying to hold onto a bar that should it slip, the object above her would come crashing down on her.  The movie stars Misty Mundae, and the movie features women and various torture devices.  Unfortuantely, there is only one woman who actually gets naked (from the waist up, from what the camera can show), and the devices are horribly constructed.  The plot is quite nonexistent, and the ending is extremely nonsensical.

So, what the hell was I doing watching this movie?  Well, somehow, it ended up at a Blockbuster Video store, and since I have in fact, seen a couple of movies starring Mundae (hint: if you're looking for a Misty Mundae film, Shock-O-Rama Cinema would be a good place to start), so I figure what's the harm.  Well, I was wrong on that account.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Requiem for an Enforcer

As some of you probably have read by now, former Detroit Red Wing and Chicago Blackhawk enforcer Bob Probert died yesterday at the age of 45.  Many who saw him play in the late 80's and the through the 90's know what he brought to the table: a willingness to drop the gloves in order to stick up for his teammates.  His career was as much defined by penalty minutes (3,300) as they were by his off the ice issues,namely drinking and cocaine.  That he was a bright spot in Detroit's lean years speaks of how beloved he was by Red Wings fans, and when he joined the Blackhawks in the mid-90's, he became a fan favorite there, too.  In recent years, he had tried hard to clean up his act off the ice, but like so many who have partied hard years before, it all finally caught up to him.  No one is immune from such as a thing, as Theo Fleury notes in his autobiography Playing With Fire, especially when it comes to drunk driving (drunk while riding a motorcycle as was Probert's case in 1994).  There is much to learn from Probert to ensure that the mistakes he made will not be repeated by others.  One lesson that Probert taught us on the ice is to be there for your friends when they are getting pushed around.

Here is a video of Probert doing what he did best: fight.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Northern Darkness

In recent years, the vampire subgenre has had something of a renaissance.  Of course, this is also one of the more polarizing aspects, since much of that has to do with the Twilight series of books and movies, both of which are quite boring.  And save the hate mail because I will set it ablaze.

One movie that brings back some of what a vampire movie should be is Let the Right One In.  Set in Sweden, the movie has no choice but to adapt to the cold that the country typically encounters most months.

The story centers around a really pasty young boy by the name of Oskar, who naturally is often bullied by his larger peers.  The often expressionless Oskar could be anyone who has been picked on in their younger days.  One evening, he encounters Eli, a young girl with a secret.  At first, neither one really want to talk to one another, but the next evening, they strike up a friendship.  The secret that Eli has: she's a vampire that has been 12 years old for about 200 years, and her "father" is in fact, her stooge that goes out to try and get blood for her survival.  The friendship eventually leads to Oskar to start defending himself from his tormentors and even goes farther than that, though given the circumstances of the friendship, it often causes more problems.

If you can read some of the criticisms on the picture posted, then you should follow through and watch this movie.  For once, the criticisms aren't very far off when it comes to the good kind of criticisms.  Dark and cold, the movie plays out like a minimalist movie that often leaves the viewer to try and interpret what is going on in the movie.  And vampire purists will also love Let the Right One In because it holds true to what a vampire should be.

And for those who still think Twilight is the best thing since sliced bread, someone has a message for you:

A Message To America from Aesop Dekker on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July

Today is the day Americans everywhere can drink Hamms' to their heart's delight (or any other cheap yard beer that you prefer) and to blow off a limb or two (though it is not recommended).  Why, you ask?  Today marks the day that the United States broke away from the rule of England.  If you haven't brushed up on your history, then do so, and get back to me once you do.

So, what is my contribution to this holiday?  Well, here is Rockin' Robin "singing" America the Beautiful:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Heathen Crusade 3 revisited...sort of...

So, I have nothing really to say here, which means to fill up some space, I have to come up with something.  Since the first thing that came to mind was the pre-Heathen Crusade 3 party, here is some Hammerfall-Riders on the Storm.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

From Riches to Rags

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."

These are the words that open the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby.  The story was written in the Jazz Age, when long beads were part of the culture and the Roarin' 20's were in full swing.  The main character is Nick Carraway, who had moved to an area on Long Island, New York where other recently rich people live.  At some point in his learning about the bond business, he finds out about a man named Jay Gatsby, who regularly throws large parties on Saturday nights.  Through the story, there are extra-marital affairs that are explored (e.g. Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson; Daisy Buchanan and Gatsby), which combined with the power that goes along with having a lot of money, throws everything into chaos.  In all of this, as more is discovered about Gatsby, his life begins to unravel, and eventually, he is shot dead.

What makes The Great Gatsby a must read?  It gives an example of how the American Dream can be corrupted when money and power is involved, and how quickly friends can disappear when the money is all gone, which is evident when only three people show up for Gatsby's funeral.  True, most people will likely not have lived during the Jazz Age, but the lessons from the book can be applied even today.