The Metal Minute Awarded 2009 Best Personal Blog By Metal Hammer Magazine

Sunday, August 21, 2005

R.I.P. Six Feet Under and Dumbledore

**WARNING: If you're a Harry Potter fan and haven't finished or read at all The Half-Blood Prince, this obviously contains a spoiler, so ignore at once!


It's a season of death lately, with war abroad, starving people in Niger, football players, tsunamis, and figureheads of pop culture...

Perhaps it's appropriate that a t.v. show called Six Feet Under which deals single-handedly in death met its own maker this evening, while only days ago I finished reading Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, where, to my dismay, the enigmatic headmaster Dumbledore is dispatched by that son of a bitch Snape (God, I love J.K. Rowling's ability to make me care so much)...I don't know, man, it's all so damned depressing.

The series finale of Six Feet Under ended most possibilities of resurrection via a movie or reunion, save for possible fill-in stories, by killing off its core cast at the end, but it was done beautifully, as the majority of the characters were allowed to age and mostly die gracefully. It was a poignant and magnificent closure to a series that I'm terribly sad to see end. Six Feet Under, along with the movies American Beauty and The Virgin Suicides are a few of my best friends as a writer. Daring, innovative, intelligent, and even dark, all of these movies have flooded my already crammed gray matter with ideas and inspiration, which is fueling a side novel I've begun that dabbles in dark humor. When I feel safe, I will reveal the title to anyone who cares to know.

Many of you know what a fucking crummy summer this has been for my wife and I. In some ways, you have to laugh at much of what we've gone through in so short a time, that it seems appropriate to satirize it a bit with some genuine events of my life accented with fictitious events, and let's just say that being laid off from a long-standing job (as I experienced back in June) is the least of my character's worries.

I can also reveal that I changed the name of my lead character's wife to Ginny in homage to Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter books; I've been waiting for J.K. Rowling to hook her and Harry up since Ginny laid eyes in wonder on him in The Chamber of Secrets and it did my heart good, even as Dumbledore met his end and Harry tells Ginny they can't be together while he's fighting Voldemort in order to protect her. Noble he may be, I was furious about it nonetheless! I just hope J.K. gets them back together in Year 7.

So, a little bit of a different vibe to tonight's post. If you read this and you're cursing me for revealing things about The Half-Blood Prince, don't say I didn't warn you!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Peeking out and saying hello

At this point, I have no clue if anyone's still reading this blog. If you are, I thank you for your dedication and please give me a shout if you'd be so kind. I know it's been two weeks since I've posted, but I put up a review of the new Blindside album because I thought it was the most introspective punk album so far this year. Such genuineness can't be captured in these cash cow times, but Blindside does it convincingly.

Anyway, a little about what's going on, in case you care...

I've been working for 6 weeks at the new title company and it's extremely hard. Having once been in a position with seniority and being a go-to person with a full grasp of my environment and my tasks at-hand, it's been a bit of pride-swallowing to come to a new company with established personnel who have their own way of doing things, and who also have so much more heaped into their positions, it's been an eye-awakening adventure. Things I took for granted in my former departmentalized environment are now things I have to contend with on a daily basis and reacting accordingly has been difficult. There's nothing I'm above doing (in a legal sense, of course), but it means a deeper extraction within myself and a higher level of commitment. I've found myself feeling green around the ears, considering I have ten years in the business. It's difficult to adjust your mindframe to a highly different office culture, particularly with a couple of people who talk down to others and yes, I've been talked down to, which is a highly frustrating thing for someone of my invested time. But what you do in this situation is you cope, you grit your teeth, you plug yourself into the company circuit as best as you can and you spend more hours on the job trying to make a difference.

This has resulted in an average of 47-48 hours a week for me, even though a couple of other key people put in far more hours. I commend them, but unfortunately as anyone who knows me is aware, I have an entirely different life outside of my day job. How to balance my music writing responsiblities with a highly-demanding job? It's tough, folks, and it's somewhat disheartening, but I'm learning how to juggle my new demands, particularly since there are even newer demands that have just come my way, which I'll get into in a moment.

I have to say that one of the positives of my new day job is the fact that I have an amazingly generous boss. As I've continuously been wary and edgy around conservatives in general, I can say that my boss is a model conservative; the money he obviously has is well-shared with his employees. He's hands-on, fair, and quick to give his employees treats like breakfast or lunch on the company, or after-hours goodies to help keep the energy flow going, because let's face it; this title company is smaller in staff than what I'm used to and it's grown with clients that are hard to service. My boss realizes this and as much as we are collectively pushed to our endurance level, he ensures our mental health. Also, I've never seen a more nurturing staff in my life. Save for a couple of people I could do without, the office is filled with bright, funny and caring people who act as a support base to one another, on the job and off. I've never seen (or been the continuous recipient of) so much hugging in an office in my career, and it's refreshing. The job is so devastatingly brutal and these people realize it. You can't beat that.

On the other end of the spectrum, my music life has suddenly vaulted to where I didn't expect it to go so soon.

First and foremost, I have been asked by AMP magazine to take over their metal column, Death From Below. In the past, this column has generated around 10 pages of material an issue, which leaves me in an enviable position. I will be doing news, interviews, reviews and various fun things I've concocted myself, such as my self-titled "Skullcrusher of the Month," where I pick out my selection for the heaviest or best album each month. For my first month's column, the pick was Suzukiton, which, if you dig drop-tuned progressive metal like Trephine, this one's the shit.

There will be random "Did You Know?" tidbits I'll be putting in for fun, and each column I hope to have some sort of random fun piece that breaks up the usual format. My first column will feature "Ten Albums in 2005 You Should Own Already." I've already conceived and written the next fun feature, which, in honor of the Doom movie that comes out in October, will be an overview of doom metal bands.

The response from the industry has been overwhelming already. Those I've dealt with have checked in loud and clear and I'm extremely moved by their excitement. Their confidence in me is overwhelming. New labels and reps have contacted me as well, and that opens new doors.

Already my first column is finished and amongst the goodies outlined, there should be interviews with Anthrax, Testament, Crisis, Jacknife and Steve Stevens. I'm already conducting interviews for the following column, so all is well and moving like a mother.

Then towards the end of this past week, I was informed that not only will Metal Maniacs be running my Megadeth vs. Metallica experiment that was originally nothing more than an experimental blog entry, but they are granting me an assignment to interview Exodus. Metal Maniacs is a magazine I've always respected and have politlely but pestily inquired about writing for, and it somehow paid off. I'm very excited about this opportunity, needless to say.

So life has never been busier, especially with birthdays and anniversaries prevailing in the month. We try to make time for our friends and have done a pretty lame job at that! We go to Utica, New York on Labor Day weekend to share time with friends and our godson, and the New York State Fair, which probably doesn't seem as massive to the natives, but I assure you, your state fair elsewhere is a fireman's carnival in comparison. The New York State Fair ends up being an all-day commitment and we enjoy ourselves each time.

With that, Neo is meowing her head off because she wants the front door open so she can say hi to her bunny friend that bounces around our yard like our 2nd pet...

Cheers to you all and I'll do my best to do more entries...

Peace...

Ray

Blindside - The Great Depression

Blindside – The Great Depression (DRT Entertainment) Ray Van Horn, Jr.

You’ve got to hand it to Blindside; they’re always thinking. With the reissues of their first two albums this year, a brand new disc (their fifth album overall) in the same year that is so far-flung from the others…well, that’s pretty damned smart marketing. The Great Depression by Sweden’s Blindside (whose high octane hardcore continuously sounds as if it was born and bred in America, DC specifically), is probably the band’s masterwork. If it’s not that, it’s their most ambitious and artistic body of work that is less hardcore as it a serious underground punk album. In a risky blend of Radiohead, The Cure, Nirvana and Fugazi, The Great Depression is hence forlorn and copacetic at the same time, creating in the end an album for the ages.

The songs on The Great Depression are fresh and original, never afraid to take a chance. They bleed emotionally and more melodically than on past efforts. The jagged guitar rhythms of “This is a Heart Attack” should prepare you in advance that Blindside has sought a deeper craft that is more for themselves than for any demographic. The highly mature “Ask Me Now” is skewed towards older schools of thought, while the blistering “Yamketa,” “Come to Rest (Hesychia)” and “We’re All Going to Die” will capture the attention of the younger screamo sanctions. The latter song strikes a particularly haunting chord with the lyric, “We’re all going to die, but we’re not meant to die young.”



“Put Back the Stars” is moody and antagonistic, representing the album’s title particularly with the disaffected and forlorn lyric “Ain’t it something to know you’re alone.” No matter your age, if you’re of an individualistic mind, this ought to hit home hard. Before the album is allowed to wallow in too much misery, the following song “Fell in Love With the Game” bursts forth with a tuneful, driving punk blast similar to Queens of the Stone Age. Given Blindside’s previous work, this comes as a small surprise, but it pays off in dividends.

Switching gears yet again, the swaying “City Lights” proves yet again that Blindside has committed a severe level of dedication into making The Great Depression a well-conceived and memorable album. “You Must Be Bleeding Under Your Eyelids” is ominously Nirvana-inspired; I’ll go one step further and sacrilegiously claim that this melancholic piece is where Nirvana could’ve and should’ve gone if Kurt Cobain would’ve found a way to cope. Is Blindside Nirvana? Nope, but “You Must Be Bleeding Under Your Eyelids” pays homage in an effective manner as does “When I Remember,” which says Nirvana could’ve risen above the hapless stagnation of In Utero and Cobain’s final moments as a disheartened musician and become the band to end all bands in the new millennium. Obviously, there hasn’t been a band with such generational crossover appeal since Nirvana, but they could’ve been the Led Zeppelin of the modern age. Their shattered pieces are left to be picked up by bands with enough sensitive care as to know what to do with them properly. To Blindside’s credit, “When I Remember” does this genuinely and articulately.

As Blindside is primarily a Christian band, you would hardly notice this fact unless you did your homework. You’re going to be hard-pressed to find an album this year with this much depth and authentic emotion in the punk genre. It’s a refreshing antidote to the status quo which has ambiguously lost the true meaning of emo. The Great Depression is ambitious and whereas some more mainstream emo acts have been tagged as being soundtracks to their generation, such falsehoods are redeemed through Blindside.