Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Gamut - tonight's playlist!!!

Loads of awesome music in tonight's show - as always, a smorgasbord of great tunes to feast on!  After the technical difficulty at the end of last week's show I think I've got things ironed out now so that won't happen again, so tune in at 9 PM EST via to listen in!

Tonight's playlist!
Sympathy - Lord of All Terrors (Death Metal)
House of Wires - Dead or Happy (Synthpop)
Tourniquet - Besprinkled in Scarlet Horror (Progressive Thrash Metal)
XT - The Rock In My Life (Commercial Metal)
Bloody Sunday - The Best Of Me (Hardcore)
Headnoise - They're Trying To Kill Me (Female-fronted Punk)
Winter's Dawn - The Victory: Rapturous Surrender (Black Metal)
Convalesce - Monsters (Metalcore)
Ashen Mortality - Cast the Last Stone (Doom Metal)
Take it Back! - Standing On the Edge Of Hope (Hardcore Punk)
Halcyon Way - Rise to Revise (Progressive Metal)
Loudflower - Can't Change Yesterday (Alternative Rock)
Joy Electric - The Cobbler (Synthpop)
Mad At The World - Dancing On Your Grave (Hard Rock/Alternative)
Lost Dogs - Jesus Loves You, Brian Wilson (Folk/Rock)
Sometime Sunday - Lie (Grunge)
Chicago Is Burning - Fall Into the Sun (Industrial Metalcore)
The Deal - Here Comes the Sword (Punk Rock)
Heaven's Force - Second Coming (Thrash Metal)
Sweet Comfort Band - Armed and Ready (80's Rock)
Disciple - Before You (Groove Metal)
Blenderhead - National Drug (Hardcore Punk)
Believer - D.O.S. (Desolation of Sodom) (Thrash Metal)
Rebelhead - Say It Loud (Groove Metal)
Jacobs Dream - Welcome To My World (Progressive Metal)
Juliana Theory - If I Told You This Is Killing Me, Would You Stop? (Emo/Rock)
Allies - Feather In Your Cap (Rock)
Deitiphobia - Have Mercy (Industrial)
Haven - The Witching Hour (Power Metal)
Bloodgood - Anguish and Pain (Classic Metal)
Danielson Famile - Fruitful Weekend (Indie Pop/Folk)
Titanic - Carnival of Souls (Classic Metal)
Hell Bovine - Why Are You Dancing? (Grindcore/Noise)
Ezra - Tantum Ergo (Death Metal)
Sacrament - Haunts of Violence (Technical Thrash Metal)
After the Order - Fuschia (Alternative Rock)
Savior - See Things (Progressive Rock)
Fall of Echoes - Red Tree (Progressive Hard Rock)
Crystavox - Sacrifice (Commercial Metal)
With Blood Comes Cleansing - Take Everything (Deathcore)
Random Eyes - For Your Love (Power Metal)
The Famine - Ascend (Metalcore/Melodic Death Metal)

Check out the Untombed website @ !  You can tune in easily via the web-based player on the front page, link to the stream via your regular audio player, read album reviews, get music news, and link up to other great resources, including Divine Metal Distro, your one-stop source for all things Christian rock and metal!  Don't forget, station chat has moved to at the bottom of the site, so make sure you sign up or use a Facebook or Twitter account to sign in and chat w/ me and other listeners during the show!

Alternate links to listen to the stream in a separate player (Winamp recommended, though Real Player, VLC, iTunes and others work as well):

Here's the link for Windows Media Player:

Also our stream can now be heard on Nintendo Wii! If you have a Wii, here is what you do:

1.go on the net via your Wii console
2. type "" into your browser address box
3. type "" into the Search box
4. Click the play arrow

It can take 5-10 seconds to load up & buffer, so please be patient when using this feature :)

You can also stream the station via on your PSP, PS3, Wii, iPhone, or even your TiVo!  Plus you can stream the show via your Windows Mobile phone with the free GSPlayer application!  Listen in from your Android device via the "A Online Radio" or StreamFurious applications, as well as the new beta version of Winamp for the Android platform!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Album of the Moment - At the Drive-In's "Relationship of Command"

I generally dislike it when underground bands get thrust into the mainstream and all of a sudden get showered with popularity all at once. It's usually a sign that they will burn out as quickly as the so-called "music press" lifted them up. Of course, this viewpoint is sometimes one side of the coin, because without said exposure I may not always find out about them. Such is the case with At the Drive-In.

The band went from underground quiet notoriety to front and center on the rock stage when their video for "One Armed Scissor" suddenly fell into frequent rotation on MTV2 back in 2000. That seems to be how most who weren't already "in the know" discovered this band. Unfortunately their meteoric rise only lasted a short while before they came crashing back down to earth. I read a quote in a magazine at that time (Alternative Press, maybe) that described the band as "too punk to be metal and too metal to be punk." While that's not a wholly accurate description, it does capture some of the essence of what this band sounds like. This would best be described as "post-hardcore" but is far more layered than much music that fits that tag, and probably more rocking than most as well. Think of your favorite melodic shoegazer band playing at full speed with screams instead of breathy whispers and you get just a glimpse of what ATDI sounds like. Add the quirky, Cobain-esque nonsensical lyrics and you have a unique listening experience. Thankfully, the band did regroup later into quirky program-rock outfit The Mars Volta, so some of the insanity that was ATDI carried on. But this album is great, save for the possible exception to the lame, faux-creepy intro to "Enfilade" (provided by none other than punk forefather Iggy Pop). It is chock full of goofy imagery and metaphor, melodic yet driving music, and a fairly unique stamp on the scene. I pull this out from time to time and it is a fantastic listen every time.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Album of the Moment - Testament's "The Formation of Damnation"

I got to see Testament live in Lincoln, Nebraska late summer/early fall of 1999, just a couple months after the release of their album "The Gathering".  I went to a CD signing at an awesome local record store (now defunct, *sniff*), and then went to the show later on.  I was please that it was the full line-up from the CD, with original members Chuck Billy (vocals) and Eric Peterson (guitars), along with the awesome James Murphy on guitar, Steve DiGiorgio on bass, and of course the legendary Dave Lombardo on drums.  It was a monster show, and an unforgettable night of fabulous thrash metal.  I heard my favorites from "The Gathering" and "Low" as well as a few older cuts that I loved.  The band seemed primed for a comeback, given the modest radio success of "True Believer" on rock radio (despite being somewhat cheesy), and then they sort of went silent after that tour.  Granted, they kept busy with side projects, live albums and such, but Chuck Billy battled cancer during a sizable portion of the band's self-imposed downtime.

Then in 2008, they came screaming back onto the scene with their first album of brand new material in almost 10 years and I was STOKED.  This was a band I had enjoyed for a number of years, having been introduced to them late in high school via their 2nd album "The New Order" and solidifying that fandom via their "Souls of Black" and "The Ritual" albums, only to rediscover and rekindle my fandom years later with "Low" and then "The Gathering".  How does the band hold up with 4/5 of the original members plus the awesome Paul Bostaph?  Pretty well!  I didn't give this album much of a chance when I first bought it, honestly, because it wasn't quite as heavy as I had hoped (standing next to "The Gathering" it seemed like a step backward), but upon repeated listens and recently re-ripping it to the computer to throw on my iPhone I have discovered that this is truly a solid album worthy of the band's legacy.  Musically, I put this somewhere in between "Souls of Black" and "Low", and production-wise as well.  It's clean like "Souls" and has some bottom end and weight like "Low".  There are even a couple of surprising touches, like the modern "scream" vocal that doubles with Chuck on a couple spots in the title track, and the almost Dave Mustaine-esque solo in "F.E.A.R.".

Overall, not their best work, but a fine album after almost 10 years of brand new material, so definitely worth picking up if you're at all a fan of Testament, or even just thrash metal in general. It retains the band's signature melodic sense but keeps things heavy, and remains listenable and interesting throughout, even if a couple of the tracks are a touch repetitive and "longish".  Testament has said in interviews that their next album (due out in 2012) is shaping up to be a mixture of this album and "The Gathering" which thrills me, because that album was so heavy and driving, and had probably the best production values of any Testament album to date.  If they can pull of the melodic sense and retain Alex Skolnich's trademark lead sound but have the heaviness and punishing sound of "The Gathering", I'll be a happy camper.

Asher - Harmonious Thought (2006)

Sometimes an album comes along that just hits you like a ton of bricks.  It captivates you, surprises you, and thrills you with each listen.  Maybe it's the melodies that keep you coming back.  Perhaps the clever songwriting is a major draw.  Or it could be that the lyrics speak to you.  What about the production, sound, and the way it's all put together?  And then there are the vocals; they can be a major draw as well.  So what happens when you have all of that at once?  It's a musical Perfect Storm.

The thing about albums like this is that they often go unnoticed, which is a true shame.  Sure, there are albums like this that have garnered mainstream attention, but often the best ones never get heard by the masses.  And oftentimes, much like most art, it's not until that artist or band is gone until there is true appreciation for their art and what they accomplished in their brief time.  Such is the case with Asher - they weren't truly appreciated until they were gone.  The right person didn't hear their music until they were long departed, and even then it wasn't enough.

"Harmonious Thought" is an album ahead of its time.  Most everyone who is into rock music can identify the sound of "Pop Metal" if they heard it, at least in the context of the 1980's and early 90's.  But what if that sound evolved to more truly reflect those 2 words and a more creative melding of same?  And what if you did it first, though your obvious successors (Blessed By a Broken Heart comes to mind) garnered all the attention?  Sadly, that's what has happened to this band.  Being from Canada doesn't exactly make them more likely to be on anyone's radar screen either, though that's a minor concern in today's Internet-fueled music industry.

Musically, this is a delight.  Everything here sounds so good, from the chunky guitar riffs and deep bass to the keyboard flourishes and weighty drum tones.  And then the vocals - you've not heard such a brash combination work so well.  When I first heard the lead-off track "Exhortation" I thought it sounded like the DuPree sisters (from Eisley) fronting Immortal Souls.  And while it's not quite that spread out, there is a definite sense of real pop meets metal, even if the pop melodies take the occasional backseat to metal songwriting conventions, and vice versa.  Still, it works so well you may be surprised by just how little the divide affects you when you listen.

And then there's the songwriting, replete with all the things you would expect from a well-oiled machine.  There are faster, heavier "barn burner" tracks, and slower, more methodical songs that take different turns as they go along.  There is a highly effective power ballad that is so radio-ready it hurts, yet is still insanely catchy and sucks you in.  There are a couple tracks where vocalist Jenny belts out high-pitched death metal wails, something you don't expect when hearing the rest of her slightly sugary pop vocals in the music, which just adds to the flavor and excitement of the record.  There's such a balance on this album struck between different elements of pop, rock and metal that it's hard to fault Asher for the minor mistakes they make.

Lyrically, the album is also diverse, tackling a number of subjects.  You have a song about lost love, a song with lyrics right out of the book of Revelations describing Jesus commanding an army, there are a couple songs about the need to not conform to what is going on in the world, and songs about life in general and just dealing with the every day.  Even lyrically there is something for everyone here, and aside from a handful of moments where the phrasing can be a bit clumsy, it works quite well.

Does this album have any flaws?  Sure, but they're relatively minor.  As I mentioned, despite mostly well-written lyrics, there are a couple spots where either the lyrics or the phrasing is a bit clumsy.  Musically, though the album is diverse and a treat, I would like to have heard even more variation, as I think it was highly possible.  And production-wise, though the album sounds fantastic, it's a bit too "quiet".  Compare this to the post-Asher project Monolith debut album (recorded and mastered just 3 years later) and it's apparent that a remaster would do this album good, if only to boost the volume a few notches.

Now let me get to the part that I'm sure you know was coming - my review of this album is not very subjective, so take my rating as it is.  I'm am a full-fledged Asher fanboy.  I own the CD, purchased just after the end of the band's time together, which is why I don't have the t-shirt.  I ordered one (or tried), but they were gone.  I was quite disappointed.  Thankfully, at least, I have the physical CD release.  But now the band has re-issued the album as a free digital download.  As if the album itself weren't good enough, they've also included bonus content in this re-issue.  There's a little instrumental ditty, the band's awesome cover of the classic pop hit "What a Feeling", and I'm both honored and humbled to say they've also included part of my interview with guitarist Colin Parrish in the download.  I conducted this interview with him in late 2009, at a time when it appeared Asher might finally have got the recognition they deserved, with Colin's current band Monolith signing to Bombworks and a prospective CD re-issue of "Harmonious Thought" on the horizon.  Sadly, it was not to be.  But now, at least, for those who didn't pony up the funds for the album the first time, there's zero excuse not to at least download and listen to this fantastic piece of work because it won't cost you a dime.  Just a few minutes of download time and about an hour of your time to soak in one of the more unique and interesting rock/metal records of the last 10 years.  Highly recommended, if not downright essential.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why I love my Sony PSP!

I adore my PSP.  I mean really.  Not in the sense of love, like you love someone, but more in the sense of just deep appreciation for what it is, what it does, and what it represents.  Sony has long been criticized for fighting format wars it can't always expect to win (save for BluRay, Sony's sole media format coup), but you have to hand it to them when it comes to making a solid piece of technology that inspires a sea of imitators.  The Sony Walkman spawned thousands of "me-too" portable tape players, many of which were vastly inferior.  In like fashion, the Sony Discman did the same, with a lot of poorly designed portable disc players to follow.  Thankfully, that also encouraged a lot of innovation, with more and more players having "anti-skip" technology and other features that made them far superior to their first generation counterparts.

C'mon.  You know you had one.

And while Sony hasn't fared as well with their portable digital media player, the somewhat aptly (though dated) named Walkman (or Walkman Touch now), mostly due to Apple seizing the market well before it was hot, they have continued to innovate.  Nobody cared about Sony's Mini-disc format, and only videophiles still care about BetaMax, much like Toshiba's HD DVD format will soon be a distant memory of former format wars.  And while the same will likely be said of Sony's UMD format, one must marvel at what they've been able to do with the technology, and wonder why no one did it before.  I mean, Nintendo's Game Boy is still the most successful handheld gaming system of all time, and for good reason.  ROCK SOLID hardware and good design, great licensed games, and excellent battery life.  While Sony's PSP doesn't boast all of that with the same weight, let it not be said that Sony didn't make a really good handheld gaming and entertainment system.

Oh my PSP, how I love thee, let me count the ways...

There are many reasons to love the PSP, but I will highlight a few of my personal favorites here:
  1. Open Format.  Most game systems are region-locked.  This is not news to anyone familiar with gaming or the history of its technology, but it's still overly prevalent today, despite fans having clamored for an end to region-locking for the last 20 years.  And while early Nintendo DS systems are open, the new 3DS (another innovation) is region-locked.  Why, Nintendo, why?  Thankfully, Sony saw fit, despite having region-locked all 3 of their major home consoles, to leave the PSP open.  This is probably due, in part, to the fact that the device has its own screen and doesn't rely on NTSC and/or PAL video display conventions.  It can just do its own thing as well as the hardware makes it capable.  And it does it well.  It also means that I can enjoy some Japanese games on my US-released PSP, such as the Parodius Collection (very niche, even for shooter/shmup fans like me) or the Soldier Collection (again, somewhat niche).
  2. Versatility.  This system is not only a gaming platform, but it also handles video, audio, and even internet (to some limited extent).  Granted, the system's RAM is hardly big enough to fit most websites as it downloads, but for limited browsing or quick web searches where there is free Wi-Fi and no other means, it works.  I own several UMD movies that I take with me when I travel for business, and since I can stay in hotels that offer wide-screen TVs with Component video inputs on the back, I can take my movies with me and watch them when I'm away from home for a few days.  Yeah, I can take my laptop and do the Netflix thing, and I do, but the video quality of the UMD format is still far superior to most of what I can get on Netflix, and let's face it: most hotel internet is TERRIBLE.  That is, of course, until you pay for it.  Then it's marginally better.  But I get better Netflix streaming by using my iPhone 4 as a Wi-Fi hotspot and getting on the internet that way than I do with hotel internet.  Plus with the video out (on my PSP-2001), I can play games full-screen.
  3. Media "Ingestion".  Okay, so this term is a bit fuzzy, but humor me.  What I mean is, there are multiple ways you can get content to your PSP.  There are UMDs of course, but there is the Memory Stick Pro DUO that you can copy data to, either via plugging your PSP into a USB port on your PC, or transferring data to the flash card via a card reader in your PC, assuming you understand the PSP's file system enough to know where to put stuff.  Plus you can download both full and "mini" games from the PlayStation network and store them to your device's memory card.  The fact that you can plug the system in via USB and customize things like wallpaper, creating your own "themes" for the device (I'm currently using a theme based on the game "The 3rd Birthday"), as well as loading up music, videos (compatible formats, anyway), and so forth is a wonderful thing.
  4. Finally, another fuzzy term: "Hackability".  Okay, so Sony wasn't counting on this so much, but one of the reasons to love the PSP is that it's so easy to hack!  I have custom firmware loaded on my PSP, and I have it updated to where I can play current game UMDs, but still enjoy the benefits of having that custom firmware.  I can emulate the original PlayStation on my PSP, so for original PSX games I already own, I can create custom "eboot" files that contain the game itself so I can copy it to my PSP memory card and play them on the go.  After finishing XSEED's relatively awesome port of the original Lunar (dubbed "Silver Star Harmony" this time), I loaded up a 3-disc eboot of the PSX update of the original Lunar sequel, Working Designs' port of Lunar 2: Eternal Blue.  Having owned the game for 10 years now and playing through it once or twice, it found new life on my PSP and I spent hours in the hotel room on a business trip playing through the 2nd and 3rd discs to the primary ending of the game.  I'm working on the Epilogue currently.  What matters most is, this gives a handheld with already broad possibilities even greater versatility!  Not to mention you can emulate other classic gaming systems, despite the legal tarpit that can be...
Of course, all of this would be moot without great games, and thankfully, developers have come to the table with a wide variety.  As somewhat of a niche gamer, I often find that the big consoles don't cater to my tastes as much (one of the reasons I don't yet own an XBOX360 or PS3).  Developers have done a good job, however, of making the PSP an "every man's system" of sorts, by offering a wide variety of content.  I'm not a major RPG gamer, but I enjoy the genre, and there's quite a smattering of different RPGs on the system.  There are plenty of action and sports games for the typical gamer as well, but plenty of interesting puzzle and "brain" games as well.  Plus there are a lot of good game compilations (both Capcom Collection titles come to mind) and arcade favorites for old-school guys like me to feast on.  I have 4 travel cases full of UMDs, 3 that are mostly games, and 1 that is all UMD movies.  And while Sony hasn't maximized the format like it should have, it's still relatively viable.

So where does that leave the PSP today, at the cusp of the release of the Sony NGP (Next Generation Portable)?  Hopefully, it means Sony will continue to innovate with the NGP, yet give consumers choice.  The choice to scrap the UMD format is probably smart, due to the battery life issues it causes, as well as the extra moving parts to maintain.  However, I hope the move to a flash-cart type of system doesn't re-introduce region-locking like the 3DS has.  I hope Sony leaves the system open enough that it can be reverse engineered like the PSP has for so long, so consumers like myself can take full advantage of the system.  I hope it has backwards compatibility so that we can take games we've already purchased (in digital format, anyway) and play them on the new system so we can carry just the one handheld and still have our game library with us.  And I hope that they retain the kind of connectivity the PSP has already pioneered, but will push ahead with even more innovating web and sharing experiences so that the system becomes the true paragon of portable media and entertainment.  Because despite any misgivings that someone may have with Sony given the PlayStation Network debacle a couple months back, it can't be overstated that Sony's importance in the handheld gaming and entertainment market has been significant, despite playing a distant second to Nintendo.  Sony has the opportunity to really forge ahead here with the NGP: let's hope they take full advantage of that momentum.

Corn Nuts - under the radar snack!

For me, snack foods are much like sweets; I used to eat them all the time as a kid.  Now that I'm an adult, however, I really have to be in the mood to eat most sweets.  I'm not overweight because I eat snack foods, merely because I love to eat a little too much.  But truly, snack foods are one of those things that I don't just eat mindlessly like some folks do.  Last night, however, I was in a snack food mode.  When prompted to go get some ice cream for my wife, I decided on some Corn Nuts for myself.  This is one of those "once in a while" snacks that I crave periodically, but I absolutely enjoy them when I eat them.

I'm not entirely sure what it is about Corn Nuts, either; they're not overly flavorful, they're awful dry, and they require A LOT of chewing to eat.  Perhaps it's just a holdover from my childhood, since I used to eat them frequently, but I still love them.  And I don't go in for a lot of those flavored varieties - "Ranch" Corn Nuts?  Gag me.  Still, the Originals are just so good for some mysterious reason.  I even like the new Corn Nuts Chips that came out recently:

Whatever the case, it seems that this product has been on the cusp of mainstream acceptance for a long time, and there are a handful of folks who really like them, but they don't sell well enough to be anywhere near as popular as, say, Pringles or something like that.  Corn Nuts seem to be happy being a niche food, and I like that.  So I say to those that join me in my Corn Nuts adoration, thanks for liking them and keeping this product alive.  Without your help, one ofm y favorite childhood snacks would have gone the way of the dodo bird, and that would have been a sad thing indeed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Album of the Moment - Voivod's "Nothingface"

This is an album I absolutely love.  I stumbled across it in the bargain bin (for shame!) at a now-defunct music store (F.Y.E. in the Westgate Mall in Lincoln, NE) in late summer 1996, just as I was entering college.  It was maybe my first or second week, and I was already discovering some great new music.  This was a band I had heard the name of, but had never heard their music.  Of course, this was in the infancy of the graphical internet, when designing web pages in HTML was still seen as "geeky" and something you could charge big bucks for.  Fast forward a few weeks and I was spinning this CD almost constantly, enthralled by the twisted melodies, the angular, jazz-inspired chords and riffing of Denis D'Amour (erm, Piggy), the demented vocals of Denis Belanger (or Snake, if you prefer), the thumping basslines of Jean-Yves Thériault (Blacky, if you prefer) and the oh-so technical yet tasteful drumming of Michael Langevin (Away, as he dubbed himself), who also provided the deliciously crazy artwork for this, and all other Voivod releases.

This album represented not only the band's commercial breakthrough (indeed, a record contract with MCA), but arguably their artistic peak, combining the aggression of their early thrash works with the technicality and panache of their mid-period and later work, to form the perfect fusion of music and madness.  No longer content to dwell solely on the storyline of the Voivod character itself, but now the band was exploring more complex themes involving self-reflection, environmental concerns (surrounded mainly around Alzheimer's and a steel plant in their local area of Canada), and of course plenty of intricately woven tales of science fiction.  One can't listen to "Missing Sequences" without being drawn into the world of insects and the band's interpretation of the "working class" in etymological terms.  I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight their cover of Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine" for two reasons: firstly, that it gave the band their first notable single, and secondly (more important), that it was vastly superior to the original in nearly every way.  It captured the kind of demented mindset that Syd Barrett had, but with an edge and realization that was never possible in the lo-fi late 60's.

This isn't a constant spinner - it's one of those albums I pull out every few months and pour over, then put away again to return to when I need that fix.  Sadly, the band never again reached this level of greatness.  The 2 follow-up albums "Angel Rat" and "The Outer Limits" are brilliant in their own right, each achieving their own artistic greatness in their own way, but never quite firing on all cylinders like this gem.  There's a reason why this is one of my favorite metal albums of all time, and it's simply this: sheer brilliance.

Blog Format Change

This is a quick post to say I will be expanding the scope of this blog to cover not just faith-based music any longer, but any music I enjoy or that which is submitted to me, within the constraints of time. Also, I am changing the focus of the blog somewhat fro strictly music to a more media-centric approach. I love music, to be sure, but I also love movies, video games, technology in general, and what you might call "geek pop culture".

You see, am consider myself to be a middle-of-the-road geek. I'm not a Warhammer-playing dude who listens to some obscure music only 5 people have heard of (okay, maybe I am...), nor am I the sort of "geek" that G4 depicts, reading whatever hip graphic novel is currently in vogue while jamming some Snow Patrol. I fall somewhere in between, so I thought I'd fashion a blog that gives us less-than-uber geeks something of a sounding board, or at least one for myself.

So there you have it. I will be introducing new features, like an "Album of the Moment" blurb, updates (including videos, yay!) of my media collections, wish lists, movie and TV reviews, etc. Hopefully my 3 readers will enjoy the broader scope and confide 3 or 4 more people to check out the blog. Enjoy!