Monday, January 28, 2008

Spotlight: As I Lay Dying, Still Remains

So this week we went a little metalcore on everyone. Is there anything wrong with liking metalcore music? Not really. Basically for me a good/great metalcore band is a band that has some great vocals, both growls and singing, and some killer drumming and riffs. Killswitch Engage is a great example of a great metalcore band.
Still Remains - White Walls

Still Remains is another example of a metalcore band that includes the use of a keyboard. It adds a sort of Soilwork aspect to their music. Their debut Of Love and Lunacy reminded me at times of a Soilwork/In Flames clone, but their follow-up The Serpent is totally different. The keys in the debut were more for atmosphere purposes, however their new disc the keys are much more in the foreground of the music. It really adds a new dimension to the band. Also of note is the vocals. The screams aren't feature as much, but that's not a bad thing because the clean vocals work very well.
Still Remains - The Worst is Yet to Come

My favorite "new" band has to be As I Lay Dying. I remember seeing the cover for Frail Worlds Collapse with the skulls thinking "Wow this a pretty cool cover, I bet the music is just as good." And ya know what? It wasn't. It was below average death metal/metalcore. The drums were annoying in that St. Anger way. I had no real respect for them at the time. I didn't hate them, but they were like whatever.
As I Lay Dying - Confined

So I hear this song call Confined that was pretty cool. When I found out it was AILD I was blow away. They had done the classic scream/clean chorus and made it work. Add onto that the production on the album was a notch better. They had more of a thrash feel to some of their songs. They had about 5 solid songs ont hat album for me that really worked. I wasn't saying they were the best, but I knew I had to pay attention to their next album.
As I Lay Dying - The Darkest Nights

Enter An Ocean Between Us. Wow what an album. They took all the strong parts from Shadows are Security and made them better. Kept the thrash riffs, clean choruses, and improved their song writing. On top of that they seem to have a trilogy of videos going on right now. I am hooked on them and can't really wait to see how they turn out. Two of the videos are posted below.
As I Lay Dying - Nothing Left

So what does this mean? It means you can have some top notch metalcore music. Metal is meant to be played loud and fast. These bands do that. Too many metalheads focus in on the fact that it isn't Metallica, Slayer, or any 80's metal band and disreguard it right away.
As I Lay Dying - The Sound of Truth

Playlist for the week:
Tuesday: White Walls, The Wax Walls of an Empty Room by Still Remains from Of Love and Lunacy; The Serpent.
Wednesday: Confined, Through the Darkest Nights, The Truth of My Perception by As I Lay Dying from Shadows are Security.
Thursday: An Ocean Between Us, This is Who We Are by As I Lay Dying from An Ocean Between Us.
Friday: Nothing Left, The Sound of Truth by As I Lay Dying from An Ocean Between Us.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2nd sememster

started second semester today. Nice to see some students trying their best again. I rarely get transfer students at break, but I got a handful throughout the day. Nice to see new faces. I have gone back to trying to wear a shirt and tie everyday again. I started off the year like that, but it was sooo hot like 110's for like 2 weeks. So I went to polo shirts for the first part of the year. I remember writing about a dress code for my credential program. I always said I would wear a shirt and tie until I got bored of it and I did. Add in the fact putting on jeans and a polo is a lot easier to do then tie a tie and tuck in everywhere...and when you have a 16 month old you like things to be easy. So I will see how long this goes.

I am trying to change up some things in the classroom as well. I have never changed mid-year, but I felt it necessary this time. I have put the daily quizzes on a 9 point scale for the weekly average, instead of the 16 points a week. I found out that the DQ's were worth too many points at the end of the semester. And when there is no partial credit that can weigh on their self-esteem...weak I know, but I don't want to lose any students before state testing.

The other thing I noticed was that I had only 14 F's...not bad considering 6 of them knew before 1st semester ended that they were dropping the class or moving back a level. Hopefully, I can say something similar when state testing comes around this year. It can't get worse than last years Algebra 2 class results. My hope is that it is like Algebra B with a high proficient rate.

Music this week...a little metalcore. Mainly As I Lay Dying, I am hooked on their videos as of late. More on them later.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Spotlight: Machine Head & Devildriver

So finals are done and first semester is all done. It was a good year. I only had 13 F's. That may seem high, but I have over 120 students. I was impressed at how well they stepped up and did and great job preparing for the final. Next stop CST's.

This was a short week for us so I decided to highlight the top 2 bands from my 2007 albums of the year. Unfortunately, I could play some of their better songs because of the language, but the ones I played were very good.


Machine Head was up first. Machine Head came out of the band Vio-lence, as I stated last week, a second tier bay area thrash band. They broke up and Rob Flynn started Machine Head. Their debut Burn My Eyes is a masterpiece. Hands down a great debut album. Full of rapid fire drumming, heavy riffs, and some great vocals. After that they released The More Things Change which was similar to Burn My Eyes. But after that we had a couple of sellout albums in The Burning Red and Supercharger. Now nu-metal was popular around this time so what did we get? Well almost rapping of lyrics for was bad. They came back a few years ago with Through the Ashes of the Empire and it was a return to form, not classic, but a solid return and a sign of things to come. Take a song like Descend the Shades of Night, which was a long epic feeling song...a definite precursor to their latest The Blackening.


The Blackening was hands down the best album I heard this year. Musically, it blew everything away. I normally don't post youtube clips, rather videos, but this clip has every solo from The Blackening and you can see how awesome this album is. Take a listen.


Awesome stuff huh?

Anyway the other band we listened to was Devildriver. Devildriver came from the ashes of a nu-metal band called Coal Chamber. The nice thing about DD is that they have gotten better with every album. Their debut was a solid metal album, but nothing to write home about. The Fury of Our Maker's Hand was a ton better. Better writing, better vocals, better playing. From start to finish it was an instant modern metal album.


This year they release The Last Kind Words, which took everything great about Fury and made it better by adding some killer solos. That's right solos. Unfortunately, pretty much every song drops an f-bomb or s-bomb so can't play those. One other thing about DD, their videos are down right trippy. If you ever saw early Black Sabbath videos, that's what these remind me of.


Playlist for the week;
Monday: Wolves, A Farewell to Arms by Machine Head from The Blackening
Tuesday: Descend the Shades of Night by Machine Head from Through the Ashes of the Empire
Wed./Thurs.: The Fury of Our Maker's Hand, Unlucky 13, Digging Up the Corpses by Devildriver from The Fury of Our Maker's Hand

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Venting the Anger: Spider-Man One More Day

Now I am a huge Spider Man fan and will always stay true to the comics. I was upset with Spider Man 3 because they screwed up the black suit, but there is always time for that. Let me focus in on Spider Man's cross over series One More Day. I won't try to get into too many details, but to catch you up to speed; Spider Man unmasked himself for Civil War, Aunt May was shot, and Marvel's editor never wanted to see Peter Parker marry Mary Jane. So what's he do? He has Peter make a deal with the devil to save Aunt May's life. That's right a deal with the devil...Spider Man making a deal with the devil. Let that soak in...

Ok so with that in mind I encourage you to head over to Comics 101 and read what Scott has to say about it. He does a much better job of explaining everything.

Why did they do this?!?!?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Albums for 2008

so with 2007 behind us, what can we look forward to this year? Well a couple off the top of my head would be Metallica...which are said to be a little be more metal sounding than St. Anger and the Loads. I mean come on have you seen their set list recently on tour? Nothing from Loads or St. Anger...looks promising.

I would have to add in the new Anthrax and Testament. Both will be solid old school thrash metal. I'm not expecting to be blown away by them, but I am expecting a great listening experience.

One album I am waiting for is Protest the Hero's sophmore album. I was blown away by Keiza and have heard a new song off their myspace and it sounds great as well. If I ahd to describe their sound it would probably be a younger brother or cousin of Into Eternity...with the same vocals and a little emo vocals as well. Great stuff.

Guns N Roses...nope.

Beyond the Embrace...I hope.

2007 was a great year for metal hopefully 2008 will be just as great.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Spotlight: Testament

Back from the holidays and finals next week. Christmas is over and so is the Christmas music, back to some classic thrash this week...Testament. Testament is sort of that second wave of Bay Area Thrash bands. The first was the classic of Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer. The second wave was Testament, Metal Church, Exodus, and I guess you could even thrown in Vio-lence.

Anyway, Testament for me was always a Metallica clone. When I first heard Practice What You Preach I thought I was listening to Master of Puppets era Metallica, down to the vocals. The Ritual was Testament's own Black Album. I was never really impressed...until Low. Post Ritual Testament is the birthplace of modern thrash for me. Low combined the basic elements of thrash with modern vocals. Not total death growls, but more harsh singing. And let me tell worked. From start to finish Low is a masterpiece. They even throw in Trail of Tears that reminds me of a classic Metallica ballad ala Fade to Black.

Low from Low

After Low, they went a little more extreme with Demonic. Now this is a death/thrash album. Chuck Billy's vocals are pretty much all death style. It's ok, but it's not Testament. Musically, it's similar to Low, but the vocals is what separates this from Low.

Shades of War from Low

The Gathering was next. Alot of fans say this is a masterpiece. It's ok for me. I think people are distracetd by the line-up. It is a who's who of metal gods. Steve DiGiorgio (from Death) on bass, Dave Lombardo (Slayer) on drums, and James Murphy (from Death). And then of course Chuck and Eric who were the remaining members after The Ritual. The Gathering has my favorite Testament song with D.N.R. thrash masterpiece. This album was more in line with Low, as Chuck reterned to his harsher vocals, but no death screams.

D.N.R. from The Gathering

After this they re-recorded some songs from their first 2 albums for First Strike Still Deadly. This saw the return of Alex Skolnick on lead guitar, who left after The Ritual. This is a classic album. The updated sound of the guitars and the newer style of vocals makes these classic songs even better.

Over the Wall from Live in London (reunion tour)

So what's next? Well Chuck had a cancer scare that put the band on hold for many many years. they are set to release an album in 2008. They have said is is somewhere between their debut and The Gathering. Should be a solid release though.

Legions in Hiding from Low

Playlist for the week:
Monday: Legions in Hiding, Chasing Fear, Hail Mary from Low
Tues/Wed: Trail of Tears, Shades of War, Urotsukidoji from Low
Thursday: D.N.R., Over the Wall, and Ten Thousand Thrones from The Gathering, First Strike Still Deadly, and Demonic.
Friday: Ride, Dog Faced Gods from Low

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Venting the Anger: College BCS

I am sure some of you watched the game last night that saw LSU simply destroy OSU for the national title. So what's the big deal? Well LSU had two losses and a team like Kansas (which destroyed Oklahoma) only had one and got left out. Or how about Missouri? They had two losses both to Oklahoma and killed Arkansas in their bowl game...and Arkansas beat LSU! And as much as I hate USC, they beat up on Illinois who beat OSU. most of the bowl games were blow outs this year... except for a few. Take Michigan and Florida. Michigan was unranked (lost their home opener to a NCAA division 2 school) while Florida was #12. What happens? Michigan beats Florida.

If this year doesn't scream for a playoff system nothing will. This is embarrassing for all of sports and college football.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Who Decides: 2007 Albums of the year

Ok, a while ago I posted my mid-year favorite albums and unfortunately they really didn't change that much. The 2nd half was kinda slow. Soilwork was ok...haven't really listened to it that much. It came out very quietly. And another disappointing album was released.

Here was the mid-year list:
1. Machine Head - The Blackening
2. Megadeth - United Abominations
3. Susperia - Cut from Stone
4. Nightrage - A New Disease is Born
5. Sanctity - Road to Bloodshed
6. Deadlock - Wolves
7. Fear My Thoughts - Vulcanus
8. Shadows Fall - Threads of Life

And the disappointments of the year:
1. Mnemic - Passenger
2. Chimaira -Resurrection
3. Becoming the Archetype - The Physics of Fire

And I was looking forward to:
1. 3 Inches of Blood - Fire up the Blades
2. Darkest Hour - Deliver Us
3. Devildriver - The Last Kind Words
4. Beyond the Embrace - TBA
5. Biomechanical - Cannibalised
6. Guns N Roses - Chinese Democracy

So how does the final top 10 look like?
1. Machine Head: The Blackening; this was so hard to choose from this and #2. I went back and forth and I think the music just on this was just wins out. Any band that can have a 10 minute opener and make it not feel too long is pretty good.

2. Devildriver: The Last Kind Words; even better than The Fury of Our Makers Hands. The intensity of that album with some stellar leads. Truly great.

3. Susperia: Cut From Stone; see old post here.

4. Nightrage: A New Disease is Born; better with time. Some of the songs feel like they could have come off their debut album. The clean vocals don't take away at all...unlike some of my disappointments.

5. Megadeth: United Abominations; a step in the right direction, but I thought Susperia and Nightrage were a bit better as the year went on.

6. Deadlock: Wolves; see old post here.

7. Fear My Thoughts: Vulcanus; see old post here.

8. As I Lay Dying: An Ocean between Us; another improvement over Shadows are Security. Nothing Left is a metal classic.

9. Sanctity: Road to Bloodshed; see old post here.

10. Lazarus: The Onslaught; a better version of Exodus. Musically, vocally, just better. I can't wait to see where this band goes from here. Check them out here.

Disappointments haven't changed:
1. The Autumn Offering: Fear Will Cast No Shadow; new vocalist = horrible new sound. They tried to be like Trivium on this album...didn't work. I miss the old vocalist. Embrace the Gutter was a modern thrash/metalcore masterpiece. Take a song like Ghost, you go from this awesome Iron Maiden type solo to a killer breakdown. That stuff is all but gone on this new album...too bad.

2. Mnemic: Passenger; same reason as above.

3. Chimaira: Resurrection: see old post here.

4. Beyond the Embrace: they seriously need to put an album out. Just for not releasing an album makes them a disappointment.

Now there was nothing wrong with Shadows Fall, Darkest Hour, Soilwork, 3 Inches of Blood, Exodus, or Becoming the Archetype they just didn't do anything as amazing as these albums. BTW, all of those bands put out great solid metal albums. And they could easily make it into someone else's top 10. But, these are my top 10 albums of the year. Can't wait for this year.