Sting—Fields of Gold

I know I’m a metalhead, but this is just such a beautiful and perfectly written song.

You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in fields of gold

So she took her love
For to gaze awhile
Upon the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold

Will you stay with me, will you be my love
Among the fields of barley
We’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we lie in fields of gold

See the west wind move like a lover so
Upon the fields of barley
Feel her body rise when you kiss her mouth
Among the fields of gold

I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I’ve broken
But I swear in the days still left
We’ll walk in fields of gold
We’ll walk in fields of gold

Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold
You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in fields of gold
When we walked in fields of gold
When we walked in fields of gold

My albums of 2012

albums of 2012

This year was a pretty frugal one for me in terms of album buying, but a very prosperous one in terms of free albums acquired on Freecycle. I added only 15 albums and EPs to my collection, and five of those were free (but not free as in pirated!).

Unlike last year’s run-down, this year I’m counting down from 10.

10. How To Kill A Zombie (HTKAZ)—The Uprising EP

2012-09-htkaz-the-uprising-ep

How To Kill A Zombie is a death metal band from right here in Fife, Scotland. The guitarist, Chris Marr, is a friend of mine from St Andrews.

I’d heard a few demos of the band before I bought their EP, and I narrowly missed seeing them live here in Anstruther in 2011, but I sustained a back injury the afternoon before their gig. I need to make a point of seeing them live in 2013.

Musically they remind me of elements of old-school, British thrash band Xentrix, American thrashers Lamb of God, and God Forbid. Their songs are very well written, structured, and played. This is a band that definitely deserves a wider audience.

My current favourite track on the EP is track 2, ‘Revolution’.

9. Steve Lawson—11 Reasons Why 3 is Greater Than Everything (Remastered)

2012-10-steve-lawson-11-reasons-remastered

Strictly speaking this isn’t a 2012 album, it’s a 2011 album that was remastered and re-released as a free download. (I’m sure Steve will correct me if I’m wrong.) I should also declare that Steve is a friend, not that that guarantees that I’ll love everything that he puts out.

Steve Lawson is a critically acclaimed solo bass player. Which somehow seems to do him an injustice. It might be better to say that he’s a critically acclaimed musician who happens to express himself using a bass guitar and a floor-full of technical gadgetry that enables him to accompany himself.

This is an album that I should play more. As with much of Steve’s music, it’s beautiful, gentle and thought provoking. (Unlike the harmonica solo performed by a four year old that I’m listening to in the background while writing this!)

My stand-out tracks on the album are the opening two tracks: ‘A year afloat’ and ‘Travelling north’.

8. Dodgy—Stand Upright in a Cool Place

2012-08-dodgy-stand-upright-in-a-cool-place

Dodgy’s Free Peace Sweet album was pretty much my soundtrack of 1996. I’ve had a soft spot for Dodgy ever since, but had never seen them live until this summer when they rolled into Edinburgh and played a blinding gig in a tiny venue backing onto Waverley railway station.

This is a fabulous return to form for the English three-piece power-pop band; their first album since reforming in 2007. The songs are fun, complex and layered. It’s a rare album that lifts my spirits quite as much as this one does. Brilliant stuff.

My current favourite track is ‘What became of you’.

7. Down—Down IV, Part 1: The Purple EP

Down IV

This is the one and only CD that I got for Christmas, last week. It has done well to sneak in to number seven so soon.

Down hail from New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) and comprise members of Corrosion of ConformityCrowbarEyehategodKingdom of SorrowPantera, and Superjoint Ritual.

This is the first of what is rumoured to be four EPs, supposedly to get the music out to fans quicker than waiting for a full album. And it’s a great start with Down’s signature laid-back, southern, stoner metal groove to each of the tracks with more than a tip of the hat to Black Sabbath on a couple (the opening of ‘The Curse’, anyone?).

My favourite track just now is ‘Misfortune Teller’.

Here’s the video for their first single from the EP, ‘Witchtripper’:

6. Candlemass—Psalms for the Dead

Candlemass

I first got into Candlemass when I heard ‘Bewitched’ from 1987′s Nightfall on Tommy Vance’s Friday Night Rock Show on BBC Radio 1. Candlemass were my first introduction to doom metal, and to my mind/ear they are still one of the best. (Writing this reminds me that I’ve still got five of their studio albums still to buy.)

Psalms for the Dead is supposedly Candlemass’s final studio album, an album about the presence and absence of time, about leaving, goodbyes and farewells. And true to the album’s theme Candlemass parted company with their fifth vocalist, American, Robert Lowe shortly after the album was released, replacing him with Swedish vocalist Mats Levén (At Vance, Therion, etc.).

All in this is a great album… apart from the intro to the final track ‘Black as time’ which is a spoken-word piece and possibly one of the cheesiest intros to a metal song I’ve ever heard; and it reprises halfway through the song. If I can ever be bothered I’ll edit it out! Which is a real shame as ‘Black as time’ is one of my favourite tracks on the album.

5. Prong—Carved into Stone

Prong

If there is a band listed here that deserves to be better known then it’s Prong. Fronted by Tommy Victor (who has also performed with Danzig and Ministry) the list of former band members is like a who’s who of alternative metal: Swans, Danzig, Fear Factory, Godflesh, Jesu, Killing Joke, Murder Inc.

There are a number of bands who can churn out fabulous riff after fabulous riff. Helmet is one, Prong is most definitely another. And this album is packed full of them. If I could be in any metal band on the planet then I’d want to be in Prong. I would never get tired of playing their twisting, heavy, melodic riffs.

My current favourite track is the friendly-sounding ‘Revenge… best served cold’.

4. Stone Sour—House of Gold & Bones, Part 1

Stone Sour

This is the fourth studio album from Stone Sour, featuring Slipknot front-man Corey Taylor and guitarist Jim Root (if you don’t include the special edition of Come what(ever) may) and it rocks!

If you like your metal melodic, heavy and thought-provoking with a few dalliances into acoustic ballads then Stone Sour is the band for you.

This album is the first part of a double, concept album. It’s a reflection of how crazy this year has been that I’ve still to read the lyrics and the booklet to figure out what the plot is.

My favourite song currently is ‘Tired’, simply for the opening riff.

3. Jessica Curry—Dear Esther Official Soundtrack

Dear Esther

For the last few years I’ve bought the latest titles into the Call of Duty or Battlefield PC games franchises. This year (until I received LEGO The Lord of the Rings in late November) has been about only one game: Dear Esther.

Set on a remote and abandoned Hebredean island, this is not so much a game as an interactive novel. It is simply the most beautiful game that I’ve ever played, and I suspect will ever play. Each time I’ve experienced it (not just played it but even watching walkthroughs on YouTube) it left me feeling contemplative and… I guess, in awe. It is quite astonishing.

And the soundtrack simply adds to the game’s beauty. It is hauntingly beautiful, and quite spooky in places, particularly if you’re listening to it in the pitch black, in bed, as I have done on more than one occasion this year.

There is a free version of the soundtrack available, taken from when the game was a mod rather than a standalone release. I also bought the full, final soundtrack which is slightly different. I only wish there was also an audio book version that included Nigel Carrington‘s perfect voice-over.

2. Storm Corrosion—Storm Corrosion

Storm Corrosion

This is an album that I had been looking forward to for quite some time: the collaboration between Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt and Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson.

The resulting album, the self-titled Storm Corrosion didn’t disappoint.

It’s a thoughtful and ponderous album that in many ways helps make sense of both the last Opeth album Heritage and Steven Wilson’s 2011 solo album Grace for drowning. It’s an album that you have to listen to again and again to get into, to unlock, to appreciate the various layers and subtleties. It could easily be a soundtrack, as demonstrated perfectly in the official video for the opening track ‘Drag ropes’.

1. Testament—Dark Roots of Earth

Testament

There are some who say that the Big Four of thrash (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax) should have been the Big Five with Bay Area thrashers Testament filling that final spot. I actually think this album equals, if not betters, anything that the Big Four have put out in the last couple of years. This is a great metal album.

The album kicks off with the adrenaline-fueled ‘Rise Up’, tanks through ‘Native Blood’, before slowing down a little with the melodic but crushingly heavy ‘Dark Roots of Earth’ that reminds me in parts of 1992′s The Ritual, which is not surprising given Alex Skolnick’s return to the band.

The rest of the album is a lesson in how good old school thrash metal sounds with modern production.

One of my favourite aspects of this album is the bonus CD which includes a rather disappointing and incomplete cover of Queen’s ‘Dragon Attack’ from The Game (1980), and a rather better cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘Powerslave’, from the 1984 album of the same name.

LAST FM CHARTS

Of course, this year I’ve listened to more than just the music that has come out this year. Whenever I listen to music on my PC, and I’m connected to the internet, the tracks are recorded to my Last.fm account.

My top-ten most played:

Artists

  1. Metallica (367 tracks)
  2. Lamb of God (324 tracks)
  3. Opeth (321 tracks)
  4. Prong (246 tracks)
  5. Testament (223 tracks)
  6. Stone Sour (188 tracks)
  7. Big Country (184 tracks)
  8. Porcupine Tree (179 tracks)
  9. Paradise Lost (155 tracks)
  10. Iron Maiden (154 tracks)

Albums

  1. Lamb of God—Sacrament (341 tracks)
  2. Porcupine Tree—The Incident (334 tracks)
  3. Opeth—Ghost Reveries (293 tracks)
  4. Anthrax—Worship Music (281 tracks)
  5. A Perfect Circle—Mer De Noms (268 tracks)
  6. Mastodon—The Hunter (268 tracks)
  7. Godflesh—Streetcleaner (266 tracks)
  8. Slipknot—Slipknot (254 tracks)
  9. Opeth—In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall (234 tracks)
  10. Lacuna Coil—Karmacode (233 tracks)

Tracks

  1. Storm Corrosion—Drag Ropes (15 plays)
  2. Paradise Lost—Never For The Damned (14 plays)
  3. Paradise Lost—Ash & Debris (14 plays)
  4. Storm Corrosion—Storm Corrosion (14 plays)
  5. Storm Corrosion—Hag (14 plays)
  6. Paradise Lost—Requiem (13 plays)
  7. Paradise Lost—The Enemy (12 plays)
  8. Paradise Lost—Praise Lamented Shade (12 plays)
  9. Paradise Lost—Beneath Black Skies (12 plays)
  10. Lamb of God—Ghost Walking (12 plays)

Dodgy gig in Edinburgh

Dodgy playing live at Edinburgh's Electric Circus

Dodgy playing live at Edinburgh's Electric Circus (L-R: Andy Miller, Nigel Clark, Mathew Priest)

On Wednesday evening I drove down to South Queensferry, teamed up with my brother Eddie, and the pair of us took the train in to Edinburgh Wavelery to see—what Wikipedia calls—’English power pop trio’ Dodgy in concert at The Electric Circus on Market Street (which is right next to the station).

The summer of 96

In 1996 I was working with homeless young people in London, and living in a very nice basement flat in Eccleston Square with my good friend (and former National Youth Choir of Great Britain member) Jonny Coore. We had a summer of beautiful weather. It was the summer of Euro 96, which was hosted by England, and the city was alive; the atmosphere was electric. It was the year that I got engaged for the first time. And the soundtrack to that summer of 1996 was Free Peace Sweet by Dodgy.

In many ways it was a strange choice of album for me. I was heavily into metal (still am), I was trying my hardest to avoid anything with the ‘Britpop‘ label, like Oasis and Blur, and yet here I was listening to Dodgy again and again and again.

But the song writing was fabulous, and I loved the use of acoustic guitars throughout the songs.

Live

I was always under the misconception that Dodgy were from Birmingham. Apparently they started out as a band called Purple, a trio from Bromsgrove and Redditch in Worcestershire, who moved to London had a few line-up changes and re-badged themselves as Dodgy.

So, they were in London in 1996. I was in London in 1996. How on earth did we never bump into each other?! I would have loved to have seen them in concert back then.

So I made up for it this time around. They were coming to Edinburgh on their UK tour. I live about 50 miles from Edinburgh. I bought a ticket. My brother bought a ticket. And on Wednesday evening, I stood about 10 feet from the tiny stage at The Electric Circus and grinned from ear to ear for about 90 minutes.

It was an intimate gig. Dodgy were fun, and professional, and played a fabulous set. Despite my dodgy back (no pun intended), which was really beginning to hurt by the end of the set, I could have stood and listened to them for another 90 minutes.

Guitarist Andy Miller stood stage left behind a lap steel guitar on a stand. His playing was intricate and delicate but never too much. At times his guitar sounded more like a keyboard and I loved it for that. Every now and then he would look out to the crowd and smile. He obviously seemed to be enjoying himself.

Vocalist, guitarist and bassist Nigel Clark stood centre of stage, armed for most of the evening with an acoustic guitar, occasionally taking bass for a few of their earlier hits. The rest of the evening bass duties were handled very comfortably by a friend of the band. There was a warmness and confidence about his stage presence that suited the venue.

Drummer Mathew Priest has a fabulously simple drum set-up but he plays it so melodically and with such space. If I was a drummer he’s the kind of drummer I would want to be. I enjoyed his between songs chats, and we all marvelled at his knitted drumstick warmers in what I presumed were Aston Villa colours.

Thank you Dodgy.

New album

Dodgy released a new album Stand Upright In A Cool Place earlier this year, from which this is a track

Playing live

I don’t get out much these days. That’s my choice. I have three small children and a wife to support. So when I do get out to see a live band it’s a real treat. I’m glad I made the effort this time. Dodgy live were more than I expected. The venue was much smaller than I had expected but as a result there was an intimacy and a relaxed feeling to the gig that I relished.

The gig also reminded me how much I miss playing in a band live. Maybe one day I’ll get back to it. I sure hope so.

As my brother and I stood on the platform at Edinburgh Waverley to catch our return to Dalmeny, Eddie asked me “So, have you got any other bands you’d like to see live on your… bucket list?”

If you don’t already know, a ‘bucket list’ is a list of things you’d like to do before you kick the bucket (die).

“Why?” I asked, “If I don’t are you just going to shove me in front of the next train?”

Dodgy were definitely on my list. I’ve scored them off now… but do you know what? I think I might just write “Dodgy” on that list again.

Epilogue

A few weeks ago I got a phone call from my Mum.

“Hello Mum!”

“What’s this I hear about you going to a dodgy gig?”

“The band are called Dodgy.”

“Ah… right,” she said, obviously sounding quite relieved.

Star Wars soundboard

20120418-starwars

The Star Wars soundboard is great fun: an Adobe Flash-based web application that allows you to choose from hundreds of Star Wars audio clips and sound effects to create your own two-channel soundboard.

Create your own dialog between Star Wars characters or mix yourself an electronic dance track, like this one that I put together one evening a few weeks ago, using “Maul’s face-kick” and the “Jawa ion gun” as percussion, overlaid with dialog and the odd R2-D2 screech.

Be warned, though. If you are a Star Wars fan you can waste hours on this.

Lamb of God vocalist to stand for US President

Lamb of God: Willie Adler, Mark Morton, D. Randall Blythe, Chris Adler, John Campbell

WARNING: There are some sweary words in the following post. They are not my sweary words—obviously, I never swear (ahem!). I’m just quoting them.

Without a shadow of a doubt Lamb of God are one of my favourite bands. Their new album Resolution is scheduled to be released in approx. 18 days’ time. I’m very excited.

Well, their vocalist, D. Randall (Randy) Blythe has announced that he is standing for US President in 2012.

“It’s 2012 now, the year some are saying the Mayan calendar predicts a cataclysmic upheaval across the board for our planet, perhaps even the end of the world as we know it. I don’t know if these doomsday predictions have any validity, but I do know one thing: the potential candidates in the race to decide who will be elected President of the United States look like pure shit.

“I’m not particularly stoked on any of the candidates. In a massive blow to our civil rights, Obama quietly signed the NDAA for the fiscal year 2012 into law while Americans drank in their party hats on New Year’s Eve. The GOP is parading around a bunch of ass-clowns in what has got to be the most embarrassing primary season in the history of their party. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse than Sarah Palin, they bust out that lunatic Michele Bachmann. I have no clue what the Libertarians are up to now that Ron Paul is gunning for the Republican nomination. Probably loading their guns and preparing for the worst.

“Don’t even get me started on our current Congress, THE WORST CONGRESS I HAVE EVER SEEN OR HEARD OF IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. It’s a relentless bipartisan pissing contest in Washington where not only is nothing getting done, nothing is ALLOWED to get done. There’s a bunch of squabbling children in Washington in charge of the business of running our country. These baboons are stopping any useful litigation from occurring by engaging in an endless game of “I know you are, but what am I?”. There is very little compromise happening in DC, and there is very little regard for the welfare of the American people. It’s PATHETIC.

“Something has got to change. America is falling to pieces around us and we are sitting back and letting it happen. We need someone to come in and REALLY take charge, someone who can’t be bought by corporate dollars because he doesn’t need or want ‘em. Someone who is not going to bullshit the country or the rest of the world about what’s going to go down when he steps into office, because he LIKES pissing people off and doesn’t give a shit about hurting anyone’s feelings. We need a man who is not afraid to stick his neck out and risk embarrassing himself while doing the right thing, a man, in fact, INCAPABLE of embarrassment anymore PERIOD because he’s ALREADY done almost every stupid WRONG thing you can think of at one time or the other. We need a hard-boiled, no-nonsense, mean son-of-a-bitch with a bad reputation who ain’t afraid to cock-whip the shit out of some randomly selected pussy-ass billionaire on live tv during his annual State of the Union Address just to make a point and let the mega-rich know that NO ONE is above the law here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. In short, we need a man who just DOES NOT GIVE A FUCK.

“America, that man is me.”

Source: Revolver

So, lets just assume that all goes to plan and Uncle Randy gets elected. What would be his first act as the 45th President of the United States of America?

“My first act as President of the United States will [be] to be shot. That’s right, SHOT. With a high-powered assault rifle. Immediately after taking the oath of office, I will be escorted about twenty yards away and be shot publicly in a non-lethal area of my body by a highly trained Navy SEAL sniper. It will hurt like fuck.”

Blythe says he will do this because he doesn’t expect anyone in the armed forces to do anything he wouldn’t.

“Me being shot will be broadcast live world-wide via satellite, with no bleeping out of the incredible string of curse words I will undoubtedly let fly with. I will be required to walk/limp/crawl on my own power a minimum of 50 yards through the mud to an ambulance that will take me away to patch me up. If I can’t make it on my own, I’m not tough enough to be your President.

“After all the nations in the entire world witness America’s new President, an insane looking heavily tattooed freak, getting shot ON HIS OWN ORDER as soon as he takes office, then crawling all bloody to an ambulance, cussing the whole way and screaming pure hate in a monstrous voice tortured by years of touring and Marlboro Reds, they will think twice before fucking with us,” he adds.

“Among his impressive list of promises are to:

  • Take 13 weeks of Marine Corps training.
  • Kill an enemy prisoners in hand-to-hand combat.
  • Kill the first enemy of any war.
  • Change the rules of engagement so troops can shoot before the enemy strikes.
  • Kick some ass.
  • Drink beer.
  • Get laid.
  • Bless America.

Blythe appears to focus on foreign policy rather than discuss economic issues, suggesting he may be better suited for the role of Secretary of State.

His slogan? “Fuck the dumb shit. Let’s get real here.”

Source: Ultimate Guitar

When we have a general election in the United Kingdom we get candidates from the Monster Raving Looney Party. We get candidates dressed as pirates. America gets presidential candidates who want to get shot. That’s metal!

Now do you see why I love Lamb of God?