5 & 5 : Heavy Metal

The idea here is I pimp 10 things I like.

  • 5 are recommended for people new to whatever (in this case, Heavy Metal albums!)
  • 5 are for those willing to take a chance on something a bit harder or a bit more crazy.

The Easy to Get Into 5

1. Metallica – Master of Puppets

So what’s the best Metallica album? Black album, right? Enter Sandman, Nothing Else Matters, The Unforgiven…. classic songs. It sold a bazillion copies… right?

Well if you ask a (puts on elitist hat) ‘true fan’ it’s Master of Puppets. A fantastic Thrash Metal album from beginning to end. It’s often regarded as the best Heavy Metal album ever made. But you know… screw lists.

If you wondered what Metallica did before they hit the big time, this is where to start.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_of_Puppets

Youtube : Master of Puppets

2. Mastodon – Crack the Skye

Mastodon are cooler than you.

Did you make a concept album about astral travel and Rasputin? No, I didn’t think so.

This album is easy to recommend despite having two songs over 10 minutes. Losing a lot of their previous Sludge Metal traits, this album is more Prog Metal/Rock. For starters, you can understand the lyrics.

It took me a while to get the hang of it, since it’s a bit ponderous. Somewhere in this album, maybe the third or fourth time you hear it, you’ll find yourself absolutely swept up and lost in the music.

Front runner for my favourite album for 2009.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crack_the_Skye

Youtube : Divinations

3. Opeth – Ghost Reveries

So there is a link below to a live recording of ‘Ghost of Perdition’. For exactly one minute you will be wondering why this is one the ‘Easy’ list. Faced with a bunch of ‘wookies’ on stage death growling away , it’s a WTF moment.

Then it hits the clear (non-growling) singing and it’s quite funky. A bit more growling before 2:30 and then suddenly it’s very soft and songful. Seriously WTF?!?! This my friends, is Opeth.

This band regularly produces 10+ minute songs that stretch over several genres including Doom Metal, Prog Rock and Folk music. Even more noteable is the fact that everyone loves them! There’s not too much growling, the musical talent on display is fantastic and they are cool and interesting enough to attract a wide audience.

Dare I say it, this is the best metal band in the world right now.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_Reveries

Youtube : Ghost of Perdition Live

4. Dethklok – The Dethalbum

The highest charting Death Metal album on Billboard, ever. What? How?

Well for starters, the band isn’t actually real. It’s a fake band ala Spinal Tap. Except in this case it was created for the cartoon series Metalocalypse. Parodying (and indulging in) the cliches of extreme metal the series is a bit of a guilty pleasure. That means you have to find ultra-violence funny to appreciate it.

As for the music, it’s actually great. The album features Gene ‘The Atomic Clock’ Hoglan on drums. I could go into great depths about it, but lets just say the first song ‘Murmaider’ is about mermaids committing murder. If that made you giggle, check it out.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dethalbum

Youtube : Thunderhorse

5. Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast

I know a few people older than me that sweared by this band. I’d say I liked Mastodon and they’d say “Oh I don’t like the new Heavy Metal, just give me Iron Maiden”. I never quite understood.

So it came as quite a surprise when I realised Iron Maiden is actually fantastic. I’m not even going to give them a stupid name. This is Heavy Metal.

It’s got the guitar solos and well written songs, and the wailing 80s squeals have enough charm to make the whole thing quite likable. Maybe they’ll never make Triple J’s hottest 100 like Queen and Led Zep, but if you look around you’ll see an army of fans who appreciate this classic band.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Number_of_the_Beast_%28album%29

Youtube : Number of the Beast (1985)

The Crazy 5

1. Dream Theater – Scenes from a Memory

So lets start out the crazy list with something crazy…

A true Prog Metal concept album, featuring a modern man haunted by the ghost of a girl from 1928. It’s got two acts, 10+ minute songs, a cast of characters and starts with a hypnotist putting you to sleep.

Anyway, I’ve only just got into the band. My initial reaction was the singer sounds a bit ‘try-hard’ and the whole thing is a bit geeky. Though after a few listens, it really started to win me over.

Also… the best story I ‘ve head about Dream Theater is that they had played their concert then at the end announced they were playing “Master of Puppets”. Not the song… the album. They played the whole Metallica Album following their original set. That’s the coolest thing ever!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolis_Pt._2:_Scenes_from_a_Memory

Live : Overture 1928 / Strange Deja Vu

2. Mastodon – Leviathan

The second appearance for Mastodon is actually a better album than Crack The Skye. It’s down in the crazy list as it’s Sludge Metal. Distorted vocals and guitars are the order of the day.

It’s also got a better idea for a concept album… Leviathan is ‘Moby Dick – The Heavy Metal album

It could be my favourite Metal album. At least it’s one I could listen to nearly any time. What works for me is the feeling of churning and rolling in the music that represents the ocean. Plus it’s got one of my favourite epic songs at the end, ‘Hearts Alive’, which runs over 13 mintues long.

It’s regarded as a classic, and I love it to bits, though no-one I know likes it quite as much as me.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastodon_%28band%29

Youtube : Blood and Thunder

3. Arch Enemy – Rise of the Tyrant

Angela Gossow is awe inspiring.

The beginning and end of female Heavy Metal vocalists as far as I’m concerned (and no Jada Pinkett Smith doesn’t count). Female death growling == crazy list.

While the vocalist may be attention grabbing for this band, they are backed up by two brothers who are among the best guitarists around. They hit the right mix of guitar solos, and ‘brutality’ without getting nasty (eg. Most of their songs are about fighting unnamed fights and struggling against… you know… bad stuff). Plus it’s always good when your genre isas awesome sounding asĀ  Swedish Melodic Death Metal.

I may say other bands are better… if I talk about my favorite, it has to be Arch Enemy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rise_of_the_Tyrant

Youtube : Blood On Your Hands (Live)

4. Lamb of God – Ashes of the Wake, Sacrament & Wrath

These guys are seen to be at the fore front of The New Wave of American Heavy Metal (as opposed to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal… eg. Iron Maiden in the 80s). I put them on the crazy list since the aggro nature of the band turns a lot of non-metal listeners off. If you want to know what’s popular right now, this is where to look.

Generally known as Groove Metal I’ve also heard these guys called Meat and Potatoes Metal due to their solid and reliable approach.

Personally I think they have some of the best metal musicians I know of, particularly the drummer. I also tend to think they put out albums that are 80% great and 20% average. Due to this fact I’ve listed all three of their recent albums as they’ve all got something to offer, yet never quite knock it out of the park.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamb_of_God_%28band%29

Youtube : Laid to Rest

5. Everything else… ok screw it…

So I’ll admit, I was torn on the last entry. I’d already featured my favourites, so I thought I should hit some of my crazy other albums.

Perhaps Thrash Metal with Slayers Reign In Blood or Machine Head’s recent The Blackening

Maybe faster with Caffeine Metal, City by Strapping Young Lad

Perhaps Math Metal with Meshuggah (I actualy haven’t heard this album, bnut I plan to get it)

Or maybe something old like Black Sabbath or even Led Zepplin…

Instead…. feat your eyes on the glory that is D&D Power Metal!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Through_the_Fire_and_Flames

Youtube : Through fire and flames

5 & 5 : Comics!

The idea here is I pimp 10 things I like.

  • 5 are recommended for people new to whatever (in this case, comics)
  • 5 are for those willing to take a chance on something a bit harder or a bit more crazy.

The Easy to Get Into 5

1. Y the Last Man

The phrase goes “Not if you were the last guy on earth!”… And so Yorick Brown finds himself (along with his pet monkey, Ampersand) the last living male on the planet after a sudden catastrophe wipes out every other Y chromosome on the planet. What does a world look like with no men? 495 of the Fortune 500 CEOS are gone. So are 99% of the worlds land owners. 95% of all commercial pilots, truck drivers and ship captains… along with 92% of all violent felons.

I found Y the Last Man to be a great example of the modern comic. No superheroes, thought provoking ideas and enough fun to make it all entertaining. It’s 60 issues long, but can be read in 10 ‘Trade Paperback’ books (about 100 or so pages).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y_the_last_man

2. Hellboy

A personal favorite of mine, I found Hellboy a great entry point for comics. For starters, the plots in the first few books are straightforward. ‘Hellboy finds some mythological creature has run amok. He then beats the crap out of it‘.

It’s on this basic framework that we get some superbly stylised artwork, a quirky atmosphere and some good old monster fighting.

The book to start with is actually the third in the series. Hellboy: The Chained Coffin and Others. A collection of short stories in which big red encounters a nagging corpse looking for a grave, a township with a wolf problem and a giant made of… well you’ll have to read that one yourself.

Some may say it’s an acquired taste, but I really think this book in particular is the sampler to try.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellboy:_The_Chained_Coffin_and_Others

3. Liberty Meadows

Liberty Meadows is a comic strip. Like Garfield, only funny. And cheekier too. The setting is an animal reserve for critters with various problems.

While most plots center around Frank the nerdy vet and his attempts to attract the interest of Brandy the animal psychiatrist, it’s the animals that steal the show. Ralph the midget circus bear and Leslie the hypochondriac frog in particular are hilarious. Laugh out loud stuff in my opinion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_Meadows

4. Scott Pilgrim

I tend to be careful recommending things that have a movie adaption coming out. People might not read the book till the movie is out… The movie might suck… People may think I have secret deals with the studio…

Anyway, Scott Pilgrim is about a slacker in Canada. He lives in a strange little world where his friends try to get a band going and then Scott falls for a girl named Ramona Flowers. Things are ok till he learns that in order to stay with Ramona… he will need to defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends!

Oh and there are robots, ninjas and vegans with psychic powers. A fun fun book with a lot of style.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Pilgrim

Note: The movie is directed by Edgar Wright of Shaun of The Dead and Hott Fuzz fame. I’m psyched!

5. Creature Tech & Iron West

These are actually two books by the same author, Doug TenNapel.

They are basically bonkers. Creature Tech starts with a giant space eel, then involves the shroud of turin, alien symbiots and demon hellcats.

I don’t even want to spoil the final smack down at the end of Iron West. It’s really the most awesome thing anyone can think of.

Still, they are fun and really accessible books to get in to.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creature_Tech

The Crazy List of 5

1. Sandman

I’ll start my crazy list with a strange choice. Sandman is considerded a classic of the medium. Story telling that is simply on a level beyond most fantasy literature in comics or otherwise.

It’s on the crazy list because it took me 9 years after I first bought it to appreciate it. So it’s less that the book is crazy, and more that I am.

Maybe it was because I unfairly compared it to Hellboy. Both take mythological creatures of all sorts and mix them together, but there is very little punching in Sandman. Instead, it has ideas and storytelling that gets into the core of your brain and works a spell in there.

So what’s it about? Primarily it’s about the the 7 Endless (Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Despair, Desire and Delirium) with the focal character being Dream (the Sandman). While most stories feature these characters, they are not always at the center. From one episode to the next, there is an astonishing variety in the tales to be told.

So if you want to go on a real journey, this is a great series to go with.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sandman_(DC_Comics/Vertigo)

2. Watchmen

I was tempted not to put this on the list. Traditionally this is the one that everyone recommends to anyone to investigating comics. And not without good reason, it’s probably the most technically accomplished comic series ever made.

My hesitation comes from the fact that this is a comic about comics. Specifically it looks at comic characters from the golden and silver ages and treats them much more realistically. To make the most of this book, it requires some knowledge of comics history.

Apart from that, Watchmen is truly a masterpiece. Spanning multiple generations it has a rich and detailed history with supplemental material fitting in between each chapter.. The whodunnit plot provides a framework for the investigations into each character and ultimately culminates in an ending that blew my fragile little mind open.

It’s not called the Citizen Kane of comics for nothing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchmen

3. Top Ten

Set in a world where everyone has super powers or hi tech science equipment, along with multiple universes, it tells the story of the police force of the 10th precient. Yes, it’s a cop drama, set in the world of superheroes.

I mentioned Watchmen required a knowledge of comics to make the most of it. Top Ten is like the Where’s Wally of superhero comics. Every scene is packed with in-jokes and funny references to super heroes. My favourite would be the land lady who has an infestation of super powered mice. The exterminator uses the only sensible solution… super powered cats!

And while it may sound all humorous that’s not always true. The finale of one of the major plot lines had me absolutely captivated and on the edge of whatever I was sitting on.

This series has two solid entries (book 1 and book 2) and some mildly diverting spin offs, but those first two are worth getting into.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_10_(comics)

4. From Hell, Black Hole & Maus

Ok, so I cheated and put three books here. These three are the most intimidating and mature books I own.

I don’t know anyone who loves From Hell, but I know a lot of people who admire it. This fictionalised story of Jack The Ripper (it tells you who it is early on) is insanely well researched with a large section of annotations for each page at the rear. A challenging read.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Hell

Black Hole is the story of teens in the 1970s dealing with repurcussions of an sexually transmitted disease. Only this disease causes horrible physical mutations. Another somewhat uncomfortable book to read, with very dark and precise artwork.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Hole_(comics)

And finally Maus is about the holocaust, or so I thought. As the book continues it becomes obvious that the author is questioning the purpose of the book as he writies it. Instead it becomes a fascinating insight into the relationip between a man and his father. Despite fairly highly regarded, it took me toward the end before it finally won me over.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maus

5. Understanding Comics

It was not until I read this book that everything in my life made sense. I finally realised why I took my Transformers as a kid and slowly removed their limbs with a screw driver. It is because I am a deconstructionist. I like seeing how the most basic parts of something work together to create something larger

Understanding Comics does that to comics. It describes the raw elements of panels, transitions and the passage of time. How art can lies between three poles of realisim, iconic abstraction and raw visual abstraction. Not only that the whole book is told as a comic itself.

Basically, this is the book to read if you want to understand the medium. It explains why comics aren’t just the frames of a film, or a book with pictures, but something unique in itself.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Understanding_Comics

The first blog that is not worth reading.

Ok, so now I have a blog site. Yay.

Ok… what next…

I suppose I need to write something worth reading.

Nah, screw that.

Well put it this way, if you see me, and say the magic word ‘Pancakes’ I will give you $1*. That is the secret value of this first blog post.

Man, I bet that second blog post is going to be awesome.

* Offer valid once per applicant or until I get sick of giving away free money.