Music Monday

Another Music Monday selection is here, this time my favorite album from Black Label Society–Order of the Black.

bls - ootb

Like many BLS fans, I discovered this band primarily because I was a fan of Zakk Wylde from his days as Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist. Though it was several releases into BLS’s career that I happened upon them, I’ve been a fan ever since.

While I like BLS’s earlier releases and I really enjoy the newest release Catacombs of the Black Vatican, nothing compares (IMO) to Order of the Black. BLS’s patented blend of southern and classical rock with hints of modern rock sensibilities is pulled off like no other. Wylde’s signature crooning and legendary guitar work and supported by driving percussion and rumbling bass resulting in a rock-n-roll masterpiece. Wylde also shows his softer side in three ballads, all of which are really well done, my favorite of which is Shallow Grave.

I hear echoes of lots of bands here–Shinedown, Guns-n-Roses, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, even Metallica. And while BLS clearly is indebted to the rockers that came before, they have carved out their own niche in a scene saturated with mediocre radio rock and continue to blaze their own trail.

My favorite track hands down is the lead track Crazy Horse, though I like the album beginning to end. Other standout tracks are Overlord, Parade of the Dead, and Southern Dissolution.

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Music Monday

Today’s Music Monday selection is from a band I’ve followed from the beginning–Demon Hunter. Their latest release, Extremist, is probably my favorite of theirs thus far and figures heavily in my rotation.

DH - EThis is another album where I like every song–no skips necessary! One of the reasons I like this album so much is that I can hear throughout elements that remind me of all their previous albums. It’s not a rehash though–every song is fresh and new and reflects the maturity that DH has achieved as a band with many years experience on the road and in the studio. The quality of production is also excellent. I feared with the previous two albums (True Defiance and The World Is A Thorn) that the production was too “poppy”, for lack of a better word, too clean and neat. While Extremist is definitely cleaner than it’s not, it’s not overly so. I do wish the bass guitar were a bit more prominent, but overall the final product is tight and precise.

I became aware of Demon Hunter primarily because I was a big fan of frontman Ryan Clark’s previous bands Training for Utopia and Focal Point (for whom my band years ago opened in Dallas and Austin!). DH’s self-titled premier hooked me from the outset and I’ve been a fan ever since. Ryan Clark, in my opinion, is one of the better song writers in the hard music scene and his vocals I’ve always enjoyed. Many critics of DH fault them for walking too fine a line between metal and, say, heavy rock (or radio-friendly metal), but this is one the aspects of DH I’ve always appreciated. Clark’s ability to deliver on both sides makes him more versatile than many of his peers. He is the heart and soul of DH and without him DH would not be the same.

Favorite tracks: Artificial Light, I Will Fail You, In Time, Heart of a Graveyard

Listen to the whole album here or buy it here.

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Music Monday on Tuesday

I intended to do a Music Monday post yesterday, but was too busy to get around to it. So, here it is on Tuesday, since yesterday’s full-album selection was the same as today’s. The album? Scryers of the Ibis by Ovid’s Withering, a metal outfit hailing from Tampa, FL.

Ovids-Withering-Scryers-Of-The-Ibis-604x604 This has been one of my favorite albums since it came out a couple of years ago–it still gets regular play. It’s one of those albums where every song can stand on its own, but each is better experienced in conjunction with the others. I’ve spun this album countless times from start to finish and very seldom do I listen to a song by itself.

Everything about this album is superb. The rhythm guitars are bone-crunching, the leads are subtle, yet compliment the rhythms nicely, the drums are performed with precision, and lead vocalist J J “Shiv” Polachek delivers unearthly growls (he also fronts another of my favorite bands 7 HORNS 7 EYES). When it comes to music, production is always important and I happen to think OW’s Scryers is splendidly produced. The overall mix is really good and allows each instrument and performer to shine, particularly the drums–they sound raw and unfiltered but not so much that they sound like they’re being played in a garage. There are several rolls that end on the floor toms that are thunderous goodness!

Another element that I love about this album is the fact that the lyrics are derived straight from Greek mythology, particularly concerning Poseidon. Greek mythology and skillfully executed deathcore? Why, that’s a lovely combo!

Listen here.

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Interesting Similarities

I’m always intrigued when I encounter similarities between the texts of the Bible and other ancient literature. One such example I happened upon while reading about Heracles’ twelve labors. For his eleventh labor (Apollodorus Library 2.5.11), Heracles was commissioned by Eurystheus to bring him the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, which were a gift from Gaia to Zeus and Hera at their wedding. These apples were the source of immortality for the gods and, interestingly, were guarded by a dragon, itself the offspring of Typhon and Echidna.

So, a tree of apples (fruit) that gave immortality which was guarded by a serpent–where have I read of such things before? Yes, this is obviously quite different from the Genesis account, but it is quite interesting that these elements–fruit, unnaturally long life, and a serpent–are all together in the same story.

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Thought for the Day

From Ronald Osborn’s Death Before the Fall, p. 45:

Many literalists, though, live with a visceral terror, thinly veiled behind their statements of dogmatic certainty and superior faith, that the entire religious edifice they have dedicated their lives to constructing could at any moment come crashing down upon their heads. Theirs is a theology conceived as a high-stakes game of Jenga. Whatever you do, don’t touch the bricks at the base of the tower.

Osborn later clarifies the kind of literalist he has in mind, namely those who rigidly adhere to a literal interpretation even when compelling evidence suggests a non-literal approach is better.

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Music Monday

My commute to work averages about 35 minutes, which means I have ample opportunity to listen to plenty of music to make the drive a little more pleasant.

Today’s Music Monday selection is one my favorite albums from the last decade–Further Seems Forever’s Hide Nothingfsf - hnFSF has been around a while now and has quite the following. There have been a number of lineup changes, and as with any band like this, there are various camps who prefer one vocalist over another. I count myself in the minority with those who favored John Bunch over Chris Carrabba and Jason Gleason. The other guys were solid to be sure, but I already knew John Bunch from his stint in Sense Field, and since I loved his vocals with them, I was predisposed to like him in FSF. I also love that this band is partially comprised of members of one of my favorite bands from the 90s–Strongarm.

This is one of those albums on which I like every song, though naturally some more than others. It’s always good when you can turn on an album and not have to skip tracks. Standout tracks for me include  Light Up Ahead (acoustic version here), Hide Nothing, and Make It a Part.

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Bad Book Covers

I posted not too long ago how much I appreciate good book covers, album cover art, etc. As I’m sure you know, for every good piece of cover art there are ten bad ones.

This gem came through an email I received this morning.

book coverWhile the overall design isn’t bad, I think it’s quite strange to see the silhouette of a tennis player, apparently having just hit the ball, in front of a large body of water. I will assume that this somehow is relevant to the story, but wow–this is a stinker of a cover. How many people play tennis on the shore at dusk??

But that one pales in comparison to this one.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 8.14.20 AM

Seriously–this is really bad! Where to begin? The author’s name gets half lost against the graphics, which were clearly done by someone who doesn’t know how to Photoshop very well, and it’s just blah. Apparently the book is better than the cover. Let’s hope so–this is a bad one!

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