bITS 'N CHUNKS
Well, Haken graced us with a new album this year - something I meant to talk about well before the concert I attended back in November, but well. Perhaps my life is a shambles.
I've seen a lot of descriptions of this album as "djent" but at this point I feel like that term is so far removed from its origins (it's basically an early metal meme to describe something as Meshuggah-esque) that it doesn't have a ton of pull for me anymore. It definitely doesn't describe too much outside of a very niche part of the progressive community overall.
So, what does this album sound like? Well... to me I'd say late period The Mars Volta, thematically and musically. There's probably far less saxophone but especially with the guitar texture and landscapes, it's there.
Haken has always sounded a little retro to me, but here their signature sound is best on display with single "The Good Doctor" and from there it gets... well, different. Let's talk about it, though. Why does prog rock like the Crazy tropes so much?
Well, humanity is complex, from our social interactions to our individual motivations, and nothing encapsulates that better than the mysteries of the human brain. Perfect for a subgenre that itself is complex and often concerned with cerebral things. It's a personal topic for me as someone coping with mental illness however successfully or unsuccessful, and I suppose that's at least part of the reason I am drawn to prog. The feeling that I don't have to pretend to care about mundane topics like boys, girls, money, or politics.
I feel like prog is at it's best when it's prohibitively complex and boy does prog enjoy talking about "craziness". The only thing more interesting than the human brain functioning is when it ceases to function normally and all sorts of nightmares commence. It can be a little navel gaze (see Mars Volta again) or it can be expansive and humanizing (late period Rush). For Haken, mental wellness -- or rather, unwellness -- makes a thrilling topic and an overreaching story line. But one that veers on a little... corny for them.
Let's talk about that for a second because I don't mean the version of corny that equals wack or cringe. I'm talking about something that has the whiff of regular. A twice told tale coming in for a third time. Why now? Because it's a popular trope of the genre so we have to?
The true concept of Vector is mysterious, but it can be surmised that a lot of song elements are meant to connect back to previous albums. It's heavily hinted that "The Good Doctor" is a direct sequel to the infectious "The Cockroach King"; if that's the case, then Vector surely reveals who the cockroach king and his victims truly are, right?
Rather, it's hard to say. There could be role reversal at play, so not a straightforward example at all. Maybe we've even been reading things wrong the whole time. Once we get deeper into the album, things take a turn for Cuckoo's Nest and we explore more of what's going on in this person's psyche. By the time we hit "Puzzle Box" and "Veil", it's established that we ain't getting any clear cut answers this week.
That's a tough pill to go down, but that sort of obsession and nerdery is a commodity in this community.
So, is it good? Yes. It's more likely to clear your skin than clear anything else up. The best Haken album? Not really. At 44 minutes and 7 songs, there was room for a little extra here without dropping into excess. The songs are great but thematically it just feels like we're going through the motions of doing it just to do it. There's better ways to go about this and I'm confident Haken will in the future, this one's just a compromise...
Gang, it's time for concert season once again!
... Except I've already been to all the shows I'm tryna go to this year with the exception of a potential new year's eve bash. My Shows About Town feature is pretty consistent, but for the latter half of this year I've (to be blunt) had my shit rocked repeatedly by the ups and downs of life and depression. So I haven't felt like it!
So, rather than a thorough concert review, here's a speed run of the two biggest shows I hit up in good ol' Music City.
At this point it's been about a week since the spookiest, best time of our lives. But while Halloween may only exist in our hearts and minds, my content does NOT!
That's right, with support and networking I was able to expand my (spider)web out this year and do some awesome projects with cool people I love. Sometimes, y'all, building community is worth more than every Huffington Post or BuzzFeed viral clip on the face of the Earth.
So where else was I? Well...
Halloween is always lit over at Global Comment. Here are the three (dark) entries I did this year.
Sabrina & Satanic Feminism
Y'all like horror remakes?
MANDY IS AWESOME!
Oh, did you miss my collab with the lovely Lovely? Well, here it is right here on this very site: Metalhead films!
And last but not least, my dear SoBros Network gave me the keys to their kingdom for a little bit to do my annual-when-I-actually-make-it-out 12 Hours of Terror write up!
Thanks to you all for making this Halloween equally as sexy and fun as last year's and not nearly as depressing as the year before. And now, we steadily march towards Turkeyland and Santa Time!
You know, gang, I like metal and I like movies. That much should be evident if you read any of my writing, follow my social media, know me as a person, and so on.
I’m always pondering ways to reach out to my fellow metalheads and commiserate, but most importantly combine our interests in productive ways. As it turns out, one of the prerequisites to metal fandom is… an enjoyment of film. Shocker! Specifically, we tend to lean towards scary film. So for Halloween, I thought I wanted to do a list of metal horror films for your headbangin’ souls.
Then, the project got… big. Metal infects everything in my life (like goth, only less so) and I thought, why do I have to stick to horror movies? Why can’t it just be evergreen?
Then… the project got monstrous.
I realized I couldn’t do it alone. So I reached out to my genderfluid dreamboat -- I mean definitely one of my favorite power metallers and big time inspiration, Lovely! Together, we have compiled a master list of films that any self-respecting metalhead should enjoy, or if you’re stuck in that phase of explaining things to mom and dad, maybe some of these will help.
(I’m totally fucking with you, these won’t help at all).
So, check out the massive list below, and don’t forget to check out Lovely’s podcast, Lovely Talks Metal! And follow their Twitter and Instagram. That being said:
I am very excited about Alice in Chains's new album Rainier Fog, their first in over 5 (!) years released last month. But before we get to that, walk with me a second here.
As writers and maybe creatives in general, we are bad at externalizing things and great at internalizing. We have all felt the weight of frustration that we are not making a living doing the Thing That We Do full time; meanwhile we project the image that it's okay. It's fine. You work your way up the ladder. We give each other pep talks and advice while internalizing the comments of others not within the industry.
The thing is, though, we are bad at normalizing that very thing. I'm willing to bet a lot of us have day jobs that have nothing to do with creative endeavors; and if you're one of the lucky ones that was able to parlay your passion into a career. That's great. Both sides of this are fine but we need to normalize one of these things.
I'll start. Hi, I'm not the mythical hellbeast I wish I was. I'm actually currently working in the financial sector while I'm still staying afloat with freelance writing. That's fine but sometimes I admit it's not. It's very hard knowing that the thing I want to do most doesn't always pay consistently, whereas my day job is just a day job. And as my city goes through the growing pains with costs of living outpacing wage increase and bills keep stacking up higher, it gets really hard to fathom going back to a time where I could work on fiction undisturbed and swing high profile rejections like, "that's okay, I'll get em next time". In fact, no. It's really discouraging, fam.
The job affords me benefits and the ability to take care of myself, my family, and a herd of cats. Writing brings me joy. I have the ability to increase my profile when things are going well and I'm steady. But I can't act like things don't get a little funky sometimes. I can't act like I don't wish it was more. I can't act like sometimes I just don't have the strength to keep trying and I wonder what it would be look like if I didn't.
I'm not always steady. As a human being, I'm not immune to taking serious Ls from life as I've alluded to previously. Those Ls have slowed down my contributions to my own site and the others I write for. That's all okay, except when it's not. The truth is, as much as I'd like to have a complete breakdown and get past the Anger stage of grief over my turbulent situation this year (and believe you me whether I want them to happen or not, those meltdowns came), my bills don't stop because I'm depressed. My obligations do not slow down because shit is tough. Those things are... not okay but to put it best it kind of is what it is right now.
That's the part I'm trying to get to. Normalizing real ass experiences that color our world. Things aren't fair and they suck and then sometimes they suck a lot. A lot of the success stories you see are just that... success. And stories. Theirs, not ours all the time.
Alice in Chains was the biggest band in the world to me when I was little, right up there in my metal pantheon with Megadeth, Metallica (I know), Judas Priest, etc etc... and Pearl Jam! Even into teenagerdom I couldn't imagine them struggling, even after Layne tragically died I didn't really comprehend what all went into keeping an artistic dream alive. There's a lot to be said about de-mystifying things. Some people need the drama and allure, and some people need to hear the truth but maybe slant. It was okay that I was living a mild delusion about one of my favorite bands and I had no concept of how tough the music business is because, well, I wasn't in the biz nor was I trying to be.
Jerry Cantrell's solo album Degradation Trip came out in June 2002 and in my young life I had seldom been readier for an album release. One of my favorite singers had died, the band was over, Boggy Depot was pretty dope but I was interested to see what Jerry was going to do on his own, so to speak. Back in those days (and still now) I read a lot of music journalism and I love artistic insight interviews. What do these songs mean? What are the lyrics? Where and why did you write them?
You know how things, sometimes, get lodged in your brain and you think about them for days or years? To this day, I still think of an interview from around that time that I glimpsed, off hand. It wasn't in a big magazine. I actually had to hunt it down with the help of Wikipedia and the Way Back Machine because I know I saw the damn thing. Jerry is a pretty open guy and this humble but brutal interview with NY Daily News contains several takeaways about how difficult making this album was, emotionally and financially. Nestled almost like an accident amongst the information in the short article -- so scant I had to Ctrl+F the damn thing -- is this line:
In fact, it cut off his funding while the album was being recorded and Cantrell mortgaged his house to keep it going.
I thought: wait a second. That can't be true. Mortgaged his fucking house? At that age, I couldn't really grapple with the severity of that statement but I felt it. So that's what it takes? From then on, I really started reading behind the scenes interviews with my favorite authors and musicians. I mean, really started paying attention. I listened. Rather than the de-mystification breaking any illusions of an easy life I had, I actually respected and appreciated the honesty. I started turning away from anything fake and superficial and that represented my break from a few ideals.
So here we are, all these years later and I'm asking myself to do the same. Can I still respect myself and preserver through perceived failures? I listen to Rainier Fog and I hear the weariness. It's a kind of weary that only gets more intense with age, tempered by hope and optimism but always with skepticism and self-deprecation hiding behind it with a garrote. There's a bit of passive anger as well as we scream in shock and shake our fists at world events that keep blossoming to horror.
There's a lot of things we don't understand until we hit a certain high, a certain bottom, or a certain age. Pre-teen me didn't understand the concept of home ownership let alone borrowing money off the house (way, way pre-recession) to fund a studio album that may not even show returns. Who could care that much? I do. Someone does. It's in you and you care. But we've got to stop beating ourselves up and consistently not do it.
The album? I love it. Not quite as hooky Black Gives Way to Blue and not as loud as The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, but it sure is a record for when you're going through some serious shit or walk your way out of it. And I wish you well.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...