Thursday, November 28, 2013

Ludwig Van Beethoven's Hymn of Thanksgiving and Jasmine Lyraka Aliara

Beethoven's opus 132 features a third movement called by the composer the "Heiliger Dankesang", or Hymn of Thanksgiving. It is considered by many musicologists as perhaps the greatest piece of music in the entirety of Occidental music history, but what I appreciate about it is that it inspires a sense of gratitude inside me.

Beethoven at the time of writing this was just getting over a near fatal illness, and both the pain of affliction and prayer-granted relief at his recovery is perfectly expressed here; there's small voiced pleading, regret at a life formerly taken for granted, intoxication and dancing upon receipt of even the slightest relief, and sober yet transcendentally gorgeous praises, all communicated through the composer's preferred mode of autobiography, the acoustic string quartet.

Jasmine Lyraka Aliara is whom and what I feel grateful for in this world, she remains the best part of my life. I haven't been anywhere near as good a man as I could have been...I have so many faults, and my decision making is at times borderline retarded. But I adore her today more than I ever did, and I hope I can be the best man for her I can be, despite my defects. Even if things between us ended someday, I would never, never stop feeling gratitude for every second I spent with her.

Thank you, powers that be, for her. For the power of love she showed me made me really believe...and keeps me believing.


Monday, October 28, 2013

The Expressive Lead Guitarist: Mindset, Motivation, And Eddie Hazel

As I rehearse the solos for the Robert Lowe-fronted Lyraka song "Entombed by Choice" I am both reminded of and inspired by the story of how guitar legend Eddie Hazel was told by composer George Clinton to play the "Maggot Brain" guitar solo "as if you just heard your mother had died". I can hear where Clinton was simply putting Eddie into a certain, motivated mindspace to enhance his performance, resulting in one of the most uniquely expressive guitar statements in music history.

My "Entombed By Choice" is a song about peeling back the stacked set of masks within the self, i.e. the handy visages that one uses (often obliviously) to suit certain contexts in order to facilitate gaining the objects of the will. Its subject matter draws from the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's writings on "intellectual hygiene", but I assert that the masks have a spiritual side as well, and this latter is emphasized in my lyrics. To quote Nietzsche: "You will be a heretic to yourself and witch and soothsayer and fool and doubter and unholy one and villain. You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame: (because) how could you become new, if you had not first become ashes?".

There are three solos in my song: the first is a realization of self-deceit (pointed out by the Lyraka character the Harbinger of the Prophecy), the second an introspective look within, grasping at whatever once passed as concrete within the psyche, and the last a resigned, bittersweet-yet-hopeful acceptance. All these feelings are universal within and among us all, a form of transcendental subjectivity that exists for artists like myself to externalize.

I rise to the challenge of putting myself where the raw emotion exists, a challenge encompassing a stringently honest appraisal of my own, overplayed masquerades. Though the end justifies the means, I must admit being conscious of the ultimate futility of such a psychical overhaul; in the end the masks I convinced myself weren't will stay in place, and new ones will construct themselves, each instance both polished and colored by my newest, most direly necessary delusions.

Friday, October 18, 2013

John Lennon Imagine

Over the years I've noticed that many of the people whom profess disdain for John Lennon's utopian lyrics and general Weltanschauung of this song are basically miserable and often filled with self-loathing and other assorted, whine-fostering issues. In fact, such reactions tend to tell me a lot about both the nature of that person and the song's impact itself.

To me, John brought out the things that upon reflection make life worth living, those things that are beyond cultural aesthete in terms of archetypal beauty.

The centuries have proven that man is capable of bringing what's inside out into the real world. The seemingly supernatural advances in technology are a great example of the formidable powers of men and women working together. I think we can all get together and work toward a common goal of no more wars, no more killing people, no more judging.

I myself truly believe that John's visions of a brotherhood of man, of everyone working together, feeding and sheltering and not unduly judging others can be made a reality. And if that makes me a hopeless romantic, an insufferable idealist, I far prefer that to the alternative.

Reach within. It all starts with US.

Monday, July 1, 2013


Sturm und Drang alternating with Meerfraulied, culminating in a most Macabre Minuet. When you listen patiently, you can hear how the simple opening motif goes through literally dozens of transformations: punctuating cellos and double bass during the first, Tristan und Isolde-esque orchestral section; highlighting the orchestra in the woodwinds during the second; set into multiple times, and keys; ultimately exploding into free form fantasies...

  Buy the Lyraka Volume 1 CD here:

John Zorn, Composer

John Zorn is a great composer, a brilliant musical iconoclast who already stamped his self-combative, deeply cantankerous personality onto eternity by not writing music according to other people's standards. This amazing song seems to be a jazz, rockabilly, grindcore clash if you don't open your mind before you listen. Once set, the originality and creative daringness of this song might thrill you. John is rightly considered by open minded music enthusiasts as fitting right in among the names of other Great Composers such as Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Wagner, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, R. Strauss, Miles Davis,  John Coltrane, Lennon/McCartney, Pete Townshend, Frank Zappa, Chick Corea, and George Clinton. The impact of his genre mixing and prolificity cannot be underestimated.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Suffocation- Pinnacle of Bedlam

Easily my favorite album of 2013 thus far, Pinnacle of Bedlam stands as the band's best since Pierced From Within. Really. All the factors that made Suffocation the spiritual forefathers of such greats as Dying Fetus, Internal Bleeding, and pretty much every Slam Death band that ever existed are all here: intense brutality, imaginative slams, terrific guitar playing, multi-textured double bass drum approaches. Interestingly, the songs themselves are technical more in terms of guitarist Terrance Hobbs' innately idiosyncratic riff writing than anything glaringly notey; to elaborate, both the technicality of the riffs and often non-linear songwriting seem to be a byproduct of Mr. Hobbs' quirky personality showing through. It's a far more interesting and moving approach than the typically impersonal, beeping blaze of the vast majority of "Progressive Death Metal" (hello and goodbye Necrophagist and ilk). This uniqueness really makes the album (and Suffocation as a band) really stand out, not to mention Brutal Death Metal's most influential vocalist Frank Mullen delivering the hideous goods as usual...if not better than he has since the mid 90s. One of the things I love best about Suffocation's 90s output was how the albums seems to unfold themselves more and more with each listen. Pinnacle of Bedlam marks a return to that type of could get just as much out of this album on headphones as on your 5.1 set up. All these factors, combined with absolutely magnificent performances on the parts of all players, really good (if perhaps a nitpickably bit over digitized) production, and just plain killer music makes this one a hard to beat entry into the album of the years sweeps.

5 stars is not enough.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Krisiun's "Black Force Domain"

Extreme Metal is one of the sole places where I can actually appreciate and even love constant speed and oversatured guitar-tones. Brazilian legends Krisiun's album (and song) Black Force Domain is all about completely unrestrained speed, there are mostly just pauses and repetitive a tempo (not always on time) blasting throughout; only Moyses Kolesne anchors things some with his meth-freek Blackmore/Malmsteen style. Yes, there's phrasing in the solos here, it's just that the intentionally (yet somehow worthily) awful production can at first hinder the ears from picking it up. Andre will resort at times to simply blowing out a bunch of chaotic notes out in grand Slayer-by-way-of-Morbid-Angel fashion. But hey, just like the two bands mentioned, Krisiun's music is chaotic enough for the leads to act as complementary, not necessarily detractive (and never-you-mind the sniffs of the erroneously self-labelled "neo-classicists" and/or the powder puff power metal dorks).

Something about this band...perhaps it's how the jungles of Brazil conjure up intense, oppressively humid, peculiarly dark atmospheres; landscapes riddled with unimaginably-large snakes and spiders.

This album is their best, the rest in their repertoire are (like Obituary and latter day Deicide) just variations. In all fairness when it comes to Brutal Death Metal, that's akin to a compliment.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ken Kelly's "Sonata Sirena" Artwork

I'm especially admiring fantasy god Ken Kelly's artwork for the upcoming Lyraka cd, "Sonata Sirena" this morning.  Most particularly the way the Venetian science fiction blends with the classic Grecian setting; the Empress' look of eagerness upon awakening in her royal bed; unstartled that she awakes in human form and well above the oceanic depths she holds illimitable dominion over.

The "Sonata Sirena" CD is due for release August 29th, 2014.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Fond Look Back: Working With Graham Bonnet

Sometimes things take a while to become completely clear. On the one hand, memories can get that (often necessarily) photoshopped blur: outward quite pleasant, interiorly frosty. On the other hand, sudden revelations can be gleaned (even when that manufactured veneer suspiciously remains).

I was thinking this morning about a conversation I had a couple of weeks before Xmas 2012 with the main vocalist for my opera, Graham Bonnet. We had wrapped up Graham's vocal work for my "Fidei Defensor", and I was very happy talking to him, thrilled with his vocal performances. Please let me digress momentarily: Graham and I had some rough spots over the years we worked together, and things came to an angry head more than once. But I learned so much of value from him, very much like a rock 'n roll father to son, and I told him that. After his modest thanks, I thanked him profusely and...well, basically said goodbye. Graham wrote back minutes later: "That's far too final, I mean, I was hoping we can do more again soon."

Imagine how it felt when it really, finally hit have heard something like that from my favorite Rock singer. And we're going to do more, I always have music for him, I love his voice and I love the way he sings my music.

I can tell anyone curious about Graham's current musical output: he still is more than capable of sounding as good as he ever his case that's about as high praise as I can think of. Take it from an at least minimally accomplished musician and composer: there's no replacing Graham Bonnet.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Solitude Aeturnus "Alone"

Doom Metal masters Solitude Aeturnus were in their early years disciples of bands as disparate as Candlemass and Fates Warning. Over the years they lost the influences and by the time of their album before this, "Adagio", seemed to have come up with what seemed an often entirely different sound (one that needed at least another album to anti-bug). In a surprising turn that ultimately produced the Doom Metal album of the 21st century, the band decided to reincorporate the classic Candlemass and Sabbath influences for "Alone", but this time integrating them with the most distinctive aspects of their own, established sound.

Alone is an album that is striking from beginning to finish, but I want to briefly touch on what might be the centerpiece, opener "Scent of Death". This track, leading us past Mesopotamian Gates made of Sabbath Stones, over Charon and into the land of the wizard's own, hazardous stone tower, is carried by a sound and flow that is most indicative of the album as a whole. Mesmerizing vocals, refreshingly imaginative in their note-choices, range of delivery, and arrangements; even offering impassioned, dramatic homage to the Adhanic (one can cross-reference Robert's Middle Eastern-sounding vocal excursions with the Arabic-sounding singing behind, say, the first scene of the Exorcist). The way the vocals work with the engaging verse/pre-chorus/chorus arrangements is just addicting and perfectly a propos to the song. And yes, you get plenty of guitar, fellow players, more than a bit in the classic Uli Roth/Iommi/Blackmore mode.

As mentioned, many of the above strengths apply to a great deal of the rest of the album. There are so many great riffs, woven together so maturely that it's hard to abstract them from the songs as a whole; yet rest assured there are plenty of riffs that reverberate very strongly within the psyche, and Robert Lowe's entrancing Arabiscisms will occupy that same space as well.

I won't go into detail regarding Robert Lowe's lyrics, as they are best experienced with the music playing, but I must point out that they are understated/underblown for a reason. The degree of self-immersion these lyrics are portraying is best delineated as succinctly as possible, the music handles the details.

My impression of this album remains one of gratitude. I think Robert's lyrics, vocals, and John's music just aligned somewhere in the sphere of Black Metallic Rainbow on this CD to make a work of masterfully Epic Metal proportions; the most involving, rewarding, memorable Doom Metal album since the untouchable Nightfall, and even a notch above the often terrific music Fr. Lowe made during his tenure with Candlemass. I paid the high import price for the bonus track version of the cd, to be without that track would definitely take away from the experience, so please be sure to track it down so you don't cheat yourself.