I Found This On HMV…

Ever heard of a band called The Vitamin String Quartet? No, I wouldn’t have thought so. But if you have, then welcome to this little cult-y post I’m putting up here! Anyway, PURELY by accident, I stumbled across something possibly quite wonderful on HMV.com while I was browsing for some music downloads.

Now, firstly, I must say that the first time I was introduced to this band was on the New Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack, Nightmare Revisited, which was released in Autumn last year to coincide with the re-release of the Special Edition DVD. Anyway, this soundtrack had a whole bunch of bands covering the original songs from the film (For the record, Marilyn Manson’s cover of This Is Halloween is completely amazing and only makes me love Halloween EVEN more! And you just haven’t heard KoRn until you’ve heard their cover of Kidnap The Sandy Claws – insane!), and The Vitamin String Quartet did The Jack And Sally Montage. At the time, I just simply thought it was a classical string quartet that were deemed good enough to be included on a soundtrack with a bunch of rock covers.

OH, how wrong I was!!

It turns out that The Vitamin String Quartet are a band similar to Apocalyptica in the sense that they are a rock band that focus entirely on the use of classical strings in exchange for the usual electric guitars and drums. It also turns out that they are an entirely unique band in the way that their main selling point is that they do covers of well-known rock songs and tributes to significant rock artists. How did I stumble across them? Well, I recognised the name when it came up as a list of possible downloads for Audioslave‘s song Cochise. So I, being the curious person that I am, sampled the song and heard a thirty second snippet of it. “Hey, you know what?” I thought to myself, “For a band that just uses strings and do covers, this actually rocks pretty hard. Let’s see what else they do.” So I clicked the link to all the other albums they have made. And then I discovered something that DAMN NEAR took my breath away.

Anyone that knows me, KNOWS of my love for the band that IS Paramore. Seriously, I can’t even begin to tell you how much! (Paramore = Number 1!) So, imagine my entire glee when I found out that The Vitamin String Quartet have an entire album called Strung Out On Paramore – A String Quartet Tribute, which is them doing classical covers of Paramore songs, including my two favourites Misery Business and Pressure, no less! “This is absolutely sensational!” I thought to myself once more “You know what? This actually deserves to have a customer review written about it!” (Disclaimer – I have been tempted to write reviews for Paramore on HMV.com before, but the ones that were already there were mostly kids talking “in text” about how much they love Josh Farro and Hayley Williams, and I didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb!!). Anyway, here’s basically what I put:

A Classic Take On Modern Rock. – “The reason I like Paramore so much is that their songs have the ability to bring out all these emotions with the dynamics and lyrics of their songs. THIS, however, is like listening to Paramore on a whole different level of emotions. The strings add a whole new element to listening to the same songs that made me so happy to listen to before. At first, I thought this was a joke, but this is obviously a serious band that does genuine covers in a classical string style. Very Original.”

Anyway, I felt this had to be shared. Apparently they do tributes to all kinds of artists, from Aerosmith to The Cure, from Avenged Sevenfold to Janet Jackson! I’m going to look into what else they do, but so far, this isn’t at all bad!

The Weird World of Contact Lenses.

Yes, it’s true, I tried something totally different today. After wearing glasses nearly my entire life, I finally decided to give contacts a try. My optician told me that I could do a months trial of them totally for free, so I thought I’d give it a try and see how they felt, since my current glasses haven’t been the right prescription for nearly a year (apparently – no wonder I was getting headaches!).

So I turn up for the trial (I get the full prescription type of lenses soon, complete with solutions and all the extra guff that goes with it), and I’m thinking “This won’t be so bad, it’ll be like I’m not wearing anything, and I can just drop them in and pop them out again.” However, you know that when someone gets too close to your eye with your finger, and you instinctively want to pull away because you know how it will feel if someone pokes you in the eye? Yeah, that’s EXACTLY what its like! I had to withstand someone literally putting pieces of plastic in my eyes, and then getting used to the feeling of them being in there! Once they’re in, its not too bad – it would be pretty hard to focus sometimes (because you’re not usually the same prescription for glasses as you are for contacts, because of the gap between the lenses, apparently) and I’d actually FEEL like there was something in my eye, and it didn’t feel right, but overall it was much like seeing normally.

And then they had to be taken out. I wasn’t sure exactly how they normally get taken out, but what I didn’t realise was that you had to use TWO FINGERS to take them out! That’s two fingers – IN MY EYES! So, anyway, my eyes are a bit sore and I think it’s going to take some getting used to, but I’ll make my mind up about keeping them at the end of the trial.

Anyway, I’ve seen that this page is gradually getting more views, so it’s good to see that there are people out there actually reading, and that’s cool. So, as a thank you, I’m working really hard on some stuff to go up here very soon for everyone to look at! Some band reviews, some more CD’s/Films, hopefully some professional-style photos, and more! So, keep checking back, and once again Thanks For Reading!

Coheed And Cambria – “In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3”

This is the second record in the back catalogue of the prog-rock-metal machine that IS Coheed And Cambria. Hailing from New York, the quartet that was then made up of Claudio Sanchez, Travis Stever, Michael Todd and then-drummer Joshua Eppard (ex-Dillinger Escape Plan sticksman Chris Pennie now takes his place) focus on making music that entirely breaks away from the norm. Claudio Sanchez set out with a story in mind – a story set in a far off universe, and focuses on the characters of Coheed Kilgannon and his wife Cambria. This is the epic Science Fiction saga known as The Amory Wars. Those who are already fans of Coheed And Cambria will know that the epic story spans across all four of their albums. They are also likely to know that Claudio Sanchez has recently made The Amory Wars into a series of graphic novels of the same name, Volume One of which I think is fantastic!

What first prompted me to buy this album was that it had one of my favourite ever Coheed And Cambria songs A Favour House Atlantic on it. However, you can tell its a Prog-Rock album when it runs for 70 minutes! For the most part, this album is as dynamic and challenging to the ears as Coheed And Cambria have ever been, not being as easily accessible as their latest offering No World For Tomorrow (technically Part Two of Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV), which is more of a straight forward metal offering that climaxes into grandeur towards the end of the album. What’s mostly unfortunate about In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3 is that although the songs have great lyrics and they’re dynamic in their content, they’re all dynamic in a similar sounding way. What I mean to say is, the sound isn’t so diverse on this offering. Songs such as The Crowing are excellent – towards the end there are some amazing harmonies going towards the end, and it’s easily one of the songs you want to hear again straight away (Note – The title is also very important in Amory Wars…), but this is hard to find again on the record. Cuts Marked in the March Of Men is a track favoured by many fans, and The Camper Velorium III: Al The Killer has some similar “proggy” dynamics in  the music as before, which is good, but it’s almost not enough to please. The album is brought back SO much by A Favour House Atlantic, even if it is by far the shortest track on the album due to its pace and urgency – which is a shame, because after hearing it, you want more of it!

Overall, this is definitely a vital part of The Amory Wars story and Coheed And Cambria‘s album progress. However, if you want a good example of Coheed And Cambria‘s work, I do suggest you go and get their debut album The Second Stage Turbine Blade. That’s not to say that Silent Earth: 3 isn’t any good – it really is. It’s intelligent, it’s dynamic (for the most part) and it’s sure as hell challenging on the musical front, but it’s just lacking that diversity, uplifting ambiance and urgency that was so present in Second Stage Turbine Blade, and made it such a great debut album. The thing with Silent Earth: 3 is that you’re not left wondering what will be coming next, as you are on Second Stage Turbine Blade. But I do like this album, and it’s good to have if you’re a fan or if you want the whole story together!

Kerrang! Tour 2009 – Part The Second.

So, as it turns out, someone at the other end messed up whilst organising the whole evening, so I never actually made it into the show since there was no ticket or Guestlist for me. Annoying? To say the least!! I could go on a large rant about it, but where would be the point?

INSTEAD, I have decided to focusing my energy into writing a review (of sorts) of the night as to how I think it would have gone down. I say that, this is actually just a list of stuff that MAY have happened:

1) In Case Of Fire, already being a very bass heavy band, accidentally turn their bass amp all the way up to 11. This proves far too much for the foundations of the Southampton Guildhall to take, and the whole building comes crashing down, making it the biggest tragedy in music since the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash.

2) Mindless Self Indulgence, being short one Lyn-Z bassist due to pregnancy, decide to not bother with the show tonight and go out for a takeaway instead. As such, Black Tide are asked to fill in for them and play an hour long set, instead of a 15 minute one, to which they agree. They come on, play their set, and manage to completely blow the entire crowd into a coma due to their sheer awesomeness.

3) Bring Me The Horizoncome on stage 10 minutes early for their set, which means that none of their mics are turned on for their first song. Oli Sykes only realises this when hear can’t hear himself through the monitors, notifies the soundman who then turns them on, only for it to be so loud that he gets blown back into the drum kit, and has to perform the rest of the set from inside the bass drum.

4) In Case Of Fire, being the first band on for the night, only play to half the crowd as the rest of them are outside being lead in through the doors single file (this is genuinely likely to happen). They realise they are playing to 2000 mental, hyperactive, ADD-riddled greebo teenagers in neon clothing and crazy amounts of hairspray, and think to themselves “this is not really our niche audience for our music”. They promptly leave the stage, and take Black Tide down the pub to introduce them to the concept of Guinness (this, less so).

5) Half way through Dir en grey’s set, their lead singer starts to sing a very emotional song, and does his usual act of gouging his body. Unfortunately, what no-one notices is that one of the stage hands is carrying a meat hook, which Kyo grabs and sticks into his shoulder, causing him to be immediately rushed to A + E. The audience, however, thought he put on a great show, and gets a standing ovation from everyone – even the people who were outside having a smoke at the time.

6) MSI arrive on stage a bit late for their set, so to make it up to their fans, they bring onstage the entire midget cast of the hit TV show Fort Boyard to perform a free-form, alternative jazz/rave number with them. Jimmy Urine, being of a nervous disposition tonight due to the fact that he’s running low on hairspray and not wearing his shiniest of shiny suits, suffers a near fatal faint at the sheer magnitude of craziness around him, and falls into the audience, impaling people on his hair. 7 people from the audience never made it home.

7) See most of the above, but instead, he gets so uplifted by whats going on he feels compelled to throw himself into the audience to attempt a crowd-surf, but then falls pray to the audience and he proceeds to be molested by 1000 hyperactive, neon-coated teenage girls. He is later taken into custody for rape, after one girl filed a biased report of the events that occurred.

8) Dir en grey and Bring Me The Horizon Hi-jack the entire tour and hold the other bands for ransom. They eventually let Black Tide free, but only to go and get them tea and biscuits, and because they’re quote “not a bad bunch of blokes” end quote.

9) Black Tide play such an awesome set to their audience, they invite In Case Of Fire to come and play a mind-altering duo set with them. In Case Of Fire are so excited by this, they try and make it the best show ever, and quickly rig a set of pyrotechnics to the stage. Not realising quite how much flammable hair product is contained within the building this evening, they release the pyrotechnics resulting in the entire audience being set alight from the scalp to the shoulder. Black Tideinstantly regret inviting them on stage, and as an apology offer to pay the entire audiences plastic surgery bills.

10) Bring Me The Horizon are unable to play their set, due to ferocious hangovers. Instead, Stevie Wonder is brought in to replace them. The night is a completely unforeseen success.

Anyway, thats pretty much a run down of how things MIGHT have happened. If they didn’t, I’m sorry to have painted such a vivid picture (to a certain extent). If they did, I’m even more annoyed that I missed it! So, maybe next time there might be a proper review/interview to be posted here, but for now this might just have to do!

Kerrang! Tour 2009 – Part The First.

It’s that time of year again! The time of year when Kerrang! Magazine gather together they’re favourite bands of the recent months, and some on the verge of the big time, and put them on their massive Relentless Energy Drink sponsored tour around the UK for the entire month of January.

Last years Kerrang! Tour provided much excitement to me, not only because it was the first time that Madina Lake came to my neck of the woods to the Southampton Guildhall, but also because the prog-gods that ARE Coheed And Cambria were headlining the tour as well! (For the record, it was totally worth standing outside afterwards to have Claudio Sanchez sign my poster!)

There’s always high expectations for the next Kerrang! Tour, and there’s always rumours and scepticism surrounding the line-up each year. So much more so this year, as although the bands In Case Of Fire (Irish rock band with such booming riffs, it could create a mini-fissure in the Guildhall’s floor!) and Black Tide who rock so hard they could be easily mistaken for a (very) young incarnation of Iron Maiden, the other bands on the bill such as Bring Me The Horizon and Dir en grey have caused a bit of controversy, as they don’t seem to be going down well with most people, especially after the bad publicity Bring Me The Horizon have suffered last year. But this is nothing compared to the headliners Mindless Self Indulgence. Never has there been a better example of a “Marmite” band – you really do either love them and totally get them, or you just don’t!

Anyway, I’ll be putting more down about this, as hopefully I’ll be doing a live review of this show on the 18th for Listed magazine, and possibly/hopefully even an interview with Black Tide (yey!!). So, if you’re going to be there then let me know, and if you’re not going then check up here regularly to see what you missed!

Until the 18th, farewell!

City And Colour – “Sometimes” and “Live”

So, to quite my excitement, I got a parcel in the post the other day.  Almost forgetting that I had ordered it at all, I find concealed within a double pack of City And Colour CD’s. For those not currently in the know (and why the hell AREN’T you?!), City And Colour is the brainchild of one Dallas Green (get it? It his name? CITY and COLOUR?), originally the guitarist and backing vocals for the Canadian Screamo/Hardcore/Punk outfit Alexisonfire. Whilst on various tours with Alexisonfire, Dallas Green would be sat at the back of the bus continually writing more and more songs, not all of which fitted into the Alexisonfire-style of song-craft. Therefore, City And Colour was born – a hybrid of heartfelt acoustic and upbeat folk music wrapped into one brutally honest, chilling and dramatic solo outfit. For those of you already in the know, you’ll already know how fantastic these songs are!

I personally already owned his latest album, Bring Me Your Love, which quite frankly opened my eyes to just how talented Dallas Green can be with his honest, heartfelt lyrics and his mastering of the acoustic guitar as much as the electric, and since then City And Colour has become one of my favourite bands (which is odd, since its a real stand-out, being an acoustic, solo outfit!). But, after listening to Bring Me Your Love to an extent that I know almost all the songs now (I’m even currently using the song Confessions in vocal training!) I decided to order myself a double pack of the only other CD’s City And Colour have made. These CD’s are Sometimes, the first studio album, and Live, a collection of live performances capturing a more raw, stripped down (even further!) side to Dallas Green that you just can get from a studio recording.

Sometimes, when compared to Bring Me Your Love, is by far a less technical and versatile album, but you have to remember that this one was released first, so its likely to be that way for most bands, not just Dallas Green! This, however, does not mean that the contents of these songs aren’t in anyway less hard-hitting. Songs such as Comin’ Home and Hello, I’m in Delaware show a side to Green that almost says “I’m sick of this touring thing, I’m out”, with lines like “I’ve seen palaces in London, I’ve seen a castle in Wales, but I’d rather wake up beside you and breathe that ol’ familiar smell”, obviously at the times when he’s seen it getting too much to handle. The title song Sometimes (I Wish) expresses the feeling that I’m sure many of us have had at some point, where we wonder whether the one that loves us would still love us if we were any different, expressed best in the line “If I suddenly went blind, would you still look in my eyes?”. For the most part, these songs are borderline cry-worthy (in the good sense!) because they bring out such emotions in the way the songs tell these stories, but there’s always a slightly more upbeat song coming round the corner as if to say “Well, its not ALWAYS bad, what about this?”.

Overall, Sometimes is a very meaningful record, not just to Dallas Green who has obviously written some of these songs as an outlet for his own thoughts and emotions, but also to the fans that listen who so clearly empathise with him so much.

The next CD is very simply called Live, doing exactly what it says on the tin (or album sleeve, if you will!). This CD, unfortunately, does NOT come with the extra DVD which is usually included when you buy it on its own, but this is no matter, as Dallas Green’s voice paints all the pictures you’ll ever need for this performance (unless you’re a total geek for the band or one of the people you hear at the start screaming “I Love You, Dallas!” from the rafters, in which case it’s completely understandable!). However, what you do get here is a total bombardment of raw lyrics, raw guitars and even more raw emotions. This album, for the most part, is essentially the same as Sometimes, but with some other songs that are “previously unreleased” (they appear on Bring Me Your Love, though, so don’t worry!), performed in front of an audience and stripped down further. So why do THESE songs seem to cut so much deeper? Can it be that if you were to close your eyes, you could imagine yourself being there? Or is it more the fact that Dallas Green’s voice seems to be even more haunting live when he’s playing off the audience than when he’s being recorded by a machine, rarely hitting an off-key note all CD? Take your pick!

Songs like Comin’ Home and Save Your Scissors hit that little bit harder here, and you get a sense of what Dallas Green is REALLY like while playing. Confessions in its own right, is a beautiful song with fantastic lyrics (“I’ve been up for days, trying to find a way, to write my confession down”), but done live you get a sudden, chilling sense that Green actually means EVERYTHING he’s saying, and he’s singing it right at you. Previous Alexisonfire song Happiness By The Kilowatt also makes an appearance here, and its not very often that an artist gets to cover one of his own songs, but Dallas Green makes it just as impressive and hard hitting as the rest of his set. The only thing that really brings this CD down is the almost unnecessary inclusion of two alternate versions of songs that are already on here, but once you hear them, you realise they are essentially different performances. But that doesn’t sit for long, as future heartbreak release Sensible Heart makes its debut at the end, and not a dry eye is left after he’s done!

Overall, this is a near-perfect example of what City And Colour do best. It’s not very often that a simple, well performed song or two can reduce a grown person to tears, but in the case of Dallas Green and City And Colour, you had better be ready to catch yourself!

Welcome To My Universe!

Hi, welcome to my place! I hope you like what I’ve done with it, since the decorator was very reasonable. This is basically a site that I have created mostly for promoting myself and all the things that I work on and aspire to be, so there’s hopefully going to be a lot of posts here, and lots of things to read and to get interested in!

I’m sure that eventually there will be more things on me in the Profile part of this site, but for the time being there isn’t much there, and I’m hoping that the stuff I put up will speak for me. But, since I feel a need to get it out the way anyway, I’ll let you in on what you can expect to see here in the future:

Firstly, I hope to eventually be able to put up some examples of the different types of writing that I have been working on and have done in the past. This will hopefully include the articles, interview and reviews I have done for whichever magazines/people wanted them, but if they’re not posted here then the links to them will be. There will also be script samples eventually, once I work out the best methods of doing so in order for them to stay in their script format (it makes for a more genuine read that way!). So hopefully those will be well received!

I also hope to be able to put up some stuff to do with my music, whether it be lyrics I’ve been writing, or be it an eventual demo tape of my voice, but there’s also going to be a track of my progression towards making that happen! But there will be more on that as and when that happens, and again the appropriate people will get fair reference!

Finally, plenty of general reviews and critiques of pretty much anything, whether it be a live review of a gig down the road, or my opinion of the last CD or DVD I bought.

So, yes, plenty of stuff to keep your fingers poised over the Refresh button at the top of the screen! I hope that this was a good enough introduction into what this site is intended to be about, and I hope you all keep reading!

See You Next Time!