Comic Con 2014 Pics

•August 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Here are pictures from Comic Con 2014

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30 minutes upon the floor first opening, it was already maddening how many people were inside.

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Jason David Frank aka Tommy from Power Rangers

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Tenacious D

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Van Partible – Creator of Johnny Bravo

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Jason Mewes – Jay from Jay and Silent Bob

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Me meeting Kirk Hammett. They wouldn’t allow us to take pictures with him.

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Norman Reedus aka Daryl Dixon from Walking Dead

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Kevin Eastman signing my copy of Raphael #1

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Kevin Eastman – TMNT co-creator

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Victor Olazba signing my copy of Amazing Spider Man #1 (2014 Relaunch series)

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Edgar Deldago with Amazing Spider Man #1

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Us with Kevin Eastman


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Biblical Adaptations and Depictions

•June 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Thanks to the recent movies that came out, we have had a recent interest in Hollywood blockbuster films related to Biblical subjects, with films like Son of God (which is basically all the episodes about Jesus from the Bible mini series on the History Channel), God’s not Dead, and of course Noah. Plus there appear to be more on the way, with films like Left Behind starring Nicolas Cage coming out later this year. Films based on subjects from the Bible are nothing out of the ordinary and have been going on for as long as the age of cinema itself. Some of them like Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba, and of course the Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston are considered huge classics by film fans even today. One of the best movies made, period, is Ben Hur, even has a theme about restoring a man’s faith in God, and Jesus, even as a background character impacts the whole story.

Whether you believe in the Bible or not, you cannot deny that the stories told in these scriptures have always had a literary influence on our culture, especially that of the western world. You can argue all you want on what you think is true out of the Bible all you want, but the bottom line is that these 66 sections, or books as they are also called, were written by 40 different authors from three different continents over a period of two millennia.

There are even portions that are not included in the traditional Christian Bible but are included with other faiths, such as the Apocrypha’s of Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, and other faiths.

It is written by people who were Shepherds, kings, scholars, fishermen, prophets, a military general, a cupbearer, and a priest, and they had different immediate purposes for writing, whether recording history, giving spiritual and moral instruction, or pronouncing judgment.In the process they laid bare their personal emotions, expressing anger, frustration, joy, and love.

Yet despite this marvelous array of topics and goals, the Bible stays consistent, and It never contradicts itself or its common theme.

What is the common theme you ask?

From Genesis to Revelation, we see man’s repeated rebellion against his holy Creator. God made a perfect world, but mankind has continually rejected His authority and sought to decide truth for himself. Nevertheless, God promised to extend His love, grace, and mercy to unworthy people who deserved to be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity.

That’s all I will say, as the topic I am discussing is what Hollywood and the world of pop culture does to biblical figures and stories.

I guarantee you that if you were to make a series of movies based on the Bible and included every detail without even having to add for dramatic effect, the bible would STILL be rated R at least. You would have to edit a ton of things out to make it PG13 or lower. There is a lot of detailed accounts of murder, betrayal, sex scandals, and of course lots of violence at the hands of both man and God himself. I mean there is A LOT of juicy material you could use as inspiration. Obviously a lot of the stories that have a lot of action have to be a little sugar coated to be taught in Sunday school, and even a lot of preachers who lead large congregations tend to stray away from the intense messages that come from the really detailed and intense stories.

But do most faiths and religions
consider the Bible a work of art? No. Do these people consider all the moral stories and such to be stories and nothing more? No.

It should be noted that most Muslims absolutely forbid any visual depictions of the prophet Mohammed or anything from the Kuran. If you notice, nothing on TV or in the movies has had anything to do with Mohammed, and those that have tried like South Park have gotten huge threats from Muslim groups and thus the episode is no longer in syndication.

The Bible on the other hand, ever since the times of the renaissance, countless pieces of art have depicted biblical characters and scenes, and that was simply because it was during a time when the church had authority, and you pretty much HAD to do something like it even if you didn’t necessarily believe in the Bible.

This is pretty much nothing new, as the Bible has served as inspiration for lots of pieces of art and literature.

For me when it comes to anything depicted, I don’t even mind if things not included and/ NOT necessarily 100% true to the Bible are included, or if things out of the Bible are taken out for artistic liberty. For all I care, you could have a rated G version of David and Goliath taking place on a dodgeball court instead of a battlefield, as long as the general message of the story stays the same.

There are some movies that are products of Hollywood and still retain what the message is getting across, at least I think so. Prince of Egypt is a great example. It isn’t exactly true to the story of Moses, and due to the major emphasis of Moses and Pharaoh Ramses as brothers, you see sympathetic views from both sides. But the message of how God chose Moses to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt stays the same and can be enjoyed by anyone.

Passion of the Christ, as detailed as it is, is not 100% accurate either with its depiction of the crucifixion… believe it or not, it was actually worse in real life than it was depicted. Sure there is a degree of accuracy to the events leading to it, there are things added the movie that come straight from what Catholics believe, such as the girl at the well, which is from what is called the 12 steps of the cross. That shouldn’t surprise anyone that knows the director Mel Gibson is Roman Catholic. However there are also things added in it like Satan being present at the event and trying to taunt and mock Jesus, that wasn’t in any of the biblical accounts. It should also be known that the brief resurrection scene at the end wasn’t originally going to be in the movie, but was added in at the request of Billy Graham.

However, when you have adaptations of anything, that is where the creative mind makes art.

For example, Adaptations like the popular Left Behind series of books, which I have read, I do not consider true. Sure they are based on the Biblical tribulation period also known as the End times as prophesied all over the Bible and talk a lot about the authors interpretations of the symbolism expressed with the judgements, the Beast, False Prophet, and ultimately Christ’s second coming in Revelation, but these are adaptations. I could go into detail about that series but of the big liberties has to do with the mark of the beast. In the bible it says those who receive the mark of the beast receive all of God’s judgements, but one character who is part of the group of Christians gets the mark forced on him against his will, and yet he does not receive the same judgements, with the reason that because he spiritually did not accept the mark, he isn’t subject to the same judgements. Does this and the rest of the series convey a similar message to the Bible? Yes. But do I believe that the way the Left Behind books tell the story is how the world will end and the second coming of Christ happens? No. The Bible says it is not for us to know how or when, but just to be ready when it happens.

Now, I could go over the films made by companies like Cloud Ten Pictures, a Christian film company, or films that contain actors like Kirk Cameron, and have dramatic stories involving a Christian theme, but I’m not going to. They’re made by Christians, for Christians. These films and shows were made with Christian intentions to tell a story with a moral message.. They are especially made to cater to those people who won’t watch anything secular. Most people, even a lot of Christians, won’t watch these films because of that same reason. It’s like playing an educational video game, we don’t play games to go to school, we play games to have fun and escape a little. Same with watching a movie.

I am talking about depictions when we go into artistic territory that is not necessarily made with Christian intentions. They are made to entertain, and appeal to the mass public. Sometimes the liberties taken don’t really mock too much, but other times, as I will eventually get into, do in fact mock the whole essence and make the depiction completely unrecognizable to everyone.

South Park I mention all the time for its creative and clever writing has poked at all religions, and of course Christ himself isn’t spared. One episode I can even point out is the one where Damien, the fictional son of Satan, arranges for his father to challenge Jesus to a PPV fight, and because everyone thinks Satan is the stronger one, they all bet their money on Satan; only to see Satan actually bet on Jesus and throw the fight, thus taking everyone’s money and real estate. This particular episode actually has a good little message on faith. Sure there are other things in later episodes that the Jesus character in South Park does, like having a public access TV show, but it’s honestly nothing to complain about. Family Guy, when they make fun of situations involving God and Jesus, I never really see anything terrible either, and I laugh at the little jokes. I see them poking fun about God, but not terribly mocking it. Hey I believe even God has a sense of humor.

Andrew Lloyd Webber may be a member of the Church of England, but when he and Tim Rice composed Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970, he made a concept rock musical and later a stage production that depicts the story of Jesus final week from the point of view of Judas Iscariot, the man who betrays him to be arrested and crucified. It talks more about the political and psychological relationships between Jesus and his followers. Originally, Jesus isn’t even portrayed as divine, nor is there any resurrection mentioned. The movie that came out in 1973 added in more scriptural references to make the film appeal more to Christians.

At the time it was seen by many groups as sacrilegious and blasphemous for the reasons I mentioned before as well as others. Today there are still stage productions going on, and it is a well known musical with many songs that are still covered today. I still find myself listening to the soundtrack around every Easter. I personally love it, and think the twist with it is interesting.

Arguably Monty Python’s the Life of Brian is the comedy troupes most well known and highly regarded movie. The movie is about Brian, a man born on the same day and next door to Jesus, and is mistaken for him. It contains a lot of political and religious satire, enough to earn a lot of controversy over it, and was accused of blasphemy. Yet today we still can’t think Monty Python without the song Always Look at the Bright Side of Life, which takes place during the crucifixion scene.

In 1988 we had the film, the Last Temptation of Christ, directed by Martin Scorcese and starting Willem Dafoe as Jesus and Harvey Kietel as Judas. It was an adaptation itself of a novel, and the whole premise explores the human side of Jesus and his struggles with temptations, including fear, doubt, reluctance, and lust. The central argument is that while Jesus was free from Sin, he still struggled with human emotions to do God’s will. They both depict Jesus imagining himself in sexual situations, such as him marrying and a scene with him having sex with Mary Magdalene. Even though there is a disclaimer saying this movie does not tell the story of Jesus in the traditional accepted way and is not based at all on the Gospels, it was enough to spark outrage by religious groups saying the film was… You guessed it, blasphemous.

But the thing is, you cannot judge something by its cover, or what you HEARD about it, and of those people that would claim the movie and novel was sacrilegious, you could ask them if they indeed saw it, and many would say “oh no I wouldn’t dare see that movie.” Well, I don’t think it’s as bad as these groups say it is. The central theme to the whole thing is that Jesus was still subject to temptation, and still felt the same feelings as any human being would,  even if free from Sin. Accounts in the Gospels about Jesus resisting Satan’s temptations, and his initial reluctance to go through with the crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane; they seem to support this argument. In a sense, The Last Temptation advances the argument that, had Jesus succumbed to any such temptation, especially the opportunity to save himself from the cross, his life would have held no more significance than that of any other philosopher.

You have the Bible Mini series and theatrical adaption Son of God. While the visuals themselves are actually pretty good and bring many stories to life, and it is acted quite well considering it’s a History Channel thing, overall it takes a lot of liberties with the stories and leaves out quite a lot for pacing and story flow reasons, but the general theme and message stays the same throughout. It was okay and entertaining enough, but maybe I could’ve done without the ninja angels slaughtering people in the Sodom and Gomorrah scene, or without all the fighting and battle scenes having slowdown moments like we were watching 300. Plus I kind of laughed when they accidentally made Satan look like Barack Obama.

Then we come to Noah. This movie was directed by Darren Aronofsky, the same guy who did Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler, and Black Swan. If you’ve seen any of those movies, you’ll already know that these films are quite different in a sense that there can be some disturbing and depressing imagery to get the message across. It stars Russel Crowe, who I pretty much now can’t really think of him other than Javert. I literally went into this movie thinking he was going to sing.  “Now bring me animals two for ev’ry kind! Our time is up God will destroy the world!” ” We’ll start again and repopulate the world!”

Some big Christian organizations praise the film, but even the director says it’s the least biblical film ever made.I went in knowing full well the movie was not meant to be a word for word translation of the story, but still trying to get the essence across.

When I saw the movie, when it started, the movie seemed promising, but then the plot kicked in. There are things in it that come out of the Bible, such as there is a guy named Noah, and there is an ark for him and his family, and there’s a flood… that’s pretty much it. The rest of it is pretty much typical Hollywood, and there are some major things in it that… well, let’s just say completely miss the point. Spoiler Alert! Did you know that Noah was a dark, brooding, complex character who killed people? Did you know he enlisted the help of fallen Angels who were turned into six armed beasts to help build the Ark? Did you know God was angry at man for destroying the environment and killing his creations, and wanted mankind to die off after the flood?

So in a sense, did you know the whole story of Noah in the Bible was about mankind overpopulating and destroying the environment this whole time? I sure didn’t.

It gets better, there is a part where inside the ark, his son Shem’s wife played by Emma Watson gets pregnant, and Noah believes it’s God’s will for mankind to die off after the flood so he must kill the babies when they are born, only for Noah say, “No God, I can’t do that!” making God seem like a mean evil spirit than what most people of Abrahamic faiths believe. My girlfriend even shouted out, “that’s not Biblical at all!” during the movie.

I thought the story was about how God protected and saved Noah and his family for being the only righteous person among those who defied God and worshiped the creation instead of the creator. I guess I was wrong.

The thing is I’m not terribly surprised by the additions and changes. The actual story is only a few pages long, so they thought, well we need to add this to fit a 2 hour movie. I even didn’t mind that they added in characters like Methuselah, and Tubal-cain as the film’s antagonist. Theoretically, those two very well could’ve been alive during Noah’s time if you do the math. I didn’t even mind the whole angle with Tubal-cain sneaking aboard the Ark and trying to sabatage everything and kill Noah. I also didn’t mind that God is referred to as the creator, because that is what he is in the story anyway. There is even a part I liked where Noah retells the story of creation in the ark, and we are treated to visually seeing the evolutionary creation of the world up to Adam and Eve. But when the Bible clearly says that Noah’s three sons each had wives… then why would they make it so that only Shem had a wife, and involve a subplot for Noah to leave Ham’s love interest to die, causing Ham to rebel? Sure that’s changed for dramatic effect, but COME ON!

Look, I can tolerate a good twist to a biblical depiction, especially if there is scriptural arguments to back it up, but this movie was nothing like that, and instead was a movie about what those in Hollywood want the world to believe when it comes to their perception of God. Or they wanted to make a story about a creator appeal more to the mass public. I guess that’s where it draws the line. But I guess the jokes on me, they have my money because I was still curious enough to see it AFTER I heard lots of people saying don’t bother.

We are going to have biblical depictions in our pop culture for as long as we are allowed to, possibly until we are under a government that shuts away free speech and bans religion. Many christian groups will say how Hollywood is too narrow minded and ignorant to putting out anything that is majorly accurate out of the Bible, but  when the adaptation or depiction is going to be made, the choice is always whether or not we pay money to see for ourselves what this artists interpretation is about. Only if we see it in front of our own eyes can we truly judge and put our opinions on it, and if someone says “I refuse to see this person’s work because I have heard bad things about it.” That is fine, but they then cannot say “I heard there are blasphemous things in it, you shouldn’t dare to see it either.” Now who is being the closed minded hostile person.

Whether you agree or disagree with my views, please let me hear your comments!

Nightwish Dark Passion Play album Review

•May 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

So now we come to Dark Passion Play, the album that Tuomas Holopainen said it saved his life. After the very public parting of ways between Tarja and Nightwish, there were a lot of rumors and tabloids about Nightwish and Tuomas almost every day in his homeland, which added to the depression and anxiety he was already feeling from the events in 2005. During that period, there was not only much grief from fans over the split, but also a lot of anticipation over how this next album will sound. What often happens when a singer leaves and is replaced is that there tends to be a shift in sound, because the band realizes they cannot necessarily write the same material that used to fit the old singer for the new. In the case of bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, when the star member leaves and the band tries to emulate the same sound with a singer that tries too hard to sound like the original, there’s a backlash and decline in popularity. So you could imagine the speculation: will the new female singer sound great? Will she sound awful? Will the band still be able to write amazing songs? Will the new album suck? Will the album represent a band still in turmoil? Or will they come out even stronger than before?

As the story goes, they actually wrote this album without a female singer in their line up, only to have Anette Olzon record her vocals once the writing was done. She wasn’t announced as the new permanent singer until a day before the first single was released in 2007, and a few months before the rest of the album was out. This isn’t unique to any band in particular, but at this point in time it  it helped the male members realize they can be a band regardless of who sings, and can concentrate on the music first, according to Tuomas. Therefore they could find the vocalist that fit the newer songs they wrote, instead of relying too much on the older songs. They weren’t really nervous about Anette, but they were nervous about how would she be received, both as a vocalist and as a permanent member of the band. It took them 10 months to make Dark Passion Play, and cost almost 800,000 euros to produce it, which is over a million in U.S. dollars. Did this pay off in the end? I definitely think so.

Okay, we know that Anette is a different sounding singer, and her range is not as high nor as powerful as Tarja, and she has been described as more “poppy” and less fitting for metal songs. What she does with the songs she sings is add a new twist to the sound, and she ends up making the songs sound much more accessible and easier to dive into. Of course for older fans, when comparing her to singing Tarja era songs, it’s natural to not be so sure about her at first. That’s what JMAP said to me a long time ago after this album came out. But let’s remember, Tuomas knew that Tarja was irreplaceable when it came to the older sound, and trying to replace her with another vocalist like Tarja could’ve been the kiss of death for the band, as they would not have been respected as much anymore, and instead seen as a band trying to replicate something that was lost with Tarja’s dismissal, hence she would’ve been seen as the martyr rather than the problem. They knew that no matter who the new vocalist was, she’d get constant taunts of “you’re not Tarja, only Tarja can sing that song!” So why try to emulate it?

As for the Dark Passion Play
album itself, when I first heard it, it BLEW ME AWAY! Anette’s vocals may not have been in mind when they wrote the songs, but she still fits them very well. The sound is just as bombastic, heavy, symphonic, and beautiful as ever, and they add newer things to the mix, and resurrect some of the sounds that haven’t been heard since… Angels fall First? Yep you heard me. Stylistically as a whole its a continuation of the Once album, and lyrically it’s just as dark, if not a little darker than Century Child, and the theme reflects the personal feelings from dark period filled with  anxiety and depression felt by Tuomas in late 2005 through 2006. You have songs that are similar to the Once album, and then you have upbeat songs that have the speed and heaviness from Oceanborn, and then you have soft ballads that have inspiration from Finnish and Irish folk music, somewhat like what was experimented with on Angels Fall first, but much better made and even more beautiful sounding than this time around.

Poet and the Pendulum – You know how their song Ghost Love Score is their most well received epic? Well, I feel this is their best epic song yet. This song, both musically, and lyrically, is even more grandiose, and showcases all of their styles in 14 minutes. Lyrically especially this song personally speaks to me, as the lyrics such as “forgive me I have but two faces, one for the world, one for God, save me.” That’s not only Tuomas during his darker periods, That is also me in my dark periods in a nutshell. It’s not only about the relationship feelings I have had before a couple years ago, but is just the darker side of me in general, where I felt like part of me has died, or wanted to die from a bad moment in life, from the bullying victim days, to my anti-social and gloomy personality that I’ve worked for so long to grow away from for sheer happiness sake. Every single time I start hearing the vocals saying “The end, the song writer is dead.” it brings a tear to my eye, and going all the way to the ending section where it not only sounds more light hearted and repentant, but I feel like it’s a spiritual being, or in my case, God, saying “in the end I have always loved you.” and it closes with the words “the beginning” signifying the closing or death of one chapter and the beginning of another on a hopeful note.

Bye Bye Beautiful – On the outside this is clearly a song about Tarja, but it’s open ended enough to be about anyone you have to let go. Oddly enough the music video of this song has female counterparts of all the members of the band, and it’s almost like a message to Tarja to say “any band member was at risk to be replaced, not just you.” As a song, I am not extremely in love with this song, and I think it’s pretty overrated. It’s structured a lot like Wish I had an Angel, so that doesn’t help either, because if I had a choice between the two I’d go back to the former. It’s a good song, and it’s pretty heavy, but it’s just not one of my favorites.

Amaranth – This song is structured a lot like Nemo, and I used to not care for it because I felt it was too “pop chick rockish,” and couldn’t see myself liking the song for that reason. “I’m a metalhead, I want heavy metal songs with powerful vocals, male or female, not a pop-metal song.”  But just like Nemo, I grew to love this song, and this is one of the main songs that I will play to someone when I introduce someone to the band. It’s simple and catchy enough, but showcases some of the bombastic style and musicianship that I like about the band. It’s my girlfriend’s favorite Nightwish song too, and was the song she first listened to before she started liking them a lot more.

Cadence of Her Last Breath – This is a song that uses a different beat, has a more alternative metal sound, and that’s why I love it. It’s highly underrated, and it makes me wish they kept giving the alternative metal sound a try. It’s heavy, upbeat, and the drums and guitars in the song are great.

Master Passion Greed – Oh does it SUCK… that this song has NEVER BEEN PLAYED LIVE! This is by far the heaviest and thrashiest song that Nightwish has ever written and is also one of their darkest at the same time. The drums are an orgasm to the ears, and the instrumental breakdowns with Jukka and Emppu are awesome. I also like that they kept it with just Marco doing the vocals,  as a way to change things up a bit and show that they are just as credible with a male vocalist as well as female. It sucks this song has been long overlooked on live performances, because it could easily be used as a song to give the female vocalist a break… because let’s face it, we can never hear enough of Marco. Maybe this song is too difficult to play live and required a lot of takes, but I have seen live footage of Pharaoh sails to Orion… if Jukka can play that flawlessly there is no reason he can’t play this song. I’m just saying.

Eva – This was the first single, and was released the day after Anette was announced as the vocalist. You can understand why this song was released, because it was meant to showcase her vocal talents. Does it? Well, maybe at the time it did, but honestly her talents aren’t represented best in a ballad, at least not this one because this song wasn’t written with her specifically in mind. There is a demo version that has Marco on vocals that sounds just as good, so the song is good for what it is, but that’s about it.

Sahara – This was one of the first songs on the album that I loved a lot, and where I felt Anette’s performance on this album was at her strongest vocal-wise, because this is where her range was showed off more. It is a fun and heavy song, and the vocals and orchestra make it sound much more epic. I also like the song’s middle eastern, arabesque influences, and it sounds like a song straight out of 1,001 Arabian Nights, which is pretty much what this song is about anyway, so hence it’s a return to the fantasy lyrics that are missed by longtime fans.

Whoever Brings the Night – This is another awesome upbeat song, filled with great riffs, and a great middle breakdown that changes in speed.  lyrically it’s in the vain of She is My sin, pretty much about a Succubus, or the evil aspects of seduction and temptation when both people know it’s wrong. It’s rather dark in that sense, and fits with the overall theme of Loss of Innocence and the consequences it brings that was started in the Century Child album.

For the Heart I Once Had – Musically it’s almost in the vain of Amaranth, so I was initially turned off because I thought “Okay it’s too similar I don’t want to hear another song like it.” But it grew on me, and I say it has a great melody, with a great vocal performance by Anette. Lyrically it continues the same theme of loss of innocence, and it’s a great song about once you lose your child-like innocence, you can’t view the world the same way ever again. This one isn’t as dark either, and that’s fine with me, there’s enough darkness on this album.

The Islander – This song is where Nightwish shows their influences from Finnish and Irish folk music, and where we start hearing the use of flutes and Ullean pipes by Troy Donockely. It’s just a nice soft ballad that’s sung by Marco, and easily one of their best ballads period. It’s a good break from the heavier sound, and always nice to listen to just about anytime there is rainy weather around, every time I hear it the song just makes me think of water… Must be why the video has the members on a boat, after all the song is titled the Islander.

Last of the Wilds – It’s almost a continuation with the folk styles from the Islander, which turns into a more upbeat instrumental that I can’t seem to find anything wrong with. It’s fun to listen to, and the Irish influenced sound is a great choice here. Other than that, there’s nothing much else to say. As it would turn out, it seemed to be a hint of things to come with the bands sound in the future.

Seven Days to the Wolves – I want to love this song at the levels of Poet, I want to appreciate the musicianship, and I want to love the epic of this song, but it’s just not one of my top favorites at the moment; however, it does grow on me the more I listen to it. The drums are great, the guitar work is good, and the orchestra fits well, plus both vocal performances are good, and I like it when the tempo  picks up towards the middle, and the last minute alone is worth the listen because the double bass heavy ending of this song is pure heaven to my ears.

Meadows of Heaven – I have always loved this song from the first time I heard it. It at one point was my favorite on the album, and it still holds up pretty high. It’s a soft ballad that picks up in intensity towards the end, and what I love about this song is the gospel influences. It’s definitely a great closer to an album that blew me away.

I wasn’t expecting this album to be as fantastic as it is. And I think that’s why it surprised me so much. Anette proved herself as worthy replacement, and this album definitely opened the door to newer fans. To this day my girlfriend cannot stand Tarja, she just gets turned off by the operatic vocals, and even though I’ve tried having her listen to the most popular songs from her time, she just prefers Anette too much because of the uniqueness of her voice, and the fact that songs that she sang are a lot more accessible to wider audiences, and she provides a sound that appeals to more people than Tarja did. In terms of album sales, this is the most successful Nightwish album to date, and the subsequent mega tour they did that lasted almost three years proved that. This album also hit relatively big in the U.S. hitting at number 7 on the Top Hard Rock albums in 2007, and debuted at 84 on the billboard top 200. I think the delivery of this album surpassed expectations, and it brought the band from turmoil and angst to heights and success that seemed unreachable while Tarja was their singer. In some ways I feel this is their best album, musically, lyrically, and impact-wise. This album essentially has all of their past and current sounds in one album. It has the heavy but melodic beautiful songs that always seem to be their most popular singles. It has the riff oriented guitar playing and double bass heavy drumming that people love from the older albums. And it also has the use of folk and atmospheric influences that were very apparent in Angels Fall First. Sure, maybe the earlier Tarja era albums have their charm, and in other ways have a superior songwriting style that is surely missed, but when I introduce people to Nightwish, I don’t play songs from her time, I play songs off this album plus of course, the next album and final album in the catalogue, Imaginaerum.

“Role Models”

•April 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Everyone has a role model, or a hero they look up to as they grow up and try to become like them, or can look at them and say, “hey if he/she did this, than so can I.”

Unfortunately, the popular misconception is that role models generally mean pop culture figures, and that we should look up to them on a regular basis. Sometimes, yes, we do indeed have those who retain a clean state and act as model citizens outside of their profession. We have our sports heroes, actors, musicians, celebrities, and other public figures that are good at what they do, and then when it comes to their personal lives, they show they’re normal, approachable, and lead by example. But it always seems that MOST of the time, these so called role models are the kind that are still great and popular because of what they do, but then you see the real person underneath, see the things that he/she does, and then wonder, “why are people still looking up to and endorsing these idiots?!”

If you want an example, let me say my points before you shoot me. If you to say that Justin Bieber is a hero and role model, 3-5 years ago I would’ve said, “sure he definitely is a role model to today’s youth.” Say what you will about his music, most people may not like it, but he still became one of the biggest success stories who was discovered for his talent, and rose to fame as a result. When he was a lot younger during his rise, when he wasn’t full of himself, he did act as one who was humble and thankful for everything, and never really acted like a hypocrite. Nowadays, hell no! His deuchebag antics that raise the ire of everyone are the sole reason why I say “why the hell do his fans keep defending him?”  A guy that’s supposed to be marketed as a person of Christian faith, claims to have such a relationship, then goes out and eggs houses and gets in trouble with the law? No this aint no role model. Is he human? yes. Is he capable of fixing his mistakes and lead by example at a later stage in his life? yes. But is he someone I want future generations to look up to in awe? Not anytime soon, especially since his “mistakes” are actually really really STUPID things.

When it comes to looking up to someone in the arts like a musician, you also have to look beyond their music. Lots of times, they could be singing about stuff that isn’t exactly appropriate. I mean think of the stuff that Slayer sings, you have titles like God Hates us All, Christ Illusion, Dead Skin Mask, Angel of Death, and plenty of dark subjects that are not for everyone. A lot of lyrics that Tom Araya writes about are about serial killers, which is a subject he finds interesting,  and yet if I were given a choice todayI’d rather my kid looked up to Tom Araya versus Justin Bieber, because outside of Slayer he is a devoted husband and father, and has a very strong belief system that doesn’t get interfered with from the subjects he sings about. Sure, he is someone that did a lot of drugs and alcohol in their heyday, but they learned to stop before it destroyed their behaviors at home. Same goes with James Hetfield, whom I consider one of my heroes. Yes, he was probably one of the most self-destructive drunks on the planet, but when he hit bottom he changed his ways, he decided to put his wife and family first, and has been a reborn straight edge ever since… that is somebody I’d rather look up to than someone I know is still living fast and potentially dying young.

Another “hero” of mine is Wayne Gretzky. Sure he may have done his share of egotistical stuff in his more recent days, but while he was playing, he was the most focused and hardest working hockey player on the planet, and was CONSTANTLY practicing or trying to get better, and he is widely considered the greatest player in the history of the NHL as a result. No matter what were the odds, he continued to lead by example no matter where he was, and he made many NHL players on teams he played much better. And while this was happening, he still managed to keep a stable private life at home. Say what you will about his daughter getting into modeling; she’s all grown up and can do anything she wants.

As a coach I do get to meet a lot of NHL players, (sometimes they have kids that play in the same leagues as kids I coach), and the list does keep growing, and each time I always try to show respect.

The thing is, when I do meet people like this in real life, of course I would be star struck, but I would try my hardest not to be an obnoxious person that bothers the guy. Usually if they aren’t doing anything, then it’s okay to go up to them and say hi, sometimes they will actually initiate a conversation, which is always cool. I absolutely hate it when someone were to go up to a famous person, sees that he/she is actually busy doing something or spending time with family or close friends,  and completely invade their privacy, and never leave them alone until the obnoxious fan’s demands are met; that’s when they don’t want to talk or sign autographs. And then of course I hate it when the fan then gets all mad and hates the star because they didn’t get what they wanted, and claim the person is a jerk.

Some people are in fact jerks in general, and one example came from my late brother, whom when he was a kid would go to Angels games and get autographs from a lot of the players, back when it was the normal thing to do at stadiums before the game. One time, he asked a young Chicago White Sox right fielder named Sammy Sosa, for an autograph, and he just refused and said, “no no, I sign tomorrow.” “but I won’t be here tomorrow, I’m going to Arizona tomorrow.” “I don’t care. I sign tomorrow.” So from then on, it didn’t matter how many records the guy broke, nobody in our family thought fondly of him, and then eventually it turned out later on the guy was a cheater on steroids all along.

I’m getting a little off track here, so I’ll get to my next point. While, yes, it’s fun to look up to a popular figure and appreciate what he/she has done not just for herself but for everything around, BUT are these necessarily the role models that matter the most in real life? NO!

Who are the everyday heroes and role models you want a kid to look up to? It can be anyone. It can be your relatives, because while you are growing they are your biggest supporters! They are your parents, because whether you believe it or not, they have gone through the same trials and have felt the same feelings you have in some way or another, and are trying to live by an example that you can look up to. They are your older siblings or even cousins, because when you’re growing up, even if you have a relationship that isn’t always the best, they can still offer plenty of advice. They are your teachers, the ones that actually show they give a damn about your well being and development. They are your coaches and other mentor type figures, the ones that leave lasting impressions in your life for you to replicate when you are faced with having kids under your wing. They are people that you realistically can see yourself doing the same thing because you want to and because you know it’s right. That is what a role model should be in a nutshell. End of story!

Why should we worship the ground the famous people walk on? Sure they have achieved a lot, but the ones that have done it right have ALSO been under the right guidance! Even the best sports figures have had their own personal mentors, even if they do things that completely outshine the former. Wayne Gretzky’s role model and mentor was his dad, and all the way through his career his dad always had advice. Mike Tyson during his rise to stardom had a mentor that died shortly before he became undisputed champion, and when his personal problems came to light, many cite his mentors death as a reason he eventually lost the belt in an unexpected upset, and fell from grace in the eyes of boxing fans when he went in and out of prison, and did more controversial things in and out of the ring.

Now look at what happens when these cultural figures let the fame get to them and got stupid. Lindsay Lohan can’t stay out of rehab, people like Boy George, George Michael, and others keep ruining their reputation from drug abuse, and people like Whitney Houston and  Michael Jackson lost their lives due to drugs. I’m sure you can name countless other celebrities that at one point were the biggest thing since sliced bread only to eventually fade into obscurity and/or become famous for the wrong reasons. People that are big now, they will not stay this way forever, and many of them as we know are already slipping in the eyes of pop culture, and will eventually fade into obscurity and be long forgotten, all because of the idiotic things they do to try and gain more attention.

Sometimes, a valuable life lesson can be learned from people like this. it can teach today’s youth that sure on screen these people seem cool and are like your everyday friends and neighbors, but in real life they aren’t who they present themselves to be: they are human!  They have human emotions and feelings, and have lives of their own to take care of. Plus sometimes you get taught the lesson that some people are just jerks and complete wastes as human beings.

Sure I have my share of who I consider heroes, but I don’t worship them as idols or obsess over them on a daily basis. The only people these so called heroes need to be better role models for are their close friends and family members. Why base your life around these people? Seriously? What’s the point?! Why would you even defend the antics of someone doing something wrong? “oh come one man, everyone makes mistakes.” There’s mistakes and then there is being really stupid. If you cannot tell the difference, then shame on you. What if you are doing something like that while a kid is looking up to you, is that being a better role model for yourself? Would you want someone who looks up to you do the same idiotic things? This shit happens all the time, especially because the youth get very impressionable, and think they are discovering themselves when it reality are just mini-clones of the figures they have in their lives. Parents that are really  mean, selfish, unstructured, and unloving only have themselves to blame when their child exhibits the same behavior patterns and grows up to be the same kind of person. It’s not these pop culture figures responsibility to be better role models for today’s youth, it’s YOURS! Just because there are some figures that are very detrimental to today’s youth doesn’t mean you shouldn’t lead by example yourself. If your child grows up to be someone that eggs houses and gets in trouble with the law, or can’t stay out of rehab, it’s not gonna be Justin Bieber or Lindsay Lohan’s fault, it will be your fault you couldn’t teach them right from wrong.

 

Pop Culture versus Responsible Parents

•April 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I used to be with “it”, but then they changed what “it” was. Now I’m with what isn’t it, and what’s “it” seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you!

That quote describes this rant in a nutshell. This goes along the lines of my earlier childhood programming rants, from the discussions about nostalgia and coming to terms with stuff from my youth versus 10 years later, to even the aspects that make things of today acceptable when they weren’t not too long ago. Of course, while there are things about our pop culture today that I still love, at the same time there are things I absolutely HATE about it. But at the same time, I always need to remember, things have slowly progressed in that direction, and we can either anticipate, or dread the thought of what will come next. I absolutely hate that in today’s pop culture it is even MORE obvious that everything has to revolve around sex sells, or living like it’s one big party, or has to revolve around the antics of so-called role models that get in trouble, or do things for the public to see and get blinded towards. Even on networks like Nickelodeon, on the same channels as great shows like Legend of Korra, we also have teen shows that revolve around self-image, peer pressure, child abuse, sexual identity, gang violence, self-injury, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, death, and a number of other issues. WHY?! it’s a KIDS NETWORK! WHY ARE YOU BRINGING THIS CRAP TO KIDS NETWORKS?! I mean I still look at shows from my youth and teenage years, and there were HINTS of stuff about relationships that adults understood, not at all to the extent that it is now. Why we want THIS to be part of pop culture I’ll never know.

And then also remember the parents. The things that were big for them are no longer “it” anymore, and their kids are growing up with a new “it” that has things that make the parents want to puke their brains out. And this happens EVERY generation.

My grandparents were married in 1945 once the war was over, and at their wedding they of course had the music of their time playing, but then THEIR parents who were witnessing were also there. My grandfather asked his mom, “so what do you think?” and she replied “this is the most godawful thing I’ve heard in my life.” And then I could only imagine what my grandparents felt during the baby boom generation, as their impressionable kids whom were born in the late 40s and early 50s were in their teens to mid 20s during the golden age period of sex, drugs, and rock and roll during the 60s and 70s… and then their kids became parents themselves during the 70s and 80s, whose kids grew up with Saturday Morning Cartoons, early Atari and old school Nintendo, plus you had the golden periods of MTV, glam rock, hip hop, and then of course grunge and alternative… and finally, the grandchildren started having  kids during the 90s and 2000s, with their kids growing up during the periods of nickelodeon, Playstation and Xbox games, reality TV, TMZ,  horrible dance pop crap like LMFAO and Gangnam Style, plus of course justin bieber and Miley Cyrus, and I can go on and on… I’m just generalizing here, so don’t say “hey those two things are eons apart!”

There is also the saying, if you don’t know how to use a gadget, find the youngest person in the room. Point is it happens every generation, and of course nowadays with tablet PCs like ipads, and of course cell phones having the same reliability and functions as desktop computers, not to mention we have an entire generation of kids that are locked onto such devices during most of their childhood, it’s much easier to get exposed to your pop culture today than it was before, not to mention the crap that is played on radios is so catchy it’s impossible NOT to have it stuck in your head.

I cringe every time I hear young kids singing songs by Bruno Mars or Lady Gaga, mouthing off  What does the Fox say,  “Oppa Gangnam Style…” The other day, my girlfriends 7 year old son was fed bacon for breakfast, and I hear him saying “This bacon is awesome!” to the tune of Thrift Shop…. and that is because A. when he rides with his mom she listens to pretty much anything, pop, country, rock… and of course he likes the catchy dance songs first because he remembers them. B. his older cousins expose him to a lot of that crap when he visits them C.  he has started learning how to read and type, so his savvy mind  around stuff like the PS3 and ipad means he can go on youtube and search for whatever he wants if I’m not careful. Often times he likes videos about Minecraft or Halo, and even though he doesn’t intend on it, there will either be very bad language said by the narrator, or a song will be playing and it’s something like Macklemore or crap like that… it’s gotten to the point where we won’t let him watch youtube videos on his own. He is so impressionable at this point that letting him laugh at the wrong things makes me irresponsible as a potential step dad. He was in the room that’s reserved just for my co-workers, and one of them did a motion resembling something that no kid should see until they’ve had the birds and the bees talk, and when I saw him laugh at it, I quickly told him, “no, you don’t laugh at that, that’s not appropriate for you.”

While he is often exposed to the language of my hockey co-workers, His mom and I do try our hardest to not let him get exposed to stuff like that, but I realize there is a point every kid reaches where you just can’t shelter them forever and you have to let them make their own choices over what they will take out of the pop culture, but you then have to get to the point, “okay what or WHEN do I as a parent have to try and shield them from it because it’s too inappropriate for them at that age?”

When kids start getting mass exposed to pop culture, and start wanting to go do things like go to more adult oriented movies, wear the fashions of the time that didn’t expose the same amount of skin as before your time, listen to artists with more grown up lyrics and even attend their concerts… you as the parent ask yourself, When do you start letting them watch PG13 movies… or even rated R? When is it okay for them to listen to music that has lyrics about subjects older people understand? When do you let them watch programs or channels aimed at older audiences?

No two sets of parents will have the same answer.

When you as a parent decide, “okay I’ll let them see this movie or listen to this artist.” You probably should look up and make sure if A. the content is acceptable both on the surface and on the inside or B. the kid understands that the content isn’t all clean and can still be mature and have fun with it. Or you just have your kid cover their eyes and ears during a “bad” scene.

Does anyone remember the episode of King of the Hill where Hank Hill tried to get “in” with his son Bobby’s musical interest and decide what was acceptable for Bobby? In that episode he and Bobby both get into a boy band together because on the surface they looked clean and “patriotic”, but then when they go to the concert, Hank Hill freaks out when the boy band starts stripping and doing the suggestive dance moves for the kids to copy, and thus pulls Bobby out when he sees him doing the same moves.

As funny as that was, this stuff still seems to happen a lot. Think about all the times you have had parents take their kids to a concert to witness on stage along the lines of  Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Ke$ha etc. There was a recent yahoo news article about people taking their kids to a Ke$ha concert because it was advertised on the fliers and on the tickets as “all ages welcome.” only to witness her deliver a raunchy performance, and sing a lot of profanity and explicit lyrics in her songs… thus the parents got mad and protested it, some of them just got up and left. “hey it said all ages welcome, and she didn’t sing any of the clean versions of her songs and kept saying a lot of bad stuff in front of our kids, we didn’t like it one bit! How could she do this?” Duh! It’s fucking Kesha! How clueless are these parents to think that?! I hate that parents think that if they are taking their 10 year old to see Rihanna that THEY feel they need to be informed if stuff will be vulgar at shows. They need to remember who the hell they’re actually seeing!  Do these parents even look up the lyrics to these songs? It’s not that hard! Just Google what the setlists usually are, then look up the lyrics to those songs, and viola! “oh, she sings a lot of inappropriate songs! I probably shouldn’t let her go.” Unless you’re going to something like a Christian rock concert, or something completely advertised for children, it’s probably not going to be an acceptable thing to take kids to see someone like Rihanna or Bruno Mars and expect these artists to cut down the suggestive lyrics, that’s just not going to happen.

If parents actually take kids to these shows, I can’t stop them. I’ve seen kids at Metallica shows too. Would I take a 7 year old kid to see it? No, because I don’t want him exposed to the other stuff, like unruly concertgoers, and especially the drunks and the smell of marijuana at the show at that age. If he’s 10 and I do a good job of making him understand what’s right and what’s wrong, then maybe.

One of the many responsibilities for parents is to teach their kid how does the world work. They need to teach their kids what is proper culture, and what should be avoided at all costs. With the changing times, you either have to adapt to it and figure out what is acceptable, and instill in the kid’s mind that either it’s okay and acceptable to be talking and thinking about it, or you gotta work your hardest to keep them as far away from it as possible until you think they’re ready. But their child does not fully grow up until they have learned to live and manage things on their own, and have learned the consequences of bad choices, failure, heartbreak,  and especially loss of innocence. But the key is, they need to be the proper age. A 13 year old learning the consequences of having unprotected sex, a 15 year old learning the cons of drug use, a 16 year old getting drunk is FAR TOO YOUNG FOR THIS CRAP TO HAPPEN! My dad said while I was in high school, “if you get involved in this crap and want to grow up fast like that? Your ass is on your own.” And some of them NEVER in fact grow up and learn from their mistakes. They can see the wrong and see exactly what they shouldn’t have done, and THEY STILL DO IT ANYWAY!

There is also the question, “when is sheltering and limiting it to age appropriate stuff absolutely responsible, and when is it actually detrimental and irresponsible as they get older?” Think about the strictest parents, especially those who base their rules on religious beliefs. JMAP used to have a neighbor in Great Falls Montana whose parents were so strict, that JMAP was not allowed to mention anything about secular music to the kid, nor was he allowed to say his beliefs like “I support gay rights” to them. The kid grew up to be just as unintelligent and mean as they were. Now JMAP also says the kid in general turned out to be a very bad person for reasons unrelated to his parents, but I still think his parents were part of it.

Those that get extremely strict and shelter for too long it can be quite damaging, as when the kid grows up, he becomes absolutely clueless to the world around him, stays immature towards things outside his comfort zone, and either never adapts, or has to psychologically mature and catch up later to become a well-rounded productive person. The kid never getting to discover things at the right ages will end up leaving him to discover it later, and possibly become MUCH more indulgent in that behavior than he would’ve been if he was younger and had the guidance of his parents.

But then on the other side of that you have those that just let their kids run wild, and say “well they did it when I was younger, who am I to judge?” I know of a few moms who have teenage daughters that are practically allowed to be flirty and promiscuous. This mom allows her daughter to wear a lot of make up, wear revealing outfits on a daily basis, and even have sleepovers with boys. What is also sad is that sometimes I see teenage girls that are still 13-17 still present and make themselves look like they’re in their 20s and are fully grown adults, and their parents ALLOW it. What the hell does that teach them? What happens when that one night where the teenage couple gets pregnant?

With the amount of stuff that happens in today’s preteen  and early teenage relationships,  That just makes me sick. Also knowing that when I have kids, when they reach the tween ages, they will start having peer pressure over having relations just makes me want to vomit.

Bottom line, yes as scary as it is, perhaps we do have to accept that how the way things worked when we were kids will not be the same way when we raise kids of our own. The age that kids are hitting puberty is actually getting younger and younger, and on average is 3-5 years younger than it was at the turn of the 20th century. At the same time, things in pop culture of the time are hitting kids much younger than they did three to five generations ago, and thanks to today’s technology, they can be exposed to even more of it at the touch of a button rather than having to discover it. You can say that at the same time it is harder for the older generations to keep up, BUT… it actually is much easier for the parents to look it up, gain better understandings of what the thing in question is about, and helps them better decide what’s right and what’s wrong… that is if parents actually TAKE that time and do it the correct way. We don’t have to look at things on the outside and judge books by their covers in that sense, and instead we can look deeper in the pop culture figure and see if they indeed are the right kind of role models for your kid that you want your kid to look up to… which will be the topic of the next rant.

Nightwish Once Album Review

•April 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

So now we come to the album Once. This one was their biggest album yet, as it debuted at the number one spot on charts in Finland, Germany, Norway, Greece, and it was even the first album to chart in the USA, reaching 42 on the Billboard Top Heatseakers chart, and it also was the first to chart in the U.K. at number 8 on their Rock Chart. This was success that was unheard of at the time for them.

But while they lost many old followers for the simple reason that their shift in sound was too commercial sounding and less on the power metal side, they seemed to gain twice as many new fans who were introduced to them through the approachable mainstream sounds on this album. Sure, certain other bands have had an album that is more simplified and more approachable that gains a lot of followers, but the question is always this: do they make simpler songs because THEY want to, or because they want to make songs that are catchier to the mass public? It could’ve been a little bit of both. At the time, at least here in the U.S. Evanescence’s Fallen album was considered a breakthrough during the early 2000’s. They weren’t the first female fronted band that had a gothic metal side, but they were starting to get really popular around the world. Their songs also had a pop-side, thus were rather catchy, and they started opening  mass exposure to the gothic metal sound,  thus there was a breakout  in popularity of female fronted rock and heavy metal bands. In some ways, at least I think, Nightwish was Europe’s answer to bands like Evanescence at the time, and they had bands like Within Temptation, After Forever, and Sirenia to back them up. as I later discovered, these bands are a million times better than Evanescence, and the right kind of metal fan found this out.

This was also the first full Nightwish album I bought. Since JMAP was raving about them so much, I wanted to give them a try, and you know what, if I was disappointed, I wouldn’t be making these album review videos.

Dark Chest of Wonders – I LOVE this song, from the moment I heard it the first time up to the time I’m writing this review. It’s a great opener to the album, and it’s hard to find any faults with this song at all. I think what sets this apart from the rest of the songs that were made during the Century Child and Once era is that this song lyrically has a light hearted tone with fantasy lyrics, and music wise uses Tarja’s powerful vocals wisely. Plus it’s upbeat and is definitely a reminder to older fans they still have that power metal magic.

Wish I had an Angel – I love this song as well, but it’s overplayed to death, whether it’s near the beginning of the setlist or towards the end. However, this song is Metallica’s equivalent of Enter Sandman, and is a great song to choose as a single or to introduce someone to the band. It is a shame though that this song was featured as part of the soundtrack to the really STUPID movie Alone in the Dark, and there is even a version of the music video with scenes from it. BLAH

Nemo – This is a song I used to skip because I felt it was TOO mainstream and too simple to listen to. There is an obvious reason why this was the first single off the album. However, the more I listened to it, the more I realized how BEAUTIFUL this song actually is. The Orchestra is what makes this song even better towards the middle and the end. I also love the addition of the Uilleann Pipes to the song by Troy Donockely on live versions, especially on Showtime Storytime.

Planet Hell – This is another AWESOME song, from the hellish orchestra opening in the intro, to the orgasmic drums and guitars, to Marco and Tarja’s duet, It’s just amazing, and I was always in love with this song when I first heard it. It’s another song that also is a reminder of the power metal magic of old. Some of you listeners may hate me for it, but I have to say for the record that I prefer the version sung by Anette that was done when they resurrected the song in 2012. You can also hear it on their youtube channel released as an official music video if you don’t believe me. It may be a single take live recording, but it sounds just as good if not better than the studio. Either way, we can all mutually agree, Planet Hell is awesome!

Creek Mary’s Blood – This is the first of two epics on this album, and most will say this song doesn’t hold up as well, but I disagree and say this song is awesome. The Native American influences make this song actually stand out, and I love the build up from the slow start to the epic climax. The only thing this song could do without was the 3 minutes of native american language, but it’s not a total killer of the song since I can see where they were going for.

The Siren – This song is overrated. You heard me. It’s overrated. Is it a bad song? No. It has it’s good moments, But for whatever reason, a lot of fans seem to love this song as one of their stand out favorites. Maybe it’s because it’s a heavy song. Maybe it’s because of the greek mythology subject matter. Maybe because it showcases Marco’s clean vocals well. Maybe the band likes to play it a lot. I don’t know. All I know is that when I saw them live, when they played this song I was almost bored out of my mind. But I will say that every subsequent listen does seem to get a LITTLE better in my ears.

Dead Gardens – This one is okay. It has it’s good moments such as the main riff, and the chorus is good. But for the most part, it doesn’t do much else, so it sounds like filler to me.

Romanticide – This one is another awesome track. It may feel like it’s in the same vein as Wish I had an Angel, but I like the rougher around the edges sound, and it’s definitely a lot heavier and I like that  goes out with a fast bang at the end. Tarja and Marco’s opposite vocal duet also works well here as well, and it totally deserves to stay as a setlist survivor.

Ghost Love Score – All I can say about this song is … WOW. Just WOW. This epic song is easily one of their best songs period and it showcases their musicianship way better than their two prior epic songs. The emotion you feel throughout this song is just amazing, and I definitely love the haunting chorus that will forever be in your ears after you listen to it at least once. This is where Tarja shines the most as a vocalist, and uses the correct balance between her powerful operatic vocals and softer rock-based vocals. It also clearly uses the best utilization of the orchestra on the album as a whole, as it creates the atmosphere of sadness, and without the orchestra this song would fall to the gutter.

Death Makes an Artist – This is the first of two ballads that close the album. This song with just vocals and orchestra, while artsy in its own right doesn’t do it for me, for the same reason that the Lapland song way back on Angels Fall First didn’t do it for me.

Higher than Hope – This song ALMOST matches Sleeping Sun as the best ballad from the Tarja era. ALMOST. It has the atmosphere, the hooks, Tarja using her powerful vocals again, and the great songwriting that make this song great. A lot of people dislike this song, I personally love it for what it is: a great ballad to close the album.

Now I realize that there are other bonus tracks and B sides that are often included in releases, especially on the U.S.A. release of the album, but again, I don’t need to go over them because quite honestly, none of them do anything for me anyway. One of them is a ballad that doesn’t do much, and the other, while more up beat, can’t really live up to the standards set by the rest of the album.

That is the Once album. Just like any Nightwish album there are a couple songs in my opinion that aren’t that memorable, while the rest are awesome in their own right, even if some of them are overplayed or a little overrated. But that’s what often happens when your albums appeal more to the mass audiences, they have songs they love while you have your personal songs you think are better.Music-wise it is just as good as Century Child because it’s similar in sound, but this album does stand out a little more because while the tempos may be relatively the same, it doesn’t feel like you’re listening to a Century Child 2, you’re listening to a stand alone album with several standout songs that are just as amazing as anything they’ve done. It’s like with Oceanborn, they broke through with one sound, and perfected it with Wishmaster. With Century Child they introduced a newer sound, and they perfected it more with Once.

Sadly I must now talk about what happened in late 2005, Tarja being kicked out. This was a very public event thanks to the open letter that was posted, which you can still read if you search for it. From my understanding, the relationship between Tuomas and Tarja deteriorated over the years after she got married in 2003, and she started acting much more different, as in Tuomas’ eyes, not only was she acting more like a diva to the other band mates, but her commercial interests were not the same interests as the band’s. There was also claims that Tarja was planning on leaving after the next studio album and subsequent tour anyway, so the band members decided “well lets just kick her out now so we don’t have to deal with this crap anymore.”

This was a very public parting of ways, with both sides both feeling the pain and anguish from it. I could only imagine the stress it caused due to so many people wanting interviews and wanting everything on the inside scoop.

As would eventually happen, Tarja formed her own band and continued on as a solo artist, while Nightwish continued on with a new female vocalist that DID NOT sound like Tarja at all. Tarja’s first solo album pretty much was hit or miss, as it was evident that the reason why she sang great songs is because Tuomas wrote them. Hence there were the criticisms that said Tarja needed Nightwish. But as this happened, it would turn out that Nightwish didn’t need Tarja anymore.

Nightwish Century Child Review

•April 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

A lot of people say that the rift between fans was started when Tarja was kicked out and was replaced by Anette, but as I am finding out, there was also another rift created between the fans long before during the  early 2000’s with the 2002 release of Century Child. For one group, this is where Nightwish got better as a whole with their overall sound and music, while the other group of fans say this was where they started to slip  into making more commercial sounding music and sounding less inspired as a whole… in other words they sold out. The bottom line is no matter which side fans were on, Nightwish got bigger and higher up on not only the Finnish charts, but worldwide as well, and that success pretty much began with this album.

Why would some people seem to rank this album as among their least favorite? For starts, this is a bigger departure from the power metal sound that people loved with Oceanborn and Wishmaster, continuing the emphasis on ambiance and melody and less on speed. Lyrically, the songs are darker, and instead of the fantasy-based cheerful themes that people loved in the two predecessors, you have what later became a signature theme: loss of innocence and the consequences it has to that individual. What many people don’t know is that this dark sound is the result of the tensions within the band, and Tuomas went as far as unofficially declaring an end to the band altogether after the recording and subsequent tour of Over the Hills and Far Away. During this time, Tuomas started feeling unsatisfied with his life as a whole, and what he had done, and adding to this, their bassist Sami Vanska started misbehaving toward his fellow bandmembers, and according to Tuomas, he missed appointments and didn’t take gigs as seriously anymore. Tarja started spending less time with her bandmates as well.  Ultimately Tuomas decided to keep the band going, but on the condition that they got a new manager, and that Sami Vanska was gone and replaced with a new bassist that could also provide male vocals, Marco Hietala. The darker songs here can be seen as his personal feelings from the time.

Sound wise you have three things, the first is Tarja starting to ease up on her opratic style vocals, which I haven’t really talked much about until now. Maybe it’s because I am used to them and they sound good to me anyway, but I know a lot of people that get turned off by her operatic vocals, especially when she almost sounds TOO high on the older songs. I’ll be honest, I didn’t care for them at first, and was more focused on the music itself which was amazing, but the more I listened the more I realized how part of the sound she was in the early days. Starting with Century Child, she starts singing with a more rock-based sound, and sings softer and more restrained throughout the album. The second is the addition of Marco Hietala, his down-tuned bass not only adds another element of heaviness, but his vocals are just awesome, and it was definitely a smart move to use him for the male vocals on their songs. Third is the addition of the full backing orchestra, which adds to the atmosphere that the band had been putting more emphasis on.

Bless the Child – Here is were the symphonic metal sound starts coming into place. With the elements of atmosphere already there, it opens with the sounds of choirs, and the intro builds up into a very solid mid-tempo opener. Sure it’s not a fast opener, and people say they don’t like that Tarja’s vocals are a bit subdued compared to the earlier albums, but honestly, it works here, and the softer vocals fit the mood perfectly.

End of All Hope – This song is awesome from end to end. It’s highly reminiscent of the song Wishmaster with almost the same beat, albeit this time it’s a darker sound, and instead of fantasy, it’s the personal feelings from Tuomas. This was one of the first songs I heard, thanks to JMAP showing me a youtube video of them, because HE was the one who discovered the band for me.

Dead to the World – at first I didn’t really care much for this one, but now it’s one of my favorites the more I listen to it. What I love are the vocals from Marco, the keyboard and guitar solos, the faster tempo change in the middle, and the sheer heavyiness that Jukka brings with the double bass. This is easily one of Nightwish’s best songs period, and rightfully so, it still gets in the setlist rotations from time to time.

Ever Dream – This is another song that I didn’t care for at first, but started loving it the more I heard it. It’s a nice little ballad that starts slow and picks up, and I also like that it’s about love, and finding out if that person you love indeed loves you back.  The best part is easily when Tarja’s vocals and Jukkas drums pick up at the end and make this song go out with a bang. Just like Dead to the World, this one deserves to stay in the setlists.

Slaying the Dreamer – This song is just HEAVY. It’s a good headbanger, and definitely is a song that’s missed. Some people hate it, but I love it. The best part is where Marco’s harsh vocals and Jukka’s drums literally attack the ear at full force, and it’s almost like you’re going through a frightening experience through it. Other than that there’s really not much to say about it. It’s dark, it’s heavy, and it’s awesome.

Forever Yours – Here is the true ballad of the album, and it’s a decent song lyrically as it is with the melody. But unfortunately, it’s one of those songs that falls short simply because it follows the first 5 songs on the album which are great standalone hits and fan favorites. When I listen to it it sounds okay, but many times it’s skipped. They have made better emotional ballads honestly.

Ocean Soul – This song I feel almost the same as Forever Yours, but this one I like it better for the parts involving the chorus and the middle breakdown. But other than that it’s not that memorable.

Feel For You – This song sounds similar to Ocean Soul, and I often think of it as filler, but it’s only a little better because Marco’s vocals save it from being a total waste of space.

Phantom of the Opera – I’m not going to lie, I love the original broadway song and musical BECAUSE  this cover version happened to get me back into liking the broadway musical again, as I had not listened to that soundtrack for quite some time. It’s perfectly well executed in a sense with Marco and Tarja’s duet, but the only thing I didn’t like is the ending, where Tarja for whatever reason in the studio recording doesn’t try to do the vocals sung by Christine in the show, but on live versions she does… make up your mind! I will say this song was a Tarja song, and doesn’t need to be sung by the two vocalists that followed.

Beauty of the Beast – This is a highly underrated epic song, and for a while it was my favorite song off the album. Instead of being like Fantasmic and getting off to a rousing start, slowing down, and then picking back up, what this song does is start slow, picks up, climaxes with speed and heaviness, then slows down again as the vocal harmonies and choirs fade it out. It’s a solid piece, and shouldn’t be overlooked by listeners.

That’s Century Child, it may not be ass good as Wishmaster, but many people don’t seem to give this album enough credit. There is still some great stuff on this album.  It has 7 solid songs on this album that are worthy to listen any time, and it’s a great album to listen to at night. I actually think the softer vocals from Tarja not only help the songs, but make them a little more accessible to the audiences, especially those, even metal heads, who don’t really care for opera vocals. I will agree though, she didn’t have the perfect balance with the powerful operatic vocals and the soft rock-based vocals until the next CD. Marco is nothing short of an awesome addition, and the impact he had with this band is the reason why they became the most successful Finnish band worldwide.

 
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