Month: May 2012

Adrenaline effin’ Mob

Watch this video and tell me this band isn’t made of awesome.

There are several reasons why you’ll probably have a hard time:

(1) Adrenaline Mob is a heavy metal supergroup consisting of Symphony X vocalist Russell Allen and Dream Theater ex-drummer Mike Portnoy. These guys are pretty much icons within the world of metal, and are just excellent at what they do.

(2) Their guitarist is “one of the best kept secrets in the guitar/rock world” Mike Orlando. I mean, watch him take that guitar to the cleaner’s, during the solo.

(3) The song is just plain cool. Come on, guys.

I featured these guys under Epic Song of the Week a while ago with their live cover of Black Sabbath‘s “The Mob Rules”. They’ve just put out a new single which, I’ll be honest, rocks my metaphorical socks. The song “Indifferent” is in equal parts pounding heavy metal with ridiculous guitar licks, and a more melodic contemporary rock sound, particularly during the chorus. It’s a brilliant single, and I hope it’s not the only one that the band release in promotion for their recently-released album, Omertà. I’m looking forward to hearing what exactly they have to offer. (Until then, of course, YouTube will provide me with a selectable offering.)

Certified badasses, right here.

The critics have received it less than enthusiastically, though. Orlando’s guitar solos are deemed to be too aggressive or not melodic enough; Portnoy’s playing isn’t complex enough; Allen doesn’t use enough of his vocal range… all these complaints run along the same lines, as though the reviewers were expecting everything that these musicians are capable of, rather than what they actually wanted to do.

Adrenaline Mob simply went with a pretty standard “heavy metal” album, adding their own little touches, of course. Unfortunately in the eyes of the nay-sayers, Allen and Portnoy both come from the more progressive brand of metal and rock, a genre that often features strange meters, 10-minute-plus songs, and incredibly technical playing styles. But you won’t find any of that on this album, with the possible exception of how ludicrous Orlando’s shredding is.

So, to me, it seems rather immature and downright lazy of the critics to be whining about what isn’t on the album.

Waaaahhh. This supergroup has a guy from Symphony X and a guy from Dream Theater but it doesn’t sound anything like those bands.”

Well, that’s your problem. I personally don’t give two halves of a fuck what these guys do – hell, Adrenaline Mob could have formed a Morris-dancing troop for all I care. I respect them for their collective ability and their attitudes towards the production of music that a lot of people can enjoy.

Genre should merely be a means of categorizing music, and shouldn’t matter a jot in the world of music composition, and yet somehow it manages to instigate flamewars faster than a Spitfire over an Australian bush. It’s almost like if a band or artist tries to combine genres, or do something even slightly different to what’s expected, the average critic’s frail, robotic mind just breaks, what with them having over-sensitized themselves to the separate genres and the limitations that come with them to such an extent that they don’t even seem to want to review that band or artist.

“Oh, it’s not what I expected, therefore I was disappointed. You will be, too.”

That’s not a review. That’s a whine.

You’re like a kid who won’t eat his veggies just because they’re green.

Musicians really shouldn’t be constricted by expectations of genre or style. Why don’t critics just forego the technicalities and just talk about the music? The songwriting. The tones set. The lyrics. The imagery.

So what if the boys in Adrenaline Mob have simply decided to take a slightly different approach to rocking people’s socks off? Deviation and difference should be applauded in the world of music – that’s what gives the art its freedom.

Oh, and while I’m on the subject, for God’s sake leave Portnoy alone about Dream Theater. It’s been nearly two years now since he left them, but everyone seems to want to get him to say that they kicked him out or something and now he hates them and thinks he’s wasted the last 25 years with that band. You’re like a bunch of heckling tabloid journalists trying to get a politician or celebrity to say something vaguely racist so you can run with it in your snivelling little column. Grow up and move on.

Word of the day: dearth

dearth

Noun (plural: dearths)

  1. A period or condition when food is rare and hence expensive; famine.
  2. (by extension) Scarcity; a lack or short supply.

I literally only just discovered this word a few weeks ago, but since then it seems to have been popping up everywhere in the articles, forums, video clips and whatnot that I’ve viewed.

I discovered it first on a forum, so, with it being in text format, I wasn’t sure what it meant. I looked it up on Wiktionary and found that it was another word for “famine” or “lack of”. To an extent, it describes how dear (i.e. rare or, by extension, valuable) something is, but it doesn’t feel quite as abstract as “dearness“.

Example: There is a morbid dearth of intelligence among the cast and crew of Jersey Shore.

It wasn’t until Gabby Logan spoke it on an episode of Room 101 I was watching, that I discovered (much to my horror) how it was pronounced.

derth“. To rhyme with “earth“.

That’s terrible. It’s such a lovely-looking word – I mean, it combines the word “dear” and the phoneme “th”, one of the softer sounds in the English tongue – and it’s pronounced like the noise you make when you collide face-first with a lamppost.

Example: So, Barry, what did you say to that lady from the bar yester- DERF! Ow!! What dickhead put this lamppost here?!

“dearth” also looks like the word “hearth” – which is a lovely, warming word, probably because it contains (and sounds like) the word “heart” – although if it rhymed with “hearth” you’d get a distinctly Sith-y word, so in many ways that’s a far worse pronunciation.

Example: Darth Vader sat in front of his hearth and contemplated the darth of good aim among his stormtroopers.

I’m going to pronounce it “deerth” just out of protest. That’s just how it looks it should sound.

YouTube update: Piano improv

A few days ago I recorded myself doing some impromptu chord sequences… some of which sounded kinda good, some of which sounded sorta meh. Check it out below, anyways.

I’m no Jordan Rudess (lord, no), but I aim to get better with further practice on the theory side of music, and the uploading of more recorded improv to my YouTube channel. Keep an eye on that feed. 🙂

I am terrible

So you guys are probably wanting to know what crazy crud I’ve been up to. To be honest, I wish I could say that I’ve been really dynamic and awesome and I’ve been having a gay old time in the land down under enjoying endless success and self-satisfaction.

It’s kinda my fault. I’m just not exactly the outgoing type. I never have been.

Nevertheless, my time in Australia (which has, as of this posting, amounted to just over six months) has been fairly enjoyable, if not quite the thrill ride you may have expected it to be for me.

Lately I’ve decided to expand upon my love of acting and join my family in signing up to an amateur theater. We’ve been hard at work on the musical “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas“. It is, to understate it slightly, a tad raunchier than a lot of the stuff I did in Drama at A-level. In fact, most if not all of the stuff I did at A-level was focused on little kids. Good old Bertolt Brecht and his “epic theatre” motif – his teachings still carry on to this day. And they basically boil down to “make the actors do really silly things because theatre isn’t real life and real life is serious”. I kinda wish I’d done something serious at A-level, but I’m not complaining. It was a really fun two years and I honestly wish it would’ve lasted longer.

I’ve never been too inclined towards watching musicals, let alone performing them, although I must admit it’s been pretty fun so far. Most musicals just seem downright cheesy to me, but the cheesiness is their selling point, really – the fact that all the actors burst into song every five minutes is what makes a musical. And the songs all have to be major earworms – once they’re in your head, not even repeated blasting of Metallica into the earholes can dislodge them. I still have no idea how it’s possible to make songs that “catchy”. In fact, they transcend “catchiness” – they’re “sticky”. Once you catch them, they stick. Like an unpleasantly persistent rash.

Talking of the songs, there has been a lot of dancing throughout this musical. I’ve only been called upon to learn one routine so far, and quite honestly, that’s enough for me. It’s not a case of me having two left feet. It’s a case of me having no legs at all – or at least, that’s what my brain is convinced of. For some reason, the connections between brain and leg all but cease whenever I command it to move in a way that synchronizes with the routine. It’s pretty simple stuff, too – stomp the feet, jog to the right, stomp again, jog to the left, spin, skip on the spot, etc. I can barely even manage that without beginning to look like a paraplegic penguin. And I haven’t even mentioned the part where my legs sort of just give up after a good while, anyway – at that point, using them just to stay upright feels like I have a couple of Slinkies for legs. I am completely out of shape. Or, if you like, I’m just in the shape of a morbidly overweight walrus with no sense of rhythm.

The singing is coming along nicely. Thanks entirely to our teacher’s methods and advice, there is definite improvement in my and my brother’s ability to control our voice. Although I probably still have a ways to go before I can confidently sing as loud and as high as Russell Allen. (Well, I can at the moment, but it would no doubt have all the musicality of a cat coughing up a hairball into a trumpet.)

Getting to that stage of vocal ability is probably going to take a bit of commitment. I’m rubbish at commitment, though. The truth is that I have numerous lists of all sorts of things that I should be doing, but I can never stay with them for too long before I distract myself with something else. Important stuff, too – like rehearsing properly for the singing lessons, and reading through the road safety manual I need to read cover-to-cover (and internalize!) so I can get my learner’s permit. I dare not think about how terrible I’d be in a relationship.

I mean, look at this blog. It went from one update a day (possibly more), to three months with only a handful of updates. Very quickly.

My brother and I have had a ginormous fiction/cartoon project in the works for the last 9 months and we still have yet to get the plotline sorted out. The most painful part of this affair is how I (and also my brother) have so many ideas just waiting to be realized, but bringing them into the world nearly always proves to be impossible, or more work than we’re capable of doing within a reasonable timelimit.

Having noticed that something was wrong with my motivation (for my musical output had also been suffering as a result of this lapse), I listened to the first episode of Ill Gates’ “Ill Methodology” workshop, in which he went on at length about workflow and motivation. There was a lot of really insightful stuff which made me think about the way I do… well, everything. He talked about extrinsic motivation (doing things for material reward or recognition) and intrinsic motivation (doing things for the love of doing them), and presented quite a lot of evidence for why being extrinsically motivated sabotages the quality of your output. I agree with him wholeheartedly.

I think it’s safe to say that pretty much everything outside of school that I’ve done throughout my life has been intrinsically motivated – in other words, I’ve hardly earnt a penny through my own labour (with the exception of a school project that culminated in 14 sales of an album CD I threw together). I haven’t really seen as that much of a problem, though – heck, often I hardly mind if I don’t receive a word of praise. I’ve just always felt compelled to do things like music, and modding for Doom, purely for the love of doing them, and not asking for anything in return. That makes me a good person, I think. (Alright, not entirely good. I still have my flaws, like being an overweight walrus-penguin.)

But if everything I do has been motivated by my own love of doing it, why do I still go through these horrendous spells of inactivity?

Mr. Ill (am I allowed to call him that?) said a lot of good things about keeping a schedule and a journal. Well, I haven’t been able to make a schedule yet, on account how just how much crap I have to get through, and I kept a journal of my days before coming to realize that every day was exactly the same. I talked about my dreams a bit, and I had a couple of really wacko ones when I started, but then they got hazy and I remembered only tiny worthless scraps of them in the morning. “There was a plane and it crashed.” That’s it. (Honestly, I dream way too much about planes crashing. I’ve only flown about half a dozen times in my life and I never felt nervous throughout the trip.)

Of course, the whole point of keeping a journal is to do it every day, and write pretty much the same amount. I honestly struggled to fill a page most of the time. I like to think of myself as a creative person, but unfortunately it seems I can’t tap into my creativity at any time. It just… happens when it does. This is why I’m frightened to condense my various to-do lists for my endless array of personal projects into a single schedule. What if I get caught in another spell of creative decay while I’m in the middle of it? If I try and force the energy out I’ll come up with something terrible and lackluster.

I.G. also said something about ensuring to wake up early to maximize your creative flow throughout the day. If you’re unimpeded by mental (and/or physical) tiredness, you simply work a lot more efficiently. Unfortunately I’ve recently fallen into a slump regarding my sleep discipline – I’m once again waking up around noon. You’d think that if I kept going to sleep earlier and therefore waking up earlier, I’d eventually get to the point where I wouldn’t be able to stay up ludicrously late because my body would simply be unable to. But it seems that that part of the deal doesn’t come with the effort I make to wake up earlier, so I end up back where I started.

As well as having no sense of rhythm, I apparently don’t have proper circadian rhythms, either.

So, I need to figure a way out of this awful circle.

I need to get my brother in on devising a solution as well, since he seems to be suffering much the same thing. We need to find a way of managing our motivation, and controlling our creative flow, so we can get shit done when it needs to get done.