Thursday, February 25, 2010

FAQ & Alkaline Addictions

Given the time I spent last week establishing the distribution for Through Darkness and Stars and the (I've still got to link to it maybe today) Facebook Page for The Omniverse I didn't get a chance to do much else, creatively speaking. I answered a couple of emails from readers who liked the new eBook - extremely validating, that - and I've come up with a quick FAQ for you, based on the one question I was asked most often:


That's the good news and that's also the bad news.

The Omniverse has already been outlined in detail, from start to finish. There are five books to the story in total, however, only two of them are complete at this time. The third book, working title The Aeons War, is being written. I've been working on it since November 2008.
I already have friends reading and providing feedback.

The bad news is that it's been the victim of many false starts and restarts. I don't anticipate finishing the first full draft before the end of this year. So yes, there will be another book in the series (And the way I left things off I'd be a real prick if there wasn't) but it's going to be a while longer.

That being said, let's move on to this week's music review from CONFRONT Magazine:

Alkaline Trio: This Addiction

Now this is Pop-Punk the way it’s supposed to be: music being made for the love of music; at least that’s how it sounds. Combining Punk Rock instrumentation with Pop Rock vocals, Alkaline Trio’s seventh album in twelve years is a seasoned, solid, stomping good time. This is raucous, driven Bar Rock; ideal to listen to while slamming back a pitcher with friends.

The album opens with the title track, “This Addiction” which creates an interesting comparison between sex, love and intravenous drug use. The songs are well crafted, creating vivid, violent images to describe events that have affected the members of Alkaline Trio viscerally over the years. The often disturbing themes are masterfully cast against the contrasting upbeat, carefree musical style. The blend of heavy subject matter and light music is masterfully executed here.

Outstanding on this album are the tracks “American Scream” “Dine, Dine My Darling” and “Dorothy”. I’ll leave their lyrics and meaning to you to discover as you listen. They are outstanding only as much as they are the best of an exceptional album.

Alkaline Trio: This Addiction
Steve’s Rating: 9/10

Monday, February 22, 2010

Weekly Musical Roundup & News

So, I've been in distribution hell since launching Through Darkness and Stars earlier this week. Distribution hell is basically what it sounds like: contacting eBook distributors and negotiating for hosting or linking of the story. It's not very hard to do, but it does take a little time, and it gets repetitive. However, I'm nearly done with my list of distributors!

Likewise, I've also now got an official Facebook page for the Omniverse series, and I'll be permalinking it somewhere on the site soon. The Facebook page even allows me to be able to interact with readers.

Hope to see you there soon!

Story Of The Year: The Constant

I’m really on the fence about SOTY’s latest. I mean, ‘The Constant’ opens with a solid (and quintessential SOTY) anthem, “The Children’s Song”, and they keep up the pressure and the desperate intensity throughout…but it’s just so much like the rest of these medium-venue Rock acts out there, with trebled-up guitar work, repeating hooks and balladeering vocals…it sounds like every Emo and Post-Hardcore band I’ve seen since beginning work for CONFRONT Magazine, four years ago.

I’ve listened to this one several times over the last few days, and I have to admit that I just stop paying attention a couple of songs in. Every now and again a lyric from one of their half-heard songs sparks my attention, but it’s not long after that their Rock interpretation turns into background noise, again. It’s not that I wanted to tune it out; it’s just that ‘The Constant’ really doesn’t do it for me

That being said, I’m sure they put on one hell of a live show, because there’s not a single song on this album that isn’t tailor made for the obligatory “I’m-going-to-stop-singing-and-dangle-the-mic-over-the-audience-so-they-can-sing” portion of the show. Is it contrived? Is it just the kind of music these guys like? I don’t know. But I also don’t care.

Story Of The Year are all capable, talented musicians. The album is capably produced and the songs are all very tight, very well performed. There’s a sincerity to the effort, but earnest delivery just doesn’t make up for the fact that it just sounds too much like every thing else in the genre.

Seriously, in this day and age aren’t we past the need to churn out so much cookie-cutter, pre-fab music?

Story Of The Year: The Constant
Steve’s Rating: 6/10

Massive Attack: Heligoland

I have to admit that I was thrown by the latest – and long, long awaited – ‘Heligoland’ from Massive Attack. See, although I’ve been a fan of Massive Attack for – Holy SHIT almost twenty years – I’ve never actually listened to one of their albums from start to finish.

No, I’m more of a fan of their singles; the groovy, sexy Massive Attack songs that got me laid back in the 1990s…Okay; the Massive Attack songs that were SUPPOSED to get me laid back in the 1990s. So, used to songs like “Dissolved Girl” and “Teardrop” or “Angel” or “Black Milk” or any other of their awesome and SMEXXY songs, I was surprised as I listened to ‘Heligoland’.

It IS different from their previous releases. Gone are the big beat electronics; this one is minimalist, with discordant sounds and very bleak overtones. The sensuous drum rhythms are still there, but this is more chill out music than make out music. It’s all still very good, but ‘Heligoland’ might not be the Massive Attack CD you want to put on if you’re trying to get your freak on. Aurally, I’m reminded of Radiohead’s ‘Amnesiac’ for the dreary minimalism. However, unlike the disappointing follow up to ‘Kid A’, ‘Heligoland’ does not disappoint.

The list of artists who’ve collaborated on this disc reads like a virtual who’s who of avant-garde Trip Hop and Alternative music, including Tunde Adebimpe of TV On The Radio; Damon Albarn from Gorillaz; Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star and Adrian Utley of Portishead.

The opener, “Pray For Rain” sets the strange tone, though the grim sexy on this disc reaches its apex on ‘Splitting The Atom’. There is some good old-school Massive Attack grooves on songs like “Girl I Love You”, “Paradise Circus” and “Saturday Come Slow”, but this album does not dwell on the past.

Now at first you, like me, might find yourself out of sorts over the difference shift on ‘Heligoland’. You might even feel a bit let down, but I promise you that if you keep listening to this one, really pay attention and you’ll wonder how you doubted it. Let there be no doubt: Massive Attack are back, and ready to start their third decade of setting the bar for Trip-Hop tracks.

Massive Attack: Heligoland
Steve’s Rating: 10/10

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


The follow-up to The Unearthing

An ancient Ship completing a millions-year old mission has taken Human passengers and crew on an historic voyage to the heart of an ancient cosmic dynasty.

But despite their extensive training, no one aboard the Shipflight is prepared for what they find as they search for the Great Races of the lost League of Worlds.

When catastrophe forces Shipflight onward unable to return to Earth, they set out to discover what happened to those who passed through the cosmos before them.

What awaits them beyond the world that Mankind has always called home is a growing madness aboard the Ship and a lost enemy stalking them as they travel through darkness and stars...




Visit the official weblog

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Darkness" Complete & Weekly Music Review

So a lot later than usual with this week's late in fact that it's technically next week!

But anyway...

Spent a very busy week working/compiling the eBook for Through Darkness and Stars, which I will launch by the end of the week - Just have to update a few things here or there, secure widgets & mass distribution, etc.

I also had some important work to do around the house, fixing up a special room for someone very special who will be very soon an "official" part of our lives...I can't wait!

So those of you who've read the first six chapters of the Darkness preview will very soon be able to sink your teeth into the full volume.

And now for our weekly music feature!

HIM: Screamworks Love in Theory and Practice

Seriously underwhelmed would be the two best words to describe my impression of the latest by Cock-Rock “Heartagram” band HIM. It’s all very generic sounding post-Emo Rock. There’s not much on ‘Screamworks’ that isn’t overtly formulaic with the standard Arena-Rockers, overly-produced and equalized music levels, verse, verse, chorus structure and predictable, angry lyrics and flair-heavy solos.

The whole thing just smacks of opportunistic commercialism, already out of touch with the new trends in Rock music. The songs are so interchangeable as to be nearly indistinguishable from one to the next, and it’s hard to find much good to say about this one; it really is nothing more than a Pop album for people who consume music instead of listening to it.

That’s not to say that the music isn’t capable performed or that Ville Valo’s vocals aren’t up to par. But when the music is as soullessly commercial and cynically mass-market-geared as this disc is, really, what the hell’s the point?

If you’re a fan of HIM, if you like Top-40 Pop Rock that you can listen to over and over again now (but in a year or two you’ll be embarrassed to even admit to owning) then ‘Screamworks Love in Theory and Practice’ is a good fit.

Those looking for something a little more substantial, something that will be one of Rock or even Pop music’s timeless classics, well, you’re shit out of luck.

HIM: Screamworks Love in Theory and Practice
Steve’s Rating: 5/10

Underground Realroad: Slave To The Game

Those who know me (Or who regularly read my column) know that I’m not very impressed by Hip-Hop. At least, not most of what passes for Rap and Hip-Hop these days. And, while no real fan of the genre per say, I do listen to Hip-Hop and Rap on occasion (My preference being for the older stuff, from the early-to-mid 1990s). So, though my opinion might not actually count for much, the truth is that Underground Realroad’s ‘Slave To The Game’ is easily the best Rap album I have listened to in 15 years.

Their sound is dynamically layered, using samples from R&B and Motown hits from the 60s and 70s, looped and repeated for hypnotic, surreal effect. The rhymes are solid, and manage to speak to subjects not related to the usual asinine glorification of thug life. This is urban poetry, hip-hop storytelling at its finest. The songs are atmospheric, the imagery of the lyrics powerful, vivid, anthemic. Songs like “Slave 2 Da Game” demand to be played loud and long.

I’m surprised that this album was released so early in the Winter; I’d have staged it for an early Spring release, simply because this album deserves to peak over the long, hot months and be used as a Summer Soundtrack for those hot days and sultry nights. To my ear, the album as a whole just evokes Montreal in the Summer.

Lyrically, many of the songs deliver messages of empowerment, cautionary stories and even tales of tribute. “Little Boy Street” is one such tale, about a homeless lyricist who lives for the songs he writes. Some of the tracks are just good trips, the Hip-Hop equivalent of Stoner Rock, just setting up some nice sounds to burn out to. Forced to pick out the best on this disc, I’d have to say “Slave 2 Da Game”, “The 101”, “Little Boy Street”, “U-R Always There”, and the trippy, cool, harsh and cautionary “N199@_Y_”.

The only song I can really do without is the closing track, a remix of an earlier track on the disc, “Can’t Stop”. It just seems repetitive when featured here, as opposed to if they’d merely have used it as a B-side on a single version of “Can’t Stop.” Except for that one tune, I daresay this album is as near to perfect as Rap gets

‘Slave To The Game’ distills the essentials of great Rap and Hip-Hop into a pure, concentrated form, one that should never be diluted and always taken at full strength. If there is any sanity in the world of music today, Underground Realroad will set the standard for Hip-Hop for years to come.

Underground Realroad: Slave To The Game
Steve’s Rating: 9.5/10

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Writer's Block and the Lostprophets

So I think the ice wall of writer's block is starting to melt...few ideas came to me last night; had a nice dream about the Apocalypse that will translate well into text. Yes, that's a huge-ass teaser right there, that is.

Through Darkness And Stars is a much more grim tale than The Unearthing...see, while that one had a generally optimistic conclusion, the fact is there are always consequences to actions. As the Ship commences its journey back to the League of Worlds, there are repercussions. Those of you who've read the six-chapter preview of the second installment may already sense it; there are a lot of things that can go wrong...

But some things did go right this week, and while they did, I was listening to the latest from the Lostprophets. I don't know if they helped me get over my writer's block, but when I did get over it, I was listening to them, at the time. Here's what I thought about their new album, as told for CONFRONT MAGAZINE:

As far as Indie Brit Rock goes, it doesn’t get better than Lostprophets. They and the Arctic Monkeys rule the sound right now, and the Sound is Good.

‘Betrayed’, Lostphrphets’ fourth album opens with a killer, “If It Wasn’t For Hate We’d Be Dead By Now”. Incorporating elements of Techno Rock, ambient sound samples to bridge between tracks, they create an even flow from one song to the next.

Ian Watkins, the band’s lead singer, describes ‘Betrayed’ as a darker and “nastier” album. In the process, they’ve created a solid rocker well worth the three year wait and multiple launch and production delays. The sound varies from track to track; for example, “It’s Not The End Of The World But I Can See It From Here” sounds more like a post-Grunge Rocker than Brit Rock. Still an awesome track, but it demonstrates quite a range in style. Likewise, “For He’s A Jolly Good Felon” also stands out for its Ska-like nuances. The whole album offers a power and variety that’s unusual in current Rock releases; most of the time these days Rock artists run with a theme or two and call it a day.

One oddity that I rather liked was a couple of instrumental sequences on the albums that are utterly out of place, here. The first of these sequences, a “Munsters” sounding piece of creep-rock, appears on the tail end of “For He’s A Jolly Good Felon”. The second appears as a hidden track on the end of the last song of the album, “The Light That Burns Twice As Bright”. Confusing that they’re there, and sound utterly unlike the rest of the album, but in a good way.
I don’t think anyone, new or returning fans of Lostprophets, will feel in any way betrayed by ‘Betrayed’. Quite the opposite in fact, I think this one is a promise fulfilled.

Lostprophets: Betrayed
Steve’s Rating: 9/10

Friday, February 05, 2010

"All of this has happened before and will happen again..."

I let this video speak for itself.

Or watch it here.