how to ruin an international year-long party, a practical course

I have finally filtered my emotions somewhat to be able to talk about this more or less coherently.

Basically, this:

Insider info here:

I had heard vaguely that the Gibson CEO is crazy, but I never thought this would come into play anyhow. I never thought this could actually happen. Like, at all.

Certainly not during the anniversary year.

I’m not switching DAWs; I’ll keep on using Sonar even if Cakewalk goes under completely – which I certainly hope against. And yet I’m gutted.

You just don’t do that to people. And I don’t even mean us, the userbase. I mean the employees.

To quote another big name from Boston,

Who’s gonna save us,

Who’s gonna save us now?


of people and problems

I had actually discovered this particular interesting specimen a while ago already. From randomly surfing Vengeance Rising – one band name that makes you want to check their stuff out, right?

Turns out they were a militant Christian thrash/death band of the late 80s / early 90s, and their lyrics were just ridiculously preachy – at their mildest. Here’s an official video for the actual track (doesn’t exactly qualify for a title of a “song” IMO because I honestly don’t understand the appeal of that sort of songwriting and this rather lazy approach to “harsh vocals”). Think of it as of a curiosity.

The funniest thing is that the mastermind of the band later got oh so disillusioned in the church, quit and started waving the “anti-Christian” flag instead, with comparable fervour.

Reminds me of all those “teen crushes” and “phases” that people are supposed to be ashamed of when they “grow up”.

I just can’t take any of this seriously.

Yeah I did grow out of the whole “classic rock”/”traditional metal”/”glam metal” fandom (basically, “pop rock of the times gone by” fandom) – but that actually happened because I had always felt this church-like zealotry flourishing in there so I could never truly connect with fellow fans on a personal level, and, what’s worse, I saw musicians themselves either buy into it and go all diva-like on us, or exploit this veneration in a very cynical way. Let alone the media who, being media, used all that pseudoreligious imagery in their publications so as to unabashedly milk the fanbase by reinforcing their delusions. You know the groove, “this mag has a great article on [insert name here]” – “yay what an awesome mag! we’re buying every issue from now on!”

I still do listen to some of that music (which managed to stand the test of me getting into early music and opera, haha), but I’m happy not to have to interact with the rabid fanbase anymore. Yes “rabid fans” is a collocation in my world. Unfortunately. Those fans who make _me_ look as if I were normal. *shudders*

Tarja Turunen…

…has all those names up on her fb page with a mysterious hashtag “expecttheunexpected”. Including Hansi Kürsch.

Plain awesome, on the one hand. And – unlike with Doro – honestly unexpected.

On the other hand… she has names on the same list that totally scare me. Like, y’know, Michael Monroe.

A number of others are those “well-respected” popular names in contemporary metal. Whom I happen to immensely dislike – Sharon den Adel, Tony Kakko, Timo Kotipelto; and whom I just dislike – Cristina Scabbia and Simone Simons. Purely because I’m not impressed with their singing chops. I can haz a different opinion as compared to a gazillion rabid fans, right?

And then there is freaking Joe Lynn Turner. Who seems to have popped up on this year’s Raskasta Joulua roster as well. I mean, dude! Back off! It’s not your playground! It’s European metal! Go back to your English-speaking “classic rock” format, ibegyaplz. You’re too old for this. Have the Kulick brothers run out of tributes to record?

Yeah, I have almost zero respect for Mr Turner. Not that he’s a bad singer. He’s actually quite a good one. Especially, as they say, for his age (no, honest, the dude can sing for real). But let’s just say that in my time I’d followed his career way too closely for way too long, so if there exists a poster child for questionable artistic integrity, it’s him. And Eric Martin as well, another “well-respected” and widely loved (and technically impressive) vocalist. I can only hope Tarja steers clear of that one, hah.

See, being a proficient singer in and out of itself isn’t enough to win the heart of this 30+ edition of me in this day and age. Again, there are stupendous singers in English-speaking mainstream pop music today (broadly taken pop music, please; I don’t differentiate between rock, dubstep, hip hop or whatever – it’s all pop to me).

The question is: what music do you choose to apply your voice to?

And this choice speaks volumes to me.

not exactly nothing new

In black/folk/viking metal, a “one man band” is a longstanding tradition. A one woman band, though, is somewhat of a novelty to this day, and this is what Vermilia is.

You could say that the song per se does not break any new ground at all, musically speaking, and I would agree. However, the way I view this genre is different. I find this whole black/folk sound relaxing. Honest. Even the obligatory “black metal shrieking”, it’s not an athletic sort of singing. It just sounds soothing to my ears.

So what I want from a project like this is flow and texture. And Vermilia has got that in spades. After all, even though gender doesn’t matter, actual biological sex does, in terms of what a singer’s instrument actually sounds like. I happen to prefer female voices in general, and especially when it comes to that “shrieking”.

Get the digital single on Bandcamp, pay what you want/can afford!

Another plus is that the lyrics are in Finnish and do not concern any specific religion or ideology. Too often, black/folk metal will deal with “Satanism”, militant “paganism” or plain out Nazi crap. I hope no-one needs explaining why I don’t like Nazis, to put it mildly. So, the religious angle is to be found behind the cut. Clicky click for the curious ones!

Continue reading “not exactly nothing new”

this interview…

…basically answers the “why” that concerns me falling in love with Metal Church damn fast. There is another “why” that you have already heard, but it has no real answer.

Kurdt Vanderhoof’s interview for the Vintage Guitar magazine explains why to me, Metal Church sounds like a punked-up Rush jamming to NWOBHM on steroids: because these are exactly the ingredients that went into concocting the primary songwriter’s idea of what good music is, y’know.

The funniest thing is that I grew up on basically the same stuff, myself, just that the punk component was mainly local, Russian.

Thankfully I’m young enough to have an extra layer of idols, haha. Keeps things different.

I can’t say that Kurdt Vanderhoof is my favourite bandmember as a person, though, – he’s whined a bit too much over the years about how “computer-generated” music is oh so bad and how the metal scene is in a sorry state. Well, he will often clarify he means the US scene, but good grief… I mean, the Russian metal scene isn’t exactly a stellar one. So I know what it’s like, to have virtually nothing “homegrown” to be proud of, in the field you care for.

But here we seem to have this English-speaking superiority mentality at play. That is, many European metal bands will say they love their US/UK peers. I mean, Hansi Kürsch is a Metal Church fan as it turns out (best-kept secret of the millennium, yup).

On the other hand, I have never seen a US/UK metal musician say they are familiar with the European scene and love it. Definitely not to the point of giving examples.

I’ll be glad to be proven wrong. But damn, I really wish Mr Vanderhoof would stop whining and get some youtube surfing done or whatever.

And when it comes to electronic music… tell you what, not every composer of yore was a brilliant instrumentalist. Certainly not to the point of being able to play each and every orchestral part themselves. Again, a computer is what it is, a yet another instrument. It can be abused (cf. autotune), but it can also be the only way for certain people to express themselves. Not everyone can _physically_ play the guitar well, y’know (yes that is personal).

Kinda like digital painting: if you trace a digital photo and sample colours directly from it, I can’t say I’m impressed. But if you just paint the “oldschool” way but with a tablet and a stylus… it’s great.

why. oh why.

My readers most likely remember that Victor Smolski and Peavy Wagner parted ways a couple of years ago. This is Victor’s side of the equation, and I have a genuine love/hate affair with this band.

Musically, it’s damn close to being perfect. I mean, songs have interesting structures, melodies are moderately catchy without being saccharine, and Smolski is the guitar player, so can’t find no faults with that.

But vocally…

The band has three singers. Two venerable dudes with similar oldschool metal voices and styles, and a lady whom I have never heard sing lead at all.

Kinda three singers too many, y’know. No-one of them is really bad. They’re all doing their job well enough – they carry the tune, they harmonise as far as they can hear each other (not always an easy fit live, so not taking any points off for that). But, as I said, the redundancy factor is too damn high with those three.

Peavy Wagner may have gotten damn lazy with his vocals over the years, but when you hear him, you know who that is, right away. Some instruments are just distinctive.

I have a hard time believing someone like Smolski hasn’t been able to find a truly original voice for his band. His singular guitar playing needs a worthy counterpart.

Three okay singers are totally not the same as a single OMG one.

here it comes!!

The first single, fresh off the press. Metaphorically, duh.

Yes you can say they abuse these choral harmonies, but damn, why not if no-one else does it? Can a band have a trademark sound or not?

I was somewhat unsure about how Gaby was going to blend in, but they managed to find a way for her singular voice to work in the context of the whole sonic debauchery that Coronatus is. Mind you, it’s an affectional term.

And looks like Mareike has found a better balance to her voice as well. I was sorry to lose Anny, but all these developments – seemingly in a(n even more outlandish) progressive direction – they make me happy and anxious to finally get to hear this album in full.

not exactly a lifelong dream come true…

…but a couple of days ago I found out that Osku Ketola has apparently been the new singer for Elonkerjuu since September :)

I know, I know. For those who don’t follow the Finnish pop rock scene, neither name means anything. But you do remember at least that this scene is where I get my primary fix of non-metal and non-classical music, right?

Interestingly enough, some Finnish pop boasts way denser and heavier production values than some European metal bands.

So, Osku Ketola. Probably better known as the A&R dude at Warner Finland who signed Teräsbetoni back then in the mid-2000s. Internationally known as one of those percussionist barbarians for TB’s Eurovision-2008 appearance (the second being their roadie Antto Tuo Na… Tuomainen, a musician himself, but that’s a whole ‘nother story):

For the uninitiated: Eurovision is a “song contest” for, well, European countries (lately expanding to Australia, I think, which makes zero sense, unless they got really bored back there in Oz…). A pop song contest, to boot. Which got once (in 2006) pwned by a Finnish shock rock band Lordi. Yeah, you get the drift.

Actually Teräsbetoni used to fluctuate between the first and second spots on the Finnish national charts back then when they were active, so they kinda qualified for “popular music”, y’know. And yes, that left handed bass player is J Ahola, one of Finland’s top non-classical voices. These days he does way more covers than original material, but he used to be a songwriter as well. MMR is one of his songs.

Ahola maintains he is not a classically trained (or trained.period) singer. I don’t know if the same is true about Osku Ketola, but let’s just say that his instrument is equally outstanding in and out of itself.

And I don’t mean the violin. Oh yeah, Ketola also plays the violin. Kinda like a male version of Jonsu Salomaa of Indica, right.

Yes, that was a bootleg video. What, need more clarity? Enjoy some studio stuff, then:

Ketola’s band never really took off that big – the reason being that Finnish audiences likely perceived their style as a bit too derivative.

Derivative of what Lauri Tähkä & Elonkerjuu used to play.

Technically, Jaarli Paddington (Palava’s original name) was formed around the same time as Elonkerjuu, but, well, y’know, show business, the right place the right time, all that jazz.

Obviously, Elonkerjuu’s success was largely to the charisma of Lauri himself and Johanna Koivu, the violin player. As you can hear, as a singer Tähkä didn’t really hold a candle to Ketola, even in the studio.

Well, first Tähkä left and got a replacement, who then left along with the violin player.

Yup. Who else, right :)

I’m really looking forward to, well, anything that comes out of this. I have faith in Ketola in all his roles, and if they ever play Maailma on renki live, well… see, I’ve wanted to hear this song done by a real singer since the moment I first heard it.




this could be anything

Yeah, the Amazon thing (huh, Mr Tolkien the son, who kept on badmouthing Peter Jackson’s vision? Amazon, rly? How much is your self-proclaimed integrity worth?).

I’m not entirely sure (c) this planet needs a yet another live-action version of anything in the LotR timeframe. If they go down that route – even with Jackson – this would be rather redundant.

Silmarillion, on the other hand…

And stop being idiots, o esteemed pop cult(ure) moguls, – do get Blind Guardian on your soundtrack this time!