All posts by Guido

I'm just a geek.

The reading of books #13

Another series of books read, this time Plutarch, Greg KeyesDayal Patterson and Richard A. Knaak. From Ancient Rome to the Elder Scrolls and Warcraft.

Plutarch – The Fall of the Roman Republic

source: Goodreads

Yes, another book by Plutarch. This time focussing on the transferral periode from the late republic to the empire, describing the lives of Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey the Great, Cesar and Cicero, who brought an end to the Republic. It’s a fascinating bit of storytelling, where Plutarch clearly shows he’s not in love with Cesar. In fact, he barely manages to keep it out of his words. Then again, none of the figures in this book appears to carry his favor, maybe Marius a little bit in most of his life. Sulla doesn’t get of lightly and Crassus looks like a buffoon. Pompey is the tragic figure in this version of events, together with Cicero I suppose.

The one life missing would be that of Cato, who opposed Cesar for as long as he could. It was a great read, that I enjoyed very much. Enough to order some more actually. What is lacking here, is the pairings with Greek lives. I’m also very curious about those and I must say I doubt the way the publishers dealt with that. All in all, it gives good insights in a highly confusing period of our ancient history.

Dayal Patterson – The Cult Never Dies: Volume 1

Source: Goodreads

Dayal Patterson started something big with his first book ‘Black Metal: Evolution Of The Cult’. It was not enough, he had the desire to catalogue the entire black metal scene and its aspects, so here is the second book and first in a continuing series of looking at the blackest music genre you can find. Patterson takes a clean, journalistic approach to bands like SatyriconSilencer and Mgla and many, many more. It opens up the scene to new investigators, without disclosing all and keeping its edge of mystery in place.

The print looks minimal, which is good. The pictures are only in black and white, which is also rather enjoyabable and fitting. Patterson illuminates specific sections in this book, like the Polish black metal scene and the SDBM scene that emerged as a progenitor of post-blackmetal. He does this by taking out pivotal bands, but also interesting marginal acts to illustrate the broader whole. A well worth read for fans of the genre and intriguees.

Greg Keyes – The Infernal City

Source: Goodreads

This is the very first novel of the Elder Scrolls franchise by Bethesda (known for their game Fallout mostly, but also Skyrim). The book tells the story of a human character Annaïg and an Argonian called Glim (Lizard people) in the world of Tamriel. A strange floating city approaches and brings doom to the lands. Annaïg and Glim decide to assault this city and try to warn others of the coming doom. While being captured by the dark denizens of the city, they succeed in reaching prince Attrebus.

Another story there unfolds, with the Prince’s life being under threat and his carreer an apparent illusion to facilitate Empire propaganda. The central imperial city has little interest in helping those under attack by the floating city on the fringes of the empire (even just outside it). Attrebus sets out to carve his own destiny and to become the person he is supposed to be as a prince. The book is well written and the characters do get some background, though sometimes they are a bit foggy in personality. The work introduces the figures and peoples of the Elder Scrolls universe and thus makes for a nice read and introduction. Now I should get part two though.

Richard A. Knaak – Night of the Dragon

Source: Goodreads

I felt this urge to read the only Warcraft book that was still unread on my shelves. Probably I was not up for some literary masterpiece, but the writings of Knaak for Blizzard are always fun and catchy. So I started reading this follow up to Day Of The Dragon, the very first in the novel series of Blizzard. In this book we return to the doomed mountain where the first novel took place and the same key players converge, unwittingly of eachothers whereabouts on Grim Batol. Krasus, the dragon/mage, Vareesa Windrunner and a bunch of angry dwarves.

The plot deepens, when another of the black dragon flight emerges and plans to…dare I say? Take over the world. This time the book does not involve Deathwing, but some familiar elements of his evil will return in this story. It rekindles and connects other  storylines, which is always very pleasant for an afficionado of the game like myself. The series of near-death escapes is a bit too dense for my taste though, but you can’t win ’em all, can you now? Looking forward to maybe playing some more in that fabulous world of Azeroth.

 

Why you should just give up on Marvel films.

(if you think they aren’t as good as the comics)

Holy shit! The rage is strong in geek land again. Marvel/Fox is releasing some footage about that new X-men film ‘Age of Apocalypse’. Yeah, Apocalypse looks like some weird seventies Doctor Who swamp monster, part of some ancient warrior caste.

Even though this is my favorite story arc of the classic X-men, I’m not going to be bothered too much about it. I mean, there are various reasons why you shouldn’t be having these crazy expectations. Sure, I did watch a bunch of the films much later on my pc and sure they were enjoyable. Did I expect the same magic as I did when I was a child? No… Ok, lets start with some numbers.

1. It’s NOT a Marvel product

No matter how your view on crime and punishment is, the end product is no longer in the hands of Marvel, but the movie company they sold it too. Happens that this is FOX, not known for their subtle ways I guess. Sure, there’ s one hell of a producer behind the cameras, but you have to start realising that this film is not made for you, the comic book or animated show loving geek, but for that audience of millions that needs to feed the box office with moneys. It needs to appeal to that, so the ‘complexities’ and spin-off storylines are not in there. It’s sad, sure, but the way of things.

2. You’re not 12 anymore

Remember how you were baffled by Santa Claus as a kid? How adults seemed like heroes and the world was all good? The perspective as a child is very different and you are no longer that. Those complexities and world-changing ideas you think you found in that comic book once, were probably just you growing up a little bit. You’ve changed, but the X-men haven’t really.

The classic stories will always be great, because they came to you on an age when you were full of wonder and easily impressed by them. Reliving them in a new form, without them being told in the same way and without you expecting them, will prove that the stories are not that dense and full of meaning. It kinda rhymes with the beef Simon Pegg has with superhero films. It’s not like the makers are trying to make it more mature, special effects are a shortcut to succes.

source: Buzzquotes.com

3. You know that he’ s not Charles Xavier…

You have these ideal images of the characters from the comic and now you have a bunch of flawed, human figures in their place. You know that Ian McKellen is actually Gandalf and that Patrick Stewart really belongs on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Ok, yes! They are not in this film! James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are, two guys you’ve probably seen killing it in any other film they were in, so wrapped up in different roles and faces… Sophie Turner is always going to be the Stark girl from Game of Thrones and Jennifer Lawrence is the chick who’s titties you’ve probably seen thanks to that phone hack incident. If she played anyone else than Mystique, that would seriously taint the image of perfection of these characters.

What I’m saying is, you’ll probably feel like not a single actor is good enough for their role (except Hugh Jackman, y’all love Hugh Jackman), because of this idealized image you have of your favorite franchise. Let it go, it’s not this and if that’s the attitude you’re going to bring, no one will share their popcorn with you.

4. The Bad Guy is going to suck, because there’s no Ian McKellen

Let’s face it, the only decent bad guy depicted in this series of films was Magneto. The cold rationale, the persistence and humanity, that was all Ian McKellen and he was awesome. Specially opposite Patrick Stewart. Every other villain kinda sucked. Vinnie Jones as the Juggernaut? Come on…

Apocalypse should be larger than life, almost divine in a way, but he won’t be. He is going to look like a bad reproduction of a Mortal Combat villain (did you ever see that show? That sucked balls…) or one of those other nineties doofy, low-budget shows. Why? Because that’s how it’s going to be.

source: musingsbystarlight.com

5. There’s only so much you can get out of a good thing….

There’s  a bunch of films out now, and it seems to have run its course. There were 3 Lord of the Rings films. That was it, that was a good thing and for many reasons there was not more. That was also it, that was the material. So why was The Hobbit, a much slimmer little book, brought in 3 films as well? Because they were milking it for whatever it was worth. Is that a bad thing? Yes, it usually is and gets the viewer swamped in overdone dramatic cut-scenes, special effect extravaganza end very, very little narrative. This may be a personal Peter Jackson rant, but the point is valid. Set your limits, do not keep going on milking stuff.

The time of the films that get  a part 10 is way behind us. The thing is, good things come to an end and even the great cast of actors is not going to carry this concept into the future.

I’m just awaiting the disappointment of ‘Gambit’  (Channing Tautum, wtf?) and the long awaited ‘Deadpool’. I’ll go into that fully knowing that it’s not going to be the awesome I expect, but maybe I’m just a bit sadomasochistic…. Who knows…

I did like Guardians of the Galaxy. What do you think?

Sounds of the Underground #18

Another session of delving into the underground, with Bong, Deuil, Wiegedood and Suðri. Great releases and great fun listening to them. I’m always eager to hear more new things ofcourse.

Bong – We Are, We Were And We Will Have Been

source: bandcamp

A new album from the arch-stoners Bong. Drugged out, stretched out like lukewarm tar and always so hypnotic, this album is not a shift of pace in any way for the Britons. Basically the albums opens with a  drone, that seems to go to infinity and beyond. For seven minutes it’s just that with a minor bit of percussion going on. Suddenly a dark voice launches itself, proclaiming dark words, like a high priest of an occult, old ceremony. This ends a couple of minutes later, leaving you to drift of on that same drone for the rest of opening track ‘Time Regained’.

‘Find Your Gods’ starts with a spoken word element, but from there on it slowly rund away in a long, reverberating drone that takes you to far of places. Hypnotic and transcendent, this record is definitely a work of art from the masters of its kind. I have to admit that I’m impressed with this band and I might be willing to check some more of their stuff later on. Later… I ‘m comin back to earth now for a bit.

Suðri – ReiseReise cover art

Ukrainian DSBM that sounds a bit Burzumesque, well I’m going to give that a spin. I know nothing of this band, just that this came out yesterday. Turns out this is a Ukrainian label with a Chilean band, a one man project. That is surprising, because from the whole aura of this release, you expect it to be continental stuff. The opener ‘Die Reise’ is one of those minimal, quasi-acoustic dreamy tracks that prompted me to use the Burzum reference. That slow, atmospheric feel remains throughout the four track record, but its always nice to find that Burzum inspiration again with bands playing this niche sound.

The depressed element becomes clear rather quickly with ‘Ashes and Solitude’, a seven minute lasting drag with barked vocals that convey the despair. The creeping tone is that of a desperate, malformed being clawing at the light. Wafting riffs are like a cold rain. ‘Im Regen’ utilizes the piano for its intro, creating the ambiance suited for this kind of muic. It’s surprising how powerful these elemetns are on a record like this, the acoustic part. ‘An Endless Journey’ wraps it up with tha typical barrage of layered, tremolo guitar and the hoarse vocals. An impressive record, using the interplay between two very different sounds with succes.
Deuil – Shock/Deny…

Source: Bandcamp
Only two songs, but for some bands that is more than enough to convey the message. These Belgians from Liegè combine doom, sludge, drone and stoner to a potent brew of fucking sonic magma. Screeched vocals, landslide riffs chugged out and a constant feeling of discomfort is what ‘Shock’ opens with. Blast beats keep slapping you in the face later in the song, while the guitars are crying out in despair. Around the seven minute mark, the sound gets lighter, warmer as if the sun gets a moment to illuminate the blackness, reminding you more of post-rock. Then the door shuts and dark, looming riffs fall like curtains. From there on its a dark way down.
‘Deny’ is the frenzied twin brother of the opening track. Furious riffs and pummeling drums create a more black metal atmosphere on this track with continuous blast beats and atmospheric density. Eerie tones fill the air and the band drudges on in their typical way to construct a big song with some, epic passages. A whispering female voice enters the fray, speaking mysticly over the churning bass lines. The song slowly fades out with only buzzing and then only whispering. A great record for those who love the dirty, dark Roadburn sound.
Wiegedood – De Doden hebben het Goed
source: bandcamp
Yeah, that name means ‘crib death’, the word for parents finding their child in the crib deceased, after being apparently healthy. It’s a cruel and sad thing, but also a great name for a black metal band. These Belgians from Ghent picked it up and made some intriguing music on their debut ‘The Dead are doing well’ (losely translated). The opener ‘Svanesang’ (Swan Song) is a burst of flurried riffing and tremolo guitarplay, that seems to shift between minor and major at some points, leaving behind a trail of ice and fire.
The 13 minute epic dwindles down for a minute, but then ‘Kwaad Bloed’ (Evil blood) launches again, with those particular sunny passages and the screamed vocals (which are very tight btw). This song sinks away in a swamp of distortion and guitar picking notes, gently ending the suffering. There the slow-paced, gloomy title track starts, with an eerie, meandering riff soaring high above. Super fast tremolo gives it that gloomy feel. Its doom pace makes this a slow descent into hell, depicted by the creeping rhythm section. Final track ‘Onder Gaan’ (going under) picks up the blistering riffing and majestic sound again.

Dynamo Metal Fest: The personal review you might not care for

Dynamo Open Air is a festival that touched many, many lives, but also those of the kids who didnt make it. I was quite late coming to the metal world, but Dynamo has been a landmark, an iconic thing that put me on my musical path. I loved it.

Some kids are blessed with parents that hate their music. It’s glorious, because you know exactly what it is your opposing or rebelling against. I was not so fortunate. My mom would watch the big festivals on TV throughout the nineties and pointing out the cool stuff to me. So there was this Brazilian band I had to see, they were really special. There I was, gaping at Sepultura. I’ve always thought it was at Dynamo that year, but it was old footage from 1990 or somehing. Then there was this other funny band called the Heideroosjes, that I had to see. Suffice to say, my parents got me in touch with most of the music I listen to nowadays.

Looking back, it seems like a planned thing. There was a nudge here, an Iggy Pop album for that birthday, concert for the next… I would watch all the footage of these big festivals on TV and enjoy it, be amazed by the extreme music, the long haired people and the energy. I saw Sepultura again on Pinkpop and I always had a special place in my heart for that band. Truth be told, I didn’t get the music back then, I just knew it was cool. I guess you need that one band to hit you at some point to get into it. The prequel for me was Sepultura. It was much later that I got into metal seriously, through punkrock in fact. I read all I could and watched videos whenever there was something on TV. Dynamo was always there. Later, when I missed those last few editions, the old posters were my guide to what stuff was good and should be listened to. I will always regret not visiting it when I had a chance. Still, it was my guiding light into the world of metal.

So thats what I’m thinking today, when I’m riding my bike towards the Ice Sport Centre in Eindhoven. Lots of memories of that place, but I’m not thinking of any of them. I’m thinking back to what got me here, on my bike, going to my very first Dynamo Metal Fest (which feels like Dynamo Open Air). I’m thinking of how my mom stole my Finntroll CD and how my parents went to see Rammstein on Pinkpop. I’ve been enabled to explore and discuss music freely from childhood onwards and now I’m full of energy and excitement. I’ve left my meds at home and I am hoping my back is going to hold out today, but I’m going to be at my first Dynamo. This is awesome. It doesn’t even matter that I’ve seen pretty much all the bands on the bill play live a bunch of times.

The crowd at any metal festival is one big bunch of weirdos, strangers and mad men. It’s that strange bunch that makes me feel so much at home. I’ve tried the other stuff, the dance music, the indie crowd and even the scifi conventions, but this is my home. I’m anxious almost anywhere and big groups of people are a bit intense for me, but not here. Even though I have little friends in the metal scene as yet, I feel like I can relate to everyone here. In reality, sure, that is not true, but I like the feeling that it is. I’m just enjoying the atmosphere. Old friends meeting up, telling stories of the past. One guy is telling me how everyone had their hair cut or got grey and he cant recognize his old friends. Another tells me that they all got fat and bald (to which I go over my own head with one hand). It doesn’t matter though, the bands hardly matter (though I love the old thrashers from Nuclear Assault and Death Angel). It’s all about the community, the atmosphere and the guitars playing loudly somewhere. This is not just your next run of the mill festival, this is a festival with a whole lot of love for music and this city of Eindhoven.

Ok, I guess I’m being a bit too softy on this article. It would be so much more borin to put on those rational goggles and complain about the stuff that was not great. That would spoil my whole experience, though. I had an excellent time on this festival, because it felt like everything was done with love. The whole thing, it’s not about making money, it’s about this crazy music and everything attached to it. I got to enjoy this festival with my girlfriend and some real good friends, some I have not spoken to for too long. I heard stories, which were about Dynamo, metal and why it means so much to people. I’ve been in this thing for years now, mostly as a writer, but first and foremost as a fan. It’s all love, you know. I think that is the best review any festival can get.

PS. Line-up:
Facelifter, Bodyfarm, Orange Goblin, Alestorm, Biohazard, Nuclear Assault, Death Angel, Arch Enemy (without Angela Gossow, it wasn’t the same for me*)

*Not that I think Gossow is hot, she just looked powerful and had a certain aura that this new girl doesnt have.

Keep on Bloggin’

So I started blogging about a year ago, I thought it would be a good way to start expressing myself and put some feelings and words on paper. Looking back, there’s a lot of personal posts I’ve deleted. I felt that it was just too much open wound sadness and sorrow.

About a year ago I started a series of conversations, which were supposed to help me overcome certain personal problems and I saw a lot of value in trying to share that. It created a lot of tension and clashes in my life, that did not make me very happy. I’m still not sure if those were good things or bad, I know where I am now and I’m quite ok with myself.

So recently I switched that blogging around and Im more getting into stuff I find cool and writing down rants and thoughts. Sorry for the many Skyrim references, I hope to start playing another game soon but my time is a bit limited when it comes to that. Or… Skyrim takes up too much time. I had given up on gaming to be honest, becuase I thought it was not mature and stuff. Thanks to following people like Wil Wheaton (again, my blog is named after that dude) and other geeky heroes, I’m ok with it. Why would I not do the things that make me happy?

I feel like I’m hitting the form of my original posts  and that I’m trying to say relateable things that are interesting and perhaps a bit funny. I feel good about that. Recently there were quite some positive responses to my blogposts on facebook, even if those were just likes, they were much appreciated.

The ones that seem to attract less attention are the ones about the books I read, but then again I received nice words about those to my face. All in all, it’s been enough inspiration to keep on blogging. Hopefully putting out some stuff that is appreciated. I strive for a strong personal element and hope to touch upon my favorite topics, which are nerdism, thoughts, travel and lifestyle (mine I guess) with some music mixed in.  Hopefully you’lll keep reading and enjoying it. Thanks for all the thumbs up.

I guess you’ve noticed the strange cover picture? That’s where the magic happens. Yes! It doesn’t look as pleasant as this:

Source: Blogsuccesschool.com (click for that site, its quite a cool site about professional blogging)

So yeah, that’s not my set up, I do not own a Mac and my notebook is a random collection or whatever crap I need to write down. It does not look appealing. I wouldn’t mind if it was though. You know what, next time I’ll make a picture of my setup at the kitchen table, with my chromebook.

Gotta go now, my cat Frankie is lost somewhere behind the bathroom unit and making the saddest sounds (which also occur when hungry).

Sounds of the Underground #17

I’m revamping and reinvigorating my sounds of the underground with cool releases in different genres. This time I’m presenting you Oake, Robyn Cage, L’Enfant De La Forêt and Nordic Giants

Oake – Auferstehung

source: deejay.de

I’ve been reading a new magazine and it is exposing me to a lot of new music, that I wasn’t familiar with before. I’ve started listening to Oake, a duo that just happened to stumble upon cold electronics and industrial through a shared passion for the sound. Clinging to their hardcore and metal roots, they created a sound that has an uncanny resemblance to early industrial bands, adding a clear cut clean sound to that vibe.

The result is bleak and atmospheric industrial, leaning towards the experimental with scraping, slow elements but also the vocals of Bathseba Zippora adding an eerie vibe to the songs. The music is made by Eric Goldstein, who’s been around the scene for years. The music is repetitive, but always foreboding, creating a tension that feels like the climax is never far away. Pounding and splashing beats give that cold industrial feel to it that reminds you of  Cocteau Twins and Coil, though the band claims to not have known about these groups. They evoka a mythic feel and organic vibe with their industrial sound, which is helped by the mysterious titles and vocals. A pleasure to listen to.

Robyn Cage – Tales of a Thief

source: robyncage.com

Robyn Cage is a singer-songwriter from Utah, with a  pleasant sound and nice voice. This EP has a thin layer of fantasy weaved in the lyrics, Generally the feeling of the music is mellow and folky. Then again carnavalesque and slightly haunting. This is not an album for singer-songwriter fans, but lovers of stories in song, because that is what Cage is doing on this record. Telling small stories in a theatric manner, showing of her voice at times.

Personally, songs like ‘Theatre Noire’ don’t appeal to me in that. For me ‘The Arsonist & The Thief’ is the nicest song, due to its wordplay. It’s very enjoyable. Somewhere this nice lady reminds me of the stuff I used to listen to, with the playful vibe of Regina Spektor and a dab of Florence and the Machine. Quirky yet never a joke, this is definitely a nice record to listen on your own when you need to relax to some Vaudevillean tunes.

L’enfant De La Forêt – Abraxas

Source: Bancamp

Dark ambient filled with plenty of other influence, Abraxas is a dark entity. I picked this up as a random bandcamp I hit on the search field and this new release seemed to embody a bit of the black metal exterior that I enjoy. Found at the crossroads between industrial, trip hop and noise, this is an interesting find indeed.  The man behind L’enfant Du Forêt is James Kent making this a one man project, which in a way even  surprised me regarding the variety on the record.

I feel the vibe of some old, darker dubstep stuff and mayb a bit of that first the xx record in the laid back, throbbing vibe of the tracks. Ok, I did expect for a moment during the song ‘Pessimist’ to hear Falco start his ‘Jeannie’. The play with the quality is quit interesting in that track, taking it back to a bare sound, before launching into a fuller atmospheric sound with. The atmosphere at time is like that on the Burzum prison albums. That sound of desolation and mystery is quite amazing and captivating. Surprising finisher is ‘The Rope’, a bleak, soundscape twisting doom track with a blackened taste to it.

Nordic Giants – A Séance Of Dark Delusions

Source: bandcamp

When a band can make you taste the Nordic wastelands, they are surely doing something right. It’s  a part of their total art product, combining, film, performance, sound, costumes and vibe to a complete experience and I had never heard of them before. The duo hails from England and has been slowly conquering souls and minds with their amazing postrock albums since 2010. This is the most recent accomplishment, to be streamed on the more popular stations.

Orchestral and big, illed with detail, atmosphere and rising patterns, the vocals are samples that usually convey messages. It adds a layer of intensity, due to the nature of these samples. If they wouldn’t be there, the music still would be beautiful though. When the band does use vocals, they offer a whole new spectrum to the organic sound. Like on ‘Rapture’, which can be considered the peak of the mountain that is this record. Think Sigur Rós, think Explosions in the Sky and add a bit of Sólstafir to that mix and you have this excellent band. So when are they playing nearby? The album is one long journey through wide and spacious lands, haunting, impressive and beautiful. Don’t miss out on it.

Cyaxares Interview: Death Metal From Kurdistan – Iraq

Metal arises in the most surprising places. One of the most unlikely locations for this kind of music to spring up is Iraq. Mir Shamal Hama-faraj is like a katalysator for metal in the country we know mostly for its dictator Saddam Hussain and the war-torn recent history of it.

Mir Shamal Hama-Faraj
Mir Shamal Hama-Faraj

The musician got into metal and started making music on his own, by himself. Metal in Iraq was the theme of a documentary, dealing with the band Acrassicauda from Baghdad. The band Cyaxares hails from Sulaymaniyah though, a predominantly Kurdic town in the northern part of the country. A region with a strong identity and historic awareness.

Mir Shamal Hama-faraj is thus pionering metal in a part of the world that this far has barely been touched by the genre. At this moment, his home is extremely close to the troops of IS and thus under threat. His other band, Dark Phantom, is from Kirkuk and has taken politics and religion as themes for their music. Unfortunately the contact with Mir Shamal Hama-faraj is lost at this moment. The last e-mail he wrote contained the following words:
They Are Extremely Close, Neighbours With Kirkuk (Dark Phantom’s) And The Kurdish Peshmerga Is The Only Thing Holding Them Back.

All The Members Are Ok, For Now.

For the sake of getting his music out there, the interview should go out now. So enjoy reading about one of the most unlikely metal bands out there and be sure to check ou the music.

 What does the name Cyaxares mean?
Cyaxares was the third and greatest king of the Median, the most capable ruler and the Great Father of the Kurds. I chose this name, because it’s a proper name for this band and  it matches what I do in my view. 

The band started out as Voice Of Silence, with three members. We didn’t have any original tracks back then, because we just had gotten into metal. Some things then changed and we had a new name with three members, which was Beneath The Oceans Of Sands. Some of the swongs written for that band can be found on my album, namely ‘Whores Of Babylon’ and ‘Temples Of Fire’. Both songs where written by me.

After that I continued by myself as Cyaxares.

How did you get into metal music?
It was in 2008, when I got into rock music and so I decided to get myself an album. I heard of a store that sells that kind of music, so I went searching for it to buy an album. My choise was: Iron Maiden. I bought the record A Matter Of Life And Death.

Listening to that record, I knew that this was what I wanted to do to. It actually took a while for me to learn that this music was called metal at this point, which was what I got more into. I moved on towards more extreme metal, after I started listening to Cradle Of Filth and Amon Amarth. They inspired me to do extreme vocals and music.

Mir Shamal Hama-Faraj
Mir Shamal Hama-Faraj

Do you do all the music yourself for Cyaxares? How do you go about recording stuff?
Indeed, I played and recorded everything on the album myself. As far as recording goes, I recorded it in my room without any professional or semi-professional equipment or what so ever.

Are there for you as an artist from Iraq any limits technically to what you can create?
In fact I’m very limited to what I can do. It’s pretty much impossible to get good instruments and equipment let a lone a decent studio. I’m also not able to see a real live Metal concert or get a good teacher. I have to do everything by myself and the whole project rests on my shoulders. That means writing, recording, rhearsing, learning, funding and whatever comes with being a band.

Iraq is ofcourse for the ‘Western World’ (sorry for not being able to define this any better) one of the most unlikely countries to find metal. How do you regard this fact? Are there more metalheads and bands around?

True, metal is a very rare thing in Kurdistan and Iraq. The amount of bands from this region is in total six and thats it. The skills of most bands are limited, so they don’t really catch any attention, simply because they don’t live up to the global standard.

Is there any sort of repression you have to deal with, doing this in your country? How does being from Kurdistan matter? And how about your other band Dark Phantom?

Metal over here, like anywhere else, is fought by religious and old-fashionate people. As Dark Phantom, we’ve received multiple threats and Cyaxares is actually the only death metal band from Kurdistan, making it a band with ten times as much obstacles as bands in other parts of the world.

Dark Phantom
Dark Phantom

Is there anything typical for metal music from your country? Do you draw inspiration from where you come from that you put in the music?
Metal is a very obscure thing here, so there is too little to speak of typicalities. Yes, I have inspired others to start playing metal music, but it’s very limited at this moment. What I try to put in my music is the ideologies and mythic elements of my culture and I hope to make a difference and change things in this way.

Musically I draw inspiration from oriental music and the mythology. The metal influences, I would say, are mostly Behemoth and Lamb of God.

What are the main themes you try to weave into your music?
The main themes are derived from ancient mythology and historical events in the Babylonian, Sumerian, Persian and ofcourse Median tradition. The call for leaving behind religion is a big theme in my music, but I’ve also put some classical poetry in there.

I’ve checked out your album ‘Whores of Babylon’. How did the writing and recording proces of that take place? What story are you trying to tell the listener on it?
The writing process took me about four years, because I started from absolute zero. Actually I had to start by teaching myself all I needed to play this music, you know? It took me about three days to record everything by myself.

Every song has its own message, My message as Cyaxares is ‘Temples Of Fire’, a call for Zoroastrianism as an ideology. What I want to achieve is to make my culture known, to give the Kurdish people an independant voice and show its strenght as well. We are a people that have always managed to do so much with so little.

I did an interview with the band Melechesh a long time ago, who also indicated that they made ‘Mesopotamian/Assyrian metal’. Do you feel related to this band in any sense?
“Melechesh” Is An Authentic Mesopotamian Metal Band, I Enjoy Most Of Their Work, But We Both Have Different Sound Of Our Own.

Would you be so kind to tell a bit about what ‘Mesopotamian metal’ is and what makes it so? Can you also elaborate a bit on the stories it involves and entities discussed in the lyrics?
Mesopotamian metal is a combination of Arabic scales and rhythms in the music, combined with metal ofcourse. The oriental atmosphere in th esong and the lyrical themes then make up what I think is Mesopotamian metal. The themes should also incorporate mythology. A good example of a band playing this specific style of music is Aeternam.

What part does religion play in your music and are there dangers involved in it?
I’m an atheist myself and my opposition to religion will always be a part of Cyaxares. It’s not a safe thing in this country to be an atheist but I will refuse any sort of religion, with or without music.

Can you also tell a bit about Dark Phantom, your other band?
Dark Phantom is a thrash metal band from Kirkuk, that I joined last year on vocals and bass. We’re woking on an album right now. The main themes of the band ar war, and terror and it has five members. The situation in our country is part of the theme. I keep that out of Cyaxares though. [Video below – Dark Phantom]

What are your future plans for Cyaxares?
The future plan for Cyaxares right now is a new album, titled ‘The House Of The Cosmic Waters’ and hopefully go abroad, get a label and create a full band.

The second album is progressing slow, three songs have been finished this far. I’m not sure how many songs will be on it, but it will probably take me about eight months to finish it. That’s mostly due to a lack of time and economic means to finish it faster.

You can hear the music of Cyaxares on Reverbnation.

https://www.youtube.com/user/behemot1993/videos

Joining the Empire!

Here I am with my empire
I’ll bring you to your knees
ebb and flow with my desire
cause its all that you’ve been taught to be
– Boysetsfire, ‘Empire’

The Empire, always the evil force in the world, but playing Skyrim I joined the Empire. Not the Stormcloaks. Am I finally becoming an adult?

A quick rundown of what the difference is between those two factions in the game. The Empire is a human faction, which has been keeping the Dominion at bay. The Dominion are the elves, who try to dominate the world. So the Empire is in a global conflict for the good cause, but has signed a concordate with the Elves (really, I am not good at getting to the core of things I am excited about). Now, the Empire is due to that concordat enforcing some rules, like prohibiting the reverence of Talos as a deity. Talos is like the first emperor of the land Tamriel and in a sense the ‘Elder Scrolls’ Jesus.

So the Stormcloaks, under Ulfric Stormcloak, think thats bullshit and want to kick the empire out. They are in essence rebels, fighting for freedom and maintaining their  Nord (the nordic people/race) ways. Downside: They’re also a bit going on with ‘Skyrim for the Nords’, which has a bit of a ‘Auslander Aus!’ flavor to it. So what it boils down to, the Empire protects the human population, but enforces some restrictions on religion. In general they provide peace and prosperity to an extent. The Stormcloaks want more freedoms and thus they fight them. There’s another group called the Forsworn, but apart from wearing silly costumes, they seem to lack a real plan.

source: Tumblr

Usually the Empire sucks, like in Star Wars and pretty much every slightly older scifi/fantasy setting. Mostly this is due to them being evil, but I never really got what was wrong with the Empire of Darth Vader and the Emperor. Sure, they were a bit hard handed, but was their plan to destroy the galaxy and plunge it into eternal war? That’s more the empire in Warhammer 40,000, but those are the good guys… Depending on your perspective at least. In Firefly you have the brown coats, who are like the ‘South’ in the American civil war, fighting  against the alliance that again brings peace and prosperity.

It’s almost like a Hobbesian view of society that is depicted by a bunch of these rebel movements. The society needs to submit to a ruling power, which is depicted as an all overshadowing Leviathan. Its the grimmest view one can take of the social contract, which it in fact. is. In Skyrim the Empire is your best bet, even though the Thalmor (evil elves) are dictating what they do. The Empire has been severely wounded by war and needs to lick its wounds. Now, it can’t do that if them elves kill all humans.

I was always a bit more of a rebel guy, but now I find that I sided with the empire. The blatant racism of the Stormcloaks might have a lot to do with it, but also the general lack of perspective. What point do your ‘freedoms’ have if you can not unite in any sense against a bigger enemy? If you cant actually realise anything. Also, ironically, you are putting a despot in place most of the time. I’ve had high doubts about the future of that ‘Galaxy far, far away…’ after the Empire falls apart. Who’s gonna rule that? Luke? Give me a break, maybe Lando has a shot at it.

I used to be into punkrock and I still believe in its strenght. Rebellion is a good thing and necessary even, but it is not the solution. So I say, throw in your lot with the empire. You can kill Thalmor on sight whenever you want anyways. What I was getting at though is that chosing the Empire is chosing relatively the greater good. I think thats the mature thing to do. I found it quite interesting. Apart from that, it shows a general shift in our thinking. A reevaluation of set ideas. What is the greater good and does it justify the good? You can decide for yourself and figure out what your stand on this is. If you change your mind, you can always reload an older save game.

source: PCgamer.com ‘Killing everything and everyone because you want to in Skyrim’

Also the Empire dresses like Romans and gives you Roman style ranks. I’m a Legate now. I guess there’s also people who just chop of heads of all npc’s. So it’s the liberalism of Voltaire for the Stormcloaks, Rousseau believers for the empire… and ofcourse De Sade like berserkers for just chopping of heads. Huzah!

Gaming makes you smarter kids.

The night Lenny left and returned

Last saturday night I left one of our windows open. It was not the brightest thing to do, so around one o’clock I checked the place and found Lenny the cat was gone. Lenny left through the window.

That was a scary moment, I mean, you have no clue where the cat is and he’s not in any of his normal weird places. So I woke up my girlfriend and we started the hunt. There’s a whole range of emotions going through your head at that moment, making this a rollercoaster experience.

Why the hell did he jump? Where did he go? Do you think he stopped anywhere, is he still around? What about Frankie (our other, very dependent cat, who cant be alone). THe idea of not finding this little cat, that we took in when no one seemed to want him, was terrible and haunting. The loneliness of Frankie, our pain of loss… Things you start considering.

Lenny and Frankie enjoying a box.
Lenny and Frankie enjoying a box.

After two hours of searching, wee both cried like babies. It’s a sense of despair and failure, I havent felt in a long time. We put out some adverts in the middle of the night and holding on to our other cat we fell asleep. A troubled sleep, full of worries and fear. Half asleep…

Then the door bell rang and our neighbour was in front of it, she was letting some guests out of the building and found a crying kitty in front of the door. Tough Lenny, the escapist, braving the world had returned bawling, stressed and dirty and was now back home, like the prodigal son. The surge of relief in my half sleeping state was intense, like a cloud disappearing in front of the sun. I could only stammer thank you a bunch of times and wished her a goodnight.

I slept like a baby after that. So did Lenny I think… And Frankie too. It made me think, we started caring so much about a little cat in the last years. It made me feel the full weight of the responsibility of taking care for another living being, which is quite frankly something new. This thing called adulthood, it weighs heavy on me now and then. The idea that you need to get married, get kids and all… It’s heavy. But in a way, this made me feel more confident about it.

I may always be a bit of a kid myself, but atleast I feel responsible for what I take on in a serious way. Cats are not kids, but I might even be ready for that. I guess adulthood might start to appeal to me after all and I feel ready for those scary future things.

Now it’s just a matter of closing windows…

 

 

Festivals: Why are they awesome?

Most people probably figured out what festivals they’re going to visit this summer months ago. Some buy them before the year start. I’ve not been going at it that way this year. It’s all a bit last minute and random.

I did buy Roadburn tickets in October, which I did not regret at all. The festival had been on my list as one of the few I really wanted to visit and behold, I succeeded.  I had a great time, experiencing the thing I value most about festivals these days: immersing myself in the scene and vibe that I adore. It’s a matter of a certain feeling and outlook that connects the Roadburn bands, not their genre, style or look. It’s a complete experience.

My first festivals were Parkpop and Pinkpop in the Netherlands. Both massive, multi-genre, highly commercial festivals. Still, this was awesome because I was in my exploring fase. Gobbling music up by the gallon, whatever styles I came across. I loved punkrock, but also stadiumrock, funk and the great pop groups of the nineties (you know, the ones you heard on the radio all the time, also from the eighties). It felt a bit like Roadburn in the sense that I was dipped into a full pool of that musical world I was so attracted to. I guess there was no scene yet I felt part of.

Now, by this time I’ve moved far away from that. I guess I am to a certain extent a music elitist. I only feel that same buzz when I join festivals that are for a narrow niche of fans. I don’t think its necessarily my own fault, it might come with the way I enjoy music. I need to figure out a lot about the scene and what moves it and makes it thriving. Black metal is very interesting, mainstream pop music not so much.  That still sounds elitist, but to me explains a thing or two.

Roadburn is in that way an epic festival. It fully embodies a culture, a feeling and a scene in the broadest sense. Not just doom or stoner, it incorporates bands with a certain feel which happens to match my regular modus operandi. I’m not a sunny person, I’ve got a lot of demons in my head and in general I’m  on the depressed/pessimistic side of things. Experiencing a festival that embodies art with that vibe to it, to me is excellent. It might not be that way for all visitors but it makes sense to me.

That immersing yourself, it remains the best part about any festival. I’m sure it is the same for the anime people, car lovers and so much more. What you need to have for some is your own niche, your little obsession. I’ve got plenty of those. I guess that’s why I like festivals, because I surround myself with the stuff that I love and people that understand why I’m so obsessed with that stuff. The festival is a microcosmos of that scene you’re part of. The fact that you are there makes you part of it. More and more I’m trying to embrace that as well. The problem of an elitist outlook is that you judge people for not being good enough to be part of it. That’s something Iyou’ll always see. I guess it’s the conservative element that makes any scene remain whole, it is essential for the festival to hold on to its identity. Even a peculiar one like Roadburn.

So what else is on my list? I went to Psych Lab, going to Incubate maybe, Dynamo Metal Fest and Malta Doom Days (yes!).  Maybe you’ll be there too. Not for you? Look for your festival and experience that bliss that comes with it. You won’t regret it.