Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Celebrating 20 Years: The Top 10 Posts

The year was 1997, and I had just logged on to the internet. After a few months of cruising around and checking things out, I came up with some big plans. I'd always wanted to be an entertainment writer and own a bookstore, and the internet put those possibilities in front of me.

On the World Wide Web, I could reach an audience that would appreciate my reviews of heavy metal music and fantasy books like the readers of the newspaper that I was writing for at the time never would. Associates programs gave me the opportunity to have a book and music store without a lot of the hassle of actually running a book and music store. It was the perfect storm, so I thought.

That led to the launch of two sites on the old servers, The Hall of the Mountain King (viewable via the Internet Archive), which served as landing page and music site, and The Bookwyrm (also viewable via the Internet Archive), which housed my book content. In my mind, these two sites would eventually become go-to hubs for content on fantasy fiction and heavy metal. As you can see, that didn't work out quite as I'd planned.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Remembering Paul O'Neill (1956-2017)

It’s not often that the passing of someone famous really affects me. When I hear about it, I may think, “Man, that’s a shame,” but I quickly move on. Every now and then, though, someone makes enough of an impact on my life to really hit home. Paul O’Neill is one of those people.

I was incredibly saddened Wednesday night to see a Facebook post from Trans-Siberian Orchestra announcing that Paul had succumbed to a battle with a chronic illness at the too-young age of 61.

I didn’t really know Paul O’Neill personally, but I felt like I did. Not only was he responsible for some of my favorite music ever with both Savatage and TSO, I knew him as a warm and friendly man in several interactions I had with him over the years.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Best of 2016: Metal and Hard Rock

For me, 2016 was a very hectic year, so I didn’t get the chance to write about as many of these records as I would have liked. Still, it was a strong musical year, and, as you go through my Best Hard Rock and Metal of 2016 list, you’ll see why I’m calling it the year of the classic thrash band.

That said, two notable thrash heavyweights who released albums this year didn’t make the Top 10: Megadeth’s Dystopia grew on me as 2016 went on, and was on the bubble as I made my final decision, but didn’t quite make the cut. The other, I was a bit more disappointed by. Though Metallica’s Hardwired … to Self-Destruct contains a few standout tracks – including the best pure thrash song they’ve recorded in ages – I just found most of the record vanilla and unmemorable. Those songs that I love just weren’t enough to overcome the blah numbers that surround them.

That said, four classic thrash acts did find their way into a pretty strong final field, and one blew all the others away in my opinion. Here’s my Best Hard Rock and Metal of 2016 …

10. METAL CHURCH – XI: Here’s our first classic thrash entry already. The return of Mike Howe on vocals certainly piqued my interest, as 1989’s Blessing in Disguise is one of my favorite Metal Church albums, and the lead single “No Tomorrow” got me amped up. The album followed through on that promise. There’s nothing new or fancy here, but it’s just a great old-school thrash record.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Playlist 2016 Week 5: Dead Daisies, Anthrax, LoG, Death Angel, Testament

We've now reached the point in the program where we start to get into mostly repeated artists, and we've entered the new year, so I think I'll wind it down with this week's selections. That said, there are still a few more songs that make my playlist, but I think these 25 or so cover the high points.

"We All Fall Down," The Dead Daisies. This was just an old-fashioned, good time hard rock record. It's simplicity and fun made it one of my favorites of the year, and "We All Fall Down" was my favorite track. Just a great hook and a great all-around tune.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Best of 2016: Country and Southern Rock

OK, not really a "best of." I didn’t listen to enough country and Southern rock this year to feel comfortable taking my usual approach to this Best Country and Southern Rock of 2016 list. I know there are some great records out there that I just haven’t heard, possibly better than the ones below. But there were a trio of albums that I wanted to call out, so here goes …

3. WHISKEY MYERS – MUD: These Southern rockers, I don’t believe, get the respect that they deserve. Mud isn’t as strong an outing as 2014’s fantastic Early Morning Shakes, but still a top-notch effort with some hell-raising Southern rockers and heartfelt odes to life, and a nice tribute to No. 2 on my Best Country and Southern Rock of 2016 list.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Playlist 2016 Week 4: Rob Zombie, THC, Metallica, Holy Grail, Lacuna Coil

A couple of surprises and a little strange holiday cheer as the playlist rolls on.

"Get Your Boots On! That's the End of Rock 'n' Roll!" Rob Zombie. This album was one of the surprises of the year for me. I haven't been that interested in anything Zombie has done in a while, but this album was pretty entertaining. The chorus of "Get Your Boots On" is like his love letter to rock 'n' roll.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sunday Sabbath: "Fairies Wear Boots," from Paranoid (1970)

One instrumental piece leads into another as “Rat Salad” gives way to the intro to “Fairies Wear Boots,” sometimes referred to as “Jack the Stripper” and sometimes not on different releases of the album. Oddly, I’ve always thought the intro to the tune was a little over long, and I couldn’t wait to get to the swinging rhythm of “Fairies Wear Boots.”

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Saturday Night Special: Trans-Siberian Orchestra, "First Snow"

To be honest, it just hasn’t felt like Christmas to me this year. I’ve been super busy with work. The weather where I live, for the most part, has been more like summer. My son’s too old for my annual pilgrimage to the toy stores, and as I write this (a week or so before you’ll read it), my tree sits in my living room undecorated. It’s been a strange year.

Part of the reason, I know, is that Santa Claus ended for my son last year, and I think that also took some wonder and excitement out of things for me. So, in hopes of finding some holiday cheer, I turned to an old favorite, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and they delivered.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Playlist 2016 Week 3: Megadeth, Charred Walls of the Damned, Anthrax, Zakk Wylde, Whiskey Myers

Week 3 of my 2016 playlist goes from heavy sounds to brutal imagery before ending on a happier note with a little Southern rock.

"Bullet to the Brain," Megadeth. Another classic thrash band makes the list. I'll admit this record had to grow on me quite a bit. I didn't like it at first, but at the end of the year it has a shot at cracking my year-end list.