“Like symphonic metal, War Of The Worlds and Tubular Bells had a baby.” ~ Ayreon’s new single, ‘The Day That The World Breaks Down’

Just a flying visit on my blog today to spread the word of something that’s got me really excited and inspired.

I had a new musical discovery this morning after following a link on Tommy Karevik (lead singer of Kamelot)’s Facebook page. The link led me to Ayreon, a musical project masterminded by Arjen Anthony Lucassen.

arjen

I believe that Ayreon is considered ‘old news’ in the world of metal — I’ve definitely heard the name before — but it’s not something I’ve ever really looked into. Wikipedia describes the nature of the project best so I’m just going to lift it straight from there:

Ayreon’s music is described as progressive rock, progressive metal and power metal sometimes combined with genres such as folk, electronica, experimental and classical music. The majority of Ayreon’s albums are dubbed “rock operas” (or “metal operas”) because the albums contain complex storylines featuring a host of characters, usually with each one being represented by a unique vocalist.

The link led me to new single ‘The Day That The World Breaks Down’ from Ayreon’s upcoming album, The Source:

ayreon-the-source

Tommy posted the link because he is playing one of the characters on the album (the Opposition Leader). Other musicians that I love involved in the project are Epica’s Simone Simons (playing the Counselor) and Nightwish’s Floor Jansen (playing the Biologist).

Anyways, intrigued, I listened to the song, watched the video and… whoa. Just… whoa. Check it out for yourself! The video comes complete with text-commentary about the story, characters and instrument-geekery from Arjen too:

For me personally, it’s like all my favourite aspects of symphonic metal, Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds, and Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells had a baby. I am completely in love with it, and I’ve already pre-ordered myself the earbook (signed by Arjen!):

mtr75156_signed_450

Anyways, just wanted to share!

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


For more information on Arjen Anthony Lucassen, Ayreon and The Source project, follow the below link:

http://www.arjenlucassen.com/

Advertisements

Christmas Music: S.E. Berrow Edition

As I explained at length last year, I absolutely love Christmas. The cold weather, the Christmas lights, putting up my tree a month early, wrapping up presents, watching tat on the tele, being overly critical of supermarket Christmas adverts (Sainsbury’s, this is what you produce after last year’s triumph? Hang your heads in shame) and of course, all the yummy food.

There is however one aspect of Christmas that I absolutely cannot stand, and that is the hideously repetitive Christmas music that plays on all the radios and TV adverts.

I’m certain I’m not alone in this. It’s the same songs every single year: Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’, Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’, Wizzard’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’ (Do you really, Wizzard? I mean, really think about it for a second… Do you?), East 17’s ‘Stay Now’, The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale Of New York’… Yes, that’s right, I hold the rather unpopular opinion that I would quite happily never listen to ‘Fairytale Of New York’ by the Pogues ever again. Widely regarded by my friends and family as the Greatest Christmas Song ever written, I personally think they only love it because they get to say a really offensive word halfway through that they’d be horrified to use in real life. Don’t bother arguing with me, Said-Friends; you know it to be true!

‘Fairytale Of New York’ aside, it is not the Christmas songs themselves that wind me up. Objectively, ‘All I Want For Christmas’ is a cracking pop song, the lyrics of ‘Christmas Wrapping’ by the Waitresses are hilariously relatable, Jona Lewie’s ‘Stop The Cavalry’ continues to be painfully relevant after the politically turbulent year we’ve just had, and Nat King Cole’s ‘The Christmas Song’ prompts amazingly nostalgic memories from my childhood. No, what really irritates me is that the radio DJs and retail marketing departments refuse to acknowledge any Christmas songs released post-1995, and no, wistful indie-rock covers by a softly-spoken female vocalists for the latest John Lewis advert definitely do not count. If an artist does release an original Christmas song (e.g. the excellent ‘One More Sleep’ by Leona Lewis from 2013), it’s promoted for a single season and then never heard again…

However, as you may have gathered if you’ve followed my blog for a while, I love music, and I’m used to my favoured genres and artists not being played on the radio and on shop floors. So what does one do when they wish to escape the inane dirge but still get into the Christmas spirit? Why, listen to something else of course!

Here are just a few of my favourite alternative Christmas jams:

 

1. ‘We Three Kings’ – Abney Park (Through Your Eyes On Christmas Eve, 2012)

I am aware of the irony of presenting a traditional Christmas song to be first on my list after harping on about a lack of originality in Christmas music for several paragraphs, however Abney Park’s trademark steampunk sound unleashed on this particularly dark and morbid hymn is what makes this song stand out. “Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom; sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in a stone-cold tomb”.

 

2. Candy Cane Children – The White Stripes (Merry Christmas From The White Stripes, 2002)

I have fond memories of being rather obsessed with this song around Christmas 2005; I’d only just ‘discovered’ the White Stripes that November. It’s a stripped-back slightly morbid number that vaguely references seasonal depression and/or school shootings… I think! The title is a reference to die-hard fans of the White Stripes, known as Candy Cane Children, and the lyric “Nobody knows how to talk to children” was also the title of a pulled documentary. I really love the dark tones of the lyrics and, as always with White Stripes songs, the guitar riff is damned catchy and hits you right in the gut.

 

3. ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ – Melora Creager (Egg Nog Edition, 2013)

egg-nog-edition

Sadly I cannot find a streamable version of this song anywhere for you to listen to, or indeed any evidence on the internet that this ever existed at all… but it definitely does, because I own a copy! Like ‘We Three Kings’ (and along with the ‘Carol of the Bells’), ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ is one of my favourite Christmas carols, so to hear my favourite musician of all time give such a beautiful, minimalist rendition accompanied by both acoustic and electric cello is quite something. Melora Creager is the founder, lead singer and cellist in the pioneering chamber rock outfit, Rasputina.

 

4. Gothic Christmas – Within Temptation (Mother Earth Tour DVD easter egg, 2003)

Within Temptation’s ‘Gothic Christmas’ is what happens when a symphonic metal band puts their mind to writing an original Christmas song. Objectively speaking, this song’s production is pretty terrible, Sharon Del Adel’s usually strong, delicate voice sounds strained, and the music lacks Within Temptation’s usual orchestral punch. The lyrics however poke brilliant fun at the band’s own genre, and I love it: “Santa’s going to grunt in Latin and slay a dragon or two. Rudolph, he will change his name, ‘cause Rudolph just sounds really lame. Now we’ll call him Ragnagord, our evil reindeer overlord. His nose it shall be red no more, it will be blackened to the core!”

 

5. Jingle Hell – Christopher Lee (A Heavy Metal Christmas Too, 2013)

This one is more of a novelty song than anything. Christopher Lee, he of the operatic bass voice, is a little-known huge fan of the symphonic metal genre. Lee actually released his first metal album, Charlamagne: By The Sword And The Cross at the ripe old age of 88, because nothing keeps an ex-Nazi hunter down. From that point onward, he released metal-renditions of Christmas carols every year up until his death in June 2015. ‘Jingle Hell’ was his second offering, and you can hear him talk about it here.

What a legend.

 

6. ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)’ – The Darkness (2003)

Unlike other songs featured on my list, this song by early 00s glam-rock band The Darkness does actually very occasionally get some airtime. Released in 2003, X Factor was having a year off for reasons I cannot remember, so we actually had a genuine race to reach the Christmas no. 1 spot for the first time in God knows how long. Unfortunately this track lost out to a cover of Tears For Fears’ ‘Mad World’ by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews (a beautiful song, but hella depressing to listen to at Christmas and not exactly what I would call festive). Despite reaching the same point in the charts as The Pogues and Mariah Carey, The Darkness’ genuinely joyful and celebratory offering hardly ever gets played on the radio, and is usually relegated to Christmas compilation CDs.

 

7. ‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!’ – Dean Martin (A Winter Romance, 1959)

Christmas With Nat And Dean (1990) soundtracked my childhood Christmases. This song is my favourite off of that album (and frequently named as my absolute favourite ever Christmas song), and it just reminds me of being all warm and cosy and sheltered in front of the fire and unwrapping all the beautiful gifts that my mummy and daddy had got for me that year, surrounded by family, toys and good food.

 

8. This Ain’t New Jersey – Smith & Burrows (Funny Looking Angels, 2011)

The most recent addition to my list of favourite Christmas songs, ’This Ain’t New Jersey’ is a simply beautiful ballad sung by Tom Smith (Editors) about a couple having a huge trivial fight over the use of the American name ’Santa Claus’ instead of the English ‘Father Christmas’. The protagonist of the song expresses disillusionment with the Christmas period pretty much in line with this blog post (“Those same old songs every single year, we drink, we sing and forget the things we need to hear”), only to eventually get snowed in with his partner in the pub on Christmas Eve. When the fight fizzles out the next day, he is able to set aside the stress and commercialism of the period and remembers to say that he loves his partner very much after all. I love the song’s relatability, melancholy and honesty, and the fact it still manages to have a happy ending. Just beautiful.

 

I hope that you enjoyed this post and that you feel enlightened and inspired to seek out other alternative tracks to listen to this Christmas!

Take care,

S.E. Berrow

A Few Things to be Excited About!

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 22.44.50
Highlights from the beautiful Vatican City, Italy, including Michaelangelo’s Pièta, the Swiss guard and the simply gorgeous artwork in St Peter’s Basilica, all of which is mosaic.

I have just returned from my holiday – a rather swanky trip around Europe on the biggest cruiseship in the world, Harmony of the Seas, with my  lovely boyfriend Mark and my cruise-addicted parents. We set sail from Barcelona, stopping in Parma, Marseilles, La Spezia, Rome and Naples. It was bloody hot and extremely expensive, however there was much history to observe and lots of antiquity and culture to immerse ourselves in. My day on the Imperial Rome tour with Mark was without a doubt the best day, visiting such major sites as St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

Alas however, the holiday is now over (which is probably for the best because Mark and I were spending a fortune…) and I am now back at home with my wee beasties Petra and Edgar, whom my writing partner, K.F. Goodacre has been looking after in my absence. I have to admit, it is very nice to be home! It’s just such a shame that my holiday can’t go on a little longer.

This also now means that I can crack back on with my Camp NaNoWriMo project, which I have extended by a week to make up for the time I lost whilst on holiday. Wish me luck! K.F. Goodacre promised to write me a torture scene if I meet my word goal.

In addition to looking after my cats and house, K.F. Goodacre also went to the Young Adult Lit Con (YALC) on Saturday and waited in line to meet Derek Landy for 50 minutes just to get my first-edition hardback of Skulduggery Pleasant and a flyer for #SPX signed by the man himself! Isn’t she wonderful? Thank you so much, Kimothy!

Finally, more exciting news, Epica’s new track ‘Universal Death Squad’ dropped on Friday and pre-orders have been opened for their upcoming album The Holographic Principledue to be released 30 September later this year!

Of course I immediately downloaded the song as soon as I got home, listened and then treated myself to this baby:

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 23.08.58
THP Deluxe Boxet Bundle

First impressions of the song so far is that the instrumentals sound great. There is a stunning piano bit right in the middle that just blows my mind, with some stirring choir pieces and a real orchestra at last ♥ Initially I felt that Simone’s vocal melodies were quite weak, but after watching the full lyric video I’ve decided that they fit. Literally, the song is about a draconic takeover by a technologically advanced robotic race, however knowing Epica this undoubtedly has a double-meaning. Cyber and drone warfare? The internet of things? The zombifying effects of political apathy? Watch and listen below and decide for yourself:

And now, if you don’t mind, it’s been a very long day, I’ve been up since 4:30am GMT time, and I am absolutely knackered. Time for me to get some sleep so that I awake fresh and eager for a new working week tomorrow.

Goodnight and take care,

S.E. Berrow


For pics of my cruise around Europe, please feel free to visit my Instagram. See such wonderful things as a Whirling Dervish, molecular gastronomy, badly-assembled balloon animals and perfectly preserved porn from a Pompeii brothel:

https://www.instagram.com/sallyella79/

For more information about Derek Lady and #spx, visit Derek’s blog:

http://dereklandy.blogspot.co.uk/

For more information about Epica, please visit their website:

http://www.epica.nl/

“Suckerpunch the demons from my dreams.” ~ Delain release their new single, ‘Suckerpunch’

DelainDelain – one of the more accessible symphonic metal outfits, hailing from the Netherlands – just released the official music video for their new single ‘Suckerpunch’. The song is taken from the upcoming Lunar Prelude EP, due for release on 19 February.

My goodness. It is stonkingly good. With a rousing chorus, a combination of synths and symphonic elements and a pretty decent, slick video to boot (metal videos are notoriously cheesy) lead singer Charlotte Wessels is sounding sublime. Plus – and this is very exciting – and they have a new guitarist… a female guitarist! Her name is Merel Bechtold and it’s just so refreshing to see a feminine face in a metal musician lineup. Merel, welcome!

I must confess I wasn’t all that excited about Lunar Prelude (I’d always rather listen to a full album), but I most definitely am now!

Lunar Prelude

Have a listen yourself and let me know what you think:

Take care… and keep it metal! \m/

S.E. Berrow


Visit Delain’s official website for information on Lunar Prelude and more:

http://www.delain.nl/

For more information on newcomer Merel Bechtold, she has her own website here:

http://www.merelbechtold.com/