Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Meads Of Asphodel The Murder Of Jesus The Jew



The Meads Of Asphodel The Murder Of Jesus The Jew

Candlelight Records

Reviewer: Chris Davison

The Meads Of Asphodel are not an ordinary band. They do not do ordinary things, and they do not cover ordinary subjects. “Aha! Mr. Reviewer! I've caught you out!” you smirk, drooling as you do. “The Meads Of Asphodel are a black metal band; Jesus is covered by nearly all black metal bands at some point in their career, and I claim my £10 (editor: or $17 as the case may be)”. You sir, have missed the point. You have missed the point by a margin so vast that there is no scientific instrument yet devised in heaven, Earth, or within dreams with which to measure such an immense gulf of ignorance. Take a stride over to the blog run by The Meads Of Asphodel, with an extremely impressive set of lyrical guides to the eleven tracks of The Murder Of Jesus The Jew, presented with a scholarly level of detail that would, frankly, make most corpsepaint-clad pretenders excrete rapidly into their bullet belt adorned panties.

The Murder Of Jesus The Jew is an extraordinary album, which approaches a familiar subject to the extreme metal fan in a number of extraordinary ways. Of course, tackling the Middle East is something to which The Meads Of Asphodel have long been well known, with previous releases such as Damascus Steel. That they approach the figure of the "messiah" without resorting to the normal, straight ahead blasphemy is a relief in itself. The subject of Jesus being Jewish, and highlighted as such, in the title doubtless has many shifting in their seats. Rest assured, though, I could find little here that speaks of anti-Semitism; in fact, the overriding premise of the album is that much of the subsequent anti-Semitism of the western world has been created by the lies and distortions of the early Roman christians and their various successors.

Lyrical and intellectual praise aside, it is the music here that is likely to be of at least equal importance to most of our readership. Calling The Meads Of Asphodel “black metal” is really to do them a grave disservice. Sure, at points there are some tell tale remnants of that style hanging about; the odd shrieked vocal, here and there some very fast drumming, or treble heavy guitar. This is much more a metric mind-fuck of sonic collisions and style. Hey, why not start a song about how the devil has been misrepresented by the catholic church to a vague disco beat? By the time “Addicted to God” breaks into a weird, “Hair”-style clean vocals approached stage show sing along, it has already been through at least a half dozen different musical motifs and evolutions.

There are some All Star guests appearing on the album – for what it's worth, members of Taake, Sigh and Acheron – but to be frank, I couldn't really tell when it was them, and nor really did I care. I was too busy being taken along on the amazing ride of the story and the story telling. The undisputed kings of English esoteric heavy metal have done it again, and produced the most interesting and challenging album of the year – if not the last five years.

The Murder Of Jesus The Jew is not going to be to everyone's taste, it's a challenging listen from time to time, and it's certainly not going to make radio play any time soon. That being said, though, I am incredibly proud of these true English heretics, and you should be, too.

Incredible, genre destroying stuff. Get it.

The Meads Of Asphodel MySpace







Monday, December 27, 2010

And now for something completely different... Part II

Most of the films that arrived in that batch of DVDs from Earsplit awhile back were bottom of the barrel, microbudget shlock nonsense. However, the batch was anchored by the following, simply one that you do not want to miss. Take it away, Skull!



Night Of The Living Dead: Reanimated

Arranged by Mark Schneider

Reviewer: Skull

My second foray into the cinematic masterpieces betrothed to me is Night Of The Living Dead: Reanimated. Finding out just last week that my girlfriend had never seen the original Night Of The Living Dead (time to re-evaluate the relationship?) prompted me to revisit George Romero’s atmospheric, low budget classic ahead of schedule for a fresh baseline. It’s usually at least a once a year ritual for me, and I had exposed my 15-year old daughter to it just a few months ago (editor: hmmm…).

NOTLD: Reanimated retells the creative epic using the original dialogue and music straight from the can of the theatrical release, but, for visuals, uses various art media such as drawn and computer animation and stills, comic book style cells, Barbie dolls, muppets, Claymation characters in stop-frame animation, Legos, and sock puppets amongst other devices. Yes, I said sock puppets. As asinine as this may sound, the product of these efforts is nothing less than fantastic.

If you don’t know the storyline behind NOTLD, I won’t waste my time with you. Wiki it, Netflix it, or borrow the DVD from one of your cool friends. Otherwise, maybe surf the Internet for the latest tidbits on the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton. That might be more your speed.

Staying true to the original black and white release of NOTLD, the various artists who contribute to this film, and those who edited it, move through the work flawlessly, keeping time and mood all in place. At first, I thought that the styles would change from scene to scene, but I was amused to find that the artistic approaches not only flip within a scene but, at times, from shot to shot. More than once the techniques would even rotate within the same shot. Gibberish, you say? Watch the movie!

The only downside I could see in this version is that certain nuances and body language from the original are lost in crucial points. For example, during the first breach of the house’s windows by the zombies, a zombie’s fingers are bludgeoned off by the blows of the protagonists with nauseating sound effects. This effective visual was not translated well in the almost Ren and Stimpy-ish interpretation of this scene, but the sound effects remained.

On the other hand, Ben, Tom, and Judy’s ill-fated attempt to fill up the truck with gas, and the resulting carnage and banquet it provided the zombies, is sheer genius. Karen Cooper’s discovery of her zombified daughter devouring her deceased husband, and her subsequent death at the hands of her child is nothing less than euphoric. Ben’s tragic end is brilliantly done, losing none of its effect.

Some scenes are creepy as Hell while others induced bountiful, inappropriate laughter from me as this gem hits from all sides at once. All in all, I was riveted by NOTLD: Reanimated, and I was entertained as all get out. For any true fan of the original that has seen the film many times over the years, I cannot recommend this version enough. Otherwise, for those of you who have no idea what I’ve been talking about, then I would say take a pass, because this isn’t for you. This is for US

Official Website

Various stills…



Saturday, December 25, 2010

I note the following...



Isaac Newton: Born December 25th, 1642 (Julian calendar). Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation unifies motion near the Earth's surface and celestial motion as the same phenomenon.

The mathematical form of Newtonian Gravitation describes gravity as a force of attraction that occurs instantaneously between any two bits of matter in the Universe. The magnitude of the force is propotional to the product of the masses of the two objects (predicts the motion of projectiles near the Earth's surface, for example), and is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the two objects (derives Kepler's Laws of Planetary motion, for example). Newton provided a numerical proof of the theory by showing why the Moon falls 1/20" (1.37 mm) per second.

The constant of proportionality is G, also known as the Universal Gravitational Constant. One of nature's fundamental constants, G essentially describes the strength of gravity as a fundamental force in nature. The value of G is exceedingly small (meaning that gravity is a weak force) and is, therefore, difficult to measure, especially in the pre-Industrial age. In fact, Newton himself never measured G, as experimental physics was not his strong point.

G was first measured with accuracy by Henry Cavendish in 1797 in England. Cavendish used a torsional pendulum undergoing damped harmonic motion due to large masses placed near the pendulum while diagonally opposed from one another. The motion is exceedlingly small and takes several hours to complete.



The value of G in SI units is 6.67 x 10^-11 N m^2 kg^-2. In the cgs system, the value of G is 6.67 x 10^-8 cm^3 g^-1 s^-2; hence, the title of the following Type O Negative song...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Retrospective 2010

Yeah, it’s that time of year again! I must admit that I prefer to keep my “Best of the Year” list fluid, but I definitely have the number one and two spots nailed down. After that, though, I could probably arrange a list ten different ways ‘til Doomsday and be satisfied with it. Truth to be told, as an assignment, I had to list my absolute Top Five favorites for About.com, published here.

I stand by my list, but if you take issue with my choices, who am I to argue since I’ll readily admit to the list’s aforementioned fluidity. Not to mention the fact that I simply did not get a chance to listen to every highly regarded album this year. Undoubtedly, I’ve missed out on some killer releases for one reason or another. Let me know which ones I may have missed; much appreciated.

Best Albums of the Year

As mentioned, my number one and two are…

1) Triptykon Eparistera Daimones

2) Immolation Majesty And Decay

After being into metal for over 30 years, nothing surprises me anymore and I’ve probably, more or less, have heard it all and seen it all. Therefore, it is rare these days that an album is able to really resonate with me, to my core, on an emotional level. Triptykon’s Eparistera Daimones did that for me this year.



Immolation churned out their best album in years, if not their best overall; no small feat.

The remainder of my Top Five for About.com…

3) Vasaeleth Crypt Born And Tethered To Ruin

4) Ufomammut Eve

5) Blood Cult We Are The Cult Of The Plains

…and now, in no particular order, my other picks for top albums…

Deathspell Omega Paracletus

Nominon Monumentomb

Invasion Orchestrated Kill Maneuver

Agalloch Marrow Of The Spirit

Rotting Christ Aeolo

Decrepit Birth Polarity

Horseback The Invisible Mountain

Braindrill Quantum Catastrophe

Heathen The Evolution Of Chaos

Krieg The Isolationist

Burzum Belus

Valdur Raven God Amongst Us

Misery Index Heirs To Thievery

Overkill Ironbound

Album that I hold in high regard that sort of resides outside of my genres of choice...

Intronaut Valley Of Smoke

Albums that I need to spend more time absorbing...

Enslaved Axioma Ethica Odini

Melechesh The Epigenesis

Disappointing...

Nachtmystium Addicts: Black Meddle Part II

Watain Lawless Darkness

Iron Maiden The Final Frontier

Worst Album of the Year

Dimmu Borgir Abrahadabra

This is, by far, this year’s turkey. I had been hoping to like Abrahadabra as a sort of guilty pleasure, but it’s just a lousy, poorly written album. Dimmu Borgir are now far past their prime, and all that’s left is merely saccharine, pompous, and watered down.

Best album from 2009 that I totally missed...

Nokturnal Mortum The Voice Of Steel

Best Re-recording (yes, it’s its own category nowadays)

Negura Bunget Maiestrit

Best Re-issue

Control Denied The Fragile Art Of Existence



Close to the anniversary of Chuck Schuldiner’s death, the legal fight between his mother, Jane Schuldiner, and Karmageddon Media appears to have been resolved. Relapse Records celebrates Chuck’s memory and legacy with a gorgeous re-issue of Chuck’s final work with a remastered version of the album. Also included are two more full discs chock full of Control Denied demo tracks, including a few songs with Chuck laying down the vocals. Kudos to Relapse Records for a worthy homage as this re-issue becomes an essential purchase.

Best Heavy Metal DVDs

Destruction A Savage Symphony: The History Of Annihilation



I must admit that I don’t watch too many metal DVDs, as I usually find the experience a waste of time. However, a couple of DVDs caught my eye this year. First up is the DVD mentioned above by Destruction. Featuring a full-length recording of Destruction’s 2007 appearance at Wacken as the DVD’s centerpiece, this concert really takes the cake. Besides featuring a rip roaring assault of Destruction classics, the band invites former members of Destruction’s drum corps to make guest appearances. Not just hammering behind a single kit, but with three kits going at once! In addition, original drummer Tommy leaps up on stage for a few vocal tracks.

Rounding out the DVD are some great features such as a virtually feature length interview detailing the history of the band, and a look at perhaps Europe’s most rabid Destruction fan.

Runner-ups in this category:

Down Diary Of A Mad Band




Diary Of A Mad Band chronicles Down’s 2006 tour of Europe and also includes two audio full-length concerts in CD format besides the DVD. The DVD is a montage of various clips taken from various shows on the tour. The film is deliberately a bit fuzzy with the intent to produce a film comparable to the great concert films of the 1970s (The Song Remains The Same seems to be the template).

An excellent package with great cover art, the only complaint that I can muster about this DVD is a continuity issue. Several of the individual songs appear to be culled from several different concerts as clips will depict Phil Anselmo wearing different shirts. Therefore, which song from which concert you’re actually listening to becomes problematic. The lack of continuity is unnecessary, distracting, and lowers the quality of the experience. However, since Down rarely issue official material, Diary Of A Mad Band is probably a “must have” for fans of the band.

Meshuggah Alive

At The Gates The Flames Of The End

Best Heavy Metal Book

Only Death Is Real: An Illustrated History Of Hellhammer And Celtic Frost by Tom Gabriel Fischer. Warrior’s sheer force of will and artistic determination shine forth in this personal account.

Label(s) of the Year

Ibex Moon/ Hells Headbangers/ Pulverised (tie) for OSDM and blackened death metal. Runners up include Profound Lore as the “critics’ choice,” and Norma Evangelium Diaboli for authenticity.

Most Underrated Album

Black September The Forbidden Gates Beyond

Although a fairly typical example of blackened death metal, Black September are catchy as all Hell and should be signed to a label immediately.

Best Concert

Cannibal Corpse/ 1349/ Skeletonwitch. However, a number of other, individual bands that I was fortunate to see in concert this year are worthy of recognition. They are, in no particular order, Triptykon, Hod, Deströyer 666, Slayer, Immortal, and Watain.

Best Circus Act

Watain. You can practically hear P.T. Barnum’s chuckling.

Man of the Year

Tom G. Warrior

In Memoriam

Ronnie James Dio and Peter Steele.

Assholes of the Year

The westboro baptist church for, amongst other transgressions, picketing the funeral of Ronnie James Dio.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Agalloch at The Proud Bird

You can't pass up an opportunity to catch a rare performance from Agalloch. I sure as Hell didn't as Agalloch hit up Los Angeles on the solstice, and I wrote up an official review of the show, published here.

Here are the pics...











XL Agalloch t-shirts were sold out before I even had a chance to get to the merch tables.

The video...







What's next?! Maybe...



... and/or...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Damn



A series of strong storms has been hitting the West Coast of the United States for a few days now, and completely ruined my chances of observing last night's lunar eclipse. I did, however, look at a few of the various webcams showing the eclipse, though that experience is vicarious, at best. Oh, well. You take the weather in stride when participating in astronomy, and I never mind rain in Southern California as we're always on the precipice of drought.

I hope that your luck fared better than mine.

Winter Solstice: 3:38pm, PST.

A time lapse of the eclipse...



This evening...



Recently...

Phobia Unrelenting



Grave Ritual Euphoric Hymns From The Altar Of Death

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Short Bursts III

More quick looks at albums, some challenging, some not so much…



Deathspell Omega Paracletus

Norma Evangelium Diaboli/ Season Of Mist

Deathspell Omega is the band that some fear to tackle. The band’s air of secrecy, authenticity, and rigid adherence to rigorous, theological attention to detail is well known and has been endlessly debated, dissected, and pored over at length (exhaustive accounts here and here). My own atheism and disgust of irrational beliefs prevents me from being drawn in too deeply into the ideology of Deathspell Omega’s presentation, but I appreciate their conviction as a parody of christianity, if nothing else. That’s as far as I’ll go with my admiration for the themes of Satanic orthodoxy within black metal, but I still fully appreciate the serious, musical art that flows from that muse in the right hands.

I will say, however, that Deathspell Omega’s art resonates with me more so than that, say, of Watain, mostly due to the differing musical approach, and, in part, due to Watain’s increasingly tiresome and overbearing circus theatrics (as entertaining as they may be). Of course, one can argue that Deathspell Omega’s precise lack of theatrics, coupled with a more than slightly pretentious air of mystery and self righteousness (?), is a form of theater in and of itself.

Musically, Paracletus is excellent, and probably comprises the band’s best songwriting since Kénôse. Alternatively brutal, dissonant, accessible, melodic, and chaotic, Deathspell Omega sets themselves apart from most pretenders to the throne with their ability to navigate the swirling chaos into coherent song structures, and into an album that ebbs and flows in a well thought out manner. Aiding the cause of accessibility is the album’s clarity in production, which I find fitting; whereas, others do not.

However impressive the album may be, though, Paracletus does contain a certain unemotional, aloof aspect; almost as if Deathspell Omega are trying to remain a clerical, perhaps aristocratic, step above the uneducated masses of the metal listening community. Nonetheless, numerous scribes will probably ascribe near album of the year status to Paracletus, and I certainly won’t argue with them. Given the amount of tongue wagging, and endless, nearly fruitless arguments surrounding the release of both Lawless Darkness and Paracletus, both Watain and Deathspell Omega have managed to evoke an emotional response rife with passion and conviction from the community.

Regardless of how you feel about either release, or band, each has wildly succeeded in the creation of thought provoking art.

Deathspell Omega MySpace?



Krieg The Isolationist

Candlelight Records

As detached as Paracletus is from the listener, the reverse is true with The Isolationist, the best album that I’ve yet heard from Imperial of Krieg. An intensely personal album, Imperial pours his anguish and emotional problems into his music, resulting in a rich, dynamic listening experience.

At first glance, The Isolationist has a similar dissonance to that of Paracletus, but with a muddier production and heavier sound, resulting in a lesser degree of accessibility. The songwriting is a bit more straightforward with an overall harsher sound, as well, but is varied with fast blasts, dark ambient passages, and thick dirges. The tortured howls from Imperial are what set this album apart, though, and are much more anguished than any vocals appearing within Paracletus, giving The Isolationist a greater ability to connect with the listener on an emotional level.

I still find Paracletus to be the better album overall, but The Isolationist is impressive, nonetheless.

Krieg MySpace



Necrite Sic Gloria Transit Mundi

Flenser Recordings

The Bay Area’s Necrite have gotten a lot of well deserved attention of late, as Sic Gloria Transit Mundi has the look of serious, orthodox black metal. Unfortunately, the new version of MySpace is just awful to dig through, and finding thematic and lyrical information about the album is rather difficult. However, a few short interviews done with Necrite by a few publications describe a focus upon suicidal themes, rather than Satanic orthodoxy.

At any rate, Sic Gloria Transit Mundi is a mix of harsh, powerful black metal and drone with a suitably low-fi production to provide the requisite atmospherics. The powerful guitars and bass alternate between a frenetic pace with slightly sloppy riffing, and a deeply pitched, haunting dirge. The vocals alternate between a near growl and a hoary rasp, and the overall songwriting is excellent. Variation arrives in the form of a couple of slower, melodic moments and, somewhat strangely, a 27-minute long track of pure drone, Sunn O))) style, smack dab in the middle of the album.

Sic Gloria Transit Mundi is a more than promising debut from Necrite, another band with an air of authenticity.

Necrite MySpace



Nadiwrath Nihilistic Stench

Moribund Cult Records

Adding another feather to his cap, the ever prolific Wrath of Dodsferd returns with yet another project, this one entitled Nadiwrath. Wrath builds upon the minimalist, blackened punk ‘n roll that periodically appears in his main work of Dodsferd with Nadiwrath, which ends up as quite a departure from the depressive work that had appeared in some recent releases from Dodsferd, as well as within his Mortovatis moniker. In addition, Wrath is a member of a trio in Nadiwrath, only delivering the vocals whilst others handle the instrumentation.

Nihilistic Stench is about as stripped down as you can get, with a minimalist guitar tone, tinny drums with repetitive patterns, and so on. A few of the songs border on the frenetic, delivered with Wrath’s typical snarl. The result is a heady mix of old school, minimalist black metal, a touch of hardcore attitude, and nothing too surprising.

Nadiwrath MySpace



Sargeist Let The Devil In

Moribund Cult Records

Finland’s Sargeist return after a long hiatus between full-lengths with Let The Devil In, an album that depicts a subtle shift in Sargeist’s approach to raw black metal. Previous efforts from Sargeist could label the band as a near Darkthrone clone with greasily rasped vocals, and a cold, grimy, and simple approach to the songwriting. This time around with Let The Devil In, Shatraug and company lower the prominence of the vocals from Hoath Torog, vary the tempo of the songs a bit, and emphasize Shatraug’s riffing. The result is a riff laden, atmospheric album with generally good songwriting that, while remaining true to Darkthrone-descended Finnish black metal, is a move away from sounding merely like a clone.

Once again, nothing too surprising and certainly not Top Ten for the year material as some have suggested, but good, nonetheless.

Sargeist MySpace



Thrall Away From The Haunts Of Men

Moribund Cult Records

Thrall are a duo from about as far Down Under you can get; that is, Tasmania. Away From The Haunts Of Men is dissonant, hazily produced, low-fi raw black metal with fast riffs, harsh vocals that sort of remind me of Satyr, and a generally fast pace with tinny sounding percussion.

Although fairly typical, Thrall write some decent songs and toss in a few moments of funeral doom and drone to make things interesting.

Thrall MySpace

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Griftegård Solemn, Sacred, Severe



Griftegård Solemn, Sacred, Severe

Ván Records

Semi-melodic doom is, admittedly, not really my thing, but I do appreciate bands such as Candlemass and Solitude Aeternus for founding a genre that is highly regarded. With that in mind, the debut album, Solemn, Sacred, Severe, from Swedish band Griftegård, arrived in my inbox from Ván Records, a high quality German label, some months ago. The album languished in the nether regions of my “to listen to” pile for quite awhile, but never really rose to the top. However, with the prodding of the good folks at Earsplit, I decided to give the album a spin.

And I’m glad that I have done so. For my interest to be held in this genre, the riffs must be engaging, the vocals must fit the mood and not become saccharine, and the songwriting must be varied. For the most part, Griftegård accomplish those goals as I find Solemn, Sacred, Severe to be a catchy, varied album; in short, one that can be appreciated by a fan with genre favorites removed from semi-melodic doom.

My esteemed colleague Chris Davison is, however, eminently more qualified to render an informed review of Solemn, Sacred, Severe than I. With his permission, here is a republication of his review of the album, which originally appeared in Live 4 Metal, Version 1.0, awhile back…

By: Chris Davison

"Firstly, let me say that I have absolutely no idea what Griftegård means. Apologies, therefore, to any of our Swedish readers. What I do know, however, is that Ola (ex-leader of the infamous I Hate Records roster) plays in this particular outfit. Now this has raised a question or two in my mind regarding impartiality. Long time readers may be aware that the chances are that whenever I have reviewed an I Hate Records album before, that I have creamed myself (metaphorically) over the quality of their doom releases. I have, therefore, had to steel myself appropriately in order that I bring you nothing but as an objective an opinion as I am able to in regards to this six tracker from Ván Records.

As you may expect, Solemn, Sacred, Severe is a doom record. This should not be any kind of massive surprise to any half-educated metal geek (such as you, of course, gentle reader). In the grand tradition of good quality epic-doom, this has the resonance of religion all over it. From the tolling of the bells at the beginning of the album, through to the ringing quality of the riffs and reverential tones of the clean vocals, this speaks to the ear in the grandest tradition of doom.

Pitched somewhere between the more accessible Reverend Bizarre oeuvre, the early Cathedral pacing and liberal dashes of Candlemass drama, this is a most impressive debut. It is not, however, destined to be a “quick listen” any time soon, though, of course, that particular observation may be on the way to being the most superfluous one written in a review on this particular august organ!

With track lengths weighing in at average time of somewhere around eight minutes, there is plenty of time for you to become acquainted with the music contained within. Most impressive of all is the guitar work – which manages to make even the most ponderous of those massive leaden riffs alive through melody and tasteful lead guitar work. Everything else is where it should be – particularly the clean, mournful voice work.

The production is spot on, with plenty of attack and punch being evident alongside the crystal clarity of the instruments. In terms of song writing, this is a band that doesn’t shirk from repetition as an instrument in religious worship. Griftegård have produced a minor masterpiece in Orthodox doom – as with religion itself, this is addictive, mind-altering stuff that should not be exposed to the weak minded.”

Griftegård MySpace

Religion is for the weak minded.

Recently...

Calm Hatchery Sacrilege Of Humanity

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The reference... IX

The Moon appears in a great deal of metal, primarily black metal, as a visual, semi-mysterious means of enhancing atmosphere. As mysterious as the Moon may appear, as a celestial object with a long history of observation, there are very little in the way of secrets left regarding this very well understood neighbor of ours. However, the Moon still has a rightful place in black metal art.

My own personal favorite references to the Moon within black metal occur with The Return… by Bathory, an iconic album cover that has been endlessly copied...



... and Secrets Of The Moon, a great, progressive German black metal band with Privilegivm, the band's most recent opus...



Perhaps one of the most beautiful sights in nature is a lunar eclipse. North America has a fantastic opportunity to view a lunar eclipse on the night of December 20th and into the early morning of the 21st.

A lunar eclipse occurs during the Full phase of the Moon, once every year or so (the details of the Saros Cycle provides much greater analysis of the frequency of eclipses). The basic geometry of a lunar eclipse is straightforward. Essentially, the Full Moon passes into the shadow (divided into the penumbra and umbra) cast by the Earth. Not to scale...



However, the reason that we don’t have a lunar eclipse each month is that the Moon’s orbit is tilted about 5 degrees with respect to the Earth’s orbit about the Sun (the ecliptic). The Moon’s orbit intersects the ecliptic at two locations, called nodes, on either sides of the sky. If the Moon is near the correct node during Full Moon, then a lunar eclipse occurs. A Solar eclipse can occur if the Moon is near the other node during New Moon. Not to scale...



At any rate, the geometrical alignment of the Sun, Earth, and Moon is just right for observers in North America on the night of December 20th and into the morning of the 21st. North America, particularly the western half of the continent, has near perfect conditions for observing the lunar eclipse.



Important events with regards to the Moon’s entrance and exit from both the penumbra and umbra are listed below for the time zones in the continental United States. UT refers to Universal Time, also known as GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).





Although the eclipse is best seen from North America, the Moon will be in mid-eclipse as it sets around dawn on the morning of the 21st, local time, as seen from Great Britain and far western Europe. Australia and so forth will be able to see the conclusion of the eclipse around Moonrise at sunset on the evening of the 21st, local time.

Besides watching the Moon slowly pass into the umbra, probably the most interesting naked eye feature is its appearance during totality. Being close to the edge of the umbra, the eclipsed Moon will appear blood red due to sunlight refracting through the Earth’s atmosphere and striking the Moon. The light that you’re seeing is literally the combined light of the entire world’s sunrises and sunsets.



What the Earth looks like from the Moon during a lunar eclipse has only been actually photographed once, and then, only during a penumbral eclipse (not really noticeable from Earth). On February 18th, 2009, the Japanese lunar probe Kaguya took the following photograph of the Earth from lunar orbit, nicely showing the refracted sunlight through the Earth’s atmosphere.



If you have a small telescope, there are a number of interesting effects to witness during the eclipse. First, and foremost, you could slowly observe the indistinct edge of the Earth’s umbra creeping over the Moon’s face, essentially in real time, and see the contrast at the edge of craters, lunar maria, and the lunar highlands change as you watch. Also, by looking at the left (to the east) limb of the Moon during totality, you can see dim stars being occulted as the Moon slowly moves through the umbra. During totality, the Moon also takes on a definite three dimensional appearance, something that does not occur during a normal Full Moon because the lighting is so flat.



I wish you well in your endeavor to observe this beautiful aspect of nature.

Secrets Of The Moon has an early demo track entitled “Luna Eclipse.”

NASA's Lunar Eclipse Page

Mr. Eclipse

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Winterfylleth The Mercian Sphere



Winterfylleth The Mercian Sphere

Candlelight Records

Winterfylleth MySpace

By: Chris Davison

The history of Britain is much more interesting and varied than is sometimes thought. Britons (for which I use the term as a cover for all of the various tribes, immigrants and everything in-between to have inhabited the shores over the centuries) have had a largely unexplored and barely discussed narrative. Combining history, folklore and heavy metal has become somewhat de rigeur over the last decade and a half, though with much of this being devoted to either various twists on the “Norse” (though much of that has more in common with the Tony Curtis film The Vikings than with anything actually historic), or the well documented Slavonic take on black metal made famous by the likes of Drudkh.

With such a rich history, you would perhaps have expected British bands to have explored these themes much more fully than they have. Of course, exploring the heritage of a nation can have connotations of nationalism and racism (themes which I have not found in Winterfylleth, to be perfectly clear), so, perhaps it is not surprising that many British metal bands either simply ape their more commercially acceptable American or Scandinavian cousins. At their best though, British bands stand apart in terms of the boldness of their vision and the strength of their execution. To this end, Winterfylleth are completely capable of standing alongside other left field visionaries such as The Meads of Asphodel, Forefather and Solstice.

The Mercian Sphere is every bit the engaging listen as the internet buzz would have you believe. Their take on black metal (I will not use the awful term “post-black”) is of the ferocious but still eminently listenable variety. With the subtle use of melody wrought into the sawing guitar attack and sparse bass sound, Winterfylleth have a palpable air of early Primordial in their sound, perhaps mixed with the cerebral appeal of latter period Enslaved in the hypnotic tone. The folk influences, with the quieter moments of acoustic guitars and echo laden interludes (as with “The Ruin”) add that extra dash of interest to elevate Winterfylleth from a merely interesting band, to one that is not to be missed.

Any band with the courage to have a trilogy of songs on one album based around the Anglo-Saxon poem “The Wanderer” is walking a path somewhat less travelled than most of their peers. The scathing vocals, the beauty and fury of the guitars and subtle bass tones – the ebb and flow of the drums: all perfectly composed, played and recorded. I honestly haven't enjoyed anything at all related to black metal for at least a couple of years until this album. In a scene so worn down by endless processions of corpsepaint-clad clowns, wannabe “Viking” warriors, and stud-and-leather Halford-without-irony BDSM types, there is something wonderfully refreshing about the serious tone of the album and the purity of the music.

Anyone with a passing interest of anything related to black metal – and in particular with that branch of the genre that is rooted in geography and history, (fans of Fen, I'm looking at you here), really need to pick this one up. It's a stunning piece of art that should rightfully elevate Winterfylleth, (meaning Full Winter Moon – October to you and me), to the top of the British underground scene.

Oh, and having seen them live this year at the Bloodstock festival, they deliver the goods in person, too. Essential listening.

Monday, December 06, 2010

And now for something completely different...

A month or so ago, I received a most unusual package in the mail from Earsplit PR, an excellent PR firm run by the wonderful Dave and Liz Brenner. Usually, the couple tosses one excellent album after another my way from various bands for purposes of review. This time, the package from Earsplit PR consisted of six, schlock, microbuget horror movie DVDs, anchored by a “fan fiction” version of Night of the Living Dead.

I simply couldn’t resist. Although I greatly appreciate high grade horror of the finest caliber, I must admit that I spend very little time crawling through the bottom of the barrel of the horror genre. This is the cinematic equivalent of pornogrind.

Speaking of pornogrind, I managed to convince Skull to not only take a look at six movies, but write them up for review! Well, at least one of them...

Here’s the first, a look at…



Horno

Written and Directed by Terence Williams

Released by Cinema Threat Productions

Reviewer: Skull

“Ways that I could have killed 65 minutes of my valuable free time tonight:
1. Watching the second half of the Steelers/ Ravens SNF game.
2. “Quality” time with my girlfriend.
3. Finally spinning the latest DSO release (editor: I’m listening to it right now).
4. Dressing my cat up as Abraham Lincoln and getting him to recite The Gettysburg Address from memory.

Instead, I decided to view Horno, one of six schlock horror flicks that showed up in my mailbox, courtesy of this blog's editor. Gee, thanks. I don’t know where he got them. I never want to know.

Horno tells the delightful story of pornographic movie director Ron who, fresh from completing his erotic epic Jehovah’s Witness Anal Whore, pitches the ultimate smut peddler producer his latest vision. A “horno” movie; a combination of, you guessed it, horror and porn, entitled Children of the Cornhole. Picture zombies ambling about with a penchant for sodomizing the living, and you’ve pretty much got the gist of it. The producer begrudgingly agrees to the project and the rest is history.

Here’s what passes for the film’s plot. Porn superstar Dick Nasty has been fortunate enough to score some new type of meth, at no charge, from a “Man in Black” with whom he shares a prostitute. Sure enough, the dope zombifies her and she samples human flesh by biting off Mr. Nasty’s… ahem… and proceeds to devour it, corn on the cob style. Dick, who doesn’t seem too upset about his dismemberment, scolds her in a bemused, haphazard style for the inconvenience caused him.

Meanwhile, the remaining cast is assembled for the three day COTC shoot. Ron has worked with these professionals before and knows how to manipulate them to get things done. Conflicts arise between characters for a variety of reasons. For example, the main male star, a gay porn regular whose erect (prosthetic and hysterical) you know what is exposed in almost every scene of Horno he’s in, seems to rub the female starlet the wrong way due to her religious beliefs and homophobia. This conflict has carried over from the JWAW shoot. She sure is devout.

So, anyway, Ron ends up calling Dick Nasty to chew him out for being a no-show, doesn’t believe the whole missing penis excuse for one minute, and guilts him into showing up for the shoot, anyway. Of course, by now Dick is a zombie himself, shows up for work, but is wearing a mask hiding his face. Hmmmm. Could there have been a cast shakeup during the filming of Horno? The parallels between this mystery and Bela Lugosi’s posthumous replacement by Ed Wood’s wife’s chiropractor for scenes in the unfinished Plan 9 From Outer Space are not lost on me (editor: clues to how Skull and I misspent our youth).

Somehow, for reasons never quite made clear, one of the cast members also has the zombie meth, which one way or another spreads and affects the other cast members. I can’t remember how or why, and there’s no way that I’m going to watch this again to find out. Chaos ensues, blood is spilled, entrails are devoured (and thrown about), and a good time is had by all.

A flower delivery woman even gets in on the carnage after dropping a delivery off for one of the actresses. Why and how she gets infected is never fully explained. Needless to say, I’m now in the process of tracking down the literary masterpiece that inspired this work in order to fill in the plot holes.

Huh?

Does this write up seem convoluted, scattered, and completely nonsensical? See the freaking movie.”

Can I convince Skull to watch one of the other movies? Stay tuned…

Friday, December 03, 2010

Recently Drank...

Beer, Wine (and Coffee) Round up…

My “other existence” has increasingly been taking up most of my energy of late, so I’ve been finding solace in albums (I'm just not writing too many up at the moment because I definitely overkilled last month) and various drinks that have caught my eye (and palate)…

Spellbound 2008 Petite Sirah (California)



A nice Petite Sirah with plenty of fruit, the previous year’s vintage was scored at 92 points. While not quite that high in score, the 2008 was fine enough.

Spellbound Wines

Brown Estate 2007 Betelgeuse* Rose (California)



Unbelievably drinkable on a summer or early autumn afternoon, the hint of blood orange really made this memorable.

Brown Estate

Raven’s Brew: Dark Roast House Blend



Awesome coffee; awesome labels. The Dark Roast House Blend is big and bold.

Raven's Brew

Mission Brewery Amber Ale



Good nut brown ale with a sweet finish from a well known San Diego brewery.

Mission Brewery

Vas Deferens Ale



I simply couldn’t resist the label, or the hilarious title, but Vas Deferens is strong brown ale with blood oranges added. A nice, caramel finish.

Caldera Brewing

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

While Heaven Wept Triumph: Tragedy: Transcendence - Live At The Hammer Of Doom Festival



While Heaven Wept Triumph: Tragedy: Transcendence – Live At The Hammer Of Doom Festival

Cruz Del Sur

While Heaven Wept MySpace

Reviewer: Chris Davison

First, and slightly off topic, a huge “shout out” as the young people are want to say around certain of the less salubrious estates of our verdant isles, to the rather unsung heroes who run Italian label Cruz Del Sur – current homes of Davison family favourites Slough Feg and who released two of my albums of the year last year (the mighty Ape Uprising, which should need no further introduction, and The Stars Of Never Seen by the none-more-true Crescent Shield). The dignity and good nature of the label in announcing While Heaven Wept leaving the label on their site is an absolute example which other minor labels ought to study and take notes from.

Ok, now I've finished patting down the label, let's move on to the review proper, should I? Shamefully, I'm not at all (and by at all, I mean I know nothing) acquainted with While Heaven Wept, while professing to have a particular interest in doom metal. That aside, this live album is a perfect place to start appreciating their art. An American doom band, their sound is a delicate mix of the gentler, more reflective moments of mid-era Anathema (particularly in the washes of tasteful synthesizer to be heard drifting into the crowd), with the epic swell and motion of Solitude Aeturnus. In fact, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the album is the impressive display by vocalist Rain Irving, his range and power hearkening back to classical heavy metal singers. The emotion and appeal of his voice, when married with the delicate melodies of the guitars makes for an enthralling listen.

So, in summary, a good place for non-WHW fans to begin their appreciation of a band who can go from the gentle and reflective to a heavier shade of cerebral in the blink of a song. Alas, I'm not in a good place to say whether or not this shows the band at their best to aficionados, but to the untrained and willing ear, this sounds like sterling to stuff to me.