SamueleMerco
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The Alliance of the Kings (Ancient Bards), What I Think

Since the close of Rhapsody (Of Fire)’s famed Emerald Sword Saga, commemorated in a rather impressive collection of fanfare on their 2004 best of compilation, Limb Music has been starved for a suitable replacement that offers up the same kind of ingenious blend of flashy power metal with a strong symphonic edge. 6 years to the day they’ve succeeded in a new powerhouse of a band hailing from the same land of majestic, metallic, fantasy-based storytelling (Italy) going by the somewhat cliché name of Ancient Bards. But setting aside the obvious rehash of Tolkien imagery of gallant heroes and realms of magic, this is a band with a remarkably solid take on a very tried and true format, so much so that “The Alliance Of The Kings” rivals most of Rhapsody Of Fire’s work up until “Power Of The Dragonflame”, as well as a few other noteworthy acts from the early 2000s and Polish contemporary rivals Pathfinder. Nailing down the sound heard on here is not terribly difficult, though there are definitely a few unique elements that give an air of freshness to what is mostly a reassertion of a now somewhat scarce take on power metal. The instrumentation is an even distribution of powerful drumming, fancy bass work, virtuosic guitar and keyboard elements, straightforward chord progressions and a beautiful mezzo soprano performance that is mildly operatic and avoids the melodrama factor artfully. Sara Squadrani sounds somewhat similar to Ana Lara, albeit a bit more subtle and restrained in her presentation, and does a solid job of leading a very credible fold of musicians. But what is most charming about this band is that while there is a typical showcasing of individual talent, it is evenly distributed and comes forth as a collective effort rather than a guitarist or singer leading a group of supporters. As the album unfolds before the listener, familiar territory is revisited, but in a rather new and surprising way. One will remember many instrumental preludes kicking off many a concept album between 1997 and 2003, and even a few with somewhat eccentric narrators explaining the story thus far, but here the looming orchestral notes and rising tension is accompanied by a crooning feminine speaker, laying out an impending conflict like a mother to child telling of an epic bedtime story. At the onset of “The Birth Of Evil” the usual fancy guitar or keyboard themes are absent, but in its place is an unexpected and auspicious bass intro that rips from one note to the next as if it were standing in place of the guitar, bringing up memories of when Iron Savior and Mob Rules would trot out the bass at key points on their early material. When all the instruments fully kick in, there is a slight tinge of early 80s metal orthodoxy mixed in with a measured mixture of Dark Moor and Epica neo-classical elements.
For most of the album, the songs generally tend to be fast and furious, but also fairly long and involved. Apart from “The Birth Of Evil” and “Four Magic Elements”, which are themselves intricate and complex, most of the songwriting on here is bent towards an epic model in line with the longer songs put forth by Manowar, but a little less repetitious. “Only The Brave” marches out more of the 80s influences in the principle riff, while also conjuring up imagery of Markus Grosskopf with a fancy bass tapping solo that shows up the one heard on “Eagle Fly Free”. In fact, compared to a number of differing symphonic power metal albums from the late 90s and early 2000s, the contents on here gets closer to recapturing the magic of the “Keepers” albums in a more stylistically precise way. “Lode Al Padre” is another point of interest where a fairly straightforward piano ballad gives way to an assortment of folksy and heroic sounding sections that are somewhat reminiscent of Turisas, but with more guitar-oriented brilliance and no violins or accordions. There is a lot to be liked here, and even more to look forward to given the impressive precedent set here. Maybe a name like “The Black Crystal Sword Saga” is a bit derivative of another tale with a sword toting a green gemstone, and maybe a keyboardist writing all of the songs and lyrics reminds heavily of Fairyland, but anybody who loves this stuff will be too busy enjoying the stellar songwriting to care. That’s really the chief draw of this album, the wonderful blend of catchy chorus work, crooning vocals, fancy instrumental work, and grandiose atmospheres. For the symphonic addict who is hungry for another mountain of an album in the mold of “Symphony Of Enchanted Lands” and “Of Wars In Osyrhia”, this is yet another knight at a still growing roundtable.
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Dear David Bowie: A Thank You From Yet Another Odd Kid
I thought about immediately taking to the keys last night, upon hearing the news of David Bowie's passing, but I thought against it. When people don't have time to process things they end up creating these jumbled messes, that don't come out as tributes. They're more akin to shocked streams of consciousness, where neither the reader nor the writer can properly put things into place. After further inspection, I realized that Bowie wouldn't have wanted a proper tribute, because as a champion of all things individual, he valued the pure ideals of hope and art over everything else. I guess the sadness stems from the knowledge that anyone can fall prey to the sickle of cancer, and that just doesn't sit well with us, because if it can get Bowie...where's the hope? But that's not the point, it never was. So the following, is a mis-mosh of thoughts aimed at the cold blooded bummer we're all feeling today. So here is a letter, a bit out of sorts, but exactly what I wanted to say. David Bowie, you are more than a musician to most. You are someone who gave every single person on this planet permission to be themselves. The idea of creation can only go so far as the brain will let you, and for some reason, Bowie, your brain just went a little bit farther than most. From early in your career, you were constantly pushing boundaries, as if to say, "Hey world, you can be whatever the hell you want to be, except boring." And that sentiment always spoke volumes to me. As a kid who was never on the right side of anything, it was an incredible feeling that someone who came before, was brave enough to blaze the trail for the rest of us. Especially considering the societal implication of being an alien at the time, you held down the fort, creating a legacy that nobody would ever touch. I wore glittery makeup and strutted around like I was from a different planet too, and sometimes people would say, "Huh. There's a touch of Bowie in you." I could only be so lucky. Bowie, you never let gender define you. You didn't let society define him. You didn't even let yourself define you. You were utterly unique, do you know how valuable that is? You, and only you, were created from space dust and glitter, roaming the earth among us mortals, gracing us with your presence when when was worth so much more. You stand as the singular voice in a world full of people who couldn't give a shit about being themselves, and you made that cool. You made individuality and sense of self cool. Could you imagine a world without that? Without you, almost all of our artists today either wouldn't exist, or they'd be infinitely more boring. From the 70's onward Bowie provided all people with something otherworldly, something that anyone could sink their teeth into. You know, when your parents and you are mourning the same genius...that person was completely transcendent. It didn't matter what race, nationality, gender or creed you were...you were a David Bowie fan, because some people just can't be ignored. And though the world tended to criticize and marginalize your efforts, nobody ever said you weren't talented. The true heart of an artist takes a beating, and with every single hit, you came back stronger, better, more creative. There was nobody like you. Nobody before or after you will ever touch you. The mark you leave on this pitiful world makes it a little more brighter, a little more glitter filled. You took the music of yesterday and splattered it with technicolor. The rules of the passed were smashed to smithereens, and Bowie, you had the sledgehammer. No musician ever, could dispute the raw influence of you. In fact, I would say that no person who has ever come across your music could dispute your raw influence, and we are forever grateful. You see, without someone tending the gate of creativity, none of us would ever have the courage to open it. Now you're tending another gate, somewhere high up in the stars, where you always belonged: because Bowie is not from this planet, he can't be. He can't be mortal. And that's the hardest part. You see, he isn't mortal. He never was. He's now off to another place where he can really shine. He's the spaceman after all. The world changed when this man picked up a microphone. And in the halls of Gods and monsters, Bowie will sit atop a shining pedestal of stardust, waiting for another trip to the moon. On behalf of all people, musicians and freaks alike, I want to extend this fervent and sincere thank you to our very own alien: Mr. David Bowie. Returning to space must be an incredible feeling, and we hope to someday meet you there. It took me a full 12 hours to realize that I was experiencing the stages of grief, and that I should give myself time and all of that...but you never gave yourself any time right? You never stopped for anyone. You accomplished more in your 69 years than most of us could in three lifetimes, and for that reason, I will continue on. I will not stop to cry or hold my breath. I will sit at the desk, cry on the keyboard and continue my journey. "I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring." Until then, I'll be holding down the keys, making sure that whatever tears that fall are not in anger or sadness, but celebration, that our world could even begin to hold such an incredible talent, spirit and genius. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. --Tess
10 Panic! At The Disco Songs That'll Help You Move On
Love is a fickle thing. It comes and goes faster than you can snap your fingers. Certain bands have a way of documenting the bitterness you feel after a break-up, or the freedom of taking a break. Panic! At The Disco is one of those bands. So, if you've been hurt or tricked, heart-broken or forgotten, this one's for you. 1. Nicotine / Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! Bitter break-ups are a real thing. Trust me, I've been there. Sometimes you get addicted to a person and the way they make you feel. Losing control and hope can lead to freedom...but more or less it just results in a dependence on destruction. Nicotine is an ode to that. When people become addictive, we know it's probably time to move on, just for our own safety. When you enter a relationship that is unstable and exciting, we can fall into bad habits, and just like Nicotine...that person could very well ruin your life. Best Lyric: "Just one more hit and then we're through / cause you could never love me back." 2. Mercenary / Batman Arkham City Soundtrack A lot of fans missed this song because of its limited release. But it's a fantastic song to listen to right after you break up with someone and need reassurance that yes, being alone is hard, but it's better than being jerked around. Best Lyric: I dodge the blast and apologize for collateral damage. Because while we can't save every relationship, we can acknowledge what we learned from the worst ones. 3. Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met) / Vices Virtues Much like Nicotine, this song centers on the idea of addiction. The person you're with gives you a feeling like no other, and when that crash lands to earth and the honeymoon is over...your feelings have to deal. When something is really really good, and we end up having to let it go for some reason, we almost wish it never happened. By removing the experience of that person, we don't have to feel the pain. Best Lyric: "Ever since we met / I only shoot-up with your perfume / Its the only thing / that makes me feel as good as you do / ever since we met / I've got just one regret to live through/ and that one regret is you." 4. Turn off the Lights / Vices Virtues, Bonus Track After being single for a little while, this song became my anthem. It nails that empty feeling you get after you leave someone for the last time. Things are never easy after you get hurt, or you hurt someone else. But escaping...into a world of your choosing whether it be work, playing music, or finding someone new, could be the anecdote to your love-sick heart. I identify with this song because it's very honest. The lyrics ring out like a lost call over a forgotten battlefield, "Our consciences are always so much heavier than our egos." Sometimes the scariest moments in our lives are when we're forced to be alone with our thoughts. Best Lyric: "I've got my heavy heart to hold me down / once it falls apart / my head's in the clouds." 5. Time To Dance / A Fever You Can't Sweat Out Heavily inspired by Chuck Palahniuk "Invisible Monsters", Time To Dance is an exposing of the fickle nature of beauty and the effect on our relationships with others. When you leave a relationship or are reluctant to move on, there's going to be a lot of anger involved. You're going to feel like you're being pulled in a lot of different directions, and your friends, parents, whoever...are all going to want to weigh in on what you do. "Give me a break" is a lyric that you'll hear in your head over and over again. Sometimes all you need when you're trying to move on is the attention of someone else. Best Lyric: "Give me envy, give me malice, give me your attention, give me envy, give me malice, give me a break." 6. Bittersweet / Vices Virtues Bonus Track When you're trapped in a relationship that you know is doomed, you can often feel like you're setting yourself up for failure. A trap. Bittersweet is the perfect song to soundtrack your hopeless devotion to someone you know won't last for long. There are so many things wrong with this person and this relationship, but you can't pull yourself away. Ever experience that? There is a downside to literally everything, but sometimes you just need that. You have to have that disastrous relationship in order to figure out when things are really really good. Best Lyric: "All that hate is gonna burn you up / it keeps me warm at night." 7. Northern Downpour / Pretty Odd Every break-up or change has that "I'm sad and I need to cry about this for a few minutes" song. Northern Downpour is that song. It's about missing someone. It's about longing for the past. We all go through those moments. Even though we want to be the people who say "fuck 'em!" and move on, we can't always do that. It's not possible or healthy. Sometimes we just have to cry it out and be fond for the times when we were happy. People come and go, and that 's not an easy thing to cope with...but our worlds never stop turning. Best Lyric: "I missed your skin when you were East / You clicked your heels and wished for me." 8. This is Gospel / Too Weird to Live Too Rare to Die Things end for a reason. Whether they were doomed from the start, or just became that way because of new people, new situations, or new personality traits emerging doesn't matter. What matters is that things are falling apart, and rather than committing to polishing the brass on the Titanic, you have to let it go. There is an old adage, "If you love something let it go." And even though the fear of being alone can cripple you, you have to take the dive, and let things go, because somewhere down the line, you'll thank yourself. 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Moving on is all about getting a new perspective on life. We have to look for different qualities in people. We have to grow up a little bit. So if your previous relationships are utter failures, that doesn't have to dictate your romantic future. You have control over this. Give yourself a break and learn from your mistakes. Heartbreak aside...you'll get through it. It's okay, you can move on. Best Lyric: "We move along in some new passion knowing everything is fine.
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