IC2S Playlist Update 27/04/2016

In case you haven’t been paying attention, we are now just past the IC2S Playlist’s 1 year anniversary. At 9 1/2 hours and 104 songs long, I find it quite enjoyable to throw on shuffle when I’m at work. I’m going to continue to update it irregularly from here on, but I don’t think I’ll write up big update posts like this anymore, mainly because I felt like they spammed the blog with useless posts that people didn’t care about, and the effort I put into writing them was taking up potential effort that could have been going towards the backlog of topics that I actually had some interest in writing about. That’s more-or-less why I started making the playlist updates into more “regular” blog posts a couple months ago, but it’ll be nice not to have weekly updates hanging over my head from here on out.

Anyway, we’re gonna close out the year with 2 songs I wanted to add for months now. First is “Dear John Piper” by Showbread. I had been debating picking this song for a while because it’s a very IC2S-type song (it’s about the destructive theology of Calvinism/predestination… which, again, is totally something I’m into). I kind of wish that the whole song wasn’t being yelled out, but after a few listens it works pretty well, and contrasts well with the furious preaching towards the latter-half of the song. I quite enjoy it, it’s my kind of deliciously angry.

Secondly we have “Empire of the Clouds” by Iron Maiden, which closes us out with the longest song on the entire playlist. It’s also worth pointing out that this epic was written and performed by a group of nearly 60 year old men, which is just insane for an 80s rock/metal band in this day and age. Very few artists can remain relevant for a decade, let alone the 35+ years that Iron Maiden has been rocking our faces (although they did start to slip into irrelevance through the 90s, releasing their 4 indisputably worst albums back-to-back, but have been putting out high quality stuff again since 2000). I mean, just think about how irrelevant The Rolling Stones have been for years, or even other bands with mini-comebacks like Aerosmith have long since slipped back into obscurity (even Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne to some degree). Even better, they seem to be edging back towards my preferred era of Iron Maiden, the Powerslave/Seventh Son of a Seventh Son sound with its heavy concepts, sweeping epics and technical virtuosity. I maintain that Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is my favourite Maiden album, and it’s too bad that they ditched that sound in favour of the mediocrity they chased throughout the 90s. Now that we have The Book of Souls, who knows what limits Maiden still has within them?

Also, coincidentally, I have put together a small one-off playlist which just happened to coincide with this 1 year anniversary. Basically, I was listening to Sabaton’s “The Rise of Evil” the other day, which got me wondering whether it could be considered part of a “musical trilogy”. “The Rise of Evil” would be part 1, followed by “The Final Solution” as part 2 and then finishing with… well, I wasn’t sure if they had a third song that could fit in well enough. The result of this is a playlist I titled “Sabaton – The Rise and Fall of Evil”, which basically is a recounting of the history of Nazi Germany in WWII. I personally think that the compilation gels together very well and tells a rather compelling story: a madman rising to power, the Nazis’ early victories, the Holocaust, the Allies uniting and turning the tide, and then the German people coming to grips with the evil they had been fighting in the name of for almost 6 years. I definitely recommend checking it out, either search it on Spotify or go to the IC2S Playlist sidebar and then click on my username.

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IC2S Playlist Update 09/03/2016

I’ve got to say, I have been looking forward to this playlist update for a while now. The reason for that is because I have REALLY gotten into Iron Maiden’s discography now and have been listening to their music pretty much every day lately. In fact, narrowing down to just one song from them this week was hard enough. In the end though, I decided to settle on the title track from arguably my favourite Maiden album, “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”. This album just exemplifies what I love so much about Iron Maiden, the sweeping epics, the tackling of simple (but deep) themes and some absolutely killer guitar solos. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son seems to get overlooked in favour of more of the “classic” Maiden albums (Piece of Mind, Killers, The Number of the Beast, Powerslave, etc), but for my money it’s criminally underrated. That said, it also demonstrates just how deep Iron Maiden’s discography is. Seriously, if you aren’t listening to them already, the damn well do it.

I also knew that I wanted to play some Showbread this week. I initially was going to go with “Dear John Piper”, but with all the insanity going on in the States at the moment due to the nomination process, another song really jumped out at me. “I’m Afraid That I’m Me” might be Showbread’s best song that encapsulates the political religiosity of American evangelicalism:

“Lately I have found frustration among the incongruence / a movement of peasants and pacifists drowning in patriotic affluence / I feel as though I should do something but I’m staggered by the ramifications / they’ve baptized the empire into the church and heralded its sanctification”

“‘Blessed are the meek’ succumbs to ‘might makes right’ / “turn the other cheek” succumbs to pre-emptive strike / “love your enemies” is fossilized beneath the frozen tundra / and ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’ is devoured by ‘God bless America’.

You file the children into the classrooms, make them stand and say an oath / and when we ask ‘should I love God or my country?’ / you smile and tell us ‘both.’ / We’ve hidden the God we claim we serve and driven him beneath the floorboards / but I can still hear this still, small voice / and I can’t take it anymore”

What else can I say? For all the political and religious commentary, it’s clearly a very deserving song to add to the IC2S Playlist.

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IC2S Playlist Update 20/01/2016

Bloody hell, did I ever have a “week”. A friend and I got into a heated argument with a MRA on Facebook (he self identifies as an MRA-leaning egalitarian, but if you’re familiar with MRA/feminist circles, you’ll know that “egalitarian” is just a term which has been unfortunately co-opted by MRA-types to make them sound more reasonable). It was more-or-less a waste of time, but I did get some interesting insight into the MRA mindset and the crazy things that they believe (eg, holy shit guys, did you know that there’s a minority conspiracy to become the real social powers?). It has gotten my circle of friends talking about these sorts of social issues, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I write up some sort of post inspired by it soon.

First up this week is “Fear of the Dark”, the title track from the 1992 album by Iron Maiden. I have been going through Iron Maiden’s albums on Spotify and have been fairly impressed by what I have heard so far. The band has such a long history and so many albums, it will probably take me months (if not years) to parse through everything and get a good feel for everything. In celebration of this expanding appreciation for the metal juggernaut, I have chosen one of the band’s better known songs, “Fear of the Dark”, for no better reason than because it rocks.

Secondly this week we have “Why Shouldn’t We Kill Ourselves?” by Showbread from their newest (and final) album Showbread is Showdead. I was actually going to choose a Showbread song for this week, but lo and behold, they suddenly unleashed a new album unexpectedly, making them into a must-include choice this week. If there are any bands in the Christian music industry which can be truly classified as “punk”, I think that Showbread would be one of the few to deserve the label. They are exceptionally strange and always raging against the state of Christianity, the music industry and the status quo, without turning into a bunch of whiners like Five Finger Death Punch. I have only listened through Showbread is Showdead once now, but it is very similar to their debut album ‘No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical’.

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2012 in Media

With 2013 just a few days away, I think it’s worth looking back on the year that was. While it may be tempting to do this from the perspective of movies, I think that this was actually a rather disappointing year overall (or, at the very least, underwhelming). I mean, we had more than our fair share of mindless cinematic drivel (Wrath of the Titans, Resident Evil: Retribution, etc), extremely disappointing films (Taken 2, The Amazing Spider-man, etc) and decent films which didn’t reach their potential (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, PrometheusLooper [the 3rd act was horrible in my opinion], The Dark Knight Rises, etc). To top it off, Dredd bombed at the box-office. That said, there were some great films, but aside from Skyfall, The Avengers and Argo, most of the good stuff seemed to be skewed towards the first couple months of the year.

Anyway, I really didn’t start writing this to mope about the year in movies. I wrote to say that 2012 was the best years in music I can remember as most of my favourite artists not only released new albums, but they were almost universally amongst the best material in their discographies. Now I’ll preface this by saying that while taste in movies tends to be more agreeable, it seems like almost everyone has their own segmented tastes in music. I mean, my tastes are focused largely on various forms of rock/hard rock/Christian rock/metal, but even in that niche then there’s a good chance my tastes don’t overlap with most people. So while I had an amazing year in music, you might have had a terrible one, or you had an amazing one for completely different reasons. In any case, let me enthusiastically take you through my epic 2012. 🙂

Beginning the year was the very odd, but nevertheless catchy, Gorillaz/James Murphy/Andre 3000 collaboration, “DoYaThing”. The song was completely bonkers, but there is an unusual charm to it that grows on you with subsequent listenings (sort of like Gorillaz’s previous Plastic Beach amendment, “Doncamatic”). It wasn’t amazing, but I’d give the song a 6.5/10.

Next up was a busy April, which had 3 releases: True Defiance by Demon Hunter, which released the same day as Fighter by Manafest, and then the Chemicals E.P. by Love & Death at the end of the month. I was never much of a fan of Demon Hunter, but one of my friends recommended that I check them out again, and I’m glad that I did. True Defiance was a good album, amongst my favourites of the year. True Defiance opens with a bang with “Crucifix”, an amazingly intense headbanger of a song. The album is just strong throughout, carrying through to the melodic closer, “Dead Flowers”. If you love metal, then this is definitely worth checking out, even if you aren’t a Christian. I’d give it an 8/10.

As for Fighter, I admittedly have been a bit more cautious of Manafest since Citizens Activ came out. He is now 3 albums removed from his amazing Glory, but hasn’t recaptured the (ahem) spirit of that epic release. Fighter doesn’t really inspire any renewed confidence that he will be doing so anytime soon, and really feels like Manafest is just coasting off of his past success. The album sounds a lot like The Chase did. While it sounds like I really didn’t like the album, this isn’t really the case. It certainly is decent to listen to and has some catchy songs, but it’s nothing new. It’s a 6.5/10 for me.

Rounding off the month of April was Love & Death’s Chemicals E.P. I first started listening to Brian “Head” Welch about a year or 2 ago, and was blown away by Save Me From Myself. Naturally, I awaited his next album with bated breath. While the Chemicals E.P. isn’t as good as his previous album, it’s a decent interlude while we see how things shape up. I give it a 6.5/10.

After the packed month of April, May was where the trifecta of awesomeness began with Sabaton’s Carolus Rex. Some friends of mine introduced me to Sabaton a couple years ago, and while I liked a few of their songs, most of their albums were very weak… well, until I listened to The Art of War and Coat of Arms anyway. Each of these albums had built upon the others and produced some legitimately good music as a result. Of course, I wondered if Sabaton would continue this evolution, or if they would fall back into formulaic war-songs again. Luckily for all of us, they unleashed Carolus Rex, easily their best album, bar none. The album features a host of amazing tracks, including “The Lion From the North”, “A Lifetime of War”, “The Carolean’s Prayer” (their best song imho), “Carolus Rex” and “Long Live the King”. Hell, even the album’s b-sides are amazing, as I constantly find myself blasting their covers of “Twilight of the Thunder God” and “Feuer Frei”. All-in-all, Carolus Rex is a freaking landmark for Sabaton, firmly establishing themselves as a legitimately awesome metal band and giving themselves a major challenge to overcome next time they release an album. A 9/10, easily.

The 2nd entry in the trifecta of awesomeness was one which I had awaited for years, P.O.D.’s Murdered Love. P.O.D. has been my favourite band for over a decade now, through ups and downs. When I heard they were going to be returning to their hard rock/rap/reggae roots, I was stoked and the end product did not disappoint. Murdered Love is the best P.O.D. album since Satellite (which happens to be my favourite album, period… questionable taste maybe, but refer back to the 2nd paragraph please). The album features some great tracks, especially “Murdered Love”, “Lost in Forever” and especially “Babylon the Murderer”, while the other tracks are mostly solid. The only two which are questionable are “Bad Boy” (which is stupid but enjoyable) and “Panic and Run” (which I found “meh”), but they hardly sink the album. Also, the album spawned a fair bit of controversy for the song “I Am”, but that’s a matter for a later date. All-in-all, Murdered Love sated my P.O.D. appetite, and hopefully is a portent of greater things in the future. I give it a totally biased 8.5/10.

Rounding off the trifecta of awesomeness was Project 86’s Kickstarter-funded album, Wait for the Siren. Project 86 are an unfortunately under-appreciated hard rock band, but they have never had a bad album in their 15+ years as a band. Wait for the Siren doesn’t disappoint in this respect, delivering a characteristically strong and very heavy war-call to the masses. P86 are also known for changing up their sound on each album, and this one sees them experimenting with unorthodox instruments (mandolin, glockenspiel, etc), in addition to flowing between different tones and degrees of heaviness. The album opens on a very strong note with “Fall, Goliath, Fall”, and doesn’t let up once. I also quite enjoy “The Crossfire Gambit” (if only because it features Brian “Head” Welch) and “Take the Hill” (my favourite on the album). Wait for the Siren just goes to show that Andrew Schwab knows what he’s doing, crafting another excellent album and cementing P86’s legacy as a force to be reckoned with. 8.5/10.

With summer nearly done, August was rounded out by tobyMac’s newest release, Eye on It. tobyMac was actually one of the first Christian artists I heard and liked, and I count myself as a fan to this day. Welcome to Diverse City is one of my favourite Christian albums, period. Almost every song on it was a hit, and Portable Sounds basically carried on the same unique sound. I was worred that tobyMac was going to become stale, but lo-and-behold, he reinvented himself with a more modern sound in Tonight, making me believe he had the future in hand. However, when I found out that he was releasing his new album, Eye on It, a mere 2 years later, I was a bit worried (he typically runs on a 3-year rotation). Furthermore, toby was now taking inspiration from… dubstep artists. Blehhhhhhh. The finished product confirmed my suspicions: tobyMac had finally screwed up. Eye on It, put simply, sucked. I can honestly say I did not like any of the songs on the album (that’s not to say they were awful, but they failed to break the level of mediocrity). This was a combination of the dubsteb editing ruining the songs, the fact that most of them feel incredibly uninspired, or just plain stupid lyrics. Formerly, stupid tracks like “Whoopsi-Daisy” were forgivable because they were insanely catchy, but somehow toby seems to have lost that magic. Even the songs which are obviously being pruned to be singles (“Me Without You” and “Eye on It”) fail to differentiate themselves. Eye on It was a massive disappointment, and (thankfully) the only album this year which I can honestly say I hated. I’d give it a 4/10.

After the disappointment that was Eye on It, I was a little more cautious about the remaining releases of 2012 (of which there were still plenty). One of these I eyed most suspiciously was Showbread’s Cancer. I like Showbread, but they have always been an odd band and I am always apprehensive of their newest release. However, I really liked Who Can Know It?, and so decided to back their Kickstarter campaign. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed by the end result: Cancer was very good, sort of like a cross-section of Showbread’s past. The message is similar to Who Can Know It?, with the instrumentation of The Fear of God and Age of Reptiles (a little bit of …No Sir, Nihilism is Not Practical too) with frequent tonal shifts, leading to a very diverse album. It tooks a couple listen-throughs to come to a final decision, but from the start I knew I enjoyed Cancer. It’s a very strong album, probably their most solid since Age of Reptiles. 7.5/10.

Rounding out 2012 was another duo of albums released on the same day, Anberlin’s Vital and Dethklok’s Dethalbum III (was there ever a more paradoxical pairing?). Anberlin have been gaining mainstream momentum the past few years and are quite prolific, putting out a ton of quality work despite quick turn-around times. The latest result of this is Vital, which certainly lives up to its name. Cities was a fantastic album (and “(*Fin)” is amongst my all-time favourite songs), and Vital stops just short of surpassing it. The songs are all strong, with particular highlights being “Self-Starter”, “Other Side” and “God, Drugs & Sex” (which is hypnotic and really kicks into overdrive when the duet begins). Vital is another feather in Anberlin’s cap without a doubt. 8/10.

Finally, Dethalbum III by Dethklok finished off 2012 in “brutal” fashion. I am a fan of Metalocalypse, and while The Dethalbum featured some fun songs, it was largely a light-hearted affair and clearly not meant to be taken to seriously. However, Dethalbum II reversed this trend, delivering an epic metal album which could easily be taken on its own merits. Dethalbum III follows in this pattern, although it’s not quite as strong as the previous album was. However, there are some very good songs on display which are instantly recognizable from the show, particularly “I Ejaculate Fire”, “Crush the Industry” and “Impeach God”. 7/10.

All-in-all, 2012 was a great year for me in music as you can see. It was almost better though, but unfortunately Love & Death’s first full-length album was delayed to January 2013! Damn… well, hopefully that’s just the start of another epic year – Love & Death and RED are both confirmed to be putting out new material, and with any luck we’ll see a new album from Disturbed (please get off hiatus!), Guns N’ Roses (lol), Art of Dying, Gorillaz and Mastodon!

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