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April 16, 2009

Music Review: Bigelf – Cheat the Gallows

Filed under: Writing — gazzabazza @ 3:09 PM
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Written by Mirza Gazic
Published April 15, 2009

Many bands have a massive affinity with the seventies. They love the classic recordings of that era and those influences shine through in their own albums — homages to an era that most music lovers have a kinship with and a love for. This is not news to anybody, but most bands tend to have one musical part of that decade as a basis for their sound. Usually it’s the doomy heaviness of Sabbath or the proto-punk of MC5 and The Stooges but that is not the case with Bigelf.

They can be considered an amalgamation of nearly every rock and pop-based sound that the seventies had to offer and their latest album, Cheat the Gallows is the showcase. It is a sign of ambition and a restless nature to attempt such an album and in the hands of a lesser band it would have been a failure, but Bigelf have managed to create the right mix of bombast, trippiness and straight-forward rock here. They have surpassed the former characteristic of being a band simply influenced by Black Sabbath and The Beatles and incorporated much more.

This fact hits home right at the opener “Gravest show on Earth” with its operatic tone and influence made all the more unusual by the carnival music that suddenly appears. It may sound strange but it works to, at the very least, draw your attention to the album. Psychedelia and progressive inspirations are rich in scope on “Cheat the Gallows” and they are mostly prevalent in the anthemic “Money, it’s Pure Evil” that draws a lot from Pink Floyd and their rich sound and production can also be heard in “The Game”, especially in the lush and evocative guitar playing.

Some of the finer moments on Cheat the Gallows come in the form of “Blackball” and the southern rock jamming midway through that draws up images of a muggy swamp and the effect-ladden “Hydra”- this tune has instrumentation that, for lack of a better word, sounds bewildering.

The closer “Counting sheep” can be seen as a summation of the entire album, as it attempts to put all the influences into one 10-minute song. It’s erratic nature means that it is interesting more than good, but Cheat the Gallows as an album is a bold and ambitious piece of work. It demands concentration if you are in any way interested in music then you will feel rewarded for your effort.

Two reviews up here on the same day? Something must be wrong- judging by how briefly things come up here this means that I won’t be back on “The Ballad” for another month. Hopefully I’m wrong and I am expecting to write a piece on the new Isis album this week- stay tuned.

Review of the album up on Blogcritics.

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February 16, 2009

Book Review: 50/50 – Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance by Dean Karnazes (with Matt Fitzgerald)

Filed under: books,Review,Writing — gazzabazza @ 12:46 PM
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Men’s Fitness has already, in previous articles, proclaimed the author to be the fittest man alive. You might start thinking in the same vein even before you’ve read the whole title of his book, 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance. Indeed, it is enough to hear about his exploits as a regular participant in ultra marathons in every single climate on several continents to realise that Dean Karnazes is a man whose interest in running goes far beyond just regular fitness. He deals in human stamina at its most extreme form.

Most of us who have an interest in running as a form of exercise and way of improving our health will know how hobbled and worn out one can feel after a very long run. Karnazes, on the other hand, decides to challenge himself by attempting to run, as expressed, 50 consecutive marathons, in 50 cities, in 50 different states. In this book he chronicles his entire project, from birth of the idea to its completion.

The company that sponsors him decides to make the project much larger in scope which turns Karnazes’s idea into a national interest but with this comes responsibility and, lest we forget, problems. It goes without saying that completing 50 official marathon runs requires a great deal of logistical planning.

50/50 and its clear prose style takes us through the entire eventful journey, marathon by marathon, and it makes for a very compelling read. Interest by the public to meet the man undertaking this project is larger than expected and after some initial problems with the post-marathon events being far too chaotic, things start to run a bit smoother.

One gets to like Dean Karnazes more and more for each chapter of his book. He doesn’t complain about the problems he encounters throughout, but merely chronicles them and it’s hard to find faults with a guy who has his own non-profit organisation that encourages kids to become physically active and takes time out after a gruelling run to interact with fans.

With 50/50 he tries to show the average runner how to be a better athlete and recover more quickly but he also wants to encourage other people to start running. This is where the book’s appeal lies – you don’t have to be a runner to like it. He isn’t trying to turn most people into super-endurance athletes, but fitness is important to Karnazes and he just hopes that people will try to become more active after reading 50/50.

In fact, you are more likely to get something out of the reading experience if you want to get started but not sure where to begin and are looking for some inspiration. The book is chock full of practical advice and training regimens for the beginner and tips on how to try and motivate your self.

50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance is a compelling enough read to succeed in maybe inspiring some people. I won’t give away too much of the ending but the aftermath of Dean’s voyage has him doing something on a whim that shows that he isn’t like most athletes.

A book review published on Blogcritics. A good, interesting read about a different kind of athlete. I believe this book will inspire people to get more active- maybe not to the same extent as the subject of the book- and to be healthier.
Read it on Blogcritics here.  Dean Karnazes’s personal site is here.

Get reading.

November 17, 2008

Music Review: The Bronx – The Bronx (III)

Filed under: Music,punk,Review,Writing — gazzabazza @ 5:30 PM
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Written by Mirza Gazic
Published November 06, 2008

The Bronx have on this their third full length continued with the more melodic approach to their energetic and soulful punk rock. It does sound a tad different than what I remember from their debut album. That one – also self titled (these guys don’t waste more time than necessary on album titles) – came out in 2003 and showcased a thrilling punk band that brought to mind the classic 80s bands from their home town of Los Angeles. The follow up delivered music that wasn’t necessarily mellower but definitely more rock in its approach. Now that has been taken further and today The Bronx show that they excel in bringing forth some truly swaggering rock ‘n’ roll.

It’s still punk in tone and in the energy that shines through, but the influences from classic rock and a smidgen of blues gives more edge to the song writing. The opening trio of songs are as good as anything I’ve heard recently and some of the riffage sound like a speeded up version of AC/DC. They’re gutsy and visceral and immediately raise the pulse which is what a good rock record always should do.

Opener “Knifeman” starts of slow in pace but rich in groove and its staccato riffing and thumping rhythm combine into a whole that will undeniably be a live favourite in the future. With the following songs, and especially “Inveigh” and “Past lives” you are struck with how anthemic these songs are. This is not meant in a cheesy singalong way but merely to illustrate how they instantly stick in your mind. This is not an easy thing to do when trying to maintain a level of aggression at the same time but The Bronx manage it, seemingly without much effort.

Some kudos also has to be given to the singer Matt D. He has a great voice for this kind of raw style of music. Raspy but still soulful, it makes you think that the songs would not have worked as well with somebody else at the helm.

This is one of those records that appeals to our most impulsive emotions; Every time I listen to it I am overcome with the urge to jump around with a beer in hand and scream the lyrics. The Bronx (III) is a record that is more; more rock, more melody, more blues and energy, more of everything. Just the way I like it.

This is for those of us who sorely miss New Bomb Turks.

A bit late but better that than never. This was published last week but I’ve been on holiday at home in Sweden and didn’t feel like messing around with a blog. I preferred to hang out with friends and family.
Anyway, go to the review on Blogcritics, read it there and check out some other good stuff on the site.

November 3, 2008

Alex Austin – The red album of Asbury Park

Filed under: Asbury Park,books,Review,Writing — gazzabazza @ 3:19 PM
Tags: , , , , ,
Written by Mirza Gazic
Published October 31, 2008

There should be more books about music. Not more biographies of any kind but novels where the main character has that desperate love for music to the extent that it actually consumes his or her life. More books where the music is an intrinsic part of the plot simply because the person it is about cannot live without it. High Fidelity is one of them, even though it is much more humorous in tone than Austin’s second novel about the hard life on the Jersey shore.

The Red Album of Asbury Park is also one of those novels. Alex Austin’s sequel to debut The perfume factory may have many more happenings in its intricate plot but everything that our narrator and untimely hero, Sam Nesbitt gets himself into is only because he has one goal in life; to start a band and become famous.

Four years have passed since the previous novel ended and Sam returns home after a stint in the navy and is on his way to see his mother, but doesn’t know her new address. After an encounter with a cute girl on the train and a bizarre accident, he finds himself wondering around in the cold.

A murder mystery unfolds that night, and over the span of the novel it turns out to have a much bigger part in Sam’s story than he ever would have expected.

The beginning chapters of the book take you through these events, as Sam tries to absorb these occurrences while being romantically involved with two women and trying to nurture his dream of becoming a rock star.

Sam is not just a gifted musician but also a deep thinker and the pages are filled with his philosophical ruminations. It is truly wonderful to read about a character that burns so undeniably for something. His passion for music, to be somebody in a town of nobodies is infectious.

Austin has a knack of putting you right in the location. While reading The Red Album of Asbury Park, you can picture everything about the place as vividly as if you were actually there, feeling the strong wind coming in from the shore or hanging out in the then vibrant music clubs. He also shows an eye for detail and some very skillful plotting; every event that occurs will unfold and every character that crosses his path will turn out have an important part of the story. The best thing about the novel, however, must be Austin’s ear for very realistic and believable-sounding dialogue. It truly flows well and makes me think that he must have had a lot of fun while writing those parts, and it sometimes brings to mind Charles Bukowski at his deadpan best.

The Red Album of Asbury Park is a very gripping and thoughtful book; it is melancholy and sad at times but also brings a lot of hope with it. You are highly recommended to read it.

New book review up now on Blogcritics. A good novel about music in the late 60’s. It took a while to get this up and running on the site. I actually had a review already written and ready for publication a month ago but the author emailed me and said that he was revising the novel. He sent me the new version, which was an improvement and I finally got it up on the site. Read the book, it is very good and takes place somewhere that not many books that I have read take place which I found refreshing and also a bit educational. A lot of research seems to have gone into this. Here’s the link to the review on Blogcritics.

October 16, 2008

Woven Hand – Ten Stones

Here is a theory that may be disregarded but that seems more plausible the more time is spent thinking about it; Truly good artists, musicians and bands can be recognised by how many people and other artists, from completely opposite spheres of music are their firmest admirer. Truly good artists span genres and can gain followings from the most unexpected of places. This theory came from the following facts: David Eugene Edwards plays dark but mellow rock with distinct folk and classic American overtones and gothic tendencies, is a deeply devout Christian which comes through in his lyrics, among many other places. Yet I have heard of so many rockers and metal lovers, read a few record collector pieces in extreme metal magazines, where his bands have been mentioned, with the fondest of love, by black and death metal musicians with a south-of-heaven type of approach to religion.

This can make you believe that Wovenhand are something special before you have even heard the music. Luckily, upon hearing any of the albums you will find the music very captivating. Edward’s voice also adds emotion. It is, at the same time husky but trembling which makes the music sound even more dark and poignant.

“The beautiful axe” starts of very slow burning before going into more heavy rock territory with pounding drums and an a chorus that even verges on the anthemic. It is a more straight forward rock song and it isn’t until the second track, “Horsetail” that Wovenhand’s folk and traditional influences make themselves known. The stark and bleak lyrical imagery is, on the other hand, present throughout.

Ten Stones is an affecting listen. Listen with the utmost concentration you will almost see a film playing from inside your eyelids. It’s a film where a man sits alone in a dark room, an empty gaze vivid on his face, as he tries to figure out how his life went so horribly wrong. This image is at its strongest point during the heart-rending “Cohawkin Road” and “Iron feather”.

It isn’t an intention to make this sound like a thoroughly depressing experience because it isn’t and Ten Stones certainly does not lack variation. The heavy stomp and rhythm of “White Knuckle Grip” will get pulses raised and suggests that, along with the lounge-like bossanova of “Quiet Night of Quiet Stars” there is a lightness and sense of fun in this band.

No matter what style is purveyed on Ten Stones one thing is always certain; the power of the songs. This is a truly great album. There are only a few months left of the year, before that annual list of the best albums is compiled but here is one recording that will at least make it to the top five.

This was published yesterday on Blogcritics. The album is absolutely amazing, as is probably quite obvious from the review. Check it out on the site and by all means read the comment below. The guy mentions that just because you play extreme metal then it doesn’t mean that you can’t be influenced by artists from vastly different genres, which of course was my point as well. Maybe it isn’t clear enough in the actual review but I suppose that it’s such a normal point of view that it doesn’t need to be mentioned. Hell, I’m in all ways mostly a fan of extreme metal and hardcore yet I find the utmost satisfaction in calm and mellow music and some of my favourite artists play music that is as far away from black/ death metal as you can get.

My point was that many openly satanic musicians are very candidly expressing their admiration for David Eugene Edwards and his bands and he is deeply religious. This may not be so strange to everyone (I find the cultural spanning highly encouraging) but most of the black metal musicians are not exactly known to have an open mind about these things. In hindsight maybe I expressed my self clumsily in the review and it doesn’t come across very clear but it’ll have to be this way for now.

Still and mesmerizing record, mind you.

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