REVIEW: Serj Tankian - Imperfect Harmonies

 

For the past few weeks I've been listening to new albums by bands that I listened to incessantly throughout high school. Most of these experiences were disappointing at best. Disturbed's Asylum? Boring. Linkin Park's A Thousand Suns? Losing focus. Mindless Self Indulgence's <3? Entirely out of tune and overprogrammed. Stone Sour's Audio Secrecy? Generic and safe.


I came into Serj Tankian's Imperfect Harmonies with tempered expectations. After all, he was the lead singer of one of my top 3 bands in high school, System of a Down (SOAD). However, I am pleased to report that he has managed to create a truly interesting and enjoyable record here.


The album ranges from merely competent to truly phenomenal. He takes Elect the Dead and takes it in it's logical direction by focusing more on the use of orchestral sounds and a greater focus on programming throughout. Vocally it is very much like SOAD was; a little out of tune, but harmonically competent. Most songs on the album start slowly and layer on instruments as it progresses. A very well-paced album, as well. The 52 minute album only feels like it takes about 30-40 minutes to listen to.


The best and most consistent aspect of the entire album is undoubtedly the awesome destruction that takes place on the drums in every track. Serj manages to inject an almost unbelievable amount of energy into his songs using drums. Listen to “Borders Are...,” Left of Center,” and “Electron” for some perfect examples.


In summation, if you enjoyed Elect the Dead or any form of melodic/symphonic rock (Apolyptica, you should pick this up. The songs range from hectic and loud (Elecron, Left of Center) to soft and melodic (Deserving?, Peace be Revenged), but overall it is a truly enjoyable record.

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REVIEW: Weezer - Hurley

 

Hey man, do you like Weezer? If so, you'll probably like this album. Pretty much everything you've come to expect from them over the years. Simple instrumentation, sort-of to really dumb lyrics, moderate attempts at genre shifts from one album to the next. One thing I don't get is I why I found this under “indie rock.” While it's certainly more indie than “Raditude” was, by no means does that make this indie. The album is pretty mediocre, with the exception of one song: Time Flies.

Oh, this song. Where do I begin? The whole song is played out of tune and then, on top of that, is distorted to such a degree that the song is completely unlistenable. On top of that, there's a full 25 seconds at the end of the song where there is nothing at all. I was actually getting physically angry about halfway through the track. “How can anyone possibly think this sounds good?” “How could such an abomination be allowed to be commercially produced?” “What the hell were they thinking?” Just a few choice statements that ran through my head throughout the song. Time Flies is the worst thing I've heard in the past 12 months, bar none.

Besides that song, however, the rest of the album is trademark Weezer. Strange dissonance occasionally that can be jarring. A track or two for various commercial radio formats. Save for a few tracks, the whole album just sort of blends together. Brand New World is probably the closest thing to a stand out song on the album. Other than that, you've really heard it all before.
 
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Music Reviews and Some Other Dumb Junk

Just gonna post some reviews of recent pop-rock/pop-metal releases I've written recently.  I will include the link to my root articles at the top of each page.  Click if you feel so inclined.  However, the articles will be largely the same.
 

Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns

 
Original Article
 
 
 What does it mean?
Linkin Park's music has been morphing into a pop-rock/soft rock/hip-hop/adult alternative mish-mash for some time. Their latest album, A Thousand Suns, seems to exist to showcase the final stages of this
 transformation. This is a textbook case of the cliché "jack of all trades, master of nothing." While all the styles the band plays are executed competently, there is nothing that stands out from the pack. You have your three songs that are tailor made for various formats of radio (hip hop, soft rock, and pop rock), and everything else is just sort of bland and is seemingly just there as filler. The fact that six of the album's fifteen tracks are 30 second long transitional bits (two of those are for the intro) seems to back up that statement.

The lyrics are the same as they've ever been with Linkin Park.  They are the kind of lyrics that make you want to lock yourself in your bedroom, apply copious amounts of mascara and eyeliner, and cry yourself to sleep.

Vocally it's pretty good. Some interesting stuff with chords and multi-track vocals. However, none of that matters when you notice that all of the vocals are HEAVILY autotuned up and down the album. Also, you can't even hear the instruments on most of the album. Even when you can hear the instruments they've been programmed, quantized, and leveled down so much there's really no point in them being there at all. The album may as well just be "Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda - Occasionally Singing With a Jamaican Accent."

I can't say I can recommend it to anyone who is resistant to modern pop music, like myself (obviously). If you like listening to top 40 hits stations on the radio I can heartily recommend this to you because it is tailor made specifically for your personal enjoyment. 
 

Stone Sour - Audio Secrecy

 
Original Article
 
 Stone Sour - Audio Secrecy
  Let me preface this by saying that I am a huge fan of Corey Taylor's vocal style. Good register, decent screaming, decent singing. Just soothing to listen to in any capacity. It's a good thing I like his voice 

 because it's the only interesting thing on this whole album. The instrumentation, with the exception of the drums in the intro and chorus of Nylon 6/6, is very simple throughout the album. Also, whenever there was a guitar solo it oftentimes completely finished before I realized it was supposed to be a solo.

The album sounds like if you added an extra guitar to Daughtry's outfit and then replaced him with Corey Taylor. Unfortunately, this leads to fairly generic tracks. Most tracks go a little something like this: acoustic lead in, half band with growly verses, "epic" full band instrumentation with melodic and catchy vox in the chorus, bridge with screaming, repeat the chorus a few times. It gets a little tedious in a 14 track album. At least they try to do interesting things with the chords and key changes occasinally, I guess. Musically the album is fine, it's just a bit boring.

The worst track, by far, is Miracles. Seriously the sappiest, most melodramatic emo crap you've ever heard in your life (at least more than the usual Stone Sour/Slipknot fare). It was almost unbearable. Definitely drifting more towards pop rock, rather than the pop metal range where they've been sitting since their creation, with this album. The main problem with the album is the overabundance of programming and multi-track vox. It just gives me this feeling that it's all just artificial; its really unsettling.

If you're really into radio rock/metal then give this a shot. Otherwise I can't say I'd recommend it.
 

Despite Recent Deaths, MMA Still Safer Than Other Sports

 
Original Article (it's formatted in a much more pleasing way there, as it was written for newspaper publication and I didn't want to stretch this page WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY the fuck out)
 
  
 Scenes like this are less common than you'd think in MMA.
 
Sam Vasquez and Michael Kirkham. Two names you likely haven't heard of, but if you're a fan of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) , maybe you should have.  Sam Vasquez and Michael Kirkham are the only two individuals in North America that have died due to injuries that were caused in an MMA match.  Sam Vasquez was fighting his first match in more than a year. He took approximately 20 unanswered shots to the head before the ref stopped the fight - most certainly too late. No illegal blows were landed during the fight. Vasquez died 2 weeks later. Michael Kirkham died after his first pro fight. However, it wasn't likely that the injuries sustained in that fight are what truly caused his death. In Kirkham's previous - amateur - bout he was illegally harangued in the back of the head at least 30 times.  Most refs would have taken points away from the offending fighter or even disqualified him. Unfortunately, the ref only warned Kirkham's opponent.  In the time between that fight and his last, Kirkham was supposed to go check in with a doctor twice a month. He went to the doctor once immediately following the fight and never returned. Both men were conscious immediately following their bouts, but lost consciousness some time later and never regained it. Ultimately, both deaths could have been prevented if the referees in both fights had the proper training.

However, in comparison to other combat sports like boxing, MMA has a fraction of the of the deaths that have occurred due to in-ring injuries. Between the years of 1998 (the year of the first in-ring MMA death) and 2006, boxing had 70 in-ring deaths, compared to MMA's single death in that same time frame. Even compared to football, MMA has had 20 less deaths due to injury since the year 2000.  The reason boxing has more deaths than MMA is quite clear. In boxing, when a man gets knocked down, he has ten seconds to rise to his feet. If he succeeds in standing back up, the fight continues. This creates a much higher chance of brain injuries than in MMA, where as soon as a fighter is knocked unconscious, the fight is over (save for an extra punch or two that may sneak in in the time it takes for the referee to separate the men).  Also, in boxing matches men often average around 200 punches to the head in a standard 12 round encounter. In a UFC heavyweight championship fight between Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera and Tim Sylvia a total of seven strikes to the head were landed. The reason that happened is because the majority of the fight had taken place on the ground. This is yet another reason why MMA is safer than other combat sports. Causing an opponent to tap out or submit is another viable way to win in addition to the knockout. Unlike in boxing where the only way to win is to punch your opponent in the face until he is knocked unconscious.

However, despite the evidence that MMA is far safer than prize-fighting, it holds a markedly more brutal public image due to the fact that it often takes place in a cage. People may try to say that fighters are exploited and taken advantage of - all for next to no money - and that the sport should be banned nationwide. However, those people neglect that all fighters understand the inherent risks in their profession and make a choice to continue fighting.  Fighters train day in and day out.  Fighters understand the destructive potential that they have.  Fighters understand that their opponents have that same capacity to inflict damage upon them.  Fighters often times hold great respect for the men that may stand across the cage from them.  These aren't bloodthirsty hooligans that are simply in the sport to destroy another man's livelihood. Saying that these men don't understand what they're getting themselves in to is simply disrespectful. Take your frustrations out on the sanctioning bodies that trained the referees that allowed such atrocities to occur rather than the fighters, promotions, or states that allow the fights to take place. 
 
(Published in the Iowa State Daily on September 14th, 2010)
 
If that all bored you too much then I sincerely apologize.  I'll try and make it more interesting next time.  Any feedback is appreciated.
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Lost Planet 2 Is Giving Me a Splitting Headache.

Let me preface this by saying, I was pretty excited for the co-op in Lost Planet 2.  The girlfriend generally loves playing co-op games, so we decided to split-screen through the campaign together.  The next few hours were pretty disappointing to say the least.  
 
First, the interface of the split-screen is pretty dumb.  The screen is separated as if it were a 4 player split screen game.  However, the 2nd and 3rd player screens are all black with a minimap in them.  Even on a 50 inch HDTV we could hardly see what was happening.  Also, the game always shows a big red X on the closest enemy in your field of vision on your HUD, which would be helpful if your crosshair wasn't also a big X.  Second, the slow animations were really making it tough to do what we wanted to.  The second and a half animation on the grenade throw is especially annoying (intended design choice, monster hunter, eastern game design, etc...). Third, and most importantly, you can't use AI partners in split-screen, or if you can we haven't found a variation of the options that allows it.  This is a huge pain in the ass because the game doesn't scale down the number of enemies if there are less than 4 people playing.
 
Basically, girlfriend and I easily make it to the mine at the end of 1-1, get rocked during the "keep all these nodes activated for 90 seconds while infinite enemies respawn and a few VSs come in to help destroy you" part of the chapter.  The timer gets down to 27 seconds, a VS drops in, annihilates us repeatedly.  Game Over.  Now we have to play through the 25 minutes of the game that we already beat again.  and again.  and again. and again. After the 4th try of this nonsense, we stop playing.  Girlfriend thinks it is the most poorly made game she's ever played.  I can't say I blame her for thinking that having just been through the most frustrating two and a half hours of gaming I've had to endure in a looooooooong time.
 
Honestly, all the technical griping could be set aside if the game were actually able to be beaten in local multiplayer and/or if we could actually play the game together the way it was meant to be played, with 4 players (human or otherwise) running around killing giant bugs.  Also, if there's some variation of the options that allows us to play split screen and have AI helpers, please let me know (Can't get online at her place, the one with the giant TV, because her ISP is shit and requires her to pay an extra $20 a month for an extra IP).

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"UFC 92: The Ultimate" Preview

I'll only preview the three big matches in this preview; Rashad Evans v. Forrest Griffin (c) for the Light Heavyweight Championship, Antonio Minotauro Noguiera (c) v. Frank Mir for the interrim Heanyweight Championship of the world, and Wanderlei Silva v. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in a grudge match dating back to the days of PRIDE.

EVANS (17-0-1) V. GRIFFIN (c) (16-4)

This is the hardest match to really peg down.  Evans has knockout power, but Griffin has a tough chin.  Evans has a weaker chin, but Griffin doesn't have true knockout power.  The only place I can see a marked advantage would be Evans being a better wrestler since he wrestled in college.  This should be a stand-up fight for the majority of it, but Evans may take it to the ground late in rounds 3-5 for a break or to try and throw Griffin off guard.

I'm taking the undefeated Evans in this match by either 3rd round TKO or a split descision.

NOG (c) (31-4-1) V. MIR (11-3)

Nog v. Mir is a much easier match to predict.  The longer the match goes, the less of a chance Frank Mir has of winning.  Mir doesnt have as good of submissions as Nog, even though he may have better movement just due to his age.  I don't expect this fight to be on the feet for very long.  However that's what i thought would happen in the last Shawn Sherk match @ UFC 91 and it ended up being one of the better fights of the night.

I expect Nog to sub Mir in the 2nd or Third round.

RAMPAGE (28-7) V. WANDY (32-8-1)

Again, another tough match to call.  Rampage hasn't been all there in terms of his psychie ever since losing the Lt. Heavyweight belt to Griffin.  Wandy on the other hand has been a beast recently.  However, Rampage seems to be on the edge and may come out like a dog that's been backed into a corner; with great rage.  I look for this to be a stand up fight through and through with WAndy taking it to the ground late in rounds. 

I think that WAndy is mentally in a better place and will pull this one out via submission in the second

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Armageddon (***3/4)

Great PPV overall

Kozlov d. Hardy (non-title): **3/4
     Good match.  Crowd reaction was off the charts.  Fun opener.

Punk d. Rey for #1 Contender's match:  ***1/2
     Fun spots.  Rey's Hurricarana into an armbar was awesome.  Punk broke rey's nose w/ the GTS, but oh well.  Great match to set up Punk v. Regal

Finlay d. Henry Beltfast Brawl: **
     Good for a hardcore match between Mark Henry and Finlay.  Finish was weird.  Apparently Fit just has a golf bag full of sheleileighs backstage.

Batista d. Orton: I missed this match.  getting snacks.


Diva's match: *1/2 (Commentary was *****)
    Only watch this match for the commentary.  Hilarity w/ all 6 commentators = awesome.
 

Cena (c) v. Jericho: ****
     Great match, told a great story; they each kicked out of/countered each other's finishers a few times, then jericho tapped to the STFU.

Jeff Hardy d. HHH & Edge (c): ****1/4
     Holy crap Hardy won.  Shocking.  I think they should have waited 'til mania, but oh well.  Good to see the guy with the strap.  Great match too.

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Wow. Forums are a bit uptight.

Back when this site started, there was so much potential for it become something greater than forums at other game sites.  There was a fresh feeling all around.  After 3 months, however, the forums are now just like the forums at other game sites.  Whatever, I still love all the content.  Fuck the forums, I'll just ignore them.

EDIT:  Giving them a second chance.  I doubt anything different will come of it, but w/e.

EDIT: Forums suck.  Everyone needs to loosen up and try to have fun.  because on the forums THE INTERNET IS SERIOUS BUSINESS.

Played SD v. RAW 2k9.  Decent diversion, but if you are going to be playing it for an extended period of time, it's draining.

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