December 30, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 17

The 2014 season has ended.  Remember where it began?

It was a Thursday night and Green Bay traveled to Seattle.  I had no idea both teams would be in my top 5 when all was said and done.

The 2014 season was a bit nutty.  There was a lot of off-the-field drama that captured peoples' attention.  Then the games would start and the other nonsense was quickly forgotten.

Truly, there was uproar over various things that occurred off-the-field.  And that uproar was justified.  So for 2015, I hope to see less of that and more talk about the action on the field.

As usual, I'm not sure how I'll cover the playoffs.  I may do something here on NHC...and I may not.

Here are the Rankings for Week 17:

December 26, 2014

Bleach 611 - Death of the Soul King

Another Bleach chapter is out, so we may as well talk about it.  Put down your forks and/or presents!

Spoilers after the cut.


December 23, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 16

One week to go, people.

If there's anything I hate, it's breaking a rule that I've set for myself.

As you know, what I do here is take the top 10 teams by record and slot 'em based on how they did that week.  One of my rules is "never punish a winning team".  Another one is "keep Cincinnati out at all costs".

I had to break the latter, because what do you know?  There are only nine good teams in the league this week (and a few of them lost and looked like crap doing so), which means that Cincinnati makes it back in for the first time since...who knows; last year, I guess?

At any rate, the format may well change for next season.  I don't really know; I'm just tired of doing this the way I have been, but that might be a function of my distaste for writing in general.

So there's one more week this season and then the playoffs start.  I'll try to step my game up for the playoffs, but I'm not sure I can guarantee anything.

Here are the Rankings for Week 16:

December 18, 2014

Bleach 610 - Mausoleum of Skulls

Another chapter of Bleach for your perusal.  Let's talk about it.

Spoilers after the cut.


December 16, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 15

Week 15 provided some drama, but not a whole lot.  Most of the complaining seemed to center on bad calls, whether or not the games mattered.

There were a couple of elite QB's who failed to show up.  In one case it didn't hurt the team.  The other, of course, was Green Bay, who let Buffalo complete a 4-0 record against the NFC North.

I personally haven't seen many people say anything about it, but I think it's a heck of an accomplishment.  Especially when you consider how poor the offense is, even with Orton in at QB instead of Manuel.  I don't think anyone expected it to happen, especially with Green Bay playing as well as they had been prior to meeting the Bills.

Also, the Cowboys won and the Monday Night game was terrible.  Big surprise.

Here are the Rankings for Week 15:

December 11, 2014

Bleach 609 - A

Watch your step, another Bleach chapter is out and this one is a doozy.

Spoilers after the cut.


December 9, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 14

Week 14 was a lot like Week 12: nice and fairly predictable.  To be sure, I didn't get everything right, such as that slopfest down in New Orleans.  And I didn't figure that Kaepernick and the 49ers would flounder as badly as they did in Oakland.

But on the whole, things went well, starting on Thursday when the Cowboys took out the Bears.  It wasn't a "dominating" or even especially convincing win, but the Cowboys don't have a strong defense, so I'm not totally surprised.

Here are the Rankings for Week 14:

December 4, 2014

December 3, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 13

Thanksgiving came in Week 13 and that meant three games on Thursday instead of one.  I'm not sure any of them were particularly good, especially the night game between Seattle and San Francisco.  Honestly, I don't understand why either team gets national attention, because their styles are not conducive to a watchable product for a national audience.

Neither team is flashy.  They don't throw the ball down the field effectively and usually don't find many opportunities to do so.

Still, Seattle's win finds them back in the Rankings this week as they are once again one of the top 10 teams in the NFL.

Here are the Rankings for Week 13:


November 27, 2014

Bleach 607 - The Master

Another Bleach chapter is out, so why not talk about it?

Spoilers after the cut.


November 26, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 12

Week 12 in the NFL dialed back the craziness quite a bit.  In fact, the only really nutty result occurred on Thursday, when 0-10 Oakland suddenly became 1-10 Oakland.  They're still eliminated from the playoffs (along with the New York Jets), but hey, it's nice to beat a team that could be a division winner (well, it's possible, but not likely).

Here are the Rankings for Week 12:


November 19, 2014

Bleach 606 - Divine Division

Another Bleach chapter is out, so let's talk about it.

Spoilers after the cut.


November 18, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 11

It was a crazy week in the NFL as teams playing in the early timeslot just couldn't seem to put it together, even though they were likely favored to win.

Of course, most of those teams were losers anyway.  But there were a few teams in the Rankings that didn't really show up, although a couple of them were playing each other and that makes things more difficult.

Also, the Monday night survival by Pittsburgh brings them back into the fold and knocks Cleveland out.  Hey, they lost to the Texans.  You can't lose to the Texans (who have one good player) and expect to stay here.

Here are the Rankings for Week 11:


November 13, 2014

Bleach 605 - Don't Call My Name

Another Bleach chapter is out, so let's talk about it.

Spoilers after the cut.


November 11, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 10

Looking at the matchups for Week 10, my initial thought was that it would be Blowout City.

It's never that simple.  Or, rarely so.  There would be a surprise result that I hadn't picked and for whatever reason (read: bias) wouldn't be able to foresee. Really, there were only two of those, and I bumbled into a third by forgetting the first rule of the 2010's NFL: Andy Dalton can't win in the regular season when the game is played in prime-time.  I ignored that, and of course the Browns curb-stomped Cincy.

Boy, do I dislike Cincinnati.

I picked New Orleans to win straight up and that was looking good until the refs called offensive pass interference on Saints TE (not WR, TIGHT END) Jimmy Graham.  The call was bogus because one of the DB's in the area, Perrish Cox, flopped like an NBA or European football player.  So a sure-fire Saints win was turned into an OT game.  Predictably, Drew Brees continued his year of "this guy is an elite QB? you must be joking" by fumbling the ball, thus giving the game to the 49ers.

The other goof was picking Pittsburgh to beat the Jets.  No matter that the Steelers had won three in a row and Roethlisberger had thrown 12 TD's in the previous two games...the Steelers were bound and determined to not only look stupid, but to hand the Jets a win they didn't deserve.  I should have known better, but somehow didn't.

And with that, here are the Rankings for Week 10:

November 6, 2014

Bleach 604 - Revitalize

Upward and onward, Bleach fans!  Another chapter with momentous events to discuss.

Spoilers after the cut.


November 4, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 9

For once, my top 10 didn't go entirely to pot.  This is good.

And maybe, just maybe, we know who's good and who isn't in the NFL this season.

That said, there's still plenty of time for things to go awry.  We're only halfway through, after all.

Here are the Rankings for Week 9:


October 29, 2014

Bleach 603 - What the Hell

Another nutty Bleach chapter.  Let's discuss!

Spoilers after the cut.


October 28, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 8

It's another crapshoot week for the Rankings.  There were a few surprises in Week 8 that I didn't foresee happening; thus the preponderance of 5-3 teams in the bottom of the list.  I'm not sure what to think of any of them.  And I dropped a couple that I could very well have left in, although I wasn't terribly fond of that idea.

Honestly, this endeavor is fluid until the regular season is over.  Even then, we don't know who's going to win in the playoffs.

But that's a couple months away and we're talking about teams who are reaching the halfway point or are going to do so next week.  With eight games played, one would think we'd have a better idea of who is good and who isn't.

Not so fast.

What do we know?  Well, the South divisions stink, the West divisions are pretty tough, the East divisions might get entertaining down the stretch and actually yield multiple playoff teams, and the North divisions are jumbled.

After that, it's hard to say anything definitively, because week-to-week performance for every team not located in Colorado or Arizona is basically a toss-up.

Here are the Rankings for Week 8:


October 23, 2014

Bleach 602 - Bane Licking Good

Another Bleach chapter is out, so let's discuss, shall we?

Spoilers after the cut.

October 21, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 7

I find it particularly interesting when I don't have to change the Rankings much from week-to-week.  In the case of Week 7, eight of ten teams that were in after Week 6 won.  As a result, Cincinnati gets knocked out (because really, they haven't done anything since their bye), and San Diego takes a fall.

And yet, all of a sudden, it looks like there are some strong teams out there. Obviously, this is a rather huge departure from the first couple weeks of the season when we had no idea if anybody was good.

Still, there are only four teams with one loss and no undefeated teams.  That's an anomaly after seven weeks, I think.  But things are proceeding nicely and now the thing to be concerned about is the thing that rears its ugly head the most in any NFL season: injuries.  A key injury to any of the ten teams on my list this week could severely derail them.  There's the usual bad luck with INT's and blown coverages that result in losses, to be sure, but injuries (or the lack of them) will as usual determine who can remain successful through the remainder of the season and who will fall off, thus leave us wondering "what if".

Here are the Rankings for Week 7:


October 16, 2014

Bleach 601 - Verge on Vermillion

Another Bleach chapter to gawk at and wonder, why?

Spoilers after the cut.


October 14, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 6

Even in a week with fewer surprises than usual, there were still a couple of results that had people shaking their heads.

As I write this, the Monday night game has been over for a few hours.  It wasn't pretty, but when are they ever?  It's not often that those games are any good; NBC has generally taken all the good matchups.  ESPN and CBS/NFLN are left with the scraps for Monday and Thursday.

At any rate, being a Cowboys fan, I have to give them some credit here at the top.  Not only have they won five in a row after that mind-numbingly bad loss in Week 1, but they just went to Seattle and took out the champs.  Unsurprisingly, since the NFL is now a running league, the Cowboys did it with defense and running the ball a bunch of times.  This shouldn't surprise anyone, since Seattle's offense is usually pretty plain (aside from when they're making special effort to be anything other than boring) and when the running game isn't working, there's not a lot they can do otherwise.  The problem with Russell Wilson at this point in his career is that the OC and Pete Carroll don't seem to trust him enough to let him go on a consistent basis.  He was somehow able to do it against Washington, but then again, they somehow have a worse defense than the Cowboys.

Romo played well when he wasn't just handing it off to Murray/Randle and watching them run.  There wasn't the huge mistake like in the game against Denver from last year.  There were mistakes, to be sure, especially on special teams, but Romo isn't responsible for their tomfoolery.

Also, I should probably address the tie.  Cincinnati and Carolina played 75 minutes of football and there wasn't a winner.  NFL coaches are conservative; this is the nature of the beast.  When jobs are highly coveted (outside of Oakland or Jacksonville, at least), guys will do things conservatively and minimize risks to lessen their chances of losing said job.  Marvin Lewis doesn't appear to have anything to worry about, given that his dreadful playoff performance has yet to result in negative consequences, and yet he was obviously comfortable enough going for a field goal when he could have had Dalton...you know, win the game (cue Herman Edwards clip...now).

Dalton didn't get a chance and Mike Nugent honked the kick in hilarious fashion. There's your ball game.

Also, Brady, Peyton, and Rodgers looked like their usual "elite" selves.  I like it.

Here are the Rankings for Week 6:


October 8, 2014

Bleach 600 - Snipe

Another week, another Bleach chapter.

But this week is a little special, because Bleach made it to 600!

Spoilers after the cut.

October 7, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 5

Ho-hum, just another week in the NFL!

Not a lot of surprises, really, which was nice.  Although we're down to 0 undefeated teams, which is always a bummer.  I try to highlight the ten best teams every week here on NHC, and it's damn difficult to do that when none of them have a 0 in the loss column.  But I'm always flying by the seat of my pants anyway, so I'm not sure it makes that much of a difference.

One surprising result was the sudden "resurrection" of the Patriots.  True, they're still just 3-2, but they looked a hell of a lot better on Sunday night than they had at any point in the first four weeks.  Also, what's up with Cincy and Arizona?  Is it the competition?

I hope so, because teams that start 3-0 shouldn't just fade as we approach midseason.

At least Peyton Manning looks like an "elite" QB.  I can't say that about Drew Brees much longer, I don't think.  Unless he's due for a "resurrection" himself in the coming weeks.

Here are the Rankings for Week 5:


September 30, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 4

26 of 32 teams reached the quarter pole in Week 4.  The other six will reach it after the conclusion of Week 5.

What does this mean?  Hell, I'm not sure.  It's been a wacky four weeks in the NFL so far, and mediocr...I mean, parity (duh) is reigning supreme.

Well, mostly.  13 teams are 2-2 right now.  Had the teams on a bye in Week 4 played, I'm sure that number would be higher.  The majority of the rest are either flying high at 3-1 or looking like garbage at 1-3.  What's surprising is that New Orleans and New England (perennial contenders and weekly Rankings holders) are not only out of the Rankings but the Saints are 1-3 and the Pats are 2-2.  I find it incredibly difficult to believe that two elite QB's could fall so hard.

Then again, Aaron Rodgers just had his first good game in Week 4.  And while Peyton Manning has looked good, he's clearly not on the breakneck pace of 2013.

So the elite QB's mostly stink and we're left with guys like Rivers, Dalton, and Flacco.  Of this group, Flacco has a ring and an unearned SB MVP (that should have gone to Jacoby Jones, but I digress), which puts him slightly ahead of the other two.  But honestly, Dalton and Rivers have looked better.

I think I'll wait until the halfway point to make a judgment on the Cowboys.

Here are the Rankings for Week 4:


September 25, 2014

Bleach 598 - The Shooting Star Project [We Only Have to Beat You Mix]

Moving on from the endless nonsense...to other endless nonsense!

It's another Bleach chapter and I've got the lowdown after the cut.


The Bridge (US) - Season 2, Episode 12 "Quetzalcoatl" Recap

A transitional episode just before the season finale.

Spoilers after the cut.


Down the Rabbit Hole: Signals (1982)

Continuing our journey down the rabbit hole with another impactful change in direction.


September 23, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 3

Another interesting week in the NFL and we're down to three undefeated teams.

Who's good?  I still don't know.  So you'll probably notice that a number of teams have dropped out again and a couple who were in previously are now in again after winning.  The least of these, at the moment, is Baltimore, who won on a last-second field goal in Cleveland.  I bet that had people sweating for multiple reasons.

Buffalo and Houston were two previously undefeated teams that dropped out. I thought their performance was a fluke.  Neither team showed up well in situations that were tailor-made for wins.  It seemed.  Buffalo had perennial road chokers San Diego in their house.  Houston went to Jersey to take on the 0-2 Giants.

And now they're both out for the time being.

Four previously undefeated teams lost in Week 3 and four winless teams won in Week 3.  Everything's nice and symmetrical, yet still mostly unpredictable.

Although I did go 11-5 straight up this week, which has me feeling a bit better and less like a monkey on a typewriter.

Here are the Rankings for Week 3:


September 18, 2014

September 17, 2014

September 16, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 2

Parity is mediocrity.

Last week, the NFL season started with a bang.  Week 2 wasn't less surprising, necessarily, but the standings show a stark regression to mediocrity.  There are 32 teams in the NFL, as you know.  18 of them are now 1-1.  Seven are 2-0, seven are 0-2.

Thus, for people who try to figure out which teams are good and which are not on a weekly basis, we really have no choice but to throw our hands up in the air and practically give up on the whole enterprise.

But as I said last week, it's early and things like Rankings are basically a crapshoot.  I don't think that's any less accurate after two weeks than after one, although at least we know that results will have teams trending toward mediocrity rather than greatness, at least in the early going.

Some of the unforeseeable results, like Seattle losing to San Diego, shake up the Rankings quite significantly.  And of the seven 2-0 teams, I would venture to bet that at least four of them weren't on anyone's radar in the preseason. Or maybe they were and I was listening to the wrong people.

Also in Week 2, you'll notice that each team has brackets after their record. What this indicates is the movement since last week.  For example, [+1] means that a team moved up one spot.  A [-] means that the team wasn't in the Rankings in the previous week.

Here are the Rankings for Week 2:

September 11, 2014

September 10, 2014

Bleach 596 - Rubb-Dolls 3

Another week, another Bleach chapter.  Although this week it's back out on Wednesday.  Hmm....

Spoilers after the cut.


Down the Rabbit Hole: Permanent Waves (1980)

Continuing our journey down the rabbit hole with Rush, with an album that presents an impactful change in direction.


September 9, 2014

2014 NFL Power Rankings, Week 1

Hello, and welcome to the first edition of the 2014 Rankings.  The 2014 NFL season started this past weekend, and now that all the games in Week 1 are concluded, it is time for me to ramble about them a bit.

I realize that "Power Rankings" are a bit hackneyed in 2014 (just like they were in 2013, and 2012, etc.); this is really just an excuse for me to talk about something I really love, even if this week really tested my patience and love for the game.  As always, my rankings vary week to week based on one simple thing: wins.  Those who win stay put (or move up), those who don't move down (or out).

I'll be honest, the first week is a total crapshoot.  None of us had any idea what would happen going in, really.  So the results of Week 1 are both surprising and unhelpful.  Because let's face it, we don't know what's going to happen the rest of the season yet.  Maybe in a few weeks we'll have a better idea, but at the moment it's all looking confusing and mysterious.

Indeed, there were some mysterious results throughout the league.  How do both teams from Pennsylvania end up in such weird games?  How does Chicago lose in OT to a team that looked like absolute crap in the preseason?

How are the Cowboys an NFL team?  Oh, my goodness.

I've been a Cowboys fan since 1989 (in case you're new and/or don't remember which team I follow most avidly), and that has to be the worst opener I've ever seen.  Then again, I don't really remember the 1989 team, and I believe that one finished 1-15.  Rookies, huh?

Unfortunately, the 2014 version has no such excuses.  What it does have is a QB coming off of back surgery.  Apparently, back surgery isn't conducive to playing QB at the professional level.  Who knew?  Not me.

Without further ado, here are the Rankings for Week 1:


September 8, 2014

September 4, 2014

Bleach 595 - Rubb-Dolls 2

Another Bleach chapter, another Thursday release.  Once more and it's a trend, I guess?

Spoilers after the cut.


The Bridge (US) - Season 2, Episode 9 "Rakshasa" Recap

A violent episode this time around.  Characters are threatened and/or killed off outright.

Spoilers after the cut.


September 2, 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole: Hemispheres (1978)

Continuing our trip down the Rabbit Hole with Rush, we find ourselves observing a pitched battle between heart and mind.

September 1, 2014

Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden (2014)

When I acquire a new record, my instinct is to avoid judging it on first listen.  I try to go about 5-10 listens, depending on how much I enjoy the record's contents.  In the case of Pallbearer's sophomore full-length, I went five and then tapped out, basically.

Foundations of Burden may not be all that different from previous output, but in terms of presentation the music has been tweaked rather significantly.

Do I enjoy this record?  The simple answer is no.  The reasons I leave for after the cut.

If you're ready to hear why I dislike this record, by all means continue.  If not, then there's no need.  I won't be offended; I know a lot of people like and enjoy this record, and that's fine.

August 28, 2014

Bleach 594 - Rubb-Dolls

Another week, another Bleach chapter.

Spoilers after the cut.


The Bridge (US) - Season 2, Episode 8 "Goliath" Recap

Unfortunately, I missed last week's episode, "Lamia".  I thought this would severely impact my enjoyment of this week's episode.

Thankfully, my enjoyment was not impacted!

Spoilers after the cut.


August 26, 2014

August 21, 2014

Bleach 593 - Marching Out the ZOMBIES 4

Bleach is back after a week's absence.  And today, so am I!

Spoilers after the cut.

August 14, 2014

The Bridge (US) - Season 2, Episode 6 "Harvest of Souls" Recap

I think I have an inkling of what the title means this time around.

Episode 6 of The Bridge, recap here and now!

Spoilers after the cut.

August 13, 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole: 2112 (1976)

Continuing on our journey down the Rabbit Hole with Rush, we hearken to the strains of their breakthrough.


August 7, 2014

The Bridge (US) - Season 2, Episode 5 "Eye of the Deep" Recap

As we approach the midpoint of Season 2, it's getting easier to follow. Hopefully this is a trend that continues!

Spoilers after the cut.


August 6, 2014

Bleach 592 - Marching Out the ZOMBIES 3

New Bleach chapter!  So we're talking about it.  It's Wednesday and this is what we do.

Spoilers after the cut.


July 31, 2014

The Bridge (US) - Season 2, Episode 4 "The Acorn" Recap

I think we're starting to find our way back into a groove.  And what do you know, maybe a bit of humor to lighten up these pitch black proceedings.

Spoilers after the cut.


July 30, 2014

Bleach 591 - Marching Out the ZOMBIES 2

Another week, another Bleach chapter.

And for us dedicated readers, another chance to smack ourselves in the face.

Spoilers after the cut.

July 29, 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole: Fly by Night (1975)

Continuing from last week in chronological order, next up is album #2, Fly by Night.


July 24, 2014

The Bridge (US) - Season 2, Episode 3 "Sorrowsworn" Recap

Third episode of Season 2 aired last night.  It was a tricky one and hard to follow at times!

Spoilers after the cut.


July 22, 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole: Rush (1974)

Rush is my favorite band, regardless of genre.  So I figure it's high time I wrote something about them.


July 21, 2014

Evolution of Favoritism

I suppose it is inevitable that a person's favorites will change.  Music is a creative pursuit and is thus subject to taste from the POV of the musician and the listener.  In this post, I'll take a look at my favorite bands from a few years ago and where I jumped off the proverbial bandwagon.  Neither list should be assumed to be comprehensive.  There were probably others I could have added to both lists (e.g. Slayer).

Favorites (ca. 2008/2009):
Rush, Tool, Burnt by the Sun, Lamb of God, Mastodon, High on Fire, Meshuggah, Kylesa, Nile, Opeth.

Favorites (2015):
Rush, Tool, Burnt by the Sun, Krallice, Ludicra, Yakuza, VHOL, Inquisition, Immolation.

In some ways, it's harder to say definitively which bands would qualify as "favorites" in 2014.  There are certainly some caveats on my list as it stands: Krallice & Ludicra make it with three albums, Yakuza & Inquisition with two, Immolation with two plus an EP, and VHOL with one.

As far as the bands I removed from my favorites between 2008/2009 & 2014:

Lamb of God: Resolution (2012).  Seems to signify the end of an era.  The progression exhibited through their first four albums stopped with Wrath and Resolution acts as more of a regression than anything else.

Mastodon: The Hunter (2011).  The band has changed from metal to pop-leaning rock.  Harsh vocals abandoned, as well as most of the heavy riffs.

High on Fire: De Vermis Mysteriis (2012).  Similar to Lamb of God, High on Fire previously exhibited progression and this album ends that.

Meshuggah: Koloss (2012).  After the triumphant ObZen (2008), Koloss was as much or more of a regression as the previous three bands.

Kylesa: Ultraviolet (2013).  To be honest, I was leery of future output after Spiral Shadow (2010), which sounded like a turn toward alt-rock/pop.

Nile: Place taken by Immolation, more or less.  I enjoyed At the Gate of Sethu (2012); despite it being a regression in production/presentation, it has one thing that most of the above albums don't, that being riffs.

Opeth: Heritage (2011).  I was leery after Watershed (2008), but I couldn't have imagined they'd fall into irrelevance so succinctly.

As far as the bands I added to my favorites between 2008/2009 & 2014:

Krallice: Diotima (2011) and the year of 2011 in general represent a significant increase in the number of bands and number of albums I listen to. Thanks to Diotima, I came to appreciate their 2008 S/T and jumped on the bandwagon for Years Past Matter too.  I eagerly await new material.

Ludicra: The Tenant (2010).  They may have broken up in 2011, but three of their four LP's (and an EP) represent some of the finest metal the Bay Area has produced (no easy feat, that).  I consider The Tenant to be the best metal album of 2010.

Yakuza: Of Seismic Consequence (2010).  Not only did this album introduce me to the band, but to Profound Lore Records as an underground metal entity worth following.  Yakuza followed with Beyul (2012); I consider both albums to be among the best in their respective years of release.

VHOL: VHOL (2013).  Topped my Best of 2013 list.  New material forthcoming. Further explanation is unnecessary.


Inquisition: Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm (2011). That's a mouthful.  And one of the albums that piqued my interest in black metal, despite the fact that 99% of BM sounds nothing like it.  Croak away, sir!

Immolation: Harnessing Ruin (2005).  As much as I love this album, the next two didn't do much for me.  They really became a favorite with Kingdom of Conspiracy (2013), but I was fairly certain that they were onto something with the Providence EP.  What do you know, I was right for once.

As far as the bands that hold a place in both lists:

Rush: My favorite band, regardless of genre.  Nobody will top what they did from 1975-1984 (with Power Windows and Counterparts as honorable mentions).

Tool: My second favorite band.  Although they haven't released anything since 2006 (the less engaging by their standard 10,000 Days), their previous material stands as some of my favorite music that wasn't produced by Rush.

Burnt by the Sun: After a short hiatus from heavy music and a couple of years where I listened predominantly to thrash and nu-metal, Burnt by the Sun was the band to get me into metal.  They went out on top with Heart of Darkness. As yet, no other metal band has approximated their style, nor do I expect anyone to do so.

July 18, 2014

Strike While the Iron Is Hot

When it comes to reviewing metal albums, timing is important.  Although I haven't strove to be the first to have my opinion out there, my preference is to get it out as soon as possible before people stop caring about the album enough to read reviews about it.

I don't read reviews all that often myself.

I've been thinking about my own process of reviewing albums and the music that I've listened to in 2014.  When I started the blog last year the foundation was intended to be metal reviews.  But I was doing work here and elsewhere, and by the time 2013 ended, the spark had pretty much died out.

That explains why I reviewed four things in January and didn't do much writing about metal until recently.  It's a part of the story, at least.

Since February, I had misplaced my urge to write, mostly because the music I was listening to just wasn't inspiring me.  As a result, view counts in February and March tumbled.

Now that I've found the spark to write again, I find that I'm without a lot to write about, unless I decide to get on a schedule for putting out metal reviews.  And this is where the problem that I've been mulling over for the last few days comes into play.

To be honest, I don't know how I feel about most of what I've heard.

I don't feel comfortable committing to a review that states unequivocally "I like [album]" or "I dislike [album]".  The purpose of Nothing Has Changed after all, is to attempt quality writing.  I may not always succeed, but damn it if I don't try.  And if I'm writing mediocre reviews of mediocre albums...well, that's just not acceptable to me.  So in the interim I've concentrated mostly on sports and manga, with the occasional interlude about metal.

I want to be able to say something definitive about an album that I review. That requires me to have a certain level of familiarity with it.  Unfortunately, acquiring familiarity with each album that I've been listening to for the last couple of months has become difficult.  Not impossible, by any means, but difficult enough that it has impaired my productivity.

The reason I'm not able to say much of anything definitively is the utter mediocrity that 2014 has brought us.  When I heard many of the albums that appear on my Best Metal Albums of 2013 list, not only was I inspired, but I knew whether or not I liked them in just a few listens.

Metal in 2014 is not nearly as cut-and-dry.  There are a lot of releases that have yet to hit me in that way, but the few that have are likely to show up at the end of the year.  One problem with that, though, is that so many of them have been covered nigh-obsessively by other metal writers on the internet.

While I like to get my name out there as much as the next guy, I don't care to look like a bandwagon hopper.  And if I were to review Thantifaxath or Yautja or Alraune, I get the feeling that I'd look like I'm jumping on the hype train.

I'm not into hype.  And while I appreciate being a part of the consensus on certain albums, it's usually the case that people are in agreement because of some nebulous factor that I don't usually see or understand, because I'm coming at these albums from my own idiosyncratic perspective (much discussed in other entries).

So while I would like to be more productive as it relates to reviewing albums I'm listening to, I will continue to refrain from doing so until I'm comfortable with offering a definitive view that I won't have to go back and edit later.

I won't be ahead of the curve, by any means.  But I'm fine with that.

July 17, 2014

July 16, 2014

Bleach 589 - The Shooting Star Project [The Old and New Trust]

Another week, another Bleach chapter.  Let's talk about this weirdness.

Spoilers after the cut.


July 15, 2014

24: Live Another Day

I know, I didn't recap the show while it was on, but since it's over I figured I would talk about 24: Live Another Day for just a bit.

Obviously, spoilers are forthcoming.


July 14, 2014

Mr. Parsons Goes to ...Dallas?!

My favorite basketball team got bounced in the first round of the playoffs.  It's been a couple months since and now that free agency is in full swing, fans across the world are looking at what their teams are doing (or not doing, in some cases) to improve for next season.

The GM and head coach will remain the same in 2014-2015.  No problem there; consistency is good.  The only time you can have too much consistency is if your team is stuck in a rut and can't extricate themselves from it.  That's not the problem the Rockets have currently.

While the world waited breathlessly for LeBron to decide what he was going to do, the Rockets were preparing to make moves to acquire one of their major targets: Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh.  They even kicked the tires on LeBron, just in case the best player in the world wanted to play here in Houston.

Of course, he didn't.  As it turns out, Anthony and Bosh weren't terribly receptive either.

In a way, I can understand Anthony's choice.  Houston may be a very large city, but it's not as "large" as the others he was looking at.  Plus there's that whole money thing.  It's fine, though, as I wasn't particularly enthused about the idea of him being a Rocket anyway.

Chris Bosh, on the other hand, would have fit like a glove.  At least, that's what some national basketball writers want us to believe.  I'm inclined to believe that he would have fit in, but that an adjustment period would have been necessary.

But really, that's the case with any well-known player that comes in. Adjustments have to be made; the others guys have to learn his style/tendencies and vice versa.

At any rate, Bosh wasn't interested and stayed in Miami where he could be more well-rewarded financially.  And that's fine.  I don't begrudge the guy making a ton of money while the iron is hot.  Who knows if that opportunity will come around again?  Not me, certainly.

This leads us to another name Rockets fans are familiar with: Trevor Ariza. He played with the Wizards in 2013-2014 and was quite formidable.  He brought shooting and defense to a team that needed it.  Is he as great as Anthony or Bosh?  Nah, but that's not the point.  No GM can build a team entirely with stars, after all.

With Ariza coming aboard, that left the GM an important decision.  He had turned down an option to retain SF Chandler Parsons for the 2014-2015 season which would have had him coming back for peanuts.  Parsons was then signed to an offer sheet (being that he was a "restricted" free agent) and the Rockets were given three days to match it or turn it down.

The GM had already signed (or traded for, as we're now hearing) Ariza, and the perception is that Parsons had become expendable.

Is he?  Personally, I think not.  I know there are salary cap considerations at play, even with the moves the GM made to free up space (namely, dumping Omer Asik on New Orleans and Jeremy Lin on the Lakers), so keeping Parsons while bringing in Ariza was likely not feasible.  But consider the depth of the team for a moment: right now, there's hardly any.  Yes, the stars are still in place, but what's around them?  Other than Ariza, who slots in at SF, you've got Beverley starting at PG and Terrence Jones starting at PF, with Motiejunas to back him up.  Canaan and Troy Daniels are still around, I think...but Omri Casspi is reportedly on his way out too.

There's also the fact that Dallas is a natural rival.  The Rockets let one of their better players (after Howard/Harden, obviously) go, got nothing in return, and they get to play against him four times a year for the foreseeable future.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry, really.

But the whole point of this post is this: the Rockets traded away Chase Budinger to get Parsons into the starting lineup, and now they've given him away, for nothing.

Savvy observers would call this a "business decision".  And I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the Budinger trade brought the Rockets an important draft pick: the one that they used to pick Terrence Jones.

Oh, and the last time Trevor Ariza was a Rocket, he was traded for Courtney Lee.  Lee wasn't long for the Rockets, through no fault of his own, and was later traded for what one might disparagingly call "spare parts".

Perhaps in time I'll understand why the Rockets let Parsons go.  Right now I'm skeptical that I'll ever get it and I'm intensely skeptical that basically trading Parsons for Ariza will work out favorably.

Still, I can't help but wonder...the team traded away a guy for the express purpose of putting Parsons in the starting lineup.  He was with the team for three seasons and was showing evident improvement.  Parsons isn't the most consistent player and his defense could use some work, but these are matters that could be fixed, either through experience or coaching.  They're certainly not anything that would make you consider dumping the guy, especially when he's yet to hit his prime.

He'll be hitting his prime in Dallas, most likely.  And he'll be torching the Rockets at every opportunity I'm sure, in an effort to prove the team wrong.

This off-season was about making the team better after a first-round exit. Have they done so?  Not in my eyes.  They traded one SF for another while getting rid of solid bench players and struck out horrifically on every major free agent they chased after.

Hardly the successful off-season one might have expected.

Skarab - Skarab (2012)

First things first: listen to Skarab at Bandcamp.

Inevitably, no matter how much effort I put into listening to metal in a given year, I end up missing something.

2012 was a great year for metal, too.  So that just made things more difficult as far as keeping track of all the great releases.  I'll remember it for bands like Christian Mistress, Yakuza, Anhedonist, Pallbearer, Krallice, and Sigh. And that's only a portion of the releases I enjoyed!

As it turns out, Skarab is another band that belongs with those that I just named.

The Metal Archives lists Skarab as "avant-garde" metal.  I find it to be an appropriate categorization, more so than "progressive".  To me, progressive implies that the band is going from A-to-B in a song and the journey is an important part of it.  Skarab's songs don't really do this; they start on the outside and tend to stay there.  The album as a whole could be taken as a journey, though.

The band's Bandcamp page notes that the music is written by Tim Steffens (also of Klabautamann) and Skarab.  That implies that Steffens brought in the basic ideas that were then fleshed out into the songs you hear by he and the other three members.

Christian Kolf is on vocals only for this release.  The rhythm section is comprised of two gentlemen who had recently joined the Zeitgeister collective; Skarab is their first release.

Obviously, given that Steffens and Kolf are working together here, the expectation would be that the effort of a great songwriter is complemented by that of another.

After opening track "Heat" (which not coincidentally guaranteed that I'd buy this eventually), though, it may take a few listens for the listener to be receptive to the album's charms.

To my ears, the best songs reside after "Body of a Graveyard", which itself is the album's least entertaining track.  The other nine do more than enough to make up for that. You've got the double-bass flurries in "The Rabbi of Weeds", syncopated riffing of "Stone Torches", and intricate arpeggios and density of "I Am the Winding Stair".  Then "Unarmed Sailor" closes the record as strongly as "Heat" opened it.

Kolf's performance is notable, given that he's not playing guitar.  His clean vocals sit at or near the center of each track.  "You wish, you pray", he intones in "Sunset", providing one of the album's most sublime moments as Steffens plays some hefty chords and a second guitar adds a melody over top. This is a trick that is utilized fairly well throughout the album: Steffens has rhythm tracks that are augmented by melodic counterparts, sometimes slow and plaintive and others tremelo-picked to add a bit more spice.

Really, there's so much more that could be said, but it is in listening that one will find the greatest reward.  Skarab is the product of great songwriters, a well-executed slice of avant-garde metal that does not go so far as to alienate, but satisfies with the strength of its positioning outside of the norm.

July 13, 2014

Reevaluations

If you follow me on Twitter (@big_red01027) you're probably aware that I use the hashtag #NP to indicate what I'm listening to.

I try to keep these unique.  That usually means that when I return to something (which I do more often than my feed would suggest), I don't use the hashtag and instead offer up some kind of commentary about the record in question.

I don't pretend that I'm going to feel a certain way about an album for all time.  Sure, my judgments are swift and cutting, but they're not always lasting.

Two bands that I've reconsidered in the last couple of days are Agalloch and Yellow Eyes.

In the case of Agalloch, I listened to their new one, The Serpent & the Sphere, and the previous Faustian Echoes EP.  The former surprised me by being so enthralling and just damn enjoyable.  The latter is shorter, but no less fiery.

These two releases led me to wonder aloud, where was that fire on Marrow of the Spirit?  No matter where I looked, I saw people extolling its virtues incessantly back in 2010.  It topped lists all over the internet.

I wouldn't call myself an Agalloch fan at this point.  I have no intention of revisiting their other albums (especially Marrow of the Spirit), because honestly I don't really have enough time for it.

But I wouldn't be surprised to see The Serpent & the Sphere on my best of 2014 list.  That album does something that very few have done this year: it is intriguing and maintains throughout.

Yellow Eyes is a band that comes highly recommended from various corners of the internet.  As usual, I didn't quite get it.  Their debut LP, Hammer of Night, seemed like an uninteresting (aside from the last track) Krallice-esque slice of USBM.

I gave it another try earlier and was pleasantly surprised.  I was still listening through the Bandcamp player, so it sounded the same (no EQ option generally means that albums sound flat, no matter how well they're produced), but I reacted to it differently.

I guess that's the point of reevaluating releases.  It gives you the chance to react to the album differently.  After all, the music didn't change, but apparently I did.

One other thing I should note: I've closed down the comment section, mostly out of spite due to inactivity.  Nothing Has Changed gets plenty of views for my taste; I've said this before, but it bears repeating that the blog has performed in excess of any expectation I might have placed on it, especially in 2014 when I've not been riding anyone else's coattails.

So, dear reader, if you like this piece and want to discuss it (or anything else, really), feel free to drop me a line on Twitter.  You can find it at the top of this post.

July 10, 2014

One Year

On July 9, 2013 I joined Twitter with the intent of promoting my writing.

On July 10, 2013 I started this blog.  Happy birthday, blog.

I can't say with certainty that I've accomplished what I set out to do.  But at the same time, I've done more than I thought I could.

How does that work?  Well, despite my recent distaste for reviews (which has to do with my own ennui as much as it does the utter mediocrity of metal in 2014), I've managed to garner more attention to my writing than I thought I ever would.

And for that, I say thank you.  While the blog hasn't led to as much interaction (and thus, conversation) as I would like, I know by the stats that people are viewing the blog and reading what I write.

I hope everyone who has read Nothing Has Changed over the past year found some enjoyment from it.

Again, thank you to all the readers here in the States and worldwide.

The Bridge (US) - Season 2, Episode 1 "Yankee" Recap

Season 2 of The Bridge started last night.

Spoilers and confusion galore...after the cut.


July 9, 2014

July 3, 2014

Scowling at the Dictionary: Hook vs. Riff

In writing about Mastodon and their vocal "hooks", I started thinking about what that word means and how it might differ from the word "riff".

What better source to consult than the dictionary, right?  In this case, dictionary.reference.com.

Here is where things get dicey.

First, let's give the definitions of each word in their proper musical context:

Hook means: "an appealing melodic phrase, orchestral ornament, refrain, etc., often important to a popular song's commercial success". (source)

Riff means: "a melodic phrase, often constantly repeated, forming an accompaniment or part of an accompaniment for a soloist". (source)

Notice the thing each definition has in common.  Like I said, dicey.

I've made mention of my guiding musical principle: "rhythm determines melody".  In my usage of riff as an idea or as an easily identifiable piece of a song, I emphasize the fact that rhythm is the most important aspect.  Melody is secondary and often not important.

For example, take the riff that is first played around 5:50 in Owl's "You Are the Moon, I Am the Night".  Given that I don't have official tablature of the song and don't play by ear, I can't specifically say what notes are being played or the precise rhythm.

What I can say is that the riff is comprised of two notes: a low note that sounds palm-muted, and a second note at least one octave higher (if not more) that is then bent.  The bend is slow and gradual.  The riff is given space to breathe by Patrick Schroeder's drumming and is accompanied by a second guitar that plays a repetitive tapping phrase.  Schroeder then adds double-bass to the beat to give this part of the song extra force.

I've discussed Owl before in my review of their second LP.  The point of the above paragraph is to illustrate that Christian Kolf could have used any two notes to make that riff and it probably would have worked.  Thus, the melody is secondary to the rhythm (and especially the use of a slow, gradual bend) here.

So in the context of metal and the way I use the word, riff should be defined as "a rhythmic phrase, often repeated, forming the backbone of a song".

A hook, on the other hand, has an insistent quality that is not present in a riff.  It is not composed based on the principle of "rhythm determines melody" and in fact only exists to grab the listener's attention forcefully.

That is the difference as I see it.  A hook grabs the listener via melody, while a riff is rhythmic and allows the listener to meet it on his/her own terms.

July 1, 2014

Mastodon: Succeeding at Being Metallica, or Failing to Be Rush?

I was thinking about Mastodon and an interesting thread emerged.  The development they went through over their first four albums and subsequent simplification with The Hunter seems a bit...familiar, doesn't it?

June 30, 2014

Serpentine Path - Emanations (2014)

First things first: listen to Emanations at Bandcamp.

I suppose it's still a common complaint that a band has changed "too much" or "not enough" for any individual at any given time.

The new album from Serpentine Path finds itself on the side of "not enough", an unfortunate development given the amount of talent present.

For my part, I guess I was expecting a bit more refinement.  The band added guitarist Stephen Flam and I thought this would lead to more complex or winding guitar parts.  Instead, we have basically the same thing as the 2012 S/T: a bunch of doom tracks that are based on simplistic rhythms with sparse leads.  Granted, there's still the vicious vocal approach of Ryan Lipynsky, and the rhythm section of Darren Verni and Jay Newman is reliable.

There's a severe dearth of energy and memorability in the songwriting, though.  The album as a whole comes off as a rehash of the first LP, except for the fact that it sounds a lot more boring.  There isn't a track like "Aphelion" to invigorate the senses, however briefly.

I'm sure others will refer to this album as a "crushing monolith" of doom, or something to that effect.  And maybe under other circumstances I would agree.  But as it stands now, Emanations is not something I care to return to.

June 27, 2014

How's Your 2014?

After last year's (somewhat) successful post outlining what I was looking forward to in 2013 and talking about what I liked in the first half of the year in metal, I thought I would do the same thing this year.

Then I saw this, from @Metaltxt on Twitter:


Well, my work is done, isn't it?  Since I can't do funnier and most people find seriousness to be an utter bore, I think I'll leave it at that.

Thanks to Metal.txt for the image and the lulz.  There's nothing like the lulz in this case, really.

Also, if you haven't checked them out already (and I'm betting you have), go listen to the new releases from Alraune, Thantifaxath, Yautja, and Diocletian.

And don't forget Incantation either!

At any rate, here's what I'm looking forward to for the rest of 2014 (at least, that I know the release dates for):

Corrosion of Conformity - IX [7/1, delayed from 6/24]

Origin - Omnipresent [7/8]

Wolvhammer - Clawing into Black Sun [7/8]

Mutilation Rites - Harbinger [7/22]

Overkill - White Devil Armory [7/22]

Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden [8/19]

YOB - Clearing the Path to Ascend [9/2]

Cannibal Corpse - A Skeletal Domain [9/16]

Decapitated - Blood Mantra [9/30]

Witch Mountain - Mobile of Angels [9/30]

Occultation - Silence in the Ancestral House [10/14]

If those dates change, I'll try to note them.

Given that the playoffs have been over in the NBA and NHL for a while, I'm thinking that I might get back into music reviews.  Otherwise, until The Bridge starts its second season, I really have nothing else to write about other than Bleach.

June 25, 2014

Bleach 586 - The Headless Star 5

New Bleach chapter, let's talk, you know the drill.

Spoilers after the cut.  And some tasty action too.


June 18, 2014

Bleach 585 - The Headless Star 4

There's a new Bleach chapter out.  So I'm talking about it!

Spoilers after the cut.  You know, the usual.

June 16, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 44

A mere two days later, another series ends and we move on to the dog days of summer.

Game 5: Miami vs. San Antonio.

LeBron James had an incredible game.  He started off by putting up 17 points in the first quarter.  He ended up with 31, plus 10 rebounds.

Sadly, though, he's not the story of this game.  Either that, or he is the story, but not for the reasons you'd think.

San Antonio started slowly; they were down 22-6 at one point, but like just about every other team in the playoffs, they eradicated the lead and started building one of their own.

The only problem was that Miami wasn't really up to the challenge after the first quarter.  It's not the only time that happened in this series, either.

The Spurs' trio of Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker was excellent as usual, even if it took Parker a while to get going.  But it was Kawhi Leonard who stole the show, cementing what has been the greatest series of his young career thus far.  He put up 22 points and 10 rebounds, on 7-of-10 shooting.  Leonard fouled out late in the game and I honestly didn't notice.  It didn't even dim his impact in the slightest.

Because Leonard's performance single-handedly turned the series, he earned the Finals MVP and was presented the trophy by Bill Russell.

If that's not a career highlight, I don't know what is.

What's funny about this game is that Danny Green wasn't really a part of it. And yet, due to the style that the Spurs play, his absence wasn't completely detrimental.  In fact, they had little to no problem as other guys stepped up, notably Patty Mills.

This makes five titles for the Spurs and Tim Duncan.  Ginobili and Parker have four.  It's been an incredible run.  It'll be sad to see it end, but I'm not entirely sure that they can't make another go at it next season.

Congratulations to the San Antonio Spurs.

San Antonio wins the series 4-1.  They win the NBA Championship.

June 14, 2014

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 48

It's been a long journey, and now we come to the end.

Game 5: NY Rangers vs. Los Angeles.

The 2013-2014 NHL season was the first that I followed intently.  I've probably talked about this before, but I think it bears mentioning again because of the way it ended.

Really, could it have ended any better?  After months of play, including an Olympic break, then over a month-and-a-half of playoffs, we finally have a champion.

The Los Angeles Kings won last night in double overtime, 3-2.

The game was tense throughout.  The Rangers gave up an early lead but stormed back in the second period to take a 2-1 lead.  Marian Gaborik, as usual, was in fine form and scored in the third to tie it up.

Those first three periods were just an appetizer to what has to be one of the greatest things in American sports: overtime playoff hockey.  There were many things that stood out in those two overtime periods.  Here are a couple:

How about Chris Kreider's breakaway at the end of the 1st OT?

There was the Rangers power play in the 2nd OT that looked like it might decide the game.

Rick Nash had a surefire winner but was deflected by Voynov's stick.

And of course, there's the game and Stanley Cup-clinching goal.  Alec Martinez skated into the offensive zone on a 3-on-2 rush, passed the puck, and was in position to grab the rebound that bounced off of Lundqvist.  One shot later and it was all over.  I watched the play live and on replay, and just watched the highlight again as I wrote.  Honestly, it was an amazing play, and the finality of it just gave me the feeling of having my innards ripped out of my body.

I can't wait for next season to start.  This journey, especially the playoffs and all the entries that I wrote about them, was incredible and I'm ready and willing to do it all over again in October.

Congratulations to the Los Angeles Kings.

Los Angeles wins the series 4-1.  They win the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons.