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.

June 13, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 43

Normally, people say that a series turns in Game 3.  I think this one just turned in Game 4.

Game 4: San Antonio vs. Miami.

Prior to the Finals, Miami hadn't lost at home.  Also, after each loss in the playoffs, they'd won the next game 13 times.

They lost Game 3 at home and then lost Game 4 as well.  In neither game could anyone have said that they had an actual chance of winning.

Sure, there was that moment in Game 3 where they got within 10 points.

And there were a few minutes in the beginning of Game 4 where they looked like they could match the Spurs' intensity and execution.  Unfortunately, it didn't last much longer than those first few minutes.

Now the Spurs are up 3-1 and I don't see how Miami mounts a comeback. They may win Game 5 in San Antonio...but it doesn't seem particularly likely at this point.

Even if they won Game 5, I can't imagine them being able to put together two more efforts like that in a row.  Not when San Antonio has played as well as they have the last two games.

Before the series started I heard about the supposed advantage in depth that San Antonio possesses.  This is a bit of a misnomer anyway since Popovich can alter his starting lineup due to the amount of versatility present.  But there's really no way of getting around the fact that while San Antonio might not have as many big-money or big-name players as Miami (or most other NBA teams), they have more good players than just about any other team you can name.  It's the reason they ran roughshod over Portland and then took out OKC, and it's the reason they're going to get their fifth title as a franchise.

Miami could counter the Spurs if it was just Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker they had to worry about.  But now the Spurs have Danny Green to spread the floor, Boris Diaw to make plays and take it inside (where the Heat are at their weakest, in the most painfully obvious way), and Kawhi Leonard to do a bit of everything and generally look like the best player on the floor when he's on his game.

Hell, it might be enough to say that Kawhi Leonard playing better in Games 3 & 4 is what has made the difference.  But that would be a mistake too, as it would discount the amazingly precise execution that every guy wearing a Spurs uniform has shown out there.

It was a good run for Miami.  Based on this series, at least, it's time to add a couple peripheral guys that can help take the load off of the "Big Three". Guys like Danny Green, Boris Diaw, or Kawhi Leonard.

San Antonio leads 3-1.  Game 5 is Sunday.

June 12, 2014

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 47

Elimination waits for another night.

Game 4: Los Angeles vs. NY Rangers.

The Rangers may not be out, but they're not in this series, either.

They won 2-1 last night but were out-shot 41-19.  That just counts shots on goal, not the ones that were blocked or missed.  Not that it matters much; LA would hold a huge advantage either way.

Quick and Lundqvist were both great, obviously.  In a low-scoring game like this, the goaltenders put in a solid effort.  Lundqvist was rewarded by being named the first star of the night.

Pouliot and St. Louis scored for the Rangers.  Kings' captain Dustin Brown had the goal for the other side.

So what does this mean, really?

Well, the Rangers won a game.  And they proved that they're not going away easily, which in this case just means they're not getting swept.

But do they have a chance to win the series?

I think that ship sailed when they lost Game 3 in about as convincing a win as you'll see in the playoffs.  The Rangers weren't in that game in any sense of the word, despite having a bunch of shots on goal.

Going down 3-0 is not something that is conducive to winning a series.  Sure, you can point to the Kings doing it earlier this postseason against the Sharks, but that's a fool's errand if I've ever seen one.  A team going up 3-0 and then giving up that lead is a rarity.  It doesn't happen in the NBA and it happens slightly more frequently in the NHL.

That's not to say the Rangers didn't play well last night.  They certainly did. I don't think they have the firepower to win the next three games, especially with Quick in the opposing net.

Then again, these are all elimination games now.  And Lundqvist has proven that in an elimination game, you want him in net.

Los Angeles leads 3-1.  Game 5 is Friday.

June 11, 2014

Bleach 584 - The Headless Star 3

New Bleach chapter.  Let's talk about it!

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 42

All streaks must end.  I guess?

Game 3: San Antonio vs. Miami.

Tied at one, the series shifted from San Antonio to Miami.  Thankfully, nothing odd happened.

Yet, at the same time, Miami forgot to show up.

There was a moment in the third quarter when they got within 10.  That didn't last long.  For most of the game, Miami was down double-digits.

There's not much I can point to, really.  Other than Kawhi Leonard being awesome (a welcome change from the first two games, I'm certain) and the Spurs putting up 71 in the first half, I'm not really sure how it happened.

Once again, the Heat were held under 100 points.  And the Spurs got over 100 fairly easily (though it helped that they were damn near 3/4 of the way there after the first half).

It has to be frustrating to have Games 3 & 4 at home and not show up in the first one.  Now there'll be pressure from all sides to win Game 4 and not go down 3-1.  They were lacking home-court going in and now that San Antonio has won, the Spurs have taken back home-court.

It's like neither team wants it, honestly.

I wonder how much traction there would be for playing the Finals at a neutral site.  I'm guessing next to none, since the playoffs as a whole are based on the same home-away paradigm that exists in the regular season, and that the fans would really get screwed in a neutral site situation.  Either that or it'd get overrun by corporate sponsors a la the Super Bowl.

I can't even imagine seven games worth of that.

But anyway, digressions aside, I hope that Miami shows up better in Game 4. Last night's effort was disappointing when all was said and done.  That brief glimmer of hope was stamped out when the Spurs realized "Oh yeah, we were winning this one handily.  Let's keep doing that"!

San Antonio leads 2-1.  Game 4 is Thursday.

Interesting schedule quirk: one day off between Games 3 & 4, two days off between 4 & 5 (as it should be, really).

June 10, 2014

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 46

So much for the series being even, in any sense.

Game 3: Los Angeles vs. NY Rangers.

Even with a 2-0 lead, I was certain that the Kings weren't clearly better than the Rangers.

Now the Kings are up 3-0 after a 3-0 win (not a coincidence, I'm sure).  And whatever I thought about this series has basically gone out the window.

The slight glimmer of hope that remains is that the Rangers out-shot the Kings in Game 3, 32-15.  How's it possible to have that kind of advantage in shots on goal (and likely possession as well) and come away with nothing?

Jonathan Quick.

I've called him overrated.  The media has said that he hasn't brought his best to any of the series the Kings have been in.

And yet, the Kings have a 3-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final because Jonathan Quick refused to let anything past him, despite the 2-to-1 margin in shots on goal.

For Quick to have a shutout at this stage of the playoffs says a lot about him and a lot about the team in general.  Despite not being able to score goals for most of the regular season (something that only began to pick up with the acquisition of Marian Gaborik, but was really only felt after Game 3 of the first round), and not looking good in general, the Kings are on the precipice of their second Stanley Cup in three years.

This could very well be the beginning of something quite interesting on the West Coast.  Or maybe that was 2012, and 2014 is the continuation of that intriguing beginning.

But assuming Quick doesn't do something stupid like give up five goals in Game 4, this series is o-v-e-r.

Los Angeles leads 3-0.  Game 4 is Wednesday.

June 9, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 41

Heading back to Miami, the Heat take back home-court advantage.

Game 2: Miami vs. San Antonio.

Apparently there were no problems with the A/C this time.  That's better for everyone all around.

It also helps that after two games in the Finals, it's even.

LeBron had 35 & 10 last night.  Pretty impressive numbers.

After the first quarter, in which Miami looked a bit out of sorts, the game was close.  It was tied at 43 at halftime.  The third quarter saw an offensive explosion for both teams.  That's a rarity, as the 3rd is usually when one teams pulls away from the other in these playoffs.

The fourth quarter wasn't quite as explosive, and Miami ended up pulling away ever so slightly by the end of it.

Of course, the margin would have been five had Ginobili's buzzer-beating three-pointer not gone in.  It doesn't really change the fact that Miami had the game in their hands at the end of it.

If there's anything to be concerned about for Miami, it may be the three-point shooting.  As a team they were 8-for-19, which isn't bad.  Ray Allen made one (of a mere three), and Rashard Lewis was 3-for-7.

Obviously, if they make more shots, the game isn't as close.

But really, despite not making some jumpers, Miami's offense was about as crisp as could be expected.  Sure, there were occasions where they flubbed it, but that happens to every team in virtually every game at some point.

The series is tied 1-1.  Game 3 is Tuesday.

One day off for travel, huh?  Once again, the schedule makes no sense.

June 8, 2014

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 45

Back to NYC we go.

Game 2: NY Rangers vs. Los Angeles.

I can't help but think that despite the hole the Rangers currently find themselves in, it's really not that bad.

I know, they're down 2-0 going back to MSG.  Lundqvist has given up eight goals.  The defense, especially Dan Girardi, is not up to snuff.

But come on.  This series is dead even in every aspect excepts wins and losses.

People can bang the gloom & doom drum all they want, but if they do they're obviously ignoring the fundamental fact of this series: both games so far went into overtime.  Game 2 went into double overtime.  Do the Kings really have an advantage other than the even more obvious 2-0 lead?

They sure as hell don't.

There may have been questionable calls in Game 2.  What I notice from watching the highlights is that the first and fourth Kings goals were awfully fluky.

Not only that, it's not like the Rangers packed up their tent when they led 4-2 in the second period.  They had bonafide chances in the 3rd and both overtime periods.  The puck just didn't go in the net.

This series so far has not been characterized by one team pummeling the other.  It's been even.  The Kings have made two plays, one in OT off a terrible turnover, and one fluke in double OT that just happened to go in.

It just so happens that those plays are the ones that determine that it's 2-0 for the Kings.

Of course, now it's incumbent on the Rangers to realize that, yes, they're still in the series.

I realize this is a bit of a swerve from a previous view in which I declared Montreal out of the series after going down 2-0.  But let's face it, that series between the Rangers and Canadiens was not like this one.

At any rate, the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final have been incredible. I just hope they can keep up the pace in Games 3 & 4.

Los Angeles leads 2-0.  Game 3 is Monday.

Another scheduling quirk: one day off between games when travel is involved, after a double OT game.  Yeah, I don't get it either.

June 6, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 40

The NBA Finals get started!  A joyous time, even with the dog days just ahead of us.

Game 1: Miami vs. San Antonio.

After the third quarter, it was looking good for Miami.  The 1st quarter was uneven, at best, but they had outscored the Spurs in the 2nd and 3rd and had a lead.

Then something awfully odd happened.

No, it wasn't the A/C going out.  That happened earlier.  I mean LeBron James going out with cramps.

Since I have no medical training or athletic ability, or anything else that might qualify me to speak intelligently, really the only thing I can call it is odd.  I don't recall seeing anything like that before, and I've been watching basketball seriously for over 20 years.

My memory isn't the best, but still.  Something like this stands out. Naturally, so does the A/C going out.  That really seemed to affect both teams, but it appears to have affected LeBron the most.  Or maybe that's a cheap out. Like I said, I have no clue, really.

What I do know is that Miami wilted in the 4th.  They scored 17 points total. Danny Green of the Spurs, on the other hand, was on fire, hitting three three-pointers and adding a nasty dunk on top of it.  A deficit for the Spurs turned into a 15-point victory.

A close game turned into what looks like a blowout.  This is not what happens to Miami, especially in these playoffs.  Miami is usually the one hitting 4th (or 5th) gear and running straight away from the competition.  Last night, they were the ones left behind.  It wasn't pretty, to say the least.

Tim Duncan was also incredibly efficient.  He missed one shot from the field. I mean, I know the guy is a surefire Hall of Famer, but even still, that's not something you see every day.  He finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Miami really has no answer for Duncan, but they ought to be able to corral Parker and Ginobili a bit more successfully.

I don't think this game has much of an implication on the rest of the series. It's going at least six, if not seven.  And I'm still confident that Miami will pull it out in the end.

San Antonio leads 1-0.  Game 2 is Sunday.

Usually I would bemoan the extra days between games when no travel is involved, but in this case, it may prove beneficial...to both teams.

June 5, 2014

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 44

The Stanley Cup Final begins.  And what do you know, it didn't end 1-0!

Game 1: NY Rangers vs. Los Angeles.

Not only was there more than one goal scored, but the game went to overtime as well.

An exciting beginning to a series that looks like it'll be more than just the Kings dominating.

In fact, in an interesting turn of events, the Rangers were the ones who came out strong.  They had two goals in the first period and led 2-1 afterward.

Of course, that lead wasn't going to last.  Hell, they were up 2-0 in the first period and that lasted a few minutes at most.

Drew Doughty scored the equalizer in the second period.  The Rangers couldn't manage a response and Quick saved all the shots on goal after the first.

This obviously became a problem in the third; neither team scored and that took the game into overtime.

Around five minutes into the OT period, Justin Williams scored the game-winner.  I don't know how the Rangers allowed this.  In fact, when the goal was scored, I openly questioned how they could let him score, of all people. Surely they saw what he had done in the seventh game of the prior series LA had played.  They had to know that he's a big-game guy and was looking to make his mark once again.

Alas, it was not to be.  And while the Rangers lost and are down 1-0 in the series, they proved that it's not going to be a runaway.  Even if their offense gets shut down for long amounts of time, they still have a solid defense and one of the best goaltenders in the NHL behind it.

Los Angeles leads 1-0.  Game 2 is Saturday.

Yup, more unnecessary days off when there's no travel between games.

June 4, 2014

June 2, 2014

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 43

Stanley Cup Final, here we come.

Game 7: Los Angeles vs. Chicago.

And it's Chicago who finishes in third place.  Or tied for third.  Whichever.

Either way, it's a disappointing result for a team that fought back from being down 3-1 against a team that probably should have won this series in five games.

Of course, what compounds the disappointment is the fact that the Blackhawks ran out to a 3-2 lead and then led 4-3 after two periods.  Had they been able to hold that lead, everything would have been fine.

Either that, or find a way to score a fifth goal in regulation.

Since neither of those things happened, Kings D Alex Martinez put his stamp on the series by ending it.

It's not all bad for the Blackhawks.  Patrick Sharp found his form after scuffling for a series or two.  Brandon Saad, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews are obviously great and should continue on that route.

But let's face it, this team was undone by Corey Crawford.  Or the defense who allowed shots to get past them and to Crawford.  I honestly don't know which is the more guilty party at this point.

I'm tempted to just stick it all on Crawford, 2013 performance be damned. Because you know what?  There wasn't an empty-netter in this game and the Blackhawks were ahead for pretty much all of it.

I guess I'm disappointed, mostly.  My hope was to see a rematch of Chicago and Boston in the Stanley Cup Final.  Neither team will be there.  Instead we get the fifth-best team in the East and the sixth-best team in the West.

I'm sure it isn't a coincidence that these teams are from the two biggest media markets in the entire country.

Nah, that couldn't have anything to do with it.

My enthusiasm for the Final dimmed, I shall continue on.

Los Angeles wins the series 4-3.  They move on to the Stanley Cup Final.

Later today...you're kidding, right?  The Stanley Cup Final starts on Wednesday.  Thankfully, only two days off before continuing.  But those dog days of summer are just getting closer.

June 1, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 39

And now we wait for the Finals to begin.

Game 6: San Antonio vs. Oklahoma City.

After a largely ineffective first half, the San Antonio Spurs put together a great third and a decent fourth to get the game to overtime.

Ginobili had a shot to end it in regulation.  Instead, he drew iron.

In the overtime session, Tim Duncan put his stamp on the game.  He had a huge basket and a pair of free throws that gave them the winning margin.

Durant and Westbrook were excellent, despite their combined shooting percentage.  Actually, they were far from the only players to be inefficient shooting the ball last night.

The main problem seemed to be their bench.  With Reggie Jackson starting, there's little to no firepower left there.  Derek Fisher put up five points...and that was that.

Luckily, the starters came to play.

But the big third quarter for the Spurs, and the bounceback OKC had in the fourth is what will define this game.  Not to mention the way the Spurs executed in overtime.  The overtime period was not the cleanest basketball I've seen; both teams looked rushed and generally out-of-sync.  San Antonio just made the plays they needed to.

Two years ago, Oklahoma City overwhelmed the Spurs.  In 2014, they didn't have James Harden.  I don't want to say that's the entire difference.  But did it play a part?  Certainly.

And now we have a repeat in the Finals that I'm unsure how to predict.  So I'll go with my default: Miami in 6.

San Antonio wins the series 4-2.  They move on to the NBA Finals.

Later today...there are no games.  The NBA Finals start Thursday.