Friday, June 18, 2010

Music Reviews for

I recently began writing for a website focusing on metal music and these are my first contributions. The review for Ana Kefr has not been posted yet, but it is well worth the read in my opinion!

Ana Kefr - Volume 1 (Musesick Records)
By Sara Heitman (

Clouds twirl in the wind. There is a rumble of thunder. We brace for the storm about to roll in. That storm is Ana Kefr. Hailing from the Inland Empire area of Southern California, Ana Kefr has just celebrated the one-year anniversary of the release of their debut album, Volume 1. People do not tend to expect much from a band that has been established for less than 2 years. However, Ana Kefr is here to show just how severely people are mistaken.

The cover of Volume 1 is simple and modest, yet intriguing. The blue disc winks at you and smiles coyly as it slips inside the player. A page turns. Your relationship begins. In the first chapter, the captivating clean vocals of frontman Rhiis D. Lopez draw you in. The alluring Arabic lyrics translate simply, "I think, therefore I am infidel," a phrase you will soon declare proudly.

However, don't be mistaken. This album should not to be taken lightly. It is not for the faint of heart, the easily offended, or the politically correct. It is not for those who refuse to accept reality and truth. Ana Kefr is the hand of Truth. Volume 1 is the slap in the face. That, my friends, becomes immediately apparent with "The Day that Guilt Turned White," followed shortly by "T.ruthless," and emphasized by "Takeover." These three songs are like steel-toed kicks to the face, putting back the jaw that just fell to the floor! Ana Kefr's overall sound is too difficult to classify under one or even several metal genres. If necessary, imagine black-progressive-metal-rock with classical undertones. Aware of this, Ana Kefr decided to coin "philosophy metal" as a new genre to encompass their unique sound.

No relationship would be complete without transformation and the tragedy of loss. A quality of grace and beauty has been given to death and anguish in the heartfelt songs "Avenue of the Queen" and "Orchid." Drowning darkness and crying guitars. Heart-wrenching keyboard solos and Lopez's versatile vocals expressing a wide range of intense emotion. All take center stage. Original founding members Bryce Loeffler (drums) and Trent Pichel (guitar) have also gracefully loosed the relationship ties of the band since Volume 1, leaving co-composers Kyle Coughran and Rhiis D. Lopez to continue executing Ana Kefr's message.

Acquiring three new members in 2010, Ana Kefr perseveres, scattering infidelity across the world. Fans agree the new members have proven themselves worthy of the task after they recently recorded the single track "Tonight We Watch the Children Fucking Burn." It was Ana Kefr's one-year anniversary of Volume 1 digital release. The infidel fans are now anxiously anticipating what is to come next from this progressive, philosophical metal band. The book of Volume 1 may have closed, but the legacy continues.

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The Funeral Pyre - Vultures at Dawn (Prosthetic Records/Creator Destructor/Forest Moon)
By Sara Heitman (

They say they are "a metal band with no ambition or hope. [They] have given up on people and life." If that were so, The Funeral Pyre would not have produced this exceptional album! Vultures at Dawn, their fourth studio release, is one of those albums that grows on you like moss on a gravestone. Described as melodic black metal, Vultures at Dawn presents a mix of both traditional and modern aspects of the black metal genre. Current members include James Joyce and Justin Garcia (guitars), Alex Hernandez (drums), John Strachan (vocals), and Adam Campbell (bass). Since forming in Southern California in 2004, they have steadily been producing completed works every other year.

"Personal Exile" has to be the best song on the album. Drums take the spotlight with a tribal sounding beginning, and beats counting down to your execution. Chaotic and energetic, unconventional sounds paired together keep this piece interesting from beginning to end. "Monolith", as implied by the name, stands alone. It is the only doom metal song on the album. Slow, painful death. Mournful screams like gargling stones. The album art from The Nature of Betrayal is what came to mind during this song, and depicts the mood portrayed precisely. Then, like faces plunged into cold water, we are brought back into reality by the fast beats of "Blistering Hands."

"Vultures" is the first track, and starts this album off on an eerie, creeping foot. The opening seconds sound like warning sirens; high pitched tones capturing your senses like eyelids forced open. When it slows down, it is even more ominous and powerful. Continuing to keep goosebumps propped up on the listeners flesh, we are brought to what sounds like the beginning of a zombie horror movie and begin "Destroying Gods." The guitars, seeming to moan at times, portray a quality of sadness and pleading and are complemented by the drums. The music and vocals, especially in this track, are somewhat reminiscent of Bathory and Burzum.

In the end, we are left "To Watch the Earth Rot." Fast paced drums with distorted guitars create the perfect head-banging music or background music to stomping on dead bodies. As a whole, this album grows on you and then it stays with you, like a heroin addiction. It will terrify your grandmother or a small child. It will stab your sister and leave her to rot and be eaten. Perhaps, vultures will find her at dawn. You are left without ambition or hope, surrounded by darkness. That is when you know you are experiencing superb black metal.

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Trident - World Destruction (Regain Records)
By Sara Heitman (

According to bass guitar player Alexander Friberg, "We have only one plan, one goal. That is to conquer the fucking the people that Trident are here to stay...and we don't fuck around." Those are some daring ambitions for a band like Trident who have only been present since late 2007. The members of this newly formed blackened death metal band from Sweden, however, are no strangers to the music world. With the exception of the lead guitarist Ewo Solvelius, each musician has come from a background of previously established bands. Johan Norman, the rhythm guitarist, originally played with Soul Reaper and Dissection. Alex was previously in Necrophobic and Karneywar, and Tobias Sidegard, the vocalist, was also from Necrophobic. Jonas Blom, the drummer, played with Grief of Emerald. They came together to create a new sound. The result? World Destruction.

A dramatic introduction. Open curtains. We are dragged into "The Trident" with slow, melodic metal. Drums, strings, and woodwinds. The majestic three-pronged spear rises slowly from beneath a darkened abyss. Abruptly, we are smacked straight down to hell to meet the "Jaws of Satan." Helplessly clinging by fingertips, slipping from the sharp fangs of the dark lord himself. Complete with blast beats and killer shreds, this is the most monumental song. It is energetic and angry. With a close second, "Luciferian Call" creates a frightful feeling. Imagine slowly searching for the killer who still sits inside your home. Suspiciously look around the corner of each riff and fear is in your heart. This one has sad and tragic moments with slow and pleading screams. In the end, all hope is lost and everything is dark.

Trident's style could be compared to the newly surfacing blackened death metal band Hate, from Poland, although not as extreme. Trident's vocals remain true to the black metal genre, rather than descending into the guttural growls which trademark death metal. They bring to mind the sound of a saw ripping through wood. For a debut album, the music is very well written and clearly recorded. It is important for music lovers to hear what each instrument is contributing to completely absorb the overall sound. This is true, especially with the level of intensity that Trident brings with World Destruction. All of the musicians in this band are obviously very talented; however, being talented and being innovative are two different things. There are unique pieces in each song that end up being drowned out by sounds that you would generally expect to hear from any other band of this genre.

In "Nemesis," the guitars emulate a sound as though they are sliding around and then bouncing off the walls with chaotic energy. The sliding guitar pulses follow the fast drums and angry growls. "Black Velvet Wings" presents an interesting technique where the guitars seem to mimic the distorted sound of an airplane's engine as it flies overhead. They become almost hypnotic with a to and fro pattern throughout "Stockholm Bloodbath," but you better stay on your toes with all the changes in timing. This would be a good song to play while running up and down the streets of Sweden smashing people's faces left and right! "Slaves to Anguish" grabs your attention with impressive guitar shreds in the beginning and leaves you feeling whipped and beaten to death by the drums. Threats of god sodomization signal “World Destruction," and the guitars toss their headstocks back with fluttery laughter. Buildings crumble and demolish. The countdown to the end.

"Blackened Souls" and "Mephisto" represent the calm before the storm and the aftermath. "Blackened Souls" is the breather track of the album as the only instrumental piece. It has peaceful acoustic sounds with a movie soundtrack quality. Short, simple, and sweet. The smoke has cleared and it is now apparent that there is nothing left in "Mephisto." Slow-paced and mournful, we are led to the world's funeral with solo upon epic solo. A final ring out, and it is over.

Overall, one can appreciate the work and thought put into the making of World Destruction. These are five talented musicians with an abundance of potential and a well-produced album. It is possible, because this is Trident's debut album, they have not quite found their own unique direction, which is a never-ending process for any band. However, their vision shines through in aspects of each song, and it would not be surprising if the next album that Trident releases is a powerful demonstration of their new set path.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

How to Stay Positive in a Changing Environment

With some recent negativity circulating around the call center, a contest has been created to try to lighten up the mood, or something. The winner gets 2 tickets to Sea World. Rhiis and I put our heads together and this is what we came up with. You think it's a winner?

The pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus once acknowledged that "nothing endures but change". Life itself, stripped to its fundamental root, is an infinite series of transformations and metamorphoses; a process that is indifferent to human convenience or preference. However, it is human nature to resist the relentless onslaught of change, and to create a sanctuary of stability and predictability for our own psychological comfort. Despite our need for repetition and pattern, does predictability really benefit us as much as embracing transformation could? When asked how one should stay positive in a changing environment, it is important to note the negative connotation attached to the word "change" in such a question. Our negative attitude towards transformation is apparent between the lines of the language we use to discuss it. Imagining a world without change, there would be no true learning experiences, adventure, risk, or opportunities for growth. There would be no place for personal reward or setting goals. Motivation to live a meaningful life would vanish because there would be no personal circumstances available for comparison. We would be forced to accept that what we have is what always will be - a fatalistic attitude entirely against the American spirit and contrary to the concept of capitalism. Change is the great perspective-giver, for every end is a new beginning, and every beginning an end.

In nature, society, and in business, the true key to success is adaptation. The world operates by a "survival of the fittest" mentality and those who are most resistant to change, whether personally or environmentally, are the first to be left behind in the new world. It is the people who embrace and actively engage in transformation who are the forerunners of innovation and positive development. Had Benjamin Franklin been averse to change, we might now be living without the luxuries of electricity, prescription lenses, and libraries. In fact, we owe the foundation of the United States of America to a group of people who believed that change can create a better world. They understood that change will not be easy, but that it is always necessary. While our circumstances are, more often than not, the product of our own choices, the attitudes that we carry determine our personal outcomes. By remaining positive and open towards new circumstances and developments, we are better equipped, psychologically, to deal with the challenges that change may bring. As the saying goes, "necessity is the mother of invention."

The greatest obstacle in remaining positive and open towards new developments is withstanding the endless barrage of negativity from the cultural mindset that we have been born into. This mindset has been conditioned to treat change with suspicion and fear, and to cling steadfastly to time-worn tradition no matter how meaningless and non-progressive that tradition may be. For the sake of progress, it is imperative to remain innovative in your own thought. You proactively formulate the way you will perceive and react to change rather than reactively accepting the picture that society has painted.

To stay positive in a changing environment, it is important to focus on what we do have and do value, rather than what we may or may not have and what we fear. Above all, embrace challenge. Find a way to redefine your value as an individual in the newly forming environment or context. By doing this, you assert your worth as an individual, someone who isn't valuable in only one set of circumstances but one who can adapt and be versatile. Behind every cloud is a silver lining. To truly stay positive in a changing environment, we must change the way we perceive change.