January 2003 Archives
In the US today, an important but incredibly overlooked legal battle was fought. The loser of this case is definitely the general public who it seems will continue to be drawn further and further into the over protective mushroom of today's well established power figures.
I am referring to the case of Eldred v. Ashcroft which has just concluded in the US Supreme Court. Usually I leave the USA to their own devices. However recent court decisions seem to indicate that the US is getting even more cocksure of how widely it's legal weight can be thrown around.
Recently I have had the wonderful fortune to be able to enjoy a story called "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". Written by the hirsute Alan More, who has arguably done more for the comic medium than anyone else in the past 20 years.
It may seem incredible, however if the characters in "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" had been created less than a generation later and by americans, this wonderful series would not exist. Today's legal decision has cemented this sad concept.
In the simplest of terms, today the Supreme Court upheld a challenge on the legality of a previous ruling to extend / perpetuate the copyright on material that should by now have flowed into the public domain.
The motive for this legal battle is extremely selfish on the part of the winning parties. They want to retain unilateral control of their aging material.
The losing party - the public now is forced to forgo the opportunity to see this material re-interpreted and revitalised by anyone who chose to do so, instead they are limited to corporate controlled re-use that will likely leave the viewing public feeling unsatisfied.
Over the past few months, I have been increasingly frustrated at the direction humanity is going.
It's amazing how something as simple as shopping can be such a window on the world.
A few years back we had the Olympics, and for a few weeks Trains were plentiful and ran nearly 24 Hours, shopping hours were long and cafe hours even longer. As well as being open, shops seemed to stock what I wanted.
A handful of years later, extended hours are a distant memory, the improved train timetable based on the changes that worked well for the Olympics is nearly a year overdue. But most importantly, shops no longer stock what I want. Now my tastes cannot have got significantly more esoteric in such a short time period, so the blame must be laid squarely at the retailers feet. It is amazing how much more conservative the retail sector has managed to become in such a short time period. Despite this, we are still seeing corporate failures at an amazingly excessive rate. What is wrong? Economists tell us that as a country we are still spending strongly, so why do retailers feel justified in reducing opening hours and the diversity of their range?
Opeth - Deliverance
A while back I published a partial review of the then forthcoming release from Opeth based on 3 mp3s i'd managed to find on the net.
Obviously 3 mps which had encoding and transmission glitches do not make a good foundation to base a complete review on. So now, I have had the real CD for a few weeks it's time to revisit the world of Opeth.
Deliverance's opening track, Wreath hits with the full force of the heavier side of Opeth, an unusual departure from the slow fade in found on previous releases. Before too long, Wreath slows the pace but not the intensity, allowing Mike to really draw out the growls extending them to almost mourning wails of anguish. The metallic elements of the track have an old school death feel that pervades the entire album with improvised solos rather than the smooth flowing solos that bridged differing elements in previous albums.
An unusual interlude comes part-way through Wreath courtesy of a short hand drum (bongo ??) passage which actually works well to as a bridge to the closing section where the more structured vocal delivery of Blackwater Park's Bleak is revisited. It is only in this section where clean vocals appear, which is probably deliberate as the next three tracks feature an increasing proportion of clean vocals.
Onto the title track Deliverance, begins again with a fast paced bombastic death metal assault and showcases Martin's double kick percussion skills before fading into the first truly acoustic passage of the album. In places, the phrasing of the heavy sections reminds me strongly of Still Life, in particular Serenity Painted Death. The extended outro to this track is still a love/hate relationship for me. However the mid section of Deliverance contains some brilliant vocal stylings and riffs.
A Fair Judgement is by far the initial stand out track, with beautiful clean vocals that exude emotion complemented by a sparse, low key mellow arrangement. This bodes extremely positively for the upcoming (March) mellow release titled Damnnation. The production on this track is nothing short of astounding especially on a short bridge where an acoustic section is processed to sound like an overdriven transistor radio in the distance.
For Absent Friends continues the emotive mid section of deliverance cleverly inter-weaving a clean electric guitar accompaniment with the primary melody carried by an intricately played acoustic guitar creating an evocative and strongly introspective instrumental interlude.
Bringing back the intensity and brutality, Master's Apprentices is the long term highlight. True the previous duo of mellow tracks are sure to be the initial drawcard, however it is on Master's Apprentices that Opeth pulls out all the stops and lives up to the status implied by this track's name. As a result we are treated to a perfectly arranged piece encompassing the vast musical expanse Opeth inhabits and featuring the most brutal but brilliant vocal performance Mike has ever displayed. Even after the initial excitement of the rest of Deliverance fades, the diversity and quality of this track will bring you back time and time again.
Closing Deliverance is the inflated By The Pain I See In Others. On the surface quite a nice piece but lacking the broad depth of it's predecessor. Opening with a muted intro which re-uses the transistor radio effect used much more subtly on A Fair Judgement. In the main dominated with by the numbers Opeth brutality counterbalanced by pleasant but not engaging acoustic sections. It's saving grace is that in places By the Pain I See in Others is quite technical and progressive, occasionally employing more dissonant stylings to create the tension as opposed to relying entirely on the trademark Opethian interplay of light/dark moments. Of the entire album, this track will take a while to grow on most, eventually rewarding the persistent listener. Although clocking in at 14 minutes, the last 4 are a "hidden track" which is simply a section of the vocals from A Fair Judgement played backwards. Although slightly creepy, this section adds little value unless it is an aesthetic reference to the widely held view in the mid 80's that most heavy music featured subliminal backwards vocals in the mix.
Overall, a better produced and structured release than it's predecessor. However the composition and arrangements feel a little rushed. One cannot help but wonder if trying to produce two albums with the budget for one was such a good idea after all. We will need to wait for March and the release of Damnnation to see if all the best arrangements made it onto the primarily acoustic CD of the pair.