July 2004 Archives
Back home I occasionally enjoy a schweppes bitter lemon but not a big fan of soft drinks generally. whilst in London getting a craving for bitter lemon, I went to buy some soft drink in London and was disguested to find I could not buy any soft drink withought the artifical sweeteners aspartane or saccharin, which in oz are restrained to only the diet versions that I avoid religiously.
Whomever in the UK allowed such widespread usage of these artifical sweeteners needs to be crucified for the long term effect on the health of the nation. But they were probably in the pay of monsanto anyway.
Even the "kids" drinks like rybena come in sugar free versions here, my only question is why not use real natural juices that have sugars other than sucrose.
But they have 'OO' flour in the supermarkets so it's not all bad.
Making a few different breads over this trip, starting with the ultimate flavour crusty white loaf that takes a day to make, and usually less to eat!
Bored at Munich airport where as in Turkey I have had to wait ages for the check in counter for my flight to open I am at the local ripoff net cafe and already hacked it to upgrade to Mozilla Firefox (a practice that is rapidly becoming a habit as i see this as more of a beneficial gift, when the alternative is a pre IE6 browser!)
The second option is to see if I can extend the time limit as €5 an hour is quite hefty
Will be arriving in the UK quite late, so it wont be till after midnight when I stumble in to chris and nats pad.
Today was quite a bumper day, and I still think I could have fitted more in.
The visit to Toplaki palace was mentioned earlier with some pictures posted, there are plenty more but will be uploaded later tonight.
I got there relatively early (less than half an hour after it opened) and found the tour buses starting to arrive and the queues already full of idiots who should read the (a) signs and (b) guidebooks more closely.
There was this rather attractive but dismally informed woman in front of me in the queue. She was of Lebanese descent but living in French Canada so spoke French, English and a little Arabic (probably other languages as well) I'm not sure if she was using her feminine wiles to get a better deal or just plain lazy and stupid. Both guidebook (she had a French Lonely Planet) and signs said - Harem tickets were to be purchased at the entrance to harem. SO of course she asks for them there and then, and seems surprised when told they weren't available. The guy behind the counter clearly taken with her attempts at Arabic tells her where to get the tickets and informs her that if she mentions him to the other ticket sales guy, she can get the Harem ticket for 1/2 price. This is all happening whilst I am tapping my toes and watching the other line go much faster, knowing that the Harem tour started in 5 minutes, I had to hurry in purchasing my ticket for the main part (which of course is needed to get to the entrance to the Harem).
My turn finally came, and the guy had of course run out of change... more an excuse for him to have a break than anything as he stuffed around trying to get more change. Got my ticket and ran for the harem, to find I am behind the Lebanese girl again, who is trying to get her half price ticket but failing. As she can't get the (non existent) discount, she then further confuses the issue by asking more questions that a bit of sign reading would answer. She gets frustrated and takes off without a ticket, trying to join the line for the Harem tour anyway.
All ticketed up, I get into line and am frustrated led through a tour which soon breaks into two groups, those who want to hear the smattering of English info in the mostly Turkish tour and those who tag behind and try and photograph the lovely interiors before being herded along by a security guard who knows as much as the tour guide!
Exiting the harem and realising how much of a rip off the rushed ($10) tour was, I proceed to take the rest of the visit at a much more leisurely pace, although I am disgusted by the volume of tourists and their inappropriate behaviour. Particularly in the section that housed holy Muslim relics, including various items belonging to the prophet (such as his footprint!). The sign outside said, quite clearly - keep it quiet this is a place that is sacred to the Turkish people. It also said no photography or video, so what do I experience on entry, quite noisy and guards running after people happily taking snapshots!
The gardens and the covered seat where the sultan broke fast each morning, which overlooked the heart of Istanbul, were absolutely lovely.
Another highlight was a temporary exhibition about the impact that the Muslim world had on science, with some great displays of devices that had been either invented or improved on by the Islamic scientists. They developed near modern (accuracy wise) maps of most of the northern hemisphere, maps that were unashamedly used by the Portuguese sailors of the time.
The displays basically reaffirmed what I already knew that the Islamic world kept alive and improved upon the knowledge of the ancient European civilisations and that the renaissance owed a great deal to this Islamic information store.
Following that, I lunched on amongst other things apricots and figs and then ventured into the blue mosque, which was nice but again full of tourists who can't read signs or show respect.
In the evening I decided to wander around a bit, going firstly to the spice bazaar that had special duty/tax status for goods brought in from Egypt (and thus from the far east). Then to the grand bazaar that did little for me being cheap clothes, shoes and jewelry on a scale larger than one can contemplate.
Further walking took me to the rather impressive gates to Istanbul university (which I was informed was closed for the day) from there I decided to walk along the path of an ancient aqueduct, which reached about 18 metres high as it crossed a busy street where Peter Brock would have felt at home.
Near it's apex, I wandered close to get some photos and was immediately besieged by a group of kids who were offering to show me how to climb up onto the aqueduct for only $1 (for each kid, at times there were 8 or more clambering around me!). In addition the path they were trying to show me had a really nasty either drunk of drug addict perched halfway up. Looked quite dodgey (and some of the adults nearby agreed, as well as scaring off the rather persistent kids!)
Finally I wandered back to another mosque built by the master architect Mimar Sinan. Again it was too late for visitors, so I decided to go to the nearby baths also built by the same man.
The bath was a fun experience, and quite different to the one I experienced in Hungary. The (steep $37) price included a sweat/bath and a peel then massage. The massage was done using some kind of soap scented with oil, the signs said rose oil but the one I had smelt decidedly citrus - nearly citronella. The whole experience was quite lovely and I wandered back (via a quick bit to eat) feeling very relaxed around 11PM.
Some photos of the two main historic religious buildings in Istanbul, the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofya (byzantine orthodox church)
The main Ottoman palace Topkapi is closed for cleaning on Tuesdays, so I think I will be going to the Blue Mosque and a roman cistern today.
Orphaned Land - Mabool
Hailing from Israel, this band has been around for quite some time but never become very well known, partly due to an absence of new releases from the group over the past 8 or so years.
That extended gestation period has allowed them to give birth to a mature release which is well positioned to be one of the best of 2004 and potentially a long term genre classic.
Like many other releases in this style (concept album formed around extreme metal) Orphaned Land step well outside the boundaries of metal, integrating a variety of stylistic elements to ensure the album makes full and appropriate use of the dynamic offered by the musical spectrum.
Lyrically it is of course the biblical flood story, this in itself is somewhat a strange topic for a metal act from anywhere but the Middle East. This trend for Middle Eastern influence continues in the use of Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic in addition to English. Extensive use of Middle Eastern instrumentation and tunings makes the mid east aspect more than just a mere influence, instead it becomes an integral part of the music.
Vocally the death vocals are effective but not particularly powerful or brutal, opting for a somewhat more muted approach that melds better with the other vocal styles. Aside from death vocals; a panoply of other styles are utilised on Mabool from the powerful and melodic male lead vocal the plaintive Islamic styled female vocals of A'Solk and excellent use of backing chorus and quite effective spoken male vocals.
Production wise, the mix is quite modern but the engineering and recording effectively captures the variety of sounds and styles that are utilised across the album. As Mabool is so diverse, this is no mean feat!
Possibly the biggest criticism of the release is that the third quarter of the album (tracks 7 through 9) lack enough momentum to keep ones attention. As this release is a concept one and designed to be listened to in full, this may prove to be Mabool's single flaw.
With so many facets drawn from a large cross spectrum of musical expression there is a potential for Mabool to appeal to anyone with an open mind musically, particularly one that has studied music at some point.
I would not be surprised to see Mabool eventually take it's place alongside some of the classic 70's concept albums like "War of the Worlds" and "Thick as a Brick"
I have been trying to work out how to get from Munich to Stavanger and back for less than a fortune, it is possible via of course the infamous Stanstead airport famous for being nowhere near London whatsoever! The only consolation is that Chris and Nat live out towards Stanstead and there is a bus service that ends at Stratford which is on the right tube line and only 1 zone from their place.
The whole process is doing my head in and I am tempted to give in, the only thing that keeps me interested is price of AUS$138 each way from London to Stavanger which considering that it is (a) Norway and (b) not the major transport hub in Norway (c) costs about that much to take a train one way from Oslo to Stavanger. All things considered, not a bad price.
All the other options are three or four times the price but the flight times and days for this deal are extremely limited. As I said it's driving me nuts!
In the end i have decided to grab the cheap flight from London to Stavanger and back, so will be back in Norway for 1 week from 2/8 to 9/8 but still yet to work out if I stay in London for a few days before, or after this.
Made it to Istanbul safely today, am staying in a nice little place near the main tourist traps of the Ottoman palace complex. It's quite pricey compared to what I was paying in Cappadocia, but a lot nicer as well. That is if you discount the extreme friendlieness of the Dawn who ran the place in Cappadocia, her casual carefree approach transformed a pretty barebones place into something quite special.
First impressions of Istanbul is that it is huge, with two city centres separated by the Bosphorous and straddling Asia and Europe there is a potential for a lot of exploration, and my taste for the "sights" is starting to come back after a long absence since I got really over seeing similar stuff all through Europe.
This morning I got up early and took the pension/hostel's dog - Spotty for a walk, he likes to go to Rose Valley and I still hadn't been there so it was a good combination.
Spotty was a good guide, at least on the way there, but once there he just kept on wanting to head further and further into the valley, whilst I needed to get back to check out as I am heading for Istanbul by bus tonight.
Dawn ballooning over Cappadocia
Spotty the Guide
Spotty & I inside a rock church
Don't they resemble sand dunes?
Very patient horse
Lots of sunflowers around here an opportunity to play with macro mode
I have made no secret in the past of my deep love for the voice as an instrument. Much modern popular music focuses more on the lyrical content and the perceived "sweetness" of the vocalist. This is of course at the expense of experimentation, and encourages the unfortunate development of a procession of near-identical honey voiced singers who are primarily differentiated by their looks rather than voice.
This is precisely why I adore extreme vocals, as they stand in direct opposition to this trend, of course there are plenty of other modern directions vocally, vocoder and software processed vocals, the bass heavy, rough dancehall/reggae style of Jamaica or Mike Patton's experimental warbling to name just a few.
What I have long wondered though, is why I started to like extreme vox in the fist place. I can understand how many can follow the heady guitar rock of the early 70s into more modern hard rock and less heavy metal, but there seems to be a barrier at the extreme vox level where most people just are not willing to pass.
One clue I have found is a song by one of my dad's favourite bands, the Moody Blues. The song is "Don't You Feel Small" and features quite menacing whispered vox, which to my mind sound quite similar to a black metal singer attempting quieter passages. This is juxtaposed by a lovely melodic main vocal for great effect.
I still puzzle though why I reacted so strongly the first time I heard Morbid Angel or Cathedral and earlier with more gateway releases by Death, Sepultura and Bathory
This is a smattering of other pictures from my first day here in cappadocia mostly focusing on the wonderful rock formations that this place specialises in.
Finally got around to uploading some pictures of Stockholm, none are particularly great, possibly reflecting my mood when I was in Stockholm!
Last night I went for a brief walk, intending to head to a nearby valley called Rose Valley, but followed the wrong track and ended up in Swords Valley instead via some unnamed valley that seemed mostly private agriculture.
Here are some of the better pics from the walk.
They reckon that part of Star Wars "A New Hope" was filmed here in the 70s, I find it extremely strange that such things are not further documented, local people must have been employed to help with filming. Regardless, it definitely looks like the setting for that famous early scene that culminates when Obi-Wan whips off his disguise and the audience gets their first glimse of him.
Briefly, I was not on that express train which crashed last night halfway between Ankara and Istanbul. Have had quite a few people contact me to ask about this.
Instead I was sleeping off a big day of tourism here in Cappadocia and the worst issue I have endured is the apparent loss of my quite expensive hairbrush which I must have left behind in Ankara, so the world will have to deal with Alex in a perpetually bad hair day!
Seriously though, this sounds like one of the worst Train crashes in Turkey, hope they use this as an impetus to check and upgrade the tracks before starting express services again!
Got seriously annoyed with Ankara this morning (bad experiences with hotel and rail station) and decided to get out of the place. Tried to grab a bus at 1PM but it was full, ended up killing 2 hours for the 3Pm one instead.
Headed to Cappadocia and the backpacker haven of Goreme which is oddly dead due to this being non peak season. Got a bed for about $7. After a bad nights sleep changed that to one costing $10 but with decent privacy!
This place even with all the over touristed town is amazing, with such natural beauty and unique landscapes...
Got here just at dusk and I experimented with long exposures on my digicam, some of which look to be quite nice but I really need a mini tripod.
With news like this - Livid Festival Cancelled, I am even more glad I have been overseas seeing so many bands instead. Australia is in a seriously sick position with regards to music even tenuously outside of the mainstream. As a destination for touring acts, it is a long way away and costs are extremely high. This is a pity as audiences really go nuts in Oz for good acts.
I worry that this will start to become a permanant trend and the days of anyone aside from the blockbuster artists visisting will become a distant memory.
Suprisingly I made it safely into Turkey, the plane flight was quite hellish and gave me a good idea of what to expect on other trips in Turkey. The plane was mostly full of people of Turkish descent but many of whom spoke fluent Swedish as they probably grew up there.
I was seated next to a bundle of energy that was female and about two. Her parents (although they tried) could not control this little one whatsoever and she was constantly fidgeting, crying, wetting herself or generally unhappy. The only time she was actually content was when she was out of the lap of a parent and off down the plane's corridor!
This gave me a huge headache and could not easily be drowned out by all but the most extreme of music (which I was not in the mood for). There were also plenty of other misbehaved young ones onboard, I have never flown on a plane with so many children! There is usually one or two babies and then nothing until the early teens.
Had to take a bus and taxi to my reasonably sumptuous digs, the problem with online bookings is that the stuff under about AUS$70 just doesn't appear in most of the booking engines. Turkey having no hostels I will need to start looking for pensions, but after feeling quite homesick and down in Stockholm, I need to spoil myself a bit, thus it's three star for a day or two
Well later today I am off to Turkey, I have almost entirely wasted my time in Stockholm as I have not felt 100% and been resting, this I think is a result of pushing my body too hard soon after recovering from a minor stomach bug that I had just before I left Stavanger.
I am a little concerned about Turkey, not so much the security side, but more simply a lack of preparation on my part. I am yet to get any form of guidebook or plan my time there, I guess I will be doing some serious reading on the plane later today.
As for security I think it will be okay, the whole political NATO meeting in turkey is over and that means attention will be diverted away from Turkey.
Too lazy to set up a proper poll CGI!
I have about ten days between returning from turkey and leaving for the USA
I fly in and out of Munich, so could do one of the following:
Explore a bit of Germany
Head to the UK to visit Chris and other friends
Head back to Sweden & Finland as I would like to go North in one or both of these countries!
Return to Stavanger and spend more time visiting Astrid
Go back to Slovenia, still possibly my favourite country
Explore the Baltic states that I breezed through on my 26hr bus journey
What does everyone think I should do??
First pictures from Stockholm, mostly just me mucking around
Images of Gothenburg
Canals form the city centre
Just a street that appealed
The fountain at the end of Kungsportsavenyn
Detail of fountain
Detail of fountain (2)
Pretty building and phallic monument
bad self portrait
Another Canal Pic
Detail from monument
Stately building (2)
Relaxing by Canal
More Elegant Statue
Beginning of Avenyn
Statue in the middle of nowhere
View from Masthuggskyrkan
View from Masthuggskyrkan (2)
Unlike all the other pictures posted recently, this one gets an inline posting, for two reasons.
Firstly this was the first picture taken with my new S60 and secondly, it's so funny on many levels! Enjoy
And here are the pics for Kristiansand, keep in mind these were taken on an overcast morning after a night of metal @ Quart. So in general they aren't very exciting. Trust me Kristansand is much better in person than the pictures suggest.
waterfront view of Christiansholm Festning
waterfront view of town and main domkirke
Pennisula where Quart was held (1)
historic Christiansholm Festning
Pennisula where Quart was held (2)
Trendy Picturesque Kristiansland
Trendy Picturesque Kristiansland (2)
A solitary Swan
As I am at a PC that is barely locked down at all, this is my opportunity to post heaps of pictures that I have been unable to post previously.
Here are some pictures of Stavanger, which is a lovely little place that I sort of fell in love with over the time I stayed there.
Tower Views (1)
Tower Views (2)
Tower Views (3)
Tower Views (4)
Tower Views (5)
Tower Views (6)
Tower Views (7)
Tower Views (8)
Stavanger Domkirke (interior)
Stavanger Domkirke (exterior)
Stavanger Domkirke (exterior)
Stavanger Domkirke (exterior)
Streets of Stavanger
Central Stavanger (2)
Foreshore Walk (2)
Waterfront at 7AM
Waterfront at 7AM (2)
Waterfront at 7AM (3)
Jellyfish, believe it or not!
More pictures from Preikestolen
Last night the local Swedish had 12 hours solid of heavy metal programming on TV, this is like rage squared and was a good opportunity to kick back with new friends and relax. Sure most of the content was very much the key influential old school bands, but it was good engaging content and I watched until after 4AM when realising that I had a train to catch at 7AM I should really get to bed.
Somehow managed to get up again and get to the train, where I slept for much of the 5 hours it took to transport me to Stockholm. Just arrived here and working on finding my hostel (which is brand new and thus not in the guidebook) but my initial impression is less positive than Gothenburg, which I loved. Will need to get away from the inevitable run down area that surrounds the main rail station in any well established city before I make more of a comment.
Last night caught up with some Swedish friends I made while in Oslo, thankfully in the interim one of them had given up alcohol as he was rather too drunk when we went out drinking in Oslo.
I was a bit annoyed to find out that the next night whilst they and I were both still in Oslo, they went back to a metal bar that we had all been at the night before and met amongst others Hellhammer, who I worship from a drumming perspective.
All these scandanavian countries have a hard rock or metal bar, something we seriously lack in Oz. It's not that the bars are that cool, they mostly play hard rock "classics" but it is really nice to hang out with people who take their metal seriously. In Australia, the closest we get are rough joints filled with biker types but the metal fans are much more intelligent here as is echoed by my conversations with Peter and the other guys I hung out with last night.
Correction I have been informed that Club 77 has a metal club, but as far as I know this is mostly boring gateway / nu metal / industrial and only one day a week. The scandanavian places are somewhat like the hard rock cafe style but more metal and not pretentious or ultra touristy.
Boy am I glad i did not go to this festival! I was contemplating attending the Greek music festival "Athens Open Air" as I knew i would be in Turkey shortly after, however decided against it due to not wanting to pay ripoff prices due to the upcoming Olympics!
From the sound of it the festival rapidly became a farce before finally being cancelled hlaf way through due to the total lack of capability by the organisers, one wonders how they managed to get the big names in the first place!
In other luck, I was extremely lucky to get a bed at the first hostel I tried in Gothenburg, at the reception I met a number of people who had gone to 5 or 6 hostels looking for beds. I was amazed to find the reason for the severe lack of accomodation is that Gothenburg plays host to a worldwide junior soccor championship during this week, this year is something like the 30th anniversary of the competition which accepts kids from about 9 to 19. There are 90, yes 90! swedish in one group at my hostel who are either competing or parents/coaches!
Doesn't look like I will be so lucky in Stockholm though, and the austere clinical hostel trend of Norway continues unabated here.
Well I finally did something about my half dead camera. I am now the proud owner of a brand new Canon S60 digicam, it is one of the few tourist sized digicams that can take my existing IBM Microdrive which is a CompactFlash Type II card. Most small cameras use Sony's crap memory stick, or the ultra tiny SD or XD card formats. All of these formats are not very forward compatible and mainly aimed at storage less than 200MB, my investment four years back in a 320MB microdrive still leaves most of these formats in the dust storage wise.
I get to do the tax discount for tourist thing so when I leave the EU (which will be when I leave Sweden) I get a couple of hundred dollars refund. This will make up for the slightly higher prices and not so great exchange rate in Sweden.
I had decided a while back that the S60 was the camera for me, however it was so new at the time that no stores stocked it! In fact this is the first non online store which has had the camera in stock, thus prompting my immediate purchase.
Still though many net cafes are locked down so I have more pics i'd like to upload but cannot!
Well my first impression of sweden is shopping mecca, things are a bit cheaper than in Norway and there is a better range. Found a local metal store in Gothenburg and for the first time, it passed one of my "does it have good stock" test as it had a copy of an album by Blut Aus Nord, a band which until recently lacked decent distribution.
Gothenburg is home to an entire metal subgenre, named for the city and spawned by the explosion of swedish melodic death metal in the early 90s. The founder of the sound was the now long defunct band "At the Gates", nowdays the style is perpetuated by In Flames who have brought the sound to near mainstream ears in the US by touring with nu-metal bands extensively there.
At the Gates were before their time, but in my opinion the most unique metal band from this area was/is Dissection, who are unfortunately recently reincarnated. Dissection seamlessly melded Black and Death styles and left such a strong mark on the scene that few have even attempted to emulate their sound. However the singer/guitarist was recently released from a too short jail sentence and is working to reform the band. Although he is a talented musical genius he really needs to be kept locked away as he has learnt nothing from his incarceration.
Need to find a place to stay though!
Getting quite sick of the clinical hostels in Norway, I contacted my friend Mike, the brother of Pete who I work with back in Oz. I'd stayed with them in April, and had caught up with Mick for a coffee most times I'd been in Oslo.
Mike and I went to the cinema, to the Collusseum which is a lovely dome shaped building that I think was always a cinema. We saw Spiderman 2, which was an interesting choice as I had been quite scathing about the previous film.
Many times Spidey 2 looked sure to completely blow away the first film, which was ruined mostly by the costume for the bad guy which had an awful mask that prevented him from actually acting. However each time Spidey 2 began to shine, the plot, editing and direction let it down.
The good in this film came from the non superhero elements, where the actors could really shine, despite having to stumble over some godawful dialogue in parts. Kirsten Dunst is an amazingly talented actress and not suprisingly did a great job. Toby seemed to have a much tighter grasp on the essence of Peter Parker as well.
The action scenes were overblown and under whelming, my particular gripe being how often Spidey was shown in costume sans mask, even in a large crowd.
Maybe I just strongly dislike the bad guys in the Spider Man canon, but Doc Ock was better than his predecessor in that there was genuine acting and the casting was good but still not great direction and the plot was extremly lacking. The film should have ended 10 minutes earlier and many scenes could have been trimmed of their fat to produce a tighter more effective film.
Pictures from the walk to preikestolen
Will upload some pics from Kristiansand shortly
07080022 - the view at the beginning of the walk
07080028 - Standing on the edge
07080029 - Resting after the trek
07080031 - the view upstream
07080038 - the view down!
07080039 - down and to the left, slightly
07080040Again, really steep
07080061 - Now you see how steep it really is!
Really bad mix, great performance, caught a broken drumstick thrown by the drummer into the audience. Dedicated the song "The Crossing" to Quothorn and asked the audience to give a loud cheer for this fallen musical legend. Heaps of pyrotechnics! Similar set to the last time I saw them.
My Dying Bride:
Great sound and lighting, over the top performance by Aaron as expected. Played two older songs, Like Gods of the Sun and The Cry of Mankind. Keyboard duties were performed by a young woman who was clearly playing off sheet music!! Obviously but very disappointing nontheless all the violin led tracks were not possible! The musicianship and performance was good but Aaron was far too self indulgent and failed to engage the crowd. Also paid tribute to Quothorn, but methinks they just felt like they should after hearing Enslaved do so. Enslaved have a much stronger and direct thread musicaly and spiritually to Bathory as they are the modern champions of the Viking Metal genre.
Seriously overhyped, yes the singer has charisma and a great stage performance that recalled Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger amongst others but their music bored me after giving them a fair ten minutes.
Fom America somewhere, straightforward rock with a harder edge, but full of vitality, sincerity and energy that most of the bands that music mags love to promote lack.
Were one of the worst excuses for schlock I have ever seen, a Norwegian band they were trying to be a psychadelic version of Marilyn Manson but failed extremely badly.
a local act who had member(s) from Green Canation and In the Woods, two of the most interesting bands that the Norwegian metal scene has produced. They were fun, played stoner rock but had only three members on stage, relying on wa too much backing tracks for my liking. They all dressed in dayglo orange prison style uniforms and the drummer was quite good.
who are incredibly talented and extremely popular localy. These guys sing in both Norwegian and English and musicaly emulate the classic Black Sabbath sound almost precisely including Ozzy's distinctive vocals. However they are at their core a humour band, and are enjoyed by the locals for the inteligent and funny lyrics set against an extremely familiar musical backdrop and a great stage show with much physical humour and excelent props like a mic stand that looks like the front view of a beefy motorcycle like a Harley.
A danish band that although not my cup of tea at all were excelent musically with a very underworked but talented drummer and some fun keyboard and organ parts at the tail end of many songs.
This time to avoid wandering the streets like a homeless person, I stayed at the youth hostel which like all in Norway was quite bad. These guys just do not know how to run a good hostel, they all feel like an army camp and everything is extra, much of which would be just included in the price in other countries. But a good nights sleep ensued and I spent some time wandering the very empty streets the next morning taking photos and watching the festival goers slowly wake up and stumble to the later very crowded train station and head home.
As CD prices aren't too ripoff here, I also picked up a copy of The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free at a slightly discounted price.
I've given it quite a few listens, and also have given the Savath & Savalas CD Apropa't quite a few spins. Astrid like the latter, but doesn't think much of The Streets.
I think that Scott Herren has outdone himself on Apropa't as it's a great relaxing little folk CD, well produced and layered with his characteristic glitch techniques without ruining the relaxed feel of the album.
As for The Streets, well Mike is still a great producer with his penchant for taking mainstream elements and stripping them back to their most basic. However the clever wordplay and wonderful mis-use of the english language that was present on the first album seems much less obvious now. The concept album story of love and fortune found and lost is great, however there is less focus on spoken raps and more on choruses and conventional song structures. The single, Fit But You Know It is an absolute ripsnorter of a song and features a very classic rock hook. However I'm not sure the lyrical content will engage as much long term. The prior album was peppered with everyday life references and this one is too narrowly focused for my tastes, despite normally loving the concept/story album style.
Yesterday Astrid and I got up early and headed for the ferry/bus to take us to the beginning of the walk to Pulpits Rock. As we hadn't fully checked out the details we went to wrong place initially for the ferry so had to catch the later one, negating the need to get up at the crack of dawn!
The ferry was nice, but the bus was expensive and the road full of twists so we were glad to get to the end and start walking.
It's not a long walk (3.5kms each way) however was quite steep as it climbs quite rapidly (maybe 400 or 500 metres) during sections which made for lots of fun scrambling over rocks!
We picked an excellent day weather wise for Norway and we both actually managed to get slightly sunburnt as I had not thought to bring sunscreen!. Two thirds of the way along there were a couple of tranquil pools of water and I was cursing the fact I hadn't brought some swiming shorts so I could cool off!
We both set a good pace and maintained it so the upwards journey took much less than the 2 hours that the signs suggested.
The pulpit is a long flat ledge which falls off neatly at the edge for a 600 metre drop down to the water at the bottom of the fjord. After stopping to eat some food and working up some courage I carefully went to the edge and lay down to look over, taking some photos. It's a pity that this machine is so locked down that I can't get at the pictures to upload them!
The best view of the actual pulpits rock is about 30 metres before you reach it where you can clearly observe it's sharp descent!
Our walk back was even quicker, despite me holding Astrid up as I took frequent photos. Near the end, i guess due to being tired we ended up taking the wrong track which brought us out a bit higher than we had started and we had to walk down the much less interesting highway for a few hundred metres back to the waiting bus.
On Monday, I went to the opening day of the Quart Festival, this was fun but quite a bit smaller than I expected. As the festival pass is only for 5 days (Tues to Sat) this Monday is a bonus or extra and the only had one stage, the others were still being built.
I saw 3 bands, Snow Patrol, Modest Mouse and Morrissey. Enjoyed them all but my favourite was Modest Mouse who I was there to primarily see. They were a not as intense or wild as I had expected live, but their musicianship shone and the diversity of styles expressed in their set was enlivening. I saw this however as my token non Metal musical experience on my trip.
CDs aren't too expensive here and they had discounted CDs of all the artists playing at the festival. I bought the latest by Savath & Savalas entitled Apropa't (one of many bands by Scott Herren) who is also known for his releases as Prefuse 73. Was going to buy the missing sections of my Enslaved back catalogue, however I remembered that their European releases are issued on Osmose who strangely for a small metal label uses copy protection on all their releases. I already own one Enslaved CD from Osmose and cannot rip the last song onto my iPod, so I refrained from purchase until I get to the USA where their label there, The End Records does not have such draconian practices.
The location for Quart may be the single most beautiful location I have ever experienced for a music festival. Kristansand has a tranquil harbour and the festival is on a peninsula on one side of this harbour. Next time I hope to take my camera so I can take some pictures of this lovely place.
As I am only attending two days of the festival, I needed to head back to Stavanger after the festival. Originally to save money I got a ticket that left at 8AM the next day and was planning to just stay up all night as the accommodation was expensive and hard to find. However, I ended up meeting some other festival goers and dragged back to the camping ground where most were staying. It was freezing cold though and the buses back to town were nonexistent in the middle of the night, so I walked back into town only to discover that the pubs were all closing at 3:30AM. With nothing to do, I decided to take the earlier 4AM night train back to Stavanger, however once on the train I discovered my 8AM ticket could not be exchanged for one on the earlier train. The guard was nice to me and let me travel anyway though. One of the few times being a tourist has paid off!
Back in Stavanger however I discovered that Astrid had visited her parents the night before and stayed there, so I was unable to get in and had to wait at the train/bus station until she got back from her parents, which in part wasted my attempt to get back earlier and get some sleep!
Whilst I was finally resting on Tuesday afternoon, at the festival things were heating up, with a band featuring a couple having sex on stage, they claimed they were protesting against the destruction of rainforests, but I think it was more just an attention grabber as their naked romp was front page news on all the local papers today!
My time in Stavanger has been really wonderful, it's like a smaller, more intimate Bergen and I have had the opportunity to see many different sides of the place.
Yesterday, Astrid borrowed a car and drove me to a near by beach about 10 minutes from Stavanger at a place called Sola, it was a surprisingly nice beach albeit quite a bit more windy and cold than I was expecting.
Today I made Astrid be a tourist in her own town (which she found strange but fun) as I wandered the streets and took photos. Sadly I left my adapter at her place so I can't upload the pictures now.
Tomorrow, we are hiking to a place: Pulpits Rock which is located along the nearby fjord and is a ledge on top of a sheer cliff that looks down on a drop of 600 metres!
Have been in Stavanger for a few days now, staying with Astrid, a new friend I made in Poland.
It's a nice place, with a similar feel to Bergen but only around 130,000 people. Over the past few days it has felt busier than it normally would as they hosted a beach volleyball competition here. I found this quite amusing as they built a fake beach for the competition along the harbourside in the centre of town! I have been assured they have real beaches here, so the logic behind building one from scratch still confounds me somewhat!
Off to one day of the Quart Festival shortly, going to be an expensive festival as Stavanger is 3 hours away from Kristiansand where the festival occurs.
However, returning to my core musical region, I am increasingly interested to hear the just released new album by Neurosis: "The Eye of Every Storm". I'm not a fan of everything Neurosis has done, but just recently my tastes and their direction have been intersecting much more often.
Reading some initial reviews has just got me more interested.
So I went for a walk, to do a few errands and ended up wandering the streets, kind of aimlessly trying to stumble upon the expected non mainstream CD store hidden somewhere in every large-ish city
After finding some nice architecture I had not noticed on my previous trip I foudn the fabled store(s) I was after, across a busy road from the venue I had been seeing all my live music in Oslo.
There was a dedicated metal shop, but I am a bit over this kind of thing.
The next shop was called Tiger, which roughly equated to a slightly younger, more hip Red Eye. They had a lot of interesting stuff, including the new Neurosis. A cute young punkish shop assistant was very helpful whilst bopping around to a cd of punkified pop songs, which was a lot of fun (at least for one listen)
I gave it a whirl there and liked enough sections to purchase, now to work out how to get it onto my iPod!
The guy who sold me the CD expressed disappointment that the really intense heavy days of Neurosis (Souls At Zero era) were well and truly over, however I like their newer dark and barely controlled sound, I think it's the new heavy, something that doesn't always batter you over the head with noise and volume but instead achieves the same end result through a dark undercurrent that leaves the listener ill at ease.
It's funny that everything else in Norway is expensive, but the price of a CD is about the same as in Oz
Last night whilst visiting Erik, he gave me a lot of new music for my iPod which was great, I asked for mostly Norwegian music and was very interested to see what a Norse speaking non metal fan would chose to give me.
Spent most of today enjoying this new music, I have no problem with lyrics in another language, sure I don't understand them but sometimes that can be good!
Last night I visited a friend, Erik Veland, we drank a lot of beer, chatted about Tiger and played with the WWDC preview, which is quite a significantly older build than demonstrated at the actual WWDC.
Regardless, I am excited and looking forward to all the goodies that Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4) will offer. I am also quite concerned about the gadget/widget technology they have demonstrated under the banner of "Dashboard"
After quite a bit of uncertainty, with the difficulty in booking tickets from Finland, it was quite frustrating to find how easy it was to procure a ticket yesterday.
Arriving at the Hostel, I noticed a guy who was quite obviously "Metal" due to his dress, whilst I was checking in I asked him if he was here to see the gig tonight, he replied no and asked who was playing, I told him and felt satisfied that I had done my civic duty as a metal fan.
Ever since I had heard Death Angel had got back together I had been very keen to see them live, although I am not an obsessed fan who owns their entire catalogue I do venerate their third album - "Act III" (the last before breaking up) as an amazing classic.
The ticket just said Life of Agony + support, which was disappointing as I was there for the support, Death Angel. It was even stranger as I had never heard of Life of Agony despite them being active during my teenage years.
Death Angel didn't disappoint, the energy was there and they were obviously having fun and despite their extensive world touring as young teens in the early 90s this was their first ever visit to Norway. As they are of Asian descent (Philippines), they still looked quite young; one can only imagine how they looked when they first toured with their then 12-year-old drummer!
The crowd was relatively small, and the whole thing was quite intimate, being at the smaller of the two stages that had hosted the Inferno festival I was here in April to see. I spent most of the time front row, just left of centre.
There are many things I have given up in the years since I first heard Death Angel; one is head banging to a large degree. As I get older it's just no fun waking up with a sore neck the next day. Last night I made an exception, and was shaking my head (and at times my whole body) to their infectious thrash grooves.
They played a good mix of songs from their relatively small catalogue - 4 albums, but their set was definitely just under 1 hour, which disappointed. However the music, technicality and mix did not disappoint, they sounded great, not too loud and with a strong rhythm presence in the mix, thundering bass and the entire drum kit was clear.
It was the drums I was most interested in as unlike most other thrash bands who orientated themselves around fast shredded guitar work, Death Angels secret was always abrupt tempo and time signature changes and syncopation, all led by the amazing drum work of the youngest member of the band.
I enjoyed the whole performance though; no members went overboard with excess technical flair, although there were some excellent shredded guitar solos that are part and parcel of the genre. You could tell they were all happy to have finally got this thing back together again, for the camaraderie and fun and not the money like so many other reformed bands.
At the end of the set, I hung around with some newfound Swedish mates (the guy from the hostel and his mate). I spotted the singer from Death Angel wandering over to the merchandise stand and had a short chat, he was lovely and told me that Death Angel should be in Oz in October, hopefully playing longer sets.
Life of Agony were like many bands from that early 90s era where engineers had finally worked out how to record great sounding metal just as the grunge revolution hit. In other words they were under appreciated and ignored as the majority of their audience abandoned metal, flocking to Nirvana and Alice in Chains instead.
Life of Agony had some proto grunge elements but drew more from a melding of 70s stadium rock (vocally) and a toned down hardcore approach musically. I liked them and will definitely have to check out their most successful album "The River Runs Red" one day, but after a while they got on my nerves and I was more interested in the quite dangerous light which the now energetic crowd had managed to half knock from it's supports on the ceiling dead centre in the middle of the crowded moshpit. The local staff did a great job of removing this danger without even stopping the music at all. Overall the staff and security displayed a much more relaxed but still effective attitude than in Australia where there would have been an excess of security guards and signs telling people that crowd surfing was not allowed.
Getting bored I went to another pub, one particularly orientated towards hard rock and supposedly the hangout of the black metal elite in the past. It felt pretty quiet and ordinary to me, but it was amusing to see wedged amongst all these album covers of classic 70's rock/metal legends, a solitary Norwegian touch, a Mayhem album cover.
We met some pretty Norwegian girls and chatted to them for a while, they were nice and it was funny to watch my Swedish friend (now extremely drunk) dry and chat up one of these girls (who had both already admitted to having boyfriends).
The singer from Death Angel was also at this bar by chance and we all had another brief chat with him, really nice guy and a fun night!
Back in Oslo, to warmer weather, much more crowded streets, the same not so great hostel and finally success on the ticket front.
Tickets can be bought and picked up from post offices here, so I just got the tickets I needed!!
Glad to note I didn't go to Roskilde, it hasn't even started yet and they have already had a high profile cancellation, David Bowie