January 2007 Archives

In a trip down memory lane for me today, I saw that djmartin linked to a "classic album" review of the album "Tears Laid In Earth" by one of my favourite bands of the 90's.

I still vividly recall discovering both Ulver and The Third and the Mortal (in retrospect this was really the first flowering for me of my interest in specifically Norwegian metal) one Saturday in May 1995, whilst I was working in Perth.

Whilst I disagree with the concept of the music industry constantly reducing the nostaligia timeframe to target 20 somethings with disposable income before they commit to the mortgage path, I can completely concur with the comments made regarding this album and it's impact, influence and the snapshot of a scene in the process of development.

Personally, as much as I adore Kari's voice on this release and the album is fantastic, I strongly prefer the third album by the Third and the Mortal, "In This Room" which, despite lacking Kari's exemplary vocals, I think it showcased something equally unique and was the pinnacle for this act, who I believe technically are still active.

At a party on Saturday night there was lots of talk about the seminal period of Norsk metal, I was glad to hear universal recognition of this act amongst discussion of other classic works like Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse.

CoC : Best of 2006

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Chronicles of Chaos : Writers' Best Albums of 2006

  • 1. Katatonia - _The Great Cold Distance_
  • 2. Drudkh - _Blood in Our Wells_
  • 3. Agalloch - _Ashes Against the Grain_
  • 4. Enslaved - _Ruun_
  • 5. Melechesh - _Emissaries_
  • =. Summoning - _Oath Bound_
  • 7. Celtic Frost - _Monotheist_
  • 8. Killing Joke - _Hosannas From the Basements of Hell_
  • 9. Goatwhore - _A Haunting Curse_
  • =. Tenhi - _Maaäet_

    Notice many similarities with my best of 2006 list.

    The surprising thing is how well Enslaved's Ruun did, considering the extremely negative and critical review the album received from the same site earlier this year. This negative opinion was further consolidated in discussions on the CoC forum where other CoC staff supported the review.

    I wonder what changed in the CoC camp over the remainder of the year? It seems Ruun is an album that requires a fair bit of time to sink in and fully appreciate even for those who are already very experienced with embracing difficult metal releases.

    One can only hope that those involved with the voting for the Spellemansprisen have also spent a lot of time with Enslaved's 2006 release, I'll be rooting for it on Saturday night.

  • Yesterday evening we went to visit Astrid's sister, on the way, it started snowing, the first proper snow of the year for Stavanger, a whole month late compared to last year.

    It snowed moderately and it's still relatively cold -1 to -2, so the snow is still around this morning.

    I had fun with Astrid's sister's kids - throwing snowballs and making mini snowmen, it's good to be a big kid sometimes.

    I know Stavanger isn't generally a place that gets much snow, but it's nice for me to see it occasionally, was lovely to come home last night and find our house transformed into winter wonderland, at least for a day or so.

    Took some pics, they might make it on the web at some point if they are any good.

    Worries me a bit the hugely variable winter we are experiencing in Europe this year though.

    This post is a semi-place holder, where I will list stuff I am listening to/catching up on from 2006 and new releases for 2007. I'll try and include short reviews about each release as I listen. Knowing how busy things are getting I doubt there will be time for much more than that.

    2006 Releases

    Scott Walker / The Drift - meant to check this out a while back when djmartin posted links to many raves about it. Delving through Scott's extensive back catalogue as well. Scott has a fabulous voice, I love a good croon, but prefer those gifted with such voices do something interesting with it. Scott's music is challenging, some might say deliberately obtuse, but in general I am enjoying a lot.

    Amon Amarth / With Oden on Our Side - If I was still digging Swedish death metal, I'd rate this at least an 8 for the performance and production, maybe a 6 for originality and repeat value. Maybe a 7 for it's Manowar with a Viking twist lyrics.
    Good material for a metal pre-party to get you warmed up/motivated, but not something I could blast every day for a week and still enjoy.

    Solefald / Black for Death (An Icelandic Odyssey Part II) - consistent with part 1, subtract points for re-using not just riffs but entire songs - transplanting different lyrics. The lyrics are fantastic, tell a great story and well written as always. Some solid tracks but I was expecting the Black disc to be less progressive and more well raw and blackened than the previous Red disc. What we got was a near identical continuation of the same style as expressed on the Red disc, with the main aspect being the other half of the story lyrics wise and a small Garm cameo as Loki.
    Add points for lyrics and for the fact that the albums flow well as one. Subtract points for the decision to release as two albums and suck us all of twice the $$. Overall a disappointing release that has highs above the Red album, but doesn't offer anything really new.

    Espen Jørgensen / On The Great Alkali Plains - on Garm's Jester records label, a relaxing improvised guitar album, not mind blowing, but fantastically organic percussion and beautiful guitar work. 8/10

    Iron Maiden / A Matter of Life and Death - continuing their post 90's return to more consistent form, very enjoyable album each recent release is better than the previous one, a great trend for one of metal's most important bands.

    I / Between Two Worlds - fun, really enjoyable, partly a continuation of the trend set by later Immortal records - but combining it with a healthy dose of retro goodness. More fun live, but great part music regardless.

    MGŁA / Mdlosci - yet to listen to this one.

    2007 Releases

    Rotting Christ / Theogonia - only listened once, enjoyable, accessible black metal with strong gothic/doom elements, I love a bit of hellenic metal by these guys on occasion. More listens will tell how strong a release this is, but so far I don't have any expectations aside from a bit of relaxing enjoyment.

    Thee Maldoror Kollective / Pilot (Man with the Meat Machine) - listening now, jazzy avant-garde metal with some blackened influences. I've heard some of their previous stuff, so far don't dislike, but already unsure if it will become a fave - reminds me in parts of Norsk act Shining, who have a new album out on Rune Grammafone very soon.

    DHG / Supervillain Outcast - I have an early mix of this sans vocals, will hold my final thoughts till I hear the released version. Regardless is an enjoyable release - just seems to meander a lot, great musos though, little traces of black metal left - the drums were recorded more than 3 years ago before Carl-Michael Eide had his tragic fall which he was lucky to survive from - but unfortunately means he won't be drumming (at least using his feet) ever again, it's a pity as he had a very unique drumming style.

    For christmas, I asked for a specific cookbook, Helen, my sister was kind enough to get this for me.

    The cookbook was South East Asian Food, written by an aussie Rosemary Brissenden who first published this book in 1969, at that time it was a significant publication as little had been written for the western market that so comprehensively documented the cuisine of this area. In some ways there are parallels to the role Madhur Jaffrey played in introducing Indian (and vegetarian) cooking to the general British public.

    The version I have is updated and is nearly double the size of the original edition, with many of the recipes adjusted to more accurately reflect authentic ingredients which are now available in the western market.

    I've coveted this book for quite a while, as in my browsing of similar books in oz, I've found that aside from Thai (and maybe Vietnamese) there is a complete lack of any substantial cookbooks that cover other South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Laos and Cambodia. This is explained by the exteme popularity of Thai (and more recently, Vietnamese) from a resturant going perspective.

    Aside from a craze/fad for Laksa in the 80's, we seem to have picked up one or two signature dishes from each country (Gado Gado for example) that might be served in a more pan asian resturant and left it at that.

    I think this is a pity as the dishes from these countries can be richer and more complex than the bold contrasted or fresh flavours of Thai or Vietnamese.

    So, I've cooked one dish from the book so far, a Malay version of the Indian Korma - which was fantastic. Planning to cook another Malay/Nyona dish tonight and then possibly move on to the Indonesian section to try a few dishes using Candlenuts.

    Thanks very much Helen, this one will keep me cooking for many months to come!

    Fishscale

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    Various factors have contributed to helping me to get motivated to listen to some of my considerable backlog of music. The biggest factor is the return of the commute which I have always found a great opportunity to listen to new music.

    I've added a bunch of music to my library over the past few days, this is only the tip of a very large iceberg of 2006 music I have not yet listened to. The backlog will be dealt with, at least for the albums I am keen to give a good listen to. That said, I make no promises to give adequate time to the large amount of eastern European black metal I've acquired over the past six months, much of it is very raw and I know I can only really evaluate when I'm in the right frame of mind.

    One of the things I traditionally do at the end of the year is look at what the slightly more mainstream press thinks was worthwhile listening for the year. This usually consists of alt/indie rock that is often lacking a long term appeal and has been primarily seized upon by reviewers seeking the next rock revolution. That said, there is often some genius and gems to be found perusing the aforementioned lists.

    I've noticed a lot of mainstream press rated Wu Tang member, Ghostface Killah's album Fishscale highly this year. In itself i found this a bit strange as Wu Tang as a whole have never really recovered from their mid 90s peak to produce a consistently good release since then. However as loosely defined solo artists, the Wu Tang have produced over 100 releases, with widely varying quality but including one of my all time favourite rap albums - GZA's 1995 album Liquid Swords.

    Fishscale is a solid album, with quality production and Ghostface's trademark verbose somewhat inaccessible wordplay. It's quality and enjoyable but not on the same consistency as the mid 90s output from this collective. That said, it's remarkably close, despite the lack of traditional production partners. In many ways it's both much more mature and still significant, a somewhat surprising development really as many had written this collective off long ago.

    Personally I look forward to the shortly forthcoming Ghostface/MF Doom collaboration, as I think this partnership has strong potential based on the MF Doom produced tracks on Fishscale.

    Mindi writes about attending the funeral for a mutual co-worker and friend of ours Matthew King.

    Although I noticed Matthew many years ago and deduced that he was into similar music to myself, I wasn't as close to Matthew as Mindi was, we worked in different departments, on different floors and work wise had very little to do with each other. However the three of us shared a common interest in Metal, particularly Black Metal and this gradually brought us closer. Mindi's words echo my thoughts well and I don't know if there is much more I can say.

    Matthew's passing brings to mind the passing of a close friend of mine (and my entire family) Elton, who passed away in similar fashion a few years back. My sincerest sympathies go out to Matthew's family and his longterm partner.

    I'm still thinking about 2006 and music, Mindi's advice was to post a list of what i have actually listened to and really enjoyed, even if it is small.

    Problem is I'm keen to commit to something that can change, adapt, grow as I listen to the backlog.

    The end result is a compromise. I'll hand pick a top list that I don't feel will change over time. Plus I will link to my rate your music list, which will be updated as I experience other 2006 albums (or am reminded that I have enjoyed something)

    Okay here's my top 10 of 2006, all these albums are 9.5/10 or higher quality.

    1. Agalloch - Ashes Against the Grain
    2. Darren Hanlon - Fingertips and Mountaintops
    3. Enslaved - Ruun
    4. Katatonia - The Great Cold Distance
    5. Tenhi - Maaäet
    Also jostling for that 5th place are Negură Bunget - OM and Drudkh - Blood in Our Wells.

    With regards to Drudkh, I feel that I enjoyed Drudkh's The Swan Road more (but maybe haven't given Blood in Our Wells enough time/listens). Also for Negură Bunget, they are so close to that near perfect score, but some of the overly atmospheric moments on the first half of the album just kill the mood for me at times.

    Disappointment of the year was Solefald's Black for Death, I really liked Red for Fire but the two should have been one, especially musically. Lyrically they are both fantastic though.

    My ratings for albums released in 2006 as tracked by RateYourMusic

    Also of interest, Top 50 of 2006 as determined by RateYourMusic's userbase Notice where Agalloch sits on their list.

    After the Pizza session on NYE, I had a few leftovers, primarily some pizza dough and some boiled potatoes.

    After work on Tuesday, I felt like baking, so decided to make potato bread.

    Had a few different recipes for this, and also had some cooked purple potatoes as well as some more normal pale yellow fleshed spuds. So I though I'd try two recipes. One from Rose Levy Beranbaum 's The Bread Bible with the purple potatoes and the other one from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes.

    Jeffrey's recipe actually called for roasted rather than boiled potatoes, so I decided to adapt a variation he outlines with roasted onion and potato bread. Basically, I used red onions and caramelised these and the boiled potatoes in red wine vinegar and rosemary. I'm quite sure the flavours I created would have been different to that achieved by roasting, but was pretty happy with the outcome. The leftover pizza dough became a pate fermente for this bread.

    I was very happy with the rising scoring and baking of both the breads, and the onion & potato one was very much a "just one more slice" bread.

    As much as I find food science fascinating, I always have stuck with eating things that have a realistic ingredient list. In the case of coffee, I never developed a taste for creamy, milky coffee - but regardless based purely on the name "non dairy creamer" never sounded appetising to me. This is especially true now I know the ingredients, I'll definitely stay away.

    Not vegan, hidden bad fats, bonus pesticides, also it's potentially explosive.

    It's the size of your pay packet the UK's interested in, not your skills - World: "THE British Government has been criticised for changing rules that allow highly skilled migrants, including many Australians, to live and work in Britain.

    The changes place more importance on earnings and education than work experience and could mean that 30 per cent of prospective migrants living and working in Britain will not be eligible to extend their visa"

    (Via Sydney Morning Herald.)

    I'm not keen on the UK's approach, sure this is a "highly skilled" visa, but there's no check to see if the university qualifications that count for so much actually have any relevance to the "skilled" role you are applying for. All in all, it smacks of laziness on the UK immigration department, trying to make things simpler by only accepting University qualifications.

    In the IT field, the (arguably even more unfair) money side of the equation is not so much of an issue, but on the education side unless you want to go into management, or potentially programming, a University degree is not very useful.

    Norway (and Oz) seem to have more sensible requirements for skilled visas.

    Well I am a little surprised, as Torchwood has been renewed for a second year. I found the first series (with the obvious exception of tonight's not yet seen final two episodes) pretty ordinary in the main, where the ideas have been strong, the writers have forgotten about characterisation and in general it seems they are incapable of building a story where at least one major cast member doesn't get sidelined and poorly written.

    I worry that like other popular series, the spinoffs drain creative talent from the main (read successful) series and generally contribute little back in return. So far we've not seen much creative drain in the writing department! However I do worry about the producers/executives spreading themselves thin over the franchise. This is going to continue as we see another spinoff launch tonight - the "Sarah Jane Adventures" (SJA). Obviously looking at the target market, SJA doesn't look like it holds much interest for me, but it will tax the executive producers involvement in the main series even more. To a degree I'm ecstatic that Doctor Who has returned from it's near two decade TV death to it's fantastic resurgence and popularity now. However I hold my doubts that "cashing in" whilst the interest is high will benefit this series in the medium or long term. One simply has to look at the dalekmania period of the 60s to see how easily this can turn into kitch/trash.

    On the characterisation side of Torchwood, Little Storping-in-the-Swuff writes about how he perceives the Torchwood annual review should go, this is generally on the money but doesn't always mirror my opinion.

    My viewpoint: I think more should be done to properly deal with Owen's date-rape/misogynist behaviour in the early episodes, the writers need to be sacked if they don't attack this dangling plot thread promptly. Also I would keep Toby Whithouse on the writing team, and would like to see Noel Clark given another opportunity. The writer i am most unsure about is Chris Chibnall, as lead writer and co-producer, his involvement in Torchwood extends beyond writing eps and the quality of his scripts has been very erratic. On the flip-side, outside of Torchwood I enjoyed the script he wrote for an episode of Life on Mars.

    Torchwood struggles between it's made for family-tv ties to Doctor Who and it's aim to tackle modern adult drama and 21st century values head on. So far it feels like it's failed in both, with the adult elements gratuitously tacked on to a family-tv chassis. It doesn't yet hold a candle to the shows it's inspired by (Buffy/X-Files) and at best feels like Angel, which forever suffered in the shadow of it's parent show.

    Little Storping-in-the-Swuff's onions:

    Torchwood Appraisals

    Well it's 2007 and I'm hoping that it will be a more stable year than 2006 for me. I found 2006 a strange and turbulent year, surprising many by walking away from Optus after 12+ years, moving halfway around the world to start a new life with Astrid in Norway, and then spending much of the year unemployed.

    Much changed in my friends and families lives this year as well, in particular congrats to Dave and Penny on sneaking their first born into the dying hours of 2006. Chris and Natalie had their second child earlier this year, a daughter, their first to be born on UK soil. On the family front, the extended McHugh clan gained another addition to it's small family with my cousin Melissa and her partner Scott also having their first baby. I'm keen to get back to Oz sometime this year to meet these new arrivals in person. Astrid's sister Unni and her husband Torbjørn had their first daughter. 2007 holds potential baby wise, with Astrid's younger brother Vegard and his partner Randi expecting their first.

    Others made similar big re-locations, Pieter and Michelle decided to give London a second shot, and so far seem to be enjoying the experience, with it's expected ups and downs. I really hope it goes well for them, and look forward to catching up with them in 2007.

    We had a low key new years, in fact I nearly slept through the actual changeover! Astrid worked during the day, and in the evening I made pizza, we had Vegard and Randi over for dinner (for us), supper (for them) - everyone liked the pizza very much. After that we played Who wants to be a millionaire in Norwegian and I got complimented for my excellent Norwegian pronunciation, I did pretty well with understanding the norsk questions (or at least making an educated guess). We watched the midnight revelry from the loft of our house, the fireworks were fantastic but there was some worrying displays of why fireworks and alcohol shouldn't mix. Also everyone seemed to be ignoring the fact you weren't allowed to let off fireworks in our suburb (cause of the old wooden houses). The nearby Våland tower had an organised firework display, which was really good.

    After the organised stuff had died down, we drove to somewhere with some good open space, and I had some fun letting off my $30 grab bag of fireworks. Astrid and the others stayed in the car as it was damn cold, something I ignored as I was having too much fun. Once I'd let off pretty much the entire bag, it started hailing, so we called it a night and headed home, with Astrid relegated to about 4 hours sleep as she is at work now. Spoke to her a little while back and she says everyone even the clients are a bit worse for wear today. Oh well, nothing a good nights sleep tonight can't fix.

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