The Metal Minute Awarded 2009 Best Personal Blog By Metal Hammer Magazine

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 'n Me

As we get ready to turn the page on another year, I find myself evaluating 2013.  I have to, since it feels like one of the more profound years I've lived, and certainly one that concludes with the opportunity for future growth and hopeful enlightenment, as a man, as a father, as a writer, as a teammate and as a human being.  I could waste my time by grousing how this year kinda sucked, but then the aforementioned opportunity for growth is potentially missed when wallowing over misfortunes or undesirable moments.  Besides, when you survive adversity as so many people in the world do not, you have to check yourself, thank God and the universe and prepare to move forward instead of retreating into a cocoon of self-loathing.

As always, life gives and takes, particuarly in response to what you put into it.  I'm halfway sad to have come to certain realizations about people and events that affected me in 2013 and it's certainly disheartening to see friends turn on you and you discover you're not quite what you thought you meant to some folks.  On the other hand, for the friends I've lost this year, I've gained triple.  I have a new team at my day job who have made me feel like a valuable part of the process and it's been awhile since I've actually felt my back has been looked out for.  I've laughed much and had fun getting to know my current crew.  I embrace what is now.

In my writing and music journalism pursuits, I've had the pleasure of meeting so many new artists, bands, publicists and readers.  It's been a treasure to walk into a venue I'm on the guest list for and have people know what Blabbermouth is and the reception and hospitality I've been given thus is a reward few people get to experience in life.  I've been made to feel like a small celebrity and I'm honored to have had musicians buy me beers at concerts, sometimes out of their own pockets.  That is a gesture I never overlook or depreciate.  I've interviewed more than 300 musicians, film directors, actors, visual artists and writers in my time and while I've had to slow that avenue of my life down upon accepting the responsiblity of raising my adopted son, I'm so proud of what I've accomplished in this field.  Sometimes the barrage of review requests and media press releases on a daily basis becomes so cumbersome I need to retreat for a day or so, but when anything you do in life becomes in-demand, how can you not be humble about it?

I had a terrific year with Blabbermouth and increased my review load.  Sometimes it becomes a battle at home for computer time with a spouse working towards her degree and sometimes it's deflating to get up early to write and you have your little one chasing after your heels, but somehow the work gets done, even at the sacrifice of sleep.  It's a genuine gift to be a part of something bigger than you and better yet, to matter.  I don't want to be pretentious here, but I just might've won over a decent portion of the notorious rogues' gallery of commenters at Blabbermouth after being torched upon my arrival.  The wherewithal to succeed and to weather negativity with obtuse blinders on is how I've gotten to this point.  2014 looks to remain busy with the Blab and I'm so grateful to my editor, Borivoj, as I am to my employers at Resource Title who allow me to feed my family.

This year I was invited to contribute some editorials and I was able to place a few short stories for publication and I received some nice feedback.  I just had a horror story, "Before the Ball" accepted for an upcoming anthology, "Axes of Evil" and I couldn't be happier.  That story was an homage to eighties culture and B-horror of the day and I'm ecstatic that story resonated with the editors.  I took up the 50K word novel challenge for National Novel Writing Month and while I fell short with only 32K words, the excercise to try to and write it in a month was worth it just to see what I could pull from myself.  That novel project, "Lucky Burns" took me to a new level of my craft and I'm ready to finish it in 2014.  All I need is a literary agent and I'm ready to take over the world.

Comic books came back into my life this year in a big way.  I haven't read them with seriousness in quite a while since I've been cultivating my fiction and journalism efforts, yet I got sucked into them after taking my son to Free Comic Day last year and again this year.  I tripped over the Batgirl reboot with Gail Simone writing and became addicted.  Such a humane treatment of an underrated character.  I then found myself trolling through old boxes of comics and graphic novels and found my fires lit.  I've been catching up with today's scene and have seen so much wonderful writing and art out there it's made me passionate about the medium once again.  I wrote a 64-page graphic novel script this year, "Drowning Man," and am ready to turn it into a potential series once I get an interested party to dive into it.  Now as the year turns, I'm about to enter Top Cow Comics' Talent Hunt for the upcoming year.  I did intensive study of their Witchblade, Artifacts and Darkness series and cannot wait to pen my entry script in January.  I would yell "Excelsior!" but that's exclusive to a different imprint.

My son has grown so much this year, physically and intellectually.  I have to remind myself I have a six-year-old little man under my roof and I address him as I would most other people.  I respect his intelligence too much to downplay my speech, other than employing sensible censorship.  I think he as a full appreciation of his life and who his adopted parents are.  I never want him to know what it means to make sacrifices and how fatiguing and sometimes frightening being a parent can be.  I'm blessed that this child is mature beyond his age, even if kids are kids and boys are boys, and he'll push us to the brink as any child would.  Still, I'm immensely proud of this fine young man who exhibits tremendous smarts, feelings and courage.  Right now, all he wants to do is play video games, but I've had so much fun this year taking him on so many hiking trails we've bonded more than ever as a result.  Sometimes I'm too exhausted to play action figures or games with him, but that comes with being a 43-year-old man who admittedly works way too much.  It's a necessity given the household climate, but on those days I gimp out of nite-nite story from tumbling and running in the yard or doing my Indiana Jones bit on the playground, I smile through the aches.  I love this kid.  He might as well be my flesh and blood.

I'm not going to trap myself into some silly resolution for 2014 that'll get swept to the side once the grind of life takes over as it always does.  In a complicated society such as we live in today, circumstances are always changing and they tend to influence, if not dictate your actions at times if you're not the master over your own life.  Who is master over one's life, those without gratuitous time and fortune to do so?  I hope the tone of this reflection indicates that I've chosen to overlook the bad parts of the year, and there were so many I often felt like chucking in the towel.  I like to hope that on those days I experience defeat, the feeling hangs over me for maybe a day and then I mentally adjust and come back fighting once again.  I persevere because I must.

2014.  You're mine, sucker.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ray's 25 Immaculate Receptions for 2013

Ahh, 2013, another intriguing year for metal music, a year filled with drama, controversy, arrests, fan bitchery and sagging sales reports, all of which we could've lived without.  On the other hand, Black Sabbath's 13 became one of the biggest success stories of the year and a number of artists pushed beyond their considerable talents to evolve even further and maintain a sense of credibility for the genre.  Ihsahn, The Ocean, Cult of Luna, Kylesa, Scale the Summit and of course, the mighty freedom fighters, Chthonic, all come to mind.  Beloved veterans Motorhead and Monster Magnet delivered career-defining records with Aftershock and The Last Patrol respectively, while ex-Iced Earth singer Matt Barlow came back to the scene and gave what I believe to be the finest metal vocal performance of the year with his new band, Ashes of Ares. 
Soprano Floor Jansen is one of the hot topics of metal in 2013, emerging as the new vocalist for Nightwish plus her own band, Revamp, both of which released products this year.  She also peeks in with Simone Simons for a pair of duets on Epica's astounding Retrospect.  Floor appears destined to become a household name in the symphonic metal bracket.

I think Megadeth took a little more heat than they deserved for Super Collider, but I understand why the faithful turned from that album.  It's nowhere near as offensive as the general consensus believes, but still, it'll be (as always) interesting to see where Mr. Mustaine and the crew go next after issuing a pop-flavored hard rock album instead thrash.  Then Voivod defied the odds with Dan "Chewy" Mongrain doing a remarkable job filling shoes nobody ever thought could be replaced.  Target Earth was a major surprise and it filled my heart with giddiness since I've sung Voivod's praises for much of my life.  Hails.

Two of my selections for this year's Immaculate Receptions list for metal music are barely metal (i.e. Conny Ochs and Matt Boroff), but they are so ingenious, infective and relevant they deserve their spots on this list.  There are a bigger number of Honorable Mentions I flagged this year because there was so much good material being generated they simply deserve acknowledgement.  It was a great year for me personally at Blabbermouth and I was happy to have made many new band chums, industry friends and readers this year.  2014 should be no less fun at the Blab and I'm ready to rock.

With that, here's my 25 Immaculate Receptions List for 2013: 


1.  ChthonicBu-Tik

2.  The OceanPelagial

3.  VoivodTarget Earth

4.  Cult of LunaVertikal

5.  SoilworkThe Living Infinite

6.  Black Sabbath13

7.  Soul RemnantsBlack and Blood

8.  Palms s/t

9.  CarcassSurgical Steel

10.  DisfigurementSoul Rot EP

11.  Monster MagnetThe Last Patrol

12.  IhsahnDas Seelenbrechen

13.  A Pale Horse Named DeathLay My Soul to Waste

14.  Conny OchsBlack Happy

15.  TomahawkOddfellows

16.  MotorheadAftershock

17.  Ashes of Aress/t

18.  A Storm of LightNations to Flames

19.  CzarNo One is Alone if No One is Alive

20.  Death AngelThe Dream Calls for Blood

21.  Fates WarningDarkness in a Different Light

22.  KylesaUltraviolet

23.  Matt BoroffSweet Hand of Fate

24.  Philip H. Anselmo and the IllegalsWalk Through Exits Only

25.  Be’LakorOf Breath and Bone

Honorable Mention List:


SkeletonwitchSerpents Unleashed

Vista ChinoPeace

Children of BodomHalo of Blood

Scale the SummitThe Migration

MoonbowThe End of Time

AttackheadVoices in the Dark Red Vinyl Edition

SepulturaThe Mediator Between Head and Hand Must Be the Heart

Hank 3’s 3A Fiendish Threat

Nephren-KaThe Fall of Omnius

Queensryche (Todd LaTorre camp) – s/t

Black TuskTend No Wounds EP

Ephel Duath - Hemmed by Daylight, Shaped by Darkness

Oceans of Slumber - Aetherial 

Melvins - Tres Cabrones

Sinister Realm - World of Evil

Iron Man - South of the Earth

Mutation - Error 500

Kataklysm - Waiting for the End to Come


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ray's Favorite Blu Ray/DVD releases of 2013

My favorite 5 music Blu Ray/DVD releases of 2013:

1. Epica - Retrospect
2. Kreator - Dying Alive
3. Mudhoney - I'm Now: The Story of Mudhoney
4. Iron Maiden - Maiden England '88
5. Rammstein - Videos 1995-2012

Though it's technically copyrighted for 2009, I enjoyed the hell out of Metallica's Quebec Magnetic for review at Blabbermouth earlier this year.

Stand by for my annual 25 Immaculate Receptions list for 2013...

Sunday, December 08, 2013


A huge load of my reviews posted at Blabbermouth today:  Korn, Motorhead, Fates Warning, Melvins, Saxon, Metal Church, Leaves' Eyes, Skeletonwitch, Czar, Monsterworks, Felix Martin, Argus, Coven 13, Beasto Blanco, The Mezmerist, Sirens & Sailors, Funeral Circle, Cursed 13, the 10th anniversary edition of Lamb of God's masterpiece, As the Palaces Burn and the Black Label Society DVD, Unblackened.  Yes, more to follow as they make it to the web.