Category Archives: Sam Haney

Anchored in Quality

Art by Sam Haney

Story By Daniel Anderson

As stated in the previously published review, progressive metal has been taking over independent labels recently due to the intricate and pristinely-made sound that bands of the genre typically produce. Bands such as Meshuggah and Periphery set a bar for the genre, known as djent, that many bands have since tried to copycat.

But as is for many genres, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Take Baroness for instance.

While still labeled as a progressive metal and rock act, this Savannah, Georgia based band has taken an opposite approach to the genre than most current prog acts. Instead of attempting to make their sound as clean and precise as possible, Baroness (as well as other contemporaries like Mastodon and Torche) combine the genres of sludge metal, alternative rock, and heavy psych into their sound.

It would seem that they have reaped the benefits from this. Since 2007, every new Baroness release (all color-coded, by the way) has been celebrated by the hard rock and metal communities. Their first two outings, The Red Album and Blue Record, were highly praised for their combination of heavy and compressed production of sludge with the technicality and finesse of prog rock.

In 2012, their double-album Yellow and Green, saw the band going in a more accessible direction. Despite still being well-received, these two remain a bit divisive among fans for going on that route. One could release the single “Take My Bones Away” in the mid-to-late 90s and it would be seen as another Foo Fighters-esque radio rock tune.

With their next release in late 2015, Purple, Baroness almost had a return to form. It served as a middle ground between their first two hard-hitting releases and the accessibility of Yellow and Green. The album was a tremendous success for the band, earning great sales, the adoration of fans and critics, and even a Grammy nod for the lead single, “Shock Me.” 

Because of this, it was no surprise that many, such as myself, were anticipating their newest release, Gold and Grey. And, unfortunately, opinions on the results have been split once again.

Like with Purple, it would seem Baroness is once again attempting to meld heaviness and accessibility. However, the accessibility has been slightly turned up a notch, perhaps not to the same level as Yellow and Green, but it is still a bit noticeable.

Should their approach be slightly tweaked, tracks such as “I’m Already Gone” and “I’d Do Anything” could probably released as pop rock ballads in the early 2000’s. 

Not to mention, there is also the tenth track, “Emmett – Radiating Light,” which comes across a Baroness’ attempt at an acoustic singer-songwriter track (like the poor man’s Mount Eerie or Sufjan Stevens). Yet the boring, deadpan vocals, and its inconsistency compared to the rest of the tracklist could make the listener question as to why the band would include this in the album at all. 

Speaking of which, one of the most irritating detractors of this record are the absurd amount of short, mostly-instrumental interludes it contains. Not only do most of them sound lazily composed, but they contribute nothing to this record in terms of pacing. If anything, these tracks all but kill the flow of the album.

Be not mistaken, this record may be laced with flaws in its tracklist, but that does not mean that Baroness went into this project without bringing some quality to the table.

Tracks such as “Tourniquet” and “Borderlines” demonstrate the fantastic songwriting, soaring vocals and tight instrumental composition that most people associate with this band. The thirteenth track, “Broken Halo,” which is a typical song by Baroness standards, is executed well enough to where it could be placed on the tracklist of Purple.

The eleventh track, “Cold-Blooded Angels,” particularly stands out among the other tracks by showcasing the band at their most dynamic. The track goes through numerous passages and transitions while still keeping up a top-notch vocal performance from frontman John Baizley.

Despite this, the most major misstep on this record prevented me from enjoying this album any further: the production.

For most, if not the complete duration, this album is absolutely plagued with a jarring amount of technical flaws. On the opening track, “Front Toward Enemy,” the guitars and the bass are mixed together in such a way that they sound as if they are falling over one another. Also, the drums get so lost in the mix that the cymbals are really the only parts that are noticeable.

Even worse, the vast majority of these tracks suffer from the same or similar issues in production. Perhaps the worst case of these drums comes about with the final track, “Pale Sun.” Not only is it unfulfilling for an album closer, but the cymbals near the end of the track border on being white noise.

On some tracks, the opposite issue is also present. With the third track, “Seasons,” the drums finally become noticable, but that comes at the cost of the guitars and bass, which are consequently buried beneath them. The latter is also drowned out significantly on “Borderlines.”

Issues with this album’s production could potentially continue for another few paragraphs, but underlying all of this is the most frustrating aspect to me: 

Baroness has never been known for being the best-produced band out there. The difference here is that the muddy and compressed mixing of previous efforts was a part of their charm. Purple, for instance, has a level of production that is almost as messy as what can be heard on Gold and Grey. But unlike this new release, Purple at least had a slightly gruffer approach in overall composition, so the mix compliments the album well enough.

Sadly, this is not the case for Gold and Grey. To have decidedly grimy production is one thing, but to dial it to a higher degree for a selection of songs that simply do not fit well with it is completely unnecessary.

This album could have been good, maybe even great when accounting for its highlights. What a shame that its greatest fault is something that could have been so easily prevented.

Standout Tracks:Tourniquet,” “Cold-Blooded Angels,” “Borderlines”

Score: 6/10   

Tracklist:

  1. Front Toward Enemy
  2. I’m Already Gone
  3. Seasons
  4. Sevens
  5. Tourniquet
  6. Anchor’s Lament
  7. Throw Me an Anchor
  8. I’d Do Anything
  9. Blankets of Ash
  10.  Emmet – Radiating Light
  11.  Cold-Blooded Angels
  12.  Crooked Mile
  13.  Broken Halo
  14.  Can Oscura
  15.  Borderlines
  16.  Assault on East Falls
  17.  Pale Sun

Listen: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kqi3ECPn2xHvZh4_pKWD-DxvdQAKcT3QQ

 

We need to put the death penalty to rest…again

 

Art by Sam Haney

Story by Gracie Vanover

For many countries world wide the death penalty is not something inmates fear anymore. In the last 16 years the death penalty has been a true rarity. But now those numbers are going to see a tremendous rise.  

President Donald Trump reinstated the federal level of capital punishment just a few days ago. In reversing the death penalty hiatus Trump has caused people to line up already to face their end. According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) 62 people are on federal death role and approximately 2,600 for state death penalty. Although some see this as an eye for an eye, it appears to be more of an improper solution. 

In seeing this punishment as an eye for an eye many forget a crucial part. The inmate’s backstory. In many cases details of abusive childhoods or other factors are thrown out the window and forgotten in a trial. For example, in 1994 a man named Scotty Morrow murdered his ex-girlfriend and other women. To no surprise he was sentenced to death row, but there are, of course, always complexities. 

In Morrow’s case he was violently treated as a child and never received therapy or any form of mental health booster, leaving him unstable. In the 20 or so years he spent in prison he became a rehabilitated man and would have been released back into the world had it not been for his lethal injection. Many officers in the prison said he was the best behaved inmate and was one of the kindest people they had ever met. 

Of course, Morrow is just an example of many other prisoners in the states. Had it not been for his death penalty he would have been free to go back into the world a changed person. In using these lethal punishments second chances of life are completely squandered. 

In revamping the death penalty we are stooping to the level of serial killers or murderers. We are no longer fighting for justice and in the end doing exactly what the accused are. What makes us so much better than them? 

Many supporters of the death penalty, like Trump, claim to be pro-life. If pro-lifers are fighting for an unborn life, then why are they trying to end one that is well on its way? Sure this life commited a crime but is one life not as precious as another? If an unborn life is worth as much as people draw it out to be then why is an inmate’s worth less? The simple answer is if the unborn life is precious, then so is the inmate’s. 

As a society we should condemn this distasteful penalty and work towards better solutions. We in no way have authority to take the life of someone even though they took someone else’s. Rather than ending their lives we should try to turn their lives in the right direction. Morrow corrected himself but never saw the light of day again much like others charged with the death penalty. So what exactly stopping us from amending these prisoners’ lives? Nothing but our own laws.

 

Just because Twitter said it does not mean it is true

Art by Sam Haney

Story by Gracie Vanover

Social media can be both a blessing and a curse. However, for some male Marvel fans, it appears to be the latter. With the new movie Captain Marvel being released on March 8, many have something to say about the male opinion of this movie. Feminists across platforms like Twitter seem to have the strongest say in what they think about their male peers who dislike the new female lead superhero movie.

After the new movie was in theater for a few days, talk around our school and social media grew with likes and dislikes of the movie. The issue of “men being sexist” against the movie came to my attention one day at my lunch table as it was the discussion topic. One of my peers said he did not entirely care for the movie, as it just was not as good as others to him. His real issue with sharing his opinion, however, was the fact that many female friends took what he was trying to say the wrong way. They felt as if he was saying what he said due to the lack of “sexualizing” a woman hero. In his defense, that was not the cause for dislike, but many insisted on that as the base of his dislike.

With many women in the Marvel fandom adoring the movie and female lead Brie Larson, it is somewhat reasonable to see how they incorrectly interpreted what these men are saying. In the movie, Captain Marvel does not appear as the average woman hero, as her costume is more “bland” compared to others. I think with the change of her costume many assume the dislike is solely due to “non-sexualisation” of  Larson. Although many men have clearly stated this is not the case for their dislike, some women keep pushing to say it is when it truly is not.

When it comes down to the actual costuming of the women, Marvel is actually very respectful in making them feel comfortable. But in doing this they also are decently consistent with the comics and their design. To bring the original example back, Larson and her producers agreed on how the original comic book suit would not fit for the movie style but they did not completely obliterate any connection to the comics. When it boils down to the fans as well, no one is angry because she was not shown in sexy spandex. In specifics, not just male fans but many fans were displeased with mainly the plot, according to reviews from metacritic.com.

It seems like many are quick to attack male viewers when it comes to female superheroes and their opinions on them. However, as mentioned beforehand, the dislike is never due to the lack of sexualization. With the world we live in now, many ads in media are meant to sell as sex appeal. Of course with brands like Marvel, DC, or other productions, that is not the intended case. These brands are dedicated to the viewers and bringing them quality content over the basic and easy sex appeal that most everything is branded with.

The fanbase has no right to be mad at the lack of sex appeal because that style of branding is never the focus of the Marvel brand of movies. The idea of male viewers being angry at the lack of sexualization is a false accusation on other viewers’ parts. For other fans or outsiders to accuse the fanbase of that is unjust and a false accusation. Not only is it making that part of the fanbase look bad, but it makes the entire fanbase as a whole look worse as well.

Overall, people use media to claim statements that a lot of time are not true. Even though in this society sex appeal sells content, this is not always the case. Marvel fans were the most recent target of the “only care about sexualized content” facade but it will not be the last. So before people accuse others of this, they need to take a step back and look at the whole picture.

 

Students anchored to Indiana during mid-semester breaks

Art by Sam Haney

Story By Natalie Clare

Seagulls graze the wave peaks, searching for lunch. The air smells like salt, with sand being picked up in its wind. The sun beats down and… DING DING DING. The alarm clock reads 7 in the morning and we are brought back to reality. Time to go to practice.

I have been a runner since the sixth grade, and have also not been on a spring or fall break vacation since then. With the amount of work that is put into a sport, many athletes cannot afford to take spring break off.

For myself, running is a sport based on building upon speed and endurance. Taking a break can halt your progress, and even lose some. Therefore, I do not have the flexibility to take a vacation right in the middle of season. Leaving would be detrimental to my performance for outdoor season.

This is why we should have longer summer and winter breaks. Spring and fall breaks come very abruptly, right in the middle of a working period. Sports are mid-season. School is halfway through a semester. The breaks are just too long, and not beneficial to the majority of the school population.

According to a National Federation of State High School Associations’ (NFHS) study, over 7.6 million students played sports in the 2010-2011 school year. The NFHS also said that 55.5 percent of all high school students play a sport. Therefore, about 1,000 students at FC play a sport, anchoring half of the school to southern Indiana sports practices.

Although students are not forced to stay, FC is a competitive school. It would be detrimental to not practice with teammates. For track, competing against teammates helps to push you into a faster time, something that is extremely hard to do alone. But in the summer and winter, running is in its off-season and our schedule is much more flexible.

This does not just apply to athletics, but academics are halted because of spring and fall breaks. With a semester being cumulative, having a break between each quarter is difficult to come back from. Students are expected to come back from break ready to move on to the next lesson, or even to pick up from where they left off. There are also teachers who give homework over break. Instead of dragging ourselves into school, we are forced to do homework “from the comfort of our own bed.” Our brains and body never get to use spring and fall break for what they are intended for: giving students a time to rejuvenate and finish the second half of the semester.  

What is the point in a break if we do not actually get to take one? We should shorten both spring and fall break to one week and lengthen summer and winter.

There are many benefits to having long breaks after each semester. In the eyes of an athlete, we are in off season and just conditioning. Therefore, we would actually be able to let our bodies and minds rest. For academics, the semester is ended with finals, so the vast majority of teachers will not assign additional homework over the breaks.

Additionally, colleges are designed to have long summer and winter breaks already. So, if high school is meant to prepare students for college, why not have similar schedules as well? It seems redundant to have the several breaks throughout your whole high school career and then be thrown into a brand new schedule cold turkey once graduated.

With colleges in mind, a longer summer would mean more time to complete college courses early, as well as participate in other activities. Students could get a summer job and learn how to save money before going to college.

The purpose of a break is to allow students, and educators, a much-needed time away from school and allow our bodies and minds time to rest. With each semester being so demanding and mentally taxing, a true break is needed in order to excel to the full extent the whole school year.

As an active student, participating in a demanding sport, honors and high-level classes, and many other after school activities, a longer summer and winter break would be very beneficial to my needs. My schedule mirrors that of many students at FC.

“Longer summer and winter breaks would allow me more time to train for the season. It would also give me a chance to take summer classes,” said sophomore Sarah Langdon. “I have to take personal finance over the summer, but with such a short summer I’m not sure when I can take it. So, I’m going to have to do it over vacation and probably won’t do as well. If we had longer summers, I wouldn’t have to rush through training and summer classes and then finally get a break for a quick vacation.”

Short breaks are redundant in the fact that they are too short to accomplish anything. Spring and fall breaks result in homework because they cut right in the middle of lessons. Summer and winter breaks are too short to participate in summer jobs, camps, or additional classes all at the same time.

So, for those of you going on a sunbathing on a beach in Florida, or hiking up the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina this week, remember those who are anchored to Indiana, turning off that annoying alarm clock, getting up and putting in the work—all while supposedly having a break.  

The Door to Doom is Now Wide Open

Art by Sam Haney

Story By Daniel Anderson

The nation of Sweden is quite well versed in metal.

From Meshuggah to Opeth, Entombed to Amon Amarth, Bathory to Ghost, metal music has thrived in this country for decades. However mainstream or underground the names may be, the genre has remained popular nonetheless.Yet throughout this country’s layered history in the genre, few Swedish metal bands have ever been as revered as the doom-laden Candlemass.

Forming in 1984 in Stockholm by bassist and sole consistent member Leif Edling, Candlemass embarked on a distinct metal movement during the mid to late 80s, doom metal. It typically is not a very extreme form of the metal genre (some might even call it simplistic), but extremity is not what it needs to focus on. This genre is familiarized by its slow tempo, titanic riffs, and thunderous volume. In doing so, the overall sound produced gives off an ominous presence: one that gives the listener a sense of impending doom (hence the name).

Around the time of the band’s hay day, the genre of doom metal was viewed by many as a bastion of a sound that had been existent since the 70s (thanks to Black Sabbath, of course). Contemporaries such as Trouble, Saint Vitus and Pentagram had jumped onto the bandwagon of Sabbath worship.

Candlemass, however, changed that notion with albums like Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and Nightfall. Instead of the familiar stoner riffs of the decade prior, the band opted for grand production and a dramatic new sound for the genre— vocals and all. They had essentially turned doom metal into opera.

From then on, Candlemass kept turning the wheel for their newly updated genre (which they dubbed “epic doom metal”). Though this did not come without its faults. The band has consistently picked up and dropped its members like jacks, and hiatuses  were certainly not unheard of.

Despite all of that, Candlemass persisted. Time and time again, the band kept releasing albums which mostly garnered warm reception from critics and fans. But after their 2012 release Psalms for the Dead, Candlemass fell silent with their streak of albums.

There was no complete studio silence, though. In that time, they released two EPs, Death Thy Lover and House of Doom. However, with their fifth vocalist, Mats Levén, they lacked the truly operatic voice which had helped give the band its identity.

Once he was outed, the band once again needed someone to take the mantle of vocals. Much to the surprise of their fans, the original vocalist for the band, Johan Länqvist, decided to take on that role once again.

Thus, we now have Candlemass’ twelfth studio album, The Door to Doom. And what an excellent return to form it is.

With so many lineup changes in their discography, one might expect a band such as Candlemass to act dysfunctional, especially considering how long they have been doing this sort of thing.

Yet that is not what is on display here. Straight from the opening track, “Splendor Demon Majesty,” it becomes clear that Candlemass can still offer the devilish and melodic guitar lines, crushing production, and ominous vibes that made them beloved in the first place.

Längqvist’s vocals, while obviously aged, have fared much greater than most other long-running bands. Take the new recording of the track, “House of Doom,” for instance. While the excellent instrumentals have not changed much since last time, the more operatic tone that the vocals on the new version bring forth make the comparison between this and the original version seem like day and night. With one simple change, this band become instantly more recognizable.

The third track, “Astorolus – The Great Octopus” is perhaps the most outstanding example of fresh offerings on this album. While not as occult as many of the other songs in their discography, the Lovecraftian lyrics of an oceanic monstrosity certainly fill in the gap of ever-present evil just perfectly.

But most notable of all, this track features a winding guest guitar solo from the legendary Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. Just knowing that this band has garnered the attention and collaboration of one of heavy metal’s most essential forefathers goes to show how far Candlemass has come since its inception.

However, straightforward doom and gloom is not all that is brought to the table here. There are several moments throughout this album which show that the band also has versatility under its belt. Instances such as the intro to the track, “Under the Ocean,” which has a psychedelic vibe comparable to that of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter.”

That same vibe takes complete control on the fourth track, “Bridge of the Blind.” This track is a nice change of pace, basically acting as an acoustic interlude.

The track “Black Trinity” contains the moment most atypical of this band, however. It starts out with some of the heaviest and most distorted guitar licks on the album, almost like an Electric Wizard track. But then there is an eerie drum break starting around the four-minute mark, including what sounds like a pair of maracas in the background. Needless to say, this moment sticks out like a sore thumb, but in an interesting way.

One more important thing to note about this album is the mixing. Make no mistake, this album is as heavy and hard-hitting as any frequent metal listener would expect. The sheer emphasis on the drums and guitar distortion help this album sound even more monstrous than it already was. It is not exactly as heavy as something like, say, a High on Fire record, but it more than gets the job done.

In essence, The Door to Doom is the album that long time listeners of Candlemass have been craving for years now. It blends the new and the old of the band into a seamless recording. Plus, given that a good majority of the tracks abide by doom metal standards, it also makes for a good album to engage new listeners with.

One thing this album is not, however, is a sequel to their debut, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (despite what some fans claim). Then again, it does not need to be. By now, this band has gone through so many different phases and lineups that making something entirely reminiscent of their earliest works would be futile. Candlemass has remained a surprisingly consistent band when it comes to sound and style, but the subtle changes they have made along the way have kept this band from reaching their permanent expiration date.

Late-career highlights are certainly not unheard of for metal bands, but only a band like Accept can match the consistency that Candlemass has had past their prime. For a band that has been around for 35 years, and with fairly little change to the sound of their repertoire, it is quite amazing that Candlemass can still bring about great albums in this great of a volume.

The Door to Doom is the newest evidence of this claim.

 

Standout Tracks: Under the Ocean, Astorolus – The Great Octopus, Black Trinity, House of Doom

Score: 8.5/10