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Music misc.

Top 10 listened songs the last couple of years

The last couple of years Spotify has made playlists on my most listened songs. So I thought it would be fun to just sum up the last three years in music for me. I’m actually pretty excited to see how 2021 will differ from previous years.

2018

In 2018 I didn’t listen that much to music. I was mostly listening to youtube videos when walking or going to and back from work. All songs on my top 10 is by different artists/bands. It’s a very mixed list, some rock, punk, an a humoristic acapella song, 70’s “jazz rock”, metal, bluegrass pop, video game music, a classical piece and a radio hit,

2019

In 2019 everything changed, the main reason is the release of Tool’s Fear Inoculum which got me to find Tool again, something that really shows on the list. Besides Tool I also rediscovered metal with Deftones, Edge of Sanity and At the Gates.

2020

A weird year with many changes for me personally. I discovered Motoi Sakuraba’s solo projects from the 90’s, and the album Gikyokuonsou was my most played during 2020. Something that is very evident on the top 10 list for 2020. The grip that Tool got on me during 2019 continued the year after. You can also see that metal from my youth still had a place on the top 10, as well as an 70’s Swedish prog favorite.

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Dan Swanö – Moontower (1998)

After Edge of Sanity’s albums and work on recording other bands’ albums in his studio, Dan Swanö made a solo album that he apparently described as “If Rush played death metal in the 1970s” (Wikipedia). This album Moontower is a unique creation. It’s a progressive fest filled with interesting riffs and passages, oozing of Dan Swanö’s creative mind. The albums starts with a synth heavy riff, accompanied by a groovy guitar riff. This really sets the mood of the album from the start. For the uninitiated I think Moontower is a very puzzling album, there are so many things you don’t really hear in combination.

A lot of synths and harsh vocals are not something you hear on every metal album. Therefore it’s probably that can put people off, those who don’t like growl or the metalhead that doesn’t want synth based songs. For those who can tolerate or even appreciate this unlikely combination, will hear an unique album that keeps on engaging the listener throughout the album.

I can’t understate how unique this album is. The songs are unique but cohesive. I have been listening to Moontower for well over 10 years, and it’s one of those albums that I always go back to. I can’t really describe why, but the energy and grooviness of all songs are so gripping. The melodic aspects incorporated in the songs absolutely one of the more noteworthy aspects of the album, ranging to excited to absolutely stunningly beautiful.

The album is a mix of death metal, 70’s progressive rock (Rush, Yes, Genesis), and 80’s rock guitar solos. Something that only Dan Swanö can weave together into an masterpiece. With Swanö playing all instruments himself makes everything have its own calculated place in each song.

I can’t really rank the tracks, since the albums should be experienced in order. I recommend it with all of heart. It’s very influential in my own perception of music, possibly making me picky when it comes to what I like and don’t. It scratches my progressive music itch as well as my death metal itch.

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Entombed – Wolverine Blues (1993)

There are few albums that have done so much for a genre than Wolverine Blues. It redefined what death metal could be, just a few years after its inception. With LG Petrov (R.I.P) back on vocals, the album is generally slower than Left Hand Path. It also changed a lot of other aspects than just the tempo of the songs. I would explain Wolverine Blues as a groovy album, especially the titular track.

For me the standout tracks are Eyemaster, Rotten Soil, Wolverine Blues, Demon, Blood Song and Out of Hand. They define what Entombed are going forward, heavy, groovy without losing anything from their legacy from Left Hand Path, just building on it. This being said, there are many more strong tracks.

LG Petrov’s less guttural vocals introduced in Wolverine Blues became a Entombed staple. It gives the songs a personality that a lot of other death metal bands miss since the voice is more distorted. No one can hear Petrov’s vocals and not hear it’s him and Entombed.

The heaviness in tthe tracks are elevated by the drumming, that varies from very heavy to more fleeting ride heavy sections, which adds to the grooviness in the album. They also let the music breathe, and not making a wall of sound for 30 minutes like some black metal bands from around the same time, creating a dynamic sound unique for the time. This said, they accomplish this without sacrificing anything from their past.

Wolverine Blues is so iconic and so versatile that you hear ingredients for other genres that Entombed don’t identify as. This is what the album is doing so well, making something that is so clearly death metal, but not alienating people that don’t see themselves solely as death metal heads. There is something so everyone, bluesy riffs and solos, heavy slow riffs for the doom enthusiast etc. As a progressive metal fan I hear riff that could’ve been found in songs by Dan Swanö, like the opening riff in Blood Song.

I can’t do anything but to recommend this album for pretty much anyone that wants a solid listen and a lesson in Swedish death metal history.

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Gaming misc. General misc. Music misc.

Updates

I have updated the site with a better structure for the categories. I have also bought a new computer, so I’m hopefully gonna post more different things here, since I don’t have to write on my phone anymore. I separated the writeups and the other stuff.

A lot of things have happened since I last posted. I have like I said, bought a new computer. I have also purchased an audio interface and new headphones. Now I can play bass without annoying my girlfriend and the neighbors. I also have the option to record ideas and possibly songs in the future. I have a lot to learn when it comes to recording. I also need to derust my bass playing-skills.

I recently started listening to a lot more death metal again, especially Entombed. Thanks to my friend Jason! He also inspired me to pick up the bass again!

On the gaming front, I got the PS5 on release and I love it. I played a lot the first couple of months, but have been in a rut lately, at least when it comes to PS5 gaming. I played through Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Spider-Man: Miles Morales (Platinum), Spider-Man: Remastered (Platinum), Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (Platinum), Ghost of Tsushima (Platinum), Maneater (Platinum) before slowing down. So I have already gotten my money’s worth. Might do a writeup on some of them in the future.

We got an LG OLED CX on the Black Friday sale. I’m very happy with it, especially with the PS5 and also my retro setup, since it’s very compatible with my upscaler. We had planned to buy that model on Black Friday so when our old TV died the same day I got the PS5, I was both sad and happy at the same time. Had to play on my computer monitor for about a week or two.

PS5 on my computer monitor, since the TV died the same day I got the PS5.

When it comes to retro gaming I have gotten a OSSC v1.6 which has audio over HDMI, which means I now have a solution that can take and upscale all my retro consoles to my OLED. I also have a HDMI dongle for the Nintendo Gamecube booked which hopefully arrives April 30th. So I hope to play a lot more Gamecube in the future, since this device opens up the possibility for digital to digital 480p signal, so I don’t have to bother with an interlaced signal, really excited about that. I just need to figure out the optimal setup when it comes to switches, since I don’t have anymore free HDMI ports on the TV.

My current retro setup, the OSSC v1.6 to the right being the heart of the setup.

That’s pretty much what I have been doing music and gaming-wise. Been focusing a lot more on what I enjoy, so in addition to gaming and music, we have started taking long walks so get outside more. This have been helping me a bunch, so I’m feeling much better in these pandemic times.

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Music misc.

Sore fingertips

This is very unusual. For the first time in years I have played so much electric bass that my fingertips are sore. It’s a fantastic feeling to be honest.

I was learning the guitar part for the pre-solo section on bass for the song Silent Wars by Arch Enemy. Which was a challenge in itself, to play a guitar part in bass. It was very fun, especially to prove to myself that I could do it. Despite the rust.

The feeling of accomplishment is very satisfying and I hope I’ll keep this up. I really want to play more.

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Music misc.

Looking back at music from my past

I have been listening to a lot of music from my youth lately. That means that I listen to those song with new ears. The last year or so I have been very interested in music that incorporate odd meters.

Going back to music I loved prior to my obsession with odd meters, I’m noticing thatvthe parts I liked the most in the song back in the days usually have Odd meters, something I was not picking up on when I was younger.

It’s pretty nice to see that even though I didn’t know exactly what I heard, I knew there was something exciting and intriuging about those parts.

One of the prime examples is Arch Enemy’s song Silent Wars. The pre-solo part in 13/8 or alternating 6/8 and 7/8 is still the best thing in the song. There is a great tension in the added beat, which really makes that section so great.

The same effect can be found in the song Paradise Lost by Symphony X where the song itself isn’t the most interesting to me. The intro however (and large parts of the song), is adding a bar of 7/8 after three bars of 6/8. It really elevates the song, the intro especially.

I’m probably gonna write more about songs that gets “revived” to me. To see if I still have the same taste as before.

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Dimension Zero – Silent Night Fever (2002)

Back in the day I considered In Flames one of my favourite bands. This has since changed, but I am nostalgic to the Gothenburg Sound. The bands that share the melodic death metal sound that was pioneered in the early 90’s really changed the following decades. However one of the lesser known bands actually made an album that I consider as one of the better gothenburg sound records is Dimension Zero, Jesper Strömblad of In Flames-fame’s side project. The album is called Silent Night Fever.

Silent Night Fever was released in 2002 and with its heavier sound it felt like natural progression from At the Gates’ interpretation of melodic death rather than In Flames’ more melodic style. Which in my opinion is a very good thing.

With Joakim Göthberg (Ex-Marduk) on vocals the sound automatically becomes rawer. The riff based songs along with a lot of blast beats feels more timeless than the more melodic NWBHM-style that other bands opted for.

The titular opening song instantly engages the listener with its iconic “Just fucking go”. You know you are in for a ride, even though, in hindsight feel a bit juvenile. The album feels very together in the compositions, where are songs are a bit more melodic like Through the Virgin Sky and Your Darkest Hour with a lot of harmonising guitars. Silent Night Fever, Not Even Dead however beautifully contrast them with heavier riffs. The battery, the drums, are always active and gives a direction to all the songs, something that’s very important for me. The songs has to move forward and the driving force on Silent Night Fever is the drums.

There are a lot of good melodic death metal crammed onto just 31 minutes. Every melodic death metal fan should listen to this excellent album. Sadly the album isn’t on Spotify.

I picked up the album at a stall outside the festival area of Sweden Rock back in 08.

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Music misc.

Ripping CDs

I recently bought an external DVD burner. The plan is to rip all my CDs to FLAC so I have good quality rips. That way I can listen to MY CDs, without having to find the CD. Especially since I don’t have any means to play CDs where I have speakers. It is legal in Sweden to rip CDs for personal use.

After primarily been listening to streamed music and MP3s for such a long time, it’s very nice to listen to some good quality rips. I do however not have any really good headphones. I will get a DAC and some nice headphones in the future.

The Fall of Hearts is the first CD to get ripped

To rip the CDs to FLAC I use Exact Audio Copy (EAC) which seems to be the best way to make FLAC-files. I am currently ripping Katatonia’s excellent album The Fall of Hearts, which is also the first one to get ripped to FLAC.

These files will be transferred to a external hard drive and in the future to a NAS so they are accessible from all devices in the apartment. When the first rip was finished I noticed that it took 31 minutes to finish a one hour long CD. Even though I don’t have too many CDs, this will take a while.

I followed a guide on https://doujinstyle.com/eac/ripping.html

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Motoi Sakuraba – Gikyokuonsou (1991)

If anyone said that my most listened album the first half of 2020 would be japanese keyboard-based progressive rock with a lot of jazz influences I would’ve scoffed and continued with my day. The reality is however that, Motoi Sakuraba’s album Gikyokuonsou has been my steady companion to and from work a lot this year.

Motoi Sakurba being my favourite video game composer after enthralling me with the music for game franchises like Golden Sun, Star Ocean and Tales of. His unique style that always flirts with progressive rock has always caught my ear since it always challenges the listener. Having playing some of the games that he has composed for gives me an interesting insight in his “newer” stuff, making this record even more appealing since it’s older than any of the OST’s of his that I have listened to. Being released in 1990 it’s evident that he writes music that he likes even in the games he composes for. There are a lot of similar ideas and phrases on Gikyokuonsou and the games.

Starting with the positive sounding and bouncy Humpty Dumpty which opens like it would be an epic sci-fi theme. That illusion is quickly over and the main theme is presented. Quirkier theme is hard to find, but it’s son catchy and the track cements Gikyokuonsou as a progressive rock album. There are also some very dramatic parts, and a solo that reminds me of solos of the swedish prog movement during the seventies. The following part does however throw that likness out the windows and continues on with more traditional prog rock.

Following the quirky Humpty Dumpty, we have the rockier Tone Access, which almost sounds a bit like Deep Purple meet oriental notes. This can probably be argued to be the heaviest of the eight tracks. Most of the tracks all have a very serious sounding atmosphere that get resolved into something more playful. A solid track. The main theme is by far my favorite part of the song.

The next track Byzantium, reminds me more of solos by prog keyboard virtuosos like Jordan Rudess and Rick Wakeman, followed by a lots of chromaticism. The solos are accompanied by playful drums and the very heavy bass that can also be found in many themes in the Golden Sun games. Every song is an adventures of there own, being extremely varied, but still coherent. The way Motoi plays with chords being suspended then resolved into a new chord is very pleasant to listen to.

Motion is the albums marathon track, clocking in at over 8 minutes. It is some of the more jazzy-sounding songs, with a large portions of the song in a more traditional trio setting, grand piano, bass and drums, instead of synths. With parts that reminds me of bossa nova and other parts that rely heavy of chromaticism this makes for a very entertaining track. Unfortunately for me, it is also the track that contains the most keyboard masturbation solos, where it’s mostly show-off passages, that to be is less interesting than the more jammy nature of the rest of the songs. The catchy parts of the song are very catchy and it’s worth multiple listens. It it however, not one of my favourite track.

That title is earned, but not one, not two, but three tracks in a row, making the later half of the record my favourite. The trio of song are Paradigm, Narratage and Scrap and Build. The opening song of these three is the track that I would say sound the most like a possible video game song, possibly a fighting theme, with great energy in the more active parts. There is also a pretty weird, but cool slower solo part. It’s a bit out of place. It does however very contrast the main theme perfectly giving it extra impact when reintroducing the main bit, making the slower part a great addition to the song.

Narratage is a beautiful track, the introreminds me of ballads by power metalband like Sonata Arctica, it does however transition to a beautiful piano piece with a very nice active bass that complements the piano perfectly. Narratage does, like Paradigm, also have a clear video game music quality, which in my ears are a always welcome. The bass has some very nice descending parts, which makes this an outstanding tunes. The theme that’s introducing in the latter part of the song, is a very simple but extremely effective piano line, which surprised me a bit the first time. One of my favourite tracks for sure.

Now to the track that made me react so much that I had to send it to my father to listen to (he never listened to it though). As a bass player this is a very awesome track. The bass doesn’t just complement the rest of the song, it lives in a parallel world as the drums and the keyboard and creates a tension to the other instruments without feeling out of place. As with the two latest tracks, this also has the video game quality to it. Again boss music vibes. With tempo changes, polyrhythm and signature changes, this is the most progressive song of the bunch. There are also very jazz-inspired sections in Scrap and Build.

Closing the album is Drama Composition, a track with a lot of synth action going on. The heavy bass that I know Sakaruba for is also present, very rythmic and accent heavy. The atmosphere in Drama Composition is a very good way to end the album. The main theme of the song really benefits from its use of octave notes that really elevated the theme. The end is very abrupt, which is a bit sad, but it’s quite effective.

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Katatonia – Viva Emptiness (2004)

Katatonia, the band that transformed from death metal to a more progressive rock with darker themes. Viva Emptiness is the album that really established the newer style after Last Fair Deal Gone Down introduced it. Of course, Katatonia hasn’t stagnated after Viva Emptiness, but the more atmospheric and ambient sound has been a staple since.

There are a few tracks that really stand out, but the whole album is well-composed journey. The stand out tracks for me i Ghost of the Sun, Walking by a Wire and Omerta. All have very different styles, but that is one of Katatonia’s strengths. Jonas vocals isn’t a standout part of this album, but together with the synths they enhances the atmosphere which really makes the sound.

Speaking of vocals, the harmonies during choruses and other parts like in Criminals really gives them a sound few others matched at the time.

The move to go more minimalist with guitars and bass during verses really gives the choruses extra punch, something that really adds to the song. The whole album is very dynamic and that makes it interesting.

My favourite song of the album is the aforementioned Omerta, which is real showpiece for Jonas vocals. It’s his expressions that really sells the song. A simple song, but yet so powerful. Frail vocals accompanied by solid instruments, a real hit in my ears.

Viva Emptiness is a really good indicator for what is to come. For me it’s a very nostalgic album, since it was the first one I was introduced to.