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The Top 5 Best Singles of 2013 (according to me)

2013 was quite an interesting year for music. There were a host of awesome new bands that cropped up, and many great singles were released during the course of the year as a result.

This list isn’t me trying to be pretentious here. It’s really just a list of singles that were continually played over on my iPod many times, and songs I couldn’t get enough of. Many of the bands featured here happen to be from Australia, and it’s wonderful to see the wealth and diversity steadily emerging from our country in both the metal scene and the music world in general.

P.S. If you guys like, you can also check out my Best Albums of 2013 list that I wrote for Metal Obsession here. It’s my hope you may discover a bit of new music here yourself, but if not, it’s all good. I hold no grudges. It was regardless still an awesome year, and I had a lot of fun discovering so many great new bands and albums to add to my collection.

But now, to the list!

The Top 5 Best Singles of 2013 (according to me)

5. Written in Stone – Thunder and Lightning

A great heavy metal single that helped introduce me to this band from Berlin, Germany. A combination of heavy metal with melodic power and speed interspersed into the mix. Solid vocals, with a great rhythm section. Definitely check it out!

4. Put Your Curse on Me – Stonefield

I was lucky enough to discover this band when my sister suggested we go to a gig down at the Ferntree Gully Hotel (before it sadly closed down) late last year, as one of her friends was doing the sound engineering for the show. I was so glad I did, though! Stonefield are amazing, especially live. They’re a rock group comprised of four sisters from Darraweit Guim, a small town in rural Victoria. They honestly put on one of the best live shows I’ve seen, and were incredibly engaging with their crowd for a band so young and new. I immediately bought their self-titled full length debut, and I wasn’t disappointed. Sure, the production value mightn’t be as solid as their live act, but it’s still a great introduction to the band, and I don’t doubt will also serve as incentive to head over to one of their shows at some point. The trip’s definitely worth it.

3. Angus McFife – Gloryhammer

I first heard about Gloryhammer earlier last year, the new power metal project being helmed by Alestorm frontman, Chris Bowes. Already a fan of Alestorm and Chris (who I also had the pleasure of meeting during the Alestorm gig earlier in 2013; he was just as humble and fun to be around as you’d expect), Gloryhammer was a great find. Cheesy as all hell as you’d expect, in no way does it detract from the pure epicness that oozes from this album; a concept centred around an alternative history of Scotland filled with magic, wizards, and knights – the usual power metal fodder, basically. But that being said, the great arrangements and Thomas L. Winkler’s vocals make it all worthwhile. If you’re a fan of Rhapsody-level cheese, go check out this single, and then go pick this album. You won’t regret it.

2. Sans Memoria – Orpheus Omega

Orpheus Omega are a fantastic band, and one of the hardest working acts in Australia. Virtually every new show I see announced seems to feature them on the bill. That being said, this is in no way a bad thing. Orpheus are also one of the best melodic death metal bands I’ve heard, whether from Australia or otherwise. If you’re a fan of Euro-melodeath bands like In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, and At the Gates, you’re going to adore these guys! I know I do.

1. The Magic of Mithren’s Ring – Bane of Winterstorm

It has to be said that Bane of Winterstorm is the best discovery I made all year. Thanks to the guys over at Metal Obsession who first offered me the chance to review their debut full-length, I was absolutely blown away by The Last Sons of Perylin. I don’t think I’ve  heard a symphonic power metal album as strong as this one, and that’s coming from someone who loves both old and new, Fabio Lione era, Rhapsody. The fact these guys came out of Melbourne, Australia is just further proof of how far our country has grown in the music world, and makes me proud to say I come from the same city as them. Trust me when I say this is one of the best albums to ever emerge from our humble country, and one of the best symphonic power metal albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. It’s certainly set the bar very high for future releases and new bands, and it featured as my number 1 for the Best Albums of 2013 list, and once you have a listen to it, I’m sure you’ll understand why. (P.S. If you’d like to read some more about my thoughts on this album, you can check out my MO review here)

Here’s to a great year of new singles and albums in 2014!

Music Video of the Week – “Thunder and Lightning – Written in Stone”

Bit unconventional for a Music Video of the Week, I know, namely because it’s mainly an assortment of photo’s and titles, but regardless, I discovered this neat little band from Germany earlier in 2013 and was quite impressed with them. This is one of the best heavy metal tracks I had the pleasure of listening to in the recently past year.

With solid, melodic vocals, and an undeniable, excellent rhythm section that only helps heighten Norman Dittmar’s vocals, it can be said that Thunder and Lightning are a great find. And I’d go so far to say that track “Written in Stone” is on my list of top singles for 2013.

Definitely go check these guys out. You won’t regret it!

On Peter Jackson and his Hobbit film trilogy (a non-biased, and non-angry rant)

Here is my first rant for my blog. It all just flooded out of me earlier after reading through a stream of angry complaints about Peter Jackson’s latest series, the Hobbit film adaptations. I’m wanting to present in this rant a non-biased, non-angry rant that weighs the reasons behind Jackson’s decisions, changes, and additions to the script. Please conserve whatever criticisms you may have unless you wish to add something both constructive and sensible. Thank you.

I’ll never understand why people insist on bitching about Peter Jackson’s recent Hobbit adaptations. Since ‘An Unexpected Journey’ came out, and now with the upcoming release of ‘The Desolation of Smaug’, all I ever seem to see in comment sections is supposed fans ragging on these films.

For a start, that’s exactly it, these movies are adaptations, they’re not carbon copy replicas of the book. No one adaptation will ever be exactly as people pictured it in their heads while reading it as everyone’s interpretation is different. Case in point, the Harry Potter series. People view the books and the films very separately.

Secondly, people always whine that we’re not getting a Silmarillion or any of Tolkien’s other writings, but the second Peter Jackson decides to add a bit more weight and depth to the book to further connect The Hobbit to the Lord of the Rings (something which, mind you, Tolkien regretted not doing in his time anyway), people start moaning about that. I honestly believe sometimes people just want to jump on the hate bandwagon without knowing anything about the actual story itself, or the motivations behind the additions and/or changes. So Legolas and an added female elf character feature in the Hobbit, even though they weren’t in the book. So what? If Tolkien had created Legolas during the time he wrote the Hobbit in 1937, he would have included Legolas anyway. Elves are immortal and live extremely long lives, and that’s not to mention the fact Legolas is the very son of Thranduil, the Elvenking, also. Having his character present in the timeline adds another dimension the films only gleaned about the animosity between dwarves and elves, and how these later come to develop into strong alliances by the time of the Lord of the Rings.

What Peter Jackson did is expand upon a storyline that wasn’t necessarily complete. When you read the Hobbit, very little about what happens to Gandalf when he ventures away for a time from the Company is told, and at the time of the Hobbit’s publication was instead only hinted at. Tolkien later wrote what happened here in the appendices at the end of the Return of the King. The scenes where Gandalf meets with the White Council, and his journey to Dol Guldur all featured in these appendices, and the movie brought to life these scenes spectacularly.

The other aspect is there a scale between people who complain about the light-heartedness of the Hobbit adaptation in comparison to Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the ones who state there isn’t enough of it. Let’s look at this from a few angles. First, Tolkien later said in his life, he wished he’d written the Hobbit more seriously. On that same token, this is what Peter brought to it. A balanced mix of light-heartedness in keeping with the book, and a measure of serious drama that suits the darkness that befalls the heroes once the Lord of the Rings begins. The Hobbit spoke of the coming of the Necromancer (who is Sauron in a weaker state). It’s ridiculous to argue that everything was all jolly and merry, and that no blackness swept over the lands during Bilbo’s journey. It’s very clear from the Middle-Earth legendarium that it did. The last point is characters like the Spiders. I’ve heard people complain that they weren’t the bickering old men from the book. Look at it from the perspective of later written characters like Ungoliant (Silmarillion) and Shelob (Lord of the Rings). These creatures represent the ‘Unlight’, the source of darkness and horror that Melkor brought to the world when he fell. While it’s good to represent the Spiders as they are in the book, there needs to be a level of realism and accuracy that’s shown through the films as to what these creatures ultimately represent (not to mention the fact it seems people conveniently forget the fact that while they bicker amongst themselves at first, when they come to find Bilbo in their midst, they’re just as horrible and aggressive as you’d expect from arachnids). Like the Orcs, the Spiders are essentially avatars of darkness and shadow, where Morgoth and Sauron were their masters.

It seems sometimes people can’t view the ‘bigger picture’ in things. What Peter Jackson has done with his adaptations is connect the two storylines, and have them intertwine as Tolkien wished, but was unable to do in his own lifetime. People state the the three parts are ‘money grabs’, but in reality, splitting them as such is the only way to fit in the entire story, and tell it as it’s meant to be told. Jackson deserves to be condoned for what he’s achieved here, not condemned.