Saturday, August 26, 2017

Musings of a Guitarist : The silent canvas

Quiet, except for the rustle of the wind or the whir of the fan (depending on if I'm inside or out), there's a moment that arrives when I reach for the guitar and play something.
It doesn't have to be a song, it doesn't have to be a tune, it doesn't have to be anything in particular; In fact, the more unguided the playing, the more space I find for myself to fulfill.

A lot of the times I find myself following the same patterns, the same routes in between the strings. The tune is a familiar one, probably based off some song in the back of my head and then I swerve, jump and run along the road that builds organically from it. I come across various stop gaps that I realize (or imagine I realize) that other, more fortunate and famous, musicians had probably come across earlier to create their art. And I'd chuckle at how simple it looks from the vantage point of a mere runner along the road, yet how articulate the hand needed to lay down that same road.

But there are some, few, fleeting moments, that are different.
Like the one I mentioned before, when a quiet solitude descends on you and you can feel all alone by yourself.
Alone, but not unaware.
In fact, the more alone you are, the more aware you become. Small ticks in the cracks, a beep in the distance, the circulation of the air around you, your surroundings become a source of audio inspiration.
And then from someplace completely new yet familiar, you play something you have never heard before. Or at the very least, you play something that instills in you such a strong surge of emotion that it overwhelms any feeling of familiarity a more analytical mind may have had.
Any musician, any true musician, would understand what I'm talking about.
When the art that you have experienced with the science behind the skills required to create and mould the art enables you to come face to face with some sort of para-normal thing within you.

Nothing may come off it, some few who explore it and find the needed portal to bring it back into our corporeal world may get lucky and get to share it (or rape it and commercialize it), but just having that experience is akin to a minimal version of an epiphany.

The most frustrating of things for people who experience this is when they try to recreate such expeditions into the art, oft in presence of other company that they wish to share it with, and they find they have lost the secret key to that secret room.
You see, it likes it's privacy.

Almost none has it allowed to take a coterie into it with.

But I tell you now, from the heart of a man who has experienced it, the greatest sadness is when you actually do find the way and you find someone that you can share it with...and then they don't feel the same way at all.
Like an explorer on a grand voyage looking at the Aurora Borealis and all his companion can do is complain about the brightness or wish for a tubelight instead.

Of course, they have no obligation to feel the same way you do, but man, does it ever feel depressing.

There you are, with the your soul in hand, offering it to the person in front of you, and all she can see, is something less.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Five On My Mind : Live Metal/Rock Performances

Note : Five On My Mind is a series of posts that will list 5 things related to whatever the title is about that have made a personal impact on me. It is NOT necessarily in any particular order, of greatness/quality/significance, but rather those that have made a strong impression on me. It's also not an exhaustive list, so there may or may not be follow-ups to each list made.

For rockers and metalheads, one of the standout features of the genre is the live performance of songs we love. Going to concerts and moshing or rocking out to songs is one of the greatest allures of rock and metal music. For some bands, like Iron Maiden, their live performances are what elevate them to being Metal Gods and for many Rock/Metal Songs, their live execution is what makes them become immortal rather than just the studio versions.

This list though, isn't just about great rock/metal bands and songs. This list focuses on performances of songs that have been altered from their regular studio versions or are memorable particularly for their live versions, either in standalone performances or have become a part of the regular tour experience.

1) Megadeth - She Wolf - Rude Awakening live DVD

Let's start off with one of the best examples of what this list is all about. Megadeth aren't really a band that are known for experimenting live too much. Sure you'll have the occasional guitar solo section where the Megadeth lead guitarist at the time is allowed his 15 minutes to shine showing off his skills, but most of the time Megadeth live performances are showcases of how perfectly the band reproduces the intricate songs in their vast discography.
One of the few exceptions for some time was the song She-Wolf. I'll be honest, even though it seems to be a fan favorite, the studio version of the song really doesn't do it for me. The standard thrashy/chuggy E-string riff and the melodic chorus sections are nice but the song overall is just not too memorable for me, not to mention the solo of the song is more about twin-guitar melodies rather than the blazing runs Mustaine and co are known for. I guess Mustaine wanted to inject something more into it too as he extended the solo section back in Woodstock 99 itself, when Friedman was still his six-string partner. However, this version, with Al Pitrelli on guitars is the perfect live version of the song for me.
Not only is the performance extremely tight (the Woodstock version looks like they're all high), the fact that Al has less personality than Marty actually works for the song, with him just doing his parts and not trying to overtly show his take on the song.
First off, the intro is perfect, with Mustaine walking out of the dark to play that intense main riff. The sound is perfectly balanced, with the drums and the bass clearly made out which is key, Pitrelli and Dave Jr also give pretty adequate backing vocals during the chorus.
And then we reach the main event of the song, the instrumental section of the song. In the video embedded, Mustaine kicks it off with his solo section at 2:37, showcasing a nice sustain at the 3 minute point. He then plays a few, choice licks with Dave Ellefson giving a rock-solid bass line underneath (so key to live performances) as Mustaine builds up to a play-off between both guitarists at 3:45 as they first trade guitar solos, then combine for some wicked twin guitar licks starting from 4:18. The dual bends in this section moan beautifully and the vibratos are perfectly in sync.
The way the twin guitars keep increasing from here in intensity and speed is perfect (one of the licks used became the main riff for a future song, Washington is Next), and what makes it extra special is that pause right at the breaking point at 5:26, like a sudden stop to a raging tornado; The echo of the guitar reverb as Mustaine briefly surveys a crowd gone crazy with ecstasy is a perfect candid moment, this just before he launches into another twin guitar section with Al and then suddenly breaks off at 5:49 for the rarest of things in a Megadeth concert, an extended drum solo section by Jimmy DeGrasso which goes on for nearly a whopping two minutes till 7:27 as the band all come back together to finish the song off in perfection.
What was once a standard 3 and a half minute Thrash song becomes a bonafide metal epic with this performance, showcasing everything perfect about Megadeth - the snarling vocals, the interplay between ferocity and melody, the intense guitars and solid rhythm section. It may have not ended up being their farewell, but what a way to go if it had been.

2) Metallica - Creeping Death - Monsters of Rock '91

And from the mechanical precision of Megadeth, we go to the Charismatic Showmanship of probably the biggest Metal band in History (Note - Biggest, not necessarily Best) - Metallica. Right from the get go, Hetfield and co realised that having a great live show was part and parcel of greatness, and they have had many iconic songs over the years that are almost tailor made to have audience interaction in them.
However the song that most stands out for me as a live attraction, and will probably leave the largest mark in terms of live metal performance impact is probably the most quintessential song of Early 80's Metallica.
Creeping Death is one of the most in-your-face yet catchy-as-heck songs ever written, period. It also represents exactly what Metallica were bringing to the metal game at that point of time, a faster, more precise and more dangerous brand of heavy metal.
I chose this particular performance of the song, the Monsters of Rock performance because
(a) The early 90s incarnation of Metallica are the best to listen live to. They had truly developed their chunky, crushing sound by then, each band member completely at the height of their individual powers.
Lars' kit literally pounded your head in, Kirk was still blazing fast and his errors weren't as frequent, Hetfield's voice had matured to its commanding best and with all due respect to Cliff, Jason was the best live bassist they've had as what Jason lacked in songwriting ability he made up for in sheer energy and exuberance, not to mention his backing vocals were perfect for Metallica.
(b) It's literally the largest metal concert ever, with the largest audience for a metal band performing with over 1 and a Half Million people in attendance. I realize 'Tallica weren't the only ones performing but the crowd by and large came for them.
Metallica had already whipped the crowd to a frenzy with Enter Sandman, when Hetfield rolled out 'Creeping Death' (after a sinister laugh at 0:04 in the video) and proceeded to the pummeling intro riff. Such a simple riff in terms of its chords, but those quadruple low end chugs just before each Chord, the accompanying octave chords in the repeat, with the drums pounding along with the bass in unison perfectly introduced Metallica's brand of thrash heaviness to the world.
Then the pause as Hetfield laughs again and launches into the now world-famous Creeping Death Main riff, that snarling roar of a simplistic E chord strummed to precision riff followed by the quick lick after it, it literally sounds like a lion snarling and charging at you as the crowd and the band joins in as Hetfield shouts 'Come on'.
Hetfield's voice is in perfect military bark as he shouts out his lyrics describing the 9 plagues descending down on Egypt. As the song quickly moves to Kirk's solo at 2:52, Metallica have set the crowd up perfectly for what comes next.
Say what you will of Kirk's limited ability, this solo showcases why he got his ripper nickname to perfection. He first starts off slashing a progression up the guitar sounding like he's cutting a swath through the pharaoh's soldiers, then moves onto some lightning quick, though admittedly messy picked sweeps. Even his oft-criticized shrilly vibrato fits in perfectly with the motif of the song here. The progression he does at 3:12 literally brings to mind a swarm of locusts descending down on you and in a moment of compositional brilliance, he moves from rapid fire shredding to a wonderful melodic line at 3:21 which builds up to a crescendo of Three note licks. And THEN.
3:39 Hits.
Like. Literally. HITS.
It's key to listen to the solo preceding this section to truly understand the weight and significance of this moment. We'd just been through the rapid fire of a breakneck thrash song about the Biblical plagues and a blazing guitar solo when we literally hit a full stop.
As Hetfield pick scrapes across his guitar and Jason Newsted contorts like he's suffering a seizure we suddenly hit the Mother of all Breakdowns. Now, what is a Breakdown? To put it simply, a breakdown is when the tempo of the song is suddenly shifted and the riff as well as the whole shape of the song is literally 'broken down'. Creeping Death may not have had the first Breakdown in Metal music (That could go to Black Sabbath's Sabbath Bloody Sabbath), but it was definitely the first to have such a profound impact on how a song can change its atmosphere and be used to influence the audience live.
The riff that makes the breakdown is epic and completely stands out due to its marching, thudding heaviness as opposed to the lightning fast running prior to it. As the drums keep pounding out the beat and the guitars die down to let the bass groove to the drums, the atmosphere becomes almost Tribal in feel. THIS is why Metal connects so well to a primal part of ourselves, showcased to perfection. You can literally feel the swaying of the bodies as the people scream to the pounding of the drums. And as Hetfield steps up and asks the crowd to scream 'Die' in unison to the drum beat, you can literally feel the power normally reserved to cults of personalities like a Hitler or a Napoleon. I don't know whose idea it was to incorporate this section into the song, especially since I can imagine it being incredibly tiring for Lars to keep it up, especially as long as he does in this vid, but kudos to whoever it was, because it highlights just how much power Metallica had and to an extent still have.
Even as you think the crowd might lose stamina, Hetfield and co start up again joining the crowd and seguing the section back to the main riff with perfection. Jason singing the final verse in his punkish scream is the icing on the cake to show off the complete arsenal of Metallica's guns. And as James and Kirk join up together to finish off the song with their dual guitars, the band is in perfect sync as they hammer out the opening riff again to close off the song in epic fashion. Perfect.

3) Whitesnake - Still of the Night - Live in the Still of the Night

From one side of the 80's metal scene to its polar opposite, from Thrash to Glam, we move to one of the quintessential Glam Metal bands, Whitesnake. This song, is one of my favorite songs ever, period. Even the studio version itself is glam metal perfection (with one of the most perfectly 80s videos ever to accompany it), which makes it even more impressive that this live performance stands out to me. More often than not, when a song hits the zenith of perfection I find the live performances fall short. Unless you're talking about rare performances like this one.

Forget the fact that this doesn't have the great John Sykes on it (More on that later), forget that it's Whitesnake trying to recapture former glories, sure its a 21st century incarnation of the band, but Coverdale's voice still hits those ridiculous high pitches though admittedly it has lost its raw power.
Still of the Night for me, like I've mentioned to certain people before, is sex in song form (albeit a raunchy 80s version of sex) for me, a song that screams out carnal pleasure and they capture it perfectly here.
First that intro, that perfectly glam metal intro. As Coverdale and the crowd sing back and forth, you can literally feel the guitars screaming that awesome Led Zepp influenced lick out. As the song moves from its stop-start intro onto that awesome chug of a main riff, Coverdale belts out more lyrics on 'making love and feeling body heat'. Again, forget the aging face singing it, focus on the young men who wrote it initially. And then after another quick raunch of the verse, we move into the most epic of Glam metal breakdowns ever conceived. Up till this moment, the song is still more or less true to form. Up till this moment, we're in familiar territory.
Then as Coverdale does his vocal range defying scream at 1:56, and the synth and bass kick in, you realize there's something special at work. Reb Beach's subtle guitar volume swells like a violin as the synth and bass plant a foundation for Doug Aldrich's guitar to let out a low scream. Then as the clean guitar plucks in and Coverdale moans and screams like a dog in heat, we move into *that* riff, that orchestral riff at 3:17. Hips automatically sway and heads shake from side to side as Reb Beach adds an even more ethereal input with his higher octave dual riffing, and then 3:55 hits as we move into that HUGE John Sykes riff that forms the base for the rapid fire pentatonic solo and we move back into the verse riff right after. As the song reached its end, every instrument, both vocal and otherwise, band and audience alike, all join together in unison to sing 'In the Still of the Night' as the song reaches it conclusion. Bravo Coverdale, a brilliant orchestral version of the raunchiest epic ever written in Rock history.

4) John Sykes - Still of the Night - Live in LA 1995

Ok, Yes I'm kinda cheating, lol. I'm actually putting two spots on my list for 1 song. But hear me out, I have a very good reason for this. Yes, I already said I love this song, but that isn't why. As I've said earlier, Still of the Night is sex in song form for me. Everything from the intro to the chorus to the groove of it all, from the breakdown in the middle to its buildup to the violin riff and the intense solo after, to its screaming outro, Still of the Night is sex in song form. The previous entry to this list is Whitesnake, aka David Coverdale's perfect version of it. It's the 'orchestral', stadium rock version of the perfect Still of the Night song.
However, in a bid to make it more epic and feely, I feel Coverdale's version kind off eschewed that raw, dirty appeal the song had too, one with minimal instruments and more instrumental feel. And THAT is why this version of the song appears here. Because it appeals more to the guitarist in me, and the instrumental parts are given more focus as opposed to the vocals.
For those who don't know, Still of the Night was one of the songs both Coverdale and Sykes wrote together and so both of them are free to perform it in the way they wish to live.
First, let's get this out of the way, Sykes is a pretty good rock vocalist but he's no Coverdale. However, he doesn't try to be, and prefers to go for a laidback approach to the vocals as opposed to the range and power of David Coverdale. Once you get over that, you can feel his sleazier, cooler sly approach.
That apart, let's move ahead to the part of the song that truly marks it out as unique, and yes, it's the breakdown. Sykes' band hits it around the 2 minute mark.
And that bass. Marco Mendoza might have been poached by Coverdale later on (he's the bassist playing in the previous entry too) but he was never given as much space to move in as he was here. While still keeping the foundation steady, he manages to get some of the most delicious bass licks around into that bass solo section. Sykes doesn't distract from the focus on the bass and just provides some ample clean guitar picking so that we get into the unbelievable groove Marco plays all on our own. But then, this IS John Sykes' solo band, and so the guitar must be given the highlight.
And when he does come in, at 3:08, HOLY HECK!! This man is credited with having one of the sexiest, if not THE sexiest, vibrato in all of rock guitar history and with that monster of a tone, he completely showcases it here. Sykes may be called a Gary Moore clone by some, but with all due respect to Gary, Sykes' vibrato is in a class of its own. Sykes' extended solo lasts for a minute or so...I think. I say, I think because I can never really time it when I hear the solo, it seems to be too brief while lasting an eternity at the same time. Such beauty and raw power, it feels like I float on a cloud of tightly wound notes whenever I hear his guitar sing. My video player does say that the solo ends and shifts to the violin riff at 4:48 so do the math if you wish, but its ethereal impact is timeless for me. Sykes makes up for the lack of a secondary guitar with some nice delay and echo effects as he builds up to *his* solo, and finishes off the song in the true extended outro, another thing which Coverdale 'borrowed' from him and implemented into his version.
So yes, I admit, this entry was purely motivated by its impact on me as a guitarist and as a lover of Sykes' playing, but hey, it's my list. So there!

5) Machine Head - Halo - Sonisphere Knebworth 2009

The most recent entry on the list, and in my honest opinion, the best live metal performance of the entire 21st century so far. Machine Head were starting to get a lot of positive reviews from the metal community around the end of the last decade, with the promising release of Through the Ashes of the Empire, but I wasn't about to jump on that bandwagon because I was at a stage where I positively hated anything connected with Nu-metal (as opposed to just merely annoyed with it now), and the majority of their output, not counting Davidian and Old, that I had heard was very much nu-metal.
Even when The Blackening was released and got rave reviews, I was hard pressed to try their stuff out.
That was, until I came across this video. Now, every new band that has a vocalist/guitarist and dabbles with a bit of thrash metal always gets branded the new Metallica, ala Trivium, but until I saw this vid, I never really took any of it seriously.
Let's get this out of the way first, I'm not too big a fan of the whole NWOAHM movement, the movement that includes such Industry heavyweights like Slipknot and Lamb of God. I get the groove and heaviness behind the music, but it seems too samey and heavy for the sake of heavy at times for me. Metallica, Megadeth et al were heavy sure, but they had engaging song structures that weren't just built around making everyone mosh as much as possible. Imagine when I first heard MachineHead circa 2009 and they took the best of both worlds and somehow managed to fuse them together in their landmark album The Blackening.
Halo is not a typical song of the album though, in fact it's the closest the album comes to a slow number. Halo is the closest Machine Head has come to a proper melodic power ballad, but that should give you an idea of how heavy that album was.
Now, this performance is not really perfect in that there were a few errors sprinkled here and there, most notably in the guitar parts, and the live performance doesn't really stray too much from the actual studio version in terms of song structure.
The reason this performance makes this list is for one reason and one reason only. Rob f'in Flynn.
If anything, the reputation of Rob Flynn as bandleader and as a new-age James Hetfield were totally justified in this performance alone, as he leads not only his band in cohesion, but the entire crowd to not only sing along, but directs them when to mosh and when to shout, bringing them all into the fold and sharing his obvious love for the music with everyone present.
Observe as he introduces the song, and MachineHead's now trademark guitar harmonics slide the song in. As the bass and drums build up the tension, the entire crowd claps along to the beat as Rob urges them on. And when that main riff hits at 1:11 (RIP Skirt girl in the vid), the entire crowd goes wild, circle moshing and crowd surfing. Note the crowd singing along to every word, which just becomes more epic as the chorus hits in. The dual guitar beneath the chorus is another genius touch to the song. At 3:45 as the song seems to start from scratch again (just love that sound his guitar does at 3:55 as if its a monster waking from the depths) he once again gets the entire crowd to participate. 2009 and an entire sold out crowd clapping their hands together for a metal song. And what a jackhammer of a riff at the apex of that build up, not to mention the slowdown again which lurches towards the best melodic thrash solo I've heard in a long, long time. Not since Fade to Black have I seen a melodic solo have the moshing effect this song has on the audience, and Holy HECK the goosebumps at 6:35 as Rob and Phil Demmel stood shoulder to shoulder, pushing the boundaries of manly cheesiness as they played that epic dual guitar melody. And that moment from 7:00 to 7:20 that only serves to set up that hair-raising part at 7:30 where the ENTIRE Knebworth crowd sings the chorus as the band play the music and Rob is overcome by musical emotion. Then the buildup to epic heaviness in a short few seconds and to finish off in a show of a band in its cohesive prime only serve to underline Machine Head's complete control over the crowd.
The 'Head may have fallen short of becoming the new Metallica, though they do remain one of the leaders of the current metal scene, but for a brief few years, they gave hope that a fallen band could rise from the ashes to deliver quality metal, and that helped solidify the ongoing re-emergence of metal from the underground at the time.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Timeless Passion : Introduction and Rules

Time and Again, whenever I've tried to write an article focusing on one of my personal passions, I always seem to hit a snag. Rather than writer's block, it's more like a lack of focus. You see, as I expect any one else who has a passion will understand, once you start talking about something you're passionate about, it's really hard to stop. Also, it can be very hard to decide on what exactly I'd like to talk about. I always fear that I would start rambling and lose cohesiveness and so in the end I always stop at the starting line.

So, to rectify the situation I have decided to come up with this idea. I shall start writing a new mini-series of sorts on this blog, one which follows certain rules and a guideline to help keep me in context. So, here are the introduction and rules that I will use to the best of my ability in the various posts.

1) PASSION - Firstly, I shall now define what I believe constitutes a passion. People can have likes and enjoy doing various activities, but at what point does something cross over from merely like to actual passion?
To make it simple, you could say it's when you start doing/following something regularly for your own pleasure and/or sense of fulfillment. And more than that, it's when something that you have no material investment in can make you feel butterflies in your stomach and your heart beat faster.
Basically, an emotional investment.

Now, it is obvious that a passion that has burnt longer can be more noticeable but it's very possible for someone to discover their passions at a later point of time and it makes it no less significant to the person, so:
2) NO PARTICULAR ORDER OR TIMING - This will be a disjointed and irregular series. Since I believe Passions need to be let out naturally, I will not write posts on them just because of a routine. Whenever I feel like it, I will write about it. Every Post that is about a passion will be given the main title of 'Timeless Passion'

3) CONTENT - Whenever I write an article under the main headline of 'Timeless Passion', it will solely be about the particular passion as the main subject and not as the basis for an offshoot into one of its branches. For example, I have already written a post titled 'ZoHammer : Tale of a Football lover' but that doesn't qualify for this series because it's a post from a personal point of view focusing on a specific influence of Football in my life.

Also, the 'Timeless' in the title isn't just for naming purposes, it signifies that I will talk about the passion from the knowledge I have built up about it, with a kind of historical timeline as well as why I believe the passion exists from a sort of sociological perspective.

4) DISCLAIMER : I do not claim to be a scholar or expert on any of these subjects. I am just a really passionate fan who has built up his own perspective and knowledge about it and use it to fashion my passion further. There might be instances where I might give out misinformation due to my own ignorance, so if anyone reads these posts (as well as any article or post on the internet for that matter, written by anyone) and are really interested in them as well, I would like you to always check up on anything you might want to from another source instead of blindly accepting my words as fact.

Monday, August 10, 2015

ZoHammer : The Tale of a Football Lover

In less than half an hour, West Ham will kick off their last season based in the iconic Boleyn ground, Upton Park, with an away game to Arsenal. And as a true Claret and Blue Hammer, i obviously want us to win the match, though logic and common sense state that a draw itself would be a very good result. 
In the buildup to this, there was a question, or rather a statement, made in a local football whatsapp group that basically stated the chatter's bemusement at why any Mizo football fan would be a West Ham supporter. I chose to reply that with a simple 'the same reason I love football' line and refused to be baited further into the matter. 
This was not by any means the first time I'd been asked a similar line of questioning and I've mostly chosen to give a short, concise answer because I don't want to sound eagerly defensive like a petulant child. 
That being said, I guess it brought to my mind that I would maybe like to address the issue in a format that would give me both the space and freedom to describe exactly what it is that makes me an ardent member of The Irons.

Another factor that piqued my desire to write on this subject was a recent Twitter article i was a part of. I am a member of the Indian Hammers group, a group of fans who are either based in India, or have Indian roots and are united by our common love of West Ham United. 
It is an admittedly humble group with about 20 core active members and over 100 total in the Whatsapp group roster. I was one of the first members of this group and also the first Mizo member (there are 3 Mizo West Ham fans, 2 besides me, if there are any others, please feel free to contact me to join up) and am a very active member of the group. 
We have a modest amateur website, as well as an official Twitter handle and online community that is recognised by our club's official group. 
Recently, the Indian Hammers admin had an idea to do a series of interviews with each member of our group to give an idea about our passion and publish it on Twitter for others to see, and i volunteered and was chosen to be the first person to do this interview. 
When I was given the required questions and blanks to fill, it really got me going in my head and heart as I did a bit of soul searching to give these answers the most genuine possible and I have decided to publish these here in my blog in a more detailed non-Twitter confined form.

One of the things i wanted to avoid when i started getting into football was to be a 'plastic' fan of a club - one of those fans who liked a club only for superficial reasons like peer-popularity and/or fashionable choice. I was lucky enough to meet a lot of genuine fans of various clubs, who had a story to say about how they got hooked and had a heartfelt reason to support the teams that they did and I wanted to be one of them. And of course, me being a believer in serendipity, figured that when the time came, i would just know when to support a team, so I didn't actively search out a particular fanbase to be a part of.

In a way, you can say that my love of West Ham is built on A Tale of 3 Goals.

Its silly to admit, but my love of West Ham started with a game of PES back in the 05-06 season. Losing a toss with a friend, i had to choose a low ranked team, one of the newly promoted teams of that season, while my opponent got to choose his favorite club, Manchester United. I was already familiar with West Ham at the time due to Di Canio, who was one of my favorite players to watch when i first really got into football. Keep in mind that this was the time when Manchester United was an all conquering team, and their stats were through the roof, i was fully expecting to get drubbed. Nonetheless, I fought on, and after a see-saw match which saw its fair share of cards and fouls, a last minute Bobby Zamora winner ensured a 3-2 win with ecstatic post-match celebrations. The look of devastation on my friend's face was an inverted reflection of the happiness on mine.
This was Goal #1, and so West Ham had my interest piqued.
Amazingly, it was around this time that West Ham started on that incredible run to the FA cup final until THAT Gerrard goal stopped it, and that's what secured my interest as
 i started seriously following them as a team. The unexpected wins, the confidence building up, the desire to get an unforeseen cup, and the heartbreak of seeing it go down in the last few minutes after a wondergoal from England's greatest midfield talent when it comes to wondergoals.

Goal #2.
This interest was finally sealed off into fanhood with the rollercoaster of emotions that I and every Hammer experienced in the next season. The amount of abuse i got hurled my way for backing them through the pitfalls and the horrible performances, the turn of face that happened later in the season as we won 7 of our last 9 games 
which climaxed with THAT Tevez goal against, ironically enough, Manchester United that secured one of the greatest relegation escapes in history. 
Goal #3.
The first goal was the twist of fate, the one that alerted my destiny.
The second goal was the building of respect, the one where my admiration for a resilient dark horse was built.
And the third goal was the forging of bonds, the one where I decided to stick by a team through ups and downs in a season, and experienced the vindication that comes from backing a triumphant, resilient underdog.
Obviously, there were other reasons along the way, such as discovering the incredible history of the club and feeling at one with the passion of the fans through all odds and Ups and Downs. And so my identity as a Hammer was forged and now, whether we vie for Europe or whether we were fighting for promotion in the Championship, my soul as a sporting fan is now set with West Ham United FC.

Edit : This post was drafted before our opening match of the season, just before we kicked it off in the best possible way with a win away against one of the title contenders of the season and our London rivals, Arsenal. Come On You Irons!!! (COYI!!!) :D :D :D

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mixtape of my soul

Before i start writing about what this post is actually about, a small foreword. This is my first post of the year, and also the first post in a year that i aim to publish. Its not that i have lost my zest to write or think about what to write, on the contrary, i have a lot of posts, random and of different subjects, that i have written and saved as drafts, some fully fleshed out, others still just the seeds to greater works. This is more to do with the change in my approach to living, though minute, that has lead me to embrace more brief yet fleetingly passionate avenues of expressing myself.

So finally, to shake off all the dust, i kept wondering what i wanted to first write about. Would it be all the (mostly) negatively tinged material i have built up over the last year or would it be more a random, aimless post to get my writing synapses firing?
Well, i guess what they say is true : When in doubt, stick to what you know. Or rather stick to what drives you as a base emotion. And obviously for me, that is music.

*Foreword done*

Ah Music. I've waxed poetic and eloquently about its aphrodisiac effects as well as spewed forth fire and vitriol defending its addictive quality. Of all the passions in my life, music has to be the one most naturally connected to the center of my being. Everyone has varying interest in music, not to mention the various kinds and types of music. Ranging from the soft to the hard, the simple to the complex, the fluid to the jarring, there is a type of music for nearly every niche of society. In fact, i believe music is as much a watermark for a timeperiod as are science and literature. This post though, is not about music as a whole, or an exploration of its limitless variety and appeal, but rather a much more personal take on music.

Basically, this post answers the question, what type of music do i listen to, how and why. Not as definitive questions, but rather a more retrospective, psychological insight.

As is the case with most unorphaned, unfostered children, my parents were the genesis of my musical foundation. My father was a Beatles fan, with the odd passion for a bit of Queen and a few other golden oldies. My mother was a true late 80's, early 90's pop-rock enthusiast, her favorite band being Guns N Roses and her musical taste ranging from the shared love of Abba with my father to the more voyeuristic tendencies of Madonna, Cyndi Lauper et al.
[Note : I never truly fell in love with the Beatles.
Yup. I said that out loud.
But before you get your mop-top loving, pop-rock quartet worshipping sentiments in a rage, let me explain that.
I do not LOVE the Beatles in the vein of all the zealousness and deification that is given to them by those fans of theirs that claim to truly love them. I actually like them a lot, not to mention i completely respect and honour their place at the pantheon of contemporary music. In fact, i even admit that as a single group, they have been the most influential in the history of popular music. Not only in terms of the actual number of people, because that's just a pop figure, but in terms of the different genres and avenues that they have influenced, in every medium not just the aural.
When i say i do not love the Beatles, i mean that apart from a few songs, i will probably never think to switch to a Beatles song in my playlist manually to listen to it.]

Now, to the reason for the title of this post.

Growing up in the environ i did, the everchanging, non-stable life i had as a kid, the way i listened to music was an amalgamation of my mother's tapes and cds and my dad's old records with the combination of a lot of improvisation. Basically, between my dad, my mom and all the random music that came up on the radio/television/local tamil hits on the megaphones, i never approached music in a traditional albumwise format. Not until i was old enough to understand the phenomenon that was boy-band music (ANY guy who claims not to have been in that phase and grew up in the same period i did is either lying or was never exposed to popular culture) did i buy a tape dedicated to a whole, single musical outfit.

Instead, we had the MIXTAPE.

What is the mixtape, you ask? Well it was the portable, magnetic disk version of a winamp/itunes playlist, only with no automatic song select, much much MUCH smaller song selections and definitely no shuffling. Each tape fit around 7-10 songs per side (depending on the length of the songs) and you had to listen to each song before going to the next. Sure, you could fast forward, but it was irritating and it wasn't exact so you couldn't know whether you forwarded too far or too less. Since we couldn't get professional cassette tapes in the rural areas we initially lived in, my mom had to either make or get made mixtapes which were basically collections of various artists' songs crammed into the tapes. It sounds tedious now, in our fast service centred world, but there was a certain magic to listening to music that way. You learnt to appreciate the chemistry of the songs, the way each song individually affected your mood and how the ordering of the songs wrote your emotions like a writer on an emotional soul searching journey.

I have a Mixtape mentality to listening to music.

As a result of these factors, i learnt to listen to various kinds of music and appreciate their own unique appeal. I learnt that music works in different ways for different people and that even if you think a song isn't that good, whoever made the mixtape valued the songs that you didn't appreciate as much as the ones you did. I learnt to be able to focus my interests in the songs that really captured me, cos only the songs that truly moved me and got my attention were the ones i would actively search out a tape for.

Even now, this still persists. This mentality is why i so know my identity when it comes to me and my music. I use the phrase 'I listen to everything' and i realise everyone else uses it too (except genre nazis and experts of their tastes in music), but i truly mean it when i do, and i don't use it as an excuse or a cop out to not know what my preferred tastes are. For example, i know i like a particular band a lot when i actually take the time to listen to every song of their album. And maybe if that works out well enough, even more of their albums. Just because i like a particular song of a musician doesn't mean i actively seek out the rest of their stuff because i know that musicians have their flavours and one song might have a completely different mood than the others. So i knew i really liked a musician if i had the urge to go through the gruelling and often unrewarding risk of listening to a whole tape of theirs.

People often mistake my broad range of music as either a lackadaisical approach to music or a very widespread net of knowledge. It is neither. It is a mixtape of all my journeys in music, most of which i never really stopped and entered into the cities along the way, but the ones that i did, the ones that i fell in love with, are forever a piece of my soul.

And the one most defining factor of having this mentality i guess is this : I loved the music i did due to my innate love of the music, and not because of the hate of another form of music. So my like or dislike of a song is a completely instinctual thing rather than one defined by a mindset or a genre-specific mentality.

P.s., This is how i know i'm a rocker, a metalhead to a certain degree. Because of all the different genres of music, its these forms that have more often than not, piqued my interest in discovering the discographies of the artists. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Walking Corpse

We are but walking corpses
With the breath of life yet to leave us
Our world is made of structures and rules
all made to give a semblance of necessity
To a people that need purpose
And need a reason to survive
Our actions are governed by the thoughts
Of those who want to create action for action's sake
A large circle, endless in its spiral
We are trapped in the loop of our dimensions
There is nothing essential about us to the earth
For the earth itself is not essential to the universe
And the universe itself exists just so benign may be created,
Or is that its be all and end all?
Give me vitality, Give me inspiration, Give me spirit
But give me nothing, for nothing exists, whereas everything is just a withering dream
The dark of me asks me why life exists
Most of the time now i can answer it
But then from time to time, i know
There is no answer, and that is the truth of it
Yet i exist, for existence's sake,
Covered up by the illusions that make up reality
Take yourself out for a few moments,
From the dregs of society and the daily routine you have been forcefed
And created for yourself to pace yourself with your surroundings
Look for a purpose, and you'll find none
And that itself, is purpose

Monday, November 11, 2013

The tainting of Darian the BareHearted

An excerpt from the chronicles of John Angeldust :

From the tongue of Onema, the thought - "...the battle raged on and in the midst of the falling sunder, the ranger brought the message to Darian, that his beloved, Koria's village had been blackened out from the chain of supply. It wasn't because of any personal reason, it was moreso a simple report of economic strain and how it would affect the war at large. But Darian, the third of the Noric Host, the warrior driven by heart's devotion, broke rank and broke ground to move from his designated field. It was a move that was not noted too decisively by the light, due to the fact that Darian had already kept the field twice as long as he was supposed to. Only the Blackedeyes kept watch from the side of the blessed.

What was not noticed though, by either Light Blackedeye or Dark Shinegazer was the curve on the lips of the Chaos windriders as the sky grew gray closing in on approaching Shiver.

Ainslide, the village at the bank of the river Elume, was always a lively place. It stank of blood and doom as Darian rode in on his steed. There, awaiting him at the head of the hill that overlooked the village, was a figure that appeared unerringly clothed in Black Velvet. It held the bracelet that was the heirloom of the Ain Womanshead, the generations of Koria's lineage. Darian wondered what creature could have done this, not in what it actually did, for he knew, as all Warriors of Light do, what Scions of the Dark were capable of. But what made him wonder this was that with the ongoing war, how could any servant of the black be spared the frontlines, that was powerful enough to break through the wards that protected the village. And when he saw the bracelet of AinLeura, he braced himself because he knew that to obtain that heirloom from his beloved Koria, the hooded figure was atleast as powerful as a Brakken ForceLord, and he steeled himself from lingering thoughts as he realised it did not have the Belt of AinLeura, which meant that Koria was still of breath, and was probably in a hidden place.

And without words, they fought. As a Blessed Light warrior and a Cursed Dark knight do when they meet each other, when an enlightened one meets a darkened soul, as it had always been, and how it was always believed to be, without words, they fought. Darian, as any Blessed warrior, especially one of the Noric Host, knew full well what he fought for, the right and the just, the absolute and the enlightening. He knew what he was fighting against. As he had always been taught to believe. The battle was even, and Darian now wondered how Koria was able to escape given the unrelenting nature and prowess of the Scion he was facing. So engrossed was he, that he failed to notice that a Blackedeye had followed him, armed with a Tome of AllGood, the spellbook from which the mages gather their knowledge, handed down to them from the Source of Light.

They fought to a standstill, and then it appeared. The grey shadow at the entrance to the village. Darian prepared to be taken on both sides. But the grey shadow just lifted up a belt and Darian felt a shiver down his spine, it was the Belt of AinLeura, the belt that granted her Protection from the undoing of Breath. The Belt that empowered Koria with the power she wielded as a force of the light. Without it, she was mortal, and it almost guaranteed she was not of breath.
Darian awakened.
His power which had for some reason always been unable to have been unleashed, even by the spells of the LightMages, spewed forth like a wave of warmth engulfing the village entire.
This was unprecedented.
Darian now possessed the power enow to grant him the status of Heavenly Fire.
And as it engulfed him, he realised he could use it, not as a newborn holding a toy for the first time, but as an experienced worker wielding his tool.
The Blackedeye teleported to him and held his arm, helping Darian to control his aura and focus it into himself.

As he prepared to direct it against the grey shadow, a spell was then cast by the dark scion and with it, a mist appeared that revealed the women of the village all held around them, with a mask of black on their faces.

Darian hesitated.
He knew that if he didn't focus this awakened power soon, he would lose it forever.
Darian doubted and fell to his knee.
Letting it go would mean he loses his power forever but it would mean that Koria may be saved.
Would she be really there? Would she be fine? How could the others be saved? How.......
As he thought this, a light flashed.
Darian was blinded.

His eyes blinked, The bodies of the women lay before him. Only one was left standing.

The Blackedeye knew what it had to do.
It knew that the women would be binded by a spell that meant that if one was saved, the others would perish.
It could see through the masks, but couldn't afford to tell Dorian.
Too less time.
And it made the decision that any lightborn would do.
It chose the most amazing, lightfilled face within the group and saved it with its power.
It had to do it quick.
Darian's power was too valuable to be lost.
It made the BEST decision possible for the Light.

Not for Darian.

As the blackedeye watched, Darian stumbled. Darian moved towards the pile of dead bodies slowly.
Darian picked up the body of a woman with her face as plain as sand. Her vacant eyes, breathless body were unremarkable at worst, standard at best.

Darian looked at the Blackedeye, searching for an explanation.

The Blackedeye pointed at the woman that was Of Breath,
Darian knew it was the best for the light.
That the judgement was of the light.
Darian knew what he had to do now.

He turned back to the blank face of his beloved Koria, lay her down on the ground, stood up and released his power.

Nothing was left, it took just a few moments for the Divine Fire that had been awakened in Darian to wipe out the village, and everything in it, including the Blackedeye, its last recorded memory being it had done right by the light.

Darian knew now, the world is not Black and White. And those who had deceived him, would all die.
Dark AND Light.