It’s a Secret!

Do you ever feel like something you enjoy is some big secret that no one else has heard about?

I was talking about rediscovering ‘Chuckthe other day. That’s one of those great secrets I’m thinking about. Nobody I know seems to have heard about ‘Chuck’. I know that enjoyed a strong following, because it was a fan campaign that kept it on the air for the last 3 years. It just seems like every person I mention it to has missed out.

It’s the same thing with the music group ‘Cake‘. I discovered ‘Cake’ several years ago. around 2004 when I was still in college. I never investigated them much, I was content to just

Cover of "Prolonging the Magic"

Cover of Prolonging the Magic

listen to the one album my friend told me to buy.

Now, we have things like Pandora and Spotify, and I was able to find a little bit more of their music. I like pretty much all of it. They do happen to be one of those groups with a relatively consistent sound from song to song, and album to album. I don’t mind that. I know some people don’t care for that kind of consistency in their music.

The thing is, I feel like I’m the weird one because nobody knows about these things I enjoy so much. I’m always one to share the things I enjoy, so I like to tell people about these wonderful things. All I get in return are blank looks, and a half-hearted ‘Sure, I’ll check it out…’

Am I the only one this happens to on a regular basis? Does this, in fact, mean that some of the things that I like that I think are normal are as weird as the things that I like that I acknowledge are weird? Did that previous sentence make any sense?



I was recently asked to expound on some of the things I found when I went into my Metal-world. So here we go.

First, the basics. I was truly having trouble figuring out what sub-genre of Metal I was looking for. I have always been a fan of Rock. My dad got me started on classic rock from the 70’s and 80’s at a young age. It’s always been my go to genre.

I can definitely appreciate a lot of Hard Rock and Alternative Metal. Those would probably be my kind of ‘everyday Rock’. When I got my craving though, I was looking for something a little heavier. I ran into a roadblock though.

I can appreciate a lot about music. I can acknowledge things about music that maybe I personally don’t care for as much. I don’t always like Country music, but it tends to tell very good stories.

I don’t like not being able to understand vocal in music. This particular preference made it hard when I went down the Metal rabbit hole so to speak. There are a lot of sub-genres with difficult to understand lyrics. Sometimes it’s the vocalist, and sometimes it the sort of growling or screaming way that they are sung. That wasn’t the kind of thing I was looking for.

I did know that I was looking for something with fast percussion and precise melodies. I looked into several sub-genres of Metal, including: Black Metal, Speed Metal, Progressive Metal, Power Metal, Symphonic Metal, Viking Metal, Hardcore, Thrash Metal, Grindcore, and Horrorcore.

I mostly used Wikipedia to get example groups from each of these sub-genres and then went to Spotify to look them up. I listened to some longer than others. Certain ones I could tell weren’t what I was looking for right at the moment. Where I really started to find something I could latch on to was in the Symphonic Metal and Power Metal sub-genres.

Symphonic Metal Uses the chords, structures, and thematic elements of traditional Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, but blends in symphonic elements. There are usually soaring vocals and classical string instruments involved. The group I enjoyed most was Apocalyptica. I have a soft spot for heavy guitars and cellos together.

My favorite sub-genre was definitely Power Metal. Power Metal combines elements from traditional Heavy Metal and Hard Rock(think Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne) with the speed and technical precision of Speed metal, and the grand sweeping arrangements and vocals seen in Symphonic Metal. Some of my favorite groups here were Blind Guardian, Edguy, Dragon Force, Dark Moor, Elvenking and Nightwish.

I really enjoyed the powerful, energetic and precise nature of the melodies, combined with the speed of the percussion and the soaring vocals. It really captured what I was looking for. It was uptempo and energetic, and I could still understand the vocals. Some of the imagery was a little fantastic, but I’ve never been one to shy away from fantasy.

So that’s where my Adventure in Metal led me. I still enjoy some of the more popular groups too, like Black Sabbath, Metallica, and Pantera. I think that with all the sub-genres to explore, Heavy Metal was something I needed to really get deeper into, to find the stuff I really liked.

Music Man

Sometimes it’s the music.

Sometimes the music is what perfectly crystallizes your thoughts in to cohesive form. It can be difficult to isolate some of your feelings. Lots on information can sort of swirl together to create big cloud of confusion. You aren’t really sure what you’re feeling and thinking. That’s where the music comes in.

Music is verbal emotion blended with an embodiment of emotion. It’s pulses and thinks and feels like it’s own person. Of course, each piece of music has it’s own personality, that doesn’t change much from playthrough to playthrough. That’s what music is.

That’s part of why it speaks to us on that primal level that we can’t always identify. That’s why we have such strong emotions about it. That’s why we can’t always articulate our feelings or opinions about it.

Music digs within us and accesses a part of our being that we aren’t able to get to ourselves. We can’t talk about it or process some of those thoughts and emotions. It gets down to the part of us that just is.

That’s why sometimes it’s the music that suddenly seems to say what we couldn’t. It speaks to the world what we weren’t able to understand. It does it without our understanding or consent. That’s precisely why it’s so magical.

new age 296

new age 296 (Photo credit: abcdlish)

Modern Day Geniuses

Macklemore- The Heist Tour Toronto Nov 28

Macklemore- The Heist Tour Toronto Nov 28 (Photo credit: thecomeupshow)

They’re everywhere.

With the amount of information all around us everyday, we shouldn’t be surprised that there are more geniuses than ever around. They are good at many different things. They come in every shape and size. You never know when you might encounter one.

I posted before about Macklemore. I know hip hop isn’t for everyone, but stick with me. I really got drawn in to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s album ‘The Heist‘. I heard ‘Thrift Shop‘ a little later than most people, but that groove just got me moving. Then I listened to the whole album.

I was completely blown away. This album was bursting with beautiful melodies, transcendent vocals, deep beats, real stories and touching personal confessions. Every song was outstanding. I felt like this was an album that would just keep growing.

Today, I read this post on Macklemore’s website. It’s the story of the album from release to today. Reading this only further convinced me that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are geniuses. They’re geniuses because they’re clearly incredibly musically talented. More importantly, they’re geniuses because they figured out the greatest secret about being a true artist: You are unique. You have a special voice. You will only truly be the artist you were meant to be when you speak/do/create exactly what is inside you.

That’s the real secret. The only way to be that incredible kind of artist, is to be completely authentic. Be open and honest, and put all of yourself into what you create. That’s the only way to be the genius you were meant to be.

I know that Macklemore doesn’t need any publicity from me, but after reading his post today I thought more people needed to see what he’s about. I thought as many people as possible needed to pair the incredible album with the incredible artist. I just thought I would do my part in my little corner to share.

Signs, Signs

Signs are everywhere today.

Funny signs

Funny signs (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I am generally an ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ kind of guy. I’m not a complete fatalist, I believe we have control over our lives. I also believe that there are things that we can’t explain, and sometimes things are too big for coincidence. Sometimes it seems like no matter which branching path we take, we’re going to end up the same place.

Today, I kept hearing things that pulled me into the present. We all go through parts of our lives on auto-pilot. I heard things that pulled me out of that auto-pilot all day today. Things people said, little words that held extra meaning, song lyrics that seemed especially prescient. Even the TV shows The Wife and I watched had greater wisdom hidden throughout.

I’m noticing these signs, but they were all a little different. I’m not sure what they mean just yet. It’s not like they were all about the same thing. Signs and symbols are never quite that obvious, are they?

I don’t know if ‘The Universe’ is trying to tell me something, but I think that it might be. I think I should be on extra close lookout for more signs in the near future. Maybe I can find my way down the best branching path.

Might not change where I end up, but the trip might be very different.

Guy on the outside

I just read a wonderfully prescient post over on Sass & Balderdash.

You should go read that, so that you have a baseline for where I’m going.

I’ll wait here…

Glad to see you back. It was a wonderful post, was it not?

I feel like I have a lot of experiences that involve these ‘Chamomile Characters.’ I don’t always mean to be the person on the outside of popular pinions like that, but I tend to form my opinion quickly. I let it be until something happens to change it.

I like to think of myself as open minded. I try to be an accepting person, and I try not to let my opinions on one thing cloud my overall opinion of a person. I try to be friendly, because I like open and friendly people and I would like to be one.

There’s a caveat here. I also tend to make quick judgements,  and then proceed to see these through until I have cause to change them. Let me give you an example of one that always gets me strange looks: I don’t really like The Beatles. I like a few of their songs, I respect them as musicians and artists, and I acknowledge there huge contributions to the music world. Still don’t really want to listen to them.

The Beatles (No. 1)

The Beatles (No. 1) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I will still give a song of theirs a chance if I’ve never heard it, or if someone tells me to listen for something specific. I have no problem giving something of theirs a listen. I probably will not agree with you if you just tell me that ‘The Beatles are the greatest and everyone should love them.’ Nope. Not convincing.

Sometimes I think that my tendency to make these snap decisions limits my experience of the world. I suppose with things like music, books, and movies, as long as I am open to giving them another shot I’m not really missing out on anything. People might be a different story.

I do sometimes make those same snap judgements about people. It’s a lot like Sass & Balderdash said: I just kind of decide that I’m not a fan. I’m content to not really interact with them. I’m okay with being like that, as I feel like it makes my life simpler. Other people do not always agree.

I usually run into problems when it’s someone that I have to see on a regular basis or on major holidays or something. I get some disapproving looks when I mention that I am indifferent about spending time with that person. Maybe I even indicate that I’d rather not if given thew choice. If I’m not given the choice, I try really hard to make the best of it. I go do whatever is on the agenda and I try to have friendly conversation while I’m there.

I try to give those people a second chance as well. Especially when someone gives me a good reason to. It doesn’t always work out though. That’s when I begin to wonder if I’m some sort of anti-social hermit. Everyone else seems to do okay, why am I the one that seems to dislike the people no one else seems to mind?

According to Sass & Balderdash, I’m not as crazy and Hermit-like as I thought.


Trying again

So, I’m giving this another shot.

I am attempting to learn the guitar again. I’ve tried this before. I even took a college credit class in it. Learning a skill like this is usually kind of like my Kryptonite.


Guitar (Photo credit: mrwalker)

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I tend to acquire a base level proficiency in most things relatively quickly. I can pick up a lot of complicated skills and I can learn the basics very quickly.

This can be good, because if it’s something I’m going to have to be doing long term, I can become proficient quickly and then build on that base set of skills. It’s very handy for job-specific skills and things of that nature.

It also tends to be frustrating. When I’m learning something for me, I plateau at that base-level proficiency quickly as well. I’m sure all that’s really needed is a decent amount of practice. I can come to terms with this. The trouble is that I don’t usually have the patience for this practice.

Whether it’s an overall lack of patience, or a false sense of accomplishment creating false expectations, I get frustrated when I don’t progress learning something as quickly as my initial surge might suggest. This leads to a lot of trying things and then quitting when I can’t learn more right away.

This is kind of how I previously learned to play guitar. I borrowed one and eventually bought my own. I learned some simple songs that I could play that I really liked. I felt like a king! Then I got stuck. I couldn’t figure things out because I never got enough of a base in music. I never learned to properly read the music. I had trouble learning chords on the guitar.

Like everything else, I eventually gave up.I have been wanting to try again though. It’s going to be ugly this time. This time I’m learning the basics. no songs, just lessons on YouTube. I’m learning from the beginning. Even though I’m sure I could do more already, I’m going to do this like I’ve never held a guitar before. I’m going to keep watching tutorials and learning and not move on until I master the lesson I’m working on.

We’ll see how this goes.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Time for another edition of “Let’s pretend Chris’s thought process makes sense!” Follow along!

I’ve been very subtly music-centric for the last few weeks. I had been noticing it, but I hadn’t quite been able to put my finger one what it was I was perceiving. I’ve been very specific about my music and what I want to hear for the last little bit. I talked about my sudden desire to listen to metal recently. This actually led to the discovery of quite a few new bands.

In the Power Metal Genre, I found Blind Guardian, HammerFall, and DragonForce to name a few. A friend of mine who is much more in tune with the Metal and Hard Rock genres also suggested some Alternative Metal bands like Flyleaf and Halestorm. I have to say Metal with a Lady lead singer is probably one of my favorite new playlists. He also suggested some Progressive Metal like Dream Theater, which got me listening to Elven King and Nightwish.

Anyway, since then, I’ve been very specific when choosing what to listen to. This isn’t particularly unusual, but it did lend itself to an interesting series of thoughts, and I’m going to bring oyu along with me while I walk through them.

I was watching an episode of the television show The Voice. One of the singers was a Jamaican woman who used to sing back up for Jimmy Cliff. After hearing her audition, I got to thinking about Reggae music. I really wanted to make that my next musical selection when I got the chance.

Today at work, I didn’t have time to make a whole new playlist, so I went with a Pandora station base on Halestorm. I never got a chance to really listen, as I was running around all day at work. I went to the grocery store and came home. I watched some television with The Wife. I then came in the office to write today’s blog post!

No ideas. None. I was amped to write, but I just didn’t have anything to spark the flow. Out of desperation I decided to maybe just do a sort of ‘Monday Music’ post. I figured I would just find a song and link it and then write about why I liked it or something. Very generic, and not really the kind of writing that gets the thoughts and emotions out.

So I started going through my iTunes library on shuffle trying to find a song that spoke to me enough to write about it. I landed on a Smashing Pumpkins song. I hesitated on that song, which caused me to see the song a few lines down, which was ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’ which I love. so I put that song on, cranked the volume and put on my headphones. Something about the drum beats and Bill Corgan’s voice just got my brain going. That’s when I decided that I should just listen to some Smashing Pumpkins and explain how I got to this point.

I would also like to point out that my brain made a connection between the drums at the beginning of the song and Reggae music.

Average: It’s better than bad

Today has the very real possibility of being an average day. This is an improvement.

Today could be good. Relatively speaking. If the trend has been operating at an overall lower average for a somewhat extended period of time, then the true average becomes positive!

Today might work out. I have a fair amount of work to do. It’s repetitive, mostly mindless work. I’m actually pretty good at this portion of my job, so it will not require excess concentration. I will likely be able to lose myself in this project for the day. There’s even the possibility I could spend a portion of the day with headphones in, blissfully ignoring other people and things.


Earbuds (Photo credit: StevenW.)

I’m actually able to listen to pretty much any music I want at work, as long as no one complains and I keep it at a reasonable volume. I typically have something playing all the time. I like to have the music, it helps me focus. Sometimes, there’s just too much other stuff going on though.

I really like to be able to put in noise cancelling headphones and just do what I have to do. That’s one of the only pluses to having to mow the lawn; I get to just listen to whatever I want for an hour. I might be able to pull that off today.

My overall patience level right now is pretty low, so being able to avoid some of the less important stressors and focus on some work ought to let me clear my head a bit. I might even be able to turn the repetitive work into a kind of meditation. We’ll just have to see.

A man can dream, right?

A Crisis of Music

I’m having another crisis of music.

I’ve mentioned my strange musical tastes before. I’m having another Crisis of Music. This one happens to take the form of wanting to listen to a genre I’ve never really listened to before: Heavy Metal.

When in my natural state, I tend to listen to generic Rock, some Alternative Rock, with some Acoustic and Folk thrown in there. This is my natural musical state of being. I listen to a little bit of everything because I like to listen to whatever happens to suit my mood at any given time.

Opening title logo used in Season 1 of Todd an...

Opening title logo used in Season 1 of Todd and the Book of Pure Evil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know why the sudden urge for Metal. I decided to re-watch Todd and the Book of Pure EvilBoth seasons are available on Netflix streaming. It’s an irreverent mix of teen drama and supernatural comedy. Generally about PG-13 or R rated(depending on your personal rating system,) it’s an out standing show with a Heavy Metal theme.

I started watching it over again, and I suddenly thought, “I should listen to more Metal.” Here we are. I’m now trying to sift through all the different sub-genres of Heavy Metal music to find one that suits my taste.

I don’t really like to listen to the screaming and growling stuff. Sometimes is okay, but as a general rule I like to be able to understand the lyrics I’m listening to. I think I’ve settled on Power Metal. I’ll be checking out Speed Metal too.

I’m sure that this isn’t something that most people are planning to go look into. I, however, have found a nice little set of music that I can listen to that is pretty different from the rest of my musical catalog.

Back to my Pandora station to find more Power Metal artists!