Archive for the ‘ Music ’ Category

Awake and Alive and Listening to something better.

I love the band Skillet. I had mixed feelings about the first two albums of theirs that I owned (which would be Invincible and Alien Youth), so it took me a while to buy Collide. Finally, after my friend David threated me with physical harm, I bought it. And, well, if you’ve listened to the album, you know how A) incredible it is and B) what a massive departure it was from the previous stuff we’ve seen from Skillet.

Collide was raw, passionate, and hard. It also included one of the most truly epic songs I’ve ever heard in the form of the titular track. This album threw Skillet into the list of my favorite musical artists. Their next album, Comatose, sealed it there forever. Comatose took everything that was great about the song Collide and made nearly an entire album’s worth of greatness from it, blending the hard, nearly-metal rock sound with the symphonic intros and backing, resulting in classics like Rebirthing, Comatose, and Whispers in the Dark. There are plenty of great solid rock tracks on here as well, including Better Than Drugs, Last Night, Falling Into Black, and Those Nights.

However, Comatose does have a downside to it. The album incorporates a couple of songs that can best be described (and in fact WERE described as such by John Cooper, Skillet’s Frontman, on Comatose Comes Alive) as 80s power ballads, namely Yours to Hold, The Older I Get, and Say Goodbye. These songs are absolutely lame. I’m sorry, they are. They’re boring compared to what this band is capable of and what they demonstrate on the rest of this album.

The problem is that, on their live abum, Comatose Comes Alive, John mentioned that he LOVES 1980s power ballads just before playing Yours to Hold. I wish I could say that set off some warning bells in my mind, but it didn’t.

So now we come to the recently released Awake. After Comatose, I think we all had incredibly high hopes for this album. Was it too much? I don’t think so, not really. The first single we heard off this album, “Hero”, certainly sounded like the Skillet we all know and love! There’s less symphonic backing, but lots of rock, and a passionate calling out to Jesus to help us make a stand in thie world. Plus it features vocals from their new drummer, and she ain’t bad, singing or drumming.

The second single, “Monster”….well lets just say this should have been the second warning sign. It’s not an overall bad track on it’s own. The first thought I had as I was listening to it was “Wow…these lyrics are really not as good as Skillet has done.” But I continued listening…and then we got to the bridge.

If you’ve heard this track, and not the radio version, you know what comes next. You get a dropoff of all instruments, and you’re expecting to hear John sing (or even scream) the words “feel like a monster”. Well, you get those words all right, but they’re uttered by this synthesized monster voice. I don’t know if they were going for creepy, or just scary, or what, but it is the cheesiest thing I think I’ve ever heard. I was in such shock and disgust at the sheer lameness of it, I had to stop the song. Seriously? You guys were gonna go with that??

I’ve listened to the song a few more times since then, and that stupid monster voice aside, it’s not a bad track at all, if you consider it on it’s own, apart from anything Skillet has done before. If you factor that in, then yes, it’s a bit disappointing. Monster’s a pretty rocking track, but Skillet has done way better.

So then we get the full deal. Awake debuts in stores, and I immediately grab that sucker off iTunes and get ready to rock.

Oh wow, is this album disappointing. Really really disappointing. Why? Because it’s about 50% lame 80s power ballads, and what few songs aren’t, well half of them are just plain terrible.

I’m not even going to talk about the power ballad tracks. I can’t. I can barely stand to listen to them through once. So let’s take a look at the rest of the offerings here. The title track, Awake and Alive, is not bad, really. It tries to capture the formula they used on Comatose: Blend good hard rock with their signature symphonic backing. For the most part it works, until you get to the chorus, specifically the lyrics “Now, it’s my time. I’ll do what I want, cause this is my life!”. I’m sorry, I thought I was listening to Skillet, not “Angry teen emo-rock band #357”. What happened, guys? You’re too smart to fall into the whole “cater-songs-to-the-teenage-youth-group-crowd” that gripped otherwise good bands. I’m looking at you, Superchic[k]. The song kind of just falls apart from there, getting less and less mature, which culiminates in having to hear John sing “Wa-king-up, Waking up!” over and over prior to the bridge and at the song’s close. I felt like I’d been bait-and-switched.

Next we get “One Day Too Late” which has…oh right. Power Ballad. *pushes skip button*. Sorry, now we come to “It’s Not Me It’s You”. And yet again, we have to check our CD to make sure we haven’t been hoodwinked. This is not a Skillet song. This is a terrible piece of crap that some girl-power chick band threw together after they broke up with their boyfriend. I’m really disgusted at this point, and begging the rest of the album to impove.

Sadly, our next track, Should’ve When You Could’ve? Yeah, ballad. Also, really annoying title. And the one after that? It’s called “Believe”, it’s gotta be good, right? Hey look another one! Ugh. “Believe” sounds like something a jerk guy would sing if he was trying to blame a girl for all his relationship issues. I’m not kidding, go listen to it if you don’t believe me (pardon the pun). I have no idea what has happened to this band by now. I’m looking for something, ANYTHING, to salvage this mess.

“Forgiven” tries to do that. It really does. Again, they try to capture the sound that made Comatose so good, and the song itself FINALLY comes back to something that actually sounds Spiritual, a heartfelt confession of wrong and God’s Forgiveness of it all. The problem is, there’s enough of the power ballad influence in here that it just makes the song average at best. It’s decent, but it’s hardly a standout hit.

Now we come to “Sometimes”. Okay, I think we’re getting somewhere here. This one gets it closer to the seriously hard rock we’ve heard on Collide. This is good stuff. Lyrics are a bit on the immature side, but at thsi point, i’m so sick of the power ballads I’m almost willing to overlook that. Do we have another classic hit here? I can’t bring it up that high. It’s good, but not great.

“Never Surrender” is like that last grasp at safety before falling off a cliff. It’s trying to stick to the good things that started being developed in the previous tracks, you can tell that in the opener and even during the chorus, but the rest of it? Yeah, back into the pit of powerballad. Sigh.

Finally there’s “Lucy”. A downer tear-jerker about a girl that’s died. Hey Skillet? No. Stop it. Just stop this. Please. No one likes you guys because of these kinds of songs. They love you for your epic, powerful, raw, uninhibitted anthems of the greatness of God and his love. That’s why Collide and Comatose did so well. That’s why Comatose Comes Alive is so great, because for the most part you stuck to those. With the exception of “Hero”, you don’t have anything close to that greatness on this CD. What happened here, guys??

If you picked up the Deluxe Edition (and I’ll go on another rant about why I hate these later), you got three bonus tracks. “Dead Inside” is, hilariously, better than almost all of the album. It sounds more like it was a song that couldn’t quite make it on to Comatose, honestly. It’s got a good solid rock feel, good lyrics, overall highly enjoyable. “Would it Matter” is a synth-backed power ballad. Lame.

Finally, we’re treated to “Monster (Alternate Radio Version)”. If you’re familiar with the practice of “Radio Versions” of songs, you know they’re usually highly lame, softened up versions of normally good songs, done to maximize their appeal on the radio to all those folks who love happy-slappy contemporary Christian stuff that utterly bores me. Monster’s “Radio Version” does not do that. All it changes is, yes you guessed it, the terrible monster voice during the bridge. Instead, we get the same dropoff, but the normal vocals continue to sing. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable the song is.

So, I have to ask, guys. Did you think “Oooh, that Monster voice is a little too extreme for the radio, we better just replace it with regular vocals”? Because, I hate to tell you this, but the Radio version is better. Like I said, that monster voice is cheesy and bad. This version would have been a far better choice.

Overall, Skillet it seems has finally taken a misstep. They’ve taken the power ballads way too far and regressed badly on lyrical maturity. There’s a few good songs worth listening to on this album, but the rest of it can just be marked as “Skillet’s experimental power ballad album” and never spoken of again.

I give it 2 out of 5 Stars, 3 if you bought the Deluxe version.

Going to Waco again this weekend. If you see me seperated from Karen for an extended length of time, something has gone horribly awry. See ya’ll then!!


Mass update!

Hey guys. Wow, it’s been way too long since I blogged last. I’m a slacker.

So, here’s the triple skinny. First up, for those wondering how our music project from last month is going, It’s getting closer and closer to being done. According to David he’s got 2 more songs to mix, then he probably has to take care of the album artwork and then start mass-producing. So we’re not far off at all.

By the way, if you’re wanting to hear what our FIRST project, This is Love, sounds like, there’s a rumor goin’ around that you’re going to be able to get BOTH projects bundled together as well! I can’t say that for certain, but keep an eye open for more news on that.

But, I do have something for you. If you’ll head over to Facebook, you can find that David’s uploaded about 60 pictures from the event on there. You should be able to scroll through my wall and find the starting point. I’m not sure if you can view the full album if you aren’t David’s friend, let me know if that’s the case and I’ll rehost them in my profile. The pictures turned out really good, and I think you’ll enjoy them.

So…I have an iPhone now. Yeah. My contract was up for renewal this past month, so I was eligible for the cheaper prices. I didn’t want to just keep my old phone (had a few too many problems with reception on it) so I decided to upgrade. This thing really is phenomenal. I’m sure you’re all aware of what the thing can do, but let me mention a few things I’ve noticed personally just playing with it this weekend.

1. The camera on this thing is a LOT better quality than I expected. Maybe it’s just because I was used to my old phone’s camera (which wasn’t terribly good) but I’m shocked how clear the pictures on it have come out.

2. The GPS doesn’t do turn by turn directions (although that IS forthcoming from what I hear) but it does locate you and map you to your destination very well.

3. The SMS-as-a-sort-of-chat-window interface, and Visual Voice Mail, are very cool features for keeping track of the coversations you’ve had. And I love that I don’t have to go through AT&T’s stupid menu system just to change my Voicemail greeting.

4. The Internet. Wherever (well, almost) I want. And not filtered by some stupid corporation. BRILLIANT.

5. The reception, at least in the house, has thus far been AWESOME.

So, yeah, I like it. It doesn’t quite have the storage capacity the iPod Touch I have does, but I can work within that easily.

Speaking of which…I do have a perfectly working iPod Touch that I do want to sell now. I also have an older (but still working very well) 5th Gen iPod to sell as well (the 5th gen, if you recall, was the first iPod model that did video). So if you’re interested in purchasing either of them, let me know, we can talk about price then. If no one is interested, I’ll probably just put them on eBay. You’ll be getting the actual player, headphones, the USB cable, and a case with either purchase, by the way.

It is FREAKING HOT in this house. Our cheap-ass landlords stuck us with an undersized air conditioner a few years back that does NOT adequately cool this house down during the hot months, and ESPECIALLY not this month. It’s been record highs all week, and this weekend was the worst. I really pray it gets cooler soon, because I’m not sure how much more of sweating during the afternoon I can take…blech.

Okay, last minor tidbits:

1. My shaman alt is FINALLY level 40. Which means he can wield a weapon in each hand, wear mail armor, and…well, that’s it. But still, it’s a big deal. Being able to Dual-wield means he hits at a much faster rate, and can pound through enemies a lot quicker. And the mail armor I had been saving up for him looks sweeeeet!

2. If you STILL have not seen the Dark Knight, you need to remedy that. Like…now. In fact, if I come down to Waco this weekend (which is looking more and more likely) I will happily take anyone who wants to see it one random night, on me. It’s totally worth it. And once that’s done, if you’re an anime fan, you should give the DVD animated film Batman: Gotham Knight a try. It’s basically a series of 6 animation shorts that form a cohesive storyline with each done by a seperate animation team. They’re all very different, but still very cool. And the special edition DvD comes with 4 episodes from the old Bruce Timm Batman animated series that was on when we were all younger. I loved that series. Oh, and a double-awesome point: they have the same voice actor doing the voice of Batman in Gotham Knight as well. AWESOMENESS


Okay, I have to go now and find someplace cooler in this house. My room, for some reason, is hotter than the rest of the house. I don’t know why. Later guys!!

Like a Champion – or as much of it as I can tell you right now, anyway

Greetings my friends.

As you’re all probably aware, I recently came home from my second trip to New Mexico to record a worship album. You’re probably familiar with the first one: This is Love.

If you’re not, This is Love is/was/however you like to look at it/ an experimental worship project. It was spun out of my ska band, Monkeywrench. Specifically, our song, Strength for Stephanie.

Strength for Stephanie was a song asking God to be with Stephanie Maddox, a friend of all of ours who was in China, serving the Lord. The Bridge of the song consisted of a horn composition, driven primarily by Sam Shannon on the saxophone. During this part, David read the first part of Psalm 139, specifically verses 1-12. It was a particularly powerful little section.

Two years after that song’s release (as a part of Monkeywrench’s second CD, Album the Two: Now We’re Getting Somewhere), four members of Monkeywrench took a trip during the summer of 2005 into the mountains of New Mexico: David Butler, Truett Butler, Robert Peugh, and myself. Our purpose was to get away from the city, into God’s natural creation, and record an album called “This is Love”. You might recognize the title, it’s the first part of 1 John 4: 10.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

The overall theme of the album is just that. The album takes you from creation, to the fall, to the prophecy of the Messiah, to his death, his resurrection, and our Joy and Hope.

It was a great experience, and the album, of everything I’ve done, is easily my favorite one that I’ve ever been a part of.

If you haven’t heard it, let me know. I’ve got a few copies left, and I believe my brother Josh Henry has the full album on his computer. A few other people left in Waco may still have copies as well. I think Chris and Kelley might. If you have the chance to listen to it, I hope you enjoy it and that God speaks to you through it somehow. That’s really the whole point of it after all.

So, onto this past week. We went back. This time, we took another. David’s wife, Holland. She, as it turns out, is a musician herself.

This particular album returned to the original roots: The Psalms. They were, after all, songs to God themselves. We explored the many themes present in the Psalms, including….well, I don’t think I can tell you that. I’ll let you hear it for yourself once the album is done!

What I can say is this: With this album, we have explored some very different music. After hearing what we laid down, even roughly mixed as it was, I have never, ever heard anything like it. I’m truly amazed at what God put together with us. I really think you will be too.

The album, as you doubtless all know, is titled “Like a Champion”. It’s from Psalm 19, specifically verse 5, though I encourage you to read the whole Psalm as well.

I’ll keep you updated with the status of the project as I know it. But right now, David has the final tasks to perform: the arduous process of mixing and mastering the album to it’s final polished state. It’s not quite over yet. Be in prayer for him, if you think about it.

I’ll see you all on the flipside. We did take a lot of pictures, and I’ll show them to you all here and on Facebook as I get them.

That’s it for me. Night.

Like a Champion.

Hey all.

I know it’s been a while, but aside from work, not a whole lot going on. Quite a bit of WoW Playing, I suppose, but a lot of prayer and preparation has been going into something else. Something I’m very excited to be a part of

You all might recall that back in the summer of 2005, myself, David Butler, Truett Butler, and Robert Peugh set out to the Mountains of New Mexico, in a town called Eagle Nest. There we stayed for a solid week, being in fellowship together and working on a music project.

We dubbed it “an experimental worship album”. Basically, it consisted of scripture read to music, all thematically connected. When we set out, all we had was a name and some song ideas. The name was “This is Love”.

By the week’s end, we had an album that took you through the creation story, the results of man’s sin, prophecies of Christ, the Passion, the joy of redemption, and praises to His name.

I may be biased because I did the percussion work, but I seriously LOVE how this album turned out. I cannot tell you how AWESOME it is that this all just came together in one week. I don’t know how we did it, other than to simply say it was God. I wish I had it online so I could share it with you, unless you have it already. Sadly, I do not.

I’ve done two ska albums with these same guys (and five other members, heh) but I think this might just be some of the best music we’ve ever done. You can even click here to learn more about it in a post of mine from 2006.

Well, all that is to say: We’re doing it again.

In about 2-3 hours, Dave, Truett, Rob, and new member Holland will be here to pick me up, and we’re driving all night to Eagle Nest to place our talents and our entire week in the hands of God, hoping to come out with something really good that people will be blessed by.

We’re calling it “Like a Champion”.

It’s from Psalm 19
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.

3 There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.

4 Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,

5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

We’re a little more prepared this time, I think. We have a couple of tunes kind of set in stone already, and an idea for how the theme is going to play out, but it’s no less God using us, we hope. It’s been our prayer since we decided to do this.

To all of you reading this: I ask you to please be praying for us. For our safety as we travel. For our week to be productive and enjoyable. For God’s hand to be on this album. For us to get our selves out of the way and just be used by the almighty. More than anything, for that one.

I’ll be gone all week. God willing, I will return with great stories, great anticipation for what I hope is a great project, and LOTS of awesome photos.

I love ya guys, and I’ll see you sson.

Summer Fun, yet again!!

Greetings once again, my semi-loyal readership (all 5 of you!).

Life has been interesting lately. It’s summer, obviously, and that means it’s freaking hot. Like, really freaking hot. I’m talking “wondering-why-my-face-hasn’t-melted-off” hot. I suppose the actual face melting will come during August, since it seems to always be hottest that month.

But summer USED to mean fun times cause there was no school and you had off a few months to have yourself a good time. Well, not so much anymore. Now I’ve gotta work. Side effect of growing up.

Well this summer looks to be very very different. Lots of different plans are coming together to make this one truly enjoyable. Some of them have already begun.

This past Sunday, myself and a gang of my friends hit up Six Flags over Texas. We all decided we want to try and hit as many theme parks in the state of Texas as is humanly possible this summer, and this was the first of what I hope will be many. Despite the stifling heat, my gut-churning fear of roller coasters, and the missing of one of our Alliance (specifically Megan) we had some good times all the same.

I still don’t know HOW they did it, but they talked me into going on the freaking Mr. Freeze. Yeah, that one. The one that is incredibly tall, loops around a bunch, then goes straight up, and then drops you to do the whole thing in reverse. It actually wasn’t terribly bad, mostly because the whole thing is over in less than 20 seconds, and there’s no “slowly ascending a big hill in anticipation, they use magnets to accelerate you to 60 mph in 4 seconds. If ya think about it, the coaster is essentially a giant railgun. Still, yes I did scream in horrified terror the whole ride. I sat out the Titan, the Texas Giant, and the Batman though. Babysteps, people, babysteps.

Going on Sunday and getting there just after it opened meant we had nearly zero wait time for everything. I recommend it.

I’m not sure what’s next on the list of parks. Hurricane Harbor is obviously right next door, and there’s always the little-known but still tons of fun Burger’s Lake. Not to mention the trifecta of Seaworld, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and Schlitterbahn down a little further south in San Antonio (or close to it). Astroworld’s in Houston as well. Lots to look forward to.

There’s also the Extralife Nerdtacular next month as well. For those who don’t know what that is yet, last year, Scott Johnson of hosted a gathering in Utah for any local fans of his comic and podcasts (including Extralife Radio, The Instance, and Infendo Radio), as well as anyone willing to fly out there. Everyone got together, hung out, and watched the premeir of Spider-Man 3. Well, this year he’s doing it again, this time with the premeir of Batman: The Dark Knight. And this year, I’m going to go. I’ve got my ticket for the film already reserved, and am looking forward to meeting Scott, as well as a few of the other peoples I’ve met via his message boards and the World of Warcraft guild. These guys are very interesting people, and I think it will be worth it to meet them in person, not to mention enjoy what is shaping up to be a stellar film.

But I think the one thing I’m looking forward to more than anything this summer is the next musical project I’m going to be a part of. Yes, that’s right. It’s coming to pass. Currently code named “This is Love 2”, the original foursome who brought “This is Love” from the mind of God to your ears is getting together to do it again. But this time, we have some additions to the crew: Holland Butler and Stephanie Hahn will be joining the project. I can’t say much about in what capacity, cause that would spoil the suprise, but I think this one can only get better from the last.

But for that to happen, I am asking for your prayers. Please be praying for us. Be praying for our artistic abilities. For our minds to be open to what God wants to do with this. For us to be able to clear our schedules. For everything. This is Love was one of the coolest experiences of my life, and I desperately want this one to be just as good.

Incidentally, if anyone is wanting a copy of the original, I have acquired a few more from David. Let me know in any of the usual means, I’ll set it aside for you.

I think this is shaping up to be one of the greatest summers I’ve had in a long time. I look forward to sharing it with all of you.

Til later

Houston Vacation!

Hey gang.

I’m back from my little trip up to Houston. Had a ball. I miss the Butlers so much. In fact I’m missing em right now.

We drove out to Holland’s family’s farm house, where we brainstormed and got some ideas for our next worship project, shot a bunch of David’s WW2 replica guns (I think one of them might be authentic? I dunno, correct me if I’m wrong here, D.), and took some cool band style photos! Can’t go wrong with that.

Anyway, after we got back Saturday night, we went to church the next morning, saw Iron Man (2nd time for me) and then began recording the stuff we’d put together on Friday and Saturday, mostly just to send to Peugh so he can brainstorm off of it. And no, you can’t hear it, so don’t ask :-P. Oh yeah, and we watched School of Rock after that. Which, by the way, is an excellent movie, and you should see it at first opportunity.

I headed back early this morning, played a bit of WoW, that sort of thing. But then I got one of the more infuriating experiences I’ve had to deal with in the game. More on that later.

For now, some PHOTOS!

Oh, and we also have a couple of Videos for your watching enjoyment! Don’t worry, they’re blanks.

This first one is an epic gun battle of Truett versus me and David. Early on, I dive down to get some cover, and off camera, get shot. Afterwards though, well…just watch.

Next up, I ambush Holland and Dave! Excitement! Thrills! Gunshots!

I just want to say thanks to Holland and Dave for putting me and Truett up for the weekend. Love you both, and I can’t wait to see ya again!

Okay, so, I log in to my WoW characters, just to see if I got any mail, anything like that, and to say hi to everyone in the guild. While I’m playing my mage, however, I get a message in game from one of the Game Masters, Blizzard employees who monitor the game from within and help solve problems people have. The message is telling me that one of my characters has violated the “naming restrictions”.

To let you know, my three level 70 characters, and the ones I play the most, are as follows:
Dahkar – Level 70 Troll Mage
Oldmanfranks – Level 70 Tauren Druid
Nihl – Level 70 Blood Elf Warlock

Oldmanfranks USED to have a different name. Before I moved servers, his name was Grothi. I changed it to Oldmanfranks when I moved to my new guild so that people would recognize me as the guy who does the Old Man Franks segments on Extralife Radio and occasionally the Instance.
Blizzard’s naming rules are usually pretty lax, just don’t name anything a swear word, or some other offensive term is about it. However, the server I’m on is an “RP server. RP is short for Role-Playing. It’s a server for people who want to basically “act” like their character would act if he were real. However, most people completely ignore this and just play the game like they would play any other, and don’t “act” in it.

RP Servers, however, have more stringent character naming standards. You have to name your character something that “fits” in the world. So something like “Pwnsauce” or “Technotron” or anything like that would probably not work.

I guess some idiot decided that Oldmanfranks wasn’t “RP”- enough, because they reported me to the game masters, and now I’ve got to rename Oldmanfranks to something else. I considered renaming him something like “Oldmanfrankz” just to piss the RP weenie that reported me off, but in the end, I just went back to his original name, Grothi.

What pisses me off is that Role-playing is not enforced on the server, so why in God’s name do they have to have the Double-standard of enforcing naming conventions if they aren’t going to actually enforce role-playing? It makes ZERO sense to have one without the other, and that, more than anything, is what irritates me about this.

And what’s really stupid is that the next thing I did after changing my Druid’s name was to make a new character with the name Oldmanfranks. Again, what’s the point, Blizzard? What is the freaking point? I liked that name, and because some weirdo RP kid got all upset that my name isn’t “a real name you’d see if Azeroth was real”, I have to deal with the consequences? That’s about as epic a fail as I’ve seen.

Ah well…I’ll catch ya’ll later.

That was, and still is, Love

Hey all, quick note before I go to bed.

Remember that worship album called “This is Love” that I contributed to, alongside David Butler, Truett Butler, and Robert Peugh?

Well…that may not be the end of it. That’s all I’ll say at this juncture. Just, be praying for me along those lines.

Oh, and if you want a copy, I’ll try and procure some additional ones, so tell me ASAP, here or on Facebook.

Waco friends, if you want to listen to it, Josh Henry should have the MP3s…it’s a really awesome meditative album. The kind of thing you listen to when you’re deep in prayer or wanting to get to that. Listen to it if you can, I hope you like it.