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Shilling for the Little Guy

October 24, 2009 1 comment

Despite the amount of “populist” material I cover here, you may be surpised to learn that I’m a fan of the “indie.” And I don’t mean indie as a genre, but indie as a movement. Not indie as an ideal, but indie as a process. Breaking down barriers to an audience that are put up by The Man seems like a noble thing to do and all, especially if you’re a hippie, a punk, or any combination of metalhead, street performer, visual artist, or author. Go ahead, stick it to The Man if you want. But dear god, if you’re going to do something on your own, do it right. People aren’t going to want to buy your product (because that what’s going on, don’t kid yourself) because they’re helping the undergound movement of art that’s subverting the status quo. They want to buy your product because it’s good.

All those “buy local” people, and people like them, seem to forget that the internet has done something that nothing else before has done on the scale that it has: it connects people. Shocking! Fifteen years ago, when we were marvelling over burning our own CDs with seven hundred megabytes of data on them, people were saying the same thing. “The internet connects people like never before!” they were saying, and everyone was shocked and amazed.

But what has it done for you, you might be asking yourself. You don’t make anything. You’re not a musician, or a photographer, or a writer, or a webcomics creator, or anything like that. You know what you are, though? You’re a consumer of all of those things. And I’m here to tell you that you should look past some of that mass-media, manufactured stuff and take a gander at some of the following awesome products from people that are indie not because the aesthetic pleases them, and not because the scene and their indie cred is more important to them than producing a high-quality product, but because they can. The following fine folks are producing some of the best product and content you’ll find on the internet—or anywhere, for that matter—and they’re doing it all themselves.

The internet, as they say, is the great equalizer. And with the cost of professional-grade hardware and software coming down, and enough talent and market sense, anyone creative can produce a product. Some people actually go the extra mile to make sure those things are actually good, and that’s why I’m voicing my support here. Remember: just because you can afford Adobe software doesn’t mean you know how to use it. (Proof? Check out Photoshop Disasters.) The following people know how to use it, if you get what I’m saying.

Disclaimer: I bought or support these of my own accord. I’m passing the information on to you because I believe these people are deserving of your money, as well. I may be shill from time to time, but it’s only because I well and truly believe in these people and their output.

COILHOUSE MAGAZINE

A dual blog/magazine venture, Coilhouse bills itself as “A Love Letter to Alternative Culture,” and I’m inclined to agree with the editors. The triple editorial powerhouse of Nadya Lev, Zoetica Ebb, and Meredith Yayanos direct an all-star stable of writers and contributers as they inject every page of Coilhouse with art-house chic, techno-futurist cool, and a sci-fi blend of photography, line-art, graphic design, fashion, and full-on futurism. From the website’s bizarre YouTube findings courtesy of Ectoplasmosis‘s Ross Rosenberg, to the print magazine’s brilliant linework by editor Zoetica Ebb, every bit of the Coilhouse ethos of “INFORM, INSPIRE, INFECT.”

Everything about the project is high-quality, culminating with the “quarterly-ish” publishing of the print magazine in glorious, glossy, full color. I’m not going to lie, US$15 plus $5 shipping seems a bit steep for a magazine, but… well, here are some shots from the current issue (not sold out yet!):

I have gotten all three issues that have been produced so far, and will continue to do so until either my funds run out or they stop printing such wonderful dead tree matter.

And it’s not just the magazine, either. From stickers to T-shirts, everything Coilhouse produces is top quality. The t-shirt I purchased from them rivals only my U2 tour shirt in quality, and that’s saying something. U2 have notoriously high-quality shirts, and this is no different. In fact, it might even be a tad softer. But I digress.

For more info, check out their mission statement and FAQs.

TEAM MUMMY and SPACE SHARK

Team Mummy is the brainchild of Chris Graves, who I think may have had a seizure and turned into a wisecracking superhero himself. His main comic, Team Mummy is a blend of noir, superhero cliche, 4chan, and a powerful love of Red Bull. The product of someone that is clearly insane would probably be less interesting if it weren’t so damn funny. Volume One is available as a print-on-demand comic from IndyPlanet, and collects the first three chapters of the story of Mr. Mask, Ninjarella, Slater, and the rest of the Team Mummy gang as they fight crime, a bald-lookin’ blady-villainy guy named Rooster, and a coked-up, half-naked Santa Claus.

I can’t wait til Volume Two gets printed, with the Werebots:

Mr. Graves (I have a strange feeling he’d say “Whoa, dude, Mr. Graves is my father.”) claims that the whole POD thing was too much hassle, but I can assure you—and him—that holding the finished product in my grubby mitts, with its crisp black-and-white composition and bizarre anime-and-noir-in-a-blender style, it’s something that a) you should buy, and b) he should facilitate by continuing to submit work for POD.

And then there’s Space Shark. Let’s face it, a shark in a space suit is the coolest thing anyone has ever come up with. We have reached the zenith of human artistry. Anything from here on is simply a pale imitation. Of a shark. In. A space. Suit.

Best. Idea. Ever.

KEMPER NORTON

Finally, we come to Kemper Norton. This loose collection of musicians are producing, wholly and totally for free, some of the best ambient and hauntological music you will ever find. While some of the “packaging materials” are a bit lacking in the sense of being high-quality finished products, the music is what’s important here, and it delivers in spades. I highly suggest all of their available downloadable works, and if you can ship them a few bucks, help out there.

CONCLUSION

Now, I’m not one of those protective people that will tell you to ahead and buy something and then complain when too many people like what I like. My elitism and ego don’t need that much service. The goal that any artist, writer, musician, hobbiest, whatever, has is to get their work out to someone and make a decent living doing it. If you have a problem with me promoting things like this, or with your “starving” artists making some money, go read why i am not afraid to take your money by Amanda Fucking Palmer (solo artist and of the Dresden Dolls.) And if you don’t have a problem with it, read it anyway.

Finally, at the end of all this shilling for other people, I’m going to shill for myself a bit. If you like reading my random dribbles, let me know in the comments, and more importantly, let other people know about my little corner of the internet. I’m still not charging anything, I’m still not advertising, and aside from people I genuinely believe in, I’m not asking you to shell out a single dollar to anyone else unless you want to. I’m just asking you to read my words and share them with as many people as you think would be interested by them. As long as they stay attributed to me, of course. I’m a writer… all’s I gots is mah wurds.

POST-SCRIPT

Honors also go out to Brian Clevinger, writer of Atomic Robo, Warbot in Accounting, How I Killed Your Master, and 8-Bit Theatre (collectively based at Nuklear Power); the people at This One is On Us; Jamaica Dyer, the writer and artist of Weird Fishes; and dozens of other DIY people, great and small. Their work is stellar, and only lacks recognition because it is not distributed through “normal” or “big name” channels. And any word of mouth I can pass along is the best I can do for them. Go check them out. Buy things from them, if they have stuff for sale.

Remember: support your indie people. Not because they’re indie. Because they’re good.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Review – Dethklok’s Dethalbum II

October 2, 2009 2 comments

I’m going to try to keep this one short, for one main reason. This will come to a shock to many, I’m sure, but I actually don’t know a damn thing about metal. Oh sure, I love it, but aside from Soilwork and probably Opeth, I couldn’t tell you the difference between any two Swedish melodic death bands. My knowledge of thrash only extends to the Big Four (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax) and even then it’s more like Big Three for me (because I know… three?… Anthrax songs to the point I could recognize them.)

But I do know enough to know the the album spawned by [adult swim]’s metal band Dethklok, Dethalbum II, is all sorts of awesome. There are some obvious references to a particular style or band, as in “The Gears,” which is somewhere between Slayer and At the Gates, and “Murmaider II: The Water God,” which takes its form and function (and to a lesser extent, melodies) from Metallica’s propensity for making endless sequels to their song “The Unforgiven.” The cover art—or at least, the logo design—is an homage to the work of Mastodon artist Paul Romano.

And the song titles are definitely comedy gold. “Laser Cannon Deth Sentence”? “I Tamper with the Evidence at the Murder Site of Odin”? “Deth Support”? (That last one is pretty planely a reference to Metallica’s “One,” at least in content.)

At this point, though, I should probably talk about the music itself. The first Dethklok album sold, if I recall, something like 300,000 units, which is pretty good for a metal album by a made up, cartoon band. Or for a metal album in general. That album, though, had some pretty major flaws, the main one being that it sounds… well, “like ones and zeroes.” The production on that album wasn’t to great. So the first major point of Dethalbum II is the much better production. The drums have punch and power, and Gene Hoglan’s snare cracks through the mix with a healthy snap. There’s a fair amount of variance in guitar tones, which helps give the impression of more than just Brendon Small playing every part. And what’s that low, sorta rumbly sound? Holy shit it’s bass. Small and producer Ulrich Wild obviously go against genre convention and mix the bass up to a listenable volume on this one.

Gene Hoglan’s drum work here is simply amazing. While he’s already considered a living legend for his work in Death, Strapping Young Lad, and numerous other bands, his work here is top-notch. The double-kick work is amazing, and he ventures into some real blast beats at times. (For those who don’t know, a blast beat is when the drummer plays the kick, snare, and a cymbal—usually the hi-hat—all at the same time, at speeds that would make meth-heads pass out. Used extensively in black metal, but they also pop up in death and occasionally thrash. Yes, there is a difference among the three.)

Brendon Small’s vocal delivery on this album is much more refined and consistent than the first album, probably due to working for two seasons on the show and touring extensively for said album. There are some guest vocals on this in places, but none of them seem to be credited. This is where my lack of metal smarts really comes back to bit me. I’m relatively certain Devin Townsend has some screaming in there, but a few other vocal performances I’m not so sure about. Also, there are a few particularly Vai-like guitar parts (though they might be Devin Townsend), but I’m not sure if they were actually Vai/Townsend or Brendon Small. At this point, I’d be surprised by what Small can’t do on a guitar. However, as far as the guest spots are concerned, there certainly isn’t anything as blatant as James Hetfield’s non-credited appearance on “Hatredcopter” from the first album. Half the fun of Metalocalypse for me is trying to place the cameos, so making some that are obviously “not Dethklok” but not obviously “someone else” is a little frustrating.

But maybe that’s the point.

All in all, this is easily one of the best metal releases of the year. Considering the new and upcoming albums from Mastodon, Slayer, Rammstein, Dethklok, and Megadeth, 2009 seems to be a good year for metal. And that makes me glad.

Another review I read prior to writing this mentioned that Dethalbum II doesn’t have the hooks or the comedy that the first album had; Small has decided to make an album that appeals to metal fans first, and comedy fans second. My question is, “Isn’t that the point?” I mean, Metalocalypse isn’t going to attract all that many people that aren’t “in on the joke.” As funny the recording scenes in the show are, wouldn’t they be funnier to someone that’s actually experienced scenes just like them? Isn’t a metal album going to be more well-received by metal fans? I don’t think the purpose of Dethalbum II is to bring new Klokateers into the fold. I think it’s to serve up a big, meaty, metally plate of BRUTAL. Any fanbase growth is secondary.

Besides, Dethklok hate their fans. They’re brainless mutants.

Overall rank: 8.5 of 10. Some of the songs drag on a little bit, but I think it’s more of a joke than a flaw.

Post Script: Who plays the keyboards in Dethklok? Not for real, obviously; that’s Brendon Small. I mean in the band. Nathan Explosion? Maybe Toki Wartooth? Who knows, but I’d love to see it addressed in Season Three.

Categories: Uncategorized