Revocation – all their albums

In life people are addicted to many varied things! Me? I’m addicted to music, and hence am continually searching for new interesting music to listen to. I’ve got regular favourites too that have stayed with me across many years, but mostly I get my buzz out of finding new stuff. A regular go to for me for a while now has been the excellent (and oft mentioned on here) Prog Metal Zone, but my most listened to band of 2015, Revocation, came via a different route. I was on YouTube and it suggested I watch this video …

Whilst outwardly the world of the more extreme genres of heavy metal might appear to be all scary growled lyrics, extreme volume and tattoos, my experience has been that it’s mostly populated by friendly intelligent people. As you can see from the video,  Phil Dubois, the drummer in Revocation is once such person. Likewise, Dave Davidson, Revocation‘s lead guitarist and vocalist, is a graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he studied guitar with a principle focus on jazz! Genres like technical metal and progressive metal are, as their names suggest, the most musically complex forms of metal and so it seems they attract the most talented virtuoso contemporary rock musicians.

Here’s Phil playing the drums on Scorched Earth Policy, from their most recent album Deathless …

And even if you’re not a guitarist, I’m sure you’ll be able to recognize the complexity of the guitar parts courtesy of this live version of Fields of Predation, from their debut album Empire of the Obscene

Revocation have recorded five albums in total, and I seriously can’t recommend them all highly enough!! According to last.fm, I’ve listened to a mere SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTY-NINE Revocation tracks since discovering them on February 9th, and that doesn’t include all the times I’ve listened in the car or in the gym!  You could say I rather like them!

 

Jasper Fforde – Shades of Grey

Three things to start with …

  1. READ THIS BOOK!
  2. No it’s not 50 Shades of Grey, but an indeterminate number of shades!
  3. READ THIS BOOK!

I actually read Shades of Grey last year, and have been meaning to post about it for ages. It’s one of the best, if not the best, book I’ve read in many a year! Why don’t you read this book!? Indeed son#1 did on my recommendation, and he enjoyed it too!

I discovered Jasper Fforde a few years back. I was a looking for an author with clever and considered wit similar to Douglas Adams, and Fforde was highly recommended. I monstered my way through the excellent and fun Thursday Next series, followed by the equally excellent and fun Nursery Crime series. Not sci-fi per se, but cleverly imagined inventive alternative realities with great comedy too. I probably expected more of the same when I started Shades of Grey, but I couldn’t have been more wrong – a totally different string to Fforde’s already beautifully crafted bow!

Shades of Grey starts with that trick that I recently mentioned in my post on William Gibson’s The Peripheral. Thrown straight in at the deep end in a future with no introduction, I spent the first few chapters trying to work out what the hell was going on! Plenty was immediately recognizable and whilst nothing was fundamentally alien, nothing was quite right too! What events had led to this future and most importantly its new social structures? You never do find out exactly what cataclysmic “something that happened” in the past changed the world thus, but you do get various snippets anchored around the incremental outlawing of technology invented/created prior to a series of ever earlier periods with an implied dictatorial (albeit in the form of a “collective”) leadership and clear rules not to be broken. Most importantly you never find out what happened to alter humans in such a simple but profound way, though the result of that alteration is absolutely the heart of this future society! Forget -isms based on race, religion or sexual orientation, in this world it’s all about the now vastly limited set of colours that each individual can perceive and the social hierarchy that results. In a world in which nobody can seemingly see all, some colours are “higher” than others, “mixing” between particular colours a thing of scandal, and those who can see none the lowest of the low greys!

I’ve probably already said too much, so enough of the plot! The core characters are totally believable and very quickly you’re seeing this world through the eyes and experiences of the protagonist Eddie Russett. The ins-and-outs of daily life; love and hatred; discovery of at least some of the terrible truth. A year after reading it, my memory of that future world is still totally vivid as if I was really there, unlike the vast majority of the many books I’ve read since!

So my advice is for everybody to read Shades of Grey, but just to get you ready for the only disappointment – upon completion I of course rushed to see if Jasper Fforde had written any more books to follow it, only to discover hoards of disappointed readers! He fully intends to write a sequel, but given his other busy series, it simply hasn’t happened yet!

David VanDyke – The Eden Plague

Hmmm … so I’m in two minds about this book. Reckon I picked it up for free last summer when I was looking for books to take on holiday, probably owing to it showing up linked to some sort of dystopian theme. That said, as “book zero” in a longer Plague Wars series, it’s effectively a prequel and so in itself not really dystopian. That’s the not the reason behind my uncertainty though.

I’m not going to go into huge depth around the plot. Fundamentally it revolves around secret viral research, the curious outwardly positive impact of a particular virus, naturally the impact of that virus on the key characters, and latterly an attempted wider spread impact. The writing was well described, and rendered things effectively; the characters were believable; it moved at a good pace; but overall it fell into that trap of various things being just too convenient and easy, and people being too accepting. Then an epilog threw in a curve ball that actually turned me off further.

And hence the real measure of things – not badly written and well liked on Amazon, interesting enough for me to read it in quick order, but at the end I didn’t feel compelled to read the next book in the series and indeed haven’t moved onto that as my next book!

St. Lawrence Tunnel

Retro post from : Summer 2011

Most years we make it across to the Isle of Wight at least once. On this visit the busy agenda included a quick pop to Osborne House, some geocaching, climbing some hills, some dinosaur fossil hunting on the beach, and catching up with a great friend for several hours … oh and little bit of family friendly exploring!

I’d seen a little report on this tunnel from an exploring friend, and checked about its location and family suitability. We rocked up torches in hand, quickly found the tunnel and were in. Five seconds later son#3 (then aged almost 7) said “Dad, I’m scared”. Another five seconds later son#2 (then aged 12) said “Dad, I’m a bit scared too”. Hence Mrs ® Andy, kindly offered to take them out again whilst son#1 (then aged 13) and I took a look. Her offer did of course come with the condition “but don’t be too long!”

StLawrence-05It’s a nice old tunnel … a little longer than I’d expected at over 0.5km with an incline and curve to the right from the bottom portal. It was used for mushroom farming after the line closed in 1952 before being abandoned more recently. Hence it’s full of polythene tenting of various types along most of its length with more complete/newer equipment towards the top end where ultimately it’s blocked with some mad max style fencing a little way from the top portal.

StLawrence-11We walked the length and in the middle, where the curve ensures no light from the portal makes it, son#1 got to experience the curiously fun sensory deprivation that is an environment without a photon of light. I took a few pictures on the way back, and of course in typical exploring fashion we’d totally lost track of time which is why it was no surprise as we approached the bottom portal I heard Mrs ® Andy’s voice calling in to the tunnel to chivy us along!

William Gibson – The Peripheral

Whilst I’ve read significantly more over the last year than I’d typically managed in years previous, I’m still mostly a quick-chapter-or-two-before-bed sort of reader. Hence, whilst most of the books I’ve read recently have been clever comedic sci-fi, they’ve been light enough for me to keep up whilst my brain shuts down for the day. When my pre-ordered copy of William Gibson’s new book, The Peripheral, was delivered to my Kindle upon release a while back I knew, from the experience of reading Neuromancer previously, it might be heavier going and wasn’t wrong!

There’s something about the sci-fi trick of dropping you into a new world without any introduction, and The Peripheral does it doubly so! I seriously struggled working out what was really going on in the first ten percent or so! A near future America with some level of identifiability with 3D printing and gaming and smartphones, but also new language to decode along with wounded vets bearing the side effects of some sort of human/machine haptic augmentation. Then an indeterminately future Britain with an even stranger mix of past, current (reality TV stardom) and future concepts. With the book jumping back and forth between the two, the linkage was not apparent!

I’m not going to lie … after a week or two I simply restarted and read it all again to make sure I’d got my head around it, before finally it all started to make “sense”! Shortly thereafter, just to make sure, Gibson dropped in a quick summary to make sure you were keeping up!

A shadowy technology via some dark server somehow allowing a network connection of sorts between the furthest future world and the nearer future world, providing effective informational time travel in both directions; an unwitting virtual witness to a murder in the furthest future via that; the ultimate in telepresence – the peripherals of the title being almost-human organic bodies in the furthest future world that allow remote users to connect and physically experience things over a network; the use of those peripherals to allow the protagonists from the near future world to experience the furthest future world; the impact of the furthest future world tinkering in the near future world’s economy; and ultimately the pursuit of the murderer.

One key concept is that at the moment somebody in the furthest future world first establishes new contact back in time, the timeline in the past effectively is forked just like a codebase, and what happens in that “stub” timeline thereafter is no longer linked to the main timeline thus avoiding paradoxes.

The pace continued to grow as relationships were formed and more was revealed, and I became more and more hooked and immersed. Ultimately though I was slightly disappointed when it was mostly wrapped up neatly in about a chapter’s worth, but that’s a criticism I level at many books.

But here’s the thing … it took concentration but as a result the story has “stuck” much better in my head resulting in a more enduring “memory” of the worlds I experienced. I’d struggle to recall in detail many of the lighter books I’ve read, even though they slipped by more easily. Gibson is a master of this style of sci-fi, and my intention now is to read his other books that I’ve not read between his first (Neuromancer) and this his most recent. Overall The Peripheral is a highly recommended read!

Albums wot I woz rather excited about but …

At the end of last year I posted about three albums coming out in the first few months of 2015 that I was really excited about. They are all out now, but I was just reflecting on the fact that actually I ended frankly “meh” about all three of them! None of them are bad albums, but they’re not standout albums either. The word “solid” mostly applies!

I tend to judge albums by whether they’ve multiple tracks that I want to listen to individually on repeat, and whether I can listen to the whole album on repeat for days, or weeks, or even months, and not get bored. A great example is my favourite album from last year, Spires – The Whisper, that I’m still listening to regularly now and still loving!

My summary review of these three anticipated albums would be …

  • Beardfish – +4626-COMFORTZONE – something of a backward step to the more traditional prog of earlier Beardfish. Personally I enjoyed the step forward and heavier vibe on their previous album The Void, but that’s all but forgotten with this album. Few contemporary bands are better at doing traditional prog than them, but no tracks grab me particularly.
  • Sylosis – Dormant Heart – pretty much more of the same from Sylosis. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but there’s nothing particularly exciting on the album. No “wow” riffs or solos, just consistently technically well executed metal. I’ll still go and see them live when they tour the album later in the year though!
  • Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase. – a slightly more positive response for this one, but again nothing that really stands out of me. I totally loved Steve’s previous album The Raven That Refused to Sing, and there were some bits that I could listen to for hours. For example, Drive Home is one of the most achingly beautiful songs ever, and its EBow-esque (actually a Sustainiac pickup) guitar solo is an eyes-closed few minutes of musical overload, that I’ve played numerous times. Nothing on Hand. Cannot. Erase. has that staying power!

Oh well! I have found some absolutely corking albums this year in lieu of the above though, and I’ll post about those some time soon.

As if excuse is needed, here’s the beautiful Drive Home with its equally beautiful video! Watch it at full screen 1080P if you can!

 

The Machinist’s House

With the decline of the huge derelict sites of yore, and hence the joy of spending a whole day exploring a truly massive hospital or industrial site increasingly rare, the exploring community seem to be turning to smaller locations for their regular fixes. All hail the growing trend of the derp house! I have explored the occasional local small derelict house in the past, but this is the first time I’ve made a significant journey to one.

MachinistsHouse-12The house was originally discovered by somebody by accident whilst on the way to another site in the tail end of last year, and was given the title “The Machinist’s House” in recognition of the surprising contents they discovered. In a smart and busy village in the Surrey commuter belt lies a brooding two bedroomed house filled with, amongst other things, frankly massive typesetting and printing machinery. In death of the house (and one assumes possibly the occupant) the neighbours must hate its derelict state given their quaint cottages and neat gardens; in life you’ve got to assume they possibly weren’t keen on it either since it must have made a serious racket (plus given the amount of junk outside this was never a neat quaint household)!

MachinistsHouse-18The actual history is scant, though a significant amount remains in terms of addressed mail and other clues if somebody really wanted to find out more. Apparently over the last five months plenty has disappeared courtesy of exploring “magpies” but it’s still full of loads of random stuff. The printing appears to have been pretty serious, and you’ve got assume small scale commercial rather than simply a hobby. Quite how the machinery was installed, shoe-horned into the lean-to conservatory and shed outside, is unclear. Other things you can glean is that somebody who lived there was a dab hand with a sewing machine, though the large number of much older machines originally inside is now greatly reduced it appears. At some point one of the bedrooms was a child’s, with numerous stickers on the door and varied trinkets. Another hobby was amateur radio, with postcards from other enthusiasts with their call signs on and an aerial unceremoniously dumped in the bath. Also, whilst it might be fair to assume the owner was older, they were into computing with various bits of old PCs and hard disks about. Oh … and an occupant clearly hid various frankly “saucy” videos outside in the shed!

MachinistsHouse-34The walls are covered in tarry grime – I didn’t touch them to determine whether it was from cigarettes or something to do with the heat and oil of the printing press; the curtains are filthy and tattered; some windows long broken and repaired with plastic; the kitchen disgusting. Everything tells me that this house was like this in life as well as death, and contents including IKEA bags and PlayStation controls back up that it hasn’t been empty perhaps as long as its state suggests! Structurally it’s sound though and not leaking, and so could easily be on “Homes Under the Hammer” and fixed up with a rewire, new kitchen and bathroom, and head-to-toe redecoration!

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Federal-Mogul camshafts

It’s always a little bit strange when you discover sizeable factories out in the sticks! You’ve got to assume its closure had a profound impact on the local villages!?

FederalMogul-14The Weyburn Works near Elstead developed during the first half of last century, and by 1937 employed 300 people manufacturing lifeboat engines and parts for cars and planes. Later it merged to become Weyburn Bartel, before being bought by global car component manufacturer Federal-Mogul and trading as Federal-Mogul Camshafts Ltd. As part of their growth strategy Federal-Mogul had also acquired another UK company who was one of the world’s largest manufacturers of asbestos-based products. That acquisition rather bit them back courtesy of liabilities for asbestos-related claims, driving the main USA-based Federal-Mogul company into Chapter 11 bankruptcy between 2002 and 2008, with its UK subsidiaries similarly under management by administrators. Whilst the company overall weathered the storm, sadly the impact on the Weyburn Works was more serious. About half its 140 strong workforce were made redundant in 2007, and despite the site continuing to supply customers including Perkins and BMW, the remainder followed with the closure of the site in late 2008.

I’ve not been out and about for ages, and with a trip up the A3 needed for other reasons, decided to get up early and pop into a couple of small sites on the way. Also I’ve a new bargain Canon EF-S 10-18mm wide angled lens that I bought last month and wanted to try it out properly!

FederalMogul-60I’ll be totally honest … if you’re passing and have an hour to kill do take a look, but don’t go out of your way for Federal-Mogul! A frankly empty and smashed up site, and most of the few bits and pieces that appeared interesting in early reports from several years ago have now gone. In particular there was a piano, that apparently moved around site, that has now definitely met its maker! The site had its own social club, and the space above that was clearly let out as a trading unit, latterly for “Love Stone” selling expensive marble floor tiles. Ironically mounted samples of those are some of the few things that aren’t smashed up!

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David Bowie – Lady Grinning Soul

Lady Grinning Soul by David Bowie has long been a huge favourite of mine. A totally gorgeous sensual song, it closes out Aladdin Sane and was never played live as far as I can discover. In some ways it is a hidden gem known mostly by real fans, with beautiful piano from Mike Garson and Spanish guitar solo from Mick Ronson.

I was working out how to play the original version the other day, and when looking for acoustic covers for ideas I discovered the video below.

Danny McEvoy is a talented acoustic busker originally from Liverpool but now resident on the south coast. He’s a prodigious poster (every Beatles song + every #1 through the decades) on YouTube and he seems to be able to pick up tunes in minutes given the rate he uploads them. I really liked his voicing of Lady Grinning Soul, and given his promise of publishing chords to his covers, I pinged him on YouTube. A man of his word he posted them the next day on his Facebook page (which you should visit and hopefully like), and tonight I’ve greatly enjoyed play his version! Sounds awesome since there’s a real knack to translating songs into acoustic covers and Danny’s definitely got that knack!

Southampton Water with sun and mist = stunning views

Out on a walk with some great friends after Christmas, it was difficult not to take great shots across and along Southampton Water with conditions like these! The air was cold and very still giving a misty filter; the sun was low; Southampton Water was busy with traffic. The only real problem is the fact that the higher f-numbers used show just how filthy my camera sensor is after years of my now ageing Canon 500D being bumped around derelict buildings and generally very used and abused!