Maiden Canada

I've mentioned previously that both of my kids are big metal fans and I've mentioned that Bozeman is a lousy place to keep up with metal tours. That's one of my bigger disappointments for all of us in Bozeman, and I'm sensitive to the fact that my kids will not be able to spend their teens hanging out at local all ages shows, checking out the bands like The Squares(Night) RangerMetallicaTestamentExodus and Y&T before they make it big. The first couple of years in Bozeman we just lumped it, streamed concert videos and complained a lot.

This year is different. I already wrote about our trip to Finland and Sweden, centered around seeing Amaranthe in Göteborg. For us serious metalheads, though, one show a summer really isn't enough and as a parent of two kids that love metal, there are certain experiences that it's essential I share with them. Thanks to Iron Maiden's North American Tour - 2012, our other big show for the summer was obvious. It wasn't a question of whether we'd go, just a question of where. The obvious choice is Salt Lake City in terms of a road trip, with Denver and Seattle being close seconds for short hop plane trips. But, for a summer trip and the chance to pass through Glacier National Park on the way, Calgary really was a no brainer.

Nancy and I think it's incredibly important to expose our kids to a variety of experiences. They have been to Yosemite, we make regular trips to Yellowstone and have a long list of national parks and monuments yet to visit. I have similar feelings about making sure they experience certain bands. Sadly, they will never get to see Queen but thanks to videos and documentaries, they've got a good understanding for how magical Queen's live performances were. On the metal side, there are only a few bands that sum up the genre as effectively as Iron Maiden. We're talking about a band that covers all the bases: a scary mascot, comic book like and bigger than life, fast tempos, soaring vocals, songs about stalkers, mythology and warfare. Plus, like Queen, they put on an amazing show.

Bruce Dickinson is a master of getting the crowd involved. Maiden shows involve every single audience member. Admittedly there are times that you simply can't hear Bruce, even when he is singing, because the crowd is singing so loudly. And, somehow, Iron Maiden manages to capture that energy across the entire globe. This isn't a national band, this is a global one. They've honed their chops and their show over decades and they're the perfect band to show our kids where metal came from and why it still lives on despite a complete lack of coverage in the mainstream press.

We've got about a week before the show, and less than that before the road trip begins. I can't wait to share an evening with my kids and enjoy one of the bands that really got me started on this crazy metal ride. I look forward to seeing the stage lights glowing in their eyes, and the periodic jaw-dropping looks of disbelief that I know will grace their faces that night. I want to see them as they watch Steve Harris' crazy dancing spider fingers. Maybe they will wonder, as I did, "How does he play all those great galloping bass lines like that." I've never quite figured it out, to this day.

It really just boils down to a show that can't be missed. Sometimes you just gotta make the effort and go out of your way for the sake of the experience and opportunity. We look forward to traveling through beautiful Alberta and sharing an evening in Calgary with our northern neighbors, enjoying one of the best metal bands ever. Hope to see some of you there!


I Am Metal Dad

As a father of 2, I often think back to the experiences I had as kid, the ones that really shaped who I've become and how I approach life. Often what jumps out at me are the times that my sister and I used to visit my dad's chemistry lab at U.C. Berkeley. I remember playing with plastic molecular models and being fascinated by the air and gas valves with color coded caps. I remember the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) room, the centrifuge room and trips up and down the elevator. Most of all, though, I remember interacting with my dad and his students and feeling comfortable in an intellectually challenging place surrounded by a bunch of fun personalities.

Those experiences were a huge factor in the path my life has taken, through my Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Chemistry into my career working in Silicon Valley as a software engineer. Being in a creative, exciting and challenging environment and sharing it with bright, motivated colleagues really, for me, is the key to long-term satisfaction. Despite all of that, there's an even more fundamental element to who I am, namely, music. Though I've studied classical, jazz and blues, it wasn't until I discovered heavy metal and hard rock that I really felt at home. There's something about the combination of power and precision that is a perfect match for my typical energy level. Big, bombastic classical works and intricate baroque compositions come close but there's an innate grit and energy to heavy rock that sets it apart for me.

Much like my dad, and really, like any dad that's really engaged with his kids, it's only natural that I share the things I love with my kids. At 10 years, my daughter, and 7 years, my son, are both fully capable of enjoying music and having their own opinions. I have no interest in scripting out their lives, telling them what they should or should not like or do. But I know from my own experience, and from watching dads around me with older kids, there's really no worry, kids will find their own path and stand apart from their parents' interests. At the same time, it's incredibly important to expose kids to all sorts of creative and intellectual stimulation, so they can explore it all and figure out what's right for them. Since metal and other heavy forms of music are key parts of who I am, it makes sense for me to share that with my kids.

My wife and I tend to be open-minded and relaxed about what we let our kids experience. We both think the key is to experience the more mentally and emotionally challenging things (e.g. horror movies, more mature comedies, troubling dramas, etc.) as a family, being very careful about the timing so as to only stretch the kids a little bit at a time, never overwhelming them. We often have some of the most interesting and enlightening conversations after watching movies together, when the topic falls a bit beyond what they've encountered in their lives at that point. As a parent, you never really know whether the experiences you have with your kids translate in any way to other families. We are all so unique, and yet so similar, you it's hard to know when things are uniformly applicable to all and when they are completely restricted to our own personal experience.

Considering all of that as background, I am very careful about how my musical background impacts the kids. Music has been the single, fundamental driving force in my life and I want desperately to share that with the kids. I also want to avoid overwhelming them with my own interests, because it's up to them to find out what's important to them. That eventually filters down to this: I share the music that I love with my kids but leave it up to them to decide what grabs them the most. I also know full well that at any point, one or both of them could decide they have no interest in music or that they prefer a completely different style of music. I have a very good friend and periodic coworker whose kids are just approaching college age. He's also a musician and a big music fan, very broadminded and eclectic but with key interests in Keith RichardsNeil Young and similar singer-songwriters with a little edge. He was very supportive of his boys' interests in music and shared music with them all the time. Somewhere along the way, both boys discovered modern metal and embraced it. They love the really heavy stuff, filled with growling and pummeling energy. That's not at all what my friend loves, but still is reflective of a love for music.

Thus, I must embrace my role as "Metal Dad". It's what I love and what I know. Loud rock and metal are what I play during my radio show at KGLT and what I have to review each week as the Director of Loud Rock. When the kids help me review new releases, prep my show or keep me company during my show, what they hear is all loud rock and metal. I encourage them to be open-minded, to embrace classical and country, pop and polka, to experience it with equal curiosity. But, what I can best teach them about is metal, because it's what I know. I can tell them about the performers, the sub genres and the evolution of the style. Unfortunately, the one thing I can't do very well here in Bozeman is give them the same local music scene that I grew up with. I was able to spend my teens going to local clubs in the Bay Area and to experience first hand the discovery and success of Joe SatrianiY&TNight RangerMetallicaTestamentExodus and many more. I was able to see bands like AC/DCAerosmithUFOthe Scorpions and Rainbow regularly in the larger venues around the Bay Area. I often went to multiple shows in a week, and my own musical personality grew out of all those experiences. Here in Bozeman, however, it's lucky if we get a metal show every few months and major metal acts do not come here at all.

So, what does "Metal Dad" have to do to keep sharing the metal world with his kids? The same thing folks in Montana do if their kids are on soccer teams, or ski teams or basketball teams: travel. The distances are long in this part of the country, but you accept the knowledge that travel is part of the equation. Although it takes time, two hours of driving around here is a heck of a lot more satisfying than driving two hours in a major metropolis. You can go a long time without seeing another car on the road and the scenery in many parts of the state is absolutely breathtaking. This year it really hit home, it makes no sense to sit here in Bozeman waiting for the metal to come to us. We must seek out the metal. And that's what we will do.

Coming up soon, we'll run over to Billings to catch Halestorm, then shortly after that we head north through Glacier National Park to reach Calgary in time to see Iron Maiden on their big 2012 tour. About a month later, our big summer vacation will take us to Sweden and Finland, sandwiched around an Amaranthe show in Göteborg. And then in early fall, we head over to Salt Lake City to see Nightwish. At the moment, both kids love female-fronted metal bands, including those with a symphonic bent. My son also has a soft spot for hair metal, with Def Leppard as his "go to #1" but he also loves My Chemical Romance.

Metal Dad knows full well that at some point, my daughter may decide that mainstream country is the way to go, and my son might become a shreddin' bluegrass mandolin player. That's OK by me. It's not about the "right music" vs. the "wrong music", it's about the joy of discovery and the comfort of familiarity. If there's anything I can do for the kids, it's to help them embrace the world, the good and the challenging, and embark on the journey that's right for them. In fact, those journeys are already underway and I have the privilege, for now, of tagging along for the ride. It's an awesome experience.


MOG: it's growing on me

As I've mentioned in previous articles (Pandora's pitfalls...prefer analog falls short), I find that online music services generally fall short of my needs. Pandora's collection is restrictive, leaving out a significant percentage of the bands I want to know about. It also does a poor job of finding related music, rarely finding bands I like that sound like those I listen to. does much better at finding "sounds similar" bands but you can't just listen to a band's album. Sometimes you can preview parts of their songs, or hear whole songs as part of the their "station" but it's hit or miss, you can't simply listen to an entire album. Spotify isn't bad, it allows you to listen to whole songs, but it always feels a bit overblown and invasive. I haven't found value in its desire to merge my personal collection with its online collection, and the native app is yet another layer of baggage between me and listening to music. What I really want is to simply listen to music.

When MOG first became available, a good friend mentioned it to me, suggesting that I should check it out. This was before their UI rework and the site was a bit drab and scattered. I tried it out as a place to host my bands' music and, sadly, found it did not fare well against We weren't able to flesh out the Scattershock and Danger, Ltd. profiles and MOG did not relate us to any similar artists. MOG was a disappointment to me, and I soon discontinued my use of the service.

At some point, however, I learned of their UI refresh and was once again in the market for a streaming service. I need a way to review music for my KGLT radio show, both to pick songs and artists out, as well as find expletives that can't be aired on the radio. iTunes is pretty good for quick evaluation, answering the question "Do I like this enough to play it?". But iTunes' short previews prevent me from reviewing an entire song and the F-word or the Sh-word can lurk in any crevice of a song, there's no guarantee it'll show up in the section provided by iTunes. and Pandora also fail here, because you can't just select a song and listen top to bottom. Spotify just feels too complicated for me; what I really want is somewhere I can very quickly look up a band, find their latest album and start playing their (full) songs.

With those goals in mind, suddenly MOG rose solidly to the surface. It's really easy. Open the MOG webpage and then you can execute exactly the steps I mentioned: 1) search by band name, 2) click through to band summary page, 3) click through to album with most recent release date, 4) click to play album. Done. It's been wonderful for my radio prep and now it's becoming my "go to" source of background music when I want something outside of my own iTunes library.

Happily, as I write this article and wander around the MOG site, I realize that another of my criticisms has fallen away. Both Scattershock and Danger, Ltd. now have similar artists. I'd had a similar experience with, it took awhile (months) before we achieved some magical threshold and started showing similar artists. Maybe a similar buildup was needed for MOG or maybe they just fixed a bug. Regardless, I'm pleased to see the progress made by MOG. It's vaulted the MOG service to the top of my list and if you haven't tried it lately, I'd recommend you check it out.

If you have love, hate or anywhere in between experiences with music streaming, share your thoughts in a comment. What do you like or dislike about the services available and what decision-making process led you to your current favorite?


New Loud Rock - mid July 2012

As KGLT's Director of Loud Rock, I now receive a steady stream of new loud rock releases. It's exciting to have a supply of brand new music to review for the station, and I want to start sharing bands and albums with the rest of you. Here's my first installment, reviewing new material from four exciting bands.


Icarus Witch - "Rise"

As a big fan of heroic metal, just a few seconds into Icarus Witch's latest release, "Rise", and I was hooked. Lots of melodic singing, lots of guitar and full of energy; I feel right at home throughout the album. "Rise" stands out to me in that it captures the triumph of heroic metal but remains raw and real (in Tolkien terms, think "more Gimli, less Legolas"). There are definitely technical elements to the album, particularly in some of the guitar work, but Icarus Witch remains far afield from the polish and structure of symphonic metal. As I listened through the album, I was reminded of Riot, Pink Cream 69 and a recent favorite, Lillian Axe's "The Days Before Tomorrow". That's not in any way meant to suggest that Icarus Witch derives from any of those bands; it's more that they capture a similar balance between melody and technique while establishing their own unique rawness and character. "The End" and "Break The Cycle" jumped out at me and "(We Are) The New Revolution" is a classic anthem in all respects.


Baroness - "March To Sea", "Take My Bones Away" (Yellow & Green album July 17th)

I'm really excited for Baroness' upcoming July 17th release, the "Yellow & Green" album. If the two pre-release singles, "March to Sea" and "Take My Bones Away", are any indication, this will be a powerful, well-crafted album, the kind we may look back on in years to come as the band's break out moment. Baroness combines raw energy and dark tonality to create haunting and intense songs. While their overall effect is raw, they layer dirty and clean guitars to create spacious arrangements, punctuated by vivid but realistic vocal harmonies. While listening to "March to Sea" I was impressed by the dynamic variation over the course of the song. Unlike much of the smash-limited, wall of destruction metal these days, Baroness is refreshing because of their willingness to paint a full and varied picture. Check out the two singles and get ready for the full release on the 17th!


Paradise Lost - "Tragic Idol"

Paradise Lost delivers yet another unique and masterful step in their fascinating evolutionary journey. "Tragic Idol" satisfies my love for gothic metal, and fits well in my collection next to the Charon, Sentenced and Poisonblack albums, while delivering an impact reminiscent of Metallica and Systematic. The songs on "Tragic Idol" are dark and mysterious, spacious and yet powerful. The album is gripping much like an intense action drama and worth every minute of its 10 songs. If you enjoy music that balances raw power riding on a layer of intricate texture and aggressive guitar, you should give a listen to "Tragic Idol". If you're short on time, the defiance of "Crucify", the despair of "Honesty In Death" and the deep moodiness of the song, "Tragic Idol" will do a great job of capturing the overall character of the album, whetting you're appetite for a full listen when time allows.


Vintersorg - "Orkan"

Each time I listen to "Orkan", Vintersorg's latest album, I'm more intrigued. Their Viking/folk influences come through clearly on "Orkan" as do brief flashes of black metal. What intrigues me though, is the delicate balance they maintain throughout the album, with an ongoing sense of community and folk quality, yet an overall sense of detail in the arrangement and sonic textures. Fueled by complex, intricate and rough-edged guitars, Vintersorg balances that with a steady dose of keyboards, giving their songs an intense but open feel throughout. Their songs are propelled by sections of steady single-note guitars and big chunky chord harmonies. Their music is both dark and upbeat; for me, it brings the Beowulf saga to mind in both intensity and mood. I've included "Istid" in my last two KGLT playlists, but I recommend listening to "Polarnatten" and "Norrrskenssyner" to get a full overview of Vintersorg's latest release.


Mnemic - they're not your Mnemesis

When I took over KGLT's "Loud Rock Director" responsibilities, my first week was an adventure in new music. I suddenly had access to the latest metal releases, days or even weeks before the general public. One of the albums that showed up as an "add" for the upcoming week was Mnemic's "Mnemesis". Denmark's self described "future metal" band has carved out a unique blend of styles over the years, and their latest release hammers home the point.

When I listen to Mnemic, I hear many things. They combine elements of the Gothenburg sound associated with In Flames and Engel with some shock rock textures that are more at home in the music of Marilyn MansonWhite Zombie and Powerman 5000. They bludgeon you like the best death metal band and then cross check you with soaring, textural hooks. "I've Been You" is a great example of that contrast, starting with pounding industrial death metal and finishing up with spacious textures and vocal harmonies.

"Transcend", the first single from "Mnemesis" is a great place to start exploring Mnemic's material. From there, I recommend listening to "Pattern Platform" and "There's No Tomorrow" to get a sense for the band's range. It's hard to say whether there's a time of day or mood that's best suited to experiencing Mnemic. They sound great when they're loud, but the more surreal elements of their songs would work just as well for those introspective cloudy days. I highly recommend exploring Mnemic's work in-depth. They are unique, deep and refreshing and I hope you enjoy the discovery.

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