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Today’s Happy Pill

Liv Kristine – Over the Moon
Liv Kristine is one of those rare soprano singers whose voice is so delicate and beautiful that she could probably sing about murdering puppies and it would still be beautiful.  Thankfully, the topics she sings about in her songs are a bit more light-hearted.  In “Over the Moon,” we see Liv Kristine rocking out for the first time ever—she’s been involved in a number of metal bands, but it is only through her solo career that we get to see this light and upbeat side of Liv.

Youtube search for “Liv Kristine Over the Moon”

Thy Kingdom GoneI think gothic metal is unfairly labeled as “lacking in creativity” and “dead.”  Bands like Sirenia and Lacuna Coil, with their new over-produced mainstream appeal, certainly aren’t helping to break this stereotype.  If one looks hard enough, though, there is still so much untapped potential in this genre.

Flowing Tears is one of those bands that could still give any gothic metal fans hope about the genre.  They’re not as popular as, say, Tristania or Theatre of Tragedy, but the consistent quality in their music—even if it is a bit niche—has earned them a decent following of devoted fans, especially in their homeland of Germany.

The band’s latest album, Thy Kingdom Gone, stays true to their previous work.  This is actually a concept album, although the actual concept appears to be a bit lost in translation.  Two of the band’s founding members, Björn Lorson and Christian Zimmer, died in a car crash prior to the album’s creation, meaning that this album features a lot of darker, more somber themes not present in Flowing Tears’ earlier work.

Vocalist siren Helen Vogt is back; after recieving numerous positive reviews about her debut performance on 2004’s Razorbliss, she proves that she’s not a one-trick pony.  In a genre full of “dog whistle” soprano singers, a voice like Helen’s is more than welcome: her voice is very deep and powerful, very much reminiscent of Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia.  On Thy Kingdom Gone, Helen also (impressively) uses harsh vocals in a few songs.

Orchidfire” opens the album, giving a taste of what’s to come.  Everything is here: crystalline production, impressive guitars, liberal use of keyboards, and (of course!) Helen Vogt’s voice.  One might also notice that the band is continuing to keep the heaviness that they introduced in Razorbliss.

That heaviness seldom ceases, with tracks like “Grey” and “Thy Kingdom Gone” keeping both metalheads and goths infatuated.  The latter is sung almost entirely by guest vocalist Vorph (from the legendary Samael), and it’s quite a treat.  Vorph should consider working with Flowing Tears more in the future, because he is the perfect “beast” (as in “beauty of the beast”) against Helen’s voice.

It wouldn’t be a Flowing Tears album without creativity, because that’s one of the most appealing things about them.  “Miss Fortune” is a seductive track that sounds like it comes straight from a German cabaret, complete with a piano section at the end.  “Kismet” stays true to this theme, starting out with a modern soundscape before revealing itself as an athemic ballad.

There aren’t really any negative things one could say about this band; if you like gothic metal, you’ll like this, and if you don’t, you’ll probably find something to like in this album anyway.  If I had a seal of approval, I would give it to Thy Kingdom Gone in a heartbeat.

This is going to sound clichéd, but music is my savior.  It’s so easy to have a day from hell—work sucks, people suck, there are wars and tragedies all over the news, and people are convinced that the world’s going to end in a few years.  It’s not easy to ignore these things, and I’ve really grown used to the startling truth: I just need to accept all of this for what it is.  I can’t make it go away, so I need to counter it with positivity.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  My music library is full of some of the most depressing music you will ever find.  Whether it’s Draconian’s Arcane Rain Fell, an album that might as well be one long death wish, or Virgin Black’s Requiem: Mezzo Forte, which is all about a funeral, it’s very easy to become lost in the despair music can bring, too.  There are times for albums like that, and that time is not when you feel like shit.

I’ve decided, then, that I would regularly feature a song that makes me happy.  It’s quite simple.  Music can be so powerful.  Even if a song isn’t particularly deep, it can really improve your day.

Today’s Happy Pill…

Dragonette – True Believer
This song has everything: it’s sweet, catchy, and energetic.  It starts out mellow enough, but once the electronics really kick in, there’s not going to be a lot stopping you from getting sudden urges to smile and dance.  Even the lyrics are optimistic: “But you… you make me better / You give me pleasure / It’s just your effect on me / Ooh, you make me sweeter / You give me fever / Now I’m a believer.”

Youtube search for “Dragonette True Believer”

Song of the Moment: Treasure – The Gathering

The first meeting for inkTank is this Saturday, and I can’t wait!  I’m really optimistic that this program will help me become a better writer and will also help me contribute to the oft-ignored writing community in the Twin Cities.  I’m very fortunate to live in an area known for its artistic community; whether it’s music, visual art, writing, or theatre, Minneapolis/St. Paul has everything, which is why I’m actually considering attending college here in Minnesota, as opposed to moving to Wisconsin, which was what I had originally planned.  Of course, I still have plenty of time to think about what I’m doing after high school, but it’s still good to have an idea about what I want.

Back to inkTank.  For our first meeting, we have to bring a piece of our own writing (more on this in a bit), what we wrote for a writing exercise (where I will bring my poem “Absinth,” perhaps extended a bit), and writing from our favorite author.  This is where I’m having a bit of a tough time deciding.  I have a few ideas, including a children’s book that I consider the reason I wanted to write in the first place, but I’m still largely undecided.  I guess you’ll find out when I do.

This is a good time to formally announce my latest project, even though most of my friends know about it already.  The working title is Reverie, and I will be sticking to my roots by (hopefully!) making it dramatic and edgy, because that’s the kind of stuff I like to read.  It will be a story (I hesitate to call it a “novel” at the moment) about a girl named Jennifer Austad and her group of childhood friends—the “Ladybird Rebellion,” as they call themselves—as they discover that their secret hideout may not be as secret as they once believed.

This is my first story taking place in the modern world, which means it will be both easier and much more challenging at the same time.  It will, of course, be more challenging because I am so unfamiliar with writing fiction that doesn’t include magic and elven people, but it will be easier because I can look at the world around me for inspiration and ideas.  Describing things won’t be such a hassle.

I still want to maintain some fantastic elements, though, which is why I’ve created a plot that centers around the paranormal.  I’m talking spirits, ghosts, demons—the works.  I would say more, but I’m not even sure how rigid the plot I’ve outlined is yet; it could very easily be radically different a week from now.  I’m affectionately calling Reverie “gothic fiction,” mostly because I think the word gothic sounds cool.

In Anne Lammot’s book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, she frequently mentions how characters should be inspired by real people you know or admire.  The main character, Jennifer, is inspired by a few people:

  • Jessica Zajicek, formerly Kathy Griffin’s assistant on the reality show Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List.  Even though she was just an assistant, I really loved Jessica’s fashion sense and dry humor, which hopefully reflects in Jennifer’s character.  (And yes, “Jessica” did inspire the name “Jennifer.”)
  • My dear friends, especially all of those that I met at the private school I attended in ninth grade.  They are all fun and uplifting people.  They also have their dark sides, which are going to be injected into Jennifer as a character numerous times.  I want Jennifer to be human above all else, and people as down-to-earth as my friends are the perfect inspiration.
  • All of the people I have been fortunate enough to meet online, including those who attend a certain Nintendo video game forum I used to frequent.  I was very stupid when I was about ten or eleven; if I hadn’t met these people, I probably still would be.  Their humor and mannerisms will find their way into Jennifer’s personality; most likely, their very low tolerance for stupidity will too.  ;)

It feels good to be working on something, because I know that if I can keep up with it, “having something to work on” will lead to “having something to show people.”  Wish me luck.

Song of the Moment: Debris – Theatre of Tragedy

In a post about the content of blogs, Weronika Jańczuk (a wonderful author) mentions having some kind of consistensy in your blog posts; something to give your blog a personal flavor.  Because music is such an influential part of my life, I’ve decided to do a “Song of the Moment” on the top of every post, similar to Weronika’s “iTunes Highlight.”  There is no real criteria a song needs to meet to warrant being placed in my Song of the Moment, but it will of course always be a song I genuinely enjoy.

“Debris” was picked for a very simple reason.  I like it.  Nell Sigland’s voice is as heartfelt as ever, the hook is infectious, and the metaphoric lyrics stay true to Theatre of Tragedy’s artistic edge.

We’re nothing but debris…

Can I just come out and say right now that I absolutely despise poetry?  Reading it—much less writing it!—is the epitome of monotony.  It feels archaic and senseless.  More often than not I feel like halfway-decent prose could describe anything much better than a poem could.

I suppose the reason I write poetry, then, is to perhaps understand it.  It’s been around longer than I care to think, in countless forms and languages.  Or maybe I’m just a closet masochist.

Absinth

Sitting in a lone reverie,
dreaming of solace and silent relief,
I tune out the white static inside my mind
and to this reverie I am confined.

But I am haunted by a phantom most vain—
self-indulgent, humanity’s bane,
narcissistic, overbearing,
malignant, plastic, cold, uncaring.

Nature prescribes in its ethereal way:
“Indulge in elixir and forget today
and forget them and forget me
and sleep soundly, pleasantly.”

Welcome

... to my little corner of the internet. I'm Ben Schroeder, an aspiring writer and music enthusiast. Please leave a comment if you have the time!