Nine Circles ov…Self Definition Through Music

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I may have said this before, but a large part of my life’s journey over the last 20 years has been analyzing what the media we consume says about us.  Each of us is obviously more than the sum of what they’ve read, watched, or listened to, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a hell of a lot of those films, books, and albums tied into the bundle of molecules that makes up who were are.  Whether it’s that record you heard at your first college party or the movie you remember watching over and over again with your father as a little kid, this seemingly disposable media is anything but…

Especially when you’re not in the most optimal mental or emotional state.  That’s when you turn to those things the resonate closest to you, that help you reinforce and re-align your identity with yourself.  For years I’ve kept an ever-expanding list of songs and albums under a playlist simply titled “Self Definition.”  It’s my lifeline for when the water gets too choppy, for when things seems to fall in on themselves in such a way you feel like you’re buried under a million things that won’t let you breathe, let you be heard.  And since the past few weeks have felt like to me, I wanted to take this edition of Nine Circles ov… to share some of those tracks that get me through the dark and remind me in a note or a chord or lyric of who I am.  Let’s dive in…   Continue reading

Nine Circles ov…My Metal “Retreat”

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Man cannot live on metal alone.

“Blasphemy!” you may cry, but true…at least in this dude’s case.  The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of stress and activity as I turned another year older, paid another bill, worked another late night, blah blah blah.  It gets to a point sometimes when you just need to clear your head and take a little time for yourself.  Not to mention that after a while when you’re digesting promo after promo you run the danger of not giving the music the attention it warrants.  And you start to look for shortcuts.  “Well,” you tell yourself, “I heard the first four songs, I don’t think there’s anything that’s going to really change my mind about this thing.” Or worse, you start just leaning more and more on the materials in the press release: “Oh! A cross of Joan Baez and Incantation?  But with drone elements?  I’ll say a mix of Joni Mitchell and Malevolent Creation with, uh….fuck it, drone elements.”

You know what I’m taking about.  For me, it’s a matter of disconnecting in order to reconnect.  And there’s been plenty of music I’ve been discovering over the past few months that have helped me to reconnect with what it is I love about loud noises.  So for this edition of Nine Circles ov… I want to share a few of the records that have been recharging the batteries and re-calibrating the heavy sensors.  Let’s dig in.   Continue reading

Nine Circles ov…Power Metal That Eased Me Into Liking Power Metal (Again)

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I find it fascinating that power metal still doesn’t get the fair shake it deserves from the metal community.  The same folks who mock and ridicule bands for dressing up like superheroes in their videos or writing about dragons or Lord of the Rings are the same folks who worship bands who revel in dressing up and running around in the forest in wizard hats or, come to think of it, also write about the Lord of the Rings (or at least derive their name from it). Yet, despite these similar touch points in silliness power metal still has a stigma attached to it, one I admit to having for a time as I became engrossed in the more extreme aspects of metal.

What’s the point, besides my linking to that awesomely ridiculous Immortal video?  It’s that there’s plenty to love in power metal, and the claims of cheese and pomp are no more valid than they are in any other genre in the scene.  For this edition of Nine Circles ov… I wanted to take a look at a few of the bands and albums that brought me back into the fold – many of them introduced to me by former 9C scribe and power metal champion Frank.  So think of these as gateway bands: we’re not going full-on Gloryhammer yet (although Gloryhammer is awesome); the emphasis is on heaviness, aggression and, ultimately, power ¹.   Continue reading

Nine Circles ov…Vintersorg

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Andreas Hedlund, aka Vintersorg, aka Mr. V (if you believe his Wikipedia page) was a prime component of my re-entry into extreme metal.  After falling in with Opeth’s Morningrise I wasn’t sure where to head next, so I went to the record store and maxed out my credit card randomly picking up a bunch of CDs I thought looked cool.  The first one I listened to was Empiricism by Borknagar, and while my response to the music was lukewarm (more an issue with the production than the actual songwriting) the vocals hooked me immediately.  As fate would have it one of the other CDs I picked up was Vintersorg’s Cosmic Genesis, and listening to that I began to get the sense of just how much versatility and talent this guy had.

So much versatility and talent it’s taken at least seven different bands to contain him so for this week’s Nine Circles ov… let’s dive into some of the music created by, driven buy, or enhanced by the man some (I don’t know who) know as Mr. V.   Continue reading

Nine Circles ov…MANOWAR!

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Everyone who knows me, or knows of me, is well aware of my insane love for Manowar. For over twenty years the self-described “Kings of Metal” have made me raise my fist in the air and sing every word of their glorious tunes. They were my introduction to heavy metal. No matter how I’m feeling on a certain day, I can put on one of their many releases and it puts an instant smile on my face. To me, Manowar IS metal. Whether it’s loincloths, ass-less chaps, or tight leather, the look and attitude of this iconic band will always be my go-to in the world of loud tuneage.

Throughout the years I’ve made countless lists of my favorite songs, albums, solos, etc. So when I was asked to contribute a list for Nine Circles I immediately said yes. How could I not? It’s Manowar! Instead of just a random nine songs I wanted to choose ones that have influenced my life. There is a reason why the warrior on the album covers has no face. It is the face of us all, a mirror to reflect each human being battling the war of every day life. So without further delay, I am honored to present this Nine Circles ov… covering nine Manowar songs that have helped me fight through life’s constant battles.   Continue reading