Monday, December 5, 2016

Animals as Leaders, The Madness of Many


I finally listened to some heavy rock and roll music after about a week of nonstop classical music. A new co-worker told me that the new Animals as Leaders was out and sure enough it's on YouTube. The Madness of Many is AAL's fourth record, released in November 2016. The album features Tosin Abasi on guitars, Javier Reyes on guitars and bass, and Matt Garstka on drums. This is the longest and most stable lineup for the band and they've been going strong for years. The album reached number ten on some New Zealand chart and 56 on the US Billboard 200.

I can tell you right now that from hearing the first couple tracks on this album that this is the best AAL album they've done thus far. You can tell that they worked together on every detail of the songs and music. In their past records we can clearly see where this is a Tosin song, that's a Reyes song, or that's a Garstka song. They've finally achieved democratic band mode where they give it their all while working together and the end result is bloody brill.

What can I say about the music? This music sounds like Meshuggah (Swedes have a monopoly on metal) had a black jazz baby that grew up to become a rocket scientist that works at Nasa. This is like space age progressive metal riffery at its finest. It djents (djent, new style of metal based around chugging in odd meters on bass strings) like all hell but it swings hard like jazz fusion (jazz-rock) does all the while maintaining an originality to it that is exclusively Animals as Leaders. They've developed a style and they've honed that style and made it better and better over the years performing and recording together. 

Although this album has some complicated meters (rhythms) it never becomes too intelligent to the point where it would bore the non-musical listener who doesn't know what a 32nd or 64th note is or sounds like. While it is complicated music it somehow has a natural feel to it as well. It's hard to explain but the fact that they've achieved this on record is amazing. I don't think they could've done it without working together on every aspect because on previous albums the music gets lost awash in complicated musical ideas that ultimately sound exciting as a guitar player but might bore the average non-musical listener.

Another thing to note about this album is that because I've listened to all their previous albums there are moments on this album that sounds like previous songs. Bands tend to do this. It sounds great hearing familiar riffs and territory ventured once again.
They go through all kinds of complicated jazz changes, metal riffs, and drum beats but it all sounds like some natural planned out jam. It's pretty impressive. Tosin and Reyes' guitar playing is through the roof and Matt's drumming keeps everything tied down through tribal-like shamanistic beats. It's almost metaphysical. If this is the direction that metal is going I would like to see it continue to move forward in this manner. Metal music is so stale and bland these days that I almost can't stand it. There are many times when my friends turn on some metal music and I just want to leave the room. The last couple metal bands I was into weren't really metal in the traditional sense but were still really heavy bands. The idea of having heavy moments in between other styles is really cool and should definitely be explored more.

Metal needs to progress in order to keep from getting stale. This metal band has ascended above and beyond the average musical abilities of most metal groups. They're like jazz musicians at this point. Very cool to see great young players creating great inspiring music and catching the progressive metal zeitgeist at the same time.  

The album obviously has a point to make with the album cover of the man going up a flight of stairs inside a human head. They're trying to make some sort of social or mental commentary but honestly I think it would go above most peoples' heads because this is an instrumental record with no vocals. However, you can make stories through instrumental songs. Although AAL is a great band I don't think they've achieved that level of artistic mastery yet. 

This is what intelligent metal sounds like. Not all of us headbang so hard that we hurt our necks.
Reyes says, “The Madness of Many is an explorative and ambitious journey of harmony, rhythm, musical expression and emotion. It has been the most collaborative effort for the band and an evolution in each of the members’ musical path.”

Read More: Animals as Leaders Reveal 'The Madness of Many' Album + Tour | http://loudwire.com/animals-as-leaders-the-madness-of-many-album-tour-details/?trackback=tsmclip
Reyes says, “The Madness of Many is an explorative and ambitious journey of harmony, rhythm, musical expression and emotion. It has been the most collaborative effort for the band and an evolution in each of the members’ musical path.”

Read More: Animals as Leaders Reveal 'The Madness of Many' Album + Tour | http://loudwire.com/animals-as-leaders-the-madness-of-many-album-tour-details/?trackback=tsmclip
Reyes says, “The Madness of Many is an explorative and ambitious journey of harmony, rhythm, musical expression and emotion. It has been the most collaborative effort for the band and an evolution in each of the members’ musical path.”

Read More: Animals as Leaders Reveal 'The Madness of Many' Album + Tour | http://loudwire.com/animals-as-leaders-the-madness-of-many-album-tour-details/?trackback=tsmclip
Reyes says, “The Madness of Many is an explorative and ambitious journey of harmony, rhythm, musical expression and emotion. It has been the most collaborative effort for the band and an evolution in each of the members’ musical path.”

Read More: Animals as Leaders Reveal 'The Madness of Many' Album + Tour | http://loudwire.com/animals-as-leaders-the-madness-of-many-album-tour-details/?trackback=tsmclip
Reyes says, “The Madness of Many is an explorative and ambitious journey of harmony, rhythm, musical expression and emotion. It has been the most collaborative effort for the band and an evolution in each of the members’ musical path.”

Read More: Animals as Leaders Reveal 'The Madness of Many' Album + Tour | http://loudwire.com/animals-as-leaders-the-madness-of-many-album-tour-details/?trackback=tsmclip
Reyes says, “The Madness of Many is an explorative and ambitious journey of harmony, rhythm, musical expression and emotion. It has been the most collaborative effort for the band and an evolution in each of the members’ musical path.”

Read More: Animals as Leaders Reveal 'The Madness of Many' Album + Tour | http://loudwire.com/animals-as-leaders-the-madness-of-many-album-tour-details/?trackback=tsmclip
Reyes says, “The Madness of Many is an explorative and ambitious journey of harmony, rhythm, musical expression and emotion. It has been the most collaborative effort for the band and an evolution in each of the members’ musical path.”

Read More: Animals as Leaders Reveal 'The Madness of Many' Album + Tour | http://loudwire.com/animals-as-leaders-the-madness-of-many-album-tour-details/?trackback=tsmclip
Reyes says, “The Madness of Many is an explorative and ambitious journey of harmony, rhythm, musical expression and emotion. It has been the most collaborative effort for the band and an evolution in each of the members’ musical path.”

Read More: Animals as Leaders Reveal 'The Madness of Many' Album + Tour | http://loudwire.com/animals-as-leaders-the-madness-of-many-album-tour-details/?trackback=tsmclip
Reyes says, “The Madness of Many is an explorative and ambitious journey of harmony, rhythm, musical expression and emotion. It has been the most collaborative effort for the band and an evolution in each of the members’ musical path.”

Read More: Animals as Leaders Reveal 'The Madness of Many' Album + Tour | http://loudwire.com/animals-as-leaders-the-madness-of-many-album-tour-details/?trackback=tsmclip
Reyes says, “The Madness of Many is an explorative and ambitious journey of harmony, rhythm, musical expression and emotion. It has been the most collaborative effort for the band and an evolution in each of the members’ musical path.”

Read More: Animals as Leaders Reveal 'The Madness of Many' Album + Tour | http://loudwire.com/animals-as-leaders-the-madness-of-many-album-tour-details/?trackback=tsmclip
Reyes says, “The Madness of Many is an explorative and ambitious journey of harmony, rhythm, musical expression and emotion. It has been the most collaborative effort for the band and an evolution in each of the members’ musical path.”

Read More: Animals as Leaders Reveal 'The Madness of Many' Album + Tour | http://loudwire.com/animals-as-leaders-the-madness-of-many-album-tour-details/?trackback=tsmclip

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Enter the second circle of elo hell


After two days of continuous play and farming wins I made it out of the first circle of elo hell and got promoted to silver. I've got my old rank back. It's a great feeling when you're playing well and winning games consistently in solo queue. I've finally got it figured out and now people always want to play with me because they say I'm a great healer. I usually add these randos (randoms) I meet through these pubs (public games) and grind games with them. Some of them talk a lot but we communicate well as a team and win mostly every time.

So you've made it out of the first wave of elo hell but you can't rest easy on your laurels just yet. This is just the beginning. The players will get better and games will become harder to win depending on your team, comps, maps, and situational awareness.

I've learned a few tricks that help me win games most of the time. For one thing if you get a team of idiots that only want one healer, one tank, and the rest dps I always go Lucio in that situation. When we get into fights I minimize my deaths at all costs-basically stay alive most of the time to just keep healing. That's the best thing Lucio can do in this situation. Lucio is the best for this because his healing is pretty good and speed boost is just too good to pass up. During the off season I played tons of games (Quick play) where I was the only healer playing Zenyatta. That wouldn't work so well in competitive.

In other situations where there's another healer I do things differently. If somebody else rapid fire picks Lucio right away (this hardly ever happens) I will mostly always (sometimes Mercy) go Ana for the nanoboost as well as for her super amazing single target healing. If you call out your nanoboost on the mic and ping it people will get the idea and time it with their ultimates. If you position everything right you will get teamwipes and/or three or more frags (kills, eliminations) everytime. Ana's nanoboost got nerfed hard (lost the speed boost) but its still super effective in the right hands.

In those situations where somehow two people rapid fire pick healers (this hardly ever happens) I will go dps (damage per second) heroes. Lately, I've been playing a lot of Soldier 76 and Pharah. I think I'm going to focus on playing those two for this season. I think because I'm at a pretty low level Pharah can run amok on these low level teams. You just gotta find the right positioning and just rocket the hell out of them. Soldier is just a great hero in general. But generally I've hardly been playing dps in competitive.

I plan on continuing to climb the ladder and reach gold soon. If I play enough I might be able to hit plat. If not this season, there's always a season 4 to look forward to. I'm also looking forward to the Christmas patch update that will probably hit the servers sometime soon.

I'm still in elo hell, just a slightly less casual pleb version of it.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Season 3-Elo Hell or just the right spot?


Tonight I'd like to discuss Season 3 of Overwatch and the fact that a lot of people feel like they've been gypped when it comes to their Season 3 ranking.

First, I'd like to talk about my own personal experience. I played all my placement games yesterday and I won eight out of ten games. I somehow got placed into bronze league (scrub league) despite the fact that I was gold last season and silver in season 1. Now, I've seen plenty of videos that try to explain that Blizzard is purposely placing people lower than usual because last season too many players placed too high and into gold and platinum. But even after playing ten of some of my best competitive games ever I get bronze? You can bet I felt gypped.

But all is not lost. Earlier today I did a marathon session and went from 1250 to 1450 in a mere two-three hours. Forty-nine more points and I'll break into silver. I plan on doing that tomorrow morning but here's the kicker, I'm possibly stuck in elo hell.

What is elo hell you ask? "What it actually seems to mean is the level at which people feel they can't at all rely on their teammates. What they use it to mean is the level that they're better than but can't get out of "'cause of those baddies"." (Shinnyshin, League of Legends forums)

Basically I'm placed at a level where the players are so bad its very difficult to climb the ladder in solo queue. I've been playing solo queue since the launch of the game because I don't have many friends that play as often as I do. Thankfully, I was able to go up by some 200 points today because I'm a fantastic Lucio and Ana player. I had a lot of people friend me because I'm great at healing and they wanted me to play with them to ensure wins. This ended up helping me a lot because I found that its a lot easier to win games when you're working with people you know who have communication skills (always using a mic).

For example, part of the reason I won most of my games today was because I played Ana a lot and whenever I had my nanoboost I called it out on my mic and asked if anybody had their ultimates. I timed my nanoboost with dps and tank's ultimates and it resulted in teamwipes most of the time. Although Ana's nanoboost has gotten more difficult to setup it is still an effective teamwiping tool in the right hands.

The fact that I've been annihilating pretty easily seems to show that I'm a lot better than bronze. But because I'm in bronze I will probably lose more games because of elo hell. Part of me thinks this is what Blizzard wants in a way. They want us to think we're better than the rank they gave us as an incentive to keep playing more and climb the ladder to the highest spot you can. That's the point of having seasons, to challenge ourselves in this way during a specified period of time.

So is it really elo hell or is it just the right spot? 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Overwatch Wins Game of the Year


Overwatch took the high honor of becoming Game of the Year at this year's The Game Awards. It beat Doom, Inside, Titanfall 2, and Uncharted 4.

When he accepted the award, Blizzard’s Ray Gresko said, “While we’ve been very happy with how the game has been received, we’re also extremely proud that this game and the world that we’re building has a message and it’s a message about heroism. It’s a message about diversity. It’s a message about a bright and positive and hopeful future. And these are all things that we really believe everyone needs a little bit of right now.”

Overwatch to me is one of the best games of our modern gaming era. I, myself enjoy the game as much as I enjoyed Starcraft II, Diablo II, Heroes of the Storm, World of Warcraft, Smash 4, Project M, Melee, numerous Final Fantasies, and Marvel Vs Capcom 2.  All those games are top notch.

What makes the game so great is that this is about heroes (and villains to a lesser extent), a more hopeful future, it brings more diversity to gaming, and it brings people together through the interactive multiplayer. They've created a masterpiece at Blizzard and the fact that they can bring joy to many people in what is seen as a dark period of history is downright amazing. Kudos to them.

The Game Awards’ other winners were:
  • Best Mobile and Handheld Game: Pokemon GO
  • Best Family Game: Pokemon GO
  • Games For Impact Award: That Dragon Cancer
  • Best Independent Game: Inside
  • Best Multiplayer Game: Overwatch
  • Best Esports Game: Overwatch
  • Best Action-Adventure Game: Dishonored 2
  • Best Action Game: Doom
  • Best VR Game: Rez Infinite
  • Best Fighting Game: Street Fighter V
  • Best RPG: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Blood & Wine
  • Best Strategy Game: Civilization VI
  • Best Sports/Racing Game: Forza Horizon 3
  • Best Game Direction: Overwatch
  • Best Art Direction: Inside
  • Best Narrative: Uncharted 4
  • Best Esports Team: Cloud9
  • Best Esports player: Marcelo “Coldzera” David (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive)
  • Best Performance: Nolan North, Uncharted 4
  • Trending Gamer: Boogie2988
  • Most Anticipated Game: The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

What's in your earbuds? 12/2 Edition


Lately, I've been listening to a lot of new music. For a while I was really into black metal, particularly from Sweden. Sweden is one of my favorite countries because of their black metal scene in general but also because I really dig Abba. Bands like Opeth (not black metal but still great band), Tribulation, and Ghost were played nonstop for a long time while I played Heroes of the Storm.

But with the exception of one techno album I listened to yesterday (which was ultimately forgettable because I can't even remember the name of the album or band) I've been listening to classical music. Mostly baroque stuff. I've been turning on YouTube playlists of Vivaldi, Chopin, Mozart, Liszt, Bach, and Beethoven. It really calms me down after long tiring days and I love the harmonic complexity. Although I can't explain what the composers are doing I understand the sound, the intervals, the scales, the harmony, and rhythm. It comes with being a musician for a long time and listening to music a lot. You expect certain cadences and resolves within the harmonies and it happens. The music is beautiful too.

One thing to realize is that classical music can be really heavy and brutal like metal too. There's a lot of shredding in classical music. There's a lot to it other than just pretty violins, timpani, and horns. The more I listen to it the more I get drawn in to listen more and learn more about music theory in the future so I can understand how these brilliant composers came up with this stuff.

As Frank Zappa said,"All the good music has already been written by dudes with wigs and stuff." I couldn't agree more. Even John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy studied classical etudes and classical music and harmony. They studied all the old dudes with wigs and stuff and expanded upon the musical foundation. It's quite a tradition, this thing we call music.

My friends listen to a lot of metalcore, rap, and rave music but honestly I get tired of that stuff. I've heard it all before and the new stuff all sounds like the old. I wish jazz could develop and do more interesting things but you'll only find the innovative jazz musicians in the free jazz scene. Until then I'll be kickin' it old school in the Baroque era with my homies Beethoven and Vivaldi.

Ah, you kids today with your techno music. You should enjoy the classics like Hasselhoff. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Play Titanfall 2 Free This Weekend


EA is hosting a free multiplayer trial of Titanfall 2 this weekend, beginning on November 30th for Origin Access members and December 2nd for everybody else. From then on until December 4th all maps, modes, and weapons will available to everyone. This includes the Angel City's Most Wanted DLC that comes out December 3rd.

The fact that EA is doing this shows that despite the nearly cut in half sale price that went on until Cyber Monday that the game is not selling well. It came out at a bad time. Season 3 in Overwatch just started and everybody is still playing tons of Battlefield 1. Although I do think Titanfall 2 is a better game than Battlefield 1 I think Battlefield 1 has a cooler atmosphere being World War 1 and all. However, I will probably get both games at some point. I'm obligated to as a pc gamer. :D

If you choose to play the trial version and pick up the game your saved profile will carry onto your Origin account when you buy the game. The fact that a triple A title game like this has to rely on a free trial to get more people to buy it shows that big company games can sometimes get out shined (mishun compree!) by cheaper indie game companies. I can tell you right now that I've been watching my brother play Titanfall 2 on Xbox 1 and the game is terrific. In fact, I think its so good that I'm surprised they're doing a free trial for the weekend to get more people to buy.

I'm definitely going to try this out this weekend. Playing it on pc might be more fun than on console because I prefer shooting in fps's (first person shooters) using a mouse and keyboard. I was born and molded by the keyboard as a wee little middle schooler playing Diablo 2 and Starcraft Brood War. Good times. 

Play it this weekend!

Bad Santa 2, Try Not To Get Tea Bagged


Yesterday I went out to go see Bad Santa 2 with my friends. It's an enjoyable Christmas season movie. Even though it was still November (29th) when I saw it I definitely felt the Christmas spirit. It's not exactly a smart, serious, or even good movie, but a movie none the less. If you saw the first one the same characters come back with the Bad Santa dude, the fat dumb kid, the midget black dude, and Santa's mother. The story revolves around Santa, the midget, and his mother working at a benefit place for the poor and stealing money from their safe.

This movie makes use of foul language a lot. I think every other sentence has the word fuck in it. It's pretty stupid. But its still not as stupid as Sausage Party, that movie was super lame. Even though this movie definitely isn't very good I can say that it definitely delivers in terms of laughs.

The laughs are what makes this movie a franchise. At the end the black midget is stuck in a hospital bed from being run over by the mom and the Bad Santa dude totally teabags him and takes pictures of it. He then proceeds to upload them to the internet. Hilarious. They showed a pair of fake balls on his face in the pictures. If you didn't know, tea bagging is when a guy puts his balls on another guys' face. The ultimate troll and disrespect move in fps (first person shooter) games, although it does seem a little gay.

Try not to get tea bagged physically or figuratively folks. There were a lot of other funny moments but the tea bagging at the end is the only thing worth writing about honestly. That was really funny.

There's a certain degree of seriousness to the movie as well. In the beginning the Bad Santa dude tried to kill himself using his oven but when that took too long to heat up he tried hanging himself. But then the dumb fat kid came inside his house. And that's when the movie picks up. 

I wasn't expecting a work of art when I went to see this movie but I did leave with a smile on my face. If a movie can do that what more can you ask?