Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lord Of Steel, Master Of Mediocrity.


After what seems like an eternity, Manowar’s new album is upon us. Joey De Maio is typically superlative about the reasons behind the delay: Manowar never release anything unless it’s ready to blow people’s heads/balls/speakers (delete where appropriate). Unfortunately, Lord of Steel does none of this.

The title track starts promisingly. The opening riff is one that, well, Ross the Boss would be proud of, but the joy of anticipating a new lease of life for the legend that is Manowar is brought to an abrupt halt when we are introduced to De Maio’s new bass tone. His trademark valve-driven sound has been replaced by what sounds like a cheap fuzz pedal. Perhaps he has had to sell his Marshall stacks to fund the album, but, for the life of me, how any professional musician could possibly see this tone as a sensible progression to the sound that has served Manowar so well for the last 30 years is anyone’s guess? I can only hope that his hearing has been impaired to such an extent from years of aural abuse that he isn’t actually aware that his bass sounds like a fart from a duck with its arse sewn up. Fortunately, Adams is there to rescue the song, showing that he’s still up there with the rest when it comes to vocal ability.

Manowarriors is there early on to appease the ‘true’ into believing that the album is going to get better, but one can’t help but think it was written for a laugh on the back of a beer coaster after a few pints in the pub. And it’s this theme of regurgitating old lyrics so predominant throughout Lord Of Steel, combined with amateurish song writing that makes it such a gargantuan stretch for anyone to believe that this album is some 7 years in the making. In reality, it sounds as if it was thrown together in someone’s bedroom in a few weeks. Certainly not the fare you’d expect from the self-proclaimed kings of metal.

Things improve somewhat with the riff that begins Born In A Grave. There’s some nice harmonies going on from Karl, but this album only serves to emphasise how weak his guitar sound is compared to Ross – all digitally compressed and processed within an inch of its life, where the rawness of Ross’s sounds could have breathed life into many of the songs. Sure, he’s an accomplished and technical musician, but his guitar is set up for speed and his sound is so digitally manipulated that there is no room for nuance or style.

Righteous Glory is the compulsory ballad and does what it says on the tin. Like Gods Of Metal, there are insinuations in the lyrics that Manowar may be coming to the end of their road and you find yourself contemplating that this might not be such a bad thing. Mind you, it’s a perfectly fine song, albeit without any of the magic found in the likes of Courage or Heart Of Steel.

Touch The Sky sees that dodgy bass sound back to ruin an otherwise good song with an infectious chorus. Black List follows, a throwaway track, which feels like it was tacked on just to make up a nice even 10 tracks. It’s a slow, plodding, pedestrian effort sitting in the middle of the road like a frog waiting to get hit by a truck.

Expendable is Manowar’s first big effort at getting on a soundtrack. Apparently Stallone is a big fan and Joey wanted to see if he could get the track included on the new Expendables movies. However, I don’t think it made the cut (although I could be wrong yet). It’s a fine track, but, made for the screen and not made for Manowar fans.

El Gringo, on the other hand, did make the soundtrack cut for the movie of the same name. And it’s a good track that reeks of Triumph Of Steel era Manowar. It’s cheesy and repetitive but that’s those are the requisites for an action movie soundtrack.

Annihilation is a fine track too. There’s that word again – ‘fine’. And that’s what pretty much sums up the album – fine, okay, nothing special! It sounds like Manowar; it just isn’t exceptional and certainly hasn’t been worth the wait.

Hail, Kill & Die finishes the album off in similarly clich├ęd Manowar style with lyrics written by the Random Manowar Lyric Generator V 2.0. And I’m left genuinely wondering if the title is a pisstake.

But the biggest question every Manowar fan will be asking is why did we have to wait so long for such mediocrity? What happened the circle of albums and the Asgard Saga that Joey ranted about for all those years? As usual, there is no explanation forthcoming from the Manowar camp. The sad reality is, no matter how much spin De Maio puts on it, no one can seriously believe this album wasn’t written and recorded in a more than a few months.

And what everyone is asking now is: Is that it? What happens next? Do we have to wait another five years for a follow up? If that is the case, I say to Joey, just pack it in now. Leave with some dignity while you still can. Put in a full and I mean ‘full’ world tour with dates in every country (not just Germany) with reasonable ticket prices and leave with your heads held high. You can always come back every few years to wow us with a live festival appearance somewhere. Either do that, or get Ross back in the band and write a classic Manowar album for release next year!

As it stands, Lord Of Steel doesn’t deserve more than a very average 3 out of 5. And even the most die-hard fan knows that in their heart of hearts.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Life As A Freelancer

A lot of people think it's an easy life working, as I do, (mostly) from home as a freelancer. What they don't see is the amount of hours you have to put in getting the work in the first place. Some weeks I'll spend as many as half my working hours pitching and answering questions from prospective clients, at least half of which  will disappear into the ether. Some will ask for interviews, portfolios, countless questions go back back and forth, sometimes even ask for a free sample (don't do them, folks!) and then turn round and offer minimum wage (or less). Worse still, like the prospective 'client' I've been 'chatting' to for the last couple of days, some are plain scammers.

You can recognise them a mile away. They will normally contact you via a freelancer site, but insist on emailing you instead of using the site's private messaging system, as 'it'll only end up in their junk mail folder'.

Okay, let's see what they have to offer. The email always comes from a generic domain, yahoo!, for example, and their name is equally generic and usually has a number at the end. Their English is appalling. They have lots of work, of course, and it's a good rate of pay (certainly for the US where most of them claim to come from). They might direct you to a couple of 'their' sites, which of course, once you delve into ownership, have absolutely nothing to do with them.

What they're hoping for is for some poor freelancer desperate for work to do a couple of articles in advance, which they promise to pay for. They get the work and disappear.

Generally, these are sweatshop operations for mass produced articles, run by people with a poor grasp of English that set up 'dummy' profiles on freelancer sites, then offer rates less than $1 per 500 word SEO article to snaffle up the work, then advertise the same work on a different site at a higher rate to con real writers people into writing the articles. In the process, they do 'real' freelancers out of business and devalue their work by making genuine clients believe that they can get quality work for next to nothing.

But my point is, all the time genuine freelancers have to spend weeding out the con-artists and cheapskates takes 'real' working hours out of our week. We have to make those hours back up when we work for real, so please don't ask me to write for minimum wage. Because it's not minimum wage, it's less than half that over the course of the week. Which means it would be much less stressful and I would be far better off working at McDonalds.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ochi!

The German economy minister wants Greece to surrender control of its finances and national budget to troika. As if the Greek people will let that happen. Is there room for two Ochi Days in the Greek calendar?

Friday, January 27, 2012

70% Of Irish Don't Trust Politicians

That's the headline in the Metro today. The more startling statistic is that '30% of us trust our politicians'!?!?!?!!?!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Free Money Courtesy Of The Irish Government. Irish Need Not Apply.

Our spineless so-called government is giving away €1.25 billion of its people's money away today. In return, we will be subjected to even more harsh taxes and austerity measures by our european overlords. This money is being donated to faceless, unsecured bondholders who took a gamble, lost and had their money returned. More evidence, if we ever needed it, that FG/Labour couldn't give a flying feck about the people of Ireland.

Enda's bunch of apologists will be held accountable in the history books. You had an opportunity to reverse the mistakes of the last lot and, instead, you became their accomplices.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What Else Can We Tax?

Imagine going to the shop for a loaf of bread and having to pay for a brand you didn't want before being allowed into the shop to buy the brand you do want.

That's what Pat Rabbitte wants us all to do with the new Broadcast Charge set to replace the telephone licence. It's even more sinister that this has been announced after the furore about the Household Charge has died down. After all, it was originally touted that the Household Charge would include the TV licence. Now it appears the Broadcast Charge is extra and will be collected with the Household Charge.

Right now, the debate is focussing on whether people watch RTE programming at all, whether on a TV or electronic device such as PC, laptop or iPad. But that isn't actually the point. Even if you don't watch any programming from any broadcaster on anything device, you still have to pay. It is no longer a licence. There is no choice. You live in Ireland - you pay. It is a tax.

If people were given the choice whether or not to pay for RTE, many wouldn't. The government know this and so to protect their well paid friends in RTE who seem incapable of running a business without financial assistment from the government, we have to pay.

This was an opportunity to do away with the antiquated licence fee and a chance to help the financially pressured people of this country in some way, but the new government wimped out again, proving again that FG/Labour is no different than what went before.

When do we say enough is enough.