The Epic Return of Music Monday!

Beyond the Bridge (The Old Man and the Spirit)
Beyond the Bridge (The Old Man and the Spirit)

From the band’s website: The album ‘The Old Man and the Spirit’ deals with the polarity of human sensousness and superhuman awareness. The latter is embodied by the character of the Spirit. She is the personification of all wisdom and awareness that is unachievable to mankind, however, lacks of the ability to feel. Her opponent, the character of the Old Man, is presented as a bon vivant who has lived through all highs and lows of human sensation. Steadied by his old age, he searches for a sense, for a coherence, for the meaning of his life in the maelstrom of transciency.
As the story unfolds, the Spirit convinces the Old Man that there is no way for Man to overcome the limits of human perception. They can only be transgressed with the help of the Spirit’s wisdom. Aware of human curiosity, the Spirit offers to answer all of the Old Man’s questions – in exchange for his experiences and feelings. A high price, as they are inseperably connected to the Old Man’s memories.

Listen up folks.  Do you like progressive music?  Have you ever enjoyed the likes of Dreamtheater?  Spock’s Beard? or Porcupine Tree?  If you’ve answered yes to any or all of those questions then you should do yourself a favor and with all possible haste snag a copy of Beyond the Bridge’s debut album The Old Man and the Spirit.  Hard edged riffs, soaring vocals, intricate keys and complex melodies suffuse this concept album.  The tracks range from bombastic over the top operative numbers, groovy chunks to metal, and showtune influenced with a bit of an intimate feel.  Solid rock music blended with a taste of Andrew Lloyd Weber.

Beyond the Bridge, originally formed under a different name in 1999 before life got in the way, began reassembling in 2005.  A septet of professionally trained musicians, including at least one PhD. student, they began recording The Old Man and the Spirit in 2008.  The complete history of the band, and information on its various members, can be found here (and makes for some interesting reading).  The dual male and female vocals by Herbie Langhans and Dilenya Mar are clear and haunting beautiful the lyrics easily discernible as the somewhat ambiguous conversation between the titular old man and spirit unfolds over the course of the album. Peter Degenfeld-Schonbur is equally adept and straightforward riffing as he as at the high and might solo while dual keyboard work of Christopher Tarnow and Simon Oberender lend the a lush feel to the album.

The Old Man and the Spirit is one of the first albums in a long time to really get me excited.  Stand out tracks for me include the album opener “The Call,” the delicate “World of Wonders,” and the hectic “The Struggle.”  An all around phenomenal album that I highly highly recommend.

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Review: Percepliquis by Michael J. Sullivan

Percepliquis by Michael J. Sullivan
Percepliquis by Michael J. Sullivan

Percepliquis
Michael J. Sullivan
Orbit, 2012 (In The Heir of Novronfrom Orbit Books)

The concluding novel to Michael J Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations, Percepliquis, is available as part of Heir of Novron (along with Wintertide). I was graciously sent a copy of the book by the author. If Winteride is the Empire Strikes Back of the Riyria Revelations, then Precepliquis is Return of the Jedi. Indeed much The Trilogy, Riyria Revlations wraps up in a similar manner things are tied up nicely and neatly. This series has always been of a more traditional bent hearkening back to the classics of the genre so the fact that the novel and series wraps things up in very neat package. There are twists and turns on the journey, surprising revelations on the way and while the finale might lack the grit and menace of more modern subversive fantasy there is a welcome heft to the ending that left me feeling satisfied and hopeful the Sullivan may one day explore future adventures in this world.

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Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
Crown, 2011

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is an adrenaline fueled, high-octane, non-stop thrill ride through nostalgia-land. It is a novel that takes its inspiration from various sectors of the geek world borrowing as much from classic 80s films, movies, and games as much as it extrapolates from today’s contemporary media. For better or for for worse Ready Player One wears its geeky heart openly on its sleeve. If the novel has a message it is only as a vague background noise to the technicolor adventure at its core. Ready Player One isn’t art via the Louvre, it’s art via Gallery88.

In the bleak future of 2044 the world isn’t a happy place. Poverty and famine run rampant with people more or less unwilling to do anything to save the world. Like most of the world the orphaned Wade Watts (his father was a comic book fan) escapes the misery of everyday existence by plugging into OASIS and real-time, virtual world where anything and everything is possible. On his death bed the creator of OASIS, James Halliday, left users with a challenge: a series of hidden puzzles and tests leading to the ultimate prize. Countless people in OASIS have tried to track down the start of this quest to no avail. Years later it is Wade Watts stumbles across the first test and starts a battle with the fate of OASIS as its ultimate reward.

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Review: Halo: Glasslands by Karen Traviss

Halo: Glasslands by Karen Traviss
Halo: Glasslands by Karen Traviss

Halo: Glasslands
Karen Traviss (read by Euon Morton)
Tor, 2011 (audio version available from MacMillan or on Audible.com)

Halo: Glasslands is billed, or was when I first came across it, as a bridge between Halo 3 and the upcoming Halo 4. It is also a sequel Eric Nylund’s Ghosts of Onyx (a fact I didn’t know). As a result there are some pretty steep prerequisites for Glasslands name you have played Halo 3 (not unlikely if you are reading a Halo novel) and have read Ghosts of Onyx. A working knowledge of Halo: Reach might also be beneficial. All that being said if you don’t have a strong working knowledge of the Halo universe, past and present, Glasslands is going to be an impenetrable nightmare. I barely match these requirements so this novel was close to a stretch for me.

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Review: The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan

The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan
The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan

The Cold Commands
Richard K. Morgan
Del Rey, 2011

After just about three years Richard Morgan’s The Cold Commands has been released. Picking up more or less where The Steel Remains leaves this dark fantasy (I almost want to say science fantasy) novel is a bit slower than the previous volume, forgoing major strides in plot advancement in favor of maneuvering characters and events so as they are positioned for further adventures, and likely more action, in the next volume(s). While this makes for a more intense study of our three main leads; Ringil, Arceth, and Egar; it does lend the novel a more meandering feel.

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2011 in review

Late as usual, thanks to the holidays plus a bout post-Christmas stomach fun (note: there was no actual fun had).  I’m still considering doing a belated “best of 2011”  (with the obvious caveat being “things I’ve read/listened/played” which is a frighteningly small percentage of actual things released in 2011).  Meanwhile I’m prepping for MAGFest X.  Hopefully this year I’ll get some stuff posted from the show itself.  The fun starts tomorrow and word is there are still tickets at the door; so if you’re a fan of games and are in the DC area you should definitely give it a shot.  Anyway, hit the jump for some statistical fun…

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