3 years as a blog

Three years has passed to the day since my first post on this blog. I can’t believe it’s survived for so long, but it has and for that I’m greatful. I guess it’s because I don’t really care who if any reads it, I only post things I need to write for one reason or another. I think that’s the point of a blog. Lots of people really care too much about writing every day, and in the end that’s they have to take a pause. That’s lame. I try to keep at least one post a month, and so far I’ve been successful, for 36 whole months. Woah. Oh well, see you in another three years.

//Aki

Män som hatar kvinnor – Loggen, del 2

Efter första halvan av boken har jag börjat få fram lite åsikter om den. För det första måste jag säga att jag generellt ogillar kriminalromaner / deckare / mysterieböcker. Visst, den första boken jag verkligen älskade var Tio små negerpojkar av Agatha Christie, och följaktligen var hon den första författarinna jag verkligen avgudade. Och därefter har jag läst allt som finns att läsa av svenska deckarförfattare som Mankell och Sjöwall/Wahlöö. Men i allmänhet har jag uppfattat kriminalromaner som billig kiosklitteratur. Det finns utstående författare, men i grund och botten handlar alla om samma sak; en människa, gärna med sociala bekymmer (alkoholism, avstånd till nära och kära, et cetera) ska lösa ett brott samtidigt som han vid sidan av försöker ta hand om sin sociala situation. Och visst skiljer sig brotten åt, och karaktärerna är en aning annorlunda, men alldeles för ofta är de mycket lika varandra.

Så är inte fallet med Män som hatar kvinnor. Att den ens var en kriminalroman var inte något jag noterade speciellt förrän 200 sidor in, när lösningen av fallet Harriet satte igång ordentligt. Boken är fylld av mindre karaktärer och bihistorier, och det älskar jag både med literatur, film och musik; alltid händer något, alltid kommer någonting nytt in i bilden och alltid vill man läsa vidare även om man kanske inte älskar grundhistorien. Boken är speciellt upplagd för att följa två historier: Mikael Blomkvist som ska lösa fallet Harriet, och 23-åriga problembarnet Lisbeth Salander som spanar in Mikaels arbete på avstånd, samtidigt som hon försöker hantera sin nya målsman efter att den föregående fick en hjärnblödning.

Ännu en sak jag generellt ogillar med kriminalromaner är förvirrningen i en massa olika namn. Därför är det också bra när författaren ger de olika misstänkta klara personligheter, som Agatha Christie gör i till exempel Mordet på Orientexpressen eller Tio små negerpojkar. På sätt och vis missas detta helt i Män som hatar kvinnor, men inte fullständigt; det är förvirrande att en oerhörd mängd misstänkta nämns och beskrivs och det är mycket svårt att hålla dem isär, men samtidigt berättas hur Mikael erfarar samma problem. Är det kanske meningen att det ska vara svårt, för att illustrera hur han känner? Med Stieg Larsson död är det omöjligt att veta säkert, men jag anar det.

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Män som hatar kvinnor – Loggen, del 1

Under den närmsta tiden ska jag läsa Män som hatar kvinnor av salige Stieg Larsson. Det är den första delen av tio planerade i Milleniumserien; tre hann skrivas klart innan författaren avled 2004. Boken följer journalisten Mikael Blomkvist och hackern Lisbeth Salander då de löser ett nästan fyrtio år gammalt mord. Jag har inte tidigare läst boken, men jag har sett filmen och hört mycket berättas av både min mor och min styvfar, vilka nu har övertalat mig att ge den ett försök.

Sonata Arctica – The Days of Grays (2009)

(this review is completely ignorant to the bonus symphonic CD or the bonus tracks. It’s just the 12 original tracks)

To me, Sonata Arctica has always been the power metal band. They were, together with Nightwish and Within Temptation, what brought me into both heavy metal music and classical music in circa 2005 – 2006. Since then, I have heard literary hundreds, if not thousands, of bands. Among these are Stratovarius and Helloween, two of the first power metal bands in the 1980’s and onwards. When I first heard Stratovarius, I though ”oh – so that’s where it comes from”. And yes, it is obvious – Sonata’s 1999 debut Ecliptica was more or less a tribute to Stratovarius. There is basically no orginiality, although there are some really good tracks (including ”FullMoon”, ”Letter to Dana” and ”Kingdom For a Heart”).

Both Silence (2001) and Winterheart’s Guild (2003) were MUCH more original, with several truly unique songs. The band, though, started to get bored with this style that more or less was a big tribute to the 1980’s power metal band. All this resulted in the more progressive Reckoning Night of 2004, an album that I’ve never really been that fond to. There is a lot of ”purer” heavy metal – ”Misplaced”, ”Ain’t Your Fairytale”, ”Wildfire” – and a lot of freakish let’s-have-fun-and-play-our-asses-of in ”The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Real Puppet”. This latter new angle was also a great part of their next album, 2007’s Unia. Unia was their first album to take a completely different direction, away from the general power metal and into a field of… can I call it progressive metal? I don’t think I can. It is a type of melodic metal, with influences from classical music, power metal, thrash metal, progressive metal, classical rock, psychedelic rock… It was something I had never heard before. At first I didn’t really like Unia, but I listened it through a few times… and it’s incredible.

The Days of Grays was the successor of Unia, and I was really worried. What could this lead to? Would it be another great turn, maybe into thrash or doom? Would it follow Unia closely – maybe too closely? Or would it be a turn back into the power metal field? It turned out I was wrong altogether.

The album kicks off with an instrumental intro – something I am a big fan of as long as it is good and not just something thrown in. And that’s absolutely not Everything Fades to Gray (Instrumental), which leads perfectly into the album’s epic, the wonderful Deathaura. This eight-minute track is a bit disappointed to me, actually, since Sonata usually has so great epics (”The Power of One”, ”The End of This Chapter”, ”Caleb”, ”White Pearl, Black Oceans”), but I suppose I’m just constantly annoyed by the same thing; it is too fast. I would not mind at all if it was mixed into being played for a total of 15 och 20 minutes… Because as it is it’s just too fast, too much reminding of Wildfire. It’s okay for a minute at the time, but going fast as hell in eight minutes?

The second track is also the first single – The Last Amazing Grays – and is a beautiful semi-ballad about dying proud and with dignity. I actually cried the first time I heard it (when the single was leaked), although it’s now quite overplayed (I think it’s about 80 plays according to Last.fm, the single edit included).

Flag in the Ground is the third track and the second single. If you prefer the old school Sonata, this is the song you’ll like on Days of Grays. The song is a remake of the unreleased song ”BlackOut” from the band’s early demos. It’s a really catchy tune with an epic bridge and finale – ”I put the flag in the ground / Screaming and shouting, I’ve never been so proud, love / I make my way into the great unknown / Land by the river and a newbuilt home / Every night when I’m looking at the fullmoon rising / I hold you and know that we are free.”

My favorite songs on the album are probably ”Juliet” and ”The Truth is Out There”. Juliet is both a big allusion to the famous Shakespeare play / the Italian legend of Romeo and Juliet, as well as the fourth and (I think) last episode in the Caleb tale (”Don’t Say a Word”; ”The End of This Chapter”; ”Caleb”). And it’s wonderful! It’s so beautiful, so sad, so epic! ”These are my final lines, I used all my nine lives / My soul reason to die; there’s no life without you”. And The Truth is Out There… what can I say? So incredibly original and… well… strange but great at the same time. I really love it’s atmosphere, and it’s lyrics linked constantly with the great TV series The X Files.

What I missed on Unia was the ballads. On the earlier albums, there were lots of wonderful guitar-based ballads such as Letter to Dana and Shamandalie, but this sort of dropped out with Unia. With Days of Grays, it’s a bit different; there ARE two ballads, if not quite different to the original type. Breathing is actually one of my new favorite songs with Sonata. It is very melancholic and epic, and reminds me of Draw Me. As if the World Wasn’t Ending is different, it is a bit more… well… I don’t know. It is not a bad song, but it’s not excellent either. It is somewhere in the middle, just your standard ballad.

What can I say about The Days of Grays as a conclusion? It is great! Go buy it! At this point, it is honestly my favorite Sonata Arctica album, very original, melodic, sad, epic… It is just wonderful. Try it out, but be careful not to judge it too early; I didn’t like it at all until the third or fourth listen.