Amberian Dawn – Circus Black (2012)

For one reason or another (or perhaps for no reason at all), I have missed out completely on music for a while. No good. Until this weekend I hadn’t heard Nightwish’ new ”The Crow, the Owl and the Dove” single with the previously unreleased ”The Heart Asks Pleasure First” b-track (cover of the theme song of the awesome film ”The Piano”), and I have yet to hear the new albums of both Epica, Eluveitie and Amberian Dawn. I suck, I know.

After going through Nightwish (which wasn’t a big surprise since I had heard a crappy live version recording before, but it’s nice to have it in good quality along with the lyrics and an instrumental version), I come to Amberian Dawn.

Last time AD released an album, ”End of Eden” in 2010, I was a huge fan after ”River of Tuoni” (2008) and ”The Clouds of Northland Thunder” (2009), and the result was me waiting like crazy for the release date, going through the forums day and night, staying home from school and waiting for the CD to land in the mail. The CD was awesome, and I wrote an extensive review of it immediately.

When the new ”Circus Black” comes, all is different. I know it’s been out for ages, yet I somehow haven’t bothered. I want to set aside time for it, I want to listen it through carefully and then go all fanboy-y on the internetz for a few days. I simply haven’t had the time.

Now is the time.

Here comes the mega awesome super cool extra turbulent Aki review of ”Circus Black”, written as I listen, with my very first impressions. Hell, I have yet to start it now, and I’m shaking… and it’s not just the coffee in front of me. Let’s go.

[Edit: I listen to a download version, as I can’t wait for my CD to arrive (in a couple days!). I therefore managed to screw up and missed ”Cold Kiss” and ”Guardian” at first, realising the mistake after reviewing ”Letter”. That’s why I complain about no song being over five minutes at one point. The ”Cold Kiss” review was thus done out of order and added afterwards.]


1. Circus Black (03:48)

I dislike starting with title tracks. It feels weird. The title track should be an intro of sort – not necessarily a short atmospheric intro, but some sort of kickstarter. Not the main song, as the title track tends to be. Oh well, let’s judge the music and not the title.

Starts with a creepy but cool sound, fits with the circus theme. The metal drums kicks in alongside the background sounds. Heidi sounds great as always, dulls the track down a tad. To nitpick, the chorus sounds like it comes to early, I wanted a longer pre-chorus section. Good vocal lines though, and still great background instruments. Good unexpected drum line before the second chorus. I don’t really listen to the lyrics first time around, but I’m sure there’s some awesome story somewhere.

Unusually interesting bridge section for AD, with good guitar lines and a quick yet suiting solo. Slows down in a good way, this is probably great live. Again, I think the chorus returns too early.


2. Cold Kiss (03:30)

Cool beginning! Melodic yet fast, classic AD. Nice whisper effects, but I’m a sucker for even the simplest background stuff. Timo Kotipelto’s guest vocals work great, I was worried if they would feel strange against Heidi’s but they sound excellent without taking over too much or feeling out of place. Nice riffing and cool keyboard solo. Overall a nice song, the riffing was indeed cool, and it feels like one that will grow on me.


3. Crimson Flower (04:24)

It looks weird to have three titles beginning with C in a row. Oh well. [written after realising the existence of ”Cold Kiss”: hey, four C’s!]

Good start, doesn’t really sound like AD but it’s good to vary. The vocal lines come in beautifully. Hard not to head bang, great mixture of exciting heavy metal and simply beautiful vocals. Unusually slow a tempo, but that’s what I’ve been looking for in AD for a while.

Wow, interesting turn after the chorus, slowing down completely. Great fairy tale-like theme in the music. The choirs complement Heidi’s vocals elegantly. I like how the tracks so far have had fairly lengty bridge sections, and with a cool solo in this one. That’s something I’ve hoped for in a while. The songs seem overall longer too, at over four allover, lenghtier than the previous ones (though I’m sad to see no five or six minutes tracks like on ”End of Eden”).

Epic finale!


4. Charnel’s Ball (04:27)

Another slow intro? Hm, alright. Exciting start with cool tempo and good guitar-bass-drum-combo. Feels a tad weird with another mid-to-slow-tempo after ”Crimson Flower”, but it might still turn. Oh, the intro turns into chorus (or chorus-like section)? Cool, it worked better than I’d imagine. The bass lines in the second verse are unusually imaginative and cool without disturbing Heidi’s vocal lines, I’d like to see more of that in the future.

The guitars and bass really kick in for the second chorus, it works truly epically. Again, this is probably really cool live. Cool drum solo line before the third chorus.


5. Fight (03:20)

I’m constantly paranoid about song titles and how they work in an album listing, which I know almost no-one else cares about, but still: I am truly disturbed by ideas such as having the three first track share the same progenital letter (C), and having two one-word tracks in the middle (”Fight” and ”Letter”) and two much longer titles close to the end (”I Share With You This Dream” and ”Rivalry Between Good and Evil”). I know no-one else cares, but IT FREAKS ME OUT. Please send this on to Who Gives a Shit Inc., Penny Lane 156, Switzerland.

Judging by the intro, the title and the length this seems to be one of the speedier ones. Yep, confirmed. ”River of Tuoni” flashback! This would probably have fit better right at the start, not as a wake up call after ”Charnel’s Ball”. I need either a cool atmospheric intro (read ”Of Silence…” by Sonata Arctica) or a kick-in-the-butt super power track to start an album.

Surprisingly kick-ass guitar solo, much heavier and much more… metallic than I’m used to see from AD. Might not work on every song, but this sort of thing should come around more often. ”Fight” certainly is a good title. I find myself drumming the keyboard with my fingers towards the end, awesome stuff. More of this live!


6. Letter (04:31)

Is this the quick-start section of the album, with both ”Fight” and ”Letter” starting with bass drums after the other three were much slower? Weird.

Interesting vocal section, and good pre-chorus section. Good tempo, I immediately start kicking with my feet. Good mix of slow and quick music, works organically as well as keeping it interesting and unexpected.

7. I Share With You This Dream (03:36)

Starts with a nice guitar melody and fitting riffing in the background, a tad sudden in my taste but at least it’s radio friendly. I have forgotten who’s doing guest vocals, but it feels like it works fine. I just hope Heidi comes in more than just the background. Nice chorus, but a little expected and too little heavy for my taste. Speaking of which, there has yet to come a real ballad. Is it ”Guardian” or ”Lily of the Moon”? I guess the latter.

In the second chorus I find myself drifting. It’s not bad, but it’s getting a little boring, nothing new comes. An okay solo, but nothing special or unexpected. Maybe it will grow on me in the future. A third solo comes, identical to the other two, only with a slight difference in drum pattern. What? It ends? This didn’t really work for me, at least not on first listen.


8. Rivalry Between Good and Evil (04:00)

A little too revealing a title, don’t you think?

Starts out like a fun and melodic instrumental (as it is). AD are skilled musicians who work well without vocals as well as with, and it’s nice to have a track per album to let them show it without restraints. At 1:20 I start hoping for a tempo shift or a turn of melody, and shortly after the song quickens. The circus theme seems to show again, or mayhap it’s just my imagination running wild without lyrics. At 2:20 I start to think the melody is getting a little overused, and shortly after it changes. They seem to know exactly what I want on this one, except that it might linger a little too long on certain sections (prior to the 2:40 mark or so). I hope this goes excellently into ”Guardian”, it sounds like it might. Oops, it didn’t really, but great finale!


9. Guardian (05:08)

I always look forward to the longer tracks, not because they _have_ to be better than the rest, but because they often are. They often leave a little more time to get the music across than the shorter tracks. In AD’s history, a lot of the shorter tracks feel somewhat incomplete and rushed, where I would have preferred more time devoted to intros, pre-chorus sections and bridge sections. Their longer (4-6 minutes) tracks are usually more interesting than the shorter (2-3 minutes).

Sounds like I was wrong about ”Lily of the Moon” being the ballad, this one seems to be it. Then again AD has a tradition of making their ballads longer than the standard songs. Heidi’s voice surprises me, it’s almost been a tad dull on the rest of the album but this felt unique. Maybe just because it’s almost alone? The dual-voice in the end of verse one seemed a little too much, but the double choirs shortly after worked nicely.

The chorus is epic without losing tranquility to speed. Slowing down a little too much? Feels a little too much like ”Willow of Tears” in that sense. Nice slowing down to another choir section though, it feels natural before the guitar melody and the second chorus. Nice drum section at around 03:40 before the fitting guitar solo. The heavy riffing is nice and unique to an AD ballad, as is the general heavyness of the song.


10. Lily of the Moon (04:06)

Ah, sudden! But nice. Cool to have another quick one, they have been slightly abscent as compared to other albums (especially the first two). I overall enjoy more AD songs being mid-tempo on ”End of Eden” and ”Circus Black”, but it’s nice to keep with the classic speed too. Cool chorus, background riffing seems to be a theme on this album.

The chorus and the overall speed and melody suits excellently for a closing song in a way no previous AD finish has. I can only imagine it would work greatly as a finale live too. I find myself drumming on the table of excitement, this just might be a new favourite. Awesome!

Encyclopædia Britannica ends after a 244 year print history

Due to the incredible decrease in sales, Encyclopædia Britannica has decided that its 2010 edition will be the last one released. Their sales have dropped a whole lot in the computer age due to much better online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia. The peak year of the Britannica sales was in 1990, just prior to the dawn of internet, in which they sold 120 000 copies. In 1996, when the internet had started to spread, the sales were down to 40 000. This final 2010 edition was only printed in 12 000 copies, a tenth of that sold twenty years prior, and so far only 8 000 have been sold.

Ofcourse, this is a sad and strange moment and it feels sort of like an old era has passed. Still, I am glad that they are ready to realise that they are no longer needed. It was long argued that print encyclopedias such as the Britannica were still needed in spite of the new media, that these were somehow of higher quality. It has however been shown now and again that in fair comparisons, there is nothing that makes the Britannica better than free of charge and user friendly encyclopedias such as Wikipedia.

The main problem with Wikipedia may well be that anyone can change it, but in my experience (and the objective) Wikipedia very rarely has incredibly invalid information for very long. Obviously you must always be skeptical towards all information, both when it comes to Wikipedia and when it comes to the prestigious Britannica. What Britannica has in quality control, it lacks in updates. For obvious reasons, new information comes on Wikipedia much more quickly than a new Britannica edition is released, and for every new Britannica release you must buy a new one, while Wikipedia is always available for free.

Rest in peace, Britannica. You will be missed, for nostalgic reasons more than anything else.

ars technica · The Jakarta Post · The New York Times

Music releases of 2011

Within Temptation's "The Unforgiving", coming on March 25.

I entered 2011 thinking most music releases came in 2009 and 2010, and this would be a pretty calm year. I’m slowly realising I was damned wrong.

Symphonic metal act Within Temptation will release their first album since 2007, the experimental ”The Unforgiving” on March 25. The album is released alongside a comic book series written by Steven O’Connell, and six pages of the prequel is already out on Within Temptation’s website.

In March also, Swedish thrash metal act The Haunted will release ”Unseen”, the follow-up to 2009’s ”Versus”. The song ”No Ghost” from the album has already been performed and filmed live and can be seen on YouTube already. Generally well received, I take it as an awesome return to the more experimental ”The Dead Eye” era.

Sons of Seasons' second album "Magnisphyricon", coming on April 1.

In March also, German power metal project Avantasia plan to release their first live CD/DVD, The Flying Opera, filmed during their 2008 The Scarecrow tour.

On April 1, the German symphonic progressive metallers Sons of Seasons, the project of Kamelot keyboardist Oliver Palotai, will release their second album Magnisphyricon. Judging by the cover and tracklist alone, it looks like an incredibly promising album, and hopefully with a better production than their debut Gods of Vermin.

In the third or fourth quarter of the year, symphonic power metal giants Nightwish will hopefully release their seventh studio album, the follow-up to 2007’s Dark Passion Play. I have high hopes for this, believing Anette Olzon has grown into her role as the new lead singer, and developed her voice to better suite the music.

After founding member Mike Portnoy’s sudden leave in the past autumn, Dream Theater‘s remaining members are working on an upcoming album, the successor to 2009’s incredible Black Clouds and Silver Linings, presumably with a new drummer they have yet to reveal to the public. I have no idea whether the album will be released in 2011 or not, but as I understand it they have at least entered the recording process, and so the album should be released in late 2011 or early 2012.

Shrek Forever After

I long resisted watching Shrek Forever After (w, imdb). The Shrek film series is one that stayed extremely strong in the first two movies, and sunk incredibly with the third one. The first two had the incredible power of some Disney films, with including both a simple plot for kids as well as deeper character and scenes, with more adult jokes. The third, however, only included the first kind, and it’s kind of obvious why it failed.

Shrek Forever After shows a Shrek falling into a mid-life crisis and suddenly bursting, longing for a time before he married and had kids, when he was still a feared ogre. After bursting at his kids’ first birthday party, he meets Rumpelstiltskin, with whom he signs a deal: Shrek can have a single day as an ogre again, while Rumpelstiltskin gets a day from Shrek’s life in return. All too late Shrek realises that the day Rumpelstiltskin choose was the day of Shrek’s birth, and Shrek comes into a world in which he was never born, Fiona was never rescued and Rumpelstiltskin rules the kingdom of Far Far Away. Shrek’s only chance to make everything right again is the one escape clause in the contract – as always, true love’s kiss before nightfall.

The film started out a bit rocky, but from Rumpelstiltskin’s deal and onwards everything went on perfectly. The idea of an amazon Fiona and an ogre rebellion works nicely, and the writers succeded once again in making an emotional climax between Shrek and Fiona on a whole new level. I will admit I cried come the ending with Shrek giving Fiona Felicia’s toy ogre.

Behovet av kontroll

Ett vanligt argument mot fildelning är att det genast gör att skaparen förlorar kontrollen över sin skapelse. Den kanske släpper ett album i special edition i 1000 exemplar, och argumentet är alltså att skaparen därefter borde kunna veta att det finns just 1000 exemplar av varan, men att piratvärlden förstör detta. Försäljningssiffror betyder helt plötsligt ingenting på 2000-talet, vilket görs uppenbart av artister som Devil Doll, som bara gav ut sina album i exemplar om 1000 men enligt har 725 000 lyssnare.

Men varför behöver skaparen ha detta kontrollbehov till att börja med? Och har skaparen någonsin haft kontroll?

En skapare har aldrig haft mer kontroll än år 2010.

En kulturskapares värsta fiende har alltid varit plagiariseringen. Sedan den första lerfiguren för tiotusentals år sedan har kulturen levt på kopiering. Kopiering är i grund och botten mycket bra – att ta en produkt och göra den bättre är grunden till precis allt skapande. Som både kompositör och författare själv vet jag att jag inte skulle kunna göra någonting utan de författare och musiker jag inspireras av och härmar – jag tar pianosolon av Beethoven, fiolkomp av Mozart, symphrockdualitet av Therion och så vidare. Det är ingen hemlighet.

Det ständigt återkommande problemet är dock inte den bra delen av kopiering, utan den dåliga. Om jag under antiken var en kringresande trubadur kunde jag höra en melodi spelas i Brittania och härma den i Rom, där jag själv utgav mig för att vara skaparen. Kanske blir jag en kändis, och turnerar Romarriket runt. När jag sedan far förbi Brittania kan den stackars trubaduren som skapade stycket sitta där och hävda att det är han som ska vara känd, men vem tror honom? Jag var först, och jag var proffsigare på PR och blev känd med det.

Det är fortfarande osäkert vem som skapade många kända stycken under den klassiska eran, för att inte tala om många psalmer och texter. Berättelser som Homeros Odyssén tror historiker idag inte att han hittade på – han bara skrev ned en gammal muntlig saga. Han plagierade.

När världen blev allt mer modern blev också världen allt mer globaliserad. Stammar blev till länder och flertal länder blev till utarbetade allianser, ofta sammanförda av handel och strävan efter världsfred. Telefonen, flyget och Internet är alla enorma utökningar av globaliseringen, och idag kan jag enkelt kontakta en afrikan på sekunder, någonting som för inte länge sedan tog många månader. Och för att komma tillbaka till mitt påstående: Idag kan jag inte hitta en melodi i Storbritannien och släppa en skiva med låten på hur som helst. Idag är det hur enkelt som helst för originalartisten att söka upp mig på nätet och dagar efter släppet bevisa att han var först. Idag har artister mer kontroll än någonsin.

Skivsläpp skapades som ett supplement. Detta är någonting få antipirater verkar vilja förstå. Skivor var aldrig tänkta att ersätta konsertspelningar. Under exempelvis den klassiska perioden när storheter som Mozart turnerade, var det dessutom ett fruktansvärt dåligt samarbete mellan länder, och om jag kände för det kunde jag börja spela någon av hans operor i Stockholm utan att han kunde göra något. Det enda som fanns att falla tillbaka på var att hoppas att fans skulle respektera hans vilja, eller hoppas att kopian aldrig skulle bli riktigt lika bra som originalet.

Kopiering idag har inte alls samma syfte som under denna period. Kopiering på nätet handlar inte om att tjäna pengar på någon annans jobb (de flesta sidor, exempelvis The Pirate Bay, är helt ideella, trots att det alltid också kommer finnas de som inte är det), eller att utge sig för att vara författaren till ett verk – om någon gör det tar det inte lång tid innan det avslöjas. Fildelning handlar inte om att tjäna någonting på det hela. Det handlar om att dela med sig, för sharing is caring, hur cheesy det än må låta.

Behöver en skapare kontroll över sitt verk?

Men om vi nu bortser från ren plagiarisering, och ser över att skaparen helt enkelt bara vill att hans verk ska släppas i just 1000 exemplar. Har vi rätt att gå emot viljan? Till att börja med måste vi fråga oss varför skaparen skulle vilja detta.

Jag kommer på tre argument för att vilja detta, och därför tar jag upp just dessa tre. Om du som läsare av detta vet fler, tro inte att jag har hoppat över dem för att jag inte hade ett svar – jag tänkte helt enkelt inte på dem. Skriv till mig och jag svarar, jag lovar.


Hitlistor har blivit en allt större del av mångas vardag under 1900-talet. Från dagen då vinylskivor började säljas har en artists popularitet kunnat mätas i sålda enheter, och det är först på 2000-talet som detta börjat falla. Det finns halvkändisar som inte släppt en enda skiva utan slagit igenom via torrentsiter, eller YouTube. Det finns band som var små men efter att de lagt ned blivit Internetfenomen, som tidigare nämnda gothbandet Devil Doll. Och artister som förut sålde sina skivor till alla som ville lyssna går nu att ladda ned online, och antalet som köper skivorna är inte längre antalet som lyssnar, utan just antalet som köper skivorna. 2000-talet är hitlistornas död. Men behövs hitlistor? Jag personligen bryr mig inte ett dugg om dem, men det finns säkert också de som baserar sina inköp endast efter vad andra tänker och inte efter deras egna åsikter. Kommer de plötsligt inte inse vad de ska köpa? Nej. Kolla bara in The Pirate Bays top 100.

Special editions

Special editions är nästa argument. Jag själv är ingen riktig sucker för dessa album, som jag mest tycker är giriga, men jag förstår om andra är det. Special editions är för de som inte vet en ofta dyrare, mer exklusiv version av ett album eller en film, där det ofta finns en extra låt eller en plus-DVD med en video eller liknande – helt enkelt något tillägg. Ofta ges albumet ut i en bestämd upplaga, exempelvis 10 000 exemplar, vilket ju gör att om det släpps fritt överallt försvinner poängen. Vad som är grundläggande fel med detta är just tanken med en begränsad upplaga. Tanken att kulturen av okänd anledning ska hållas inom en viss grupp människor. Kultur ska vara fri, och om möjligt tillgänglig för precis alla. Om vi tänker oss ett perspektiv där extramaterialet är helt enastående, revolutionerande för mänskligheten, och kopiering är omöjligt. Vad händer? Någon ställer sig och spelar in en olaglig kopia. Ett plagiat. Så vad är värst, en likvärdigt bra kopia eller en sämre variant på samma sak?

Artisten vill inte släppa det till att börja med

Detta är någonting jag har full förståelse för – jag har själv både texter och musikverk jag inte skulle vilja att andra läste eller hörde, i alla fall inte förrän efter min död. Vissa artister har musik de inte vill släppa. Tidigare nämnda Devil Doll har ett första album som trycktes i ett exemplar som överhuvudet själv har, exempelvis, med argumentet att han bara tycker den är pinsam. Men hur fungerar det om artisten släpper en skiva i sin ungdom och senare ångrar sig? Tyvärr faller allt tillbaka till att det är för sent ögonblicket det släpps. Det går bara inte att försöka begränsa det på det sättet. Antingen gäller det eller så gäller det inte. Men material som aldrig släpps. Tja, du kanske borde gå tillbaka och läsa Anne Franks dagbok och överväga om hon faktiskt planerade att publicera det hela.

Amberian Dawn – ”End of Eden” to be released October

Finnish symphonic power metal act Amberian Dawn has now officially announced their third album ”End of Eden” to be released this October. It is to be heavier than their previous albums ”River of Tuoni” (2008) and ”The Clouds of Northland Thunder” (2009).

Film review: Alice in Wonderland (2010)

I stepped into the cinema with a mixture of expectations. I love the stories by Lewis Carrol, as well as the 1951 animated Disney movie, but this is something totally different. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is a mixture of a re-imagining and a sequel, telling the story of Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) returning to Underland (who she falsely called Wonderland last time) by the age of 19, thinking the memory of her last visit had just been a bad dream. Underland has been destroyed by the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) finally turning entirely crazy. We meet a cracked, broken down world that is still as off the knock as Tim Burton’s and Lewis Carrol’s minds put together, and truly beautiful visually. This is definitely Helena Bonham Carter’s best role, and Anne Hathaway’s only good role, working perfectly as the Luna Lovegood-ish White Queen. Johnny Depp, one of my favorite actors of all time, is wonderful as the Mad Hatter, working both as the crazy character he uses in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Pirates of the Carribean, and the cracked man of Edward Scissorhands. I will not say that this is his best role, but close to it.

Unfortunately, I kind of expected more of the ending. What begins as a wonderful story of a lunatic girl who just doesn’t suit her own time, turns into the story that has been told too many times: Child of our time finds a gate into another world, who has choosen him/her as the one with ancient prophecies, and although our hero first hesitates, he/she finds courage, saves the kingdom and returns home with this newfound character. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland simply falls a little too much as The Matrix meets Narnia, and although these are all great stories, he could have pulled something better off.

One final praise must go to Mia Wasikowska – this unknown but wonderful actress who simply is the perfect Alice – naïve, dreamy, and really cute. And managing being so childlike even though her boobs just almost shows in every scenes (due to her clothes being to big) is just amazing.

Star Wars

I’ve always been a big fan of Star Wars, ever since I was a little kid. I remember having a shirt from the film trilogy that’s way too little now, and I still have figures of the characters with moveable arms and legs, as well as a Falcon ship toy.

After re-watching Episodes I, II and VI today, I just felt I had to write about the films. I never concidered the second trilogy (I-III) as a part of a series with the original one (IV – VI). They are more like two stories, the original one being about Lukes fight against Darth Vader and so on, and the other one more or less telling the story of how Anakin Skywalker turned from that innocent boy into the evil Darth Vader. They are still great though, although my favorite films must rank in the order V, VI, IV, III, I, II. But they’re all great, they are all epic, and I’m really looking forward to the upcoming Star Wars live action TV series, to be released in 2009 or 2010, and to focus on the minor characters in the period between episode III and IV. I just hope it won’t disappoint me.