monkey

(no subject)

Just a quickie before bed. Work is pretty exhausting at the moment. Feels like we're all working harder than normal to cover the people on the sick and on holidays. Fortunately I've got a fortnight off coming up at the end of this week. I intend to sleep a lot during the first week of it!

Spent the last hour fannying about in Photoshop. I picked up a copy of CS3 in an Amazon sale the other day, and I have to say it's a bit of a step up from Photoshop 7! I've figured out how to do most of the stuff I was using 7 for, but it feels like I'm missing out on a lot of the features of CS3. I think I'm going to have to buckle down at some point and go through it all until I can figure it all out. I'll have to seek out some CS3 specific tutorials as well and give them a go as well I think. Anyway, this is the finished product of today's tinkerings:

Iris and Friend

I think I'll have half an hour in the garden before I hit the hay, take in some of this wonderful sunshine that I so often miss out on!
monkey

Review: Fear Factory - Mechanize

Fear Factory seem to have had a tumultuous time over the last few years; splitting up at the peak of their popularity, successfully coming back minus their iconic guitarist Dino Cazares, then cocking it all up again with the release of the underwhelming (and some would say unfinished) Transgression album and then subsequently splitting again.

Almost a decade after that initial split the band have returned once more in yet another guise and amid more controversy than ever before. Vocalist Burton C. Bell and original guitarist Dino Cazares have reconciled the differences that have kept the once firm-friends apart since 2002, and they now form the core of this new outfit. Byron Stroud returns on bass, a position he took up for the band's first reformation back in 2003, after Fear Factory's then-bassist Christian Olde Wolbers switched to guitar to replace Cazares. This time around, Byron has brought with him his old Strapping Young Lad comrade and all round metal legend Gene Hoglan on drums. Long time collaborator Rhys Fulber also returns for synthesizer and production duties.

This means that two of the three members who have been with the band through their whole career, Christian Olde Wolbers and original drummer Raymond Herrera, are completely absent this time around and this is where the controversy comes in. According to Herrera in a radio interview from last year, he and Olde Wolbers never left Fear Factory and weren't even consulted by Bell and Cazares about the current reformation, and so, as far as they are concerned are still IN Fear Factory, with Bell and Cazares' new project being a new band that have stolen the name! This has lead to much bitterness and political wrangling that meant Fear Factory had to cancel tours while rights to the name issues were sorted out. Hopefully, the fact that this album is now published under the Fear Factory moniker means that these problems have been sorted out.

So, amid all this chaos and animosity, is it even remotely possible that this album could be any good? It's hard to believe under the circumstances but in my opinion this is Fear Factory's finest creation since their 1995 masterpiece, Demanufacture. The writing partnership of Bell and Cazares seem to have tapped into the old fire that drove them in the early days as if the intervening fifteen years never existed. The music is brutally heavy all the way through, it has that familiar precision that was always a trademark of the Fear Factory sound, whilst simultaneously feeling more raw and immediate than on albums such as Digimortal and Archetype.

The recruiting of Gene Hoglan, the busiest drummer in metal, was a master stroke. Raymond Herrera's shoes are mightily big ones to fill, and Big Gene is possibly the only man on the planet even remotely capable of filling them. And boy does he ever fill them! The drumming on this whole album is phenomenal. Pin-point accurate, powerful, heavy, fast as fuck and utterly, utterly insane. Gene Hoglan is a machine. And as such is probably ideally suited to play in Fear Factory, given the over-riding themes of their songs!

The teaming of long time band mates Hoglan and Byron Stroud, (S.Y.L., Zimmers Hole, Tenet - to name just a few of the bands that these two giants of the metal scene have played together in), gives these songs such a stable and confident base to build from that it's almost impossible for the other two band members to go wrong. Fortunately, both Bell and Cazares are on the top of their game. The song writing is some of the best of their career, ten tracks that feel familiar yet original, heavy as hell, yet melodic and catchy, never indulgent and never outstaying their welcome. Dino's guitar work is the best I've ever heard from him, (though to be fair I haven't really paid much attention to anything he's done since leaving FF in the first place), he even manages to work in some solos without making them feel jarring or unnecessary. Burton's growling vocals and screams seem to be getting more extreme as he gets older, which probably defies the laws of nature in several fundamental ways, while his clean parts are still as good as they ever were. The clean vocal parts, which have always been a staple of Fear Factory songs, seem to be used much more sparsely here than they have been in more recent albums, and as such seem to work much better, having much more impact on the songs when they do appear.

The terrible production that ruined Transgression is thankfully nowhere in evidence here. Fulber's production is crystal clear, managing to capture everything from the most guttural scream to the most subtle of cymbal strikes, and his keyboard work is nicely understated, adding layers of atmospheric sound below and around the main instruments.

In conclusion, this is a fine return to form for a once major force in the metal world. Let's hope the animosity between current and former members can be put aside, as a Fear Factory / Arkaea (Christian and Raymond's new band) tour would be lovely. assuming Arkaea bin off their Linkin Park-alike singer and get in someone who's balls have dropped.

 
monkey

(no subject)

I've finally, after way too many months, dragged my lazy arse up to York to catch up with Keri ( hellbound_heart ) and Gavin ( prelati ) in their new surroundings. The journey up was epic in scale. According to the sat nav it's the furthest I've ever driven by a whopping three miles, and thanks to some kind of orange cone conspiracy by the English to keep the Welsh out, the longest time I've spent driving by a ridiculous two hours, an arse numbing SEVEN hours! Man, the M42/A42 really really needs some widening work, preferably being doubled at least! It may be some kind of secret method of keeping the people of Birmingham safely trapped within their city and away from the rest of us, but all it ends up doing is annoying those of us who just want to get past the wretched place as quickly as possible!

Still, the sat nav and my lovely little car performed admirably and I arrived safely and without diversion, which is unusual. My road trips normally involve at least one wrong turn resulting in an unexpected, and usually very long, detour. I also found the house on the first try, thus avoiding terrifying any unwary neighbour who would have answered the door to a grinning, beardy stranger laden with bags and luggage! As soon as the door was opened and I set sore eyes upon my old friends every aspect of the journey was made worthwhile. My hosts quickly whisked me off to their favourite local where my road weariness was eased with a pint of cherry beer, an absurd concoction that none-the-less works wonderfully. Another pub and several ice cold pints of Mr Bulmers' finest Strongbow and I felt like a new man!

Back at the house there were more drinks and snacks and I was 'treated' to Dead Mans Hand, one of Gav's famous pound-shop DVDs! It was awful, but in a fun way, obviously! Kez and I ended up staying up all night watching Bottom DVDs, (ah, great days!), catching up and getting drunk. Saturday saw pretty much more of the same, with a few fun matches of Mortal Kombat V's DC Universe on the Xbox thrown in for good measure! Kez also treated me to a lovely roast chicken dinner, for a vegetarian she really knows how to cook a chicken, even going as far as unceremoniously ramming a whole lemon up the poor buggers arse! Lovely stuff.

The journey home on Sunday was much more relaxed, a few minor delays but nothing too bad. The weather was beautiful, the English countryside looked stunning bedecked in it's autumn finery, and there are some impressive sites along the way too. Huge power stations dominate their surroundings, vast fields of corn, cabbage, potatoes and even sprouts add swathes of colour. Somewhere around Nottingham there's a runway that ends right on the M1 and I timed it perfectly to have a huge jumbo jet come in to land just feet in front of me, and from about that point on until I got onto the A40 back in Wales I was driving into the most magnificent sunset that just seemed to go on forever.

All that remains is for me to thank my always gracious hosts, and to assure them that I came to York to see them, not the city, so stop stressing that we didn't go far! I had an excellent time, and I just wish I'd gotten around to going sooner. See you at Abertoir guys :)
monkey

(no subject)

You may have noticed in your local Tesco that the minions are bedecked in new threads, or you may not have, because the new uniform is being rolled out rather ponderously, a few stores at a time. Well over a year after the initial launch, it's now the turn of my little backwater village store to be dragged kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fruit-Bat, and yesterday I was handed a huge box with all my stuff in it. Now, I'm desperate for new uniform, all my shirts have random buttons on them from where they've been replaced so often, there's holes in my fleece and I've been wearing my own trousers for the last few months as my Tesco issue ones pretty much dissolved; so tonight I took great pleasure in unpacking all this new gubbins, kitting myself out and heading off to work.

Either I wasn't listening, or I wasn't told, (I think it was the latter, everyone else thinks the former, oh well), but apparently the store is having a "Grand Unveiling" of the new uniform on September 7th, and under NO circumstances is ANYONE to wear ANY of the new uniform before that date.

Oops.

So I was the only one there in the new uniform, feeling like a right berk, and the source of much mirth and amusement. Fortunately there were none of the higher-up managers there so I didn't get into trouble, and the guys piss-taking was actually quite funny, so I didn't mind. It'll teach me to pay attention more in future, although I swear no-one told me!
  • Current Mood
    embarrassed embarrassed
monkey

(no subject)

Urgh! Terrible hangover this morning. Went to The Otter in Newbridge for a meal last night with Kris and Rach, (I had grilled Hake, which I'd never tried before, and it was delicious). It was a very pleasant evening, despite the fact they were running out of food so lots of things were off the menu, a slightly mental waitress, and the bar-staff being generally slow and useless! They do good food though, it's not too pricey and it's never too busy, so we like it. It's just a pity it wasn't a bit closer to home so I could have a pint with my meal. I wouldn't have had to go up the Spar on the way home then to get some cans. I wouldn't have been tempted to buy the new Strongbow Black 7.5% cider. I wouldn't have a stinking hangover now.

Ah well, no photo today, (well, not yet anyway), as I'm too fucked up to concentrate. I'm going to take a stroll up to my mums house now for yesterdays Sunday Dinner which is waiting for me. Hopefully that'll cure me!
  • Current Mood
    Hungover
monkey

(no subject)

A better night in work last night, still hard work, but I was left to my own devices this time and it all went a lot smoother. I was only five minutes late leaving as well which is pretty good for me!

It wasn't raining this morning(!) so I did indeed get to take the camera out, only as far as the back garden, but it was enough. It's nice to look at the world through a little square frame again! A little frustrating though, as I really struggled to find a photo that captured my imagination, even after spending twenty minutes or so lying down on cold and damp flagstones! Still, I think Photoshop may have come to the rescue yet again. I was taking pictures of the sunflowers that the birds have planted in my garden and wasn't really happy with any of them, until I noticed that the one with a really washed-out sky and under-exposed flower made a rather striking pattern of light and dark when converted to black and white. It's a bit of a departure from my usual stuff, but here it is anyway:

The Music of the Spears
Just a brief update today as I need to get to bed, I've been invited out for a pub meal this evening with Kris and Rach so I need to get up early, which is always tough. At least I've got two nights off together now though, so pub tonight, and the cinema tomorrow!
  • Current Mood
    relaxed relaxed
monkey

(no subject)

Work was a long hard slog last night, mainly due to the changes to the way we work that have been brought in by the higher-ups who have never stacked a shelf in their fucking lives. Well, either that or I was still feeling fairly run-down and just couldn't seem to get into the flow. As a result I was still there over half an hour after I was supposed to have finished, and I'd broken a sweat, two things I hate doing! Still, I'm feeling much better now, and my insides seem to be behaving with a bit more decorum than they were yesterday, so all is well with the world again!

Spent HOURS fannying about with holiday photos in Photoshop this morning before managing to find and process one to my liking. I think i'm getting to the end of the line with them now and it's time to start snapping again. I'm itching for something new anyway, looking back over all these beautiful landscapes, sunsets and sunny days while it's constantly pissing down outside is starting to get to me. I think I'll get the camera out tomorrow, all I need now is some inspiration!

Anyway, here's today's photo:

High and Dry

Saundersfoot Harbour at low tide.
  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative
monkey

(no subject)

I've had some kind of lurgie for the last 24 hours, fortunately I was off work last night anyway so I won't have to be interrogated by the Tesco Gestapo when I go in tonight; but it's left me feeling a little discombobulated. Headaches and a high temperature meant I had hardly any sleep yesterday, and the sleep I managed to get last night was at the wrong time so now my body clock is all over the place. They've taken to giving me single days off twice a week lately so I haven't even got a second night to recover and get back into the routine, so now, although I'm not in the least bit tired, I have to go back to bed in order to get enough sleep to get through a night shift. Still, I'm feeling a lot better now, so I shouldn't complain too much, and it's not as if lying in bed all day is going to be hard work!

I've kind of gone off the rails here a little, this post was meant to be a quick update of what's been happening recently. Well, in June I spent a gloriously sunny week in beautiful Pembrokeshire with my parents, sister, their dog and my camera. It was wonderfully relaxing, the weather was amazing and best of all school was still in so there was hardly anyone else there. Perfect! Since then it's been back to the daily grind and I think it's rained every single day since! I've been attempting to process and upload one photograph a day from the trip over the past couple of weeks, and although I've missed a few days here and there I've pretty much stuck at it. I don't want to blow my own trumpet, but I think some of the photos are pretty good, certainly among the best I've ever taken, and I've really enjoyed whiling away the hours in Photoshop tweaking bits here and there in order to get the result I want.
Here's one of my favourite shots so far:

A Time to Reflect
Saundersfoot Harbour - High Tide at Dusk.

And here is a link to the set on Flickr:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/doktorchaos/sets/72157621034685631/

Well there we are, I guess I'd better knock another dose of Paracetamol on the head and try and get some sleep.