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It’s the time of year for deathless nostalgia again, because unless you’re stuck in a yurt in Mongolia (in which case you’re not reading this blog, but I hedge my bets!), you know it’s the end of one year, and the virgin, untouched beginning of a new one, filled with hopes, dreams and possibilities that may or may not happen. On the other hand, hope springs eternal, tomorrow is another year, and nothing will ever happen the way you expect it!

The year 2010 was a strange one, strange in the real world of Big Decisions and increasing issues with severe weather and its consequences worldwide, strange in the world of music because of all the gaping lacunae left behind by those we lost, and strange in my personal sphere, mostly for good, somewhat for bad, but not so bad I can’t stand it!

Below follows my entirely idiosyncratic, tunnel-visioned view of All I Left Behind. What I loved in 2010, what I loathed, what I embraced and rejected and a few things I will never, ever understand so long as I live.

The Good:
Music-wise, I’m getting jaded. So jaded, it takes a major sonic blast that registers on the Richter Scale before I get up and flip out my enthusiasms and Air Guitar In Ratty Underwear. Having said that, there were a few that ended up on deathless repeat on my iTunes playlists.

I know I’m getting old. I know I’m getting old when I find it increasingly hard not to gravitate toward the old pros who know precisely what they’re doing, exactly how to do it, and still manage to be relevant, still blowing my mind to this day. There really isn’t a lot on the younger end of the musical scale I can get riled up about, and what’s far worse – I don’t care any more! I shall henceforth be doomed to eternal unhipness. Deal with it.

Best Ballad Of The Year:
Grinderman, “The Palaces of Montezuma”, from Grinderman 2
When it comes to ballads, I’m hardcore. I’m so hardcore, that unless I’m sonically reduced to a puddle of melted cherry Jello, bawling like a schoolgirl with the sheer, immortal splendor of a killer tune and lyrics a cut or two above the Moon-June-Youuuuuu variety, forget it. Ain’t happening. I can count most of those on the fingers of one hand. Well, along came Nick Cave and Grinderman with “The Palaces of Montezuma”, and the unforgettable lines “The spinal chord of JFK, wrapped in Marilyn Monroe’s negligé, I give to you”… and I was done for. Drip, drip, dripping cherry Jello, all over my floor. There are a gazillion songwriters who would give their eardrums for a chance to write something half so good, or their eyeteeth for lyrics half so original. (“A custard-colored super dream of Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen, I give to you…”)

Best Unexpected Happenings:
Sometimes, it can be good to push yourself above and beyond what you think you can do. Or else have someone around who can kick you hard enough to rise above your limitations! 2010 was the year I became a writer in earnest. Never in my sorry existence have I written so much, so varied and so broad as in 2010. More emails were sent, more blogs written, more rage was vented, more words were spilled out upon an unsuspecting world than ever before in my entire life. I managed to finish the first draft of “Quantum Demonology”, and I also managed to rewrite the first nine chapters from the bottom up. I still have a few miles to go and words to write before I arrive, but I can do this, I know. Whether the rest of the world agrees with me will remain to be seen.

Likewise in the year now dying, I dashed off an idiot email in response to a loaded question, and many, many emails, much venting on both sides, a sprouting, flourishing friendship and a telephone call later, I’m both flattered and privileged to be a part of “Retaliate”. Ray Van Horn of The Metal Minute– with whom I share not a few predilections, musically and otherwise – and I have plans to turn the world, the world of online magazines and the world of music writing slightly sideways on its axis, and so we will! Watch this space!

“Quantum Demonology” began taking over so much space on MoltenmetalMama, I had no choice but to give it its own blog. What a great thing I had hedged my bets beforehand and landed the title. What a great thing to write. What a bitch to revise! I wish I could say that should any of my four proofreaders show up on my doorstep, I shall be waiting with a pitchfork, four hand grenades, a Winchester, and a loaded AK-47, but in spite of all my griping, they’ve all four taught me more than I would ever know otherwise, and I am – willing or not – very grateful. And glad to have them. So long as no one mentions Bruce Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi ever, ever again. The horror!

I launched another blog – Scent Less Sensibilities – and without too much by way of promotion or even exposure, it’s taking off, giving me yet another kind of audience for my words, another focus for my writing, and best of all, an outlet for all my girlie sensibilities and the ability to connect with likeminded souls in the ether who share a love – and share the love. Ladies and gents, you know who you are. My life would not be nearly so complete without you, so fragrant or so much fun!

Best Albums of 2010:
This is where the metal hipsters will hunt me down and shoot me for my utter lack of imagination and sophistication. My sorrow to say it, ladies and gents, but there was not too much “new” to get newly enthused about. The albums that blew my socks off, the ones that had me playing air guitar in questionable attire, the ones I listened and listened to, the ones who likely will never leave my playlists, the ones I loved and love with a fury – all were issued by the pros who have delivered the deathless, timeless musical goods for decades. The rest in my view suffered from a distinct overdose of hype and expectations they couldn’t quite deliver. I’ll be getting back to those. The following albums are hated by my neighbors – for several good reasons!

Danzig: Deth Red Sabaoth
Glenn Danzig doesn’t need me as a press agent, but it’s not a state secret I’ve been raving about him for a while for many reasons, most of them dubious, some of them dangerous, and a few even libellous. For one thing, his discography gave me my novel and a very atrophied wallet. So when he released this, his first ‘proper’ studio album since 2004’s “Circle of Snakes”, I pestered the crap out of my CD pusher until it was finally available in Europe. It was worth the wait. Glenn Danzig returned to the blues-based metal he has done so much to invigorate, his voice as good and his songs as uncompromising, as strong and as solid as ever, and we were so thoroughly not disappointed. Tommy Victor showed his true colors at long last, Johnny Kelley proved yet again why he’s such a great drummer and I’m so grateful, it really is pathetic. Or I am. Bite me!

Grinderman: Grinderman 2
I’ve always had a thing for Nick Cave – simply because I have a thing for those songwriters who do their own thing and go their own way. But when I came across this one late and sleepless night on YouTube surfing the “You might also like” section, well, people, what little brains I have left promptly went splat all over my laptop. So embarrassing when that happens. It took me a long time to finally give in to this album, for no other reason than Nick Cave is a devious fox hell-bent on giving us a practical joke so well-crafted, we never even realize just how much we’ve been had. The energy level is through the roof, the insights into the middle-aged masculine mindset are staggering, and the lyrics are all Nick Cave shaking out of his sleeve what others toil years to achieve with only limited success.

Accept: Blood of the Nations:
Back to Ye Olde School Pros again. I wasn’t all that wild with Accept in the glory days in the Eighties, and I sorta wonder why, when they give us their all in this all-out glory of a comeback album. Love it, love it, love it.

Seventh Void: Heaven is Gone
Technically, this came out in the spring of 2009, so it is not, strictly speaking, a new album. But after a very respectable launch in the US and a tour with Type O Negative and a show with Danzig in 2009, Seventh Void finally found European distribution in 2010 and several of my friends silenced my incessant whining by buying me a CD. Despite sharing two members of Type O Negative and a love of sludge guitars, Seventh Void is more of an amped out, maxed out Alice in Chains on a combo of steroids and Demerol. Kenny Hickey’s vocals will not make Layne Staley rotate with envy in his cold and narrow grave, but who the hell cares? This is raw, immediate, Brooklyn sludge grunge, and it’s highly addictive.

Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier
I’m a sucker for Bruce Dickinson. I should know better, I know, I know, but I don’t care. Not even Henry Rollins’ brutally funny parody of Dickinson in his “Up For It” could ruin Iron Maiden, although he came close. If this album had been released by anyone else, it would have been declared a masterpiece. Alas, it was released by Iron Maiden, who then had to live up to their own reputation and back catalogue. It still blows me away, even as it means I can’t see or hear Bruce without hearing Rollins in my head ever again.

The Best Metal Autobiography, or Guiltiest Vicarious Reading Pleasure:
Ozzy Osbourne: I Am Ozzy
This book nearly caused a fistfight in my household over who got to read it first. Since I am by far the fastest reader, I won, hands down. And ghostwritten or no (it was, Ozzy is severely dyslexic), it was the most fun I ever had reading about someone else’s life. It could well be that apart from Keith Richards, not many rock stars have done so much, so wildly, and with such abandon as Ozzy. There can be only one Prince of Fucking Darkness. Any more would be far too much for the world to bear! I laughed, I cried, I had total hysterics.

The Bad:
Here’s what sucks in metal these days – the sad and sorry fact that so many hundreds of bands sound so…alike. It’s getting harder and harder to make any kind of distinction between the newer, younger bands, and although there are exceptions, I haven’t heard enough to blow my mind the way Ye Olde School pros can. For this and several other reasons, I’ll never understand bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan or Bullet For My Valentine. I. Just. Don’t. Get. ‘Em. Then again, I’m So Not Their Demographic. No. I’m a demographic all by myself. The demographic called…I’ve Heard Almost Everything, And If You’re Trying To Impress Me, Try Harder.

Another thing that totally, utterly, completely sucks: We lost a few of those who cast long, long shadows in the metal world. The Rev of Avenged Sevenfold, Paul Gray of Slipknot, Ronnie James Dio and one of my own Primeval Forces – Peter Steele of Type O Negative. Dio was a definite loss – few other performers had his staggering range or his charisma, and we were millions who were infinitely lessened by his passing.

But when your contemporaries die off, you start to freak a little. Peter Steele had been such a major influence and voice in my own life that when he died, I made a public spectacle of myself on a city bus during rush hour. Without Peter Steele, without some of the most beautiful songs ever written (and some of the most sarcastic), I would likely never have begun to write. Type O gave me the soundtrack of my life for the past seventeen years, and it’s been hard to find something half so good to fill the void he left. (But I did!) Meanwhile, the Type O discography has been on constant rotation on my iPod, but then again, it never really left. As the Egyptians used to say: So long as one person remembers you, you are immortal. Millions remember Peter Steele. We always will. Just as we always will play those haunting, evocative songs he wrote.

Bad was also…the weekend of Sweden Rock, June 9th. I wanted to go so badly, I nearly put my kid in a pawnshop. Bad was being completely unaware – such is the tunnel vision of a burgeoning writer in the midst of revision – that Seventh Void came to Copenhagen at one of my favorite music venues – and I missed them! Damn it! Bad was being forced to economize what music I really, truly, wanted to buy. Support your starving rock legends, or there won’t be any left, not even in L.A.

Bad was Ozzy Osbourne’s “Scream”. Apart from the title track, I was rather underwhelmed. Then again, I had a great excuse for hauling out all my vintage Sabbath, as if I needed one.

Bad was…Dimmu Borgir’s new album, “Ahabradabra”. Or should I say, not precisely bad, but not as great as I had hoped for. It sounded like Dimmu Borgir – an incredible collection of musicians otherwise – had fallen prey to what I could call “Satriani syndrome”. Virtuoso, no question, but where’s the soul? I couldn’t find it.

The Ugly:
The utter ubiquity of Lady Gaga. Puleeeze. That so much of the music industry has focused on hype over craft, and a lot of so-called bold-faced names now can’t deliver the goods behind the hype. That if you want a writeup in certain music publications, you have to pay for it. WTF??? That I’m almost a year older. That nothing is happening – nearly fast enough. That if it’s any consolation, I’m not getting any, either.

But the best thing about 2010, hands down, has been my readers. I could never have done this without you. And I do it all for you! And my vaunting ambition and oversized ego, too!

So – wherever you are on Planet Earth this New Year’s Eve – Happy New Year. Horns Up! May your 2011 be happy, lucky and make all your wishes come true!

I shall be here in front of my geriatric Mac, working on making my own a reality!

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If someone ever took a gun to my head (perish the thought) and asked me to name my two favorite possessions, I’d blush a bright shade of pink to admit that they’re both manufactured by a company named after a very common fruit. If my apartment building caught fire and I had five seconds to leave, I’d grab the kid and those two things before I’d grab the cats. Seriously.

It’s that bad.

I am the owner of a MacBook – the salvation of my life (and definitely my marriage), the savior of my sanity, the gateway to my independence and future hopes and dreams – and an iPod, a small 1 GB Shuffle with no bells and whistles except the ones I put on it. I don’t need umpteen gigs of songs, I don’t need my favorite TV shows or baby pictures of Damien. I just need something semi-discreet and portable – that makes noise. I can use it as a USB-stick (I have), I can plug it into my TV and hear what’s on it. I can put anything on it my li’l ol’ heart desires, or even a heart’s desire (or two). This tiny device has prepared me for work and prepared me for the onslaught that waited when I got home. It has provided a sound wall for when the Buttkicker indulged his passion for WWII movies and I wanted to write on the Effing Book, or this blog, or something else entirely you really, truly, don’t want to know about.

I got around as a single girl. As a writer, I still do!

The other thing, my little laptop, you already know about. The results are as seen.

In these uncertain times, anything that keeps mind, soul and body together can’t possible be bad. People are being laid off right and left. Creativity, that mainstay of food-for-thought, is getting scarce as the global economy is getting worse. So, instead of Busby Berkeley musical extravaganzas and Rogers&Astaire movies, some of us are taking highly radical steps into terra incognita to rid ourselves of an increasing sense of frustration and powerlessness. Feed that fatal pair long enough, and sooner or later, the Great Man-Eating monster known as Rage will emerge, and it won’t be pretty, either as poetry OR prose.

That monster, a close friend and associate of the Dood I introduced in another blog entry, merits his – or her, his deadlier, uglier sister – own blog entry.

Now, I’m interested in exploring how to manage him. Recently, as one of the things I do in order to avoid the Effing Book (something all writers do – clean their desk, do the laundry, wash the floor – anything to avoid actually writing), I completed a thoroughly stupid Facebook quiz along the lines of “What is your most repressed emotion?”. I was hugely surprised to find out that it came up as – anger.

Anyone who knows me will know that this is a laugh and a half. My fuse is notoriously short, loud and short-lived. I simply don’t have the attention span to carry a grudge for long. But anger is one thing, and rage is something else entirely.

If you’re not a sports fanatic and gifted with the ability to transfer your own rage to the opposing team, and since Roman circus games have been out of fashion for about 1700+ years, and there’s no reason an innocent four-year-old should bear the brunt of it, what do you do? You can work out until the cows come home. You can reorganize your kitchen cabinets and your closets, but then, you wouldn’t have any excuses not to write.

Your rage needs somewhere to go to get it out, or else the consequences will be dire.

One enterprising writer – and musician, as it happens – who was also laid off with ever-more increasing frequency – discovered entirely by accident that metal – the kind that gives your auricles calluses, the kind that drives many people mad, the kind, in other words, that incites and expresses murderous, poisonous emotions – did wonders for his flagging optimism. His gateway drug – if you can use that term – was Slayer.

Me, I can’t stand ’em. I was raised in a household with classical music, not a little of which I knew how to play myself. Opera, symphonies, sonatas and concertos – not to mention being able to read music – it all meant that I had certain standards that had to be fulfilled, or else – forget it. If it didn’t have melody, evolution and progression, if the musicians didn’t know how to play (which does nothing to explain my love of the Sex Pistols, but let’s call that one nostalgia!), if the lead singer did NOT know how to sing in fairly articulate English, if the lyrics were stereotyped “we’re EVIL and we know it” – forget it. Despite all my perverted Pisces best friend does to the contrary, Polish black metal doesn’t quite make the grade.

I’m picky about a lot of things. It’s my iPod and I can scream if I have to!

So when I went looking for a replacement for one particular musical obsession I’ve had for the last 15+ years (and man, does that make me feel OLD!), certain criteria had to be fulfilled. Brains. A certain healthy dose of brawn, just because I’m a gal who likes the guys who – you get the idea, right? – and above all else not staying in the same place for too long musically.

In other words, I went looking for musical redemption, the kind that carried a container for all the rage of 21st century life, the kind that made me think, the kind that challenged me and subscribed to the Chinese Box theory of great art – finding something new on the fifteenth runaround, as well as the Picasso theorem – “All great art, in order to be truly great, must have a certain Pelvic Pulse”. I wanted something to lift me out of my petty, pathetic limitations and carry me – up and out, as cool and calm as a refrigerated cucumber.

It took a few evenings trawling through YouTube, but I found what I was looking for. Now, I wait in line at the supermarket with Lee Hazlewood crooning his baritone croon in my ears. While Robert Johnson sells his soul to the devil, I collect Damien from kindergarten. On my way down, Danzig is teaching me how the Gods kill.

And in those dark, deep hours at night, where I wrestle with Scaring a Roman, I tap away on my keyboard while a black aria plays, spooked to the gills, transfixed by a terrible, eerie beauty, born up on a black angel’s wings.

Cool as a cucumber, cold as a crypt, happier than a warm day in May.

Whatever works and whatever it takes!

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Image: Michael William Kaluta, “Black Aria”, copyright Glenn Danzig, 1991

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