28 December 2010

Red

This isn't really a poem, but a song lyric I just wrote. While I don't usually see much point in posting lyrics to songs I haven't recorded, I liked this one enough to share it. It's about someone (obviously), but I wonder if people will know who (although there's at least one rather obvious hint)?

you grew up so beautiful
but how could you not
with the friends you had with you
and the strength in your soul

I loved you, you know
my red-haired wonder
your eyes, your shy smile
and the strength in your soul

every moment that you had
even broken, even bad
I watched with eyes wide
I lived by your side
never able to touch
though I loved you so much
your spell I could feel
though you were never quite real

I can't imagine the pain
when she was taken from you
but I've seen broken hearts
unleash Hell on this Earth

and you felt our pain
every heartache and sigh
tried to make it end
unleash Hell on this Earth

every moment that you had
even broken, even bad
I watched with eyes wide
I lived by your side
never able to touch
though I loved you so much
bewitched by your spell
standing at the gates of Hell

I stood with you, on the brink
calling demons to end all the pain
all the power in the world was yours
but your world was no longer the same
forgot there's beauty in frailty
a lifetime in one single tear
those tears for a crayon, that shoulder to cry on
know your friends help you live through the fear

and every moment that you had
even broken, even bad
I watched with eyes wide
I lived by your side
never able to touch
though I loved you so much
but your spell remains
I know I'll feel it again

your spell remains
I know I'll feel it again

25 December 2010

Not a Christmas Post, or, The Cold Embrace of Fear

It's been an uncommonly cold and snowy December in southern Finland. But that's nothing particularly blog-worthy. Neither have I anything new to say about Christmas, really. Instead, here is a belated album review.

Last spring I wrote about Rhapsody of Fire's new album. Well, much to my surprise, in the autumn they came forth with another new release, The Cold Embrace of Fear. It's not quite a full length album, though, a mere 35 minutes (and also priced accordingly). I didn't get around to pre-ordering it this time, but I finally got it today, as a Christmas present.

This release is quite different from the previous. In terms of story, it's much more like I was hoping The Frozen Tears of Angels to be. There's voice acted sequences, twists and achievements. It's like a climax to the portion of the story begun in the previous album. They really form one whole together.

Musically, whereas the previous album had a more straightforward metal feel, this one's much more symphonic, slower and atmospheric, with lots of interludes (and aforementioned voice acting). The actual metal on this record is mostly contained in the track 'The Ancient Fires of Har-Kuun' (which at 15 minutes covers almost half the album, not necessarily the best choice structurally), and the later 'Erian's Lost Secrets' (largely a reprise of the former track). The whole thing is really designed to form a single, coherent whole, rather than a sequence of separate songs. (Indeed, it's subtitled 'A Dark Romantic Symphony'.)

I can't help thinking the perfect comeback for Rhapsody might have been something halfway between The Frozen Tears of Angels and The Cold Embrace of Fear. But both are fairly good in their own right, and quite different. The first you can play in the background, enjoying some decent riffs and solos. The second you sit down to listen with booklet in hand, following the story. Not necessarily a record I'll end up playing particularly frequently, though. Now I'm just waiting to see what the climax of the Dark Secret Saga will be like...

12 December 2010

Sleeping Birds Lie

Role-playing games tend to take a lot of influence from TV and film. When a game master sees cool stuff (and cliches too), the natural impulse is to replicate them (or parody, depending on the style of the game) in games. But many things seen on screen are of course difficult to reproduce in mere dialogue, even if imagination is the only limit. One of the prime examples is of course the musical. There are some brilliant examples of the genre both in TV and film (musical episodes from Buffy and Xena spring to mind, for example), but you can't exactly make players sing, nor can you exactly make up songs on the spot.

But then a solution came to me out of the blue. All you need is one musically minded game master. I love writing songs, after all, it's been a hobby of mine for a long time. So what if I write a few songs related to events in the game, generic enough not to be affected too much by the players' actions, and perform them at appropriate points during the game? I had this idea last summer, actually, but waited for an opportune moment. Sometime in November, I realised this was the perfect time. The direction of the next session was pretty clear, we were heading towards a climax of a storyline spanning several sessions. The characters had also just run into certain characters I really wanted to write a song about.

Once I started writing it, the songs quickly took shape. The lyrics were written inside a day, the melodies the next day, six songs in all. While I hinted in social media that music might happen, I kept the players in the dark as to the scale of the project. The game took place a week ago on Saturday. The reception I received from my players was, in a word, humbling.

One more logical step remained: the soundtrack album. I had been planning on doing one since early on in the project, and the players insisted on one after the game as well. I had also been meaning to try recording something again for a good while. So for the past week I've been hard at work recording the songs. And that's pretty much all I've been doing. I'm knackered now, but the record's done. Well, as 'done' as it will be, anyway.

OK, the result is still quite amateurish in my mind, but I think it's a slight improvement over my previous effort (Odes to Melancholy). Some of the tracks turned out quite nice, but there are also some disappointments (the guitar parts on 'Orafela's Lament', for example, are really awful, except for the solo). I might be an OK songwriter, but I'm not a pro on any instrument, and I'm certainly no record producer, neither is my equipment particularly great. But most importantly, I'm very impatient and have a terrible attention span. Which means I have a tendency to 'settle', and move on to the next thing. A rather bad habit when it comes to creative work, particularly work you might wish to share with the world. (Take the aforementioned 'Orafela's Lament', for example. I was never satisfied with the sound, it clearly needed something more, but in the end I simply got fed up with it, and left it as it is. The overall quality of vocals as well is very uneven, even though I had a slightly better mike this time.)

Anyways, the 25 minute soundtrack EP is now up for download in my music section, along with lyrics (which include a short synopsis of events in the game, since a lot of the lyrics are sort of 'inside' stuff). I will try to get it posted on services like Last.fm and SoundCloud soon (but I'm really tired now, so it might take a little while). EDIT: SoundCloud now added.

Now I just want to relax doing (and listening to) something totally different.

1 December 2010

One Sentimental December Day, or, Your Shirt...

It's close to midnight. I'm not tired at all (these days I don't usually sleep until around 2am, maybe), but feeling kind of restless and aimless. So this post is mostly procrastinating, I guess...

It's been an unusually emotional day. Nothing out of the ordinary has happened, as such, but... Well, it all started with a dream I had. I'm not going to share many details, as it was all rather personal. (No, not that kind of dream. Well, not quite, anyway.) In the morning I woke up feeling rather sentimental, and a little nostalgic too.

As it happens, there was a scene near the end of the dream where I was writing a song, somewhat related to the topic of the dream. It was obviously a rather sentimental song, melancholy even (but not necessarily in a negative way). Since inspiration like this is always worth examining, and the concept of the song wasn't uninteresting (I didn't remember any exact words or melodies, but I had a strong feeling about what the song would be about), I decided I should actually write one based on these emotions the dream had aroused in me. So I did.

One thing the song writing process naturally accomplished was that these emotions remained in the forefront of my thoughts well into the day, instead of naturally fading away like dreams tend to do. (The song itself turned out OK, I think. Of course I'm still getting to know it, letting it mature. My songs usually take shape in just a few hours, rarely much more. I generally start by writing most of the lyrics, then start strumming with my guitar, looking for chords and melodies that fit them. But I'm digressing...)

To top things off, there was this week's episode of Buffy. I've been re-watching the show together with my folks for some time now. We're now in season six, and the episode was 'Seeing Red'. It's a beautiful episode, with one of the most dramatic (and traumatic, at least for the main characters) endings in the whole series. This was something of an adrenaline rush for me, naturally, a moment I'd been looking forward to for the entire season. And being already in a slightly sentimental mood to begin with...

So here I am, feeling somewhat blue (and, in all honesty, loving it). I just wish I could get off my arse and still do something interesting instead of just moping around until I'm too tired...