31 July 2011

Hello Internet, Did You Miss Me?

I've just spent a few weeks out in the country, at my grandparent's old place. This is something I've done every summer, since... well, since I've existed, pretty much. The weather was pretty decent, the hammock comfy, the strawberries... not plentiful (the plants are old, and will soon be replaced), but at least that meant less back-aching time spent picking them.

One defining factor of my time there this year was a very restricted Internet access, since the relatives currently living there had discontinued their broadband service in favour of mobile Internet. When compared to the couple previous stays, complete with laptop and WLAN, some interesting observations can be made, to wit:

1. The amount of time spent reading increased considerably. This included my traditional annual ritual reading of Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind, as well as more than one (short) novel. (I should mention that I've never been a particularly fast reader, so this for me was a pretty good pace.)

2. Productivity, perhaps a little surprisingly, did not increase, at all. Although I did have my laptop with me, and plans to work on certain, much neglected projects, finding a suitable opportunity, and a routine for getting actual work done, proved next to impossible. I did write a couple songs, hone ideas for the future of my RPG campaign, etc., so we're not talking of a complete waste, but still... It does appear that my persistent non-achievement can't be entirely blamed on the Internet.

I did also decide to lug along my PS2, seeing as the place lacks a DVD player. And, somehow, I was inspired to play through the second half of Final Fantasy X-2 (which I had begun a year or two ago, but got sidetracked). I must say I didn't have huge expectations for this game, but in the end it turned out quite entertaining. I liked the more traditional gameplay, and the characters. And while the story starts out rather slow, and is never as engaging as the likes of FFVII, it does have its moments, I guess.

And yes, I guess it is possible I might have been more productive if I had been gaming less, but... come on! A guy's gotta game, and that as well is something I have neglected too much in recent years.

3 July 2011

From Chaos to Eternity

So I've finally had a chance to listen through Rhapsody of Fire's new album, From Chaos to Eternity, a couple times. (I got it nearly a week ago already, but a certain marathon got in the way.) I'll still have to listen to it more, of course, but in a nutshell: yeah, think I like it.

First of all: the box! I got the 'exclusive edition' from Nuclear Blast's web shop. This 500 copy limited edition came in a larger than normal box, containing a large sized booklet (c. 17 by 17cm), special versions of the CD (one without vocals, and one without lead guitar), and a poster map of the fantasy world the story is set in! All in all, pretty cool, although I can't fathom why anyone would want to listen to the album without lead guitar... It is, quite likely, one of the coolest albums I own, packaging-wise. Of course there is the problem of where to store it, since it won't fit in a regular CD shelf. And it makes my other Rhapsody albums kinda pale in comparison (most of them are regular jewel case versions).

Musically there are some fairly neat moments, and it still seems surprisingly fresh, even considering that they've released three CD's in little more than a year. Like with Frozen Tears of Angels, the focus is more on rock, with less orchestral elements. Which is fine by me. Luca Turilli's neo-classical solos are again a major component of the sound.

But one of the main questions, of course, is the story. It was announced well in advance that this would be the final chapter of the ongoing fantasy saga. Which meant they would have to cram in a lot of story, and this, indeed, they've done. Almost too much, one could say. There's quests all over the world, an entire war covered in a couple minutes, and of course the climactic final confrontation... It's not that it's bad, per se, but I feel they could've done it more justice. Frankly, there'd have been enough material there to be dealt with over a couple albums at least, in more detail. Also, the gist of the story is covered in the long final track (and notes in the booklet), and I have some trouble placing many of the other songs within the story.

So yeah, of course there'd be room for improvement, but I'm by no means disappointed.