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Frames (N. American Version) CD+DVD
Frames (N. American Version) CD+DVD
Price: $17.12
11 used & new from $9.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This album gives back what you put in, July 23, 2009
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I am a relatively new addition to the circle of Oceansize fans. I picked up their stunningly impressive album "Everyone Into Position" a little over a year ago and I absolutely loved it. It had moodiness, emotion, depth, and an engaging mix of progressive rock, space rock, delicacy, and power. So when I learned of the North American release of their 2007 album "Frames" a few months ago, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy and discover the direction of their musical trajectory.

I have to admit that I had a tough time with "Frames" upon my first listen. The album is very different from EIP. The eight songs that comprise "Frames" are denser, darker, moodier, and less accessible than the tracks on EIP. There is much more experimentation on display here, and as a result (and especially if you are using EIP as your frame of reference) the songs might not grab you on the first couple of spins of the disc. However, that is where the beauty of this album lies: it rewards your patience. The more time I spent listening to it, the more the album revealed all of Oceansize's various influences to me through the shadings, arrangements, structures, and instrumentations of each track. Thus the title of my review...

The opening track 'Commemorative 9/11 T-Shirt' is especially effective at setting the tone that this album is not merely a followup to EIP but instead stands alone as its own autonomous musical statement. It builds on a simple and delicate odd-time guitar melody to an eventual crescendo of heavy power chord riffing, yet despite all of the dynamic variations during the next 8 minutes they never really stray from the primary melody. The ability to create a song that long, based on one main musical idea, and that doesn't get old or stale or feel repetitive, is actually pretty impressive. It is probably my favorite track on the album.

The remaining songs each reveal glimpses into the influences that have inspired the band over the years. There are familiar strains from Radiohead, Pink Floyd, and Oasis here, but also some unexpected echoes from Meshuggah (on 'Sleeping Dogs And Dead Lions') and perhaps a touch of Mastodon or Kyuss on the monolithic intrumental 'An Old Friend Of The Christys.'

Oceansize has created an album that requires the listener to invest some time absorbing it, and I think this is why it is so successful. It's not the kind of album where you will immediately know whether or not you like it, so you will have to spin it again. And again. And then you will suddenly realize the level of their achievement, even if it is slightly self-indulgent and just a bit arrogant in a spot or two. My only complaint is that a few parts wander a bit too long and almost outstay their welcome, but this is simply a minor nitpick on my part.

The bonus DVD that comes with the CD features the band in an old warehouse playing the tracks from the album live and in order. The production is minimal here - basic lighting, several mounted and handheld cameras, some amplifiers and microphones, and the band arranged in a circle playing their songs. I very much enjoyed watching them perform their album in a remote location without a cheering audience in front of them, so that I could focus on the energy and effort they put into each song. The live DVD creates a very unique and engaging way to listen to "Frames" and I must commend the band on their decision to record it and provide it with the CD.

If you enjoy progressive/space/art rock music that is challenging and looking to carve out its own unique space, I would definitely recommend this engaging release from Oceansize. Just be prepared to spend some time with it...


Black Clouds & Silver Linings (3 CD Special Edition)
Black Clouds & Silver Linings (3 CD Special Edition)
Price: $21.22
48 used & new from $11.33

113 of 135 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's just not clicking with me, July 22, 2009
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As a longtime Dream Theater fan, I was very much looking forward to the release of Black Clouds & Silver Linings, especially after feeling just a bit underwhelmed by Systematic Chaos. Not that SC is by any stretch a bad album, but unlike previous DT albums there were elements about it that I simply didn't enjoy. Unfortunately, those elements return in force for a second tour of duty on BC&SL...

A couple years ago I bought the Systematic Chaos special edition release that included a DVD featuring the making of the album in the studio with the band. Right away I was a little disappointed by what I saw - Mike Portnoy flipping through a calendar that had all of the "writing" days, all of the "recording" days, and the "end of sessions" marked off and decided in advance. I got the sense that they only permitted so much time for writing each song in the studio, and whatever they had at that point is what got laid down during the "recording days" to follow. Of course, even stock DT material is impressive, but I couldn't help feeling that they seemingly shortchanged their creative writing process. My understanding is that the band followed the same blueprint for the BC&SL sessions, and I think this is apparent in the end results.

Dream Theater lyrics are typically a mixed bag - past albums have featured some very strong verses mixed with some weaker lines, but the whole was always more than the sum of its parts. SC was the first Dream Theater album that I thought had consistently weak, if not downright juvenile, lyrics (I defy anyone to tell me that 'The Dark Eternal Night' lyrics are written by professional musicians of DT's talent and capability). Unfortunately, BC&SL continues down this same road at breakneck speed. As I saw in the 'Making Of SC' studio DVD, the lyrics were basically penned on the spot in the control room by Petrucci and Portnoy. Whatever happened to spill out on the page at that moment is what was handed to LaBrie to sing. The BC&SL lyrics feel like they were written in much the same way - MP and JP grabbed a pad of paper and a pencil, listened to the demo tracks, jotted down some lines, and recorded them the next day. Music this detailed and intricate really deserves to have refined lyrics that complement and expand the themes of each track. I have a hard time listening to many sections on BC&SL because of the throwaway lyrics, although I can't help but smile at the thick irony of the ridiculously overdramatic and cliche verses discussing writer's block on 'Wither.'

Additionally, I have to comment on MP's newfound obsession with staking out his own vocal territory on each and every DT track these days. He is a drummer with fantastic chops (even if he overdoes it on certain parts now and then) but there is really no need to have the snarling growls on almost every track. I don't feel that it contributes to or improves the music in any way. The 11:20 mark in 'A Nitemare to Remember' is all I need to offer as proof that MP should just stick to the occasional background harmony - come on, guys, you are so much better than that! These days I get the sense that MP really does believe anything he touches will turn to musical gold.

I have listened to BC&SL about a dozen times now, and it just isn't clicking with me. To my ears there is simply something missing. Much of it sounds recycled and repetitive to me. For example, I know that 'The Shattered Fortress' is the completion of MP's 12-Step Suite, and that each of the other songs have had audible cues from the ones that came before them. However, this just feels like an old and tired concept after several albums now. Did they really need to reprise the deep spoken word gimmick from 'Repentance' at the 7:15 mark of 'Fortress?' Maybe when they are all pieced together in order as DT has planned to do live, 'The Shattered Fortress' will fit in nicely as the epic conclusion to the suite with all of its echoes and allusions back to the previous songs. But as a standalone track on this album it just feels uninspired, like it is there only because it HAS to be there.

I recognize that many other fans love this album and I think that is totally cool. Everyone listens for and is moved by different things musically, and I am not going to insult anyone by saying something as ridiculous as "this album absolutely sucks!" As a DT fan, I really really WANT to like this album, but for some reason I just can't. Are the performances incredible? Of course. Can DT weave in and out of myriad different melodies and time signatures and make it sound effortless? Without a doubt. They are performers of exceptional talent and skill, but is that enough to make a great progressive album without creative and inspired songwriting?
Comment Comments (35) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 17, 2012 10:09 AM PDT


Wavering Radiant
Wavering Radiant
Price: $13.94
36 used & new from $5.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent offering from Isis, July 21, 2009
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This review is from: Wavering Radiant (Audio CD)
I would actually rate Wavering Radiant at 4.5 stars if I could. I have been an Isis fan since Panopticon and have since acquired all of their other albums for my collection. So of course the day that Radiant became available I ordered it up from Amazon and marked off the days on the calendar until it arrived.

Isis makes some of the heaviest and moodiest music I've ever heard. Making frequent use of odd time signatures, keeping the lyrics to a minimum, and adding layer upon layer as each tune evolves, an Isis album is more something that you experience rather than listen. I had the perfect scenario when the CD finally arrived: a long 2-hour drive at night on an empty highway. I set the cruise control, loaded the disc into the changer, and cranked the volume.

The first thing I noticed is that this album builds on the blueprint laid out by In The Absence Of Truth. The songs tend toward the longer side, averaging around 8-10 minutes each, which gives the band plenty of space to evolve their melodies and explore various shades of light and dark within each song. The performances by all of the band members here are fantastic, but I was especially impressed with the work of drummer Aaron Harris. His newfound appreciation for nuance and subtlety behind the kit wonderfully complements 'Ghost Key' but he still has the power to drive heavy riffers like 'Stone To Wake A Serpent.'

I've seen some people compare Isis to Tool (one of my favorite bands) but I'm not sure that is a fair comparison. They are two different animals that happen to walk on some of the same terrain some of the time. But Isis has a much more minimalistic approach lyrically and tends a bit more toward dense layered guitars to build the mood as opposed to the powerful rhythm section of Justin and Danny from Tool.

In closing, Wavering Radiant is a fantastic album - a must have for any Isis fan and a great starter album for someone looking to research the band since it is a bit more accessible than some of their earlier works like Celestial and Oceanic. I did like In The Absence Of Truth just a bit more than Wavering Radiant, but that's only because I think Isis created a near-perfect album with ITAOT and I appreciated Aaron Turner's tendency to sing more than growl on ITAOT. Thank you, Isis, for another incredible album with staying power in my CD player...


Blood
Blood
18 used & new from $4.70

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great listen from start to finish, July 18, 2009
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This review is from: Blood (Audio CD)
I bought the first OSI album when it came out due to the connections with Dream Theater, one of my favorite progressive rock/metal bands of all time, and needless to say I enjoyed that album very much. I mostly steered clear of "Free" based on some of the negative reviews I'd heard. However, I decided to give "Blood" a try, especially after I learned that Gavin Harrison from Porcupine Tree would be sitting in behind the drumkit.

The album is aggressive and powerful but also has a polished sleekness to it that makes it sound very modern even though its roots are in classic prog metal from the 90s. There are many ambient hints of electronica and alternative rock offered by Kevin Moore that blend incredibly well with the heavy guitar riffs delivered by Jim Matheos. The vocals are cool and subdued as we've come to expect from OSI, and yet they complement the music perfectly.

The cameo by Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth on the track 'Stockholm' reminds me of everything great about their album "Damnation" fused with the simmering power of OSI. 'The Escape Artist' is a fantastic high-energy opener and sets the tone for the rest of the album. 'False Start' features a great off-time interplay between Matheos and Harrison which must be heard to be believed. 'Radiologue' is simply one of the coolest tracks I've heard in a long time - I listened to it about 15 times in a row at one point, just hitting the repeat button on my player over and over. And the title track is one of the most sinister and memorable album closers I've heard from any band in a long time...

If your musical tastes tend toward progressive rock and/or metal, you should consider giving this album a try. I don't think you will be disappointed at all.


Acomdata Samba USB 2.0 3.5-Inch IDE/SATA Hard Drive Enclosure SMBXXXU2E-BLK (Black)
Acomdata Samba USB 2.0 3.5-Inch IDE/SATA Hard Drive Enclosure SMBXXXU2E-BLK (Black)
Offered by Martin World
Price: $24.99
3 used & new from $24.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Sleek enclosure for IDE and SATA hard drives, July 18, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I have two of these Acomdata enclosures in use with my media computer in my entertainment center. One enclosure houses a Seagate 500GB SATA drive and the other houses a Seagate 1.5TB SATA drive. They have worked flawlessly since the day I bought them and the sleek black and silver aluminum cases look pretty cool sitting in the entertainment center as well.

These enclosures offer great flexibility with internal power and data connections that support either legacy IDE drives or the newer SATA drives. There is no auto power down feature, however - you must power them off yourself using the rocker switch on the back panel if you want to conserve some juice. Installing a drive into this enclosure is quick and easy and takes less than 10 minutes. Just plug it into your computer's USB port (a cable is provided with the enclosure) and you're ready to roll. There is no internal fan and the enclosure does get slightly warm to the touch sometimes but not what anyone should consider hot.

As a final note, a couple of other reviewers pointed out how bright the blue LEDs are on these enclosures. They are 100% correct. I used a black Sharpie to color over the lens and reduce the brightness a bit - it definitely helped.


Copag Poker Size Regular Index 1546 Playing Cards
Copag Poker Size Regular Index 1546 Playing Cards
Price: $15.03
12 used & new from $10.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent cards for the price, July 17, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I needed some new playing cards for our weekly game so I decided to try out these plastic Copag cards based on the positive reviews. I wasn't sure what to expect as I had never before played with 100% plastic cards. I was truly impressed with them from the moment I took them out of the case.

They shuffle very easily, can flex and bend (to a pretty good degree) without taking a crease or a set, and they glide smoothly across a felt playing surface when dealt as if they've been greased down with butter. Any smudges (from fingers dipping into Doritos or chocolate chip cookies) wipe cleanly away with a damp cloth. After weeks of fairly regular use, these cards still look and feel brand new.

You get two full decks of cards (including two Jokers with each deck) and a nice black plastic carrying case for the price. If you play poker on a regular basis you will love these Copag cards.


Tightly Unwound
Tightly Unwound
Price: $14.89
52 used & new from $5.48

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable album but familiar terrain, April 18, 2009
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This review is from: Tightly Unwound (Audio CD)
A friend of mine introduced me to The Pineapple Thief and, always being interested in checking out new music, I went over to their page on Last.fm and checked out a few samples. Intrigued by what I heard, I decided to pick up the latest release "Tightly Unwound."

On my first listen, I couldn't fully absorb the songs because all I could think was "This really sounds a lot like Radiohead." Not that that is a bad thing, of course, but I suppose I was looking for a little more variety. The album opens with some very strong and memorable tracks in "My Debt To You" and "Shoot First." The remaining songs on the album are all solid in their own way, building upon the midtempo grooves established in the first two tracks. While I enjoy listening to the album, I don't hear a whole lot of raw creativity, but I do hear excellent songwriting, pristine production, and exceptional performances.

If you are a fan of Radiohead (as I am), then you will definitely enjoy this disc. If you are looking for something that builds upon Radiohead and charts some new territory, you might be a little disappointed. With that said, I still recommend this disc because, as another reviewer pointed out, the album does grow on you the more you listen to it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 17, 2009 10:54 PM PDT


sensoria
sensoria

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different approach to prog rock music, February 12, 2009
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This review is from: sensoria (Audio CD)
I came across Headend while checking out other prog rock groups like Porcupine Tree, Riverside, and Oceansize. A lot of the press I read before buying the CD indicated hints of classic rock (notably Pink Floyd) interwoven with heavy electric and delicate acoustic counterpoints, and after having listened to this album many times now, I have to agree with that description.

The album opens with a crunchy guitar riff that reminds me a bit of the days of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, but soon I found myself in the middle of softer, more hypnotic grooves and flowing acoustic sections. It feels like the band is willing to explore all of their various musical interests during the 62 minutes of 'sensoria' with equal attention given to both heavy and light sections.

There are nine tracks on the album, but only six of these are full-length songs (7 minutes and longer). The remaining three "segue" tracks are used to pace the flow of the album and provide a little breathing space between the longer tracks. These are effective in showcasing some of the additional range of the band and are fairly innovative considering each is less than two minutes in length. My favorite tracks on the album are "Twilight" and "Origins" because of the catchy melodies and the layering of various textures throughout each.

While any classic rock fan will be able to detect the influences of Rush, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Yes, and others, the music has a surprisingly modern feeling. It does not rely on technicality or complexity (though the performances are solid) like other modern prog rock bands, but rather uses sometimes dramatic shifts in melody, tempo, and atmosphere throughout each song to engage the listener. There are no traces of standard verse and chorus arrangement here, and while it does take some getting used to, it is also a refreshing listen, especially when you have a full hour to devote to the album without interruption.

There are some moments when it feels like some of the songs wander a little bit too much (the 14+ minute Nine Days Wonder), but these can be excused given the unique style of songwriting on display here. The vocal delivery is average, but I don't think that the vocals are meant to be a focal point on this album. Any fan of classic and modern progressive rock should find something enjoyable on 'sensoria' and should appreciate Headend's desire to explore different themes and styles within each of their full-length compositions. Definitely worth a listen...


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