Essential music geekiness: Songkick

•March 27, 2012 • 1 Comment

A friend introduced me to Songkick recently. I know, I know, I’m late to the party, everyone who is anyone has been using it forever.

If you’re also not clued in, Songkick is a web site (duh). Sign up and, enter the locations you are interested in and the artists you are interested in, and Songkick will email you when the stars have aligned and your favourite band is playing in your home city – or at least somewhere you can get to. Or you can cry at the gigs that you can’t go to. The concept is simple but it’s (almost) all that is needed.

The hardest part about the entire thing is finding all the bands that you’re interested in tracking. Over the past few months I’ve added 216, largely by entering a band I like, then clicking through to all the “related bands” that show up in the search results. It’s kind of addictive. Over the course of writing this post I clicked around the site and added another 8. That’s still a kinda low number though – a REAL geek would probably go through their music collection alphabetically and get systematic about it (I’ve pencilled that in for tomorrow). And for people who might be concerned that the more obscure and/or underground metal bands are not included, I’ve actually found it’s pretty good in that respect. The official line on the origin of the data is that “we currently index over 100 different sources including all the major ticket vendors, a plethora of smaller vendors, local listings, ArtistData and a whole bunch of others”. I understand that artists/managers can add their own gigs too.

Songkick has quite a few other features, like the ability to check off shows that you are going to or that you might go to. These dates are then assembled into a calendar for you, and you can feed this into Google Calendar or other ical-compatible apps. You can check off past gigs that you went to, and there are some fledgling social features, like the ability to see which other Songkick users are going to (or if it’s in the past, went to) particular shows.  It doesn’t go very far with the social integration however – it doesn’t let you “friend” other users or be notified when they’ve checked off shows, which seems like an obvious feature and surely one that is on the cards. I had a look through their FAQs and it seems that there were some more involved social features in the past, but Songkick has had to “simplify the site so that we can build things up again with a stronger foundation” so those features will presumably be coming back at some time in the future.

Top of my wish list, however, is an Android app. Sure, I can log into the web application on my phone but a full-featured mobile app would be very cool. There is an iPhone app but not being in that particular cult, I haven’t seen it and cannot comment on it. Good news again from Songkick support: as of four days ago, they assure users that they’re “working on it”.

So there you have it. Want to know what I’m up to? Songkick will tell you:

Tried Songkick? Like it? Hate it? Leave a comment 🙂

Hellfest 2012: I don’t believe this

•February 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Hellfest 2011 - Mainstage 1
Photo by Stéfan

In the previous few years France’s Hellfest has pulled out some pretty amazing lineups. Last year was the first time I was able to go and I was very impressed with the experience overall : good organisation, pretty good location, campsite was a bit disorganised and showering facilities woefully inadequate but on the whole, very enjoyable. Of course I missed half the bands I wanted to see because I was dying of the flu, but that’s a whole other story.

 This year, however, things were looking quite dull. First announcement, second announcement… meh. The friends that I went with last time organised a villa with a private pool in Crete for a week instead. I eagerly booked in, imagining a week of ouzo and luxury, lying by the pool eating dolmades, long afternoon siestas. Also appalling NWOBHM music, but you can’t have everything.

But then, they went and did it again. The Hellfest organisers have released a final lineup that blows away most other festivals this year. They’ve added a whole other stage with just stoner and doom metal bands. Pulled out a death metal lineup and a black metal lineup that are both worthy of individual festivals. Megadeth as a headlining act. A dozen or so random bands that make me squeal in delight and a few more that make me groan and shake my head in disbelief and disgust.

Hellfest 2012 Lineup

In other words, I have to go.

I wasn’t going to. But now I don’t have any choice. I am a slave to the metal. Viva la Hellfest!

Germany’s thirst for power metal strikes again

•October 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Everything old in rock and metal is coming back, or at least that’s how it seems. The latest band to reform after a big final farewell event is Running Wild, who called it a day to much fanfare at Wacken 2009. They’re even recording a new album in April 2012, titled Shadowmaker.

Most people of non-European origin or residency probably won’t care at all about this. I’m not a fan myself (I can only tolerate small doses of that kind of music) but I think this shows just how massive and absolutely insatiable the German appetite for power metal is. Look at Accept – 30 years on and even without their original and much-loved singer they’re bigger and more popular than ever. Most non-German metalheads or those who have never witnessed a mainstream metal festival like Wacken would have trouble believing just how important the genre is to the Teutonic populace.

These guys are metal superstars, and most of the rest of the world doesn’t even know they exist.

Monster Magnet vinyl and rock star mystique

•October 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Last year I interviewed Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet. It was the second time I’d interviewed him, but for various reasons this interview has not yet seen the light of day. I will finish transcribing it and maybe even post it one day, but the most interesting part of the interview was when we discussed the issue of “rock star mystique” and the difficult that rock gods like Wyndorf now face in maintaining their god-like aura in this age of Facebook and Twitter and everyone wanting to know every last mundane detail about everything.

Dave has his own label with Monster Magnet guitarist Phil Caivano, focusing on short run limited edition vinyl releases. They’re releasing a limited edition vinyl EP with three reworked and re-imagined Monster Magnet tunes from Dopes To Infinity, their 1995 album.

Here’s the kicker though, and where I think Wyndorf and Co are working to make rock music a mystical, special experience again:  the Dopes EP goes on sale in November, but for the first month, you will only be able to buy a copy at a Monster Magnet show in Europe. Take that, internet!

I’m sure they would probably make more money if they released these songs on iTunes or sold the EP on CD and through their online store right away. But making it scarce makes it more coveted by obsessive compulsive collector fan. These kinds of releases will be popping up on eBay for years to come. This is how cult-like status builds.

The coolest part is that I will be going to at least one of those shows. Right now, I don’t even have a record player – but that’s not going to stop me from picking one up. I want to own a piece of the legend that is Monster Magnet.

Immolation and sponsored metal releases

•October 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Last year I reviewed Immolation’s Majesty and Decay release for Metal As Fuck. I liked it very, very much. The album gives me chills when I listen to it in the dark.

If ‘decay’ describes the subject matter of Majesty and Decay, the eighth full-length studio album and Nuclear Blast debut from New York’s Immolation, then ‘majesty’ describes their sound: immense, sweeping, thundering and ground shaking. It’s death metal to bring the mighty to their knees.

This month Scion A/V have released a new Immolation 5-track EP, Providence, for free download. Some people are unsure about the concept of “sponsored metal”, and I don’t know the exact arrangements between the band and Scion, but if the band gets an opportunity to record and release without it costing them money and the fans get to download it for free, it seems like a win-win situation. Scion look like good guys – hell, they don’t even want your email address to download the album – and the music gets promoted to a potentially wider audience. Immolation have said themselves that they are not able to support their families with just music (see this interview from late last year).

There’s also a video for the track Illumination. I love the raw string sound in the first 10 seconds.

As for the album, it’s just what you’d expect from Immolation – pounding, boulder-rattling, gritty mid-tempo death metal. Highly recommended.

Download and enjoy.

Now it’s time to say farewell… to Cosmo Lee

•September 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Photo: Cannibal Corpse demonstrating the clutching of invisible oranges

Let’s not make it goodbye, as I’m sure it’s not. But the day has finally come. Cosmo Lee will no longer be writing regularly for Invisible Oranges.

We all knew it was coming, of course. He announced that he was finding people to take over the site in March of this year, and listed some specific positions he was still trying to fill at the end of August. But still, it’s a sad day. Cosmo is probably the best metal writer in the business, and I’ll miss my regular dose of his intelligent articles.

I completely understand his decision. Even when you love doing something, being successful at it can mean that you find yourself trapped by the obligation to keep doing that thing – something I know all too well can happen (it’s part of the reason why I now live in Poland instead of in Australia running a web development business). By his own estimation, Cosmo put a minimum of three hours ofwork into each post, and in March had published 1400 articles on the blog. That’s a serious investment of time and energy for something that doesn’t earn huge wads of cash.

So this post is to say thank you to Cosmo, who inspired me to strive to write better. He also inspired me not to write unless I had something meaningful and insightful to add – and while that doesn’t help the metal sites I used to write for with their publishing schedules, I think it makes the internet a better place.

Another important lesson I learned from Cosmo is that it’s ok to only write about things that you actually like. In the spirit of that ideal, here are some of my favourite posts from Invisible Oranges over the years.




 So thanks and good luck, Cosmo. I hope that whatever you do with your new found spare time is rewarding and fulfilling.

Oh Tori Amos, you have disappointed me

•September 23, 2011 • 5 Comments

It’s been all over the metal news sites in the last couple of days – Tori Amos said some dumb shit about heavy metal and all the metal people are getting all worked up about it.

I was going to ignore it, as jumping on controversial issues is not really my style. But, I think that some of the metal sites and blogs are saying even dumber shit about what Tori said and that’s kinda annoying me. So what the hell, here’s my two groszy (hey, I live in Poland now, that’s the local currency).

Firstly, a lot of metal people are huffing and puffing about “who is she anyway”. The best way I can think of to describe Tori Amos is as an alternative music icon. It’s ok for metal people to have never heard of her (I’m sure she’s never heard of Gojira) but I don’t think it’s ok to dismiss her as “some unknown pop singer”. She’s not popular and she’s certainly not a pop singer. She is a bit avante garde (Blabbermouth described her as eccentric) and she’s been at music-making for a very long time so she deserves some respect. I always thought of her as someone who was intelligent and educated about music, as well as someone who held views and attitudes outside of the mainstream, even if I’m not a big fan of all her work myself.

So, I am genuinely surprised by the comments that she made, that seem to imply that she thinks there’s no emotion in heavy metal music. From Blabbermouth, your source for all news controversial or banal:

Amos said, “Sometimes you don’t know how music affects people. I embrace that because I don’t think that just because I talk about emotional stuff that it’s not motherfucker stuff. I’ll stand next to the hardest fucking heavy metal band on any stage in the world and take them down, alone, by myself. Gauntlet laid down, see who steps up. See who steps up!”

She continued, “I’ll take them down at 48. And they know I will. Because emotion has power that the metal guys know is just you can’t touch it. Insanity can’t touch the soul. It’s going to win every fucking time.”

So there you go. Even someone you thought was musically educated and intelligent can spout dumb-arse mainstream stereotypes to grab a few headlines. I actually feel sorry for her more than anything if her musical experience is so cocooned that she thinks an entire style of music exists without emotion. Its actually kind of laughable, which makes me wonder if it’s just a publicity stunt.

A weird one if it is! What do you think? Dumb shit, right?