Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Baroness: Purple (2015)

Mostly I blame myself for the lack of posting lately, but you can also blame Baroness. These assholes have been keeping me from checking out new music, because I keep listening to Purple. I haven't had time to listen to much of anything else, and I haven't needed to.

I know you've probably already heard it by now, or maybe you don't care about the band. But either way, it deserves another listen. I've been listening to it constantly. Several times each week--sometimes twice in a day--since it came out six months ago. I haven't listened to a single album this much since the days of the CD, which for me has been over for more than a decade.

Less experimental than its predecessor, Purple distills the essence of Baroness as a rock band, presenting a more focused, yet more fully realized picture than did Yellow & Green. It also makes the band's finest statement to date. That's saying a lot when you consider this is (at its core) the same band who created Blue Record.

These are catchy, pure rock songs, with masterfully crafted hooks and just enough solo shred to remind you of what they can do. It's less melancholic than their prior masterwork (Blue), but only in the sense that it's more dynamic. It hits that melancholy, with more joy, more hope, more lament, and--surprisingly, considering this is no longer a metal band--more anger.

Simply put, these are as good as the best riffs Baroness have written, in some of the best songs they've performed, and certainly the best collection of songs they've put together. Now, put that in the high-resolution realm of a rich, textured mix.

This is the defining album in an already-impressive catalog. And it's one to which I will keep returning for many years to come.

The Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars

Friday, March 18, 2016

Lifting Goal: Combined 1000 Pounds in July

In an effort to get back into blogging again, I think I'm moving somewhat away from reviews, and moving toward talking about music in the context of my life. To that end, I present Mortal Torment's album Cleaver Redemption.

It's ridiculous, brutal death metal. The kind of stuff music writers like to make fun of, because it's dumb. But it's also awesome. Hilarious sound bites ("Yes, it's true. This man has no dick.") introduce this music that's perfect for weight training.

The album has been a powerful ally as I've been seeking my weight training goals. Those goals have now become more concrete. I plan to participate in the Cornhusker State Games this year. That's a Nebraska multi-sport series of events. And the powerlifting event is slated for July 16. That's where I plan to hit a combined 1000 pound total on the bench press, squat, and deadlift.

Where do I stand now, and how far do I have to go? Right now I have a confirmed total of 920. That's 250 bench, 260 squat, and 410 deadlift. Obviously making 80 pounds in gains in just four months sounds like an unattainable goal, but I'm stronger than that confirmed total would suggest.

I don't always push myself to my absolute one rep max. For one thing, that's not an advisable way to train for the long-term. But there are formulas you can use that have proven to be extremely accurate. You take a lesser weight, lift it as many reps as you can, and plug those numbers into the formula to find your predicted one rep max.

My bench press has been stuck at 250 since last July, which has been an endless source of frustration to me. But I've recently tweaked my bench press training, and showing results. An extra rep at 215 pounds now, which translates to a predicted max of 258.

In terms of my squat, back in October I found I was not squatting deep enough. So I scrapped everything and started over, slowly building. Though my confirmed max is only 260, my predicted max is 293.

And my deadlift continues to improve, thanks in part to some helpful tips from others. The predicted max there is 424.

All told, that's a predicted total of 975 for now. My true total may be slightly less than that, but it puts things in perspective and makes that goal of 1000 pounds appear to be well within reach.

Now, today and tomorrow are rest days. Then it's back to the iron, and the Greek brutality of Mortal Torment.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


A reader checked in on me due to the lack of updates around here. This is what I wrote in response.
Hey, thanks for checking in.

When I really ramped up the blog, my job had me assigned to a pretty mind-numbing task. It was a matter of checking a few yes/no things and putting the right information in the computer. That let me focus on the music, and then I could crank out a review over my break. The past few years, I've been on something much more demanding. I've got to read a lot, check a bunch of computer databases, write e-mails, make phone calls, and then make some pretty tough decisions and write out an explanation of everything I did and why I made the decision. The work is a lot more fulfilling, but it doesn't accommodate my old method of blogging. Sometimes I'll look around and realize the album I was listening to has been over for 20 minutes and I've been working in silence. Instead of cranking out 20 cases in an hour, I consider it a pretty good day if I can complete two of them. Many take eight hours of work over several months. That's why the blog has been updated with less and less frequency. I don't think I'm giving the music the thorough listens I used to. And with my life being what it is, work is really the only time to listen to music. Then, and when I'm lifting.

I still plan to write, but it's not easy to keep it up. I need to figure out a new way to approach it. I have been thinking about it, but haven't quite settled on anything just yet.