Jym Furlong

Jym FurlongThe progressive rock family have lost one of our own.

I didn’t know Jym well, but he was a familiar sight at London gigs, and we had a great many friends in common. This post from Jym’s blog about last year’s Touchstone gig speaks of the sort of person he was.

RIP Jym, you will be missed.

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“We have witnessed a total breakdown in political legitimacy” -  A very powerful piece blaming the near-breakup of the UK not on the Tories, but on the corrupt political media and the cowardice of the Labour Party.

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Empty Yard Experiment – Kallisti

Empty Yard Experiment - Kallisti Unlike many other genres of music, progressive metal is a global phenomenon. Its reach now extends well beyond the traditional strongholds in north America and northern Europe. Dubai-based Empty Yard Experiment are the sort of band that exemplify this, a multinational band with members from Serbia, Iran and India.

“Kallisti” is the band’s first full-length album, following their self-titled EP from 2011. They cite the likes of Tool, King Crimson, Porcupine Tree, Anathema and Mogwai as influences, and have come up with an impressive and varied record. Dark and dense guitar riffs and swirling Mellotron contrast with delicate piano arpeggios, and there’s always a strong sense of dynamics balancing light with shade. Highly melodic songwriting sits alongside lengthy instrumental compositions, and there are moments where the strength of the arrangements make it difficult to believe this is a début.

Unusually for a prog-metal record, especially one with such a strong emphasis on instrumental material, it’s marked by the complete absence of any conventional solos, but there’s so much going on that the songs don’t need them. Unlike so many lesser bands who give progressive metal a bad name with self-indulgent widdly-woo, there is absolutely no technical showboating for its own sake on display here.

There is certainly something of Judgement-era Anathema in the highly melodic “Entropy” and of Porcupine Tree in chiming guitar of “Lost In A Void That I Know Far Too Well”. There’s also more than just a hint of more recent Opeth across the whole record, notably evident in the twists and turns of the lengthy closing number “The Call” especially in that massive piledriving riffing at the end. The atmospheric “The Blue Eyes Of A Dog”, one of several instrumentals, even recalls the symphonic post-rock of Godspeed You Black Emperor.

But Empty Yard Experiment are no derivative pastiche of other, better bands. With a sound that stretches from the sparse classical piano of “Sunyata” to the claustrophobic heaviness of “Entropy”, Empty Yard Experiment are a band with a strong music identity of their own, and “Kallisti” works well as a coherent album where the whole is more than the sum of the parts. It’s a hugely ambitious and mature record that represents much of what is great about progressive metal while avoiding that genre’s obvious clichés.

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Satanic Panics and Cover-Ups?

Satanic Jimmy SavileYears ago, back in the late 80s, the English-speaking world was in the grip of the so-called “Satanic Panic”. Driven by American or American-influenced fundamentalist Christians, we were told that things like heavy metal and Dungeons and Dragons were tools of Satan, and there were baby-sacrificing Satanic cults whose members included powerful figures in the upper reaches of society. It all seemed ridiculously far-fetched and offered a window in what appeared to be a paranoid and warped world-view.

In Britain we saw a moral panic about Satanic ritual abuse of children which parts of the social work profession fell for. Despite the complete lack of evidence eventually large numbers of children were forcibly removed from their parents in Orkney in 1991. Jonathan Calder blogged about in “The devil on South Ronaldsay“.

Decades later we have the revelations about the activities of Jimmy Saville, Cyril Smith and others, and the realisation that there really was a paedophile ring in the corridors of power in politics and the media, and powerful figures had been covering it up.

All of which make you wonder. How much were those two things were connected?

Were the stories of Satanic ritual abuse an inaccurate rumous of what was really going on, like the party game of Chinese whispers? Or was it something more sinister, a manufactured lie from those who were covering up real abuse, to divert attention?

I suspect we will never know the truth.

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Touchstone announce Christmas Dates

Moo Bass of Touchstone

Touchstone have announced two Christmas shows, at The Borderline in London on Friday December 12th, and at Bilston Robin 2 on Sunday December 14th, and have put together very interesting bills for both shows.

On Friday they will be supported by the violin-driven goth-metal of Symphony of Pain, who made a very strong impression at the Cambridge Rock Festival back in August. Sunday’s gig is a co-headliner, featuring IOEarth, who have been absent from the UK’s stages for far too long.

This years’ prog Christmas season will seem a little strange, with no Mostly Autumn Grand Opera House show due to the venue being booked up with pantomimes, and no Panic Room shows because of Gavin Griffiths’ commitments with Fish. But with Mostly Autumn, Marillion, Fish and now Touchstone all touring there’s not going to be any shorage of Christmas shows this year.

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You can tell you’re a tester if you go to the pub and all the conversations are about ISO29119. The consensus that the reason the online testing community is overwhelmingly anti is that the pro-ISO29119 camp are just too boring to be on Twitter or write blogs.

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Purson – Death’s Kiss

New single from Purson, taken from their forthcoming EP ‘In The Meantime‘ EP out on 13th October 2014

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If Scotland votes Yes today, will this mean that Sainsburys will start stocking Tunnocks Snowballs in their ethnic foods aisle along with the Australian and Polish delicacies?

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Angry Weasel on ISO29119

Angry Weasel provides the most succinct summary of what’s wrong with ISO29119 I have seen to date:

A lot of testers I know are riled up (and rightfully so) about ISO 29119 – which, in a nutshell, is a “standard” for testing that says software should be tested exactly as described in a set of textbooks from the 1980’s. On one hand, I have the flexibility to ignore 29119 – I would never work for a company that thought it was a good idea. But I know there are testers who find themselves in a situation where they have to follow a bunch of busywork from the “standard” rather than provide actual value to the software project.

Quite.

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Bob Lefsetz, One Direction, and American Psycho

I’m not sure that there are many people who still take Bob Lefsetz seriously; after all, this is the music industry pundit who told David Bowie he needed to be more like Mumford and Sons. He’s got to become a good music pundit litmus test, in that anyone who takes him seriously cannot themselves be taken seriously.

His blustering patronising style and detemindedly anti-hipster stance leads him to praise the most vacuous examples of corporate rock as works of artistic genius; he’e even claimed that anyone who doesn’t think Nickelback are the world’s greatest rock band is a pathetic loser. Some of his more ridiculous rants remind me of those often-quoted monologues about Huey Lewis and Phil Collins from Brett Easton Ellis’ “American Psycho”.

But this piece about One Direction goes beyond patronising and descends into the disturbingly creepy.

It was incomprehensible.

Furthermore, if you weren’t there you probably didn’t know it happened, despite the act selling out two dates and nearly a third, on a Thursday, a school night.

And that was who were there. Students. Girls. Wanna get laid? Go to a 1D show. You won’t see odds this good at the prison of “Orange Is The New Black.” An endless sea of barely pubescent girls, screaming their heads off. You’d think it was the new Beatles.

Only it wasn’t.

Maybe these kids know the Beatles. But they’ve got no idea who U2 is, never mind want to hear their music. And U2 didn’t sell as many tickets in Pasadena. Because the generations have changed and those in charge don’t want to admit it.

You’re done. History. Kaput. Your children have replaced you. Because they’ve got one thing you do not, PASSION!

What’s scary is that if you read those first few paragraphs side-by-side with Patrick Bateman’s infamous Phil Collins monologue , his One Direction piece is actually creepier.

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