World Building Like Crazy

I spent the last two days doing some major world building for my novel. There were a few details that I had neglected to figure out and I realized that having those details would make it much easier to piece my world together.

I figured out approximate populations for countries and major cities and created maps for two of the kingdoms where most of the story will be taking place instead of just having a world map.

I also changed a few place names around and created distinctive regions in each country.

I also did a little bit of writing in A Clash of Crimson and I was able to add about 1000 words to the story. If I can keep this momentum up I will be looking good for NaNoWriMo.

As a quick side note, I’m attending a diversity journalism conference in Oregon next week. Because of this commitment, I had to refuse an offer for two $50 tickets for row 17 to see Def Leppard in Tacoma on October 1. Ugh. I really want to go to that concert.

New Def Leppard album and single (!!!!)

Do the exclamation points give away my excitement?

Def Leppard is one of the best-selling musical acts in the world and one of the most recognizable names in rock music, yet lately they have been taking a back seat to making quality albums. They are best known for their hit albums Pyromania (1983) and Hysteria (1987), which together contained the songs “Photograph,” “Rock of Ages,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” and “Animal,” among many other hit singles. They continued their success with 1992’s Adrenalize and, too a lesser extent, their collective of b-sides called Retro Active in 1993.

The band changed their style of music for Slang in 1996 by stripping down and letting emotions fuel their music. This proved unsuccessful and the band returned to their signature sound in 1999 for Euphoria, which contained a #1 Rock hit with “Promises,” but lacked what the previous albums had. Then the band took a nose dive with 2002’s X and 2008’s Songs From the Sparkle Lounge. These albums were very hit and miss. The good songs were some of their best, but the bad songs were unbearable, and Def Leppard had never written any bad songs before X.

The live album in 2011 had three news songs on it, in which “It’s All About Believin'” was spectacular but the others were mediocre. Then the band focused on touring, creating the longest gap between studio albums. It had started to look like Def Leppard would never release another album.

But now Def Leppard is releasing a self-titled album on October 30 and they just released the lead single called “Let’s Go.” The song is one of the best the band has done since the millennium, which makes the rest of the album very promising.

Finally some good music

2015 is finally starting to give us some good music, but unfortunately it won’t change the stripped down indie rock trend or the too electronic and fake pop music out there. The problem is that most of the good music coming out now days is by bands and artists who have been around for a long time. There aren’t a lot of new artists that are venturing into hard rock.

Already this year Wednesday 13 released his newest album Monsters of the Universe: Come Out and Plague, which while good isn’t up to par with his last two albums. Then Kid Rock and Blackberry Smoke released albums that had promise but really didn’t take off.

Marilyn Manson released his best album in a decade with The Pale Emperor, showing that his best days are not behind him. Then ’80s glam band Trixter released a not-so-great album that included “Rockin’ til the Edge of the Night,” the best song of the year in my opinion.

Now rock albums seem to be coming out daily.

Disturbed

Disturbed released their 6th album last week, which is their best since their debut. The songs “The Vengeful One” and “What Are You Waiting For” are standouts, although a handful of them have found a place among the top rock songs on the iTunes charts for the past month and received radio airplay.

Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi just released a new album that is so embarrassing and rushed that I want to cry. Not really, but the album is terrible. It shouldn’t be a surprise seeing as What About Now in 2013 and The Circle back in 2009, I think, were also under par. The surprise is that there is a gem in the track “I’m Your Man,” which is the most hard rocking song Bon Jovi has released since 2005. Still, it doesn’t make up for the rest of the album.

Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden is back with its first album since 2010, which is due out in October. The album’s first single “Speed of Light” is a bit underwhelming for an Iron Maiden lead single, but it still rocks. If the rest of the album is at least as good as this single I’ll probably buy it.

Chris Cornell

I’m a big fan of Soundgarden and I really enjoyed Chris Cornell’s time in Audioslave, but I’ve never enjoyed Chris Cornell’s solo albums as a whole. There are a few songs I’m okay with, but I’ve never purchased a Chris Cornell album. His work in the last few years has been mediocre at best and not up to par with his past work, until now.

His new album, titled Higher Truth, will be released in September. The lead single is perhaps the best Chris Cornell has sounded since Audioslave and it shows him going back to his alt rock style that everyone misses. I bought the song the day it came out and I love hearing it on the radio.

Queensryche

I love Queensryche. Operation: MindCrime and Empire are some of the greatest albums ever made, but Queensryche has struggled to find a consistent style and to regain its lost popularity. I saw them live a few years ago and I was underwhelmed. Their stage presence was boring and Geoff Tate just didn’t have it anymore. This showed on the many albums released throughout the past decade, especially American Soldier and Dedicated to Chaos (although the single “Get Started” from DtC was actually quite good). When the band split with Tate and hired Todd la Torre as vocalist, I was excited. This new guy has some pipes!

Then the album Queensryche was released, and although it wasn’t bad, it was boring. It didn’t have any hit material or standout songs. It showed an improvement, but also that there was still a long way to go. Now the band is back with their album Condition Human, set to be released in October. The song “Arrow of Time” sounds like a song from the band’s 1988 album Operation: Mindcrime, just not as catchy. I’m hopeful that the new album will be better than the last one, and all of the others released from 1999 to 2011.

Collective Soul

I’ve never owned a Collective Soul album or song in my life, but I’ve heard them on the radio over the years. I actually like them, although I didn’t realize that until I heard some of the songs from their new album and then looked up their old ones I had heard on the radio.

Collective Soul’s new album See What You Started By Continuing will be released on October, the same day as the aforementioned Queensryche album. The album’s lead singles are good and show that the band can continue to make good music that doesn’t stray to far from what made them successful.

Def Leppard

We’ve been promised a new Def Leppard album for a few years now, but the band has said multiple times that it will be out sometime this fall. On Aug. 27 vocalist Joe Elliott confirmed that it is finished and will be out before the end of the year to Grand Forks Herald, saying the album will be called simply Def Leppard. If everything the band has been saying is true, the album will be more like ’70s classic rock than Def Leppard, which is fine by me. Elliott sounds great singing Elton John and Mott the Hoople and their Queen-like songs throughout their career have been very haunting.

A list of my favorite bands

Blog note: Expect multiple posts about writing, life, and music this weekend. I feel like I don’t post enough, so I am making up for it. 

This is a list of my favorite bands. I figured that I should do lists more often, although perhaps they are more for my own benefit. Music has influenced a big part of my life, including how I dress and how I carry through each day.

1. AC/DC

Let’s set this record straight: no band is, has, or ever will be better than AC/DC. It just isn’t possible. AC/DC is simple, straight forward, raw rock n roll music that just keeps on going. There isn’t one AC/DC I dislike, and picking a favorite song by them would just be too hard: they are all amazing.

The first ever music I heard from them was probably “Back in Black” and “Highway to Hell,” since I can remember knowing the songs in elementary school. However it was in 2008 when my Mom brought their most recent album, Black Ice, that I started listening to them. It went right with how I was growing at the time. I had just entered sixth grade, and I was just starting to transition into listening to rock music.

2. Aerosmith

Just about four years ago, when I was entering eighth grade, I first heard Aerosmith. I had heard “Dream On” and “Rag Doll” before, but I had never given the band much thought. Actually, I hadn’t even realized that “Rag Doll” was by Aerosmith until I started listening to them.

My brother had given me a copy of their “Pandora’s Box” greatest hits collection and “Permanent Vacation” right before I went on a road trip. I listened to them over and over, loving every minute of it. I can remember hitting repeat on “Last Child” and “Rag Doll” because the songs were so good and different from what I had been listening to that summer.

Now, I own their albums Aerosmith, Get Your Wings, Toys in the Attic, Rocks, Draw the Line, Night in the Ruts, Rock in a Hard Place, Done with Mirrors, Pump, Get a Grip, Nine Lives, and Music From Another Dimension! Aerosmith’s songs are timeless, well crafted, and just great rock.

I saw Aerosmith live in 2012 at the Tacoma Dome, and my seats were very good. They rocked, and even gave me the chills during “Dream On.” That’s when you know its good music.

3. Def Leppard

Def Leppard is the ultimate band of the 1980s. When people think of the ’80s sound, people might say Bon Jovi, or Madonna, or Guns n Roses, but Def Leppard is definitely what characterized the 1980s. Their music ranged from New Wave of British Heavy Metal in 1980, to more of a glam/pop metal in 1987.

The first song I heard of Def Leppard was “Photograph” because my brother had downloaded it onto my mp3 player in elementary school. I liked the song, but I never listened to them any more than that. In 2008 they did a song with Tim McGraw, a country artist that I listened to all the time and had seen multiple times live (I grew up on Country music). The song was so cool to me, because it had my favorite music artist and a band I had heard of before.

Just before I started seventh grade I borrowed the Rock of Ages 2-disc greatest hits of Def Leppard, and I probably played that CD thrity times over.

For a while, they became my favorite band and I went overboard with Def Leppard stuff: T-shirts, a poster, and buying their albums On Through the Night, High n Dry, Pyromania, Adrenalize, and RetroActive.

Soon after I bought Hysteria and I borrowed by brother’s copy of Euphoria to download. Then I saw them live in 2011 with Heart at White River Amphitheater.

Earlier this year, I added the Slang Deluxe Edition to my collection, and boy have I listened to that thing a lot.

4. Motley Crue

Why Motley Crue? Because it’s Motley f****** Crue!

My older brother and my mom love Motley Crue. They would always listen to it, and my brother even had “Wild Side” as his ringtone for a long time. He introduced me to them, and I instantly loved the glam metal hooks and ’80s sound of the band.

I have Too Fast For Love, Shout at the Devil, Theatre of Pain, Girls Girls Girls, Dr. Feelgood, and Saints of Los Angeles on my iTunes (Motley Crue also tops my list of most played songs). I also bought a few tracks off of the New Tattoo album.

I have seen them live twice: In 2012 (two weeks after Aerosmith) and just last month for their Final Tour.

5. Van Halen

Van Halen is great with both David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar. There is much debate over which version of Van Halen is better. In my opinion, David Lee Roth with Van Halen is the ultimate version, but Sammy Hagar with Van Halen was also amazing (especially when you are a Sammy Hagar fan).

That being said, I will see Sammy Hagar live before I would ever see Van Halen (its not the ’80s anymore…David is kind of a dork and his voices seems a little shot sometimes).

Van Halen is a band I have listened to for a few years now. I own Van Halen, Van Halen II, Women and Children First, Fair Warning, Diver Down, and 1984 of Van Halen with David, and OU812 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge with Sammy. I also have 5150 and Balance on my iTunes (my mom owns them).

Van Halen is such a fun band to listen to, and I unfortunately don’t find myself listening to them enough anymore. That needs to change.

Most played songs on my iTunes

I thought it would be interesting to share the most played songs on my iTunes library. Out of the nearly 7000 songs (a lot!) I have, these few have reached the top 50. I’m sure that you can probably guess my favorite bands from this list. 


1. “Looks that Kill” – Motley Crue (1983)

2. “Dr. Feelgood” – Motley Crue (1989)

3. “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)” – Fuel (2000)

4. “Rock of Ages” – Def Leppard (1983)

5. “Trampled Under Foot” – Led Zeppelin (1975)

6. “Hells Bells” – AC/DC (1980)

7. “What it Takes” – Aerosmith (1989)

8. “Rock Rock (Till You Drop)” – Def Leppard (1983)

9. “The Chain” – Fleetwood Mac (1977)

10. “Flick of the Switch” – AC/DC (1983)

11. “Armageddon It” – Def Leppard (1987)

12. “Excitable” – Def Leppard (1987)

13. “Comin’ Under Fire” – Def Leppard (1983)

14. “Pull Me Under” – Dream Theater (1992)

15. “Abracadabra” – Steve Miller Band (1982)

16. “Foolin'” – Def Leppard (1983)

17. “Dirty Livin'” – KISS (1979)

18. “Back in Black” – AC/DC (1980)

19. “Shot of Love” – AC/DC (1990)

20. “Dulcimer Stomp/The Other Side” – Aerosmith (1989)

21. “Man in the Box” – Alice in Chains (1990)

22. “Gypsy Road” – Cinderella (1988)

23. “Let it Go” – Def Leppard (1981)

24. “Women” – Def Leppard (1987)

25. “Animal” – Def Leppard (1987)

26. “Hysteria” – Def Leppard (1987)

27. “Photograph” – Def Leppard (1983)

28. “Dreams” – Fleetwood Mac (1977)

29. “You Make Loving Fun” – Fleetwood Mac (1977)

30. “Cold as Ice” – Foreigner (1977)

31. “Wild Child” – Heart (1990)

32. “Gallows Pole” – Led Zeppelin (1970)

33. “Dancing on Glass” – Motley Crue (1987)

34. “Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid” – Motley Crue (1983)

35. “Turnaround” – Robert Plant (1983)

36. “Rising Power” – AC/DC (1983)

37. “Guns For Hire” – AC/DC (1983)

38. “Out Go the Lights” – Aerosmith (2012)

39. “Cradle of Love” – Billy Idol (1990)

40. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” – Def Leppard (1987)

41. “Take the Time” – Dream Theater (1992)

42. “Rhiannon” – Fleetwood Mac (1975)

43. “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” – Led Zeppelin (1970)

44. “Shout At the Devil” – Motley Crue (1983)

45. “Real World” – Queensryche (1993)

46. “Empire” – Queensryche (1990)

47. “Feel So Numb” – Rob Zombie (2001)

48. “Gimme Shelter” – The Rolling Stones (1969)

49. “Jump” – Van Halen (1984)

50. “Love In An Elevator” – Aerosmith (1989)

Slang Deluxe Edition

On February 11, the day after my birthday, Def Leppard reissued the album Slang as a deluxe edition. When I first heard the album a few years ago, when I first got into rock music, I was very disappointed. 2010 was a strange year. I had finally made the transition from being a die-hard county music fan to becoming a fully-fledged rocker. My favorite band at the time: Def Leppard. I had fallen in love with the band’s music after borrowing my brother’s 2-disc greatest hits, Rock of Ages, and quickly began to purchase their studio albums. On Through the Night, High ‘n’ Dry, Pyromania, Hysteria, Adrenalize, and Retro Active were in my hands by that Christmas. The next two albums in chronological order were 1996’s Slang and 1999’s Euphoria. My brother owned the latter, but at the time I decided against downloading it to my iTunes because it sounded different. The same could be said of Slang. 

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I couldn’t stand the sound of the album when I decided to listen to it via YouTube and quickly considered it as one of the worst rock albums of all time. Released in 1996, the album was a radical departure from Def Leppard’s traditional glam metal sound made popular with 1983’s Pyromania and 1987’s Hysteria. The album was written during a dark time in the band’s career, following guitarist Steve Clark’s death in the early 1990s and the rise in Grunge music from my home metro area, Seattle. With a majority of the glam acts already being labeled as has-beens and long-time producer “Mutt” Lange out of the picture, the band saw an opportunity to express how they were feeling at the time. The result was a darker theme and more acoustic sounding album that went hand in hand with the ’90’s alternative rock scene. I often wondered if the band could have kept their popularity strong throughout the 1990s if they would have sticked to their heavy metal and glam metal roots that made them one of the best-selling artists of all-time.

After a while I began to accept more styles of rock music and appreciate much of the music that was put out during the ’90s. I gave Euphoria a second listen in late 2011 and decided to download it, noticing that it was an attempt by Def Leppard to reestablish themselves with their ’80s audience. It really didn’t differ much from their older collection, except for the more produced sound. I gave Slang another listen and grew to appreciate a few of the songs, but I still decided against making a purchase. Then in early 2013 I gave it yet another listen. This time, I realized that Slang is truly a masterpiece. While it sounds different than anything Def Leppard had done or has yet to do since, and lacked any major hits or good album sales, it still isn’t bad.

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Slang shows that Def Leppard can strip down the twin-attack-guitar technique and the cut out the metal hooks and still make some good rock music. Right from the start Truth? delivers a heavy, dark-themed punch that continues for much of the album. The backing vocals on the song are much “angrier” and less harmonized. Turn to Dust is probably one of my favorite songs from the album with the experimental instruments in the background and the powerful harmonizing vocals from singer Joe Elliot and the ‘good-ol’ boys. Slang is probably the most produced song on the album, although still more organic sounding than their earlier work. It also appears to be the one song on the album that doesn’t have a deep meaning, though I could be wrong. All I Want is Everything shows a side of Def Leppard no one knew existed before.

Overall, the album takes its place with the band’s earlier work as a great, flawless album through and through. With the exception of Euphoria, Def Leppard has yet to make an album since that matches its greatness (with the disappointing pop-album X  in 2002 and the so-so Songs from the Sparkle Lounge in 2008).

The Deluxe Edition also includes some drafts and rough/early mixes of the album tracks. Some of the drafts are actually quite good, such as Raise Your Love, an early version of Slang that may even be better. The album also includes some hard-to-find songs, such as Burn Out, which was released as a b-side for a single from Euphoria, Worlds Collide, All On Your Touch, Can’t Keep Away From the Flame, and Move on Up. 

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