• Dear readers,

    Last weekend, I went to Aylmer and Ottawa numerous times to enjoy the great weather and the beginning of the most colourful season of the year: autumn. I hope you enjoy my photos. Feel free and spend some time with Mother Nature.

    Have a colourfully inspired autumn!

    Sincerely yours,

    Sebastian Kluth

     

    Autumn in Aylmer and Ottawa I

    Autumn in Aylmer and Ottawa II

    Autumn in Aylmer and Ottawa III

    Autumn in Aylmer and Ottawa IV

    Autumn in Aylmer and Ottawa VI

    Autumn in Aylmer and Ottawa VII

    Autumn in Aylmer and Ottawa V

    Autumn in Aylmer and Ottawa VIII

    Autumn in Aylmer and Ottawa IX

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  • Алексеевская Площадь - Не заставляй себя ждать (2015)

    Alexy's Square is a melodic rock and heavy metal band from Samara in Russia that has just released its third studio album in only three years. While the first two albums still contained a few cover songs and guest singers, this record here offers fifty minutes of new and own material. While this might be an important step forward in the band's development, I feel that ''Don't Keep Waiting'' is somewhat lacking diversity, energy and uniqueness here and there.

    This phenomenon is actually quite hard to put into words. The opener ''The Game'' includes everything a melodic rock fan might ask for. The track starts with a short and mysterious keyboard overture before melodic guitars kick in that dominate the catchy tune. The guitar solo parts are spot on and the harmonious vocals are well-performed. Still, I'm missing some edges in the vocals, a more ferocious production and maybe some more original song writing elements. The next track ''The Other Window'' has exactly the same kind of strengths and weaknesses. The guitar work is technically convincing and offers some soaring melodies, the melodic vocals are catchy and chilling but the track never really takes off and is missing a true emotional highlight. More calmer and dragging tunes like ''When'' that focus on the enjoyable yet slightly exchangeable vocals and the solid yet somewhat inoffensive piano parts are sometimes even more complicated and need a lot of precise focus and a very specific mood to grow under these particular circumstances after a longer period of time. Alexy's Square's music is always good, soulful and talented but it rarely becomes great, gripping or outstanding.

    It's curious enough that the most original tracks on the album that immediately got my attention are the two instrumental tunes even though I'm usually not very fond of this kind of music. Instead of being exchangeable fillers, short interludes or prententious solo parts, these two tracks add some depth to the song writing and make a solid record sound truly good. ''Running Man'' opens with epic but never overwhelming keyboard sounds that lead to even greater guitar harmonies. Kirill Evseev comes raound with one amazing melody after another and they all perfectly melt together into one great potpourri. The song even picks up some speed and turns out to be one of the most dynamical compositions on the album. The second instrumental tune ''2005'' starts like a dark piano ballad with an elegant gothic touch before the powerful rhythm section kicks in. In this song, an otherwise rather unspectacular bass guitar and drum play really manage to stand out without taking too much space. Obviously, this song also comes around with emotional guitar solos and piano parts that inspire the audience to dream itself far away.

    In the end, we have a solid melodic rock album with an incredible instrumental aspect that really shines in the two tracks without any vocals. The other tunes are well-made but lack creativity, diversity and energy. Especially the numerous appeasing half-ballads are lacking depth, diversity and power to fully convince. Next time, the band could even focus further on its outstanding instrumental skills and bring back some guest singers or additional song writers here and there to manage to keep the level of entertainment, magic and power on a constantly elevated level.

    Final verdict: 7/10 (recommendable)

     

    Please support the band and check out the following links:

    Bandcamp: http://ploshchad.bandcamp.com/

    B Kontakte: http://vk.com/ploshchad 

    Homepage: http://www.ploshchad.com/russian/ 

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  • Ladies and gentlemen,

    Slowly but surely, summer's coming to an end and I wanted to enjoy some time outside again. I decided to walk from Hull to Aylmer last Sunday, covering about twenty kilometers on foot in more or less six hours. Here are some pictures I have taken in chronological order. 

    Enjoy the end of your summer and take care!

    Sincerely yours,

    Sebastian Kluth

     

    Université du Québec en Outaouais  

    Parc Brébeuf 

    Parc Moussette 

    Look at Ottawa from Aylmer 

    Sunset in Aylmer 

    Aylmer Marina

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  • The Gift (2015)

    ''The Gift'' is one of the very best movies in a so far rather disappointing cinematic year 2015. The low-budget production lives from its strong acting and twisted plot that comes around with creative ideas and unpredictable surprises from start to finish. The dialogues, effects and locations are realistic and make this a very authentic, credible and realistic movie. Don't let the rather generic trailer and the seemingly ordinary synopsis fool you.


    The movie kicks off like a rather usual psycho thriller. A young and successful couple portrayed by gifted actors Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman just moved back to California and organizes its new life. The fragile Robyn and the self-confident Simon have just purchased a gorgeous new home, Simon has found a promising job where he might get promoted soon and Robyn starts working on a few new things at home. One afternoon, the couple meets the socially awkward Gordo, played by the unpredictable Joel Edgerton who really steals the show, who is an old classmate of Simon. He seems to be very kind to the couple but Simon refuses to develop a friendly relationship to him. Gordo though gently insists and starts offering expensive gifts to the couple. Robyn has a heart for the charming outsider and convinces her husband to invite him for dinner but things don't stop there. Soon, Gordo starts taking a lot of space in their lives, stalks the insecure Robyn and offers more and more expensive gifts to her and Simon. At this point, the audience starts to realize how fragile the relationship between Robyn and Simon really is. They are constantly debating and rarely agreeing with each other. Simon feels forced to take a radical decision and tells Gordo to leave them alone for good.


    That's where the movie starts to become a gripping horror movie. Gordo seemingly continues to stalk the couple and weird things start happening to them. Their fishes die, their dog disappears and Robyn feels constantly observed when she is home alone. At one moment, she even seems to have a nervous breakdown and starts taking strong medication. The relationship between Robyn and Simon decreases as she seems to be too weak to turn the page and Simon too egocentric to really care about his wife's concerns.


    At that moment, the movie takes another turn. The couple's dog comes back and is alive and kicking. Robyn realizes that she is pregnant and Simon soon gets promoted. Everything seems too perfect to be true and as a matter of fact, the movie soon turns into a twisted drama as the past comes back to haunt both Robyn and Simon. The audience soon discovers more and more about the mysterious past of Gordo, Robyn and Simon and after a while the thin line between potential culprits and victims seems to disappear.

     


    Even though my short summary might seem detailed to you, it only gives away some minor details about one of the best plots in the psycho thriller genre of the past five years. The movie doesn't stop to come around with new surprises and a more and more convincing acting. Each time the movie seems to take a break, the menacing atmosphere comes back with a sudden bang and plays with the anticipation, emotions and perceptions of the audience. You can't let go off the film and even the unusual and controversial ending will stay on your mind for a quite long time. If you like this highly recommendable movie of the year candidate, make sure to check out the clever French film noir gem ''The Serpent'' by Eric Barbier that is quite similar to this film but different enough to be worth to be discovered.

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  • Stratovarius - Eternal

    After the incredibly diversified and powerful ''Nemesis'', the darker and progressive ''Elysium'' and the dreamy and fluffy ''Polaris'', Stratovarius already releases its fourth studio record in six years since the band rose from its ashes after Timo Tolkki's departure and a longer period on hiatus. ''Eternal'' focuses on the band's more epic side and makes the keyboard the dominating instrument on this output. Nearly every song is fast, furious and somewhat overloaded since most of them come around with majestic choirs and massive keyboard layers. Some tracks end up repeating themselves after a while. It must also be added that the guitar work on this album is rather shallow if compared to the inventive keyboard sounds and the positively surprisingly strong rhythm section. The vocals are still strong but one can clearly hear that Timo Kotipelto isn't the youngest performer anymore as he struggles with some higher notes, most notably in the chorus of the catchy single ''Shine in the Dark''.

    A track that represents this album very well is the opener ''My Eternal Dream''. It starts with epic keyboard sounds recalling commercial hard rock tracks from the seventies, eighties and nineties before fast guitar riffs, pumping bass guitars and some up-tempo drumming kick in. The furious start is hold together by the majestic keyboard sounds and Timo Kotipelto's passionate vocals that sound slightly lower than usual. Those who despise the band will call this opener an exaggerated overkill consisting of commercially flavoured catchy melodies, an overdose of slushy keyboard layers and exchangeable vocal lines. Fans of the band will appreciate the track's power and speed, the glorious chorus that won't let the audience go and the overall epic atmosphere. Honestly said, I can understand both points of view and while I happen to like the opener, there might be a few too many tracks of that kind on the record.

    It's no surprise that the most outstanding tracks on the album are those that break with the usual high-speed European power metal formula. The dark half-ballad ''Lost Without a Trace'' convinces with grounded and powerful vocals performing emotional lyrics, a distinctive and dominant bass guitar tone and mysterious acoustic guitar sounds that add a rather thoughtful atmosphere. This song is probably the highlight of this record. The mid-tempo stomper ''Few Are Those'' also has a versatile rhythm section and a few addicting guitar solos while the kitschy chorus is of a quite debatable quality. The elegant piano ballad ''Fire in Your Eyes'' leaves an overall better impression and is another welcome break from the faster tunes where each melody line is carefully chosen and each vocal effort perfectly employed.

    Among the faster tracks, the Japanese bonus song ''Giants'' is one of my favourite tunes. Imagine a more atmospheric and epic version of ''Dragons'' from the band's predecessor and you might get an idea what to expect from this rrack. The instrumental Japanese bonus track ''Endless Forest'' is the record's most curious case. It's a very calm keyboard track with both dark and enchanting tones at the same time that could come from a horror movie soundtrack of the seventies. In the beginning, I thought the track was boring and didn't fit on the album at all but as time passed by, I started to appreciate the track's almost folk-influenced video game sound that offers a simplistic yet efficient break from the rest of the album. The highly recommendable Japanese edition even features an additional DVD featuring the band's complete performance from the 2013 edition of the Japanese Loud Park Festival.

    While several tracks are simply too exchangeable, fast and joyous in my opinion, the biggest deception probably remains the album closer ''The Lost Saga'' that clocks in at almost twelve minutes. The track has a few good ideas and interesting melodies but it offers nothing new like the previous epic progressive metal pearl ''Elysium''. The song is at least four minutes too long and feels stretched to unnatural lengths just for the sake of having a longer tune on the album. The overlong instrumental part mostly sounds hectical and rarely unfolds any real magic in my opinion. In addition to this, the drumming feels out of rhythm in the faster parts which is still irritating after ten spins or so. This song is by no means comparable to other extra-long tunes like ''Mother Gaia'', ''Anthem of the World'' and ''Visions (Southern Cross)''.

    In the end, Stratovarius' new output ''Eternal'' has a more epic tone than the three previous releases. On the positive side, it convinces with a creative keyboard work and a powerful bass guitar tone and includes very solid tunes like ''Lost Without a Trace'' and ''Fire in Your Eyes''. On the negative side, several tunes sound exchangeable and feel slightly overloaded or stretched like ''My Eternal Dream'' and ''The Lost Saga' for example. My final verdict is that this album is not as convincing as ''Nemesis'' and ''Elysium'' but still clearly better than ''Polaris''. To conclude, this album deserves as spot in the middle section of Stratovarius' discography in terms of quality. Faithful fans of the band and European Power Metal in general should clearly purchase this record while everone else might just ignore this release and rather try out the incredibly strong ''Nemesis''.

    Final verdict: 7,5/10 (recommendable)

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