• ''The singing of the national anthem is indeed a typically North American thing. It's not as if the national team were playing, so I don't really understand why there even is the need for the singing of said anthem in the NHL, NFL, NBA and so on. It's sometimes quite weird when a NHL team actually features more Russian, Swedish or Canadian players and yet they have to react to the anthem of the United States of America. This is something you won't see in Europe. When soccer teams face each other in the Champions League, the neutral UEFA hymn is played but not the national anthems of the countries the teams actually come from which is a great solution. In some cases, playing the national anthem could even lead to riots. I'm not sure whether the playing of the national anthem of Spain would be welcome in Camp Nou when Barcelona is playing for example. I would suggest all leagues go for a neutral league anthem and skip the conservative act of patriotism.

    Same goes for the celebration of the Armed Forces during sports games. I have tons of respect for members of the Armed Forces but I'm attending a sports game and not a military event and I think both things should be unrelated. There are also professions that are equally worth being honored and which are never honored officially like that. I'm thinking about all the doctors, lawyers, police officers, scientists and teachers in this world for example. Funnily enough, when I'm attending sports games, I see everybody standing up for the national anthem and the honoring of a member of the Armed Forces, even people who don't even bother standing up when a team scores a goal, a player gets a hat-trick and so on. I would suggest getting rid of that conservative military propaganda during sports events.

    On the other side: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. I'm German but I'm living in Canada. So when I'm attending a sports game, I actually do stand up during the national anthems of Canada and the United States of America. I even sing along to the national anthem of Canada and I honestly don't have any problem with that. I also stand up when a member of the Armed Forces is honored. It's called having good manners. Whether you find that practice great or not doesn't matter here.

    Bottom line: I think the singing of the national anthem and honoring members of the Armed Forces during sports events is a very conservative and maybe even obsolete tradition that should be removed from North American arenas and stadiums. However, as long as this tradition is being maintained, everybody should stick to it out of respect. Therefore, I think that there are other ways to voice your opinion against your government than not celebrating the national anthem or kneeling down during its performance. Doing something like this actually makes the government seem bigger than it is. By protesting against the government by refusing to celebrate the national anthem, you seem to imply that your country and your government are the same or at least very closely related. This is not true. Nine months of questionable presidency shouldn't affect the values the United States of America, including its anthem and its flag, stand for. Singing the national anthem and wearing a wristband, shirt or pin with a message dedicated to those overlooked or mistreated in times like these would have a much stronger impact. It would show that people do believe in their country and that they won't let a terrible President divide it.''

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  • It (2017)

    IT offers an excellent mixture of a coming-of-age drama and a supernatural horror movie. What I like about this film adaptation is how the film respects both sides on a perfectly balanced level. We are introduced to the lives of outcast teenage boys and one teenage girl who have to deal with severe cases of bullying, complicated family issues and their conflicting feelings for one another. As if that weren't enough to deal with, they also realize that the fact that numerous kids have been abducted in their hometown Derry isn't a mere coincidence. Behind its peaceful, calm and boring small town appearance, Derry seems to be a cursed place with a hideous past where a mysterious supernatural entity feeds on children's fears before consuming them literally. The outcast teenagers decide to take action and stop the monstrous entity with their curiosity, friendship and perseverance as weapons.

    IT takes place in the late eighties and this movie manages to take its audience back in time thanks to the timeless small town buildings, particular hairstyles and clothes and a fitting soundtrack. The film works so efficiently because it's easy for the audience to picture itself in these settings during their childhood years. The acting performances only increase this movie's authenticity. The teenagers all have different strengths and weaknesses and are refreshingly grounded and normal which is a welcome alternative to the popular world of superheroes and super-villains. The movie also has a strong cultural and intellectual side as it includes many allusions and references to Stephen King's other works. Some examples for this would be the town of Derry that serves regularly as setting for Stephen King's novels, the friendship between outcast teenagers in the key of Stand by Me and several allusions to thrash metal band Anthrax that has written numerous lyrics inspired by Stephen King's novels.

    You won't see the one hundred fifteen minutes pass as this immersive movie is very entertaining thanks to its mysterious story, authentic settings and profound characters. Due to the fact that the film takes place in the eighties, it is quite accessible for adults who will experience numerous deja-vu moments but its timeless brilliance should also be appealing to older teenagers who might easily identify with one or several characters in the movie. IT is a late summer blockbuster you shouldn't miss.

    On a closing side-note, this movie is the first part of a duology. The content of this movie takes place in the late eighties while the second movie is supposed to show what the characters, the supernatural entity and the town have become twenty-seven years later with some flashbacks from the past. These two story lines are similar to the way the original novel was written. You can watch this movie separately from the sequel but it wouldn't be possible to watch the sequel without watching this first instalment.

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  • Phaeton - In Heaven and Earth (2014)

    Phaeton is a young quartet from Ramenskoe that plays classic heavy metal. Founded back in 2011, the band released its first output three years later. In Heaven and Earth showcases six tracks that manage to have both a fluid stylistic guideline and some minor variations to keep things entertaining from start to finish. 

    The slow and epic heavy metal ballad ''Queen of Ice'' might be the most outstanding track with its enchanting keyboard melodies and soothing vocals but the band also delivers dynamic up-tempo tracks like ''The Legend of Phaeton'' that finds the right mixture between crunching heavy metal riffs and a vivid rhythm section on one side and melodic European power metal in the instrumental passages on the other side.

    The production of this independently released debut release has a few issues. The keyboards on the album opener and band anthem ''Phaeton'' sound painfully artificial and this horribly produced instrumental overture leaves a bad mark on the entire album due to its strategic misplacement. However, the song gets much better as soon as classic heavy metal instruments kick in and add a welcome raw note to a song that started as fluffily as it gets. However, the mixture between melodic European power metal references and a raw underproduced mastering doesn't really fit. It adds a special note to the record for sure but it sounds quite contradictory to my ears.

    In the end, Phaeton delivers a promising first strike with six melodic heavy metal tunes with some minor European power metal influences. Fans of classic Russian heavy metal in the key of Aria, Black Coffee and Legion should appreciate this release that also recalls similar contemporary Russian heavy metal groups like Alexy's Square and Grand-Courage. The record is far from being perfect or relevant but is enteraining and performed with genuine passion. So far, Phaeton is just another Russian heavy metal revival band but the diversified yet focused songwriting here already proves that they have the talent to go further than that.

    Final rating: 73%

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  • Phaeton - There Is No Place for Fear (2015)

    There Is No Place for Fear might be the strongest release thus far by Russian heavy metal quartet Phaeton. If compared to the debut EP which was already slightly above average, many things have improved on the first full length effort. The production sounds much more dynamic and organic but keeps an authentic and raw touch that gives the album a powerful vibe as if it had been recorded live in studio. The songwriting has become even more concise as this album includes eight great tracks without any filler material. The bass guitar is even more audible than on the debut and sounds quite versatile. The drum play has become more diversified and varied as well and adds a lot of vibrant dynamics to the sound. The melodic vocals sound a little bit more controlled and skilled than on the debut without losing their juvenile energy and vivid sharpness. The guitar play hasn't improved but stagnated on a respectable level with simple but very efficient riffs and memorable melodies. If compared to the second full length release, the eight songs on this album have a clearly defined guideline and develop a more vivid flow.

    While the entire album is great, the first three tracks are particularly dynamic in my book. ''Pay'' opens with the haunting sounds of air raid sirens before an extremely vivid rhythm section with thunderous drums and angrily pumping bass guitar take the lead and are supported by gripping guitar riffs. While the opening seconds might make you think of a thrash metal song, the melodic vocals add some atmosphere and depth to the track and lead it back into heavy metal territory that is crowned by an epic and liberating chorus. This track is an extremely energizing and efficient opener and might be Phaeton's best composition to date.

    The title track ''There Is No Place for Fear'' builds upon the momentum of the excellent opener and combines galloping verses with an unforgettable chorus that sounds dramatic, emotional and energizing all at once. The instrumental break with the dramatic guitar solos and the faster vocal parts is also quite intense. You won't be able to sit or stand still while listening to this song that could be included on a classic heavy metal record of the eighties by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest or Saxon.

    ''Freedom Call'', meaning obviously the liberating heavy metal song here and not the fluffy power metal group, completes the trio of songs showcasing the essential elements of the heavy metal spirit. The track overall has a more epic and melancholic atmosphere but also includes fast riffs and a thunderous rhythm section. The melodic vocals have a few brief and perfectly integrated sing-along sections as well that give the song a certain live atmosphere. If these guys are as good on stage as this song promises, they should be invited as opening act by Aria or a similar Russian heavy metal veteran band for a world tour.

    In the end, if you like energizing traditional heavy metal in the key of Aria, Black Coffee and Legion, Phaeton's dynamic first full-length release is a true gem to discover. There Is No Place for Fear is one of the best heavy metal revival records in recent memory and should please any fan of the genre. The record manages to keep the essential heavy metal trademarks of the late seventies and early eighties but adds a dynamic, juvenile and precise approach to it that convinces from start to finish.

    Final rating: 83%

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