• Ladies and gentlemen!

    Dreamcatcher is a k-pop band I have only discovered very recently. The group was originally called MINX and featured five members. It changed its name to Dreamcatcher one and a half years ago and evolved into a septet. The band has released four extended plays so far, including this year's Escape the Era and the brand new Alone in the City which was released precisely one week ago.

    What I like about the band is that it differs from other k-pop bands that use hip hop and rhythm and blues elements. Dreamcatcher rather incorporates rock elements, varying from hard rock over commercial punk rock to mellow heavy metal. The band still uses electronic pop elements though and also incorporates brief rap elements. This makes for a quite unusual mixture.

    Stylistically, the band isn't too different from other k-pop bands, with all seven members wearing the same type of clothes in most of their music videos and performing almost robotic dance choreographies. However, the seven members all have great vocals and the musical style is distinctive enough to be noteworthy. Give them a chance.

    ''Fly High''

     ''What''

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    I know I'm late to the party but I have been listening to some K-pop over the past few years. This is quite unusual for someone who usually listens to metal, gothic and rock music and occasionally to blues, folk and classical music. Trendy boy- or girl-groups have never been my cup of tea. You could chase me with music from One Generation or solo artists of former super groups like Justion Timberlake who is maybe the worst offender. How come I like Korean pop music?

    First of all, I'm a big fan of Korean cinema and have watched countless movies from that country in the past few years. I like Korean cinema because it's more emotional, gloomy and intense than what Hollywood has to offer these days. I like the country's most brutal films such as the explicit ''I Saw the Devil'' but also the more atmospheric works like the imaginative ''A Tale of Two Sisters''. I even appreciate the country's over-the-top comedy films like ''Quick'' but also epic dramas such as ''The Handmaiden''. One of my favorite contemporary actors is Choi Min-sik and I also like Kwak Do-won and Song Kang-ho to only name a few examples. Watching all these Korean movies made me discover Korean pop music that was either featured in some of these movies or indirectly related to them because many actors are also pop musicians.

    What I like about K-pop is its vivid, quirky and colorful style that works in danceable and catchy tunes but also in calm and emotive ballads. The way pop sounds merge with rhythm 'n' blues and hip hop but also occasional other influences such as folk sounds is creative, entertaining and at times still surprising. K-pop isn't as eclectic as J-pop but probably more consistent. There are several J-pop artist I adore because they have their very own style but there are also cringeworthy J-pop artists who seem to be walking stereotypes. K-pop doesn't have that many highs and lows and I'm not always in the mood for listening to this type of music but when I am, I enjoy it thoroughly.

    Today I want to present you a quite quirky and catchy female K-pop quartet called Sixbomb because this band has stirred up controversy one year ago with its two singles ''Before'' and ''After'', released in February and March 2017, respectively. The songs and videos show how the four girls decide to undergo plastic surgery. The first clip shows an excited quartet chosing its four individual treatments in a shiny facility. The second clip presents the quartet's new looks with a lot of joyous self-confidence. It's important to notice that it were the band members' own decisions to undergo plastic surgery. On the other side, one has to understand that the four band members made that decision hoping to get some attention and propulsing their careers. The former did actually happen while the latter hasn't happened yet. Sixbomb haven't released anything since these two singles one year ago. Let's also underline the fact that the group's record company agreed to pay for the plastic surgeries and its related treatments because it was obviously expecting to make some money in return.

    There have been quite a few discussions about Sixbomb's story. Those who criticize them harshly claim that the women already looked beautiful before, didn't need any kind of plastic surgery and encouraged women to pay for extensive plastic surgery instead of strengthening their self-confidence. Those who defend the band claim that the four women have the right to modify their bodies in any ways they like, that these changes made them feel better about themselves and that plastic surgeries are much more common in South Korea as opposed to other countries as even foreigners travel to that country to undergo such treatments.

    I can understand both points of view and won't take sides since it remains a personal decision. However, I find this debate about the necessity of plastic surgeries quite intriguing. Sixbomb is the first group to openly discuss this topic while multiple other Korean pop artists have undergone plastic surgeries but didn't dare speak about this topic. I must admit I like both songs and especially ''After'' quite a lot. Even though I obviously can't personally relate to the lyrics since I'm not at all interested in undergoing plastic surgery and have always appreciated the natural beauty of women, I find the vibes, optimism and energy of both songs quite gripping and the challenging topic at least intriguing.

    Make up your own mind about this complex topic and don't mind sharing your point of view. Here are ''Before and ''After'' by Sixbomb!

    ''Before''

    ''After''

    Bonus track: ''Hiccup Hiccup''

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  • Voivod - The Wake (2018)

    Voivod's The Wake is one of the very best records I have ever heard in my life and easily the greatest record in the band's already stunning career. The Wake is progressive yet accessible. It's heavy yet psychedelic. It's melodic yet aggressive. It's complex yet concise. It features the band's trademarks yet enters new territory. 

    The four musicians have excellent chemistry. The drums are precise like clockwork. The bass guitar is domineering and technically impressive. The guitar riffs are out of this world as they don't only equal but surpass original guitarist Piggy's legendary style. The vocals are more diversified than ever, meandering from harmoniously soothing passages to desperate screams. 

    The group even added string sections to a few select songs that blend in perfectly as they give the record a cinematic, epic and timeless touch. 

    The lyrics and concept are intriguing from start to finish. Voivod has written about loose concepts before but these eight songs here gel perfectly as they complement one another organically. 

    The vibrant production does this complex musical accomplishment justice. 

    The cover artwork is as hypnotizing as the music and typical for drummer Away's signature style. 

    Everything fits on this album without any flaws. 

    People often try to compare Voivod's contemporary records to efforts from the early years. This doesn't work here. Voivod has accomplished something completely new which is a highly entertaining space metal journey with elements from all its different phases and new soundscapes that show an excitingly open-minded band. 

    Progressive thrash metal groups like Vektor get lots of attention and certainly deserve it but Voivod is on a different level, its very own level. I certainly don't want the quartet to retire anytime soon but if it did, it would leave on its highest possible note, with an incredible magnum opus that certainly deserves to be called this way. Voivod's The Wake is an album for the ages. If we ever had to send one single piece of art to an extraterrestrial society, to show it what wonders mankind can accomplish, I would send this record without a doubt.

    Do you think I exaggerate? Go listen to this album from start to finish and tell me I'm wrong. If you don't have enough time for the whole experience, listen to mqagnificent album closer ''Sonic Mycelium'' that revisits and rearranges musical themes and lyrics from the seven preceding songs without ever getting redundant and making twelve and a half minutes sound as entertaining as it gets.

    This is album of the year, album of the decade and maybe album of the century material.

    Final rating: 100%

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    On the eleventh day of my trip across Eastern Canada, I visited Prince Edward Island and its capital Charlottetown. I started my journey in Cornwall, a small town west of Charlottetown, went to Prince Edward Island's east south-coast in Wood Islands, took the ferry to Caribou in Nova Scotia and drove all the way to Port Hastings on Cape Breton Island.

    Highlights: Charlottetown is a beautiful city and it took me about four hours to visit it. The ferry trip from Prince Edward Island to Nova Scotia was very enjoyable. The weather was great, the food tasted very good and there were numerous sights such as Pictou Island, Munroes Island and Caribou Island.

    Curiosities: I met a man near Beaconsfield Historic House in Charlottetown who mistook me for a musician because of a band shirt I was wearing and talked to me about his own touring activities for about ten minutes. The conversation started strangely but turned out being quite interesting. People in Newfoundland are very welcoming. I took a picture of a few flags in front of the Confederation Centre of Arts in downtown Charlottetown which prompted a strange person who was sitting and smoking nearby to ask me to show him the picture I had just taken. I refused kindly and managed to calm the suspicious character down. The weather in Nova Scotia was rather bad and the road conditions on my way to Canso Causeway were rather underwhelming. 

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Port of Charlottetown

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Rochford Square in front of Saint Peter's Cathedral in Charlottetown

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Fanningbank Government House in Charlottetown

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Victoria Park in Charlottetown

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Reconstructed Prince Edward Battery

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Brighton Lighthouse in Charlottetown

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Beaconsfield Historic House in Charlottetown

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Charlottetown Fire Department

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Charlottetown City Hall

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Monument in front of Legislative Assembly in Charlottetown

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Trinity United Church in Charlottetown

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Saint Dunstan's Basilica in Charlottetown

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Spiritually Centre at SDU Place in Charlottetown

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Charlottetown Marina

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Wood Islands Provincial Park with its lighthouses

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Leaving the port of Wood Islands on Prince Edward Island

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Munroes Island in Nova Scotia

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Canso Causeway and its dock as seen from Port Hastings on Cape Breton Island

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Canso Canal and its movable bridge

    2018 Eastern Canada trip: Day eleven - From Cornwall to Port Hastings

     Tourist Information Center and the Cape Breton Shop in Port Hastings

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  • Daniel the Wizard / Daniel der Zauberer (2004)

    The main reason why I watched this movie that is often described as one of the worst of all times is what appears to be Daniel Kublbock's tragic suicide that occured less than two weeks ago. The actor, businessman and musician jumped off a cruise ship into icy water and his body hasn't been recovered yet. Daniel Kublbock has always been a tragic character evoking both disgust and sympathy and who obviously had his share of mental struggles. His parents had wanted a daughter and separated in his early childhood. His mother was apparently an alcoholic who used to hit him sometimes while his relationship with his father was ambivalent. Daniel Kublbock auditioned for the first edition of a reality talent show when he was just seventeen years old. He wore androgynous clothes, appeared to be overtly emotional and had very dramatic, loud and unskilled vocals. Daniel Kublbock was looking for fame to find his own identity but refused to accept that he didn't have much talent and failed to understand that he was used by producers to have a clown in their show that people could make fun of. Againt all odds, many female teenagers pitied him or even saw themselves in this sympathetically confused being and made his songs and records more popular than anyone would have predicted. Daniel the Wizard was released at the height of his career. Instead of helping him find his fame and identity, the media attention had its share of negative impacts on him. Daniel Kublbock openly identified as bisexual, then admitted being homosexual and ended up claiming he was transgender shortly before his death. His physical appearance also shifted drastically as he looked quite androgynous as a teenager, then gave himself the look of a serious male businessman before adapting a feminine look with dresses and heavy makeup. His music also changed from anglophone pop rock music over Latin pop to a mixture of blues and jazz. Daniel Kublbock's fate is tragic because he never found his true identity and his erratic behaviour gave him a few moments of glory but also a few moments of resentment. Blaming those who bullied him because of his at times annoying behaviour is only partially accurate as his family, managers and friends should have helped him deal with his mental issues first instead of supporting him being watched by millions on television when he was still legally a child.

    Ironically, much of this torn character can also be found in this movie that mixes fantasy elements and documentary aspects. Daniel Kublbock is seen going completely crazy on stage at one moment and sitting thoughtfully in an isolated room in the next scene. The film portrays a young female teenager who admires the unique and different singer while male teenagers despise him for his erratic behaviour. This film actually shows us who Daniel Kublbock really was and how he was really perceived by society. These two elements alone make the movie bearable and justify a slightly generous rating.

    The rest of this film is a catastrophe. The plot is beyond ridiculous. The acting performances are stiff. The camera work is shaky. The sound is unsteady. The movie mostly consists of concert footage weirdly intertwined with poorly scripted fantasy elements. While other bad movies such as The Room show a certain degree of passion for filmmaking or are at least entertaining like Samurai Cop, Daniel the Wizard is neither passionate nor entertaining. Despite its short length of only eighty-one minutes, it feels incredibly stretched and could have been cut in half. The movie righteously sold very poorly but is today considered a cult flick because of its flaws. Honestly, those flaws are so amateurish that they aren't even worth discussing. Daniel the Wizard is only interesting to watch if you are intrigued by the lead actor's tragic fate. If you come here expecting hilarious entertainment, you have to looke elsewhere.

    Calling this film one of the worst ever made would be exaggerated. Describing Daniel the Wizard as unsuccessful low budget mash-up of random documentary elements and weird fantasy parts is more accurate. This movie is a sympathetic wreck. Such seemed to be the life of its lead character as well. May Daniel Kublbock rest in peace.

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