The Evocation Series- ‘Nightfall’

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

The following post is part of ‘The Evocation Series’. Click Here for more information about the project, and to learn how to get involved yourself!

Blind Guardian- ‘Nightfall’

 Song Link

Arda, the world in which J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth is set, was once a more beautiful and perfect place. The elves were invited West to the undying lands by the rulers of the land, the Valar, to join in the eternal bliss of the two trees. But jealousy and strife were sown by the Dark Lord Melkor, who destroyed the two trees of Valinor and set off a series of events which would leave the world forever changed.

All hope’s lost it can’t be undone

They’re wasted and gone.

Mourning, the elves sought desperately to return to the way things were, but found it impossible. Greed and pride prevented any solution, and the elves soon learned that there are some wounds too deep to heal, and that even the greatest of graces in their world were not beyond the taint of darkness.

The light she once brought in

Is gone forevermore.

But Fёanor, the king of the Noldor elves, could not accept this loss. For Melkor had also stolen the Silmarils, those three jewels created by Fёanor, which held within them the very light of the two trees. Fёanor was enraged by this transgression, and against the advice of the Valar swore a holy oath to retrieve them from Melkor at all cost.

The words of a banished king

“I swear revenge”.

This oath was unforgivable, and all the Noldor who followed Fёanor were banished forever from the undying lands of the Valar—doomed to toil eternally on their hopeless quest in the dark lands of Middle-Earth to the east. Some turned back, but others refused to see their kin march into doom unaided, and set out across the seas and ice to what fate might await them.

Never trust the northern winds

Never turn your back on friends.

What became of them? Well, they died. Over the centuries, almost to the last, they were slaughtered and watched their kingdoms burn and friends fall as the devastation of Melkor came to fruition. But their oath held them, and never could they return to the undying lands.

Nightfall

Quietly crept in and changed us all

Nightfall

Immortal land lies down in agony.

Loss can be a cruel thing indeed, and many of us in this world will see the things we hold dearest taken from us, devalued, or destroyed. But it is in these times when our faith in decency must be the most powerful. For to allow the sting of death and time to turn us away from what is good and enduring is the most painful loss of all.

-Brad OH Inc.

Advertisements

Brad OH Inc. Featured on ‘GonzoToday’

cropped-cropped-blogbanner13.jpgToday on Brad OH Inc., we have a special item for all our dear readers. Rather than a new weekly post, we’re happy to share this article we’ve published through our good friends at GonzoToday.

Writing about the Insane Clown Posse and their ongoing legal battle against the FBI is nothing new for us, but when we were offered a chance to write something for a site like GonzoToday, we were happy to take the opportunity. Needless to say, this is a GonzoToday exclusive, and cannot be posted here (see publishers…we’re open to negotiations!), so follow the link below and check out our new article, ‘The Clown in Chief and the Juggalo Army’.

Click Here for Article.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Evocation Series- ‘This is Your Sword’

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampThe following post is part of ‘The Evocation Series’. Click Here for more information about the project, and how to get involved yourself!

Bruce Springsteen- ‘This is Your Sword’

Song Link

I can still feel the warmth—curled up in the nook of her leg on that old flower-upholstered couch. So too can I recall the sound of his voice as he read page after page—taking me out into that road and off toward all the adventure and wonder to follow.

I heard of elves and men, dragons and orcs. Tales of courage and valor in the face of great odds, and of the importance of doing what is right, no matter how insignificant you may feel in the grand scheme of things.

We are all important, and we can all serve our role in making the world a better place.

…this is your Sword.

They would work together in the telling, and I would sit silent in rapture—broken only on occasion to ask some question or demand some clarification.

I learned about fellowships and faith, family and friends—about hope in the face of doubt, and love in spite of loss. I remember sitting wide-eyed as mercy and kindness prevailed over cruelty and despair.

I remember deciding that they truly could.

…this is your Shield.

‘The times they are dark, darkness covers the earth
But this world’s filled with the beauty of God’s work
Hold tight to your promise, stay righteous, stay strong
For the days of miracles will come along…’

…I still remember.

-Brad OH Inc.

Introducing ‘The Evocation Series’

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampToday on Brad OH Inc., we’re happy to announce the start of a brand new project—‘The Evocation Series’.

‘The Evocation Series’ is a fresh endeavour for us, and will be posted within the ‘Under the Green Desk Lamp’ (Link) category. This series focusses on our congruent love of music and metaphor. For each of these posts, we’ll be sharing a much-loved song of ours, providing a link to it for your listening pleasure, and then creating a brief literary piece inspired by the lyrics of said song.

This will be a keen opportunity for us to explore some of the themes and moods presented by many of our favourite pieces of music, but we don’t want it to be an entirely selfish endeavor! We want your involvement as well!

To that end, you’ll find a ‘Contact’ link here, and at the bottom of today’s post. That’s is where you, the reader, come in! Reach out and let us know if you have a song you’d like us to cover in the ‘Evocation Series’—whether it’s a song by your favourite artist, a song that’s previously inspired something in you, or even a song you’ve made yourself!

So drop us a message, and let us know what you’d like to see us cover in this exciting new project. Finally, stay tuned for our first official entry in ‘The Evocation Series’, coming next week!

‘Contact us Here with your Requests.’

-Brad OH Inc.

Lutra Lutra Review

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampThe interior of Filthy McNasty’s has been renovated—a new stage occupying the space formerly reserved for pool tables and Big Buck Hunter. The bathrooms have been treated with a dull wood finish—belying the bar’s name with an unprecedented sense of care and cleanliness.

Otherwise, Filthy’s is much the same as ever. The specially made ‘420’ menu is a sheet of printer paper with a scant line of items on it, and the familiar denizens pack themselves in tightly—with little pretension and even less sense of personal space—around the stage. They’re waiting for Lutra Lutra to perform. We all are.

But, we are told, there have been some complications with the opening act, and we will have to continue waiting as the band scurries about trying to solve the problem. The fans don’t seem to mind the wait so much, the booze is flowing, and spirits are high.

Lutra Lutra are an Edmonton, Alberta based band who members include Garreth Burrows (Vocals and Guitar), Katrina Burrows (Keys and Vocals), Will Smith (Bass) and Denis Frigon (Drums), and much like the freshly updated interior of the bar, they too have promised to bring in the new by debuting several songs from their upcoming LP.

Their self-titled EP, ‘Lutra Lutra’ is hardly old, bearing a 2016 release, but the brief, 6 song debut disc is already very familiar to fans of the band—who continue to mill about, eager for the show to begin.

otterheadfinal-copy

This album, given to me recently by guitar player and vocalist Garreth, was an intriguing introduction to a band notable as much for its strong and precise rhythm section (Smith is an especially stand-out performance tonight) as it is for the articulate cadence of its near-literary lyricism.

With anthemic songs such as ‘Fall Out of Love (FOOL)’, ‘Miser Remedy’, and the energetic closer ‘What We’ve Lost’, the album, despite being only just over 17 minutes, is packed full of catchy riffs and memorable lyrics which do much to showcase the band’s wry humour. Many of these songs will be guaranteed crowd pleasers tonight. It will be interesting to see how the new, untested material will hold up to these old standards.

There’s action on the floor now, and we’re told the band has managed to line up not one, but two replacement openers—both buskers pulled off Whyte Avenue and offered a spontaneous opportunity to perform. These openers, Drew Donald and Paul each performed brief but impassioned sets, riling up the audience and setting the stage for the main act.

As Lutra Lutra take the stage and offer a congenial greeting to the close-knit crowd, there is a surge of excitement on the floor, and attendees push to the front, settling into place for the show.

The set opens with several new songs—each maintaining the spot-on precision and witty lyrics the band is fast becoming known for. When ‘Miser Remedy’ hits—the first familiar song of the set—the audience is moved by a fresh energy—eagerly bouncing their heads and swaying along to the tenacious and contagious beat. This was followed shortly by ‘FOOL’, and ‘Culture and Wine’, and the crowd’s enthusiasm continued to grow as the band delivered their signature blend of technical expertise and indefatigable swagger.

The newer songs in the set showed great promise, and as I gazed about the bar, I got a sense of eager anticipation—the fans taking in each note and word with the enthusiastic attention of lovers long sundered.

While the new songs may not have brought quite the same energy to the set as the older, more familiar ones did, it was clear that Lutra Lutra’s new LP will be hotly anticipated as the band continues to deliver stellar live performances and hold true to their unique signature style.

Lutra Lutra Photo

-Left to Right: Will Smith, Denis Frigon, Katrina Burrows, Garreth Burrows-

The penultimate song of the night, the EP closing ‘What We’ve Lost’, was a special treat. The infectious tune is a natural showcase for front-man Garreth’s easy-going charisma, and the audience was quickly whipped into a raucous fervour as the band brought the show to a closing crescendo.

Lutra Lutra put on one hell of a tight show tonight. The older songs from their debut EP garnered a great deal of enthusiasm from their dedicated fans, and if tonight’s performance is any indication, their upcoming LP is sure to be a treasure of new classics. Just like the bar they played in, Lutra Lutra proved that the charm and style they’ve become known for will not be lost as they head into the future.

If you’ve yet to catch Lutra Lutra live or want to grab their EP for yourself (and you should, on both counts), be sure to visit their website (Link) for more information.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Juggalo Gang Designation

The Gentleman Juggalo LogoThe Insane Clown Posse (ICP) (Link) are no strangers to hate and controversy, and have even gone so far as to proudly wear the label of ‘World’s Most Hated Band’ (Link) like a badge of honour. But recently, things were taken in an unimaginably strange direction, when the FBI took the absurd action of labelling the Juggalos (the dedicated followers of ICP’s music) as a hybrid gang (Link).

The move was a very serious one, and has needlessly affected countless Juggalos since (Link). By labelling the Juggalos a gang, the FBI and United States government have created a near insurmountable obstacle for many law-abiding music-lovers. At present, having a ‘Juggalo’-related tattoo, merchandise, etc. could prevent a person from joining the military, could be considered a breach of probation terms, has been cited to affect custody agreements between parents, and extend sentences for minor crimes—reclassifying them as gang-related crimes (Source).

Even the self-styled ‘Most-Hated Band’ sees this as a step too far. While they’ve borne the brunt of media scorn with an optimistic grin, the ICP have taken the FBI Gang-ruling to court. Backed by the ACLU (Link), and toting a long list of grievances reported by Juggalos to stem from the ruling, ICP have invested a great deal of time and capital into suing the Federal Government to justify or overturn the ruling.

…Not bad for a couple of Clowns.

Thus far, the lawsuit has met with little success, initially being thrown out of court, and continuing to languish under delays and red-tape. But say what you will about ICP’s music, their fight against this ruling is entirely justified, and potentially one of the more important debates of our time in the realm of art and music.

You see, a gang is something which essentially functions to create meaning for an individual who suffers a desperate lack of such. It can provide a place of belonging, an identity, even a sense of purpose and community. Unfortunately, these perceived benefits tend to come—in the case of organized, criminal gangs—with their share of drawbacks—ranging from risk of injury or death, to the harm of others, and of course criminal charges.

But gangs aren’t the only way for a wayward person to find meaning. As discussed in our article, ‘The Metaphorical Imperative’ (Link), stories and art can also serve this function. By finding a sense of acceptance, guidance, and structure in the confines of a well-constructed metaphor, people throughout history have escaped from the dismal confines of their daily life and been elevated to something far greater.

In the case of ICP, this is quite literally what happened. As discussed in our article, ‘Circular Journey’ (Link), Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope initially founded ICP (then ‘Inner City Posse’) as a legitimate (if somewhat unimposing) street-gang. Rapping was just a small part of that identity. But as Violent J shares in his book, ‘Behind the Paint’ (Link), the Inner City Posse quickly fell prey to the more dangerous gangs of inner city Detroit at the time, experienced myriad legal conflicts, and all but fell apart. Violent J, ultimately finding himself in a jail cell, came to the epiphany that the gang life was not for him, and resolved thereafter to focus his efforts on music.

The Inner City Posse soon became the Insane Clown Posse, and the rest was history. ICP’s musical career is what raised them out of the gang life and gave them purpose. Likewise, many of their colleagues at their self-founded ‘Psychopathic Records’ came from similar backgrounds, and as such ICP stand as a true bastion against the gang life in Detroit. They have been a source of reprieve for anyone seeking something more meaningful for their lives. In fact, they have created purpose and employment opportunities in the poverty stricken city of Detroit, where the government has only lamented for the lost.

This effect continues today. When asked exactly what ‘Juggalos’ are, the most common answer you can expect to get is ‘family’. ICP have created for their fans a sense of unity and belonging rarely achieved—whether in music, community organizations, or even religious institutions. They have fostered a sense of meaning and purpose for countless youth—often as disenfranchised and wayward as the two Clowns were in their early life.

It is true that throughout their music, there have been themes of violence, misogyny, and even gang affiliation. In point of fact, in the song ‘Gang Related’, Violent J states it in unambiguous terms: ‘Do you rep the Hatchetman—you’re in a gang!’.

Now surely to the wise men and women of the US court system, this is as clear a confession as you could ever ask for. But the funny thing about art is that what is said is not always meant to be taken literally—that’s the beauty of metaphor after all. This point is not some foreign notion, nor is it a stretch to expect the good people of the judicial system to maintain this basic understanding of the creative process. In his song ‘Nebraska’, Bruce Springsteen admits to the mindless killing of ten individuals, but it’s unlikely he will ever be summoned before a jury on those charges, isn’t it?

Ultimately, the ‘Gang’ designation placed on the Juggalos is an affront to freedom of expression. What’s more, considering the incredible work ICP have done to improve the city of Detroit, and how their work has saved innumerable people from the gang life, it seems rather akin to striking at the hand that’s doing your work.

If the government had the clairvoyance to provide for its citizens in an informed and just way, it may be we would see far fewer people so devoid of meaning and desperate to belong. As it is however, we must simply embrace the power of music (and all metaphor) to provide these intrinsic human needs, and fight doggedly against any judicial ruling which seeks to punish the well-intentioned for fear that their decency would unveil the system’s own complacency.

So fight on ICP! The Juggalos—and the artistic world moreover—are behind you. The Wicked Clowns will never die!

-Brad OH Inc.

I Found God in the Drums of ‘Boléro’

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

This article is inspired by the classical piece ‘Boléro’ (Link), by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) (Link). If you aren’t familiar with that piece, it should be considered required listening for the article to follow. You can find it here (Link).

I listened to this piece recently, and found an unexpected intensity within its plodding rhythm. I hadn’t put the song on for any specific reason, yet early in, I understood the depth of the moment I was having.

It should also be noted, perhaps, that I was at the time firmly entrenched in my (11th?) reading of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Silmarillion’ (Link), a book to which I ascribe particular inspiration. So you should probably read that, too.

Nonetheless, my revelation started with the first beat of that oh-so-familiar snare-drum. Described as an ‘ostinato’, the pulsing rhythm of this opening drum continues throughout the entire song, remaining constant as everything else is thrown into chaos.

It struck me immediately as terribly spiritual, although it took me a while to articulate exactly why that was.

You see, in ‘The Silmarillion’, the one God, Eru Illúvatar, conceives of creation as music—performed by his angels, the Ainur. The Ainur sing his tune, but among them is the spirit Melkor, who sews discord into the song, and causes turmoil. Some of the Ainur join in Melkor’s discord, while Eru adds new themes to the music to counterbalance Melkor’s efforts.

In the end, when all music stops, Illúvatar offers the Ainur an opportunity to see what they have done, and creates the world and all existence to reflect the reality of his divine tune. Unto the Ainur he says, “Mighty are the Ainur, and mightiest among them is Melkor; but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I am Ilúvatar, those things that ye have sung, I will show them forth, that ye may see what ye have done. And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.” (Pg. 17)

Since childhood, this story always struck me as one of the most apt and inspiring metaphorical representations of the divine will. And so, as I listened to the ever-increasing notes of ‘Boléro’ rising above and competing with the persistent drum-beat in the background, this was the idea that settled in my mind.

The Silmarillion goes on to tell of the events of Middle-Earth being a representation of the Music of the Ainur, and assures us that although great evil does occur, its power is limited, and in the end all things turn to the greater good. This requires a lot of faith, but it’s something I’ve held onto since first reading it as a young elementary school boy—hoping that it would prove true in our world as it does in this fantastical place.

Throughout the duration of ‘Boléro’, the snare drums maintain their eternal beat in perfect rhythm. Meanwhile, horns and woodwinds, strings and symbols are taken up against the drums. They increase endlessly throughout the song, rising to an incredible cacophony and very nearly drowning out the snare drums which are their source.

At times, the listener can barely hear the drums, but when the music changes, or when there is a brief silence in the din, they are ever to be found beneath the turmoil, just as they were before. Patient, persistent, eternal.

Taking this in, I couldn’t help but feel I heard God in those snare drums. The music rising against it was like the duelling theme of Melkor—want and greed and malice and destruction. These are present still in our world, and will often threaten to overwhelm the senses of those unguarded ears who know not how to find the consistency of Grace beneath.

Much like the confusion of the composition at hand, it’s easy to get lost in this world. These days, perhaps more than ever, the myriad distractions and temptations we meet each day are easily sufficient to overwhelm the senses and deafen us to reason and decency. It takes a concerted effort and a determined will for us to focus on what is right and just, when so much around us seems so dark and hopeless.

But of late, I have seen greater evidence of Grace and beauty in this world than I have long held possible. It’s buried no doubt, often times nearly beyond reach. And all the while the daily racket of industry, and want, and loneliness and grief compete for our ear, turning us away from the true rhythm of the world and focussing us only on ourselves.

But to miss the rhythm is to miss the point entirely.

For no matter how dismal the world can be, there is light to be found, and beneath the din there is the rhythm of Grace for any with the will to listen for it. Immutable and constant, it plods along as it always has, unaffected and undeterred by all the competing noise, and when the racket of distraction dies down, its beauty sounds out all the clearer.

I know it isn’t easy. The clamour of discontent can be deafening, and it is often all too easy to fall into this discord and march along with the madness rather than keep to course. But this is folly, for no matter how distant it may seem, for every evil there is goodness still. Where there is hate, there is also love. Where there is terror, there may also be found mercy. For the loneliness of a consumerist society there remains the comfort of the family home. There is friendship, and loyalty, and faith, and hope, and honour…for every conceivable darkness, there is a light which can still set things right.

The drums of decency pound on, and when the din of darkness rises too high for the ears to readily perceive them, all the more must we focus our hearts and minds to that eternal rhythm, and trust that all will unfold according to that divine beat.

-Brad OH Inc.