[Metal] Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful (90%)

Nightwish…..if you are in the metal scene you surely have heard this band, it has been almost in the metal scene for almost twenty years (Angel Fall First that I consider their first official release, came out in 1997). Since the inception of the band, they marked in the milestone in the metal scene by setting a foothold for “Symphonic Metal” with other bands such as Therion or Within Temptation.
What was great about Nightwish? The orchestral and synthetic melodics coupled with heavy drums and guitar bass. Who knew that having classical music and heavy metal would marry so great? Well at least Therion gave a try the same year with “Theli” then Nightwish entered the scene. But what Nightwish brought was a voice, an opera-quality voice: Tarja Turonen. It was such a tsunami in the metal sphere that even nowadays they are students taking “Suomi” (Finnish) as college course because of Nightwish.
I got introduced to the Symphonic Metal by listening to Evanescence and the Gathering and I liked it. Then came Tarja and it was the greatest voice I ever heard and I immediately fell in love with Nightwish. It was conciliating my love for classical music and heavy riffs.

But let’s come back to this album. For me, this album is special because it conclude a hiatus I had with the band after they discharged Tarja and took Annette Olzon instead. Honestly I never liked Annette’s voice as Nightwish and also I found their two albums fairly bad. Then they dumped Annette and pick Floor Jansen (ex- After Forever and touring as ReVamp). I liked Floor since After Forever and although she will never replace Tarja she is so far the best pickup from the band (just type Ghost Love Score Tarja and Floor in Youtube). I was disappointed by “Elan” and interested by “Shudder before the most beautiful”. The album just came in, iTunes downloaded for me and pushed it through my “commute test”. First time, I had to have TWO commute tests for this one. I will explain to you later.

What can I say? Oh boy, this one really gave me a hard time because of the secrecy on it and the song pickup for its promo by Tuomas. But it feels like falling again in love for that same girl I was in love during my college years and separated with a tearful time. I really liked it and glad to see Nightwish bringing back the best it was: Orchestral Metal and great opera singer. Some have parted ways from their roots like Lacuna Coil or Within Temptation. They are surely great in the mainstream music scene but no thanks not for me.

The album is really good and despite two three tracks that I did not like such as “Elan, we have a bold and refined Nightwish album, kind a natural continuation to “Once” if you consider everything after Tarja departure as non-canon. Floor is really enjoyable.

But the big thing in that album is this one (and that one that cost me a second commute just for it): “The Greatest show on Earth”, a 25-minutes of pure evasion altering orchestral and acoustic instruments with heavy metal sequences and with Floor unleashing herself (and when she unleash herself, you rather hide your butt because she will kick yours). Imagine 25 minutes, in a single track, the longest track duration I have ever experienced (Epica fairly reach 13-minutes duration). An ode of love for the Nature and for Darwin. A must-listen for any scientists. It is such a pure joy to just sit aside from evolution (and all the molecular mechanisms driving it) and be like Darwin. Watch and appreciate how evolution brought to Earth the greatest show to see: the show of Life. This is just a marvel, tears of joy when Richard Dawkins (that I despise in other times) but I can just like hearing him quoting Darwin:

“Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

If I ever have to teach evolution in class again, surely Nightwish would be a recommendation to my students.

My conclusion? A great album, sure with flaws, but with great orchestral arrangements.
My favorite tracks: “Shudder before the Beautiful” and “The Greatest Show On Earth”.


[Sciences] Biomed Central Scientific Fraud, 34 papers retracted

Paper retractions, I hear it on a daily basis on Retraction Watch. But this one was a big heist. 34 papers, all coming from BioMed Central, a respected publisher among other scientific publishers (e.g. Nature NPG, Science, Elsevier, Wiley…).

First what is the problem? For those unfamiliar with scientific publication, it follows a particular pattern. Let me explain.

When you are a scientist like me, once you have (or think you have) a series of experiments that are bringing something new to the field, you have to publish it. Why publish it? To run experiments, you need money. The University will pay your salary and thats’ it. To have a lab running, research personnels running the experiments, travel to conferences, you need money. A lot of money.

To get money to run the lab, you need to write grants and show them that their money is in good hands and will help advance sciences. How do you show you are credible in science? You need published studies in peer-reviewed journals (I will explain that in a bit).

And finally, to get paper published, you need experiments to write such paper. Now we have a closed loop. Call it virtue circle, I call it academic Sisyphus task.

So now when you submit your paper, you will have it reviewed by other scientists (usually 2 or 3 reviewers). They will read your paper, make comments and critique and submit their comments to the Editor. This editor will decide to push your paper or not to have it published in their journal. Not all journals are created equals and are driven by what we call the “impact factor”. This is the most common (and fairly biased) metric to judge how a scientist is prolific and for the University how valuable he or she is to it.

Now, as you seek money for your lab, you have to face fierce competition for getting grants, as your publication will play a big role in the “king-making” decision. Journals often let you give a wishlist of recommended peer-reviewers (because they are in the field) and those you want to avoid (because they are competitors and they want to have their studies first published and may run over you).

Getting a paper accepted is hard, even more when English is not your native language. This is what happened. Several scientists from China and Asia requested writing services as “fee-for-service” to get their English poshed before submission. Now what happened is that such companies went further and proposed some premium services that would ease the review. They will assign “fake” reviewers that will automatically trump your paper and bias editor decision. Your paper may be full of flaws or even worse data falsification, yet it will be accepted, thanks to “fake” reviewer.

This is a problem, because once published, journals will rarely accept to publish a study trying to repeat previously published studies. If it is not new, it is not news. That is something that need to be address as biological sciences are facing a problem of data reproducibility. For instance, the STAP paper that was proposing to get stem cells as easy as pickle them in acid bath. Trumpeted early last year in a big journal, the study rapidly collapsed as a souffle.

It is time to rethink how we publish and maybe stop pushing scientists to get into the racearm of novelty and focus more on data reproducibility.



TEMPERANCE – ‘Limitless’ Album (31st March 2015 through Scarlet Records)

TEMPERANCE are a five piece female fronted Modern Melodic Metal band from Italy

Line up:

Chiara Tricarico – Vocals
Marco Pastorino – Lead Guitar & Vocals
Sandro Capone – Rhythm Guitar
Luca Negro – Bass
Giulio Capone – Drums & Keys


The track starts with dreamy child choir and gently piano,to turn in synths and pounding drums to more heavy sound. The female voice of Chiara Tricarico comes with fast tempo singing and turns to operatic vocals with backing chorus.
After the guitar solo gives power to the song and the female voice join with the male growls Of Marco Pastorino and scream to finish the piece.



The song begin with folk sounding keyboard,power drums and heavy bass to enter the female voice of Chiara with melodic and powerful tones.The guitars riffs…

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[Neurosciences] Biogen Alzheimer’s Press Release: Did they found the silver bullet to cross the BBB?


Seems the field of Alzheimer’s disease research and the field of neurosciences got hit by a storm a couple of days, with the press release of Biogen Idec about some very promising success in early clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease, this especially comes a few months after Roche dropped their clinical trials due to inconclusive clinical efficacy.
Why it is big news? It simply because when you deal with neurological disorders you have to deal to big bottleneck: the blood-brain barrier (BBB). To give you a context, the BBB allows less than 5% of current FDA-approved drugs to cross it and this is for small molecules. However, you need bigger cargos to deliver to target neurological diseases (like antibodies, enzymes or growth factors) and we easily talk about 20-100X bigger size compounds. We already try to squeeze hard a mouse across a hole in the BBB, think about try to smuggle an elephant.

It seems there is an Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s disease international conference taking place in Nice, France. Biogen Idec is one company specialized in drug delivery targeting the central nervous system. Right now, one way to try to cross the elephant across the BBB is to identify some receptors that can be used in a Trojan Horse to deliver the elephant across the BBB.

They found a particular antibody (aducanumab) capable to recognize a receptor and deliver its cargo across the BBB. Yet, they don’t stipulate which receptor it is the target. Is is the transferrin receptor that everyone try on (because it is highly enriched at the BBB) or the same receptor that binds Angiopep-2, the flagship BBB-selective peptide develop by Biogen-Idec? We will have to wait on that (until the paper got published)

One way to assess that you successfully deliver your elephant is to see how the elephant behave inside the brain. And the preliminary data look fairly promising as noted by the reduction of plaques in Alzheimer’s patients but also a slowing of the cognitive decline observed in these patients.

There are still a lot of issues to be taken care of, in particular edema (brain swelling) and immunogenicity (your immune system recognize the antibody as foreign agent and develop a immune response to it), but more importantly into a larger scale of patients (did they get a lucky set of patients or is it representative on the average population)?

We’ll see how things go because nothing is yet winned but in the war against neurodegenerative disorders, any small victories are highly celebrated among the high number of defeats. The good news is that the FDA opened a fast-track for the clinical trials, in other means it tries to open a HOV lane to help push the approval and get a new drug on the market in 3-4 years compared to the 5-10 years it usually takes.


[Metal] Ethernity – Obscure Illusions (85%)


This week I review the first album of a French-speaking Belgian progressive/power metal group Ethernity, lead by Julie Colin. This is the first album of the band and they have been fairly aggressive in terms of social media communication. After a couple of months in waiting, the album is finally on iTunes (even on iTunes US, as early as today) and of course I decided to give a try to the album (that means spend $10 for a digital copy) after previewing it. What can I say? It is a pretty nice first release.
I just wanted to warn you, this is not a symphonic metal or a female-fronted death melodic metal band, so you will not have a diva voice or female growls. just to warn you.
The sound is typically what I would expect from a progressive metal album, nice guitar bass, it is loud, it is heavy and sound nice. I very enjoyable to listen compared to what I have to listen here in US rock radio. It changes from either listening to melodic death or symphonic metal and thats not bad.
Julie is so far doing a pretty good job but yet I have to find something extraordinary on her voice, maybe because I am naturally biased on symphonic metal singers (that have some music training and sing at opera-level) or melodic death metal singers (that basically growls at high frequency). But I will honestly tell you Julie is trying hard and have some tracks in which she show some of her potential. For instance, she really show a great potential when she unleashed herself in “False Lamentations”, “Alone”, “Obscure Illusions” or “Broken Memories”. These are also were the tracks sounded very focused and sounded like to Power Metal. I would say if there a point of improvement, it is there.
Julie will have hard time to compete with other singers if they decide to turn into Symphonic Metal, but also I don’t see them doing Melodic death Metal either. Julie has indeed a very nice niche in the Progressive/Power Metal and this is where I found she was great at in her album.
Another good point of the album is the certain constancy in its overall quality, whereas this constant is often lacking in first albums from metal bands I have reviewed on my band, For instance, Hydra has some cool tracks but overall it was an okay album.

To conclude, Obscure Illusions is a good album, a great starting album. The music is good, Julie is singing good but yet I remained to be impressed. This is a tough choice for the band that appeared to explore pathways in their album. In my own opinion, the band and Julie should consider pursuing in the progressive and power metal scene. The symphonic metal scene is very competitive and require female singers with high-frequency range or that have a professional training as opera singers.
But Rome did not built in one day and surely this is a good first milestone for the band, now they have to build up and gain experience to show they can produce quality albums.

If you are looking for a female-fronted metal band and/or to escape from Symphonic or Melodic Death for a good progressive metal leaning toward power metal, this is definitively an a “should-buy” album and my album of the month, especially it is also a great way to show support to “rookies” in the metal scene.

My favorites tracks are: Obscure Illusions, XIII (13), After All Has Turned to Pain, Alone, False Lamentations.

[Metal] Nightwish – Shudder Before the Beautiful

Nightwish has been streaming a new track from their album “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” called the “Shudder Before the Beautiful”. What can I say, after listening to “Elan”, this one is really a blast in my hears, a really good surprise for a announced disaster.
Sounds like the good ol’ Nightwish, something you would have heard from “Nemo” or “Century Child” album, Floor nicely brings a continuum, closing the gap over the “Anette Olzon” era (I personally never liked Anette’s voice for Nightwish, you need someone that knows how to sing in lower tones and capable to show remarkable crescendo).
Should I jump to purchase the album? Surely not yet but let’s keep an eye for its official release and listen to the entire album before making a full review.
If you want to  judge by yourself, here is the link: