[Metal/Symphonic Metal] Nightwish – Century Child (15th Anniversary)

Today marks the 15th anniversary of Nightwish fourth album “Century Child”, released in May 25th 2002. It is a natural evolution of Nightwish from their first album “Angel Fall First”, slowly transitioning into a more evolved symphonic elements and foremost marked by the presence of Marco Hietala as a damn good backup vocalist (to be honest, Tuomas was not such a great vocal in “Angel Fall First”).
It is a 10-track album lasting a bit more than 57 minutes. I really liked this album as it was refining the symphonic metal genre with a nice keyboard arrangements coupled with the guitars.
It starts with “Bless The Child” that exists into two versions: the album edit and the video edit (that cut through the introduction). Its Nightwish, in the direct continuation of their work with “Oceanborn”  and “Wishmaster”, maybe relieving the heaviness and pushing on the softness. I strongly recommend to listen the album edit that has a much nicer introduction. Also note the “Imperial March” tunes at the last third of the song.
https://youtu.be/U52aAa9VkEk

“End of all hope” brings on the bang and the heavy of a “Wishmaster”, whereas “Dead to The World” is more reminiscent of Tuomas keyboard arrangement heard in “Oceanborn”. “Ever Dream”, one of the classic is a very common song ending in the playlist. It is also a very good benchmark to compare the vocal styles between Tarja, Anette and Floor. This is an example on how Floor made the best match to Tarja as vocals in my opinion. You can almost shred two live performances of it, blend them together and ask you to tell me who is singing.

“Slaying The Dreamer” and “Forever Yours” (both 5th and 6th songs of the album) are the meh songs in my opinion. They are okay, but I don’t get the vibes on them so they quickly get skipped on my playlist. “Ocean Soul” in the opposite is one of my favorite, bringing the Nightwish style, a very nice romantic ballad lead by Tarja in the vocals. One of my favorite with “Phantom of The Opera”.

“Feel for you” is my opinion another campy song that also end up skipped in my playlist. Then comes the piece of resistance. “The Phantom of The Opera”, the last song of the album. Lasting a good 10 minutes with this gothic romance inspired by the 1986 Broadway musical of the same name, inspired by the novel “Le Fantome de l’Opera (Garnier)” by Gaston Leroux (serialized in 1909-1910).
It starts with the classical church organs, followed by Empuu guitars and Jukaa drums kind of marking the dueling that will take place between Tarja and Marco. This is the best duet in a Nightwish song and one of these songs in which Tarja unleashed her soprano voice and showing her professional training.
This is a must-have in your collection, for two reasons. First, this is the album before “Once” that have Tarja fronting. Second it is a very good milestone in Nightwish artistic direction in which Tuomas became more confident and focused.

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[Movies/SciFi] Star Wars – A New Hope (40th Anniversary)

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the first Star Wars movie “A New Hope” (that will become Episode IV). I was -2 years when it came (likely a Type II oocyte hidden in a follicle) but it was my first Star Wars I had watched.
Imagine being a teenager or a kid and watching the original trailer:

I still remember how I had to fight with my sibling to share the TV on a Sunday night, as its airing was simultaneous to another movie, zapping to its channel during commercial breaks. It was love at first sight! Aliens, spaceships, lasers (pew! pew!), great villain (Darth Vader aka Dark Vador in French), the famous Tie fighters roar (Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrsshhhh!!!!).

It also started the rivalry between Star Wars and Star Trek. Historically, Star Wars surely took a lot from Star Trek “The Original Series” in terms of space technology and phasers. But Lucas also took a lot from action movies, from cape and swords movies (you can replace the lightsabers with regular swords, set the Death Star as a fortress and voila!), from Western movies (the Tatooine and Mos Eisley cantina surely reminds a good ol’ dirty saloon, you can replace Solo and Greedo with a Colt or a Smith & Wesson revolver and still achieve the same outcome), from war movies (the final battle of Yavin, you could almost put this into the biplane dogfights of World War I and have Darth Vader posing as Red Barron).

If Trek and Wars movies were into a ring for a death match, Wars would win easily. Wars also set the standard very high, putting Trek in a very difficult situation. Just see Star Trek: The Motion Picture and just put the popcorn aside. It is slow. Very sloooooooooow (did I say how much I hated the uniforms in that Trek movie?).

Maybe the great thing about Wars is its opening, with John Williams mythical opening credit theme (that was then used as a welcome hymn in “V” to greet the first delegation of aliens landing on Earth to collaborate with Earthlings) followed by the “must-have” scrolling text that serves us as a ramp into the action.

Then Boom! You see the Tantive IV being blasted, overflown by the Star destroyer. Bang, straight into the action, with the rebels preparing to be boarded by the Galactic Empire. How this cannot be awesome witnessing that with a kid? All sugar-coated by the remarkable work of John Williams and the London Symphonic Orchestra that blends the visual action with the percussions. Thats how you get kids into classical music!

There comes Lord Vader, this huge and dark figure, breathing through without a word watching the causalities lying around all over the place. Comes in the famous Leia scene and the escape pod. The first action moment of Darth Vader is marking any kids, the deep voice of James Earl Jones with the physique of David Prowse. Here we are. A badass and ruthless villain, all shrouded in mystery and strength.

Then comes the arrival in Tatooine (from the Tunisian town of Tataouine, Tunisia) and the encounter with the Jawas that make it accessible to the kids and introduce us to Luke Skywalker.

Follows up the introduction to Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Chewbacca……the rest is history. A very tight and neat cuts that makes the narrative exemplary with little room for dead periods, bringing up the action as a roller-coaster without overkilling it.

Not even forgetting to mention the presence of Peter Cushing posing as Moff Tarkin and rival to Darth Vader, reminiscent of the rivalry of World War 2 movies between the Wehrmacht and the SS division. This is not innocent, as the Galactic Empire takes a lot of inspiration of Nazi Germany by its ruthless to achieve victory and homogeny at any cost.

Star Wars launched the first concept of merchandising, tying a whole toy line with the movie, setting probably the first massive toy collectionite in the galaxy. It is so engrained in the culture that almost anybody knows “Star Wars” without even watching the movie.
It surely inspired “Battlestar Galactica” TV series and James Bond “Moonraker”. It even was used as a codename for one of the most ambitious if not ridiculous Cold War operations aimed to put in orbit satellites with lasers to counter any threat from USSR.
It even had its “disco” soundtrack by Meco (oh man, it sounds so cheesy now!):

It sets up the spoof-movie “Spaceballs”, even inspired some local knock-off from Italian and Turkish movie producers like “Starcrash” (introducing a young ‘Hoff)

Or “Dunyayi Kurtaran Adam” aka “Turkish Star Wars”

And many mores….

Star Wars became an icon of a whole GenX culture (just see the Star Wars special episodes of “Family Guy” or “Robot Chicken”).
You cannot undo something that cannot be undone and Star Wars is one of these movies you can keep watching over and over again without feeling the boredom of watching them as it almost feel fresh despite knowing every single scenes.

“May The Force Be With You”

 

 

 

 

 

[Synthmetal/Videogames] Master Boot Record – “Shadow of The Beast”

Master Boot Record has been very good in covering some mythical video games into synth metal form, giving a prime electronic sound that wish you to have my old Amstrad CPC 6128 back online.
The latest crush I have is on “Shadow of The Beast” cover. Wow, it nicely renders it giving this huge envy to play it again with this soundtrack in the background. Listen and enjoy!

[Sci-Fi/Star Trek] Star Trek: Discovery First Official Trailer

Just in time as I concluded my six-months journey (I started last Thanksgiving) through the Star Trek franchise (including the different movies), CBS just popped out the first official trailer for “Star Trek: Discovery”. It was generating enough interest that the server containing the video was completely saturated with requests.

The plot puts it 10 years before TOS and based on the trailer, it feels like a seamless transition from ENT in terms of the Starfleet uniforms (harboring the electric blue uniform) but also transitioning into TOS by the presence of ribbons marking the different classes (executive/gold, sciences-medicine/silver, operational/copper). The interior design of the ship look sleek, the photography pretty awesome. The only thing that bugs me are the Klingons (that look even more ridged and bald).

Now the thing that is bothering me: It will be only on CBS-Access (there are rumors that Netflix may propose them in his streaming offer) and that means $$$ to watch it.

Now, its gonna be a long summer…..

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24754790

 

[SciFi/Star Trek] Star Trek The Motion Picture – Daft Punk Tron Legacy Audio Cut

If you are a Trekkie, you know the big debate about Star Trek: The Motion Picture (TMP). It was released about the same time than Star Wars: A New Hope and when you come from Star Wars, TMP appears slow….very slow…….and also kitsch. Very kitsch. I am still try to understand how, 40 years later, they had made the decision on the Starfleet costumes (some ugly PJs that should have never seen light, even back in the 70s).

Now something interesting came that week, someone has the genius idea to blend TMP, cut into the extra-fat and plugged in “Tron Legacy” soundtrack. Oh boy, I really loved that sequel to “Tron” with the remarkable work of Hans Zimmer and Daft Punk, through their MOOG synthesizers, giving this primal electronic sounds that as synthetic is can carry some of the deepest emotions. The photography was sleek, it was well directed and was giving a major upgrade to “Tron”.  Just look back at the famous Light Cycle scene how the video and the audio blended perfectly:

Suddenly, TMP becomes a new movie and really makes me think if there was some very clever cut, with a re-designed soundtrack, could become much more watchable. It also now revived my interest in “Tron: Legacy” and I really hope Disney decides to get “Tron3” from the back-burner.

 

[Stem Cells/BBB] Modeling Psychomotor Retardation using iPSCs from MCT8-Deficient Patients Indicates a Prominent Role for the Blood-Brain Barrier

Vatine et al. show that human iPSC-based modeling can pinpoint the origin of a neuronal disorder in the brain as a defect in transport of thyroid hormone across the blood-brain barrier, rather than in the neurons themselves.

Source: Modeling Psychomotor Retardation using iPSCs from MCT8-Deficient Patients Indicates a Prominent Role for the Blood-Brain Barrier

[Stem Cells/BBB] Huntington’s Disease iPSC-Derived Brain Microvascular Endothelial Cells Reveal WNT-Mediated Angiogenic and Blood-Brain Barrier Deficits

Lim et al. show that HD iPSCs-derived brain microvascular endothelial cells have impaired angiogenic and barrier properties. Transcriptomic analysis provides mechanistic insights into pathways that underlie dysfunction, and WNT inhibition prevents angiogenic deficits. This system also suggests strategies to reduce disease burden and assess BBB penetration of drugs for HD.

Source: Huntington’s Disease iPSC-Derived Brain Microvascular Endothelial Cells Reveal WNT-Mediated Angiogenic and Blood-Brain Barrier Deficits