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Novel Opening: A Quiet Night (working title…)

Quite a strange one, not sure where it’s going at the moment but it was fun to write! Enjoy…


Chapter One

Quiet nights always came as a blessing. A cool, soft breeze whispered through the air. Faintly illuminated by a vibrant moon alone in the sky, ever jubilant to be free from the tangling webs of the clouds. The silence of the winter’s evening was pure and delicate, almost unnerving to the solitary traveller. All creatures were hidden away and even the crickets and bats were nowhere to be seen or heard.

Little Lucy May was on her way home. Her footsteps lightly tapped along the concrete leading up the hill to her estate. Clip clap clip clap she went, occasionally silenced by soft turf as her feet took her from pavements to grass patches and back again. Her breath was soft despite the determination of her pace. The sharpness of the air cut away at the back of her nose, raw against the cold she gritted her teeth and kept her head down; intent on keeping her journey as short and precise as it needed to be. Her small silhouette flitted between the occasional streetlamp, street cats gazed at her from beneath parked cars, completely indifferent to her passing presence. Like the cats she knew the terrain well, barely having to raise her eyes from the ground as she twisted and turned through the dark. Before long she had reached the destination she knew as home. A terrace house just like the rest. The front door clicked open and she slipped inside.

Little Lucy May, hear us as we pray, we’re longing for your pardon, Little Lucy May…

A young girl all of eighteen years. Some said she had a pretty face, a kind girl all the same. A quiet girl all the same. She was very neat about her ways. Being very sure not to bring dirt into the house she cautiously removed her shoes after rubbing them against the doormat, then proceeded to remove her coat and hang it in its proper place in the cupboard under the stairs. Satisfied that everything was in check, she wandered into the kitchen where the clanging together of plates was heard.

They came crashing to the floor. Shards of china glistened invitingly upwards. Stacked incorrectly again, it seemed. Stacked carelessly to dry, teetering precariously against one another until a flutter of something-or-other brought them tumbling down. She sighed deeply. Her soft chocolate eyes tightened, darkened and thickened. Without pretence, her body swished round and took her to the stairs. Creak they went under the almost weightless pressure of her leather boots, creak they went all the same.

Upstairs. A closed door. An opened door. Standing in the doorway, Little Lucy May’s silhouette cast its shadow once more. A body squirmed in the blackened room, squirmed in her shadow. “Lucy, please! I’ll be more careful next time, one promises!” it babbled. The shadow entered the room and the door closed behind it. Case closed.

On the seventh day she cried for all her work was done, on the seventh day she lied for the sins she had become…

On the walls of the main room were shelves containing jars. In the jars was an assortment of creatures, each housing a unique resident. One contained a spider, a rather large one at that. It lay there all day; its long slender legs resting against the glass cage. Occasionally it would be fed. An unfortunate insect from the back garden perhaps, sometimes even one of the other residents if they hadn’t been behaving quite the right way. Maybe one day the spider would escape. Perhaps the spider would one day take a trip into one of its neighbours’ jars. There was a slip of paper stuck underneath the spider’s jar. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you!

The following morning Lucy was up and ready for college. She ensured that she was dressed neatly and that everything was in check before she left the house. The contents of her bag were in check and with a level conscience she went outside. An overcast sky, cool and dry. Perfect weather. The journey to campus involved a short walk to the closest bus stop and a twenty-minute bus journey that dropped her right outside. There were others whom she came across on this journey day after day, and day after day she would ignore them just as they ignored her. The monotonous morning rituals were mundane for everyone and small talk was not something that would apparently lead to any liberty from that fact.


Copyright Daniel Aston 2013

Album Review: A Dramatic Turn of Events – Dream Theater

Album: A Dramatic Turn of Events

Release: 2011

Artist: Dream Theater

Label: Roadrunner

Track Listing: 1) On the Backs of Angels 2) Build Me Up, Break Me Down 3) Lost Not Forgotten 4) This is the Life 5) Bridges in the Sky 6) Outcry 7) Far From Heaven 8) Breaking All Illusions 9) Beneath the Surface

Arguably the most anticipated Dream Theater album in quite some time, A Dramatic Turn of Events is the aptly named product of a shaken band. Co-founder, drummer and songwriter Mike Portnoy infamously departed last year on the back of the group’s most successful album in search of a more metallic venture with Avenged Sevenfold. Once he was surprisingly shown the door from that project he was justifiably denied his place back in Dream Theater and the band (after a long drawn out process) recruited former Extreme and Annihilator powerhouse Mike Mangini. Recent reports that Portnoy is now looking to sue his former band mates is casting yet another shadow over the Dream Theater camp, but if not more so over the ex-drummer himself. For this new album is the result of a band bravely marching on, leaving the past behind and embracing a new future. Perhaps their strong defiant approach has left Portnoy more than just a little bitter.

Eager fans will already know the opener On the Backs of Angels since it was released as an early album teaser. Our first glimpse of the new outfit is most impressive. A technically advanced yet musically enjoyable track, the opener proves to be one of the most satisfying Dream Theater tunes in recent years. Beautiful chiming clean guitars marry with the atmospheric keyboard pads and chugging riffs. Build Me Up, Break Me Down is also a success, presenting brutally heavy memorable riffs and catchy chorus lines.

Lost Not Forgotten sees the band return to the technical exploitation that they’ve become renowned for. The complex sections are perfect opportunities for Mangini to prove his worth, complementing shifting rhythmic patterns with his likeable, if not Portnoy-inspired style. Despite the instrumental virtuosity, the track fails to deliver on the melodic side. At ten minutes in length it falls victim of a tried and tested formula that the band have been milking to death over the last decade. Outcry and Breaking All Illusions contain further examples of this.

Bridges in the Sky is a more inspired musical venture. With an intro that contains Tibetan throat singing, harps, oriental chimes and a choir, the track sets itself up to be nothing short of epic. It doesn’t disappoint with the eleven minutes packing in quality riffs and melodies to make it easily one of the most playable tunes on the record. The inspiration is also found on the tender ballad Far From Heaven. The single-length song contains a believable performance from James LaBrie accompanied by piano and strings. A much more stripped-down song, it proves to be one of the album’s most enjoyable. Beneath the Surface has the same approach, the band proving that they can do just fine without a drummer at all.

If fans had any doubts that Dream Theater would struggle without Portnoy then they can breathe a sigh of relief. A Dramatic Change of Events contains some great material and much promise for where the band may grow with future releases. This is one of their more enjoyable records in recent years and a strong one at that.


Rating: [7/10]



1)      On the Backs of Angels

2)      Far From Heaven

3)      Bridges in the Sky


Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 22/09/2011

Album Review: A Thousand Suns – Linkin Park



Release: 2010

Artist: Linkin Park

Label: Warner Bros.

Track Listing: 1) The Requiem 2) The Radiance 3) Burning in the Skies 4) Empty Spaces 5) When They Come For Me 6) Robot Boy 7) Jornada del Muerto 8) Waiting For The End 9) Blackout 10) Wretches and Kings 11) Wisdom, Justice, and Love 12) Iridescent 13) Fallout 14) The Catalyst 15) The Messenger

Linkin Park is a band struggling to find an identity. The once mammoth nu-metallers have since collaborated with the likes of Jay-Z, alienating the fanbase before making yet another drastic change in musical direction with Minutes to Midnight (2007). The latter album saw the band attempt a more commercial American rock sound, ditching a lot of the rap and hip-hop sampling and even throwing the occasional guitar solo into the mix; albeit to a rather uninspiring outcome. That album turned out to be the kind of record that, given time, will adapt and grow on the listener. However for many fans it was too much of a musical change and was not worth a second spin.

So here we are three years later with A Thousand Suns. For all the critics out there that consistently (and in many cases unfairly) tread every Linkin Park release into the dirt, this album has to be something special if anyone outside their loyal fanbase is going to take the band seriously.

Nothing short of ambitious, Chesterand co. have crafted together a concept album. The theme deals with nuclear warfare and the human race’s fears that come with war and the fate of the world. The build up leading to the first full ‘song’ is nothing short of atmospheric. The Requiem and The Radiance combine synth pads, ghostly vocals and an excerpt of an interview of J. Robert Oppenheimer. The anticipation for Burning in the Skies couldn’t be greater and when it finally bursts into track 3, well, it doesn’t deliver. It turns out to be a slow and mellow number that is as depressing as it is dull, which is a shame. The album needed nothing less than an emotionally charged opener. Sure, slow and purposeful openers work, but not in this case.

Empty Spaces is mere ambience that lasts under twenty seconds and may as well be joined to its follow-up When They Come For Me. Considerably heavier, it’s a platform for Shinoda to blast out some of his rapping before Bennington adds some clichéd ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ to round things up. It’s clear that with little in the way of a catchy melody, it’s all down to the lyrics to apply a lasting effect on the listener here. I say that because it’s no standalone song, a basic riff with some tribal drumming and some mildly-pissed off rapping fails to conjure up much of a secure song structure despite the track clocking in at over five minutes. With lyrics that include passages such as ‘I will not dance even if the beat’s funky – Opposite of lazy / far from a punk – Ya’ll ought to stop talking start trying to catch up motherfucker’ it’s difficult to become emotionally connected to this.

Robot Boy thankfully begins to give the album some credibility. A dreamy number that succeeds in molding an emotional stream that flows through the ears, it is a mesh of positive and bleak feelings that presents a positive future that applies not just to the song’s message but to the record itself. Another short ambience builder follows with Jornada del Muerto before the record’s second single release Waiting For The End. The single forms into a predictable LP radio tune, a first for the album so far. It’s nothing remarkable, and is predictable in its execution making it a rather dull listen.

Blackout is a much more rewarding experience. Bennington’s screams and the catchy chorus work well in this chest-thumping anthem that injects some life into the proceedings. Wretched and Kings opens with an interview portion of Mario Savio before bursting into a heavy weight song that sounds like theLinkinPark of old. Shinoda raps the verse andBennington sings the chorus, the old formula that was so successful does a decent job here. The Mario Savio interview continues towards the end and rallies the song into a battle cry, energy is created but it never reaches the climax that’s so desperately needed.

Wisdom, Justice, and Love is essentially an excerpt of a Martin Luther King speech with some piano chords layered in the background. However the track comes to its premature conclusion with the gradual robotisation of King’s voice and cycles round the title of the song, emphasising a dark and confirmed prophesy. It’s a nice touch that again could have benefited from being expanded with the song over in well under two minutes. It flows into Iridescent that at first sounds remarkably like Coldplay’s Yellow. The song could easily have been written by Coldplay, a statement that represents the many musical perspectives thatLinkinPark have dipped into and played with. The guitar build up and choral section is a fitting end to a relaxing number that includes some un-sampled percussion from drummer Rob Bourdon, who’s presence on the album up to this point has been rather uncertain amongst the excessive use of drum loops.

Fallout is the last of the short fillers. The lyrics are the main attraction once again here, but due to the heavy use of vocoder they are hard to make out. Upon glancing at the lyrics inside the sleeve notes they turn out to deal with self-blame and the loss of things that are undeserved. Bleak and downbeat, maybe it’s best we didn’t hear them in the first place then.

The Catalyst proves to be one of the record’s obvious high points.Bennington’s vocals are powerful and believable and the build up is justified with a proper climax. It is the album’s first single and it is a well constructed song for a change. It’s a shame there aren’t more numbers like this elsewhere on this album that has managed to churn out a series of unfulfilled ideas leading to a rather disappointing feeling as though something is always missing. Whether it’s a song that fails to reach the climax it’s looking for or an undeveloped filler, the record has that essence of poor execution.

The album closer The Messenger is a suitable conclusion to what has been a mixed bag of a record. It’s kept brief and simple.Bennington’s heartfelt vocals and an acoustic guitar are gradually joined by piano and synth in this slow ballad finale.

So there it is, the latest LinkinParkalbum. By far the furthest the band have ventured from their original sound, A Thousand Suns is an interesting listen should you give it the attention it needs. It must be seen as a solid body of work and as one piece of music rather than a collection of songs; it is after all a concept album. Unfortunately it lacks consistency and at times is too bleak and mellow for its own good.

Whether it is an improvement upon its predecessor Minutes to Midnight is debatable, it’s a completely different affair. Then again, looking at it,LinkinPark have been one of the most intriguing bands to emerge from the 90s metal scene. Ever changing their musical direction has however alienated many fans, and unfortunately in their exploration they have failed to fully grasp their newfound territories. Yet still they go forward in a music scene where other bands from their time have crumbled into nothingness, so it’s a respectable effort from a band clinging onto survival.

A Thousand Suns in the end felt like a journey and the more times you embark on it the more you are likely to get from it. It is yet another original musical venture in the band’s back catalogue and who knows what they’ll attempt next.


Rating: [6/10]



1)      Robot Boy

2)      The Catalyst

3)      Blackout


Reviewed by: Daniel Aston, 13/11/2010