Review: “Dominion” by Hammerfall

by Nick Keseric

I recently reviewed Dragonforce’s newest album, Extreme Power Metal, and my thoughts on Hammerfall’s newest album, Dominion, are eerily similar. I would both critique and commend both bands as one thing: consistent. Hammerfall’s early albums were amazing, and at the time were very fresh. As they went on, Hammerfall got better and better…until they peaked, and then kept on at the same level, fluctuating a bit every album.

Barring 2011’s Infected, most of Hammerfall can be described as “templar metal” – lyrically, there’s a low fantasy vibe to most of their music. Musically, Hammerfall stands somewhere between full-on power metal and classic heavy metal, and that’s very evident on Dominion.

The album opens up with “Never Forgive, Never Forget,” something that sounds a lot like it belongs on 2009’s No Sacrifice, No Victory. The slow opening that quickly builds up energy really brings you into the album, and the rest of the song keeps up that high energy.

Following up Never Forgive is “Dominion,” the titular song. Both “Dominion” and “Testify” are a bit slower than some of the other songs on the album, but more than make up for it by being powerful. Both Joacim Cans’ vocals and the backing vocals sting hard in these tracks, and both Oscar Dronjak’s guitar work and the drum work of David Wallin on these songs hit just as hard.

“(We Make) Sweden Rock” is one of those “metal songs that glorify metal,” as well as being an anthem for the band, and it works well for that, though it brings up an issue I have with the album. The album, lyrically, skirts the usual “templar metal” themes of the band, and “(We Make) Sweden Rock” brings me out of that immersion the band brought me into. Even worse is when it’s followed by “Second to One,” It’s almost obligatory for Hammerfall to include a ballad-style song on their albums, and while “Second to One” is good, it serves to bring the album a bit away from their usual themes. “Scars of a Generation” and “Dead by Dawn” sort of bring it back, but it’s not until “Bloodline” that the album really feels like “templar metal” again.

“Bloodline” would have worked well as a title track for the album just as well as “Dominion” would have; for that matter, with the intro track “Battleworn” in front of it, it would also worked very well as an opening track. “Bloodline” certainly feels a lot more “power” than “heavy” by Hammerfall standards, and its follow-up, “Chain of Command,” stays with this theme. A lot of the tracks between “Testify” and “Bloodline” feel kind of in the middle. Finally, we end with “And Yet I Smile,” a sort of metal-ballad that ends the album really well.

All in all, Dominion is a good palette of what Hammerfall has to offer: some powerful songs at the front and more melodic yet still hard hitting hits at the end. It’s still not the band at its height, but it is the band doing what it does well.

Dominion gets 3.5 out of 5 stars. It’s a bit run-of-the-mill for Hammerfall at this point, but they still made a good album that fans will enjoy.

If you’re interested, you can listen to Dominion on Spotify here.

I also recommend checking out Napalm Record’s Dominion Track by Track on Youtube, for a little bit of context into the songs on the album by lead singer Joacim Cans.

Taking a Look at Radio Production with WONC’s Production Director

by Nick Keseric

If you listen to WONC for a bit, you might hear various pre-produced things that we play. We have a plethora of promos for various shows we have, public service announcements for various causes, and between every few songs, we play short audio clips known as “sweepers.” All of our material is produced by students here at WONC, but one student in particular is tasked with producing material – the Production Director.

If you listened in on the week of Halloween or on Thanksgiving, you might have heard some of our Production Director’s work. We’re also planning on releasing some new material for the upcoming holiday season. In light of that, I sat down with our current Production Director, Bryce, to talk about the art of producing material for the station.

Bryce is all about creating a picture with audio. Using vivid imagery to conjure some scene in the mind of the listener is where a lot of his best work lies. Bryce mentioned that for this Halloween, he “tried practicing with a binaural thing, experimenting with stereo sound trying to better convey a story of sorts.” Sound effects are very crucial for what Bryce does when he tries to “establish some sort of audioscape.” Because radio is a purely audio medium, producers need to use vivid sound effects and voices that immediately let the listener imagine what’s going on.

Production of material at the station is done by our Production Director, but we do have professional voice actors who provide voices for our work. This isn’t just so that we sound good; it gives our students a chance to work with and direct professional talent. In Bryce’s experience, a lot of the time they would “direct themselves,” and they’d be “really spot on or would take the material and put [their] own twist on it,” but there were times Bryce had to give them slight directions.

For Bryce, audio production is an “excellent creative output.” Despite being a lot of work, he finds audio production to be very rewarding. A lot of planning and pre-production goes into creating rather short clips of audio, but for Bryce, it’s a welcome change of pace from the other stuff he has to do as a college student. Prior to getting into audio production, Bryce worked a lot with video production as a creative out.

Getting into audio production, and becoming good at it, involved just producing a lot of stuff. Experimenting – like how Bryce experimented with stereo audio for Halloween – is the key to getting better.

Review: “Extreme Power Metal” by Dragonforce

by Nick Keseric

Dragonforce is one of my favorite bands, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been excited by any of their new releases. I first started listening to them shortly after they released their 4th album, and I was less than impressed with their 5th album, especially as their original vocalist ZP Theart had left. I haven’t really gotten into any of their more recent albums; I’ve given them a listen, but very little left a strong impression like the material on their first four albums. I can safely say however that with their new album I’ve gone back to being excited by Dragonforce’s new material.

I was a little hesitant at Extreme Power Metal; I wasn’t a big fan of their newer music, and the fact that the album name was reused from an earlier song (E.P.M, from their album Ultra Beatdown, was an acronym for Extreme Power Metal, a term they use to refer to their specific style of power metal) but I was pleasantly surprised to find a solid album.

“Highway to Oblivion” is a strong opening song that really shows you what the band is about. It’s nothing too new, but it’s a great addition to the band’s library. Following “Highway” is the over-the-top (both in name and in sound) “Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shred Machine.” Marc Hudson’s vocals really shine here, giving the song that “epic” feel that Dragonforce is so apt at creating. Both of these songs clock in at just over 6 and a half minutes, which is where Dragonforce’s ability to carry on their “extreme” guitar melodies shines the most.

“Heart Demolition” is also an excellent tune, although lyrically it clashes with Dragonforce’s usual motifs. Unfortunately, as one gets further into the album, the songs stop impressing as much. There’s not a single bad song on the album, but the further down in the track list a song is, the shorter it is, and a lot of the shorter songs just don’t impress as much as the longer tracks.  “Razorblade Meltdown” is one such track; good, but if I was putting together a Dragonforce playlist, I just wouldn’t include it since it would get in the way of the band’s other, better work. “Razorblade” manages to at least have a memorable music video – a rather fun video where the band more or less goes full “Tom and Jerry” on each other – but that’s the only thing keeping it from joining “Strangers” and “In a Skyforged Dream” in being forgotten when I’m not listening to the album.

The most notable songs on the album are definitely “The Last Dragonborn” and “My Heart Will Go On.” I stand by “Highway” and “Shred Machine” being the best, but “Dragonborn” and “My Heart Will Go On” are unique. “The Last Dragonborn” is a tribute song to The Elder Scrolls video game series, particularly Skyrim. It’s a nice tribute song, but it completely clashes with the band’s sound and is a weird inclusion on the album. Going from “Shred Machine” to “The Last Dragonborn” and then back to “Heart Demolition” is a huge whiplash. Ending the album is “My Heart Will go On,” a cover of the theme from Titanic. It starts with a chiptune cover of the intro, but the rest of the instrumentals of the song are almost unrecognizable as a cover of “My Heart Will Go On.” That said, the vocals still sound like the original song, keeping it recognizable, and the end result is that Dragonforce made a cover of Celine Dion that still sounds like a great Dragonforce song. And, despite being one of the shortest songs on the album, it never really suffers from the usual mediocrity that the shorter songs suffer from.

Extreme Power Metal is a typical Dragonforce album in many ways. Their longer songs really shine with their unique style, even if they’re nothing new for the band. The shorter songs slap less hard, but are still worth a listen. It’s something that fans of the band will enjoy, and even casual listeners of the band will find it enjoyable at least. It’s certainly my favorite album of theirs post-Ultra Beatdown, for what it’s worth.

Extreme Power Metal gets 3.5 stars out of 5; a better-than-good album in many ways, but not the best Dragonforce has released.

If you’re interested, you can find Extreme Power Metal on Spotify here.

I also recommend checking out the music videos for “Highway to Oblivion,” “Heart Demolition,” and “Razorblade Meltdown” on their official YouTube channel.

Coldplay’s Take on Our Society’s “Everyday Life”

Review by Jared Moser

When I heard Coldplay were releasing a new album, I didn’t know what to think. Part of me was ecstatic, considering their previous album, Head Full of Dreams, was released a whopping 5 years ago, and they’re one of my favorite bands. The other part of me was worried, because there’s a lot of pressure to cap off the decade with a creative bomb shell.

Dropping on November 22nd, Everyday Life is a double LP, separated into two parts, Sunrise and Sunset, each with eight songs. The album attempts to look at today’s society through music, which explains why it’s the first time (out of their eight studio albums) that a Coldplay album is explicit. It’s on the slow side, even for Coldplay, with what I like to call “Imagine Dragons Syndrome,” where an album has a couple of standout songs and the rest seems like filler. With this in mind, Everyday Life has maybe four standout songs, and a couple of others that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I can sense won’t age very well.

The album starts off with a melodic symphony piece, “Sunrise,” similar to the intro track to Viva La Vida, “Life in Technicolor.” It gives an all-instrumental taste of what the rest of the album’s aesthetic is. Though slow, I don’t mind it, because it sets a nice foundation for the album.

Within the first few songs, “Trouble in Town,” stands out among the others. It has a slow, melodic feel, and in place of the bridge, they use a recording of an argument between two men in the city. This is a cool way to bring the grit of reality into the album early. As the men argue, the music swells, developing into a Pink Floyd-like instrumental breakdown around the men yelling. It’s early place in the album gives the rest of the album hope.

The next stand out song is “Daddy,” and while it’s extremely slow, Coldplay implement a classic piano ballad, while lead singer Chris Martin sings softly about father and son issues. From the point-of-view of a son reaching out to his father, seemingly needing him, the father and son relationship is open to interpretation.

While not radio material, “Cry Cry Cry” is my favorite song on the record. It consists of Martin singing softly, alongside an altered voice that sounds like a young child, providing the song with a sense of innocence, over a short and sweet piano piece. Throughout the song are fuzzy crackles and pops, making it seem like you’re listening to vinyl; it’s a fantastic addition that gives the song texture. “Cry Cry Cry” combines the band’s simple and catchy style with their new raw and unfiltered sound, sounding like a classic hit from the 50’s or 60’s with the production value of today.

“Arabesque,” “Orphans,” and “Everyday Life” are some other standout songs of the album for me. From the vocals, sound, and overall feel, they’re essentially what the rest of the album lacks, though I’m not sure Coldplay wanted the whole album to be as production-based and radio worthy as these songs.

Chris Martin said this album is very personal and unfiltered, and the decision they made was to be totally raw and pure. That could explain why the band isn’t doing much promotion or touring, with the exception of an SNL appearance, and a gorgeous live stream of the album being performed in Jordan when it debuted, literally timing it with the sunrise and the sunset.

Even with “raw and unfiltered” as a goal, Everyday Life somehow lacks quite a bit of depth and substance, leaving you unsatisfied when the 53 minutes of music comes to an end. On the surface, the album is beautifully produced and poses “woke” and deep issues. However, as you dig deeper and deeper, it comes off as muddy and has a very unfocused message. It’s an above average album for just any band, but not for a monumental band like Coldplay, leading me to give Everyday Life a 5/10. At the end of the day, though, I’m a Coldplay fan at heart, and I’ll continue listening to, and enjoying, whatever they put out.

Cover-to-Cover: “Becoming”

Review by Zamin Noorani

In her thrilling autobiography, Becoming, Michelle Obama writes about how she found her voice to advocate for what she believes in, taking us through her journey from the small apartment on Euclid Avenue on the south side of Chicago, to the pristine halls of Princeton and Harvard, and all the way down to the White House.

This book was published in November 2018, but has been so popular that when I attempted to get it back then, there were over 100 holds! Already amassing over 300,000 reviews in less than a year on Goodreads with an average rating of 4.59/5.00, this memoir has created waves amongst its audience.

The first thing to know is this is not a political book whatsoever, but is rather Michelle recalling her own life experiences and inspiring us through them. Michelle writes about her time playing piano with her aunt Robbie on the South Side, to marching alongside Jesse Jackson on the streets of Chicago. She recounts her time in Ivy League schools and her life as a high paying lawyer in Chicago. Yet, through these experiences, she recalls trying to find her purpose in life and make a change. Michelle takes some sharp turns by quitting her cushy lawyer job that results in great financial losses, but allows her to make a change in her city and connect with local officials. She has the opportunity to make a difference.

Becoming was indeed very inspirational and fun to read. It’s interesting to see how things turned out well for Michelle and how she made best with her opportunities. It was great to see that despite the many odds against her, Michelle was able to come out on top and tell her story.

Cover-to-Cover: “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed”

Review by Zamin Noorani

We’ve all wondered what actually happens at therapy, at least I did. Do we really just pay someone to sit on a couch and talk to someone? Well that’s certainly not the case, as Lori Gottlieb takes us through her journey in the book: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed.

Published last April, this book had people raving, and has gotten over 25,000 Goodreads reviews with an average rating of 4.4/5. I luckily, was finally able to get my hands on it.

Lori takes us inside her life as a therapist in California and brings out the life of a number of her patients(whose names she changes of course for confidentiality). Throughout her book, we meet people like John, the producer of a very popular television show; Julie, a woman diagnosed with a rare incurable cancer; Rita, a 70 year old woman with severe depression and suicidal thoughts; Charlotte, a fresh college graduate with a drinking and dating problem; and Lori, a therapist and author who just got dumped by her boyfriend.

I LOVED this book! I’ve never been to therapy, but I was able to see that the people who have are regular, everyday people, and can be your colleagues, friends, or even a family member. Around 30 million Americans go to therapy any given year, yet we hear so little about it because most are too embarrassed to admit it.

Throughout the different stories and anecdotes that Lori tells, we can understand the different reasons why a person might go to therapy, and why that decision might be the best decision in their lives. We’re able to connect with each character individually, and it truly makes us ask, “Do we need therapy?”

At The Movies: Joker

Review by Tom Duong

I recently saw the new movie, Joker, and I’m not sure how to define it. Maybe a bit of dark aesthetic, maybe a depressive vibe. Regardless, it left an impression on me.

What stuck in my head the most is the laughter of Arthur Fleck, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix. The first thing I think of is his madness; he can’t control his laughter due to mental illness, and the laughs express the pain that he’s had to suffer. It’s also ironic, since as a comedian, his job is to make others laugh, and he can’t stop.

Arthur tried to live the best he could by staying with his mother in an apartment to help her and taking his medicine regularly. However, life seems to hold him down, especially when he gets bullied and beaten. As a viewer, I wanted to sympathize with Arthur’s challenges, but he goes off the deep end, and that becomes hard.

There are clear themes of mental illness, poverty, and how they shape people. Arthur’s transformation in the movie from a poor, mentally-ill comedian, to an insane criminal that inspires people to start a riot, was executed in a shocking way. I would suggest that you clear your head before you see Joker, since it’s very deep and full of intense emotion. But I would definitely recommend it for the great retro atmosphere and the artistic aspects.

After a Slow Start, the Bears Are Searching for Answers

by Jordan Bradley

The Bears are entering week seven of the NFL season and as fans, we’re definitely not where we expected. The Bears sit at 3-3, they’re twelfth in the power rankings, and 30th in the league when it comes to offensive yards per game. The offense is most certainly the biggest problem, and as awful as Mitch Trubisky has been, it goes beyond him.

While we’re talking about Mitch Trubisky, something needs to change with him, and fast. He currently has the third worst quarterback rating in the league at 34.2. He only has five touchdowns, and two of those were in garbage time against a prevent defense in the last game. He continues to be off-target to wide open receivers and has happy feet in the pocket.

There have been some trade talks circulating for a new quarterback, but the right idea may be to hold off on that. The market for quarterbacks nearing the trade deadline really isn’t great. There have been talks to get Phillip Rivers, who hasn’t been performing well, and is beginning to decline. Cam Newton is injury prone, and isn’t everyone’s favorite person, either. Then there’s Marcus Mariota, who would be an interesting choice, as he was recently benched and has a worse quarterback rating than Trubisky. But, a new offense designed for his skill could work better, and the Bears can provide that for Mariota.

Trubisky is just one layer of this onion of an offense. The play calling is also agonizing to witness. It’s predictable, and defenses adjust very quickly each game. Almost every series is the same: a run play that goes nowhere, a run play that goes nowhere, a short passing play for a few yards or negative yards, and a punt. Before you can even blink, the Bears are giving the ball back to the opposing team, and that’s wearing out their best weapon, the defense.

This lack of offensive production needs to change. It really is the Bears only hope for the season. You don’t win games if you don’t score points, and the defense can only help so much. Trubisky needs to be better or else his job will be gone by next year. Head Coach Matt Nagy needs to figure out what plays work and what plays don’t, and at least be slightly unpredictable.

The Bears are on a downtrend, but they still have a chance to turn it around, even with a tough schedule ahead that includes the Eagles, Rams, Cowboys, Packers, and Chiefs.

Homecoming 2019

WONC participated in this year’s homecoming festivities at NCC, painting a banner for the parade!

For the parade, we brought some of our furry friends!

We also got to hang out with NCC’s colorful and exciting mascot, Chippy!