What’s Making Me Happy: July 2017

Summer has been playing ping-pong with our weather here in Massachusetts. Some days it’s sunny, 90+ degrees Fahrenheit, and disgustingly very humid. Other days it’s rainy and hovering around 70. (Though there have been glorious days in between, often with good timing for my Cape Cod trips. *smiles*) And personally, my month of July mirrored that fluctuation. Without going into detail, it went back and forth between contentedly quiet and productive, to stressful and tiring. 😐

So I’m partly glad that July is almost over, especially since it means the NYC trip is getting closer. (Yay!) It also means that today marks the next installment of What’s Making Me Happy. (Double yay!) So I’m linking up once again with fellow DIY MFA columnist Leanne Sowul and sharing five things that made me smile when I needed it most this past month.

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Review of Ayreon’s “The Theory Of Everything” Now at Sonic Cathedral


There are few musicians out there who create music that I’d call a “playground of sound.” Arjen Lucassen is one of those few. He’s the mastermind behind several progressive rock and metal projects, most notably Ayreon. And after a 5-year hiatus from Ayreon to follow other musical pursuits, Lucassen has returned to his signature rock opera with The Theory Of Everything, a story about ambition, greed, finding your life’s purpose, and solving one of physics’ most elusive equations. (And yes, the title is a direct reference to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”!) Like past Ayreon albums, Theory stirs prog rock with heavy metal, electronic music, and folk influences; and features a host vocal and musical talent, including Marco Hietala (Nightwish), Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot / Seventh Wonder), and Troy Donockley (Nightwish). So, how is it different from its predecessors – and do those differences affect the listener’s experience with the album?

Click here to read my review of Ayreon’s The Theory Of Everything.

Below is a video trailer for The Theory Of Everything. It doesn’t feature any vocal snippets, but you’ll get a good feel for the music’s range and power. Have a look and listen!

Coming Soon: I may have an Open Mic Announcement in the next couple weeks. Otherwise, things are quiet on the outside right now, but productive behind the scenes. Stay tuned!

New at Sonic Cathedral: Review of “The Land Of New Hope” by Timo Tolkki’s Avalon


As soon as Frontier Records announced they would release a new metal opera manned by ex-Stratovarius guitarist Timo Tolkki, The Land Of New Hope became one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2013. And for good reason. In addition to being the (latest) comeback for the legendary power metal shredder and songwriter, it boasted an all-star vocal lineup: Russell Allen (Symphony X), Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation), Rob Rock (Impellitteri), Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica), and Michael Kiske (Unisonic, ex-Helloween).

Does this first Avalon album live up to all of its promises? Depends on who you ask, I guess. Other reviewers have heaped on the praise for The Land Of New Hope. As for me, I enjoyed hearing Elize Ryd thrive as the central vocalist and thought the album was an easy, breezy power metal jaunt overall. But, in all honesty, The Land Of New Hope “pledges a magnificent journey but takes the listener on a relatively dull one instead.”

Click here to read my review of The Land Of New Hope by Timo Tolkki’s Avalon.

Here’s the official music video for “Enshrined In My Memory,” the album’s first single. Elize sounds very comfortable and confident on this song. Then again, her recent work with Kamelot may have prepared her for this kind of role. The song itself could benefit from stronger melodies, in my opinion. But it does get stuck in your head after a while, and I didn’t mind it doing so.

Coming Soon: My report on the 2013 Massachusetts Poetry Festival, and my website’s recent nomination for the Liebster Award.