Karnivool, My Pandemic Band

The last concert I physically attended was a 10 Years concert on New Year’s Eve, 2019. We were able to meet the band before the show, and then get up on stage as they rocked in the New Year. Everything pointed to a great year ahead!

Then of course COVID happened, the lockdowns… well, it’s easier to say 2020 happened.

Through the last year, I’ve listened to plenty of music while I worked from home. Occasionally trying out new bands here and there. Some stuck but most didn’t.

Then came a band from Australia called Karnivool.

And they grabbed me immediately.

I’m not sure if it was the music or the lyrics or if I was just in the right mood on the day I discovered them (“discovered” a band that has been around for 2 decades), but I immediately listened to their 3 most recent albums online before going and purchasing them for my personal collection (I’m not a Spotify guy, I like to have some level of ownership over the music… also get off my lawn!).

Throughout the last year, a number of bands have done live concerts online. 10 Years have done 2 that we’ve watched. And while it will never be the same as being there alongside hundreds of your fellow fans as the music fills the club, amphitheater, stadium, etc. it was nice to be able to see the band and listen to the music.

Which brings me to this past Wednesday night when Karnivool did much the same in celebration of their album Sound Awake’s 10-year(ish) birthday. They played in front of an empty theater. Without the fans there, the music was as raw as it could possibly be while still filling every seat in a small way. Listening to the songs that I’ve now loved for maybe 9 months but had been written so long ago turned them into something else on that night. It was almost as if the lyrics themselves morphed to not be about what they were originally penned for, but instead now told the story of the last year. These lyrics hit me hard that night because I was expecting them, but I didn’t expect what they meant in light of everything.

Simple Boy

“I will fight till there’s nothing left

Watch the world together from this sinking ship”

At certain times over the last year, this is exactly how I’ve felt. So many days where I wondered when there would be a light somewhere to help guide us through the darkness. There is a strength in standing tall and not completely giving into despair, even on a sinking ship.



“Don’t leave this too long

(It won’t take long)

Tomorrow will come

(Hang on)

You won’t have to wait long

(We’ll rise up again)

It’s your day in the sun”

A bit of an anthem here with the key piece to me “Tomorrow will come” followed by the echo of “Hold on”. That’s what we had to do on so many days when the four walls around us threatened to close in entirely.

“Hold on”

To each other. To hope. To our sanity.

“Hold On”


New Day

“This storm is coming

You should stay home

But I fear you won’t”

A frustration with so many in the world who think they know better. Nothing more needs to be said.


Set Fire to the Hive

“There’s no second chances here”

For all the souls we lost (and still are losing), it serves as a reminder of what is at stake. That if you don’t behave right, you may not get a chance to regret your choices.




No, I don’t feel so safe here

Imagine that everything’s affected by a cause

In this game you call luck (There’s nowhere to go)

Well, I don’t feel so lucky, no (Lie to yourself)

Just when I think I’ve worked it out

These pieces move and I’m back to the start”

Luck is a strange thing. Some people walk around lucky and not know it. While many others are cursed with the knowledge that their luck is seemingly always on the bad side. Again, pressing that luck this last year… when do you feel safe? No one can answer that question for any of us, but I know there were many times were “I don’t feel so safe here”.


All I Know

“Are you with me?

(Can we relate, can we relate, can we relate?)

Are you of like mind?

Are you with me?

(Can we relate, can we relate, can we relate?)

Are you of like mind?”

For good or bad, being of like minds can be reassuring. When those minds are diametrically opposed to your own, it feels like madness. There were days where I could only wonder if there was any way to break through to others… “can we relate”.



“You seem afraid, don’t be alarmed

It’s only the face of things to come.”

A little bit of hope here, even if these lines don’t feel hopeful. Being afraid isn’t a bad thing… without fear there cannot be courage.



“Still I remind myself

How I define myself

Still I remind myself

(I needed to know)

How I define myself

(I needed to know)

I needed to know

I needed

I needed to know”

I think many of us not only used this time to define ourselves (our lives) but also it gave us time to redefine ourselves if we wanted. Self-reflection might be one of the silver linings of 2020. It doesn’t make what we went through any less bad, but it could make the rest of our days that much better.



“Don’t you feel the same?

Don’t we fear the same things?

Don’t we feel the same?

(Don’t you fear at all?)”

Another thought about shared fear. About not understanding how some can be so cavalier and for others you are white-knuckling the whole time.


There were other lines, other moments that hit me in only the way that watching a singer stand in the midst of empty seats can hit you. When I said that the music can fill you, I think that’s the beautiful thing about all music. There is escape, reflection, learning, yearning, and all the possible emotions wrapped up into one experience. To be a small part of that from halfway around the world… these were my moments and emotions to take away. It can tie you to a moment and also help you to transcend that same moment. Perhaps that what this band and this moment will always be for me.


John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

My Life as a College DJ

Image by Michi S from Pixabay

Spinning the black circles. Finding those up and coming bands. Flipping through 30+ years of vinyl to find those forgotten secrets.

I did all of that during my brief time as a DJ at 91.1 WREK at Georgia Tech my freshman year.

The thing is, it’s not like it was even on my radar. That wasn’t something a random college student would do. While I was finding new bands to like/love and music was a passion of sorts, it wasn’t something I’d ever given any thought to. In fact, had my roommate and another friend not found out about the open sign-ups, I would have never had the chance to even bother.

The actual radio station back then (and I’m assuming now, but I don’t know) was right beside the Basketball arena, which meant it was about a ten-minute walk from my dorms. I’m not sure what a college radio station was supposed to look like, but this one didn’t disappoint. A couch that likely was considered used in the late 70s adorned the common area. A beat-up soda machine sat off to the side. Rumor had it if you pressed two of the very worn buttons at the same time when you were making your selection, a can of beer would instead descend from inside. Inside the actual booth where we played music was big enough for a couple of people to sit, with a large desk-like apparatus that held the cd player, the record player, and assorted other buttons and dials. Just behind that was a larger room filled from top to bottom with all the vinyl you could possibly want.


From https://www.wrek.org/gallery/historic-wrek-gallery/

So the deal was (I think this is right) 2 or 3-hour shifts where you marked which CDs or vinyl you’d played during your session (think of an old-school notecard inside your library books and it was the same thing). They divided the newer bands they wanted you to play at least once a day. In addition, for an hour you had to play one reggae song and one rap song. Finally, once an hour you could play anything you wanted from the back.

Now here’s the thing about college radio music – a lot of it SUCKS. I legitimately played songs that sounded as if people didn’t have drums but instead had pots and pans they were playing on. And I’m being completely serious. So what happened was you’d find a handful of bands that you liked enough to play during one of your sets, and you just prayed the person working before you hadn’t already played them (because then they were off-limits for the rest of the day). The other thing you discovered were the longer songs. Something maybe 7 to 8 minutes in case you needed to run over to the restroom.

Finally, during your sessions, you’d peruse the back area where there were tons of bands that no one has ever heard of. Oh, they had some things you would know… they had Faith No More’s Epic and The Police Synchronicity, but you had to be very careful with which track you chose.


Since I’m a big Police fan, when I found the album sitting back there I decided that I’d delve into one of the more obscure tracks to play. I put it on as my “song of choice” for the hour and within thirty seconds the phone rang and someone growled – “turn that off!” I was so nervous that I’d broken some unwritten rule that I did stop the song in mid-chorus and swapped it with some garage band’s terrible pot banging. The next day when I went to look for that album (thinking that I just chose the wrong song)… it had magically disappeared.

If you worked at the radio station there was an opportunity to sign up to be on the guest lists for various clubs around the city and nearby towns. Which was extremely cool considering I didn’t have a ton of disposable income, to begin with. The problem for a newbie like me was the sign-ups were in order of seniority. So I signed up for a few things here and there that an older DJ then sniped from me. In the 5 months of working there, I managed to get on 1 guest list: Helmet at the 40 Watt in Athens. Considering they were one of my favorite bands at the time, I was just praying no one would snipe my passes, but sure enough, I and a friend got to go.

https://www.wrek.org/gallery/historic-wrek-gallery/ I believe that’s the same couch from my memories.


One other thing the radio station did was broadcast the college baseball games. As spring approached, multiple afternoon shifts would butt up directly to the games. Normally, there was a DJ who would cover that shift which mostly meant making sure the initial setup worked and then being on hand for any issues during the game. Except on that one day when the end of my shift approached and the DJ still hadn’t shown up. The clock turned 5 and the baseball guys called in, saying they were ready for the hand-off… and me… the guy who was nervous about screwing something up in the first place, suddenly had to explain to them that the regular guy wasn’t there, and they’d need to walk me through things.

I don’t remember any specifics, but I know I had to go mess with the main “machine” (my brain fails me what it was called), something I didn’t interact with AT ALL. The clock was ticking, I’m cursing the DJ for being late, and I’m sure the broadcasters were wondering if the game was going to make the air.

It did. After about 1/2 an hour the late DJ showed up, thanked me, and then I left hoping to never have to do that again.


It is only now, looking back, that I wish I’d stuck with it for a little while longer. After summer, my friends kinda petered out on it, and since that was half the reason to do it… and I was going to be co-oping in the winter quarter anyway (which meant I wouldn’t have time to do it), I stopped signing up for shifts. Before too long it had become a weird thing that I’d done… something neat to put on my resume for a little while as “hobbies” or something interesting about me.

Mostly though, I wish I’d come up with my radio voice back then.


John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com


The Dark Artist Playlist – All the Songs I Play While Painting


Normally, if you asked me what kind of music I listen to, I’d hit you up with the strangest of combinations. “Death metal, classical soundtracks, and more death metal,” I’d say. I might rattle off a list of obscure soundtracks, old school death metal albums, and artists from the early 90’s, and you’d probably roll your eyes.

It’s okay. That’s a normal reaction. Contemporary music just isn’t my thing.


When I get down to painting…

I sometimes get even more obscure.

So let’s dive right in.

These are my top ten music selections, whether artists or individual albums, to which I listen while painting away my days and nights.

Please enjoy…


Hildur Guonadottir

Say her name three times fast, I dare you. So, what can one say about Hildur? Most probably know her as the Oscar award-winning creator of the Joker soundtrack. But really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Hildur has several albums, soundtracks, and collaborative pieces with other European artists, ALL of which are amazing. For melancholic string work, atmospheric vocals, and emotional yet subtle compositions, no one is quite like Hildur.

For starters, try her solo album, Without Sinking. The string work alone is enough to make my paintbrush move without my even touching it.

And then move right along to Saman, whose atmospheres and moods aren’t like anything else on this list.

Late at night, while the rest of the world dreams, there’s a pretty good chance I’m wide awake, painting my heart out, absorbing hours of Hildur’s work.




Hans Zimmer

Ok. Let’s go a little more mainstream.

Everyone knows Hans Zimmer, right?

The composer behind the Gladiator, Interstellar, and Inception soundtracks?

All credit to the master. I’m sure I’m but one of thousands who are inspired to create based on Hans’ work.

I mean…just listen to this.





Up until about two years ago, I’d never heard of this band. And then one day I devoured this album, and I knew there was no going back.

Agalloch is a bit louder and more aggressive than most of the sounds on this list. And yet…the depth and length of their albums are enduring enough to inspire plenty of art.

When trying to categorize Agalloch, I sometimes lack the words. They’re not really metal, nor classical, nor contemporary. The way they blend acoustic guitar with slower, chunkier, heavier riffs, and the sheer longevity of most of their songs allows one to fall into a creative ocean…and not need to surface for hours.

I prefer listening to these guys when creating larger paintings. I let the drums set the pace for my background brush strokes, and then I forget what time of night it is.

Sadly, they’re no longer making music. But their catalogue is more than enough to occupy your ears for days.




Depeche Mode

80’s fans will instantly recognize the name, and no further questions will need to be asked.

For everyone else, I’ll say only this. I don’t generally care for most 80’s bands. They’re much too poppy, too concerned with their hair.

But then there is Depeche Mode, one of few artists from that long ago decade capable of creating a genuine dark mood. Yes, plenty of their songs are about addiction and broken hearts. But I’m not really here for the lyrics, after all. I’ve here for Depeche’s moody beats. Their heavy sense of regret. Their darkness.

And more’s the better for painting.

Here. My personal favorite song, Waiting for the Night.





Johann Johannsson 

Every once in while, as many of us know, Spotify will deliver us down into a musical rabbit hole.

It was on one such night, while I patiently worked on another of my giant dark tree paintings, Johann emerged onto my playlist.

We’ve talked about Hildur Guanodottir already. Johann Johannsson is quite similar, if darker and more heavily produced. His soundtracks are truly all over the map in terms of depth, mood, and tonal range.

For starters, there’s the super intense Sicario soundtrack. But then there’s this bizarre gem, which I can’t even begin to categorize.

There are nights during which I simply set my music box to ‘Johann’ and never look back. My only grief is that he passed away recently, and thus won’t be able to create more of his wondering, ethereal music.



Type O Negative

You might ask yourself, “What the hell are these guys doing here?”

Well… Everyone once in a while… I need to add a splash of anger to my art.

And who better than Type O?

I remember being fresh out of high school. And yes, that was ages ago. I heard Peter Steele booming away on albums which seemed to last forever, and I was hooked. As an artist, and as someone who needs to set the mood…and then for it to last a while, I’m not sure there are too many better choices for angst and anger than this here album. Or this one.

Do they truly fit in with the rest of my cello-heavy, moody-acoustic choices? No. Not at all.

And yet here they are.



Max Richter

Speaking of moody, here’s a little something.

Max Richter is the master of one thing – long, enduring, ethereal soundtracks. Yes, he has shorter works, such as this beautiful piece. But primarily he deals in songs that seem unending, songs with a limited range but a very striking hook. There are no words (literally everything he does is instrumental) to describe some of his albums, one of which, at 8 hours, 24 minutes, he created with a theme and mood so simple, one could put it on in the background and fall into a waking dream for days.

If I want calm, and if I want to paint with slow, serene strokes, Max is my choice.






But then again, if I want raw, dark power, I turn to no other than the evil side of Elvis, Glenn Danzig.

Look, say what you will about Danzig’s newer works (which aren’t very compelling) his older music is unparalleled. Yes, he has the one soundtrack-ish album, Black Aria, but for my deep, dark art nights, I turn to his original four compilations, Danzig 1-4.

If a painting requires fury, sorrow, and perhaps more than a splash of dark passion, I go here, or especially here.

And my paintbrush and I will never look back.





Robert Rich / Alio Die

Ok, let’s go completely off-grid.

If someone had asked me ten years ago, “Do you like New Age music?” I’d have slapped them in the jaw and shot fire out of my eyes. “New Age, you say? Are you out of your mind?”

Fast forward to today, and I get it now.

There’s something meditative about certain albums I’ve (accidentally) unearthed, and after lengthy experimentation, I’ve decided Robert Rich (and Alio Die, but primarily Robert Rich) is my go-to as far as shadowy, murky, atmospheric music. For example: this. And this. I’ve found myself listening to these and others not only while painting, but while driving long-distance, and finding inspiration whether standing before my easel or riding the long, lonely road.

How far will I follow my New Age curiosity? I suppose time will tell.




Gregorian Chants

Ok, so…yeah.

At times, I find myself craving the most classical of classical music, the purest, simplest form of human noise-making.

And that, my friends, is chanting.

I don’t have a favorite album for this sort of thing. In fact, other than the Tallis Scholars (whom I adore) I don’t know the names of most of the artists/monks who create this wonderful expression of voice.

But on some afternoons, if the sun is shining just so, and if the mood so strikes me, I’ll put on an hour or five of Gregorian chants and forget I live in the 21st Century.





If you haven’t guessed by now, pretty much all I do is listen to music and make art.

My art is here.

I hope it makes music for your eyes.


J Edward Neill

Top Eleven Albums – Part 2

So last month there was a bunch of Facebook posts to talk about your favorite albums, but not actually give any reasons… just post something and leave it like that. But as I said in part 1, context is key.



The Police – Message in a Box

This is a cheat and it isn’t one at the same time. This is a full collection of all their albums. But when I received this box set for Christmas I was 14 or 15 and I only had Synchronicity. But I also knew that I loved any songs by the band which came on the radio. For some reason, I asked for this thing which might have been $40 or $50 on that basis alone. And when I think about it, I probably only really knew about 5 or 6 songs of theirs.

So I got this full thing of like 78 songs which ran the gambit of their entire career. And like most things, I probably listened to it all once and then skipped to my favorite songs.

But as time went on, I started listening to the other songs. And I found ones that I never knew existed. Driven to Tears is a punch to the gut every time. The Bed’s Too Big Without You speaks to me anytime my wife and I are apart for too long. I Burn For You.

Deeper cuts for me.

So it is a Christmas gift, but more than that it is a gift where as I got older, it showed me different faces to the music. And while that might happen with any album, when it is an entire catalogue, it makes it to the point where you appreciate the band all the better.


Nirvana – Nevermind

Like so many people of my age, this album fundamentally changed how you listened to music. In many ways it is the true line of demarcation. There is certainly a time Before Nevermind and an After Nevermind stamp. But weirdly, I more remember when I first heard Smells Like Teen Spirit. It was at one of our High School Basketball games where it was played during the shoot-around just before the game. As much as I watched MTV, I didn’t know what this song was, but instantly liked it.

Later, I realized the irony of that moment with the Cheerleaders and the stands and all of that. Everything the song was sort of railing against, and here it was being played without any other regard.

And I had no idea what it was, but I was instantly drawn to the sound. I needed to know more. I needed to hear more.

The other part that I think about is when Chad Shonk had a BBS (Bulletin Board) and to test it out, we would chat across the computers through our modems (this feels like the stone ages now). But sometimes you weren’t sure if you were connected, so he would write:




And I would respond with:

How low?

Pantera – Far Beyond Driven

With Cowboys from Hell and Vulgar Display of Power, I didn’t have those albums until Egg Embry made me a pair of tape copies. This was at the time when I would have just gotten a CD player in the car and so tapes weren’t going to get listened to all that often. Yet, I listened just enough to know I liked Pantera.

This album sealed that for me.

However, as much as the album told me how much of a metalhead I might have been, it was going to the concert for this tour that sealed it for me. It was at Lakewood Amphitheater in Atlanta and we managed to get like 13th row. Strange as that sounds to have seats for a Pantera show, it is a Top 5 show for me.

Alice in Chains – Dirt

I found out about Alice in Chains from the Singles Soundtrack (which would/should be in my top 20 for influential albums). Where Nirvana and Pearl Jam were the darlings of the magazines and MTV, Alice in Chains felt like it was still a secret (even though it was not). They felt more metal than any of the Grunge bands. And listening to this was the first time I’d really heard a concept album. It took you on a full story from beginning to end, made the agony of that downward spiral into drugs and death… you felt the pain.

Weirdly, I don’t know if I have a specific story for this. I remember it being a major soundtrack of my teenage life even if I never dabbled in drugs or alcohol, this was as good a reason why I stayed away.

Deftones – Around the Fur

It was another soundtrack that introduced me to the Deftones: The Crow 2. They had one song on there and were the standout track for me. I searched them out (back when you needed to go to record stores for such things) and found their first album and fell in love with the band.

This was the soundtrack of my 1997 and 1998. It accompanied me on many a road trip. It was a comfort when I needed to rage at the world and, probably, more importantly, was one of those albums that all my friends loved. Which, especially when you are younger, helps create an even stronger bond with the music.

Pearl Jam – Ten

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, Pearl Jam has been mentioned. Heck, if you’ve ever met me and we talk about favorite bands, I don’t hesitate to claim them as mine.

As to stories, Chad left his copy of Ten at my house and I had it for a few days when he asked for it back. I hadn’t listened to it at all. For some reason, without hearing any of their music, I was convinced I didn’t like them. But, seeing as I needed to bring the disc into school the next day, I played it.

And then I played it again.

And then I got out a blank tape and copied it onto it.

With most albums, the first listen is rarely a “fell in love with it”. I normally find a couple of things I like and as I continue through, I like it more and more. But Ten was different. It spoke to me through the music and lyrics and the actual construction of the songs on the album. I fell in love with the non-hits like Deep and Garden to the point that I may love those songs as much as any hit they’ve ever put out.

And when Release comes to an end, and we slowly fade to what was the intro… my journey becomes complete.


John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com


Top Eleven Albums – Part 1

Image by annca from Pixabay

I was talking with my in-laws over the weekend about memory. They volunteer at Grace Arbor, a place where older folks with various memory/dementia issues can go for the day and have activities and listen to music (among other things). They mentioned that they heard the portion of the brain which remembers music never truly goes away.

Which reminded me of a scene in Before Sunset where Ethan Hawke is talking about how misuc can be a form of time travel for a person. That when you hear a particular song it returns you to the place where it means the most to you and instantly you are 8 or 18 or 28 again.

I love that idea.

And then on my Facebook feed various people have all been doing the FB challenge of posting your favorite albums (or ones that had the greatest effect upon your life) but without any comment.

But the comment… the context is key. It’s as important as anything else. So… here’s some context.

Far – Water and Solutions

I’m 20 and my friends have rented a ski cabin in North Carolina for the weekend. Egg (who discovered the band in the first place) puts on Water and Solutions and it becomes, for me, the theme of the trip. It’s heavy at times and yet soulful. No one who hears it in the cabin has a bad word to say about it.

Later, I’ll find out the lead singer (Jonah Matranga) has a tape of some of his solo stuff available to send off for through the mail (good lord, that’s like the dark ages). I send away for them, immediately transfer them from the tape which arrives to a digital format, burn it onto a cd, and still wear those songs out.

Even later, I’ll be at a club show for Far and decide to tap him on the shoulder and tower over him with all 6’5″ of my frame in order to tell him how much I love his music. Egg says I gave the guy the scare of a life. I’m not so sure.

!0 Years – The Autumn Effect

Somehow, due to me putting a bunch of music on my wife’s phone over a decade ago, 10 Years became one of her favorite bands. Last year, 10 Years played a anniversary show where they played this album from front to back. It was both of our first times seeing the band (somehow we kept missing them previously). As it was the first night of this anniversary tour, they had only rehearsed the album, so when they went off stage after the last song, we expected an encore song or two. The lead singer came back out, informing us that they had nothing else, but that wouldn’t satisfy us, so, all by himself, he sang one of the more beautiful versions of their song “So Long, Good-bye”. And we all joined in. Just a couple of hundred people and a guy with a microphone singing as loudly as we could.

One of the best moments from any concert I’ve ever been to.

The Misfits – Collection 1

When you are younger, there are so many ways your music tastes can go. Things you hear your parents play can go a long way to shaping you. My parents listened to the Oldies station nearly exclusively. Lots of late 50s and 60s songs. In fact, there was a time where my sister and I didn’t realize there were other stations on the radio. It never changed from the one station, and for some reason, it never occurred to us that those MTV songs we heard had to be on the radio somewhere.

Yet, it is through your friends where I think the key music comes in. So when Lee gave me a copy of the Misfits, I had no idea what I was in for. It destroyed my brain. These 2-minute songs (at the longest) were a blistering, blazing, fireball of in your face music. And they sang about the most outrageous things when they weren’t singing about some weird movies I’d never seen.

I must have been 12 or 13, at the beach in Destin, and listened to these songs over and over on my Walkman. I didn’t dare let my parents listen, but my sister still almost ruined it by sneaking a listen and then telling them about what she’d heard. For some reason, they were unfazed.

But that was really the moment that the heavier side of rock/punk was going to be my wheelhouse.

Taproot – Blue Sky Research

I’m sorry if Nu-Metal left a bad taste in your mouth. I will never understand that. It is the music that I listen to the most even to this day. And I would claim that this particular album might be my favorite of the entire genre. I can listen to it over and over and have never gotten sick of it. It feels like such a complete album where there is no one song I would remove from it. I love it so much, I’m interested in hearing any of the songs that might have been written around the same time.

With this one, I’m at work and needing to really focus on whatever project I’m working on. And this CD will not get removed from my CD Player. When I reach the end, we just loop around to begin again. But it isn’t only work, when I’m writing, it is one of my go-to albums to put on, pushing and pulling me into the correct train of thought.

Shock Lobo – My Wicked Soul

There are a handful of bands that I have seen which were openers for the band I wanted to see and then have gone on to be a favorite of mine. Shock Lobo was not only one of those (they were opening for The Josh Joplin Band and caught our eyes/ears), but since they were local to Atlanta, we saw them a lot. Pretty much every show they did locally Courtney and Chris and I went and saw them. When they needed fans to show up for a special taping, we were there. When they opened for Toad the Wet Sprocket, we were there.

So much so that the three of us are listed in the liner notes under the Thank You section.

With them, it isn’t one particular moment or performance, but all of them. Agnes Scott College. Them playing at a pizza restaurant. Underground Atlanta. The Point.

Mostly, it reminds me of a time, when I was in college, just hanging out with some good friends, listening to musicians play this music that we all loved.


My last 6 will come next week!


John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The 10 Best Heavy (As in REALLY HEAVY) Metal Albums of All Time

Go ahead.

Talk about your Slipknots and Five-Fingered Death Punches.

Enjoy your Metallicas, Black Sabbaths, and Mercyful Fates.


Here are the top ten heavy, heavy metal albums of all time.

…in no particular order.

Slayer – Seasons in the Abyss

Five seconds in, one becomes aware Seasons in the Abyss is no ordinary collection of songs. Beginning with the insanely fast ‘War Ensemble’, Slayer’s (somehow most mainstream) album sets a tone both vicious and unholy…which is, after all, their signature achievement. From thumping ‘Skeletons of Society’ to Ed Gein horror tribute ‘Dead Skin Mask’, lyrically Seasons knows no boundaries. Why should it? This is Slayer we’re talking about, unrivaled in the metal realm. And of course, perhaps no metal album ends on so dark a note as the title track, song number ten, ‘Seasons in the Abyss.’ Go ahead, read the lyrics to your children when you tuck them into bed at night.


Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power

What happens when you pair guitar god Dimebag Darrell with the guttural roars of Phil Anselmo, mix everything in a big bowl of rage, and punch the planet in the face? Vulgar Display of Power, that’s what. Have you ever listened to ‘F**cking Hostile’ on repeat for an hour? Have you ever chanted, “Re-spect! Walk! What did you say?” Then you understand this album’s power. It takes no breaks until the very end, at which point Pantera shows their dynamic range with the heartbreaking song ‘Hollow.’ If you’re about to get into a fistfight, this is your album.


Carcass – Heartwork

There are some who say Carcass’s best album is too melodic, too modern, and a betrayal of the band’s grindcore roots. F**k that. There’s melodic, and then’s there’s guitarist Bill Steer, who gallops and solos with the best in the business. Consider the thudding, heart-rattling song ‘Embodiment’ and lightning-fast title track ‘Heartwork.’ Oh sure, there’s lovely guitar work in ‘No Love Lost’ (and in every other song on the album) but the heavy never lets up. One of the last great metal albums to feature (not just include) truly transcendent solos, Heartwork easily ranks up there with the best of the heavy, heavy best.


Entombed – Clandestine

Well…at least no one will confuse this album with melodic. What Swedish death medal gods Entombed lacked in subtlety, they more than made up for with raw power, chuggy guitars, and a crunchy, deadly sound like no other. No Entombed album demonstrates this better than Clandestine. From ridiculously thumpy ‘Sinners Bleed’ to double bass drum-fest ‘Crawl,’ the fury never lets up. Few metal albums in the history of music have zero ‘meh’ tracks, but this is one. ‘Living Dead’ all the way to ‘Through the Colonnades’ = death metal perfection.


Type O Negative – October Rust

Ok fine. You want to slow it down a little? I give you October Rust. Sometimes sarcastic, often self-deprecating, and always melancholic Type O Negative delivers their most classic tracklist ever. It never seems to matter that Type O’s songs are far longer in duration than other black/death metal bands. Peter Steele’s vocals and the band’s deep, dark guitars weave in and out of sadness and madness for every one of October Rust’s 14 (well…13 really) songs. Consider anthemic ‘Wolf Moon’ and misery-fest ‘I Love You to Death.’ It’s pretty much an entire album of ‘just got rejected by your lover’ songs.

And it’s f**king perfect.


Danzig – How the Gods Kill

There are many, many good Danzig albums. But none quite as thunderously good as How the Gods Kill. Dark Elvis magician Glenn Danzig puts on his most forceful vocal performance ever (Heart of the Devil, anyone?) while perfecting ten songs to frighten your neighbors, scare your children, and sing along to (Anything, Dirty Black Summer, Do you Wear the Mark, anyone??) This is Danzig with their best lineup (Christ, Von, Biscuits) and at their most cohesive. Every riff just clicks, resulting in one of the best dark metal albums ever made.


Morbid Angel – Covenant

Tampa metal gods have changed lineups many times. But in the meantime they released some truly epic albums (Altars of Madness, Gateways to Annihilation.) Among these, one stands out as the cream of the dark crop. Covenant, with its blasphemous, occult-loving lyrics and shreddy guitar work, sits among the pantheon of great metal albums. Even if you can’t understand David Vincent’s vocal work (just google ‘Vengeance is Mine‘ for a sample) or duplicate Trey Azagthoth’s otherworldly ‘Eddie Van Halen of death metal‘ riff work, it matters none. And talk about ending with a bang. ‘God of Emptiness’ goes places and hits beats no other band has achieved.

Bow to me faithfully, indeed…


Sepultura – Beneath the Remains

Old school death metal.

Fast. Unrelenting.

Easily Sepultura’s best and most brutal offering.

Here, just listen to THIS. 

And go here for a tracklist.


Deicide – When Satan Lives

Is it cheating to include a compilation album on this list? Maybe.

Is naming a live album really fair? Probably not.

Who cares?

Say what you will about Glen Benton, Deicide’s lead-singer and all-around weird guy, the band on stage has power, presence, speed, and a lust for long, brutal shows. Plenty of compilation albums (and arguably most live albums) miss the mark in one way or another. Not so, ‘When Satan Lives.’ It’s seventeen songs, all terrifyingly fast, sharp, and well-recorded. Standout tracks ‘Children of the Underworld’ and ‘Dead by Dawn’ stand tall, but really every single f**king song is better than good.

This is how you do death metal. And how you do live albums. Listen up, modern bands. Do it like this.


Slayer – Reign in Blood

Speaking of unfair, it’s probably blasphemous to include not one, but two Slayer albums on this list. Especially when there are so many other crushingly good heavy metal albums out there.

Even so…

I’m just going to link these three songs right here.

And let them prove my point for me.

Angel of Death


Raining in Blood

Short, powerful, and relentless, Reign in Blood can’t not be on this list.

Honorable mentions

I want YOU to fill out this section for me:







Thanks for stopping by.

J Edward Neill

Author, artist, and metalhead

Concert Review: 10 Years

10 Years is among my top 5 or 6 bands. However, it is a clear number 2 for my wife. A few years back I loaded all their music onto her phone so that she could listen to them while working. I think it became a “Huh, these guys are pretty good.” to “Wow, these guys are amazing!” to “Why don’t we follow them around and see every show!”

(Excuse me while I hitch up a trailer to my car…)

But since it took a little bit for her to get into the band, we missed them many times they’ve come to Atlanta in the past. However, a couple of years ago I saw that they were going to play “The Autumn Effect” in its entirety, so we made a point to go and was blown away by both them and the crowd. So when they announced this latest tour would play “Division” all the way through, we were excited to see them again.

The show was downtown at the Masquerade which is located in Underground Atlanta. While the super success of “big-time” arenas and the like might have never fallen 10 Years’ way, you wouldn’t know it from their shows. Jesse Hasek (the lead singer) always feels in the moment. Like he’s convinced that every show they are going to do no one is going to show up… and then when we do, he is very grateful. And this show was no different. They came out with a fury, pausing only at first to comment on the fact that this particular album is a bit more difficult to play live than some of their others.

It was one of those comments that made me think as we watched them move through the heavy portions to the softer ones. There is something about live shows for me that can help illuminate the meanings of songs. I’ve probably listened to these songs over a hundred times a piece, but at some point, I stop really hearing the words. In concert, it becomes a different story as I’m singing along at the top of my lungs, for as long as my throat will hold out. And there are these connections where I think – “oh, wow… that lyric is really powerful” or “this song just became one of my favorites”.

“Division” by 10 Years


The lead guitarist and the keyboardist as the only ones onstage, a pair of spotlights illuminating either side of the stage as they made their way through the lead-in to “All Your Lies” (my favorite song on the album). The build-up is quiet at first, slowly building until a female voice begins to speak. Her voice gets threaded over and over on top of itself as the music continues to grow frantically. It threatens to become a jumbled mess and then it ends… just in time for the song to truly begin.

The pit during “Shoot It Out”. For the first time in a very long time, I felt the urge to jump in and knock some people around. Then I remembered I’m almost 43 with a bum ankle and thought better of it!


People who decide to record the concert with their phones. I actually don’t care what you do, but maybe step back to a spot where you aren’t completely obscuring other people’s viewpoint.


One side story from just before the show went on. Courtney asked me how I originally heard about 10 Years nearly 15 years ago. I pointed over to Egg Embry and said, “He told me it was a band I should check out.”

Of course, Egg has a swiss cheese brain and went, “Really?”

So I went on to tell him that a few years after he introduced me to them they’d come out with “Feeding the Wolves”, their 4th album and I told him, “Hey, you should check out this band 10 Years, they are really good.”

To which he replied, “Yeah, I know. I told you about them!”

So apparently we both have swiss cheese for brains!


John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com


Music Lives in Moments

What are the songs which mean the most to you?

The ones to which you bob your head while listening to a random radio station in traffic?

Or the song you listened to on repeat during your last breakup?

Which album is your favorite?

The one you downloaded on iTunes because your friend told you it was the new hotness?

Or the sleek vinyl record you discovered in a run-down music shop after months of searching?

I can’t speak for you. But the answer feels obvious.

The music we love most is tied to our most powerful life experiences.

*I remember:

I was thirteen-years old. I lived with my grandparents and their youngest daughter, my Aunt Patty. Every day when I came home from school (I usually walked through a giant cornfield to get there) the house was empty except for me and Patty. Little did my grandparents know, the house would also be full of music. Patty liked to jam, you see, and she liked to jam loud.  I remember walking in the back door (I never used the front door…because really, who does?) and immediately begin to vibrate to the sounds of late 80’s melancholy music. At the time, the sacredness of those moments didn’t register in my mind. All I knew was that I felt suddenly alive, free to shut down all the stresses of the day, free to lose myself in the music.

I didn’t even know the bands’ names at the time. I didn’t care.

But to this day, I can still picture myself walking through the back door.

And if I close my eyes, I can still hear Depeche Mode thrumming in my head.


I remember:

I was sixteen-years old. I lived in the deep south with my father. Because he worked two, sometimes even three jobs, I almost never saw the man. Essentially I lived alone, pretty much the freest teenager in the entire world. During those hot, humid, lonely nights, I didn’t have much to do. We were poor. I didn’t have many friends, and the few I did have lived miles away in their normal, secure households. I didn’t watch TV, and my video game system (the original NES, what else?) sat unused in my grandparents’ house seven-hundred miles away.

But the one thing we did have?

A killer sound system. Doubtless the best in the neighborhood, possibly the whole city.

And during the long afternoons and even longer nights, while I sat in the shadows, reading pulpy fantasy books, contemplating the smallness of myself, I listened to music at all times. Loud music. Powerful heavy metal music. Slayer. Danzig. Metallica. And a hundred other bands whose guttural roars and swollen guitar riffs filled my little house…and more than once brought the police to the door.

To this day, I remember every lyric of every one of those albums. They were my salvation in many ways. With them, my isolation became bearable.


I remember:

I was a little boy. Exactly how old, I can’t really recall Living part-time with my father and part-time with my grandparents, my life was always in flux. But what did I know? Everyone seemed to love me…or at least tolerate me. I suppose maybe I was a pretty obnoxious little guy. Somehow both spoiled and ignored. Loud but quiet. Affable, yet prone to bouts of running outside and not coming back inside until well after dark. Oh, how the mosquitoes loved me.

But sometimes, on certain weekend nights, when the mood was right and everyone in my grandparents’ house was getting along (our house was really, really small, you see) my grandfather would turn off the TV, set aside his bourbon, and pop a few vinyls on the record player. And suddenly the walls came alive with the sounds of Frank Sinatra, crooning Summer Wind or my personal favorite (to this day) One More for my Baby (And One More for the Road.) And then maybe he’d play some old, soft Elvis, to which I’d often drift asleep on the couch.

But while I was awake, I would dance. Me, the guy who hasn’t ever danced in his adult life, bouncing around the living room. And those were happy moments, just me, my loved ones, and the music.

My grandparents are gone now, but they’re alive and well in my heart.

And the moments I can see clearest?

Our warm, musical nights.


I remember:

I was seventeen, cruising down the road with my very first girlfriend. The hour was late, and we were headed to a lakeside cabin way out in the countryside. During the long, long drive on dark roads, while the trees watched over us and the white lines on the highway sped past, we listened to the same album over and over again.

We didn’t talk. We just listened. And it was perfect.

I’m sure the girl has long forgotten the album. Actually, I’m sure the girl has forgotten me.

But I remember that night. How could I forget? It was the music, you see. It’s forever wrapped up in a memory that warm summer night.


I remember:

Driving away from home (for the last time) to the sounds of Phil Collins.

Drowning my sorrows after a breakup in a dark basement to the booming dirges of Type O Negative.

Journeying out to the countryside while totally absorbed in Hans Zimmer instrumentals.

Soaring up to Chicago listening to silly, mid-90’s hip-hop.

Painting on Friday nights until 3AM to the slow, serene ballads of Olafur Arnalds.


All of these, I won’t forget.


Plenty of music crosses our paths between the rarest and most memorable instants of our lives. Songs, albums, and artists, perfectly good, drift into our consciousness while we’re driving to work, eating dinners out on the town, or wandering through shopping malls in search of stuff to buy. Some of the music is great, and some really, really bad. But somehow, most of what we remember arises not from these casual, everyday moments, but from the times in our lives when we needed it. When we were ready for it. When the timing was perfect and the moments couldn’t have been what they were without an accompanying soundtrack.

Chances are, you’re a lot like me.

Your favorite music is tied to places, people, moments, and feelings.

The smash new single by ________ isn’t what you remember five years down the road.

The unexpected song by the artist you didn’t know…timed just right…that’s the one that sticks with you.

Because music lives in moments.

Concert Review: GHOST


This past Friday I went to see Ghost play at the Roxy just north of Atlanta (actually across the street from where the Atlanta Braves now play). A friend had asked if I wanted to go and seeing as how I had heard about 2 songs from them… I obviously said yes.

Here’s the thing about Ghost, they are a Dark Metal or Doom Metal or Heavy Metal Band… I’m honestly not entirely sure. They are definitely all those things, but as I told a guy at work, their stuff is very catchy… more so in my mind than a lot of the Metal I’ve listened to in the past (and still listen to). Even when I was at the show itself, songs I’d only heard maybe 4 or 5 times were already in my head, and I found myself singing lyrics I didn’t even realize I’d known.

With Metal shows, you never know quite what you are going to get. They are very theatrical. And by having 8 people in the band (yes, 8!), it allows them to have a very “full” sound during the show. I remember going to shows in my 20s where everyone in the place was around 18 to 25 and there would be the couple of “older” guys in the back bobbing their heads along with the music. Now enough time has passed that I’m the “older” guy in the back bobbing my head. But at the Ghost show, it was a true meeting of so many different types of people. You had your 18 to 25-year-olds, you had your slightly older metal-heads, your Goth guys and gals, your more straight-laced people, families (mom, dad, and two 13ish daughters right beside me), and even those who dressed up and wore the face paint to match the band.

So definitely one of those shows where you were never going to be “out-of-place”.

The actual show was excellent. They sound pretty much as they do on the albums. And to top it off they played for 2 hours and 45 minutes (with a 15-minute intermission!). Only Pearl Jam has ever matched something like that of all the bands I’ve seen.


There were costume changes, a keytar solo (which is something that I never knew I needed in my life until I saw it – amazing!), a sax solo (yes, these are the reasons they don’t “fit” in a category), a guitar battle between two of the eight band members (Cardinal Copia and 7 Nameless Ghouls), the introduce the band segment (ladies and gentlemen: Ghoul!), Cardinal Copia’s alternate idea for what they should do instead of an encore song (let’s just say that it was very crude and funny and would have broken way too many city ordinances). The lead singer was very personable, interacting with the crowd, and telling stories (i.e. buying time for the band).

The venue had good sight lines. The acoustics were great. In fact, if I was going to see another band there I would look into having seats right on the balcony edge to get the more comfortable seats (see Low Lights for the problem with the seats).

Low Lights:

Probably the introduce the band segment, while funny, with 7 “Nameless Ghouls” to introduce, it went on a little too long.

This has nothing to do with the band, but instead with the venue: the seats we had didn’t fold up, so while you’re standing the back of your legs are constantly banging against them. Plus, if someone is still sitting in the row ahead of you, there was a real danger of me kneeing them in the back of the head (luckily no incidents to report).


I’m looking forward to really delving into the records now (you know, listening to them 30 or 40 times in the next month or so!). And looking forward to when they come back to Atlanta.


John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Imagine a World Without ________

Reach deep.

And imagine…


You’re walking down a city street. All the cars speeding past you are grey and boxlike. They’re all the same, featureless, colorless, and they make no sound as they sweep down the streets.

You walk into a clothing store. There are no sections for men, women, and children. On every rack hang beige shirts, pants, and coats. The styles are drab and shapeless. There are no dressing rooms. There is no color. Other shoppers…even the cashier…are dressed in the same exact clothing. Everyone looks identical. You slap down your money and walk out with a grey bag full of the same clothes everyone else wears.

You’re hungry. Starving, actually. You walk into a restaurant without a name, a logo, or a menu. You step up to the counter and order the same thing everyone else is having. This is the city’s best place to eat, but you’re not impressed. All they offer are tasteless, watery noodles and flavorless bread. Everyone sits quietly and eats at grey tables. You can’t even remember why you picked this place.

Mmmmmm…watery noodles.

At home, you’re ready to relax after a long day at work. Your house looks exactly like everyone else’s, but luckily you remember which one is yours. After all, it’s got a number. You park your grey car inside your grey garage, and you walk through grey doors into a grey room. Your walls are barren. No photos of loved ones. No paintings. No color. You sit on your couch and turn on your TV. There’s only one station. It’s the same two people wearing the same two suits talking about the same thing they did yesterday. There’s no Food Network, SyFy Channel, Game of Thrones, or Discovery Channel. It’s just two people discussing the value of nothing. What else is there to watch?


You’d like to go to the movies. But there’s no such thing.

You’re thinking of taking a stroll through a museum. But no one’s ever thought to build one.

You’re hungry for a gourmet pizza, a scrumptious slice of cake, and a nice cocktail. But there’s no chefs, no bakeries, and certainly no bartenders.

Perhaps I’ll just lie in bed and read a book, you think. It’s not like there’s anything else to do. 

But there are no books. Because there are no authors. And even if there were, all the covers would look the same…grey and black. You wouldn’t know which one to read. It’d be impossible to choose. At this point, you’d settle for a magazine, a newspaper, or a funny website with cute comics on the internet. It sucks, because these things don’t exist. You’ve never heard of them. You can’t even want to want them.

You’re bored. You’re distraught. You step outside for a walk. It’s strange walking through your town. The houses, buildings, shops, and stores are all white boxes. No one bothers with windows…there’s nothing to see. You can’t tell the difference between the car repair shop and the bank. They look exactly the same. No one ever bothered to be an architect. No one knew it was possible.

There’s one thing left that’ll save you. You run back to your trusty radio. It’s a grey box like all the others. You flip the switch and turn the dial to your favorite station. The sound greeting your ears? Static. Dead, dry noise. There’s no rhythm in it. There’s no beat, no catchy hook. It’s just static.

Always crackling. Always the same.

And you’re emptier still.

That evening, your kid comes home from school.

“What did you do today?” you ask. “Learn anything interesting?”

He shrugs. He doesn’t care much about school. He learns the same things every day: math, chemistry, and science. That’s all well and good. But he never has any good stories. It’s because there aren’t any. He’s happy because he doesn’t have to write book reports, but sad because he’s never read a book. There’s not much going on at his school. No sports. No chess club. No band camp. Why have extracurricular activities if there’s no such thing?

He doesn’t even know what a crayon is.

Actually, neither do you.

You’re walking down a hall.

The walls are barren. Everyone you pass is wearing pale sackcloth. Everyone looks the same.

It’s silent in this place. The only sounds you hear are footsteps and your own breathing. They haven’t even bothered to pipe lame elevator music into this place. Why would they? There’s no such thing.

There’s no color here. There’s nothing to do but eat your noodles, sleep in your white bed, and drive to work in your simple grey box.

What is this place?

Where am I? you wonder.

It’s simple.

This is a world without art. Without color. Without chefs, architects, or artisans. Without painters, writers, or musicians. Without photographers, sculptors, or comedians. Without gardeners. Without dance. Without movies.

Without meaning.

Support an artist today.

Without them, we are nothing.

J Edward Neill

Why Must I Art?


It’s 11:30 PM on a Monday night. The wind howls against my glass-paneled door. The branches of an old oak scrape against the roof. A little black cat named Bacon makes figure-eights around my ankles.

My concentration never breaks.

I’m in a zone, and nothing in the world can touch me.

It’s on nights like these, with a glass of scotch in hand and a Hans Zimmer soundtrack thrumming, I’m happiest. My rickety wooden easel stands before me, and my paintbrush flies. I can’t quite remember the exact moment I decided to start making art again. As a kid and a teenager, I’d done the same, but many years have passed since then. I’d almost forgotten what it feels like to shut the world out and make pictures.

What am I doing here?

Recapturing my youth?

Striving to be the next Van Gogh or modern-day Michelangelo?

Gunning for likes on Facebook?

Nope. None of these.

The music drops off into a somber violin piece. It’s something by Olafur Arnalds. I’ve just messed up while drawing the curve of a woman’s lower lip, and my eraser is on the move. Lower lips are hard sometimes, especially when drawing them from a side-view perspective. But I’ll get it right. Another sip of Balvenie, and I’ve fixed it. Instead of pouty, she looks deadly serious. Just wait til I add her horns:

Princess Oblivia

I don’t have to do art. I want to. I do it because I love it, I think. But sometimes, just sometimes, I feel like an imposter. I’m not classically trained. I don’t have a specific job in the field. No one will ever ask me to illustrate their comic book, draw their company logo, or paint a portrait of their dog. It’s a good thing, too. Commissions can mean big money for some artists, but I just can’t do it. I can’t. I paint what I want to paint. If that’s not good enough, so be it.

And I definitely don’t want to paint someone’s dog.

It’s late now. Late, late. My kid, the G Man, has curled up on the couch and fallen asleep with his favorite book in hand. It’s a Calvin & Hobbes anthology. Everyone’s kid should read it. The art is neat, Calvin is hilarious, and there’s a bit of philosophy paired with every little panel. Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes’ creator) is pretty much a genius. With a few pen strokes and splash of philosophy, he’s made his art come alive. He fills a need we didn’t even know we had.

And maybe that’s why I’m painting. To satisfy some philosophical need. To ponder my existence while I paint. To separate myself from the world so completely that nothing else exists besides my tiny atmosphere of music, liquor, and art.

My phone is silent. I don’t want to hear it ring…or even vibrate. The world can go ahead and end. I’ll be happy if I’m the last to know.

I don’t have cable TV, satellite, or Netflix. I don’t want to consume everyone else’s creativity. I need to embrace my own.

I’m tired. I’m tipsy. The bones in my hands sing with pain from pounding on a punching bag earlier in the day.

But my paintbrush is steady.

…and the table beside me is a mess.

Truth is, when I decided to start creating again, art wasn’t my first choice. Some thousand years ago – or maybe it was only fifteen – I decided the best way to escape was to write books. Long books. Sloppy existential fantasy books no one would actually want to read. If I’m honest, I did it to escape my marriage. My life. My responsibilities. Everything.

But writing didn’t bring me peace. Turns out, while making words is great for the mind, it tends to injure the soul. Long stretches of solitude tucked away in a black room can unsettle even the most steadfast heart. And the time commitment, often several months for even the most pedestrian-length book, is all-consuming. It hurts. Sometimes a lot.

Art, on the other hand…

In a few hours, one can draw something beautiful. And one can be at utter peace while doing so.

Given a full night, an artist can conceive a surreal world and splash it onto a canvas. While sipping wine, listening to music, and carrying on a rich conversation with anyone in the room.

And in a week…well…

Art can be whatever its maker desires. It’s a quick commitment, short and satisfying. It’s a month-long project, with each session bringing a creator visibly closer to the ecstasy of completion. It’s a study of pencil strokes, the movement of watercolor across paper, or the feel of broad lashes of a brush thick with scarlet paint.

I’m no fan of poetry. At least not the kind that uses words. But perhaps art is poetry of another kind. The poetry of motion. The passion of turning shapeless blobs of paint into visible, touchable emotion.

…or sometimes just girls with demon horns surrounded by coins.

Ages ago, I paired with a fellow artist to create things I’d have never thought of on my own. It’s just another reason making art is sometimes a more powerful elixir for one’s self than writing literature. Writing or painting by oneself can be self-restricting. It can lead one to fall into a creative vacuum.

But art made in the company of other artists…it’s like a conversation in a crowded room. It’s fluid. It allows ideas to flow uninhibited. If you’ve never tried it, invite your friends over to paint with you. Pour something delicious into a glass, silence your phones, set Spotify to random, and fall into your art together. Doesn’t matter how seriously you take it. Chances are, you’ll feel all your stresses melt away.

Maybe that’s the reason. Maybe…

Melting the world, escaping into a 16″ x 20″ piece of stretched canvas, forgetting about your pain, your job, your mortgage. Maybe it’s not about the actual art, but the catharsis. The quick creation of worlds more appealing than our own. Or the exorcism of our fears by painting something terrifying…and realizing our imaginations are more powerful than reality.

Sometimes I paint with light…

...and other times, I paint with shadows.

It’s morning now. I’m crawling out of bed, and I’m slow to greet the world. My head hurts, my knuckles are sore, and it’s cold in here.

I don’t really want to wake up.

But I know if I do, there’s a canvas downstairs awaiting me. It’s blank and ready to be filled with shadows.

Once I pick up my favorite brush, I’ll be hooked. The sun will rise, the music will play, and I’ll fall away from this world.

…and into my own.


J Edward Neill

The Song of Your Life

I may have written about this scene before, but it bears repeating. In Before Sunset, Ethan Hawke is on a book tour where he is talking about his next project: this idea of a song transporting you back in time. How it grabs you and can make you remember things you’d forgotten – all of it locked within a song.

I love that idea. And I know that music has had a big influence on my life. Even as I write this blog, Alice in Chains is grooving on the speakers beside me (Jar of Flies). But each of the songs below have a specific meaning in the time and place for me and to this day, hearing the song means having this little memory attached.


1988 – The Beach Boys – Kokomo

I’m standing beside my sister as she dials the number to the local radio station. For some reason, even though I’m 12, I don’t seem to understand that there might be multiple radio stations out there, so we’re dialing the “Oldies” station. We get through and my sister asks to hear a Madonna song. There’s a pause and then they say “We don’t play Madonna.”


Still desperate to hear something from that decade. “Well can you play Kokomo by The Beach Boys?”

Pause. “Yes, that we can play.”

1997 – Limp Bizkit – Stuck

Driving back from Virginia with Lee and Egg, we’d gotten this sampler tape from Limp Bizkit when they’d opened for Korn in Athens, Georgia. Fred Durst was handing them out to anyone who would take them, and after seeing them play Faith, well I figured what the hell.

The sampler had two songs on it: Counterfeit and Stuck, but I can only hear Stuck in my head as we played the damn song probably 50 times on that trip. And with every play, Egg’s “metal voice” would come out with the word “STUCK!”

1996 – Deftones  – Teething

The original Crow soundtrack might be one of my top 10 cds of all time. It is amazing from front to back, and instantly takes me directly to the film and the feeling it tried to invoke.

Now… the second Crow film was… it was not good. But I saw the soundtrack, and I knew that Korn has a song on it. But it was the song directly after that one which grabbed me on the very first listen. I might have run out that following weekend to find their cd and ever since they’ve been my second favorite band – all because I had hopes the second Crow soundtrack would match the first.

1992 – Pearl Jam – Yellow Ledbetter

There once was a time, before the internet, where in order to find out about new bands and new songs from bands you loved you had to go to a record store and HOPE to find something. Sometimes that meant getting bootleg copies of concerts or imports from Europe.

In Pearl Jam’s case, it meant finding the Import version of the Jeremy single which had not just one, but two b-sides: Footsteps and Yellow Ledbetter.

I may have paid around $20 for those two songs, but it didn’t matter. To have those meant I had everything Pearl Jam had done (little did I know how wrong that idea was even in ’93). Regardless, that 3-song cd didn’t leave my cd player for a good while.

1993 – 95 South – Whoot, There It Is

It’s Spring Break and the Grunge bug has taken me over. But I’m down in Florida for a couple of days visiting one of my friends from South Georgia and he’s much more into Hip Hop. So that’s what we listen to as we drove south, and as we drove around the beach town (which I forget which one it is), and as we are just hanging out at the hotel with some girls also staying there.

It was also cold, maybe in the low 40s (for Florida that might as well be negative numbers). And there we all were huddled together for warmth. Nothing came of that evening, we went home the next day, but it’s one of the first moments in my young teenage life where I didn’t feel completely awkward or tongue-tied.

When I got home I bought the single of this song on tape.


Of course, being a teenager almost any music would key off on some very important and interesting events whether you’d planned it that way or not. Still, these moments… these songs, silly or not, hold a candle for a memory inside my head. And I’m grateful for it.


John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Steampunk Fridays – Short Film – Eye of the Storm

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

Technically this is a music video, but if after watching it you don’t feel like you want to see a whole movie made in this style… well, I don’t have words for you. It’s done well enough that I think it’s ok to call it a film.

“Eye of the Storm” – By Lovett, from the album Highway Collection, 2011 – Directed by Christopher Alender

The story centers around a sky captain making his way across the sky, making peace with what came before and steadying himself on what may come next. Accompanied by a large dog-sized dragon, he sees the green glow just past an oncoming storm and must make his decision on how to deal with it. Whether he should avoid it or push through to the other side.

This feels like the end of his journey. Whether that implies his death or simply his last grand adventure, I’m not entirely sure.

Using a technique that reminds me a bit of Sin City with that mixture of animation and stylized actors. His goggles remain on his face, the orbs acting as two beacons in the dark night. They are our proxy to his eyes, able to still convey emotion even without being able to see what lies beneath.

This film has no spoken dialogue, but the song itself acts as our emotional center. It builds slowly, quietly, a simple peace. And then, when the storm crashes into the ship, and he is fighting the currents, the volume raises… crashing into the listener. Once through the rain and the wind, he sees the green light in the distance and pushes his machine directly toward it.

On my second watch, I brought up the lyrics and listened to the song only, allowing my memory of the scenes to supply the visuals.

For all that it cost

In the end there was no price to pay

For all that was lost

That storm carried it away

The storm carries all the mistakes he made. It carries the past away. And then it carries him onto his next (final) destination.

Or, perhaps he rids himself of those things. And by unburdening, he allows himself to actually become truly free.



Check it out and you tell me. Is this the end or the beginning?


You can find more music from Lovett on his website, as well as a behind the scenes for this video.


John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

9 soundtracks to boost your creative mood

dark treesEver sat down to write, draw, or paint and struggled to restart the movie in your mind?

Ever curled up to read a good book, only to find it hard to withdraw from the rest of your day?

Shutting the real world out and rediscovering the dark corner of your imagination can be challenging.

And yet…

Weapons are available beyond a quiet room, an empty house, or a glass of red wine. I believe music, and more specifically soundtracks, can help artists soar back into the atmospheres of their minds.

Before ever setting pen to paper (or more typically fingers to keyboard) I like to close my eyes, focus on the scene I’m about to write or the tone of the book I’m about to read, and select a song or album from my collection to match the mood. While it’s true I prefer the atmospheres of rain, shadows, clouds, and dark caverns filled with cacaphonies of ringing swords, every book and every chapter therein has its own music.

You need but find your own.

Here are nine of my favorite selections. Whenever I need the rain to fall, the swords to sing, or the bones to rattle in my mind, I call to music. Try these out, and leave the rest of the world behind… (Click the track titles to listen to each song.)



The Shadows Betray You – Hans Zimmer – Dark Knight Rises – For building up to an intense scene. The Shadows Betray You thumps and thuds its way to a terrifying crescendo. Use it to build the foundation of something powerful on the page.


C.L.U. – Daft Punk – Tron Legacy – For the big reveal. The thrumming beat here is its own journey. Imagine walking down a long road, a dark city on all sides, and arriving at a tower too vast to see the top of. That’s C.L.U.


The Prestige (Entire Album) – David Julyan – I can’t say enough about this album. Just put it on repeat and leave it on in the background while you write or read 100,000 words. It’s powerful. It’s atmospheric. You’ll sit up in your bed and feel the rain falling on your shoulders.


General Zod – Hans Zimmer – Man of Steel – Dreaming up a fierce battle? Reading that chapter? (you’ll know the one) Zod is the battle and the aftermath, the war and the battlefield, the soldiers and the cities burning behind them. Try it.


The Princess Pleads for Wallace’s Life – Braveheart – James Horner & The London Symphony Orchestra – Need sweet? Need soulful? Need your heart to thump a little bit slower behind your ribs? The only thing better would be to have Sophie Marceau show up at your house and weep on your shirt sleeve.


Like a Dog Chasing Cars – Hans Zimmer & James Howard – The Dark Knight – This one is for the fleet of alien spacecraft descending on the world, the evil army beating their drums as they march against a hopelessly overmatched castle full of good guys, and for the car racing down the highway at night with the shadows crawling up behind it. The Hans Zimmer theme continues…


This is Madness! – Man of Steel – Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL – So you say you’ve got two warriors standing off, eh? They’re the last men standing, and the fate of the world hangs on the outcome of their duel. You need drums, lots of drums. You need ten thuds for every crash of their blades. You need This is Madness!


Am I not Merciful? – Gladiator – Hans Zimmer – By far my favorite on the list. If you’ve seen the movie, you know how it ends. This is tragedy refined into one of the finest tracks ever written. It’s for death. It’s for shattered hearts. It”s beautiful.


Time – Inception – Hans Zimmer – Time is the triumphant, bittersweet, epic end of everything. Time is the last survivor standing atop the world’s last tower, the wind streaming through her hair as she looks down upon the world she has saved. If you stumble across any track on here, let this be the one.


Enjoy these. They’re all great on their own or coupled with the albums they appear on. And yes, I do love Hans Zimmer. When Down the Dark Path becomes a movie, he’s the only soul on the earth who’ll touch the soundtrack.

Here’s something I wrote while listening to these over and over again…

Until next time,

J Edward Neill



20 Things I’ve Learned at Concerts

Thinking I’m 25 again last week, my wife and I went to see concerts on back to back nights. A Perfect Circle and Soundgarden. Very different vibes at both shows (obviously), but I realized that over the years no matter what band it was I saw there were a number of “truths” I’ve experienced again and again.

1 – The “I Pre-Gamed Way Too Hard” Category

You should do what inspires you by singing (shouting along), swaying in place, jumping in the pit, or even dancing like no one is looking. It’s one thing to “Feel the Flow”, and it’s another to “flow” right into your neighbors. Especially if they are not currently anywhere near a pit… and you’re just drunk or high or both.


2 – The Hazards Of Having Seats On The End Of The Row

Look, I get it. This is your first night out in forever. The kids are up your ass all the time, the boss is up your ass the rest of the time, and you just need a night out. So you and a couple of friends head to the show, grab a beer and settle in for-

Excuse me.

Right, gotta get a refill. I understand. Especially since you’re getting one for your buddies as well-

What’s that? You’re only getting one for you? And as soon as you get back and I’m back engrossed in this song, your buddy is going to tap me and try to get by.

OK… but that guy is going to come back with a beer for your other friend right? No? Just one for him? And you’re saying he’ll interrupt my favorite song, clearly seeing that I’m REALLY belting out the song, thus completely pulling me out of the moment?

Yeah, no worries.



3 – The Guys Who Think They Are Literally Anywhere Else Other Than The Concert

You know who I’m talking about. These assholes are standing 5 feet away from you carrying on the deepest, truest conversation anyone has ever had before. They are totally engrossed in just being there for each other, no matter what is going on with the band.

Good of you to spend $70 each to do something you could have done at Waffle House.


4 – Everything Happening On My Phone Right Now Is Way More Interesting Than Live Music

Obviously this has only been an issue since the turn of the century or so. I mean, how in the world did old Grandpa ever get by without checking their Twitter/Facebook/Whatever feeds?

Again, Great use of your money. Next time you give me half, and we’ll go outside, and I’ll kick you in the balls, and we’ll call it a day.


5 – Oh, You Didn’t Know? I Am A Famous Director

You know what is awesome? When you see a show and then later own it. It allows you to truly relive the experience and listen to it over and over again.

You know what is NOT awesome? When you have your phone up in a way that I can’t see the show in front of me. All because you have to have a really poor quality video of the whole concert apparently.


6 -I Like To Swim, Into The Mosh

No matter what the band, if the music is heavy enough, and there is room to be had – it is very probable a Pit will be formed. With the appearance of that natural phenomenon comes another absolute:

There will always be some asshole who thinks the Mosh Pit is a way to try and hurt someone.

You know the guy. He’s the one who made sure to go out and buy steel toed boots “just because” and now he’s trying to destroy your kneecap.

The worst part is he probably isn’t even a fan of the band at all.


7 – Wait… Wait… Wait… What’s Happening!?!

No matter how far away you position yourself from where you THINK the Pit is going to form, you will be completely wrong. It is an unpredictable beast set to engulf you in its wake.

You have been warned.


8 – Sometimes Being Tall Sucks, This Is One Of Those Times

If you are tall you will be asked to help everyone up to start crowd surfing. Work out in the weeks leading up to the show otherwise you risk the chance of looking like a complete dick when the person can’t get two feet off the ground.


9 – Always Looking For An Opportunity

That said, if you are a woman and want to crowd surf then ask away. I don’t know of anyone who has refused to help a female “up”. However, you must steel yourself against the hundreds of sweaty hands which will grab you all over.

And I mean ALL OVER.

10 – Whelp, That’s It. Go On And Save Yourself!

When someone goes down in the Pit you’d think that’s the end for you. There are dozens of feet prepared to curb stomp you into oblivion, but that generally doesn’t happen. There is always 5+ people will immediately move to help you up.

Except for the asshole looking to hurt you – stay away from that guy.


11 – I Wish They’d Played Only Songs No One Knew

You know the person. They want to make sure you know the third song in the set was actually a B-side from their original pressing of the second album only available in Germany.

But you know a girl, so you’ve had it forever.


12 – Why Won’t They Just Let Us In? That’s The Rule! They Go, Then I Go, Then…

No matter how state of the art the venue is – getting out of the parking lot is still going to suck.


13 – Hey, I Know That You Didn’t Buy A Shirt Inside

Not saying you should give money to the bootleg t-shirt vendors… you want to support the band you came to see.

But I will say my Metallica shirt from 1994 might have been the best $10 I’ve ever spent.


14 – Philosophy According To The Band

Weed is the reason for sperm… according to Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle, Pusifer).

Make of that what you will.

15 – Your Tiger Style Is No Match For My Miller Style!

There is clearly a martial art style waiting to get invented. It would be based strictly on being able to navigate a concert without spilling your beer. I mean, I’m not a drinker, and it’s damn impressive.


16 – My Pyrotechnics Never Burned Anyone!

Strobe lights are annoying most of the time.

Seriously. Less is more in their usage.


17 – Yes, That Is My Tent Set Up Over There. No, I Don’t Have Anything Better To Do.

Hey, look at you. You stood in line for hours beforehand all in the hopes of getting right up front when the doors open. And you did it!

Your punishment for standing right at the barrier is being crushed by the mass of people behind you.

Hope it was worth it!

18 – Dance Puppets! Dance!

I get it. You have played for the last hour or possibly hour and a half. You are parched. The drummer is about to pass out from exhaustion. The guitarist is destroying his fingers with every note he plays. The bassist has vibrated his body so he is in an alternate reality.

You clearly need a couple of minutes to compose yourself before you finish melting my face off with this concert.

Just don’t make us beg. Don’t make us clap like well trained seals for you to come back out. We want you to play more songs, otherwise we wouldn’t still be here.

Encores are weird.


19 – I Will Not Be Trapped With The Rest of You!

Who the hell are the people leaving the show early? Who are they? Why did they spend the money? Why did they come at all? What is going on anywhere else that should make you think:

Yeah, this was a pretty good show. But you know what would make it even better? Leaving before the band does!

I just don’t get it.


20 – Without Fail

There is always going to be some asshole who shouts out “Play some Skynyrd!” If you’re lucky, the band will oblige him for a few seconds.

But only for a few seconds.



John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

A Tale of Two Concerts

So there are two big concert experiences (with regards to song choices):

One is play only your hits. Maybe you sprinkle in some of the old stuff, the deep tracks, but you’re playing the big songs and the newest songs from your latest album in order to support it.

The other option is when maybe this is a tour where you don’t have a new album to support. Maybe you don’t have to be beholden to a strict set list. Or perhaps you are working on a new album, but nowhere near close enough on most of the songs.

This is a case where the catalog really opens up and you can truly reach back and plat those songs older fans haven’t heard in a long time and newer fans have never heard in concert.

Last week I got a taste of both…

An aside – With Pearl Jam being my favorite band, the idea of a unique set list is not strange. In fact, with their shows I’m normally the asshole who wants to hear some random track 10 from one of the lesser known albums. I want the deep cuts more prominently than the more casual fan is not going to have heard or understand.

Night One: A Perfect Circle

This is a band situated firmly in my top 5 bands, but it’s been 13 years since I’ve been to see A Perfect Circle. Life, tour dates, and them not really existing for a good portion of a decade were all contributing factors. That time they were indoors, with people hanging from the ceiling, and other oddities that are somewhat commonplace when you’re dealing with a Maynard related band.

This time around they were at the Verizon Amphitheater in Alpharetta, Georgia, where after having been to only two shows, is fast becoming a household favorite. Great sound, relatively easy to get into the venue (getting out is a little more sketchy, but so is just about every other venue I’ve ever been to), and there is just something about an outdoor show as the sun goes down.

We arrived in time to hear one song from the opening band… which I didn’t catch the name of. I normally don’t mind trying to get in a little early just to catch those bands. So many shows over the years have introduced me to some solid music.

Our seats were about 7 rows behind the general admission orchestra area (which was probably about 10 rows deep if full). Around us were a handful of empty seats… probably another symptom of not putting out music in so long. Strangely, we were told repetitively that the band did not want any pictures taken. In 2004, that might have been something you could control with cameras not installed in every phone (maybe? I honestly can’t remember), but in 2017 you can’t really put that genie back in the bottle. Still, ushers did stop a few people, and I’ve read about others being asked to leave.

We’re rule followers, so no worries there.

The show itself was amazing. APC is one of those bands where I don’t have tracks I skip. As to their set list, I use my wife as the go-by, and she commented after the show she was surprised by how many songs she recognized. Overall, they played their hits, a couple of covers (John Lennon’s Imagine making an appearance – an always welcomed addition), and even sprinkled in a pair of new songs.

The only odd thing about the new songs was the placement of one of them to close out the show. Normally I’d think you’d want something to bring down the house – a song everyone knows and has been waiting for. Instead, we get a song that maybe a handful know and the rest just get to experience. Just an odd choice.

Though, I do think once I get to hear it enough, I have no doubt it will be a quality track to use in that capacity. It certainly had that feel.

Night Two: Soundgarden

Lollapalooza 1996 is the last time I’ve seen Soundgarden. Again, helped by the dissolution of the band for over a decade, I missed the tour they did with King Animal back in 2012/2013. And I might have missed this one had it not been for the venue.

The Fox Theater brings an assortment of memories for me beginning with seeing Top Gun there with my parents and being astounded by the audience interaction with the film. Catcalls during any of the numerous guys with their shirts off scenes, cheers whenever Tom Cruise did anything great, and more clapping when the movie ended. The Theater is topped off by seeing Pearl Jam back in 1994, which I’ve talked about here.

Yet, I’ve only seen one other band at The Fox and it happens to be Soundgarden over 20 years ago. Now here was a chance to see them again in the same venue… a no brainer.

We actually arrived early enough to see The Pretty Reckless open. Given XM Radio and the Octane channel, I recognized a couple of songs. Courtney mentioned actually wanting to download some of their stuff. I’ll be interested to see how the album fills out past the release songs.

As to Soundgarden, you couldn’t ask for a more different pair of shows. Where APC’s light effects were more colors and mood based, Soundgarden is a rock band with their influences spanning from arena rock bands to DIY punk rockers – so the lights were an assault at various times throughout the show. But the biggest difference was the song choice.

Apparently, their 1st full album was rereleased in the last couple of months. It makes for a perfect excuse to dust off those old school songs. And I gotta think if you are a fan from waaaay back in the day, your song bucket list managed to get a lot shorter as they opened with 3 straight songs from that era. Which is great… except I don’t own that record. I start with Badmotorfinger and continue from there.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the hell out of the show. They pretty much hit upon everything I’d have expected them to play, but it was a little unexpected.

Though there is nothing like hearing Fell on Black Days live. It’s my favorite song of theirs no matter what form it takes.


Two bands. Over 4 hours of live music. Great venues.

Extremely tired come Thursday morning.

Worth it.


John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

My Favorite Pearl Jam Songs

This past Friday night Pearl Jam was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Look, I don’t know what that really means. Every year bands and artists are inducted and I have that moment where I go:

“Wait a second… aren’t they already in there?”

Coming up with various 80’s and 90’s rock bands, I have my own biases about who should be in the Hall (how is Slayer not in the Hall? Or Iron Maiden? Or Alice in Chains?)

Anyway, I’ve certainly written about my Love Affair with Pearl Jam before wherein I talk about how my obsession began with them. I’ve written about some of the Lost Gems with those songs people would like/love, but who appear a little deeper on the album. And how one of their shows still holds a place in my Concert Top 5.

But these are the songs that make the difference for me in loving vs. liking them. These are the songs I could listen to over and over again.

Black (Ten 1991)

Might as well start with the biggie. I’m a sucker for sing-a-longs at concerts. It feels like in that moment the distance between us and the band has been reduced to nothingness. That with the lyrics being sung back to the band we are somehow a part of the band. We are the chorus.

We are the song.

Black is an easy song to love. The song that Eddie Vedder didn’t want to make a video of. It almost defies being anything more than just another track on the Ten album. How dare you want to exploit this personal song?

But that’s not how music works. That’s not how art works. We put these things into the world and then expect that those things are still ours… and sometimes they are for a time. But there is always a point where you can no longer claim your art and you must allow it to live in someone else.

And so when we sing along in concert to the lyrics. When we scream at the top of our lungs “I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life, I know you’ll be a star in somebody else’s sky.” When we cry out with every bit of anguish we’ve ever felt “But why, why, why can’t it be, can’t it be mine!”- that’s when we claim the song as our own and no one’s else.

Come Back (Pearl Jam)

The spiritual successor for their breakout cover of Last Kiss. This slow melodic tune feels like one that could have been played at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, evoking more feelings of that time.

Anyone who’s ever experienced the loss of a loved one can attest, their ghost remains with you. Room to room, objects, smells, sounds… everything and anything will conjure up memories.

Another song about loss, but also about hope. Hopefulness that even though the loved one is gone, they aren’t quite so far away. That the veil between worlds can be pierced.

“The real possibility I may meet you in my dream… I go to sleep.”

The worry that the song of their life might evaporate with time. These memories we take for granted, slipping away.

“If I don’t fall apart… will the memories stay clear?”

The two songs probably aren’t related, but for me it continues that story. And while the one may have halted… it is not over by any means.


Corduroy (Vitalogy)

I’m a lyric guy first… most of the time. But it is in the beginning of this song, that slow build up from utter silence, the drums kicking in, and then Eddie’s voice cuts in:

“The waiting drove me mad”

I’ve read about what the song is about. That by this point in their career their image had been appropriated by the masses. This was the time where you could buy the same clothes they wore, for only a mark-up of hundreds on top. Their images were used at times without their permission.

Things had begun to spiral out of their control.

“Everything has chains… absolutely nothing’s changed.”

I hear this line and I actually hear “Everything has changed… absolutely nothing’s changed.”

This album came out during my first quarter of college and if ever a line summed up my own feelings, it was that one. You are suddenly away from home, somewhat on your own. You are supposed to know exactly what you want out of your future. What do you want to be when you grow up is no long only a question… it is what you are in the process of becoming.

And yet… am I that different from who I was only a few months before? When I was still in high school and preparing to graduate? Am I equipped to make these decisions?

State of Love and Trust (Singles Soundtrack)

Back when you weren’t sure what might be coming from a band you listened to, every new soundtrack was scanned to make sure you hadn’t missed something. Singles was one of those movies that I liked when I saw it – though, I’m not entirely sure I understood everything they were trying to convey. But the soundtrack, that was something entirely different. And had it been a cassette and not a cd, I might have worn it out.

That Breath and State of Love and Trust were on the album was the icing. And while we were still in the “Ten” era, State didn’t feel like “Ten” to me. It was a fast, in your face attack.

“And I listen for the voice inside my head

Nothin’, I’ll do this one myself”

Did I learn something from this? Was I using it to channel some kind of teenage rage?

Maybe? Ah, probably not.

“Oh, help me, help me from myself.”

I just think I liked the beat.


Rearviewmirror (Vs.)

I would say this is one of their “driving songs”. There may not be one on every album, but there are a handful where you can just put them on and not think about anything other than the stretch of road in front of you.

I would say this is one of their “driving songs”, but it isn’t.


“Time to emancipate”

When you are a teen and get your license, then you are free. It doesn’t matter if you need to go around the corner, or you are searching out some place far from home. You get in the car and go. You can forget about life for a little while. Forget about whatever problems are currently on your plate.

And sometimes, just sometimes, you can drive as far as possible in hopes of seeing if there is an end in sight out there.

“Saw things clearer… once you… were in my… Rearview Mirror!”


John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Did I just fall off the face of the earth, or what?

I’ve never heard a Beyoncé song (that I know of.)

I haven’t seen The Walking Dead.

It’s been at least a decade since I bought an album anyone reading this article has heard of.

I can’t remember the last time I read the news, tried craft beer, or understood a hashtag cause.

Anyone else feel me?

Every day that goes by, I’m lost deeper and deeper in an ocean of information. My friends ask if I’ve seen or heard the latest ______, and I’m a deer in the headlights. I’m like, “Huh?” And my friends are like, “Duuude.” I haven’t seen the latest show, heard the new kickass song, or kept up with whatever the Kardashians are up to. (Are they still famous?) I feel like I should ask for help, reach out to friend, or crawl out from under the rock I’ve apparently been living under.


“Huh? Whaaaa…?”

Look, you probably think I’m about to start a big rant against modern culture and all its evils. Nope. I don’t have enough data to make a case for or against whatever the world has become. The only rant I could dream up would be an essay arguing the infinite darkness of social media. But whatever. That’d be pretty hypocritical, wouldn’t it? Especially since I’m about to post this commentary on Facebook and Twitter.

What I do wanna know is: how the heck did I get here?

I’m not that old.

I don’t have an ‘our generation is better than yours’ complex.

I don’t tell stories about wading through the snow to get to school and eating rocks for dinner.

You’d think having a son would compel me to brush up against modern culture now and then. After all, he’s at that age when Justin Bieber must start to seem cool. Or when the latest ‘thing’ must be purchased. Or when we just have to watch some crazy new show. But no. All junior wants to do is hang with his weird dad (me) and roast marshmallows in the fire pit, play board games all night, and watch movies that haven’t been famous since the 80’s (Gremlins, Willow, Sword in the Stone, et cetera.)

Anymore, I’m not sure whether I’m rubbing off on him or his indifference to modern stuff has reinforced my own.

And I’m not really sure it matters.

What started this thought process? Well… I’m glad you asked. Just the other day, I overheard some friends chatting it up about the Grammy awards. (And yes, I know what those are.) At the big Grammy celebration, some pregnant lady killed it with her performance and everyone thought she was a queen. Not just any queen, but THE Queen. Turns out the Queen was Beyoncé. (And it turns out the program I’m using to write this knew to put a ‘ over ‘e’ in her name – which is really weird to me.) Also, the guy from Metallica’s microphone failed, prompting Lady Gaga (whom I know of via her Super Bowl gig) to save him. And lastly, some blonde lady (Adele?) gushed so loudly about the aforementioned Queen some people questioned her sincerity.

Ok, cool, I thought. Sounds pretty entertaining.

Wait. No it doesn’t.

To all of this, I listened wide-eyed and confused. And then I realized that although I’m not terribly old, my tastes are pretty much ancient. It’s almost as if my love of music, culture, art, and books stopped somewhere in the late 80’s – early 90’s. And I can’t explain it. It’s not as if I don’t want to find new music to love. It’s not like I find modern music disastrously boring on some random whim. And life sure would be more fun if I had any inkling to enjoy The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and ________ <—- (insert superhero tv show here.)

Does anyone else experience this?


What the F does this meme even mean??

If I think about it, I don’t particularly miss the cultural era in which I grew up. The 80’s were straight up strange, with all the long hair, horrid pop music, and low production television. The 90’s might’ve been even worse, dragged into despair by depressing grunge music and not-quite-awesome-yet video games.

But I guess I didn’t realize my situation until the new century rolled in and forcibly stopped me from caring.

I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point all the music on the radio turned me off.

Until I stopped listening entirely.

Next came TV.

And here’s the whole story behind that.

More recently, the wave of superhero movies and bombastic action films flew right over my head.

Leaving me almost alone in the theater watching this.

I guess I can’t really complain; living under a giant rock has its benefits. I have tons of extra time. Peace and quiet are my domain. And then of course there’s all the money I save by not having cable and never going to a concert starring anyone famous. But the drawbacks are…well…I’m not sure. I’m left out of discussions regarding politics, news, movies, television, et cetera. And while I don’t particularly mind sitting in my quiet corner, it tends to halt conversations when I admit I don’t know a damn thing about whatever’s being talked about.

Me. As in my face. Always.

It’s almost intentionally ignorant, right?

It’s cultural abandonment.

It’s a willful disregard for humanity.

And now, after all these years, I still have no idea what happened.

Do you?

J Edward Neill

Builder of better coffee tables.

Under-the-rock artist.

Slayer, Anthrax, and a sleepy pit in Atlanta

If you’re a fan of thrash, speed metal, or any of the hard, fast, deadly metal bands from the 80’s all the way up to the modern era, it could be said:

  • You haven’t really lived until you’ve seen Slayer perform live
  • You’ve stood in a thrash metal pit and soaked up the abuse love of your fellow concert-mates
  • You’ve gone home in a haze of sweat and Jack Daniels with your ears ringing and your throat sore

These are things I know to be true.

Oct 5th, 2016 was one such formidable night. I was lucky enough to attend a mid-week show at Atlanta’s legendary Tabernacle theater. Slayer headlined, preceded by thrash metal pioneers Anthrax and Death Angel. The evening was cool outside, while the Tabernacle was as smoky and crowded as I remember from ages past.

It had all the promise of an epic night.

And for the most part, it delivered.

First, I have an admission. I arrived late to the show, missing opening act Death Angel completely. Like any sprawling city, Atlanta’s traffic is simply awful. One mishap on any of a dozen major roads shuts the whole scene down. I had every intention of arriving in time to catch every minute of each act, but the highways had a different plan in mind. So…… After two hours in traffic, I showed up just in time to grab two double Jack Daniel cocktails and plant my boots near stage-left, where Anthrax was already taking the stage.

Interesting note: just for kicks, Anthrax allowed the guy who plays Daryl on the show The Walking Dead to crash the stage just before their first song. I don’t know a damn thing about Daryl or his show, but the girls in the crowd did, and when Daryl picked up a bass guitar and pretended to jam, they soaked it up.

And then, boom. Anthrax started thrashing. (Or is it ‘thraxing’?)


Scott Ian (right) and Joey Belladonna (left) of Anthrax.

Now it’s true; Anthrax is a much different band than Slayer, so their inclusion on this part of Slayer’s US tour was an interesting choice. Singer Joey Belladonna belts out songs more in line with 80’s hair-bands, only with slightly more ferocity. Some might perceive them as not being as ‘heavy’ or ‘gritty’ as Slayer and other deathier bands. But as for my view, Anthrax’s spot in the metal pantheon is secure.

  • They played a viciously tight set
  • They showed no signs of aging. Scott Ian, rhythm guitar god, looked shredded, as did the other members
  • Belladonna’s voice was as crisp and powerful as ever

Anthrax’s set was maybe 45-minutes long. As one of the few ‘singer-only’ guys in the industry (most metal lead singers also play bass guitar) Belladonna hammed it up with the crowd between hooks. The set-list was energetic, especially when crowd-favorite Scott Ian took center stage and chugged through several awesome riffs. One noteworthy thing: Anthax’s style has always been kinda anthemic and sing-along, which is cool. One other noteworthy thing: despite their best efforts, the Tabernacle crowd just wasn’t biting. (More on that later.)

As my first Anthrax viewing (compared to at least six Slayer viewings) I was mightily impressed. Hair-band thrash isn’t exactly my thing, but ‘Thrax did it perhaps better than anyone. In the future, I’d like to see a show they headline.

After Anthrax went silent, and after another Daryl the dude from The Walking Dead sighting, the curtain fell over the main stage. Someone (bravely) had scrawled a bloody ‘Slayer’ logo on the otherwise pristine white curtain, which the crowd appreciated.

And so I drank.

And milled about the crowd.

And drank.

And again I noticed that despite the promise of Slayer, most mighty of all thrash-metal bands, the crowd was…sleepy.

And then…

…with a rumble, a few drum smashes, and a growling bass, the white curtain lifted and Slayer emerged. The crowd erupted (kind of) and the world shook. Tom Araya opened with the title track from ‘Repentless,’ and it get better with each song. Compared to my previous experiences with Slayer (including a show at the Tabernacle back in the early 2000’s) I can say without a doubt Tom, Kerry, Paul, and Jeff Hanneman’s stand-in Gary Holt are still every bit the gods of death. While no one will ever truly replace Hanneman, Gary Holt is more than capable. His solos rattled the Tabernacle, ditto for Tom Araya’s ageless howls and Paul Bostoph’s percussive blasts.


King, Holt, Bostoph, and Araya

In case you care, here’s the setlist. (I’ve dropped an asterisk to the highlights of the night.)


The Antichrist * A fine, fine choice for the first ‘oldie’ of the night.


Postmortem * Probably the tightest, most energizing song in the setlist.

Hate Worldwide

War Ensemble

When the Stillness Comes

You Against You

Mandatory Suicide

Fight Till Death

Dead Skin Mask * The only time Tom Araya addressed the crowd was to explain how Dead Skin Mask is a Slayer ‘love song.’

Born of Fire

Pride in Prejudice


Seasons in the Abyss * Personally, I think this is Slayer’s best song ever. Played live, it’s twice as good.

Hell Awaits * I’d never heard this one live before this show. Completely worth the wait!

South of Heaven

Raining Blood

Angel of Death * Slayer almost always closes shows with this one. And for the last two shows I’ve seen them, they also dropped a tribute banner for Jeff Hanneman just for this song.


The very cool tribute banner to fallen guitar god, Jeff Hanneman.


Other highlights:

  • The main banner behind the stage was a massive, crimson glow-in-the-dark monstrosity depicting Jesus with thorns in his scalp and other terrifying images. It. Was. Awesome.
  • The average ‘down’ time between each Slayer song: 1.5 seconds. These guys don’t slow down. Ever.
  • This was the first Slayer show I’d ever been to in which no girls stripped off their shirts.

All of this brings me to one little thing that bothered me about the show.

It had nothing to do with the bands. They were beyond good.

It had to do with the Tabernacle crowd. More specifically, the Atlanta crowd. I’ve seen Slayer in several different cities, and yet every time I see them (or any band) in Atlanta, there’s always something about the crowds. It bothers me a little bit, their sleepiness, their reluctance to form a pit and start thrashing, their strange indifference to transcendent guitar play and machine-gun drumming. And on this night, I think Slayer and Anthrax felt the same. Surely the bands noticed the lack of moshing, the high volume of people gazing at their cellphones, and the general malaise pervading the masses.

Are we getting too old for this? I mean…I know I’m not, but are other people?

Is a Wednesday night a tough draw for heavy metal?

Or is there something about Atlanta, something about the specific mix of concert-goers making shows a little less uninhibited? It feels possible, given that I (an old dude) was one of only three people in a mass of several hundred in Tabernacle’s lower area willing to go into heavy-metal convulsions.

   Despite Atlanta’s passive approach to headbanging, the show was awesome and the venue as perfect as it’s always been. If and when Slayer or Anthrax return, I’m all in. Maybe I’ll bring a few rowdy friends for good measure.

Next up…Carcass, aka the gods of grindcore.

Thanks for reading.

J Edward Neill

Fantasy/Sci-Fi Author and Dark Artist Extraordinaire


Painting Soundtracks

I can be a bit obsessive when it comes to music. I frequently listen to albums on repeat, especially when I’m working on art. Music helps me stay focused and inspired. Here’s a little taste of what I listen to in the studio…

If I’m working on something a little dark or Sci-Fi, I will often listen to the album Drink the Sea by The Glitch Mob.

I have several albums I love listening to while I’m painting a fantasy piece. If it has a mystical aspect to it I’m guaranteed to listen to Seven Lions.

If the piece is more nature based I might listen to Of Monsters and Men.

Then sometimes, I just listen to whatever is calling to me, like Masterplan, Bon Iver, Florence + The Machine, Placebo, M83, Blackmill, Metallica, Evanescence and many more.


Pearl Jam’s Hidden Gems

A few weeks ago I wrote about my love of Pearl Jam (OK, obsession maybe). But it occurs to me that while people are probably familiar with their various hits, those only scratch the surface of why they are my favorite band. So I present a few of the deeper cuts.


Sleight of Hand – Binaural

“He found himself staring down at his own hands, not remembering the changes, not recalling the plan… was his.”

That’s how we go into the first chorus for this song. A man who finds himself at the crossroads of life. I’ve written about this idea before – that an 18 year old has picked out your life for you. Determined your path.

“Lost on a road he knew by heart.”

And here we have a man who has finally reached the point where he has to make a change – to something different. Hoping that it’s not too late to change.

“He waves goodbye to himself.”

It doesn’t take much, just a desire to make the change… and a willingness to do it.

A little push.

“Another man… moved by Slight of Hand.”


Unemployable – Pearl Jam

“Thinking if he can’t sleep, how will he ever dream again.”

More than anything, it’s this one lyric that does it for me. Something so simple about stress, about not knowing how we’re supposed to get through the next day. How do we know we’ve done the right thing by our family? All of these things which keep us up at night – leads us to the real point:

When all we’re doing is just getting by – “How will he ever dream again.”

We all have dreams or at least had them at one point and put them aside for various reasons life throws at us. But they aren’t gone, just buried deep… waiting for us to dream them again.

Gone – Pearl Jam

I’m a sucker for Pearl Jam’s “Driving” songs. They started back on Vs. with Rearviewmirror – Eddie’s howl “Things were clearer… when you were in my Rearviewmirror.”

Yield brought MFC (Many Fast Cars) which I love for its tempo right out of the gate. We’re already on the road, going as fast as we can.

Gone, though, is different. It starts slow, deliberate… another person who is dissatisfied with their life. We see a mix of their regular self. Almost like a list of things someone wouldn’t care to miss. And then the decision is made.

“I will be what I could be once I get out of this town.”

But it’s a game… when will they end up with the choice? When will they make it.

“Long gone, I haven’t gone at all…

This time I’m gone.”

Is it a dare? And if so, for who? Us? Them?


4/20/02 – Lost Dogs (Disc 2 – Hidden Track)

“So sing just like him…”

“Because he’s dead.”

Pearl Jam’s tribute to Layne Stanley isn’t lauded or celebrated, but is buried as an unlisted track on their 2nd Lost Dogs Disc. And that’s fine. It doesn’t need to be anything more than it is. All too often we look at musicians who cannot escape their personal demons and succumb – and then we’re all left to wonder (and lament) about the music they didn’t get to create. That the world is denied their gift.

And then we get to Pearl Jam. Somehow, someway they’ve made it through when their popularity could crush them. Past individual member’s struggles with drugs. Past the tragedy at Rosklide…

“No blame, no blame… it could be you.”

“Use it.”

That refrain we all make when faced with the loss of someone we cared about, admired, or loved. We have to carry on. We have to “use” the pain and push through the sludge.

Otherwise we might succumb too.


Off He Goes – No Code

We actually included this song on the cds we burned for our wedding keepsakes. I knew a couple of things about that project (which Courtney put me in charge of) but the biggest was that it wasn’t just going to be a bunch of sappy love songs for the sake of having love songs. And that there needed to be 1 Pearl Jam song.

I thought about it for a good while. Trying to figure out if their was a song that just fit, and then I went back and listened to the lyrics for this song – a song about friends and how fleeting our time is with them as we grow older.

“We go way back.”

Those early days where all we had to focus on was school and maybe sports. Somewhere along the line life started to show up. And friends moved away or they got busy. And it can be sad…

“And now I rub my eyes, for he has returned.”

The moments that we now might get to spend with those old friends through phone calls or emails or even in person – we have to take a little time and really understand what we have with each other. Catch up with them, but more than anything take the time to be in that moment.

“And now he’s home and we’re laughing like we always did

My same old, same old friend…”

You won’t regret it.


John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.


My Musical Love Affair: Pearl Jam

Prior to 1992, my musical tastes could have gone a few different ways. The small collection of cds that I happen to be cultivating was an eclectic mix of many different genres. Among the first 3 cds I ever had were Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation, Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison, and Wilson Phillips’ Wilson Phillips. Add to that the handful of tapes I’d bought (Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Def Leppard’s Hysteria, and a pair of “tape singles” featuring Poison’s “Unskinny Bop” and Faith No More’s “Epic”) and it didn’t necessarily tell a complete tale of “this guy is going to be into this type of music”.


Growing up, my sister and I were somehow convinced, even with MTV, that the radio only had one station. And it only played the Oldies.

Seriously. If every time you got into the car with your parents the station NEVER CHANGED, you might think there was nothing else.

It got so bad that during the summer the Beach Boys put out “Kokomo”, my sister would call the station to try and get them to put on Madonna and when that failed, she’d opt for “Kokomo” (which they would play because it was the Beach Boys).

Fall of 1992 that changed. Chad Shonk for some reason or another brought over a cd to play while we got ready for another night of D&D. And from what little I heard, I didn’t think much of whatever it was. The next morning (or more like around Noon), when everyone staggered out to their cars in order to go home, Chad forgot to grab the cd.

It sat in my player for about a week, never spinning… until Chad requested his property back. So I thought, “I should probably listen to this band for free since he seems to like them.” So I sat on the edge of my bed, powered up my stereo, and clicked play…

I don’t want to do the cliche’ thing of saying that listen changed my life. It’s not like I suddenly went out and bought a guitar and started a band and made it big because of that night. That said, it might be the first album I’d ever heard that I immediately liked on the first listen.

That weekend I returned it to Chad and promptly bought myself a copy of Pearl Jam’s Ten.

pearl jam

In that following year it was a mad scramble to find whatever we could that Pearl Jam had done. Back in the days prior to the internet telling us the complete discography of every band, we had to go to the “cool” record shops and dig through the bootlegs they might have. I paid $20 for a taped concert just to get 1 song I’d never heard before (turns out it was a Who song). But every couple of weekends the search would begin anew.

A year later, I purchased Vs. on the day it came out (the first time I’d ever done that). I did it again with Vitalogy. I went to the midnight release of No Code and Yield. Each time I have a slight fear before I press play on the new album. I worry that this will be the point they lose me. I worry that they will become another band that I “liked”. I worry I’ll become one of those fans who, disappointed with the “new stuff” goes on and on about how they used to be good… or whatever happened to those guys or even worse “I wish they’d stopped X albums ago”.

Yet, it hasn’t happened yet. Sure I like some songs more than others, but overall they have yet to disappoint.

In those early days, if I had to chose my side in the Pearl Jam vs. Nirvana grunge war, there was no question where my allegiance was going. I bought Rolling Stones with them on the cover, scanned MTV for any word or bit of news about the band. When Cobain committed suicide my first thought was whether Eddie Vedder would be next (and selfishly thinking about all the songs I would never get to hear if that happened).

While in college I discovered that I could download some of their concerts… so I did. So many concerts (dozens)

I’ve written about my first real concert with them (at the Fox Theater in Atlanta) here. Not only is it my favorite concert of all time, it still is the concert I judge all others by.

I’m lucky too that my wife loves them too. That she’s seen them with me every time I’ve seen them. When they were boycotting Ticketmaster, Courtney and I drove up to Charlotte, NC to see them and then drove home after the concert. 10 years later we did something similar in Columbia, SC, with me somehow finding my way home through blurry eyes. She was the one who scolded me when my Fan Club membership accidentally lapsed and we had to get tickets for the 2000 show like “normal” people.

Look, I make no claim to be Pearl Jam’s biggest fan or anything like that. From reading blogs breaking down every song in their catalog, to reading about the concert exchanges online from various traders… I haven’t reached that level of obsession. I’ve never followed them around on tour (nor have I ever seen more than 1 show on any of their tours).

I do have a spreadsheet showing every concert I’ve been to and the set lists laid out so that I know which songs I have heard in concert and which songs I still need to hear (“Oceans” and “Breath” are two I have never seen from the Ten era that I’d love to be played). Also on this spreadsheet is every song they’ve ever put out in an effort to make sure I have all their songs.

I take offense when I read on a forum about how the show I happened to go to wasn’t as good as the one in X place. That the set list wasn’t as “cool”, or that it was too “paint by numbers”, or even that the crowd “wasn’t as into it”.

So there is a bit of an obsession.

And I believe in fandom. Heck, I read comic books and watch TV shows and go to conventions that are only based on fandom. I believe that while we can LIKE a great many bands, we can only LOVE a select few. Pearl Jam is at the top of that mountain for me.

I love the fact that songs which meant one thing to me in my teens might mean something different to me now.

stewie - like that band too much

In a couple of days I will be seeing them again, for the 9th time (I can’t count Lollapalooza 1992, we only saw 2 songs and it was about a month before Chad brought Ten over), having again drive to Columbia, SC from the suburbs of Atlanta (I still don’t quite understand why Atlanta gets skipped on these southern tours every other time). I don’t have any expectations as this will be the first show I’ve seen not on the heels of an album release. In theory, that could allow them to play almost any song in their arsenal. You see, Pearl Jam is not a band with a locked in set list. It varies night to night, and while there are staples that will be played, it also means some of the more obscure stuff might sneak in there. Maybe a song you haven’t thought about in years. So, yeah, I’m excited. I want the crowd to be into it. I want the band to be into it.

I want the evening to last forever.


John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.


Minimoogs, Synthesizers and Trent Reznor

First off… I don’t have a blog post for today. I’ve been thinking about what to write for the past two days with zero luck. I even went through an old archived blog and found nothing I might re-post. But I had this video open in my tabs because I’m a Trent Reznor fan. I know. Hard to believe this nature loving, taoist likes Nine Inch Nails. I’ve always said, I have a dark side. 😉

Regardless, this is an interesting interview. I’ve always had a thing for electronic music and I find it interesting learning how artists find their way into using synthesizers. Maybe you’ll find this interesting too. I found the video in this Rolling Stones Article – Trent Reznor Recalls Making Early Albums, Moog Influence.

Route 3: Sean’s Playlist

I like music. I like it a lot.

When I’m in my car I’ve got my Cake, Chance The Rapper, The Roots, Red Hot Chili Pepper, Kanye West, or Tito Puente Pandora stations on constant rotation. Music helps get me through the day, long writing sessions, and just Sean-3allows me to unwind.

So when writing Route 3 I’ve created a mix-tape of sorts that our protagonist, Sean Anderson, would have queued up on his MP3 player.

I’ll admit a lot of my tastes influence what Sean probably listen’s too, so hey, sue me. We both like good music.

Below is a small sampling of what Sean rocks out to when heading to school, or saving the day.





Logic – Under Pressure (Album): This guy has me constantly thanking Pandora for mixing him into my Chance The Rapper rotation. With a laid back flow, the Maryland born and bred Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, a.k.a Logic would be a constant fixture in Sean’s ears. Logic’s masterful rapping, including insightful lyrics speaking about his newfound success and struggles could form a great reflection to Sean’s own triumphs and trials.

Added to this, Sean would more than likely keep his head bobbing on his “road trip from hell” to the awesome beats/ production being laid down by legendary producer No ID.


Kanye West- College Dropout/ Late Registration/ Graduation (Albums): Ok, ok hear me out. Mr. West has become a sort of polarizing figure for a lot of folks. To be honest with you, I don’t focus on anything with him outside of the music. I’m not big into celebrity news/ gossip, and when it comes to Mr. West, for me, all that matters is the music.

The Kanye that Sean would be rocking out to would be what I’ve deemed “The Backpack-Polo Trilogy” (College Dropout/ Late Registration/ Graduation). Not saying that I haven’t enjoyed any of his work that’s dropped after these three album’s, but for me, and Sean by extension, this is classic Kanye, and includes some of his greatest work.

This was the bashful braggart. The socially conscious/ fun rapper, who could belt slick lyrics laced with lines that would make you think and want to dance at the same time. The backpack carrying, polo shirt wearing, rapper/ producer. For Sean this would be a guy who would tap into the smart swagger that he himeself feels he embodies, but which has taken a hit due to death of his own mother.


Dave Brubeck-Take Five (Single): Gonna cheat here a little, as this would be
a song that would be suggested to Sean. This would be a track that Charles has slipped into the car radio while he and Sean are fleeing across the country. Charles is a bit of a “old head”, as the young folks say, and his musical tastes represents that somewhat.

So he’s a bit of an aficionado of all forms of music. Ranging from classic hip hop, to bluegrass music, Charles likes a little bit of everything, and this includes jazz. After a few conversations where he’s been able to pick Sean’s brain a bit, Charles decides to pull up Dave Brubeck’s seminal work, “Take Five”. It’d be a track that would keep Sean cool, calm, and collected as hell continues to rain down around him, while also opening new doors of music for our young protragonist.


Israel “Iz” Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole- Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World Medley (Single)- Even writing about this song gets me all misty eyed and what not.

I can get sappy sometimes.

This for me is the track that I picture Sean’s mother playing for him when he was younger. This was the song that Sean played every night on a portable CD player by his mother’s bedside at the hospital, as she battled cancer. This was their song. This track by the Hawaiian born and raised Israel “Iz” Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole is the type of song that just leaves you feeling good and happy with life.

The song has a melancholy feel, but at points uplifts you. In my opinion, it’s the best rendition of both Somewhere Over The Rainbow and What A Wonderful World that I’ve heard in a while. So, to just find a moment of peace in the tumultuous events that play out in Route 3, and reminisce on his mother, Sean would have this on repeat on his playlist.


Hope you enjoyed this trip down Sean’s musical lane.

One question for my fellow writers/ creators: what artists/songs do your characters listen to?

Second Star to the Right and Straight on ’til Compton

StraightOuttaSomewhere (3)I think every young filmmaker has a handful of dream projects in their back pocket. Not only dozens of original ideas but also ones based on preexisting content: an adaptation of a novel or comic book, someone’s life story, a sequel to a beloved franchise, a tale from history, a (gasp) remake of a classic film. Projects filed away under the “When I make it big, I’ll use that clout to get one of these things made” category. Some of these projects you are sure will rock the box office; others, that you don’t really think will make any money but, if all goes well, will net you some critical acclaim.

The two big dream projects for me could not have been more different in tone and subject matter:

I wanted to do a live-action, semi-serious, sticking-to-the-book version of JM Barrie’s Peter and Wendy

…and a biopic about Eazy-E and the creation and dissolution of legendary hip-hop group N.W.A.

And they both got made.

But not by me.

It’s weird seeing these films come to fruition; it’s even weirder watching them. You can’t help but think about what you would have done differently, what they did better than you, what they fucked up entirely. It’s not a crushing feeling; I never got close to making either one a reality. But it’s… strange.

peter-pan-wendy-03What attracted me to JM Barrie’s 1911 novel Peter and Wendy was that it was a version of Peter Pan I had never seen, knowing only the Disney interpretation. The book was darker than the animated film. More violent. More powerful. With a bittersweet message about childhood, both celebrating it and recognizing our need to shed it. Peter himself was full of contradictions: he was charming, fun-loving, sometimes feminist (“Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.”) optimistic and brave, but also selfish, mean, forgetful, and super-duper violent.

Which all made sense to me. Little boys are terrors. When I was a child, I may have used a stick or wooden sword to fight pirates (or Darth Vader. Let’s be honest here.) but I was imagining a real blade. I wasn’t knocking people over. I was running them through. Cutting off their heads. Killing bad guys. In Barrie’s novel, that’s what Peter does. He kills bad guys. It’s not the bloodless, G-rated action of the Disney film.

The novel has several other dark tropes that few Peter Pan adaptations have yet to explore. Peter’s role as an Angel of Death, tasked with holding children’s hands on their way to heaven. His hatred of adults, parents especially, and how he genuinely wanted them dead. The slaughter of the Indians, an aspect of the story that I admit feels racist here in the 21st Century. And the famous Peter Pan quote, when stranded on an island left to die, a line that has forever stuck with me as probably the most positive outlook on death I’ve ever heard:

to-die-would-be-an-awfully-big-adventureAnd then there’s the end. I’m not going to get into it, but the last chapter of Peter and Wendy is sad and beautiful and a real reminder that Pan is a boy who will NEVER grow up. Which is the main reason why I hate Spielberg’s Hook. I know it’s beloved by the generation after me, and that’s fine, but it’s a bad film, hands down, my Peter Pan purist proclivities aside. But more than anything: Pan doesn’t grow up. He isn’t a child. He’s a demigod, an angel, an imp, maybe even a devil. He will live forever, as the final lines of the novel tell us:

“When Margaret grows up she will have a daughter, who is to be Peter’s mother in turn; and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.”

Gay and innocent and heartless. That is Peter Pan to me. I have yet to see him on screen.

30521196_1300x1733I’m not going to offer a full review of PJ Hogan’s 2003 adaptation, Peter Pan. I have only seen it once and did not care for it. It got a lot right, especially in the first half hour or so. But then it fell apart for me. And, while it did incorporate a little bit of the adult edge I was looking for, it didn’t go far enough. But when that film came out, I knew my chances of making a film out of Peter and Wendy had just been cut drastically. And then when it failed at the box office, it showed that maybe a big-budget Peter Pan movie wasn’t commercially viable.

We’ll see if Joe Wright’s film, simply called Pan, will be different when it comes out this year. It’s apparently a prequel or something which we know ALWAYS bodes well, right? (see: Prometheus, The Thing, Star Wars, Hannibal Rising). But I doubt it’s the film I would have made.

And, man, the film I would have made is so good. It’s still there, in my head, scene by scene. I could still write it, legally. In 2007 the rights to the novel basically became public domain, leading to a series of disparate book series’ that I have not read. And maybe one day I will. Or maybe one day I’ll come up with a different take on one of my favorite stories, a new way to bring it to life.


“You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.”

In the late 80’s, when I was 13 years old, I got hold of a cassette tape I shouldn’t have. It was called Straight Outta Compton, by a band called N.W.A., which I soon learned stood for “Niggaz wit’ Attitude”. It scandalized me, excited me, educated me, and, quite frankly, scared the shit out of me. Especially the song “Fuck tha Police” and the shit storm that came with it.

The group’s frank and often gratuitous depictions of life on the street in a city I had never heard of called Compton, a place so far removed from suburban Atlanta that I couldn’t imagine ever going there, was eye-opening, sure, but it was also dirty. The non-stop assault of profanity, violence, and sex was exceptionally titillating to my white, sheltered, adolescent mind.

Just the use of the word “nigger” (or “nigga” or “niggaz”, technically), which my parents had raised me to strike from my vocabulary forever (“Forever. Forever? Forever ever. Forever ever?”), was scandalous. And, I admit, intriguing. This was a bad word used to describe black people. Why would these guys talk about themselves that way? I sort of understood it, but not really. Not for a long time. But I knew it was controversial and adult and, in the back of my brain, powerful. I just couldn’t tell you why.

18280-n-w-a-1680x1050-music-wallpaperO’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson. Lorenzo “MC Ren” Patterson. Eric “Eazy-E” Wright. Antoine “Yella” Carraby. Andre “Dr. Dre” Young. These are guys whose faces and voices I’ve known since puberty. I can recite all of Straight Outta Compton (the album, not the movie. I guess we have to differentiate now) as well is its companion piece, Eazy-E’s Eazy-Duz-It, word for word. Still, to this day.

"See you at the crossroads."

“See you at the crossroads.”

When (SPOILER) Eric Wright died of AIDS in 1995, it shook me. I was mostly listening to heavy metal and grunge, but I had never forgotten N.W.A. and their 5’ 5” superstar (“Niggaz [his] height don’t fight.”) . I knew the group had broken up and there had been bad blood. If you were alive in the early 90s and remember Dr. Dre’s The Chronic coming out, it was impossible not to know. But Eazy was a part of my adolescence and he was gone.

I wanted to make a movie about Eazy-E and the formation of N.W.A. I did some reading and found that there was a lot of drama to be mined. The music would be center stage, of course, but there were also political, financial, racial, sexual, and societal themes to be explored. Were these men artists pretending to be gangstas or gangstas who stumbled into being artists? I wanted to explore that question.

And, morbidly, films about actual people are more satisfying if they have a definite ending. And by that I mean death. It’s fucked up, I know, but it’s true. And the more tragic that ending, the more drama you can conjure. And (SPOILER) Eazy’s death was tragic, to be sure. He was destroyed by his own reckless behavior, sure, but dying of AIDS made Wright an icon of the 1980s. He not only helped birth a style of music that rules the airwaves over 25 years later, but he was struck down by the 20th Century’s Black Death, just at the point where we were starting to understand it. As Eazy said, from his hospital bed, after being told he had AIDS: “But I ain’t no fag.” That was the attitude then. For a lot of people.

I tried to pitch this movie to anyone who would listen. Every one of my L.A. friends knew about it. But I was never able to get through any doors of consequence. People I did get to talk to weren’t interested. Plus, there was the matter of clearing the music, an incredibly expensive process that meant the film could never be made independently. I still held out hope for 15 years. Just like with Peter and Wendy, I had the whole movie in my head and “damn, that shit was dope!”

maxresdefaultRight now, for the second straight week, F. Gary Gray’s film, Straight Outta Compton, is on top of the box office charts. I was both excited and nervous to go see it. I mean, the subject matter is obviously attractive to me, but, motherfucker, I wanted to make this movie. And I was weary that the film was produced by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. That meant that rough corners were going to be sanded down. Certain less-than-flattering things would be omitted. I was especially worried about how the film would depict Eazy, who would have been my protagonist.

I really liked the movie.

It’s odd. It’s not at all the movie I would have made but it’s also exactly the movie I would have made. It doesn’t look like the movie in my head. Doesn’t feel or sound or flow like it. But it covers the exact story beats I would have. Its Point A is my Point A and its point Z is my Point Z. It told the story I wanted to tell, just not in the style I wanted to tell it in.

And that’s fine. Because I liked it. And a lot of people seem to feel the same way.

(Especially after the mind-blowing clusterfuck that was the Biggie Smalls “movie”.)

I do wish it had explored a little more of the dark side of things, especially the famous incident involving Dr. Dre and Dee Barnes, an omission that is getting a lot of press over the last week. It should be in the movie. It really should. The first step to atonement is to acknowledge what you’ve done. Dre has done that in the press this week, releasing statements that seem genuine. But it would have been much more powerful to explore these themes in the film. Let it all hang out. Show your ugly side. The movie has to stand on its own and Dre’s history of domestic violence isn’t something that should be discussed in a press release.

osheajacksonjr_withicecubeBut the performances are great, especially by O’Shea Jackson Jr, who not only looks like his father but does a spot-on impression. The music is of course awesome. The cinematography interesting. The script could be better and sometimes the “bio-pic-ness” of the thing hurts it, with its need to make sure you understand who all these people coming in and out of the story are. Hey guys? I’m at a movie about N.W.A. I know that guy is playing Tupac. I am aware of his music. No need to point him out to me.

Surprisingly Eazy, the drug-dealer turned hip-hop mogul and star, comes across as the one of the biggest heart. He’s actually the soul of the movie. This makes me happy. Because that was going to be my way in, too. Through him. And when (SPOILER) Eazy dies, I was shaken, teary, even though I knew it was coming.

The only thing that pisses me off about the success of Straight Outta Compton (the movie) is… its success. It’s making BANK. All those years I was told no one wanted this movie. That it would be too expensive to get the music rights. That who cares about some gangster who died of AIDS? And now it’s ruling the Summer box office. Beating the crap out of more traditional Summer movies. I TOLD YOU, YOU MOTHERFUCKERS.

the-devil-in-the-white-city-by-erik-larson-book-cover-960x1459Do I have more dream projects in my head? Of course. Novels I want to adapt (not telling you which ones). Life stories I want to tell. Historical incidents I’m dying to recreate. And I will hold onto them, along with the countless original ideas I have in my head, until the next one gets knocked down by someone who got to it before me.

One of my favorite books, well, ever, is Erik Larsen’s Devil in the White City. I would love to make it into a movie. Recently, it has been announced that Leonardo DiCaprio will be starring in the adaptation, with our greatest living filmmaker, Martin Scorsese, behind the lens. I will defer and gladly give up that dream. Because while I think one day I could match the talents of PJ Hogan or F. Gary Gray (both accomplished, not taking anything away from them), I will never-ever come close to Mr. Scorsese. So make that movie Marty. I can’t wait to see it.


I don’t know how interesting this has been. I just had this gut reaction to seeing Straight Outta Compton (the movie) that made me sit down and write my first blog post in forever. Sitting there, watching a movie I have dreamed about a thousand times, not looking at all like the film I would have made but enjoying it all the same.

Now that I think about it, that’s probably how I’m going to feel about The Force Awakens, too, because I know I have at least 3,263,827 Star Wars movies in me.

And I’m not giving up entirely on Peter and Wendy. Some dreams die harder than others.

Top 10 Songs to Drive at Night With

Night owl life.

Learn to embrace it.

I’ll be the first to admit: when the sun’s up, I’m pretty much a drone. I eat, I exercise, I work, I breathe, but sometimes it’s all so…passionless. Not to say there isn’t beauty during the day, but beneath it all I crave the stars, the Moon, the endless void. The night awakens me. It makes me rebel against my galactic insignificance. It makes me feel alive.

To get anywhere in this festering suburban miasma, one must drive. A lot. And if one must drive, one must have music. And if one must have music, one must have good music for driving at night with. For me, there are few things as serene as driving at night, alone or with someone beautiful beside me. Flying past streetlights, watching the Moon, devouring the emptiness of it all…


Few.   Things.   Are.  Better.


10 Songs for Driving at Night with:


To Live is to Die

To Live is to Die – Metallica

The slow, chunky guitar riffs in this Metallica classic will have you tapping your non-gas pedal foot. It rises and fades like the Moon, and when it’s gone, you might just want to hit ‘Repeat.’





Am I Not MercifulAm I not Merciful? – Hans Zimmer

If you’ve seen Gladiator, you probably remember the scene in which Commodus stabs Maximus moments before their epic fight. This song is as dark as the night is black. You’ll wish it lasted your entire drive.



Bring on the Night

Bring on the Night – Sting

It’s lighter fare than the first two on this list, but even so…  Every word of it is true.




I Don't Mind the Pain

I Don’t Mind the Pain – Danzig

Among the Lord of Deathy Blues’ best songs, this one has a great hook, superb guitars, and a dark little message to send you into the night.




Black Sunshine

Black Sunshine – White Zombie

The whole album would work just as well. In fact, almost everything Rob Zombie ever did is solid for driving. At ALL hours.




Invocation to a Continual OneInvocation to a Continual One – Morbid Angel

Ok, it’s got a weird title. And no, not everyone will appreciate most of Morbid Angel’s catalogue. But Invocation features guitar riffs that’ll send your mind reeling. And the solo at the end…probably the best heavy guitar work ever. Plus it’s nine minutes & forty-eight seconds long. Boom, goes the road.




Rooster – Alice in Chains

An instant classic the moment it hit the world, Rooster is probably good for all hours. I’ve riffed it at breakfast, in my office, wherever. But songs about suffering belong in the night. And so here it is.





Seasons in the Abyss

Seasons in the Abyss – Slayer

Seasons is the heaviest song on this list by far. And it’s probably Slayer’s best. If you like shredding guitars and thumpy drums that’ll make you drive fast, just queue this one up at the very end of your night.





Little Wing Little Wing – Stevie Ray Vaughn

Among the best guitar solos ever, Little Wing takes off and never comes back to Earth. It may be a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s song, but with the vocals carved out and the length more than doubled, you’ll find it hard not to drive faster.




Brothers in Arms

Brothers in Arms – Junkie XL

My newest favorite from Mad Max. Anytime you’re feeling aggressive or indestructible in traffic, plug Brothers in and smash.  It has a quality to it that’ll make you feel godlike on any highway.





Rev up your engines and go.

And when you get home, finish the night with this.

J Edward Neill

Whiplash Movie Review

JK2Disclaimer: This review is largely spoiler-free

A few weeks ago I reviewed George Miller’s screamingly loud and bone-crushingly good Mad Max – Fury Road.

This week’s movie, Whiplash, breaks only a few bones, but is almost as loud, and is definitely as good.

I’ll start with an admission: I’m late to the party. Very late. 2014’s Whiplash, directed by Damien Chazelle, has already earned three Oscar wins and numerous other accolades. That said, it’s my opinion that not enough people have been exposed to it. So if this review convinces even one person to check Whiplash out, I’ll claim success.


Like Jazz music much? Maybe? Maybe not so much? It’s ok. While planted on my couch during a 1AM Redbox DVD screening of Whiplash, my first worries were: ‘This is a jazz movie. What was I thinking?? I should’ve picked something else. Or maybe just watched some porn.” And yet, two minutes in, any fears of drowning in discordant jazz and wonky music vanished. Into. Thin. Air.

Early on, we see a different J.K. Simmons than we’re used to. Gone is the friendly guy from the Farmers Insurance commercials. Gone is the affable, calm dude from J.K.’s previous films. Instead we get a badass. And I’m serious. As Fletcher, the leanest, meanest jazz instructor ever, J.K. is shredded. He’s an all-black-wearing, door-slamming, fist-shaking maniac. He’s a force of f’ing nature.

And it’s apparent he’s made it his mission in life to mold Andrew (played to perfection by young and talented Miles Teller) into the planet’s best drummer…or kill him in the process.



As an interesting aside, it should be noted that Miles Teller played ALL his drum pieces. He had a head start, being born of a musical family, but even so. His dedication to learning some of Whiplash’s more extreme rhythms is admirable, and adds tons to the movie’s realism.

So what’s it really about?

Whiplash is primarily a struggle between two men. Fletcher’s win-at-all-costs mentality are at permanent odds with AndrewFletcher wants perfection, nothing less, from his musicians. And perhaps no instrument requires perfection more than drums. Andrew’s willing to bleed to become the best, but still manages to be overwhelmed by Fletcher’s never-ending stream of F bombs and insults. As the movie drums on, literally, the questions become: “Is greatness only achievable under enormous pressure?” and “Is there a such thing as going too far to win?” I know what MY answer is. If you watch or have already watched Whiplash, I want to know YOURS. Because therein lies Whiplash’s soul. It’s Pain versus Reward. Sacrifice versus Greatness. Living a full life versus Having a Singular Dedication. The movie puts us in the proxy position of asking how far we’d go to be the best at something.

Would you bleed? Would you suffer? Would you give up every comfort? Most of us wouldn’t. But perhaps Andrew might.

The supporting cast is small, but more than capable. Veteran Paul Reiser plays Andrew’s concerned but ultimately powerless father. Beautiful Melissa Benoist charms as Andrew’s unfortunate love interest, Nicole. Austin Stowell and Nate Lang are formidable rivals in the studio for Andrew to wage war against. They’re all very good, but reduced to mere pawns in the Fletcher v Andrew struggle. And that’s ok. This isn’t their film. It’s J.K.’s and Miles’.

As another aside, if you like drums of any kind, you’ll love Whiplash’s talent, if nothing else. The speed and excellence demanded in the film transcend genres. It’s obvious this isn’t a movie about jazz at all. It’s about power, skill, and using means to justify the ends. But even if you don’t care about all of that, the drums…are…epic.

Let’s be clear. I Redboxed Whiplash on a hunch. I’d never heard of it prior to plugging it into my DVD player, and I’d no idea what to expect.

…which made it all the better when it turned out to be fucking awesome.

Rent it. Watch it. In the dark. Preferably alone.

And when you’re done, check out my latest philosophy title here.


J Edward Neill

I like to swim… into the mosh…

Tonight I’ll be on my way to see Breaking Benjamin in concert for the second time ever… the first being about a decade ago when they randomly opened for Evanescence. In fact, had they not switched the order of who was coming on first (I believe 3 Days Grace was supposed to be the second band of the night, but had to go on first for some reason) I would have never even seen them.

I love concerts. I love going and watching people, and sometimes seeing old friends from concerts long passed. When I was younger I loved jumping in the midst of the craziness and feel the beat rip through us.

With this impending concert adventure, I’m reminded of a few of my favorite shows:


Korn with Helmet and Limp Bizkit – Athens, Georgia 1997

I think I saw Korn 6 times for their first album. I swear every 2 months they came through Atlanta… first playing a small club, then the next larger one, and then the next one, and so on. But this show was a chance to not only see them, but to see Helmet – who were one of my top 10 bands at that time. A band I’d managed to miss previously  because of misplaced tickets.

But the biggest reason I remember this show is for the opening band – Limp Bizkit. I couldn’t tell you much about their show. The songs didn’t wow, but I didn’t dislike them either.

And then they launched into Faith… and we laughed… and then they started screaming the lyrics and we stopped laughing.

After the show, Fred Durst (and probably others) were outside the venue handing out their sampler tapes to anyone who would take them. On my next trip to Richmond we wore that tape out (all 2 songs of it). By the time they put their cd out, we were ready.

The Misfits – Dragon Con, Atlanta, Georgia 2000

This one gets a mention only because it has two events that I’ve never seen before happen during a concert.

For those that don’t know, the Misfits are a punk band from the late 70s-early 80s (originally fronted by Glenn Danzig) which reformed in the late 90s. I’ve liked them since before I knew what punk music really meant (not that I’m 100% on that even today). So getting a chance to randomly see them at Dragon Con of all places was too good to pass up.

My roommate, Scott, accompanied me down to whatever room it was they were playing. And a decent crowd had formed. Now, this type of music is far from Scott’s scene (he likes the Lilith Fair types), but he settled in the back of the room, eager to rest his feet from the full day of walking one does at Dragon Con.

After a few songs, I take a glance back and see my good friend, head thrown back, mouth slightly open… asleep in the chair. While this angry, fast, loud music is pumping through the speakers… there he is sleeping.

Sadly, the other thing I remember about this concert is watching a girl crowd surf for a few minutes and then crash down to the floor more or less on her head. A few seconds later she’s twitching… having a seizure. Luckily most concert goers are good about not trampling someone on the ground and her friends managed to get her out of there.

Pantera – Lakewood Amphitheater, Atlanta, Georgia 1994

We had row 9 or 13 for this show, no lawn tickets for us. And I know what you are thinking – a Pantera show that you have seats for, how on earth would that be any good. And if I hadn’t been there I would have agreed with you. I don’t know why it worked so well. I think Phil (the lead singer) was in a good mood as he talked to the audience after every other song… but not just the BS singer do, I felt like he was eager to share his stories.

And while we couldn’t get into the pit back on the lawn, that might have been for the best. I’ve been in a Slayer pit before and barely survived… I might not have made it out of a Pantera one.


Pearl Jam – Fox Theater (2nd Night – The Radio Broadcast), Atlanta, Georgia 1994

Somehow we managed to get tickets to this concert. Impossible to believe nowadays, my friend Lee – who happened to work an intership or something which allowed him to leave school early – contacted me as soon as I got home. Told me that the tickets were on sale, and I needed to get my ass to Turtles to stand in line.

Somehow I made it to the line, and then magically it sold out… two people after me.

To see this show at the Fox, to be one of the lucky ones who got to see it unfold was a thing I’ll never forget. And even though people offered Courtney and I hundreds to buy our tickets – I never regret seeing them. And since the show was broadcast, it was the first concert I got to relive back at home keeping my memories much more vivid and crisp than they might be now.

Sadly, we did not see the entire concert. When Pearl Jam finished their last song, the house lights went up and slowly we all started to file out of the building. Courtney and I had ridden with Chad and Lee, so after about 10 minutes of waiting in the car, they finally showed up.

“Wow that last song was great. I can’t believe they played Indifference.”

“Uhm, they didn’t play Indifference.”

“Sure they did. With the house lights on. <sees the look on my face> “Did you leave before they played it?”



Lollapalooza – Lakewood Amphitheater, Atlanta, Georgia 1993

I consider this my first concert even if it isn’t. I’d attended a couple of “Oldies” concerts with the parents throughout the years, I’d managed to see Janet Jackson (I think it was the Rhythm Nation Tour), but this was my baptism by fire.

I didn’t know any of the bands. I didn’t even have a ticket prior to maybe 2 days before the event as one of my Kroger workmates had an extra ticket. I didn’t know any of the bands who were playing (I was only beginning to learn exactly what Grunge was). But it was a concert and I actually had the day off, so Rebecca and I climbed into my Sunbird and off we went into Atlanta.

Now in the days before GPS and phones that yell the directions at you, we were forced to use heresay and sonar or something to find these places. Somehow we missed the exit (it actually says Lakewood, so to this day I’m unsure how that happened). We drove for about 30 minutes, and were soon far south of Atlanta. It was at this point we decided we MIGHT have missed the turn, stopped and tried to get some directions, and finally made it to the show for the last 2-3 songs in Pearl Jam’s set. And while I wasn’t destined to really hear them for another couple of months when Chad left his cd at my house… I do wonder what might have happened if we’d got there earlier.

As the day progressed, we hung out on the lawn area, soaking up the sights and sounds of these bands I still didn’t know, but I didn’t care. The sun began to set, and darkness rolled in, and a band named Ministry took the stage.

Within seconds the entire lawn area began a mad scramble to their feet. Bodies pushed against each other. Men and women shoved each other. Still others were hoisted upward. The mosh pit breathed as a creature unlike any I’d ever seen before. And while Rebecca abandoned all “sense’ and dove right in, I took a few steps back trying to figure it out.

My first mosh pit was one I never actually got into… but there would be many, many more.




John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is FREE!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

My Top Seven Heaviest Metal Albums of All Time

Please allow me to digress…

Whenever asked what my musical preferences are, I’m hesitant. If I say I love Hans Zimmer and Clint Mansell soundtracks, it’s true, but it’s really only fifty percent of the story. (I’m lucky if my audience knows who those guys are.) Because, yeah, soundtracks are awesome, but they’re the soft and squishy underbelly. They’re the basement, deep and dark, of my musical mansion. Sometimes even I grow weary of them, with all their eerie, melancholic moods. Sometimes I need to obliterate my calm center and get head-punched.

So let’s be clear. Let’s be honest. I don’t care for jazz. I can’t stand country (except Johnny Cash.) Blues bores me after a song or two. Modern rap, hip-hop, and contemporary just hurt my ears. But…and don’t judge me for saying this…I love extravangantly complex, eardrum-crushing metal. I can’t help it. It’s antisocial, off-the-grid, and hard to understand for most normal folks. I get it. So for your sakes, I won’t subdivide it into Thrash, Black Metal, Grindcore, or whatever. It’s all the same to me. The heavier and more talented, the better.

Let’s do this.

My Top Seven Heaviest Metal Albums of ALL Time:

 7. Vulgar Display of Power – Pantera

This album gets a spot on the list for one reason: Dimebag Darrell. Sure, Phil Anselmo’s roars are massive (ie; Walk, Mouth for War.) But Dimebag’s prowess sets Vulgar Display apart from all other Thrash albums. He’s the Eddie Van Halen of metal. He’s what Yngwie Malmsteen would be if Yngwie had a soul. Just listen to his solos, man. Just listen.



6. Covenant – Morbid Angel

A lot of people will tell you Morbid Angel has better albums (Altars of Madness, Blessed are the Sick) but my favorite Morbid flavor is Covenant. If you like slow, thumping metal, God of Emptiness is a rare treat. If you want your senses overrun, try Vengeance is Mine. Lyrically, this is M.A.’s best album. And if you know what blast beats are, no one did it better than Pete Sandoval.


Dreams of the Carrion Kind

5. Dreams of the Carrion Kind – Disincarnate

My guess is that I’m the only one alive who remembers this 1993 album. It was Disincarnate’s only studio effort, and its weirdness made it enigmatic to all but the most battle-hardened fans. That said, they don’t come much heavier than this. True…you can’t understand a damn word the singer says, but even so. The solos are melodic, the rhythms chunky. Yeah. Get some.




 4. When Satan Lives (Live Album) – Deicide

Ignore the stupid title, dumb lyrics, and Decide’s ridiculously over-the-top lead man. These mofos can shred like no one’s business. Seriously. They play seventeen frenetic songs back-to-back without flinching. I’m guessing they don’t do anything else with their lives besides play guitar and act as Satan’s penpals. Whatever.




3. Left Hand Path – Entombed

No one does it like the Swedes. This album’s thick, soupy, shake-the-world-off-its-chair-at-night rhythms are like no other.




Surgical Steel

2. Surgical Steel – Carcass

In the last fifteen years, only one new extremely good metal album took me by the collar and rattled me to my bones. Earlier this year (yes, 2014!)  Carcass reunited and slapped the teeth out of the metal world’s mouth with their first release in decades – Surgical Steel. Jeff Walker’s grotesque lyrics coupled with Bill Steer’s melodic mastery are a once-in-a-lifetime pairing. I was tempted to put Carcass’s 1993 album Heartwork in this slot, but I believe in my heart Surgical Steel is…better.



1. Seasons in the Abyss – Slayer

Old? Yes. Overplayed in my car? Definitely. Seasons in the Abyss is the defining metal album of my listening career. To this very day, Dead Skin Mask chills me, Skeletons of Society gets me headbanging, while the title track puts me in a darker state of mind than any of the soundtracks I so love and adore. Lyrically relevant, technically transcendant, and cold-to-the-core morbid, Seasons is the album my grandkids (if I’m lucky) will be shouting at me to, ‘turn the eff off, grandpa!” Sorry, kids. No sense in listening to it unless the volume is on 11.

Maybe next week I’ll write about writing.

For now, I’ve an hour to drive to work and an ear itching to be destroyed.

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

I’ll Ride the Wave Where It Takes Me

There are many things which make me feel like a man out of time. I joke about it. That I was born too late for having a job in this country (I’d much rather be at one place for decade after decade rather than jumping from one employer to another). I was born too early to see us out there in the stars (since the space program seems to be a little stalled on the man missions to other places right now).



But one place I might have been in the sweet spot was with music. I was reaching my teen years with the onslaught of Grunge which wiped away the awfulness of Hair Metal (which even now their looks seek to both embarrass and confuse. Where up until that point I was bouncing from whatever might have been on the radio (though there were a couple of years there that both my sister and I thought there was only one radio station – Oldies  – because that is the only point on the dial the radio ever sat on). A strange thought since I change the station on every kind of whim if a certain song is no longer holding my interest.

More than that is with this discovery of something that could be mine, it has been with me every since. I typically cannot sit down and write without it. Most days I’m fortunate enough to have it on while I work the old day job, my headphones assisting me in blocking out the background noise.

Music has become this important piece of my life. Songs and albums act as markers in my past in a way that no singular action could otherwise. And the playing of that particular tune, sending me spiraling back into my own life, and forces me to relive moments both glorious and terrible. Certain songs that can no longer be listened to because of an event I must now associate with them.

Random songs that carry strange and fantastic memories for me –

Kokamo by The Beach Boys – Summer 1988 – Cocktail soundtrack carries a Beach Boy song of all things: Kokamo. Because of the singular radio station in the house, aside from songs on MTV, my sister was obsessed with anything and everything Madonna. Now what does this have to do with the Beach Boys? Well, when you only think there is one radio station in town and you ask them to play Madonna on a daily basis during the summer they are going to tell you NO (especially if they only play the oldies). However, when you are 7 years old, like my sister was, you really just want them to play a song for you. And so Kokamo became the go to song to ask them (after petitioning for Madonna first, of course).



Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana – Winter 1992 – We’re six months after Smells Like Teen Spirit has reached the airwaves, but it has only really been in my head space for a couple of months. But more to the point, this is pre-internet days where BBS(s) ruled the world. Where some people would set up their computers so that we could remote log in to them, play games, download or upload files, and then move on to the next BBS. And my buddy Chad had the idea to set one up on his computer… which worked well enough. As one of his first guinea pigs, I logged on, tried it out. And since the connection was sometimes spotty the following exchange happened:



Until the other one responded. Chad tweaked this a little bit because of a certain song playing on the radio.




How low?

No matter when I hear the song I get a picture of my old vga monitor (which was large enough to kill an ox) with those words drifting down the screen.

Van Halen - Live - Right Here Right Now 2

Right Here, Right Now (Live) Both Discs by Van Halen – Every College Quarter Break between 1994 and 1999 – My parent moved to Richmond, VA right after I graduated high school in 1994, which mostly meant that when a quarter ended I had the unenviable task of driving 8 hours up I-85 by myself. In the days before iPods and satellite radio, I was not going to suffer at the hands of whatever radio station might be within range. And that meant a book of cds sitting in the passenger seat.

8 hours is a long time.

This is also the part where I confess that I am a Van Hagar fan more than a Van Halen fan. Don’t get me wrong, I like David Lee Roth, but I missed out on his antics with the band. By the time I cared about them, Sammy had been the singer for 3 albums. More than anything though, this thought was cemented by the double live cd I had. Every trip, without fail, I had to listen to the cd(s). It wouldn’t have been a proper trip without them. And, of course, they feature 95% of Van Hagar’s catalog.

Even now, when we make that drive, the desire to listen to those songs are powerful ones.


Indifference by Pearl Jam – Spring 1994 – Those only familiar with the radio hits will likely not know this song, that’s fine. This serves as much as a lesson learned that I’ve since carried through every concert I’ve since attended. That Spring my future wife, Chad, myself, and our friend Lee had somehow managed to get tickets to their now legendary show at the Fox Theater. They were my favorite band at that point (and still are) so this was going to be amazing. We all ride down to downtown Atlanta together and go to our 2 pairs of seats (we were on level 1 and they were on level 2). The band played pretty much every song in their catalog and did a pair of encores. It still ranks as one of my top 5 all-time concerts I’ve ever been to.

But there is one song Courtney and I did not hear, and that was Indifference. Though, if you check the set-list for that night, listen to one of the copies of the concert that are out there, you might notice that it was, in fact, played as their final song.

See, the problem was that after their second encore they thanked us and the house lights came on. Now, I hadn’t been to very many shows at that point, but I understood that meant “Get the heck out of here.” So Court and I did. However, once at the car we began to wonder what was taking Chad and Lee so long. When they finally arrived we began our trek home and the following conversation took place:

Me – “That was amazing!”

Chad – “Yeah. I especially loved them playing Indifference. That blew my mind.”

John – “Uhm, they didn’t play Indifference.”

Lee – “Yeah, they did, it was the last song they played.”


Chad & Lee – “John, did you leave when the lights came on?”

So now I don’t leave until the ushers and other concert staff start to poke me with sticks and the like. I don’t move until the band’s bus is on its way out of the parking lot.

Never again!


There are hundreds of others which move to a time and space trapped in my memories. And I am thankful to music for that. They serve as wondrous mile posts and exit signs in a way that I would have never expected.

What songs transport you?



John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!