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

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


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