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This is going to be a really short review:

Stop reading my blog and go buy this album.

WOW.  All I can say is ...WOW!

WOW. All I can say is …WOW!

Seriously, it’s that amazing.

If you don’t love this album by the time you hit the fourth track, then go to your doctor and have your ears checked.

I thought Within Temptation had peaked with The Heart of Everything and the live Black Symphony Albums.  Turns out I was completely wrong.

I liked The Unforgiving, but felt that the story overtook the music.  Later on, I even went through the trouble to have a copy of the Q-Music sessions sent to the USA.  On that album they did a number of cover tunes, and you can hear how some of the music they covered has influenced their progression as a band in Hydra.

In this album there are a mix of different styles from metal, to rap-mix, to ballad and they all seem to work!  I suppose that is the reason for naming the album ‘Hydra’ – a mythical creature with many heads.  Four of the ten tracks are collaborations and each one brings a new twist to the Within Temptation sound.  I never thought I’d appreciate rap mixed in with my Symphonic Metal – but they pulled it off and it works great!

If you haven’t managed to obtain a copy of the Q-Music Sessions, then be sure to buy the deluxe version of Hydra (Link Above).  It contains four of the cover tunes from the Q-Music Sessions.

Hopefully, they will announce a tour of the United States sometime soon.

Now, if you will excuse me I’m going to post this hastily-written blog post and get back to rocking out to this frakin’ amazing album!

 

 

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25 -years old and still the gold standard for Anti-Establishment thinking-man's metal!

25 -years old and still the gold standard for Anti-Establishment thinking-man’s metal!

Last week I attended the Queensryche concert in Denver at the Gothic Theater.  It was the Queensryche version with Geoff Tate but none of the other members of the band.  I went with an old buddy from High School who has actually played the same venue when he was the lead guitarist of a local Denver band.  We both thought that the show was pretty good (they played Operation Mindcrime end-to-end along with a few songs from Empire).  Operation: Mindcrime is my all-time favorite alum and hearing Tate sing it was pleasantly nostalgic.  My musician-buddy felt that the new lineup executed the album faithfully and we both agreed that we got our money’s worth from the show.

You may or may not know this, but there are now two Queensryche’s.  One has Geoff Tate but not the rest of the band (Queensryche 1.x), and the other (Queensryche 2.0) is fronted by a very Tate-sounding lead singer.  Queensryche 1.x released “Frequency Unknown” – one of the worst albums I’ve heard from any band, much less Queensryche.  Conversely, Queensryche 2.0 released “Queensryche” which is the best Queensryche Album since 1994’s Promised Land. (I’ve reviewed this album and expressed my disgust with Frequency Unknown here.)

As I stood listening to Operation: Mindcrime live I had a thought occur to me.  “This is good enough.”  As a matter of fact even if no original members of Queensryche were there I’d have been happy enough.

This next question might seem out-of-nowhere…but I will come back to Queensryche in a second.

Have you ever seen Trans-Siberian Orchestra live?

A few years ago my wife bought me tickets to TSO for my birthday – which is near the holidays.  We saw them in a massive arena venue and for the first half of the show (which is dominated by Religiosity) I was wondering “Why the hell am I here?” (After all, I’m an Atheist.)  Then the second half of the show was all instrumental and was one of the most fun-filled metal-eque performances I have ever seen!  Flames spewing out of the floor, lights, hair flying, electric guitar solos…It was awesome!  I went in barely knowing who TSO was, and I left a fan.

I did a little reading on TSO and discovered that there is not ONE Trans-Siberian Orchestra, there are MANY.  That is how they are able to play so many cities so near the holidays.  They have essentially cloned themselves.

Here it comes…

Queensryche should do the same.  The status quo of two Queensryche’s is not only sustainable, but might even be desirable for the fans.

What if being “Queensryche” didn’t refer to 5 individuals, but a set of artistic and musical guidelines.  Maybe it could be defined as: Guitar-driven, progressive metal, that makes you think.  Maybe there doesn’t need to be restrictions on future studio projects, but just a sharing of the past catalog of music.  When I was at the concert and looked around the Gothic Theater it appeared that everyone knew the words to every song.  None of them were there to hear something new…and a majority had T-shirts from tours gone by.  It was interesting to note that not a single song was played from Geoff Tate’s despicably bad album “Frequency Unknown”.

What if a state of two competing Queensryches was the new norm and they both competed to produce better product?

I’m perfectly content to see different people on stage than the people who produced a studio album, provided both are quality.

Mrs. Mindcrime and I are reaching the end of our cell phone contracts.  My Droid Razr MAXX is running frustratingly slowly and I’ve started shopping around for what my next phone will be.  We pay for three phones on our account – I pay for my Parents non-smart phone.  I figure that they fed me for 18 years, so it’s the least I can do.  However, even they have started hinting that they want one of those new-fancy-pants phones that they see everyone else has.  (Again, not a problem – health insurance for children is expensive and they kept me covered into my 20s…).

When I started looking around there seems to be a new set of pricing schemes that are “contract free” and would allow me to upgrade now instead of waiting out the final two months with my pokey phone.  Examples of these new schemes would be Verizon’s Edge plan and AT+T’s no-contract option.  T- Mobile also has similar schemes, but their coverage is not very good where I live so I instead focused upon the two larger carriers.

What these new plans do (for the most part) is separate the cost of the phone from the cost of the contract.  So to do an apples-to-apples comparison I went to the local stores and got bids on contracts for 3 Phones.  For the purposes of my study I used the Apple iPhone 5s as the phone all three of us would get because it is available on all carriers.  It is also expensive enough to demonstrate the full amount of subsidization that exists on a 2-year contract.  I won’t actually be getting an iPhone – or any Apple device, ever.  So I also chose to ignore the fact that while Apple phones are eligible for the 2-year contract pricing or the 2-year installment plan, they will not let you buy the phone outright.

Let’s look at how I calculated the costs of the phone into my analysis:

iPhone 5s is a $650 phone, which you can get for $199 on 2-year contract OR pay an installment plan of $27.08/mo. (Verizon calculates the cost at $27.15/mo for 23.9 mos and AT+T charges $32.50 for 20 mos…both add up to $650.) Since the phone cost is net-net over 24months I simply calculated it at $27.08/mo in both scenarios to get an apples-to-apples comparison.  (Pun woefully intended.)

We are not heavy data users and I don’t think my dad is going to be downloading movies…so I used 4GB as my data pool in all cases.  I also added in $13/mo in taxes and fees across all plans.

There is one big caveat here.  Both AT+T and Verizon decrease their line access fees by $10 per device when you step up to a 10GB data plan, which is $30 more expensive than a 4GB plan.  If you have 2 phones/devices this is not enough to justify the cost, at 3 devices (me) it is free data, at 4+ devices it is cheaper to get a plan with 10GB of data instead of my frugal 4GB.

Here is my final analysis in a chart:

AT+T – 2 Year AT+T No Contract Verizon 2-year Verizon Edge
3 phones  $600.00  $1,950.00  $600.00  $1,950.00
Monthly  $203.00  $158.00  $  206.00  $176.00
2 Year Total  $5,472.00  $5,742.00  $5,544.00  $6,174.00
Actual Monthly  $  228.00  $  239.25  $  231.00  $  257.25

And here are my general conclusions:

  1. Over two years or on a monthly basis the 2-year contract plans are cheaper.  Which makes some sense since there is less ‘risk’ to the carrier.  They know that they have you for the next two years.
  2. If you are data hungry and have three or more devices on your plan, then the new plans might be a good deal.
  3. The premium for being able to “upgrade your phone early” (beyond the cost of the new phone) is about $11.25/month on AT+T and about $26.25 on Verizon.
  4. Verizon’s Edge plan does not fully discount the cost of the phone subsidy from their ‘no-contract-ish’ Edge Plan. Also, I discovered in the store that they only discount the access fee for the duration of time that you are making payments on the phone.  (The financing does not include a fee nor interest, but that is an important detail if you are like me and pay off debts early to eliminate monthly bills.)
  5. The cost of the flexibility given to the consumer with these new plans is about $260 over two years on AT+T or $630 on Verizon.

Final answer:  For most middle-class people (especially us DINKs) the differences between these plans are barely worth the time that you spend crunching the numbers or for that matter reading this blog.  So go do whatever the heck you want and get on with your day.