Scott M. Sandridge

A Work in Progress

SpecMusicMuse Review: Epica – The Divine Conspiracy

When Epica came out and said their new CD would be the heaviest yet, they weren’t joking. The music is much heavier than before, and the sound darker. Trust me, you haven’t heard organ music until you’ve heard it done with the Metal attitude. And its not just the music that’s heavier, but the lyrics, also, are harder hitting and more unapologetic.

Like all their CDs The Divine Conspiracy resembles a musical score for a blockbuster film. The thirteen songs are divided into an instrumental prologue (“Indigo”) and three acts. Act One contains the songs, “The Obsessive Devotion,” “Menace of Vanity,” “Chasing the Dragon,” and “Never Enough.” Act Two continues “The Embrace That Smothers” mini-concept of which parts four through six were in their 2003 CD, The Phantom Agony. The middle part is the heaviest part in the entire CD with “La’petach Chatat Rovetz (The Last Embrace),” “Death of a Dream (The Embrace That Smothers – Part VII),” “Living a Lie ( – Part VIII),” and “Fools of Damnation ( – Part IX).” The final act slows down a bit with “Beyond Belief,” “Safeguard to Paradise,” and “Sancta Terra,” then ending the CD with a 14-minute explosion of symphony and metal titled “The Divine Conspiracy.”

Moreso than in the last CD, the beauty of Simone’s voice enhances the music. Indeed, her voice can make the most mediocre songs sound like masterpieces, and the lyrics are of a quality to match her singing. As an example from “Chasing the Dragon”:

“Let my eyes take in,
The beauty that’s here,
That’s left on this earth,
My ears long to hear,
A melody.”

The philosophy behind The Divine Conspiracy is based off an interesting “what if” scenario. What if all the religions came from God? What if he gave pieces of the truth to each race and culture as a test to see what they would do with such truths? Would they learn from each other, or would some use (and possibly pervert) the knowledge for the sake of personal power over others? And how, after centuries (or even millenia) of distortions can people seperate truth from half-truth and find the knowledge God gave us? An interesting theory and perhaps closer to the truth than most people, regardless of each’s religious views, may be willing to admit.

The only way to know is to just keep searching, each in the ways we know how while acknowledging our similarities, and accepting our differences as a part of what makes humanity such a wondrous creation.

[Review first written in Sept. 2007, but never published until today]

September 10, 2010 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse Review: Elis—Griefshire

Sabine Dünser died shortly after laying the vocal tracks of this very album, which she called her “baby.” Griefshire is a concept album by Elis that tells the tragic story of two brothers on a spiritual quest that leads one of them to become a fanatic, its combination of Goth Metal sound and classical instruments enhances the emotional impact of the tale. Mostly in English, two of the songs are in German, and, alas, my German is too rusty to understand the entirety of those two songs except in terms of mood and feeling.

The best songs are “Show Me the Way,” “Brothers,” “Phoenix from the Ashes,” and “How Long,” but it is obviously an album that should be listened to in its entirety from beginning to end. Not only are the lyrics excellent, but the story as a whole as well, even if you can’t fully understand the two songs done in German lyrics.

Just one of many CDs that, when listened to, suggests a spiritual awakening is occurring in the realm of music and art not seen in a long time, especially in Metal. Perhaps the genre is maturing like many of its predecessors had, and this maturing spirituality is part of the natural artistic process? Or perhaps it’s just a “European” thing? Either way we in America can learn much from the music genres emerging overseas.

And so for this review, I will leave a couple lines of hope from their song, “Phoenix from the Ashes”:

“Now that I have found a way,
To salvation, I know I will be,
So much stronger than before,
Nothing will ever break me.”

Griefshire
Format: Audio CD
Release Date: Jan. 16, 2007
Label: Napalm
List Price: $16.98
UPC: 69372350272

August 30, 2010 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SMM Classic: Review of The Plot to Save Socrates + Interview w/Paul Levinson

(April 1, 2007)

The Plot to Save Socrates by Paul Levinson

An ancient manuscript is found that hints at a time traveler from the future going back in time to save the great philosopher, Socrates, from his death at the hands of the democratic Athenian government. When Thomas O’Leary shows his student, Sierra Waters, the manuscript, she finds herself in a time-traveling adventure in search of Socrates’s mysterious savior – who could be anyone from any time, even her. Of course, when historical figures like the warrior-philosopher, Alcibiades and the inventor, Heron of Alexandria, get involved, the threat of a time paradox becomes more and more dire.
Paul Levinson handles a complicated plot and a multitude of characters in a manner that can only be described as masterful. Certainly not something the average writer would even wish to attempt. And to top it off, he leaves you with a great tale both entertaining and meaningful. It also comes complete with discussion group questions for the philosopher in every reader.
I highly recommend this book, and I won’t be surprised if it wins several awards.

Best to read while listening to: anything from Classical to Gaelic to Electronica/Industrial.

Publisher: TOR
Price: $14.95
Trade Paperback
ISBN-13: 978-0-765-31197-9
ISBN-10: 0-765-31197-6
Genre: Science Fiction

(April 8, 2007)

Interview With Paul Levinson

I had the honor of interviewing Paul Levinson, author of The Plot to Save Socrates, President of theScience Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)from 1998-2001, and who was a guest on my favorite show, The O’Reilly Factor. So yeah. Stoked? Psyched? Words can’t even describe it.


How did you come up with a time-travelling tale about Socrates?

I’ve been bothered about why Socrates didn’t take Crito up on his escape offer since I first read the Crito in a freshman philosophy class at the City College of New York in 1963. As soon as I began writing and publishing science fiction in the early 1990s, I knew I wanted to write a time travel story in which someone went back in time to try and save Socrates. (Incidentally, I had this idea well before Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – in fact, I’ve yet to see the movie. I really should.) Since time travel provokes profound philosophic paradoxes (more on this below), it seemed natural to me write a time travel story about a philosopher.

What struck me most about the novel was the whole Free Will vs. Fate conflict that seemed to be going on in it. Was that idea intentional?

Yes. One of the prime paradoxes about travel to the future is that, if you see someone wearing a red shirt tomorrow, for example, does that mean the person has no choice but to wear that shirt? The truth is, if time travel existed, none of us would have any real control over our lives, because we’d be locked into everything the time traveler sees.

So in The Plot to Save Socrates, the problem the characters have to solve is: how can they know if what they are doing is the result of their free will, or of a pre-ordained fate. And, of course, it’s very hard to know this, certainly hard to prove what’s really going on … and that, to me, was a big part of the fun of writing this novel.

Sierra Waters is a very interesting character. She seems to be in conflict against her own interests at times.

Yes, because Sierra is torn in many ways (like the piece of paper she tears up in the very first paragraph of the novel). First, affection for and then guilt over Max. Love of some kind for Thomas. Passionate, romantic love for Alcibiades. Love of history, and getting things right. So she is in deep conflict, because she knows she can’t have all of these things. About the most clear-cut thrill for her, historically, is Plato’s life. And, of course, we find out at the end that her guilt about Thomas when she was with Alcibiades was … ironic, to say the least.

What type of music do you think is best to listen to while reading and/or writing time-travel stories?

I don’t listen to music while reading or writing – I love music too much, so it’s way too distracting for me. But to see what music I love, and listen to all the time, whenever I can (except when I’m reading or writing), just look at the Music part of my Profile page here on MySpace.

How much of an advantage can podcasts give writers?

Podcasts are wonderful if you have the voice and technical savvy to do them. I love them. They’ve really helped my book sales. You’re talking to your readers – what more can you ask for? So I really recommend doing them to any writer who can.

What other things is your billiant madness cooking up in the near future?

Well, thanks – I’m definitely mad, that’s for sure…I’m writing the sequel to The Plot to Save Socrates right now. When that’s done, I’ll be writing another Phil D’Amato novel (he appeared in my previous novels, The Silk Code, The Consciousness Plague, and The Pixel Eye). And then maybe a sequel to Borrowed Tides.

I now have four podcasts – I may add one or two more. I’ve also greatly expanded my blogging from just MySpace to now paullevinson.blogspot.com and paullevinson.net – and I’ll be doing more of that.

I’ve been writing 2-3 television reviews per week – of 24, Rome, andLost – and I’ll be reviewing The Sopranos when it resumes (and concludes) next month.

August 16, 2010 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment