These Weeds Have Grown Where the Sun Once Shown.

We’re currently living through one of the most important, most trying, and possibly the strangest time of (many of) our lives. The COVID-19 pandemic is literally impacting every single one of us in one way or another. I doubt that I’ll have anything really profound to say, but I’m going to write a bit about it anyway, to the best of my ability.

I honestly don’t know where to start. I’ve never seen anything like this and I hope to never see anything like again. I’ve never seen the majority of the world shut down like this, not even after September 11, 2001.

I’m not going to use this post to discuss any specific political views. I could easily go down that route, but I don’t want to do that just now. This is about where we are and we’re going from here.

The entire planet Earth is impacted by COVID-19. It isn’t just the United States. It’s not just China. It’s not just Italy. It’s the entire planet. We need to realize that and we all need to do our part to slow down the spread of this disease and eventually wipe it out. We, as human beings, not as Americans, or Chinese, or Italians, or Iranians, or Russians, or Spaniards, as human beings, need to come together to fix this. Yes, that we means we may have to isolate our selves from friends, family, and loved ones for a while. But, it’s for the greater good. I saw something online today that “You’re not trapped at home, you’re SAFE at home.” That’s very true.

As far as I know, I’m healthy. At the time that I’m writing this, I do not have COVID-19. At least, I don’t believe I do. I say that it way because it can sometimes linger for a few weeks before showing symptoms. However, if I did have it and I go out and have any type of contact with you, then you may have it. You may pass it on to your friends, you may pass it on to your children, you may pass it on to your parents, you may pass it on to an elderly person that may not survive. This needs to be taken seriously.

As businesses have been forced to shut down and people are being laid off from their job as a result of this, I feel for them. I’m considered an “essential” employee. I work for my town. And as tremendously grateful and appreciative as I am for my employment situation, I almost feel that calling what I do as “essential” is an insult to truly “essential” works such as first responders of any kind, anyone working in healthcare (nurses, doctors, etc), and even grocery employees. I work in an office. Yes, I’m helping to move along processes of every day life for people, but what I do isn’t nearly as important. I don’t feel I’m putting myself down by saying that, I just feel that I’m looking at it through a level of self-awareness and perspective.

There was a brief period of almost a full week when my office was closed due to a health concern for a co-worker. When I first realized that I was not going to be working for a few days, I thought about all of the things that I was going to do. I did almost none of them. I had no plan for those days. I had no structure. I had no routines. I’ve previously discussed how I’ve been called a “Creature of Habit” by some people. And they’re basically true. I do a lot of specific things on specific days. I’m now working half days, but that may soon change to working as much from home as possible, as we’re starting to get set up for that.

Even if I start working more from my house. I still need a plan. I need to map out what my days are going to look like. I had told some friends that I may dedicate an hour or two per day to listening to podcasts. I may spend up to an hour reading a book every day. I will definitely be doing at least one DDP Yoga workout per day. If the weather permits, I’ll go for a walk or a run. I don’t have access to gyms at the moment, so I need to figure out things to do for exercise.

The one thing I know that I can’t do is NOTHING. I’ve discussed nothing before. Feel free to go back and read about nothing if you want. My mental health has remained pretty good during the last few weeks. Yes, I’m experiencing various forms of anxiety, but it hasn’t become too much. I have not had any depressive episodes during this time. As I just said, I’m mostly mentally healthy. My concern is not about me, it’s really about the people that I care about. It’s also about what things are going to look like when this is over.

I truly hope that America, as a whole, realizes from this situation that the systems that we’ve had in place are not good. A health scare like this can financially ruin a person, family, and business. We need to look at ways to go about fixing the system to truly ensure that everybody has the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. As someone that has OFTEN worried about whether or not I could afford to put enough gas in my car to get to work the next day, I know what it’s like to worry about money. I’m beyond grateful that I’m not in that bind now. But, I easily could be again.

I have a few friends that are currently out of work due to this. They’re hairdressers, bartenders, waitresses, and book store employees. I’m more worried about them than I am about myself. I have a job. I’m being paid. They’re not being paid. And it’s possible that their jobs won’t be there when this is over. That is horrible. It’s frightening. These friends, out of no fault of their own, and out of no fault of their employers, may not have jobs to return to. I think that is definitely a sign that the system is broken.

I’ve joked that as someone with social anxieties and other various mental issues, the concept of “Social Distancing” isn’t difficult for me. But, it’s one thing to want to be isolated for a while, it’s another thing to truly need to be. There is nothing more that I would like to do than to go to a local bar with a friend for a beer (or two… let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be just two). But, that isn’t an option. Even if any local bars were still open, it’s not safe to go to them. And yes, I do know that there’s irony there since just recently I wrote about a time when I did go to a crowded bar and I absolutely wanted to be left alone.

Allow me to break the 4th wall for a moment and reveal a little secret about my blog entries. The titles of them are almost always taken from song titles or lyrics. I do that because the songs they’re taken from are related to what I’m writing about. I also do it because I’ve noticed that I get a few more hits on my blog sometimes when people search for those songs or lyrics. The song I used for this entry is “Weeds” from Life of Agony. The reason I chose that song specifically is because of the line that I used for this title and because of the very first line of the song. I won’t put that line here, I’ll ask that you look it up. At some point in the near future, I may have another entry that discusses why that particular line means so damn much to me. That entry may be in a few months. Yes, I’m trying to create more interest in my blog by saying that.

I could probably ramble on and on a lot more in this entry, but I know that if I do, you’ll probably stop reading, if you haven’t already. Really, all I can say is that I hope you’re all safe, happy, and healthy. I hope you remain that way. I hope that we’re all taken care of in whatever ways we need to be during and after this crisis. And when this is over, hopefully we’ll be able to get that beer together.

Constant Noise Behind the Overcoming.

The feeling of malaise that I described in my last entry is still prominent, but it seems to come and go. There was another potentially big setback in recent weeks, but it didn’t drag me down as much as it could have. Of course, I did joke with people that I had hoped for a major depressive episode because it would help my efforts to lose weight. (Un)fortunately, I didn’t have that major episode.

I want to point out something from the previous paragraph. I said that I joked with people about my issues. The joking part isn’t my focus, it’s just the people part. I recently had a conversation with someone that suffers from major depression. He does not treat it. He actually barely acknowledges that it exists. He is barely active. He does nothing that can stimulate his mood or emotions. He’s stuck where he is. He will not admit to fault in any situation and believes that everything will just fix itself. Yet, it never has.

During that conversation, I mentioned about all that I do with my friends. All of the concerts, sporting events, and other things that I do. But while I was talking about it, it really started to hit me that what I was doing was significantly more than just going out with friends. It really was helping my mental health.

Last month I mentioned that when my downward spiral began, I was at a bar with friends. I also mentioned that if I hadn’t already committed to being there, I probably wouldn’t have gone. If I had stayed at my house that night, I would have probably watched TV and gone to sleep. I would have probably had very little communication with anyone. I would have just sat there with the TV and with my thoughts. And while I would have wanted to do nothing but sleep, my thoughts would probably have kept me up all night.

Recently, I’ve been posting some things on social media sites that may have had a slightly darker tone than I usually post. And, they were being posted a bit more frequently than I would usually post things like that. A few people reached out to me to make sure that I was okay. Something as simple as that should NOT be taken for granted. I try my best not do take it for granted. It’s amazing how much a simple text message can make a difference.

I went to a baseball game with a friend last year. He bought the tickets and met me at the stadium. He never asked me to pay him before the game. When the game was over, I asked him what I owed him. He said “nothing. I just enjoy the company.” That should NOT be taken for granted.

I don’t post things on social media to draw attention to me. I’ve never liked being the center of attention. Although, maybe that’s because I’ve felt so ignored and insignificant for so much of my life. Before I go way too deep into this potential exit ramp, let me say that I’ll probably revisit this topic later…

ANYWAY, as I was saying, I don’t post things about mental health on social media to draw attention to myself. I do it to draw attention to mental health issues. Sure, the topics I’m posting about are things that I’m probably dealing with, but it’s not about me…

Or is it?

Now, I’m questioning that a bit.

When people greet me and ask me how I’m doing, I usually answer with “good,” “fine,” or “okay.” Most of the time, most people will answer that question that way. It’s more of a Pavlovian response than an honest one. While we’re all conditioned to answer that question that way, many people are conditioned to not know how to reply if we really told them how we’re doing. If I replied with “I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip,” I don’t think people would react quite the same. Even if that was the honest answer.

Or, it’s also possible they would completely understand that reference and really worry about things.

I’ve noticed that this entry is becoming one of my rambling ones that isn’t necessarily tying one single topic together. But whatever, that’s where I am right now. I’m doing well, but I’m not. I’m doing better than ever, but I’m not. I’m where I’ve always been, but I’m not where I was.

I don’t even know what the point of this entry was supposed to be anymore. I’ve done in so many different directions, but that’s how my mind works sometimes. I think the point was that by going out and doing things with friends, I’m actually improving my mental health. I think part of the point was also that I have friends that care and do good things for me. I know this particular topic will come up again.

My friendships and improving my mental health by doing things are topics that I want to go into more detail about at some point, and maybe that will be soon. I have ideas for future entries that I hope to write. And maybe some of the things that I’ve written here can be incorporated into those. But, I have no idea what my mood will be when I start writing my next entry. I hope it’s good and I can just go with one of those ideas, but we’ll see how things play out.

Remember What’s Past Ways and What I’ve Become.

As 2019 is coming to an end, it’s time for me take a look back at the past year and ask myself the same question that I ask at the end of every year. “Am I better off than I was one year ago?” That’s not always an easy question for me to answer. There’s so many things that I factor in when thinking about that question. Last year, it was a simple “yes” for me. At the end of 2019, it’s even easier for me to say “yes.”

With the exception of a time in late January when I had to deal with the worst, longest lasting, most difficult back spasm that I’ve ever had, I had a really good 2019.

I stated last year (and a few times throughout the year) that my current job is good for me. I’m paid better than I’ve been before, my commute is basically non-existent, and I have good medical coverage. As a result of those factors, there’s not been a single time in 2019 that I was particularly worried about my bank account. There were times that my account was “lower than I wanted it to be.” But, in previous years, keeping it above $0 was my goal. The stress relief there cannot be properly put into words.

For a few reasons, I can say that my social life was better in 2019 than it had been for a very long time as well. First and foremost, I had no major problems in this category. I gained friends, strengthened friendships, and really enjoyed myself throughout the year. Not having to worry about if I can afford to go somewhere makes a big difference.

While I was hoping to participate in more 5k races than I did, I have no regrets about why I did not. I was able to compete in 5 races. And honestly, they were not my best finishes. In fact, one of them was truly my slowest to date. In that case, I was just done with a sinus/respiratory issue that slowed my down. I’m not making any excuses. I did the best that I could on those particular days. My best wasn’t as good as my best during other races. That’s all that means. No complaints whatsoever.

As I said, I didn’t do as many races I was would have liked to have done. One reason was that I had classes to take happened to coincide with the time some of the races were happening. Those courses were in Mental Health First Aid. After the completion of those courses, I am now certified in Mental Health First Aid. I won’t go into details about that here, other than to say that I’m very proud of it. I may write an entry somewhat soon about stuff related to this course and what I’ve done for others in the area of Mental Health Awareness.

Overall, my mental health was pretty damn good in 2019. There’s just hours to go in the year, which means there’s still plenty of time for this to change, but I went through all of 2019 without any major depressive episodes. I cannot remember the last time I was able to say that in any given year. Yeah, I had some days where I was a little down. Things bothered me throughout the year, but nothing was prolonged and nothing was serious. Not everything that I hoped would happen would happen, but nothing bad happened. I feel like this is a major accomplishment for me.

I went to a decent amount of concerts in 2019. Me going to shows is not a new thing, by any means. But, going to these shows without financial worries is new for me. I didn’t have to make deals with friends like I had in the past. I went to shows that I wanted to go to. I could afford them. I even traveled out of state a few times. I visited friends at their houses that I used to say I couldn’t afford to go to. In each of the last 4 months of the year, I spent a few nights in hotel rooms for events that I attended. I paid for those rooms. I could afford them. It’s a good feeling.

Just like in previous years, I failed to hit my goal of reading 12 books during the year. I also never came close to doing the Black Crow pose during my DDP Yoga sessions. Maybe that pose isn’t meant to be for me. I’m not upset about missing either of those goals. Too many good things happened during the year for me to be upset about them.

My New Year’s Resolution is always the same. It’s “I want to make it better.” I did that in 2019. I hope to keep that going in 2020. I’m very much aware that just because 2019 was good for/to me doesn’t mean that there aren’t changes that I have to make. I recently discussed that I’m not happy with my weight. I already have a plan in place to attempt to work on that. If I hit my goals there, I could possibly have better 5k results in 2020.

One of the biggest problems that I faced in 2019, as far as this blog goes, was that I was not really depressed and that made it difficult for me to have topics to write about. What a problem to have!

I hope that when I sit down to write next year’s version of this entry that I either have that same problem or that I come up with some stories to tell about my experiences. I’m going to take 2020 day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute. If the year is half as good to me as 2019 was, I think I’ll be fine.

2019 Album of the Year

1- Life of Agony – The Sound of Scars
2- Lacuna Coil – Black Anima
3- Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
4- The Allman Betts Band – Down to the River
5- Those Poor Bastards – Evil Seeds
6- Within Temptation – Resist
7- A Bad Think – The Savior
8- Opeth – In Cauda Venenum
9- King Hobo – Mauga
10- Whitechapel – The Valley

Life of Agony’s 1993 debut album River Runs Red is their masterpiece. That’s pretty much not debatable. That album was a concept album about someone going through a very rough time and at the end of the album, it appeared that the main character had killed himself.

They’ve put out some very good albums since then, but none of them had the impact that The Sound of Scars had, in my opinion. The Sound of Scars is the follow-up to River Runs Red, in that it tells the next chapter of the life of that character. As it turns out, he didn’t die and this album is that story. This album is also, (in my opinion) easily, their best work since River Runs Red.

The day that The Sound of Scars was released, I made sure that I had free time in my day and listened to the album from uninterrupted, from beginning to end, while reading the lyrics. Honestly, I cannot remember a time when any new album gave me the emotional response that this one did. I often get goosebumps when discussing it. Yes, I think it’s THAT good.

Usually, I’ll recommend a few tracks from each album that stand out as my favorites, but I feel doing that here does the album a disservice. This album is intended to be listened to from beginning to end. If you are a fan of Life of Agony and have not heard this album, you’re missing out. If you haven’t listened to Life of Agony for a while, this is when you should start again.

Lacuna Coil’s last album, Delirium was my 2016 Album of the Year. When talking about that album, I said it was ” was really the Lacuna Coil album I’ve been waiting for.” Well, they followed it up with Black Anima, which I consider to be just as good and they almost got the top spot again this year.

They’ve embraced a darker, heavier sound and it really does work for them. Their “new” style is continuing to evolve and I hope it continues on this path.

Tracks I recommend from Black Anima include “Layers of Time,” “Sword of Anger,” “the End is All I Can See,” and especially “Reckless.” Although, I do have to say the video for “Reckless” was a bit, ummm… interesting. If you watch it, you’ll understand.

Slipknot has been around for almost 25 years. While I’ve known about them and have heard their songs, I’ve barely paid attention to them until recently. I am completely willing to admit that I have probably missed out on a lot of good music. We Are Not Your Kind is Slipknot’s 6th studio album, but the first that I’ve ever really listened to. I think it’s a really good record and I’m glad that I got it. At some point I’ll go back and listen their older stuff.

Some of the tracks that I think I really good from We Are Not Your Kind include “Unsainted,” “Solway Firth,” and “A Liar’s Funeral.”

Between 1996 and 2014, I saw the Allman Brothers Band in concert 45 times. You could say that I’m a fan of their work. When I heard that Devon Allman and Duane Betts, the sons of founding Allman Brothers Band members Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts (respectively) were forming a group called the Allman Betts Band, I was intrigued. They released their debut album, Down to the River, in the summer. Without hearing a single song from it, I purchased the album. Any fan of the Allman Brothers Band should love this album. Not only does it sound like early Allman Brothers’ albums, but Duane Betts sounds almost exactly like his father. He looks like him too. In all seriousness, there are a few songs on Down to the River that could easily be on the Allman Brothers’s albums such as Idlewild South or Brothers and Sisters, and I think that is a big compliment to them.

Songs that I think stand out “Autumn Breeze,” “All Night,” and especially “Shinin’.”

I’ve been listening to Those Poor Bastards for a few years now and while I have liked some of their albums more than others, they’ve yet to disappoint me. How many American gothic country doom bands do you know? I mentioned earlier that I like that Lacuna Coil was able to put out consecutively good albums, but not only did Those Poor Bastards do it, they’ve done it two years in a row. 2019’s Evil Seeds gets the 5th spot on my list 2018’s Inhuman Nature was ranked as the 8th Best Album in my list.

Tracks to check out on this include “One of Us,” “Just Tonight,” and “Wake Up in the Gutter.”

I’ve thought that Within Temptation has relied on guest vocalists too much in previous years. Many of their songs have had a second singer on them. But, there’s something about them doing it on Resist that really worked well. They have a very rich and elegant sound that not many other bands that they’re associated with also have.

Some of my favorites from Resist include “Endless War,” “Raise Your Banner,” and “Supernova.”

I had never heard of A Bad Think until this summer. I didn’t know they were a group. I honestly didn’t know they existed. But then I started seeing ads for their new album pop up all over my social media sites. I remember one saying “If you like Blackfield, you’ll like A Bad Think.” Well, I finally checked out songs from A Bad Think on YouTube. I don’t understand the Blackfield comparison at all, but I ended up liking A Bad Think. A Bad Think is Michael Marquart, a former member of Flock of Seagulls. A Bad Think is his project. I believe it’s him doing every instrument and writing every song. And it’s good. I’m glad I gave in to the advertising pressure online.

“Feel Me” and “Falling Star” are good tracks to check out.

I don’t know what to expect from Opeth albums now, and at the same time, I do. I know they’re probably not going to feature any death metal growls, but they’ll still take me on a ride like they used to. Their latest album, In Cauda Venenum, is a good example of that. I do have to admit that this album took a little while to grow on me. It’s got a bit more of a jazzy tone to it than previous Opeth albums do. That isn’t an issue for me, but I don’t know that I expected it. See what I’m saying? The songs on this album flow very well together, almost to the point that I don’t know where one song ends and the next begins. That’s almost a flaw in the album, but I still liked it enough to rank it as the 8th Best Album of 2019.

Songs I was able to figure out the beginning and end to that I liked include “Dignity,” “Lovelorn Crime,” and “Universal Truth.”

King Hobo formed by accident. During the 2005 Sounds of the Underground tour, members of Clutch and Opeth would hang out and jam between sets. That sparked a friendship and eventually their self-titled album in 2008, which I ranked very high in my Top 10 list that year. Their second album, Mauga, is also very good and worth checking out, especially if you like Clutch, “stoner bands,” or “jam bands.”

The opening track on Mauga is “Hobo Ride” which immediately became one of my favorite songs from this year. The title track and “King Blues” are also good ones to try.

Finishing off my Top 10 list is another band that I wasn’t aware of until this year, Whitechapel. Apparently, their 2019 album, the Valley, is their 7th studio album. Who knew? Well, actually a good friend of mine knew and she texted me about one of their songs and she said it was “depressing as Hell. It’s amazing.” She got my attention. I watched the video. It was very emotional. It “went there” in ways that I’m not used to seeing. It was actually a very graphic video, which she warned me about. But, based on that, I wanted to see/hear more. I got the album and listened to the whole thing. Wow. They have a new fan. They’re classified as Deathcore and Progressive. That’s a weird combination for bands, but it works for them.

If my vague description of the Valley didn’t do enough for you, check out their video for the song that my friend recommended to me, “When a Demon Defiles a Witch.” But, be warned that it deals with serious stuff. My other favorite song from the album is “Doom Woods.”

Other albums that were in consideration for my Top 10, but just didn’t make it were Le Butcheretts’ bi/Mental, Corpse Flower from Mike Patton and Jean Claude Vannier, Signs by the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, and Agonizing Love from Lonesome Wyatt (from Those Poor Bastards).

The Black Keys put out Let’s Rock during 2019 and I just think it’s very forgettable. That’s a shame, because I’ve really liked their albums up until this point. I saw them in concert this year and the new songs didn’t win me over.

I became aware of Jinjer during the year and liked one song that I heard. I got the album, Macro, and thought it sounded too much like other bands that I’ve heard. I lost interest quickly.

Imperial Teen’s second album Now We Are Timeless really isn’t timeless.

I’m not too aware of which bands will be putting out new albums in 2020. I believe Paradise Lost and Clutch may have ones. I’m hoping to discover a new band or two during the year. Who knows, maybe social media ads will work again. But, I hope that 2020 gives me a few good albums to enjoy. If any of them are half as good as some of the ones in this year’s Top 10, I won’t have much to complain about.

A note about eligibility for my 2019 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2019.
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist).
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material.

It is Time For Deeds to Take the Shape of Vows and Codes of Promise.

I recently heard someone talk about Mental Illness as an “Invisible Illness.” A light went off in my head when I heard that. I thought it was a brilliant description. It’s so accurate. Society does not feel the same way about Mental Illnesses as they feel about other illnesses that they can see. Society doesn’t believe that Mental Illness should be treated as seriously as a physical injury. How many times has someone that is dealing with some kind of depression been told “get over it?” I had a really bad back spasm early this year. I could barely stand up or walk. People didn’t tell me to “get over it.” They insisted that I see doctors for it, which I did.

What I described above is a simplistic way of looking at Mental Illness vs. other illnesses. But, it’s accurate. The stigma attached to Mental Illness leads to so many more problems and it needs to go away. No ifs, ands, or buts. It NEEDS TO GO AWAY.

I live with depression. I live with anxiety. I live with Mental Illness. Like any nagging physical ailment (and in my 40s, I have my share of those), they can flare up at any time. Sometimes without any warning or logical reason. I mentioned my back earlier. I see a chiropractor somewhat regularly about that. It’s not something that people question. They know I have back issues and they know why I see a doctor for it. When I was regularly seeing a psychologist a few years ago, some people questioned why I did that.

I question why things are going well in my life. I expect all good things to end. I anticipate disaster. I get very anxious about things I have to do. I feel alone when I’m part of a community. I can be feeling great one minute and be a wreck the next. All of what I just described is an illness. Why do people think differently about that type of illness than they think of a physical bruise, or a cut, or even cancer? Why are mentally ill people shunned?

I’ve noticed throughout my life that a general ignorance towards issues causes people to act out and be afraid of things. I used to be a bit more judgmental about cynical about Mental Health issues than I am today. I’m not proud of that. But, what I am proud of is where I am now. I am very much aware of my own issues. I am aware of the damage done to me. I am aware of the damage that has been done to others. I don’t like feeling the way I’ve felt and I don’t want others to feel that way either.

I have often felt alone and helpless. And as much as I KNOW that I’m not alone nor helpless, those feelings are often around. They linger. They cause me anxiety and depression. I do my best to remind myself that I’m not alone. I do my best to remind myself that I’m not helpless. And I also do my best to remind others that they are not alone or helpless.

I want to do all that I can to help others. These entries are very therapeutic for me. I don’t know what my readers get out of them. I hope, at the very least, they realize what I’ve realized a while ago. There is a community of us out there. We’re not alone in this. We are here for each other.

My last few entries have been a struggle for me. Not because that I’ve been feeling down and out. It’s been the exact opposite. I’ve been doing well for a while and I’ve felt that I’ve had nothing to write about. Recently, I took part in a class that really opened my eyes to a few things and really inspired me. I’ll be touching on that in upcoming entries. I’ll also be discussing more about how certain bands and their songs, and their fans, have helped me (and others). I have specific things that I want to discuss. Hopefully, you’ll want to read about what I have to say.



I’m Wandering Through Thin Skies and the Transparent Air I’ve Missed.

I’ve sometimes joked that there’s never been a better time to be depressed. And honestly, I stand by that statement, as weird as it may be. There’s so many more resources and things available to people that suffer from whatever kind of mental illness that they suffer from.

I’ve recently had the pleasure of hearing stories from some high school kids. I’ve heard about their battles with depression. I’ve seen how positive, uplifting, and even inspiring these kids are. They spoke about how friends rally around them. They spoke about their support system in the school and the support that the school provides. And while I was hearing these stories I thought to myself “where the Hell were these support systems when I was in high school?”
In just a little under a month, 25 years will have passed since I graduated from high school. It looks like a lot has changed in those 25 years.

A friend once told me that she was being bullied by some other students while in 8th grade. She told one teacher about it. He pulled those kids aside and said “leave her alone, you know she’s crazy.”

I remember very clearly when I was speaking to a guidance counselor about a class that I wanted to take. She was told that my grades weren’t good enough for that class and then proceeded to mention how lazy I was. When I got upset about that comment, instead of seeing a lack of motivation possibly due some form of mental illness, she was doubled down on my laziness.

My friend’s example and the my story about the guidance counselor seem to be a stark contrast to the things I heard from the students that I talked to recently. Teachers and counselors are so much more aware of mental health now. Students can go to them for help and not fear being made to feel worse like I did.

The stigma attached to mental illness needs to be eradicated.

I purposely left that last sentence by itself. It needs to stand out. If someone needs help, they should be able to get it. If they’re reaching out to someone, the last thing they need is to be made to feel worse.

I’m now a part of my town’s Stigma Free Committee. I’m proud of that. I’m glad to be a founding member of something so important. But, at the same time, the whole thing terrifies me. I have a bit of social anxiety. I don’t like being the center of attention. I don’t want to be the face of anything. I like lurking in the background and doing what I have to do.

A few years ago, I had a conversation with one of my elementary school teachers. I’ll never forget when he said “I was always worried about you. You were that quiet kid in the corner.” I laughed at that and told him “I’m still the quiet kid in the corner.” But, what I didn’t realize at that point, and probably until the idea for this blog entry started is that I’m turning that “quiet kid in the corner” thing into a strength. I’m not saying it was ever a weakness, but it’s definitely a good thing for me.

As I said, I don’t want to be the face of things. I don’t mind being a part of something, but I don’t want to be the main focus. This blog allows me to do that. Yes, the majority of people that read my entries may actually know me, but my real name isn’t on most social networks. I’m able to hide behind a screen name. I’m able to be in the background, but still make a difference.

Some may think it’s ironic when I say that many of my friendships have been formed due to my misery and depression. But, it’s absolutely true. Music has much to do with that. I listen to a lot of miserably depressing music. And I have a great time doing it. Bands like Paradise Lost, Katatonia, Anathema, and Life of Agony have been therapeutic for me at times. Let me give you an example.

In the summer of 2016 I went to 2 days of a 3 day music festival somewhere near me. The person I was with at those shows saw me watch a band on day 1 and saw me thoroughly enjoy myself. She saw me watch Life of Agony on the other day and commented that she’s “never seen me like that” and wanted to know what was different for me about the experiences. I told that I attend that first bands shows just for a good time. I see Life of Agony to let out my problems.

Life of Agony shows are great experiences for me. I’ve had vastly different experiences at them too. There’s times when I’ve gone to see them when I’ve been in one heck of a depression spell and I’ve walked out of their shows feeling refreshed. There’s also times when I’ve gone to their shows in a great mood and just enjoyed the show for what it was. And not to mention that I’ve made some incredibly great friends at those shows.

I’ve drifted a bit from the original concept of this entry, but that’s fine. I only had a loose set of concepts for it. I’m not going to edit this one much. I’m not going to do a ton of re-writes. I’m going to leave it as it is. I’m going to try to tie the various themes together, but after another brief turn. in the meantime, if you want to read more about my experiences at Life of Agony shows, you can read this entry.

We really do live in strange times. The political climate in the United States may be more divided than it’s ever been, if you don’t include that time leading up to the Civil War. But, Civil War aside, we’re pretty divided. There’s very little common ground anymore. It’s either one side or the other. That’s another reason I like my music and the concerts that I go to. I know there’s people there of different political beliefs as me, but for the time that we’re at that show, none of that matters.
Music can be a universal language. It doesn’t speak to one type of person. It speaks to everyone. It doesn’t know race, gender, religion, or political affiliation. But, you know what else doesn’t know any of those? Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. It can impact anyone, regardless of their background.

We need to do something. After talking to the students that I’ve talked to, and after hearing some of the things the schools in my town are doing now to help kids cope, I have to admit that I have a little bit of hope. Although, hope usually scares me. Hope means something could be going well, and it’s my nature to assume that something will go drastically wrong once there’s hope. But, in this case, I want to keep believing in that hope and prove my usual doubts wrong.

I know my blog entries have helped people. There’s been a few people that have reached out to me to tell me. In fact, one of them is someone I met because of the concerts I spoke about earlier. See, I told you I would keep this all tied together.

The things I write, even if it’s just once per month (as it usually is) are very helpful to me. But, if anyone else gets something positive from them, I think that’s great. It’s also a bit overwhelming to know that I’m making any kind of positive impact, even if I’m hiding in the darkness while I’m doing it. But, I’ve said countless times that we need to do something to END the stigma attached to mental illness. And even if JUST ONE person feels the need to reach out to me about something, I’m doing my part.

Will you do yours?

2018 Album of the Year

1- Ghost – Prequelle
2- Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions
3- Ministry – Amerikkkant
4- Amorphis – Queen of Time
5- The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Poor Until Payday
6- Bloodbath – the Arrow of Satan is Drawn
7- Muse – Simulation Theory
8- Those Poor Bastards – Inhuman Nature
9- William Elliott Whitmore – Kilonova
10 – Mayan – Dhyana

If you’re surprised by my choice for Best Album of the Year, well so am I. Even though I saw Ghost live back in 2012, I barely paid attention to them that night or at all ever since. Not long ago, I put a metal station on the TV in the living room to entertain my parrots. A song from Ghost’s new album came on and they went nuts. They loved it. The song was “Faith” and every time I heard it, I liked it more and more. I listened to a few more songs from the album and liked them too. So, I finally bought a copy. I don’t know the last time an album from a band that I’ve never listened to before got to me like this one did. I really feel that Prequelle is one of the best albums from beginning to end that I’ve heard in a very long time. I don’t think there’s a bad track on it. I’ve also recently read articles about the story behind the band and I’m all in. I’m almost upset that I didn’t pay attention to them in the days of Papa Emeritus I, II, or III. But, I am amused by Cardinal Copia.

Although I said that I didn’t think there was a bad song on the album, if I had to pick just a few to sample, I would suggest “Rats,” “Faith,” “See the Light,” “Dance Macabre,” and “Pro Memoria.”

Clutch’s Book of Bad Decisions had to grow on me a little bit. The first time I listened to it, I thought it was good, but not close to their best work. But, it I liked it more and more with each listen. Songs like “Gimme the Keys,” and “Spirit of ’76” stood out from the start, while “In Walks Barbarella” ranks as one of their all-time best songs. “Hot Bottom Feeders” is a hysterical song about making crab cakes, and the video is definitely worth checking out. “Loralei” is a song that I was iffy on at first, but seeing it done live made me like a lot. If you’re a fan of Clutch’s “Pure Rock Fury” style, you’ll love their mix of “Weaponized Funk” on this album.

There is significant evidence to show that Ministry puts out their best albums when a Republican is President of the United States. And furthermore, the less that Ministry likes that President, the better the music is. Amerikkkant is a good example of that. Ministry’s frontman, Al Jourgensen is not a fan of the current President, which is quite obvious by the lyrics of the majority of songs on this album. If you don’t believe me, check out the songs “Twilight Zone,” “Victim of a Clown,” and “We’re Tired of It.”

A few years ago I had given up on Amorphis. They put out a few albums in a row that just bored me. At the insistence of a friend, I listened to their 2015 album, Under the Red Cloud and was very impressed by it. I actually ranked that album as the 6th Best of 2015. Their latest record, Queen of Time is just as good, or maybe even slightly better, since I’m ranking as 4th Best of 2018. It’s difficult for a band to have a unique sound that doesn’t seem cliche for themselves after a while. I felt they were going that way, but they’re back on a good path. “The Bee,” “Daughter of Hate,” “Heart of the Giant,” and especially “Amongst the Stars” are my favorite tracks from this album.

I’ve been a fan of the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band ever since I saw them as an opener for Clutch about 10 years ago. As much as I liked them then, they’ve become so much better of the years. Reverend Peyton’s guitar work is amazing and it’s a shame that he’s not well known. He’s that good. Their most recent album, Poor Until Payday is a great example of how good he is. Some of my favorite tracks from the album include the title track, “You Can’t Steal My Shine,” “Dirty Swerve,” and “It Is or It Ain’t.”

Bloodbaths’s the Arrow of Satan is Drawn is basically what you should expect from the Death Metal Supergroup. It’s a brutal Death Metal album. It’s exactly what I would want it to be, and a little more. “Old Nick” returned for a second album on vocals with the group and I love how rejuvenated his experience in this band and Paradise Lost. My favorite tracks on this album include “Bloodicide,” “Wayward Samartan,” “Deader” and “March of the Crucifiers.”

Muse’s Simulation Theory is the album that I ranked as the 7th Best of 2018. I think it’s good in 2018 and it would also sound great if it came out in the mid-1980s. It has almost a “New Wave” feel to it. This band is consistent in their quality and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them live a few times. I’ve never been disappointed. “Algorithm,” “the Dark Side,” and “Thought Contagion” are the songs I recommend checking out from this album.

Those Poor Bastards may be the only band to have appeared on my Top 10 list more than once (three times to be exact) that I’ve never seen in concert. I don’t think they tour often, and if they do, they certainly don’t come to my area. Their latest album, Inhuman Nature, is just what I wanted from them: A miserably depressing album with their unique Gothic, Country, and Doom sounds. Check out the songs “Snake Tongued Deceiver,” “Cult of Lonliness,” “Heap Bad Medicine,” and “Lonely Dreams.”

Like the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, I first became aware of William Elliott Whitmore when I saw him open for Clutch. Usually, it’s just him and his banjo, but on Kilonova, he has some extra musicians on some of the tracks. The songs on the album are all cover songs, and they’re done very well. Whitmore’s style is very traditional folk and blues. I’m hoping to see him in concert again sometime soon so I can see some of the songs from this album, such as “Fear of Trains,” “Busted,” and “Run Johnny Run” done live.

I have to give YouTube credit for the 10th Best Album of 2018. A suggestion on YouTube one day was a video from Symphonic Death Metal Band MaYan’s album, Dhyana. I had never heard of them, but I checked them out and I liked it. The fact that one of the female singers in the group is Marcela Bovio helped, since I’m fan of her work with Ayreon and Stream of Passion. Songs on the album range from under 3 minutes to over 9 minutes. It’s a good blend of various musicians and styles. If you like Symphonic Death Metal, you should check MaYan out. Try “the Rhythm of Freedom,” “Saints Don’t Die,” and “the Illusory Self” as tracks to start with.

Some albums that didn’t crack the top 10, but were under consideration include Madball’s For the Cause, the Pineapple Thief’s Dissolution, and BillyBio’s Feed the Fire.

Florence & the Machine’s High as Hope, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats’ Tearing at the Seams, Sick of it All’s Wake the Sleeping Dragon, and Buddy Guy’s the Blues is Alive and Well didn’t keep my interest or just flat out bored me.

I know that Within Temptation will have a new album in 2019. I believe Lacuna Coil will as well. Life of Agony could be recording a new record soon. Other than that, I don’t know who could possibly be appearing on next year’s list. I’m hoping for some surprises. I would also really love for a band that I didn’t have any interest in, like Ghost, to win me over with something that I consider as good as Prequelle. We’ll see what happens in 2019.

A note about eligibility for my 2018 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2018.
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist).
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material.