The Spiritual Dark Age – @tokillaking – album review

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It’s years since I posted up a music review on my blog but I’ve felt compelled to write about this new album from underrated band To Kill A King. Full disclosure: the lead singer Ralph is a family friend I’ve known since he was a teenager so I’ve always followed his band’s work with interest. The Spiritual Dark Age is To Kill A King’s third album and was three years in the making. I saw them live on Monday at intimate Newcastle venue The Cluny – they are still on tour as I write – go and see them if you get the chance, a really energetic and entertaining band to see live.

5 Star Review: The Spiritual Dark Age – To Kill A King

I’m not sure how the band would feel about my describing this as a concept album – but I think it is and the clue is in the album name, title track ‘The Spiritual Dark Age’. The theme running through this blistering 40 minutes of anthemic, lyrical folk rock is ‘the crack in everything’. The feel of this album reminds me a little of Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible (although it doesn’t have as much a sense of dread). Ralph’s lyrics articulate a generation that is set adrift spiritually, perhaps most clearly in the title track:

And so the good man said:
“Turns out God is dead.”
They worshipin’ signs instead
Faith from books they haven’t read
They’re angry all the time
Angry at some hole inside
Welcome to the Spiritual Dark Age

Oh, don’t lose your grip
Don’t get contemplative
About this space we live
Between first breath and then the grave
No need to be saved
Just some rules on how to behave
Welcome to the Spiritual Dark Age

I’m not alone and you’re not alone in this
There’s no map and we’re all just set adrift
Just children making pictures in the sky
Arguing about who’s wrong and who’s right

Aye, there’s the rub. Other tracks include the Unspeakable Crimes of Peter Popoff – about a televangelist, and Compassion is a German Word, which contains my favourite lyric: ‘compassion is my weapon of choice’. I made this little poster (my first piece of fan art!) to illustrate it (shamelessly nicking Banksy’s image from Palestine):

Compassion is my weapon of choice.jpg

There is hope to be found too, a sense of solidarity, a sense of finding out what really makes life worth living such as the insight of Good Old Days:

There’s time to waste
There’s a golden beam lights up their face
But you never stopped to appreciate it

So tell me now how it’s possible that a single day seems so
Beautiful and you never know them till they’re gone

This is a great album. Having received it on (cool purple) vinyl has made me listen to it ‘properly’ – as in all the way through without skipping. It’s a cliche but it really is all killer, no filler.

I can’t remember the last time I heard an album that so accurately pinpointed the current spiritual zeitgeist. Have a listen!

The album’s available on Spotify or direct from the band’s website here: http://www.tokillaking.co.uk/

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My vinyl copy of the album on my record player

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Happy New Year! Here are my film, book and music discoveries of 2016

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img_20170104_100937I like making lists. I thought I would have a look back over the films, books and music I enjoyed in 2016 so here are my top 5 of each:

Books

View my year in books on Goodreads

  1. The Loney – Andrew Michael Hurley – a great gothic novel, creepy and affecting.
  2. Different Class – Joanne Harris – an evocative book about scandal in a boys’ school.
  3. Enders Game – Orson Scott Card – this was recommended to me by a friend ages ago. It’s a great science fiction story – you can see how much it has influenced subsequent books and films.
  4. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn – best thriller I read all year – really worth a read. The film is also a great adaptation – but read the book first!
  5. Conclave – Robert Harris – really enjoyed this detailed look inside the Vatican and a fun story.

Films

  1. Arrival – my film of the year. A long time since I’ve seen such an intelligent film, an alien invasion which is a really clever thought experiment.
  2. The Martian – a good solid science fiction film, very entertaining.
  3. I Daniel Blake – a must watch about the current state of affairs in the UK and what this government is doing to oppress people.
  4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – I really enjoyed this return to the wizarding universe.
  5. Rogue One – a fab prequel for Star Wars.

Music

I consume music so differently these days. I have a subscription to Spotify – the streaming service – and have enjoyed their weekly discover playlist – which is a list of music that they think I’ll like based on my listening history (old and new tracks). I have also enjoyed buying second hand vinyl to play on my record player. Most of my new discoveries have come from listening to BBC 6 Music in my car. I often use the Shazam app to find out what the track is and this automatically creates a playlist in Spotify for me.

To get an idea of what I’ve been listening to this year, here is my most listened to playlist:

My top 5 songs of 2016 (which are a mixture of vinyl discoveries and others) are:

  1. The Pusher – Steppenwolf (from the Easy Rider soundtrack – sounds amazing on vinyl)
  2. This Year – The Mountain Goats (the refrain ‘I’m going to make it through this year if it kills me’ was very 2016!)
  3. Trouble – Girl Ray (great new band discovery)
  4. Lo, the full final sacrifice – Gerald Finzi (I heard this on Radio 3, a beautiful piece of sacred music)
  5. Heroes – David Bowie (obviously listened to a lot of Bowie this year and I think this is my favourite of his!)

Do you have any recommendations for me for 2017?

Michael Price – Easter – a beautiful meditative piece of music

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I first heard this track on BBC 6 Music during Lent and although I was slightly irritated that a piece entitled ‘Easter’ was being played in Lent I couldn’t help but be captivated by it. This track was inspired by the composer hearing church bells ringing out on Easter Sunday (I can’t remember in which country, but not in the UK). It is beautiful, enjoy:

Music composed by birds – stunning

By Birds_on_the_wire.jpg: Tomascastelazo derivative work: Colin (This file was derived from: Birds_on_the_wire.jpg) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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Jarbas Agnelli saw some birds sitting on wires that looked like a stave of music. He turned the position of the birds into this composition. Beautiful.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you sea monsters and all deeps,
 fire and hail, snow and frost,
    stormy wind fulfilling his command!

 Mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars!
 Wild animals and all cattle,
    creeping things and flying birds! – Psalm 148:8-10

 

 

Information from the youtube channel:

Reading the newspaper one morning, I saw this picture of birds on the electric wires. I cut out the photo and decided to make a song, using the exact location of the birds as notes. I was just curious to hear what melody the birds were creating.

This work was made over the original photo, un-retouched, published in one of the biggest Brazilian newspapers, “O Estado de São Paulo” on 27/aug/2009, and shot by Paulo Pinto (note: I just erased the birds for effect at the end, but didn’t change their positions at all. What would be the point?).

I’ve made this short video to demonstrate my interpretation of the birds as notes.

Music made with Logic.
Video made with After Effects.

Jarbas Agnelli

Árstíðir – Heyr himna smiður – 13th century Icelandic hymn sung in a train station

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This hymn, performed by the band Árstíðir in the echoing chambers of a train station is truly beautiful (I found it via this tweet). I looked in the comments on Youtube and found out the lyrics of this 800 year old hymn:

Hear creator of the heavens
what the poet begs.
Come softly to me
your mercy.
I trust in you,
you have created me.
I am your servant
you are my lord.

God, I trust in you
to heal me.
For the least, my king,
we need you the most.
Take, my God,
so powerful and inquisitive,
the sorrow out of our hearts.

My king, watch over me,
we need you the most.
For every moment
to hold ground.
Set the son of a maiden,
a beautiful matter.
All the help from you
in my heart.

This is written in a very violent time in the Sturlunga-age in Iceland. A few families were having disagreements over power and the man who wrote this poem was a member of one of those families. He was in the Ásbirninga family and his name was Kolbeinn Tumason. It is said that he wrote this just prior to “Víðinesbardagi”, a battle in 1208. He said this poem over and over, so often that the people around him memorized it.

By Andreas Tille (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

My new tumblr blog: songs evoking scripture

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One of my many blogs that I incorporated into this one was called the Unknown God blog. This consists of a collection of things I’ve found from popular culture that for me speak of God in some way – there is a real mixture of art, film, books and music on there. One of my passions in life is music – mainly of the alternative variety but my tastes are reasonably eclectic. I often find that music moves me more than other art forms and often songs I listen to make me think of particular bible passages, they either directly relate to specific verses, they evoke the mood of a passage or sometimes they illustrate the point of a passage. Sometimes the reverse happens. I decided to create a Tumblr blog to share these as I’m simply sharing music videos and the scriptures I think they relate to. The simplicity of tumblr works well for something like this. You can find this new blog here:

http://songsevokingscripture.tumblr.com/

I hope it becomes a resource for me but also perhaps for you. These songs could be used in all sorts of ways: to introduce a bible study, as an intro or outro to an alternative church service, for your own quiet time, in a sermon…Be blessed!