Amidst Alaskan waters and mountains; how I yearn to return to their embrace!

Daniel (otherwise known as the almighty Protagonist) and myself both thought it would be a rather fruitful and enjoyable venture to create our own blog, seeing as we're both suckers for melodic metal and melodic, dynamic music in general (myself perhaps a bit more akin to the latter); we talked about it for a while and decided, when it actually came to pass, that Black Wind, Fire And Steel would be nothing but a genuine labor or love, based more upon sincere reviews and a natural air of energy and passion than visit-counts and advertisements.  Needless to say, I am proud to be a part of this growing blog and I can only hope that you, the reader, find my contributions to be insightful and beneficial to your own metallic sphere; I've been listening to this stuff for over ten years now and I can assure you the fire has not waned even in the slightest.

As for my daily life, I love to spend time with my lovely girlfriend of three years, traverse the spiritual path I have guided myself along upon, ponder extraterrestrial existence and intervention, philosophize, read (mostly) fantastical literature, play 8-bit and 16-bit video games and watch The X-Files; otherwise, as is probably obvious, I listen to and explore a lot of music, as often as I can get my hands on new CDs.

Lastly, concerning my reviews, I try to balance my own personal enjoyment and attachment of the reviewed album with a more critical analysis, looking at the band's growth within their own time-line in addition to the band's representation (and hopefully expansion) of whatever genre they're most closely associated with; I do, admittedly, rate albums rather generously, especially since I generally only buy things I have a high potential of liking. :P Oh, and yes, I only review things that I actually own on hardcopy, without exception.

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The Protagonist
Forgive the ridiculous expression, I'd JUST heard the new Dark Moor album at the time!

Where to begin? This site is my attempt to review things more from my personal point of interest, and not just how well I feel the band accomplishes what they've set out to do, and how successful I think their album will be. I tend to ramble a lot and be redundant at times, so please forgive me that. Emotion and melody are the strongest factors for myself in music, and while I listen to an awful lot of metal, I of course have a number of other musical interests as well. I've been really into metal for about 5 years now, with Rush and Dream Theater as my starting points. As Andrew tends to explore the extreme and pagan metal side of things, I delve into some progressive and more straight up melodic power metal. My reviews tend to be a little bit shorter and more concise than Andrew's, and I don't think I'll ever be able to achieve the level of descriptiveness that he attains.

A note on my review ratings, as it's come to my attention that I rate a bit more conservatively than a great number of folks out there:

When I'm rating albums, I take into consideration a number of things, as well as rating things a bit more...precisely than others. Here's a quick look:

1- Horrible, of no worth whatsoever, I've never given this rating.

2-3 --> There's really no point. Any kind of value or interest is overshadowed by sheer inaccessibility, lack of talent, or lyrical insipidity.

4- Starting to scrape the bottom, and nothing I'll ever play again for any kind of enjoyment.

5- Truly mediocre and without much emotional or melodic grasp, I am indifferent to the playing of this music. Either that or there's a fair amount of conflict happening here.

6- Generally, a 6.5 is the cutoff for myself to actually own an album, as I figure I must glean at least a moderate amount of enjoyment from it to make it worth owning, with all of the great stuff out there.

7- Pretty good. I get a pretty reasonable enjoyment out of this work in one way or another, though I may not play them all that regularly.

8- Very good to Excellent. This is great, recommended personally, and something that I'll play regularly.

9- Superb. Not that many albums fall in this range, and my very favorite albums weigh in at a 9.5 (There are a small handful of them)

10- I can think of only a few albums that I consider to be the pinnacle of talent, creativity, and profound quality (Off the top of my head, Rush's Hemispheres, Theocracy's Mirror of Souls, Lost Horizon's A Flame to the Ground Beneath, and perhaps Angra's Rebirth come to mind).

So, keep in mind that a 7 is not just an "ok" score, it means I find something a quality and enjoyable piece of work. Likewise, a 10 (if any ever occur again) is an album that is really quite something for me, probably bordering on an earth-shaking personal spiritual experience in my world (and most of those albums have had that effect. Music is an intensely emotional experience for me, and though this might not always be reflected in my reviews, it most certainly is while I listen.

I suppose it should also be noted that if you contact Black Wind, I'm the one you'll get a hold of. Someone has to do the dirty work around here. :P

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The EMP knocked out the computer mainframe. When the backup system came on-line, it overloaded the couplings to the fuel cells and short-circuited the nav-com. The Cygnus Orbital Defense Grid did more damage to the critical systems of my ship than I had anticipated. However, I had no time to make repairs or even send out a distress signal, since no one would respond to it anyways. The Asterism Authority is sending patrol ships into orbit with hopes of capturing me alive, but dead would also suit them fine.

I punch coordinates into the damaged nav-com and hit the jump drive switch. I have no idea where it will take me, or even if it will work. Right now I can't worry about that, I just have to break orbit and break orbit quickly.

Within moments, my hastily laid plan goes awry. The coordinates from the damaged nav-com throw the ship through a gravimetric anomaly, and it immediately begins to spin out of control. Helm control is offline and life support is failing. I hear oxygen escaping rapidly through a rupture in a bulkhead before I black out.

When I come to, I have no idea where I am. What remains of my ship is a broken husk. I stagger from the wreckage to gain a sense of where I am. I find myself in a wooded area, the foliage a brilliant mixture of orange, yellow, and red. The air around me is crisp. I slowly find my way to a clearing, an unnatural clearing, a man made clearing.

On the other side of the clearing I notice a series of buildings clustered together. One of the buildings has some sort of digital sign that displays corporate propaganda as well as the temperature and the date. Wait!! The date! October 31, 1976.

October 31, 1976 is the day I discovered KISS. Even though I was just a kid in 2nd grade who could barely spell and played with my GI Joe with kung-fu grip, I was glued to the tv on that Halloween day watching KISS rock hard and scare the crap out of me at the same time. This was the beginning of my love for hard rock and heavy metal music.

In the early 80's, with the release of Judas Priest's "Screaming for Vengeance", Dio's "Holy Diver" and Iron Maiden's "Piece of Mind", all albums that are a must for any true metal head, I became a metal devotee. Over the years, I developed an enjoyment for other bands in other styles of music, but metal is and will always be my first love.

I have a fondness for power metal. I also really enjoy symphonic and classic metal too. Heck, if it's got a riff, simple or complex, that makes me wanna bop my head and tap the steering wheel, then I am all over it.

Life is too short to be too serious all of the time. I have enough things that give me headaches. So if I can, I like to add a little levity to my writing. I also don't want to spend much time listening to things that I don't enjoy. So with that said, I am pretty easy going when I listen to music and I focus my time and energy on things that truly rock.

As long as I have a head, I will bang it,



Arno Callens

Writing a biography at the age of 21 is fairly arrogant, but I’m such a wonderful person that I’ll probably need a six-volume set anyway to track my incredibly fulfilling life when I feel the downloading of my brain into a computer coming. So better start now, right?

I was born to a mighty King, who already had five daughters and swore to God that he’d massacre everyone in his entire realm if he ever found all five bathrooms of his mighty fortress stalled again. The idea to make a sixth or seventh, obviously never occurred to him. His lack of insight was the main reason why a few weeks after my birth the kingdom was overrun by a mysterious folk that uses beavers as mounts and toothpicks as swords. But before they got to the throne room, my mother the Queen smuggled me outside the palace walls and prayed to the mighty Lord of the Griffins to carry me away to a better fortune. Sadly, the Lord of the Griffins was going through a major break-up with a snow eagle from the North and developed a serious alcohol problem. Drunk off his feathers he had no sense of direction left and dropped me halfway to China in a strange and little-known country called Belgium.

Or that’s how my Mom told it. Anyway, I hail from an ungoverned monarchic straightjacket that holds two countries, Flandres and Wallony, together by a political system involving lots of people arguing in strange languages, no one seems to comprehend both. I grew up in the Dutch-speaking part, although lately I’ve been spending a lot of time in the nation’s capital Brussels, another country within the country that’s not really a country. But with the best beer in the world (you know it’s true) we generally don’t care about all the political turmoil, beautifully illustrated by the fact that this biography is meant to be timeless and I’m pretty sure I won’t have to update it in the next few years.

I guess I’m supposed to talk about how I got into metal. Actually, I didn’t, I hate it all and all you long-haired freaks should be banished to the Moon. Or worse (which in our galaxy just means a different color of rock). All kidding aside (I didn’t agree to that), my first contact with metal was by the end of that strange, fin de siècle decade of the nineties. Some evil producer/warlock had just come up with the concept of mixing metal music with hip hop elements. The result was a slew of ‘nu-metal’ bands, which got me listening to, well, crap, but it got better. Via the Roadrunner-stall I gradually started to listen to bands that almost could be described as metal, culminating in a short fascination with thrash metal.

Short, because soon after that I discovered new, strange, but appealing music. I remember hearing Therion’s “Lemuria” on the bus, and I was perplexed with how much I liked it, even though I never heard anything similar. I flirted briefly with female fronted metal, of which there are no traces left now, except my never-ending love for Epica. But the band that really opened me up to where I am now, typing this in my underwear, I mean my obsession with power metal, was Rhapsody, when they were still called just that. My foster parents had the annoying habit of dragging me and my siblings along for a boring walk across the countryside every Sunday, but luckily I had a portable CD-player (What’s that, grandpa?) and a self-made mix of mostly rubbish, but also some power metal. So I put the thing on shuffle, and bam, suddenly “Knightrider of Doom” hit me full in the face. I was sold, soaring across the sky on a winged unicorn, sword and shield in hand, swearing oaths to mighty warlords and hoping never to get down again.  

Things quickly skyrocketed from there. Rhapsody led to Hammerfall, Hammerfall to Kamelot, Kamelot to Edguy, Edguy to Theocracy, Theocracy to just about any god damn band left. Strangely, I never was fond of some of the often mentioned frontrunners of the genre, like Stratovarius or Blind Guardian, didn’t buy Helloween’s “Keepers” until a few years ago and loathe everything Dragonforce (their first album’s decent, but that’s it). But I picked up on all of that and in recent years grew very fond of progressive metal too, finding the overlap with power metal the highest form of musical bliss. Apart from that, I like the classics as well, but I feel heavy metal is great for a night-out with fellow metalheads or gigs. It’s not something I put on regularly at home, with the exception of the wonderful Iron Maiden. Other subgenres of metal I don’t really care about. Doom’s alright now and then, but black, death, thrash, lollypop, folk, Viking and whatever metal do not make my playlists. I tolerate those bands when in company of lesser musical taste, instead of molesting the furniture, but I’m not involved in them.

Wise scholars say there are two things to reviewing music: listening and writing. We’ve established why I listen, but why do I write? Well, obviously because I’m good at it. And have always wanted to write, even when I was a kid and Twitter was still just a yellow bird that Sylvester always tried to eat. I wrote travel diaries, short stories, crap; all of it. Currently I’m trying to get a Master’s degree in journalism, and aspire to be a film journalist one day. Unless Mr. Protagonist wins the lottery and STARTS PAYING US, YOU CHEAPO. I also write a blog, but it’s in Dutch and that’s a horrible language to learn, so don’t bother.

For a list of bands I like or love, I kindly redirect you to my profile on Rate Your Music, which speaks better for me than I can do myself. If you’d put a gun to my head and ask me what my favorite band of all time is, I’d do a kung fu kick in your nether regions, take the gun off you, shove it in your face and just as I’m about to pull the trigger, say: “It’s Edguy, bitch.” If you’d like to see which albums I hold in the highest regard, check out my five-star ratings on Rate Your Music. That should give you a slightly inaccurate idea.

So, that's me, and if you have read all this nonsense, you are a true hero! Keep buying those CDs and respect the business now,

Yours sincerely,

Lord of the Seven Isles, uh Arno