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Metal Tuesday – Brother’s Choice – Top Albums 2021

Derek: Since this is the last Metal Tuesday of the year, once again I’ve asked The Brother to come on and give his top albums of the year. As most of you know, his tastes in metal are both similar and different than me. Enjoy!

2021 Top Albums

Overall, I would say I overall liked this year’s crop of music better than last year’s, but not to the degree of 2019 (which was really just an amazing year). New bands I came across and really liked this year were Nahtram (instrumental folk-black metal) and Stortregn (melodic tech death)

Top Album

In Mourning - The Bleeding Veil

In Mourning – The Bleeding Veil

It took me a few spins to really get into this album. The last In Mourning album that took a while for me to “get” was The Weight of Oceans and that has become my favorite In Mourning album – so there is a lot of hope that The Bleeding Veil continues to get better (and I already really like it). This album sees In Mourning play with the more progressive elements of their sound, but still really bring the hammer when its time.

Death

It was a pretty good year for death (and related extreme) metal. I had to cut a lot of good albums to get to this list of five. Like last year, these are in alphabetical order.

Alluvian - Sarcoma Be'Lakor - Coherence Harakiri for the Sky - Maere Omnium Gatherum Stortgregn - Impermanence Valtari - Titans Call

No Death

In the realm of “everything else” there was a great crop this year. I really liked a lot of instrumental rock and shred. And post rock. Really, just a lot of great music.

For Giants - There, There Gemini Syndrome - 3rd Degree, the Raising God is an Astronaut - Ghost Tapes \#10 Nahtram - Forest of Eternal Dawn Trivium - In the Court of the Dragon Paul Wardingham - Cybergenesis

EPs

Not as many EPs this year, but these three are great.

Ehrling - Gime Me Summer, Pt. 2 Empires of Light - How to Build a Monolith Insomnium - Argent Moon

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 102

Odessa, Ukraine; 4 October 2011, 0900 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 27 days

Quentin McLintock waited patiently in the viewing room. The room was a cold, gray utilitarian thing. It was much like the rest of the museum, a left-over from the dark days of Soviet architecture, where the only positive trait was durability. Maybe not, Quentin thought, as the harsh fluorescent light flickered above.

“Mr. McLintock,” one of the assistant curators said walking into the room. The man was meticulously dressed in an expensive Italian suit. “I’m sure that I don’t have to explain the proper procedures for handling such a rare artifact.” The man’s perfect Oxford English held the perfect note of condescension.

“No, you don’t,” Quentin answered flatly. He didn’t quite loom over the much smaller Ukrainian man, but Quentin made his displeasure felt. The assistant curator gave a weak smile as he backed away. Quentin let the silence linger on a moment past uncomfortable.

“Where is the tablet?” Quentin asked. As if in answer, two guards stepped into the room holding a heavy steel box between them. Grunting, the guards placed the box on the metal table with an audible clank. Quentin donned an apron, mask, and surgical gloves as the assistant curator unlocked the steel box.

“You can leave now,” Quentin said pointedly.

“I’m not comfortable with leaving such a rarity without proper supervision,” the assistant curator said.

“That’s not the deal my employers made with your board,” Quentin said, “The endowment was made on the contingent that I was given full and unimpeded access to anything I wanted.” The assistant curator waved the two guards outside. As soon as the door shut, the small man spun and leveled a small pistol at Quentin.

“I don’t know why Zombie Strike wants the tablet, but you won’t succeed,” the man snarled. Quentin kept his eyes locked with the other man. He needed the man to focus on him.

“You’re not a Champion,” Quentin commented. The man laughed. It sounded slightly hysterical. Not a good sign.

“No, I’m not one of those fools,” the assistant curator said, “I’m just one of Dr. de Castilla’s friends. Now are you going to surrender peacefully or am I going to have to kill you?”

“Neither,” Quentin answered and pointed behind the assistant curator. Sport emerged from the shadows cradling a shotgun.

“You mind not pointing that thing at my mate?” Sport asked, “Otherwise I might have to end you here.” The man was frozen with fear as he stared at the twelve-gauge’s gaping maw. Quentin snatched the pistol out of the man’s hand before slugging him across the face. Quentin could feel the shattering of the jaw as the man crumpled to the ground.

“That is why I don’t want to spar with you,” commented Sport as he slung the shotgun. Quentin placed the handgun on the table and turned back to the tablet. Sport would handle securing the prisoner. Quentin had work to do. The Chekotsy Tablet was maybe three feet long and two feet wide. The hieroglyphs that were etched into its stone surface were radically different than anything else from Mesoamerica. It was used as evidence by all manner of conspiracy theorists from UFO enthusiasts to people looking for Atlantis. Quentin pulled out the small gold medallion Chief Stahl recovered in Barcelona. The tablet and the medallion shared many of the same symbols.

“How did Castle know to come here?” Quentin asked himself, “Why did he need to come here?” Quentin grunted with exertion as he lifted the tablet out of the steel box. It must have weighed a good hundred pounds. What kind of stone was this made out of?

“You have found the next part of the path,” the Guardians chorused, floating through the walls and hovering in the viewing room. The viewing room fell away. As reality came back into focus, Quentin was standing in a hospital room. It reminded Quentin of the museum. Dirty linoleum and neutral walls were lit by sterile white lights. The younger Castle was standing next to one of the six hospital beds in the room. The occupant was covered in bandages from head to foot, almost like a modern-day mummy. Castle looked down at the man with a sorrowful expression.

“Why did you have to try and kill me Michael?” Castle asked quietly.

“You’re going to destroy everything,” the wounded man said in a painful whisper.

“No, I’m going to save this world from destruction,” Castle said, “There’s just some distasteful things that need to be done before that can happen.”

“The firm will stop you,” the wounded man replied. Castle laughed. A cold, sorrowful laugh that seemed to come almost against his will.

“Why not threaten me with the Knights of Malta?” Castle asked, “They have as much a chance to stop me as your precious MacKenzie and Winston.” Quentin’s eyes widened in shock. How long had M&W been involved in fighting the Truth?

“Michael, we’ve been friends for years. I hate seeing you like this. Let me help you,” Castle said, pleadingly, “You don’t want to spend your remaining time in this place, do you?” There was a long silence. It was finally broken by Michael’s quiet sobs.

“No,” Michael whispered. “Dear Lord, Miguel, don’t let me die in this hellhole.” Castle gripped his friend’s bandaged hand.

“Michael Winston, do you willingly accept service in the Truth and accept Xipe Totec as your god?”

“Yes,” came the soft reply.

“Do you accept the path that is set before you? Will you walk it until the moment of Truth?”

“Yes.” With that word, Castle pulled out the gold medallion he’d retrieved in Barcelona. Reverently, Castle placed the metal disk on his friend’s chest as he mouthed a silent prayer. The medallion glowed, softly at first but grew in intensity until Quentin couldn’t look at it. As soon as Quentin could see, Michael was hovering over the bed. The other patients in the room were screaming in terror.

Quentin watched transfixed as the bandages dissolved. Michael’s body was a mess of burns and deep gashes. The glow from the medallion surrounded the destroyed body and pulsed. Michael’s skin sealed the wounds. The burns melted away to reveal healthy skin. In a few seconds, all of the grievous injuries were completely gone. The pulsing increased. Michael’s body stretched. New muscle expanded as Michael’s body grew and reformed. Quentin suddenly realized what he was seeing. The pulsing stopped suddenly. Michael landed onto the tile floor in a crouch. The gold medallion was imbedded in his chest. He slowly rose to his new seven foot height, marveling at his new body. Castle gave his friend a tired smile.

“You are now my Great Champion,” Castle said, “Welcome to the world Mikhail.”

[Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 103]

Ward Family Christmas – Derek’s Side

Last weekend, The Wife, The Brother, The Mother, Rocket Engineer Brother’s family, and a couple of family friends got together at Bok Tower for our holiday shindig. The niece and nephew get presents for everyone, but the adults play Secret Santa. 1. If you’re in Central Florida, go to Bok Tower over in Lake Wales. It’s very pretty.

  1. The Wife got The Brother this year. He asked for a small pocket organizer. Plus he’s been on a kick to convert all of his power outputs to USB-C. So, he also got an Anker power block with a couple of USB-C ports. Both small gifts. And The Wife had all of these boxes from various other items. Yeah, she did the Russian nesting doll thing, which The Brother found hilarious.

  2. Sister-In-Law got me a couple of books. Old books. Gun Books. Namely Pistol and Revolver Shooting by Walter F. Roper from 1945 and The Collecting of Guns from Stackpole Books circa 1964. These should be interesting to page through.

  3. The Mother got The Wife more of the “cloth paper towels” we’ve been using at Ward Manor. Also a Strawberry Shortcake tumbler. I have been dutifully informed that this is now to be The Wife’s daily ice tea cup. No other cups are to be used.

  4. The Wife and I ended up with a membership to Bok Tower, mostly because we’ll probably end up there for next year’s holiday shindig, and it has reciprocity with several other local attractions for free or reduced admission. Including the Florida Aquarium. It also gave us a discount at the gift shop, which came in handy when The Wife picked up several tiny polka dot plants.

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 101

Barcelona, Spain; 2 October 2011, 2345 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 29 days

Quentin McLintock felt the world tilt and spin. It was almost as if he was being held still as the Earth continued its daily revolution. The world around him blurred. He looked around. The Guardians were standing some fifteen feet from him. They were unmoving as the world around them convulsed and shifted.

“What are you doing?” Quentin asked. He didn’t know how they were doing it, but he was sure this was the Guardians’ work. Reality pulsed painfully, reminding him that he was an observer. Again, Quentin didn’t know how that knowledge popped in his head, but he clearly remembered what that sensation meant.

The world slowed. Surroundings came into focus. It looked like he was on the same street where the church was on. The sky was light with gorgeous oranges and violets, but the streets were dark. That meant dusk or dawn. The streets were deserted. Quentin walked back to where the church should be. Off in the distance he could hear the sounds of some massive festival. As he walked closer, new sounds started getting stronger. Those he recognized immediately. The sounds of a battle were echoing in the street. Quentin cautiously jogged down the street toward the sounds. In front of the church, he found the source. In the center was a tall, thin man in a torn business suit. The man had to be over seven feet tall. His long brown hair swirled around his head as he snarled at his opponents. Quentin could feel the sickening evil power emanating from the man. Surrounding him were four men in older tactical gear and holding MP5’s. Six other men in similar clothing were scattered on the ground with horrific gashes. There was no way they would have survived those wounds. The four men were screaming at each other in Italian, but there was something odd about their accent and dialect. Quentin struggled to keep up with them.

“Use the holy rounds!” one of them yelled. He seemed to be leader. The others shouted back confirmations. The other three yelled back confirmations. If the tall man understood them, he didn’t show any sign. The street filled with the familiar buzzing of full-auto MP5’s as the four men attacked. The tall man seemed to blur and suddenly appeared in front of the leader of the tactical team. With a casual backhand, the tall man launched the team leader nearly twenty feet. The team leader crashed into a light pole and Quentin could hear the sickening crack of shattering bones.

“Jerusalem and the world,” the team leader yelled before curling into a ball. At least that’s what Quentin thought the man said. It was hard to decipher the Italian they were using. Then, Quentin saw him. A man crouched behind a newspaper box some thirty feet from the battle. He looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties, but Quentin recognized him. This was a younger version of Dr. de Castillia, the man known as Castle. The leader of the Truth. Quentin looked back at the tall man. Was that Giant? Was this the first battle between the Truth and MacKenzie and Winston?

As the tall man turned back to the remaining fighters, Castle dashed to the church. Quentin carefully followed. No one could see him, but Quentin wasn’t sure if he could affect things. He had a nasty suspicion that reality would punish him again if he did more than observe. Castle was reading from a worn, leather-bound notebook and looking around the old church. From the yellowing and wear on the pages, Quentin estimated the notebook was at least fifty years old. Castle stopped in front of the dais. Pulling out a long dagger, Castle pried up one of the floor tiles. He reached down and pulled something from the floor. Castle held it up to the light and Quentin recognized a gold medallion similar to the one Chief Stahl had pulled out of the altar. The Guardians were suddenly standing on either side of the altar. Castle knelt in front of the two ancient men.

“Are you the Guardians?” Castle asked, his Spanish words translating to English as they reached Quentin’s ears.

“We are the Guardians of the Truth. Who are you?” they both asked.

“I am Santos de Castillia, the descendant of the man who brought you to this land,” Castle said forcefully.

“We were not brought. We followed one of many paths. Why have you come here?” the Guardians asked.

“To stop the Great Death,” Castle answered. “I followed the Little Death from Britain. I knew what would have to be done. I knew I would need the power of this artifact to stop it and its horde.”

“The Knights outside this church could stop the Little Death. They and their god have stopped the Great Death before,” the Guardians intoned, “Why should you be this world’s protector? Why should the Flayed One give you the power?”

“My family has known what needed to be done. I have prepared for this my entire life. I will not falter from the path set before me,” Castle said. The conviction in the man’s voice bordered on fanaticism. It was kind of scary.

“Know this – you are on one of many paths that will lead to the moment of the Truth. You may live, you may die. You may see the coming of the Flayed One or you may prepare the way for the one who will usher the Flayed One’s return. Do you still wish to walk down the paths to the moment?”

“Yes,” Castle answered, reverently.

“Then, arise and know the Flayed One’s power is with you,” the Guardians said. Castle nodded solemnly. He strode out of the church. Quentin followed him. The tactical group was down to a single standing member. He was firing a Beretta at the tall man. The tall man shrugged the bullets off like they were BB’s. The tall man’s grabbed the last fighter by the neck. The attack was so fast, Quentin didn’t even see the tall man’s arm move.

“Knights of the Temple, it is time for you to fight again. Destroy the Little Death,” Castle said to himself as he gripped the gold medallion. Castle closed his eyes and started murmuring words under his breath. To Quentin, the man looked like he was praying. Castle’s eyes snapped open with a dangerous glint. The loud, familiar moans of the undead echoed through the street. The nine dead Knights staggered to their feet.

The tall man – vampire, Quentin belated realized – hissed as the zombies attacked. These zombies didn’t move like normal zombies. They ran like golems, but without the snarling ferocity. The vampire snapped the neck of the Knight in his hand and knocked two of the zombie Knights down with the corpse. Three more zombies leapt on the vampire and bit off long strips of flesh. It shrieked and tossed them off. Quentin saw the large gashes start to heal, but they stopped before they were completely healed. Black blood continued to pump out of the vampire. Others grappled with the vampire to bite off more flesh. The vampire punched one in the head hard enough to shatter its skull. The zombie Knight dropped to the ground in a jumbled heap. The vampire didn’t have time to celebrate its victory as the rest of the undead Knights continued to attack. As Quentin watched the fight, he watched the vampire start to weaken from the numerous half-healed bites. As it weakened, the zombies increased their mindless attacks. Finally, the vampire fell to the ground and was swarmed by the zombies. Its final scream melted into a gurgle as the vampire’s throat was savaged by one of the Knights.

“I release you Knights of the Temple,” Castle said. The zombies collapsed onto the vampire just before they all were consumed with a sudden intense flame. All that was left was some blackened scorches on the pavement.

“Now to the tablet,” Castle said as he dropped the gold medallion into a pocket and walked down the street as if nothing had happened.

Quentin felt the world spin and shift again. As reality resolved itself back, Quentin found himself back in the seat of Seraph’s truck. He looked over at his friends and teammates. They were all staring at each other in disbelief. All except for Mateo. The team leader wore the same neutral face that he’d taken to using for the past few weeks.

“I’m guessing we all saw the same thing?” Mateo asked. The others barely managed to nod. “So, now we know where Castle came from.”

“We also know why zombies are so dangerous to vampires,” Quentin said.

“They didn’t act like any zombies we’ve seen so far,” Jim said, “They acted more like gollums. Was it because they were created by that medallion?”

“I don’t know,” Chief Stahl said, holding his own medallion up, “So how does this little vision help us find the city of the dead?”

“Castle mentioned the tablet just before we were yanked back,” Quentin said. “I think he meant the Chekotsy Tablet. It was a tablet of some odd Aztec pictorals discovered in the 1950’s and taken back to Soviet Union. I’ll bet it was either an artifact or told where other artifacts were hidden.”

“Pretty good theory, but if it’s in Castle’s possession, how’s that supposed to help us?” Chief Stahl asked.

“Castle doesn’t have it. The tablet’s on display in Odessa,” Quentin answered.

“Texas or Florida?” Mateo asked.

“Ukraine.”

[Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 102]

Crafty Wife

Last week, the day job had our holiday party. This was the first time I got to meet our newest members in person, and the first time I’d seen some of my team in person in almost two years. Of course, there was the traditional white elephant gift exchange. Fortunately, my team has a snarky steak running through it. So, working with The Wife, we re-labeled a Yankee Candle.

Re-labeled Candle

Yeah, it went over well.

Unfortunately, The Wife’s Cricut Maker decided to die shortly after. Fortunately, the company is sending out a refurbished Maker as a replacement. Unfortunately, it leaves a pile of projects The Wife needs to finish for the holidays.

It’s a good thing Amazon has the next model down on sale for a steep discount. Knowing The Wife, it’s not like she won’t find a use for the smaller one when she gets her refurbished Maker.

The woman is amazingly creative.

Couple of Reason Links

Reason has an article from Greg Lukianoff on the second coming of political correctness Skeptics and RKBA activists understand the struggle of having to fight the reemergence of the same stupid ideas.

How many times have we heard that the opioid epidemic is the drug companies’ fault by pushing pain killers? Yeah, not so much. Quote: Both [court] decisions recognize that undertreatment of pain is a real problem and that bona fide patients rarely become addicted to prescription opioids, let alone die as a result.