A 600-word limit and no money. When I first checked out MonkeyBiz.ca about a decade ago these were the two reasons I decided not to offer any submissions to them. Looking back, was that a mistake? Should I have swallowed my pride and volunteered for them anyway, just to get some experience? Surprisingly, I would learn the answers to both those questions several years later.
Back in 2001/2002, long before I established my own website, I was Googling a lot hoping to find some possible paying writing gigs I could handle. (Before that, I had tried a few snail mail pitches to no avail.) With the exception of my local newspaper, The Hamilton Spectator, who in the end only did offer small honorariums for just a few of the nine published pieces that were sent to them (which I’ve always appreciated), many of the sites I checked out would only use volunteer writers, not freelancers. And if there was a site that did promise financial compensation, chances are they wanted material I couldn’t possibly provide them or they rejected something I did present via email.
MonkeyBiz came up in one of these many fruitless searches. After reading their submission guidelines, I dismissed it as a possible lead and moved on. After the Spec stopped accepting my work in 2003, I pretty much gave up on the idea of being a freelancer for the next few years. Truthfully, after all this time, I still haven’t figured out how to crack the system. I get discouraged way too easily.
In 2008, while in the midst of another situational depression, a series of circumstances led me to signing up with a local job search service called Employment Hamilton. A frustrating year later, my good-natured counselor suggested volunteer work. He even gave me a lead: Monkeybiz.ca.
By this point I had completely forgotten about the site, so when my counsellor suggested I write free entertainment reviews for them, I didn’t say no. It wasn’t until I came home and checked everything out that I realized I had already heard of them. However, with nothing really going right with my job search, I decided to give them another chance.
I’m glad I did. For the next few years, I submitted 17 pieces, all of which were accepted. Sadly, long after they first surfaced on Monkeybiz, they’ve since been taken down. Although I have alternate links to 16 of these postings on the right side of my homepage, they will not be sticking around. As noted late last year, these critiques of various movies and CDs will now be surfacing in this space.
First up is Straight To The Blood by California band Krash Karma (who are not to be confused with the Canadian supergroup, Crash Karma). This review, which included a photo of the album cover and remains unchanged from my original submission, was put up exactly a year ago today: January 4, 2012. I hope you enjoy it.
KRASH KARMA: STRAIGHT TO THE BLOOD: An album review
Posted on January 04 2012 under Arts & Entertainment
By Dennis Earl
Krash Karma is a talented alternative metal band that sound like a cross between Stabbing Westward and Alice In Chains. Based out of Los Angeles, they used to be called Suicide Holiday.
Thankfully, Straight To The Blood, their latest collection of tunes, won’t inspire you to end it all. Instead, it will appeal to your inner headbanger. Those starved for hard rock will find some nourishment in most of these 11 songs.
Of all the flat-out rockers on the CD, none is more appealing than No Regrets. From its goose-pimply, electronic opening and closing to its loud, crunchy verses, this underdog, let’s-start-over anthem, has tremendous appeal.
Drummer Niki Skistimas, who should sing more often, does a beautiful job with the crucial electronic sections.
Lead singer Ralf Dietel ably handles the rest of the vocals with his sandpaper growl as he snarls out lines like “you can’t arrive if you don’t leave” and “you got to lose if you want to win”.
If this music thing doesn’t work out, he could always become a motivational speaker.
The Void is about a misfit couple rejected by society who find bliss in purgatory, “where you can be nothing but yourself for eternity” and “where all the lies turn into the truth”. Zac Bowman’s guitar work in the last two and a half minutes is quite moving.
Also compelling is the obligatory suicide anthem, Inside. The mystery of the opening verse nicely builds tension as the troubled protagonist at the heart of the song reveals his true feelings of hopelessness in the chorus.
Favourite Things is another well-crafted juggernaut that honours the hardworking anonymous, their indomitable spirit and their stubborn tendency to never give up despite persistent obstacles (“all that I am thanks to them”).
The engaging Comeback personalizes this theme through the prism of a wannabe rock star (“to attain the impossible/I attempted the absurd/’there are things that you cannot do’/these are words I’ve never heard”).
Amongst these ear-splitting yet melodic hard rock songs, however, are some needlessly overwrought power ballads. Tears Of Gasoline is a good title with a fine musical arrangement but the lyrics feel forced and far too vague.
Even worse is Anytime, the only track on the album with weak, unmoving music. Dietel has a decent voice for hard rock but not for songs with cellos.
His ill-suited vocals during the verses are awful and not always in pitch. This is a cheer-you-up anthem that doesn’t cheer you up.
Thankfully, most of the material here is better than these rare missteps. Take The Money could be adopted as a possible anthem for the Occupy Wall Street movement with its sensible anti-greed message.
“We bleed but refuse to die” would make a great slogan. It would probably sell a lot of swag, too.
Hole In My Soul is about a damaged guy finding it difficult to connect to his distant and disinterested gal (“tell me why is it when I’m in the dark/your fire’s never lit?”).
Near the end of that song, as Dietel bemoans his empty existence there’s an odd bit where his lines are countered by Skistimas’ Linda Richman impression.
As he sings “there’s a hole in my soul that I tried to fill”, she replies in a mock Jewish accent “but with what, dear?” With apologies to DeAndre Cole, “What up with that?”
Flaws aside, Straight To The Blood is an apt title for a tight effort filled with mostly no-nonsense alt-metal. It’s worth checking out.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, January 4, 2013