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Raymond Toro is a virtuoso. He knows what he’s doing. His first solo album, “Remember the Laughter” is proof of that. Writing, arranging, and playing nearly every single piece of music on this disc, the man proves his meddle as a solo artist with catchy vocal hooks, smart time changes, heartfelt lyrics, and passionate vocals. I don’t like it as much as I like the discs he worked on in the past with a band, “I brought You My Bullets, You Brought me Your Love”, “Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge”, “The Black Parade”, “Conventional Weapons”(yes, I see it as a cohesive album all by itself), and “Danger Days”, as the primary writer and arranger of the music, but I’m still in love with it. The lyrics alone make it worth a listen, but there’s so much more to it than that. 

“Remember the Laughter” is a concept album about a middle aged man finding a “memory box” and reflecting on moments of his life via the contents of said box. Simple as hell, way less bombastic and complicated than “The Black Parade”, but just as heartfelt and almost as effective. 

A few tracks stand out to me, and they will be the main ones I write about in this review. The first, “Isn’t that Something”, is written from a straight up genius perspective when it comes to music. Good structure, a good balance of traditional music and electronic(just in the beginning really), and some of the most honest lyrics I have ever heard in a song. You can tell that the track is about Toro’s feelings after the MCR breakup of 2013, and it really pulls at your heart, especially if you’re a fan. 

“Mama told me I should stand alone. Papa said your better on your own.”

While I do think My Chem was the greatest ensemble of creators in the history of music, I still think that Ray’s parents were right, at least in a way. He’s finally making the music he’s always wanted to make. Sure, there’s none of that magical teamwork that occurs when a band full of separate artists with separate musical tastes work together to create the sonic hybrid known as an album, but it really does show that this artist can stand on his own two feet creatively just fine. A lot more than fine, actually. 

That being said, this record was A huge surprise to me. My favorite guitarist had always played like he was a hybrid of Brian May and Randy Rhoades – but with this album, he goes the pop route. It’s not “pop” like all that Beyonce shit you always hear, but it’s still catchy as hell. A very strange but very nice combination of modern pop music with 80s rock bands, which makes the disc play like a time capsule, and the record’s narrative lyrically fits well into that aspect of the album. 

“Walking in Circles” is my new favorite love song. The lyrics in it are simple, as is a lot of the music, but the thing delivers. His vocal holds notes extremely well, and the entire song is laced with strings that really give the whole thing an epic scope. As far as the guitar is concerned, this one shows the listener that Ray isn’t interested in shredding and showing off like he did with My Chem. He just wants to make something emotive and powerful with his music, even if it’s simple. But, like I said, there are stringed instruments, so it’s kind of a mind fuck that he would make a song that sounds so simple and then add something really complex on top of it. 

So far, the album has been pretty poppy. But with “We Save”, the music becomes straight up rock and roll, namely, blues rock. I can’t help but make a comparison to “You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us in Prison”, chiefly because of the guitar style, but the song still doesn’t sound anything like that one or anything else in My Chem’s arsenal. It’s not heavy, but it’s not soft either-it’s just intelligent rock music that puts a smile on your face. 

Things get more complex a couple of tracks later with, “The Great Beyond”. Orchestral instruments  abound once again, but the real focus is the guitar and the vocals. Melodically, it’s one of the best songs of the album, especially with the soft bridge. I said before that Ray doesn’t really shred on this album – but scratch that, the solo on this song is excellent(I guess he does shred on this album, where the solos are concerned, but he does it sparingly). It’s soft but rockin’, smart, and gets stuck in your head just as much as the vocals do. There’s also a certain highly experimental sound employed throughout the verses that took me a while to get used to, but I love it now, even though I have no clue what it is. Something like scraping or clicking, I guess. 

“Take the World” reminds me of “The World is Ugly” and “the Kids From Yesterday”, but it’s still Signature Ray Toro, not My Chemical Romance. I think it would have worked with Gerard Way singing it, but it actually wouldn’t have been as good. This is the album’s initial single for a reason – it shows with glory Toro’s competence as a songwriter and especially as a vocalist. I’ll admit I like Way’s voice better, but I think Ray’s voice is perfect for this song. 

All the songs are great, but the next one that really stands out to me is “Requiem”. The vocals and lyrics of this record are all delightfully positive, and that infectious happiness shows the most through this track. It’s all about honoring the memories of those we have lost, living life to the fullest, and finding hope amidst the “madness of this world”

“You’ve got one life so make it right. If I had one more chance, I wouldn’t take it back.

Don’t die in vain, please light the flame.

And fill the sadness in your heart with memories of us.”

Just beautiful to the heart, man. Makes me wanna live my life to the fullest. And, at the end of the song, Toro goes full on African with the vocals and percussion. I’ve always loved tribal stuff. It’s just so emotional and real. 

And the last song, title track “Remember the Laughter” is just as powerful and infectious as the rest of them. Great way to end an album, especially with Toro’s “La la la” refrain during the bridge. 

I’ve been listening to this album for a couple weeks constantly, and it resonates with my emotions more than any of the solo efforts of My Chem’s other members. The main focus of the disc is family, and that’s something I desperately needed to focus on at this time. So, thanks Ray.

All in all, a cohesive, well constructed, and just damn good CD.

10 out of 10 

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smalltowninthese

 

I interviewed these bands for a planned magazine for my hometown. But the editor bailed, so I’ve decided to post the piece on here. Our magazine is still in the works, however, and will probably be available early next year.

When you want to go to watch a rock band, chant lyrics back at its singer, and dance around like you just don’t care, then OKC is the place to be. Well…it HAS been. For a long time, it was the only place I could go to find shows, aside from an occasional trip to Dallas. But now, our own El Reno seems to be the go-to place for live music. Venues and bar shows are popping up everywhere, and it’s really bringing vitality to this town as well as bringing out the creative energies of our local musicians. Ever wonder what those musicians think about in regards to the shows, the songs, or anything else? Their take on the Reno scene? Look no further. We have two interviews with a couple of awesome bands who will most assuredly be among the first to put El Reno on the map.

 

First up, we have Cody Hassell, who plays guitar, harmonica, and does backing vocals for the band “Small Town Sound”, a real, gritty, honest, Red Dirt Country band with an awesome sense of humor matched only by the sheer talent they possess musically. Every show of theirs is ridiculously fun. The members are Tuffy Casteel(vocals), Tim Elliot(lead guitar), Jacob Moss(drums), Todd Neece(bass guitar), and of course Cody Hassell himself, the band’s mouthpiece for this interview. (As of this post’s date, Small Town Sound have unfortunately broken up, but Cody still does a lot of solo shows)

 

 

 

 

 

SMALL TOWN SOUND

 

  1. Tell me about the band name.

There’s really not much of a story behind it. I wasn’t there when they created it; I joined the band after that. But it’s pretty much flat out what it sounds like: a reference to the type of music that we play, which is the music that we learned growing up in a small town.

 

That’s awesome. Just starting out playing shows at bars, stuff like that, with people you know, and then growing from there?

 

Yeah you know, a group of friends in your living room after school or hanging out in your garage. You know, drinking beer… Wait, no, that was when I got a little bit older… Um.. Hi mom! (Laughs). But yeah, it’s pretty cool to go from starting there, playing at a campfire or your garage or your girlfriend’s house, to having people you went to school with come to all your major shows ten or fifteen years later. Everybody’s like “I knew you were gonna do something with this!” It’s a pretty good feeling, ya know? People think you’re doing something big ’cause of your recognition, but you’re actually still just basically screwing off, doing the same thing you were doing back in school.

 

I think it’s cool that something can start out small within the confines of a town, like bar shows and whatnot, and then grow to something way bigger while still retaining that personal and authentic quality.

 

Yeah, most everybody we play with, they are pretty authentic. Of course, there are those one or two people you run across every now and then who think they’re the biggest star on this side of the Mississippi. But they’re playing the same places we are, for the same amount of money we are, and we just usually have to let that go, you know? Don’t say nothin about it, don’t burn no bridges. But for the most part, everybody’s really cool. We have very few people we play with that we have any problem with. It’s a good scene.

 

  1. What genre would you call your music?

Oh man… We get a bunch of people that label us “Red Dirt Country”. And I think we do have a big influence from that type of music: The Turnpike Troubadours, Blackberry Smoke, Robert Okeen, and that type of stuff. But a couple of us also listened to punk music growing up, a lot of southern rock and classic rock too. So, when people ask me what type of music we play, I say “Red Dirt with a Southern Rock Feel”. We try not to do anything that has been done to death already though, ya know? We try to be unique.

 

  1. What would you say most of your songs are about?

All kinds of stuff. Most of them are pulled from an experience that we’ve had. We have one called “Outlaw” about a good friend of the band’s, and we have one that’s pretty much about driving back from a show or driving back from work out of state, with your friends back there calling and asking you where you’ve been. We got one about losing a girl, and then another one that was the first one that Tim wrote about his wife. We draw from any experience we can. We try not to overdo the “love” thing, ’cause just about any song you hear anymore is about some significant other. Or, “hopeful significant other” I guess.

 

  1. Where all have you played, and where is your favorite place to play?

Oh, man…we have played all over OKC, Shawnee, Lawton, Madison Park, Hinton, Okarchee, Sparks, Depew. We’ve been out of state too. Springfield, Missouri; Nashville, Tennessee; Dallas, Texas. Pretty much anywhere we can go. My favorite place to play…that’s a tough one. Almost impossible to choose; I don’t want any venues we’ve played to see this and be hurt that I didn’t pick them…but man, the biker rallies are great. That’s my crowd right there. They are so laid back, have a good time, hoot and holler. Sometimes they get a bad rep and people think there’s gonna be fights and all that, but it’s really such a “live and let live” type of thing, you know? Anytime we play at a biker rally, I like for our band to go onstage right in the middle of the band lineup. Then we get off stage, and plan on sleeping in the truck that night, cause you’re not gonna be driving home, you know? And I can’t pick just one rally. Both the main ones in Oklahoma are just great. We got a new one coming up where we haven’t played before, and I’m really looking forward to that one too.

 

  1. Who are some of your favorite artists?

I go through phases. Right now, I’m on a big “Passenger” kick. He’s a guy from Britain I think, maybe London. He’s such an amazing songwriter. He can just say things with words and make words rhyme in ways that you wouldn’t think could work. Really paints an image inside your head. And then his guitar playing is unbelievable. Like, I cannot believe that just one guy can have this kind of talent with both writing guitar parts and coming up with lyrics. He had a big hit on the radio with “Let Her Go”. I liked it but really didn’t get too much into it. Then one day I was listening to Internet radio, and another one of his songs came up, and it really caught my attention; like, “who’s that?” And then, “Oh, that’s that same guy who does ‘Let Her Go’.” So I started looking up all his stuff, and here I am a year later. I think he’s got maybe seven albums out, and I own every one of them. And of course, like I said,  I’m also into “The Turnpike Troubadours”. I’m also really into the “Hamilton” musical right now, which is a Broadway show about Alexander Hamilton. And it’s a hip-hop musical, a musical with our forefathers up there rapping. It’s one of those things where you think it’s gonna sound like crap, and then it ends up being good enough to give you chills.

 

  1. What do you guys normally write first, the verse or the chorus?

It’s just whatever we get, whatever happens. Sometimes we’ll just be jamming and tuning up and all that, then one of us will come up with somethin catchy, and then Tim or Tuffy will end up writing a whole song from it. It could start with me jamming on guitar or a line Tim comes up with. And Tuffy, he’ll show up to practice and throw down a piece of paper and have all the words and lyrics right there. I guess we take the inspiration whenever we get it. We write whatever comes to us and just go from there.

 

  1. How long have you been playing music? Both individually and as a band?

I didn’t start playing guitar until 2000. Now, I carried a guitar around for about a year and a half before that, just trying to learn how to play it, but I didn’t start actually playing until 2000. I started school band in 96, and by 97 I had pretty much flunked out, dropped it halfway through the year and went to choir…cause that’s where the chicks were at (laughs). Worked out pretty well for me cause I met my wife in choir. So I played from 2000 to 2005 just playing around campfires, friends’ parties, jamming in the garage. Occasionally I would play a few songs between bands at the bar my dad hung out at; I’d just jam during the breaks and stuff. Then I stopped playing around 2005, started working a lot, and didn’t start playing again till like 2010. I picked it back up again with a guy I worked with, taught him a few bass licks, brought his cousin in who played drums, and started playing at bars in El Reno for $120 a night. As far as the other guys in Small Town Sound, I don’t really know. The band’s been together for like 5 years now. It’s Tuffy’s first band, and Jake and Tim have been in a few high school punk bands around El Reno, with Mike Randall from “James Bond Dracula”. And Todd’s from Dallas, and he’s been playing since before I was born. He was in some hair metal bands back in the 80s, then he got married and quit playing for a while, close to twenty years. Then he got back on it around 2012 or 2013, which was around the time I met him with the band we both played in before Small Town Sound. He dusted off his bass guitar, met me from Craigslist when I was looking for a bass player, auditioned, and we’ve been jamming together ever since.

 

  1. What all instruments can you play?

I’ve got an electric and an acoustic drum set, a four stringed bass, can play a song or two on the banjo, play mandolin, electric and acoustic guitar. I love the 12 string guitar. I jam out on percussion instruments too, and I play harmonica for the band. I’ll play anything I can get my hands on. Got a violin that I sometimes mess around on trying to get the hang of it. Now, that’s a frustrating instrument. I play a little bit on the saxophone, but of course not too much or I wouldn’t have flunked out of band in school. I’ve got an accordion too, and the best song I can play on it is the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song.

 

  1. What has been your biggest moment musically, even in regards to music that isn’t your own? When was your life most affected by music?

The moment I decided to start playing guitar again after almost six years. In May of 2010, I got laid off from a job and then shattered my wrist right after that. Had to have a steel plate put in it and all that…I was sitting around the house, and my wife and family had convinced me to make a Facebook account. I thought “I’m sitting around the house not working so I might as well.” I’m sitting there adding friends and all that, and I come across a friend from high school whose son had bone marrow cancer. He was like 3 years old at the time. And I’d owned a motorcycle for a while and had done some bike runs and stuff like that, and I just thought to myself, “I’ve got all this time on my hands sitting around the house, making a few job applications, so I’m gonna put on a little poker run, make a little money for this kid.” Me and a buddy of mine put it together in this kid’s name, and at our last stop we were playing at this big party, and I had hit up a couple of friends of mine who played music. And the owner of the bar’s brother had a friend of his daughter’s who was pretty much his daughter, she was pretty much his daughter’s sister, and she had gotten really big into music and never looked back. Went on tour in Paris and all that. Her name’s Allie Harter. So he asks her to come up and play, and I had introduced her to the crowd at the party. I’m sittin there watching her play, and I’m thinking to myself, “Man, she is SO good. I miss doing that. I want to start playing guitar again.” I started playing a lot after that. Just pretty much picking it up and remembering how to play it. That’s what made me want to start playing again.

 

  1. Do any of your personal beliefs and opinions show through in your music?

Well I hope so. That’s kind of the point, right? I find that it all goes back to being sincere. I think the true artists are the ones who go up there, pull open their chests, and show their heart on stage. If you go up there and fake it, the audience can tell. It wouldn’t feel real to anyone. There’s just something about being sincere that makes people trust you, you know? And we’re not ever gonna write a song that we disagree with morally or religiously. We might do one we disagree with lawfully though. That’s half of the outlaw country genre right there I think. You know, you’re not really out their robbing banks and stuff, but you sing about it.

 

  1. What advice would you give to musicians who are just starting out?

Well…you know how to get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. That’s the number one thing. And I could give a LOT of advice. I could give advice I wish I had heard when I was just starting out. But practicing is the most important thing. A lot of people think just cause they jam out in the garage with their friends that they can go up on the stage right away; in reality you have to be a lot more precise up there. There isn’t any room for stopping halfway through the song because you did it in the wrong key. Once you go, you go.

 

Thanks for doing the interview man .

 

No problem. If it ends up in the Washington Post or something make sure you let me know (laughs).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up, we have “In These Pages”, a local folk pop band consisting of Jeremiah Goodblanket(vocals, guitar), Zak Schroeder(guitar), and John Jones(bass). The first few times I watched them play, it was just Zak and Jeremiah, and what really struck me about them was how they combined extremely skillful guitar playing with passionate vocals. Now, with the addition of John on the bass guitar, they have a full sound and are able to convey even more emotion through their songs.

 

 

 

IN THESE PAGES

 

 

  1. What does the name, “In These Pages” refer to?

Jeremiah: I came up with it probably 5 or so years ago. It was the name of my solo project, back when I had had it planned to hit up the studio and track everything myself. And then, as time went on, I just decided I needed some help, ya know? And the name itself really refers to using life as a metaphor, or a book as a metaphor for life. The pages of your life, the chapters of your life. So this is literally just a page in our lives right now. We’ll just see how far it takes us.

 

Zak: Jeremiah is the one who started the band. I’d been playing solo at the Iron Tree a few times. We had both been in a band before called, “With Cities Below”, and we just decided with “In These Pages”, “Let’s make a duo and really just make the band expand.”

 

 

  1. What is your main inspiration?

Jeremiah: Really just life experiences. People you lose, people you love, things you do and things you mess up. My inspiration is mainly my life, ya know? And when it comes to the music itself, the music that really inspires me, like the mood of it, would probably be Lydia and Green Day. But it just goes all over the spectrum. I could talk about bands all day, but really just the music itself is inspired by my life experiences

 

Zak: Yeah life experiences. Most of the songs are written lyrically by Jeremiah, and I agree with what he’s singing and everything like that. But where I get my inspiration from starts with back when I was younger, when I first acquired my guitars. My uncle had passed, and he was a huge metal head and I inherited his guitars. I greatly looked up to him when I was younger. And so I wanted to be like him and play guitar, you know? Growing up, I was a little five year old listening to Metallica in the back seat of my grandma’s car, so it all started when I was super young and just with the love of music. We would play games with the car radio and try to scream out which song was being played on the radio before anyone else could say the name or whatever. So it all goes back to when I was at a really young age.

 

John: Inspiration for me has pretty much always been kind of more of a hard core. I grew up listening to country music like Johnny Cash. And there are very few people who have gone through the hell that Johnny Cash went through, and came back to see the light. So when you look at the different inspirations that I have witnessed throughout my life that can be sang and played to, it’s a different style for sure. You have to kind of take a little bit from here and a little bit from there and try to piece it together to make your own style. It’s different for sure. As far as what drives me – the fact that every single person out there has got a story. Everyone wants their story to be heard. So if you can write a song to make their story heard, that’s what will drive not just me, but every single person around me.

 

 

  1. Who are your influences musically?

Zak: I’ve been hugely into metal for a long time, really just the whole genre. Acoustic and metal scenes, I’m way into both of those, and I can’t really name names because there are just so many. But one singer-songwriter I’ve been jamming out to a lot lately is “Front Porch Step“. With his personal life, he’s gotten into a lot of trouble and everything, and I won’t get into that, but his music is just really great. I love his albums. So I guess right at this moment, I’d say “Front Porch Step” is my main influence.

 

John: For me, my inspiration originally started from Corey Smith because I had nothing more to play than like a bass note, and it was pretty awful. I really liked Josh Turner, Blake Shelton, you know, those kinds of singers were my main inspiration for wanting to sing. But as time progressed, I started getting more into the poetry behind music and not just the repetition. I started listening to more of the unknown artists like Corey Smith when he had just started out. He’s one of those singers who doesn’t exactly have the greatest voice, which is like myself, but the music he writes is pure poetry. Even if you don’t have the greatest voice, your lyrics can take you all the way.

So, as far as my main drive, it’d probably be Corey Smith, ’cause he’s a little guy out there pushing forward to make a difference

 

 

  1. What would you say is the main subject matter of your songs?

Jeremiah: Mostly love. I guess it’s kinda sappy, ‘cause people are tired of hearing love songs, but love’s the biggest drive in life and what gives meaning to everything in the human race. If there was no love, everything would be like how it is in “The Giver”, you know? It would just suck. And a lot of my stuff is about my current girlfriend and how we have plans for the future. And there’s songs that I’ve written about heartbreak in the past, you know, with friends and family. And recently I’ve been trying to expand our music’s subject matter to reach a bigger audience as opposed to just love. And the most recent song I’ve written is about how fast life goes by and how we all just lose track of it. I had spoken with my grandma a few years back, before she passed away, and she was saying how life felt like she had just blinked and then here she is in her 80’s. Life really does fly by. So the song I’m talking about is kind of hitting on little pieces of someone’s life and saying not to take it for granted, and to focus on NOW so it doesn’t all go by too fast.

 

 

  1. How do you guys feel about the quality of today’s popular music?

 

(all laugh)

 

Jeremiah: There’s some really catchy stuff out there

 

Zak: There is, there is.

 

Jeremiah: But there’s a lot of, you know… Cookie cutter…

 

Zak: Repetitive. I’ve heard that beat before, I’ve heard that melody before, where’s the new melody at. They just keep on remixing everything. We do covers though, you know? And they are covers of very popular songs, catchy and repetitive, but we try to throw our own unique spin on it. We’ve done acoustic versions of rap songs and stuff like that. But it’s sad to see what the music industry has started to head towards.

 

John: A lot of it’s not even music

 

Zak: Yeah, and then you have like a person who’s got a good voice or a half assed voice, and they can get into the studio and modify it all, make it sound good, and throw a generic beat on it. They’ll say something that caters to a specific audience, like “get girls” or “get money”. And even country now, it’s like, “I got a truck, I got some beers; let’s have a good time” and that’s it.

 

John: Skirts…

 

Jeremiah: My wife left me, my dog died…

 

(All laugh)

 

Zak: Yeah you know that’s it. That’s what’s going on record right now, but if I ever get into that situation with my music, please shoot me

 

 

  1. Do any other forms of art or creativity affect your songwriting?

Zak: Definitely. I’m a graphic designer on the regular side of life. In my eyes, all art is just about mood and feel. Art can be from any aspect of your life, whether it be painting on a canvas or messing around on a computer screen, or music. Again, it can all completely affect your life on how you view things artistically.

 

Jeremiah: Photography’s always been a really big one for me. I’ve always respected the hell out of it. My girlfriend is currently working as a photographer part time, and I love seeing her grow and learn in that because it’s something I’ve always loved doing. Aside from that, you have to really respect the big artists out there, you know, like the Renaissance artists. All the painting, all that stuff. I’m not really too big on modern art or “abstract” per se. But I respect all art in general. And acting too. Where I work now, most of my time is spent watching movies, which makes my job sound stupid. If it’s slow enough, we’ll watch Netflix. But anyway, I just try to watch just really good movies, and I really respect the people that make them.

 

Zak: If we could envelop people into our music as much as people are enveloped into something like “Game of Thrones”, that would be a dream come true.

 

(Pause)

 

Jeremiah: I think there’s a bug in my shirt.

 

(All laugh)

 

 

  1. What comes first in the writing process? The verse or the chorus?

Jeremiah: Usually for me it’s the chorus. I come up with a hook, a melody comes into my head and I just build on that. You know, there’s been songs that I like started at point A and went from there. Like, it’s really just all over the place, but most of the time, if it’s a not melody stuck in my head that I just turn into a chorus, it’s just a guitar riff that I throw words on top of. It ends up being all about simply purging emotions through the words in the songs.

 

John: For me, the very first thing is always my idea of a music video for the song. I always seem to fit what I’m singing into a music video and watch it myself in my head, to see maybe “What’s this person’s life been like, how it’s gonna end up?”. And I always end up with the bridge of the song first, then the chorus, and then I fit the verses in with it. But it always starts with a music video in my head. I picture what I wanna see, and what the bridge is, what the ending’s gonna be, and then I start piecing together from there what the chorus is gonna be, and then all the way down to the verses.

 

Jeremiah: I never thought of it like that. But that’s actually pretty much how that last song we played was made. You know, it’s all about my life and me experiencing it. But I think that’s a really nice method.

 

Zak: With me, it’s really just improvisational. It’s always been improv. You know back when I played at the Iron Tree, I would just show up without practicing anything beforehand. Set my guitar to a specific tuning, and then set a few chords down and just go off of those chords with solos and different melodies. Here tonight, about thirty percent of what I was doing was improv.

 

Jeremiah: Or sixty percent.

 

(All laugh)

 

Zak: Yeah, kind of. You know, playing at Iron Tree and everything has really helped with playing improv, like with Jeremiah and John and me playing off of each other and stuff, we all just kind of resonate off of each other and pick up on what’s going on.

 

Jeremiah: Yeah we’re really good at playing with each other.

 

(All laugh)

 

Zak: Yeah, we play with each other too much.

 

I’ve always thought ever since I first saw you guys play that it just all sounds really well together. You know, I thought “That’s some dual guitar.”

 

Zak: Yeah, and that’s what it all kind of hearkens back to. I’ll throw down some chords, and Jeremiah will throw down some leads, and then he’ll throw down some chords, and I’ll lay down some leads and we’ll just switch back and forth.

 

John: The great thing about playing with these guys is that no matter where we’re at in the song, I can always look at either of them and know exactly which part we’re at in the song, and I can start playing as well. But they play off of each other so well that no matter what, no matter who’s playing lead, it’s so easy to just turn around and be like, “Ok, I’m lost. What are we playing right now?” And just look at them for a couple of seconds and realize exactly where they’re going. They’ve been playing so long together and they’re so skilled at what they do. We can all instantly be on the same page throughout the entire song. Surround yourself with great musicians and you’ll be a great musician yourself

 

Jeremiah: I hate to break it to you, but we’re not great musicians(laughs).

 

 

  1. What advice would you give to musicians who are just starting out?

John: For me it’s a little bit different, because I don’t play guitar, I play bass. I’m kind of one of those people who’s sort of in the background in the band, like I don’t have lead parts and this and that, but if I could give anybody advice, just from what I’ve done over the years, it would be “Don’t be afraid to go out there and get what you want.” I’ve been really lucky to be able to surround myself with really great people, because, unfortunately, there are a lot of people who will try to cut you down in the music business, try to ridicule you for what you think you may be able to do. And unfortunately, that happens quite often. But don’t give up. You know, ten years ago, whenever people said “You’re not good, you can’t sing worth a darn.” –  if I had listened to them, I certainly wouldn’t be where I’m at now. But I’ve got two guys here right now who are amazing people, good people, and they took a chance with me. I’m not the greatest bass player in the world. But they showed up and asked me to play, and I played my heart out trying to impress them the best that I could. But the biggest thing is, don’t give up. If you have a dream and you wanna be that person, go for it. Don’t let anybody cut you down, and I’ve had a lot of people cut me down over the years, and it does nothing but hurt you. But in the end, if you wanna play, play. Don’t let anyone stop you.

This review is 4 years too late. Maybe 3, since I only started by blog in 2015. But either way, I find it shameful that I haven’t mentioned this movie throughout my blog career. The “alien” movies are the greatest films ever made. So I should have reviewed this one early on. 

But wait… Is it actually an “alien” movie?

I think I’ve discovered the answer.

Anyway, I’m not gonna go through the plot and stuff like that, other than the fact that some scientists are on a mission to discover whether or not aliens created human beings. Which to me is immediately stupid(but still epic) because either way, someone had to create the alien creators in the first place, as mentioned by the film’s chief protagonist, Elizabeth Shaw. But it doesn’t matter – the film is about people looking for the alien “engineers” who created us. 

Turns out, they’re right. The world they arrive on is completely devoid of life – at first. But then, an android playing the role of a resentful Lucifer finds a bio-mechanical substance that can alter life forms and in fact create new life, and he uses this to infect a scientist who proceeds to impregnate his girlfriend with an extra terrestrial Satan spawn. 

Did I mention that this was an “alien” prequel? Well, we will get to that later, after I explain the merits as well as the mistakes of this film. 

The best thing about the film is Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of David the android. The character is a devil straight out of   “Paradise lost”, hating his creators(mankind) who look down upon him, and slowly plotting revenge against them. The film has many spiritual themes, but this is by far the best one explored. He also practically creates the XENOMORPHS, although AVP(if it’s considered canon by Ridley Scott) and the upcoming “Covenant” may prove that the acid creatures were alive long before David infected Charlie. Sorry if you haven’t seen this movie yet, but I’m sure that by now everyone has. 

Another merit of this film, though the one I just mentioned is the chief example of this, is the religious themes. Who created us? What happens when we die? What is our purpose? The way the film explains it, especially through the special effects, is spectacular, though I honestly feel that our origin story(as well as that of the xenomorph) could have been written better(Shaw’s conviction in her Christian faith however is rendered beautifully). 

Which brings me to another merit – special effects. They are amazing. Some of the best CGI I’ve seen in years. Tons better than Jurassic World and the new Godzilla. A lot of artists who worked on the first alien film in 79 also worked on this one, and it definitely shows. Some of the shots of the kitchen and corridors in this movie are eerily similar to those in the original “alien”, though much more streamlined and advanced. But even though this movie technically takes place before the first “alien” film, it still looks better, obviously, because it’s not 1979 in the world of filmmaking anymore. The way Prometheus explains this is that the NOSTROMO ship from the original alien was basically a space truck, and that the Prometheus vessel in this film is a fully funded science vessel. I must say, it makes much more sense and works way better than the updated effects of the Star Wars prequels.

That being said,despite the wonderful CGI and miniature work, the film still pails in comparison to the sets of the first “alien”. Now that shit was epic. It felt real because it WAS real. Wasn’t a detailed video game like this one. 

So, effects are pretty good for what the video game CGI guys do nowadays, but how is the acting?

Passable.

I mean, Noomie Rapace is the only one who really stands out as an actor other than Fassbender, but all the actors still do a nice job with the script they’ve been given. 

But Fassbender as David – damn near perfect. Ridley Scott apparently wanted this film and his future alien prequels to have an intensely religious, spiritual theme – well, he only succeeded with the David character – and that’s actually more than enough. 

David resents his creators. Even Peter Weyland, the old man who commissioned his construction, calls him “a man, but a man without a soul”. And the other characters in the film treat him the same way, aside from Shaw, who feels sympathy and, more importantly, respect towards the android. 

But Shaw’s boyfriend certainly doesn’t. He constantly refers to David as “boy”, constantly wants to use him as nothing more than a mechanical tool, and even tells the android straight to his face that he can’t feel disappointment or any other emotion.

Well, David proves him wrong whether Charlie knew it or not. He infects him with the black virus (one more criticism – waaaaaaayyyy too much like the x files) and speaks to him in a very sarcastic”you have no idea what I got planned for you” type of way. David is easily the best thing about the film, from his desire for revenge to his quoting of classic motion pictures in an attempt to be more artsy and human. He reminds me of Star Trek’s DATA – except he performs in the way I always wanted Data to perform. Emotional, vengeful, and sarcastic – this character wants to be his own man, as far away from the human race as he can possibly be – and yet, compared with the other characters, he’s more human and believable than all of them.

Finally we come to the point of me watching this film – it’s connection to the “alien” universe. When I first watched it in 2012, I was excited anytime the word Weyland was mentioned. I was overjoyed with the depiction of the SPACE JOCKEYs, the “engineers”. 

But after two hours of some well designed extra terrestrials that paid a faint homage to the original xeno, I was quite disappointed to find the titular creature at the end of the film making up only about 60 seconds of the entire movie. I still liked the film, but I agreed with Eric Cartman’s opinion – even the writers didn’t know what this movie was about. Is it ALIEN or not?

Well, that complaint has slowly diminished with me over the past few years. Even though Ridley Scott is a liar about whether his films will contain the original Alien or not, I have finally concluded that Prometheus is a true Alien movie with just enough hints and Easter eggs to make it so. I originally hated how it sort of distanced itself from the iconic franchise it was intended to preclude – but I have changed my mind. 

It’s a good idea, letting us know just barely that is is a film connected to the Alien franchise. And this makes us want to see part two, “alien: covenant” even more. But regardless of what Scott planned, he is a liar. He originally said that “covenant” wouldn’t have any XENOMORPHS in it. Now he’s endorsing their appearance. Somehow, I feel that all this double talk was planned – that he only made Prometheus 10 % of a real alien film just to get us excited for the next one where he’s gonna go all out.

So, without further ado, I grant this film 7.5 out of 10 stars. Better than the AVP films, but not quite up to par with “alien: resurrection”. 

Don’t be hatin: that was a great movie 

Is there anything else out there? This is something I think everyone has asked themselves at one point or another. Angels, demons, extra-terrestrials, forces of the dark and forces of the light.

Are these things real? Or are they simply personifications of the chaos within us? The contradictions, conflicting desires, and moral choices of the human, who Nietzche calls, “the sick animal”.

Or could these external mysteries actually be tangible and in fact relate to the chaos within ourselves? Should we look within before we look without?

For instance, do we have souls? For if we do, then it is obvious that these supposed forces of supernature do in exist as well, though probably in ways or forms that we could never possibly hope to imagine.

Different philosophers of different ages and beliefs, as different as Thomas Aquinas and Friedrich Nietzche, have all agreed on one thing. That the Numinous – even if described in wholly psychological terms – is something that no amount of human thinking can ever figure out.

But if these forces are real, should we fear them?

My answer is a most emphatic NO.

Even setting aside these forces, existence itself makes it obvious that something cannot arise from nothing. In other words, there IS a God, a ground for being. And this force is stronger than all the others.

About a week ago, I logged into my wordpress. It wasn’t a busy day for me – work was over and my wife and daughter were at my mother in law’s house, so I had a free day to check my stuff and read as many blog posts as I could. I didn’t expect anything special to be on there specifically about my own blog (though I did expect, as I always do, to read fascinating posts made by those I follow), for I hadn’t made a new post in like two weeks.

But something cool was about to happen.

My good ol’ blog pal, piezoradeon(The Enthralled Cloud of Thought) nominated me for a blogger’s recognition award. Now, I’ve only had followers on this blog for literally two months, have made only a few posts (and even fewer posts about things the populace would be interested in), and when it comes right down to it, I’m the biggest NOOB of them all when it comes to word press. So how do you think I reacted?

Ecstatically.

It feels so good to have people like Piezo and everyone else actually reading the things I write, and I’d like to thank EVERYONE who has ever read anything I’ve posted. Outside the internet, I don’t really have anyone who appreciates my art other than my family. At least not yet 🙂

But my excitement didn’t stop there.

3 days later, A Thought, a Word, and an Eternal Bliss nominated me for this very same award.
A lot of people would say, “Oh its just a blog. Who cares? You didn’t win a real award.”

Not so.

We bloggers are artists(but I’m so inexperienced that I barely have the right to say that!). We all thrive on our art and opinions being viewed and appreciated by somebody. ANYBODY. Because BLOGS START CONVERSATIONS PEOPLE! Intelligent conversations, across thousands of miles, with people appreciating each other’s creativity through an outlet which for some is the only outlet they have to express themselves. At least at first. Blogging gives a person confidence, and it also greatly helps their credibility when they try to send their work, be it poem, sketch, or novel, to a publication company. So for anyone who wants to succeed, blogging is an excellent starting point.
(All that being said, I’m still in no way under any delusions about my blog being great or anything. I wasn’t in a competition, and I didn’t actually win anything, but it just feels good that a couple of people enjoyed my blog)

Let me just say before I type the rules that those nominated for this award are supposed to type that it is an absolute treasure to be recognized by other bloggers, but especially by ones who are as talented and engaging as A Thought, a Word, and an Eternal Bliss and Kushal Gorti(Piezo Radeon). I love both of their blogs so much, and I strongly recommend that you check out their pages.  Now, time for me to post the rules, and then to follow those rules.

The Rules

*Write a post to show your award

*Tell your blog’s origin story – how did it start?
*Write two pieces of advice for new bloggers
*Thank whoever nominated you and share a link to their blog
*Select 15 other blogs that you want to nominate

The Domain: Origin

A little over a year ago, I started my blog for a single purpose – to have my first completed mythical novel read by as many people as possible. Well, that was the MAIN purpose, but I also had one that was far less selfish, albeit only possible if the blog ever became a major success…..to be a place where people all over the world and even in my own humble hometown could post their works of art without fear or criticism, regardless of the medium(by the way, if anyone wants their stuff posted and doesn’t have a blog yet, you can contact me and get your stuff out there through the domain). My idea was for it to be something sort of like the Community Pool, the only exception being that it would specifically be for people like myself who are horribly self conscious and terrified of sharing their thoughts and ideas with the world. Hence my blog slogan: Let’s Slay the Minotaur, One Idea at a Time. This refers to the Greek myth of the slaying of the Minotaur by Theseus, but more poignantly to my own little tweak on that myth which plays a huge part in my novel, “The First and the Last”, which when all is said and done is about nothing more than overcoming life’s many struggles. Well, to this day, that grand dream of idea sharing hasn’t yet come true. But I’m still hopeful. However, the other thing that I wanted actually did happen, surprisingly. A few noble souls have read my posts, and more specifically, chapters from my book. Let me say again that I simply cannot stress enough the amount of gratitude that I feel towards you all. Anyone who has ever even clicked the Like button honestly made my day and gave me strength. But something important to mention is that it took my blog a literal year to be read by ANYONE, at least regularly. I’ll explain more of that later under the Advice heading, but suffice it to say – perseverance. That’s the magic word. But I have learned something very important from blogging that actually overshadows my own desires for success – How to CONVERSE. I have had more conversations on wordpress than I can count, and they were all very intelligent and enjoyable. I don’t really get to talk about things that interest me face to face, because I don’t really know anyone personally who would be interested. Of course I have friends and family – but I’m a loner when it comes to my interests, hobbies, and passions. Hence, the beauty of blogging.
2 bits of advice

1. Take a genuine interest in others. This is a tried and true approach that is crucial to any successful blogger, and, at the risk of me sounding like a barren platitude, is essential to daily life as well. When I first started my blog, I was desperate for attention. I kept posting chapters from my book as well as music and movie reviews for weeks, but it was all for naught. No one even clicked any of it. Then I did what would have been obvious to me in the first place if I had possessed any common sense: I searched through tags and categories and started following people. I really just wanted to get my book read by people, but I discovered something even better. CONNECTION. I stopped fretting over my vacant blog posts and instead read the posts of others. And they were great. They were all just great. Every single person I have followed on wordpress has made at least one post that had me absolutely engaged. Poetry, artwork, books, short stories, reviews, even paragraphs about every day life – its all amazing to me. As I believe I had mentioned previously, CONVERSATIONS are the best thing about blogging. You can easily find people who share your own interests, as well as other people who may spark your interest in other things. I did this for a few weeks and, lo and behold, my blog actually grew from nothing into something. So, suffice it to say that if you take a genuine interest in other blogs and give them feedback, your own blog will inevitably prosper. And don’t just click the like button or comment without reading the actual post. I know its sometimes a temptation to just scroll through and click like a few times, but I have read through every single post that I have ever liked or commented on. You’ll find enough thoughts, ideas, and true works of art through blog posts that you’ll forget all about your own page. You’ll just wanna start some conversations 🙂

2. Community Pool. Post a comment introducing yourself and your page. Then, go through the introductions that others have posted and click on some blogs that look interesting to you. Give them some feedback, and you’ll get some in return. The pool really is a blessing. I found so many awesome people to follow through this, and my own blog almost doubled in feedback.

The Nominees

First, let me introduce the two bloggers who nominated me. The Enthralled Cloud of Thought was the first one to do it. Now I don’t wanna play favorites, but really, who else is as awesome as he is? Nah, I love so many blogs equally, but this guy really is amazing. Every word in his posts is just saturated with wit. You can tell that he’s really intelligent, creative, and has a great sense of humor. He writes all of his posts like a pro, and is just an incredibly nice person. If I knew him face to face, I’d wanna hang out with him all the time.

The second person who nominated me is A Thought, a Word, and an Eternal Bliss. She’s just as awesome and amazing and Kushal and all of my other followers. Very obviously intelligent, very gifted, and very poetic. All of her posts regarding short stories or poetry are just fascinating. She really has a way with words, and she knows exactly how and exactly where to just freakin lace stuff with metaphor. Reading her posts are very good for your imagination, for the imagery she conveys through the words is just stunning

Now, onto the fifteen nominees. This was the hardest part of this post, because all the blogs that I follow are just fantastic. It took me two days to sort through them and make some tough decisions, but if I ever do any other post that recommends people I’ll be sure to talk about everyone else. But literally every blog I follow is already very successful, so a NOOB like me recommending them might not even make much of a difference for them lol. Here are the fifteen I’ve chosen, and with the list I am also going to very briefly explain why you should check out each of their pages and follow them

1. PoeteX
Poetry with a lot of heart done beautifully and professionally. She really knows what she’s doing. A lot of it is very classical and sophisticated. I look forward to reading every new one she so skillfully writes.

2. loveletterstoaghost
Hauntingly beautiful poetry that I believe can connect with ANYONE and speak to their heart. Every single line is excellent. And I just LOVE that name.

3. The Creative Works of James Harrington
The storytelling is just fantastic. He writes exciting books detailing epic struggles between good and evil. He is also very kind and willing to give writers of any kind extremely helpful advice.

4. Relating to Humans
There are all kinds of cool posts on this author’s page, but what’s really exciting is that he is making a war movie with a very well thought out premise that speaks out against misogyny.

5. ericTknight
His book, “Watching the End of the World”, is extremely unique, thought provoking, and exciting. When I’m able to get an Amazon account, his book will be the first one I purchase.

6. Rebecca Elysium
Very dark, fantastic, and unique artwork. But it doesn’t stop there. The poetry that goes along with it is practically perfect. I’ve never come across a page quite like this one. Really engages your mind.

7. (Over)Analysing Literature
If anyone wants a site where you can talk about books, check this out. The content is great. She is quite a skillful writer, and her personality shows through very nicely. She is very well read and has some nice book reviews. Her short stories are fantastic as well.

8. La Audacia de Aquiles
I love mythology, and it was so cool to find a page like this that had such a wealth of information about it. Aquileana really knows her stuff, and she presents it all in a very thoughtful and informative way. She also speaks about a number of great philosophers, including my favorite, Friedrich Nietzche.

9.Gospel Isosceles
The main vibe I get from this blog is intelligence. Passion too. Every post is really top notch, and deals with a wide range of subjects. Awesome poetry, opinions, faith, and so much more. The whole blog is really like a big work of art.

10. Corasteel
Beautiful poetry. The cool thing about it is that it is not only well done, but also REAL. True words from a true heart. Cathartic. I’ve always said that I don’t like any art(especially music) unless it has an edge. And this page has it. Also plenty of other stuff that is just really well written.

11. Writing Dragons
Posts a picture of a dragon every day. And it’s freakin awesome. She always posts pictures of dragons done by fantastic artists, and I haven’t seen a single dud to date. Dragons(dinosaurs in my opinion) are my favorite animals. And this site DELIVERS for a dragon fan boy like me! She’s also working on her own dragon novel, which I look forward to reading.

12. Benjamin Fisher-Merritt(Author)
This blog, among other things, has a fantastic book/saga called “The Starvdale Adventures”. I read one chapter and was hooked. The fight scenes in this story are excellent, as well as the character development, the humor, and the basic story. If you like mythical fantasy, then check out this page immediately.

13. Ultimate Solace
First of all, I’m sure you all agree with me that that name is just tops. Second of all, what terrific poetry! The whole layout of the blog is just excellent, as is the wealth of fantastic, spiritual, and just simply well done poetry! You can read through a LOT of cool things here.

14. Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha
Practically everyday, a post is made that inspires myself and countless others to new heights. Overcoming struggles, breaking free from stagnation in your creativity: you can find anything here. There are also samples from his scifi book/saga, “Echo”, which I wanna buy when I get an Amazon

15. Invisible World

There’s an extremely well written book on here called “The Hashna Stone”, and I highly recommend you check it out. The story arc, characters, creatures, everything is cool. It reminds me of Tolkien in a very good way, but is still a completely original and creative work.

This first poem may not even qualify as poetry as it doesn’t stick to any form. Its definitely not traditional. Its basically a big metaphor, and is partially inspired by Nietzche. The infant is the everyman, and the mother is life.

WILL TO BIRTH

The infant…no, he wasn’t yet an infant, but only a fetus.

Covered in beautiful life mucous that sustained…

Created, preserved, and eventually destroyed.

Anyway, the infant(fetus) attempted a breath, but no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t. The walls were caving in around him.

Yes, harder and harder he tried, but he was hopelessly trapped.

Then… LIGHT! SOUND! FEAR!

He burst into the world and tried to crawl back.

But the mother smiled a sweet, sadistic smile and said,

“My child, you can go back! Yes, yes, my child, you can! But this time, through my teeth!”

This was the moment the infant discovered that he wasn’t helpless any longer.

He had eyes, ears, and hands to manipulate things to his will.

Yes, yes…above all he discovered that he possessed will. 

And with that will, still the most powerful of his assets, he commanded his mouth to spew acidic venom at the predatory mother. Before he ran, and eventually escaped, he abused her with his lips and with his harsh, newborn vocal cords.

“LIFE! LIFE! YOU ARE NOTHING BUT AN EATER! AN EVER SELFISH, EVER EVIL, PREDATORY EATER!”

Then, after escaping, he collapsed into a deep sleep that I believe must have lasted for eons.

 

And here’s number two, which is a real poem but was shoddily written in about two minutes.

PRETTY

Have we reached the unknown?

Like a cascade of cyclones, this breeze has blown.

Have we reached the end?

Is it hard to admit?

Or is this the beginning

Of our living legit?

So much was under shade

Beneath locks and keys

Now we’re running through the glades

Cliched but we’re free

I think hope just woke up.

She had lost a bet with luck.

But now she is standin’

With Lady Wisdom so true

And we are also standin’

I think she’s pretty too.

imageConjecture. Speculation. Educated guesses. These words describe the plague (and also the fun) that befalls the science of vertebrate paleontology, the study of extinct life forms that possessed backbones. To me, and to many other children trapped inside the bodies of grown men and women, the most exciting and marvelous of these extinct groups is the Dinosauria. Watching films such as Jurassic world and documentaries such as Walking with dinosaurs, you would think that scientists knew a great deal about these giants that walked the earth(and still fly the earth in the form of birds) much longer than modern man has. But paleontologists have really only scratched the surface. The fact is, all we know about the extinct forms within the dinosaur class is what their bones tell us, and those bones can’t tell us what they sounded like, how they were colored(usually) or how intelligent they were as animals(the encephalation quotient – brain size to body size ratio – is a joke to me. Lots of animals show surprising intelligence with a low EQ, such as green anoles and monitor lizards). Furthermore, a lot of what scientists theorize about dinosaurs is in a state of constant change. Megalosaurus was once thought to walk on four legs. T. Rex was originally depicted with a dragging tail. Velociraptor wasn’t thought to have feathers. Oviraptor was thought to be an egg eater, when in fact the eggs discovered under it’s skeleton were proven to be it’s own offspring and not it’s meal. These are only a few theories and speculations that have changed over the years. And with new skeletons discovered practically weekly, the theories are sure to parallel evolution itself in terms of growth and change. One theory has pretty much stayed constant however: the idea of dinosaurs living and moving together in massive herds that outnumber the African buffalo and other animals. This theory in particular interests me, and it is the topic of this article. But which species were social and which were not? Just the herbivores like the sauropods? Or carnivores like the tyrannosaurs? Or could ALL dinosaurs have been social animals? Let’s review the evidence(admittedly mostly circumstantial and ambiguous, as usual with dinosaurs). When dinosaurs were first seriously studied in the 19th century, the original consensus put forth by Sir RichardOwen of fast moving, successful creatures was the common opinion regarding these majestic creatures. But, like the spikes on a business graph, this theory was dropped in the early 20th century in favor of the portrayal of dinosaurs as slow, dim witted, lethargic beasts that either sat all day under trees and in lakes like breathing carcasses, or nasty, putrid, vile monsters whose brains only permitted the function of instinct for killing prey. Of course, this spike on the graph dropped off too and was replaced by the original view when scientists like Bob Bakker and John Ostrom ushered in the Dinosaur Renaissance and proved that dinosaurs were not only warm blooded and quick, but were also attentive and possibly intelligent parents(John Horner’s Maiasaura discovery was a wonderful example of this). Dinosaurs like the sauropods and hadrosaurs were being discovered brooding their eggs like theirs modern day feathery descendants. Even some carnivores like Oviraptor and the troodonts were found nesting like attentive parents. For the herding animals, such as Maiasaura(name means “good mother lizard”), it seemed obvious that the babies were cared for by the mother and then remained in the herd as part of the family as they grew. Others, like the sauropods, were theorized to abandon their eggs like sea turtles. But that too is just a theory, unlike the obvious nesting and parenting behavior in Maiasaura. Dinosaurs were quickly catching the public’s eye as very complex animals akin to modern birds and mammals. One of the most important finds and also one of the earliest in the dinosaur renaissance was Deinonychus(the raptors of Jurassic World and Park are actually deinonychus. The name Velociraptor was based on a taxonomical error that placed deinonychus under the genus Velociraptor, which actually was much smaller and lived in Mongolia). This creature was a key factor to the dinosaur renaissance’s depiction of dinosaurs as active, endothermic creatures. Strong jaws with nasty teeth, meat hook claws on it’s hands and feet, long legs for sprinting, and a compact but powerfully built body made this dinosaur one of the most rapacious to ever live. Since it’s original discovery, other excavations have shown that they preyed upon tenontosaurus, a rather large ornithopod compared to the raptors themselves. The first, discovered in the Yale Quarry in the Cloverly of Montana, contained four adult raptors and one juvenile (which to me suggests family groups, but we will get to that later) clustered around one tenontosaurus, their apparent kill. The second discovery was in the Antlers Formation of Oklahoma, with six partial tenontosaurs and one partial raptor. These finds, coupled with the small size and build of deinonychus(reminiscent of wild wolves or hyenas), suggest pack hunting behavior, for one deinonychus certainly wasn’t strong enough to take down a multi ton herbivore on it’s own. For a long time, pack hunting among the raptors and even a social and predatory hierarchy(though if it existed, the structure cannot be known) was accepted as fact. Recently however, some scientists have suggested that deinonychus and other dromaeosaurs(all raptors) only gathered together around large dead animals to partake In a random, orderless feeding frenzy akin to Komodo dragons and crocodiles. Though the evidence for pack behavior is admittedly ambiguous, I disagree with the feeding frenzy theory. Dinosaurs are birds. They are the same thing. And raptors were among the closest in form and presumably behavior to the birds we have today. And what do birds do? Usually they travel in flocks(though I admit there are a few solitary species). Other dinosaurs, specifically herbivores like sauropods and hadrosaurine ornithopods, have pretty much been proven to live together and raise their young(perhaps so for sauropods, perhaps not, but the hadrosaurs were definitely present parents) in massive herds. Since all dinosaurs, including birds, evolved from a common ancestor, and since one of the earliest dinosaurs, coelophysis, have been found together in groups numbering well over a hundred, is it too bold to hazard a guess that ALL dinosaurs(or at least most) lived in herds/packs/families ALL of the time? Sure, scientists can say the coelophysis find was just like the raptor finds and that the animals were only together randomly searching for water or food before they died, but then why did the dinosaurs flourish after the Triassic period? During the Triassic, dinosaurs were the underdogs, just like our ancestors were the underdogs during the end of the Mesosoic Era. They were much smaller than all the animals around them, and they were far from the top of the food chain. But perhaps family hierarchy from coelophysis down millions of years to the Cretaceous raptors is the reason the Dinosauria flourished as the most successful animals to ever exist(face it:after insects and plants, no other form of life has been able to hold a candle to the success of the terrible lizards, not even man himself). Furthermore, if we use the efficiency required in evolution(survival of the fittest) as a frame of reference, raptors and other small meat eaters had bodies that would be most efficient for cooperative hunting(and even everyday living) behavior. In the words of world renown Dino-hunter Robert Bakker, “the life of dinosaurian hunters was hard. Most skeletons we excavate have clear marks of old wounds. To survive and raise their young, the predators needed more than sharp teeth and strong claws. They needed social bonds.” Further support for dinosaur social structure are footprints found in the Shandong province of China. The tracks are of another dromaeosaurid(raptor) dinosaur species, Dromaeopodus shandongensis, with six separate individuals walking together in the same direction at the same time. Pack hunters? Family groups? I believe so. What could be more terrifying than a troop of raptors poised to attack? Nothing, except a pack of perhaps even more efficient and much larger predators: the tyrant dinosaurs. With eyes facing forward for excellent binocular vision, long, powerful legs built for short sprints, a weight of seven tons, and the strongest jaws and teeth of any predator in earth’s history, Tyrannosaurs Rex and it’s relatives were the apex of dinosaur predators. One would be terrifying enough, but what about ten? It just might have been possible, as demonstrated by a recent find. Richard McCrea from the Peace Region Paleontology Research Center In British Columbia led a team that discovered a similar trackway to the Chinese dromaeosaurs, except that these were made by tyrannosaurs, three of them to be precise. Moving in the same direction, imprinted at the same time. Social, much? However, if all dinosaurs, including tyrannosaurids and raptors, lived together in groups, the predators were not above attacking and cannibalizing each other during “family squabbles” similar to modern day lions. There are many tyrannosaur skeletons with healed bite marks matching those of other tyrannosaurs. Velociraptor, the Mongolian cousin of Deinonychus(remember when you see Jurassic World that those raptors are actually Deinonychus, though the true velociraptors were probably just as fearsome, albeit smaller) also presumably attacked each other. One skeleton shows bite marks on the skull from another raptor, although I think that this unfortunate individual did not actually survive the fight. To quote Bakker again, “Top predators are the most quarrelsome, cannibalistic category in the ecosystem. It’s impossible that these tyrannosaurs would clump together in a common cause unless they were sharing genes.” So some wounds on these animals may have been from family squabbles, and more serious and even fatal ones may have been caused by members from another pack(this is perhaps too fantastic, but just imagine a bloody war between two groups of tyrannosaurs or two groups of raptors over territory or food. Part of me wants to be there, and part of me doesnt. The sane part.). In conclusion, I personally imagine that almost all of the dinosaur genera lived together in families and were never, if rarely, solitary. But of course, this is just a theory, held by many real paleontologists(and I hope they do not read this article, for this amateur Dino thinker would be laughed at), and theories will always be subject to change. Comments left for discussion will be greatly appreciated. Keep on thinking! -Shane