How I discovered metal again…

Manowar picture
I still like Manowar but they can be very difficult to take seriously sometimes…. (http://tyrannyoftradition.com/)

I am sure some of you know I used to be a bit of a metal head. There was a period in my life where most of what I listened to was heavy metal or hard rock. I quoted Manowar lyrics such as “If you’re not into metal, you are not my friend” and “Heavy metal or no metal at all”. It makes me cringe a bit now (as does Manowar for that matter) but I was a teenager so it’s OK.

My favorite band was Iron Maiden. I went to their concert in 1999 when they did the Ed Hunter tour. It was a really big thing for me. I was 12 at the time and I had worked in the summer for the money to go. The concert was in Helsinki and I only got to go because my friend Indrek went with his family. After that concert I was absolutely hooked on Iron Maiden.

Many bands followed. The previously described Manowar being one of them but bands like AC/DC, Metallica, Kiss, Hammerfall, Black Sabbath, Dio, Alice Cooper etc. all were part of my playlist. I even listened to some more cryptic stuff like Vintersorg and Grave Digger. Thanks to Vintersorg, the first phrases I knew in Swedish were “Till fjälls” and “För kung och fösterland”. Badass!

I consider myself a music lover. I think I have always been one, ever since I was tall enough to reach my fathers turntable and play Queen and Rock Hotel albums. As a music lover you are never really satisfied with one style of music. You can’t be, I think. The constant need to find new music and more interesting sounds will always take over and push you to find NEW music in almost every genre. So naturally, as years went on I started listening to less metal and more other styles.

I have found myself thinking every now and again that it has been a long time since I listened to Iron Maiden even though I used to listen to it for almost every day for many years. It used to be one way I defined myself – I went to their concerts, I wore their shirts, I knew the lyrics and played the riffs on the guitar. Now I was more into jazz and Frank Zappa or whatever… Metal was pretty much out of my everyday playlist. It never really went away, it just stopped being exciting.

I am finally getting to the point where I talk about re-discovering metal, so if you’ve gotten this far, cudos! I love Spotify as it has been a new way for me to discover really cool music. I always look at the little sidebar that shows what my friends are listening to and get really cool ideas. One day I saw my friend Reedik listening to a lot of Gojira and decided to check it out. This led me down a very interesting path of modern metal where bands tend to fuse many different styles together with aspects of metal and hard rock music. That way they create sounds which are somewhere in between genres, music that is hard to define. This is just the kind of thing I like. When I was younger I used to listen to modern metal as well, not just 70s and 80s stuff. Bands such as System of a Down, Rammstein and Marily Manson were among my favorites but this new find was different.

The interesting rythmic elements, very hard and fat guitar sounds, sometimes clear, other times screamed and even growled vocals make the bands I found less radio friendly but a lot more music lover friendly. I will give a short overview of some of my favorites.

Gojira is where I started. It is a French metal band and their music is a very interesting technical variation of death metal. They play complex riffs in strange time signatures and have very rough vocals. I love their guitar sound.

Mastodon is currently my favorite modern metal band. They are not very new (like most of the bands in my list, they have several years and albums behind them) but their sound is. They seem to reinvent a lot of their music with every new album and try to incorporate more pop music elements into their otherwise not-so-radio-friendly sound. Their last 2 albums “The Hunter” and “Once More Round the Sun” are absolutely amazing. So much so that I actually ordered both of them on vinyl.

Baroness is a a very new find for me. They have a cool tradition of naming their albums with colours such as their latest “Yellow & Green”. They merge alternative rock with elements of metal so they might be a good start if you don’t like too heavy stuff. Their older albums are a bit more rough but amazing as well.

Animals as Leaders is a very groovy group as well. Led by the Nigerian American guitarist Tosin Abasi, I can best describe it as  “crazy jazz metal instrumental music with eight string guitars and complex rythms”. Check out their latest album “The Joy of Motion” to see what I am on about.

I have taken the liberty to put together a playlist on Spotify with some of my favorite tracks from the bands I mentioned. If you have some free time hit play, take your favorite beverage, hot or cold, and sit in a comfortable sofa or chair. This music really opens itself when actually listened to.

The frustrating story of my Yashica Electro 35

About a year ago I posted a story about a Yashica Minister 700 I found at a flea market for 10 euros. Not too long after that I found another Yashica, this time the famous Electro 35 for the same price at a local thrift shop. I had my eye on an Electro 35 for a while. It is something of a legend in the analog photography circles. It was built in Japan in the 1970s and has a fixed 1:1.7 45mm lens. The rangefinder and automatic shutter speed make it a great camera for shooting in the streets and the lens yields really good contrast and sharpness.

Anyway… I was pretty happy to get it. Unfortunately it was not operational. The Electro 35 has a little rubber pad inside against which the shutter release rods hit so that the whole metering etc. mechanism could reset. These pads are known to disintegrate over time giving the issue the name “The Pad of Death” and my camera had not escaped its touch.

The replacement of the pad was no easy task. It meant taking most of the camera apart. Mind you, I had never repaired a camera before. I had to get behind the lens mount plate so I needed to take off the faux leather covering in a way that it could be glued back into place. The camera was also very complex electronically considering it was made in the 70s. There were wires and little gears and springs everywhere. It looked like an amazing feat of engineering but I had to go through it all without damaging anything.

It took me a few months on and off again and several tries in putting the damn thing together. The pad replacement was the easy part. Making the whole thing work again was the real challange. Finally, after learning from every mistake I made, looking at countless manuals and photos online and painful fingers, I got the thing back together. You can imagine my frustration when after I had replaced the pad, the meter still did not function properly. I searched for answers online but only met another person with a similar issue. I believe there is something completely wrong with the light meter and I can not fix it.

The Electro 35 still works with a 1/500 shutter speed without a battery so I decided to test it out anyway. It was a bit limiting not being able to have any flexibility in the shutter speed but you can get around it by doing the metering yourself and setting the correct f-stop. The images I got show that the lens is amazing and the camera works well at 1/500. There was however an issue with light leaks. They were very random with some frames having large ones and some having none at all.  It is probably the foam around the film door that has disintegrated over time. An easy fix but since the meter doesn’t work on this (mostly) automatic camera, there is little reason to fix this.

I have a friend in Estonia with an Electro 35 that is also broken. He is not sure what is wrong with it but it sounds like it has different problems than mine. He said I can have it so the quest to get the perfect Electro 35 continues. I really do love the pictures that come out of this camera and would love to have it meter nicely so it’s a quest I am willing to continue.

I have added a few shots to the gallery below from the one film I shot. They are the 10 best I got off the film although the scan quality in the local photo store is really bad.  You can see the light leaks on some of them. The ones that had the worst ones, I left out.