Days 28- 36

THRICE TONIGHT! Let me reiterate: THRICE TONIGHT!!!!! Indeed, me and Nathan are going to see Thrice at Emo’s, while Doug, Bianca, and Bianca’s friend Donielle are hitting up Stubb’s to witness performances by House of Heroes and Seabird.

I accompanied Bianca and Donielle to Waco Sunday to attend David Crowder’s University Baptist Church. Mr. Crowder and his eponymous band were on hand and delivered one of hte tightest, most impassioned worship sets I’ve ever witnessed. We attempted to go to Backyard BBQ (supposedly one of the best pit BBQ joints in central Texas), but, it being the 4th and all, it was closed. So we HAD to settle for Schoepf’s, which was pretty good, I suppose…

On the way back from lunch, we picked up a six-pack of artillery shells to fire off at the ranch in our own impromptu fireworks display. Tornado brought over a selection of M-80s and Roman candles. The display went off without a hitch for about 20 minutes until we realized that Lazy had disappeared. This initiated a 45 minute-long search that canvassed the entire property, including inside. With my mega-intense headlamp, I saw Lazy off in the distance on the other side of the fence and got her to come back over. Unfortunately, I forgot that the fence was electrified, so, in the process of retrieving the diminutive canine, I got a couple strong jolts. I don’t recommend it! However, it was pretty metal.

Days 25-28

My eardrums are still recovering from the bottom-heavy sonic assault that was MyChildren MyBride’s set on Friday. While Haste the Day, who headlined the show, certainly delivered, they didn’t come close to the sheer energy or impact of MCMB. Somehow, despite also being shuffled around in the front three rows the whole gig, I was the only intern to come away without an injury. Nathan dominated the crowd during MCMB, clutching the microphone at every opportunity and eventually making his way onstage to sing a refrain and then dive back into the squirming masses. Bianca got some sweet pictures as well.

Saturday, we drove with Tornado into Round Rock to see the new Adam Sandler joint, “Grown Ups.” Fair warning: do not waste your money on this self-indulgent tripe. “Grown Ups” was another one of those star-studded relationship comedies in the vein of “Couples Retreat” where a dozen A-listers clearly got together and cobbled a script together in 15 minutes as an excuse to trade one-liners for a couple hours. This has to be the career low point for Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade, Maria Bello, Salma Hayek, Rob Schneider (okay, maybe not Rob Schneider) and especially Chris Rock, who wisely disappeared for the entire middle third of the film. Sure, it had its moments, but it was unforgiveably sappy and lame. During the climax, when everyone is at his or her lowest point, one of the characters actually announces that she’s going to give the sentimental message speech. Give me a break!

Sunday was an exercise in how boredom and geographic isolation can breed brilliance. Tornado and Alyssa came over in the evening to hang out. One thing led to another, and soon Bianca’s video camera was out, capturing us engaging in everything from an improvisational reggae jam to spur-of-the-moment interpretive poetry readings from volumes by Walt Whitman and Bradley Hathaway. Suddenly, it makes perfect sense why so many bands go into isolation to record albums!


Days 18-24

Production is underway on the new issue! I was assigned to do features on Billboard superstars Anberlin and up-and-coming hardcore punks Corpus Christi. After a long debate, we decided on the cover stars, but I’ll keep that a secret so as not to ruin the surprise…

Tuesday night I had the opportunity to accompany DVP to a simulcast of a festival in Bulgaria featuring the “Big 4” of metal- Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and headliners Metallica. While I missed the first two opening bands, I caught most of Slayer and all of Metallica. I think me and Doug were in the minority of attendees who weren’t hardcore Metallica fans. And these guys treated it like a legit concert- cheering, shouting requests and singing at the top of their lungs. The highlight of the show was when Metallica brought out all the members of their Big 4 counterparts for a rendition of Diamondhead’s “I Am Evil.”

Tomorrow me, Nathan and Bianca will be heading into the city to see Haste the Day featuring MyChildren MyBride, while the family Van Pelt will be heading to Illinois to represent HM at Cornerstone. More on these developments later…

Days 12-17

mewithoutYou’s frontman has singlehandedly made Hawaiian shirts and wide-framed glasses cool again. The band wasn’t too shabby either! I went to my first free HM-enabled concert at Emo’s Tuesday. The bill: mewithoutYou with openers Paper Route and Rubik (from Finland, son!).

I would almost go so far as to say that Paper Route overshadowed the headliners. The Nashville-based ambient rockers brought the gorgeous noise with a huge bank of samplers and synths, not to mention instantly hummable melodies.

Rubik was a proponent of indie rock’s most recent trend: packing the stage with as many random instrumentalists as possible. The Finnish experimental pop band featured four auxiliary members armed with everything from tambourines to trombones in addition to the traditional dual guitar-bass-drums setup. They were basically weird for the sake of being weird, which I can’t stand. They sounded like a less catchy version of the Arcade Fire.

This past weekend was my 22nd birthday, and I ventured down to San Antonio and then back up to Schlitterbahn-New Braunfels with my fabulous girlfriend, Vilija (the name is Lithuanian!). It was all good times, but I came away with two main thoughts:

1) Outside of the Alamo complex and the Riverwalk, San Antonio is basically a big ‘hood; and

2) Although recent floods closed down the majority of the original area of Schlitterbahn (Blastenhoff and Surfenberg, meanwhile, were totally open), I’m still not sure I agree with critics’ arguments that it’s the best waterpark in the world. An enjoyable waterpark, sure, but the best? I don’t think so…

I also had my first experience with Austin’s 6th Street on a Friday night. For anyone out there who hasn’t been: yes, they do close the street off to through traffic. It’s near madness. I’ve decided that my favorite club downtown is the Euro-esque three-story Pure. Another random thought: I’m pretty sure at least 95% of the bikers who roll downtown are posers.

We’re currently trying to decide what to include in the next issue. We sent out e-mails to the PR departments of a dozen labels, so hopefully they’ll give us an idea of who to cover. I’ve also been entrusted with the responsibility of developing HM’s first cohesive street team.

More on this later…

Days 8-11

And so we continue to inch closer to deadline…

Doug posted a third straight 2 a.m. + workday, concluding by grabbing the cushions off one of the couches and sleeping in his office.

I finished the layout on the Hard News and Pick of the Litter sections and learned some more of the ins and outs of InDesign.

I’m making modest progress of my goal of executing 100 consecutive reps on the Total Gym 1000 this summer. High so far: 26. But there’s plenty of time to spare.

I’ve come up with a theory about the cats on the property: Tiger is the outgoing, popular jock; Spot is the quiet by witty sidekick; and Hope is the shy girl next door. I’ve had a lot of time to think about such things during my stay in Taylor…

Days 5-8

Many goings-on the last few days. We’re edging closer and closer to completing the July/August issue, so hopefully that’ll be done by tomorrow.

I made my first venture down into Austin on Saturday afternoon/evening and I just have to remark upon what a ghost town it is this time of year. Granted, I knew that crowds would be sparse with UT’s spring semester ending a few weeks back, but nothing prepared me for the 28 Days Later scene that I encountered. At times, I was literally the only person wandering the sidewalk. However, I found a couple sweet venues, a decent record shop, a Moroccan hookah lounge and a great coffee joint, all of which I intend to revisit.

I went to Christ Fellowship church with Tornado on Sunday. They had a cool contemporary worship vibe and everyone was super-friendly. I’ve definitely found my temporary house of worship for the summer!

While me and Nathan were eating dinner Sunday, we heard a rustling underneath the floorboards in the kitchen. Because of this racket and the pungent odor that already permeates that area of the house, we were of course convinced that a possum or raccoon had somehow infiltrated under the skirting of the house. The appropriate response? Grabbing a baseball bat, machete, flashlight, headlamp and screwdriver and going to investigate. Nathan did the actual physical investigation. After a few follies, we managed to peel back the skirting so Nathan could get under the house.

So what was the culprit? Nothing, apparently. Aside from a few massive spiders, Nathan didn’t find anything. So we’ll have to continue wondering…

Day 4

Central Texas definitely knows how to do BBQ, but it doesn’t know how to make Chinese. At least where the Szechuan kitchen in Taylor is concerned.

Because of the usage limits on the HM Ranch network, me and Nathan had to go into Taylor to Java Junction to stream albums for review off their free wireless. The CDs were much better today: I have seen the future of Christian arena rock, and its name is House of Heroes. Polish metalheads Malchus weren’t bad either.

Bianca started a marathon screening of Season 1 of “The O.C.” today with the first six episodes. I had forgotten how many brawls and double-crossings went down in the early going on that show!

Tornado and her daughter Alyssa stopped by after 10 p.m., which led to some late night excitement. Due to the rain from a couple days ago, Alyssa got the rear wheel of her huge pickup stuck in the mud off the gravel driveway. Fortunately, Nathan stepped in with a flurry of suggestions. Using a piece of plywood, a Pizza Hut box, some rocks, a brick and teamwork, we freed Alyssa’s truck. Mission accomplished!

Day 3

Ahh… let’s just say a CD by a certain black metal band didn’t meet my expectations. What a shame 🙁

I rediscovered the natural fury and wonder of Texas thunderstorms today. There’s nothing quite like getting a panoramic view of one of these bad boys, with black death clouds hovering and bolts of lightning fleeting about. When the HM Ranch was consumed by the storm in question, its sheer awesomeness knocked out our power for nearly seven hours. A single scented candle saved me and Bianca from total darkness. Indeed… Texas T-storms are pretty much as metal as it gets!

Day 2

Mmm… generic worship albums. My first-ever review for HM- the hard music source- was of a poppy, Jack Johnson-influenced worship disc. Fortunately I got a stack of straight metal to review for the next couple days. Bring on Elgibbor!

I got the pleasure of driving through the thriving metropolis of Thrall, Texas today… all 300 yds of it. It’s got everything you could possibly need: a post office, volunteer and city-sponsored fire departments and a CORNER STORE! Needless to say, I can foresee spending the majority of my off-time there this summer.

I met our neighbor Tornado as well. She is one of the coolest women alive. After stopping by in the afternoon, she returned in the evening with spaghetti, brownies, banana bread and pork chops for the interns, then entertained us with stories from her past. There are new dictionary definitions for generosity and kindness, and they are both “Tornado.”

More to come. Stay tuned!

Day 1

Hi, my name is Jeff Sistrunk. I’m a recent University of Arkansas grad and the third intern to report for duty at HM this summer.

So, the phrase “the heart of Texas” is thrown around quite a bit, but upon arriving at the HM Ranch yesterday, I can say without a doubt that Taylor is legitimately THE HEART OF TEXAS. It’s a realm of sprawling cornfields, good ol’ country folks and great hole-in-the-wall BBQ joints (the best of which I got to experience last night). As soon as I pulled up to the ranch, me and Nathan were greeted by the neighbors, who were riding by on horseback in full cowboy attire, flanked by a trio of hounds. It was about as awesome a welcome as I could have hoped for.

I came to the ranch in the thick of the final production week for the July/August issue, which will celebrate the magazine’s 25th anniversary. Not to fear, though! With a few quick directives, I was up and running. On my first day I went through and did edits on all the interns’ stories for the next issue, then listened to a couple CDs for potential inclusion in the “Pick of the Litter” section. Nothing too eventful yet, but I’m sure the pace will pick up soon!

Also, I joined the highly exclusive club of “People Who Have Had a Can of Soda Explode in Their Face.” I neglected to consider the effects the brutal Texas heat would have on an 8-oz Dr. Pepper can I left idling in my car. So, shortly after I discovered it on the way to pick up some Little Caesars’- and in the midst of telling Nathan how lucky we were that the can didn’t burst- it did in fact explode, showering the front seats and all their contents with caramel-colored liquid. Good times!

I can only hope my remaining 59 days on the ranch will produce similar excitement :).



Trapped in Limbo

Black metal may not be the first thing on your mind when you think of Portugal, but GAEREA is here to change that. HM contributing writer Andrew Voigt sat down with GAEREA to discuss the band’s music, their mysterious name and image, and how office work can be art.


Full Feature
Heaven's Metal: An Oral History of the Genesis of Christian Metal

Heaven's Metal

When rock emerged from blues and 'heavy metal' began to surface, faith-based metal acts also rose to start their own journeys. Initially shunned by both believers and non-believers, they were fighting for their spot at the table, ultimately building a legacy that would go on to change the genre forever. HM presents an oral history of the beginning of Christian metal music, featuring Guardian, Tourniquet, Holy Soldier, Whitecross, and, of course, Stryper.


Full Feature
All Features