Sunday, November 27, 2011

Stefan Schmidt - Van Canto Interview

If there's one thing I love, it's talented music that blows your mind to Kingdom Come. Van Canto is the first, and currently only, metal a cappella band in existence. The very first song I heard from them, Last Night of the Kings, drew me in like a whirlpool and I was mesmerized. Sometime later I remembered the song, looked it up, and then went on to listen to another of their songs—Lost Forever. That was where my mind was blown to Kingdom Come. Van Canto is a completely vocal metal band, with the exception of drums. Each of the six members play an important part in the band.

Due to virtually all of the "instruments" being vocals, I have never felt so much emotion in the songs of any other band. There are two types of people who listen to their music—those who instantly love it, and those who hate it. I, frankly cannot understand those who hate it. The more you listen to these days, the less their music seems like hilarity and the more you realize that it is... true art.

I recently talked with Stefan Schmidt, the founder of Van Canto. He's different from the other vocalists in the band for the reason that he plays the "guitar" solos. In truth, he sings into a guitar amplifier. No, that's not a cheat. That's legitimate.

Now, sit back with some popcorn and enjoy!


Reuben Horst: How has your life been recently, Stef?

Stefan Schmidt: Full. But great! After being on tour last year we produced the new album, played festivals and just finished our first European tour. So everything is busy but very nice.

RH: What have been your major influences over the years?

SS: For me as the main composer I can name all the bands we are covering. The only main inspiration missing is Europe.

RH: Have any of the members of Van Canto been involved in other musical projects in the past few years, or have they all stuck close to Van Canto?

SS: Before Van Canto we all played in regular metal bands. Bastian and me in Jester's Funeral, Inga in Fading Starlight, Sly and Strilli (our first drummer) in Synasthasia, Ike in (cp) Rono and Ross in Deadly Sin. Since then we all stuck to Van Canto and quit our former bands. Bastian is running a piano-oriented side project named In Legend.

RH: What is it like to write songs in English, as your first language is German? Will you ever come out with any albums in German?

SS: It's easier to write in English because you don't have so many people around you telling you that your lyrics make no sense, haha. But on Break the Silence we have our first German song with "Neuer Wind", and we got very many positive reactions on this. Concerning the future I cannot tell; we don't make "master plans" or anything like that.

RH: As the first song I ever heard from you, Last Night of the Kings quick became one of my favorites. Was there anything in particular that inspired it?

SS: You should ask Sly [a.k.a. Dennis Schunke, lead vocalist], because he wrote that one. But his inspiration was just the imagination of the story the lyrics are about. Entering a king's castle and to make the night his last one.

RH: If Blind Guardian, who strongly inspired you and worked with you several times, were to cover one of your songs, which do you think it would be?

SS: "Take to the Sky" would fit, because Hansi already knows parts of the lyrics, haha.

RH: Have you ever considered the possibility of recording a concept album?

SS: Yes, we started something like that with our transmedia project "Peer Returns", which will be launched by the end of the year. Break the Silence contains a preview song of it: "A Storm to Come".

RH: Of all of your original songs, which is your favorite?

SS: It changes from day to day. Today it is "If I Die in Battle".

RH: What do you see in the future for Van Canto?

SS: Playing gigs, recording albums, having fun, staying friends. As easy as it. ;-)

RH: What is your favorite food?

SS: Spaghetti.


Thanks once again for reading, and thanks to Stefan for letting me interview him.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving has got to be one of my favorite times of year. Not just because it's a holiday, not because I got free turkey (we actually ate pork, not turkey), not because I got to buy a ton of books for less than $10 (due to Black Friday sales), but because we got to make the long trip to visit my little old grandmother in Indiana! I got to hang out with my amazing, out-of-college cousins, play Boggle, drink caffeine-free Mountain Dew (yes, it exists), talk about video games and awesome books with my brothers and said cousins, and just overall have a good time. Doesn't sound that great? You weren't there! It was awesome!

What's a real shame is that throughout the day and the days surrounding it, I forgot to celebrate the holiday itself. I could tell a history lesson and inform you all of the story behind Thanksgiving, but you should just look it up yourself.

Now, a basic tradition of Thanksgiving is to... be thankful for things. I'd completely forgotten about this (hey, I was having fun!), so now, two days later, I will recall and be thankful for many things. I am aware that I most likely missed many people, and I apologize. It took me an entire afternoon to write this article.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 2011: The Month of Pure Epicocity

This month has got to be one of the most spectacular months of all time. Perhaps that's an exaggeration, but there have been some absolutely amazing releases this month. Here are just a few highlights.

Mistborn: The Alloy of Law - November 8, 2011

I haven't been a fan of Brandon Sanderson for long, but my brother has been. I read and reviewed Elantris, and my brother tells me that Sanderson's Mistborn series is even better. This is a sequel to the main trilogy, taking place about three hundred years later. From what I've read, it sounds amazing, as everything that Sanderson has written does. I highly recommend this man's books!

Awesomeness Level: 9/10
More information about The Alloy of Law here.

Call of Duty: Modern Warefare 3 - November 8, 2011

I'm not much of a Call of Duty fan, nor much of a first-person shooter fan for that matter, but I knew I wouldn't be able to write an article about how amazing this month has been without even mentioning it. I haven't played the game myself, but I hear from many, many sources that it's absolutely amazing. It's not necessarily something I was looking forward to, but it's pretty sweet nonetheless.

Awesomeness Level: 7/10
(low rating for the fact that it's just not my kind of game; doesn't mean it's not awesome)
More information about Modern Warfare 3 here.

Inheritance - November 8, 2011

Though I have only read the first novel in Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle, I enjoyed it very much. It was full of cliché, but you must remember that Paolini first started Eragon when he was fifteen years old, after he already graduated from high school. That's what makes it an awesome series for me. He started writing it as a super-smart kid, and is still writing as a super-smart adult. I think it's a little cheesy that the finally book in the series is the same name as the series itself, but from what I've heard it's a great book. Yet another reason to get around to reading the rest of the books in the series!

Awesomeness Level: 8/10
More information about Inheritance here.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - November 11, 2011

I've been a huge fan of the Elder Scrolls games for years. The last two games in the series, Morrowind and Oblivion, were both groundbreaking games that blew gamers' minds to Kingdom Come. A day or two after Skyrim came out, I went to my friend's house and I got to play the Xbox 360 version. I just have to say, if this game does not win Game of the Year, as it's two predecessors did, then the gaming industry is full of idiots. This game is amazing. I very highly recommend it.

Awesomeness Level: 10/10
More information about Skyrim here.

Super Mario 3D Land - November 13, 2011

At first I wasn't at all interested in this game. After all, it's "just another Mario game," right? That's what I thought, but the more I heard about it and the more trailers I saw the more interested I became. (Isn't that the point of trailers?) I began to discover that this wasn't "just another Mario game," but rather one more masterpiece from one of the best game development companies of all time. I still haven't gotten my hands on the game, but I've heard from many reliable sources that it exceeds expectations. Needless to say, I'm excited to play it!

Awesomeness Level: 7/10
More information about Super Mario 3D Land here.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - November 20, 2011

After five years of work by over one hundred developers, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has finally hit stores! Already, in the couple days it's been out, many people have said that it may be the greatest Zelda game of all time. This would be a near-impossible feat after how absolutely amazing the franchise has been in the past. At present The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is one of my all-time favorite video games, but from what I hear, Skyward Sword may surpass it by a large distance. Though I still have not played the game, as I currently have no income (and therefore almost no money), it was easily the release I looked forward to most this month. Though I have to say, the next highlight came pretty close.

Awesomeness Level: 10/10
More information about Skyward Sword here.

As the World Bleeds - November 21, 2011

As many of you know, Theocracy is my all-time favorite band. I've been waiting for this album for the past year, and it's been in development for about the past two. All of the band members have full-time jobs, so they could not work on the record any time but late at night. Yes, it took forever to record, but yes, it was well worth it. It's high-quality and full of amazingly epic songs. Matt Smith, the founder, vocalist and writer, is one of my biggest inspirations, and he has pulled through to bring one of the best music albums ever to date. It's basically what I've been listening to for the past two days, since it came out.

Awesomeness Level: 10/10
More information about As the World Bleeds here.

There have been and will be many more amazing releases this month. These are just the few I decided to highlight. I seriously believe this has been one of the best months for releases in my entire life. You can expect me to critique one or several of the items on this list within the next while. I know not which yet, but the future will tell.

Now, have a happy November and a great holiday season!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Coolest Website EVER!

I was bored, so I found the coolest website ever made. Don't contradict me. Don't!

If you ever find a cooler website, send it to me or post in the comments! I doubt you'll ever find one, though.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Golden Resurrection - Identity in Christ

I came across this music video today and I salivated the entire way through. In short: I love it. I just figured I'd share it with you guys.

It is a Christian metal song, and I'd never even heard of the band before. The singer and the lead guitarist are just plain weird, but that adds to the awesome-ness of it.

Until later!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lonestar Angel by Colleen Coble

To clear things up, this is the second novel I ever read by Colleen Coble. For reading the first I was mocked and looked down upon. Wow, I was reading a women's romance novel, so I should obviously be made fun at, right? Seriously, guys? Haven't you ever heard the saying, never judge a book by its cover? I'm talking literally, here, as I'm talking about a book. Due to the shame that was brought upon me for reading The Lightkeeper's Ball, the only person who even knew I was reading this book was my brother, who when he saw it chucked and said, "Let me guess: the only reason you're reading that is because you got it for free?" Maybe I should start up my own website in Colleen Coble's defense. She's an amazing author.
Eden’s hope is rekindled when Clay delivers astounding news: their baby girl has been found.
Five years ago Eden and Clay Larson’s baby was stolen. When they went to pay the ransom, what happened changed their lives forever—the kidnapper’s car with Baby Brianna inside sunk deep into the river. Eden blamed herself, Clay lost himself in work. Their young and rocky marriage ended. Or so Eden thought.
Now Eden’s moved to a new town. She’s found faith and is trying to rebuild her life. She’s even dating again—a sweet guy named Kent who plans to marry her. But then Clay arrives out of the blue and delivers shocking news: he never signed their divorce papers, so they’re still married. What’s more, Clay has been searching for Brianna all this time. And he believes he’s found her: their daughter is in Bluebird, Texas, at a youth ranch. All five little girls there are the right age—he’s just not sure which one is Brianna. Or how she survived. 
To uncover the truth, Eden and Clay sign on as counselors at Bluebird Ranch. They move into small quarters in the bunkhouse and oversee the kids as they try to find out more. Working together, they rediscover their love for each other. But danger is closing in—Eden, Clay, and all their young charges are in jeopardy. As they fight to save their family, Eden realizes that God has been fighting for them all along. And His plans are for a more abundant life than they’d ever hoped.
First things first, I loved this novel. Colleen is an inspiring storyteller, and the novel was full of mystery, suspense, drama and romance. The romance was a little carried away, however, unlike the other novel I read by her. I also noticed a couple inconsistencies in the story, but overall it was great.

The characters were unforgettable, and the whole mystery feeling of "which one of the girls is the right one?" added flavor and intrigue. By the end the story had changed from a drama to an adventure, and try as I could, thinking as hard as I could, I could not figure out who the bad guy was until they revealed their identity at the end. And wow, I just used 'could' three times in the same sentence.

All in all, Lonestar Angel is a great book. I do agree it's geared more for women, and I do agree that it could be considered a romance novel, but I actually enjoyed it. So stop all your hating on Colleen! To further my point in the matter, there was no more romance in The Lightkeeper's Ball than in the average Ted Dekker novel. In all seriousness, I would recommend this novel to anyone.

Lonestar Angel will be publicly released on November 8, 2011.
This book was sent to me for free from Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Far Off Dream

A Far Off Dream
An essay by Reuben Horst

Blood splotches overran the white piece of paper. The red ink was everywhere; showing what was wrong. All of it was wrong. I stared at the object which had once been my essay, now covered in a teacher’s disapproval. I shook my head. I had tried putting my best effort into my work. That had failed. I had tried not trying at all. That, quite obviously, had failed as well. No matter what I did to my writing works, to my essays and my stories, I could never satisfy myself or those who read what I had penned. I began to wonder, would I ever be the writer I wanted to be?

The first decent piece of writing that I ever wrote was a short story about a very strange convenience store on a made-up street in Chicago. It was my first stab at writing after I was exposed to some very well-written books, mainly by an author named Ted Dekker. Determined, I sat down and started writing a story having no idea in mind about how it would turn out. I had a basic idea. I started typing. The words came fluently. When I was done and I read what I had written, I was shocked at how ingenious it was. My family praised my work, and so did many other onlookers. I do believe that reading quality fiction has significantly improved my writing skill.

In early 2010 I started a web log, or “blog,” if you prefer. Though it and its next two incarnations were deleted by inane hosting websites, over the past couple years I have written many articles. Many have been reviews and critiques of various sources of media such as books, movies, video games, et cetera, but I have hosted interviews and giveaways as well. When people viewed my blog, they were impressed that quality writing could actually come from a then-fourteen-year-old boy. Ironically, this both built my confidence and insulted me at the same time, as it meant they initially had low expectations of me.

Time has passed. My writing has improved, but I still have that feeling that I’m not as good as I should be. Friends, family, and everyone else tell me I’m amazing; I have great potential. Why is it so hard to believe them? I have hope that someday I will not only surpass the expectations of those around me, but also my own. For now, however, that is only a far off dream.


Thanks for reading! Now, you all know how much I hate writing essays. But once I'm done, I feel so good that I feel like sharing it with the world! Much sweat and many tears went into this essay. I hope you had more fun reading it than I had writing it!