Music Review: Story of the Year – The Constant

The American Idiot‘s and Viva La Vada‘s of this world are hard to ignore, but anyone can like them and it not be anything unusual. What is truly great about music is when you find that album you didn’t know was coming out, even if you spend time now and again picking apart the unreleased album page on Wikipedia (which tend to be a pretty reliable source of release info by-the-by), you can often suddenly notice an album which has been released completely under your radar.

These hidden gems are what make music great, and my latest discovery was Story of the Years new release ‘The Constant‘. While I was eagerly anticipating Alkaline Trio’s new release (This Addiction, which sadly falls well short of the greatness they achieved on From Here to Infirmary), I came across this furious mix of melody and energy.

The album opens with the slightly grating sound of an old children’s roundabout, with the sound of children playing in the background before the children themselves begin the intro with chilling choral vocal “Don’t take this world away from me” before the main riff kicks in.

As well as ‘The Children Sing other stand-out tracks include the distinctly Lostprophets-ish ‘The Dream is Over’, which boasts an impressive guitar solo section, and the anthemic ‘I’m Alive’, a dedication to a disaffected youth which remains ever-present but never over-bearing throughout the album.

Despite being a very ‘punk rock’ record, the band calm down for a few tracks in the middle, notably the strangely harmonic ‘Holding on to You’, giving some welcome variety, something quite uncommon on this type of album. In stark contrast to that is the angry ‘Won Threw Ate’, which shows off the screamier side of the bands range, but is just restrained enough to mean it doesn’t stray too far from the general sound of ‘The Constant’ as a whole.

Story of The Year, who have been around since 1995, are never a band who will take the UK charts by storm, and nor should they, but they have pulled the experience of their previous three albums into making this latest effort, and it really pays off. The songs are more ambitious musically, but not unnecessarily complex, and the album holds together incredibly well, particularly important with a name like ‘The Constant‘.

While you may dismiss them as another one of the ‘shouty american rock’ crowd, that would be a mistake, since this album shows a respectable range and draws on various influences to create songs which at times are alike to Rise Against, Nickelback and even Simple Plan, which is no bad thing.

Verdict: Undeniably catchy and well thought out, an essential addition to any modern alternative music collection.

Rating: 5/5

James Michael Parry

Cyberculture: The truth about Computer Viruses

Fear is a powerful force. It can lead countries to war, cause panic-buying in supermarkets or lead you to totally change your life to avoid nasty consequences. The British press is by no means the biggest culprit of fear-mongering, but you only need to think about swine flu to realise how a fuss can be made over nothing.

In the last ten to fifteen years computer technology has been revolutionised, and given rise to a worldwide horror: the computer virus. You may have never had a run-in with a virus, your computer may be wrought with spyware at this very moment, but everyone has a fear that some malicious software is going to come along and delete their hard drive.

Of course, we have built up defences over the years, and people spend hundreds on the latest Norton Protection every year, but how serious really is the danger?

A ‘virus’ by definition is an infectious agent which spreads (like wildfire they say) until it runs into resistance and is killed. In computer terms there are some well-know types of virus, such as the Trojan Horse, the Worm and Logic Bombs.

Trojan Horses (or Trojans) don’t reproduce by infecting other files, but normally hide within downloaded files from services like Bittorrent etc, and while Worms (more common in Hollywood blockbusters like Swordfish than the real world) replecate themselves fiercely they are vulnerable to anti-virus software. Logic bombs destroy data on the computer and are hidden within segments of other problems and lie dormant until activated rather than reproducing themselves.

Other malicious software (referred to as malware) includes things like spyware and adware is not truly a virus, since it does not behave in the same way, but can still have a negative effect on your computer.

The most important thing to remember is that the likelihood of the average internet user running into a virus capable of causing critical damage to their computer is extremely rare. Despite the media coverage last year of the number of computer viruses in circulation topping 1million (TimesOnline), users have never been more protected.

Any recent operating system has its own anti-virus defence in place, before you even look into the plethora of different programs claiming to over you 100% protection, ranging in price from free to over £100 for just a year’s coverage.

The types of virus regular PC users may come across (from personal experience) are as follows:

Account ‘Hacking’ – You know the story, you’re chatting away to your friends and loved ones on MSN or Yahoo Messenger and suddenly it signs you out. With an eyebrow raised, you log in again, only to be confronted with angry messages from people saying “What was that link you sent me?! What have you done???” Either your account really has been hacked by a geek tucked away somewhere in the world, or you’ve given out your email address somewhere and without realising given them access to your messenger, allowing an automated program to spread the infection to all of your contacts.

Cure: Sometimes they can be caused by dodgy plug-ins to your messenger, so get rid of them, if changing your password doesn’t help then you’ll have to make a new account – sorry!

Pop-ups – Not true viruses, but pop-ups are definitely annoying, these days advertising agencies have realised that with certain browsers (particularly Firefox 3 with Adblock Plus), pop-ups and banner ads can be blocked out entirely, meaning users can go about the

ir daily business without being tempted by a “Free IQTest” or “Win £36,746 NOW! New Winners Every Hour”.

Cure: Free software ‘Ad-awarte’ by Lavasoft is a highly recommended and effective way of getting rid of spyware, the tiny programs which cause pop-ups when you aren’t even using your browser, providing you are connected to the internet, sometimes general virus-checkers can miss this smaller programs since they don’t do anything nasty to the computer.

Hoax Emails – Occasionally you may get an email saying “Warning Your Computer is infected with a Virus, click HERE for a free Virus check” or from a company you know and trust asking you to verify your details. If you give out your details you could land in real trouble.

Cure: First of all, you cannot get a virus and destroy your computer by simply opening an email, it can’t happen, no matter how many times you open it. It can send it on to all your contacts however, so still be careful. For hoax emails all you need to do is not give out your information, respectable companies never ask for personal details via email, and be sensible, why would you get an email saying you not only have a virus, but a ‘free’ way of getting rid of it.

The internet can be a dangerous place if you’re careless, but in truth there aren’t horrible people lurking behind every corner, people are genuinely nice and genuine, just like you and me, so try to see through the bad press, be sensible and you shouldn’t have any problems.

For more information on the myths surrounding computer viruses check out this report by Triumvirate from way back in 2000, just after the biggest hoax of all – The Millennium Bug. You can also check out the relevant Wikipedia article and a useful virus dictionary from Jayashree Pakhare

Oh and NEVER, EVER pay for Norton…you can get AVG for free and it’s better, faster and more effective.

Happy browsing, check out this video from Weird Al Yankovic which sums up just how crazy the virus fear is.

James Michael Parry