Your BearShark And You: Feet

BearShark Foot

BearSharks often decorate their feet with tattoos.

Your BearShark’s hind paws are incredibly sensitive. This is a crucial piece of information that’s often a surprise to new BearShark handlers. The feet of your BearShark should only be handled with the utmost care and delicacy.

It’s theorized that this incredible sensitivity is partially due to their pattern of activity. BearSharks spend a good deal of their time screaming in bands, either doing performances or rehearsing, and have a tendency to jump about a lot, landing hard on their feet. However, even when not made extra sensitive by vigorous activity, they still display a great deal of tenderness. Experts believe that this sensitivity may actually be a defense mechanism, helping the BearShark detect vibrations caused by predators or, alternatively, potential prey items.

Whatever the case may be, your BearShark has very sensitive feet. This makes trimming the nails on the hind paws a very tricky proposition, especially if you don’t wish to be mauled to death. We recommend using a light touch, moving slowly and gently, and, above all, bribing your BearShark.

Your Bearshark and You: Foraging

While they are unquestionably apex predators, capable of bringing down large prey items with ease, Bearsharks are predominantly foragers. Their ingenuity, combined with their hearty appetite, dictates that they will range far and wide in search of suitable sustenance.

Om Nom Nom

Here we see the BearShark attempting to eat a house cat.

While it’s true that your Bearshark is excellent at finding food and satisfying his hunger, the foodstuff they select for themselves may not always be what’s best for their health. It is entirely possible that your Bearshark, left to his own devices, will consume an entire box of Toffiffee, a bag of salt and vinegar Crispers or two litres of Coke in a single sitting. On one memorable occasion, my Bearshark ate a third of a jar of crunchy peanut butter with a spoon while waiting for his bread to toast. Bearsharks are not the most patient of creatures, especially when food is involved, and will often graze or forage even as their meal is being prepared or being plated.

To keep your Bearshark healthy and active, with a shiny mane and lots of energy, you must become proactive with their feeding. Providing tasty, healthy meals is a necessity. It is advisable to cook while your Bearshark is distracted by, say, a videogame, the internet or even better, while they are out of the house, so that as soon as they realize they are hungry and return to the den their food is waiting.

While your Bearshark will eat meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains happily, the key to keeping your Bearshark happy with his diet, no matter how healthy, is Ketchup. Seriously. Your Bearshark will cover almost all meals in vast quantities of this glorious crimson concoction, everything from Kraft Dinner to steak. It is not a critique of your ability to provide or prepare food, but a necessary dietary supplement.

Your BearShark and You: A Handler’s Guide. Part One.

I am dating one of the loveliest people on the planet. He’s funny and warm and brilliant and talented, and treats me incredibly well. He is also a total weirdo with many emotions. In other words, he is perfect.

My boyfriend, you see, is not just a boyfriend. He is a Bearshark, one of those very rare and ferocious creatures that roam the wilds of Canada, (if by “roam,” you mean screaming in a band, watching MMA and copyediting). As one of the highly privileged few who has had the opportunity to be a Bearshark Handler, I have begun to put together a guide, for everyone else who has an interest in these passionate, majestic creatures.

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First, choose a fine specimen. You want to look for a Bearshark that is healthy and strong, with a luxurious mane, bright eyes and an impressive roar. Those with bellies covered in fine fur are most highly prized and are known as “Golden Bellies.” If you spot one of these trap it without delay!

Next, you must lure your target Bearshark into a Bearshark Trap. Bearsharks are particularly susceptible to certain types of foods, most notably delicious sauces, butter tarts, nachos with salsa and ketchup. Prepare a tasty Bearshark snack and your quarry is sure to investigate.

Once you have snagged your Bearshark in the trap (we recommend a large box that can close quickly and has no visibility) haste is of the utmost importance! Bearsharks are fantastically strong and will struggle to free themselves. Speedily transport your Bearshark home while he is still disoriented (and possibly snacking).

It is crucial to have an adequate Bearshark accommodation set up in whatever enclosure you plan to keep your Bearshark in. Bearsharks are crafty creatures and, if unhappy, will quickly conspire to escape. However, if you open your box and your startled, blinking Bearshark sees a cave-like space that is warm and dry, with soft furniture to sleep on, MMA telecasts readily available and plenty of tasty foods, he will most likely elect to stay of his own volition.

The Bearshark snuggling one of his companions, george the Cat.

It is important for Bearsharks to have pets and playmates.

Once your Bearshark has settled in, snuggled in his den, approach him cautiously, bearing a treat. If you have done well, he will quickly overcome his natural shyness and accept you as his handler. If you have treated your Bearshark poorly, or provided inadequate care and lodging, you will simply be eaten.

hello, again

Hello, 2011. So far, you look even more post-apocalyptic than the last year.

Just went through a major update; this blog once again functions as an accurate portfolio of all the music writing that I have done over the past 10 months or so. I’d like to make some promises right now, like I’ll never fall nearly 3 months behind in keeping this up to date again, but you and I know that promising to stay more organized is an open invitation for the universe to dump an entire toolbox into my gears.

I would, however, like to use this space a little better, keep it a bit tidier. I’d like to use it to catalogue more of my creative/personal life, rather than serving entirely as a hub for all my online going-on, and an archive for my music writing. We’ll see how that project goes. I am nothing if not optimistic.

So, hello new year. Let’s see what you got. Any room for a writer/ poet/ metalhead/ supervillain/ geek/ gamer/ pornographer/ gourmand,/ sadomaschist/ feminist/ comic book nerd?

My Top Something of 2010

Everyone is doing these things, so here’s mine. has a collective top 20 we put together, but here are the albums I flat out enjoyed the most this year.

Top Ten Metal Albums of 2010

1. AGALLOCH – Marrow of the Spirit (Profound Lore)

2. ALCEST– Écailles de Lune (Prophesy Productions)

3. BLIND GUARDIAN – At The Edge of Time (Nuclear Blast)

4. ANATHEMA – We’re Here Because We’re Here (Kscope)

5. KAMELOT – Poetry for the Poisoned (KMG Recordings)

6. TRIPTYKON – Eparistera Daimones (Century Media)

7. LUDICRA – The Tenant (Profound Lore)

8. KVELERTAK – Kvelertak (Indie Recordings)

9. BORKNAGAR – Universal (Indie Recordings)

10. DANGERS – Messy, Isn’t It? (Vitriol)

Bonus: 5 albums that would have made my top ten were there more digits between one and ten.

THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN – Option Paralysis (Season of Mist)

KYLESA – Spiral Shadow (Prosthetic)

SLOUGH FEG – The Animal Spirits (Profound Lore)

INTRONAUT – Valley of Smoke (Century Media)

CASTEVET – Mounds of Ash (Profound Lore)

Top 3 Canadian Metal Albums of 2010

1. VILIPEND — Plague Bearer (No List)

2. MARES OF THRACE — The Moulting (Arctodus)

3. BISON B.C. — Dark Ages (Metal Blade)

A Response

On November 4th, a review of the Mares of Thrace album The Moulting, written by Erik Thomas, was published on Metal Review. You can read it here.

This review made me almost impossibly angry. It was the kind of red-hot magma flow anger that could not be assuaged by all the counting to ten, deep breaths and violent video games that I could muster. Despite the fact that what I am about to do is arguably very, very stupid, here it goes. I’ve decided to write a response.

This is not a rebuttal in the traditional sense. There’s a general consensus (certainly among supporters of Mares of Thrace, at any rate) that the review was ire-rousing and in poor taste. But a lot of what has been written has been simply angry knee jerks, a lots of “fuck yous!” I want to actually start a discussion here. Because it’s not enough to be angry, to call something out as wrong. I think someone needs to take a stab at expressing exactly why this review is so infuriating, and why it is being labelled as offensive.

In a follow-up discussion, Thérèse Lanz mentioned that it doesn’t seem like Erik Thomas is a complete idiot. I agree. He describes the music that they’re making accurately, and correctly identifies some of their key influences. Despite the fact that he acknowledges that he can see what they’re trying to do, and that arguably they’re doing it well, it doesn’t really do it for him. It seems he doesn’t really like the kind of music that Mares of Thrace produces. Which is…fine, I suppose, though a little puzzling (why write a blandly negative critique of a band working well in a genre you don’t care for? Seems a waste of time). Where the review becomes officially problematic is the way he contextualizes his critique.

The crux of Erik Thomas’ critique of The Moulting is not an issue with the music, the production, the composition, or really even the album. He has an issue with the fact that he wants to like this album more that he does because he finds two women behind Mares of Thrace extremely attractive. He calls them “delectable.” He laments that his negative review will damage his chances of potentially scoring with them. This is the basis of my issue with his critique. The problems has are not with the music or the writing. Erik Thomas is upset that, in his mind, the music Mares of Thrace produces somehow makes them less attractive, less fuckable.

This is what makes me obscenely angry. If it was simply a matter for a few off-handed, ill-advised comments, jokes in poor taste, I probably would have rolled my eyes and moved on. But this is not a matter of casual sexism; it is a matter of sexism as the crux of this review. It would be impossible to simply excise an offensive comment or two. The entire piece would have to be rewritten. He’s not critiquing music here at all. He is judging the attractiveness of the people creating the music, and how their music makes them somehow less attractive in his eyes. And that, right there, is bullshit. Therese and Stef are not interested in if you want to fuck them, Erik Thomas. They are interested in intelligent, helpful critiques of their work. You are writing about music, not judging a fucked up beauty contest. Their work is not in service of your libido. Quit acting like a voyeur and start acting like a journalist.

I think it is important to state here that I don’t think sexuality and journalism should be kept completely separate – and certainly not sexuality and music! Metal is attractive to a lot of people because of the aggressive, primal, and, yes, erotic energy that it embodies. I would not love it as much as I do if it didn’t. This is not something that should be ignored or, worse, eliminated. It’s something that should be celebrated and treated with respect.

In response to the avalanche of negativity in the wake of the review, on November 5th Metal Review tweeted:Metal Review: Promoting murderers, arsonists, blasphemers, Satanists, and bigots in metal since 2001. BUT WE DRAW THE LINE AT SEXIST JOKES.” Whoever wrote this tweet brings up a valuable point. With so much that is problematic and arguably offensive in terms of metal content, why this? Why has everyone gotten all up in arms in this particular instance?

I have two things to say about this. First of all: yes, many revered heavy metal musicians (and artists in general) live controversial personal lives. It is always an ethical issue for consumers of media whether they can continue to support and enjoy work, however brilliant, that is created by someone who is personally despicable. Many renowned artists are considered monsters by those who knew them intimately. Whether or not you can continue to enjoy the work of a great artist, knowing their beliefs and actions outside of the art they produce, is an ethical dilemma that everyone must carefully navigate. Erik Thomas is not a great artist. He’s a music critic. This is not a discussion along the lines of whether or not it’s responsible to listen to/write about Burzum. This is a discussion about whether or not a writer as the right to act like an asshole and get away without criticism. And the answer is no.

Secondly, and this is the point that might lose me friends: if you are sexist, racist, homophobic, or generally intolerant, you are an asshole, and I have no desire to know you. Full stop. There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of disgusting behaviour. I might be able to see past profound character flaws and occasionally enjoy art by someone whose personal beliefs I despise. But I would certainly never consider that person a friend, or someone I would actually want to know and spend my time with. Erik Thomas is not some troglodyte mouth-breather posting nonsensical hateful rants in a forum or in comment threads somewhere. He is a reasonably articulate, intelligent human being, and therefor has absolutely no excuse for this bullshit whatsoever. He has officially lost my interest as a reader and respect as a fellow journalist. I challenge him to earn it back – from me, and everyone else he’s alienated.

We, as the weirdos of the world, have the solemn duty to be excellent to each other. No one out there is going to be. We should demonstrate, and tolerate, nothing less. Now quit fucking around and get back to work.

New Home

Holy crap, does it ever look spiffy around here. Thanks again to Adam Wills for doing such an incredible job with my blog redesign!

This is the new home of The Zed Blog. Welcome!

Thantifaxath/ Vilipend/ Sylvus/ Eyeswithoutaface @ The Hard Luck Bar, July 22 2010

This review is so strange to me now. It’s one of those pieces of writing that seems to have been done by another person, as an awful lot has happened and things have become much more wonderfully complicated since I attended this show and wrote this piece. Though I had no way of knowing it at the time, it was at this show that I met my mate.

After Sylvus’ set,  I’d finished congratulating my friends on a fine show with the newest band line-up, when a young man walked up to me. I didn’t immediately notice how tall he was, because he was nervous and slouching a little, or how intense his blue eyes were behind his glasses. I did, however, notice his brightly coloured full-sleeve tattoos peeking out from under his t-shirt, and his incredible mane of curly blond hair. He hovered next to my right shoulder pointedly until I turned.

“Were you at Ossington station at 11am yesterday?”


“I thought I saw you.”

“Well, I was meeting a friend for a coffee there yesterday morning, so you very well may have.”

“I was on my way to work.”

“Okay. I’m, uh, Natalie?”

“I’m The Gramlich.”


“…I just made this awkward. That’s okay, the metal will start soon.”

Then he proceeded to climb directly onto the stage and deliver a blistering set. Afterwards, he was forced to lay down on the stage, eyes closed for a few minutes, energy completely spent. I was suddenly the nervous one, unsure how to approach someone after they’d nearly screamed and spit and hurt themselves unconscious for an audience.

I figured out how to talk to him, though, first electronically, and then over drinks, and then in his arms. There have been ridiculous action movies and MMA fights, exploding burritos and vegan dinners, dogs in the park and cats on the bed. It’s a very strange thing to think of my life without this now. It is even stranger to read something I wrote about that night, about a very significant meeting, and marvel at my own obliviousness. Something incredible had happened and in this review, I don’t know yet. It’s quite lovely.

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Here is my review of the Thantifaxath/ Vilipend/ Sylvus/ Eyeswithoutaface show (originally for that took place at The Hard Luck Bar on July 22, 2010. You can read the original here, along with photos by the lovely and talented Phil Miller.

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Most of my social interaction these days can be summed up with the phrase “watching lovely people do very strange things.” It’s one of the things I love most about Toronto: on any given night, I can attend a strip spelling bee or a pillow fight, or go to a metal show and see some absolutely killer local bands bring on the weird.

The Hard Luck Bar has undergone a small but significant renovation since I was there last. A plywood wall has been constructed just inside the main door, ostensibly in an attempt to contain some of the noise being generated on the stage. While it does help to keep the sound under control, it also keeps all of the heat in. The Hard Luck Bar is now a warmer venue that it has even been before. The fans positioned around the stage helped a little, but just about everyone who performed at this event were clearly suffering under the lights.

The first band to brave the heat was Eyeswithoutaface, whom I’d had no exposure to prior to this show. When I asked about them, a fellow audience member described them as industrial- and sludge-influenced. Having no expectations, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the set. Their sound was emotive and evocative, with lots of drone but nonetheless quite precise. Their music was defined by a sense of urgency and forward movement that served them well.

Sylvus played next, performing their first show in nearly a year. Their lineup underwent significant changes (they no longer have a keyboardist and have replaced their bassist). In response, they made a bold move and decided to recast their identity, build something new with their current lineup rather than attempt to modify songs that no longer suited this incarnation of the band. As a result, their material is all quite new; when I asked, they referred to their songs by number rather than title (song 3, song 4). They also performed an excellent cover of Windir‘s “The Spiritlord.” Sylvus embodies a lot of what I love about local bands: they provide the audience with the unique opportunity to see a band not as a static thing, but as a shifting organism in a constant state of being rebuilt. There’s a kind of intimacy to this type of performance that is unique. Playing for the first time after a hiatus is an act of bravery, as is trying out new songs in front of a live audience. The band members are all gregarious, generous people, actively soliciting feedback. And I have to say that I dig their mew material. Darcy Ibson’s vocals are impressive; I was particularly glad that he performed “The Spiritlord” as it demonstrated his range. Every member of the band has a striking physical and performative presence on stage, and I eagerly look forward to seeing them again.

performed in the penultimate slot, and brought a completely different kind of energy into the room. This was my first experience with ; their is not music that is easy, or comfortable, or easy to sink into. It is downright confrontational and unapologetic in its violence. Their sound is also so strangely welcoming, in that it provides the audience with a potential for catharsis, an opportunity for release. The band members seem impervious to pain and injury, especially singer Christopher Gramlich, who heaves and howls and throws himself around mercilessly. I was nearly got whipped in the face with the mic cord more than once. Of course, I loved it. Of course, I would see them again.

The final band to perform were local barons of weirdness, Thantifaxath, whom I have seen twice before: once opening for Alcest (which I really enjoyed and still think of as their best performance) and again at Duffy’s tavern (where the space was small and the rest of the programming unsuited to their aesthetic). They have a solid conceptual framework, though they are clearly still fine-tuning the details. All three band members, all of whom are exceptionally talented musicians, play in full-length cloaks. Their music is tight and walks a fine line between the alienating and the intimate, and their visual aesthetic mirrors this. One of the band members, Luke Roberts, experimented with performing in bare feet, which I interpreted as an effort to determine how featureless vs. how vulnerable they want to be in their stage presence. Their development as a band is a fascinating process to watch. Thantifaxath certainly keeps me interested, and clearly value exploration over perfection. I admire them for that.

and good will toward

Damn it. My first real, non-archiving, blog-ish post here and it’s going to be about my feelings.

It’s been an excellent week in Poetry for Natalie Zed. Wednesday night, I read at the 7th installment of the NOW HEAR THIS! Hear/Hear reading series with Angela Szczepaniak and Elisabeth De Mariaffi. The back room we inhabited at the Free Times Cafe was filled with a happy, responsive crowd. Angela and Elisabeth read beautifully; both of them produce (very different) work that is disarmingly funny and devastating by turns. All our work dovetailed together  into a performance that felt successful and coherent. I had a blast sharing the stage with them.

After the performance, we stayed for hours drinking cheap Creemore pints and talking about…vaginas, mostly. Popowich was incredibly patient while about half a dozen women volunteered complex opinions on placentas and the art of pubic hair topiary. By the end of the night, we’d made some solid, hilarious plans for future shenanigans involving retractable high heels and public bath houses.

Last night, I attended the launch of Sweet, the second volume of poetry by the incomparable Dani Couture. The event also served at the launch for Perter Darbyshire‘s newest novel, The Warhol Gang, and the latest issue of Taddle Creek. There were friends and veggie burgers, and free beer handed out by the friendliest Steamwhistle employee in the world. We were ambushed by a terrible hipster-folk band, and I threatened to fight someone much, much smarter than me on the topic of French heavy metal. There may have even been a huge animatronic bear.

And here is where the feelings come in: I love this. I love spending time with smart, hilarious, talented people who care deeply about things. I love that one of my poems may end up in a vending machine. I love waking up with a headache and band names written on my arm in sharpie. Every now and again, I have a week that reminds me exactly why I love what I do; this was one of those weeks.

Amon Amarth/Eluveitie/Holy Grail at The Opera House, April 21 2020

Here is my review (originally for Metallus Maximus) of the Amon Amarth/Eluveitie/Holy Grail show that took place at The Opera House on April 21, 2010.  You can read the original here, accompanied by some terrible pictures I took with my iphone.

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Holy Grail

Natalie Zed (text) : Where are you? I’m by the bar.

Lily The Pirate (text): I’m at your Mom’s. She says hi.

NZ (text): FU

LTP (text): On the streetcar.

NZ (text): Hurry up. It’s 1985 in here. Also, I have spotted three Viking helmets and some chainmail.

LTP (text): Gaaaaaaaaah. Fast as I can.

LTP: Whew! That took forev—holy crap this is awesome.

NZ: I knew you’d love it. They played the opening to Conan The Barbarian just before they came on.

LTP: Goddamn, this dude can wail.

NZ: You and your eighties vocalists.

LTP: Are you denying his goodness?

NZ: Never! I highly approve of his hair.

LTP: Aw yeah.


LTP: Flutes are metal.

NZ: Literally.

LTP: I hate you.

NZ: I think that’s a balalaika (Russian folk instrument)!

LTP: Oh, Eluveitie. I’ve missed you.

NZ: Remind me: is the frontman one of your fictional boyfriends?


NZ: Deepest apologies.


NZ: This? Is so much fun.

LTP: Look how happy everyone is.

NZ: I love it. The shockingly cheerful violence. Warms my black little heart.

Amon Amarth

NZ: I see a smoke machine.

LTP: I see black light.

NZ: Whoa, those dudes are moshing.

LTP: They’re still playing the intro music!

NZ: There is nothing about this that is not awesome.

“Valkyrie’s Ride”

NZ: Hold my phone.

LTP: Here it comes.

NZ: *Runs into the pit, gets a boost, and crowdsurfs*

NZ: *runs back, panting and grinning*

LTP: Feel better?

NZ: Just popped my crowdsurfing cherry. Can die happy.

“Under The Northern Star”

NZ: These are my people!

LTP: Hoo boy. Here we go.


LTP: Sorry! Sorry everyone. She’s a Viking now. Goddamn.


Johan: *chuckles*

NZ: I am pregnant now.

LTP: Gross.

NZ: It’s going to be a boy.

“Live For The Kill”

NZ: Johan Klegg is King somewhere.

LTP: King of your dreams?

NZ: Whatever country he rules, I am going to move there. I am going to wear a breastplate and eat wild boar every day.

LTP: I am not coming to visit you.

Quote of the night: “I am a man now. I just felt my ball hair turn to steel wool.”