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HuffPost Reviews: Supernatural and Matthew Clay, Plus a Conversation with Coheed and Cambria's Claudio Sanchez, and Steve Mosto's Video Premiere

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Supernatural...or What The Heck Was Everybody Doing During The Season Finale?

You know, everyone applauded with great abandon season or series finales of Lost, Heroes, Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries, V, One Tree Hill, 24, 90210, blah, blah, blah. And when it got right down to it, most of these alleged earth-moving episodes were just that...blah, more blah, and serious blah. Just where were our most trusted (and most sanctimonious) culture warriors and pundits when it came to one of the best season finales of the year? In its closer, Supernatural delivered not only one of the finest hours of network television of 2010, but it also supplied one of the most satisfying--and yes, sad--closures any sci-fi or horror series ever broadcast.

This show increasingly has become one of the best sci-fi/horror offerings in years, regardless of its origin as an also-ran to the old WB's Smallville. The two shows really never had anything in common--well, except good looking male casts and a year's stint with Jensen Ackles stuck in a ridiculous role on the Superboy primer. But because Smallville had such a loyal following, it was assumed Supernatural would pick off at least a portion of its audience, which it did. However, regardless of Smallville's sudden renaissance in scripting, casting, and acting this past year, it's run its course while Supernatural actually feels like it's getting a second wind.

Over the past five years--and especially this last one with that exceptional story arc about the war between angels and devils--those of us who have been supportive of this red-headed stepchild of a series have been pretty blown away by plot lines so well-conceived and delivered, they would have challenged some great moments of sacred cows like The X-Files, The Exorcist, The Omen, and let's throw in The Outer Limits to get some folks really riled-up.

The jokes and timing between every cast member move like Fosse, and none of this would have ever worked if it weren't for the on and off screen chemistry between its stars, Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester) and Jared Padalecki (Sam Winchester). Their bromance--chided in a recent episode and randomly over five years--apparently is real, Ackles even serving as Padalecki's groomsman at his recent wedding.

The show also features a very strong supporting cast such as Misha Collins who plays their "guardian" angel Castiel, and Jim Beaver who is Bobby Singer, their de facto father figure. And, of course, it has a revolving door of hot actresses who come and go, you know, love 'em and stake 'em since they're mostly demons. But what this season finale did that virtually nothing else on network television attempted was it expertly gave a satisfying closure--albeit depressing as "Hell"--to its five-year storyline without treating its audience like it am dumb. More on that in a sec.

For those who still haven't committed to this awesome show, here are some more reasons why you should jump on board for its sixth outing: It employs--intentionally or not, doesn't matter--the Ray Bradbury rule of building your story from the heart up. Its music mostly is classic, prog, or hard rock depending on just how fierce the action is surrounding our favorite demon hunters and how cleverly the writers and producers want to title their episode (yeah, that also was a Farscape trick, but it's still pretty cool). Overall, its plots and twists always are smart (including running jokes and series-within-a-series revisits), its dialogue is extremely well-written and acted-out, and after this season's operatic finale (that also could have served as the series ender), you'll get to watch the show rebuild itself based on the one major bone thrown to its fans in the last scene.

Okay, here's that terrific teaser as well as your spoiler alert: Did Sam escape Hell because he can now control Lucifer who is still inside him (that ability established during the apocalyptic fight scene)? If so, will his loyal brother Dean trust that it can last? If not, how the hell did Sam escape Hell? Did God intervene with these guys yet again and pull Sam's bacon out of the fire (so to speak)? And if their stepbrother was a vessel for Michael the Archangel, how come he's still trapped in Hell (and Castiel now the main angeldude) when Sam could escape?

Some of you non-believers ("Sh-sh-sh-shun the non-believer...shuuuun...") are probably reading this and thinking, "Riiiiiight," but maybe this'll move your cold, cold hearts: In the last ten or so seconds of the finale, during this tiny yet effective snippet, we see a forlorn, no longer banished-to-Hell Sam staring from the street at his depressed, alcoholic brother Dean who's sitting at a dinner table with his new nuclear family. So much is said with not one word.

With all due respect to NBC, this truly is "must see TV," and you journalistic Kingmakers out there who made franchises out of really questionable crap (V? Heroes?? Really???) should go back one more time and let your heart do the re-evaluating. Any show that can capture the intensity and pathology of two cosmically-screwed and screwed-up brothers silently stargazing on their car hood, or use the placement of a childhood toy soldier as a plot device that restores one of these bros' lost humanity (no, not in a cliché'd "Rosebud" way), deserves another look-see, right?

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A Conversation with Coheed and Cambria's Claudio Sanchez

Mike Ragogna: Let's start at the very beginning with The Amory Wars, your sci-fi theme that runs through each of your five releases. This fifth album, Year Of The Black Rainbow, is a prequel, and for many, it will be the perfect place to get acquainted with the story and music of Coheed and Cambria, the name of your musical group and the heroes in the storyline. What's going on in this installment, and can you bring us up to date?

Claudio Sanchez: The story is the second stage. The story of Coheed and Cambria is about their mid-life, and finding out that they weren't born in the colony of Heaven's Fence, but were actually created for it. These characters were basically learning about what had led them down a series of downward spirals, if you will, and eventually, to their demise.

MR: It's pretty involved.

CS: It's a science fiction epic, everything kind of revolves around decisions those two characters have made. The following record, Good Apollo..., is about their son and his quest for vengeance, if you will, but it's also a kind of coming-of-age tale.

MR: Because of it being a bit of a space opera, it's been compared a little bit to Star Wars, and it even has a wink to the franchise when one of the characters turns to his wife and says, "Somehow, I've always known."

CS: Certainly a wink. Yes. Without a doubt. The narrative hints that she has always been suspecting something and her dialog confirms this. So yes, that is certainly a wink to Star Wars without a doubt.

MR: This all started with your Shabütie project, right?

CS: Sort of. Coheed and Cambria was a side project to Shabütie.

MR: Weren't there Shabütie songs that were re-titled and that became part of the Coheed and Cambria universe?

CS: Oh yes. "Time Consumer," I believe, was considered a Shabütie song, so was "Junesong Provision." These were all songs that I started to create under the guise of Coheed and Cambria, but then it started to morph into more of a rock band scenario. As the band started to kind of falter with the name Shabütie, everybody kind of liked the name Coheed and Cambria, so the songs started to transfer over.

MR: This album being a prequel, you had quite the task, to go back and maybe adjust or clarify your universe. What was the approach on this record?

CS: Basically, with the characters Coheed and Cambria, with every record, I use personal experience to feed the fiction, if you will. I got married this last year, and I used some of the emotions that went with that decision, and I decided to kind of feed it into those characters. I understood, in terms of the story how we were going to start--what the story was that needed to be told. But as far as the details went, a lot of that came with my writing the songs about some things that happened to myself.

As far as things that accompanied the record, we wanted to do something different. We sort of did do something different with Good Apollo... by releasing a graphic novel at the same time. We just wanted to kind of revisit that idea by bringing the literary component back with this release.

MR: That personal connection you mentioned is apparent. For instance, there was definitely a reference made to it being drawn directly from "Claudio," and the band's real life triumphs and travails.

CS: Without a doubt. And I tried to make that known to the audience with the Apollo One... story by dividing the it in half, and showing it from the writers perspective--the writer being what the characters considered was the God of their world. They didn't know what it was, but this writer opened the portal between the tunes. It was called the "The Willing Well," and it wills the characters to do what he wants for the sake of making it better in his real world.

MR: Everything gets further fleshed-out in your graphic novels. What are your favorite graphic novels out there, and who are your favorite writers and artists?

CS: One definitely is the Watchmen. I have two very large pieces of art in my house that are composed of issues from the Watchmen--really nice large pieces. So, it it certainly shows my devotion to that comic and it is certainly, hands down, my favorite. That would make Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons my favorites in that realm. The Preacher is another one, Steve Dillon...

MR: You did a concert way back, Neverender, that played the four albums back to back. Are you planning on doing Neverender Two so you can add the prequel?

CS: I would certainly love to. There is no confirmation of it yet, but we had such a blast doing the first one, it would be silly not to do it again now with the complete Armory Wars. I would love to do it again.

MR: You're looking at your Amory Wars as being complete. But in the comic realm, as they say, you haven't really lived until you died. So, how does that affect potential future sequels?

CS: It's tough to say. This is the first time I have actually brought this up. The idea that we are working on right now...we'll see. I think that what we have done is perfect the way it is, and if the band were to stop tomorrow, this would be it. It would be fantastic and totally complete. But should we decide to move forward, the possibilities are endless until it's over.

MR: Looking all the way back now at your old single "Devil In Jersey City" from a 2010 perspective, what are your thoughts about that song and your earlier works now?

CS: It's still perfect. I wouldn't change anything about it. All of these records certainly are very much reflections of who I was at that time. To me, it's almost a kind of looking back, they are a chapter in my life and are perfect the way they are.

(transcribed by Erika Richards)

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Matthew Clay - Epic Twist

Rocker-songwriter Matthew Clay (vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist, you-name-it-ist) sounds like Panic At The Disco, is backed by musicians like bassist Evil Spooty, and sprinkles Beatles and Queen influences throughout his latest album, Epic Twist. He starts this concept project by taking his hero (we'll get to that) from someone who wants to "Be Somebody" to his life "Today," with brief kind of back stories such as "Pizza Delivery Guy" and "Amberlyn Pandersyn" that will get you up to speed as Clay and his cross-faded tracks flaunt Nilssonisms and ELO eccentricity.

Like Coheed and Cambria, Matthew Clay decided to further the adventures of his hero (still getting to that) by including a comic book with each disc's purchase. Clay wrote it with Tara Bresch and Jon Douglas Dixon, and its art was by Chuck Roberts. Our hero--Fallace Lonestar (wasn't that worth the wait?)--wants to be a star though his name makes us giggle. But it's a throwback to another era with a middle "activities" section that interrupts Fallace's undeterred quest. So, does Fallace become the rockstar he believes he's destined to be? Maybe, maybe not, but did we mention there's a nymph-y, Ellie Mae-ish blond on the cover?

This comic starts with the words, "Since the beginning of man, our heroes, both real and imagined, have ventured forth into the world to seek their fortunes in the traditional sense." Well, sure, we're in, and that applies to Matt, Fallace, and the rest of us, actually. He soon ends his forward with "May we rise to meet our destiny and be satisfied." Yeah, tell us about it. What an Epic Twist that would be.

Tracks:
1. Be Somebody
2. Pizza Delivery Guy
3. Amberlyn Pandersin
4. Special Purpose
5. High Society
6. King Of The World
7. Up In Smoke
8. Now I See
9. Today

Steve Mosto - "Walk Away"

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Are you listening yet? Please catch Mike Ragogna's 2.0 broadcasting and streaming on Wednesdays at 1pm CT and the following Tuesday at 8am CT on KRUU-FM, the Midwest's only solar-powered radio station: http://www.kruufm.com/

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