Thursday, May 17, 2018

Metallica - Load (1996)

With half of the discography reviewed, we now step into the stranger part of Metallica's career, where the band started experimenting more and leaving their thrash roots. While the departure from thrash did sort of start in "The Black Album", it was fully realized in the middle of the 90's with the release of the double trouble known as "Load" and "Re-Load", a duo of records that today are seen as the two outliers of Metallica's discography, not even considered as metal records. It is a strange duo that we will now dive deep into, so let us start with the first of the twins.

So knowing how incredibly successful "The Black Album" was, Metallica probably knew that it was going to be hard to follow it up, so they opted for going all in, write a ton of songs, and put them all in two albums, a tactic that is really risky, because it is so easy to go for quantity over quality, and unfortunately, that is exactly what happened here. With a play time of 79 minutes, "Load" is the band's longest album to date (yes, even longer than "Hardwired..."), and it is very much notable, being very tough to get through in one sitting, not because it feels long, but because the setlist is filled with fluff.

With a total of 14 songs, "load" is simply just loaded (hehe), mostly with blanks though. This album is filled with songs that simply does not feel like Metallica songs. At times, you wonder if the group wrote this songs, or if they stole them from Guns 'n' Roses and slapped a Metallica sticker on top of it. Most of this album consists of hard rock and country rock, with only "King Nothing" having some type of metal element to it, and most of these songs are mediocre at best, confusing at worst.

Now, just because the band completely changed sound direction, it does not automatically have to be a bad thing, and I could have certainly enjoyed this experiment if the song quality was up to par. "Load" certainly has some neat tracks, like the possible "The Black Album" outcast "The House Jack Built" where the band creates a nice mood and uses Peter Frampton's guitar effects to some good use. Then we have "Bleeding Me", a mellow tune that sits just right in your ear. Finally, the two most stand out singles "King Nothing" and "Until It Sleeps" are a nice double header at the end of the first half.

But as previously stated, there are just too many fillers in here for one to muster through. There is not any song that makes me mad, or any song where the performance or song writing is embarrassing. It is just a bland mess of songs that does not really give you any reasons to be mad. I was kind of annoyed that James Hetfield had a couple of spots where he did not seem fully focused (Adoobalee adoobalee!), and "2 x 4" just baffled me in every sense of the word, but otherwise "Load" left me quite indifferent, or at least kind of bored.

So even if the album cover looks like the inside of a lava lamp, it does describe the album quite well actually, it is a gooey mess that one probably could stare (or in this case, listen) for hours and do not get anything significant from it. "Load" is definitely not a good album, it is way too long, does not have enough stand out tracks, and the experimentation is far from bulletproof. However, I do not think "Load" is a bad record more than it is a forgettable one. Close to nothing in here is memorable, and since nothing makes you mad either, I just suggest that we just let it slide by and do not care too much for it. Onto its brother it is.

Songs worthy of recognition: Bleeding Me, Until It Sleeps, King Nothing

Rating: 4,5/10 Cures

More reviews of Metallica
Kill 'em All
Ride The Lightning
Master of Puppets
...And Justice For All
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Game review: South Park: The Fractured But Whole (Switch version)

The animated show South Park is the only show that I really follow with any sense of passion these days. The love child of Matt Stone and Trey Parker have been balls to the wall ever since its inception in 1997, and have stayed incredibly consistent during all 21 seasons, also morphing from a silly show with insane premises, to a more society criticizing juggernaut with insane premises. And with fame comes other medias, in this case video games, to reap even more gold from the franchise. The early N64 and PS1 games were... interesting to say the least, but far from any master pieces, something that Stone and Parker wanted to change, taking full responsibility to finally create the ultimate South Park game.

In 2014, that dream was finally realized in "South Park: The Stick of Truth", a simplified RPG game that worked just like a classic episode from the show, with visuals, jokes, and voice acting perfectly morphed into the gaming format. It was supposed to be the only game released, but Stone and Parker was just getting started, so they immediately started the development of its follow up, "South Park: The Fractured But Whole", released in October 2017 for PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One, and in April 2018 for the Nintendo Switch, which is also the version I played the game on.

"The Fractured But Whole" works as a direct continuation of "The Stick of Truth", with the player reprising its role as the new kid in town, leading its army as the king of Kupa Keep in a fantasy setting. Suddenly, out of nowhere comes a stranger from the future, it is none other than The Coon who tries to gather his forces of super heroes so that they can find a missing cat and claim the 100 dollar reward that will be crucial to start up their own franchise Universe (or Cooniverse as they call it). This means that every kid stops playing orcs and elves, and you are now back at the bottom of the totem pole, begging to even be a part of Coon And Friends. It is a great premise that obviously takes a lot of shots to both Marvel and DC, and I just find it great to be able to be a part of this fantastic super hero world that the show have built up in several episodes over the later seasons.

Don't you just hate it when someone text you while in the middle of a fight
In all honesty, even if I really adored the first game and its fantasy world, I just find the super hero approach to be more fun and fleshed out. It is mostly thanks to the fact that fans of the show already know and love all of the heroes that the kids are playing, and how incredibly creative they actually are, like Stan lending his father's power tools to become Toolshed, or Token becoming some sort of Iron Man clone with only Tupperware items, but even the more amateurish costumes are just brilliant, like Super Craig, who only has a S written on a sheet of paper that is taped onto him. It reminds us that these are kids playing, but acting like it is life or death, that this is their reality.

And just like you would expect from South Park, this game gets incredibly insane real fast. It all starts innocent enough with a bunch of kids searching for a cat, but it gets worse, a lot worse. It all leads to a bigger crime syndicate which forces you to face many assed mutations, an underground demon who only eats black meat, a gang of strippers, ninjas, Mexican henchmen, a Randy Marsh who is drunk out of his ass, and much more. There is a lot of jaw dropping moments in this game, just as many, if not more, as in the last game, and you will be laughing your way through it all. The writing is close to bulletproof, save from the ending in which it feels like Stone and Parker watched "Monty Python And The Holy Grail" recently.

Then we have the game play, which is very much alike its predecessor. It is a simple RPG game where you walk around South Park performing various quests, gathering followers for your Coonstagram page, solving puzzles, and shit on every toilet in town. There are though a couple of key differences that makes this game much deeper, one thing being Morgan Freeman talking you through the fine art of crafting, combining different objects to create various items. The upgrade system also gets a fine tune with the artifact slots, you use this slots to gain might so that you can take on tougher enemies and buff your attack or defence, depending on how you use them.

The biggest difference though is the combat system, which has changed from the Pokemon style in the last game to more of the one from "Final Fantasy Tactics". Instead of the combatants just standing there, we got a grid where they can move and use different attack patterns to hurt their opponent. This forces the player to use a lot more strategy this time around, especially since you also get to use up to three buddies in every fight and get a butt load of different classes to create your ultimate super hero, each with different useful attributions and super attacks that all have brilliant cutscenes. Add the various status effects like Gross Out, Bleeding, Burning, and many more, and you got a surprisingly deep combat mechanic that is much more fun and challenging.

Another thing that makes the combat so diverse is that not every battle is about pulverizing your opponent, sometimes you simply have to escape or catch up, or maybe you have to do another certain task, like burning a bunch of weed piles just to get Towelie high. We also have a brilliant touch that the battles can be interrupted by a car coming down the street, which forces everyone involved to move back to the curb, a brilliant detail that once again show that this is ultimately kids playing.

This is Shub Niggurath, he hates white meat because it is unhealthy
But for as much as I love the game and all its improved features, there are a couple of negative things that destroys the experience for me. First off, the loading screens are killing the momentum time and time again. For a game that looks like the show, in other words like crudely cut out pieces of cardboard, you would think that it would run smoothly, but no, the loading times are way too long, and even when it has loaded, the frame rate might shit its pants anyway.

Another huge problem is that this game got several glitches, no game breaking fortunately, but bad enough to make you really pissed. The most common I came across was that at times the game would just completely reset my character, get rid of all my experience and gear to make me as bare bone (and black) as possible. A quick reload of the game solves that problem, but it made me paranoid that it would happen again, and it did happen again, like 7 or 8 times during my 16 hour playthrough. Then we have the fact that I cannot complete this game, because somehow I cannot access a side quest where I help out Call Girl with her mobile service. Whenever I enter the store with here, the loading screen just keeps chugging without anything happening. That fortunately happened after the end game, but still, that should not happen for a game that is technically 6 months old, you would have thought that Ubisoft would have worked out the kinks by then, but nope.

So while I had a blast playing through this game, it did leave a sour taste in my mouth, and considering that this game was delayed a couple of times, the fact that there is still such long loading times and this amount of glitches is not okay. The writing is the saving grace here, it is classic South Park material that every fan of the show will love and appreciate. So all in all, it is fun as hell to play as a super hero with the ass as your greatest weapon, but I would have not minded at all if the developers had taken another year or two to really perfect the product. Then again, it is Ubisoft, so I am not surprised.

Rating: 7,5/10 Morgan Freeman Tacos

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Ihsahn - Ámr (2018)

Former Emperor frontman and professional man bun wearer Ihsahn is a man who is not afraid to challenge his listeners, to force them to take in a different kind of music that they normally would not be brave enough to try. His special blend of progressive black metal has certainly made some eyes turn, and he has delivered it in some really nice records as of late. He now seeks to continue that impressive streak with his seventh solo outing "Ámr", but strangely enough, he does not push the limits further this time, he actually takes a step back, admiring what he has accomplished in the past.

What I mean by that is that "Ámr" could be seen as sort of a retrospective of what Ihsahn has put out over the years, an album that takes small bits from its brethren to create something personal, and it comes out pretty... okay? Well, the start of the album ain't half bad, but it might be a little misleading though, with both "Lend Me The Eyes of Millennia" and "Arcana Imperii" being much more aggressive than the rest of the album. Shame, since both are terrific songs, especially "Lend Me..." with its epic climax and really cool use of electronic equipment.

After the opening duo, "Ámr" becomes a more soothing experience, still fairly heavy in its moments, but still pretty soft. It is not a full 180 from what the album started out with, but it is enough of a change to make you scratch your head. It just does not feel right to open up the album with two energetic songs, and let the rest of the tracks be more laid back. Not saying that it is a full on poor decision, but it feels like Ihsahn did not think this through completely.

Oh well, the remaining tracks are still easy to swallow, with all ranging between 4-5 minutes in length and are not too complex or too strange for a seasoned Ihsahn listener. What I lack though in most of these tracks is an impact, something to stun you. "Sámr" has this angelic chorus that is awe inspiring, and "In Rites of Passage" has some nice intense moments, but other than those, there just is not much to get hyped over.

And like the direction of the record was not confusing enough already, it ends with a heavy and epic track in "Wake", yet another track that is great, but does it really fit in here? Man, this album does not seem what it wants to do with its life, and even if there are a good amount of nice tracks in here, and another stellar performance from the man himself, it just does not matter if the album has little to no cohesion. Sure, you can enjoy the songs individually, but an album is supposed to be consumed as a whole piece,and in that regard, "Ámr" does not impress.

So all in all, Ihsahn delivers a decent album that probably will not stand the test of time, at least not as well as some of his previous outings. "Ámr" is not bad by any means, it just fails to paint a complete picture. There is certainly quality in here in individual songs, but there are also mediocre songs that lacks creativity and drive, dragging down the album quite a lot. It tries to take influence from earlier records, but cannot create a path of its own, spinning out of control to a middle ground that just does not satisfy anyone. So fans might certainly get something out of "Ámr", just do not expect another game changer.

Songs worthy of recognition: Lend Me The Eyes of Millennia, Sámr, In Rites of Passage

Rating: 6,5/10 Marble Souls

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Metallica - S/T (1991)

It seemed like every legendary metal band fell flat on their asses as soon as the 90's began, with one after another churning out mediocre records and losing popularity. Well, somehow Metallica only became more popular, at least amongst the more mainstream crowd, and most of that is thanks to their self titled fifth studio album (or as it is more commonly called, "The Black Album"). It saw a complete shift in the band's sound, from the progressive thrash that they have refined over the last three records, to a more direct, catchier, and slower heavy metal sound, a change that made this cheap rip off of Spinal Tap's "Smell The Glove" one of the most successful metal records of all time.

One reason to why "The Black Album" became so successful was that it had no less than five major hits in "Enter Sandman", "The Unforgiven", "Nothing Else Matters", "Wherever I May Roam", and "Sad But True", all of them becoming some of the band's most famous songs. Talking about them in an extensive way is pretty useless, so let me just put out my quick thoughts about them. "Wherever I May Roam" is hands down my favourite track of the entire record, with "Enter Sandman" right behind it. I can deal with the dark nature of "The Unforgiven", but for a band that has not written any ballads before, adding two is at least one too many. Also, "Sad But True", a sluggish boredom of a song, is one of the most overrated songs by Metallica ever.

Once you look past those spotlight stealers, you will realize that "The Black Album" does have some meat on its bones. Sure, it is not something you would want to brag to your thrash buddies, but there is certainly some serviceable metal in there. The heaviest of the bunch is "Holier Than Thou", one of few opportunities Hetfield and Hammett can go wild with their riffing, and also spark a fire under Lars' drums. A fun song that gets the blood pumping, for sure. I also like "Of Wolf And Man", it showed just how good this newer side of Metallica could be with a catchy beat, bone hard riffs, and a nice attitude. I do love the build up in the chorus as well, and I often replace the "shape shift" with "oh shit", it just sounds so much better.

The rest of the "forgotten" group are a mixed bag of sweet and sour. "Through The Never" is a fun little quick tune, and "My Friend of Misery" has some good moments too, but then we have "Don't Tread On Me", "The God That Failed", and "The Struggle Within", none of which really connected with me, being pretty forgettable. It is a trio of songs that I could live without, giving this album some mediocre moments that it does not need at all with its run time of just over an hour.

And that is probably my main problem with this record, there are simply too many songs in here. Metallica should have definitely dropped some songs to make "The Black Album" tighter, killing off the dead weight. So instead of going with several long songs that together made the run time too long, they went with a bigger quantity that also padded the run time a little too much. So in a strange way, that problem from "...And Justice For All" stuck around for "The Black Album", just in a different shape.

Now, it is easy to see why this album is so successful. The surprising amount of hits did give it a ton of buzz for a long time, and there are a bunch of nice songs to discover beyond them. Still, I feel like there is a little too much useless padding in this record, dragging it out a little more than it should.  Do I consider this as an all time classic? Absolutely not, but it is still an enjoyable record with some fantastic highs, but also some annoying lows. It is a reboot of the band that gave them millions of fans, but did not necessarily make them better, enough to get through the 90's.

Songs worthy of recognition: Wherever I May Roam, Enter Sandman, Holier Than Thou, The Unforgiven, Of Wolf And Man

Rating: 7,5/10 Gods That Failed

More reviews of Metallica
Kill 'em All
Ride The Lightning
Master of Puppets
...And Justice For All
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

Saturday, April 28, 2018

From worst to first: Marvel Cinematic Universe movies

In recent time, my urge to review has gone down, and that is for a number of reasons that I do not really want to get into. So I have tried to find new ways to get the spark going again, and a simple way to do so is top lists, not just any top lists though, straight up power rankings. You will not see me do an ordinary top 10 this or top 5 that, I want to get it all in, not only the best, but also the rest.

Introducing "From worst to first", a series where I will list the lamest and the coolest within a certain subject, and to start it off, I thought we would go to a very big current event, the release of "Avengers: Infinity War". I am not the biggest fan or movies, comic books, or the combination of the two, but this whole universe that Marvel have created is simply astonishing. The care that they have given the characters and the stories is remarkable, and with its 10th year running, it is nothing less than an amazing feat to see it not only still going, but being bigger and stronger than ever.

So as preparations for the 19th movie in the universe, I have caught up to the movies I have missed over the years, and decided to rank them all. Remember guys, this is my opinions alone, I am as right or wrong as you. Now, let us start with...

18. Thor: The Dark World

Out of all 18 movies, this is the only one that feels like it belongs more in the DCEU, mostly thanks to its incredibly dark tone, but also for how messy it is. The whole story is just strange, and the villain is one of the more forgettable ones in the franchise (and that is saying something). The interaction between Thor and Loki is the only redeeming quality in here, otherwise it is a failure that fortunately has become an anomaly for Marvel.

Also, that final fight, you can't see shit

17. Iron Man 2

I kinda enjoyed this one the first time I watched it, but the more I thought about it, the more faults I found. Biggest problem is that Tony is not anywhere near as enjoyable as in the first movie, which does make it tough to root for him. Then we have the fact that we got an Iron Man Vs. Iron Man fight again, and it is not any good either. It is a definite disappointment for everyone who loved the first movie, and a Mickey Rourke enjoying his second stint at the top could not save it.

Also, is this the most useless movie in the build up of the franchise? Possibly.

16. The Incredible Hulk

How hard can it really be to make a kick ass movie about a big, angry, green dude? "The Incredible Hulk" is definitely more interesting than that boring Ang Lee movie, but it is still one of the most easily forgotten movies, with most people not even knowing it was a part of the MCU. That could be because Edward Norton is playing Bruce Banner, and not Mark Ruffalo. It is a shame Edward turned down to continue his role, because he is a great actor, but I think it worked out fine, even if The Hulk is in desperate need of a new stand alone movie, one with way more action and less talking.

Also, how many bullets does it take for the US Army to understand that it will not hurt Hulk even the slightest? Far too many according to this movie.

15. Iron Man 3

This is one of the movies I had to catch up to before going into "Infinity War", and the reason for it is that I just was not feeling like watching another Iron Man movie after the previous one was so meh. This one is certainly better, but it has its problems. First the good stuff, Tony is likeable again, the action is nice, and the whole Extremis serum and what it did was pretty dope. However, the bad takes over though, especially with the main villain. I do not read the comics, but I do not believe that The Mandarin is depicted like THAT. What an absolutely shitty disappointment that unfortunately was very easy to see coming, even if it tried to be this epic twist.

Also, it made me forget about the second movie, which is nice.

14. Captain America: The First Avenger

It might be because I am Swedish, but I cannot connect with Captain America one bit. Sure, he does represent being a hero perfectly, and Chris Evans does a fantastic job portraying him, but he is just not that flashy of a hero. "The First Avenger" is a fine origin movie with some nice performances by Chris and Hugo Weaving playing Red Skull, one of the more memorable villains, but it does not feel fully focused, and the whole rescue mission scene is just some dumb bullshit. Overall it is okay, but not more.

Also, screw Bucky. I know he does not have a big role here, still screw him.

13. Ant-Man

Just like everyone else, I just laughed when I heard that one of Marvel's heroes were called Ant-Man. What a stupid name, it does not scare anyone. Turns out, his powers are no laughing matter, with the potential of ripping the world apart! (if this theory is correct). The movie itself is okay, but kind of forgettable, not really standing out in anyway. Still, it had a nice ending, Paul Rudd is very likeable, so Ant-Man does indeed deserve a spot in the franchise.

Also, Ant-Man is still a stupid name.

12. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I am gonna get a lot of hate from die hard Marvel fans, aren't I?

While I do agree that the action here is some of the best of the franchise, and that it has several tense moments, I just cannot get behind that the story is all about Bucky. Seriously, the whole Steve and Bucky buddy relationship is just silly and annoying. It ruins an otherwise cool action movie where the Cap is really growing as a character, starting to question if what he does is the right thing. I understand why most of you absolutely love this movie, but for me, it just does not hold up for the entire run time.

Also, if I was not clear enough, screw Bucky.

11. Avengers: Age of Ultron

After the success of the first Avengers movie, there was no way the second one would match it, and it did not. While it does not come anywhere near its predecessor, "Age of Ultron" still has some good qualities to it. Ultron is one of the cooler Marvel villains out there, we get introduced to Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Vision, and seeing all these heroes once again working together is certainly a sight to behold. It may not be as grand as the first movie, but it has its moments.

Also, does Mjolnir honestly think Vision is worthy of the Asgardian throne, or was it just confused because of the infinity stone?

10. Thor

Most people seem to either dislike or be quite indifferent to the first Thor movie, but I think it is a fairly decent "Fish out of water" story with two leads that are just killing it. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston as Thor and Loki are magnificent, bringing some much needed life in an otherwise bland movie. It does not have any grand battles, mind blowing action, extreme tension, or a good amount of comedy, but it is a serviceable movie that is an easy watch.

Also, was it really necessary to squeeze in a love story in this (and "The Dark World)? Classic Hollywood stupidity.

9. Doctor Strange

Starting out the better half of the roster, "Doctor Strange" deserves its place amongst the top for its visuals alone. There is a ton of impressive special effects and a good amount of imaginative writing in here that makes it very memorable. There was also a lot of unexpected comedy in here that hit extremely well with me, especially with how the ending went down, that is one of the funniest moments in the entire MCU. A really exciting movie that unfortunately does not have a strong enough villain, but it is strange enough that it does not need one.

Also, for a brilliant surgeon, Dr. Strange is a dumb ass for multitasking while driving, focus on the road asshole.

8. Captain America: Civil War

Let us be honest here, this movie is mostly up here because we get to see some sweet hero on hero action. The fight scene between all heroes is one of the best scenes in the franchise, even with the knowledge that there was basically no stakes involved. This movie was more than that though, it had great pacing, we finally got to see Spider-Man Mach 3, and it had several memorable parts that people would remember for years to come. Never thought I would love a Captain America movie, but here we are.


7. Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2

I went back and forth with this one, because it had some odd moments that just hampered the movie in my opinion. Fortunately, there is way more fun stuff in here so that I can overlook the bad stuff. It did what any sequel should do, take what worked with the first movie, and add some new elements to keep it fresh. And just like the first one, it is fun as hell, with several characters, both old and new, glowing. I mean, Yondu, what a guy, did not expect to love him that much after watching this movie.

Also, Baby Groot is just the cutest!

6. Spider-Man: Homecoming

The original Spider-Man franchise got me hooked into the "comic book movie" genre, and I honestly though that there would be no better movie about Peter Parker and his responsible powers than the second movie from the original trilogy. "Homecoming" does make a good case though, with a fantastic Tom Holland as a younger Peter Parker, a great villain played by Michael Keaton, some really funny moments, and a nice flow throughout the movie. You could argue that the action scenes are not this movie's strong point, but hell, this movie still rocks, and it makes me excited about upcoming movies, despite this being the third version of this character in a short amount of time

Also, was it meant as knock on DC when they named the bully/asshole/possible insecure homosexual Flash? I think it is, and I find it hilarious.

5. Thor: Ragnarok

It is obvious that they borrowed a lot from the "Guardians..." series and inserted it into this movie, but frankly, I do not care, since it worked so god damn well. "Thor: Ragnarok" is a fun movie that throws the previous two parts out of the window to create a unique setting. There are so many cool scenes in here, like the Thor Vs. Hulk fight, the entrance of Hela, Thor finding his inner strength, and many more. It is a fast paced movie with a lot of charm and love, and it kicks ass.

Also, I do not get the whole thing about Jeff Goldblum. Is he supposed to be charming? I think he is just... awkward.

4. Black Panther

It was hard to rank this one since it was released so recently, but with time, this might rise even higher in the list. This is arguably the most prolific movie of the lot, both in style and tone, and the amount of people it gathered to the theaters is just astounding. And just like close to all other movies in the MCU, it opened my eyes to this character (or opened them even more, since he first appeared in "Civil War"), presenting him in a fantastic way that made me love him even more. As said, in time, it might go even higher, no question though that I will enjoy T'Challa and his future adventures.

Also, how come he came into this universe this late? This is a bad ass character, would rather have seen more of this than Ant-Man.

3. Guardians of The Galaxy

This movie ultimately changed this whole universe into something better, that we could have a different movie that was not quite like the other ones, but still fit in nicely. All of these characters (that I had never heard of before seeing this movie) just match together so well with their different personalities, creating some really dynamic situations. It is a simple movie that does not complicate things, that introduces yet another infinity stone in a nice way, and is just having a blast from start to finish.

Also, a dance off saves the galaxy? What the hell man!

2. Iron Man

The original, the first of them all, the one every other movie has to try to match. Yes, it does not have the most epic battles, it does not have the best character developments, and it certainly is not the funniest movie in the MCU. However, it is a movie where everything just simply falls into place, where it all just feels right. It is a satisfying movie in a lot of ways, and most of it comes from the performance of Robert Downey Jr., one of his best after "Tropic Thunder". Just think about this, who cared, or even knew, about Iron Man before this movie came out? Now, he is one of the more popular Marvel heroes out there, and it is all thanks to this brilliant movie.

Also, would it not have been cooler if Tony just had continued with the original suit throughout all of the movies? Pretty impractical, but bad ass.

1. Marvel's The Avengers

This movie is just pure awesomeness from start to finish. I still remember when it hit the theaters, it was a massive happening, finally seeing Iron Man, Hulk, Cap, and the others together fight side by side in a massive movie that had it all. It still give me the chills today, just thinking of the score, the scenes, the fights, and especially when Hulk just beats the shit out of Loki. Man, I love this film to death, and I believe that no matter how long this universe will go on for, there simply will not be any movie that can match what "Marvel's The Avengers" accomplished. A super hero movie master piece.

Also, Hawkeye... a guy with arrows... Jesus Christ dude...

Sunday, April 22, 2018

TesseracT - Sonder (2018)

Being seen as one of the more challenging bands within the progressive metal genre, the Americans in TesseracT has been one of the most interesting bands during the 10's. Their unique style of sleek progressive "djent" metal has been a delight to experience every time a new album has dropped, and with "Sonder" being the first record without a change at the vocal position, it is set up for the band to blow us away with their fourth offering.

Here is the thing though, while TesseracT has always been an enjoyable band to listen to, I have felt that none of the three previous records have taken it that extra mile. They have been interesting, but not completely bullet proof for an entire album. Also, for a band that is trying such complicated time signatures and odd rhythms, most of it sounds surprisingly similar. The tempo is the biggest culprit here, the band rarely changes up or down on the speed dial, which gives the impression of a very monotonous record, something that is even more enhanced here in "Sonder".

Also, for a progressive band, TesseracT is very restrained, with "Sonder" only reaching just over half an hour of play time over the course of seven songs. So this is not a meaty record by any means, which once again makes me wonder, why is the band not pushing themselves? These guys have tons of talent, they know how to write some intelligent music, and they know how to capture the attention of the listener, so why are they holding back? It is so frustrating to see this talent only reaching about 60-70% of its potential.

What is stranger is that the band is going for it fully in one song. The 11 minute behemoth "Beneath My Skin/Mirror Image" takes up a third of the run time, but it uses its time very well, with some incredible atmospheric moments and some sneaky technical drumming from Jay Postones. To put all effort into a single song  (technically a fusion between two songs) is not necessarily a bad thing... if you are making an EP, and even if it takes a lot of space, it should not be that big of a focus. "Sonder" obviously has some other nice tunes, like the opening duo "Luminary" and "King" or the powerful "Juno", but most are just another song among the crowd.

Now, the main positive I can say about the album is that it is technically exquisite. TesseracT is not a show off of a band, they never shove their skills into your ears with brute force. They simply let the flow do the talking, and it is talking really nicely.The bass of Amos Williams is nice and loud, the dual guitar of Acle Kahney and James Monteith is tight, and the vocals of Daniel Tompkins is very precise, nailing the right tones to create a brilliant atmosphere. They may not be pushing their skills to the max, but they are still doing an impeccable job.

So yeah, while "Sonder" is certainly an enjoyable record that any TesseracT fan should eat up fairly easily, it is just a small little tapas piece that might not satisfy the hunger. It is also a little too close to its predecessors for one to tolerate, this is after all a band that should evolve, should take their sound into other territories, but have not done so in a grand enough scale. They can accomplish so much more than what they have done so far, which is why I have been a little hard on them here in this review. "Sonder" is still a neat record, but I am still waiting for that slam dunk from the band, maybe next time.

Songs worthy of recognition: Beneath My Skin/Mirror Image, King, Juno

Rating: 7/10 Smiles

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thoughts from a metal mind: Refaster, the DragonForce album tsunami

About a week ago, I came across an article about DragonForce, claiming that they would release a new record. Not just any record, a remastered and remixed version of "The Power Within", officially called "Re-powered Within". 5 seconds later, the face palm was inserted. Seriously, why is this necessary?

I normally do not have a problem with bands doing remasters of their old albums. It is often pointless, but if the band feels like they need update their music, maybe get a new generation of metal fans to experience it, I am not gonna be one who say it is wrong. Most of the remasters are of really old albums, celebrating some sort of anniversary, so it at least has a reason to get an upgrade.

Holy crap, what an upgrade!

This however, does not have a single valid reason to be "upgraded". "The Power Within" is a perfectly fine record, not without flaws, but none of those flaws lays in the production. I actually listened to the album again to understand if there were something I was missing (I even compared it to the two studio albums that was released after it), but there was nothing wrong with the thing. It is a standard DragonForce record that was the start of their journey with singer Marc Hudson. I just cannot understand why anyone would feel the need to remaster this six year old album.

This is what guitarist Herman Li said in the press release

The result is a clearer, more powerful sound. The fans will get to hear the music in better detail, bringing out parts they couldn't hear so well before, and injecting new excitement into the songs we love even more now.

Okay, so do these songs really need more excitement and more power? This is DragonForce we are talking about after all, not some... slow ass doom metal band.

If they just had to remaster an album, I was kind of hoping for it to be any of the first couple of albums, but then I found out that they already did that... IN 2010!!! Both "Valley of The Damned" and "Sonic Firestorm" was remastered when they were seven and six years old, which I kind of understand since they were more low budget, but still, have some fucking patience please. Even Metallica knows that a remaster should not be made under ten years after release. Everyone knows that the production of "...And Justice For All" is utter crap, but Metallica has restrained themselves (or simply did not have the time, either way) and waited 30 years to actually do one (will be released later this year, finally).

But that was just the tip of the iceberg, because I am now convinced that the band (or possibly their management) is trying to cram out every single penny from their fans. With the release of this remaster, DragonForce will now have released a new album in five straight years. Yes, FIVE STRAIGHT YEARS! Besides the two studio efforts ("Maximum Overload" in 2014 and "Reaching Into Infinity" in 2017), we have the live album "In The Line of Fire... Larger Than Live" in 2015 and the compilation album "Killer Elite: The Hits, The Highs, The Vids" in 2016.

I also looked at the comment section of the article I came across, and just as I expected, about 99% of the commenters questioned this release, so this is definitely not something the fans has been asking for either. As said, this is completely unnecessary fluff that should be (and probably will be) completely ignored.

This is complete exposure suffocation from the band, it is an album tsunami that hopefully is reaching its end phase. Now, obviously it is quite easy to just ignore some of these releases, but it is worrying to see a band like this focusing on projects like this.  Just focus on creating new music, and perfecting your live performance guys, that is all we ask you to do, do not overcomplicate things. Do not make me loose faith on you DragonForce, I like you and your unique, over the top power metal style, and I want to keep doing that for a long time. So do not disappoint me, stop your addiction now, and take a year off, you deserve it.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Metallica - ...And Justice For All (1988)

Well, this album would fit nicely in a "Top 10 most ironic album titles ever" list. After the tragic death of Cliff Burton, Metallica was left without a bassist, eventually recruiting Jason Newsted from Flotsam And Jetsam. Apparently, the rest of the group did not seem to have much faith in the new recruit, because he is close to completely absent in this record. The bass is non existent, and still to this day it is not sure who is to blame, whether it is the influence of Lars Ulrich, the mixer Steve Thompson, or someone else. What we do know is that Jason was the victim, and that he did not get any justice.

So now that we have taken care of the clear ear sore of this record, let us focus on the other stuff. "...And Justice For All" saw Metallica going to a more progressive style, going for longer and more complex song arrangement, even more so than what both "Ride The Lightning" and "Master of Puppets" presented. There is no song under 5 minutes in here, and three even going over the 9 minute mark, surely making lovers of "Kill 'em All" a little uncomfortable when finally diving into this 1 hour and 5 minute long beast. This album is surely creative, but it might have taken one too many liberties.

Exhibit A on when the prog side of Metallica goes wrong, the instrumental track "To Live Is To Die". It is a 9 minute and 49 second song with very little substance in it, some nice licks for sure, but it does not lead to anything. No climax, no epic solo, no emotional roller coasters, just a complete waste of space and time. The band knows how to do great instrumentals, so what happened here?

Fortunately, the other longer song on the album is more than passable. The title track has a nice catchy tone to it, both in riffs and in structure, while "The Frayed Ends of Sanity" has a fantastic flow to it that feels completely natural. Then we have "One", the most famous song out of this record (and the first song Metallica accompanied with a music video), a two part song where the first half is slow and moodful, and the second half is complete madness. It is a great display of the band's diversity, and both the lead up to the solo and the solo itself still gives me goosebumps. Just masterful.

Not only is this the most progressive record in the Metallica discography, it might even be the heaviest. Songs like "Blackened" and "Dyers Eve" are really fast and heavy maulers that definitely rank among the heaviest that the band has ever done. Then we have more slow heavy songs like "Eye of The Beholder" and "Harvester of Sorrow", two songs that may not stand out amongst the crowd, but fills the holes of the album nicely. This makes "...And Justice For All" an unique step for the band, trying to evolve even further in their sound, unfortunately with mixed results.

So while this record is overall a very nice experience when you only look at what the songs are like, it is fully spoiled when the production is added. Sure, neither "Lightning" or "Puppets" have perfect production, but this album is just so flat, not giving that extra oomph that every song needed to truly pop. That is what hinders "...And Justice For All" from becoming another master staple in the band's discography (and maybe that instrumental too). It is a nice album, but the major flaws are simply too hard to ignore, even with a blindfold.

Songs worthy of recognition: One, Blackened, The Frayed Ends of Sanity, Dyers Eve

Rating: 7/10 Shortest Straws

More reviews of Metallica
Kill 'em All
Ride The Lightning
Master of Puppets
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

Friday, April 13, 2018

Mustasch - Silent Killer (2018)

My favourite hard rockers in Mustasch are back once again, this time with their 9th album "Silent Killer". These guys rarely disappoint, having a very enjoyable and unique style that might not have evolved all that much over the years, but still packs a lot of punch. This time, it seems like the band has added an extra layer of metal coating onto their music, giving us arguably their heaviest record to date, is it something the band can handle, or do they get crushed from the pressure?

The heavier nature must be thanks to the producer of the record, Niclas Engelin. You might recognize this guy's name, he is the guitarist for both In Flames and Engel, two considerably heavier bands in the Swedish music scene. His influence is very much noteworthy, with the riffs having some extra weight, and the drums being more aggressive. Even our favourite Gothenburg singer Ralf Gyllenhammar is affected, pushing his voice to the cracking point more times than ever. Man, I just love his manly, crispy vocals.

This added spark of heaviness gives us a bunch of songs that are really nice, catchy bangers. After a small little intro, the party begins with "Winners", a fast mauler that is just what the title says, a winner. Its attitude and relentless beat gives the album the perfect kick start, and the momentum just keeps on going with the groovy "Libertá", the simple and tough "Barrage", and the incredibly sing along friendly "Lawbreaker". A really nice quartet to open up an album with

After that though, the album hits kind of a slump, starting with the most boring track of the record, "Fire" (in which former Turbonegro singer Hank Von Helvete makes an appearance), followed by the title track and "The Answer", both okay songs that are no real highlights though. The final two tracks "Grave Digger" and "Burn" ends the album in a really nice way, with "Grave Digger" as a fun stand out, going with a more "tongue in cheek" style, a kind of corny track that is just too groovy to hate. Just the chorus line is brilliant.

Grave Digger
Leave me, I'm alive
Do I look dead?

There is however a major flaw with "Silent Killer", it is too short. Not only is the album, with its mere 32 minutes, too short, but individual songs are too short as well. All songs vary between 2,5 minutes and 3,5 minutes, and several of them are missing something to really make them complete. Either an additional chorus would have been nice, or maybe an added solo could have been the final piece to the puzzle. This is unfortunately not a new problem for the band, but it has not been in this quantity in a single album before. It just feels unfinished.

Despite its flaws, "Silent Killer" is still a fun, enjoyable little hard rock album from Mustasch. It may not be their best effort to date, but it is certainly one of the more memorable ones, with several killer tracks and a heavier style that I think the band should continue on with. Some homework is needed though for how to write complete songs, but it is something they can take their time working on. It may not be silent, but this record is mostly a killer, and that is not too bad at all.

Songs worthy of recognition: Libertá, Winners, Grave Digger, Burn

Rating: 7/10 Barrages

More reviews of Mustasch
Thank You For The Demon

Monday, April 9, 2018

Light The Torch - Revival (2018)

It has been a while since we heard from the guys in Devil You Know, and there are good reasons why. Howard Jones and co. are not the devil we knew anymore, because they have been fighting with some legal mumbo jumbo for the rights of the band name, so they were forced to completely change it to something fans would not recognize. It is still the same 4 guys playing their roles, and the music is still modern metalcore, only difference is that they are now called Light The Torch. So technically, "Revival" is the band's third record, even if it is the first under the new name, and it also marks a fresh start for the band, to put all the drama behind them and to once again focus on the musical side of things.

Frankly, I am quite glad that the band is still going, for their first two records are not all that bad (at least in a "super group" standard), nothing overly original, but certainly enjoyable little pieces of music. "Revival" does not steer away all that much from those album, except for one clear thing, and that is that it is a lot softer than its predecessors, which is something that might divide the fans, even if the core is still very much the same.

There is simply not too much crushing brutality in here, instead the focus is shifted to more catchy and clean music. It sort of brings me back to the soundtrack of the mid 00's NHL games, bands like Jimmy Eat World, Alien Ant Farm, early Avenged Sevenfold, and prime Papa Roach ("She Loves Me Not" baby!). I can see a lot of you cringe already, and I understand it, because even if I might have my nostalgia goggles on for those bands, they do not apply to someone who tries to recapture the magic in 2018.

Thing is though, I do not think Light The Torch is doing this on purpose, it is just an unlucky coincidence that their newer approach sounds kind of outdated from the start. There is still a lot to enjoy though, mostly thanks to a really strong delivery of singer Howard Jones, who balances his deep, manly clean vocals with some nice screams to boot. His biggest moment is in "The Safety of Disbelief", where the emotions are really coming through with some powerful execution. The rest of the band? Sorry, but they are a little too anonymous here, the riffs and solos (the few that exist) are far from memorable, and the rhythm instruments are not doing anything extra to add anything special.

My biggest pet peeve with "Revival" though is the amount of fillers in here. There are 12 songs in here, adding up to a play time of a modest 43 minutes, so the album is not technically a drag, but you can definitely feel how loose it is. The first half is pretty good, with some nice songs like "Die Alone", "Calm Before The Storm", "Raise The Dead", and the previously mentioned "The Safety of Disbelief", but it starts falling behind around the halfway mark, with some really boring fillers. Not even the ultra heavy "The Sound of Violence" can salvage this fall (the only song in my opinion that would fit nicely with the two first albums).

Nah, this album is certainly a disappointment, and it is not because the band has become soft after the name change. "Revival" to me is a boring mess of an album that feels longer than it really is. It might have about 25 minutes of good to okay material, but even that is mostly run of the mill with what the band is truly capable of. Follow my advice, forget about this record and focus your ears instead on "The Beauty of Destruction" and "They Bleed Red", those are much more interesting albums. So yeah, this revival was no success by any means, let us hope Light The Torch bounce back to winning ways.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Safety of Disbelief, Calm Before The Storm, The Sound of Violence

Rating: 4,5/10 Viruses

More reviews of Light The Torch
The Beauty of Destruction
They Bleed Red