Monday, October 30, 2017

Cyhra - Letters To Myself (2017)

When it comes to super groups (aka newly formed bands that has experienced musicians involved), I tend to have some expectations to how they should tackle their new project. I never expect anything that can top the work of the previous bands, all I really want is something original, something that shows the artists range. I still try to keep my cool and not get overly excited, but my interest was certainly caught when I heard that one of the founders of In Flames, guitarist Jesper Strömblad, was putting together a new group that would make lovers of Swedish mainstream metal drool.

Besides from Strömblad, we got one of his former companions in In Flames Peter Iwers on bass, vocalist Jake E (who recently left Amaranthe), fellow guitarist Euge Valovirta (most known from Shining), and drummer Alex Landenburg, who has quite a resume, being in bands such as Annihilator, At Vance, and a whole other bunch of bands, both as a a real member and just on live performances. It is a well merited quintet indeed.

So the album is centered around the time when Strömblad's drug addiction got the better of him, keeping him away from living a sustainable life, like not being able to even play the guitar for a prolonged time. It is a personal album in many ways, and I really do appreciate that the man shows his feelings in this disc, but I do not feel like the music reflects that really well, at least not as good as the lyrics does.

It does start off pretty strong with the first single "Karma", a song that circles around a good main riff, a nice drive, and a powerful chorus, displaying a mix between In Flames and Amaranthe that is quite intriguing. The following song "Heartrage" is nice too, having the most memorable chorus and the most power in the album, but it is from here on out we all realize that Cyhra is more of an Amaranthe clone, which is fine for fans of the band, but it just lacks the dynamic vocal range when Jake E has to carry the burden himself without the other two vocalists.

The most disappointing part with "Letters To Myself" though is that Strömblad is hiding in the wings, rarely taking the center stage. Besides the main riff of "Karma" and a solo here or there, there is very little memorable guitarwork in this record. I do not mind if the band wants to focus more on Jake's vocals, but if you are going to do that, at least write some songs that can back him up and make him justice. Close to all 12 songs here are very accessible, but few have any memorable elements to them, which makes it really easy to get confused over which song is playing, because they all sound the same. It never gets exhausting to listen to the album (it is only 45 minutes long), but it is certainly easy to be bored.

After hearing their debut, I think I am going to compare Cyhra to a glass of milk. In the right time and place, it can be really refreshing, but most of the time it is kind of meh. I certainly expected more from the group than just a clone band that does not really take any risks, and while I do like that Strömblad gets so personal in the lyrics, it just fades away when it is accompanied with such bland music. If you like Amaranthe and can stand it without Elize Ryd and a harsh vocalist, then Cyhra is definitely for you, but if you really want any quality from this band, just search for the songs listed here under, and pray that if the band releases a new album, it will go more outside the box.

Songs worthy of recognition: Heartrage, Karma, Dark Clarity

Rating: 5,5/10 Black Wings

Friday, October 27, 2017

GWAR - The Blood of Gods (2017)

It has been a while since we heard from the alien war masters of GWAR, and it is totally understandable. After all, they did lose their great leader Oderus Urungus to a tragic, non war related death, so there was no surprise to find that mad, over sexualized aliens also needs time to mourn their loved ones (the few they have). However, the plans for world domination cannot simply stop when one man falls, it is just like Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots always say, "It is next man up". The band did not seem to find the right replacement though, so they called in their old friend, The Berserker Blothar, to see if he could rejoin the group, and thus, a new era of GWAR was born.

Now, I never expect pure brilliance from this band, because while I absolutely love their image and style, GWAR has never really been famous for their keen sense of prolific song writing. They have always been good, but none of their previous 13 records are any classics, and "The Blood of Gods" is no different. No really, it is just another GWAR record, with groovy punk/thrash that has some great funny concepts thrown in. They have certainly not lost their touch, despite the gap between this album and 2013's "Battle Maximus" is the longest album-to-album gap in the band's history.

I do have to say though that there are several parts of this record that sounds more like other bands made it, and GWAR is vomiting their vile mucus all over it. The opening track "War On GWAR" opens up with clear cut early Black Sabbath riffs, riffs that Iommi himself would be proud of. It is surprising as hell, but it is pretty cool at the same time. I do have more doubt over the final song on the record, "If You Want Blood (You Got It)", a dumb AC/DC knock off that does not feel even the least bit like GWAR. I mean come on, this is your grand finale? It is boring and dated as hell, and it is a song that not even a magnificent Angus Young live solo could work its magic around. We also get touches of Motörhead, Dio, and Lordi too in this record, making "The Blood of Gods" a very divided record that does not seem to have a straight direction.

Despite some evidence of stolen goods, there are still some great songs in here, most of them residing on the first half of this 12 songs album. The opening third is really strong, with the previously mentioned "War On GWAR", the groovy "Viking Death Machine", the hard hitting "El Presidente", and the rocking "I'll Be Your Monster. It is a quartet of songs that is almost as good as any connecting quartet in any GWAR album. Later on we also have "Swarm" and its fantastic head banging aura, blasting out great riffs with a catchy chorus and your typical GWAR attitude (GWARtitude?). Also, who cannot love songs that are titled "The Sordid Soliloquy of Sawborg Destructo" and "Death to Dickie Duncan", two of the funnest songs when it comes to theme. Not the best songs overall, but fun nonetheless.

And that is exactly what a GWAR album is supposed to be, fun. You know that you are not gonna get wowed by this band's amazing instrumental skills or impactful song writing, you are here for a good head banging and a laugh or two, and "The Blood of Gods" certainly delivers on that. Sure, it is a slightly uneven record with some black spots here and there, but there is enough quality to go around. The only real disappointment I had with the album is that I expected the band to honor Oderus in some way or another (like they did with Flattus Maximus in the last album), but I guess the band wanted to move on, keep doing what GWAR does best. Deliver good metal, and crushing enemies.

Songs worthy of recognition: Swarm, War On GWAR, Viking Death Machine, El Presidente

Rating: 7/10 Phantom Limbs

More reviews of GWAR
Battle Maximus

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Manic Movie Month: The Saw Franchise

It feels pretty surreal that we are in 2017, just weeks away from a new "Saw" movie, but to be perfectly honest, I am not surprised at all. It has been seven years since we last heard from John Kramer (aka Jigsaw) and all his henchmen, and since the movies has evolved into this generation's answer to "Friday The 13th" and "Nightmare On Elm Street", it was probably just a matter of time before we got another installment of good old torture porn.

It all started though in 2004, with the first movie that was a very small budget film (just over 1 million dollars) directed by James Wan, who have gone to do several more big horror movie franchises like "Insidious" and "The Conjuring". With the smallest of means, James managed to create a very interesting movie that quickly became a smash hit, bringing in over 100 million dollars in the box office, which just like any other horror movie franchises, led to way, way too many sequels, and they all were made in a rapid pace.

The "Saw" movies dominated the cinema on Halloween from 2004 to 2010, but it was also quite clear that the public was getting sick of all the gore and traps. Each subsequent movie made less and less money, with the low point being the 6th movie, making only around 68 million (still a profit by 57 million though). These movies were cheap to make, and also pretty easy to come up with its story, so it is just the dream scenario of a horror franchise. Besides the movies, we also got several horror attractions, from roller coasters to mazes, and also two very shitty video games (trust me, do not play them, you are gonna get cancer).

So yeah, "Saw" has had a good run, but does the movies still hold up, and do we honestly really want an 8th movie? Well, let us discuss, here are my takes on "Saw I-VII", and my expectations for the upcoming 8th installment entitled "Jigsaw".

Oh, and there might be spoilers here, but knowing the amount of "plot" these movies have, I think you can deal with it.


The first movie is to me not a master piece by any means, but it is still a movie that is important for the evolution of horror movies, because horror is a genre that always searches for the next big thing, a new angle to make us all scared. That is why we have cycles in horror movies, because when one movie makes it big, everyone else is trying to copy the formula. That is why slashers (like "Friday The 13th", "Nightmare On Elm Street", and "Halloween") became popular in the 80's, and why home footage videos (like "The Blair Witch Project" and "Paranormal Activity") were huge in the beginning of this millennium.

While I do not think there are tons of copies of "Saw" out there, it did create its own genre branch in the horror tree, which most of us just call "Torture Porn", where a homicidal maniac kills his victims with complicated attraptions. It sounds kind of goofy, and to some part, "Saw" is just that, but I think James Wan does a great job in creating a horror villain in John Kramer (played by the excellent Tobin Bell) that has a lot of depth in him, which automatically gives the movie more depth. He believes that the world needs cleansing, and to get rid of the scum of the world, he sets them in life or death situation that they would never get in to in their everyday lives, trying to get out one of humanity's most primal instinct, the urge to survive by any means necessary.

I also love the fact that most of the main plot of the movie is focused in one room, with two guys (and a dead body) chained to each side of it. We get to follow their struggles, trying to asset the situation they have gotten themselves into, and ultimately figuring out how to escape. The movies takes its sweet time, never rushing past any details, and while some things are kind of far fetched, I think most parts of the movie feels believable. We also get to follow two police officer's race against the clock to catch the Jigsaw killer, and those parts are pretty good too, but it is kind of distracting that one of them are Danny Glover, also known as Roger Murtaugh in the "Lethal Weapon" movies. Apparently, he is still on duty, despite saying "I am too old for this shit" 23 years before this movie's release.

"Now THAT is a lethal weapon"
And let us also not forget the fantastic plot twist, which definitely is gonna turn some heads around. Obviously, I am not gonna spoil that, but it is a pretty satisfying ending that caps off a very good horror movie that deserves its stamp as a modern classic. You just have to be impressed by what these guys were able to make with the limited supply they had, and that they got success from it. If you haven't checked it out already, give it a shot.

Rating: 8,5/10

Saw II

So just one year after the release of the original movie, we get a rushed sequel that had a bigger budget, and bigger expectations. Now that most horror fans knew of the franchise, they went in for more juicy traps.

The second movie is a lot different from the first one, but it still focuses on the same things, how people react to these horrifying situations and how they try to solve the problems they are facing. The biggest difference is that we get to see it from two points of views, with the group of people being trapped of course, but also from the perspective of both Jigsaw and Eric Matthews, whom got a message from Jigsaw that was left from one of his previous victims. Turns out he is the next victim to be put to test, watching his son together with a lit of criminals in a house filled with traps.

I have to admit that I like the set up, and just like in the first movie, it pays off in the end, but instead of getting one room with two people, we get a full house with 8 different characters. It does give us some new dynamics to the movie, but I felt that the intimacy and small scale was the very strength of the first movie, so why take that away and replace it with more characters that are not as fleshed out. Actually, most of these guys are actually out right stupid.

Speaking of stupid, the plan that Jigsaw has for this particular game is incredibly reliant on a ton of factors, and if even one of them goes wrong, then the kid died for nothing. I am sorry, I just cannot believe that Jigsaw has taken everything into consideration, and that he knew exactly what would happen. He may be a psychological mastermind, but he is not Nostradamus, he cannot predict everything.

So yeah, the second movie has flaws, and some of the acting is just silly, but there are some good things in here, and once again, I like the core idea of this story. I have no problem going through this one, especially knowing what came after it...

Rating: 6,5/10


This is the movie that James Wan should have said "Alright, we are done here, no more "Saw" movies from here on out", and it certainly looked like they intended it to be the very last in the series.

It all focuses on the mortality of Jigsaw, and how his legacy should continue on. While facing death through cancer, Jigsaw takes on the mentor role for Amanda (played by Shawnee Smith, who is most famous for various sitcoms), one of his previous victims who survived. But while Jigsaw does this to save man and give them a chance to atone for their sins, Amanda has a more cynical sight of things, seeing it as a mean to eliminate evil, without any chance of redemption (in other words, straight up murder).

It all leads to a main story where a man named Jeff Denlon goes through a series of test to let go of his vengeance for the murderer of his son, while in the mean time his wife is tasked with keeping Jigsaw alive. This sort of set up is the most common one from here on out, and I just gotta say that I hate it. I kind of get what they are trying to go for, following one main character's path to salvation, but all of the tests he is going through directly affects whether other people survive or not, the victim's victims have no control at all. And like that was not enough, there is no real consequences of letting these side characters die from the traps, which simply does not make sense.

Despite the dumb set up, I do kind of like this movie more than the second one. It has a lot more emotional depth to it, and the relationship between Amanda and Jigsaw is really interesting to follow, as is also seeing both of their point of views on these tests. It does make for a movie that is split in two, going back and forth all the time, which is not the smoothest ride to say the least, but the acting is not half bad, and we do get some memorable moments here and there. Not a brilliant movie by any means, but it is a fitting ending to the trilogy. Unfortunately, it was not the end of the series...

Rating: 7/10

Saw IV

From here on out, the movies just takes a big tumble, becoming a shallow, confusing, flashback filled gore fest that is doing its all to make the Halloween deadline each year. Just the fact that Jigsaw is physically dead is a clear sign that these movies had no chance to get any positive recognition, and it really does not help that the man who replaces him, detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), has the charisma of a brick. Seriously, I never really saw John Kramer as an amazing horror villain, but you did understand his motives and thoughts. Hoffman is just as grey as there is, he is simply awful.

This is MY franchise now
And the story for the fourth movie is not too good either, that focuses on another detective that goes through the same procedure as the main victim in the last movie, trying to save people from their personal traps while also continuing his investigation. That is probably the best I can describe this movie, because it is confusing as hell, leading to yet another ending twist, only this time it is pretty predictable and dull.

This is ultimately a very forgettable movie, probably the one I remember the least from watching the whole series about three years ago. The characters are bland, the story is dumb, and it has very little original content when compared to the previous three installments. The only positive thing I can say about it is that it has some memorable traps, like the first one where two people are chained in the middle of a room, one with its eyes sewn shut, and the other its mouth done the same. It is a creepy scene that does not really have anything to do with the plot, other than just showing off an innovative trap. Its maybe for the best...

Yeah, I have nothing more to write about this one, move along.

Rating: 4,5/10

Saw V

The fifth movie is... kind of an odd one in the series, because it seems like the traps are put in as a side plot, while  the main story is Hoffman playing cat and mouse with other detectives who are on to him. I cannot remember the last time I actually wanted the main man to be captured, even killed, but spoiler alert, Hoffman survives. Just my luck.

It is kind of a shame, because I really like the thing they were going for with this movie's victims. Five people are captured and are asked to "do the opposite of your instincts". They are all faced with a new challenge with every room they enter, and while each trap is not very unique in any kind of way, it all leads up to a very good ending that might not be too hard to figure out, but is still impressive nonetheless.

It sucks though that the other half of the movie is fairly uninteresting, and while the ending is not too shabby, the lead up to it is just not good enough. Once again, Hoffman is just a bore, and all of the new information that comes to the viewer only helps enhancing the confusion. I know that I sound like a psychopath, but get back to the god damn killings already, I do not care about this disgrace of a successor.

So yeah, there is really only one grade that I feel is fitting for this incredibly torn apart movie.

Rating: 5/10

Saw VI

Despite being just another bad movie in this series, I have to say that the sixth movie is quite memorable, and for several reasons actually.

One of those reasons is an old MTV show called "Scream Queens", a reality show where a bunch of aspiring actresses competed in various challenges to win a role in this movie. It is just like any other reality show on the market, but I do have to admit that it was kind of fun to follow, seeing the girls getting scared to death in every episode, and act in various different horror scenarios. And while the winner, Tanedra Howard, did not get the biggest role in the movie, she still had a good impact in the movie, and she did star in what I consider to be one of the most memorable traps in the series. She did a good job, which ultimately gave her a spot in the seventh movie too.

I also believe this is the only movie that captured the "one guy trying to save several other victims" set up actually works fairly well, with an insurance executive named William Easton is going through all these traps making tough choices, affecting all of his co-workers. Close to all of the traps are also very cool and inventive, making it the strongest trap line up in the series. The carousel trap is probably the most iconic trap of the series (besides the reverse bear trap, which is seen in almost every movie).

But the most memorable part of this movie is the ending, where the wife and son to a man that he denied insurance coverage gets to chose whether William lives or dies. I am not gonna spoil this one, but believe me when I say that your reaction will either be WTF or LMAO. Mine was LMAO, with a little bit of ROF on the side.

Still, this is a movie that continues the confusing story line that the previous two movies have gone through, and it is just tiring to watch, and to talk about, so let us just get over with the rating, and go to the last on of the now existing movies.

Rating: 6/10

Saw 3D

So it all came to this, and I just have to say that I was utterly disappointed with this movie, and I had extremely low expectations to begin with.

Let's start with the positive, the opening trap, a glass box out in the public where two men are strapped to a table and a woman to a ceiling, is a good start, and had a satisfying conclusion (that bitch had it coming!). I also like the ending, which did tie up most threads, all the way to the very first movie. What more... The 3D angle is kind of neat? Oh, and Chester Bennington is playing a nazi, that is... something.

He tried so hard, and got so far...
Okay, to the bad parts, and trust me, there are a lot of it.

First off, the main victim, Bobby Dagen, is a jerk, it is a guy that I just cannot root for. He writes a book of how he overcame a Jigsaw trap, making easy money off of it, there is no question that dick deserved to be tested thoroughly. But as bad as he is, he looks like Jesus compared to what I consider to be one of the dumbest movie characters ever. The first person he has to save has a fish hook and line going through her esophagus, which he has to fish up. All she has to do is to stay still and quiet, and she just can't do that. She had one fucking job, and she could not do it! I think Bobby said it best after she died, "WHY WOULDN'T YOU JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP? YOU JUST NEEDED TO SHUT UP!"

Then we have the traps, that are extremely bland and forgettable, and are also going by that old, tired trope "Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil". You know, the thing with the three monkeys covering ears, eyes, and mouth. Especially the "see no evil" is dumb as hell, and it shows just how rushed the movie is. It tries to play in real time, giving the victim a minute to go through the peril, but that whole scene is obviously longer than a minute. God, I freaking hate that scene.

There are even more wrong things with this movie, including the acting, the pacing, and just the dumb story itself. All of this makes "Saw 3D" the clear cut worst movie of the series, and that is saying something. This series has had a lot of ups and downs, but as soon as they started churning out these movies to come out every Halloween, it was pretty clear that the story would be more washed out for every movie. Did it tie up everything in the end? Not really, and frankly, I do not really care, this is just an awful movie that should not have been conceived. Thank god they stopped temporarily after this one.

Rating: 3,5/10

My expectations of Jigsaw

Seven years have gone since the last movie, so I am hoping to god that we at the very least get a decent story, one that the writers have had long discussions about how to improve it further. I am not asking for much, I just want characters that are not shallow shells of human beings, a story that makes sense, and acting that feels somewhat believable. The traps have to be inventive as well, but I am sure they have had time to figure those out (those sick fucks).

After all, this is a horror franchise, so one should not go into a cinema expecting a new "Godfather" or anything like that. As long as it is disturbing and kind of gross, I think it can build some momentum to make others go watch it. After all, it is Halloween, and I do not think there are any other movie that could stand a chance against this juggernaut of a franchise. The followers are still there, and this movie will make buck, I guarantee it.

So, am I going to watch it? I am undecided for now, because while I am intrigued by the whole concept of "Saw" and have seen each of the movies, I only go to the cinema when I think the movie is gonna be a slam dunk, a must watch film. That is why I saw "It", because I knew it would make the original Stephen King book justice. I also saw the new Spiderman movie earlier this year because I loved Spiderman on "Civil War", and I knew it would be a fun superhero movie. With "Jigsaw", I kind of know what I am gonna get, but I do not know what quality it will have. I will watch it eventually, but I can wait.

Ultimately, I just hope that they do not make another 6 movies after this one, and that we do not have to dig up the old tag line "If it's Halloween, it must be Saw".

Stay metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Enslaved - E (2017)

Enslaved is back with another record, entitled... "E"? What does it mean? It can't be a new hipster way of self-titling your albums, that would just be silly. So what does it stand for? Ecstacy? Elk? Egonometry? I do not know, and I should not really care, but somehow I still do. Anyway, Enslaved is one of the most consistent bands out there, so let us put that short, but baffling, name aside, and find out if the band continue their streak of really good records.

Now, it has been only two years since the Norwegians released the last record, the excellent "In Times" from 2015, so maybe it is fair to not expect a double album or so, but we do only get 6 songs on "E". Sure, those songs amass to a play time of around 50 minutes, but 6 songs is still the bare minimum to what I think is the amount of songs an album should have. The band could have easily put in one or two more tracks, but it is ultimately the fact that these 6 songs do not have enough meat in them to justify a full release, something I think Dream Theater did a lot better with their own 6 track album, "Black Clouds & Silver Linings".

Even so, we do still get what we would expect from Enslaved in this part of their career, a deep progressive record with tons of atmosphere and of course some call backs to their early career. The band is taking steps to become more and more like their country neighbours Opeth (which I think is most notable in "Axis of The Worlds"), but they are not quite there yet, they still do their own thing and does so really well. It is the sound that you would expect from Enslaved, but  exactly how it sounds and what path it takes you is still a mystery, keeping your interest level at an high close to all the time. So it is not a surprising album, but it still has surprises in it.

Its biggest strength could be that it is a long lasting album, that grows with every listen. All the sweeping melodies and little details takes some time to fully understand and appreciate. A song like "Hiindsiight" did not really grab a hold of me in the beginning, but its beautiful mood and looming saxophone (by Kjetil Møster) does enhance the feelings quite a bit, making it the perfect final song of the record. And the overall quality and consistency of "E" is really impressive, with no loose threads anywhere to be seen. Even a slightly different song like "The River's Mouth", the most up tempo song on "E", feels like it belongs in the family

But as said before, it is kind of short, and the two bonus tracks ("Djupet" and a Röyksopp cover of "What Else Is There") just does not add anything special, so I do not feel fully satisfied in the end. There is no question about the quality of "E", there is a lot of it, and it is another great progressive metal release from this year, but I do not think that I will look back at this album as one of the band's strongest efforts. There is a chance that a lot of people will enjoy this one more than "In Times", but I would take "In Times" any day, just because it is more memorable and had some killer tracks (still love the hell out of "One Thousand Years of Rain"). "E" is most certainly more consistent, but to me, it lacks something special. It is still a good record that I highly recommend, but I do think there are better Enslaved records out there, records that need more than a single letter for a name.

Songs worthy of recognition: The River's Mouth, Feathers of Eolh, Hiindsiight

Rating: 7,5/10 Storm Sons

More reviews of Enslaved:
In Times

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Manic Movie Month: Night of The Living Dead (1968)

So yesterday was Friday the 13th, which does not happen all too regularly during the month of October, so it felt natural to me to lay down in my sofa, and put on a horror movie, can you guys guess which movie I watched? NO, not that one! I am not THAT predictable. No, instead, I searched my streaming platforms for some really old classics, and found myself choosing between two movies, "Night of The Living Dead" and "The Ape". While I was tempted to go with one of Boris Karloff's most infamous movies, the humble IMDB rating of 4,5 made me rethink my decision, so I went with the recently deceased legend George A. Romero and his breakthrough film.

Normally, I would put a spoiler warning here, but this movie is close to 50 years old, so just go ahead and read this would ya?

Released in 1968, "Night of The Living Dead" might be one of the first zombie movies ever, at least the first that gets some kind of grand recognition. This was released before we got the film rating system we have today, so even smaller kids could go and watch this movie, which definitely led to a lot of emotionally scared people that did not know how to comprehend the gore and terror this movie showed. So back then, it was a horrifying movie that sent a lot of people screaming for their lives, or simply enter fetal position thanks to the sheer fear they experienced. Pretty hard to imagine that it could happen after watching this movie.

It is pretty hard to judge this movie today though, because technology and film making has come a long, long way since the late sixties. We do not get any CGI or any crazy special effects here, nor any crazy stunts. Hell, we do not even get color. This movie is all about the story and those who make it up, trying to show how they cope with the situation and how they try to solve it, something very few movies today do.

So it all starts with our female lead Barbra (Judith O'Dea) and her brother Johnny (Russell Streiner) visiting their dead father in a cemetery, laying down flowers and all. And after some small chit chat and typical sibling provoking, a man shows up and starts attacking Johnny. Well that went fast, 5 minutes into the movie and we are already dealing with zombies, without any exposition or real character development. That is definitely something movies are not doing today.

Anyway, Barbra escapes and takes shelter in an abandoned farmhouse, where eventually Ben (Duane Jones) arrives and help barricading the place from the undead attack. They are not alone in the house though, because in the basement are another 5 people hiding out, a young couple and a man and wife together with their sick child. They all do not get along very well though, because Ben and Harry (Karl Hardman) are both trying to take the leader role, which leads to a hot dispute on what is the best strategy, staying on the main floor and be ready to counter attack, or cower behind in the basement without any possible escape route. This argument continues on throughout the movie, while the horde of slow walking zombies keep increasing in numbers.

Just a bunch of colorful characters, don't you think?
So while this movie does not really intimidate me all too much with its imagery and so (most of the zombies just look like normal people), it does build some good tension with the atmosphere, never letting the screen go too bright and always keep a sense of dread near our main characters, making the audience concerned for their well being. Romero does have a keen sense of knowing what the mood should be throughout the movie, and when it should shift, which is really effective.

I also like that the story is pretty much straight forward, never really steering off too much. It is just a group of people trying to survive a hellish night, not much else. We do get to see some footage of the zombie horde from time to time, and we also get some information from the tv broadcasting, but that is it, it is a tight and clean story that simply works. Although, I do think there are some weird points in how the zombies came to be. The explanation the movie gives us is that a satellite that orbited around Venus came back crashing down to Earth, releasing tons of dangerous radiation that made the dead come back to life. Kind of goofy, but then again, it worked back in the days.

Another thing I do not really like about this film is that we do not really get to know our characters all too much. With all the bickering and screaming going on, we do not get too much normal conversation between our characters. Hell, I forgot most of these guy's names, and there are only 7 of them. I know I said this was a simple story, but give me somebody that I can care about, so that when they die, I get upset. The only thing I really know about the young guy Tom (Keith Wayne) is that he is a clumsy dumbass who burned down the only vehicle available, killing him and his girlfriend (Judith Ridley) in the process. You deserved that death young man.

Then we have the ending, which I honestly do not know how to feel about. It got some good twists and turns, like the sick child (Kyra Schon) turning into a zombie, killing her mother (Marilyn Eastman) and father in the process (and feasting on their flesh of course). But at the very end, when Ben has lived through the night, I probably got the shock of a life time. We see rescuers go out on the fields, killing of any remaining zombies, coming up to this farmhouse where Ben has crawled out of the basement, sees him, and shoots him right between the eyes, dropping the alive count of our main characters to zero. And here I thought this was the first horror movie where a black guy survives and no one else does. It is a very confusing and grim ending, that I certainly did not see coming.

Ultimately, I can see why this movie has become a cult classic. While not very scary at all, it still fills you with a lot of uneasy feelings that makes it more tense. Romero does a great job with limited resources to create a great atmosphere, and you can just see that there is a lot of passion behind it all. Has it aged well? Not in every aspect obviously, but I still think it holds up fairly well close to 50 years after its release, which is a testament that the movie has some quality to it (and the fact that it has spawned several sequels and remakes over the years). With some more meat on the bones, it could have been a true feast for a flesh hungry zombie.

Rating: 7,5/10 Slow as hell zombies

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Act of Defiance - Old Scars, New Wounds (2017)

When guitarist Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover left Megadeth, it did not really take long until they got back up on the horse, creating a new band where their musical freedom was not interrupted by Mr. Mustaine. They added bassist Matthew Bachand (Shadows Fall) and vocalist Henry Derek Bonner (ex-Scar The Martyr) to the fold, and Act of Defiance was complete, quickly releasing their debut album "Birth And The Burial" about a year later. It is a nice debut with several cool songs, it is just not completely brilliant in its entirety.

So now they have released their sophomore effort "Old Scars, New Wounds", and it is more or less a natural follow up to the debut, where the band continue to build their sound of melodic heavy/thrash metal further and clearer. It was obvious that the band had not been together for long, because the sound was a little all over the place, and while this album is not fully cohesive, it is much more so than its predecessor. It is not the most original sound you will ever hear, but it has some nice bits and pieces that should please those who do not have too high expectations.

It is clear that these are talented people we are dealing with, because it all feels professional. The guitars are crunchy and strong, beefed up with some sweet solos, the drumming is incredibly solid, not missing a single beat, and the bass just smacks you down time and time again with its determined power. Just like with the short lived Scar The Martyr though, I do feel like vocalist Henry is one of those guys that some people just cannot get along with. His clean vocals are pretty monotone and boring, which does kind of work with this type of genre, but it is not something you can easily get used too. Fortunately, he uses more of his harsh vocals here, and they fit very well.

So the performances are solid, something I wish I could say the same about in the song writing. Most of the songs here are basic run of the mill metal, they are nice to listen to, but you forget them as soon as they end, and with eleven songs in total, it can become pretty tiresome to get through them all. I just wish there were something to grab onto, something memorable in the songs that can stick to your brain.

Most of the memorable stuff in this record is at the first half, starting with "M.I.A." that catches your attention instantly with its fast tempo and technical riffing, and the speed continues on in the excellent thrash anthem "Molten Core", an energetic song that gets you pumping. It does become more metalcore after that though with "Overexposure", a song that is sure to split opinions, because while it is the catchiest song on the record, it is a strange one just for how lame it is in its approach. After that though, it is fairly smooth sailing towards the end with some of the highlights being the technical "Lullaby of Vengeance" and the dark duo "Conspiracy of The Gods" and "Another Killing Spree".

I am not giving up the hope for this super group, but it is clear that they need even more time to figure out what they want to accomplish with this band. At times, they are a very dark thrash metal band with death metal elements, but other times, they are very melodic and more accessible in its approach, so it is not easy to fully enjoy their music. There are some parts in "Old Scars, New Wounds" that are great, even interesting, but it ultimately falls pretty flat because it lacks a clear cut personality. The guys will find their way sooner or later, but for now, they are shrouded in mystery, so I suggest that you take a spin and take out your own selection of favourites, that is all you need from this record.

Songs worthy of recognition: Molten Core, M.I.A., Conspiracy of The Gods

Rating: 6/10 Broken Dialects

Monday, October 9, 2017

Anubis Gate - Covered In Black (2017)

It has been a really good year for progressive metal, with several big bands delivering high quality records, and more unknown challengers coming in for a slice of that cake of success. It has truly been a big smorgasbord for us fans, waiting for us to feast on tasty records from bands such as Persefone, Threshold, Pain of Salvation, and Prospekt. Honestly, so far I have not come across a prog metal release that have left me wanting more... until this album came along.

I first encountered Anubis Gate a couple of years ago with their release "Horizons", and man was that a fantastic record, containing several kick ass songs with a sound that was fresh and original. It was love at first listen. So when the Danes announced its follow up, I was excited, hoping for more of the same high quality that we got before. And while I technically got what I wished for, it still felt like "Covered In Black" was different, not as exciting.

Do not get me wrong, this is a fine record, but just because it is so different from its predecessor, it took me some time to even appreciate what it is. "Covered In Black" is a very fitting title, because Anubis Gate has taken their style and done like the Rolling Stones does to doors, painted it black. This album is much darker and moodier, which is a far step away from the catchy and bright "Horizons". I do like the idea of giving this album a whole new personality, making it stand out, but it might be too big of a change too quickly, going too fast for us to comprehend.

This is also pretty evident in the music, where close to all the songs are fairly slow and heavy, even close to sluggish. There is little power to be found here, which makes the album denser than what it really needs to be. It should not really be this way since none of the songs are overly long (longest is just over 9 minutes), but they feel like they could have benefited of being shorter, and while 55 minutes for an entire album is not too bad for this genre, it just does not sit well with this one. It does ease up a bit after some time, but the overwhelming darkness is still there, hindering your senses.

But if you can get through this tough outer barrier that "Covered In Black" has built up, there is some good quality to be found. The band has some nice performances all around, with singer Henrik Fevre putting out some great emotional vocals that sticks with you (like in the opener "Psychotopia"), and guitar duo Kim Olesen and Michael Bodin lays some really nice solos here and there, also mixing in some oriental vibes that work really well. The biggest shining moment for the band though is in the triple attack "Black", "Blacker", and "Blackest", three connecting songs that displays most of the band's abilities, from speeding things up and laying in cool effects, to slowing things down and letting the atmosphere take over. If the rest of the album had sounded like these three songs (and the excellent "Too Much Time"), I would have enjoyed it way more.

So I might be ticked off about "Covered In Black" sounding so drastically different from "Horizons", but the fact of the matter is that it is still an interesting effort from the Danes. Sure, it is a sluggish black blob that could have used some more variety so that it was not too difficult to listen to in one sitting, but it is certainly a grower... a slow grower. It is not a masterpiece by any means, it does its job and has a clear cut personality to work from, and it delivers some good songs too in the process. Will I come back to this record? Probably not. Will I come back to some of the songs? Absolutely. So take a shot in the dark and give this a try, and be patient, let it sink in for some time. Sooner or later, something will appear into the light.

Songs worthy of recognition: Too Much Time, Psychotopia, Black

Rating: 6,5/10 Journies To Nowhere

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Opeth - My Arms, Your Hearse (1998)

After two very promising, but not fully developed records, Opeth comes through big time with "My Arms, Your Hearse", the first concept record of the band. It is here where they seem to find the balance between all of their influences to create a cohesive sound that feels fully original. Gone are most of the jazz and fusion elements, and left is a very dark, but still beautiful, melodic sound that weaves its wave very smoothly through the speaker and ear canals. And let us not forget the black and death metal elements too, they are still there.

As said, this is a concept record, but it is one that is up for interpretation. All of the lyrics are written in a very poetic way, almost like Mr. Åkerfeldt was sitting out in his garden, enjoying his side hobby of poetry writing, reflected upon what he wrote, and said "yes, this is what we are gonna base our third album on". It is definitely interesting, and it encourages the listener to go deeper into the lyrics, making them think for once, and while we do lose some catchiness in the process, it really does not hurt the music all that much.

Besides from the lyrics, what really makes "My Arms, Your Hearse" stand out is just how well balanced the record is. While "Orchid" was very dark and murky, and "Morningrise" was very calm and collected, this album utilizes both strategies to not only give it more variety, but also just stabilizing the sound, and it all comes together nicely. Each and every song comes naturally, flowing without any problem at all, which just makes it easier for the listener.

And it is this mixing between the heavy and the calm, the harsh and clean vocals, the tough and soft riffs that just makes this record so fascinating. With so many little details here and there, it is close to impossible to take it all in at first listen, so you need to listen to the album again and again and again, but you still find a new little beat every time you spin it around. The replay ability is through the roof, and I will gladly play this sucker again and again, because it is just so pleasant.

But while this album is mostly soft around the edges, it still has a hard enough core to draw most metal lovers in. The band still knows how to hit it hard with those deep black metal vocals, and there are also a bunch of crunchy riffs here and there. As said before, this is a very well balanced record, so there is truly something for everyone here. I could wish for another song in the mix though, since we only get 6 real songs (and none of them are over 10 minutes), but the album is still 52 minutes long, so it still has some decent length to it.

Nonetheless, this is an astonishing record that just delivers a lot of different things. It is heavy, but soft. Dark, but light. Tough, yet fragile. It is an album with many faces, but it still has a very cohesive feel to it all, making it a very strong effort from the Swedes. It is their spring board towards stardom, and they are certainly touching the sky, with a progressive effort that delivers on every front. Maybe the concept could have been a little clearer, but it might just be me, I am not the best at interpreting high art, I am just here for the metal, and the metal is certainly good.

Songs worthy of recognition: Demon of The Fall, The Amen Corner, Credence, Karma

Rating: 9/10 April Ethereals

More reviews of Opeth
Still Life
Blackwater Park
Ghost Reveries
Pale Communion

Monday, October 2, 2017

Prospekt - The Illuminated Sky (2017)

In the evolution of progressive metal, most would probably put Dream Theater and Symphony X as the two bands that has been in the front of the charge, with Dream Theater more or less creating the genre, and Symphony X infusing more power and symphonic elements into the music. So whenever a new prog metal band pops up, it is pretty safe to say that it is gonna borrow some influences from one of the bands, maybe even both. Enter the British band Prospekt, a band that formed in 2010 who seem to have created the perfect mix between the two legends, taking the epic nature of DT's early works, and adding more power into it.

So it is not a small task these guys are taking on, and they probably know that the picky fans of those bands are listening closely to every note, riff, and beat to see if they can match up to their idols. The Brits do man up, delivering a powerful record that has ton of passion behind it. Each member does their part in making their sophomore effort "The Illuminated Sky" as good as possible, and you can immidiately hear it in the opening intro "Ex Nihilo" where the angelic keys of Rox Capriotti sets the mood, with Lee Luland on guitar and Blake Richardson on drums (no, it is not the drummer from Between The Buried And Me) takes it further and builds up the tension into the opening self titled track.

This title track is just proggy goodness, it is playful in its approach, but determined in its execution, delivering an excellent start to this record. The first half does stutter though with a couple of smaller songs that does not really come together in the end, but it hold up the fort quite nicely, setting up for a strong second half that shows some good range, from long and epic songs to more slower and emotional tunes, while still keeping all of the song within the same sound realm to make a very strong and cohesive experience.

The only thing I can get slightly annoyed by with this record are the vocals, because just like Dream Theater, those just do not match up with the quality of the instrumentation. Michael Morris has a pretty high pitch that can really rub the wrong way in some moments, and I can feel that he is trying his all to keep it together, maybe even too hard in some places. It is still a flaw that I think some can look past, especially since he does have moments where he truly shines, like in the slow keyboard based song "Akaibara" where the mood is perfect, so beautiful and fragile to really enhance it further. A real hair raiser.

And what would a prog record be without an epic closer? Prospekt sure delivers one in "Where Masters Fall", and also gets a little help from DragonForce singer Marc Hudson to amp up the power. I have definitely heard better 10+ minute songs, but "Where Masters Fall" does its job really well, creating some epic tension to finish off an overall fantastic record. It also has some of the best soloing in the record, something I would have loved to see more of, and both Michael and Marc does a great job cooperating, giving each other enough space to shine.

So with a rock solid line up of great songs, some nice performances all around, and a sleek production that amplifies the music further, Prospekt has really created a progressive gem that should not be overlooked. Sure, the similarities to other great progressive metal bands are there, but it does not overshadow the effort that this band puts out, and besides, this is only their second album, so they are still evolving as a band, not done perfecting their musical recipe. If "The Illuminated Sky" is any indication, this band is most likely going places where most bands would only dream of reaching, and this record is just one step towards that destination.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Illuminated Sky, Beneath Enryia, Alien Makers of Discord, Akaibara

Rating: 8,5/10 Titans