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

enslaved.no/
twitter.com/enslavedband

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

metalblade.com/actofdefiance/
twitter.com/actofdefiance1

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

anubisgate.com/
twitter.com/anubis_gate

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
Orchid
Morningrise
Pale Communion
Sorceress

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

www.facebook.com/ProspektUK/
twitter.com/ProspektUK

Thursday, September 28, 2017

It, triple review

We are starting Manic Movie Month slightly early this year, because for once, we got a long awaited horror movie that was released in September, a very weird time to release it. It might have been a genius move though, because the movie "It" has been a huge hit in cinemas all around the world, drawing in tons of money and becoming the second best selling "R" rated movie to this date (right after "Deadpool"). It is pretty impressive since there were quite some expectations from the start since it is based by the Stephen King book with the same name, one of his most well known horror stories. Is it as good as everybody says? Well let us check it out... later. First though, we are gonna look into the two properties of this story that already existed, the book and the mini series from 1990.

Note: Expect spoilers in these reviews, so if you have not read or seen these medias yet, do it now (unless you are like me and do not care for spoilers, then feel free to carry on).

The book

Now, this might be the least descriptive review of the three since it was a while ago I read it, and no, I am not going to read it again just for the sake of this review. Not that I think the book sucks (it doesn't), but it is literally a brick in paper form, spanning over a thousand pages, and knowing that I am a really slow reader, there is no way I am going to read it out before the end of 2017. I still remember enough from it to give it a fair judgment, so here goes nothing I guess.

The book version of "It" can be split into two parts. The first half is going back and forth in time, taking good time and care in introducing us to the town that is Derry and its characters. In the past, we get to know our main characters when they were kids, living their own little lives together with their own little problems, eventually running into our main  villain of the story, Pennywise the dancing clown, and also each other. Each member of the so called Losers Club has a nice and memorable personality that feels believable. We have the jokester, the leader, the scaredy cat, and that asthma kid, it is easy to remember these guys (and girl), which I am thankful for. Because of the skipping in time periods, it can become quite difficult to follow along from time to time, so having strong characters with strong back stories are a must.

The second part takes place in present day, where all of our characters (minus one) finally meet up again in Derry, fulfilling the promise they once took. Now, the present day Losers Club is maybe not as strong in individual character as their child counterparts, but I think that was intended, because that eventually changes when they finally meet again after 27 years. It is like they become 12 years old again, and that nothing has changed after all those years. Just nice.

With over a thousand pages, you can be sure that there is a lot of detail in this book, and fortunately, this is one of its main strengths. Mr. King packs it in with tons of details, making it very easy to visualize every happening, especially the parts where the kids first encounter Pennywise and get to face their deepest fears, everything from werewolves to lepers. And I got to admit, some of these moments are creepy as hell, making my skin crawl and my hair rise. This is exactly why I absolutely love Stephen King, he just knows how to write a juicy story with tons of emotion.

So even if "It" is gonna give some people a good work out by only holding it up, and that it can be tricky to navigate in time and space, it is still an exciting read that should make the hours fly away pretty quickly. It is easy to see why this has become one of King's most well known stories, it takes its time to build up the world and its characters, while never really letting you rest, keeping the suspense high. It is just like King said himself, "Only the last thousand pages of the book are thrilling".

Rating: 9/10

The mini-series

Made in 1990, the "It" mini-series follows the original material pretty closely, both in structure and in story. Just like the book, the mini-series is split into two parts (each having a length of one and a half hour), with the first following our heroes in their youths while also introducing them as adults, and the second part is only them as adults, trying to take down Pennywise once and for all. Why really mess up a winning concept, it worked fairly well in the book, and it certainly works here too.

And just like in the book, the characters are just as memorable as you would have hoped, with each kid just delivering a very solid performance that just feels right for the time it is set in (the 1960's). Hell, even a really cliched character like the bully Henry Bowers feels right, with his stupid hair that is stolen from The Fonz and that rockabilly attitude. The adults feels more solid too, still being outshined to the kids, but still feeling interesting.

But then we get to one of the main problems with this mini-series, the performances. While the kids are doing a great job, the adults seems to not really take this seriously at all, with some phoning in their lines, while others are just going bonkers. The latter is perfectly exemplified with the performance of Tim Curry as Pennywise, which is an incredibly iconic performance, but it is just fucking wacky. Tim is having the time of his life, acting like a fun clown on meth that seems to be everywhere and nowhere, and he completely outshines everybody, forcing you to remember him.

However, while that performance is pretty amazing for what it is, it is not even a bit scary. Sure, clowns by themselves are frightening, but the fun factor is taking over way too much, so the build up to the scare is never really there. I would say the only scary scenes with Pennywise is when he shows his razor sharp teeth, and that is it. It might be a generation thing, but I honestly cannot see why people got scared by this back in the days, it is just goofy.

waHA waHA waHA waHA waHA
Also, believe me when I say that the effects does not help out either, in fact, they make it even worse. Technology has obviously come a long way since the 90's, but not even the practical effects are any good, not adding to the experience. It all reaches a culmination point in the ending where the Losers Club is ready to take down Pennywise, and he turns into the fakest spider I have ever seen (and I have seen this). Seriously, I can be pretty afraid of spiders if they are big enough, but I just laugh at this one for how incredibly stupid it looks, and that is the grand finale that we have waited for? What a fucking let down.

So no, "It" the mini-series is not good, it is not even close to what Stephen King was going for, even if it stayed very true to the source material (unfortunately, this one is not alone on taking a King story to the television/movie screens). I got to say though, while it has its dull moments, and is not the least bit scary, it is still pretty entertaining. Some performances are just brilliantly bad, and some of the writing is actually kind of fun and cool. The first part is clearly the superior one, but the second one has a couple of moments too, so if you are a fan of the book, it might be worthy of a look, at least just to see Tim Curry just messing with everybody, actors, directors, and audience alike.

Rating: 6/10

The movie

So finally we have reached the movie, and I think it goes without saying that it is way scarier than the mini-series ever could be. But before I get more into that, I have to first state that the movie is taking way more liberties, and that is a good thing. First, the past section is set in the late 80's, so that the upcoming second chapter can really be set in present day. That in itself gives us some changes to both the world and the story, and they are all great, like Henry is more of a young thrash punk than a stupid rockabilly kid. Second, in this movie, we are fully focusing on when they were children, not skipping back and forth all over the place, which I think is a fantastic decision so that the second chapter can almost be like a fresh start of sorts instead of a straight up follow up.

While the characters are not too different from in the book, they do still feel like they are from that era, they feel real and honest, and most importantly, they feel like kids. They swear a lot, they say what comes to mind, and they rarely goes into that stupid cliched territory that most movie kids are slotted into. I definitely love the fact that there is so much comedy in this movie, almost showing that it is a way for the kids to deal with all that's going on.

And yes, the kids themselves are fantastic, they really feel like a club together, going through this with each other. Each kid actor is amazing, but I gotta hand the MVP to the "Stranger Things" actor Jaeden Lieberher, who really feels like a stuttering kids. These six kids (I would say seven, but we do not get a lot of Mike Hanlon in this movie) are running the show completely, even when the clown is trying to steal the spotlight.

Oh yeah, we have to talk about Pennywise, which is played by one of the million Skarsgårds, Bill. This Pennywise is most certainly frightening from the get go, with that creepy smile and close to morbid make up, but add tons of teeth and some insane transformations, and he becomes borderline insane. Bill is just like Tim having the time of his life, soaking in every minute of screen time he gets, and even though his performance is pretty strange, even out right bonkers, it still hits a home run without going too goofy (although, some of the epilepsy runs he does are pretty silly). It is a very memorable effort by Bill, and he not only match Tim Curry, but he out classes him.

It also helps that the surroundings are pretty creepy as well, with a sense that the whole town is either cursed or just mad. Each of the loser kid's parents are fucked up, from being abusive to over protective, it definitely makes me happy that I never got parents like them. Add the monsters into this movie, and it all turns even darker. Some of these designs are fantastic, like the headless Easter egg hunter and his unnatural movement, or the distorted face of the flute lady, or the vomit inducing gross imagery that is the leper. It all helps making this movie tense, keeping you alert throughout its run time, with the highlight, for me at least, being the projector scene, which is some of the scariest stuff I have seen in a while. Without spoiling too much, I can only say that it might be worth it to see the 3D version for that scene alone. Wait, does this movie even have 3D?

*goes to check IMDB*

Aww, that is the first time I am sad that a movie does not have 3D.

So the most common complaint I have seen from different sources is that the movie is too long and that it has multiple endings, and while I cannot really say against those statements, I am not too bothered by them. Sure, some scenes could have been shorten, and the movie would have benefited from being under 2 hours instead of over, but I think the movie earned every minute, creating a unique take to the classic story that feels fresh and interesting. With that said, I do think the first "ending" was pretty unnecessary, and if that really was the ending, I think I would have been extremely pissed. Fortunately, that was not the case, and the real ending is much better, and also stays true to the source material.

So all in all, this movie is simply fantastic, most certainly one of the best movies released this year. It is exciting, the acting is memorable, the effects are really cool, and most impressive of all, it makes necessary changes to the original story. You can tell that those behind this movie really respected the book and tried their best to make it as strong as possible, and even if it is a bit too long, it still holds up all the way through. I cannot wait for the second chapter, I wanna see all of these kids grown up, fighting Pennywise once more, hopefully without a laughably fake spider as the grand crescendo.

Rating: 8,5/10

So we have now officially begun the MMM of 2017, expect more movie reviews in the next 30 days.

Stay metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Prophets of Rage - S/T (2017)

To most metal heads, the 90's was a strange, and even awful era for the music. Bands that killed it in the 80's were either made obsolete or shifted to weird places that really did not do them anything good. On top of this, two genres were rising to stardom, grunge and nu-metal, two genres that are quite controversial still to this day for most lovers of metal. With that said though, there were still some great inventive metal coming out of this era, pushing the boundaries of our beloved music style. Now some of these 90's pioneers have gone together for sort of a mini comeback, taking bits and pieces from famous groups to make the ultimate early nu-metal super group.

Prophets of Rage is most certainly the 90's lover's wet dream, with members from Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, Public Enemy, and even Cypress Hill. It is an interesting super group, mostly because the style is almost dead and gone, which ultimately leaves me with the question "why now?". It is not like the band has had nothing to do all of these years, but it still feels strange that they would be trying to get back that rap-metal groove that was so successful in the 90's.

Well, after some touring in 2016 and 2017, the band has now unleashed their self titled debut record, and yes, it sounds just as you would expect. We get tons of rapping from Chuck D and B-Real, some record scratches from DJ Lord and his turntables, lyrics about taking down the establishment and so. It is so 90's that the album should really come with some baggy pants and a cap that is put on backwards. It is almost like the guys have been frozen in time, and not been defrosted until now, and they still seem pretty pissed (which I should probably have guessed knowing the band name).

So you are obviously wondering, is this even considered metal? Well, the only thing that makes Prophets of Rage metal is in the instrumental section, where we have the former Rage Against The Machine buddies Tim Commerford on bass, Brad Wilk on drums, and Tom Morello on guitar. Just like the rest of the band, these guys does not really anything different from what we could expect from them. They do offer some of the more impressive parts of this record, especially Morello's signature playing style that is so recognizable, but as said, it is nothing that I did not expect.

This ultimately leaves us with the question if this music still have a place in 2017, and it sort of does. The themes of this record are social problems that we still have today, and it is always nice to see someone step up and bring it up to our attention. Musically however, it is kind of dated, not really holding up against the rest of the competition. Some enjoyment can be found when the band goes full Hulk mode in "Unfuck The World", and we get some nice epic moments in "Strength In Numbers", but most of "Prophets of Rage" is just aged noise that is trying to be bold and tough, without any rock solid ground to stand on. It is definitely safe to say that most of us would rather just put on an old RATM record instead of this.

Prophets of Rage does not really impress with their debut record, and the only group of people I can really recommend this record to is for those who wants to feel nostalgic over a decade that most of us do not want to remember. Not to say that this album is bad, it is just a very safe effort that does not have enough power to make an impact. Could be some neat background music when you play an old "Tony Hawk pro skater" game, but other than that, I do not see any real use for this record in this day and age. So in conclusion, it is a nostalgic trip to the past that just does not match what the guys did in their previous bands. At least the rage is still alive and well.

Songs worthy of recognition: Unfuck The World, Strength In Numbers, Who Owns Who

Rating: 6/10 Shots Fired

prophetsofrage.com/
twitter.com/prophetsofrage

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Opeth - Morningrise (1996)

During the beginning of their career, it was obvious that Opeth did not want to get forgotten all too easily, because before normal mortal beings had the chance to comprehend the dense debut effort "Orchid", the band was already done recording their sophomore album. Sure, it is an album that is only contains 5 songs, but man, if you thought "Orchid" was a tough blob to get through in one sitting, then you are obviously not ready for "Morningrise".

Each and every song in this record definitely have the progressive seal of approval, continuing what the band did in the debut with blending black metal, progressive rock, and jazz influences. Not a single song on this record goes below the 10 minute mark, with one song, "Black Rose Immortal", lasting for a whopping 20 minutes and 15 seconds, which is Opeth's longest song still to this day, over 20 years later. This ultimately makes the album just over an hour long, so it is not something you just whip out and listen too in a hurry.

Surprisingly enough though, "Morningrise" is a lot easier to listen to than "Orchid". Not only is the production a lot lighter, but the music is too, using more acoustic guitars and Michael is utilizing more of his clean vocals. If the last album was more classic black metal, then "Morningrise" is more of an atmospheric black metal album, setting more moods and tones. This definitely will be a personal preference whether you think it is a good or bad change, but I embrace it because it lets the music do more of the talking.

All of the tracks in "Morningrise" are great, displaying a good range of moods and technical skills of the band's repertoire, all keeping a fairly low profile that makes the album very solid and strong. The only real problem I have is "Black Rose Immortal", and yes, it is because of the length. It is a nice song and all, but it definitely over stays its welcome, dragging things out longer than it should. Actually, it sorta ends just before the 15 minute mark, but it goes on for another 5 and a half minutes. I can deal with 20 minute songs, but they have to have a reason to be this long, and "Black Rose Immortal" simply does not have a reason that is good enough.

The rest are really nice songs, even if I wished that one or two of them would stand out a little more, by being way heavier or something like that, but as said, it gives a unified impression of the entire album. It is the little things that makes each track stand out from the rest, like the dark vocals in "Advent", the playful opening and general speed in "Nectar", the epic ending in "The Night And The Silent Water", and the overall calm emotions on the ending track "To Bid You Farewell". Yes, all of the songs do contribute something to make "Morningrise" an incredibly enjoyable experience, making that hour go by really quickly.

"Morningrise" is ultimately a very fitting title to this record, because you can just put this on in the morning, take a stroll to your local black and white park with a bridge and pond, and just relax. It does have some heavy moments, but it is the tranquility that dominates the record, which it should. It is most certainly related to "Orchid", but both are completely different records, and they do attract different crowds that hopefully also can enjoy the other one too. It is an early showing that Opeth is one of those bands that can do close to anything without missing a beat, still being their own product and deliver some great progressive music. Wake up, and face the wonderful music that is playing.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Night And The Silent Water, Advent, Nectar

Rating: 8/10 Black Roses

www.opeth.com/
twitter.com/officialopeth

More reviews of Opeth
Orchid
Pale Communion
Sorceress

Monday, September 18, 2017

Thoughts from a metal mind: My record collection (and why I still buy records)

Thanks to lack of inspiration and time of writing reviews of new album, I feel like it is time for me to talk about something that a lot of us metal heads have very near and dear to our hearts, our record collections. While collecting records might not be one of the hottest things to do in 2017, with Spotify and other various music services on the so called Internet, it is still an important thing in my opinion, mostly because it is a direct testament to that you are supporting a band and their music.

No matter how big or small your collection is, or if you collect LPs or CDs, it still feels incredibly good to actually own a piece of musical history forever. With a service like Spotify, there is no certainty that an album will be there for all time, it might be taken off because of various reasons. Sure, a physical copy might break down after some use, but there is nothing like the feeling of buying a new album, opening it up, taking a look at the booklet, and putting the CD into your player, letting it blast out of your speakers. There is just a certain charm to it.

Now, I know this is becoming less and less of a factor in today's world, we rarely see any record stores out in the streets anymore, and we only have a select few websites that sells new albums too. It is a shame, because it is the foundation of becoming a band, to create music and distribute it to the masses. Obviously, technology must go forward, so it is not a change I am fully oppose to, but I think that theold ways still should have a spot even in the future, because it is way more impressive to have tons of CDs filling up your wall than seeing a Spotify playlist that contains over 5000 songs.

So how often do I buy records? Not too often, but that is mostly because I do not have the capital to go shop until I drop. I buy a pack of records (about 5 or more) every 3 months or so, and most of them are actually older records that are a little cheaper, and I only pre-order records if one of my all time favourites are coming up with something new. Whenever I get my own place and a little more space, I might buy more frequently.

Ultimately, I see CDs as the great Stan Lee sees comic books.
"They are like boobs. Watching is fine and all, but it is a much better feeling when you get to touch."

So let us look at my collection, which is currently 176 albums in size (and yes, I will update this post whenever I get new albums).

Alter Bridge:
Fortress

Alter Bridge is probably my favourite hard rock band out there right now, and "Fortress" is by far my favourite record from them, so it was no surprise that I would go after it first.

Amaranthe:
S/T
Nexus

Got these two very cheaply, and while no masterpieces, they still have some good fun moments.

Amberian Dawn:
River of Tuoni
Clouds of Northland Thunder

Old Amberian Dawn is best Amberian Dawn.

Amon Amarth:
Versus The World
With Oden On Our Side
Twilight of The Thundergod
Surtur Rising
Deceiver of The Gods
Jomsviking

One of the bands where I am going to get their full discography sooner or later, just a matter of time.

Anthrax:
Worship Music
For All Kings

I have Anthrax's last two records, but not "Among The Living" or "Spreading The Disease"? I must be a disgrace of a metal head.

At The Gates:
Slaughter of The Soul

An all time classic, a must have in any record collection.

Avenged Sevenfold:
City of Evil
S/T
Nightmare

Definitely the three best albums from the band so far, and I might get the rest soon enough (hesitating about "Hail To The King" though)

Between The Buried And Me:
Colors
The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues (EP)
The Parallax II: Future Sequence
Coma Ecliptic

Not too easy to get a hold of their older albums for a decent price, but I will get them. Also, one of two real EPs that I own.

Black Sabbath:
S/T
Paranoid
Master of Reality
13

I really should have more Black Sabbath in my collection, but it will come soon enough.

Blind Guardian:
Nightfall In Middle Earth
Beyond The Red Mirror

"Nightfall..." is not available on Spotify, so that was a must buy for me. Got "Beyond..." for a really good price not too far from its release.

Bruce Dickinson
Balls To Picasso

An impulse buy that paid off big time, an excellent and underrated solo record from the multi talented
Bruce.

Bullet For My Valentine:
Scream Aim Fire

Only bought it for the title track and "Waking The Demon". Man, this band was so good back in the days.

Cain's Offering:
Stormcrow

One of my favourite records from 2015

Cans:
Beyond The Gates

The only solo record so far from the HammerFall singer, and it is pretty good, although not too spectacular.

Children of Bodom:
Something Wild
Follow The Reaper
Hate Crew Deathroll
Are You Dead Yet?
Blooddrunk

Why do I own this many CoB albums? I actually do not know, got them for good prices in the right time I guess.

Devin Townsend:
Ocean Machine: Biomech
Infinity
Physicist
Terria
Ziltoid The Omniscient

If Devin albums were easier to get, I would have all of them already (well, maybe not "Devlab" and "The Hummer")

Devin Townsend Project:
Deconstruction
Epicloud

Transcendence

I really should get the remaining albums here, I am such a Devin fanboy that it is close to ridiculous.

Dio:
Holy Diver
The Last In Line
Dream Evil

Two classics and one other really good record, but I aim to get more from the man with the voice.

Disturbed:
The Sickness
Ten Thousand Fists
Indestructible
Asylum

Disturbed are rarely spectacular, but they have a consistency that is nice, so any album is worth buying for a nice price.

Dream Theater:
When Dream And Day Unite
Images And Words
Awake
A Change of Seasons (EP)
Falling Into Infinity
Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory
Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
Train of Thought
Octavarium
Systematic Chaos
Black Clouds & Silver Linings
A Dramatic Turn of Events
S/T
The Astonishing

No surprise here, I own the whole discography (+ an EP).

Ghost:
Opus Eponymous
Infestisumam
Meliora

I am a member of the band wagon, so I obviously have all of the records here too.

Gojira:
L'enfant Sauvage
Magma

I really need to get more into Gojira, they are so god damned talented.

Guns N' Roses:
Appetite For Destruction
Use Your Illusion I
Use Your Illusion II

Only really need to own "Appetite...", but I got the other two records almost for free, so why the hell not.

Haken:
Affinity

Could not be without one of my favourite albums of 2016.

Halcyon Way:
Building The Towers

This is one of my underrated favourites, both when it comes to band and album.

HammerFall:
Glory To The Brave
Legacy of Kings
Renegade
Crimson Thunder
Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
Threshold
No Sacrifice, No Victory
Infected
(r)Evolution
Built To Last

My first metal love, so I obviously have all of the records from them

Helloween:
Keeper of The Seven Keys Pt. 1
Straight Out of Hell

I am so ashamed that I own the first part of "Keeper..." but not the second.

Holy Grail:
Ride The Void
Times of Pride And Peril

One of my favourite bands from the new millenium, need to get "Crisis In Utopia" soon to complete the trilogy.

In Flames:
Come Clarity
Sounds of A Playground Fading
Battles

I am gonna get so much shit for this, aren't I?

Iron Maiden:
S/T
Killers
The Number of The Beast
Piece of Mind
Powerslave
Caught Somewhere In Time
Seventh Son of A Seventh Son
No Prayer For The Dying
Fear of The Dark
The X Factor
Virtual XI
Brave New World
Dance of Death
A Matter of Life And Death
The Final Frontier
The Book of Souls

Full discography here, no real commentary needed.

Judas Priest:
Sad Wings of Destiny
Sin After Sin
Stained Class
British Steel
Screaming For Vengeance
Defenders of The Faith
Painkiller
Angel of Retribution
Redeemer of Souls

Got a lot of albums here, but need a lot more.

Kotipelto:
Waiting For The Dawn

Another impulse buy, pretty decent record by the Stratovarius singer

Linkin Park:
Hybrid Theory
Meteora

I grew up with the band, so I just had to get these two records.

Mastodon:
Blood Mountain
Crack The Skye
The Hunter
Once More 'Round The Sun
Emperor of Sand

Working my way backwards in this discography, might get the upcoming EP as well, depending on how good it is.

Megadeth:
Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?
Rust In Peace
Dystopia

Why do I only own 3 Megadeth albums? I should really own more

Metallica:
Kill 'em All
Ride The Lightning
Master of Puppets
...And Justice For All
The Black Album
Death Magnetic
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

Do I really need to own the remaining albums?

Moonspell:
Extinct

Another personal favourite from the last couple of years, got it for a really nice price.

Motörhead:
Ace of Spades
Orgasmatron
The Wörld Is Yours

Seriously, why do I only have THREE Motörhead records, and one of them is not "Overkill" or "Iron Fist"?

Mustasch:
Above All
Latest Version of The Truth
Sounds Like Hell, Looks Like Heaven

I love front man Ralf Gyllenhammar and his fun hard rock band.

Opeth:
Deliverance
Blackwater Park
Ghost Reveries
Pale Communion

Just started their discography review series, so it might give me reasons to get more albums from them.

Overkill:
The Years of Decay
Ironbound
The Electric Age

Love me some good old Overkill

Ozzy Osbourne:
Bark At The Moon
Black Rain

I really like Ozzy's solo stuff, but I do not feel any hurry to get them right away.

Pain:
Nothing Remains The Same

Yeah, it is the album that has "Shut Your Mouth".

Pain of Salvation:
In The Passing Light of Day

So far, clearly my favourite record of this year.

Rainbow:
Rising

Classic.

Raubtier:
Från Norrland Till Helvetets Port

Sweden's answer to Rammstein, great power in these guys

Rush:
Moving Pictures

May not be metal, but they are still damn good.

Scar Symmetry:
Holographic Universe

Great album in a lot of ways, had to have it.

Slayer:
Reign In Blood
South of Heaven
Seasons In The Abyss

Three classics that all of you should own.

Soilwork:
The Living Infinite
The Ride Majestic

This second golden age of Soilwork is mighty fine.

Stormhold:
Battle of The Royal Halls

Band from my neighbourhood! Go listen to them if you are into classic power/heavy metal.

Strapping Young Lad:
Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing
City
The New Black

Just like with the solo stuff from the Dev, if the remaining albums were any easier to get, I would already have them.

Sunburst:
Fragments of Creation

My favourite newcomer last year.

Symphony X:
V: The New Mythology Suite

Got this one really cheaply, but I really need to get more from this band.

System of A Down:
Toxicity
Hypnotize
Mesmerize

Three modern classics, gotta own them.

Testament:
The Ritual

Yet another band I need to own more albums of.

The Devin Townsend Band:
Accelerated Evolution

Will get "Synchestra" some time to complete the duo.

Tool:
Lateralus

With a box cover so psychadelic, you need to own this one.

Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force:
Odyssey

I think everyone should own at least one record from the man with the lightning fast fingers.

Thanks for reading, and don't forget to stay metal
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson