Saturday, 13 May 2017

Album Review: LUXURY STRANGER – 'Darkness Falls Upon The Light'

LUXURY STRANGER

'DARKNESS FALLS UPON THE LIGHT'

Cold Insanity Music/Earth-Two Records

2017

Another Intoxicated Release 
Dismissal 
Wash 
A Triumph of the Heart 
When The Lady Takes The Blame 
The Real Is Done 
Side Of The Road 
Diver 
Darkness Falls Upon The Light 



The Nottingham-based Luxury Stranger are a fascinating act to listen to be it live or on disc, one of those rare bands which sound compelling no matter how their music is consumed.

This third album of original material is a testament to the dedication and creative vision of frontman Simon York, whose songs manage to reference a plethora of classic artists without ever resorting to pastiche. This is music which has been lived. As with a lot of the band's material, the overall atmosphere is one both of euphoria and melancholy, and the line between the two fluctuates throughout the album.

'Another Intoxicated Release' opens the album with an off-kilter rhythm, hypnotic bass and guitars awash with delay. Topped with the strong croon of Mr York, the listener is reminded of the darker moments of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Joy Division, while the musical undercurrent plays somewhere between Bauhaus and early U2. In keeping with the song title, it is a most intoxicating thing.

'Dismissal' is more thoughtful, the aural landscape colder, the militaristic beat of its opening giving way to an uplifting chorus which is remarkably satisfying. 'Wash' is lyrically and musically sinister but has a great hook and a driving rhythm keeping it moving, while 'A Triumph of The Heart' brings a classic Echo & The Bunnymen swagger to proceedings.


The album version of 'When The Lady Takes The Blame' is notably different to its single counterpart, which was something of a surprise after loving the single version so much. To those who hear it here for the first time it will always be this slower, darker piece of chameleonic pop, but those already familiar with the single will find a new side of the song to enjoy.

'The Real Is Done' sounds like Luxury Stranger, by which I mean that by this point on the first listen the band's sound really becomes audible and you stop looking for comparisons. With further listens to the album you realise that unique sound was there all along.

'Side Of The Road' is a sparse and edgy piece of post-punk pop which comes across rather like Joy Divison covering Johnny Cash. The monochromatic rock of 'Diver' further demonstrates the quality of York's songwriting, each tune following a seemingly straightforward structure yet full of surprises. The piano-led title track ends the light on a sombre yet oddly glamourous note. With 'Darkness Falls Upon The Light', Luxury Stranger once again prove that the scenes below the radar of the masses carry the real treasure.

Luxury Stranger on Facebook
Luxury Stranger dot net

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

VIOLET SHADOW – FIRST SOLO STORY COMING SOON!

The pages of the first ever Violet Shadow solo story are now being illustrated by Francesco Savi. Violet's first adventure on her own will arrive in FEMFORCE issue 179 from AC Comics later this year. I'm really excited about this and I hope that Violet's debut solo outing will be enjoyed by readers.

Violet does have a future beyond this story. The first two parts of that future have been written, and news regarding this will be revealed when the time is right. I see the character as a mix between Marvel's Elektra, Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the product of me watching so many urban-setting martial arts movies when I was a teenager.

I'm humbled and thrilled to be able to offer spin-off stories for Violet, and getting to do it in the pages of a title I've loved for over twenty years is such a rush!

FEMFORCE 179 will also feature my first ever NIGHTVEIL story, which is to be the character's first earth-bound story since returning from her lengthy adventures on Dark Dhagor, so that's quite an honour!

That story will feature a villainess called Miss Corrosion, and people familiar with the music of a certain band that her name may evoke can expect plenty of nods to other songs in the dialogue. It seemed like a fun thing to do after mentioning the name in a comment on Facebook seemed to garner a lot of interest. It was a blast to write, as they all are!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

A Short Story A Day Keeps The Badness At Bay


With a day job, two wonderful yet demanding children, a home life, writing comics and working on two new books, I don't really get much time for reading. Hell, I don't get much recreational time at all. My wife and I are trying to rework our schedules so that they include more self-care.

This is a big deal for us as we want to maintain a happy balance between what we have to do and what we want to do. This includes more time out together, more precious time with our kids, healthier escapades and trying to squeeze in some recreation of our own.

The lack of all of the above tends to have a detrimental effect on my brain chemistry, so it's time to change that. Something I used to do a while ago was read a short story every day.

My mind tends to be so busy that most novels don't hold my attention past the first 50-100 page, so short fiction is the best for me while things are so busy. Of course, with a ridiculously stuffed library of vintage science fiction (and rather a lot more), I won't run out of stories anytime soon.

Filling my head with stories helps it to tick along in a far more pleasant fashion, so this pleasant endeavour will begin again now. The difference this time is that, as of tomorrow, I'm intending to post a short review of each one as I go along.

Let's see how this works out.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

DEVIN TOWNSEND – OCEAN MACHINE AND TWENTY YEARS OF 'BIOMECH'


Like a great many other like-minded individuals, I have to say that Devin Townsend's seminal Ocean Machine album, 'Biomech', came as such an incredible paradigm-shift that it could be described as life-changing. Here and now I am 38, a father, a husband, a former-music-journalist-turned-comic-book-writer and a bunch of other things to different people, but I remember the first time I let this album wash over me with startling clarity. 

Twenty years ago I bought the CD on the strength of hearing a few moments of one song ('Regulator', to be precise), which was playing on the stereo in Noise Annoys, the little rock and metal record store where I spent a chunk of my teenage years and a lot of money. Like many other stories you may hear about experiences with Ocean Machine, 

I was familiar with Devin's time with Steve Vai (the 'Sex & Religion' album) and the furious insanity of his Strapping Young Lad band, but nothing could prepare me for the seismic and spiritual journey that I was in for. 

I remember laying down as the album began, the opening moments of 'Seventh Wave' washing over me with its wall of guitars and phenomenally dense mix. The song quite literally took my breath away. So many things about it about it, the tuning, the melodies, the mix of the vocals, everything felt right. Fresh. New yet welcomingly familiar, strange yet bizarrely warm. 



'Life' followed next, its swell of euphoria sweeping me away. It progressed through 'Night', 'Hide Nowhere', and the sublime 'Sister'. '3am' and 'Voices in the Fan' opened my mind to a world where heavy music could be heavy and ambient at the same time, while 'Greetings' and 'Regulator' burrowed deep into my psyche. 

I'd had a long day, so by the time 'Funeral' and 'Bastard' swept from the speakers, I'd slipped into a semi-dream state which had the music sweep deeper through me. This wasn't music. It was as though somehow Devin had tapped into some kind of ethereal hive mind and shared the recordings he had managed to capture. When the 12 minute ambient piece 'The Death of Music' played, I was on the edge of sleep, lost in the strange images the album had given me. 

As that finally drew to a close, the bonus track 'Thing Beyond Things' added further depth to the state of tired bliss, immediately cementing itself in my mind as one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard. The raw, shocking scream that ends the album snapped me out of my odd dream-state, returning me to reality so I could try to process what I had just encountered. 

Here, twenty years on from its release, that magic, that sense of awe and wonder that flooded me during that first listen, it's all still there. A vein of Ocean Machine's wonder runs through all of Devin's work and has kept listeners like me captivated for a very long time. He continues to evolve and grow and move on, but for many of us it can all be traced back to this thing of pure and absolute joy. 

I met him on the SYL 'No Sleep 'Til Bedtime' tour (the Sheffield date at the 'Otherside' venue, a tiny sweat-hole of a place) and had a brief chat. I got to say thanks to him for Ocean Machine (and got my copy signed), and I'd like to say thanks for everything that followed it.


Thank you, Devin. I'll see you in March. 

I always love gigs where I'm not the only bald guy in the place.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

FEMFORCE 178 solicitation details released!

The Previews solicitation details for FemForce issue 178 have been posted, offering the first glimpse at the March 2017 relese from AC Comics!

As you can see, I'm listed in the writers for what will be my 7th issue with the title, and I am deep into work on the scripts for three brand new stories, more info on which shall be revealed over the coming months.

Of course, before that there will be FemForce issue 177, which I'm also very proud to be a part of.

The AC Comics team is a joy to be creative with, and I look forward to what the future holds with them.

Although, considering some of the death-defying situations we put the characters in, I doubt they'd be that pleased by the gleeful manner in which we fling new challenges at them...


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

No, no NanoWriMo



I'd like to wish everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo 2016 the very best of luck with their projects this time around, but sadly I won't be joining in the fun (or the moments of crushing, desperate defeat) this year. My last couple of NaNo attempts didn't work out that well, and with my writing career developing in a rather different way during 2016 (hello, comics scene!) I've decided that, this year at least, NaNo is a no-no.

I have a lot of love for that most literary of yearly events, I mean, my first (and so far only) novel was born from furious NaNo sessions. Its sequel, another NaNoWriMo project, is yet to be completed. I thin that after the experience with that first novel I needed to take a look at the way I structure my writing and how stories develop.

For now I am concentrating on comics and the music memoir, but the need to write prose fiction is still there – just a little subdued at the moment. That need is brooding in its dark cave, figuring out how next to approach something with a chunky word count without leading me to the same stumbling blocks I met before.



Writing is a constant learning experience. You can never know all of it. It's just not possible. What you can develop is the ability to take the seed of a story and help it to flourish. My comics work in recent months has helped me massively. The scripts are relatively short in comparison to prose, but the settings, dialogue and stage directions have to be laid out in such a way as to correctly convey your point to the artist, and then the reader.

This has really helped me to hone things a lot in terms of character, pacing, conflicts and resolution, as so much has to be shown visually as well as in the dialogue, and so once the memoir is out I may have to get started on a new novel.

Something fresh that doesn't come with the baggage of the universe I began with A Stolen Fate. Having said that, I'm determined that the sequel will be completed eventually, as the plot of it kicks large quantities of backside. Just not quite yet.

Life is in one of those states of flux where anything can happen, but once I find my way out of that uncertain vortex, then the next novel will come. And the next. And the next. So good luck, brave NaNoWriMo participants – You CAN do this, and this year I'll be cheering you on from the side.

Good luck.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Defiants - 'Love and Bullets'

I still can't get enough of this album. Definitely my favourite rock album of the year. This opening song is perfection to me. Classic, timeless and yet utterly fresh.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

FEMFORCE 176 is here! Look out for the debut of my new character!

Femforce issue 176 is now available, and this latest 80 page delight is absolutely jam-packed with new stories featuring the Federal Emergency Missions Force.

This issue, alongside the main feature story and tales from truly gifted creators, contains THREE stories that I had an absolute blast scripting.

These consist of the STARDUST tales 'Where Vengeance Hides' and 'The Distant Horde' which feature the return of Traxis, the villain from my first Femforce story from last year, plus a new SHE-CAT story which is a very special moment for me in my career - the introduction of a brand new vigilante.

Her name (or is it her title?) is VIOLET SHADOW, and even she's not sure which side she's on. You can find her first ever appearance in 'Beware The Violet Shadow'. Please do check it out!

As with my previous stories for AC Comics, these three have been a pleasure to write and AC have been a joy to converse with. It's all about the characters and the story and taking the reader to some unexpected places. More stories to come!

FEMFORCE 176 from AC Comics