Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Devin Townsend Has A Point

He does, you know. There comes a time when all of the yelling gets to a be a bit too much to listen to. Dev has mentioned a couple of times recently how tired he is with the RARGH GRAGH WAAARGH in metal, and as someone who has to listen to a heck of a lot of it, I concur. Devin Townsend is a pretty good barometer of When Things Start To Suck, actually.

Back in '97 I saw him play in my hometown, Sheffield, with Strapping Young Lad. This was my first experience of the man live. Back then, nu-metal was very much the 'in' thing, and Dev unleashed a tirade against the likes of Coal Chamber, with the funny hair and the two-note riffs that were the order of the day. The same thing is happening now, to a certain extent, with the same bloody things cropping up in metal all of the damn time.

Double bass. Sweep picking. Harsh verse/clean chorus. Chuggy breakdown. More sweep picking. Cloned haircuts. branded clothes. What the fuck is happening? Did I miss a meeting, or is a big chunk of metal disappearing up its own arse faster than you can say 'bandwagon'?

Don't get me wrong, I love extreme metal, but there has to be more on your plate in order to have a balanced diet, y'know? There's more to playing metal than sounding like everyone else. That's kind of the whole point.

Devin's current project, the four-album set that began with 'Ki' and continues in November with 'Addicted' is a great example of a musician stretching themselves and doing something different to the heard, as well as different from their own back catalogue.

Check out the clips over at the Devin Townsend Myspace page, and get a load of a man making music that is damn heavy without being damn repetitive. Metal does have its boundaries, but it would be nice if they were blurred a little more often. This brief tirade is not aimed at the whole metal scene, as there are some incredible artists doing incredible things, but there are also countless bands whose image and music are easily confused.

You may now get back to learning those tricky sweeps and getting your hair just right. Make sure you're wearing the right t-shirt in your promo photos, or you may not look like everyone else, and wouldn't that be terrible?

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Fear Factory: Another Soul, Another New Machine?

While doing some research for a review for the mag, I came across information on the current FEAR FACTORY lineup. I'm on metal sites every day, and write extensively on the genre for Powerplay, and couldn't believe I'd missed the news of the 'new' Fear Feactory lineup. I am of course talking about the latest incarnation of the band, featuring vocalist Burton C Bell along with original guitarist Dino Cazares and the new rhythm section, namely Byron Stroud (Strapping Young lad, and Fear Factory since Dino's exit) on bass and drum legend Gene Hoglan (Strapping Young Lad, a million other projects) behind the kit.

This came as a bit of a shock, really. Fear Factory are one of my absolute favourite bands (check out my Last.Fm profile for proof of that) and to have Dino return after the well-documented animosity following their breakup after the 'Digimortal' was a surprise to say the least. Granted, the relationship between Dino and Burton goes way back, but the exclusion of Christian Olde Wolbers and Raymond Herrera seems a bit odd. I'd be interested to know what happened to lead up to this new lineup, especially as technically (I believe) Raymond and Christian remain part of Fear factory in some contractual manner. But above all, I hope the music is back on form.

There's an album on the way from the 'new' lineup, namely 'Mechanized', which I can't wait to hear. Basically what I am hoping for is a genuine new start for the band and not just a touring greatest hits package, y'know? I guess I can understand the desire for a more successful formula after the relative commercial failure of 'Transgression' (which was pretty good) and to a lesser extent the album before that, 'Archetype' (which was fantastic), but I just hope it sounds pure.

Okay. I took a break from writing this for a while and I have now read up on the feud that has been going on between the various members. My curiosity is satisfied, but I feel kind of dirty now. The most important thing everyone that isn't involved with the band should be thinking about is the music that will be made. We know Dino is on top form still (get a load of the Divine Heresy stuff he did), and I hope that some of that fury is being brought over to the 'new' Fear Factory.

This is a band that defined a genre, and for me, defined an era. 'Demanufacture' and 'Obsolete' are amongst the best albums I have ever heard, and I want their legacy to continue with some more great music. What I'd personally like is for their future music to be judged on the material itself and not the circumstances surrounding its creation. We all love a bit of gossip, but it should never eclipse the question- how's the music?

I hope all can be settled between the various musicians, and that the fans are treated to something monumental.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

From your genre addict...

Hey all, I have some new articles to offer you this week. Apologies for the long breaks between content on here- moving to a new city and settling into things has taken a little getting used to. That said, I'd like to point you at a new site I have started, naamely THE GENRE ADDICT. This is a blog which is updated with a full horror/science fiction/fantasy/etc review every day.

It is mostly movies, but will include the occasional book, comic or audio review as well. While the site features 95% brand new material (and will continue to do so), I'll also be posting the odd review from my archive too. Add it to your feed reader or bookmark the site and check back every day for new content from me.

In news on this site, this coming week will see the next part of my John Hughes retrospective go live at last (WEIRD SCIENCE) and a couple of new music articles relating to the rock and metal scene. Until then, go check out THE GENRE ADDICT!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Flesh For The Beast - DVD review

My journey of discovery with the cheapest, nastiest buckets of low-grade gore continued today with a viewing of the low budget train wreck/masterpiece (depending on your outlook) known as Flesh For The Beast. Here's a film that has a lot going for it, but ultimately is rather incoherent, even for a low budget horror flick. Where many films with such a small amount of cash to work with tend to look absolutely awful, this one is, visually at least, quite a way above the crowd.

The plot isn't all that important here (viewers who check this film out are there for the gore and the skin), but it serves its purpose. The gist: A group of parapsychologists are invited to a big, spooky mansion by a rich lunatic in order to study and ultimately do away with some spooks.

It's handled well considering the tiny budget. As ever with low budget films of this ilk, the cast is patchy to say the least. Dialogue isn't so much spoken as hiccuped and thrown at the outside world. There are one or two amongst them that are above the others in terms of ability and delivery, which works in the film's favour, but this makes the film a little disjointed as a whole. You're kinda thinking 'Oh, he/she's cool' one minute, and the next you're staring dumbfounded at the plank of wood reciting syllables before the camera. There's a fun cameo from former Bond girl Caroline Munro and also horror veteran Aldo Sanbrell too, which add a nice touch to proceedings.

The effects are nicely done, but there are occasions when the 'demon' makeups/masks look a bit too much like party masks. The infamous 'writhing in gore' scene is pretty screwed up, and worth watching the film for in itself. Basically, if you know what you're in for with Flesh For The Beast, then you'll get it in spades. A fun little film that has actually had a great deal of thought put into its execution. In fact, the way it is shot actually brings to mind the classics from Hammer. A mixed bag indeed, but an enjoyable piece of schlock.

Friday, 9 October 2009

DVD review: Stuart Gordon's Deathbed

It kind of annoys me when a producer gets top billing over the film's director. Stuart Gordon, of Re-Animator fame amongst other things, is billed right over the title, when the film was directed by Danny Draven (although Gordon was on set a fair amount).

Credit to Draven, who did a pretty admirable job with this 2002 movie from Full Moon Pictures and Darkwave films. Where so many low budget horror flicks rely solely on nudity and ridiculous gore to keep people watching, 'Deathbed' differs by offering some actual tension in its construction.

Yeah, it's cheap and some of it looks as though it was shot on a mobile phone, but for the most part it is an enjoyable little flick that does something a little different. Fantasies and suppressed memories begin to invade the life of a children's illustrator and her photographer boyfriend after they find an old metal bed in a secret room in their apartment building. The fantasies become ever more violent and unnerving, and finally the madness starts to spill over into the real world.

Yes, there is nudity. Yes, there is gore. However, neither are gratuitous. While the acting and script are well below par, it is Danny Draven's direction that kept me watching. Lord knows it wasn't the performances of the cast.

The best has been made of a stretched budget, and padding is minimal throughout the film's scant 82 minutes running time. That said, the epilogue isn't really needed, and could have been trimmed a bit, if not cut altogether. Far from being a great film, Stuart Gordon's DeathBed is good late-night viewing for the dedicated horror junkie who doesn't mind cheap productions and wants something a little different.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Pagan Fire CD/DVD Set (Nuclear Blast Records)

As compilations go, this is damn good value for money. If you like your metal with a folk flavour and with some intelligence behind the bombast, then this Nuclear Blast compilation from 2008 is an essential purchase.

As an overview of the more Pagan/Nordic/Folk influenced end of the extreme metal spectrum, there are few surprises here, but for the cheap price tag on this set, you can't go wrong.

On the Pagan Fire CD you have Bathory, Enslaved, Amon Amarth, Korpiklaani and all the usual suspects, each serviong up a choice cut that sums up their individual styles. Yeah, I'm sick of 'Battle Metal' by Turisas showing up everywhere as well, but it is in context here, and will have you raising a flagon just as it always does. There are 16 audio tracks in all, and well worth checking out to get you up to speed on some of the most important names in modern metal circles.

The DVD features eleven videos, some from bands on the CD, and some from others such as Battlelore, Einherjer and Tyr that aren't represented on the CD. As with many extreme metal videos, the quality varies, but again you are given a good cross section of material to go at.

If you're already up on the big names of the more esoteric side of the metal scene then there's not a huge amount to draw you to this package, although the DVD compilation is very cool indeed for fans of the scene. This is an ideal package for those wanting to get the gist of a big part of the current metal landscape, and also a good example of just what an important label Nuclear Blast is.

Find 'Pagan Fire' on Amazon

On Cosplay

I kind of get it, but I kind of don't, too. Cosplay is one of those strange aspects of geekery and various fandoms that seems at once very cool and very silly. The attraction? I can understand it being fun, and not just the dressing up part. I'd imagine the making of costumes is quite an entertaining hobby, but I can't imagine doing it myself.

For one thing, I don't have the build for it. The only person I look like is Adrian Edmonson (it's the lack of hair that does it), and there's only so far I would get by Cosplaying Eddie from Bottom.

In my line of work I've been privy to countless images of anime and comics fans in elaborate costumes with replica props, being photographed in dynamic poses and being great adverts for cosplay in general. Then again, there are all of the others that have seared my eyes with their terror- people so very wrong for Cosplaying that I want to grind my eyes with limestone chunks if only to get the image of these becostumed terrors from my mind.

Actually, there is one instance of cosplay as an adult that I must confess to. I swear it was an accident. When Doctor Who came back in 2005, I was surprised and elated to discover that my idol, The Doctor, was dressed exactly as I was at the time.

This made me where the V-neck shirts, black jeans and boots and leather jacket even more than I already did. I was cutting edge for once in my life (well, as cutting edge as dressing like a Time Lord can make you), and in a fit of fanboy hysteria, I bought a replica sonic screwdriver to carry around in my jacket pocket.

I tried to persuade people that it was practical, as it was a torch, but their 'Yes mate, of COURSE it's useful' sort of comments brought it home to me. I had become one of those people who was dressing up as a fictional character, and you know what? I think that's when I started to understand a bit of the attraction of Cosplay.

It's fun. It's harmless (as long as you're not one of those terrifying guys dressing as Pikachu). It is also remarkably sad and nerdy, but hey, that's the whole point of fandom, isn't it? Who am I to judge?

To be honest with you, I envy you Cosplayers. You are infinitely more talented with your crafting abilities than I'll ever be, and while I may jeer and point and smirk, I'm really rather impressed.

Now get out of that Cloud Strife costume and go and make some friends, you sad creature ;)

Thursday, 1 October 2009

New issue of POWERPLAY Rock and Metal Magazine out now!

The latest issue of POWERPLAY ROCK AND METAL MAGAZINE is out now! Packed with interviews, reviews and news as ever, this month features my interview with THEATRE OF TRAGEDY along with my latest reviews, including the new Theatre of Tragedy album, the latest LYNCH MOB disc and the debut from OMEGA LITHIUM, which is my personal favourite album release this month.

Once again the magazine looks great and continues to go from strength to strength in terms of content. The cover feature, an interview with KISS, is great reading whether you're into the band or not! Get yours today!

Speaking of OMEGA LITHIUM, check out the first video from their debut album: