Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Avengers: No Skrull after all?

So, we got all excited earlier this week when the Albuquerque journal, in the middle of a piece about where THE AVENGERS will be filming, said that the superhero team would be up against the Skrull and the Kree.

This sent a bunch of geeks like me into paroxisms of delight at the thought of what could be in store. Sadly, this has now been revealed to be 'a research error'.

This is a shame really, as I was kinda hoping for some serious epic-scale action in the Avengers. I mean, without it it's just going to be another Marvel flick, just with more characters and little justification for the several-year-long build-up to it.

I really hope the film, being written and directed by Joss Whedon and featuring a huge ensemble cast, ends up having something huge for the team to face, and not just some regular bad guy. Hell, bring on Galactus!

Aw screw it, just make Secret Invasion.

Advice for 2011

So then. Next year won't be 'The One', it won't solve your problems, and it won't provide the meaning of your life. You have to sort these things out for yourself, rather than just hoping they'll come along.

2010 has been a hell of a year for me, both personally and professionally. The main thing I have finally realized is that things don't work out unless you work at them yourself. Opportunity won't just land in your lap. You have to work hard for the stuff you want, whatever it is.

Just my tuppence-worth.

(Watch out for 2010: My Year In Rock and Metal, soon!)

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon - Megatron Revealed?

It would appear that this is what Megatron will look like in the forthcoming (final?) Transformers movie, Dark Of The Moon. Revealed over at Joblo.com by an anonymous contributor.

Of course, this is just the toy version of the apparent new version of Megatron rather than a fully rendered CG model like we'll be seeing onscreen, but it gives fans a good idea of what to expect.

I kinda like it, and am pleased to see the arm cannon present. I can deal with him being a truck and not a gun, but the cannon is an essential part of Megatron's look. Personally I'm stoked for this new one, and am eager to see what this thing looks like in action!

Nadine Coyle: Why the world should buy her album

That's an easy one. NADINE IS NOT CHERYL COLE, and thus she should be supported.

Not Being Cheryl Cole (NBCC) is a condition and way of life that should be encouraged across the civilized world, and anyone caught being Cheryl Cole should really be stuffed into a cannon and shot at the moon.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon - The Best Yet?

Reports of test footage and previews of the 3D material in Transformers: Dark of the Moon are starting to show up online, and they are all saying much the same thing. It looks as though Transformers: Dark Of The Moon will be the best entry in the Michael Bay helmed series of movies based on the legendary toy line from Hasbro.

I was a massive fan of the first film and less so of the second (much has been written on just why so many people took issue with it, yet it grossed more than the first), so the new that the third is shaping up to be a more serious, dramatic affair is pleasing to hear. The teaser trailer looks promising, if needlessly lengthy, and with Shockwave being the apparent bad guy (I was hoping for Unicron and Galvatron!), it would seem that fans are in for some serious old school Transformers action.

Another plus point for this new film is that it doesn't have Megan Fox in it. While she was a massive star at the time of Revenge of the Fallen, her star has faded a great deal in the past year, thanks to a series of crappy films (Jonah Hex? Bah) and some very negative press.

Michael Bay has been addressing the issues that people have been bringing up with the new film, and it's awesome to see that he has taken note of the fans' opinions and integrated that feedback into the new film. Something I find very refreshing is his well-documented reluctance to go the 3D route with this new Transformers movie. Yes, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is going to be in 3D, but it seems to be the sort of 3D that is going to kick your face in, rather than the sort of 3D that makes people physically sick through the bad conversion (Clash of the Titans).

Most of the new TF movie has been shot in 3D, with other scenes being converted over a good period of time (no cheap rush jobs on the conversion here!), so it's going to look fantastic. The other question is, will the film actually be any good? It may look fantastic, but will it be well acted and directed? Will the script be up to muster after the mess of the second film? I think so. I think that this time round, we'll be getting the Transformers movie to end them all. Shame we never got to go to Cybertron though...

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Joys of The Wish List

At our place, our Christmas shopping is mostly done already. This is thanks to the joys of the Amazon Wish List. While there's a bunch of things we can't get on there, it's been a delight to be able to just exchange Wish lists with folks and pick stuff we can be sure that they'll like and use. This has also saved us a ton of rage, as there is no rage like Xmas rage.

Suffering the ridiculous crowds and dawdling cretins that populate the planet is never a pleasant thing. There's already little enough patience left in people by the time December rolls around, and when you get stuck behind some imbecile with their iPhone welded to their head, you get the urge to stuff something early.

As unpleasant it may be, I would imagine ramming onions and Paxo into the anus of a moron could be a great stress-reliever. I might try it the next time someone grinds to a halt in front of me when I'm trying to buy caffeine. You don't get in my way when I need pop. If you do, you're liable to walk away weeping because of an oniony bum.

So, to avoid furious shoppers trying to invade you with root vegetables, ask your friends and family to make a Wish List on Amazon. You know it makes sense.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the mediocre film that became a worldwide smash hit TV series, is to be rebooted for the big screen, but without the involvement of creator Joss Whedon. There's no director attached yet, but the film is apparently being scripted by Whit Anderson (according to AICN, who also have Joss Whedon's reaction to the news) and will be a complete reboot instead of being linked to the phenomenonally successful TV series, so no Angel, no Spike, no Willow or any of the others. Although on a positive note this also means no Riley.

I shudder to think what the BTVS fan community is making off this. It's probably like having someone pissing on their grandmothers. I was never a big fan of the series, but it had its moments, and some great characters, so why the hell fix it of it ain't broke?

Naturally, this is being seen as a cash in on the Twilight phenomenon, which in itself was a cash in on the Buffy phenomenon, so now the original thing is going to be ripping off its own imitations, I doubt that fans (or indeed audiences in general) are going to warm to this. The tweens will complain it's ripping off Edward and Bella's creepy tryst, and the Buffy purists will be up in arms against anything that has none of the TV cast or storylines.

Hollywood, look, listen to the geeks. Look at the fan reaction. If you can't make this the way fans want it to be made, then don't make it at all. Sure, Joss is busy getting the Avengers underway, but what about at the very least having him do the script outline and an Executive Producer credit? Otherwise it's just going to be a pale imitation of the real thing and is only going to piss off everyone that sees it.

On the other hand, at least I don't have to fear anything as painful as 'Once More With Feeling' again...

Sunday, 21 November 2010


Posted above is the final cover image for my forthcoming supernatural horror novella DEAD THING! The novella will be available from early December, in both paperback and ebook formats. Watch out for the release date announcement soon!

DEAD THING is a dark tale of brutal horror and demonic possession in the middle of urban England- perfect for those cold winter nights to come!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Windows Turns 25

It's been 25 years to the day that Microsoft released the first version of Windows, and while I am very much an Apple fanboy, I still use Windows on one computer, and have a fondness for it even if it drives me up the wall sometimes.

After dealing with Windows 98 and Windows ME (aaaiiieeee), I was most grateful for the joys that Windows XP brought us. Vista had its issues (understatement much?) but Windows 7 is pretty damn good.

It's still no OSX, though ;)

Anyway. My point is that, while Windows sucks at a lot of stuff and frequently conks out for no real reason, I'm still glad it's around. Happy birthday, blue screen of death!

Friday, 19 November 2010


So here's the first picture of Karl Urban as Judge Dredd from the forthcoming new movie (either gonna be called JUDGE DREDD or just DREDD), and already my fellow geeks have found something to complain about- the size of the helmet. Arrrrgh! I think it looks fantastic. The helmet looks fine- look at the picture again- some of Urban's face is in shadow at the side, so it's not as oversized as you may think.

The costume looks promising. I would have liked larger shoulder sections, but hey, this reminds me of the very early Judge Dredd strips from 2000AD, in which Dredd was far more lean than the current incarnation in the comics. This seems to capture the vibe of the character perfectly, even if it's not spot on. I have high hopes for this film as I'm a massive Dredd fan, and am praying for something that will at least be better than Stallone's 1995 version. And HOORAY- he won't be taking the helmet off! :)

Source: Ain't It Cool News

Diggnation: A Pair of Douches (Hi Guys!)

Seriously, this is one of the best episodes of Diggnation since, well, the recent live one. This has it all; humour, shouting and dorks, but most of all, there's beer taped to their hands. Oh yes.

Maybe if Digg was just made up of drunken rambling, its current traffic woes could be over. Dammit, I want Digg to do well, if only so we can still enjoy Diggnation ;)

That one was last week's episode. Here's the latest, which is almost as awesome:

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Firefest 2010: Thanks For The Memories

Over the Halloween weekend, I was privileged enough to be going to Firefest, the annual celebration of melodic rock here in the UK. I was covering the festival for Powerplay (along with several of my PP colleagues), and had an absolute blast over the three days of music and mayhem. Something that I want to mention is the feeling of community that went along with the whole shebang.

It hit me on the Friday night, during the opening night festivities. It was during H.E.A.T's set, when new vocalist Eric Gronwall (one of the most gifted frontmen I've witnessed in years) gave a shout-out to the many nations represented in the crowd there that night. As each country was called out, a good chunk of the audience shouted out for their homelands. It really brought it home just how much of a community the melodic rock scene can be when it puts its mind to it.

These are fans that are very dedicated indeed to the continued enjoyment of these artists, their songs and this particular brand of rock music. Several generations of rock fans were represented in the audience, and hearing that hugely varied mish-mash of languages and dialects made me proud to be a part of promoting the scene and the music it offers.

There were some superb moments for me, such as meeting a group of our readers who had made the journey from Australia to get to Firefest, or being hugged by several Swedish people whilst singing along to the action onstage. That feeling of community was further bolstered by a hugely positive atmosphere, both from audience and entertainers.

My share of the reviews from Firefest, along with my much enjoyed interview with the legendary Nelson twins Gunnar and Matthew will be in the next issue of Powerplay, but I wanted to take a moment to thank you, sincerely, for one of the most entertaining weekends I have ever had. To the audience, the incredible and bands, the promoters, the production crew and the guys from Fireworks- Thank you for the memories. See you again next year!

Monday, 1 November 2010

NaNoWriMo is GO!

And here we go again! :D It's time to get stuck into another 50,000 words in 30 days, and for the third year running I'm taking part. I've just completed my first chunk of work on my new project and am thrilled with my 2,313 word total. It's been a good night for it, and I hope I can continue to get some good totals added to the manuscript.

It helps that I did some preparation in terms of ideas and structure, which seems to have paid off tonight, so my goal is to keep trying to get ahead of myself with structural ideas and thus help me churn out copy by the bucketload. Here's hoping.

Only 29 days left to write the novel, and then comes the hard work of editing and redrafting! This is the third book in a series, and once it's done there that be a huge overhaul of the whole thing and some serious pitching throughout 2011. This is it. Time to do things the right way.

If you're taking part, feel free to add me as a Nano buddy, and good luck with your books!!!

Friday, 29 October 2010

FIREFEST 2010: Let The Rock n' Roll... erm... Roll.

FireFest 2010 begins tonight at Nottingham Rock City, and I'll be there as part of the Powerplay Rock and Metal magazine contingent to cover the bands and shenanigans at the festival.

Personally I'm really looking forward to spending some time around people that share my passion for old school rock music, and also to take in some of the best melodic rock acts around. I'm most looking forward to seeing Lynch Mob tomorrow night, as I am a massive fan of George Lynch as a musician, but I'm stoked for the other bands too.

The big moment for me will come on Sunday afternoon, when I'll be interviewing the legendary Nelson brothers, and later on reviewing their show at the festival. Good times indeed, and most appreciated right now as I've been having one hell of a crap time lately.

Hope to see some of you there!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

You'll Always Find me In the Kitchen At Parties... Chasing Those Arseholes With a Hammer

People that complain about the 'Go Compare' adverts don't know how good we've had it. Now there's a new plague infesting our TVs, and it's even more irritating, not to mention depressing. This bloody advert is based around the 1980 Jona Lewie song "You'll Always Find me In the Kitchen At Parties", reworked and performed by some bunch of scrawny twats called Man Like Me. The full 3-minute advert is too much to cope with, and if I sat through it I fear I would go on an axe rampage.

The short version simply encourages blind rage. Basically it's a bunch of hipsters being ironic in a house made of kitchens, with their pseudo-eighties clothes, their oh-so-cutting-edge delivery and their cast of assorted models and drunks that swarm around the set like flies round a big flat-packed turd.

Look at them. Look at their shirts. The buttons. Even the buttons make me angry. Look at the turquoise trousers. Feel the fury build and boil over. That bit where the two hipsters are on camera and letting things 'pile up' in the kitchen makes my brain itch and my hands crawl towards any blunt object I can find. Everything from their clothes and hair to the lighting of this thing just offends me.

It not only makes me want to avoid Ikea, but makes me actively want to track down everyone involved with making the advert, tie them all up in their underwear in a cold and empty warehouse, and make them watch Daphne and Celeste 'music' videos on a loop. For a decade.

Why does this advert encourage such anger in me? Because it's so damn self-referential, knowing and oozing with shit modern irony that you can't tell if they're taking the piss or genuinely think they're being original and ground-breaking. No. It's just crap, and crap that's been labelled with a cool name to shift some DIY shelves. Bollocks to the lot of you.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

WebBeat.TV - Starting Well...

WebBeat TV is the latest show to emerge from Livid Lobster, the folks behind the Cali Lewis fronted GeekBeat TV, and has got underway in fine style. It's a fun show, covering the web in general, new tech, viral videos and all kinds of stuff to do with the way we live our lives online. Presenter Pelpina Trip is just as cheerful and enthusiastic as Cali, but the format of the show is just a little bit too close to GeekBeat (and indeed GeekBrief before it) to have a strong identity of its own just yet. That said, it is a very welcome addition to my online media intake, and the future's looking bright for the show. It certainly has potential, and I for one will be sticking around to check it out for a while.

Here's the latest:

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Cheryl Cole/Tweedy Makes Me Want To Eat My Own Head

I can't take it any more. I see her big wet doe eyes everywhere like an advert for guide dog puppies staring at me from magazines, TV screens and the net. It's driving me insane. It's like someone jabbing me with an annoying little stick for weeks on end. There is something about that Cheryl woman that just drives me to apoplexy. I'm sure she is a delightful person to know, as long as you've forgotten her racist assault. How someone that attacked someone and yelled racist abuse at them can be seen as something of a national treasure just defies belief. For crying out loud, she's telling people 'We're so worth it' in ads for hair products and adorning the walls of kids the country over. Great role model work there, Chezza.

There are so many pictures of one of her two facial expressions at the moment that walking past a newsagent is like seeing some grotesque flip-book in action. SINCERE CHERYL. Smiley Cheryl. SINCERE CHERYL. Smiley Cheryl. SINCERE CHERYL. Smiley Cheryl. SINCERE CHERYL. Smiley Cheryl. Something else that irks me isn't really her fault (more rather her PR people who probably float the 'rumours'), but that of the cheap rags that publish stuff about her. NEW PAIN FOR CHERYL. CHERYL'S HEARTACHE. What next? CHERYL'S FLATULENCE?

It's no wonder the poor little thing has turned into some fake-tanned somnambulist. The rapid-fire succession of nonsense surrounding her has evidently melted her brain. Oh yeah, and she's a karaoke judge as well isn't she? This amazes me. How can someone who has spent their entire professional career having her every vocal note processed and tweaked in ProTools/Logic/Cubase/Whatever actually pass judgement on people who are actually singing? An anyway, she only found fame through a game show in the first place. It's hardly like she's Ella Fitzgerald. Take a listen to her solo stuff. If you can stomach it. Mmmmm, taste those auto-tuned tones.

Oh yeah, and let's not forget the malaria. Oh POOR Cheryl. Poor little rich, violent racist thug. Yes, it's awful that she suffered from it, but it was one hell of a profile boost amidst all the other shit that was supposed to be going on at the same time. Cynical? Nah. Just jaded. Cheryl, you might be lovely, but I am so very, very sick of the sight of you. Couldn't you at least catch another tropical disease and offer us some proper entertainment?

PS: Nadine's new solo single is shite, but it's a million times more entertaining than any of your own stuff. So there.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Gearing Up For NaNoWriMo

Yeah, I know there's most of the month to go before NaNoWriMo gets started, but I'm already getting the itch. The past two years of taking part in NaNoWriMo have seen me write the bulk of two novels, and once this one is complete I shall be giving all three an overhaul and pitching them as a series. That's another story though. The main thing is taking part and getting those 50,000 words down.

I love the fact that it's the whole point of this month-long event to just get some content down. After all, it's better to have something that needs a lot of work doing to it in front of you rather than a blank page or screen. If you have something to use as a starting point, then you can build on that and refine it. If you don't get that first blast of text out, then you may never even start it.

That's the beauty (and indeed the frustrating thing too) about the NaNoWriMo concept- it helps you to turn off your internal editor for a while and just get some work done. You can pick up on the typos, plot points, changes in character appearance and whatnot later. Have you decided on your project yet?

Sunday, 26 September 2010

TAPE 211 - New short from Pete Middleton Pictures

Writer/Director Pete Middleton is a figure that many aspiring filmmakers really should investigate. His work is seen by countless thousands of people online, and is highly regarded by those viewers. The output of Mr. Middleton and his varied cast and crew (usually including the talents of actor and writer Aidey Pugh) is astonishing, but the really impressive thing about these films is their varied content and subject matter. Middleton has created a number of thrillers, dramas, comedies, horror pieces and monologues, and all of them are produced with the same amount of enthusiasm and skill.

TAPE 211 is the latest horror/thriller film from Pete and Co, and stars Vickie Powell alongside the inimitable Mr Pugh. It's a powerful and unsettling film, and well worth watching if you have any interest in independent cinema. After all, it's with indie films that we will discover our future icons.

The only real drawback to the production is a slightly flat recording of the dialogue, but that's a technical and budgetary issue rather than any problem with the cast. Check it out, and then check out more of the work these incredibly talented and driven people have brought to life. It's amazing what can be done with a tiny budget, as long as the talent is there.

(Click on the image above to visit the Pete Middleton Pictures YouTube Channel)

WARNING: Tape 211 contains harrowing material and is not suitable for children.

Friday, 24 September 2010

GeekBeat #39

Gotta love the Flip camera. I'd love it if a few more pieces of tech were that user-friendly. Now with an external mic it's even more of a no-brainer.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

DIGG: 4 The Record

See what I did there? For the record, I really like the new incarnation of DIGG, even though a fair few people have been having a few issues with it since the new version went live. A lot of users have been having some functionality issues with the site, and others have been talking about the loss of some features in favour of new ones.

Me? I've had no problems with Digg V4, and while it's not 100% perfect for the way I use the web, it's pretty damn close. I like the way it works, the way it looks and the new content I am being offered in my feed. The layout is simple and clean, and although it's not ideal for everyone yet, this is a progressive thing that is still in a state of transition (as with a lot of stuff online).

I'm not a coder or hardcore web design geek - I'm just a user. As a Digg user, I really enjoy the experience on the site, and Digg 4 is 9thus far) proving to be a more enjoyable and useful site for me to visit. Mind you, it does need more dudes sat side by side on sofas with laptops. MOAR!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Orianthi - "Believe" (2010 UK Edition)

“Believe (UK edition)”
Genre: Pop Rock/Pop/Melodic Rock

I've been looking forward to this one. Orianthi Panagaris is a name that is gaining a great deal of attention all over the world lately (and not just because she was Michael Jackson's guitarist for the 'This Is It' tour, which sadly never happened due to the star's death). I'm not much of a Jackson fan to be honest, so the first I heard of her was an endorsement from none other than Carlos Santana, who said that she was pretty much the heir to his guitar style. High praise indeed.

Then I heard that there was an instrumental duet with Steve Vai on her 'Believe' album, and I had to check her out. I bought the track 'According To You' long before its UK release, and was hooked by the perfect pop chorus and the delightfully OTT guitar solo. It was like P!nk covering Van Halen, and I hoped the album would bring more of the same. Does it?

Mostly. The album has some truly spectacular guitar work from Orianthi, and her vocals are pretty solid too, but there's not enough danger on the album. It's a strong pop rock record, but it could have been a classic had there been a bit less polish and a few more rough edges. 'Shut Up and Kiss Me' and 'Bad News' have some great hooks and superb musicianship, but tracks like 'Suffocated' and the rather painful cover of John Waites' 'Missing You' tarnish the album's good points.

Orianthi's guitar tone is sublime, recalling both Carlos Santana and Joe Satriani, sometimes in the same track. The 'Highly Strung' instrumental with Steve Vai is brilliant- a good, old fashioned rock track that sees the two guitarists facing off and having some fun. It's not a mind-blowing shred-fest, but it packs a real punch, and another instrumental track like this would have really been a boon to the CD.

As a long-term fan of guitar based music I must admit that I'm a little underwhelmed by the album, but I need to remember that it's a pop record rather than a rock album, and I'm used to rather heavier stuff, so I'm a bit biased. Take P!nk and classic rock act Heart, add some shred and some beautifully gentle lead work, and you have this CD. A great entry-level album for young fans to discover smoking guitar solos through, and a good melodic listen, if nothing earth-shaking.


Buy Orianthi - "Believe" on Amazon

Friday, 17 September 2010

Review: Tamara Drewe (2010)

Based on the comic strip by Posy Simmonds which ran weekly in The Guardian, the film version of Tamara Drewe does feel something like a series of three-panel strips. The scenes seem to be very short, making for some fantastic vignettes, but the pace of the editing and the gentle ebb of the story makes for something of a disjointed viewing experience. That's not to say that it's not a good watch. Quite the contrary, Tamara Drewe is a funny, engaging comedy drama with an exceptional cast and some truly biting dialogue.

The film follows the goings-on around a small village where a famous crime novelist plays host to a writer's retreat in the grounds of his huge farmhouse. A young journalist, the eponymous Tamara Drewe (played with much pouting by Gemma Arterton), returns to the village to sell off her family home and ends up causing all manner of chaos (and sleeping with almost everyone in the film). Add Dominic Cooper as a superstar drummer, cows, Tamsin Grieg being fantastic, intrigue, drama, laughs and two foul-mouthed schoolgirls, and you have a film that is highly enjoyable, even if you're not quite sure why.

There is little in the way of story progression for much of the film's running time, and it's not until the last quarter of an hour that things start to gel together. I really enjoyed it, though. I think this is largely down to the cast, all of whom play their parts with a great deal of reality. There are a few moments that almost seem improvised, such is the natural flow of the cast's chemistry. The characters are nicely complicated, too. No cookie-cutter stereotypes here (despite what some reviews will tell you).

I mean, take Tamara herself for example. Throughout the film's running time, you're not really sure what to make of her. At times she's sweet, then irritating, then downright foul, and back to sweet again. Y'know, this is no bad thing, as people are like that out here in the real world, too. Luke Evans turns in a fine performance as rugged rural type Andy Cobb, without being cartoonish. He comes across as a person who has been dealt some rough hands, and is just getting on with things. It's a nice touch.

Tamara Drewe is based loosely on Thomas Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd, but you really don't need to be into your dusty old tomes to enjoy it (which is of great help to me, what with me being a pleb in the eyes of many). The subdued script and the slow pace (despite the quick scenes) has no doubt turned a lot of people off it, but as a whole, the Tamara Drewe film is well worth watching, but possibly only if you are English, of a certain age (i.e. over 25) and not expecting a rip-roaring comedy. It's a gentle film with some great ideas behind it, and it's nice to see that Gemmma Arterton has more to her arsenal than just blockbusters and James Bond. If anything, the film could have been improved by having about fifteen minutes cut out of it. Aside from that, Tamara is well worth your time.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


I'm excited to bring you news of a forthcoming new release from me! My next book release is to be DEAD THING, a brutal supernatural horror novella, which will be available in paberback and ebook formats in early October- just in time for Halloween!

Here's the official synopsis...

A Novella By Andrew Hawnt


A nameless entity is causing mayhem amidst the grey streets of an English inner city. It leaps from one host body to another, transforming each host into a bloodthirsty killer, then as it moves on to another body, it will chase down and slaughter its previous host.

The police involved with investigating the bizarre series of murders has enlisted an eccentric paranormal specialist, Patrick, who leads them on a desperate chase to track down the entity and stop the mayhem.

The formless creature enters a man, Kevin, whose long-term illness sickens it, and the entity leaves him before turning him into a killer. Now, Kevin has been caught up in the madness, and must work alongside Patrick and the police both to stay alive and to stop the thing that is turning ordinary people into monsters.

The creature knows it is being chased, and it is far from pleased. A rampage begins, and the city begins to run red with the blood of innocents. The race is on to find the dead thing's source and destroy it, or else countless more will die...


More news soon!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

CLiNT issue 1

It's good to see a new anthology title hit UK shelves. Aside from 2000ad and the Judge Dredd Megazine, there's no British title widely available for comics readers to lap up. Sure, there's the current incarnation of Tripwire, but it's a quest in itself to even find a copy, which is a shame as it's decent. CLiNT is the new anthology magazine from comics star Mark Waid and his merry gang, and features some great stuff including the exclusive first part of KICK-ASS 2, a reprint of TURF issue 1 and some truly superb original material.

The magazine looks fantastic, but there still needs to be some tweaking before it's just right. There are a couple of bits of it that are more 'Men's mag' than comic, and these would ideally be replaced with creator interviews or something like that, rather than 'celebrities' and 'hot celebrity mums'. And THERE IS NO NEED FOR JIMMY CARR TO EVER APPEAR IN ANYTHING. Seriously. He's about as entertaining as severe thrush.

While it's not perfect, I must urge anyone with a love for ballsy graphic storytelling to buy this title and support what there is of the UK industry. Remember, there's more to comics than just the US titles. CLiNT is off to a very good start. Now, a bit less filler and some more meaty content, please.

(PS: speaking of anthology titles, I really miss OVERKILL. Remember that?)

Monday, 23 August 2010

Tarja Turunen - 'Until My Last Breath' Music Video released

The new video from Tarja Turunen's second solo album is now available to view. The former Nightwish singer's new album, "What Lies Beneath" certainly seems to be an improvment on "My Winter Storm" from what I've heard of it so far.

I thought MWS was a largely fantastic album, but there were parts that didn't really gel for me, and I always felt the guitars weren't chunky enough for the songs.

It would seem that issue has now been remedied, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of the album when it arrives in the UK at the start of next month.

Saturday, 21 August 2010


I just got back from watching the new Angelina Jolie film SALT (Click here for my review), and really enjoyed it. Something that struck me though is just how inappropriate the rating was for the film. In the UK it has been given a 12A certificate, meaning that children under 12 can see the film if accompanied by an adult. This is wrong.

Other films where this has been the case include recent smash hit INCEPTION and the massive juggernaut that was THE DARK KNIGHT. All of these films have featured a huge amount of violence, and while I won't condemn the action (y'know, seeing as I love action movies, horror and all manner of other cinematic mayhem), I find that I must take issue with the use of the 12A rating.

The 12A rating was brought in for the first SPIDER-MAN movie, which was much less bloody and harrowing than the three films I have mentioned above. That film was just about right for a 12A, yet Salt, Inception and The Dark Knight would have all been more appropriately rated as 15 certificate films. There is the argument that 'Oh, kids see and hear much worse at home', but that is NO EXCUSE AT ALL.

Part of the problem there is that parents and guardians are not taking enough notice of the things they put their children in front of. In the case of The Dark Knight, it's a film based on a comic, so yeah, it must be fine. Arrrrgh! it's a comic about a mentally unbalanced billionaire beating up even more unhinged psychopaths.

What about Inception? The plot is far too complicated for the minds of many children, and while the idea of invading dreams is very cool indeed, there are some very harrowing images in that film. It should have been a 15. Salt likewise. Another recent example would be THE LOSERS. Again, great film, but that had even more violence, bad language and onscreen injuries. I mean, why would anyone let a small child watch a film in which one of the heroes is shot in the knees onscreen?

Giving these films a 12A certificate may well bring in some more money to cinemas, but it is also filling children's heads with even more inappropriate content than they already get. I'd like to call the BBFC out on this: How are you justifying these ratings, and why weren't these films at least either a 12 or a 15?

Monday, 16 August 2010

Rooney Mara cast As Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

(Rooney Mara in the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street)

The American remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has finally found the all-important cast member. The part of expert hacker and socially inept genius Lisbeth Salander has been given to near-newcomer Rooney Mara. Who? Rooney played the part of Nancy in the recent remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street. While I am still yet to be convinced that there is any point to a remake of the film based on Stieg Larsson's massively popular novel, I am intrigued by this casting news.

The Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo starred Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander and Michael Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist, and seeing as the novel was about Swedish people and set in Sweden, then I'd say that version is the definitive one.

(Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish version of the Millenium trilogy)

This remake is to be directed by David Fincher, which is a good start, and with Daniel Craig cast as Blomkvist (I wonder if the character's name will be changed...) it has potential, but the part of Lisbeth Salander is the key. The character is extremely complicated, disturbed, volatile and unpredictable, and hopefully that can be conveyed in an English language remake with Hollywood production values.

It is a very European novel with very European characters, and I am eager to see how well it translates. Previous names that had been linked to the part included Ellen Page, Natalie Portman and Emma Watson, none of whom would have fit Salander's characteristics or what she goes through during the film (I can't imagine any of them being put through ***SLIGHT SPOILER*** what Nils Bjurman does to Lisbeth ***SPOILER ENDS***, for example).

There will be many fans to whom Noomi Rapace is the one and only true screen version of Lisbeth (especially as all three books have already been released as movies in Sweden with Noomi in the role), but there will be yet more to whom Rooney Mara is Lisbeth. I hope she does the book, the fans and Larsson's legacy proud.

The trailer for the UK release of the Swedish version:

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

In This Moment - "A Star Crossed Wasteland"

In This Moment
“A Star Crossed Wasteland”
Genre: Modern Metal
Century Media

Aw man, I've been looking forward to this one. In This Moment are one of the most exciting and compelling rock/metal bands in existence today, and they have made a very wise move with their third album. This excellent new disc fuses the heaviness of their debut (“Beautiful Tragedy”) with the melodic elements of their second effort (“The Dream”) to great effect. From the moment that 'The Gun Show' kicks in properly, you know that the band are taking no prisoners this time round.

Maria Brink and the guys have created an album that is extremely well rounded, with enough metallic chaos to satisfy the fans of the first album and enough soaring choruses to thrill those that preferred “The Dream”. “A Star Crossed wasteland” is a lean, fat-free album offering ten new songs that encapsulate everything that is great about In This Moment. You have Maria Brink's incredible vocals, the amazingly tight rhythm section of Jeff and Kyle, the razor sharp guitars of Chris and Blake, the melodies, the riffs, the screams, the machine gun beats- the works.

'Just Drive' is about as perfect an ITM song as it gets, both harsh and heavenly, while 'The Promise' and 'Standing Alone' continue the album's contrasting elements in fine style. The title track is a little more reminiscent of stuff from "The Dream", but this is no bad thing as the balance has been struck perfectly on this album and fans won't be left wondering where the balls went. 'Blazin', 'The Road', 'Iron Army' and 'The Last Cowboy' all display a level of confidence and power that could only have been developed via the band's rigorous touring and dedication to both their art and their fans.

The only weak spot on the album is the closing track, 'World In Flames', as even though it is by no means a bad song, it is a little generic. So finally the people who have doubted In This Moment since they burst onto the scene can be silenced. This is a band that has a long career ahead of them, and a lot more incendiary music to come. It's the perfect length, the perfect balance of styles, and the perfect purchase for any fan.


Sunday, 8 August 2010

Carnival of Souls: You need to see it.

There are few classic horror films that have had such a profound effect on me as a fan of weird cinema than the 1962 masterpiece Carnival of Souls, and I really wish that the awful 1995 remake didn't exist.

The original is brilliant, and 99% percent of the chills are down to the atmosphere alone. The film is in the Public Domain now, and thanks to the Internet Archive, you can watch the whole thing for free (or indeed download it completely legally).

You can easily find the film on DVD for a pittance these days, but if you've never seen the film before, check out the embed below.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

The Guild- "Game On" Music Video

The Guild is a beautiful thing. We know this. Thankfully, the guys behind The Greatest Web Series Ever Made are also into creating some hilarious music videos (attached to very catchy geek flavoured songs). The first was the infamous '(Do you wanna date my) Avatar', and now here is 'Game On', a Bollywood styled extravaganza.

Dear Felicia Day and the gang: Myself and my kind are most pleased that you exist.

SKETCH86.com - Awesome Geek Shirts At Awesome Prices

I am a t-shirt addict. This much is clear when you take a look at the overpacked wardrobe in our bedroom. It's stuffed with geek t-shirts, comic book shirts, metal band shirts and, yes, a few that don't have anything on them.

I keep meaning to photograph them all for a folder of shame on facebook or something, but that's another post. The point is, I am addicted, and I'm loving every second of it. The internet is a wonderful thing for t-shirt addicts like me, and one off my favourite sites is Sketch86.com (part of Viper Comics), where you can find a small but perfectly formed selection of geek and geek-friendly shirts.

Their stuff is mainly based around indie comics titles (such as the awesome Dead @ 17), but there are some that are just flat out cool, such as the CAUTION- PUBLISHERS AT PLAY shirt. This morning another two shirts arrived from Sketch86 in the US, namely the comics related 'THE MODERN AGE' shirt and a DEAD@17 shirt.

The shirts are great quality, the prices are LOW (even lower right now due to a summer sale), the postage is very reasonable and FAST (even to the UK). Why am I telling you this? Because I urge you to check out their wearable wares and treat yourself to something cool.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

SAW 3D: Saw it all before?

So SAW 3D is coming soon. Pardon me while I sigh. The last Saw film I enjoyed was number 5, but even that was stretched out far too thin. Another couple of films later and here we are with yet another one around the same damn premise, with the same damn traps and the same damn everything.

This one is supposed to be the last one, isn't it? I bet you it ends with a twist and an opening for the next film, whether or not anyone will care by then. Plus, releasing this one in 3D just comes across, to me at least, as a desperate attempt to wring another few dollars from the emaciated corpse of this particular franchise.

There was an eighth Saw film planned, but the diminishing returns that the series was bringing in meant that the makers had to incorporate elements of that script into this flick. Hopefully that means there is plenty of plot to chew on as well as gory eye candy.

To really give it some longevity, the makers of the series should have had the grisly Jigsaw torch passed along long before Saw 5. Surely there could have been some more variations on the theme of traps and puzzles. I would have loved to see some set up throughout the city, for example, or a huge puzzle that involved more than just people getting their extremities hacked off.

Although, in the film's favour, it was actually shot in 3D rather than converted after the fact, which at least means it is going to look pretty cool. I honestly hope I'm wrong about the film and it turns out to be a worthy successor to the first couple of entries in the series. I'll wait until I've checked out some reviews before I see it. I do honestly hope this final piece of the jigsaw gives us a satisfying complete picture.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

New SF Flash Fiction From Me At 365 Tomorrows!

The daily SF Flash Fiction site 365 Tomorrows have published my story 'The Moment of Freedom' today! You can check it out for FREE by clicking the image above or the link below!

Read 'The Moment Of Freedom' by Andrew Hawnt on 365 Tomorrows

365 Tomorrows is the premier site for daily flash fiction in the SF and Speculative genre, and it's an honour to have the story on there! I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, 15 July 2010


Aaaaaargh!!! Alarm bells are ringing. The Marvel Studios movies THOR and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER are to be converted to 3D, even though THOR was shot in 2D and Captain America is also being lensed in 2D. Not sure about this at all, as even though Kenneth Branagh (Thor's director) has stated that they have approached all of the effects from a 3D perspective, I'm still not convinced that a 3D conversion can work.

Then again, it does seem that these films are being approached for 3D conversion at an early enough stage in their evolution for it to work well, which is what I'm hoping for. I'd hate these films to be unwatchable (Clash of the Titans and its 3D nausea) or just messy (The Last Airbender and its almost unnoticeable 3D).

I can see how 3D would benefit some of the sweeping vistas of Asgard and so on in THOR, but I'm not sure how the 3D will work with Captain America. Granted, it could make for some stunning set pieces in the WWII sequences, but will it actually be able to add enough oomph to make it worth the studio's extra cash and our own extra entrance money?

I really hope that these two films do well, as they are something of a pair of wild cards in terms of audience familiarity. While Captain America is a huge icon in the US, elsewhere he's a bit of a joke, thanks to the name, the costume and the whole character in general. Us lot, y'know, the rest of the world outside mainland America, can't really relate to Cap. That's not to say the comics aren't great, as some of them are wonderful examples of the medium, but he doesn't have the impact of a guy being bitten by a radioactive spider, or a billionaire with a cool suit of armour. It just doesn't translate as well as it should.

Thor on the other hand does have some punch outside of the US audience, as the film will feature some set pieces and scenery on such a grand scale, that an audience will immediately latch onto it the moment a trailer is released. Even non-comics fans or people unfamiliar with other Marvel properties will (hopefully) flock to THOR just for the spectacle. It needs to be a wild and amazing ride for the viewer for them to really get something out of it (see Elektra for how not to maintain audience interest- y'know, by having nothing happen for the middle hour of the movie).

With the cast these two films have, and the talent behind the camera and in the animation departments, we are sure to at least get something worth watching. However, I can't help but feel that these films are a huge gamble for the studio, which could have done with getting a new Spider-Man movie off the ground a bit quicker to keep the flagship character in the game.

And then there's the 2012 AVENGERS movie, but that is a whole different rant.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Dear makers of 'The Guild'- I love you. You're Awesome.

I love The Guild, and I am not ashamed in the slightest.

The Guild, that delightfully fun web series about the gaming and IRL adventures of a mismatched group of gamers, is back for a fourth season (Visit the official site HERE). This is cause to rejoice, and I have partaken of the first episode, which I'm happy to report is great, as ever. In related news I just finished reading the three-issue prequel miniseries from Dark Horse comics, which tells the story of the Guild's formation and was written by the show's star and creator, Felicia Day.

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-us&from=sp&fg=shareObject&vid=9c194351-975c-4b54-9462-e85b3e87af8e" target="_new" title="Season 4 - Episode 1 - Epic Guilt">Video: Season 4 - Episode 1 - Epic Guilt</a>

Felicia Day is a marvel of the internet generation. After some notable TV work, she really seemed to come into her own with her web work in Dr Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog as well as the Guild, cementing her likeness and comedic creativity in the hearts and minds of people in geeky t-shirts the world over.

But what is it about The Guild that makes it stand out over all of those other web based shows? Well, for one thing it's actually funny, and has that awkward edge about it that lifts it up a few notches above the competition (actually, is there any competition?). Next to the writing, the ensemble cast is the key to the series' popularity. Each of them perfectly captures a different subset of the geek community and they do so with accuracy that can only make us all cringe when we see ourselves in them.

Another aspect that is so endearing about the series is the fact that it doesn't take itself seriously (which is good, considering it's about gamers...heh). Proof of this is available in the music video the cast were in for the song '(Do You Wanna Date My) Avatar'. I mean, you can't go wrong with a bunch of nerds in brightly coloured cosplay outfits, can you?

I think the group has perfectly captured a style which affectionately pokes fun at their own audience, and because Felicia's just as much of a geek as the rest of us, you can;t help but join in. While The Guild may not bee to everyone's tastes, it is a damn fine series made by some very talented people, and if you are yet to discover this particular avenue of pleasure, then I suggest you do so immediately. I mean, how else are you going to join in with the in-jokes otherwise?

Monday, 12 July 2010

Harvey Pekar- R.I.P.

Harvey Pekar, the much loved and admired creator of the AMERICAN SPLENDOR comics, has died at the age of 70. Pekar was an underground comics star that finally crossed over into the mainstream with the movie adaptation of his life, which starred Paul Giamatti as the young Pekar and Harvey himself in linking material. That film opened up the eyes to many more people to Pekar's work, and a new series of American Splendor comics was thus published by DC Vertigo.

Pekar's wry eye for humour and emotion in the most mundane of moments and activities was a breath of fresh air to the comics industry when he first emerged. His stories of everyday life were illustrated in the early days by comics legend Robert Crumb, and saw him develop both a strong writing style and a wide ranging fanbase.

He beat cancer a few years ago, which was the basis for the highly acclaimed book 'Our Cancer Year', and alongside works such as 'The Quitter', Harvey has left behind an extremely admirable legacy. His works speak to the reader on a very ordinary level, and the clarity of his dialogue has always rung true. His comics are about as close to real life as comics get.

That said, the comics world has lost one of its most unique peers, a very honest man who had few illusions about his own personality. Rest in peace, Harvey. You were one of a kind.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

LIVE REVIEW: ANVIL + GIRLSCHOOL – Sheffield O2 Academy, July 7th 2010

Tonight, a packed out O2 Academy was treated to two extremely powerful sets by two bands that are very familiar with the almighty riff. The crowd was a curious mixture of old school fans, new fans brought on board by the hit Anvil documentary, and a surprisingly strong contingent of young fans that are only just discovering the rock and metal genre's many delights. The atmosphere in the venue was electric from the moment we got in, and by the time Girlschool took to the stage the place was almost full. The lights dimmed, the intro started, and a crowd that was already sweating awaited something fantastic.

We got it in spades.Girlschool have been around as a band as long as I've been alive, and that's a hell of an achievement. Kim McAuliffe and the girls have always generated an air of respectability in the rock scene to me, but while they may have their roots in another musical era, they can kick your arse hard. Their set was a raucous mixture of classic tunes and more recent pieces, which melded together well. Kim broke a string (“The first broken string of the tour”) and ended up playing one of Lips' guitars for a couple off tracks, leading to some delightful stage banter. Girlschool came across as perfectly at home on the stage, and for their whole set they owned the place.
The interlude is mercifully brief, and Anvil hit the boards with the instrumental 'March of the Crabs', stomping around as the crowd went insane. The band were clearly having the time of their lives, which I hope has been the case for the whole tour, as they've damn well earned this new popularity. The crowd kept on getting louder, and from where we were at the front, the band's grins were hard to miss. '666', 'Winged Assassin', 'This Is Thirteen', 'Mothra', 'Flying Blind', 'Thumb Hang' and more served a hugely appreciative audience some old school traditional metal. The slower numbers had a huge impact, which impressed me on a musical level due to the band operating as a three piece since the departure of 2nd guitarist Ivan Hurd a few years ago. Despite the single guitar in their live setup, they sound immense.
The onstage banter of Lips was at times both heartwarming and hilarious (much like the film was). Their appreciation for fans old and new was blatant throughout the whole set, and the energy they put into their performance would easily make thousands of young bands whimper. The set climaxed with the ubiquitous 'Metal On Metal' (including a fantastic singalong) and an encore of 'Jackhammer', and off they went to riotous applause. ever Even though many of the songs would be unfamiliar to much of the audience, the set was perfectly pitched and had everyone singing along by the second chorus. Personally I'd have liked to have heard 'Bombs Away' from 'This is Thirteen', but other than that it was perfect. Lips was in fine voice and beating the hell out of his guitar, Glenn 5 was showing off some very strong bass work (love the 12 string bass, man!) and Robb 'Robbo' Reiner was flat out astonishing during his drum solo.

Within a few minutes the band were amongst the crowd, chatting, signing and having pictures taken (Hence the three of me with the band you see here). Talking to them, it's very plain indeed to see that they are extremely grateful for the support of new fans and old, and I pray that they come back to these shores soon (hopefully with a new album! Are they still working on 'Juggernaut of Justice'?). Getting to talk to people that you admire will blow the mind of many fans, and despite my experience with talking to musicians, I couldn't help but act like a gibbering fanboy. Anvil delivered the goods that night- hard and heavy, just as we wanted it.

Huge thanks to the band for being so cool, Girlschool for such a great opening set, and the crowd for being so flat out energetic. What a night. If you ever get the chance to see them live, do it. Their show is worth every penny of the ticket price, and then some.

Here's hoping that next time around I can bag an interview with them for the magazine ;)

(Click on the Anvil tag below for my other Anvil posts!)

Review: SERPENTINE - 'A Touch of Heaven'

"A Touch of Heaven"

Genre: AOR/Prog
AOR Heaven

Tony Mills is a busy fella right now. Aside from fronting TNT he seems to be turning into something of a journeyman as far as AOR releases go right now. This is just one of the many projects he has been involved with in recent years, and the former SHY frontman is on very fine form indeed. The songs on offer with this album immediately bring to mind Journey at their peak, however the undeniable comparisons don't stop the songs being great.

The title track gets things off to a pleasantly uptempo start, with hugely melodic hooks that bring to mind Kansas and Styx as well as old school Journey. 'Whatever Heartache' follows and is a little more mellow, while track three brings us the first big ballad with 'Lonely Nights'. The album continues with 'For the love of it all', and while this would be where some albums start to struggle, here we continue to get quality.

The album is unashamedly old school in it's approach, but the songs, the performances and the little touches of progressive rock keep it lively and fun. It almost feels like a lost album by one of the greats of the genre, such is the finesse of the songwriting. It's a disc I have been playing a great deal since it arrived, and it continues to improve with each successive listen. While the AOR genre will probably never be any great shakes in terms of success ever again, it continues to thrive with such high quality releases as this one. AOR Heaven have another gem on their hands here, and the six musicians involved deserve some serious kudos. It may be bright and melodic, but it still rocks.

...apart from the cover of Toni Braxton's 'Unbreak my Heart'. After such a good album, it does kind of end on a note of WTF?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Review: Primal Fear “16.6 All Around The World” Live DVD

Primal Fear
“16.6 All Around The World”

Genre: Traditional Metal
Frontiers Records

Primal Fear always serve up quality when they release anything new, and this second live DVD is no exception. Their first live release was way back in 2002 for the 'Black Sun' album, and that live DVD/CD set (“The History Of Fear”) set the benchmark for anything else they would release in a similar vein. That set was amazing value, and thus when approaching this DVD, I couldn't help but compare the two. How does this new one measure up? Pretty well, actually. While the last set featured both the DVD and CD, this time around the two have been split into separate releases. I can understand this, but from a fan's point of view it may have been better to package them together.

This DVD was shot during the world tour in support of the band's “16.6” album, and while there are a few tracks from that superlative opus on offer here, there's a wealth of older tracks to enjoy too. The current incarnation of the ban is on fine form, with frontman Ralf Scheepers still delivering the goods in awesome style through every track.

The mix of this live disc isn't as punchy as their earlier live release, lacking some mid-level clout, but it's a very fine live document that captures the band's energy and dedication very well indeed. Featuring live tracks shot in Switzerland and America, it can sometimes feel a little disjointed, but it still a brilliant chronicle of a band that still goes somewhat underrated. The new tracks mesh well with the old too, which is always a boon.

It's the extras on this disc where the package really shines. Five music videos, The making of the “16.6: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead” album, and an extensive 'Bootleg' section of live recordings, interviews and more. It;s all this bonus content that fans are going to lap up, and really fills out the package much more than your average live DVD from any band. On the whole it is a very worthwhile DVD for fans of the band, and also a very good introduction to them for new listeners. Now, if the mix had been a little heavier, it would have been perfect. As it is, it's merely superb.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Review: We Are The Fallen - "Tear The World Down"

We Are The Fallen
"Tear The World Down"
Genre: Gothic Rock/Rock/Metal Universal Music/Republic

Yes, the band is made up largely of former Evanescence members and is fronted by an American Idol contestant, and with that out of the way, let's talk about the music. This debut album from what is being touted as something of a supergroup is very, very strong indeed. There have to be inevitable comparisons with Evanescence, and quite rightly, but the album also needs to be taken on its own merits as the debut of a new band. Regarding those comparisons, the first thing that strikes me is how much more together it feels than the last Evanescence studio album, 'The Open Door.' Now, I loved that album, but this feels decidedly more coherent.

It's only natural that We Are The Fallen will sound very much like Evanescence, and with the backbone of Ben Moody, John LeCompt and Rocky Gray, the band has a brilliant foundation built right in. After all, those three guys were part of the band that created the global phenomenon that was 'Fallen', and their influence is very much in evidence here. 'Tear The World Down' is a powerful collection of dark rock songs that retain the drama and power of Evanescence with a more exciting rock edge to the music.
It's that rock edge that has allowed for some faster songs and some heavier moments, along with some experimentation that is more guitar based than based around the piano or synths. Electronics are still around, and used sparingly for depth and atmosphere very well.

Vocalist Carly Smithson is a revelation here. Look, I despise American idol/Pop Idol/X factor and the whole scene surrounding those shows, but in Smithson the band has bagged themselves a vocalist with an astounding voice, a huge presence and some serious star quality. her voice is imperfect, cracking here and there, which makes me like it even more. What about the songs?

The songs that make up this debut album are a superb cross-section of rockers and ballads, with lead single 'Bury Me Alive' being the perfect opener, and later songs such as 'Paradigm' and 'St. John' all being high points. A great debut album, and well worth a purchase. They are more than Evanescence 2.0- they're the fulfilment of a missed opportunity. Now, I wonder what the new album from the other band will sound like in comparison...

Friday, 2 July 2010


Something that is rather important when being a singer is the ability to, y'know, sing. Flicking through music channels right now, all I'm hearing is an endless stream of 'artists' who have had their voices mangled with autotune and various effects. It's got to the point where tonally, everyone does actually sound the same, and it's almost at the point where even the sexes are interchangeable.

Granted, people like Ke$ha, Usher, The Black Eyed Peas, that guy doing the 'I'M GOIN' SAULAU, SAULAU SAULAU SAULAU' stack of turds or any of the other polished, packaged and posed 'singers' in the mainstream aren't aimed at my own demographic, but still, they piss me off.

The audience that is coming of age right now is going to start thinking that's what people's voices sound like (and yes they will, as humanity has the tendency to be rather stupid), and that digital effects are a worthy replacement for talent. It's like Michael Bay has become a music producer, fer cryin' out loud. Katy Perry, Timbaland, JLS, they're all at it, sticking a wobbly effect over their dull voices to try and make them sound interesting.

What it is really doing is instantly dating every note of their material, thus further underlining the fact that nobody gives a shit about longevity or integrity any more. The key to a great song (I'm afraid I can't remember who originally said this- sorry!) is one that sounds brilliant when played either with a full band or just with a guitar or a piano. Right now, real singers in pop music are very, very rare. Alecia Keys comes to mind, alongside P!nk, but that's about it. Those two have amazing voices, and while there's the odd effect here and there, there isn't the tendency to drown their every note in wibbly bits.

See? This is what happens when I look out from my rock-and-metal happy place and have a sniff around at what the 'kids' are listening to. I start ranting. Okay, before anyone else starts electronically ululating at me, I'll get back to my happy place and appreciate some talent.

Here and Now: The Net Is Getting Better (I Hope)

It's weird. As I coast into my eleventh year of playing with the internet (I was a late adopter- got online properly in '99), I can't help but wonder what the next step of it all will be. There were the floundering, burgeoning years of the early nineties, the blossoming awareness of the later nineties, the ill-fated Dot Com boom, and the slick shift into the world of Web 2.0 and every form of social media you can think of. It's this most recent era that has been the most interesting for me. The internet is no longer covered in flashing GIFs and other animated clip-art.

It's no longer a chore to get online and get busy (or get procrastinating, depending on your own habits), it's no longer required to know how to code to make something fantastic (which cheers me up immensely as I have no clue whatsoever about code beyond a tiny bit of HTML), and the net is accepted as an integral part of our lives. Children are growing up who can't imagine a world without the internet. Well I can remember it, and it was a very different place.

Is it better or worse now? Both, for various reasons. There are some amazing possibilities for the web that are only just being realized now, and many things are improving all the time. Like what? Like the forthcoming new version of DIGG, for example (with a much greater social aspect which appears to be a genuinely great new way of sharing content), or the continued popularity of Twitter (which I am most pleased about due to the sheer simplicity of the service), and any number of others.

Of course, the web still has a ton of problems, especially with its biggest sites (by which I mean the privacy concerns with Facebook), but we do seem to be living in an age of solutions rather than obstacles. Information has never been easier to obtain, creativity and self expression has never been so welcome, and social interaction over great distances has never been easier. Enjoy it, people. Join in. Get involved. Be a part of this evolutionary phase, and let's run away from the days of 56k connections at an ever faster pace.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Welcome Back EPIC FU!

Hey, I know that both Zadi Diaz and Steve Woolf are busy people with a ton of stuff going on in the social media world, but it's always a wonderful thing when they have the time to put out a new episode of EPIC FU. The FU is one of the finest video podcasts that has ever been created IMHO, and a new run of three episodes has begun. These episodes are all about the way we live online, and this first episode offers seven tips to build your online identity. Check it out, and then check out their archive. The show is something very special.

...and then buy the EPIC-FU t-shirt, which I can safely say is my favourite shirt, ever.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Geekbrief is dead... long live GEEKBEAT!

One of the very finest podcasts I have had the pleasure of being a viewer of has come to a sad end. GeekBrief TV, created by Cali Lewis and Neal Campbell, has been a wonderful source of information, entertainment and inspiration these past few years. The first episode went live back in '05, and the final episode has hit today. There have been business and personal issues aplenty for the guys behind the show in recent times, and thus these differences have resulted in the end of the show.

This is a kick in the guts for geeks like me, who had come to love each episode of Geekbrief and have always found a ton to enjoy in each one (including the ever-wonderful out-takes at the end of most episodes). After nigh on 800 episodes of shiny, happy tech news, I must admit to being rather sad to see GeekBrief go. It's been a staple part of my media intake for years now, and Cali Lewis is one of the most pleasant presenters in the business. I can't help but feel for Cali and Neal as their long-running series ends, and can understand Cali's visible distress in this final instalment. We'll miss you GeekBrief.

The final episode of GeekBrief TV:

However, it would seem that Cali's time as a geek show presenter is far from over. As well as her continuing work in the social media industry and its many marvellous outlets, she's coming back on June 28th with a brand new show, GEEKBEAT! This new show is being brought to us from Revision 3 (home of DIGGNATION, THE TOTALLY RAD SHOW, HAK 5 and many more of the finest online shows available). I don't know a great deal about this show yet, but from what I gather, it's set to be much along the same lines as GeekBrief TV was. We shall soon see.

The Geek Beat intro video:

I'm gonna miss GeekBrief in a big way, but as long as Cali Lewis is showing up in my feed, I'll know that I'll never be short of cool stuff to check out on a regular basis.

So thanks for the years of great shows, Cali and Neal. Good luck for the future to both of you!